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Al Golden hasn't restored Miami's dynasty, but he's actually doing a decent job

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If you try not to think about how good the Hurricanes were a decade or three ago, things are going fine. Hard not to think about that, though.

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Progress vs. greatness

At a school with less of a history, Al Golden would be on track.

His program dealt with a long NCAA investigation and self-imposed sanctions from basically the moment he walked in the door, then began to rebound. It bottomed out in his second year, going 7-5 and ranking 60th in the F/+ ratings. In his third year, it improved to 42nd. In his fourth, 31st.

For the first time since his predecessor's last year, his team fielded a top-50 defense, and last year his team was held back by youth, awful turnovers luck (minus-3.4 points per game), close-game issues (0-2 in one-possession games, 0-4 in games decided by 11 or fewer points), and a late-season collapse.

By most standards, Golden is doing an acceptable job. His 28-22 record through four years is equal to Steve Spurrier's first four at South Carolina and ahead of Mike Gundy's at Oklahoma State (27-23), Gary Pinkel's at Missouri (22-25), and Kirk Ferentz's at Iowa (22-26). Including Golden, none of these did much more in his first four years than the program had done in its preceding four.

But Miami doesn't compare itself to South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Missouri, or Iowa. This is The U. Though success is getting further in the rear view, the Hurricanes have won five national titles in the last 32 years. Alabama can't claim that. Neither can Florida State, Ohio State, or USC. If you define the time period a certain way, the Hurricanes are still royalty. And seven wins per season, even during a cleanup, is not to be tolerated.

Figuring out Miami's place in today's landscape is both fascinating and impossible. The success of the '80s was a long time ago, and the program's fade was established before Golden came to town. Miami went 25-12 in Larry Coker's final three seasons, then 28-23 under Randy Shannon.

Even including the brief golden era of the Butch Davis and Coker years, Miami has only four 10-win seasons in the last 20 years -- one fewer than Missouri, as many as Iowa, and one more than South Carolina and Oklahoma State. No matter how good those 2000-03 squads were (and holy moly, were they awesome), 2003 was a while ago.

At what point do you lose your claim to automatic greatness? At what point are you forced to take a slow road back? While Golden has proved he's not capable of the former, he might still be on track for the latter.

Miami's win total regressed in 2014, but the Hurricanes got closer to becoming a complete team; they found their quarterback of the future, took a few steps forward defensively, and signed another solid recruiting classes. But it seems a foregone conclusion that this is Golden's final season at Sun Life Stadium. Is that a mistake? And can Golden's Hurricanes make something of 2015 despite the negative sentiment?

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-7 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 31
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
1-Sep at Louisville 23 13-31 L 47% -1.6 13%
6-Sep Florida A&M N/A 41-7 W 91% 30.8 100%
13-Sep Arkansas State 66 41-20 W 97% 43.8 100%
20-Sep at Nebraska 30 31-41 L 62% 7.2 35%
27-Sep Duke 51 22-10 W 94% 36.3 99%
4-Oct Georgia Tech 8 17-28 L 54% 2.3 23%
11-Oct Cincinnati 47 55-34 W 99% 52.4 100%
23-Oct at Virginia Tech 33 30-6 W 99% 52.3 100%
1-Nov North Carolina 70 47-20 W 98% 48.0 100%
15-Nov Florida State 15 26-30 L 56% 3.7 32%
22-Nov at Virginia 39 13-30 L 10% -30.0 0%
29-Nov Pittsburgh 43 23-35 L 22% -18.1 1%
27-Dec vs. South Carolina 38 21-24 L 30% -12.0 10%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 34.9 32 22.2 26
Points Per Game 29.2 62 24.3 37

2. A resounding thud

No matter the expectations, it's not difficult to understand that sentiment. That's what happens when you raise hopes, then fall flat on your face.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 6 games): 74% (~top 35 | record: 3-3)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 3 games): 99% (~top 1 | record: 3-0)
  • Average Percentile Performance (last 4 games): 30% (~top 90 | record: 0-4)

For six games, Miami progressed in fits and starts, exactly as you would think for a team starting a true freshman at quarterback and working with sophomores on defense. The offense was iffy against Louisville, good against Nebraska and great until the red zone against Georgia Tech. (It's really hard to average 8 yards per play and score just 17 points, but thanks to Georgia Tech's 40-minute time of possession and two Miami interceptions in Tech territory, the Hurricanes pulled it off.) The defense was fine against Louisville and great against Duke but couldn't get off of the field against Tech.

