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Spring Simpson talks DL philosophy, progress this spring

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Stefan Adams

Managing Editor
Feb 9, 2018
This spring, Jess Simpson is back as the Miami Hurricanes’ defensive line coach after his first stint with the team in 2018, and Simpson spoke today about his overall philosophy when coaching the position group.

"In 2018, we had a really successful year,” Simpson said. “We talk about being a vertical defensive line, creating chaos, leading the country in TFL’s. It happens when guys play disciplined, together… One of our biggest goals, the style of play, we get it around here. What we have to take the next step in is playing connected. That is paramount.”

Simpson has two seniors on the roster at DE this spring in both Deandre Johnson and Zach McCloud, both of whom are playing in their first spring on the DL at Miami, with Johnson transferring in from Tennessee and McCloud moving over from LB.

“Deandre being a new guy, he’s got a lot of emotional intelligence, has done a great job fitting into the room. He’s smart, learning our defense fast, is just a great guy to be around,” Simpson said. “Zach is one of the surprises of spring so far for me after five practices. You knew the intent that Zach brings every day - he’s a hard charger, high effort guy, wants to do things exactly right. He’s always in the building trying to do better. Each practice he’s connecting the dots as a defensive end. I really think it suits his skillset. I’ve watched him do things in pass rush that have me excited. He plays fast. He can have a big role for us this fall if he keeps doing what he’s doing.”

Aside from Johnson and McCloud, though, UM’s defensive ends don’t have much experience on the field at the college level, and it’s up to Simpson to get them ready for larger roles in 2021.

“I think that’s always fun for a coach - I have a young room but a hungry room,” Simpson said. “A room that’s teachable, coachable. Where we’re at right now - meetings, walkthroughs, Zoom calls, practice - I’m really, really pleased with how they’ve responded to being coached and coached hard.

“They do realize what they don’t know. As a coach, you have a bunch of 18 to 22 year olds you can still help mold, whether it’s helping the young man as a person or player. Those are always the most fun things, watching those guys take the next steps.”

Sophomore Jahfari Harvey started Miami’s bowl game after regular starters Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche opted out, and Simpson says Harvey has carried that momentum to spring ball, along with freshman Chantz Williams.

"Jahfari has done some really good things, brings a skillset of being a powerful, fast, twitchy kid - he’s over 250 now,” Simpson said. “Chantz, another young kid, another intentional (guy), wants to do things right. Chantz realizes how much he has to learn, every day he’s inching along, getting a little bit better. It’s a process for all these guys. No one’s going to get crowned king in the spring.”

Junior Nesta Silvera returns as one full-time starter on the interior, while senior Jon Ford and redshirt freshman Jared Harrison-Hunte split the second DT starting role last season and are battling for the job this spring.

“Nesta has done a good job. His desire to learn football right now is higher than it’s ever been. We’ve watched NFL guys - Nesta is a guy with great movement skills. At the end of practice, we do walkthrough every day and you can see the light come on for him in some things he’s learning. He is a vertical, penetrating guys we want. The biggest thing going to the fall is his eyes.

“Jared has got some twitch and athleticism to him that I think is special. He’s still a young guy, though… Big Jon Ford - he’s a great mover, just is moving and playing with better eyes now, better conditioning. We have some guys that can be really, really good players.”

One young player in the middle of the DL who many feel could ascend the depth chart is freshman Elijah Roberts, and Simpson was asked about his progress so far in spring.

“I told coach (Manny) Diaz, I thought Saturday morning he made a huge jump from the first padded practice to the second, getting him in that attack mode. He has a good feel for the game. We’re just trying to get him more vertical right now.”


All American
Oct 16, 2017
Sounds to me like a lot of mumbo-jumbo. "His eyes", " getting vertical " "it's a process". What I think is happening is J. Harvey and Chantz Williams seem to have that " gear" that all excellent DE's need.


Oct 2, 2018
I’m thinking that Harvey goes OFF this year. He’ll surprise many. I predict 8–10 sacks especially w/ Coach Simpson back ina deh fold. Oddly enough, I think McCloud will even put up some honorable and respect play. Not saying he’ll be All Conference, BUT he’ll play good enough to piss us off because that’s where he should always been.


May 8, 2018
As long as Zach is a situational pass rusher on 3rd downs I’m fine with him on the DL. We need Jahfari and Deandre as the DE starters, with Chantz, Cam, Elijah all coming in rotation. DT I would put JHH AND Nesta together with Ford or Miller holding up the 2nd team reps. Can’t wait to see Taylor and where he will grabs snaps from; I would think SDE if his weight is still good. We could throw him inside on passing downs too as part of the NASCAR package. All in all I know we lack GameDay experience, but I think we’ll surprise sacks and TFL wise this season. Especially with Simpson coaching the DL.


Jun 15, 2015
the only question about Chantz is why didn't he get some play in the bowl game, the other question what about the other Williams who started so strong last year :