Spring Recap: DL

After watching the mid-spring scrimmage and spring game, there can be no doubt what the most talented unit on the entire team at UM is—defensive line.

First Team

LE: Baraka Atkins; 6-foot-4, 275 pounds
DT: Kareem Brown; 6-foot-4, 307 pounds
DT: Teraz McCray; 6-foot-1, 290 pounds
RE: Bryan Pata; 6-foot-4, 272 pounds

Second Team

LE: Eric Moncur; 6-foot-2, 255 pounds
DT: Luqman Abdallah; 6-foot-3, 305 pounds
DT: Antonio Dixon; 6-foot-3, 334 pounds
RE: Calais Campbell; 6-foot-8, 265 pounds

DE: Vegas Franklin; 6-foot-3, 260 pounds
DE: Courtney Harris; 6-foot-3, 255 pounds
DT: Joe Joseph; 6-foot-3, 290 pounds


DE: Rhyan Anderson; 6-foot-4, 270 pounds
DT: Dwayne Hendricks; 6-foot-4, 290 pounds

Playing with undersized players, particularly at end, in 2005, the 2006 defensive line resembles that of an NFL line, with the starting defensive ends weighing more than 270 pounds and the starting defensive tackles quick and agile while weighing over 300 pounds.

"The one thing we definitely have is depth and in order for a defense to be good, you have to have depth on the defensive line," defensive line coach John Palermo said.

Senior Baraka Atkins, leads the unit with his savvy technique and undeniable talent. Atkins, who played most of the 2005 season as an undersized defensive tackle, is now back at defensive end. Atkins wreaked havoc on the offensive line all spring. Entering his fifth year, Atkins learned the different snap counts and various schemes the offense wanted to do.

Fellow senior Bryan Pata also had a strong performance this season. A talent that has made an impact in important games and disappeared in others, Pata is a player that has been criticized for his inconsistency. Pata moved from left to right end this spring and the coaches are experimenting with using him at tackle in third down situations.

"I have the size and strength to do it," Pata said. "Baraka has moved back to end and with Teraz hurt, it would be better in certain situations to have a speed team, where the speed ends come in and I move over to tackle."

"I think that right now we have four really good defensive ends," Palermo said. "We are a little bit short right now on the inside, but the good news is that we have the flexibility to put some of those ends inside."

Defensive tackles Kareem Brown and Teraz McCray are primarily quick and agile tackles that are most effective in pass rushing. Brown has always had the talent to be a good defensive end and he has seemingly begun to put the work in to be a great tackle.

"I have a new confidence not because I am a starter, but just because I know that I am better and I honestly feel that I am the best defensive tackle in the country," Brown said this spring. "My work ethic will dictate the best player I can be."

After suffering an ACL injury last year, McCray entered this spring as the starter at defensive tackle. At the end of this spring he injured his knee again and will undergo arthroscopic surgery. He is expected to be healthy for next season.

The young and relatively inexperienced second team defensive line may have more talent than the first team.

"Eric Moncur and Calais Campbell were two guys that really stood out to me," Palermo said. "Dixon is a guy with a lot of talent, but his worse enemy is his weight. He needs to be at about 320-310 pounds. Courtney Harris showed me that he can be productive when put in some spots."

Moncur started two games for UM last season, while Campbell compiled 2.5 sacks and one force fumble in a backup role. Campbell and Moncur are being groomed to be the next great defensive ends to go through UM. Right now they are focusing on perfecting their technique.

Defensive tackle Luqman Abdallah made the biggest strides this spring, solidifying playing time for himself with an impressive performance in the spring game. Abdallah was seemingly always in the offensive backfield during the game.

Antonio Dixon has made significant strides in improving his conditioning, riding the bike for 45 minutes a day after practice. Dixon arrived at UM weighing 355 pounds and he would like to be at 320 pounds for the season. Dixon often requires two blockers to contain him, he needs continue to improve his conditioning so he is able to stay on the field for a significant time.

Though Vegas Franklin played at defensive tackle for most of the spring, he will most likely be used as a third down pass rushing specialist. He will be competing with redshirt freshman Courtney Harris for the pass rushing specialist role.

The defensive line will most likely be the strength of the Hurricane defense and possibly the best defensive line UM has seen in some time. "I think it is going to be the best defensive line that we have had since I've been here," Pata said.

David Lake can be reached at lake@canestime.com

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