The Miami Hurricanes return all four starting defensive backs in Sean Taylor, Maurice Sikes, Antrel Rolle and Kelly Jennings. They gained valuable experience last season leading the nation in pass defense. Corners Alfonso Marshall and Glenn Sharpe also return after playing a considerable amount of time last season. The defensive backs at Miami will once again be one of the best in the country.
Free safety Sean Taylor (6-3, 220) is one of the leaders in this talented group. The hard-hitting junior has a unique combination of size, strength and speed. Taylor played great during the Fiesta Bowl last year and looks to continue the success during the 2003 season. Last year Taylor recorded four interceptions and broke up a team-high 15 passes. Taylor was a high school teammate of Buck Ortega and led Gulliver to the Florida Class 2A State Championship.
Maurice Sikes (5-11, 193) is back at strong safety. Sikes sat out the spring due to off-season shoulder surgery. An injury he suffered early in the season last year. His tackling ability has been questioned but a healthy Sikes should put that question to rest. He is a solid player who was fourth on the team last year in tackles with 80, recorded three interceptions and returned two of them for touchdowns.
Antrel Rolle (6-1, 189) is a physical cornerback who is one of the best in the country. He has showed extraordinary cover skills and is strong against the run. Rolle is a fast player who can close on the ball very well. His instincts have improved each year and is the vocal leader of the secondary. Last year Rolle finished with 66 tackles which was fifth on the team and had one interception. Getting more interceptions would be nice for Rolle but shutting down his man is even more important.
The other starting cornerback is Kelly Jennings (6-0, 170). Jennings was an excellent cover corner last year during his freshman season. He was bothered by an injured thumb this year but has put that injury behind him and is ready to go. As an inexperienced player last year, teams targeted him as the weak point. Jennings was up to the task and he performed very well breaking up six passes and making 25 tackles on the season.
Alfonso Marshall (6-1, 186) is a senior cornerback who has played in 32 career games. Marshall made 20 tackles last year and intercepted one pass. He checks into the game as the team's nickel or dime back. Marshall's game against Boston College last year drew high praise. He looks to have more good games during his last year as a Hurricane.
Glenn Sharpe (5-11, 175) will be forever remembered by the penalty call during the Fiesta Bowl on Chris Gamble. A great defensive effort on the play resulted in a questionable call by the official. While that play is the most remembered play in his young career, Sharpe had a solid freshman season. He made 18 tackles last year and looks to contribute more this year. Sharpe will be inserted as the team's nickel or dime back along with Marshall.
Sophomore safeties Marcus Maxey and Greg Threat both had good springs and will complete for playing time in the fall. If Maurice Sikes doesn't bounce back from his injury Maxey and Threat will be ready to step in. Redshirt freshman Brandon Meriweather was bothered by an ankle sprain during the spring but should be ready to go for the fall. Travarous Bain is also a redshirt freshman with incredible potential.
Incoming freshmen Jon Beason, Willie Cooper and Terrell Walden all possess good instincts for young players. Beason has good size and is a hard-hitter who could become the starting strong safety of the future. Getting Cooper was a bit of a surprise, many thought he would go to Florida State. He could possibly redshirt based upon the depth already established at safety. Walden registered for classes at Miami in January and learned a lot during spring practices. He is very fast and should continue to develop as the season progresses.
Getting talented and fast guys in the secondary has been a strength of Miami throughout the years. This unit is full of talented speedsters and their ability to close on passes makes this unit especially tough. They have the ability to see the play developing and communicate well with each other. Antrel Rolle and Sean Taylor are arguably the best at their respective positions and with talented youngsters in the mix; the Miami Hurricanes secondary should be a very tough unit to beat.
2003 Outlook: DB
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