Miami football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Hurricanes, best players and season prediction.
What You Need to Know About the Miami Offense
The Canes possess many of the important parts of a successful offense, such as next-level QB Brad Kaaya, the three-headed ground game of Joseph Yearby, Mark Walton and Gus Edwards and big-play WR Stacy Coley. And yet, they’ve been really ineffective the past two seasons at extending drives and producing six points in the red zone.
An inability to run the ball effectively was certainly an issue in 2015, which falls at the feet of an inconsistent line. The blocking unit remains a question mark entering 2016 too, with fingers crossed that C Nick Linder and guards Danny Isidora and Kc McDermott can provide a greater push at the point of attack.
Elsewhere, the team needs to develop more weapons for Kaaya, who’ll likely play his final season at this level. Coley is ready to be the No. 1 threat, and tight ends David Njoku and Chris Herndon will cause fits for opposing linebackers. But a quartet of newcomers, led by Sam Bruce, will be given every opportunity to enter the rotation this summer.
What to Watch For on the Miami Offense
Expanding the role of the tight ends. QB Brad Kaaya and star receiver Stacy Coley need others to emerge for the passing attack to adequately complement the deep backfield. The Canes know they can count on WR Braxton Berrios, but why not make better use of the tight ends since the receivers are so thin?
David Njoku and Chris Herndon are field-stretching weapons who give Kaaya big playmaking targets in the middle of the field. Njoku, in particular, is a freakishly explosive athlete who could be used in a multitude of different sets and spots on the field.
What You Need to Know About the Miami Defense
There’s a new defensive staff in charge of the Canes, and Miami fans couldn’t be happier. Under former coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, the unit grossly underachieved in the areas of scheming and player development. And it perennially showed in the results. The job of turning things around now belongs to well-traveled Manny Diaz and his assistants. It’s another huge opportunity for Diaz, though he inherits middling all-around talent.
Potential? No doubt. But few sure-things, especially now that both of last year’s all-leaguers, DBs Artie Burns and Deon Bush, are gone. Since few of the holdovers, save for possibly DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, will make opponents tremble, Diaz must get his kids to play with extra effort. He’ll also need breakout seasons from a few of his upperclassmen, like DE Chad Thomas and safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter, both of whom are trying to hold off sophomore Jaquan Johnson for jobs.
The biggest reason for a hopeful future comes from high-energy rookie linebackers Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, who are closing in on starting gigs. The Canes look like a D that can withstand against average teams, but are liable to get exposed by the likes of Florida State, Carolina and Notre Dame on the schedule.
What to Watch For on the Miami Defense
The future is now at linebacker. The Canes couldn’t be much happier with the linebackers signed this past February. Zach McCloud, Michael Pinckney and especially Shaq Quarterman flashed often in their first spring session after graduating early from high school. Quarterman and Pinckney, in fact, have already dispatched strong statements for winning jobs in the middle and at weakside, respectively, especially now that junior Juwon Young has been suspended. Senior Jermaine Grace is Miami’s leading man from strongside, but he’ll be counted on as much for mentoring as making stops this fall.
Miami Will Be Far Better If …
D-line coach Craig Kuligowski can get more pressure and sacks from his rotation. The Hurricanes reached the quarterback just 18 times a season ago, unacceptable and dangerous for a team with a mediocre secondary heading into 2016. True, Miami likes its depth up front, but someone other than Al-Quadin Muhammad needs to occupy the backfield. Trent Harris is more steady than spectacular, meaning this is going to be critical season for junior Chad Thomas, the former blue-chipper still waiting to live up to the hype.
Best Offensive Player
Junior QB Brad Kaaya. Kaaya might never be the kind of college quarterback that piles up the monster numbers needed to contend for All-America or Heisman recognition. Still, the junior is one of the cleanest passers at this level and a player who’ll be a first or second-day draft pick whenever he decides to come out. Kaaya throws a soft, catchable ball that helps make his receivers better, and his on-field poise is an asset to the Hurricanes on both sides of the field.
Best Defensive Player
Junior DE Al-Quadin Muhammad. What’s the ceiling for Muhammad? He’d like to be recognized as the game’s best pass rusher this season, launching a career in the NFL in 2017. The junior is obviously confident, with the work ethic and the skill set to back up his lofty goals. The Hurricanes are hungry for an edge guy who can pressure the pocket and absorb some of the heat to help out his linemates. Muhammad is prepared to be that guy in Miami in 2016.
Key Player to a Successful Season
Junior DE Chad Thomas. The Canes absolutely, positively must generate more heat on defense after logging only 18 sacks in 2015. Thomas is just the guy to be the complement opposite Al-Quadin Muhammad, which is exactly what Manny Diaz needs on defense this fall. Thomas looks the part at 6-5 and 275 pounds, but now it’s time for him to start delivering so that Muhammad doesn’t spend the whole year trying to shake loose from double-teams.
The Season Will Be a Success If …
The Canes win the Coastal Division. Too much, too soon? Nah. Miami has the right coach and a decent enough talent pool, especially behind center, to capture the ACC’s lesser half. Plus, two of the division’s chief contenders, Carolina and Pitt, must travel to Sun Life Stadium in the fall. Even with the improved coaching staff, the Canes aren’t ready to contend with league heavyweights Clemson and Florida State. But there’s enough here to meet one of them in Charlotte on Dec. 3.
Oct. 8 vs. Florida State. It’ll be the Canes and the Noles … with an added twist in this edition. After witnessing one of the game’s great rivalries as a Miami backup quarterback and a Florida State assistant coach, Mark Richt now gets to view it through the lens of the Hurricane head coach. It’ll be Richt vs. Jimbo Fisher for the first of what should be many coaching duels. It’ll also be a chance for the Canes to inch closer to their glory days as a national entity, while robbing some Sunshine State recruiting swagger away from the mighty Seminoles.
2015 Fun Stats
– Rushing Yards Per Game: Miami 127.0 – Opponents 193.8
– Fumbles Lost: Miami 2 – Opponents 6
– Sacks: Miami 18 – Opponents 13
Miami Football Prediction For 2016
What’s going to happen to Miami football this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …