Watching a bad defense is, as my old friend Jim Mandich (RIP) would say, “like watching a bunch of baby seals being clubbed.” Well, not to offend any of you that may be members of PETA, but last year there were a lot of seals getting clubbed. Miami’s defense was ranked 116th overall in the nation. They were 112th against the rush, and 102nd against the pass. Hey, they only gave up 30.5 ppg, which ranked them 82nd, if that helps. The bottom line is: the defense was pretty much horrible.
A lot of you wanted Mark D’Onofrio’s posterior on a plate. I get your anger. I’ve been around a lot of college football, and from what I’ve seen, inside the program, when things aren’t going well, in most cases, it’s the players, not the coaches who are at fault. Yes, despite the fact that the number of stars next to a kid’s name isn’t important, recruiting the right players is. Kyle Wright may have been the Gatorade National Player of the Year, but that didn’t help much when he spent as much time in the film room as I did. You see my point. One thing I know for sure, last year, and the year before, and the year before, and…well you get my drift, when I walked on to Greentree, it didn’t look much like a real defense, as far as size goes. That has changed — drastically.
The defensive unit has gained over 150 pounds as a unit, and they needed to. It’s nice to see linebackers that look like linebackers and not like safeties. It’s even better to see defensive tackles that don’t just look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, but like big, mean, biscuit-eating hole pluggers. I think we are finally at the point where size is not the problem (my wife may disagree).
All pre-season, we’ve been hearing about the strength and size the defense has put on. We’ve heard about the experience this team now has. They are “mature now,” has been the mantra. That’s great, but will it show on the field?
Size and experience are great, but I want my defenders, especially my back seven to be smart. LBs need to know where to be before the RB breaks through that first hole. DBs need to be in the head of the receivers. Yes Ed Reed was one of the most physically gifted football players we’ve had, but he was also one of the smartest, as was Vilma and the rest. When we were winning, we didn’t just recruit athletically gifted players, we recruited football smart players. Sure there were some, not mentioning any names, that you’d have a problem carrying a conversation with, but when they got on the field, something clicked. For others, it never clicked. Did I really watch Lance Leggett duck away from a pass? #SMH .
I want to believe this defense will be better than last year’s. The good thing is, that since I think the offense is going to be prolific, as much as a pro-style offense can be, so the defense only has to be decent for this team to be special. The defense just can’t let games get away. Of course, last year the defense faced five of the top 50 scoring offenses in the nation. That won’t be the case this year. That automatically helps things.
Every night, when I’m hosting shows on The Ticket (TRY THE NEW FM STATION 104.3…my voice sounds really sexy in stereo), I get phone calls (786-360-0790), texts (6-7-9-7-4), and tweets (@MiamiRadioBeast) asking me if I think the defense will be better. I give people my honest opinion: How can it not be? I mean it’s really hard to know how this defense will be with out seeing it. I know I keep saying it, but even though the media gets more access than you guys reading this, we never get to see any team drills at all. I know Denzel Perryman looks really good in the ball strip drills and that Tracy Howard looks really fast in his back pedal drills. Curtis Porter looks mean when he hits the sled and Artie Burns is fast no matter what he’s doing. I’ve seen all of that. But none of that tells me if they defense can tackle, if the DBs can read the QBs and keep up with the WRs. That doesn’t tell me if Shayon Green has improved his pass rush. It doesn’t tell me whether Porter and Pierre can prevent the OL from making holes up the middle for RBs to run through. Unfortunately, until this unit plays an actual game. And let’s be honest, how much will we really get out of seeing them face FAU. No offense OWL fans. Hoot Hoot. Of course if the defense fails against FAU, I may show up to the Gator game with blinders on.
I think the defense will be better. However, as our old friend and RB coach Don Soldinger used to say: “I’m like Missouri, you better show me bro.”
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