Louisville thrives in areas of Miami Hurricanes’ weakness

12/14/2013 12:01 AM

02/27/2014 12:09 AM

Coach Al Golden, on the road recruiting the past week, hasn’t had time yet to do intensive analysis of Louisville, the University’s Miami’s opponent in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 in Orlando.

But this UM staff is fully aware that the Cardinals thrive in a few areas where UM has struggled at times. Consider:

• Louisville (11-1) is second in the country in third-down conversion, behind only LSU, at 56 percent. Miami (9-3) is 75th of 123 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert at a 40 percent clip.

In the final five games, UM allowed FSU to convert 11 of 15 on third downs, Virginia Tech 8 of 14, Duke 5 of 13, Virginia 11 of 20 and Pittsburgh 6 of 14.

• Louisville is 18th in passing offense, at 302 yards per game, whereas Miami is 71st in passing defense, allowing 233 yards per game.

What’s more, Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a former Miami Northwestern star, ranks second nationally in completion percentage and has 28 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.

“[Bridgewater] is a very talented young man,” Golden said Friday. “He has great command of the offense. He has speed, good corps of receivers, doesn’t make many mistakes, can move in the pocket.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for our corners and safeties.”

Golden admitted his safeties didn’t show the level of physicality that coaches wanted at times this year. Deon Bush “has been hampered all year,” Golden said. Bush had hernia surgery during the summer and a hamstring injury recently.

And Golden said safety Rayshawn Jenkins has to be “consistent.”

This and that

Golden said injured linebacker Alex Figueroa will miss the bowl game, but he expects Anthony Chickillo (toe) and Phillip Dorsett (knee) will be able to play.

• Golden said several underclassmen have impressed in recent practices, including offensive linemen Taylor Gadbois and Alex Gall, linebacker Raphael Kirby (“he took charge — he needs to do that”) and safety Jamal Carter.
• Golden, on impressive UM freshman receiver Stacy Coley: “He’s very loud and proud in the meetings. He tells [offensive coordinator] James Coley or [receivers coach] Brennan Carroll or the offense exactly what he’s going to do on a play. That leads to a lot of trust. There is a preparation element that really exceeds his age.”
• Recruiting this past week was a lot easier with the NCAA investigation now resolved. Also, UM — which self-imposed bowl bans the previous two years — was expecting as many as 40 high school juniors to attend Friday night’s practice, Golden said.

The past two years, “almost every high school we left, we left answering 20 questions about something we didn’t have any answers about,” Golden said. “We did that for 28 months. It’s very difficult to recruit under those circumstances.

“It feels totally different. We feel like we’re on a level playing field for the first time.

“It’s unfortunate it comes at the tail end of our third class, but nonetheless, it gives us a chance to finish this one and start the 2015 class with a fresh slate.”

• Golden said “it’s not a secret we need help on the defensive line and front seven.”
• Saturday’s practice at Cobb Stadium on campus has been moved from noon to 2 p.m. and will be open to the public.

Gayot commits

Lake Worth Park Vista three-star safety Marques Gayot, one of the top prospects in Palm Beach County, switched his oral commitment from Louisville to UM on Friday night, according to multiple reports.

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