Heading into the 2020 season, most of the names to know on the Hurricanes defense were the big players like Bubba Bolden or Quincy Roche, though, there were several first and second year guys that Miami fans were excited to watch.
Oh I haven’t forgot. If he isn’t the answer, Te’Cory Couch is one of our best kept secrets. We’ll be fine on defense https://t.co/EcSKDUqc23— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) July 14, 2020
As the Canes have now played five games, several underclassmen are beginning to breakout and make names for themselves, and a couple could be close to starting on the defense.
Te'Cory Couch has played his best game as a Miami Hurricane. Couch with his third breakup of the game.— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) October 17, 2020
The first one is sophomore cornerback Te’Cory Couch, who has established himself as perhaps the best cover-corner that Miami has on their roster. Against Pitt on Saturday, Couch made everyone take notice, as he broke up 3 passes and limited big play opportunities for the Panthers offense.
Te'cory Couch displayed some nice coverage skills Vs Pitt.— Arturo (@CaneFilms) October 18, 2020
Finished with 1 tackle & 3 pass breakups. Solid day for Couch. pic.twitter.com/mOvuIPoSgI
The second-year nickel corner is starting to develop with each game and opportunity he’s presented with, lining up as Miami’s third CB behind Al Blades Jr. and DJ Ivey. While Couch may not be the biggest guy on the field, he has the speed and technique where he can shutdown most opposing wide receivers. Couch has also proven he can make the difficult tackles as well.
Here is the Te’Cory Couch play I was talking about.. 17-6 was the score at the time. 3rd & long. pic.twitter.com/37lfrOkBGa— Jonoflo (@TheGreatoneJon) September 22, 2020
Blades and Ivey have been solid in pass coverage most weeks, and I don't think Blake Baker wants to move Couch out of nickel, realizing that’s the best spot for him to succeed on the field. There’s no doubt however, Couch is going to be very valuable for the Canes defense the next few years.
Blake Baker said Te'Cory Couch can challenge DJ Ivey at CB. He said they're in open competition, but also added it's that way every week.— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) September 14, 2020
Moving on from the secondary, two linebackers have been getting more and more reps, true freshman Corey Flagg Jr. and sophomore Sam Brooks Jr. Through five games, Brooks has made 18 tackles and Flagg has 5.
Great to see more of Sam Brooks and Corey Flagg, keep playing them— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) October 17, 2020
Miami’s starters at LB are Bradley Jennings Jr. and Zach McCloud, the more veteran linebackers for UM, though we’ve seen Flagg and Brooks more frequently as of late because of the speed they bring to the position, speed which Jennings and McCloud don’t have.
Blake Baker called Corey Flagg's play "outstanding." He was also encouraged by Sam Brooks. Zach McCloud and Bradley Jennings were "up and down," Baker said, as first-teamers at LB.— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) October 12, 2020
Brooks really broke out against Louisiana Tech in Miami’s bowl game last season. In that loss, Brooks was one of the lone stars, finishing the game with 12 total tackles and constantly flying to the football. After that performance, many Canes fans were expecting a big leap for Brooks in year-two.
Random thought: Sam Brooks 1st Team All-ACC at the end of the season.— Kiss Your Lovers & Eat Your Wings (@Canes_LoudMouth) May 7, 2020
Before the season started, I predicted Brooks would start at linebacker in week-one, but he still wasn't fully recovered from a previous foot injury. Now that he’s looking healthier, I think it’s time, and I'm not alone when I say this, that Brooks cracks the starting rotation. His athleticism is what this defense needs at LB if this team wants to improve at that position, and the coaching staff is starting to run out of excuses for not starting him, and fast.
Flagg is a player who I was so excited to watch when he committed to Miami, after becoming one of the top high school linebackers in Texas. More than speed or athleticism, Flagg brings a tremendous football IQ for a freshman, which allows him to anticipate plays and avoid blocks to get to the football. Flagg is the kind of player you want leading your defense and calling out signals, just a smart guy to have on the field.
Corey Flagg Jr’s IQ is beautiful. He plays his lanes so perfectly. May not be the fastest or biggest LB but damn sure is the smartest.— Jasmaine P. ✍ (@Truly_Jas) October 17, 2020
Which is why he is balling, as a Freshman.
Against Clemson last week, it’s pretty clear that Flagg and Brooks outplayed Jennings and McCloud. Brooks had increased reps (36), and the 31 snaps played was a career-high for Flagg.
Corey Flagg Jr. and Sam Brooks should be starting LB’s and it’s not close— (@Canes_fan_305) October 14, 2020
I think Brooks is ready to start right now, though I believe Flagg may not be named a starter until the 2021 season, but he’ll continue to have a bigger role on defense either way. With the skill-set that Brooks has, combined with the football IQ and instincts of Flagg, this linebacker duo is one that’ll be around this Canes defense for several years.
Sam Brooks and Corey Flagg, Jr. have gotten plenty of snaps at LB this afternoon.— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) October 17, 2020
On the defensive line, though I've already written articles about his stellar play, DT Jared Harrison-Hunte continues to impress this season. On Saturday, the redshirt freshman recorded his third sack of the year, which leads the team. As he keeps making plays with his pass-rushing skills, I still believe Harrison-Hunte can become a starter next to Nesta Jade Silvera before this season is over with.
Another sack for Jared Harrison-Hunte. His 3rd sack of the year, which leads the Canes.— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) October 17, 2020
Remember the name y’all! pic.twitter.com/EYedDrZEah
While Jon Ford is solid, I think either Harrison-Hunte or redshirt sophomore Jordan Miller should be starting at defensive tackle. I will say, the fact that Harrison-Hunte is playing this well as a redshirt freshman, has he excited about his future at Miami.
Jared Harrison-Hunte is a name you’ll be hearing plenty of for the next few years pic.twitter.com/tPbfkdclZT— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) September 30, 2020
Like I said, I think Brooks and Harrison-Hunte are capable of starting either right now or at some point this season, while the other two may need a few more reps and experience. Still, it’s up to head coach Manny Diaz to decide if adjustments will be necessary on defense.