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Clinic Talk: Film Preview of the Pitt Panthers

Miami travels to Heinz Field to take on Pitt

Pittsburgh v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes are heading up north to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers at Heinz Field. The high for Friday is expected to be 45 degrees and mostly sunny which is better than overcast and snowing for the southern ‘Canes. Miami enters the contest with a shot at the College Football Playoff and their sights set on the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game on December 2nd in Charlotte, NC.

But before the Hurricanes can start thinking about Clemson or the CFP they have to beat the Pitt Panthers who gave the Hokies a bit of a scare in week 12. Here are three plays I saw from the VT/Pitt game that were intriguing.

Pitt’s Defense vs. VT’s Inside Zone Read with Arc

Pitt’s defense telegraphs their scrape exchange by lining the linebacker up outside of the defensive end. When the defensive end squeezes down to play the inside zone part, the QB reads him and pulls. The linebacker is supposed to be there to hit the quarterback at the line of scrimmage, but: a) he’s a bit slow to react, and b) the H-Back blocks him.

The H-Backs role here is to come across the formation, skip the defensive end leaving him unblocked, and to find the alley player or most dangerous defender. If he can block that player the QB should have an open shot at the end zone.

Miami could use Christopher Herndon IV as the arc blocker from the HB position and Malik Rosier and Travis Homer are well verse in the inside zone read game. I would prefer the WR’s lined up on the #’s and the hashes to wide out the defenders and keep the Stalk/Bubble RPO alive with Braxton Berrios. Defenses will be keying on Berrios and possibly could put 3 defenders out of 2 leaving Herndon to play a safety that’s 10 yards off the ball.

Pitt Inside Zone with Stalk/Bubble RPO

Pitt runs a very basic run pass option (RPO) against the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokie defense is uncharacteristically out of place. The flat defender fails to notice the twins to the top of the screen and walks into the box (midfield). The safety is calling for him to adjust and he’s slow to do so.

Pitt’s QB has an easy read and throw. The WR catches the bubble and with great blocking scores a touchdown. These sorts of things worry me because you can see Miami’s woes as defenders in getting lined up and in open field tackling from the DB’s.

Say what you want about Bud Foster but his defenses have been doing more with less for a quarter of a century and Foster always preaches alignment, assignment and finishing off plays.

Pitt Fake Punt

Miami gave up a blocked punt against the Virginia Cavaliers in week 12 before scoring 30 straight to beat the Hoos. They also were susceptible in coverage to the wheel route and any double moves or required switch calls from the defensive backs. This play has it all- it’s kicking game and has a drag/wheel that could cause Miami fits in coverage.

Pitt will need things like this in order to beat Miami. They aren’t as well put together or as athletic right now, since losing quarterback Nate Peterman to the NFL draft and tailback James Connor to the NFL as well. The struggling Panthers will catch Miami off a holiday, traveling into the cold weather, and playing a noon kickoff. Those things mixed with trick plays could spell disaster for a Miami team that’s struggled with coming out flat and struggled in execution.

Miami should steam roll the Panthers on their way to face Clemson in the ACC Championship Game on December 2nd. Don’t get me wrong. But these are just two concerns I have going into the game.