Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bethune Cookman (CANES opponent on Saturday Night)

Here's video of Bethune's final game of last season vs FAMU in Orlando at the Florida Classic.

A reminder that game time at Sun Life is 6 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.com

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Al's Future and what it will take to survive past 2015

From Barry Jackson's piece this morning in the Herald on Al's future past this season.

Here's what Blake says in reference to the wins Al needs in order to stay past 2015:“is no minimum win total or anything like that. We have to look at the season from a wholistic approach,”

If you reference what Blake said to Jackson a month ago, a key comment here: “Al knows he needs to win. Our guys know we need to win. I know we need to win.”

To me, and this is something Jackson repeats what I've said for months on this here: If we win 9-10 and get to Charlotte on 12/5 for the ACC Championship game, Al survives, pure and simple.

But there are scenarios in which he could stay while accomplishing less that Jackson brings up in the piece, which I would have to disagree with here.

  • What if UM gets to seven or eight wins but the season derails because of major injuries to its best players?
  • What if the Hurricanes start slowly but finish on a significant winning streak?
7 wins won't cut it regardless of injuries. 8 wins might, but a trip to Charlotte for the ACC Championship MUST be a requirement.

This is why its an important year for Al to see major progress here because the UM administration will not hesitate to pull the plug on Al if the season goes South quickly.

As a high-level member of the BOT told Jackson, that buyout on Al’s contract (which runs through Feb. 1, 2020) is no longer going to hold the BOT back from making a move.

Earlier in August, Blake said“What I want to see on field is results, you want to see improvements in all areas.”
Translation: Al needs to beat FSU this year. You cannot go 0-5 vs a bitter rival that has a stranglehold on South Florida recruiting and has a National Championship to boot (2013).

As good as Al's recruiting class is, if he has another down year, that won't give him a mulligan.

“I’m not a big follower of that,” - Blake on oral commitments
Translation: I need for UM to be a force again and start locking down South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach) and if it takes breaking the bank to get a big name to do it, so be it.

A bigger concern would be Sam Bruce, who's the lynchpin of the '16 class. He's said on record that if Al is ousted after this season, he's going bye-bye. That's a key reason why you need to keep some key members of the staff intact for recruiting reasons (Coley, Ice, Art, Baez, Hurlie).

While those in the Ashe Building (i.e. some BOT members) will tell you that Frenk will defer to Blake in reference to Al's future. Don't buy it for one second. If we were to get blasted at home by Nebraska on 9/19 (a BYE week after that game) and/or lose to FSU on 10/10 for 6th straight time (5 on Al's watch), Frenk will get so overwhelmed with emails from angry fans and alums with clout, he will be more involved, as he should here and if we're out of the ACC Coastal race after Halloween night in Durham, Frenk will not hesitate to fire Al either that night or the next morning after the Duke game.

