A few Canes notes leading up to Saturday’s big one at North Carolina:
### UNC has an up-tempo offense, and that raises the issue that Miami faced against Duke’s quick pace: Does UM try to substitute between plays, a strategy that left UM defenders seemingly confused at times and resulted in two illegal participation penalties against Duke because of late substitutions?
Coordinator Mark D’Onofrio didn’t answer directly but suggested he wouldn’t stop substituting merely because of the issues that created against Duke.
He said coaches must send in the players quickly and players need to have their chin straps buckled and “locked in” to get in the game quickly.
“Make sure guys are prepared for it," he said. "We’ll look to continue to improve in that area.”
Larry Scott said UM is evaluating its approach on that issue.
“How can you do it better and faster and put your kids in the best position possible to defend [it],” he said.
It’s understandable why UM would want to substitute personnel during series, but as former coach Dan Hawkins noted on the UM-Duke ESPNU broadcast, that strategy often left UM’s defensive linemen in motion, scrambling to get set, as the ball was snapped. Duke had several big plays when that happened.
“We have to get the plays called into the kids as quickly as possible so they can get aligned as quickly as possible when they accelerate the pace. It’s hard to re-enact in practice," Scott said. "Once the call is communicated, everybody can get in line and execute the call."
### Receiver Stacy Coley gave insight today into his sophomore slump and why he has rebounded as a junior.
“I had a lot of family issues last year,” Coley revealed. “My teammates didn’t know what I was going through. I kept it to myself. I’m more focused now, leaving all the problems behind me. Now I can be free and be me.”
Coley credited receivers coach Kevin Beard for a lot of his success this season and said “we want him to stick around” next season. The new coach will obviously make the call on that.
Scott said Coley is “learning how to prepare, how to take care of his body. He has a chance to be real special.”
### Coaches can’t stop raving about Trent Harris, who never played middle linebacker until midway through the season but has thrived in the role. He played three different positions during one series against Virginia.
“He’s a coach on the field, a leader through his play and the way he works. He’s everything you want,” Scott said. D’Onofrio called Coley “phenomenal, awesome.”
### I asked Scott if he has reached out to any head coaches for input, advice, etc. He mentioned two former USF coaches --- Jim Leavitt and Skip Holtz (now at Louisiana Tech).
### D’Onofrio, on what freshmen have impressed him, mentioned safety Jaquan Johnson and cornerback Sheldrick Redwine.
He then added that defensive tackle Kendrick Norton has “stood out” and redshirt freshman Mike Smith “quietly has gotten better.”
Among offensive players, D’Onofrio praised the work of offensive lineman Bar Milo on the scout said.
### UNC, unbeaten in the conference, poses a ton of challenges, with a dangerous offense and a strong secondary. What’s more, “they’re defending the run better this year than they have,” Scott said.
Scott said UNC “is a challenge I believe we’re up for. We’re going to win each day so we can win the week.”
### Scott said he’s encouraged by offensive tackle Trevor Darling’s progress after Saturday’s foot injury. UM expects he will be available Saturday, barring a setback.
### Brad Kaaya – who has 12 touchdowns, three picks and is completing 62.7 percent of his passes (up from 58.5 last season) – is pleased with his season. “I’m getting us in position to win a lot of games,” he said.
### UM used Chad Thomas, its only five-star front seven player, only one third downs and two-minute situations last week because he was coming off injury. He should have a bigger role Saturday.
### John Congemi, who does good work on college games and Dolphins studio shows, will be the analyst on ESPNU's cablecast of UM-UNC at 3:30 Saturday.
Please check back here tonight for a lot more Hurricanes football news.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz