A documented winner

Today at No. 86: MIAMI Coach: Al Golden (28-22, entering fifth year; 55-56) 2014 record: 6-7, 3-5 in Atlantic Coast Conference; tied for fifth...

vrsportsbookToday at No. 86: MIAMI

Coach: Al Golden (28-22, entering fifth year; 55-56)

2014 record: 6-7, 3-5 in Atlantic Coast Conference; tied for fifth in Coastal Division

Look back: Miami overcame a sluggish start to compile a 6-3 record heading into the final stretch of the regular season as quarterback Brad Kaaya was finding his form with the help of a strong supporting cast. The Hurricanes, however, lost a heartbreaker at home to FSU in November and never recovered, dropping their final four games of the year. Miami’s season was considered a disappointment and coach Al Golden drew criticism for not maximizing the most of a roster that featured seven draft picks.

Offensive starters returning: 5

Offensive starters lost: 6

Defensive starters returning: 6

Defensive starters lost: 5

Key losses: RB Duke Johnson, WR Phillip Dorsett, OL Ereck Flowers, TE Clive Walford, LB Denzel Perryman, DL Anthony Chickillo, OL Jon Feliciano, DB Ladarius Gunter, OL Shane McDermott, LB Thurston Armbrister

Top returnees: QB Brad Kaaya, RB Joseph Yearby, OL Daniel Isidora, DL Chad Thomas, LB Raphael Kirby, LB Jermaine Grace, DB Deon Bush, WR Braxton Berrios, WR Stacy Coley, P Justin Vogel, DL Ufomba Kamalu, DB Artie Burns

Strengths: Kaaya finished with 3,198 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, completing 58 percent of his passes. The Hurricanes bring back a stable of athletic-yet-unproven receivers such as Stacy Coley, Braxton Berrios and Herb Watters. Throw in freshman running back Joseph Yearby (509 rushing yards, 5.92 yards per catch) and Kaaya should not be lacking firepower as he looks to build on a promising freshman campaign.

Miami’s secondary was a bright spot for a defense, with the defensive backs helping the Hurricanes rank No. 17 nationally after surrendering just 192.5 yards per game through the air. UM ranked third in the ACC in pass defense while forcing 10 interceptions. Cornerback Artie Burns was tied for the team lead in pass breakups with six. Safety Deon Bush was tied for the team lead in interceptions (2) while leading the group in forced fumbles (5). It’s one of the deepest position groups on the team this season.

Weaknesses: Replacing sideline-to-sideline linebacker Denzel Perryman will be a difficult task. With 37 career starts, Perryman compiled 351 tackles and 27 tackles for a loss while compensating for a general lack of top-end playmakers among Miami’s front seven. Raphael Kirby (54 tackles) slides inside to fill the void left by Perryman, but is simply not as dynamic. Miami also lacks proven commodities along its defensive line.

Kaaya’s success hinges, in part, on the offensive line’s ability to protect him this season. It’s a task made more difficult with the departures of left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Jonathan Feliciano and center Shane McDermott, who accounted for more than 100 combined career starts.

And Kaaya’s primary safety valves — Phillip Dorsett, Clive Walford and Duke Johnson — are gone. Despite a career hampered by injuries, Johnson left Miami as one of the best overall players in Hurricanes history and his departure may be especially challenging to offset.

Outlook: Talent doesn’t appear to be the main issue in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes will be particularly young squad in 2015, but they’ll also have a handful of intriguing athletes to work with on both sides of the ball. The combination of a tough schedule, an exodus of playmakers to the NFL and animosity among fans, however, could doom Golden.


Sept. 5 Bethune-Cookman

Sept. 11 at FAU

Sept. 19 Nebraska

Oct. 1 at Cincinnati

Oct. 10 at FSU

Oct. 17 Virginia Tech

Oct. 24 Clemson

Oct. 31 at Duke

Nov. 7 Virginia

Nov. 14 at North Carolina

Nov. 21 Georgia Tech

Nov. 27 Pittsburgh

Vincent Rizzo

College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,

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