Yesterday, we tackled the first part of this roundtable about the Miami Hurricanes’ 2018 season. If you missed that piece, you can click the link in the tweet below:
What about the rest of our predictions? Well, my friends, this is why we’re here for part 2. Let’s get into it:
Question 8. Which defensive position is the weakest/most concerning for Miami in 2019?
Cam Underwood: The only answer is the secondary. Miami graduated 3/4’s of the nation’s best passing defense from 2018, and while there’s talent there, both the DL and LB positions are far more intact with returning talent. I think several players in the secondary will prove themselves to be quality starters through the course of the year, but heading into the season, there are more questions than answers for the Canes in the secondary.
Marsh Thomas: There really isn’t a weak spot on this defense, but I guess I’m going to have to say the new corner position in replacing Michael Jackson. Either Al Blades Jr. or DJ Ivey are gonna have to step, which they totally can.
Matt Washington: I will say cornerback not because it’s a glaring weakness, but because there’s a lack of experience behind Trajan Bandy at the position. The production of the entire defense could come down to how well the underclassmen at the position are able to acclimate to being full-time contributors. We’ll find out right away in week zero.
Gaby Urrutia: Most concerning to be would be the corners. Trajan Bandy is the alpha of the group and I believe he can cover anybody in the country. Below him is a ton of inexperience. Al Blades Jr. is a leader and I think he’s in line for a big year. D.J. Ivey is a guy the staff has been big on since the spring and I think he could be good too, but they have to prove it. Nigel Bethel is the fourth corner right now and is kind of a question mark. I love freshman Te’Cory Couch. I think he has the size and skill set to be a first team all-conference type of player once he puts on the necessary weight. He’s 165 right now, which is too small for major college football, but his pure cover skills are eye-popping. He even had an interception in the second team scrimmage. Although it’s one of the biggest concerns, it could win up being one of the strongest groups on the team.
Justin Dottavio: Defensive Tackle. Without Silvera the depth at DT is limited to the UCLA kid, Ford, Bethel and Miller. That’s a bunch of question marks at an important spot.
John Michaels: Defensive Tackle - The talent is there but must be proven on the field. Ford and Bethel must be more than just guys, and Silvera must get healthy. Manny’s defense is predicated on interior push, so one of these guys must step up.
KappaCane: Linebacker is the weakest/most concerning position group because of the severe lack of depth. The Cornerback position is a close second because although they have depth, they are young and unchallenged going into the season.
Todd Forrest: With the loss of Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine, I’m going with safety. The Canes have loads of potential at the position but they’re mostly unproven. More so than other position on defense.
Carl Bleich: The position that is most concerning on Miami’s defense in 2019 is the safety position. Miami lost seniors Sheldrick Redwine and Jaquan Johnson to the NFL Draft after the 2018 season. Replacing them will be extremely difficult but sophomore Gurvan Hall, junior Amari Carter, redshirt senior Robert Knowles, redshirt Bubba Bolden and junior Derrick Smith will be tasked with doing just that. Bolden arriving late to training camp from junior college means he has not yet cracked the 2-deep so Miami will likely be undermanned in the early part of the season at this important position.
Austin Pert: Defensive line. Talent is present without any doubt, but too many unknowns exist to get a good read on this group. Somebody has to replace Gerald Willis’ level of production, and I thought Nesta Silvera would be that guy. But down he goes in camp. As much as I like the Jordan Miller’s, Jon Ford’s, Greg Rousseau’s, etc, I need to know that the hype around these guys is legit and not just hope.
Dylan Goldman: I would probably say safety, but even then, I’m confident in the youngsters that are expected to start Week 0. The only reason I’m concerned is that replacing Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine is a very difficult task. However, Gurvan Hall has been a star this fall, and Amari Carter and Bubba Bolden are very good options as well.
Question 9. Who is your breakout player on defense in 2019 and why?