All that being said, Jackson posed this question to former CANE players and several High ranking BOT members: What should be the minimum that Golden should achieve this season for UM to want to go forward with this coaching staff? Some of what they told him are very interesting and I'll give you my translations:
  • “I personally think he needs to win eight games. It’s embarrassing to be as low as six or seven.” - High ranking BOT member who likes to tell his thoughts to the administration.
    • Translation: No more excuses. You need to get the team to Charlotte on 12/5 for ACC title and beat FSU this year.
  • “I think he must start winning nine or 10 games minimum to earn the right to stay. Eight wins isn’t going to satisfy anyone. I’m sorry. That should have been a 9-4 team last year. The talent is obviously better than they’ve showed and something is wrong.”
    • Translation: Get it together, Al and unleash the hounds and stop being so conservative and micromanaging. Let the coaches do their jobs here. Either get to Charlotte or be fired.
  • A UM administrator with some involvement in the school’s athletics program: “If we have another mediocre season and can’t close out games, he’s done. At minimum, you want a winning season and a reasonable bowl opportunity."
    • Translation: We need to playing at least in a NY6 game (excluding Cotton and Orange) this year. The minimum is get to Charlotte as Coastal Champs on 12/5 for ACC title game. No Charlotte means Al, you're fired.
  • "Win the games we’re supposed to win and have a shot at winning the tougher games. We should be beating Virginia, Pittsburgh and Duke; I don’t care how good those schools are becoming.” - Joaquin.
    • Translation: Stop playing down to the competition and dominate the opposition every week like my old teams did back in the late 90s and early 2000s. 
  • “Eight or nine wins. Time is running out. Just getting to a bowl is not good enough. Coaches tell me things are going to change. There were a lot of ‘me’ guys on the team last year but they’re changing the culture.” - Vernon Carey
    • Translation: Stop with the BS, Al. It's time for results because the clock is ticking on your tenure in the Hecht Center Football offices.
  • “They need to win the ACC. That’s what we should expect every year.” - DJ Williams
    • Translation: Getting to Charlotte isn't enough. You need to close the deal and win the ACC title.
  • “A Coastal title. Play in the conference championship. You don’t even need to win it; I just want to brag that we’re in the game. And I would like to see us cater to the strengths of our players.” - Vilma
    • Translation: Let your playmakers make plays. This is the bare minimum of expectations from you, Al. Get to Charlotte as Coastal champs.
  • “Don’t just win the games you are supposed to win. Win games that make a difference. And I want to see them make adjustments at halftime and not have only the other team make adjustments. They get out-coached and they don’t make adjustments, and the biggest adjustment they need to make is putting guys in the right position, in the right place to defend different formations that come up during games. They need to be prepared with situational football. They need to understand football more than they do now. Last year, we didn’t make halftime adjustments on either side of the ball.”- Duane Starks
    • Translation: We need to see you guys dominate opponents like we did back in the day. Also, adjust the game plan if necessary and don't get outcoached in the 2nd half like we
  • “Not only win games, but look good doing it. And beat people you’re not supposed to beat.” - Randal "Thrill" Hill
    • Translation: Have fun, let loose and make a statement while winning, just like we did back in the day.
Each make very strong points here. At the end of the day, the minimum is 9-10 wins and a trip to Charlotte on 12/5 for the ACC title. Anything less than that, and Al is out, possibly after the Duke game if we're 0-4 in the ACC after Halloween.

Monday, August 10, 2015

2015 Miami Hurricanes Opponent Preview - Week 13 (at Pitt 11/27 Friday)

Miami Hurricanes 2015 Opponent Preview

Week 13

At Pittsburgh (November 27th – Friday)

The 2015 Miami Hurricanes Opponent Preview concludes with the preview of the Pittsburgh Panthers who hosts the U on November 27th, the day after Thanksgiving up in Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.  

In the Steel city, out is Paul Chryst, who left to run the show in Madison, Wisconsin and coming in is former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. He’s the 4th head coach there in the last ten seasons. If you include Mike Haywood, that’s five. There’s a new beginning up in the Steel City. When you look back on Chryst’s time there, if you speak to their fans up there, it’s like a few weeks they were world-beaters, and the next few weeks, they were terrible. Simply put there was a lack of consistency there.
Pat Narduzzi

Their opponents weren’t on their level, OK. Still, that team was very good and consistent early. They had the nation’s leading rusher for a while in RB James Conner. Everything was going pretty well, until the Iowa game. From that loss on, and for the next three weeks afterward, there were despair and another disappointing season was soon to come.

After gagging, and it was a gag job in Fort Worth vs Houston in the Armed Forces bowl, in which they blew a 25-point lead, they cleaned house. On the same day Chryst left for Madison,  AD Steve Pederson was shown the door, and soon after, all of Chryst’s staff were canned. They believe they have a winner in the making in Narduzzi, who won the 2013 Broyles Award for nation’s best assistant coach.

Even though he hasn’t coached a game yet, the fanbase up there is jacked for big things going forward. What he has done was have a strong presence on Social Media (i.e., Facebook and Twitter), a strong recruiting class, and bring back a defense that Pittsburgh is known for. He wants to bring the type of D that made Michigan State very successful and a National power.

Let’s talk about Pittsburgh’s Defense.

This is Narduzzi’s baby right here. With Narduzzi really running the show with the Defense, you won’t see the gag job again like you saw in Fort Worth vs Houston. They didn’t have many stars and whatever was there is gone. They lost to graduation, their two leading tacklers in Anthony Gonzalez (had a rookie tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers) and Todd Thomas (UFA to Jacksonville) as well as backs leader Ray Vinopal (UFA to Dallas). There are many questions in Narduzzi’s first season as the boss in Pittsburgh.

