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2007 Miami Preview - Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 28, 2007


Preview 2007 Miami Hurricanes Defense Preview

Miami Hurricanes

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Miami Preview | 2007 Miami Offense Preview
-
2007 Miami Defense Preview | 2006 CFN Miami Preview 

What you need to know: The defense finished seventh in the nation last year despite not getting any help from the offense. The starting 11 should be good enough to shut everyone down, but there will be early concerns with the depth on the defensive line and the secondary. Safety Kenny Phillips and end Calais Campbell might be the two best defensive players in the nation, and everything will revolve around them; they must stay healthy. The linebacking corps might not have name stars, but it'll be a rock against the run with a good rotation of talents.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Calais Campbell, 84
Sacks: Calais Campbell, 10.5
Interceptions: Kenny Phillips, 4

Star of the defense: Junior S Kenny Phillips
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore LB Colin McCarthy
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DT Antonio Dixon
Best pro prospect: Junior S Kenny Phillips
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Phillips, 2) DE Calais Campbell, 3) DE Eric Moncur
Strength of the defense: Defensive end, safety
Weakness of the defense:
Safety depth, sure-thing shut-down corner

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The 6-8, 282-pound Calais Campbell came up with a breakout season finishing third on the team with 84 tackles to go along with 10.5 sacks and 205.5 tackles for loss. With his size and tremendous pass rushing ability, he's in a salary drive season as he could be a first round pick in next year's draft if he has another huge season. Not just a great athlete, he has the work ethic and the motor to live up to his preseason All-America status.

Benefiting from all the attention paid to Campbell at one end will be 6-2, 260-pound junior, Eric Moncur, on the other side. While he's not Campbell, he's a good prospect who played behind Baraka Atkins throughout last year finishing with 24 tackles and a sack. He's a top-shelf pass rusher who should put up huge numbers.

On the inside returns senior Teraz McCray, a bowling ball of a defender at 6-1 and 300 pounds. He had a few knee problems early on after tearing his ACL in 2005, limiting him to 25 tackles, but he played in ten games and is a rock of a run stopper. It's nearly impossible to move him.

Next to him is junior Antonio Dixon, who has the potential to be a star now that he'll be a key starter. He has all the NFL measurables at 6-3 and 335 pounds with excellent quickness, and now he should blossom after making 14 tackles as a reserve.

Projected Top Reserves: Backing up both McCray and Dixon on the inside will be junior Dwayne Hendricks, a 6-4, 280-pound presence inside with the athleticism to eventually be a top interior pass rusher.

260-pound sophomore Courtney Harris saw time in ten games as a reserve end making seven tackles and a sack. He has the drive to grow into a pass rushing specialist rotating in behind Campbell and Moncur.

6-3, 255-pound senior Vegas Franklin is purely a backup at either end or tackle. He's not much of a pass rusher, but he's tough against the run and quick on the inside. 

Watch Out For ... the line to dominate. Campbell and Moncur should combine for 20 sacks, while McCray and Dixon should form a tremendous run stuffing pair on the inside.
Strength: Getting into the backfield. The Hurricanes finished seven in the nation in tackles for loss averaging 7.77 per game, and they should be up there again with this returning group.
Weakness: Depth. It's good, but there's a huge dropoff from the first to second team. If injuries strike, especially at end, there will be big problems.
Outlook: As always, the Canes will generate pressure up front and get plenty of production from the talented front four. Campbell is an All-American, Moncur has all-star talent, and Dixon could be a high draft pick if he plays up to his skills. Forget running on this group.
Rating: 9


Linebackers

Projected Starters: Undersized senior Glenn Cook will try to take over for Jon Beason after a nice year in the rotation making 64 tackles with seven quarterback pressures. He's only 215 pounds and has to do more against the pass, but he's good in coverage and versatile enough to play anywhere in the linebacking corps.

In the middle will be sophomore Darryl Sharpton, a 5-11, 227-pound speedster who made 41 tackles last season. Ultra-quick with great instincts, it'll be a shock if he's not one of the team's top three tacklers.

Starting on the strongside will be sophomore Colin McCarthy, who made two tackles as a true freshman on special teams. He's a 6-3 and 222 pounds with the potential and toughness to be a rock against the run.

Projected Top Reserves: 238-pound senior Tavares Gooden has 15 career starts and 37 games of experience on the outside. With tremendous speed, he's able to fly all over the field making 83 tackles in 2004 and 41 last year after missing almost the entire 2005 season with a dislocated shoulder.

Senior Romeo Davis adds another strong reserve with 69 career tackles and nine tackles for loss. At 6-3 and 229 pounds, he's more of a middle linebacker who can play on the outside if needed. Never right last year with a variety of injuries limiting him to seven games, he could be a major factor in the starting mix by the start of the year.

Junior Spencer Adkins made three tackles in four games before injuring his leg. Now he's back as one of the team's top young defensive prospects. Staying healthy is the key for the 233-pounder; the speed, size and talent are all there.

