'Nole Your Enemy: The Miami Hurricanes' Offense

We continue our " 'Nole Your Enemy" Series with The Miami Hurricanes.   Yesterday we looked at Miami's defense.  Today, we'll discuss the offense.  Previously we looked at South Florida (OffenseDefense) and continued with BYU's Offense and Defense.   Last week we previewed BC's Offense and the Boston College Defense, and UNC's Offense, and Defense.

This year, the Hurricanes have a new offensive coordinator after firing Patrick Nix.  The new man is Mark Whipple.  Tomahawk Nation discussed him previously, here (HS Coach breaks down his film from his last stop at UMass.).  Whipple is decidedly pro-style.  We can now add to that report, as one cane player recently revealed that Miami has been running a lot of shotgun with 3 or 4 wide receivers.  By all accounts,when Miami spreads, they will spread to throw, not spread to run, as their young quarterback isn't spectacularly fast, and he has no capable backup.  I also expect to see a lot of Shotgun with 2 backs, as Miami showed in the spring game.

As usual, we will look at last year's team, discuss personnel changes, and then try to give you the best idea of what MIami will run Monday night.  How good was Miami's offense last season?  Let's use advanced measures which disregard performance after a game is already a blowout, and adjusts for opponent!

Fei_opponent_adjusted_offensive__efficiency-_acc_teams_medium

So Miami had an offense in the bottom half of the middle group of ACC offenses.  But we can go much more in-depth than this- and we will.  

Miami has about the 45th best offense in the country last year, in terms of efficiency on a drive-by-drive basis.  That's not impressive, but it isn't anywhere near as horrible as their defense.  For whatever reason, that isn't getting much press, but I digress.  It is of course reputation, not performance, that carries the day.  

Let's have a look at their play-by-play basis, using the Varsity Numbers S&P+ system, developed by Bill Connelley:

Acc_offense_close_s_p__medium

By this measure, Miami again had an offense in the middle of the conference, 58th nationally.  

But what about in conference play?  The ACC plays the best defense in the country (most defensive minded head coaches, most defenses in the top 10, 15, and 25, and most NFL 1st round defensive draft picks over the last 3 years).  

Offensive_close_s_p__acc_games_only_medium

So once they got into ACC play, the Canes were better.  They went from the bottom of the middle group to the top of the middle group!  Their overall numbers were dampened down by their UCF performance (20 points).  

So we're looking at a group that rounded into form by the mid-season mark.  But what were their strengths and weaknesses?  

Offensive_passing_s_p__in_acc_games_medium

Again, Miami's passing offense was at the top of the middle group, in conference play.  I try to use conference play because the opponent adjustments are less severe.  If their passing offense was slightly above average, and their total offense was slightly above average, what do you think their rushing offense was?

Offensive_rushing_s_p__in_acc_games_only_medium

Miami had the 4th best rushing game in conference, which is consistent with everything else we have seen.

I have to ask the question... if Miami wants to continually spew the "youth" moniker, why fire the guy who led that "youth" to an above average offense in a conference that sent 10 teams to bowl games?  

So this year the Canes return most of their offense.  

Quarterback

Under Center, the canes have Jacory Harris.  He was a highly touted QB out of Miami Northwestern and played well at times last season.  The 6'4" 188lb Sophomore is now the unquestioned leader of the team because Robert Marve and two other scholarship quarterbacks transferred this off-season.  Miami has no depth at quarterback, which could lead to a more conservative scheme from Whipple than he'd prefer (as the linked article at the beginning of this story notes, Whipple wants to run 5 guys out in routes- now he might have to keep a back or a tight end in to block).  Let's look at Harris' numbers from a season ago:

 

Opponent Result Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int Rating Charleston So. W 52-7 26 16 62 190 7.3 1 0 136 @ 1 Florida L 3-26 4 2 50 10 2.5 0 0 71 @ Texas A&M W 41-23 7 4 57 27 3.9 0 0 90 North Carolina L 24-28 6 4 67 39 6.5 0 0 121 21 Florida St. L 39-41 7 3 43 32 4.6 0 1 53 UCF W 20-14 6 4 67 14 2.3 0 0 86 @ Duke W 49-31 28 18 64 185 6.6 4 2 153 Wake Forest W 16-10 8 4 50 41 5.1 0 0 93 @ Virginia W 24-17 21 12 57 160 7.6 2 0 153 15 Virginia Tech W 16-14 2 1 50 3 1.5 0 0 63 @ 22 Georgia Tech L 23-41 18 13 72 162 9 2 1 173 @ North Carolina St. L 28-38 20 12 60 138 6.9 1 2 114 + California L 17-24 41 25 61 194 4.7 2 1 112 Totals 194 118 61 1195 6.2 12 7 126

Okay, some of those look pretty good, but let's have a closer look.  My conclusion is that we should call Jacory Harris the "garbage man."  

