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Miami’s RB Trio Excels In Season Opener; Prioritized In Coach Lashlee’s Gameplan

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With no public scrimmages or practices to examine the Miami Hurricanes’ scheme entering the 2020 season, Thursday’s game was our first glance at reviewing offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee’s playstyle.

Known for his air-raid offense at SMU, the underrated part of Lashlee’s coaching was the rushing aspect, producing a 1,000-yard rusher in six of his past eight seasons.

Now in his first season at Miami, he looks to use his halfback trio in Cam’Ron Harris, Don Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton to its full advantage.

Starting the season-opener was Harris, who spent the past two seasons behind NFL running backs Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas. To say the least, his Week 1 outing was his chance to prove his worth.

And he did not disappoint.

Rushing for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries, Harris was lights out in the Hurricanes’ 31-14 victory over UAB. His emphatic Thursday night performance included a career-long 66 yard rush on fourth down to the house late in the first quarter.

“I thought that was pretty straightforward,” coach Manny Diaz said on trusting the junior to convert early on. “It was one to go and when you have the element of the quarterback’s legs, it just adds another gap and just gets somebody’s eyes off and they were really in a sellout, everybody-up-there defense so once Cam broke the front line, there was no one left to get him.”

Harris also added a team-high four receptions for 10 yards.

Harris fell two yards short of breaking his career-high 136 yards rushing from last season versus Georgia Tech. That opportunity was ruined after exiting the game with 12:05 remaining in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury.

On the bright side, Harris walked off the field on his own and told reporters postgame that he feels fine.

Next up were true freshmen Chaney and Knighton, who shared hefty snaps throughout the entire game. Both players showcased what they’ve been known for in their South Florida high school football days.

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Knighton, who played at Deerfield Beach, was shifty all-night-long, sparking a touchdown run late in the third quarter. He’d go on to finish the game with 59 yards on 9 carries, a solid outing for the fan-favorite rookie.

As for Chaney Jr., a Belen Jesuit alum, he had 8 carries for 52 yards, including an impressive 33-yard scramble, flashing some exciting speed.

Alongside that triad, quarterback D’Eriq King and fourth-string running Robert Burns back were efficient at rushing the ball on Thursday. For King, he totaled 83 yards and a touchdown on foot. Meanwhile, Burns had 4 carries, adding 12 yards.

Miami ultimately finished with 337 rushing yards, an outstanding achievement to kick off their redemption season.

“The mission today was that we were going to put the ball on the ground,” Harris said. “We were going to run the ball, as you could see. You saw Jaylan [Knighton] tonight, you saw [Robert] Burns, you saw Don Chaney eating. You saw the whole running back room eating. Once we pound the ball, we’re going to take shots.”

While the game plan could switch for UM’s Week 2 contest against Louisville, it’s comfortable to assume that coach Diaz and Lashlee will continue relying on their backs for the time being.

Michael Yero covers all of South Florida’s major pro teams, along with high school sports for 305 Sports. He also covers sports for Immaculata-La Salle High School’s student newspaper, the Royal Courier.

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