Senior Raphael Kirby was given the first crack to replacing Denzel Perryman in the middle of Miami's defense. Because it's a very complicated defensive system, UM's coaches prefer to have the most experienced linebacker playing the mike. Kirby, with 13 career starts, is that guy. He moves inside after starting every game on the outside as a junior last season. He finished the season with 54 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and two caused fumbles. While he's a bit taller, faster, and more athletic than Perryman, he simply doesn't have the same striking ability or the same instincts to find opposing ball carriers. Still, he's expected to have a solid season in the middle of Miami's defense.
Sophomore Juwon Young played in all 13 games as a freshman last season and has ideal size at 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds. He's coming off a solid spring and will provide depth behind Kirby in the middle. Redshirt freshman Terry McCray was the third scholarship linebacker playing in the middle at the end of spring but he's likely a year or two away from being able to make a big impact.
Jermaine Grace played behind Kirby at will linebacker all last season. He was very active as a backup, finishing the season with 60 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks. He's the fastest linebacker on the roster and turned in a strong spring. He's a strong candidate to have a breakout season in 2015. Sophomore Marques Gayot, who came to Miami as a strong safety, played in a few games last season and will help provide depth here along with incoming freshman Charles Perry.
Thurston Armbrister was Miami's starting sam linebacker for the last two seasons and it won't be easy replacing his production numbers there. He's now in an NFL camp but Miami feels very good about his replacements. Darrion Owens had a solid freshman season and is considered by many to be the most talented linebacker on the roster. Coaches believe he has a chance to be special one day. Only a sophomore, he's still learning and will have his hands full holding off a challenge from senior Tyriq McCord, who slides back from having played rush end the last couple years. McCord is one of the team's top pass rushers but coaches moved him to sam linebacker at the start of spring. He's a very talented kid, and gives Miami two very strong replacements for Armbrister on the strong side. Redshirt freshman Mike Smith will work to provide depth.