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Transfers Should Elevate ‘Canes Defense

When Mario Cristobal came to town, Miami’s defense was young and inexperienced. Seven transfers later, the defense now contains multiple veterans from the Power 5. Who are these players?

Caleb Johnson immediately slots in as Miami’s LB1 after transferring from UCLA.

129 games. 463 tackles. 25.5 sacks. 55.5 tackles for loss. 4 interceptions. 6 forced fumbles. 3 fumble recoveries. That’s what Coach Mario Cristobal and the Miami Hurricanes’ defense have added in the transfer portal in the last few weeks. What was expected to be a young, inexperienced defense will now be one of the most talented and experienced defenses in the nation. In the portal, Cristobal has brought in seven defensive players, five of which were Power 5 starters. Who are they and what do they bring to the team?

LB Caleb Johnson, UCLA: 18 GM, 89 TKLs, 4.5 SK, 7 TFL, 2 INT, 1 FR.

Miami’s biggest need on defense was inside linebacker, so Cristobal went out got one of the top linebackers in the portal, Caleb Johnson. The 6’1, 230 pound linebacker transfers to Miami from UCLA, and brings veteran experience to a weak LB room. A strong tackler that excels in zone coverage, Johnson will be a key player for the Miami defense. Since 2017, LB has been a weakness for Miami, and Johnson will help the ‘Canes return to dominance at the position. He will start for the ‘Canes in 2022.

DL Akheem Mesidor, West Virginia: 21 GM, 70 TKL, 9.5 SK, 14.5 TFL.

One of the more shocking transfers in the college football world, Akheem Mesidor makes his way to Miami from West Virginia. The 6’2, 270 pound DL has the potential to play either inside or outside, giving the ‘Canes some much needed versatility. Mesidor was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team in 2020, and the All-Big 12 Third Team in 2021. The relationship between Mesidor and Miami stems from WVU’s former Co-DC and current Miami DB coach, Jahmile Addae. A star in the Big 12, Mesidor will be a key contributor to Miami’s defense in 2022 on the DL.

OLB/DE Mitchell Agude, UCLA: 18 GM, 78 TKL, 14.5 TFL, 6 FF, 1 FR.

A former teammate of Johnson, former UCLA DE Mitchell Agude committed to Miami over Oregon and Washington. An excellent edge, the 6’4, 245 pound Agude was named Second Team All-Pac-12 in 2021 after recording 55 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He was named the Pac-12 DL of the Week against Cal when he had 5 tackles and a sack. A productive edge that is effective in both the run and passing game, Agude will make an impact at Miami.

CB Daryl Porter Jr., West Virginia: 13 GM, 46 TKL, 1 TFL, 5 PD, 1 INT.

A 5’11, 168 pound corner, Daryl Porter returns home to South Florida after two seasons at West Virginia. Behind Tyrique Stevenson, the CB2 spot is as open as any position on the team. Miami has talent at the CB position, but they lack in the in-game production. With no clear starter after Stevenson, Porter Jr. could be the guy that comes in and starts due to his experience and track record. Like Mesidor, Porter Jr. has a connection with Addae from his days at WVU. Porter Jr. will be one of the ‘Canes top three corners in the fall.

DT Darrell Jackson, Maryland: 8 GM, 22 TKL.

Former Maryland DL Darrell Jackson committed to Miami over UF and FSU. An absolute beast in the trenches, Jackson is 6’6, 303 pounds and has the potential to be an amazing run-stuffer for Miami. He mentioned that Miami lacked someone like him currently on the roster, and that went into the decision for his commitment. In Miami’s strength and conditioning program, Jackson’s potential is scary. In 2022, he will play in short-yardage situations and inside the five. Going forward, he is one of the most intriguing prospects on the team.

DE Antonio Moultrie, UAB: 34 GM, 116 TKL, 2 SK, 10.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FR.

Easily the most seasoned of the transfers, Antonio Moultrie transfers into Miami from UAB as a sixth-year senior. Moultrie, a Florida native, had three tackles when UAB visited Miami in 2020. The 6’4, 265 pound DL also brings a lot of versatility to the ‘Canes defensive line, but he will reportedly play inside. While at UAB, Moultrie was named Second Team All-Conference USA in 2020. He could form a dynamic partnership with Leonard Taylor in the interior in 2022.

DL Jake Lichtenstein, USC: 17 G, 42 TKL, 4 SK, 8 TFL.

A Florida native from Cypress Bay High School, Jake Lichtenstein makes his way back to South Florida after a few seasons at USC. He struggled with injuries at USC and now gets a fresh start in Miami. The 6’6, 270 pound DL adds much needed depth to the DL room. In the Spring Game, Lichtenstein was one of the more impressive players on the DL, and proved that he needs to see the field in the regular season. He will be a rotational piece that could push for a good number of snaps in 2022.

Successfully Utilizing the Portal

In my opinion, I’m expecting a number of the transfers to start and contribute. In Week 1, I expect Johnson (LB), Mesidor (DL), Porter (CB), Moultrie (DL) and Agude (OLB/DE) to start. If that’s the case, Cristobal adding five starters to the talented, young defense that the ‘Canes already had is masterful. The ‘Canes already have three cornerstone players on defense in star corner Tyrique Stevenson, and the two five-star sophomores in S James Williams and DT Leonard Taylor. Putting solid, experienced starters with those three will prove to be elite for Miami.

With how many defensive lineman are currently on the roster plus the additions, a rotation will almost surely be utilized. They will rotate in situationally depending on what is needed. With Lichtenstein and Jackson, the DL depth will be amazing for the ‘Canes. Last season, when certain players would leave the game, the drop-off in talent was extremely noticeable. Going forward, I don’t expect that to be an issue.

Cristobal did a great job of addressing the issues on the roster and grabbing players that can contribute right away. Only time will tell how much these guys play and perform, but for now, the ‘Canes look to be much improved defensively.