Kirk Herbstreit wants Miami football to upgrade LBs and WRs

Oct 10, 2020; Clemson, South Carolina. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2020; Clemson, South Carolina. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports /

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit stated on his podcast this week the Miami football team needs better play from their linebackers and offensive line.

The Miami football team needs better play from their linebackers and wide receivers and linebackers to became a great team according to ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit on their College Football podcast this week. The Hurricanes were dominated by the Clemson defensive line and running back Travis Etienne.

The analysis of the growth of the Miami football team through the first three games of 2020, particularly on offense was that the Hurricanes would have a chance to measure themselves against Clemson. In nearly every way, Miami failed the exam. The 42-17 Miami loss to Clemson was discussed on the ESPN CFB podcast.

Herbstreit who has been the color analyst on the last three Miami football stated the Hurricanes looked defeated in the warmups and that they need to improve at linebacker and wide receiver to compete with Clemson. Miami WRs combined for five receptions for 83 yards against Clemson.

The numbers were for the Miami WRs were deceiving. Freshman Keyshawn Smith had one reception for 42 yards and it took a flea-flicker for Miami to get those yards. Clemson running back Travis Etienne dominated Miami all night with 223 total yards. Herbstreit and colleague David Pollack discussed Miami’s loss to Clemson.

"“Herbstreit: (Clemson) How they (Clemson) execute at such a high level…How this offense works around its strengths and playmakers. Where ever you aren’t defensively they put you in conflict. That was the thing I wanted to see was against D’Eriq King what could they (Clemson defense) do.I don’t know if Miami was beat(en) in the warmups or what. If you are looking for a Miami fan where can we grow, very easy, need receivers who can win one on one and LB who can play in space but those receivers had no chance against that secondary and that pass rush.(ESPN analyst David Pollack added about Miami) “Go sit at the kids’ table"

None of the traditional Miami LBs or WRs were ranked among the top 10 graded Miami football players by Pro Football Focus on Saturday. Strikers Keontra Smith and Gilbert Frierson received grades of 66.9 and 75.7 to rank seventh and second on the Hurricanes. Striker is a hybrid of LB and safety.

Frierson has been outstanding for Miami all season and ranks as the 22nd best LB per PFF. Smith will miss the first half against Pittsburgh on Saturday after being ejected in the second half against Clemson on Saturday with a questionable targeting call. Miami needs better play from their LBs and WRs.

Redshirt senior Zach McCloud redshirted in 2019 to return and potentially lead an inexperience LB corps this season. Without classmates Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, McCloud ranks 206th nationally among LBs according to PFF. McCloud is third on Miami with 17 tackles in 2020 and has two tackles for loss and two sacks.

The return of LB Bradley Jennings after missing last season with an injury is inspiring. Jennings is sixth on Miami with 15 tackles and second with 4.5 TFLs. Jennings is 230th in the PFF LB rankings. If Jennings and McCloud cannot play in space, the Hurricanes could give more snaps to younger LBs.

Freshman Corey Flagg and sophomore Sam Brooks have received more snaps recently. Brooks played 36 snaps against Clemson and Flagg 30. Brooks showed he is capable of being a full-time player when he had 12 tackles against Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl last season. Flagg has two assisted tackles this season.

The Miami WRs failed to show separation against Clemson. None of the Miami WRs are ranked in the top 200 nationally by PFF. Senior Mike Harley is the highest-ranked Miami WR at 205th. The Hurricanes passing game was able to thrive in their three victories this season because of tight end Brevin Jordan and RBs.

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To compete in the big games the Miami football team has to be complete. The best teams will focus on a weakness and make the opposition one dimensional. Clemson was able to do that on defense by stacking the box and daring Miami to throw deep. On offense Etienne dominated Miami. Getting players in those positions is critical.