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Miami’s Defensive Line Returning To Dominant Form

Led by Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche, the Canes defensive line continues to improve.

247 Sports

During the offseason, perhaps one of the biggest things Miami fans were looking forward to was the play of the defensive line, thanks in large part to Gregory Rousseau. Though, when Rousseau announced in August that he’d be opting out of the 2020 season, that excitement for the unit turned into uncertainty. Even without Rousseau however, the Hurricanes defensive line hasn’t skipped a beat.

Miami’s 52-10 win over FSU showed UM’s defense, led by their front-four, manhandle the Seminoles offensive line, collecting 6 sacks and 13 TFLs. On the 46 drop backs from FSU’s quarterbacks, the Canes created 15 pressures.

Three players who have been terrific specifically are Quincy Roche, Jaelan Phillips and Nesta Jade Silvera. Roche is a grad transfer, who came to Miami from Temple in the offseason and was the 2019 AAC Defensive Player of the Year, and is the current player career sack leader in college football.

Making his impact felt already, Roche has 10 tackles, 5.5 TFLs and 2 sacks, and is the highest graded pass rusher on the Canes according to PFF, as well as third in the ACC with 6 QB hurries. So far, Roche is playing exactly like everyone thought he would.

Phillips is quickly making the entire country know his name, and is off to a hot start as well. Having sat out in 2019 and having a history of injury problems, many were skeptical as to whether or not the former #1 recruit could recapture his dominating play. Through the first 3 games in 2020, it’s safe to say Phillips is well on his way to becoming that player once again.

Phillips has totaled 8 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 2 pass deflections and even an interception. While Roche is more of a traditional pass rusher, Phillips athletic ability has made even Kirk Herbstreit take notice.

“This Jaelan Phillips, I think by the time we get to middle October, I think the whole nation is going to say who the heck is that number 15 on Miami? That guy is a monster. He is a dominant player against the run. He gets extension, uses his hands, and gets off blocks. As a pass rusher he can go around guys or he can just go through them,” Herbstreit said during the Miami-Louisville game.

While he hasn’t recorded a sack yet, Phillips is still getting to the opposing quarterback very often, thanks to his speed and pass-rushing moves that make him a force coming off the edge.

The third player in the trio of dominating d-lineman is DT Nesta Silvera, who came into his junior season with high expectations. While he battled through injuries last year, Silvera is looking more and more like the trench bully Canes fans expected him to be when he was one of the jewels of the 2018 recruiting class for Miami.

So far in 2020, Silvera has 12 tackles, 2 TFLs and 1 sack, becoming more consistent each game. Against Florida State, Silvera terrorized the FSU o-line, with 3 tackles, 2 TFLs and 1 sack, and was in the backfield time and time again. He also hyped his team up prior to kickoff with a legendary pregame speech.

Other than the big three, a player who is making a name for himself is redshirt freshman DT Jared Harrison-Hunte, who has 5 tackles, 3 TFLs, and is tied for first on the team with 2 sacks already on the year. A young player who has a very high ceiling, Hunte is a name that all Hurricanes fans are learning fast.

As the season keeps rolling, I expect to see more production from guys Jahfari Harvey, Jon Ford and Jordan Miller, as well as increased snaps for true freshmen Cameron Williams, Quentin Williams, Jason Blissett and Chantz Williams.

Now, are there things to improve on? Of course. They gave up 201 rushing yards against Louisville, and had problems at times vs FSU defending the run. If Miami wants to improve in that area, they’ll need more consistency from not just Nesta, but the other defensive tackles clogging the middle, as well as DE’s containing the edge.

Though, while they’ve had some hiccups, Miami’s d-line is not a concern surrounding this team, and I believe they’ll continue to improve each game. They’ll be faced against a rebuilding Clemson offensive line in their next game, and UM’s ability to pressure Trevor Lawrence and slow down Travis Etienne will be their toughest test of the regular season.