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Analyzing future of UM defense, with views from evaluators; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins


Much of the UM fan focus has centered squarely on defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, who isn’t going anywhere barring a surprising change of heart by Al Golden. The biggest concern is not coaching but personnel, with worrisome issues already arising on next year’s projected depth chart.

On a defense that’s already deficient, UM will lose three of its top four defensive tackles, end Shayon Green (who was very productive until recently) and might lose junior linebacker Denzel Perryman, who said Tuesday he hasn’t made a decision about turning pro.

One recruit was quoted as saying UM coaches have said they expect to lose a junior linebacker to the pros, presumably Perryman.

Junior end Anthony Chickillo hasn’t made a final decision about his future, but his father believes he’s likely going to return for his senior year.

Those expecting a significant defensive improvement next season are likely to be disappointed, recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said.

“The defense could struggle again next season and give up chunks of yardage,” Blustein said. “Linebacker is not deep. They need to add junior college tackles that can come in immediately and play [California-based Michael Wyche will be one]. They’re teetering on basically the same situation next season. In two years, they will be in the BCS mix, a 10-11 win team.”

As one UM insider said, UM’s defense has nobody who does anything extraordinary, nobody who’s a consistent game-changer.

“Their biggest talent void is up front; they’re getting controlled on the line,” former UM assistant coach Don Soldinger said. But “they also need a guy in the secondary that’s a big-time guy like Antrel Rolle, that will lay the wood. They need a big-time linebacker.

“They have one guy at each position, but they don’t have two or three. It bothers me, because it doesn’t look like they’re in the right spots. They need guys that can run better. Their linebackers can’t make plays downhill; they’re too much east and west.”

Besides speed, UM also covets more size. The UM staff aspires for this unit to look more like a top-caliber SEC defense.

Buzz on where UM stands defensively beyond 2013:

### Defensive line: Tackle is a huge concern, with Curtis Porter, Luther Robinson and Justin Renfrow leaving. Olsen Pierre is the only proven player returning.

That’s problematic, because Earl Moore and Corey King “aren’t guys that can play at Miami,” said Elite Scouting’s Charles Fishbein, a local recruiting expert who’s close to the UM program. UM people tell us Jelani Hamilton also has been a disappointment, needs to get mentally tougher and apply what he’s being taught.

If the 277-pound Chickillo returns, “he either has to lose weight and stay at end or bulk up and move inside,” Fishbein said. UM is using him at both spots but he seldom gets a chance to rush on third down.  

Golden and D’Onofrio raved about junior Ufomba Kamalu on Tuesday, and Golden said he projects as an end next season. He’s big (6-6, 285), “has a great skill set,” and can rush the passer, D’Onofrio said.

Fishbein believes a trio of four-star UM oral commitments --- defensive linemen Travonte Valentine, Anthony Moten and Chad Thomas --- can be big contributors immediately, though Soldinger said that’s an awful lot to expect from freshmen defensive linemen.

And this is worrisome: The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Tuesday that “the Tigers appear to be in very good position” to lure Valentine away from UM. (The writer of that piece also reportedly predicted LSU would land Artie Burns last season, which didn't happen.)

Valentine's coach at Hialeah Champagnat, Mike Tunsil, told me Valentine will visit LSU, Alabama and then Miami in January and that “right now he’s committed to UM,” but wouldn’t speculate on where he believes Valentine will end up. He did say that Valentine threw up the U sign at a game last week. He said Valentine is focused on his playoff game this week and “getting qualified” academically.

If Valentine comes to UM --– and he previously de-committed from Louisville and UF –-- then “these guys [Valentine, Moten, Thomas] are going to be better than what they have or anyone they’re losing,” Fishbein said. “There is not a guy on Miami’s defensive line who will play in the NFL except Chickillo. Valentine and Thomas have first-round talent. Valentine at 6-4, 320, is more physically impressive than anyone Miami has, and he moves like a running back.

