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Miami Hurricanes 2018 Position Preview: Defensive Ends

Miami’s edge-rushers appear poised to continue their disruptive ways this season.

DE Joe Jackson
247 Sports

Fielding talented edge-rushers is a feat that the Miami Hurricanes have gotten adept at over the years. The program has produced talents such as Eddie Edwards, Daniel Stubbs and Kenard Lang; it’s also responsible for more recent stars such as Olivier Vernon and Calais Campbell. The 2018 group will look to live up to the legacy left behind by those men as they get after quarterbacks and rushers this coming season. With that, State of the U brings you the 2018 Defensive Ends Preview.

Key Losses

Chad Thomas

Trent Harris

Coach Craig Kuligowski

2018 Additions

Greg Rousseau

Scott Patchan (Moved from TE to DE)

Coach Jess Simpson

Despite the losses of Chad Thomas and Trent Harris, there is a strong belief that the Hurricanes edge-rushers should be an improved group moving forward. Along with breaking in new players on the edge of the defensive line, the group will also be led by a new position coach after former DL coach Craig Kuligowski transferred to Alabama when their DL coach, Karl Dunbar, moved on to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The early impression is favorable of the new D line coach, who inherits a talented group of edge-rushers at the position.

Players at the position

Demetrius Jackson

Joe Jackson

Jonathan Garvin

Greg Rousseau

Scott Patchan

Projected Starters

First Team — Demetrius Jackson and Joe Jackson

Second Team — Jon Garvin and Greg Rousseau/Scott Patchan

Third Team — None

Viper (3–4 formation) — Jon Garvin and/or Greg Rousseau

Choose a Jackson and you can’t go wrong. Joe Jackson, who has accumulated 15 sacks in his two seasons as a ’Cane—two more than former Aquinas HS grad Nick Bosa’s 13.5 in the same time—or Demetrius Jackson, who was the most well-rounded defender on the defensive line that the Hurricanes have on the roster, both allow Miami to boasts one of the best starting DE tandems in college football. Both guys have consistently illustrated they’re capable of winning one-on-one matchups as well as of commitment to hustling on plays that are not heading in their direction. Both players have a proficiency in at least one aspect of the game: Joe Jackson’s a pass-rushing and Demetrius Jackson’s edge-setting and run-stuffing. Yet both are more than capable of wearing multiple hats to succeed in other areas of the game.

The ‘Viper’ in Miami’s defensive system is a hybrid between a linebacker and defensive end. The position is meant to get one of the team’s better pass-rushers on the field. A season ago, Trent Harris led the team in sacks, alternating in that role and as a traditional hand-in-the-dirt defensive end. This year, the Hurricanes have a couple prime candidates to fill that role.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Miami
With a knack for making a play as a freshman, DE Jonathan Garvin could be even more disruptive as a sophomore.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The first is last season’s breakout star on the defensive line Jon Garvin. Excelling on special teams early in the season, Garvin flashed when given defensive snaps as a freshman towards the middle of the season. He moved into a starting role after Demetrius Jackson’s injury, and impressed the coaching staff and fanbase at how far he came in a matter of months. Garvin put together three tackles-for-loss, with two of those counting as sacks in 2017. Listed at 6’4” and 235 pounds and showing a knack for being disruptive in the backfield (two fumbles forced), getting the sophomore more snaps this season should lead to more plays and more Turnover Chain shine.

Then there is the spring session phenom that is Greg Rousseau. A man-child at 6’6” and 225 pounds, the tallest defensive end on the Hurricanes roster was a nightmare for the offense from the opening snap. His fanfare has grown tremendously since the end of the spring, so playing the role of Viper would be the ideal situation for the freshman marvel as he hopes to feast on offenses—aside from his own—come the fall.

Strength of the Unit

Profiting Off of the ‘Sack’ Exchange

Three years ago in the 2015 season, Miami’s edge-rushers accounted for 14 of the team’s 26 sacks. In the 2016 season, the total rose to 18 of the Hurricanes’ 37 sacks in the first season with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s 4–3 system. Last season, the edge-rushers accounted for 26 of the Hurricanes 44 sacks. So to say that Miami’s defense is on the upward trend in the sack department is a fair assessment.

However, sacks are not the sole purpose for a Hurricane defensive end. Whether setting the edge against runs that try to bounce outside, or pursuing plays on a backside pursuit, it’s on the defensive ends to earn the right to rush the passer, usually shutting down an opponent’s’ running game. This task becomes all the more crucial when you play the Georgia Techs of the world who pride themselves mauling defenders along the line of scrimmage. The Hurricanes ranked slightly above average in run defense in 2017, allowing 145.7 rushing yards per game, yet found themselves among the best in the country in yards allowed per carry with 3.5—good enough for 23rd in the country a year ago. That stat is more representative of the defense as a whole, but each one of those groups has a role to play in helping the defense make strides to that elite level in 2018.

Biggest Concern Entering the 2018 Season

Let me write this in my Cam Underwood all-caps voice, “NO INJURIES!”

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

This notion is not unique to this season or this position group, yet there might not be another group on the Hurricanes’ roster that lacks a deep talent base. An injury to either of the Jacksons would be catastrophic. In that worst-case scenario, it would force Diaz and Simpson to get creative in their sub-packages, bringing a linebacker down to the line or sliding a defensive tackle over.