This time of year is a great time for families, friends and loved ones to reflect on the year and the time spent together. Many exchange gifts as a symbol of their gratitude for the people around them that have impacted their lives.
But this truly a season of giving, not receiving. You should give out of love with no expectation of anything in return. As Miami Hurricanes fans, we know that feeling all too well.
We give and give and give and give our effort, time and money to support this team. Whether that was in Orlando for the opener, on Saturdays at Hard Rock Stadium or supporting vigorously on TV with those same friends and family.
The day after Christmas, the Hurricanes (6-6) will be taking on Louisiana Tech (9-3) in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. I believe it’s time for this Hurricanes team to give their fans something to be excited for this holiday season after all of the giving and sacrifice done by them.
So here is my Christmas list for Manny Diaz and the Hurricanes in this Dec. 26 matchup:
1. See promise from the young defensive line
With Jonathan Garvin and Trevon Hill electing to forego the bowl game and prepare for the NFL Draft, the door swings open for freshman Jahfari Harvey to get some extremely valuable playing time without the threat of losing his redshirt year.
The Vero Beach product enrolled early at Miami and showed flashes throughout the spring and into fall camp, but the four-deep rotation at defensive end allowed Miami to stash the 6’4 edge rusher. Now is the time where we can begin to see how he matches up against somebody that isn't wearing Orange and Green on Greentree.
Freshman defensive tackle Jason Blissett Jr. has been developing with the 5:45 crew, a group of players that strength coach David Feely is working with in the early mornings, and is set to get significant playing time on Thursday.
As you can see, the New York product has been working quietly behind closed doors on getting his body college ready. There is a great opportunity for a guy such as Blissett, an expected anchor of the Hurricanes future defense, to get a taste of what college football is like.
2. A large sample size of what Sam Brooks brings to the table
The Miami Northwestern product played defensive end his entire high school career, but Manny Diaz and the Hurricanes staff saw his future at the linebacker position rather than the edge. With senior linebacker Michael Pinckney sitting out, Brooks has a fantastic opportunity to play a large role for the Hurricanes. It is not his expected position — he backed up Shaq Quarterman at inside linebacker all year — but there is little doubt that the speed he brings could be impactful regardless of where he lines up on the defense.
His performance wouldn't result in a final verdict by any means since he is so new to the position, but watching the local kid run around and make plays is going to be something that many Hurricanes fans will be excited about.
3. Lorenzo Lingard gets a chance to play
It’s just time. There is simply no excuse that a former five-star doesn't play in this bowl game. It’s already disappointing enough that the Hurricanes ended up in the Independence Bowl, so it’s not like you have anything to lose by letting Lingard take carries behind Cam’Ron Harris.
He is a physical freak that has track speed and is a home run threat every time the ball touches his hands. We know. He wasn't healthy for much of this year, but he is now. I’m always going to be an advocate that “the best man plays” and if Burns truly is better, then so be it. But give the kid a chance. A lot of young guys are going to get opportunities in this one, so there is simply no excuse for Lingard not to get some as well.
4. A pulse from the offense
It feels like forever ago that Jarren Williams threw a record-breaking six touchdown passes against Louisville in early November. Miami went on to get shut out in the first half against FIU and only scored 17 against a terrible Duke defense.
Now, the Hurricanes have a chance to do some damage on a defense that’s statistically average at best. Louisiana Tech’s defense ranks:
- 68th in total defense (390.3 yards per)
- 98th in sacks (1.67 per)
- 47th in tackles for loss (6.3 per)
- 48th in rushing (142.5 per)
- 98th in passing (247.8 per game, 11.3 yards per reception)
If Dan Enos and Miami can't figure out a way to get it going against a team that ranks this way playing in Conference-USA, then there are problems that can't be solved with the staff that’s currently in place. Clearly, many are already disappointed and angry about the way this offense is managed and run and there is a fair argument against it.
Another lackluster performance might be the nail in the coffin.
I don't care who is playing quarterback. I don't care if it’s Williams, N’Kosi Perry or Tate Martell. Miami is the much better team and they *should* be able to establish their dominance based on the clear gap between rosters, but will they? They were also much better than Georgia Tech, FIU and Duke and fell to all three of those teams.
The offense in this game is like the big box under the tree.
As a kid, you wake up on Christmas morning, wake up your parents and go downstairs first thing in the morning. You see this gigantic box and you just can't wait to see what's inside. There’s so much potential, but also so much room for disappointment. So many different things fit inside that massive box that has captivated your young mind. You tear off the wrapping paper and what do you get...
We’ll find out Thursday.
5. The team comes out ready to play
Since 2005, Miami is 2-9 in bowl games, so I’m not even asking for a win over Louisiana Tech. I know that sounds bad, but I mean it.
Last years Pinstripe Bowl was embarrassing. The team came out disrespectfully flat and simply had no interest in playing in that game. Let’s call it how we see it. Apart from the 2016 win over West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl, that has been the story of the bowl season for the Hurricanes for a long time.
So, again, I’m not asking for a win. Watching a team that plays hard means much more to me. Seeing a group of guys that act like playing for the University of Miami means something to them. Lining up and playing whoever is on the opposite sideline regardless of the circumstance is something that this team hasn't shown since defeating Louisville.
Over the last month and half, we've watched a defeated football team that has suffered inexcusable losses and have looked terrible doing it. I’m asking for the line to drawn in the sand and for the young guys playing to set a new standard in this matchup.
If the Hurricanes do that, winning undoubtedly follows.
I don't think it’s too much to ask for. I don't think I'm being greedy or acting like Ebenezer Scrooge. These are things that we shouldn't even have to be asking or begging to see from this team. But, unfortunately, we’re at this point.
Hopefully, Santa checks off this list — item by item — and Miami fans are able to see a glimpse of light in the darkness that is the 2019 season.