Question 1: I think it’s fair to say Clemson was a step too far this year and were clearly the superior team. But I think it is also fair to say the Canes played like garbage in that game. How disappointed are you in the performance in that game?
Clarke: The Canes were always facing a losing battle in a matchup with Clemson. As Richt described after the game, Miami does not have the same number of difference-makers on the roster as Clemson does at this point. That said, I would have liked to see more fight out of the Canes, and was pretty disappointed at just how quickly they fell on their faces.
Thomson: Fairly disappointed, but not really with the performance. It was easy to get our hopes up that this was a team of destiny, even with the Pittsburgh debacle, but it became apparent very quickly that Clemson was going to win absent a few fluke touchdowns. The disappointment was more that the naysayers were going to use this Clemson game as validation that Miami was not good this season, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Clemson is an extremely good football team that could very well win the national title. And while yes Miami did play like garbage, very good teams have a tendency of making you play garbage.
Parasuraman: Pretty disappointed. I think I pretty early could tell that Clemson was far superior, but that still doesn’t excuse the Canes no show for the first quarter and a half. By the time the defense settled in, the game was over. I more disappointed for the players because I feel they didn’t really show what they are capable of. There will be more opportunities in the future though.
Question 2: Malik Rosier was hot and cold most of the year, but really struggled down the stretch. The team won 10 games and is going to the Orange Bowl, yet he appears to be in a precarious situation for next year in terms of his starting spot. Who do you think the Canes starting QB will be in 2018?
Clarke: I don’t think it will be Rosier. Even before this season, it really seemed like Richt was going to give one of the freshman every chance to win the job. Perry seemed to arrive too late to camp to have a real shot. But with a year of standing next to the coaches and absorbing all the playcalls, not to mention a full year in the strength and conditioning program, Perry should probably be the favorite to win the job next year. Full credit to Rosier for finding ways to win throughout the year, but his deficiencies really showed at times, and reminded us why Coach Richt once told him that he’d never play for him.
Thomson: Probably Malik Rosier with a heavy dose of N’Kosi Perry. Unless N’Kosi Perry is just THAT much better throughout Spring and Fall practice, I have a hard time believing that Coach Richt will start N’Kosi Perry in Dallas to open the season against LSU. It’s not a great comparison, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see next season be handled in some respects like the Gators did with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. We’ll have packages and situations for Perry, but the day 1 starter will be Malik Rosier.
Parasuraman: My guess is N’kosi Perry. I think Rosier extracted everything he could out of his ability this year, but there is no denying that his performance limited the Canes’ offense due to his inaccuracy. Ultimately, Mark Richt’s offense is based on execution, and Rosier’s inconsistency really hurt. Also, the benching against Pitt was almost a tell that Richt was not enamored with his QB. I expect a competition, and I expect Perry to win it.
Question 3: What was your highlight of the regular season?
Clarke: The back-to-back wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame game were obviously incredible, especially being in the stadium for both. But for my money, I don’t think there was a single more joyous moment than when Darrell Langham caught the touchdown against Florida State. I don’t care how their season turned out, getting that victory after seven frustrating years will be my favorite moment of the 2017 season.
Thomson: Beating the crap out of Notre Dame. It was great to get the FSU monkey off of our back, but it was somewhat anti-climatic with Francois not playing for FSU, the hurricane throwing everything out of whack, and it just wasn’t a very good football game. But late in the year, being undefeated, having Notre Dame supposedly coming to South Florida to show Miami what real football looked like and then being absolutely dominated from start to finish was easily the best I’ve felt about Miami football in quite some time.
Parasuraman: Florida State. That was the moment that will not be topped. Killing VT and ND was great, but that FSU game felt lost. Keep in mind the 4th quarter opened with the Canes up 7 nearing FG range…and then the game exploded. From despair to possibly OT to the game winner in a series of 2 plays was an incredible moment, and that doesn’t even account for the fact that it was against FSU and ended a 7-game losing streak.
Question 4: What was your lowest point of the regular season?
Clarke: This used to be a really difficult question to answer, just because there were so many options to chose from in years past. It’s a testament to how good the season has been overall that there’s not too many to choose from. I’m going to go a bit off the board and say it was when it was collectively the announcement of Chris Herndon and Ahmonn Richards injuries that would keep them out of the Clemson game. That was the first time I felt like this season, while so great overall, was not going to have the storybook ending we all had hoped for.
