“The Perfect Storm” is the title behind my columns for the Miami Hurricanes. However camp has kicked off for the Hurricanes and Brad Kaaya is not on that practice field. Miami has begun the 2017 fall practice with four quarterbacks in a competitive battle to replace the school’s all-time leader in passing yards who is now the backup quarterback of the Detroit Lions.
Mark Richt has his fingerprints all over this team with year two of coaching at “The U” underway. N’Kosi Perry may be the answer to fill the cleats of Kaaya or was it all the center of attention he was a part of? The echoes of his talent go back to spring practice. Perry is slim, 19 years of age, but had Richt drooling at times with the throws he made in his practice debut.
“He’s got very good passing fundamentals, which is what I thought,” Richt stated. Perry opened fall practice as the third string quarterback behind redshirt junior Malik Rosier and redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs. He was ahead of true freshman Cade Weldon and redshirt junior Vincent Testaverde. That is the quarterback position up in the air.
The Canes enter camp favorites to win the Coastal division, a task they have failed at since joining the ACC, and they sure have talent on both sides of the ball to make it happen.
“It is cool if you are 5-5, but I don’t think anybody is feeling like it is “swaggish,” Richt stated. “Swag is winning. That’s what we are trying to do. We are trying to win and win big. It is hard to even match to what has even been done in the past, but we are getting after it as best we could.”
Miami finished Richt’s first season with five wins in a row and a 9-4 record in addition to winning its first bowl game since 2006. The Hurricanes enter the season ranked 18th in the preseason coaches poll. Replacing Kaaya will not be easy, but expectations are high with 18 starters returning.
Running back Mark Walton is the leader of the young offensive core. Wide receiver Ahmmon Richards has caught the attention of Hurricane legends as he makes a name for himself in the record books. Alongside Richards, Braxton Berrios will let his senior leadership shine at the receiver position.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is expected to improve from the accomplishments of last season. Not just accomplishments but Diaz actually resurrected the defense from Hurricanes of old. Minus three key starters, UM returns the same core that ranked 20th nationally in total defense, 12th in scoring defense, 5th in tackles for loss and 22nd in sacks, improvements across the board.
Diaz hands over the keys to his defense to returning sophomore linebackers Zach McCloud, Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney. All three have pros and cons that complement each other. The defense has depth at defensive end with Chad Thomas leading the way. Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh will be looking to improve their stock at the defensive tackle spot.
Camp will only tell how this perfect storm will improve even if Kaaya is a key missing part.