With graduation wrapping up at the University of Miami last week, the door has officially shut on the 2018 season and the dog days of summer are upon us. After a season that saw Miami garner national attention with a Top 10 defense, the 2019 Miami Hurricanes are going to look noticeably different on that side of the ball when they take the field against the Florida Gators in Orlando come late August.
A combination of senior graduates and early entrants to the NFL draft has Miami searching for starters on the defensive line and in the secondary, and for depth players across the board. The injury bug hit the team hard in the spring, and with minimal early enrollees in this class, Blake Baker and the coaching staff have their work cut out for them.
Let’s take a closer look at each position group.
Up front on the edges, Jonathan Garvin and Scott Patchan return with a healthy number of snaps under their belts from last season, and I have every expectation they will get an abundance of playing time this season. Several additional players figure to compete with them for a starting spot as former Virginia Tech Grad transfer Trevon Hill, Redshirt Freshman Gregory Rousseau, and True Freshmen Jahfari Harvey and Cameron Williams will all be searching for significant playing time.
The interior lineman will have an equally competitive fall in their quest to land a spot on the 1st unit. Pat Bethel, Nesta Silvera, Jared Harrison-Hunte, Jalar Holley, and Jason Blissett are likely to be in contention for one of the Tackle positions while Grad transfer Chigozie Nnoruka, Jordan Miller, Jonathan Ford, and Tyreic Martin will look to secure the other starting Tackle spot. The word on the street is Ford should be fully recovered from surgery come the fall which will be great news for a position group that has an abundance of talent and depth. If the objective is to put the best four lineman on the field each down, expect to see shifting across the line as matchups will be key to Miami consistently winning the line of scrimmage.
My projected starters at DL: Garvin, Silvera, Bethel, and Rousseau.
Rousseau over Hill may seem like a shocker, but with Rousseau having an excellent spring after his return from injury, and Hill being new to the program, I’m giving a slight edge to Rousseau. I welcome Hill to prove himself, and I expect that all of the lineman will be better because of the competition. Each of them should get significant snaps this year with Coach Stroud looking to keep his lineman fresh as the season wears on. #HeavyRotation
In the middle, the 3 amigos return for one last hoo-rah. Expect Michael Pinckney to man the weak-side while Shaquille Quarterman and Zach McCloud cover the middle and strong sides respectively. This unit is really going to need to remain healthy as Bradley Jennings, Waynmon Steed, and De’Andre Wilder are all expected to miss significant time this season due to injury. As a result of those injuries, changes in personnel were made that moved Patrick Joyner to MLB, and Gilbert Frierson to Striker behind Romeo Finley and Derrick Smith this season. Incoming Freshman Sam Brooks (MLB) and Avery Huff (Weakside) will have a chance to come in and make their names known on Greentree this fall.
Look for Coach Baker and Coach Patke to mix it up on the rotations as all 4 LB starting positions will be open after this season. Experience is the best teacher, and it will be important for the young guys to learn on the job as the linebacker position will be critical to the ongoing success of the program in the seasons ahead.
My projected starters at LB: Mike, Shaq, Zach, Romeo (Striker)
The secondary will be relatively inexperienced, but deep, and critical to Miami’s success. Coach Rumph will look for leadership in Trajan Bandy as he is the only returning starter from last season’s stellar lineup. Look for Al Blades Jr., D.J. Ivey, and Nigel Bethel to compete for the starting corner position opposite of Bandy. With the incoming Four-star freshmen tandem of Christian Williams and Te’Cory Couch arriving over the summer, I see them both backing up Bandy as role players this season. Miami’s defense will have both size and speed to compete with and against on the edges in practice this fall. Don't be surprised to see the corners shifting around a lot this season as the Nickel position will be important. Remember, it’s about the matchups.
My projected starters at CB: Bandy, Ivey, Blades (Nickel)
At the Safety position, Gurvan Hall and Robert Knowles will compete to start at Free Safety while the hard hitting Amari Carter, transfer Bubba Bolden, and Four-Star Freshman Keontra Smith will compete to fill the starting Strong Safety role. There is experience and depth at this position, and that should bode well for Coach Banda and the Hurricanes.
My projected starters at S: Hall, Carter
Miami’s strength on defense in 2019 should be their front Seven. Look for the secondary play to be inconsistent, yet exciting, as there are many young and inexperienced players who can hit hard, and cover well, that will be looking to rise to the occasion and make plays. That’s all great, but we will need to see consistent, sure tackling, by the defensive backfield.
With the havoc I expect to be produced up front, and veteran play across in the middle, there should be ample opportunity to see the Turnover Chain flash across television’s and Jumbotron’s around the country. I expect the Hurricanes defense to experience some adversity early on, but to improve as the season progresses, and they should ultimately end the season with yet another top 10 unit nationally.
How did my projections compare against yours?
Let me know in the comments below.