In 2016 Miami’s freshman played the 5th most snaps of any group in the nation, and the ‘Canes have made the pitch of early playing time towards all recruits that will sign tomorrow on National Signing Day.
Miami will look to add top talents to positions of need such as cornerback and wide receiver on Wednesday; but regardless of who puts pen to paper on a Miami letter of intent tomorrow, the 2017 Hurricanes will be carried by those veterans who were thrown into the fire last season as freshman and sophomores.
The ‘Canes had over 4 new starters on the front 7 alone in 2016, making it one of the biggest question marks on the team before the year began. One year later; however, two freshman linebackers were named to freshman all-american teams, and defensive end Joseph Jackson was tied for the freshmen lead in sacks.
“Every practice we try to do one thing better than the day before,” freshman linebacker Zach McCloud said. “You get so many of those practices you elevate so much [by the end of the season].”
McCloud and the rest of Miami’s front seven learned from those practice reps under the new coaching staff and took their game to another level in 2016, improving from 105th in the nation to 6th in tackles for loss, and placed top 25 in the country in sacks.
But despite the early success under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, the ‘Canes front seven will look to take the next step as veterans in 2017.
“I’m looking forward to getting better next year,” freshman linebacker Shaq Quarterman said. “In my whole game overall -- getting in shape so that, you know, when I’m on the field I can play those series after series and I don’t have to come off.”
Quarterman and the rest of Miami’s freshman linebackers handled the bulk of snaps in 2016 with little depth behind them, but should be adding linebackers such as Deandre Wilder and Bradley Jennings Jr. to handle some of the load on limited snaps.
Despite the newfound depth at linebacker; however, Miami’s depth at cornerback is still yet to be determined, as several cornerback prospects sign tomorrow. But with every single starter on Miami’s front seven returning in 2017, the ‘Canes should have the opportunity to mask inexperience in the secondary with experience in the front seven.
I'm pretty high on the Miami D headed into 2017. Here's why. https://t.co/I23q5dR49q— Andrea Adelson (@aadelsonESPN) January 25, 2017
The front seven will look to continue making tackles in the backfield, and look for a route to success as last season. Miami’s defense only allowed 18.9 points per game in 2016, the fewest in a decade, and have continued to stress fundamentals as the key to success.
“You’re tackling somebody if you’re not giving up a lot of points because you are not giving up big plays,” Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz said. “If you don’t give up big plays and you’re tough in the red zone it’s hard to score on you. So I think from an identity standpoint, and the thing we talk about with our guys toughness and tackling it’s like pitching in baseball -- it should travel every week.”
Miami will travel to Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee to face Florida State in their first ACC game of the season; and with young players making up a bulk of Miami’s depth, the Hurricanes front seven will have take over to get the win.