The Hurricanes will be losing nine senior starters from their 2014 team. Two underclassmen are also expected to turn pro after the season. This blog entry will focus on who their replacements will likely be starting in 2015. We focused on offense yesterday and now we'll look at the defense.
DE Anthony Chickillo -- Chad Thomas
Chickillo will leave as one of the most experienced defensive ends to ever play at Miami. He's been a four-year starter and has been rock solid at that spot. While some believe Quad Muhammad will play a key role here if he returns to the team in January, the talented sophomore will be somewhat out of football shape for not having played this season. Next in line will be Thomas, a premier talent who has a much bigger upside than Chick. The talented freshman played in eight games this season and should be able to work his way into the starting lineup. Muhammad will also be expected to play a big role.
DT Olsen Pierre -- Ufomba Kamalu
Pierre was the first recruit Al Golden landed after getting the job back in December of 2010. A one-time Temple commitment, Pierre turned out to be a very solid player for the Hurricanes on the interior. He'll likely be drafted in April. Kamalu seems next in line. The Hurricanes will have three players competing for the nose tackle spot and Kamalu will likely compete with Anthony Moten to replace Pierre at the defensive tackle spot. Kamalu showed flashes of excellence at times this season. He has ideal size and athleticism and finished the regular season with 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks. As long as he continues learning and getting stronger, his upside is probably higher than Pierre's.
MLB Denzel Perryman -- Raphael Kirby
Perryman will be sorely missed. Despite playing on some very bad defensive teams over the last few years, he'll leave as one of the best linebackers in school history. He was a tackling machine this season and really played well after being moved to the middle for his senior season. Kirby started every game on the outside this season and had a decent season and since he'll be entering his senior season it's likely that he will get moved inside to replace Perryman. Throughout Golden's time here, he's always preferred having an experienced guy in the middle. Kirby will be the most experienced of the three expected starters. While he likely won't offer the same caliber of play that we saw from Perryman in 2014, he should be solid in there.
OLB Thurston Armbrister -- Darrion Owens
A true success story, Armbrister was a very lightly recruited player who signed late in Golden's first recruiting class. His strong work ethic paid off and he turned in a very solid senior season that has earned him an NFL Draft grade. He was in a tight competition with Owens during fall camp for the starting spot and the young freshman played well at times this season. The coaches are excited about Owens' future and he should be able to slide into the starting lineup and perform at a high level. Jermaine Grace is the front-runner to be the other starter on the outside, taking over Kirby's spot.
CB Ladarius Gunter -- Corn Elder
A lightly recruited Junior College transfer a few years ago, Gunter turned out to be a rock solid player for the Hurricanes at the corner position. He's expected to be drafted in April. While Artie Burns will likely have the other cornerback spot locked down, this figures to be a stiff competition between Elder and Tracy Howard. Elder is faster, more athletic, and made more plays than Howard this season but Tracy will be a senior and has the edge on experience. It could go either way and they'll likely both end up splitting time there. Look for Antonio Crawford to remain the team's nickle back.