Hurricanes fans are in a state of shock and gloom after Miami was upset by UVA on the road. N’Kosi Perry was benched mid-game for Malik Rosier and ‘Canes fans saw more of the same from head football coach Mark Richt. With the season half way over Miami still has a clear shot at the ACC Coastal Division crown which would mean another ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, NC.
Even after a 5-2 start with losses to LSU and UVA, Miami is considered the S&P+’s 17th best program in the country. The Hurricanes have the 55th ranked offense and 8th ranked defense per Bill C’s metrics. However, the most telling factor is the 94th ranked kicking game that’s plagued Miami since Richt’s arrival in 2016.
The coaching staff
The Hurricanes could use new blood on the coaching staff as year three is usually a great indicator of where you are as a program. The kicking game, led by Todd Hartley, has been putrid and the tight end position has been very strangely used and developed under his guidance.
Consider that without Christopher Herndon IV who was an Al Golden recruit, Hartley has pulled in three tight ends that have hardly been used in Brian Polendey and Michael Irvin Jr. He did land Brevin Jordan who looks like a freshman All-American and that’s a real coup considering the position is so thin it requires starting a true freshman.
The offensive scheme and play calling could use a lifeline but that seems less likely. The Mark Richt-Thomas Brown scheme has been extremely vanilla over three years and hasn’t executed things like Run-Pass Options (RPO’s) effectively, nor are the passing concepts from Georgia in effect down in Coral Gables.
The offensive line play has been dismal since 2016 and by year three you would expect talent acquisition, development, and deployment to have kicked in or that a new coach would be in place. Some of the offensive line trouble has been scheme, and some is play calling, but some is that they look horrible at times and even worse at others.
Re-visiting the 2016 recruiting class
If year three is an indicator it isn’t helped by the 2016 recruiting class Richt brought in for year one. Per 247 Sports, the 2016 recruiting class was ranked 22nd in the nation and 3rd in the ACC. Those 19 kids have flopped epically outside of Shaq Quarterman, Joe Jackson, and Travis Homer who have played very well. Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud have had strange up and down careers. Pinckney (seven tackles for loss) has hardly improved in three years while McCloud has been really silent in 2018.
The highest rated prospect, Sam Bruce, never played in a game for the ‘Canes while Malek Young and now Ahmmon Richards are early retirees due to injury. Miami’s four-star quarterback from that class, Jack Allison, is waiting in the wings behind Will Grier at West Virginia and four-star defensive tackle Pat Bethel has only four tackles for loss in 19 games played.
Bobby Bowden used to say that in your recruiting class, regardless of star-rating, one-third will be starters or stars, one-third will be role players and one-third will sit the bench or transfer out. Miami has nine players from that class who are bench warmers or lost the attrition battle, four who are role players and six (counting Young and Richards) who are starter level material.
Shaq Quarterman is in his third season as the starting middle linebacker for Manny Diaz’s defense. Quarterman has made 205 tackles as the man in the middle. As a havoc player, Quarterman has made 26 tackles for loss (10 sacks), has defended seven passes and scored a touchdown on a scoop and score. The six-foot-one, 235 pound linebacker is a solid pro prospect who should stay for his senior season to refine his skills even more.
Travis Homer, a four-star prospect from Oxbridge Academy, has put together a solid but not exactly All-ACC type of career. His biggest contribution has come as a gunner on the punt team while his time at running back has been forced to split duty with Mark Walton and now Deejay Dallas. Homer has averaged 5.9 yards per carry on his career and has ran in only nine touchdowns. Homer will be an NFL prospect simply on his ability to work into special teams.
Defensive end Joe Jackson has been a really good football player for the Hurricanes. Jackson has played in 30 games and logged 30 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks, and 109 total tackles over two and a half seasons. Jackson could be the best pro prospect from the lot as he’s six-foot-five and 265 pounds of raw athlete that could play serious football in the NFL. He’s a playmaker and could end 2018 as an All-ACC first team defender.
The 2019 recruiting class is currently ranked 20th in the nation and once again 3rd in the ACC per 247 Sports. Every recruiting class needs a quarterback and the ‘Canes don’t have one, yet, set up for 2019. Rumors swirl that Sam Howell the FSU commit may flip to Miami but after the UVA loss that could’ve soured a bit.
The top rated player is wide receiver Jeremiah Payton from Fletcher High School. The ‘Canes are going to sign big-time defenders because of the havoc numbers put up by Diaz’s scheme. Thus, they have commitments from safety Keontra Smith, outside linebackers Anthony Solomon and Avery Huff, defensive end Jahfari Harvey and cornerback Te’Cory Couch.
The offense is struggling to sign blue chip quality players, as you would expect. After Payton, Miami has offensive tackle Michael Tarquin from North Marion High School as their only other four-star offensive player. The ‘Canes have no five-star players in the 2019 class and are in need of more offensive line depth, defensive tackle as always, and a big time quarterback and running back to fill in the gaps on campus.
The 2016 recruiting class has it’s couple of gems who can still get on the field, but for the most part it’s been a disappointment via a lack of development and a lack of deployment. The acquisition was there as a top-25 class for a new coach after three straight disastrous regimes is a solid pull. Miami needs to reshuffle the coaching staff and hit big on the class of 2019 in order to become a player for the ACC Championship and not a program that loses to the likes of UVA or Pitt year in and year out.