The Miami Hurricanes are 4-0 and will hopefully make great use of their off week prior to ACC play. A huge issue under Manny Diaz was the ‘Canes poor performances after a week off. In head coach Mario Cristobal’s one season in Coral Gables, the Hurricanes lost a nail biter to UNC 27-24.
Per Bill Connelly’s SP+’s preseason metrics: the ‘Canes started 2023 as the 42nd overall team in FBS. Miami’s offense was ranked 55th, while the defense was ranked 20th. Now through four weeks of the season, the ‘Canes are 13th overall, 18th on offense, 15th on defense and 13th in kicking.
Miami’s ‘key’ data points in 2023 vs 2022
The only key data points that Miami is behind in 2023 where they were at this point in 2022 (September 25th 2022) are penalties and time of possession. Josh Gattis got had that TOP on lock, just not scoring actual points with all of that time.
Miami needs to get penalties under control, that’s what comes back to haunt you against equal talent (UNC, Clemson, FSU) and even lesser talented P5 teams (NCSU, Louisville) along with the kicking game issues (punt return team).
- Points Per Play: 6th vs 103rd
- Yards Per Play 3rd vs 98th
- Penalties 120th vs 49th
- Points Per Game 6th (42.3) vs 89th (23.3)
- Opponent PPG 12th (14.3) vs 45th (23.0)
- Turnover Margin 11th vs 71st
- Time of Possession 40th (31:07) vs 8th (35:04)
Re-visiting the Summer SWOT Analysis
This summer I performed a SWOT Analysis on the Hurricanes opponents, and on the ‘Canes themselves. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and a Tradition* of each program.
Summer Strengths: Blue Chip Ratio, tight ends, Kam Kinchens
Season Strengths: Blue Chip Ratio, QB, Kam Kinchens
It’s not that Cam McCormick hasn’t been solid as a run blocker, but clearly Tyler Van Dyke’s resurgence as a Heisman Trophy candidate through the Out-of-Conference slate has put the QB position into the strengths. Also, Emory Williams has looked promising compared to 2022 backup QB’s in Jake Garcia and Jacurri Brown.
Kam Kinchens is still a strength, I hope he recovers completely and is back on the field for UNC this season. His presence as a leader on the field and off the field will be missed. Kinchens has one of the two interceptions for the ‘Canes. Kinchens also has a fumble recovery and 10 tackles.
Summer Weaknesses: S&C, WR, left tackle
Season Weaknesses: Injury mitigation and rehab, kicking game, takeaways
Miami has been without Zion Nelson, Mark Fletcher (returned), Branson Deen, Akheem Mesidor, Nyjalik Kelly, and Elijah Arroyo off the top of my head. Kinchens is now out and TreVonte’ Citizen is still rehabbing off his fluke injury. Parrish and center Matt Lee were both banged up against Temple.
The camp injuries seemed to slow but now it’s in-season issues. Injuries happen, it ain’t ballet, but let’s keep an eye on this and revisit in the off-season.
The kicking game FINALLY had a kick return for a touchdown (Brashard Smith), but Andres Borregales missed and field goal and an extra point early. The punter Dylan Joyce is averaging 45.2 yards per punt. The punt return team is a disaster and will likely cost Miami a game against a team like UNC, Clemson or Florida State.
Miami has played an FCS school and two G5 teams in the first four games- and the ‘Canes only have two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. The U needs to get back to their old ball hawking ways which will be tough without Kinchens, but not impossible since Te’Cory Couch has become Mr. Interception in ‘23.
Summer opportunities: New OC and DC, ILB
Season opportunities: Seems all 3 have turned opportunity into strength
We’ll get deeper into some details on the OC and DC conversations below. However, it can’t be left off the list here. The difference Shannon Dawson and Lance Guidry have made at Miami cannot be ignored. Comparing the data from the first four games (above) of 2022 vs. 2023 is night and day. The offense looks explosive, the defense looks better coached.
At inside linebacker, Francisco Mauigoa has been the stable inside linebacker Miami needed to boost the ability of Corey Flagg Jr. and Wesley Bissainthe next to him. LB Mauigoa has 15 tackles, 1.5 TFL’s, and a force fumble.
Review- Fixing the Miami offense: Take what’s given
‘Canes OC Shannon Dawson has absolutely come in ready to ‘take what is given’ with the Miami offense. He’s not scared to run both gap and zone schemes, read options, tag RPO’s, or hit the deep ball. Tyler Van Dyke has been allowed to make more decisions, like in Rhett Lashlee’s offense where Van Dyke flourished in 2021.
Let’s take a look at a few plays where Dawson has taken what’s given in ‘23 so far:
Dawson likes to tag RPO's off of split zone. I'm with him. The H going one way, the back flow another, mixed in with the WR tempo'ing is a lot for the defensive OODA Loop to handle. Here, Restrepo runs a "throw me open" route off a jog out. Van Dyke is throwing all the way re 2v2 pic.twitter.com/u2HomwwZp6— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 24, 2023
The RPO tags have been one of the more obvious areas. Much like with Clemson against Florida State, Dawson might have to lock the run eventually but for now let ‘em rip!
