If there was one reason to be excited about the Miami Hurricanes prior to the 2021 season, it was the offense. Rhett Lashlee entering his second year as offensive coordinator, up-tempo, spread offense attack. D’Eriq King was back, Mike Harley, Will Mallory, Zion Nelson, Cam’ron Harris, all returning. Charleston Rambo coming over from Oklahoma to give the receiver room depth and experience.
D'Eriq King is headed back to Miami for the 2021 season!— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) December 26, 2020
• 309 Total YPG
• 26 Total TD
• Only 5 INT
• Responsible for 108 TDs in his career (trailing only Sam Ehlinger and Trevor Lawrence)#ItsAllAboutTheU pic.twitter.com/Nkinr62HBA
Miami’s offense averaged 34 points per game in 2020, a season where the Canes had just one week of spring practice, and a year ruled by Covid-19 and the complications that it brought. Now, a year where you had all off-season to prepare, plenty of talent back, sky is the limit, right? Right...?
So far through three games, it’s been the complete opposite. Miami is averaging 18.3 points per game, an experienced offensive line has somehow taken a step back, veteran receivers are dropping passes, running game has had no impact, and King hasn’t nearly been as sharp.
After 3 games the #canes are averaging 18.3 points per game which is dead last in the ACC. They are 116/130 nationally.— rOmaN (@Romancane) September 19, 2021
How does this happen?
Well for one, and I’ve been a Lashlee supporter since day one, I wanted him here, but he has been severely underwhelming as a play-caller in 2021, and the predictability of the offense conjures up memories of Dan Enos and Mark Richt’s system at Miami.
Bad gameplan. No adjustments. That’s how you get your tails kicked. Same story every week. I’m hurt dog— Javi Salas (@Feliz_Javidad) September 18, 2021
There’s not the same excitement, so far, from the offense that we saw in 2020. Last year, Miami’s offense averaged 6.1 yards per play, and through three weeks in 2021, they’re averaging just 4.8 in the same category, which is 90th in the country.
UM OC Rhett Lashlee: "We might have to change our methods. We're not getting the results we want. We have to change how we practice. We can't keep doing the same things and expecting a different result."— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) September 20, 2021
Perfect example was against App State in week-two. Lashlee continued to try and get his offense to establish the running game, and it just wasn’t going to happen. 41 rushing attempts, and while the 197 rushing yards may look good, 4.7 yards per carry is frustrating. Same thing against Alabama, 31 rushing attempts, 88 yards, 2.8 yards per carry.
Rhett Lashlee says he was asked by multiple people about why Miami is running the ball up the middle in certain situations.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) September 13, 2021
Those people were his wife and kids.
"I get it," Lashlee said.
I’m all for Miami throwing the football 40-45 times per game, even more if need be. We’ve seen that the Hurricanes are moving the ball much more efficiently passing, why continue to run at this rate?
Lashlee got a lot of criticism yesterday and rightfully so, he was way too conservative early on. Running into the teeth of the defense on 3rd and 7 showed a lack of aggression and didn’t challenge Bama’s D at all. pic.twitter.com/WQZehRMkag— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) September 5, 2021
Harris, who came back for one more year, and was expected to establish himself as one of the best running backs in the ACC, has gone in the opposite direction. Up to this point, his 172 rushing yards ranks 13th in the ACC, and his 4.2 yards per carry is 25h.
Miami as a whole is last in the ACC in rushing yards per game, rushing touchdowns and yards per carry. Don Chaney Jr. out with a season-ending injury certainly contributes to this, as he was looking like he could be a real weapon this year.
Big part of the decline is rushing. #canes are 117th nationally averaging 104.6 per game.— rOmaN (@Romancane) September 19, 2021
Miami’s receivers, which has been a struggling unit for some time, they’ve been frustrating. Let me say this, Charleston Rambo has lived up to expectations. The Oklahoma transfer leads Miami with 24 receptions, 241 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. Against Michigan State on Saturday, he tied a UM single-game record with 12 catches, to go along with his 156 receiving yards and 2 scores.
