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Miami’s Best Kept Secrets on Defense

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These players may have flown under the radar in the offseason, but are paying huge dividends for the Canes D.

NCAA Football: Savannah State at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to accolades and recognition, you’ll surely not run out of superlatives to describe the performance of this defense. Ranked as the best defense in the country entering their opening week (allowing an average of only 237 yards-per-game), first in the nation with 81 tackles-for-loss, and tied for third in the country in takeaways, the numbers back up the Canes’ hype. We’ve talked about the force of nature that is DT Gerald Willis III, the linebacking trio, the franchise player at free safety and the shutdown corner who shares a name with a pop icon. However, as you can imagine, there are some names that escape applause and appreciation. At least they did… until now.

It’s difficult to imagine how S Sheldrick Redwine has flown under anyone’s radar, given his outsized personality. A catalyst of swagger, Redwine is as much a playmaker in the secondary as his much more publicized cohorts, applying jarring hits, timely deflections and primetime interceptions. While the Turnover Chain remains an ideal accessory for any Hurricane defender, there’s an extra special feeling when No. 22 strides triumphantly to the sideline looking for the whiteboard and a marker to display a message to the those with a view of the Canes’ bench. Whether it’s a shoutout to his Mama, a statement about fair weather fandom or just taking it back to “The Crib”, the messages from this Miami Killian High School graduate have become a must see attraction — one that broadcast networks need to cut to more often.

North Carolina v Miami
Striker Romeo Finley has been a breakout success on the nation’s best defensive unit.
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Sometimes it’s not what you’re doing, but where you’re put on the field to do it. For former safety Romeo Finley, the move to the team’s striker position has been a huge boon for both player and team. Adding versatility to the pass rush and coverage abilities of the defense, the Niceville High School standout has excelled in 2018, with an uptick in snaps and production. Pro Football Focus has high praise for Finley based on the amount of balls he breaks up at the line of scrimmage. Finely has 12 tackles, two pass breakups, an INT and one TD through seven games on the season. As you can imagine, those are single-season highs for the junior Fort Walton Beach, Florida, native. With Finley seeing more time on the field, Miami’s defense has been able to put the clamps on passing options from the opposing team.

NCAA Football: Miami at Louisiana State Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

When we talk about Miami’s linebackers, the last name that usually comes up is Zach McCloud. It’s tough make a name for yourself beside a leader among men such as Shaq Quarterman and an outsized personality like Michael Pinckney. However, the third part of the Canes’ junior LB triangle deserves his due. McCloud is one of those players who thrives on playing close to the line of scrimmage, tearing off the edges or squirming through a gap to redirect the ball carrier or ultimately make the tackle. McCLoud’s numbers so far — 22 tackles with 2.5 TFL — are below that of his peers, but the LB is one of the more experienced and capable defenders in the box for the Hurricanes. Reliable in fulfilling his assignment, it’s not often that you catch No. 53 off guard or out of position. Ironically enough, McCloud is subbed off the field by the aforementioned Romeo Finley. While his playing time may have dipped compared to past years, the standard of play has remained constant, if not improved, entering the final stretch of the season.

Of course, we can’t name the entire team, but let us know in the comment section what you think. Has there been another player that you feel has flown under the radar and deserves some acknowledgment?