Reviewing Miami's Depth Chart: Defense

Apr 17, 2013 3:24 AM EST

Let’s take a quick look at the current status of Miami's depth chart, continuing with the defense (review the offensive version here). The Hurricanes have the rare luxury of virtually returning every starter on both sides of the ball from 2012.

Defensive End

Anthony Chickillo (Junior)
Shayon Green (Senior)
Jalen Grimble (Junior)

Chickillo is the star of the group and could be primed for a big season. He registered nine sacks during the last two years and had an excellent offseason and spring game. Green survived a gamut of injuries as an underclassmen (two ACL tears and a torn meniscus) to lead the team in tackles in 2012, the first defensive lineman to accomplish the feat in more than 30 years. Grimble was a four-star recruit in 2010 that has yet to make an impact for a poor defensive team. Dyron Dye figured to be in the rotation, but he tore his Achilles in spring practice and will miss the season.

Defensive Tackle

Curtis Porter (Senior)
Olsen Pierre (Junior)
Earl Moore (Sophomore)
Luther Robinson (Senior)

The defensive tackles really need to improve their play if the Hurricanes are going to make noise in the ACC. Miami only registered 13 sacks in 12 games last year, a number reached by eight different players in the FBS. Porter and Robinson have both battled the injury bug in their four years in Coral Gables and have produced little despite being four-star recruits. Pierre started every game as a sophomore and should be guaranteed a starting spot in the fall. Moore was thrown into the fire as a true freshman; he made two starts and appeared in every game.

Middle Linebacker

Raphael Kirby (Sophomore)
Jimmy Gaines (Senior)

Kirby enrolled early as a true freshman, but injuries prevented him from making an immediate impact. He is healthy now and quickly impressing the coaching staff with his physical play and athleticism. Don’t be surprised if he beats out the incumbent starter Gaines. Gaines started the last few games of the 2012 season, but is not the force the team needs at the position.

Outside Linebacker

Denzel Perryman (Junior)
Alex Figueroa (Freshman)
Tyriq McCord (Sophomore)
Tyrone Cornileus (Senior)

Losing Eddie Johnson is clearly a big blow to the outside linebacker group. A freshman All-American, Johnson is no longer enrolled in the university because of unpublicized off-the-field issues. The Hurricanes also lost Gionni Paul, who made seven starts at outside linebacker, to unspecified reasons. Perryman made a big statement in the spring game with two interceptions and should start at WLB. Figueroa is an early enrollee that has impressed the coaching staff so much he might crack the starting lineup in Week 1. McCord made an impact as a freshman last year and will get a shot to start at SLB.

Cornerback

Ladarius Gunter (Junior)
Tracy Howard (Sophomore)
Larry Hope (Freshman)
Nate Dortch (Freshman)

The cornerback position is at the top of the list of concerns for the Miami defense. Gunter made improvements, especially in run support, but is a three-star JUCO transfer. Asking him to cover opponents’ No. 1 receivers might be too much. The Hurricanes hope Howard, a five-star player that got plenty of playing time as a true freshman, develops into that guy. Both Hope and Dortch redshirted in 2012 and will be seeing their first college football action in September. Dortch was pretty solid in man coverage during the spring game, despite being picked on early and often by quarterback Stephen Morris.

Safety

Rayshawn Jenkins (Sophomore)
AJ Highsmith (Senior)
Deon Bush (Sophomore)
Nantambu-Akil Fentress (Junior)

Ray Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque were supposed to form a devastating tandem at safety, but both are no longer with the team. Bush and Highsmith (a former high school quarterback) got the bulk of the starts last year, and, although they steadily improved, need a lot of work to be dependable starters. Jenkins got the start in Miami’s final two games and has shown flashes of being a true playmaker at the safety position.