Ahh, the more previews I write for this year’s Canes team, the more I long for the days of the Bermuda Triangle. For those not familiar with the “U,” that is reference to the great trio of linebackers Jessie Armstead, Darrin Smith, and Michael Barrow. In fact, it almost feels like what we remember of the Miami has been lost in the Bermuda Triangle itself.
Suffice it to say, this year’s team, like most positions on the roster, is void of recognition and short on talent. Here is the current depth chart.
OLB – Thurston Armbrister or Eddie Johnson, Gabe Terry
MLB – Denzel Perryman, Jimmy Gaines or Gionni Paul, Raphael Kirby, Nantambu-Akil Fentress
OLB – Ramon Buchanan, Tyrone Cornelius, JaWand Blue, Josh Witt
The name notably absent is Sean Spence, a four-year starter for Miami, and leading tackler in 2011. Replacing his playmaking, notably the 106 tackles and 11 tackles for loss will be extremely difficult.
If there is a man to do it, it’s Denzel Perryman.
The sophomore Perryman (6’0″, 225) mans the middle for Miami. He is the star, if there is one, of the group. He was a freshman All-American on many ballots a season ago. The sophomore was the team’s second-leading tackler a year ago with 69 tackles, the most of any freshman in the ACC. His career high 14 came against Boston College who Miami will face Saturday in the opener. He’ll most definitely be their top tackler this season, and is noted for providing a good pop when he does hit you.
Senior Ramon Buchanan (6’1″, 222) is the strong-side backer. He was the fastest LB of the group a year ago, but returns to action after missing 8 games a season ago with a torn ACL. There is also another reason to believe he’ll cede the honor of fastest.
Sophomore Thurston Armbrister (6’3″, 222) was a former safety who put on ten pounds and has been moved down to WLB. He clocks a 4.6-forty and earned the starting spot in fall camp surprisingly. Starting period is a surprise as he was lightly recruited when Miami plucked him up from their own backyard in Hollywood Hills. He beat out junior Jimmy Gaines (6’3″, 230) for the spot, who was moved to backup MLB, but has the experience to fill in wherever needed.
The bad news is that there isn’t a superstar, a Ray Lewis-type on the roster currently. The good news is, there might not be much of a drop-off from last year. This group should be faster, and Perryman could flash star-potential. There is a good mix of experience in this group too, much more than some other personnel groupings on the team, which should help the consistency.
It could be a rough year for the group, as a number are battling injuries in the preseason already, but like the rest of the team, there is a lot youth in reserve roles that could see the field and earn valuable experience for next year.
Miami Hurricanes Preview: Linebackers by Mike Tuck