The 2020 Bronko Nagurski preseason award watch list was released this week, and two Canes saw their names on it. As one would expect, it was both bookends of Miami’s much anticipated defensive line – Quincy Roche and Gregory Rousseau.
Roche transferred to Miami back in January from Temple, where he evolved over three years into a dominant player last season for the Owls. He recorded 13 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, an astounding 5 passes defended, one forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. An all-around impactful season. For his efforts, he earned AAC defensive player of the year honors. Sports Illustrated also recognized him as an All-American.
Rousseau, as we all know, occupied at least the same amount of time in opposing backfields, generating 19.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, one pass defended, 2 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. He was especially unstoppable in Miami’s 27-10 romp over FSU in Tallahassee last year, beating the Nole lineman all over the field and bringing down Alex Hornibrook 4 times behind the line. He’s almost a universal top 5 projection in next year’s NFL draft as the best defensive end available.
So……yeah. This kind of defensive end duo doesn’t come around very often. Marsh and I were going back and forth about whether this was the best defensive end duo since the glory days, and I can’t really see how there’s been one at least with more potential than these two since Miami was beating teams down and dancing over them while Jimmy Johnson clapped his hands on the sideline.
While there are many players on the watch list (98, I believe), it’s hard to imagine many of them have a counterpart beside or across from them like Rousseau and Roche have in each other. You can’t take one or the other of them away with two players and be able to handle the other one on one very often. As such, the opportunities – statistically speaking – should only mutually increase. As such, hopefully one or both of these young men will be finalists this fall for the award and be the first to bring it back to Coral Gables since Dan Morgan swept all the defensive awards in 2000.