October 18, 2012

Tape breakdown: Miami offense

This week is another chapter of the Florida State and Miami rivalry. Although this annual matchup is not for the stakes of the past, both rosters have expressed anxiety to play against one another in Miami Gardens. With a defense that's surrendered 93 combined points in two games against ranked opponents, we'll instead look this week at the Miami offense against the Florida State defense.

Miami offense

Overloading the interior

An aspect of the Seminole defense that has not been as strong as most projected is the interior of the defensive line. Florida State is talented and better than average in this area, yes, however there have been segments of games in which opponents like Clemson and South Florida have been able to generate a push up the middle. The reason we bring this up for Miami week is because the Hurricanes use a similar tactic to generate the ground game as South Florida. Both teams overload an interior gap.

Jon Feliciano, left guard

In looking at multiple games worth of impact plays, Miami likes to primarily use left guard Jon Feliciano as a pulling blocker for its tailbacks. Let's first take a look at a play against Georgia Tech. The ball is handed to explosive freshman Duke Johnson, who follows his fullback and Feliciano into the noted gap. This overload of personnel, created by a pinwheel-like pull by a guard and the straight ahead assignment of the fullback creates chances for second-level blocks. Johnson ends up taking this run 32 yards.

The same concept from the play above will be used below in a shotgun counter play call against Boston College. To quickly sum, a counter is a run in which the running back takes a step or two in one direction before cutting back the other way. This cutback is usually aided by a pulling blocker. Again in this case it's Feliciano. Notice how the right tackle and Feliciano are free to block second level defenders as the rest of the offensive line sells the fake and seals off any over-pursuing Eagle defenders.

This counter play out of the shotgun is something Miami will try anywhere on the field and with either Johnson or senior Mike James at tailback. For example, this example is near midfield with Johnson, but the Hurricanes scored a 15-yard touchdown against Georgia Tech with the same counter later in the season. Take a look at the familiar play.


Time for a quick note on the wildcat formation and Miami. The Hurricanes implemented this look against North Carolina last week with James receiving the snaps. Morris was the motion man (we'll see if that will continue this week), and in this play again, you'll see this breakdown's favorite figure pulling to his right again. This formation is not a big part of the Miami offense, but it's something to consider.

To be sure, Miami goes to the air more than it attacks between the tackles. However, given an honest evaluation of the FSU defense, the interior of the defensive line combined with linebacker play has been uneven against the run so far this season.

The Miami passing game

There are no clips to point to in this situation. Miami runs a multiple offense when passing, nothing like the limited USF or Clemson attack. Throughout the season, Stephen Morris has lined up under center, in the pistol and in the shotgun. He is the more mobile of the two quarterbacks - 6-foot-6 sophomore Ryan Williams would play if Morris' banged up ankle doesn't hold up this week - but as coach Jimbo Fisher noted this week, the Miami offense does what it does independent of quarterbacks.

Given protection, the Hurricanes will test the opponent down the field. Receivers Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott have both caught more than 27 passes for over 430 yards. Miami will sometimes use the kind of pre-snap misdirection and motion we've discussed previously with Wake Forest in order to get the defense moving, however route combinations and offensive principles remain fairly standard.

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