  • Statically, Harris' most impressive game came against Georgia Tech.  I was surprised by this because I didn't remember him having a great game against the Yellow-Jackets.  So I dialed up that game on my DVR and watched.  Guess what?  All of Harris' rushing yards and 131 of his 162 passing yards came in the 4th quarter.  Big deal?  Well, the Canes were down 41-10 at the start of the 4th quarter.  It was garbage time.  Georgia Tech had shut it down.  Stats are a great tool as a record of performance, but here again we see why you have to look at them in context, and remove garbage time possessions.  Real-Time Jacory:  4-7, 31 yards, 0 Touchdowns, 1 Interception.   Garbage Time Jacory:  9-11, 131 yards, 2 Touchdowns, No interceptions.  
  • Against North Carolina State, he again pumped his stats when the game was already over.  With 2:35 left in the game, the Wolfpack went up 38-21 and the game was over..  Then Jacory "Garbage Time" Harris took over.  He rushed twice for 20 yards, and went 4-6 for 51 yards and his only touchdown.  If only he could play that well in real time (8-14, 87 yards, 1 TD, 1, INT- far less impressive).  
  • Not as big of a deal here, but against Duke, the game was over at 41-24, with 7:48 left, and Harris went 3-4 for 36 yards.  
  • This isn't specifically garbage time, but Duke had by far the ACC's worst pass defense last year, and it wasn't even close.  Still, I will not classify the entire Duke game as garbage time, though I am tempted.

While it is admirable and smart for Miami to get some work in for their young quarterback, a lot of Harris' good efforts came when the defense was no longer trying and the outcome of the game was no longer in question.  This is pretty remarkable.  

Jacory Harris in ACC Play ATT COMP YARDS % YARDS/ ATTEMPT TD INT Rating
Real Time 89 51 542 57% 6.1 6 6 117
Garbage Time 21 16 218 76% 10.4 3 0 210

So in his garbage time performances, Jacory Harris was the best quarterback in the history of college football.  Literally.  210 is just insane.  

In watching Harris' tapes, he seems to have average arm strength, but is pretty accurate.  Harris is good at lofting balls over the head of opposing defenders, particularly over linebackers.  It's important to take good drops against Harris.  

Here are two you-tube clips if you are so inclined.

Jacory Harris (via pimpflex88)

Jacory Harris leads Miami to a game tying TD vs. UVA (via rusty98um11)

Harris is a decent runner, but he isn't great.  He isn't afraid to scramble out of the pocket, if necessary, and throws well on the run, so maintaining contain will be paramount.  But it's doubtful he will be utilized on any designed runs, due to the aforementioned lack of quarterback depth.  He does have a really smooth delivery and a calm demeanor, however, which has to be encouraging for Canes fans.

The question of how much Harris has improved is yet to be answered.  Has he grasped the new offense under Whipple?  Does he have the arm to throw all the things Whipple wants to throw.  Can he fit the ball into tight windows?  Will he have the patience for some slower-developing routes to come open if Whipple decided to keep extra blockers in for pass protection?  I'll speculate about this tomorrow in the official TomahawkNation preview, and we'll find out Monday Night.

 

Running Backs

Miami has a stable of talented backs.  It starts with he electric 6'0" 200lb Greg Cooper.  Cooper had a good game going against the 'Noles last year, before the Canes abandoned the run.  He can take any run to the house, though needs to be more consistent on a down-to-down basis.  He also has great hands, and Miami will throw him the ball a lot this year.  It's not unreasonable to think he could average 4 catches per game.  Complimenting Cooper is Javarris James.  Like Cooper, the 6'0" 215lb Senior, gets hurt quite often.  When healthy though, he is Miami's best back and excels at keeping the chains moving.  James isn't the best home-run threat, but he is difficult for DB's to tackle when he runs with momentum.  Also in the mix are 5'10" 180lb scatback Lee Chambers, who will catch some balls for the Canes this year.  The Canes use a fullback he is 5'9" 255lb Patrick Hill.  Hill is a very good blocker, but he doesn't run or catch the ball often.  He's an excellent candidate to stay in and block when the Canes throw the ball.  And there's one more name you should know- Mike James.  The 5'10" 220lb Sophomore has dazzled Cane fans throughout practice and on some days he looks like Miami's best back.  Not listed in the two-deep, it's uncertain how much playing time he will get.

