This week the Q&A chats with Cam Underwood of the Miami Hurricanes’ SBNation site, State of the U. Does he feel good about this weekend? No. Does he feel like Richt has handled the QB situation well? No. Does he feel Richt has done well as a play-caller? No. Can we identify with literally everything he’s feeling? Yes.
1) Who’s starting at QB in Atlanta this weekend? I know the #1 QB keeps changing seemingly by game - how do you feel Richt has handled the situation?
Redshirt Freshman N’Kosi Perry was just announced as the Starting QB today (Thursday), so that’s timely news.
I’m of the very strong and repeatedly stated opinion that Mark Richt has handled the situation poorly. Malik Rosier was never the answer at QB, even during Miami’s 10-0 start last year, when many of those games were won IN SPITE of Rosier’s play, not because of it. I wrote after signing day that Miami needed to move on from Rosier, I wrote in the summer position preview that the hope (blind hope, really, because there was nothing to point in this direction) was for Rosier to take a step forward. That has not happened. Our SB Nation colleague Morgan Moriarty asked (and answered) the question whether CMR was handling the QB situation appropriately by starting Rosier (he wasn’t). Most recently, another SB Nation colleague, Bill Connelly, said that Richt was “Bowdening”, which is never a good thing, and since it’s relative to the offense, plays called, and players played, that has tacit implications about the mismanagement of the QB position, as well.
I’m on record this season as saying N’Kosi Perry should be starting and any other thought is asinine. And, directly after that, CMR decided to start Rosier for 2 MORE games, before this new announcement that the Canes are going back to Perry.
So, do I think that Mark Richt has handled the QB situation appropriately at ANY TIME over the last 10 months, if not longer?
2) Has Rosier really taken that big of a step back this season, or has the O-line and skill positions around him caused his regression?
A bit of both. Rosier has regressed at worst and stayed the same player -- one with limited arm strength, bad accuracy, and average to above average running ability -- at best. Mark Richt famously told Rosier 2 years ago that unless he changed how he played, he would never see the field. Rosier hasn’t changed, or if he has, it’s been by getting worse. Which sucks.
Another big factor in the struggles of the offense is the play of the OL, to be sure. Miami has very few true tackles on the roster, so they miscast a freshman All-American Guard, Navaughn Donaldson, as a tackle for a few games. That failed. Now they’re running with a true freshman, Delone Scaife, at RT, but his performance has been subpar to put it mildly. So there’s been a rotation of players over there to try and shore things up, and the results have been pretty poor, if we’re being honest.
Miami struggles to create space in the run game against good/physically talented teams, and are turnstiles when trying to pass protect on dictated passing downs (your 3rd and 12s of the world). That has impacted things regardless of who is playing QB, but moreso with Rosier in there, because he simply lacks the ability to hit open receivers downfield when given the chance, and turns into one of the worst QBs in America when pressure is around.
Miami’s skill guys have struggled too, but they’re not the cause of the issues. Sure, there have been missed holes in the run game (which makes A HUGE impact since those are few and far between), and dropped passes in the passing game, but more often there are guys running wide open and Rosier was wither unable to get them the ball due to his limited physical skills, or the breakdowns of the OL which didn’t give him a fighting chance to make a throw.
3) I’m assuming Richt is no way in danger of losing his job this season, regardless of outcome, but would 6-6 put him in the hotseat next season?
Mark Richt is secure in his head coaching job at this point. However, his shortcomings as a playcaller -- part of that “Bowdening” that Bill Connelly talked about -- have made it necessary that he have that responsibility stripped from him. Miami needs an OC who preferably doubles as QB coach to call plays and move Miami from a sedentary pro-style team to a medium to uptempo spread team. That will best utilize the talent of the skill players on the roster, and help the OL be more successful, as well.
This is already a lost season for Miami, and a 6-6 record in this year, a year that this program has been pointing to and building toward ever since the day the Canes fired Al Golden, would be a travesty. Richt’s seat would understandably be hot next year if 6-6 (or worse) was the final record, and that temperature would be even higher if substantial changes aren’t made.
4) How is the team handling the 3 game losing skid? Are they coming into Atlanta with this game as a backs-against-the-wall-rebound mentality or do you get the feeling the Canes have given up on the season?
The team is saying all the right things, but improved performance needs to be seen on the field. Miami always has an us-against-the-world mentality, because nobody loves us but us, and maybe being an underdog for the first time this season will put a chip on their shoulder and bring out the savage.
Star players on both sides of the ball have said that they’re not giving up on the season, and still have things to prove. But it would be nice for them to go out and show and prove them, not continue to lose games to inferior competition and look horrible while doing so.
5) Miami’s defense still seems stout as ever - who’s going to lead the team in tackles against Georgia Tech this weekend?
This is a good question. Miami’s defense is one of the best in the country, and they’ll need to play at an elite level on Saturday night.
The leading tackler on the team is S Jaquan Johnson, and I think he’ll be the leading tackler on Saturday night, as well. Johnson is Miami’s do-it-all player in the secondary, and he is as likely to make a tackle as he is to break up a pass. Facing GT’s infamous flexbone option (have I mentioned that I hate playing y’all ever year? Because I do. I hate facing this damned offense), Miami will need to bring players down into the box or 2nd level to stop the run. Johnson has a nose for the ball, is one of the best players on Miami’s defense, and was tied for the team-lead with 8 tackles against the Yellow Jackets in 2017 (LB Shaq Quarterman was the other player with 8 tackles). So, it’s a good bet that Johnson will lead the team in tackles again this week.
6) And finally, how do you see the game going this weekend? Who wins and why?
Call me Doubting Thomas, because I have little faith that Miami will put things together, specifically on offense.
Georgia Tech has been rolling on offense, and while I think Miami will curtail that to some extent, I’m not confident that, even with a move to Perry (the more talented player and my preferred option) at QB, the Canes offense will put up enough points to win.
Final Score: Georgia Tech 24 Miami 17
Man, I hope I’m wrong.
Thanks again to Cam for taking time out of his super busy schedule this week to chat with us. You can head on over to SOTU to check out my answers to his questions here.
We’ll see you at Bobby Dodd tomorrow. Get there early and wear white.