Since December 2nd, there has been a different aura surrounding the Miami Hurricanes football program. University of Miami alumni Mark Richt was brought over from Georgia, and fans have felt a sense of excitement for the first time in the last decade.
But as the old saying goes, “Rome was not built in one day.”
From day 1, the gap between average and contender was made clear, and the damage done during the Golden regime was apparent throughout the roster. Various position units were set to rely on young talent this upcoming season, and the mindset of mediocrity needed to be wiped clean.
At the start of his tenure, Richt hit the road recruiting. The Head Coach traveled all throughout the country, and looked to salvage the remains of what was a top 5 recruiting class before a string of decommitments. The ‘Canes were able to bring back some players such as Zach McCloud and Ahmmon Richards, but it was clear the staff had a long road ahead. McCloud and 4 other recruits enrolled early in Miami, and the Hurricanes began spring football not long after. Unlike past years; however, this spring has involved grasping more of the playbook.
“Last spring I knew more of the offense,” Quarterback Brad Kaaya said to reporters after a practice earlier this spring. “This is like the first time we’ve repped the offense as a team all year. I knew more of the offense last spring; it wasn’t as new to me and everyone else.”
Under the first year of Richt's regime, the staff has had to start from the ground up; literally. In practice, Mark Richt and his son, Jon Richt, have broken down a lot of mechanics including footwork.
“They are very specific on how we do. So like from footwork, to even our rhythm drops, to our play action; everything has to be precise,” Quarterback Malik Rosier said in practice earlier this spring. “I mean Coach [James] Coley was a great guy, but they are really focused on our feet.”
The quarterbacks have fared well for Miami this spring, but Richt has not shied away from the truth at other positions. While speaking to media earlier this spring, the Head Coach stated that he doesn’t feel the cornerbacks are being challenged, because Miami’s receivers don’t have enough “speed.”
This quote shocked many ‘Canes fans, because for the first time in recent memory, the situation was not being sugarcoated.
The receivers just weren’t fast enough, plain and simple.
This type of attitude must be admired, and although the truth is concerning, it is the situation Miami is dealing with. Many analysts around the country have listed the Hurricanes in their preseason top 25, but word from Miami’s camp isn’t misleading fans. Mark Richt may come in with a great resume, but the simple truth is that there is a lot of work to be done. Whether or not Miami is a “sleeping giant” holds no weight this early in Richt’s regime, because past coaches have left a big whole in the program.
Former Miami Head Coach Randy Shannon once infamously uttered that the football program was not on a “downslide," but since he took over, little can argue that things have gone in the right direction. To many outsiders Richt may just be Miami’s fourth coach this century, but the difference between him and past coaches is that he recognizes Miami is at a vulnerable point. The feeling of rebirth comes not from his title, but rather from his attitude.
Whether it is through praise or criticism Mark Richt has told it the way it is this spring, and moving forward Hurricanes fans shouldn’t expect anything less. Richt has shown that he is focused more on the issues than being politically correct, and moving forward he has made the state of this program clear.
Miami has a lot of positive energy surrounding its program at this moment, but it is important to come in with no expectations. A college football playoff contender is not built in one year, and holes in the roster aren’t filled simply because a reputable coach is hired. Fans can enter 2016 with a multitude of expectations, both good and bad. They can expect a top 15 ranked team, or another 9-4 season. Regardless of how big an issue may seem to the fanbase, Mark Richt has shown us this much; what he says can be taken as the truth.