Following the largest comeback victory against the Florida State Seminoles, Miami officially enters the second half of it’s schedule. The Hurricanes will play four of the next six games on the road against conference opponents. Some of the opponents Miami is set to travel to include Boston College and Virginia Tech. Before taking a look at the future schedule, let’s review how the Hurricanes fared in the first half of their schedule.
Miami Hurricanes Midseason Review
Miami’s first six opponents combined for 11 losses and included an FCS team in Savannah State, that will soon be transitioning down to division two football. Outside of LSU, Miami has yet to play a power five team with conference championship aspirations. For the most part Miami has looked dominant against most opponents, rushing for 200 yards in four consecutive games. There have been considerable improvements in the third down conversion rate, and putting together long drives. So far in every game this season, the Hurricanes offense have maintained a drive of 70 yards or longer.
The offense also looks better with N’Kosi Perry at quarterback, even though he’s still in his first season gaining experience. He struggled in the first half against Florida State, but would bounce back in the second half throwing four touchdowns. Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas have been a really good combination at the running back position. Both are averaging more than five yards per rush and have helped ease the pressure off the freshman quarterback.
The wide receiver position has been fairly consistent but more production will be needed in the coming weeks. Consequently this becomes even more so the case after it was revealed late Saturday night, Ahmon Richards career is over due to a chronic neck injury. However the Hurricanes have found it’s next star at the position with Jeff Thomas. He leads the ACC in yards per reception and Lawrence Cager leads the conference in receiving touchdowns.
Areas To Improve
In the opening game against LSU, the Hurricanes offensive line struggled against a good defensive line. Following that game, the line looked improved but the struggles reoccurred allowing five sacks against Florida State. This could be a huge problem with a freshman quarterback set to play on the road.
Another area of concern down the stretch is the offensive game planning. During his weekly news conference, Mark Richt spoke about the offensive line’s struggle against Florida State. He took fault at not identifying earlier that the Hurricanes would struggle blocking, potential first round pick Brian Burns. Despite the fact that Miami has improved offensively, there are still naysayers who believe Richt should give up playcalling.
With what lies ahead on the schedule Miami would benefit from starting to play some of the younger backs. Players like Lorenzo Lingard need to either be running the ball or returning kicks on special teams. The Hurricanes are giving the majority of the carries to either Dallas or Homer, but both players are also on special teams. So there is a fatigue factor that Miami needs to wary of in the second half of the schedule.
The most impressive unit has been the Hurricane’s defense and in particular the defensive line. Miami leads the nation in tackles for loss and they are spearheaded by that front four. Gerald Willis has already surpassed last year’s team leader in that category and Jonathan Garvin is one tackle shy of tying that mark. Joe Jackson in the last three games has taken the lead on the team for sacks and has an interception return for a touchdown. Pat Bethel has been very solid in his first season starting inside at defensive tackle, after initially being a defensive end.
Shaq Quarterman and Mike Pinckney both have started since their freshmen seasons and are finally playing like veterans. Miami is the only team in the nation that is allowing less than 20% of third down conversions to be converted. That is a huge credit to Manny Diaz and his staff for schematically creating pressure and modifying the defense. By making the defense more versatile it allows Miami to defend any offense.
Areas To Improve
There aren’t many complaints that can be made about the defense but there are some areas that need improvement. Miami should be a better team in zone coverage, however that has been an issue where they’ve struggled. The team will also need to improve it’s depth on the defensive line for teams such as Georgia Tech and Boston College.
Creating more turnovers will also help the Hurricanes field a more dominate team because of the momentum shift that it creates.