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Miami’s Pass Rush Could Be One Of The Best In School History

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The Canes pass rush is reaching new levels of dominance

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of the Miami Hurricanes, you think of many things, and one of those things is defense. Going further, a dominant pass rush has always seemed to be present at UM.

Warren Sapp, Calais Campbell, Danny Stubbs, Vince Wilfork, and plenty others, Miami has had some of finest pass rushers in football history play for the Hurricanes. While there’s been some Miami teams that have gotten after the quarterback seemingly with ease, the 2019 Canes might be the best that UM has seen in many years.

Against Florida State this past Saturday, the Hurricanes sacked the Noles quarterback nine times, in one of the most dominant defensive performances in recent memory, en route to a 27-10 victory.

Currently, Miami ranks 4th in the nation, averaging 4.0 team sacks per game, and they’re averaging 5.3 sacks over the last four games. Just to give you an idea, the 2017 Canes were 1st in the country in team sacks with 3.5 per game. That’s how good the Hurricanes have been at getting to the quarterback in 2019 so far.

So why has this years Canes been just better at pass rushing than previous Miami teams? Well there’s several reasons for that.

One, head coach Mann Diaz and defensive coordinator Blake Baker found out after several games that this Miami defense thrives on pressuring the quarterback, especially since they would have a young and inexperienced secondary going into 2019. Too bad they didn’t start off the season with that plan.

Through the first five games of the season, Miami’s defense simply wasn’t looking like the Canes of past years. They weren’t sending pressure, and in those five games, UM averaged just 2.8 sacks per game, and had a 2-3 record. However, after giving up 42 points to Virginia Tech, Diaz decided to be involved more with the defense. His solution? MORE PRESSURE.

Second, Miami is literally loaded with playmakers all over their defense, guys who can fly around and cause chaos for the offense. Having Diaz there, Miami was able to get more creative with their blitz packages, and get back to sending pressure from all angles using more than just their defensive lineman.

For instance, watch this play from this past weekend against FSU, safety Amari Carter lines up almost over center, and using his speed is able to sack Alex Hornibrook. Carter wasn’t even touched.

Miami also likes to send cornerback Trajan Bandy on a blitz coming off the edge, like here against Central Michigan. Diaz loves to utilize his speed on defense, and often sends players like Bandy or Carter to rush. Bandy is third on Miami with three sacks.

Though when you’re at Miami, you also have speed at the linebacker position, and Michael Pinckney has been a force in 2019 with pass rushing. You see the senior LB against FSU get to James Blackman untouched and absolutely destroy the FSU quarterback, forcing a bad pass which was intercepted.

Diaz does like to use Pinckney dropping back in coverage, but in situations like this in the UNC game, #56 comes off the edge and drops Sam Howell.

While it’s nice to have occasional pass rushers coming from the secondary or the linebackers, Miami’s pressure starts with their defensive line, which boasts several disruptive rushers, starting with the tackles.

Miami’s depth on the DL, especially at defensive tackle is really something. Junior Jon Ford may only have 2.5 sacks on the year, but big #96 is also too athletic for most offensive lineman. Even though he’s double teamed in this clip against Virginia, his strength is just too much, as he gets the sack.

Or big bully Nesta Jade Silvera, who has some of the most talent on this Canes defense, with incredible quickness for a tackle, and the sheer ability to push a guard to the side like it’s nothing.

Moving on to the defensive ends, which is where heart of this Hurricanes pass rush lies. Jonathan Garvin pressures the quarterback more successfully than most DE’s in college football, and even though he only has two sacks on the year, he’s in the backfield every single play.

Then you have Trevon Hill, the grad transfer who came over from Virginia Tech. It took Hill a few games to reconnect with his pass rushing skills he had with the Hokies, but he’s definitely found them by now. Hill has four sacks on the year, and has actually found his way into the starting rotation on the defensive line.

Dubbed as perhaps the top NFL Draft prospect in the ACC coming into 2019, Hill has been giving that statement creditability over the past few games. Against FSU, Hill was unblock-able, using his pro caliber speed and moves, Trevon dominated Tallahassee.

However, we all know the secret weapon to Miami’s pass rush, and that is Gregory Rousseau. The redshirt freshman has bursted onto the college football scene and has become one of the most dominant defensive ends we’ve seen at UM, maybe ever. Though he didn't start for the first five games and had limited reps, Rousseau still led Miami in sacks during that time.

Finally, prior to the Virginia game, coach Manny Diaz decided to start Rousseau, and it’s been nothing but dominance since then. That night against the Cavaliers, Miami sacked UVA a then season high five times, and held their opponent to only nine points.

In his first four starts, Rousseau has raised his sack total to 12, which is tied for most solo sacks in the country. Against Pitt he had 3 sacks, and then against the Seminoles he went bezerk, finishing the night with 4 sacks.

As stated earlier, Rousseau has had an effect on the entire defense, as they’ve been averaging over five sacks per game since he was named a starter. Against FSU, Rousseau was such a threat, that so much focus would be on blocking him, and then other defensive lineman would roam free. Rousseasu still got through FSU’s line as well.

The same thing happened in the Virginia game, where Rousseau attracted so much attention, that Hill and Bandy came untouched for the sack.

Something that coach Diaz and Baker have schemed up, is to have a blitz package where Garvin, Rousseau and Hill are all on the field at the same time. As you can expect, the opposing team has no shot when that happens.

After two straight dominating defensive performances, it’s pretty easy to see why the Canes are riding high right now. When you have that good of a pass rush, you can compete with anyone, and hopefully it can carry Miami to finish off 2019 strong.