University of Miami

If Jaquan Johnson can’t play against FIU, here’s who the Hurricanes expect to step up

UM linebacker Shaquille Quarterman on injured Cane Jaquan Johnson

Miami Hurricanes linebacker Shaquille Quarterman talks about the injury to teammate Jaquan Johnson in the game against Toledo Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Toledo, Ohio.
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Miami Hurricanes linebacker Shaquille Quarterman talks about the injury to teammate Jaquan Johnson in the game against Toledo Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Toledo, Ohio.

With Jaquan Johnson still sidelined with a hamstring strain he suffered on Saturday against Toledo, the Miami Hurricanes are practicing as if the star safety will not be ready to suit up in No. 21 UM’s crosstown rivalry game against FIU this weekend.

“It’s next man up,” sophomore Trajan Bandy said.

In this situation, that next man up is Amari Carter, the hard-hitting sophomore who has continued to make strides during his second season at UM.

Carter recorded six tackles and a first-half sack in Miami’s home opener against Savannah State before missing last weekend’s 49-24 win over Toledo while tending to a death in the family.

“Whenever you have a situation where it’s a next man up deal, you don’t need to wear a cape. You don’t need to be Jaquan. Just be Amari,” UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Wednesday. “We love the things he brings to the table. We really missed him in Toledo last week for sure, but now is his time. He feels very confident that he’s ready to go.”

With Carter not making the trip to Toledo, Johnson’s absence was noticed even more after he left late in the first half with the injury. UM rotated Robert Knowles and Romeo Finley in the second safety spot opposite Sheldrick Redwine with mixed results.

After holding Toledo scoreless for the first six drives, the Rockets scored on four consecutive drives after Johnson left the field, including touchdown drives of 81 and 65 yards to open the second half. Toledo quarterback Mitch Guadagni completed 6 of his 8 pass attempts for 140 yards in that span. Three of those completions went for at least 30 yards, two of which were fade passes to Diontae Johnson.

The Hurricanes defense settled down from there, forcing an interception and a pair of three-and-outs to close out the game.

“Other than [those three long passes], the pass plays I remember were the quarterback having nobody open and taking off and running,” Diaz said. “I thought that was our biggest issue on our pass defense, was our ability to keep the quarterback in the pocket and to have second-level contain guys that were able to get him. It was a man coverage game, which again, if you look at the way the game started for the first six drives, I thought we did pretty well. Then eventually they started making some plays.

“Jaquan’s presence is felt in so many different ways, though, beyond the X’s and O’s.”

When the defense began slipping and coverages broke down on the long pass completions, Bandy took it upon himself to be vocal with his teammates and asserted himself as the leader in the secondary.

“Somebody had to speak up,” Bandy said. “... Things weren’t going our way in the first half. We left up a couple of balls, but in the second half, we needed guys to be more vocal and step up. That was good for us.”

The Hurricanes will attempt to keep that intensity up against FIU on Saturday whether or not Johnson is able to suit up.

“Quan’s still with us,” Bandy said. “Quan’s always at practice. He’s always standing right there coaching the guys up. He’s going to always be with us. Even if he’s not out there, we’re still going to see him on the sideline regardless.”