Part of the excitement of the Manny Diaz hire at Miami was his great track record as the Defensive Coordinator. Diaz’s defenses had created a reputation for forcing turnovers and turning those turnovers into big returns and touchdowns. Diaz did it with outstanding Defensive Backs, veteran Linebackers, and not much else. Now Diaz has a great defensive line to put more pressure on Quarterbacks which should lead to more turnovers.
Miami lost their best player to an opt out a couple of months ago and they still have one of the most talented Defensive Line groups in the country. Quincy Roche transferred in from Temple after putting up 19 tackles for loss and 13 sacks last year. He and Jaelan Phillips combine to make up the best Defensive End duo that Louisville will face this season, in my opinion. Roche has great speed off the edge and plays with the type of motor you would expect from a guy who was overlooked as a recruit. Phillips is a former five-star recruit who was the top ranked player in the country in 2017 class.
The key player for this defense, in my opinion is Nesta Jade Silvera at Defensive Tackle. He is a high motor player who is very disruptive. Silvera made multiple plays last week where he didn’t record the stat but he allowed someone else to make the play. Playing inside is all about being disruptive and Silvera creates some real havoc which throws off blocking schemes and makes it easy for Linebackers to run free. He and Jonathan Ford could be a real problem for a line that didn’t do all that well against Western Kentucky last week.
Zach McCloud returns at Linebacker for Miami but the rest of the group is pretty new. McCloud is a veteran who should be a leader for this group as well as a solid play maker. Bradley Jennings Jr. has taken over the role at Inside Linebacker while also making me feel super old. He had a solid first game with 6 tackles and 22 tackles for loss. The question with this group is can they cause havoc like the Linebackers who manned these positions for so long before them. Gilbert Frierson and Keontra Smith are two guys to look out for at the third Linebacker spot. Both are athletic players who can run well.
The secondary has been the key spot for Diaz’s defenses and he has placed a good amount of guys in the NFL during his time there. This might be the first group that didn’t truly impress me, though. They bring back some experience with rotation guys now becoming starters but Al Blades Jr. and DJ Ivey both allowed a handful of catches that you would expect them to break up or at least be in tighter coverage on. Ivey gave up a touchdown catch where he just didn’t even play the ball. Neither of these guys are bad players but you just have an expectation for Miami and they didn’t reach meet it last game.
Bubba Bolden is back from injury and I think he’s the most dynamic player in the secondary. Bolden can play the run well and he has good range. He hasn’t seen the field all that much in college but that he’s the best athlete of the three safeties Miami plays, in my opinion. Amari Carter and Gurvan Hall round out the group and I think it will be interesting to see if Miami leaves either of them on Tutu Atwell or Braden Smith in man coverage. All of these guys can run pretty well but I don’t know that any of them can keep up with Louisville’s speed in the slot.