May 30, 2024

The Hurricanes returned two starters from last season: right guard Anez Cooper and left tackle Jalen Rivers (who played left guard last year). Transfers Matt Lee (center) and Javion Cohen (left guard) slotted into the lineup immediately, and five-star freshman Francis Mauigoa started at right tackle.

The improvement from last year was obvious. UM gave up just 14 sacks this season (tied for 13th nationally), down from 36 last season (tied for 100th nationally). Pro Football Focus gives UM the 10th-best pass-blocking grade and the 30th-best run-blocking grade. Last year, Miami had the No. 59 pass-blocking grade and No. 107 run-blocking grade.

Defensive MVP

Francisco Maugioa

Mauigoa was another transfer, coming over after two seasons at Washington State and joining his younger brother Francis in Miami. Francisco Mauigoa immediately took over at middle linebacker and became one of the best at the position in the conference.

Mauigoa racked up 70 tackles with a team-leading 17.5 tackles for loss along with 7.5 sacks and an interception. He earned All-ACC honors in his first year at UM.

Coach of the Year

Kevin Beard

The Hurricanes’ first-year wide receivers coach took over a unit that underachieved under Josh Gattis last year, and he helped them reach their potential this year.

With Beard coaching the position group, Miami had the No. 2 and No. 4 receivers in the ACC. Xavier Restrepo ended the year with 993 receiving yards, and Jacolby George notched 851 receiving yards. Colbie Young added 563 yards. The three starting receivers combined for 18 touchdown catches this season.

Freshman of the Year

Rueben Bain Jr.

The Miami Central alumnus came to UM with a lot of hype, and he lived up to it. He took over full time at defensive end after injuries ended starter Akheem Mesidor and Nyjalik Kelly’s seasons, and the Hurricanes did not miss a beat with him getting more snaps.

Bain ended the season with 37 tackles, 9.5 tackles and 7.5 sacks, tying Francisco Mauigoa for the team lead. For his efforts, Bain was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Most Disappointing Player

Tyler Van Dyke

Miami’s veteran quarterback entered the year hoping to rebound from an injury-limited 2022 season. Van Dyke opened the year on a hot streak, earning some early Heisman buzz in UM’s early non-conference schedule.

But the season quickly turned sour once Atlantic Coast Conference play began. He threw three interceptions against Georgia Tech, but that looked like it would be an outlier after a decent performance in a loss to UNC. However, Van Dyke threw five interceptions and no touchdowns in a win over Virginia and a loss to N.C. State.

Miami coach Mario Cristobal benched Van Dyke in favor of freshman Emory Williams for UM’s rivalry game against Florida State, but Van Dyke returned to the starting lineup for Miami’s last two games after Williams suffered a season-ending injury.

Van Dyke did well in his final two games, but he entered the transfer portal after the season concluded. He finished the season with 2,702 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Most Disappointing Coach

Mario Cristobal

The Hurricanes head coach did a lot to improve Miami this season. The roster was certainly improved, and UM won two more games than it did last year.

Miami would have three more wins than last year if Cristobal had just called a quarterback kneel at the end of the Hurricanes’ loss to Georgia Tech. It’s rare that one decision directly changes the result of a game with nearly 100 percent certainty, but this is an example.

If UM had taken a knee in this situation, the clock would have hit zero. Don Chaney Jr. would not have lost control of the football. Referees would not have made a controversial call to uphold the fumble. The Yellow Jackets would not have completed a last-minute touchdown drive to win the game.

Best moment of the year

Hurricanes storm back to beat Texas A&M

Back in September, we still didn’t know what to expect from this Hurricanes team. When they started off in a 10-0 hole against Texas A&M due to brutal errors, it looked like the Aggies could run roughshod over UM.

Instead, Miami bounced back and outplayed Texas A&M for the last three quarters, rolling to a 48-33 win over an Aggies team expected to compete for the SEC West division (they ultimately disappointed, firing coach Jimbo Fisher before the season ended, but that’s another story).

At the time, it appeared to be a statement win for Cristobal and the Hurricanes, and it allowed UM fans to dream of a wildly successful season.

Worst moment of the year

Take a knee!

The aforementioned loss to Georgia Tech was a stunning, inconceivable defeat. It stunned the crowd, the media and pretty much everyone who witnessed it. It made Miami a national laughingstock.

The Hurricanes were 4-0, on the brink of starting the year 5-0, before failing to take a knee. In their past seven games, they went 3-4. Was that decision and loss the reason UM lost those four games? Doubtful. But it marks a dividing point in the Hurricanes’ season, which started so well but ended with disappointing losses.

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