Went out to UM today (the only day players will be made available to the media before Saturday's FAMU game) and have to say it was funny hearing coach Larry Coker and the Canes say they had moved on from Monday's loss and were no longer going to talk about FSU.
One of Coker's first statements was that he had instructed players not to talk about Florida State anymore. Coker's company policy didn't last long, although I have to give him and his players credit for trying.
Defensive tackle Kareem Brown started his segment with the media strong by answering a question about why UM was unable to sack Drew Weatherford with this response: "I'm on FAMU right now, man. We got a long season left. We got to take it one game at a time. We put Florida State behind us."
Ten minutes later, Brown was asking teammate Baraka Atkins -- albeit playfully with another reporter's recorder -- why UM's defense faded in the second half. To which UM media relations master Mark Pray answered, "I thought you weren't talking about FSU." (To hear the exchange check out Baraka's interview Download sept6_atkins.mp3)
Truth be told, no matter what the company line is, Coker and his players were expecting a lot more from themselves against Florida State. And the fact the entire team underachieved stings, no matter what they say. The Hurricanes knew they had an opportunity to bury that ugly 40-3 sore with a win over Florida State and blew it. Coker himself said Wednesday that Brandon Meriweather's interception before the half was UM's opportunity to put FSU away. Instead, a penalty -- and some weird play-calling -- pushed the Canes back out of field goal range and into Jon Peattie pooch territory.
At the half, FSU made all the adjustments it needed to stop the only thing working for UM -- a short, quick passing game -- and UM failed to make the open field tackles (Glenn Cook on Lorenzo Booker's big 30-yard swing pass) that ultimately doomed them.
But that's history right? Onto FAMU where I think you can expect to see UM pour it on the Rattlers for at least three quarters before pulling back the reigns a bit. The real game Miami is preparing for is next week at Louisville.
That's why you shouldn't expect to see a few key guys to play much if at all -- namely left tackle Reggie Youngblood (who is now wearing a boot after tweaking his ankle) and running back Tyrone Moss (who is coming off his suspension and a season-ending knee injury a year ago).
Expect to see a lot of Javarris James. Coker admitted for the second time this week he (maybe really Rich Olson) erred in not getting James into the FSU game sooner. Jones may not have gotten a lot of help from the offensive line in struggling for 27 yards on 12 carries and 1 touchdown. But I get the sense James' quick ascent through the depth chart is attributed to his ability to do something it appears nobody else in the backfield can -- explode. While some players including Jon Beason and Anthony Wollschlager are excited about Moss' return (likely against Louisville), I get the sense the coaches see James becoming the star in this backfield as the season progresses. Why else would Coker move him up so quickly?
As for guys moving on up quickly, Jason Fox appears to be the real deal at right tackle. Coker said nobody needed to lend the true freshman a hand against FSU and when Coker was asked if he thought Fox would start against FAMU, Coker responded, "without question
[he'll continue to start]."
The real fear for Canes fans should be Reggie Youngblood's ankle. Chris Rutledge and Cyrim Wimbs are two players who have been part of this team for three years, yet both were surpassed by Fox. Now, they're the guys battling to protect Kyle Wright's blindside against FAMU. The Rattlers are one thing, but what if Youngblood's injury is worse than anticipated? It could prove to be pretty scary.
Coker said there might be a few other lineup changes this week, but it remains to be seen if any of those are drastic. We don't expect any.
As for the defense, which gave up one yard rushing and in all honesty did enough for UM to beat FSU, one interesting point raised Wednesday is the fact the Hurricanes are no longer getting the big defensive plays they used to. Sure, Meriweather got the big pick and it should have produced points, but one look at the stats over the last six seasons and a few numbers jump out at you.
While Randy Shannon's defense has continued to be among the nation's best year in and year out (never falling further than 22nd in points and 8th in pass defense since 2001), the team isn't getting the scoring it used to when UM put together a 35-3 run from 2001-2003. UM scored 17 defensive touchdowns during those years. The Hurricanes have only had three in the last 2+ seasons combined. That's the same number Sean Taylor had himself in 2003.
Obviously, it takes a lot to ask a defense to not only stop the other team and score, but the way this offense looks right now, the defense may have to resort to its old ways of scoring itself for UM to win tough games against Louisville, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
Kareem Brown and Baraka Atkins are the only current defensive players on the roster to score TDs. Both talked a lot about trying to get to the quarterback and force fumbles. Both missed a few sacks on Drew Weatherford Monday and were still smarting over them. Trouble was Florida State wasn't holding onto the ball too long. Weatherford had a lot of three-step drops and got the ball out quickly. Coker also noted while his team has practiced striping the ball, there weren't too many opportunities against the Noles.
Now, UM's defense just needs to make sure there are the rest of the way. Every little bit of help they can give the offense -- including a few long fumble or interception returns -- will help.