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September 8, 2006

Mailbag: Licking the wounds from week one

Opening week of football season is exciting, but it can also be excruciating.

Miami endured a painful loss to rival Florida State. Wake Forest lost its starting quarterback to a painful injury.

That first week opens up more questions about Miami coach Larry Coker's future and the Demon Deacons' hopes to qualifying for a bowl game.

We'll take a shot at providing some answers, which hopefully won't be too painful.

Olin's Mailbag
In Miami's last four losses they have failed to score in the second half. That along with their stagnant offense for the last two or three years, the fact that Larry Coker's offenses seem to resemble him (soft), and the overall underachieving of the team, to me would warrant all of the buzz about letting him go. Do you agree? And he were to be let go who do you think would be a good replacement? Randy Shannon, maybe Butch Davis again?

-- Andre, Miami

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I'm a bottom line guy. And here's the bottom line during Coker's tenure at Miami the Hurricanes have a 53-10 record, and have never posted fewer than nine victories in a season.

The only coaches with more victories in that span are Texas' Mack Brown and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops (56) and USC's Pete Carroll (54), which puts Coker in some select company.

From here, it appears Coker's biggest sin in Miami is that his nice-guy persona doesn't match the slick, and maybe even sinister, image the Hurricanes have portrayed in the past.

I do not think Coker will lose his job. In fact, even with their disappointing loss to Florida State on Monday I anticipate the Hurricanes will win at least nine games again this season. I wrote about Coker's situation in my column on Tuesday morning.

However, if he were to be replaced I don't see how defensive coordinator Randy Shannon can be ignored any longer. In his five seasons as defensive coordinator, Shannon's defenses have ranked in the nation's top 10 four times in total defense and no lower than 28th.

As far as Davis goes, in his six seasons as head coach (1995-2000) Miami won more than nine games just once (2000) and endured its only losing season since 1979 (5-6 in 1997).

Of course, Davis' teams were hamstrung with probation issues stemming from Dennis Erickson's regime, so that has to be considered.

But like I said, I'm a bottom line guy.

How will Wake Forest quarterback Ben Mauk's injury effect the Demon Deacons' season, and is coach Jim Grobe on the hot seat if another 5-6 (or the like) season occurs this year?

-- Al, Laurinburg

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Losing the starting quarterback is never good, and Mauk - who broke his right arm and dislocated his right shoulder diving to recover a fumble in the season-opening victory over Syracuse - might be out for the season.

The Deacons are hoping to reach a bowl game this season, and his loss will make that goal more difficult to attain.

Redshirt freshman Riley Skinner, who is more physically gifted, takes over for Mauk and maybe he'll blossom as a starter.

But having a quarterback with little collegiate playing experience is an obstacle for any team, especially one like Wake Forest which will struggle to get enough victories to become bowl eligible.

Even if the Demon Deacons don't reach a bowl game this year, I'd be surprised if Grobe will be replaced. With 27 victories he's already the third most successful coach in school history and he could be tied for No. 2 on the chart by the end of the month. He only needs two more victories and games against Duke, Connecticut and Liberty are coming up.

I've always wanted a piece of property up in the Colorado Springs foothills, and now it looks like some is available. I just read your article on Yahoo sports about the 10 best pre-game traditions, and it seems, according to you, that our third national military academy has simply disappeared. Too bad. They used to march in just like the other guys (and march off as winners more often than their counterparts over the past 25 years or so), but at least I'm secure knowing that Army and Navy will carry on. I wonder if the government is going sell off any F22s while they're at it. I could use a new ride.

--Michael, Colorado Springs

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No disrespect was intended to the Air Force Academy, and, yes, I'm aware the Falcons' program has been the most successful among the three major service academies in recent history.

The marching of the Cadets and Midshipmen is more recognizable to me because of the spectacle of the annual Army-Navy game. However, that isn't meant to imply the Air Force is any less significant.

I can appreciate the Air Force Academy, not only for fielding some outstanding football teams under Fisher DeBerry, but much more so for its men and women who represent and defend our country so courageously.

Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com. To send him a question or comment for his Friday Mailbag, click here.



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