The Miami Hurricanes have played eight quarters of football and about six of them have been good. There are problems, of course. But when you look around the country at other programs that have lost or almost lost to a group of five opponents, it could be much worse.
Mario Cristobal and the coaching staff had a lot of question marks on the roster entering the season. They haven’t answered all of them, and some are even a little worrisome. But these are five things I love from the first two games of the 2022 season.
1) Wide Receivers Catching the Ball
After losing the top two receivers from last season, one of the biggest question marks on the team was the receiver group. It was assumed Xavier Restrepo would be the top pass-catcher, but a toss-up after that.
Through two games, Restrepo has obviously been the number one guy. But there have been flashes from quite a few other receivers and no drops issue thus far (knocking on wood so hard, my knuckles are going to bleed).
Michael Redding, Brashard Smith, and Keyshawn Smith have each made plays and have made me feel some semblance of confidence in Tyler Van Dyke throwing their way.
Redding is second on the team with 76 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. Brashard Smith has the second most catches with six, going for 65 receiving yards. Keyshawn Smith has one of the biggest plays of the season so far, catching a 35-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker against Southern Miss.
Lincoln Alumni Keyshawn Smith with the Touchdown Grab . pic.twitter.com/YYVmlNJIpv— San Diego Football (@Daygofootball) September 10, 2022
The Keyshawn Smith touchdown was important to me because he was able to catch a pass that looked awkward as it fell into his hands. Making plays like that are important for this team.
Brashard Smith had a play like that in the first quarter on a third and long. With a Southern Miss defensive lineman jumping offsides, Van Dyke threw an aggressive pass up the seam. It snuck through a few defenders and Smith was able to go up and make a play on the ball. He bobbled it into his grasp as he fell to the ground for a huge conversion for 30 yards.
Ridiculous throw & catch from Tyler Van Dyke to Brashard Smith for 30 yards! pic.twitter.com/oZPDyjCJmV— Sideline CFB (@SidelineCFB) September 10, 2022
This may not be the case moving forward against ACC teams and Texas A&M, but it is extremely important that these players can make plays against lesser opponents first.
2) Thad Franklin Running Like a Train
There are few things I enjoy in this world more than watching Thaddeus Franklin carrying the ball. Due to injuries, we are going to see Franklin a lot more than we would have expected during the summer.
But at this point, I am ok that he has moved up the depth chart. Through two games, Franklin has 135 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. And every time he touches the ball, he is moving like a train moving down the tracks at full speed.
With the backfield at full health, it feels pretty good knowing Franklin could be our third, fourth, or fifth back when I enjoy having him at second on the depth chart.
The fact that he is 240 pounds feels like it will be huge down the stretch of this season in late-game situations. How many defensive fronts will have the energy left to tackle Franklin?
3) Corey Flagg Being Much Improved
If the wide receivers were the top concern entering the season, linebacker was right there with it. Last season, the biggest issue on the team was the linebacker position and it seemed like that may continue in 2022.
Corey Flagg has been the best linebacker so far through two games, making a lot of tackles behind a much-improved defensive line. I a hopeful this can continue throughout the season though.
He leads the team in both total tackles (10) and tackles for loss (3.5) and has been around the ball constantly. With a lot of players rotating in along the defensive line who can cause havoc in the backfield, the linebackers should be able to make plays behind them and Flagg has done a pretty good job of doing that so far. Something that no linebackers did much of last season.
4) James Williams Playing Closer to the Line
The biggest mismatch an offense can have is a giant tight end that moves like a wide receiver. The Hurricanes have a safety that is their version of that on defense. James Williams is what Greg Rousseau would have looked like if he played safety.
Williams is a nightmare to deal with because he is huge, but moves around the field so well. And with him playing down in the box more, he can make more plays and clog up passing lanes in the middle.
Impressive range play by James Williams pic.twitter.com/W9b6ONL87W— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) September 10, 2022
With Williams playing in the middle of the field, his length and range make him a nightmare to try and throw around.
Through two games, he is second on the team in tackles with eight and also is one of four Miami players with an interception.
One of my favorite plays from the game against Southern Miss was a play from midfield. They threw a wheel route to the right sideline and Williams, who was almost a foot taller than the receiver, went up and almost made a one-handed catch.
He made a play on the ball like he was the giant receiver running a route. He definitely can play all over the field, but playing within five yards of the line of scrimmage feels like it is where he was born to play.
He also had a hit on the quarterback that led to a fumble, giving the offense great field position late in the game.
5) Xavier Restrepo Lead Blocking
This is a weird one. Xavier Restrepo leads the team in basically every receiving statistic, but what I love even more is his blocking. Not just on offense, but on special teams.
Keyshawn Smith had a great day returning kickoffs against Bethune-Cookman, but Restrepo was a big part of that. There were multiple times he could be seen going down the field and knocking a player off their feet.
On one of the biggest offensive plays of the game against Southern Miss, Restrepo did the same to help take out two different players to spring the play.
For as good of a pass-catcher as he has been, it is all of the other things he does that make him a great Hurricane. You can tell he works just as hard to help other players score as he does for his scores. And just because there isn’t much of it circulating online with videos doesn’t mean it isn’t noticeable.