ANALYSIS: On3's J.D. PicKell buying into Cam Ward being the real deal for the Miami Hurricanes

On3 Staff04/18/24


Why Cam Ward and Miami Will Work

If you watched Cam Ward this spring … or in Miami’s Spring Game … there’s no doubting his enormous ceiling and how much better he can make this Hurricanes offense. Now the big question is just how much better. For perspective, Miami averaged 31.5 points per game last year; there were seven teams in the country that averaged 39 or more points. Oh, and the last time UM averaged 39+ points per game was all the way  back in 2002 when the Canes were fourth in the nation with 40.5 points per game (Miami also averaged 43.2 points in 2001 and 42.6 in 2000).

A firm believer in Ward and this Miami offense? On3’s J.D. PicKell. In his latest Hard Count installment he says that “it’s super encouraging” to watch Ward throw for 324 yards and three TDs in the Spring Game.

“I want to tell you why this is going to work (at Miami) and why it’s not just a flash-in-the-pan,” PicKell says. “Here is what this offense wants to do under Shannon Dawson – in the most basic bullet points it’s get the ball to playmakers in space. … Cam Ward gets the football, he knows where he’s going right away.

“Second thing they want to do – Shannon Dawson wants to run the football, get north and south, be a power run football team. That’s why Damien Martinez (from Oregon State) is such a great fit for this offense because of the way he runs the football. We’ll see how this shakes out in the fall, but Miami has those big boys up front offensively to be able to play this kind of football.”

For background, the 6-2, 221-pound Ward was No. 4 in passing yards in college football last season, finishing hitting on 66.7 percent of his throws for 3,732 yards (311.0 yards per game) with 25 TDs and seven INTs (adding eight rushing scores).

Prior to that?

In 2022, Ward started every game for Washington State and hit on 64.4 percent of his passes for 3,231 yards with 23 TDs and nine interceptions (he added five rushing scores). In 2021 at Incarnate Word he was an FCS Second Team All-American and Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year after completing 65.1 percent of his passes for 4,648 yards with 47 TD passes and 10 INTs (1 rushing score). As a freshman there in 2020 he won the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman player in FCS – in six games he threw for 2,260 yards (60.4 percent completion rate) with 24 TDs and four INTs, adding two rushing scores.

Now he’s bringing his playmaking to Miami, and PicKell says he can see Ward succeeding with the quick game and also taking deep shots. That will help keep the defense off balance, and as PicKell puts it “he will make you pay” if the defense tries to press up.

“Why I think Cam Ward will work so effectively – I think he’ll bring more consistency to that quarterback position,” PicKell said. “And the numbers don’t tell the whole story – him and Tyler Van Dyke, they had a similar completion percentage. But Ward had around the same completion percentage with 100 more attempts than TVD. … With Cam Ward his ability to consistently place the football is going to be a difference-maker. Folks at Miami feel confident in his ability to get the ball to guys with the proper placement to allow them to make the plays after the catch. They are very excited about him.”

PicKell adds that “A major differential for me with him is his ability to adlib. Cam Ward had eight rushing touchdowns at Washington State last season. He’s not necessarily a running quarterback, but Cam will run to pass. You saw it a little bit in the spring game, some of those shovel passes. At the end of the day when you have a quarterback that can breathe second life into a play, it’s hard to prepare for.”

Another factor: “Cam Ward, talking to people close to Miami, has a little of that `it’ factor,” PicKell said. “He’s what we’d call an alpha. Alpha’s work in the door and buy how they operate, their leadership, they demand respect.”

A final thought from PicKell?

“Miami is going to score some points, really have to land a running back in the portal to set that thing off,” he says. “We’ll see. I’d love to see them add a receiver, too. Overall I think Miami is in a very exciteing position and uncharted territory with Cam Ward in the fold.”

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