The Miami Hurricanes have a lot to prove.
Coming off a disappointing 5-7 season in their debut under coach Mario Cristobal, the Hurricanes will open their 2023 season at home on Friday night against the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks in Miami Gardens, Fla.
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The Hurricanes, favored by 17 points, are led by quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who is back for his third season as the starter. Slowed by injuries last year, Van Dyke for his career has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 4,766 yards, 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 21 games (17 starts).
Henry Parrish Jr. is the Hurricanes’ top running back. He had a career-high 616 rushing yards last year, averaging 4.7 per carry and was voted to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference third team.
Slot receiver Xavier Restrepo is Van Dyke’s top target, but there’s also emerging talent Colbie Young on the outside.
Watch out for wide receiver Nathaniel “Ray Ray” Joseph, one of several true freshmen who figure to contribute to the Hurricanes this season. That list also includes starting right tackle Francis Mauigoa, offensive tackle Samson Okunlola, running back Mark Fletcher Jr., tight end Riley Williams, defensive end Rueben Bain Jr. and cornerback Damari Brown.
“This freshman class has over a dozen guys who don’t flinch,” Cristobal said. “They don’t sit back waiting to inherit a job. They want to go win one.”
The Hurricanes also added some key transfers, including center Matt Lee, who started 36 games at UCF; left guard Javion Cohen, who made second-team All-SEC at Alabama in 2022; linebacker Francisco Mauigoa, who was a standout at Washington State; and cornerback Davonte Brown, who started 31 games in three seasons at UCF.
In addition, the Hurricanes may have the ACC’s best safety duo in James Williams and 2022 first-team All-American Kamren Kinchens.
Meanwhile, the RedHawks finished 6-7 last season, losing starting quarterback Brett Gabbert due to a broken collarbone but still rallying to reach a bowl game.
The RedHawks lost to UAB 24-20 in the Bahamas Bowl.
Gabbert, who has 31 games of college experience including four starts last season, is back for his fifth year with the RedHawks. His career completion percentage is just 58.8 percent, but his touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio is impressive at 45-14.
The RedHawks, though, lost three key offensive players to transfers: running back Tyre Shelton (Louisiana Tech), second-team All-MAC center Rusty Feth (Iowa) and left guard Caleb Shaffer (Oklahoma). The RedHawks also graduated their top receiver in Mac Hippenhammer (54 catches, 769 yards and nine touchdowns), a second-team All-MAC selection.
On the plus side, the RedHawks gained transfer wide receiver Gage Larvadain, who caught 95 passes for 1,252 yards and seven touchdowns in two years for an FCS program, Southeastern Louisiana.
The RedHawks also brought in two other potential starters from the transfer portal: ex-Notre Dame receiver Joe Wilkins Jr. and former Kentucky center John Young, who will join three returning RedHawks starters on the offensive line.
Defensively, the RedHawks return seven starters from a unit that led the MAC in fewest points allowed (22.6). The biggest loss was starting cornerback John Saunders, who bolted to Ole Miss. He could be replaced by Southern Cal transfer Jayden Williams.
“We have a chance to be a really good football team,” RedHawks coach Chuck Martin said. “We’re excited about our first opportunity, playing one of the most storied programs in college football.
“This will be different for our kids to go across the country to play an opponent we’re not familiar with.”
—Field Level Media