The Miami Hurricanes ended 2017 10-3 and ranked 17th in the S&P+ rankings. In those ten wins, the team felt guided by the defensive line, and especially the big defensive tackles. I wrote about them earlier in my piece titled Miami Hurricanes Football: Defensive Tackles Season Recap - Part One.
Highlight: Syracuse Orange
Miami’s defensive tackles played a great game against a potent Syracuse offense and quarterback Eric Dungey. Dungey was pressured by the interior three times, and they collected a dozen tackles and a pair of tackles for loss against Dino Babers’ Air Raid offense. Dungey threw four interceptions and they were all heavily pressured. The Orange quarterback was battered around by the ‘Canes entire defensive line but even more so by RJ McIntosh and Anthony Moten. McIntosh logged 5 tackles and a quarterback hurry while Moten, just a rotational player, logged three tackles and a hurry. Pat Bethel and Kendrick Norton each picked up two more tackles to slow down the Orange offense which was the highlight of the Syracuse season.
Lowlight: Clemson Tigers
McIntosh, Norton and Bethel combined for three tackles while Moten didn’t play in the ACC Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers. Clemson only ran for 77 yards but they didn’t need a ton of rushing yards as they played on a short field and they scored four touchdowns seemingly untouched by Miami defenders. The defensive interior looked lost and slow compared to their ACC counterparts. Clemson beat Miami 38-3 to win the ACC Championship once again.
Even against the Wisconsin Badgers, where McIntosh and Norton were thrown around like rag dolls, they still got in on a half dozen plays.
I’m not sure if any unit that falters under the big spotlight, like Miami’s interior defensive line did against Clemson and Wisconsin, can be given an A rating. They did good work against Georgia Tech, Syracuse, UNC and Notre Dame but to collapse so abruptly against the top competition slips them from an A- to a B+.
Outlook for 2018
With McIntosh and Norton leaving early for the NFL Draft and Moten graduating, the defensive tackle position looks rather grim heading into 2018. Pat Bethel and John Ford will have to become major players right away, and the ‘Canes will be relying on troubled veteran Gerald Willis to return to form and have matured with his leave of absence / scout team year in 2017. Miami has brought in Illinois grad transfer Tito Odenigbo, the younger brother of NFL defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo of the Vikings.