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All-22 Review: Returning ‘Canes receivers against Pitt from ‘21

New Miami OC Josh Gattis has to be excited about the wide receiver and tight end potential in Coral Gables.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Virginia Tech at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pitt Panthers, the ACC Coastal’s best team in 2021, ran into a buzzsaw on Halloween weekend this past season. While Pitt star QB Kenny Pickett threw for over 500 yards and three touchdowns, he also threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.

On the other side of the field, Tyler Van Dyke threw for over 400 yards also with three TD’s, but only one interceptions and three sacks. Both teams struggled on the ground but the Miami defense held on just enough to take the win for Manny Diaz.

The leading receiver for the ‘Canes was Charleston Rambo with seven catches for 101 yards. Rambo, and Mike Harley (53 yards on five catches) are off to the NFL Draft. A few returning receivers also had a nice afternoon on October 30th at Heinz Field.

Keyshawn Smith, Xavier Restrepo, Will Mallory and Elijah Arroyo all had big games either by scoring a touchdown or with steady yardage against a good but obviously not great Panther defense.

Let’s take a look at All-22 film to review the returning receivers day.

Keyshawn Smith

Pros: Size (over 6’), linear speed, visual-cognitive skill on bad balls.

2 cents: I really like the way Smith turns his chest back to the ball rather than just a slight turn. Against Pitt he made two or three “WOW” grabs on bad balls from Van Dyke.

Above- Smith is re-directed by 2nd level defender. Slick field with guys slipping a bit all day. That’s fall in essentially the midwest. Equipment crew needs to figure out spikes next year because slipping plagued Miami at times.

But Smith recovers and makes a great play on the ball with a safety over him.

Above- like I said on the SOTU Twitter account, I like how Smith is a full chest back guy. It opens him up to make a catch on this bad ball, rather than it just going behind him.

The first time I was taught ‘chest back’ was from June Jones. After that I noticed Hunter Renfrow was really big on chest back, almost catching some slants and fins and running backwards after the catch. Yards after catch don’t exist without the catch first.

Above- Even on this TD, I’m not sure where Van Dyke is going with this ball. Smith bails him out of an interception with a fantastic play. You want to talk fast twitch muscle fibers? You’ll see it here. Can’t teach it, God given for sure. But you can hone it in.

Above- Tempo’ing routes! Such an important tool to learn that many high school coaches, and a lot of college coaches, just don’t understand. Recently I saw a GPS data report with some NFL players discussing how they can hit 22 MPH, they’ll get in open field and hit 20-21, but they typically try to play at 16-17 MPH. You can’t cut at 20+ MPH for the typical athlete, but at 16-17 they can still cut on a dime.

Same goes for route running. It’s not effective to run a slant at 100% intensity if you either 1- out run the throw, 2- run the route too far and into traffic or 3- run yourself into not being able to turn up field.

Above- And he blocks! Smith secures his block while Mallory does not.

Xavier Restrepo

Pros: COD speed, power in lower half, soft hands, route running.

2 cents: Restrepo is low to the ground but he has all of the tools you want. I’m not sure where his ‘weaknesses’ are. He should have a breakout season in ‘22. I would have him outside on smash as the zig-out guy, but inside on bubbles, digs, and crossers.

Above- This is textbook route running here. What I like is how Restrepo also tempos routes. It’s hard to tell what he’s going to do: stay vertical, break out, or break in like he does.

Above- I’m not sure what Van Dyke sees here in the 3 over 3 looks and 3 over 2’s even at times. Restrepo bails him out on an obvious tackle for loss with pure power, and his ability to accelerate on a dime. The bubble isn’t about linear speed, it’s about shaking the first defender and being able to get up field in a hurry. More of a static 10 time than a 40 time.

Above- Again, making chicken salad from what he’s offered. Great one cut and go ability.

Above- Here Restrepo is breaking in, sees the scramble drill and breaks out. Two defenders lose him because of how quickly he can stop and re-direct. He’s always tempo’ing so you can see how fluid he moves. Then it’s the hands show as he makes the impossible possible.

Will Mallory

Pros: Size, improved hands and route running from ‘20.

2 cents: I thought Mallory had improved his blocking, and at times it was improved, but man you see a glaring weakness in his game. It’s like he’s slightly improved his hands and routes since 2019 but you would have expected more. Coach Field has signed some stud players, but he’s going to have to do more developing to stick on Mario Cristobal’s staff.

Above- Mallory getting rag dolled in pass protection. His head was down, balance was too far forward. The keys to pass pro are to not engaged until you’re forced to. He lunges to the defender giving the defender the opening to pull and rip through him. Space creates time. Keep that space between you so you don’t have to muscle him up.

Above- But, Mallory has done a much better job over the past two years of figuring out how to get open. He’s the sneakiest 6-foot-5 guy on a football field.

Elijah Arroyo

Pros: Size, hands, speed, COD, routes.

2 cents: Arroyo was a guy that I was really excited about when he signed. His high school tape had it all and he flashed that ability as a freshman in ‘21. He’s the guy that OC Josh Gattis has to be drooling over along with Restrepo. When speaking to a JUCO WR/TE coach he said with an Arroyo your job as a coach is to, “Not f*** it up.”

Check the piece “Maybe he’s born with it” linked above. I discuss Arroyo’s high school tape in more detail there.

Above- Here I just liked that he had the Football IQ to slide down and secure the catch. Yards after catch don’t exist in the end zone, but you don’t see a lot of players realize that and they will drop passes that otherwise could be caught if they’d just lay out or down and slide with both hands on the football. There’s no reason to stay up.

The wrap

The spring game will show little details about what is to come in 2022. Are there obvious sacks? Tackles for loss? Forced throws? Drops? You can’t watch a spring game for simulation, it has to be with an eye on some KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that you feel at each position need to be on point.

When it comes to catching the football, those will be:

1- Eyes- where are the receivers eyes on the catch.

2- Chest/hands- Are the receivers getting their chests turned back to the ball? Are they catching the football while throwing up The U, elbow bent, aka “the breaks?”

3- Routes- are the receivers running smooth, crisp routes?

And from playing WR or TE:

4- Blocking- Do you see effective, effortful blocking? Especially from Mallory. Need some leg drive from Mallory and Arroyo as well as solid blocking from Smith and others in space.