Joe Jackson confident Hurricanes will be ‘a top defense in the country’

The football team runs drills at Greentree Practice Fields Friday morning. Joshua White // Contributing Photographer

Week two of spring practice ended with a bold claim given by one of the University of Miami’s best pass-rushers.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we are gonna be a top defense in the country,” said sophomore defensive lineman Joe Jackson, who led the Canes in sacks (8.5) in 2016 as a true freshman.

When asked how good the defense would be in 2017, Jackson responded by saying “very dominant.”

“There is a lot on me in the ACC, but that was just as a freshman,” Jackson said. “I got until next fall and the first game to get better, and perfect whatever Coach wants me to do.”

Another focus was on the development of sophomore wide receiver Dionte Mullins, who saw limited action in just one game last season but is expected to be locked into a bigger role in 2017.

Coach Mark Richt said when Mullins first arrived in Miami, he was behind. According to Richt, it was hard for Mullins to run routes with precision because he wasn’t sure what the routes were or what signals were being called. Richt said Mullins is much more comfortable now and is playing at a quicker pace.

Still, he needs to work on his consistency.

“I saw him push past the first rep of the drill, and having juice, and the second rep not so much and third rep he looked tired,” Richt said. “You have to be able to play the second, the third play, a fourth play if it’s a four-play rack.”

Nonetheless, Richt saw positive signs as well on Saturday morning.

“I saw him really pushing and actually trying to enjoy the day,” Richt said. “I love energy and I love enthusiasm, too, and he had both today.”

Senior Braxton Berrios, the most experienced wide receiver on the roster, agrees Mullins is more comfortable in his role now and that the team thinks he is ready for it.

“He’s grown mentally so much and overall maturity wise from last year,” Berrios said. “It is a complete difference. Plus, he understands that we’re going to need him, and we’re going to need to be able to count on him.”

“It feels great [to be out here], I haven’t been out here in a while, but I’ve been training, so I’m back in the mood with the team and we’re good now, so I can’t wait,” Mullins said. “I feel like I’ve improved on my route running, but I still keep working on my coordination. I’m not trying to be average.”


Both redshirt junior defensive lineman Demetrius Jackson and Berrios were tapped into the Iron Arrow Honor Society, the highest honor attained at the University of Miami, on March 22.

Jackson talked about the honor after practice on Saturday.

Freshman running back Robert Burns was not in attendance at practice for the second consecutive time. Richt did not confirm what the injury was and said he does not know how severe it is yet, but told the media that Burns will be evaluated and that the team should know in a few days.

Burns suffered the injury during Thursday’s practice and was carted off the field.