CIS Roundtable: 2020 Season Preview

CIS Roundtable: 2020 Season Preview

Stefan Adams
With the Miami Hurricanes' season just around the corner, it was the perfect time to get some of the CIS staff together to preview the 2020 season in a roundtable format. Here's how we see the year unfolding for Manny Diaz and his Canes.

Q1: Manny Diaz ultimately struggled to a 6-7 record in his first season as Miami's head coach. What are your thoughts on the job he's done thus far and have your expectations on his ability to succeed here been diminished at all?

Stefan Adams: It wasn’t just the record that shook my confidence in Diaz; first year head coaches always deserve some wiggle room and that is certainly the case with the situation Diaz walked into. It was who Miami was losing to that was especially concerning, including dropping contests to FIU, Louisiana Tech, and two under .500 ACC teams (GT, Duke), not to mention having to escape Central Michigan in the 4th quarter. The locker room was also a mess with tons of leadership and preparedness issues. Diaz did have a second straight buzzy offseason, making promising changes to the offense and the kicking game as well as earning some big recruiting wins, but until UM shows results on the field, my ultimate expectations for Diaz will be lowered.

Matt Suero: Having a losing record at Miami will always diminish my confidence in the head coach. There were many issues on last year's team, both on the roster and on the coaching staff. While it seems that Manny Diaz was able to identify and address the issues, I had confidence that he had corrected the team’s problems going into last season as well. I still believe that Manny Diaz can be a successful head coach at Miami, but I would be lying if I said I was as confident as I was going into last season.

Lance Roffers: Last year was simply unacceptable and I would've been understanding if they had moved on from Diaz after one season at the helm. College football has seen several coaches hit the ground running in their first opportunity as a head coach recently; Lincoln Riley and Ryan Day are two that immediately stand out in the regard, although in admittedly different circumstances. What gives me hope is the fact that coach Diaz recognized some of the errors he committed and moved to rectify them quickly. Bringing in the tempo spread is something I have been wanting for years and after the Enos disaster, there is real hope that he can turn things around this year. My belief in him has definitely diminished, though.

Bill (CanesLegacy): Manny Diaz’s first season was certainly a disappointment after finishing with a losing record and multiple embarrassing losses. However, one of Diaz’s strengths, even going back as a DC, is the ability to adapt. I’m optimistic after the changes he made in clearing out the offensive staff and bringing in a spread OC in Rhett Lashlee. My expectations haven’t diminished at all and I expect the Canes to compete for ACC Championships year in and year out.

Q2: The Canes changed offensive systems over the offseason, finally moving to a spread attack. What is your outlook on what Rhett Lashlee will bring to the U and how quickly can fans expect a turnaround on offense?

: As you can usually pin Miami’s main issues in winning games on the offense in recent years, Lashlee’s arrival in Coral Gables is the biggest reason for optimism in 2020 and for good reason. In his prior stop at SMU, Lashlee directed the nation’s #7 scoring offense with 41.8 points per game in 2019. The pace of play should be much improved as well, with 2019 SMU running about 81 plays per game, good for third in the country. While the offense will be sleeker and quicker, what Canes fans will want to look out for early in the year is the efficiency at which the offense operates during this adjustment period; the way to 81 plays per game is being able to sustain long drives and convert third downs, not just pace of play. Regardless, at long last, Miami finally has a system that can truly take advantage of the South Florida speed at their disposal, and although there will be some early growing pains, I expect the offense to be rolling by mid-season and fans will see improvement in the unit overall.

Matt: I believe that the offense will be able to make a quick turnaround under Rhett Lashlee because he has an experienced and very talented QB who will be running his plays. Miami also has an extremely talented group of running backs that should be able to open up the offense. Going back to his days at Auburn, the rushing attack has been a huge part of Lashlee’s success as an offensive coordinator and I think that will continue early on at Miami.

Lance: Fans can and should expect an immediate turnaround. Miami will play one team with more talent on their roster than they possess and they have an experienced play caller who has proven he can put points on the board. With a redshirt senior QB, I see no reason to temper expectations at all.

