On the outside of the defensive line, the defensive end group was encountering spring football looking to make headway towards a new set of starting defensive ends. Tasked with replacing three early draft picks at end, there is much uncertainty surround the group of edge rushers.
In the middle of the line, the defensive tackles look to build on an established group of contributors. Similar to the ends, this group features a strong balance between young and old, which should serve the group well in not only bringing along the underclassmen, but challenging the upperclassmen.
In traditional patois, the primary dialect spoken by Jamaicans, the name Nesta is a boy’s name meaning “messenger”.
If the last three years are any indication, the message is clear, Nesta Silvera is the undisputed face of the Miami Hurricanes defensive line. The American Heritage product has steadily seen his role and production grow for the Hurricanes since stepping on campus in 2018. The message for expectations surrounding Silvera’s senior year is also clear, ACC first teamer. To assist with that, Jess Simpson and Bob Shoop join an off field Todd Stroud to develop the defensive roster. Among the benefactors of having two new defensive coaches to help develop, Nesta Silvera may be the greatest.
Spring Goals: Nesta must look to be a do it all player as the leader on the defensive line. Whether in the weight room, drills or the film room, the tone and player leadership begins and ends with Nesta. On the personal level, the tackle will look to work with the new staff members to take his game to the next level and pace the tackle room.
While Silvera may have the biggest profile, and personality, Jon Ford is, well, the biggest, period. The 6’5 320 lb tackle is entering his fifth season with the Canes. While not a spectacular member, he is one who has consistently given the Canes good reps while steadily improving his game and contributions. Ford is a strong rotational player for the Canes and does a good job of simply doing as asked, whether lined up in the over or wider. He shows good mobility for his size and offers good ability to make plays in the run game.
Spring Goal: If Nesta is leader A1, Ford is A2. Leading by example is a key role for a redshirt senior and nothing less should be accepted. Bringing along players like Elijah Roberts and Jared Harrison-Hunte to assist the coaches falls squarely on the shoulders of upperclassmen. Aside from that, the Hurricanes need Ford to be consistent and dependable in his approach to practice, whether or not he maintains his spot on the depth chart.
The new kid in town last season was the baby faced redshirt sophomore Jared Harrison-Hunte. Noted as possibly the most athletic tackle on the team, the concern was how long his production would take to catch up to his physical abilities. Lucky for the Hurricanes, it did not take very long at all. Despite an inconsistent practice year due to covid, anytime he was on the field Harrison-Hunte was able to impact the game with excellent length and burst from the interior that allowed him to make quick work of centers and guards. With a normal spring practice session and extra coaching, he should quickly challenge for the starting role across from Silvera. Harrison-Hunte will have all eyes on him this spring.
Spring Goals: One thing that can be applied everywhere, but notably here, is staying disciplined and not running past the play. As was the case with defensive end Jalean Phillips, Jared’s ability to penetrate worked against him, running past the play, chasing the tackle for loss rather than the play itself. His ability to see and understand the plays in front of him along with doing his job in correlation will be the important task in front of the talented tackle.
The One To Watch For: Elijah Roberts
Roberts is a unique specimen, similar to Harrison-Hunte. Long and limber, Roberts displays excellent burst and power at the point of attack. Roberts make a living in using his first step and athleticism to get past linemen quickly to the ball carrier and quarterbacks. My favorite thing when watching Roberts is the same thing that was missing much of last year, staying in front of the play. Despite abilities that allow him entry to the backfield at ease, Roberts is a prospect who can stay patient and let the play come to him. A Jess Simpson recruit, it will be interesting to see how much of his relationship with Simpson plays a factor in getting on field. If anyone has what it takes to rocket up a depth chart, its Roberts.
Spring Goal: For Roberts, we want to continue to see the good weight pile on in order for him to compete with his strength at the point of impact in college. Similar, the advancement of his hand mechanics and further understanding of a defensive tackles responsibilities in a Diaz offense will be top of the menu for Elijah to take care of.
Another player who has shown consistent improvement is Jordan Miller. A huge tackle, Miller fits more of the traditional nose tackle mold, and was used as such, lining up often over center or between the center and guard. While a big responsibility is to be that block holder to allow the rushers to work, Miller has sneaky pass rush ability that allows him to make plays himself.
Spring goals: Look for Miller to challenge Jon Ford for snaps in the role reserved next to the more natural pass rushers in Nesta, Harrison-Hunte and Roberts. Miller will do well to be fundamentally sound and perform his responsibilities as expected, as the right practice patterns may lead to more playing time.
It wouldn’t be a party without Jalar Holley, now would it? The defensive tackle with the dancing toes looks to get his opportunity to use his footwork in more of a traditional tackle manner this spring. Cut from the same mold, physically, as lead tackle Nesta Silvera, Holley presents a compact but powerful frame that translates power quickly and noticeably on screen. Combined with the surprisingly nimble footwork and solid first step, Holley is an underrated prospect on the Hurricanes depth.
Spring Goals: The Buford product once played for Jess Simpson at Buford High School in Georgia, so it will be interesting how the relationship transforms at Miami. We would like to see Holley tap into his physical potential and motor to be a tenacious force when given the chance.
The defensive tackle unit will do well to make a name for themselves with the defensive staff this spring. If not simply for their own pride and desire to succeed, but for the simple fact that the number one defensive tackle in the 2021 recruiting cycle, Leonard Taylor, will be on campus to demand snaps this fall.
Four more days until spring camp.