Yesterday, we tackled the first part of this roundtable about the Miami Hurricanes’ 2017 season. If you missed that piece, you can click the link in the tweet below:
Now, we reconvene to finish off our predictions, including the evergreen W/L predictions from a bunch of our SOTU contributors. Here we go:
Question 7: Who's your newcomer of the year and why?
Cam Underwood: I’m going with Jeff Thomas. He’s got speed to burn, and I think that he’ll have an impact on both offense and punt return. Yes, I know Braxton Berrios is going to be the starting PR, but I think Thomas gets a chance in a game and houses one.
Matt Washington: Navaughn Donaldson. I know, I said the offensive line could be a glaring weakness, but Donaldson has been impressing everyone since his arrival this spring. It's not a sexy pick given the skill position players on the team, yet Donaldson will be a staple on the O-line for seasons to come.
Justin Dottavio (IMFB): This is tough too. [editor’s note: IMFB said the pick for offensive breakout player was tough in yesterday’s 1st half]. So many good freshman. Zach Feagles. Miami’s schedule is tough and you need a good punter in close ones.
Adams: Easy, that's CB Dee Delaney. This almost feels like cheating, because we're talking about a guy that's already a known commodity on the college football scene. He's a 2 time First-Team FCS All-American and was given a mid-round draft grade as a junior by the NFL Advisory Board. Delaney came right into fall camp, balled out, and made it known he was the top dog in the Hurricanes secondary. He wants to prove he can cover top competition and secure his place in the early rounds of the NFL Draft. With that type of motivation, a big season from Delaney is all but assured.
Mat Scholtec: This is a tough question, but I'll go with Jhavonte Dean mainly because I think he's going to nab a starting job and be on the field a lot. He has an unreal combination of size and speed for a cornerback and has two years of JUCO experience under his belt. I almost went with one of the freshman receivers here, but I don't think there will be enough balls to go around for one of them to put a big enough stamp on the season.
John Pickens: My newcomers of the year - The two freshman studs at WR Mike Harley and Jeff Thomas. Everyone has been raving about them this offseason and Mark Richt will find ways to get them involved early. They both can be electric in the return game as well. Their speed will create at least a few key long touchdowns this season.
Grant Misemer: Technically Dee Delaney, but I don’t really count him because he’s a transfer. My freshman of the year is Navaughn Donaldson. At 6-6 350, Donaldson has the size to make an immediate impact. During fall camp, there hasn’t been a bad report about him; in fact, everyone is saying he is looking mean and playing the part.
Carter Balderson: Navaughn Donaldson arrives at the perfect time to add great talent to a mediocre line. Although his future is likely at tackle, I really like him at guard for now. He could be a future first round pick in the NFL and he will start to turn this offensive line into something special.
John Reynolds: Newcomer of the year will ultimately be Mike Harley.I think he will prove himself to be a valuable asset, and he seems to know how to best execute routes to compliment his talents. Plus, the kid has a great attitude, he’s already said his biggest goal and quest this season is to break Ahmmon Richards’ freshman receiving records at Miami.
Silas Tsang: Dee Delaney. He’s fast, disciplined, strong, and with optimum size for the cornerback position. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is at worst second-team ALL-ACC by season’s end. I believe the key to the entire season defensively is if Dee can play consistently like the huge talent he is. Safe to assume that Dee will play as good as Artie Burns did not too long ago.
Question 8: Who is the player Miami can least afford to lose?
Underwood: Mark Walton. There’s just no depth behind him at RB and he’s integral to run game, pass game, and even plays on special teams. He’s far too important to lose even for a short amount of time.
Washington: Mark Walton. Given the lack of depth at running back this season, ball security issues with back-ups, this team can not afford to lose Walton for an extended period of time.
IMFB: Easy: Mark Walton.
Adams: Anybody that doesn't answer this "Mark Walton" is crazy. Not only is he Miami's best player, but he's a First Team All-ACC type back with injury prone and unproven backups. Without Joe Yearby and Gus Edwards poaching attempts, Walton is likely to exceed his 209 carries from last season and becomes even more important to a Mark Richt offense that wants to pound the ball to set up the pass and nurture an inexperienced QB. It cannot be stated enough: losing Walton would be catastrophic for the Hurricanes.
Scholtec: Easy, Mark Walton. He's the best running back in the ACC and the crux of Miami's offense. Every team will key on stopping him, so if Miami loses its best weapon then the offense could sputter for the remaining games.
Pickens: Mark Walton is the most critical player on offense because the depth at the position is so limited. On defense I'm most concerned about keeping RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton on the field and healthy for similar depth concerns.
Misemer: Mark Walton. Miami is going to make Walton the bell cow of the offense just like how Adam Gase did with Jay Ajayi on the Dolphins. I’m sure Travis Homer would do a solid job if Walton does get hurt, but Walton is the offense and things would have to change mightily if he does get hurt. PLEASE DO NOT GET INJURED MARK WALTON.
Balderson: Miami can least afford to lose Ahmmon Richards. Since I already spoke about the RB's I will go a different direction here. Depth is not a major issue here but the amount of attention that opposing defenses will have to pay to #82 will open up the field for everyone else. Not having Richards for a game against Bethune-Cookman is not a big deal, but missing Florida State would be very bad.
Reynolds: Mark Walton has got to be the most crucial player for Miami. He will be asked to perform week in and week out to support a new QB and will inevitably be asked to be the provider of most of Miami’s offense.
Tsang: Shaquille Quarterman. Even though he’s just a sophomore, Shaq is the leader of the defense. If he goes down at any point in the season, Miami will have a tough go of things.
Question 9: Which game(s) are you most looking forward to?
