ANALYSIS: Crunching PFF numbers shows returning top talent gap for UM
Expectations are always high this time of year.
Many times rightfully so.
In Miami’s case you have only one major loss on offense, TE Brevin Jordan, and two on defense in DEs Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche. The schedule is favorable, with really only Alabama the team you point to as a real longshot to win, and the Canes had some nice moments in putting together an 8-3 record last year.
Many are picking UM to win the Coastal, with UNC also in hot contention.
But, at the same time, numbers don’t lie.
And Pro Football Focus has given Cane fans some interesting statistics to munch on.
Just how far away is UM from elite programs like Alabama, Clemson and Georgia?
Well, you can look at past win totals and NFL draftees in the first few rounds … but this most recent PFF insight goes inside last season's grades to give an idea just how much consistent top talent each of the above-mentioned program returns.
For purposes of this analysis we’re looking at players that got over 100 reps last season and graded out at over 70 percent.
It’s a short list of those top achievers for Miami:
There is one on defense, Nesta Silvera at 71.9 percent. And yes, Phillips and Roche were the top two performers last year overall at 86.6 and 81.7 percent respectively.
Miami's offense? There are four players that make the cut: D'Eriq King (90.6), Mike Harley (75.8), Zion Nelson (70.3) and Cam Harris (70.2). Also worth noting is Harris may not even start this season, with an open competition at running back.
How does that compare with 'Bama, Clemson and UGA?
Let's start with opening game opponent Alabama, which put 10 players in the NFL Draft, suffering far more personnel losses than UM.
The Crimson Tide have back 11 players (seven on defense) that graded out at 70 percent or higher with over 100 reps last season compared to the five for the Hurricanes.
On offense RB Brian Robinson Jr. (83.8), OL Evan Neal (83.7), OL Emil Ekiyor Jr. (75.3) and WR John Metchie III (73.1). On defense it's DB Jordan Battle (80.9), DL Phidarian Mathis (80.0), DB Malachi Moore (79.6), LB Will Anderson Jr. (79.1), DB Josh Jobe (77.1), DB Brian Branch (72.4) and DL LaBryan Ray (71.4).
And that's with a program that's considered to have a major reloading project (they don't call it rebuilding in 'Bama).
The Tigers have 12 players (eight on defense) compared to UM's five: On offense OT Jordan McFadden (83.5), OL Walker Parks (78.8), QB D.J. Uiagalelei (71.1) and TE Davis Allen (71.0). And on defense LB Keith Maguire (86.7), DE Myles Murphy (85.2), S Nolan Turner (79.0), LB Jake Venables (75.8), CB Andrew Booth Jr. (74.7), LB James Skalski (73.8), CB Fred Davis II (72.7) and LB Baylon Spector (70.6).
Oh, and did we mention Georgia has a staggering 17 players back that had a 70 plus grade? It’s Kirby Smart’s best team and the reason why many think Georgia can win the national title.
So yes, there's a bit of a returning talent gap with perceived top national programs that Miami has to close for The U to truly be The U again.
And maybe that will start happening this coming season.
In doing our constant analysis of the Hurricanes program, we have consistently pointed toward the need to recruit more top-end impact talent. That deficiency seems to come up no matter what method of analysis is used as a barometer. The PFF grading system is one of them. So in the opener, for example, Alabama will theoretically have more than twice as much top-end talent returning than the Hurricanes. Can that be overcome? Of course it can. Many factors come into play on game day. But when a team has a major edge in raw talent, that can cover up a lot of other problems. And that is why Miami has not been real competitive against good teams in recent years. Manny Diaz has tried to adjust by upgrading the recruiting ability of his staff, particularly on defense. Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is working incredibly hard in that area. We hear recruits talking about their interactions with T-Rob constantly. Time will tell on how quickly a difference can be made.