Miami passing game faces tough Clemson secondary

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris remembers Clemson cornerback Chris Chancellor from their days as high school opponents. Chancellor was at Edison High, and Harris at Miami Northwestern. They were in 10th grade, and Harris wasn’t even the starter yet.

“They almost beat us in that game,” Harris recalled.


Considering the past two games between Miami and Clemson have gone into overtime, the storyline should be equally as interesting on Saturday when Harris and Chancellor meet again, this time both as star players for their respective teams. It will be the first time the two programs have played each other since Miami came away with a 36-30 win in triple overtime at Clemson in 2005.

Harris, who was sacked six times last weekend against Central Florida, will face an aggressive pass rush and his receivers will face man-to-man coverage from the Tigers, who have one of the best defenses in the ACC. Miami’s offensive line will be tasked with giving Harris more time to think on his feet, while Clemson’s secondary will face one of the deepest receiving corps in the conference. The Tigers are No. 2 in the ACC in pass defense, allowing 147.8 yards per game. Harris is averaging 253.

“On film they have a lot of talent, a lot of speed,” Chancellor said. “They have guys who can make plays in space. Jacory Harris has a tremendous arm. He’ll probably be one of the best ACC quarterbacks we’ve played against thus far this year.

“Guys just have to go out there and do their 1-11. That means each guy is handling their own job on the field. If I have a wide receiver I’m supposed to cover, I have to go out there and cover him. If a nose tackle has a three-technique, he’s supposed to get in the right gap. It’s going to rely on everybody going out there and doing their own job each and every play.”

Harris currently ranks eighth nationally and second in the ACC in passing efficiency (157.3), and is a big reason why the Canes are off to a 5-1 start, the best under coach Randy Shannon. Harris has passed for 1,518 yards with 11 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 64.8 completion percentage this year.

“One thing about facing their secondary, they’re going to play you man, and they’re just going to say, ‘You beat us,’” Harris said. “I guess [it’s] because they believe in their front seven. Their front seven is really good. We just have to go out there and execute. I think we have talented enough wide receivers to go against their man-to-man corners.”

By Saturday night, Miami, Clemson and Washington will have been the only programs in the country to have faced three opponents ranked in the top 15 within the first seven games of the season. The difference, though, is that the Canes have come out on the winning end all but once -- against Virginia Tech -- and the Tigers are looking for their first marquee win after losses to TCU and Georgia Tech.

“We get another shot at a top 15 team,” Chancellor said, “and we have to go out there and execute and try to show the world that we belong up there where all those other guys are.”

On Saturday, the separation between he and Harris should narrow considerably, just like it did the last time they faced each other.