|Randy Shannon knows Hurricanes must improve|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 26 November 2007 00:50|
Doors were shut tight, no one was around to study game film, and fresh paint was drying on the walls.
By Monday, those halls will have a slightly different look.
By next fall, Miami's football team certainly will as well.
Miami's stunning collapse-filled season ended Saturday with a 5-7 record, no bowl game to prepare for and a four-game losing streak - adding to the tailspin that has beset the Hurricanes' program over the past 2 1/2 years. So now, the focus turns to recruiting and players who can get Miami back to the elite level.
``The foundation of this team is here on this team, like a house,'' Miami coach Randy Shannon said. ``Now, if you want to add on a swimming pool in the backyard or a guest room, well, bring some of those freshmen in and those are your guest rooms and swimming pools. But the foundation is here.''
Miami's foundation, though, is eroding.
And that means the dreaded process - rebuilding - is set to begin in earnest.
``We're still the University of Miami,'' safety Randy Phillips said. ``We play great games. We play on TV a lot. We're moving to a new stadium. We're still sending guys to the NFL. But we've got to start winning, so any guys that want to win and play right now, they should come here because they will have that opportunity.''
The list of negative numbers this season is staggering:
- The 5-7 record was Miami's worst record since 1977 (3-8).
- Until last year, Miami hadn't lost four straight games in the same season since 1977. Now, the 'Canes have done it in consecutive years.
- Miami went through the entire season unranked for the first time since 1979.
``It was disappointing,'' said Shannon, who entered the year believing Miami would win at least eight games. ``You know how it is at Miami.''
Not only does the losing record - Miami's first since 1997 - show there's plenty of improving to do in the next nine months, but there's also going to be some glaring holes to fill. Roughly half the starting lineup has either exhausted its eligibility or isn't expected back in 2008.
Quarterback Kyle Wright's three-year reign as the starter is over, as is the career of his most dependable receiver, Darnell Jenkins. Starting linemen Derrick Morse, John Rochford and Andrew Bain are finished.
Defensively, the losses may be even more significant.
Linemen Teraz McCray and Vegas Franklin were seniors, as was linebacker Tavares Gooden and cornerback Glenn Sharpe - a sixth-year player still best-known for the late pass interference flag on what could have been the last play against Ohio State in the 2002 season's championship game.
Most notably, defensive end Calais Campbell and safety Kenny Phillips are likely candidates to skip their senior seasons and head to the NFL.
``If Calais and Kenny stay, that's a start,'' Shannon said.
Shannon said he will meet with Campbell and Phillips, give them the forms to have their status evaluated by the NFL, and vowed not to hold them back if they choose to pursue pro opportunities. But at the same time, when he looks at the lack of fourth- and fifth-year seniors who'll play for Miami next year, he's alarmed.
It wasn't much different this season - which, in Shannon's mind, is part of the reason why Miami blew chances against North Carolina, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and even Saturday against Boston College, when the Hurricanes fell 28-14.
``When we come back from behind, we have to finish it,'' Shannon said. ``I think when you have a bunch of young guys on the football team like we do, they don't understand what finishing is. But we are going to develop that.''
Miami trailed 14-0 before tying the game against the Eagles. The defense then yielded 14 points in six plays - two of which went for at least 45 yards - and the season's last bowl-qualifying chance died on a cold day in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Any of those games go a play or two differently, and Miami doesn't have the stigma of a losing season.
But they didn't.
So they do.
``Now I'm a fan,'' Wright said. ``It's going to be hard to let go, but you've got to move on.''
The Hurricanes may sign up to eight recruits - they didn't use the full allotment of 85 scholarships this season - in January and have them enroll for the second semester. And in February, Miami will probably sign 25 more recruits, meaning newcomers will compose a huge chunk of next season's team.
For better or worse, the program's future will hinge largely on how they develop.
``We have to accept it,'' said Shannon, who was on Butch Davis' staff when Miami went 5-6 in the probation year of 1997 - and helped land a class that won a national championship four years later. ``I've been through it before. We'll just start recruiting, recruiting hard and change it around.''