Miami Hurricanes: 5 Reasons for Concern Despite Victories
The 4-1 overall record is an undeniably positive sign for the Miami Hurricanes. Being 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, however, powers the optimism behind Al Golden's young team.
Junior Stephen Morris set an ACC record for passing yards in a single game with his 566-yard performance against North Carolina State. Even after being held to 40 yards rushing against the Wolfpack, Duke Johnson has emerged as a dynamic player and a great complement to power running back Mike James.
Phillip Dorsett is also a deep-ball threat with back-to-back games of 184 and 191 yards receiving, respectively. After Davon Johnson stepped up against Georgia Tech, sophomore Rashawn Scott followed with six receptions, 180 yards and two touchdowns—all career-best statistics.
Yet with all these positives, the Hurricanes have a few areas that could be causes for concern heading into the last seven games of the season.
Maybe it's too soon to worry, but Jake Wieclaw has not impressed over the last five quarters of football.
He did not convert from 41 yards, which would have stretched Miami's lead over North Carolina State to 12 points going into halftime, nor from 43 yards, with a chance to give the Hurricanes a six-point advantage late in the fourth quarter.
After not missing a field goal from inside 40 yards last season, Wieclaw missed a 22-yard attempt in the fourth quarter versus Georgia Tech that would have cut the Jackets' lead to four points. Against the Wolfpack, the senior yanked a 19-yard chip shot in the second quarter.
Golden certainly shows faith in his players on a weekly basis, but if the senior is called upon to make another clutch kick late in the game, the Miami fanbase may not be as confident in its kicker.
2. Points After Turnovers
Miami's defense has 12 takeaways on the season, but the offense has not scored many points following the change of possession.
After scoring 17 points off of an interception and two fumble recoveries in the season opener against ACC rival Boston College, the Hurricanes have scored just seven points off of their last nine takeaways.
On Saturday against North Carolina State, Miami snatched the ball away from the Wolfpack's offense five times before the game-ending interception by A.J. Highsmith. However, the offense did not put any points on the board following the turnovers.
If "The U" wants to avoid crucial drives late in the game, they must take advantage of the turnovers and put their opposition away when given the chance.
3. Lack of Tight End Production
Coach Al Golden has repeatedly stressed that he wants to get his tight ends more involved in the passing game. Through five games, however, the entire corps has 14 catches, 118 yards and one touchdown combined.
If it wasn't for Clive Walford's 56-yard catch-and-run in the blowout against Kansas State, the yardage would practically be cut in half. The other two tight ends, Asante Cleveland and Dyron Dye, each have two catches for just 12 and 10 yards, respectively.
Stephen Morris has thrown for 1,002 yards in the last two games, but only a total of 17 yards have gone to the tight ends—all to Walford.
One of the three must distinguish themselves as a viable option as the Hurricanes move the ball down the field, especially in the red zone.
4. Red-Zone Offense
Speaking of the red-zone, in 21 drives inside the opponent's 20-yard line, Miami has come away with 11 touchdowns. Four other attempts have resulted in zero points.
Miami squandered a 19-point first-quarter lead against Georgia Tech and a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against NC State. Constantly settling for field goals will not win many games.
Between offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and quarterback Stephen Morris, the Hurricanes need to get into the end zone to avoid the collapses.
5. Struggling Defense
There must be a bright spot somewhere in the defense, but so far, it sure is hard to find.
Miami ranks 114th in the nation—seventh worst—in total defense, giving up 495 yards per game. In 27 red-zone chances, opponents have scored 18 touchdowns—67 percent of the time.
Injuries haven't helped the Hurricanes defense, as starting linebacker Denzel Perryman and safety Vaughn Telemaque each missed two games. However, FBS opponents have not had a problem scoring against Miami, averaging 39 points per game regardless of who was on the field.
One factor is the lack of pressure by the defensive line. The group, led by sophomore Anthony Chickillo, has just seven sacks in five games this season. The big men up front must generate pressure on a consistent basis to take some pressure off of the secondary.
Teams have not had trouble throwing against the equally unimpressive Miami defensive backfield. The secondary has given up 16 passing plays of 25 yards or more.
With games against Notre Dame, Florida State and Virginia Tech, the defense must tighten up to give Miami a greater chance to improve on its already surprising season.