Can D'Eriq King turn the Miami Hurricanes into a title contender?
Updated: Sep 13, 2020
Frankly, it's been ugly if you're a Miami Hurricanes fan. The days of national championships and domination seem like a distant memory, probably because they are now. Canes fans have seen glimpses of greatness, but the few moments they've experienced ended with thuds. Manny Diaz stumbled to a 6-7 season, but went right to work in the offseason to address concerns. One was D'Eriq King, the former Houston quarterback, and it's an addition that has the potential to dominate the ACC, maybe even put them in the conference title conversation.
Over the last few years, the quarterback either led the success or produced the struggles. Since Brad Kaaya left, the consistency at the position lacked, and here's what Miami received in terms of play since he went pro.
2017 (10-3 record)
Malik Rosier: 224-415 (54.0%), 3,120 yards passing , 26 TD - 14 INT, 468 yards rushing (3.6 ypc), 5 TD
N'Kosi Perry: 97-191 (50.8%), 1,091 yards passing, 13 TD - 6 INT, 169 yards rushing (2.8 ypc), 1 TD
Malik Rosier: 82-156 (52.6%), 1,053 yards passing, 6 TD - 8 INT, 300 yards rushing (5.3 ypc), 6 TD
Jarren Williams: 169-276 (61.2%), 2,187 yards passing, 19 TD - 7 INT
N'Kosi Perry: 85-159 (53.5%), 1,045 yards passing, 8 TD - 3 INT, 44 yards rushing, 2 TD
As you can see, the production from the quarterback position hasn't been what it once was, and even in 2017 there were struggles. Miami started that year 10-0 before losing their last three games. Rosier was reliable and fairly consistent, averaging 262 yards passing and throwing 23 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. In those final three games, he threw just three touchdowns with five picks and averaged 167 yards passing. Miami's struggles are a direct reflection of the quarterback position, something that's not unique to their program, but one that must change. The biggest problem is they haven't found a consistent passer that can stretch a defense to go with an ability to run the football too.
D'Eriq King's 2018 season was one to remember, though it didn't get the recognition it deserved. If he repeats those numbers this season, he'll run away with the Heisman. King was one of three players in 2019 to account for 50 touchdowns, with Oklahoma's Kyler Murray (the Heisman Trophy winner) and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins (Heisman finalist) joining him. He also produced a number of jaw dropping plays in his time with Houston, including some impressive deep passes. Miami's lacked one or both of those in the last few years, and King provides them with the potential to beat teams with his arm and his legs. Combining him with new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee almost seems unfair, as Lashlee loves to put his quarterback in great positions to make big plays using numbers. King's good at that, and we've already seen a glimpse of what the offense will look like this season.
If there's a weakness in King's game, it's the deep ball. To be fair, though, it's a weakness when it's critical for him to make those throws. When he's out just playing ball, he can be as accurate as anyone. It seemed at times he was playing more rigid in Dana Holgorsen's system, which limited what he does best: play football. It was similar to what Arizona did to Khalil Tate in Tate's final two seasons with the Wildcats. Fortunately for King, Holgorsen realized he was taking away his quarterbacks legs. By then, it was too late. Houston was 1-3, and King decided to sit out to preserve his redshirt and ultimately transfer. A new start paired with a coordinator that will let him air it out when necessary while also terrorizing defenses with his legs is a combination Canes fans haven't seen in a long time. And before you bring up that King was doing it against "inferior competition," let's start with this.
Yes, it's a scrimmage, but those are numbers still worth noticing. Completing 70.5% of his passes should excite Canes fans, because he's proving that he can ball against any competition. Miami's defense has a reputation with it, so you can't discredit King's performance in the scrimmage too much. Throw in Manny Diaz's ability to produce a great defense, and you realize this is a scary stat line. So yes, it is possible that King can do it against better competition. It's also possible that the AAC is better than Power conferences give them credit, but that's another discussion for another day. What should be exciting is what King brings to the table, and what that consequently means for the Canes.
And in case you needed more proof of what King can do, there's always this.
Oh and there's this.
D'Eriq King is a special talent, one that could vault Miami into the ACC championship conversation. There's no denying what he's done at Houston, and there's no reason to think he can't do the same thing for the 305. The goal for now remains improving on the last two seasons in which Miami finished 13-13, but the bar can be raised with King at the helm. Miami, once again, has the talent to compete for championships, they just needed the right guys to do it. With Diaz and the coaching staff looking to turn things around, they'll rely on a King to lead the way. If all goes well, King will win the Heisman, something he didn't have a chance at in 2018, but can now demand in 2020. That's the royal treatment he deserves.