Spring Cleaning - Defense

Spring Cleaning - Defense

Stefan Adams
Yesterday, we unleashed and cleaned out everything we’ve been hearing on spring practice about the offense, which can be found *here*, and today (surprise!), is all about how defense is looking heading into the summer months. As a note, if a report seems like there’s too many positives, there’s a very good reason for that: that is what the people with access want to share, as they always have some type of tie to the team, whether it’s family, job, booster, etc. In general, people love sharing the positive intel about the team, but shy away from the negatives. So, as always, take everything with a grain of salt.


Defensive End

What want to hear: Something OTHER than Rousseau hype.

What we’re hearing: Now about this guy Gregory Rousseau… I said other than… nevermind. Let’s just get it out of the way because he’s the first name anyone wants to talk about at any position. He’s gotten praise from every coach/teammate in interviews, every source, etc., the highest being a source saying he’s got the length, hands, and get-off to be a top 5 NFL draft pick in three years. Another said he is better than Joe Jackson and Jon Garvin at this same stage. Gotta love outrageous spring hype. Lost in the commotion around Rousseau is the standout spring Scott Patchan just had. He hasn’t missed a beat moving back to D-Line from tight end and is just a natural pass rusher.

And those are the two guys at the bottom of the depth chart. Joe Jackson is still doing Joe Jackson things and Jon Garvin isn’t far behind that level. We’re hearing Demetrius Jackson is not guaranteed the starting job at DE when he returns from injury and that he will be in much more of a platoon situation with Garvin rather than having one true starter opposite Joe Jackson. Also, Manny Diaz went out of his way to give props to both Garvin and Rousseau for their performances this spring in his last interview.

Senior LB Terry McCray has gotten work here, although Richt said the move is not yet permanent. Either way, barring a rash of injuries, McCray won’t be seeing the field very much.

What it means: For a group that consists of only three returnees, two position switchers, and a true freshman, there is little to no concern here, a far cry from where we were prior to spring. The ends will challenge the linebackers for the strongest unit on the defense. Even though it’s spring, Rousseau’s gotten ridiculously high acclaim for a player some thought would be too thin to really play this season. The strength staff has done an incredible job with getting Rousseau’s body ready in the short amount of time he’s been on campus and there’s still almost 4 months until the season starts. Patchan’s a guy you really root for considering the adversity he’s faced in his career and will get his fair share of reps this fall.


Defensive Tackle

What we want to hear: The talent here won’t leave school early to be a mid-round draft pick.

What we’re hearing: Gerald Willis has made advances in the maturity department, and this was no accident. He knows this is his last chance to make himself some money on draft day and, to his credit, he’s putting in the effort off the field. Sources are saying he’s the best DT on the roster right now and nobody’s really challenged him for that title. Willis also received some Manny Diaz praise in his last interview.

Miami has rotated between Jon Ford and Pat Bethel at the other starting DT spot, but neither has really taken hold of the job over the other heading into summer, with Ford working to shake off inconsistency (“One play he can’t be blocked, the next he is pancaked,” says a source.). Team sources say they’d prefer Ford to take command of the job because of his ability to plug the middle and defend the run; Bethel’s strength is his ability to penetrate, but that skill becomes redundant a bit when paired with the gap-shooting Willis, while also leaving UM very vulnerable to the ground attack. However, they will start the better player regardless.

Heard absolutely nothing on Tyreic Martin, so read as much or as little into that as you’d like.

What it means: Willis is going to start and be a star if he can continue to keep it together off the field, and Miami should at least get serviceable production out of the Bethel/Ford combo. The depth here is the biggest issue, and Miami will hope at least one of grad transfer Tito Odenigbo or true freshmen Nesta Silvera or Jordan Miller can come in the fall and play an “Anthony Moten”-type role for a few reps per game as the 4th DT.


Linebacker/Striker


What we want to hear: That the coaches decided to rename every position group something catchy.

What we’re hearing: Nothing new on Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney; both are still very good and trying to take that next step to “great”. The noise has come from behind them, where you’re starting to see more athletic depth begin to form. The name most mentioned is Waynmon Steed, and the kid has had an outstanding spring by all accounts. He’s one that really needed to make his mark this spring after returning from injury and he’s done that and more; one source called him easily Miami’s best backup linebacker. Steed has also gotten “Manny love” multiple times this spring in interviews.

Bradley Jennings has been giving Mike Smith all he can handle as the backup at MIKE and both have rotated with the second team throughout spring. Jennings has played his way into being deserving of reps this fall.

At the newly proclaimed “striker” position, Derrick Smith went the entire spring beginning to end as the starter there. One source says Smith is the complete package at the spot and has been exactly what the coaches are looking for, being quick enough to cover slot receivers while being physical enough to shed blocks and make tackles at the line. Backup Romeo Finley is much more comfortable in the hybrid striker role than at traditional safety and the game is slowing down for him a bit.

