Miami runs primarily out of a 3-4 hybrid defense that features a strongside defensive end, a defensive tackle, a nose tackle, and a rush end. Anthony Chickillo was the team's strongside defensive end the last few years and he's now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Olsen Pierre was the team's defensive tackle the last few years and now he's moved on after starting four years here.
Tyriq McCord was the team's top rush end last season but he was moved to strongside linebacker at the start of spring. Calvin Heurtelou, a Junior College transfer who started a few games at nose last season, sat out the spring because of an injury.
As you can see, new defensive line coach Randy Melvin had his hands full in the spring trying to figure out the best new rotation.
While most people expect Chad Thomas to ultimately replace Chickillo, Jelani Hamilton was given the first shot at doing it and he played well enough throughout spring to stay ahead of Thomas on the depth chart. Hamilton is a former four-star recruit who has never been able to make an impact on the field for the Canes. He is a senior now and seems more determined than ever to finally become an impact player. Still, Thomas - a former five-star recruit - is expected to win the job when fall camp starts. If the spring was any indication, however, the two will likely split time at the start of the season. Scott Patchan was an early entry into school for the spring semester but the former four-star recruit was limited while recovering from a knee injury he suffered last summer.
Senior Ufomba Kamalu was given the first chance to replace Pierre at the defensive tackle spot. A former Junior College transfer who has spent time at both defensive end and defensive tackle during his time here, Kamalu is now over 300 pounds and brings more athleticism to the table than Pierre. There's a good chance he'll end up having a better senior season than the one Pierre turned in last season. Senior Corey King served as Kamalu's primary backup in the spring. A lot of people think it's only a matter of time before sophomore Anthony Moten becomes a major factor here. A former four-star recruit, Moten has a better skill set than King but lacks the game experience as the senior. He was unable to make a serious move up the depth chart in the spring.
Miami had a revolving door at the nose position last season. Calvin Heurtelou, Courtel Jenkins, and Michael Wyche were all first year players who saw time in the starting lineup in 2014. Heurtelou sat out the spring with an injury and it was Jenkins who was given the first chance to win the starting job. He turned in a solid spring and held onto the starting spot throughout the spring game. A rising sophomore, Jenkins is coming off a solid freshman season and the Hurricanes will enter fall camp with three legitimate options at the nose position for the first time in the Al Golden era. It's unlikely than any of the three will emerge too far ahead of the other two but they should form a solid trio at a very important position in this defensive scheme. Senior Earl Moore, who has played only a handful of games throughout his career, will also provide depth at this spot.
With McCord moving to linebacker, one of the goals in the spring was to find a solid replacement at the rush end position. One of the reasons the coaches felt comfortable moving McCord is because of the return of sophomore pass rusher Quan Muhammad, who missed all of 2014 while serving a suspension. While sophomore Trent Harris, who had a solid freshman season, was the starter for most of spring, Muhammad was widely considered one of Miami's most impressive players in the spring. His return should be a major boost for this defense, and he's expected to have a big sophomore season in 2015. Redshirt freshman Demetrius Jackson is also in the mix. He came here raw and undersized but is making strides and became part of the rotation here in the spring. He's probably still a year away from really making a push but he's someone to keep an eye on later in the season.