Yes, they have a New DC coming in with Josh Conklin, coming over from FIU. He’s going to learn from one of the best in the business there, make no mistake; Narduzzi calls the shots with the D. While Conklin might not have the experience, he’ll make up for it with talent and good coaching While in University Park (Miami), his defense there led the nation in fumble recoveries (19), as well as second in defensive touchdowns (6) and fourth in turnovers gained (33). Consider this, that defense at FIU was 36th in yards allowed, and 4th in red zone defense, and he got a Broyles Award nomination, which is the same title Narduzzi won in 2013, running the defense in East Lansing.

Its going to all depend on how quick Narduzzi and Conklin can maximize the effort from their personnel, because there’s not a lot of experience there and lack of stars there. In fact, the only experience coming back is seniors Lafayette Pitts and Darryl Render.

Where they lack in experience, they make up for it in talent from the 2015 recruiting class, This includes CB Jordan Whitehead, who was ranked 13th in the nation at that position according to the folks at 247 Sports. Add to the mix fellow enrollees CB Malik Henderson, S Jay Stocker, S Dane Jackson, and others, and Narduzzi will have a defense that will be a force to be dealt with not this year, but really from next year on. If you’re going to get to their defense, you better do it this year because come 2017, that defense is going to be very dangerous and good, once Narduzzi’s has his system in place there.

Let’s talk about Pittsburgh’s Offense

Yes, Narduzzi thinks defense first, the offense will be run by Jim Chaney, who comes over from Arkansas, and he’ll have plenty of weapons at his disposal. Their two biggest weapons coming back are RB James Conner and WR Tyler Boyd.

Conner, as stated earlier, led the nation in rushing for a while before tailing off, and was even talked about in the Heisman. He would up 7th in the nation in rushing yards (1765) and 3rd in rushing touchdowns (26). He was the ACC Player of the Year in 2014, and was a first team All-American. The question is with Conner, what could he do for a encore?  They believe that he could have another monster year.

On the receiving corp, their leader is clearly Boyd (provided he stays out of trouble off the field).  He reminds their fans of Larry Fitzgerald. Other than Fitzgerald, he’s the other Pitt WR to have  two 1,000 yard seasons in their careers. That’s amazing.
While Conner got the pub and well-deserved too, Boyd had a solid season, and more impressive when you consider that he played with QB Tom Savage, who was known for the big play pass. 

After all that, all he did was rank second in the ACC in receiving yards (1261), yards per game (97.0), and touchdowns (8). Oh, and being a first team All-ACC player. Outside of Boyd, there’s really nothing else there. Though they have back TE J.P. Holtz and WR Ronald Jones. While they are nice players who can fill roles (combining for 440 yards in 2014), they are nowhere near the talent that Boyd is. As for the 2015 recruiting class here, they have in Tre Tipton and Gentry Ivery. Simply put, the leader is Boyd, again, provided, he stays out of trouble off the field. He had a DUI arrest in June and was suspended briefly. This is the leader of the WRs here, and a overall team leader.

As good as Conner and Boyd are, the biggest question mark on O, is at QB. Chad Voytik had a nice season. He was 4th in the ACC in QBR and 3rd in passer efficiency rating (140.2). He’s a slow starter, but finishes strong late. With Conner and Boyd, they’re not going to ask him to do too much. He could get better, and they’ll want him to manage the game and not make the big mistake.

Voytik’s can get even better here and Chaney will work with him to see that he gets better. Cheney’s experience will really come into play here, when you consider the resume of this man. He’s coached big time football at major place and even a short stint in St Louis, coaching the offensive line and tight ends.

While at Purdue for nine years, he coached a certain Super Bowl QB by the name of Drew Brees. His experience will work wonders for that offense in the Steel City.

