The standard mantra anytime there’s a change in coaching staffs is: give the coach time to get ‘his guys’ on the field. ‘His guys’ being the players he actually recruited to the program, not the players he inherited from the last staff.
Coach Mario Cristobal has only been on campus since December 6th. He’s doesn’t even have a full recruiting and transfer portal cycle behind him. While the start of the 2022 season has been...frustrating...one bright spot for the program is that “Mario’s Guys” seem to be disproportionately dominating the stat lines. As coordinators Gattis and Steele become more comfortable with their respective personnel, progress can be seen. Painfully slow progress. But progress.
While some of the new faces on campus came with sterling credentials and high expectations, others have been thrust into early duty due to injuries at key positions.
The Game Changers
Akheem Mesidor, DE (West Virginia transfer)
2022 Stats: 19 tackles, 6 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 pass deflections
Mesidor joined Miami after two seasons at West Virginia where he was a 2020 Freshman All-American and 2nd Team All-Big XII Selection and a 2021 All Big-XII honorable mention. Mesidor’s coming out party came last weekend at Virginia Tech when he terrorized VT QB Grant Wells to the tune of 3.5 sacks. That breakout performance places Mesidor as the current sack leader in the ACC, and he appears well on his way to earning all conference honors yet again.
Colbie Young, WR (Juco transfer)
2022 Stats: 12 Recs, 144 yds, 2 TD
Young’s surprise emergence directly correlates with Tyler Van Dyke’s resurgence to his 2021 form. Miami’s receiving corps looked depleted after the Middle Tennessee debacle. Xavier Restrepo had established himself as TVD’s favorite target in the first two games, but he’s been out ever since. Speedster Jacolby George hasn’t played since Texas A&M. In steps Young whose imposing 6’5” frame and baby-soft hands has quickly become TVD’s new favorite target. Like Mesidor, Virginia Tech was his coming out party when he hauled in 9 catches for 101 yards and a SportsCenter-worthy one-handed touchdown snag.
Henry Parrish, RB (Ole Miss transfer)
2022 Stats: 78 Rush Att, 378 Rush yds, 2 Rush TDs, 13 Recs, 101 Rec yds, 2 Rec TDs
One of the few positions thinner than receiver is running back. Veteran Don Chaney and highly ranked freshman TreVonte’ Citizen have “significant” injuries and have yet to play a snap this season. Parrish has stepped up admirably and even though he sat out the VT game he sits as the Canes’ leading rusher this season. Thaddius Franklin has 44 rushes for 194 yards while Jaylon Knighton, who himself has been banged up, has just 36 rushes for 137 yards. Most impressive is that PFF graded Parrish the third highest RB in the nation after 5 weeks.
The best RBs in College Football through five weeks♨️ pic.twitter.com/oc8ly6Peaa— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 5, 2022
Jacurri Brown, QB (True Freshman) | Lucious Stanley, RB (UAB transfer) | Frank Ladson, WR (Clemson transfer) | Jaleel Skinner, TE (True Freshman) | Jonathan Denis, OL (Oregon transfer) | Logan Sagapolu, OL (Oregon transfer) | Anez Cooper, OL (True Freshman)
Highly recruited freshman QB Jacurri Brown made a surprise appearance against Virginia Tech with a specially designed “wildcat” formation. The Hokies were caught off guard as Brown picked up 19 yards on a designed keeper. That was a neat wrinkle from Gattis who can still use Brown in a couple more games before having to burn his redshirt.
Lucious Stanley was a late transfer portal addition from UAB due to the depleted RB corps. He’s appeared twice this year and had 4 rushes for 23 yards against Virginia Tech. Expect to see more from Stanley if either Parrish or Knighton continue to battle their respective injuries.
Turning to the receivers, although Colbie Young and his one handed, highlight reel catches are getting all the press, Clemson transfer Frank Ladson has been a steady contributor ever since Restrepo and George went down with injuries. Ladson has 19 catches for 182 yards the last three games, including his first TD this year against Virginia Tech.
TE Will Mallory is finally starting to hit his stride, and lofty pre-season expectations, but freshman TE Jaleel Skinner has been finding the field with Mallory and heralded Sophomore Elijah Arroyo battling injuries at various points this season. Skinner collected 5 catches for 70 yards across the last two contests against UNC and VT.
The offensive line has been a mess at times with multiple starters including Zion Nelson (T) Jakai Clark (C), and Justice Oluwaseun (G) all missing chunks of time. Jonathan Denis and Logan Sagapolu, both Oregon transfers, along with freshman Anez Cooper are among those answering the call and have seen the field in multiple games this season.
Darrell Jackson, DT (Maryland transfer) | Jake Lichtenstein, DT (USC transfer) | Antonio Moultrie, DT (UAB transfer) | Nyjalik Kelly, DE (True Freshman) | Mitchell Agude, OLB/DE (UCLA transfer) | Caleb Johnson, LB (UCLA transfer) | Wessley Bissainthe, LB (True Freshman) | Daryl Porter, DB (West Virginia transfer)
Defensive line had to have been a huge concern for Cristobal when he arrived on campus, but quarterback pressure has turned into a strength for the Hurricanes this season. The Canes are tied for 11th in the nation with 21 sacks and, get this, 13 of those sacks come from this list of transfers and freshman. In addition to Mesidor’s 5 sacks, Darrell Jackson, Antonio Moultrie, and Nyjalik Kelly each have 2 sacks, Jacob Lichenstein has 1.5 sacks, and Mitchell Agude has half a sack. ‘Mario’s Guys’ are shining bright as the strength of this defense.
Freshman Wessley Bissainthe has burned his redshirt this season in an effort to bolster Miami’s thin linebacker room. The four star, Miami-Central star has played his way onto the field despite an offseason ankle injury in a deadly car crash.
Daryl Porter joined Mesidor in transferring from West Virginia. He’s been battling a shoulder injury, but was out there as a key contributor in the secondary against UNC and VT. Porter played all 67 defensive snaps against VT. Expect Porter to continue to play a starting role this season particularly if his shoulder can hold up.