Athlon Sports lets Jorge Milian talk Canes

Kudos to Athlon Sports. Arguably my least favorite preseason college football publication, though this time they got something right that so many other mags miss.

Athlon’s regional Atlantic Coast issue features a great piece by Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post and some great insight to Randy Shannon’s thoughts, history and agenda for this upcoming season. Very refreshing to read the words of a solid writer familiar with the program, than the compiled stats of some national hack who probably sees one Miami game per year. Check it out.

When Randy Shannon was hired as the Miami Hurricanes coach in December 2006, it appeared to be the ultimate Horatio Alger story. Born in the rough-and-tumble section of Miami known as Liberty City, Shannon grew up the hard way. His father was murdered. Three siblings died of AIDS. All that while growing up in a neighborhood infested with drugs, crime and poverty.

But, because of his determination, Shannon conquered all the dysfunction around him. He earned a scholarship to Miami and was a starting linebacker for the 1987 national champs.

After a brief stint in the NFL, Shannon embarked on a coaching career at his alma mater that included Miami’s fifth national championship in 2001. Shannon, UM’s defensive coordinator at the time, capped the title season by receiving the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach.

When Shannon was named to replace Larry Coker as Miami’s head coach following a tumultuous 2006 season, the move couldn’t have been more popular. Shannon was the local boy who made good and, most important to the program’s supporters and former players, understood exactly what it meant to be a Hurricane.

But Shannon’s rags-to-riches trip has encountered a few speed bumps. The Hurricanes were 5–7 in Shannon’s first season in 2007, marking the program’s first losing record in a decade. That seemed forgivable after Miami began 2008 by ringing up a 7–3 record heading into a late-November showdown against Georgia Tech with an ACC Championship Game berth on the line.

The Hurricanes wound up humiliated on national television, allowing 472 rushing yards — the second-most in school history — during a 41–23 loss in Atlanta. Two more defeats followed that one, including an Emerald Bowl loss to California that ended with a caught-on-camera tiff between Shannon and offensive coordinator Patrick Nix.

The unflattering finish to the 2008 season turned Shannon into a punching bag on message boards and sports talk shows. The hometown discount given to him by critics was over.

In some ways, the turbulence was just beginning.

Two days after the Emerald Bowl, Shannon fired Nix. After his dismissal, Nix said he and Shannon had a “philosophical difference” on how to run the offense, which ranked 89th nationally with an average of 326 yards per game.

“What I want to do is just not what he wants to do,” Nix said.

The airing out of that dirty laundry was nothing compared with what came days after.

Quarterback Robert Marve, a starter for 11 games but suspended for two others, told Shannon he wanted to transfer and asked for a release from his scholarship. Shannon agreed, but with the stipulation that Marve could not sign with an ACC or SEC program, or any school in the state of Florida.

That’s when things really got ugly. Eugene Marve, a former NFL linebacker and Robert’s father, called Shannon’s restrictions “vindictive” and “shameful.” Robert Marve cited a poor relationship with Shannon. Robert Weiner, Marve’s coach at Plant High School in Tampa, said he wouldn’t advise a player to attend Miami as long as Shannon was coach.

School officials said the stipulations were put in place because there was evidence of contact between people connected to Marve and several SEC schools.

Marve appealed the decision and got the terms changed so that he was barred only from accepting a scholarship from any ACC school as well as SEC programs Florida, Tennessee and LSU.

The case may have been resolved, but neither side came out looking particularly good.

A couple of weeks after the Marve situation, defensive coordinator Bill Young quit after one season to take the same job at Oklahoma State. A desire to coach at his alma mater sparked Young’s departure and the split was drama-free, but there were whispers that Shannon — now on his third defensive and second offensive coordinator — was difficult to work for.

“When you become a coach, you become a target,” says Shannon of the criticism he’s received. “You accept what it is and move on.”

All will likely be forgotten if Shannon, who is 12–13 at Miami, is able to turn around a program that hasn’t been to a BCS game since the 2003 season. The Hurricanes appeared on their way before last year’s meltdown.

The last Miami coach to post a losing record after his first two seasons? That would be Lou Saban, who was a combined 9–13 in 1977-78.

But supporters point out that, unlike the coaches who preceded him, Shannon was left with very little talent to work with. The rush of NFL players that flowed out of Miami’s program for years has dried up dramatically. The Hurricanes’ only representative on the 2008 All-ACC team was Matt Bosher, who was selected to the second team as a punter and placekicker. Further proof of Miami’s dearth of high-impact players came in April when the school’s NFL-record run of producing a first-round pick for 14 consecutive years came to an end.

“People just don’t realize how bad it was,” Shannon says of the talent drain. “People see it as, ‘You have all these players, so you should be doing this and that.’ Well, where are the players at? They’re all puppies.”

