Miami Focuses On Virginia

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Miami Focuses On Virginia
November 11, 2017. DeeJay Dallas of the Miami Hurricanes is stopped short of the goal line by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Miami Hurricanes are now ranked in the top four of the college football playoff ranking for the first time in school history. For a program like Miami’s, this is a sign of a resurgence to the winning ways that the Hurricanes are accustomed to. Considering the adversity that Miami has faced this season with injuries and Hurricane Irma the ranking solidifies the job done by Mark Richt and his staff. The focus now moves to a much improved Virginia team under second year coach Bronco Mendenhall. The Cavaliers are bowl eligible after finishing the season with just two wins last season.

Senior Day For Special Group

Hard Rock Stadium will be the final home game for a group of seniors that led Miami out of a difficult coaching transition and to the school’s first birth of an ACC Coastal championship. Chad Thomas is the lone five star recruit on the Hurricanes roster, he made the decision to stay home in Miami rather than join the Alabama Crimson Tide. Early in his career, it looked like he made the wrong decision. But with the arrival of new defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski his play improved.

Thomas is on track for his second straight season of ten tackles or more for a loss. Offensive lineman Trevor Darling and KC McDermott have also benefited from the coaching change and a positional change as well. Both started early on together. However, the play of the offensive line has ascended since Darling moved inside to guard and McDermott moved to left tackle.

Braxton Berrios left his home state of North Carolina to join the Miami Hurricanes in hopes for the national championship opportunity that Miami has currently. Berrios was limited in his first three seasons playing behind current NFL players like Phillip Dorsett, Stacy Coley and Allen Hurns. The senior has made the most of his opportunity becoming Malik Rosier’s most reliable target with eight touchdowns this season.

His leadership has also helped newcomers such as Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley continue to improve.  Chris Herndon made his arrival to Miami from Georgia and has continued the tradition of great tight end play, especially after the early departure of David Njoku. Trent Harris is a reserve defensive end that leads the team in sacks, throughout his career he has always found a way to contribute and is viewed as one of the most reliable players on the team.

Improved Virginia Cavaliers Look To Play Spoiler

Last season the Hurricanes visited the Cavaliers and thumped them by 20 points on the road. This year with Miami’s ACC championship spot already locked up, the Cavs will look to hurt Miami’s playoff chances. In order to do that though, the Cavs have to snap out of their current funk. They have lost three out of the last four games played. Quarterback Kurt Benkert has already matched his passing touchdowns last season, Miami coaches respect him because of his ability to throw the ball even while getting hit. He has three games this season where he has thrown for three touchdown passes. Virginia has won each of those games.

Defensively the Cavs have great leadership from Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding.  Kiser will be making his 35th consecutive start. He is on pace to eclipse 400 tackles in a career (currently at 369). Safety Quin Blanding amazingly is already beyond that in his career. He needs 18 tackles to have the most tackles by a defensive back in ACC history. He is also only five tackles away from having four straight seasons of 100 tackles or more. Chris Peace is Virginia’s best pass rusher and leads the team with six and a half sacks.

Looking Ahead: Miami Will Only Be Better

For many teams Miami is an opponent that in the future you might just want to avoid. As good as the current ‘Canes are, they are scheduled to return a big part of their team next season. There is something else to consider. Miami has had a large number of early enrollees the past few seasons. They are scheduled to have near ten this season. Usually that means they would get to practice in the upcoming spring. However that changes if Miami makes the playoffs, those kids get an even earlier experience practicing on the scout team much like Jalen Hurts did for Alabama.

That means the new enrollees get an even earlier practice against top competition before going into their first spring. Keep in mind Miami has a top five recruiting class. They currently have fewer than 75 scholarship players. The FBS maximum is 85. Good times ahead for Miami with a new indoor practice facility scheduled to be completed by August 2018.

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