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A case of Deja' Vu against FSU

Just got back from the Orange Bowl and have to say I feel like I just spent four hours watching an instant replay of last year's FSU-UM game.

What happened to UM's new offense? Where was the scoring? Where was the deep passing, the running game?

UM fans are sure to bomb the radio waves today asking these questions and more -- and rightfully so. One look at the statistics and you see FSU was limited to one yard rushing the entire game. One yard. So how did UM lose despite giving up only one yard on 25 attempts? By rushing for only two yards themselves.

FSU's defense may turn out to be one of the nation's best. But last I checked, weren't the Seminoles supposed to be replacing 7 starters and four first round draft picks on defense? As good as the Seminoles 'D' might turn out to be, the reality is UM's offense -- right now -- is worse than a year ago. And the sad part is there may not be much improvement.

Miami's 132 yards of total offense (17 yards and only 1 first down in the second half) was worse than any performance last season -- including the 40-3 pasting LSU put on UM in the Peach Bowl when the Hurricanes produced a season-low 153 yards.

So what went wrong? After spending sometime in the locker room after the game chatting with offensive line coach Mario Cristobal, quarterback Kyle Wright, receiver Darnell Jenkins and running back Charlie Jones, I'll try to breakdown the offensive breakdowns.

The protection: For all the heat UM's offensive line took for giving up nine sacks in last year's 10-7 loss in Tallahassee, giving up only three sacks on a sloppy field with a freshman starting at right tackle and only one real experienced starter back shows me real improvement.

Sure, FSU disrupted UM's passing game with blitzes in the second half and held UM to two yards rushing, but the line's play didn't turn out to be as disastrous as most expected. Fox especially. Cristobal said he didn't make the decision to start Fox until moments before kickoff, replacing sophomore Tyrone Byrd, who came into the fall as the projected starter before a knee injury. Byrd didn't end up playing at all -- apparently because Fox, who became the first true freshman to start on the offensive line since Richard Mercier (1995), played so well.

To hear Cristobal talk about the line's play Download sept4_cristobal.mp3

The passing game: When I first met with new offensive coordinator Rich Olson the talk was UM's new plan was going to be to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers, something Coker said the team didn't do enough of last year with Sinorice Moss.

UM accomplished getting the ball into its playmakers, somewhat. Kyle Wright completed 18 passes on 27 attempts to seven different receivers -- including a span in the first half when he hit on 11 of 13. But truth be told, most of those completions were high percentage (less than 10 yards down the field) passes.

After attempting a bomb on the game's opening play to Darnell Jenkins, Olson pulled the reigns in tight and began dinking and dunking ball to Jenkins, Lance Leggett and Sam Shields. Jenkins and Leggett were the only players to catch a pass deeper than 10 yards down the field. When the fall began, Jenkins and Wright said they thought Wright would be throwing the ball deep (25-yards plus down the field) at least five times a game. It didn't happen Monday. UM ultimately only completed two passes longer than 19 yards.

Part of why UM struggled throwing the ball deep -- aside from the pressure -- was because tight end Greg Olsen, who was supposed to be the team's best offensive player, only caught 2 passes for 8 yards. When Olsen has been effective, he's pulled safeties his way and freed up receivers down the sidelines. He didn't do any of that, mostly because he was being bracketed by a safety and covered at times by the strongside linebacker and middle linebacker.

As for passing to the running backs. Olson said they would be much more involved. Not a single UM running back caught a pass, unless you want to lump H-Back Chris Zellner into that mix. He caught one pass for one yard. Zellner was really nothing more than a tight end, who occasionally lined up in the back field before moving in motion and lining up to block.

The running game: The 2 yards rushing as a team can be somewhat misleading. Kyle Wright was given -20 yards on eight attempts, plays that realistically were the result of scrambling and protection breakdowns.

Either way, the numbers starter Charlie Jones produced weren't pretty. Jones ran for 27 yards on 13 attempts (2.1) and had a long of 12. He didn't play at all in the fourth quarter and was spelled by freshman Javarris James. Jones said afterward it was "a coaches decision," and that he wasn't "the least bit tired." James didn't fare much better, finishing with only 4 yards on 3 carries (and a fumble he later recovered).

