After taking a look at what the offense could look like in 2018, we’ll move on to a defense that looks to replace a few key players this year.
DE - Demetrius Jackson (6’3 265) RSr.
Jonathan Garvin (6’4 245) So.
Before a season-ending injury to Demetrius Jackson, he was quietly having a great season. He had many moments where he looked like Miami’s top edge rusher, finishing his seven-game season with 18 tackles, 7.5 TFL’s and 3.5 sacks. He returns in 2018 with an open spot on the edge after the graduation of Chad Thomas. Sophomore Jonathan Garvin will be one of the top DE’s in the ACC, even if he starts games on the sideline.
DT - Gerald Willis (6’4 285) RSr.
Pat Bethel (6’3 280) Jr.
Gerald Willis is coming back to the team at the perfect time. Losing DT’s RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton to the NFL Draft is tough, but Gerald Willis is of a very similar talent level. Behind him will be Pat Bethel who, in his second year, showed great improvement and may be Coach Kool’s next masterful project. Illinois-transfer Tito Odenigbo will see snaps here but will likely be nothing more than a solid depth piece for this defense.
DT - Jon Ford (6’5 315) So.
Nesta Silvera (6’2 310) Fr.
Jon Ford could have a break-out season. He arrived on campus late last year and never really worked his way into the permanent rotation, although he did see snaps. He has terrific size and after a year in a Division I football program, he should be more physically ready. True-freshmen Nesta Silvera and Jordan Miller will be fighting for snaps at the same spot as Ford. With so much young talent at this DT spot, I wouldn’t be shocked if any of the three are starting by the end of the year. For now though, I don’t see either of the newcomers working past Ford.
DE - Joe Jackson (6’5 260) Jr.
Scott Patchan (6’6 240) RJr.
Joe Jackson will be eligible for the NFL Draft following the 2018 campaign, and that should be motivation enough to have an All-American year. After a terrific freshman season, he flew a bit under the radar last year. While he clearly should be Miami’s top DE, he is also simply the only realistic option here. Scott Patchan has good size and length, but he hasn’t shown anything of note on the field at all during his career. He has a golden opportunity to prove that he can play this year.
LB - Michael Pinckney (6’1 230) Jr.
Charles Perry (6’1 230) Sr.
Michael Pinckney was arguably Miami’s best LB in 2017 and has even more potential to tap this year. Just like the other two junior LB’s, Pinckney will have the opportunity to bolt off to the NFL after this season and will have every chance to impress scouts. Behind him should be Charles Perry, who, before losing his season to injury last year, was a more than serviceable back-up. This spot is in good hands.
LB - Shaquille Quarterman (6’1 240) Jr.
Bradley Jennings (6’1 230) So.
Quarterman will be looked on to be a leader in his junior year. This will be his third year starting and there’s no reason to expect that he won’t start the first game of 2018. Sophomore Bradley Jennings didn’t see a whole lot of time with the defense in 2017 but with some room after the departure of Darrion Owens, he has a chance to stick in the two-deep. He’ll likely be battling for this spot with redshirt freshman Waynmon Steed and redshirt senior Mike Smith.
LB - Zach McCloud (6’2 230) Jr.
Mike Smith (6’1 235) RSr.
If any of the three returning starters at LB are in jeopardy of losing their starting gigs, it’s Zach McCloud. He disappointed in his second season and has young guys, along with veteran Mike Smith, breathing down his back. Along with Smith, look for guys such as sophomore De’Andre Wilder and freshman Patrick Joyner to get snaps behind/along with McCloud in the early part of 2018 before the rotation is fully ironed out.
CB - Michael Jackson (6’1 200) Sr.
Jhavonte Dean (6’2 185) Sr.
Michael Jackson had a break-out season in 2017 and will be a full-time starter in 2018. He has a shot at being an All-American and after spurning the NFL Draft, will try to move up the draft boards of teams behind stellar play. After the unfortunate injury to Malek Young, Jackson is Miami’s top CB. Jhavonte Dean has a chance to see the field much more this season but for now he sits with the second string. I wouldn’t be shocked if freshman Gilbert Frierson overtakes Dean at some point in the season if he can’t prove to be trusted in his final year of eligibility.
SS - Jaquan Johnson (5’11 190) Sr.
Gurvan Hall (5’11 190) Fr.
Possibly Miami’s top defender, Jaquan Johnson is a lock to start and will be backed-up by highly touted and hard-hitting freshman Gurvan Hall. Hall will get to play behind Johnson for a year and learn before taking over the reigns in 2019. There is little up for debate here.
FS - Sheldrick Redwine (6’1 195) Sr.
Amari Carter (6’2 200) So.
Derrick Smith (6’2 215) So.
Sheldrick Redwine started here last year and there is little to suggest that he won’t do so for his final run. With that said, both Amari Carter and Derrick Smith showed top-end flashes in 2017 and saw extended snaps. Both of those guys will get every opportunity to supplant Redwine in the spring and fall, but at this point I see the elder statesman holding on to start the year. This position may see multiple starters by the time the season ends.
CB - Trajan Bandy (5’9 180) So.
DJ Ivey (6’1 180) Fr.
This is the most difficult spot to predict for the Canes. Bandy made some big plays in his first year and even had three starts. I also think that freshman DJ Ivey was one of the top corners in the class of 2018 and will be ready to compete immediately. I go with Bandy as the starter for week one with his edge of experience, but I ultimately see Ivey becoming the starter. Bandy will still see starts at the nickle when Miami goes 4-2-5 for certain games and LB Zach McCloud goes to the bench.
Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below.