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2018 Miami Hurricanes Position Preview: Linebackers

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The ‘Canes have an experienced linebacker group and a new assistant

Miami v Georgia Tech Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes have a proud tradition of linebackers in their history. Ray Lewis, Micheal Barrow and Dan Morgan are as much a part of ‘Canes legacy as the “U” logo, Sebastian the Ibis and the smoke. The 2018 edition of the linebacking unit has experience, talent and two assistant coaches with a history of working together.


The Coaches and Scheme

Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will be coaching the inside linebackers and 10th assistant Jonathan Patke will focus on outside linebackers in 2018. The scheme in Coral Gables seems to be adapting to the times as Diaz and Patke have created a “Striker” position which comes on the field in place of the Sam (strong side) Linebacker to create a true 4-2-5 defense as opposed to the 4-3 base from the years prior. I previously wrote about what I thought Diaz wanted from his SAM and it seems to be the Striker will fill that role.

With the Striker, Miami doesn’t want to lose size or speed so while Trajan Bandy hits like a mack truck he’ll be based more on the outside rather than at nickel. As the SAM, Zach McCloud was often lost in space. While McCloud does have the ability he wasn’t as strong in coverage as Diaz needed. Against a run-heavy program like Georgia Tech or LSU- expect to see McCloud rather than the Striker which is an up-safety in the TCU 4-2-5 scheme Diaz seems to be borrowing from so often.


The Starters

*Career stats are in parenthesis

SAM- Zach McCloud, Junior (85 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)

MIKE- Shaquille Quarterman, Junior (167 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 6 sacks)

WILL- Michael Pinckney, Junior (129 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks)

Striker- Derrick Smith, Sophomore (13 tackles, 1 tackle for loss)

Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney seem to fit the starting roles on the inside. Quarterman is the MIKE linebacker or middle linebacker to the run strength. Pinckney is the WILL linebacker or weak side and is placed away from the run strength. Against run-first teams like Boston College, LSU, Georgia Tech and where Virginia wants to go with their scheme I would expect to see McCloud at SAM getting more reps than Derrick Smith or Romeo Finley at Striker. The Striker will be useful against schemes like Willie Taggart’s spread to run up at FSU and Dabo Swinney’s similar system at Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. Quarterman, McCloud and Pinckney were dubbed “The Bermuda Triangle 2.0” as freshman as the trio were thrust into starting roles as soon as they arrived on campus. However, they all took a sophomore step back in 2017. Expectations are high for Quarterman and Pinckney especially heading into the 2018 season.


The Reserves

*Career stats are in parenthesis

SAM- Charles Perry, Senior (29 tackles, 1 interception)

De’Andre Wilder, Sophomore (10 tackles)

MIKE- Mike Smith, Senior (41 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception) |

Bradley Jennings Jr., Sophomore (7 tackles)

WILL- Waymon Steed, RS-Freshman (Redshirted in 2017)

Striker- Romeo Finley, Junior (13 tackles)

Charles Perry returns for his senior season and has mostly spent time at Miami in a reserve role at the SAM position. Perry will provide experience and depth to the backup linebackers. He’s backed up by De’Andre Wilder who looked strong in kicking game coverage in 2017. At MIKE, senior fullback-slash-linebacker Mike Smith will back up Quarterman and his 3rd team replacement is Bradley Jennings Jr. At the WILL position the top back up is Waymon Steed who redshirted in 2017. The back up Striker is Romeo Finley who will benefit from the move from safety where he seemed buried on the depth chart to the Striker position where he battles Derrick Smith for playing time.


Outlook

This is an extremely talented group that, while they lack proven depth inside, does have a ton of starting experience in the ACC. McCloud, Quarterman and Pinckney have all started over twenty games and they’re only entering their junior seasons. The new Striker position will give Miami defensive coaches flexibility and more athleticism on the field and Manny Diaz is excited to be able to run more man coverage on the slot receivers. Quarterman is primed to continue to climb up the All-ACC charts from second team to first team in 2018.