Well, the last three or so weeks sure have gone poorly, haven’t they?
Miami is 1-2 with embarrassing losses to Alabama and Michigan State on the resume as well as a narrow come-from-behind victory over Appalachian State. Things really could only be worse for Manny Diaz if Andres Borregales had missed that game-winning field goal against the Mountaineers late in the game.
This understandably has left us with a lot of questions. Hence, the birth of #CanesQuestions.
Rather than a typical mailbag, I’m stealing questions I have seen asked in the comments on this site. Don’t worry, your frustrations will remain anonymous as we all try and get through this trying time together.
Why doesn’t Miami play its young players more often?
The million dollar question.
After bringing in a recruiting class as heralded as the one Miami signed in 2021, why are the Hurricanes playing so many veterans and leaving so many of those players on the bench as the team struggles?
Your theory is as good as mine. I truly don’t understand. But I would guess it boils down to trust and things are being taken on a case-by-case (and position-by-position) basis.
The biggest beef the fan base seems to have with a player not playing is 5-star true freshman Leonard Taylor. But I will say, this is at least one example that I can at least understand, although I don’t totally agree with how this situation has been handled.
In my opinion, Miami’s best performing position group on the entire team this year has been defensive tackle. The Hurricanes seem to be four deep with upperclassmen (Nesta Silvera, Jared Harrison-Hunte, Jon Ford, Jordan Miller) who are able to get push up the middle and make plays somewhat consistently. It’s really the only position group on the offense or defense that I think hasn’t underperformed preseason expectations.
That said, the staff couldn’t find 6-8 snaps for Taylor down 30+ points to Alabama? Unless there is a plan in place to redshirt Taylor that has not been shared publicly, that was a great opportunity for the Miami native to get adjusted to the speed of the game against the best of the best. Even then, that game could have served as one of Taylor’s four and he still could have kept his redshirt intact.
Taylor will likely make his Miami debut this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium as the Hurricanes host FCS opponent Central Connecticut State. If he doesn’t, questions need to be asked.
At safety, true freshmen James Williams and Kamren Kinchens are obviously the future of the position—as is Avantae Williams once he’s back from suspension.
But we still see a lot of Bubba Bolden and Gurvan Hall when Miami lines up on defense. I would love to see Miami rotate Kinchens and James Williams in for Hall more often and let them get used to playing the position with a veteran like Bolden beside them.
At tight end, Elijah Arroyo has seen his snap count increase over the course of Miami’s three games. And Will Mallory certainly has not done anything to prove that he should be getting as many snaps as he is. I’ll be kind and leave it at that.
If Arroyo has the appropriate knowledge of the playbook, I’m ready for him to take a few of those snaps away from Mallory. I would imagine we see that on Saturday.
At wide receiver, true freshman Romello Brinson has impressed in a limited role. Second-year freshman Xavier Restrepo has been serviceable as well. More snaps for each moving forward in ACC play would be reasonable, although Charleston Rambo and Keyshawn Smith have done nothing to deserve reduced playing time in my opinion.
Does playing the true freshmen more solve any of Miami’s major issues? Maybe or maybe not.
But as Albert Einstein said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. And it certainly feels like Miami is bordering insanity by trotting out some of these veterans repeatedly while talented younger players sit on the bench behind them.
WHY CAN MIAMI’S DEFENSE NOT CONSISTENTLY TACKLE?
Yes, the question is in capital letters for a reason—it’s because I am yelling. Because watching this defense try to tackle is maddening.
If you’ve been under a rock this season, see below.
So the narrative is supported by numbers. Yeah that's bad.— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 19, 2021
Good morning. https://t.co/j2ObjXHn0m
According to PFF, Miami is the worst tackling team in the country through three games.
Holy cow. Mind blown.
Per PFF and David Lake’s Inside The U article, Miami has missed 66 tackles in three games. Per my mental math skills, that’s an astonishing 22 missed tackles per game on average.
Manny Diaz took over the defense because it was not good enough across the board last season. And it has since become the worst tackling unit in the country through three games. That should tell you all that you need to know right now.
One of my favorite articles ever written on this site is Justin Dottavio’s “The Art of Tackling”. Check it out if you haven’t read it yet. It explains why Miami is inept at tackling far better than I could ever hope to.
And while Justin wrote that article nearly nine months ago, it doesn’t seem like the Hurricanes have made any improvements tackling ball carriers in those nine months.
bad as those numbers are, i *SWEAR* they're actually lower than the number of tackles Miami has actually missed so far this season https://t.co/shAdqkmk41— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 19, 2021
If Miami continues to miss 22 or so tackles per week over the course of this season, it is going to be even more painful watching ACC play. That number will obviously improve against a lesser opponent on Saturday but it needs to improve significantly in ACC play as well.
Why don’t we recruit some offensive linemen from the midwest to fix our blocking issues?
This is a question I have seen asked maybe 50+ times over the past six seasons as our offensive line has struggled under different leaders.
It’s a fair question. It seems like a reasonable solution to an obvious problem. But I think we are leaving out a big piece of the equation here. I will share a story to explain.
Over 10+ years ago, I had a job where I covered high school sports and recruiting. I spent a decent amount of time around high school football recruits and covered more than a few players during their college recruitments. I got to know one young man—a four-star recruit—who grew up dreaming of playing at the University of Miami.
After a monster junior season, Miami offered him a scholarship. Ecstatic, he unofficially visited to check out the campus to better inform his decision. I caught up with him after he returned from his visit only to have him tell me that he was no longer considering the program he grew up dreaming of playing for.
I was pretty shocked. I was actually thinking he might verbally commit on the visit. But his explanation why was a good one.
He explained that he didn’t feel like he fit in with Miami’s program, university, or even the city’s culture.
This next statement is not a knock on the young man—who went on to have a solid college career elsewhere—or Miami’s program, but...Miami is not for everybody. And I mean the football program, the university, the city itself, all of the above, because when you come to The U, you truly experience all of the above. That interaction helped me understand that.
It can be tough for us as fans to comprehend that. If Manny Diaz offered me a scholarship, I’d take it instantly. Same for many of you.
But that isn’t the case for everybody. And that certainly wouldn’t be the case for most “midwest offensive linemen” in my opinion.
South Florida’s culture is just very different than the culture in many places in the midwest. Not a knock on either place, just a strong opinion that I hold as someone who has lived in both Southwest Florida and the midwest.
Not to mention, think about the success of some of these programs in the midwest right now. Look at the below Big Ten teams in the Associated Press poll.
Why would a kid leave the midwest to come to a struggling program thousands of miles from home, with an unfamiliar culture, while there are so many successful programs that are likely a better fit so much closer to home? Remember, these recruits wouldn’t have the personal connection to Miami that we do.
While I think this is a great idea in theory to fix our offensive line issues, and we have even tried this in the past, I just don’t see this as a viable recruiting strategy in practice for Miami moving forward in my opinion.
What other questions do you have?
Hopefully this is helpful to make sense of this mess that currently is Miami Hurricanes football.
What questions did I forget? Where are my answers off base? Are you so frustrated that you just have to vent? Want to tell me off to feel better about these last three weeks?
The comment section is your friend. Use it.