Revamped Defensive-line Ready For Workout

Anybody interested in polling the University of Miami defensive-line on which of the teams they faced last season had the most physical offensive-line would probably walk away a tad surprised. Scratch Florida off the list. Florida State's? Nope. Then it would definitely have to be Ohio State's right?

After all the Buckeyes offensive-line knocked the Hurricanes off the ball for most of the night in Ohio State's 31-24 victory in the National Championship Fiesta Bowl.

Sorry, try again.

"I now if you asked our players they would tell you that Tennessee was the most physical football team we played last season, especially with those big offensive linemen they always seem to have up front," said UM coach Larry Coker as the Hurricanes (7-1) ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press and No. 7 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' polls, prepare to host the Volunteers (6-2) Saturday in the Orange Bowl. "Those guys are all big, and they're going to come at you for four quarters."

And Miami won't be starving for beef.

The Volunteers, coming off a homecoming win over Duke, will throw a starting offensive line that weighs a combined 1,535 pounds at the Hurricanes defensive front, while averaging 307 pounds per player. Junior left tackle Michael Munoz, who did not play against Miami last season, has shown signs of becoming the dominant blocker the Tennessee coaching staff envisioned when they recruited him. Senior right tackle Sean Young has also rebounded after an injury-plagued spring.

Together they have sparked a running game that includes junior Cedric Houston (113 carries, 571 yards) and Jabari Davis (80 carries, 380 yards, five touchdowns). The Volunteers are averaging 146.8 rushing yards per game so far this season.

"They're going to try to pound the ball in there and we have to be ready for that," said Coker. "If you know Tennessee football they're going to try and wear you out."

Despite their collective girth, Tennessee's offensive line has surrendered 19 sacks to the opposition this season, a considerably high amount considering the quality of their offensive lines in recent years, and is ranked near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference in sacks allowed. The Hurricanes have accumulated 17 sacks in eight games, including one against Virginia Tech.

But Miami will be hard pressed to add to that total against the Volunteers with two new defensive-line starters and rotation as a result of injuries to tackles Orien Harris and Santonio Thomas in the loss to the Hokies. Redshirt freshman Kareem Brown is expected to start at left tackle, while left defensive end Baraka Atkins will likely spell Brown at the tackle position. Junior John Square and freshman Bryan Pata will split time at left defensive end. Senior Larry Anderson will join the rotation at defensive tackle.

"I'm expecting Kareem to come out and have a big game. This is the kind of opportunity he's been waiting for," said Atkins. "As for myself it's not a major thing. I've played there before. I know what the coaches expect of me."

Brown will have to elevate his game this week, according to Coker. The 6-5, 280-pounder, who spent all of last season on the scout team, has recorded 12 tackles, four quarterback-hurries and a sack in six games this season. After being used in reserve for most of the season, Brown will know have to adjust to being in on a lot more plays.

"I don't think it will a problem," said Coker. "Kareem is a talented player and you know how hard our staff works to keep these guys ready."

Atkins, seventh on the team with 29 tackles, has not played on the defensive tackle position since his days at Booker High in Sarasota. But considering the Hurricanes are in danger of missing out on a BCS bowl after last week's performance, Atkins is prepared to play anywhere.

"Our backs are against the wall. We just have to go out and get a ‘W'," said Atkins, who is tied for the team-lead in sacks with five. "All this week it's been about Tennessee."

Although the extent of the injuries is not clear, Harris and Thomas could be sidelined for a significant amount of time. Harris, who started at left tackle against Virginia Tech, suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee midway through the first quarter as he attempted to make the tackle on a running play. Harris returned in the second quarter although Coker said on Tuesday that he did not know how long Harris would be out. Thomas has a severely sprained right ankle after a late hit by Hokies center Jake Grove.

Coker sent a tape of the play to the Big East earlier this week in hopes that Grove would be disciplined by the league. Coker expressed displeasure with Grove, who took a running start and blocked Thomas below the knees after the play had ended. Thomas had no idea Grove was headed in his direction.

"To me it's probably more malicious than the Ohio State incident," said Coker, referring to Ohio State linebacker Robert Reynolds pressing down on Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi's throat and forcing him to leave the Oct. 11 game. "I don't expect them to do anything with you quite honestly. It's a situation where the officials missed it."

Coker is just ready to move on.

"It happened and there's nothing at this point we can do about it," Coker said. "We have a game to play on Saturday and we have to make sure that the players we do have are prepared to play."

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