Head Coach: Mark Richt
2015 Record: 8-5
2015 Bowl: 20-14 Loss to Washington State at Sun Bowl
2016 Returning Starters: 7 Offense, 7 Defense
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +15000
Odds to win 2016 ACC Championship: +1050
Regular Season over/under: over 8 (+120), under 8 (-140)
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The Miami Hurricanes closed the 2015 regular season strong, winning four of its final five games and a trip to the Military Bowl (where Miami fell to Washington State). Miami rode the arm of QB Brad Kaaya, who threw for 3,238 yards and 18 TDs with just five INTs last season. Now entering his junior season, Kaaya returns with six other offensive starters in what should be an even better club than a season ago.
The Hurricanes have a strong rotation of talent at TE that includes FB/TE Chris Herndon, an extremely powerful 6’4” 254 pounder who can punish oppositions. David Njoku and Standish Dotard also will see time at TE, and Miami will have a penchant this season for throwing to the tight ends.
WR Braxton Berrios caught just 12 passes last season, but he is coming back from injury and should be in for a much bigger season. Stacy Coley caught 47 passes for 689 yards last season and will be at least the No. 2 option, priming him for another big season.
In the backfield Miami returns Joe Yearby, who rushed for 1,002 yards last season. Mark Walton will also see plenty of touches after last season though, as he had 461 yards and nine TDs. He was suspended in late April after being cited for a DUI, however.
The OL is going to be a source of questions for Miami, as there are mostly guards on it. It is not short in experience with all five being returning starters, but they are going to have to come together as a unit and adapt to the positions. The Hurricanes are not replete with depth and if anything happens to Kaaya the season is a wash. Perhaps that applies to all major teams with major players, but the Hurricanes truly lack quality depth at many key positions and that has to be a source of concern at least.
New DC Manny Diaz will have the Hurricanes seeking to be an attacking defense. He is big on read and react situations, and will look to install sharp instincts in his defensive unit to make it all work. “We’re trying to define for them what it means to play hard, not just (to say) ‘play hard,” head coach Mark Richt said of the group.
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DE/OLB Al-Quadin Muhammad had 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks last season as a part-time starter, and he will be a fixture this season on the line. DE Chad Thomas had 18 tackles last season, but he came with a high billing when he was recruited two seasons ago and he could cash in on some of that high potential this year.
At LB the Hurricanes brought in a number of promising recruits to add to Jermaine Grace and Juwon Young, so the unit will be young but improving this season. CB Corn Elder had an INT off Kaaya in the spring game, and along with S Rayshawn Jenkins (22 career starts) should help form a strong secondary.
Michael Badgley hit 25 of 30 FGA last season. Justin Vogel averaged 42.5 yards per punt. Badgley came up with game-changing kicks in several Hurricanes games last season, so his importance cannot be understated really. Elder will return kicks and punts, and he had a TD return of each last season.
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Miami opens the season Sept. 3 against Florida A&M and Week 2 is another home game against FAU, before Appalachian State in Week 3. The Hurricanes will then enter the conference stretch of the schedule on Oct. 1 with Georgia Tech. Miami faces Florida State the next week at home and the Hurricanes will take on Notre Dame on Nov. 5.
Richt should be able to help Miami get back on track. The team has plenty of talent, though depth is clearly an issue. With Kaaya healthy, Miami can beat any team in the ACC, though even with him they are clearly a step down from the true contenders in the conference.
Even so, we see Miami slightly overachieving this season, particularly if the OL can adapt and flourish under Thomas Brown’s schemes. With a healthy team, there is enough talent on Miami’s roster to be there in the Coastal Division.
Prediction: 9 wins
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