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2019 Fall Camp Preview: LB

2019 Fall Camp Preview: LB

Stefan Adams
Summer Additions: Patrick Joyner (Moved from defensive end), Samuel Brooks (2019 signee), Avery Huff (2019 signee)

Summer Departures: None

Miami has probably the best group of linebackers in the ACC. Miami returns all four senior starters at the LB positions going into the 2019 season, with the Preseason All-ACC duo of Shaquille Quarterman at MIKE and Michael Pinckney at WILL, along with a strong platoon of Zach McCloud and Romeo Finley at striker.

In his third season manning the middle of Miami’s defense, Quarterman had a career year, ending his 2018 campaign with a First Team All-ACC nod. A main criticism of Quarterman during his first two seasons at UM had been his lack of explosive plays; all he did was go out in 2018 and record career-highs of 14 TFL, 5 sacks, and his first career interception. He’s a true leader in the middle for the Canes that the team looks to in times of strife and Miami is lucky to have him back for one more ride.

He’s not perfect, but Pinckney got the job done more often than not last season. While he sometimes lacks discipline in his run fits, Pinckney had a career-high 74 total tackles in 2018 and makes enough momentum plays to impact games. Both Quarterman and Pinckney were integral parts of the nation’s #18 scoring defense and will use their final season to continue expanding their leadership roles and working to improve their draft stock.

However, it was the addition of the striker linebacker position in 2018 that really made the biggest impact on Miami’s defense and allowed them to take the next step, solving some of the coverage issues the LB’s faced in 2017. More speed on the field allowed UM to go from nearly last in third down defense in 2017 to first in the country in 2018 with a 25.3% conversion rate for opposing offenses.

Finley went from a guy many wrote off as a transfer candidate to a key piece of UM’s defense, totaling 28 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 interceptions, and 4 PBU’s. Finley is clearly more comfortable in the hybrid striker role than at traditional safety and the game is slowing down for him a bit. Finley can just do so much more than McCloud in being able to stick with TE’s and RB’s, and that changes how Miami can defend across the board, making them more multiple. Having Finley be the guy in more passing-obvious situations took a lot of pressure off McCloud last season, and he recorded 45 tackles, 4.5 TFL, and 0.5 sacks. He was able to focus more on stopping the run instead of having to play too much in space, and he certainly cut down on the amount of mistakes he made compared to 2017. McCloud is expected to be a full-go for fall camp after missing spring with a wrist injury. This fall will be about continuing to solidify each player’s roles and building on the success of last season.

I’m told Miami is planning on using their hybrid guys even more often in 2019, and that’s where redshirt freshman Gilbert Frierson comes in. Frierson moved to striker from corner in spring and is expected to soak up the minutes that Derrick Smith provided in a third string role last season. Frierson was known as a physical corner matching up against receivers, but being physical closer to the line against linemen and tight ends is a different story, and how well he can play the run will determine how large his role becomes. Frierson’s transition to the spot was well-received by the coaching staff this spring and while he must add more weight to hold up (currently listed 6’1” 192), he has the potential to be a Jabrill Peppers-lite considering his pedigree.

The elephant in the room is the depth at inside linebacker, where injuries have taken a toll on this group. Sophomore BJ Jennings profiles best as the backup at MIKE and sophomore Waynmon Steed fits best as the backup at WILL, but both finished spring with injuries and are not expected to be ready for the start of fall camp. Redshirt freshman Patrick Joyner was moved back to linebacker late in the spring and had an exceptional spring game, but suffered a leg injury over the offseason and is expected to be a limited participant to begin camp. Sophomore De’Andre Wilder is still recovering from a neck injury that caused him to miss all of 2018, and just how much he can contribute to the team now or in the future is unclear.

Freshman Samuel Brooks is on track to start out at MIKE, and there is plenty of opportunity to earn himself a role if he proves he is ready to play. Many saw freshman Avery Huff making an early impact in Miami’s defense at WILL, but he is still waiting on an eligibility issue to get resolved before he can hit the practice field.


Bottom Line

UM has one of the best LB units in the ACC, complete with vast returning experience that has NFL aspirations. While Miami is a little thin with the injuries to the backups, and it’s not ideal that none of next year’s returners will start out getting real reps, UM will be more than okay with 4 very reliable linebackers in Quarterman, Pinckney, Finley, and McCloud.

At least to begin camp as Miami heals up, expect McCloud to soak up most of the backup minutes on the inside behind Quarterman and Pinckney, while the Canes rely more on Finley and Frierson to handle striker.
 

Comments (13)

No mention of impending doom for the LB corps and the striker position will be utilized more?

Gee whizz I guess that 4-2-5 defense is actually being utilized more than the base 4-3.

Go figure.

Someone pull @OrangeBowlMagic from the ledge and hand him a beer.
 
No mention of impending doom for the LB corps and the striker position will be utilized more?

Gee whizz I guess that 4-2-5 defense is actually being utilized more than the base 4-3.

Go figure.

Someone pull @OrangeBowlMagic from the ledge and hand him a beer.

When someone who was working with Patke's group in the spring starts working with Baker's group in camp, we'll have the answer to my question. Thanks though.
 
Good write-up...here's to mccloud having a real impact this year and no wrist issues.
 
I am looking to the experience of the 4 main guys to help clean up any mistakes on the front end and back end of the defense especially at the beginning of the season. I think Shaq, Pinck and Finley make their presence known early and often in that UF game. I think we will be hearing Kirk and Fowler many times say, "This could be the best LB group in the country you are witnessing folks. You won't find many better".
 
