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Season Long Questions Surrounding Miami

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Have the Canes provided much needed answers to some of these burning questions?

Louisville v Miami
Head coach Manny Diaz paces the sidelines during senior day at Hard Rock Stadium.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Ever since Miami was defeated by the Wisconsin Badgers in the Pin Stripe Bowl last December, there were a myriad of questions surround the program. Questions ranging from the construction of the coaching staff, to a huge quarterback controversy, to certain players not seeing the field, and then some...the program was in a state of flux. Some of which were answered within weeks, however some remain up in the air. As we near the end of the regular season, I thought about where Miami stood with these of questions. Here are my takes on some of those hot topics...

Is Jarren truly Miami’s quarterback of the future?

Yes. Undoubtedly, unequivocally, and undeniably, yes. Period. I actually felt this exact way going into game one against the Florida Gators, even before having seen him make a start. Why? Regardless of what fans said a month ago, Jarren has ALWAYS had above average arm strength. There’s no doubt that Perry has the best arm on the roster, however that does not mean Jarren’s arm talent is one to be overlooked. Pass accuracy has always been in his arsenal, and his downfield accuracy has improved ever since the offensive line has given him more time in the pocket. He also is the most cerebral quarterback on the team as his penchant for checking down versus going for the jugular serves as an advantage. See his tenth ranking nationally in passing efficiency (164.8), 2nd in the ACC only behind whom I consider to be the best quarterback in the nation, Trevor Lawrence, as proof. Williams is also completing 67% of his passes and that is something that has been missing for years here at Miami. Even as good as Brad Kaaya was, his career best completion percentage rate was only 62% (2016).

NCAA Football: Louisville at Miami
Miami Quarterback Jarren Williams drops back to pass during his record setting, six passing touchdown performance versus the Louisville Cardinals.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve also expressed repeatedly throughout the off-season on Hurricane Warning, that something needed to be said (or done) about a quarterback (or any player on the roster for that matter) if he was not able to put a stranglehold on the position after having been a part of his third fall camp at Greentree. That is exactly what transpired when N’Kosi Perry was not named the starting quarterback, having had a fair chance to win the position outright. Allow me to elaborate. I’m not saying that coming into fall camp, Perry had an automatic, built in advantage to win the job. We all know how Head Coach Manny Diaz was quoted as saying that everyone at every position on the team had a “clean slate” and that everyone who was named a starter will have earned it, so that backs up my claim when I say N’Kosi did not have an unfair advantage.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami
Perry warms up before the Florida State showdown last October, at Hard Rock Stadium.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What I am saying is that for a third year sophomore having gotten his feet wet in games already, knowing what it takes to be a responsible collegiate student athlete, and having something to prove to both coach Diaz who was around to see some of his past transgressions in 2018, including newly appointed Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator Dan Enos, that he should have had a leg up on Jarren Williams and Tate Martell in terms of experience as a red shirt sophomore and familiarity with his weapons, EVEN IF the system was new to all three probable starters.

In terms of focus, I was hoping it was a thing of the past as we all heard rumblings of N’Kosi not being in the playbook like he should have been, and other off field issues in 2018. However Jarren was locked in from the moment he tweeted this after Tate was brought in off of the NCAA transfer portal.

Although I wanted to Williams to be “the guy” because I felt he was the most complete quarterback on the roster, I felt he was behind the eight ball having plenty of ground to makeup being that Perry entered fall workouts with experience, and also because Tate came in as what seemed to be the favorite to win the job. Jarren went about his business professionally and despite the quarterback position being called a “two man race” by many at one point during the fall, he continued to be the most consistent passer on the team during workouts, something that Enos stressed as having been a huge factor as to why he was named starter going in to week zero. Jarren’s physical attributes are exactly what Dan Enos looks for in the position. He’s not the athlete that Perry is, but Williams’ athleticism is good enough to get himself out of a jam and pick up yards with his feet and/or throw on the run as evidenced below.

