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But really, who IS going to create explosive plays in the Miami offense?

The Miami Hurricanes are slow. When you watch Miami on offense there’s an obvious lack of explosive play making ability.

Miami’s wide receiver Andre Johnson turns the corner on Nebraska’s DeJuan Groce during the 3rd quart Photo by Kirk Mckoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In the early part of the 2022 season, SOTU’s Cam Underwood wrote a piece about Miami’s lack of an explosive offense. And then in early ‘23, he followed that up again after the early portal failed to bring in explosive receivers or running backs for spring practices.

During the Super Bowl you’ll always see the graphics and hear conversations about the multi-sport players on the field. Well no kidding, they’re some of the best team sport athletes in the world. Of course their random high school wanted them to play two, three, and even four sports- they were the best at them all and all of those sports came easily to them.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

At one rural high school in North Carolina where I served as offensive line coach and defensive coordinator: our wide receiver and defensive back doubled as our kicker and punter and the soccer team’s goalkeeper in the same fall season. We made the playoffs.

He then went on to play basketball as a starting “3” and made the playoffs there, too. In the spring he was part of our NC 2A state championship 4x100 relay, and came in second in the state in the high jump. He did all of this as only a junior.

Elite athletes are going to play multiple sports and more than likely excel at them all. Athletics come easy to them because they’re typically some combination of bigger, faster, powerful, quicker, and competitive.

Erickson’s 90’s Teams

In a piece from the Chicago Tribune in 1991 titled, “WITH MIAMI, THE NAME OF THE GAME IS SPEED” by Ken Rodriguez, the journalist talks to Miami’s then offensive coordinator and The U’s head track coach Rodney Price. Coach Price felt a relay of the four fastest ‘Canes football players could place at any meet in the country.

Rodriguez said:

What sets Miami apart from most teams is a rare combination of track speed and football speed. That is the ability to sprint from north to south in a blink (track speed) and the ability to run, stop and accelerate in a quick, single burst (football speed).

Rodriguez knows more about the demands of sport in 1991 than most people I engage with do in 2023. I was thoroughly impressed upon reading that.

OC Bob Bratkowski said:

‘’You can`t place too much emphasis on 40 times,’’ says Bob Bratkowski, Miami`s offensive coordinator. ‘’To me the best athletes in the world are pro basketball players. They have size, speed and the ability to change directions. They have quickness. Quickness is reaction and explosion, the ability to go full speed and react to what`s in front of you.

Bratkowski isn’t wrong, basketball players are extremely damn athletic. But gymnasts are the greatest athletes in the world based on all four coactives of an athlete (psychological, physiological, technical and tactical).

Penn State QB Tony Sacca... SetNumber: X42008

Those 90’s Miami teams could keep up with anyone. Miami linebacker Jessie Armstead, who wasn’t even the fastest of the Bermuda Triangle of LB’s, kept up with Houston’s fastest wide receiver all game. The Cougars ran the run & shoot, it’s not like they were same SWC wishbone squad from the mid-80’s.

The best Hurricanes of the 90’s didn’t just play football. Many of the ‘Canes stars played multiple sports and ran track in high school. Some even did so at Miami.

NCAA Football: USA TODAY Sports-Archive RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

The dynamic receiving trio in 1991 and 1992 of Lamar Thomas, Horace Copeland, and Kevin Williams? All three played in the NFL and all three ran track in high school. Thomas was a four sport star in high school, played on the UM basketball team in 1990-91, and won BIG EAST title in high jump in 92. Thomas caught 23 TD’s on 17.3, 16, and 14.9 yards per catch as a three-year starter.

Horace Copeland dominated indoor and outdoor track and field in the BIG EAST. Copeland won the 100 meter, long jump and 4x100 championships in 1992. Copeland caught seven touchdowns and averaged 19.1 and 16.4 yards per catch as a two-year starter. Kevin Williams was one of the most dynamic punt returners in college football in 1991.

Nebraska QB Tommie Frazier, 1996 Fiesta Bowl SetNumber: X49861 TK3 R7 F14

Jimmy Johnson recruited and emphasized speed and Dennis Erickson took it so far past the force-velocity curve that eventually he sacrificed power for underwear football. The rubber met the road in the 1995 Orange Bowl against Nebraska.

