Spring Preview: Defense

A number of players return for the 2005 season from the defensive side of the ball after gaining experience last season. Spring practices begin today at 3:00 and are open to the public.

There were numerous first time starters on defense including linebackers Tavares Gooden, Leon Williams and Jon Beason, safeties Greg Threat, Brandon Meriweather, and later on Anthony Reddick, not to mention a slew of young defensive linemen.

The ‘Canes defense is now going to be filled with experience and should be a much improved unit this upcoming season and heading into spring practice, it stacks up like this.

DEFENSIVE LINE

On the defensive line, all four starters at the end of the season return as Orien Harris and Kareem Brown will man the interior and Baraka Atkins and Javon Nanton will lead the charge up the field around the ends. Also returning are Bryan Pata, Thomas Carroll and Teraz McCray.

Regardless of who starts all of them will play a lot and give UM a formidable rotation assuming that the injury bug doesn't plague Miami like it did last year.

Pressure is something the ends will need to focus on putting on quarterbacks because the ‘Canes had a hard time putting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

While the team finished with 38 sacks total, averaging 3.16 per game, pressure a lot of the time came in the form of blitzes and the defensive lineman only mustered up 23 ½ sacks combined, something that has to improve this season.

Carroll led the group with five.

LINEBACKERS

At linebacker, the ‘Canes are loaded.

Everyone is back and the "man child" himself will finally get a chance to wreak havoc in opposing backfields as Willie Williams will finally get his opportunity to show ‘Canes fans what they have been expecting from this beast of a linebacker who was rated as the nation's top linebacker two years ago.

It was reported that Williams dominated in practice as a true freshman before he suffered a season ending knee injury.

He will be fighting for that start position at middle linebacker something he'll likely win if he resembles the player he was in high school.

However, he does lack the collegiate experience. Joining him are a slew of linebackers that include numerous players who started including Jon Beason, Rocky McIntosh, Glenn Cook, Leon Williams, Romeo Davis, and Tavares Gooden.

Expected to open the spring as starters are Leon Williams in the middle with McIntosh and Gooden to each said of him, but that could change in the blink of an eye as any one of the linebackers could start.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

In the secondary, the ‘Canes lose expected first round draft choice Antrel Rolle, but bring back the core of the unit as Kelly Jennings will come back be the starter at one corner. The other corner though remains up for grabs as Glen Sharpe and Devin Hester will likely battle for the starting spot on the other side.

With the way Hester played as the year progressed last season with little experience prior and simply being thrust into the position, with a spring and summer of work at the position, Hester should emerge as the starter at corner.

He is simply too much of a playmaker to ever have on the bench.

At safety, the ‘Canes bring back all three safeties that started last season including Greg Threat, Brandon Meriweather, and Anthony Reddick.

After Meriweather when down with an injury Reddick took over and never looked back, so one can expect Reddick to team up with Threat as the starters at safety.

Regardless of who starts though, the ‘Canes defensive unit can only improve off of last season's totals that saw them have one of the most inconsistent years most could imagine.

2004 REVIEW

After opening the year as the best defense in the nation through four games, it all came crashing down against Louisville as the potent Cardinals found a way to expose the young Hurricanes with numerous crossing patterns and spreading the ‘Canes five-wide.

Other teams later implemented that same style as North Carolina roasted the ‘Canes defense for over 550 yards while North Carolina State and Clemson also had great success.

But as much as the five-wide sets may have affected the ‘Canes, the biggest difference between last year's unit and one Miami will field this season is experience.

The ‘Canes were a young group of players that had only two starting seniors on the defense and one went down for a number of games when defensive tackle Santonio Thomas got hurt.

If the unit can avoid the injuries and improve the way it's expected to improve, we can expect to see a Hurricanes defense that will be as good as ever.

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