Randy Shannon replaced Larry Coker as the head coach at the University of Miami in 2007. Since then he has posted a 12-13 record while trying to resuscitate a program with a championship history. Shannon's losing record is the first losing record posted by a Miami coach in his first two years since Lou Saban did it in 1977-78. Shannon will be on the sidelines for his third chance to prove to the FBS world that he can coach. His assessment will consist of his recruiting efforts, his off the field control of his team, his sideline performance and future expectations.
Shannon has assembled two impressive recruiting classes at Miami. His 2008 class was rated number one by ESPN.com and number five by Rivals.com. The 2009 class was rated 15 by Rivals and 24 by ESPN.com. He pulled the 2007 class up by bringing in some last minute recruits. Shannon's focus in recruiting has been to restore the pipeline in South Florida that made Miami great.
In 2008, he recruited eight players from Miami Northwestern, the high school National Champions. Some of these players such as, Jacory Harris, Marcus Forston, Sean Spence and Aldarius Johnson, made an immediate impact to the team. This season the unquestioned quarterback is Jacory Harris and the expectations are running high. Harris was the quarterback of that Miami Northwestern team and he enrolled early last season to get a jump on learning the system. This season he will be working with new offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple. Whipple's new offense should allow Harris to have some opportunities to excel.
Other recruits from Shannon's number one rated class in 2008 showed signs of being just that good. The end of the season fell apart for them as they lost three consecutive games at a time when they had the ACC Coastal Division title in sight. Being a mostly freshmen sophomore team, it is expected that they will mature and become much better this season.
The young Hurricanes played the University of Florida, who were the eventual national champions surprisingly tough through the first three quarters of their game. They fell apart in the final quarter of that game to lose 26-3. The Miami defense was impressive in the first part of the season but fell apart late. With the new class of Hurricanes some quality depth should be added to help alleviate some of this problem.
Highly touted five star recruit Ray Ray Armstrong will arrive at Miami this summer and will help bolster the team. Shannon expects freshmen stars from 2008, Forston and Spence to make an impact in every game this season. Both players are former Miami Northwestern standouts and could be the defensive leaders that bring Miami back to the level that the nation expects. In some games last year you could see that these two players were very special. However, consistency will be necessary for them to take the next step in their careers.
Shannon's Recruiting Grade: A.
Off The Field Control of the Team
Shannon can be forgiven for his 12-13 start at Miami considering what he had to work with, when he started. The best thing Shannon has done for the University of Miami has been to keep them off the police blotter. Since Shannon has been head coach, only two players have been involved with the police. Compared to the University of Florida, who has had 24 arrests and FSU with their recent off the field scandal resulting in NCAA sanctions, Miami is the prize of the state of Florida when it comes to control of the team. Shannon's no tolerance policy as certainly changed the way a number of people view Miami but it hasn't erased the memory of the past.
Shannon's Off The Field Improvements Grade: A+
At times Shannon has shown great ability on the sidelines but other times it has not gone so well. It is a given that the quality of players was not the typical Miami quality so assessing his coaching skills is difficult when comparing him to previous Miami coaches. Previous Miami coaches inherited teams that were stocked with talent at every position. Coker was an excellent coach but recruiting was clearly not his specialty. Last year the talent level showed signs of increasing but with a mostly freshmen and sophomore team, so did the immaturity in big game situations.
Shannon has changed his coaching staff to better suit his desires. Last year's offensive coordinator Patrick Nix was replaced by Mark Whipple. Nix and Shannon clearly had some differences of opinion and it wasn't clear on just what each coach wanted to do in some of the games. The chemistry was not present between Nix and Shannon so Shannon made a change. Nix was not a bad coordinator but he wasn't the right man for the job under Shannon. Whipple is a former Philadelphia Eagles coach and 2009 will show us if there is more chemistry between head coach and offensive coordinator this time.
John Lovett is also new and replaces Bill Young as the defensive coordinator. It did not appear that Young and Shannon had a difference of opinion with the defense. However, with Shannon being a former defensive coordinator it could be a great deal of pressure on any Miami defensive coach. Lovett is the third defensive coordinator at Miami since Shannon became head coach. It is clear that Shannon has a method for his defense and if you don't stick with it, you can't coach at Miami.
The lack of intensity in many games and the numerous coaching changes bring questions about the coaching ability of Shannon. They are clearly only questions and not answers. One argument is, he is finding the right mix on the sidelines and another is, that he is too involved with offense and defense. Time is the only way to tell just what Shannon's skills are so a grade higher than "C" would not make sense. There is just not enough body of evidence yet.
Shannon's Coaching Performance: C.
Lastly, the future looks good under Shannon. The answers to his coaching skills are still waiting to be answered but he has done all the things necessary to bring Miami back into the title chase. Last year's five game winning streak at mid season coupled with outstanding performances in losses against Florida and Florida State show that Miami will not be a push over in the future.
This is truly Shannon's team now. He has recruited all the major players and brought in his coaches. Now, the question is will we be treated to a resurgence of the championship days at Miami or will we continue twirl in mediocrity. It won't take long for some answers to surface. Miami's first four games will be a true test for them. They open with Florida State on the road, Georgia Tech on a Thursday night at home, Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia and home against Oklahoma. That schedule would be difficult for any team and will provide some answers quickly to Shannon's coaching ability.
Future recruiting for Shannon continues to be a bright spot for this team. He continues to recruit South Florida and try to close the doors to all others coming into the area. His ongoing efforts to keep his team out of the police blotters are an effort that can't be overlooked. The only thing that prevents him from getting an "A" for the future is the questions about his coaching skills. 2009 will provide the answers to those questions.
Shannon's Future Prospects Grade: B
Overall Shannon has been a very positive hire for Miami. Many fans might not agree because they only focus on his on the field record. However, Shannon has to be assessed on the totality of what he has done at Miami. He has been a superior recruiter and he has shown that he will discipline those that break the rules. Once his young recruits begin to win as we suspect they will, Shannon will be given the praise that he justly deserves.
Shannon's Overall Grade: B