Despite Miami’s first 10-win season in more than a decade, the Hurricanes ended 2017 on a low point, dropping their final three games.
With its first workout of the new season in the books, Miami is poised to bounce back after its season-ending three-game skid.
“The way it ended kind of spoiled the whole good season,” junior wide receiver Ahmmon Richards said, who broke Michael Irvin’s 31-year-old single-season freshman record with 934 receiving yards in 2016. “But losing three games, that kind of just wiped that right away. We don’t really think about that. We think about those three losses and how to get better this year from that.”
The Canes are a preseason top-10 team for the first time since 2005. Yet, Miami is focused on much more than just a top-10 ranking. UM has its sights set on repeating as ACC Coastal Division champions and proving doubters wrong.
“We want to finish,” said preseason All-ACC senior safety Jaquan Johnson. “There are four quarters of football. We started off the season with a great first half and then on the back end we let games go. We’re preaching that we have to finish so that’s most important.”
The losses against Pittsburgh, Clemson and Wisconsin motivated Mark Richt’s team throughout the offseason.
“We all sat down and watched the TV copies, the film copies, the end-zone views, everything [of the last three games],” junior linebacker Shaq Quarterman said. “I think I watched those three games more than any other games of our past season…We fell short of the standard last year, but we’re going to keep working toward it and every year we get better and better.”
Miami returns 14 starters from a year ago, including redshirt senior quarterback Malik Rosier, who threw for 3,120 yards and 26 touchdowns in 13 games. Richards will look to bounce back from an injury plagued 2017 while fellow junior Travis Homer will try to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards after leading UM out of the backfield last season.
The Hurricanes also welcomed back several players, including redshirt senior defensive end Demetrius Jackson, redshirt freshman receiver Evidence Njoku and senior linebacker Charles Perry, who suffered season-ending injuries last fall.
“I’ve seen the hunger. They’ve been itching to get back,” Quarterman said. “I’ve seen them put in the work, getting their bodies back to where they need to be. When you get hurt, the plan is to come back stronger and they’ve definitely done that.”
While veterans like Rosier and Homer led the offense on the Greentree Practice Fields Saturday morning, several rookies flashed their talents as well.
“Some of the young guys [were] making a few plays here and there…I know Dee Wiggins had a really great contested catch in the end zone one time. [Marquez] Ezzard – once he learns what to do – I think is going to be a pretty good ballplayer,” Richt said. “I really like the young [defensive backs] – you have [Al] Blades Jr. doing a good job. [Cam’Ron Davis], the tailback out of Carol City, did a nice job today. You can see his quickness and those types of things.”
With less than a month remaining until Miami faces the LSU Tigers in the season opener Sept. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the No. 8-ranked Canes will put last year’s late-season slide behind them with hopes of shattering expectations.
“We did a couple of things last year that we can be proud about, but now we swept that under the rug and look forward to this year,” Johnson said. “We are trying to do bigger and better things.”