football Edit

Season Review: Miami improves in year two under Mario Cristobal

Miami has improved from two wins from year one to year two in the Mario Cristobal era with a bowl game on the way. Miami seems to be a much better football team overall than its 7-5 record suggests. The Hurricanes have improved in the major statistical categories from 2022.

Statistical categories Miami improved from 2022 to 2023:

Miami improved in scoring offense from 23.6 per game to 32.2 per game (35th nationally).

Miami improved in scoring defense, from 26.8 to allowing 22 points per game (40th nationally).

Miami offense improved from 367.9 to 441.2 in total offense (25th nationally).

Miami defense improved from 375.7 to 324.1 in total defense (26th nationally).


The trenches have drastically improved

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
Miami offensive lineman Javion Cohen (70) during an NCAA college football game against Temple, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Philadelphia.

Improving the trenches has always been a high priority for Cristobal. He brought over offensive lineman Alex Mirabal from Oregon and some key transfers that have transformed the identity of the offensive line.

Center Matt Lee and guard Javion Cohen were essential to improve offensive line play. According to Pro Football Focus, the UCF transfer ranks fourth in the nation in pass block with an 89.1 grade. Alabama transfer Cohen ranks 67th in pass block among guards. Miami ranked 13th in the country in sacks allowed (1.17 per game).

Miami is also a force to be reckoned with on the ground, as the Hurricanes average 176.8 rushing yards per game. Miami rushed for over 200 yards in five games this season, including 211 against Clemson, 242 against Boston College, and 323 against Temple.

According to PFF, Miami ranks 11th in pass block and 28th in run block nationally. Last season, the Hurricanes ranked 58th in pass block and 107th in run block nationally.

On the defensive line, Miami elevated NFL Hall of Famer Jason Taylor from a defensive analyst to a defensive line coach and helped boost its play level.

True freshman Rueben Bain has significantly impacted the Miami D-Line, tying for the team lead in sacks with 7.5.

Miami ranks 21st in run defense and 16th in pressure grade. Last season, Miami ranked 35th in run defense and 25th in pressure grade.

Recruiting continues to be elite

Photo Credit: Andy Lewis-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Rueben Bain Jr. (44) rushes in the second half against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field.

Miami received significant contributions from its 2023 recruiting class. Bain registered 575 total snaps, and Francis Mauigoa played nearly every snap this season, starting in every game.

Miami also got a significant contribution from running back Mark Fletcher. The freshman rushed for 512 yards on 103 carries (five yards per rush) and five touchdowns.

Of the 24 total 2023 signees, Collins Acheampong, Frankie Tinilau, and Antonio Tripp were the only players to not register a snap this season.

The eighth-ranked class is serving as a foundation for the future of the program and the 2024 class will likely continue that momentum.

Miami currently has 26 total commitments and ranked tenth in the country with two five-star recruits in athlete Joshisa Trader and safety Zaquan Patterson.

Quarterback play holding team back from greatness

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Colin Hackley)
Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, right, looks for a receiver late in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla.

What has prevented Miami from making it to the next level is quarterback play. Tyler Van Dyke did not live up to expectations, although he improved from last season's stats.

Van Dyke passed for 65.8 passes with a QBR of 145.6, but the interceptions are what many will focus upon. His 12 interceptions exceeded his total for his previous two years combined (11).

In 2022, TVD passed for 63.2 percent of his passes and registered a 133.6 QB rating, but many thought he would return to his 2021 status when he passed for 25 touchdowns and six interceptions (160 rating).

Van Dyke will not likely be drafted in the 2024 NFL Draft and will likely return for another season. The question will Miami opt for a transfer portal addition?

Miami's backup quarterback situation seems to be a bleak one. Freshman Emory Williams did well against Florida State when Van Dyke was benched mid-season for committing multiple turnovers. Williams played in five games this season, completing 62 percent of his passes for 470 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, but he doesn't ensure that Miami has its QB of the future.

Sophomore quarterback Jacurri Brown has not seen the field this season, and many believe he will transfer. Miami has one quarterback committed to its 2024 class, three-star Judd Anderson, and could opt to look into the transfer portal to supplement for potential exits and increase competition.

Late game situations still nervy

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Mark Stockwell)
Miami head coach Mario Cristobal gets ready before an NCAA college football game against Boston College Friday, Nov. 24, 2023 in Boston.

Let's face it: Miami would already have eight wins if Cristobal had chosen to take a knee against Georgia Tech with the game in hand.

Questions also arose in the Clemson game when Cristobal played for overtime with over a minute to go with about 40 yards or less away from field goal range to win the game in regulation. Miami, fortunately, was able to come out with the win that night, but if not, that decision would be highly questioned.

Miami is set to have more close games in the future, and there will have to be situations where Cristobal must prove that he can make the correct choices to try and erase the gaffe against the Yellow Jackets.

Culture infusing

Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Jacolby George (3) celebrates with center Matt Lee (55) after scoring a touchdown against the Boston College Eagles during the second half at Alumni Stadium.

In previous seasons, Miami would pack it in after losses to Florida State and Louisville, but the performance against Boston College proves that there is a culture shift.

The Hurricanes have significantly improved at every position group, with many young players who will continue to improve over time. The responses from the players have been in alignment week after week, and the buy-in is evident.

Miami, of course, will need to have a solid showing in the bowl game to continue that narrative.

Talk with Miami fans on Canes Talk, Inside Canes Hoops, and Canes on the Diamond

• Subscribe to the Storm Tracker Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Spotify

• Subscribe to the Canes County YouTube Channel

• Follow us on Twitter: @Canes_County, @BenjaminRivals, @TheCribSouthFLA, @AnthonyYero1, and @MichaelYero

• Follow us on Instagram: @Canes.County

Follow us on Facebook