2012 Miami Preview - Defense
Miami DE Anthony Chickillo
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Miami Hurricane Defense
Preview 2012 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: Despite a slew of graduations and early defections, the Miami D should be alright for the upcoming season. There's speed and young talent at every level, though, someone has to start creating more takeaways in 2012. It's unconscionable that this program had just 15 turnovers in a dozen games, fewer than all but Duke in the ACC. DE Anthony Chickillo delivered a terrific debut in 2011, and has the look of a four-year starter and perennial all-star. Providing a presence in the middle of the line will be massive Darius Smith and Curtis Porter, who are better run-stuffers than pass rushers. The budding star at the second level is Denzel Perryman, the linebackers' version of Chickillo in the trenches. Perryman was a rookie standout, laying the groundwork for what ought to be a breakout sophomore season. Miami's stingiest unit on defense this season ought to be the secondary. At least that's the plan heading into summer. The cornerbacks are good, especially if senior Brandon McGee can transform 2012 into a salary run season. The safeties, though, have a chance to be real good, even elite. With NFL scouts watching closely, Vaughn Telemaque
has all the motivation he needs to come up with a
Star of the defense: Senior LB Denzel Perryman
Tackles: Denzel Perryman, 69
Sacks: Anthony Chickillo, 5
Interceptions: Multiple, 1
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CB Brandon McGee
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Anthony Chickillo
Best pro prospect: Armstrong
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Perryman, 2) Chickillo, 3) S Vaughn Telemaque
Strength of the defense: Speed off the edge, speed at linebacker, the safeties
Weakness of the defense: Uncertainty at tackle, depth at linebacker, the cornerbacks, takeaways
A couple of graduations and a couple of early departures to the NFL have Miami in scramble mode along the D-line, especially as it pertains to depth. One of the young building blocks of the future is DE Anthony Chickillo, the five-star recruit who played like a five-star recruit in his first season on campus. The 6-4, 258-pounder started the final nine games, finishing with 38 tackles, 6.5 stops for loss and five sacks. A third generation Hurricane, he blends ideal athleticism with the passion and intensity coaches look for in a pass rusher. With a full offseason to get in the weight room and digest the system, he's poised to make a national splash in Year 2.
On the opposite side, the job of 6-3, 260-pound Shayon Green will be to keep opponents from doubling up on Chickillo. The junior has been a tease up to this point, always looking the part and bubbling with potential, but failing to deliver on the field. He has a great burst and motor, using them to win the Most Improved Defensive Player of the Spring Award, but will have to bring it consistently once the season starts.
Coming off the bench, the staff is intrigued by the potential of junior Kelvin Cain . The 6-3, 238-pounder came to Miami as a linebacker, but has impressed with his get-off and moves around the edge. He's no stranger to the field, starting six games in two seasons, and made a career-best 20 tackles last season.
On the inside, it's go time for 6-1, 300-pound junior Curtis Porter , whose considerable potential has been stunted by injuries the past two seasons. The classic run-stuffer is tough to move and strong at the point of attack, but obviously needs to show that he can handle the rigors of an entire season in the trenches. In three years, he has appeared in just 11 games, making 15 tackles and two stops for loss.
Next to Porter at tackle will be senior Darius Smith, the second-year starter out of Lackawanna (Pa.) College. The prototypical space-eater goes 6-2 and 360 pounds, basically taking up residence in the middle of the Miami D-line. He's not going to collapse the pocket, but last season's 21 tackles and three stops for loss are an indication that he's a little more active than advertised.
The first tackle off the bench will be sophomore Olsen Pierre , a recruit that Al Golden liked so much he lured over from his final Temple class. At 6-4 and 265 pounds, he's a lot smaller and quicker than the starters, giving the ‘Canes a possible penetrator from the interior. He lettered as a rookie by appearing briefly in seven games.
Watch Out For … the health of Porter. No one is more important to the fate of the line than No. 96, who has all-star talent if he can only remain healthy for an entire season. He plays with the pad level and work ethic that Golden covets, leaving the staff cautiously optimistic that this is the year he evolves into a force.
