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Know Thy Enemy: Scouting the Miami Hurricanes

Well, with the bowl game only a few days away, I guess it's time to get familiar with Miami's team.

I don't have videos of Miami so I turned to the next best thing: YouTube.  Looking at Miami highlight videos on YouTube is hardly a way to go to get a comprehensive scouting report on Miami, but it's better than nothing.  Most of the highlights are purely offensive highlights and thus we're only really going to get a look at their offense.  Furthermore, because I only looked at two different games, we may not be getting an entire picture of what their offense is like.  But like I said, it's better than nothing.

If anything, after reading this post, I guess you should have somewhat of an idea of how Miami's offense runs and what they like to do. 

So with that intro, let's get to the videos and my commentary after the jump....

So here are a few video highlights from Youtube.  Below each video are my thoughts.  If you click on the youtube video and go to the YouTube website, you can watch the videos in high def which makes things easier to see.  I highly suggest watching in high def so you can see stuff.  I guess if you have a widescreen monitor, you can have the blog open in one window so you can read my thoughts, and the video in the other window.


0:02 - Note big ass wide receiver, #4, Aldarius Johnson.  6'2" 205 lbs.  Possible size mis-match against Syd'Quan Thompson. 

0:22 - Miami RB Graig Cooper is a pretty fast runningback.  He's tall at 6'0" and plays tall.  Go for the legs to trip up since he plays tall.

0:34 - Miami is in shotgun.  Note the balance of the formation with the 2 receivers on each side.  Cal runs out of the same formation.  This play is a shotgun trap with a backside tackle pull.  Cal used to run this play a lot in 2006 but has since retired it. 

1:07 - Miami is in a 3 WR formation under center.  Cal runs plays out of the same formation.  On this play Miami attacks North Carolina's zone defense (looks to be a cover 2) with the typical slot seam route.  Cal often plays cover 2 and will have to be aware of this.

1:32 - Note to Alamar: PR Travis Benjamin is fast.  Please have the punt coverage team ready.  Look out for directional returns to the open side of the field.

2:14 - 3rd and 9.  Miami is in shotgun and runs a middle screen to the runningback.  Very similar to what Cal does.  Miami QB and OL do an excellent job selling the screen.  Becoming somewhat apparent that Mami RB Cooper is a very vertical runner with only occasional cuts.

2:39 - Miami in shotgun for a 3rd and 5.  Again, another very similar formation to one which Cal uses.  Specifically, note the TE off the LOS, which is something that Cal just started doing this year with the addition of Cignetti. 

2:50 - Miami goes back under center for a 1st and 10.  This is a playaction bootleg.  Note the backside tackle pull to sell the run.  Miami's RB gave away that this was a pass play by lining up 6 yards deep instead of the typical 7 yards deep.  Cal can carefully watch the Miami RB depth to clue in on runs or passes.  Deeper alignments mean runs, shorter alignments mean pass.

3:04 - Good discipline by Miami defense to stick with their men and not get fooled by the playaction.  Cal should be aware that Miami may not bite on playaction bootlegs and thus use it sparingly or avoid it completely. 

3:37 - Miami QB Marve shows good mobility.  Marve will not play against Cal for the bowl game due to a suspension for missing class. 

4:07 - Miami under center for a 2nd and long.  Note that RB Cooper was at his typical 7 yards deep position and the result was a run play.  Again Cooper shows his style is vertical running with little to no cuts.  Excellent speed up the holes though. 

4:18 - Miami in shotgun on a 3rd and Goal from the 4 yardline.  Miami obviously isn't afraid to go to shotgun when so close to the goalline due to the mobility of their QBs.  Cal defense will need to be especially aware of the scrambling QB when defending the endzone in the redzone.  Fantastic throw by Marve across his body.

5:11 - Miami RB Cooper is 7 yards deep, and it's a run (tendency to look for).  Again, Cooper likes to go vertical fast, even after he bounces outside for a few yards, he still tries to go vertical fast.  Cal will have to play excellent gap assignment otherwise Cooper will blow through the gaps and be gone for 6. 

5:21 - North Carolina faces a 3rd and 9.  Miami zone blitzes.  Watch Miami's DT drop back into the hook zones.  This is something the Cal offense should be aware of.

5:35 - Miami attacks the seams again to defeat the cover 2.  Miami QB Marve gets the ball out fast, and can do so because Miami has fast WRs.  Cal's pass rush will need to get pressure even quicker.  Cal needs to maintain good LB depth to take away those moderate passes over the middle.  Might consider using Cover 3 to tighten up the vertical seams between the safeties. 

5:56 - Again, Miami attacks the zone defense's vertical seams with seam routes.  Miami QB will place the ball high for the WRs to jump up and get as well as hung out to dry - big hit opportunities.


0:32 - Note: as seen in the highlights against North Carolina and in the video above, when Miami runs out of the I-Formation, the backside tackle doesn't block the defensive end but instead takes on the backside linebacker.  The fullback kicks out the backside DE with a cut block.  It's something to take note of although Miami might try to attack the Cal 3-4 defense differently.

1:20 - Miami QB Jacory Harris shows good escapability and speed.  Very tall - will be able to throw over the DL. 

1:35 - Miami runs an end around to speedy WR Travis Benjamin.  Cal should be aware of this play.  Backside Cal defenders cannot be lazy or give up their assignments. 

