Miami Football: Midseason Grades and Awards
The Miami Hurricanes will enter the second half of the season sporting a 4-2 record, 3-0 in the ACC. As expected, the young Hurricanes team has showed a lot of holes in its game, but it has also provided some insight on what we can expect to see in the future.
Going into this season, I was almost positive that the offense would struggle (returned only four starters) and the defense would be much improved over last year's squad.
I was completely mistaken. The defense has been absolutely atrocious while the offense has been somewhat surprising.
Here are my grades for the Hurricanes at the midpoint of the 2012 season.
The Miami Hurricanes offense had its ups and downs so far this year. It fought back and won three key ACC games.
In those three games, the Hurricanes racked up 1,675 yards of total offense, 42 points per game and converted 51 percent of all third-down conversions.
Unfortunately, the first half of the season also brought some poor offensive play as well.
Against Notre Dame and Kansas State, the Hurricanes offense totaled just 547 yards of total offense, 16 total points and converted just 36 percent of all third-down conversions.
Quarterback Stephen Morris had a good first half of the season throwing for 1,836 yards, nine touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Freshman Duke Johnson is leading the way on the ground with 381 yards and five touchdowns while catching another 18 balls for 182 yards and a score.
Phillip Dorsett leads all receivers with 29 catches for 470 yards and three touchdowns.
There isn't much I can write here that I haven't already said about the defense, so I will just start with the statistics.
Through six games, the Hurricane defense has given up 3,060 yards of total offense (most allowed in the country), 510 yards per game (third worst in the country) and has allowed 35 points per game.
The only team the Hurricanes have held under 32 points was Bethune-Cookman (10 points), an FCS school.
What it basically came down to was poor play by the defensive line. It gets no pressure on passing downs and can not stop the run. Overall, the defense has allowed 1,504 rushing yards (251 yards per game), fourth-worst in the country.
Don't get me wrong, the defensive line isn't the only problem. The linebackers are missing far too many tackles and the cornerbacks are struggling in in coverage.
Shayon Green is leading the way in tackles with 39, while Anthony Chickillo is tied for the team lead in sacks (two) and first on the team in tackles for loss (four). Freshman Tyriq McCord also has two sacks for the Hurricanes.
The only bright side of the defense so far this year has been creating turnovers. The Hurricanes have recorded five interceptions and six fumble recoveries through six games.
The Hurricanes created just 15 the entire 2011 season.
The special teams has been good and bad this season. Heading into the season I was certain that the kicking and punting game were the best in the country.
Now, not so much.
Jake Wieclaw, a 2011 Lou Groza Award semifinalist, has been dreadful completing just 8-of-13 field goals. Against North Carolina State, Wieclaw went 0-for-3.
Punter Dalton Botts hasn't been exactly living up to his preseason All-ACC first-team pick as he is just sixth in the ACC in punting at 40.6 yards per punt. Duke punter Will Monday leads the ACC at 46 yards per punt.
The punt return team is also struggling as it is averaging just seven return yards per return, while the punt return defense has allowed 16.7 yards per return (sixth-worst in the country).
The rest of special teams has been pretty solid. The Hurricanes are averaging 25 yards per kick return, ranking them No. 29 in the country.
Duke Johnson is averaging 28 yards per kickoff return (No. 20 in the country) including a 95-yard touchdown against Bethune-Cookman.
The kickoff defense has been amazing, allowing just 14.4 yards per return (fourth-best in the nation).
This one is a touchy subject to grade, because it is really hard to determine what the main problem is on the defensive side of the ball. Is it a lack of talent, youth or coaching that is the primary issue?
Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio's defense has been getting mutilated week in and week out. Many people are blaming the youth as the primary issue on the defensive side of the ball, but I really don't buy it.
I do believe youth and inexperience has hindered the cornerback position, but the defensive linemen aren't that young.
Anthony Chickillo, Olsen Pierre and Jalen Grimble are all sophomores who have played in 38 games so far in their collegiate careers.
Curtis Porter, Luther Robinson, Shayon Green and Kelvin Cain are juniors who have logged in 57 games and have been with the program for three years.
Darius Smith is the lone senior and has played in 16 games thus far.
Now there are a lot of rotating freshmen on the defensive line, and that is no doubt part of the problem on why the defensive line is struggling so bad, but it's not the only reason.
The offense has been on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has found some success on offense as he has finally allowed quarterback Stephen Morris to throw the ball deep.
I believe he has improved since he came to Miami after the 2010 season, and if he allows the offense a little more freedom, they will be just fine for the rest of the season.
To me, head coach Al Golden is the reason why this team has even won four games. Usually with a defense this bad, there is no way a team should have even have one victory.
He has the players believing in themselves, and it's been a true blessing to have him on the Hurricane sidelines.
Freshman Player of the First Half
This one is a no-brainer as Duke Johnson isn't only the best freshman on the team, but also one of the best in the country.
Duke leads the team in rushing yards (391), average yards per rush (6.3), rushing touchdowns (5), all-purpose yards (1,010) and has Miami's only special-teams touchdown on a 95-yard kickoff return.
The 1,010 all-purpose yards ranks him No. 14 in the country and first among all freshmen.
Duke is also second on the team in receptions (18) and fifth in receiving yards (182).
Senior Player of the First Half
On a team with just 15 seniors, there is only one that has stood out and that is running back Mike James.
James is first on the team with 66 rushes, second in rushing yards (317), average yards per carry (4.6) and touchdowns (3).
He had a monster game against Georgia Tech where he scored four times (one receiving), including the 25-yard rushing touchdown in overtime to beat the Yellow Jackets.
James is true leader on and off the field for this young Hurricanes team.
Offensive Player of the First Half
There were a couple of different players I could have chosen for offensive player of the year, but I kept going back to the freshman, Duke Johnson.
Johnson is such a versatile player that excels in open space. He is literally a game-changer, and it has showed in games against Boston College and Bethune-Cookman where he combined for six touchdowns.
I won't go over all his stats (see the Freshman Player of the First Half slide for a review), so I will just say that what Johnson has done, especially as a true freshman, is simply amazing.
Defensive Player of the First Half
With a defense that has been one of the worst in the country there still have been two players that stood out, Eddie Johnson and Shayon Green.
Although Green is leading the team in tackles with 39, I had to choose Johnson who was right behind him with 35.
Besides the tackles, Johnson also has 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one pass breakup and three forced fumbles. Johnson is tied with defensive back Deon Bush in forced fumbles.
The most impressive thing about Johnson is that he is just a freshman and has performed better than any defensive player on the field. He is very aggressive, hits like a truck and tends to be around the ball all game long.
Johnson has honestly been the only true bright spot on a struggling defensive unit.
This one was close between Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris. Both players have had an excellent year so far, and I expect much of the same in the second half of the season.
Overall though, I had to give it to Morris.
Morris has completed 142-of-242 passes for 1,836 yards, nine touchdowns and just four interceptions. He actually has the fifth most passing yards in the country.
To add to a great statistical season, Morris broke a school and ACC record with most passing yards in a game when he torched North Carolina State for 566 yards.
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has allowed Morris to throw deep and has proved to the entire country that he has one of the best arms in all of college football when he hit Phillip Dorsett on a 62-yard touchdown strike with just 19 seconds left in the game.
Morris has had a stellar season thus far, and I expect things to be even better in the remaining six games of the season.