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Miami’s Offense Improved In 2020 With Rhett Lashlee, Still Plenty Of Issues That Need Fixing

Rhett Lashlee’s offense had their moments in 2020 during his 1st season at Miami, but there’s plenty of things that needs improving.

Miami Hurricanes football practice Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The thing most Hurricanes fans were excited for heading into the 2020 season, was the arrival new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, the man who was finally bringing the spread offense to South Florida.

After an 8-3 year, you can definitely say that the Canes offense improved greatly from the Dan Enos system in 2019, and even the 2018 and 2017 campaigns as well. The offense was able to score points, put together drives that won games in the 4th quarter, and oh yeah, score points.

Miami averaged 34 points per game in 2020, compared from 25.7 points per game in 2019. The third down conversion rate went from 28% in 2019, to 40% in 2020. In terms of total offense and how UM ranked in all of college football? The Canes finished the 2020 season ranked 32nd in that category, compared to an abysmal 98th in 2019.

Now as you’re all aware if you’ve read my articles the past year, I’m a huge fan of Lashlee, and think he was one of the best hires that Miami has made in years. Overall, I came away relatively pleased with what the offense was able to do in Lashlee’s first season in Coral Gables.

However, there is obviously PLENTY of things that this offense needs to improve on and fix, if they want to raise their win total in 2021 and be more dynamic on that side of the ball.

Now there is a major question mark concerning the Canes offense for 2021, and that is whether or not we’ll be seeing D’Eriq King back and healthy again.

But we’ll discuss that matter down the road.

First off, the running game has to improve, plain and simple. Through the first 3 weeks of the year, Miami was averaging 232 yards per game on the ground, and netting around 5.7 yards per carry. This was due in large part to Cam’Ron Harris’ quick start to the season, who had 268 yards by himself the first 2 games. The rushing efforts of King, Don Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton also contributed.

In their final 8 games of the season though, Miami’s ground game went backwards, as the Hurricanes averaged just 136.3 rushing yards per game during that stretch, and only 3.6 yards per carry. Lashlee’s offense finished 67th in the nation in rushing, which is a improvement from being 120th in 2019, but still, that number fell far below expectations.

The regression of the rushing game, you can blame the running backs for not seeing their holes like they were, the offensive line not creating those holes, opposing defenses starting to play Miami’s offense better, probably a combination of all 3, plus more.

Bottom line, Lashlee needs to figure out a way to make the Canes more consistent and effective running the football. Miami isn’t going to win many games going forward if they have to throw the ball all game. However, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem in the 2021 season, with Harris returning for his senior year, and Chaney and Knighton now more experienced as rising sophomores. Also, you’re returning almost your entire starting offensive line from 2020, hopefully that turns out to be a good thing.

A staggering stat that I saw while doing research for this article, and this definitely plays in to the running game struggling, Miami was 123rd in the nation in tackles for loss allowed. In 2020, the Canes gave up 87 total TFLs, and 7.9 TFLs per game. More than any other statistic, that goes to show you that this Miami offense is far from where they need to be, and that the offensive line is still very much a work in progress.

I know that many people, including myself, put a lot of the heat on the defense when it comes to the 3 losses that the Canes had to ranked teams in 2020, but let’s not forget that the offense struggled to do anything against Clemson or UNC. Against Oklahoma State in the bowl game, the offense rallied, but they waited until the second half to put points on the board, and were staring at a 21-0 deficit in the first quarter.

So just like the defense, the offense has to start showing up and putting up points against ranked teams, opponents that’ll make the rest of the country raise their eyebrows when they see Miami’s offense. I love that you can score 47 points at Louisville and 48 against Duke, but it’s a problem when you can’t do a single thing against the Clemson defense, or you do just enough to score a weak 24 points against UNC at home.

And there’s plenty more issues that need to be improved and worked on. Wide receiver production, situational play-calling, fewer penalties, it’s a long list.

But like I said, all in all, I was pleased with Lashlee’s offense his first year at Miami. If you look at what his SMU offense did his first season compared to his second, there was a major improvement in several areas. Let’s hope that the Hurricanes can find even more success and score more points on offense in 2021.