7:30 or 8 p.m., Sept. 17 TV: ABC (Channel 6) or ESPN Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla. (75,540)

Coach: Al Golden, first season (27-34 overall in five seasons)

Last year: 7-6 overall, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference (second, Coastal Division); lost to Notre Dame 33-17 in Sun Bowl

Returning stars

Wide receiver Travis Benjamin averaged 17.3 yards per catch and running back Lamar Miller 6.0 yards per carry last season. Golden threw most jobs open for competition in preseason camp. One that was locked down belongs to outside linebacker Sean Spence, who led Miami in tackles for loss with 17 and was second overall with 111 last season. Guard Brandon Washington was first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference but center Tyler Horn might be the Hurricanes' best offensive lineman.

Newcomers to watch

Golden hired offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch from the Minnesota Vikings, where he held the same job last season. Fisch was an NFL assistant the past nine years. Despite depth at the position, freshman defensive end Anthony Chickillo was running with the starters in the first week of camp.

Keys to the offense

Miami ranked 104th of 120 teams in turnover margin primarily because quarterbacks Jacory Harris (15) and Stephen Morris (nine) combined to throw 24 interceptions. So that must change. As usual, speed is all over the place. Miller is a jet in the backfield, and Benjamin leads a receiving corps that will stretch defenses.

Keys to the defense

Spence is among seven starters who return to a defense that finished last season ranked 22nd nationally in yards allowed and third in passing yards allowed. Both starting cornerbacks must be replaced, however. Spence, tackle Marcus Forston and safety Ray-Ray Armstrong were named to the preseason watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Award, given to the nation's top defensive player.

Special teams standouts

Golden has to find some. Matt Bosher's graduation left the kicking and punting jobs up for grabs. The return teams need a spark after the Hurricanes finished last season ranked in the 100s in kickoff and punt returns. Freshman sprite Kevin Grooms might be the answer after returning six punts for touchdowns as a high-school senior.

Question marks

The biggest immediate concern (other than imprisoned booster Nevin Shapiro and an NCAA investigation) is whether Harris can return to the form he showed two years ago, when he was a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top quarterback. If he does, the Hurricanes could be formidable. Special teams need to improve to take the load off the defense.


Golden's predecessor, Randy Shannon, raised the graduation rate and reduced the number of names on the police blotter. Bottom line, though, he didn't win enough to keep his job. Was that because he sacrificed talent to achieve what he did? If so, Golden's impact in the win-loss column won't be immediate.