Which brings up Shannon’s unquestionable strength — recruiting. His first full recruiting class in ’08 — which included linebacker Sean Spence, the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year — was ranked No. 1 by ESPN. The ’09 class wasn’t rated as highly because the Canes signed only 19 players. But, according to, 10 of the 19 are either four- or five-star players.

“Particularly in Dade and Broward counties, the coaches are still pro-Randy Shannon and pushing players (Miami’s) way,” recruiting analyst Tom Lemming says. “As long as you have those high school coaches in the area on your side, you’re going to recruit well because you have a huge advantage with that amount of talent within a 100-mile radius.”

Other Shannon backers point to the lack of off-the-field trouble since the no-nonsense 43-year old coach took over the program. In the past two-plus seasons, only one Miami player has encountered issues with the law.

The exception? Marve.

The quarterback was arrested on Halloween Night in 2007 after vandalizing a car and briefly running from police. Charges were later dropped, but Shannon suspended the freshman for the 2008 season opener.

Marve was suspended again before the Emerald Bowl for academic reasons, leading to his desire to transfer and the ensuing mudslinging. Among Miami’s football team, it’s hard to find anyone who thinks Shannon didn’t make the right choice by allowing Marve to leave.

But discipline and young talent haven’t translated into victories.

Shannon admits the transition from defensive coordinator to head coach was more involved than he once imagined, which may explain several game-management snafus that have proven costly over the past two seasons.

Shannon enters the 2009 season with two years left on his original four-year contract. Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt has repeatedly stated his support for Shannon.

But if Miami gets off to a wobbly start in 2009 — no stretch considering the Hurricanes open with Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma — questions regarding Shannon’s future could grow louder.

“Everybody says, ‘You have to do this or that,’” Shannon says. “I don’t put pressure on myself. I just know we have to be better than we were last year.”



19 thoughts on “Athlon Sports lets Jorge Milian talk Canes

  1. great article, glad someone is finally starting to get this right…and hopefully giving coach some breathing room…i think even most of our fan base still has on the goggles and does not realize how bad it got under coker and still do not realize how much effort and time it will take to turn this thing around…we will be much better this year…and it may not show in the w and l columns…but we will have a better product on the field and when these top classes begin to mature you will see the canes return

    you have been on a roll lately with a post almost every day…keep up the great work …you keep my fire burning through these slow times…love it bro


  2. Everyone who is hating will eat crow when Randy makes history and becomes the first Black head coach to win the big one. My dream scenario: We start off 4 and 0 and go undefeated and play the fags from Gainsville for the chip. Go Canes!!

  3. yeah i agree you are posting way more now! this article was very great! everybody knocks Shannon for being 12-13 but come on..last year you could taste it. After that defensive showdown against Tech we were ranked. Then it went downhill. We will continue to progress this year. No expections. We get the leaders back on Defensive that we sorely need. And we got a offensive mastermind in Whipple. Shannon has finally put the pieces together to make a good run this year. I dont care about the first 4 game scare. Take it one game at a time. I believe in what Coach is doing he has come along way..


  4. Any coach who inherited what Randy did would have to build the program back up just like Shannon has been doing. Inexperience has cost us a few games probably, but those are normal growing pains (Mark Richt at Georgia -on the goal line against Tenn or UF when time ran out -anyone?). Listen, I love college football and have loved Miami since I started getting into ball and we are on the upswing. Like the other guys said, last year we we right there at 7-3. We ran out of gas with new guys. This year we have to learn from those situations and take the next step and win those games.
    I think the thing that hurts Coach Shannon is that he's a no nonsense, to the point person with the media. He doesn't put on the Grandpa show of Bowden, or the cockiness of Meyer. He gives short, to the point answers and makes the reporters work. I don't think they like that. So I believe there's a kind of resentment from certain areas because of it. I have no idea of knowing, but this is just my take. Shannon doesn't kiss ass. He is who he is. I happen to like that. I am behind him. We have a lot of other factors going against us in the program that other schools don't have to deal with (private, size, alumni funding, etc). Shannon is getting the job done despite these. It's about to turn around.
    -Columbus Cane

  5. Another great pice. Shannon is doing an outstanding job. Everything with the program is low key which will make it so sweet when the CAT 5 lands shortly. It's true last year you could see it turning around and we came up short. Thanks for the U fix.


  6. Another great piece.

    My Dad is actually a Shannon hater and I have to listen to it all the time. I tell him just wait and see. You'll eat your words.

    I think what he is doing for the program is great. No one is getting into trouble and he is making the team reach out to the community. That alone gets respect in my book. It reminds me of when Butch Davis came and straightened things up. These players showing respect to the fans and the communtiy helps build character and shows teamwork. That is what all the NFL greats that came from our school had. They were well rounded and talented.

    Keep up the good work Shannon. It's All About The U!!!!

