Week 6: Top 25 Preview
Fourth-ranked Ohio State clashes with No. 16 Northwestern
Canes clearly much deeper than a year ago
MIAMI -- In the entirety of last season, Miami (Fla.) had a total of 12 players who scored a touchdown, nine different guys record rushes for positive yards and seven defenders in on at least one sack.
The first four games of this season make those numbers look pretty weak.
While statistics aren't always the best example of how a football team has progressed -- the 77-7 win against Savannah State certainly skews things -- this season's Hurricanes are clearly getting much more production across the board this year. Miami's newfound depth will start getting tested for real Saturday, when the 14th-ranked Hurricanes (4-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) open league play against Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-1).
"We have to continue to grow that," Miami head coach Al Golden said. "Being around the ball, being active on the ball, pursuing, all those things are contagious and we've got to continue to drill it and we've got to continue to accept nothing but the standard that the players are playing to right now and continue to take the next step."
So far this season, the Hurricanes have had 17 players record a tackle for loss, 14 players catch a pass, 10 score touchdowns and six record an interception.
Maybe the best illustration of the growth at Miami from 2012 to 2013 is along the defensive front, particularly when it comes to getting to the quarterback. This season, with as many as 10 games left to play, 11 different players have already been in on at least one sack. The Hurricanes had 13 sacks as a team last year, and have already posted 16 of them to take away 95 yards from opposing offenses this year.
"We're getting production," defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said. "Guys are working hard, they have worked hard, and they're still pushing each other to keep it going."
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is noticing how the Hurricanes have stepped up that production. Miami already has 13 takeaways this season, and that's the area where Johnson was most effusive in his praise over the Hurricanes' unbeaten start.
"The big thing is they've gotten turnovers," Johnson said. "I mean, a couple of games they just overmatched the opponents and just kind of overwhelmed them. But the games that the personnel was closer, they've gotten turnovers and limited big plays. So they've done a great job that way."
They've also done a great job when it comes to resting guys for ACC play, or as Golden calls it, "the tournament."
Miami running back Duke Johnson put on added muscle over the offseason because of the expectation that he would be the centerpiece of the Hurricanes' offense this season, which he is.
But again, because of the way some of Miami's games have gone -- three of the four wins have come by at least 28 points -- other guys are getting more than their share of touches. Dallas Crawford has a team-high five rushing touchdowns, one more than Johnson has managed so far. Gus Edwards has three scores and leads the running-back corps with a 6.6 yard-per-carry average.
Johnson doesn't mind any of that.
"To know that you're able to take breaks and relax your body and have other guys come in and not miss a beat and keep the game going the way you want, the way it should, it's great," Johnson said.
Numbers aren't everything, of course. On the surface, Miami quarterback Stephen Morris looks to be having a worse start this year than he did in 2012, considering he had 1,069 passing yards in the first four games of that season compared to 626 so far this year.
Then again, he's been relieved in three of the four games this season, and it's still noteworthy that his quarterback rating is up 28.5 points from this time a year ago.
"We're not worrying about anything we've done so far," Morris said. "We're learning from the mistakes that we're making. Our biggest focus around this building is not to rely on what we did last week. We know we have to do everything better."
-- The Associated Press