Sunday, October 7, 2007
Butch Davis Schools Randy Shannon
Going into yesterday's game between Miami and North Carolina, Randy Shannon tried to his best to convince the media to downplay the coaching matchup between himself and Butch Davis. But after watching North Carolina beat the Canes 33-27, you'd have to say the Tar Heels were clearly more prepared and were better coached than UM.
Most college football fans are aware of Davis's history at UM and how he cleaned up the Hurricane program when he arrived in Coral Gables 1995 and returned the Canes into a national power. Shannon's entire football career has been somewhat in Davis's shadow. Back when Shannon played at UM, Davis was there as a defensive line coach. When Shannon played for the Dallas Cowboys, again Davis was there on Jimmy Johnson's coaching staff. When Davis was hired as UM head coach, Shannon was an assistant on his staff. So, it's fair to say there's not a coach in the country who knows Randy Shannon better than Butch Davis. And don't think for one minute that didn't help Davis and his North Carolina prepare for the Canes.
Miami was a 7 point favorite going into the game. There's was little question the Canes were considered the more talented team. The Canes entered with a 4-1 record. The Tar Heels were 1-4. Miami had a fifth year senior Kyle Wright starting at quarterback. North Carolina's starting QB T.J. Yates is a freshman. All logic points to an decisive Canes victory. But as Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend.
Don't underestimate the importance of coaching in college football. The most important aspect of coaching is preparation. I believe games are won or lost by how you practice and prepare going into a game. Just watching the first half of the game, North Carolina's staff did a vastly superior job getting their athletes ready to play. The Tar Heels dominated on offense, defense and special teams racing to a 27-0 lead at intermission. While the Canes made a strong comeback in the second half, they couldn't overcome the huge halftime deficit.
How did the Tar Heels do it? North Carolina took advantage of just about every weakness of UM's team. The Tar Heels used new formations and plays they hadn't shown in any of their previous five games. For example, UNC used a lot of running plays that involved pulling and motion from its offensive line. Rarely did the Tar Heels use these plays in their previous games. They were also prepared for every defensive look the Canes gave them and called the right play at the right time. A perfect example was receiver Brandon Tate's 54 yard touchdown run on a reverse. Again, this was a play UNC had not shown all year. It also didn't help that Miami made so many mistakes both mentally and physically. North Carolina's domination during the first 30 minutes was as close to perfect football as any team has ever played against the Canes. Don't think for one minute Davis's familiarity with Shannon and the UM program didn't help.
I'm going to use a quote that has been used in just about every cheesy kung fu movie. We've all heard it. "And now the student has become the teacher." I'm convinced Randy Shannon will be a good coach for the Canes. He's already significantly improved the recruiting over his predecessor Larry Coker. But it will take time to build the program back to elite status. It's also going to take time for Shannon to become a great head coach. There's a huge difference between being a defensive coordinator and running and entire football program. Right now Shannon is performing on the job training. Indeed the student has a ways to go to master his teacher.
Here are some other observations from the UM vs. UNC game:
*This game was a microcosm of Kyle Wright's career. He threw for 302 yards and 2 touchdown passes. But he also threw 4 interceptions and all of them hurt the team badly. Wright has a propensity for throwing interceptions in the end zone. This is the third game this year he's made the same mistake.
*Miami's special teams were absolutely awful. Kicker Francesco Zampogna missed a 33 yard field goal and an extra point. Meanwhile, his North Carolina counterpart Conner Barth made four field goals including a 51 yarder. You can argue UNC's huge advantage at the kicking position was the difference in this game. Miami kick returner Lee Chambers showed horrible judgement trying to advance out of the end zone and was tackled at the 8 yard line. Canes punter Matt Bosher also had a punt blocked setting up a UNC score.
*The Canes have zero playmakers in their secondary. Cornerback Carlos Armour was exposed as the weak link all game long. On North Carolina's first touchdown, Armour missed a tackle that allow Tar Heel running back Anthony Elzy scored on a 39 yard run. Armour was also torched left and right by quarterback T.J. Yates and his receivers. In fact, I can't remember the last time a Miami cornerback has intercepted a pass. Safety Kenny Phillips is the only player who makes any positive plays. But even Phillips is a bit overrated. He's not the game-changer that Ed Reed or Sean Taylor were. To be fair, not many players in the game are.
*Other than his long TD against FIU, receiver Lance Leggett has been terrible. He struggles to get open. When he does get open, he doesn't have reliable hands and his route running is abysmal. On the flip side, senior Darnell Jenkins has been a pleasant surprise and has really stepped up his play. Jenkins had a 97 yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. Sam Shields is the most talented receiver on the team. But after missing two games with suspensions, you have to wonder about his dedication to the team.
*What has happened to Javarris James? James has yet to rush for 100 yards in a single game. He is below his pace of his freshman year last year. Against North Carolina, James carried 10 times for just 27 yards. Graig Cooper clearly has surpassed James as Miami's best running back.
*Injuries are become a big problem on defense. Linebacker Colin McCarthy and defensive tackle Antonio Dixon left the game with injuries and did not return.