The size-speed ratio of the line is impressive and is why they will be giving opposing quarterbacks fits during 2006.
Talented veteran defensive linemen Kareem Brown and Teraz McCray are backed up by hungry young tackles that have shown the work ethic to see significant playing time.
The defense will look to improve their 35 sacks from last season, 17th best in the nation.
LE 98 Baraka Atkins (6-4, 275, Sr.)
94 Eric Moncur (6-2, 260, Soph.)
97 Rhyan Anderson (6-4, 270, Soph.)
LT 99 Kareem Brown (6-4, 315, Sr.)
96 Antonio Dixon (6-3, 335, Soph.)
91 Joe Joseph (6-3, 295, R-Fr.)
RT 54 Teraz McCray (6-1, 300, Jr.)
56 Luqman Abdallah (6-3, 312, R-Fr.)
47 Vegas Franklin (6-3, 255, Jr.)
RE 95 Bryan Pata (6-4, 280, Sr.) or 81 Calais Campbell (6-8, 265, Soph.)
49 Courtney Harris (6-3, 260, R-Fr.)
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 was the best defensive player during the spring and wreaked havoc on the offensive line all spring.
"Baraka (is the toughest) hands down. He is just smart. He can get off the ball like he knows when the snap count is." – Chris Barney on who was the toughest defensive lineman to go up against last spring.
Defensive tackle Kareem Brown is primarily a quick and agile tackles that are most effective in pass rushing. Brown has always had the talent to be a good defensive tackle and this spring he seemingly began 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. "My work ethic will dictate the best player I can be."
After suffering an ACL injury last season, McCray entered last spring as the starter at defensive tackle. At the end of this spring he re-injured his knee and underwent arthroscopic surgery. He is expected to be healthy for next season. McCray is a scrappy tackle with strong hands whose strength is pass rushing.
"Spring practices get you back into the groove and you are out here competing for jobs," McCray said. "There isn't anything written in stone yet so everybody is trying to take their game to the next level. I am trying to take my game to the next level."
Pata is a talent that has made an impact in important games and disappeared in others. Pata is a player that needs to improve 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.
"After the end of last season everyone was ready to come back and work hard in the spring because of the loss in the Peach Bowl. We aren't worried about that anymore. Eeveryone came into spring practices with fire and smashing each other. That is what is going to keep on happening."
At 6-foot-1 and 255 pounds, Moncur has always been known for his strength in the weight room. Since he was recovering from his shoulder surgery last spring, he was limited in the weight room.
"Every scrimmage we have we all try to push the guys in front of us on the depth chart. I try to push Baraka," Moncur said. "Every time I step on the field I am trying to make all the plays that I can. We are just competing every day."
Antonio Dixon has made significant strides in improving his conditioning last spring, 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, but he needs continue to improve his conditioning so he is able to stay on the field for more than two or three plays at a time.
"The conditioning was the toughest part in the beginning. But, I just rode the bikes inside the weight room in my off time. I have been riding the bike for 45 minutes a day. I would like to be at 320 or 325 pounds."
Defensive tackle Luqman Abdallah made the biggest strides this spring of the young defensive tackles, solidifying playing time for himself with an impressive performance in the spring game. Abdallah was seemingly always in the offensive backfield during the game. Abdallah finished the spring as the third defensive tackle on the depth chart.
"Kareem Brown and Teraz McCray are perfect and going 100 percent out there," Abdallah said. "They are going to be excellent this season. I watch every snap they take. Kareem and Teraz have perfect technique and they get off the ball like you are supposed to. I just try and mimic what they do."
Campbell compiled 2.5 sacks and one force fumble in a backup role in 2005. He is being groomed to be the next great defensive end to go through UM. Right now Campbell is focused on perfecting his technique.
"It is real competitive out there," Campbell said. "Everybody wants to play so everybody is going hard. It is a challenge to go out there and get on the field. Everyday I want to get as many reps as I can and go at each rep real hard."
Harris was the most impressive player on the scout team defense last season as a true freshman. Harris has gained 30 pounds since he reported to UM last season. He will most likely see the field in third down passing situations.
"Courtney is a pure talent," Calais Campbell said. "We call him 2000 moves because on the pass rush all the different kinds of moves that he does. He is looking good out there and getting better in the running game and playing low."
Hendricks spent last spring recovering from a broken foot. He spent the spring lifting primarily his upper body, bulking up to 290 pounds.
"When I played last year I was like 270 to 275 pounds at most. Just being hurt and not being active, I gained weight. I am going to try to keep it on now and stay active. I do not want to go any lower than 287 pounds (next season)."
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. After a very productive spring, he will be competing with redshirt freshman Courtney Harris for the pass rushing specialist role.
"Coach Hurtt is just like a big kid. He likes to clown around with us, but he is serious about his job."
Joseph is a year away from seeing significant playing time this season. He needs to perfect his technique and continue to get stronger. Joseph was up to 290 pounds last spring after arriving at UM weighing 270 pounds.
"I do not want to get ahead of myself. I have a tendency to want to take care of everybody else's job, so I am going to take care of my responsibilities and just play hard," Joseph said. "I am sort of happy with how I have progressed. Really I want to work on just staying low and working on my footwork."
Because of his ongoing battle with nagging injuries, Anderson has not produced as was expected when he signed with UM in 2003. Anderson has had surgery on both shoulders and will look to get back into the playing rotation at defensive end.
"The shoulder is bad, but not as bad as my last one was. I had the same injury on the other shoulder—the labrum was torn. I think the shoulder has been injured and it just got worse. I think I originally hurt it during two-a-days my freshman year during the summer."
Defensive ends Steven Wesley and Chris Lewis will most likely spend the 2006 season on the scout team, learning the defense and getting stronger. Wesley and Lewis both weighed about 235 pounds when they signed with UM. Tackles Chaz Washington and Josh Holmes will also most likely spend this season with the scout team. At 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, Washington is the more ready to play of the two. Holmes needs to gain weight on his 6-foot-3, 267-pound frame.
David Lake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
2006 Fall Preview: Defensive Line
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