If there was any doubt that we are in the Mark Richt era of Miami Hurricanes football, it can be put to rest now. When Richt received a contract extension through 2023 on May 3, it solidified his status as the man in charge of bringing Miami back into national prominence. Thus far, he has already attained more success than the previous two coaches combined while maintaining the squeaky-clean image he held while at Georgia. But after Coach Richt accomplished things that pushed the program to a level that hadn’t been attained in over a decade, their highest finish in an AP Poll since 2004, winning the Coastal, playing in the Orange Bowl, expectations have nowhere to go but up.
Athletic Director Blake James and the rest of the higher-ups at the University have to be relieved that Richt has thus far turned out to be the right choice. He’s been the perfect mix of a player’s coach, willing to let his guys do their thing on the field, look no further than the spectacle of the turnover chain, and a firm leader who will impart tough love when need be.
The burden of this turnaround should not be discounted; Richt has had to wash the stink lingering from previous coaching staffs off. After a first year that saw ups and downs but ended with a promising bowl win, their first since 2006(!), this team hit the accelerator in year two, getting as high as no. 2 in the AP Poll before hitting some rough patches.
With all the success and accolades CMR has received this early in his Miami coaching career, the bumps along the way indicate that his job is nowhere near complete. At some schools, a year like 2017 would be celebrated as the peak of relevance. For Miami, and rightly so, it should be considered just the start. Richt is going to have to continue the strong recruiting he’s managed so far, something that should be buoyed by the administration at Miami giving him additional job security. Recruits for 2019 can be assured that CMR will be there until they graduate.
For next season and beyond, Richt will have to fix some of the issues he’s had during his short tenure if he’s going to truly bring The U back and win a national championship in Miami. Besides the ugly loss at Pittsburgh in 2017 and simply being outclassed by Clemson, Richt has done a great job of keeping his team in just about every game from start to finish. Even at Pittsburgh, Miami had a chance to pull it out until the very end.
But when Miami has lost, they’ve done so in consecutive weeks. In 2016, the Canes lost four in a row after starting 4-0 before finishing on a five game win streak. In 2017, they finished the season with three straight losses. Richt doesn’t seem to have a problem motivating his players after tough losses but this is a team that needs to stop losing in bunches if they’re going to take the next step.
Richt hasn’t had many nagging issues with this team but the one that has persisted has been the play-calling. When Richt announced upon his hiring that he would go back to calling plays, there was certainly a learning curve that went with it.
Prior to Miami, Richt hadn’t called plays since 2006 and as he put it, “I knew if I was going to coach again I wanted to do that (call plays). I’ve always thought about it, because I missed it.”
A lot has changed, both for Richt and the state of college football offense, in the ten years that he has had someone else calling plays for him. And while the play-calling has gotten better from 2016 to 2017, Richt needs to continue to show more versatility and surprise in his offensive attack. The flashes of brilliant play-calling that we saw from Richt in 2017, think Malik Rosier QB draws and DeeJay Dallas in the wildcat, needs to continue to flourish in 2018 and beyond. As much as suffocating, fly-to-the-football defense has been a part of the Miami tradition, so too has high-octane offense.
Mark Richt’s time in Miami has been as promising and rewarding as any fan with realistic expectations could have imagined. The U has been a force on the recruiting trail, had some of the best defense in the nation, climbed high in the polls and finally gotten that million-dollar athletic facility it has sorely needed. While a return to prominence as a championship contender seems on the horizon, Coach Richt and his staff are going to have to continue to fix the issues that have plagued them in the past and overcome whatever new challenges they will face. If Richt continues the Miami rebuild at the pace he has thus far, don’t be surprised if trophy number six is added to the case soon.