Inside the Enemy returns this week as Jackson Pugh breaks down the Miami Hurricanes ahead of today’s matchup between Virginia Tech and Miami.
1. Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas
In a year where Miami has been a disappointment, the running backs have been the lone bright spot. RBs Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas collectively have picked up where they left off last season.
Homer; who fell just short of a 1,000 yard total in 2017, is flirting with that mark again. He has 732 yards and 5.5 yards per carry thus far in 2018.
DeeJay Dallas is another major component of this offense. Dallas; a four-star recruit out of high school, saw significant action as a freshman, and is seeing an even larger role this season. Off 95 carries, he has 562 yards and 5 touchdowns this season. He may see a bigger role towards the end of the season, as he will be the main back should Homer declare for the NFL draft after the season.
The main asset both these running backs posses is speed. Both backs are only around 190-200 pounds, but they have the ability to outrun linebackers and break big runs.
This is a major concern for Virginia Tech, who has struggled mightily against the run this past month. Big plays have been abundant against the Hokie defense, which means Miami has the advantage here on paper. Unless the Lunch Pail defense can shread the paper and pull a rabbit out of their hat, it could be a busy day for the scoreboard operator.
2. The QB Shuffle
The biggest surprise this season for Miami has been the play of QB Malik Rosier. Especially since the senior just came off an explosive season in which he threw for 3,120 yards and 26 touchdowns.
But his two-interception performance against LSU set a bad omen for the season. In the fourth game of 2018, Rosier was benched against FIU. In came a true freshman from Ocala, Florida, who opened eyes against the Golden Panthers.
N’Kosi Perry threw 25 passes that game, and finished with 3 touchdowns and 224 yards. After that, the quarterback controversy began for Mark Richt.
Since that FIU game, Perry has struggled, completing just 47 percent of his passes. This has forced Richt to do a QB shuffle with him and Rosier, who has 1 TD and 3 INT in his last three games.
Regardless of who Richt has put behind center, the Miami passing game has been sub-par this season.
Virginia Tech has had an up-and-down season in the secondary. Despite that, expect Miami to stick to mostly the run game on Saturday.
3. The Turnover Chain is Still Working
The turnover chain doesn’t shine so bright when you’re team is losing, but believe it or not, it is still working for DC Manny Diaz and the Miami defense.
Miami is tied for 15th in the country with 20 takeaways, which is the second consecutive year they are in the right half of college football in that catergory. Sheldrick Redwine and Trajan Brady both lead the team in interceptions with three each. Johnathan Garvin leads the team with two fumble recoveries.
Virginia Tech has done a fair job of holding onto the football, but this will be one of their biggest tests this season in terms of giveaways.
4. Miami is stUmbling
Although Miami stumbled out of the gate against LSU, the U was picking up steam after that game. The team won five games in a row after that, scoring over 30 points in four of those games.
But after the escape against Florida State, the rest of the season has been a disaster for Miami. The ‘Canes dropped a close one to Virginia and have gone downhill since then.
Miami is coming into Blacksburg off a four-game losing streak. The offense has taken a turn for the worse, as Miami has not scored over 30 since September. In fact, they haven’t even hit the 20 point mark in 3 of their last 5 games.
Therefore, this game will likely decide which of these two proud programs will go bowling and which will stay home. Look for both sides to pull whatever they have out of the playbook, as Tech is looking to extend their bowl streak to 26-straight years.
5. Star Player: Gerald Willis III
Coming into his senior season, DT Gerald Willis III was expected to have a big year. The former Florida Gator has indeed panned out at the U, as he was named Outland Trophy National Player of the Month in October. Willis has 50 tackles, including a whopping 17 tackles for loss.
His road to such immense success wasn’t a smooth one though. Willis was a star at the University of Florida, where he started as a freshman. However, he was kicked off the team after multiple transgressions. Willis ultimately decided to take a “leave of absence” in 2017 after he cited he had personal issues that he needed to get fixed.
“I had a lot of personal issues I had to handle off the field so I could make a comeback,” Willis said. “I just had a lot of family issues. I had to get my mind right so I could be able to focus this year. It worked a lot. I’m a changed person, a changed man.
“I’m a better person and I’m starting to become a better player.” (Miami Herald).
Willis has thrived at Miami since his arrival, both personally and on the field. It will be interesting to see if Virginia Tech’s offensive line can keep Miami’s Willis away from their Willis Saturday.