Following a lack luster 6-7 end to the 2019 campaign, the Hurricanes were staring at a laundry list of things to address in the offseason. From coaching, to off the field positions and headlines, to replacing and upgrading on field personnel, Manny Diaz had his work cut out for him. Fortunately, the personnel moves weren’t of the quantity variety (Manny has addressed team depth very well on defense).
It was all about QUALITY.
The Hurricanes were probably 2 or 3 needs away last year from a much different campaign. Those needs, however, were massive. Lucky for us, the lacking pieces subsequently led to our shiny new offensive staff led by Rhett Lashlee. So, there’s that.
As for the pieces added and how they rank, lets dive in.
5. Jose Borregales
Bubba Baxa, the much-maligned former kicker for the Hurricanes is now a Houston Cougar. After coming in as the number one ranked kicker in the 2018 class Baxa, was depended upon to be just that, dependable. His struggles, however, made every moment like this make even the most confident Canes fan squeamish.
After two games were lost directly from the kicking game (North Carolina Tar Heels, 2 missed field goals, Georgia Tech 3) and others that were strongly affected like against the University of Florida, the experiment was over. In January Baxa transferred to the Houston Cougars.
Enter Jose Borregales. Watching only the FIU Panthers and Miami game, it feels like Jose made more kicks in that game than Baxa made all season. The gamer at kicker immediately upgrades a position of need, giving the special teams room two stabilizing pieces in Louis Hedley and Borregales. Following a 100-point season, and claiming multiple FIU records, Jose now joins the family favorite Hurricanes to make his mark at Miami.
4. Jaylon Knighton/Don Chaney Jr.
Though not the first or last Canes of the 2020 cycle, it feels like they are bookends to the class. Chaney committed early in the 2020 cycle while Knighton was a surprising late addition to the Canes group in late November of last year.
For numbers alone, gaining the duo is huge, as Miami lost Lorenzo Lingard to the transfer portal and Robert Burns is again injured for the Canes. Adding the two brings depth and comfort to the RB room. More than just numbers however, the two form a dangerous tandem that should once again keep Miami in the conversation of Running Back U. Both possess breakaway speed, agility, power and can operate in the pass game. While Knighton seems to be the more electric of the two, Chaney seems to be the steady game changer. With Cam Harris leading, this group should excel in Coach Rhett Lashlee’s running back friendly offense.
3. Jarrid Williams
Arguably the most discussed group on the Canes last year, the offensive line was a yearlong work in progress, and that title still stands. In 2019, the group gave up 51 sacks (127th in the Nation) and saw the teams rushing averages fall from 191 yards per game (5.2 ypc) to 118 ypg (3.8 ypc). The addition of Jarrid Williams is a huge, and his experience is well documented. In 2018, Williams graded out at 80.8 pass blocking 76.9 in run blocking grade, both very good marks. Unlike Zion Nelson, he shouldn’t need much assistance and allows the line to focus on their individual jobs. His inclusion on the right side allows Campbell to assume his spot at left tackle and slide the best of the bunch to the interior, improving depth along the way. With only 2 sacks given up since the start of 2018, he’s a big addition to the group, literally and figuratively.
2. Quincy Roche
Roche coming over from Temple was big when it first happens in January. It is even more important now with Greg Rousseau opting out of the 2020 season. The redshirt senior has been a great leader for the group and lessens the blow of losing Rousseau, as Roche is first rounder in his own right. The group is still at an excellent strength, so Roche should continue to expect fewer double teams and more freedom to improve his draft stock, while leading the defensive line to another havoc raising campaign.
1. D’eriq King
As any conversation involving football, it all begins and ends with the quarterback. And, unless you have been living under a rock, folks, we have a great one. The Heisman candidate is blending in perfectly with Rhett Lashlee’s offense and in the locker room. You would be hard pressed to find a bad review on or off the field about King, as he has shown experience, poise and leadership throughout the offseason. the 50 Td season of 2018 has fans salivating. While a repeat or eclipsing those numbers would be tremendous, the stabilizing of the quarterback position is the most important factor with King coming aboard.
As if we needed any more reason to anticipate the 2020 college football, those 5 should be big reasons to get even more ready for game one against UAB.