Head coach: Al Golden
2014 Record: 6-7; 3-5 ACC
2014 Bowl: 24-21 Loss to South Carolina at Independence Bowl
2015 Returning Starters: 3 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +16500
Odds to win 2015 ACC Title: +1600
Regular Season Wins: Over 6 (+100); Under 6 (-130)
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The Miami Hurricanes no longer have Duke Johnson or Phillip Dorsett in the fold, but it returns its 6-foot-4 QB Brad Kaaya, and that’s a start towards fielding a respectable team once again. The problem is that “respectable” might not be enough to save Al Golden’s job.
QB Brad Kayaa will be entering his sophomore season after winning the ACC Rookie of the Year award last season. He set records for passing yards and TDs, but he is leading an offense that lost several NFL-caliber talents.
Not having all-time rusher Duke Johnson is a colossal blow, but the Canes do have two very talented backs in 5-foot-9 195 pound sophomore Joseph Yearly and Gus Edwards, a bigger 6-foot-2, 230 pound power runner. He didn’t have a lot of big games last year outside of the Va. Tech contest, but he’s a good change of pace back as a No. 2 carrier.
The main attraction now, Yearly rushed for 509 yards and a TD in backup work last year while also being good for 5.9 yards per carry. He looked a lot bigger this season when he showed up to workouts, and he should be able to build on what was a pretty successful freshman campaign. The WR corp is deep with Stacy Coley leading the way as a Freshman All-American in 2013.
Kayaa’s biggest difficulty will be working with a mediocre OL. Only the RG position features a starter from last year and Kayaa isn’t the most mobile QB to react to a lot of pass rushing.
Defensively, Miami ranked 14th nationally last year, but there were some serious causes for concern, nonetheless. The Canes allowed 300-plus rushing yards to Nebraska and Ga. Tech and it wasn’t able to get any key stops against Florida State or South Carolina.
It failed when it needed to succeed the most, to sum it up. The unit may not be in for major improvements because it lost a good MLB in Denzel Perryman as well as losing DL Anthony Chickillo and Olson Pierre.
The secondary is its strength and senior S Deon Bush forced five fumbles last season. Junior CBs Corn Elder and Attie Burns are both capable of making big time plays and junior LB Jermaine Grace is back after finishing second on the team in tackles (60) last year.
Chad Thomas and Al-Quadin Muhammed could both also be standout players at DE. The DL is pretty unproven, however, and not overly powerful. It lacks depth, as well. Last season it was weak enough that Al Golden decided to move pass rusher Tyriq McCord to strong-side LB, and he may be forced to do similar lineup acrobatics in 2015.
First year punter Justin Vogel was decent last year, and true freshman kicker Michael Badgley was inconsistent (14 of 18 overall, long of 48 yards, but missed four extra points). The returns were most problematic and Miami will likely have to put one of its talented underclassmen in for punts and kickoffs, unless Golden wants to exasperate one of his premier secondary players.
The depth in the backfield also lend to the possibility of someone like freshman RB Mark Walton handling them. He’s a very hard runner who lacks elite speed, but his ability to power through tackles could still lead to some decent punt returns, at least. He’s going to get his touches in the backfield on occasion, too, if he is a longer shot for returns due to the speed deficiencies.
Al Golden is on the hot seat and he knows it. He’s 28-22 in his four years as Miami’s head coach, and the program wants to get over the hump. The Hurricanes lost its last four games in 2014 and it was the team’s third losing season in the last 35 years.
That’s not what Hurricanes fans expect from the team, and the glory years seem so distant at this point.
The team is still very young and winding up towards something bigger, but fact remains that Miami hasn’t played in an ACC title game since joining the ACC in 2004, and this year it is pretty unlikely with 5dimes setting the odds at +1600. Golden is a better coach than his record reflects, really, but that isn’t what matters: Ws and Ls, and another .500 season or 6-7 finish like last year will likely usher Golden out the door.
Prediction: 6 wins