Position Preview: DB

With the linebackers being a unit that returns a large part of the group and should be much improved, the defensive backs can say the same for the most part as three of the four starters return from last year's team with the lone departure being former star Antrel Rolle who was taken with the ninth pick of this spring's NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.

However, with this season quickly approaching with the ‘Canes heading to Tallahassee to face Florida State in a Monday night heavyweight fight, the defensive backs need to be ready to go and this year, with an experienced group of players that includes five players that started in at least one game, the ‘Canes will have a group that will surely be ready to go.

After starting off the season with a blaze while dominating opponents, similar to the linebackers, the defensive backs got abused and exposed at times following the Louisville shootout.

That expects to change this season.

Coming into fall practice, the starters were Kelly Jennings at left corner and Marcus Maxey taking over on the right side for the departed Rolle.

Sophomore Anthony Reddick came in as the starting free safety with last season's leading tackler Greg Threat starting at strong safety.

However, there has been a change since then.

Brandon Meriweather who started last year as the squad's starting free safety before being supplanted by Reddick has overtaken Threat as the starting strong safety as publishing of this story.

Whether or not that changes prior to the opening kickoff Monday night is up in the air, but either way, the ‘Canes will have six defensive backs with a lot of experience including Devin Hester who started in place of Rolle last year when he was out with an injury.

In limited action as almost a rover in the defensive backfield, Hester still led the team in interceptions with four.

Backing up Jennings is freshman Randy Phillips and sophomore Rashaun Jones and backing up Maxey is Hester who has all the tools to be the starter, but still hasn't put it all together yet.

While being a master on special teams, Hester is still learning how to truly play cornerback. And with Maxey being a senior and last year's nickel back for much of the season, either one will be a good fit at right corner. It might just come down to who has a better week each week in practice; however, both will get plenty of playing time.

Backing up Meriweather at this point is Threat and while it's great to have exceptional depth like that, it would not be surprising to see Threat take over at any time in the case that Meriweather slips up just a bit.

That's what makes playing for the University of Miami so special and such a privilege. One slip up and the starting job is lost. That can be said for the defensive backs as well.

Backing up Reddick who made a big time splash as a freshman and really surprised coaches last year will be backed up by true freshman Kenny Phillips and redshirt freshman Lovon Ponder.

But Reddick, who wears the same number former ‘Canes star free safety Sean Taylor wore during his career at UM, has been a big time pleasant surprise as he showed promise on special teams last year when he blocked a punt, took over at safety and never let go of the spot and will probably be a Thorpe Award candidate if he has a year similar to his freshman year.

Regardless, the group has the chance to make a huge impact on Monday night's game while facing a young quarterback who will have his eyes wide open just waiting to get picked off by one of the ‘Canes defensive backs.

Just who it will be we'll find out Monday.

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat is a Staff Writer for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at rudy@canestime.com

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