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Miami Hurricanes Matchup of the Week: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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Miami v Georgia Tech Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The game that Hurricanes fans look forward to least all season has arrived. Yes, it’s that time of year where the Hurricanes must go toe-to-toe with the Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech, spearheaded by their triple-option offense. As you can imagine, the matchup preview will feature players and groups close to the line of scrimmage.

1 vs.1 Matchup

DE Antonio Simmons (six foot three, 246 pounds) vs Tyree St. Louis (six foot five, 305 pounds)

Pittsburgh v Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets leading pass-rusher, DE Antonio Simmons will face-off again against Miami OL Tyree St. Louis on Saturday.
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Tyree St. Louis had to lock down the strong side of the offensive line against FSU’s pass-rushers. If you didn’t know, the ACC is stocked with NFL talent along the defensive line. McDermott will be matched against another such talent when he gets down in two-point stance across from Georgia Tech’s DE Antonio Simmons. The senior leads the Yellow Jackets with three sacks and four tackles for loss. Simmons had a quiet game in the 2016 edition of the matchup, recording two tackles—one of which was a tackle for loss. Miami TE Chris Herndon IV stayed in to help block Simmons when the defensive end was lined up to his side. When not blocked by Herndon, Trevor Darling and Tyree St. Louis were tasked with stymying the defensive end. Despite his limited statistics in the 2016 game, Simmons found his way to then-QB Brad Kaaya numerous times, often forcing the QB to rush the pass to avoid the sack.

For a Miami offensive line that came into the season with plenty of questions, the unit has performed decently through the first quarter of the season in terms of protecting the quarterback and giving enough time for the skill position players to work themselves open.

Bonus 1 vs. 1 Matchup

WR Ricky Jeune (six foot three, 212 pounds) vs Miami Cornerbacks

Miami v Georgia Tech Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

While Georgia Tech does not go to the air often, they do posses a legitimate receiving option when they do. WR Ricky Jeune is Georgia Tech’s top receiver, leading GT with 10 receptions for 171 receiving yards, adding three touchdown receptions. WR Brad Stewart is the only other receiver on the roster for the Yellow Jackets to catch a pass, with the remainder of receptions allotted to four different running backs.

Positional Matchup of the Week

Georgia Tech’s Offensive Line vs. Miami’s Defensive Line

It’s not a shock that Georgia Tech is second in country in rushing yards per game. Averaging 67 rushing attempts per game, the Yellow Jackets make their living on the ground, only looking to pass to keep defenses honest or when they see a breakdown in coverage. Playing your keys is fundamental to beating Georgia Tech. State of the U contributor Justin Dottavio has broken down the triple option and what the defense will need to look for on a given play. The defensive interior needs to honor the dive option of the fullback, while the outside containment needs to account for a QB keep or pitch. It’s tedious work against a team that attempts to find leverage against defenses, but it has been successful to this point in the season. The fewest rushing yards the Yellow Jackets have gained this season is 210 rushing yards against Jacksonville State. Georgia Tech has rushed for 400 or more yards in every other game.

Miami v Georgia Tech
It’s not guaranteed that DE Joe Jackson will score another TD against GT like he did last year, however he should continue to be a problem for the Yellow Jackets.
Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

For their part, Miami has allowed 592 yards total through four games. In the 2016 matchup, Miami gave up 267 yards on the ground to GT in a 35–21 win. The concern for defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and Miami’s defense is not the total yardage; more specifically it’s the big chunk of plays that Miami has allowed on the ground. Miami has surrendered 27 rushing plays of 10 or more yards, with six of those being longer than 20; three were 30 or more yards; and one run allowed 40 or more yards. There is no greater test to a run defense than squaring off against a Georgia Tech offense who wants to wear a defense down to gain those chunk plays. The other big concern for the defensive line will be trying to fend off the numerous cut-blocks by GT’s offensive line, another reason why playing the Yellow Jackets tests your patience and discipline.

*Miami and GT’s offenses are among a group that have given up the fewest tackles for loss in the entire country. Miami has given up 21 TFLs, while Georgia Tech has allowed just 15 TFLs.

Bonus positional matchup

Miami’s Running Backs

With Mark Walton out for the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury, it means a couple guys will need to step up to keep Miami on a roll. Travis Homer has been a stud throughout the season, which should continue now that he is the starter. It will be up to a group of Dee Jay Dallas, Trayone “Choc” Gray and Robert Burns (with the odd appearance of WR Jeff Thomas) to shoulder the load moving forward. The biggest concern, more so than who will run with the ball after Homer, is who head coach Mark Richt will trust to stay in and pass block? While there is more pressure on the offensive line to protect QB Malik Rosier, it will be intriguing to see the adjustment Miami makes to protect the QB.

Caneseye Players to Watch

Pittsburgh v Georgia Tech
The biggest offensive weapons on the ground for Georgia Tech on Saturday will be QB TaQuon Marshall (left) and RB KirVonte Benson (right).
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

The Caneseye Player to Watch for Georgia Tech is QB TaQuon Marshall. The engine that makes the Yellow Jacket offense go, Marshall is a converted A-Back, or running back to the rest of the country. Playing behind center for GT, he is featured heavily in the running game, leading the team with 523 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns and averaging 130.75 rushing yards per game. Through the air, GT has only attempted 33 passes over four games, completing 19 passes with four touchdowns. Marshall is a five-foot-ten quarterback who looks more like a slot receiver however, he has proven resilient to taking big hits. Miami will try to contain the QB as much as possible, which is difficult given his knowledge of the offense and penchant to pitch or keep the ball at opportune moments.

If you’re looking for other names to focus on for the Yellow Jackets, it would be LB Victor Alexander, DE Anree-Saint Amour and DB AJ Gray would make the cut. The latter, Gray, leads the team in interceptions and has an excellent range of coverage playing safety.

NCAA Football: Miami at Georgia Tech
LB Shaq Quarterman will look to lead by example as Miami’s linebackers against the Yellow Jacket running game.
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The Caneseye Player to Watch for Miami will be Shaq Quarterman. We could really name any one of the Miami linebackers, but Quarterman is the guy who calls out the plays. He will be tested by the Yellow Jackets to get the plays out when they go up-tempo on successive plays, as well as by having to run sideline-to-sideline to chase the ball carrier. Leading Miami with 27 tackles, you can expect to hear Quarterman’s name called out frequently on Saturday.

Lastly….

Georgia Tech is first in the country in time of possession. They bleed the clock for an agonizing 36 minutes and 39 seconds on average per game. In contrast, Miami ranks 127th in the country, holding onto the ball an average of 25 minutes and eight seconds per game. For the health of Miami’s defense, the offense will truly need to sustain drives to keep the defense, even with a full-rotation of substitutes, as ready as possible against GT’s offensive attack.

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!