Head Coach: Manny Diaz
2018 Record: 7-6, 4-4 Conference
Bowl: 3-35 Loss to Wisconsin in Pinstripe Bowl
Over/under 8.5 wins (O -145; U +115)
Make 4 Team Playoff: Yes +2500, No -10000
The Miami Hurricanes covered the defensive end last year, but its offense lingered. Quarterbacks Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry failed to make big strides, and the loss of No. 1 receiver Ahmmon Richards to medical retirement stung the entire season. Mark Richt retired as head coach, and he is replaced by former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
The Hurricanes defense looks to be rock solid again, but whether it can get its offense up to par in Diaz’ first season as head coach is a bit more questionable.
Richt and his son, former offensive coordinator Jon Richt, are both out.
The new offensive coordinator is Dan Enos, who most recently served as Alabama’s quarterback coach. Enos had three choices for his starting quarterback, including Perry from last season. Perry struggled last year, so he took a look at Redshirt freshman Jarren Williams and Ohio State transfer Tate Martell. Martell was granted immediate eligibility. Martell has recently begun experimenting with a new role as a wide receiver. He is a skilled runner and great athlete, so he could be an unexpected addition to the wideout crew and not a QB competitor at any rate.
As of just recently, it appears that Jarren Williams did win the quarterback role for this season.
He is the highest-rated QB signee in 15 years at Miami, and Diaz said that of the three QBs he felt he could win with any, but that Williams has the highest upside due to his pure ability and his instincts.
If Diaz is right, he should have plenty of passing options for his vaunted talents.
Jeff Thomas took over the No. 1 receiver role with Richards permanently on the shelf. Freshman Brevin Jordan also was a strong option last year. Thomas averaged 16.1 yards-per-catch and caught 59 percent of his targeted passes. The Canes mostly lacked a true premier receiving option, and it showed the majority of the season.
KJ Osborn could be just that, this year. He comes from Buffalo as a graduate transfer and caught 53 passes for 892 yards last year with seven TD catches. Osborn, Thomas, and Jordan should provide strong top-three receivers. Miami also has some great receiving options in its recruiting class, but it remains to be seen who will be hoisting the ball to them, as stated. Miami did get good ground production last year from Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas, but Homer departed to the NFL. Dallas could step it up if he focuses less on making every play a big one.
The OL will have the be retooled. Of the seven linemen who started last least five games last year, five are departed, including tackles Tyree St. Louis and Tyler Gauthier. The line is not set yet, but it did show signs in the spring.
Miami ranked No. 1 in the country in “havoc rate” (tackles for loss combined with passes defended and forced fumbles). It was strong against both pass offenses and rush offenses, and Jonathan Garvin, Joe Jackson, and Gerald Willis III combined for 49.5 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks and 11 passes defended. Willis finished strong as a senior, and only Garvin returns from that devastating trio last year.
Senior end Scott Patchan and sophomore Nesta Jade Silvera both are prime candidates to be massive forces in 2019. A number of transfers will help them, including Jean Phillips from UCLA and Trevon Hill from Virginia Tech. There is plenty of depth in this defense, and the defensive line is outstanding. Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney enter their respective senior seasons after combing for 25 tackles-for-loss last season, and Zach McCloud and Romeo Finley are both playing a role similar to nickel linebacker that is key in Miami’s defense.
The front seven will have to continue to apply the tough pressure, to make this backfield as effective as it can be. At safety, Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine are gone, and the secondary also loses CB Michael Jackson Sr. The Hurricanes ranked No. 1 in passer rating allowed last year, No. 11 in completion rate, and No. 16 in interceptions. All those rankings will be hard to match this year, but Trajan Bandy is one of the best cornerbacks in the country and is now a junior, and the addition of USC transfer Bubba Bolden will be welcome, too. Three four-star freshmen also join the secondary group.
Miami was horrid in its punting game last year. It gave the team field positioning woes the entire year. JUCO addition Louis Hedley is the team’s pick to fix that aspect. Returns will be handled by Jeff Thomas (Kicks) and DeeJay Dallas (punts). Bubba Baxa enters his sophomore season as the kicker.
Miami has to settle its quarterback issue, but if it successfully does so it could be a much better offensive team. The defense has been quite strong, obviously, but the Hurricanes average third-down distance last year was 7.5 yards which ranked No. 103 in the NCAA. The defense was even more outstanding in holding opponents to 8.0, and somehow the offense converted 40.7 of those frequently long third-downs.
Those two stats tell the story of what Miami must improve in 2019. Much better offense and a similarly stringent defense would fit the bill.
Prediction: 8 wins (under)