Miami Hurricanes DEs Jahfari Harvey and Chantz Williams improving this spring

Dec 29, 2020; Orlando, FL, USA; Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2020; Orlando, FL, USA; Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports /

The departures of defensive ends Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche for the 2021 NFL Draft opens up two of three positions that do not have returning starters for the Miami Hurricanes this fall. Tennessee transfer DeAndre Johnson and Zach McCloud who is switching from linebacker to DE and are the projected starters at DE in 2021.

Behind Johnson and McCloud, Jahfari Harvey and Chantz Williams have been improving this spring according to defensive line coach Jess Simpson. Despite having Phillips and Roche the Miami pass rush was not as productive in 2020 as in past seasons. Miami finished 32nd nationally averaging 2.73 sacks per game.

Phillips led Miami with 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2020. Roche had 14.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. Miami could go more with a team approach in 2021 with Harvey, Johnson, McCloud and Williams in the rotation at DE. Harvey finished last season with 16 tackles, 4.5 TFLs and one sack as the third DE in the rotation.

Williams had minimal playing time in 2020. Harvey was an edge rusher with a lot of upside when the Miami Hurricanes signed him in 2018. Harvey was the 210th ranked player, 12th ranked weakside DE and 31st ranked player in Florida in the Class of 2018. Defensive line coach Jess Simpson discussed Harvey’s progress.

"“Jahfari has done some really good things…Jahfari brings the skill set of being a powerful, fast, twitchy kid. Has put on some good weight. He’s over 250 [pounds] now, really worked hard in the weight room. So proud of him. Still got a long way to go as a player, but he’s improving and you see the potential.”"

Chantz Williams was higher ranked coming out of high school than Harvey. In the Class of 2020, Williams was the 85th ranked player, seventh-ranked weakside DE and 15th ranked player in Florida. The scouting report on Williams coming out of high school was that he can rush the passer with speed or power.

"“You can see every day he’s just inching along, getting a little bit better, whether it’s developing a rush plan or how to play edges in the run game…You can just see he’s starting to get it. It’s a process for all these guys. No one’s going to get crowned king in the spring.There’s a lot of improvement that has to take place, but those are two young guys that I see having a lot of potential for us.”"

With Johnson and McCloud in their final season of eligibility, Harvey and Williams are the future for the Miami Hurricanes at DE. Manny Diaz reassuming control of the Miami defense as the defensive coordinator and head coach the Hurricanes will likely become more aggressive defensively than they were in 2020.

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The production Miami gets from their edge rushers will influence how Diaz calls the game defensively. Diaz likes to blitz far more than Blake Baker did the last two seasons calling the Miami defense. Harvey and Williams are players with a lot of potential who could give Miami a boost defensively as situational pass rushers.