When the University of Miami relieved Al Golden as the Head Coach many of the blowhards at the four letter network were quick to pounce on the program and call for its demise. They made statements to the effect of "the University doesn't care about the football team anymore" and even one analyst who will remain nameless as he doesn't need to be recognized called the program "terrible." Now, ESPN is a network that has to make money and the way they do that is by getting viewers and creating a buzz, I get it. The point they bring up however should create a discussion which we will meet head on in this piece: Will the University of Miami be relevant in the college football landscape moving forward?
The first point we will look into is the opponents Miami will face out of conference during the next few years, check them out below:
2016 - Florida A&M, FAU, @APP State and @ Notre Dame
2017 - Toledo, Notre Dame, @ ARK State, OPEN
2018 - LSU (Neutral Site), FIU, @ Toledo, @ Rutgers*
2019 - Florida (Neutral Site), Rutgers, FIU (Location not set), OPEN
Now, it's usually tough to predict which Universities will be peaking or cratering at a given time but it's safe to say Miami doesn't have the toughest road to hoe. Yes, they play one tough game a season but that's really the proper amount you should when scheduling out of conference opponents. It's best, in my opinion at least, to try and get one 1AA squad, one lower level FBS program and if you're going with a three or four game schedule then a medium to higher power FBS program to round out the season. As you can see from the above listing, Athletic Director Blake James has done just that. There are a few open dates in the future which still have to be scheduled but overall this group is not too daunting. I'm not stating that LSU, Notre Dame or Florida will be pushovers by any stretch. I'm just trying to point out that Miami isn't playing them all at once which could be a disaster.
*I have a sneaky feeling Al Golden will be the next coach at Rutgers after Kyle Flood gets canned at the end of this season due to the litany of off field incidents his players have experienced as well as what he's been a part of. Can you imagine what 2018 and 2019 will be like? Can you see the fan response in 2019 assuming he's on the sidelines at Sun Life? Get your popcorn...
Roster for the Upcoming Season:
For the upcoming season the next coach has to like the roster he's being left with. The offense will have an All-Conference Quarterback, three starting running backs (don't forget Gus Edwards!!), a talented wide receiver corpse, 10 or so college ready offensive lineman and multi-dimensional tight ends. Plug in whatever playbook you want as long as it doesn't involve Brad Kaaya running with the football and the offense should flourish. Keep in mind; this doesn't even include any immediate impacts from the recruiting class of 2016. Could one or two get some burn? Sure, but they won't be required to which is always good.
On the defensive side of the ball the outlook isn't as bright but I think the outlook next season will be much greater than when we were looking ahead earlier this year. The linebacking unit will be getting a healthy Darrion Owens and Marques Gayot who were lost to season ending injuries earlier this year and hopefully they'll be able to add a few bodies in the 2016 class who will be able to produce right away.
The one downside heading into next season could be potential players leaving early for the draft. The only two I see possibly heading out early would be Corn Elder and/or Artie Burns. Both are having phenomenal seasons in different ways. Burns has been able to play an outstanding boundary corner and with his ideal size and blazing speed could be a first round pick. Elder, simply put, is a play maker in the secondary and on special teams. Both have the skills to jump to the next level but will they graduate first or leave early? We'll have to see.
Recruiting in the Area:
I won't spend too much time on this as we all know South Florida is a hot bed for recruiting. Simply put: whoever the Head Coach is he will have the onus to make sure he finds and gets the needed talent to fill out the roster and he won't have to go far to do it. South Florida has been able to produce talent at almost every position every year for schools nationally. The only reason to go out of state is to "cherry pick" specific kids that fit the program's roster needs (i.e a pro style quarterback like Brad Kaaya). Besides a select few, the coaching staff shouldn't have to venture out of the state. Heck, they may not have to travel more than 50-60 miles from campus.
Oh... the lightening rod/hot button issue.. If you were to listen to ESPN and their talking heads you'd think Miami has been practicing in dilapidated huts in the Ever Glades. However, if they did research (what a novel concept) Miami has actually improved their sports facilities over the last 5-10 years by leaps in bounds. Greentree Practice Field has had turf put in, the Schwartz Center was constructed and.. oh yea.. the Miami Dolphins are one year in on a two year renovation that will make Sun Life one of the premiere sporting venues in the country. Not college football, the country. Does this put Miami on the same level as the FSU's of the world or match the palatial landmarks constructed by Alabama? No. But are the Canes practicing on dirt fields and with weights from the 70s?
Last I checked, there were 10 or so head coaching vacancies in the country. If I had to rank them I'd probably put Miami just behind USC as the best program for potential and upside for success. Whoever is hired will have all the benefits listed above that will help them succeed in the position. Don't believe the talking heads. Believe what you know.
It's a Cane's thing.
They sure as hell don't understand.