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Miami’s Defense Looks to Stymie Tar Heels’ Two-Headed Offensive Monsters

Miami Needs to Keep the Tar Heels Explosive Attack In Check in the ACC Championship Lite

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

With all due respect to one of the most well-rounded team’s in the nation in the Clemson Tigers, the Canes are faced with possibly the toughest skill position offensive slate on their schedule today in the North Carolina Tar Heels. That’s not to say the Tar Heels have an overall better offense because the Tigers have a ridiculous QB-RB-WR stack consisting of Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and Amari Rodgers. Rather, the Tar Heels’ RB and WR duos are among the best in the nation.

While the Tar Heels’ season has been up-and-down to date overall and has included losses to FSU and Virginia, there is a reason why they have been able to put games out of reach with relative ease. And that reason is the RB combination of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, mixed with the WR combination of Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome, which is all anchored by sophomore sensation QB, Sam Howell. UNC has been able to put up video game-like numbers including three games of greater than 50 points and an additional three games with 40+ points. This includes last week’s massacre where they led Western Carolina 42-0 at half time.

Wide Receiver Duo of Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome

Coming into the season, Dazz Newsome was getting most of the attention as UNC’s top WR. However, it has been Dyami Brown who has broken out as the Tar Heels’ star wideout. Brown has been dominant on the way to increasing his NFL Draft stock as he has tallied 51 catches for 932 yards and 8 TDs. This includes an impressive advanced statistic where 82% of his catches earned a first down or TD - the highest rate among all FBS WRs. Brown is also among 11 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s best WR.

Newsome has provided an additional weapon for Sam Howell, as Dazz adds an impressive 46 catches for 601 yards and 5 TDs on the campaign.

In order to keep this passing attack in check, Miami will need strong performances out of not only the starting CBs, Te’Cory Couch and DJ Ivey, but also the role players and freshmen, Isaiah Dunson and Marcus Clark. That is because Miami learned this week that regular contributor, Al Blades Jr., will be out for the season with myocarditis. All of us at StateOfTheU are thinking of him and look forward to seeing him back in Orange and Green next year.

This is also a huge game for Bubba Bolden to continue to increase his stock as he patrols the last line of the defense and monitors Howell, Brown, and Newsome to ensure the Canes don’t get beat deep by maintaining pursuit on those passes. It’s also a game where Miami absolutely cannot afford to lose players to targeting penalties or give up unnecessary yardage for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Last but certainly not least, the Canes front trench needs to continue their pass rushing preeminence led by Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche. Phillips, Roche, et. al. need to get to Howell quick and force mistakes. Howell is an elusive QB, so the more QB pressures (QBHits, sacks, strip sacks, forced fumbles, etc.) the better. This will be even more important in precluding the Tar Heels’ pass-catching backs from contributing to the pass attack as Williams and Carter have combined for an additional 46 receptions for 563 and 5 TDs out of the backfield.

Running Back Duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter

While the receiving attack has been dominant, the RB duo of Williams and Carter has arguably been even more dominant. This season, the balanced duo has been electrifying combining for 1841 yards on 266 carries and 23 TDs - a whopping 6.9 yards per carry.

Even though Williams has been more impressive from a TD output perspective, he averages only 6.7 yards per carry with 904 yards on 134 rushes. Carter, on the other hand, averages 7.1 yards per carry with 937 yards on 132 rushes. The total season yardage of 937 and 904 yards on the season ranks 9th and 12th in the nation, respectively (Breece Hall of Iowa State leads the nation with 1357 yards). For his efforts, Williams has been named as one of ten Doak Walker semifinalists, awarded to the top RB in the nation.

Miami needs to ensure they don’t allow the Tar Heels to open up the pass game by collecting easy 10+ yard carries - a statistic that they’ve been able to do on a large percentage of their runs. Allowing these quick first downs could spell trouble for Miami. It will start in the trenches with the front seven, which put on a tackling clinic last weekend against Duke. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils are an admittedly inferior product.

With that being said, the LB corps led by Zach McCloud, Bradley Jennings, and Strikers Gilbert Frierson and Keontra Smith will need to quickly diagnose run plays and wrap up at the point of contact. That includes continued strong play from Waynmon Stead and Corey Flagg Jr, who had good performances against Duke. The EDGE guys, Phillips and Roche, as well as the interior DL of Jonathan Ford, Jared Harrison-Hunte, and Nesta Silvera, also has to pull apart an inconsistent UNC offensive line and trip up the RBs at the line of scrimmage.

Ideally, Miami needs to emulate what Notre Dame did two weeks ago against UNC. Admittedly, Miami does not have the exact personnel that Notre Dame does - one of the best LBs in the nation in Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and one of the best CBs in the nation, Kyle Hamilton (who was ejected near the end of the first half for targeting). However, Miami does have bonafide studs in Jaelan Phillips, Quincy Roche, and Bubba Bolden, so will need to play to their strengths.

On paper, the multiple two-headed monsters in the skill positions for UNC sounds daunting, but UNC has been inconsistent in actual game play on their 7-3 season. In order to win the ACC Championship Lite, Miami needs to ensure they do not get behind early because this is an explosive attack that will be hard to catch up to. Let’s hope Manny Diaz and Miami already have these guys circled from last year’s tough 28-25 loss. That is because Williams, Brown, and Newsome all contributed a TD. This year, the Canes will look to avoid both a loss to UNC, which will require limiting TDs from their versatile offensive weapons.