“Moten has an NFL sized body, too, physically very imposing. Athletically, what he can do is scary. He’s the perfect 3-4 defensive end, and you won’t need as many d-linemen in a 3-4. That’s why I think next year they will be better defensively. And in two years, it will be very good.”

But Blustein disagrees. He said Valentine needs to get in better shape, and “next year, you would never compete with those [freshmen] kids. They’ll be manhandled.” Blustein does believe, however, that Miami Northwestern end Mike Smith, another UM oral commitment, will help the pass rush next year if used in measured doses; he could get some snaps at outside linebacker.

### Linebacker: Golden said he wants to play mostly a 3-4 defense “because it allows you to get more speed on the field at linebacker and attack more.”

A lot that happens with this unit next season hinges on whether Perryman returns; Golden made clear he needs another year of development.

Though freshman Al-Quadin Muhammad is listed as a defensive end, Golden said Tuesday he also envisions him as a natural 3-4 outside linebacker, along with Tyriq McCord.

But one reason Muhammad hasn’t had as much impact the past month is that he needs to expand his pass-rush moves, a UM official said. Both he and McCord also need to bulk up and develop against the run. Muhammad, who weights 240 pounds, “can be 252 next year,” Golden said.

Senior Jimmy Gaines, whose physical limitations have been painfully obvious the past three games, will be replaced in 2014 by Raphael Kirby, a gifted athlete who finds himself out of position at times and has just five tackles all season. “I like Kirby – he will have to take over for Jimmy [in 2014],” Golden said.

Four-star freshman Jermaine Grace has been limited almost entirely to special teams, and at less than 210 pounds, doesn’t project as a starter next year. “He can help us on third down,” D’Onofrio said. “We’ve asked him to put on weight.” But he's not ready to be the high-impact player some expected.

The hope is that Alex Figueroa emerges over the more limited Thurston Armbrister for another starting linebacker job next year. But Figueroa is injured, and Golden said Armbrister and senior Tyrone Cornelius have outplayed him.

There’s no four- or five-star linebackers in this 2014 UM class. Three-star Juwon Young and Terry McCray are pretty good prospects; LSU is making a serious push for McCray.

### Safety: UM expected more from Deon Bush (not running as well since hernia surgery in June) and Rayshawn Jenkins (three picks, but only 31 tackles).

The concern, especially with Jenkins, is that he’s “not affecting anyone going across the middle,” a UM insider said. “Receivers feel comfortable going across the middle against our safeties. There’s no violence in the secondary.”

Bush made two highlight-reel tackles in last year’s Virginia Tech game and has done nothing like that this season.

Jamal Carter and perhaps incoming Trayone Gray will replace departing AJ Highsmith and Kacy Rodgers, who have struggled.

### Cornerback: Should be UM’s deepest and best defensive position in 2014 with Tracy Howard, Artie Burns (coaches love him; see first-round type talent), Ladarius Gunter (serviceable), Corn Elder (earning more playing time) and Antonio Crawford (had a bunch of deflections during August practices but not during the season).

Note: We don't touch on every single one of UM's defensive oral commitment in this piece but will in columns this offseason.

Bottom line: UM needs more of its four- and five-star recruits to become high-impact game changers. Too many --- Ray-Ray Armstrong, Vaughn Telemaque, Marcus Forston and others --- have not, at least not consistently.


### One Dolphins player said Tuesday that players were told they could be called out of practice or meetings to meet with BullyGate investigator Ted Wells, but the player said Wells so far has met with a few players without being disruptive or interrupting meetings or practices.

“No time has been carved out of the schedule special for this,” one player said.

### One lineman met with Wells for 90 minutes, a teammate said, adding: “I’m hoping mine will be a lot shorter.”

### Another player, who appeared conflicted, said he was still deciding what he will say to Wells if asked. Players haven’t been told of any consequences if they’re not forthright with Wells.

### Some Dolphins were dumbfounded that Jonathan Martin, still being paid by the Dolphins, was on the sideline for the USC-Stanford game Saturday.

