Miami football position preview: Defensive line

Sophomore defensive lineman Leonard Taylor III waits for the snap during the first quarter of Miami’s game versus Bethune-Cookman University at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 3, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

While most of the public has focused on following UM football’s wide receivers and quarterbacks, the defensive line group has established themselves as a dominant force with several stud athletes on the roster.

Former consensus-rated five-star recruit Leonard Taylor III, Canadian native Akheem Mesidor, and sixth-year senior transfer Branson Deen lead this position group.

Taylor has not only been given high expectations this year from the media but has also been predicted by several analysts to be selected very early in next year’s NFL draft. Taylor’s numbers surely back it up, with 10.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in his sophomore season.

Additionally, the South Florida native added weight over the offseason. Taylor played at around 275-295 pounds last year and mentioned to reporters this fall that he now weighs in at around 310 pounds.

With this extra muscle, Taylor’s looking to make even more of an impact this season. “I’m going just to take it snap by snap and do what I do,” Taylor said to reporters. “I feel a lot stronger, and I feel a lot faster.”

Taylor said that the defensive lineman will move around more in defensive coordinator Lance Guidry’s scheme, not as much filling gaps but stunting and taking different techniques to try and give the defense an edge.

Taylor also believes in the defensive line as a whole.

“I feel like we are taking it day by day, taking reps and getting better,” Taylor said.

The ‘Canes will also look to their sack leader from last season in Mesidor to play a significant role. Although Mesidor was used more on the edge than inside last year, the activity on the defensive line (d-line) will have him playing at different positions.

“There’s a whole bunch of movement on the d-line,” Mesidor said. “I like it because guards and centers are typically slower and struggle with speed, so I think that’s a huge advantage for us.”

Deen was an All-Big Ten honorable mention last season at Purdue and will now continue his collegiate career in Coral Gables.

Deen played a lot on the interior for his first collegiate team with the Boilermakers and showed that he is an intelligent player who is a good leader and a very effective run-stopper.

Miami also returns two critical pieces from last year in Jahfari Harvey and Nyjalik Kelly. They had five-and-a-half and four sacks, respectively.

Freshman Rueben Bain Jr. has also been making noise this fall. The consensus-rated four-star recruit was ranked third in Miami’s 2023 class and has been disruptive in fall camp. Deen spoke highly of Bain and his performance so far.

“Rueben’s going to be really key for us this season,” Deen said. “Reuben is like a vet. It’s hard to find a dude that can sustain that level of energy and aggression.”

Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry had positive things to say about Bain as well.

“Bain is consistent. He was consistent against the run and the pass, but he still has much to learn,” Guidry said. “I expect him to play a lot.”

Guidry’s praise was not just for Bain, noting that “there have been a bunch of guys [along the d-line] who have stood out upfront. A bunch of guys who have been getting to the quarterback.”

This unit’s first test will be on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. against Miami (Ohio).