It’s a good time to be a Miami Hurricane.READ MORE: Man Faces Attempted Murder Charge Following Road-Rage Shooting In Deerfield Beach
Things are definitely looking up for those wearing green and orange.
Optimism should be and is at a high level as Miami has seemingly hired the right head coach who built a very competent and capable staff, has a quarterback that many are projecting as a top-three NFL draft pick and will have the chance to play in a newly renovated, state of the art stadium.
And as the Hurricanes hosted the local media outlets for its annual “media day” Monday; players, coach and UM director of athletics Blake James all spoke with an optimistic realism – essentially saying: “we’re not where we were, but we’re not where we’re going.”
James showed the truth in that when he spoke of how the school has seen an increase in overall moral and ticket sales – saying that the Hurricane Club membership grew from 4,000 members to 9,500 over the past six years and that the number of season tickets sold has jumped to 36,000 as of Monday.
“Since last December 4th, when we announced Mark’s hiring, there has been a real wave of energy around the program,” James said. “Just seeing the increase in ticket sales, seeing the increase in donations, just the positive energy around the program from a fan perspective.”
But James also knows that if Miami’s football program is to take the next step forward it must build an indoor practice facility.
“An indoor practice facility remains at the top of our list,” James said. “As I’ve said to some of you, an announcement will be coming soon. Unfortunately, we don’t have it yet today, but we’re finalizing some details and will have a naming gift secured here in the near future. That’s something I am really hoping we’ll be able to have in place for the 2018 season. That’s a project we continue to push on full-go.”
“My goal is sometime in 2018,” James said about a timeline for the indoor practice facility.
Not where they were, but not yet where they’re going.
Also, no longer are the Canes the team that is missing out on those big-time prospects – while media day went on, UM picked up a pair of four-star recruits for the 2017 class in Lake Worth High School defensive end Jonathan Garvin (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and Christopher Columbus cornerback Trajan Bandy (5-foot-10, 185 pounds), who was a former Oklahoma verbal commit.
Miami also got a verbal commitment from 6-foot-5, 240-pound four-star defensive end D.J. Johnson (Burbank, CA) just two weeks ago, shortly following its “Paradise Camp”.
Canes wide receiver coach Ron Dugans spoke highly of true freshman Ahmmon Richards Monday.
“Ahmmon can be very explosive. He has really good ball skills and I was a little surprised at how good a route runner he was coming in. Kid can run…I think he’s going to be a really good player for us. He has a good skill set.”READ MORE: Florida Appeals Court Upholds Law On Local Gun Regulations
Richards, who’s been given No. 82 according to the preseason roster, will have the chance to come in and be a contributor for the Canes right away.
Stacy Coley, Braxton Berrios and redshirt senior Malcolm Lewis – who Dugans praised Monday for becoming a leader amongst the receivers through his improved play – all return, but there’s a need for quality depth behind them.
Speaking of Coley, Dugans was pressed about who is Miami’s fastest receiver and he split it between two guys.
“On paper, it may be Ahmmon or it could be Coley,” Dugans said. “I’m all about how fast you are on the football field. But if you’re talking about on paper or testing 40’s or whatever, it would be one of those guys.”
Dugans also said that former St. Thomas Aquinas standout Sam Bruce has been good, but still has things to work on.
“He’s probably more quick than fast,” Dugans said when assessing Bruce.
“I have to get him to see what I mean by ‘playing fast’ – getting up the field and not making a lot of moves. I’m trying to introduce him to college football the right way and not have a defensive end or linebacker introduce him to college football.”
It has been widely speculated whether or not the New Miami Stadium would be ready in time for the Hurricanes’ September 3rd home opener against Florida A&M.
Despite early July reports saying that the stadium renovations were behind schedule, the Dolphins came out and said that things were indeed on schedule and that UM wouldn’t have to move any of its games.
Driving by the Miami Gardens stadium, you can see tangible progress with the “canopy roof” appearing to be completed or near finished and other construction upgrades appearing to be completed.
Still, the Hurricanes are hedging their bets – just in case.
“Our plan is to be there. If something were to change, we’ll have a contingency plan to make sure the game still occurs,” James said. “If we’re unable to play September 3rd at New Miami Stadium, we’ll have a stadium that will be able to accommodate our fan base, that will meet the needs of the two teams and that will allow us to play the game on September 3. If the need to communicate that plan is there, we’ll move forward with communicating that to our fan base in a timely fashion.”
But James is confident that UM will be able to play at home.MORE NEWS: 'Help Is On The Way': Gov. Ron DeSantis Files Lawsuit Against Feds, CDC To Reopen Cruise Ship Industry
“Based on the comments that the Dolphins have made publicly, I feel all the more confident. We’re really admiring what we’ve all seen in pictures. We’re looking forward to seeing it. But [the Dolphins] have been great at communicating throughout the process…we feel confident that we’ll be at that stadium on September 3rd.”