The Miami Hurricanes defense is entering 2017 with expectations higher than ever, as they bring back every starter on the front seven.
Despite the experience in the trenches; however, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is uncertain about one area on the back end.
“It is really hard to predict how we will go nickel and dime,” Diaz said. “We are still not 100 percent sure who are top four defensive backs are and we really will not know until probably second scrimmage in the fall. We know we have guys coming in that we expect to contribute right away in our secondary, and we got to give them a chance.”
Diaz went on to say the largest factor in those packages hinges on whether Miami’s fifth defensive back will be better than their third linebacker in normal down situations. The second year defensive coordinator says that once the new defensive backs enter Coral Gables after the Spring, they will have to find out whether they can be better than the third linebacker.
Regardless of who takes the reigns on the cornerback depth chart, it is clear that much of Miami’s leadership in the secondary must come from rising junior Jaquan Johnson. Johnson was apart of Miami’s safety rotation in 2016, and will be one of the ‘Canes oldest starters in the secondary next season.
“What I’m most proud about Jaquan is his new thing,” Ephraim Banda said. “He’s had something put on his plate since the moment he stepped in -- special teams to start off, last year it was being a good role player and also being a special teams player, and then going to nickel. Now what we’ve put on Jaquan’s plate is not only taking all those things, but now you’ve got to lead this group.”
Johnson will lead a safety group that lost two seniors in Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter. The potential replacements can go as young as freshman Amari Carter, but the most intriguing prospect is Sheldrick Redwine, who was converted from a cornerback to a safety this offseason and has been teammates with Johnson since high school.
“The fact that those two played at the same high school together coming up really, you can tell they have natural communication skills,” Banda said. “They’re actually roommates too, they’re roommates so, they have a little apartment together with Robert Knowles which is kinda cool, they are all together.”
The theme of unity is one the ‘Canes have stressed in the past, and will no doubt stress in 2017 as well. Prospects such as Trajan Bandy will enter the fold for Miami after the spring, and with a mass influx of secondary help expected to enter campus in 2018, the Hurricanes will look to solidify uncertainties as the offseason rolls along.
Where will Miami’s 2017 defense rank in the nation?
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