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The University of Miami defense hopes to be an improved unit in 2016.

If it is, it’ll be without the talents of two upperclassmen.

The school announced Saturday that it has permanently dismissed redshirt junior defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and senior linebacker Jermaine Grace from the football program for violating NCAA rules.

The program released an official statement.

“The University of Miami announced today that red-shirt junior Al-Quadin Muhammad and senior Jermaine Grace have been permanently dismissed from the Hurricanes football program for violating NCAA rules. The University will, however, continue their financial aid through graduation. The decision was made in consultation with outside counsel and after discussions with the NCAA enforcement staff. As no staff members or boosters were involved in the violations, the program will not be subject to sanctions and, at this time, the University deems this matter closed.”

The dismissal of Muhammad and Grace is the latest axe to fall following the school’s investigation into a group of players receiving improper benefits – use of a luxury vehicle from a car agency.

Junior linebacker Juwon Young was suspended indefinitely in June stemming from the same investigation and has since transferred to Marshall University.

Senior receiver Stacy Coley is said to also be involved in the school’s probe, however, Coley has been a full participant in the team’s fall camp and no statement has been released regarding his status.

Losing Young and Muhammad, both of whom elected not to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft and return for the upcoming season, could be a big blow for a defensive unit that is already dealing with depth issues.

Both were statistical leaders for Miami’s defense in 2015. Grace led the team in tackles with 79 and Muhammad’s 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks were also team-highs.

Grace, a Miramar High School alum, emerged as one of the leaders of the Canes’ defense this past season. Along with being a productive linebacker, Grace’s voice among his teammates was well-respected.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Grace had appeared in 37 games in his career, including starting 10 games this past season. Even though true freshmen linebackers Shaq Quarterman (inside) and Michael Pinckney (outside) have shown themselves to be players capable of contributing right away, Grace was going to be the elder statesmen of the position group.

Muhammad time at Miami was more tumultuous. The New Jersey native and former four-star prospect out of Don Bosco Prep High School, missed the entire 2014 season due to suspension for allegedly punching another student in the face.

Miami’s 2016 season begins next Saturday at home against Florida A&M University.

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