Hits and misses became only hits in a three-week span between October 11 and November 1. Against two good offenses and one bad one, the Hurricanes allowed just 4.3 yards per play and 20 points per game; against two iffy defenses and one great one, they averaged an incredible 8 yards per play and 44 points per game.

During this brief stretch, Miami was the best team in the country. The defense was good, and the offense was amazing. The Hurricanes handled Cincinnati about as easily as Ohio State did, crushed the team that beat the Buckeyes, and beat UNC worse than Clemson and Notre Dame combined.

The momentum carried over, too. Brad Kaaya hit Philip Dorsett and Clive Walford for big touchdown passes, and Miami took a 23-7 lead over Florida State early in the second quarter on November 15. And ...

... then Miami was outscored, 92-60, the rest of the season. FSU surged back to win in the final minute, as the Seminoles did in seemingly every regular season game in 2014. The Hurricanes then laid an egg at Virginia and were lucky to lose by only 12 to Pitt. The Independence Bowl loss to South Carolina was competitive and mediocre, and somehow, after playing like a burgeoning elite, Miami finished 6-7.

Be it youth, iffy depth, a quarterback hitting a freshman wall, or a demoralizing rivalry loss, the season ended when the FSU game ended.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.00 8 IsoPPP+ 119.4 29
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 43.2% 53 Succ. Rt. + 105.8 47
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.7 44 Def. FP+ 103.0 33
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.4 67 Redzone S&P+ 100.2 65
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.6 ACTUAL 24 +4.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 47 39 58 29
RUSHING 50 66 69 62
PASSING 48 25 43 19
Standard Downs 43 75 29
Passing Downs 34 36 39
Q1 Rk 17 1st Down Rk 39
Q2 Rk 37 2nd Down Rk 45
Q3 Rk 54 3rd Down Rk 9
Q4 Rk 76

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Brad Kaaya 6'4, 209 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9356 221 378 3198 26 12 58.5% 20 5.0% 7.7
Jake Heaps
6 12 51 0 0 50.0% 1 7.7% 2.9
Gray Crow 6'3, 224 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8616
Malik Rosier 6'1, 212 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8438

3. The run was the problem

Last year, Miami had the incredible Duke Johnson and a freshman quarterback in the backfield and finished 6-7 with a decent defense. Intuition would tell you that the passing game was probably the biggest issue. Not so! Or at least, not until the end of the season.

Brad Kaaya produced a 130 passer rating nine times in 13 games and topped 200 three times -- against Arkansas State, Cincinnati, and UNC, Kaaya completed 68 percent at 18.6 yards per completion, with 10 touchdowns to one pick. Even if he had good receivers and Johnson, one of the country's better pass-catching running backs, that's incredible for a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior.

But the offensive line was only OK, and for all of Johnson's success, a lot of it came in specific games. Johnson rushed nine times for 97 yards against FAMU and was almost untouchable in Miami's three-game stretch (against Cincy, VT, and UNC: 58 carries, 588 yards, four TDs). But in the other nine games, he averaged a mortal 5.5 yards per carry with five touchdowns. Against Louisville, Nebraska, FSU, and Pitt, the average was 4.8.

The inconsistent run game put a lot of pressure on Kaaya to make plays, and for two months, he did. But as freshmen do, he hit a wall. And it seemed to happen around halftime of the FSU game.

  • Kaaya, first 9.5 games: 62% completion rate, 15.1 yards per completion, 9% TD rate, 4% INT rate
  • Kaaya, last 3.5 games: 52% completion rate, 13.1 yards per completion, 3% TD rate, 2% INT rate

Kaaya's potential is off the charts; on third-and-7 or more in 2014, he completed 34 of 59 passes for 503 yards, and Miami ranked 34th in Passing Downs S&P+ and ninth in Third Down S&P+. Miami fans might be scarred by the iffy progression of former freshman star Jacory Harris, but a) Harris was underrated, leading two offenses that ranked in the Off. S&P+ top 30, and b) Kaaya's freshman passer rating was 20 points higher than Harris'. Granted, there were plenty of issues to work on -- Miami's offense got worse with each progressive quarter and couldn't close out drives (at least in part because of the iffy run game) -- but Kaaya passed his freshman exams.

