Miami finished outside the top 25 in total defense for the first time since 2015. The noticeable regression showed up especially in one position last season. Although Miami returns all of the linebackers from last season’s team, none of them recorded over 40 tackles last season. The Hurricanes are hoping to get a better outlook on the position during Spring practice but also will not rule out turning to the transfer portal. The Miami Hurricanes linebackers must produce in 2021.
Miami Hurricanes Linebackers
Time To Step Up
There was uncertainty at linebacker after losing four year starters Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney. The surprise out of fall camp was Bradley Jennings catching the coaches eye at linebacker a year after having hip surgery. He would go on to start 11 games but with only 39 tackles, it leaves Miami looking for more production. Going into his fifth season and second as a potential starter, Jennings could break out.
Another player that underwhelmed last season is Sam Brooks. After starting the Independence Bowl as freshman, he was expected to be a starter. With Zach McCloud moving to defensive end, there is an open position that Brooks could grab. Coaches admitted that part of the slump that Brooks endured last season was due to injuries. With a full offseason to get healthy and a full spring period, the hope is that Brooks can return back to form.
Names To Know
One definite contender for a starting job next season will be Corey Flagg, who flashed potential as a true freshman. In this year’s bowl game against Oklahoma State, it was Flagg that led the linebacker position with five tackles. While he may be a bit undersized, the instincts and natural feel for the game separates Flagg from the majority of Miami’s linebackers.
One area that needs to be addressed overall for the position is speed. Tirek Austin-Cave is another freshman who will challenge for a starting role. Austin-Cave coming out of high school ran indoor track and that speed also carried over onto the field. Avery Huff is perhaps Miami’s biggest athletic specimen in the linebacker position group. However Miami needs to see more from Huff in terms of knowing his assignments. Coaches admit that losing the spring hurt his development, which is why this spring will be important for his future.
The need for immediate improvement on defense is clear. The Hurricanes have added three defensive staffers that have coordinator experience and a former NFL coach that was previously at Miami. In addition to trying to find some consistency at linebacker, Miami is also moving strikers coach Jonathan Patke to inside linebackers. The move should help some of the younger players as Patke also doubles as the special teams coach. Head coach Manny Diaz will also have a hand in the overall development of this position as he moves back into calling the defense on gamedays. The return of Diaz as the voice of the defense should help the linebackers in their progression this spring.