Phil Collins’ song In the Air Tonight can’t describe what the spring and summer seasons have been like in Coral Gables, Florida. It has been pulsating.
Pulsating since the arrival of Mark Richt.
Richt is a 1982 University of Miami graduate and former backup to Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. After three successful decades as an assistant at Florida State and coach at Georgia, the 56 year old has returned his talents to The U.
The Hurricanes gave up at least 58 points twice last season. Chances are Richt was taken with arms wide open.
Glory days, oh glory days. The Canes have five national titles but their last one came in 2001, nearly repeating in a loss to Ohio State in overtime. The Hurricanes have lost six bowl games in a row. It is worth noting that since their move to what is now Sun Life Stadium from the Orange Bowl after the 2007 season, the Hurricanes have yet to win a bowl game.
In the 2015 season, the Hurricanes got a miracle eight lateral kick return touchdown that withstood some questionable officiating and won by three on the road against Duke. The week before, the program suffered the worst loss in school history with a 58-0 defeat to the Clemson Tigers, the last game of the mediocre years of Al Golden. Glory days, oh glory days.
The present days are what matter in Coral Gables especially since the Hurricanes will officially complete their NCAA sanctions this fall. Mark Richt is excited to call offensive plays for the first time since giving up those duties coaching at Georgia in 2007. He will be salivating over this offense that was served to him on a silver platter. It all starts at the quarterback position with Brad Kaaya under center.
Kaaya is back for his junior year after finishing in the top three in the ACC in yards per game, fewest interceptions, yards per attempt and passer rating. Pick your poison at the running back position. Joe Yearby, Mark Walton and Gus Edwards are all capable of being the starter with the edge going to Yearby. The wide receivers include Stacy Coley who recently was cleared in luxury car rental investigation, which resulted in the dismissal of star defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and linebacker Jermaine Grace. Sophomore tight end David Njoku is a rising star in the Miami offense. What blows the wind in the sails for the Hurricanes is their offensive line. They struggled to run block last year and allowed sacks in scrimmages. This year they only lose right guard Joe Brown. With experience returning, protection and rush numbers have to improve.
Defensively the scramble is on to find out who is the next man up replacing Al-Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace. Richt brought on defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, formerly of Mississippi State and before that Texas. Diaz’s last four defenses had a combined 133 sacks while Miami has posted just 95 in that span. The 4-3 defense is back, reminiscent of the glory days at the Orange Bowl. Former Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski has taken command and I expect this to be one the most improved run defenses in the country. The secondary has the tested cornerback Corn Elder however the front seven can help cover their flaws.
Miami can finish first in the ACC coastal division and get to the ACC title game against Florida State who I am predicting they face. Does the train stop there? They have the quarterback and the coaching. The icing on the cake is the Clemson Tigers are not on the schedule. The Hurricanes have not had a double-digit win season since 2003, but this is the year to relive the glory days.