Midseason Report: Grading the ‘Canes

By 2003alumgocanes


I am just going to deal with the head coach and the coordinators here.

Randy Shannon

There are certain ways to measure a head coach’s overall impact on the team.  I will look at 2 for the purposes of this grade:  (1) motivation and (2) discipline.  Well, the season started well enough.  In the first 4 games, the team really played hard.  Then the wheels fell off in back-to-back lackluster performances.  Shannon recruited the players and somehow hasn’t gotten them to respond consistently.  Obviously, 6 games is a small sample size, but 33% of the time the ‘Canes have had effort issues (including a home game against their biggest rival).  On discipline. we can merely look to penalties (something Shannon had seemingly corrected since taking over for Larry Coker).  The Hurricane are 110th in the nation in penalty yardage.  Disaster.

GRADE: D…he saved from an F because it was certainly possible to lose to Pitt or Clemson.

Mark Whipple

We can debate until we are blue in the face whether or not we throw too much or Jacory sucks…whatever, the bottom line is the results.  This offense is half-assed despite being loaded with talent.  Can you even say at this point that there is a talent disparity between the offense and defense on this team?  If there is, it certainly isn’t a huge disparity.  And yet the defense has significantly outperformed the offense.  And the scoring actually looks better than it has been.  45, 24, 31, 30, 17, 28…well, in actuality that is 38, 10, 31, 30, 17, 21 when you remove special teams and defensive TDs.  At the very least you should be scoring more against FAMU and Duke.  The offense laid an egg against Ohio State but was made to look serviceable by 2 special teams TDs.  Everything has been a struggle, and in Year 2 with the entire offense returning, you should expect progress and not status quo.  Having the 56th ranked offense with this much talent is laughably bad.

Grade: D…Fs are reserved for Nix-like performances.

John Lovett

Unlike the offense, the defense has improved from Year 1 to Year 2 under Lovett.  This defense has been dominant for much of the year.  And, guess what else is back?  Turnovers and tackles for loss.  21st ranked overall defense, 7th in turnovers, and 1st in tackles for a loss.  The defense is far from perfect, but you have to feel that if the offense was as good as the defense, this team would have either 1 loss or be undefeated.

Grade: B…Getting run over by FSU prevents the A score.

Players – position by position


Well, this is just Jacory Harris.  He is the same player as last year.  Feast or famine, makes great throws, throws a lot of TDs and lots of INTs.  Still forces the ball too much.  There has been a change in play the last 2 and a half games, where Jacory has been more careful with the ball, and that has resulted in less INTs (1 INT in last 2 and a half games), but also a huge dip in completion percentage and TDs (only 1 TD in that same time period).  It all adds up to no regression, but no progression.  And that is not what you wanted, expected or needed in Year 2 of Whipple’s offense.  He is also 83rd in passing efficiency, partly due to the aggressive, low percentage style of offense and partly due to way too many forced throws into coverage.  All in all, not pretty.  One thing that we hope continues is that he is starting to use his legs a lot more to avoid the rush and make plays.  He is 2nd on the team in rushing TDs.

Grade: C-…I think he would be much better if Whipple’s offense wasn’t so complex and risky, but the fact that he hasn’t improved at all lies squarely on him.  Avoiding the D-range for making several big plays against Clemson, including a huge TD pass on 3rd down to Hankerson to tie the game up when the Hurricanes were reeling.  That game might have been headed to the loss column.

Offensive Line

The team spent the first 3 games not having a RT, essentially.  Joel Figueroa and Jermaine Johnson repeatedly got run over.  Now, they appeared to have stabilized somewhat with Seantrel Henderson, but this line does not consistently protect Jacory and certainly does not consistently open up running lanes.  The team needs better.

Grade:  C….it’s been okay, but not great.

Wide Receivers

Travis Benjamin apparently has no idea what a route even looks like.  Yet he continues to be a key member of this unit.  AJ and Byrd just don’t seem to get enough reps to make a consistent mark.  Leonard Hankerson has been the only saving grace, leading the team in TDs and making several huge plays.  The entire unit, Hankerson including, cannot catch.