  7. While it's always nice to see good press like this, there could be an article a day about how we're in the top ten in the country academically, or have had only one arrest in years (from a waste of scholarship that's no long on our team), people won't start drinking the U kool-aid again until we own on the field, and that may take a few years. I've had the pleasure of meeting Randy, and I have all the faith in the world that he will get us back on top.

    On a side note, what great karma is it for Bryce Brown that Tennessee is being riddled with off-field controversy and on-field injuries?! Good choice Bryce.

  8. once again, great article. question do you know what number ray ray will be wearing? ive heard through the grape vine that he will be sporting #26 which to me would be golden, but I dont know how credible my source is. do you have any knowledge of his number and his progress. maybe do an article updating the freshman! thanks, and btw im a cane who goes to the university of florida. go canes, forever.

  9. question do you know what number ray ray will be wearing? ive heard through the grape vine that he will be sporting #26 which to me would be golden, but I dont know how credible my source is. do you have any knowledge of his number and his progress.

    I've heard #26 as well, but haven't seen a freshman roster yet….

  10. all canes,

    what do you know about this story being reported that gore called the canes to commit and the canes turned him down…we just are not looking to pile another running back in with so many of our kids being young?…or does this kid has off the field problems?

    are we at the point with where we can turn high area recruits down?


  11. alright sweet. one more question, are you gonna sell the spence jersey in white, the twill version?

  12. With Miami still a bit young, I think it will have the same problems the team has had in recent past years.
    1. Shannon does not get them in shape.
    2. Shannon does not find intelligent players who understand the two minute drill.
    3. Offensive linemen still can not block.
    4. Receivers can not get open.
    5. Defensive coordiators find ways to use a 3 man line to lose the game.
    6. Hurricanes use up their 3 TO instead of holding on to them.
    7. Hurricanes find a way to lose games against even mediocre teams.
    Basically, I think it is another break even year.

  13. William, I respect the comments but have a few questions:

    1. It's Andreu Swasey's job to get these guys in shape, not Shannon's. Swasey was highly-touted early on and some say he's fallen off since. Again, is that Swasey or is that the talent that was being recruited? He was a good enough S&C coach when the Ed Reeds of the world were on campus – and he's still good enough for them to skip their NFL off-season workouts to train at The U.

    Point being, with the talent returning you'll see more guys in better shape… more guys working hard… better results on the field. Shannon will recruit the talent and Swasey will get them ready.

    2. Disagree. Coker didn't find those kids. Shannon is bringing them back. He's now signed three classes and he deserves 4-5 years to fully right the ship.

    3. Again, that is changing. The talent needs to return. Jermaine Johnson and Brandon Washington should make an immediate impact as both have some prep school experience under their belts. Ben Jones, Jared Wheeler, Cory White, Harland Gunn, Corey White, etc. – that's the future. (Gunn drew rave reviews in spring.)

    Ready to see the AJ Trump and Jason Fox types turn it around already, but I'm not ready to bet on it. Like you, those guys frustrate me… but the future is bright. Give it time.

    4. Receivers not 'getting open' had more to do with elementary schemes by Patrick Nix. Defensive coordinators saw Miami coming a mile away. A few different options depending which unit was on the field. The Canes are arguably the deepest receiving corps in the nation. With Harris throwing the ball and Whipple calling the shots, we're not going to see many issues here.

    The improved running game will help, as well. Graig Cooper couldn't carry the load and Miami's ground game was one-dimensional last year. That killed the pass.

    5. … again, a lack of depth killed the Canes. Freshmen played early on and were spent by year's end. Injuries also took their toll… which isn't an *excuse*. It's fact when you have a depleted bunch thanks to years of poor recruiting.

    The loss of Colin McCarthy, Eric Moncur and Randy Phillips hurt this team down the stretch. As did depending too much on a Sean Spence or other true freshman who went from high school ball to spring ball to fall ball with no down time. By November those guys were done.

    6. & 7. are both reaches, bro. That was the name of the game last year with much less depth and an inept offensive coordinator.

    Shannon not only brought Mark Whipple on for his offensive mind, but also for his head coaching ability and know-how. Whipple is an old school veteran — a former head coach at UMass (and national champion), a great offensive mind and a developer of quarterbacks.

    Add all that up and it's more than a break-even year.

    With all your complaints, Miami went 7-6 last year and had a great shot at beating North Carolina and Florida State. 9-4 was a serious reality.

    With the upgrade regarding depth and talent, upperclassmen returning from injury and the addition of Mark Whipple, Miami will be better this year. The schedule is harder, but year three is when a program like this should start showing signs of growth and life.

  14. @ fsu L (owns us) L
    @ L
    ou L
    famu WOW a W!!!
    @ ucf L
    RS gets fired…

    Whipple new HC
    clemson W (maybe)
    @ wake L
    virginia W
    @ nc (Butch owns us) L
    duke W
    @ usf (put a fork in us) L

    4-8…go canes

    there's always next year!

