NCF Nation: Brandon Flowers

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.

The ACC's 'Replacements'

February, 23, 2009
2/23/09
10:38
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

As we head into spring football, there will be some pretty big names missing from the rosters -- Clemson needs to replace its starting quarterback, safety and running back, Duke lost the ACC's leading tackler, Virginia lost its leading receiver and rusher, BC lost its starting defensive tackles, Georgia Tech needs to replace three of its four starting defensive linemen, and UNC needs to replace all of its top receivers -- just to name a few. There will also be plenty of replacements within coaching staffs.

Here are the five biggest shoes to fill in the ACC this spring:

 
  Mark Goldman/Icon SMI
  Aaron Curry finished his career at Wake Forest with 332 tackles.

Virginia Tech cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris -- Not only will the Hokies lose one of their top defenders, they'll also lose a true leader. Last season, Harris had 14 passes defended and six interceptions -- including two returned for touchdowns -- and two forced fumbles. One option is to move Stephan Virgil to the other side like the staff did when Brandon Flowers left. Another is to let a few players battle it out. Rashad Carmichael started the game Harris missed due to injury.

Florida State defensive end Everette Brown -- He led the league in sacks and tackles for loss. Brown's season sack total was 13.5 and his career sack total was 23. Markus White, who was Brown's backup in 2008, earned his first sack against Clemson, and is the front-runner to succeed Brown. Kevin McNeil also has experience at the end position.

Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry -- The Butkus Award winner finished the regular season with a team-leading 101 tackles and 15 tackles for loss. Curry finished his career with 332 tackles and a school-record 278 career interception return yards. Jonathan Jones was Curry's backup last season and has some experience there.

UNC receiver Hakeem Nicks -- Nicks set UNC single-season records in 2008 for receiving yards (1,222) and touchdowns (12). In just three seasons, Nicks established 14 school records at UNC, including career receptions (181), career receiving yards (2,580) and career touchdowns (21). The staff recruited several receivers who are expected to compete for time this fall, but Joshua Adams, who enrolled in January, could have a slight edge because he'll be practicing this spring. Sophomore Dwight Jones should also be in the mix, along with Todd Harrelson and Rashad Mason.

Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski -- He took the Eagles to back-to-back ACC title games, including 2008, when little was expected of the Eagles in their first season without Matt Ryan. Jagodzinski left Boston College with a 20-8 record (11-3 in 2007, 9-5 in 2008). Former defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani will be in his first season as a head coach.

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