### Amazingly, the six players with the best plus/minus ratios on the Heat (per 48 minutes) entering Tuesday are backups, led by Michael Beasley and Rashard Lewis. And the lineups that have outscored opponents the most are Dwyane Wade and four reserves, and LeBron James and four reserves.

### By the way, James' 13 points (in 31 minutes) against Atlanta tonight tied for the second-lowest regular season total of his Heat career, but it hardly mattered in a 104-88 win. (James had 12 in a February 2011 game against the Clippers.)

### The Marlins have inquired about free agent third baseman Yuniesky Betancourt, 33, a .261 career hitter who hit .212 with 13 homers and 46 RBI for Milwaukee last season.

Betancourt can play every infield position but the Marlins are considering him –-- and several others –-- primarily for third base. His agent, Miami Sports Management’s Alex Esteban, wouldn’t comment on the Marlins’ interest but said Betancourt would have interest in Miami.


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As big a D'Nofrio detractor as I am, I still believe that the talent of the UM defense is deficient. Hard to use any scheme when the players are outplayed across the board. Quite a dilemma.


Defense is usually hat on hat, scheme can hide just so much. Those who think coaching can overcome lack of talent are very much mistaken.


Why even talk about #98 being 252 by next year? He'll be a true Soph, let him be 245 and it be a less drastic increase. Put him in an attacking 3-4 and there wont be a need for him to be over 250 immediately.


So Thomas, Moten, Valentine will get manhandled as FR but Mike Smith won't? Mmkay.

Barry Jackson

That's Larry Blustein's opinion, BPR. He watches high school football locally as closely as anyone, and his assessment of players has been very good over the years. He envisions Mike Smith playing in spots next year, certainly not as an everydown player. But if Earl Moore and Corey King aren't productive, then you'll need Wyche and Moten and Valentine (if he's here) to play a lot at DT.

Steve B

Not fair to judge Moore yet based on his play as a freshman

Randy Shannons' Agent

If Onofrio doesnt lose his job after this season then GoldenAl will certainly be losing his after next season


Soldinger is kissing are to try and get some sort of position with AG...All 4* and 5* that leave Miami and play for other programs excel, yet they stay at Miami and s-ck hairy arse?? and GOD FORBID ONE THINKS IT IS THE CRAPPY SOFT ZONE SCHEME..LOL..TROLLS!!


If they lose Valentine, that will be a horrendous loss. They already lost one 4* JUCO DT this past week. And it's been very disheartening how many 4* and 5* recruits haven't panned out. Tracey Howard is a good player, but I thought he had All America talent. Deon Bush was such a highly rated player but he's been a major disappointment. We all thought Chickillo would be an impact player bombarding the backfield, and that never happened. Denzel has played worse every year he's been here. I don't think he's a Pro talent. Seantrel Henderson was listed as the #1 recruit in the country, and we know what he's produced. Our massive O Line that was supposed to pancake opponents and keep Morris clean has been a C+ at best. Our RB's and WR's have been great. Duke Johnson is everything we expected and more. Gus Edwards is playing well. All o our WR's are good and Stacey Coley has All American written all over him. Clive Wolford is an enigma. But it all starts up front. Our front 7 on D is poor and will continue to be so. The O Line needs to perform as expected. I don't expect much better next season. And if some high schoolers start de=committing, the we have real trouble. Golden better pull out all the stops these next weeks and in a bowl game. They better finish VERY STRONG. That's the only way to keep the recruit excited enough to stick around.


This is cool when looking at the overall development of the program but no excuse when u losing and struggling with teams who have significantly less talent. Either way i will have to put a lot of the u struggles on the coaches. These writers always say how the recruits can help and add good quality depth but forget about the guys on the team that were praised recruits (hamilton, chick, kirby, mccord, howard). No d linemen in this class is ranked higher then chick coming out of hs so why should they develop into top college athletes? The players are putting in the effort but the coaches need to improve seriously.

mother  Ur  momma

word ?

