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Miami Hurricanes Positional Previews: 2012 DE Breakdown

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As UM football continues to slog towards Chestnut Hill, we here at the 7th Floor will breakdown each position group on the team. Today we look at the defensive ends, where the Canes have a star in the making plus a bunch of question marks.

Previous previews: quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line

Great defenses start up front. A great defensive line can help mask a deficiency or two elsewhere on the defense, or elevate a defense with no deficiencies to truly elite status. This is true at schools like Alabama and LSU, and was true when Miami was at or near the top of the polls. Miami's defense last year was atrocious -- the worst since the probation days. Part of the reason for that was the lack of talent and depth on the defensive line, especially at the defensive end position, where Miami just could not generate a consistent pass rush. Al Golden and his staff are in the process of changing that -- they brought in four freshmen defensive ends, including two four-star recruits.

Will it pay dividends in 2012? Let's check it out.

KELVIN CAIN / Junior / 6' 3", 245 / Clovis, Calif.

2011 stats: 15 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 INT

Say hello to the first of Miami's linebackers-turned-defensive ends. Cain started his career at UM as a backup middle linebacker -- where he played well in one start vs. Duke in 2010 -- but was moved outside in 2011, where he didn't have the athleticism to play in coverage. That combined with Miami's need along the line necessitated a move to defensive end, with which Cain is still adjusting. Unless he can bulk up, he seems more like a situational rusher, but whether he has the skills to produce in that role remains to be seen. He's currently listed third at one end position, but should see some time early in the season due to seniority. That said, he'll have to give UM's coaches a reason to not put younger players ahead of him as they gain experience.

ANTHONY CHICKILLO / Soph. / 6' 4", 265 / Tampa, Fla.

2011 stats: 38 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 QB hurry, 1 forced fumble

Here is the star. Chickillo came into Miami as a top 50 overall recruit and exceeded expectations, leading the team in sacks and looking like a born leader. But it won't necessarily all be gravy for Chickillo in 2012 -- he is the undisputed focal point of the defense, and will have to deal with the repercussions of that. He'll have to beat double teams, sharpen his technique and not take a single play off (not that he did in 2011). Chickillo can undoubtedly do all of those things, and his mere presence is a huge boon to his fellow ends, who need whatever help they can get.

SHAYON GREEN / Junior / 6' 3", 260 / Tifton, Ga.

2011 stats: 7 tackles, 0.5 TFL

In four years at Miami, Green has played in six games. He has eight career tackles, and not a single sack or forced turnover. He is Miami's second starting end. Of course, Green's lack of experience stems from an inability to stay healthy rather than an inability to play, but his history has to be at least a little bit concerning. Green also started his career at Miami as middle linebacker, and whether or not he's suited to play end remains to be seen. That said, he's been praised in camp by the coaching staff, has easily locked down a starting job. He also has the requisite size for the position. Hopefully Green will stay healthy so we can see if he can really play.

RICARDO WILLIAMS / Freshman (R) / 6' 5", 251 / Homestead, Fla.

2011 stats: n/a

Williams has never seen the field at UM and doesn't appear on this year's depth chart. His future is a mystery, and it's probably not a good sign that he's already been passed by three true freshmen. It can rightly be wondered if Golden's staff sees Williams as a D1 quality end, and just going by his size, he may be a candidate to move to tight end somewhere down the line.

Incoming Freshmen

JELANI HAMILTON / Freshman / 6' 5", 271 / Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Hamilton arrives in Miami as one of the top defensive end recruits in the country, and he's locked down a spot on the two-deep behind Chickillo. Hamilton will likely see around 10 snaps in Miami's first few games, but he could certainly be starting by midseason, especially if Green's health continues to trend the way it has. The one thing Hamilton indisputably brings is size, which is something this position is lacking outside of Chickillo. Despite being a freshman, Hamilton already looks like a grown man -- his size compared to his fellow high schoolers in this video is comical.

DWAYNE HOILETT / Freshman / 6' 3", 247 / Vero Beach, Fla.

Most of the focus on Miami's freshmen has centered on the defensive backs and wide receivers, but both Hamilton and Hoilett are as important to Miami's success in 2012 and beyond as Tracy Howard or Malcom Lewis. Like Hamilton, Hoilett has also played his way into the two-deep, albeit quietly. Hoilett doesn't have exceptional size or athleticism, but should be a solid cog in an end rotation. The one thing to keep an eye on is his weight: as a recruit he was listed around 215 pounds while UM is now tabbing him closer to 250. The truth is probably somewhere in between, and could decide whether Hoilett is strong enough to really contribute as a freshman.

TYRIQ MCCORD / Freshman / 6' 3", 236 / Tampa, Fla.

McCord is Miami's other consensus four-star end recruit, but he's far less polished than Hamilton or even Hoilett. You can get a good sense of where McCord is in his development in this Raising Canes video, and why exactly he doesn't appear on Miami's depth chart. McCord is probably the most athletic end UM has right now, but unless he quickly grasps the mental and technical aspects of the game or Miami gets decimated by injuries, he's probably going to redshirt this season.

JAKE O'DONNELL / Freshman / 6' 6", 243 / Doylestown, Pa.

Size. That's what O'Donnell brings to Miami. You can certainly see, looking at guys like Green, Cain and Williams, why Golden and his staff would want to bring in a player with O'Donnell's bulk. He currently sits third at one of the end spots, and we'll get a better handle on his skills and how much he might play after the season's first few games. But like Hoilett, he seems on track to be a four-year rotation player at Miami.