Rebuilding defense biggest challenge for Miami football program

Oct 30, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Rebuilding its defense is the biggest challenge for the Miami football program entering the 2022 season. New head coach Mario Cristobal made upgrading the talent on the Miami defense one of the priorities during the 2022 offseason. Miami signed seven transfers on defense for the 2022 season.

Miami finished 84th nationally allowing 28.4 points per game and 75th in total defense with opponents averaging 389.6 total yards per game in 2021. The Miami defense has been in steady decline after being one of the best in the country in 2017 and 2018. Cristobal hired a pair of experienced defensive coordinators for 2022.

Kevin Steele and Charlie Strong each have over 30 years of experience as college football coaches and will be the co-DCs in 2022. Strong will also coach the Miami linebackers. Caleb Johnson transferred to Miami from UCLA and is the projected starting middle LB for Miami in 2022.

Johnson had 89 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery in two years at UCLA. Johnson has one season of eligibility remaining for Miami. Miami has had inconsistent LB play since four-year starters Michael Pinckney and Shaq Quarterman graduated after the 2019 season.

Miami was still able to disrupt opposing offenses in 2021. The Hurricanes finished 21st in tackles for loss and 42nd in sacks in 2021. Five of the seven transfers Miami added on defense are on the DL. All of them are expected to be in the rotation for Miami upfront in 2022. Miami needs more consistency from its DL.

Miami was 48th allowing 3.89 yards per carry in 2021. Expect sophomore defensive tackle Leonard Taylor to have a breakout season receiving starter’s snaps in 2022. Taylor tied for the Miami team lead with 8.5 TFLs in 2021. Miami has significantly improved its experience on the DL entering the 2022 season.

Transfers Mitchell Agude from UCLA and Akheem Mesidor from West Virginia will have major roles for Miami on the DL in 2022. The Miami football roster needed more depth and experience at edge rusher entering the 2022 season. Mesidor provides Miami with versatility to be able to play as an edge rusher and at tackle.

Miami needs the disruptive plays to turn into turnovers in 2022. The Hurricanes forced only 11 turnovers in 12 games in 2021 to finish 119th nationally. Miami was 93rd with eight interceptions in 2021 led by true freshman safety James Williams. That put a lot of pressure on the offense to produce on longer fields.

Cornerback Darryl Porter Jr. arrives with Mesidor from West Virginia to likely start opposite Tyrique Stevenson. As many as five transfers could start for Miami on defense. Expect the emphasis for the Miami defense to be on tackling during training camp. Miami has been graded low in tackling as a unit for a few years.

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Cristobal demands physicality throughout his roster. That should help the mindset of the Miami football team on defense and to wrap up tackling. Steele and Strong are experienced DCs who have seen just about everything in their coaching careers. Miami should be improved defensively during the 2022 season.