Underwood: Gurvan Hall. The sophomore Safety has all the talent in the world, and looks to be the clear best player at a key position for the Canes. Hall has size, speed, instincts, ball skills, hitting ability; the whole package. I expect BIG THINGS from #26 this season.
Thomas: Breakout player is Gurvan Hall at safety. From the highlights we’ve seen, it’s so obvious that this kid is going to be a star.
Washington: Entering this season, Scott Patchan had 30 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. With a fresh number (No. 71) and new season ahead of him, I expect Patchan to improve in every statistical category to enjoy a breakout in 2019.
Urrutia: I believe it’s Scott Patchan’s time. He was highly touted out of high school and it feels like everything is starting to click for him. He’s finally healthy, has consistently been with the first team defense despite a plethora of quality depth behind him, and has been making plays. I believe this is the year for him.
Dottavio: Al Blades Jr. I’m expecting a huge year from the Canes legacy cornerback.
Michaels: Gurvan Hall - Palm Beach Lakes HS stand up (yes I’m an alum) . Hall has all the makings of the next great Miami Safety. Kid can hit and has a nose for the ball. Look for him to be this years Mr Turnover Chain
Kappa: Jonathan Ford will likely be the guy on Defense that will have a breakout season. He is both massive and strong, and those are excellent attributes for an interior lineman. My defensive newcomer award will definitely go to Jahfari Harvey. He is going to be a stud for Miami for the next 3 seasons.
Forrest: My original selection of Nesta Silvera is injured so I’m choosing Gregory Rousseau, who has drawn comparisons to Calais Campbell and has a build similar to NFL Hall of Famer and former Hurricane Ted Hendricks. Originally, my heart said Jordan Miller but my mind convinced me to take Rousseau. I think both will be a pleasant surprise in 2019, but as a pass-rushing end, Rousseau is likely to put up better statistics than a one-tech defensive tackle.
Bleich: Miami’s breakout player on defense in 2019 will be sophomore safety Gurvan Hall. Hall will see major playing time in replacing graduated seniors Sheldrick Redwine and Jaquan Johnson this season. He is known as a big hitter and has already registered three interceptions in Miami’s two scrimmages this fall.
Pert: Al Blades Jr. The guy bleeds Orange and Green and understands his role on a Canes team. He sees the blueprint to a return to dominance. A true team person. A people person. I see it on campus all the time. I have no doubt he will be a factor in 2019.
Goldman: Gurvan Hall. Hall is most likely going to be starting Week 0 against Florida, and I think he’ll shine now that he’ll have significant playing time. Hall has been stellar in fall camp, especially in scrimmages, and I think he’ll be a key cog of Miami’s defense this year.
Question 10. Kickers are people too. How do you feel about the Cane’s kicking situation?
Underwood: Better than last year. Bubba Baxa should (hopefully) develop and his usage — he was rarely called upon from long FGs in the past — should increase because of it. The bigger thing to me is the arrival of Louis Hedley, the 26 year old Australian punter. Miami’s punting situation was quite poor in the last couple years, and Hedley should be a vast improvement, which will aid Miami’s defense and the team overall when playing field position.
Thomas: Kicking? Nervous. Bubba Baxa hasn’t proven to me he can hit kicks in pressure situations. Punting? Very confident in Louis Hedley.
Washington: Looks good, so I feel good. Baxa was solid as a freshman and should continue that trend in his second year. Louis Hedley has been a star long before he even arrived on campus. It’s nice to see that he has the leg to back it up. Miami has to improve on their 38.2 yards per punt average (115th in FBS) from last year. I’m confident that they’ll accomplish that.
Urrutia: Bubba Baxa has an absolute boot. I saw him split the uprights from 55-yards this fall and have no doubt about his ability. Now, he has to be able to prove it on Saturdays again. Hopefully we see his clutch gene on full display this spring.
Dottavio: Baxa was better than I remembered in the PAT/FG department, but he struggled on KO’s and of course punting was a huge issue. I’m excited for the speed there with Thomas and Lingard returning kicks.
