The University of Miami hasn’t had a pass rusher produce more than five sacks in a season since Al Golden took over as coach.
Sophomore rush end Trent Harris might or might not be the next Hurricanes pass rusher to eclipse that mark. Either way, the coaching staff loves him because he has become the perfect example of what Golden wants: a reliable, trusty player who keeps getting better and “plays the defense exact every play.”
“He’s done nothing but get better since he got here,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said of Harris last week after he was tabbed the starter coming out of camp over more highly touted high school prospects Demetrius Jackson and Al-Quadin Muhammad.
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Both Jackson (6-5, 248) and Muhammad (6-4, 256) were four-star prospects, according to Rivals.com. Harris (6-2, 251) was a three-star recruit.
“What Trent does at an elite level is he does his job,” D’Onofrio continued. “Ultimately, that’s what you want. If you have a guy who runs a 4.5 but doesn’t play the defense, all you have is a guy that runs 4.5. You don’t have a good player. Trent’s a really good player.”
Nicknamed Toolbox Trent by the staff, Harris led the Canes defense with five tackles in the season-opening 45-0 romp over Bethune-Cookman last Saturday, UM’s first shutout since the start of the 2010 season. Harris had 11/2 tackles for loss and was credited with half a sack, pretty good production considering he was only in on 22 plays, according to UM.
“Honestly, I had no idea,” Harris said of leading the team in tackles. “The whole defense went out there and did their jobs. We dominated as a whole.”
This week, the task is a little different against FAU. After holding Bethune-Cookman to 79 yards (the first time UM has held an opponent under 100 yards in a game under Golden), the Hurricanes will try to shut down an Owls’ zone-read attack that ran up 563 yards of total offense in a 47-44 overtime loss at Tulsa.
If there’s one FAU player who jumps out on tape, Golden said, it’s fifth-year senior quarterback Jaquez Johnson. Not only does Johnson wear No.32 and resemble a fullback with his 6-1, 240-pound frame, he barreled over defenders last week for 97 yards rushing on 20 attempts while also throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns.
Toolbox Trent and UM’s vastly deeper defensive line will have to play good assignment football and tackle well, Golden said, or they could end up on the field for a long time. FAU held the ball for more than 37 minutes and ran a total of 96 plays against Tulsa.
“You can’t arm tackle this guy,” Golden said of Johnson. “That’s the challenge. You have to get guys that can beat blocks either physically by movement or pressure.”
Against Bethune-Cookman, the Hurricanes rotated 30 players in on defense. Golden said eight players on defense ran faster than 20 miles per hour at one point or another in the game, according to their GPS Tracking system.
Muhammad, suspended for the opener after serving a year-long suspension last season, will be back on the field at FAU on Friday and rotating in with Harris and Jackson at rush end. Last week, Muhammad was named the defense’s scout team player of the week.
“Obviously, getting Quan back can make a difference,” Golden said of his pass rush, which produced five sacks in the season opener.
Meanwhile, Harris will just keep going out there and quietly doing his job.
A Gators fan growing up (his favorite player was former Florida middle linebacker Brandon Spikes), Harris said he is happy he chose the Hurricanes over Florida and Alabama. He also thinks the nickname he was given is pretty cool.
“I came here to win,” Harris said. “I’m going to do whatever I can to help my team win. When we practice, I just practice hard, do what the coaches ask. Most of the time when you do the right thing, what coaches ask, it puts you in a position to do a big play. As long as I do my job, the plays will come to me.”