Miami is missing four of their starters, including starting running back Mark Walton who is out for the season after aggravating an injury against Florida State last week. Starting junior safety Sheldrick Redwine, starting freshman guard Navaughn Donaldson and starting redshirt senior cornerback Dee Delaney will all be inactive for Saturday’s showdown as they were all injured last weekend against Florida State. In addition, the Hurricanes have versatile sophomore WR Ahmmon Richards listed as questionable as he re-aggravated a hamstring injury.
For a Miami offensive line that came into the season with plenty of questions, the unit has performed efficiently in the first four games, protecting quarterback Malik Rosier and giving enough time for the skill players to work themselves open. With one of their starters in Donaldson not suiting up, it will be a mix of big men rotating throughout the game as they try to build off of the consistent protection. A matchup to watch on the line will be the Yellow Jackets’ leading pass rusher, defensive lineman Antonio Simmons against Miami right tackle Tyree St. Louis. St. Louis fared very well against the Seminoles’ pass rush last week and he will be anchoring the Hurricanes strong side of the line without some familiar faces next to him. Leading the Yellow Jackets with three sacks and four tackles for loss, Simmons will prove to be a tough matchup versus this Miami offensive line.
With Walton out for the season and other starters injured, young players will need to step up and keep Miami rolling to achieve the task of an undefeated season. A young group consisting of wide reciever Dee Jay Dallas, running back Trayone “Choc” Gray and running back Robert Burns will have to come in and make their mark. None will be as important though as new starting running back Travis Homer. In limited action, Homer has been exceptional with 25 rushes, for 212 and with three touchdowns. He also has five receptions for 71 yards, which will be key as he could replace some of the pass catching production that Walton had. Miami head coach Mark Richt spoke recently after practice about Homer’s first day as the starting running back.
“Travis is a very serious young man,” said Richt. “He takes practice very serious. He takes his assignments very serious. He’s very business-like. He knows what to do, he knows how to do it and he’s in unbelievable condition. He loves playing the game, he loves playing special teams. Even in this last game, we’re trying to give him a break and ‘Hey, you don’t need to cover this kick,” and he says, ‘No, I’m covering this kick.’ A lot of guys don’t want to come out [of the game] and Travis is one of those guys.”
Miami is facing a Georgia tech team that ranks 6th in total defense so adjusting their offense to face off against that defense will be crucial to their success. If Homer can keep up the same pace this weekend and the offensive line can protect Rosier, this should go very smoothly for the Canes. Richt also stated, “I don’t know if we’ve made great adjustments, but I know we don’t panic at halftime. I know we don’t start changing everything at halftime. It’s more of a reinforcement of do everything we’ve done all week”.
On the other side of the ball for the Canes, they are facing the 2nd ranked team in the country in terms of rushing yards. The Yellow Jackets have rushed for more than 400 yards in every game this season except one. Averaging 67 rushing attempts per game, they are keeping defenses honest and delivering well with their Triple Option Offense. The Miami defense has allowed an average of 592 yards of total offense in four games, but have an issue when it comes to plays with chunks of yardage given up on the ground. Miami has allowed 27 rushing plays of 10 or more yards, with six of those being longer than 20 yards and three of those being longer than 30 yards.
With starters also being inactive as well in the Miami secondary, Georgia Tech’s offensive front seven against Miami’s defensive front seven will be the positional matchup of the week to watch in this game.
The motto for Miami is clear cut and simple. Left tackle K.C. McDermott said earlier this week: “It’s something that we talked about all offseason to get everybody to understand. It’s the next-man-up mentality, because it could happen at any time throughout the season.”