Constantly Improving

Baraka Atkins is one of just two freshman starters for the Miami Hurricanes. The 6-4 260-pounder is a redshirt freshman from Sarasota and is making an immediate impact at defensive end. Atkins was a highly touted recruit out of Booker High School recording 25 sacks during his senior season. Like many Hurricane players, he had to prove himself all over again once he got to the University.

Atkins spent last season on the scout team and redshirted. This did not discourage the young man with a tremendous upside. It only made him work harder.

He had a good spring practice session and made a name for himself during the spring game. His playing time would not be etched in stone over the summer or during fall practices. He had to earn it. And he did.

"There was a lot of excitement for the first game," said Atkins. "I was hyped up for it and I was just ready to play because it was my first time playing in over a year."

In the opener against Louisiana Tech he did waste any time making his presence felt. Atkins nearly recorded a sack just five minutes into the game only to have the quarterback slip out of his hands.

"It was amazing to me that I missed like three or four sacks that game. Other than that I felt I played pretty well."

Don't let those mishaps fool you, this kid is going to be a player. Right now, he is just an 18-year old trying to make his mark on the football team. So far he has done quite well. Through the first three games Atkins has recorded 20 tackles including three and a half tackles for a loss. Of the defensive linemen, only defensive tackle Orien Harris has recorded as many tackles as Atkins. Even though Atkins would like to have reached the quarterback more, he is still first on the team (tied with Vince Wilfork) in sacks with three.

Atkins and the rest of the defensive line are a pretty close-knit group. He is impressed with the play of his linemates, but is not satisfied.

"I feel like the defensive line is doing pretty good, but we've made too many mistakes. I believe we could have made more plays and caused more turnovers."

Yeah he is right, the defensive line is doing pretty good. Despite the lack of experience, they have made a statement. As a unit the defensive line has recorded 17 tackles for a loss including 11 sacks.

Think Baraka is content with his play? Think again.

"I feel like I am making an improvement every game, but I still see areas where I can make more of an improvement."

Atkins is not the only one seeing improvement in his play. Head coach Larry Coker has been impressed with Atkins as well.

"He is a young player and is really starting to step up. We feel is really going to be a good player and what we are seeing, no doubt that he will. We have seen a lot of improvement from game one to this last game (against Boston College). He is learning how to play the game and play every down. He made the big play in the fourth quarter against East Carolina, which created the onslaught after that. He really has came along and improved."

According to Baraka, what is the best part about playing defensive end?

"I like to go get the quarterback."

Well Baraka, go get him.

Christopher Stock is a Staff Columnist for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@grassy.com.

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