Miami AD: 'It's our time'

Youth is no longer an excuse at Miami. Depth, for the most part, is no longer a problem. And staff stability, particularly at the coordinator positions, has begun to take root. As coach Randy Shannon enters his fourth season, the pieces seem to be in place for the Hurricanes to contend for championships, starting with the Coastal Division and ending on college football’s biggest stage.

And that’s exactly what those within the program are expecting -- if not this season, than next.

“Success is measured by wins and losses and competition, and success is measured through championships,” said Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt. “Randy knows the expectations that are here better than anyone. He’s lived it for practically his entire career. He has the same expectations upon himself that we do as an administration, that we do as a program. It’s nothing new.

“As I evaluate each and every program each year, you look for continuous improvement and confidence that steps are being taken to compete for and win a national championship, and I am confident that the steps we’ve taken as a football program and continue to take will position us to compete at that level. It takes time, but we’re in a period now where it’s our time. I’m confident that the upcoming season and the season that follows, what has been a young team are now upperclassmen who are determined to return the program to where it was before.”

“We all feel that way,” Shannon said.

There is enough confidence in the direction of the program that Shannon, who has compiled a 21-17 record in three seasons, will receive a contract extension, but details of the deal were not immediately available. Miami has improved every season under Shannon, increasing the win total from five in 2007 to nine in 2009. The Hurricanes have been to back-to-back bowl games, and last year went undefeated against their nonconference opponents during the regular season.

“The last three years under Randy Shannon’s leadership, we’ve taken significant steps forward each and every year,” Hocutt said. “I couldn’t be prouder of what the program represents and exemplifies in the classroom and the community and everything that they do. The performance on the field has improved, but the expectations are championships. Randy has continued to have my full support. He’s got the full support of the university and that’s what it is.”

He’s going to need it, especially with a schedule that starts with two September road trips to top 15 teams in Ohio State and Pitt. Miami surprised many with its promising start in 2009 against a similarly unforgiving schedule, but lacked the maturity and depth to maintain success throughout the entire season.

“We’ve finally got an older team,” Shannon said. “... Everybody has played two years. I was thinking to myself, I’m beating myself up, I just want to win, win, win. Sometimes people have to calm me down about things I always see. I’m going to continuously be that way as a coach, but after the season I evaluate, ‘OK, where are we at?’ I compare us to some teams I’ve been on and played on and things like that. You really don’t get good until you have your guys play a lot of football, in their second and third years.

“I think the team is starting to evolve and change into where we need to be at now,” he said. “It makes it a lot of fun because the team is starting to get my mentality and attitude, and they understand what winning is about and what we have to do. I’m going to continue to stress the point of winning and competing at a high level because of the competition that is here.”

This year, starters like quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence will be juniors. It will be the second season under coordinators John Lovett and Mark Whipple. Come August, Shannon will have 15 offensive linemen to work with and every position but the secondary will go three-deep. It’s a vast improvement from having only five linebackers last year, and being forced to move players around and look elsewhere for talent, like to the basketball court, where the staff got lucky with former tight end Jimmy Graham.

“It’s the first time I’ve finally felt comfortable in three years,” Shannon said. “It’s time to take that next step now.”