The Miami Hurricanes are in College Park tonight to take on the Maryland football team in a game that has too many story lines to count. Debuts for both coaches, suspended players on both sides, new jerseys ... it's going to be a doozie. For a little help in reviewing tonight's game, we went to SB Nation's Miami blog The 7th Floor and asked a few questions. Here are their responses.
SB Nation D.C.: Of the suspended players, who will the Hurricanes miss the most?
The 7th Floor: If starting quarterback Stephen Morris happens to get hurt for any reason, then the answer to this question will be Jacory Harris. With Harris out, Morris is the only quarterback Miami has that can adequately play the position. His back ups are Spencer Whipple, who came to Miami to run the scout team for his father and ex-offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, and A.J. Highsmith, who started his career under center before being moved to safety. But assuming Morris stays healthy, the biggest loss is linebacker Sean Spence. Spence was a consensus preseason All-ACC selection, he was undoubtedly the heart of the defense and he leaves an inexperienced core of linebackers in his wake.
SB Nation D.C.: Which players could have big games in place of a suspended player?
The 7th Floor: If Miami's biggest loss isn't Spence, then it's the loss of starting defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Adewale Ojomo. Whether or not Miami will be able to generate any pass rush with its current front four remains a mystery. One of the replacement starters will be senior Andrew Smith, and though he is slightly undersized and was an unheralded recruit, he was an effective situational pass rusher for the Canes last season. If Miami can get Maryland in some third and longs, then Smith might be able to pick up a sack or two. The same can be said for Marcus Robinson, who will start opposite Smith. Robinson has racked up multiple sacks in a game a few times in his Miami career, and he can be effective on obvious passing downs.
SB Nation D.C.: What do the Hurricanes gain from having Morris start for Harris?
The 7th Floor: Arm strength and mobility. With Morris, Miami can legitimately stretch the field vertically, as Maryland fans may remember from last year's game. If the Canes can run the ball effectively, Morris might be able to hit someone like Tommy Streeter over the top of the defense for a long completion. Otherwise, Morris is much quicker and more athletic than Harris. That doesn't mean that Miami will put in any designed runs for Morris (especially with no viable replacement), but it is a safety valve if and when the pocket collapses.
SB Nation D.C.: Which aspect of the Maryland team (rushing/passing offense, defense etc.) do you envision as being the most troublesome for the depleted Canes?
In truth, it could be everything. If Maryland puts up 45 points and 500 yards of total offense, my jaw will not be on the ground. The defense that the Terps will see is really that unknown. That said, the most glaring weakness on paper is Miami's front seven. The Canes had trouble containing Davin Meggett in last year's match up, and that was with one of the best defensive lines in the entire country. The starting line for tonight's game features two defensive ends (Smith and Robinson) who have been situational pass rushers throughout their careers and a JUCO transfer at defensive tackle (Darius Smith) who will be playing in his first game for Miami. Behind them is a smallish, unproven group of linebackers.
SB Nation D.C.: What kind of game plan can we expect from new coach Al Golden?
The 7th Floor: A conservative one. With the caveat that most offenses are usually skeletal and basic in spring and summer scrimmages, the scheme that the Canes were featuring in the run up to the season seemed to put an absolute premium on protecting the ball. Concurrently, there were three position groups that emerged from the NCAA's preliminary investigation unscathed: the offensive line, the running backs, and the tight ends. I'd expect a lot of running— maybe 40 rushes if the game is close either way— and a lot of passes to the tight ends.
Thanks again to Jordan of The 7th floor for taking part.