Athlon Sports picks Miami football 2022 ACC Coastal winner

Oct 30, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami football program has been picked by Athlon Sports to win the 2022 ACC Coastal Division. Miami enters the 2022 season after an offseason of program making changes beginning with new head coach Mario Cristobal. Cristobal has been praised for hiring an elite coaching staff for 2022.

Cristobal has changed the projection of the Miami football program. The new Miami staff is expected to improve the Hurricanes recruiting and on-field development. Defending ACC Champion Pittsburgh was the first Coastal Division team to win the conference since Virginia Tech in 2010.

A top 20 2022 freshman class, 11 transfers and the staff Cristobal has hired have created a buzz around Coral Gables and national praise. The pick of Miami to win the Coastal Division was part of extensive ACC predictions for 2022 by Steven Lassan of Athlon Sports. Lassan named Miami offensive coordinator the ACC’s best hire.

Cristobal hired Kevin Steele and Charlie Strong as the co-defensive coordinators opposite Gattis. Strong will also coach linebackers. The Miami football program also hired former Hurricane Alonzo Highsmith in a general manager role to oversee the talent Miami adds to the roster in a defacto scouting administrative role.

"Coastal Division1. MiamiIt’s a new era at Miami with Mario Cristobal returning home and incoming investments in the program for needed facility and staff enhancements. After winning the offseason, the ‘Canes can add to that momentum with a Coastal Division title in ’22.Although this division is always tough to project, Cristobal has the pieces in place to make a splash in year one. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke was brilliant in his last six starts (2,194 yards, 20 TDs, 3 INTs) last season and should thrive under coordinator Josh Gattis.The ‘Canes have a trio of talented options at running back, and the line brings back three starters, including All-America candidate Zion Nelson. The only concern on offense likely rests at receiver after Mike Harley and Charleston Rambo departed after combining for 136 receptions and 1,715 yards last season.The defense is in need of repair after surrendering 28.4 points a game and struggling with missed tackles. Rising star tackle Leonard Taylor and a couple of transfers should boost the defensive front, but linebacker remains a concern.Cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and safeties James Williams and Kamren Kinchens are three building blocks on the back end. With Pitt coming to Coral Gables on Nov. 26, the path to the Coastal Division title likely runs through Miami.”"

Cristobal has spoken about the need for facility upgrades since his hire in December. The biggest focus for facility upgrades for Miami. That includes extending the Soffer Indoor Practice Facility to a 100-yard playing field. Hiring Cristobal and the new coordinators are just a part of the staff enhancements Miami has made for 2022.

The Miami football program enters the 2022 season attempting to earn its first Coastal Division title since 2017. That was the only outright Coastal title Miami has won in its 16 years in the ACC. Miami has the foundation for an excellent inaugural season with Cristobal as head coach. That begins with Van Dyke.

Miami goes deeper than the three RBs referenced by Lassan. Returnees Don Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton, plus Mississippi transfer Henry Parrish are who Lassan was likely referring to. Sophomore Thad Franklin gives Miami a power back and was the closer for Miami late in the 2021 season.

Nelson has a chance to be a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Center Jakai Clark and versatile OL D.J. Scaife are the other returning starters for Miami upfront. Scaife can play guard or tackle. Jalen Rivers played in seven games as a true freshman in 2020 and projects as a starter for Miami if he’s healthy in 2022.

Miami is deep and talented at wide receiver, but inexperienced. Keyshawn Smith is the online returning starting WR with Harley and Rambo not returning for Miami in 2022. Xavier Restrepo projects as the starting slot receiver. Jacolby George and Clemson transfer Frank Ladson will compete to be the third starting WR.

Miami added five defensive line transfers for 2022. The two DL Lassan referenced are probably edge rushers Mitchell Agude and Akheem Mesidor. Agude and Mesidor project to start for Miami in 2022. Darrell Jackson, Jacob Lichtenstein and Antonio Moultrie are the other three transfer DL and add depth for Miami this fall.

Next. Mario Cristobal named 11th best 2022 CFB head coach. dark

UCLA transfer Caleb Johnson should help solidify the Miami defense as the projected starting middle LB. West Virginia transfer CB Darryl Porter and rising third-year sophomore Avantae Williams will join Kinchens, Stevenson and Williams in the secondary. Miami should be improved defensively in 2022.