Ending the season with losses to Duke and Florida International was not part of the remodeling of “The New Miami”. Manny Diaz in his first meeting as head coach, had the team beat up dummies with a “7-6” record taped to them. Ironically the Hurricanes need a win in the Independnce Bowl just to reach the same record. With the bowl game weeks away, a reflection of what went wrong during the season may be what is needed. The 2019 season was a rollercoaster filled with close losses and flashes at what 2020 could hold.
What Went Wrong
Everything. While this could potentially be a joke, at some point in the season almost everything sputtered. From a horrid kicking game, to a struggling young offense, to a defense that did not resemble anything of the Hurricanes in recent years. The underlying common root behind most of these problems are unfamiliarity. Miami opened the season with a freshman left tackle blocking for a freshman quarterback led by a first year coach.
Defensively the overall numbers on defense look on par with what the Hurricanes have done in recent years. However that’s a bit misleading. There were times during the season where Miami could not get a stop when it mattered most. Against North Carolina, after giving up 17 points in the first quarter, the Hurricanes dominated a good portion of the game only to lose late after giving up a fourth and 17 conversion. The same trend showed up in Miami’s loss against Georgia Tech and also Florida International.
Diaz, after the loss to FIU, labeled his team as one that “decides when to play and when not to play”. Something which definitely holds true when you look at Miami’s season during their three game winning streak and afterwards.
Bright Spots To Build On
The Hurricanes through all of their adversity and inconsistency still managed to flash some elite level of play. Perhaps none was more impressive than redshirt freshman Greg Rousseau, who did not become a starter until mid October. He met the hype and exceeded expectations as far as being the player he can develop into. With 14 sacks before the bowl game, he is top five in school history, for most sacks in a season. He is also third nationally in that category.
Sophomore tight end Brevin Jordan is also another player that has been worth the price of admission. To show his worth, Jordan has not played a full game yet he still leads the Hurricanes in receiving yards. In addition to that, he’s a player that Miami would love to use more on routes but is blocking the majority of the time. Even with that he was voted first team All-ACC and is a Mackey award finalist for best tight end in the nation.
Redshirt freshman Jarren Williams deserves recognition, even with his season being a roller coaster. At his best, he’s flashed enough to show that he could potentially be a highly drafted quarterback. But his play is sporadic as there are times when he doesn’t show adequate football IQ and holds the ball too long. However he is only in his first season collegiality and should be better moving forward. The Hurricanes hope Williams can be the guy that threw for six touchdowns against Louisville and tied the ACC record for passing touchdowns in a game.
Next season Miami will return many of it’s starters, a luxury the team did not have this season. This will be beneficial as the offensive staff was given a very young team to work with. Williams should return as should the entirety of his offensive line, and most of the wideouts. Starting running back DeeJay Dallas could potentially forego his senior season and opt for the NFL Draft. If he does Miami will still be in good shape with Cam Harris returning Defensively the Hurricanes will lose Shaq Quarterman at linebacker but senior Zach McCloud will fill in his role after redshirting this season. The Hurricanes will also return safety Bubba Bolden from injury as well as add Jaelan Phillips who sat out after transferring from UCLA.
The Hurricanes gambled on playing a ton of young players this season but that flopped. Next season should be better with the returning experience as well as added depth. Miami also redshirted most of it’s 2019 recruiting class, many of whom should compete for roles on the team next season. There is alot to be hopeful to but the Hurricanes still have to prove that they are a team that can beat the inferior opponents and not just get up for better teams.