Miami vs FSU: Defensive Vulnerabilities

LuCane

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In a long-standing rivalry game, the saying is that “anything can happen.â€Â￾ Going into Tallahassee is always a significant challenge. Now, going into Tallahassee with a vulnerable defense is another task altogether.

The 5-4 Miami Hurricanes take on the 6-3 Florida State Seminoles in a game that, in the context of the broader college football landscape, means “lessâ€Â￾ than it used to mean. For a team like Miami, however, with 1[SUP]st[/SUP] year Head Coach Al Golden, this is the type of game that can set the course of a program in the right direction. In an ironic twist of fate, the Seminoles, under then 1[SUP]st[/SUP] year Head Coach Jimbo Fisher, had a similar opportunity during the 2010 season. They stepped on to Miami’s home field and executed a 45-17 rout that altered the course of the Hurricane program.

A year later, given different dynamics within the programs, Miami may not have that same type of opportunity to deter FSU’s general course, but the game can serve as a launching point for Al Golden’s version of the Miami Hurricanes. It is once again a point where the program’s course can be altered.

This glimpse into the game will focus on a particular defensive vulnerability. In a press conference this week, Al Golden emphatically mentioned the damaging effects of the “explosive play.â€Â￾ I decided to take a closer look at that by breaking down every single play of 20 or more yards given up by the Miami Hurricane defense during the current 2011 season.

Below, you will find four specific points for all the "explosive plays" during the first 2 games (guess how many there were in the victory against OSU?): (1) The play, (2) a brief description (including video on the first 6 games), (3) how I expect FSU to take advantage of this type of vulnerability and (4) how I would expect Miami to respond.

MARYLAND

Play #1
  1. 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] and 3 – PASS – LATE BLITZ – WR Screen for 25 yards
  2. Maryland set trip WRs to the short side of the field. DBs played off the line. 7:17 of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=A6I6BgCOsTk#!
  3. With poor tackling angles and an overall lack of speed from the Safety position, FSU has a chance to spread the field horizontally against Miami and force difficult tackles in open space. Outside of Spence, who historically covers WR screens well, Miami LBs struggle with long angles.
  4. Miami will need to effectively mix and match press coverage throughout the game. Naturally, this will open up a few opportunities for EJ Manuel to hit some talented WRs in one on one matchups, but if you’re picking a “poison,â€Â￾ I’d rather force precision from Manuel and his WRs than to lean on Miami’s secondary tackling.
Play #2
  1. 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] and 22 – PASS – NO BLITZ – TE completion down the seam for 24 yards
  2. Maryland set trip WRs to the wide side of the field. DBs played off the line. Miami LBs bit hard forward and left an enormous gap in front of the Safety. Miami defense actually SHOWED a single-high Safety pre-snap. 3:05 of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Zo6nm-S-tNU#!
  3. This is one of Miami’s main weaknesses. There isn’t a Centerfielder (Safety) on the roster. There isn’t a Safety with the instinct or range to play the middle of the field. Nevertheless, in the play above, there isn’t a Safety that would have likely stopped the play without completely baiting and guessing. One of FSU’s biggest opportunities this upcoming Saturday is to take advantage of Miami’s Safeties. If Miami somehow shows a single high Safety on ANY FSU pass play – and they might depending on FSU’s run game – Manuel simply has to be patient and have average accuracy to pick his target up the seam (as in the play above).
  4. Show less single high Safety and simply roll up the Safety late. If FSU goes trips (something they’d be smart to do), LBs either need to keep proper drop depth or Coach D (Miami D-coordinator) has to gamble with various blitzes that force quicker throws. It’s simply a gamble.
Play #3
  1. 1[SUP]st[/SUP] and 10 – PASS – NO BLITZ – WR Slot Seam for 21 yards
  2. On the very next play, Maryland simply set in the exact formation and ran the same route combinations against the single high Safety. This time, the QB hit the opposite side of the Safety. Without proper LB depth, there isn’t a Safety in America that can cover a split of this magnitude. 3:10 of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Zo6nm-S-tNU#!
  3. Exactly as was said above, the seams are vulnerable against a Miami team whose Safeties lack range and LBs fail to get consistent depth.
  4. Another alternative to these plays is to play more Cover 2 variations, though that would (1) be difficult against trips and (2) open Miami up to a significant amount of Read-options and Shotgun handoffs. The key, in my opinion, is for the LBs to play with discipline and the Safety to force the more difficult seam pass (typically the opposite hash mark).
Play #4
  1. 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] and 10 – PASS – NO BLITZ – WR down the sideline deep pass for 52 yards
  2. In an answer to anyone asking for more press coverage and aggressive calls from Miami’s D-Coordinator, Maryland sets up trips (with the TE) to the wideside. The QB reads press, man-coverage down the right sideline. 8:02 of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HDN5VHE5jOk#!
  3. When people ask about the Miami defense, the usual answer is this season is that they’re “between a rock and a hard place.â€Â￾ If they play aggressively, they open themselves up to big plays such as this one. If they play loose coverage, the bend-but-don’t-break mentality allows consistent opponent opportunities and places significant pressure on Miami’s tackling.
  4. Outside of saying “hope and pray,â€Â￾ Miami absolutely must take their chances and mix up these types of press coverages. If the QB and WR are precise and on, it’ll be a long day. If Miami can sneak by with a few incomplete passes in these scenarios, they have a real opportunity.
OHIO STATE

