One thing was clear about last season for the Miami Hurricanes. Their defense was bad. Historically, embarrassingly bad. They finished near the bottom in every statistical category. However, one area that was particularly terrible was the pass rush. The Canes finished 11th in the ACC with just 13 quarterback sacks. Even with an emphasis on blitzing, quarterbacks had plenty of time to throw. Three times opposing quarterbacks threw for over 400 yards against Miami, and that wasn’t entirely the secondary’s fault.
Miami must improve their pass rush especially from the defensive end position. The defensive group was young last year, but they are now a year older and that excuse just won’t satisfy Canes fans this year.
Senior defensive end Shayon Green (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) returns as the most consistent overall player on the defense, but after failing to register a single sack last season, he has to show more. Green is playing on a surgically repaired knee which has slowed his speed off the edge. He has to adjust and become more technically sound with his footwork and pass rush moves. Waiting in the wings if Green should be hurt or fail to improve is fellow senior Kelvin Cain (6-foot-3, 245 pounds), who is much faster off the edge than Green, but is not as stout against the run. Cain will be used on passing downs and must improve on his single sack from a year ago.
Opposite Green is Hurricane legacy Anthony Chickillo. The junior Chickillo (6-foot-4, 275 pounds) has been more bark than bite during his football career at Miami. Although he was the Canes sack leader last season, he only had four. He has also shown a tendency to disappear for long stretches. He has to lead through his play this season and not just his mouth.
Jelani Hamilton (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) just might push Chickillo for playing time. Hamiliton was a four-star recruit out of high school, and showed flashes of greatness during spring practice. He is also big enough where he could move down to defensive tackle.
The sleeper among the defensive ends might be incoming freshman Alquadin Muhammed (6-foot-3, 235 pounds), who was very highly touted out of high school and is by far the most athletic of the group. Given a chance, he might be the one to open the pass rush flood gates.
Overall, the defensive ends are a year older, bigger and stronger, but if they cannot generate a pass rush, they will not win the Coastal as many expect them too. Too often last season, the ends were physically dominated and appeared to lack toughness. That has to change. They have to get better. Let’s be honest: they can’t get much worse.