What it means: How often you’ll see the striker package over the traditional 4-3 base remains to be seen, but it’s worth noting that UM opened practice with it every day. With passing offenses becoming more and more sophisticated, this is simply a sign of the times. The addition of striker has changed Miami’s defense, but has hurt De’Andre Wilder the most as he is a true SAM linebacker, and the potential reps he can play are much more limited now. I’ve barely heard anything about him. Where does Zach McCloud fit in when he comes back from injury and how large or small is his role? Ditto for Charles Perry. It’s hard to say on each one at this time.


Defensive Backs

What we want to hear: That Jaquan Johnson got a new class schedule.

What we’re hearing: Taking defensive backs as a unit because we’ve heard they’ve been the weak link of the defense in spring and the defensive coaches have not been pleased with their performance overall. Just too many receivers running free and blown coverages. Note that Jaquan Johnson missed the first half of each practice due to having class, so this may not be a full representation of what we’ll see on Saturday’s. When Johnson is out, this looks like a totally different unit and doesn’t function nearly as well, one source says.

Of the usual starting four, Jhavonte Dean has had the most issues; finding the ball in the air and physicality both tackling and in press coverage are still what plagues him, although he has made strides from last season. Trajan Bandy took his spot near the end of camp and team sources see him having a “Malek Young”-type of sophomore year, taking that next step pestering receivers both on the outside and in the slot. Michael Jackson is building on his breakout junior season and the confidence he has as a #1 corner is night and day from last spring. He’s an NFL guy all the way.

Both Ivey and Frierson have the look of advanced prospects at the corner position and already bring the physicality on the outside that Manny Diaz loves. However, there’s still too many freshman mistakes and missed assignments here for the staff’s liking, especially knowing which man to pick-up/stay with on zone coverages, which isn’t the craziest thing in the world for early enrollees in their first spring. Ivey is more polished than Frierson in terms of technique and hips, with one source seeing Ivey starting by mid-season as he gets more comfortable at this level, with Bandy at nickel.

It’s Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine at safety, then everybody else; Manny Diaz has said as much publicly. Anyone expecting Amari Carter to steal Redwine’s job would be off-base, as Redwine has really separated himself even more from both Carter and Robert Knowles. Carter still has a ways to go mentally in the traditional safety role, but is still bringing his trademark bonecrushing hits and his reps are safe as Diaz loves to use him in many different special packages all over the field. Neither Knowles nor Carter has really locked down the #3 safety role. Gurvan Hall was really making an impression here before his injury.

What it means: Jackson and Johnson are the leaders in the secondary and two you don’t have to worry about, with Redwine not far behind. The #2 corner spot still needs a lot of work and the freshmen are going to give Dean and, to an extent Bandy, all they can handle in the fall on the outside, as long as the freshmen continue to cut down their negative plays. Bandy will still get plenty of reps at nickel either way. With the primary backup at safety still undetermined, it will be interesting to see if Hall can recover from injury, build on his strong start, and push for the job there.
 

Comments (73)

I can live with a more then solid trio of Johnson, Jackson and Redwine as the core in the DB backfield... Meaning guys we can count on when the lights come on Sept 2nd. All we need to do is find a 4th guy and we are set. Was hoping like hell is was Dean since this is his last shot but looks like it could be one of the TrF since it look like the staff wants to keep Bandy at Nickel.

Need Ford to make big strides in the Summer. Cant have Bethel and Willis against LSU knowing they will try to ram it down our throats every chance they get. He has become the most important player on our D going into the Summer IMO.

Derrick Smith at Striker sounds extremely fun but as reported..it takes 3 guys off the field. (Perry, Wilder, McCloud) Don't know how I feel about that.

Sounds like the D has got things buttoned up if you ask me for the most part.
 
Derrick Smith at Striker sounds extremely fun but as reported..it takes 3 guys off the field. (Perry, Wilder, McCloud) Don't know how I feel about that.
I feel great about that. The SAM position was arguably the biggest vulnerability on our defense last season.

My favorite blurb was that the team opened up with the Smith in there at Striker for every spring practice.
 
Need a stud safety or two this cycle and definitely three DT's
 
I feel great about that. The SAM position was arguably the biggest vulnerability on our defense last season.

My favorite blurb was that the team opened up with the Smith in there at Striker for every spring practice.
This. I will take Smith over Perry or Wilder at this point, and I thought McCloud was pretty medicre (and at times awful) last season. This puts McCloud into a rotation with Pink and Shaq, so now when one of those guys comes off the field we are seeing McCloud or Steed (starter level players) instead of large doses of Perry and Smith like last season.
 
I thought the loss of Malek was big. Asking true freshman to come in and play right away in starter minutes is very risky.
 