The biggest issue: a brand new supporting cast. Johnson's gone, meaning Miami's replacing both a 1,600-yard rusher and a solid No. 2 passing target. And while Kaaya found downfield passing success, most of it was due to Philip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford, who combined for 1,547 receiving yards at 12.3 yards per target. They're both gone, too.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Duke Johnson RB
242 1652 10 6.8 7.1 44.2% 3 3
Joseph Yearby RB 5'9, 195 So. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9767 86 509 1 5.9 4.9 44.2% 0 0
Gus Edwards RB 6'2, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8569 61 349 6 5.7 6.4 36.1% 1 1
Brad Kaaya QB 6'4, 209 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9356 7 12 1 1.7 0.5 14.3% 4 1
Trayone Gray RB 6'2, 215 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8576 6 24 1 4.0 1.9 50.0% 1 1
Stacy Coley WR 6'1, 187 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9714 5 30 0 6.0 4.9 60.0% 1 1
Walter Tucker FB 6'0, 226 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) NR
Mark Walton RB 5'10, 190 Fr. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9588







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Phillip Dorsett WR
71 36 871 50.7% 19.1% 60.6% 12.3 414 12.4 144.0
Duke Johnson RB
58 38 421 65.5% 15.6% 51.7% 7.3 -37 7.1 69.6
Clive Walford TE
55 44 676 80.0% 14.8% 63.6% 12.3 164 12.3 111.7
Stacy Coley WR 6'1, 187 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9714 43 23 184 53.5% 11.6% 60.5% 4.3 -105 4.3 30.4
Braxton Berrios SLOT 5'9, 183 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8818 42 21 232 50.0% 11.3% 66.7% 5.5 -36 5.9 38.3
Malcolm Lewis SLOT 6'0, 189 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9028 40 25 248 62.5% 10.8% 55.0% 6.2 -56 6.2 41.0
Herb Waters WR 6'2, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8836 25 20 277 80.0% 6.7% 72.0% 11.1 44 10.3 45.8
Standish Dobard TE 6'4, 262 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9082 11 7 147 63.6% 3.0% 54.5% 13.4 62 13.3 24.3
Joseph Yearby RB 5'9, 195 So. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9767 11 8 118 72.7% 3.0% 72.7% 10.7 23 13.8 19.5
Gus Edwards RB 6'2, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8569 3 2 44 66.7% 0.8% 66.7% 14.7 20 15.3 7.3
D'Mauri Jones WR 6'4, 196 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8497 3 1 13 33.3% 0.8% 33.3% 4.3 -1 2.8 2.1
Tyre Brady WR 6'3, 204 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8529 3 0 0 0.0% 0.8% 66.7% 0.0 -4 0.0 0.0
Christopher Herndon IV TE 6'4, 255 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8550 3 0 0 0.0% 0.8% 33.3% 0.0 -4 0.0 0.0
Rashawn Scott WR 6'2, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8294
Jake O'Donnell TE 6'6, 258 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8264
Darrell Langham WR 6'4, 212 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8672
Jerome Washington TE 6'5, 262 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8913
Lawrence Cager WR 6'5, 200 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8894

4. All potential, little production

Since we're talking about Miami, it goes without saying that the new skill position guys are loaded with potential. Joseph Yearby was nearly as highly touted as Johnson out of high school, and while his explosiveness numbers couldn't match Johnson's, his efficiency numbers were dead even, and he didn't fumble. Between Yearby, the explosive Gus Edwards, and Mark Walton, the latest blue-chipper, Miami has talent. But Duke was Duke.

Dorsett will go down as the latest underrated Miami receiver, but it's hard not to like the backups. Herb Waters has been an explosive backup for a couple of years (which usually says good things about what happens when one takes on more targets), Yearby and Edwards were as impressive as Duke in limited receiving opportunities (14 targets, eight catches, 162 yards), Standish Dobard was as explosive as Walford (again, in limited opportunities), and incoming four-star Lawrence Cager has the length to contribute early, even if he could stand to eat more sandwiches.

And that says nothing of Mr. Potential, Stacy Coley. Coley was a breakout freshman, averaging 11.8 yards per target as a No. 3 behind Allen Hurns and Walford, and he was instantly one of the nation's most explosive return men. But he battled shoulder issues and one hell of a sophomore slump; after gaining 591 yards in 50 targets in 2013, he gained an almost impossibly low 184 yards in 43 in 2014. And his return averages regressed as well.

