If a team is the best in Florida they stand a good chance of being the best in the country. Today NoleDigest.com breaks down the defenses of the Big 3 heading into the 2010 season.
We will rate the positions on a scale of 1-10 with "10" being the best possible.
MIAMI: This is the strength of the Miami defense. There is a lot of depth and talent for new coach Rick Petri to work with. At DE, Olivier Vernon, Adewale Ojomo, Marcus Robinson, and Stephen Wesley should get plenty of pressure on the QB. Inside Marcus Forston, Micanor Regis, Allen Bailey, and Josh Holmes are a terrific blend of size and toughness.
Miami has been young on the DL for the past two years and have taken their lumps, this unit is clearly the best they have been since earlier part of the decade. SCORE: 9 points.
FSU: This is an area that has not been up to the Noles lofty standards the past several years. This unit is certainly on the rise however, although probably a year away. DEs Brandon Jenkins and Markus White can be top flight starters, they will need help from Toshmon Stevens and Dan Hicks who are short on experience.
Overall this unit is probably a year away, but should get better as these players pick up more experience. SCORE: 7 points (perhaps 8 by end of year).
FLORIDA: UF lost two premium DEs to the NFL in Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham. Duke Lemmens, Justin Trattou, William Green, and Kedric Johnson figure to be in the rotation in 2010. It is a solid group, but obviously a drop off, particularly early in the year.
UFs incoming freshmen class of defensive linemen was the best in the country, Ronald Powell and Shariff Floyd are certainly capable of making an impact next year. SCORE: 7 points.
FSU: Few schools possess the rich history of the FSU LB core and this unit is clearly capable of matching some of those groups from the past. Nigel Bradham headlines this unit and he is expected to take his game to the league after just three years in college. Nigel Carr will start on the other side with Kendall Smith holding down the MLB job.
Smith is going to be pushed by newcomer Jeff Luc(in for Spring)who clearly represents the future for the Noles. Vince Williams, Mister Alexander, and incoming freshmen Christian Jones are solid depth.
We expect this unit to be the heart and soul of the defense and to come up with a big year. SCORE: 9 points.
MIAMI: Miami also has had it's share of outstanding LBs over the years. This unit lacks depth, but has four LBs who can be counted on. Senior Colin McCarthy will probably end up in the middle, he has a ton of experience, but needs to stay healthy. Sean Spence burst onto the scene as a true freshmen and backed it up with a solid sophomore campaign. Spence still needs a little more size.
Jordan Futch and Ramon Buchanan should battle it out in Fall Camp for the other starting spot, both should see significant minutes in 2010. The Canes will be relying on some true freshmen to add depth and help on special teams. This is an area the Canes need to stay healthy. SCORE: 7 points
FLORIDA: UF suffered a big loss here as well with Brandon Spikes graduation, the MLB has been one of the best in the country. Seniors A.J. Jones and Brandon Hicks should man the outside spots with sophomore Jon Bostic in the middle. Bostic had an impressive Spring and big things are expected out of him down the road.
FLORIDA: UF has one of the top CBs in the country with Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins has been a stud since he stepped foot on campus and will be asked to lock down the elite SEC wide receivers. Senior Moses Jenkins finished Spring as the other starter, he will be pushed by Jeremy Brown, Josh Shaw, and Jaylen Watkins.
Even with the departure of Major Wright, the Gators have talent and experience at Safety. Ahmad Black has made a ton of plays and Will Hill has as much raw talent as anyone. Their skill sets should complement each other. Newcomer Matt Elam and Josh Evans will push for playing time.
UF should have one of the better units in the country here. SCORE: 9 points.
FSU:FSU should be excellent at CB with Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes. While young, these two are ultra talented and should complement each other. Rhodes has elite size and perhaps no player had as much buzz from coaches after Spring. A pair of veterans are here for depth in Ochuko Jenije and Dionte Allen.
Safety is more problematic, there are a host of candidates but no one has just stepped up and taken the jobs. Nick Moody and Terrance Parks should enter Fall camp as the starters, they will be pushed by Gerald Demps and Jajuan Harley. There is talent here, but it may take some time. SCORE: 7 points
MIAMI:The Canes have experience at the CB spots with Demarcus Van Dyke(sr) and Brandon Harris(jr). Both players really started to come on down the stretch last year and have NFL potential. Brandon McGee(so) is the only other returning CB and he did not play much last year. Freshmen will need to fill out the depth chart, most likely Keion Payne and Jeremy Davis.
At safety big things are expected from Ray Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque. The sophomore's logged some minutes last year and had their moments. They are short on experience, but do make an intriguing combo because of Armstrong's elite size and Telemaque's play-making ability. Jared Campbell has proven to be a solid depth player who can spot start. JoJo Nicholas has started some games in his career, but faces an uphill battle for playing time. Redshirt freshmen Jamal Reid might be ready to step up.
This unit could surprise if they stay healthy, but the lack of depth at CB is a concern. SCORE: 7 points.
FSU: 23 points
Miami: 23 points
Florida: 23 points
Like on the offensive side of the ball, this shows just how close these teams are heading into the season. Each team has a unit that is clearly the best: Miami's DL, FSU's LBs, and UF's DBs.
Overall, UF probably has the best depth on the defense, but they also have the fewest proven play-makers(although plenty of players with pedigree).