No. 14 Miami clearly much deeper than a year ago

In the entirety of last season, Miami had a total of 12 players

who scored a touchdown, nine different guys record rushes for

positive yards and seven defenders in on at least one sack.

The first four games of this season make those numbers look

pretty weak.

While statistics aren’t always the best example of how a

football team has progressed – the 77-7 win over Savannah State

certainly skews things – this season’s Hurricanes are clearly

getting much more production across the board this year. Miami’s

newfound depth will start getting tested for real Saturday, when

the 14th-ranked Hurricanes (4-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference)

open league play against Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-1).

”We have to continue to grow that,” Miami coach Al Golden

said. ”Being around the ball, being active on the ball, pursuing,

all those things are contagious and we’ve got to continue to drill

it and we’ve got to continue to accept nothing but the standard

that the players are playing to right now and continue to take the

next step.”

So far this season, the Hurricanes have had 17 players record a

tackle for loss, 14 players catch a pass, 10 score touchdowns and

six record an interception.

Maybe the best illustration of the growth at Miami from 2012 to

2013 is along the defensive front, particularly when it comes to

getting to the quarterback. This season, with as many as 10 games

left to play, 11 different players have already been in on at least

one sack. The Hurricanes had 13 sacks as a team last year, and have

already posted 16 of them to take away 95 yards from opposing

offenses this year.

”We’re getting production,” defensive coordinator Mark

D’Onofrio said. ”Guys are working hard, they have worked hard, and

they’re still pushing each other to keep it going.”

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is noticing how the Hurricanes

have stepped up that production. Miami already has 13 takeaways

this season, and that’s the area where Johnson was most effusive in

his praise over the Hurricanes’ unbeaten start.

”The big thing is they’ve gotten turnovers,” Johnson said. ”I

mean, a couple of games they just overmatched the opponents and

just kind of overwhelmed them. But the games that the personnel was

closer, they’ve gotten turnovers and limited big plays. So they’ve

done a great job that way.”

They’ve also done a great job when it comes to resting guys for

ACC play, or as Golden calls it, ”the tournament.”

Miami running back Duke Johnson put on added muscle over the

offseason because of the expectation that he would be the

centerpiece of the Hurricanes’ offense this season, which he

is.

But again, because of the way some of Miami’s games have gone –

three of the four wins have come by at least 28 points – other guys

are getting more than their share of touches. Dallas Crawford has a

team-high five rushing touchdowns, one more than Johnson has

managed so far. Gus Edwards has three scores and leads the

running-back corps with a 6.6 yard-per-carry average.

Johnson doesn’t mind any of that.

”To know that you’re able to take breaks and relax your body

and have other guys come in and not miss a beat and keep the game

going the way you want, the way it should, it’s great,” Johnson

said.

Numbers aren’t everything, of course. On the surface, Miami

quarterback Stephen Morris looks to be having a worse start this

year than he did in 2012, considering he had 1,069 passing yards in

the first four games of that season compared to 626 so far this

year.

Then again, he’s been relieved in three of the four games this

season, and it’s still noteworthy that his quarterback rating is up

28.5 points from this time a year ago.

”We’re not worrying about anything we’ve done so far,” Morris

said. ”We’re learning from the mistakes that we’re making. Our

biggest focus around this building is not to rely on what we did

last week. We know we have to do everything better.”