Underwood: While the team should focus on every game as the season goes along, I think this is a 3 game schedule: Florida State, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech. FSU is a rivalry, Notre Dame should be payback from losing to that horrible team last year, and same for VT, although they weren’t terrible, they just handed Miami their worst loss of the 2016 season. Those are the games I’m most looking forward to.
Washington: FSU (obviously), Notre Dame (it's still a rivalry), and UNC. To this day I still see Ryan Switzer throwing up that upside down U from two seasons ago. We need retribution against each of these teams.
IMFB: Florida State and Notre Dame.
Adams: Florida State. FSU. The Seminoles. You know, that game we play every year against those people from Tallahassee. Miami's lost this game 7 years in a row and I am tired of it. SO sick of it. Last season was especially rough losing at the very end on a botched extra point and this Miami team should be chomping at the bit to avenge that game. It's always fun reliving the "Catholics vs. Convicts" shenanigans when we play Notre Dame and I think watching that high-flying offense of Toledo against Miami's dominant defense will be interesting, but Florida State is the game that matters. I mean really matters. Recruits care, the team cares, fans care, and, most importantly, I care.
Scholtec: Notre Dame. This will be a revenge game for the embarrassing loss in South Bend last year. The Irish "should" be better than their 4-8 mark last year, but Miami will be the favorite at home. The tradition behind this match-up alone will draw national attention, but I always love beating up on those leprechauns.
Pickens: I know most fans will say Florida State and while I'm excited about the chance to beat the Noles, I'm more focused on the Coastal and reaching the ACC Championship game. Virginia Tech embarrassed Miami in Blacksburg in 2016 and it's time for Miami to return the favor. The Hokies are by far the biggest threat to Miami in the Coastal. The matchup with Notre Dame the following week should be great as well and another chance for Miami to find redemption.
Misemer: Far and away Florida State. I don’t think anyone is giving Miami the justice they deserve. Miami is a talented team that matches up very well with Florida State. I feel that people look at Rosier (and the Quarterback position as a whole) as the crux of this team and the reason why Miami doesn’t have a chance in this game, and that’s unfair.
Balderson: Florida State. It is time to beat that team, and in their house at that. I can feel it coming, September 16.
Reynolds: I’m looking forward to FSU and ND the most. FSU is always one of the biggest, if not the biggest, game of the year every year, and this year it should be as intense as it has been in several years, with both teams likely to be highly ranked. Meanwhile ND comes to Hard Rock Stadium in a game that should be one of the craziest games Miami has seen in a long time. With it looking like being the most full The Rock has been since its’ refurbishments (FSU vs Michigan is the current holder), it has the feel of a big time revenge game. One can only hope that we blow Notre Dame out much like in 1985, and that it propels us to the upper-tier of national prominence.
Tsang: I am personally super excited to watch the Alabama vs. Florida State game. I hope to see bone-crushing hits delivered by Alabama, and for FSU to be hurting headed into their match up with Miami. On the Miami schedule, easily the FSU game will be most exciting. I don’t worry about FSU’s offense. They aren’t spectacular on that side of the ball and Miami brings the heat defensively. The game will be decided by Miami’s offense, and subsequently, how well our offensive line performs.
Question 10: Lastly, what's your prediction for the W/L record for Miami this season?
Underwood: 10-2. Miami is going to be favored in 11 of 12 regular season games, and with the exception of Florida State, the Canes will have more talent than their opponent in each game they play. I was very close to picking 11-1. Very close. In any event, it’s time to rise to the occasion, and let the talent speak for itself. Double-digit wins and the Coastal Division championship or bust.
Washington: 10–2 with Miami winning the Coastal and earning a spot in the ACC title game.
Adams: 10-2. 10 wins and taking the Coastal division crown should be the standard by which all Miami teams are judged, and I think they hit both marks in Richt's second season. The schedule is favorable and I think they finally get the FSU monkey off their back, but lose a game or two they probably shouldn't. The depth isn't where it needs to be at many positions and the inexperience at QB is worrisome. 2018 is the year we should all be looking at as the team that can win the ACC and compete for a Playoff spot.
Scholtec: I've been beaten down so much these past years that my head tells me to be conservative... but my heart tells me to say 10-2, so that's what I'm going with. Vegas set Miami at an over/under of 9 wins, and if the Canes stay healthy I think 10 wins is very realistic. I hate to say it: FSU is a likely loss again, but an early season loss like that is easier to handle. Other than that Miami could drop a game against VaTech, Pitt, or Notre Dame. In a forgiving world, Miami would repay the favor to the Seminoles in the ACC Championship game. We shall see...
Pickens: 10-2 is my prediction. I think the Canes finally win the Coastal and set up a potential rematch with FSU or an interesting matchup against Clemson.
Misemer: From an optimistic approach, Miami can go undefeated. Talent-wise, the only team that is better is Florida State. Worst case scenario, I see a 7-5 record, losing to Florida State, Toledo, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, and Pitt. I’m somewhere in between, seeing them go 9-3 losing to Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Pitt.
Balderson: Miami will finish the regular season at 11-1.
Reynolds: I predict an 11-1 record. I think Miami’s O-line struggles or RB depth will hit them hard in one game, and the defense will not be able to recover. My best guess for our loss would be FSU. Their defense should be nearly as good as ours, and a more experienced offense will, in my opinion, push them over the edge.
Tsang: I anticipate a 10 win season. Florida State will be very hard, but every other game is manageable. We are the more talented team. We are supposed to field a better defense than every team we face except for FSU. We have a plethora of high-end skill players. The only questions are depth at tight end and running back, while breaking in a new quarterback. Plus, we have a coaching staff not filled by Al Golden. 10 wins is a reasonable goal.
That’s it for the 2nd half of the season prediction roundtable. What do you think Miami’s record will be in 2017? Have other answers you want to share? Hop in the comments and let your thoughts be known.