Shannon has roster depth at Miami

There is no "U" in depth. But in Randy Shannon’s fourth spring, there finally is depth at "The U".

A week after spring practice ended, the Miami head coach Randy Shannon took a minute to look back on how far the Hurricanes have come since he took over the team after the 2006 season.

“My first year, we didn’t have bodies,” Shannon said Friday afternoon. “We were traveling with 45. The following [spring], we had to be cautious with getting physical up front. The second year, we had a bunch of young guys, playing freshmen. We finally got our numbers right.”

Even with the only two returning starters, guards Orlando Franklin and Joel Figueroa, sitting out to heal, the Hurricanes had bodies on the offensive line. They also have one tall, physical receiver after another.

“There are only two positions where we have concerns,” Shannon said. “At linebacker, we need depth. We recruited five to come in next season, which will help. All but one is 6-2. And at tight end, we bring in four guys this fall.”

The Hurricanes even have backup quarterbacks who now have a spring practice on their resume. Sophomore A.J. Highsmith, January enrollee Stephen Morris, and transfer Spencer Whipple (son of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple) split the work while junior starter Jacory Harris recuperated from surgery to his right (throwing) hand.

“He did all the individual [drill] work,” Shannon said of Harris. “He did everything to do with footwork. He’ll be sharp, his feet right. That’s the biggest thing that quarterbacks lose when they don’t practice. He stood in the back and watched everything. He sees what he needs to do. He notices a lot of things that me and Coach Whipple tell him.”

That Harris stayed engaged, even as he didn’t practice, “is a great sign of maturity,” Shannon said. Harris is scheduled to begin to throw in summer 7-on-7 drills.

Miami has grown steadily in Shannon’s three seasons, from 5-7 to 7-6 to 9-4, and in Atlantic Coast Conference play, from 2-6 to 4-4 to 5-3. The Canes returned to the national stage in the first half of the 2009 season, only to fade as they turned for home.

Still, they showed signs, such as a 3-1 record in games decided by four points or fewer, or being the only ACC team to beat league champion Georgia Tech. Shannon sees another sign in the bodies on his bench. Spring practice is over early. And fall can’t get to Miami soon enough.