What to expect from Pittsburgh

Looking at them on tape, you can see why the excitement in the Steel City is high. Narduzzi is bringing the enthusiasm and a toughness that Pittsburgh is known for.  If you’re going to get Pitt, get them this year because no one is going to want to face them in the coming years having to game plan for that defense.  They have a tough schedule to be sure with GT, Notre Dame, Duke, and Louisville. They could surprise some people in Year 1 of the Narduzzi era.
From their Spring Game

The Gag job in Fort Worth by Pitt vs Houston

From last year at Sun Life when Conner had a big night vs The U
In this game, it’s the regular season finale on a short week (day after Thanksgiving). It’s likely to be very cold up there. It’s going to be a White Knuckle type of game, but I have to believe in the end, our experience, and making enough plays late will be the difference. The U, I predict will survive and leave Heinz Field with a very hard fought win. 
This is the final part of this series for this season. 

2015 Miami Hurricanes Opponent Preview - Week 11 (at UNC 11/14)

Miami Hurricanes 2015 Opponent Preview

Week 11

At North Carolina (November 14th)

The 2015 Miami Hurricanes Opponent Preview continues with the preview of the North Carolina Tar Heels, who hosts the U on November 14th up in Chapel Hill.
This is going to be a critical year for Larry Fedora up in Carolina as he starts his 4th season up in Chapel Hill. The talent is there to win big, and the expectations to win big are very high. As much as he wins in the ACC (13), he’s also lost 11 games in the conference. For that reason alone, he hasn’t gotten the Heels up to the next level. Like the U, they are expecting a big year up there (i.e., win the Coastal and get to Charlotte). In each of his four years up there, Fedora's win total has dropped. They have Marquise Williams back running their offense. They added a National Championship coach in former Auburn coach Gene Chizik, who’s now their new Defensive Coordinator. Chizik will have a task of repairing a defense that was just downright terrible in 2014.  

Let’s talk about North Carolina’s Defense.

To emphasize how bad Carolina’s D was last year, consider this, and why Fedora brought Chizik in to run the D. They finished dead last in the ACC in every major category, and add this fact: Their D  set an ACC record (not a good one either) for points and yards allowed. Chizik brings in a base 4-3, and out goes the 4-2-5 scheme that they’ve used the last three years. The players there like it because it’s easy to understand how it works and executing it. Starting with the D-Line, they don’t have a dominant player up front. However, there is talent there, but young. Players to watch here are sophomores Nazair Jones and Dajaun Drennon, as well as freshmen Jeremiah Clarke and Jalen Dalton. The leader that is assuming control of the defense is Senior middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer. He comes off a season in which he finished second on the team in tackles. They’ll also have back seven of their top eight defensive backs from 2014, which includes a star in the making in CB Brian Walker. However, for Chizik’s scheme to work properly, everyone on that D must step up and make plays, when you consider that they allowed an ACC-record 31 TD passes in 2014.

Let’s talk about North Carolina’s Offense

They have back 10 starters and several key reserves from last year. They’ll have some unusual continuity. Their top rushers in the backfield return, as well as their top receivers. The leader of their offense is Quarterback Marquise Williams. In 2014, he broke the single-season school record for total offense. He can beat you passing, but where he really can hurt you is with his legs (running). Their staff doesn’t want him to run as much in 2015. For this to work, their running backs and the improvement of a developing offensive line must come up big. They have backs who can hurt you in many ways. 

If they want to go both ways, they have T.J. Logan. If they want to go to the power game, they can go to Elijah Hood. If they want to go on the outside and break some big runs down the sidelines, they can use Romar Morris. 

As for their offensive line, the leader of that group is Senior RG Landon Turner. He’ll be joined by fellow third-year starter Jon Heck at RT. They are very strong on that side of the line. On the left side, they have back Sophomore Bentley Spain, who has really improved and has assumed the starting role at LT, and they expect big things out of him. 

Their receiving corps is very good and talented. Quinshad Davis, Mack Hollins, and Bug Howard all stand at least 6'4" and are very tall targets that can create mismatches for opposing corners. They have a big play threat in 5'10" Ryan Switzer. This kid is not only a deep threat, but one that can turn a short reception into huge yardage.  

