While the Hurricanes’ offense has struggled at times early on, the defense has been dominating, thanks in part to the defensive line, which has shown early on that it is one of the best units in the country.
The reason that the defensive line may be among the best in school history can be directly attributed to their depth. The Hurricanes rotate several different linemen in and out of the game, which keeps everyone fresh without much of a drop-off in talent. This is why Head Coach Larry Coker thinks the d-line has endless potential.
“We have depth there, a lot of guys can come in and play, so I definitely think the sky is the limit for those guys,” Coker said.
The defensive line’s dominance starts with ends Baraka Atkins and Thomas Carroll. They combined for nine tackles and two sacks in the first two games, but their contributions go beyond that. They have been in the opposition’s backfield constantly, disrupting the quarterback’s timing and forcing errant passes.
In addition, the Hurricanes have three very good defensive tackles that play considerable minutes. Orien Harris, Kareem Brown, and Santonio Thomas all have NFL potential. Each weighs right around the 300-pound mark and is essential to the run defense. They clog up the middle and find ways to rush the passer. They have combined for nine tackles and one and a half sacks so far, and the defense held the nation’s top rusher, Ryan Moats, to under 100 yards last week, which was in large part because of these men clogging up the middle.
If the defensive line depth ended there, it would already be a pretty impressive unit. However, the Hurricanes rotate even more guys into the fold. Sophomore defensive ends Bryan Pata and Javon Nanton both see time at the defensive end spot. They provide depth and talent at the end position, while not losing much in production.
Finally, red shirt freshman Teraz McCray, the team leader in sacks with two, and senior Alton Wright both got playing time. McCray had the best game of his UM career against Louisiana Tech, registering two sacks in route to a blowout victory.
If this defensive line is able to rotate eight or nine guys throughout the entire season, the unit will have a chance to be among the best in Hurricanes’ history. There are very few teams in football who have the ability to rotate players like the ‘Canes do.
“They have played awfully well, and that is probably an understatement,” Coker said. “As far as where they are headed, that’s up to us. They are headed in the right direction and if they don’t lose focus and stay hungry, the sky is the limit for these guys because they can be awfully good.”
If you don’t believe Coker, just ask Florida State.
Darren Grossman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.