Miami 2019 Capsule
2018: 7-6 overall, 4-4 ACC, No. 3 in the Coastal Division
2018 Game Result: Miami 38, Virginia Tech 14
Returning Offensive Starters: 4
Returning Defensive Starters: 7
There were high expectations for Miami entering last season after winning the ACC Coastal Division in 2017 and playing in the Orange Bowl. Miami was a New Year’s Six team with a good returning offensive backfield and an experienced defense. However, the Hurricanes disappointed with 7-5 regular season record and a blowout loss in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to Wisconsin. Miami’s chances to contend for back-to-back Coastal championships went down the drain when losing four straight ACC games in late October before bouncing back against the Hokies.
Head coach Mark Richt resigned shortly after the season, and the Hurricanes were forced to start a coaching search. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had left the Hurricanes to become the head coach at Temple in early December. However, the Hurricanes were able to swing him back to Florida just a month later to become their new head coach. Expectations will be high for him entering his first year.
S&P+ Offense: No. 66
Total Offense: No. 104
The Hurricanes’ offense held the team back in a major way last season. The main source of the offense’s struggles was the quarterback position. Miami had senior Malik Rozier and redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry, but neither was the answer under center. Both had completion percentages right around 50% and combined for 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The position should only get better this year with the introduction of Ohio State transfer Tate Martell, the development of Perry, and a possible shot for redshirt freshman Jarren Williams.
No matter who Miami’s quarterback is, they will have to elevate an offense that doesn’t return much. The offensive line returns just right tackle Navaughn Donaldson, with the other four starters from last year all moving on. Having to reshuffle the entire offensive front will almost definitely lead to growing pains for this Hurricane offense.
Miami’s receiving corps should be much improved from the group that had just one receiver break 500 yards last season. Jeff Thomas led the team with 563 yards on just 35 receptions, and he returns in the slot along with rising junior Mike Harley, who filled in for expected starter Ahmonn Richards last season after he suffered a career-ending neck injury. Sophomore tight end Brevin Jordan should also take another step, especially if Martell is the starter. Jordan and Martell were teammates in high school at Bishop Gorman in Nevada.
Finally, in the backfield, Travis Homer is gone, but DeeJay Dallas looks ready to explode after a solid sophomore season. Dallas had over 700 yards from scrimmage and tied for the team lead in scrimmage touchdowns with six. Dallas and sophomore Cam’Ron Harris should carry the load on the ground. This rushing attack will need to lead the offense early with an inexperience quarterback and offensive line being thrown into the fire.
S&P+ Defense: No. 14
Total Defense: No. 4
If Miami struggles this year, the defense will not be the issue. This was a top-ten unit last year that returns over half of its starters, and they not only retained their defensive coordinator, but they elevated him to head coach. The Hurricanes will be a defensive-minded team, and that starts with the linebacker group.
All three starting linebackers for Miami are coming back as seniors to control the center of the field. Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pickney both finished in the top three in tackles for the Hurricanes last season. That duo plus Zach McCloud at Sam should be able to lead this Miami defensive unit to another top 15 finish in the country. All three players have started since they were true freshmen.
There are some concerns elsewhere on the defense, specifically in the secondary. Michael Jackson, Jaquan Johnson, and Sheldrick Redwine were the leaders in the backend last season and have all moved on to the NFL. Trajan Bandy will be depended upon at cornerback this season for the Hurricanes, he led the team in interceptions with three and passes defended with eight.
Miami’s defense isn’t destined to be dominant, but still could develop to be just as good as last year’s group. If the Hurricanes want to succeed, they better hope that the defense can bring out the turnover chain a lot this season.
Why This Game is Important
Miami: The Hurricanes play the Hokies and UVA within six days of each other. The way that the Coastal looks now, Miami needs to find a way to win these games to contend. There are high expectations for this team, and this is the first large ACC test for the Canes.
Virginia Tech: With both games against other predicted Coastal contenders coming on the road, the Hokies need to steal one down at Hard Rock Stadium.