Coming into the season the bar was set pretty high for the offense. Being led by a senior QB with a cannon for an arm; an electric RB; and a WR group that was as deep and talented as any in recent memory it should have been. Add on an offensive line that was regarded as one of the best and biggest in the nation; and it was easy to expect even more from a squad that had averaged 31 points and almost 450 yards per game the year before.
The biggest unknown coming in was how the talent would be used. Offensive coordinator Jed Fisch, who was always going to wind up back in the NFL at some point, took a job with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Former FSU OC James Coley made the drive down to take over the offense. Coley came in highly respected and had the reputation of a great recruiter. The big question was how he would do with the play calling since that wasn't his responsibility at FSU. There were some issues he needed to address. The running game the year prior was largely missing, and the offense overall was... bipolar. The popular opinion though, was that with the experience and talent on that side of the ball, the offense would pretty much run itself. *Cut to Coley picking up a cursed tiki charm on a Miami beach.
Now if I told you before the season started that RB Duke Johnson would miss the final five games; WR Phillip Dorsett would get injured and essentially miss the final seven games; and WR Rashawn Scott would miss pretty much the whole season, you'd be pretty concerned. If I told you on top of all that QB Stephen Morris would be playing one-legged for the majority of the season, you'd expect a "frustrating... chalk this season up to a cursed tiki charm ", and look forward to next season.
If injuries are going to be an excuse for why the offense struggled at times, I'd have to include the 'Savannah States' on the schedule as a reason why some of the statistics are a bit padded. Everyone puts a few of these on the schedule; but if we are looking at how the offense performed in regard to improvement, the strength of the opponent does come into play. In the FAU, Savannah State, and USF games Miami averaged 53 points per game and rushed for 792 yards. To compare, UM averaged 20 points and rushed for 161 yards against their big name rivals UF, FSU, and VT. So sure - UM was productive against lesser teams -but they also faced the first, third, fourth, eighth, 27th and 32nd ranked overall defenses.
Looking at the NCAA rankings, UM comes in as 48th in total offense, a drop of 10 spots from last year. They improved 13 spots in rushing with 160 yards a game, but averaged 265 yards passing - about 30 yards less a game - which dropped them 7 spots to 34th. Time of possession stayed about the same, moving from 26:06 a game to 25:59, which puts UM at 119th in the FBS. For those wondering there are 120 teams in the FBS.
Taking a look at the Football Outsiders website they ranked UM's offense 14th overall. They take all the different situations into account and adjust for things like garbage time, quality of opponent, and killing the clock. Some other rankings they put together have Miami 37th in offensive efficiency (FSU was ranked 1st). They have UM at 21st when they take strength of schedule into account (FSU was 64th). No surprise that they rank 6th in explosive drives (drives that average 10 or more yards a play). Also it is not surprising that when it comes to methodical drives, UM ranks 85th (methodical drives are explained as drives that run 10 or more plays).
Looking at the statistics from this season and things appear to have gone pretty well considering it was year one of a new OC (and the whole rash of injuries thing). UM improved 2.4 points per game, averaging 33.8. Other improvements were in yards per play, rushing yards, rushing yards per attempt, and third down rushing, in which they averaged 4.9 yards per rush - a 2.6 yard increase over last year. They also got better in the red zone with improvements in rushing TDs (eight), and overall TDs (six).
Rushing: UM improved on the ground, amassing 2,084 yards this season. That's a jump from 145 yards a game to 160 ypg. The average per attempt stayed about the same at 4.8 yards, but they committed to the run more this season with 436 attempts - a jump from 371 last year.
Overall impression from watching the games is they still had a few weeks where they couldn't get the running game going - typically against elite defenses. What's encouraging is unlike last year they showed the ability to win games while relying on the run. The UNC and Wake Forest games stand out as examples of consistent, tough fourth quarter running that led to wins. After Duke went down it was truly a group effort. Dallas stepped up huge and it looked like Miami wouldn't skip a beat. As the season wore on, Crawford didn't have the same amount of success and true freshman Gus Edwards started getting more involved. Gus "the bus" showed great speed and agility for a back his size and came on strong the last few games of the year. He ended the year with 66 carries and 346 yards. Eduardo Clements playing football last season was amazing in itself. The fact that he had meaningful carries a few months removed from spinal surgery is a testament to his work ethic. He ended up with 30 carries for 194 yards - a 6.1 yards per carry average. It's a shame he didn't get a chance to get in the end zone
Leaders: Duke Johnson, 145 carries 920 net yards rushing 6.3 average 6TDs(only played 8 games due to injury). Dallas Crawford ,137 carries 558 net yards rushing 4.1 average 12TDs
Receiving: A mix of senior dependability and freshman potential was the story of the WRs this season. Allen Hurns continued the tradition of a senior receiver coming out of nowhere to dominate this year. Hurns, who had 59 catches coming into this year, pulled down 62 catches in his final season as a Cane. As Hurns impressed, freshman Stacy Coley wowed. Coley started off the season with a few drops due to nerves, but overcame in a huge way. A multi-threat like Duke, Coley came into his own as a receiver after the home run threat Phillip Dorsett went down with a knee injury. He single handedly brought back the WR screen to Miami, due to his ability to do magical things in space. Injuries hit the WR core pretty hard this year. In addition to Dorsett's injury, Rashawn Scott missed most of the year with a shoulder injury, which led to Malcolm Lewis being used a bit more than UM would have liked. Lewis, who was coming off of a gruesome ankle injury the year prior, did well considering, but looked a step slow. Herb Waters seems ready to break out, and he had an ok season, but seemed to suffer because of the success of Hurns and Coley. Waters himself missed the bowl game due to injury.
