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2 posts from September 16, 2013

September 16, 2013

Morris, Coley, Hurricanes offense working on hitting receivers, curveballs thrown at them

As good as the Hurricanes are feeling about being 2-0 and ranked in the Top 25 poll again, there was plenty of work to be had during the team's bye week last week and plenty more the team is focusing on heading into Saturday night's game against Savannah State.

Sure, the Tigers are 55-point underdogs -- maybe the ultimate FCS underdogs in college football with blowout losses to Florida State (55-0) and Oklahoma State (84-0) in recent years. But Miami wants to get better, especially on offense where new offensive coordinator James Coley is trying to get quarterback Stephen Morris and company back on track.

The focus since the team's win over the Gators has been improving the offense's third down conversion percentage, currently ranked 120th out of 123 FBS programs (5 of 25, 20 percent). Morris, meanwhile, ranks 89th in passing efficiency (115.3). A year ago he finished 50th (138.07 rating).

"This last week was all about communication with our players up front and in the perimeter, just understanding what different things can happen [on third downs]," Coley said. "Everybody early in the season has the wrinkles they do. Sometimes when you get some curveballs you have to be able to adjust."

One example of a curveball breaking down communication against Florida was when Morris threw a pass toward Dorsett he didn't even turn around and look for. The ball fell harmlessly to the ground. It was still the kind of mistake that not only frustrates fans, but coaches and players too.

"That's stuff we've been really focusing on in practice, giving them all the wrinkles [a defense might do] -- even if they don't do it," Coley said.

Aside from a few deep shots the Hurricanes took against Florida, Coley and Morris both said Miami's offense has been pretty conservative so far and has been holding back a lot of their playbook. Morris said against FAU, for instance, the team only ran variations on "three or four" plays the entire game.

"It was frustrating because the defense gets used to those same plays," Morris said. "For us, our biggest thing is, let's execute it. Obviously there are lot of things we haven't called and won't call for Savannah State and we'll hold off for other games, but our biggest thing is we have to execute what's being called."

Morris said regardless of who the Hurricanes are playing Saturday -- even a 55-point underdog, "championship teams don't care who they're playing."

"Going off my last two games there is a lot of things to improve on and work on," Morris continued. "That's the thing about it. We're only two games in. Let's take what we did in the bye week and continue to grow."

MORE NEWS AND NOTES

> Coley said receivers Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis have responded well in practice over the past week.

"Stacy, it's a whole new language," Coley said. "He's coming in from high school, it's a whole new grind. He's got these classes he's taking, they're college level classes ... he's coming to practice and he's sore. The guy at the corner now is 200 pounds, not 165 like he saw in high school. So it's physical. What I saw from him is the push, he's really pushed himself. He's a smart kid, very instinctive.

"Malcolm, coming off that injury, his whole deal is being in condition to endure the entire practice. He's going to be sore at times. It's hey, you're running that route at 12 whether you're sore or you're tired."

Do you like noon games? Also: injury update, Preston Dewey and #76000strong #sheesh

 

Do you like noon games?

Hopefully you do, because the Canes have another one on Sept. 28th.

But this time it's on the road against USF, and will be televised on either ABC, ESPN or ESPNU, according to the ACC.

The network will be announced Sept. 22.

Meanwhile, this week's game against FCS team Savannah State (1-2) is at 7 p.m. on ESPN3. The Canes (2-0), which dropped from No. 15 to 16 in the AP Poll and rose from 18 to 17 in the Coaches', conclude their three-game homestand Saturday.

The players are doing their best, it seems, to treat this game like any other. Al Golden is doing a very good job immersing them in his process-oriented culture. They know just how good -- or rather, bad -- this opponent is, but seem to be zoned in on the moment and learning and improving and working on what they need to do. 

Golden's philosophies have really begun to seep deep, at least from what I see.

Anyway, I spoke with A.J. Highsmith for a while today and he was really appreciative of the crowd that showed up for the Florida game.

"Thank you to everyone who came out today! #76000strong #sheesh," Highsmith tweeted.

"I've been here before when there was nobody in the stadium,'' Highsmith told me. "It was really fun to have that atmosphere. I wish we could get that again. It would mean a lot, because of how far we've come.''

QUICK HITS:

* WR Rashawn Scott (shoulder/collarbone) was at practice wearing a red (no-contact) jersey. Golden said he expects him back "sometime before or after North Carolina" on Oct. 17.

* Golden also said he expects OL Danny Isidora (broken foot/surgery) back around that time.

* Deon Bush (hernia surgery) has moved to backup safety, as opposed to third-team on the depth chart. But Golden wasn't saying whether Bush will play Saturday. The coach said he had to look at tape first.

* UM confirmed earlier today that former scholarship quarterback Preston Dewey, who would have been a redshirt freshman, is enrolled as a Miami student but is no longer on the football team. Dewey is still on scholarship, but not as it relates to the football team. He is not counted as one of the 105 players. He is working as a sports marketing intern. I've been told backup quarterback Ryan Williams also will serve as a sports marketing intern. Williams, of course, is still playing.

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN