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Five questions and a pick: Clemson-Miami

This week I got an email from Larry Williams, the senior writer for TigerIllustrated.com wanting to know if I'd be willing to exchange a Q&A with him before the Canes take on Clemson Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Land Shark Stadium.


Larry Williams Q-1: Where are the Tigers most banged up and could the Canes take advantage of it?
A: The Tigers were recently banged-up on offense with LT Chris Hairston recovering from a sprained MCL and C.J. Spiller dealing with an injury to his right big toe (suffered in the opener). The open week preceding last week's win over Wake Forest really helped those two guys get healthy. That's about it, other than the concussion suffered by strong-side linebacker Scotty Cooper. He'll miss this game, but it's not a big loss because he didn't play much anyway.

Q-2: How do you explain this Clemson team to your friends? They've played so well defensively but somehow are 3-3 with a loss to Maryland. Is it matter of the Tigers just being inconsistent?
A: This season has conformed to the story of Clemson football over the last decade: a roller-coaster ride. Clemson was a play away from defeating two good teams (Georgia Tech and TCU). The Tigers then stubbed their toe against a bad Maryland team before putting it all together in last week's 35-point beatdown of Wake Forest.

This program has been perplexing for a while now because you look at all that talent and wonder why the Tigers aren't better. It's fairly common for most teams to break even in close games. Clemson has lost eight of its last nine games decided by seven points or less.

There are numerous explanations for the close-game failures over that period of time, but I think two primary factors are: 1) Tightening up late, which would seem to point to coaching, and 2) Struggles on the offensive line. If you can't move people off the line, it's hard to run the ball and sustain drives.

I tend to think the latter factor has been more critical than the former. The great question facing this program is whether Dabo Swinney can vanquish the demons and get the Tigers over the hump.

Q-3: Just how good are Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp really? Should Miami fans brace themselves for a long afternoon?
Da'Quan Bowers A: Bowers is scary good. Freaky good. Pick your description. He's a beast, and of late he's really elevated his play by sustaining his intensity through the course of a game. If I were a Miami fan, I'd be very worried about him lining up across from Matt Pipho.

Sapp has had a good season thus far after a rapid offseason recovery from ACL surgery. First-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele likes putting him in different spots. He's lined up as a linebacker when they shift to the 3-4, and I suspect he'll draw some responsibility for flaring out and covering running backs on swing passes and such.

This tandem could be trouble for Miami, but I'd suspect Mark Whipple would give his tackles a lot of help. And you have to think those long-armed tackles would be able to neutralize the ends to an extent with their size and reach.

Q-4: How do the Tigers see this Miami team? Do they really respect this Miami offense considering so many guys are young?
A: On multiple occasions this week, offensive coaches have remarked that facing Miami's defense is like practicing against their own defense. Both defenses have a ton of speed and athleticism. Clemson's players are jacked for this one, in part because they want to prove themselves against a Top 10 team and in part because of going up against a Miami program that has such a mystique. The Tigers have a bunch of guys from Florida who have had this one circled on their calendars for some time.

I think the Tigers respect Miami's offense a lot. They know Jacory Harris is good; they know those running backs are athletic and run really hard; and they know that fleet of receivers could be hard to cover. But I do sense Clemson believes it can get to Harris and really disrupt that offense. The defensive line is extremely deep, and Miami's OL is not. The Tigers are confident they can win that battle over the course of the game. Virginia Tech overwhelmed Miami with a stifling effort from its defensive line and unpredictable looks from Bud Foster. Clemson believes it is capable of following that blueprint.

Q-5: Can you explain to everyone in South Florida why they need to be fearful of CJ Spiller?
A: Through six games this season, Spiller has produced a play of 60-plus yards in every game via a play from scrimmage, kickoff return or punt return. That's amazing.

Spiller should be feared because he is a threat to do the spectacular on every play. He has the moves to make guys miss at the line of scrimmage, and no one will catch him from behind.

Ryan Williams is a very good back, and he made the Hurricanes look silly on occasion in Blacksburg. Spiller is even better, and he can make Miami pay dearly for overpursuit.

