The off season headlines as it pertains to the Miami Hurricanes defensive line have been as dominate as the unit is supposed to on the field this season. Gregory Rousseau, along with Quincy Roche, Jaelan Phillips and Jahfari Harvey are set to be the best defensive end group in the nation. With two projected to be 2021 first rounders and the other two not very far behind, accolades have been monopolized on the D line. Yet it is the interior part of a defensive line that makes “living on the edge” possible.
In order for the defensive ends to enjoy one on ones with linemen or have a shot at seeing free release into the backfield, there needs to be a dependable defensive tackle or two in the middle to facilitate that. While the Hurricanes boast great depth on the edges, the interior depth is nearly as good if not as star studded.
(The Following Defensive tackle description is from our very own Justin Dottavio’s What college coaches look for in a defensive line prospect - I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you check it out before you read further)
The Defensive Tackles
G5 programs looks for particulars on the interior of the D-Line. Their priorities are:
2- Read, react and identify blocks (think: zone versus trap)
3- Lateral quickness
4- Balance, body control, and flexibility (running the hoops!)
5- Burst (Can the big man provide a pass rush and get tackles for loss?)
The same program’s “Critical Factors” for DT’s are: size, explosion, and body control. All of the defensive linemen are going to have to meet a size and quickness baseline. From there is where the roads diverge.
Coaches are worried about the ends being able to hold their own against H-backs, tackles and fullbacks in the run game. Setting the edge at the point of attack. The same coaches are worried about the tackles being able to bend and move well enough laterally that they’re not just a big guy who dominated at a lower level.
From that description alone Miami boasts a good first level of defensive tackles. Behind that first levels lies, physically, a burgeoning line of prototypically gifted linemen. The average height for our linemen is nearly 6’4. The average weight is 292. When you take out the weights of Jason Blissett Jr., who is being used as a tweener, and Elijah Roberts, who is still going through his first S&C program at the college level, that average jumps to 302.
6’4, 302? Size? Check.
The Talents, however, may be even larger.
Defensive Tackle 6-2, 305 lbs.
Junior - Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Number 1 on the field and number one in our hearts, Nesta Silvera is the unquestionable identity and face of Miami’s defensive tackle room. The former ballyhooed commit has the charisma and approach that brings back thoughts of Warren Sapp. While Silvera has the ability to deliver on the field, injury and opportunity have limited what we have yet seen from the Junior Tackle. After a limited roll on defense in his inaugural season in Coral Gables, it was believed that his sophomore season would be the breakout party. It was a foot injury, however that would steal the show from Silvera for nearly the entire first half of the season. it wasn’t until the Virginia Tech game that Silvera would return, and he would be eased in, sharing snaps with senior Pat Bethel and fellow tackle Jordan Miller. Though a breakout game versus rival Florida State it felt as the Silvera never found his footing, no pun intended. Now with a clean bill of health, the third year player now has a starting gig and opportunity to show off his diversified skill set in the 2020 season.
Defensive Tackle 6-5, 318 lbs.
Senior - Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
At 6’5 and 318, Jon Ford, the senior member of the group and the hardest to miss. Big 96 received the lions share at the tackle position due to Silvera’s injury and his own tenure in the defense. While Ford possesses the size required for the position, work is still in progress to find the desired body control and balance. This can be seen by his somewhat up and down performance on the field. Though not entirely meant to be the pass rusher on defense, Ford has focused on his depth and push at the line to steadily improve his ability to penetrate the line when asked. Beyond pass rushing, Ford does very well in his assignments and does a good job of eating blocks and allowing the ends and linebackers to get through the line. Where Ford makes his money is in run support. At times the middle of the field is nearly unbreakable for opposing rushing attacks. A strong year by Ford may not show up on paper, but it is a large factor in how the rest of the defense performs.
Defensive Tackle 6-4, 320 lbs.
