Today the Q&A chats with Cameron Underwood of State of the U. The ‘Canes have had an up and down season, but appear to be on the upswing after beating UVA last week. Who will start at QB for Miami this weekend? Who does Miami’s often baffling play calling fall on? Which member of their defense will be causing GT QBs to run for their lives?
Surprise, it’s everyone.
1. Much like the rest of the Coastal, Miami hasn’t made much sense to me this season. Was the win over a good UVA team a sign of things to come and the team is on the upswing, or was it just some Coastal Chaos?
Miami’s made plenty of sense, in a bad way though. This program has played down to and below the level of their opponents for YEARS, and that continued early this season. The Canes were finally able to put together a solid-enough-but-not-perfect game to beat Virginia, so that was good from our perspective.
This team is still searching for an overall identity, and a cohesive offensive philosophy. I think we started to see what those things could be in the win over Virginia, and I sincerely hope that was the beginning of a run of wins. But, with the penchant to play well one week and terribly the next, I can’t be sure of that until I see it. But let me be clear: that win over Virginia was not just random “Coastal Chaos”. Miami is the most talented team in the division BY FAR and finally played like it to beat a tough and well-coached team. It’s incumbent upon the Canes to maintain and improve that level of performance moving forward, but last week’s win was nobody’s “fluke”.
2. The little bit I’ve watched of the Canes play this season has almost always included Manny Diaz making some baffling in-game decisions with timeout usage and playcalling... how much of this do you think is just a learning curve for the first-time HC, or do we have the making of young Les Miles on our hands?
Let’s start with the fact that Manny Diaz isn’t calling the plays, although I wish he would on defense. But, yes, some of the playcalling, especially on offense, has been QUITE perplexing. There are obviously going to be some growing pains with a pair of new coordinators calling the plays, and even moreso on offense as Miami is in the first year of a new offensive system, but yeah......there have been some calls that even by alignment before the snap were known to be poor choices.
Manny Diaz’s timeout management is also curious, as you noted. He treats them like the most precious resource in the world. Sure, it’s nice to have all 3 timeouts on the last drive of a half or game, but maybe using one earlier in a key situation would be helpful. And, like I said, we have new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Calling a TO before a key 3rd down play in a high leverage situation might be beneficial, but Diaz hasn’t gone that route yet.
I think there are game-management issues that are the growing pains of a 1st year, and FIRST TIME, head coach. But there are other things where Diaz is ahead of the curve, such as going for a 2pt conversion when Miami scored a TD after being down 14 points. The analytics say that’s the move to make, and Diaz made it. So that was good. But yeah, there are still other things that can be tightened up to make the ship sail more smoothly. And hey, he’s not out here munching on grass like Les Miles so let’s give the man some time, eh?
3. Which quarterback do you think deserves the starting gig? I know both Perry and Williams have seen a decent amount of time this season - is Diaz just playing the hot hand at this point?
Diaz is not “playing the hot hand”. He’s repeatedly stated that, if healthy, Jarren Williams is the guy. That leads me to question whether Williams has been healthy all season, but that’s a debate for a different time.
As far as my view of the situation, I think N’Kosi Perry should be the starter. He is more mobile both in and out of the pocket, a fact that creates room for other players to run and opens up elements of the playbook that go dormant with Williams in the game, has a MUCH stronger arm to push the ball vertically down the field (And thereby make the defense back out their safeties out of the box....where they live with Williams in the game), and he’s shown an ability to get our best playmakers, namely Brevin Jordan and Jeff Thomas, the ball. FULL DISCLOSURE, I’ve always thought Perry should be the starter, so this is just me continuing with that line of thought.
And look, Williams does some things very well and much better than Perry. He’s incredibly accurate, which Perry will never be, completing 72% of his passes. He’s tough and will take a hit (so will Perry), and he’s a gamer. But Williams is checkdown Charlie in terms of passing distance, favoring RPO slants, Digs, and swing passes to deeper throws. VT Defensive Coordinator talked about this: he had his DBs play right press man because he saw Williams’s tendency to throw the ball short, and also questioned whether Williams had the arm strength to beat them deep if a receiver got off of press coverage.
So, really, it comes down to personal preference. Would you rather a more stationary QB with great short and intermediate level accuracy with an average arm? Or would you rather a more dynamically mobile QB with a stronger arm whose accuracy is improving but not the greatest but can make a play when the designed play breaks down? To me, I’d prefer the latter, but Manny Diaz, a defensive coach who values ball control versus offensive explosion, prefers the former.
4. The Canes are not going through nearly the same rebuild as the Yellow Jackets, but it still seems that they’re still struggling under the new regime. What do the Canes most need to improve on in order to compete for the Coastal title?
Consistency on offense, particularly the offensive line. Miami has given up the most sacks in the country (28) and has allowed pressure on like 40% of their pass plays. That’s QUITE bad. And the intermittent whiffing of blocks on run plays isn’t really helpful, either.
The other big issue is finding an identity for the team overall and playing to the level of talent on the roster. Miami has done less with more talent than anyone in the country over the last 15-20 years. To have the kind of talent this roster does, there’s no reason to lose to the teams we’ve lost to (Florida being the exception as they’re as talented as Miami is). THAT is the thing that has to change. Manny Diaz has to find a way to get this team to play like the elite athletes they are. If and when that happens, the ACC Coastal should be easy pickings.
Then again, we’ve been saying this same thing since 2004, so.........
5. Tech’s O-line is porous at best, so who on the defensive side will we see the most of in our backfield?
DE Jonathan Garvin is a beast, and has caused more pressures than any other player on Miami’s team. His stats are lower this year than in previous years since he’s constantly being double teamed (as well as teams running plays away from his side of the field), but trust and believe that he can change the game in an instant.
The name to know this year is DE Gregory Rousseau. A 6’6” (maybe taller?) pterodactyl, Rousseau is growing into his impressive frame, and using his incredible athletic skills to be a terror in opposing backfields. Already 7.5 TFLs and 5 sacks -- both team-leading numbers -- Rousseau is only scratching the surface for his potential. Oh, and he’s put up those numbers in VERY limited snaps this year; Rousseau was a 15-20 snap rotation DE for 5 games before FINALLY being inserted into the starting lineup last week. When you look at him now, you wouldn’t know that he was a 200lb WR and S in high school, but remember the name: Gregory Rousseau will play on Sundays for a long, long time.
Lastly, Linebacker Michael Pickney. The 4 year starter at LB is an instinctive and disruptive player on Miami’s defense. If you’re concerned with a player getting up the field and creating disruption in GT’s offensive backfield, then I would identify #56 on every play. With 36 TFLs and 11.5 sacks to his credit in his career, Pinckney has a knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage, and he’s probably looking for that chance this week after the beginning of his senior season was below the standard of his performance as seen over the last 3 years.
6. I think all of us involved are going to be worse people for having watched this game, but how do you see it going, and who wins?
I think Miami is a far more talented team that Georgia Tech at present. And with the Yellow Jackets in a full scale gut renovation rebuild on offense, they just don’t have the demonstrated scheme, or players to win this game. Miami started to right the ship last week, and that continues at Noon on Saturday on the ACC Network (so, at least there won’t be TOO MANY people watching at home).
Final score: Miami 31 Georgia Tech 14
Thanks again to Cameron for taking the time to talk to us. Y’all make sure to head over to State of the U to say hello. Kick is at noon on Saturday.