The Miami Hurricanes defense enters the 2017 season riding high after excelling on that side of the ball last year. Miami’s defense took a huge jump in major statistical categories. The Hurricanes finished the season with 108 tackles for loss and 38 sacks. The previous season saw Miami register just 66 tackles for loss and 26 sacks. The improvement can be credited to the front seven and the new Philosophy inspired by Cane’s Defensive Line Coach, Craig Kuligowski. Coach Kool, has installed a new sense of passion, attitude and aggressiveness that exemplifies the defensive line slogan “Let's met at the quarterback”.
We will now preview Miami’s defensive end position, a unit that will help lead the charge to increase those sacks and tackles for loss during the 2017 season.
Projected starters: Chad Thomas, Joe Jackson
Key backups: Demetrius Jackson, Trent Harris
Freshman impact players: Jonathan Garvin, DJ Johnson
The Unquestioned Leader: Chad Thomas
Thomas enters his senior season as the unquestioned leader of Miami’s defensive line unit. Coming off a year where he posted career numbers with 37 tackles (11 for loss) and 4.5 sacks, Thomas Enters the fall looking to take his play to another level. During the spring Thomas was praised for his work ethic and on-field leadership. He has improved his body and energy as he looks to end his final season by making good on his five-star potential. The 6-6, 265-pounder credits the coaching staff for preparing the team and himself to be successful. That includes both defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski. Thomas has welcomed his role of being a vocal leader for the defense and he should thrive in that role. I expect a big year from Thomas, after all, he is now playing for Milk.
A Star is Rising: Joe Jackson
Few expected much from last year’s Freshman Phenom Joe Jackson. Miami headed into the season with a veteran unit of Chad Thomas, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Trent Harris and Demetrius Jackson. Muhammed was kick off the team before the season started opening the door for Jackson to see snaps in a reserve role. Jackson had bigger plans. He became the team's biggest surprise as a role player and by the end of the year, he cemented himself as a starter leading the Hurricane defense with 8.5 sacks. He now enters his Sophomore season bigger, faster and stronger after spending a full year in the strength and conditioning program. Blessed with a relentless motor and a nasty first step, Jackson should easily approach double digits sacks on a unit tha’s stack with talent. He will be a nightmare for any lineman trying to block him.
Quality Depth: Demetrius Jackson & Trent Harris
You want to know why Miami is expected to have a great defense this year, look no further than the depth of Miami’s defensive end position. Blessed with two backups who could be starters on many teams in the country, Demetrius Jackson and Trent Harris will allow Miami defense to sub in and out without missing a beat. Demetrius Jackson showed promise last year totaling 28 tackles (15 solos) and 6.0 tackles for loss. He added 2.5 sacks and four pass breakups. Trent Harris effectively known as Tool Box Trent is a senior who always finds himself in the right position and rarely makes mistakes. He finished the season with 25 tackles including career-best 9.5 tackles for loss. He also finished with 3.0 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two pass breakups. Expect both Jackson and Harris to play major roles as the look to keep Miami’s well-oiled machine firing on all cylinders.
The Freshman impact player: Jonathan Garvin and DJ Johnson.
During spring ball Jonathan Garvin impressed coaches with his play on the field. He was an early enrollee coming out of high school where he dominated, finishing with 97 tackles, 59 tackles for loss and school-record 18 sacks. He carried that over into spring ball and hopes to continue his progress this fall as he pushes for playing time. DJ Jonson another highly touted recruit will arrive in July and is looking to make a name for himself this fall. He is blessed with size and speed and lead the nation with the most college offers. Both he and Garvin will have a tall task getting on the field this fall with Miami’s returning talent, but I will not be surprised if one or both gets some snaps in pass-rushing situations. This is a great problem for Miami to have.
Miami’s defensive end position will be one of the top units in the ACC. Thomas and Jackson will be a tough match-up for any offensive line unit. The quality depth highlighted by two impact freshmen will make this a scary unit that should surpass their impressive numbers from last year.