Barry Jackson

A look inside UM’s passing numbers, on offense and defense, and what they reveal

Miami Hurricanes defensive back Trajan Bandy (2) intercepts a pass Oct. 13 against Virginia. Bandy was UM’s most effective cornerback in pass coverage this season.
Miami Hurricanes defensive back Trajan Bandy (2) intercepts a pass Oct. 13 against Virginia. Bandy was UM’s most effective cornerback in pass coverage this season. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Part 1 of a 2-part series

What the final numbers and metrics tell us about this University of Miami football season, as we await Thursday’s Pinstripe Bowl against Wisconsin:

For all of the criticism about the scheme (and Mark Richt suggested he doesn’t plan on significant changes in that area), there’s something simple that UM must become appreciably better at: throwing and catching.

Per Herald correspondent Daniel Gould, UM finished with an absurd 40 dropped passes this season. Here’s how it broke down: Lawrence Cager with nine, Jeff Thomas (who left the program) with seven, Darrell Langham and Dee Wiggins with five apiece, Brevin Jordan and Mike Harley Jr. with four apiece, Brian Hightower and Evidence Njoku with two apiece and Travis Homer and Will Mallory with one each.

Just as importantly, N’Kosi Perry must improve his accuracy, particularly on intermediate throws.

Though drops were obviously a factor, Perry finished the season completing a surprisingly low 50 percent of his passes from 1 to 10 yards (25 for 50), 42 percent (18 for 43) from 11 to 19 yards, and 32 percent (11 for 34) on balls thrown at least 20 yards in the air. He completed 42 passes thrown at the line of scrimmage or behind, which pushed up his overall completion rate from dismal to well below average.

Overall, his 51.6 percent completion rate ranked 118th among FBS quarterbacks. It would have been 58 percent if about half of his dropped passes were caught, but that 58 percent still would have been 84th among FBS quarterbacks – even if all other quarterbacks’ drops weren’t factored in.

Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said he believes Perry’s accuracy will improve. “N’Kosi has the arm talent to get that done,” Brown said. “We’ve got to do a better job of helping him.” Jarren Williams’ accuracy is considered better than Perry’s.

Perry apparently isn’t expecting to play Thursday. On an Instagram live feed of teammate Gilbert Frierson at a New York comedy show on Sunday night, Perry said, “I’m suspended, bro.” UM won’t say if that’s true, but Malik Rosier has been getting first-team work in practice, and tight end Jordan said Rosier likely will start Thursday.

With Rosier also factored in, UM’s quarterback play was among the worst in the country. UM’s QBs finished with a 117.2 college rating, which is 112th among 130 FBS schools.

But using the NFL rating system, the combined passer rating of UM QBs was 77.9, with Perry at 81.6 and Rosier at 75.2.

For perspective, only three NFL starting quarterbacks have lower passer ratings than UM had this season – rookies Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen.

And quarterback play matters more than ever in college football. It’s no coincidence that the five teams with the highest college quarterback rating are all in the top 15 in the country: Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, West Virginia, Ohio State.

Incidentally, Canes quarterbacks were 109th in average yards passing per game (177.3) and 115th in completion percentage (51.9).

Trajan Bandy, not Michael Jackson, was UM’s most effective cornerback this season. And that’s a good thing, because Jackson is a senior and Bandy is a sophomore who will need to be the glue in a young secondary next season.

According to Gould, Bandy allowed 10 completions on 29 targets for 127 yards, with two touchdowns allowed but three interceptions.

Jackson, conversely, permitted 16 completions on 37 targets for 256 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions.

After a rough start against LSU, senior Jhavonte Dean recovered and finished the season with 11 completions relinquished in 23 targets for 166 yards and three interceptions.

Romeo Finley and Sheldrick Redwine were arguably UM’s most improved players.

Finley, playing the new striker position, was targeted 15 times and allowed only five completions for 61 yards, with two interceptions and no touchdowns yielded. And what’s more, Pro Football Focus said Finley never missed a tackle all season.

As far as UM’s most improved player on defense, “Finley would be the first one that would pop into my mind,” departing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “He had a moderate role his first couple of years, mainly as a special teamer.

“He trusted in the program and our player development. In this era of instant gratification, they trust the way we’ve developed our talent over three years. I think there will be a lot more stories like Romeo Finley to come.”

Meanwhile, Redwine was targeted 23 times and allowed only 11 completions for 152 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions. By comparison, Jaquan Johnson was targeted only 10 times and allowed seven catches but for only 51 yards, with one interception, per Gould.

UM’s junior linebackers held up decently in pass coverage - much better than the Dolphins’.

Per Gould, Quarterman was targeted 18 times and allowed nine completions, for 113 yards with an interception. Mike Pinckney allowed 10 passes to be caught in 17 attempts for 69 yards and an interception.

Zach McCloud, who lost playing time on passing downs to Finley, allowed five of seven passes to be caught or 53 yards and a touchdown.

Here were the other pass coverage numbers, per Gould:

Amari Carter: 3 completions, 9 targets, 10 yards

Mike Smith: 3 receptions, 8 targets, 0 yards

Derrick Smith Jr: 5 catches, 6 targets, 62 yards

Al Blades: 2 completions, 6 targets, 26 yards

Gilbert Frierson: 2 completions, 3 targets, 49 yards and a touchdown pass

Gurvan Hall: 1 completion, 3 targets, 12 yards

Bradley Jennings Jr.: 2 competions, 2 targets, 21 yards

Charles Perry: 2 catches, 2 targets, 13 yards

Robert Knowles: 1 catch, 1 target, 18 yards

D.J. Ivey: 0 catches, 1 target, 0 yards

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