University of Miami

Young pass rushers could be UM’s secret weapon

Scan down the University of Miami’s latest depth chart and sophomore linebacker Tyriq McCord can’t be found anywhere.

True freshman Al-Quadin Muhammad has his name on the chart but way down the list at defensive end, behind seniors Shayon Green and David Gilbert.

Truth is, McCord (6-3, 236) and Muhammad (6-3, 233) might be UM’s best-kept secrets on defense.

They are a pair of cat-quick former high school All-American sack-masters whom coaches are counting on to help inject venom into a Hurricanes’ pass rush that didn’t have much bite at all last season.

UM, which produced a school-record-low 13 sacks last season (the Canes had 24 in 2011), will bring the dynamic duo in on third downs and obvious passing situations at defensive end to chase down opposing quarterbacks.

McCord, who finished second on the team with 3 1/2 sacks last season, said with Muhammad playing opposite him now the two can “cause a lot of havoc this year.

“It’s like seeing an alter ego,” McCord said of Muhammad, who starred at New Jersey national powerhouse Don Bosco Prep and was one of coach Al Golden’s most-prized recruits in February’s signing class.

“I’m feeding off him, and he’s feeding off me a little bit. I believe it’s going to be a big year.”

Muhammad is one of five true freshmen listed on the Canes’ depth chart heading into Friday’s opener against FAU (receiver Stacy Coley, fullback Walter Tucker, cornerback Artie Burns and linebacker Alex Figueroa are the others).

Although he hasn’t played a down in college football, he made quite an impression earlier this month on media day with some bold words.

Not only did he say he would like to break Daniel Stubbs’ career school record for sacks (39 1/2), but he also said: “Some of the things I do and moves I make you’ve probably never seen a guy make before. You probably don’t even see some of them in the NFL.”

Linebacker Denzel Perryman grinned, shook his head and uttered “oh my God” earlier this week when he was told what the freshman said earlier this month.

But Perryman and other veterans have also made it known they have been impressed by Muhammad and his explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. It’s a skill Golden describes as “twitchy.”

“Quan is someone I’m really excited to watch play,” starting right tackle Jonathan Feliciano said.

“[Muhammad] has freakish ability. He’s really fast and has a motor like no other. The difference between Tyriq and Muhammad is Tyriq is a little bigger, and Muhammad is a little quicker. But they’ve both been rotating in on scout team and giving us great reps and great looks and sometimes kicking our butts. But it’s all good.”

Quarterback Stephen Morris said he definitely felt more heat from Miami’s pass rush during fall camp, and defensive end Green said McCord, Muhammad and juniors Olsen Pierre and Anthony Chickillo have been the best pass rushers in camp.

McCord, who averaged about 35 snaps per game late last season, said defensive line coach Jethro Franklin would often remind the defense during camp that it only produced 13 sacks last season.

McCord said it’s imperative for him and Muhammad — Miami’s two fastest ends — to set the tone for the defense when they get in on third downs.

“Sack, cause fumble is the best football play in the game,” said McCord, a former standout at Tampa’s Jefferson High.

“My mentality is just getting there — [beating an] offensive tackle and at least getting in the backfield, causing pressure, getting a hurry. If I can’t get in for the sack, get in for an altered throw so the defensive back can make a play.

“In practice, me and Quan tell each other, ‘Whoever gets the most sacks, that’s who is going to be playing for us.’ We just compete and compete. It’s great to have somebody like that to push you even harder.”

Related stories from Miami Herald