Bill: A complete philosophical change on offense is exactly what this program needed. Lashlee is going to inject an exciting offense that’s going to put up points that recruits, especially in South Florida, will want to play in. I expect a big turnaround in year 1, similar to the defense transitioning from Mark D’Onofrio to Diaz, with consistently good offenses in the future.

Q3: What are your expectations for D'Eriq King at QB?

: With King under center, Miami has probably the best athlete they’ve ever had at QB; that’s something even the common fan is aware of. What really surprised me was how accurate King looked back in spring when the media still had access to practice; he was making NFL throws and dropping dimes all over the field. Also, one of the aspects of King's game that I think has been overlooked a bit is his efficiency on 3rd downs. Miami was among the bottom 5 teams in the FBS in third down conversion rate the past two years (27.2% - 2019, 28.8% - 2018). Compare that to King's last full season in 2018, when Houston was 14th in the country and first in the AAC on 3rd down conversions (45.5%) and King led the AAC in QB grade (90.1) on the money downs according to PFF. Also for reference, Lashlee's offense at SMU last season was 30th in the country on third downs at 43.9%. Suffice to say, 3rd down conversions is an area of the game where King could have a transformative impact at Miami under Lashlee; even a slight bump up in these numbers to the "middle of the pack" range would have huge benefits from what we saw on offense last year. Ultimately, I see King having a strong season with some type of ACC recognition, but he will be held back from a truly great season and winning national awards because of a weak OL and a developing receivers corps.

Matt: My expectations for D’Eriq King is that he will be the best QB Miami has had in a very long time. The big play ability from his legs and his ability to push the ball down the field, combined with his accuracy on short and intermediate passes (which is the most underrated part of his game), should lead to a very successful season for King.

Lance: I expect him to do what he has done at every level of football in his career and that is to succeed. My expectations are at least 3rd team All-ACC and a season that shows his value as a leader as well as a player. King should be expected to bring professionalism and purpose to the QB room immediately.

Bill: Expectations are as high for King as any QB in Miami history. He is a legitimate Heisman contender that will have the team on his back. Most importantly, King will bring the leadership and maturity to the QB room that has been lacking the last few years in Coral Gables. I don’t like to predict stats, but King’s numbers should rival any QB in the country in total production (passing and rushing).

Q4: What do you see as the Canes' biggest strength?

: Yet again, Miami’s strongest area will be their pass rush. Even without Greg Rousseau, the defensive ends have the most depth and talent on the roster. Miami has two grown men off the edge: redshirt senior Quincy Roche is coming off one of the most productive seasons in AAC history and redshirt junior Jaelan Phillips has had a dominant camp, is fully healthy, and is raring to prove he was not a bust as the former #1 overall player in the country. That’s not even to mention the quick twitch abilities Jahfari Harvey and Cam Williams bring off redshirts, plus a top 100 overall talent in Chantz Williams. Miami will again put offenses behind the sticks all year and be among the leaders in sacks and TFL.

Matt: Miami’s biggest strength, as it has been for the past three or four years, is the defensive end position. Despite losing a future top-10 pick in Greg Rousseau, Miami is still going to field one of the best defensive end rotations in the country. You have the proven and productive Quincy Roche, the former number one overall player in the country with Jaelan Phillips, and an up and coming elite pass rusher in Jahfari Harvey. This should be a special group.

Lance: I see their pass rush as their biggest strength. It is rare for a college team to have three pass rushers with the talent that Miami has on the edge in Jaelen Phillips, Quincy Roche, and Jahfari Harvey. All have the potential to be starting players in the NFL.

Bill: The biggest strength on this Canes’ team for me is safety. Hall and Bolden are going to be playmakers at a premium position in Diaz’s defense. Hall has a year starting under his belt and will make a big leap forward. Bolden was just coming on before his injury last year and has had another offseason to become familiar with the scheme. Amari Carter provides experience coming in as the 3rd safety.

