There is never a good time to lose a coach off your football team. Let's get that out of the way here at the top.
But Miami is losing offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch at a particularly tough time for a host of reasons:
The Hurricanes' offense made major strides in 2012 and returns every starter but running back Mike James, ratcheting up expectations for a group with rising stars in Stephen Morris and ACC Rookie of the Year Duke Johnson.
Morris, in particular, grew immensely in his first year as a starter while learning under Fisch, setting the school single-season total offense record with 3,415 yards.
Time is ticking down to National Signing Day. Fisch has been a particularly strong recruiter for Miami, and now the Hurricanes have to hold on to key commits, particularly on offense.
Let's not forget NCAA sanctions are looming, too.
Of all the reasons listed, I think the biggest concern is the continuity on offense for 2013. During coach Al Golden's season wrap-up news conference last November, he fielded one question after another about the defense, clearly the weakest group on the team. He has been asked several times about defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, and plans to shore up one of the worst defenses in America.
But on offense? There were no concerns before, but surely there are now as Miami now deals with the loss of two coaches -- Fisch and receiver coach George McDonald. After losing nobody off his staff a year ago, the Hurricanes have to make changes. Golden was widely praised for his hire of former FIU coach Mario Cristobal, who takes McDonald's spot on staff.
Replacing Fisch, though, is bigger. Coordinator changes can oftentimes impact players and schemes. You can bet Golden will find somebody with a similar philosophy as Fisch. In fact, many times coaches have their new coordinators adapt to the schemes already in place to lessen the impact these transitions have on players.
Particularly the quarterback. Morris and Fisch had a great working relationship, as Fisch also served as quarterbacks coach. And Morris got better as the year went on, exactly what you want to see out of your quarterback, throwing 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his final four games. Miami went 3-1 in those contests, with the lone loss a wild 41-40 setback to Virginia.
The final stats bear out the improvement. Morris was a major upgrade over Jacory Harris, as the Hurricanes scored more, had more yards of total offense and passed for more yards than a season ago. Miami was improved in those three major categories, and just about the same in rushing offense. Given Morris' return as a senior, a young and talented receiving corps and all the incredible talent we saw out of Johnson, there is reason for optimism.
That's why this is such an important hire for Golden to make. He's got to get this one right.