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Miami using transfer portal to add major firepower to DL ahead of crucial season for coach Mario Cristobal

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Bethune-Cookman at Miami (FL)
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If Miami struggles to make headway in Year 3 under coach Mario Cristobal, it won’t be because the Hurricanes failed to reinforce their defensive front. The ‘Canes made another splashy addition to their portal class Tuesday night with the commitment of former Tennessee edge rusher Tyler Baron.

A four-star transfer according to 247Sports, Baron is the latest impact addition to a Miami portal haul now slotted at No. 10 nationally in the 247Sports Team Rankings. The 6-foot-5 veteran racked up 10.5 tackles for loss with six sacks last year and played a key role in all four of his seasons with the Vols.

With All-ACC selections Francisco Mauigoa (linebacker) and Rueben Bain Jr. (defensive lineman) coming back, there was already going to be some pop to the Hurricanes’ front seven. Now, with Baron and a handful of other transfers on the way, there should be adequate depth, too.

That’s welcome news for a team that entered last November at 6-2 before limping to a 1-4 finish and an unremarkable 7-6 (3-5 ACC) record. Cristobal’s coaching and Miami’s offense deserve their share blame for the lackluster 2023 finish. But the defense lost more production as three players from the Hurricanes’ secondary were taken in the 2024 NFL Draft.

A total of 15 defensive players also exited through the portal. But Baron’s commitment is the latest sign that a robust group of replacements is on the way along the front seven.

Here’s the breakdown of who the ‘Canes are bringing in to bolster their defensive front:

  • Tyler Baron | 6-5 | 255 | EDGE | Tennessee | 4-star | Career highlights: 27 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks (2020-23)
  • Marley Cook | 6-2 | 298 | DL | Middle Tennessee | 4-star | Career highlights: 19 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks (2021-23)
  • Simeon Barrow Jr. | 6-3 | 296 | DL | Michigan State | 3-star | Highlights: 18.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks (2021-23)
  • Jaylin Alderman | 6-1 | 230 | LB | Louisville |  3-star | Highlights: seven tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks (2023)
  • Elijah Alston | 6-2 | 256 | EDGE | Marshall | 3-star | Highlights: 11.5 tackles for loss, six sacks (2023)
  • C.J. Clark | 6-3 | 305 | DL | NC State | 3-star | Career highlights: 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks (2022-23)

At just 12-13 (6-10) through two seasons, Cristobal needs nine victories in 2024 merely to reach the 21-win threshold that predecessor Manny Diaz posted through three seasons before he was fired. Recruiting hasn’t been an issue for the ‘Canes under Cristobal’s direction, but a lack of on-field execution and painful late-game miscues hurt the program’s bid for momentum during his first two seasons.

With highly touted transfer quarterback Cam Ward entering, continuity at both coordinator positions and playmakers such as Bain and Mauigoa back to anchor the defense, it’s reasonable to expect Miami to compete in the ACC and make a run at the 12-team College Football Playoff. The conference slate looks manageable as well. Florida State and North Carolina are both losing star quarterbacks and Clemson is no longer the dynasty that it was in the pre-portal era. The ‘Canes registered at No. 17 in Dennis Dodd’s post-spring top 25, and that was before the addition of Baron this week.

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