Miami football projected 2020 first-team defense

The attention on the Miami football roster on defense throughout the offseason has been on the three elite edge rushers the Hurricanes will have. Two returning starters in the secondary and veteran presence at LB and DT will also help the Hurricanes.

Rising redshirt sophomore Greg Rousseau, rising redshirt junior Jaelan Phillips and graduate transfer Quincy Roche provide the Miami football program with the best trio of edge rushers in the college football in 2020. Any discussion of the Hurricanes defense in 2020 starts with their pass rush.

Rousseau is the nation’s top returning pass rusher with 15.5 sacks in 2019. The likely future first-round NFL Draft pick added 54 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one pass breakup and one fumble recovery. Teaming Rousseau and Roche with Phillips behind them on the depth chart gives Miami a lethal pass rush.

Roche comes to Miami as a graduate transfer from Temple and the reigning American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Roche recorded 49 tackles, 19 TFLs, 13 sacks, five pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in 2019. Miami opponents will have a difficult time deciding who to block.

Rousseau and Roche will be the starters at defensive end in 2020 for Miami, but Phillips deserves as mention. Phillips would start if not for every other team in college football in 2020, then nearly every other team. The one-time top recruit in the nation in 2017, Phillips has been hindered by injuries for most of his collegiate career.

Senior Jon Ford and junior Nesta Silvera will anchor the middle of the defensive line for Miami. Ford started all 13 games for Miami in 2019 and Silvera was a major part of the rotation at defensive tackle for the Hurricanes last season. A consistent pass rush in the middle of the Miami DL will make the Hurricanes unstoppable.

Other than Rousseau, linebacker Zach McCloud could be the most important returnee on the Miami defense. Although technically not a returning starter after taking a redshirt in 2019, McCloud was a three-year starter from 2016-18. The redshirt senior lost playing time after the creation of the striker position.

McCloud was previously the starter at strongside or SAM LB before the institution of the striker during spring 2018 to take advantage of the depth Miami had at safety. McCloud will be the middle LB in 2020 after Shaq Quarterman was a four-year starter at the position from 2016-19.

McCloud was part of an exceptional group of LB’s Miami signed in 2016. Quarterman, McCloud and Michael Pinckney started together as freshmen in 2016 and the trio was a mainstay of the Miami defense together through 2018. McCloud will get to make his own imprint in Miami football history in 2020.

Starting next to McCloud at weakside or Will LB is likely, sophomore, Sam Brooks. With Pinckney out in the Independence Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech, Brooks recorded 12 tackles starting next to Quarterman. Brooks will compete with fellow 2019 signee, redshirt freshman Avery Huff to start at WLB.

The striker in 2020 is projected to be redshirt sophomore, Gilbert Frierson. A former CB, Frierson backed up Romeo Finley as the striker in 2019. Frierson finished 2019 with 15 tackles, two TFLs, three pass breakups and an interception. Sophomore Keontra Smith a former safety is expected to backup Frierson at striker.

The secondary returns two of their four starters in 2020. Safety Gurvan Hall leads Miami returnees in 2020 with 66 tackles in 2019. The junior added 3.5 TFLs, two sacks, three pass breakups and one fumble recovery last season. The other returning DB starter in 2019 is shared between cornerbacks Al Blades Jr.and D.J. Ivey.

Next: Miami Hurricanes 2020 projected DB depth chart

Juniors Blades and Ivey split the starts last season at CB net to Trajan Bandy who left for the NFL after his junior season. At safety, senior Amari Carter and redshirt junior Bubba Bolden will compete to be the starter next to Hall. Miami has depth and experience in the secondary but needs more consistency in 2020.

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