2:05 - Speed WR Travis Benjamin will be returning kickoffs.  Must maintain the kickoff coverage net and not give Benjamin lanes to burst through.

2:40 - Once again, Benjamin shows he has the speed to get to the corner and turn the corner.  Cal defenders all across the field must not give up on the play or be lazy. 

3:25 - Beware of possible double pass.  Deep safeties cannot play too aggressively.  Miami will take advantage of overly aggressive safeties. 

5:00 - Miami punter shows good speed.  Possible fake-punt threat. 

5:10 - We saw these types of throws in the North Carolina footage.  Beware of the 15-18 yard digs from the slot WRs.  Linebacker interception opportunities if they read the route and the eyes of the QB.

6:40 - Beware of overloaded formations with all receivers to one side.  Remember, the end lineman remains eligible unless covered.


This is a very narrow look at Miami - I know and apologize.  But it's better than nothing.

From what I can see, Miami runs a fairly similar offense to ours actually.  They will use shotgun with 3 WRs.  They will use the I-Formation (although I don't remember seeing them using the weak-I and strong-I such as us).  They will go under center with 3 WRs which is something we do although less often in 2008 than in 2006 and 2007.  They will trap run from the gun, and zone read from the gun. They screen like us.  They end-around like us.  They'll trick play double pass like us.  They really look fairly similar to us on offense aside from the fact that they don't use 12 personnel as much as we do (2 WRs, 2 TEs, 1 RB) and don't appear to use the variety of I-formations as us.  Their blocking schemes are different too.  

Things we should really look out for:

(1) The scrambling QB.  Jacory Harris is a guy who can scramble.  He can get yards with his feet and create passing opportunities with his feet.  Gregory will probably use the typical zone defenses to lock down the WRs and at the same time the zone defenders will act as spies on Harris.  This seems to be Gregory's typical gameplan when it comes to facing mobile QBs in shotgun spread formations.

(2) The speed of the WRs.  Miami's WRs are all pretty fast.  Especially that little freshman dude, Travis Benjamin.  Miami's WRs will get down the field quickly and thus the ball can come out quickly minimizing sacks. 

(3) Travis Benjamin (speed WR).  Miami looks to use him as we did with THA1 (Desean Jackson).  They'll end-around to him.  Use him as screen bait for double passes.  He's their "impact player" (for you NCAA Football gamers out there).  He's the "home-run threat" for you other cliche loving football fans out there.  He'll be lined up at flanker almost exclusively and spread wide (not in the slot) to stretch the defense. 

(4) Graig Cooper (runningback).  He's a pretty fast guy.  He's got a few moves, but for the most part he's a north-south runner.  Cal can't get him lanes to blow through.  Defense needs to plug the gaps and make him run east-west and use the sidelines as barriers.  Probably want to defend the field from inside-out rather than outside-in because defending outside-in can give him cutback lanes to speed through which are more his style. 

(5) Trick plays.  In only two games of tape, we saw a few.  We saw a fake-punt, double pass, and an eligible tackle play.  I'm sure they'll run reverses since those are a natural progression from the end-arounds which they use.  Cal will really have to stay sharp the entire game.  No mental errors. 

(6) Punt Returns.  This, of all things, scares me the most.  It scares me because Travis Benjamin is fast and elusive.  He's Desean Jackson-esque.  He'll score TDs on punt returns if our coverage isn't good.  If cannon-leg Anger out-punts our coverage, we might be screwing ourselves.  We might be better off directional punting the ball out of bounds if possible.  I'd rather have Benjamin not touch the balls for punt returns.  Should he return punts, look for him to take it to the open side of the field where he'll have space and can better utilize his speed. 

And a few parting statistics to munch on:

Miami QB Jacory Harris: 60.8% completion rate, 10 TDs, 6 INTs.  3.92% INT percentage.  40 rush attempts with a 2.7 yard average per carry.  A fair completion rate.  While he is mobile, he doesn't seem to be utilized heavily as a dedicated and designed scrambler.

Miami RB Graig Cooper: 4.9 yards per rush.  Only 159 carries on the season.  Doesn't seem to be used heavily.  Only about 13 rushes per game. Does have 24 receptions on the year and thus will get 2 catches per game on average (probably via screens).

No Miami WR has over 30 receptions this season.  Thus, it appears as if there is no "go-to guy."  All the WRs participate and get catches. 

A few more final Notes:

Miami's QB is a freshman.  Most of their starting WRs are freshman.  This is a young team on offense.  They seem to be having a bit of trouble on offense with all the youth despite all their speed.  To wit: 5.1 yards per play on offense (77th in the nation).  Compare: 5.8 yards per play on offense for Cal (30th in the nation). 

They average a very nice 11.5 yards per punt return - which is very good.  In comparison to the rest of the country, this puts them at 26th in the nation.

Battle of the defenses?  Perhaps.  Cal has the #8 defense in the nation for yards allowed per play (4.4 yards per play given up).  Miami has the #24 defense in the nation for yards allowed per play (4.8 yards per play given up). 

In short, Cal has the better offense.  Both teams have good defenses although Cal's is better.  Edge: Cal. 

My homer prediction: Cal wins by 14-21 points.

My TwistNHook style prediction: Cal wins 2-1. 

My real prediction: Cal wins by 10-14 points.