For me, it has always been a simple answer as to who is Miami’s leader at quarterback. For crying out loud it took a bad day at the office throwing three interceptions (while supposedly injured) for him to lose his job. Williams then cemented his status as starter after entering in relief of Perry to win the game at PITT in the closing minutes, playing a hand in getting Willie Taggart fired after a beautiful performance in Tallahassee, then tossing for a school record 6 touchdown passes two weeks ago.

If Miami finishes the season 9-4, is the season a failure?

This is a tough one for me to answer because I’m big on setting and achieving goals. I’ve always felt that if you don’t reach a goal in which you’ve set, then you failed at achieving it. Miami’s preseason goal was to win the ACC Coastal division and they will not have done that in year one of this new regime. However, I wouldn’t be so quick to call this season a failure. It was also a preseason goal to shift a culture that was downright toxic in 2018. And although nobody likes the sound of four losses, you have to consider all the positives that have come about, ever since the team meeting that took place before victory at PITT. Manny seems to have succeeded in shifting the culture, so that’s a goal that was achieved.

It’s just a shame that this team is finding it’s stride late, but better late than never. The growth that this program has seen internally has been key and has translated into wins on the field. I’m all here for it and I am proud of where the Canes are now, versus where they were following the loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Yes this season is a success, if Miami finishes 9-4. It’s also a success if they finish 8-4 with an Orange Bowl loss to the Alabama Crimson tide.

Are notable third year players like DeeJay Dallas, Jonathan Garvin, and Trajan Bandy turning pro?

Deejay Dallas - I’ll tell you one thing, who knows if any of them are leaving, but what I can tell you that is that none of them should. Please note that I am simply speaking from a football standpoint in terms of on field production and I have no clue what is going on in their personal lives in terms of finances. With that being said, if either of them were to leave, I think Deejay is the one that is most prepared. Even with that, I think it would serve him best if he returned for a fourth season at Miami. On the year, Deejay has surpassed is career high in rushing yards with 644 (previous high was 617 last season) as well as rushing touchdowns with 8 this year as opposed to 6 in 2018, and has done so in four less games.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Louisville at Miami
Deejay Dallas celebrates after a tough touchdown run versus the Louisville Cardinals in the final home game of the 2019 season.
Photo by Aaron Gilbert/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Stats aside, Dallas has improved as a runner and should not be considered an under the radar back, but he is. You can argue as to Miami having a down year as the reason why, because he seemed to be making a name for himself in 2017 as a freshman as he played a role in big games versus the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Wisconsin Badgers. Lastly, you would have to look at where he is ranked when compared to other running backs that may declare. D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Travis Etienne, Cam Akers, and Zack Moss are all names than can/will declare. I personally feel Deejay is as good or better than some of them, but we all know how national perception can sway even the truth of truths. At the end of the day, I feel DeeJay should stay unless of course he feels the need to provide for his son and his girlfriend.

Jonathan Garvin - Junior Jon Garvin aka “Neo” is a player that entered the season with all eyes on him. After living in the backfield and posting 60 tackles, 17 for loss, with 5.5 sacks in 2018, Canes fans were bracing for this to be his last season. It still may be, however there is no doubt his production took a dip. His numbers thus far, 25 tackles, 4.5 for tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. He does however still rank in the top three nationally with 22 total pressures. You can attribute the drop in numbers to the fact that teams knew he was Miami’s best pass rusher entering the year and they paid more attention to him in that regard; which begs the question as to how Gregory Rousseau will adapt next season being that he’s having an All America type season now.

That’s here nor there and we will cross that bridge once we get to it, the fact remains that Garvin is a talented player that continues to progress throughout his time at UM. He can stand to gain a few more pounds but still, his 6-4 250 frame is ideally suited for an edge rusher role at the next level. He also has shown the ability to play in space and spy opposing quarterbacks that pose a threat with their legs as shown by his 4 tackle and 1 quarterback hurry performance versus the Florida Gators, helping keep Feleipe Franks in check to the tune of 8 yards rushing.

