With less than 100 days until the kickoff of the 2015 college football season, the reality that the Miami Hurricanes could be in for yet another long, grueling season may be beginning to settle in amongst fans.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya, and wide receiver Stacy Coley are looking to unsettle that feeling with a bounce back season, in hopes of landing in appearance in a January bowl game.
Head Coach Al Golden leads the way, entering his fifth season, boasting an unimpressive 28-22 record, but does currently have the third ranked recruiting class in 2016; one that's surely to break away if he's ultimately let go, should 2015 not produce a successful postseason birth.
With nearly 3,200 yards and 26 touchdowns as a true freshman, Kaaya is the unquestioned leader of the offense; one that lost top producers and leaders like Phillip Dorsett, Duke Johnson, and Clive Walford, as well as three starting offensive lineman which included first round pick Ereck Flowers. Defensively, the Hurricanes lost their core leader in linebacker Denzel Perryman, who's headed west to play alongside fellow former college standout Manti T'eo.
Golden has always had success building capable offensive units, but it's defensively where he's struggled. With the loss of Perryman as the anchor, one has to wonder if Golden is shuffling to find his new defensive captain. Let's answer a few burning questions surrounding the Hurricanes heading into the all-important 2015 season.
1) Will Brad Kaaya see the dreaded Sophomore slump?
Kaaya is returning the core of his wide receivers, with Coley, Waters, and Malcolm Lewis coming back, but the loss of the three starting offensive lineman, including the All-American Flowers is going to be the true test for the young signal-caller. He's got talent in the backfield, despite the loss of Johnson in Yearby and Edwards; a tandem that is going to surprise a lot of pundits.
KC McDermott, Nick Linder, and Daniel Isidora should play fairly well along the offensive line this season, but chemistry is going to be the concern. Are they going to have enough time played together to be effective enough to allow Kaaya to maneuver down the field in tough situations? That's only an answer time can give us. So we wait...
2) Will Malik Rosier have a role offensively in 2015?
Actually, we could see more Rosier than initially expected, and here's why: Kaaya isn't very mobile as a quarterback, and with a questionable offensive line, and two unproven running backs behind him, Rosier could see optimal playing time in certain packages based on game situations. It's very possible Rosier could be used in a wildcat-like package.
Think Philadelphia Eagles when they had a "tweener" system between Nick Foles and Michael Vick.
Anything the 'Canes can use to gain an advantage to help move the ball down the field and into the end zone, I'd assume would be looked over and discussed. Rosier as an offensive weapon is something that shouldn't be overlooked or forgotten about. He provides athleticism, and distraction to an offense that with no true stars on it, could find themselves stagnant at times.
3) How good will The U's defense be in 2015, after losing key starters?
If you did research and found that Miami had the 14th ranked defensive unit last year, you'd probably be dumbfounded. Especially considering twice last season they had games where they gave up over 300 yards on the ground. Losing Perryman is a big loss from the chest up. Leadership isn't something you can just instill into another body, it's something that's naturally inherited.
From the chest down, Perryman's talent can at the very least be matched, if not surpassed by players like Raphael Kirby or Deon Bush as the defense's new premiere playmaker. Miami has a plethora of senior talent along the defensive line, but lacks over-the-top talent, something that may come to haunt them down the stretch in conference play. The strength of this defensive unit lies within the secondary, with the aforementioned Bush, Dallas Crawford, and Corn Elder leading the way.
4) Is Golden's Elite-level 2016 recruiting class enough to save his job from another sub-par season?
The simple and most effective answer to that would be easily "no". The expectations for a Hurricanes head coach are high and mighty, and Golden's only boasting a W-L record that's six games over .500. That's just not going to cut it, and it's surprising he's lasted this long, but the demand for top talent and coaching hasn't been there in recent years.
With a solid class of hopeful recruits expected to come in 2016, the job only looks more appealing to free agent head coaches, in the (likely) event that Golden doesn't last.
5) Where is Miami expected to finish in the ACC?
With a .500 record in conference play since his arrival (16-16) Golden must find effective ways to win inside the conference. Statistically speaking, Miami is one of the most underwhelming programs when comparing out-of-conference play and conference play.
Their production seems to drop immensely, which is much of the reason for their lack of success in recent years. Realistically, Miami is looking at a down year. It's likely they could win six games, but it's more likely that this is a five-win team with a lot of holes to fill in an unfortunately short amount of time. However, could this be the light at the end of the tunnel in what's been a somewhat grueling Al Golden era? We wait.
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