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Bowl games are all about ‘wait til next year’ in 2018

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Outside of the playoff, bowls are no longer a cap to the current season

NCAA Football: Miami at Virginia Tech Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes are set to take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2018 New Era Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th, 2018. The ‘Canes and Badgers met in the Orange Bowl only a year ago when both programs were hovering around the top-10 all season. 2018 has been a different story for both programs as they’ve gone through multiple quarterbacks and both programs ended their regular seasons with 7-5 records.

Ten, or even five years ago, a discussion wasn’t had about players sitting out of bowl games to begin preparation for the NFL Combine. However, it’s now become a regular occurrence to see a top-50 quarterback like Will Grier, or a possible day two defensive tackle in Gerald Willis opt-out of the bowl experience. For both players it’s about moving on from college and getting a head start on their pro careers. Both players starter their college careers at the University of Florida before transferring after controversy.


Seniors

Unless your program is in the College Football Playoff there’s no reason to look at a bowl game as the end of this season. In 2018 and beyond, the bowls will be used as another practice week for the team that returns the next year. With the new redshirt rules (players can now play in four games and keep their redshirt status) it’s even more likely to see a ‘wait til next year’ motto about the bowls. Gerald Willis is a graduating senior, he had one hell of a football season, but it’s time to find his replacement and move on to Jon Ford or Nesta Silvera.

‘Canes fans have to hope that outgoing seniors who have struggled to maintain their position, such as quarterback Malik Rosier, won’t get scratch in the Pinstripe Bowl. Rosier did a fine job leading the Hurricanes to a 10-3 record in 2017, but it’s time to move on to N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon (assuming Jarren Williams is transferring out of Miami). To Darrell Langham, thank you for the amazing catches that kept Miami’s season alive last year, but the Hurricanes need to see what Brian Hightower and Dee Wiggins can really do with Jeff Thomas transferring and Ahmmon Richards retired due to injury.


Coaching

This leads to the coaching staff. I’m not sure what the purpose of having Manny Diaz serve as defensive coordinator truly is. As the ‘Canes begin to look at 2019 Diaz needs to be in Philadelphia preparing his new life as a head coach while Jonathan Patke and Ephraim Banda prepare to be play callers and game planners in Coral Gables. It’s very shortsighted of both Diaz and Mark Richt to not move on and get their next chapters some reps in an exhibition game.

As a head coach I would want the Patke-Banda duo to get this live-action experience against a formidable opponent in the Badgers. Neither coach has called plays before at any level, nor do they have long standing experience as on-field coaches at the Division I level. It makes sense not to be in a rush to sign a defensive assistant until the AFCA Convention takes place in early January but the new co-defensive coordinators should be using the Pinstripe Bowl to gain experience, not having Diaz call plays to pad Mark Richt’s win-loss record in front of potential recruits on National Signing Day.


Recruiting

If this is a recruiting move, high school kids are the best at seeing through the utter bullshit that adults present to them. A high school recruits’ parents may not see through the smoke screen, but the athlete will in a heartbeat. If this is a move for Miami to keep the game close against Wisconsin by having Diaz call plays, it’s very a short sighted one. If the fear is that Patke and Banda will get smoked by the Badgers offense, then how could Richt possibly justify promoting from within and not signing someone from outside of the program? If they’re not ready now, will they really be that much more prepared after a few closed and non-televised spring scrimmages?


Summary

Players sit out of bowl games because they have wrapped up final exams and don’t want to go through the hassle of bowl practices and games to get a Seiko watch and Lockheed Martin pullover sweatshirt. I’m sure a gift card to Belk is a great re-gift but guys like Gerald Willis and Will Grier have million dollar NFL aspirations, not perusing the gift suite at the Pinstripe Bowl.

In the modern era of social media, the overreactions to every Tweet or move that student-athletes and coaches make can be daunting. But we have to take a deep breath, relax, and realize it really is better for the kids to skip the bowl game and for coaches to treat the Pinstripe Bowl like an exhibition game for the 2019 season. The fact that this shift in the vision of the value of bowls hasn’t been adopted in Coral Gables is not a shock to me; instead of “Adapt or Die” the current Miami motto is “Adapt is Death.” Let’s hope we see some young freshman getting a chance to wear the orange and green and pick up valuable experience at Yankee Stadium- I just wouldn’t hold my breath.