We’ve all followed the news and notes Cam and the other on-field reporters have given us on a practice by practice basis. I plan on breaking down what I’ve read based on their observations and then add some of my own prognostications. Feel free to leave your own in the comments section!
Let’s get to this!
Besides the lofty goals the unit is looking towards achieving in the 2017-2018 campaign, there’s only a few updates. First, Pat Bethel is moving from defensive end to defensive tackle. This transition to the interior will add another body to the rotation at defensive tackle while also adding a little more athleticism on the inside. Second, from multiple reports throughout the spring Camp, it sounds like the coaching staff is extremely pleased with the progress freshman Jonathan Garvin is making as a defensive end.
The defensive line should only be getting better from last year to this year so the fact that there’s been no “earth shattering” news coming from this section of the defense is fine by me. With Bethel moving to the inside of the defensive line he can add to the overall pass rushing abilities for the defensive tackles. The inside of the line just got another player dangerous in 2017; fine by me.
Along the outside the fact that Garvin is wowing teammates and coaches is really an added bonus. Next season the Canes will be leaning on Chad Thomas, Demetrius Jackson, Trent Harris and a few other upper classmen along the defensive end rotation. If Garvin is earning reps with those names listed, he’s doing lots right in practice and has a bright future looking ahead even passed next season.
All three of the “Bermuda Triangle” are back and looking to improve on their initial season under Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz. Darrion Owens has started to earn more playing time at the outside linebacker position after being a few years removed from his season ending knee surgery. Another top performer during the spring drills has been backup middle linebacker Mike Smith. Unbeknownst to me, Smith had a knee injury when he arrived on campus a few season ago and is also starting to get more reps with the first team defense the last week or so. Jamie Gordinier is still rehabbing post his season ending knee injury from last year and looks to crack the two or three deep in the weeks to come.
This group is all about competition and fighting for snaps. I’m really encouraged to be hearing that Owens and Smith are starting to get more first team reps. The more contributors to the linebacking group the better as it’s a tremendously taxing position that can be stung by the injury bug at any time during the season.
As much as the other two-thirds of the defense has stayed relatively stable, the secondary has had a microscope leveled onto it this offseason as this group has had the most turnover in personnel from last season. Early in the offseason, right after national signing day, the Canes were fortunate enough to get a pledge from stud senior grad transfer Dee Delaney from the Citadel. Delaney had recently been graded by the NFL draft experts as a mid-round talent. He decided that wasn’t good enough so he decided to transfer for his final year to Miami to get further exposure against Power 5 talent and the national scouts.
Delaney will be on campus in a month or two, the big news out of Greentree is probably the position switch of Sheldrick Redwine from cornerback to safety. From the measurables that we know of Redwine (big corner who can tackle well but may be a tad bit slow in the agility department) this switch could be a boon for his production value. Right now he’s starting as one of the two safeties. The other starting safety is his current roommate and longtime high school friend, Jaquan Johnson.
This secondary group about four months ago looked like a real Achilles heel heading into the 2017 campaign. However, with the 2017 recruiting class led by top JUCO corner Jhavonte Dean and local product Trajan Bandy coming in to compete for playing time in the next few weeks, this group is looking to keep the defense sound on the back end.
I can’t really stress enough how big a get Delaney is for this unit. For comparison sake: Adrian Colbert was pretty much discarded by Texas as a depth player only before he transferred to Miami last season. At Texas he was a backup safety or a third or fourth cornerback who never lived up to his billing as a high level recruit out of high school. When he signed on with Miami last season he instantly stepped in and when he was healthy provided a spark in the secondary when it came to timely pass break ups and highlight hits on opponents. He truly came in and provided a spark in his one year on campus and now looks to potentially be an NFL prospect in a few weeks. Now Miami has another similar senior grad transfer stepping into the secondary that’s already rated highly by talent evaluators? Getty up.
Overall Defensive Group “Take” From Spring Practice:
My aspirations with this group is that I hope they get through spring unscathed and ready for the fall. As you probably got my drift throughout the above: no news is good news. Once we get to fall practices and the added talent from the 2017 recruiting class gets to school, we’ll be able to see if there are any new comers that can crack the two deep of an already potent and dangerous defense. I guess that a few will earn some time on the defense but most of the 2017 recruits will either redshirt or play on special teams.
The group as a whole truly does have the potential to be one of Miami’s best in easily the last 5 years (because you know, Mark D’Onofrio, lol) but possibly also maybe the last decade as well. All the front seven is returning and the secondary has undergone a complete reload but the potential is there with the highly rated recruits (Bandy, Dean and Johnson) and also the seasoned senior leader whose sole goal this year is to improve his draft stock for the next NFL draft.
What are your thought on the defense so far through spring practices? Leave your comments below: