The Miami Hurricanes program had high expectations when they hired Mario Cristobal last year. Cristobal’s first season was not what fans expected as the Canes went 5-7, were plagued by multiple injuries at wide receiver, quarterback and offensive line, and an archaic offensive system that set back Miami’s offense multiple decades and made Heisman candidate Tyler Van Dyke look undraftable. There is immense pressure on the Canes in what will be a very important year of Mario’s career here at the University of Miami.
Last year, Miami brought in the seventh ranked class in the nation despite a 5-7 season. Cristobal was able to sell early playing time, and a rebuild that they could be a part of. Normally, rebuilds take multiple years, but with Mario having four cracks at the transfer portal, and having over 17 players transfer out from last year’s team alone, that process accelerated. The majority of this team are Mario guys. This is no longer Manny Diaz’s team; this is Mario Cristobal’s team. The expectation is there will be significant improvement.
As things stand Miami is recruiting better this year than at the same point a year ago. The Canes have the #25 ranked class in the nation and have added players like Vincent Shavers, Dylan Day, Chris Wheatley-Humphrey, Cameron Pruitt and Isaiah Thomas. The additions were evaluated early and most are heralded as future composite four-star players.
In the last week alone, Miami has added one of the best football players in the nation, a versatile weapon in Elija Lofton and one of the best running backs in the nation in Kevin Riley, a blue-chip running back from Saban’s backyard. Miami is also in play for other blue-chip recruits like David Stone, Dylan Stewart, Josiah Trader, Justin Scott, and Aydin Breland.
The major difference this cycle is that no matter who commits in the next month or so, most of this class will be closely watching Miami’s on-field product. If the Canes have another 5-7 or 6-6 season, this class will not be a top-ten class and will end up somewhere in the late teens to early twenties at best. That type of setback will slow down Miami’s rise in a time where the arms race in college football is accelerating at breakneck speed. With NIL and conference realignments, the University of Miami needs to prove it is one of the premier programs in college football and give players a reason to trust Mario and sign with them.
The stakes are high as this past calendar year has seen Miami and South Florida programs on the rise. The Miami Heat made the NBA finals playing seven undrafted free agents. The Florida Panthers made the Stanley Cup finals winning their first finals game ever in the process. Not to mention the University of Miami saw both men’s basketball team and women’s basketball team advance to the final four and elite eight respectively. The Dolphins made the playoffs last year and improved their team during the offseason. The Marlins are currently ten games above .500 and are gaining national attention with Luis Arraez chasing .400 and pitching phenom Eury Perez off to one of the hottest starts in history with a 4-1 record and 1.54 ERA. Now all eyes turn to Mario and UM football.
If the Canes football team falters again this year, the attention of South Florida fans may easily shift to a myriad of options that are winning and improving. Cristobal understands this and has revamped his coaching staff bringing in an aggressive defensive coordinator in Lance Guidry and an innovative offensive coordinator in Shannon Dawson. Dawson, by all accounts has been gelling with quarterbacks and even watching film with TVD, something that reportedly was not occurring last year.
When asked about the possibility of failure in a 247 interview with Josh Pate, Mario stated: “You’ve got to realize I was raised by two parents that came over from Cuba, learned the language and worked two jobs, went to night school to learn language, made sure to understand what principles of working hard taking care of your business really are, so we weren’t silver spoon-fed kids, we weren’t coddled or given soft easy way, we were taught how to work, how to grind.”
With so much at stake for the University of Miami this year, with the pressure to succeed, and with all eyes on Mario and Canes football, the Canes head coach not only understands but embraces the pressure and the challenge ahead of him. I believe in Mario. I believe in his track record and believe that his track record for success, especially in year two, will once again be replicated. Cristobal brought in his players and made changes to his staff, bucking the narrative that he was stubborn or married to an offensive system. I believe Miami will show significant improvement this year and if health permits, I am predicting the Miami Hurricanes will win 9 games, as Cristobal’s recreation of Miami Football will be full speed ahead.
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