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Miami Unwavering On Search For Answers

By Dave Holcomb
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The Hurricanes are counting on King working out with new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to save a program from any further embarrassment and perhaps another head coach’s job.

The Miami Hurricanes appeared to hit a grand slam in the transfer portal, landing quarterback Tate Martell last year. Ok, maybe it wasn’t a grand slam, but it was at least a home run, especially when Martell learned he could play immediately.

As it turns out, it wasn’t even a bunt single.

Martell, who came to Miami from Ohio State after Justin Fields transferred to Columbus, couldn’t beat out freshman Jarren Williams to start behind center last summer. Martell threw just one pass for the Hurricanes during the 2019 season.

Ranked among the top 60 recruits in 2017 and fifth among all types of quarterbacks just behind Georgia’s Jake Fromm according to the 247Sports composite rankings, Martell is arguably one of the most disappointing recruits from 2017.

But as the saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” That’s exactly what Miami will do next season with a new transfer quarterback.

Former Houston quarterback D’Eriq King announced Monday he will spend his final season of college eligibility with the Hurricanes. Much to the shagrin of Martell, King will enter spring practice as the clear-cut favorite to win the starting job.

But Miami needs him to do far more than just outperform an overhyped recruit from three years ago. The Hurricanes are counting on King working out with new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to save a program from any further embarrassment and perhaps another head coach’s job.

King, though, comes to Miami with even greater risk than Martell did a year ago. King took advantage of the new transfer rule while at Houston last season, electing to sit out the final eight games of the year in order to save a season of eligibility and transfer as a graduate student.

No, King wasn’t hurt; he chose to sit without an injury with every intention of leaving the Houston program at the end of 2019. Every kid has the right to place themselves ahead of the team, but that decision was still a tough one to swallow not just for Houston fans but college football fans at large, as it potentially sets a dangerous standard around the sport moving forward.

But let’s save that topic for another day. King is coming to Miami, and as thrilling as it sounds, this isn’t a full-proof plan.

King had a very strong junior season with 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions while averaging 8.6 yards per attempt -- not to mention 14 rushing touchdowns as well. But that was two years ago against Group 5 competition. King didn’t face a single ranked opponent on his way to those numbers in 2018.

This past season, King faced Oklahoma in the season opener. Although he accounted for three touchdowns in that game, the new Miami quarterback also completed just 51.9 percent of his passes for 167 yards. Oklahoma isn’t exactly known for its defense either.

In four games during 2019, King posted 12 total touchdowns and two interceptions, but his yards per attempt average sunk to 6.0 mostly as the result of poor accuracy (52.7 completion percent).

By the time the 2020 season rolls around, King will have gone nearly a year without playing, and he’s taking a step up in competition going from the AAC to ACC. There’s absolutely no guarantee King becomes the same dual-threat player in Miami that he was in Houston during 2018.

Still, one can’t criticize Manny Diaz too much for trying. After a rocky first season that ended with a shutout loss to Louisiana Tech, pressure is already mounting on this regime. Hurricanes previous head coach Mark Richt couldn’t solve the team’s quarterback issues, and it ultimately led to his firing at the end of 2018.

Diaz will likely continue to throw darts at the quarterback board in the transfer portal until he finds one he likes. That’s until the program can recruit the long-term solution behind center.

This fall, Diaz is pinning his hopes of buying himself and his coaching staff more time to find that long-term quarterback to King turning around the long-time struggling offense.