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Playin’ Nice: State of the U

Cam Underwood of our sister blog State of the U helps us preview this weekend’s season opener.

1. When last we spoke, it seemed like Miami’s biggest concern was the development of quarterback Malik Rozier. How do you feel about that now heading into week one?

I feel the same, to be honest. Sure, Mark Richt has come out and said Rosier is going to be the starter, and he, QB coach Jon Richt and Rosier himself have all said the right things. But I watched last season and I remember the inconsistencies and inaccuracies that plagued Rosier. Yes, there were some GREAT plays, but there was still much to be desired. I’m glad to hear that Rosier has worked to shorten his lengthy throwing motion. I’m glad to hear that Rosier along with CMR and CJR have worked to increase his accuracy and ball placement -- which will hopefully enable Miami’s many skill players to run after the catch. BUT until I see that in live action during games against actual opposition, not 20 second clips from practice or anecdotal statements in interview sessions, I’m not believing there’s been improvement, even as much as I might want that to be the case.

2. Will stud recruit Lorenzo Lingard step right into the lineup, or should we expect to see a big dose of Travis Homer?

Although Lorenzo Lingard has five-star talent and incredible skill, Miami isn’t just putting him at the top of the rotation. Travis Homer is the starter and will get the majority of the carries, with DeeJay Dallas as a great No. 2 with great versatility who has been used at RB, Wildcat QB, slot WR, Kick Returner, and Punt Returner. Redshirt senior Trayone Gray has been a revelation this fall, and at 6-2 240 pounds could play a “Najeh Davenport”-like role as FB and single RB. And, at that size, Gray is arguably Miami’s fastest RB, which is impressive since Lingard clocked a 4.27 in the 40 this spring. Lingard, for all his physical talents, needs to develop consistency in pass protection and his overall knowledge of the offense. Do I think Lingard will start at Miami in the near future (likely 2019)? Yes. Do I think he’s going to be the 25-plus carry feature back in the opener against LSU? No. But, he should be a good rotation guy as he continues to develop and earn his way into more playing time as this season, and his Miami career, progresses.

3. How did training camp go overall? Any injuries or other losses worth talking about?

Canes Camp 2018 went well. There were few bad practices, the new Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility finally opened, and things just generally went as they should for a top 10 team. There were, however, a couple injuries of note. Backup offensive line George Brown Jr., a former LSU player, sustained a torn meniscus that will keep him out for an undisclosed time. That injury caused Miami to shuffle the No. 2 offensive line a bit, which matters but isn’t earth shattering. Tight end Michael Irvin II also sustained a torn meniscus, and surgery for that injury will keep him out for a reported four months. While he was at the top of the tight end depth chart to start fall camp, it was the expectation of nearly everyone that freshman Brevin Jordan would be Miami’s starter at the position. Fellow freshman Will Mallory was also thought to be in line to get PT over Irvin II. When Irvin II got injured, that sped up the timeline for this move, with Jordan now TE1 for the Canes, and Mallory in line for plenty of snaps as well. Irvin II’s injury is a hit to the depth at the position, but Jordan was going to be the starter this year, and Mallory was going to have a big role, as well. There were a couple other minor dings during camp, but this is football and that’ll happen. Brown Jr and Irvin II’s injuries were the only ones of real consequence, although neither player was expected to have a starring role on the Canes this year.

4. There’s so much #narrative surrounding this game, from Miami trying to get back to contender status, and LSU trying to show that they ain’t dead yet. What’s the vibe around the program with this game?

Miami as a program and a fan base have been pointing to 2018 as the year that the Canes could, and should, return to competing for championships. Whether that’s ACC Coastal, ACC Conference, or College Football Playoff, this is the year that everyone has circled ever since Al Golden was finally, mercifully fired in 2015. The vibe is strong. There’s a healthy energy and anticipation for the year. From the ground up, Miami has been working toward this season for a long time, and the opener versus LSU is the start of this path. The roster has improved, the coaching has improved, and the schedule is ripe for the picking. Everybody is ready to finally play again and work towards the championships I already listed in the long term, and erasing the 3-game losing streak to end 2017 in the short term. In short: we ready.

5. What’s your best guess as to how this one plays out?

I think this is a tight game early, as both teams are elitely talented. I think that Miami’s defense limits LSU’s offense and Miami’s offense is able to find just enough space for their playmakers to impact the game. While acknowledging that LSU is a talented team, I just don’t think they have the range to beat Miami. I’m not gonna give a score yet but I’ll say Canes by a touchdown.