Golden, Miami to rely heavily on youth

Golden, Miami to rely heavily on youth

Published Jul. 19, 2012 3:58 p.m. ET

The purge continues at the University of Miami, where second-year coach Al Golden is getting his own players ready to take the field. And when I say "his own" players, I mean the players he's recruited.

Problem is, Golden has only had two recruiting classes.

Now you start to get the picture. Golden's Hurricanes might be comprised mostly of youngsters this year.

Miami fans want this to become Golden's team, manned largely by his players, but it's happening about a year ahead of schedule, which probably isn't a good thing considering Miami finished 6-6 overall last season.

We'll see what Golden has to say about that as the Atlantic Coast Conference Media Days get going on Sunday.

We'll also see what Golden has to say about this:

Senior safety Ray-Ray Armstrong was kicked off the team Wednesday, meaning the purge has claimed yet another veteran presence. Armstrong was suspended four games last year for his role in the alleged Nevin Shapiro booster scandal and then another game after tweeting that he was having dinner with a public relations person who represents NFL players. The latter wasn't a NCAA suspension, it was a Golden suspension.

Armstrong had 34 tackles and one interception in seven games last year but it wasn't a good season. Armstrong's career was disappointing relative to his over-hyped projections coming out of high school – he was a national top 20 recruit by one service -- so his loss isn't crushing from that standpoint.

The thing is Armstrong, recruited by former Miami coach Randy Shannon, joins a list of 'Canes, and Shannon recruits, who departed early and took their experience and play-making ability with them – running back Lamar Miller, wide receiver Tommy Streeter, defensive end Olivier Vernon, guard Brandon Washington, the list goes on.

They were Shannon recruits, and now they've been purged in one way or another.

It all means Golden will probably be working with a dangerously young crew this season.

At least he'll have junior quarterback Stephen Morris under center. Morris has thrown seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his career but missed spring practice after having back surgery. That left the team under the control of sophomore transfer Ryan Williams, the former Memphis starter.

Both Morris and Williams have starting experience but neither has been spectacular.

'Canes fans have a right to be worried.

They could struggle this season. How much? It's tough to say. But don't count on, say, eight wins. Seven wins could be tough.

I like the Super Sophs – linebacker Denzel Perryman, tight end Clive Walford and defensive end Anthony Chickillo, mainly, although there are a few others. These guys are future studs. But they might not be enough to ensure a six-win season, the threshold to make a team bowl-eligible. And those Super Sophs alone certainly don't provide enough depth to get through a 12-game season as depth is a big concern.

And how's this to raise the sense of urgency? The Hurricanes open at Boston College on Sept. 1, an ACC opponent. Then the Miami's on the road at Kansas State on Sept. 8. You'll recall the Wildcats defeated Miami 28-24 last season and ran all over the Hurricanes with that option offense led by hulking quarterback Collin Klein (6-foot-5, 226 pounds). It could be more of the same this year.

There will be veterans taking the field at UM. However, senior safety Vaughn Telemaque, senior cornerback Brandon McGee, senior running back Mike James, junior right tackle Seantrel Henderson, junior right guard Brandon Linder, junior wide receiver Allen Hurns and junior fullback Maurice Hagens are about the only returning upperclassmen that saw a good amount of playing time last season. There are a few more sprinkled in, but you get the idea. It's a skeleton crew, and none seems to be a superstar.

Having said all of that, consider Miami still enters this season in a better mindset than a year ago.

Last August is when the alleged Shapiro scandal was brand new. It was one of the most sensational stories in college football. The NCAA still hasn't ruled on UM's potential punishment in that case (the Hurricanes self-imposed a bowl ban last year) but conventional wisdom, and the punishments doled out in the Ohio State and North Carolina violations, suggests Miami won't get a crippling penalty.

So, in the grand scheme of things, the University of Miami is moving forward. Golden's players are taking over. The Shapiro scandal will soon be in the rearview mirror. That's all good stuff.

But the way things are looking now, right at this moment, many of the key Hurricanes are being thrown into the fray a year early. If the Miami wants to have a good season, it'll need the vast majority of its young players to overachieve.

Blame it on the purge.