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2006 CFN Miami
need to know:
You’re not in Kansas anymore, Bill Young. Young was lured away
from the Jayhawks to coordinate a defense that allowed an
un-Miami-like 120 points over last year’s final three games. A
master of the zone blitz, the new coordinator will be working
with more talent than he’s ever had at his disposal. While you
certainly don’t get better by losing DE Calais Campbell and S
Kenny Phillips, the ‘Canes have stocked the cupboard deep enough
in the last two winters to rebound in a hurry. LB Colin
McCarthy has the right makeup to evolve into the anchor of the
defense. If, as he’s declared, S Anthony Reddick is ready to go
after suffering a serious knee injury, Phillips’ departure is a
little easier to digest. DT Marcus Forston and LB Arthur Brown,
a couple of recruiting coups, are destined to be special.
Tackles: Colin McCarthy, 74
Interceptions: Randy Phillips, 2
LB Colin McCarthy
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Senior DT Antonio Dixon
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Allen Bailey
Best pro prospect: McCarthy
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McCarthy, 2)
Senior DE Eric Moncur, 3) Dixon
Strength of the defense: Veteran depth, run
Weakness of the defense: Pass defense, lack of a
Projected Starters: Miami’s biggest concern
heading into the season will be to find an adequate replacement
for pass rusher Calais Campbell, who left early for the NFL
Draft. A fixture on one side is senior Eric Moncur, a
speedy and powerful edge rusher that can shed tackles
effortlessly. The 6-2, 250-pounder had his breakout season as a
sophomore, collecting 48 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and six
sacks, and is expected to grow into something special.
Pushing to fill the void on the right side is sophomore Allen
Bailey, a converted linebacker who bulked up to 6-4 and 287
pounds and is a freakishly explosive athlete. Coming off a
fantastic spring, he’s an explosive rusher with scary closing
speed. Blessed with a rare combination of power and quickness,
Bailey has the opportunity and the skills to deliver a
breakthrough season for the Canes.
While senior Antonio Dixon is expected to handle one
tackle spot, the other opening probably won’t be filled until
August. Miami is still waiting for that breakthrough season
from Dixon, a 6-3, 328-pound wide-body that’s had trouble
staying on the field for an entire season and keeping his weight
in check. A classic space-eater that moves well for his size,
he started four games as a junior, making 21 tackles for 3.5
tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
Junior Joe Joseph and senior Dwayne Hendricks both
started games a year ago, but haven’t turned enough heads to
guarantee anything more than a spot in the rotation. At 6-3 and
304 pounds, Joseph is a penetrator that chipped in 25 tackles,
two tackles for loss, and quarterback hurries in the first
action of his career. Hendricks is a little smaller at 6-4 and
298 pounds with the lateral speed and footwork to make plays
down the line. In an injury-riddled season, he played in just
six games, making 13 tackles and a couple of tackles for loss.
Projected Top Reserves: If the tackles don’t have
their acts together, true freshman Marcus Forston is
liable to pass them on his way to the first team. Already a
spring participant, the nation’s top-rated prep tackle showed
some of the burst and quickness that’s creating comparisons to a
young Warren Sapp. At 6-2 and 309 pounds, he’ll be too
disruptive to keep off the field this fall.
Competition at end will come from 6-3, 267-pound junior
Courtney Harris and redshirt freshman Adewale Ojomo.
While Harris has an edge in experience, Ojomo is a 6-3,
244-pound blur around the corner and the reigning Defensive
Scout Team Player of the Year.
Watch Out For ... Dixon to make a salary run
in his final year of eligibility. Athletic, 330-pound run
stuffers from the state of Florida make NFL scouts drool. That
should be enough for Dixon to stay in shape, and finally put
together a complete season for the Canes.
Strength: Edge rushers. Yeah, you don’t get
better by losing Campbell, but Moncur is taking the baton and
Bailey looks like the real deal on the other side. Plus, Harris
is a solid veteran on the second team and Ojomo has a chance to
be a disruptive situational pass rusher.
