ESPN projects Miami football top spring storyline and newcomers to watch

Thayer linemen Samuel Okunlola (Brockton), right center, and brother Samson Okunlola, right, during a game versus St. Mark's on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.
Thayer linemen Samuel Okunlola (Brockton), right center, and brother Samson Okunlola, right, during a game versus St. Mark's on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. /

As part of their “ACC spring preview: High expectations for new and returning faces”  Andrea Adelson and David Hale of ESPN previewed the top storyline and newcomer(s) to watch for the Miami football program. Miami is a week into spring practice. The Hurricanes will take this week off for spring break.

The Miami football program has a critical spring with six new coaches on staff including two new coordinators, 20 players who transferred, 15 early enrollee freshmen and eight transfers. Expect Miami to add more transfers in the second open window in April. Mario Cristobal has pivoted quickly with the Miami roster and staff.

Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson are the biggest additions for Miami in 2023. Guidry led a top 10 defense nationally for Marshall in 2022 and Dawson brings a modified version of the air raid as Miami tries to modernize its offense in 2023.

Miami needs a complete improvement offensively in 2023 and the emphasis defensively should be on limiting big plays which plagued the Hurricanes far too often last season. Cristobal and the Miami football program signed a good mixture of incoming freshmen and transfers among the 33 newcomers.

"MiamiTop storyline: Miami opened the 2022 season amid much fanfare with the return of Mario Cristobal, a renewed investment from the school in football, an all-star cast of assistant coaches and an incumbent QB poised for stardom. The result: 5-7.This offseason saw an exodus of assistants and players, but folks around Miami think it might be better for it. In particular, QB Tyler Van Dyke looks like he’ll be a far better fit in new OC Shawn Dawson’s offensive scheme.There are still plenty of big questions for Miami, but the biggest accomplishment the team might achieve this spring will be simply putting 2022 in the rearview mirror for good.Newcomer to watch: Miami signed a pair of five-star offensive linemen, and both players — Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola — will participate in spring ball. Given the Hurricanes’ offensive woes last season, which included just 1.42 yards before contact per carry, adding size and strength up from is critical.If Mauigoa and Okunola develop as Cristobal hopes they will, they’d fit nicely into a group that also includes veteran Zion Nelson and UCF transfer Matt Lee.”"

In addition to Lee, Mauigoa and Okunlola, Alabama transfer Javion Cohen helps solidify a Miami offensive line that will likely be entirely different for the September 1 season opener versus Miami (Ohio) than it was for the 2022 season finale versus Pittsburgh. Miami also returns guard Jalen Rivers and tackle Zion Nelson from injury.

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Mauigoa has quickly made an impact. By the third day of spring practice on Thursday Mauigoa participated in drills with the first team at right tackle. By the time Miami plays its spring game on April 14, Okunloila will probably have participated with the first-team offense. Miami has frequently started freshmen on the OL recently.