The Miami Hurricanes defense ended last season ranked among the nation’s best in a number of statistical categories.
In hopes of continuing that trend in 2017, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph and safeties coach Ephraim Banda have already started to realign the secondary to replace four graduates: safeties Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins and cornerbacks Adrian Colbert and Corn Elder.
“We don’t have much depth like most people but we compete every single day,” said junior Michael Jackson, one of the players expected to play a bigger role this fall. “That is one big thing [defensive coordinator] coach [Manny] Diaz teaches us, and that is what we do.”
When asked about who has impressed him this spring, Rumph is quick to respond.
“Statistically, Michael Jackson,” he said. “We just looked at all the man coverages, and who statistically is doing the best job with the amount of talent they have been thrown at. Mike is doing a pretty good job out there just being consistent and showing what he can do.”
Miami should be bolstered by the addition of newcomers Trajan Bandy and Jhavonte Dean, ranked among the top prospects at the position. Dean was the No. 1 ranked junior college cornerback in the country, while Bandy is a four-star prospect.
Other personnel moves have been made, including the shift of junior Sheldrick Redwine from corner to safety. “He is great. He knows where to fit in because he played corner,” sophomore Malek Young said about Redwine. “Him being at safety, his stock is going to go way up, because he just knows where to be at and how to find the ball. He is doing great back there.”
For Young, who started the final four games of his rookie season opposite Elder, this spring has been spent with Rumph on improving one aspect of his game in particular: vision. "
Keep your eyes on your man, don’t look at the quarterback,” he said. “The quarterback could lose you.”
Young expects the late-season experience from 2016 to be beneficial come fall, and he has already benefited from it through the first seven practices of the spring, with Saturday’s first scrimmage looming.
“It helped a lot. Just taking in what we learned from last year and bringing it to now,” he said. “Then being able to be coached on top of that. It gave me more knowledge of the game while studying film.
Young has been encouraged by the early returns, and expects the defense to be even better in 2017.
“We are just competing and working to the ball,” he said. “Effort. Effort is what gets us seen and that is what we are doing right now.”
April 1 | Practice 6
The calendar flipped to the first of April on Saturday morning, but there was no fooling around on the Greentree Practice Fields.
The Miami Hurricanes battled each other, and battled the heat, for two hours before wrapping up their sixth spirited practice session of the spring.
“Hot, but you know we’re having a good time, especially on the defensive side,” sophomore defensive lineman Joe Jackson said. “We’re just coming out to compete every day. We got a lot of new people, a lot of new talent, so it makes it harder to see who’s going to start, who’s not going to start.”
As expected, Miami’s defense has been flying to the ball throughout the spring, but the offense is holding its own, as well.
“It’s been going well,” senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios said. “There’s a great competition at QB right now, which makes everything a lot better, I think, but from day one to day six there’s a tremendous improvement coming from all phases of the offense.”
The Hurricanes lost four of their top six reception leaders to either graduation or the draft, which gives players like Berrios and sophomore Dionte Mullins a chance to showcase their skills in the spring. Head coach Mark Richt has been impressed with what he’s seen from Mullins thus far.
“Today in particular and it was a very hot day by the way,” Richt said. “I saw him push past the first rep of the drill, and having juice, and the second rep not so much and third rep he looked tired. I know that [wide receivers] coach [Ron] Dugans has been onto him about that. And we have all been talking to everybody about that.