Grading the Canes: Defense

Allen Bailey had a nice performance against Texas A&M for the Hurricanes but the entire defense didn't have their best game. The Canes missed a lot of tackles and gave up several big plays to the Aggies. Lets take a closer look at how the defense performed last Saturday.

Defensive Line: B+
Defensive ends Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey had two more weeks of getting closer to 100-percent after the Florida game and it seemed to pay off here. While the two of them didn't start the game, both were very effective. Bailey led all Hurricanes with four quarterback hurries and he made one stop behind the line of scrimmage. Moncur came up with big plays all day. He had a sack, forced a fumble, had an interception, and had a huge play on third-and-one to stop the Aggies from getting a first down. While Coach Shannon said earlier this week that Moncur still isn't playing up to his capabilities, he sure made a big impact in this game and it goes to show you how excited Canes fans should be for when he's fully healthy again. Bailey and Moncur showed everyone why they were the projected starters going into the season. The Canes rotated four other defensive ends in the game -- Steven Wesley, Adewale Ojomo, Marcus Robinson, and Andrew Smith. Ojomo and Robinson each had one QB hurry and Ojomo had half a sack. The starting tackles in this game were Joe Joseph and Dwayne Hendricks. Hendricks had one pressure but the most effective defensive tackle in this game was clearly Antonio Dixon, who finished the game with three quarterback hurries and made a play behind the line of scrimmage. He was a handful for the interior of A&M's offensive line to handle. Marcus Forston also had a hurry in the game and Micanor Regis played late in the game as well.

The defensive line was a big reason why the Aggies averaged just 2.5 yards per carry in this game, despite having a very mobile quarterback and what could turn out to be the most talented running back the Canes will face all season. The defensive line missed fives tackles (Dixon 2, Hendricks 1, Wesley 1, and Joseph 1) and had a couple offside penalties (Hendricks and Joseph one each) but they also had 13 quarterback hurries (on just 32 pass attempts), and they made four plays behind the line of scrimmage. The coaches probably want to see less missed tackles and penalties and more plays being made behind the line of scrimmage but for having an 11-man rotation, the Canes were rock solid from the start of the game and probably had their best game of this young season.

Linebackers: C
The D-Line had a lot of help from the linebackers when it came to doing a good job of containing Texas A&M's strong running game. However, it wasn't a great night of tackling for the linebackers and it started on the game's first offensive play when Colin McCarthy missed a tackle on Mike Goodson, who went in for a long touchdown. UM linebackers missed at least eight tackles in the game and that has to be corrected soon if the Canes want to develop into a championship caliber defense. The linebackers did make four plays behind the line of scrimmage and finished the game with six quarterback hurries. After the first play by Goodson (who was actually lined up as a wide receiver on that play), the Aggies only completed 3 passes for 17 yards to their backs and tight ends so the linebackers were doing a nice job of taking those plays away. Glenn Cook, who was voted the ACC Defensive Player of the Week, finished the game with nine tackles (he missed two more) and a defensive touchdown when he scooped up a fumble and took it in. McCarthy finished the game with six tackles (he missed two more), one sack, one hurry, and he had the biggest block of the day on special teams when he nailed an A&M defender on the long punt return by Travis Benjamin. Darryl Sharpton finished the game with five tackles (he missed one more), 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, and two quarterback hurries. Sean Spence was the most active backup, finishing with three tackles (none missed). Spencer Adkins came into the game and did a nice job applying pressure on the quarterback off the edge, while Romeo Davis also saw a lot of action. He finished the game with just one tackle and also missed two more. While the linebackers did a nice job of helping slow down the running game, generating some nice pressure on the quarterback, and making some plays in the opposing backfield, the biggest area of concern is the eight missed tackles. That will certainly be an area where the Canes surely will get a lot of work this week in practice as the team prepares for North Carolina.

Defensive Backs: C-
The Aggies had their best passing game of this young season against the Hurricanes, as the UM secondary struggled in coverage. Many believe a lot of that is because the Canes were blitzing so much but that's going to happen. There were too many big plays and true freshman Jeff Fuller was able to have a coming out party type of performance. Those types of games for opposing offensive players aren't supposed to happen against the Canes. Jerrod Johnson finished the game 19-of-32 for 275 yards and three touchdowns. The only UM interception came from a defensive lineman. We counted five missed tackles among the defensive backs (Reddick 2, Nicolas 1, Armour 1, and Grant 1). While Reddick missed a couple tackles and gave up a touchdown in the second half when covering Fuller in the slot, he did finish the game with eight tackles and had at least one pass breakup. Nicolas gave up a couple catches for about 32 yards but came up with four tackles and a couple big hits, including one that knocked Fuller to the sidelines at one point. Carlos Armour, getting the most action he's had all season, gave up a couple catches for 26 yards. Chavez Grant gave up three catches for about 30 yards and also had a pass interference called on him. It was Bruce Johnson, however, that the Aggies picked on the most. They completed six balls in front of him for 78 yards. The Aggie receivers, playing with their backup quarterback, finished the game with 15 catches for 196 yards and one touchdown and also drew one pass interference call. Throw in five missed tackles and it wasn't a great night for the secondary.

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