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Spring Football Position Preview: Defensive Ends

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No QB should feel safe against Miami’s pass rush

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

For a long while, success at defensive end has focused upon the number two: A pair of ends who bookend one another to make a formidable tandem. Cultivating talent to produce a second unit that has little to no drop off from the starters, Miami has the personnel to attack opponents in waves from the edge of scrimmage. And, of course, only two players are allowed to be on the field at a time.

Entering spring practices, defensive line coach Jess Simpson has upped the ante — so to speak. Miami finds itself littered with a plethora of athletes set to line up on the edge of scrimmage. A few players will even begin 2019’s first practice session with more than three years of game experience. UM’s DE group is made up of unappreciated three-stars and one pair of touted players via the transfer portal. There are also some intriguing freshmen who could factor into the rotation this season. What the defensive end group represents in 2019 is talent and immense potential to cause havoc in the backfield.

The question surrounding this group entering spring is not whether the Canes have enough talent to feast on opponents, but rather who among the group will gain the biggest portion of the meal?

Based on the success of defensive line coach Jess Simpson in 2018, there’s confidence that the DE unit will continue to make improvements under his tutelage. With the idea that no one person is bigger than the group, the defensive end should enter the 2019 season with a pack mentality. Competing, pushing and feeding off one another beginning with spring practices, the DE group returns to a culture that’s reminiscent of the Canes’ glory days.

The Returnees

In past seasons, the departure of DE Joe Jackson would have taken priority over most news. The best pass rusher for Miami in their previous three seasons, Jackson led the Hurricanes in sacks and TFL at the end of each season. With No. 99 now off to the NFL, the task of slamming down opposing QBs falls on the shoulders of his brothers left in Coral Gables.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Miami
Junior DE Jonathan Garvin headlines an impressive group of edge rushers.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Call him “Neo”, “Spider” or whatever moniker you’d like, Jonathan Garvin has evolved into a balanced edge rusher in his first two years on campus. Highlighted by his uncanny ability to extend and contort his limbs as he careens into the backfield, Garvin is projected to assume a leadership role along the defensive line. Equal parts athletic determination and sheer drive to win, No. 97 has only improved in each season. He has emerged this year as the vocal leader for the group, who is also capable of both setting the edge and maneuvering around it.

Scott Patchan prefers to swim around his obstacles. To be accurate, he’ll arm over a blocker in his pursuit of making a play as a pass rusher. Patchan is one of the longest-serving veterans on the entire roster, so spring will be old hat for the redshirt senior. Having established himself as a capable run defender, Patchan will be in tough to keep above water when the competition to fill out the Canes’ depth chart begins in earnest this spring.

It was one year ago that the biggest name of spring practice coincidentally happened to be the tallest player on the roster. Now a sophomore, Greg Rousseau aims to recapture that excitement and momentum after missing the majority of his freshman year due to an ankle injury. The 6’7” DE comes into 2019 knowing that spring ball is kindling before the mighty flame of the CFB season. Based on his physical stature, Rousseau’s learning curve in year two and application of those lessons to scrimmages is a fascinating storyline to follow in the coming weeks and months.

Additions

State of the U illustration by Mike Meredith

Miami does in fact still recruit players straight out of high school. One of the gems from the 2019 recruiting class is Jahfari Harvey. Displaying the ideal hip bend you’d want in an edge rusher, Harvey has the potential and skill set to develop into the next homegrown star out of the 305. Working his hands to get off of blockers, Harvey has Edge Rushing 101 down pat. However, under the tutelage of Coach Simpson, the freshman’s course to become a balanced edge defender will begin in earnest in the weeks to come. Buckle in, youngling.

Trevon Hill likely won’t need his hand held upon his arrival to UM. The former VT Hokies was one of the few positives on a once-vaunted Bus Foster-led defense. Credited for his passion for the game and employing relentless energy to make his way into the backfield, Hill brings experience and sizzle that will quickly endear him to UM fans. Hill offers up a full menu of pass rushing maneuvers, everything from a rips, pins to swims and more. Given his background with the Hokies, Hill arrives with experience as both a standup DE as well as the traditional hand-in-the-dirt prototype.

NCAA Football: Camping World Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Virginia Tech
Welcome to The U Trevon Hill.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, Hurricanes’ fans and coaches are going to have to wait until Hill graduates in the spring from VT before we can see why the senior DE goes by the name of “TreSavage94_.”

Former Chaminade-Madonna Prep DE Cameron Williams is the other 2019 recruiting prospect the Canes added. While he won’t be participating in spring practice, Williams has the prototypical frame at 6’5” that projects to be another weapon as an edge rusher. Often found making a play in backfield at the high school level, we can’t wait to see Williams’ progression once he’s enrolled.

The final piece of UM’s defensive end collection is a former five-star from out West. Jaelan Phillips is a hybrid defender that fits the mold of OLB/DE. A twitched-up athlete, Phillips amazes with both his speed and power at the point of attack. Phillips is unlikely to be participating this spring for the Hurricanes, but he should have a huge impact come summer and fall — on scout team. Phillips confirmed to Manny Navarro of The Athletic that he will sit out the 2019 season before being eligible in 2020.

Concerns

Injuries

The one aspect of any season that no coach or player can foresee. Getting hurt sucks. Going down in practice, while you’re trying to make the case for playing time in the fall, will only provide more frustration. As we outlined, the full contingent of the position will not be available this spring. So the rotations are going to be finessed somewhat as the team grinds through.

Lack of Depth

The concern for injury ties into the lack of depth here. Former coaches have bemoaned the lack of depth among the first, second and third team that makes for a functioning scrimmage. That certainly applies at DE. Simpson barely has two units, let alone three, to grind through the hot South Florida Sun — even counting practices inside the IPF. Perhaps Patrick Joyner, who is listed as a linebacker, will get moved to help the numbers.

Summary

Spring represents birth for many in the northeast who’ve endured a cold, bitter winter. For The Canes, it represents a rebirth. At defensive end, a storm is coming — one the likes the Canes familia had forgotten could exist. Before that storm track reaches maturation, the Canes need to embrace improvement through instruction as opposed to by addition. In year one of Coach Simpson’s tenure, UM has seen immediate dividends. To improve on the marks of 2018, this group will need to grind in the spring to make themselves and the program better.

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!