When he turns on the film and watches Miami, Dabo Swinney feels like he is watching practice tape of his Clemson defense.
“They look like Clemson,” the Tigers’ head coach said as No. 1 Clemson gets set to play seventh-ranked Miami in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.
The Hurricanes (11-1) are led by defensive tackles R.J. McIntosh and Kendrick Norton up front and linebacker Shaquille Quarterman in the middle. They lead a young defense that is still learning under defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
“Defensively, they are really, really, really, really, really good,” Swinney said.
“They have some cats up front now,” he continued. “These guys, there are a bunch of pros.”
Swinney, as well as co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, are also impressed with defensive ends Chad Thomas, Joe Jackson, Jonathan Garvin, who is just a freshman, and Trent Harris.
“They have a lot of (pro talent),” Swinney said. “They are really athletic, big, heavy-handed and a well coached defensive front, and then the backers can fly.”
Miami leads the nation in sacks (3.55) and is second in tackles for loss per game (8.64), which is a big reason why it leads the country in forced turnovers as well, with 29.
“I have a lot respect for Manny Diaz, their defensive coordinator,” Scott said. “He does an excellent job. He does not have a lot of tendencies. He does a really good job of mixing things up and keeping offensives off-balance and really has a game plan specific for the team they are playing that week.
“They are number one in the country in turnover margin, so that will continue to be a big factor for us as we go.”
The Hurricanes are also 14th nationally in scoring defense at 18.3 per game.
“They are big, physical guys that can run and they’re speedy on the back end. They are a complete defense,” Swinney said. “It is going to be a challenge at all three levels.”
Miami has 95 tackles for loss and 39 sacks as a team in 11 games. Compare that to Clemson’s 98 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 40 sacks in 12 games, you can understand why the Clemson coaches feel the Hurricanes look like their own defense.
The Hurricanes’ defensive front has 25 of their teams 39 sacks, while Clemson’s defensive front owns 26 of the Tigers’ 40. Harris leads Miami with 8.5 sacks, which is tied for second in the ACC with Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, while Jackson has 5.5 sacks.
McIntosh leads the team with 11.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage with Harris and Jackson both tied for second with 10.5.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us offensively,” Scott said. “It should be a great game. I know our guys are excited and are looking forward to the challenge and ready to go play on Saturday night.”
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