With the Miami Hurricanes’ 2017 season just days away from starting, I convened our SOTU contributors for a roundtable Q&A to give their thoughts and predictions for the season. Here’s the first part of our discussion, with the second part coming tomorrow.
Question 1: What are your expectations for Malik Rosier at QB?
Cam Underwood: My expectations are that Rosier will be a good steward of the QB position until N’Kosi Perry is ready to start (sometime in mid-late October is my thought). I think that Rosier can be a solid if unspectacular player for Miami at the position, but I’ve long maintained that Perry is the future at QB, so I’m sticking with that. Rosier will start about half the season before ceding the job to the freshman.
Matt Washington: I expect Malik Rosier to have a good season. He's more of threat to run than Brad (Kaaya), so I feel CMR will utilize his athleticism to have a diverse offense.
Justin Dottavio (IMFB): He'll extend plays, get more of a sprint out game going, and run inside zone read forcing the defense to play the QB. That'll be enough to keep him from having to win on his arm. When he will have to [be forced to throw], Miami is in a tight one (FSU).
Stefan Adams: I feel like not many people have high hopes for Rosier this year. Some see him as just a game manager and most wanted freshman N'Kosi Perry to get the QB job, which is understandable but was never my line of thinking. I'm of a different mindset and was always a Rosier guy. I see a player with great arm talent and athleticism that sat behind an NFL QB in Brad Kaaya for three years, learned the game, and yet was still constantly told by the media that he was just a stopgap QB. For those reasons, I expect Rosier to come out with something to prove and play with a chip on his shoulder. And if you're a fan of "the U" of old, that's something you'll love to see and bodes very well for Miami. He's got game experience, he's waited his turn, he's got talent around him, and after a very good season, I think Rosier finishes 2017 with the QB job still in hand.
Mat Scholtec: Malik shouldn't be forced to win any games for us considering the offensive talent around him and excellent defense. He just has to be sure to not lose any games, which means limiting negative plays and turnovers. If he can take it one play at a time and avoid mental lapses, Miami will be just fine.
John Pickens: I expect Rosier to improve as the season progresses. If he has some early success he will be the starter all season. Rosier is good enough to lead this team to 10 or more wins.
Grant Misemer: I find it very hard to hold Rosier to any high standard. I believe Rosier is a game manager and strictly a game manager. The only positive ‘pro’ I have for Rosier is that he will be able to diversify the run game. Last year, we saw Richt try to get Kaaya to read the defense and pull or throw the ball. Kaaya failed mainly because he was immobile and too timid to throw with defensive pressure. Rosier has the athleticism to pull the ball and string together a few solid runs, giving Walton a big break.
Carter Balderson: I expect Rosier to be a capable game-managing QB this season. As each week goes on, I see a push by Shireffs and Perry getting stronger, so he will have to make some plays. He has a good arm and should be able to take advantage of all the talent at WR for the Canes. I am confident that if Rosier starts all year, he can lead Miami to the ACC Championship.
John Reynolds: I expect him to manage the game enough to deliver it to his wide receivers. I expect him to lean on Mark Walton for much of the season, and I would like to see him put together a few runs and prove himself to be a mobile QB.
Silas Tsang: I am hopeful that Malik doesn’t turn the ball over on a consistent basis. If he has less than 15 combined turnovers (fumbles, picks), I believe Miami will have a legendary year. What I worry about is harkening back to Jacory Harris days, when turnovers were common practice. Take care of the ball is my number one hope for Malik.
Question 2: How many QBs do you think play this year? Who/why?
Underwood: 3. Rosier is starting the opener so he’s a certainty. I think that Perry sees the field early and eventually takes over the starting job. I think that in garbage time of a couple games we’ll see Shirreffs as well.
Washington: Two or Three. I think Evan Shirreffs will play some snaps in a mop up when the situation permits. "The People's QB", N'Kosi Perry, will have a package of plays and could should see time depending on the score of the game as well as the opponent.
IMFB: Three. Evan, when Malik goes down a series here or there and when we're up on scrubs. Perry v BCU.
