Cyrus Smith: This time last year I remember you guys were on edge about Al Golden’s shortcomings as Miami’s head coach. Besides the new car smell element that comes with hiring a new coach, what else has former Boca High graduate Mark Richt done as far as endearing himself to Miami fans?
State of the U: Well for starters, he hired a great staff behind him. UM fans are in love with new DC Manny Diaz' attacking style, that is a complete 180 of the previous staff's bend but don't break 3-4 hybrid defense. Richt also pilfered arguably the best D Line Coach in the country to Coral Gables from Mizzou in Craig Kuligowski. And guys like OC Thomas Brown, DB's Coach Mike Rumph, etc. appear to be paying immediate dividends in player development/recruiting. Coach Richt hosted a "Paradise Camp" during the summer in which many former players, including Ray Lewis, participated. In a nutshell, he's brought the old school 'Canes feel back to the program, without any of the riff raff. He also donated 1M bucks of his own cash to a much needed indoor facility that should be a go soon. The man has really endeared himself to the fan base, with nearly every one of his actions since being hired.
CS: What were the positive and negative takeaways in Richt’s debut as Miami’s head coach against FAMU?
SOTU: The positives start with a running attack that leaves the 'Canes #1 in the nation after one week in yards on the ground. Joe Yearby, Mark Walton, and Gus Edwards all went over the century mark vs FAMU. The D was also magnificent (albeit against a subpar opponent). They created turnovers, were constantly in the Rattlers backfield, and tackled sound on all three levels. The special teams unit produced a blocked punt, and a punt return TD. All three phases of the game showed up big time in Richt’s debut. And the team produced a school record 42-point third quarter as a result.
The one negative from that game is that LB Jamie Gordinier was lost for the season. Miami already starts 3 freshmen at LB and depth is an even huge concern at the position after just one week
CS: This week’s game between FAU and Miami will be the last of a three-game series and as an FAU alum I’m disappointed we will no longer be playing you guys. What are your thoughts on the the series between Howard Schnellenberger’s former schools? With no games on the horizon in the near future are you sad to see it go?
SOTU: I'm torn. The natural connection between the schools because of Schnellie makes for a great storyline. And FAU is a plucky program. Last year's game was very, very competitive for most of the contest. However, I'd like to see the 'Canes schedule an additional marquee opponent each year. I think it does more for recruiting, and re-establishing the UM brand than playing FAU.
CS: Which position unit on offense are you most concerned about? Which position unit concerns you the most on defense?
SOTU: Miami's offensive line showed up big in Week 1. But that group as a whole is the biggest question mark on the team. RT Sunny Odogwu has had some real mental lapses in his time in Coral Gables. He's an improved player, but he's always one snap away from getting Brad Kaaya blasted. The 'Canes LB's are decimated following the preseason dismissals of Juwon Young and Jermaine Grace (both expected to start) and the loss of Gordinier. The three freshmen, Shaq Quarterman, Zach McCloud, and Michael Pinckney are all early enrollees with massive potential. But anytime you have three first-year players on one unit, missteps are always a concern.
CS: It seems like Brad Kaaya has been at The U forever as he’s without a doubt the most familiar face on the team, but which other players could make an impact on this weekend’s game?
SOTU: Well watch out for Stacy Coley. The senior WR is a potential first round NFL Draft pick. Ditto TE/H-Back David Njoku, who reminds me a lot of a poor man's Shannon Sharpe. On the D speedy DE's and high school teammates Demetrius Jackson and Chad Thomas were lights out in the opener. They both might be a handful for the Owls' O line. There are a lot of exceptionally talented front line players on the Hurricanes roster. Guys like S Jaquan Johnson, CB Corn Elder, WR/PR Braxton Berrios, TE Christopher Herndon III, and freshmen WR Ahmmon Richards could all dazzle as well.
CS: What’s your prediction for the game?
SOTU: The Owls attack will give the precocious LB's some trouble.... for a half. Much like last season's game, FAU hangs around a bit. But Diaz and co figure them out in the final 30 minutes, and Miami's offense puts up huge numbers in a 48-20 win.
CS: Who else would you like to punch in the face besides Nevin Shaprio?
SOTU: It would be very unprofessional of me to say Al Golden. Very unprofessional.
CS: Who do you prefer, FAU or FIU?
SOTU: FAU of course. Schnellie loyalty reigns supreme.