'Canes football primer: Focus on title despite uncertainty

BY foxsports • July 30, 2013

Renewed confidence and uncertainty form an oxymoron-type atmosphere at the University of Miami Hurricanes prepare to kick of the 2013 football season.
There's optimism around Coral Gables because the 'Canes return 19 of 22 starters and have eyes on an Atlantic Coast Conference title. In fact, the Hurricanes are the ACC media's pick to win the Coastal Division and play in the league's championship game at Charlotte.
The uncertainty stems from the NCAA investigation into the Miami program and its relationship with booster Nevin Shapiro. The 'Canes are coming off consecutive seasons of self-imposed bowl bans in hopes they would lessen any NCAA penalties. Expectations are UM will hear from the NCAA before season's start.
Coach Al Golden and his staff have done a good job in keeping players focused on football. Golden enters 2013 with a 13-11 overall record in two years at Miami.
The Hurricanes will begin camp on Saturday in preparation of the season opener against Florida Atlantic University at Sun Life Stadium on Aug. 30. The Florida Gators will visit the following weekend.
Here's a look at how the Hurricanes shape up heading into camp:

RB Mike James -- Miami's second-leading rusher (642 yards) last season is in camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
CB Brandon McGee -- The experienced leader of UM's otherwise young 2012 defense is trying to win a job with the St. Louis Rams.
K Jake Wieclaw -- Gone after hitting 19-of-25 FGs and all 42 PAT attempts last season.
P Dalton Botts -- Averaged 40.5 yards and placed 23 punts inside opponents' 20-yard line. Went to minicamps with Tampa Bay and New Orleans  but currently not in NFL camp.
LB Eddie Johnson -- He was the Canes fourth-leading tackler in '12 despite missing two late games for undisclosed issues. Has since transferred to a junior college.

RB Gus Edwards -- There's no debate that Duke Johnson is Miami's No. 1 back, but Edwards could see opportunity in short-yardage and red-zone situations.
LB Devante Bond -- See "Top Storylines" below.
CB Artie Burns -- The Miami Northwestern HS product should be in the mix for a starting corner spot as Miami tries to replace McGee.
DE David Gilbert -- Immediately eligible after transferring from Wisconsin, where he suffered a series of foot injuries that forced him to retire in April. He changed his mind about playing and could be a great find for UM's 4-3 defense. Gilbert led all Badgers defensive linemen with 42 tackles last season, when he also had 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles.
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad -- Brought in as one of the country's premier high school pass rushers, he likely will get a chance to show if he can have impact as a freshman.
QB Kevin Olsen -- Unless Stephen Morris gets hurt, this will be a learning-from-the-sidelines (redshirt?) year for the freshman. Olsen arrived as a highly rated pro-style quarterback.
TE Beau Sandland -- As the country's top junior-college tight end prospect, Sandland should see quality time. Has drawn comparisons to Jeremy Shockey, and can stretch the field.
K Matt Goudis -- The West Hills, Calif. native played in three games as a redshirt freshman last year. He kicked off twice and punted once.
P Pat O'Donnell -- Was second-team All-Big East last year as a Cincinnati senior. Playing as a UM grad student. 

Cornerback -- Artie Burns, Antonio Crawford, Nate Dortch, Ladarius Gunter, Tracy Howard.
The post-spring depth chart had Gunter and Howard fighting at one corner spot, Crawford and Dortch at the other.
Gunter played in all 12 games (five starts) as a sophomore last year. He had 27 tackles, including 19 solos. Howard played in all 12 games (one start) as a true freshman at defensive back and on special teams. He finished season with 17 tackles and four pass break-ups
Dortch redshirted as a freshman in '12, when true freshman Crawford played in all 12 games, primarily on special teams and as reserve defensive back. 
Golden raved about freshman Burns on signing day in February. "Nobody talks about him because he didn't do a hat show," the coach said. "This guy is a superstar. This guy is a tremendous talent."
Defensive Tackle -- Chris Porter vs. Luther Robinson.
Porter has been plagued by injuries while at UM. Appendix surgery last season limited him to the final four games (two starts) when he gave indication of his potential, with nine tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Fellow redshirt senior Robinson has had a rocky few years, even considered transferring at one point. He played in 10 of 12 games last season will be given the chance to show he can be a force. 
Middle Linebacker -- Jimmy Gaines vs. Raphael Kirby.
Gaines was a junior last season, when he played 11 games (six starts) and finished fifth on the team with 57 tackles (34 solo).
Kirby was a true freshman last year. He played in seven games on special teams and as reserve linebacker. He was recruited as a four-star OLB.
Safety -- A.J. Highsmith vs. Rayshawn Jenkins.
Highsmith, who graduated in December, played in all 12 games at safety and on special teams as a junior last season. He had 32 tackles, one interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Jenkins is less experienced, but showed he's a player as a freshman last year. He played in 10 games (two starts) at defensive back, finishing with 27 tackles, one interception and three pass break-ups.

NCAA Investigation -- Following Miami's self-imposed bowl bans the past two seasons, many people would be surprised if NCAA penalties prove to be more than some lost scholarships. Whatever the verdict, everyone at Miami agrees the sooner it's announced, the better. General belief is the NCAA will announce its decision during the next few weeks.
LB Davonte Bond -- Talent-wise, the JUCO transfer appeared ready to come in and contribute big as an edge rusher -- something the Canes need. However, reports say Bond still hasn't satisfied UM admissions officials academically. One full-time UM program observer says Bond won't be playing in 2013. If true, that's too bad for the Hurricanes. Bond's athleticism could have produced major heat on opposing quarterbacks.
DB Corn Elder -- Excelled at running back in high school at Nashville, Tenn. but he's being converted to defensive back. A two-sport high school start, he's also expected to join Jim Larranaga’s basketball team after the football season.

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at mac1763@bellsouth.net or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas