The buzz and excitement around the Manny Diaz era has been palpable ever since CMD announced he was flipping from Temple to Miami. In just a matter of months he’s rebuilt a roster using the oft-overlooked transfer portal, brought on an excellent offensive playcaller, and has injected the program with the youth and enthusiasm it has sorely needed. It seems as though #TheNewMiami is both new and old. Something we haven’t seen for nearly two decades and yet, it still hearkens back to the Miami swagger of old.
With all that excitement and hope for a future that looks brighter than it did several short months ago, it’s fair to ask just how high expectations should be set for this team. They will lose some serious defensive talent (two starting safeties, two of their best d-linemen, CB Michael Jackson) and still need to retool the offensive line and quarterback positions. The shift from Diaz’s coaching style to Blake Baker on defense shouldn’t be too different, especially with senior Linebackers Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney, and Zach McCloud returning, but replacing the aforementioned players could lead to some growing pains, at least early on in the season.
On offense, Offensive Coordinator Dan Enos certainly has his work cut out for him. He has a vast array of talents at the skill positions but will need to find the right quarterback. While spring practice is only days old, no one has yet to grab the reigns of the offense. It seems entirely possible that any of the three QBs, N’Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams and Tate Martell, could be Miami’s day one starter.
With so much change coming in such a short amount of time, should we expect Miami to win the Coastal this season? With as much talent as the Hurricanes have had over the last few years, that seems to be the bare minimum that is fair to expect of them, even if they’ve only ever done it once. The Coastal hasn’t been able to keep up Atlantic-powerhouse Clemson and even FSU at the height of Jimbo Fisher’s success. With such a weak conference to compete in, it doesn’t seem unlikely that even a slightly better offense than what Miami trotted out in 2018 would go a long way.
It isn’t fair to expect a first time head coach, even if CMD has been with the team the last three seasons, to step in and work magic in his first season leading a program. This is especially true when considering the uncertainty at QB, lack of talent at OL and loss of starters on defense. Still, this is Miami. The expectation is to win. And an August 24th date with the Gators will be a good barometer for determining just how far along Miami is in this rebuild. It’s unfair to put the expectation of a championship season on CMD in his first season. Miami should be competitive though and the losses at the hands of weaker teams, UVA, Duke for example, should be rectified at #TNM.
So what is a fair expectation for the 2019 season? It’s still early and when the depth chart becomes clearer, especially at signal caller, it will be easier to project the floor and ceiling for this team. And just because Miami is not ready to be a true competitor for the National Championship in 2019 doesn’t mean the fanbase should be satisfied with a 7-5 or 8-4 season. At the very least, CMD should be able to lead this team to a 9-3 record.
A win-loss ratio like 10-2 also seems like an achievable mark that is neither great nor horrible considering the Canes schedule. The Canes should be expected finish first or second in the Coastal this coming season. Miami winning the Coastal is a reasonable expectation but not necessarily a prerequisite for a good season like it was last year. This year? Miami needs to at least look competitive against Florida and continue their win streak against FSU. They need to take home the easy games and not struggle on the road like they did against UVA, BC and GT. Ending the season with a 10-2 record is a reasonable expectation for this roster and group of coaches.
Will 10-2 be enough to get Miami to the ACC Championship game? Perhaps. Will they be able to defeat a Clemson team that loses a ton of defensive talent but has perhaps the best offense in college football? Likely not. But if the Canes can manage to rebound from last season and CMD proves he can go from handling the defense to handling a team, expect the Hurricanes’ future to look very bright.