Know Your Enemy: Miami Season Preview

We continue our season preview series with the Miami Hurricanes.

We continue our season preview series with the Miami Hurricanes. Last season was a tale of two halves for Miami as they started the season 7-0 and were ranked as high as 7th before losing RB Duke Johnson against Florida State and then dropping four of their final six games.

Miami managed to stay in the game with Florida State for the first half, with their soft coverage bothering Winston into a few early mistakes, but the Hurricanes were held scoreless in the second half and ended up losing by 27 points. To make things worse, Duke Johnson broke his ankle at the end of the third quarter when Miami was already down 35-14. FSU’s Devonta Freeman had 78 yards rushing, 98 yards receiving, and 3 TDs.

Schedule

Schedule

Win Shares

Sept. 1 at Louisville

.48

Sept. 6 FLORIDA A&M

1

Sept. 13 Arkansas State

.95

Sept. 20 at Nebraska

.52

Sept. 27 DUKE

.71

Oct. 4 at Georgia Tech

.56

Oct. 11 Cincinnati

.75

Oct. 23 at Virginia Tech

.49

Nov. 1 North Carolina

.67

Nov. 15 FLORIDA STATE

.25

Nov. 22 at Virginia

.65

Nov. 29 PITT

.71

Overall

7.74

Miami has a tough start to the season going on the road against a Louisville team that pasted them in the bowl game. Both teams are significantly different, however, as the Cardinals are going to an entirely new offensive and defensive scheme, while Miami now has Duke Johnson and will start a true freshman at quarterback. After two patsies, Miami travels to Lincoln to take on Nebraska—a pivotal game for the Hurricanes’ season.

The Simplified Football formula projects Miami at just under eight wins, and that’s about where we expect them to finish. This schedule is difficult, especially coupled that with a true freshman quarterback. But if they’re able to win early and stay healthy, they could be a very dangerous team by November, as that inexperience will start to wear off late in the year.

Offense

Projected Starters

Quarterback

Brad Kaaya

Running Back

Duke Johnson

Wide Receiver

Herb Waters

Wide Receiver

Stacy Coley

Wide Receiver

Phillip Dorsett

Tight End

Clive Walford

Left Tackle

Ereck Flowers

Left Guard

Jon Feliciano

Center

Shane McDermott

Right Guard

Danny Isidora

Right Tackle

Taylor Gadbois

Key Players

RB Duke Johnson: Johnson is the best player on the Miami team and one of the best running backs in the country. An explosive weapon, Johnson had 920 yards on just 145 carries in eight games before he went down to injury. This season Miami will lean on him even more—if that’s even possible—with a true freshman quarterback starting.

QB Brad Kaaya: Despite only having been on Miami’s campus less than two months, Kaaya won the battle over Kansas transfer Jake Heaps. Kaaya is a terrific prospect with a live arm and was a top 300 player from last year’s class. It will be interesting to see whether he keeps the job when Ryan Williams returns from injury. We’re guessing the Hurricanes wind up sticking with the freshman, who gives them much more upside. Jason: The decision to start Kaaya was a bold one, but I think it gives Miami the best chance to be good in the long term. Unlike Williams and Heaps, Kaaya has next-level tools. By starting him early, Miami’s offense has a chance to be very dangerous in the second half of the year.

WR Stacy Coley: A former five-star receiver who chose Miami over FSU, Coley’s presence will be a major help in Kaaya’s development. After some trouble with drops early in the season, Coley turned into one of the top receivers in the ACC by the end of the year, finishing with 591 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Question Marks

The Right Side of the Offensive Line: Left Tackle through center are all multi year starters, but the right side of the line lacks major experience. Brandon Linder and Seantrel Henderson have departed, with Isidora and Gadbois taking their places. Isidora missed last season with a foot injury, while Gadbois played a small number of snaps behind Henderson.