0 plays

Ohio State did not complete a play of 20 yards or more. QB accuracy against Miami is lethal. It was clear that Ohio State could not hit Miami’s vulnerable areas, and the game became one-dimensional. Miami must somehow force this type of scenario, but it will be difficult if FSU is patient and consistently spreads the field horizontally waiting for a precise vertical opportunity.
 

VinnDogg

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Good breakdown Lu. Jimbo would have to be a dumbo not to spread Miami out with 3-4 WR's and make them cover in space. Kids like Futch had better not even see the field. I'd line VT up closer to the line and play Swasey back deep just to keep Futch from being a liability. I'd also bring in Finnie. He's young but aggressive. I'd rather go down swinging than just allowing FSU WR's to roam free.

For us to really have a good chance of winning(which I think we do), then we need long sustaining drives. No 3 and outs. Even if we miss out on points, we need to eat the clock and make it a boring game if possible. Miller, James,Clements all day. The games in which we've gotten into shootouts Va Tech,K St and UVA, haven't been good. The games where we have been boring but effective-OSU,GT,Duke, we've done well. Stick with what has been working.
 

LuCane

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Good breakdown Lu. Jimbo would have to be a dumbo not to spread Miami out with 3-4 WR's and make them cover in space. Kids like Futch had better not even see the field. I'd line VT up closer to the line and play Swasey back deep just to keep Futch from being a liability. I'd also bring in Finnie. He's young but aggressive. I'd rather go down swinging than just allowing FSU WR's to roam free.

For us to really have a good chance of winning(which I think we do), then we need long sustaining drives. No 3 and outs. Even if we miss out on points, we need to eat the clock and make it a boring game if possible. Miller, James,Clements all day. The games in which we've gotten into shootouts Va Tech,K St and UVA, haven't been good. The games where we have been boring but effective-OSU,GT,Duke, we've done well. Stick with what has been working.
On offense, I think our best chance to win is to spread them out as well. On paper, I don't like Jacory Harris against their zones. I rather see the gaps in those zones increase by stretching across. I also think that's our best chance to run the ball effectively.

Those three games - OSU, GT, Duke - you reference at the end of your post, feature the 3 worst QBs I've seen so far. OSU and GT's QBs couldn't throw an accurate pass. Duke's QB was frantic and checked down in a panic.

Consider me concerned about Manual's ability to be more effective than those guys.
 

