Miami Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Panthers players line up prior to a snap during the first half of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

BEVO BEAT Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25 countdown: No. 20 Miami

There are questions at quarterback, but Mark Richt appears to have the Hurricanes pointed in the right direction.

Posted July 10th, 2017

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Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.

Today’s team: No. 20 Miami (Related coverage: Miami’s Ahmmon Richards has the blazing speed, but also a target on his back)

Best-case scenario: A veteran offensive line that includes four returning starters gives whomever emerges at quarterback plenty of room to develop, and running back Mark Watson has the kind of season that makes him a dark horse Heisman candidate. If the offense finds consistency, the Hurricanes could contend for an ACC title.

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Worst-case scenario: Despite one of the country’s best defensive fronts in the country, inexperience behind center leads to multiple three-and-outs and untimely turnovers. A questionable secondary can’t hold up on too many short fields, and the defense regresses.

The key game: Nov. 4, Virginia Tech. The Hokies earned a convincing 21-point home win last season, but playing in South Florida could give the Canes the edge in this showdown between ACC Coastal favorites.

INSIDE THE HURRICANES

Coach: Mark Richt (second year, 9-4; 154-55 overall at Georgia and Miami)

2016: 9-4, 5-3 in the ACC (beat West Virginia 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl)

Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense

Goodbye: QB Brad Kaaya (Lions, 6th round), WR Stacy Coley (Vikings, 7th), TE David Njoku (Browns, 1st), DB Corn Elder (Panthers, 5th)

Spring cleaning: All eyes at the spring game were on the unproven quarterbacks, but a gifted corps of receivers stole the show. Ahmmon Richards, an all-conference player as a freshman, juiced up the crowd with a 72-yard touchdown catch, and 6-4 Darrell Langham hauled in two touchdowns. Chris Herndon IV and Dionte Mullins also impressed for the deep unit.

Mark Walton #1 of the Miami Hurricanes rushes during a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Hard Rock Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Malik Rosier, 2-4-32, 0/0 (2nd)

Rushing: Mark Walton, 209-1,117-14 (1st)

Receiving: Ahmmon Richards, 49-934-3 (2nd); Chris Herndon IV, 28-334-2 (4th); Mark Walton, 27-240-1 (5th)

Tackles: LB Shaquille Quarterman, 84 (2nd)

Sacks: DL Joe Jackson, 8.5 (1st)

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (4)

Offense: WR Ahmmon Richards (2nd team), RB Mark Walton (3rd), K Michael Badgley (hon. men.)

Defense: LB Shaquille Quarterman (hon. men.)

Malik Rosier #12 of the Miami Hurricanes celebrates with teammates after a win against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium on October 31, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina. Miami won 30-27 on a last-second touchdown. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

MIAMI: FYI

Quarterback shuffle: Miami’s quarterback position took a major hit in the offseason. Three-year starter Brad Kaaya left early for the NFL and 2016 signee Jack Allison transferred to West Virginia. Redshirt junior Malik Rosier, a dual threat who owns the only start on the roster, and incoming four-star recruit N’Kosi Perry appear to be the only options.

Super sophs: Last season, Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud were the only trio of true freshmen in the nation to start at linebacker. The fast and physical bunch keyed a defensive turnaround; the Canes rose from 106th in tackles for a loss to fifth, 115th in yards per rush allowed to 17th, 86th in yards per play allowed to ninth and 77th in points allowed to 12th.

A fresh face: Transfer cornerback Dee Delaney, a Football Championship Subdivision all-American at The Citadel last season, arrived in South Florida this summer, and Miami hopes he makes an immediate impact. The team loses all four starters from last season’s secondary.

Miami's schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Sept. 2Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 9at Arkansas State
Sept. 16at Florida StateL, 20-19
Sept. 23Toledo
Sept. 29at Duke*W, 40-21
Oct. 12Georgia Tech*W, 35-21
Oct. 21Syracuse*
Oct. 28at North Carolina*L, 20-13
Nov. 4Virginia Tech*L, 37-16
Nov. 11Notre DameL, 30-27
Nov. 18Virginia*W, 34-14
Nov. 24at Pitt*W, 34-14
* ACC game

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGBOWL GAME
TOTAL39-25 (23-17)1-3 in bowls
20127-5 (5-3)NR/NRNo bowl
20139-4 (5-3)NR/NRL Russell Athletic
20146-7 (3-5)NR/NRL Independence
20158-5 (5-3)NR/NRL Sun
20169-4 (5-3)NR/20thW Russell Athletic

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking

2016 NATIONAL RANKS

Scoring: 37th (34.3 ppg)

Points allowed: 12th (18.5 ppg)

Passing: 27th (274.2 ypg)

Rushing: 93rd (151.8 ypg)

Total off.: 57th (425.9 ypg)

Total def.: 20th (345.5 ypg)

OUR TOP 25 SO FAR

No. 25: Boise State

No. 24: Oregon

No. 23: Tennessee

No. 22: Texas

No. 21: Kansas State

No. 20: Miami

No. 19: Coming Tuesday. Want a hint? This school has never had a Heisman Trophy winner, but did have one player selected as a finalist in back-to-back seasons in 1988 and 1989.

BY CONFERENCE

2: Big 12 (21-Kansas State, 22-Texas)

1: ACC (20-Miami); Mountain West (25-Boise State); Pac-12 (24-Oregon); SEC (23-Tennessee)

 

 

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