Yes! College football arrived this week. People from all walks of life have been anticipating this week since January. For the University of Miami Hurricanes, they started their season yesterday against the Boston College Eagles. The Hurricanes got off to a slow start, but were able to pull-off a 41-31 victory over the Boston College Eagles. Here are my observations from the game.
Stephen Morris Looked Solid
Going into the season, I firmly believed Ryan Williams the better option for the ‘Canes at quarterback. The Eagles’ defense isn’t elite by any means, but nonetheless Stephen Morris looked very solid. Stephen Morris did throw an interception in the 1st quarter, though it wasn’t his fault. Morris was able to us his mobility to extend plays and exploit holes in the Eagles’ coverage. He did not force the issue very often, typically making the correct division. Morris looked very comfortable and that bodes well for the Hurricanes. If Miami wants to improve on their 6-6 record from last season, Stephen Morris has to be the catalyst.
Offensive Line Looks Improved from the 2011-Season Disaster
Going into the 2011 season, the Hurricanes’ offensive line was supposed to be one of the best in college football. To put it bluntly, they were a big disappointment. Instead of helping the ‘Canes win, the o-line made things difficult with their inconsistencies in pass-protection. In the first game of the new season, I was pleasantly surprised by the play of the Hurricanes’ o-line. The Eagles were able to get some pressure on Stephen Morris, but overall the o-line did a good job protecting him. The offensive line also did a yeoman’s in run-blocking. They were able to open holes for Mike James and Duke Johnson, while also showing the ability to get to the 2nd-level of the defense. The better the offensive line plays, the likelihood of Stephen Morris and company having good performance increases.
Duke Johnson isn’t your Ordinary Freshman
Along with Tracy Howard, Duke Johnson was probably Miami’s most-prized acquisition in their 2012 recruiting class. Duke Johnson impressed in the Hurricanes’ spring and summer camps, but had issue’s in pass protection. Mike James was successfully hold his starting spot going into the season. Duke Johnson made a huge statement whenever he touched the ball. Duke Johnson rushed for 125 yards on 7 carries, scoring 2 touchdowns along the way. Duke Johnson showed an amazing ability to accelerate and use his speed to make defenders miss. He was able weave his way through the defense with ease, making defenders miss, and on one occasion he was able gain an extra 3-yards on a rushing attempt with 3-4 defenders trying to bring him down. If Duke Johnson can keep this up, don’t be surprised to see him starting by mid-season.
The Receiving Corps Need Work
Wide receiver was another position that the ‘Canes were decimated at via NFL Draft and/or graduation. Both starters have a lack of experience. Allen Hurns, Kendall Thompkins, Malcolm Lewis, Rashawn Scott, and Phillip Dorsett are all talented receivers. The problem is none of them had extensive experience going into yesterday’s game against Boston College. They proved me right.. At times the receiving corps looked great. Allen Hurns had good game (8 catches, 81 yards, 1 touchdown). But especially early-on in the game, their inexperience showed. Up until the late 2nd quarter, it felt like every other time Stephen Morris dropped back to pass the receivers dropped a nicely-thrown ball. The receivers were able to get-it-together, but they can’t continue to drop passes that are on-the-money. Because of their inexperience, I expect the receivers to continue to be inconsistent early-on in the season. But the talent is there, if this group can gel and continue to improve, the Miami Hurricanes could have one of the better receiving corps in the ACC.
The Hurricanes’ Inexperience on Defense Showed
After last season the Hurricanes’ defense lost Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, Adelwale Ojomo, Olivier Vernon, Micanor Regis, JoJo Nicolas, and Lee Chambers to graduation and/or the NFL. Because of this, the ‘Canes have had to start players with very little starting experience. In the win against Boston College it showed. The Eagles were able to get a lot of yards on play action. Every time the Eagles called a play-action pass, the Hurricanes bit on the fake leading to large gains by the BC offense. Any ‘Canes linebacker not named Denzel Perryman or James Gaines struggled with making reads and showed a lack of instincts altogether. Deon Bush struggled in coverage. He also fell for the play action on occasion and the Eagles were able to get big gains throwing to the deep, right-middle of the field. Lastly, the Hurricanes showed a lack of ability to get consistent pressure on the Chase Rettig. Part of the issue was Mark D’Onofrio’s conservative play-calling (which I will get to later) , but the ‘Canes didn’t have a prayer of getting to Chase Rettig. Anthony Chickillo looked solid, but Boston College was focused on making him a non-factor by double-teaming him. None of the other Hurricane d-linemen stepped-up to the occasion.
Denzel Perryman’s 2011-Season Performance Carried into the New Season
As a freshman Denzel Perryman was the only linebacker other than Sean Spence who made an impact on the game. One-game into the 2012-season, Denzel Perryman looks to be the next great linebacker to come out of the University of Miami. Denzel helped turn the tide in the 2nd quarter with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown that tied the game. Throughout the day Denzel Perryman looked instinctive and clearly showed he is the best player on the Miami Hurricanes’ defense. Don’t be surprised to see Denzel Perryman as a finalist for the Butkus and Bednarik Awards this season.
Mark D’Onofrio was Conservative
I understand that Mark D’Onofrio is dealing with a very young and inexperienced defense, but he was way too conservative with his play-calling yesterday. D’Onofrio rarely used blitzes. The majority of the game the Hurricanes brought a 4-man rush and played soft zone. The ‘Canes did not get any pressure on Chase Rettig the whole game. The Eagles were able to amass yards on dingy swing passes to the flat and passes to the deep-middle of the field. Mike D’Onofrio could’ve really helped the defense by calling more blitzes and playing more Tampa-2 and press-man coverage schemes. I’ll be interested to what strategy Mark D’Onofrio employs next week against Kansas State.
The Hurricanes’ Defense Looked better in 3-4 Sets
There were only 4 plays where the Miami Hurricanes’ defense lined-up in a 3-4 formation, there was an astounding difference in how the defense performed. The defense looked much better against the run when utilizing a 3-4. The pass rushing ability of the defense also increased when in 3-4 sets. It will be interesting to see how Mark D’Onofrio balances the how much he utilizes a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.