QB Tommie Frazier, a Florida native, (Nebraska’s comeback started when Frazier re-entered the game) and California prep star Lawrence Phillips teamed up their explosive game speed to win the National Championship over Miami in the ‘95 Orange Bowl.

A Boyd Epley prototype in the neck tight Nebraska native fullback Cory Schlesinger sealed the deal with two TD runs in the 4th quarter for the Huskers. Frazier had a big 25 yard scramble on 3rd down, Phillips ground out 96 yards on 19 carries, and Schlesinger’s 48 yards on six carries with two scores told the final tale.

The Butch Davis Era

When Miami sought to return to prominence again under Butch Davis in the late 90’s, they went back to the track. The most famous story of the speedsters was Santana Moss. Due to scholarship reductions in the probation period of the 90’s, Moss came to Miami to “run track.”

He did run track- but also punt returns, beautiful routes, and set BIG EAST records in the long jump and triple jump while winning the conference title on the 4x100 team as well. Moss’ 6.72 in the 60 meters which was an indoor school record for 11 years.

Santana Moss #6...

In the wide receiver meeting room was another future NFL star in Reggie Wayne. Wayne was a 200 meter sprinter at Miami posting a 21.87. While Moss and Wayne were on the offensive side, cornerback Phillip Buchanon was a multi-sport athlete (baseball, too) who ran 10.5 in the 100 and a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash.

Even big bodied running back and future NFL player Najeh Davenport was an All-Dade County Track Team member in high school.

From the 2001 title squad, running back Clinton Portis had been a state champion and record holder on the 4x100 team at Gainesville HS. Portis, a future NFL starter, was also BIG EAST champion 4x100 runner at Miami.

Pro Bowl WR and all-around awesome human, Andre Johnson, was the BIG EAST 60m and 100m champion (10.59). Future NFL great Sean Taylor, the ball hawking free safety, won the 100m state title in the FHSAA 2A level. Taylor also ran track at Miami.

Even during some darker times for Miami football, future NFL running back Lamar Miller ran a 10.56 100 meter in high school in 2008.

The 2023 Hurricanes

In the 90’s with less specialization, specific coaching, and without the knowledge in the United States form the Soviet Union- Miami had guys running 10-second 100’s in high school and college. Today the ‘Canes are relying on “fast” players seemingly running an 11.08 in the 100 in high school.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Miami at Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

High school track numbers from current ‘Canes offensive skill players:

RB Don Chaney 11.08 in the 100

RB Henry Parrish Jr. 11.23 in the 100

WR Isaiah Horton 11.94 in the 100

TE Jaleel Skinner 11.23 in the 100 (and he played basketball, too)

TE Elijah Arroyo high jumper 6-1

While I was unable to find data on Brashard Smith, Colbie Young (basketball), Xavier Restrepo, and Jacolby George. Playing more 7-on-7 games won’t create the robust athlete, nor does that style of game play, transfer to Saturdays in college football.

Yards per carry or catch from current ‘Canes skills from 2022:

Parrish- 4.7 per carry

Chaney- 4.0 per carry (and injured)

Xavier Restrepo 11.4 per catch

George- 10 per catch (more explosive in ‘21)

Young- 11.5 per catch

Smith- 9.8 per catch

Skinner- 14.3 per catch

Arroyo- 13.2 per catch (also injured)

TE Cam McCormick 6.6 per catch

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Florida State at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’m just not sure who the deep threat really is for Miami. Parrish Jr. isn’t a big play guy, he’s more of a James Jackson than a Clinton Portis. Restrepo needs to become an elite route runner at his size and speed. Chaney hasn’t stayed healthy while at Miami to flash his natural skill.

Young is clearly more of a red zone threat and jump ball guy than someone you’re relying on for speed. His skillset may not translate to the elite level of the NFL, but he should be dominant in a college red zone.

Guys like Smith, George, and Horton need to either get faster right now, or they won’t find the end zone much in ‘23.

Shannon Dawson offense at Houston

Is the Shannon Dawson offense that explosive? Clayton Tune started the better part of four seasons at quarterback at Houston with Dana Holgorsen as head coach. In an explosive season for West Virginia in 2018, Will Grier hooked up with Gary Jennings for 17 yards per catch and 13 TD’s.

