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Clinic Talk: Hurricanes Offense in 2016

What to expect from the offense heading into the bowl and beyond

NCAA Football: Duke at Miami
Coach Richt with QB Brad Kaaya
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Coaches Mark Richt and Manny Diaz came into 2016 with a lot of question marks. When you take over a program you can watch all the film on returning players that you want, but until you have them in your program with your methods- you never know what you’re going to get out of the players.

Personnel Groups:

In the spring, Coach Richt ran a lot of 21 and 11 personnel utilizing fullbacks and tight ends like Herndon, Williams, and Njoku. As the season wore on, we saw less use of the fullback and Herndon was more of a TE while Njoku lined up more and more in the slot.


I was expecting more 2-back formations and use of zone-lead, split-zone, and power/wrap. While power and split-zone were incorporated as the year went on, I thought they would be the bread and butter. I definitely thought the adjustment would be to split-zone once the defenses starting allowing their back side end to squeeze so hard to the back on inside zone due to Kaaya’s lack of pulling the football to run.

Split-zone from UGA

Split-zone vs GT

1-back power or wrap from Georgia

1-back power or wrap vs UVA

RPO’s or Run-Pass Options stayed on rotation throughout the season. As a coach that uses RPO’s I expected a few different looks from the ‘Canes, as opposed to stalk/bubble serving as the only one. When it worked, it was a thing of beauty although it felt often like Kaaya was reading it pre-snap and not reading the flat defender post-snap as it should be done. RPO’s have definitely hit the mainstream this season and some announcers have a better grasp than others (the worst being Kirk Herbstreit who just calls everything zone read). I did see a different look against UNC, although it went unused for the most part, which was slant/arrow in the RPO game.

IZ Stalk/Bubble RPO

IZ Stalk/Bubble RPO

Slant/Arrow RPO

I liked the use of the delayed screen and thought it almost could’ve been used more as Walton improved at being a receiver and making people miss. Walton improved as the season went on and seemed lighter and more explosive from the slow and plodding running we saw in October.

The Pitt game was one of the best called games the entire season for Miami and they really ran the kitchen sink at the Panthers.

Delayed screen vs Pitt

A staple of Richt’s passing game is the post/bubble. The QB reads the safety that’s over #2, if he bites on the bubble throw post, if he sits off throw the bubble.

Post/Bubble vs NC State

The Protection scheme was ripped apart and rightfully so. Miami finished the year around 60th in sacks allowed with 2/game (includes FAMU and FAU). Miami re-shuffled the line during the October slide and it paid off once they came out. McDermott proved he doesn’t belong while Gall was a major improvement at center and Gauthier did a solid job at Tackle.

Not only did the shuffle work but using more shotgun play-action, and the improved pass pro from the backs (Walton, Edwards) and keeping the TE in (Herndon) to help against aggressive pass rushes. This allowed Coley and Richards to be deep threats versus Kaaya just being sacked or pressured into a bad throw.

7-man protection with little-on-little block from Walton

Miami also went away from plays that won’t work with Kaaya like the constant push for inside zone read and began to block the backside DE, as well as limiting his sprint outs off play-action. I think of the clip below vs the sprint out against App State where Kaaya threw the pick. Kaaya doesn’t need to be put into “flat or run” type situations like other QB’s, he needs flat or dump situations with good spacing from pressure like the play below.

Heading into the bowl game and the future, if Brad Kaaya does stay, I hope RPO’s and H-Back schemes featuring split-zone and power become more utilized. Image Herndon running some of the shovel option plays we’ve seen from Pitt.

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