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Know Thine Enemy: Miami Hurricanes

NCAA Football: Miami (OH) at Miami Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Week 1 was fun, but the real football starts now. Texas A&M travels to Miami Gardens, FL to take on the Miami Hurricanes in what should be the first big test of the season for both teams, both of whom are looking to rebound from very disappointing 5-7 seasons a year ago.

I answered a few questions for State of the U, Miami’s SB Nation team site, about my thoughts on the A&M program headed into this game. So to learn more about the Hurricanes and how they’re feeling on the other side of the fence, we asked State of the U’s KappaCane to answer a few of our questions. Enjoy.

Obviously 2022 didn’t go right for A&M or Miami. From the Canes’ perspective, what do you feel were the biggest factors that led to that disappointing season

For Miami, it had to be injury above all else. We saw key injuries to every position group on the team and none were bigger than losing starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who sustained an injury to his throwing shoulder against Duke. Every scholarship RB on our roster missed games with injury, and two for the entire season. That left us with two backs who were 5’10 and 190 lbs soaking wet carrying the bulk of the snaps while battling their own injuries. Our top receiver was lost for half of the season to an injury and our offensive line was decimated by serious injury throughout the season, exacerbating an already bad situation. There were plenty of other issues with last year’s team from poor coaching to a lack of buy in and execution from the players, but I believe injury was most the single most significant factor in our debacle of a season that ended with a 5-7 record for a team that was much worse than their record reflected.

(Editor’s Note: Doesn’t this sound super familiar, Ags?)

Miami brings in two new coordinators this year. What are the early rumors about how the new schemes will differ from what we saw last season?

I want to give Mario Cristobal some credit here. He saw issues amongst the staff last season, and he made wholesale changes on offense and defense to address those issues. As a result, Miami has a new Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach named Shannon Dawson who ran a version of the Air Raid under Dana Holgerson at West Virginia and Houston. Last season we had an Offensive Coordinator in Josh Gattis that wasn’t always on the same page as the Quarterbacks coach Frank Ponce, which led to confusion for our QB group. Dawson is a home run hire in my opinion because of his ability to get the ball to playmakers in space.

On defense, our new coordinator is Lance Guidry. He spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Marshall University, where his defenses proved to be among the nation’s elite units. Marshall’s defense ranked in the top five nationally in FBS in several key statistics, including third down defense (first), stop rate (second), pass efficiency defense (third), defensive efficiency (third), yards per play (third), turnovers gained (fifth) and rushing defense (fifth). In a dominant 2022 campaign, the Thundering Herd also finished the season ranked 6th in scoring defense (16.0) and passes intercepted (18), eighth in total defense (294.5), ninth in first down defense (200), 12th in defensive touchdowns (3), 16th in team sacks (2.92), 19th in red zone defense (76.7) and 22nd tackles for loss (6.9) and fumbles recovered (11). His attack first defense is built on pressure from all over the field, so expect to see a lot of blitz looks and stunts during our matchup.

We all know Tyler Van Dyke, but who are some other Hurricane players that Aggie fans need to know going into this game?

Again, credit to HC Mario Cristobal for revamping the roster in the offseason through High School recruiting and Transfer Portal additions. He shocked the country when he landed the top two Offensive Tackles in the country in 5 stars Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola. Top Running Back Mark Fletcher was a great addition to a room decimated by injury last season. Rueben “Hurricane” Bain was another monster addition on the defensive line. All four freshman are expected to be significant contributors this season. As far as portal additions, we brought in Matt Lee from UCF who was the highest graded returning Center by Pro Football Focus (PFF) as he earned an 82.5 grade last season. Javion Cohen is a Guard that transferred in after playing close to 30 games as Alabama’s starting left guard over three seasons. Francisco Mauigoa, the older brother of Freshman OT Francis Mauigoa, is a star linebacker who joined Miami, bringing with him the best linebacker coverage grade in the country by PFF last season as a starter for the Washington Cougars. Branson Deen, a 5th year Defensive Lineman from Purdue has flashed in Miami as he comes in with Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection over the past two seasons (2022, 2023).

We all have our reasons for optimism why “this year could be different.” What are yours this season?

Well, for starters we’re relatively healthy coming into Game Week prep. No one wants to see their program decimated by injury and unable to field the team they’ve heard about and anticipated seeing. We’ve brought in key additions at every position of need, and experienced coaches that cater to the strengths of our personnel. I’m excited to see the new additions to our OL, DB, and LB units the most.

I know there’s a good number of Texas A&M fans making the trip to south Florida for this game. Any particular things they need to know to maximize the enjoyment of their trip?

Have plenty of water handy as it gets both hot AND humid and be open to trying new things. There are a plethora of cultures in South Florida and with that comes endless dining and entertainment options. Support small businesses if you can as they help the economy thrive. I wrote a piece last season titled “Miami - A mosaic of history, culture, & diversity” that still rings true if any of your readers are interested:

Alright give me your game prediction.

I believe that the game will be close going into the 4th quarter, and Miami is able to pull out the win at home with a 4th year Junior Quarterback. I expect the game to be in the 20s but don’t have a score prediction in mind.

Be sure to check out State of the U this week to get more perspective on the Hurricanes’ side of this matchup.