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Miami at Clemson Preview: Q&A with State of the U

NCAA Football: Miami at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 9 Clemson Tigers are back in action on Saturday as they host the Miami Hurricanes. “The U” is just 5-5 with their only ACC wins coming against the bottom three in the Coastal Division: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Virginia. Their most recent win was over the Yellow Jackets and came by an impressive 35-14 score, but a closer look shows the game was within a touchdown in the fourth quarter before turnovers imploded things for Georgia Tech.

Now, Miami comes to Clemson looking for that sixth win for bowl eligibility (their last chance will be at home against Pittsburgh). While they’ve had a down season, they still have more raw talent than most ACC foes. To preview a matchup with “The U,” there’s no one better than THE Cam Underwood from State of the U. Be sure to follow him on Twitter if you’re not already. We hope you enjoy the Q&A.

Ryan Kantor: The Hurricanes made a bold move dismissing Coach Manny Diaz after just his third season on the job. He was 15-8 over his last two seasons which obviously isn’t great, but also isn’t the typical disaster you see when coaches get fired so quickly. I thought the urgency and investment they were making was a big signal that they’d be quickly on the rise. Obviously that hasn’t happened yet, but did you share my optimism at the time? Are you still optimistic about this program over the next 2-3 years?

Cam Underwood: Moving on from Diaz was the right move. He’s a good guy, but he’d never been a head coach before and it showed. I was “out” on him earlier than others — after Mel Tucker called the Hurricanes soft after scoring 28pts in the 4th quarter en route to a big win early in the 2021 season — but not as early as some who never wanted him. Still, it was time.

I shared the optimism that bringing in a proven coach — and an ACE recruiter such as Cristobal — would give Miami the results on the field that have seldom been seen in the last 15 years. It’s not happened in year one, but that points to this being a bigger rebuild than anybody thought.

To the question about optimism for the future, the answer is yes. While I thought this was a cosmetic facelift, you know, countertops and maybe painting a few walls, this is a full teardown and rebuild situation. And to do that, you have to turn the roster over to get the kind of players you need on the roster. Cristobal is unquestionably one of the best recruiters in the country, so the talent will eventually get here. But it’s going to take a couple cycles for Miami to have the kind of program from top to bottom that Cristobal ideally wants. I’m optimistic that things get where Cristobal wants them to go, but it’s going to take a little time to get there.

Ryan: Last season, QB Tyler Van Dyke finished the season playing some excellent football and came into the year with a lot of hype. He’s taken a big step back in production when on the field and also missed some time with injuries. What’s behind the regression and do you believe he’ll be healthy enough to play on Saturday?

Cam: The regression in performance was from Miami running a wholly different scheme than they did last year, and that scheme, run-heavy and conservative, was not really dialed in to what Van Dyke does well. After a couple losses, Miami switched things up and went with a more vertical passing attack, and Van Dyke’s numbers immediately returned to the level they were last year: 847 yards on 69% completions with 5 TDs and 1 INT over a 2 game span. Those are great numbers and more indicative of the player Van Dyke is than his early stats.

Along with the change in scheme this season, Miami’s receiver group is demonstrably worse than it was last year. Gone are Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley, who set records for catches in a single-season and career, respectively, last year. While there’s some talent on the roster replacing them, losing two players of that kind of production has hampered the passing game throughout the year.

Van Dyke’s play of late has been marred by a shoulder injury he sustained against Duke. After missing a week, he tried to gut it out against Florida State, but he clearly wasn’t healthy, and was eventually benched. Van Dyke sat out last week’s win at Georgia Tech with the injury, and though it’s been reported that he’s practiced some this week, I don’t think he’s going to play. That injury looked *BAD* in real-time when we saw it, he couldn’t even throw the ball without hurting himself against Florida State, and I don’t think he’s healthy. I think Van Dyke’s experience would be beneficial this week against Clemson, but absent him being 100% healthy, which I don’t believe he is, I don’t think he’s going to play. And that’s fine with me.

Ryan: Clemson-transfer Frank Ladson has a career-high with 27 catches and 298 receiving yards for Miami this year. How has he performed? What are one or two other skill players should Clemson fans know heading into this contest?

Cam: Ladson’s performance has been up and down. He’s refocused himself recently and been a positive in the receiver room. He’s not the alpha, #1 receiver that Miami may have hoped he’d be, but he’s a solid contributor, and those are needed as well.

At receiver, Colbie Young has stepped into a starring role. The 6’5” JuCo transfer fills a need for a big receiver on Miami’s roster. And he’s good. Xavier Restrepo is a shifty slot receiver and a favorite target of whoever is on the field at QB for Miami. Henry Parrish is the lead RB, but he’s dinged up. Jaylan Knighton stepped into the starring role last week and is a former blue chip recruit, so he’s talented. He just has to continue to leave his past fumbling issues behind him.

Ryan: What positional or personnel matchup gives you the greatest concern heading into Death Valley?

Cam: Clemson’s DL vs Miami’s OL, for sure. Miami is very banged up along the OL, and will be starting a pair of true freshmen at the guard positions. Then, when you consider the RT is better suited to be a guard, and the LT is better suited to be a RT, that’s basically 4 players either starting their careers or playing out of their optimal position. And that group is going up against one of the best DL’s in CFB this week. That concerns me GREATLY, because if Miami isn’t able to block Clemson’s DL, then they won’t be able to run the ball, or pass the ball, or really do much of anything on offense. That would be bad, in my humble opinion.

Ryan: Clemson is riding a 39-game home win streak. What is the biggest X-factor Miami needs to break in their favor to pull the upset. What kind of odds do you give them to pull it off?

Cam: The biggest X-factor would definitely be winning the turnover battle. Something like +3 or better would be needed for me to think Miami has a reasonable chance to pull off this pretty big upset against the Tigers. In terms of odds of that happening, or Miami winning at all, I’m putting them very low. I mean, it could happen, but so could winning the power ball against 1-to-302,574,233 odds. Miami’s odds might be better than that... but not by much. Clemson shouldn’t be troubled much after halftime (if that late into the game), and will cruise to another lopsided win over the Hurricanes.

We hope you enjoyed this exchange! Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We always enjoy hearing what you have to say about our posts and the upcoming matchups. Its a big reason why we do this so please spark a discussion. My answers to Cam’s questions are now available on State of the U.