UCF at Miami: Game Preview

Our first preview of the UCF matchup against the Miami Hurricanes.

UCF Knights at Miami Hurricanes
Saturday, October 11th, 2008, 3:45 p.m.
Dolphins Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL

2008 records:
UCF- 2-3, Miami- 2-3

Series history: First meeting

Miami Offense

Miami has averaged 31.8 points a game thus far this season, but it is somewhat of a mystery how. The Hurricanes' offense hasn't been particularly more dominant or effective than UCF's this season, as there is just a 20 yard per game discrepancy between the two squads. The difference is that Miami has taken advantage of scoring opportunities, something the Knights haven't done prior to this past week against SMU.

The Hurricanes have two talented yet inexperienced quarterbacks, similar to UCF. Robert Marve, a redshirt freshman, has taken a majority of the snaps under center and has done an adequate job of leading the team. He has completed 57% of his passes on the season for 538 yards, but has as many touchdowns (5) as interceptions. Behind Marve is the ultra talented freshman from Miami Northwestern, Jacory Harris. Harris is an excellent athlete with good accuracy as a passer. At 6'4" and a generous 185 lbs, Harris is a little thin now and could stand to add on some muscle to help improve his arm strength.

At running back, ‘the U' has used a by-committee approach. Graig Cooper, a tough, shifty back, is the team's leading rusher with 322 yards and three touchdowns. Cooper is averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

Miami fields some young but extremely talented receivers. No one player has stepped up as a true number one, but four players have gone over 100 yards receiving for Miami and two are less than 20 yards away from breaking the century mark. Aldarius Johnson, another true frosh from Miami Northwestern, leads the team with 12 receptions for 111 yards. He is a physical receiver who can stretch the field or beat you with his size on intermediate patterns. Sam Shields, one of the more experienced receivers, is a burner and should start opposite to Johnson.

Offensive line might be Miami's biggest strength on offense. The unit is experienced (two seniors and two juniors starting) and is big; real big. The starters' average size is 6'5", 321 lbs.

Best offensive matchup for Miami: Miami's line vs. UCF's line against the pass- The Knights front four had a great game last week, consistently getting pressure on SMU's Bo Levi Mitchell. However, Miami will field a much more formidable group up front, and the Knights won't be able to consistently bull-rush the line like they did last week. While UCF should hold its own against the run, getting pressure with four men could be a bit trickier.

Best defensive matchup for UCF: UCF's secondary vs. Miami's quarterbacks- The Knights' secondary has had several meltdowns this season, which has concerned Coach O'Leary. However, this is still a very talented unit and they should be able to take advantage of the inexperienced quarterbacks that Miami has. If the defensive backs cut down on the mental mistakes, the team could force several turnovers.

Miami Defense

Miami has been dominant against the run so far this season. The Hurricanes are allowing just three yards per carry. It all starts up front for the ‘Canes, with an absurdly large line. All four of Miami's starters weigh more 250-plus lbs. and have done an excellent job clogging the lanes. Joe Joseph, an Orlando product (Oak Ridge H.S.), starts inside for the Hurricanes and has formed a near unmovable duo with Dwayne Hendricks. Antonio Dixon, a 322 lb. reserve, has also gotten in the mix and has helped make room for the linebackers to run to the ball.

Middle backer Glenn Cook is having a fantastic season, with 28 tackles, five being for a loss. He leads a very athletic group with Darryl Sharpton and freshman Sean Spence, who have 25 and 21 tackles, respectively. This unit is very quick, yet physical despite a lack of dominating size.

The secondary has been somewhat of a concern for Miami. Brandon Harris, a true freshman that chose Miami over UCF this past Signing Day, teams with senior Bruce Johnson at cornerback. Johnson has a pick this year, but neither has really been particularly impressive. Harris will be a stud down the road as he was one of the most technically sound corners this past recruiting class, but his lack of elite athleticism will hold him back a little until he adjusts at playing big time football.

Anthony Redick and Lovon Ponder are two tough, physical safeties for Miami but are lacking great ball skills. Miami has had just three interceptions this year (two coming from linebackers) and has allowed over 200 passing yards per game and has also given up nine TDs through the air.

Best defensive matchup for Miami: Miami's linebackers vs. UCF's backfield- Can Ronnie Weaver have as much success against Miami as he did last week? Probably not. Miami has a great line and very quick linebackers that fill in the holes in a hurry. Weaver will need to play heady football and run harder than he has in his entire life to get success against this extremely fast group of backers.

Best offensive matchup for UCF: UCF's receivers vs. Miami's secondary- With Kamar Aiken back, Brian Watters getting better each week, and Richard Jackson getting used to the playbook, the Knights have seen some serious potential from their receivers. The Hurricanes have a suspect secondary and if Michael Greco can buy a little time in the pocket, UCF's receivers can potentially get open for some big plays.

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