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Which Player At Each Position Needs To Step Up For Miami To Be Great In 2018 — Defense

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These guys can change the direction of the program with a big year

NCAA Football: Virginia at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This program is in better hands than it has been in a long, long time. We saw Miami make it to their first Orange Bowl since 2004. Although they came up short, we are seeing the rise of this team right in front of us. Now, what’s next? Is this who the Miami Hurricanes are? Are we supposed to be happy about going to the Orange Bowl? I think we are better than that. The amount of talent on this team is evident. We just need a couple of guys to step up and take their game to the next level. Here are some Hurricanes I feel like can make this team significantly better by taking their game up a notch or two.

Defensive Line

In general, I feel like the defensive line may be one of the most underrated groups on this Miami Hurricanes team. The pre-mature departures of R.J McIntosh and Kendrick Norton give the impression that Miami lost an abundance of production and talent. Which they did. Together Norton and McIntosh combined for 78 tackles 19 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

You can't ask for more production from two guys like that. However, I believe that Miami is going to be able to re-load at that position. Gerald Willis III is expected to showcase his talents as a redshirt senior and dominate the way everybody says he can. True freshman Nesta Silvera can make an impact from day one in the trenches. We also can’t discount Pat Bethel who emblazoned himself against Duke in a game where he had four tackles and a strip-sack of Duke QB Daniel Jones that he recovered himself.

One guy that I believe can take this unit to the next level if he comes into 2018 ready to play is Jon Ford. Ford is a massive 6’5 275 pound defensive lineman that had offers from Michigan, Auburn, USC, and Tennessee just to name a few. He was a consensus three-star recruit that was highly sought after, especially by the University of Kentucky. Ford has a God-given build that you can't teach. It is up to Jess Sampson, Manny Diaz, and Jon Ford to find a way to get all of that natural talent to translate onto the field to contribute to this unit that has potential to be strong again in ‘18. Ford appeared in seven games last year after enrolling in mid-August — making him the last member of Miami’s 2017 recruiting class to make it onto campus.

Defensive Back

I can’t even begin to explain how grateful we all need to be that Jaquan Johnson came back. There was no drama, no long waiting period and no confusion about Johnson’s intentions to be a Miami Hurricane is 2018. That may have been Mark Richt’s biggest recruiting win of 2018. He is one of the leaders of this defense and one of the best players in the conference. Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine are going to be holding down the safety position with young guys like Amari Carter, Gurvan Hall, and Derrick Smith creating the depth that Miami has been missing.

Losing Malek Young at cornerback is a massive blow, but I have a very strong feeling about freshman Gilbert Frierson and DJ Ivey’s ability help Miami immediately. We also have Michael Jackson returning with a ton of hype around him being, potentially, one of the top corners in the entire nation.

I believe that there is one guy in particular that turns this unit from a good to a great unit — Jhavonte Dean. Dean went to South Dade Senior High where he was ranked as the 1651st high school prospect before going the Junior College (JuCo) route, where he eventually became an Alabama commit and the number one ranked JuCo cornerback in the nation, according to 247 Sports. Dean earned offers from schools like TCU, Kentucky, Florida, and UCF before choosing to commit to Alabama and eventually flipping to the Hurricanes on National Signing Day.

The 6’2 senior cornerback needs to step up and be the cornerback that Nick Saban, a legendary cornerbacks coach, specifically wanted to coach and the guy that Miami needs if this defensive backfield is going to take that next step. Dean played in every game in 2017 for the Hurricanes and recorded just 11 tackles and one pass deflection.

As a freshman at Blinn College in Texas, Dean broke up ten passes. That needs to be the Jhavonte Dean that Miami sees in 2018 and, if it is, then Miami is going to be in a great position to surpass what they did in 2017.

Linebacker

Miami returns all three of their starting linebackers for their third (and likely last) go around as a unit. Not to say they will all be NFL-bound after this year, but I believe at least Shaq Quarterman could leave. That being said, this group is the core of the Miami Hurricanes. Our first team linebackers have more experience as a group than any other unit on this team and have notably high expectations because of that said experience. Michael Pinckney, Zach McCloud, and Quarterman are no longer those three freshman linebackers we came to know them as. They have blossomed before our eyes into dependable college football players, specifically Pickney and Quarterman.

Now that being said, I think Zach McCloud is the guy in this linebackers group that needs to take a big leap forward. Coming in as freshman, many said that McCloud had the highest ceiling of any of the three. We just haven't seen that from him.

McCloud has been burdened by injuries and that absolutely plays a factor into his production, but regardless it has not been what we have expected to see from him. I do not want to say that McCloud has been bad — understand that. He finished the 2017 season with 48 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. Not bad, not great. I feel like McCloud has the ability, the speed and the strength to be a 90-100 tackle guy. See what he did to the Appalachian State quarterback in 2016:

New outside linebackers coach, Jonathan Patke, is going to be working with McCloud to get everything they can out of him this year. We need to see more out of him if this year for this linebacker room to take that next step towards becoming great.

I want to hear from you guys about some individual players you feel like can help take this Miami defense to the next level. Leave some comments with your thoughts.

Poll

Who needs to step up the most on Miami’s defense in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Jon Ford
    (247 votes)
  • 29%
    Jhavonte Dean
    (181 votes)
  • 24%
    Zach McCloud
    (147 votes)
  • 4%
    Other
    (30 votes)
605 votes total Vote Now