Strength: Motors. If you're going to play for this staff, you better not be taking plays off. The D-line is one group that has heeded that warning. This is a feisty collection of linemen that always play to the whistle, and is going to fight through blocks relentlessly. The Miami linemen will bring an attitude to the field that's going to become contagious to the back seven.
Weakness: Stuffing the run. This has been an issue the past couple of years, and might not be resolved as quickly as the staff would like. Miami was 84th versus the run in 2010, and 68th last year. With the uncertainty that exists in the middle, it's possible that the ‘Canes will once again yield more than four yards a carry.
Outlook: Chickillo is about to become one of the young faces of the Miami D. After him, though, the Hurricanes have more questions than answers on the D-line. The sophomore's partner, Green, has not played much to date, and the tackles will be average unless Porter can finally blossom into a legit run-stuffer. Plus, depth is not going to be a unit strength.
Unit Rating: 7
Sean Spence may be irreplaceable, but the team is hoping to offset his graduation with a collaborative effort. Three ‘Canes with starting experience are back, none more promising than second-year sophomore Denzel Perryman, who played real well in his debut. The Freshman All-American started five games, making 69 tackles, 6.5 stops for loss and a couple of forced fumbles. The new man in the middle plays with many of the same qualities that Spence once did. He's just 6-0 and 225 pounds, yet packs a wallop, and covers the field in run defense with outstanding range and lateral quickness.
At one outside spot, the program is excited about the return of senior Ramon Buchanan who was playing well through four games before injuring his right knee. At the time, he had 18 tackles, and looked as if he'd surpass his 2010 production of 54 tackles and eight stops for loss. If the 6-1, 222-pounder can stay healthy and out of trouble away from the field, he has the desired intensity and range to be a key playmaker in 2012.
Rounding out the starting lineup will be junior Jimmy Gaines , an eight-game starter in 2011. He chipped in with 58 tackles and three stops for loss, providing the versatility to play inside or outside. The 6-3, 230-pounder is not the best athlete of the group, but he plays hard and smart, which does not get lost on the coaching staff.
The ‘Canes do not have much experience off the bench, especially since Kelvin Cain has officially moved to defensive end. Of the potential backups, only 6-2, 210-pound junior Tyrone Cornelius and 6-0, 230-pound sophomore Gionni Paul have seen the field. The pair is currently battling to be No. 2 behind Buchanan.
Watch Out For … Buchanan to pick up where he left off last September. The senior was playing last fall, determined to redeem himself following an unflattering offseason. Even after the season-ending injury, he appears to have the steely determination to be one of the program's top defenders of the fall.
Strength: Range. With Perryman and Buchanan setting the tone for this group, the linebackers are small and fast, and capable of covering a lot of ground in a hurry. The speed of this unit allows the coaches to employ them in all different kinds of ways, like as blitzers and pass defenders.
Weakness: Depth of talent. The starters are good, but no one is going to be a slam dunk to be on the All-ACC squad. The backups are inexperienced and extremely young. Perryman has a bright future, but the general assessment of the linebackers is that there's not a lot of can't-miss talent that's going to dot NFL rosters in a few years.
Outlook: The loss of Spence will be profound for not just the linebackers, but the entire D. Perryman is going to have a bright future, but as a whole the second level is going to be pedestrian. While the Hurricanes will hustle and grapple until the play is dead, there aren't a lot of dynamic qualities to the unit. If the B team needs to be tapped because of injuries, the situation will worsen very quickly.
Unit Rating: 6.5
No team was thrown on less than Miami in 2011, partially out of fear of subjecting receivers to the Hurricanes hard-hitting safety tandem, which has a chance to be one of the best in America. Senior FS Vaughn Telemaque is about to enter his third year as a starter. He has undeniable physical gifts, a 6-2, 211-pound enforcer, with the instincts and cover skills to support in pass defense. After making a career-high 59 tackles in 2011, the product of California is looking for the kind of breakout year that garners attention from all-league voters.