Grade: D…Hankerson gets a B+ and is clearly the best player on the offense.  Everyone else gets an F or incomplete.  Benjamin gets a G.


This unit as a whole has performed reasonably well.  Fumbles are starting to creep in, which is a huge problem.  And, the TD numbers are staggeringly awful.  Some of this goes back to the offensive coordinator and the limited opportunities that this unit gets.  But even with that, we all want more plays out of them.  Still, it is the most consistent on the offense, the blitz pickup has improved, and with better blocking, and more chances, they could really blow up.

Grade: B…definitely the best unit on offense. Just not enough opportunities and not enough done with those opportunities to earn a higher grade.

Tight Ends

Chase Ford sucks.  Not a good blocker, does not know how to get open (constantly running into double teams) and apparently the ball has to get stuck in his face mask for him to catch it.  Richard Gordon is a half-assed blocker, no threat in the passing game, and an idiot.  Fortunate to escape a personal foul and ejection for a kick in the Clemson game (where the officials erroneously called offsetting personal fouls) and then earning a personal foul against Duke for a blatant late hit.  Each of these guys have 4 catches.  Asante Cleveland managed 2 in consecutive plays, and there is hope for him, but he barely played and doesn’t effect the grade.

Grade: F…you can’t play worse than these 2 guys.

Defensive Line

What an unbelievable turnaround.  This unit was barely average last year, and has been dominant this year, save Florida State, where they did get pushed around.  Other than that, they have pressured QBs, made sacks and even recorded a pair of INTs, including a Pick 6. Petri certainly deserves a ton of credit here.  The FSU game is a black mark though.

Grade: B+…you can’t get an A when you have played 6 games and got dominated in one of those games.


Sean Spence has regained his pre-injury form and is a force.  The rest of the LBs have been a mixed bag.  Ramon Buchanon has flashed some signs.  Colin McCarthy can’t graduate soon enough.  On the rare occasion he actually manages to take a correct angle, he misses the tackle.  The fact that Kelvin Cain came in and immediately played better than him as true freshman is absurd.  Hopefully Cain can continue to play well and hold down the MLB spot, allowing the team to piece it together at the 3rd spot.

Grade: C+…Spence brings the whole unit ranking up.  They have been the culprits on several long runs, with McCarthy most notably being out of position.


Damarcus Van Dyke has had huge problems.  Fortunately, he seems to be the luckiest player on earth, twice forcing turnovers after being completely burned by WRs.  Also fortunately, Ryan Hill has emerged as a strong complement to Brandon Harris, and Vaughn Telemaque is finally starting to locate the ball.  Hill and Telemaque are tied for 15th nationally in INTs, and the team as a whole is tied for 3rd (1 INT away from 1st).  They are also 4th nationally in pass defense.

Grade: A-…they are making plays and doing the things we have been begging for.  The only drawback is that some of the run support from the safeties has been lacking.  The same can’t be said for the corners, who have been excellent on the edge.

Special Teams

No good at all. It looked so promising with 2 TD returns against Ohio State.  We later found out that Ohio State just sucks at kick coverage.  Even with those 2 TDs, the ‘Canes only rank 83rd in kickoff returns and 60th in punt returns.  And then there are the coverage units.  49th in punt coverage and a whopping 103rd in kick coverage.  With all these athletes, how this even possible (we know the answer, say it ain’t so, Joe)?  Even the reliable Matt Bosher has been extremely shaky this year, making only 5 of 8 FGs (1 of which was blocked), including an easy FG that could have started the FSU game on the right foot instead of commencing the disaster.  He also has had an extra point blocked and banked one in off the upright.  Oh, and the ‘Canes also managed to flub a fake punt last week.

Grade: F-…it’s not humanly possible to be handed this collection of athletes and actually have the special teams perform any more poorly than this.

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