Highlights of Ryan Switzer 2014 season 

Let’s talk about North Carolina’s Special Teams

If Switzer can return to 2013 form, when he led the nation in punt return average and tied an NCAA record with five punt returns for touchdowns, this will be a player that no punter wants to go his way on. Outside of that, there are much bigger issues here for the Heels. They will break in a new kicker and punter in 2015. The kicker’s job will be between Kickoff specialist Nick Weiler and redshirt freshman Freeman Jones. Whoever wins that job, will have to do better than last year when they missed all seven of their field-goal tries from beyond 30 yards. Did I mention that Carolina is also breaking in a new punter?

What to expect from North Carolina

Looking at them on tape, Williams is the real deal.  The fan base in Chapel Hill wants to start seeing results this year. They don’t have FSU, Clemson, or Louisville on the schedule. If Williams stays healthy and Chizik improves that defense, this will be a team that no one will want to face late in the year like The U does here.
Their 2015 Spring Game (Williams did not play in this game)

They talk about Carolina upcoming season. Some highlights of last year's game at Sun Life is in here.

This is from Carolina's Bowl Game last year vs Rutgers in Detroit. 

Our last trip up there two years ago when we were highly ranked (#10)

Highlights of last year's game where Duke went nuts on the Carolina D. 
In this game, it’s in Chapel Hill, the last visit we made there, it was a White Knuckle type of game, when we were highly ranked. Expect another tough ball game up there. However, I feel in the end, I believe The U will make enough plays to pull this one out and leave Chapel Hill with a hard fought win over the Tar Heels. 
Up Next: GT in the Home Finale

Saturday, August 8, 2015

2015 Miami Hurricanes Opponent Preview - Week 10 (UVa - 11/7)

Miami Hurricanes 2015 Opponent Preview

Week 10

Virginia (November 7th at Sun Life Stadium)

The 2015 Miami Hurricanes Opponent Preview continues with the preview of the Virginia Cavaliers, who come to Sun Life Stadium on November 7th.  

In Charlottesville, the talk each year is about Mike London’s job status. He did enough to keep his job, but not enough to quiet the critics (see Al with CANES fans).  This year, London needs to have his team go bowling or likely be out. With a trip to Pasadena in the season opener, and Notre Dame the following week, and Boise coming in two weeks later on a Friday night, it could get very ugly in Charlottesville very quickly.

Let’s talk about Virginia’s Offense.

Now that Greyson Lambert is now in Athens, GA, this is now Matt Johns’ job as the Quarterback. A big reason for that was because Johns had a huge Spring. While Johns was ok in relief of Lambert in 2014, because Lambert was hurt, in 2015, this is his job from Game 1. He’s going to have to be the one to step up and be the leader of that offense.  
They will have experience back in the receiving corps. Canaan Severin and Andre Levrone both return at the WR positions. The former was their top receiver stat wise last year with 578 yards receiving, and the latter was their big play threat catching 15 passes for 248 yards.  There is an area were Levrone needs to hone in on. He caught just 35% of his targets in 2014.  To be fair, its not completely his fault here, but still that number needs to get better in 2015.  They will get a lift from UNC graduate transfer T.J. Thorpe. While Thorpe was a top notch played in high school, the same could not be said about his college career, which has been very much injury prone.  
As for the Running backs, they have a legit threat there in Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell, who can be a play maker as a receiver. In 2014, he had 39 passes caught for 271 yards, and in addition, he had 280 yards rushing as their 3rd back in their rotation. His career has been sub-par in college so far. However, now as the go to guy in the backfield, maybe we’ll see the talent that fans up there haven’t seen yet.
Their O-Line is ok in protecting the passer, but terrible vs the run. They do have three starters and four other players with starting experience back for them in 2015. Eric Smith is going to have to step up and be their leader here on this unit, even though he was listed 2nd on their depth chart behind RS freshman Jake Fieler, Smith is going to be starting on their line, especially when you consider he’s had twenty career starts, Also back for them at RG is RS Senior Ross Burbank, who has fifteen career starts.

