Miami’s football outlook for the 2016 season. The Hurricanes got their man, but can Mark Richt prove he’s ready to take the program back to the glory days?
The Richt era begins in Miami awash in considerable optimism.
Banished from Georgia after 15 seasons as a Dawg, Mark Richt has returned to his alma mater, determined to pilot the Hurricanes out of their long and frustrating malaise.
Richt is the most accomplished head coach Miami has hired this century, a welcome departure from the days of Al Golden, Randy Shannon and even the second-half of Larry Coker’s tenure. What Richt will attempt is a nuanced balancing act that guides the Canes to national prominence while simultaneously resuscitating his own career.
Richt lost his fastball in Athens, going 10 consecutive seasons without an SEC title, and essentially wearing out his welcome. Terrific leader and a classic case of someone needing a change of scenery. In Miami, he’s taken the controls of a once-elite program that’s gone 12 seasons in a row without a league title or a 10-win campaign. Richt and the Canes share a longing to return to the glory days, a unique connection fans hope will carry both to higher ground in the coming years.
Access to talent has never been an issue for Miami, situated in one of the nation’s hotbeds for elite high school athletes. Elevating those blue-chippers into a winning unit, though, eluded Golden and Shannon, which is why another change became necessary following a 58-0 loss to Clemson midway through last season.
Richt and his new staff of assistants inherit a mixed bag in the aftermath of Golden’s five seasons of mediocrity. There are enough playmakers, such as QB Brad Kaaya, WR Stacy Coley and a terrific coterie of running backs, to win the always-tight Coastal Division. And enough question marks, particularly on defense and along the O-line, to recognize the gap that still exists between Miami and ACC bosses Clemson and Florida State.
The Canes and their fans are justifiably bullish about the future for the first time in years. It’s an understandable sentiment now that the administration has succeeded in reuniting with one of its own, while landing one of the game’s most successful head coaches.
Still, Golden didn’t leave his successor with a roster ready-made for instant, back-to-the-glory-days domination. Miami harbors individual talent. When doesn’t it? However, for the Hurricanes to finally resume restocking the trophy cases, Richt & Co. must coach up players on both sides of the ball as the stars of tomorrow ripen within the rotation.