Seven things to know about Hurricane football heading into the season

Now rising junior quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) directs the team during the 2015 football season. Kaaya threw for three touchdowns and 232 yards on 16-of-21 passing in the football team’s scrimmage at Oxbridge Academy on Saturday afternoon. Joshua Gruber // Contributing Photographer
  1. It’s Not Sun Life Anymore

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past weeks or don’t care for college football, you know that the Hurricanes will be playing in the newly renovated and named Hard Rock Stadium. The best news: the new stadium features extended roofing to shield the student section from the sun’s brutal rays. Annoyed with long waits going through security? Hard Rock will have 167 high-tech metal detectors installed, hoping to cut wait time by a third. No more missing game action outside the front gate.

  1. It’s Not Al Golden Anymore

After a pedestrian 32-25 record as head coach of the Hurricanes, Al Golden got the boot midway through last year. Larry Scott filled in for Golden, rallying the troops to finish his campaign at 4-2, culminating with a 20-14 loss in the Sun Bowl against Washington State. After season’s end, the search for the next UM head coach was on. The Canes found their man in former Miami football player Mark Richt. Richt compiled an incredible 145-51 record as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs over the span of 15 seasons, including two conference titles. We all hope his success carries over to his alma mater.

  1. Brad’s our Quarterback

Brad Kaaya will begin his third season as the starting quarterback for the Hurricanes. Kaaya racked up 6,436 yards passing in his freshman and sophomore years combined, while throwing a total of 42 touchdowns. Both of these feats are highly impressive, but the 6-foot-4 quarterback has the potential to do even better this season. The Hurricanes lost some veteran receivers to the NFL, including Herb Waters and Rashawn Scott, so look for a younger wideout tandem to step up early in the year.

  1. Defense Wins Championships

Miami lost starting defensive backs Deon Bush and Artie Burns to the NFL last April, but look for the secondary to remain strong. Senior starters Rayshawn Jenkins, Corn Elder and Adrian Colbert have experience playing next to one another, so that group is the least of our worries. The linebacking core lacks experience with freshmen Shaq Quarterman, Zach McCloud and Michael Pinckney likely filling starting voids left by players from last year’s team. However, that doesn’t mean this defense can’t be effective quickly.

  1. Don’t Sleep on Special Teams

Experience is key with any position, but none more so than with the kicker. The Canes have one of the best in the country on their side in junior Michael Badgley. He enters the 2016 season having made 83.3 percent of his field goals and all of his extra point attempts last season, racking up 115 total points. When the game is on the line, you can rest a little easier knowing that Badgley might be the deciding factor.

  1. Strong Recruiting Class

Top programs in the country are able to sway the most sought after high school seniors to their university, and the Hurricanes did just that. Coming in with the 19th best recruiting class of 2016, the Canes boast a strong young core that will be playing important snaps early in the season. Top rated quarterback recruit Jack Allison will sit behind Kaaya, hoping to progress into the starting role when Kaaya leaves. Wide receivers Sam Bruce and Dionte Mullins will look to bolster a young but immensely talented receiving core that will be thrown into the gauntlet early in the year. Defensive end Pat Bethel and linebacker Shaq Quarterman come in as the top rated defensive recruits; look for them to contribute to a young defensive front.

  1. Key to the Season

Not often can teams say that they have one game-breaking running back on their roster. The Hurricanes, though, have two such players. Junior Joe Yearby and sophomore Mark Walton lead arguably the most talented running back duo in the nation. All the attention on the Miami offense goes to Kaaya, but these two will be x-factors in a juggernaut offense for Coach Richt. If the Canes can establish the run early in games, the secondary will open up for Kaaya to make throws down the field. Conversely, if the defense plays for the pass, Yearby and Walton will have a field day racking up yards on the ground. In a dream scenario, the offense will flow this smoothly and these two backs will make a major splash across the country.