For better of for worse, Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz is faced with completely reinventing who this team is in 2020.
Here is a list of names needing to be replaced:
RB DeeJay Dallas (early entry to NFL) — team-leading 694 rushing yards 8 TDs
WR K.J. Osborn — team-leading 50 catches 547 yards and 5 TDs
WR Jeff Thomas (early entry to NFL) — 1316 career receiving yards and 15.9 yards per catch
DE Jonathan Garvin (early entry to NFL) — 29 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in three years at Miami
DE Trevon Hill — 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in one year at Miami
DT Pat Bethel — 10.5 tackles for loss in two years as a starter
LB Shaquille Quarterman — 53 consecutive starts (Miami record), four-year starter, 107 tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss, first-team All-ACC in ‘19
LB Michael Pinckney — 267 tackles, 42 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks in career
Striker Romeo Finley — 82 tackles, 9 sacks, 3 INT’s in two years as Miami’s striker
CB Trajan Bandy (early entry to NFL) — 4 interceptions and 23 pass deflections in three years.
Now Diaz, coming off a 6-7 season, has to find a way to be better in 2020 than they were in 2019 with a tremendous loss of experience, leadership and talent.
It will be yet another massive test for the now second year head coach and it will surely be a difficult one.
How do you replace multiple 3-4 year starters and expect to improve? I’m not certain it can be done, but it needs to if Diaz wants to keep his job.
One thing you could point to is more of a true competition at a number of important positions.
The linebackers will go from one of the least questions spots on this team to arguably the most over the course of the next nine months.
But there is playing time to be had and there are a few guys that are going to have to step in and be ready to play. Those open spots will be fully competed for between Zach McCloud, Sam Brooks, Avery Huff, Bradley Jennings Jr., Patrick Joyner, Waynmon Steed, Corey Flagg Jr., and Tirek Austin-Cave.
Of those listed, I would say McCloud, who will be a fifth year senior next season, is the only one who has proved to be serviceable in a college football game. Brooks has been groomed by Shaq Quarterman all year and could fill in that middle linebacker spot, but we don't know for certain. The freshman Flagg and Austin-Cave are coming into the room with expectations to play and that should push everybody.
At corner, Miami’s thinnest position, you lose your top guy in Bandy to the draft. Al Blades Jr. and D.J. Ivey found the field plenty in ‘19 and freshman Te’Cory Couch and Christian Williams mostly served a special teams role.
Regardless, Miami only has four true corners on its roster as it currently stands and signed just one in Marcus Clarke out of Winter Park, FL. The lack of depth at the position was a huge issue this past year and I foresee it being one in ‘20 also. They’re one or two injuries away from being irresponsibly incapable at the position.
This is certainly a spot where the transfer portal helps in addressing needs. Diaz needs to find any cover corner available and get him on campus before spring ball. It is essential.
But, and looking at the glass half full here, Couch and Williams should take a significant step forward both physically and mentally over the spring, summer and fall and should become regulars, if not starters, as long as they take advantage of the opportunity to compete with Blades Jr. and Ivey.
On the defensive line you lose a team captain in Pat Bethel and Jonathan Garvin and Trevon Hill to the draft. This is the position I’m least worried about because of the emergence of Greg Rousseau and the depth at the tackle spots.
Defensive line has actually been an area on the team that has been developed and recruited well and I look forward to seeing what the additions of Chantz Williams and Quentin Williams do for the room.
Moving over to the offense, there are questions at every single spot imaginable.
The quarterbacks have been disappointing to say the least, but have showed flashes of what could be (i.e the Louisville game). Throwing Tyler Van Dyke into the room with a new offensive coordinator leaves endless possibilities, but it is up to Diaz and the future play-caller to decide what's going to happen there.
The competition, with Van Dyke believing he can come in here and play, should make everybody better. Still the question looms — Will there be departures in the quarterback room?
At running back, throwing All-Americans Don Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton into a situation where Miami losses two (Dallas to draft and Lorenzo Lingard to transfer) makes things very interesting. Here are two of the best running backs in South Florida with an opportunity to get significant playing time behind soon-to-be junior Cam’Ron Harris.
This is another example of members of the 2020 class coming in with hopes of changing the culture through their willingness to compete and recognition of available playing time.
And not only did the Hurricanes lose their leading rusher in Dallas, but also their leading pass catcher and leading receiver in yards and touchdown receptions in K.J. Osborn. Jeff Thomas is also NFL bound after an up-and-down junior season so Miami is down two key pieces moving forward. The emergence of Dee Wiggins has been positive, but it seemed like Osborn was the only reliable target during last Thursdays game against Louisiana Tech.
Dazalin Worsham and Michael Redding III, two Under Armor All-Americans, join the room in 2020 and are both explosive playmakers. Redding has been impressing so far this week in Orlando for the All-American game. If the two are able to adjust quickly to the college game then Miami could get some much needed help from some fresh faces.
Remember, again, that the new offensive coordinator will be seeing and judging everybody for the first time. There is a chance here for the young pass catchers.
On the offensive line, you lose nothing and bring back nothing but experienced young guards and tackles that won’t be able to say they haven’t done it before. There is simply no more excuses for this unit moving forward.
Acquiring help through the portal is still a must and there have already been rumbles of Diaz reaching out to some lineman on the market. This is a unit that could *potentially* help Miami fix their offensive woes moving forward, especially with the addition of All-American tackle Jalen Rivers out of Oakleaf.
If Manny Diaz is actually able to get the group of 2020 kids to walk how they talk, then he could put together a young, hungry group of guys out there that want to be Hurricanes and want to see this get fixed.
It’s not going to be easy and relying on a group of 18-year old kids at the University of Miami simply shouldn't happen. However, the attrition at some key positions opens up opportunities for legitimate competition and growth amongst those who have been a part of this program and those coming in for the first time.
Will Miami be better next year? I can't say so right now with the clear disparity in talent. You can hang your hat on the fact that Diaz will be another year wiser, the offense will hopefully look much more modern, and competition will breed better and hungrier football players on this team.