Only one quarterback in the FBS finished top-10 in passing yards, passing touchdowns, big-time throws and big-time throw rate over the second half of the 2021 college football season — and it wasn't Heisman Trophy-winner Bryce Young. It was actually another redshirt freshman quarterback: Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke.
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The Hurricanes young gunslinger put on a show down the stretch, going 5-1 in Miami’s final six games and injecting hope into an historic program that has struggled to establish itself as a perennial contender in the ACC. The Canes have only won nine games or more four times since 2005, and they are 2-10 in bowl games during that stretch. Former Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal's recent arrival on campus marked Miami's sixth coaching hire in 16 seasons.
Van Dyke is a big reason why Cristobal could very well hit the ground running. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound QB threw for 2,277 yards with 20 passing touchdowns and just five interceptions over the team's final six games — a strong sample of work after starting the season as a backup to talented Houston transfer D’Eriq King.
Van Dyke didn't come in completely raw, however. He got valuable reps with the first-team offense during spring practice while King was rehabbing an injury.
“The spring has definitely helped me get those reps with the 1s and just get those reps with the receivers, get the timing down,” Van Dyke told PFF. “All that kind of stuff that goes on in the back without anyone seeing it. All that hard work started in the spring, so I'm very grateful for the opportunity that I got to get the reps with the 1s. I think that really helped me start games throughout the season.”
King was healthy enough to start the first three games of the season for the Hurricanes, but the team went 1-2 with losses to Alabama and Michigan State. King missed the following game with an injury, and Van Dyke led the offense to a 69-0 drubbing of FCS Central Connecticut.
Van Dyke's first true test as a college quarterback came the following week at home versus Virginia, and he threw for over 200 yards and a touchdown in a 2-point loss.
“I would say going out there, the second half of Virginia is when I really felt comfortable just doing what I do best,” Van Dyke said. “I played the position my whole life. I told myself at halftime during that game, ‘You've been doing this your whole life. I guess you're pretty good at it — just do what you do best and you'll be fine.’ I used that model throughout the rest of the season and it worked out.”
One play in particular showed Van Dyke that he was ready for this stage.
“I threw a corner route to [Charleston] Rambo,” he said. “It was pretty tight coverage and I got hit while throwing it, too. That was probably the welcoming moment into college football right there that I told myself, ‘Wow, I could really do this. I could really fit the ball into tight windows, take hits and lead my team down the field to score touchdowns.’”
That's exactly what happened. The Hurricanes narrowly dropped another ACC contest on the road to North Carolina before embarking on a six-game stretch that featured wins over No. 18 NC State and No. 17 Pittsburgh. Van Dyke threw three touchdown passes four times and four TDs twice during the 5-1 run. As expected, putting “The U” back on the map with prolific passing put him in the spotlight quickly.