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Miami Hype Comes Back to Earth after Spring Game

By Dave Holcomb
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Saturday’s spring game was a reminder that hype means very little, especially before no games have been played.

Over the last couple of years, there’s been plenty of hype for the Miami Hurricanes returning as one of the prominent college football programs in the country. Those expectations have come with some merit, and the latest this offseason was the NCAA ruling quarterback transfer Tate Martell immediately eligible.

However, Saturday’s spring game was a reminder that hype means very little, especially before no games have been played.

Based on the reports from the Miami Hurricanes beat writers, Martell’s debut (at least in a game-like setting) with the team couldn’t have gone much worse. He threw several wobbly passes, including an interception in the first quarter against the Hurricanes’ first-team defense. He even struggled against the third-team defense.

From The Miami Herald:

“Even in the second half when Miami let Martell run its second-team offense against the third-team defense, the redshirt junior struggled to move the ball. On his first drive of the third quarter, Martell began with a throw behind a receiver, tripped while going back for a play-action pass, then threw a third-down pass about 10 yards short of his target. Maybe the ball was tipped on a couple of those wobbly throws, but that’s an issue, too, for the 5-foot-11 quarterback.”

Martell finished the glorified practice going 4 of 11 with 78 passing yards and an interception.

As the saying goes, sometimes when it rains, it pours.

The tipped passes are always a concern for a quarterback of his size, but Martell isn’t going to usually miss wide-open receivers and trip on his way to making handoffs often. Perhaps he was simply nervous for his debut.

The Miami Herald also reported one fan tried to start an “Overrated” chant in the direction of the quarterback transfer. No one followed, but this fact does begin to signify how much pressure is on this kid.

Hurricanes fans and media view Martell as the answer behind center. Yours truly does too. Rightfully or not, the fan base also seems to believe that with stronger quarterback play, Miami is a true contender in the ACC.

But based on how some of the other position groups played in the team’s first spring game, that might not be a fair assessment. Susan Miller Degnan and David Wilson of The Miami Herald called the “offensive line a major work in progress” and wrote “linebacker depth is obviously an issue.”

The former is nothing new. The Miami offensive line was average at best at protecting the quarterback and helping to establish a running game last year. That was particularly true against LSU, who was one of the better teams the Hurricanes played last season. LSU posted 4.0 sacks and held the Hurricanes to 2.44 yards per carry.

If the offensive line isn’t any better in 2019, Martell’s life will be even harder. As it is, he may already face unrealistic expectations.

Martell could see a third obstacle arise towards becoming the star everyone wants him to be in Miami -- positional competition. Fellow quarterback N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams looked very good during the spring game Saturday. Perry went 9 of 15 with 78 passing yards while Williams completed 7 of 12 attempts for 79 yards and a touchdown.

Perhaps Martell simply needs more time with the playbook. After all, it’s only April, and it’s way too early to be drawing meaningful conclusions for how the 2019 season may go. Remember, Perry is the Miami quarterback with the most college experience -- not Martell.

One thing is for certain -- the honeymoon period for Martell in Miami is finished.