National Focus on Miami Hurricanes defense should be on who’s returning

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 24: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 24: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

In a recent article on ESPN projecting the top 25 “Future Defensive Power Rankings” in college football, the focus on the Miami Hurricanes is too much on who left instead of who is returning.

By their own admission, ESPN stated that new Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz helped the Miami rise in the rankings at this time last year. ESPN had the Hurricanes ranked 13th in 2018 and in the same spot in their recently published rankings for 2019. The focus is too much on what the Miami defense has lost.

In both 2018 and ’19, ESPN recognized that the strength of the Hurricanes defense in the return of the entire starting linebacker corps. Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud all return for their Senior seasons and fourth year as starters. The 2018 and ’19 defensive rankings both called into question holes on the defensive line.

The rankings of the 2018-20 Miami defense by ESPN stated: “the Canes must replace both of their defensive tackles, who drew great reviews from opposing coaches.”  The Miami defense improved significantly from 2017 to 2018. Diaz has proven there is every reason to trust his defenses year to year.

Diaz has proven his defenses can overcome the losses in personnel from year to year and continue to be one of the nation’s best. Miami was able to overcome the losses of defensive tackles R.J. McIntosh and Kendrick Norton after the 2017 and become even more dominant in 2018.

Miami rose from the nation’s 39th overall defense in 2017 to fourth in 2018. The front seven is where the Hurricanes were the most dominant. Miami led the nation with 10.46 tackles per loss per game in 2018. That was nearly 1.5 more per game than Clemson who was second. Miami’s 3.08 sacks per game tied for ninth nationally.

The loss of Gerald Willis’ 59 tackles, 18 TFLs and four sacks will take a committee to replace at defensive tackle., The Hurricanes are in the same place they were a year ago on the interior of the defensive line having to replace McIntosh and Norton. Starting defensive tackle Pat Bethel is reliable if not dominant.

Rising junior Jon Ford, graduate transfer Chigozie Nnoruka and rising sophomore Nesta Silvera will all be part of the rotation next to Bethel to replace Willis. Rising redshirt freshman Jordan Miller and incoming true freshman Jason Blissett are players to keep an eye on at defensive tackle.

Diaz and his defensive staff have shown the ability to continue to develop the players on the Miami Hurricanes defense. Defensive linemen have continued to develop under Diaz despite turnover in each of the last three seasons. New defensive line and assistant head coach Todd Stroud is the third at that position in any many years.

"“13. Miami Hurricanes2018 future defense ranking: 13Scouting the Hurricanes: As Miami’s defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz helped the defense rise in these rankings a year ago. As Hurricanes head coach, Diaz likely will keep things going, or improve them in the long term.The 2019 forecast is unsettled after Miami lost standout linemen Gerald Willis and Joe Jackson, and reliable safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine.There’s some star power left over in Coral Gables — All-ACC senior linebackers Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney are back with 75 combined starts — and some exciting younger players, including sophomore cornerback Trajan Bandy, junior end Jonathan Garvin and sophomore tackle Nesta Silvera.The continued development of Bandy, Gardin (SIC…Garvin) and Silvera — all have multiple years of eligibility left — will be essential, especially as Miami integrates transfers such as safety Bubba Bolden (USC) and tackle Chigozie Nnoruka (UCLA).Miami’s defensive recruiting under Diaz will be interesting to monitor, as the school has three ESPN 300 defenders committed for 2020.”"

The defensive line with the returnees and newcomers will be fine. Jackson is an exceptional talent. His loss won’t be felt as much as Willis. Garvin and the other returnees at defensive end give the Miami one of the deepest rotations on the edge in the country.

Rising redshirt freshman Greg Rousseau returns from injury, rising senior Scott Patchan, graduate transfer Trevon Hill and incoming freshman Jahfari Harvey guarantees the Hurricanes will continue to be able to get into opposing backfields in Diaz’s system that emphasizes getting up the field on defensively

Next. Miami Hurricanes defensive line underestimated for 2019. dark

The three starting LBs, likely Garvin and potentially Bandy will move on to the NFL at the end of the 2019 season. The players currently on the roster, 2020 commits and unknown players in the transfer portal next year will continue to guarantee that the Miami defense stays elite while Diaz is the head coach in Coral Gables.