Preview: Miami Hurricanes

USA TODAY Sports

This is the eighth part of a 12 part series that will preview every team that Wake Forest faces on its schedule this year. The Deacs will come off a home game against Maryland for their eighth game of the season, which will be against the Miami Hurricanes at home on October 26th.

Presbyterian Team Preview

Boston College Team Preview

UL Monroe Team Preview

Army Team Preview

Clemson Team Preview

NC State Team Preview

Maryland Team Preview

Wake Forest is set to play Miami for the first time since the 2009 season. This will mark the fifth time that the two teams have squared off as members of the ACC and Miami currently boasts a 4-0 record against the Deacs in these four conference games. Miami also leads the all-time series history with a 7-3 record against Wake while Wake has not defeated the Hurricanes since 1944.

It is evident that the Demon Deacons have struggled with the Hurricanes in the past and there is no reason to believe that the 2013 version of the Hurricanes is going to be an easy task to handle either. Many media outlets have selected Miami as the pre-season favorite in the Costal Division. While the division features several solid teams, including Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech, the return of senior quarterback Stephen Morris coupled with the deep receiving corps and the emergence of running back Duke Johnson in the backfield, the Hurricanes boast a potent offense which will be one of the best in the conference.

Third year head coach Al Golden enters the season with a 13-11 record with the school. The Hurricanes were forced to find a new offensive coordinator to replace Jedd Fisch who was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Golden ultimately chose James Coley, who had previously served as the assistant offensive coordinator under Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. Coley inherits a stacked offense which will immediately be expected to produce points for a Miami team which may struggle at times to stop the opposing team's offense. The defense, which struggled mightily in the 2012 season, returns only four starters which may result in a vast improvement for a side which ranked in the bottom 20 teams in the nation in both rushing and passing defense.

Offense

Starting with perhaps the most explosive portion of the Miami attack, running back Duke Johnson enters the 2013 campaign looking to build upon a freshman season that was one for the history books. Johnson ran for 135 yards on just seven carries against Boston College in the season opener, but still struggled to find starting time despite impressive games against Bethune-Cookman and Georgia Tech. Ultimately though Johnson continued to get the football in the backfield alongside Mike James and rushed for 947 yards on the season a freshman record for Miami. This rushing output included three 100 yard games out of the final four of the season and showed that Duke is the future of the backfield for the Hurricanes.

With Johnson at the starting running back position, senior quarterback Stephen Morris will look to build on his own hot streak from the end of the 2012 season and lead the Hurricanes down the field. Morris will enter the season without an interception in his final four games, a stretch where the Canes went 3-1. He will have receivers Phillip Dorsett, Allen Hurns, and Rashawn Scott as targets, all players who have started in prior seasons for the Hurricanes. Dorsett was the leading receiver last year with 842 yards on 58 catches and four touchdowns. The Canes were hoping to have the assistance of incoming freshman Derrick Griffin, but he will have to attend prep school first and looks to enroll in Miami in the winter. Another incoming freshman, Stacy Coley, has been impressive in preseason scrimmages and will certainly be expected to provide some playing time over the course of the season.

The skill guys will be aided by the return of all five starters on the offensive line from last season, an ensemble which boasts a total of 91 starts in their careers. Senior Seantrel Henderson projects to be an early round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and is one of the top tackles in the country. When Henderson plays well on the right side he is able to mitigate the presence of nearly any defensive lineman in the country.

With Coley's offense likely to be somewhat similar to the sets used by Fisch last year, the Hurricanes' offense will only continue to improve as the season progresses. The Canes ranked an impressive 25th in the nation in pass offense last year, but struggled moving the football on the ground and ranked 81st in rush offense. Coley and Canes' fans alike will hope that having Johnson in the backfield with his explosive speed and great vision will improve ground production and make the offense more multi-dimensional.

Defense

The 2013 Hurricane defense does not bring with it a large number of high expectations from the fan base. The defense was, in a word, putrid in 2012 and ranked last in the ACC in rush defense, pass defense, and total defense. There were only four teams last year in the entire nation who gave up more yards per game than the Canes. On top of all this, the team only returns four starters which may in itself be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps the player with the most previous exposure is linebacker Denzel Perryman who ranked second on the team in tackles a season ago with 64, including six tackles for a loss.

