Tyler Van Dyke and Kam Kinchens both have significant reminders of last season. And they’d prefer not to think much about them.
For Van Dyke, Miami’s starting quarterback who was being talked about as a Heisman Trophy contender at this time last year, it’s the lump on his shoulder that is a constant souvenir from a very frustrating 2022 season. For Kinchens, the safety who tied for the national lead in interceptions during the regular season, it’s a banner bearing his name over the practice field — Miami’s tribute to All-Americans.
“I don’t look at it,” Kinchens said. “Nothing I did in my sophomore year is going to help us win in my junior year.”
Miami is looking forward, not backward, and there’s good reason for that. The Hurricanes sputtered in Year 1 of the rebuild being engineered by coach Mario Cristobal, the former Miami star offensive lineman who won national titles there as a player and is trying to get his alma mater back into the national spotlight. They were 5-7, not even making a bowl game, and are essentially starting anew again in a loaded Atlantic Coast Conference with new coordinators; Shannon Dawson on offense, Lance Guidry on defense.
“Whenever you start up at a program again and it has a rebuilding aspect, you have to sometimes go through a season like that and not make any excuse or sugar-coat it, but you go directly at the things that need to be addressed, and it starts with people,” Cristobal said. “People in the locker room, people on the coaching staff, people in a support staff role. … In other words, the steps that you cannot skip, those things have been in full force since the end of last season.”
Van Dyke’s shoulder is tip-top again, which is a far cry from how it was down the stretch last season. He would get shots to numb his throwing (right) shoulder as close to game time as possible after being hurt, temporarily hiding the pain, as if that was going to make him forget that he was playing injured.
And the shots worked. For about an hour, anyway. Problem is, college football games last for three or four hours.
It was a painful part of a painful year. That right shoulder is healed now, and on it sits much of the hope for Miami in 2023. Van Dyke, who considered leaving either through the transfer portal or the NFL draft, is back for one more run with the Hurricanes.
“It’s just that this is where I want to be,” Van Dyke said. “Miami’s the spot.”
The starting offensive line tasked with protecting Van Dyke might be an entirely new unit. UCF transfer center Matt Lee already is a clear leader, and freshmen Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola are also highly touted. “We just have to hang our hats on being the toughest, meanest guys on the field every single snap, every single game,” Lee said.
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Rueben Bain Jr. has been wowing the Hurricanes from the moment the local product from Miami Central got on campus. The super-talented defensive lineman could be an impact player from Week 1, and it’s safe to say he’s going to get excellent position coaching. Miami Dolphins legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jason Taylor is coaching the Hurricanes’ defensive line.
The Hurricanes lost punter Lou Hedley to graduation; another Australian is set to take his place in Dylan Joyce. The kicking game will be handled again by Andres Borregales, who was 17 of 20 on field goals last season on his way to a second consecutive All-ACC honorable mention selection.
Even after last season’s debacles, Miami was picked fifth in the ACC preseason poll. Had the conference’s divisional format still been in play, the Hurricanes would be second among the now-former Coastal teams behind only North Carolina. Here’s the bad news: The four teams picked ahead of Miami — Clemson, Florida State, the Tar Heels and N.C. State — all await the Hurricanes in a five-week stretch midway through the year.
The rare Miami-Miami game (Miami of Ohio visits) awaits as the opener on Sept. 1, followed by former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M coming in for Week 2. Miami has six of its first eight games at home, then finishes with three of four on the road — including the annual matchup with Florida State on Nov. 11.