By: Evan Brunelle
#8- Is The U back?
There is no debate that the Miami Hurricanes are one of the most decorated programs in all of college football. They have won five National Championships and have produced arguably the best talent pool of NFL players of any school in the history of NCAA football.
However, it is no secret that in recent years, the Hurricanes have struggled to get back to being a national powerhouse. Amid controversy with the NCAA throughout much of the 2000s and instability at head coach, Miami has been trying to crawl back into the spotlight.
The Hurricanes showed promise in Mark Richt‘s first two seasons as head coach. In his inaugural season (2016), the Hurricanes finished with an impressive 9-4 record and ended the season with a win in the Camping World Bowl over West Virginia. They would finish the season ranked 20th in the AP Poll.
In Richt’s second season (2017), the turnover chain made its debut, and the national hype started to swarm around the Miami program again.
They brought back the Miami swagger of the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s and seemed to be playing like the Hurricanes of the past. They started the season with an unblemished 10-0 record which included a key win over ACC Coastal foe Virginia Tech, and a statement 41-8 win over historic rival and third ranked Notre Dame.
It appeared Miami was a true contender to win the National Championship, as they were ranked number two following the victory over Notre Dame. They then lost a trap game against Pitt, fell to Clemson in the ACC championship game, and then dropped a third straight game at the hands of Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.
Richt’s third and final season was a disaster.
Miami had a top-five defense in the nation, but limped to a 7-6 record after a season of inconsistent quarterback play and little production from a talented offense. Following the disappointing 2018 season, Coach Richt stepped down and former Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was given the head coaching job after being bought out of a head coaching gig at Temple University.
In 2019, will first-year head coach Manny Diaz bring the Hurricanes back towards being dominant again? Will The U be back?
The answer? Yes. The U is back.
While Coach Diaz is in his first year as head coach, I fully expect him to have no problems adapting and leading the Canes. While he himself has changed the energy of the entire program, he also made several valuable hires to both the offensive and defensive coaching units to propel the team.
On offense, Diaz dismissed the entirety of the 2018 staff and brought in a slew of replacements.
First and most notably is quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who spent the 2018 season mentoring two of the country’s finest quarterbacks in Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts. Enos is known to be an expert developer of the QB position and brings a fresh scheme to suit the talented athletes on the offensive side of the ball.
Also on the offensive side of the ball is running backs coach Eric Hickson, who was previously at Kansas State, expert recruiter and tight ends coach Stephen Field, who previously was with the Oregon Ducks staff, former Big Ten record holding receiver Taylor Stubblefield, and former Buccaneers offensive line coach Butch Barry. Look for this new staff to turn the underperforming offense of last year into a powerhouse this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, much remains the same. The only changes include Blake Baker replacing Diaz as defensive coordinator, and Todd Stroud taking the reigns of a talented defensive line after coach Jess Simpson left to coach the Atlanta Falcons. The nationally acclaimed defensive scheme will likely remain the same and the Hurricanes will likely have a top-10 defense once again.
Miami returns significant talent on both sides of the ball, and added a plethora of impressive recruits through the NCAA transfer portal during the off-season.
On offense, the Hurricanes return a talented running back core of Deejay Dallas, Cam’Ron Harris, and Robert Burns. The trio is extremely powerful with elusive quickness and great field vision. Former 5-star recruit Lorenzo Lingard is also slated to return this season after a torn ACL shortened his freshman campaign.
Miami’s tight ends and receivers bring a lot of talent to the table as well. The Canes added grad transfer K.J. Osborn from Buffalo, who turned heads with an impressive season last year and is on the preseason Biletnikoff Award watch list. Jeff Thomas returns as well, who is incredibly quick when running routes and is a threat to score anytime the ball is in his hands. At tight end, the Hurricanes have arguably the best tandem in all of college football with sophomores Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory, who in the new offense, hope to continue to be weapons.
On defense, the Canes are stacked.
The secondary took some losses as Michael Jackson Sr., Sheldrick Redwine, and Jaquan Johnson all went to the NFL. Standout corner Trajan Bandy will be returning for his third season. Look for him to be helped by corners Al Blades Jr. and DJ Ivey, along with the safety trio of Amari Carter, Gurvan Hall, and USC transfer Bubba Bolden.
The D-Line returns talented defensive ends Jon Garvin, Scott Patchan, and Greg Rousseau, while also being helped by Virginia Tech transfer Trevon Hill. The interior line will likely be bolstered by veteran Pat Bethel and improving talent such as Nesta Jade Slivera and Jon Ford. This unit is as talented as they come and will for sure be something to look out for as the season progresses.
The thing the Hurricanes have lacked since their last National Championship in 2001 is consistent QB play. Look for this to be the year where Miami finally gets efficient production from the position.
After a long, public battle that played out throughout spring ball and the majority of fall camp, Coach Manny Diaz announced this past week that redshirt freshman Jarren Williams had beaten out N’Kosi Perry and Ohio State transfer Tate Martell for the starting job.
Williams, the number five quarterback in the class of 2018, earned a 4-star ranking after an incredible high school career in Georgia. Miami believes he is the man for the job and will take the field as the starter against the Florida Gators next Saturday in Orlando. Under the guise of Coach Enos, look for Williams to lead a balanced attack and get the ball into the hands of his offensive weapons.
Watch for these elements in the Hurricanes opener on August 24th against a very talented Florida team. The opener is by far the biggest challenge on the schedule for the Canes.
Winning this game would be huge, and if they do, look out everybody.
Cover photo via: Mark Brown/Getty Images
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