Miami Hurricanes defense pressuring Trevor Lawrence critical

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - SEPTEMBER 19: (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - SEPTEMBER 19: (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Putting pressure on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be critical for the Miami Hurricanes to have a chance at upsetting the Tigers on Saturday.

The Miami Hurricanes defense needs to put pressure on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence on Saturday to have a chance to pull the upset. The Tigers offensive line has been average this season protecting the QB. Clemson ranks 32nd out of 72 teams allowing an average of two sacks per game.

Miami remains one of the best defensive lines rushing the passer in college football. The Hurricanes rank 19th with an average of 3.33 sacks per game. The Clemson offensive line has struggled in pass blocking. Right tackle Jordan McFadden has been the only elite offensive lineman Clemson has had this season.

Pro Football Focus ranks McFadden 12th overall with an 84.3 overall grade which is 12th out of 180 tackles who qualify. McFadden received a pass-blocking grade of 80.4 which ranks 22nd out of 155 tackles. The Miami defensive line should have a chance to pressure Lawrence. Miami needs a great game from its edge rushers.

Miami has had production overall from its pass rush in 2020. Quincy Roche leads Miami with two sacks but his rating from PFF has slipped significantly from last season. Roche has an overall grade of 68.2 which ranks  78th out of 211 edge rushers.

Roche has remained near the top edge rushers when grading as a pass rusher. PFF graded Roche out at  82.8 which is 14th among 212 edge rushers. On the other side, the Miami Hurricanes need more production from

Jaelan Phillips

. Phillips graded out at 67.2 overall which ranks 88th. Phillips pass-rush grade was 67.3 which is 77th.

Miami co-defensive coordinator Blake Baker spoke earlier this week about the importance of getting pressure on Lawrence. Baker wants to see Lawrence throws contested. In addition to the pass rush, Miami needs a good performance out of its secondary which has been inconsistent at times this season, especially in coverage.

"“The biggest thing is we have to be able to contest a lot of his throws…Even when you think you have a guy covered, he is so accurate, he’s going to put the ball in there. We have to make sure, especially on the back end.Other quarterbacks, you might think you have the guy covered up, but he has such great arm strength, such great accuracy he’s really able to throw it in there just like an NFL quarterback, (with) really tight windows.”"

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Lawrence will not put pressure on the Miami defense like D’Eriq King will running the football, but he is capable of escaping the pass rush and running when he has to. Lawrence has only 14 carries for 14 yards this season, but three for touchdowns. Clemson backup D.J. Uiagalelei has six carries for 15 yards and another two TDs.

"“Then the other thing about Trevor Lawrence is his legs. He’s a problem. That’s the best way I can put it. He’s 6-6, 220, you can tell he has great leadership, physically can make every throw, great accuracy, tremendous arm strength, and with his legs is where he does a lot of his damage.When a play breaks down, he’s great — once he gets in the open field he’s a load to bring down. Real, real fast. People probably sleep on that more than anything because he has such long strides. But he is eating up ground and gaining tons of yards once the pocket breaks down.We will have to be on top of our game in all three levels to be able to contain him.”"

Staying disciplined on defense will be critical for the Miami Hurricanes. Safety Bubba Bolden will be another player to watch. Baker and head coach Manny Diaz will likely use Bolden lined-up throughout the Hurricanes defensive formation. Bolden has been the most valuable defensive player for Miami this season.

Bolden has lined up 102 times at free safety, 37 times as the slot CB and 22 times in the box, twice on the defensive line and as the wide CB this season according to PFF. PFF rated Bolden 77.5 overall which ranks 11th out of 220 safeties. Bolden has a 72.9 pass-rush grade and 74.7 coverage grade which is 29th at safety.

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It will take a team effort defensively to limit Lawrence and the Clemson offense. Miami needs its stars to play well. That starts with Bolden, linebacker Zach McCloud, Phillips and Roche. Miami is in a much better place throughout its roster to compete with Clemson Saturday than they were in the 2017 ACC Championship Game.