It seems like every year that is one area the Hurricanes are among the nation's best. Canes fans are hoping this year will be no different.
With senior Glenn Sharpe out this week due to injury, it has given other players a chance to step up.
"He's the low man on the todem pole," head coach Randy Shannon said of Sharpe. "It's like this -- and it's nothing personal -- if a guy is nicked, some coaches won't say this, you can't go and baby him because you tend to leave out the guy you got to coach. If you're nicked up, we can't use you. You coach the guys you got. When (the injured players) come back, they got a long road ahead of them."
Heading into this week's game against Marshall, DeMarcus Van Dyke will start on the outside with the inside corner being either Carlos Armour or Randy Phillips. The naming of Van Dyke as a starter as a true freshman surprised some people.
"He just came out and competed," Shannon said. "We're not going to play a guy just because he is a veteran. We will play guys because they will give us the best opportunity to win games. We have confidence in him. He's a big guy, fast, can run, and make a lot of plays. We're excited about him."
Shannon quickly pointed out that having a true freshman starting in the secondary isn't a new thing at the University of Miami.
"You gotta remember one thing about being here -- since I've been here, we've had a true freshman always starting at defensive back. Now DeMarcus Van Dyke is doing it."
On the other side, it's a battle between Armour and Phillips. Many people thought Phillips had the upperhand but he missed some of fall camp because of injuries and it appears Armour now has the edge.
"Randy was nicked up," Shannon said. "The biggest thing is, if you're nicked the next guy will step in and take your job. Carlos did such a great job. Now those two guys got a competition going to see who's gonna get it done."
Shannon wants to see his injured players fight through some of the pain. While he didn't mention specific names, one may wonder if he's referring to Sharpe and Phillips -- two potential starters -- missing part of fall camp that could've cost them jobs.
"There's pain and there's hurt," he said. "You wanna make sure when guys are in pain that they have to fight through the pain. Injuries are different. You're out and doctors say you're out, you're done."
Shannon is hoping the opportunities for some of the younger players will benefit the team.
"When Kenny Phillips came here a couple years ago, Greg Threatt was an preseason All (Conference) player," he said. "Two games later, nobody ever heard of Greg Threatt again. Competition."
With Armour and Phillips listed as co-starters at one corner spot and with Willie Cooper and Lovon Ponder listed as co-starters at free safety, one must wonder who will play more. Shannon expects it to be pretty even.
"When I was a player here, I didn't start my sophomore or junior year," he said. "But I played just as much as the other guys because I played a couple positions. I ended up with more tackles than some of those guys (ahead of me). It's like Chavez Grant in the nickel situation, he'll probably play more than other guys (because of how many opponents use 3 and 4 WR sets)."
Shannon noted that the switching of Phillips from free safety to strong safety shouldn't matter a whole lot.
"Both are the same in this defense," he said of the free and strong positions. "Half the time they just line up left or right to be honest with you."