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Round Table Discussion: A Mess on Defense

SOTU got together to discuss what is going on with the defense, what can we do now and where do we go from here. It wasn't fun.

Kacey Rodgers II reacts to the score in last games contest. No bueno.
Kacey Rodgers II reacts to the score in last games contest. No bueno.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

NoVA Cane:

Alright Gentlemen, and so it begins..

Anyways.. Don't really know where to start.. I guess.. I just feel like this defense is overly complicated as a whole. We have safeties blitzing, defensive linemen dropping into zone, just some crazy stuff. I feel like the Canes should just get back to basics at this point. Play press man on the outside, 2 deep safeties and bring a linebacker once in a while to help pressure the QB. Sometimes to regain your confidence you need to get back to the basics. What do you guys think?

Jerry Steinberg:

Here's the thing.  I saw third and longs where the 'Canes blitzed and men came wide open.  Then there were third and longs where they played zone and rushed four, and men came wide open.  The front four produced no pressure, and when they blitzed other then maybe two occasions when Perryman got there, there was no pressure.  When they stunted and ran games, there was no pressure

Worst of all they aren't tackling behind whatever they try up front.  You can talk coaching, X and O yourself to death, but if guys can't wrap up and bring a guy to the ground,  none of that matters.

So basically nothing is working.  No pass rush, no coverage, no tackling. Everyone wants to put it all on one man's shoulders, and I'm not buying it. The players and the coaches need to circle the wagons and come together to figure this out TOGETHER.

Upgrading the talent is the long term plan, but in the meantime they have much to play for NOW.  To me regardless of what scheme they run, I really want to see them plant some shoulders on some Blue Devil ball carriers this week, and some helmets on the football.

NoVA Cane:

Yea, I got you Jerry.

You bring up a good point about the overall talent on the defense. I was reading an article earlier today, I can't place it now but a reporter asked an NFL scout what he thought of the Canes and their lack of execution on Defense and the scout actually wasn't surprised. He said that the Canes have a lot of "spare parts" on the defense that are leftovers from the previous administration who don't fit the defensive philosophy as well as a few guys that have not rounded out yet. Yes, Chickillo has played a lot during his three years on Campus but, to be honest, has he been that overly effective with his snaps? We have decent athletes right now but we still have some pretty large holes to fill throughout the 2 deep.

Jerry Steinberg:

Here's another thing I haven't heard anyone mentioning.  Perhaps Miami's most dynamic defensive player, Tyriq McCord, (while not listed on the injury report) hasn't been seen since Wake.

Would McCord have made a difference Saturday night?  His presence would not have hurt, that is for sure.

Josh Maser:

To Jerry's point about McCord, he was there on Saturday (at least i think it was him) but he only played on 3rd downs. I think the main issue is definitely the talent level. Just look at some of the guys out there. AJ Highsmith was recruited as a (backup) QB, Renfrow was barely playing for Virginia last year, porter is a former 3 star recruit that has never been able to stay on the field. You can talk about scheme and blitzing/not blitzing or zone vs man all you want, but the bottom line is if the players are not there then the product won't look good on the field.

I think the tackling issue has been the biggest disappointment this season, not just tackling when they get there but being in position to make the tackle. Those 5 yard passes on third down are fine if you stop them 3 yards short of the first. I can't even count how many times this season the opposing team has made a pass behind the first down marker and run for it. I think it gets better once younger, talented guys (Burns, Howard, McCord, Kirby, Figueroa) get more PT with more experience and the new crop of recruits (Thomas, Valentine, Owens) come in. If you have veterans playing like that it just shows you they weren't that good to begin with.

With that said, I agree that if it does not get better next year Coach D should and will be on the hot seat. With almost every player on the roster recruited by Golden, he will have the pieces in place. I personally think they continue to improve with the influx of talent and the experience to the talent on the roster. College football is all about the athletes you throw on the field.

NoVA Cane:

Josh and Jerry, I saw McCord in as well. I kind of mentioned it last week with 
what i was "disappointed in" from the first half of the season. I don't believe McCord and AQM are really developing pass rush moves. They kind of go out there and do a stunt or they try an edge rush (speed) Nothing too crazy which makes guarding them easy because they do one of two things. When you think of great rushers they have great, go-to moves. Not saying these guys should be hall of famers as 19 year olds but my point is they really have NO MOVES.

Jerry Steinberg:

Yeah I saw McCord in there, what I meant by he hasn't been heard from since Wake is, well he hasn't made a play.

McCord's play making was a big part of what made the D appear to be better.  Even without moves just as a pure speed rusher (alla John Abraham) he was having an impact.   Last 2 weeks, nada.

Josh Maser:

I definitely think Tyriq is hitting a bit of a slump, and his lack of moves could be the cause of that. But I think the primary cause of that is his lack of playing time. The coaches seem almost afraid to put him in in situations that are not obvious passes. Is he that bad against the run? I don't know, but I definitely think he's a starter next year and that should help with practice reps.

As far as AQM, the kid is still so raw and, no offense to the New Jersey high school football system, I don't think he's seen this kind of speed and strength before. Give him time, kid is a stud.

NoVA Cane:

For McCord i think the issue is Shayon Green. They play the same position but Green has more experience (even with his injury riddled past) and weighs 260. Last I checked McCord comes in at about 230; big difference when playing the standup 3-4 Defensive End. If they were playing a 4-3 I think you see McCord out there about 50-60 percent of the time. Now he's out there at about 20 percent of the snaps.


And there lies the issue. We have a bigger bulkier group that is best suited for the run and more athletic smaller pass rush "specialists" this isn't unique to just Miami but it has to decrease the effectiveness of a player like McCord. If he comes in for one situation and does one thing.. I'm not an oline coach but I'd imagine there's ways to prepare for that.