Part of UM's struggles on the ground could ultimately go back to the fact the team no longer employs a fullback. Olson got rid of that, hoping to run more two-tight end and three receiver sets. It will be interesting to see if the fullback makes a comeback in the coming weeks.

But ultimately, the fact James was the team's primary running back in the fourth quarter of a game UM trailed 13-10 should tell you something. Olson probably doesn't believe Jones or anybody else James passed on his way up through the depth chart is really capable of becoming the next gamebreaker UM sorely needs.

Which brings me back to my ultimate point on UM's offense and why it may not improve much this season -- the real talent on this team is young, freshman young. The fact UM had a true freshman starting at right tackle, a true freshman in the backfield in the fourth quarter and two true freshman in the top four receiver spots (one that was moved from corner in the past two weeks) is because the coaches know what the "other guys" aren't as special.

Truth be told, no true freshman would have smelled the field against FSU three years ago. UM was loaded with talent then. Look at the list of names at receiver Santana Moss, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne; running back Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore; tight end Kellen Winslow, Jeremy Shockey and Bubba Franks. All of these guys are starters or stars in the NFL.

When you look at the list of names to come out since, as UM's offense has steadily declined, the only offensive star has been Sinorice Moss (who came on in his senior year). One look at UM's current roster and there isn't an upperclassmen (junior or senior) you can honestly say other than Olsen who has the credentials right now to become a star in the NFL. And Olsen as big and as talented as he is, hasn't caught more than three passes in a game since last year's eight catch, 137-yard performance against FSU in the season opener.

So, I guess what I'm saying is before you rip UM's new offensive coaches to shreds, take a look at what they're working with. It may take a while before the real, future offensive stars of this team -- Shields, James and Hill -- start making the big catches in the fourth quarter, the consistent big runs the team needs, and help return UM's offense to what it once was (one of the nation's best). For now, the recent, same old mediocrity -- albeit with a new, three-to-five step drop -- might be all the Canes' offense is capable of in the games that really matter.

Anyway, I'm sure I didn't catch everything. Tell me what you think of UM's offense and what they need to improve immediately. Hey, you never know if one of your suggestions might make it back to the guys calling the plays.

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The missing fullback is sorely missed. But where was the deception? No screens, draws, only 1 reverse (badly run) to slow down FSU's pass rush. Yes, our talent level may be down a bit, but our system stinks...Gary Stevens, where are you? How about offering Rob Chudzinski the bank to return next year?
Finally, with nothing working, how about giving Kirby Freeman a chance?

It is time to get a new head coach. Larry Coker is a great guy, but that's about it. UM should be able to reload every year, no exceptions. New Coach, new attitude.

It is shame to watch a great program, like UM, fall into mediocrity. However, that is the case when the administration hires the wrong person to do the job. Larry Coker inherited a team loaded with talent, courtesy of Butch Davis, and proceded to choke in big games. His coaching cost them a national title against Ohio State and we are witnessing the decline of a program due to Coker's weaknesses. UM loses many of its best players to the draft each year, so the only way to replace them is recruiting. You can not recruit the best players in Florida or the country when the head coach (Coker) is just mediocre when it comes to winning the big game.

Coker is just a marginal assistant coach at best.He was terrible during Butch Davis as offensive cordinator.He is even worse now as head coach.Dee made terrible decision to let players decide who would be head coach after Davis.Miami will have to eat 6million dollar contract they awarded him and fire him, or they will have no fans in the stands!

Enough with the excuses. The coaches suck. Kyle Wright is a pussy. Frank Gore played as a freshman didn't he?

how long do we have to endure mediocrity which larry coker has brought to the miami hurricane football program???..he did fine with butch davis's team but when it came time to produce his own the program has steadily declined.and then instead of putting the blame on himself he fires practicly the whole staff...who will he have to blame for this year????

Dorsey defined himself with a last second drive to beat FSU.

Wright defined himself by running backwards away from FSU pass rushers like a pussy.

