The University of Miami defensive line, considered the strength of the Hurricanes’ defense, suddenly seems vulnerable.
Just three days after defensive end and 2015 sack leader Al-Quadin Muhammad was dismissed from the Hurricanes because UM said he — as well as starting senior linebacker Jermaine Grace — violated NCAA rules, Miami was hit with an injury to the player who was chosen to take Muhammad’s place as the starter.
Trent Harris, a 6-2, 250-pound junior consistently praised for his football intelligence, work ethic and steady play, injured his left hand in practice Tuesday when he was hit by a helmet, his father, William Harris, told the Miami Herald.
“His hand got hit between players’ helmets,” said the elder Harris, a high school football and baseball official from Winter Park. “But I think he’ll be OK. He’s not worried. He sent me a picture and went and saw the trainer and then called me.”
The Palm Beach Post first reported that Harris had broken his hand, as well as that second-team defensive tackle Anthony Moten had dislocated his right shoulder previous to Tuesday’s practice.
William Harris and Harris’ mother, Betsy, said their son didn’t say he had broken his hand, but told them separately by phone after the injury occurred that he was seeing a specialist on Wednesday morning to examine the hand.
UM would not confirm Harris’ injury, and coach Mark Richt did not mention either injury during his press conference Tuesday afternoon in advance of the home opener against FAMU at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“He didn’t sound down or out or nothing,” William Harris said. “So I don’t really think it’s serious. Even so, they would just bubble it up – two or three inches of foam or whatever you’d use to wrap it up and he could play.
“As long as it is wrapped up well enough no one gets hurt. They desperately need him and he’s ready to get on the field to show them he can play.”
Harris has been heavily praised by the former and current coaching staff as being smart, versatile and one of the team’s hardest workers. He had 49 tackles, five tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and a fumble recovery last year as a linebacker/rush end in UM’s former 3-4, read-and-react scheme. He played at least three positions in some games.
With Muhammad gone, the backup to Harris is 6-5, 250-pound true freshman Joe Jackson out of Miami Gulliver Prep, where he was a four-star prospect ranked the 113th-best recruit, regardless of position, by Rivals.com.
But another option would be to move the backup behind defensive end starter Chad Thomas — 6-3, 265-pound redshirt sophomore Demetrius Jackson — to start opposite Thomas should Harris be unable to play Saturday.
“There’s always somebody next in line,” Richt said Monday on WQAM, referencing the loss of Muhammad. “And that’s what we have to determine…We’re working ones, we’re working twos, we’re working threes. They’re all working the same reps… Joe Jackson, the young kid, is probably getting more reps than he would have before.”
Another available true freshman defensive end is 6-3, 260-pound Pat Bethel, an Under-Armour All-American and four-star prospect out of Vero Beach. His father, Randy, played tight end for UM from 1987-90.
Defensive end Scott Patchan tore his ACL in the spring and is still not ready to play.
As for Moten, he was seen on an exercise bike Tuesday morning with his right arm hanging limp and his left arm gripping the handle.
Courtel Jenkins is the backup to nose tackle Kendrick Norton, and 6-2, 295-pound redshirt freshman Ryan Fines is also available.