2003 Outlook: LB

The Miami Hurricanes return all three starters at the linebacker position for the 2003 season: Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams and Roger McIntosh. This trio of linebackers is one of the best in the country. All three are very athletic and run very well. Vilma and Williams were semifinalists for the Butkus Award (presented to the nation's top linebacker) last season and will be frontrunners for the award this upcoming season.

Jonathan Vilma (6-2, 208) is the middle linebacker in the talented trio and one of the leaders on defense. The senior from Coral Gables has started the past two seasons leading the team in tackles both years. Last year he racked up 133 tackles including 75 on his own. He is a quick player who always finds the ball and has improved on his ability to pick up pass cover assignments. Vilma's strongest attribute is stopping the run and his passion for the game rubs off on the younger players. His leadership ability on the football field also carries over into the classroom. Vilma is an outstanding student who was selected as a first-team Verizon Academic All-American last year.

Starting at weakside linebacker for the third straight season will be D.J. Williams (6-2, 247). Williams was one of the most highly touted recruits in the country from Concord, California after receiving the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year award in 1999. Regardless of his accolades in high school on the defensive side of the ball, Williams played fullback during his freshman year. However the move was temporary and he moved back to his more comfortable position at linebacker the next season. Williams has good speed on the outside and pursues the ball very well. He led all Miami linebackers with 16 tackles for a loss.

Roger "Rocky" McIntosh (6-3, 219) will be back starting at strongside linebacker where he started the last four games of the season. McIntosh has developed into a solid player that can get across the field in a hurry. The former South Carolina prep star is excellent against the pass and his hard-hitting style punishes ball carriers. McIntosh, only a sophomore, is still learning the position. With Vilma and Williams leading the way, he is in good hands. He had a good spring and should have a solid season in 2003.

Leon Williams (6-4, 225) is entering his sophomore season as a backup to Vilma in the middle. He gained valuable experience last year and has worked hard in practices to solidify his role. Williams was considered one of the best prospects out of New York City in quite some time. He is a key contributor on special teams and has developed immensely since arriving at Miami.

Seniors Darrell McClover (6-2, 219) and Jarrell Weaver (6-3, 203) will backup McIntosh and Williams on the outside. Both will contribute heavily on special teams and have worked hard throughout their careers at Miami. Junior Carl Walker looks to contribute on special teams as well.

Incoming freshmen Glenn Cook, Tavares Gooden, Ali Highsmith and Leo Waiters should be solid contributors in the future for the Hurricanes. Cook possesses superb instincts and has a great football mind. Gooden will be making the switch from defensive end to linebacker and will need time to make the switch. Highsmith is a playmaker that will look to add size onto his frame. Waiters has good size and should be able to make the transition to the college level. Based upon the depth already established, the four freshmen will be potential players to redshirt this upcoming season. If they don't redshirt they will most likely see time on special teams.

Miami has two of the best linebackers in the country and a rising star in the making. Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams are the lone two defensive starters from the 2001 National Championship team. The Miami linebackers have the ability to cover the field side-to-side, which will give opposing teams a tough time. Stopping the run is important to every defensive squad and with talented linebackers; the Miami Hurricanes should be a solid run-stopping team.

Canes Time Top Stories