Miami will open the season in the not so distant future, and to help you prepare for what is sure to be a great year, we are back to preview each position on the team. We will let you know who is back, who is new, and how each player projects for the 2013 season.
Too many times last year I was left speechless. After running out of objects to throw, profanity to scream or dogs to kick (I'm kidding), I was speechless. Games like Virginia left me to the point where cursing at my television no longer eased that bad feeling I got seeing the opposition convert third and long after third and long. Passes over 10 yards were completed at an alarming rate by a team like Duke. I was sick. A little bit of me would die inside watching practically every QB pick our secondary apart. I had lost faith in our pass defense. A 3rd down stop would be a pleasant surprise rather than something that was expected. No bump and run, no turnovers, No swagger. What happen to the Miami Hurricanes secondary in 2012?
The Hurricanes pass defense ranked 99th in the nation giving up 268 passing yards a game with only 6 interceptions from the corner backs as a whole. Not a good number when you think of the Canes and their history of DBs. What makes matters worse is 4 of the 6 INT's from last season belonged to players no longer on the roster this year (McGee graduated and Finnie dismissed from team). I personally don't blame Coach D'Onofrio I believe he did his best with the inexperienced group he had. I also understand that it didn't help that there was practically no pass rush the entire season leaving corners out in coverage for way to long. I'm convinced that last seasons lack of production was more of a result of players learning on the fly than the teams lack of talent or scheme.
I'm not trying to make excuses for a defense that was ranked the near the bottom in pass defense. The 2013 season is upon us (Thank God) and it's a new day. Here are the cornerbacks that I believe are going to try help make an impact in 2013:
Tracy Howard / Sophomore / 5'11", 184 / Miramar, FL.
2012 stats: 17 Tackles, 4 PBUs (Pass Break Ups)
The 4 star recruit started the 2012 far from what I think some fans expected. I believe people failed to realize that a kid coming straight out of high school might not be ready for the game speed of the next level. As the year progressed you can tell things slowed down for him and his game speed picked up and he got back to being the aggressive corner that we all knew he was. As a sophomore I believe he plays closer to the level of shutdown corner we all expected than the wide-eyed freshman that seemed a step behind most plays. No reason why he shouldn't lead this team in INT's this season.
Ladarius Gunter / Junior / 6'2" , 196 / Montgomery, AL.
2012 stats: 27 Tackles, 1 TFL, 2 FR's, 1 INT, 6 PBUs
Gunter comes in as a favorite to win the starting corner spot opposite of Tracy. Ladarius started only 5 games but played in all 12 last season. LG doesn't seem to have the speed like Howard but excels at being physical at the line. In my opinion Gunter is the best tackler we have at the corner back position. His breakout game came against North Carolina last season when he recorded 8 tackles, all solo. He wore the black jersey all of spring and I don't see any reason why he should't have a productive 2013 season.
Antonio Crawford / Sophomore / 5'11" , 185 / Tampa, FL.
2012 stats: 7 Tackles
For a guy who starred mostly on special teams in 2012 Antonio Crawford looks to have a bigger roll on defense this coming season. Crawford seems to be the starting corner in the nickel package out of spring practices. Crawford's quickness and speed make him a great fit for the nickel spot. Outside of starters Howard and Gunter, he is the most game ready of the of CB group. Expect to see him get lots of playing this year and easily surpass his freshman numbers.
Larry Hope / R. Freshman / 6'0" , 183 / Miami FL.
2012 stats: n/a
Barring any injuries I really don't see Hope making much noise this season. For the little that I saw him play in spring there were no signs of him showing he was ready for the big boys. I think another year of development can only help his cause. Expect Hope to be more of a special teams contributor at this point more than anything else.
Nate Dortch / R. Freshman / 5'11" , 170 / Fort Myers, FL.
2012 stats: n/a
Dortch in my opinion is just edging out Hope on the depth chart. Dortch seemed to hold his own in the spring but nothing to really to elevate him into consistent playing time in my opinion. He looks to be a special teamer at this point and depending on how he practices in the fall maybe gain reps on defense.
Artie Burns / Freshman / 6'0" , 185 / Miami, FL.
2012 stats: n/a
Burns, a solid UM commit from the beginning was ranked 70th on ESPN150 and 10th in the nation at his position for the 2013 recruiting season. Off his speed alone Burns could fill in nicely as the Kick/Punt Returner occupying the spot previously filled by Duke Johnson. On the defensive side of the ball I see him as the only true competition for Crawford at the nickel back position. My only fear for Artie is if the game speed itself might be to fast for him (i.e Tracy Howard freshman yr.) therefore needing time to develop before he actually receives consistent playing time on defense. Even then I don't think it will be long before Artie Burns makes himself a crowd favorite among Canes fans.
Wyatt Chickillo / Freshman / 6'0", 200 / Miami, FL.
2012 stats: n/a
Baby Chick (I hope he doesn't mind me calling him that) is a walk on, a practice body. No real expectations for him at corner back at this point. The former high school quarterback initially was thought to be working as a receiver but, was getting reps during the spring at the corner back position. Only time will tell how his switch-over to defense will go.
I honestly feel last season was an anomaly and I do believe the corners will respond after last years let down. We have the talent and I know our coaching staff will put that talent in right position to succeed. Our starters definitely got the needed time last year, this year I hope our second team progresses to close that gap of inexperience. I mean seriously, it can't get any worse right?... right?!