ACC: Aubrey Hill

3 UM assistants retained; one recruit added

December, 20, 2010
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Miami assistant coaches Micheal Barrow, Aubrey Hill and Jeff Stoutland were retained by new coach Al Golden.

Barrow will coach the linebackers, Hill will serve as the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator while Stoutland will coach the offensive line. It's still possible that other current Miami assistants join Golden's staff at a later date. This announcement will definitely help Golden with recruiting, especially when it comes to Hill, the recruiting coordinator. Hill's knowledge of Miami's recruiting territory will immediately help Golden compensate for his lack of familiarity with the area.

It's also a great reward for these staff members who willingly hung in there during the transition phase, including the awkwardly uncertain time when Golden was hired yet they were still expected to coach and prepare the team for the bowl game. The help they can bring in recruiting, though, will be invaluable to Golden.

And Golden hasn't wasted any time recruiting.

Golden gained his first commitment for the Canes since being named head coach in defensive lineman Olsen Pierre of Fork Union Military Academy, Va. Pierre had first pledged to Temple when Golden was coach of the Owls. The Canes now have five pledges.

Miami recruiting philosophy same under Hill

June, 22, 2010
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Miami receivers coach Aubrey Hill is an approachable guy. He has the kind of down-to-earth personality high school coaches gravitate to and appreciate, which is why Hill was the right choice as the Hurricanes' recruiting coordinator. Word out of Miami is that Hill's style and approach has been better than his predecessor, Clint Hurt, who is now with Louisville.

The same recuiting philosophy that has always worked for Miami, though, will continue to work for Hill and the staff -- recruiting Dade, Broward, West Palm Beach, and the rest of the elite talent within the state before looking elsewhere in the country. The Canes are off to a good start in this year's recruiting class, with three of their five players being on the ESPNU 150 list. The key so far has been the commitment of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who could be the signal-caller of the future there. He was an important piece to the program's future. Now the staff can begin to put an emphasis on defensive recruits.

Miami's offensive options seemingly endless

September, 23, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


When Miami coach Randy Shannon took over the program three seasons ago, there were only about three or four scholarship receivers on the roster -- far below the usual eight to 10 most schools carry. So this offseason, when receivers coach Aubrey Hill faced the popular question, ‘You’ve got so many receivers, wouldn’t you rather just have one guy?’ his response was logical:

“I said, ‘If you’re at Christmas, would you rather have one toy, or as many toys as you can?”
 
 AP Photo/J. Pat Carter, File
 Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has plenty of options.


Now, after building depth with recruiting classes that included some of the elite talent in the country, and players who could contribute immediately, the Hurricanes’ toy box overfloweth.

Twelve different players have caught at least one pass for the No. 9-ranked Hurricanes heading into Saturday’s showdown at No. 11 Virginia Tech. And six of them have at least five catches. Seven different players have scored touchdowns in wins over two ranked ACC opponents. Three different receivers have run a reverse. Miami returns nine of its top 10 leaders in all-purpose yards from 2008. Running backs Graig Cooper and Javarris James have helped the Canes to a 7-2 record when they combine for at least 25 carries. And, of course, they’ve finally got a quarterback to lead them all in Jacory Harris.

“This Miami team we’re getting ready to play,” said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, “Wow.”

Receivers Travis Benjamin, Thearon Collier, Davon Johnson and Kendal Thompkins bring straight speed, quickness, elusiveness and big-play capabilities. Leonard Hankerson and Aldarius Johnson are talented possession players with great hands who move the chains. LaRon Byrd and Tommy Streeter can stretch the field deep with their speed and height. Cooper is elusive, while James is the power back, and Lee Chambers and Mike James provide dependable depth at the position. Tight ends Jimmy Graham and Dedrick Epps have both given the offense a boost, while the offensive line makes it all possible.

 
 Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
 Graig Cooper has averaged 5.2 yards per carry so far.
“The opposing team can’t just focus on one player,” said Byrd. “You look at a lot of teams in the country, like Oklahoma State. They have Dez Bryant, so you have the defense lock on Dez Bryant and the offense is going to have a tough time. You look at Alabama, Julio Jones. They lock down on him and Alabama is going to have a tough time. You look at us, we have so many weapons you can’t just lock on one player. If you double up on Travis Benjamin, then Aldarius Johnson is going to have a big game. If you double up on him, then Hankerson is going to have a big game, and so forth and so forth.”

