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Jacquez Warren brings the defense: ‘I want to be the best player here at Miami’

<p>At his Boys and Girls club growing up, Warren was given the nickname “highlight” because he made a lot of great plays.</p>

At his Boys and Girls club growing up, Warren was given the nickname “highlight” because he made a lot of great plays.

Football season is back. This week, the RedHawks got back on track against the UMass Minutemen, with a 41-28 road win, after losing to the Miami Hurricanes in week one.

Though they finished with a record of 6-7 — 4-4 in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) — last year, the RedHawks were anchored by their defense, which ranked 35th in the country for points per game at 22.5, also putting them first in MAC in that category. 

The team was the best run defense in the MAC, and linebackers Ryan McWood and Matt Salopek were both top five in the conference for total tackles. While the RedHawks’ defensive front was strong, the defensive backfield was equally as dangerous, in part thanks to 6-foot, 191-pound junior defensive back Jacquez Warren, also known as “Quez” by his teammates and coaches.

Warren was raised by his mom and aunt in Durham, North Carolina, where he attended Southern Durham High School. Throughout high school, he racked up 202 total tackles in his career and was named team captain as a senior. After only playing in one game his first year at Miami, he played in 11 the following year, starting for seven of them. Last year, he started in all 13 games played. 

In the beginning, football wasn’t on the forefront of Warren’s mind.

“I didn’t have anything to do,” Warren said. “I was always bored at the house. I tried baseball and didn’t really like it that much. My god mom and my parents got me into football, and the first day I just wanted to ball.” 

At his Boys and Girls club growing up, Warren was given the nickname “highlight” because he made a lot of great plays.

Warren said being raised by his mom and aunt led him to have a very special relationship with both of them.  

“They really just supported me whether I was just having fun or not,” Warren said. “They really got into it as well. They just wanted to see me happy playing football, and I was happy and getting good at it, and so they just supported me throughout the whole thing and kept pushing me to get better.”

Miami defensive coordinator Bill Brechin has been coaching Warren since the day he stepped on campus. He’s seen Warren’s improvement firsthand. 

“The biggest growth I have seen from Quez has been his approach to really everything in his life, his academics, his football,” Brechin said. “He has always been a great person, a great kid. He started to take things way more seriously since his freshman year, he wants to be great at everything. He wants to be a great person, a great boyfriend, a great student and a great football player.”

Warren finished the 2022 season with 63 total tackles and two interceptions. He’s one of the RedHawks’ most consistent players on the field. Now a junior — with safety and defensive backfield leader John Saunders Jr. transferring to Ole Miss — Quez, along with fellow defensive backs Eli Blakey and Michael Dowell, will have to fill in an even bigger role than last year. 

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“I have really high expectations for him,” Brechin said. “... He came in mid-year, I think it was sophomore year, after we had some injuries, and basically since then we have not been able to take him off the field because he just keeps making plays for us.”

External expectations are high. Warren has even higher expectations for himself individually. 

“For this season, [my goal] is just to be better than I was last year,” Warren said. “I want to be more explosive and more elusive … this year I definitely was in the film room way more. I took conditioning way more seriously. I got bigger, faster and stronger, and that was my goal going into the offseason … I want to be the best player here in Miami.”