  15. @ fsu L (owns us) L
    @ L
    ou L
    famu WOW a W!!!
    @ ucf L
    RS gets fired…

    Whipple new HC
    clemson W (maybe)
    @ wake L
    virginia W
    @ nc (Butch owns us) L
    duke W
    @ usf (put a fork in us) L

    4-8…go canes

    there's always next year!

    … and people wonder why Miami's fan base is oft criticized and is said to be full of fools.

    Florida State…. elaborate. WHY the loss? Who is Florida State these days?

    Georgia Tech… quite possibly a loss. Their offense is legit. That said, early season game and Miami will be better on both offense and defense. LSU showed that they can be stopped. Miami just has to prove they can do it. No easy task, but still a winnable game.

    Virginia Tech is always beatable when they have a mobile quarterback who makes bad decisions. Look no further than 2008 or 2005.

    OU… toughest game of the year. It'd take a 2-1 or 3-0 start to even have a shot here. Safe to pencil in the L.

    UCF…. you're an absolute fool if you have an "L" here and an 0-5 start out the gate. That's pathetic and straight up anti-Shannon haterade. Zero logic whatsoever with the prediction.

    …. Shannon won't be fired mid-season or before 2011, for that matter. Anyone with a brain knew this was a 4-5 year rebuilding project.

    Clemson… winnable game. Clemson is the most up/down team in college football.

    Wake…. beatable.

    Virginia… beatable.

    North Carolina… beatable. Lost most of their top receiving talent. As for Butch "owning" Miami, please. 2-0 against Miami. Almost blew a 27-0 half time lead… which Kyle Wright found a way to blow for Miami.

    A year later, Patrick Nix pisses away a 24-14 early fourth quarter lead because he stopped running the ball and stopped doing what worked early on. Butch doesn't own shit.

    Duke… winnable.

    USF… winnable.

    Miami loses no more than four regular season games this year. You're 4-8 prediction is absolutely idiotic. A 7-6 team that was a play or two away from 9-4 is suddenly going to drop to 4-8 with the addition of a top-flight offensive coordinator and an influx of new talent, as well as returning upperclassmen who were injured the better part of last year?

    Get a clue… and man up next time with a profile. Only Gators post "Anonymous" around here.

  16. fsu…cuz they own the u on labor day fool!…i'll give you that one. (that's a maybe)

    nc…u can't beat them in land shark, u think you'll win over there? HAHAHahahaaaa

    usf..NOT winnable! They've been stealing dade & broward talent from u for the last couple of years…BIG FAT L

    so it's not 4-8,,,5-7 sorry!


  17. fsu…cuz they own the u on labor day fool!…i'll give you that one. (that's a maybe)

    nc…u can't beat them in land shark, u think you'll win over there? HAHAHahahaaaa

    usf..NOT winnable! They've been stealing dade & broward talent from u for the last couple of years…BIG FAT L

    so it's not 4-8,,,5-7 sorry!

    FSU…. 2-1 against Miami on Labor Day – a 10-7 win and 13-10 win. One with Dan Werner calling the shots, the other with Rich Olson. Even together they are no Mark Whipple. I'd hardly call losing two defensive battles by three points being, "owned", my friend.

    VTech… again, could go either way. Tough atmosphere, but if it's a day game and Taylor is behind center, it's doable.

    UNC… since when did Kenan Stadium become The Swamp? UNC stole the 2008 game and Miami gave away the 2007 contest. Canes won in 2005 and 2006. Heels won in 2004. Hardly the one-sided affair you paint it to be.

    USF… a joke. Please. For all that supposed local talent they have, how come they can't do squat in the Big Least? 8-5 last year with losses to Pitt, Cincy, Rutgers, West Virginia and Louisville team who stumbled to a 5-7 season.

    Of the four games you listed, 3 of 4 are absolutely winnable. Whether they are or not remains to be seen.

  18. let them gators talk all they want. ill give them that they're a good team and have been for the past 2 or 3 years. there just not used to being a winning team so thats why all these gators have nothing better to do then run their mouths on HURRICANE blogs. forget about them our time will come again just like it has 5 times before. anyways, idk about u but i have never felt this excited about a canes season before in my life. i really think we can do it this year and be the team that everyone talks about again. having teams being scared to schedule us and not the other way around. Jacory & Co. just need to really show the CFB world who miami really is and start contending again. as for our schedule goes:

    FSU – W
    GT – L
    VT – W
    OU – L
    FAM – W
    UCF – W
    CLEM -W
    WAKE -W
    VA – W
    NC – W
    DUKE – W
    USF – W

    ACC Champ – vs. FSU – W

    Orange Bowl – W

    im optimistic wat can i say.


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