Fall camp begins on Friday for the Miami Hurricanes, and with it, the much anticipated first season under new head coach Manny Diaz enters its final stage of preparation. Once Miami takes the practice field Friday evening, they’ll be 29 days away from their season opening against the Florida Gators on August 24th.
Here are the five biggest storylines for the Canes as they enter fall camp.
- Who’s going to be the quarterback?
This is by far the biggest story for Miami as they break for fall camp, and also the greatest question mark that this team faces. UM currently has three guys; Tate Martell, N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams, all very talented guys fighting for the starting job. Perry has the most experience, but showed inconsistency in 2018. While he had moments of great play, he must improve on his 50% accuracy he finished with last season, as well as his maturity.
Martell and Williams have zero career starts under their belts, but some believe Martell has the upper hand after finishing out spring practice strong. The transfer from Ohio State, Martell possesses great scrambling ability, but lacks the arm strength shown by most big-time quarterbacks.
Tate Martell to KJ Osborn 80 yard TD @KJ_Osborn @TheTateMartell pic.twitter.com/vENmGrbibm— Overtime (@overtime) April 20, 2019
Williams is considered to be the best pure quarterback of the three, but was unable to perform in scrimmages in the spring.
Miami Hurricanes 2019 Player Profile: Jarren Williams - The redshirt freshman has the raw tools of a starting quarterback, but can he emerge from a crowded QB room? #TheU #GoCanes https://t.co/f50Fabj4Zz— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) June 23, 2019
Miami has the playmakers at nearly every position, but has been without a star quarterback to take this program to the next level for more than 15 years.
2. Figuring out the offensive line situation.
While the quarterback dilemma is Miami’s number-one concern, the offensive line situation is a very close second. The Hurricanes o-line went through several rotations for its starting five in the spring, and has many people worried. In 2018, this unit was extremely disappointing for Miami, and has been discussed at large throughout this off-season.
New line coach Butch Barry has NFL experience and is a great teacher, but UM will be rolling out almost an entirely new OL when the Canes and Gators kick off on August 24th. Navaughn Donaldson is returning, and will be starting at either guard or center. Donaldson, a junior, is going to be counted on as the anchor for Miami’s line with two years of starting already under his belt.
Miami (Fla.) ORT Navaughn Donaldson (#55) vs. Savannah State (09/08/18). #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/RTP4HXlzcH— PFDZ (@PFDZ44) July 18, 2019
Miami also has Corey Gaynor and D.J. Scaife who people are very excited about, and are expecting a lot out of in 2019. Gaynor suffered an injury early in spring practice, but is ready to go for fall camp and the season.
DJ Scaife !— DeeJay Dallas (@DallasDeejay) April 26, 2019
Miami (Fla.) ORG Corey Gaynor (#65) vs. Savannah State (09/08/18), #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/y9JAiLHxZ2— PFDZ (@PFDZ44) July 22, 2019
Miami's first-team offensive line, from left to right: Zion Nelson, DJ Scaife, Navaughn Donaldson, Cleveland Reed, Kai-Leon Herbert.— David Wilson (@DBWilson2) April 20, 2019
The main issue is at the tackle position. We’ve heard good things about Zalon’tae Hillery, but can freshman Zion Nelson handle the pressure if starting at left tackle once the season starts? Also, can John Campbell or Kai-Leon Herbert make a name for themselves?
So this Zion Nelson thing is potentially gonna happen? That's crazy. But if he's the guy to play LT, then he's the guy. The work on the field tells the story. If he's earned it (and he's up to like 270+ now with the S&C program), then he's earned it.— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) April 22, 2019
3. Manny Diaz first year as a head coach
After three years of being Miami’s defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz is finally ready to be the man in charge at his hometown university. His first off-season has been nothing short of spectacular; building an incredible coaching staff, bringing in players from the transfer portal, and surrounding the program with an energy and excitement not seen for some time. Now, can he translate that excitement into wins? The Hurricanes are still coming off of an embarrassing 7-6 season in 2018, and have only one 10-win year since 2003. He’s succeeded as a coordinator, but fans are former players are now expecting him to be the guy that can take this once great program, and bring it back into the national spotlight.
Manny Diaz | #ItsAllAboutTheU pic.twitter.com/7z5kAMBUUb— GO ‘CANES! (@83_87_89_91_01) July 22, 2019
4. How’s the Dan Enos offense going to look?
Without question, the biggest move that coach Diaz has made since being hired as HC, was bringing on Dan Enos as the new offensive coordinator for Miami. Enos has proven himself in past roles, most notably last year when he was the QB coach for Nick Saban and Alabama, transforming Jalen Hurts into a pocket-passer and turning Tua Tagovailoa into a Heisman candidate. Can he work that same magic with the Hurricanes quarterbacks?
The Impact Dan Enos Had On Alabama’s Quarterbacks, And What That Could Mean For Miami’s QB’s https://t.co/56OSgWX1j7 pic.twitter.com/u5kbx5cusy— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) July 16, 2019
In 2018, UM’s offense was downright painful to watch at times, and desperately needed a new look, which Enos is looking to bring to Coral Gables. Miami has explosiveness on offense, such as receiver Jeff Thomas, tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory, plus a stacked running back room headlined by DeeJay Dallas. The weapons are there, the Hurricanes just need someone to put those playmakers in the right system.
5. Can Miami keep the same dominance on defense?
The one positive you can say about the Canes last season was their defense, and it ranked as one of the tops in the nation. While they did lose some starters from 2018, Miami still returns their senior linebacker studs Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, defensive end Jonathan Garvin and cornerback Trajan Bandy.
#Canes CB Trajan Bandy @BandyTrajan among 46 players named to Thorpe Award watch list. Among #UM opponents on the list: Virginia's Bryce Hall and Florida's CJ Henderson pic.twitter.com/YyJv1TNcli— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) July 22, 2019
#LakeWorth HS (FL) alum & #Miami #Hurricanes DE Jonathan Garvin (@neogarvin) named to the #BednarikAward Watch List pic.twitter.com/iGBc1YipQv— Sleeper Athletes (@SleeperAth1etes) July 15, 2019
#Canes receiver KJ Osborn named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list. Jon Garvin and Shaq Quarterman named to the Bednarik watch list.— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) July 18, 2019
I'm watching out for more watch list announcements.
UM has also added DE Trevon Hill from Virginia Tech, and they’re hoping that defensive tackles Jonathan Ford and Nesta Jade Silvera have breakout seasons.
Manny Diaz and Shaq Quarterman we’re both extremely high on Jon Ford today on @560WQAM with Joe Rose and our guy @ZachKrantz— Gaboowins (@GabyUrrutia22) July 18, 2019
The biggest question mark will be in the secondary, as Miami lost three starters after 2018, and are trying out new starters at both safety positions and the other cornerback. If the secondary is able to hold up, then expect the Hurricanes defense to be a dominant force once again.