Let’s talk about Virginia’s Defense

Their secondary has some promise here with Quin Blanding back. As a freshman last year, he had 91.5 tackles and three interceptions. He’s one that they hope will be a very good one, if not a great one back there. To help Blanding back here, Cornerbacks Maurice Canady and Tim Harris return. Harris, who played in ten games, had a pick, and broke-up four passes.  As for Canady, he had three picks and twelve pass break ups. The secondary is going to be very good again in 2015.
The same cannot be said for the Linebackers. They will have to fill three spots there. Their three backups from last season return and they added a LB in their 2015 class that they hope will make an immediate impact there. The freshman they’re referring to is C.J. Stalker, who’s a true freshman, and expected to be the man right away.  The other three, that were backups last year, returning are Micah Kiser, Mark Hall and Zach Bradshaw. Each of these players saw action in ten or more games last year.  Kiser, as a true freshman in 2014 had 12 tackles in 12 games.
While Eli Harold, (drafted in the 3rd round by San Francisco), is the only major loss on their D-Line, it’s a big one though. Consider that Harold had 14.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2014. That’s going to be tough to replace. It’s going to be up to David Dean and Mike Moore, to each step up and have the production that Harold leaves behind.  While they each had eight tackles for loss last season, they only have four combined sacks in their careers. The one that has to fill Harold’s big shoes is Kwontie Moore. He only had  two sacks, in spot duty last season.

What to expect from Virginia
This is a team that has beaten The U on Al Golden’s watch 3 of the 4 times they’ve played. This team doesn’t blow you away. This is a young team, and with a tough early schedule and add to the fact Mike London is on the hot seat this year, there should be no reason at all why The U doesn’t beat them this year. 
Their 2015 Pump-Up Video

Their 2015 Spring Game (after this game, Lambert would announce he's leaving for Athens)

This is the game from last year up there in Charlottesville

In this game, it’ll be at home at Sun Life. After last year vs UVa after the heartbreaking loss to FSU the week before, the U quit and tanked up in Charlottesville. You know there’s payback on the CANES minds here.  This needs to be a statement game for the U and a CANES comfortable victory over UVa. 

2015 Miami Hurricanes Opponent Preview - Week 12 (GT 11/21 Home Finale)

Miami Hurricanes 2015 Opponent Preview 

Week 12 

Georgia Tech (November 21th at Sun Life Stadium) 

The 2015 Miami Hurricanes Opponent Preview continues with the preview of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who come to Sun Life Stadium on November 21st, in the Regular season home finale. 

With Georgia Tech, they lost some key players in the backfield and at receiver, however, given that Paul Johnson’s team, is still very good and can make another run at a Coastal Division title. The reason for the optimism in Atlanta is due to the fact that they return 13 starters, with the biggest returnee being their quarterback Justin Thomas. It’s a good thing because their defense in 2014 was just terrible, ranking near the bottom of the ACC in the four main statistical categories, but should be much better this season. 

Let’s talk about Georgia Tech’s Offense

Rumors of Tech’s demise were greatly exaggerated. There was talk that Paul Johnson would be out. However, in 2014, that talk ceased when Thomas took over at QB and with that, they returned to the offense that Johnson stands for as a Head Coach. Their offense was better with Thomas running that Triple Option. With him back showing his speed, elusiveness and intelligence, this is a team that nobody wants to face later in the season, with that grinding and punishing running game. He has an opportunity this year to break his own single-season school record (for quarterbacks) of 1,086 rushing yards, and cement his place as a player to be reckoned with. 

There are some questions on who will fill the voids in the backfield. They lose Synjyn Days, Zach Laskey (signed as an UFA by St. Louis) and Charles Perkins, who accounted for 377 carries and 2,218 yards last year. However, with the depth of the O-Line having four starters and a few others with starting experience back, and developing the pieces they have, they should be ok there. One of those pieces returning is A-back Broderick Snoddy, who showed flashes that he can break some big-plays, albeit in limited duty before breaking his leg last season.. The bigger concern for GT is at the B-back position. Here, C.J. Leggett was supposed to be the man there, but was sidelined with a torn ACL in the spring. Patrick Skov, who’s a graduate transfer from Stanford, is going to be asked to carry most of the load at the B-Back spot. 

For years, Georgia Tech, did not have a passing game that scared people. That changed last year. However, they will have to find a way to replace DeAndre Smelter (drafted in the 4th round by San Francisco) and Darren Waller (drafted in the 6th round by Baltimore), who made big plays and clutch catches for them. 

