Compared to the rest of the team, the Canes secondary is gushing with experience. Of course, it could have been more had senior safety Ray-Ray Armstrong not gotten himself thrown off the team during the summer. Miami has all upperclassmen filling the four spots, with a pair of seniors and a pair of juniors.
CB – Brandon McGee, Antonio Crawford, Larry Hope, Ken Jackson, Nate Dortch
S – Kacy Rodgers or Deon Bush, Andrew Swasey
S – Vaughn Telemaque, A.J. Highsmith or Rayshawn Jenkins
CB – Ladarius Gunter, Tracy Howard or Thomas Finnie, Vernon Davis
Armstrong was considered one of the top safeties in the country, but even without him, this is a pretty talented group.
On the back-end, 5th year senior Vaughn Telemaque (6’2″, 211) is the most experienced Hurricane. He has started every game the last two seasons. He is a solid tackler, and on NFL team’s radars but needs to improve in coverage.
Taking Armstrong’s starting spot is junior Kacy Rodgers (6’2″, 212). Unfortunately, although he is a junior, he was primarily a special teamer and only had 3 tackles in 2011. Also, coming out of high school he was a corner, so he is still adjusting to the position. Behind him is A.J. Highsmith (6’0″, 204), the former quarterback. Yes, quarterback. The bonus is that Highsmith is considered one of the highest IQ players on the team, so where he might be lacking physically, he is unlikely to make a mental mistake. Deon Bush (6’1″, 179) is making the move from corner to safety to help with depth and could see the field in select packages.
Senior Brandon McGee (6’0″, 190) is considered the top corner coming into the season. He has gotten steadily better season after season, and although he is not All-American caliber, he certainly will be in the running for All-ACC honors.
Junior LaDarius Gunter (6’2″, 196) is a junior college transfer that lacked much pub coming out of high school. The only major school to recruit him was Indiana, but to this point, his experience and his size have landed him on the starting unit. He will be pushed though, and pushed early.
Behind the starters is a lot of youth and reasons to be excited for Canes fans.
Freshman Tracy Howard (5’11”, 185) was one of the most heavily recruited players in America, and along with RB Duke Johnson the star of this class. He will see plenty of action in the nickel and if the hype meets the expectation, he could be a starter before year’s end.
Sophomore Thomas Finne (5’10”, 183) was one of Al Golden’s first recruits to sign a season ago, and will challenge for playing time in passing situations. He is the speedster of the group.
Another incoming freshman Antonio Crawford (5’11” 187) is an exciting athlete out of Tampa. He could work his way on the field, if not as a corner, then possibly as a special teamer.
Miami’s pass defense was pretty awful last year. They gave up big plays. They gave up first downs. They gave up touchdowns. They only collected 6 interceptions all season. This group should be better. Of course, their function as a secondary is partially dependent on the play of the folks in front of them, and if those guys struggle, then this group probably isn’t talented enough to make up for it.