Dan Morgan: Randy Shannon needs to “show some passion”

I’ve seen a lot of great defensive players during my many years of covering UM, but none was more consistently outstanding than Dan Morgan, who finished his collegiate career (1997-2000) as the school’s all-time leading tackler (532).

Morgan played seven seasons for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers before retiring prior to the 2009 season, but the ex-middle linebacker is still hitting hard as a UM pre-game analyst for WQAM. I spoke to Morgan on the phone earlier this week to talk about the Hurricanes. Here is some of what he had to say:

How this team found it’s identity yet?
“I talked about this on the radio this past week. I still think they’re trying to find their identity offensively. They’re not sure if they’re a running team or a passing team. Obviously, Jacory [Harris] has struggled so they’re more effective running the ball than passing the ball. Defensively, I still think we’re trying to find our identity over there even though we’ve been successful. Stat-wise we’re doing OK, but if you look at the players, guys are getting shuffled in and out. DeMarcus Van Dyke is replaced by Ryan Hill then he’s back in and then you get Colin McCarthy out of there and somebody else coming in. So I think they’re still trying to find the right group of guys to click together. And I think they’re just trying to find leaders.”

Dan Morgan set a UM record for tackles before playing seven NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers.

We all thought Jacory would be the leader, but because he’s struggling so much, it hasn’t happened. What’s been wrong with Jacory this season?
‘Do I think Jacory is a smart, talented guy? He’s definitely that. But the thing he needs to start doing is not try to win games by himself and putting the pressure on his shoulders. A lot of these [interceptions] that he’s thrown are just him looking for the big play. He needs to be more patient out there and he needs to recognize coverages better.”

The Hurricanes seemed flat against both Florida State and Duke. Is there enough passion on this team?
“I think there’s guys on the team that show passion, there’s spurts of it. But like everything else, nothing is consistent with this team. I just don’t think there is that leader on this team. And another thing that makes me worry about this team and this [Saturday’s] game is the early-morning practices. Randy has these kids waking up at 5 a.m. to practice. I’m just beginning to wonder and question practicing that early. It’s got to be making these guys tired, especially for night games. I don’t think that they’re having fun out there, either. And I’m starting to wonder why. It’s got to be wearing, not only physically but mentally. I just don’t know how much young guys get accomplished waking up that early in the morning, even in the meeting room.”

How do you see this game against North Carolina on Saturday night?
“When you’re trying to predict these games, I’m wondering what Miami team is going to show up. Is it the team that showed a little bit of enthusiasm like they did against Clemson or Pitt or is it the team that showed up against Ohio State or Florida State? It’s an unknown with this team because we don’t ever really know what we’re going to get. North Carolina is obviously coached by a great coach in Butch Davis. Butch is real good at keeping a team together, especially in adverse times. We had some of those when we were at Miami. He just keeps teams together. It’s going to be a tough game for us to win.”

The talent at Miami just hasn’t been as good as when Butch Davis was here. Why do you think that is?
“Look at Butch’s recruiting classes. He expanded Miami’s recruiting horizons. Look where he went. He went to Canada to get a Brett Romberg. He went to Pennsylvania to get a Martin Bibla and to California to get Ken Dorsey. It just doesn’t seem like we’re doing that and if we are, I haven’t heard about it. It just seems we’re sticking to a certain area which is Miami. That’s good because some of the best players come out of there. But to have a great team, you need a good mixture of players. Different personalities from different places. I don’f feel like we have that. I think we have too many of the same guy.”

How much of this – the FSU game and the general struggles this team has endured– is on Randy Shannon?
“I’ve been a hard critic on Randy. Randy was my coach and I have a lot of respect for him, but I have to be objective. Yeah, it does lie on the head coach. But the players too. They have to share the same amount of responsibility. These turnovers and these things happening, I see it happening partly because of coaching and partly because of players not being hard enough on other players. That comes back to leadership. You have to have someone holding these players accountable for the mistakes. It doesn’t need to be the head coach. It is also the players holding each other accountable, and I don’t see that yet.

“Going back to Butch, he was always at the center of the actiion. With Randy, he tries to be too stoic on the sideline. I’ve said that before. [UM radio analyst] Don Bailey Jr. has the argument of, look at the Tom Landrys and some of these other [low-key] coaches. But we’re not the Dallas Cowboys. We’re the Miami Hurricanes with 17-, 18-, 19-year old players. You need to have a coach show some passion. If the kids don’t see the coach getting excited, the kids aren’t going to be excited. Especially the young kids. That’s why I said on the air last week that I’d just like to see a little more fire out of him. Get in somoebody’s face, grab somebody by the facemask and say, ‘Get your butt together.’ Like [San Franscisco 49ers coach] Mike Singletary did to [quarterback] Alex Smith [during a Monday night game earlier this season]. Guys need to get kicked in the butt every now and then.”

Click here to order Dan Morgan’s proCane Rookie Card.

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