As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will continue its 2017 ACC conference slate when it plays Miami on Oct. 21.
NEW QUARTERBACK: Second-year head coach Mark Richt had all of the ingredients put together to contend for an ACC Championship. Junior running back Mark Walton was returning for his junior season. A vaunted front seven was returning on defense. And three-year quarterback Brad Kaaya would’ve been set to lead the charge. Problem is, Kaaya left in the offseason, and along with it, Miami hit a speed bump on the way to returning to college football’s elite. Kaaya now plays for the NFL’s Detroit Lions, and Richt will be forced to replace him. “We knew Kaaya was going to move on. Was it going to be this year or not, we didn’t know that,” he said at ACC Kickoff. “I mean, Brad, God forbid, could have got hurt game 2. Somebody has got to play.” That somebody won’t be decided likely until before the start of the season, but redshirt junior Malik Rosier and incoming freshman N’Kosi Perry are at the top of the list to replace Kaaya.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: Sophomore wide receiver Ahmmon Richards is in pretty good company. Back in 1985, Michael Irvin, set a record for receiving yards as a freshman when he hauled in 840 yards, and as we know, Irvin went on to have a Pro Football Hall of Fame career. It took 31 yards for Richards to smash that record, finishing with 934 yards, which led all freshman nationally. While the quarterback situation is being worked out, whoever starts will hand the ball off to Walton (1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016). On defense, Miami returns an experienced defensive line led by end Chad Thomas. In his junior season, he recorded 37 tackles (22 solo), 11.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. On the other end is sophomore Joe Jackson, who recorded one of the most dominant freshman seasons in the country. He led the team is TFL with 11.5 and sacks 8.5, while finishing with 32 tackles.
PREDICTION: Miami should be right in the thick of the ACC Coastal race, though the schedule makers did them no favors with a Sept. 16 road matchup against Florida State. A home game against Va. Tech on Nov. 4 could control the fate of the division. MIAMI 31, SYRACUSE 24.