Atkins Back at Defensive End

With a move back to his natural position and the start of his final spring football season, one might think that defensive end Baraka Atkins, UM's most productive returning defensive lineman, would be thrilled about the upcoming month.

However, the versatile senior just shrugs his shoulders and says, "I always approach practice the same way. I just come out here and always give my best effort."

Baraka Atkins does not talk the talk, but with his hard work he definitely walks the walk. He has started 34 games the last three seasons at both defensive end and defensive tackle, amassing 13 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss.

In the 2005 season, because of a shortage of defensive tackles, coaches asked Atkins—by far the most proven defensive end at the time—to move inside to defensive tackle. In 2005, Miami's defense ranked fourth in the nation in yards given up per game and finished second in the nation in defensive touchdowns allowed, giving up just 19 the entire season.

"It is definitely safe to say that I am happy to be back at defensive end," Atkins said. "Like I have always said, I am glad to help my team out in any way, but I am definitely glad to be back at defensive end.

"I would probably say yes I feel better at defensive end, but I also played defensive tackle in high school and now I have played both positions at the University of Miami."

Atkins, who played last season at about 280-pounds is not sure what weight he play at defensive end saying, "I will play at whatever weight I feel comfortable at."

This year, Atkins will be working with two defensive line coaches, John Palermo from Wisconsin and Clint Hurtt who was the defensive line coach at FIU. Atkins looks forward to working with both coaches.

"We are getting adjusted to Coach Hurtt and Palermo, but there is nothing major that is different on the defensive side of the ball," Atkins said. "Coach Palermo is just using terms that he used up in Wisconsin, and that is the only difference—football is football."

"Football is football" is a fitting mantra for the fifth-year defensive lineman. No matter where he lines up or who is coaching him, Atkins will always produce.

"I feel I will be just as productive or more productive as I was last year," he said. "There is no taking steps back, I am all about taking steps forward."

This past offseason, Atkins turned down millions to come back for his final season at UM. Many analyst projected he could go as high as the second round. Atkins definitely feels he can show pro scouts even more of what he can do in his final year.

David Lake is a Staff Writer with CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at lake@canestime.com


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