Head Coach Mark Richt is no stranger to high expectations. After consistently churning out 10-win seasons and maintaining an absurd 74-percent winning percentage during his 15 seasons at Georgia, Richt was fired. The reason: he could never quite get over the hump that was SEC foe Alabama. Yes, the same Alabama team that has won four of the last seven national championships. That’s what you call high expectations.
The good news for Richt and the rest of his coaching staff is that the culture here at the U is no different. High expectations come with the territory and are especially lofty this year due to a number of factors.
Richt’s aforementioned coaching pedigree is the most obvious reason for high aspirations. Aside from all the wins he accumulated, Richt proved himself to be a master in player development. He sent 77 players to the NFL during his tenure at Georgia, including current stars Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions and A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals. Much of Miami’s roster has been built through the fertile recruiting grounds of South Florida, and an offseason spent developing that plethora of talent should produce immediate results this fall.
Starting quarterback Brad Kaaya’s continued improvement is another source of optimism. The junior was a consistent bright spot throughout the previous two years of uncertainty and disappointment for the football program. He has compiled 6,436 yards and 47 touchdowns to only 17 interceptions in his first two seasons combined and can only improve with the experience that comes with being a third-year starter. Richt’s pro-style offense will fit Kaaya like a glove and should propel him to many accolades come season’s end. Quarterbacks win games in college football and the Canes have one of the nation’s best in Kaaya.
Finally, the schedule sets up well for Miami and is much more manageable than in previous years. Miami should dominate their weaker opponents in the Coastal Division and will most likely be favored every week with the exception of back-to-back games against FSU and North Carolina, and a road trip to Notre Dame. It isn’t unreasonable to think that Miami could steal two of those games, as both FSU and North Carolina are dealing with quarterback uncertainties in the preseason and both of those games will be played at home.
A minimum of 10 wins and an appearance in the ACC Championship Game are what every Miami fan expects to witness in the coming months. Some would argue that those are unreasonable goals to put on a first year coach trying to rebuild a program, but don’t think Richt will allow his team to be fazed by the expectations. After all, he’s more than used to them.