Adams: This is a hard question to answer at this point. It really depends on if you think what's holding Perry back right now is merely about getting the playbook down or more about mentally adjusting to the speed of the college game and making progressions through what a college defense is throwing at him. I think it's more of the latter, and that's okay; not every true freshman is ready to step in day 1 and rock your socks off. I don't anticipate he will redshirt though and I think there will be some Perry packages involved in the Miami offense to take advantage of his amazing athleticism and give the defense a different look, but I think that's all it will be. Rosier will keep the starting job through the season. So, the answer to the question is 2.
Scholtec: Other than the opener against Bethune-Cookman where Richt could play 3 QBs, I think we'll see mostly Rosier mixed in with some Perry from time to time. This is similar to what he implemented at Georgia with David Greene and DJ Shockley. Perry will have specific play packages that will be inserted into games to get him some experience and give the opponent a different look. Barring injury (knock on wood) I expect Rosier to maintain starter status throughout the season.
Pickens: I hope Malik Rosier starts the entire season, but that will mean the Canes are playing well and likely winning the Coastal. I would like to see N'Kosi Perry a few times to get him some experience, but if Rosier is playing well, let's ride with him and see what happens. I only see Perry starting games if Miami has several games. Perry is the future, but Rosier seems like this year's best solution.
Misemer: 2, Maybe 3. Obviously, Rosier will be at the head and, unless he plays egregiously bad, he will remain at the helm for the year. I think Richt still wants to see what Evan Shirreffs can do along with N’Kosi Perry.
Balderson: I believe three QB's see the field: Rosier, Shirreffs, and Perry. Rosier will start to begin the year but I ultimately see Perry taking over after the first few weeks if he starts to feel more comfortable. I think Shirreffs will see the field week one as QB2 once the score is well out of hand.
Reynolds: 1. I think Malik is the guy all year long. If he cuts down on TO’s and has slightly improved accuracy since we’ve last seen him he should be fine. I think he’ll provide a good chance for Perry and Weldon to RS and catch up to compete for the job next season.
Tsang: I believe we’ll see two QB’s this year regardless of how Malik plays. N’Kosi can run specific sets, catering to his game, such as the read option. But I believe Malik will be the starter all season, because I feel that Miami will have a strong season and will not need to change QB’s.
Question 3: What do you see as the Canes' biggest strength in 2017?
Underwood: I’m going to go a bit off the board here and say that the biggest strength is finally having Miami caliber talent in the starting 22. When you look up and down the starting lineup on both sides of the ball, you see the kind of size, athleticism and talent that should be expected at Miami. That will be the thing that propels the Canes to a big season in 2017.
Washington: DEFENSE!!! That includes a secondary that at one time was thought of as the Achilles' heel, now potentially being just as component as the front seven.
IMFB: Defensive Line. Linebacker is solid as well, but D-LINE.
Adams: The pass rush. Joe Jackson from one end, Chad Thomas from another, with RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton collapsing the pocket from the middle. C'mon now. All will play on Sundays and it will be too much for most O-Lines Miami will see this year to handle. And that's not even including the second string defensive line, which could start at many FBS programs in America.
Scholtec: Got to give the nod to the defensive line. The depth at defensive end is especially impressive, and probably the best in the country. Their second year under Coach Kool will be a sight to behold. I could list the names of all the impact players on the D-Line, but it would be too long.
Pickens: Miami's WR's should be incredible, with depth like we haven't seen in over a decade. Berrios, Cager, Richards, Mullins, Harley, Thomas, Dallas, Langham are all capable of having big years. Miami's defense should once again be one of the best in the country. The Canes have three young stars at LB and have some special playmakers at DE and DT.
Misemer: The front seven is so deep, strong, and young that you can’t debate any other position. With now-sophomores Joe Jackson and the Big 3 of Quarterman, McCloud, and Pickney, this unit should be fine for a while. A close second, though, is the wide receiver group. After a record-setting year last season, Ahmmon Richards was clearly the best wide receiver on the team, but many forget to realize how deep this group is. If Lawrence Cager comes back healthy from his ACL injury and Braxton Berrios is Braxton Berrios, then throwing the ball should be easy regardless of who plays quarterback.
