With college football season three weeks from kicking off, Miami Hurricanes fans are in two camps: believers and non-believers. And let's be honest, most fans are playing musical chairs, switching from optimism to cynicism at the drop of a hat. Will this really be the year the team takes a step back into the national spotlight?
Well, listen up skeptics: there are good reasons to believe this Canes team is primed for a successful season by any schools standards, not just one coming off NCAA probation.
Brad Kaaya had an entire offseason to improve; that's bad news for the ACC. This was supposed to be the year of Brad Kaaya, but an injury to Ryan Williams last year thrust Kaaya into a situation that called for him to play a year early; and he killed it. Kaaya threw 26 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions in his freshman season, looking nothing like a guy a few days removed from his high school prom. This season, all that early experience has payed off. Kaaya enters 2015 as a dark horse Heismann candidate; if he performs well, and the Canes start off strong, he will at least be in the discussion.
Kaaya tossed for 3000 yards in a season that must have felt like it was moving at 100 miles-per-hour at the time. Kaaya now has an entire offseason under his belt — one that does not include moving 2,500 miles from his California home to enroll at Miami.
The Hurricanes schedule sets them up perfectly for a successful season.
When you're replacing as much departing talent with young recruits as the Hurricanes are this season, it's vital that the Canes have worked some warmup games into this year's schedule. Games against Bethune-Cookman and FAU will give the less-experienced Hurricanes players the real game reps they'll need before taking on Nebraska, at home. The Hurricanes will not leave the state of Florida until the calendar flips to October and then they travel to Cinncinnati, a game that follows a bye week.
The Hurricanes could easily be 4-0 by the time they travel to Tallahassee to take on an extremely talented, yet transitioning Florida State. if they drop the rivalry game, it's early enough in the season for them to regroup. If they win the game against FSU, it could mean a Top 10 ranking. The rest of the schedule — outside of a tough home game against Clemson — features teams the Hurricanes are as talented as, if not more talented than.
The Hurricanes luck out and get a preseason to work on things, tough games at home, and a stretch to end the season with much momentum — there are no excuses.
The Miami Hurricanes are preaching to anyone that will listen about their locker room culture change.
We've heard this one before, but damn if it doesn't sound legit this time. Yes, talk is cheap, but according to Brad Kaaya, the team has a Come To Jesus offseason:
“The last straw is when the whole team got out there,” Kaaya said. “It clicked and we said, ‘We’ve had enough. When is it going to stop? We can’t keep having this happen.’ That morning we came together, right before spring break.
“Ever since, it’s been different. [Rules violations have] been cut down tremendously. This summer, we had no major issues. That’s huge for our team. Coach Golden is not having any more nonsense any more. It’s all about business. Team leaders are holding guys accountable. We didn’t want to focus on all the distractions holding Miami back. This team is clean.”
Well, that's what's up. You can choose to be negative about this Miami Hurricanes team, or you can believe these kids have it in them to succeed; it's your choice.
This Hurricanes offense team will succeed because of the sum of it's parts, not one individual.
Sure, Miami lost a lot of talent to the NFL; but they are returning more than enough bullets to fill Brad Kaaya's gun. Miami is returning key players such as: Herb Waters, Stacy Coley, Malcolm Lewis, Braxton Berrios, and Rashawn Scott. In addition to that, the Canes promise to continue the trend of having a shifty-play maker at running back with the return of Joseph Yearby.
Having a quarterback like Brad Kaaya tends to make up for the fact that you don't have a Andre Johnson looking freak-of-a-wideout to throw the ball to. This season the Hurricanes offense promises to be based more on team cohesion than individual play making; think New England Patriots, but speedier. No one is suggesting Brad Kaaya is Tom Brady, the Hurricanes are the Patriots, or Al Golden is Bill Belicheck; but that's the look they are going for.
In the past the Canes relied heavily on a select few playmakers, this season everyone will be responsible for chipping in, regardless of rank.
This might finally be the year the Hurricanes defense looks familiar to the fans. Apparently the Hurricanes coaches have been watching some Seattle Seahawks tape because they feel their depth fits a similar scheme; well OK, then. It is undeniable the Hurricanes have more depth on defense in places they haven't in a long time. Chad Thomas, Demetrius Jackson, Darrion Owens, Tyriq McCord, Al-Quadin Muhammad, and Trent Harris are all capable of getting to the quarterback; it just remains to be seen which player will step out as a star.
At linebacker the competition is between Raphael Kirby, Jermaine Grace, Juwon Young, Marques Gayot, Terry McCray, Mike Smith, and Charles Perry; so there is plenty of talent to go around. In the secondary Deon Bush and Tracy Howard are sure to be worthy of potential star consideration. Add all these names up — most of which were highly recruited and coveted by other schools — and what you get is the ingredients for a defense that will be more than just alright, it should be a strength.
Miami has the talent on defense, it's up to the coaches to finally figure out how to use it.
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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.