AutoCANE

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I have to hope that Olivier Vernon has his game legs by now, because we need to be able to create some sort of upfield penetration with our defensive line. We have to hit Manuel. We haven't done much hitting the QB at all this season, and if we need to rely on bringing extra guys to create pressure then we are in deep doo doo. Unfortunately to this point we haven't shown anything that would give us hope that this can happen. We're going to have to blitz, and our corners are going to have to be more physical.

I also expect to see FSU play some zone read option because we have been susceptible to it. Kansas State shoved it down our throats and we had no answer. We were able to beat GT's triple option as they didn't have the threat of a passing game...but unfortunately Florida State won't be one-dimensional.

I don't have any confidence that our DB's will make plays unless we change the tempo of Manuel getting the ball out of his hands. We have to force quick throws and get their timing off a bit, if we let him camp back there either (a) receivers will find open grass like they have all season or (b) Manuel will find a running lane and hurt us with his feet.
 

Dan E. Dangerously

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...I also expect to see FSU play some zone read option because we have been susceptible to it. Kansas State shoved it down our throats and we had no answer. We were able to beat GT's triple option as they didn't have the threat of a passing game...but unfortunately Florida State won't be one-dimensional...
That's what I'm dreading. Both KSU and VT killed us with that, and FSU has the personnel to do it too.
 

Tano

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FSU is talented enough, and more importantly smart enough, to exploit the gaping holes in our D. It doesn't take much. We don't have enough horses to force them to be one dimensional at all. But even if we get into a shootout, I'm really hoping we can exploit their secondary. THe problem is that they go into that zone to protect their lack of size. We're going to have to stretch them out, methinks...vertically and horizontally. I'd also like to see a little more creativity in the run game. This isn't playstation. The other team has a defensive coordinator who eventually catches on that you don't run Mike James outside the 4 and 5 hole.

This is probably the least confident I've been heading into an FSU game in quite a while. Moreso than last year.
 

LuCane

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Add it to the breakdown below. I think I mentioned some of the exact same things. Let's get a discussion going.
 

brcane1

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In Jedd we trust?
 

BillSwerski

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you cant be confident against any team that is merely decent at throwing the ball.
 

OrlandoCane

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Agree...for the first time in years I don't like the way the Canes match up talent wise.

It will take a near perfect game and some takeaways for the Canes to win.
 

Tano

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Add it to the breakdown below. I think I mentioned some of the exact same things. Let's get a discussion going.
Oops. Didn't see it. Posting now.
 

Tano

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Usually I'm a fan of ground and pound, but this is just one of those games I feel we're going to need to spread em out to win. I'd also like to see some creativity with the running game. I don't want them to know that if Mike James is in the game, he's definitely not taking an outside handoff.

I think this is the game where we really see jacory's lack of arm strength hurt us a bit. particularly in the intermediate passing game.

As far as OUR D goes, forgetaboutit. We're going to have to score points.
 

MiamiVice7

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I think we have to hope for some mistakes by Manuel/F$U on O (drops, fumbles, penalties, bad passes/lack of accuracy) to help us on defense. We are just so weak on D, and their offense seems like one of those perfectly suited to exploit our weaknesses.

We try to press and our DB's are vulnerable not only to accurate passes (as Lu mentioned), but to Manuel scrambling.

We don't tackle well, and they have good athletes.

We aren't very smart/disciplined, and they run a variety of plays...including that damn zone read-option.

The list goes on. I think we can make enough noise on O to stay in there, but the D has to have a good night + a bit of luck, IMO, for us to get the win.

And, of course, we need special teams to keep up the good coverage (and a good return or two wouldn't hurt).
 

nwFL Griz

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I don't know Tano, I don't think all is lost as far as our D goes. We got some decent pressure on the QB against Duke (I know, it's Duke), and if we can continue that, forcing Manuel to make quick decisions, that could play to our favor. I think if Vernon is finally back up to speed, we might be able to contain some of the explosive plays.

Of course, there's a great chance I'm just hoping what I said is true, cause I'm afraid we're gonna get raped on the D.
 

Biscuits

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We're gonna have to hope EJM shots the bed.
 
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