Miami’s versatility is not only in its athletes, but also in its playbook. The addition of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, coupled with the wide array of abilities, size and speed on the roster, has made Miami’s offense the total package and extremely difficult to defend.

“He’s just so creative, bringing so many different offenses and making it Miami’s offense,” Hill said. “He’s been one of the most creative offensive coordinators I’ve been around and knowing how to set-up plays, run and pass. That’s been really good for the whole coaching staff and also the players because they’re really, really excited to come into the meeting room to see what the mad scientist is creating next.”

In fact, some of the Canes have gotten into it so much some have tried to write their own plays on the board.

“Some have had consideration,” Hill said with a chuckle, “and some haven’t.”

Almost all of the players, though, have had their moments in the spotlight.

“We spread the wealth around to each guy,” Shannon said. “They know that they have to run their routes and everything full speed because they don’t ever know when Jacory is going to throw the football to them. That’s the difference in this team.

“The best thing about it is the competition in practice. You don’t have to worry about a guy getting too extreme as far as thinking he’s the guy who makes the offense run, or he’s the guy who makes the defense run. We’ve got depth at those positions to say, ‘You know what? You don’t want to work hard? OK, fine. We love you, and you’re part of this program, but we’re going to go with somebody else.’ That’s a big help.”

And it’s a nightmare for opposing defenses -- even ones as renowned as Virginia Tech's.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for them,” said Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster. “They’re just right now, really a complete football team.”

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 5, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Ah, August. It's so nice to have more than three links to choose from ...

  • As the conference begins practices this week, Tony Barnhart has five burning questions for the Atlantic Division. 
  • College football fans in the state of North Carolina are keeping ticket sales alive, despite the tough economy.
  • Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner is the ACC's most accurate passer. And yet he's just happy he was ever offered a scholarship
  • Here are five questions to ponder about Maryland's defense before the Terps open fall camp.
  • Dueling quarterbacks will be the norm this summer at Clemson, and Kyle Parker and Willy Korn seem to be taking it in stride.
  • Clemson isn't the only program with a few major position battles looming this summer. FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett isn't afraid to shake things up in Tally.
  • Does Miami really need a go-to receiver? Receivers coach Aubrey Hill says it's not a must.

Intangibles key in Miami's start to '09

March, 24, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There is no questioning the talent on Miami's roster. It's the intangibles that not even the staff can predict. They've got a new offense, a new defense, a new quarterback, and they're all trying to find some chemistry and get the program back to where they want it to be. They have the talent to do it.

Here's the thing, though. Miami's schedule simply doesn't allow the Canes any margin for error. There are no William & Marys to work out the kinks. The Miami Hurricanes have to play their best football in September, or it's going to be a long season.

Gut feeling? There will be no in-between for this team. Miami will either start the season 4-0 or 0-4.

The good news is first-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple's confidence oozes down to the players, and receivers coach Aubrey Hill said they're picking up the offense quickly. For such a young team, they're preparing the right way, and that's critical.

"Sometimes you have a lot of young kids who say Yeah, I want to win, but don't really do the little things to win and then you have to call them out on it," Hill said. "We haven't had to do that at this point. And also, in fairness to those guys, they are very competitive. When you learn a new offense, you have some things you have to correct, but when you come out the next day, you're not having to correct the same mistakes. So, that's a good sign."

Receiver LaRon Byrd is also a good sign. He's been studying a lot of game film. Not just any game film, though, vintage Miami film.

"You get the best of both worlds -- you've got a great offense you can learn from and you can learn from great cornerbacks who played on the 2001 team," Byrd said. "Not to say that last year was a downfall year, but at the same time it's not the Miami way. Like coach Shannon always preaches, when you look at great teams like that, from the five national championships, everybody around here expects to win at least 10 games a year. Every great program has their downfall, but hopefully we're going to rise again. I think we can get it started this year right here."

Byrd is one of many young players on Miami's roster growing into his reputation. So are players like Sean Spence, Travis Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson. They're a young team carrying expectations similar to the 2007 Virginia Tech team that had veterans like like Macho Harris, Xavier Adibi and Brandon Flowers.

