Everyone knows that Denzel Perryman is a beast.
Perryman has made his mark in the ACC and the country for 4 years now, with spectacular hits and solid all-around play. But it hasn't been enough to get Miami's defense out of the depths of mediocrity, mostly because he did not have the best supporting cast around him.
Is that finally changing?
The Butkus Award semifinalist may finally have the support, particularly at the LB position, to make a mark and not end up overlooked by the unit's shortcomings.
Which players are making plays around "The President?"
For one, speedy sophomore Jermaine Grace is getting better and better every week.
The 6'1 212 pound missile from Miramar H.S. has accumulated two sacks (including a huge one on third down in the 1st quarter Vs Virginia Tech on Thursday), 36 tackles, and 4.5 big TFL this season. Grace was also named the ACC Co-Linebacker of the Week after Miami’s 30-6 win over Virginia Tech, in which he had the aforementioned sack, and recovered 2 third quarter fumbles.
He may not have the size you look for in an every down LB, but he has made his presence known with blitzes and heady play.
After a career high 8 tackles Vs Cincinnati, Miami Head Coach Al Golden explained Grace's recent success,
"His preparation has been better, his maturity and poise has been better, his confidence and being more vocal in the meeting rooms, to exhibit his confidence, to show that he knows what he’s doing and that he’s confident and that he can bring that to the game. All of those things are starting to happen."
When Raphael Kirby came to UM, he too was a bit undersized. Now a chiseled 6'1 238 pounds, the junior from Stone Mountain, Ga is finally starting to match his work in the weight room with on field production.
After a quiet first two seasons in Coral Gables, Kirby has started all 8 games this year, wracking up 32 tackles, 2 TFL's, and 2 INTs as well (including the game sealer Vs Cincinnati).
Al Golden said that the success and leadership of Kirby is helping both Perryman and Grace,
"Raphael Kirby is playing really good football. He's practicing hard and his preparation is improved, I'm happy for Kirb. And Grace is learning a lot of from Denzel and Kirb. I think if you ask those two the biggest difference is in how they prepare. And it's helping them play faster. No doubt about it, it takes away from the load on Denzel."
And also among the most pleasant surprises on the season, is another OLB, in Thurston Armbrister. The senior leads the way for the Hurricanes with 5 sacks.
With Armbrister, Grace, and Kirby all stepping up, Miami finally has a LB crew that isn't anonymous and ineffective minus Perryman.
There have still been some serious bumps in the road (GT and Nebraska run defense certainly comes to mind), and perhaps the 15th spot nationally in team defense (319 ypg allowed) is a bit misleading, but even the most skeptical of Miami fans has to admit the D at minimum has more play makers.
One thing is for sure, if UM hopes to finish the season strong, Grace, Kirby, and Armbrister need to continue making plays around Perryman, starting this weekend Vs North Carolina.