Additions: Patrick Joyner (Moved from defensive end), Samuel Brooks (2019 signee), Avery Huff (2019 signee)

Departures: None

Miami has probably the best group of linebackers in the ACC. Miami returns all four senior starters at the LB positions going into the 2019 season, with the Preseason All-ACC duo of Shaquille Quarterman at MIKE and Michael Pinckney at WILL, along with a strong platoon of Zach McCloud and Romeo Finley at striker.

In his third season manning the middle of Miami’s defense, Quarterman had a career year, ending his 2018 campaign with a First Team All-ACC nod. A main criticism of Quarterman during his first two seasons at UM had been his lack of explosive plays; all he did was go out in 2018 and record career-highs of 14 TFL, 5 sacks, and his first career interception. He’s a true leader in the middle for the Canes that the team looks to in times of strife and Miami is lucky to have him back for one more ride.

He’s not perfect, but Pinckney got the job done more often than not last season. While he sometimes lacks discipline in his run fits, Pinckney had a career-high 74 total tackles in 2018 and makes enough momentum plays to impact games. Both Quarterman and Pinckney were integral parts of the nation’s #18 scoring defense and will use their final season to continue expanding their leadership roles and working to improve their draft stock.

However, it was the addition of the striker linebacker position in 2018 that really made the biggest impact on Miami’s defense and allowed them to take the next step, solving some of the coverage issues the LB’s faced in 2017. More speed on the field allowed UM to go from nearly last in third down defense in 2017 to first in the country in 2018 with a 25.3% conversion rate for opposing offenses.

Finley went from a guy many wrote off as a transfer candidate to a key piece of UM’s defense, totaling 28 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 interceptions, and 4 PBU’s. Finley is clearly more comfortable in the hybrid striker role than at traditional safety and the game is slowing down for him a bit. Finley can just do so much more than McCloud in being able to stick with TE’s and RB’s, and that changes how Miami can defend across the board, making them more multiple. Having Finley be the guy in more passing-obvious situations took a lot of pressure off McCloud last season, and he recorded 45 tackles, 4.5 TFL, and 0.5 sacks. He was able to focus more on stopping the run instead of having to play too much in space, and he certainly cut down on the amount of mistakes he made compared to 2017. McCloud is expected to be a full-go for fall camp after missing spring with a wrist injury. This fall will be about continuing to solidify each player’s roles and building on the success of last season.

I’m told Miami is planning on using their hybrid guys even more often in 2019, and that’s where redshirt freshman Gilbert Frierson comes in. Frierson moved to striker from corner in spring and is expected to soak up the minutes that Derrick Smith provided in a third string role last season. Frierson was known as a physical corner matching up against receivers, but being physical closer to the line against linemen and tight ends is a different story, and how well he can play the run will determine how large his role becomes. Frierson’s transition to the spot was well-received by the coaching staff this spring and while he must add more weight to hold up (currently listed 6’1” 192), he has the potential to be a Jabrill Peppers-lite considering his pedigree.

The elephant in the room is the depth at inside linebacker, where injuries have taken a toll on this group. Sophomore BJ Jennings profiles best as the backup at MIKE and sophomore Waynmon Steed fits best as the backup at WILL, but both finished spring with injuries and are not expected to be ready for the start of fall camp. Redshirt freshman Patrick Joyner was moved back to linebacker in the spring and had an exceptional spring game, but suffered a leg injury over the offseason and is expected to be a limited participant to begin camp. Sophomore De’Andre Wilder is still recovering from a neck injury that caused him to miss all of 2018, and just how much he can contribute to the team now or in the future is unclear.

Freshman Samuel Brooks is on track to start out at MIKE, and there is plenty of opportunity to earn himself a role if he proves he is ready to play. Many saw freshman Avery Huff making an early impact in Miami’s defense at WILL, but he is still waiting on an eligibility issue to get resolved before he can hit the practice field.


Bottom Line

UM has one of the best LB units in the ACC, complete with vast returning experience that has NFL aspirations. While Miami is a little thin with the injuries the the backups, and it’s not ideal that none of next year’s returners will start out getting real reps, UM will be more than okay with 4 very reliable linebackers in Quarterman, Pinckney, Finley, and McCloud.

At least to begin camp as Miami heals up, expect McCloud to soak up most of the backup minutes on the inside behind Quarterman and Pinckney, while the Canes rely more on Finley and Frierson to handle striker.

Can you put the links to the other camp previews in future previews? I saw and didn't realize I missed a couple others until I looked for them. But if you link them, I'm probably not the only one who would read them all that way.
 
I’m going to enjoy this years LB group but in the back of my mind all year I’m going to be thinking “holy **** we may be in big trouble at LB next year”
 
I still don’t get frierson to striker

Why not? Where else are you going to play him? IMO it's the perfect spot for him, but he probably needs to add a little bit more weight. Finley is 6'1 and 215 pushing 220. Gil is probably about 200 right now. Another 10 pounds on him and he will be ideal. But he's got good ball skills, he's active, he's physical, and he's better suited closer to the LOS. Where else can you play him? Strong safety, maybe.
 
Why not? Where else are you going to play him? IMO it's the perfect spot for him, but he probably needs to add a little bit more weight. Finley is 6'1 and 215 pushing 220. Gil is probably about 200 right now. Another 10 pounds on him and he will be ideal. But he's got good ball skills, he's active, he's physical, and he's better suited closer to the LOS. Where else can you play him? Strong safety, maybe.
We need bodies at CB.
 

2022 Commits

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6'1"
210
Manvel, TX
OT
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275
Sandersville, GA

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