Manny Diaz on his team’s growing pains
A fresh six-pack of Miami Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday night:
This UM coaching staff so far doesn’t have the won/loss results everyone wants, but you can’t accuse them of being inflexible. Beyond the obvious change of moving DJ Scaife to tackle, benching John Campbell and inserting freshman Jakai Clark at guard, here were more subtle changes that coaches made from the UF game to the North Carolina game and the impact:
▪ H-back/fullback role: Canes coaches were unhappy with how Realus George played in his five snaps in the opener and quickly demoted him, replacing him with freshman tight end Larry Hodges, who played 14 snaps Saturday in a role that often featured him lining up in the backfield. Offensive coordinator Dan Enos said Hodges played well.
▪ Young receivers: After giving a combined six snaps to their talented trio of sophomore receivers against UF (including none to Dee Wiggins), the Hurricanes gave them a combined 41 snaps against North Carolina. Brian Hightower played 22 (including key snaps on the final drive), Mark Pope played 11 and Dee Wiggins 8.
The results were modest, but playing them was the right move regardless because they’re talented young players who need to be developed. Pope caught both his targets for just seven yards; Wiggins caught the only pass thrown to him for three yards; and both of Hightower’s targets were incomplete.
On the flip side, Tate Martell’s snaps went from 15 in the opener (two of those were at quarterback) to zero.
▪ Another tight end used: Michael Irvin Jr., who didn’t play on offense against UF, received offensive seven snaps and caught a pass against North Carolina.
The Hurricanes have liked what Irvin has done throughout the summer and believe he can help as a third tight end behind Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory. Coaches gave him high marks for how he played Saturday.
▪ The defensive transfers played more: Defensive tackle Chigozie Nnoruka’s snaps rose from 11 to 21 and Trevon Hill’s from 14 to 24. UM really liked how Nnoruka played.
▪ Cornerback change: Not only did DJ Ivey start after being reinstated from suspension, but he played 56 snaps - far more than Al Blades Jr.’s 22 and even more than Trajan Bandy’s 54. That’s surprising considering Blades played well in the opener.
Against North Carolina, Ivey allowed all three passes thrown against him to be caught, for 55 yards. Bandy allowed two of five targets to be caught for 74 yards and a touchdown, while Blades allowed 1 of 1 to be caught for nine.
More factoids, with thanks to Herald correspondent Daniel Gould for providing the numbers in this column:
▪ The UM player whose playing time has plummeted the most early in the season? Linebacker Zach McCloud, who played just nine defensive snaps in the opener and three against North Carolina. For the most part, the Hurricanes have had two linebackers on the field this season.
▪ Greg Rousseau, who had a sack on Saturday, played only 12 defensive snaps against North Carolina, and defensive coordinator Blake Baker said he needs to play more.
▪ Jarren Williams so far has thrown 11 passes to KJ Osborn this season, and all 11 have been caught for 117 yards and a touchdown.
▪ Through two games, Williams is just 1 for 5 for 38 yards on passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air. But he’s 12 for 17 for 205 yards and two touchdowns on passes thrown between 10 and 19 yards.
▪ Jeff Thomas has nine catches but for only 79 yards. His 8.8 per catch average is down from 22.0 and 16.1 the past two seasons, and that needs to change, because even though UM’s offense is improved, it needs more explosive plays in the passing game.
Please click here for my two Dolphins pieces Tuesday, with lots of news and notes, and Part 1 of my Marlins series on how their prospects played this season.