It was clear to almost everyone that watched the Canes’ defense last year that the defensive line, especially the tackles, were likely the weakest position on the team. While the defensive line more than doubled its sack total from the previous year, increasing from 13 sacks in 2012-2013 to 27 in 2013-214, they still ranked outside of the top-50 in sacks per game. Especially in big games late in the season, the defensive tackles really struggled to stop the run and provide any pressure.
Heading into the 2014-2015 season, it appears that the Canes’ DTs could go from the most slandered, to the most improved group on the team. Last year the defensive tackle position lacked depth and strength, but this years team seems to have improved in both of those areas. The Canes now have four defensive lineman that bench 225lbs 30 or more times and have made some big additions at the defensive tackle position.
Michael Wyche is a HUGE addition to the Canes’ defense in more ways than one. Wyche is a junior-college transfer from California that was originally committed to the University of Southern California but then de-committed and decided to head down to Coral Gables. Wyche’s life story is a powerful and unbelievable one that not even the “Blind Side” could match and is definitely worth reading here.
Standing at nearly 6’5 and weighing in at over 340lbs, Wyche is poised to be a dominant force in the middle of the Canes’ defensive line. Wyche did 35 reps of 225lbs on the bench press, second only to Corey King who did 37. Wyche is hoping to play at around 335lbs and will likely start right away. If Wyche plays like the great nose tackle that many people believe he is, the defense as a whole will improve tremendously.
Calvin Heurtelou is also a junior-college transfer that will likely see a large amount of playing time and help out the Canes’ front line. The Scottsdale C. C. transfer came to Miami earlier this year at 6’3-330, but has since dropped to around 315lbs where he feels more comfortable. Heurtelou will challenge Olsen Pierre for the starting spot at defensive tackle right away and will see lots of playing time this year. Along with Wyche, Heurtelou will add some much needed size, strength, and experience to the Canes’ defensive line.
Anthony Moten was a local standout at St. Thomas Aquinas high school where he was a four-star defensive tackle. At 6’4-295, he weighs slightly less than the other incoming DTs which allows him to really use his quickness to beat offensive lineman off the ball and disrupt plays in the backfield. Moten has been impressive so far in camp and has really caught the eye of the coaches. It would be surprising if he doesn’t see plenty of playing time as a true freshman.
Courtel Jenkins was a three-star recruit out of DePaul Catholic High school in New Jersey. Jenkins had a good junior year but really excelled in his senior year after shedding bad weight in the offseason. The 6’1 DT went from 335 to around 315 and greatly improved his quickness off the ball. If Jenkins can continue to work on his conditioning, he will likely see playing time as a true freshman as well, which automatically creates more depth at the position.
The Canes lost two run stuffers at DT from last year in Curtis Porter and Justin Renfrow. Porter struggled with injuries most of his career, but managed to have a decent senior season. Renfrow was only here for one year after transferring from Virginia, but got plenty of playing time. Both were big bodies that provided more depth, but neither one was a big time difference maker. Bringing in Wyche and Heurtelou alone more than makes up for losing Porter and Renfrow.
Pierre played in every game last year and was arguably the most consistent performer out of the defensive tackles on the roster. Pierre’s long arms and frame allow him to take up more space and shed blockers. Pierre had 7 tackles vs. UF and finished the year with 33 tackles and a sack. With more depth at the position, Pierre will be able to stay fresh longer into games and have an even bigger impact this year.
Corey King has always been extremely strong. He had the most reps on the bench press (37) and had the highest max bench press (475) on the team. However, these strength numbers haven’t carried over to the field. He appeared in only 3 games last year and his lone tackle came during a blowout vs. Savannah State. The Canes are hoping that he can step up and contribute a little more to help the defense as he enters his junior season.
Earl Moore played in 11 games last year, mostly as a blocker on special teams. He did not record a tackle but did get an interception vs. Savannah State. Moore has shown improvement over the offseason and has been in the coveted black jersey early on in camp. The Canes hope he can take that next step this year and become a contributor at the position.
I give the defensive tackles a “C+” grade because even though the talent is now there, it is still very unproven. I give the offseason additions at the position an “A” though. The Canes got two highly rated JUCO guys in Wyche and Heurtelou, which are capable of starting and making a difference right away. They also brought in two freshman bodies in Moten and Jenkins that should be able to help this season. If the new additions play up to their potential, the defense as a whole will be much improved and their grade will increase greatly.