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September 22, 2009

Q&A with Miami coach Randy Shannon

Miami has been an early season surprise, starting 2-0 with impressive victories over Florida State and Georgia Tech.

This week, the Hurricanes get another ACC test, playing at Virginia Tech, a team they beat last season in Miami. After that comes a visit from Oklahoma.

UM coach Randy Shannon talked with Rivals.com senior writer Tom Dienhart about Saturday's game, his talented sophomore quarterback, what it means to be a Hurricane and other topics in this week's Q&A.

What do you expect when you play at Virginia Tech this Saturday?

"Coach [Frank] Beamer always plays tough defense. They are a running team. They always are going to try to get big plays on you with their special teams. They are tough. We have to be sound and focused."

Did you talk to the team about the first four games of the season, with you guys playing at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and Oklahoma?

"No, we didn't talk about it. You just talk about taking it one game at a time and staying focused. I keep emphasizing that so the guys understand it."

What do you think is the national image of Miami?

"I don't know. I really don't get involved in what goes into the national image. ... I just get into what we do here and what we get done. ... People can enjoy watching us play and carry ourselves off the field in a professional way."

How good can sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris be?

"He is special because he stays within himself. He doesn't try to go outside the realm of what we are trying to do. He loves to be around the players on the team. He is just a simple guy who likes to have fun with his teammates. That's what makes him special."

What made you decide to hire Mark Whipple as offensive coordinator?

"Mark brings a lot of experience as a head coach and a coordinator. He has done some great things that I think helps us out as a football team a lot."

What are some areas of improvement for your team?

"I would like to see us finish the game a little better each week. And we also need to improve on special teams. We definitely have to improve our kickoff coverage. Going down the list, we definitely have to improve those things to give our team a better chance to have good field position because field position is everything."

What is the most underrated area of the team?

"I think our offensive line is doing great. For the last two weeks, they've done a great job protecting Jacory. I think that's something that is really special, when you have an offensive line [that is criticized], but they do a great job."

Who are the leaders of this team?

"Our senior class. It has done a great job getting our team ready. It started in the spring and continued in the summer. Those guys have gotten together to have lunch or dinner and have discussed things that the team needs to do, who is slacking off, who we need to talk to and bring in to get them going."

How would your players describe you?

"I really don't know. I really couldn't tell you what they think of me."

What have been the high point and the low point of your Miami tenure?

"I really don't have any. A low point is really when you lose a game. A high point is seeing these young guys flying around having fun and winning games."

Talk about the pride players have playing for Miami.

"It is good to see. You see a different bunch of guys all of the time. As a matter of fact, I am looking out my window right now and I see Dwayne Johnson, "The Rock," jogging on the field getting a workout in. Every time you see a guy like that come back - and like Andre Johnson came up to Tallahassee last week to watch us play - and watch us play games at home and on the road is something that I think is very special. I always want to see it. Once you are part of the Miami program, you always are going to be a family member forever. That is the one thing that we always say."

What do you miss most about Miami playing at the Orange Bowl?

"It has been a long time since I played, so I couldn't really comment on it. It was a close stadium and there was a lot of history in the stadium. That's the one thing I miss."

Do you think there are enough minorities coaching in college football?

"I don't get involved in anything about minorities and different things like that. I really don't."

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.

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