Miami preseason outlook
Coach: Al Golden
2013 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in ACC (Tied for Second in Coastal Division)
Overview: Al Golden’s fourth season at Miami is already different than any of his first three — since the NCAA probe revolving around the actions of a former booster is finally a thing of the past. With star running back Duke Johnson healthy again after his 2013 season ended early because of a broken ankle, and plenty of playmakers on both sides of the football, the Hurricanes are expected to be in the mix for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division title. But there is a major question still to be answered, that being who will be the starting quarterback when the season begins at Louisville on Sept. 1. Ryan Williams would have been the presumed starter but is still recovering from a torn knee ligament, though is expected back at some point this season. Transfer Jake Heaps and true freshman Brad Kaaya seem like the top contenders for the job, and neither has thrown a pass at Miami. The winner of the quarterback job will get plenty of help from Johnson, not to mention a talented crop of receivers. Miami had 10 receivers with catches of 25 or more yards last season. If defenses are going to be kept honest and not able to stack the box against Johnson, finding a way to keep the deep ball in the repertoire would seem crucial. The Hurricanes’ defense has been on the field an average of 34 minutes per game over the last two seasons, the second-highest total among all major college teams.
Player to watch: Duke Johnson, RB – The junior rushed for 115 yards per game, which would have ranked second in the ACC, and averaged 6.3 yards per carry before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in the eighth game. Expect eight-man fronts until Miami’s passing game proves itself.
Game to watch: Miami at Lousiville, Sept. 1. Miami’s 2013 season ended with a one-sided loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and the Hurricanes open this season as the Cardinals’ opponent for their ACC debut.