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2019 Virginia Football Opponent Preview: Miami Hurricanes

The Hoos travel to South Florida in Week Seven for a second tough road test in a row.

Dave Hyde column Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

The notion that the Miami Hurricanes had a shot, at least an outside one, at contending for the College Football Playoff in 2018 was, more or less, debunked in Week One’s embarrassment to LSU. Instead, rather than competing for an ACC title as they done the year prior, a sporadic offense left the U far outside of the national picture - a theme that the Hurricane faithful have endured over the better part of the last decade. By year’s end, Miami sat just a game above .500, firmly planted in the middle tier of the ever-confusing ACC Coastal, and without a bowl win.

Last Year: 7-6 (4-4 ACC)

LSU’s aforementioned blowout of the Canes, which looks prettier on paper thanks to two Miami fourth-quarter scores, was a difficult start, to say the least, for Head Coach Mark Richt’s team. The U battled thereafter, though, taking care of three non-Power 5 schools in Savannah State, Toledo, and Florida International, before blowing out lowly North Carolina and coming-from-behind versus rival Florida State in a one-point victory. Then, Miami went on to the road to Charlottesville, and, well, you all know what happened: the Virginia Cavaliers upset the then-16th ranked Hurricanes to give Bronco Mendenhall one of his first signature wins with the Wahoos. From there, things went from ugly to even uglier, as the Canes would fall three more times in a row, playing Boston College, Duke, and Georgia Tech. They did finish on a relative high note in the regular season, however, besting Virginia Tech and eventual division winner Pittsburgh, before another lopsided defeat, this time to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl, ended their 2018 campaign.

Last Time: UVA 16, Miami 13 (2018)

Last year’s affair between the Canes and the Cavaliers was a sloppy one, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Neither UVA’s Bryce Perkins (12/21, three interceptions) nor Miami’s tandem of Malik Rosier (12/23, one interception) and N’Kosi Perry (3/6, two interceptions) could get anything going through the air. The game was determined, then, by whichever defense could create make more plays - a battle Virginia was able to win. Picks from safeties Joey Blount and Juan Thornhill were returned 31 and 62 yards, respectively, with the ladder fueling the Hoos’ only trip to the endzone that night. Cornerback Bryce Hall also made a critical touchdown-saving tackle, crossing the majority of the field to prevent Miami’s Travis Homer from a long score.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention kicker Brian Delaney, whose 3-for-3 performance on the evening not only proved to be the difference in a low-scoring affair, but also earned him the distinction of breaking the rock following the win.

Comings and Goings

In a surprise move, Mark Richt announced his retirement from coaching in late December. The Canes, in turn, scrambled to get their beloved defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who would leave Temple after the Owls hired him to be their head man just a few week’s beforehand, back to take Richt’s place.

The good news for Diaz, who becomes the next person tasked with bringing the U back to their glory days, is that he will get some help in his first year, with many of the team’s defensive playmakers, especially up front, returning in 2019. That list includes lineman Jonathan Garvin, who led the team in sacks with 5.5 a year ago, as well as Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, who finished second and third on the team in tackles, respectively, in 2018. Things aren’t quite as ideal in the back, though, with safeties Jaquan Johnson, Sheldrick Redwine, and Mike Jackson Sr. moving on to the NFL. Trajan Bandy - 11 passes defended last year - and USC transfer Bubba Bolden, in addition to a slew of younger talent, will need to take a step up in order for this secondary to remain elite.

Offensively, Diaz will hope to just find some consistency. In one of his first big coaching moves, he announced that the team would go with redshirt freshman Jarren Williams to start on day one over redshirt sophomores Tate Martell, an Ohio State transfer, and N’Kosi Perry. To complement Williams, Diaz has also brought in Buffalo grad transfer K.J. Osborn, who had 892 receiving yards a year ago, to go along with Jeff Thomas, Mike Harley, and tight end Brevin Jordan (combined 88 catches for 1224 yards). At running back, Travis Homer is gone, so look for Deejay Dallas to garner the majority of the carries.

University of Miami practice
Jarren Williams
Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

2019 X-Factor

Quarterback Jarren Williams (or whoever ends up leading the team for the majority of 2019).

Just as it has for the past few years - few decades, even - Miami’s quarterback situation will dictate the team’s success in 2019. If the newly-minted starter Williams, a high four-star recruit coming out of high school according to 247 Sports, can gel with his receiving corps and get some help in the run game, then the Canes will be in the running, if not be the front-runners, for the Coastal crown.

This Time: UVA @ Miami (10/11)

Given the fact that this game comes on the heels of a trip to South Bend and that UVA’s upset over the Canes essentially derailed their season last year, it’s easy to see why this October 11th matchup could be a tricky one for UVA. If anything, the Hoos have to have another lock-down performance from their defense, as Miami’s looks to be just as stout as it was in 2018. If not, things could get out of hand early for the Cavaliers.