Miami football building defensive depth critical remainder of spring

Oct 22, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Miami football team returns to spring practice on Tuesday, building defensive depth is critical. Miami returns six starters from the season-ending loss to Pittsburgh. Returning starting safeties Kamren Kinchens and James Williams will form the foundation of the 2023 Miami defense.

Akheem Mesidor and Leonard Taylor return as starters on the defensive line, linebacker Wesley Bissainthe and cornerback Te’Cory Couch are other returning starters from the game versus Pittsburgh last November. Several newcomers are expected to start for Miami on defense in 2023.

Middle LB Francisco Mauigoa is close to a lock as a starter. Cornerbacks Devonte Brown and Terry Roberts should push veteran returnees Couch and Darryl Porter Jr. for first-team snaps. Couch projects in the slot when Miami uses a nickel back and is likely to play outside CB more than in past seasons.

The Miami football team is missing what is projected to be its starting defensive line in 2023 for the spring. Defensive ends Mesidor and Jahfari Harvey and tackles Jared Harrison-Hunte and Leonard Taylor are all out this spring with injuries. That is occurring as Miami has a new defensive coordinator and line coach.

Linebacker and safety are the thinnest positions on the Miami defense this spring and heading into the 2023 season. Bissainthe, returning starting MLB Corey Flagg and Mauigoa are projected the receive the majority of snaps for Miami at LB in 2023. Behind them, Miami has very little experience at LB.

Keontra Smith is undersized and fits better at the star position Miami utilizes as their hybrid defensive back/LB. Behind them, Miami has freshmen LBs, Malik Bryant, Kaleb Spencer and Bobby Washington are competing in spring practice as early enrollees. Miami will add 2023 signee Raul Aguirre for August training camp.

At safety, Markeith Williams is the only returning safety behind Kinchens and Williams. Miami lost eight defensive backs following the 2022 season. Miami did not sign a safety or add a transfer at the position during the 2023 offseason. The Hurricanes could still pursue a safety through the transfer portal.

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Miami needs to develop depth at other positions defensively. When healthy Miami should have good depth on the defensive line, but still needs a run-stopper at tackle. Miami might pursue another transfer CB after adding Brown and Roberts. Developing depth will be a priority for Mario Cristobal and Guidry.