Miami vs. Georgia Tech: Four Things to Look For

miami hurricanes

Sep 17, 2016; Boone, NC, USA; The Miami Hurricanes huddle up before the start of the fourth quarter against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

New Challenge

The 14th ranked Miami Hurricanes (3-0) begin ACC play Saturday against the (3-1, 1-1) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. The ‘Canes start a brutal stretch of games through the month of October against Paul Johnson’s triple option offense. Mark Richt is 13-2 all-time against Georgia Tech

The Hurricanes come off a much-needed bye week after three games and fall camp. During the bye week, ‘Canes coaches and players got the opportunity to watch the Yellow Jackets play third-ranked Clemson.

Georgia Tech fell to the Tigers 26-7 after an unusually poor running game with only 95 rushing yards and 2.7 yards per carry. The ‘Canes will likely see a better effort from Tech.

In Miami’s last visit to Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2014, the Ramblin’ Wreck flourished running the football for 319 yards in a 28-17 a victory. Miami’s run defense is greatly improved from the Al Golden ERA.

With the commencement of the Mark Richt era , the Hurricanes demonstrated impressive defensive performances versus Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, and Appalachian State. Miami takes a big step up in competition now. The game against Georgia Tech embarks the momentum for the rest of the season.  Is this Miami team for real?

Sep 10, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes running back Mark Walton (1) carries the ball during the second half against Florida Atlantic Owls at Hard Rock Stadium. Miami won 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 10, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes running back Mark Walton (1) carries the ball during the second half against Florida Atlantic Owls at Hard Rock Stadium. Miami won 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing the Power Run Game 
The Miami Hurricanes pounded the ball on the ground with Mark Walton in the past three games. The sophomore has slashed opponents for 408 rushing yards and seven touchdowns averaging 8.4 yards per carry.  Walton is on pace to reach 1600 rushing yards. Under Richt’s play calling, the power run game adds a dynamic element to the Miami offense.

Walton’s big play ability is a game changer. He had an touchdown 80 yard run on Miami’s first play from scrimmage against Appalachian State.


Change of pace back Joe Yearby has shown the ability to keep the defense off balance in spread formations. He has 256 yards rushing yards and four touchdowns on the year.  As the philosophy the continues, Richt will want to run the ball on the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech’s defense allows an average of 121 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry.

Oct 4, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo (71) and defensive lineman Calvin Heurtelou (93) celebrate after tackling Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas (5) in the third quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Georgia Tech defeated Miami 28-17. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 4, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo (71) and defensive lineman Calvin Heurtelou (93) celebrate after tackling Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas (5) in the third quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Georgia Tech defeated Miami 28-17. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Tackle Play

The play of Miami’s defensive tackles will determine the success of stopping the option. The ‘Canes’ tackles have played well thus far.  RJ McIntosh leads the group with 14 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss.

The tackles will have to shed blocks and defend the dive play which is a constant variable in the triple option. The Georgia Tech offensive linemen attack opposing defenses with cut blocks. If Miami’s defensive tackles can not shed these cut blocks, it will be a very long day for the defense.

Miami ranks 1st in tackles for losses through three games with 40. If Miami keeps this up, it will put Georgia Tech in rough situations offensively with 3rd and longs. This is tough for an option team that doesn’t throw the football often. This is a goal for Manny Diaz.

For example:

Nov 21, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Jermaine Grace (left) who was the Miami Hurricanes leading tackler leading tackler last season has been dismissed from the team along with linebacker Juwon Young and Defensive End Quan Muhammad. Mark RIcht discussed the dismissals on the Joe Rose show. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 21, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA;Jermaine Grace (left) who was the Hurricanes leading tackler leading tackler last season has been dismissed from the team along with linebacker Juwon Young and Defensive End Quan Muhammad. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

New Challenge for Miami’s Linebackers

Diaz is also tasked to coach his position group, the linebackers, to play against one of the most unique offenses in the country. The freshman trio of Michael Pinckney, Shaq Quarterman, and Zach McCloud took their starting roles by storm. The group combined has tallied 35 tackles through three games. This their toughest challenge yet.

The trio will have to diagnose plays and recognize quickly to be successful. Diaz wants his group to maintain aggression while staying disciplined in their assignments. Responsible linebacker play is essential for defending the triple option Georgia Tech offense. They average 216.8 rushing yards a game which ranks 35th in the nation.

Opening up the Offensive Playbook

Oct 1, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) throws a pass in the first half against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 1, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) throws a pass in the first half against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Week by week, the ‘Canes will open up the offense more and show more dynamic personnel groupings.  During the Appalachian State game, Richt used tempo to gas the defense. Then effectively, Brad Kaaya was able to penetrate the secondary with a 55-yard touchdown pass to Stacy Coley and several deep balls to freshman Ahmmon Richards.

With the opening of ACC play, it is time for Richt to use more wrinkles in the offense. Although Richt will want to run the ball, expect to see more combination routes with wide receivers, use of multiple backfields featuring Walton and Yearby, and some plays for tight end Chris Herndon in the H-back position. Richt has not had to show too much against opposing defense because of the lack of adverse situations.

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