Yesterday we covered the skill positions in a relatively in depth look at the state of the team coming into next season. There we laughs, there were cries, there was mention of recruits. Either way, I like to think that the skill positions are sitting in a pretty good position. Today, we will take a look at the defense, and both sides of the line. I won't be listing out all of the players at the positions, because the Canes are very deep on defense, and let's face it, I'm at work. So without further time wasting, let's get to it.
Wewill begin with the offensive and defensive lines. This is where most of the early jumpers played, andthis is where it looks like the Canes will take the biggest hit. There is plenty of young talent to make up for a few juniors leaving early, however the issue is it's just that: young talent. Depth was not necessarily an issue as it was more of a concern last year, andthis year it appears it will be again. To pick up where we left of yesterday, let's start with the offensive side of the ball.
With players like Harland Gunnand Tyler Horn graduating, and Joel Figueroa using up the 6th year he was given by the NCAA, the O line was already looking fairly thin. Then things got a bit worse when big Brandon Washington announced he was leaving early. Most people couldn't figure out why he decided to leave early, although I would imagine there more than likely are some personal reasons only he knows about. He had a very good year, but definitely not one that would warrant a 1st or possibly a 2nd round pick. These departures leave the Canes with red shirt sophomores Jermaine Barton, Malcolm Bunche, and Jon Feliciano and junior Seantrel Henderson as the most experienced and polished faces on the line. There are other names as well, such as Brandon Linder and Ben Jones. There'sno doubt that the offensive line will be very good next year. The issue is once again depth. If one or three of these guys get hurt, there are backups, but they will most likely come from middle of the pack players or true freshmen, which is not ideal. Hopefully Swasey can get these guys into the best shape of their lives, and work on keeping them healthy. We'll need them for the long haul for sure. Recruiting will provide a boost to the depth, with 4 star Ereck Flowers (teammate of Duke Johnson) and 3 star Taylor Gadbois headlining a pretty good offensive line class.
On the other side of the ball, the defensive line took probably the biggest hit of any position on the field for Miami. With Micanor Regis, Marcus Robinson, Odewale Ojomo and Andrew Smith all running out of eligibility, the ranks were already depleted. Then Marcus Forston and Olivier Vernon decided to split for the NFL, and things went from bad to worse. This group of names were the stars of the D-Line, and they are no more. Now, that is not saying that our line wont be capable, it will just be young. Golden's star recruit from last year, Anthony Chickillo, will undoubtedly be a starter on one end of the line. He played quite a bit last season, and showed an intensity and a motor that hasn't been seen in quite a bit. He loves being a third generation Cane, and I expect huge things from him in 2012. He is joined by Jalen Grimble, Corey King, Ricardo Williams, and Olsen Pierre as the sophomores on the D-Line. Curtis Porter and Darius Smith are in their junior and senior years, respectively, and will help round out a very good defensive line. Depth here is a bit of an issue as well. There are plenty of backups, but they seem unproven, alebit capable. Recruiting should help out a bunch here in the form of Jelani Hamilton, a 4 star DE as the big name.
Last year we were treated to one of the best linebacking seasons a Cane has had in a long time. Sean Spence proved why he has started basically every year since coming to The U, and should be late first round pick in the draft. He is joined by Jordan Futch and Ramon Buchanon as the exiting seniors at this position, which leaves our LB corp VERY young. There are no seniors, and Jimmy Gaines and Kelvin Cain are our lone juniors. Sophomore Denzel Perryman showed flashes of greatness last year, and should compete for a started spot. Gionni Paul also should be in the mix as he started showing up late last season. This is where recruiting is going to have to be huge, because with such a young group of players, any help is good help. Thankfully, the class is currently headlines by 4 stars Raphael Kirby and Reggie Northrup. Keith Brown, who decomitted for Illinois, could also fall back into the fold since Ron Zook got punted. If Brown ends up coming back, that incoming class of linebackers could very well be the future of the Canes in the middle.
Finally, a position where the Canes are deep, experienced, and should be very good. We lost just three names from this group of guys, Lee Chambers, JoJo Nicolas, and Mike Williams. Out of those three, JoJo will hurt the most. The current class will be led by seniors Vaughn Telemaque, Brandon McGee, Andrew Swasey, Davon Johnson, Nathan Gholston, and Ray Ray Armstrong, who decided to return for his senior year. This group right here should provide you with your starting backfield, because they are talented, experienced, and very good. However, that's not to say that they won't be challenged by the likes of Thomas Finnie, A.J. Highsmith, Keion Payne, or Kacy Rogers. Even without recruiting factoring in, this is probably the deepest position on the field for the Canes. The secondary was very suspect last year even with these same guys, but I suspect that may have had a bit to do with adjusting to what amounts to the third new defensive scheme in 4 years. The incoming class is currently led by Vernon Davis, who is a 3 star recruit. However, incoming RB Greg Garmon (mentioned yesterday as choosing between UM and Iowa) has been looked at as a potential DB if he commits to Miami. It is not clear how this would affect his ranking, but at worst he would drop from a 4 to a 3 star, and that's still pretty darn good.
All the same guys. They're good. Nothing else to see here, move along.
So there you have it. A full look at the team we love and where it stands coming into the 2012 season. In many ways, the 6-6 team from 2011 was better than the 7-6 team from 2010, and I would put money on 2012 as being a very good year. I stated before, however, that this team finishing 6-6 but showing massive improvement with so many young guys would be a very good thing. While the record will piss off a lot of fans and Uncle Luke, if the young kids Golden is bringing in show off their talents, it would mean great things for years to come. I personally am very excited for the upcoming season, even if the NCAA decides to drop the hammer. That seems to be the thought process shared by recruits as well, seeing as Golden is able to pull so much talent together with looming penalties.
Questions? Comments? Leave 'em below and Go Canes!