Balderson: Instead of talking about the front seven, which is obviously incredibly strong and probably top ten in the country, I will say Michael Badgley and the kicking game. He will be one of the most reliable kickers in the country this year and will keep Miami in every game. You cannot win big games without a kicker.
Reynolds: Our defensive front 7 is easily our biggest asset. They should be a top five unit, and they will be used as a huge tool to keep us in games. Plus they will help an inexperienced secondary hide a few mistakes.
Tsang: Miami’s biggest strength is its underrated defensive back field. I am enamored with Dee Delaney, and I’ve always liked Jaquan Johnson. The front 7 will wreak havoc on opposing offenses. That’s why I think the secondary will be making many plays this season.
Question 4: What do you see as the Canes' most glaring weakness in 2017?
Underwood: Depth at RB. Mark Walton is a horse, and Travis Homer is going to remind people of his electric athleticism, but the Canes are 1 injury away from being in a bad, bad spot at that position. Hopefully both those top guys make it through the season, because if not, that could spell trouble.
Washington: Offensive line. Time will tell how much the unit has improved from 2016 to this season.
IMFB: RB depth. There's no one behind Walton.
Adams: Pass protection. Kaaya took a beating behind an inconsistent offensive line last year and for all the weapons on the Hurricanes offense, untimely pressures and sacks really killed drives and momentum in 2016. On a positive note, the line did improve as the season went on and Kaaya and his statue ways are gone, replaced by the more mobile Rosier. The main question I want answered: can tackles KC McDermott and Tyree St. Louis consistently protect the QB against elite edge rushers? That's something that has yet to be seen.
Scholtec: Miami is still lacking depth at certain positions. Championship teams always have a strong 2 and 3-deep lineup, and Miami is either thin or unproven at RB, TE, LB, OL, S. Miami has the chance to be a 10+ win team, but if the injury bug bites, then that could spell trouble.
Pickens: Miami's biggest weakness is inexperience at QB. Malik Rosier has played limited snaps and while he's been on campus for years, he still might go through some growing pains. Playing on the road in just his fourth career start against FSU will be a significant challenge.
Misemer: I feel like the offensive line will always be Miami’s biggest weakness. It doesn’t matter who coaches this position, what players Miami recruits, this group is somehow always sorry. When the only upside is that you have lineman with experience, there’s no upside at all.
Balderson: The Canes most glaring weakness is RB depth. Miami cannot afford an injury at the position once the season gets into full swing. Walton is an All-ACC RB and Homer will surprise the country, but if either goes down, the offense will severely suffer.
Reynolds: I’d say our offensive line is our biggest weakness, along with running back depth. Our O-line MUST improve, especially with a new QB. Last year’s line was disorganized and was penalized far too often. It will be vital for them to be better, especially with the shallow depth at RB. We can’t really afford to lose a back, and it could cause serious problems if we do.
Tsang: Easily it has to be depth at running back and tight end. We have ALL-ACC performers cemented as starters, but if someone gets dinged up, the drop off, especially at tight end, is enormous. I also worry about our offensive line, which hasn’t been great in years. I am still mentally reeling from all the false start penalties from years past.
Question 5: Who's your breakout player on Offense and why?
Underwood: Called my shot and sticking with it: QB N’Kosi Perry. I’ve written about him and done Vlogs/podcasts about him as well. I just think he’s going to end up being the guy at QB, and that, by definition, makes him my breakout player on offense.
Washington: Darrell Langham has been impressing throughout the off-season. A big body target, I think Langham could be a productive possession receiver that will post up CB’s in the redzone.
IMFB: This is hard. Herndon will be All-ACC.
Adams: Jeff Thomas. Thomas tweaked his hamstring in practices, missing a portion of fall camp, which explains why he's behind fellow freshman Mike Harley on the depth chart, but I don't expect that to last long. While I think Harley still has a solid freshman year, Thomas is the type of talent that is just too good to keep off the field. He has amazing straight line speed and is sudden in his movements. I see him having an Ahmmon Richards type freshman year and by 2018, we'll be talking about Richards and Thomas as the dynamic duo.
