Good morning and happy Friday. The Q&A returns this week with a chat with Cameron Underwood of the SBN Miami site, State of the U. Miami comes into this weekend at a disappointing 4-4, with losses to the likes of Alabama and Michigan State, as well as a downright unexplainable loss to UNC. However, the Canes seem to have turned a corner in the last couple weeks and appear to be on the upswing behind their high-flying QB, Tyler Van Dyke.
1. Miami has had a fairly puzzling year, from looking at the schedule. I know 4-4 isn’t where Canes fans expected to be at this point in the season, especially with the talent on the roster. So how did we get here? What’s plaguing the Canes so far this year? The losses against Bama and Michigan State are certainly understandable, but the UNC one is not.
To be perfectly honest, the loss to Michigan State isn’t understandable or acceptable either. Especially when it was a 3pt game going into the 4th quarter, and Miami had the ball, and it ended up 38-17. Playing the result/current situation is fine, and I get it. But Miami absolutely should have won that game and it’s embarrassing that they didn’t, and even more so that the final score was a 3 TD scoreline.
Miami, quite simply, has been a shitshow. Manny Diaz has not been up to the task, the coaching staff has played older player for the sake of seniority and not based upon who is best suited to help the team win games, and that’s before getting to the myriad injuries that have plagued the team this year.
But, after a bye week and a clear desire to save jobs, the staff started playing some younger guys, like 5-star recruits James Williams and Leonard Taylor, and the team finally started making winning plays instead of losing ones in key moments.
I know this answer seems very disjointed, but that’s representative of Miami’s performance on the field this year. The offense struggled with D’Eriq King in the lineup, which doesn’t make sense when you have a player with more than 12,000 career yards at the controls, but has opened up with super freshman QB Tyler Van Dyke. And the defense, while not great, has been a measure better in recent weeks. And the most important part: this team finally looks like they give a damn. But it shouldn’t have taken 4 losses in the first 6 contests of the year to finally start caring.
2. I’ve seen the rumors that the athletic department is planning to keep Diaz, for now anyway. Do you think he’s the longterm guy for the job? Is he showing the coaching acumen to handle what was once a prestigious job and bring it back to that level?
I mentioned the Michigan State game in my first answer. I’ll mention that game again here.
It was after that game that MSU coach Mel Tucker said his team’s goal was to “drag Miami into the deep water and make them drown”. In short, he said Miami was soft, their coaches were soft, and they weren’t ready for prime time.
It was in that moment post-game that I checked out of the Manny Diaz era at Miami.
I do not believe he has what it takes to get Miami where the program should be, which is consistently winning the Coastal Division and then competing for Championships — ACC and National — beyond that. Since the first part is beyond Diaz’s capabilities, the last part is lightyears away. And, look, Diaz means well. He WANTS to win big at Miami. I just don’t think he’s that guy.
Has Diaz done better recently? Yes. Is he FINALLY putting an end to the wholesale reliance on seniority as the determining factor for who plays and who doesn’t? Yes. Has Miami found ways to win games they’ve routinely lost in his tenure? Absolutely.
But all those moves are putting Diaz closer to the baseline for performance, not the ceiling. And if we’re 3 years into this regime and just now BARELY executing and accomplishing the tier 1 level basics of the program, that speaks more to what ails this program than what works.
Sorry Manny. You’re just not that guy.
3. With 4 very winnable games remaining on the schedule, what will the Canes need to do better to win out? What’s something that’s correctable this season that you want to see from the coaches and team?
The first thing they’ll need to do is continue to play like the games matter. They did that against #18th ranked NC State...and won. They did it again against #17 Pitt on the road...and won. So, they need to continue to do that week in and week out from here to the end of the season.
Next, they’ll need to continue to leverage the red-hot performance of QB Tyler Van Dyke. Miami’s new QB has cooly and calmly had incredible performances in the last 2 weeks, both wins over ranked teams. In those games, Van Dyke is 57/75 passing for 753 yards with 7 TDs and 1 INT. Pretty good if you ask me. And, Miami would be wise to keep calling the schemes Van Dyke likes and does well with, since he’s been incredible executing them lately.
What’s something correctable that I’d like to see change for the better? The tackling. Yes, it’s already gotten better from earlier in the year, but Miami missed so many tackles in the first 4 games of the year that the Canes are STILL the worst tackling team by amount and percentage of missed tackles in the country! And it’s nearly 2 months later!!!!!! So, I’d like to see the tackling continue to show improvement weekly, and that’s very much a correctable issue.
