The Miami Hurricanes are in a bad place right now. They’re 5-4 on the year, have only the slimmest of chances of winning the ACC Coastal Division, are losing recruiting commitments almost daily, and there’s not much going right at this time. I could go on further about the putrid offensive performances and questionable (at best) coaching decisions, but you get the point by now; I’m sure.
Instead of simply focusing on the questions, today we’re going to look for some answers. And, as you’ll see, there are solutions to the problems currently facing Mark Richt’s Hurricanes. The main issue is getting Richt to enact the kind of changes that will lead to success.
When I was considering this piece, it made me think of a scene from Traffic. Take a look and listen:
We’re past the first letter (blame the predecessor for the current state of affairs). We’re not at the second letter (write two letters because you’re outta here) yet, but that’s where things are going if Miami doesn’t right the ship, and fast.
Like most coaches and leaders, Richt has a firm belief about how to go about running a program. He, like all coaches, has a preferred process, a cultivated way to go about the business of coaching and playing football. I know that “the process” is viewed as a negative thing around these parts after Al Golden routinely asked us to trust it, but “the process,” having a set way to do things, is good. Everybody has a process. That’s good and smart.
The issue, however, comes when the results are not good/meeting the expectations for a given group, and the coach/leader refuses to evaluate or update the process. But, if the results are flawed — like, I dunno, Miami scoring 39 points TOTAL in three games and losing to Virginia, Boston College, and Duke (teams Miami has no business losing to, if we’re being quite honest) — then the process needs to change. It’s pretty simple.
With that being said, here are the steps Mark Richt can take to update the process, inject new life into an enervated Canes program, and get Miami football back on track as a winning team.
Step 1: Embrace more of a spread offense
This step is crucial to everything else. Mentally, Mark Richt has to understand that Miami isn’t a pro-style team and doesn’t have the line to simply overpower their opponents, specifically in the run game. So, moving to a more spread offense would be the best utilization of the roster, and talent base in the local area for Miami.
I’m not saying Miami needs to go full Texas Tech with the offense. But, there are elements of spacing by alignment and play design that can be infused into Miami’s scheme from other places. Baylor, Syracuse (whose coach was once a Baylor assistant), Oregon, West Virginia, Oklahoma. And the list goes on.
By moving to more of a spread offense, Miami would be in position to take advantage of the elite skill position talent on the roster. And, let me be very clear on this point: there is elite skill position talent on this roster. I know Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald wrote that there isn’t, but that’s simply not true. Miami has 4 high caliber RBs (Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, Lorenzo Lingard, Cam Davis) and another with athleticism but a bad injury history (Robert Burns), the best freshman TE in America (Brevin Jordan), another freshman TE who is a CFB legacy with good height and a developing physical build (Will Mallory), and a plethora of diversely skilled WRs (Jeff Thomas, Lawrence Cager, Dee Wiggins, Brian Hightower, Mike Harley, Marquez Ezzard, Mark Pope, Evidence Njoku), and that’s after losing superstar Ahmmon Richards to a career-ending injury. So again, to say that Miami doesn’t have elite skill position talent, the kind of talent that 100+ CFB teams would trade for IN A HEARTBEAT, is false.
Back to the lecture at hand: spreading the field, and running a faster paced (doesn’t have to be hyper-speed, but something faster than this walking pace that Miami has largely run forever) would do wonders to let those skill players showcase their athleticism and make plays.
Additionally, a spread offense would be helpful to Miami’s offensive line, which has struggled (and that’s putting it nicely) when tasked with man-to-man blocking in the run game for years. Miami doesn’t have the offensive linemen to simply lean on the opposition and move them against their will. And since that’s not going to change overnight, updating the scheme to help them — whether it’s zone blocking or more combo blocks or misdirection with skill guys so the defense isn’t as quick to get up field and disrupt plays — would be a smart move to make.
Step 2: Coaching Staff Changes
Step 1 is key to making Step 2 happens because the changes on the staff would need to fit this new, updated offensive scheme. Without committing to a new spread-type offensive scheme, this would be a moot point. Because, at this point, bringing in someone to do more of the same of what has been seen from the Miami offense is a step in the wrong direction.
I’ve been hesitant to call names out for coaching changes to this point, but it has to be done. The first, and most important, change needs to be an offensive coordinator who calls the plays. Richt has proven that his time as a play caller is in the past, and he must be stripped of this responsibility by athletic director Blake James.
As I was writing this piece, SB Nation writer Bill Connelly (who once caused me to have my car towed on South Beach ... BUT I DIGRESS) wrote this piece about Richt “Bowdening” which is killer. So good. Incredible. My goodness. Stop reading this to read Bill C’s piece, then come back and we’ll keep going.
