"Defensively, we're moving around pretty good," head coach Larry Coker said after last week's spring practices.
Junior defensive end Bryan Pata is an integral part of the defense Coker was admiring.
At 6'4", 275 pounds, Pata is a physical specimen who scares quarterbacks with his size and athleticism. In last year's Peach Bowl, he started for the Hurricanes and finished the game with five tackles (three solo) and one sack on the speedy Chris Leak. He's one of the Hurricanes top run blockers, but is working on becoming a more well rounded end for Miami.
"I've been working a lot on my speed and do my best to work on my pass rush moves," Pata said.
Pata is so dedicated to improving his pass rush that he actually shrunk his shoulder pad size down two times to increase speed. He feels as though it gives him more mobility and quickness around the edge.
"I had to do it just so I could bend around the corner real fast," he said. "It's helped me a lot because I put on weight and I need to be quick around the corner."
It certainly has worked for NFL linemen such as Dwight Freeny and the Dolphins own Jason Taylor, but Pata feels he will be even quicker once he slims down. He goes home every weekend to his local track to work on sprints as well as pass rushing moves and hopes to bring his weight down around 265 once the season starts.
Beside himself, Pata was also excited about how the defensive line had been playing together.
"As a unit, were getting off the ball more, being more explosive up front," he said. "Because of Orien's [Harris] injury, Kareem Brown has really stepped up and we're making plays in the backfield."
Pata noted that the main goal for the defense was to pursue the ball all the way until the whistle blows. Coach Coker was vocal in practice about everyone on defense running to the ball no matter what.
"We knew we were doing a good job because we were giving the quarterbacks trouble all day," he said.
So far in spring practices, it seems as though the defensive line has gelled more quickly than some other areas on the team. Some of it has been due to Harris' injury, but Pata thinks it's the personalities on the line.
"Baraka [Atkins] and Thomas Carroll, they're good teammates and leaders. We keep each other motivated. If one guy is down or not really in the mood for it that day, we give them a little talk and we give each other confidence," he said.
The Hurricanes ended practices last week with some one on one, offensive lineman versus defensive lineman blocking drills. It gave the ‘Canes some time to prove themselves or simply get out frustration. When Pata was called, he was put up against Senior OL Rashad Butler. Inside though, to himself, it didn't matter whom he was up against.
"Rashad, he's pretty light on the run block, so I thought I was going to be with Tyler McMeans or something, but they called me with Rashad and I know its an opportunity to help my teammate improve on his run block. That's what we do here, just help each other improve."
Pata Working on Speed
Canes Time Top Stories
Tuesday Q&A with Thomas BrownRead on to see everything offensive coordinator Thomas Brown was saying Tuesday morning as the Canes prepare to take on Georgia Tech Saturday.
Canes TimeYesterday at 11:28 AM
Several Cane Offensive Players Talk GTRead on to see what several Hurricane offensive players are saying about this week's game against Georgia Tech.
Canes TimeYesterday at 11:22 AM
Kaaya Talks Ga TechRead on to see what quarterback Brad Kaaya was saying on Tuesday afternoon as he prepares to take on Georgia Tech Saturday.
Canes TimeYesterday at 11:18 AM
Tuesday Q&A with Mark RichtRead on to see everything head coach Mark Richt was saying on Tuesday morning as his team prepares to take on Georgia Tech Saturday.
Canes TimeYesterday at 11:15 AM