Q&A with Miami beat writer Matt Porter

Matt Porter covers Miami for the Palm Beach Post and provided his insights into the Hurricanes for the AJC. You can follow him on Twitter here and read his Hurricanes coverage here. The website may look familiar.

Q: As a Miami beat writer and poll voter, how confident do you feel in the Hurricanes’ No. 14 ranking, given that they’ve played (and demolished) an FCS team and two non-power conference FBS teams?

A: I feel they’re worthy of the ranking at this point. They’ve been just about perfect against inferior competition, which is what you’d expect from a team in the top 15. Can they stay there? They’ll probably need to beat Georgia Tech soundly to do so.

Q: What is the biggest change that Mark Richt has made to the team since his hire?

A: He brings an all-around steadiness that comes with experience - a quality Al Golden lacked - but I’d say improving Miami’s assistant coaches. Craig Kuligowski, known for producing great Missouri defensive lines, has been a massive upgrade. Across the board, Miami’s coaching is better this year. UM, the small private school, loosened its purse strings significantly to make that happen.

Q: What do the Hurricanes do better than anything else?

A: In typical (defensive coordinator) Manny Diaz style, they are ultra-aggressive up front. Their young, energetic freshmen linebackers fly to the ball, while their D-line gets upfield rapidly and a veteran secondary keeps the rest in check. Can they play that don’t-think-just-go style against more talented, balanced offenses, or labyrinth schemes like Tech? Jury’s out.

Q: Running back Mark Walton doesn’t look like much fun to try to stop. Who’s the bigger weapon, him or quarterback Brad Kaaya?

A: Walton has an extra gear this year, turning him into Miami’s most legitimate home-run threat since Duke Johnson. But UM is blocking for him so well. Its receivers, tight ends and a fullback are showing a new commitment in that area (that’s coaching), and its offensive line, which has its shaky moments in pass protection, has been road-graders. That said, it’s Kaaya. With time to throw, he will carve a great many defenses.

Q: How many times have you heard the phrase “we’ve got to play assignment football” this week?

A: A handful, but that’s in part because I avoid asking questions that lead there. I liked freshman linebacker Shaq Quarterman’s line: “We’ve been playing assignment football for three games now.” Fair enough.

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