The 2021 non-conference schedule will finally come to an end for the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon when they host FCS opponent Central Connecticut State at 12:30pm at Hard Rock Stadium.
After an embarrassing 38-17 loss to Michigan State last Saturday, the Hurricanes will take this week to regroup against a significantly less talented opponent. The Blue Devils—from New Britain, Connecticut—lost to FCS Southeastern Louisiana 56-10 last week at home.
As of Thursday night, DraftKings did not have a betting line listed for this game. Here’s three things to watch for in Saturday’s tune-up game for ACC play.
A glimpse of the future at quarterback
By all accounts, Miami starting quarterback D’Eriq King is not going to play on Saturday against Central Connecticut State.
Miami QB D'Eriq King listed as doubtful for Week 4 after injuring shoulder vs. Michigan Statehttps://t.co/qUAujpzT78— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) September 22, 2021
To be frank, I think Miami could put Lou Hedley at quarterback against the Blue Devils and win this game. King needs all the time he can to get healthy for ACC play and has no business playing in Saturday’s game.
Who does that leave as Miami’s starter? Good question. Head coach Manny Diaz did not announce a starting quarterback but second-year freshman Tyler Van Dyke will likely fill that role and true freshman Jake Garcia should also see time under center for the Hurricanes on Saturday.
I'll be shocked and flabbergasted if Garcia starts this week. Honestly and truly. https://t.co/R2ohqbrWRp— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 22, 2021
Van Dyke has only seen snaps in major mop up duty in his time at Miami and Garcia has never played in a regular season game for the Hurricanes. Neither signal caller is anywhere near as mobile as King so Miami’s offense will likely look different in that regard on Saturday.
It will also likely look different (at least it better) because of the extreme drop in quality of opponent. If the Hurricanes cannot establish the running game the way they want to against an FCS team, ACC play is going to be brutal.
Speaking of Miami’s running game...
What will Miami’s offensive line combination be?
It was announced earlier this week that second-year freshman left guard Jalen Rivers is out for the season with a knee injury.
BREAKING: Miami LG Jalen Rivers is out for the rest of the year after a knee injury suffered last week against Michigan State.— Canes Access (@CanesAccess) September 22, 2021
Very tough blow for Miami's struggling O line. Rivers was performing well this season. pic.twitter.com/0exy99AQ87
In his pre-game availability last week prior to the Michigan State game, Miami offensive line coach Garin Justice said that Rivers was the Hurricanes’ best performing offensive lineman in 2021. He will be tough to replace.
How exactly Miami will replace Rivers remains to be seen. I think this is worth keeping an eye on Saturday. Miami should be able to put any combination of offensive linemen on the field Saturday and they should dominate but that won’t be the case in ACC play.
Who might be the starters moving forward? I will register a guess that Navaughn Donaldson will slide to left guard, Justice Oluwaseun will play right guard, and DJ Scaife and Jarrid Williams will compete for snaps at right tackle. That makes the most sense to me.
The future is here...for now
Whether Miami was 3-0 or 0-3 entering this game, we were going to see the younger players on Saturday against Central Connecticut State. But seeing them—particularly certain members of the class of 2021 recruiting class—will mean a little extra considering how many veterans performed poorly in the loss to Michigan State.
Surely this is the week that Leonard Taylor makes his Miami Hurricane debut, right? Taylor has been stuck behind four upperclassmen at defensive tackle (arguably Miami’s top performing unit this season) and has yet to play a snap in three games. The former five-star recruit should make his debut on Saturday.
We should also expect to see more of true freshman James Williams and Kam Kinchens this week at the safety position. The same can be said for Elijah Arroyo at tight end, Romello Brinson and Xavier Restrepo at wide receiver, and Cody Brown and Thad Franklin at running back, among others.
Miami should use Saturday’s game to see what it has with these younger players to expand the playing rotation in key spots for ACC play. Too many veterans have failed the Hurricanes in major moments in the first three games of the season to not give the younger players an open opportunity to seize playing time at this point of the season.
Do we all remember when Miami played Savannah State in 2018? If you don’t, the Hurricanes won 77-0 and completely emptied the bench in the second half.
That is what Saturday’s game should feel like. There should be no doubt about the end result because Miami has significantly more talent than Central Connecticut State.
Which class of 2021 recruit are you most exciting to see play extended snaps on Saturday?
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