Tight Ends:Tight end Clive Walford had a hot and cold year. At times he was a first down machine and added another potent weapon to the passing game. Other times it felt like you missed his name on the injury report because he wasn't involved. He came through in big moments, but still seemed under-utilized; as the primary pass catching TE's 34 receptions and 2 TDs seemed like a let down. That being said, he had what may be the most important catch of the season. Miami was down 14-3 to Wake Forest with two minutes left in the half, on a third and three, Morris put it near Walford, who was able to do THIS. He didn't score, but this third down conversion led to a TD that made it 14-10 at the half. Big - considering UM didn't take the lead until the final minute of the game . The rest of the tight ends didn't factor in as much. Asante Clevland was used primarily as a run blocker. SOTU favorite Beau Sandland had limited targets with 9 catches for 94 yards and a TD. True freshman Standish Dobard only had one catch, but made some nice blocks when he got on the field.
Leaders: Allen Hurns 62 receptions 1,162 yards receiving 18.7 average 6 TDs
Stacy Coley 33 receptions 591 yards receiving 17.9 average 7 TDs
Offensive Line: Coming into the season the Offensive line was easily the one position that fans did not have to worry about. Big, experienced, and littered with NFL caliber talent "The Great Wall of Coral Gables" had a good year but fell a bit short of the absolute dominance that many (including myself) predicted. Aside from the all around terrible bowl game against Louisville, the O-line never stood out for the wrong reasons. They gave up one fewer sack than they did the year before; which, considering that the QB they were protecting was nursing a leg/foot injury most of the year is pretty impressive. The running game improved some, so some of the credit should go to the line on that. Now Duke Johnson will make any line look good, but it was in his absence that they really stepped up. The fourth quarter at UNC, they cleared the way for Dallas and showed what they were capable of. It's hard to tell if the new rotation along the line helped or hurt. It seemed to take some of the sting away when the starting center missed some time this year. There's no real way to tell if the players would have performed better if left in a traditional set up. It's come out recently that a key member of the line did a good amount of partying and weed smoking in his senior season, so if you take that into account, the group did pretty well.
Top Lineman: Ereck Flowers
Quarterbacks: Stephen Morris came into the season coming off of a monster junior year, in which he passed for 3,345 yards, fifth most all time at UM. In the off-season Morris continued to impress, as he earned MVP honors at The Manning Passing Camp. His name was mentioned with the elite QBs by NFL draft gurus. We had ourselves the next great at "Quarterback U"... it was good times. It was up in the air on how Morris would do, now that OC Fisch had moved on; and maybe that change played a role in his performance this season. Injuring his foot in the third game of the season certainly didn't help matters either - but 2012 Morris was a no show this season. The most glaring change was the jump in interceptions. He went from 7 last season to 12 this season. The rest of the statistics go to show that numbers - do in fact - lie. He had 77 less attempts this season, which could account for the 300 fewer yards he passed for. His completion percentage stayed about the same going from 58.2 to 57.6. His passer efficiency actually went up from 138 to 144; but again, anyone who watched the games this season will tell you he didn't seem more efficient, Morris included. It was by no means a terrible year, and depending on how much you think the coaching change and injury affected him, it could have been a really good year. It just wasn't the year many of us thought he could have. Ryan Williams got some time in against the lesser opponents and did well. He was nothing if not efficient, going 22 for 32 with 3TDs and a interception. Mostly mop up duty, his only early playing time was against Savannah State when he came in for an injured Morris. He went 11-13 for 176 yards and 2 TDs before he sat to make way for third string Gray Crow. Savannah State was terrible, but he did what you would expect against a terrible team.
Leaders: Stephen Morris, 57.6 completion percentage 3,028 yards 21TDs 12INTs
Ryan Williams, 68.8 completion percentage 369 yards 3TDs 1INT
Thoughts: Under a first year OC that was calling plays for the first time, things went pretty well. Injuries played a huge factor in my opinion. Miami seemed to get back to the run a bit more this season; not a bad thing when you have one of the best backs in the country. There were still lulls in production, and time of possession still needs to get better, but the overall "big play or bust" tendencies from last year seemed to improve. A super star emerged in Stacy Coley; and while Duke ended up breaking his ankle, he did prove that he can be a primary back. Next season should be fun with them both on the field. The limited amount of what we saw from Ryan Williams is encouraging. We will have playmakers all around him, and he seems to be efficient at getting them the ball. Coach Coley is bringing in players that fit his system - one that seems to have worked ok up at FSU. While we do lose a few players off the line and a key WR in Allen Hurns, the offense looks primed to continue to improve. As we learned this year though, injuries and quarterback play can change a season quick.
Best Game By Offense: Georgia Tech
Best Offensive Play: Stacy Coley's catch and run against Pitt
Offensive MVP: Allen Hurns