Scholtec: Travis Homer. Miami must establish the run every game, so Homer will need to keep the pressure on the defense when Walton is catching his breath. I've heard great reports about Homer thus far and he was a special teams all-star last year. I guarantee Canes fans will be impressed with Homer's production this year.
Pickens: He's already known to most ACC fans, but I think Mark Walton is poised for a massive season. If the Canes are 10-2 or 11-1 and contending for an ACC title, Walton could be a dark horse Heisman candidate.
Misemer: I harped on him a little before, but Lawrence Cager. Cager impressed in his freshman year, and if it wasn’t for the ACL injury, I’m confident he would’ve impressed last year. Cager never really wowed anyone anyway with his 4.6 speed; instead, his route running, good hands, and vision after the catch made him special. As long as Cager is healthy, he is my breakout player.
Balderson: Lawrence Cager will have a big season. He's coming back after a year off the field, so he'll have to readjust first. After he shakes off the cobwebs, he will be a terrific compliment to Ahmmon Richards. Watch for Darrell Langham to have a big year as well.
Reynolds: Christopher Herndon will be the breakout player for the offense this year. I think he will prove himself to be a reliable pass catcher after the departure of David Njoku, and he will provide a nice comfort target for Rosier to focus on.
Tsang: My pick for breakout player on offense is Chris Herndon. Lightly used stat wise, Chris is going to have a solid year. 30 something catches and 400 plus yards receiving isn’t too much to ask. But we’ll need Chris to be a solid check down for a brand new quarterback.
Question 6: Who's your breakout player on Defense and why?
Underwood: Called my shot here as well, but LB Zach McCloud is my guy. I know he started as a freshman, but he was squarely in the shadow of Quarterman and Pinckney all season long. I think he takes a big leap forward this season and is one of the top players on the defense.
Washington: CB Dee Delaney had six interceptions in 2016 for The Citadel. With an emphasis on getting more turnovers, if Delaney can approach that number as a Hurricane, he should be in the conversation for ALL-ACC.
IMFB: Malek Young goes off big time. Made plays last year, but he'll start all year now at multiple spots versus different looks and make plays.
Adams: Malek Young. Young is a small, but tough, corner that uses technique to play bigger than his size. He was picking off everything in the spring and fall, and while Young is currently Miami's #3 corner behind Dee Delaney and Michael Jackson, he'll still get plenty of reps and I really see Jackson and Young as Miami's 2a and 2b. I love his versatility being able to play on the outside or in the slot in nickel packages.
Scholtec: Sheldrick Redwine. His natural abilities will make him a much better safety than cornerback, and he doesn't shy away from physicality. He and Jaquan Johnson will be leaders in the secondary and with pressure from the front seven, Redwine should see plenty of opportunities to create turnovers.
Pickens: Dee Delaney is going to be one of the best defensive players in the ACC. He made a smart move transferring to Miami and will significantly improve his NFL standing with a strong season. Delaney will be a star for the Canes.
Misemer: Dee Delaney. Delaney was a monster at Citadel, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be at Miami. He has prototypical size and speed making him a shutdown corner. I think many people forget to realize he could’ve been a mid-round pick last year, but after this season, I expect his name to be called on Day 1 or 2 of the draft.
Balderson: Malek Young could have an All-ACC year at CB. It seems that after every scrimmage, the stats show Young with an interception. He really became reliable at the end of last year and I see him continuing his upward swing.
Reynolds: I think Dee Delaney will be the defense's breakout player. Delaney was considered a 4th Round NFL Talent out of The Citadel and he should make strides with coaching on Miami’s level. He’s also already made an impact against top-tier NCAA teams, as he was often considered to be an outstanding player when the media spotlight was focused on The Citadel as being a “cupcake” against a big time school.
Tsang: Jaquan Johnson will have a breakout year defensively. He’s been patiently waiting for his turn to become one of Miami’s great safeties, and during two years as a primary backup, Jaquan has shown tremendous promise. I can’t wait to see Jaquan all over the field this season.
That’s it for the first part of our season predictions. Be sure you hop in the comments and leave your answers there.
Part 2 on deck for tomorrow.