Miami’s improved defense led by depth, sense of unity

Then-redshirt freshman Jahfari Harvey celebrates after recording Miami’s only sack of the game early in the first quarter against Appalachian State at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday Sept. 11.
Then-redshirt freshman Jahfari Harvey celebrates after recording Miami’s only sack of the game early in the first quarter against Appalachian State at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday Sept. 11. Photo credit: Josh Halper

With an entirely new defensive staff and an abundance of incoming transfers, Miami’s defense has been praised by those involved within the program as the team heads towards an important year on that side of the ball.

“I can definitely say I’ve never played on a [defensive line] so deep before,” senior Jacob Lichtenstein said. “We are all really progressing and pushing each other to get better.”

Last season, Miami struggled to put offensive players on the turf and end plays. The tackling struggles were partly the reason why its defense allowed 28.4 points per game, ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Moreover, not one Hurricane defender finished in the top 25 in tackles in the ACC.

This year, however, Miami appears to be employing new strategies on their line this season to try and change the narrative.

“We are always working on pursuit angles. I think we are definitely focusing more on tackling as a defensive group,” UCLA transfer and defensive lineman Mitchell Agude said.

These players have also noticed that the coaching staff is putting trust in a deeper lineup of players to rotate in and out of the defense, as well.

“There’s not 11 starters there’s going to be 20 starters, 25 starters,” Lichtenstein said. “We’re probably going to rotate a bunch of guys.”

Other Hurricanes emphasized that the team’s unity was an important factor.

“We are all playing our role, we are all starters,” defensive lineman Antonio Moultrie said. “We’re all one, we know that.”

Miami’s roster features a flurry of transfers from other schools, and the Canes are confident that the new pieces will add to the bright spots of last season.

Among the new names to watch will be linebacker Caleb Johnson. The transfer from UCLA started almost every game last season for the Bruins and could become an elite defensive partner next to Corey Flagg Jr., who led the Canes last season with 60 tackles.

“Caleb is, from what I’ve seen, a sure tackler. He’s going to get to the ball, he’s really fast,” Agude said. “When he’s on the field he’s going to make that play.”

In just over a week, the Hurricanes will finally get a chance to show if their defensive unit is turning the corner as they kickoff action at home against Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 3.

“I think we are really ready for the season,” Agude said.