As we march towards opening kickoff, BCI will sit down with various writers to talk about Boston College’s opponents. This week Cam Underwood of State of the U to kindly talk to us about the Miami Hurricanes. Please make sure to follow Cam and State of the U on Twitter.
BCI: The U returned in 2017 with a strong season under Mark Richt. What did he bring the program that was lacking in years prior?
Cam Underwood: Mark Richt brought authenticity and a proven plan to the program. He is a coach with a long track record of success, and instead of trying to figure out how to get by at Miami, something the last 3 coaches before him had to do, Richt came in with a clear vision of what needed to get done and, more importantly, how to do it.
Richt, like his predecessor, is a good person, and that plays well with administration -- yanno, since Miami is just months removed from the end of a years-long probation due to the Nevin Shapiro scandal. But, unlike his predecessor, Richt has a nearly 20 year track record of winning. And that matters.
I didn’t list it up top, but the last thing that Richt brought back to the Canes program is hunger. The all-consuming desire to be GREAT. Good isn’t good enough, and there is a standard here at Miami. And Richt, a former Canes player, knows what that’s all about. There is no malaise. There is no more “don’t rise to the occasion” energy draining pre-game speeches. After getting let go from Georgia, Richt is hungry to win, and he’s instilled that focus, passion, and desire for greatness in his players. Miami is starting to look like MIAMI again. And that’s as big as anything that’s helped this program turn things around.
BCI: What are the Hurricane’s offensive strengths and weaknesses going into 2018?
- An absolutely LOADED group of skill players. Miami has 4 RBs who could run for 1,000 or more (Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, Lorenzo Lingard, Robert Burns -- if healthy), 2 freshmen TEs who have the talent to be impact players both now and in the future (Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory), and one of, if not the singular best group of WRs in America (Ahmmon Richards is Biletnikoff award good when healthy, Lawrence Cager, Jeff Thomas, Mike Harley, Darrell Langham, Evidence Njoku -- 1st round NFL pick David’s younger brother--, Brian Hightower, Mark Pope, Marquez Ezzard, and Daquris Wiggins are as dynamic a group you’ll find anywhere).
- Speed. Miami won championships in the past by being faster across the board than their opponents, and this year’s team is getting back to those roots. Lingard was a champion hurdler in HS and clocked a 4.27 in the spring. Thomas and Harley are 2 of the fastest 10-ish players in America. Richards was hobbled with a hamstring injury in 2017 and STILL able to run away from ACC defenders. And he’s healthy now. Dallas has elite quickness and good speed. And that’s not even counting Malik Rosier, who while not fast, is a solid runner and faster than Miami QBs of the recent past.
- Big play ability. This kind of goes with the speed thing, but Miami’s offensive skill players have a knack for making big plays. Lose focus for a second, and a back or receiver will make you pay. Canes skill guys in open space makes the fans hold their breath and the defense start panicking. It’s fun.
- Offensive line play. This has been a sticking point for Miami for years, and it is at the forefront of things to watch this year. If the line can be average, Miami could have a huge offensive year. If not, then the Canes could be in for a few bumps along the way, which would definitely not be a good thing.
- Consistent Quarterback play. Malik Rosier had some great moments and good counting stats: nearly 3700 yards and 30+ TDs in 2017. But he struggles with inaccuracy in the passing game and is one of the streakiest players you’ll see. When he’s on, he’s NBA Jam level hot, and he’ll make some of the best throws you’ll ever see. But when he’s off, things can go VERY badly VERY quickly. It’s that level of inconsistency that Miami hopes to eliminate this year.
- Scheme. Early on last year, Mark Richt was a very vanilla, conservative playcaller. As the year went along, he started to open things up...AND THAT WORKED! Hopefully the scheme will give the skill talent the ability to shine. But, if the OL isn’t able to block and the QB isn’t able to consistently hit his targets, even the most exotic scheme won’t be able to fix that.
BCI: Miami’s defense is hungry. What changed in 2017 that made them so explosive and such a threat?
