2006 Fall Preview: Secondary

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - There are two positions battles to watch this fall within the secondary unit as Kenny Phillips and Anthony Reddick battle for a starting safety spot and as many as four cornerbacks compete for a starting position opposite of Glenn Sharpe.

DEPTH CHART

LCB
4 Glenn Sharpe (6-0, 187 Jr.)
22 Bruce Johnson (5-10, 177 Soph.)

RCB
6 Randy Phillips ( 6-0, 195 Soph.)
27 Carlos Armour (6-3, 199 Soph.)

SS
1 Kenny Phillips (6-2, 202 Soph.)
26 Anthony Reddick (6-0, 205 Soph.)
28 Willie Cooper (6-1, 211 Jr.)

FS
19 Brandon Meriweather (6-0, 195 Sr.)
35 Lovon Ponder (6-0, 207 Soph.)

Glenn Sharpe
Sharpe is the key to the success of the secondary this season. As a true freshman, Sharpe was more talented than Antrel Rolle and Kelly Jennings. Sharpe reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash following the spring football season. UM needs to three talented cornerbacks from 2005 and for the secondary to be successful, Sharpe must be a solid player at corner.

Spring Quote on the other CBs: "The talent is there, without question. I just think they have to work on their mental toughness because some guys will make a good play on one play, but then the next play they will slack off. They just have to get it in their heads that this is the next level and they really don't have time to rest or take a play off. I had to learn that too when I was young."

Randy Phillips
Phillips played significant time in 2005. The sophomore has all the brash and cockiness that all the great corners have. While Phillips does not have the greatest sprinter speed, he is a physical presence on the line of scrimmage and proved last year that he can effectively play corner at UM. He will begin the season as the starting corner, but will have to battle all year to keep his job.

Spring Quote: "Last year I came in and I thought I was ready, but this year I feel like I am a grown man. Physically I was ready to compete last year, I just had to learn all the ins and outs of the game and help me get over the edge. This year I think I am a vet"

Kenny Phillips
Phillips started 11 games as a true freshman for UM in 2005 and did a sold job for the ‘Canes. Phillips is the prototypical safety that combines size, speed, and awareness. Now familiar with the offense, Phillips should have a breakout season in 2006 and be mentioned as one of the best safeties in the country. Look for Phillips to drastically improve his interception total of one from 2005.

Spring Quote: "The biggest thing {I can improve on from} last year is my run/pass reads. I wasn't coming up as quick because I didn't know. I wasn't scared to make contact, I just wasn't sure."

Brandon Meriweather
Meriweather is one of the best safeties in the country. He combines a lethal hitting ability with strong coverage skills that allow him to periodically be moved to cornerback. It is hard to find anything wrong with Meriweather's game, but to nitpick a little, he could be more consistent. Meriweather started the season as a true impact player on defense, but as the season progressed, he did not make the same impact on games. Don't get me wrong, Meriweather is a great and talented safety. I would like to see him play with the same intensity in every game on every play.

Spring Quote: "I feel like our defense can be pretty good. We have six or seven linebackers that have came back that played a lot last year. We got two starting safeties coming back and Ant (Anthony Reddick) coming back after starting his freshman year. We have a defensive line coming back that everybody played so we are going to be a veteran defense. We are going to be pretty good and we are communicating. We don't have to teach anybody the basics. We are just going to keep working hard in practice."

Carlos Armour
At 6-foot-3, 199 pounds, Armour has all the tools to be an imposing corner for UM. Last spring, Armour was still adapting to his post ACL tear knee and was close to returning to the form that impressed the coaches when he was a freshman. Armour is still a very raw corner, but has the physical attributes and potential to be a solid corner for the ‘Canes down the road.

Spring Quote: "The competition is good. It's always competitive everyday out here. You come and look for opportunities to improve and get better. You have to stay humble and stay hungry. Nothing is guaranteed. You have to stay focused, grind, and compete every day.

Bruce Johnson
Johnson is a Kelly Jennings clone. He has great coverage skills and impressed the coaching staff a great deal in the spring. Johnson ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any Hurricane following spring football at 4.34 seconds. He needs to become a little more physical and get stronger, but don't be surprised if he is a starter by the end of the season.

Spring Quote: "I learned a lot last year, but last year I was off a lot and wasn't doing things how {the coaches} wanted me to. I was trying to do things my way. But now, I see what they are saying and I am more consistent with it. I am meeting with the coaches and getting concepts down. I am learning a lot more now than I did last year."

Lovon Ponder
Ponder tied for the team lead with three interceptions in 2005. He is a promising young safety that would start at 80-percent of the schools in the country. Ponder is similar to Redick in that he prides himself on being in good position. He is not the greatest athlete in the secondary, but what makes him productive is his awareness.

Spring Quote following a scrimmage: "I feel like I had a good scrimmage, but there are some things that I still need to work on, but come fall I should be pretty good. I need to work on going full speed and reading the offense."

Anthony Reddick
A healthy Reddick in 2006 means that Miami will have the best group of safeties in the country. Reddick will probably rotate in and out of the defense in nickel and dime formations; sliding Meriweather to cornerback. Reddick is a very aware player that is always in the correct position on defense. If he is fully recovered, he will give Kenny Phillips a strong run for the starting job.

Spring Quote: "It was tough starting the first game of the year and sitting out the rest of the year. It was something that had not really happened to me. It was a learning experience and the hardest thing was just not being able to play and help the team out."

Willie Cooper
Never blessed with much speed, Cooper's strength as a safety has always been his hitting ability. Cooper wants to work on getting in the correct position on each defensive play so that he will not have to cover a lot of ground when he if he is ever caught out of position. After being recently shot in the buttocks, it is unknown how much recovery time Cooper will need. When he is fully recovered, Cooper figures to be a factor on special teams.

Spring Quote: "In my game right now I need to improve the little things like getting into position and learning the personnel and recognizing plays. I also need to improve my own technique and footwork."

Freshmen:
All three freshmen could conceivably see playing time this season. Ryan Hill is the most likely of the freshmen to see significant playing time. At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Hills is the most physically ready to play right away. Chavez Grant could receive similar playing time that Bruce Johnson had in 2005. Tervaris Johnson will probably start summer camp at corner, but will most likely be moved to safety. Because of the depth at safety, Johnson will probably redshirt this season unless he plays on special teams.


David Lake can be reached at lake@canestime.com

Canes Time Top Stories