OBB ’22 Position Preview: Linebackers

The linebacker core at the University of Miami will have many eyes upon it. New linebacker coach Charlie Strong will have an opportunity to improve a group that struggled at times in 2021. Only one player ranked in the top 50 in terms of tackles in the ACC from a year ago. Linebacker Corey Flagg Jr. had 60 total. In the last ten years, only four linebackers have been selected in the NFL draft.

A new implemented system that improves gap integrity can aid this group tremendously. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will look to improve upon his predecessor who often left defenders exposed. The linebacker group at Miami has included names like Lewis, Beason, Perryman, Vilma, Armstead, Marley and Barrow. The giants of the past need new ones who can maybe one day stand shoulder to shoulder.

Corey Flagg, Jr. stands in at 5-11 and 230 lbs. A third-year sophomore who started all 12 games and ranked among team leaders with seven tackles for loss and three sacks. A three star prospect listed by ESPN, Flagg was rated the number 88th player in the lone star state. Often times the focal point of the defense, Flagg is the returning starter at the middle linebacker position.

Caleb Johnson was the 10th transfer of the 2022 offseason and makes way from UCLA. Currently listed at the middle linebacker position, Johnson will add much needed depth and competition at a position of need. Standing in at 6-1 and 230 lbs. Johnson will be the biggest linebacker on the roster. Johnson is known as a sure tackler which is the perfect remedy for a defense who made a living on the alternative. The Miami Hurricanes were 44th in the country last year in stopping the run and Johnson could be a possible starting option.

Waymond Steed, Jr. is a 6-0 225 lb. sixth-year redshirt senior from Miami, Florida. The former stand out from Miami Central high school saw action in all 12 games last season. Steed ranked second on the team with 54 total tackles including 24 solo. Steed saw one season derailed due to injury in 2019. Steed’s best performance came against Michigan State in which he finished with eight tackles and a sack.

Keontra Smith is listed at 5-11 and 205 lbs. The former recruited safety was utilized as a striker in Manny Diaz’s scheme and ultimately moved to play weakside linebacker. The fourth-year junior saw action in nine games and made four starts last year. As a sophomore he totaled 38 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks. The former consensus four star recruit had his best season as a Hurricane a year ago and looks to solidify a spot moving forward.

Chase Smith is 6-2, 205 lbs. and had a predominant roll last year on special teams. This sophomore has flashed on film and shows a penchant for hard hits, instincts and some foot speed. A consensus four-star prospect, Smith was ranked the 34th best outside linebacker in the country by ESPN. A legacy recruit, Smith is the son of former UM tight end Willie Smith who played in the NFL and was an All-American in 1985.

Wesley Bissainthe is a true freshman listed at 6-1 and 205 lbs. This consensus four-star and four-orange prospect was the 189th overall player in the ESPN300. Bissainthe has turned heads and teammates say physically he does not look like a freshman. The former Miami Central rocket won state championships in 2019 and 2020. This coveted linebacker was involved in a highly contested recruiting battle where Mario Cristobal paid dividends. Picked Miami over offers Alabama, Florida, Florida state, Oregon and USC, among others.

Avery Huff from St. Thomas Aquinas stands in at 6-3 and 205 lbs. The fourth-year redshirt sophomore saw action in 11 games mostly in a special teams variety. Huff only managed three tackles last season including one tackle in a win over the Duke Blue Devils. Rated a four-star prospect by ESPN, Huff chose Miami over Alabama, FSU, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Texas, among others.

Ryan Ragone is a native of Houston, Texas and stands in at 5-11 and 220 lbs. Ragone saw action in seven games last year and totaled nine tackles including six solo. The former Pasadena Memorial high school player flashes instincts and has a nose for the ball. Had three solo stops vs. Duke in the regular season finale. Ragone also lists a stop at Arkansas State.

Jake Hoffman 6-1, 216 lbs. is fourth-year redshirt sophomore and has served diligently as a member of the practice squad. Redshirt sophomore Lucas Peterson is also listed on the official Miami Hurricane roster as a linebacker.

About the Author: Roman Marciante

Born and raised in South Florida. Local Boy. Husband. Tali and Franco’s dad. “Hey grandpa, is there a local college team we can watch?” “Do they throw the ball?” They don’t run the option do they?” Thus the love affair was born. Proud supporter of St Thomas Aquinas Raider nation and alum. One day got in a studio with two other buddy’s and started a conversation about a local team and the rest was history. A former pro athlete who secretly had a CIA job and some people call “Chief.” Yells “Bang” a lot. “It is not wrong, it is just different.” Managing Editor for the OBB Legend, host of X’s and Ro and Student of the Game connoisseur. I still remember the day I beat Mike Tyson in a fight. 007-373-5963. Thanks for all your help Mac. I couldn’t have done it without you.

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