Welcome to Yahoo Sports’ 2019 preseason Top 25. We’ll be featuring a new team in our Top 25 every day until Miami and Florida start the 2019 season on Aug. 24. In each preview we’ll have an NFL draft prospect analysis by Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm and additional insight from Rivals writers who know the teams the best.
Previously: No. 25 Wisconsin | No. 24 TCU | No. 23 Nebraska | No. 22 Iowa State | No. 21 Missouri | No. 20 Iowa | No. 19 Mississippi State | No. 18 Michigan State | No. 17 Texas A&M | No. 16 Washington
No. 15 Miami
2018 record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense
QB, QB, QB, QB, QB
What would Miami’s 2018 season have looked like with average or above average quarterback play?
After a solid 2017 season, Malik Rosier returned as a senior in 2018 as the presumptive starter. His 2018 did not build upon that 2017 performance.
Rosier’s completion percentage dropped three points and his average yards per attempt took a hit as well. He was replaced against Florida International by N’Kosi Perry, who didn’t fare much better. Perry completed a lesser percentage of his passes and threw for just 38 more yards on 35 more attempts as the two ended up splitting the QB duties over the course of the season.
Perry is back in 2019. But he’s got some competition in the form of Ohio State transfer Tate Martell and redshirt freshman Jarren Williams. Martell transferred to Miami when Justin Fields came to Columbus from Georgia and was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA.
According to new Miami coach Manny Diaz, the quarterbacks immediately got better when he hired former Alabama assistant and Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos as the team’s offensive coordinator.
“The natural concerns everyone is going to have for Miami, everyone is going to want to talk about the quarterback position,” Diaz said. “I think the best recruit we signed this offseason was Dan Enos.
“The minute Dan walked on campus, I think all of our quarterbacks improved. I get the opportunity to sit in his meetings every day. Dan is outstanding with the way he mentors and tutors those guys. They have all improved. They all showed during spring practice they all can be the quarterback for the University of Miami Hurricanes.”
As of now, the quarterback competition has no winner. There’s still time, but that’s not the greatest of signs for improvement at the position 2019. Martell seemed to be the prohibitive favorite after his transfer, but he’s struggled at times in practice. The quarterbacks will likely play early, but at least one needs to play well. Miami opens on Aug. 24 with Florida.
Force turnovers again
It feels like forever ago when the turnover chain was a thing, doesn’t it? The Hurricanes started the 2017 season at 10-0, thanks to a fantastic turnover margin. That margin got smaller at the end of the season as Miami lost its last three games, but the Hurricanes finished the year plus-13 in turnovers.
Regression was expected in 2018. And boy, was that regression steep. Rosier and Perry combined to throw as many interceptions (14) as Rosier did in 2017. The defense just didn’t force as many.
Despite going plus-7 in the turnover category against Virginia Tech and North Carolina, the Hurricanes finished the season minus-1 thanks to a four-turnover performance in that disastrous bowl game against Wisconsin. That game ended up being the final chapter of the Mark Richt era at Miami, and Diaz, who had been set to take the head coaching job at Temple, did a 180 and stayed at Miami to essentially go from defensive coordinator to head coach.
One of the best linebacking corps in the country
Miami may have the three best starting linebackers in the country. If that’s not true, then it at least has the three most experienced starting linebackers in the country.
Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Romeo Finley are back as seniors in 2019. Quarterman is the most recognizable of the group; he’s had more than 80 tackles in each of his first three seasons with the Hurricanes and upped his sack total to six in 2019. Pinckney was third on the team in tackles with 74 and also chipped in 3.5 sacks.
And, perhaps most importantly, all three guys know what to expect from Diaz and his defensive calls. If Miami’s defense is going to force more turnovers in 2019 and continue to be very good, the continuity at linebacker will be a big asset.
“Obviously bringing back the oddity of having three starting linebackers who have started every game since their freshman year. The ability to have that, those are the decision-makers in the defense, the guys that have to make all the calls,” Diaz said. “They've seen it all in college football. They're not going to be tricked. Their level of preparation ...
