Miami Hurricanes Secondary and Pass Defense Thriving as Run Defense Struggles

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 21: Michael Jackson
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 21: Michael Jackson /

Heading into the 2017 season the Miami Hurricanes front seven was lauded as one of the best in the country. The secondary was considered the weakness and it was expected that teams would be able to throw the ball on Miami.

The opposite has been true from the Miami Hurricanes defense this season. The Hurricanes were one of the nation’s top defenses in 2016. Miami allowed 346.8 yards per game in 2016.

Miami has allowed 369 yards this season. That ranks 48th nationally. That’s one spot behind their last opponent Syracuse. They would be 30th in the country with the same average this season.

The much-maligned Hurricanes pass defense has been very good. Miami ranks 27th nationally allowing 188 passing yards per game. The numbers were helped a lot by playing Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets completed just three passes in eight attempts for 55 yards. The Hurricanes did an incredible job shutting down Syracuse’s extremely up-tempo offense and passing game.

Although the Orange ran 93 plays, Miami held them to just 399 yards. Only 135 of that came through the air. Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey was only able to complete 14 of 42 passes with four interceptions.

The Miami secondary held Syracuse to over 100 yards below their 295.4 passing yards per game. That came a week after holding Georgia Tech 170 yards below their rushing average.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has been setting up his defense to force the opponent out of their comfort zone. With an entire rebuilt secondary many were questioning how that was going to happen this year.

Live Feed

ACC Power Rankings: Can #4 FSU overthrow Clemson at Death Valley East?
ACC Power Rankings: Can #4 FSU overthrow Clemson at Death Valley East? /

Saturday Blitz

  • Miami vs. Temple Prediction, Odds, Trends and Key Players for College Football Week 4Betsided
  • Where did Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson play college football?FanSided
  • Who is playing college football tonight, Sept. 14?FanSided
  • College Football Picks Against the Spread for Every Top 25 Game in Week 3Betsided
  • College football rankings 2023: Projected Week 3 AP Top 25 after Texas upsets Alabama, Colorado rolls againFanSided
  • The assumption seemed to be that the front seven was going to have to do most of the damage. That the pressure on the quarterback will help the back end. Although Diaz has generated a lot of pressure by disguising fronts and stunts, the secondary has played well beyond its years.

    Michael Jackson has been a big playmaker for the Miami Hurricanes defense this season. He ranks 12th in the country in interceptions with three this season. Two of them came against Syracuse last week.

    Malek Young has also been a huge contributor in the Miami secondary. He started four games as a Freshman last season. He discussed what he needs to do to compete.

    "“Me being a smaller guy, I have to have great feet and play through the hands,” Young said. “Sometimes receivers love to jump and I just wait for them to come down and play through their hands. I am more physical than them, even though I’m a smaller guy, because receivers don’t like having hands on them. It’s not about the size, it’s about what you have in your heart.”"

    Miami secondary coach Mike Rumph who played for the Hurricanes 2001 National Championship team spoke about the importance of Young and his teammates having competitiveness to succeed.

    "“He’s a fearless competitor and that’s the number one thing I tell the guys is compete when you’re not worried about getting beat and even if you do get beat, you just come back and compete,”"

    What has also helped is that the secondary is playing as a unit. Rumph told the Christy Cabrera Chiniros of the Sun Sentinel.

    "“The best thing I can say about the corners is that they play together and they play for each other, and I think that’s the most important ingredient for a championship type of team.”"

    As the secondary continues to play well their confidence grows. Diaz spoke about the importance and contagiousness of confidence in the secondary.

    "“They’re becoming more confident in what their techniques are out there. Now the key as a coach is you say, ‘You’ve got that. Now let’s get this.’ Let’s find the next way that we can all improve ourselves.”"

    Next: Mark Richt Not Concerned With Miami Hurricanes Run Defenses

    Head Coach Mark Richt has continually been saying that his team is yet to be dominant or play a complete game. When Diaz can get the defense playing together as a whole and the offense synched with the defense the Hurricanes should continue to challenge for a spot in the ACC Championship game and potentially the College Football Playoff.