WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
When UM’s Al Golden and James Coley analyzed their offense this offseason, they knew they simply could not ignore the way college football is played today, the way more and more teams spread the field with receivers and have their quarterback stand in the shotgun and chuck it everywhere, flummoxing defenses and practically daring teams to try covering fleet-footed receivers and tight ends with linebackers and safeties.
And that evolution in college football, Coley tells us, factored “a lot” into the UM’s staff decision to transform this offense into more of a pro-style/spread combo that UM people joke they’re not even sure what to call.
For the first two games of the season, UM quarterback Brad Kaaya hasn’t lined up under center a single time in the first half and very, very few times at all, with UM instead using both the shotgun and the pistol (in which the quarterback is closer to the center than in the shotgun).
Against FAU, UM ran out of the I-formation, with two backs behind Kaaya, only twice, both on the goal-line. UM has alternated deftly between two-, three- four- and five- receiver sets, with ample use of tight ends and H-backs. A few times, UM used an empty backfield. No-huddle offense also has been weaved in.
Against lesser competition, it’s working. Miami is averaging 44.5 points (21st in the country), but the comparison to last year’s point total (29.2, 62nd) is meaningless because of the quality of competition so far.
But the new approach is clearly helping Miami’s running game, because teams can’t fill the box with eight defenders when receivers are so spread out. It’s no coincidence Joe Yearby is averaging 7.0 per carry.
“These guys are more suited to the pistol or shotgun,” Golden said of Yearby and Mark Walton. “It has helped us, created some cutback lanes.”
So what exactly is UM now?
“To say we’re a complete spread team, I don’t know,” Coley said. “There are still classifications of a pro style that spreads it out. I like to call ourselves a tempro team --- I mess around with the offensive staff and say ‘espresso.’ We want to be able to play with multiple tempos.”
Kaaya calls it an “amoeba” offense: “We still have pro style answers to certain defensive looks we see. But we're playing a lot faster and getting the ball in our playmakers’ hands a lot. It's a lot more efficient. Guys have less mental errors. We're allowing the players to make plays instead of making them think extra hard.”
UM’s objective is clear: Get its skilled backs, receivers and tight ends in space, where they can outrun or outmaneuver less athletic or slower defenders.
UM has become more of a catch-and-run offense, with shorter, higher percentage passes. Kaaya’s completion percentage is up (58.5 to 62.7) but his yards per attempt is down (8.5 to 7.8).
UM’s offensive coaches visited Southern Cal and borrowed concepts from the Trojans, as well as the Dallas Cowboys.
“That’s something you do in the offseason: You say, ‘How can I use these guys?’” Coley said. “We’re going to put them in position where they can make plays.
“We did a lot of work in the offseason. We didn’t stop. We were here and there and everywhere [like] Paul McCartney’s [song]. We made some adaptations in our game and every week we plan on showing a little bit more.”
UM has held some things back that it will unveil Saturday and beyond.
And don’t overlook this: This style is precisely the way a lot of high school players like to play, so this can only help UM with recruiting.
“It’s so much fun,” backup quarterback Malik Rosier said of UM’s new style. “Me and Brad come home and we’re like, ‘We have such good players on our team.’
“We feel like this year, [with] spreading out a little more, we have great receivers, great backs. Getting them in open space, making one-on-one matchups is our goal.”
The quarterbacks love playing in the shotgun because “it’s what I did a lot in high school and growing up in California,” Kaaya said. “The shotgun fits our offense more. It’s good. It gets me back there so I can see the whole field and scan everything out, especially for passing situations. It also spreads the run out, too.”
One advantage of the traditional pro-style offense is that it prepares quarterbacks for the NFL. But UM, once known as “Quarterback U,” hasn’t had one drafted before the seventh round in, shockingly, 23 years, since Craig Erickson was plucked in the fourth in 1992.
That should change in a couple of years with Kaaya, and Coley makes clear that “I still believe in developing the quarterback” besides winning games.
“Some of these other places the quarterback will look over with three seconds left on the clock and they’ll tell him to throw to the Z and it works for them,” Coley said. “That’s great, but that doesn’t work for that guy when you go to the pros.
“I still put a lot on the plate of the quarterback. Even though we’re using multiple tempos and we spread it out, there’s still a lot on his plate. He’s still in charge of the mike [linebacker] declarations, the run checks.”
### Please see the last post for 11 more Hurricanes notes from Tuesday afternoon.
### No ex-Dolphin on TV is more critical of the Dolphins than NFL Network’s Heath Evans (his latest shot was calling Ndamukong Suh a bully the other day and saying Suh should be suspended four games), and ex-Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison --- Evans’ teammate in 2005 --- finally had enough, tweeting: “I wish #heathevans would have never put on a Miami Dolphins jersey. #hater #soft and so one-sided.”
Evans’ Twitter response? “You would know Sam… You were a great player and always tough to play against! Hope you’re doing well!”
Madison expanded on his feelings by phone, saying that Evans "played six games here. What gives you the right to say all these things? It seems like you give nothing but negative energy to our organization. Undeserved stuff. Don't keep doing it."
I enjoyed my interaction with both Madison and Evans during their time with the Dolphins, but Evans' criticism of the Dolphins --- including Suh --- seems over the top.
### Zach Vigil’s rise from undrafted rookie to competing for the starting middle linebacker job is even more improbable considering the Utah State walk-on didn’t receive a single scholarship offer out of high school.
“Usually you don't see people come in undrafted and act like you own the place,” linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. “That’s what I like most about him. He acts like he owns the place.”
### You can't dispute this about new Dolphins kickoff returner Raheem Mostert: The guy has blazing speed. He ran a 4.32 at Purdue's pro day this past spring.
### Nicest gesture by a Dolphins player this season? Probably Suh buying La-Z-Boy recliners so all the defensive linemen can sit in comfort while they meet, discuss strategy and watch tape in the defensive line room. “That’s very big of him; we’re here more than we’re home,” Cameron Wake said.
### Though some Marlins officials would like to hold onto outfielder Marcell Ozuna, an associate of Jeffrey Loria said Loria is disappointed in Ozuna and very much open to trading him this offseason. Miami would look for a young (inexpensive) quality starting pitcher in return.
### Butch Davis, who has said he would love to coach again (unlikely to happen at UM), was named honorary bowl committee chairman of the Miami Beach Bowl at Marlins Park.
Davis, who works for ESPN, has been out of coaching since North Carolina dismissed him after the 2010 season. This will be Davis' second new association with South Florida; he's also doing a weekly segment on 790 The Ticket.