ACC: Bill Young

Staff stability at Miami

January, 28, 2010
First, raise your hand if you're a Miami fan and didn't want to see former offensive coordinator Patrick Nix leave.

Second, any Miami fans out there who have been disappointed by the hire of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple? Didn't think so. Anyone who didn't think the Bill Young hire as defensive coordinator two seasons ago was a score?

Yes, Miami's staff has had turnover.

No, it hasn't entirely been a bad thing, nor is there any need to lambaste Randy Shannon for it.

It's easy to look at the instability Miami has had in the three-plus seasons under Shannon and criticize the program's seemingly endless turnover, but it's not entirely fair. Shannon will be the first to admit he's aiming for the kind of staff security you can find in Blacksburg or Winston-Salem, but first he's got to get the right people in place.

Can you imagine taking over a program as scrutinized, and as rich in tradition as Miami and wondering whether or not former, well-respected players on staff such as Clint Hurtt are the best men for the job? Awkward. In general, just because a former player's résumé includes a school like Miami and a lengthy career in the NFL doesn't mean he's a good X's and O's college coach.

The hire of Rick Petri to run the defensive line should be an upgrade for the position. Petri, I'm told by two other assistant coaches in the ACC, is an old-school guy, a Rick Trickett-type if you will, but toned down a notch. He's well-respected among his peers and extremely smart. He's the kind of guy where you're always wondering what the heck he's thinking.

Offensively, Miami seems to have things settled. Defensively, the Canes don't quite seem to have figured it out yet. Maybe some of that has to do with Shannon, a strong defensive mind who can't make up his own mind about how involved to be with the defense. If he constantly has one hand in it, it will be tough for Miami to keep a defensive coordinator there for any extended period of time. If Shannon works exclusively as the CEO of the program, eventually the turnover should subside. So far, though, the changes have been good for Miami, and Petri should continue that trend.

Scouting Miami

August, 7, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Miami starts practice tomorrow, but why wait? The Canes certainly aren't hesitating to get into the heart of their schedule.

It's Randy Shannon's third year, and the college football world is growing restless for the Canes to make their comeback. There's no question Shannon is recruiting for the future, but after a 12-13 record, he needs those freshmen and sophomores to win now. Is it a fair demand considering the Canes are still very young, they're breaking in a sophomore quarterback, they've got a grueling schedule and two new coordinators?

It's probably still a year too early to think Miami is going to be knocking on the door of the top 10 BCS Standings, but there's no question their schedule sets them up for such a ranking. Even if Miami started its season 3-0, it's ascension to the top of the ACC would be seemingly overnight. On the other hand, an 0-4 start is equally as possible.

The players insist they're focused on Florida State and only Florida State, but back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will go a long way in determining the course of Coastal Division race before October. The biggest question facing Miami is how quickly can it start? Here are a few others:

1. How much will the new coordinators really affect the team's progress? Judging from what Shannon and his players have said this offseason, the hire of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and defensive coordinator John Lovett has been a seamless transition. They have already established good relationships with the players, and the players caught on quickly to what the new assistants wanted to do. In particular, the offensive players on more than one occasion have told me Whipple is like a "father figure" to them. Quarterback Jacory Harris has been soaking up everything Whipple has to say, and should flourish under his guidance. Defensively, Bill Young was a great coach who will be tough to replace, and going through three coordinators in as many seasons definitely has an impact. But Lovett's peers throughout the conference have only talked about his work ethic and their respect for him.

2. Will tight end Dedrick Epps be ready? He says he is, and he better be, because the options are limited. Epps had surgery on Jan. 26 for a torn ACL, and the position is so thin that Shannon didn't hesitate when former forward Jimmy Graham decided he wanted to use his final year of eligibility to play football. Epps, though, is proven, and he was the team's third-leading receiver a year ago with 304 yards.

