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Five Players Who Need to Step Up Against Texas A&M

Miami solidly started the season, winning 38-3 over Miami (OH). The offense was balanced. The defense successfully held Miami (OH) to zero touchdowns, two yards per carry, less than ten first downs, and under 20 percent conversions on third down.

All that glitters was not gold, though. There are still several players that need to show more. The first top-25 matchup of 2023 is here with Texas A&M, and if Miami is to come out with a significant win, they will need these five players to step up in week two.


Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke

Photo Credit: Robson Lopes (Photoyou4life)
Tyler Van Dyke, Quarterback, Miami

Week one was average for Van Dyke. According to PFF, the veteran passer was graded out as a top-five player in the offense, but expectations are higher - especially against an inferior opponent like Miami (OH). Tyler Van Dyke passed for just 201 yards and had an overall QBR of 55.9. That will not cut it against ranked opponents like Texas A&M, North Carolina, Clemson, and Florida State.

This week, an added challenge is ahead with the Aggies, who stifled Miami to just nine points last year. Scoring one touchdown against a defense that might not have an NFL prospect is a red flag going into this game. If Miami is going to get back to winning this year - TVD will have to show some much-needed 2021 spark.

It is positive that he completed 17 of his 22 passes, and with the run game pumping, he may not be needed as much as two the two years prior. Still, A&M will focus on the run game and force Van Dyke to show he still has it. If Miami is going to get a signature win in week two, he will have to prove he still does.

Wide Receiver Brashard Smith

Brashard Smith, Wide Receiver, Miami
Brashard Smith, Wide Receiver, Miami

When is the blue-chip potential going to show itself for Brashard Smith? Smith was one of the more hyped prospects to come to Miami in 2021, but he has yet to show the game-breaking threat he was recruited to become. This will be a massive game for Smith, seeing as he sputtered at the end of last year's game, dropping a crucial fourth-down pass with the game on the line.

Last week, Smith was virtually invisible. Outside of a 40-yard kick return, he contributed nothing to the game and was the second-worst receiver to earn snaps (54.5). Catching one pass for no yards does not signal the beginning of a breakout, and if he cannot get something going against A&M, it might be time to turn to freshman Nathaniel Joseph much earlier than expected.

Likely added passing volume this week should help his cause, as getting closer to 30-35 throws will add more target opportunities for the speedy slot. He will likely see a lot of Bryce Anderson this week; he is arguably the best player on this defense—time to step up.

Offensive Guard Anez Cooper

Photo Credit: Robson (Photoyou4life)
Anez Cooper, Offensive Guard, Miami

The weak link on the offensive line last week was guard Anez Cooper. Yes, he was banged up throughout the off-season, and yes, he is still a young player, but the expectations are high as he has been talked about by many as potentially the best-returning lineman from last year's unit. He did not look like it last week. Overall, the offensive line was not an alarming issue.

The team ran for 250 yards and averaged nearly seven yards per carry. Miami (OH) had just one sack and one tackle for loss, but Texas A&M is a different beast on the defensive line. They are deep with blue-chip talent and had two sacks and ten tackles for loss in last week's opener.

Cooper is likely to see much of defensive tackle Walter Nolen and pressure from linebacker Edgerrin Cooper, who combined 15 tackles and four tackles for loss. That will likely be the biggest challenge in the trenches this week, and Cooper will be needed for a follow-up of a solid week one offensive performance.

Defensive End Nyjalik Kelly

Photo Credit: Robson Lopes (Photoyou4life)
Nyjalik Kelly, Defensive End, Miami

After often flashing as a freshman, defensive end Nyjalik Kelly did not dominate in week one as expected. He had a similar performance to middling pass rusher Jahfari Harvey. Under the tutelage of defensive ends coach Jason Taylor, Kelly is seen as an easy breakout candidate for this Miami defense that is based on the ability to get pressure.

Kelly jumped on a tackle for loss and had a pass breakup but had just one tackle and was outperformed stat-wise by multiple ends. Freshman sensation Rueben Bain will play a more versatile role for Miami and allow for one-on-one opportunities throughout the season for guys like Akheem Mesidor and Branson Deen. That other impact defensive end needs to be identified, though, and Kelly is the guy that should be filling that spot.

Kelly showed Greg Rousseau-type potential last year on limited snaps, routinely getting to the quarterback when he saw real-time in games. He was on the field for 21 snaps, the most among defensive linemen, and still had the third-worst grade among the ends. Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman can move and will break the pocket often. Kelly must take advantage of that and build on his sophomore season.

Defensive Tackle Leonard Taylor

Leonard Taylor, Defensive Tackle, Miami
Leonard Taylor, Defensive Tackle, Miami

When you earn consensus first-round draft pick grades in the off-season, you must dominate, especially when playing a team known for inept offensive line play over the year. Defensive tackle Leonard Taylor did not capitalize on that against Miami (OH). The interior pass rusher did not even show up on the box score and had the third-worst performance on the defense on 15 snaps (43).

Did the hype get to his head, or was this a case of a player not genuinely expressing the need to showcase his dominance? Hopefully, the latter, because Miami failed to generate a single sack from the interior defensive line, and with how Miami rotates their trenches, Taylor will need to provide a push of the pocket on his 15-20 snaps.

Last season, he created pressure on nearly 20 percent of his snaps. That has to return, and with how Weigman can run around, Miami will have to generate a natural pass rush via their front four as the linebackers contain and limit the slot receivers in a new A&M passing scheme. Taylor's push will be the primary catalyst for that.

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