Canes scrimmage under the lights on Greentree.

Canes scrimmage under the lights on Greentree.

Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele describes his approach as “A work in process, not a work in progress.”

His words reflect Head Coach Mario Cristobal’s oft repeated “You don’t practice until you get it right, you practice until you can’t get it wrong” and “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

Cristobal commented on the defense after this years first scrimmage last Saturday night, “We’re getting guys on the ground. Our angles are better, our pad level is better, our eyes are more disciplined - that’s the biggest thing. And understanding where our help is. If you know how to leverage the ball, who is working with you, if you clearly understand where your help is, you’re going to do well because you can play fast. And if you don’t, you’re guessing. And if you’re guessing in football, you’ve got problems.”

What is being built up in Coral Gables is a new Miami Football culture. The building blocks of a solid foundation have been set.

The Defensive Line — Joe Salave’a is DL/ Associate HC. Rod Wright is DE Coach. Their group is likely Miami’s greatest strength.

Miami’s base defense will be a 4-3. It’s very possible up to ten different players could start up front this season depending on situations.

Cristobal does not have depth charts. When asked he responds “We have situation charts.”

Five incoming transfers will be in the rotation.

From West Virginia, Akheem Mesidore, from UCLA, Mitchell Agude who might also play a little OLB, from Maryland, 6’6” 320 lb Darrell Jackson Jr.

will play inside, from UAB, Antonio Moultrie and from UCLA, Jake Lichtenstein. Returning inside players Leonard Taylor, Jared Harrison-Hunte and Jordan Miller and veteran DEs Jahfari Harvey, Chantz Williams and Elijah Roberts will all contribute week in and out. Two highly regarded freshmen DEs, Nyjalik Kelly and Cyrus Moss are working every day for a share of game day playing time.

The most obvious defensive weakness of the last couple of years has been poor tackling. I’m quite confident that won’t be the case this year.

The Linebackers —one of the best things going for Charlie Strong’s linebacker group is this year’s big boys up front. Their jobs will all be simplified with the better pass rush and tackling up front.

At times we will see three, two and even one LB line up for certain plays.

Y’all know that situation thing. The top returnees are Corey Flagg, Waymon Steed and Keontra Smith. They will all play as well as Chase Smith, a true freshman last year who earned his bones on special teams.

Two newcomers will be deeply in the mix. UCLA transfer Caleb Johnson has wowed at practice and is likely this years MLB starter. Freshman Wesley Bissainthe has been very impressive and will be pushing to get on the field every game. This unit should be much improved.

The Secondary —

The cornerbacks will benefit even more than the linebackers by the exceptional front four. Homestead’s DJ Ivey and his running partner Tyrique Stevenson, both big and physical should start and play most early downs. Te’Cory Couch will be on the field in zone coverage. Isaiah Dunson and West Virginia transfer Daryl Porter Jr will see the field in nickel and dime coverages. Marcus Clarke, Al Blades Jr. and freshman Khamauri Roger’s will also contribute at cornerback.

The safeties are another strength. DC Steele will have three on the field very often. Avonte Williams, James Williams and Kam Kinchens will all no doubt be playing at the next level before long. Keshawn Washington, Brian Balom and freshman Markeith Williams will back up the big three.

Last year’s team employed a Striker position at times. Secondary Coach Jahmile Addae will have a Star position in his arsenal this year.

Gilbert Frierson will have the hybrid responsibilities with Jaden Harris behind him.

This years team will be physical and smart. Watching practice has been an eye opener.

These players truly believe in what they are being asked to do which is work harder and smarter than they ever have.

There is something special going on. It all starts in 15 days at Hard Rock Stadium.

Next week we’ll take a look at the offense.

Be well all. Go Canes!

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