Hate to bust out the watch on UM, but this week has to be the week the offense finally starts showing real improvement. I wrote last week it was going to take some time for UM to regain its confidence, find go-to-players and start producing. But seeing how bad North Carolina is on paper (115th in scoring defense, 114th in rushing defense, and 104th total defense) and how it is already the fifth week of the season, it is time for this UM team to begin scoring points.
As it is, UM ranks 81st in scoring offense in the NCAA with an average of 20.50 points per game. But if you throw out the 51-10 blowout of FAMU and UM has only scored 31 combined points in three games against I-A competition. That would be 31 points against an FSU scoring defense that ranks 26th, a Louisville scoring defense that ranks 8th and a Houston scoring defense that ranks 51st. Translation: maybe offensive coordinator Rich Olson has an excuse for the first three I-A games, but this week he has to start seeing results or the problem may be him.
Olson and coach Larry Coker both pointed out how UM out gained Houston 420 to 276. But 14 points won't cut it against anyone. Sure, penalties hurt Miami against the Cougars (10-90) and another missed Jon Peattie field goal didn't help, but UM still killed themselves with key drops (Greg Olson) and Kyle Wright still didn't look like he was totally in sync with his receivers.
With receiver Darnell Jenkins out (possibly for the season) and running back Tyrone Moss expected to miss time with his ailing knee, this really will turn into the freshman show with Javarris James, Sam Shields and Ryan Hill.
James had a great game last week, but I don't expect an encore even if North Carolina's run D is horrible. James was obviously banged up after last week's 21-carry, 148-yard performance. Banged up not because he really hurt himself. But banged up because he carried the ball 21 times and got licked by college players for the first time. While James should still be the number 1 guy on Saturday, Charlie Jones and Derron Thomas figure to get plenty of carries. And with Reggie Youngblood back at left tackle and Jason Fox back at right tackle, UM's offensive line should be at full strength. Translation -- UM should be able to run the ball successfully no matter who is carrying.
The real test though will be for the passing game. Last week against Houston, UM got the big pass plays it needed from Leggett (the 45-yarder in the first quarter to set up Javarris James' touchdown run; and the 27-yarder on 3rd-and-forever to setup the game-winning pass to fullback James Bryant). But with tight end Greg Olsen struggling, I'm thinking teams are probably going to start keying on Leggett, which means Shields, Hill and junior Khalil Jones (who made a nice play near the end of the Houston game) should begin seeing some balls thrown their way.
One thing I think that's held some of these receivers from succeeding in the past has been route running. Quarterbacks coach Todd Berry told me Thursday said there have been many times this season when Kyle Wright had the time to find receivers, but couldn't because they were on the wrong side of the field. With Coker and Olson both saying UM will go to a more simplified offense (a smaller playbook) for the next couple of weeks it might be exactly what guys like Shields, Hill and Jones need to begin making catches downfield and big plays in Miami's passing game. Once they get the basics down, UM can start adding more plays to playbook.
Olson said he would like to attempt as many as six deep passes a game. Don't know if you've noticed, but the 45-yarder to Leggett followed up four deep pass attempts by Wright against Louisville. UM hit on three of those passes for big gains.
So here's my checklist of what UM needs to accomplish to have a successful day offensively against North Carolina.
- RUN FOR OVER 200 YARDS AND 3 TOUCHDOWNS: UNC's run defense already gives up 217 yards a game. Running is UM's strength. If the Hurricanes can't sustain that type of output against a team horrible against the run -- even without Javarris James carrying the ball everytime, then this offense really is terrible. Heck, last year, Tyrone Moss had four touchdowns by himself against the Tar Heels.
- PASS FOR OVER 200 YARDS AND TOSS A TOUCHDOWN PASS TO A RECEIVER: Considering Kyle Wright has only two touchdown passes this season (both to running backs) and has only thrown for more than 200 yards once (Louisville) this season, it's time to start seeing him develop some chemistry with his receivers. North Carolina's pass defense gave up 310 yards to Furman. Can the Canes at least achieve two-thirds of that?
- MAKE A FIELD GOAL: If not for the three points, for the confidence. Jon Peattie is 1-for-4 and needs to start putting this kicking funk behind him once and for all.
If you have your own goals you think UM needs to achieve this week against North Carolina, feel free to provide some feedback.