Canes midseason grades on offense
The Miami Hurricanes have reached the 1st half of their regular season, and it hasn’t been half-bad.
That’s because it has been really bad, considering the Canes entered this season as ACC Coastal Division favorites.
Miami (3-3, 1-1) is a 9-point favorite against visiting Duke (4-3, 1-2) in Saturday’s ACC battle.
It should be an easy Canes victory, but you can’t say that the way Miami has played.
Since we’re at the halfway point of the regular season, here’s a quick look at what we’ve seen from the Canes so far, with a couple of highs and lows and then an offense position-by-position grade. The defense grades will come later this week:
Wide receiver Colbie Young has emerged from nowhere – also known as Lackawanna College, located in Scranton, Pa.
After arriving very late in the summer form his junior college and getting no catches during Miami’s first 4 games, Young has become a beast with at least 2 single-handed catches. His 1st game was against North Carolina. He got just 4 targets, all late in the game, and he turned that into 3 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Last week, he got his first start at this level, and it came on the road with a huge crowd rooting against him at Virginia Tech.
Despite his inexperience, Young hauled in 9 of his 13 targets, producing 101 yards and another TD.
The running game, after a good start against lesser opponents, has fallen apart during the past 3 games, gaining 60 yards, 42 yards and 107 yards, respectively.
Even that 107-yard effort is worse than it looks because Miami’s running backs gained just 72 yards.
Quarterback (Grade B-)
Tyler Van Dyke entered this season as a projected first-round NFL Draft pick. But he quickly played his way out of that status, and he was benched for the 2nd half of the shocking home loss to Middle Tennessee State.
However, in Miami’s past 2 games, Van Dyke has averaged nearly 425 passing yards per game. He looks to be back to his 2021 form. Suddenly, he looks confident again, playing free and letting the ball rip downfield.
Van Dyke likely is Miami’s most valuable player. But he also is, at least for the first 4 games, a candidate for biggest disappointment.
Miami’s 2 backup quarterbacks have been very good in limited playing times. Second-stringer Jake Garcia has completed 67.9% of his passes this season, with no interceptions. Third-stringer Jacurri Brown has 2 rushes for 22 yards in an intriguing Wildcat role that was unveiled last week.
Offensive linemen (Grade D)
Given that coach Mario Cristobal is a former standout offensive lineman on 2 Canes national championship teams, there was a lot of hope during the offseason that his mere presence would improve this unit.
Cristobal brought in his life-long friend, Alex Mirabal, who coached his offensive line at Oregon, and this unit still has struggled.
The line has to shoulder a lot of the blame for the issues running the ball.
To be fair, however, left tackle Zion Nelson has yet to contribute this season, and he was regarded as Miami’s top offensive lineman. In fact, he entered the season as the team’s 2nd-best NFL prospect, behind Van Dyke.
In addition, Miami had to face Virginia Tech without center Jakai Clarke and right guard Justice Oluwaseun.
Running backs (Grade C-)
Jaylan Knighton, who saved Miami’s running game last year, is averaging a career-low 3.8 yards per carry.
Even though he has great speed, moves and talent, Knighton has mysteriously fallen off the past 3 weeks, gaining just 1 yard on 2 carries against Middle Tennessee; gaining 13 yards in 4 carries against North Carolina; and gaining 27 yards in 10 carries against Virginia Tech.
Henry Parrish Jr. leads Miami in rushing yards (378), and he leads the Canes’ rotation backs in average per rush (4.8). However, he missed the Virginia Tech game because of injury, and that was a big loss.
Injuries have been a big factor, and that goes way beyond Parrish. Miami hasn’t had Don Chaney all year, and he has a 4.6 career average. Had he been healthy, he would’ve been part of Miami’s “big 3” with Parrish and Knighton.
Miami also hasn’t had 4-star freshman TreVonte’ Citizen, who could’ve made a contribution.
Thad Franklin Jr., a 240-pound thumper, has been solid, leading the team in rushing TDs (5). But his overall numbers are modest – 2nd on the team with 194 yards and a 4.4 average.
Sixth-stringer Lucious Stanley has flashed talent in just 10 carries (6.5 average), and maybe he can be this position’s answer to Colbie Young.
Bottom line: Parrish needs to get healthy – which could happen this week – Knighton needs to find his mojo, and they all need to get better blocking. If so, they can live up to the potential they showed during the loss to Texas A&M, when Parrish rushed for 85 yards, and Knighton added 77.
Wide receivers (Grade C-)
As expected, Charleston Rambo (1,172 yards last season) and Mike Harley (543 yards) are greatly missed as they are now chasing their NFL dreams.
Another blow came after 2 games, when Miami’s best 2022 receiver, Xavier Restrepo, was announced as out because of injury for at least 6 weeks. He was averaging a team-best 86 yards per game at the time of his injury.
Colbie Young, as mentioned, has saved this unit the past couple of weeks, but more playmakers are needed.
Brashard Smith, Frank Ladson Jr. and Key’Shawn Smith all have had their moments, but they need to be more consistent. Brashard Smith, for example, had a big drop that ended Miami’s last chance in the loss to Texas A&M.
Michael Redding III missed last week’s game because of an injury. He has been just OK.
Jacolby George showed flashes in his only game this season, getting 3 catches for 41 yards. But he started the year suspended, and he now is injured.
Romello Brinson, a 4-star recruit when he arrived at Miami last year, has just 5 catches in 6 games, making him a huge disappointment.
Tight ends (Grade B-)
Will Mallory leads all Miami pass-catchers with 304 receiving yards. He took a head shot against Virginia Tech, and his health is a major key going forward.
Elijah Arroyo, who flashed intriguing speed and talent, is hurt and out for the year. That has opened the door for freshman Jaleel Skinner, who is starting to emerge with 7 catches for 117 yards.
But make no mistake: If Mallory is injured, Miami is in huge trouble at this position because of a lack of quality depth behind Skinner.
Offensive special teams (Grade B-)
Key’Shawn Smith has been brilliant as a kick returner, averaging 34.4 yards, with a touchdown.
Andres Borregales has made 10 of 13 field-goal attempts. But he missed a 36-yarder and had a 49-yarder blocked during the 17-9 loss at Texas A&M. Had he made those kicks, that would’ve added up to 17-15, making things interesting.