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Film Preview: Miami Offense

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The U is banged up but dangerous

Miami v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Miami’s offense lags behind its defense, coach Mark Right has said as much throughout and before the season. The Hurricanes offense is explosive but unreliable, and that was before losing two important skill players to injury this week. Quarterback Malik Rosier is barely completing more than half his passes in conference play, but has an incredibly strong arm and the legs to run the spread option schemes Richt has been incorporating since the end of his UGA tenure. Miami lines up in 11, 12, 10, and empty personnel primarily. Usually they’re working out of 11 personnel with Rosier in the shotgun.

Often TE Chris Herndon was split out wide, with his injury and Michael Irvin JR’s promotion to the starting spot it remains to be seen how Irvin JR will be used. The loss of Herndon is major, he was second on the Hurricanes in receptions, receiving yards and TD receptions. Not many tight ends in the country can run the bubble screen this well and block on the LOS credibly.

The Hurricanes offensive line has taken major strides forward this year, but they’re a bit short of building themselves a brick house. Miami struggles with giving up tackles behind the line of scrimmage, ranking 86th in stuff rate.

The Canes are even worse in short yardage situations, ranking a galling 129th nationally in power success rate. Where Miami is most dangerous in the rushing game, and on offense as a whole, is big plays. Running back Travis Homer hits the hole hard and Miami’s offensive line blocks the second level well.

The offensive line can’t always open holes for him, but Homer is dangerous in the open field. Richt is aware of this, and unlikely to abandon his running game.

“We’re not getting a lot of movement. And there’s times … there’s probably, I know there’s twice that we hand the ball off, it’s going to spring out big. One might have been a 70-yard housecall. You pop that one long run, that’s how it goes sometimes in the running game. You’re banging away, banging away, and all of a sudden, it spits out for a long one”

Unfortunately the running game has abandoned the U on occasion, such as a 24-19 win against UNC or last weeks 14-24 loss to Pittsburgh. Those games saw Miami total 59 and 45 rushing yards, respectively. Miami almost exclusively runs inside and outside zone, both regular and pin/pull. Typically the tight end blocks the backside defensive end, but Rosier is a threat to keep the ball a handful of times a game.

The U has been vulnerable against stunts and blitzes this season, but have a couple of useful counters. Rosier can run the draw pretty well, and Homer is dangerous in the screen game.

Miami has a handful of RPO’s. Their favorite is the inside zone/bubble combination thrown to Herdon above. The Hurricanes also have dabbled in throwing slants to the backside, typically to Ahmmon Richards. Richards was lost for the season on Wednesday.

Braxton Berrios is the Canes leading receiver and is deadly from the slot. He’s a precise route runner who can get open on short to intermediate routes. Miami likes to run fade/out with play action, typically with Berrios running the out route.

Rosier is able to make the right reads on a variety of pro style passing concepts. Sometimes he can make a perfect throw only his receiver can catch, sometimes he misses his mark by several yards. Take for example these two “smash” plays. On the first one he throws a perfectly placed ball only Berrios can catch, on the second his receiver has to bail him out.

Jeff Thomas caught that pass. Thomas is a talented freshman who Richt wants to feature on the edge to punish defenses, he’s dangerous and likely to have his number called more often due to injuries.

Miami likes to run a version of shallow cross covered here by Ian Boyd. The crossing route here turns into more of a stick route here as the receiver sits in the vacated zone. Rosier reads the concept well enough to attack the backside slant when it’s available, but struggles to routinely put the ball where it needs to be at best and flat out misses wide open receivers at his worst.

Rosier’s arm strength lets him throw the ball from sideline to sideline and whip throws downfield through tight windows. Miami runs play action frequently, and is willing to live with low completion percentages in order to generate long gains.

Rosier, unlike a lot of low completion percentage quarterback, doesn’t turn the ball over often. The freshman has twenty-five touchdowns to nine interceptions, although he has accounted for five fumbles.

The U’s receivers have not always helped Rosier out. A combination of drops, timing issues and poorly placed passes lead to a few extra incomplete passes per game. This is unlikely to improve as backups get pushed into larger roles with short notice. We don’t know how Rosier, who performed so poorly last week he was benched for part of the fourth quarter, will bounce back this week.

This game is probably going to be close. Miami has risen to the level of its competition this year, and will be motivated to win the ACC for the first time. Clemson has a habit of sitting on a ten to fourteen point lead. Miami has a habit of winning close games in the fourth quarter. Rosier is usually electric in the second half. That didn’t work against Pittsburgh, and Miami is lucky it worked as often as it has. Miami’s skill players are capable of generating big plays, and Richt has done a good job incorporating his teams playmakers.

If Miami were healthy, and hadn’t just lost two of their three most important receivers, I’d be terrified. Miami could still absolutely win this game if Clemson turns the ball over or loses the field position battle. As it is I think Clemson should be able to stop the run, and Miami hasn’t played well when they haven’t been able to run the ball. Rosier could be special, but forcing a erratic QB to beat you with a 5’9” slot receiver, a freshman, a running back who took over due to another season ending injury and backup receivers/tight ends is a decent gamble.

Clemson 24 - Miami 14

*The original post referred to Rosier as a true freshman, he is a redshirt Junior