Another week, another chance to connect with a great writer from inside the intertrons, and to talk about football as well as some “off the field” stuff.  We’re thankful that Chris from agreed to chat with us, and that he hasn’t added us to the “do not call” list as of yet. Be sure to check out our responses to his inquisition over at allCanesBlog today.

Let’s acknowledge the obvious, the coverage of this game will be about 35% play by play and 65% ESPN “discussion” of both of our “off field issues”. What’s your take on the allegations and impact of the Shapiro report? What are your thoughts about the media coverage of the matter? Any favorite nicknames for the matchup between the Buckeyes and Hurricanes?

As a lifelong Miami enthusiast, it’s been a long three-plus decades of media bias and hatred, as well as outside commentary from jaded opposing fans. On one hand, you accept that it comes with the turf as a despised, non-traditional program and “microwave dynasty”, based on what UM accomplished between 1983 and 1992. Private school. Big city. Pro sports town. Still, the bias gets old. Especially from uninformed, big-mouthed folks who don’t understand the South Florida culture or don’t realize that UM is a small school with under 10K undergrads. The majority of fans aren’t alum, which means less true diehards who bleed for the program.

Miami gets piled on while the University of Florida has more than earned its ‘Thug U’ crown with almost three dozen arrests on Urban Meyer’s watch (new coach Will Muschamp already has seven arrests) – but it’s back-page news as Gainesville is a small media market with biased local writers who dare not talk poorly about the hometown program. One good player (Tim Tebow) overshadowed a merry band of thugs and winning cured all during Meyer’s tenure – yet UM is constantly taken to the mat for everything, while rarely praised for doing any good. A high APR rating and kids staying out of trouble on Randy Shannon’s watch (only two arrests, one being Robert Marve, who broke a car mirror and transferred the following year) yet UM can’t shake the stigma that came with all that 80s / 90s bravado, swagger, et al.Is there some truth to what Nevin Shapiro said? I’m sure there is. It’s college football and this issue runs rampant in every college town. Difference is other college towns don’t have South Beach or jaded boosters who want vengeance. Regardless, for idiots like ESPN’s Mark May to scream ‘death penalty’ the morning after a Yahoo! Sports story broke? It’s irresponsible and uncalled for.

Had this happened to any other program, the focus would’ve been on the messenger, more than the message. There would’ve been articles attacking Shapiro’s credibility. Editorials reminding people to not rush to judgement as this guy scammed thousands of smart, successful, mature adults out of almost a billion dollars as a professional, world-class con man. In the case of UM, there was none of that. Good kids have been attacked and the program’s image is being tarnished because of one notorious booster and possibly a few assistant coaches no longer with the program.

In the end, four current kids were cleared immediately, four missed one game, three are out for four games and one gone for six. They were punished for things that happened upwards of three years ago – which lends further credibility to the fact that Shannon pushed Shapiro away from the program and did all he could to protect his kids. I think that will go a long way in Miami not getting anything close to this ‘death penalty’ talk the vultures were clamoring for. Some lost scholarships and maybe a lost bowl game, at worst.

The media needs a story and weeks ago it was Shapiro. Before that, it was “Tattoogate” and all the issues in Columbus (which were also blown way out of proportion). Before that, Southern Cal, all front page news and part of investigations and expose, while bigger stories like shady former Fiesta Bowl president John Junker and his antics fade away quietly. What does it say when we as a society chastise college kids that are part of a broken system, while letting the adults who run the system (adults who should know better) get away with much worse offenses?

The issue is with the NCAA and if the media had an ounce of integrity, it’d go for the bigger story — a corrupt system.

The end of this long-winded rant? It’s a shame that a good football game will have a dark cloud over it this Saturday. It’s Miami v. Ohio State. That should be the story. Not un-clever nicknames the media dreamt up to promote the game or sell t-shirts. It’s unfair to both the kids as well as fans of the respective programs.

How do you feel about Jacory Harris coming into this season?  Has he improved dramatically over what we saw last year? What will he bring to the table that the Hurricanes were missing against Maryland?

I have faith in Jacory Harris, but he’ll absolutely have to prove his worth over these next eleven games. I think he could write a fantastic ending to a rather disappointing career. Hometown kid and high school national champion that could put the Canes back on the map with a good season. I’d love to see it play out that way, for the Canes, but for Harris as well. This season will be a true test of character and resiliency. I think he can get it done, but it could easily go the other way.

Has he improved dramatically? Too soon to tell. That said, I don’t believe he needed ‘dramatic’ improvement. As for what Harris will bring that Stephen Morris didn’t — experience. Morris did some things well against the Terps, but there were also a lot of rookie mistakes. Missed reads. Staring down receivers. Slow to change the play at the line. Not always looking in command of the offense. Harris’ experience in a big game setting are a big reason he’s starting this weekend.

I do think Harris needs to fine-tune some things, has to get his head right and is in search of an offensive coordinator who plays to his strengths. Former OC Mark Whipple seemed to have given up on Harris by late ’09. Whipple came from a NFL background and had guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Donovan McNabb under his tutelage. Whipple was big on forcing Harris to go long too often and at inopportune times. When you watch footage from the past two years, there were situations when the ground game was there, but Whipple abandoned it for the long ball, where Harris would throw into double – or triple – coverage, turning it over and killing drives and leaving points on the field.

