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100 Days to Kickoff: Opponent Previews - Miami

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Finally, Mark Richt is off the schedule

This aged well.

It’s December 12th, 2018. Officials at Temple announce their choice to succeed outgoing football coach Geoff Collins: Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

Fast forward three weeks eighteen days. In a surprise move, Miami head coach Mark Richt announces his retirement after just three years on the job (and a brutal, brutal thrashing at the hands of Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl). The Hurricanes, already way behind on the coaching carousel, need to move quickly. And quickly they move, selecting as their new head coach..... Temple head coach Manny Diaz. The Canes are forced to pay Diaz’s $4 million buyout to elevate a guy that was on their staff just three weeks earlier.

You hate to see it, folks.

Offense

Headed into 2018, the Hurricanes’ offense was looking to answer two major questions:

  1. could star receiver Ahmmon Richards stay healthy?
  2. could quarterback Malik Rosier take a step forward?

Richards caught exactly one pass before suffering a career ending injury. As for Rosier, he struggled out of the gate, eventually being replaced by redshirt freshman N’kosi Perry, who.... didn’t fare much better. The above questions weren’t answered with a “no”, or even a “hell no”, but a “mother[Foals] how dare you even ask?”

So let’s just sweep that up and toss it in the bin, shall we? Gone is Richt and the offense called by his very successful son, and in is guy who definitely didn’t ghost Nick Saban, Dan Enos. Perry will be back at QB, but he’ll have some competition in the form of redshirt freshman Jarren Williams and one Tathan Martell, a transfer from Ohio State about whom little else is known.

Richards’ replacement at WR1, Jeff Thomas, returns after deciding to transfer, then deciding not to. Expect him to keep that spot opposite Buffalo grad transfer K.J. Osborn and assisted by Brevin Jordan at tight end. Ya know, if they have a reliable quarterback throwing to them.

In the backfield, last year’s most prolific runner, Travis Homer, was drafted by the Seahawks, which should open the door for DeeJay Dallas to take that spot. The Canes’ next highest rusher (at RB, anyway) only amassed 166 yards on the entire season, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who will end up backing him up.

Defense

The good news for Miami, who had a Manny Diaz-led defense last year that was really good, is that Diaz is back and is still a good defensive coach. Even better for them is names like Jonathan Garvin at DE, Trajan Bandy at CB, and Shaq Quartermann and Michael Pinckney at LB all return for the Canes. The bad news is a lot of their co-stars are gone: Bandy is the only one of their top four DBs still here, and Garvin is the only one of their top three LBs. But Miami should have enough home grown talent to fill the gaps, and if they don’t, there’s a plethora of transfers that will help, including pass rusher Trevon Hill from Virginia Tech, tackle Chigozie Nnoruka from UCLA, and safety Bubba Bolden from USC. (Former #1 overall recruit, OLB Jaelan Phillips, also from UCLA, elected not to pursue a waiver and will be sitting out.) Somewhere, the Rock is smiling.

Special Teams

There was one memorable thing about Miami’s special teams last year, and when “memorable” and “special teams” are used together in a sentence, it’s usually not a good thing. Indeed, the Canes’ punting unit was one of the worst in the country, on average giving opponents a starting field position close to the 35 yard line. They’ll be expecting major improvement from former Aussie rules player and JUCO transfer dear lord sir that is an excessive amount of ink. But yeah, a 24-year-old Australian punter. That’ll be interesting.

Conclusion

As much as I like to poke fun at Miami having to shell out an extra $4m to hire back a guy that had literally just left, Diaz is a legitimately good hire for the Canes and provides continuity for a defense that was already pretty dang good. If the offense can get things figured out, the Coastal could be theirs for the taking..... but it could be anyone else’s either, so let’s not celebrate Another Canes (Coastal) Championship just yet. Expect the Canes to make a bowl, but still fall short of expectations that are too high anyway. And expect them to get obliterated in their bowl, the most hallowed of Miami traditions.