This. I will take Smith over Perry or Wilder at this point, and I thought McCloud was pretty medicre (and at times awful) last season. This puts McCloud into a rotation with Pink and Shaq, so now when one of those guys comes off the field we are seeing McCloud or Steed (starter level players) instead of large doses of Perry and Smith like last season.
Perry was playing better than McCloud last season before the injury.
 
This. I will take Smith over Perry or Wilder at this point, and I thought McCloud was pretty medicre (and at times awful) last season. This puts McCloud into a rotation with Pink and Shaq, so now when one of those guys comes off the field we are seeing McCloud or Steed (starter level players) instead of large doses of Perry and Smith like last season.
Thats a good point. Hopefully when McCloud returns he gets reps at all the LB spots. Hopefully he's been mentally working on that this spring
 
I can live with a more then solid trio of Johnson, Jackson and Redwine as the core in the DB backfield... Meaning guys we can count on when the lights come on Sept 2nd. All we need to do is find a 4th guy and we are set. Was hoping like hell is was Dean since this is his last shot but looks like it could be one of the TrF since it look like the staff wants to keep Bandy at Nickel.

Need Ford to make big strides in the Summer. Cant have Bethel and Willis against LSU knowing they will try to ram it down our throats every chance they get. He has become the most important player on our D going into the Summer IMO.

Derrick Smith at Striker sounds extremely fun but as reported..it takes 3 guys off the field. (Perry, Wilder, McCloud) Don't know how I feel about that.

Sounds like the D has got things buttoned up if you ask me for the most part.
Bandy is playing outside and nickel. Was starting at corner with jackson about the last 2 weeks.
 
I'm glad they created some flexibility at the SAM spot, because was always have a second late and piss poor angle that could have been 2 yard loss, that ended up being a 15 yard gain. That will go a long way this season. When we face traditional run teams like BC, GT and etc, that's where McCloud, Perry and Wilder will eat. Blades is going to get a hard look at the #2 corner spot as well. Feel a lot better about our DL, and this defense, statically can be better than last year D. Feel bad for Malek tho, but man I can't help but think if he came back, this Defense would probably be a top 5 D.
 
Any word on how the incoming recruits (Blades and Nigel Bethel) will work into the DB rotation? There was some talk that Blades would be a safety and Bethel a redshirt.
 
Derrick Smith at Striker sounds extremely fun but as reported..it takes 3 guys off the field. (Perry, Wilder, McCloud) Don't know how I feel about that.
I'll take Derrick Smith on the field for more snaps over any of those three every day of the week, especially Saturday.

And it doesn't take three guys off the field, it just means they're sharing a limited pool of snaps with a more versatile and varied pool of players. This is an adjustment that was obvious to anyone closely watching our defense last year needed to happen.

With McCloud out there, we couldn't stop the run OR the pass reliably in 11, or nickel, situations. Hopefully, McCloud comes back healthy and better than ever, but until we see significant improvement out of him, we are far better off with Derrick Smith out there. Perry's been around a while, he is what he is at this point, a valuable backup and special teamer. As for Wilder, he's young, a RS Frosh I believe, if he's the goods, he'll find a way on the field.

Nothing to stress about here. All #25 does is make plays. This is a massive positive, no need to go looking for negatives.
 
Any word on how the incoming recruits (Blades and Nigel Bethel) will work into the DB rotation? There was some talk that Blades would be a safety and Bethel a redshirt.
Also, for the folks that have watched a lot of these two, do we think Blades and Bethel are red-shirt candidates or might they be physically ready to contribute in 2018?
 

2020 Commits

RB
5'9"
195
Deerfield Beach, FL
OT
6'6"
330
Orange Park, FL
WR
6'1"
195
Bradenton, FL
QB
6'4"
210
Glastonbury, CT
DT
6'3"
290
Hollywood, FL
RB
5'11"
205
Miami, FL
S
6'2"
180
Hialeah, FL
WR
6'0"
185
Trussville, AL
DE
6'4"
240
Orange Park, FL
DE
6'3"
265
Miami, FL

Latest Predictions

by svenben
High
by ItsACanesThing7
Medium
by ItsACanesThing7
Medium
by Stylie
Medium
by raytiller
High

2019 Schedule

08/24
Florida
Orlando, FL
L 24 - 20
09/07
North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC
L 28 - 25
09/14
Bethune-Cookman
Miami Gardens, FL
W 63 - 0
09/21
Central Michigan
Miami Gardens, FL
W 17 - 12
10/05
Virginia Tech
Miami Gardens, FL
L 42 - 35
10/11
Virginia
Miami Gardens, FL
W 17 - 9
10/19
Georgia Tech
Miami Gardens, FL
L 28 - 21
10/26
Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA
W 16 - 12
11/02
Florida State
Tallahassee, FL
W 27 - 10
11/09
Louisville
Miami Gardens, FL
W 52 - 27
11/23
FIU
Miami, FL
L 30 - 24
11/30
Duke
Durham, NC
L 27 - 17
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