"It's such an unknown," Hill said. "When you look at Virginia Tech over the last several years, teams that have won the ACC championship, what they've done, you know the players they had. There are so many new names on our team, but at the same time, if they're not new names, they're fairly young. But at the same time, our coaching staff feels very comfortable that even though we have young players, to a certain degree they're proven because they've already played."

The Canes circled the first game, and that's it. Everyone knows they're playing Florida State, and the players and coaches refuse to look past the Noles.

"Maybe if you're somewhere else, not necessarily within the ACC, maybe you wallow and say wow, man, this is a tough schedule," Hill said. "At the University of Miami ... we feel we can compete and play against anybody."

They can't afford to start the 2009 season believing anything less.

Miami receivers looking for big 'Payday' this fall

March, 19, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Miami receivers coach Aubrey Hill always keeps a stash of old-school Payday candy bars in his office, but it's not to feed a habit. Instead, it's a reward for his players when they make what he considers to be a big play -- the kind of game-changing play that could one day lead to a big "payday" in the NFL.

With what could be the deepest, most talented group of receivers in the ACC this year, Hill has had to keep his desk drawer stocked with mini treats. He's got Paydays. Snickers. Twix. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. More often than not this spring, he's had players approaching him asking, 'Hey, coach, where's my candy bar?'

"It's interesting how you can use the symbolism of a candy bar to say a kid has done a good job," Hill said. "You're talking about a quarter candy bar, but what it symbolizes is, 'Hey coach, I'm trying to do exactly what you want me to do. It matters to me, it's important to me.' They want to earn it."

They are, and it could pay dividends for Miami this fall.

Seven freshmen receivers were introduced to Miami football last season, and five of them -- Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier and Davon Johnson -- scored touchdowns. The other two? They were injured. Both Tommy Streeter (wrist surgery) and Kendall Thompkins (shoulder surgery) redshirted last year but have worked their way into the rotation this spring. Leonard Hankerson, a junior, is the veteran of the group.

They bring versatility to Miami's offense, as Byrd, Aldarius Johnson, Hankerson and Streeter each weigh over 200 pounds and are big, tall, targets, while Benjamin, Davon Johnson, Collier and Thompkins are the smaller, speedy, deep threats. Together they provide options in the return game, and the potential for reverses, short passes or deep passes.

"We have such a mixture in our group," said Byrd, who caught four touchdown passes last year. "... A team can't just say, 'All they've got is fast guys, we're just going to play them deep.' You've got to look for the underneath route, the deep route, and that helps us out a lot. We are very confident. We're going to bring swagger back this year. I think -- I know -- we have the best receiving corps in the ACC."

They set the bar high last year as true freshmen, accounting for 42.6 percent of the team's receptions, 44.8 percent of its total receiving yards, and 59 percent -- 13 of 22 -- touchdowns. This year, they're older, wiser, and expectations have been raised.

(Read full post)

Miami to use Florida game as measuring stick for program

September, 4, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
 Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
 Randy Shannon has become the face of the Miami program.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Miami coach Randy Shannon was eating lunch at one of his regular stops near campus this week when a young fan approached his table and interrupted his time with Texas Toast.

"Are you Randy Shannon?" he asked.

Shannon nodded and posed for a picture with the boy, who informed him he'd be at the game against Florida this week in Gainesville.

In his second season as head coach, Shannon has become the face of Miami football. The identity of his team, though, is not so clear.

Of the 100 players on the roster, 40 are either true or redshirt freshmen -- quarterbacks included. Overall, 21 true freshmen played in the Hurricanes' season opening 52-7 thumping of Charleston Southern. While they looked good in the process, Shannon knows Saturday's game at No. 5-ranked Florida will reveal a lot more about where his team is and how much further the program must go before it regains its status as a national title contender.

"I really do think we need a game like this," Shannon said. "We need to know where we're at as a staff, and as a football team to know where we're at from this point. Playing Florida is a great opportunity to put our standards and our measures to where they're at right now.

"I think that's what you want to get at, to that level. Florida has been one of the premier teams in the country for probably the last four or five years. You always want to get back to that level. We've got young players like they had young players when coach (Ron) Zook was there. ... This is the backbone of what we're trying to build this program with. This is just the foundation and the start with these young guys."

While the Gators' offense will be run by Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, the Hurricanes will be led by redshirt freshman Robert Marve, who has never played in a college football game. One of the reasons Marve came to Miami, though, was to play a role in rebuilding the program.

