State of the Canes: Offense

The Hurricanes are 4-2 and preparing to play at Virginia Tech Thursday night. Read on for a complete analysis of Miami's offense at this point in the season.

One of the best ways I judge the performance of quarterbacks is by a stat called QBR. Introduced by ESPN in 2011, QBR takes a whole bunch of variables and factors them in. They include things such as the quality of defense, dropped passes, time to throw, and much more. The reason I like this stat is because it tends to promote the game's true top quarterbacks from years past. Brad Kaaya currently ranks 10th among 12 ACC starting quarterbacks in QBR with a 62.2 score. Louisville's Lamar Jackson (90.9) is the league's best.

After a solid start to the season, Kaaya's performance in the last two games hasn't been good. It could be for a number of reasons, including and not limited to lackluster O-Line play, several dropped passes, and running so many RPO (run/pass option) plays when he's clearly no threat to run the football. Regardless, Kaaya is not performing at the level in which he was expected to heading into the season. I think there are a few reasons for this.

First, Miami's been unable to get its running game going. Outside of a 42-yard run by Joe Yearby against North Carolina, the team's two primary running backs have averaged just 3.3 yards on 57 carries. Only two of those 57 carries have gone for double digit yardage -- Mark Walton had a 10-yard run against UNC and Yearby had a 12-yard run against the Noles. Whenever your running game is putting up those numbers it can make life difficult on a quarterback. The second reason is because of dropped passes. It seems like this group -- especially lately -- is dropping a higher percentage of passes than any UM team in a very long time. Third, the team is lacking proven playmakers on the perimeter. After Stacy Coley (who was playing hurt and not 100-percent against UNC) and Ahmmon Richards at times (he's a freshman with big upside), the Canes are extremely thin and unproven at the wide receiver position. Sure, the backs and tight ends have gotten involved but a quarterback needs weapons on the perimeter and those are lacking in this offense right now. Finally, you have to start looking at the guy orchestrating this whole offense. Mark Richt hasn't called plays in many years and it seems like he's still working off some rust. The defensive staffs at FSU and UNC clearly outcoached him. They had better plans going into the game, made better halftime adjustments, and that's a big reason why the Canes simply aren't having much success on offense. Kaaya was projected to be a Top 5 pick going into the season. He hasn't changed much, unless he's quietly playing hurt. He's still one of the most talented quarterbacks in college football so I have to believe some of his issues are for various reasons.

A lot of people thought Richt would have some RPO type plays for Malik Rosier but that hasn't been the case, as Kaaya's primary backup hasn't seen the field the last three weeks. Heralded freshman Jack Allison seems destined for a redshirt. 

Running Backs:
Lets be honest -- the first four teams the Hurricanes faced this season had inferior defenses. Therefore, I'm using the last three games as a legitimate way to evaluate this group. Mark Walton is clearly the running back the coaches like the most. He's gotten 53 carries to Joe Yearby's 33 over the last three games. One thing is becoming very clear with Walton -- he's not a major home run threat. Of those 53 carries, he's averaged just 3.1 yards and has just two runs of over 10 yards (10 and 14). He is a legitimate weapon in the passing game, though, as he has nine receptions for 94 yards over the last three games. Yearby has been a bit more explosive with fewer touches. He's averaged 5.4 yards and has three carries for over 20 yards over the last three games. Unfortunately, he lacks the extra gear in the open field to make 20 yard runs become 60 yard runs like Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Lamar Miller, and Edgerrin James once did. We saw an example of that against North Carolina when he got chased down from behind by a Carolina defender who did not have a great angle on him.

They've been solid so far this season but it's becoming clear of exactly what they bring to the table. Gus Edwards was expected to play a key role -- especially in short yardage situations -- but it hasn't happened. Instead, the senior has just two touches in the last three games and hasn't seen the field in the last two. He's clearly not in the plans for UM when games are on the line.

Travis Homer saw some action very early in the season but hasn't been in the mix over the last several games. It's clear the coaches don't believe that he can impact games like Walton and Yearby at this time. Considering how they lack game-breaking ability, it's somewhat disappointing that he hasn't been able to provide a spark. Marquez Williams is the team's fullback who has been rarely used the last few games. Trayone Gray is out for the season with an injury. 

Wide Receivers:
There were a lot of question marks heading into this season at this position, especially when Lawrence Cager and Sam Bruce both suffered season-ending injuries before the season opener. And since then, the results haven't been real good. Stacy Coley was been great. He's incredibly talented. He makes plays when the games matter most. He's had a tremendous senior season so far. He scored once against Georgia Tech and twice against Florida State. An injury slowed him down against UNC but he's clearly the best player on the perimeter for the Hurricanes right now. You can count on him, when he's healthy, to produce against anyone. Ahmmon Richards quickly emerged as the second best receiver on the team. You can see why UM battled Alabama down to the wire for this kid. He has a very bright future and is already making an impact. After those top two, there's a big drop off.

Braxton Berrios has two catches for 28 yards over the last three games. While he's on the field for a big number of plays and while Richt often hypes him up in interviews, he simply has not made an impact in the passing game over the last three games. He's dropped more passes than he's caught lately. UM brought in Junior College transfer Dayall Harris over the summer hoping he could become a legitimate outside threat. The results? He has zero catches over the last three games. Malcolm Lewis returns kicks but is a non-factor on offense. He's not catching passes or seeing any balls thrown his way. Darrell Langham can't see the field in his third year here. Freshman Dionte Mullins was expected to be an impact player here but he's been unable to see the field, despite UM's depth woes at the position. 

Tight Ends:
The Hurricanes have two of the most talented pass-catching tight ends in all of college football and they've done a solid job of getting them involved in the offense. Christopher Herndon and David Njoku have combined to catch exactly 25-percent of Kaaya's passes over the last three games. Herndon has been especially explosive, averaging over 23 yards per reception. It would be extremely beneficial to Miami's offensive success to get them even more involved in the passing game. It's probably the most talented tight end tandem in college football. Lets hope UM uses them that way down the stretch. A lot of people were hoping former 4-star recruit Stan Dobard would finally become more involved in the passing game. With zero targets over the last three games, that hasn't happened. Jovani Haskins and Michael Irvin are both on track to redshirt and with the success of the top two guys at thus position it's hard to tell what UM has with these two. 

Offensive Line:
Widely considered the weakest part of Miami's 2016 offense, this unit has really struggled over the last three games. It didn't help that starting right tackle Sunny Odogwu, who clearly beat out sophomore Tyree St Louis for the starting job during fall camp, went down with a serious injury that will likely end his season. The Canes have been using the same six players in recent weeks -- including those two. The others are left tackle Trevor Darling, left guard Kc McDermott, center Nick Linder, and right guard Danny Isidora. Darling is probably better suited to play right tackle. It's hard to figure out why this group isn't performing better. They have a good amount of experience as a group. I think the biggest problem is the the lack of quality depth. The best offensive line in college football have more than five players in the rotation. Those teams typically have a group of young linemen pushing the starters for playing time. That doesn't seem to be happening here, as the eight other linemen on scholarship haven't seen the field lately. Seven of them were lightly recruited out of high school but the one surprise has been Jahair Jones, a Junior College transfer who also had an offer from Ohio State at the end. In year two, the hope was that Jones would be able to push for major playing time. It hasn't happened yet. Freshman Tre Johnson is on track to redshirt. 

Canes Time Top Stories