Miami Hurricanes increased defensive speed gives Manny Diaz confidence

Oct 10, 2020; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2020; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports /

The naming of former Corey Flagg and former safety and striker Keontra Smith as the Miami Hurricanes starting linebackers was made to increase the speed for 2021. When Miami was at its best, the Hurricanes had a huge advantage in speed over its opponents. Jimmy Johnson utilized speed when he coached Miami.

Flagg beat out 2020 starter Bradley Jennings Jr to become the starting middle linebacker. Smith is the starting weakside LB replacing Zach McCloud who permanently moved to defensive end this season. Flagg had 15 tackles and one fumble recovery primarily backing up Jennings at MLB in 2020.

Smith had 22 tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup as the second-team striker behind Gilbert Frierson last season. In a further shuffling of the Miami Hurricanes defense, Amari Carter was moved from safety to striker to place him closer to the line of scrimmage. Carter was second was 53 tackles in 2020.

The proliferation of spread offenses has created the need for defenses to match up with faster defenders who are adept in pass coverage and against the run. North Carolina exploited the Miami LBs last season with 554 yards rushing, the most the Hurricanes have ever allowed. Manny Diaz spoke about the need for speed.

"“What made Miami, Miami…was smaller, fast defenders? This is Miami…We’re going to be fast on defense. You can see the same change going on in the National Football League. You’re talking about faster outside linebackers that can play in space and cover…"

Entering his bonus fifth season, Carter has played in 48 games with 16 starts. Carter starting next to Flagg and Smith provides Miami with critical experience. The Miami defense was exploited in losses to Clemson, North Carolina and Oklahoma State in 2020. Diaz hopes adding speed will make the difference on defense.

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Flagg was a playmaker in limited snaps in 2020. Smith consistently made plays throughout training camp and scrimmages. Flagg and Smith together provide Miami with more speed and versatility on defense. They will get a quick introduction as college football starters going up against a high-powered Alabama offense.