As we head toward the 2023 Miami Hurricanes football season, we continue our position preview series with a look at a position that could be one of the keys to success this fall: EDGE (aka Defensive Ends).
Akheem Mesidor came onto the scene like gangbusters for Miami in 2022. He earned Honorable Mention All-ACC accolades after putting up 38 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, and a team-high 7 sacks. He did miss a game, but when he played, Mesidor — who earned national DPOY honors for his game against Virginia Tech — was impressive and impactful. He’s cemented at one starting spot, and will look to build on his already impressive resume in 2023.
This one may be met with some pushback, and I understand it. But from everything I’ve seen, heard, and read, sophomore Nyjalik Kelly is primed and ready to take #TheLeap in 2023. He started in the first scrimmage, and I’m leaning in and putting him as a starter this fall. Kelly (32 in the picture above) is 6’5” 250lbs with incredible quickness and a knack for wreaking havoc in the backfields of opposing offenses. He’s more physically gifted than the incumbent starter at this position, and his potential is sky high. With Miami coming off a 5-7 season, a youth movement makes sense. And Kelly, who flashed with 11 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, and 4 sacks as a freshman, fits that timeline. Regardless, he’s supremely talented and looks to have a massive year for the Canes.
Miami has solid depth at EDGE, and several players will rotate in behind the starters, and the difference in performance shouldn’t be too great. Leading the way is 5th year junior Jahfari Harvey. With 38 games and 13 starts to his credit, Harvey is the most experienced player at this position. I’m projecting that Kelly has usurped his starting spot, but Harvey will be a valued player, and one that can play a high number of snaps in any game or situation.
Freshman Rueben “Hurricane” Bain is going to find his way onto the field in 2023. The 6’3” 275lb All-American from Miami Central was a terror in the spring, putting up 4 sacks in the spring game. Sure, that was a scrimmage and several starting linemen were out, but Bain has continued to show that he has the skills and ability to play, and play now. Bain will likely play some EDGE and some Tackle, but I wanted to be sure to list him here. Learn the name. He’s gonna be a good one.
Junior Chantz Williams, and Freshman Jayden Wayne also figure to get snaps at EDGE this year. Williams is a former blue chip recruit whose impact hasn’t matched his physical build. And Wayne is a 2023 recruit who, along with the aforementioned Bain, will figure to have a big role on this team in the future, though likely not as large of a role as his classmate in their freshman year.
Redshirt freshman Cyrus Moss is a tall and thin 6’6” 215lbs. He looks like his DE coach — Hall of Fame DE Jason Taylor — before Taylor gained the size that turned him into an NFL defender. Moss has plenty of talent and athleticism, but he’ll have to gain size and strength to be more than a rush-only option moving forward.
Standing 6’7” 270lbs, true freshman Collins Acheampong looks like a Calais Campbell clone. He’s big and strong with a massive wingspan, and figures to be used all over the line in the future. Acheampong is recovering from an ACL/MCL tear as a HS senior, however, so his role this year will be limited, if any.
With Mesidor and Kelly leading the way, and additional support from former-starter Harvey, Bain, Williams, and Wayne, Miami’s EDGEs should be a strength of this team. In general, I’d like one more standout player in this group to be returning, but when you infuse the kind of talent Bain and Wayne bring to the table, I think Miami can be okay to very good here, as long as they don’t get hit by the injury bug. I fully expect all-conference performance from this position, and that will help elevate everyone else on the Canes’ defense.