Miami Hurricanes defensive line coach Jason Taylor knows talent when he sees it.
And he reiterated Tuesday that this UM defensive line has some potentially special players.
There’s defensive end Nyjalik Kelly, who seemingly has wrested a starting job from Jahfari Harvey. There’s super freshman end/tackle Rueben Bain.
There’s Leonard Taylor III, who has more stamina after getting in better shape, seemingly better equipped to handle the exhausting task of playing in the trenches. There’s skilled pass rusher Akheem Mesidor, the Canes’ most accomplished front seven player. And there are some pretty good supporting pieces.
One question that still must be answered heading into the Sept. 1 opener against Miami of Ohio: Are the Canes big enough on their defensive line? Taylor is the only 300 pound sure-fire rotation player.
“We’ve got a lot of really good guys,” Taylor said when asked about the size issue by WQAM’s Joe Rose on Tuesday. “L.T. has had a really good camp, has come a long way. He’s trusting his technique, has bought into what he’s doing.
“Ahmad Moten has had a really good camp out of [Fort Lauderdale] Cardinal Gibbons, made a real big splash this camp. Strong guy at the point of attack. He’s over 300 pounds. Has done some great things for us. [Jake] Lichtenstein has had a really good camp. Our guys have really taken to coach [Lance] Guidry’s new system.”
Purdue transfer Branson Deen seemingly has seized the starting defensive tackle job alongside Taylor.
“He has good size on him, not 330 but some of the best technique I’ve ever seen,” Taylor said of Deen, who’s listed at 280 pounds. “He knows what’s coming. Very cerebral football player. Technically sound dude.”
Regarding Kelly, Taylor told Rose: “He’s got freaky bend, almost like he’s triple jointed. He bends and twists and turns and still plays with speed and power. That’s something I was never able to do, bend like that. Has a very, very high ceiling. Had a good camp as well. Still 18, still growing. Has put size and strength on. Looking for a huge sophomore year from him.”
The freshman Bain is going to play this season, Guidry has said.
“Bain’s been great; he really has,” Taylor said on WQAM. “Got here in January, got a chance to go through 15 practices and spring ball and you’ve seen that steady progression. He’s a dude now. He’s a young kid still. Has a lot of experience from [playing for Miami Central at] Traz Powell. He’s been through tough football. Mentally, physically, a tough, strong kid that I’m obviously very excited about.”
Taylor said he has enjoyed coaching alongside Guidry, who replaced Kevin Steele after Steele joined Alabama’s staff.
“I’ve enjoyed coach G,” Taylor said. “He’s been great. Schematically, we’re going to be different than we were a year ago. You are going to see a lot of exciting football, guys moving around, trying to play to peoples’ strengths a bit more. We expect to be a lot more disruptive than we were a year ago, especially on first and second down.”
THIS AND THAT
Count offensive lineman Anez Cooper among players who have really helped themselves during the past seven months.
Cooper has solidified his spot as the starting right guard with diligence about his job and getting into better shape. He arrived at UM last year at close to 400 pounds and has lost 50 pounds since.
▪ I asked a UM person if the Canes have been at a disadvantage in the NIL game amid the business and legal issues facing UM benefactor John Ruiz.
The answer was a resounding no, that UM’s collective — whose cupboard is being stocked by UM donors who prefer to remain anonymous — has filled the void. The source said no coach has complained about losing a player because of any NIL shortcomings.
UM’s collective, Canes Connection, has raised millions via donors who prefer to operate behind the scenes. Most Canes football players — and some from other sports — have struck NIL deals with Canes Connection. At least once in recent months, Canes Connection stepped up when a player was secretly wooed by another school.
“We planned for this,” one UM official said of an era when other UM donors financed NIL deals without an overreliance on Ruiz, who has been contributing to Canes Connection. By all accounts, Ruiz has fulfilled all contractual terms with UM athletes who were promoting his businesses.
▪ UM basketball people are raving about guard Wooga Poplar; some wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the Canes’ leading scorer next season.
And keep an eye on incoming freshman Swiss guard Kyshawn George, who had been playing in France’s second division. At 6-8, he’s a skilled scorer and passer, polished and able to play either guard spot or small forward.