In a decision that should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, the word on Tuesday is that the NCAA has lowered the hammer on several key Miami Hurricanes players.
According to a report from the Associated Press, the NCAA has ruled that eight players must sit out games, and each of them must also repay benefits.
The list includes senior quarterback Jacory Harris, who will be forced to sit one game. Also sitting out for one game will be junior defensive tackle Marcus Forston, senior linebacker Sean Spence, junior defensive end Adewale Ojomo and senior wide receiver Travis Benjamin.
Elsewhere, junior safety Ray Ray Armstrong and sophomore tight end Dyron Dye will sit out four games, with junior defensive end Olivier Vernon sitting out six games. Vernon also has to repay $1,200, which is easily the stiffest financial penalty of the bunch.
Exactly what led to these penalties is no secret. It was just a couple weeks ago that the misdeeds of former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro were detailed in an investigative report from Yahoo! Sports, and the Hurricanes football program has been in danger ever since. These penalties are the start of the program’s troubles, but they are certainly not the end.
But right now, all 'Canes head coach Al Golden should be concerned about is his team's game at Maryland on Monday. That's where the 'Canes will start their 2011 season, and it's up to Golden to figure out how best to weather the storm with eight fewer players at his disposal.
With Harris likely to be out of action against the Terrapins, sophomore quarterback Stephen Morris will get the start. Luckily for him, spelling Harris is something he's used to, as he stepped into Harris’ shoes several times towards the end of the 2010 season.
The interesting part is that starting Morris at quarterback might not end up being a one-game solution for Golden. Morris and Harris have been locked in a tight battle for the team's starting job in recent weeks, and it was entirely possible that Morris would have opened the season as the starter to begin with. If he performs well against Maryland, the starting job is going to be his to lose.
On the other hand, losing so many players in the front seven is going to be an issue. Forston, Spence and Ojomo all made more than 10 tackles for loss last season, so having to rough it without them against Maryland could very well lead to a high point total for the Terrapins. No doubt that will sit just fine with new head coach Randy Edsall.
As for the players who will be gone beyond just the Maryland game, losing a second-team All-ACC safety like Armstrong is going to hurt, and losing Vernon for six games will be yet another hit the front seven will have to overcome.
When you take back and put it all in perspective, it's pretty apparent that the 'Canes are due for a rough takeoff out of the gate this season. I for one think their offense is going to be okay, but it better be ready to score considering how many capable players the defense is going to be missing.
For what it's worth, the 'Canes will probably be just fine against Bethune-Cookman on October 1. But against Maryland, Ohio State, Kansas State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina, I'm not so sure.