The hopeful improvement of Miami’s offense will be the key if the Hurricanes want to win more games in 2020, and while everyone is talking about the passing game, I think it’s the rushing attack where we’ll see the most growth.
New offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee turned Shane Buechele into one of the best quarterbacks in the country last year at SMU, but many forget how effective the Mustangs ground game was under Lashlee. In 2019, SMU running back Xavier Jones rushed for 1,276 yards and 23 touchdowns, as the Mustangs averaged 180.1 rushing yards per game.
Xavier Jones made a move and hit the jets ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/wmAapjNW9s— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 25, 2019
Just to give you an idea, Miami ranked 120th nationally in 2019, averaging 118.1 rushing yards per game, the programs lowest since 2006. Jones had more rushing touchdowns by himself than the entire Miami team.
There are 130 teams at the top level of college football.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) December 1, 2019
Miami finished the regular season:
- 130th in 3rd-down conversions.
- 120th in rushing.
- 120th in red zone offense.
- 90th in total offense.
- 73rd in scoring offense.
KJ Osborn is gone and Deejay Dallas may go.
Throughout Lashlee’s coaching career, establishing the run is something that his offenses have consistently been able to do. Since 2012, Lashlee has produced a 1,000 yard rusher in six of the last eight seasons. Miami has only had three players rush for over 1,000 yards since 2012.
With 12 days until kickoff, a look back at Tre Mason stunning the crowd in Fayetteville with a 12-yard TD run. Tre Mason helped lead the Tigers to a 35-17 win over Arkansas in 2013 with 168 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. pic.twitter.com/ojcYp4qxGf— The Auburn Vault (@AuburnVault) August 20, 2018
In 2020, even if the Hurricanes don’t have a player rush for 1,000 yards, the ground game will be utilized to the max. In 2019, Miami’s starting running back Deejay Dallas carried the ball 115 times, and Cam’Ron Harris had 114 carries as the second back. At SMU, Jones had 244 carries, and backup Ke’Mon Freeman had 122 carries. Lashlee will no doubt make running the ball a priority.
Ke’Mon Freeman with the TRUCKING of this Memphis defender pic.twitter.com/3RWzTMDqJ1— Abdul Memon (@abdulamemon) November 3, 2019
As the backup for Dallas in 2019, Harris still managed to rush for 576 yards, and I believe is primed to have a big season in 2020, as he could become the first 1,000 yard rusher for Miami since 2016. Harris was very effective in 2019 running the ball, averaging over five yards per-carry, and with more carries coming his way, his yardage will see an increase as well.
In case you didn’t know, Cam Harris is a really good RB. Scaife and Clark create a hole and Harris does the rest. pic.twitter.com/RY627Vebxa— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) October 20, 2019
Projected by many to be Miami’s number-two running back, true freshman Jaylan Knighton already has the skills and talent to a weapon running the ball in 2020. In Lashlee’s offense, expect to see Knighton carry the ball well over 100 times in his first season at Miami.
We know he had a running start but...— MaxPreps (@MaxPreps) August 30, 2018
OKLAHOMA COMMIT @jaylan_knighton RAN A 4.01 40-YARD DASH!
With pads and gear! The fastest 40-time of all-time at the NFL Combine was 4.22 by @WatchJRoss ⏲️ #BoomerSooner pic.twitter.com/N93AQOP0vd
However, the real weapon, and the real reason why I believe Miami’s rushing attack will see a big jump, is the scrambling ability of quarterback D’Eriq King. In 2018, which was King’s last full season, he rushed for 674 yards and 11 touchdowns, on 111 carries.
.@UHCougarFB's D'Eriq King now has a pass TD and rush TD in 15 straight games, breaking Tim Tebow's previous record (14) for the longest streak in FBS history.— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) September 20, 2019
No other player has an active streak longer than 3 games. pic.twitter.com/gDhbXaPmjj
Lashlee is no stranger to having a dual-threat weapon at quarterback. In 2013, his first season as OC for Auburn, QB Nick Marshall rushed 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns, going along with the 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns from running back Tre Mason. So expect to see plenty of designed runs to King for Miami in 2020.
As OC/QB coach for Auburn in 2013, Lashlee helped the Tigers reach the national championship. His QB that year was Nick Marshall, who also ran for over 1,000 yards that season. Great call here against Bama #Lashlee pic.twitter.com/GmJo6BuncY— Marsh Thomas (@hurricanesmarsh) January 3, 2020
In 2019, SMU totaled 35 rushing touchdowns as a team, while the Hurricanes managed only 16. For 2020, expect those numbers to be on the rise in Miami.