Let’s talk about Georgia Tech’s Defense 

It’s better that Paul Johnson say it about the Defense here, especially vs. the run: “We weren’t very good,” especially when his defense gave up 25.7 points and 411.3 yards per game in 2014. The big issue here is the lack of depth, especially on the D-Line, and it’ll be that way going forward. They do have some talent here on the Line. Returning for them is senior All-ACC performer Adam Gotsis anchoring the interior and KeShun Freeman coming off a season in which he earned various Freshman All-America honors at end. Those two will be fine there. What Johnson is hoping for here is a big time season from Jabari Hunt-Days, who was academically ineligible in 2014 and is up to 295 lbs. 

With the Linebackers, its not going to be an easy task to replace All-ACC linebacker Quayshawn Nealy (signed as UFA by Seattle), when you consider the fact that he leaves behind 92 tackles, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries last season. They really hope that Senior Tyler Marcordes, is able to fill that void. He did have 5.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks; however, losing Nealy is going to hurt the LB core here. 

As for the secondary, they’re going to be pretty good again this year, especially with Senior safety Jamal Golden returning. In 2014, he had 61 tackles and four picks. This is the one area of their defense that is solid. They also have back at the corners, seniors Chris Milton and D.J. White, who came up big in games vs. VT and UGa with game-saving takeaways.

Let’s talk about Georgia Tech’s Special Teams 

Their kicking game needs to show it could be consistent. It’s going to be up to junior kicker Harrison Butker to come up big. Yes, he made some big kicks, like the one vs Uga from 53 yards out to send it to OT. On the other hand, he has missed some kicks, specifically inside 40 yards, where he missed 5 of them. GT doesn’t punt too often, in fact, Junior punter Ryan Rodwell, who’s back in 2015, had an ACC-low 32 attempts in 2014. 

What to expect from Georgia Tech 

Looking at them on tape, yes, they lost a lot, but don’t be fooled, with Thomas back running Paul Johnson’s offense, this is still a force to be reckoned with in Atlanta, that even with the losses in their personnel, is a still a threat to win the Coastal. But don’t expect another 11 win season from them here. 

The video below is from their 2015 Spring Game

This is their hype video for 2015

This is from our game last year where they just gashed us

In this game, it’ll be at home at Sun Life. After last year vs Tech where they gashed our defense, you know there’s payback on the CANES minds here, and its Senior Day to boot. Yes, GT will be a test to be sure, the U will be ready to play in this game and a game in the end CANES win comfortably and the Seniors out a winner at home.

Monday, August 3, 2015

2015 Miami Hurricanes Opponent Preview - Week 9 (at Duke 10/31)

Miami Hurricanes 2015 Opponent Preview

Week 9

At Duke (October 31st)

The 2015 Miami Hurricanes Opponent Preview continues with the preview of the Duke Blue Devils, who The U pays a visit to on Halloween.

When you look at the job David Cutcliffe has done there. He changed everything about that program, turning a perennial loser into a consistent winner. Before he got there, they had never won 10 games in a season. They won 10 in 2013, and 9 last year. What that man has done in Durham can be nothing short of remarkable.  If Cut is to get his team back to a bowl game in 2015, he will have to do with a younger cast and some inexperienced players.

Let’s talk about Duke’s Offense.

Yes, some key players are gone, like QB Anthony Boone (signed as an UFA by the Detroit Lions), WRs Jamison Crowder (Drafted in the 4th Round by Washington) and Isaac Blakeney. Still though, they are not without weapons here and they might be even better than they were in 2014.

It will all hinge on how well and how quick Thomas Sirk is able to carry the load at QB. Duke will be more of a running team this year than they have in Cut’s tenure, while trying to find a go-to WR to fill the void left by Crowder’s departure.  They have some talent here, but young, outside of Senior Max McCaffery.  The one WR that the coaches are very high on is redshirt freshman Chris Taylor , who showed much potential this spring.  Sirk’s other target that will be counted on to step up is Johnell Barnes, who like Taylor, showed a lot of potential over the spring.  Back at TE is Braxton Deaver, who was one of the ACC’s best Tight Ends, but was out all of 2014 with a torn ACL, and he’ll be back for a sixth year. He’s expected to be Sirk’s to-go guy over the middle and in short yardage/goal line situations.

