Expectations for the Miami Hurricanes entering the 2019 college football season were a tad lower than the program was accustomed to. Then-head coach Mark Richt retired after leading the Hurricanes to a winning record and a top-10 appearance in the AP Top 25 in each of his three seasons, and there were question marks with how Miami's new offense would fare with Jarren Williams as the starter and a new coaching regime. As a result, they were just on the outside of the preseason AP Top 25 and rang in at 25th in our 2019 preseason power rankings.
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Despite the concerns, it seemed highly unlikely the Hurricanes would finish with a losing record considering their solid defense and fairly easy schedule. The Miami defense would make good on those expectations, ranking 22nd of the 130 FBS teams in expected points added (EPA) per play allowed for the 2019 season. However, the defense wasn’t enough to overcome the offensive woes. Miami ranked 88th in EPA per play on offense and 108th in team offense grade, which is really no different than what we have seen from the Hurricanes over the past few years:
MIAMI HURRICANES EPA PER PLAY AND RANK
|Season||EPA per play||FBS rank|
Miami went on to finish the 2019 season 6-7, including three straight losses — to Florida International, Duke and Louisiana Tech (whom they were shutout too) — to close out the year, which resulted in the firing of first-year offensive coordinator Dan Enos.
Moral of the story: Defenses don’t win championships — it all starts with the quarterback and the passing attack, an area Miami clearly struggled in this past year and throughout the PFF College era (2014-present). In fact, the highest PFF grade a Miami quarterback has ever produced was Brad Kaaya in 2015 when he recorded an 80.6 overall mark, which placed him around the 68th percentile among Power-5 quarterbacks that year. Since Kaaya’s departure following the 2016 season, Miami has had three straight seasons of below-average quarterback play in regard to both PFF grade and PFF wins above average (WAA).
Luckily for the Hurricanes, quarterback D’Eriq King's transfer gifted them the solution to this problem.
King has had his fair share of highs and lows the past couple of years playing for Houston. In his first season as the Cougars' starter in 2018, King posted an elite 91.2 PFF overall grade, which ranked second in college football behind only 2019 first overall pick Kyler Murray. Houston got a new head coach in Dana Holgorsen in between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and the future was looking bright for King and the Cougars. Then, everything kind of fell apart as Houston lost three of its first four games in 2019 while King performed far below expectations, recording a 59.9 passing grade. King then opted for a redshirt in his senior season to come back in 2020 and have another chance at success with Houston. But in a wild turn of events, he opted to transfer to Miami in January 2020.