Barry Jackson

What we’re hearing on UM’s defense, with practices set to begin

A few things we’re hearing on UM’s defense with practice beginning Friday night:

UM feels genuinely good about where it stands at defensive tackle even after losing Gerald Willis, who signed with Baltimore after the draft.

Before Jon Ford’s thumb injury, he was “really impressive this spring, looking like a future NFL multimillionaire,” a UM football official said.

UM believes this is the season he will finally play up to potential.

“And the way Jade [Nesta Silvera] improved, he has a chance to be a good player,” the official said. “[UCLA transfer] Chigozie Nnoruka will bring age and experience. Pat Bethel runs the room like a leader and has played a lot of football.”

What about Jordan Miller? He’s improved but must learn to play consistently hard, we’re told.

DJ Ivey enters as the favorite for the starting cornerback job opposite Trajan Bandy, and here’s why:

“His length, his ability to get hands on you with timing are impressive,” one UM official said. “He has grown and matured so much physically now, can stick his nose and tackle, which is something he didn’t do before. So much of that is getting older.”

And what about Al Blades Jr., who will push Ivey?

As one UM official said, he must get better at winning his matchup and not overthinking things. The positives, the UM official said, are he’s “extremely intelligent” and diligent.

There’s a palpable excitement about defensive end Greg Rousseau after an ankle injury wiped out most of his 2018 season.

“He can be as good as Greg wants to be,” one UM official said. “He desperately needed a year last year to learn, and losing time hurt. He’s playing catchup but so he’s physically gifted.”

UM’s top four ends are clear (Garvin, Trevon Hill, Rousseau, Scott Patchan), but UM can envision impressive freshman Jahfair Harvey getting snaps.

“He plays hard and has all the intangibles as Rousseau, but Rousseau is a couple inches taller [6-6 compared to Harvey’s 6-4] and longer,” a Canes official said. “Harvey has really good twitch and athleticism.”

UM is disappointed about Patrick Joyner Jr.’s lower leg injury - which Manny Diaz said is expected to sideline him at the beginning of camp — because he had thrived in his move back to linebacker from defensive end.

Joyner should be the No. 4 linebacker once he’s healthy, with Bradley Jennings Jr. and potentially Waymon Steed expected to miss the opener.

The Canes believe Romeo Finley - who was excellent in coverage - is primed for a great year at striker now that he has had a full season under his belt.

UM believes Gurvan Hall has the highest ceiling of the safeties but wants to see him tackle consistently. Amari Carter showed growth but this is the year it has to all come together for him. UM begins camp Friday without Bubba Bolden, who has still not officially been admitted to Miami but is expected to be soon.


Credit former Canes and NFL offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie for helping UM offensive linemen with on-field work and film work in the past two weeks. Former Canes lineman and former 790 The Ticket morning co-host Brett Romberg also assisted Monday. (Romberg is no longer doing local radio.)

“They reached out to me,” McKinnie told CBS-4’s Mike Cugno during one of his regular appearances on the station’s Sunday night sports show.

“I was able to assess a lot of things that were wrong, communication. A lot of confidence was taken away from them by the prior coach [Stacy Searels]. We watched film. I think they’ll be able to fix it. Sometimes coaches can tell you things that aren’t really realistic. I’m trying to teach them to use their hands, pivot.

“Trying to give them advice on technique and suggesting different things like team bonding. A few little things that need to be cleaned up to make it a lot better for them.”

Multiple UM people have indicated Searels took away his players’ confidence by being especially hard on them. New offensive line coach Butch Barry is taking a different approach. Searels is now offensive line coach at North Carolina.

Here’s my Thursday piece on what we’re hearing on UM’s offense.