After a disappointing season with a freshman quarterback, the Canes have a chance to make a leap in 2015. Second-year signalcaller Brad Kaaya turned heads during his rookie campaign and Miami will go as far as he takes him. Will that be good enough to take head coach Al Golden off the hot seat?
Needs a big season from:
Brad Kaaya | sophomore | quarterback
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In an era of quarterbacks getting a shot as freshmen, it's still rare to see a true freshman get a chance to take the reins at a high-major program with the type of prestige Miami has.
This is what made Kaaya's freshman season in Coral Gables so special. A 58.5 completion percentage, 3,198 yards through the air and a 26-to-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio would be pretty strong for anyone. For a true freshman it's enough to get hype going about the potential of being a future No. 1 overall pick.
And the potential is certainly there for Kaaya to develop from a phenom into a superstar. He was a four-star prospect, according to 247sports' composite rankings, and a top-10 quarterback in the Class of 2014 out of Chaminade College Preparatory School in Los Angeles. The Hurricanes are never short on talent either, so the sophomore should have the weapons to make this offense hum. The Coastal division is pretty wide open--as usual--and if Kaaya turns into a star then the Canes have as good a chance as anyone to usurp Georgia Tech and reach the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.
By the numbers:
241 - Total ass attempts for Brad Kaaya in Miami's losses last year. He only threw 137 passes in the Hurricanes' six wins.
1 - Career start for the Canes' potential starting defensive ends. Trent Harris started one game last year. Neither Chad Thomas nor Jelani Hamilton has made a start.
0-4 - Miami's record in games decided by 11 points or fewer last season.
Deep at: Secondary
Corn Elder and Arie Burns are both back after breakthrough sophomore seasons and fill out the cornerback group with former five-star record Tracy Howard. Upper classmen Deon Bush and Jamal Carter will start at safety for an experienced and talented group.
Thin at: Offensive line
Miami's line wasn't great last year and the Hurricanes lose a pair of starters. With Duke Johnson gone and Brad Kaaya expected to lead the offense, the Canes' line will come under even more scrutiny in 2015.
Mark Walton, RB
The former Booker T. Washington High School standout will be part of Miami's joint effort to replace star running back Duke Johnson. He was consistent all year for Booker T. Washington and it culminated with a 273-yard, five-touchdown performance in the Class 4A state championship.
5 BETHUNE-COOKMAN, 6 p.m.
11 at Florida Atlaantic, 8 p.m.
19 NEBRASKA, 3:30 p.m.
1 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.
10 at Florida State
17 VIRGINIA TECH
31 at Duke
14 at North Carolina
21 GEORGIA TECH
27 at Pittsburgh
GAME TO WATCH: Nov. 27 at Pittsburgh
The rivalry game at Florida State is a safer bet as a high-profile game -- and also incredibly tough to win in Tallahassee -- but this regular-season finale against Pittsburgh has a chance to determine the Coastal division. If Miami takes down Georgia Tech the week before, a game to watch in its own right, then the Hurricanes will be poised for their biggest game in recent memory.
at Louisville L, 31-13
FLORIDA A&M W, 41-7
ARKANSAS STATE W, 41-20
at Nebraska L, 41-31
DUKE W, 22-10
at Georgia Tech L, 28-17
CINCINNATI W, 55-34
at Virginia Tech W, 30-6
NORTH CAROLINA W, 47-20
FLORIDA STATE L, 30-26
at Virginia L, 30-13
PITTSBURGH L, 35-23
DUCK COMMANDER INDEPENDENCE BOWL
South Carolina L, 24-21
-- David B. Wilson, Herald sports writer