Barry Jackson

Here's what prognosticators are saying about UM. And two more veteran players are on the way.

UM defensive tackle Gerald Willis (91) and end Joe Jackson (99) - seen here sacking FSU quarterback Sean McGuire in a 2016 game - will be two key pieces on a UM defense that is highly-regarded entering the season.
UM defensive tackle Gerald Willis (91) and end Joe Jackson (99) - seen here sacking FSU quarterback Sean McGuire in a 2016 game - will be two key pieces on a UM defense that is highly-regarded entering the season. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on Memorial Day:

So how is UM viewed nationally entering the season?

Quite well – in fact, surprisingly well considering UM’s uneven play at quarterback and the loss of three impact starting defensive linemen, two starting offensive linemen, plus Mark Walton, Braxton Berrios and Chris Herndon.

Athlon has UM sixth in its preseason rankings, behind only Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan.

Here was Athlon’s assessment:

“The Hurricanes are a program on the rise for 2018 and should be in the mix for a spot in the top four once again. However, there are a few obstacles to overcome….. A healthy season from Ahmmon Richards will help whoever starts at quarterback, and Miami has plenty of talented weapons on the outside thanks to the return of Lawrence Cager, Jeff Thomas, Mike Harley and incoming freshman Mark Pope.

“The ground game is in great shape with the return of Travis Homer, along with the emergence of DeeJay Dallas and freshman Lorenzo Lingard. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has to fill a few spots in the trenches, but the Turnover Chain should be prominent once again in South Florida. The Hurricanes return one of the ACC’s top pass rushers in Joe Jackson, while the linebacker unit is among the best in college football. Sophomore Trajan Bandy could be poised for a breakout year at cornerback, which would solidify a unit that returns three starters…. An athletic and speedy defense is good enough for the ‘Canes to take the top spot in the Coastal. But taking the next step and knocking off Clemson or reaching the CFB Playoff will hinge on how well the offense performs. With a matchup against LSU in Week 1, Miami will find out right away where it stands on both sides of the ball."

Sporting News has UM 11th, behind a top 10 of Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Washington, Auburn, Notre Dame and Penn State.

“Mark Richt and the Hurricanes arrived earlier than expected this year, and — despite three losses to end the season — should be back in ACC contention with Malik Rosier and a core that includes running back Travis Homer and a strong defense,” Sporting News writer Bill Bender said.

What’s interesting is the teams ranked behind Miami, many of which were considered well ahead of UM when Mark Richt arrived – No. 12 Michigan, No. 13 Michigan State, No. 14 Stanford, No. 17 Virginia Tech and No. 20 FSU. LSU, by the way, is 19th and UCF 16th.

USA Today’s Paul Myerburg has UM 10th. And ESPN has UM 14th.

Carol City running back Camron Davis isn’t the only player planning to enroll in Summer Session 2 in late June. UM’s two veteran transfers also are expected to enroll then: Tennessee guard Venzell Boulware and Illinois defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo.

Boulware, a former three-star prospect out of Union City (Georgia) Creekside, redshirted his freshman season in 2015, then started three games in 2016.

Boulware replaced the starting left guard at Tennessee in the fourth game, against UMass, this past season, according to 247Sports. “However, Boulware did not play the following week against Georgia,” the report said, “and announced his transfer just days later.’’

He’s expected to compete with Hayden Mahoney, Corey Gaynor and potentially freshman Delone Scaife for a starting guard spot opposite Jahair Jones, who’s a front-runner for the other guard spot.

Odenigbo, listed at 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, played in 10 games last season and started four, closing with 29 tackles (including 4.5 for loss), one sack and two pass breakups. The former three-star recruit started one game in 2016. He was ejected in his last game with Illinois for tossing a flag back at the referee.

Odenigbo would have one season of eligibility left and would join a competition for a role in UM’s tackle rotation. Gerald Willis, Pat Bethel and Jon Ford are expected to lead that rotation, with ballyhooed freshman Nesta Silvera also is in line for playing time.

Turns out, not only did UM punish Notre Dame on the field last November (a 41-8 Hurricanes win), but some Canes fans gave it to Fighting Irish players off the field.

Tight end Durham Smythe, the Dolphins’ fourth-round pick, revealed that before that game, “we had people throwing stuff at the buses driving up. Actually our window was shattered and we had to get a new bus. It was pretty crazy stuff. The outcome was terrible, but I did love playing in that stadium.”

Oregon-based quarterback Michael Johnson- UM’s top quarterback target in 2019 recruiting – told Canesport.com’s Matt Shodell that not only was he told he’s Plan A, B and C for Miami but “they’ve just said that if they don’t get me they might not take a QB in this class. Miami’s one of my top schools like they always have been.”

He’s also considering FSU, Arizona State, NC State, Nebraska, LSU, Penn State and Texas A&M.

UM quarterbacks coach Jon Richt has flown to Eugene, Ore., to recruit him more than a half dozen times. Johnson’s father coaches at Oregon, but Oregon received an oral commitment from another quarterback and Johnson told Shodell that will affect his decision on Oregon: “They haven’t talked to me at all since he committed there.”

Rivals.com did a project ranking Power 5 conference teams on a range of overachievers-to-underachievers over a 10 year period.

Miami was ranked 61st; Rivals said only North Carolina, Illinois and Cal were bigger underachievers.

"Anyone paying attention doesn’t need spreadsheets, data or any sort of formula to know Miami has spent the last 10 years underperforming,” Rivals said, referring clearly to the Randy Shannon and Al Golden eras. “The 47 players 'The U' has had drafted since 2009 ranks 1oth nationally, but the Hurricanes have finished in the AP Top 25 in just three of the last 10 seasons.

“Miami will never be short on talent because of its proximity to a fertile recruiting ground, but the program has spent a solid portion of the last 10 years proving that elite talent doesn’t always translate to elite success. UM went 6-7 in 2014 and had 17 players drafted in the following three years. Miami is just one of three schools that produced more than 35 draft picks without a conference title in the last 10 years. North Carolina and Arkansas are the other two.”

Ex-Canes file: Former UM coach Dennis Erickson was named the coach of the Salt Lake City team in the new Alliance of American Football. The Alliance will feature eight teams playing a 10-week regular season beginning Feb. 9, 2019, on CBS. There will be two playoff rounds and a championship game on the weekend of April 26-28.

One postscript: We extend our best wishes to UM baseball coach Jim Morris, whose coaching career officially ended Monday with the expected news that UM had failed to reach the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season. (Susan Miller Degnan has more here.)

A kind and decent man, Morris won two championships (only Don Shula, Erik Spoelstra, Ron Fraser and Erickson also have achieved that feat among major teams in our market) and his exceptional body of work shouldn't be overshadowed by a disappointing final two seasons.

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