The first ‘wow’ moment Drew Gamere ever had of Tyler Van Dyke came right after he threw a pick-six.
It was the first game of the season, a road matchup versus a conference opponent for the freshman Van Dyke, who was making his high school debut. Gamere, the head coach at Suffield Academy, subbed the freshman in while down 21-7 in the first quarter. Van Dyke didn’t help the cause, throwing an interception on his first throw, which would be returned for a touchdown.
Gamere stuck with the young quarterback, as he led his first touchdown drive and threw a 28-yard score at the end of the first half, ensuing a second-half comeback victory.
“I think right there, that’s kind of a wow moment to have that confidence, composure and belief in yourself,” Gamere told 305 Sports. “When you’re a freshman and come back in your first game and lead us to a touchdown. It was very important.”
As Van Dyke inches closer to his road debut versus North Carolina — a conference opponent — Gamere knows the freshman quarterback will impress Miami Hurricanes fans.
“I think he’s going to keep moving forward, you guys are going to be impressed with him and he’s going to make plays,” Gamere said.
Gamere, who’s been at Suffield for 15 years, coached Van Dyke throughout the four years of his high school career. The four-star pro-style quarterback wasn’t handed the keys to the offense until his junior year, as he was in a constant quarterback battle that saw him play just one quarter in each game as a freshman and sophomore.
When it comes to how a Van Dyke led offense will look given that he doesn’t have the speed and mobility of D’Eriq King, Gamere has no doubt that he can make it all work in Rhett Lashlee’s offense.
At Suffield, Van Dyke threw for a combined 4,159 yards and 35 touchdowns during his last two seasons. He served under center in an I-Formation, and during his undefeated senior year, led mostly in the gun in a spread offense.
“He had the opportunity to play all different styles of offense, which I think bodes really well for him at the college level,” Gamere said. “To me, you know, he can adjust to whatever is best for the team or whatever they’re doing”
Similar to how Van Dyke, who Manny Diaz has commended as the leader of the team, maintained his composure after his first high school pass was intercepted for a touchdown, he’s set on getting the job done versus UNC.
“Honestly, it’s just like playing on Greentree every day,” Van Dyke said. “It’s football. 11-on-11. We trust our guys, we know our guys and have a lot of confidence in them. Obviously, it’s going to be a different atmosphere than at Hard Rock [Stadium] with their fans, but it’s just football.”
Van Dyke, who has completed 61 percent of his passes for 473 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in three games (two starts) this season, faces a North Carolina defense that ranks sixth in the ACC in passing yards allowed with 212.3 allowed per game.
The 6-foot-4, 224-pound quarterback impressed during the second half of Miami’s last-second loss to Virginia. He went 4-of-11 for 63 yards in the first half, but followed by going 15-of-29 for 203 yards and two total touchdowns in the second half.
Van Dyke credits his teammates and Lashlee for encouraging him on the sidelines and at halftime following his shaky start.
“My teammates were there for me, supporting me when I was down on the sideline. I really feel like that amped me up going into the second half,” Van Dyke said. “Coach Lashlee came up to me and said, ‘You’re doing a great job. Just keep doing it. Keep your head up. I have full belief in you.’ That really helped me with my confidence.”
As Van Dyke prepares for the Tar Heels, who embarrassed the Hurricanes in a 62-26 home loss last season, he’s utilized the bye week and practice this week to improve on his pocket presence and slowing the game down.
“Watching film of the Virginia game, I definitely could have stayed in the pocket and hit the check-downs a little bit more,” Van Dyke said. “Did a lot of that in practice. I feel good about that.”
“Honestly, I was in the pocket sometimes, holding the ball, trying to make plays and doing too much instead of trying to find the checkdown,” he said.
Charleston Rambo has quickly grown into Van Dyke’s favorite target. The two have connected for six receptions for 141 yards.
“We’ve been playing Tyler since the Spring,” said Rambo, who leads Miami with 31 catches for 387 yards and two touchdowns. “He’s blending in more, feeling more confident with his receivers.”
Diaz praised Van Dyke’s ball placement and ability to anticipate throws in his weekly show, exemplifying his touchdown pass to Mike Harley, his 45-yard completion to Xavier Restrepo, and his many first-down strikes to Rambo.
“Look at how quickly Van Dyke has this ball in the air,” Diaz said. “Rambo is barely 10 yards off the field and Tyler already has his hands off the ball, ready to throw it. He can anticipate where Rambo is going to be.”
North Carolina has struggled to contain the quarterback run game, having given up 121 yards and two touchdowns in its loss to Florida State last week. UNC allowed 131 quarterback rushing yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Georgia Tech in Week 4.
As for Van Dyke’s ability to use his legs, Gamere believes that the former three-sport athlete doesn’t receive enough credit for his athleticism.
“He’s a terrific athlete, which I pinpoint to everybody because I think when you watch him out there, he doesn’t necessarily get the credit for that,” Gamere said. “He’s not going to be the run-first option that some quarterbacks are, but he can move in the pocket and run and have that ability.”
Said Van Dyke: “I don’t know if people know or not, but I can make plays on my feet. If stuff breaks down, or quarterback draw, whatever. I’m confident in that.”
Gamere describes Van Dyke as somebody who simply “loves football.” And for a UM team that needs a win on the road in a tough environment, he’s certain that TVD will lead the way.
“There’s nobody I’d rather have than Tyler Van Dyke,” Gamere said. “In that situation, they’ll face some adversity, and he knows that and that’s part of football, but he knows how to handle it and he’ll respond well.”