The Florida State Seminoles have remained perfect through their first nine game of the season. After securing the win Saturday over Pittsburgh, the Seminoles immediately turned their attention to their next opponent, their rivals from down south, the Miami Hurricanes.
Each week, as part of our Line of Scrimmage series, we’ll be speaking with members of the beat that covers FSU’s upcoming opponent, getting all the details from those who know those teams best.
To help fans get to know the 2023 version of the ‘Canes, we’ll breakdown the Miami roster and season with Adam Lichtenstein of the Sun Sentinel.
The Hurricanes have already improved from last season with six wins on the year. Last week, saw Miami stumble in a slugfest with the NC State Wolfpack. Miami will be coming into Saturday’s matchup looking to end the Seminole’s perfect season. And the Hurricanes certainly have talent on both sides of the ball to pull off the upset.
Miami currently sits at 6-3, which is already a better record than last year’s 5-7. Yet, there definitely feels like there is some unhappiness is Coral Gables with this Hurricane team. What do you feel has gone right and what is going wrong for the Mario Cristobal squad?
The funny thing is, if you told me at the start of the season that they’d be 6-3 at this point, I’d say, “yeah, that that sounds about right. That seems reasonable.” I just wouldn’t have thought those losses would be teams like Georgia Tech and NC State. If you’d told me that they beat A&M and Clemson and lost to those them, I’d be pretty surprised.
We all know what happened in that Georgia Tech debacle, it shouldn’t have happened and they should have won that game. And it’s not often you can say that pretty definitively, but they should have won that game. UNC, you run into Drake May and Tez Walker on a good day and they’re gonna score a couple of touchdowns. There’s not a whole lot you can do about that.
NC State’s probably the most troubling because the defense played really well and the offense couldn’t do anything. It was purely quarterback play. Tyler Van Dyke has just been in an awful funk for the last four games. He looks completely out of sorts. And that cost them because they ran the ball decently against NC State, they just couldn’t get anything going in the passing game.
ACC play has not gone great for them — between the Georgia Tech game and Tyler Van Dyke’s struggles, people are a little discontent right now.
Let’s start at quarterback. As of now, Miami has been coy on who the starter will be on Saturday. I think most expect Tyler Van Dyke, though we could see Emory Williams. TVD has really struggled with the interceptions as of late. What’s going wrong for Van Dyke and who do you expect to take the snaps on Saturday?
I think it’s kind of all the above. He missed the Clemson game with an injury that he suffered against UNC. He’s definitely dealing with something. If you ask him, he’ll say he’s fine. He’s not making any excuses or anything like that. But I do think the injuries affected him. There were a couple picks he’s thrown the last couple of weeks where he didn’t generate enough power on the throw and that could be a leg thing, a lower body thing. I think confidence is a big part of it.
Shannon Dawson, the OC, said he thinks Tyler is trying to do too much sometimes. And right now he’s just completely out of sync with the offense. I think more likely than not, it’ll be Van Dyke under center, but Mario Cristobal has been pretty coy.
He has a radio show he does in the morning, on Mondays. And when asked about who was starting, he said, “Oh, well, we’re always assessing everything and how we can get better.” So when he had his press conference later that day, I asked him, “when you say you’re assessing everything, does that mean? Whoever has the best week in practice is going to start? Or is it business as usual, and Tyler is the number one?” and he straight up said, “I’m not going to answer that in a press conference.” Which, that’s his prerogative. If he wants to be coy about it, he can.
He didn’t say, Tyler is our guy and he’s gonna be starting, you can kind of read into that, that they might make a change. But I still think it’s really tough to throw a true freshman in a second career start, into a road game against the top four team in the country with 85,000 screaming Seminole fans in the in the stands, that’s a big ask.
Miami has a talented stable of running backs. Henry Parrish and Donald Chaney have pretty even splits but Mark Fletcher has been flashing as of late. Will Miami continue to go with the hot hand on Saturday or do you expect one of these backs to get the bulk of the carries?
I think they’re gonna go with the with the healthy hand because everyone’s been banged up in that room, it’s why you need so much depth at running back. Ajay Allen was their leading rusher against Virginia, he was out last game with a minor injury. Henry Parrish and Don Chaney have both been limited due to injuries lately. Mark Fletcher had a stress fracture in his foot that he only came back from a few weeks ago. And then he got the start for the first time on Saturday against NC State and had a good game. It all kind of depends on health and how they’re evaluated. If everyone’s healthy, they’ll mix it up and ride the hot hand.
