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Miami’s Defense Getting Back To Their Roots With Speed And Athleticism

Manny Diaz wants a fast and athletic defense for the Hurricanes

Virginia v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.