There seems to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Miami Hurricanes nowadays, and rightfully so. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is now the head coach at Temple, Mark Richt refuses to look for new offensive coordinators, players are leaving and recruits are de-committing.
The search for Diaz’s replacement didn’t take too long, as Richt named Ephraim Banda and Jonathan Patke co-dc’s, much to the delight of UM players.
In addition, first-year defensive line coach Jess Simpson has been promoted to associate head coach.
In 2018, Diaz helped build an elite defense, as the Hurricanes finished the regular season ranked second in the country in total defense.
Miami Hurricanes Defense in 2018— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) December 6, 2018
⚪ 1st in Passing Defense only allowing 1,690 yards
⚪ Gave up the 3rd fewest amount of yards in 2018 with 3,220
⚪ 22nd in Rushing Defense
⚪ 11th in Sacks
⚪ Tied for 14th in INTs
Still finished 7-5 pic.twitter.com/f3gUTR9lHZ
With Patke and Banda taking over for Diaz, Miami will continue to have one of the top defensive-units in college football come 2019.
Granted, it won't be easy. Following the 2018 season, the Canes will have more than their fair-share of seniors on defense leaving to the NFL, including All-American Gerald Willis III, as well as all-conference cornerback Michael Jackson and safety Jaquan Johnson.
To make matters more interesting, Mark Richt’s defense still faces the reality of having two juniors leave early for the NFL as well, defensive-end Joe Jackson and linebacker Shaquille Quarterman. Quarterman earned first-team All-ACC with 76 tackles and five sacks, while Jackson was an honorable-mention for all-conference, while leading Miami with 8.5 sacks.
Jackson is expected to declare after this year, as he is projected as an early second-round pick in several mock drafts. Quarterman though, who is looked at as a possible fourth-to-fifth round draft pick, could very-well return for his senior season in 2019, and work on improving his draft-placement.
If Quarterman stays, he will once again complete the trio of fellow junior linebackers Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud, as all three have been starting together since their freshman year in 2016.
Pinckney, another UM linebacker who eventually will be playin on Sundays, had himself a very strong junior season. Pinckney tallied nearly 70 tackles and also chalked up 9.5 TFLs. McCloud, though he doesn’t get as much praise as Quarterman or Pinckney, will bring a three-year starter resume to 2019’s defense.
Another thing to keep in mind, Diaz not only served as the DC, but was over the linebacking corp as well. Patke worked with the outside linebackers this season, and will continue to do so in the future. During 2018, Patke has helped Romeo Finley, another junior linebacker, have his best season as a Cane, and expect Finley to be somebody who will contribute heavily come next year.
As far as the defensive line is concerned, losing Gerald Willis III and most likely Joe Jackson will obviously hurt, but Jess Simpson’s unit showed enough in 2018 that’ll keep Miami’s front-four dominant.
Coming into this season, the defensive line was a concern around Miami, and yet Simpson turned out one of the best lineman groups in America. With the help of their dominating front-four, Miami’s defense recorded 126 TFLs, second-most in school history.
Taking the place of Willis at defensive-tackle will be Pat Bethel, and then several up-and-comers looking to make a name for themselves. Bethel became a full-time starter in 2018, had a career-year, and should be on people’s lists for a dark horse come next fall.
Nesta Silvera will challenge for the opposite tackle starting position, and is someone who could eventually carry on the legacy and national recognition as Willis. Silvera showed flashes of what’s to come, and has the same toughness and nastiness that Willis possessed, and plain and simple, is a Hurricane.
"Miami is home, this is the crib. You know. So, what I can do here I could go to Tuscaloosa, I could go to Gainesville, I could go to Tallahassee and make those schools good, but why not make the crib great?"— GO ‘CANES! (@83_87_89_91_01) October 24, 2018
- Nesta Silvera pic.twitter.com/nIPgTQKPoT
Jonathan Garvin leads the d-lineman returning next year if Jackson doesn't return. After an impressive freshman campaign, Garvin didn’t experience any kind of sophomore slump in 2018, finishing second on the team in sacks with 5.5 as well 16 TFLs, which was good for third in the ACC.
Garvin is much like Jackson, and will most-definitely be high on NFL draft boards come next season, but the Hurricanes defense will get to enjoy him for at least one more year. Look for freakishly-talented Gregory Rousseau or Scott Patchan to take the other d-end spot.
In the secondary, Miami is losing three seniors who will be drafted come this April to the NFL, safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine, as well cornerback Michael Jackson. Banda has been coaching the safeties since 2016, and turned Johnson into a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award this year.
Even with the loss of these three veterans, Miami’s secondary will continue to swarm on opponents passing games. Under coach Banda and cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph, the Hurricanes rank first in the nation in passing defense in 2018 as well as third-down conversions.
Don’t be alarmed, but the Hurricanes will return just one starter from those two positions, cornerback Trajan Bandy. Bandy had a breakout season in 2018 as a sophomore, and will be regarded as one of the top corners coming into next season.
Trajan Bandy was stout in coverage for the Hurricanes pic.twitter.com/fP2p19pUos— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 13, 2018
With Bandy on one side, the Canes will have a plethora of young corners to choose from to compliment him. Al Blades Jr., Gilbert Frierson and DJ Ivey, all with high expectations and much to prove, will challenge each-other for the starting position.
Hopefully my secondary is Gurvan Hall, Amari Carter, Al Blades Jr, Trajan Bandy, DJ Ivey and Tyrique Stevenson next year— Browns On The Rise (@Juicecane) November 28, 2018
As far as the safety position is concerned, Miami’s staff and their fans believe that they have found the perfect successors to Johnson and Redwine, Gurvan Hall and Amari Carter.
Hall will be a sophomore next year, while Carter will be entering his junior campaign, and the two are a duo that has been talked about for a long time, and may end up being the hardest-hitting tandem at safety in UM history.
LSU #33: "i wanna be just like levonta Taylor"— CaneNaughts⚓️ (@L0soJr) September 5, 2018
Amari Carter: "I gotcha fam" pic.twitter.com/NoiOtqDkAO
AMARI CARTER AND GURVAN HALL IN AT SAFETY!!!!!— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 9, 2018
THE DREAM IS COMING TRUUUUUUUEEEEE
Also keep in mind, this is without mentioning incoming freshman on defense who will make an impact in 2019.
If Jackson leaves and Quarterman stays for one more year, which is what I predict, the Hurricanes will return seven starters from one of the nations best defenses the year prior. Younger guys will need to step up, but with Miami running the same defensive schemes, expect the Canes D to be at the top again.