Something that has always defined the Miami Hurricanes and their players can be summed up with one word, and that word is speed. The U has produced some of the greatest football players in the last 30 years, and also some of the fastest players as well. Santana Moss, Devin Hester, the list goes on and on.
It’s not just their offensive players that were speedsters, but guys on defense as well. Legendary head coach Jimmy Johnson won a national championship during his five years at Miami, and he did it fast and athletic players on both sides of the ball. Johnson’s defensive ends on his 1986 team averaged only 243 pounds, but because of their quickness and speed, it’s regarded as one of the best defensive lines in college football history.
Getting more speed near the LOS is always a win for a team with the makeup of Miami. We say it all the time, but Jimmy Johnson figured out moving guys down and increasing speed all over the field was a recipe for wins. https://t.co/RfF5ZhXW1k— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) February 21, 2020
Johnson signed players like linebacker Jessie Armstead out of Dallas, though he barely weighed 200 pounds. However, he was a fast and physical player, and ended up winning two titles while at UM, and went on to have a long career in the NFL.
Here’s some plays by a few classic Cane defenders. Two UM HOFers are up first as Jessie Armstead takes on the back and still gets to the QB before Rusty Medearis cleans it up. Then Hurlie Brown blows up a blocker and makes a goal line stop. pic.twitter.com/Afj8BNy1xM— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) October 31, 2019
That philosophy payed dividends for Butch Davis when he became head coach for Miami in 1995. Davis was the defensive line coach for Johnson’s Hurricanes in the 80’s, and then followed Jimmy to the Dallas Cowboys. Davis recruited speed when he went to UM, and also went after guys who some would label as undersized. Prime example was linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Though he was shorter, Vilma was fast and productive, and went on to become an All-American for the Canes.
Today, coach Manny Diaz is getting back to this style for the Hurricanes defense, bringing in players who may be small, but are fast and can produce. Diaz has been able to adapt his Miami defense to today’s modern offenses in college football.
Manny Diaz talking about the importance of recruiting south Florida speed because he says that's what Miami was built on #Canes— Peter Ariz (@PeterAriz) August 8, 2016
Diaz isn’t just focused on an athletic secondary either, he wants it all around his defense, even the big guys on the defensive line. Case in point is Jonathan Garvin, a DE who had three terrific seasons for Miami, and just recently ran a 4.8 40-time and 36-inch vertical jump at the NFL Combine.
MIA EDGE Jonathan Garvin is a leggy rusher who had 4 sacks in last 3 games. QBs feel his presence even if he doesn't get home. Got a penalty for some reason here, but knocked down the hands of OL to get the corner. Can also play with leverage vs run and move in space. #SnapScout pic.twitter.com/qCxKgP53Oj— Chad Reuter (@chad_reuter) December 25, 2019
Defensive end Gregory Rousseau is listed at 253 pounds, while the average weight for that position is said to be 285-315 pounds. Though, Rousseau’s speed and quickness off the line of scrimmage is one of the reasons why he was able to notch 15.5 sacks in 2019, and is perhaps the best defensive end returning in college football for this upcoming year.
Greg Rousseau (@Greg_R5) was just named to first team all ACC, and he earned.— Big Dog Pass Rush (@bigdogpassrush) December 3, 2019
-Rousseau uses his speed to his advantage and gets of the ball quickly
-swipes OL hands down
-bends to QB to get the sack#CFB #BDPR #Passrush #ItsAllAboutTheU pic.twitter.com/kDdlzjn1Pr
Fellow DE Quincy Roche also has great speed for the position, plus outstanding athleticism that allowed him to total 13 sacks and 19 TFLs last season while playing for Temple.
Quincy Roche is transferring to Miami. This kid is a stud. Already my DE1 for the 2021 NFL draft pic.twitter.com/YvKhppYkb4— Dr. Steve Franklin (@MyGuySteve) January 21, 2020
It’s been said the past several years that Miami’s linebackers have lacked speed. While Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney were productive and good players, their quickness and athleticism were scrutinized at times.
3rd and 5 and the QB out runs the defense for a 1st down. There was a time, not too long ago, that you simply couldn’t run horizontally on the University of Miami defense. We need an infusion of speed, especially at the LB position. pic.twitter.com/nAVvuqAgSx— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) October 20, 2019
Moving forward, the Hurricanes have players at linebacker now who bring those qualities to the football field and Miami’s defense. Avery Huff is listed at just 208 pounds, but his speed and athleticism have people raving, as is also the case with Sam Brooks.
Avery Huff and Sam Brooks will give the LB group lots of speed on the field next season.— Caneville (@caneville305) December 19, 2019
One of true freshmen I’m most excited to see play is linebacker Tirek Austin-Cave out of New Jersey. Similar to Huff, Austin-Cave is on the lighter side when it comes to LB, being listed at 204 pounds. However, he has incredible speed for a linebacker, and Austin-Cave produces like no other. As a senior, Austin-Cave finished with 152 tackles and 13 sacks.
Manny Diaz calls Corey Flagg an "instinctual" player at LB, adds that Tirek Austin-Cave brings "elite speed."— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) December 18, 2019
As Diaz continues to build his defense for what a Miami defense is supposed to look like, 2020 should be a fun year to watch on that side of the football for the Hurricanes.