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Film Review: 2021 Spring Game

The offense looked sharp, even without D’Eriq King, in the ‘Canes spring football game

Miami v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There were many bright spots during the Miami Hurricanes spring scrimmage on Saturday, April 17th on the ACC Network. The Hurricanes were without 16 or more players, including every scholarship tight end, but managed to look good on offense in Rhett Lashlee’s system. One of those missing offensive players was starting QB D’Eriq King, but that didn’t stop the ‘Canes from putting together big plays and sustained drives against their own defense.

King, the injured incumbent starter behind center, served in more of a coaching capacity at Hard Rock Stadium while young QB’s Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia flashed brilliance. I thought both did a great job of having pocket presence, being efficient, safe with the football (Van Dyke a step better than Garcia) and getting into second reads to find open targets.

The defense had a few sloppy moments with penalties and missed tackles. It will be quite the feat to take on Alabama in Week 1 of the 2021 fall season. The Crimson Tide are big, fast and powerful. Miami needs to get healthy during the summer and stay that way heading into the fall. The amount of injuries, especially with the consistent issues at tight end, need to be addressed via practice time, practice contact, and in the weight room.

The offense

Back to the QB’s, Garcia finished the scrimmage 19-of-25 for 255 yards and two TD’s while Van Dyke went 12-of-17 for 102 yards and a TD. Garcia played into the second half while Van Dyke did not.

In addition to efficient QB play, it was also a breath of fresh air to see the offensive line do a good job of protecting for the QB’s. The offense allowed only four sacks and the combination of Zion Nelson and Jalen Rivers on the left side looked to be the best duo at Miami in some time. In pass protection, Corey Gaynor and Navaughn Donaldson looked good working together against feisty 1-techniques (nose tackle).

Above- Garcia climbs the pocket and finds walk-on wide receiver Dante Johnson who then breaks a tackle. Johnson had a great afternoon for himself getting open, catching the ball, and showing some tenacity to break tackles on open space.

Above- Dee Wiggins had a ‘drop’ of a big time ball from Garcia. Garcia climbed the pocket, fired, and found Wiggins deep. If this is Mike Harley it’s a sure thing catch. However, it wasn’t really a drop for Wiggins, either. He secured the catch, knees down, slide, then the ball came out. The concerning part isn’t the ‘drop’ it’s his body language. He immediately reacted like it was a drop, another in his long line of drops, instead of making his case to the officials. That lack of confidence is what keeps leading to more drops and a subsequent slide down the wide receiver depth chart (at least fans hope).

Above- I realize it’s only a spring game but I really enjoyed the work I saw from walk-on “fullback” Mike Parrott. Parrott was used in a variety of roles as a battering ram in the run game, a pass blocker, he ran stick routes and hit the flats, but an even bigger win for him and the offense was his ability to block in space.

In the GIF above, Parrott secures the cornerback which allows Charleston Rambo to get a nice gain on the screen. A year ago, that screen would’ve been blown up for a loss with Will Mallory blocking in space. Parrott just might find himself a niche role in the offense.

The defense

The defense flashed at times in the scrimmage. I liked the aggressive, confident play of the UGA transfer Tyrique Stevenson. Stevenson might get beat or flagged here or there but he’s going to play aggressive football and go for pass break ups and interceptions. He’s the type of cornerback you can leave on an island and rotate your safety help to the middle of the field.

Safety Gurvan Hall looked improved but is still lost in space on deep throws and the defensive backs took some bad angles but with players out and units not playing together that will happen. Miami needs to find a competent linebacker duo who can align, assign, and finish regularly. Bradley Jennings doesn’t look to be that guy.

Gilbert Frierson is lined up splitting the difference here with the slot. I like seeing Miami improve on safety rotation as Frierson comes down into the box, and the linebackers bump over to account for him here. The issue you see is that he’s slow to diagnose, he then waits for contact, head down, and gets ran over by the running back.

Align, assign, finish. The video didn’t allow me to see alignment but wow that safety is deep if he’s not on the field for that shot. The assignment is poor. A defensive end, both defensive tackles and both linebackers wind up to the left side while only Zach McCloud at D-End and the safety barely on the screen are to the right. McCloud overruns the play and the safety, even with 10+ yards of space winds up behind the play.

Below- tackling still leaves a lot to be desired in this program. Right after a cheap shot targeting on your own teammate comes a Madden dive button from a mile away, because you’re in a bad angle. It leads to his own defensive teammate being injured and a TD for the offense.

Below- Knighton has a chance to be really good and Miami’s offense will be deadly with a good outside zone / cut back type runner. You’re certainly not catching Knighton in space and with his added bulk he hasn’t lost a step.

Heading into the fall

You could put this in as a safety getting beat, and he does, but this is protection and a perfect throw meets a beautiful catch from Xavier Restrepo. It’s one of those “only my guy” plays and he comes down with it. Miami needs more of this in the fall from Restrepo, the QB’s, and the offensive line.

Miami has the opportunity to be great in 2021. I recently read a study that said, no duh, that the teams that made it to the College Football Playoff were the ones that had their starters healthy the longest amount of time. The less time key players miss the better the team is that season. Well... it’s not the program’s job to keep players like Don Chaney, Will Mallory, Bubba Bolden, Nesta Jade Silvera, and the potential stars like King, Stevenson, Rambo, Harley, Cam Harris, and others healthy and on the field.

Acquisition, development, and deployment. Miami has enough blue chip players to make the playoff. The development and deployment need to be there. I trust that the offense will be ready, it’s the defense I worry about. In the kicking game Miami has to find steady returners for both kicks and punts, and clean up their coverage units. The actual specialists are border lining on fantastic again with Andres Borregales and Lou Hedley. The defense has to prove that it’s more than a few big sacks. That they can consistently play their assignment in big games.