Miami's Shannon deserves credit

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Last year, Randy Shannon lost seven games as Miami's head coach. This year, he has won seven games.

Sounds like the very definition of a turnaround.

Regardless of what happens to the Hurricanes in their final two games of this season -- on Thursday night at Georgia Tech and in the season finale at NC State -- Shannon deserves credit for what he has done this year.

As in, ACC Coach of the Year consideration kind of credit.

Miami won two league games in Shannon's first year as head coach, an embarrassment to a program with five national championships. The Hurricanes did not go to a bowl game, and the dreadful, unforgettable 48-0 loss to Virginia in the final game at the historic Orange Bowl made the outlook grim. It was only natural to question Shannon's ability as a head coach.

Well, this season he answered.

Shannon has done what he was hired to do -- win -- at home and on the road. He has the Canes (7-3, 4-2 ACC) ranked No. 23 in the latest BCS standings. And he's done it with 11 freshmen on his two-deep roster and numerous injuries to key players.

Consider how important Shannon's latest batch of recruits has been to this season's offensive success:

  • Freshmen have accounted for half of Miami's all-purpose yards this season.

  • Eight true freshmen have scored for Miami this season.

  • 25 of Miami's 33 touchdowns have been scored by either a sophomore or freshman.

  • Underclassmen have accounted for 100 percent of the team's passing yardage, 79 percent of its rushing yardage, 65 percent of its receptions and 82 percent of its points.

It should also be noted that of the 23 seniors on this year's roster, 13 have already earned their degrees while the other 10 are on schedule to graduate in either December or May 2009. Discipline has not been a problem.

The Hurricanes are on a five-game winning streak -- the program's longest since 2005 when it won eight in a row -- and have already defeated the defending ACC champion, Virginia Tech. They can clinch the Coastal Division this week with a win against the Yellow Jackets, coupled with a UNC loss to NC State.

He has proven wrong many who thought the two-quarterback system wouldn't work, winning games with both Robert Marve and Jacory Harris. He made an excellent hire in first-year coordinator Bill Young, whose defense has shown improvement every week, and proved it last Thursday against the Hokies and tailback Darren Evans.

Miami is 15th in the nation in total defense, its best mark since it was first in 2005. And regardless of how fans feel about offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, the Canes lead the ACC in scoring with 28 points per game against ACC opponents.

With all of the garbage Shannon had to sort through last year -- including injuries and bad attitudes -- this season should be considered his official starting point. While it's still too early to consider Miami "back," it's not too early to give Shannon credit for pointing them in that direction.