3. Did Miami's run defense learn anything from Georgia Tech last year? Unfortunately for the Canes, we won't have to wait long to find out, as Miami faces the Jackets on Sept. 17. Paul Johnson's triple option offense baffled the Canes, and Shannon was disappointed his team didn't play assignment football that day. It was hardly the only time Miami's run defense was run over, though. Miami ranked last in the ACC in rushing defense, allowing 151.8 yards per game. The front seven should be better this year, especially with the maturation of hard-hitting sophomore linebacker Sean Spence, the return of injured Colin McCarthy, and a deep defensive line. Depth at linebacker remains a concern, though.

Hope and concern: Miami

June, 25, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Biggest reason for hope -- First-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple

There's a buzz around Miami's offense that has been missing, and it's because of this hire -- arguably the best Randy Shannon has made as head coach (although Bill Young is also a heckuva coach). The players are excited. The fans are excited. And if Whipple can get the young playmakers to execute his game plan, look out for the Canes. Whipple knows what it takes to win. He's been successful at every level, and he's brought an NFL swagger to Coral Gables. He immediately had the players' respect and their attention. The Canes always had the talent, now they've got somebody who knows how to utilize it.

Biggest reason for concern -- Schedule

Virginia Tech has the toughest nonconference schedule, but Miami wins the award for the toughest overall schedule. It starts at Florida State, and then the Canes have a bye week to prepare for back-to-back Coastal Division games against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Top that off with an Oct. 3 home game against Oklahoma and Miami could be in for a disasterous start. Or, they could be a top-10 team. If it weren't for Miami's brutal opening stretch, odds are they'd be more of a favorite to win the Coastal Division. It's daunting, and like Shannon told Sporting News: Jacory Harris simply cannot get hurt.

Bonus mailblog

April, 3, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Ah, what the heck, why not? A few more questions have trickled in since this morning, so let's have some Friday fun with the mailbag ...

Miami fans are wondering about the hire of John Lovett as defensive coordinator. Check it out:

Chris in Port St Lucie, FL writes: HD: My question is in regards to the opinion of you and others of Coach John Lovett. As you know, it has been "Whipple-mania" down here and Lovett is skating by quietly at the moment. I would like to get a little perspective as to what is the common perception of Coach Lovett and do you think that he can be successful at the U?

Mike in Boston writes: Ever sense the OC and DC hires at Miami, Whipple has been getting a ton of media attention while Lovett has been relatively ignored. What are your thoughts on our new DC as compared to Bill Young?

Heather Dinich: First, to be fair, I haven't talked to Lovett yet. In talking with other coaches, though, Young was very highly regarded among his peers and well-respected. Lovett has earned a reputation as a hard worker, and a good motivator who is knowledgeable and very committed. On the other hand, he was fired at Auburn, and Tommy Bowden fired him at Clemson. He was special teams coordinator at North Carolina. It wouldn't surprise me if he wasn't Randy Shannon's first choice, but Lovett is there now, and Shannon said he had a good spring and earned the players' respect. This one is worth reserving judgment on until Lovett is given a chance at Miami.

John in Morris Plains, NJ writes: Could you explain why you think Spaziani was the right hire for BC even though you don't think he will even get the team to the top half of the conference standings this year?

Heather Dinich: I can and I will. Spaz knows that program inside and out, and genuinely cares about it. He is reflective of the blue-collar players the staff brings in there, and will do a good job recruiting. His defenses have been stellar, but he's fighting an uphill battle this season because the offense is learning a new system, they don't know who their starting quarterback is yet, and they've got to revamp the defensive line. All of the other teams in the Atlantic Division except Clemson have experienced quarterbacks, which in turn gives them a bit of a head start on the Eagles. And what Clemson doesn't have at QB, it compensates for with C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford. BC has one of the better o-lines in the conference, though, so we'll see. But as of right now, Spaz has more questions than answers.

A Jackets fan in Carrollton, Ga, writes: Heather: Much has been said and written about how Ga Tech's A-Backs have had a hard time learning to cut block, an essential in the option...couldn't block and STILL ran up 400 yards rushing on Uga...LOOK OUT!

Heather Dinich: Yeah, and those 164 yards on the ground really did LSU in, too ... Certainly no room for improvement in Atlanta.

William writes: Aramide Olaniyan signed with Duke. He's a big-time prospect. Warrants mentioning on your blog.

