Miami's 2017: A Coastal title, drama, struggles and a chain

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Miami's season had a little of everything.

Successes, like finally winning the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division title and beating rivals Florida State and Notre Dame . Disappointments, like getting blown out by Clemson in the ACC championship game as part of a three-game slide to end the season. Drama, provided by some last-second wins and dealing with Hurricane Irma . And notoriety, from both the Turnover Chain and the Hurricanes' brief stint as the No. 2-ranked team in the nation.

So now the annual question — is Miami back? — can now be answered: not quite, but the Hurricanes believe they're getting closer.

"I think we have unfinished business," safety Jaquan Johnson said.

Even after a loss to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl , Miami went 10-3 and posted its best record since 2003.

"It didn't end the way we wanted," Miami athletic director Blake James wrote on Twitter early Sunday. "Very proud of the progress."

Miami goes into the offseason on a dip of what's been quite a roller coaster — the Hurricanes lost four consecutive games midway through 2016, then won 15 in a row, and now take a three-game losing streak into next season's opener against LSU. The Hurricanes were the favorites in the Coastal this season and probably will be again next fall, though there are plenty of issues that await in the interim.

First up: the decisions by cornerback Michael Jackson and defensive tackles R.J. McIntosh and Kendrick Norton about their NFL futures. Some around Miami think all three are gone while others believe it's possible all may stay. If any come back, a defense that was fantastic at times this season will reap the benefits.

"That's the big question," McIntosh said. "I don't know yet."

Running back Mark Walton got hurt early in the season and is leaving for the NFL, but Travis Homer ran for nearly 1,000 yards. Homer is back next season, and Miami's incoming running back corps has great potential. But there also are some holes to plug on the offensive line, with KC McDermott and Trevor Darling — the left side for the Hurricanes — having graduated.

Solid defensive ends Chad Thomas and Trent Harris are gone as well, meaning Miami's front seven will have at least two new regulars in 2018.

There's also a big question under center.

Malik Rosier accounted for 31 touchdowns this season, the most ever by a Miami quarterback. Rosier had the unenviable task of replacing Brad Kaaya and got the Hurricanes to the ACC title game, though he is not assured of keeping his job. Redshirt N'Kosi Perry will be in the mix to become the starter next spring and summer, and incoming freshman Jarren Williams is highly regarded as well.

"I feel like I'm ready," Perry said.

Rosier threw three interceptions in Miami's 34-24 loss to Wisconsin. He finished the year with 26 touchdown passes and 3,135 yards, plus five rushing scores — but also threw 14 interceptions.

"The season is over with now, and we had a great season," Rosier said. "I love the seniors, love the guys that are around me. But the big thing is putting this season behind us and getting to work."

He will miss two senior receivers in particular.

Braxton Berrios , arguably Miami's most important player in 2017, and Christopher Herndon IV (whose season ended in November after an injury) combined for 95 catches for 1,166 yards. Berrios had a team-best nine touchdown grabs and handled punt-return duties flawlessly; Herndon caught four scoring passes.

"I left it all out there, gave this team and this city everything I had," said Berrios, who graduated with a 3.96 GPA. "I will always cherish these days."

They all should.

Miami was in the Orange Bowl for the first time in 14 seasons, finally got to its first ACC title game, briefly went to No. 2 in the AP Top 25, got national acclaim for the Turnover Chain and spent several weeks as a real contender for the College Football Playoff. At a minimum, the Hurricanes should have at least 15 returning starters in 2018 — and the recruiting class was ranked among the nation's best.

Coach Mark Richt described the season as "very successful in a lot of ways."

"We know we're hungry for more," Richt said. "And I can tell by looking at the eyes of our team that the guys that are coming back are going to be excited about taking it one step further next year."


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