Miami using transfer portal to add major firepower to DL ahead of crucial season for coach Mario Cristobal

If Miami falters in Year 3 under coach Mario Cristobal, it won’t be due to a lack of effort in strengthening their defense. The Hurricanes bolstered their portal class on Tuesday night with the addition of former Tennessee edge rusher Tyler Baron.

A four-star transfer according to 247Sports, Baron is the latest impact addition to a Miami portal haul now slotted at No. 10 nationally in the 247Sports Team Rankings. The 6-foot-5 veteran racked up 10.5 tackles for loss with six sacks last year and played a key role in all four of his seasons with the Vols.

With All-ACC selections Francisco Mauigoa (linebacker) and Rueben Bain Jr. (defensive lineman) coming back, there was already going to be some pop to the Hurricanes’ front seven. Now, with Baron and a handful of other transfers on the way, there should be adequate depth, too.

That’s welcome news for a team that entered last November at 6-2 before limping to a 1-4 finish and an unremarkable 7-6 (3-5 ACC) record. Cristobal’s coaching and Miami’s offense deserve their share blame for the lackluster 2023 finish. But the defense lost more production as three players from the Hurricanes’ secondary were taken in the 2024 NFL Draft.

A total of 15 defensive players also exited through the portal. But Baron’s commitment is the latest sign that a robust group of replacements is on the way along the front seven.

Here’s the breakdown of who the ‘Canes are bringing in to bolster their defensive front:

  • Tyler Baron | 6-5 | 255 | EDGE | Tennessee | 4-star | Career highlights: 27 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks (2020-23)
  • Marley Cook | 6-2 | 298 | DL | Middle Tennessee | 4-star | Career highlights: 19 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks (2021-23)
  • Simeon Barrow Jr. | 6-3 | 296 | DL | Michigan State | 3-star | Highlights: 18.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks (2021-23)
  • Jaylin Alderman | 6-1 | 230 | LB | Louisville |  3-star | Highlights: seven tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks (2023)
  • Elijah Alston | 6-2 | 256 | EDGE | Marshall | 3-star | Highlights: 11.5 tackles for loss, six sacks (2023)
  • C.J. Clark | 6-3 | 305 | DL | NC State | 3-star | Career highlights: 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks (2022-23

At just 12-13 (6-10) through two seasons, Cristobal needs nine victories in 2024 merely to reach the 21-win threshold that predecessor Manny Diaz posted through three seasons before he was fired. Recruiting hasn’t been an issue for the ‘Canes under Cristobal’s direction, but a lack of on-field execution and painful late-game miscues hurt theprogram’s bid for momentum during his first two seasons.

With the addition of highly touted transfer quarterback Cam Ward, along with continuity at both coordinator positions and key playmakers like Bain and Mauigoa returning to anchor the defense, it’s reasonable to anticipate Miami competing in the ACC and making a push for the 12-team College Football Playoff. Additionally, the conference schedule appears manageable, especially with Florida State and North Carolina losing star quarterbacks, and Clemson’s dominance fading in the post-portal era. The ‘Canes were ranked No. 17 in Dennis Dodd’s post-spring top 25, and that was before the recent addition of Baron this week.

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