Watch Out For ... the linebacking corps to not miss leading tackler Jon Beason. Few places can replace a 92-tackle, ten tackle for loss leader like Beason. Miami can.
Strength: Experience. The projected backups could all start and the Cane defense would hardly skip a beat. If nothing else, there will be a terrific rotation of talents.
Weakness: Size. It's not a glaring problem, and toughness and tackling are never issues for Miami linebackers, but there isn't a lot of bulk. 
Outlook: Depth, speed, talent and experience; it's all there with a great group that will continue to produce as well as any linebacking corps in America. Granted, last year's corps didn't have one going into the season, and then Beason became special. Cook and Sharpton have all-star potential, but it would be nice if there was one killer the rest of the corps could revolve around. That's nitpicking for a terrific group.

Rating: 8


Defensive Backs


Projected Starters: The great secondary revolves around All-America safety Kenny Phillips, an almost certain top ten draft pick next year with 6-2, 202-pound size, big-time hitting ability, and the speed of a corner. Smart enough to always be in the right position, he took his game to another level in spring ball flying all around the field delivering big pop after big pop. A superstar recruit for the program two years ago, he has lived up to the hype and then some with 159 tackles, nine tackles for loss, ten broken up passes and five interceptions. The numbers would've been even better if he hadn't missed three games with a broken thumb.

Taking over for Brandon Meriweather at the other safety spot will be junior Lovon Ponder, a 207-pound hitter who made 53 tackles and broke up seven passes as a reserve. Mostly limited to nickel situations last year, he should shine with a full-time workload and could end up being one of the team's top three tackles. While he'll miss a few plays here and there, he'll be terrific in run support.

Back for what seems like his 19th year in the program is senior corner Glenn Sharpe, who was a spot starter in 2002's team that lost to Ohio State in the national championship, came back from knee injuries, received two medical redshirts, and has become a tough, physical defender making 44 tackles last season with two interceptions and 14 broken up passes. While he was good last season, he wasn't a star. Now that he's more than a year removed from the knee problems, he should be ready to break out.

On the other side will be junior Randy Phillips, a good-hitting cover-corner who broke up 11 passes and made 30 tackles on the ear. While not a top-level defender, he's good enough to be a major player for the next two seasons.

Projected Top Reserves: All set to grow into one of the nation's best safeties, Anthony Reddick has had a ridiculous string of bad injury luck and will be out for the year with a knee injury. That means senior Willie Cooper will be a jack-of-all-trades after mostly serving as a special teamer for the last three seasons. He only has 17 career tackles and a limited amount of playing time on defense, but the former linebacker will get every shot to see time at safety.

At corner, sophomore Chavez Grant will be a key part of the rotation after making 24 tackles last year in a nickel role. While not as physical as the starters, he has good range and could start if needed.

On the way are true freshmen Jared Campbell, Joseph Nicolas and Damien Berry, who fit the Miami mold. They can all run, they can all hit, and they're all tough. In a perfect world, they'll be able to redshirt, but at least one of them will end up having to play a big role.

Watch Out For ... Ponder to be more than fine as the second option to replace Meriweather. His ability in run support will be enough to make him an all-star candidate.
Strength: Kenny Phillips. When people start throwing around names like Ronnie Lott, Ed Reed and Sean Taylor, you know there's something special about a player. He's top three draft pick material right now.
Weakness: Depth. With the loss of Reddick, the safety depth has gotten paper thin. It'll be a shock if some of the good true freshmen aren't asked to step in early this year.
Outlook: The secondary will be fantastic, as always, but to get to another level and be among the ten best in the country, the corners have to be better, Kenny Phillips has to be Kenny Phillips, and there can't be any major injuries early on. At the moment, it's Phillips and a bunch of relatively strong players.
Rating: 8

Special Teams

Projected Starters: It'll be a battle for the starting placekicker and punting jobs between redshirt freshman Matt Bosher and junior Daren Daly. Bosher is the top candidate for both job with great range, while Daly is more likely to push for the punting job than the opening at kicker.

Watch Out For ... the kicking game to be a big problem early on. Jon Peattie connected on 12 of 19 field goals, while Brian Monroe averaged 41.7 yards per punt forcing 16 fair catches and putting 15 inside the 20. Bosher needs more work before he be classified as reliable.
Strength: Um, uh, the coverage units weren't bad last year. There enough good athletes to keep the special teams from becoming a disaster, but this is a major question mark going into the fall.
Weakness: Uncertainty. There's nothing the coaching staff can say is rock solid. The kicking game is a question mark and the return game needs to be better.
Outlook: More pop is needed from a return game that averaged 7.2 yards per punt return and 19.9 yards per kickoff return. The kickers didn't get nearly enough work in the spring game and will require work throughout the off-season. Bosher had better live up to his prep hype right off the bat. Things aren't as bad as they might appear.
Rating: 6

 

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