Miami Football: Projecting the Hurricanes' 2013 Defensive Depth Chart
There were so many different players plugged into last year's defense that it will be very hard to predict who will actually start in the opening game of the 2013 season for the Miami Hurricanes.
There will be plenty of freshmen coming in, and with the way the defense played last season, they could easily find themselves fighting for a starting spot.
No matter who starts, the Hurricanes must improve from their No. 116 ranking they finished with this season.
Here are my predictions on the 2013 Miami Hurricanes' defensive depth chart.
Note: This prediction is based solely on the current 'Canes roster.
The defensive ends may already be set in stone for the Hurricanes' 2013 season. Both Shayon Green and Anthony Chickillo started all 12 games for Miami last year.
In Green's first season as a starter, he recorded a team-high 67 tackles and two tackles for loss. Although he led the team in tackles, Green must find a way to get to the quarterback. He finished with no sacks and just three quarterback hurries.
Chickillo on the other hand recorded 45 tackles (6.5 for loss), four sacks and two quarterback hurries. It wasn't a horrible season, but it should have been much better.
In Chickillo's freshman season he recorded 38 tackles (6.5 for loss) and five sacks in nine games he started. Chickillo needs to find a way to live up to his lofty expectations.
The only player that I see could stealing one of the starting end positions is Tyriq McCord. McCord finished his true freshman season with 15 tackles (3.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks and tied the team lead with three quarterback hurricanes.
Not bad considering he didn't started a single game and played primarily on passing downs. He will have a full offseason to bulk up, and I expect to see great things from McCord.
Jelani Hamilton and Kelvin Cain have the athletic ability to play a significant amount of time next year, but still need to improve over the offseason.
If there is one major issue heading into the 2013 season, it's the play of the defensive tackles. There won't be one returning player that deserves to start heading into next season. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if a true freshman starts next fall.
Yes, it was that bad.
Now don't get me wrong, there are some talented players at tackle; for instance, Curtis Porter. When Porter is healthy he can be a terror for opposing linemen; the problem is he hasn't been able to stay on the field.
Over four years at Miami, Porter has missed 35 games, including 12 in his sophomore campaign. If Porter can stay healthy during the offseason and play an entire season, he could be the missing key the Hurricanes have been looking for on the line.
The only tackle that played in more than 10 games all season is Olsen Pierre. Pierre played and started in all 11 games in the 2012 season but finished with just 27 tackles (five for loss) and 1.5 sacks.
Luther Robinson, Corey King, Darius Smith and Earl Moore saw plenty of action but struggled all season long.
I expect Pierre and Porter to start, but like I said earlier, it's anyone's position and I wouldn't be surprised at all if someone else gets the starting nod.
Heading into the 2012 season I thought the linebackers were going to be one of the best units on the team. Unfortunately, injuries and suspensions didn't allow my prediction to be correct.
With all the injuries, Denzel Perryman was moved from inside to outside linebacker and had a solid season considering he missed more than three games with injuries. I expect him to stay at outside linebacker next season but wouldn't be surprised if he gets moved back to the middle.
The other outside linebacker is a complete toss-up. During the middle of last season I thought freshman Eddie Johnson had the position locked down for as long as he was in Miami, but personal issues may hurt a promising career.
Johnson broke team rules and ended up missing the last two games of the season. The Hurricanes need him to shape up because he is extremely talented, and if he stays clean, he could be one of the most important linebackers on the team.
Another person that could be vying for a starting position on the outside is Gionni Paul. Paul didn't get a bunch of playing time early in the season but came on strong during the middle and end, finishing with 61 tackles and 3.5 sacks in six starts for the 'Canes.
So if Perryman stays on the outside he will obviously be one of the starting outside linebackers while the other spot will rest on the shoulders and attitude of Johnson.
Paul could fight Johnson for that spot, but I highly doubt he will.
Thurston Armbrister had his moments last season and will come off the bench; he should give the Hurricanes some great depth.
The inside linebacker will be the most interesting position to follow on the defensive side of the ball next spring. I don't know what the coaches will do with Denzel Perryman, but if they decide to move him back to the middle, there is no doubt he will be the starter.
If the coaches keep him on the outside, this position could very well go to Jimmy Gaines. Gaines finished the 2012 season fourth on the team in tackles with 57 (three for loss) and intercepted two passes. He is a veteran player that could very well be one of the leaders of the defense.
That is, if he can keep Raphael Kirby off the field. Kirby is a tremendous linebacker that reminds me of his teammate Perryman. He is athletically gifted and can hit like a truck.
I still believe that Gaines will start, but don't be surprised at how much playing time Kirby gets throughout the season.
The cornerbacks will be another position with multiple question marks. The first one is who will fill the shoes of Brandon McGee?
McGee was, by far, the best cornerback on the team last season, and I honestly don't know if anyone will be able to play at the high level he did for most of last season.
Thomas Finnie had a decent freshman season but struggled last season and recently was suspended indefinitely for off-field problems.
That will most likely leave high school phenom Tracy Howard to fulfill McGee's shoes, and with a full season under his belt, he could very well do so.
Howard saw action in all 12 games last season but didn't record an interception. You could tell he wasn't up to speed on the college game and you can't really blame him, he had just finished high school.
The other cornerback position should be held by Ladarius Gunter. Gunter played in all 12 games and finished with 27 tackles and finished second on the team with six pass breakups.
The only true backup with playing time (besides suspended Finnie) is Antonio Crawford. The depth at cornerback could be an issue if some of the other cornerbacks on the team don't step up.
If there was one guaranteed position next year outside of Chickillo and Perryman, it would be safety Deon Bush. If it weren't for Duke Johnson's crazy season, Bush would have been the newcomer of the year.
Despite missing two games due to an injury, Bush finished with 34 tackles, three pass breakups and three forced fumbles. If the stats don't tell the story, just take a look at some game film and you will see the amazing talent of this true freshman.
On the other side of Bush should be Kacy Rodgers II. Rodgers played pretty solid in all 12 games he logged, and with a good offseason, we should see him in the starting role for all 12 games in 2013.
A.J. Highmith and Rayshawn Jenkins should will be solid backups for Rodgers and Bush.
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