The 2016 Hurricanes are off to an inauspicious start and while the schedule lets up in November, there are still a couple of looming possible losses on deck. Evaluating the roster, schedule, potential, and coaching staff- I found a couple of old ‘Canes teams to seek comparison.
1979: 5-6 record. Howard Schnellenberger. Year 1.
The ‘79 ‘Canes were stuck in a flux of status quo and what’s next. The architect of the Miami dynasty, Howard Schnellenberger, took over the struggling Hurricanes and lucked-out in landing future hall of fame QB Jim Kelly. Kelly was recruiting to hometown Penn State to play Linebacker, but Schnelly wanted him as his QB. Kelly sat behind incumbent Mike Rodrique until Kelly was read, and Kelly went back to PA and stunned the Nittany Lions 26-10. The ‘79 squad wasn’t loaded with NFL talent like later ‘Canes squads would be but had some big names in Kelly, Lester Williams, Super Bowl winner Jim Burt, Jay Brophy, 5 time national champion coach Art Kehoe, and Fred Marion. Why the similarities? Besides not having the signature wins against Florida and PSU, it’s a name brand coach in year 1 struggling for success with an okay roster that hadn’t had prior success.
1984: 8-5 record. Jimmy Johnson. Year 1.
In ‘84, the ‘Canes started out white hot beating Auburn and Florida. JJ took over a Hurricanes program with loads of NFL talent coming off a national title. But rumor has it there was dissension on the coaching staff and while UM did beat Notre Dame, the ‘Canes dropped games to Michigan, FSU, Maryland, BC, and UCLA- with the last 3 coming in consecutive games. That Miami squad had the Blades brothers, Jerome Brown, Eddie Brown, Kelly and Vinny Testaverde, three NFL running backs in Bratton, Highsmith and Warren Williams, Super Bowl winner Kevin Fagan, Reggie Sutton, and Winston Moss to name a few. The future was bright and Miami would proceed to play for the national title in the three years that followed.
1999: 9-4 record. Butch Davis. Year 5.
Butch Davis took over the Miami Hurricanes, where he had previously been on the staff during the Jimmy Johnson era, with half of a roster due to NCAA sanctions. Butch saw the program through the lean years and ‘Canes fans felt a rise in 1998, and 1999 on the way to highly successful years from 2000-2003. However, Butch was only there to witness the “we’re back” year of 2000 because of his boneheaded decision to leave for the Browns. In 1999, Davis had built the roster himself and it was stacked with future NFL studs like Reggie Wayne, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Bubba Franks, Nate Webster, Dan Morgan, Mike Rumph, and Ed Reed. ‘99 also saw Butch go with a QB that didn’t so much fit his mold in Kenny Kelly while waiting for his QB of the future Ken Dorsey to get prepared. A signature win against #9 Ohio State was a nice lead in, but then Miami had a 3 game spill against Penn State, East Carolina and FSU, then also dropped a bad 10-43 loss against the Hokies. The silver-lining of the Hokies game was the emergence of Ken Dorsey who would finish his Miami career 38-2 overall. The 1999 season finished strong with a victory over Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl.
So, which year is 2016 most like? I would say 1979. The 1980 ‘Canes had signature wins and a 9-3 record, and 81-82 were good seasons on the way to 1983. ‘83 was the year that really put Miami on the map. I think Mark Richt is in a better position than Schnelly was in ‘79; with the IPF coming, the ACC TV deal, and Adidas money. Hopefully Miami can be rebuilt in less than 4 years.