Cam Underwood: The easy answer is the Turnover Chain, but the players did their job to make that come alive. Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz’s defense are predicated on one thing: havoc. He likes his DL to get up the field and make plays in the backfield, and Miami was able to do that in spades last year.
On top of that, the team trained heavily on their ball skills with the goal to create and secure turnovers. Obviously, that work paid off over the course of 2017 season, and that was good to see. Also, that “hunger” that I talked about Mark Richt bringing was echoed by Diaz, whose tenure at Texas ended very poorly (but that was a whole program issue, not just him). The ability to come home to Miami -- Diaz’s father was once the Mayor of Miami-Dade -- and work with the kind of speed he coveted while being wholly in charge of the defense (Richt calls plays so he’s on the offensive side pretty exclusively) was an opportunity Diaz jumped at. He’s passionate about being at The U, and that translates to his players, and the way they were able to play last year.
BCI: Are there any other Coastal teams that you see as a threat for the division title this year?
Cam Underwood: Not really. Miami is favored in every game on the regular season schedule by vegas oddsmakers, ESPN’s FPI metric, and Football Outsiders’ S&P+ metric. Miami has, without question, the most talented team in the Coastal Division, and it’s not particularly close.
If the Canes do what they need to do, there shouldn’t be any real threat in the Division. It’s up to us not to mess this up.
BCI: There have been a lot of characters and excellent players in the history of the school. Who is your personal favorite (please don’t say Ed Reed, please don’t say Ed Reed).
Cam Underwood I mean, there was this safety....I think his name was Ed Reed. He was kind of good. You guys know him?
LOL ok trolling aside, there’s too many to name. Santana Moss was great (and saved me from a butt-whoopin’ at the hands of some of his teammates my freshman year at The U so that was cool). Andre Johnson. The late, great Sean Taylor. Bryant McKinnie (who ate the most food in one sitting at lunch one day that I’ve ever seen a human consume). Jon Vilma. DJ Williams. Antrel Rolle. Ken Dorsey. Vince Wilfork. Willis McGahee. Frank Gore. Jeremy Shockey. Greg Olsen. David Njoku. And that’s just going with recent guys.
But, if I have to choose ONE, then I’m going off the beaten path: WR/RB Jason Geathers. IDK why, but he was like 2 years in front of me at Miami and I just thought he was going to be a superstar. He bounced between WR and RB so he wasn’t able to become a superstar, but he had a huge TD against FSU in 2002 (one play after Willis McGahee’s 68yd screen pass reception) and that’s good enough for me.
BCI: Hollywood producers are going to make a movie on Miami football, who would play Mark Richt?
Cam Underwood Kyle Chandler. Last summer, one of our guys wrote a piece drawing the many parallels between the fictional Coach Taylor and the real-life Coach Richt, so why not have Coach Taylor play Coach Richt in the movie? Boom done.
BCI: What is the craziest or most unique Miami tradition (football or non-football)?
Cam Underwood Turnover Chain. It was, and is, a cultural phenomenon that’s been often imitated, but never duplicated.
Also, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: Miami doesn’t have “unique traditions” because EVERYBODY COPIES WHAT WE DO!!!! 4 fingers up. Running through smoke. Hell, no college team had an apparel sponsorship deal until Miami crossed that vanguard and partnered with Nike back in the 90s. So, even though Miami has had a bunch of things that were once unique, we’re trendsetters and teams/schools across the country have tried to jack our swag for years.
Guess that’s the cost of being so damn influential, popular, and relevant. Oh well.
BCI: It’s summertime. What is your beer/liquor and song choice for this summer?
Cam Underwood: Honestly, I cut liquor out for a majority of the summer as a challenge with my family. But, now that I’m back drinking, Sam Adams Summer Ale is nice and crisp, and good old Cigar City Jai Alai IPA. My favorite. It’s delicious.
BCI: Final question: Pick a GIF that best describes how you envision the Hurricane’s season going this year