New coach says Miami will live up to expectations

Updated: July 24, 2007, 1:17 PM ET
Associated Press

PINEHURST, N.C. -- In his first gathering of Atlantic Coast Conference football coaches, new Miami coach Randy Shannon talked about something he knows plenty about: Finishing first.

Shannon said Monday there's no reason his team can't win the Atlantic Coast Conference despite last year's disappointing 7-6 season, which led to the firing of coach Larry Coker.

Although Shannon, a linebacker on Miami's 1987 national championship team and defensive coordinator for its 2001 national champs, is unsure about who his starting quarterback will be, he's sure the team's talent is championship level.

"I don't expect anything less," Shannon said. "The standards are high. We've got to live up to those expectations."

Shannon inherited a brutal schedule. The nonconference schedule includes games against Oklahoma and Texas A&M to go along with difficult ACC road tests against Florida State, Boston College and Virginia Tech.

The Hurricanes were picked to finish third in the ACC Coastal Division behind Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech by 83 media members at the league's annual preseason kickoff gathering.

Shannon replaced Coker, who was fired in November a day after a trying regular season. Aside from the on-field issues, Miami also was touched by tragedy last year, when senior defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed outside his apartment complex on Nov. 7. The Hurricanes salvaged a winning season with a 21-20 victory over Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl.

Shannon, one of three new coaches in the ACC this season, has established a zero tolerance policy on gun possession by his players.

Shannon's first appearance at the ACC football kickoff, comes less than two weeks after three of his players were injured in a car crash near Naples when freshmen receiver Jermaine McKenzie fell asleep at the wheel of a teammate's 2007 Dodge Charger.

"The kids called as soon as the accident happened," said Shannon, who was informed immediately that none had life-threatening injuries. "That was a great thing."

McKenzie -- who was ticketed for careless driving -- broke a vertebrae in the crash is likely to miss the season along with freshman quarterback Robert Marve, who suffered a broken wrist, dislocated ring finger and cut on his left, non-throwing hand in the accident.

Sophomore linebacker Colin McCarthy was also in the vehicle, which belonged to Marve, but not seriously injured.

"If they don't heal, they don't play," Shannon said. "If they do heal, they play."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press