The Hurricanes will have six players, possibly more, drafted in this year's NFL Draft. That will be the largest number taken from this school in many years. The scouts are drooling over the talent coming out of Coral Gables as each individual player has a resume that sparkles. I am asked all the time, how the heck did a team that had this much talent, lose so many games?
To me, the answers are simple.
Offensively, the Canes had a lot of youth at key positions that needed to develop at a faster pace early in the season, and they were banged up.
Defensively, they did not scheme to their strengths.
Miami had a lot of injuries, especially on the offensive line, that hindered their abilities. It is hard for a freshman quarterback to get in a groove when he has a different lineman go down every game and he has to learn and mature with third string offensive lineman and they rotate from week to week.
Looking at the youth, it is easy to start with the play of the quarterback. Kaaya was as good as they come in his freshman season. He made a few plays in the Louisville game that were "freshman-esque," and it could be said that his pass to Stacy Coley that was ruled a backwards lateral deep in the Cardinals red zone cost Miami the momentum in the game. However, Kaaya used that game to propel him to greatness, and he will get even better.
Offensive coordinator James Coley also handcuffed him early in the season by not unleashing his rookie. It was not until the third or fourth game where his greatness came through and he was able to do what he does best: throw the ball.
At the wide receiver position, Stacy Coley was needed to come through and complement Philip Dorsett, and he failed to do so. He was injured early on and never came back. He dressed, appeared in games and went through the motions, but he was not the same player that he was as a freshman. Let's hope that he comes back mentally prepared to replace Dorsett and be the threat that he was coming out of Northeast High School and becomes the player he was his freshman season, when he caught ten touchdowns.
Miami's defense was suspect and under fire every game, even when they did manage to win a game or two. They were brilliant against Duke and for the first half of the game against Florida State and were mediocre the rest of the way. They allowed a banged-up Gunner Kiel to throw all over them in a shootout against Cincinnati at home.
Mark D'Onofrio, whom I was ready to help pack his bags by mid season, had the Canes playing nine yards off the ball and the linebackers looked like they were in the third level against running teams that ate them up, a la Georgia Tech. Perhaps that is why Tech danced on the Canes' home field when they defeated Mississippi State on New Year's Eve to win the Orange Bowl.
I still do not have the ability to comprehend how they could not stop Zach Laskey in that game in Atlanta. Stopping the Wreck is simple assignment football. They knew what Tech was going to run and they could not stop it. Paul Johnson has had the same offense since he was at Navy, which was almost when Roger Staubach retired, and Al Golden knows that playbook inside and out. They still could not stop Laskey.
Wait, I just saw Laskey run by me for another first down.
I remember asking Golden after the loss how he could not come up with a plan to stop what he knew was coming his way, and he said that Tech threw a few wrinkles that they did not expect.
Laskey carried the ball about 100 times and they threw it a few times and came up big on a pass play on 3rd and 16.
The problem that Golden also put Kaaya in was that they would be so far behind in games, that everyone knew that the Canes were going to throw, and it did not leave him in the best position. Duke Johnson is not so much of a threat when you need three scores in the fourth quarter of a game to get back into it.
Miami's defensive backfield did not help as they played with a lack of aggression. It seems that Miami's DB's always get better when they get to the NFL. See Sam Shields. What does that say about Paul Williams? What does that say about the scheme?
Anyway you explain it, dice it, dissect it, the team grossly underperformed last season.
Next season they will still have significant NFL talent, albeit not quite as much. Will the play on the field finally catch up to the talent on paper?
If not, disenchanted UM fans may finally have a new staff to kick around in 2016.