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 CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -With last season's problems almost certainly still in mind, Miami offensive coordinator Patrick Nix asked his side of the locker room to accept more responsibility this year.
He didn't exclude himself.
For most coordinators, the comfort zone on game day is a suite high above the field, with perfect vantage points to see everything and call plays accordingly through headsets and telephones. But this year, with two freshman quarterbacks, a slew of first-year receivers and a constant rotation of offensive linemen, Nix felt he should be directly interacting with players during games.
So he abandoned the press box, moved to the sideline and made his job immeasurably tougher.
And through three games, the results seem to indicate that it's paying off for Nix and the Hurricanes.
ound offensive momentum going Saturday when hosting North Carolina (2-1, 0-1) in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup.
``I'm very pleased, and to be honest with you, a little shocked,'' Nix said, sitting in his office after a practice this week. ``We're a little bit farther along, especially with the quarterbacks and receivers being so young, than we probably ever dreamed we would be. The receivers are really starting to catch on, the quarterbacks are catching on. We're starting to find our playmakers, starting to hone in on who the guys are that can do what for us.''
It's early, and three games hardly makes a decent statistical sample, but Miami's offense - which has been maligned for the better part of the last half-decade - is performing ahead of last year's pace, even with all the inexperience on the depth chart.
- Miami is scoring 11 1/2 more points per game than it did a year ago.
- The Hurricanes are averaging nearly a half-yard more per play.
- Miami had more interceptions last season than all but seven schools in major college football, averaging one turnover every 15 attempts. This year, quarterbacks Robert Marve and Jacory Harris have one interception in 77 attempts.
When one quarterback is on the field, the other is usually standing behind Nix's right shoulder, so the learning process is a constant.
. ``Any little thing that pops in your head, you can kind of whisper it in his ear, see what he thinks about it. You talk a lot more. It's a lot better communication overall, especially with me and Jacory being so young. I think it helps us a lot that he can talk to us, calm us down, and we can see his emotions so we don't have to guess about things.''
And it's not solely for the quarterbacks' benefit; when the offense comes off the field, Nix can be seen checking in with the linemen, the receivers and the running backs.
``We knew last year we didn't move the ball well enough and the year before that was even worse,'' offensive lineman A.J. Trump said. ``It's definitely a benefit. He made it known he was going to be down there pretty early, and he's got a lot of confidence in the fact that he can call a lot of plays and we should be able to execute any of them.''
Nix has used the tact before.
It's his sixth season calling plays; three of those were on the field. At first, he was predictable; every call would be run toward his sideline, so he could see everything. Eventually, he adjusted, and the Hurricanes' offense so far this year has at times looked sharper than it did almost at any time in 2007.
e bit at certain positions and it just wasn't there. That's a big, big difference between this team this year and last year.''
Nix's first season at Miami was a constant offensive struggle, and the 26-3 loss to Florida in Week 2 this season didn't sit well with the fan base, which longs for a return of quick-strike, high-scoring offenses that the Hurricanes had a few years ago.
It didn't sit well with Nix, either.
Nix knows armchair quarterbacking exists, yet couldn't care less. He claims he hasn't read a newspaper since 1990, a trick he learned from coaches at Auburn when he signed his letter of intent to play quarterback there. Doesn't go on Internet message boards, doesn't read blogs, doesn't listen to sports talk radio, either.
``I have no idea what anybody's saying. I honestly have no clue,'' Nix said. ``No matter what they say, it's either too good or it's not true. At the end of the day, I have to be satisfied with what I've done. I have to be able to look in the mirror and say I've done the best I can and given these players a chance to succeed.''
Revamping Miami's offense is a process that will take time, he insists.
And though the job isn't done, Nix likes where the 'Canes are heading.
``We're still young and we're going to make some mistakes,'' Nix said. ``But we're going to make some big plays, too.''

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