If new receivers coach Kevin Beard can connect with Coley and help him reestablish his 2013 trajectory, the receiving corps is fine. But the Canes are still going from proven production to ifs.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 104.8 3.31 3.17 42.0% 69.2% 17.4% 123.8 4.7% 4.2%
Rank 52 21 77 31 45 38 36 68 13
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Shane McDermott C 36 2014 1st All-ACC
Ereck Flowers LT
30 2014 2nd All-ACC
Jon Feliciano LG
46
Danny Isidora LG 6'4, 322 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8861 13
Taylor Gadbois RT 6'8, 321 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8504 9
Nick Linder C 6'3, 300 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8378 4
Trevor Darling LT 6'5, 318 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9541 1
Hunter Wells RG 6'6, 316 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7917 0
Alex Gall C 6'5, 310 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8489 0
KC McDermott LT 6'6, 315 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9764 0
Hunter Knighton C 6'6, 300 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8473 0
Sunny Odogwu RT 6'8, 322 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8500 0
Joe Brown LG 6'4, 331 RSFr. NR NR
Jahair Jones RT 6'4, 327 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8614
Tyler Grimsley RG 6'3, 300 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) NR
Bar Milo OL 6'6, 285 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9107
Tyree St. Louis OL 6'5, 315 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8984
Brendan Loftus OL 6'6, 300 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8518
Hayden Mahoney OL 6'5, 290 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8494

5. A ton of candidates, at least

Miami's 2014 line was not great, not terrible. But a year after replacing four players with starting experience, it must replace another three this year; Shane McDermott, Ereck Flowers, and Jon Feliciano combined for 111 career starts, and the latter two earned all-conference honors last year. [Update: Make that four replacements, as right tackle Taylor Gadbois is also gone.]

With a still-young quarterback and new skill-position starters, the line will probably need to raise its collective game to match last year's production, and that might be difficult.

But at least there are options. Miami returns three players with starting experience, boasts four former four-star recruits, and features plenty of size -- of the 15 listed above, 10 are at least 6'5, and 9 are at least 310 pounds. It's a mix-and-match game that could work, with only one senior in the mix, might not bear fruit until 2016.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.76 20 IsoPPP+ 123.4 15
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.2% 55 Succ. Rt. + 113.3 25
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.3 65 Off. FP+ 98.0 88
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.5 80 Redzone S&P+ 107.4 41
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 27.4 ACTUAL 23.0 -4.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 14 20 22 15
RUSHING 30 41 32 44
PASSING 17 9 11 10
Standard Downs 14 22 14
Passing Downs 31 17 34
Q1 Rk 17 1st Down Rk 14
Q2 Rk 24 2nd Down Rk 7
Q3 Rk 45 3rd Down Rk 25
Q4 Rk 13

6. Finally, a defensive breakthrough

Coordinator Mark D'Onofrio has been Golden's right hand man for a while. That he was able to mold a Temple defense into a top-60 unit (52nd in Def. F/+ in 2008, 56th in 2009) would suggest he could craft a top-30 unit with greater talent at Miami.

To put it kindly, that has not been the case. D'Onofrio inherited a defense that had ranked 12th in 2010, and in three years, the Hurricanes have fallen to 73rd, then 88th, then 91st.

The pass rush was decent, but the pass defense was both inefficient and leaky. Miami ranked 116th in Passing Downs S&P+.

Safe to say, defense was holding Miami back early in the Golden era. While the offense ranked 31st or better in Off. S&P+ in each of Golden's first three years, the defense ranked 54th or worse. The Canes let opponents off the hook in 2013, getting pushed around at the point of attack and struggling to avoid big plays on passing downs. After some serious turnover -- three of 2013's top four tackles were gone, as were two of three linebackers -- D'Onofrio flipped a switch.

Miami's pass rush still wasn't very good, but the linebackers were great, and the secondary made more plays. The performances were a bit up-and-down, but the full-season result was impressive: Miami improved from 68th in Def. S&P+ to 26th, from 100th in Rushing S&P+ to 41st, and from 116th in Passing Downs S&P+ to 31st.