Redshirt - Sophomore Jacksonville, Fla
If one player on the defensive tackle depth chart signals underrated more than any other it is Jordan Miller. Number 91 for the Canes in the middle was a virtual unknown until the month before signing day in 2018 when Mark Richt and company offered him late and snagged the hidden gem. At 6’4 330 coming out, the first thing you noticed about Jordan was his size. He was in the mold of “Big Snack” Casey Hampton, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers. His size helps him to play the the One technique very well. What truly catches your attention however, was his ability as a three technique, and his ability to penetrate using amazing strength and a powerful first step that allows him to get around guards after first punch. What helps that punch is an aggressiveness that coaches love to see at the tackle position, and Miller enjoys delivering punishment to linemen and skill positions alike. The best thing from having Miller for a year is his work ethic. He has listened to Coach David Feeley, reconditioned his body and become a better version of himself since joining the squad. This has turned into significant playing time and a solid first year of production for the reserve tackle.
The Kings of Queens
Jason Blissett Jr. - Defensive Line - 6-4, 262 lbs. Redshirt Freshman, Queens, N.Y.
Jalar Holley - Defensive Tackle - 6-2, 285 lbs. Redshirt Freshman, Queens, N.Y.
Jared Harrison-Hunte - Defensive Tackle - 6-4, 285 lbs. Redshirt Freshman, Middle Village, N.Y.
The group on defense that could have the same group impact as Shaquille Quarteman and Zach McCloud, it has to be the trio of Blissett, Holley and Hunte. (YES, I thought Holley was originally from GA too, but on the roster page hometown is Queens, NY.). The trio from the moment they put pen to paper following the 2019 signing day have been the talk of the defensive staff.
The group should begin bearing fruit this year, and that’s on the field. Assuredly, most people will remember Holley from his actions to motivate and pump his team up anyway possible, the opportunity to do so on the field will be there much more this season.
The aforementioned Holley is indeed more than just a motivator. As Coach Todd Stroud mentioned, he was mentored and coached by a great motivator himself, in Coach Jess Simpson of the Atlanta Falcons. What Holley brings is excellent technique and motor, two items that tackles either gain over time or never obtain. Holley’s ability to get stronger in the weight room will be the determining factor of his time on the field. His body in the mold of a Nesta Silvera, and I would put their games in close proximity. I believe he will be someone to rack up Tackles For Loss over his time with the Canes and be an inspirational leader.
Blissett is an amazing athlete, who played two sports, basketball and football, in high school. That couple with his football IQ will allow him to see time at both defensive end and tackle, getting his great bend and first step on the field as much as possible. Blissett reminds me of an Allen Bailey. He may not have the same look but the position flexibility and conditioning are key to his involvement on defense. Blissett should be a force in containing the run on the edges and penetrating the interior.
Lastly, Harrison-Hunte may very well be the best athlete on the team at the tackle position. He has the size of Jon Ford and Blissett’s athleticism. Also a two sport athlete like Blissett, coupled with a 4.8 forty Harrison-Hunte has the pedigree to be a terror on the inside in the same vein as R.J. McIntosh. It remains to be seen how much he will see the field as he is still fairly new to the nuances of football, but the sky is the limit for the talented tackle.
Elijah Roberts - Defensive Tackle - 6-4, 275 lbs. Freshman Miami, Fla.
Not to be forgotten is Freshman Elijah Roberts. Similar to Harrison-Hunte, Roberts has the look of a star. Already displaying an improved physique from pictures circling the internet, Roberts is already making a great impression with his limited time at Miami. On the field, while he does show the ability to shed blocks and use his hands, Robert’s has leaned alot on his ability to use a speed rush and the power generated from it. It is the combination of that speed and power with his defensive tackle size that has coaches excited about his prospects. While Roberts may see limited snaps this year, I believe it to be only a matter of time before he is terrorizing quarterbacks and linemen in the ACC and nationally.
This group, combined with what is going on with the defensive line group for the Canes, gives Miami arguably the most athletic defensive line in the country. The position flexibility, speed, power and size of the group is something the Canes have been missing for far too long. It is an exciting time to be a trench bully in Miami, and there are only great things ahead for the group.