Year in Review
The height of the Miami Hurricanes momentum and form occurred with their impressive beat-down of Notre Dame on November 11. They thumped the No. 3 Irish 41-8. But, immediately after, their momentum at the very least plateaued until it fell off the face of the earth.
They trailed by 14 in the second half the next week to a Virginia Cavaliers’ team that finished 6-6. They then went to Pittsburgh and lost the Pitt Panthers. That win moved Pitt from 4-7 to 5-7. The Hurricanes were No. 2 in the country at the time.
In its time for redemption, the University of Miami got saaaa-mashed by Clemson. The Hurricanes were shutout for 56 minutes and 31 seconds until they avoided the goose-egg with a 22-yard field goal.
So, who is Miami? The team that remained undefeated until mid-November and climbed to No. 2 in the country, or the team that has lost two-straight and nearly lost three-in-a-row?
Breaking Down Each Side of the Ball
Malik Rosier is the starting quarterback for the ‘Canes. He has exceptional mobility, rushing for 427 yards and five touchdowns this season. He’s also thrown for just under 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns but he has also thrown 11 interceptions. He has thrown four picks in his last three games. When you watch him, he can make all the throws and in an exciting manner. He is also very good at running the read option which he can make undisciplined defenses look quite silly.
But, as you’ll see below, like any 20-something-year-old, he is prone to making some dumb decisions. At times, he’ll make his initial read and stick to it the whole way. Watching through his interceptions on the season, I think the 11 is a bit deceiving because several ints resulted from receiver drops and tipped passes at the line of scrimmage…not necessarily bad decisions.
There have been crucial injuries at the skill positions for Miami all season long but the Hurricanes are still quite good and exciting there. Starting running back and 2016 1,000-yard rusher, Mark Walton, only lasted five games before an ankle injury saw him sidelined for the rest of the season. But, in his place, sophomore Travis Homer has performed quite well with Walton sidelined. Homer is 93 yards away from 1,000 and has been another asset in the passing game. Homer has 200 yards receiving. For his troubles, Homer was listed second-team All-ACC.
This theme continues to other elements of the passing game. Watching Braxton Berrios, the ‘Canes starting receiver, is tremendous fun. He can play out-wide and in the slot. He is exciting in the deep-passing game on the outside but he can also go into the slot and do the dirty work. To show his versatility, Berrios was third-team All-ACC as a wide receiver and honorable mention on special teams.
He, also, is used as a very good decoy at times. When you look at the tape below, they’ll line Berrios up in the slot with Jeff Thomas outside of him. This creates one-on-one matchups for Thomas out-wide because the slot corner and safety are paying the majority of attention to Berrios in the middle of the field. Look at the Thomas highlights below and note how often Berrios is right next to him prior to he making a big play.
Even with all that said, Miami is still missing its second and third receiving options. Tight end Christopher Herndon blew out his knee at the end of November. Ahmmon Richards is another guy that the passing game is missing. He had 439 yards in just seven games. Berrios, who leads the ‘Canes in yards, has around 200 more yards than Richards in double the games and double the catches…Richards was a huge weapon in this still exciting offense.
The offensive line is anchored by several members of various All-ACC teams. Tackle KC McDermott was third-team All-ACC, Navaughn Donaldson, a guard, was an honorable mention, guard Trevor Darling was also an honorable mention. The unit blocked for three runners that amassed over 400 yards. Walton and Homer averaged six or more yards-per-carry on more than 50 rushes. The unit did allow 26 total sacks this season which ranks 75th nationally.
On paper, the Miami offense looks a lot less exciting than it does in live-action. The Hurricanes rank 50th in passing offense, 73rd in rushing offense, 124th in third-down conversion, 74th in interceptions thrown and 35th in turnovers lost.
This is one of the most exciting units in all of the nation. Everybody knows about the turnover chain because of its uniqueness and the regularity in which it is seen. As a unit, the Miami defense is 2nd in the country in turnovers gained, 9th in interceptions gained. They also paid rent in the opponent’s backfield. The ‘Canes are 1st in the nation in sacks and 2nd in tackles for loss.
Individually, they have talent at all three levels. Proof can be seen in the All-ACC teams. Eight total defenders made an All-ACC team of some flavor. Second teamers include defensive tackle R.J. McIntosh, cornerbacks Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Jackson and safety Jaquan Johnson. On the third team was defensive end Trent Harris, and honorable mentions include defensive tackle Kendrick Norton and cornerbacks Michael Pickney and Malek Young.
In all, the Miami secondary has five total members on of the all-conference teams, so you’d figure the passing defensive stats would be good, right? The ‘Canes ranked 50th in passing yards allowed. They aren’t statistically good against the run either, ranking 42nd nationally in rush defense. They’re also 40th in total defense and 69th in third-down conversions allowed.
Miami creates this anomaly by being the ultimate boom-or-bust defense. They blitz a lot in hopes of getting to the quarterback and creating tons of turnovers. When they’re not getting home though, the ‘Canes are susceptible to big chunks of yardage and points. As you’ll see below, Miami is a lot of fun to watch on defense but its aggression creates opportunities for opposing offenses to implement deceptive play-action and misdirection to great success.
Lastly, their special teams-like everything else- is very up-and-down. The Hurricanes have a first-team All-ACC kicker in Michael Badgley who can bang kicks in from everywhere. Then again, they’re 107th in the country in net punting.
Overall, the Miami Hurricanes are a team loaded with talent and potential. They’re incredibly fun to watch when they’re on. They can look like some incarnation of the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ on offense and the 2000 Ravens on defense. When they’re off, they can lose to Pitt.
Original Video Courtesy of ACC Digital Network