Q5: What do you see as the Canes' most glaring weakness?

: When you have an offensive line coming off a 51-sack season, that is always going to be cause for concern. The OL has been the key problem area for this team for multiple years at this point, as poor play up front affects so many other areas of the game and limits what you can do on offense. The pros are that Miami returns all of last season’s main contributors on a young OL that is another year older, and Lashlee’s scheme of getting the ball out quicker will reduce the pressure on them, but even a modest improvement in this area still leaves this an average unit at best.

Matt: The lack of a true number one receiver worries me even more than the offensive line. I believe that the offensive line will be improved as they are a year older and in a more friendly scheme, but I do not have the same level of confidence in the receivers. Mark Pope has had a very good camp, as has Mike Harley, but even those two are not built like true number one receivers.

Lance: Run fits at the LB position. Teams are going to test them on inside running plays until they prove they have the LB's to play physical and stop those runs.

Bill: The most glaring weakness remains the offensive line until proven otherwise. This unit was one of the worst in P5 last year. The addition of Jarrid Williams gives experience and a proven starter. DJ Scaife and Corey Gaynor have another year under their belt and should be much better entering their 3rd and 4th years, respectively. The big question mark comes on the left side with John Campbell and Ousman Traore. Campbell did not look good at RT early last year as a redshirt freshman and Traore is even more unproven. The addition of Garin Justice as OL coach and a scheme change will certainly lead to improvement, but the OL must show it on the field.

Q6: Who's your breakout player on Offense?

: I’m going to go out on a limb a bit and say my breakout player on offense is Dee Wiggins. Miami does not have an established #1 receiver going into the season and truly anyone could emerge. No, Wiggins wasn’t getting the consistent offseason practice hype like Mark Pope or Mike Harley, but he is the only returning receiver that provided multiple big plays last year. Wiggins displayed signs of turning the corner last season with back-to-back big games vs. FSU and Louisville (7 catches, 159 yards, 3 TD’s combined) before the offense completely collapsed at the end of 2019. If he can build on that stretch, Wiggins’ 6’3” frame combined with his ability to get behind a defense offers Miami a potential true #1 receiver on the outside in an offense that is built for receiver production. Somebody is going to put up numbers, so why not Wiggins?

Matt: For all the attention that the freshman running backs are getting, and deservedly so, I think that Cam’Ron Harris is being overlooked. Harris brings a physicality that neither of the two freshmen have in their game right now. He also brings speed to create big plays and has the ability to catch the ball out of the back field. Harris has been working this offseason to take over as the full-time number one running back position and I expect he will have a huge year.

Lance: Jaylan Knighton. The RB I wanted more than any other I saw film on last year has looked great in camp and plays a position that can provide immediate production.

Bill: My breakout player on offense is Cam Harris. I believe he will be a household name by the end of the season and in line for some postseason accolades. Defenses will need to account for King’s rushing ability as well as an offense that actually utilizes space. This will create open lanes in the middle of the defense and we’ve seen Harris take advantage of that in the past, even if it got called back by a penalty.

Q7: Who's your breakout player on Defense?

: We’ve made no secret of our love for Jaelan Phillips on the CIS podcast, so it would be blasphemy not to go with him in this spot. Phillips provided 8 TFL and 4.5 sacks in his 11-game stint at UCLA to begin his career, including a 1.5 sack game against Texas A&M as a freshman, so he’s already been a productive player at the college level. Since then, all Phillips has done is put on good weight and get his body back to full health at UM. He’s had a huge fall camp that allowed him display his violent physicality and top-notch burst. He doesn’t even have to be the de-facto “#1 DE” out of the gate with AAC Player of the Year Quincy Roche likely to command the most attention, which takes some pressure off him early on. With the added opportunity of no Rousseau a newfound gift for him, Phillips will take full advantage and prove why he was rated so highly coming out of high school.

