Entering the 2022 college football season, one of the two biggest questions was the linebacker position for the Miami Hurricanes. It was a serious issue in 2021 and seemed like that would continue for another season.
Corey Flagg Jr. has done a good job through three games providing some answers to that question. But has he made a huge improvement? I don’t think so. He is just playing in a scheme that uses him correctly unlike last season.
Flagg was seen as a negative as a starting linebacker. So far this season, that isn’t the case. He has improved as a player, but it isn’t his like he is way faster, stronger, or smarter that has him making plays. It is a combination of factors that have him showing who he should have been last year.
Through three games, Flagg is tied for the team lead in total tackles (15) and leads the team in solo tackles (10) and tackles for loss (3.5). That shouldn’t be a surprise for the middle linebacker, but it is a big change over last season when it always felt like the linebackers were yards away every play.
In 2021, Flagg finished the season with 60 total tackles, 35 solo tackles, and seven tackles for loss in 12 games. In a quarter of the games this season, he is already halfway to that mark in tackles for loss.
But what has Flagg improved so much that he is just always around the ball? It doesn’t seem like he is a much better player. He is just being used properly for his skill set.
Under Manny Diaz, the defense was an aggressive attacking scheme that often had Flagg chasing, something that was not good for a slower run-stopping linebacker. He would often be late to the play because of this, making him look worse than he was.
Under Kevin Steele, the defensive front is eating blocks instead of running deep into the backfield, giving Flagg the ability to find the ball and make plays in between blocks instead of needing to get off blockers.
That defensive line is also a huge factor in Flagg’s success. Last season, the defensive line had good players, but didn’t have any stars and lacked depth. This season, players like Leonard Taylor, Darrell Jackson, and Akheem Mesidor have improved the front of the defense.
With an improved defensive line, Charlie Strong coaching the linebackers, and Steele using a different scheme, Flagg has become the linebacker he could have been.