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Monday Musings: looking back on the Cheez It Bowl; wrapping up 2020

Miami v Duke Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Well, it looks like I should’ve gone with my brain and gut instinct - which screamed Oklahoma State winning - instead of my heart last week. In what can only be described as par for the course, Miami found itself down 21-0 before the first quarter ended. It was a hole that Miami seemed to climb out of, tying the game at 21 before the clown car of officials overturned the tying 2-point conversion to leave the score at 21-19. Miami remained one score behind all game. One impact play from winning. They got the ball back, and the impressively steady-handed N’Kosi Perry and creative play caller Rhett Lashlee couldn’t orchestrate a last ditch come back to nab a much needed bowl win. But they weren’t the culprits. HARDLY. To the contrary, they were the bright spots of the game, with Perry coming on in relief of D’Eriq King, who unfortunately suffered a torn ACL in the first half.

1) But, again, that’s not the issue I have. I have a greater issue with yet another seemingly unprepared slow start to a game after time off. I can’t find the tweet now, but someone made reference to Manny’s teams starting slower the more time off they get. Sure, Miami’s best opponents this year handed Miami their backsides in the first halves, but the common denominator in all three of those games was also time off beforehand. One might think that would be beneficial to a team, but it’s been the polar opposite. I just can’t wrap my brain around how that’s possible. Manny’s reputation in this area carried over from similar occurrences in 2019, and it’s even more of a pressing issue after a season with three massive failures following time off.

2) And while the slow starts have been a team problem, the culprit in the three losses is a defense that’s totally unprepared from the opening kick. Marsh has a good piece up on the issues with the defensive coaching staff and performances. Check it out; I won’t rehash it. I just know that the cornerbacks have not been good enough, haven’t developed like they should; the position has needed to improve, and has not. And I just can’t get Michael Carter and Javonte Williams going for 544 combined yards on the ground. I.......I don’t even have the words to describe the disappointment for that level of play.

Look, I’m not a scout. I’m not a coach. I’m not a former player. I’m just a human being with eyeballs and a strong love for my alma mater. I want what’s best for them. I don’t believe they’re going to get it with the coaching staff as it currently stands. I hope that’s remedied, in one way or another this offseason. When all is said and done, this might end up being Manny’s most important decision of his time at Miami.

3) The wide receiver room is also in serious need of some shaking up. I don’t know if it’s coaching, technique, or focus, but something has to change (again). The drops on Tuesday were absolutely disastrous and likely cost Miami finishing their frantic comeback. We heard about accountability after the Clemson debacle, about spending extra time with the jugs machine and taking responsibility. To their credit, they responded and resembled the talent and acclaim they carried into UM years ago, with Harley emerging as what appeared to be a possible true #1, and Pope making plays we hadn’t seen from him. Unfortunately, that improvement and confidence faded away again late in the year. Even if Harley comes back, is anyone ready to lead this group? Are Brashard Smith, Romello Brinson, or Jacolby George ready to come in and make an immediate claim to a spot in the rotation? It might take that, because after years of what we’ve seen, I think it’s become hard to trust the consistency of this group from week to week.

4) We’ll see some shifting in the roster over the coming weeks, as players declare for the draft, announce their intentions on staying, enter the portal, transfer in, etc etc. King’s decision to return was certainly an electric one. It gave credence to the belief that Miami, despite the disappointing end to the season, is still working to build something worth staying for, and worth fighting for. Cam Harris is staying. Mike Harley, despite the aforementioned general WR group criticism, would be a big get if he stayed. He took an overall step forward this year, and would be an important focal point of the offense in 2021. Brevin Jordan and Bubba Bolden likewise have difficult decisions. Both have NFL roster potential, but are unlikely to be day one draft picks. Jordan, in my opinion, could use a full year to boost his draft stock, after struggling with injuries in different parts of his career so far. We again saw flashes of how much of a force he can be in the passing game this year against Louisville, FSU, and Duke, but if he were to return and put forth a full, productive season he could vault himself to the top of draft boards at the tight end position.

5) In any event, no matter what their decisions may be, I want to thank all departing seniors and underclassmen for their commitment to Miami. It was a fun season with ups and downs. I will remember it as kind of the one that got away, with the Orange Bowl in our grasp at the end of the season. Hopefully, the returning starters coupled with some very talented freshmen and perhaps some new blood in the coaching ranks will continue Miami’s ascent back to where it belongs in the college football world.

Go Canes!