With Jedd Fisch calling a new offense and Coach Golden working on Harris’ psyche and motivating the kid, I have hope that he can finally get it right.

A big part of the new-look Miami offense will be running the ball with Lamar Miller and Mike James. When Harris is asked to throw, it will be about moving the ball, picking up first downs and throwing to playmakers who can get some yards after the catch.

When having this conversation with Miami fans, I oft talk about Ken Dorsey and his limited arm strength. Dorsey had a great head on his shoulders and found the way to get the ball to playmakers. The box score could show a 250-yard passing day, but a handful of those were a five-yard screen to Willis McGahee or Andre Johnson, who then rumbled for fifty yards.

Harris and Benjamin were disastrous in Columbus last year, but getting a new lease on life this season and coming back from a one-game suspension, very curious to see what Fisch has in store for them against Ohio State.

What offensive weapon are ‘Cane fans most excited about seeing? Miami has a legacy of great recruiting… who’s a newcomer that is expected to make an immediate impact?

On offense, I’m excited to see more from wide receiver Allen Hurns, who spent 2010 on special teams and didn’t see his first action at receiver until Maryland. Miami needs someone to replace go-to Leonard Hankerson (now with the Redskins) and question marks remain as to who that guy will be. Many have called for Tommy Streeter to step up and same for LaRon Byrd, but both have been inconsistent. With the return of Travis Benjamin this week, Jacory Harris will have a veteran out there and with Hurns on the other side, he should also get some looks. Coaches have been singling out Hurns since spring.

I’d also have to say Miller and Benjamin will be key for the offense, though. Miami will run the ball hard with Miller (and back-up Mike James) and I believe there will be reverses, slants or screens to Benjamin, getting him in open space to see what he can do against the Buckeyes’ defense. Hurns could be a factor, too, but Miller and Benjamin are the two I’d expect the most out of.

What’s the latest on Seantrel Henderson- any word on how his injury rehab is coming?

It was actually reported earlier today by Al Golden that Henderson is ahead of schedule with the rehab. What that means is open to interpretation, but Golden stated that Henderson is making progress and is closer to seeing the field than originally expected, so entering game two, that’s obviously good news. Hopefully he’s back no later than early October for a road trip to Virginia Tech and the meat of the ACC schedule. If not, then you think about redshirting – or do you? A kid of that size could go to the NFL tomorrow, getting coached up pretty quick, despite how raw he might still be. Will he even be around in 2012? No idea. Either way, he’ll be missed this weekend – and every weekend until he returns.

Who on defense should the Buckeyes watch out for?  Who’s going to disrupt the OSU offense the most?

Fans are obviously excited about third generation Hurricane, defensive end Anthony Chickillo. He’s taken to the college game quickly and coaches are fired up about his head for the game. Seems like it’s been a while since Miami truly had a defensive lineman that lived up the full-on hype. There have been some good guys like Allen Bailey (now with the Chiefs), but still waiting on current guys like Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo to finally go next level. Hopefully Chickillo can provide that spark out the gate this year. (The whole line will also benefit from the return of Olivier Vernon after his six-game suspension.)

Keeping in mind that we’re only one game into his career at Miami, what are people saying or thinking about Al Golden?

Hard to tell as all fans are different. Some folks are just burned out on over a half a decade of disappointment. Burned by Larry Coker, who let a loaded program slip and then burned by Shannon, who many hoped would use his Miami ties to recruit, stockpile and develop talent, a la Ron Zook at Florida before Meyer took over. Hardly the case. Instead, UM has been an undisciplined, poorly conditioned, defeated bunch that in no way embodied what the program became the previous few decades.

Regarding Golden, the overall belief is that he gets “it”. He’s a winner, an up-and-comer and is going place. How long he’ll stay at Miami, we’ll see, but he appears to be a Jimmy Johnson-type. People that have been around UM for a long while — administrators, former players, assistant coaches, etc. — have drawn comparisons to JJ, as well as Howard Schnellenberger and Butch Davis. Still, there is a contingent that refuses to believe until they see it. I have faith, but I understand why some remain skeptical.

You hate to get too hyped over a press conference, but upon taking the Miami job, Golden came prepared. A 300-page book – titled “Deserve Victory” – explaining how he’d rebuild the program, a rededication to conditioning, the welcoming of former players, embracing ‘The U’ brand, promoting competition and setting the bar high — these are all things that haven’t been the way at UM since Davis left.

UM’s athletic department has released a lot of videos this off-season (“Canes All Access” on YouTube) and when you see Golden’s command over the program, as well as his attitude, aura and impact on the players, you get a good feel for what he’ll do. In the wake of the Shapiro stuff, players were talking about Golden and how he handled the situation head-on. They were in awe and followed suit.

Players adapt the personality of their coaches and unfortunately the past two Miami coaches didn’t have that “it” factor. Golden does and in time, there’s no doubt he rights the ship.

Miami is a high-risk / high-reward job. It’s not for everybody and takes a special kind of coach. Lose at ‘The U’ and you’ll get crucified – but win and the coaching world is your oyster. You can write your ticket anywhere, which I believe was Golden’s motivation for heading south. UM isn’t a stepping stone to the Penn State job. I believe Golden is looking to emulate his coach mentors like Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells, with all eyes on the NFL after UM, not Happy Valley.