We’re very fortunate — some weeks less so than others, I guess haha — to have the SB Nation network of team sites to work with during game weeks. This week we’re having fun hate-chatting with Cam Underwood, the managing editor over at State of the U, SBN’s blog for the Miami
of Ohio (FL) Hurricanes. We had a frenemy talk about Miami’s dynamic new quarterback, their practice shed, carats, and a Schnellenberger snub.
TN: What has the addition of transfer QB D’Eriq King meant to the Hurricanes offense this year?
SOTU: It’s been everything we hoped for, and more, through camp and 2 games. He’s come in and immediately become the leader of the team that Miami has sorely needed in recent years. Everybody wants to focus on what King is not: he’s not 6’4”, he’s not a former 5-star recruit, he’s not exclusively played QB in college (he started as a receiver, if you didn’t know that). But, for me, I’m focused on what King is: he’s a dynamic player, with the ability to turn any play into a highlight, and the best player at the position Miami has had in years. King has been invaluable to this team, and I love the fact that he’s wearing Orange and Green.
TN: I don’t love it. Who do you give more credit to for the offensive explosion this season: King or offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee?
SOTU: Both have major roles in the offense taking a BIG step forward, but the list of influencers here has to start with OC Rhett Lashlee. He’s the man with the plan, who is leading this offensive resurgence with a new scheme, and in-game adjustments that take advantage of areas the defense is leaving exploitable. And sure, D’Eriq King is a far more talented and polished QB than we’ve had at Miami in a while, but Lashlee is the one putting him, and all the offensive players — particularly the offensive line — in positions and situations to be successful. Having King at QB makes the job a little easier I’m sure, but the credit goes to Lashlee for the offense improving as it has so far this year.
TN: How does it feel that Miami isn’t even actually in Miami, and that your indoor practice facility is tiny?
SOTU: Miami is in one of the most desirable areas of Miami-Dade county: Coral Gables. No, it doesn’t have a “Miami, FL” tag on the addresses of the buildings, but that’s fine. Everybody knows where Coral Gables is because The U is over there.
The only thing we can’t do in our practice facility is kick 90 yard FGs. Which, I guess is a problem now since our kicker can kick it to the moon and back. Just admit ours is NICER than yours and that’s why you’re jealous.
TN: You can’t make me; but I will say the stadium is a million times nicer in September now that they’ve put a roof on it. Defensive end Gregory Rousseau opted out - who are two other defenders FSU fans should watch out for on Saturday night?
SOTU: I’m cheating and giving you more than 2. Not sorry.
Along the defensive line, DEs Quincy Roche, the 2019 AAC Defensive Player of the Year at Temple, and Jaelan Phillips, the #1 overall recruit nationally in the 2017 recruiting class, form a dynamic duo of edge rushers.
At Safety, Bubba Bolden is separating himself as the best player among a trio of soon-to-be NFL players at the position, with Amari Carter and Gurvan Hall Jr. being the others.
TN: Roche is definitely a beast. In the last sixteen seasons going back to 2004 Miami has only had one 10+ win season, and Manny Diaz went 6-7 last year. Miami has never appeared in the ACC Title game. What makes you guys so confident this year, and do you think 2020 is finally the year the Canes hit both 10 wins and make the conference title game?
SOTU: To be fair, I’m NOT as confident as others, or even as I’ve been in past years. Because, I have been confident before and Miami has underachieved, so I’m personally tempering my expectations.
That being said, Miamis has had a championship caliber defense ever since Manny Diaz has been here, first as DC, now as HC. And with the offense looking like it’s taking a step forward with Rhett Lashlee and D’Eriq King at the controls, and the assumption of short and intermediate term growth and development, there is room for optimism.
But 10 wins in an 11 game season is a tall task for any team, and would require the week-to-week consistency that has eluded Miami in recent years. And, with Clemson replacing one of the lesser programs on the schedule, that likely means Miami would have to run the table outside of that game against the Tigers. That’s asking a lot from a program that, as you said, has won 10 games once in the last 16 years.
So, I mean.....there are things to like about this team and the direction that the program is headed. But I’m going to need to see more evidence on the field before I jump head first into “full Miami bro fan mode”.
TN: That’s an extremely reasonable and a well-balanced take. In your honest opinion, what’s Manny Diaz’s ceiling as a coach? Is he a guy capable of taking a program like Miami to the College Football Playoffs, or is his ceiling making the ACC Championship?
SOTU: I think that’s yet to be determined. Diaz has clearly taken steps towards fixing what ailed the Canes in his first year as a head coach — his first year EVER as a head coach — and looks to have things heading on the right path. And there have been plenty of future championship coaches whose careers started out in unspectacular fashion. And, it’s the rare coach who has taken their program to the College Football Playoffs, so putting Diaz in that group right now 2 games into year 2 feels a bit premature.
Right now, I’ll say the ceiling is between two, really because Clemson is on a historic run, and their success dampens the prospects of other programs, a fact which I’m sure FSU fans know very well. But, Clemson is gonna lose eventually and someone else is going to win the ACC Championship. And Miami is building to put themselves in position to potentially be the team to end that streak. But there’s a long way between where Miami is and where they need to be for that to be true. So, we’ll see, but for now let’s call it consistent 9-10 win seasons with Coastal Division Championships thrown in as the ceiling. And for now, let’s just hope Diaz can get us there, and build the program to take the next step beyond that if the opportunity presents itself.
TN: Believe me, you don’t have to remind us about Clemson. Miami fans claim “The U”, as unique, but you guys realize it can be used by every other school in the country, right? Why is it unique to y’all? By the way, do you know how many carats are in the turnover chain this year? That thing is enormous. I thought I was gonna go blind during the Louisville game.
SOTU: “The U” is unique to us because we leaned into it. Look, I’m from Detroit. U of M means Michigan to me. For some, it means Minnesota. Or Memphis. Or any number of schools. But when the architect Howard Schnellenberger — who still isn’t in the College Football Hall of Fame, by the way, which is a travesty and needs to change while he’s still with us — came in to build Miami from the also-ran program that it was into the iconic, 5-time championship program that it now is, he spearheaded the change to centering the marketing on the U, instead of the M. Which nobody else had done. And that’s why it’s different for us.
And it shows again that Miami has done what others could have, but didn’t have the foresight or vision or ability to actually accomplish. Which is why we’re us and you’re y’all.
LMAO yeah, Turnover Chain 4.0 is massive and iced out. There are 3,300 sapphires in the U and State of Florida combined. So, uh, lots of carats is my guess.
TN: To be honest, I’m shocked Schnellenberger isn’t; he absolutely deserves to be in the Hall. Alright, we made it. It’s a primetime College Gameday “showdown” Saturday night. I know you believe Miami will pound FSU this weekend - what’s your score prediction, and how do you think the Canes get it done? How many yards does King get on the ground?
SOTU: I don’t think this game is going to be close for more than a quarter. And I don’t think it’s going to be much of a contest past halftime.
Give me Miami 47 FSU 17, with D’Eriq King getting 60-70 yards on the ground, but facilitating the rest of Miami’s skill players to find the acres of space available in FSU’s back 7.
A big thank you to Cam for taking the time to chat with us and being a great sport! Click here to read our answers to his questions. Don’t forget to check out State of the U for your Miami coverage needs.