From the coaches, I’d like to see less “random”/”participation trophy” rotations on defense, and playing the best players. This has happened at several positions so far this season, such as Safety where a starting player — preseason All-ACC pick Bubba Bolden — is out for the year and another player has been surpassed on the depth chart, but there’s a need for improvement to the rotation at Linebacker, and that’s something Miami has outright refused to even consider. I’d like to see that change, as well.
4. I know a lot of us were ready to write Miami off earlier in the season, between the early losses and King being injured, but Van Dyke seems to have stepped into the role and performed well. What have you liked from the new starter so far? Will he retain the job even with a healthy roster next season?
I kinda stole my own thunder here, but yeah, Tyler Van Dyke has been really, really good recently. Now, it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine in his first 2 starts, games that Miami lost with TVD completing fewer than 50% of his passes, with 2 TD and 3 INT, but in the last 2 weeks he’s had the incredible statline I listed above, and has been named ACC Rookie of the Week both times.
Van Dyke has a strong arm, and Miami is using it to push the ball down the field, but also to stretch the field laterally. Van Dyke can easily make the out route throw from the near hash to the far sideline with his arm strength, so any receiver on the field is an active receiver. You cannot assume TVD can’t get the ball there (where? anywhere.) because he absolutely has the arm to make you look like a fool if you assume that.
I’ve liked TVD’s accuracy, especially on RPO slants and Smash concepts. I’ve liked his competitiveness and swag (he specifically called out NC State as being susceptible to the pass based on film study). And I’ve liked the way he’s just looked the part of being a Miami QB.
Insofar as next year, TVD has to be the leader in the clubhouse for the 2022 QB1 spot in the forthcoming battle with 2021 superstar recruit Jake Garcia. I am of the opinion that Garcia’s potential is greater than Van Dyke’s, but with every 350+ yard, 3+ TD performance, Van Dyke is making the case to the contrary.
And to the readers who are thinking to themselves “wait. Hold on. A healthy roster would be D’Eriq King returns to Miami next year, right? So like.....why haven’t you mentioned him??” My answer to that is this: King is welcomed back with open arms. He’s everything that’s right with College Football and I would love to have him back on my team...
to play a position other than quarterback.
Look, he’s great, and has more than 12,000 yards total offense in his college career. But the future of the Canes rests on Van Dyke’s or Garcia’s shoulders. That’s why I didn’t mention King in the answer. Because it’s best for everybody if he’s removed from the QB competition and conversation for Miami moving forward. It’s tough to say, because injuries have ended both of King’s seasons in Miami — in the bowl game in 2020 and early in the season in 2021 — but yeah. It’s time that Miami moves on from him at QB. And with Van Dyke and Garcia, there’s plenty of talent in the room to make that transition a good one for Miami.
5. Georgia Tech is not a good team on either side of the ball this season. Is there a position group on either side of the ball that you’re expecting to break out? And vice versa, is there a position group that you’re concerned about this week?
I’m expecting the Offensive Line to continue to take a step forward, and the Linebackers to look like they have a clue on the field (which, to be honest, hasn’t been happening much this season). And I’d love the skill positions on offense to continue to do work, and the secondary on defense — led by true freshmen Safeties James Williams and Kamren Kinchens (he of the game-winning 4th down tackle against NC State) — to step up big as well.
As far as GT’s team, it’s not about a position group that concerns me as much as it is a single, special player.
RB Jamyr Gibbs.
To my eye — and I come at this as a longtime recruiting blogger — Gibbs is BY FAR the most talented player on GT’s roster. And It’s not close. And when you have a player of his caliber, with size, skill, and game-breaking speed/playmaking ability, that player is going to be the focus of my concern. Sure, QB Jeff Sims was a blue-chip recruit as well and Geoff Collins has done a solid job with player development, but my focus here is containing Gibbs, which will hopefully allow everything else to fall into place.
6. And finally, who wins this game and how?
I think Miami has found something in these last two weeks, and that, combined with GT not being very good, will combine for a relatively painless Miami victory. TVD will continue his hot stretch, the run game will move the ball when needed, and the defense will continue to do just enough to get by (which is about the best Miami seems to be able to ask for from the defense this year).
Final Score: Miami 37 Georgia Tech 24
Thanks again to Cam for taking the time to chat with us this week. Kickoff is at 12:30 on Saturday.