Now, with another four starters to replace in the front seven, we'll see if the Hurricanes can maintain last year's gains.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 111.5 2.94 2.81 39.3% 64.8% 19.5% 98.8 4.7% 5.5%
Rank 29 67 29 70 50 62 70 63 101
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Anthony Chickillo DE
13 30.5 4.3% 4.5 3.0 0 3 1 0
Ufomba Kamalu DT 6'6, 295 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) NR 13 27.5 3.9% 4.0 3.5 0 2 0 0
Olsen Pierre DT
13 26.0 3.7% 2.5 0.0 0 2 0 0
Calvin Heurtelou DT 6'3, 315 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8690 13 16.5 2.3% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Trent Harris DE 6'2, 245 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8987 12 12.0 1.7% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Courtel Jenkins DT 6'1, 314 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8425 12 10.5 1.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Al-Quadin Muhammad (2013) DE 6'3, 260 So. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9750 13 7.5 1.0% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wyche DT 6'4, 325 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8628 10 6.0 0.8% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Chad Thomas DE 6'5, 265 So. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9877 12 5.0 0.7% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Moten DT 6'4, 299 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9266 10 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jelani Hamilton DE 6'5, 302 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9459
Earl Moore DT 6'1, 304 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8603
Demetrius Jackson DE 6'5, 250 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8755
Scott Patchan DE 6'6, 245 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8752
Richard McIntosh, Jr. DE 6'4, 270 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8544
Kendrick Norton DT 6'3, 310 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8860








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Denzel Perryman MLB
13 94.5 13.3% 9.5 2.0 1 5 3 0
Jermaine Grace OLB 6'1, 208 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8970 13 48.0 6.8% 6.5 3.0 0 1 0 1
Thurston Armbrister OLB
13 47.0 6.6% 8.0 5.0 0 1 2 0
Raphael Kirby MLB 6'1, 235 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9369 13 41.0 5.8% 4.5 0.0 2 2 2 0
Tyriq McCord DE/OLB 6'3, 236 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9443 13 38.0 5.4% 6.5 3.0 1 3 1 0
Darrion Owens OLB 6'3, 238 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8832 12 17.0 2.4% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Juwon Young MLB 6'2, 245 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8535 13 3.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Marques Gayot OLB 6'1, 220 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8503
Mike Smith LB 6'1, 225 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8805
Charles Perry LB 6'1, 206 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8762
Jamie Gordinier LB 6'4, 235 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8544








7. Wanted: more havoc up front

Despite an active secondary, Miami ranked a mediocre 58th in Havoc Rate, defensing 62 passes (40th) but recording only 64 tackles for loss (97th). And most of the TFLs came from a linebacking corps that is facing turnover. The Canes do return Jermaine Grace, Raphael Kirby, and part-time DE Tyriq McCord (combined: 17.5 TFLs), but stalwart Denzel Perryman is gone, as is Thurston Armbrister, Miami's best blitzer.

If Kirby is ready to fill Perryman's shoes, then Miami's front seven could hold steady. But a few more plays up front wouldn't be a bad thing. Ufomba Kamalu is a fine playmaker at tackle, but Miami has to get more from its ends. The return of Al-Quadin Muhammad, a former star recruit who was suspended for the fall semester after a violent altercation with a former roommate, could help immensely, as could quick development of four-star freshmen like Demetrius Jackson and Scott Patchan.

The secondary could be good enough to thrive without more disruption up front, but if the front can make a few more plays, the back could turn this into a top-20 defense.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Deon Bush S 6'1, 205 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9435 12 46.0 6.5% 4 2 2 3 5 0
Nantambu-Akil Fentress S
13 45.5 6.4% 3 0 0 0 2 0
Rayshawn Jenkins (2013) S 6'1, 209 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8525 13 38.0 5.2% 1 0 3 5 0 0
Artie Burns CB 6'0, 193 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9533 13 32.0 4.5% 2 2 0 6 0 0
Corn Elder CB 5'10, 183 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9185 13 29.5 4.2% 3 1 0 4 0 1
Dallas Crawford S 5'10, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8979 13 26.0 3.7% 0.5 0 0 2 0 0
Ladarius Gunter CB
13 24.5 3.5% 0 0 2 6 0 0
Jamal Carter S 6'1, 209 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9061 13 20.5 2.9% 0 0 1 5 0 0
Antonio Crawford CB
13 18.0 2.5% 1 1 0 5 1 0
Tracy Howard CB 5'11, 191 Sr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9884 13 18.0 2.5% 0 0 1 1 1 0
Hugo Delapenha Jr. DB
9 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Jackson CB 6'2, 192 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8643
Jaquan Johnson S 5'10, 188 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.9133
Sheldrick Redwine DB 6'1, 183 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8563








8. A potentially great secondary

The Miami secondary was worse than it had any reason to be in 2013, and then it lost starting safety Rayshawn Jenkins to a back injury. On paper, there was little reason to hope for any major breakthrough, but both Artie Burns and Corn Elder took second-year leaps at cornerback. That took pressure off of senior Ladarius Gunter, as did a deep rotation.

