With spring training nearly two weeks away for Manny Diaz and Canes Football (hallelujah) it’s time to start dreaming about what could be in store for the season ahead, and begin the age old tradition of hyping the Hurricanes until we all are chanting 12-0 and “We Want Bama” by September.
A team rife with talent, and for a change, plenty of experience, the Canes boast quite a few rare opportunities to break substantial records at the U while winning games in style.
What better way to commemorate the hype yet to be built by publishing Ten Hot Takes for the 2021 season. Take a look below and let us know if you agree, think we we’re crazy, or have a few of your own in the comments below.
Will Mallory Will Have the Best Statistical Season of Any Tight End In Miami Hurricanes History
The easiest and likeliest assumption of these Hot Takes begins with Will Mallory. Since the Al Golden era, there has been a beautiful glut of talent at the TE position. It was to the point that nearly every season you had two TEs with the ability to catch 40 balls and get at least 400 yards receiving. All this despite the vanilla play calling on offense we had grown accustomed to.
The last season that featured an NFL worthy talent getting the bulk of the plays at TE was in 2017. We saw Christopher Herndon IV cement a 4th round draft pick with an impressive season despite a team that was fairly average at QB and in play calling.
Will Mallory enters the 2021 season as the clear number one. Larry Hodges, Dominic Mammarelli and newcomer Elijah Arroyo will fight for snaps behind him.
Despite many big names to play the position for Miami, the pro styles offenses through out this century have capped their ceilings. Jeremy Shockey was limited to a 519 yard high, David Njoku narrowly missed 700 with 698, and Kellen Winslow holds the all time record with 726 waaay back in 2002.
As a true senior, in year two with the same dynamic quarterback in D’eriq King and play caller in Rhett Lashlee, Will Mallory has an EXCELLENT opportunity to break that record. That type of production, coupled with his physical traits, probably carries a day two selection in the NFL draft.
D’Eriq King Will Rewrite the Record Books For Quarterbacks at Miami
An excellent year on the field for D’Eriq King sadly came to an abrupt and violent end with a torn ACL in the Hurricanes Bowl Game versus Oklahoma State.
Thankfully, King is slated to be ready for fall camp, and recent reports have King being well on schedule to that end. It feels safer and safer to assume he will return to the same electric prowess, with a year under his belt, the same roster and same coaches.
With an offense that will most likely start seven starters and a left tackle getting first round buzz for the 2022 NFL draft, King is firmly in a position to explode with a strong final act at Miami.
What records does King have the best shots at? Lets take a look:
Single Season Passing Yards: 1984 - Bernie Kosar - 3642
Bernie Kosar’s record, which has stood since the Hurricanes first National Championship in 1984, is in clear danger in King’s second campaign. It may seem daunting to imagine King amassing another 1000 yards through the air. Look no further than the schedule. King averaged 257 yards through the first 10 games last, and was on that pace in the final game before getting injured. Run the numbers on a 13 game season, and at a 3341 projection, King would need only to find 23 yard more per game to catch Bernie. The race is on.
Single Season Passing Touchdown Record: 1988 - Steve Walsh - 29
In 5 games versus UAB, Virginia, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State, King passed for 1, 1, 0, 1 and 1 touchdown. The other 6? He averaged 3.16 TDs a game. A second season with the crew and 3 extra full games should raise King from 23 to Walsh’s 29 without much effort.
Single Season Total Touchdown Record: 2017 - Malik Rosier - 31
If we think D’eriq King can tackle Walsh’s 29 passing records, Malik’s 31 will fall along with it. 30 passing scores along with a handful on the ground gives King the most touchdowns in Canes history.
Mike Harley Will Graduate As The All Time Receiving Yardage and Receptions Leader At Miami
A simple one on the surface, Mike Harley taking the all time receiving yardage and receptions records from two legends (Reggie Wayne - Receptions - 173, Santana Moss - Yards - 2546) is a major statement. For Mike Harley, it is a testament to the value in his perseverance to a school and his craft. In an age of transfer portals and leaving school early, Harley’s commitment to Miami and to his brothers is one that matters deeply. On top of that, for a receiver to tackle BOTH of those records, tells us something is finally starting to go really right down in Coral Gables.
Al Blades Jr. Will Make The ACC First Team
Let me take you back, to a dark time for the Miami Hurricanes. A time when expectations were high, and tensions were higher. The Hurricanes were very talented, but much more a sum of there parts than team. A first time coach suffered a tough season, but a bright spot on defense, from a legacy player no less, gave us continued hope for the future.
The year was 2019.
Hey guys, Al Blades Jr. was a top 30 cornerback in the country as a sophomore. A SOPHOMORE. As seen below, he had the lowest passer rating when targeted in the ACC. That’s better than, recent portal entry Derion Kendrick, future day two draft pick Asante Samuel and soon to be first rounder, Caleb Farley.
Lowest passer rating when targeted, FBS CBs (min. 225 cover snaps):— Stephan_Urkel (@pbcorbust) July 19, 2020
1 @AlBlades_Jr Miami: 28.8
2 Caleb Farley, Va Tech: 29.2
3 Darmarri Mathis, Pitt: 30.4
4 Derion Kendrick, Clemson: 36.5
Y'all Stay asleep though we like that https://t.co/VKU4AYfn5L
A tumultuous season saw Blades struggle on the field, only to end with a terrifying run in with myocarditis. Blades then watched further as his return to the field was challenged by the arrival of former five star cornerback, Tyrique Stevenson.
