Prior to the 2018 season for Miami, the defensive line was believed to be one of the weak points for the Hurricanes, a unit that excelled in 2017. However, through the first three games, its clear that the Canes front four has proven just the opposite.
Saturday against Toledo, the Canes d-line shut down the Rockets. In that game, four defensive lineman for Miami all collected tackles for a loss, while the whole defense accounted for 13 total TFL’S.
Last season, the Hurricanes were also dominant in the TFL category, ranking fourth in the country. With the departure of lineman such as R.J. McIntosh, Kendrick Norton and Trent Harris however, some were skeptical that this statistic would decline for Miami.
Through the first three games, the Hurricanes lead the country in this category with 35 TFL’s a game, which comes out to 11.6 a game, which is already better than their 8.5 a game last year.
Under new d-line coach Jess Simpson, this unit has thrived. One of the biggest names of this group has been defensive tackle Gerald Willis III. Against Toledo, Willis was an absolute wrecking crew, with five tackles, three TFLs and a sack.
Willis, who sat out 2017 has now returned to secure the tackle position, and is anchoring down that line for Manny Diaz’s defense. Against LSU, Willis was named ACC Defensive Lineman Of The Week, after recording a career-high eight tackles, four TFLs and a sack.
Gerald Willis again here with the well-timed club-swim, and makes the play in the backfield. He was quite disruptive Sunday night. pic.twitter.com/aCRVkVVzxz— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) September 4, 2018
Miami also still has extremely talented defensive ends who have stepping up as well.
Junior Joe Jackson is building on his already impressive Miami career, notching 1.5 TFLs against Toledo. Jackson was the only returning starter from 2017 to the d-line, and is also helping by drawing double teams, that allow the linebackers to rush more freely.
Opposite-end is Jonathan Garvin, who has raised even more eyebrows after an impressive 2017 freshman campaign. Garvin besides Willis, may be the most impressive player on the line for Miami. In the first three games, Garvin has recorded already six TFLs and a sack, and leading the Hurricanes defensive linemen with 18 tackles.
.@gw3_9 ranks fourth in the NCAA and first in the ACC with 7.0 TFLs (2.3/game) and Jonathan Garvin ranks 10th in the NCAA and third in the ACC with 6.0 TFLs (2.0/game).— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) September 16, 2018
Even with replacing very talented freshman Gregory Rousseau, who is out indefinitely due to a fractured ankle, Miami is still finding ways to make plays up front.
Senior Demetrius Jackson returned on Saturday after not playing against Savannah State. Also junior Scott Patchan has begun to make fans take notice. Patchan returned a blocked punt for a touchdown versus Savannah State, and then collected a sack against Toledo.
Defending the run is also something that the defensive line has been able to improve so far in 2018. In 2017, the Hurricanes allowed 145.77 rushing yards per game, as well as 3.5 a carry. In 2018, Miami is allowing just 93.0 yards a game, and a suffocating 2.4 yards per carry, which has them ranked 27th in the country.
This upcoming Saturday back at Hard Rock Stadium, the Hurricanes will take on FIU, who just rushed for 329 yards in their win against UMASS. The UMASS defense accumulated just four TFLs, and no sacks.