Idiots.
And Coker is the head. What's really frightening, he doesn't know he's out of his league. Manny, just read all the comments already posted, forward them to Dee and let's get this over with.
Look at the facts: Quote from Coker in the Herald, "we are not ready to play FSU" Boy, there's a real motivating speech. No wonder we don't win. We scored our only touchdown because of a good punt and 2 personal fouls. That's it. Is anybody else sick of this? Being beaten by unranked Clemson, unranked UNC, manhandled by Georia Tech, humiliated by LSU and last night was just ugly, pure and simple.
Hell, give the team to Shannon, he's the only bright spot.
Coker is a nice old man, give him a cat, rocking chair and blanket and get him out of here before our program is gone.

my attendance at last nights game was my first back since the ken dorsey days, though i`ve been a "never die' canes fan(and always will be)all my life(any true fan will be, to answer coach coker`s concern).and i have to say i was full of optimisim and high hope this year for the canes,so much so that i purchaced season tickets in anticipation of witnessing up close and personal this new revamped offence i`ve been hearing so much about,but instead ended up witnessing the same inconsistant and lethargic offence that we`ve become accustomed to as of late here in miami.depressing!!! but i think the most telling indication i can point to as my final resignation that these were the same ole canes of late was the lack of aggression after the int. that could have put them up at least two scores before the half.after that senerio my next emotion was depression(believing we would not win a close game with fsu.)a week ago i awoke tuesday morning to realize i over invested in a hurricane(ernesto),now here sit on another tuesday morning with the same realization.the miami ernesto`s,alot of expectation and no punch.in dorsey`s days we had hurricanes,now we have tropical depressions.

Blaming Wright is just wrong (pun untended). This offensive line has been offensive for the last several years (pun intended), but they were way better for Brock Berlin - who was able to stink up the place all on his own - than they've been for Wright and the running backs the last two years.

I'm sorry, but you have to look at coaching when such a critical part of the team doesn't improve over a number of years. Offensive linemen are not the early NFL jumpers, so whether it's recruiting, Xs and Os, or just motivation, the Coker era has been a slide into mediocrity on the O-line. And don't even get me started on their penchant for frequent drive busting penalties - something that they seem to get worse at as the year goes by (by the way, it looked like Reggie Youngblood could have been called for a false start on almost every passing play).

Would a fullback help with run blocking and blitzes? Probably. Did the tailbacks and H-backs miss some assignments against the 'Noles. Definitely. But Erickson won with the single back system. All the fullbacks or H-backs in the world don't matter if half of the defense is on top of the quarterback before he even turns from a three step drop.

I will grant you that Wright has to learn to get rid of the ball sooner when protection breaks down but first he needs to be able to avoid intentional grounding, i.e., to have a ghost of a chance to set up. The fact that there were fewer sacks this year than last is a tribute to Wright's maturation, not the existence of an improved line. So, please judge Kyle Wright after he's had a fair chance.

The truth is that the talent level at UM is really dipping, as Manny points out when he compares the UM skill position players from 2005 and 2006 with 2003.

Recruiting wins college football games. Coaching is second. The talent pool at UM circa 2006 is a far cry from that in 2003.

Does Coker and his staff bear the blame for this? Absolutely. Perhaps it is lack of focus or lack of work, but the UM recruiting machine needs to really improve for UM to be a bonafide top 5 team annually.

Manny sez: "Truth be told, no true freshman would have smelled the field against FSU three years ago. UM was loaded with talent then. Look at the list of names at receiver Santana Moss, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne; running back Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore; tight end Kellen Winslow, Jeremy Shockey and Bubba Franks."

Hmm. In the 2003 game against FSU, I'm pretty sure all those guys beside Gore and Winslow were already gone--most of them in the 2001/2002 drafts, in fact--so your time frame is off. The talent drain didn't just start last year. It started in 2001 (you know, when Butch left), and only became noticeable once the insane depth he had established had a few years to thin out.

We also lost Bryant McKinney, Dan Morgan, Mike Rumph, Philip Buchanon, Ed Reed, and Jonathan Vilma, among others, during those drafts. Coker's done nada to make us forget their absence.

Can someone tell me where to get some really good lube?
I am tired of taking it dry!
Miami has lost the swagger???.....B.S.

They have some great talent. Unfortunately it is not being coached to its full potential. Someone please kill me so I do not have to take the rest of the season losses and excuses....or have a heart attack during one of the games when Kyle turns around and runs like a girl.

Thanks.

Bamm

WANTED: LARRY COKER

CRIME: KILLING THE FUN OUT OF CANE FOOTBALL

I wouldn't mind losing the the offense wasn't so Booooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrring!

