Atkins Working on Technique

Rain poured down on the Greentree practice fields March 9th in Coral Gables providing a cold and damp second day of spring practice. Junior defensive linemen Baraka Atkins barely noticed and was excited to get back on the field after coming off an excellent performance in Miami's Peach Bowl victory over Florida.

"It's wet right now, but it feels good to get out here and continue to get better for next season," Baraka Atkins said.

Atkins performance against Florida netted him four tackles, three which were solo, including a sack and two quarterback pressures against a speedy Chris Leak. Atkins plans on continuing his success for the 2005 season by maintaining his focus on the fundamentals.

"I'm working on the specifics my coaches want. My goal is to get better overall in these spring practices," Atkins said. "I've got to work on technique, fundamental wise, staying low, coming off the ball hard and various things like that."

As a sophomore in the 2004 season, Atkins was forced to fill a big void left by senior defensive tackle Santonio Thomas after he went down with an injury early in the season. However, with Thomas moving on for good after the 2004 season, Atkins doesn't see a big drop-off in the defensive line.

"We're going to do some of the same things we did last season as far as moving me inside when necessary or moving somebody else inside when [at all] possible."

Whether he is playing defensive end or defensive tackle, Atkins has the aggressive nature and potent pass rush ability to make big plays. Against Houston last season, Atkins scampered 52 yards after recovering a fumble to score his first collegiate touchdown. He started in all 12 games for Hurricanes last season, the first seven at defensive end and the last four at defensive tackle. Despite his versatility and upside, Atkins has remained grounded and knows his role on an extremely talented Miami line.

"The seniors are the leaders, they've been here the longest," he said. "Orien [Harris], Javon [Nanton], and Thomas Carroll as well."

As of right now, Atkins is listed as the starting defensive left tackle for the ‘Canes along with Orien Harris at right tackle, Thomas Carroll at right end, and fellow junior Bryan Pata at left end.

During the 2004 season, Atkins recorded 33 tackles, 15 of which were solo as well as nine tackles for negative 41 yards with 6.5 sacks for negative 43 yards. He also had 19 quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles (one was returned for a touchdown). He was voted honorable mention to the all-ACC team during 2004 as well.

Last season wasn't Atkins' first impact year with the Hurricanes. As a freshman, Atkins led Miami with three forced fumbles.

Atkins hopes to have as much of an impact against Florida State in the 2005 season opener as he did last year when he made three tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack of Chris Rix, two quarterback pressures, one pass breakup, and one forced fumble.

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