Heather Dinich: Consider it done, thanks.

ACC's lunchtime links: Miami AD in the dark?

January, 20, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Is Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt out of the loop? ADs don't usually like surprises, and it doesn't sound like Hocutt was aware of Oklahoma State's interest in defensive coordinator Bill Young.

"If something were close to happening, I'm sure I would have spoken to Randy (Shannon) about it by now," Hocutt told Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post.

How is Hocutt supposed to help sweeten the pot for Young to stay if he doesn't even know Young is thinking about leaving?

ACC's coordinator carousel: More news for Miami

January, 20, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Here is a great summary of all of the coordinator moves that have happened this offseason, but the dust hasn't settled yet in Coral Gables.

There had been some speculation recently that Miami defensive coordinator Bill Young had been contacted by his alma mater, Oklahoma State, and the Miami Herald confirmed that in today's paper.

Miami fans know this would be a huge loss for the Canes -- huge -- especially considering Randy Shannon is still in the process of hiring an offensive coordinator. Young did an admirable job with the defense this year and is respected by both the players and his peers. He was a great hire by Shannon, and Miami needs to do what it can to keep him there.

It's not like Young is irreplaceable, though, and it appears Shannon already has a candidate or two in mind if Young decides to leave. Staff stability is so important, though, when trying to rebuild a program. Losing four coordinators in two seasons certainly doesn't help. If this defense has to learn yet another new system and new terminology, and the offense has to go through the same thing, there could be more growing pains in Year 3. 

Miami fires Nix

December, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Miami coach Randy Shannon fired offensive coordinator Patrick Nix on Monday, giving a lot of Miami fans exactly what they wanted.

I'm not entirely convinced, though, that this will solve the Hurricanes' problems. There were philosophical differences between Shannon and Nix, and it's hard to tell how much that limited what Nix wanted to do. Another question worth asking is how much Shannon's formula for managing the quarterbacks the way he did threw off Nix's game plan. Could Nix have done a better job this season? Yes. Could Shannon have helped him do it? Maybe.

As long as Shannon makes a hire comparable to the one he made with defensive coordinator Bill Young, it won't matter. If not, though, Shannon's ability to manage a staff will come into question as much as his ability to manage quarterbacks. After all, he hired Nix in the first place.

Miami looking to improve run defense against Cal

December, 23, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Miami senior linebacker Glenn Cook said it's not uncommon to see defensive coordinator Bill Young walking around the football building or in his office joking and smiling.

Not recently, though.

Not after Young's defense allowed an average of 345.5 rushing yards in the past two games, both of which were losses.

"He was not pleased with that," Cook said, "so we really worked hard on that. I think we've improved."

Instead of peaking at the end of the season, Miami's rushing defense seemed to take a step back, and it's going to have to reassert itself on Saturday against Cal in the Emerald Bowl in order to have a chance to win. Jahvid Best ended the regular season with 1,394 rushing yards -- the fourth-highest total in school history.

Cook said Miami's game plan is to force Cal into long passing situations, but the Hurricanes are wary of Cal's passing game, too.

"We're going in trying to stop the run," Cook said. "Jahvid Best, he's a real good running back, really explosive. You'll see on film where he'll break one for 50 for a touchdown."

During Miami's five-game winning streak, the Hurricanes allowed just 97.8 rushing yards per game and held three opponents -- Central Florida, Virginia Tech and Virginia -- to under 78 rushing yards each. It started to unravel, though, at Georgia Tech, when the Canes were run over for 472 yards, just 17 yards shy of what all five opponents combined for during Miami's five-game winning streak.

"Georgia Tech, we really didn't play very sound that game," Cook said. "You go back to watching film and it was very small things that hurt us. Against an offense like that you can't do that. We missed a lot of tackles the last two games of the season. We've gotten back to fundamental tackling drills and getting in position and pursuit angles. We went back to the small things these last couple days and really worked on technique and fundamentals and getting back to our style of football."

