The Miami Hurricanes return to the football field for the first time in 2022 on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM against Bethune Cookman. The Canes shouldn’t have much of a challenge after facing Alabama a year ago in the opener and having previous engagements against SEC teams LSU and Florida. This is a matchup that should allow Miami to get deep in to the depth chart and give themselves an opportunity to play younger players. As we will each and every week we’ll take a look at the matchup to watch between Miami and their upcoming opponent.
In total Bethune Cookman will probably not pose much of a threat for Miami. The Wildcats come off a 2021 season where they finished overall just 2-9 on the year. Bethune only played one FBS opponent which was UCF and the score wasn’t even indicative of how much of a beat down it actually was. Central Florida out gained Bethune 671 yards to 279. The Wildcats were stymied on the ground gaining only 24 yards on 14 attempts, which was a 1.7 yards per carry average. The final score was 63 to 14, after Bethune started out 7-7 in the first half.
Matchup to Watch
It was well chronicled that in 2021 the Miami Hurricanes struggled defensively, and especially at the linebacker position. Miami gave up 28.4 points per game which was 85th in the country out of 130 teams. Linebacker was a big concern where gaps were missed, and opponents wide receivers and tight ends ran free. Corey Flagg Jr led the team with 60 total tackles, but made very few impact plays. Keontra Smith also a starter for most of the year had 38 total tackles but only forced one fumble and had no interceptions. The defense as a whole gave up 62% completion percentage and 251 yards per game in a seven and five season.
While Bethune was not a very good football team, they had one standout player who returns for his senior season. He is Kemari Averett who finished last season just a little bit shy of 1000 yards receiving. He had 51 grabs for 876 yards and 10 total touchdowns averaging 17.2 yards per catch. Averett is 6’6 255lbs and can present some size challenges for the Canes. He has already garnered some accolades for the 2022 season being on the watchlist for the 2022 Black College Football Player of the Year award. Miami must find a way in Kevin Steele‘s new defensive system to be able to cover tight ends and backs out of the backfield. Averett will be a big challenge in the middle of the field.
The Canes will feature a new lineup at linebacker, which is yet to be determined by a Mario Cristebal depth chart. Caleb Johnson is a transfer from UCLA and is certain to man one of the starting spots at linebacker. At UCLA in 2021 Johnson was able to amass 44 total tackles one interception and three passes defended. He sits at 6’1” 230 pounds and immediately should bring experience and an intensity that Miami is sorely lacking. The other spot on the defense has yet to be determined, but multiple candidates should be able to step up and get playing time. Kevin Steele has a much more proven track record as a defensive coordinator than previous DC Manny Diaz. Steele has put together some of the best defenses in the SEC for many years, and judging by some of the output from players during fall camp they seem to love the scheme, and the ability to get the best players on the field. Whether it’s linebackers, or a three headed safety group that includes James Williams, Avantae Williams, and Kam Kinchens, Miami should be in much better position in 2022 to be able to cover tight end than they have been in years past.
Bethune should pose little problem for a Miami runaway victory in game number one, and a great start to the Mario Cristebal era. There will be moments later on in the year against Texas A&M, Virginia, and Clemson where the defense will have to play better than it does in week one. The Canes should be able to physically overwhelm the Wildcats, and allow the D line to live in the backfield to free up the linebackers and safeties to make plays against one of the better FCS tight ends in the country.
Miami will win this game easily, my prediction Canes 51 Wildcats 3.