Position Preview: DL

It always starts up front in the trenches and this year it will be no different than in the past, but unlike last year when the University of Miami seemingly couldn't stop anyone defensively following the Louisville game, things need to change if they look to make a push for a sixth National Championship.

The difference this year will be in the experience the ‘Canes defensive line has in comparison to last season.

In 2004, Miami started one senior on the line and that was the often-injured Santonio Thomas.

Once he went down with a season-ending injury, the defensive line was relegated to rotating young players with limited experience including the likes of (at the time) sophomore Kareem Brown and freshmen Teraz McCray and Vegas Franklin, and even the current starters were young players as well such as Baraka Atkins who was only a sophomore last season.

This year the starting defensive line is filled with experience and while the depth might be a question still with McCray suffering a season-ending knee injury, and the fact that the reserves are all young, upperclassmen will lead the unit that must make an impact, not just with stopping the run, but putting pressure on the quarterback, something that was missing overall last year.

Without down four pressure, the ‘Canes will struggle everywhere else on defense against the pass as they did last season.

"We know it starts up front," Atkins said. "We have to set the tone and mentality of the game in the trenches early."

The men that will lead the charge this year are junior Bryan Pata at left end who the ‘Canes expect big things from, Atkins at left tackle, senior Orien Harris at right tackle and senior Thomas Carroll as right end.

The four players had a combined 38 starts last season and Harris and Atkins started every game they played in last year so the experience in the starting line up is definitely there.

Backing them up include the likes of senior Javon Nanton who opened last season as a starter, but due to not being as productive as he'd been his sophomore year, was relegated to a back up role.

However, Nanton is the type of player that can step in and make an impact whenever he's on the field. After a very successful sophomore year when he posted a team-leading eight sacks, his number dropped to three last season, but expect that to change in his senior campaign.

Overall though, the number of sacks by the front four has to change for the entire line because of the returning defensive linemen, they accumulated a combined 24.5 sacks total, and 2.5 were McCray's who is out for the year.

Carroll and Atkins led the team with 6.5 each while Pata had 3 and Harris had 1.5.

Besides Nanton, junior Kareem Brown will be the first tackle off the bench to spell Atkins and/or Harris and either red shirt freshman Dwayne Hendricks and/or true freshmen Joe Joseph, Antonio Dixon and Luqman Abdallah will challenge for time, but again, they are still only true freshmen.

Behind Carroll is red shirt freshman Eric Moncur who has made major strides during the spring and summer and is strong as an ox, but will that amount to production on the field remains to be seen.

The Carol City grad is finally being allowed to live his dream of playing for the Hurricanes.

Calais Campbell will more than likely get major time on the field as he's been talked about a lot, and Franklin will also get playing time as well.

Regardless of who is playing though, it's going to start with the four starters because if they don't get the job done, it will be evident in the yardage the ‘Canes defense gives up this season.

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