1. Chad Thomas -- The talented junior is starting to show why he was recruited by everyone nationally coming out of high school. He's made over a dozen plays behind the line of scrimmage, has 4.5 sacks, and shows flashes of being very disruptive. He's separated himself from the rest of the pack at defensive end, has been playing like one of the top players in the ACC at that position, and is starting to position himself for what should be a big senior season in 2017.
2. Trent Harris -- For three years now, all this kid has provided UM's defense is consistent solid play. He's smart, he plays hard, and continues making plays. He started the season with a hand injury, which slowed him down a bit, but he's emerged as a very solid player opposite Thomas.
3. Joe Jackson -- This true freshman has probably been a little better than most people expected this season. He's earned a spot in the regular rotation, he's made several plays behind the line of scrimmage this season, and looks to have a very bright future here.
4. Demetrius Jackson -- A part-time starter early in the season, Jackson has shown flashes of being able to rush the passer but it hasn't been on a real consistent basis and he also dealt with some injuries in the middle part of the season. He provides quality depth right now.
5. Pat Bethel -- He's been able to see the field some this season but he's at the bottom of the depth chart. There was a lot of excitement about his future when he signed here as a 4-star recruit but it's still unclear what type of potential he truly has.
6. Scott Patchan -- The redshirt freshman has not been able to get on the field much thanks to injuries. He saw some brief action against Florida State but that's been about it. It seems like he's still a year away from being able to compete.
1. Kendrick Norton -- The talented sophomore carried over the positive momentum from last season and has turned in a solid second season. No one is going to confuse him with Vince Wilfork but he consistently turns in solid play on the interior for the Canes.
2. RJ McIntosh -- These top two really should be 1A and 1B. Their play has been very similar all season. Just a sophomore, McIntosh has been rock solid in the middle and seems to have a bright future here.
3. Gerald Willis -- The former transfer from the University of Florida was expected to make a big impact but it hasn't quite happened like many people expected. He's been solid off the bench and has shown the ability to play both inside and outside at end but he's been unable to truly challenge the top two guys for starting jobs.
4. Courtel Jenkins -- A part-time starter early in his career, Jenkins has not been a factor in the starting lineup but he continues seeing time off the bench. He was suspended recently but still provides quality play from time to time when in the game.
5. Anthony Moten -- The junior has played in eight games but has been unable to break into the regular rotation. He came here as a 4-star recruit and has been unable to live up to those expectations.
6. Ryan Fines -- The second year player has seen action in just three games so far this season. He's been unable to jump into the interior rotation. He's a high motor guy when he does see the field.
Others: Tyreic Martin suffered a season-ending inury during fall camp and is redshirting this year.
1. Michael Pinckney -- He's the smallest and probably least athletic of the freshman trio but his instincts and ability to find the football are outstanding. He's a playmaker. He's a big hitter. He's a three-down linebacker who at times looks like a young Jon Vilma type.
2. Shaq Quarterman -- The team's mike linebacker all season, Quarterman has delivered a very good freshman season. He was probably the most heavily recruited of the three freshmen and it's easy to see why he was recruited in such a way. A lot of people think he's the best linebacker on the team. Either way, he's a bright, talented kid with a really nice future ahead of him.
3. Zach McCloud -- The third member of the freshman trio, McCloud has been rock solid all season. He shows flashes of being able to make plays in a variety of ways -- including pass deflections (four), fumble recoveries, and blocked kicks. He has an impressive combination of size/speed/athleticism and looks to have a very bright future here.
4. Darrion Owens -- After a solid start to what appeared to be a potentially strong career, Owens suffered an injury that set him back. He was expected to return this season and regain a starting role. It hasn't happened. He's good on special teams and has the ability to make a lot of plays at linebacker but he's been unable to truly challenge the freshmen for a starting job.
5. Charles Perry -- Primarily a solid special teams player, Perry sees the field from time to time but is not on it when games are on the line.
6. Mike Smith -- Another primary special teams player, Smith has been unable to break into the rotation at linebacker and is clearly not at the level of the three freshmen.
7. Jamie Gordinier -- He's out for the season with an injury but was competing for a starting spot in fall camp. It's hard to tell what type of future this lightly recruited player has here.
8. Terry McCray -- The third year player has been unable to break into the rotation, and rarely plays on special teams. He's played in just three of the team's 10 games this season.
1. Corn Elder -- Arguably Miami's best defensive player this season, Elder only has one interception but has been used in a variety of ways. He consistently does a nice job against the opponent's top receiver. He also blitzes a lot and has shown the ability to make plays all over the field. His leadership, experience, and ability to make plays has been a huge boost to Miami's defense this season.
2. Malek Young -- A heavily recruited player that Miami stole from Georgia's recruiting class after Mark Richt got the job here, Young started the season as primarily a special teams guy but he's been able to work his way into the rotation at cornerback. It didn't take him long to emerge as the starter opposite Elder. Young has the look of a very special young player.
3. Adrian Colbert -- A senior transfer from Texas over the summer, Colbert was competing mainly with Sheldrick Redwine for the team's No. 2 cornerback spot early in the season. He lacks Redwine's skill set but his experience in Manny Diaz's defense (at Texas) helped him maintain the edge over the younger player. Unfortunately, an injury has likely ended his regular season.
4. Sheldrick Redwine -- A last minute steal from Louisville two years ago, Redwine is on the field a lot and even started some this season. He was competing mainly with Colbert for the team's No. 2 cornerback spot early in the season. He seems to have a solid future here.
5. Michael Jackson -- A lightly recruited player from the state of Alabama, Jackson has an impressive size/speed combination but he's been unable to see the field much on defense. He is a good special teams guy.
6. Ryan Mayes -- Another special teams guy, Mayes has been unable to break into the cornerback rotation as a third-year player.
7. Terrance Henley -- A last minute addition to Miami's recruiting class two years ago, Henley has been unable to see the field much and doesn't even play on special teams.
1. Rayshawn Jenkins -- The team's top safety all season, Jenkins as turned in a solid senior season. He makes plays in the passing game (two picks and six passes defended) and is often involved in the running game (he's made a handful of plays behind the line of scrimmage this season). He turned in a solid finish to what's been a solid career after coming here as a small school standout from the Tampa area.
2. Jamal Carter -- A former 4-star recruit, Carter's turned in a solid senior season. He's not the most athletic safety out there but he's very good inside the box. He's a good tackler, a physical player, and is around the ball a lot. He's been able to hold off the competition from a more talented Jaquan Johnson all season because of his steady play.
3. Jaquan Johnson -- A true playmaker, Johnson can do a number of things for a defense. He's very active near the line of scrimmage and has even started a couple games because of it. He's a safety/outside linebacker hybrid, despite lacking ideal size. He's smart, tough, instinctive, and has a very bright future here. He's just a very good pure football player.
4. Cedrick Wright -- A talented freshman who has carved out a role on special teams, Wright is currently suspended heading into the NC State game.
5. Robert Knowles -- A lightly recruited player in Miami's class a couple years ago, Knowles has been unable to break into the safety rotation but plays on special teams.
6. Jeff James -- A lightly recruited player in Richt's first class, James is redshirting this season.