Just over two months before another college football season gets underway—and no better way to get through the dog days of summer than to dive into the preview mags that started hitting shelves earlier this month.

This rite of passage couldn’t have been more welcomed at the turn of the millennium when the Miami Hurricanes were an absolute juggernaut. All-Americans at damn near every position, predicted to win the conference, in the national title hunt and seemingly listed as the game-of-the-week a few times per month. It was all good for “The U”.

This past decade; not so much. The Canes were oft picked a slot or two back in the division, occasionally given an outside shot to with the Coastal—but never a favorite in the ACC. Mind-boggling considering that jump from the Big East after the 2003 season was supposed to pit Miami against Florida State annually, for all the conference marbles.

The Canes finally broke through in 2017; winning the Coastal Division for the first time in 13 tries—while also taking down the Seminoles for the first time since 2009. Not bad consider it was only year two of the Mark Richt era; stepping in for the maligned Al Golden after the 2015 season.

As most remember, Miami jumped out to a 10-0 start last season—saved by a few Cardiac Cane-style comebacks against Georgia Tech and Florida State, while surviving battles against Syracuse, North Carolina and Virginia.

It was vintage UM in primetime twice last season; HardRock feeling like the Orange Bowl 2.0 when both Virginia Tech and Notre Dame rolled south on back-to-back nights—though the Canes were tripped up in a season finale at Pittsburgh, halting momentum.

The ACC title game against Clemson proved to be a mismatch; especially without leading receiver Ahmmon Richards and tight end Chris Herndon—on the heels of losing starting running back Mark Walton mid-season. The Canes lacked the horses and depth to take on the defending national champions, but the step forward was just what the program needed after wallowing in mediocrity for years.

Miami reached the Orange Bowl, but fell to Wisconsin—making for a three-game losing streak to end the season. Still, the double-digit win showing paid off as the Canes are picked No. 7 in the nation by Lindy’s for 2018.

This is the highest UM has been picked since 2005 when entering that season No. 9. The Canes were No 18 in last year’s preseason poll.

Digging into this year’s Lindy’s preview—that has Miami first in the Coastal and second in the ACC behind Clemson—there’s a lot to be excited about:

Regarding “Players To Watch”, Lindy’s focus on Malik Rosier, Travis Homer, Jeff Thomas, Richards, Joe Jackson, Shaq Quarterman, Michael Jackson and Jaquan Johnson.

As for Miami’s “Primary Strengths”, the running back position is highlighted, due to the return of Homer—but also the addition of Lorenzo Lingard; the Canes first 5-star talent at the position since Duke Johnson.

Johnson helped provide a 1-2 punch to the running game with Mike James in 2012 and there’s no reason to believe that a Homer-Lingard tandem won’t be a huge upgrade—as will the addition of true fullback Realus George, putting Richt in position to implement the type of power running game he was known for at Georgia.

“Potential Problem” that Lindy’s listed; first and foremost, the streakiness of Rosier under center, as well as the offensive line woes carrying over from last year. Miami will also have to replace Chad Thomas, Kendrick Norton, R.J. McIntosh, Trent Harris and Andrew Moten on the defensive line; not the easiest feat for a program still trying to stack depth.

Lindy’s sentiments on Miami’s offense aren’t necessarily earth-shattering. Rosier took the top-spot after spring ball, but will be challenged by N’Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams and Cade Weldon when fall ball opens—the biggest knock on the senior; his overall streakiness.

Offensive line shuffling needs to come together quickly, both to protect Rosier, but also to open up the running game. Lindy’s also praised receivers Richards, Thomas and Lawrence Cager as a true triple-threat.

On defense, a lot of praise for the defensive linemen who will replace all those who departed. Some solid hype around Florida transfer Gerald Willis (who has one year to live up to the hype as a senior), as well as Demetrius Jackson and J. Jackson.

Linebacker is still in great hands with Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud entering their third season as starters—though McCloud missed spring with an injury that put Miami in position to run a 4-2-5 scheme that worked safeties Romeo Finley and Derrick Smith into the mix, as well as linebacker DeAndre Wilder at a new “striker” position.

Special Teams didn’t get much chatter; Lindy’s only mentioning departed kicker Michael Badgley and both Marco Baeza and Turner Davidson giving him a run.

Seems like the publication got lazy here—no reference to the Canes signing the nation’s top-ranked kicker last year in Bubba Baxa. Baxa also played third base and pitched in high school and should be the odds-on favorite to take over for Badgley.

Zero mention regarding kick or punt returners and who the Canes will have back there making plays, though the did mentioned Zach Feagles returning as punter.

The general overview; Miami should challenge for a divisional title and a Top 10 season if the Canes can see more consistency at quarterback and offensive line.

The defensive line will also have to jell; first-time starters replacing a talented bunch from last year.

True freshman tight end Brevin Jordan earned the “Top Newcomer” nod from Lindy’s, nudging out Lingard. Jordan was a 4-star out of Las Vegas who some listed as the nation’s best.

Jordan wasn’t on campus for spring ball, but with the departure of Herndon and lack of progress made by Michael Irvin II, Brevin will have a great opportunity to nab the starting role.

Not mentioned at the position; Will Mallory—a 4-star prospect out of Jacksonville who will also be in the mix this season.

No game-by-game prediction, but based on schedule and Miami expected to be a Top 10 squad this season, a safe assumption Lindy’s predicts the Canes to again reach double digits in victories.

Lastly, in the conference breakdown section Miami is listed first in the Coastal, followed by Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Virginia. Clemson is tops in the Atlantic—and overall—with Florida State, Louisville, North Caorlina State, Wake Forest, Boston College and Syracuse following in the division.

The “good news” for Miami; “Clemson is the only team in the ACC with more talent”, while the “bad news” states “After a difficult finish, QB Malik Rosier needs to rediscover his confidence”. Also stated that the “Power of the Turnover Chain was no fluke; Miami D leads to another division title”.

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