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Miami Hurricanes 2022 Coach Profile: Joe Salave’a Defensive Line

In his first season with the Hurricanes, Joe Salave’a is vital in helping the defense make a leap towards dominance.

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAR 05 Florida at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When Mario Cristobal was hired as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, he brought in some position coaches he has worked with in his past. One of those is Joe Salave’a.

Salave’a takes over as the defensive line coach but is also the associate head coach and run-game coordinator. He and Cristobal come over from Oregon, where they worked together since 2017.

The combination of their coaching philosophy made an immediate impact on the toughness of the Ducks when they got to Eugene in 2017 and throughout their tenure.

In the two years before Salave’a was on staff, Oregon had one of the worst defenses in the country. In 2015, they allowed 37.5 points per game (116th nationally) and that went up to 41.4 points per game in 2016 (126th nationally).

During the 2017 season with Salave’a coaching the defensive line and Cristobal coaching the offensive line, the Ducks allowed 29 points per game, 81st in the country. When head coach Willie Taggart left for Florida State, Cristobal became the head coach.

Over the next four seasons, the worst they would rank nationally in points allowed was in 2021 when they were 75th. For comparison, Miami was 85th last season.

Another improvement they made was in the run game. In the two seasons before Salave’a arrived, Oregon allowed 4.7 yards per attempt in 2015 and 5.7 yards per attempt in 2016. In 2017, that dropped by over two full yards per attempt to 3.5 yards per rush. It stayed below four yards per attempt for three consecutive seasons with 2019 only allowing 3.3 yards per attempt.

The running game is much more than just the defensive line. Having good linebacker play and defensive backs that can assist on the edges and back end are also vital to stopping a rushing attack. But dominant, tough play at the point of attack is the most important part of winning in the trenches.

Salave’a has not only coaching experience but an eight-year career in the National Football League as a defensive tackle. He also had a great career at the University of Arizona where he was an All-Pac 10 selection twice.

Since retiring from the NFL, he got his start at San Jose coaching the defensive line in 2008. He took over in the same position at his alma mater in 2011. He then got his first chance as an associate head coach at Washington State from 2012 to 2016. He took on those same responsibilities at Oregon in 2017 as well as co-defensive coordinator.

During his time as a coach, Salave’a has coached some extremely talented players. Most notable is Kayvon Thibodeaux, the fifth overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

There are quite a few players on the defensive line that will benefit from the coaching of Salave’a, Cristobal, and the rest of this staff that preaches toughness.