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Georgia Tech Football 2017: Opponent Q&A - Miami

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A Q&A with State of the U

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

This week, we chatted with Cam Underwood, who is the managing editor of SBNation’s Miami blog, State of the U. Below, we cover injured running backs and his general hatred of the flexbone. You can see my answers to Cam’s questions here

1. I know Walton was one of the best RB's in the league, but his backup in Travis Homer seems more than capable - how much will his loss be felt?

Losing Mark Walton is big for Miami. It's not that I'm concerned about Travis Homer -- he's very good and will be a good starting RB for Miami, even if its a year earlier than many of us thought it'd happen -- it's that the depth at the position was already thin and is now super duper ridiculously thin.

With Walton gone (he broke his leg in the FSU game for those wondering what happened), the only scholarship RBs were Homer, RS JR Trayone Gray, and freshman Robert Burns. Gray is back after tearing a knee last year, and Burns has a bad injury history (played 3 games as a junior, only played 9 snaps as a senior). To combat that, Miami put walk-on RB Crispian Atkins on scholarship THIS WEEK, and moved freshman DeeJay Dallas, a mutli-purpose ATH who played QB, RB, WR, DB, KR, and PR in HS at Glynn Academy in Brunswick, GA, from WR to RB.

To your question, I don't know that Miami will feel that big of a difference at RB this week, with Walton, Gray, Atkins, and Dallas available (Burns is still not there physically and likely to redshirt). The thing will be as the season wears on, and players need to rotate, is the depth of a high enough quality to perform? When it was Homer coming in to give Walton a rest, things were fine, in the run game, pass game, and pass protection. Now, if it's Gray, Atkins, or Dallas giving Homer a rest, will they be up to the task? That's where I think Miami may feel the effects of Mark Walton's injury the most.

2. Now that the Hurricanes have finally cleared the FSU hurdle, what's the realistic ceiling for Miami? Is this the year Miami finally makes it to the ACC Championship game?

A realistic ceiling for the Miami Hurricanes this season is absolutely the ACC Championship game and Orange Bowl. The schedule sets up very favorably, with the 2nd cross-over team from the Atlantic Division being Syracuse, UNC and Pitt being very bad, only 2 more road trips all season, and hosting all of the top contenders in the ACC Coastal -- Georgia Tech, Virginia (they're 2-0 in the league so yes I put them), and Virginia Tech -- later this season.

I wrote about this earlier this week, but clearing the FSU hurdle as you put it now makes Miami's job of refocusing that much harder. In the past, a loss to FSU derailed the season because the emotional bubble was burst. Now, riding an emotional high after FINALLY BEATING FLORIDA STATE, Miami has to leave that in the past and bring their best effort and performance when the Yellow Jackets come to Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Do I think Miami can get to the ACC Championship game for the first time ever? Yes. Do I think Miami can beat Clemson, go undefeated, and make the College Football Playoff? No, I do not. So, ACCCG and a berth in the Orange Bowl (highest ranked ACC Team not in the playoff) is the ceiling for this season in my estimation.

3. Rosier seems to be playing well this season, but from the Miami games I've watched, he hasn't been forced to do too much or carry the team with how strong the running game has been. With him probably assuming more responsibility with Walton out, is he capable of carrying the team?

Malik Rosier has been feast or famine so far. "First Half Malik", seen vs Bethune Cookman, Toledo, and FSU, is bad. Very bad. But "Second Half Malik", seen in those games, is a baller. In control of the RPO and zone read run games, tough, smart, accurate, and dropping dimes, including the game-winner ro Darrell Langham at FSU last week.

I think that Rosier was entrusted with carrying the offense last week at FSU in the 2nd half, when Miami could hardly get anything going on the ground, and came up big. While Rosier's job did just get a little bigger with Walton now gone for the year, we know that a Mark Richt offense is going to be pro-style, or pro-spread, and feature a heavy dose of the run game, regardless of who the RB is.

Even if Rosier has to throw a bit more, he's proven capable to do that, and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal to throw to. Ahmmon Richards, even with a tweaked hamstring, is one of the best WRs in America, Braxton Berrios has been a revelation as a senior now that he's used full-time in the slot, Lawrence Cager and Darrell Langham -- your hero from last week's game-winning TD catch at FSU -- have size, Dionte Mullins has (usually) great hands, and the freshman pair of Mike Harley and Jeff Thomas can both FLY. And that's not even to mention TE Christopher Herndon IV, the best TE in the ACC but nobody knows his name bc David Njoku is a physical freak and grabbed the headlines last year. When you factor in all of those receivers, and also note that Homer is a good receiver out of the backfield, and Dallas was playing WR before being switched to RB, there are more than enough talented and athletic players for Malik Rosier to throw to, and find great success.

4. What matchup on either side of the ball gives you the most concern when facing Georgia Tech this week?

The individual matchups I'm interested in are 1. Antonio Simmons vs Miami's OLine and 2. Ricky Jeune vs Miami's CBs. Both players for GT have the ability to create explosive plays, and keeping them contained or shut down will be a key.

In the case of Simmons, keeping him from getting pressure on Malik Rosier will give Miami's offense room to operate. For Jeune, keeping him from long catches will hopefully stagnate GTs offense and get the Yellow Jackets off of the field (the #1 key to beating them).

Overall, however, the matchup I'm ALWAYS concerned with is Miami's front 7 vs GT's option offense. I hate that damned offense. I hate the cut blocks. I hate the guards WHO MOVE EARLY NEARLY EVERY PLAY AND IT'S NEVER CALLED. I hate the misdirection. I hate the counter to the misdirection. I hate the counter to the counter to the misdirection. I HAAAAATE the play action off any of those plays. I hate it. Absent the scheme, there would be no issue beating GT, because Miami's talent is better. But the scheme matters, how the front 7 (and secondary) combat and confront it matters, and it's literally the interaction that will determine the outcome of the game. So that's what I'm concerned about. Stopping that stupid, 1873 offense.

5. Who on the defensive side of the ball should we be expecting to hear the name of a lot?

Miami's linebacking corps is really good, so Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney, and Zach McCloud making plays from the 2nd level should hear their names called often. Jaquan Johnson was Miami's leading tackler at Florida State last week with 12 stops, so he should be a factor in run defense as well.

Hopefully, we're hearing RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton's names called for good reasons, like the pair of DTs routinely blowing up run plays. In the passing game, Joe Jackson should be heard from on pass rush, Trent Harris is a steady performer who always makes the right play, and CBs Dee Delaney and Malek Young will be tested by Ricky Jeune and the rest of the GT receiving group.

6. And finally, how do you see this game playing out? What's the final score?

I think Miami has a tough test when 3-1 Georgia Tech comes calling, but I believe that the Hurricanes will be up to the challenge. Travis Homer has a game, Malik Rosier plays like "Second Half Malik" from the jump. Defense bends a bit, breaks a couple times, but adjusts at the half and Miami pulls away.

Oh, and we see the turnover chain twice on the Miami sideline.

Final Score: Miami 31 Georgia Tech 20

Thanks again to Cam for speaking with us. Be sure to check out my answers to his questions over at SOTU.