Larry's Prediction: I spent the early portion of the week thinking Miami by 10-12. Now, I'm not so sure because I think Clemson's depth advantage on the DL could be huge. I also wonder whether Miami, with all that youth, is due a hiccup game in which they make a ton of mistakes and lose. Bottom line, though, is that Clemson put a lot into winning last week's game against Wake Forest. Prepping for Whipple's offense on short notice is a tough assignment, and the Canes have had a few weeks to get healthy and hold some of their stuff back. Clemson is going to have to sustain some drives to win, and I'm not confident the Tigers can do that against this defensive front. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Tigers prevail. But they're going to have to show me they can win these kinds of games before I pick them to do it. I'll take Miami 27-20.

Q-1: First off, can you give us some idea as to Miami's injury situation? Lot of guys banged up, and Randy Shannon doesn't typically reveal much. If you're in the dark on the specifics, can you offer your assessment of where the Hurricanes are thinnest as a result of injuries?
A: Getting real answers on injuries from Randy Shannon is next to impossible. Where Miami is hurt the most really is along the defensive line. Last week, they had eight healthy players there. The only one expected back this week is senior Eric Moncur, who was likely being rested against UCF.

The offensive line should get guard Joel Figueroa back this week. But Fig is only one of six guys UM has really used on its offensive line rotation. Safety Randy Phillips will be back this week after missing the last three games with a torn labrum. He's skipping out on surgery and will provide some depth at safety, where Jojo Nicholas is still out. All in all, this Miami is banged up. But they'll have enough guys not to be in emergency mode this weekend.

Q-2: Miami's offensive line looked great early against Florida State and Georgia Tech but was overwhelmed by Virginia Tech's defensive front and gave up a combined 10 sacks against Oklahoma and Central Florida. What is your take on the guys up front? Are they not the strength that some people might perceive?
A: I think teams have realized that right tackle Matt Pipho is not very good and beatable on the edge. Two huge injuries to Miami this season were tight end Richard Gordon and fullback Pat Hill. Both did a great job picking up blitzes -- as well as running back Graig Cooper who is back this week. The left side of UM's line is very good. Jason Fox and Orlando Franklin are solid. Center AJ Trump is good too. But the right side is where most teams are bringing pressure. 

I'm sure Kevin Steele and Clemson's defense is going to attack Miami the same way UCF, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech have. It will be interesting to see how Mark Whipple counters this week.

Jacory Harris Q-3. What specific part of Jacory Harris' season to date has impressed you the most?
A: The fact he hasn't been injured yet. Knowing Harris from his days at Miami Northwestern, I always expected him to be as good a passer as he's been. But I didn't realize how tough he really was. 

This guy has taken quite a few licks and remained calm and cool in the pocket. He scrambles much better than I remember in high school too and never takes his eyes off the field. But he needs to stop taking chances. So far, he's been pretty lucky only to get intercepted five times. He's taken quite a few chances down field and really has been fortunate to not turn the ball over.

Q-4. Virginia Tech gashed Miami for 272 yards on the ground, with Ryan Williams running wild. Do you think that was an aberration, or could C.J. Spiller do similar damage Saturday?
A: Spiller is an amazing back. He could very well carve up UM's defense, which as I mentioned earlier is banged up in the front seven. It's all going to depend really on what Clemson decides to run offensively.

What has always worked well against the Canes in terms of running the football has been the spread option attack. Ryan Williams Virginia Tech gave them fits with it. Florida State did the same a year ago. If Clemson's offense throws in a few new wrinkles based out of that formation, they should have some success running the football

Q-5. These teams haven't played since 2005 and probably aren't all that familiar with each other. How do you think Miami views Clemson?
 A: The Canes respect the Tigers. Orlando Franklin, who is one of biggest, meanest guys on the team, told me flat out when he looked at the schedule it was Clemson and Oklahoma who worried him the most. He knows how good Clemson's defense is up front and is looking forward to the challenge. Miami's receivers know how talented the Tigers secondary is and are looking forward to the man-to-man matchups. And the Canes are definitely well aware of what Spiller and Jacoby Ford can do in the open field. UM is not looking past Clemson whatsoever.

My prediction: This is going to be a really tough test for the Canes. I see the Tigers having a big day getting to Jacory Harris and putting the pressure on him. CJ Spiller and Ford should have some success on offense. But the fact UM is at home and not taking the Tigers lightly gives me the confidence they'll pull this one out close. Miami has a great kicker in Matt Bosher. It may just come down to his right foot. I'm picking Miami 24-22. 

