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Miami Hurricanes 2022 position recap: Defensive Line

Thanks in great part to several transfers, this position was one of the few bright spots for the Hurricanes

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing our football year-end review is our coverage of the Defensive Line. This transfer-heavy unit was one of the few bright spots for the Hurricanes in 2022.

Position Leaders

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Miami at Virginia Tech
Akheem Mesidor during pre-game warmups at Virginia Tech
Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Akheem Mesidor (R-So.) - ACC Honorable Mention, 38 tackles, 7 sacks, 1 FF
  • Leonard Taylor III (So.) - ACC Honorable Mention, 24 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT

Akheem Mesidor was a deservedly strong candidate for the State of the U’s player of the year award. The West Virginia transfer led the Canes in sacks and multiple big-stat games this season. The highlight had to have been the Virginia Tech victory where he had 3.5 sacks and was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week. Mesidor’s motor never stopped, as evidenced by this critical strip sack to keep Miami in the Clemson game:

Meanwhile, Leonard Taylor III was an interior, gap clogging force throughout the season. The former five-star recruit served as the focal point of the Canes’ interior defense and he frequently drew the most double teams. Taylor’s highlight game was against Virginia where the run-stopper managed 1.5 sacks in route to being tabbed the ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week.

Regular Contributors

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Southern Miss at Miami
True Freshman Nyjalik Kelly sacking Southern Miss. QB Briason Mays
Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Darrell Jackson (So.) - 12 G, 27 tackles, 3 sacks
  • Nyjalik Kelly (Fr.) - 12 G, 11 tackles, 4 sacks
  • Mitchell Agude (R-Sr.) - 12 G, 39 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 FF
  • Jahfari Harvey (R-So.) - 12 G, 31 tackles, 5.5 sacks
  • Jordan Miller (R-Jr.) - 12 G, 18 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR
  • Chantz Williams (R-So.) - 12 G, 13 tackles, 1 FR
  • Antonio Moultrie (R-Sr.) - 10 G, 14 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 FF
  • Jarred Harrison-Hunte (R-So.) - 9 G, 16 tackles, 2 sacks
  • Jacob Lichtenstein (R-Sr.) - 8 G, 4 tackles, 1 sack
  • Elijah Roberts (R-So.) - 8 G, 9 tackles

Unlike the offensive line, the defense line was blessed with significant depth and (for the most part) health. Eight players rotated in every game while another four saw the field in at least eight contests. Seven players also recorded multiple sacks. Consequentially, Miami was able to keep a fresh rotation of 10-12 players along the defensive line late into most games.

For me, Nyjalik Kelly and Jahfari Harvey are the two to watch next season as the most likely to join Mesidor and Taylor with all-conference honors. Kelly was one of Coach Cristobal’s first commitments last December. A high four star prospect with a national top 100 ranking, Kelly was immediately thrust into duty as a rotational edge rusher. Chantz Williams and Jarred Harrison-Hunte should also be back next season and looking to improve upon their productive showings.

The remaining six of these ten players will not return next year. Three graduate transfers exhausted their eligibility - Antonio Moultrie, Mitchell Agude, and Jacob Lichtenstein. Moultrie, a UAB transfer, stuffed the interior while Agude and Lichtenstein, respectively UCLA and USC transfers, were edge rushers.

Another three have entered the transfer portal. One of the few transfer portal losses that could really sting Miami is Darrell Jackson who started opposite Leonard Taylor at DT. Jackson is transferring to Florida State to be closer to his family. Also entering the transfer portal are Jordan Miller and Elijah Roberts - both announced they’re reuniting with Coach Lashlee at SMU. Bon voyage and good luck gentlemen.

Reserves and Redshirts

NCAA Football: Duke at Miami
True Freshman Cyrus Moss (No. 39) running onto the field for Miami’s home game against Duke
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
  • Allan Haye Jr. (R-Fr.) - 2 G, 1 tackle
  • Thomas Davis (R-Fr.) - 1 G, 1 tackle, 0.5 sacks
  • Cyrus Moss (Fr.) - 1 G
  • Quentin Williams (R-Fr.) - 0 G
  • Ahmad Moten (Fr.) - 0 G
  • Bryan Levine (R-So.) - 0 G
  • Josh Neely (R-So.) - 0 G
  • Trent Schuerman (Fr.) - 0 G
  • Ahamad Moten (Fr.) - 0 G

Sitting behind the aforementioned leaders and contributors are a slew of underclassman who took a year to bulk up. Of this young group, true freshman Cyrus Moss stands the best chance to breakout next season. Like Kelly, Moss was recruited by Cristobal as a high four star, nationally top 100 ranked recruit. Unlike Kelly, the Canes opted to redshirt him this year. His only appearance was against Georgia Tech. Thomas Davis is another one to keep an eye on. He was a three-star prospect two years ago who picked Miami over FSU, Arkansas, and South Carolina among others. He was injured his true freshman season, and this year his only appearance was against Bethune Cookman where he picked up half a sack.

A couple of these players are also transferring. Allan Haye Jr. transferred to Temple while Quentin Williams transferred to Marshall mid-season in November.

Recruits and Transfers for 2023

NCAA Football: Georgia St. at Coastal Carolina
Miami Transfer Thomas Gore sacks Coastal Carolina QB Braydon Bennett in 2021
David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

This unit was the strength of Miami’s defense last season, and while six regular contributors, including one starter, are graduating or transferring, there are quite a few promising and talented recruits coming to campus next season.

Miami is absolutely set at defensive end this class. Reuben Bain and Jayden Wayne are both high four-star, nationally top 100 prospects who could anchor the edge rush position for years to come. Bain also earned Max Prep’s POY honors in Florida. Joining them is Collins Acheampong, a four star prospect that Miami flipped away from Michigan before early signing day.

While Acheampong could play tackle, he’s projected to play on the edge. Joshua Horton, a three star prospect from Georgia, is the only projected defensive tackle in Miami’s freshman recruiting class. With Jackson transferring, interior depth could be an issue. Fortunately, Miami also secured a commitment from Thomas Gore, a transfer from Georgia State.

Ultimately, Miami seems well set at edge but a little thin on the interior. If there are any more recruits or transfers announced for this position group, look for Cristobal to add another big interior body in the middle. But overall, this group was one of the few bright spots last year and is well positioned to anchor the Canes’ defense next year.