PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 23: Dion Lewis #28 of the Pittsburgh Panthers is tackled by Olivier Vernon #35 of the Miami Hurricanes on September 23 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
The dirty secret of Miami's defenses— either good or bad— is that the scheme has never changed. Regardless of who was on the field for either team, the Canes were going to line up with four lineman and play straight up man-to-man. Sometimes this worked, usually when Miami had a collection of the most dominant athletes in college football. Other times, when they didn't, or when a great offensive coordinator put together a great gameplan (i.e. Bobby Petrino), it didn't. But defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio represents new blood, a coach that has worked his whole career outside Miami's sphere of influence. So the defense may look new, or it may not. But let's talk about whether or not Miami should adopt a more aggressive philosophy.
The Canes was very, very good last year, finishing 16th in the NCAA in yards allowed per game and 21st in points allowed per game. Aggressiveness was not a problem, as Miami led the nation in tackles for a loss and tied for ninth in total sacks. The defensive line was seen as the team's strength going into the season, and they didn't disappoint. And though the Canes rarely blitzed, they had the personnel in the defensive backfield to do just that.
This coming year features many more questions. For one, the defensive line will be short it's most talented player in Allen Bailey, which means that guys like Olivier Vernon and Adewale Ojomo will have to beat better players more consistently. But more importantly, the cornerback position threatens to be a disaster. D'Onofrio's first defense will be propped up by a motley collection of freshmen, "veterans" that have yet to prove their worth, and players converted from other positions. This will likely put a clamp on how aggressive he can be with any blitz packages, especially early in the season. In a few years, when the corner situation is more settled, it would be invigorating to see D'Onofrio bring more creativity to Miami's defense, but in 2011 he will need to rely on his proven defensive line to put pressure on the opponent.