Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt’s second season was a success. UM won its first 10 games, reached the ACC title game and was even in the College Football Playoff semifinal discussion last season.
Now Richt and the Hurricanes hope they can sustain their success and truly thrust the program back into the national spotlight.
With much of the roster returning and depth established in Coral Gables, the Miami Hurricanes have earned the No. 3 spot in in Orlando Sentinel college insider Matt Murschel’s preseason 2018 college football rankings.
Murschel ranked all 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff takes a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 129 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 3: Miami
Coach: Mark Richt (19-7, entering third season; 164-58 overall)
2017 record: 10-3 overall, 7-1 in Atlantic Coast Conference; first in Coastal
Look back: During his second season after replacing Al Golden, Richt turned an offseason full of anticipation and high expectations into one of UM’s best campaigns in recent memory. The Hurricanes stormed to a 10-0 start, highlighted by snapping a seven-game skid against Florida State and a raucous blowout of No. 3 Notre Dame in Hard Rock Stadium. Miami won its first Coastal Division crown and played in its first ACC title game since joining the conference in 2004.
But injuries to key players like receiver Ahmmon Richards hampered UM down the stretch. The Hurricanes lost their final three games of the season, including the ACC title game to Clemson and the Orange Bowl to Wisconsin.
Offensive starters returning: 6
Offensive starters lost: 5
Defensive starters returning: 8
Defensive starters lost: 3
Key losses: WR Braxton Berrios, RB Mark Walton, TE Chris Herndon, DL R.J. McIntosh, DL Kendrick Norton, DE Chad Thomas, DB Dee Delaney, OL Kc McDermott, DT Anthony Moten, DE Trent Harris, OL Trevor Darling and PK Michael Badgley.
Top returnees: WR Ahmmon Richards, QB Malik Rosier, RB Travis Homer, DB Jaquan Johnson, LB Shaq Quarterman, LB Michael Pinckney, LB Zach McCould, DE Joe Jackson, DT Gerald Willis, CB Michael Jackson, DB Sheldrick Redwine, WR Lawrence Cager, RB Deejay Dallas, OL Jahair Jones, OL Navaughn Donaldson, OL Tyree St. Louis.
Strengths: Miami’s defense returns eight starters, highlighted by the entire starting secondary and a group of talented linebackers. Safety Jaquan Johnson and linebacker Shaq Quarterman have earned preseason All-American accolades and will be depended on to lead this defense, along with defensive end Joe Jackson.
On offense, Malik Rosier returns for his second season as starting quarterback with one of the ACC’s best returning receivers in Richards. Running backs Travis Homer, Deejay Dallas and five-star freshman Lorenzo Lingard should also have prominent roles this season.
Weaknesses: Quarterback Malik Rosier’s performance in the final three games of the season left plenty to be desired, but Richt outright named him the starter during the offseason. His progression as a quarterback is Miami’s biggest area of concern heading into this season.
On the offensive line, Miami has some inexperience but hopes to build on continuity cultivated this spring. Navaugh Donaldson has moved from right guard to right tackle, while Tyree St. Louis will get the nod at left tackle.
On the defensive line, the Hurricanes may not have reliable depth behind Jackson, defensive end Jonathan Garvin, and tackles Gerald Willis or Pat Bethel.
Outlook: UM owns one of the quirkiest schedules in college football. It starts with a neutral-site primetime opener in Dallas against LSU that should put the rest of the country on notice. Games at Toledo, a renewed series against FIU, North Carolina five days later, a Friday night game at Boston College, then road games at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will provide numerous tests for the Hurricanes.
Still, Miami is projected to face Clemson again in the ACC title game this season.
Sept. 2 LSU
Sept. 8 Savannah State
Sept. 15 at Toledo
Sept. 22 FIU
Sept. 27 North Carolina
Oct. 6 Florida State
Oct. 13 at Virginia
Oct. 26 at Boston College
Nov. 3 Duke
Nov. 10 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 17 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 24 Pitt