The OL did take a hit with the loss of All-American Laken Tomlinson, who’s now in Detroit as the 28th overall pick in the NFL Draft. However, when you listen to Cut, he believes that they will only get better there and with good reason. It’s going to be up to C Matt Skura to step into a leadership role there. With 27 career starts under his belt, and being a 1st team pre-season all-ACC Center, Cut is counting on him to lead the OL. He’ll also have back on the Line, senior LG Lucas Patrick.

There will be many questions in Durham this year. They did lose 3 of their last 4, including a loss to Arizona State in El Paso at the Sun Bowl. They have to fill many voids on Offense this year and when you look at Sirk, he wasn’t the long ball threat that Boone was. He’s more of a safe, short passer. He’s going to need to expand his game in 2015.

RB Shaquille Powell is the top option in the backfield, and since Duke is going to be more of a run heavy team this year, he’s going to carry a lot of the load for them this year. Also back for them is Jela Duncan, who returns after missing last year due to academic matters. He was their top rusher in 2012 and 2013, so the Blue Devils are loaded with talent and depth at RB.
To put it simply, it’s not totally empty in Durham. Think about this: Of the 22 positions on offense and defense, 15 will have starters who have been on campus and part of the program for four years.

Let’s talk about Duke’s Defense

Look, they have the athletes to make plays out there. They have five DBs back and all have starting experience. They run a 4-2-5 scheme. Their best player on D is Senior S Jeremy Cash. Cash made the All-ACC team, and on top of that, this guy had 232 tackles in the past two seasons combined. That’s amazing.

Its not just Cash on the back end here, They also have back DeVon Edwards as the other safety. He’s had four INTs in the past two years. When you add to the mix junior CBs Breon Borders and Byron Fields, you have some experience on the table. Borders has had in his Duke careey 7 picks and when you add that Fields is a good coverer of both the pass and rush, you have two very capable CBs here.

At LB, they were supposed to have back Kelby Brown who was an All-ACC pick in 2013 with 114 tackles that season (11 for loss), after missing 2014 with an ACL injury, but after tearing his ACL again in July, ending his career, it’s going to hurt them here, as they only have three experienced LBs on their depth chart returning. It’s going to be up to Chris Holmes, Dwayne Norman, and Zavier Carmichael, who all played in all their games in 2014, to step op. In their careers, they’ve combined for just 52.5 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks, and all of those were by Norman.

As for the D-Line, it doesn’t look too good here either. Yes, they have Carlos Wray back on the interior, but after that, there isn’t much there of note, although their other DT A.J. Wolf was 3rd among D-linemen in tackles last season.  The biggest issue here for this Defense is having an effective pass rush. Wray and their DE Kyler Brown are their only returning players on the line that can say they’ve had a sack, and combined in their careers, only have 2.5.  As good as their secondary is, if there’s no solid pass rush, it won’t matter. A good passing game with a good OL, goes to town on that secondary.  

Let’s talk about Duke’s Special Teams

Their kicking game is outstanding. Some believe they have the best kicker and punter in the ACC and one of the better ones in the country. They have back Senior Ross Martin, who has only missed four kicks from 39 yards or longer and he’s hit 4 of 6 from 50-plus yards in his Duke career. When you had the return of Senior P Will Monday, who only averaged 43.5 yards per attempt and put 57 punts inside the 20 yard line in his past three seasons, you have a combo that get the job done from a field position perspective. Their return game is pretty good. They have DeVon Edwards back handling those duties. Over the last two years, he has had three TDs returning Kicks/Punts.

What to expect from Duke

Looking at them on tape, yes, they lost a lot, but don’t be fooled, this is still a force to be reckoned with in Durham.
The video you see above is from their Spring Game

In this game, it’ll be up there at Wallace-Wade Stadium. Our last visit up there wasn’t pretty at all. In fact, it was the low point of U football. This is the first of a stretch where the U will end the regular season with 5 straight vs the Coastal. If the CANES are to get to Charlotte as Coastal champs, they need to win this game. In the end, I believe the U steps up and makes some plays and leaves Durham with a victory, albeit, a hard fought one.