Miami has preached staying true to the run and pounding the rock this year.  With their full compliment of backs healthy (unlike last year), Miami will look to run the ball right at Florida State, and do it often, particularly if the weather is poor.

Wide Receivers

This is by far Miami's most impressive unit.  They have 7 targets rated 4* or better.  Almost every team in the country would trade their lot for Miami's.  The most physically impressive is 6'2" 205lb Sophomore Aldarious Johnson.  Physically, he reminds me of Andre Johnson (former Cane great now with the Houston Texans), though he is nowhere near as good yet.  He went to high school with Harris, and they have a great rapport.  Up next is 6'4" 215lb Sophomore Laron Byrd.  He is a serious big-play threat and should remind FSU fans of Jarmon Fortson, or NFL fans of Braylon Edwards.  Byrd is also a serious threat in the red-zone.  He needs to work on his consistency, but the tools are there.  6'3" 215lb Junior Leonard Hankerson has been named a starter as well, and he's the elder statesman of this group.  Not the freak athlete that Byrd is, he is a big body with good hands who can consistently move the chains.  Profiled last week was 5'10" 165lb Sophomore Travis Benjamin.  He killed FSU last year, running a reverse for a score, catching a pass for a score, and amassing an insane performance on kickoffs.  At Tight End, the Canes feature 6'3" 250lb Senior Dedrick Epps.  Epps isn't special, but he is solid and can hurt the Noles if they don't cover the tight end, like many Cane tight ends have not.  Career underachiever Richard Gordon has been in and out of Shannon's doghouse, but the 6'4" 270lb Senior might be a threat in multiple tight end sets.  With his size, he is a good blocker and an excellent red-zone threat.  Don't sleep on 6'8" Tight End (and Cane basketball player) Jimmy Graham.  He's impressed with his hands, and while not a blocker, is a very raw but very scary receiving threat.

I'll discuss this more tomorrow, but Miami's receiving corps looks to have a personnel advantage over the Noles.

 

Offensive Line

The most important group on the field gave Miami some trouble last year.  On the whole, their linemen were big, but not particularly strong or flexible, and obviously out of shape.  This year they return 3 starters and have 6 players who have game experience.  This unit sould be considerably better.  At Left Tackle is 6'7" 310lb former tight end Jason Fox.  Fox is the rock of this group, an excellent pass protector and average run blocker.  He allows the canes to focus their protections on blitzers and weaker areas of the line.  At Right Tackle is 6'7" 305lb Matt Piphi, who can best be described as average.  He could impress this season but isn't particularly talented and has shown nothing to warrant praise to this point.  He is a new starter.  At left guard will be 6'7" 334lb Orlando Franklin.  Franklin is huge and was highly touted coming out of high school.  He is a Junior and started 11 games last year.  Very inconsistent, he also resembles an alien.  If he can put it all together, he will be very good for the Canes.  In a somewhat surprising move, 6'2" 320lb Sophomore Harland Gunn beat out Joel Figueroa for the starting right guard position.  Gunn is the better athlete than Figueroa, though 30lbs smaller, and Cane fans look to have a good one in him.  He's obviously going to be mistake prone in his first ever Canes game.  Moving from Guard to Center 6'3" 310lb A.J. Trump.  He's a smart Senior with good feet, and has over 15 starts at various line positions.

I'll discuss this more tomorrow, but Miami's offensive line was wildly inconsistent last season.  They lacked effort and at times Cane fans had to be embarrassed with their performance.  They are more experience dthis year, and under a new offensive staff, they almost have to be better.  

I expect Miami's offense to make the jump from the Mid 40's to the high 20's or lower 30's this year.  Everything points to them being better.  Tomorrow, I'll discuss why they might not be better in the game 'Nole fans care about- the Labor Day Showdown.  


 

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