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Updated: Jun 10, 2023

Part One of a Two-Part Series: The Offense

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Miami men’s basketball team mantra through the NCAA Tournament was very simple.

“Why not us?”

That carried the Canes pretty far as they reached their first-ever Final Four, despite losing to Connecticut in the National Semifinal.

Rhetorically, the football team is asking the same question.

“Why not us?”

Miami has a high-octane, up-tempo offense designed by new Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson, who migrated to Coral Gables from the University of Houston where the Cougars marched up and down the field at will.

Dawson will have better athletes to work with at Miami. He has a darkhorse Heisman contender in quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who’s coming off of an indifferent 2022 campaign that saw him sidelined for most of the year with a shoulder injury.

In 2002, Miami was plagued by injuries across the offensive line. This is an area that Offensive Line Coach Alex Mirabal has promised to upgrade. Mirabal went so far to say that he’d rather cut off his arm before seeing the offensive line as the Canes’ weak link!. It is safe to say that Mirabal can keep both sleeves on his shirts.

The first thing Cristobal did was shore up his patchwork offensive line. The only returnee of any substance is 6’5” 320 lb. left tackle Zion Nelson, who is a fourth-year senior. Nelson hasn’t yet materialized into the power tackle that some think he’ll be but is highly thought of in NFL circles.

Cristobal started by signing two plug and play, five-star behemoth tackles in Samson Okunlola and Francis Mauigoa. He then added Javion Cohen, an All-SEC transfer interior offensive lineman from Alabama. Next came Matt Lee, the top-ranked center in the transfer portal from the University of Central Florida. Finally, the Canes have the makings of the ‘Great Wall of Mirabal, who will give Van Dyke the time he needs to throw the football downfield.

Van Dyke will many tools this season as Mario Cristobal had a big haul during recruiting, When you sprinkle in some quality transfers, you have the makings of a team that can make a lot of noise in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Last season, while the quarterback was standing upright, he had a problem in that the wide receiver room was small and not very deep. Boy how things have changed. Miami will line up 6’5” junior Colbie Young on one side, Xavier Restrepo in the slot and either Robby Washington or Ray Ray Joseph on the other flank. Cristobal also snagged Shemar Kirk from the JUCO ranks, who adds both size and speed. With his talent, Kirk will spread the field.

The Hurricanes also signed two of the top running backs in South Florida - Mark Fletcher and Christopher Johnson. They will compete with last year’s prize redshirt freshman Tre’vonte Citizen who missed all of last season with a leg injury, and the speedy Henry Parrish, who led the team in rushing. Also coming back from injury is Don Chaney.

Miami’s offense will produce a ton of yards, and they will score a truckload of points. With Van Dyke at the helm, the Eye of the Storm will be coming right at ACC defenses.


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