Charleston Rambo has tied Willie Smith (1984) and Phillip Dorsett (2012) for the most catches in a single game by a #Canes receiver with 12. Rambo has another quarter to play.— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) September 18, 2021
But here’s my thing, and another reason why I’m frustrated with Lashlee and the offense. Rambo had 10 catches in the first half alone, the Spartans defense had no answer for him. In the second half however, Rambo was targeted just 3 times, for 2 receptions. If he’s playing at that level, why is he not the main focus on offense? Why go away from that?
Charleston Rambo is up to 12 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns today!— Travis May (@FF_TravisM) September 18, 2021
He was already seeing 8+ targets per game coming into today, but with this kind of work his #NFLDraft stock is set to soar! https://t.co/BP7xkLtzv0
Keyshawn Smith, in his first season as a full-time starter, has proven he’s worthy of that role, tied for second on the team with 12 catches. Feed him more. He has the explosiveness that gives opposing defense’s fits.
Mike Harley, who has led Miami the last two years in receiving, and was viewed as one of college football’s top returning wide receivers coming into 2021, has been disappointing, 12 catches for 101 yards, and no touchdowns so far. He started off slow in 2020, and I was confident he wouldn’t do it again in 2021, but something isn’t right. Multiple dropped passes have been the headline for him through 3 games. He did play better this last Saturday, so hopefully he’s starting to turn it around.
Mike Harley just dropped another pass. Would've been a first down.— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) September 18, 2021
Tight end Will Mallory, who I hyped up perhaps more than any other player on this team during the off-season, has also been a non-factor. His drop in the endzone against Michigan State changed that game, and his slow start to the season has been one of the more infuriating aspects of the offense.
Will Mallory drops a TD— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) September 18, 2021
The offensive line, with Zion Nelson, Corey Gaynor, DJ Scaife, and others, nothing has changed, inconsistency is still what we’re seeing. Adjusted rotations haven’t resulted in progress, penalties continue to occur, and blown chances have crippled Miami’s offense.
3 years into the Manny Diaz era and we still can’t field an offensive line. Regardless of the combination we put out there, it’s a certainty that easy sacks are going to happen throughout the game. pic.twitter.com/mkhwTXe9rF— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) September 19, 2021
Nelson, a top 2022 NFL Draft prospect before the season started, gave up a crucial sack against the Spartans in the fourth quarter, in which King fumbled, Michigan State recovered, and that was basically the end.
Zion Nelson almost got his QB dismantled— The Beast (@MiamiRadioBeast) September 18, 2021
Finally you have King, who somehow started the season, after rehabbing a devastating injury he suffered in last years bowl game. And unfortunately, it’s obvious the effects from the injury has had an impact, and after being bullied on Saturday against the Spartans, who knows what the rest of 2021 has in store for him.
UM's Diaz said he's "concerned for D'Eriq" King as he awaits a medical appointment Tuesday— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) September 20, 2021
He’s completed 66% of his passes which isn’t bad, but his QB rating of 120.8 is 10th in the ACC, and he’s tied for most interceptions thrown (4) and number of times he’s been sacked (9). And while this offensive line hasn’t been great, there have been times this year where King held on to the ball for too long.
D’Eriq King had 5 interceptions in 11 games last year— Tom D'Angelo (@tomdangelo44) September 19, 2021
He has 4 in 3 games this year
I have to keep reminding myself, we’ve only played 3 games. There’s still at least 9 games remaining in 2021, this offense can still turn it around and be dynamic. Harley and Mallory could shake off a rusty start and be the playmakers they’ve been in the past. Jaylan Knighton returning in week-five will hopefully help the running-game and overall offense with his versatility.
There’s still hope, but Lashlee is definitely feeling the pressure, and rightfully so.