CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Tyler Van Dyke has studied every play from his 2021 season at Miami. There are some plays he’s evaluated much more than the others.
And they’re not the highlight-reel entries, either.
Van Dyke’s right arm is carrying a significant amount of No. 16 Miami’s hopes entering this season, for good reason. Over the final six games of the Hurricanes’ schedule a year ago, his numbers were among the very best in the country. He started the year as a backup; he ended it as a full-fledged NFL draft hopeful.
But in the film room, it’s the mistakes that motivate him.
“When I watch the film of games last year, when I really look back, I always look at the negative things,” Van Dyke said. “If I had two bad plays or a few bad plays, I’d be like, `Was that really a good game with those bad plays I had?’ ”
To be fair, the answer to that question would be “yes,” particularly in his final six games and after finding his footing as the starter.
The Connecticut native completed 66% of his passes in that six-game span, with 20 touchdowns, just three interceptions and threw for 2,194 yards. The only other FBS quarterback during those weeks to have that many yards, that sort of accuracy, that many touchdowns and that few interceptions was Mississippi State’s Will Rogers – who had a 77% completion rate, 21 touchdowns, three interceptions and 2,287 yards.
If Miami had gone to a bowl game – the Hurricanes’ trip to the Sun Bowl was derailed by virus-related issues – Van Dyke almost certainly would have finished with 3,000 yards. He ended up 69 yards short. Still, not bad for someone who played only nine games a year ago and got the starting job only after D'Eriq King was lost early in the season with a shoulder injury.
“After all the work we’ve done, I can’t wait to get back out there,” said Van Dyke, who will lead the Hurricanes into their season debut at home Saturday against Bethune-Cookman.
Inheriting a quarterback like Van Dyke is something first-year Miami coach Mario Cristobal calls “a tremendous blessing.”
“You have a natural leader that’s one of your hardest workers, competing to be recognized as the hardest worker, that demands as much of himself as he does of anybody else,” Cristobal said. “That type of mentality and that work ethic, he has also displayed in the classroom and the way he approaches community service and everything he does.”
It’s probably hard for Van Dyke to totally ignore the highlights when he looks at those films.
There were plenty of them.
He ended last season on an absolute tear – with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns in each of his final six games. No quarterback at the major college level had six such games over that span; Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe had five, and three others had four apiece.
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, there are just six players with better odds of winning the Heisman Trophy this season than Van Dyke.
“Last year, when he was the starting quarterback, he was more of the offensive leader,” Miami receiver Xavier Restrepo said. “But this year, I feel like everybody listens to him. He controls the whole entire team.”
That said, Van Dyke gets legitimate competition every day in the Miami quarterback room.
Jake Garcia, who wanted to play through a broken ankle last year, excelled in his lone appearance a year ago – throwing two touchdown passes against Central Connecticut, the game in which he got hurt. Freshman Jacurri Brown is a highly regarded newcomer who had offers from Auburn, Florida, Mississippi and others.
“I mean, all those guys are just insane,” Restrepo said. “You know, their arm talent is ridiculous. And sitting behind TVD and just listening to TVD, they’re also gaining knowledge about football, so I think that’s very important for them.”
Van Dyke is already mentioned as a potential first-round pick if he chooses to enter the 2023 NFL draft. He’s been in high demand as an endorser, thanks to the NCAA’s policy that now allows student-athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness.
It’s all nice. He enjoys the attention. But he insists that his focus is on the field.
“I’ve played this game my entire life and obviously it’s pretty cool to see all that stuff,” Van Dyke said. “But at the end of the day, all that stuff is projections. I only played like three-fourths of a season last year. I just can’t wait to play a full season this year.”