Can Rhett Lashlee Ignite Miami's offense?
Let's be honest, The U hasn't been The U for a long time. Even in 2017 when the Canes went 10-3, the season ended on a loss to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl. That was followed by another loss to the Badgers to cap a 7-6 season, and last year (the first under Diaz), ended with a 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech. Fortunately for Miami, Diaz moved quickly to erase that season and focus on the future. He brought in a promising offensive coordinator along with talented players to aid the turnaround, and the Canes can quickly get back on track.
Rhett Lashlee Philosophy
Diaz snagged former SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee in the offseason to help revive the offense. The Mustangs averaged nearly 500 yards of offense per game and scored 41.8 points per game. Both put them in the Top 10 in college football. For reference, the Canes averaged 367.2 yards and 25.7 points per game in 2019.
How'd the Mustangs take off last year? Lashlee made things simple for his team without sacrificing complexity for the defense. The first thing he did was space out the defense. Whether the offense went 3x1 or 2x2, the receivers were spaced so far towards the sidelines that it put stress on a defense before the play even began. Quarterback Shane Buechele most of the time new exactly where he was going even before the play began. The defense dictated where he'd go with the ball, but it was because their alignment was in his favor.
Lashlee's offense uses numbers as well. If a defense wants to play man against trips (like in the clip above), let's say. With all of the attention towards the trips side, it leaves a one on one matchup on the other side. In this, Buechele knows he's looking towards Roberson before the play even begins. If Temple were to put a safety over the top on that side, it would leave just six players in the box to defend the run against the Mustangs seven players. That's just a basic play, but Lashlee will get those matchups using various different sets. It's all about putting his players in the best position to identify where they have the advantage and attack it from there.
Miami will benefit from this as well. With the talent on the roster, his approach should elevate this group to a new level not seen last year. It's just about finding the right guys for his system, and finding simple ways to make them successful. It might be a little tougher to do that in the ACC, but Lashlee's the right guy for the job with the talent available.
Now, Lashlee certainly had his fair share of weapons at SMU. Buechele exploded last year, proving to be the perfect fit in the Air Raid offense. He had a loaded backfield with Xavier Jones and Ke'Mon Freeman, while also throwing to James Proche, Reggie Roberson and tight end Kylen Granson. Throw in a talented offensive line, and it's really not a surprise that SMU had the year they did in 2019. Lashlee is new, but Diaz also helped him out by bringing in talent from the conference he left.
Diaz added two Houston transfers in quarterback D'Eriq King and tackle Jarrid Williams. Miami desperately needs reliable quarterback play, and King has the potential to give them that. The Canes potential starting quarterback produced 50 total touchdowns in 2018, and gives the offense a slippery quarterback in the pocket who's dynamic as a runner. He'll be learning his fourth playbook in as many years, and the biggest concern will be how he works in an Air Raid attack. His four games in Dana Holgorsen's offense weren't the greatest, but Lashlee should take that experience and help his new quarterback adapt.
Williams is an experienced veteran who should secure one of the tackle spots. With guard Navaughn Donaldson taking a redshirt, Miami needs a player who can be the steady leader for the group. There's talent to compete for every spot, but one thing this unit needs is a leader. From there, the skill position players have the tools to make ACC teams dread playing them.
Cam'Ron Harris figures to take the starting running back spot after rushing for 576 yards and five touchdowns as a backup to DeeJay Dallas. Receivers Jeremiah Payton and Dee Wiggins are well-liked within the program and fit Lashlee's system well, but there's one player on the offense that should thrive more than the others.
Brevin Jordan is the most talented player on the Canes offense, and Lashlee's arrival should excited fans about the potential for their star tight end. If he can stay healthy, we saw last year what that means. SMU's Granson had a big year for the Mustangs, largely because Lashlee found ways to create mismatches for him. Jordan will benefit from that as well. He's fast enough to run past linebackers, and he's too big for a defensive back to handle alone. If Granson, a former Rice transfer, can have a 700+ yard year, imagine what Jordan can do in the same offense.
Manny Diaz did a lot of things to work towards a better 2020 season, and his pursuit of fresh faces is what will help him accomplish that goal. Miami's offense needed help, and bringing in Lashlee is already providing excitement around the program. If Lashlee and King can gel together, this offense has a high ceiling. The talent's there, and it's on the new offensive coordinator to get it to produce. If he can, don't sleep on the Canes.