The smoke has cleared.
It is officially time to start the Mario Cristobal era at the University of Miami.
Cristobal is the Miami Hurricanes through and through.
There will be bumpy roads this season, so don’t expect perfection; instead, get excited for what is to come.
Cristobal was born in Miami, played in Miami, was a key assistant coach in Miami, and even got his first head coaching gig there – even if it was a few miles to the left from Coral Gables at FIU.
From all of the offseason hype, Cristobal, who has landed his dream job, is all about to try to make Hurricanes football memorable again.
Mediocrity will not cut it.
Tyler Van Dyke to the rescue. He took over for the injured D’Eriq King early on and went off, throwing for close to 3,000 yards with 25 touchdowns and six picks, showing terrific maturity for a freshman and a calm demeanor in the clutch. It will be simple, carry on that momentum into this season.
Frank Ladson from Clemson, to go along with 33-catch sophomore Key’Shawn Smith and Will Mallory, the best of a loaded tight end group, should not hurt Van Dyke under a new offensive coordinator and Charleston Rambo taking his talents to the NFL.
Protecting Van Dyke needs to be improved. Cristobal, a seasoned offensive line player and coach has added his touch to improve the offensive line. He brought in a few excellent parts from the transfer portal – guards Jonathan Denis and Logan Sagapolu from Oregon – to go along with some already strong options.
Zion Nelson has an NFL upside at left tackle, Jakai Clark is a solid veteran center, and DJ Scaife can work at either guard or tackle. The starting five will be as strong as it’s been in a while, and the pass protection is expected to improve.
The running game is up in the air. Josh Gattis is taking his talents from Michigan, and he has a lot of work to do.
The Hurricanes have to be more vital for the running game. The depth is there but not clear who is the true standout is yet in the backfield. However, Van Dyke can lead the offense as the running game develops to a solid run-pass option.
Defensively, the Hurricanes should not have a drop-off. But I don’t expect it to be better. Concerns are in the secondary. A few starters and critical parts from last year are back, but graduation and the transfer portal changed the identity of the starting 11.
Last season, the shockingly average defense couldn’t stop the pass and desperately needed to make the Turnover Chain matter again. 64-year-old Kevin Steele is the defensive coordinator to update this defense and help it improve its identity fast.
An 8-4 record will be an excellent start for Cristobal in his first season as head coach. Last season, Hurricanes football finished 7-5 and 5-3 in conference play. One game improvement is fair. Considering on the road at Texas A/M and Clemson, better than eight wins would be impressive. Anything worse will have the pressure raised immediately.