Gunter and play-preventer Nantambu-Akil Fentress are gone, but Burns, Elder, and safeties Deon Bush, Dallas Crawford, and Jamal Carter return for a unit that could be outstanding. Because of the iffy pass rush, the secondary has been asked to shoulder a heavy load, but it thrived last year and could improve even further.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Justin Vogel 6'4, 208 Jr. 52 42.8 1 20 21 78.8%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Justin Vogel 6'4, 208 Jr. 58 62.0 18 1 31.0%
Michael Badgley 5'10, 180 So. 19 55.7 5 1 26.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Michael Badgley 5'10, 180 So. 34-38 9-11 81.8% 5-7 71.4%
Matt Goudis 6-6 4-5 80.0% 0-1 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Stacy Coley KR 6'1, 187 Jr. 24 22.5 0
Phillip Dorsett KR 8 14.5 0
Stacy Coley PR 6'1, 187 Jr. 15 7.0 0
Braxton Berrios PR 5'9, 183 So. 4 5.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 92
Field Goal Efficiency 25
Punt Return Efficiency 103
Kick Return Efficiency 95
Punt Efficiency 33
Kickoff Efficiency 111
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 83

9. All-or-nothing special teams

Michael Badgley made five of seven long field goals and missed four PATs. Coley was reasonably explosive but inefficient on returns. Justin Vogel's punts were high and unreturnable, but his kickoffs were all sorts of returnable.

Miami's special teams unit was all over the map, and predictably, that resulted in poor efficiency. There's all sorts of potential, but we'll see if more of it's realized.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk
5-Sep Bethune-Cookman NR
11-Sep at Florida Atlantic 101
19-Sep Nebraska 30
1-Oct at Cincinnati 47
10-Oct at Florida State 17
17-Oct Virginia Tech 26
24-Oct Clemson 15
31-Oct at Duke 54
7-Nov Virginia 46
14-Nov at North Carolina 44
21-Nov Georgia Tech 19
27-Nov at Pittsburgh 38
Five-Year F/+ Rk 16.6% (31)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 19 / 19
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -1 / 7.8
2014 TO Luck/Game -3.4
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 11 (5, 6)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 7.1 (-1.1)

10. We'll learn what we need to by Halloween

For two straight years, Miami has fallen apart after losing to Florida State. In 2013, the Canes started 7-0 but got rocked by the Seminoles, and it bled over to 18-point losses against Virginia Tech and Duke. Last year, they were 6-3 but had played three consecutive nearly flawless games and took a 16-point lead on the Noles, only to lose by four, then lose by a combined 29 to Virginia and Pitt, who combined to finish 11-14.

If you're looking for reasons why Golden's on such a hot seat, that's a good place to start. His teams have been too thin, too inexperienced, or simply incapable of rebounding from disappointing outcomes against a more successful (of late) rival.

This year will either finish or redefine the Golden era. He's likely going to have to win quite a few games this year, and while that doesn't mean he has to beat Florida State, a) it would help, and b) he can still survive if his team actually bounces back.

The FSU game falls in the middle of a telling stretch: a visit from Nebraska and a trip to Cincinnati precede it, and visits from Virginia Tech and Clemson follow. If the Canes are 4-3 or better when they head to Duke on Halloween, they'll be in shape to finish with the eight or nine wins requisite to keeping Golden's job. If they're 3-4 or worse, they'll probably be playing for an interim coach in November. And if they're 5-2 or better, they'll perhaps be in the running for their first division title.

Yes, first division title. Miami's issues began long before Golden came to town, and while he hasn't been able to meet the bar, it's not evident that many could. But whether expectations are realistic or not, Golden's got a potentially great quarterback, an exciting set of skill position options, and a defense coming off of its best season in years.

He's got a chance to survive, job intact, heading into 2016, and if he does, that might be a very good thing for Miami.