Weakness: Run defense. The ‘Canes were
surprisingly soft inside last year, a situational that’s being
muddled by the uncertainty at tackle. Mr. Forston, opportunity
is on line one.
Outlook: The line will be good, but to become
great it’s going to need regular appearances from someone other
than just Moncur. For starters, it’s a must that Bailey’s not
just a spring sensation and Dixon can evolve into a beast on the
Projected Starters: While leading tackler Tavares
Gooden will be missed, Miami believes it can make up the
difference with a couple of blue-chip recruits and the return of
senior Glenn Cook, who was granted a sixth year of
eligibility. Cook missed all of last season with a foot injury,
but was a starter in 2006, and had the best spring of his
career. At 6-0 and 235 pounds, he’s versatile enough to play
any of the three positions.
At strongside, speedy junior Colin McCarthy has evolved
into the headliner of this group. An athletic 6-3, 230-pounder,
he displayed keen instincts in his first season as a starter,
making 74 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks. As
much as any player on the defense, McCarthy is on the verge of a
breakthrough season that ends with All-ACC honors.
Junior Darryl Sharpton may be only 5-11, 232 pounds, but
he plays with great explosion, leverage, and
sideline-to-sideline speed. Although he made 57 tackles and six
tackles for loss as a part-time starter, even more production is
expected from one of the unit’s most athletic defenders.
Projected Top Reserves: Squaty senior Spencer
Adkins has limitations, especially in pass defense, but
there's nothing wrong with a three-time letterwinner on the
second team. A hard working 5-11 and 230 pounder, he had 52
tackles and three tackles for loss with five starts on the weak
Heralded true freshmen Arthur Brown and Sean Spence
are the future at linebacker in Miami. Scrap that. The way
they played in the spring, the pair may be the present on
defense. Spence, in particular, was a revelation making plays
all over the field with his quickness and instincts. Although
just 6-0 and 202 pounds, he reads and reacts like a veteran,
blowing up plays before they can develop.
Rated by many as the country’s top linebacker, Brown had a
team-high eight tackles in the spring game, showing no
unnecessary respect to his elders. An explosive playmaker, he
closes in an instant and buries opposing ballcarriers.
Watch Out For ... Spence and Brown to contribute
immediately. Sure, they’ll make rookie mistakes, but both are
too athletic and disruptive to be caged up on the sidelines for
a season. Plus, besides McCarthy, this is not a vintage ‘Cane
linebacker unit that’ll force a talented freshman into a
redshirt year or a season on special teams.
Strength: Tomorrow. The linebackers will be good
this season, but if all goes as planned, they’ll among the best
in the ACC by 2009. McCarthy and Sharpton are juniors and
Spence and Brown haven’t even left the starters’ block.
Weakness: Size. It’s not as if the Miami linebackers
will get pushed around, but this is an undersized ensemble that
could have trouble against physical offensive lines that get to
the second level. The ‘Canes also aren’t very tall, which
presents problems when trying to cover tight ends on passing
Outlook: There’s plenty of upside for a group that
has a star to revolve around, a veteran supporting cast, and the
next generation waiting in the wings. If nothing else, Brown
and Spence are going to force their teammates to keep getting
better or get out of the way.
Miami is mortal in the secondary for the first time in years, a
microcosm for the program’s recent decline. The big loss is
All-America S Kenny Phillips, who coaches hope can be replaced
by oft-injured senior Anthony Reddick. Seemingly headed
to becoming the next great Cane safety, he has played in just
seven games in two years suffering ACL tears in 2005 and 2007.
Declaring himself at full strength in the spring, Reddick is a
6-0, 208-pound wild-card capable of softening the blow of losing
Reddick will likely be joined by fellow senior Lovon Ponder,
a spot starter and three-time letterwinner who has seen plenty
of time in nickel and dime packages. At 6-0 and 219 pounds,
he’s sound in run support, but like so many of the defensive
backs, needs to keep the play in front of him.
While it’s a fluid process, the front-runners at cornerback
heading into the summer are sophomore DeMarcus Van Dyke
and senior Bruce Johnson. Van Dyke received some on the
job training as a true freshman, starting eight games and making
14 tackles to go along with a bunch of predictable rookie
mistakes. A rangy 6-1, 174-pounder with blazing speed and an
explosive burst out of his stance, he’s got a high ceiling once
he tightens his coverage and improves his tackling.
