The Miami Hurricanes are holding their 2019 spring football game on April 20th, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. The site just so happens to correspond with Miami’s opener August 24th against the Florida Gators. While the ‘Canes and Gators will face off on ESPN at 7pm in August, the spring game will not be televised.
However if you’re going to be in attendance, or like me you’re looking for trust crowd film on YouTube, there are certain things to look for in every spring game. Here are the 3 things I look for when watching a spring football game.
When watching the A-Day spring game for the Alabama Crimson Tide one thing I saw was competition on both sides of the football and no matter who was in. Nick Saban even seemed to be competing against himself. Even with quarterbacks typically off-limits, are guys (cliche coming) flying around the football or does it look like a glorified walk through?
Competition won’t just be an issue of offense versus defense, but in position groups as well. Miami has a ton of open competition at positions like running back (Deejay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris) wide receiver where only Jeff Thomas seems to be a lock (KJ Osborn, Mike Harley, Mark Pope, Brian Hightower, etc are all competing) and the offensive line is a massive shuffle.
Of course quarterback is the main competition between Jarren Williams, N’Kosi Perry, and Tate Martell, too. I firmly believe that the quarterback who has the highest yards per passing attempt, followed by the least turnovers, will be Dan Enos’ guy.
On defense there’s competition at defensive end (too many to count), defensive tackle (Silvera, Ford, Bethel for the starting role), and defensive back- even though a bunch of players are out banged up or haven’t arrived yet (Bolden). The defense really just needs to stay healthy and prove they can stop the run after the second scrimmage was the Deejay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris show.
2- Smooth Like Butter
To quote A Tribe Called Quest, “‘Cause I got the crazy game and yo, I’m smooth like butter.” You should be watching the team to see if they look like they’ve practiced before. How do you know if they’re practicing right and being challenged mentally and physically inside the IPF? If the team looks smooth. Bad football is a game filled with bad snaps, pre-snap penalties, drops and turnovers.
Bad snaps just can’t happen at the college level. Sure, one here or there, but not routinely seeing bad snaps- even if it is Navaughn Donaldson getting first team reps. It’s an offensive line coach’s job to have a few guys who can dead snap a football even if they can’t make pre-snap calls.
Pre-snap penalties are due to a lack of focus, if you can’t get them lined up right you have to close down the amount of formations, motions, shifts and assignments until they can get it right. That’s where Air Raid coaches do it right- everything they get in has to be in over the course of three or four days.
Dropped passes and fumbles are also from a lack of focus. Players have to use their training to maximize their success. If we see a ton of drops and fumbles there’s cause for concern. Bad interceptions will be a huge tell in this game as well. Whichever quarterback gives the team the chance to complete passes and protect the football will be a Dan Enos quarterback. All the deep balls in the world don’t matter if a quarterback’s touchdown to interception ration is 1:1.
3- Energetic but calm coaching
The hardest transition* to make from a coordinator into the head coaching role is composure, especially for first-time head coaches. As a defensive coordinator you can be a wild person running around the sidelines, screaming and getting fired up. As a head coach you have to learn to be calm, composed, and in control of your emotions so your players stay calm. In Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” Tzu talks about understanding feelings and emotions but also knowing how to harness and control them.
One hang up of Butch Davis’ while the Miami head coach was his lack of control on game days. Coach Davis, besides locking dudes up in his doghouse forever, was irrationally agitated on the sidelines. If Manny Diaz looks agitated and out of control on the sidelines that will be something to take a notice of going forward. Obviously a first year head coach has plenty of time to learn and adjust but in this instant gratification time we live in that’s really about two weeks following the game against Florida as Miami travels to Chapel Hill to face the Tar Heels.
*In reality, the hardest transition from coordinator to head coach is the amount of non-football stuff you’re required to do (emails, calls, texts, meetings, handshakes, etc), but here I was leaning more towards on-field activities.
The overall stats aren’t going to matter a ton because it’s a spring game. Situations, injuries, and the constant rotation can skew data but completion percentage of the quarterbacks will be a big one to look at. Dan Enos is a yards per passing attempt, safe, smart throw offensive coordinator so the QB with the best accuracy and least big mistakes will probably get the nod in August.
If Miami comes out with energy and competitive spirit, looks smooth playing the game, and the head coach seems controlled but high energy- it’s a successful day. Oh, and if no one gets injured- that too.