University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes are without one of their top defensive players against Virginia Tech

Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz Jr. said Wednesday he wants to start substituting more players on the front line, especially facing hurry-up offenses. The Canes face Duke on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.
Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz Jr. said Wednesday he wants to start substituting more players on the front line, especially facing hurry-up offenses. The Canes face Duke on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

The Miami Hurricanes’ quest to snap a four-game losing streak will be a bit tougher than anticipated Saturday. Shortly before kickoff against the Virginia Tech Hokies, Miami announced it suspended linebacker Michael Pinckney for the game in Blacksburg, Va., for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

Pinckey announced the reasoning through Instagram shortly after. The linebacker took a banned substance.

“I mistakenly took a pain medication that I did not realize was against the rules,” Pinckney wrote. “I take full responsibility and can’t wait to rejoin my teammates next week.”

Pinckney is one of two Hurricanes suspended for the game at Lane Stadium. Earlier Saturday, Miami confirmed it also suspended quarterback Jarren Williams for a violation of team rules.

Pinckney’s absence, however, is the more critical one for Saturday. The junior has started every game as the Hurricanes’ weakside linebacker this season and has been one of the most productive players on Miami’s vaunted defense. The linebacker entered Saturday ranked third on the team with 61 total tackles. Pinckney also has 8.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception so far this season.

With Pinckney out, the Hurricanes will have to dip into its bench. Linebacker Mike Smith will likely see the majority of snaps alongside fellow linebackers Shaquille Quarterman and Zach McCloud, but redshirt freshman Waynmon Steed could also have an expanded role.

Pinckney could be heading into some of his final games with Miami. The outside linebacker could be a mid-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft should he decide to forgo his final season of eligibility and turn professional.

Even as the Hurricanes have struggled in 2018, Miami’s defense remains one of the best in the country. The Hurricanes entered the weekend as the No. 4 team in the country in terms of total defense, allowing an average of 268.5 yards per game. Miami also led the country with 10.1 tackles for loss per game, sat in a tie for No. 24 with 2.7 sacks per game and entered in a tie for No. 16 with 20 total takeaways.

Coach Mark Richt expressed support for his suspended player after the Hurricanes’ 38-14 win at Lane Stadium.

“I’m 100 percent behind the honest mistake that Pinckney made,” Richt said. “It was certainly an honest mistake.”

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