Thomson: While Pittsburgh is probably the easy answer here, I can’t even say that I was *that* surprised by the end result. It felt like at some point in the season, everything was going to go wrong and we wouldn’t be able to recover from it. Georgia Tech was probably my most disappointing moment, just because there was absolutely no reason for Georgia Tech to be in control of that game, nor for it to come down to the wire like that. Thankfully, Darrell Langham made an unbelievable catch and we continued our run.
Parasuraman: The Pitt game. I just don’t see anyway the Canes beat Clemson. But if Miami wins that Pitt game, they become the #1 team in the country and complete an undefeated regular season. Sure, the ACC Championship Game still would have hurt, but reaching that height would have been amazing.
Question 5: The turnover chain was a revelation this year. What do you think of its future? Is this something we’re still doing 20 years from now, or is it a 2017 thing that should be retired?
Clarke: I tweeted a few weeks back (I think after the picture of the Oregon player wearing a chain) that it shouldn’t come back next year (though it almost certainly will). I’ll admit, the celebration and excitement that came with every turnover was one of my favorite things about this year, but it feels like we’d be going back to the well one too many times if we bring it back next year. And it’s unfortunate, because I think what has effectively killed it for me is how the media approached it. Countless articles, profiles on the jeweler, and “turnover chain recipient” graphics. And the shameless profiting off it through memorabilia, while the players earning the chain itself saw nothing, was a bit uncomfortable. But if the players love it, so be it.
Thomson: Somewhere in between. It definitely needs to come back because you can tell how much the players love it, how they feed off of it, and it appears to raise the performance of our players. I think turnovers are, in some respect, contagious – and you could easily see that in the Notre Dame game. You’ve got the other team thinking about not making turnovers, worried about the chain, and then the next thing you know, you’ve got 3 or 4 turnovers. That being said, it is something that needs to organically move on to the next “motivation” tactic. Whether that is in a couple of years or 10 years or whatever, but I’m sure the players will make that determination.
Parasuraman: I think we retire it. Maybe have it on the sideline and let the captains carry it out for the coin toss. But I don’t think it is something we do every year forever. I think it would be great if it was a symbol of our revival and how the 2017 team finally turned things around.
Question 6: The Canes will get Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl. Had Ohio State made the playoffs, it would have been Miami-Alabama in the Orange Bowl. Which matchup did you prefer?
Clarke: Alabama certainly would have been a higher profile opponent, but as a fan, we already had that “measuring stick” game against Clemson. It’s evident that we’re at least another year away from competing on that level. I don’t need to get blown out by Nick Saban to know that. The Wisconsin matchup is still a significant challenge, but one in which Miami has a fighting chance.
Thomson: On a personal level, being from Alabama and with the numerous family members I have with University of Alabama ties, that was the easy matchup choice for me. That being said, from a football standpoint, I’m happy that we have Wisconsin in this matchup. Both teams rightfully felt disrespected throughout the regular season, and this will be a pretty damn good matchup that both teams should be “up” for to prove their season was not a fluke.
Parasuraman: I would have preferred Alabama just because I wanted to measure our team against another top-talent program (no slight on Wisconsin, who is excellent) without crapping the bed like against Clemson. With that said, at least I don’t think Wisconsin will just handle the Canes, and getting to 11 wins is probably more important long-term for the program. Wisconsin is still really good and could easily win this game, but I think the Canes will at least acquit themselves well.
Question 7: Brief look ahead to 2018…what position do the Canes most need a true freshman to contribute at?
Clarke: Defensive back jumps off the page to me, specifically cornerback. The safeties were good, though I have questions about the depth behind Johnson and Redwine. At CB, Michael Jackson was a revelation this year, but he may not return. Bandy and Young are good pieces, but Miami needs more at that spot, especially against spread teams. The Canes have a great recruiting class coming in at DB (with a few more guys that could potentially get on board). They’ll all have an opportunity to play next season.
Thomson: Tight End and Defensive Back. Having a dynamic tight end is such a difference maker at this level, and we’ve been spoiled through the years. Nothing against Michael Irvin II, but he has not shown the dynamite athleticism that truly is a difference maker at the position. Miami has recruited a couple of kids that appear capable of playing immediately, and Brevin Jordan could be a superstar very quickly. Defensively, Miami desperately needs an influx of talent in the defensive backfield at both corner and safety. While the starters more than held their own, it looks relatively weak immediately behind them. Luckily, Miami has also received commitments from some all-world talent, and hopefully they make their way to campus.
