For the past 10 years, Miami head coach Mark Richt has gotten a chance to prepare for the Georgia Tech defense. For eight seasons while the head coach at Georgia and for the second season as the head coach at Miami, Richt will get the opportunity to slow the Yellow Jackets’ option attack.
Not so fast, Richt said. It’s not quite that simple.
“If I was a defensive coordinator and the guy that was year-after-year dealing with that from a defensive standpoint, maybe it would be some type of advantage,” Richt said. “But I’ve had a few different defensive coordinators over the years during that time that I would play Georgia Tech and that offensive system.
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“It’s more on (Miami defensive coordinator) Manny Diaz to get the plan together and do the things that need to get done there, and I trust him with that. I’m spending most of my hours thinking about our offensive team and what we’ve got to do against Georgia Tech’s defense.”
Richt is 7-2 in his career against Georgia Tech, 6-2 at Georgia and 1-0 at Miami after winning last year’s game in Atlanta. But he understands the difficulty of preparing for the one-of-a-kind offense and isn’t planning to back off in practice, even though the Hurricanes just finished with an emotionally draining and physically taxing game against rival Florida State.
“We have to do everything,” Richt said. “This is a game where our offensive scout team has to get after our defense. We have to block full-speed. We have to cut block full-speed. We have to play as fast as we possibly can. You can’t do a walk-through on assignments and get ready to play this game.”
Richt said that is because Johnson is so good running the option offense.
“His offense is one that is one of the more difficult to prepare for and try to slow down, quite frankly,” Richt said. “He understands his system so well that he doesn’t even need a call sheet. He just watches the game and knows exactly what to call. There’s probably nothing you could put in front of him that he hasn’t seen before and that he won’t react to properly, and his guys tend to execute extremely well.”
Georgia Tech ran for 267 yards and kept the ball for nearly 40 minutes against the Hurricanes last year. The problem came when Georgia Tech lost fumbles on consecutive possessions in the second quarter, both of them returned for touchdowns, that led to a 21-0 blitz that the Yellow Jackets could not overcome.
What about the heat?
The weather forecast for Miami on Saturday calls for temperatures in the high 80s with high humidity and a chance of rain. The rain forced the Hurricanes indoors most of last week and again earlier this week.
“We had humidity,” Richt said. “The guys had to fight through practice, which is what we need.”
Johnson isn’t worried about the heat. His players are accustomed to playing under hot and humid conditions.
“We haven’t talked a great deal about that,” he said. “The humidity is probably going to be a little different, but like any other game, you’ve got to hydrate, be ready and just out and play.”
The Georgia connection
There are six Georgians on the Miami roster. The most notable is Christopher Herndon of Norcross, a 6-4, 250-pound tight end who had three catches against the Yellow Jackets last year, including a 48-yard touchdown. He has 13 catches for 134 yard and one touchdown in 2017.