How can anyone judge the talent of our receivers if you never throw them the ball? Example, FSU's Fagg was thrown the ball several times when it appeared he was covered, but he was given the chance to show that he was special...and he did a few times. UM receivers hardly ever get that chance because Kyle only throws the ball when they are completely alone, rarely when they are in one-on-one coverage. Dorsey always gave Santana, Reggie, and Andre the chance to go and get it. The running sucks because we hardly ever use the middle of the field or the area where the linebackers are blitzing from...like the tightend option route and seam route that Shockey and Winslow used to keep the linebackers at home...like the slant route that Santana, Reggie, and Andre used to beat the jam coverage during the blitz, which made the linebackers stay at home...like the screen to Portis or McGahee, but our linemen forgot that you have to actually sell the screen and slow the pursuit by hitting the defensive players and then sliding off the blocks - we seem to not even touch the defensive players now, which kills the screen...how do you not throw the ball to Olsen at least ten times a game...if pressure is coming up the middle, why not roll the QB to the strong side like GT does Ball and the NFL does their QB's...the problem I have with Kyle that Dorsey was great at, Kyle can't recognize a blitz and audible to an effective play; I saw several blitzes on Monday where receivers were still running long routes...did anyone notice that FSU placed Weatherford in the shotgun most of the game to keep the pressure off him, but we left Kyle under center most of the game and he kept receiving pressure, that is crazy...did anyone notice that FSU ditched the run early in the third quarter after it didn't work, but they started throwing the RB's out of the back field to still give them a chance to make plays; but we kept running into the teeth of the defense when we never made the LB's respect the inside passing game...did anyone notice that we got away from the nickel and dime passes to Jenkins and Leggett that were working in the first half...you may complain about the talent we have, but I don't see USC or TEXAS or OHIO STATE complaining about what they lost, they adjusted to the strength of what they have left; and we can too...receivers have been open, but Kyle has been too busy running...does Kyle have the ability to audible to the shotgun when the LB's look like they are going to blitz because he rarely does this...the offensive scheme is awful...Coker needs to bring his offensive staff up to South Carolina and study Byrnes High School offense, it works even when the talent graduates and they don't have the luxury of recruiting from across the nation. I am truly clueless to what the offense is doing, they don't have an identity.

Those who criticize Wright for running: you stand in the street. I'll drive my pickup truck at you full speed. You stand and let me hit you, or you're a sissy.

Those who criticize Coker: what did his boss tell him to do? From whom does he take orders?

I think a lot of the problem is coming from the top. I think Dr. Shalala wants a coach like Larry Coker: a nice man, a fair man, a moral man, a polite man. I think Shalala believes colleges are more about learning than about football, and I have to agree.

But for Coker's sake, she should say so. People are vilifying Coker, and all he's doing is what his boss told him to do; at least that's what I think. Shalala wants polite young STUDENT athletes, not a championship football team.

Look at other top-ranked teams. Auburn, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Southern Cal all have players that have broken enough NCAA rules to warrant severe penalties. (I'm still waiting to hear about the scandals at Texas.) With the exception of OK, those teams let their players do what they want. Coker suspends his top running back (and probably sacrificed the win) for skipping study hall. Shalala smiles, and the 'Canes lose.

I don't put so much stock in talented players. Jamie German was a top-ranked player, and he was a total flop: probably threw the game against Washington and surrendered the U's unbeaten home streak. Brock Berlin came with the highest credentials, and he didn't fare well at the U.

The list of very talented players who busted at the U goes on, and we should all remember that Schnellenberger won the U's first national championship with a team full of no-names. As well, teams without big name players beat the 'Canes all the time, now. Jeepers, look at the Shula boy at Alabama. He had that team humming along very well. They beat some tough SEC teams, and they didn't have all kinds of big-name talent. They had a young, aggressive coach. They have a university president who knows the school belongs to the students, the fans and the surrounding community, and what they want and need comes first, not some ideology that, while laudable, is not wanted.

It's not the talent level. Once players get to a certain level of talent, they're all about the same anyway, and it comes down to who's better coached.

Better coaching means motivating players to win. That's hard to do with the players the U gets now. There are too many individual stars and not enough team players. A lot of these big shots can be passed over for guys who aren't such egoists.

