CORAL GABLES -- When it comes to pure upper body strength, nobody on the University of Miami football team is stronger than left guard Harland Gunn. The 6-2, 317-pound senior from Omaha, Nebraska benches 450 pounds and knows how to move a pile.
But as good as the Hurricanes offensive line has played this season -- opening holes for Lamar Miller to put together five consecutive 100-yard games to start the season -- Gunn wasn't pleased that streak came to an ugly end against North Carolina. Miller finished with just 29 yards on 16 carries and UM's offense struggled to move the football in the second half, netting just two first downs and three points.
"We obviously want to put up more rushing yards than we did," said Gunn, who has started 24 games in his career including 19 in a row. "But it's a new week. New game. We're just going to work so it doesn't happen again."
This week's challenge for the Canes offensive line is one they don't see very often: a 3-4 defense. The good news for UM: the Yellow Jackets aren't necessarily that good at defending the run. They rank 81st nationally -- giving up 177.14 yards per game. On the flip side: Georgia Tech does a pretty good job putting heat on opposing quarterbacks (16 sacks in 7 games) and they aren't too shabby on pass defense either -- ranking 14th nationally, 174.86 yards per game.
If there's one advantage UM has it's that coach Al Golden knows Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh really well. Golden served as Groh's defensive coordinator for five years at Virginia (2001-05) and learned the 3-4 system from him.
"Brilliant tactician," Golden said of Groh. "The hardest worker I’ve ever been around. Just a ball coach, and he loves that. If you said what do you want to be remembered as, I would say that he was tough, great tactician, a football guy, a football coach, and certainly a guy who has spawned a lot of other coaches. If you just look around, [current Virginia coach Mike London] or myself. There were some other guys that were on that staff, Ron Prince, and Danny Rocco and the list goes on that were on that staff that went on to have great careers.
Golden said while he knows Groh's system well, he expects the veteran coach to throw in a few wrinkles -- like he always does. "The one thing about Al is he's a game plan guy," Golden said of Groh on Hurricane Hotline. "We'll see something different in every game.
"There are some core things you see week in and week out -- odd defense, Cover 2. You're going to see that. What drives him crazy are free access throws, hitches, all those things a lot of teams give up. He's not going to let you do that. He doesn't want to get beat for explosive plays. Something on third down is also always different. We've watched all the third downs and Cover 2s for Georgia Tech in the last two years. There's always a game plan on third down for Al."
There's always stuff we can't get into our stories because of space in the paper. Here some left overs from my feature on redshirt freshman and starting right tackle Jonathan Feliciano:
> Despite being Puerto Rican and having Sicilian decent, Feliciano doesn't speak a lick of Spanish or Italian. "But I love my sauce and my beans," he said.
> Although Feliciano finished with over 20 scholarship offers while being recruited (all the state schools except Florida), it took the Canes a little while to jump on him. When former UM assistant Tommy Robinson first visited Western, he left without even noticing Feliciano. But Feliciano's coach chased him down and gave him his film. UM got back to Feliciano quickly, offered him a scholarship and he committed. "Miami was always my dream school," he said.
> Despite impressing coaches and teammates with his strength, Feliciano said he came in relatively weak. "When I first got here I couldn't bench 315," he said. "Now, I'm benching 375. [Strength coach Andreu] Swasey worked me hard." Feliciano said he squats 500 pounds and his power clean is 340 -- among the best on the team.
> Feliciano spent all of his freshman year playing left guard and started fall camp at right guard. It wasn't until he knocked a few guys on their butts in one-on-one drills at tackle midway through camp that Kehoe decided to give him a shot on the outside. The first guy Feliciano took down? Senior Adewale Ojomo.
> What has Kehoe been telling Feliciano he likes and doesn't like? "He's been praising my run blocking mostly and then always harps on me on my backside pulling technique. I need to get that backside cutoff," Feliciano said.
> Gunn said he's never seen Feliciano nervous and that his personality fits right in with the rest of the o-line.
"What's most impressive about Jon is how he stepped up this year, just rising way above everybody's expectations," Gunn said. "He's been competing out there, a finisher. He just plays real hard, doesn't really make too many mistakes out there at all. You have to take your hat off to a guy like that, especially being real young."