Spring Preview: Defensive Line

Last season, the Hurricanes defensive line started off slow before stepping up in the latter part of the year and becoming one of the most dominant units in college football, recording 34 sacks and being significant contributor to Miami's elite run defense (allowing 66 yards per game).

Baraka Atkins and Kareem Brown, two senior starters from 2006, have left to the NFL, but the cupboard is anything but bare for the Hurricanes in 2007. This spring, Miami welcomes back arguably its best player last season, junior defensive end Calais Campbell. Campbell, who gained 10.5 sacks last season and tallied over 20 tackles for loss, will be joined by a seasoned group consisting of both veterans and fresh faces.

Junior Calais Campbell

Campbell was near unblockable in the latter half of 2006. As a sophomore, he broke onto the scene, impressing coaches enough in spring to warrant moving incumbent starter Bryan Pata (Rest In Peace) inside. He started off slow, but broke out during the North Carolina game (four sacks) and didn't slow the pace down all season. Rather than leave for the NFL, he chose to come back and will no doubt be an emotional leader on the team.

Senior Teraz McCray

McCray was an unheralded recruit out of Pompano Beach Ely who received a last second scholarship offer on the morning of National Signing Day. Despite injury problems, McCray, an undersized tackle, has made the most of his opportunities, starting several games and being a productive member of the defensive line for the last three years. Now fully healed from an ACL injury, he'll look to make an impact in the spring and keep his starting job.

Junior Eric Moncur

Moncur came off the bench in 2006 as a pass rush specialist and continued to impress coaches. With Baraka Atkins' departure, he'll have first dibs at a starting job this spring. He brings an impressive balance of speed and power, but hasn't had to carry a full load on his shoulders yet.

Junior Antonio Dixon

Dixon is a mammoth, standing at 6"3" and nearly 340 lbs. His weight has been a problem since he arrived on campus, keeping him out of plays late in games. Randy Shannon has decided that he is going to enforce weight limits on his players, and Dixon is probably one of the first players he had in mind when he made the decision. When he's got a full amount of steam, he's eats up centers and guards and clogs running lanes in the middle. He reminds people of Vince Wilfork, but unlike Wilfork, he hasn't put together a season that takes him from "good" to "great" just yet. Hopefully, with the new coaching staff monitoring his weight, he'll put his talent to good use.

Defensive lines at Miami always rotate players to keep them fresh throughout a game. The four players listed here are only favorites to start the games at their respective positions, but by no means will they be guaranteed even a majority of playing time. At Miami, even the third team linemen can receive plenty of playing time. Several other players will look to either unseat the starters or advance their way through the depth chart this spring.

One of the more intriguing players to watch this spring will be Richard Gordon. Gordon came in as a defensive end prospect, was moved to tight end, but was recently moved again to defensive tackle. He is an ultra talented prospect and a physical specimen. He's got a raw combination of size, speed, and power that probably no one else on the entire roster can claim. Defensive tackle is a curious position for him considering he was originally an end, but if he performs up to the level he's capable of, we should see big things from him.

Dwayne Hendricks, Vegas Franklin, Courtney Harris, Josh Holmes, Chaz Washington, and Steven Wesley should also be in the mix and their respective positions. Hendricks saw action in eight games last year and record 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He's gotten limited playing time thus far, but he'll be competing for a spot on the second team in the spring. Vegas Franklin has experience playing on the inside and on the outside as a situational pass rusher, and his versatility will come in handy. Harris was impressive on the scout team as a pass rushing end, and has a solid combination of speed and size. He's relatively young compared to the rest of the group in terms of experience, but a solid spring could vault him upwards.

Holmes, Washington, and Wesley are unknowns because they are very young. This will be their first spring practice. All three were on the scout team in 2006.

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