The Miami Hurricanes enter into what feels like no mans land at Defensive End. As in, no man in the defensive ends room has been a starter at the spot for the Miami Hurricanes. 2021 will mark the fifth consecutive season the Hurricanes will have to replace a draft pick at defensive end. This time, its two, with Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche expected to go in rounds one and two, respectfully, of the 2021 NFL Draft. Also uncommon to those years, there is still a certain wealth to the defensive end room that provides as much calm as there is concern.
As we dive into the spring position preview, take time to click each section title for the most recent article about that Hurricane player.
That takes us to the first and oldest section of the room, occupied by two former starting linebackers, one resident Cane and one a transferring starter from the SEC.
For the Hurricanes, Zach McCloud was the starter at the inside linebacker spot, logging the bulk of the snaps at the position. Entering his 6th year, McCloud’s entry into the defensive ends room feels as though its five years too late. While not the ideal height, the former Santaluces outside linebacker’s highlights out of high school saw him as much more of a downhill player that got after the quarterback than a sideline to sideline ranger.
Spring Goals: The opportunity for McCloud to pin his ears back and attack will be one to watch. We need to see how McCloud reacts to getting his hands in the dirt. Taking and applying the coaching from two excellent defensive line coaches in Jess Simpson and Todd Stroud may seem amazing, but could be a lot to absorb and apply while at a new position. If McCloud can click quick, we may have something to talk about.
While equally senior, that is not the only similarity when comparing McCloud to the Canes latest transfer, Deandre Johnson. Johnson also spent time playing back up for three years before getting the nod in his senior campaign. His obstacle was the now drafted Darrell Taylor, who, once gone, provided Deandre with an audition season that let him fall upward to Miami. Deandre and Zach will now have another challenge in front of them from a quartet of talented edge rushers that have traits Johnson and Zach cannot simply pick up.
Spring Goals: Similar to Zach, Deandre will have to adjust to a full position change coming from outside linebacker for the Volunteers. That will be less an adjustment from a 3-4 outside linebacker. The bigger thing to account for will be the pace of practice, as the Hurricanes established a high pace with focus on conditioning. How Johnson adjusts there while acclimating to a new team and coaches will dictate his success in his return home to Miami.
DeAndre Johnson is a good pickup to help replace Jaelan Phillips on that DL. Listed as a LB by UT, he’ll be a defensive end for us (probably LE opposite Harvey). He’s shown some legit passrush skills, but he’s also a high character/effort player who knows how to keep the edge. pic.twitter.com/rnDB3snmfN— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) January 3, 2021
Jahfari Harvey, of the Treasure Coast, is the diamond of the group. Sitting two years himself behind Greggory Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips, this spring marks one of urgency for the junior, who will add great speed to the Canes pass rush. The question to be answered is if he has continued to add strength and technique to his cache to keep the redshirt seniors and super sophomores at bay. As a favorite to start at one end of the line, Harvey will get a strong look this spring, especially with the return of the man who recruited him to Miami. Jess Simpson, as seen below, will be very excited to see the upgraded version of his former recruit on the field again.
Spring Goals: As the resident snap leader for the position, Jahfari needs to quickly set the pace and energy for the group. We will look to see and hear of leadership traits and command of the defensive responsibilities. Physically, Harvey must display growth in his strength and hand usage, to compliment his speed and bend. This would mark Harvey as a more complete pass rusher and clear successor to the recent lineage at defensive end.
Jordan Miller and Jahfari Harvey, two young players we’ve heard a lot about, getting a sack early. Both played well on Saturday pic.twitter.com/JCZFDdkxqJ— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) October 18, 2020
On the other side of the line, a trio of Williams will square off to see which will rise as the superior holder of Surname.
The WILLIAMS'S...— Joe Williams (@JoeSkilliams) July 22, 2020
Cameron Williams is the elder Williams. What once was a lanky but talented freshman in 2019 is now a monster and the tallest of the group. While this Williams may not be elite in any explosive category, it is his length that allows him to shorten space and give tackles nightmares. Similar to Rousseau in that regard, we would love to see Cam develop even in to Rousseau lite, who’s shear size and first step made him a chess piece across the line to use a mismatch weapon. Cam Williams could be one to watch.
Spring Goals: This will be a reintroduction of sorts for Williams. As a junior he is a veteran in the room, however has seemed to be easily overshadowed to this point, which is easy when playing behind 3 early draft picks. With his excellent length and traits, we look to hear about an urgency to his practices and habits. If we hear about Cameron leading drills and weight training, then we know that he is building to take advantage of his role. If not, Cameron will maintain a role as a secondary contributor.
Chantz Williams is the most heralded of the three. A four star talent out of Oakleaf High in Orange Park, FL, the 6’4 260 pound sophomore came as a package deal with good friend and fellow four star Jalen Rivers in the 2020 class. Williams boast possibly the best inline speed on the defensive line, having been timed at 4.52 40 time in high school. No stranger to beating tackles with a quick first step, like Harvey, it was the strength game that held Chantz back. 30 pounds later, the sophomore looks to prove that his unique physical traits can set him apart.
Spring Goals: Chantz will want to show off his signature speed moves, but will do best to display continued growth in his strength, technique and knowledge of the defensive scheme. With his weight up substantially, we will want to see comfort at his new weight and that his conditioning is still strong. He can really take a huge step with his skill set if these new adjustments are met.
Meanwhile, another sophomore Williams, Quentin, seems to equally balance Chantz’ speed with great power off the edge. That power nearly had Quentin change to defensive tackle for the Hurricanes, but with the recent departures, has resurfaced as a great option at End. The Mallard Creek alum is a Canes lifer, and assuredly sees the opportunity in front of him to place himself in the rotation for Coach Simpson’s line. Quentin will need to display consistency in his grit and using his trademark power, and keep his motor on high to stick out in Miami’s glut of talent on the edges.
Spring Goals: As Quentin refocuses on the end of the line, he has the unique ability to be the most balanced and powerful lineman off the edge. His blend of explosiveness and strength will need to set him apart from the group. It may also find him snaps as a matchup nightmare in the middle at times. His consistency, and level of conditioning will dictate how far he can separate from the pack.
As has been the case for Manny Diaz’ tenure with the Canes, the defensive end room is stacked. The competition this room breeds has shown direct results on the field and thrust a lineage of defensive ends into the league. Before we can get to that point with this group, these same competitive traits that the Hurricanes seek in the locker room will need to pressurize a diamond or two from the bunch.
Fortunately the Canes have fantastic leadership in place to coach up the creew. As mentioned, two proven, willing and able defensive line coaches in Todd Stroud and Jess Simpson are in the building to push the defensive ends into the 2021 season and beyond. Not to mention a former defensive coordinator, of the top defense in the country for 2018 season, in Bob Shoop to assist in their growth through the defensive scheme.