On Friday, May 1st Miami offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Rhett Lashlee took a Zoom call with the media. Throughout the session that ended in under an hour, Lashlee took questions about our unprecedented off-season in 2020- the off-season of COVID-19. The underlying answer to most COVID based questions, regardless of occupation, seems to be- no one knows anything for certain. It’s an unprecedented time.
As an educator and prep football coach, I am on Zoom calls just about every day of the week and even at times on the weekend. I’ve been tasked with teaching lessons, running speed and change of direction sessions, setting up yoga sessions and body weight workouts on Zoom and Google Meet. The Hurricanes and the program where I am an assistant coach are trying our best to prepare our student-athletes mentally, physically, and emotionally to be able to succeed in our current situation. Coaches are holding position meetings and group meetings to try to bond personally and education professionally.
This is a spring and off-season shrouded in mystery. As fans and media members, we’re clamoring for more information; whether that’s about the role incoming freshmen will play, where Tate Martell lines up in 2020, what personnel groupings will be on the field for the offense, and when team activities will restart and schools will re-open.
I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in on Zoom conferences with many coaches over the past few months including Coach Lashlee, Phil Longo the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at ACC rival UNC, R4 and quarterback guru Dub Maddox, and with a few others around the world of college and high school football.
One thing I can tell you that every program and coach is looking for is leadership. Right now programs need players who can keep their teammates engaged and accounted for. With college athletes spread out all over the country keeping team chemistry going is a must. D’Eriq King seems to have that leadership skill even if he was only with the team a short amount of time. He’s a proven playmaker and that helps. What Lashlee and Longo are both looking for in a quarterback is of course arm talent. Both coaches emphasize accuracy over strength, and both want leaders and athletes at the quarterback position.
The wide receiver room seems to lack that leadership but does have potential, desire and a great attitude according to Coach Lashlee. When you look at what Coach Lashlee did at SMU you can see the importance put on having a speed target for rhythm concepts (fades and posts) like he used with Reggie Roberson Jr, an RPO and sure-handed compliment at the slot position like James Proche, and of course a go to target at tight end like Kylen Granson at SMU.
At Miami you have to ask, who will those players be? At wide receiver that’s still unknown but the tight end position seems loaded with Brevin Jordan, Will Mallory, and Larry Hodges all getting mentions from Coach Lashlee. Coach Lashlee talked about the multi-faceted skillset the ‘Canes tight end room has and you’d have to imagine he will get 12 personnel (1 running back, two tight end) sets on the field, even if one of the tight ends is lined up in the slot, back field, or wing.
Of course, tempo was brought up as is the case in any Lashlee conversation around his offense. He loves tempo, even if at times it’s at the expense of polish. Take a look at the first play of the SMU versus Memphis game from 2019, and a bunch of other plays from the 2018 and 2019 seasons at SMU. Lashlee and his mentor Gus Malzahn will sacrifice polish in the name of tempo and quick strikes.
A benefit of the Rhett Lashlee offense will be that it’s a simple scheme with an easy to teach philosophy and terminology. Lashlee seems himself as a teacher, and discussed his install philosophy. In Lashlee’s teaching methodology he emphasizes communication, keeping it simple, and keeping a healthy balance between what an O.C. needs in to beat a defense but also what his players can master. In crunch time, an offensive coordinator is going to call a play his players have repped 100 times, not a better concept that maybe has been under practiced or ran during the season.
Coach Lashlee is looking for athleticism, leadership and a winning spirit- I can’t wait to see how it plays out this season.