After making the school’s first ACC Championship in 2017, many magazines and publications projected the Hurricanes to do so in 2018. However, the ‘Canes slid from a 10-3 team to a 7-6 team. This season, Miami is favored to win the ACC Coastal again.
Although it seems strange that a seven win team is the favorite to win the division, it’s warranted. There are a couple of factors that favor the Hurricanes this season and why they should be considerably better.
Miami Favored To Win ACC Coastal Again
There are no ways to go around it, the Hurricanes face a very weak schedule in the 2019 season. In terms of difficulty, the Florida Gators and FIU are the only two teams with nine or more wins from the previous season. Teams on the schedule such as Louisville, Florida State, North Carolina and Central Michigan all missed bowl games.
Pittsburgh ended up winning the Coastal Division last season but lost to Miami 24-3 and the Hurricanes only completed six passes the entire game. The Panthers lose two running backs that combined for over 2,300 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns on the ground. Miami’s slump started last season after losing to the Virginia Cavaliers. However, Miami also gave Bryce Perkins his toughest match-up. He threw three interceptions and the only game last season that he failed to score a touchdown was against Miami.
Florida State and Virginia Tech are two rivals that historically give the Hurricanes a good game. The Hurricanes will be on the road at Doak Campbell stadium but should have no difficulty against one of the worst offensive lines in the conference. Virginia Tech has lost a ton of production to transfers. One of those transfers is Trevon Hill who led the Hokies in sacks in 2017. He had three and a half sacks in three games last season and will be playing for Miami this season.
Better Quarterback Play
The Hurricanes were absolutely horrible at quarterback and have been for some time. N’Kosi Perry , coming off a redshirt freshman last season, showed some flashes but was regularly in Mark Richt‘s dog house. With Richt’s retirement and the arrival of Dan Enos as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Perry has a better opportunity. In addition to Perry, Tate Martell is in the running for the starting job, as is Jarren Williams.
The positive thing about this group is in the Spring, all three showcased the ability to lead as the main guy. So much so that the coaches agreed the competition should be resolved in training camp. Whoever lands the job will have earned it based off their ability to lead the offense and keep the ball away from the defense.
With as much transition as the Hurricanes have had offensively, one thing that will not change will be the defense. Since the arrival of Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator in 2016, Miami’s defense has been elite. Last season, the Hurricanes finished first in several defensive categories including tackles for loss and pass defense.
Blake Baker will take over the reigns as defensive coordinator. As Diaz’s former graduate assistant from their time at Texas, the two are plenty familiar. Baker will have the luxury of having three senior linebackers with starting experience for Miami. In addition to the linebackers, Miami also gained Hill from the transfer portal, getting Bubba Bolden in the secondary. One the defensive line Miami also added Chigozie Nnoruka, who had eight and half tackles for loss in 2017 for UCLA.
There are a number of returning starters who the Hurricanes are fairly confident will be stars this season. Cornerback Trajan Bandy is a rising junior and made All-ACC last season after three interceptions. Defensive end Jonathan Garvin will also be a junior and finished with 17 tackles for loss last season, which was good enough for third in the ACC. Linebackers Michael Pinckney and Shaq Quarterman have a combined 400 tackles and 20 sacks between the two of them.