Manny Diaz confident Miami Hurricanes have improved run defense

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 02:. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 02:. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images) /

During an appearance on the Joe Rose Show on Monday morning on WQAM Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz stated he believes they have improved their run defense. The Miami run defense was erratic in 2020. Miami had six games allowing under four yards per carry to the regular debacle against North Carolina.

Miami enters the 2021 season with their entire back seven returning. The Miami Hurricanes lost only defensive ends, Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche on defense. Miami added DE DeAndre Johnson and cornerback Tyrique Stevenson through the transfer portal. Freshman defensive tackle Leonard Taylor could earn snaps.

Miami finished 74th against the run in 2020 allowing 174.45 yards per game and 81st allowing 4.55 yards per carry. Taking out the North Carolina game, Miami allowed 146.4 rushing yards per game and 3.72 yards per carry. Those numbers would have ranked 47th and 32nd nationally. Miami proved they can stop the run.

More consistency is what’s needed. In the Hurricanes other game against an elite opponent in 2020, Clemson ran 44 times for 258 yards, averaged 5.9 yards per carry with three touchdowns. North Carolina finished 11th nationally averaging 235.83 rushing yards per game in 2020. UNC lost their top two running backs from 2020.

"“So We didn’t want to sit there and, bang, you create a lot of pileups where we could have lost a guy. It’s obvious from a year ago we had to improve our run defense. I think we have done that. You saw Keontra Smith make a really nice play at weakside. He looks natural over there.The improvement that Avery Huff has made, the improvement that Corey Flagg has made. The battles will continue into summer and camp. We will be a different looking operation than we were a year ago.’’"

Diaz’s praise of Smith is encouraging. The move of Smith from striker to linebacker provides Miami more depth at the position. Miami will lack experience at weakside LB in 2021. Bradley Jennings returns at middle LB but has been pushed by freshman Corey Flagg during spring practice. Some projections have Flagg starting.

The strength of the Miami defensive line in 2021 should be at DT. Jon Ford, Jared Harrison-Hunte and Nesta Jade Silvera all return for Miami to man the interior of the Hurricanes DL. Miami also returns safeties Bubba Bolden and Gurvan Hall plus striker Gilbert Frierson to hopefully create more consistency against the run.

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The move of Zach McCloud from LB to DE for the Cheez-it Bowl precipitated the move to edge rusher for the 2021 season. With the experience the Miami Hurricanes have on defense they should become much more stout against the run in 2020. Diaz has also resumed being the defensive coordinator and play-caller for 2021.