3Q update: Georgia Tech 41, Miami 10

November, 20, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

ATLANTA -- Miami defensive coordinator Bill Young passed me in the press box on his way to the bathroom at halftime. He might as well have stayed in there. Miami's defense is getting embarrassed.

And there's an entire quarter left to play.

The Canes aren't defending the option with any discipline or consistency, and they're not accounting for the fullback, quarterback and slot back. That's what's allowing Georgia Tech its big plays. Over and over again. So much for quarterback Josh Nesbitt playing timid on that ankle.

Georgia Tech's defense, on the other hand, looks like the running of the bulls on every play. And they're doing it without two starters -- safety Dominique Reese and linebacker Sedric Griffin -- who were both knocked out of the game with left knee injuries in the first half.

Miami hasn't quit -- Robert Marve hit Dedrick Epps who was wide open in the end zone for the Canes' only touchdown so far -- but it's like it didn't even matter here.

All Paul Johnson has to do now is keep the ball on the ground and run the clock. You know, what he's been doing all game.

Miami's Shannon deserves credit

November, 19, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Last year, Randy Shannon lost seven games as Miami's head coach. This year, he has won seven games.

 Joel Auerbach/US Presswire
 Randy Shannon should receive some coach of the year consideration.

Sounds like the very definition of a turnaround.

Regardless of what happens to the Hurricanes in their final two games of this season -- on Thursday night at Georgia Tech and in the season finale at NC State -- Shannon deserves credit for what he has done this year.

As in, ACC Coach of the Year consideration kind of credit.

Miami won two league games in Shannon's first year as head coach, an embarrassment to a program with five national championships. The Hurricanes did not go to a bowl game, and the dreadful, unforgettable 48-0 loss to Virginia in the final game at the historic Orange Bowl made the outlook grim. It was only natural to question Shannon's ability as a head coach.

Well, this season he answered.

Shannon has done what he was hired to do -- win -- at home and on the road. He has the Canes (7-3, 4-2 ACC) ranked No. 23 in the latest BCS standings. And he's done it with 11 freshmen on his two-deep roster and numerous injuries to key players.

Consider how important Shannon's latest batch of recruits has been to this season's offensive success:

  • Freshmen have accounted for half of Miami's all-purpose yards this season.
  • Eight true freshmen have scored for Miami this season.
  • 25 of Miami's 33 touchdowns have been scored by either a sophomore or freshman.
  • Underclassmen have accounted for 100 percent of the team's passing yardage, 79 percent of its rushing yardage, 65 percent of its receptions and 82 percent of its points.

It should also be noted that of the 23 seniors on this year's roster, 13 have already earned their degrees while the other 10 are on schedule to graduate in either December or May 2009. Discipline has not been a problem.

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Miami's defense pulls out all the stops

November, 14, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Miami quarterback Robert Marve wasn't bothered by the quick three-and-out with about three minutes left against Virginia Tech and a precarious 16-14 lead.

Instead, Marve said he felt rather "comfortable" about it.

 Joel Auerbach/US Presswire
 The Miami defense spent much of Thursday's game in the Virginia Tech backfield.

Credit the defense for calming his nerves. Virginia Tech wasn't going anywhere.

"I felt like they had that one drive, they scored a touchdown, but besides that, I think they went more backwards than they did forwards," Marve said.

Indeed, on fourth-and-3, the Hokies' final shot on offense, defensive end Allen Bailey surged into their backfield, wrapped up quarterback Tyrod Taylor and threw him down for a loss of seven yards with 1:56 remaining. The play was just one of a season-high six sacks and punctuated a dominant night for Miami's defensive line, as they were able to control one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league.

"We worked on it this off-week," said Miami coach Randy Shannon. "We did some things in practice we needed to work on, just getting the defensive linemen to understand about run-pass. We were always good on third down -- we could get up the field and do those things -- but recognizing run-pass situations, we worked on that for two weeks and I think it really helped us out this week."

(Read full post)

Final: Miami 16, Virginia Tech 14

November, 13, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Miami's defense was the difference in this game. For the most part, the athletes the Hurricanes have on defense took away what Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor can do. With the exception of the Hokies' final scoring drive, his feet couldn't match the Canes' speed.

