Lashlee, Baker examine where UM offense/defense stands with UVA on horizon

Lashlee, Baker examine where UM offense/defense stands with UVA on horizon

Stefan Adams
Miami Hurricanes offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has been the architect behind the play designs that have freed up UM’s skill players to make easy plays in space all season. Specifically, that happened twice in the Canes’ win over Pitt this weekend, with both Cam’Ron Harris and Will Mallory being left wide open for 35+ yard scoring catches after Lashlee fooled the defense on fake D’Eriq King runs.

“Generating explosive plays - sometimes it’s in-game adjustment, a lot of times one of my jobs is we need a shot in the arm, having a couple of things we can go to each week,” Lashlee said. “You have to find something to restart the engine a little bit, our guys have done a good job executing those kind of things.”

Lashlee and the rest of the offense could be in for a field day this weekend against Virginia, as UVA gave up six plays of over 35 yards this past weekend in a 40-23 loss to Wake Forest. Overall, Virginia’s defense has sputtered in 2020, allowing 34.8 points and 413.5 yards per game, which represents a departure from the usually strong defenses of head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

“With Bronco, that group there is well-coached,” Lashlee said. “They’re really long - their scheme allows them to almost shrink the field on you. I know Wake Forest got some big plays on them, that’s why they were able to win the game. They did a nice job generating those. Traditionally, Virginia does a nice job keeping everything in front of them.”

With UM’s receivers struggling to operate yet again, Miami completely opened up the receiver depth chart on Monday, and Lashlee said he expects to play his young talent more often.

“We’ve been playing the young guys the last two weeks - they have been working hard the last two weeks," Lashlee said. "At times, (the receivers) made some really nice plays, Mark Pope had a nice game the other day. We just have to keep swinging. Eventually those things will connect and that will really open things up for us offensively. We have a lot of confidence that we’re going to get there.”

At various points, young WR’s Jeremiah Payton, Michael Redding, and Keyshawn Smith have shown flashes, and Lashlee is hoping all of them continue to develop as the season progresses.

"It's been interesting, Redding started doing some good things early in the season, just had some aggravating injuries. Same thing with Jeremiah Payton, had to miss a couple of weeks," Lashlee said. "Keyshawn, he's shown he can really run. He can stretch the field. Those guys have length. My hope is all three of them develop into more of a threat to stretch the field."

On Saturday, QB D’Eriq King finished 16-31 (51.6%) for 222 yards, 4 TD’s, and 2 INT, and Lashlee thought his QB had a good performance overall vs. Pitt.

"I thought D'Eriq played pretty well on Saturday - the first interception was a tipped ball, Mike Harley was open," Lashlee said. "The other one, their corner made a great play, showed a coverage and bailed out the last second and he got us. He probably had two other (bad) plays, one a sack. To throw four TD passes, his deep balls were on the mark, gave them chances. I thought he was better, steady and gave us a chance to win. Obviously, the turnovers were critical, but I think D'Eriq had a solid game and he'll get better every week."

The Canes ran the ball for 109 yards on 42 carries (2.6 ypc) vs. Pitt, which was down from UM’s season average of 196.5 rushing ypg coming into the contest, but Lashlee felt it was an overall solid performance on the ground considering the opponent.

“We ran the ball well last week," Lashlee said. "We’re talking about one of the best rush defenses in the country. They were giving up 52 yards a game. Take the sacks out, we had over 130 yards net rushing.”

One area the Canes have been dominant has been in the red zone, as UM has scored on 16 of 17 opportunities inside the opponent’s 20 this season; the only time Miami hasn’t scored is when they kneeled out the clock inside Pitt’s red zone to end the game on Saturday.

“We’ve done a good job in the red zone, have gotten points (essentially) every time down there,” Lashlee said. “Last week was the first time we didn’t succeed because we were taking a knee at the end of the game.”

On third down’s this this season, Miami’s offense is converting at a 43.2% clip, up from 27.1% in 2019, which was second to last nationally. Lashlee is actually still looking to get that number up, as UM’s last two weeks on third downs have been underwhelming (4-15 vs. Clemson, 4-13 vs. Pitt).

“The last two weeks have been really poor. We’re taking too many losses (on early downs),” Lashlee said. “We had five third-and-11 pluses (this week). The negative plays absolutely killed us. That’s something we have to clean up. Traditionally we don’t have a lot of negative plays… That’s the biggest reason the last two weeks we’ve struggled, is because we’ve had third and longs.”

With the limited offseason, does Lashlee feel his entire offense is fully installed at this point now 5 games into the season?

"I'm not as worried about the volume of stuff, we don't even have a playbook, have guys with iPads and we send them stuff," Lashlee said. "In the passing game, it's about the timing and reps. You lose the ability to build reps, because it's not always about the plays, it's how often you rep things that you can execute at a high level. That's the only thing that's really hurt us. It would be nice to get to full strength soon (with injuries), but guys are playing hard."

True freshman QB Tyler Van Dyke continues to be listed at third team on the depth chart and Lashlee has been pleased with his progress in his first year on campus.

“He’s doing great, is very attentive in meetings and walkthroughs,” Lashlee said of Van Dyke. “For a freshman, he’s able to stay very focused. He’s been pretty locked in, is very mature and also is very focused knowing if he gets an opportunity this year, he wants to be ready and soak everything up for when his time comes in the future.”