Parasuraman: Offensive line. The Canes need to dominate up front to take the next step offensively. After Donaldson’s emergence this year, if the Canes can get another of his ilk performing immediately, they can take that next step. There are other holes on the team, but to me, the next step happens up front.
Question 8: Which senior will the Canes miss most next year?
Clarke: Chris Herndon, without question. He did so much for the offense, both in the running game and as a pass-catching option. I maintain that nobody got more out of those little flare/bubble screen routes than him. Michael Irvin Jr. needs to improve, and there are two highly-touted freshman coming in at that spot. But Herndon’s shoes won’t be filled next year – he will be a significant loss.
Thomson: Honestly, I have no idea. My first inclination was Braxton Berrios, who was so good this year and made some huge catches in big moments. But I also expect both Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley to be able to replace his contributions. So offensively, it’s probably Chris Herndon by default until someone proves they can replace his reliability, which they may not be able to do next season. Defensively, I’m torn here between Chad Thomas and Trent Harris. The dominance of Miami’s defensive line won the Canes several games this season, and those two guys were a huge part of it. I think we can replace their production, but the reliability of those two will be missed.
Parasuraman: Chad Thomas. You could also argue for Chris Herndon, but I think Chad Thomas’ leadership across the board was so underrated this year. He performed at such a high level despite being held on every play, and set a great example for the rest of the team on offense and defense. His leadership and skill will be missed.
Question 9: The rest of the state is in disarray and Miami is clearly the best in state program right now. Do you think this is temporary, or are the Canes poised to make a multi-year run of being a step above UF and FSU?
Clarke: It’s always a toss-up with coaching changes. FSU is not far removed from being the best program in the state by a significant margin, and it’s not like the talent has evaporated from that roster. Dan Mullen is known to get a lot out of lesser talent, so give him a chance to coach 4 and 5 stars instead of 3 stars, and good things could happen. I know this stuff is usually cyclical, but I think there’s a chance for all three programs to be in a really good spot over the next few years.
Thomson: I need to see how Willie Taggart finishes his staff before making a true prediction on this. FSU still has a boatload of talent on that roster, and Taggart, despite the losing overall record, took over some programs in complete disarray and got them turned around – or at least in the case of Oregon, on the right path again. He will get talent at FSU, so the question becomes can he coach at a high level with a lot of talent, and frankly, we do not know the answer to that. Which is why I think the assistants will be key. For Florida, I know that Mullen was considered a fall-back option, but I think he was the best option for the Gators out of everyone not named Scott Frost. He will need to fill that staff with good recruiters, but his offense is just what the Gators desire. Overall, I think in the short-term future, you will see all three programs return to being top-25 mainstays.
Parasuraman: I think Mark Richt’s steadying influence is exactly what this program needed. He has total control, has built an amazing staff, and will lead this program forward. He also has his players’ backs and no one has a cross word to say about him. That leads to long-term growth. Miami will be on top for a while.
Question 10: Will the Canes make the playoffs next year?
Clarke: No, but only because I think the ACC will struggle to get two teams in the playoff, and Clemson remains a step ahead of Miami at this point (Clemson has very few seniors, though they will lose some underclassman to the NFL). But the Canes will be right there in the mix, and if they make it to the conference championship again, they’ll only be one game away again. I hate to tell Miami fans to be patient, but I am more inclined to say that 2019 is the year that Miami has a real shot to win it all.
Thomson: No. There is still not enough high-level depth (Miami is playing with 71 scholarship players last I heard), and will be relying upon too many young players in 2018 to be a playoff team. You could tell that while Miami made a step forward this season (even if they were ugly, winning ugly is still a good thing), Miami really struggled away from Miami. Next season, Miami faces LSU, Toledo, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Boston College away from home. Those games are substantially more difficult than the ones we had this year. This is one of those situations that while the team may take a step backward in terms of record, the ground work will be set for what I believe to be back to back playoff appears in 2019 and 2020.
Parasuraman: Yes. I think this year was about new experiences. Next year is about next steps and serious contention. Miami will be better prepared and get the job done.