Miami Hurricanes DL coach Jess Simpson pleased with DT progress

MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 05: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 05: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Defensive tackle will be the strength of the Miami Hurricanes defensive line in 2021. Miami lost star defensive ends Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche after the 2020 season as the only starters lost on defense. Jon Ford, Jared Harrison-Hunte and Nesta Jade Silvera will lead the defensive interior for Miami this fall.

Harrison-Hunte had a breakout season in 2020 with 17 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks in eight games. An elbow injury sidelined Harrison-Hunte for three games late in the season. Harrison-Hunte is projected to start with Silvera and Ford a major part of the rotation. Each of the three brings their own style of play.

At 6’5, 318 pounds, Ford is a run stuffer. Harrison-Hunte who was a basketball player in high school is more athletic and better pass rushers. The Miami defense needs to improve after a down season in 2020. Miami was 69th in total defense in 2020 allowing 408.4 yards per game.

Miami returns Jess Simpson as its defensive line coach in 2021 after he spent the last two seasons as the defensive tackle coach with the Atlanta Falcons. Simpson spoke to reporters on Tuesday. Simpson is pleased with the willingness of the Hurricanes DL to want to be coached and discussed Ford and Harrison-Hunte.

"“Each guy’s got his own style of play. You can see some of those traits. Jared Harrison-Hunte has got some twitch and athleticism that I think is special. He’s still just a young guy, though. He’s still learning how to play. He’s definitely improving. Big Jon Ford, I saw it a few years ago. I hear he’s a great mover.He’s just moving and playing with better eyes now and better conditioning. I don’t know if anyone’s in the exact mode of a G-Willis, but I know those guys have some traits that if we can develop, they can be really, really good players.”"

Ford had 19 tackles and 1.5 TFLs in 2020. Behind Ford, Harrison-Hunte and Silvera, the Miami Hurricanes have Jalar Holley and Jordan Miller. The Hurricanes lost DT Jason Blissett during the offseason when he decided to retire due to concussion issues. Elijah Roberts and Quentin Williams have a bright future for Miami at DT.

Miami has not had a consistently dominant DT since Gerald Willis was named a second-team All-American in 2020. Leonard Taylor was a five-star signee for Miami at DT and could exceed the success that Willis had in 2018. Taylor was not an early enrollee and therefore is not participating in spring practice.

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The talent Taylor has should allow him to challenge for a spot in the Miami Hurricanes rotation in 2021. Miami needs better play throughout the defense in 2021. The development at DT can help the Hurricanes’ defense improve from their inconsistencies of 2020.