Miami Hurricanes defense continually predicated on speed

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 /

Manny Diaz has followed in the footsteps of the great Miami Hurricanes head coaches by taking some of the strengths those teams were built on and using that in the present. Diaz is using the Jimmy Johnson blueprint for defense by utilizing speed as an asset. Diaz has regained control of the defense for the 2021 season.

Speaking on the Joe Rose Show earlier this month, Diaz provided a blueprint of how he wants the Miami defense to play. Nine of the 19 returning starters for Miami are on defense. The Hurricanes lost defensive ends Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche following the 2020 season. One of the strengths should be at defensive tackle.

Athletic DTs Jared Harrison-Hunte and Nesta Jade Silvera complement 6’5 318 pound run-stopper Jon Ford for the interior of the Miami defensive line. Diaz spoke about the importance of what the interior defensive linemen are doing to allow the linebacker to make plays. Safeties are traditionally playmakers in the Diaz defense.

In the five seasons under Diaz, three as defensive coordinator and two as head coach, a safety has led the Miami Hurricanes in tackles in four of those seasons. Miami is strong at safety in 2021 but LB is a big question mark heading into the season. The Hurricanes need more consistency from their LBs this fall.

"“Is it getting off blocks, is it getting up the field enough. What’s the biggest problem, being stronger at the point of attack? It’s securing your gap of responsibility. If it doesn’t start upfront…The linebackers, when I am secure of where I need to go I can go there fast.If I’m a little unsure of what I’m seeing in front of me, then I’m going to be slower to go. The Miami model of the 4-3 defense has always been predicated on speed. Nothing in football, but certainly nothing on defense, occurs in a vacuum. Everybody is working in concert…If there’s a breach anywhere sooner or later there will become a lack of trust and everybody begins to play slower.”"

Miami returns Bradley Jennings Jr. at one starter at LB in 2021. Zach McCloud started eight of the 11 Miami Hurricanes games at LB in 2020 and played in nine, but was moved to DE for the Cheez-It Bowl game and will stay there for the 2021 season. Sam Brooks, Corey Flagg and Avery Huff will compete to be the other starter.

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Miami has the athletes and speed to have better play at LB in 2020. As the former LB coach in addition to being the DC, Diaz should be able to get more out of the LBs than how they played last year. As Diaz stated the model Miami defense is predicated on speed and everyone needs to work together.