“Toolbox Trent” Harris might be a little rusty these days, what with the massive, soft-padded “club’’ over his broken left hand, but be assured that the University of Miami junior defensive end will be lining up again when No. 25 Miami meets FAU on Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
“We crack jokes about him, but Trent can play,’’ starting end Chad Thomas told the Miami Herald after practice Wednesday. “Captain Club is still a dog with that club on his hand.”
The Hurricanes (1-0), depleted by dismissals and several injuries at linebacker and the defensive line, allowed 22 yards rushing against FAMU, had two interceptions and 15 tackles-for-loss.
After UM’s 70-3 win over the lower-tiered, FCS competitor Rattlers, the Canes’ rushing defense proved better than 125 FBS teams; and their tackles-for-loss total proved better than 124 — dozens of those schools having played against lower-tiered opponents.
Last year, the Canes finished the season 101st in the nation in rushing defense and 105th in team tackles-for-loss.
Now, with 11 regular-season games to go, the competition will be tougher and the quest to stay strong defensively more intense — especially with so many players ailing or still rehabilitating.
“Our guys played really, really hard,” UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said on Wednesday. “We had plays where our entire front seven either had the solo tackle or the assist.”
Likely missing from the lineup Saturday will be defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins (leg/knee), who as a backup in the opener had three tackles-for-loss. Fellow tackle Anthony Moten (shoulder) didn’t play in the opener and returned to practice on Tuesday.
UM coach Mark Richt called both “questionable.’’
The positive news: Florida transfer Gerald Willis, a five-star defensive tackle as a recruit, will be back after being suspended for the season opener and sitting out all last season per NCAA transfer rules.
At linebacker, it appears Darrion Owens (reconstructive knee surgery last fall) still isn’t ready for substantial game action, if any; and linebacker Jamie Gordinier is on crutches after tearing his ACL during the opener. That’s one reason safety/nickel back Jaquan Johnson was practicing as a strong-side linebacker the past two days.
“It gives us the flexibility to be able to adapt to what teams are doing,” Diaz said.
“The team this week, they present a challenge because of their fast tempo. Fast-tempo offenses try to zap your effort. They try to zap your energy. They try to zap your toughness with their tempo to try to get you tired out. They will probably be one of the fastest teams we play all year.”
FAU (1-0) ran 76 plays in its 38-30 victory over Southern Illinois last Saturday.
UM ran 57.
On the D-line, Harris was designated the starter at end after Al-Quadin Muhammad was dismissed from the team. But he said he only played in “eight to 10 snaps’’ Saturday, having been replaced by redshirt sophomore Demetrius Jackson, who in his first start had 4 1/2 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, two sacks, a pass breakup and quarterback hurry.
Harris had 49 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and a fumble recovery last season as an outside linebacker/rush end. He’ll be rotating in with the others Saturday, when the giant padding used for practices and games might be a tad smaller.
“I don’t have a strong grip with it,” he conceded Wednesday, explaining that he “has to focus on really getting a good grip’’ with his right hand and then “kind of steer’’ with his left. “Honestly, I’ve just got to play like it’s off, and whatever happens, happens. The pain is starting to go away now.”
Richt said he’s seen “a lot of guys play with the club over the last 30 or so years,’’ including when he was an offensive coach at Florida State. “Coach [Bobby] Bowden saw this defensive back with a club on his hand and he said, ‘We have to throw the ball at that guy.’
“So, no matter what, we were trying to find the guy with the club and throw it to him, because he had only one hand.
“He had two picks that day.”
Added Richt: “All of our guys are going to go if they’re able.’’