This doesn't mean Virginia Tech is completely out of it, but it means North Carolina is even more in it. The roles will reverse this weekend. North Carolina needed Virginia Tech to lose, and probably watched this game with heightened interest. Now, Miami needs the Tar Heels to lose, and will watch their game Saturday at Maryland like it's the No. 1 box office hit.

Miami's defense stifled Virginia Tech's already struggling offense. With 11:49 remaining in the game, the Hurricanes had held Darren Evans to three rushes for 3 yards. The Hokies had minus-11 yards in the third quarter. This really shows how far Bill Young's defense has come as the season progressed. Unfortunately, Young and Patrick Nix are off-limits to the media.

I'm heading down to the locker room now to talk to everyone else.

What to watch in the ACC, Week 7

October, 10, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Not an easy list to compile, considering half the teams are off and the only in-conference matchup was already played. Still, there's always something worth paying attention to in the ACC on Saturdays:

1. Jimmy Clausen against UNC's secondary -- Yes, the Tar Heels are much improved and already have more interceptions (12) than they did all of last season (11). But the pass defense is what coordinator Everett Withers is concerned about.

2. Virginia quarterback Marc Verica -- Can he do it again against East Carolina? Was last week's performance against Maryland the real deal from the former fourth-stringer? He completed 25 of 34 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Where was that all season?

3. Georgia Tech's youth movement -- Paul Johnson intends on playing just about everyone in this game, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see all three quarterbacks, too. Keep an eye on true freshman A-back Marcus Wright, a speedy player likely to burn his redshirt.

4. UNC running back Shaun Draughn -- He is listed as probable heading into this game, and they'll need him to provide a boost to an otherwise inconsistent running game. Draughn rushed for 109 yards and one touchdown on just 19 carries last week against Connecticut.

5. Miami's defense -- The Hurricanes have been struggling lately, and first-year coordinator Bill Young took the blame for it in his first public comments to the media. The Hurricanes have the ability to beat UCF, but will have to play smart football in an emotional game between players who are all-too familiar with each other.

6. UNC linebacker Bruce Carter -- How can you NOT watch this guy since he's blocked four straight punts?

7. UNC's ability to get to Clausen -- The Irish allowed more sacks than any team in the nation last year (58), but have only allowed five so far this season.

8. Georgia Tech's return game -- It's the only phase of the game left for the Yellow Jackets to have a breakout play. In the past two games, Georgia Tech has produced the longest run in school history (Jonathan Dwyer's 88-yard run against Mississippi State), and the third-longest pass play in Tech history (Jaybo Shaw's 88-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas). More like 80 yards and a cloud of dust.

9. Virginia's defense versus ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney -- Pinkney hasn't entirely been able to compensate for the Pirates' struggles on the ground, but he is 37th in the nation in passing efficiency. Clint Sintim and the Cavaliers smothered Maryland, and every win they've had this season has been a shutout. Go figure.

10. Internal combustion at Clemson -- Athletic director Terry Don Phillips said he doesn't discuss personnel changes in the middle of the season, and Tommy Bowden said he won't make any staff changes, but after Thursday night's loss to Wake Forest, everything in the program should be under review.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 5

September, 26, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

1. Florida State's offense -- After a touchdown-less performance in their home stadium last weekend, can these guys finally get something going against real competition? Will the coaching staff make good on its talk to use running back Jermaine Thomas more and Preston Parker less at the position?

2. Boston College quarterback Chris Crane -- After a tale of two halves against UCF, can Crane put together four quarters of better decision-making against an FCS opponent? Jeff Jagodzinski is trying to get Crane to understand it's OK to throw the ball away on occasion.

3. NC State's attitude before kickoff -- If these guys come out hanging their heads because they don't have their starting quarterback, or their best defensive playmaker, Wolfpack fans could be in for a long afternoon. If they come out like they did against East Carolina, though, we all should be calling that staff for a pep talk when we have a bad day.

