Position Preview: LB

Over the past ten years, the University of Miami has produced some of the most dominating collegiate linebackers in history.

A majority of them have ended up playing on Sundays in the NFL and dominating the league as well.

They include the likes of Ray Lewis, Dan Morgan, Nate Webster, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams and more.

But for the first time quite some time, the 2004 group struggled.

With no heir apparent leader of the group after Vilma and Williams took their services to the NFL, mistakes were made and they were surely felt as the defense got exposed a great deal during last year's disappointing 9-3 campaign.

Weaknesses were felt in the UM defense, but the linebackers were exposed more than any other group on the team, especially in pass coverage as the ‘Canes had difficulties throughout last season when opponents spread them out and UM was forced to cover receivers in the slot with a linebacker.

Even against the run, the linebackers struggled with missed tackles throughout the year, but the pass defense by the linebackers is the area that really hurt.

However, the key ingredient to the group Miami put on the field last year was that it was a young group with plenty of room to grow and get better. Besides being young, the unit struggled with injuries throughout the year so the young got younger when the back ups filled in.

It may have been a disaster while watching it, but it turned into a blessing, as they are all back.

Jon Beason, Glenn Cook, Romeo Davis, Tavares Gooden, Roger McIntosh and Leon Williams all started games at linebacker last season and they are all wearing a Hurricanes uniform once again this season.

Added to this year's picture is red shirt freshman Willie Williams who was expected to make some noise last year, but injuries knocked him out for the year.

At the present time, Beason, Cook and Leon Williams are currently slated in the starting line up as McIntosh and Gooden are currently recovering from injuries.

But no spot in the linebacking unit is safe as anyone can be replaced at any time by the amount of depth the unit has this year.

The player to watch though is Willie Williams.

The highly-touted linebacker out of Carol City High School may very well be the starting middle linebacker before the year is done.

And he's expected to make a lot of noise this year.

But who steps up is the question. Leon Williams was expected to be the group's leader last season, but after suffering an injury against Florida State, he missed the next two games before fighting his way back into the starting after coming off the bench for a few contests.

Either way, the unit should be much better no matter who is playing ball for Vernon Hargreaves, and a unit that will bring the lunch pail and hard hat to work everyday in 2005.

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