September 25, 2009

Behind Enemy Lines: Miami

Virginia Tech finishes up a busy month of September with their biggest matchup of the season, particularly in the ACC race as they face No. 9 Miami. caught up with team writer Gary Ferman in our Behind Enemy Lines feature to discuss the game, Jacory Harris and more.

What is the most improved position for Miami this season? Is it just quarterback or elsewhere too?

Gary Ferman, I think you have to look at the offensive line. Those guys up front have really been solid and have given Jacory Harris enough time to do whatever he wants. I'm sure Bud Foster had different things in mind on Saturday. Virginia Tech always tries to bring pressure at home and the Miami offensive line will surely be tested.

What makes this year's team so much better than last year's? What is the weakness of this team up to this point?

GF: I think there has been a huge coaching upgrade on the offensive side of the ball and the young kids they were playing with last year are now a year older. The team weakness so far has unquestionably been the kickoff coverage team. More often than not, Florida State and Georgia Tech started at their own 40 yard line or better on almost every possession. Miami can't keep winning if that continues.

What has Miami's coaching staff nervous about this game? What are their keys to the game?

GF: Well I would imagine it's the atmosphere at Lane Stadium and Virginia Tech's ability to turn its game up a notch at home. They have to contain the running game by controlling the line of scrimmage and keep Tyrod Taylor inside the pocket. If Virginia Tech can't muster big plays, the impact of the crowd gets minimized.

Usually it takes time for an offense to adjust to a new coordinator, how has Mark Whipple managed to turn Miami around so quickly? What stands out about him in general as a coordinator?

GF: I think the biggest thing is he has instilled so much confidence in those guys on the offensive side of the ball. Plays are plays. They have to execute and when you believe in what you are doing I think you tend to focus a little better. These guys think they should score a touchdown every time they go on the field.

Has Miami thrown out their entire offensive playbook already with two ACC games? Do you expect any new tricks or different packages thrown in against Virginia Tech?

GF: There is no way. Whipple has massive amounts of plays at his disposal from all kinds of formations. It's simply a matter of what he chooses to put in the game plan for that week. You can be certain that Virginia Tech will see some things they haven't seen in the first two games.

Who is the Miami go-to receiver? Why?

GF: There isn't one. At Florida State, it was Travis Benjamin. Against Georgia Tech, it was LaRon Byrd. This week it might be Leonard Hankerson. Miami has a lot of quality at that position and multiple guys who can make plays.

Are there any sleepers that are emerging that could have an effect for Miami in this game?

GF: Sleepers? I don't think so. There are a couple defensive players who need to step up their games and may make more of an impact than they have the first two games. But I don't think Virginia Tech will be caught by surprise by anyone's greatness or anything like that.

Bottom line, what do you expect to happen, who will win and why?

GF: I think Miami will win because they simply can score better than Tech and even though I expect a great defensive effort from the Hokies, Miami is going to have to have a real bad day to not at least reach the mid-20's in points. But I think it will be a tough, hard fought game similar to Tech's opener with Alabama.

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