4. Old vs. new in Lincoln, Neb. -- Bo Pelini, a defensive-minded coach, is in his first season at Nebraska while veteran Frank Beamer is in his 22nd season. Here's the problem for the Hokies: Pelini was the defensive coordinator at LSU last year when the Tigers beat Virginia Tech 48-7.

5. Old vs. new in Durham, N.C. -- Veteran quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will try to lead the Blue Devils to their first ACC win since 2004, and third-string-turned-starting-quarterback Marc Verica will try to pull the Cavaliers out of their slump in their league opener.

6. Skinner's streak -- Wake's veteran quarterback, Riley Skinner, has thrown 131 passes without an interception. He should be able to keep it alive against Navy, as the Midshipmen rank 104th in the nation in pass defense.

7. Clemson's chart climbers -- Running back James Davis needs two rushing touchdowns to become the school's career leader and quarterback Cullen Harper needs 46 passing yards to reach 4,000 for his career.

8. UNC's quarterbacks -- Can backups Cam Sexton and Mike Paulus combine to replace injured starter T.J. Yates against Miami? It's going to be tough, considering the quantum leaps the Hurricanes' defense has taken under first-year coordinator Bill Young.

9. Florida State's other team -- That's right, the one yielding about a half-dozen suspended players is back. The emotional boost guys like Dekoda Watson can provide, along with the physical one players like Caz Piurowski can bring should make a difference on both sides of the ball.

10. The Hokies' offensive scheme -- Coaches said this week they're looking at more spread offense concepts. Will that trend continue against the Huskers, and will it help quarterback Tyrod Taylor? Virginia Tech ranks 114th out of 119 FBS teams in passing offense.

Week 5 predictions: Getting tougher

September, 25, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

This was the toughest week to date. The hardest games to call were Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke. Last week was my worst performance, going 5-3. Overall, I'm 27-9 heading into this week.

Here's what I've got for Week 5:


Maryland 24, Clemson 21 -- Because of the injuries on their offensive line, the Tigers have to rely on Jacoby Ford, C.J. Spiller and Aaron Kelly. If Maryland can control those three players -- or keep them off the field by running the ball and controlling the clock -- they can win. Because of Clemson's injuries, the Terps should win the battle in the trenches, but their pass defense could bring them down.

Wake Forest 27, Navy 24 -- This could be a trap game for the Deacs. The Midshipmen have the nation's top rushing offense, but Wake has a veteran defense and Cool Hand Luke for their quarterback. Riley Skinner will be throwing into a pass defense that allows 176 yards per game.

Miami 31, North Carolina 10 -- Considering this is the season opener for UNC's backup quarterback tandem and it's a home game for the rapidly improving Hurricanes, the odds are stacked against the Tar Heels. Bill Young's defense will force UNC into turnovers and create a short field for OC Patrick Nix.

Duke 21, Virginia 20 -- The Cavaliers might have better athletes on their roster, but the Blue Devils have the better quarterback. What they probably don't have is much confidence against ACC opponents, but considering the sorry state of both programs, I'm going with the home team and the one with the better record.

Boston College 38, Rhode Island 3 -- The Eagles' defense should have no problem containing an FCS school that ranks 113th in rushing offense with 49 yards per game and Chris Crane should pass the test against a defense that has allowed 450 yards per game. URI has three straight losses.

Florida State 28, Colorado 10 -- The Buffaloes have to travel 1,488 miles just to be smothered by the Seminoles' defense in Jacksonville. The return of tight end Caz Piurowski will help the offensive line, and freshman running back Jermaine Thomas should help against a defense that held West Virginia to 3 of 13 third-down conversions.

South Florida 31, NC State 7 -- The Wolfpack will be without their top playmakers on both sides of the ball. Backup quarterback Harrison Beck has thrown three interceptions and two touchdowns this season while USF quarterback Matt Grothe is leading the Big East with 267 yards of total offense per game.

Virginia Tech 20, Nebraska 17 -- That's right, ANOTHER 20-17 win for the Hokies. Only because this is the Huskers' first true test of the season, and Virginia Tech has already proved it's a scrappy come-from-behind team. Plus, the Hokies have the veteran coaching staff.

OFF: Georgia Tech