Lurking behind the starters is 6-0, 205-pound junior A.J. Highsmith, a former quarterback. Although he had just 12 stops last year, he was pressing Telemaque in the spring for playing time. For now, though, he appears more likely to caddy for Armstrong at strong safety.
The team's top cornerback should be 6-0, 190-pound senior Brandon McGee . The returning starter from a unit depleted by graduation had to fight in March and April to maintain his spot atop the depth chart. He had 38 tackles and a pick in 2011, but will need to make a few more big plays this fall to avoid constantly looking over his shoulder. If McGee does let the door open, 5-10, 183-pound Thomas Finnie is liable to jet through it. The speedy sophomore delivered put down a solid ground floor as a rookie, making 14 tackles while impressing the staff. Even if he's not a starter, he'll see the field plenty in nickel and dime packages.
Bucking for a starting spot at the other cornerback spot is a newcomer, Fort Scott (Kans.) Community College transfer Ladarius Gunter . The junior used the spring to impress the staff enough to finish the spring looking down on the rest of his competition. At 6-2 and 196 pounds, he has good size, and the right mix of agility and physicality to quickly flatten the inevitable ACC learning curve.
Watch Out For … Telemaque to be a man on a mission right through next
February's NFL Combine. It all began with his
mindset during the offseason conditioning, which
drew high praise from his coaches and teammates.
Strength: The safeties. Yeah, neither played up to his enormous potential in 2011, but now that Telemaque can hear the clock ticking, he is capable of delivering all-conference finales. Both are the equivalent of having two more athletic linebackers on the field, imposing presences who'll leave an imprint on the run D as well as the pass defense.
Weakness: Coverage skills. On paper, the Hurricanes were in better shape at cornerback in 2011, yet were last in the ACC in completion % allowed and interceptions with just six. Miami was simply too soft in coverage, and now are being forced to replace three corners who lettered a year ago.
Outlook: The Miami secondary has got to do better than it did a year ago, when the group underachieved. There's plenty of talent on the back level, but now it must start acting like it. The evolution of the cornerbacks is critical, but the tome will be set by Telemaque. If the safeties can finally hit their ceilings in 2012, everyone around them is going to share in the benefit.
Unit Rating: 7
The Hurricanes special teams unit returns virtually intact, though a replacement for Travis Benjamin in the return game will be needed. Senior PK Jake Wieclaw performed well in his first season of duty, connecting on 11-of-14 field goals, and averaging 65 yards on kickoffs. The special teams MVP and Lou Groza Award semifinalist might have received some national notoriety had he gotten more field goal attempts.
Miami couldn't have been much happier with the play of P Dalton Botts in his first year out of Moorpark (Calif.) College. In a borderline All-ACC effort, he averaged 42.7 yards, and had just 3-of-48 attempts wind up in the end zone as touchbacks.
Looking to become the next Benjamin in the return game, both punts and kickoffs, will be sophomore Phillip Dorsett , one of the fastest players on the roster. He had just four touches on kickoffs a year ago, but the team likes his acceleration and vision when heading up the field.
Watch Out For … Botts to pick up some all-star honors at year's end. He sort of caught league voters off guard in his first year removed from the JUCO ranks, even after finishing second in the league in punting. Now that the ‘Cane is the only of last year's top four punters back, a spot on the All-ACC squad is there for the taking.
Strength: The specialists. In Wieclaw and Botts, Miami harbors a pair of the ACC's better kicking specialists, good news for the offense and defense. The two are strong-legged seniors looking to use their final amateur year as a possible launching point to the NFL.
Weakness: Covering punts. It was the one area of special teams that vexed the Hurricanes in 2011, and will need to be addressed heading into 2012. The team ranked 96th in punt return yardage D, failing to exploit the amalgam of the teams' speed and Botts' hang time.
Outlook: Has Miami regrouped on special teams or what? Unlike a year ago, when uncertainty was rampant, the ‘Canes will begin 2012 with fewer question marks than most of their ACC brethren. Wieclaw and Botts are solid, leaving Dorsett as an unknown, as he attempts to fill the shoes of Benjamin in the return game.
Unit Rating: 8
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