Miami wasn’t terrible last year, but huge losses to division leaders (58-0 vs. Clemson, 59-21 at UNC) showed major flaws. Enter Mark Richt who many believe can turn this team into an ACC contender and sooner or later help the Hurricanes to their first double-digit win season since 2003. They reached eight wins last year, so it won’t be a huge jump, but with a returning quarterback, they’ll have a chance to reach that mark.
Brad Kaaya (61.2% completion, 16 TDs, 5 INTs) is back under center for the third straight year and this time he’ll run Richt’s pro-style offense. So far, there haven’t been too many problems for Kaaya and some expect him to have his best season yet. Kaaya tossed three touchdowns in the spring Game and that was without expected top wide out Stacy Coley (689 yards, 4 TDs). But with Coley’s injury issues, others will have to step up at receiver. Whether it’s Tyre Brady, Braxton Berrios or LAwrence Cager, someone will need to do something opposite of Coley.
Joseph Yearby (1,002 yards, 6 TDs) returns at running back and should see plenty of carries. His top backup from last year, Mark Walton, was suspended indefinitely at the end of April after getting arrested, but he should be back at some point. Gus Edwards is also back from injury and should be ready to go. The offensive line had trouble in the spring, but some of that was due to injuries to key starters in center Nick Linder and tackle Sunny Odogwu. But once those guys come back, the group has some work to do after inconsistencies a season ago.
Miami’s defense is the bigger question and was the main issue last year, as seen in the blowout losses. Reports out of the spring have the defense as much improved and ready to take a jump. Easier said than done, though.
The defensive line will have the most experience and be the deepest, led by ends Chad Thomas and Al-Quadin Muhammad, to go with Kendrick Norton in the middle. New coordinator Manny Diaz likes what he sees and this will be the building block to bettering the defense. Linebacker will have some new faces with a couple freshmen seeing time in the early going. But the secondary is the bigger question where the ‘Canes lose all of 2015’s starters. Senior cornerback Corn Elder has the experience and started some Games last year, but the rest of the unit is mostly an unknown.
Miami shouldn’t have too many problems with its early-season Schedule and should come into ACC play undefeated before traveling to Georgia Tech. After that, it doesn’t get any easier with home Games against FSU and UNC followed by trips to Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. If they can get past that gauntlet, there is an opening to close the season with Four-straight wins. But that mid-year stretch will need to produce wins if they want to have a chance in the Coastal or at double-digit wins. Beating the Tar Heels would almost immediately make Richt a success.
Kaaya should get this team to six or seven wins, but it’s up to an improved offensive line and better defense to get more than that.
2016 Miami Hurricanes Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Florida A&M
Sept. 10 vs. Florida Atlantic
Sept. 17 at Appalachian State
Oct. 1 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 8 vs. Florida State
Oct. 15 vs. North Carolina
Oct. 20 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 29 at Notre Dame
Nov. 5 vs. Pittsburgh
Nov. 12 at Virginia
Nov. 19 at NC State
Nov. 26 vs. Duke