At receiver, Miami still has Xavier Restrepo out there, this feels like year eight for the junior. Jacolby George has had success out there, I’ve been really impressed with Colbie Young as well. How do you expect Miami to try to get their receivers involved on Saturday?
When Miami was moving the ball through the air against NC State, a lot of the time that was with those tunnel screens that were that were very effective.
Restrepo and Van Dyke are extremely close, they have great chemistry together. Sometimes maybe even to Miami’s detriment where TVD will get locked in on Restrepo, but he’s a very solid route runner. He may not have the super physical traits — he’s not the fastest or the tallest or anything — but he’s a great route runner to get into space.
Colbie Young, tall guy, surprising speed for kind of a lengthier receiver. If they get into the red zone, he’s a good go-to guy because he’s just got that height. And then Jacolby George’s kind of had that breakout year — without looking, off the top of my head, I think he leads them in touchdown catches (editor’s note: he does). He’s another guy who’s good at finding space and getting some separation.
It’s just all fallen by the wayside the last couple weeks because they’ve struggled so much in the pass game.
The Miami offensive line has been impressive. PFF has the group highly ranked. Transfers Matt Lee and Javion Cohen have both received praise. This is an improved group. Where do you feel this group excels and where could they struggle on Saturday?
They’re a very, very solid group.
Run blocking has been pretty solid. If they have a weakness, it might be the freshman Francis Mauigoa, who has been improving. He started off the year kind of rough. You can only expect so much from a freshman offensive tackle, even if he was a five star, but he has come along.
I really wouldn’t say they have a real weakness. They just they’ve been probably definitely the most improved if not the single best unit Miami has.
On the defensive side of the ball, there’s been a ton of attention on lineman Reuben Bain, and rightfully so. The freshman has 6.5 sacks on the season and has been a terror. But it’s not just Bain, the defensive line as a whole has over 16 sacks. Who are some of the other lineman fans need to be aware of this Saturday?
Overall, what’s surprising is that they’ve played so well. They’re down two starting defensive ends and the fact that they’ve managed to keep this level of production is really impressive. You’ll have Bain on on the edge and Jahfari Harvey often on the other side. Harvey is a veteran, he’s been around for a while, very solid player. Interior, you’ll get a mix of like Branson Deen, who’s a transfer from Purdue who has been a great addition. At defensive tackle, Leonard Taylor, he’s having kind of an up and down season. He’s had some games where he’s not really been a difference maker but he can blow up plays. Jared Harrison-Hunte is also a guy who’s having a solid season.
At linebacker, Miami’s leader is transfer Francisco Mauigoa. He really makes this defense go. How do you feel the linebacking corps have played this year?
They’ve been very solid, one of the units on the team that has really impressed me. Francisco Mauigoa has been excellent, having a really good season. I think he’s met or surpassed every expectation everyone had for him coming into the year coming up from Washington State. And then outside you know the other linebackers the main guys go see our Wesley Bissainthe very, very talented sophomore, KJ Cloyd who’s a transfer from Louisville and Corey Flagg is a veteran has been around for a long time.
They’re just very, very solid all around there. And like I said, that’s a group that I didn’t know what to really expect coming in.
Finally on defense, as cited by Brendan Sonnone over at Noles247, the Miami defense is the 100s in allowing completions of 30+ yards. What’s been the cause of the secondary’s struggle?
That actually kind of surprised me because they’ve played pretty solidly. They’ve given up their share of big plays, I guess maybe a few more than I thought.
The big one that comes to mind is the game-winning touchdown that Georgia Tech scored where safety Kam Kinchens bit and let a guy get behind him. UNC had a couple of big passing plays against them. Overall, I think their cornerbacks have done pretty decently. Although, that’s a big question mark coming into this game, both because both Jaden Davis and Daryl Porter left the NC State game with injuries.
And finally, give me your thoughts on how Saturday plays out?
I wouldn’t be shocked if we’re sitting at the end of the third quarter and we’re thinking, “this is a lot closer than I thought.” I really would not be surprised if the defense kind of keeps Miami in the game. But I just don’t know where Miami is going to get points from because the offense has been so rough the last couple of weeks.
You look at the Virginia game — they scored two rushing touchdowns, only one of those was in regulation. And then against NC State, all they do is kick two field goals. I don’t know what is going to change in the passing game, because either you have to have Van Dyke, who has been exposed to the worst stretch of his career. Or you have Emory Williams, who, they like him, but he’s a true freshman. And if you watch him play, when he started against Clemson, like he threw for 30 or so yards in the first half. They’re not going to be trying to push the ball downfield with him all that much. I just don’t know where they’re gonna get an offense from to win this game.