Column: Breaking down Tyler Van Dyke’s first complete game as a Hurricane

Freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke completed 15 of 29 pass attempts for one 203 yards and one touchdown in Miami's 30-28 loss to Virginia on Sept. 30, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium.
Freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke completed 15 of 29 pass attempts for one 203 yards and one touchdown in Miami’s 30-28 loss to Virginia on Sept. 30, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium. Photo credit: Josh Halper

The Miami Hurricanes may have lost to the Virginia Cavaliers in gut-wrenching fashion Thursday night, but there were still several positives the Canes and their fan base could take away from the game as the team searches for consistency in 2021.

One of the lights that shined the brightest at Hard Rock Stadium was Tyler Van Dyke. After splitting time on the gridiron with freshman Jake Garcia in Miami’s 69-0 route over Central Connecticut State, the second string quarterback played his first complete game for the Hurricanes in the continued absence of D’Eriq King, who has now missed two full games with a shoulder injury.

Van Dyke looked uneasy to start the game, but settled down quickly and looked confident leading the offensive charge for the Canes in crunch time.

“I started off slow and it was really fast out there. I came back in the second half a lot more confident and saw things better,” Van Dyke said.

Out of the gates, it wasn’t expected for the freshman to replicate the success he had last week against the Blue Devils — in which he completed 11 of his 14 pass attempts, threw 147 yards and scored two touchdowns — against a Power Five team in Virginia.

However, after starting out the game completing five of his first 17 passes, he got into a second half rhythm and completed 10 of his last 12 passes in the game.

Below is a breakdown of Van Dyke’s true first impression for the Hurricanes at quarterback, including what went right and wrong for the second-year freshman out of Glastonbury, Connecticut.

The Game Plan

On the opening drive, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee called run pass options and quick easy throws for Van Dyke, looking to get his young quarterback in an early rhythm against a much more competent opponent than he faced the week prior.

Through the first three drives of the game, Van Dyke and Lashlee did not push the ball downfield and getting quick, easy completions was the priority.

The playbook started to open up for Van Dyke as the game went on, however. On the fourth drive, Lashlee called plays to get Van Dyke out of the pocket, which helped the freshman find his feet and get comfortable moving inside and around the pocket.

By the fifth drive, freshman running back Jaylan Knighton and senior Cam’Ron Harris saw a lot more carries. This forced Virginia’s defense to load the box, giving Van Dyke more man coverage matchups on the outsides. He was able to immediately push the ball down field and find his receivers for plays with significant yardage.

After the fifth drive, Van Dyke looked comfortable enough for Lashlee to give him the green light on a variety of calls. Lashlee dialed up play-action passes, run-pass options, quick throws to his first read and even deep drops to let Van Dyke show off his arm.

The Hurricanes also had success when going uptempo, catching the Cavaliers off guard multiple times and allowing them to create quick throws for chunk gains.

“I have to give credit to the offense. They really kept me up when things weren’t going well,” Van Dyke said. “Guys made plays for me. Mike Harley, Cam’Ron Harris ran the ball really well, Charleston Rambo, too. I’m just really proud of all those guys.”

Room for Improvement

It would have been brutally unfair to expect a flawless game from Van Dyke in his first career start against a Power Five team.

The most noticeable issue from Van Dyke’s performance was his inability to go through his progressions when he was facing pressure. As the game went on, his pocket awareness improved which allowed him to keep his eyes down field and go through his reads.

On Miami’s final touchdown drive, Van Dyke took a deep drop and wanted to take a shot. He struggled to move off of his primary read and was sacked for a loss of five yards.

While Van Dyke settled in more and more with every play, when he was forced off the mark early, he tended to miss throws high. On Miami’s second drive, he missed Xavier Restrepo for the team’s second straight three-and-out. A quarterback’s misses are always important to monitor as high throws can often lead to turnovers. However, that could have been a combination of pressure from the defensive line and early jitters, seeing as he was extremely efficient with his passes deep into the game.

The Positive Takeaways

As the game progressed, Van Dyke showed tremendous poise, accuracy on intermediate throws, arm strength and pocket awareness.

One of his most important plays of the night came on the Hurricane’s final drive. On third and 14 at its own 34-yard line, Miami needed a first down to extend the game. If not, the game was over.

Van Dyke had plenty of time and delivered a strong dart to Rambo over the middle for 16 yards. Rambo was well covered by his man and there was a defender lurking over the middle. Van Dyke put the ball on Rambo’s number and converted the play.

While he isn’t known for his mobility, Van Dyke flashed what his legs can do as well. On the previous drive, Van Dyke was flushed out of the pocket on third and 10 at the University of Virginia’s (UVA) 24-yard line. After rolling right, he noticed all linebackers and defensive backs clear to the left side of the field with Miami’s receivers. From well behind the line of scrimmage, Van Dyke tucked the ball and ran into the corner of the end zone to get Miami within two points of Virginia.

The young quarterback displayed his ability to throw outside the numbers as well. The Canes were faced with a third and seven at UVA’s 16-yard line. Mike Harley ran a corner route and Van Dyke fit his pass in perfectly between the defender and over the sideline. It was an extremely impressive throw for Van Dyke as he had to worry about running out of room while lofting it over the defender.

His passing ability aside, he did show great pocket awareness despite being sacked multiple times. On the fifth drive of the game, he felt the pocket collapse around him and what felt like a sure sack turned into Van Dyke stepping up in the pocket, pump-faking and scrambling up the middle for six yards.

While it was a disappointing loss for the Hurricanes Thursday night, Tyler Van Dyke showed he has the potential to be the future of this team after the era of D’Eriq King comes to a close at the end of this season.

With further coaching and experience, he could become a threat to the rest of college football and has proven he is ready to elevate his game against a talented opponent.

Van Dyke will get his next chance to handle snaps for Miami on Oct. 16, when the Canes travel to Durham, North Carolina to take on the UNC Tar Heels.