College Football’s 150th season is right around the corner, with the Miami Hurricanes facing off against the rival Florida Gators in the very first game to be played this year by any teams.
With the season mere days away — Miami vs Florida is THIS SATURDAY, you guys!!!! — let’s set the stage by answering 5 questions about the Canes heading into the 2019 campaign.
Question 1: Who is the most important player on offense this season?
I know most people are expecting me to say redshirt freshman QB Jarren Williams. Having just recently been named Miami’s starter over redshirt sophomores N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell, Williams will be at the controls of a Miami offense with a wealth of skill position talent that’s looking to improve from a putrid showing in 2018.
But that’s not my answer.
The most important player on Miami’s offense in 2019 is Offensive Tackle Zion Nelson. A true freshman from Sumter, SC, Nelson has had a rapid ascension to Miami’s LT spot. An athletic and lithely built 240lbs when he enrolled at Miami in January, Nelson is up to 290lbs, and has taken nearly every rep at LT with the 1st team OL since the spring. His ability to perform to a high level will be integral to Miami’s offensive success — or lack thereof — in 2019.
Question 2: Who is the most important player on defense this season?
Junior Defensive Tackle Jonathan Ford. While there are elite talents at most other positions on Miami’s Defense, the Canes need a standout DT to step into the void left by the graduation of All-ACC performer Gerald Willis III, and the 6’5” 305lb Ford is the prime candidate.
Ford worked as a backup along Miami’s DL for the past 2 years, but has reportedly taken a major step forward now that he’s one of the elder statesmen of the group. He possesses a combination of size and strength that no other player at the DT position has, and heading into his 3rd year on campus, Ford needs to take a big step forward for his future prospects, and to keep the Canes DL among the best and most disruptive groups in the country.
Question 3: What should be the biggest change between last year and this year?
Miami’s offense moving into this century. Look, Mark Richt was once a great offensive mind, but it was clear that the game had passed him by. New Head Coach Manny Diaz brings a new mentality to the Canes, and Offensive Coordinator Dan Enos is bringing a new and (hopefully) upgraded offense to The U, as well.
Miami’ s offense ranked in the 100’s in a number of statistics and metrics last year. If Enos can get Miami to improve that standing up into the 50s or 60s, the Canes should be able to take advantage of a weak schedule, a top 10 defense, and a roster that’s as talented as, if not more talented than, every opponent on the schedule to push for 10+ wins and an appearance in the ACC Championship Game.
Question 4: What is the most important game on this schedule, and why?
In a season where Miami plays 2 of their biggest rivals — the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles — the game I’m picking as the most important of the year is a Friday Night game against.....the Virginia Cavaliers.
The UF and FSU games will get the attention of most casual fans, but UF is a non-conference game and FSU is in the Atlantic Division of the ACC conference. Virginia, however, is thought to be Miami’s prime competition for the ACC Coastal Division championship, and the Cavaliers have been a thorn in Miami’s side for the better part of a decade. While the national conversation will be heavier around the UF and FSU games, the October 11th matchup against Virginia is the one with the most gravitas for Miami this season.
Question 5: What is your prediction for W/L record and postseason destination?
Miami has a new coach, new quarterback, a stellar defense, and championship-caliber talent (51% Blue Chips on the roster per SB Nation Recruiting Director Bud Elliott). While the Canes may be a year or two away from contending on a national level, Manny Diaz’s group should be able to win the ACC Coastal and return to the ACC Championship game.
Record prediction: 10-2.
Post-season destination: ACC Championship game and then Capitol One Orange Bowl.
Those are my thoughts on 5 Key Questions facing the Canes in 2019. Share your takes (agreement with my thoughts, only) in the comments below.