2021 Midseason Report: Miami looking to turn around a disappointing first half – 247Sports

This 2021 football season has been a missed opportunity for the Miami Hurricanes. 

Miami has underachieved relative to preseason expectations that had UM ranked No. 14 in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll. 

UM was on an upward trajectory, both on the field and in recruiting, during the Manny Diaz era after the 2020 season, but now the Hurricanes are experiencing a setback after a 2-4 start and having the class that ranks No. 59 overall in the country. 

Adding a cherry to the top of this disappointment? The ACC is truly wide open and there for the taking with Clemson looking very vulnerable and the in-state rivals, Florida and Florida State also not having particularly impressive seasons. 

The Hurricanes opened the year with a 44-13 loss to Alabama, a game that really stole the confidence of Miami in the first month of the season. 

UM went on to narrowly earn a win against Appalachian State, 25-23, in a shaky performance that the Hurricanes were lucky to be victorious. Michigan State came in and thumped Miami the next week and that start to the season set the table for UM to lose the opening games in ACC play against Virginia and North Carolina. 

The national statistics and grades from Pro Football Focus paint a picture of Miami being an average to below average outfit in 2021. 

UM ranks 100th in the country or worse in the following categories: third down defense, red-zone defense, red-zone offense, sacks allowed, turnover margin, and turnovers gained. 

There would likely be more categories that rank 100th or worse if the 69-0 win over Central Connecticut was taken out of the equation. 

Pro Football Focus grades Miami as the worst team in the ACC right now with the worst defense in the conference as well. PFF grades the Hurricanes as the worst Power Five tackling team in the country. 

Read on for a look at our midseason report for the first half of this 2021 season. 

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Unfortunately, this has been a poor season and so the defining moment of this season for the Hurricanes has been bad news. Quarterback D’Eriq King sustained an injury to his throwing shoulder during a 38-17 loss to Michigan State. 

King played through the injury in that game, but it proved to be serious enough to require surgery and shut him down for the season. 

The bigger sample size we get on this 2021 team, it is clear that the Hurricanes have been heavily reliant on a healthy D’Eriq King to cover up the issues that plague the UM team over the past two seasons. 

With a healthy D’Eriq King, Miami has the ability to win one-score games against Power Five opponents. Without him, Miami loses those same one-score games. 

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Oklahoma wide receiver transfer Charleston Rambo has been a real bright spot for the Hurricanes and he has been the only consistent threat on offense through the first six games of the year. Rambo has caught 35 passes for 421 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Defenses are beginning to show him more attention as the season progresses and it will be interesting to see how his production is impacted the rest of the way. Rambo does have a chance to crack the 1,000 yard mark this year. 

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Unfortunately there aren’t many good things to say about this defense so we can’t highlight a MVP on that side of the ball. Nobody has played consistently well on that side of the ball and this is the worst defense of the Manny Diaz era. 

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Freshman defensive back James Williams is a freak with his combination of size and instincts. He is starting to play more with each passing game, totaling 165 defensive snaps on the year. In the past three games, Williams has played at least 40 snaps. The future is bright for Williams, who has totaled 12 tackles and one interception on the year. 

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Running back Jaylan Knighton was suspended for the first four games of the season due to a violation of team rules. In UM’s most recent game against North Carolina, Knighton was the most dangerous offensive player for the Hurricanes as he totaled 92 yards rushing with two touchdowns and 73 yards receiving with a touchdown. 

With Cam’Ron Harris sustaining a lower leg injury against UNC, more playing time might becoming Knighton’s way this year. The Hurricanes could use some explosiveness in the run game in the second half of the year. 

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In what was a baffling decision, Jarrid Williams was not a starter to begin this 2021 season after he played the right tackle position at a solid level in 2020. When the early season right tackle play proved to be inconsistent, Williams was elevated to the starting lineup and ever since then he has provided stability to the line. 

According to PFF, Williams is Miami’s highest graded player of any player who has totaled at least 200 snaps on offense or defense this year. 

Williams is grading out as UM’s best run blocker by far at 85.5 and has posted a respectable 78.4 pass blocking grade while allowing four pressures and one sack on the year. 

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(Photo: Getty)

Unfortunately, Miami’s identity is nothing positive right now. 

On offense, it is a bunch that has struggled to put a complete four-quarter performance together against a FBS opponent. UM has had a myriad of issues on offense from inconsistent blocking, receivers dropping catchable passes, and inefficient play on third down and in the red-zone.

On defense, the Hurricanes have taken on an identity of a team that lacks physicality and is the worst Power Five tackling team in the country. 

Football is a blocking and tackling game. In the first half, Miami was poor at both of those phases. 

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Does Miami needs a change in leadership with the football program? 

This is the elephant in the room as athletic director Blake James and Manny Diaz have not gotten results while leading their respective positions. 

Miami’s athletic program is underachieving as a whole under James’ leadership while Diaz has seen the football program—and most notably his defense—back slide in 2021. 

The issue with the football program is systemic right now. Even if the decision makers decide to make a change at head coach, should James be trusted to make the correct hire? Should the Board of Trustees (and people that have influence in the decision making with the football program) be trusted to lead a search? Does president Julio Frenk care enough about a football program that means a lot to the community and to the school? 

It is time to do a deep dive and really address the issues with the athletic department. 

Whether the problems are due to incompetence or arrogance, what is going on right now with Miami Hurricanes football and athletics is unacceptable. 

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(Photo: Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports)

It would be embarrassing for Miami to lose to this 2021 Florida State team, but with the way things are trending, the Hurricanes would likely lose that game if it was played today. 

This FSU team is not a talented one, but they have at least established an identity. 

Miami has won five straight against the Seminoles, but if FSU ends that streak this year, it would be bad in a big picture sense—and most specifically in the area of recruiting. 

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None. Miami is not good enough to take any game for granted moving forward. 

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P Lou Hedley (second team)

WR Charleston Rambo (third team)

What will Miami’s regular season record be? Answer in the poll above.