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Countdown Q&A, Week 2 - Miami

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Miami v Florida International Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Welcome back to another week of questioning with myself and an unsuspecting opponent who has no idea what kind of ‘Thunderdome’ he’s stepping into over here at CC. This week I got to talk with Cam Underwood from over at ‘State of The U’, a site covering the Miami Hurricanes...and wouldn’t you know it, we just so happen to be playing them this week. Funny how that works. Let jump right in...

1. Well, for the newcomers to both fanbases we can take a quick trip down memory lane and recall some absolute battles between Miami and Louisville over the last couple decades. Back in 2004 Devin Hester broke the hearts of many Louisvillians by doing what he does, and taking a punt to the house late in the game to help seal a victory for the Canes. Then two years later Mario Urrutia stiff armed the entire team for what felt like 50 yards on the way to a Cards route, 31-7. That victory kicked off a three game win streak for Louisville over Miami until last year when the Canes beat the teeth out of the birds, a team that was showing signs of life after a 2-10 season in 2018. So here we are, Week 2 of the ACC schedule and both teams have high expectations this year, looking to be a dark horse contender for the ACC title game. Can you give us a brief overview of Miami’s squad this year?

Miami is, yet again, a talented team that needs to turn athletic potential into on-field performance. With all due respect, Miami has more talent than any team in the ACC not named “Clemson”, and that’s been the case for several years now. But, despite that talent, the Canes have found a way to do less with more than anyone in the country.

In terms of THIS Canes team, Miami looks to use an updated, and up-tempo offense to put their skill position players in good situations, and compliment the top-15 defense that has been around ever since Manny Diaz came to Miami — first as DC and now as HC. Leading the way is transfer QB D’Eriq King. After a great career at Houston, including a 50 TD (35 passing, 15 rushing) season in 2018, King brings dynamic run-pass ability to Miami’s offense. King will team with a group of talented running backs — junior Cam’Ron Harris and true freshmen Jaylan Knighton and Donald Chaney Jr., the best TE in America (Brevin Jordan) and a host of talented, but unproven, WR and OL to try and turn things around on offense.

Independence Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. Miami Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Miami’s calling card, however, will be the defense. Loaded with talent at every level, the Canes have the players to combat any offensive attack. And, maybe as important as the players themselves, the attacking style of defense suits the players perfectly and allows them to make plays all over the field.

So, Miami is a very talented team, who has to figure out a way to have their performance match the potential. I could have written that sentence about any year from 2006-now. And maybe, just maybe, one of these days, it’ll happen. But we’ll see.

2. With the addition of D’Eriq King at QB Miami adds a nice dimension to their offense as King can not only sling it, but can hurt you with his legs (I’m talking about running the football, but I assume he can also do some damage with a figure four leg lock as well). King is number two in the nation right now with 83 rushing yards coming out of the quarterback position and that scares the absolute Canes sauce right out of me as Louisville has struggled with QBs that have wheels. How do you neutralize King and force him to make throws?

The tactical answer is you spy him with an athletic defender, likely LB or Striker/hybrid or S, and have the DL maintain their rush lanes religiously. And, if it’s comfortable for your defense, play zone in the back end instead of man, that way the 2nd and 3rd level defenders are facing the QB, not running with their backs turned. No mistakes. No rushing past the level of the QB. No lunging off balance. Do your job and do it well and do ONLY THAT JOB and leave no room for movement.

King is special as a runner. Miami’s coaches have said on every snap there are 2 plays: the one they call, and the one King can make happen, particularly with his legs. You see that a ton on King’s tape from Houston, and plenty of times last week against UAB, as well. It’s a tough task to ask any defense to stop King from making things happen with his legs — mostly when pass protection breaks down. So uh.....good luck.

3. On the defensive side of the ball Miami is notably missing Greg Rousseau up on the line, who opted out of the 2020 season to prep for the next level, but they still have some solid contributors on that side of the ball. What should Louisville fans be looking for when the Cards are on offense?

Yeah, having Rousseau opt-out is a big blow to the defense, but as you said, there are plenty of players left to impact games. Leading the way at DE are Quincy Roche and Jaelan Phillips, who are as formidable a pair at that position as there is in the country. Jahfari Harvey and Cameron Williams add depth with potential as well. DTs Nesta Jade Silvera, Jon Ford, and Jared Harrison-Hunte are all talented players up front as well.

At LB, Zach McCloud and Bradley Jennings Jr. are the starters, the former of which is back for a 5th year after RSing last season. But expect to see Sam Brooks Jr. and/or Avery Huff this week, as they are more athletic players who can help to run with Louisville’s offensive skill players. Keontra Smith and Gilbert Frierson man the hybrid STRIKER position.

Miami v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Miami’s trio of Safeties, Bubba Bolden, Amari Carter, and Gurvan Hall Jr., are among some of the best in the Country. That’s the good news for Miami’s secondary. The......area that needs improvement are the Cornerbacks. Al Blades Jr. is very solid on one side, but DJ Ivey has been inconsistent (a VERY generous adjective), Te’Cory Couch is young and talented but Tutu Atwell-tiny, Isiah Dunson and Marcus Clarke are both true freshmen who may have to find their way onto the field before they’re fully ready, and sophomore Christian Williams just entered the transfer portal and is no longer with the program.

Lots of players worth knowing, but plenty of areas for improvement as well.

4. The good news for both Cards fans and Canes fans is that if you want a little bang in your ying yang, if you wanna little zing in your zang zang, or if you wanna little ting in your tang tang ‘College Gameday’ is coming to our ci-tay this week. Obviously with a global pandemic and limited crowd participation things are a bit different than normal but it is something to put a little juice on the matchup. Do you think players/coaches/fans actually care about this weekly emphasis this year?

I think the “GameDay” treatment for a game has lost its luster this season. But, that Saturday Night, ABC National TV slot? THAT’S THE GOOD STUFF RIGHT THERE!!!!!!! And, I mean, usually they try to have those things coincide, as long as the GameDay location isn’t a game that CBS has already claimed with their contract with the SEC.

So, the GameDay part isn’t as impactful as in the past without fans and whatnot, but being the spotlight TV game at 8pm on National Television? That part will NEVER go out of style.

5. The line is likely going to only be a point or two in either direction when this thing kicks off but most of the numbers I’ve seen early this week had the Cards at (-2) or a two point favorite. What needs to happen for the Canes to come in and win this thing outright?

Let’s make a list, shall we?

  • Start fast/score early
  • Win the turnover battle
  • run the ball
  • hit some vertical passes (something they did NOT do last week)
  • integrate the TEs into the offense early
  • TACKLE

Bonus question, because everybody likes free stuff. If Miami does win, who is the player making a play we still talk about ten years from now like the Hester return or Urrutia stiff-arm I mentioned above?

Something something, D’Eriq King

***

Thanks again to Cam for swinging by and dropping some ‘U’ knowledge on us. You can give him a follow on the ol’ twitter right here and you can follow ‘State of The U’ as well for all your Miami news.

UPDATE: I returned the favor and answered some questions for those guys as well this week, you can check that out here.

Go Cards.