Miami Hurricanes Preview: Defensive Line

The Canes wear orange and green, but it might as well be just green to describe the youth on the team.  That youth is well represented along the defensive front four.

The Hurricanes lost several key players on their defensive front from a year ago.  Defensive end Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Marcus Forston departed early for the NFL, and graduation took starters Micanor Regis and key backups Adewale Ojomo, Marcus Robinson, and Andrew Smith.

The latest depth chart looks like this.

DE – Anthony Chickillo, Jelani Hamilton, Jake O’Donnell, Chris Dunkel, Dwayne Hoilett

DT – Luther Robinson, Darius Smith, Dequan Ivery, Jalen Grimble, Jacoby Briscoe

DT – Olsen Pierre, Earl Moore, Curtis Porter, Corey King

DE – Shayon Green, Kelvin Cain or Tyriq McCord, Ricardo Williams

The coaching staff fully admits that there are no Russell Maryland’s, Warren Sapp’s, or Cortez Kennedy’s on the team, but the hope is that the group will function as a unit.  Al Golden would like someone or someones to step up but hasn’t seen it yet.

Anthony Chickillo is the name to know, if there is one.  The Tampa area product enters his sophomore season after a productive first year that saw him register 5 sacks.  Chickillo is a name Canes fans are familiar with, as his dad and his grandfather were both Canes.  Miami needs more out of him, and Al Golden isn’t afraid to ask for it.

“Chick’s got to make a big jump here,” Golden said. “He doesn’t have to wait until he’s a senior to be a leader: there are sophomore leaders too.”

Certainly there is great cause for concern coming off a season where Miami allowed 162 yards rushing per game, at 4.1 yards per carry.  That second mark was the 5th high allowed in Miami football history.  There is a lot of pride at Miami, especially on the defensive side, but there is reason to worry it could get worse before it could get better based on all the departures.

UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio says the Canes are deep in the middle.  “There are nine defensive tackles now in camp and they’re all going to get opportunities.  That picture is not clear there.”

As far as getting after the quarterback, that too will be a challenge.  The Hurricanes struggled in that regard a season ago, netting just 24 sacks on the year.  To put that in perspective, Miami ranked 61st and Texas A&M, who was first, had 51, more than twice as many.
It could be a rough start for this bunch, who will be in the spotlight with early road games against run-heavy Kansas State and Georgia Tech.  K-State gouged Miami for 265 yards at 6 yards a pop last year in the Wildcats win, while Miami had perhaps it’s most impressive defensive showing against the Yellow Jackets.  The Canes permitted just 134 yards on the ground against the nation’s #3 rushing attack.  We’ll find out early how good or bad this unit might be.
The hope is that this year the 11 underclassmen along the line will gain experience and show the promise and hope for the the future of the Miami Hurricanes.