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Four Young Players Beginning To Emerge On Miami’s Defense

Week after week, several younger players on Miami’s defense continue to impress.

247 Sports

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.