Better coaching means getting the most out of the players, and the U's coaching staff is clearly not doing that.

I think one reason is the offense has become too complex and dependent on technique instead of on natural ability and the will to win. Jeepers, does a receiver have to be pulled off the field and congratulated every time he makes a catch? Just find 11 or 12 good players, drill fundamentals into their heads, stick them on the field and let them play. If they don't do the job, replace them with someone who will. We don't need fancy plays or fancy players for that.

Most of the teams the U plays--even ones that aren't highly ranked--are loaded with talented players. The teams that win are the ones that want to the most, and the U's teams just don't want to win that much. They are willing to give up, and that to me says they're not 'Canes: not the 'Canes, anyway, that we have all come to know and love. A true 'Cane would never let his counterpart on the other team get the best of him, I don't care how talented either player is. Miami has more than enough talent. They just don't know how to use it.

The 'Canes whipped FSU many times when FSU supposedly had the more talented players. Jeepers, every year they get all the best players in the country, and still they can't fight their ways out of a wet paper bag, and still the 'Canes beat them every year. Why? In the words of one FSU quarterback: "When we came on the field, we thought we were going to win. When they (the 'Canes) came on the field, they KNEW they were going to win."

Those 'Canes of old knew they were going to beat their counterparts. There was no question: whatever it took, however much heart, soul, sweat, blood, tears, desire, drive and determination, the 'Canes of old reached down inside, got it, and won. There was nothing else: only victory, even against supposedly superior squads, like Nebraska, Penn State and, yes, FSU.

If I was the head coach and that big fat ass FSU nose guard tried to spike one of my players, after the next play he'd be limping off the field. If that half-baked sicko Mickey Andrews sent hit men after my players, I'd cripple his entire defensive backfield in one play, and then I'd burn his house down, and that frog-faced little wretch would not send hit men after my players any more.

It worked for Spurrier. He put the word out to Bowden: your players take late hits and cheap shots at my guys, my players will take late hits and cheap shots at your guys. The next time the Gators and FSU played--that was the national championship game that year--the Gators hung the 'Noles out to dry.

I say hell yes: fire it up, Coker. Let's see some lean, mean killing machines out there. Championship college football does not give up its patsies.

Maybe that's why I'm not a coach!!

But that's not today's 'Canes. They're nice, just like their coach, and I believe that's the way Shalala wants it.

After all, she's a girl. What the hell does she know about football?

Everyone says Miami lost it's swagger. I dont think any of those players lost it's swagger. Perhaps it's coach Coker who doesn't have swagger. Swagger is attitude and coach Coker lacks that attitude. He's a nice guy, always will be. However, as we all know, nice guys dont finish at the top, and who ever said football is a "nice sport?"

Lets be honest, coach Coker is not the right man for this job. If you want swagger, you need to start from the top!

Lake Worth Cane you have it all wrong!!

Bring back the "Bad Ass Canes" football is a game of domination and the U just doesn't have it anymore. This team reminds me of the Notre Dame Team coached by Gerry Fuast - Greatness to mediccrity. Bring back the Bad Boy Canes of yesteryear. I'll always remember the Cotton Bowl Team that had over 200 yards in penalties and still dominated the game.

More teams like this one and President Shalala can give up football because there won't be any fans in the stands - then they can give up the other sports that the football program pays for.

Before Howard S brought us our first National Championship the U was on the verge of quitting footbal altogether. Looks like we'll be there again soon. Student atheletes - You've got to be kidding - you must think this is the Ivy League. LOL

Its a sad day ,here I am two days after still thinking what have the canes become.I think We were thriving in the Butch Davis era on both sides of the spectrum.I think We need to really keep pushing as fans for a new head coach.We still have a shot We have the talent.Ive said this on other blogs and I still believe you have to sow seeds in your own back yard to be a success.Im hoping the right people will listen to the fans.We can be hard but We grew up hard the rest of the nation has no clue.I live in Knoxville TN,and the fans here love their vols and they are willing to cheer no matter what. They still talk about 98 like it was last year.We are not like that. Call us spoiled I call us smart,I know I dont want to see middle of the road football anymore.Its a long season still but I hope We get the swagger back the only way is to never let up stay the same,and We will get what We are looking for a championship.GO CANES

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