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Can Gregory Rousseau Continue His Dominant Play In 2020?

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Will we see more dominance from Miami’s star defensive-end?

Central Michigan v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

By far, the biggest bright spot that came out of the 2019 Miami Hurricanes season was the emergence of defensive end, Gregory Rousseau. As a redshirt freshman, Rousseau took the college football world by storm, as he ended the year with 15.5 sacks, 19.5 TFLs and 54 total tackles. He also forced two fumbles, recovering one of them, and was named ACC Defensive Rookie Of The Year. He was by far the most impactful player on the Hurricanes.

Now, the question is, can Rousseau duplicate that kind of success and dominant play in 2020? Now that a new season is quickly approaching, the expectations for this monster of a defensive end are sky high. In fact, WalterFootball.com has Rousseau as the #2 overall pick in their latest 2021 NFL mock Draft. In the past two drafts, there’s been an edge-rusher taken with the #2 pick in Nick Bosa and Chase Young. There’s no question, Rousseau is the best returning defensive end in all of college football.

One of the reasons why I believe Rousseau will continue to be the dominant player he was last year, is the arrival of grad-transfer Quincy Roche, who’ll most likely be starting as the other defensive end. Last year at Temple, Roche totaled 13 sacks and 19 TFLs, and was equally as disruptive as Rousseau.

With the threat of Roche there, and also add in a now healthy Jaelan Phillips, how can the opposing offensive line feel comfortable double-teaming Rousseau, but leaving the other pass-rushers for one lineman?

Another reason, Rousseau will now be the starting defensive end from day-one, unlike in 2019 where he didn’t crack the starting lineup until the Virginia game in week-six. If he was able to record 15.5 sacks without not starting half of the season, imagine what he’ll be able to do in 2020 with even more snaps.

Rousseau is also entering his third year under a Manny Diaz defense, and is comfortable with the scheme, and the UM coaches know that they can line him up in a variety of ways. Whether it’s on the edge or on the interior, Rousseau used his massive frame (6”6 251 lbs) to throw offensive lineman like rag-dolls, and easily got to the quarterback.

The biggest thing for Rousseau, is will he able to match his production from last year? The last two seasons, Miami had high-quality defensive ends returning, Joe Jackson in 2018 and Jonathan Garvin in 2019. Everyone was expecting huge years for these two guys, and both didn’t meet expectations.

If the Hurricanes want to reach their goals in 2020, they’re going to need another big season by Rousseau. Last year, his impact was incredible. Against Virginia Tech, the last game where Greg wasn’t starting at DE, Miami gave up 42 points and lost. The next week, now with Rousseau starting, the Hurricanes shutdown the Virginia offense, holding the #20 Cavaliers to just 9 points, as Miami came away with the upset victory.

In back-to-back games against Pittsburgh and Florida State, Rousseau had seven sacks, and the Miami defense allowed just 12 points to the Panthers and 10 to the Seminoles. I’ll say it again, the impact that Rousseau has on the Hurricanes cannot be understated. It’s also not a surprise that he didn’t record a sack in Miami’s humiliating loss to FIU the following week.

The work is far from over for Rousseau, but I truly believe his best football has yet to be played. If he can continue to the same dominant force he was last year, Miami as a team will improve, and Rousseau may be one of the first players off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft.