Fourth-year head coach Al Golden and his staff pulled together and inked 26 players for 2014, with a huge emphasis on defensive line—the ultimate weakest link for "The U" the past several years.
In the end, Miami didn't land everyone it chased down, but it still added seven solid defensive linemen—many of which should have an immediate impact this fall.
|Trent Harris||DE||6'2", 226||3-Star||Yes|
|Calvin Heurtelou**||DE||6'3", 304||3-Star||Yes|
|Demetrius Jackson||DE||6'4", 220||4-Star||No|
|Courtel Jenkins||DT||6'2", 294||3-Star||No|
|Anthony Moten||DT||6'4", 292||4-Star||No|
|Chad Thomas||DE||6'5", 240||5-Star||No|
|Michael Wyche**||DT||6'4", 315||4-Star||No|
|** Denotes JUCO transfer|
While defensive tackle Travonte Valentine wound up choosing LSU over Miami on Wednesday, the Hurricanes held strong to big-time defensive ends Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson, as well as JUCO transfer Michael Wyche—who temporarily decommitted over an obscure ACC transfer rule, but in the end, he chose to honor his commitment to The U.
Miami also received signed letters of intent from quality defensive tackles Anthony Moten and Courtel Jenkins, while weak-side end Trent Harris and JUCO transfer DT Calvin Heurtelou are early enrollees, learning the system and getting acclimated over the past few weeks.
Moten is a beast of a tackle, while Thomas is one of the best ends in the nation. Jackson has tremendous upside—as do Harris and Jenkins—and JUCO transfers Wyche and Heurtelou possess the skills and experience to compete immediately.
While Miami's influx of new talent must prove itself this fall, the Hurricanes need zero proof regarding where the defense went off track the past few seasons—a maligned defensive line.
Miami's defense started turning the corner late in 2011—year one of the Golden era—but it fell apart the following season due to a mass exodus up front.
Veteran players like Marcus Robinson, Micanor Regis and Adewale Ojomo graduated, while talented players like Olivier Vernon and Marcus Forston gave up their remaining eligibility to make the early leap to the NFL.
The result: A 7-5 run for the Hurricanes and some lopsided losses to the likes of Kansas State, Notre Dame and Florida State.
Miami is coming off a 9-4 run last season, but it went 2-4 down the stretch when the offense sputtered and the defensive woes continued.
Even more disheartening, the fact that the Hurricanes are losing five defensive linemen from last year's class—Shayon Green, Curtis Porter, Luther Robinson, David Gilbert and Justin Renfrow—will inevitably hurt depth and force a baptism by fire with this new, talented Miami crop of newbies.
Seven fresh-faced athletes and an addition-by-subtraction situation could play well for Miami's defensive line this fall. One-year options like Renfrow and Gilbert were serviceable last season, but they were never long-term solutions or highly touted prospects, while Porter and Green were oft-injured and Robinson never reached his potential.
While Miami's defense still has its work cut out, the road back to the top begins with pressuring the quarterback and plugging gaps. The Hurricanes made average quarterbacks and running backs look like Heisman candidates the past two years—with an inability to quickly shut down plays posing as the biggest culprit.
By bringing some necessary heat with the defensive line, it will have a ripple effect on the rest of Miami's defense—taking pressure off the secondary and minimizing confusion amongst out-of-position linebackers.
The Hurricanes return a talented secondary with players like Tracy Howard, Deon Bush, Rayshawn Jenkins, Antonio Crawford and Ladarius Gunter, while Denzel Perryman is back for his senior campaign at linebacker.
Miami is also expecting big things out of junior Raphael Kirby and sophomores Jermaine Grace and Alex Figueroa—three returning linebackers—and the entire group will benefit from a beefed up, more talented defensive line.
The Hurricanes are far from out of the woods defensively, but the focus on the defensive line and overall upgrades across the board gives Miami some necessary building blocks as the program works to resume its place as a national contender.
Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.com.
**Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com.