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Miami dismisses two defensive starters

Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire

Miami announced in a release on Saturday that junior defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and senior linebacker Jermaine Grace have been permanently dismissed from the program. Both players were projected starters going into the 2016 season.

The Miami Herald reported in June that the university was investigating multiple players, including Muhammad, for potentially breaking NCAA rules by making deals to use luxury rental cars. The program suspended linebacker Juwon Young indefinitely, and he has since left the team.

A statement released by the school confirmed that the decision to dismiss Muhammad and Grace “was made in consultation with outside counsel and after discussions with the NCAA enforcement staff.” It was also noted that because no staff members or boosters were involved, the NCAA will not levy sanctions.

Grace was among the team’s most experienced players after playing in 37 games over the last three seasons. He started 10 contests as a junior in 2015 and led the team in tackles with 79. The Miami Gardens native was also third on the team in tackles for loss with six.

The Hurricanes’ top pass-rusher, Muhammad logged 54 tackles as a redshirt sophomore and led the team in sacks (five), as well as tackles for loss (8.5).

Muhammad sat out the 2014 season after receiving a suspension from the university for punching another student in the face.

The dismissals open opportunities for others on the roster to step into greater roles. At defensive end, junior Trent Harris and sophomore Demetrius Jackson will be among the players battling to replace Muhammad on the first team. Harris started 10 games last fall and was responsible for 49 tackles. Jackson, who made his career debut in last year’s opener against Bethune-Cookman, played in seven matchups as a redshirt freshman, recording 11 tackles.

With Grace gone, a position that was already inexperienced will now be without its top veteran player. By the end of spring practice, true freshmen Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney had emerged as likely starters in the linebacker corps. Another true freshman — Lantana, Florida, native Zach McCloud — will be in position to take over the vacant spot.

New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will have his hands full this season, particularly after Saturday’s developments. Not only could the Hurricanes be starting three true freshmen at linebacker, but their defensive line will be challenged to take a step forward after the team allowed an average of 5.26 yards per rush in 2015 (tied for No. 115 nationally).

The team fared better against the pass (allowing 6.4 yards per attempt, good for No. 26 in the country), but depth is a concern in the secondary going into this year. The cornerback unit is one of Miami’s biggest concerns, with senior Corn Elder and sophomore Sheldrick Redwine holding down the starting spots. Any injuries would immediately leave the group leaning on players who have barely seen action at the college level.

Miami opens the season on Sept. 3 at home against Florida A&M.

Miami dismisses two defensive starters

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