The linebacking group at Miami is looking ahead to the 2016-2017 season with optimism and hope. Should they though? Should we as fans?
There’s an overall lack of experienced depth among the cast and characters so
let’s get introduced to each of them and you can cast your opinion on what will
happen next season.
Jermaine Grace, Senior, Outside Linebacker
Simply put, Grace will be the lynchpin of the linebacker unit. He’s a leader of the defense and the team as a whole. He’s played for Miami the last four years in different capacities starting as a special teams ace his first season then slowly gained more time in the linebacker rotation in his sophomore season. Last season Grace started 10 games and paced the team with 79 total tackles from the outside linebacker position.
Looking forward to next season, Grace could be looking at a banner season in the orange and green. All Conference player is the floor for him. If he flies around on the field and gets even more awards, he could be a top flight linebacker at the next level.
Terry McCray, Redshirt
Sophomore, Backup Linebacker
McCray redshirted his first season as a Cane and last season played in only one game, the Bethune-Cookman blowout and registered four total tackles.
For next season McCray will have to step up and play meaningful minutes due to the roster attrition over the last two seasons. If he has a good summer camp he could be in the rotation at all linebacker positions and will have to play on special teams coverage units as well.
Sophomore, Backup Linebacker
Perry made brief appearances on and off throughout 9 games last season but sadly didn’t have much of an impact on the stats sheet totaling only 2 tackles. In high school he played both running back and linebacker so it would go to show he probably will need some time to grow into his role in college.
Next season Perry may crack the rotation at linebacker but wil see his primary role, at least initially, on special teams. If he can translate his bruising style from high school to the college game, he could see more and more time as the season goes along.
Juwon Young, Junior, Backup Linebacker
Young burst onto the scene last year when Raphael Kirby went down with a knee injury and started five of the last seven games in his stead. During that run of playing time he was up and down in his overall effectiveness. He had games where he had 10 or more tackles (Clemson, GT, WSU) and then was simply absent for other contests (verse Virginia he had one tackle).
Heading into next season Juwon Young’s status is deep doubt due to the events of last week. Young is under investigation for using luxury vehicles by the Miami Athletic Department Compliance. Currently he’s been suspended indefinitely and could be kicked off the team at any point based on the results of the investigation.
Jamie Gordinier, Redshirt Freshman, Backup Linebacker
Gordinier redshirted last year and could see time at any of the three positions next season. He will be a key cog on all the special teams units. If he has a great summer training camp he could split reps with starters. It’s important to note that he did see some starting burn during spring camp so he could be in line for a big impact next season if he keeps refining his talents.
Zach McCloud, Freshman, Backup Linebacker
McCloud is one of the three freshmen phenoms that early enrolled at Miami and could see heavy playing time in 2017. He starred at Santaluces and was rated by most of the recruiting services as a high three star prospect or four star based on where you were to look.
Due to his size (roughly 220 pounds) he will probably see time on the outside at first. If Quarterman can hold down the inside then McCloud will probably see most of his time rotating at the weak side behind Grace or possibly even rotating as a starter on the strong side.
Shaq Quarterman, Freshman, Middle Linebacker
Since Quarterman has arrived on campus with the three freshman linebackers in the 2016 class he has essentially penciled himself in as the starter at middle linebacker. He’s one of the unique cases where he was able to come into college and be physically ready to contribute right away (he’s already bulked up to 245 pounds). With the investigation ongoing with Juwon Young it looks like Coach Richt and his staff will be looking for a new backup behind Quarterman rather than a new starter with the void left behind by Young.
For next season, if all goes as planned, Quarterman will have the opportunity to be named as a freshman All American and be a big contributor to the Miami defense. The best comparison I can make for Canes fans would be how Duke Johnson burst onto the scene as a freshman and was special for his three seasons on campus. He could make an instant impact and be really good, really quickly.
Michael Pinckney, Freshman, Backup Linebacker
What was written about McCloud can be copied and pasted in this description as well. Pinckney will see time at any of the three linebacker positions next year and will have to hone his craft on special teams as well.
Mike Smith, Redshirt Sophomore, Backup Linebacker
Smith redshirted his first season and saw scant time throughout last season. He saw increased time during the last five games of the season but contributed primarily on special teams. He totaled six tackles last season.
For next year he’ll probably be in line for a big role on special teams and possibly in the base defense. Smith can play at any of the three linebacker positions but could see time at outside linebacker specifically.
Darrion Owens, Junior, Outside Linebacker
Owens has had a big impact on the Canes the last two plus seasons whether it be good or bad. In his freshman season Owens saw time as a primary backup along the outside and totaled an admirable 23 tackles. Last season was supposed to be his breakout campaign as the starter on the outside opposite of Grace but got bit by the injury bug in just the second game of the season with a torn ACL he was lost for the rest of the year.
Looking ahead to next season I think Owens could be the starter again. He’ll have competition from the two young freshmen for playing time on the outside but I believe he can hold down the spot long term. He has the unique gift of having the speed of a safety but the hitting power of a linebacker. If he can retain those abilities after his rehabilitation then the group should be very athletic at all three positions.
Overall Opinion On The Unit
Next season is going to be… interesting. If you’re looking at this optimistically you could say we’ll get to see how well the freshmen are really quickly. The reasons? Simply put because they’ll have to play. There’s not much depth at all throughout the group and the talent is really only two or three deep at each of the three positions. If we see injuries like we had last year.. No comment.
What do you all think? Post below and let us know!