Miami Hurricanes: Defensive Position Breakdown

The Miami Hurricanes defense last season was disappointing to say the least. It seemed as though opposing offenses would score at will. In order for the Hurricanes to have any success this year, they must solidify the defensive unit. Defense was the Canes’ Achilles heel last season, it must be their driving force this year. In this article, we break down the Hurricanes defense by position.

Defensive Line:

We will begin with the defensive line, a position that has been plagued by good players who never really lived up to their potential in the past years. This year the Canes will have a more mature and proven group then in previous years. This group includes: Darius Smith (RS/SR), Curtis Porter (JR), Kelvin Cain (JR), Anthony Chickillo (SO), Shayon Green (RS/JR), Jalen Grimble (SO), Olsen Pierre (SO), Tyriq McCord (FR), Luther Robinson (RS/JR), Ricardo Williams (RS/FR), and Jake O’Donnell (FR). The two projected starters for the defensive tackle position are Porter and Smith, both are very good run against the run. Smith weighing in at 360 and Porter at 300 will clog up the middle and eliminate running lanes. Behind them looking to get a lot of playing time are Robinson, Pierre and Grimble who provide more of a pass rush style from the  defensive tackle position. It is imperative for the Hurricanes to get consistent play from this position especially against the run as the ACC is filled with great rushing attacks. The projected starters at the two end positions are Anthony Chickillo and Shayon Green. Green did not get to show much last year as he spent most of the year injured, but Chickillo came out right away and made a huge impact as a true freshman. Look for Chickillo to come out and improve on his impressive inaugural campaign and avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. The Hurricanes desperately need to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season. Against the Canes defense last year, teams had way too much time to operate on offense. With the more conservative play calling style of defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, the pressure has to come from the d-line. With the versatility of the players on the line look for Pierre and Grimble to get some playing time here as well as Cain Williams, McCord and O’Donnel.

Position Grade: B


This Hurricanes team will feature a very talented core of linebackers but with very little experience. The Linbacking core includes Denzel Perryman (SO), Ramon Buchanon (SR), Tyrone Cornileus (JR), Raphael Kirby (FR), Eddie Johnson (RS/FR), Gionni Paul (SO), and James Gaines (JR). The projected starters are Perryman, Buchanon, and Gaines, who all three have experience at their respective position. Look for Denzel Perryman to build upon is standout freshman season and improve on his game. There is also expectations for Perryman to assume the Captains role on defense and guide some of the more inexperienced players. Paul and Kirby are two of the rotational players who will get a good amount of playing time so one of them could step up and become an impact player right away. One interesting player to keep an eye on is former saftey Tyrone Cornileus. He has the speed and instincts to cause havoc for an offense and contribute on special teams.

Position Grade: B


In recent years the Hurricanes have struggled mightily in the secondary. They have failed to find consistent play from the unit as a whole. Coming into this season, the Canes are very thin and inexperienced at Corner. But they make up the lack of depth and experience at corner with immense talent and experience at the safety position. This group of defensive backs include: Vaughn Telemaque (RS/SR), Ray-Ray Armstrong (SR), Brandon McGee (SR), Ladarius Gunter (JR), A.J Highsmith (RS/JR), Tracy Howard (FR), Larry Hope (FR), Kacy Rodgers (JR), Davon Johnson (RS/SR), Deon Bush (FR), and Thomas Finnie (SO). The projected starters at saftey are likely be, Armstrong and Telemaque. Both of these guys are equipped bountiful talent, but neither one has been able to put it all together at a consistent level and live up to their full potential. If they can do that this year, it will make life a lot easier for a very inexperienced group of corners. They will also get help from hard-working A.J. Highsmith. The Projected starters coming into this year at corner are, Brandon McGee and Ladarius Gunter. McGee is a senior with great speed but once again has underachieved in his time at The U, while Gunter has some experience but it came at the JUCO level and this is his first year playing Division I football. The Hurricanes lack that “marquee/shut-down” corner so look for them to play a lot of cover-2 zone this season. Though not a projected starter, Thomas Finnie is a promising young talent. In this his sophomore season he will be getting more significant playing time. Finnie showed potential last year in a very limited role, now taking on more responsibility it will be interesting to see him develop.  The most talked about player in this group is without a doubt 5 -star recruit Tracy Howard. Howard is entering his first year at Miami. Without even having stepped foot on campus, Howard is already being talked about in playing a large role in this defense. He is expected to challenge for a starting  job when camp opens up in just a couple of weeks. Though he doesn’t blow you away in any one specific category like speed or physicality, he does everything very good. Canes fans hope Tracy Howard can turn good into great and be the next great cornerback to come out of Miami. as for this season, hopefully he can adjust to the speed of the game and not try to do too much right away.

Position Grade: B-


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