Before you know it Miami will be starting fall practice and getting ready for a heavyweight matchup with LSU in Texas. That will be the first of many challenges for this offense. Today, I am going to go over the top five defenses that Miami will face throughout their 2018 campaign. Feel free to fight me on these.
5. Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech is losing a whopping total of 278 tackles in 2018. First rounders Tremaine and Terrell Edmunds are gone. Linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka, who played in 50 games and totaled 333 tackles in his career as a Hokie is gone. Big DT Tim Settle had four sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2017 and is now a Washington Redskin. Unless you are Alabama, losing that much talent and production WILL impact the next year’s team.
One thing keeping me level is the fact that Bud Foster is still the defensive coordinator. As long as that remains constant, I will have high expectations for whoever suits up in Blacksburg. The Hokies still have talented guys in the defensive backfield, such as Mook Reynolds and Reggie Floyd, but others will need to step up to make up for some key losses.
Miami will be on the road against VT in mid-November in what will surely be a cold night in Blacksburg. The Canes lost convincingly 37-16 the last time they went up to Blacksburg.
4. Boston College Eagles
Boston College quietly lead the entire ACC with 18 interceptions. Yes, lead. That means more than Miami, Clemson, VT, EVERYBODY. Of those 18 interceptions, players responsible for 14 of them will be returning for the Eagles on defense this upcoming year. The departures of Ty Schwab, Boston Colleges leading tackler, and sack-machine, Harold Landry, should be a cause for concern in Chestnut Hill, but plenty of talent is returning.
Miami fans, remember the name Zach Allen. Allen is a 6’5 285 lb DE that creates chaos for offensive coordinators, quarterbacks and frankly anyone who is in his way. Allen totaled 91 tackles in 2017 with six sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Allen will be a nightmare on that Friday night in October -- especially with the uncertainty about the strength of Miami’s offensive line.
Lukas Denis, a BC defensive back, is returning for his senior year after being tied for second in the entire NCAA in interceptions with seven. He also batted eight passes for the Eagles last year and was third on the team in total tackles with 79. If you want to see how good he is check out his 2017 highlights:
As a defense they allowed 22.8 points per game which ranked sixth in the conference. The stingy secondary allowed just 191.9 passing yards per game – less than Miami, Virginia Tech, and Florida State. We cannot sleep on the Boston College Eagles in 2018.
3. Duke Blue Devils
If you read one of my earlier pieces on the top ten players Miami will have to game plan for in 2018, you will know that I am sky-high on Duke defenders Joe Giles-Harris (125 tackles in 2017) and Mark Gilbert, who finished tied for third nationally with six interceptions on the year. Duke created 30 turnovers in 2017 and finished first in the ACC with four defensive touchdowns. A lot of people will look at Duke and not even flinch, but what David Cutcliffe has been able to accomplish there has been noteworthy.
The Blue Devils allowed just 20.2 points per game in 2017 which is good for third in the entire ACC. They were able to accomplish that by holding opponents to just 179.4 passing yards per game, which also ranks third in the conference.
Duke lost just two of their top ten tacklers, but that includes star DT Mike Ramsay — a captain of the team and a guy who played 1,812 snaps for the Blue Devils throughout the 50 games of his career.
Miami hosts Duke on November 3rd.
2. Florida State Seminoles
Losing Derwin James, Matthew Thomas, Tarvarus McFadden, Derrick Nnadi, Josh Sweat, Jacob Pugh, Trey Marshall, etc. is the only reason they aren't at number one. I know they have had the recruiting classes to re-load. They still have players on this roster that are elite. DE Brian Burns and CB Levonta Taylor highlight that group. Joshua Kaindoh should get a bigger role in the pass rush to showcase his five-star rating he received out of high school by all of the major recruiting services. DT Demarcus Christmas should fill in nicely for Nnadi and be disruptive on the defensive line.
Then you have guys like Marvin Wilson, who many believed was the best high school defensive tackle in the 2017 class, that should be expected to make a big leap in production as a sophomore.
It is foolish to look at FSU as a team that struggled to win six games in 2017. This is a team with a defense as good and fast as any you will find. Despite their struggles last year, they still finished in the top third of the ACC in many defensive categories such as: points allowed per game (5th in ACC), yards allowed per game (3rd in ACC), passing yards allowed per game (5th in ACC), rushing yards allowed per game (4th in ACC) and sacks per game (T-4 in ACC).
Miami hosts Florida State on October 6th, where we will beat them for the second straight year.
1. LSU Tigers
LSU will present Miami with their biggest test in 2018. Despite losing guys like first-round CB Donte Jackson, LB Arden Key, DT Greg Gilmore and DE Christian LaCouture, LSU will still have a strong, attacking defense in 2018. LSU’s Defensive Coordinator, David Aranda, is very similar to Manny Diaz in the way that he loves to bring pressure with his 3-4 defense and is never afraid to be aggressive.
Linebacker Devin White, who recorded 133 tackles in 2017, might be one of the best players that Miami will face all year and is already being talked about as being one of the top players in the 2019 NFL Draft. In fact, Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com listed Devin White as the No. 9 player on his board alongside his teammate, CB Greedy Williams, who had six interceptions in 2017, as the No. 7 player.
John Battle is a senior safety for LSU and may be a name that is familiar to some Miami fans. Battle played his high school football at Hallandale Beach, but was not offered by Golden’s staff. Battle has turned out to be a key player in LSU’s defense. He had 61 tackles in his junior year and forced two fumbles while intercepting a pass and deflecting four others.
This Tigers defense is loaded with young talent as well. A player to watch is rising sophomore safety Grant Delpit. Delpit finished his freshman campaign with 60 tackles, one interception and eight pass deflections.
Another rising sophomore is linebacker, Jacob Phillips, who was a highly sought after recruit out of Tennessee. Phillips finished the season with just 18 tackles, but I would not be the least bit surprised to see that number sky rocket this fall.
Miami faces off against LSU in their season opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Miami will face many challenges from an offensive standpoint in 2018, but I believe these five teams pose the biggest threats to Mark Richt and Co.
Who has the best defense on Miami’s schedule?
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