Overall: Offense

Miami’s offense has legitimate firepower, having finished 12th in the offensive F+ rankings last season and returning a solid nucleus from that offense. The receiver unit is very good as a whole, and Duke Johnson and freshman Joseph Yearby give them a pair of elite running backs. Miami has the talent and athleticism to be very good, but they will ultimately only go as far as their quarterback play can take them. Kaaya was a very good quarterback in high school, but how fast he adapts to the college game will determine how far the Canes can go.

Defense

Projected Starters

Defensive End

Anthony Chickillo

Defensive Tackle

Olsen Pierre

Defensive Tackle

Earl Moore

Defensive End

Al-Quadin Muhammad

Outside Linebacker

Tyriq McCord

Middle Linebacker

Denzel Perryman

Outside Linebacker

Raphael Kirby

Corner

Tracy Howard

Strong Safety

Deon Bush

Free Safety

Dallas Crawford

Corner

Ladarius Gunter

Key Players

LB Denzel Perryman: Although a bit undersized, Perryman is one of the nation’s top linebackers. He is very instinctive, physical at the point of attack, and is an excellent tackler. He does have some trouble shedding blocks (due in part to his lack of size), and he needs to improve his coverage skills if he wants to be a starter in the NFL.

FS Dallas Crawford: Crawford made the switch from running back to safety this offseason, and it has paid off as he is now expected to start in place of Rayshawn Jenkins, who is out for the year with a back injury. Crawford is an extremely physical player with good speed and fluidity, and it will be interesting to see how the transition to defense works for him.

Question Marks

The Defensive Line: Easily the most disappointing unit of the 2013 season, the defensive line needs to step up this season. Anthony Chickillo is the best player on this unit, but seems overly heavy and is slower off the ball than is ideal. The Hurricanes have struggled getting elite defensive tackles on campus, and that showed on the field last year, as the unit was invisible. The other defensive end spot is open right now with pass rushing specialist Al-Quadin Muhammad the favorite to win the job. Should he wind up the starter, he will need to improve versus the run. Miami’s front seven is undersized overall and lacks outstanding athleticism in general.

Overall: Defense

Last season’s defense was below Miami standards as the Canes finished 91st in the defensive F+ rankings. These struggles aren’t tied to scheme or coaching; the Hurricane defense is surprisingly ordinary athletically, lacking the size and speed one would expect from a Miami team. In the secondary safety Deon Bush and cornerback Tracy Howard have been disappointments. Bush is finally expected to start this season and while Howard started last season, he still needs to prove he can be an elite corner, though he continues to have the physical tools to be very good. The defensive line will need vast improvements from last year to make a positive impact, and the Hurricane defense will need to improve as a whole to take pressure off the offense and freshman quarterback.

Special Teams

Projected Starters

Kicker

Matt Goudis

Punter

Matt Goudis

Punt Returner

Stacy Coley

Kick Returner

Stacy Coley

Artie Burns

Key Player

PR/KR Stacy Coley: Coley was one of the ACCs premier returners last season, averaging a staggering 22 yards per punt return with one touchdown. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

How They Match Up With FSU

The Florida State-Miami game is late enough in the season that Kaaya should have plenty of experience. If Kaaya develops into a consistently good decision-maker, Miami’s passing attack should be good enough to keep the Florida State defense from loading the box against Johnson. FSU’s secondary may be the best in the country, but they will have to pay extra attention to Coley. We do expect the Miami offensive line to have their hands full with the Florida State defensive line, which should be hitting its groove by the time this game is played. The Miami tackles going up against Mario Edwards Jr. should be a mismatch and affect Miami’s blocking schemes.

On the other side of the ball, Miami should be outclassed. The Florida State offensive line should dominate the UM front in both the running and passing games. Unless Howard really emerges, Miami continues to lack an elite corner who can match up with Rashad Greene, and none of the Hurricane linebackers should be able to deal with Nick O’leary. We expect that the Hurricanes will score some points, but not enough to avoid the eventual Seminole win.

Wayne’s Prediction: 45-24 (Win Probability: 85%)

Jason’s Prediction: 45–24 (Win Probability: 85%)


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