FYI... I will be at a wedding Saturday and won't be at the game. We'll have a guest blogger here at Eye On The U to provide thoughts and commentary throughout the game. I'm recording the game and watching it when I get home. I'll post my grades and thoughts afterward.


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Decision time for the Canes. Do they start weak-link Pipho or a young gun who is better physically but inexperienced? Bowers could be a game changer if we cannot control him. I hope Whipple has something up his sleeve for this Tiger D. In Whipple and Jacory we trust. Go Canes!

the canes fear NO ONE

Obviously Pipho will start. There is no way Shannon will play someone without big game experience.

Good post, Manny. Enjoy the wedding. Canes will take care of themselves.

Sorry, Manny. I have to agree with Swag is something U can't coach, the "U" fears no one! The only thing I can say, Clemson will have to bring what they got and the Hurricanes will bring theirs. End of story. GO CANES!!!!!!!

go canes

Whipple will throw in new wrinkles and allowing Tervaris Johnson, Mike James and Graham to double up on Bowers, as well as some of the big receivers, Byrd and Hankerson to come crashing down on him from the outside.We'll roll Harris out also,and get more playing time for the younger RT's that need the experience to match the better skill set they have over Pihpo.

Sounds good to me Boss. Go Canes!

Who the hell gets married during football season?

Anyway...The biggest difference between Clemson's offense and VT and FSU's offense is that Clemson is quite one dimensional. VT and FSU have QB's AND RB's that can open up a spread style scheme. Clemson has Spiller and... a freshman QB who can only hit 50% of his passes, and who also has no legs. It would seem to me that if you can contain Spiller, you can contain most of the Clemson offense.

Now defense and ST's is a different story. Our kicks and punts MUST "hang" in order to give our coverage personnel time to attack the ball. Hang time is much more important than distance on ST's, given Clemson's one dimensional offense.

Clemson's defense scares me more than any other unit on their team. Their front four are all going to play on Sunday's. Jacory has to be patient and take what they give him. I know that Jacory's sack total has been rising lately, but that has a lot more to do with maturity and not forcing the play more than anything else. Dropping back 20 and punting is a lot more productive in a game like this than throwing picks to such an explosive defense. I'll take a sack over a pick 6 any day!

I like our chances in this one, but Clemson will be bringing their "A" game, so UM better hope they bring theirs as well!

Go 'canes!

fear no one!!! GO CANES!!

the fact that you know someone who has a wedding in the middle of a football season is absurd.

Key, offense or defense for the U, I think, defense, sets the tone and shuts Clemson down.

David Perry to the U.


way to steal the line.


4 star, 81 espn rating, DE david perry to The U.

We will finally see a category 5 in north miami! Blow canes! I pick miami 35 - 7

UM's defense is going to be sooooooooo sick for years to come!

Randy's decision to snub the kid's who snubbed The U earlier in the year is starting to pay HUGE dividends now! He's telling the kid's to commit now, and they should not take their remaining visit's if they want UM to hold a place for them. It's a business not a game, and Randy is OUR CEO!

Welcome Mr. Perry, what's your ring size??

Go 'canes!

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — It isn't every high school football team whose quarterback is the son of a Hall of Famer. What sets Oaks Christian apart is that, starting this fall, it will have two.



Miami vs FAMU

Must be a good friend Manny that you would pass up this game for the wedding, but not that good that you couldn't convince them to change the time or date.


The University of Miami landed a top recruit they were really after on Friday Night as University School (Florida) defensive end, David Perry committed to “The U’. Perry migrated from Jamaica to South Florida in 2008 and made an immediate impact for the Suns despite playing football for the first time. Perry’s 6′6″ 235 lb. frame and freakish athleticism posed a tough matchup for his high school counterparts. It wasn’t long before he caught the eye of many of the top football programs in the country. In the end it came down to Miami, Florida and LSU for Perry. Perry chose Miami because of their classroom sizes, family type atmosphere and business program. Perry’s commitment may close out the defensive end position for the Hurricanes for the 2010 class. The Canes had Hialeah H.S. (Florida) defensive end Corey Lemonier on their list but it’s a mystery as to what will happen there.

randy shannon has put a impressive recruiting class fillin spots that are needs for us to return to top of college football,also glad he's stressing academics over football skills,

