The Miami Hurricanes defense is a long way removed from the defense that allowed 58 points against Clemson in 2015. Manny Diaz took over as the defensive coordinator once Mark Richt was announced as the head coach in 2016. Since taking over Diaz has reestablished an attacking defense that Miami fans were accustomed to.
In his first season Diaz put together a defense that only saw three teams scoring more than 21 points. However, the defense lacked turnovers. That led Diaz and his staff to come up with the ‘Turnover Chain’. In the following season, Miami revealed the invention to the college football world and it created a frenzy among fans. In addition to making the Miami fans even more crazy, the chain helped propel Miami to 31 turnovers in 13 games. Those defenses were playing at high levels but this year’s may just be the best in Diaz’s tenure.
2018 Miami Hurricanes Defense
Miami fields a defense that is ranked number two in the country in total defense and passing yards allowed. The Hurricanes are first in third down defense and tackles for loss. The entire defense has been in unison and every level has stood out in different games.
Miami’s defensive line has greatly benefited from a brand new Gerald Willis. After missing last season for personal reasons, he’s been on a tear. The New Orleans native has worked his way up to being a first round draft discussions off his performances. Currently Willis is tied with teammate Jonathan Garvin for the conference lead in tackles for loss. Only in his sophomore season Garvin is a player that Miami is depending upon heavily but he isn’t the only standout at defensive end. Joe Jackson has been a mentor to Garvin since he arrived and both are in similar positions.
Neither started as freshmen but became starters in their sophomore seasons. In his own right, Jackson is two tackles for loss away from surpassing his career high. With half a season left, there is also a good chance Jackson sets a new high in sacks. He has also scored a touchdown on an interception. The three have caused havoc up front for opponents and force teams to choose who to double team.
Linebackers (Striker Included)
Diaz and his staff saw an opportunity to make the Hurricanes defense more explosive based on the defensive personnel. Rather than playing three ‘true’ linebackers, the Hurricanes replaced one with a safety. Romeo Finley has filled in nicely, with an interception return for a touchdown on the season.
Shaquille Quarterman has been a starter at linebacker since his freshmen season. It can be argued that this is his strongest year. He has four sacks already. Quarterman along with Mike Pinckney have kept the middle of Miami’s defense in check. In their junior seasons the linebackers are now the leader’s and are displaying that with their play.
Miami is one of only two teams in the nation that has yet to allow 1,000 yards passing on the season. The secondary play of the Canes this season has been strong in the majority of it’s games. Even in the loss to Virginia, the secondary only allowed 92 passing yards. There were also three interceptions by the secondary and all of that occurred after senior Michael Jackson was ejected in the first half. After a junior season in which he recorded four interceptions, Jackson has yet to record one and that’s due to team’s not throwing at him.
Trajan Bandy is Miami’s other starting corner and tends to see more targets than Jackson. However team’s are often reminded why they probably shouldn’t throw to his side. Currently Bandy is tied for the team lead in interceptions with three.
Of all the fun defensive plays from last night, this back to back sequence from Trajan Bandy was incredible pic.twitter.com/rh0jDjegfa
— Chris Wittyngham (@ChrisWittyngham) September 28, 2018
The starting safeties at Miami are high school teammates that are very familiar with each other. Sheldrick Redwine has three interceptions this season and has been playing remarkable football, in only his second season playing safety. His biggest improvement has been tracking the ball and his interceptions are proof of that.
All of the success on defense is based on mistakes being cleaned up instantly. With Diaz’s attacking style, perhaps the most important position is at safety. Within this defense the player at that position must be able to diagnose what is coming, faster than anyone else. Jaquan Johnson is that for this Hurricanes defense. Having missed two games, he still leads Miami in tackles.
With the way that the defense has competed, Miami could very well be undefeated. However procrastination on the offense has held the team from being what they’re capable of reaching. That shouldn’t overshadow the work that the defense has done this season. If there isn’t a drop off, this could be one of the best defense’s in Miami school history.