Miami Hurricanes offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee gestures during spring practice in March at the University of Miami. Lashlee is charged with improving a Hurricane offense that was a disappointment in 2019. | Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
How much will Miami improve in key offensive metrics during the 2020 season?
It has been well-advertised that the Miami Hurricanes have made the switch to a spread offense in 2020 under new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
Lashlee’s up-tempo attack should help Miami improve offensively across the board.
Where specifically might Miami improve? Keep reading for five statistics Miami should improve upon under Lashlee this season.
A disclaimer before you continue…Keep in mind looking at these projections that Miami will play less games against non-power five opponents this season. Miami is scheduled for just one game (Thursday against UAB) against a non-power five team while last year it had four games (Bethune-Cookman, Central Michigan, Florida International and Louisiana Tech) against non-power five opponents.
Miami is scheduled for 10 games against power five teams this season while last year it only played nine.
Points per game
2019: 25.7 (90th in NCAA)
2020 projection: 33.0 (would have ranked 34th in NCAA in 2019)
Analysis: Is it reasonable to expect almost an additional eight points per game under Lashlee? I think that might be a conservative estimate considering the hope is that the Hurricanes will be running considerably more plays in the up-tempo attack. Lashlee led SMU to 41.8 points per game last season, good enough for seventh in the NCAA. ACC teams play considerably better defense than AAC teams do so Miami’s projection must be adjusted for that. With D’Eriq King at the helm, Miami is absolutely capable of scoring 363 points in 11 regular season games this year.
Passing yards per game
2019: 249.2 (52nd in NCAA)
2020: 263.0 (would have ranked 37th in NCAA in 2019)
Analysis: Lashlee coached SMU’s offense to an average of 309 passing yards per game during the 2019 season. He has made very clear this offseason that his goal for the Hurricanes is to run the football as much as possible to set up the passing game. This projection of 2,893 passing yards this season is conservative because of Lashlee’s commitment to the running game and Miami’s struggles protecting the passer last season.
Rushing yards per game
2019: 130.9 (105th in NCAA)
2020: 208.0 (would have ranked 25th in NCAA in 2019)
Analysis: I think this where Miami will see the biggest bump this year. Lashlee told the media on Monday that “you throw the ball to score but you run the ball to win” so I am fully expecting Miami to be focused on running the football to wear down opposing defenses. With Cam Harris leading and true freshmen Jaylan Knighton and Donald Chaney Jr. not far behind, Miami has the talent at running back to improve greatly. It will come down to the offensive line and just how many holes it can create for the running backs. SMU averaged just under 181 rushing yards per game in 2019 and was in the top 1⁄3 of the NCAA rankings in this statistic.
Sacks allowed per game
2019: 3.92 (127th in NCAA)
2020: 2.0 (would have been 64th in NCAA in 2019)
Analysis: Miami gave up 51 sacks in 13 games during the 2019 season. Absolutely unacceptable. Just the design of Lashlee’s offense will improve this number alone. The ball will be out much quicker on passing downs and Miami’s offensive linemen won’t be forced to pass block for near as long as they were in 2019. Still, the Hurricanes have a very unproven left side of the line of scrimmage. While allowing 22 sacks in 11 games would be a huge improvement, it would still likely just be middle of the pack in the NCAA rankings. SMU allowed just 17 sacks (1.31 per game) and was ranked in the top 15 in the NCAA rankings in this metric during the 2019 season.
Third down conversions
2019: 27.2% (129th in NCAA)
2020: 42.0% (would have been 44th in NCAA in 2019)
Analysis: It seems like ages since Miami has been good on third downs. How is it possible that a team with talent like Miami’s is consistently so awful on third downs? Miami must perform well in early down situations to help improve this in 2020. If Miami is running the football more consistently, it will find itself in more second or third and short situations. This will greatly help to convert more third downs in 2020 and more importantly will help keep Miami’s defense resting on the sideline. SMU converted just under 44 percent of third downs in 2019 and was ranked 30th in the NCAA in that metric.