Miami football team needs secondary to mature quickly

MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 14:.(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 14:.(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

As expected the pass defense for the Miami football team has taken a big step backward in 2019. The Hurricanes lost three starters after the 2018 season and have not gotten after the quarterback with as much frequency as last year.

Junior cornerback Trajan Bandy was the only returning starter in the secondary for the Miami football team at the beginning of the 2019 season. The Hurricanes led the country in pass defense by more than 10 yards per game last season. Miami allowed only 135.6 passing yards per game in 2018.

The departures of cornerback Michael Jackson and safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine have impacted the Hurricanes secondary even more than expected. Through the first four games of 2019, Miami is 49th in passing yards allowed per game at 209.8. The Hurricanes need their secondary to mature quickly.

Manny Navarro of The Athletic highlighted the problems the secondary has had this season in an article grading each unit on the team during the Hurricanes bye week this weekend. Navarro noted the Hurricanes allowed opponents to complete just 39.8 percent of their pass attempts on third down

The Miami football team’s 2018 opponents converting first downs on 21.4 percent of the time on third down via the pass. In 2019 Hurricanes opponents have completed 51.4 percent of their pass attempts (41st nationally) on third down and converted via downs via the pass 28.5 percent of the time.

Miami and Michigan are the only two teams in FBS to allow opponents to convert every fourth down attempt via the pass with three of more attempts. The failure to stop North Carolina and freshman QB Sam Howell on fourth and 17 was the de facto play that cost the Hurricanes a road victory.

Sophomore safety Gurvan Hall has shown flashes of being the next great Miami safety. As has been the case in each of Manny Diaz’s first three seasons the Miami leader in tackles is a safety. Hall leads the Hurricanes with 28 tackles this season.

Navarro pointed out that Hall has his highest grade of the season from Pro Football Focus with an 87.4 against Central Michigan last week. Hall has been above average the last two weeks in the Hurricanes wins over the Chippewas and Bethune-Cookman.

Bandy who was expected to be the leader of the secondary has scored below average from PFF in all but the Florida game this season. Sophomore D.J. Ivey who was suspended against the Gators had his best grade of 2019 from PFF against Central Michigan according to Navarro. The Hurricanes pass defense has slumped in 2019.

Miami hopes that getting USC transfer safety Bubba Bolden in his Hurricanes debut against Virginia Tech will make a difference in the secondary. Bolden will battle with Hall, senior Robert Knowles and junior Amari Carter in the coming weeks. Bolden was highly touted out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas in 2017.

Bolden was a high school teammate of Miami redshirt sophomore quarterback turned wide receiver Tate Martell and sophomore tight end Brevin Jordan. Bolden is also a redshirt sophomore. Navarro quoted Diaz about the potential impact that Bolden can make in the secondary.

"“He’s another very long and athletic guy back there, can do some really good things from a coverage standpoint with his length, cover up receivers down the field…If you think about DB play, you’re either going to play on a guy or off a guy with eyes on the quarterback. Because of his range, can you shrink the field?So, if he’s playing without the ball in center field, can he be a guy that really show off his range and then roll down and get into guys? If you’re going to play in the secondary at Miami, you have to tackle. He’s learning to tackle our way, run to the ball, understand leverage.”"

Next. Miami needs to give DE Greg Rousseau more playing time. dark

The best passing offense the Miami football team will face this season is Florida State. The Seminoles are ranked 19th averaging 308.9 passing yards per game. The worst is Georgia Tech who is converting their offense from the triple option. The Yellow Jackets are 125th averaging 126.3 passing yards per game.