Even though Spring practice is in it’s first week for the Miami Hurricanes a lot of excitement has been surrounding this program. It hasn’t been this way for well over a decade at this point, so for a generation of Hurricane fans this seems like an aberration. What it really is a sign of is the culture of the program has shifted, away from mediocrity and moving into the conversation of a legit contender, at least as far as the ACC is concerned.
One of the major reasons for the optimism is the defense, which a year ago was one of the best units in the country, despite having a front seven which was wet behind the ears. This includes all three linebacker positions being occupied by freshman. Well everyone has a year under their belt and are even going to be even more locked into Manny Diaz’s aggressive system.
One of the reasons for the spike in optimism is the utter depth in the front seven. At tackle they will have Anthony Moten, Kendrick Norton, Richard McIntosh, Pat Bethel and Gerald Willis. They will also add John Ford, who’s a newcomer and two guys who didn’t get any burn last year but have promise in Tyeric Martin and Ryan Fines.
The Defensive End is no different with Chad Thomas, Joe Jackson, Demetrius Jackson, Trent Harris, Pat Bethel (will play both DT and DE) and Scott Patchan. They also will add Deonte Johnson and Jon Garvin to that mix. These aren’t just guys you have out there because of need. You will have legit competitions for starting roles. Also with the aggressive nature of the Diaz defense, having a lot of bodies is going to pay dividends come the middle of the season.
At linebacker, they may even have more talent. With the freshman trio of last year coming into their sophomore campaigns, Shaq Quarterman, Zach McCloud and Michael Pinckney can easily be considered the top unit not only in the ACC but in the entire country. They are coming back this year, more in tune with the defense, in great shape and even bigger than before. That’s scary. They have some newcomers as well that are going to be expected to play right away such as Waynmon Sneed, De’Andre Wilder and Jaime Gordinier. All of which have potential out the roof, and will only get better competing with the first team unit.
Perhaps the weakest link to their defense is the defensive back field. They lost a ton from last year’s team, so guys are going to have to step up. Returning corners, Michael Jackson, Ryan Mayes and Terrence Henley are going to be expected to have extended playing time in 2017 however, they will have to fight off Jhavonta Dean, Dee Delaney and Malek Young. Delaney could be a major ex factor on the defense. He’s a grad transfer from the Citadel and will enroll at Miami in May, when he wraps up his undergrad. Delany is considered one of the top CB talents for the 2018 draft. He could indeed be a major game changer in a unit that lacks extensive game experience.
The safety position is a little thin at this point and Richt and Diaz have converted former CB Sheldrick Redwine to see if he can help this unit.
With the depth at the front seven alone, any major weakness in the backfield will be masked quite well. Now the question will be asked as we move closer towards the season. Is this Miami Defense a national championship caliber defense? On paper it sure looks that way. We haven’t seen the defense this stacked since the early 2000s. And if we are seriously starting to make these comparisons, that means that the Miami program has officially turned the corner. All we need now is results on the field.
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