The 5-11, 172-pound Johnson is a veteran of 30 career games and
eight starts from last season. While not the consistent
lockdown corner that the ‘Canes are craving, he brings
experience and savvy to a position that’s still green at this
time. In his most extensive playing time, Johnson had 28
tackles and broke up six passes a season ago.
Projected Top Reserves: One of the big surprises
of the spring was junior CB Chavez Grant, who played as
if he plans to challenge for a starting assignment in the
summer. A year after playing the nickel and making 26 tackles
in six starts, he’s positioned for an expanded role. At 5-11 and
180 pounds, Grant makes nice breaks on passes and shows good
Adding more veteran depth at cornerback is senior Carlos
Armour, the biggest defensive back at 6-3 and 206 pounds and
a player that can jump out of the building. He started four
games in 2007, making 30 tackles and breaking up four passes,
while proving to be an occasional liability in coverage.
After failing to handle life as a corner, senior Randy
Phillips will provide some much-needed depth at safety. A
6-0, 208-pounder who hits like a linebacker, he made four starts
last season, chipping in 34 tackles, two forced fumbles, and a
pair of interceptions.
A number of underclassmen will be battling for a spot on the
second team, the best of which could be 6-1, 200-pound sophomore
JoJo Nicholas. He used an outstanding spring session to
create space between himself and Damien Berry and
Watch Out For ... the secondary to struggle again
versus better passing teams. As tough as this is to process,
Miami doesn’t have a single defensive back that’s a lock for
postseason honors or a corner that can shut out top receivers on
the schedule, such as Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks, or Greg Carr.
Strength: Experience. Hey, it might not be the
most air-tight secondary in school history, but it sure does
have a lot of familiar faces. A whopping seven defensive backs
have started at least one game in their ‘Cane careers.
Weakness: Cover skills. While you still don’t
want to cross over the middle on the Miami defensive backs,
going deep on the them has become a safe haven. Van Dyke
certainly has upside, but collectively, this is not a premier
group of pass defenders.
Outlook: If Reddick can turn back the clock and a
couple of the cornerbacks overachieve, Miami will make 2007 look
like an aberration. More likely, however, the ‘Canes will be
the ‘Canes against weak passers, but get exposed by the ACC’s
more developed attacks.
Projected Starters: Noticing that there’s a
glaring need for a placekicker, Jake Wieclaw left high
school early, and has already participated in his first spring
camp. One of the top high school kickers in the Midwest, he’s
6-2 and 180 pounds, with good pop and accuracy.
Junior walk-on Alex Uribe is in the picture, but
Wieclaw’s stiffest competition will come from 6-0, 195-pound
sophomore Matt Bosher, who averaged 40.2 yards as the
punter a year ago. One of the premier kickers of 2006, he has
the leg strength and mechanics to handle double-duties this
Watch Out For ... Bosher. As he goes, so goes the
Miami special teams in 2008. By making a quantum leap from his
freshman year, he’s capable of quelling the Hurricanes’ concerns
at punter and kicker. Remember, Bosher was one of the most
coveted kicking recruits two years ago, so he’s capable of being
the answer for coach Joe Pannunzio.
Strength: Coverage units. Until the young kickers
prove their mettle, there’s not a lot to brag about on special
teams. The coverage units typically do a solid job, limiting
the big play and not allowing a touchdown last season.
Weakness: The return game. Sophomore Graig Cooper
and junior Ryan Hill did little to spark a return
game that’s lacked electricity the last two seasons. There’s
way too much breakaway speed on this roster for the ‘Canes to be
so docile on special teams.
Outlook: After going just 13-of-21 on field goal
attempts a year ago, Miami is pining for more consistency in the
kicking game. While Bosher should get better in his second
season as the punter, it’s incumbent on either he or Wieclaw to
give the ‘Canes a kicker that doesn’t make the home crowd wince
when he trots on the field.