When thinking about the 2016 season for Miami I have a sense of finality. Obviously that's because we're moving on from the underperformance of the last regime to hopefully bigger and better things in the new one. For all Coach Golden's shortcomings as a gameday manager did he actually leave the Canes in a better position to compete then his predecessor, Randy Shannon? It's an interesting thought so let's delve into it, shall we?
How The Breakdown Happens
Coach Golden's first season at the helm of Miami was the 2011-2012 season. Therefore we'll look at that same year's roster and evaluate that team to what Miami will have entering into next season. Thus, we'll be able to look at what Coach Golden had relative to when he entered his tenure at Miami and also what "he left in the cupboard."
Offensive Skill Positions:
When it comes to the Quarterback position, it's really no contest. Mark Richt will have arguably the first overall pick in the NFL Draft next season in Brad Kaaya whereas Coach Golden heading into the first contest against Maryland had Jacory Harris.
At the quarterback position, Golden definitely left better talent than Randy.
However, when looking into the running back position it looks like the slight edge has to go to Randy Shannon. Golden had a strong two headed monster in 2011 in Lamar Miller and Mike James. Both could hold their own as a college running back but in the end Miller got the vast number of carries in 2011 and ripped off a huge year on his way to the pros. James did well to make it to the league too as a backup providing valuable pass protection and solid pass catching abilities as well.
The current Miami running backs are very much a "sum of their parts" group. Yearby is solid with above average speed but not nearly as fast as Miller was. Walton showed a few flashes last season, specifically making catches out of the backfield. The big question though is Gus Edwards, if he can come back and play with vengeance he may swing the position.
Right now, because of what Miller did in his last season as a Cane, I'll go with Randy's personnel over what Golden left. This may have to be readjusted after next season though.
The wide receivers group, to me anyways, is pretty easily slanted towards the Randy Shannon personnel just because there are too many unknowns for me heading into next season. In 2011 Miami had Travis Benjamin, a breakthrough Tommy Streeter and the fundamentally sound Allen Hurns in their top three rotation. Heading into 2016 the group has Stacy Coley, Lawrence Cager, Braxton Berrios and a slew of freshmen that will be forced to contribute.
Lastly, I'll have to swing my indicator back to Golden when it comes to the tight end group. The 2011 group of tight ends were almost non-existent. Clive Walford was the only player that made a real impact in the passing game and he was a freshman. Chase Ford and Asante Cleveland took the field that season as well but didn't contribute all that much. Looking ahead to next season, Coach Mark Richt has a budding star in David Njoku, smooth H-back Christopher Herndon IV and the blocking sledgehammer Standish Dobard. No real contest here.
This unit-to-unit comparison is even more difficult than the others because there aren't many outlets that record stats for linemen. Compound that with the fact that both units were young in 2011 and heading into 2016 makes it more of a challenge. With that said, I'm going to go with the 2011 group. Brandon Linder, Shane McDermott, Seantrel Henderson and Jon Feliciano were all growing up and would eventually pave the way for Duke Johnson in the later seasons. The 2016 unit doesn't have starters or even backups named yet because the competition is wide open. Having a big competition for playing time isn't always a bad thing but in this case, Miami's offensive line was woeful last year so the fact that there's really no indication of who is starting and where is a red flag heading into 2016.
Offensive Breakdown: Randy Shannon's Players or Golden's?
I'll go with Randy's squad.
Yes, the 2016 group has Kaaya moving forward but overall I like the 2011 group. The depth is really telling, in my opinion. They had a solid top three receiving group, a known "running back number one" in Lamar Miller and the offensive line was coming in to focus. For 2016 we have a jumbled-yet-talented running back group and who knows what's going on along the offensive line. We'll probably find out the last weeks of training camp who the starters will be for Coach Searels.
In the next addition we'll take a look at the defensive side of the ball and see which defensive coach left more pieces to the puzzle for their predecessor to use.