The last three teams after we played VT wanted to use the style to beat us but that didnt work so stop comparing every other team to that game and saying thats how they could beat us. Didnt OU have a good defense, should have been better than Clemson right? More protection for JH on the right side, same balance on offense, clemson better not stay with man to man. Defense will contain CJ and put the pressure on their fresman QB, canes at home win.

any other recruits that might commit to the U THIS weekend,scholly are getting very low cant wait til january or FEB.to jump on

blowout for clemson jacory will be on his back all day long and randy back on the hot seat where he belongs

a lot of canes hater,never have anything good to say bout the canes

Team speed, size on the defensive line, hiccup games? This is something to fear? Ask OU how Whipple prepares. Ask FSU how speed can be matched. Ask GT how star defensive linemen are neutralized. Post the flags, the Hurricanes are coming. Go Canes!

We will probably run straight at these guys to back them off of blitzes around the end. Pipho is going to need help...chip block isn't going to do it.

The more CJ Spiller highlights I watch, the more uneasy I get about this game.

And it's raining today!!!!

I like this feature. Please do more of these. Also, is anyone worried about the rain we're likely to have today, we didn't exactly play too well in the rain last time. At least we're at home. Go Canes.

If Miami loses to this terrible Clemson team, they should still immediately give Bozo the head coach a long term contract.



Vote for Jacory, and if not for the Nebraska tackle who's owning everyone. Eff Tebow. The Gators are starting to get organized.

Yeah well guess what, the players and coaches all said they weren't overlooking the honors and look what happened there, I haven't seen one team outcoached and outprepared like that in a long time. So don't tell me we are prepared against Clemson. Show me.

Posted by: green impostor | October 24, 2009 at 09:28 AM

assumed identity …


it’s not a matter of if but when
-- Kirby Hocutt


People keep bringing up about the VT game and i'm not making up any excuses the cames, they lost they lost, it is what it is, but if you take a way the weather factor in that game, would it have been a different outcome? Just something for these so called Miami bandwagon fans to think about

Manny, this is the blog's best post yet -
but Really? You're sending us to the sentinel for post-game analysis? How did you pull that past on the bosses? but moreover why did you?
unless it's *your* wedding, there's no excuse for missing the game - that's been on the schedule for a long time, and your friends should be working around that shizz! ;)

Clemson's defense is strong - D-Line & Secondary - If Miami can keep Spiller under wraps they will win - if not it will be anybody's game - because he (Spiller) is amazing - Also Clemson's been pretty successaful when they have played in Miami - GO TIGERS!!!!


You shouldn't try to analyze what the VT game would've been without the rain. It was supposed to rain that day, everybody knew and had adequate time to prepare. Miami practices in region that gets plenty of rainfall and should've been able to adapt.

I think playing that game away and against a physical team had more to do with our loss than anything.

There were positives in that game; like our attitude at the begining of the 3rd quarter, the run we tried to make. Don't sweep that under the carpet because it does say something about these kids.

Manny...you're missing the game for a wedding? Dude, you can't work around that thing? Get yourself a BlackBerry and update from there. Don't be a Matt Roth homie.

Where can I see the game on the internet?

First I'd like to say that all the haters make every victory sweeter, that said, is there anywhere online to catch this game? I'm in Vegas and I don't feel like going to a sports book...

Free online feed at http://www.justin.tv/insgadgettv

Right now it is the GT/Va game and then Miami after that. The schedule is on the lower left of the site.

Hope that helps.

The "U" will beat Clemson as planned. All Clemson is C.J. Spiller and one man does not make a team. Miami is a complete team, so get off our blog Tiger fans. Ya'll ain't all that. GO CANES!!!!

Thanks mikepete

Sorry to say... But it is starting to look like UM has a lot of talent. But, they are dumb compared to the old UM teams. At least comparing football intelligences. No contain by the defense, missed blocking assignments... And the coaches??? Poor clock management and bad calls...

Good ball safety too, UM.
This sucks.

Thank god for talent... But way to get a penalty for the helmet... Good ended with DUMB!

To be honest, we are lucky to have five wins! Giving up 30 points a game on defense are you kidding me, that's embarrising! Randy please take over the defense yourself!

DeeMack as I said if you contain Spiller's Miami would win - they didn't and they didn't win - an exciting game - mistakes by both teams - as I said we have been very successful in Miami - GO TIGERS!!!!

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