Miami will start the 2014 season hoping to have a better result than it did to end the 2013 season. Al Golden's offense was completely shutdown by Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford's frenetic defense. Golden and offense coordinator James Coley saw a promising season derailed when star running back Duke Johnson broke his ankle against Florida State. Without a big play option in the running game, the Hurricanes were forced to rely on the arm of Stephen Morris to get the ball outside to the other play makers outside. That is a less than ideal situation. The Louisville defense dominated, stuffing the running game and chasing Morris all over the backfield.
This year, Miami will enter the matchup with the Cards healthy and with a newly minted starting quarterback. True freshman Brad Kaaya has been named the starter and for the most part Miami fans seem to be very happy with that decision. Kaaya was the 7th ranked pocket passer in 247's composite rankings and his 93 rating was comparable to Teddy Bridgewater's 94 rating. An Elite 11 finalist, Kaaya is known for a big arm and good pocket presence. However, the first thing that jumps out on his film is his questionable footwork. Kaaya, doesn't always set his feet and sometimes throws the ball completely with his upper body. It worked fine in high school, but defenders are much faster and much more likely to make a play on a pass that floats even just a bit.
Reports out of Miami are that Kaaya won the starting job straight up over Jake Heaps. Heaps is easily the starting quarterback for the "That Guy is Still in College" all-star team, but he was beat out by the freshman after transferring in this summer. Heaps was a top rated recruit coming out of high school but struggled mightily after a stellar freshman season at BYU. If Kaaya falters. Heaps has the experience to handle the hostile crowd at Papa Johns. Losing out to a true freshman, however, leads me to think that he might not have the talent to lead the team to victory.
Miami's offense did an exceptional job last year with play-action. It wasn't much of a factor towards the end of the season but with Johnson and his career 6.3 yards per carry primed to return, the offense should be able to get back to making big plays. Johnson is an absolute dynamo in the backfield. He is a compact back that gets to top speed faster than any back in the country. Even though his top speed isn't as elite as some, he gets to the second and third level much quicker than most. Johnson also does a great job of keeping his top speed when he cuts and jukes. There's no wasted motion on his part at all. It's safe to say that if Miami had Johnson in the bowl game last season, the offense would have been much harder to stop.
True freshman Joseph Yearby and Gus Edwards are in line to be the second string running backs. Yearby is a super quick back in a similar mold of Johnson, while Edwards is a big bruiser type of back. The knock on Edwards is that he doesn't use his size well when he runs. At 235 pounds, he should be punishing tacklers but he tends to go down pretty easily. Yearby, on the other hand, is extremely hard to even get a hand on. His high school highlights are pretty mesmerizing. Either back should see the field Monday night if Golden and Coley want to keep Johnson fresh for the fourth quarter.
One thing that Miami teams are known for is an abundance of speed and this 2014 team is not lacking in that area. Stacy Coley was the only player in the country to score touchdowns four different ways last season and that was as a true freshman. Coley is a threat to score every time he touches the ball and they do a great job of finding different ways to utilize him. Coley will be used on quick screens, end arounds, as well as deep posts. Coley will line up in the slot as well as outside. It will be interesting to see what Todd Grantham chooses to do if Miami spreads the field with Coley lined up in the slot. Terrell Floyd is a really good in man coverage, but Coley's speed might be a problem.
Coley will line up with veterans Herb Waters, Phillip Dorsett, and Malcolm Lewis. Most say that Dorsett is the fastest player at Miami and he seems to back that up on film and on the stat sheets. Dorsett missed a lot of time last year, but his 21 yards per catch is eye-popping no matter what. Lewis also spent last season banged up but Canes fans are hopeful that the former four star prospect can help lessen the blow from the loss of Alan Hurns. Waters is the biggest of the receivers at 6-2. He is a former Louisville target and former teammate of James Burgess. Waters has made a handful of big plays for the offense, but he isn't the burner that the other receivers are.
Clive Walford returns as the only player that had an offensive play for more than 25 yards in the bowl game. Walford is not a burner by any means but he does a good job carving out space in zones. I think that Louisville's linebackers will do well in coverage this year which should help keep Walford at bay. I'm sure Kaaya will have a good amount of plays called to get the ball out quick to the tight end and running backs to get him comfortable.
Miami's offensive line was one of the most talented Louisville faced last year and they were made to look like a group of guys that had never played together. With the loss of two starters to the NFL the thought would normally be that the offense should need to regroup a bit. However, the feeling out of Miami is that the line should be better this year. Seniors John Feliciano and Shane McDermott will anchor the interior of an athletic line that does a great job getting out on stretch runs as well as quick screens. Ereck Flowers is somewhat overlooked in the ACC because of the stellar play of some of the more well known guys in the conference. Flowers might have been the best player on the line last year and he will be a key matchup with Lorenzo Mauldin. Right guard will likely be manned by Danny Isidora while the right tackle spot is still somewhat up for grabs. Incoming freshman KC McDermott is battling Taylor Gadbois for the starting spot. Gadbois has the experience while McDermott is one of the top rated offensive lineman in this past year's class.
KEY PLAYERS: RB Duke Johnson, WR Stacy Coley, LT Ereck Flowers, TE Clive Walford, WR Phillip Dorsett
- Brad Kaaya's mom played Felicia in the movie "Friday".
- Shane McDermott and KC McDermott are brothers.
- James Coley and Stacy Coley are not.
- Miami has 9 punters and kickers on their roster.
- Backup tight end Beau Sandland asked to be allowed to transfer this week.
- Jake Heaps is five and a half years older than Reggie Bonnafon.