Five Signs Mark Richt Has the U Headed in the Right Direction

By now, you've dropped off all of your orange ties at Goodwill and picked up a pair of Mark Richt shades instead. The Mark Richt Era is barreling through its first offseason, and in a few short months, you'll be able to witness the results firsthand on a football field near you.

Miami Hurricanes football fans are excited to see a different coach this fall, eager to see the program turn the corner and head down a road that leads back to national championship discussions. 

But how has the process come along in the offseason? The good news is that Richt has already clearly changed the Canes' direction for the better.  

5. Hiring Mike Rumph changed the way the Hurricanes recruit locally.
Over the course of Al Golden's tenure with the Hurricanes, the program's relationship with local high schools deteriorated. For some reason, Golden and his staff of geniuses left the gates swinging wide open around Miami's top local prospects. Richt has already begun changing that. One of his first orders of business was to pluck ex-Hurricane star Mike Rumph from his job as head coach at the K-12 private school American Heritage.

The hire was a savvy move that should pay immediate dividends. High-school coaches are already praising the way Richt and his staff went about their abbreviated first recruiting cycle. If anyone knows what South Florida kids want to hear from a school, it's Coach Rumph. Building relationships with local recruits will be the first step in persuading them stay in Miami in lieu of going to Florida State or Florida. 

4. Brad Kaaya was already good, but all signs point to Richt making him great this season.
Richt's pro-style offense has a history of success with quarterbacks. Chris Weinke, David Greene, Matthew Stafford, and Aaron Murray are just a few examples. Those results bode well for the production of quarterback Brad Kaaya in 2016. Under Al Golden's staff, Kaaya was the one consistent light bulb that refused to dim.

In two years under the defensive-oriented Golden, Kaaya threw for 6,436 yards, 42 touchdowns, and just 17 interceptions. Imagine what he might do under a coach who specializes in teaching up a quarterback. It could be a great match, and Kaaya feels the same. "I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario to finish my last two years of college," Kaaya recently told reporters. If Richt's track record is any indication, an entire offseason of working with Kaaya could be enough to reap huge rewards.

With more quarterbacks seeing the results from Kaaya this season and a few top QB recruits already committed, it's only a matter of time until the U is referred to as "Quarterback U" again. 

3. Richt has already shown forward thinking.
Richt says he hopes Miami is his last job, and it shows. Richt recently preached to anyone that would listen that he really feels it's necessary for the Hurricanes to build an indoor facility ASAP. "We must have an indoor facility, there’s just no question about it," Richt told the Palm Beach Post. Richt knows that too many practices can be missed because rain and heat in South Florida, and players can become worn down after practicing in the Miami elements all year.

Beyond all of those issues, to keep up on the recruiting trail with juggernauts like Florida State, Florida, LSU, and Alabama, Miami must be able to show off state-of-the-art facilities that recruits will be in awe of when they tour. Richt's indoor-facility comments prove that not only isn't Miami a stepping stone to a bigger and better job for him, but also he has the long-term future of the program in mind. 

2. Defensive athletes are no longer handcuffed by coaches.
It's one thing to persuade a great high-school player to come to UM; it's an entirely different thing to mold him into the next great Hurricanes player. Under coach Golden, the latter was virtually nonexistent. You don't save all your money to buy a Ferrari and then seek out routes to South Beach that include the most school zones. Miami players are giggling like schoolgirls trying to hide their excitement and game plans for next season under Rich.

Golden and ex-defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio refused to let players' talents shine through, opting instead to trust in their archaic Big Ten-suited game plans and defensive positioning to win games. That didn't work. Richt and new defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz, have vowed to rely on their players' speed and quickness first,and their defensive alignments second this season. 

1. Richt's family atmosphere has rubbed people the right way.
One of the worst parts about the Golden years at UM was the fact that the program was fractured. From players to coaches to ex-players to fans, everyone had a different take, and most of that sentiment was negative. There was no togetherness — just anger and disappointment. If there's one thing Hurricanes fans can be sure of, it's that Coach Richt always puts family before football. Richt has a track record of success not only on the field but also in life.

Making his teams understand the importance of unity and togetherness was one of Richt's calling cards as coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. "Family atmosphere begins with the head coach and his staff. Their guidance, integrity, and personality set the stage for their athletes and employees," Richt said after Georgia was named a top five program that promotes family atmosphere by College Football Live's annual rankings. Knowing everyone will be on the same page, whether it be football or in life, should lend itself to making the Canes a better football team, full of better people, in the long run. 
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi