Miami’s offense will have an entirely new look this spring, as the Canes have to replace eight starters from last year’s team. I spoke with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch about the challenges his group will face when spring practices begin on Saturday. Here are the highlights of our conversation. (Note: This interview was done before the spring depth chart was released on Thursday.)
What does Stephen Morris have to do to grasp the reins of that offense, and how much is he going to be pushed by the other guys on the roster?
Jedd Fisch: Well, what he has to do is grab the reigns of the offense. He has to have total command of it. I thought he did a tremendous job of everything we asked him to do last year on the practice field and the reps he did have. Stephen is going to have a great year for us, I really believe that. He’s got an extremely strong arm, he’s got great athleticism, all he has to do is own it – own it the way Jacory owned it, and really improve upon -- and I think he has -- his football knowledge. He’s done a great job there. I’m excited to watch him go.
Is it accurate to say it’s his job to lose?
JF: We’re always going to have competition. We really can’t say it because we haven’t been on the field with the other guys. We don’t necessarily know what the other guys can do. I think all of us going into it are really confident with Stephen, and excited to see what Stephen can do now that he’s not behind Jacory anymore.
In general, how unnerving is it for you that you’ve got to replace eight starters on offense?
JF: Yeah, well, it’s interesting. It’s certainly challenging. We’ll end up losing our center, left tackle, our running back with the most reps in, our two wide receivers with the most production and our quarterback who completed 65 percent of his passes and was the captain of the team. And our starting tight end. So we obviously know that that’s a challenge, but we’re also looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be fun to watch the young guys step up. I think spring will be very different than fall for us this year, based on the fact that so many guys a year ago participated in both spring and fall, where with this group, so many guys are coming in with the 32 guys we signed. That’s going to be a substantial difference.
It’s going to be almost like a whole new team come summer camp, right?
JF: Exactly. We’ll have a whole new group of guys coming into training camp. It’s going to be different. All six wide receivers we signed will be here for training camp. None of them will be here for spring ball. The passing game is going to be a little interesting in the spring, but it’s going to be a great opportunity for Phillip Dorset, a great opportunity for Rashawn Scott, a great opportunity for Allen Hurns and Kendal Thompkins, the four guys that are coming back to really take rep after rep after rep. Same with the running backs, for Michael (James) and Eduardo (Clements), to secure where their places are, and for Clive Walford to improve. It’s going to be fun. It’s certainly going to be different than the veteran-type team we had a year ago.
How about your offensive line? What’s the depth chart look like there?
JF: (He laughed). Yeah, isn’t it funny how this conversation is a little different from the one we had a year ago?
JF: Our offensive line is going to be a major competition. We’re really not exactly sure who’s going to end up starting. The good thing we do know is that everybody that’s on the offensive line will be here in the spring. The guys we signed on the offensive line are here early. … The only guy who’s not here is Danny Isidora. That will make a huge difference. We can watch all those guys compete. We’re going to have to see where Malcolm Bunche and Seantrel Henderson are. At the end of spring last year, we were really pleased with the way Malcolm Bunche was playing. Seantrel had back surgery. Now that everybody is healthy and back, it will be interesting to see how that all works out.
How does all of this youth change what you can do with the playbook? How much do you have to scale back?
JF: We’re going through that process right now. We’re looking at everything. We’re looking at everything and making decisions on what our guys can handle, what they’ll do well and what we call. A lot of it has to do with, you go into a season thinking you’re going to do something, and then as the season progresses, you realize you’re doing something else. You ask yourself, No. 1 why, and No. 2 what can we do to make it better? We’re in the process of doing all of the evaluations. Our goal this spring is to get better fundamentally. If you’re going to get better fundamentally, you’re going to cut back on some things schematically.
At running back, who’s the guy who’s at the top without Lamar?
JF: You could put Michael and Eduardo Clements next to each other. Those two guys are going to be challenging each other as you saw as the season progressed. Eduardo got more and more carries. He really became a valuable short-yardage player for us. Michael, from the Duke game on, he was healthy and started running the ball well. Those two guys are going to duke it out until Duke gets here and Danny Dillard gets here, and then when the four of them are here, it will be a nice, four-way competition.
Speaking of Duke, Miami fans seem to be super excited about Duke Johnson. What did you guys like about him in the recruiting process?
JF: Duke’s everything you want when you recruit a player because he doesn’t want to be recruited, he wants to tell you how much he wants to be a part of the program. It wasn’t about trying to sell Miami to Duke. Duke was sold on Miami and was excited to be a part of Miami football. He’s an electric player. He can make every play. He can catch the football, he can run the football, he can make guys miss, he can run between the tackles, he can run outside the tackles. He’s got speed, he’s got elusiveness. I think what got the Miami fans most excited is anyone who can have 376 yards in a state championship game is a pretty elite player, especially when it’s in the state of Florida. He’s got that dynamic ability we’re all excited to see in person.