Quite simply, there hasn't been a man who has caught more heat from Canes' fans this season than offensive coordinator Patrick Nix. The second-year coordinator, who came to UM from Georgia Tech, heard it first for his conservative game plan against the Gators. Then, a week later, fans forgave him as Miami put up 41 points in a blowout of Texas A&M. Now, his name is back in the complaint box because Miami blew a 24-14 lead with nine minutes to play for what fans believe was conservative play-calling late in the game (how easily we forget what happened to UM's secondary).
Nix, like defensive coordinator Bill Young, hasn't done many interviews since the season started. But I was able to get him for about six minutes Wednesday after practice (consider that a lengthy one-on-one interview these days) to talk about the development of his quarterbacks, what he's seen and liked from Robert Marve and Jacory Harris so far, if taking Marve out for a series disrupts his rhythm, and why he's coaching from the sidelines this year instead of the press box like most coordinators do.
Q: In a game like this, a rivalry game, [former Canes quarterback and Sun Sports analyst] Steve Walsh told me today the most important thing is probably just protecting the football and not making turnovers. What's your take?
A: That's the most important thing in every game. If you have turnovers you lose. If you don't generally you have at least a chance to win. I wouldn't say its just a rivalry game. Every game in the same. You talk about rivalry and rivalry is good. You got to do that every game. You got to do that every day in practice.
Q: What have you seen from Robert in his first three starts. He's had moments where he's looked great and then one or two moments were he may have made a bad decision. How would you assess his decision making?
A: The last play of the game Saturday I wouldn't [call it bad play]. I'd tell him to throw that one 10 out of 10 times. With 10 seconds left you sure can't throw it away. The other ones, he's actually made great reads. He and Jacory both. I think Jacory has played really good and made great reads. And Robert has played really good and made great reads.
Q: Is there still anything after the first three games Robert hasn't done well that you are still stressing to him?
A: No. They're both the same. We work on everything every day. We haven't played many games so every day is kind of a new day for him. Every week is a new week. There are a lot of things we have to continue to stress and work on, a lot of fundamentals just base things to continue to stress with all of them being so young.
Q: People on the outside were real excited about Robert and Jacory because of the accolades they achieved in high school and had some big expectations for them. After three, four games, do you think they've performed ahead of schedule?
A: I don't know ahead of schedule because I don't know what schedule is. I know a lot of the average fans like to put a schedule on it. But that's why they're average fans. You can't put a schedule on it. They're both doing really well. They're both giving us a chance to win and making plays and doing good. If that's ahead of schedule, then that's good. They're both executing, moving the offense, doing what they're supposed to to do and giving us a chance to win.
Q: Some folks have made a big dilemma about taking Robert out for a series and putting Jacory in. The argument is it slows down the offense, messes with his rhythm. What do you say to that?
A: I don't say anything to it. I mean, I don't know. I've seen a lot of guys... I don't think its really messed the rhythm up of Robert a whole lot. I think he's played pretty good whenever he's been in. I don't know that if its messed his rhythm up. I wouldn't say that.
Q: As far as when they've decided to tuck the football and run -- which hasn't happened often -- have they been doing it at the right time?
A: Yes. They haven't done it much. I guess. To be honest with you I couldn't tell you. I'd have to go back and look at film. But there has not been an issue with that.
Q: Jacory was telling us a funny story last week about how you were yelling at him a couple months back and then apologized because you realized he still wasn't 18. Do you still treat them like young guys or has that stance changed a little now that they have a few games under their belts?
A: I don't treat them like veterans because they're not. It's just like the interception against Texas A&M. That was the first time Robert had ever seen that look. You can't give every look in practice. That's impossible. He's seen it and now that he's seen it, I never expect him to make the same decision again. Just like North Carolina. The first interception he threw there was one of two or three bad decisions he's made all year. Now that he's made it and seen I don't expect him to make it again. But at the same time these guys are going to make first time mistakes and that's just part of it. They're not veterans. We have high expectations for them -- Very high expectations for them. But at the same time, I'm realistic. I'm going to coach them. I'm going to teach them and I'm going to work with them to get them better and not assume that they know anything and they're going to be able do anything. But at the same time expect them to go out there and perform and execute.
Q: They both talked about how much they like the fact you are on the field with them. Most coordinators are up in the box. What do you see as the benefit of it?
A: Probably just being able to communicate with them, eye to eye and talk to them and keep them calm and tell them what's going on. And probably as much as anything, keep other people away from them. A lot of times when you are in the box there are a lot of people that like to give their 2 cents and everybody is an expert at the quarterback position and want to tell them. But they don't understand the reads at all. They don't know what's going. So, I'm able to shelter them a little bit from that also. But the biggest thing is just being able to sit down and talk to them and explain to them what's going on, what we're fixing to do, any thoughts for the next drive, get their thoughts, those kind of things.
Q: Will you spend the rest of the year on the sidelines? And are you happy with the help upstairs?
A: Oh yeah. We'll re-evaluate it after the season. [Coach Aubrey Hill] does a great job upstairs. They do a great job.
*** HERE IS THE LINK TO OLD UM AUDIO PAGE. I know the new Herald web layout has made it hard to find. If you guys want to listen on the interviews, click on the link. Here's the direct link to my interview with Nix.
> If I had to pick one player on this team to root for it would definitely be redshirt freshman receiver Jermaine McKenzie. Not only is he one of the nicest, most respectful yes sir, no sir guys on the team to talk to, but he's got a great attitude too. After his scary accident last year, he's been battling every week to not only get healthy but to prove to coaches he deserves a chance in the rotation at a position now loaded in numbers. When Miami played at Florida and Texas A&M this year, McKenzie was left off the travel roster (68 players go). He still drove himself to Gainesville, alongside UM's bus, to watch the Canes play. This week with freshman Thearon Collier going down, McKenzie has finally gotten off the scout team and into the rotation at the Z position (split end) with Khalil Jones, Sam Shields and Travis Benjamin. Here's to hoping J-Mac gets a ball thrown in his direction this week.
"All this week I've been dreaming about this Florida State game, catching my first pass, my first touchdown," McKenzie said Wednesday. "It's just very exciting to come out and show what I can do with Florida State. I just take it day by day. Inside, Im I've very excited. But on the outside I've got to stay within my game and play. I have no idea [when I'll be in]. I just know when my number is called I'll be ready."
> This week's injury report actually didn't have any surprises: right tackle Reggie Youngblood (leg), receiver Thearon Collier (chest) and reserve running back Damien Berry (leg) were the new names on the list. Shannon said Wednesday Youngblood's injury didn't require surgery and that it would likely be week to week. Collier's injury was a "pain tolerance" injury. Collier did practice somewhat Wednesday, but still obviously isn't healthy enough. I think Berry is headed toward a redshirt.
> I used most of my quotes from former Canes quarterback Steve Walsh in my quarterbacks story today, but there were a few Walsh thoughts that didn't get in. One, he doesn't believe, unlike the past when FSU and UM played, that this is a make or break game for both young quarterbacks. He called Saturday's game simply an opportunity for Marve to further prove this is his team. Walsh said he called Marve a left a message on his voicemail after his first start against Florida, but hasn't called him since. His take on Marve through three games: "I real love his mobility, his arm strength. But he's got to improve a little bit with his decision making. There was one play against North Carolina where he took a sack instead of getting rid of the ball. But I like the way he moves, throws on the run. He's just got to keep working hard and making it his team. Eventually, one of these guys is going to have to take this job by the horns and make it theirs."