Michaels: Special Teams can’t be worse than last year, so I’m confident. Baxa was pretty good as a true freshman and Hedley has the internet going nuts.
Kappa: The Canes kicking situation should be serviceable. Bubba Baxa will be our guy on FG and XP, while Louis Hendley handles the Punting duties.
Forrest: A lot better than last year, that’s for sure! Although, I expected Zach Feagles to bounce back in 2018 and I was wrong. Bubba Baxa had a solid freshman season and should get better in year two. I, like many, was unsure of Baxa after he put up shaky numbers in high school, but he seemed to work out the yips as the season progressed and should contend for an All ACC Third Team or Honorable Mention nod this fall. The punting situation appears to be in better shape with Louis Hedley, but we won’t know for sure until the Gators are turning up the heat on him. Lastly, Jack Spicer is a reliable holder and that’s exactly what you want out of that position. Nothing less, nothing more.
Bleich: Miami will be much better off in the kicking game this season than last. Sophomore Bubba Baxa is a year older and has a year of experience under his belt. Newcomer Louis Hedley will handle the punting and will be likely be a huge upgrade over the 2018 punting situation. Field position will be better for Miami in 2019.
Pert: Kicking wasn’t the issue in 2018 even as the special teams as a whole burned the whole house down. I like what I’ve seen from Bubba Baxa, other than a few freshman mistakes a season ago. The return game and punting (!!!) is what has to get better this season.
Goldman: I feel alright. Bubba Baxa was a little shaky in spring ball, but he did improve as time went on last season. He’s still only a sophomore, and really hasn’t had to make a big-time kick in crunch time. I’m a bit worried in that department. In terms of punting, it can’t get worse, and Louis Hedley has looked very solid during fall camp.
Question 11. Who is the player Miami can least afford to lose?
Underwood: LB Shaquille Quarterman. He’s the heart and soul of the defense, the most accomplished player on an elite unit, and handles all the defensive calls and alignments. I know Miami will lose Quarterman after this season, but losing him for any extended period of time DURING this season would be catastrophic.
Thomas: Either Shaq Quarterman or Michael Pinckney. Both stud senior LB’s who do so much on the field as far as leadership and making plays.
Washington: This is a toss up to me between Shaq Quarterman and Trajan Bandy. I’ll go with Bandy here. An injury to either guy would be a catastrophe. In the case of Quarterman, you could have Zach McCloud, Michael Pinckney or Patrick Joyner — when healthy — step in. Bandy is set to play both outside and slot corner this year. While the Hurricanes have the talent at corner, are we confident that one of UM’s young corners can replicate his value if he’s absent for a considerable amount of time?
Urrutia: Shaq Quarterman is the heart and soul of the defense. He’s in line for his most impactful season and a loss of his leadership and experience on the field would be devastating for the Hurricanes defense.
Dottavio: Hedley, no, just kidding- Thomas would be a major loss.
Michaels: Shaquille Quarterman - while the LBs as a group are top notch, the depth at that position is lacking. Shaq is the QB of the defense and the most indispensable.
Kappa: I would unequivocally say Louis Hendley. We need to win 2 of the 3 phases of the game to win games consistently, and he legitimately has no backup that can step in for him and be serviceable.
Forrest: Trajan Bandy. Miami couldn’t absorb his ejection in the LSU game last season and he was only the second best cornerback at the time. Without Bandy, the pass defense goes from a potential strength to simply average.
Bleich: The player Miami can least afford to lose is junior Trajan Bandy. Bandy will be Miami’s best cornerback this season and Miami is not deep at the cornerback position behind Bandy and sophomores DJ Ivey and Al Blades Jr. Keeping Bandy healthy and producing is essential for Miami this year.
Pert: Jon Garvin, as the defensive line needs to be just as good as last year for 2019 to pan out the way it should. Garvin will be a leader on the DE this season, a position group that I can’t stress enough will be relying on unknowns. Garvin is a known. Losing him would be a blow, especially after Nesta’s injury.