Matt: Keontra Smith moved to striker from safety this past offseason, returning to the position he played in high school, and he has excelled. Ever since the striker position was introduced at Miami, I believed that Smith was the ideal striker with his size, speed, tackling ability, and his ability to maneuver in the box. He has had a great fall camp, which has only made me more confident that he will be the perfect fit at striker.

Lance: Jaelen Phillips will be the popular answer here and I’d have to agree. The system fits the player, the player fits the system, and he has the opportunity. Expect to see him mentioned as a possible high draft pick this offseason and someone with a decision to make on whether to come back next season.

Bill: My breakout player on defense is Jordan Miller. Miller was a guy who was a project as a recruit and now we are entering his 3rd year, which is “grown man” territory. He has the athleticism and strength to be a force in the middle and it would not surprise me if he takes a starting spot at some point during the season. With the way UM rotates on defense, he will see plenty of snaps, which will allow him to make an impact as the 3rd DT.

Q8: Who's your freshman of the year?

: I’ve consistently said Jaylan Knighton will have an impact from Day 1 in this offense, and fall camp has only increased my confidence here. With his quickness and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, Knighton is a great fit for what Rhett Lashlee wants to do on offense and his burst once he sees the hole open up is incredible. Also, RB is probably the position where you most see freshmen contribute early. Without a clear #2 back behind Harris, Knighton will have a lot of opportunities to provide microwave offense for Lashlee and the Canes in 2020.

Matt: Jaylan Knighton will be the popular pick in this category and I see why, but I am going with Xavier Restrepo. Restrepo has been my favorite recruit of any class since the first time I spoke with him. His attitude and energy on a consistent, daily basis is unmatched. He assumed a leadership role in the 2020 class and has continued that since he arrived on campus. He is an extremely talented slot receiver who plays with incredible effort and tenacity. He will also make a name for himself on special teams this year and will no doubt become a fan favorite.

Lance: Sticking with Knighton here. This offense is going to run the ball a ton and he will have the opportunity to use his speed to take advantage of tired defenses.

Bill: This one is pretty easy and it’s Jaylan Knighton. The hype is real and he’s really the only true freshman, outside of fellow RB Don Chaney, who is in line for significant playing time. Harris will carry the bulk of the load, but with the tempo this offense will utilize, the 2nd back will get plenty of opportunities. Knighton is a big play waiting to happen and should have multiple splash plays throughout the season.

Q9: Who is the player Miami can least afford to lose?

: What D’Eriq King brings to the table at QB would be impossible to replace. Behind him, N’Kosi Perry has the experience you like to see from a backup and the scheme change should benefit him, but he has been inconsistent at best throughout his career and there is a reason Miami brought in King to start over him. Having a guy like King on the field that commands respect in the huddle, consistently makes clutch plays in key moments, and does not accept losing is invaluable to a Miami team that has been lacking in all of those aspects for years now.

Matt: The only correct answer here is D’Eriq King. King has been the leader of this team since the moment he arrived on campus and has set the tone every day for how the rest of the players are to act and perform. He is a special talent at the QB position and Miami needs him if they are going to meet the goals that they set out for themselves this season.

Lance: Easily D'Eriq King. It has been years since Miami had not just a good QB, but a good leader at the QB position as well.

Bill: D’Eriq King is the player Miami can’t lose. He is the ultimate playmaker at the most important position on the field. Without King, this team would be projected to lose 4-5 games and not even be in the conversation for competing for the ACC title. N’Kosi Perry is an experienced guy, but hasn’t shown the ability to win at the college level. True freshman Tyler Van Dyke is a great physical talent, but with only 4 practices in spring and a weird offseason with COVID-19, he will need some development time. The season rests on King’s shoulders.

Q10: Which game will be key for Miami to win this season?

: Clemson will probably be Miami’s biggest game overall, but the FSU game is always Miami’s most important for a few reasons. Manny Diaz is off to a good start against the Noles, but coaches that don’t beat their rivals don’t tend to last very long, so the game will obviously be an important gauge for Manny’s long-term prospects at Miami. Also, this game is huge for recruiting every year, as the state’s best program that year always ends up reaping the benefits. Miami is seen as ahead of the Noles right now, so they have to keep that perception going by downing Mike Norvell’s Seminoles in his first year.