Offensive play of the Game was more about scheme and letting the fellas play ball than a little 15-yard TD reception. Dawson allows the freedom and tags an RPO. Restrepo blocks, George catches the screen, and Miami scores on an RPO tag off split zone. pic.twitter.com/cfJOPpKY5S— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 15, 2023
Part of taking what’s given is understanding the R4 terminology (Dub Maddox) of what is CAP’d and what is unCAP’d. No, not the stupid slang your 12 year old uses (or his trying to hard to be cool uncle that’s 35 and still using teen slang). This means Coverage-Alignment-Personnel.
On the smoke RPO directly above, Van Dyke feels the coverage and alignment doesn’t matchup with what Miami wants to do- run smoke. In the first video, it’s about Personnel with a dash of Coverage and Alignment.
Play of the game: Colbie Young's tunnel screen that he took to the house. Looks like an RPO that Van Dyke liked pre-snap. Soft 2x2 up top against a tunnel... I like it too pic.twitter.com/V8Hg3qlUKe— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 2, 2023
Above- Something that has been open is the screen game. However, Dawson might need to adjust which offensive linemen are out in space running this much. Matt Lee left banged up and if nothing is real but the money and the miles- these guys are getting some city miles put on them already through four games. Image after eight straight in the ACC.
The end zone view (aka the best view in football) tells the story even better. Using the OL to block downfield and cut off the CB on his re-trace, thing of beauty pic.twitter.com/8Ia9pcMUPl— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 10, 2023
Above- Of course improving the red zone offense was a priority for Miami and it’s been done. Dawson has a keen eye for how defenses are over-rotating to motion and uses it against them with route concepts, and in the run game- even with Restrepo blocking!
Review- Fixing the Miami defense: Pursue and finish
DC Lance Guidry is a defensive backs coach by trade. Guidry, who was the DC at Marshall last season, came to Miami via a Manny Diaz type trip to Tulane this winter. The safety play of Kinchens and James Williams has looked improved, and Jaden Davis looks like a tackling machine. Couch has three picks and looks back to his ‘21 form.
The pass defense had 2-3 worrisome plays. Wayne on a RB anywhere but the flats? Yeesh. Here it's Couch going for a pick and Harris unable to track the ball in the open field. I hope Kinchens is healthy for UNC. pic.twitter.com/YXZmi7w2yp— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 24, 2023
Above- One area I was concerned about was pursuit and tackling. Miami has been the physically superior team in all but one game, Texas A&M, where the talent was equal. One of the worst displays of “finish” this season is in the video above.
Defensive Play of the Game: Bain goes inside out with a hand slap and swim. Fights off the help from the guard and picks up an intentional grounding to boot. pic.twitter.com/8wfpyktHbK— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 15, 2023
Above- Ruben “Hurricane” Bain has looked good against lesser offensive tackles. They can’t handle his combo of a quick first step and plus-level hand fighting.
Above- Things that will keep Guidry up at night are mobile QB’s like Drake Maye and Jordan Travis. Miami lost the QB in their read option responsibilities and Conner Weigman scored early.
Above- As good as LB Kiko Mauigoa has played against the run, he’s a liability having to cover a RB much like Jayden Wayne was against Temple. Miami will have to figure this out before facing Omarion Hampton of UNC.
Canyonero Keys to THE SEASON*
1- Stay healthy. Well this one has slowly been fading back to the ‘22 model. I discussed this in the SWOT Analysis above. Again, the question is- is this just a few injuries, or does Miami need to really re-think their S&C program when it comes to volume, injury mitigation, pre-hab and re-hab.
2- Look well coached.
We know Mario is deeply passionate about “discipline” and fans were hoping that would show up on the field in ‘23 where it didn’t in year one. So what can the ‘Canes be the best in the world at? I’m not sure if it is discipline (Army West Point might own that crown), as much as it should be explosive plays. What drives your economic engine can be translated to what makes the program go- and that’s also explosive plays to me.
Miami should be the most explosive team in the country. Why? Because of the exposure to fresh air and sunlight, vitamin D, a football passionate (not quite to the financial level of Ohio, Texas, Alabama and Georgia but still passionate) culture in Florida and a diverse population with athletes from all over the world coming together in South Florida.
3- Find real stars. Prior to his injury, Kinchens was on his way to another All-American type of season. Kinchens was Miami’s one true ‘ball hawk’ that could create turnovers. As improved as James Williams has looked under Guidry, he’s just got tackles to his resume. Through four games he has no interceptions, forced fumbles, or tackles for loss.
Of Miami’s two preseason All-American per Athlon, Kinchens is the one playing (Zion Nelson was the other). But Miami has other All-ACC and potential AA’s performing at a high level this season. Tyler Van Dyke, Xavier Restrepo, Jaden Davis and Jacolby George have put on amazing OOC displays thus far.
Pre-Season Prediction: 7-5.
Off-week re-eval: Miami already stole one win back from Texas A&M, and my other losses were UNC, Clemson and Florida State. I thought Miami could trip up against NCSU, Louisville, someone! But I disagree with that as of now, however we’ll see against a pesky Georgia Tech team if I can bump The U up one more win or keep them here.
Updated prediction: 8-4.