CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – The long wait that consumes almost two-thirds of the year is finally over.
It’s been over eight months since the Miami Hurricanes defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Russell Athletic Bowl but the Canes are finally just days from kicking off the 2017 season.
Miami will host Bethune-Cookman on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium in what many believe will be the beginning of the Hurricanes’ most successful season in a very long time.
Several outlets have picked Miami to win the ACC’s Coastal Division and play in the school’s first ACC Championship game, likely against rival Florida State.
Speaking of FSU, the Hurricanes won’t have to wait long to face their arch-enemy as they are scheduled to lock horns in Tallahassee on September 16.
While some in the media have wondered out loud if Miami will look past its first two opponents and focus on Florida State, head coach Mark Richt quickly shot down that idea.
“I can’t ever remember being a part of a team in thirty something years of football where everyone wasn’t excited to play the first opponent,” Richt said. “It doesn’t matter who it is.”
The Hurricanes have been battling hard during training camp but now it’s time to hit someone other than a teammate.
Richt has been watching his players very closely and is eager to see who will step up and shine when the games begin to count.
“The game is different,” Richt said. “The lights are on, the cameras are on. The games count as far as your record is concerned. It’s time to play against someone who has bad intentions towards you quite frankly.”
Miami is returning 14 starters but this team is much different than the team that won nine games last season.
The players say they have something to prove after losing guys like Brad Kaaya, David Njoku, and Corn Elder to the NFL.
“I guess proof is putting it on film for the other teams that we play in the future that we’re still tough, still physical,” said linebacker Zach McCloud. “No matter who we lost in the back end or whatever part of the team, we’ve lost people. We’re still the same guys, same group, and we’re going to get after them.”
With Kaaya gone, Miami will be trotting out their new starting quarterback; redshirt junior Malik Rosier.
Teammates say they already notice a difference in their signal caller since he was named the starting quarterback last week.
“Just taking a bigger role in leadership, owning the huddle and making us feel his presence,” said tight end Chris Herndon. “Just taking control you know when it feels like we’re lacking or getting kind of fatigued. He’s good at getting in our ears and keeping us motivated. So he’s done a good job of that.”
Getting solid play from Rosier and the offense is going to be key for the Hurricanes to succeed.
Miami is stacked on defense and the unit is expected to be a major strength of the team but there are plenty of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball and they’ll need to step up and take some of the pressure off the defense.
“Perfection is our goal on offense,” said offensive coordinator Thomas Brown. “Not just the quarterback, but every single spot. Making sure we show up every single day and we’re focused. Starting with the walk-through, not missing assignments, guys doing stupid stuff. So we can continue to play with great execution. I think that’s the only chance we have to reach our goal.”