When the Miami Hurricanes and athletic director Blake James unveiled the hiring of Manny Diaz as the football team’s newest head coach on January 2, 2019, a beacon of hope rang from the roof of Hard Rock Stadium and the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility.
The announcement and press conference bought hope. Hope that Miami could reach the top of the college football world once again. That the Hurricanes could not only compete for the ACC, as they have struggled to do but also for the National Championship.
That idea, however, seems to be further from the truth. More virtual reality than reality.
In Manny Diaz’s first season as Miami’s head coach, the Hurricanes somehow took a step back on offense, scoring just over 25 points per game (90th in the NCAA) and averaging just 5.7 yards per play. The Hurricanes struggled even more on third down, arguably the most critical play on a drive, converting a nation’s worst 25.7 percent of the time, a significant decrease from a 39.39 percent conversion rate in 2018.
The results showed in the record as well, as the Hurricanes finished the season with just six wins, and suffered losses to Conference USA opponents FIU (6-7) and Louisiana Tech (10-3) in a 14-0 shutout loss in the Independence Bowl.
This season has proved ultimately one thing too many: Miami’s ceiling is not as high as it should be.
Despite the top facilities, location and fan support the Miami Hurricanes are closer to a Pittsburgh or Virginia Tech then they are to a Clemson or even Michigan.
What exactly is Miami’s ceiling, though?
In the previous decade, the Miami Hurricanes made eight bowl games, winning just one of them (a 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl win over West Virginia). The Hurricanes also finished with just one 10-win season in 2017, which was capped off with losses to Clemson and Wisconsin in the ACC Championship and Orange Bowl respectively.
Based on the previous 10-years, Miami has fallen more and more into the “sleeping giants” territory and further away from the glory days of the early 2000s, where the Hurricanes won five bowl games between 2000 and 2006, including a National Championship in 2001.
Those glory days, however, are not Miami’s ceiling right now. It has not been the team’s ceiling for a while. Simply put, those seasons are stars on an overall gloomy century for the Miami Hurricanes.
While the Hurricanes’ ceiling is hard to grasp, as it is for many teams in college football, the team’s floor is quite easy to pinpoint. Simply put, it might not be able to get much worse than the 2019 Miami Hurricanes.
The team’s 6-7 record in 2019 is tied for the team’s worst winning percentage with 2014, where the Hurricanes went 6-7 with a loss in the Independence Bowl.
Although the floor was relatively easy to pinpoint, it’s not as easy to pinpoint how high the Hurricanes can consistently go.
In short, the Hurricanes’ ceiling is likely a 10-win season with an ACC Championship game appearance.
While the Hurricanes could potentially win the ACC Championship and make the playoffs in the odd years, it is simply not feasible to expect the Hurricanes, in their current form, to reach such heights at a consistent pace.
Although the Hurricanes had a similar blue-chip ratio in 2019 to the likes of Florida, Notre Dame, and Washington, the Hurricanes are 30 percent off Ohio State (81%) in terms of the number of blue chips on their roster.
Despite a roster that is filled with talent, the Hurricanes do not have comparable coaching to the teams that make up the top part of the college football world. Not only do the Hurricanes not have a Dabo Swinney or Nick Saban but the Hurricanes likely don’t have their Dave Aranda, who commanded the LSU defense this past season.
Without comparable coaching, the team takes a step back in terms of player development. Miami likely won’t be seeing the massive growths of a player like Joe Burrow and ultimately, that’s important.