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2017 Miami Hurricanes Position Preview: Defensive Tackles

The defensive interior looks to wreak more havoc this season

Bethune-Cookman v Miami Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Projected Depth Chart

Richard McIntosh / Kendrick Norton

Gerald Willis Jr. / Anthony Moten

Pat Bethel / Jonathan Ford

Tyreic Martin / Ryan Fines

The Miami Hurricanes defense is a hot commodity this offseason, according to various publications. As great as the ’Canes edge-rushers are going to be, the tackles lined up in the interior of the defensive line will be ready to disrupt offenses this season as well.

Key Departures from 2016

Courtel Jenkins (Dismissed/transferred to Houston)

The Starters

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami
McIntosh looks to continue getting his hands on quarterbacks this fall
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Richard Mcintosh and Kendrick Norton return for their junior seasons and will headline a talented group in the middle of the defense. Both players begin a new campaign to disrupt the opponents’ run game while simultaneously creating chaos in the pocket.

This will be the second season in defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s 4–3 defensive scheme and their second year under the tutelage of DL coach Craig Kuligowski. In 2016, as sophomores, Mcintosh and Norton combined to form a formidable duo, putting together career bests: McIntosh had 47 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and 2 kicks/punts blocked while Norton had 32 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

Entering a pivotal season, will both McIntosh and Norton continue to improve their play or come close to the numbers they put forth last season? We think the answer is yes. Entering their second season in this new system, they’ll gain more exposure to various aspects of college football and expand their repertoire and knowledge of the game. As a result, it seems inevitable for the duo to take another step forward in their third year at Miami, even if the stat line does not reflect this growth.

Next Men Up

NCAA Football: Miami at Georgia Tech
Pat Bethel slides to defensive tackle in 2017
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

It takes more than two men to make a defensive line successful. While Mcintosh and Norton will get the majority of snaps, there still needs to be non-starting players who can bring pressure and be specialist role players. With 80–100 plays per game, depth is crucial not just to win games but to survive the season.

The good news for Miami is that there is great depth behind the starting duo, especially given that the biggest loss from the group this offseason was Courtel Jenkins, who was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules before transferring to Houston.

The Hurricanes have the potential to be even better than a season ago based on the depth at this position. Whether it is Pat Bethel (who moved over from defensive end last season) or Gerald Willis III (who finished with 5.5 tackles for loss), Miami has capable players ready to step in when called. Senior Anthony Moten is an example of a player who has grown up in multiple systems and can contribute. A season ago Moten was forced to line up as a defensive end against Virginia Tech due to injuries on the edge of the defensive line. Ryan Fines has also received plenty of visual reps and should be ready if called upon.

The unknown of the group is six-foot-five, 275-pound DL Jonathan Ford, who will look to make a good impression when he puts on a practice jersey during summer camp. A guy who plays with an edge, Ford could be the next UM freshman to earn playing time sooner rather than later.

Summer Camp Battle: Who Will Make Up the Second Rotation?

The battle to find out who comes on the field to relieve McIntosh and Norton will be determined this summer. This spring Anthony Moten split reps with Norton, while Gerald Willis sat out and recovered from MCL surgery on his in his left knee. It is believed that Willis will be ready to go by camp and the start of the season. There will be new faces in the mix, with Pat Bethel making the change to the inside and Jon Ford enrolling and ready to compete in camp.

Bottom Line

Led by defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski (top left) Miami’s defensive interior looks to feast on opponents in 2017
Photo Courtesy (Twitter)

As Coach Kuligowski mentioned this spring, this defensive line group has the opportunity to be one of the best in the country on a consistent basis. If you watch film of the 2016 Hurricanes, you will see how well the defensive line as a whole was able to put pressure on the offense with stunts and twists to create confusion in the blocking assignment. They’ll need to continue with this relentless pressure and hustle if they want to be successful in 2017.

The type of linemen that Miami has brought in reflects the ideal of the team and fans, which is to have players who not only play as great defenders but also look the part. The shortest player among the defensive interior is listed as six foot two on the Miami Hurricanes website. The lightest of the group is be Pat Bethel, who was 275 pounds this past spring. This is a change from the previous regime, who were content with bringing in big-bodied tackles who were not always the most athletic or giving their best effort.

The UM defensive interior has the talent, depth, and experience to improve in 2017. Perhaps the only question left is, What will their ceiling be?