Matt: There are better litmus tests to see where Miami is as a program, but I think the most important game for this team is the UAB game on Thursday. A 9-win team last season, UAB is not a pushover. They are a quality team who will come into the game looking to make a statement. Miami has not won a season opener since 2017 and that has really hurt the rest of the season. Winning the first game, and also playing well while winning, is important for the team's confidence and their outlook on the rest of the season.

Lance: North Carolina. A win over the Tar Heels, who look to be on the upswing in the ACC, might be for the chance to get a rematch with Clemson.

Bill: I’m going to go with the last game of the year at home versus UNC. Not only could this game have ACC title implications, which is the goal this year, but a win over UNC will knock them off the high horse the media has put them on. Recruiting at UNC this cycle has been excellent despite a 7-6 season last year. Sam Howell will be at UNC at least 2 more years and Miami needs to assert themselves as the best team in the Coastal going forward even with no divisions this year. Plus, it’s always good to end the season on a high note to carry momentum into the offseason.

Q11: Lastly, what's your prediction for the W/L record for Miami this season?

: Put up or shut up time. It seems like every year the past couple of seasons we talk about how weak Miami’s schedule is and how they should easily run through it, but only once in that time (2017) have they really delivered on their preseason promise. There are only two teams on this schedule (FSU, Clemson) that can match Miami in pure talent, plus UNC is considered a tough out in Mack Brown's second year, but I’ll also have to factor in that UM will lose at least one game that they shouldn’t since that has been a trend that has held true since the beginning of time. Ultimately, I’m high on the offense to at least give UM average production instead of the usual bottom of the barrel type attacks we’ve seen the past few years. The kicking game also cost Miami a couple wins last season, so the addition of Jose Borregales should see immediate dividends. I’m going with 8-3 and things looking bright for 2021.

Matt: Miami has the most talented roster that they have had since the mid-2000’s, including the most talented QB in a very long time. Miami is also finally running a spread and they have a proven field goal kicker. There is no reason that this team should not be 9-2. Anything less than that means Miami lost to a team who is less talented, which can certainly happen. With that being said, I do have confidence Miami will win 9 games. 9-2.

: 9-2. I'm back in on believing in this team and just see too much talent for them not to be successful barring injury/outbreak.

Bill: It would not surprise me to see this team go as high as 10-1 or as low as 7-4 with so many question marks across the roster as well as on the coaching staff. However, with the improvements in the offseason, I will predict a 9-2 season with losses at Clemson and at VT. This puts Miami squarely in the race to be in Charlotte for a rematch with Clemson. I’m a huge believer in Lashlee in terms of getting production out of the offense. The defense will yet again be amongst the better ones in the country. Most importantly though, we finally have a QB that can be trusted to win games. This is the season that gets Miami back on track.

Comments (14)

8-3 and 9-2. Interesting numbers. Like everyone else’s thoughts, the first game execution is gonna be telling. If it’s sloppy and a loss, or a win by a whisker, we’re in for a long season. Not trying to be a Debbie downer, just want to see for once, this team play like having brought their lunch pails along. With that, I’m stoked, GO ANES!!!
Really nice preview before the pads go on tonight. But I think you guys are hedging too much. If King is as good as you believe, the only team on our schedule able to keep up with us would be Clemson. We're going 10-1 with a 3rd-team All-ACC year from King or better (with Lawrence and Howell presumably being 1 and 2). One shitty LT can't prevent that.
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Just extending on this, our failures over the past two years have been:
QB -- fixed
STs -- fixed
OL -- holes plugged, scheme and mobile QB adjustments
Quality Depth -- nearly fixed