Goldman: Shaq Quarterman. Miami’s starting linebackers are as good as any in the country, but if someone like Quarterman goes down, Miami doesn’t really have the depth to replace him adequately. The LB room took a ton of hits with injuries, so hopefully Quarterman can last the whole season.
Question 12. Which game(s) are you most looking forward to?
Underwood: Season opener vs Florida. November 2nd at Florida State. I mean......duh.
Thomas: 8/24, 10/11 against UVA, and 11/2 against FSU.
Washington: Florida since it’s the season opener. The conference opener against North Carolina has some interesting storylines. Given the changes to both FSU and UM, that is always a matchup to gear up for. Finally, Virginia Tech. It will be the last time the Hurricanes play a Bud Foster defense, so that should be an intriguing matchup. I’m pretty sure that all eyes will be Miami’s No. 94 for that contest as well.
Urrutia: The Florida game is the highlight of the season. The hype surrounding the game, the fan interactions between the two rival programs has been strong on the timeline. There is so much to look forward to with this matchup. The Hurricanes will be showcasing a new offense and we will find out how successful it’s going to truly be. Were marching out another elite defense that is bound to create havoc against an inexperienced UF offensive line. A win for Miami could sky-rocket them to a successful season and a loss would be the ultimate test of resiliency for first time head coach Manny Diaz.
I’m also looking forward to the Friday night revenge game against Virginia. There is no way they should have beat Miami last year, the Hurricanes did everything they could to lose that game, and now suddenly people have the ‘Hoos as Coastal favorites. Time to shut that hype train down.
Dottavio: Florida. It’s the kickoff for the whole damn season, 150 years, ESPN, let’s go!
Michaels: Florida and Florida St - The state championship used to mean something before UF chickened their way out of an annual series. The opener could set the tone for a special year, and winning a 3rd straight over the Noles is always huge.
Kappa: I am most looking forward to the opener VS UF and then the FSU game. Both games will tell us a lot about the mindset of this years’ team.
Forrest: The usual: Florida and Florida State. As for non-rival teams, I’m really looking forward to getting revenge on Virginia and Duke, but mostly Virginia. They’re a bit overrated in my opinion. I’m also hoping that Diaz gets some personal revenge on Mack Brown at UNC but don’t like the fact that UNC follows Florida which sets up as a major trap game for the Canes, even if they have two weeks to prep.
Bleich: I am most looking forward to the Florida and Florida State games, obviously. Past that, Virginia on a Friday night at Hard Rock Stadium has payback for that awful loss in Charlottesville written all over it.
Pert: Has to be UF. We play FSU every year. If we lose, as bad as it is, we get another shot a year later. Florida is different. You lose, you are stuck hearing about it for a very long time.
Goldman: The obvious answers are UF and FSU, but I’m going to go with Virginia. First, we lost to them in an embarrassing fashion last year, and it’d be sweet to get revenge at home. Second, they were named as the ACC Coastal favorites by the media, and that game could decide if Miami goes to Charlotte or not.
Question 13. What would a successful season for Miami look like in your mind?
Underwood: Minimum 9 regular season wins, an ACC Costal Division Championship, a competitive showing in the ACC Championship Game, and a bowl game win, likely the Orange Bowl in this scenario. In short, it’s time for Miami to play to the level of their talent, not down to (or below) the level of their opponents.
Thomas: Winning the coastal, and at least 9 wins.
Washington: A successful season for Miami would be to have a winning record against the Florida schools (UF, FSU, FIU). Even with lingering questions entering the season opener, this team has the talent, focus and direction to make a run at an ACC Coastal crown. A successful season to me would be a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina in December for the ACC Championship and a bowl game that doesn’t involve us playing Wisconsin for the third year in a row.
Urrutia: A successful season would be beating Florida State and Florida and winning the conference, keeping the Clemson game close at least, and playing in a NY6 bowl. That’s best case scenario for Miami in my opinion. I believe winning one of two between FSU and Florida would be forgivable, but winning the Coastal is a must.
