Friday, June 9, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Miami Hurricanes
Miami had a decent go of it in year one under Mark Richt, winning nine games when the season closed. They also went 5-3 in ACC play, however, and they still do not boast an ACC title in their time in the league. That is a situation that is starting to grate on some nerves in South Florida, and the apathy towards this program is at an all-time high.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The line, despite missing two starters, should be rather good in 2017. Of course, one of those losses, was Danny Isidora, who was largely considered to be their best lineman, but there is talent returning up front in the form of LT Trevor Darling, LG KC McDermott, and RT Tyree St. Louis. Every major reserve from last season will return, giving Miami incredible options for new starters in camp, and for depth down the road.
Ahmonn Richards was a huge deep play threat last fall at WR, and will return after averaging 19.06 yards per reception, and piling up 934 yards on 48 receptions. David Njoku is gone at TE, but Christopher Herndon is back, and could pick right up where Njoku left off.
The best news going on offense will be the return of RB Mark Walton, who had a very solid season in 2016. He finished with 1117 yards rushing and 14 TDs, and averaged 5.34 yards per carry. He also added value in the passing game, as he finished with 27 receptions for 240 yards out of the backfield. He will be the greatest weapon on offense this fall.
Joe Yearby, who rushed for seven scores on 608 yards rushing, also returns.
Michael Badgley will also be back at PK, as he busted the magical 20 FG mark in 2016 by hitting 21/26 FG attempts on the year.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Finding a replacement for QB Brad Kaaya may be the biggest job in the conference in 2017. Kaaya never fully lived up to his hype coming out of high school, but he wasn't terrible either, and his loss leaves a gaping hole in the Miami lineup. Malik Rosier, a promising junior, gets first crack at replacing him, but there are other options as well to be ironed out in camp.
Once a QB is established, finding some depth at WR will be another issue. Other than a couple of options, everyone else is extremely green at this point, including Braxton Berrios and Malik Mayweather, who will be heavily depended on, despite their lack of a track record.
Finding replacements on the line, specifically for Isidora, will also be a huge task at hand.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The front four may be one of the best in the nation when all is said and done this fall. Every piece returns up front for the Hurricanes, including DE Chad Thomas, DT Kendrick Norton, DT RJ McIntosh, and VIPER Trent Harris. Thomas finished with 11 TFLs, Norton with 10, Harris with 9.5, and McIntosh with 9.5. The Canes can produce massive pressure from any point up front, and have amazing athleticism at the point of attack. Every major reserve up front from last season will return as well, so Miami will be a force up front this season on every level.
Miami was incredibly young at LB, as all three starters in the bowl win over West Virginia were all freshmen. The good news is that group got serious experience last fall, and the unit returns intact as well. Zach McCloud is back at SAM, Shaq Quarterman is back at MIKE, and Michael Pinckney is back at WILL. Quarterman and Pinckney combined for 17.5 TFLs last fall, with Quarterman finishing second in tackles overall with 84. Pinckney added 61 tackles, while McCloud finished with 37. Once again, every key reserve returns, so Miami is completely set in concrete in the front seven heading into fall camp.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
There were some losses in the secondary, with CB Corn Elder and FS Rayshawn Jenkins having moved on. Jaquan Johnson is back at ROV, and Malek Young is back at CB, but Young, specifically, is, well, young. He will be a sophomore this fall. Neither player was a major factor in the stat book, so answers will have to be found against the pass in the back end of the defense this fall. Sheldrick Redwine may be an answer at CB, but that is no certainty. Romeo Finley, another sophomore, may be pushed into starting duty at FS.
The Canes also take a major hit at Punter, where Justin Vogel has moved on after averaging over 43 yards per punt last fall. He was one of the most dependable punters nationally, and his loss will hurt.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Bethune-Cookman, 9/9 at Arkansas State, 9/16 at Florida State, 9/23 Toledo, 9/29 at Duke, 10/12 Georgia Tech, 10/21 Syracuse, 10/28 at North Carolina, 11/4 Virginia Tech, 11/11 Notre Dame, 11/18 Virginia, 11/25 at Pittsburgh
If Miami were to ever make a push for a division title, and ake a run for the ACC title game, this would be the year to do it, as the schedule sets up nicely. Of course, as always, Miami has to play Florida State, but they miss Louisville and Clemson on the schedule, and that helps greatly. The talent in the front seven on defense is probably one of the best collections of athletes anywhere in the nation, but there are questions in the passing game, and in the secondary, and in the punting game that could be a snag in the plans. If answers can be found early on in the passing game, this could be a special season for Miami. If not, this team may be mired in mediocrity in the ACC for yet another season.