You finished with Bill’s piece? Good. I know, I know, it hurt me to read that, too. Because it’s so incredible accurate, and paints Miami and Richt in such a bad light for “Bowdening”. But then again, “Bowdening” wasn’t meant to be a compliment. So, yeah.
Anyway, let’s continue.
The coaching changes that are required at this point are as follows:
- Strip Mark Richt of play calling duties. The game has passed him by. This is a Blake James action, but it needs to happen. Sorry Mark, you can be the HC, but not the play caller.
- Hire a play calling OC. As Connelly noted, if you’re not going to let Thomas Brown, the current OC, call plays because he’s never done it (fun fact: the only coach currently on staff who has called plays for an offense at the CFB level is Mark Richt) or his philosophy mirrors Richt’s, the coach Brown once starred under as a feature RB at Georgia, then the move needs to be external. And, as I noted above, there are plenty of places to look for this new coach.
- Most likely, that incoming OC would double as a QB coach, as is common among OCs. That means Richt’s son, Jon, who was hired at the age of 25 with little to no experience, needs to be let go. Or, as a source once told me, Jon Richt needs to be “promoted out” of Miami. CMR has been coaching for 30+ years. Call a friend, get Jon Richt a lateral move (because, quite frankly, a promotion promotion isn’t likely in the cards for him) and have that be the parting of ways. But, either way, QB recruiting has been average at best and development has been non-existent. Jon Richt’s gotta go. This is a tough conversation that, again, falls on Blake James to mandate.
- Change offensive line coaches. Stacy Searels is a good, Southern family man. He’s a below average recruiter and his offensive line continues to be a glaring issue holding the offense back. This, like at quarterbacks coach, is a position where Miami needs an immediate upgrade.
- Be prepared to replace coaches on the defensive side of the ball. Miami’s defense is among the best in America. As such, coaches will likely be pursued by other teams. Have a plan in place in case somebody defects. This isn’t going to fix the offense, but it will (hopefully) help Miami’s defense remain at a top level should any of those coaches move on.
Step 3: Recruit your ass off
This summer, I wrote a feature called The Recruiting Rules. This seems like a good place to link that, no?
And since people have brought things up, and Miami is hosting a potentially *HUGE* recruiting weekend, you should get caught up with our feature: The Recruiting Rules https://t.co/G6XL4afOAK— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) October 5, 2018
Insight and commentary from analysts with more than 100 years covering recruiting. Bang. pic.twitter.com/m8YzBPu9bb
So those are the steps to be taken on the trail, and Miami desperately needs to make them a reality in this, and every, class.
The Canes have lost all momentum on the trail right now. Two de-commitments in the last week. No buzz. Commits looking elsewhere. Other commits just starting to do the same because of Miami’s performance. It’s all bad.
And, again, pivoting slightly off of Barry Jackson’s previous incorrect point, there are areas of the team where Miami needs to upgrade the roster. Offensive Line. Defensive Line (for the future, because that group will lose a bunch of guys again this offseason). Special Teams. QUARTERBACK (assuming neither Perry nor Williams is “the guy”, and depth is needed for the future). And that means there’s work to be done in recruiting.
Look, I know that saying “go recruit your ass off” in the midst of the season that Miami is having is a big ask. But, to get the kind of team on both sides of the ball that should be capable of competing for championships — Coastal Division, ACC, National — player acquisition, i.e. recruiting, has to be at a high level.
Hopefully, with an updated/upgraded offensive scheme and new coaches who are reputable for their player development and recruiting prowess, things can improve. Miami currently sits with the 22nd ranked class for 2019. That’s not good enough. And yes, even with the oft-overlooked “South Florida 3-star player” who is better than a 4-star or even 5-star from some podunk town, the need for additional depth and talent in this recruiting class is clearly evident.
Maybe a new gimmick will entice kids. A new recruiting graphics package (Miami is very, VERY good at this). More mailers. More texts/DMs/calls/visits (as allowed by the NCAA recruiting calendar). SOMETHING.
This, like the offensive scheme step, will require buy-in from the staff, and creativity. And, this step is probably the hardest, because with changing offensive philosophy and replacing staff members, continuity in recruiting will be hard to maintain if not outright impossible. But, that shouldn’t stop Miami from mandating that Richt enact the changes I’ve outlined here today.
So, to recap, Miami and Mark Richt need to upgrade the offensive system (which is keeping Miami from scoring points and wasting an ELITE defense this season), upgrade the coaching staff (which has several members not meeting the standard for recruiting, player development, or player performance), and upgrade the roster overall and in specific key areas.
Yeah, that’s a lot that needs to be done quickly, but nothing worthwhile is easy.
If those things don’t happen, it may be time for Richt to write that second letter, and for Miami to upgrade the head coaching spot, too.