Dottavio: 10 wins, the schedule is weak. If Manny can find a QB it’s a 10 win season (including the bowl).
Michaels: Win the Coastal and be competitive vs Clemson in the ACC title game. Anything less in my opinion is a failure.
Kappa: With 10 wins and an ACC Coastal championship under his belt, Manny can claim success this season.
Forrest: Win the games you’re supposed to (e.g. Duke, UVA, GT) and be competitive in the games where you’re an underdog (Florida, Clemson in the ACC Championship). I can stomach a loss to good teams like Clemson or Wisconsin, but when the team quits or doesn’t show up to begin with, that’s unacceptable. Additionally, I hope Miami will find its quarterback of the future this season. I don’t know if I can stomach a fourth-straight QB battle entering 2020.
Bleich: A successful season for Miami is getting at least nine wins and winning the ACC Coastal. Based on the state of the other schools in the Coastal, missing the ACC Championship game is not acceptable.
Pert: Wins over UF and FSU, plus an ACC Coastal Championship.
Goldman: A successful season for me revolves around making it back to Charlotte and the ACC Championship Game. Miami has the talent and a manageable schedule, and that would be a great first season for Manny Diaz. If UM can get 9-10 wins and a spot in a major bowl game, that’d be even better.
Question 14. What would a bad season for Miami look like in your mind?
Underwood: 4+ regular season losses, not winning the ACC Coastal Division, losing to both UF and FSU, not improving on offense, rotating QBs randomly, etc. Basically, looking like last year’s Miami team...which has looked like most of the average-at-best teams the Canes have fielded in the last 15 years.
Thomas: Losing to FSU, not winning the coastal, losing more than 4 games.
Washington: A bad season would be similar to the 2018 season. No one establishing themselves as the team’s unquestioned QB to close the season. Losing to teams that Miami has no business dropping a contest to. These are the calling cards of a bad season for the Hurricanes.
Urrutia: A bad season would be losing to both rivals and Virginia again and falling short in the conference race, despite everyone beating each other up like they did last year. Losing to teams we should lose to, which has become so typical of Miami at times, would derail the season and that simply should not happen.
Dottavio: Anything less than 10 wins would be less than good, 8 wins or less would be BAD.
Michaels: Anything less than an ACC title game appearance. Miami has way too much talent to not be in that game in December.
Kappa: Losing to UF and FSU would be an underwhelming season to me. I can never accept losing to them.
Forrest: Continually playing down to the level of the competition. There is no reason Miami should lose to Georgia Tech, Virginia or Louisville at home. They shouldn’t lose at UNC or Duke on the road. Miami should be favored at home over Virginia Tech but it’s a rivalry game so anything is possible. The FSU game is always 50/50, Florida could also go either way and a cold weather game at Pitt will be tricky. Record wise, Miami shouldn’t finish worse than 8-4, and if they do, it’s a disaster. An 8-4 record is also a bad season since that likely includes losses to UF, FSU, Virginia Tech and whatever random ACC team they play down for. Going 8-4 overall also means that Miami likely drops at least three conference games, which probably doesn’t get them to Charlotte.
Bleich: If Miami loses four games, this season is a failure. Outside of UF, Miami is more talented than every team on the schedule. While slipping up once is reasonable, going 8-4 is not.
Pert: Losses to UF OR FSU plus anything worse than 1st in the Coastal.
Goldman: To me, having less then 8 wins, and failing to make it to the ACCG would be a bad season. Failing to beat both UF and FSU could also derail the season, but if they fail to improve upon last years W/L record, and don’t make it to Charlotte, that would constitute a bad season in my book.
2 installments of our roundtable are down. You know what that means for tomorrow: final predictions for the year.
I’m sure you have thoughts about these questions, and our crew’s answers, so please feel free to hop in the comments and let your voice be heard.