Spring Preview - Defensive Line

Putting pressure on the quarterbacks will be strength of the Hurricane defense in 2004. The Hurricanes return 11 defensive linemen and they all will be competing hard for playing time throughout spring practices. Throughout last year a lot of players suffered nagging injuries, but most of them are completely healthy and ready to go.

Coach: Greg Mark (9th Year). Mark played on two national title teams (1987 & 1989) at Miami. Vince Wilfork is likely to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, which would be Mark's fifth first-round player he has coached.

Returning (11):
SO Baraka Atkins………(6-4, 265)……12 games-12 starts
JR Thomas Carroll ……..(6-5, 230)……13-10
JR Orien Harris…………(6-4, 300) ……11-10
JR Javon Nanton……….(6-3, 240) ……13-3
SO Bryan Pata………….(6-4, 265) ……12-2
SO Kareem Brown……..(6-5, 300)…….11-1
SR Santonio Thomas……(6-4, 310) ……10-0
SR Alton Wright……….(6-4, 240) ……..9-0
FR Vegas Franklin……..(6-3, 240)……….redshirt
FR Dave Howell………..(6-4, 285) ………redshirt
FR Teraz McCray………(6-0, 285) ………redshirt

Lost (3):
Vince Wilfork…..64 tackles…6 sacks
John Square…….19 tackles…1 sack
Larry Anderson…1 tackle

New (1):
FR Eric Moncur…(6-3, 265)

Spring Depth Chart (2003 Stats)

Ends

1. Atkins…..43 tackles…5 sacks
2. Pata……..26 tackles…4 sacks
3. Nanton…..22 tackles…8 sacks
4. Wright……9 tackles…0 sacks
5. Franklin….redshirt
6. Moncur…..new

Tackles

1. Harris……39 tackles…4 sacks
2. Thomas….22 tackles…1 sack
3. Brown……23 tackles…4 sacks
4. Howell……redshirt
5. McCray…..redshirt

Out (1): JR Thomas Carroll (Shoulder)

Player to Watch: Bryan Pata

With three returning starters and the majority of the backups returning this will be one of the strengths of Hurricanes in 2004.

Atkins was named the team's Defensive Rookie of the Year by the coaching staff and The Sporting News named him to the third-team Freshman All-American team. Late in the season he moved to defensive tackle because of the lack of depth at the position. He will return back to the outside although he does have a large frame and could become a defensive tackle in the future.

With Carroll out with a shoulder injury Pata has the chance to take his spot in the starting lineup. Pata dealt with injuries all of last year and played through a lot of pain game in and game out. When healthy he can be a dominant force on the outside.

Harris is ready for the season and his arm has healed when he hurt it in the Orange Bowl. He will be counted on to lead the defensive tackles with Wilfork's early departure to the NFL Draft. It is a task he is ready for and is excited to get back on the field.

Nanton has added 20 pounds to his 6-3 frame after leading the team in sacks a year ago with eight including four sacks against Rutgers. It's unknown at this time if he will adjust to the extra weight since he used his speed and quickness to beat offensive tackles off of the line.

Look for Brown to give Thomas a solid push for the starting defensive tackle opposite of Harris. Brown came on strong late last year filling in nicely when Thomas and Harris suffered injuries. He has added 40 pounds since the beginning of last season and now weighs 300 pounds.

With a lot of guys back it will be interesting to see how they perform in the spring. Last year Atkins made a name for himself and it carried over in fall practices as well as throughout the season. The defensive ends rotate frequently and the defensive tackles like to have a three-man rotation so depth is important at these positions.

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

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