Manny Diaz spent the preseason ahead of his debut season as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes building up as much goodwill as possible. He picked out a supposed quarterbacks guru to be his offensive coordinator, landed a high-profile quarterback transfer and reloaded his defense with a slew of talented transfers.
In one season, all the goodwill the coach had built up disappeared. Miami went 6–7 and ended the year with a shutout loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl. The Hurricanes parted ways with Dan Enos, the once-vaunted offensive coordinator, immediately after a disastrous offensive season.
It was the start of an offseason of rebuilding goodwill for the Hurricanes. Diaz picked out another supposed quarterbacks guru to be his offensive coordinator, this time with a spread philosophy. He landed another high-profile quarterback, but this time there’s an all-conference track record to come with name recognition. The coach even reloaded his defense by luring the top defensive player on the transfer market to Coral Gables. Year Two for Diaz is also Take Two.
Previewing Miami's Offense for 2020
The splashy additions of Enos and quarterback Tate Martell didn’t work out last year. Miami’s offense in 2019 was even worse than it had been in 2018.
Diaz’s first attempt at building an offense from scratch — he fired the entire previous staff when he took over — didn’t work out. Now he hopes the tweaks he’s making for 2020 will get the Hurricanes on track.
It all starts with offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who spent the last two seasons at SMU. Miami will pivot from a pro-style offense to a spread offense with Lashlee at the helm, and the change could invigorate the Hurricanes. Miami has recruited well for years, only to see talented wide receivers and running backs underachieve in college. The Hurricanes hope the spread system will let them get the most out of a talented roster.
The skill players, highlighted by star tight end Brevin Jordan and running back Cam’Ron Harris, will also be helped by the arrival of quarterback D’Eriq King, who transferred to Miami from the Houston Cougars in January. The dual-threat quarterback could be the best the Hurricanes have had in years.
None of it will matter if Miami can’t fix its offensive line, though. The Hurricanes also parted ways with former offensive line coach Butch Barry after last season and replaced him with Garin Justice, who has more experience coaching offensive linemen in spread systems. Last year, Miami surrendered 51 sacks — the most among Power 5 teams — but its top six offensive linemen are all back. Diaz also added help via the transfer portal in early June, as former Houston tackle Jarrid Williams announced his intention to join the team this fall.
Previewing Miami's Defense for 2020
Defense — in particular the defensive line — has been the Hurricanes’ strength for years, and now Miami might have the single best pass-rush tandem in the country. Star defensive end Gregory Rousseau was one of the nation’s breakout stars last season, piling up 15.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman. Nationally, only Ohio State superstar Chase Young had more.
The same day King transferred to the Hurricanes, so did Quincy Roche, who had just finished up his own All-America season for the Temple Owls. Among all players returning to college football this season, Roche’s 13 sacks in 2019 were third behind only Rousseau and Oregon State linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr.
The rest of the defense is filled with more question marks than in past years, though. Miami is replacing a starting linebacker, its starting striker and its top defensive back.
At linebacker, the Canes must replace 99 combined starts with a group of mostly unproven linebackers. Linebacker Zach McCloud, a returning starter, will man one of the two positions, but it’s open competition for the second job, and the candidates are almost entirely untested.
Previewing Miami's Specialists for 2020
In 2018, Miami’s punter situation was a mess, but it got fixed in 2019 with the addition of Lou Hedley, a junior college transfer from the City College of San Francisco. In 2019, the Hurricanes’ kicker situation was a mess, and they hope another transfer will get it fixed in 2020.
Jose Borregales tormented Miami in one of the biggest upsets of the season last year. The kicker made three field goals, including one from 50 yards and another from 53, to help the FIU Panthers stun the Hurricanes at Marlins Park. After an extra point late in the game, the specialist even taunted Miami with a throat-slashing gesture.
Borregales, however, grew up a die-hard Hurricanes fan and attended nearby Booker T. Washington. He entered the transfer portal after last season and quickly found a match with the Hurricanes. While he had an up-and-down career at FIU, Borregales will automatically be an upgrade for Miami, which had four misses inside 30 yards and two missed extra points last season.
Diaz’s tenure so far has been defined by preseason and offseason optimism, and 2020 will at least keep this intact. On paper, Miami filled some of its most glaring holes with a strong recruiting class, active participation in the transfer portal and aggressive coaching changes, but the 2019 offseason was similar. Optimism this season will be more tempered, and maybe that’s a good thing for the Hurricanes.