Late in the season, Stacy Coley started outrunning defenses during every game.
Stacy Coley proved to be an explosive weapon for the Miami Hurricanes, reaching the end zone in four different ways during the 2013 regular season.
When playmakers get touches, long gains and touchdowns are often a single move away, and Coley made opposing defenses look silly on multiple occasions with his quickness.
As a true freshman, Coley tallied 30 receptions, 559 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns. Additionally, he averaged 26.5 yards per kick return and 22.0 per punt return, scoring once in each special teams role.
Coley topped 1,000 all-purpose yards in his first collegiate season, and it is clear the Hurricanes must find ways to get him more touches in 2014.
Coley's two-touchdown performance against South Florida was great, but Miami dismantled the Bulls, holding a 42-point lead during the fourth quarter. But then Coley caught 10 passes for 183 yards and zero touchdowns over the Hurricanes' next four games.
He ended his touchdown-less streak against Virginia Tech, taking a simple screen pass 81 yards to the house on Miami's first possession.
Consistency, however, was an issue.
Coley did not register one more catch during the 18-point loss, and the Hurricanes were completely reliant on Allen Hurns as well as short, unexciting passes to Clive Walford.
Whether it was Coley failing to get open, quarterback Stephen Morris not seeing him or offensive coordinator James Coley not calling plays for the receiver, Stacy Coley cannot have just one touch in such an important ACC contest.
The simplest way for Coley to get more touches is on screen passes, and he has been fantastic on those quick plays.
Two weeks later against Virginia, Coley snagged five passes for 81 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown via another screen pass. Against Pitt, Coley took a screen pass 34 yards for a score, finishing the game with three receptions, 73 yards and two touchdowns.
Overall, aided by great blocking, four of his seven receiving touchdowns came on screen passes.
In other words, Coley turned his big play-potential into game-day results. Expecting a long touchdown from him every game is not fair, but Coley needs to be a bigger factor on a weekly basis.
And in 2014, he will not have much of a choice, considering the leading Miami receiver is graduating.
Following the 2012 season, Allen Hurns' eventual departure figured to be noticeable but not necessarily extremely noteworthy. The local product had caught 59 passes for 729 yards and four touchdowns in his career and was best-known as a possession receiver.
But after becoming only the fourth player in Miami history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau in a single season, Hurns' absence will certainly be felt. The senior finished the 2013 regular season with 60 receptions, 1,138 yards and six scores.
Note: Hurns needs just 19 yards during the Hurricanes' bowl game to pass Leonard Hankerson (1,156 yards in 2010) for the most receiving yards in one season.
Ultimately, Coley needs to get his hands on the football, and the Hurricanes quarterback—whether it is Ryan Williams or Kevin Olsen—should both happily and routinely give him the pigskin on quick screen passes.
Something the Miami offense has very, very seldom attempted but could do to utilize Coley's speed is a touch pass.
For those unfamiliar, West Virginia constantly used this strategy in 2011 and 2012, sending speedy receiver Tavon Austin in motion and quarterback Geno Smith would simply flip the ball to him.
Essentially, these touch passes inflated Smith's outstanding passing numbers as a junior and senior, but that's not the point. West Virginia found a ridiculously simple way for one of its best playmakers to get the ball in open space, but it was also an excellent decoy move.
As Coley rips off a few big-gainers, opposing defenses will be more likely to sell out on the motion, so Phillip Dorsett and Herb Waters can beat the secondary deep.
The Miami receiving corps is full of speed, and long touchdowns would be a direct result of Coley's prowess in open space.
And if the defense refuses to make an adjustment—or makes the wrong one—on Coley coming across the field, he will continue to shred the Hurricanes' opposition.
Kick and Punt Returns
Phillip Dorsett and Duke Johnson were the only two Miami players to return kicks during the Hurricanes' first two games of the season.
Coley, however, took full advantage of his first opportunity, slashing Savannah State for an 88-yard touchdown. Granted, it was against an FCS team, but Coley did not waste his chance to make a play.
Overall, he ranks 18th in the nation and third in the ACC, averaging 26.5 yards per kick return.
A combination of Duke Johnson and Stacy Coley alongside each other returning kickoffs for an entire season is a pleasant thought for Miami fans and not so much for others.
Kick it one way, you get Duke; kick it to the other side, you get Coley.
Yeah, that'll work.
As for punt returns, when the Hurricanes defense made stops on third down—which happened at a much lesser rate as the season progressed for some reason—the ensuing play was a roller coaster.
Fellow wide receiver Phillip Dorsett was the primary punt returner early in the season, but he was rather frustrating back deep. Dorsett muffed a few punts, surrendering any importance of the defense holding its opposition on third down.
Coley, of course, was not exempt from losing the ball, ceding possession to Virginia Tech. But if a returner is going to fumble once or twice—which isn't a pleasant thought but is realistic—he needs to at least make the other attempts successful.
Before leaving the ACC tilt against Duke due to a concussion, Coley burst through the Blue Devils' punt coverage team and scored a 79-yard return touchdown.
What's more, if he qualified for the statistic, Coley's 22.0-yard-per-return average would be the best in the nation.
Yes. In the country.
Dorsett, on the other hand, has averaged just 5.9 yards per return (24 returns, 142 yards) over the past two seasons. Additionally, his longest returns are only 20 and 15 yards against Duke in 2012 and Florida in 2013, respectively.
Coley's average is longer than Dorsett's best.
Send him back to return kicks, get Coley more touches, and let him make plays.