Almost no one expects the Miami Hurricanes to make a major splash this fall, but their former coach thinks Al Golden's Canes are primed for a major breakthrough ahead of the team's first game of the 2012 season.
Howard Schnellenberger, the man who guided the U to its first national championship in 1983, spoke to USA Today on Monday, gushing with praise for Miami's squad. "That's the best-looking squad I've ever seen in my life physically including the Miami Dolphins, the University of Alabama, anybody," Schnelly said.
"In 56 years of coaching, they looked better physically than anyone I've ever seen." Schnellenberger visited the Miami campus earlier this month to observe one of Al Golden's practices, and he marveled at what he saw.
"They're young, but I think [Golden's] due for a real breakout," Schnellenberger added. "I don't know what everybody's expecting, but I expect them to be damn good."
Schnellenberger seems to be the only observer who thinks the Canes can be good in 2012. The team did not receive a single vote in either the Associated Press poll or the USA Today coaches poll. At the offseason ACC Media Days, Miami was selected to finish fifth out of six teams in the ACC Coastal division.
Coming off a 6-6 season, the Canes will rely heavily on a much-hyped recruiting class to overcome the loss of four underclassmen to the NFL Draft this offseason. "This class has got to be the one to lead us back," freshman cornerback Tracy Howard told the Miami Herald recently. Golden told the Herald that many freshmen will see playing time this fall.
Schnellenberger knows a thing or two about great teams sneaking up on just about everyone (the 1983 Canes are a classic example). But a fantastic freshman class that receives lots of playing time often says as much about the lack of depth among the upperclassmen as it does about the freshmen talent.
Miami opens the 2012 season at Boston College on Saturday. With road games at Kansas State and Georgia Tech looming in the first month of the season, the Canes will get a chance to back up Schnellenberger's prediction very soon.