1. We know that Miami returns a lot, and will likely enter the 2018 season as a top-10 team. What has been the big theme of this spring?
The Big Theme of this spring has been mixing the new with the old. And, I mean that in a number of ways.
First, mixing in the early enrollee freshmen with the existing roster. Miami had the luxury of adding nearly half of the 2018 recruiting class — 10 out of 23 signees — to the team for the spring semester. Additions were seen at nearly every position group, with LB being the exception. And, of the 10 early enrollees, several will play significant roles for Miami this fall, including running back Lorenzo Lingard, defensive end Gregory Rousseau, corners DJ Ivey and Gilbert Frierson, and safety Gurvan Hall. Also, fifth-year senior Gerald Willis III returns to the field after missing 2017 with a personal issue, so I think that counts, as well.
Second, Miami mixed in a new position: STRIKER. This is a hybrid linebacker/safety position, and Miami moved several of the more athletic guys on defense down to STRIKER. This position will, hopefully, give Miami the ability to be multiple and flexible against the proliferation of spread offenses that put more and more skill players on the field at the same time. This position won’t always be used, as a third traditional linebacker could be used instead. But, the added speed and coverage ability of the players at STRIKER will be used often come the fall.
Third and last, Miami mixed in some new coaches. New defensive line coach Jess Simpson came to Miami from the Atlanta Falcons and previously a legendary high school coaching career at Buford (GA). He takes over a very talented position group, and looks to keep the progression seen under former coach Craig Kuligowski going strong. New OLB/STRIKER coach Jon Patke is the new 10th assistant and he’s in his first year as a full-time coach. Patke was previously a quality control coach, but has been around this system for years, and played linebacker at Stephen F. Austin before transitioning into coaching.
2. Any significant losses that have Canes fans worried?
Losing defensive tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton early to the NFL hurts. There’s still talent up front, but the Canes’ defensive line would have been much more stacked (and able to withstand an injury or two) had those guys returned to school this season.
Also, losing tight end Christopher Herndon IV is a big hole to fill as well. The remaining talent at that spot leaves much to be desired (and that’s putting it nicely), and a pair of incoming freshmen will be counted on heavily this fall.
Kicker Michael Badgley struggled down the stretch last year (went just 2-5 in the last 2 games of the year), but he’s Miami’s all-time leading scorer (402 points) and had multiple game-winning kicks and a couple five-field-goal games in his career here, so he’ll be missed as well. Miami signed the No. 2 kicker in the 2018 recruiting class, however, so the TALENT is there, but kickers are fickle so we’ll see how it goes.
3. Malik Rosier had his ups and downs in 2017. Is he still expected to lead the Hurricanes this fall, and what’s the big key for him this offseason?
Yes, much to my personal chagrin, Malik Rosier is likely to be Miami’s starting quarterback in 2018. He’s the safe pick, with the fact that he is the only player Miami has at QB who has ever taken a snap in a college game. And, he helped Miami win 10 games last year, and that can’t be overlooked (even though wins are not a QB stat, but I digress).
There are two keys for Rosier both in the offseason and moving forward: 1. accuracy and 2. consistency, in that order.
Rosier is able to make throws, but his lack of accuracy is both infuriating and inhibiting to the offense. Many times, player are kept from making yards after the catch, or unable to catch the ball at all, due to poor throwing accuracy and placement. And, Rosier has a penchant to throw grounders sometimes, which was great when he played baseball, but not so much now that he’s playing football.
The area of consistency is needed because Rosier will have one of those terrible throws I listed above, but then drop a dime 45 yards down the field in the smallest window possible on the next play. And, extending that out, Rosier was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from first half to second half in multiple games last year, making what should have been several blowouts into tightly contested games. That can’t continue in the 2018 season. AND, unlike last year, when Rosier was the only major college-caliber player at QB, Miami has talent behind him (namely redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry and true frosh Jarren Williams) to play in Rosier’s place if he’s having another 4-of-16 for 34 yards (or similar) performance through a half, which we unfortunately saw on several occasions last season.
4. Any newcomers or surprises this spring that could make an impact in the coming year?
There are a couple players who come to mind
- Freshman Running Back Lorenzo Lingard — Five-star recruit who doubled as a State Champion hurler in high school. Has all the physical tools to be an elite back.
- Freshman Receiver Brian Hightower — He’s at a loaded position, but at 6-3 and 202 pounds with size, speed, and good hands, he could contribute this year.
- Freshman Def. End Gregory Rousseau - He’s a beast at 6-7, 225 and still growing. Was around 200 pounds in HS and played mainly SAFETY then, but he’s growing by leaps and bounds both physically and technically. Had seven sacks in two spring scrimmages, and was personally responsible for a change in the lineup on the offensive line after the first scrimmage. He’s really good and just learning the position. He’ll make a couple WOW plays this year, and grow into a starting (potentially superstar) role in the years to come.
- Freshmen DBs Gurvan Hall, Gilbert Frierson, and DJ Ivey. All 3 DBs will play rotation snaps, with Frierson and Ivey in the conversation to start at cornerback.
5. Overall, what’s the feeling on this matchup among Miami fans? Excitement? Concern? Disappointment on the neutral location?
Miami fans are excited about this game. It’s a marquee matchup between two major national programs, on a spotlight day, in a top-tier stadium. And, for a program that has been pointing to 2018 as a year where the play on the field should hopefully be near championship caliber, this game has been circled for a long time as the beginning of that run.
There isn’t really disappointment about the neutral site, because this wasn’t going to be a home-and-home series. This was always going to be a one-off, season opener, so the neutral location isn’t a drawback. I mean, it’ll be tough for some local Miami fans to get out to the Dallas area for this game, but that’s the only drawback, and that only applies to some people.
Personally, I’m very excited. I remember that damn bowl game when y’all beat us to smithereens, and I’ve wanted revenge since then. That, and for Warren Morris.
I never really thought about it because I’m so focused on Miami, but I really dislike LSU. Like, a lot, even.
GUESS IT’S A GOOD THING WE’RE GONNA WIN!!!