For too many years, questions and criticism arose on what ever happened to the dominant defenses of Miami, more specifically the defensive tackle position. Insert defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, add defensive line guru Craig Kuligowski and give him a talent like RJ McIntosh. The resurgence of the Miami defense starts in the trenches and the Fort Lauderdale native is a major factor.
Two Sport Star
McIntosh comes from a two sport background where he was either playing football or basketball. He idolized Kobe Bryant and his work ethic, which made his talent so unbelievable with hopes of one day gaining that Mamba mentality. At Cardinal Gibbons High School, McIntosh would have his share of Kobe moments, dunking on defenders.
Ultimately, it was his ability on the field coupled with the athleticism shown on the court, which drew football scouts from all over to recruit him. He would ultimately committed to the hometown Miami Hurricanes and then head coach Al Golden. In his first season as a Miami Hurricane, he served as a backup defensive end in Miami’s 3-4 defense, and in the five games he saw action, he recorded four tackles.
New Regime, New Scheme
The dismissal of Al Golden would eventually bring back former Hurricane quarterback Mark Richt as head coach. One of his first priorities included returning to the fast and physical 4-3 defense fans were accustomed to viewing. The change would attract Miami native Manny Diaz and his aggressive defensive schemes back to his hometown. Perhaps the bigger fish was landing defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, who upon his arrival switched McIntosh to defensive tackle.
The move would pay dividends immediately. Not only would he become a starter, but in the first game of the season he would go on to record eight tackles, a career high, with two tackles coming for loss. The next game, he would have another tackle and a half for a loss and also flash his athleticism blocking a punt against Florida Atlantic.
By season’s end, McIntosh and Kendrick Norton would be considered one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the ACC. Their impact would go beyond their own success as they helped three freshman linebackers break into college football with two of them earning Freshman All-American honors. Miami improved in almost every defensive statistical category and the defensive tackle position was a big reason why.
After a breakout sophomore season, there is already buzz about an early entry to the NFL, which Mark Richt is hoping to prevent. There might not be anything he could do if McIntosh exceeds last season, as productive defensive tackles in the NFL are a premium. He certainly has a bright future and has turned the corner in such a short time. Whether he decides to leave early or play out his senior season, his presence has been felt in the ACC.