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Patke: McCloud and Finley standing out at Striker after scrimmage

Patke: McCloud and Finley standing out at Striker after scrimmage

Stefan Adams
Although this is Jon Patke’s first season as an on-field position coach, he was technically part of Mark Richt’s original first staff at Miami. He was brought to Coral Gables along with safeties coach Ephraim Banda by defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who all came from Mississippi State together. He spent the last two years working as a quality control analyst with the inside linebackers at UM before officially being promoted to the outside linebackers coach in February.

“You know, this is what you work for,” Patke said on his promotion. “I’ve been with coach Diaz for five years, so I really know what he likes and can kind of speak the same language he speaks. So, in terms of that, it’s the same. The differences are having your own room, being responsible for your guys, and then obviously on the road recruiting.”

Patke is only responsible for one player on the field at a time, yet his position has been one of the most talked about over the off-season. That’s because the Canes installed a brand new striker linebacker package into the defense and moved a few players down from safety into the hybrid role.

“Yeah, we kind of changed the name from SAM linebacker to striker. It’s just the way college football has been changing, everything is more spread out,” Patke said. “Zach (McCloud) is as athletic as they come for a 235 pound linebacker, but at times you need a guy that can cover sideline-to-sideline. So really, it’s an old school strong safety is how we look at it. He can roll down halfway, he’s playing zone, he’s playing man, he’s playing run, he can do it all. So yeah, we’re looking for a dynamic guy that really can run, that’s why we brought the two safeties down as bigger guys.”

The striker is expected to be a little quicker than the traditional SAM linebacker and has the responsibility of covering the opponent’s slot receiver, as well as being physical enough to shed blocks and make plays around the line. Patke is loving the competition so far and says two in particular are beginning to stand out after the team’s first fall scrimmage on Saturday.

“It’s going really good, we’ve got great competition finally,” Patke said on the competition at striker. “Zach is back, is starting to get reps there. It’s him and Romeo (Finley) that are really standing out right now. Derrick (Smith) is obviously in the mix after moving down there in the spring, and then you got De’Andre Wilder. I trust Romeo and Zach really after that first scrimmage with knowing what to do and knowing where to be.”

When the striker position was introduced back in spring ball, it was sophomore Derrick Smith that was mainly running with the first unit. What’s changed since then and what more does Patke need to see out of Smith?

“Derrick, he’s just so athletic, but mentally, we have to get him where he needs to be right now,” Patke said. “Get him up to speed where Zach and Romeo are at. But obviously Derrick is very dynamic in what he can do, as far as playing bump and run man, coming down from that safety position.”

As two safeties moving down into the box, both Finley and Smith are naturally a little smaller than your traditional linebacker. However, both have added 10-15 pounds over the off-season and Patke thinks they’re at the perfect size for what he expects out at striker.

“I’m comfortable right where they are. They’re both 215 pounds,” Patke said on Finley and Smith. “I think their weight will fluctuate a little bit, we eat so much at camp that they actually gain weight sometimes at camp, so I’m fine with that. But I’m comfortable with 215 pound guys out there. Until you get to a team that just wants to mash you, and then you go to the Zach’s and the Wilder’s.”

So, just how often can we expect to see the striker package over the traditional SAM in UM’s defense this season?

“It’s kind of based on their personnel, and what we’re rolling with, what we’re feeling coming into that game with our gameplan,” Patke said. “You know, is it going to be a Zach type of game or a Romeo and Derrick type of game? I really try to roll those guys to give them all the looks I can. I think it’ll be personnel-based first, and then more matchup-based.”
 

Comments (56)

I just don't know what to expect out of this new striker position. It does seem like Finley and Smith will play more than McCloud with all the spread offence college football.
 
I honestly forgot he was a coach now, haven't heard from Patke all spring or fall practice it seems like
 
Smaller, very fast and explosive LBs are making their way into the pros.This year guys like Roquan Smith, Jerome Baker and Shaquem Griffin to name a a few were excellent college outside LBs and were in the 6-1 range and 225-230 lbs. but at the combine were from the low 4.5s in the 40 and down and could drop well into pass protection.

" (Jerome Baker) with sideline-to-sideline range and man-coverage ability, shadowing Saquon Barkley last October and holding him to 23 receiving yards on four catches. Not a dominant run defender but speedy (4.53) and valuable on passing downs."
Jerome Baker - Ohio State Buckeyes - 2018 Player Profile - Rotoworld.com
 
Glad we finally have the players and coaches to realize this is where college football is going. Saban realized it a few years ago when QB’s were running all over them. He went away from 250lbs LB and went with Fitzpatrick at the STAR position. Pretty much the same as our striker. It’s a big athletic safety who plays in the box, but also athletic enough to play in space. Great move by the staff to combat spread teams.
 
Glad we finally have the players and coaches to realize this is where college football is going. Saban realized it a few years ago when QB’s were running all over them. He went away from 250lbs LB and went with Fitzpatrick at the STAR position. Pretty much the same as our striker. It’s a big athletic safety who plays in the box, but also athletic enough to play in space. Great move by the staff to combat spread teams.

He also went to more versatile and athletic DBs.

Love both moves as we have a ton of each in South Florida and our staff appears willing to scheme to fit local talent, as opposed to trying to find what we don't have much of to fit a scheme (that may not be attractive to local recruits anyway, you know which staff I look at here).
 
Glad we finally have the players and coaches to realize this is where college football is going. Saban realized it a few years ago when QB’s were running all over them. He went away from 250lbs LB and went with Fitzpatrick at the STAR position. Pretty much the same as our striker. It’s a big athletic safety who plays in the box, but also athletic enough to play in space. Great move by the staff to combat spread teams.
We've be recruiting these types like Jamien Sherwood and others, nice to have the prototype on the roster
 
TCU re-made their defense in this style as well, to the Nth degree, after a couple of down years facing the Big 12 spread / RPO offenses.

Patterson never had big corners, but his safeties and linebackers have gotten small to the point of interchangeable now.
 
Finley was a very strong kid back in high school at 200 lbs and ran a 200m in track of 22.7. No doubt with the S&C here and 215 or more exceptionally strong.

This is the difference between this staff and previous staphs. Finley hasn't done anything significant yet as a player. But everyone knew he had the talent, was a project not a JAG. He needed the right coaching, development and scheme to be effective. Diaz is putting him in a position where his skillset is best leveraged, and now all of a sudden we're hearing his name called. I'm so glad for him.

... McCloud is going to be on the field a ton. Not really important if we're in the 4-3 base or 4-2-5. I bet we also see him and the striker on the field at the same time in certain situations. For example, when teams try to go hurry up so we can't change personnel. Diaz could shift McCloud into the DE position, with the SDE kicking inside and the SS coming down as a striker
 
So we install the Striker position because McCloud can’t cover his own shoes. Now, Patke tells us McCloud and Finley are top 2 at Striker.
 
In the spring, everyone was raving about Derrick Smith. Even Papa Shaq, Shaq, and D-Money were talking him up. Hope he takes the next step mentally.
 
If Smith doesn't beat out Finley he should move back to safety. If he can help us at nickel like he did in 2017 then let him compete there if this isn't working for him at LB.
 
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No he shouldn’t. He’ll get plenty of snaps this season and Smith is only a sophomore. He could end up starting next season because of his physical gifts
 
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