If King is as good as we believe, the failure point shifts to defense, where we're still pretty stacked. Baker scares the hell out of me. He may lose a game late with bad choices. But we "should" be 10-1.
The OL play is essential to not just moving the offense forward but to keeping King healthy. Can’t afford to have him or any of the QB’s getting Shyt-canned like last year. Having 2very good TE’s will give the receivers some room to step up and establish who’s a1 2 or 3. The D, and upgrade at Kicker will give the O some breathing room, especially the D. They might even win a game we aren’t supposed to. It all starts tonight.#GOCANESNATION🙌🏿
Really nice preview before the pads go on tonight. But I think you guys are hedging too much. If King is as good as you believe, the only team on our schedule able to keep up with us would be Clemson. We're going 10-1 with a 3rd-team All-ACC year from King or better (with Lawrence and Howell presumably being 1 and 2). One shitty LT can't prevent that.
That’s fair. But let’s be real, Manny gives me a reason to hedge. Even if you think Enos was the biggest problem last year, which I do, Manny was still the head coach and involved in the game plan.
New offense, wish Greg was here, 2 freshmen RB's as 2nd and 3rd team. WR room weaker than usual for the Canes, OL unproven, 4 top players all from the portal...hmmm, not exactly championship calibre but 11-0 is possible. SIGH!
New offense, wish Greg was here, 2 freshmen RB's as 2nd and 3rd team. WR room weaker than usual for the Canes, OL unproven, 4 top players all from the portal...hmmm, not exactly championship calibre but 11-0 is possible. SIGH!
LSU won the Natty with a transfer. It’s a new world order.
I remember when all the genius’ of college football coaching prognostication deemed Orgeron a permanent failure who should be fired. I remember when people thought the current coach of the Indiana Independent Team was a goner. And, I remember when Dabo was being laughed at.

It took 4 CIS-ers, who all agree that D’Eriq King will have a transformative year, to come up with 8-3 and 9-2’s? Really? 9-2? That’s what I would expect if he DIDN’T have a transformative year and only had an okay one. Miami’s still playing in the sorry assed ACC. Where no off(enos)e kept Miami in all but 2 games last year. To imply, much less write, 9-2 is to believe that the defense will severely regress. Way to stick your dicks out guys! Or, maybe if you can hold your breath and make a really strong tightening in your diaphragm area … you can get those testes to finally drop.

If D’Eriq is anything close to Heisman quality then Miami could swap defenses with Louisville or maybe even GT and Still win 10 games. If Baker is just AS GOOD as he was last year Miami still has a fighter’s Chance with Clemson. If he’s better than last year, Miami goes 11-0 — again, assuming Miami has a Heisman QB this year. Why because a “Heisman season” means he’s running for nearly — or more than — 1,000 yards. It means he’s throwing for over 3300. It means he’s winning games. And how does he run for a 1000 with at least one of the other backs not doing it as well. That’s moving chains and making house calls.

This is an excellent analysis overall. I'll just say this: the most important games every year don't change.

1. F$U
2. VT

**** the Fake Indian and the Turkey. Must win every year.
Kind of lost in the shuffle of new coaches, new schemes and new players is the fact that Miami doesn't have to rely on freshmen this year. I mean Knighton and Chaney will play but that's because they're high end talents, not stop gaps. It seems like we have been relying on at least one true freshman (if not more than one) to contribute heavily for years and finally we have some legit depth where the two-deep has no true freshmen outside of the aforementioned running backs.
This is an excellent analysis overall. I'll just say this: the most important games every year don't change.

1. F$U
2. VT

**** the Fake Indian and the Turkey. Must win every year.
I tend to agree. Clemson is obviously the ultimate prize. But we can still have a great season if we take care of business with FSU, VT and UNC. We'll get a second crack at Clemson anyway under that scenario.

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2020 Schedule

Miami Gardens, FL
W 31 - 14
Louisville, KY
W 47 - 34
Florida State
Miami Gardens, FL
Clemson, SC
Miami Gardens, FL
Miami Gardens, FL
NC State
Raleigh, NC
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA
Georgia Tech
Miami Gardens, FL
Wake Forest
Winston-Salem, NC
North Carolina
Miami Gardens, FL