A six-pack of Canes notes on a Monday:
▪ If you ever wondered what the Hurricanes would look like if they went to a spread offense for an extended stretch, we got a look in the second half of this past week’s Virginia Tech game, when injuries to Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory left Miami without a single healthy scholarship tight end.
And the results were quite promising.
Per Miami Herald correspondent Daniel Gould, UM averaged 7.2 yards per play on 33 plays after Mallory joined Jordan on the sideline, compared with 3.7 yards per play before that time.
UM played mostly four-receiver sets – and some two backs and three receivers – after Mallory went out late in the second quarter.
Entering the game, Miami had averaged 4.8 yards per play on the 19 plays when it didn’t use a tight end this season. Before the Virginia Tech game, UM had used a four-receiver, no tight end look only seven times all season, five of them late in the FIU game.
For the entire season, UM is averaging 5.6 yards per play on all plays. So UM’s per play average without a tight end easily exceeded that on Saturday.
The caveat, of course, is that UM was playing a substandard Hokies defense.
And keep in mind that spread offenses can incorporate a tight end, though often less than traditional pro style offenses. The tight end can line up as a receiver in the spread or in the backfield opposite the running back, among other formations. The spread traditionally includes sets with at least three receivers and often more than that.
Richt told WQAM’s Joe Rose on Monday that “90 percent of our sets have a tight end in it.”
Don’t expect Richt to go to a spread offense as his primary scheme, even with UM’s struggles this season. It was telling that he told Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant, in advance of his UM visit this week, that Miami likes to use “pro-style but mixing with the spread and [run-pass option],” according to Bryant’s comments to 247sports.com.
(Here’s what Bryant likes about Richt heading into their visit this week.)
▪ Some notable offensive snap counts from the Virginia Tech game, courtesy of Pro Football Focus: Mike Harley played the most of the receivers (54 snaps), with Dee Wiggins playing 39, Jeff Thomas, Darrell Langham and Lawrence Cager each playing 28, Brian Hightower 19 and Mark Pope 18.
At tight end, Jordan was limited to only one snap and Mallory 32 before injuries. UM used walk-on Nicolas Ducheinne for two snaps and offensive tackle Zalontae Hillary for three in a pseudo tight end role.
At running back, UM gave 42 snaps to Travis Homer, 23 to DeeJay Dallas, 20 to Cam Davis and seven to Trayone Gray.
On the offensive line, tackles Tyree St. Louis and D.J. Scaife and center Tyler Gauthier played every offensive snap.
At guard, Navaughn Donaldson (61) and Hayden Mahoney (59) played the most, with Jahair Jones (five snaps) and Venzell Boulware (14) rotated in.
▪ Some notable defensive snap counts: UM has begun using more defensive line backups the past two weeks after tightening the rotation earlier.
At defensive tackle, Nesta Silvera (13 snaps) and Jon Ford (12 snaps) got work behind Gerald Willis (54), Tito Odenigbo (28) and Pat Bethel (23).
At end, Scott Patchan (17 snaps before an injury), Demetrius Jackson (11) and Terry McCray (10) got snaps behind Jon Garvin (54) and Joe Jackson (53).
Some freshmen got snaps in the defensive backfield, with safety Gurvan Hall logging 10 snaps, cornerback D.J. Ivey playing eight and Al Blades Jr. playing two.
Even with Mike Pinckney out, UM used Zach McCloud (who plays a different linebacker position) for only 22 snaps. Much-improved Romeo Finley played 36 and Derrick Smith Jr. 21.
▪ Couple thoughts from Richt from Joe Rose’s show, beyond comments on the quarterback play that were posted earlier on Miamiherald.com: “There’s been a lot of talk about what we have to do to correct things on offense and probably not enough talk about how wonderful the defense has played most of the season. Virginia Tech had a couple of long drives, but that was it. Three turnovers, that’s how you win. The field position game was big. Getting the 51-yard TD return on the punt and a 27-yadrer to boot. … Bubba Baxa had five touchbacks out of seven kickoffs. The special teams probably had their best day.”…
Richt said: “A bowl game is still a reward for these guys - they were jumping up and down excited about the bowl (after the Virginia Tech win). I probably underestimated how much it meant to those guys.”
▪ Richt, on the criticism he has endured in recent weeks: “Tough stretch for sure. We all as coaches know we sign up for this, know that criticism is part of the business.
“It comes with the territory and if you can’t handle the criticism you need to get out of the business. You have to stay true to what you feel is right. Thirty-five years of coaching, I have a pretty good idea of what success looks like. … You dig your way out.”...
ESPN assigned Anish Shroff and former NFL linebacker Ahmad Brooks to the call of Saturday’s UM-Pittsburgh game at 3:30 p.m.
▪ Rivals is predicting there’s a 75 percent chance UM will lure five-star Sanford-based small forward C.J. Walker, rated the 24th best player in the 2019 class.
Rivals’ Eric Bossi said: “As of a few weeks ago Walker looked to be all but a done deal for the Hurricanes and if I had to pick, I would probably still give them the slightest of edges over LSU and I expect the decision to come down to those two.”
UM previously got written commitments from two four-star 2019 players: New Jersey-based guard Isaiah Wong (71st best player in this class, per Rivals) and Maryland-based power forward Anthony Walker (76th best player, per Rivals).
And UM eagerly awaits a decision from its top target, Fort Lauderdale University School center Vernon Carey Jr., rated the nation’s No. 1 Class of 2019 recruit by Rivals. Carey has visited Duke, Miami, North Carolina, Michigan State and Kentucky and announced on Twitter that he will cut his list of finalists to three this week.
FYI: UM plays LaSalle at 2:30 p.m. Thursday on ESPNU in the Wooden Classic in Fullerton, Cal.