And, I mean this as an honest question, not trying to be snarky. What is McCord's and AQM's goal against VT if the defensive game plan was to give Thomas time/ keep him in the pocket? Is it just pass rushing but being mindful of your positioning (not leaving huge gaps)?

NoVA Cane:

To be honest, i think it's just to get them into the game and to put some pressure on the Thomas.

From what I guess, it looks like during the FSU game and the VT game to an extent, UM wanted to play a "rush 4 and everyone stay in zone coverage" scheme. Like a bend but don't break, keep everything in front of them type style. Problem was, lots of guys were open in those zones and then no one tackled (insert dumpster fire GIF).

Check out this video of Tracy Howard defending Coach D and his defensive philosophy:

NoVA Cane:

Cutting players loose during games is discipline. You have a man or zone to guard, you guard him/it. Just because he goes out into the flats doesn't mean you let him go because "he's not going to get the ball."

That's on the player during the game but the coach has to be on his ass in the film room and essentially chew him out because of free lancing. That's what I think is frustrating. It's both sides and it's compounding the issue.


When asked about the 3 DL transfers and how they will impact the playing time of others coach D'onofrio's response was that a lot of guys were backups on a bad team last year. Maybe a bit bigger and stronger but still the same group with the same limitations.

There's a difference between players we are familiar with and players that are good to great, with such a rich history of elite defensive players I think we have a tendency to pencil in "the next ..." Before they earn it.

If you're willing to admit the personnel limitations then you should be able to understand that coach D's hands may be tied when it comes to running certain looks on defense.

Pieces are falling into place but there is still ways to go, last season the passing defense wasn't tested as often because teams didn't have to get that complicated, if you can get 7 yards a carry you don't need to run. This year at least teams NEED to pass.

Without getting into the debate over the importance of "stars" in recruiting or UM vs FSU,  I just find it telling that FSU has a few line ups where their defensive line is comprised of all "5*" players. You see how the  D line play impacts how productive the other positions are. Until Miami brings in higher caliber Dline players I believe UM will continue to struggle, good thing they seem to be on track to bring in a few this year.

NoVA Cane:

Yea, to your point Dorseyitis, Golden made many jabs at how the defensive line as a whole "didn't have any men" last season. He meant that there weren't any fourth or fifth year seniors that could muscle inside along the defensive line and be an anchor for the D. It seems like with the few transfers he was able to get in the off season he was able to get those bigger, more mature bodies. However, they haven't really added too much when you look at the bigger picture of this season.

I don't really know why we haven't been able to recruit and I doubt anyone will have a solid reasoning because we're not in the building but I do wonder why the last few recruiting classes we haven't been able to get good defensive linemen (specifically DTs) commits. I think ever since Louis Nix decommitted from Randy Shannon a few years ago we haven't been on the radar for guys in the state which is a bit curious to me.

Also, this is to our commenters who want to compare UM to Alabama (I guess because we run a 3-4 and we want to be dominant like them..?).. There's a notion that Alabama brings in middling talent along their Defensive line then develops them. Although the latter part may be true about developing their talent the former notion isn't. Bama, simply put, brings man-beasts for talent in along their defensive line. I was just perusing ESPN's recruiting rankings and although not too much stock can be put into rankings, Bama is bringing players that are 6-3 330 for DTs and if you look at the last few classes especially, their defensive ends are often listed at 6-4 260 or BIGGER. UM hasn't brought in guys like that in 5+ years.

Jerry Steinberg:

But to my point, the talent is slowly but surely upgrading; which is why I preach patience.

If Miami did go a different direction at DC, how would it effect recruiting?  Who are some of the names UM would look to bring in?


Wish I had a good argument for change at DC. I think coach D deserves another shot next year, he's getting the pieces he feels he needs for his system. Now once he receives "his guys" his leash will become shorter, which will still be sort of unfair because it's unrealistic to think true freshman DLine man will come in and take over but you got to cut the cord at some point.

NoVA Canes:

First off, I agree with you. I think Coach D should get one more year. By that time he'd have had 4 full recruiting classes to participate on the field assuming next year and a few freshman get some action (Chad Thomas and Valentine just off the top of my head). You'll be looking at McCord probably playing almost full time, Perryman being the field general (don't think he leaves early) with Gunter and Howard holding down the secondary. No real excuses anymore to talk about personnel.

Now, if you made me play devil's advocate with a new coach I have two trains of thought.

The first is that they hire from within. They did it with running backs coach Hurlie Brown after Terry Richardson left with Fisch for the Jacksonville Jaguars vacancies last season (poor souls). If I were to guess, I'd go Mike Barrow with Golden maybe taking over the play calling duties. Barrow has been an asset in the area of recruiting the state and it would be a natural progression for a guy that was a holdover from the Randy Shannon era. He's played in a 4-3 from his pro days and would probably be best at changing us back to what our roots were but I don't believe Golden allows that. Hence why I would say Golden retains play calling duties. Some coaches are better recruiters than developers of talent/field management. It's not a terrible knock because all teams need a good mix of all strengths.

The second and more likely rout would be to go outside the team to fill the position. To be honest, I haven't done research on candidates but I'd say the Coach would first and foremost have to be familiar with the 3-4 fronts and has experience as a defensive coordinator who has called plays (note: all things Barrow doesn't have). I think recruiting is not as important right now for the defensive coordinator. They have Coley as a big puller of top talent and Golden is a great figurehead for the program. A Defensive Coordinator who could develop talent would be a must, recruiting would just be a bonus.

(Thinking a little more)

My dream hire would be Ray Lewis. I think kids would poo their pants to play for this guy.