A six-pack of Miami Hurricanes notes on a Friday:
▪ UM’s offense won’t return to its explosive early season form if Tyler Van Dyke doesn’t get back on track after throwing seven interceptions in his past three games.
Nevertheless, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, receivers coach Kevin Beard and running backs coach Tim Harris Jr. face some tough personnel decisions on other fronts.
Two stand out:
1). Now that UM’s top four running backs are all healthy enough to play, what’s the smartest way to allocate snaps among Henry Parrish, Don Chaney Jr., Ajay Allen and Mark Fletcher?
2). How many times should explosive all-purpose weapon Brashard Smith touch the ball?
Smith has touched the ball on offense 23 times this season and averaged 13.9 yards on those plays. That includes 17 receptions for 228 yards (and two touchdowns) and six carries for 92 yards.
But on Miami’s 56 offensive plays (30 passes, 26 rushing attempts) against Virginia last Saturday, Smith touched the ball just four times – one run for one yard and three catches for 10 yards.
So did Miami give him the ball enough?
“I don’t think you can ever get him enough touches,” coach Mario Cristobal said, while quickly adding that the fact UM didn’t run a high number of offensive plays in the game affected everything.
Smith has averaged 32.9 yards on 12 kickoff returns, including a touchdown, but teams have been kicking away from him.
Overall, Smith is touching the ball 3.3 times per game on offense. That doesn’t seem like enough.
▪ As for the situation at running back, here’s how UM has allocated carries:
Parrish has 74 rushing attempts and a team-high 6.1 rushing average, with four touchdowns.
Chaney has 73 carries and a 5.1 rushing average, with two touchdowns.
Allen has 58 carries and a 4.9 rushing average, with four touchdowns.
Fletcher, the talented freshman, has 35 carries and a 5.1 rushing average, with two touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime against Virginia.
The view here: Fletcher, now that he has recovered from a stress fracture (foot), needs to play more. But Parrish has earned the right to play a lot, too.
“It’s a healthy competition that the whole organization needs,” Cristobal said of the running back room, on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline. “They’re all different styles. All do something uniquely different, like having a pitcher who can throw a couple different pitches. Come Saturday, whoever has played and practiced the best is going to get the nod. That room being accepting of that has made it all better. You hope all rooms are like that.”
▪ Kudos to linebacker Corey Flagg Jr. for not sulking about losing his starting job to Francisco Mauigoa and putting together a good season.
Flagg has played so well that defensive coordinator Lance Guidry sometimes has played those two together, as opposed to always pairing Mauigoa with KJ Cloyd or Wesley Bissainthe.
Flagg has 33 tackles, including five for loss, and a forced fumble. And he had UM’s signature defensive play of the season – the fourth down overtime stop on Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik, sealing the Canes’ win.
PFF ranks Flagg the 76th best among 804 FBS linebackers this season. The web site also ranks him as UM’s fourth best player on defense this season, behind freshmen end Rueben Bain, cornerback Daryl Porter Jr. and defensive tackle Leonard Taylor.
Flagg said Guidry “gives everyone opportunities. We appreciate his aggression going into the game, how he tells us what he’s thinking. It’s a pretty good defense to play in; it’s exciting.”
Meanwhile, Mauigoa -- the Washington State transfer -- has been a terrific addition, with 40 tackles (including 11 for loss), 3.5 sacks. an interception and two forced fumbles.
▪ Receiver Xavier Restrepo has been targeted on 75 of UM’s 250 throws this season -- 30 percent of all passing targets. Jacolby George has the next most targets with 51.
Restrepo has played very well, with 57 receptions for 658 yards (11.5 per catch) and four touchdowns.
Nevertheless, Dawson was asked this week if Van Dyke is sometimes forcing the ball to Restrepo.
“There are a few times that happens,” Dawson said. “But there’s also a comfort level too. You don’t want to take away that from a quarterback.”
The bottom line, as Dawson said, is that Van Dyke throwing to Restrepo produces good results far more often than it doesn’t.
“A critique of bad things is easy to do in life,” Dawson said.
▪ UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga noted that while the Canes replaced now-Clippers wing Jordan Miller with FSU transfer Matt Cleveland, “we really didn’t replace Isaiah Wong,” who’s now with the Indiana Pacers.
Though there were a thousand or more players in the transfer portal, Larranaga told WQAM’s Joe Zagacki that “you have to be very selective, because the worst thing you can do is add a player that doesn’t fit in. We have only 11 guys on scholarship. We were able to get involved with a terrific group of high school players.”
In fact, 247 Sports and Rivals both rank UM’s 2024 recruiting class sixth best in the country. That class includes five-star guard Jalil Bethea, four-star guard Austin Swartz and three-star forward Isaiah-Johnson Arigu. Larranaga isn’t permitted to discuss those players publicly yet.
Nijel Pack and Norchad Omier, who both entered their names in the 2023 NBA Draft but withdrew, have two seasons of eligibility remaining - this season and next season.