Miami coach Manny Diaz waited until about a week before the start of training camp before he announced that D’Eriq King would be the team’s starting quarterback.
It was a formality.
From the moment King announced that he was transferring to Miami last winter, it has been certain that he was taking over the starting job. And if there’s a primary reason why the Hurricanes have hope for more points this season, it’s the dual-threat former Houston quarterback who is expected to breathe new life into an offense that ranked 98th out of 130 teams nationally in yards per game in 2019.
“He’s electric. He’s dynamic,” Miami offensive line coach Garin Justice said. “It seems like the guys have a lot of confidence when he’s behind center taking those snaps. I know that anytime you feel confidence and belief in a quarterback, for some reason you play better.”
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King left Houston after four games last fall, taking advantage of the rule that allows players to appear in that many contests and still redshirt to preserve eligibility. He announced his plan to transfer in January and Miami rolled out the welcome mat right away.
He has done something no other quarterback in the top level of college football has ever accomplished, throwing for at least one touchdown and running for at least one touchdown in each of his last 15 games — breaking a record held by Florida great Tim Tebow.
To put that in context, Miami has had a player throw and run for a score in the same game 15 times in the last 10 years.
“A lot of times guys look at a quarterback like myself just as a runner,” said the 5-foot-11, 195-pound King. “I love playing teams that want me to throw the ball because I know I can do that, and I know I can do it pretty well.”
He comes to Miami at a turbulent time in so many ways.
On the field, the Hurricanes are coming off a 6-7 season and were the only team to be shut out in a bowl game. More importantly, of course, King’s arrival coincides with the world trying to cope with a coronavirus pandemic and at a time of social unrest in America largely because of the outcry over police brutality and racial injustice -- topics he has spoken out about.
“My dad used to always tell me you have to prove you can play the position being a Black quarterback,” King said. “There’s a lot of stigmas out there that guys like me like to run all the time, can’t throw the ball. I just play football. I don’t worry about that. ... I’m big on racial injustice. I’m a young Black man in America.”
A look at Miami’s 2020 season:
Put simply, the Hurricanes have to be much better with the ball. They were 90th in scoring and 120th in rushing offense last season, but the most damning stat was ranking 129th nationally — out of 130 teams — in third down conversions.
Even without projected first-round pick Gregory Rousseau, who opted out of the season and signed with an agent to prepare for the 2021 draft, Miami has playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. Temple transfer defensive end Quincy Roche joins a stout defensive line, Zach McCloud returns for a fifth year to lead the linebackers and there is depth in the secondary.
King was a huge get, and so was transfer kicker Jose Borregales — who played a big role in FIU’s stunning upset win over Miami last season. The Hurricanes used three kickers last season, lost at least three games in large part because of kicking miscues and missed eight field goals from 40 yards or closer. Borregales made 19 of his final 23 field-goal tries in 2019.
The Hurricanes will not permit students at their first two home games — including the Sept. 26 annual rivalry game with Florida State — because of virus concerns, and losing Rousseau is a big blow. Plans for those first two games at Hard Rock Stadium call for crowds to be limited to 13,000 fans.
But for the most part Miami has gotten through camp as planned, in part because university president Dr. Julio Frenk has experience dealing with pandemics and outbreaks. “We are very fortunate to have him,” athletic director Blake James said.
Miami was supposed to open at home against Temple (the school Diaz left without coaching a game to take over the Hurricanes when Mark Richt retired) and visit Michigan State. Those games were called off by the pandemic, as was a matchup with Wagner. The only nonconference game that lasted was the one with UAB, which is now Miami’s opener on Sept. 10.
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