The defensive line should fare a lot better this year with the return of Anthony Chickillo and Shayon Green on the outside, and Olsen Pierre with Curtis Porter on the inside. Green led the team in tackles last year with 67 and two tackles for loss, but did not record any sacks. More astonishingly, the Hurricanes only recorded 13 sacks total on the season and ranked 115th in the nation in sacks. For the defense to improve in the 2013 season, there will need to be an increase in pressure from the defensive front seven. The secondary returns virtually no starters, but a group of young players will look to rise to the task of replacing Brandon McGee who was drafted in the fifth round of the Draft. Sophomores Rayshawn Jenkins and Deon Bush project to be starters at safety while sophomore Antonio Crawford, junior Ladarius Gunter and sophomore Tracy Howard look to contribute at corner.

Despite the widespread struggles of the 2012 defense, the Canes did force a large number of turnovers (22) including 11 fumble recoveries and 11 interceptions. If Miami is going to make a serious run at the ACC Championship this year, the defensive starters will need to stay healthy and young guys will have to step up to make a difference. The defensive line should get some pressure up front as most of the leading tacklers return, but the secondary may struggle to shut down strong aerial attacks unless they can quickly improve. The defense will continue to be a question all year for the 2013 team.

Special Teams

Duke Johnson will likely continue to return kicks as he did last year, amassing over 800 yards on the season. Johnson could possibly see some time at returning punts, but receiver Phillip Dorset, who returned 15 punts for 85 yards last year, may be the incumbent starter in that position. The kicking game will look to replace departed Jake Wieclaw who went 19-25 on field goals last year, but went 0-4 from kicks over 40 yards. The task should fall to sophomore Matt Goudis who appeared a couple of times last year for a punt and two kickoffs. Goudis should enter the year as the starter at kicker while Pat O'Donnell, a senior who transferred in from Cincinnati, is likely to start at punter.

Johnson will be one of the most electric playmakers in the country this year. He is a threat every single time he touches the ball and teams would be crazy to kick it to him. Playing the Canes is a perfect example of when it is acceptable to get a touchback and put the opposing offense at the 25. The downside when facing Miami of course, is Johnson will be getting plenty of touches at tailback as well.

Coaching

Al Golden is entering his third season at Miami and this looks to be the best of the bunch he has had so far. The 2012 team went 7-5 while technically "winning" the Coastal, but imposed a ban on themselves while NCAA investigations into the Shapiro scandal continue. Golden inherited a team marred by this scandal and will likely be at Coral Gables for the long haul as the team's recruiting has been steady despite the allegations. He previously coached at Temple and has a seven year overall record of 40-45. The Hurricanes return defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio who has been at Miami for both of the previous two years with Golden. As previously mentioned, the offense has new offensive coordinator James Coley overseeing the play calling.

Golden undoubtedly has a long leash with the administration and looks to have Miami back on the right tracks.

Conclusion

This game will be a difficult one for the Demon Deacons. As it is the eighth game of the season, it's hard to speculate exactly where Wake will be at this point, but the Deacs have really struggled on the road in recent years. While playing at Miami is not a tough task as far as fans, it is a long trip right before the next week's trip to Syracuse. This is a game which I would say most people have marked down as a loss on the schedule. While I would love nothing more than to go down to Florida and come back with a big win, it is difficult for me to imagine our defense coming up big and shutting down the Canes' potent offense. The one way I could see the game being close would be if Tanner, JRoc, and Camp put up a show and we matched the Canes touchdown for touchdown.

This Canes offense will be one of the most impressive in the nation in 2013 and barring injury both Morris and Johnson are serious Heisman contenders. If Miami has a solid season, they could be looking at an 8-4, 9-3, or even a 10-2 record, but it depends heavily upon how much the defense has improved from last year. It has been ten years since Miami last won double digit games and with a bowl trip, this could easily be the year that this statistic is reversed. I think most preseason rankings are correct in placing the Hurricanes in the ACC Championship game as the winner of the Coastal Division.

Editor's Note: The next installment of the season preview series should be out at the beginning of next week as we take a look at game nine for the Deacons, a tough trip up to New York to take on a good Syracuse team.

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