“They have the ability now to influence the rest of the team. They have the ability now to make the players around them better. As good of a player as Shaq is, he's going to be a great player this year because he's going to make the guys around him better.”
Biggest game: Virginia Tech (Oct. 5)
The game against Florida to start the season in Week 0 was too obvious. So was a trip to Florida State on Nov. 2. The home game against Virginia Tech comes after Miami’s second bye week of the season and is the first of three straight home games for the Hurricanes. Virginia Tech could be sneaky good in 2019 and beating the Hokies is imperative if Miami wants to win the ACC Coastal.
RB DeeJay Dallas
Dallas was Miami’s No. 2 back in 2018 and ended up finding the end zone more than Travis Homer. Dallas had 109 carries for 617 yards and six touchdowns.
A four-star recruit in the class of 2017, Dallas was Miami’s No. 3 back behind both Homer and Mark Walton as a freshman. Now, as a junior, Homer and Walton are off the roster and Dallas is the top back on the team.
He’s a pretty good top option, too. He’ll be counted on to take pressure off whomever ends up starting at quarterback and he’s an option in the passing game too. Don’t be surprised if Dallas doubles his catch total (10) from 2018 as Miami’s offense looks a lot different under Enos’ watch.
Biggest question mark
From Rivals’ CaneSport.com’s Gary Ferman: A lot of people just assume, based on the end of last season, that Miami's biggest problem is at quarterback. But more than likely a bigger issue will be the offensive line, where there is no true left tackle and virtually no depth. The Hurricanes are hoping that they can get that position group just playing adequately by the time they pull into Orlando for the Aug. 24 opener against Florida. The only true frontline talent in the entire position group is junior guard Navaughn Donaldson. Miami's recruiting has not been very good at the position.
CaneSport’s breakout player
DL Gregory Rousseau & DL Jon Ford
Miami is looking for one or two defensive linemen to have breakout seasons in 2019. Redshirt freshman Gregory Rousseau looks the part, but he will have to learn to bring it every single play. Rousseau figures to have an occasional impact as a pass rusher, but may not be ready for every-down duty. The leading candidate up front to take a big step forward is tackle Jon Ford, who has had a great off-season. Coaches quietly hope that Ford is ready to fill the hole left by the graduation of last year's standout on the defensive interior, Gerald Willis.
Top 2020 NFL draft prospect
EDGE Trevon Hill
From Yahoo Sports NFL draft analyst Eric Edholm: This is a tricky projection here. It would be easy to go the safe route and tout a more known commodity such as DE Jonathan Garvin or LB Shaq Quarterman and be done with it. Both profile as good-to-very good NFL prospects with bright futures.
But no guts, no glory — we’re going with Hill, who arrives in Coral Gables with a ton of upside. And a ton of baggage. He was dismissed from Virginia Tech not for one particular thing but for an accumulation of events with the Hokies that drove the staff there mad. Figuring out his character and commitment will be as big of a chore as any for NFL scouts when they write up Hill.
But his rush talent is nearly undeniable. He’s undersized at 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds and still has yet to earn a starting role with the Canes. They have a deep DE rotation with Garvin, senior Scott Patchan and freshman Gregory Rousseau, but Miami could keep Hill fresh and use his terrific quickness and explosion to attack ACC passers this season. We believe he has as much upside and possibly more than Garvin, and Hill could be one of the nation’s best disruptors if he keeps out of trouble and earns trust in his final college season.
WR K.J. Osborn
We mentioned Osborn in our impact transfers post earlier in the month and he’s worth mentioning again here. He’s a sleeper because Miami receivers really weren’t a factor in fantasy college football in 2018. At least one should be this year. Osborn had nearly 900 yards and averaged almost 17 yards per catch in 2018 for Buffalo. He’ll form a pretty good receiving duo with Jeff Thomas, a player who said he was transferring to Illinois but ended up changing his mind and sticking with Miami.
Anything less than a 9-3 regular season is a disappointment. Miami’s schedule is very manageable, even with games against Florida and Florida State. Outside of that Virginia Tech game, the toughest game is a home matchup against Virginia a week later. Miami hits the over even if it loses three of those four games and wins everything else.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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