After watching Stacy Coley get off to a slow start and then drop what would have been a 76-yard touchdown catch last Saturday against Duke, Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden said he has challenged his sophomore receiver this week.
“I wish that [drop] didn’t happen the other night, [but the] last time that happened [the FAU game last year] he came back with a vengeance,” Golden said. “I expect him to come back with a vengeance.”
After rolling up 1,468 all-purpose yards and scoring 10 touchdowns last season on only 67 combined touches (33 catches, two carries, 10 punt returns and 22 kickoff returns), Coley has just 257 all-purpose yards on 24 touches this season. He also has yet to score a touchdown.
Of Coley’s eight catches, his longest has gone for 17 yards. His longest kick return and punt return is 29 yards. Last year, Coley was tied for 11th in the country with 15 all-purpose plays of 30 yards or more.
Is he frustrated?
“I’m just pressing forward, forgetting about the last five games and keeping my head straight,” Coley said. “I just have to take more mental reps and have fun again.”
Although he missed the Arkansas State game three weeks ago with a bruised clavicle, Coley said Monday his shoulder “is good right now.” And Golden said it shouldn’t serve as an excuse.
When it comes to being targeted by quarterback Brad Kaaya in the passing game, Coley ranks seventh on the team (14 targets) behind Braxton Berrios (30), Clive Walford (24), Phillip Dorsett (21), Malcolm Lewis (20), Duke Johnson (18) and Herb Waters (18).
Offensive coordinator James Coley said last week that Stacy was having trouble getting open at Nebraska and many times the progressions made by Kaaya took him elsewhere. Stacy Coley had no problem getting open early against Duke – he just dropped the ball.
“Holy cow he was open there,” James Coley said. “I know he feels bad about [the drop]. But like I told him, it’s a long season. There’s a lot of plays to be made. We’re not going to hesitate to dial him up on it [again].”
Getting better production out of Stacy Coley isn’t the only item high on the agenda for James Coley this week.
After going 2 of 13 on third downs against Duke, the Hurricanes rank 124th out of 126 FBS teams on third-down conversions (24.14 percent).
Coley said the key to improvement is having more success on first and second down and fewer penalties so UM can avoid getting into third-and-long (seven yards or more) situations.
When UM has faced third and long (25 times total in five games) the results (two first downs) have been horrendous. Kaaya is 7 of 16 on third down and long, and 14 of 34 for 144 yards and two interceptions on third down overall. On first and second down, he’s much better (74 of 110 passing for 1,063 yards, 10 TDs, 4 INTs; 13 plays of 25 yards or more, 35 first downs).
James Coley said Kaaya has done a good job of not forcing the ball down the field and checking it down to a receiver underneath. Coley said UM’s receivers simply have to do a better job “getting to sticks.”
Coley said he has been emphasizing that in practice. When the team does its “move the chains” period, Coley said if a receiver or running back fails to convert on third down “they’re off the field.”
“It’s just to let the guys know how important it is,” the offensive coordinator said. “We have goals we want to get to. The last two weeks [before Duke] we were pretty good [9 of 22]. For us, if we get 10 third-down opportunities and we’re five out of 10 that’s championship football across the country.”
▪ Coley said senior transfer Jake Heaps served as the backup quarterback to Kaaya last Saturday. Why not Ryan Williams?
“Ryan has made huge strides and I think he’s throwing the ball really well,” Coley said. “But he had a whole deal for awhile there where he was always on the opposite leg and he’s starting to transition that weight better from one leg to the other. He’s getting better with it.”
▪ Ruled out for Saturday with injuries: Offensive linemen Kc McDermott and Taylor Gadbois, kicker Matt Goudis and receiver Rashawn Scott.