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What Must Happen For Miami To Take The Next Step In 2021

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So you want to get to Charlotte? Here’s what has to happen for the Hurricanes

NCAA Football: Cheez-It Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Miami Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The very anticipated 2021 season for the Miami Hurricanes is quickly approaching, and Manny Diaz and his team are eager to build off their 8-3 record from last year. With D’Eriq King and other starters back, many are expecting the Canes to take the next step in improving the program and returning to prominence.

With so many preseason predictions coming out, one must ask, how exactly will the Hurricanes achieve their goals in 2021? What has to happen for Miami to win more than 8 games, and hopefully win the Coastal?

First things first, Miami has to win a big game in 2021. Since Manny Diaz was hired, the Hurricanes have yet to win a game against a big time opponent, and while last year we saw Miami take some strides, they came up short against ranked teams.

Now, I'm not saying that beating Alabama week-one is a must win game, but when the Canes travel to Chapel Hill to take on the Tar Heels, now that is a must win game. Beating a team like North Carolina who is stacked with talent, on the road, will be huge for Miami’s confidence moving forward, as well as help the Hurricanes get to Charlotte.

Also, Miami has to win a bowl game in 2021. Since 2006, the Hurricanes have won only one bowl game, which is just ridiculous. In order for Miami to prove they are making strides, a bowl victory is a must. And I’m not talking about some bowl played on December 26th, but one against another ranked opponent, where the whole country is watching. A game that will make all of college football take note.

Next thing, Miami’s linebackers have to step up in 2021. Last years linebackers were among the worst in all of college football, and it was apparent when facing Clemson and UNC. This means Corey Flagg Jr. is going to have to progress a little quicker in the middle, and guys like Avery Huff, Sam Brooks Jr. and Keontra Smith will have to start producing at outside linebacker.

If the Hurricanes want their defense to get back to where they were in 2017 and 2018, then more consistent play at linebacker will be needed. If the Hurricanes want to be better at defending the run, then more consistent play at linebacker will be needed. The Hurricanes ranked 75th in run defense last year, and you’re not going to be competing for conference championships if you can’t stop the run.

Looking at the offense, two things must happen for Miami to improve. One, someone not named Mike Harley has to produce at wide receiver. Harley was great for the Hurricanes in the second part of the 2020 season, but because others were not as productive, Miami’s passing offense faltered at times.

Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins, in their final season, could be those guys at WR, but Miami also has younger players like Keyshawn Smith and Xavier Restrepo who could be ready to answer the bell. Will Mallory is a great target at tight end, and I think he’ll have a big season, but if the Hurricanes offense wants to reach that next level, they’ll need another WR making plays consistently.

Second thing on offense, the running game has to improve. Miami was 66th last season in terms of rushing yards per game, and with the talent they have at running back in Cam’Ron Harris, Jaylan Knighton and Don Chaney Jr., plus the ability of D’Eriq King, there’s no reason they can’t be better running the ball.

In 2021, there are ZERO excuses for Manny Diaz and the Hurricanes. It’s his third year, he has the best coaching staff Miami has had in some time, very favorable schedule, there’s no reason the Canes can’t make it to Charlotte as Coastal Division champs.