One of the premier Week 1 college football matchups will feature Miami taking on Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. The Crimson Tide are the reigning national champions, while the Hurricanes are once again expected to be a top-25 squad under Manny Diaz.
Rhett Lashlee took over as Miami’s offensive coordinator in 2020, and we finally saw some steps forward, following that brutal 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl the season before. Now heading into Year 2, there is hope that Lashlee’s offense can get off to a hot start once again.
The Alabama defense is returning a majority of its starters — as well as a top recruiting class — so that won’t be an easy task for the opening game of the season. But Lashlee still believes in his offensive talent, especially with all the returning production from last year’s improved group.
During a recent appearance on the ACC Network’s Packer & Durham Show, he said via Inside The U with 247Sports:
“We do feel blessed to have a lot of guys returning from last year, and we feel like we do have some good young players that maybe people didn’t get to see that much last year or maybe they are total newcomers that will add to the playmakers for us.”
Lashlee also knows that games against teams such as Alabama are why many players come to Miami. These are the hyped, attention-grabbing moments that can help put a historically good program back in the crosshairs of College Football Playoff contention.
“The reason you come to the University of Miami is to play in games like that and coach in games like that,” Lashlee said. “We have so much respect for them. I spent six years at Auburn, so I know very well what we are about to face. They are the best team in college football over the past ten years. They are a phenomenal program with a phenomenal defense. It is going to be a great challenge for us.
“If you are a competitor, you come to the University of Miami to play in games like this against a program like Alabama to kickoff the season. You get all summer to prepare for something, and you know right out of the gates where you stand. We are excited about the opportunity.”
Miami lost a ton up front defensively. Star defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau opted out in 2020, but there was still plenty of pass-rushing production last season between Jaelan Phillips and the newly added grad transfer Quincy Roche.
Now both of them are in the NFL, which leaves a void.
On the flip side, Alabama lost a large majority of its offensive production from last season. The award-winning quarterback, running back and wide receivers are gone. Plus, a majority of the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line, including two Day 1 and 2 picks, needs to be replaced.
In other words, the losses — and the returning starters — for both of these teams complement each other. The only difference is that Alabama has consistently replaced talent lost to the NFL, while most other teams struggle to regroup.
In the end, a lot will ride on the shoulders of Miami’s star quarterback D’Eriq King. If he’s healthy enough to play — and be effective — against the Crimson Tide, then we could see an interesting game in Atlanta. If not, things could get ugly.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.