A Way Too Early Look At The Canes' Potential Defensive Depth Chart

Chick and The President will anchor the front of what looks to be an improved defense in 2013 - Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Spring football kicks off on March 2nd, but that isn't going to stop us from taking a stab at how we think the depth chart will, or perhaps should, shake out.

Since we have covered the offensive depth chart in the first post, it's now time to move on to the side of the ball that has everyone worried: the defense. Ranked in the bottom of the barrel last year, the only direction the Canes defense could potentially go is up. Sure, they could actually be worse, but considering they only lost a few guys to graduation, the chance of that happening is next to nil.

Guys who already had experience have more of it, and the young guys who didn't have a lot have learned a ton. Most importantly? Most of the young guys learned by trial by fire, being thrown into the world of college football immediately. The Canes played an extremely rough schedule, and this year, the boys should be better for it.

As with before, a few caveats to consider before reading ahead. At the time of this writing, no one else has been removed from the team, transferred, or is otherwise no longer there. Also, I am going to assume that the entire 2013 recruiting class has qualified and made it into school in the fall. I am putting this together based off of the current roster listed on HurricaneSports.com, and adding in the recruits that have not yet been added to their list. Also, obviously things like injuries are impossible to predict, and there's no guarantee that a guy will red shirt or not. This is my best guess at what things will look like ahead of the first official game, but is obviously subject to change.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Anthony Chickillo Curtis Porter Olsen Pierre Shayon Green
Jelani Hamilton OR Earl Moore Luther Robinson Tyriq McCord
AQM Corey King Jacoby Briscoe Kelvin Cain
Dwayne Hoilett Dequan Ivery Dyron Dye Jalen Grimble
Ricardo Williams David Perry
Ufomba Kamalu

You know, once you see them lined up, the fact that this year's recruiting class did not yield any defensive tackles just a bit easier to swallow. It wasn't like Miami needed to fill a bare closet or build depth. The team is at east 4 deep at every defensive line position. The main issue last year was the lack of any one or two guys that were well versed in the system than D'Onofrio ran, and that was followed by the secondary issue, which was youth.

Porter and Pierre were by far the best two defensive linemen last year, with Robinson not far behind. Those guys have another year under their very large belts, and should be much improved this year. until proven otherwise, those are your top three on the inside. King, Briscoe, and Ivery will all be nipping at their heels to be sure, and re-converted lineman Dyron Dye should help out as well. On the edge, things get a lot more interesting.

As is with the interior, until proven otherwise, Chick and Green are your starting ends. Green led the team last year in tackles, although the issue was his low sack numbers. Chick had a down year by his standards, mainly due to teams being able to concentrate on him and not worry so much about the middle of the line. That situation gets a lot of help with McCord, who exploded onto the scene last year, being bigger and wiser, and guys like Grimble, Hamilton, Cain, and new-comer Al-Quaddin Muhammed fighting for position. The Canes have quite a few guys who can get after the quarterback, and if they can get any sort of push up the middle, the sack numbers should jump.

Note: I have seen talk that Chickillo could get some work on the interior of the line due to his size. While I would be all for this, it's one of those "I'll believe it when I see it" types of things. If that is the case, and he moves inside, look for McCord to be first up for his spot.

LINE BACKERS
Denzel Perryman Jimmy Gaines Eddie Johnson*
JaWand Blue Thurston Armbrister Raphael Kirby
Jermaine Grace Tyrone Cornelius Alex Figueroa
Nantambu-Akil Fentress Gabe Terry Devante Bond
Akil Craig

To begin with, I'll address that foreboding little asterisk next to Eddie Johnson's name. He is currently suspended indefinitely, and his situation will be covered more in depth in the Spring Football Primer. The asterisk is there because he is either going to be the starter, or he won't be, in which case I think we see Kirby taking his spot. I think Perryman excelled on the outside last season once he was moved there, and I think he stays. The combo of Kirby and Perryman on the outside will allow some play with the MLB spot. Initially, I don't see anyone taking it from Gaines, although the experience of Armbrister and Cornelius will help them stay near the top. Gabe Terry is not far behind as well.

JaWand Blue is going to be a bit of a wild card, since early word is to expect big things out of him after red shirting last year. The extra time on campus for Figs will serve him well also, which is why I think he earns the early nod above Grace and Bond. Fentress and Craig provide good depth, but haven't been consistent enough to really be a factor. The good thing here is that outside of Kirby and Perryman, you have a lot of talent to work with for the middle, and to spell the two former guys when they need a breather. If EJ44 is to not be on the team next year, his loss would be huge, but not at all crippling.

SAFETIES

Rayshawn Jenkins Deon Bush
A.J. Highsmith Kacy Rogers
Jamal Carter

This one is fairly easy. Deon Bush is the unquestioned number one safety here after a phenomenal true freshman campaign. Rayshawn Jenkins came on very strong towards the end of the year, and I don't see him losing that opposite starting spot. Behind them, experience wins out here and Rogers and Highsmith fill the backup spots.

There are two freshmen coming in that could play safety. The first, Jamal Carter, is a true safety. He will eventually be a star for Miami, but early on will need some refining. He likely won't get the benefit of a red shirt his first year, however, due to the thin depth at the position. The second freshman is Artie Burns, although you'll notice I didn't include him here. Burns is a guy where almost every analyst is split down the middle about whether he is a corner or a safety. He can play both, and has skills that are suited for both. In my opinion, you pick a spot, and you play him there. You don't let him start in one and then move to the other. If I had my way, he is placed an corner back because of his speed, and I think that's where the coaches will wind up sticking him.

Ray Lewis III is also an interesting name here. he has the size and speed to be able to play safety, although he can also play running back. He has yet to be officially labeled, but when it's all said and done, I think he gets the defensive nod and moves to safety. Not to mention it would be extremely cool to see another Lewis on that side of the ball.

CORNER BACKS

Tracy Howard Ladarius Gunter
Antonio Crawford Nate Dortch
Larry Hope Artie Burns

Depth is a bit thin here this year, which is another reason I think Burns gets his shot at corner back. The talent level at the position, however, is undeniable. Tracy Howard, Miami's star commitment (outside of Duke, of course, but totally different story) from 2012 will finally have his shot at being the leader of the secondary. He showed a ton of promise late in the year last season, and will come in firmly entrenched in the top spot. Shadowing him on the opposite side of the field will be Ladarius Gunter, who had a fantastic 2012 campaign. Those two should be a pretty damn good tandem of CB's, and hopefully we will get to see their full skills because of a better push up front by the line.

Behind them are Crawford and Dortch. We saw Crawford quite a bit last year, and while he has blazing speed, his fundamentals needed a lot of work. He has apparently worked extremely hard in the off season, and I think it pays off. Dortch is a guy that Golden and other coaches have been raving about. I think he is going to be a welcome surprise to Canes fans coming out of a red shirt year. Larry Hope, an early entry from last season, should have a much improved season as well. Then, rounding out the position, you have Artie Burns. Blessed with track speed and willingness to hit anything that moves as hard as he can, I think that he will excel at the corner spot. He's definitely not as much a cover corner as much as he is a physical player, but he has the foundation to become the cover guy that everyone wants him to be.

That wraps up our look at the defensive depth chart way too early in the game. The advantage that this side of the ball has over the offense is the fact that they start the off season with the same coach they had the year before. That type of consistency is key in developing talent, because without it, they kids are learning new things each year, and that's just not feasible. This year's squad should be much improved over last years, which will fare well when complimented with Miami's powerful offense.

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