Trajan Bandy - A local product, never afraid to get in the face of the opposing receiver to let him know what time is it, has that bulldog mentality. That edge accompanied by is skill set, will undoubtedly land him a spot on an NFL roster. I just do not think that it will be in the upcoming NFL draft. Bandy enjoyed his best statistical year in a Canes uniform last season as he tallied 3 interceptions, 36 tackles (4.5 went for negative yards), 8 pass deflections, and 2 fumble recoveries. So far in 2019, he has registered 24 total tackles, 3 for losses, 7 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. He also earned his first sacks of his career having totaled 3 on the year. The Junior cornerback plays best in man coverage, as he has the speed and physicality to cover wide receivers, but his best attribute may be his ability to tackle in the open field which means he’s good against the run.

The only real chink in his armor may be his 5’9’’ frame. He’s been victim to being beat on a few deep balls this season that have hurt Miami, but that is why I wonder if his best position at the next level may be at safety. Tyrann Mathieu was the 13th best cornerback coming out of high school in 2010, now he is making plays at safety in the NFL while standing 5’9’’. To be clear, I don’t think Bandy’s height will keep him from getting drafted, but I do think that it will keep him from getting drafted as high as he wants, at the cornerback position. That coupled with not knowing what his possible transition to safety will look like in terms of time/development, and how good he’ll be at it, is why I say he should stay. To me he does project as a nice safety at the next level though, especially with his tackling ability.

The goal for anyone getting drafting is to go in the first round, and if that doesn’t happen then you surely should not settle for a 5th, 6th, or 7th round projection. If you’re getting a top three round projection, then you have something to think about. But then again, go ask guys like RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton to see how their “projections” hurt them.

Will we see Tate Martell this season?

I sure hope so, but given how this team is finally clicking offensively, I don’t know how/if Offensive Coordinator Dan Enos inserts his skill set into the offense. Yes I know, that’s what he gets paid to figure out. But I’m of the school of though of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Tate is back at quarterback and has been for weeks, maybe he would have seen some type of action had he stayed at wide receiver being that Brian Hightower decided to transfer out, but who knows. Dee Wiggins has been “ballin outta control” as they say so maybe staying at WR wasn’t in his best interest in staying there. As a matter of fact, that entire receiving room has upped their game ever since the win at PITT.

Will one of Miami’s Quarterbacks transfer?

This had to be on the back of almost everyone’s head at the start of the season. Considering how we knew that the three quarterbacks on the roster which had a legitimate shot to win the job, could likely start at several other power 5 schools, this is a fair question to ask. I’m no insider, this is all speculative... but if I had to guess, I think Perry bolts and here’s why. He knows he can play, and he knows that barring injury and a complete 180 by Jarren, that he’s destined to be a career backup here at UM. He’s also a red shirt sophomore meaning if he decides to transfer, he still has an entire season to make a name for himself (maybe two if he applies for a waiver that is granted). One season may not be long enough but it’s better than sitting for most of your career. I have faith in him and think he can be an asset at many places if he decides to leave.

University of Miami practice
Tate Martell and N’Kosi Perry take part in drills during practice at Greentree back in fall camp.
Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

Here’s a conspiracy theory for you, Tate moved back to QB because he knows something. I mean it’s possible, isn’t it? All I know is this he asked for the switch to WR, and also asked to be moved back to QB. I just hope two things happen with Tate, because I think he can make this offense go over the top. One, I hope he improves at everything the staff asks of him to the point that Enos has no choice but to play him some way, some how because he’s improved so much. Secondly, I hope Enos doesn’t let his talent go to waste so Miami can use him much like the New Orleans Saints use Taysom Hill. That would make this offense unstoppable in my humble opinion. I also don’t think Tate transfers a second time.

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