As Mark Richt is set to become the next head head coach at Miami, he steps into a situation that is preferable to his last job at UGA in at least one respect: Richt will be working with one of the top quarterbacks in college football.
Miami’s Brad Kaaya is projected as the no. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by Walter Football. This is a sharp contrast to Richt’s situation at UGA this season where an absence of a dependable quarterback has contributed to a disappointing year in which Richt’s team fell well short of most preseason expectations.
Presumably the presence of Kaaya was one of the enticing aspects of the Miami job for Richt. When Richt spoke to the media about his departure from UGA on Monday he said, “If and when I do coach again, I’ll look forward to coaching again, being more hands on. I miss coaching quarterbacks; I miss calling plays.” A top quarterback prospect like Kaaya seems like just the kind of “hands on” opportunity Richt is looking for.
For Richt, working with Kaaya is probably even more appealing than the chance to work with 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason. The prized member of the Bulldogs 2016 recruiting class may be a future star, but Kaaya is much closer to actually being a finished product. Kaaya and Richt should do big things together.
However, a star quarterback shouldn’t be the only attractive part about the Miami job for Richt.
While the overall talent level may not be what it once was in its heyday, Miami still has a formidable roster. The 2016 recruiting class for the Hurricanes is currently ranked 19th by 247sports. The site ranked the 2015 class for Miami as 26th best in America, and the Hurricanes finished 12th, 14th and 10th in the three years prior to that. There’s plenty of talent to build a winner in the ACC.
Furthermore, Richt should expect to inherit a lot of that talent in 2016. Based on the depth chart published in Phil Steele’s 2015 College Football Preview, Miami could return as many as 17 projected starters in 2016. Of course, several factors could reduce that number including early departure from the program or injury, but as things stand now, Miami should be a conference contender next season.
This is especially true considering the Hurricanes’ schedule. While most of the exact dates and times of the games won’t be finalized for a few more months, it is known who Miami will play and where the games will be played. The Hurricanes two toughest conference games are Florida State and Coastal division champion North Carolina. Miami will face both of those opponents at home. The only truly tough road game for Miami is an October 29th matchup against Notre Dame.
By the time he makes the trip to South Bend, Ind. to take on the Fighting Irish, Richt and his star quarterback could be the talk of college football, and Miami could be a prime candidate for a spot in the ACC title game, and maybe a spot in the top 25 as well.
In other words, the coach let go from UGA because he wasn’t winning enough may have a lot more winning still left to do.