A Hurricane Brewing? Why This Miami Team Feels Different, Could Dominate the ACC in 2024 and Beyond

    Entering Year 3, the pressure is mounting for Miami head coach Mario Cristobal. Good thing he leads one of the best rosters in the ACC.

    Beginning his Miami tenure with 5-7 and 7-6 campaigns, head coach Mario Cristobal has his program on an upward swing. But he needs results in 2024, and he has the roster to produce them.

    Just How Good Will Miami Be in 2024?

    Cristobal is renowned for his recruiting, dating back to his days at Oregon. Last season, the Hurricanes checked with the No. 3 overall class in the country, according to 247Sports. The year before that? No. 7.

    Not only did Cristobal assemble back-to-back top-10 classes in his first two full cycles at the helm, but Miami was the only ACC program to do so, with Clemson possessing No. 11 overall classes in both 2023 and 2024.

    Moreover, of the top 25 players signed by ACC teams in the last two years, Miami held the most with 11, including the top prospects from both cycles: 2023 five-star OL Francis Mauigoa and 2024 five-star DT Justin Scott.

    But the Canes have also been busy in the transfer portal, adding 15 players this offseason while losing 28. Don’t that last figure fool you; most of those players were reserves or fell down the depth chart this offseason. As for the most notable acquisitions:

    • Washington State QB Cam Ward
    • Oregon State RB Damien Martinez
    • Louisville EDGE Tyler Baron
    • Indiana C Zach Carpenter
    • Middle Tennessee State DT Marley Cook
    • Houston WR Sam Brown

    While Cristobal’s ability to recruit is well-documented, so are the criticisms of his inability to develop high school talent. Well, bringing in already-developed transfers is one way to circumvent the issue.

    Ward and Martinez form one of the most lethal backfield duos in the nation, and Mark Fletcher Jr. and Ajay Allen proved to be more than competent depth pieces last season. The Canes even have insurance at QB in Reese Poffenbarger, who threw for 5,969 yards, 56 touchdowns, and just 16 interceptions across two seasons at Albany.

    MORE: Hurricanes’ Top 10 Returning Players

    Brown bolsters a receiving corps returning its top two playmakers in slot savant Xavier Restrepo and YAC threat Jacolby George. There is also four-star freshman Ny Carr vying for reps behind the big three.

    As for the offensive line, three of Miami’s five starts will run it back, with Carpenter anchoring the unit from the pivot. Additionally, second-year players Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola are expected to take significant leaps from last season.

    The defense played admirably under first-year coordinator Lance Guidry, ranking 11th against the run. EDGE Rueben Bain Jr., LB Francisco Mauigoa, and DBs Daryl Porter Jr. and
    Jaden Davis leads their respective units, each of which has received at least one transfer infusion.

    Suffice it to say, the Hurricanes have one of — if not the — most complete rosters in the conference. And their consistent commitment to ACC, while others, such as Clemson, Florida State, and North Carolina, are seemingly on their way out into no man’s land, should give Miami the edge in recruiting high school and transfer athletes.

    Now, all of that is fine and dandy on paper. But Cristobal has to coach this team to success. Last year, the Canes jumped out to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2017, even scoring at least 38 points in each. Yet, they dropped the ball in a Week 5 clash with Georgia Tech at home — literally.

    All Miami had to do was kneel the game out with a three-point lead and the ball in the waning seconds. Instead, Cristobal called a run, which was subsequently fumbled. Then, the defense had to trot onto the field shell-shocked, only to allow the winning score. After the game, Cristobal admitted his team should have taken a knee.

    KEEP READING: 2024 ACC Win Total Predictions

    It wasn’t the first time such a situation occurred for a Cristobal-led team. In 2018, Justin Herbert and the Ducks were seemingly on their way to a victory over Stanford in Eugene. However, rather than kneel the clock out, Oregon chose to run, and the ball once again hit the dirt, culminating in a Stanford overtime victory.

    Evidence shows Cristobal isn’t the best at clock management, and he has struggled with making midgame and midseason adjustments to get his team over the hump. But entering Year 3 with a competitive roster and a schedule that ranks among the top 50 easiest, Cristobal is running out of excuses.

    College Football Network has you covered with the latest news and analysis, rankings, transfer portal information, top 10 returning players, the 2024 college football season schedule, and much more!

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