Rebuilding DL will be Miami Hurricanes top off-season priority

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 11: Brandon Wimbush
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 11: Brandon Wimbush /

A year after having to replace the entire secondary the Miami Hurricanes will have to replace the majority of their defensive line. Rebuilding the front four will be the coaching staff’s top priority this offseason.

The Miami Hurricanes knew they were going to have to replace Seniors Trent Harris, Anthony Moten and Chad Thomas. They also lost Juniors Kendrick Norton and R.J. McIntosh a year early to the NFL Draft and rising Sophomore D.J. Johnson who transferred to Oregon to be closer to his hometown of Sacramento, California.

Miami also lost rising redshirt Junior Ryan Fines. Fines didn’t receive much playing time in 2017. He decided to move on to a school where he can get on the field more often.

Where does that leave the returnees on the front four and the recruits coming in? Miami has three seemingly sure starters in 2018. Gerald Willis returns at defensive tackle after taking this past season off. Head Coach Mark Richt has said that Willis dominated in practice on the scout team this past season.

The ends are likely to be Joe Jackson and Demetrius Jackson. Both players were productive in 2017.

Joe led the U in sacks as a Freshman in 2016 with 7.5. He had 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks this season. Demetrius missed the final month of the season with a knee injury. He finished 2017 with 18 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in six games.

Related Story: Miami Hurricanes DE Demetrius Jackson out for the season

Joe is a rising Junior and Demetrius a rising Senior. Sharing time with them at defensive end in the rotation will be rising Sophomore Jonathan Garvin.

Garvin played well in limited action as a Freshman in 2017. He had nine tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks. Garvin tied for the team lead with Jaquan Johnson with two fumble recoveries.

Tyreic Martin who did not see any game time as a redshirt Freshman in 2017 could also figure into the mix at defensive end. Martin was a three-star player and 58th ranked strongside defensive end in the class of 2016.

Miami added one defensive end in the early signing period last month. Gregory Rosseau is a three to four-star player depending on the source. Rosseau is another good signing in the “State of Miami”  from Hialeah who prepped a Champagnat Catholic. He gives Miami great size at 6’6 225. He figures to help out more in the pass rush than on the ground.

Defensive tackle is a far bigger question mark than how the Miami Hurricanes will line up at end in 2018. With Norton, McIntosh and Moten moving on, no one that received significant playing time at defensive tackle in 2017 is back for Miami.

Pat Bethel was moved from end to tackle in 2017. He is likely to challenge for a starting spot in 2018. Bethel finished the season with 18 tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, one fumble recovery and one pass defended.

There is the possibility that one of the ends could be moved to tackle. Johnson was a candidate before he transferred. Now it appears likely that Miami is going to have to rely on Freshmen to backup at tackle.

The Hurricanes have a verbal commitment from Nesta Silvera from American Heritage in Plantation. They are waiting to see what four-star Defensive Tackle Dennis Griggs of Kississmee will do. The 247Sports crystal ball gives the Hurricanes an 88 percent chance of signing him. The traditional signing day is two weeks away.

Spring practice should yield a lot of competition at defensive tackle. Mark Richt’s motto throughout his career as a Head Coach has been to open up the competition at every position. With defensive tackle this year he doesn’t have much of a choice.

Next: Miami Hurricanes need wide receivers to step up in 2018

Although Bethel and Willis seem destined to be the starters neither of them has started in college before. Figuring out the rotation at defensive line is the biggest question of the Miami offseason.