CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -On the eve of his first training camp as Miami's head coach, someone asked Randy Shannon how he would define a successful season.
He didn't hesitate.
``National championship,'' Shannon said.
The Hurricanes have played 17 games since he offered that answer, lost 10 of them, including a dismal 2-8 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Given their penchant for occasionally booing, some fans are impatient. Players are frustrated that the results haven't been different. Shannon's hair seems to have considerably more wisps of gray than it did when he took the job.
But through the ups and downs - mostly downs - Shannon remains steadfast in his belief that the Hurricanes, even after two close, distressing losses at home over the last two weeks to North Carolina and Florida State, are getting closer to the elite level they crave.
expect, quicker than most people probably think. ... Everybody wants it now. Me, I want it now. Nobody wants to sit back and say, 'Well, it's going to take me four, five years to get it done.'
``You can't feel sorry for yourself.''
Miami has more than a dozen first-year players in key roles this season, and with four prominent upperclassmen now sidelined by injuries - at least three of them the season-ending variety - more freshmen will be added to the depth chart.
At times, it's men against boys out there, literally.
Take last weekend as an example: Florida State senior Greg Carr outstretched his arm and easily kept Miami freshman cornerback Brandon Harris at bay, then made a one-handed catch in the end zone, looking very much like a big brother embarrassing a much-younger one in the backyard. The play was nullified by a false start, but still, it serves as a microcosm of where the Hurricanes are right now.
``This team reminds me of my younger high school times,'' Miami quarterback Robert Marve said. ``You really have to build a base around you. This game is so great because you see how teams that have been playing together for three or four years look like. And when you can come up and have all them leaders play together, it's something really special. But you have to get your base before you can fight.''
high school, Tampa Plant, wasn't exactly a state power when he became the starter.
By the time he was a senior, and had a core of players who'd gone through the growing pains with him, they won a state championship.
``I know what can happen,'' Marve said.
When Shannon took over, the cupboards weren't bare, but were hardly stocked with talent to Miami standards.
The recruiting class signed in 2005, with no skill position players, left some huge holes that Shannon - who was the defensive coordinator at Miami at that time - and his current staff are working to fill.
``It's a process,'' Shannon said. ``Nobody understands that.''
Larry Coker's first three teams at Miami had 28 players who would be selected in the NFL draft, a staggering 15 of those in the first round. His first team, which won the national championship, had 11 draftees, five first-rounders.
Shannon's first team: three players drafted, one in the first round.
And just about every draft evaluator believes not only will Miami's record run of 14 straight years with at least one first-round pick end this year, but the Hurricanes may be hard-pressed to have anyone taken in any round this year, unless a junior or two decides to leave early. The last time no Miami player was drafted? 1974.
In time, with all the young players, Shannon knows that will change. He also knows it won't change overnight.
ient than I was last year,'' said Shannon, who has the backing of university president Donna Shalala and first-year athletic director Kirby Hocutt. ``Am I patient about losing? No. Am I patient with these young guys? Yes. You have to be.''
He's not all that patient, though.
Even with all the talk about recruiting and seeing freshmen develop and how strong Miami could be in 2009 and 2010, Shannon hasn't written off the Hurricanes' chances this season.
Far from it.
A year ago at this time, Miami was 4-1. This year, Miami is 2-3. But Shannon insists that this year's team is ``a lot better'' than what he had in 2007, and believes it's only a matter of time before things start clicking again.
``We're not far from where we need to be at,'' Shannon said. ``Do I think it's going to happen this year compared to next year? I'm only worried about this year. We're a lot better than we were last year. We're a lot better than we were (last month) against Florida. Anything can happen.''

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