The Opposing 5: Breaking Down Miami With State of the U's Cam Underwood

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomas1996 | Oct 04, 2019
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor

Our Opposing 5 segment returns this week as we have Cam Underwood of SB Nation's State of the U joining us to break down Miami ahead of the Hokies' game at Hard Rock Stadium.

We appreciate and thank Cam for participating in this Q&A. You can follow him on Twitter @UnderwoodSports for great insight on Miami and more

With that, here's this week's Opposing 5 Q&A on Miami.

1. How has this offense changed under new offensive coordinator Dan Enos and QB Jarren Williams and has that caused real improvement?

The offense has changed in its usage of I-formation, which has been more under Enos than it was before. That, and we're doing A LOT more hard (back to the defense) play action. There have been glimpses of tempo and spread concepts, but nothing substantial to this point. I think the offense is still very much a work in progress, and Enos is trying out some things to see what works (but it's a little frustrating when everyone can see what's not working and what would).

Jarren Williams has been the big change this year. The redshirt freshman QB is incredibly accurate, something that Miami hasn't had at the QB position in a few years. He's very good in the intermediate passing game, favoring square ins and seam routes at that level. Williams has yet to throw an interception, but has had several passes that could have been picked dropped by the opposing team.

Either way, he's starting to look like the QB Miami has been searching for, and I hope his play continues to be strong and progresses further.

Overall, it's hard to say that the offense has taken a step forward. The run game is inconsistent, receivers have either been missed downfield or ignored when wide open, and the offensive line has been quite bad. There are things to like as far as the talent on offense, but production wise, there's much to be desired in terms of productions and improvement.

2. The offensive line was an issue when Miami last had a national stage against Florida, what have you seen from them since then and how big of a concern is that unit at this point for Miami?

Has the offensive line been fixed? Nope. Miami struggled to block Central Michigan in the last game a couple weeks ago, so I'd say the issue persists. Miami shuffled things around and tried out different combinations during the bye week, but the starting group will remain unchanged. So Zion Nelson, Navaughn Donaldson, Corey Gaynor, Jakai Clark, and DJ Scaife will start on the OL from left to right.

The offensive line is THE concern on this team. Sure, there are other things that need to be improved, but the OL not being up to par will tank the entire offense. No room to run. No time to pass. No time to let vertical routes develop. A blindsided QB sacked and/or forced to fumble. The negatives from having a failing OL are many. And, to this point, Miami's OL has been average at their absolute best level of performance. There is nothing on this team that is as big a concern to me this season as improving the Offensive Line.

3. How does this defense stack up with Manny Diaz's other Miami defenses?

It's similar but not the same. Obviously, with Diaz as Head Coach, there's a new DC in Blake Baker. He's a Diaz disciple so the system is familiar and there's continuity there, but there aren't as many top guys in key positions as before. The DL is good, but not where it was with Gerald Willis III and Joe Jackson last year. There's talent up front, but guys like your old friend Trevon Hill and Gregory Rousseau need to play more. And, getting Nesta Silvera back this week for his first game-action of the year after foot surgery during fall camp will be a boon as well.

The big change is in the secondary, which has 3 new starters and nearly every player stepping into a new and bigger role this season. There's been some coverage busts (Miami's given up more 60+ yard plays through 4 games in 2019 than they did in the entire 2018 season) and those need to stop.

Also, the tackling needs to be more consistent. Yes, I'm nitpicking, but Miami's defense has to be the "constant" on this team because the offense is still developing. And if they're not then Miami will lose games like they did against Florida and North Carolina.

4. What's the way that Virginia Tech should look to attack Miami's defense in order to have the best chance of success?

1. integrate QB run into the offense. I see that Hendon Hooker is expected to start, and he's gonna need to use his legs. That can be a designed QB run, or zone-read where he keeps the ball, or a scramble on a passing down. But Miami's defense has struggled to contain running QBs in recent years, so VT should look to exploit that.

2. Quick passing. If you let Miami's deep and talented DL have time to pass rush, they'll get home. Things are just about to click there, and if VT wants to have success, they're going to need to get the ball out quickly.

3. Run the ball....effectively. This is easier said than done because Miami's run defense is among the best in the country (6th nationally allowing only 59.75 yards per game) but VT doesn't have the ability to throw the ball 80 times a game, so they're gonna have to run. Maybe run some jet sweeps or reverses or something, but running the ball is a must in any game. Good luck with this one.

4. Be efficient. If VT is faced with 3rd and longs because 1st and 2nd downs aren't efficiently managed, it's gonna be a long game and a bad night for the Hokies. By any means, VT needs to have more 3rd and 5s (or shorter) than 3rd and 8s (or longer) to have a chance to be successful offensively.

5. What are the keys to the game for Miami?

1. Start fast. The longer you let a team you're better and more talented than hang around, the worse things can go. Don't let this reeling VT team think they have a chance. Hit them in the mouth off the bat and make it clear that this will be a long and bad day for them.

2. Offensive Line stepping up. Already talked about this up top, but getting good and consistent play from the OL is imperative.

3. Get 3+ turnovers. Everybody knows takeaways are huge, and Miami's Turnover Chain has seemingly mythical powers to boost the morale and performance of the team. Miami needs that on Saturday.

4. Play like Miami Hurricanes. This program has consistently underperformed for the majority of the last 15 years. While VT is a team that's clearly reeling, Miami could easily make this a game by playing down to the level of their opponent. It is my hope that that doesn't happen and that Miami plays to the level of their talent for once.

6. Prediction

Call me the eternal optimist, but Miami looks to be clearly the better team and should win this game with relative ease.

Canes 31 Hokies 17

Once again, we thank State of the U's Cam Underwood for joining us and encourage you to give him a follow to stay up well with the happenings of regular Virginia Tech opponents.