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5 Reasons Why The Canes Defense Will Improve

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Manny Diaz is back at DC, and looks to make Miami dominant again and defense

NCAA Football: Miami at Duke Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of Manny Diaz’s time at Miami, either as head coach or coordinator, the Hurricanes defense has been pretty solid. 2020 however, changed that, as the Canes gave up more yards per game since 2015, and who could forget the 778 yards and 62 points given up to UNC?

Heading into 2021, Miami’s defense has to improve if they want to see more wins, and I believe that it will. Here’s why:

  1. Manny Diaz

Starting off with the head man, Coach Diaz has now returned to being Miami’s defensive coordinator, along with his duties as head coach. There was obviously a need for change at DC after two years of Blake Baker, and while I wasn’t expecting Coach Diaz to be that change, I'm all for it.

In the three years Manny was the defensive coordinator at UM, his defense gave up an average of 329 yards per game and just 19.6 points per game. Just to give you an idea, last year, the Canes defense under Blake Baker gave up 408 yards per game and 27 points per game.

Coach Diaz knows this defense, and how to run it to its maximum ability. He’s more aggressive with blitzes as opposed to the soft zone we’ve seen the last two years. That will create more pressure and in turn cause turnovers.

2. Bob Shoop

The hiring of analyst Bob Shoop, in my mind, was one of the most important hires that Miami made this offseason. With years of experience, Shoop will help the Hurricanes prepare better defensively, and bring new and fresh ideas to Coach Diaz on how to better use Miami’s personnel.

3. Experienced Secondary/T-Rob

Miami’s defensive backs were up and down in 2020, but now in 2021, the Canes return every player from a year ago in their secondary. Bubba Bolden looks to take the next step in his game after we saw him become one of the better safeties in the ACC. Te’Cory Couch established himself as the best cover-corner that Miami has, and should improve even more in 2021.

The Hurricanes also bring in transfer cornerback Tyrique Stevenson from Georgia, a player with tremendous potential, and who was recently named one of the most athletic players in College Football by the Cover 3 Podcast. I expect Stevenson to start at corner, and make a big impact.

More than anything, the hiring of Defensive Backs coach Travaris Robinson will hopefully help elevate the play of Miami’s secondary. With a history of developing DB’s into star players, I love the idea of T-Rob helping guys like Gurvan Hall, DJ Ivey and Al Blades Jr. into more consistent players in the secondary.

4. Depth on the defensive line/Jess Simpson

Yes, Miami is now without Gregory Rousseau, Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche, but the Hurricanes also head into 2021 with plenty of depth on the defensive line. Nesta Silvera is back for his senior season, as is Jon Ford. Jared Harrison-Hunte looks to build off his 2020 season which saw him finish with 6 TFLs and 3 sacks. Assuming he’s able to see more snaps at defensive tackle, I expect him to have a breakout year and be a force in pass-rushing situations.

Deandre Johnson transferred over from Tennessee which will give Miami a veteran at defensive end. Jahfari Harvey looks to become a full-time starter at DE, and all Hurricanes fans can’t wait to see what he does. Zach McCloud has made the transition over from linebacker to defensive end. Then there’s also younger players on the line like Chantz Williams, Cam Williams, Elijah Roberts and Jordan Miller, among others.

Which gives me so much confidence in this group is the return of Jess Simpson, who has come back to Miami to coach the DL. In his one season at Miami in 2018, the Hurricanes defensive line was among the best in college football, with three lineman registering over 14 TFLs. He was able to develop Gerald Willis III into an All-American, and also help a second year player like Jonathan Garvin turn into one of the best DE’s in the ACC that year.

5. Gilbert Frierson and Bubba Bolden

You know how Jaquan Johnson helped the entire Canes defense be dominant in 2018? That’s exactly how I view Gilbert Frierson, a player who can transform his defense and make them better. Frierson jumped onto the scene in 2020 with 53 tackles (2nd on the team), 11 TFLs and 4 pass breakups. He’s arguably the best all-around player on this defense, and I’m expecting big things from him in his second season as a starter.

Bubba Bolden wasn’t as consistent during the second half of the year as he was in the beginning, but those first four games of 2020 we saw just how good he can be. With the help of coach T-Rob, I think this is the year where Bolden becomes one of the best safeties in college football, and turns into the playmaker on defense that the Hurricanes need him to be.