Break the Chain
The University of Miami was ranked 38th overall in the nation in total defense in the 2017 campaign. On the surface, this is not a cause for concern for an opponent. However it begs for some questions to be asked and answered. How does a team with a total defense ranked this low, make it to the 2017 ACC Championship game? The 2018 Orange Bowl?
In 2017 Miami was fourth in the country in sacks. The Hurricanes had 44 sacks, averaging 3.39 per contest. In 2017 Miami was fifth in the nation in tackles for losses (tfls) with 111 on the season. The Hurricanes averaged 8.54 tfls per game. In 2017, Miami recovered 14 fumbles on 22 fumble opportunities by their opponents, eighth in the country.
In other words, the Hurricanes had a playmaking defense. Making plays can alleviate other weaknesses.
The Miami “turnover” chain is a 36-inch, 2.5-kilogram, 10-karat gold chain, with 900 orange and green sapphire stones arranged in a "U," that is 6.5 inches wide. A Miami defensive player who gets a turnover during the game gets to wear the chain on the sideline.
Senior cornerback Michael Jackson wore the chain five times in 2017 for Miami. He had four interceptions, five pass breakups, and 43 tackles last season.
Senior defensive back Jaquan Johnson wore the chain four times in the 2017 campaign for the Hurricanes. Last season Johnson had 96 tackles, 54 solos, four interceptions, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, three tackles for losses (tfls) and one sack.
Senior safety Sheldrick Redwine started 12 games last season, with 59 tackles and 2.5 tfls.
Johnson had 57 interception return yards and Redwine had 62 interception return yards last year. They can, like a lot of their teammates, quickly morph into dangerous offensive players if they get their hands on the ball. Miami has many players on defense with stats like these, not ranked high nationally, but better than average across the board.
Junior defensive end Joe Jackson, who started 12 games, led all defensive linemen with 59 tackles, 35 unassisted. He had 11.5 tfls with 6.5 sacks. Sophomore Jonathan Garvin will start at the other defensive end. Garvin played in 13 game last season but did not start. He had nine tackles, three tfls, and two sacks. Senior lineman Demetrius Jackson had 18 total tackles 7.5 tfls, and 3.5 sacks before being injured last November.
The linebacking position is strong.
Junior linebacker Michael Pinckney started 11 games last season for Miami. He had 68 total tackles, 11 tfls, and 3.5 sacks. Junior linebacker Zach McCloud started 11 games in the 2017 campaign. He had 48 total tackles, 4.5 tfls, and two sacks. Junior middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman had 83 total tackles last year, with seven tfls and 2.5 sacks.
On offense, the Hurricanes will start senior Malik Rosier at quarterback. Rosier is a Jekyll and Hyde performer who can look very good and very bad. Last year he threw 26 touchdowns, but he also tossed 14 interceptions, not a good ratio.
Last season, Miami lost their last three games. In the first lost to Pittsburgh, a team with a losing record, Rosier was so bad, he was pulled from the game. In the second loss against Clemson in the ACC championship game, he was 14-29 for 110 yards with two interceptions. In the Orange Bowl defeat against Wisconsin, he was 11-26 for 203 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. His offense repeatedly failed after being the recipients of turnovers by the Miami defense. Rozier does best when he gets the ball into the hands of playmakers.
Junior running back Travis Homer started the final nine games for Miami, rushing for 966 yards on 133 carries. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry, and rushed for eight touchdowns. Homer also had 219 yards in pass receptions with 18 catches, one resulting in a touchdown.
Sophomore receiver Jeff Thomas caught 17 passes for 374 yards last season. He averaged 22 yards per catch and played in all 13 games.
Junior right tackle Navaughn Donaldson is a returning starter on the Hurricane offensive line. Tyree St. Louis is the returning starter at left tackle, he is a senior. Tyler Gauthier returns as the starting senior center.
Miami’s offensive line was weak at times in pass protection last season. The Miami offense, like the Purple and Gold, has many players lacking in plentiful game experience.
The Miami defense is a veteran bunch, with the possible exception of the defensive line. They gamble a lot, especially in pass coverages. However, they love to live in the offensive opponent’s backfield.
The Purple and Gold offense must limit or eliminate negative plays, and protect the football. If they do, they can break the chain. If they do not do this, then the Hurricane defense will become part of the Miami offense, which could mean a long night.