Temple v Houston Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

What about Dawson’s Houston offense in 2022? The top two yards per catch data points (15+ receptions) were 15.8 and 15.4. In 2021, the yards per catch top duo hit 17 and 15.4; and in 2020 the YPC numbers were 15.4 and 14.8.

Consider this- Miami’s offense sucked in 2022 and Keyshawn Smith and Michael Redding III averaged 15.3 and 14.5. They were Miami’s leaders over 15+ receptions. Smith has entered the transfer portal while Redding has been silent.

Frank Ladson Jr., a transfer last season from Clemson, once posted a PR of 10.96 in the 100. Ladson hasn’t contributed much on the field since coming home to the Hurricanes.

Miami v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

How about the super boring Clemson Tigers offense that saw the departure of their QB and OC? Beaux Collins averaged 17 yards per grab in ‘22.

Or Miami’s also bad offense in 2019 under Dan Enos and no real starting QB? Will Mallory averaged 18.3 per catch and Dee Wiggins hit 16.8.

Two other bad offenses in ‘22 were UVA and Georgia Tech. Tech’s offense saw a change in OC, QB, and head coach this off-season yet EJ Jenkins averaged 18.6 per reception. The UVA offense saw a change in QB and Lavel Davis managed 23.2 YPC last year.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Tulane v USC Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

What about the elite offenses in CFB? USC and Heisman Trophy winning QB Caleb Williams had receivers hit 18.3, 15.8, 15.7, 15.7 and 14.8 yards per catch last year. And before you bring up transfers- Jordan Addison was the 14.8.

College Football Playoff runner-up TCU had some explosives in ‘22, even for a run-first offense. The Horned Frogs former OC Garrett Riley (now at Clemson) had YPC averages of 20.3, 17.8, and 16.6.

Josh Gattis’ former school, Michigan, hit on 15.6 and 15 yards per catch by their top two receivers with 15+ receptions. Alabama’s offense saw 17.3 and 16.9 for their leaders, while UNC hit 18.6 and 18.1 under former OC Phil Longo and current QB Drake Maye.

Looking Ahead

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Pitt at Miami Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are three major points of emphasis from all of this google searching:

1- High school sports need to focus less on specialization (ie. basketball only) and more on well-rounded athletes for your top level folks. Play football, play basketball or wrestle or train, run track or play baseball or lacrosse or train. Not playing other sports or doing real S&C training for “7-on-7 isn’t going to benefit anyone.

2- Miami needs to pull the Ed Orgeron from Meat Market and focus on some honest to goodness speed numbers and not the itchy trigger finger of high school coaches or skills camps. Track meet 100’s at laser timed meets are the way to go, even if no one runs the 100 in football.

3- Stop making guys slower. #GrindSZN mat drill workouts, endless 100’s and 300’s and 150 play scrimmages aren’t going to make your team faster. Stop chasing baby oil pictures or one-rep max 8-handed bench press videos and focus on what matters- speed. Restrepo likes to

Freshman Struggles

It’s true that freshmen don’t always translate their skills right away at a position like wide receiver. In high school, WR’s are told “get open,” more than they’re running 3-pronged option routes that adjust based on coverage. HS playbooks are smaller, RPO’s less complex, and option routes limited or even tagged in a “check with me” fashion.

Marvin Harrison Jr, Jordan Addison and Jaxon Smith-Njigba had varying success as freshmen but none were their elite status before their sophomore season. I’m high on Mr. Robby Washington of the Washington twins (and Bobby Jr., too) but to expect him to be THE GUY as a true freshman WR is asking a ton.

Robby Washington

True freshmen twins Robby and Bobby Washington’s father, Bobby Sr., was a sub-11 second 100m guy in high school at Miami Killian. A five-star running back in his prep years, he signed with UM as a freshman but wound up playing his college football at NC State and Eastern Kentucky.

During high school Robby Washington played running back, wide receiver and served as a dynamic kick returner. R. Washington was also a track sprinter in high school with alleged 4.40 speed in the 40 yard dash. The undersized skill player will play wide receiver at Miami and could be the big play threat Miami needs to match explosive plays with Clemson, UNC, Florida State and Texas A&M.