In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new team is revealed in the HERO Sports Top 100.
No. 13 Miami (FL)
Miami appeared ahead of schedule last year as they rolled to a 10-0 start and were 60 minutes away from earning a playoff spot. Then Clemson took them behind the woodshed and reminded everyone who runs the ACC.
Most of Miami's core is back and while Mark Richt isn't nearly done building them into an annual ACC and playoff contender, they have enough to reach a second straight conference championship and challenge for a playoff spot.
2017 Record: 10-3 (7-1, ACC)
While Miami's first 10-win season in 14 years was a nice step for the program and spurred optimism, the road loss to Pittsburgh and demolition in the ACC Championship made the season feel very [insert expletive of your choice].
“The way it ended kind of spoiled the whole good season,” receiver Ahmmon Richards said.
Head Coach: Mark Richt (3rd Year, 19-7)
"I do understand what's expected," Mark Richt said at his introductory news conference in 2015. "And really, I don't want to make a lot of promises, other than I want to promise that we're going to get to work and we're going to earn the right for victory."
The expectations are quite simple: Mark Richt was hired to win a national championship. And he's taken several big steps to make that happen.
WR Braxton Berrios, TE Christopher Herndon IV, OT Kc McDermott, G Trevor Darling, DE Trent Harris, DT RJ McIntosh, DT Kendrick Norton, CB Malek Young, K Michael Badgley
Leading pass-catchers Braxton Berrios and Christopher Herndon are both gone, as are two all-conference linemen in Kc McDermott and Trevor Darling.
Defensively, the line was smoked by departures, losing Trent Harris to graduation and RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton to the NFL. Corner Malek Young is done after two seasons of college football; he underwent career-ending neck injury over the winter.
Kicker Michael Badgley graduated after an outstanding career in which he hit 172 of 179 PATs and 77 of 99 field goals.
Returning Offensive Players
QB Malik Rosier, RB Travis Homer, WR Ahmmon Richards, G Navaughn Donaldson, C Tyler Gauthier
Miami ranked eighth nationally in red-zone scoring (94 percent) but they struggled scoring touchdowns inside the 20, doing so on only 58 percent of their opportunities and ranked among the nation's worst in scoring in goal-to-go situations. And while their red-zone issues didn't lead to any regular-season losses (though it played a big role in the bowl loss to Wisconsin), they must get better.
Malik Rosier is back at quarterback after an up-and-down season plagued by accuracy issues.
"Two things me and coach Mark Richt talked about a lot: One was shortening up my throwing motion and so I really harped on that," Rosier said. "The second one was, when I went back, I talked to [private quarterbacks coach] David Morris and he was like, sometimes I overstride, which gets my body wide, gets my arm down and he said, I’m starting to overthrow balls. Those were the two biggest things I worked on with my accuracy.”
If his accuracy is better, they have the skill group to improve their 5.8 yards-per-play average. Ahmmon Richards (below) was a Freshman All-American before battling injuries last year — though he still led their regulars with 18.3 yards per reception.
Travis Homer is the lead back after a strong sophomore season in which he averaged nearly six yards per tote as Mark Walton struggled with injuries. He's not a huge guy (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) but is quick, surprisingly powerful and a capable receiver.
The offensive line is filled with replacement questions, but the staff is optimistic and said the first-stringers have played well in fall camp after laboring through the spring (22 sacks in three scrimmages).
"Navaughn’s doing much better. . . . I feel good about him at right tackle right now," Richt said of sophomore guard Navaughn Donaldson, who started 10 games last year."
Returning Defensive Players
DE Joe Jackson, LB Shaq Quarterman, LB Michael Pinckney, LB Zach McCloud, CB Michael Jackson, S Jaquan Johnson, S Sheldrick Redwine
Seven starters and coordinator Manny Diaz return from a defense that allowed only one team to score more than 24 points in their first nine games, was dominant vs. the run (3.5 yards per carry) and had 16 interceptions in their first nine games).
After spring practice, Diaz said the defense is better than they were a year ago, a somewhat surprising statement given their defensive line was gutted be departures. The Canes do, however, return all three linebackers, a couple studs in the secondary and one of the ACC's most disruptive ends in Joe Jackson.
Junior linebacker Shaq Quarterman has started every game of his career and had 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last year. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder is one of the best all-around defenders in the country.
"If you just watched Shaq and [Michael] Pinckney in the scrimmage, they see the target, they know what to do, and they get there so fast with a nasty attitude that it is unbelievable,” Richt said in April. “They just love football. They played that spring game like it was for the national championship. It was unbelievable.”
Speaking of best all-around defenders in America, Jaquan Johnson is a beast. The senior safety led the team in tackles (96) and interceptions (four) last year and is constantly praised by Diaz.
"I’ve been jumping up and down on this Jaquan Johnson bandwagon for a while now," Diaz said last year. It’s neat that he made the plays that sort of the untrained eye can see, the obvious spectacular plays."
QB N'Kosi Perry, QB Jarren Williams, G Venzell Boulware, CB Gilbert Frierson
Miami's two-deep is filled almost entirely by upperclassmen and experienced sophomores, though there are a few holes that will be filled by newcomers.
Richt ended any potential quarterback controversy in July by saying that Rosier is their starter, but they're still searching for a backup, who will likely take over in 2019. Redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry and true freshman Jarren Williams are both dual-threat quarterbacks and former four-star recruits and should be watched closely throughout camp.
Elsewhere, junior guard Venzell Boulware is eligible after transferring from Tennessee and sitting out last year, and true freshman corner Gilbert Frierson — a four-star recruit from Coral Gables — is competing for time behind Michael Jackson.
|Sunday, Sept. 2||vs. LSU|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||vs. Savannah State|
|Saturday, Sept. 15||at Toledo|
|Saturday, Sept. 22||vs. FIU|
|Thursday, Sept. 27||vs. North Carolina|
|Saturday, Oct. 6||vs. Florida State|
|Saturday, Oct. 13||at Virginia|
|Friday, Oct. 26||at Boston College|
|Saturday, Nov. 3||vs. Duke|
|Saturday, Nov. 10||at Georgia Tech|
|Saturday, Nov. 17||at Virginia Tech|
|Saturday, Nov. 24||vs. Pitt|