Sims: This is only the start for Rueben Bain Jr.

Freshman defensive lineman Rueben Bain, Jr. strips the ball from Clemson sophomore quarterback Cade Klubnik in the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Clemson at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 21, 2023. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Simply put, the ‘Canes would not have won last Saturday’s showdown against the Clemson Tigers without their freshman superstar, Rueben Bain Jr.

At just 18 years old, Bain recorded his best game of the season against Clemson. With two sacks and eight tackles, Bain let the world know that he’s arrived.

“I feel great,” Bain said. “I feel like I’m on top of the world.”

Bain’s breakout performance against Clemson was just his sixth game of college football. There is no question that Bain was the best defensive player on the field that night for the ‘Canes. His most notable play was a strip-sack of Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik for a crucial turnover in the game.

Miami head coach Mario Cristobal spoke very highly of his standout freshman.

“He’s a game wrecker, that’s what he is. Teams are going to try and chip him, slide the protection his way and double-team him and whatnot,” Cristobal said after the game. “Not only is he gifted, but he just plays the game at a relentless level, really uncommon. Tonight it showed against some veteran players; he was as disruptive as it got.”

Cristobal is not the only one that Bain’s play has caught the attention of. Bain was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week and ACC Rookie of the Week for his performance against Clemson. No. 44 for the ‘Canes was also named Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) highest-graded defensive lineman for his game against the Tigers.

Bain leads the team in sacks with 4.5. That’s two and a half more than the player in second place, linebacker Francisco Mauigoa. Bain is tied for fifth in the ACC in sacks as well as tied for second in forced fumbles. Bain is also among the team leaders in forced fumbles with two. Bain has been incredibly disruptive for this ‘Canes defense, and he’s made the most of his opportunities.

Defensive linemen Ahkeem Mesidor and Nyjalik Kelly have been sidelined due to injuries. Because of their absences, Bain was given an opportunity and has ran with it. It’s hard to imagine Cristobal and defensive coordinator Lance Guidry putting their star freshman on the sideline.

Standing at 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, Bain is a powerful edge rusher. He is able to use his leverage and his strong hands to move offensive linemen and get after the quarterback. Bain is very fast for a player of his size. The way he’s able to move sideline-to-sideline allows him to be a threat from anywhere on the field.

Bain, a graduate of Miami Central (Fla.) High School and a former MaxPreps All-American, says it means more to be able to do this for his hometown. The Miami native was a 247Sports-rated four-star prospect, ranked in the top 100 of recruits for his class, 10th among edge rushers and 15th among players from Florida.

Bain hopes that he can be an inspiration to other young Miami area football players.

“Definitely means more … I feel like I did something amazing and I hope that kids see me, who probably look up to me, see my play, and hope they doing the same thing and they taking it into consideration because when we do it at home, it feels amazing,” Bain said.

“I swear this is the best decision that I made in the past 19 years of my life.”

Young South Florida athletes are looking up to what Bain is doing.

“Social media [is] going crazy,” said Bain. “I feel like that’s because I stayed home and I hope guys that are coming up and seeing that can do the same thing.”

Bain is one of the top players on the Hurricanes’ defense, and it’s only his eighth week of college football. This season, Bain is on pace for nearly eight sacks, which would be more than Mesidor had to lead the team last season. Bain is on pace to have as many sacks as former Hurricanes standout and current Miami Dolphin Jaelan Phillips.

Miami has landed themselves a monster in Bain, and he’s just getting started.