One of the strangest time lines of the 2021 coaching carousel was the hiring of Mario Cristobal. Manny Diaz was still the coach of Miami but rumors were swirling about the program looking to hire Cristobal. Only once the Hurricanes confirmed they were able to hire Cristobal is when Diaz was fired. Cristobal is a former Miami player. He played for the Hurricanes from 1989 to 1992 winning two national championships under Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson. Cristobal takes over a program which went 21-15 over the past three seasons under Diaz.
In order for Miami to succeed they will need to rely on Tyler Van Dyke. Van Dyke was arguably the most surprising player of the 2021 season. D’Eriq King was originally the starting quarterback for the Hurricanes but an injury forced him to miss most of the season. Van Dyke stepped in and had a phenomenal season finishing the year throwing for 2,931 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also limited his mistakes by only throwing six interceptions. The best game for Van Dyke came when the Hurricanes upset Pitt by a score of 38-34. He completed 76.2% of his passes for 426 yards and three touchdowns. Van Dyke has a chance to be the best Miami quarterback of the past decade and lead Miami back to the ACC Championship game.
Miami’s defense returns youth but also experience. In Miami’s last two games the defense started a total of six freshman. One freshman who could be an All-American this year is Leonard Taylor. Taylor only played in six games but was tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 8.5. He also added two sacks. A full season from Taylor with similar production will likely result in him becoming an All-American. Cristobal will need Taylor to lead the defensive front as his Oregon defenses struggled. His last two seasons at Oregon the defenses finished 59th and 75th in points allowed per game.
The Hurricanes have an early season matchup with Texas A&M in College Station. Cristobal’s team will be put to the test early and a win over the Aggies would build confidence in the fan base. The Hurricanes also host Florida State which is a must win game for Cristobal in year one. Mike Norvell has struggled at Florida State and to prove the Hurricanes are ahead of the Seminoles the results must be proven on the field. Since Cristobal played at Miami he knows the importance of winning a rivalry game. Diaz lost his last matchup with the Seminoles which helped spell the end of his tenure in Miami.
The Miami Hurricane fan base has been dying to replicate the success from the 80s and 90s. The program’s previous four coaches have lasted an average of 3.75 seasons. In order for Cristobal to beat that average he is going to need to find success early. Miami has a roster capable of winning 10 games this season. Cristobal is a coach with experience winning conference championships. Can the two mesh and return Miami to one of the top programs in college football?