**Defensive coordinator Blake Baker was impressed with his D-Line’s performance vs. Pitt, and particularly DE Quincy Roche, who had 7 tackles, 4 TFL, 0.5 sacks, a FF, and a FR on his way to ACC DL of the week.

“The great thing about Quincy is he’s gotten better and better every week,” Baker said. “He’s really bought into what we’re doing schematically, which is really impressive. The other thing that stands out is the leadership he’s really starting to show. A grad transfer, the expectations, external pressures, you can see how much more comfortable he is with our guys and it shows in his leadership. Even with the offense, he was running up and down the sideline rooting for them the entire game.

“From a physical standpoint, he’s done a great job, has an innate ability to really rush the passer. He’s slippery, instinctual. I’ve been proud of him, still think he’s just scratching the surface of how good he can be.”

Aside from Roche, the rest of Miami’s DL combined for an additional 4 TFL and 2.5 sacks, with backup DT Jared Harrison-Hunte recording 4 tackles, a sack, and 2 TFL himself while seeing more snaps vs. Pitt.

"He is an athletic freak," Baker said of Harrison-Hunte. "He’s 6-3, 285 pounds, I’m sure can dunk the basketball. Watching that ability (in basketball) transfer onto the football field, it’s impressive. Very proud of Jared. It’s a testament to hard work. He’s really starting to trust his technique and he’s going to be a really, really good defensive tackle for us when it’s said and done.”

While #2 DT Jon Ford hasn’t made many waves on the stat sheet (6 tackles, 0.5 sacks) in 2020, Baker has been pleased at his ability to plug lanes in the running game.

“Jon has been really solid for us,” Baker said. “He’s a big load inside, sometimes he doesn’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but he’s doing a nice job for us occupying blocks. He is showing twitch. There’s areas he can improve in and he knows that, but overall, he’s been really solid for us over the first part of the season.”

Next to Ford, UM has started DT Nesta Silvera, who has made a more noticeable impact thus far (17 tackles, 3 TFL, sack) and is someone Baker feels has raised his level of play from last year.

“I think one, he’s really bought into trusting his technique,” Baker said of Silvera. “He’s always had the ability. Now shooting his hands, he is a disruptive force, has taken his game to the next level from my standpoint. The most impressive thing is his leadership - I talked to him last night, was as proud of him in that game as I’ve been since I’ve been here. A couple of times he got banged up, went to the tent, fought through those injuries. I’m really impressed with what he’s doing for us, has stepped his game up to an All-ACC level.”

Also on the second team at DT with Harrison-Hunte is Jordan Miller, who had his first shared sack of the season vs. Pitt.

“Jordan has done a nice job for us,” Baker said. “Got half of a sack. Practice performance dictates how much they play a lot of the times. I think we have six guys inside that can play. The more we play different guys, the fresher they are, the better it makes us as a defense. We want to play as may guys as possible on defense.”

LB’s Sam Brooks and Corey Flagg have seen their snap counts rise over the past two games; does Baker anticipate playing the young linebackers even more going forward?

“They decide that more than I decide that,” Baker said. “Last week, all four guys that played inside for us really played a pretty good game. It’s been fun to watch Corey and Sam push BJ (Jennings) and Zach (McCloud), and I think it’s made them better. Until someone emerges and becomes the man, we’ll play with all four of them, and all four feed off each other and probably play better when their snap counts are closer to 50/50, at least that’s what I saw last weekend. All four of those guys have deserved to play and split time, and until one of them proves otherwise, we’ll stick with that rotation.”

Comments (16)

Good stuff, however, that last paragraph better be coach speak.
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Thanks. At least we're reading now younger guys playing. Get more as many feel they are better ~ JHH, Brooks, Flagg, Smith and Redding. Like to see more. Get Couch more playing time too along w/Harvey.

BTW, can we find out about Donaldson and when he will be ready to play. We can use him in the OL rotation...
God that last paragraph made me vomit. McCloud is literally the worst linebackers I’ve ever seen here.

Glen Cook and Romeo Davis were much worse. 2008 was the worst LB core we ever had, with the exception of Sean Spence of course. But he was a freshman.
If anything baker is gonna be a reason Miami loses games especially close ones. Running those dumb ass stunts trying to be cute I can see unc making him look dumb hell even Virginia. He'll get out coached by fsu as early as next year unless Miami railroads their defense again next year.

Miami plays dumb on defense with weird ass penalties and they miss more tackles than a missing tackle box.

Same thing with the offense .....players dropping chit left and right, guys not playing with 100% effort. It's like these guys don't care about attention to detail

Talk about players evolving I'm waiting for this staff to evolve. Will daiz ever pay more attention to detail on the football team like he does his beard?
Baker is all sunshine. I mean, there's coach speak and then there's coach speak. This guy said "all four guys that played inside for us really played a pretty good game. It’s been fun to watch". WTF??!! This mini-me drives me crazy with his alternative facts.

The key takeaway I got from the article was that they're playing the underclassmen more across the board, especially at WR and LB. That's only goodness. And we finally had a Huff sighting! Hopefully that means he starts to take that next step. I am not near as high on Flagg as many on here, and am praying for other options to emerge at LB.

p.s., Joyner and Steed have entirely disappeared from the discussion. Are they injured again, still not recovered, left the team or just not good enough?
Well since we're volunteering players deserving of more playing time how about Robert Burns? Kid needs more playing time.

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