In November 2014, the nation’s highest profile college football analyst told the Miami Herald that then-freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya would become “one of the faces of the sport” and lead the Hurricanes back to prominence as early as 2015.
He got the first part right.
ESPN/ABC commentator Kirk Herbstreit spoke to the Herald again Tuesday, praising the hiring of coach Mark Richt, lauding the administration for its decision to dismiss two UM star defensive players and saying he “absolutely loves” the idea that three freshmen will start at linebacker.
But despite recently picking Miami as an Atlantic Coast Conference “sleeper to be a thorn in the side to some of the more recognizable teams that people expect to compete for the ACC,” this time Herbstreit tempered his forecast for the UM season that starts Saturday against FAMU.
“I don’t think there are a lot of people that have high expectations for Mark Richt and Miami on a national level going into his first year,” Herbstreit said. “It really doesn’t have anything to do with Mark Richt. It has to do with this program for I don’t know how many years being basically a 7-6, 8-5 type of team. So, the expectation for them is 7-6 — that’s who Miami is.
“My thought is because of the respect I have for Mark Richt and for Brad Kaaya, this is a team that maybe could do a little better than that. I could see this team getting up to eight, maybe nine wins.”
Herbstreit picked Clemson to beat North Carolina for the ACC title, then go on to win the national championship amid a four-team playoff that he predicts will also includes Alabama, Ohio State and TCU.
Some other Miami-related topics Herbstreit addressed:
▪ On the dismissals of linebacker Jermaine Grace and Al-Quadin Muhammad: “I really applaud Mark Richt and Miami for what they had to do. Because after everything Miami has been through [with the NCAA]… I know it wasn’t an easy decision, but if players are going to make poor decision, no matter who you are, there needs to be consequences.
“It’s addition by subtraction.”
▪ On three freshmen making their first starts at linebacker: “I love it. I can’t get enough of that. Under the circumstances I… absolutely… love it. You are not only getting rid of some of the guys that maybe took for granted their positions with the team, you’re replacing them with young, hungry, determined kids that are just right off a high school field who are going to have that helmet on and probably dreamt their whole lives of wearing. It makes me very excited to watch Miami.”
▪ On UM’s schedule: “If you’re trying to break in a young team with a new system, those are the three teams — Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and at Appalachian State — you want to play before things get tough.” Those next six weeks [at Georgia Tech, FSU, North Carolina, at Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame, Pittsburgh] are going to really be a challenge. I don’t even think Pitt is a slam-dunk.”
▪ Herbstreit encouraged fans to tweet to @Allstate and @KirkHerbstreit with the hashtag #StreitCred as part of his Twitter program that engages college football followers in discussing their favorite teams of the week.