"In high school, my high school team started off on the bottom going up," he said. "It was a big thing to be a part of that. I know how great it can be to be on the upside of a program that's been down for a second, and I'm just trying to do as much as I can to prepare and help us get to where we need to be."

Had this game been played at the same time a year ago, Shannon said, he probably would have lost some weight and chewed his nails down worrying about it. Not this season. The difference is he has a core group of veterans who can share time with the younger players.

"This is the first time we've been healthy since I've been a head coach at the University of Miami," he said. "Last year, the second game of the season, third game, we was trying to dress 50 guys. Now, we're able to pick and choose who we need to try and things like that."

The strengths of this team are the offensive line, the tight ends and the running backs. But in a program trying to rebound from a 5-7 season that included just two conference wins, everything is a question mark.

Doubt swirled around the program this summer mainly because of the uncertainty at quarterback and the unproven talent on the roster. The Hurricanes were picked by the media to finish third in the Coastal Division behind Virginia Tech and North Carolina, respectively. But both of those teams looked unimpressive in their debuts last week, causing some to wonder if Miami might be capable of more than originally expected.

"This game will at least set a mark for the University of Miami," said senior safety Anthony Reddick. "Coming into this game, coming into this year, a lot of people are doubting us, except for the people that are here, except for our families. We have a lot to prove. I think we have just as many playmakers as they do. We really do. I think everybody that's here could've went to Florida."

Not only is this a chance for Miami to prove itself within the conference, but following an opening weekend in which the ACC was embarrassed on the national stage, it's a chance for the Hurricanes to help heal the league's bruised reputation.

"We're always looked at like we're not a strong conference, but for us and the ACC it would be a tremendous boost," Shannon said. "It would give us a lift and get the conference what I call some growth to it."

Shannon's 2008 recruiting class has been lauded as the best in the nation and was ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN.com. But even he can't predict how the teenagers will respond to playing in the Swamp.

"You don't know until the game time comes," Shannon said. "You don't really know. All you can do is throw 'em out there."

That's exactly what he did last weekend.

Eleven different receivers caught passes, six were true freshmen.

"It's the best gauge of the season, without a doubt," said receivers coach Aubrey Hill. "With so many receivers we're playing, to see them against really good competition for 60 minutes, for the whole entire game will be very exciting."

Five true freshmen rotated in on the defensive line, three in the secondary and two at linebacker. Expect more of the same against the Gators -- as early as the first quarter.

Shannon has no choice.

"They have to play," Shannon said. "We don't have the numbers not to play the young guys. They are our second team guys. They are the guys that are going to help us win."

Saturday's game will help determine how quickly they can do it.

Rivalry? What rivalry?

September, 2, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- This Saturday will be Miami's first trip to The Swamp since the 2002 season. Miami has also won the past six meetings.

Rivalry?

"It's not a rivalry," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "It's a rivalry within themselves and the guys ... I guarantee there have been phone calls going back and forth between Miami players and Florida players because they know each other. That's the rivalry. As far as playing six years ago, I mean when you don't play a team for six years, the rivalry is gone. It's not like in the days when I played and before my time ... Now since the rivalry stopped, you can't always try to restart something. Because after this game Saturday, we won't play them another time for six more years."

Shannon is correct in the connection between the players -- 12 current Miami players shared a high school locker room with a current Gator.

The players aren't the only ones with ties to the Florida roster. Miami receivers coach Aubrey Hill lettered four seasons at Florida from 1991-94. He's not expecting the red carpet treatment in his first return as an opponent.

"They'll be throwing stuff at me," he said with a laugh. "It won't be like a homecoming. They'll be trying to kick my tail and the Hurricanes' and obviously we'll be trying to do the same thing to them. When I was on the other side it was all easy. When I come in now, I'll be the enemy. Maybe after the game I'll get a pat on the back."

ACC in the morning: Miami edition

September, 2, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- It's time to talk Canes. Miami coach Randy Shannon will have his news conference today to preview the Florida game, so why don't we start there.

Moving onto Florida State since they're finally playing this weekend ...

I can't believe we're still talking about this. When I make it down to Florida State this season, I'm gonna have to personally introduce myself to each offensive lineman and let him tell me how he really feels. Of course, I'd like to be standing behind one of their defensive linemen when they do it.

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