All this to say, I believe, HEAVILY, in a return to greatness from the cornerback position, led by new DB coach Travaris Robinson, and the young Al Blades Jr. Blades is the type of young man to understand opportunities, and have immense appreciation for them. I see Blades taking the new coaching and competition and allowing it to blossom him into an All-ACC cornerback, continuing the legacy his family has established at the U.
Miami Will Field At Least 6 ACC First Teamers
Did someone say All ACC??? Al Blades Jr. won’t be the only one on the ACC first team.
Nesta Silvera, the leader of the defensive tackle room, was a top defensive tackle a year ago, and looks to have an edge as arguably the top defensive tackle in the conference this year.
Will Mallory, with so many more targets coming his way this season, will dominate the ACC the tight end position, and possibly the nation.
Bubba Bolden is the top safety in the league. A season playing up to that easily slides him in at safety.
Zion Nelson has come farther on the field than any player on the team. With multiple sightings in the first round of the 2022 draft, the left tackle should take that next step from top tackle on the team to top tackle in the ACC.
Jahfari Harvey had two very larger impediments to success in 2020. Those impediments are on their way to the NFL draft. Harvey is on the way to an All-ACC team and quarterback near you.
Tirek Austin Cave Will Hit 100 Tackles and Lead The Hurricanes In Tackles
Every year there seems to be an unexpected JUMP. Last year it was Jared Harrison Hunte. The year before it was Cam Harris. Before that? Jonathan Garvin. This year I think the statement jump comes from the linebacking core. With the senioritis we see amongst the coaches, and the expected play from Bradley Jennings, Sam Brooks and Corey Flagg, Austin Cave being that jump is definitely unexpected.
The three star talent from Camden, New Jersey had the frame and IQ to make the cut at Miami, but was in dire need to add a year in a strength and conditioning program to truly make any discernable impact. Now listed at 220, the missile of a linebacker should begin his ascent of the depth chart. With the linebacker play last year left much to be desired, Cave has a pathway, this spring and summer, to stardom at a position that desperately needs it. Though 162 tackles in a high school season is impressive, doing it in college is a much taller task. Here’s betting that Cave takes this room by storm and leads the team in tackles.
The Defense Will Have More Tackles For Loss Than Last Season
Last year the Miami Hurricanes featured Quincy Roche and Jalean Phillips as primary pass rushers with Nesta and Harrison Hunte in the middle. The foursome did well enough to create havoc for the defense, yet despite their best efforts, tackles for loss stayed at the same, per game level as the year prior (8.6 per game).
So how does a defense improve when they lose such impactful talent? Change the orchestrator of the defense. With the return of play calling Manny Diaz, the Hurricanes should see an uptick on their havoc numbers. Young talents in Chantz Williams, Jahfari Harvey and Elijah Roberts along with newcomer Deandre Johnson should do well to replace Phillips and Roche’s snaps.
Prior to the Blake Baker era, Manny’s defense topped out in 2017 at a whopping 10 plus tackles for loss a game and 136 on the season. Expect a return to these levels with better play calling, coaching, and preparation with help from new defensive analyst Bob Shoop, former defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson and former DL coach Jess Simpson returning to the fold.
The Offense And Defense Will Both Be In The Top 20 Nationally
We can’t expect such offensive and defensive performances to mean nothing by the end of the season, right? Though it would be very Miami to do so, the Canes of 2021 finally feel as though their opportunity is finally here to field a complete team. After a season where the offense made it to the top 26 from the 90’s in 2019, the defense took a step BACK, falling from 23rd in 2019 to 51st in 2020.
As the old adage goes, the best defense is a good offense. In this case, the two sides should help each other reach higher heights this season. Its safe to assume that if the Canes do better creating havoc and leading that to turnovers, they will provide more scoring opportunities for the offense. Conversely, a more efficient offense will force opponent offenses to become one dimensional, helping the defense key in on those havoc plays. Growth and better execution on both sides of the ball should have the Canes in rare air next season, ranking in the top 20 on both offense and defense.
Mark Pope Will Breakout To Pace the Receivers Room In Yards, Touchdowns
For those scared away by the title, have a great day! For those not, thanks for staying.
With that said, when I polled a group of respected Hurricane personalities, I was surprised to see a consensus forming around Mark Pope having a breakout campaign. While the often criticized wideout may not have had the immediate impact of most 5 star recruits, 2020 seemed to be a wake up a call to the talented receiver that he can, in fact, have great impact on this team.
“This is why I came to Miami, stuff like this. I’m just going along, keep working hard,” was the comment from Pope following a 6 reception, 97 yard and One Score performance versus North Carolina State in a 44-41 victory. The very next week Pope stepped up and delivered a game winning catch versus rival Virginia Tech.
Last week it was Harley, this week Pope steps up for the game winner. The RPO was successful yesterday multiple times and Lashlee went to it when we needed it. 24 for VT inches up for the run and Pope is left 1v1 with a freshman DB. Advantage: Pope. pic.twitter.com/G34TbLRcWt— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) November 15, 2020
Even with the two game burst for the now senior receiver, it is hard to fathom him pacing the room with Mike Harley still in town and a dearth of talent breathing behind his neck in the wide receiver room. Yet a simple trip down memory lane during Pope’s mega tour through countless camps during his senior season remind us how dynamic he can be as a receiver. The only thing lacking for Pope is consistency. We saw what that did for bigger talents like Ja’Marr Chase at LSU (2019 - 313 yards, 2020 - 1,780 yards) and DeVonta Smith at Alabama (693 -2018, 1256 -2019).
By no means are we suggesting to put Mark Pope into that tier yet, however, similar talent is there. If he can continue to improve and show consistency, there is plenty of untapped potential left in the former elite recruit.
It’s time to tear down these Hot Takes, and give us some of your own Canes faithful.