1. Tyriq McCord -- A converted defensive end, McCord became a full-time starter as a sophomore last season. He lacked ideal size to remain playing end so he was moved to strongside linebacker in the spring. He's a tremendous pass rusher with top notch athleticism. He's best suited to play in the 3-4, which makes you think the Canes plan on doing that a whole lot more this season. Either way, he's one of the most talented and experienced players on the entire roster.
2. Raphael Kirby -- A heavily recruited linebacker out of Georgia a few years ago, Kirby became a full-time starter as a junior last season and turned in a solid season on the outside. Because Miami's coaches want their most experienced starter in the middle, Kirby will play mike this season and have the tough challenge of effectively replacing Denzel Perryman. While he may not be at that level, he is primed for a solid senior campaign.
3. Jermaine Grace -- The fastest of the linebackers, Grace is still undersized but all he does is fly around and make plays. He was very active off the bench as a sophomore last season and locked up a starting job at will in the spring. He's a dynamic playmaker who should be ready for a breakout type season.
4. Darrion Owens -- A very talented young linebacker, Owens played in every game as a true freshman last season. His biggest role was on special teams. He's a huge hitter who actually started over McCord at times in the spring. He has a bright future and will play a key role for this defense.
5. Juwon Young -- At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, he's a pure mike linebacker who is being groomed to be the likely replacement for Kirby in 2016. He was heavily recruited, saw time as a true freshman in 2014, and seems to have a bright future here.
6. Marques Gayot -- A converted safety, Gayot played in a handful of games as a freshman last season but it was primarily on special teams. That will, again, be his primary role.
7. Michael Smith -- A pass rushing specialist in high school, Smith now plays sam linebacker behind McCord and Owens. His most likely role this coming season will be as a third down rush specialist.
8. Terry McCray -- After redsirting as a true freshman last season, McCray enters fall camp third on the depth chart in the middle. Unless injuries occur to Kirby and Young, his playing time will likely be limited.
The Hurricanes have three incoming freshmen -- Jamie Gordinier, James King, and Charles Perry. Gordinier is a hybrid who can play OLB in a 3-4 or DE in a 4-3. Getting playing time behind McCord and Owens won't be easy, however. Perry enrolled in the spring and is considered the best prospect of the three. King is undersized and was lightly recruited. He's expected to redshirt.