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Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz instructs players during practice in 2017. (Source: J.T. Wilcox/Football Hotbed)

Notebook: UM Defense Wants To Be “Great”, Not Good In 2017

The narrative around the University of Miami football team has been “who’s going to be the next starting quarterback” even before the team opened fall camp Tuesday and it will continue to be the hot topic up until head coach Mark Richt names his new starting signal caller.

But while everyone is getting caught up in whether freshman N’Kosi Perry is ready to be given the keys to the offense, more folks should pay closer attention to the Canes’ defense – which has garnered national attention and is being lauded as having the potential to be one of the country’s best in 2017.

In one season under defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, the defense began to resemble what fans are accustomed to seeing from a UM defensive unit – an aggressive, fast and attacking style of play.

Miami’s defense improved in just about every significant statistical category in 2016 from 2015. Diaz’s group ranked in the top 35 among the 128 FBS in run defense (21st), pass defense (35th), sacks (T-22nd), tackles for loss (5th), and points allowed per game (14th) this past season.

Expectations are high because Miami’s entire front seven – defensive line and linebackers – returns from last season and the media has pegged UM’s D-Line as one of the country’s best with tackles R.J. McIntosh and Kendrick Norton Jr. and ends Chad Thomas and Joe Jackson.

And even though UM’s secondary will have four new starters in 2017, the additions of cornerbacks Jhavonte Dean (JUCO signee), Dee Delaney (graduate transfer) and Trajan Bandy (true freshman) to go along with Malek Young as well as the development of safety tandem Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine – the expectations are still high.

Redshirt defensive lineman Demetrius Jackson, who finished the 2016 season with 2.5 sacks as a part of the D-Line rotation, said the group won’t be resting on its laurels in 2017.

“Great. Good is not in our vocabulary this year,” Jackson said Wednesday. “We are trying to be great at what we’re [doing] every day. In the meetings, out here [on the practice field]…we can be as great as we want to be and that’s up to us.”

Miami Ranked In Preseason Coaches Poll

You know football is right up the street when polls began to be released.

The preseason Amway Coaches Poll was released Thursday and the University of Miami was ranked No. 18.

After winning their final five games of the 2016 season, the Hurricanes ranked No. 23 in the season-ending Coaches Poll after its 31-14 victory over West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

UM, which was picked by the media to win the ACC Coastal division this season, returns 17 starters from last season’s squad and has had eight different players named to various preseason award watch lists.

ESPN’s College Football Power Rankings, which were also released Thursday, has the Hurricanes ranked No. 16 and praised the team for having “the division’s most exciting roster” while also singling out sophomores Shaquille Quarterman, Joe Jackson, Ahmmon Richards, and Michael Pinckney.

Florida State and Clemson were both ranked in the top five of the preseason Coaches Poll – standing No. 3 and No. 5 respectively. Louisville was slotted one spot above the Hurricanes at No. 17.

Canes Announce Series With Temple

The school announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with Temple for a two-game, home and home football series.

Miami will host the first matchup on September 5th at Hard Rock Stadium in 2020 and the Canes will travel to Philadelphia to face the Owls on September 23rd, 2023.

UM fans will remember that Al Golden brought his “talents” to Coral Gables in 2010 after his time at Temple.

Because of that, Canes fans probably have a pretty high level of disdain for the Owls even though Miami owns a 13-1 all-time record versus their former Big East Conference rival.

UM also has future out-of-conference games scheduled with LSU (2018), Florida (2019), Michigan State (2020 and 2021), and Texas A&M (2020 and 2023).

About J.T. Wilcox

J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist that has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" Blog and "The Baldcast" Podcast. J.T. Wilcox joined the Football Hotbed staff in 2017.

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