Opposing Offensive Coordinators must be salivating week in and week out the last 3 years watching game film of the Cane Defense. It it the most unaggressive, vanilla, unsophisticated, non blitzing, non stunting, with decent corners 10 yeards off the ball dropping immediately at the snap, with below average Saftey play over the top and just ONE NFL prospect in the front seven. But all that is ok, because they all make up for by being pizz-poor tacklers.

IF, GOD ONLY IF, We would just play across man press with 7 in the box bringing 5 and 6 at a time BANZAI Defense, if only just for 1 First Half, sure we may get a few big hits on us, but I PROMISE we will put FEAR into opposing Offenses causing multiple mistakes, turnovers, short fields and Defensive T.D.s ! No more of the sitback, bend, bend, bend, bend, hope, bend BULL$HEET !!! Do we have the personal to do it ? WHO THE HELL KNOWS !!! WE NEVER TRY IT !!!

but I suppose Penn. State won games the Golden n Dno way, so that is that.

Posted by: willg | November 19, 2013 at 01:25 AM


Here here. That's pretty much all we are asking Coach Golden. Bring the HOUSE not just from time to time. But PREDOMINANTLY. Please Coach. Don't just try it, do it.

BANZAI  []_[]  ?  attack  attack attack on D.   ok ?

but you won't will you Al ? awwwwwe don't blame you. was a different time back then some would say.

see Ur future, be Ur future.

to blitz or not to blitz ?


Look, blame all the players you want. The bottom line is that D'O. can't coach or teach these young men how to play defense. Most of these guys came from winning programs in High School so, what went wrong between then now. Ah, the coach in 3 years he's had time to get this unit together and all we get is lip service from Golden who's covering his a**. Coach D. your a grown a** man admit your in over head and tell your best friend your resigning before he has to fire you. Just look at Auburn last year they were a losing team. They changed coach's and bingo now their a winning team again. You don't win unless you have the right coach's in place. If D'O. and his staff could teach and coach up these young after 3 years you wouldn't be hearing all this BS about the defense.


I dont care what kids they get. Sure we are gettin 3 star recruits (blaming it on ncaa indecision)but its BS because DUKE sure as hell isnt getting 1* recruits!!!If you dont stop with the fricken 10 yd cushion and dont blitz more (DONOFRIO) youre gonna suck for a long time! The biggest help for the D will be when AWFUL MORRIS is finally gone and they can outscore people! And also, having moved out of the OB, weve totally lost all home field adv in that crap stadium. Lastly, in the home of the greatest defensive linemen ever, we havent had one in 10 yrs. Since Wilfork! AND THATS AL COACHING BECAUSE THEYRE PICKING THEM!Get new coaches!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!The fake as* love affair with Golden is over! This is yr 3...not ONE!


This is an amazing article and assessment of the players' potential by the above mentioned experts. I really don't care what is the player's potential as a NFL player. We are talking about college football players performing at the D1 level...period. I am just wondering what is Blustein's and Soldinger's assessment of Wake Forrest, Duke, VT, GT, NC, and Maryland's players respectively.
Coach Soldinger, I respect your evaluation of this talent, but I know if you were the HC this will not be an issue at the U. The players' emotions and attitudes are the reflection of their coach. I am at the games and it is clearly the scheme with this group of players is not a good match...period. The 3-4 is a good scheme, but you better have the horses to run it with a lot of energy. Basically, I am hearing that this coaching staff only knows one way to coach a defense. The excuse for the next 2 years: too young, inexperience, need more size, and the talent level in South Florida is poor.

Manny and Susan, please have the experts around the nation to evaluate the coaching...just as you did with the players.


To a UM grad this is a very disappointing article. Informative though. The talent isn't there, OK . Who recruits the defensive talent? A catch 22. Your not good enough b/c you don't have the talent, are these guys able to ever recruit the defense talent? It's an important question. Even if the talent is not there then why are these players constantly out of position? I have been a huge supporter of coach Golden and while loyalty is an admirable trademark in business (and this is a business) ultimately positive results matter. If some positive results are not seen next year then a reasonable evaluation of the coaching seems in order. From the HC down!!!!


By the way, I hope this article does not get back to the players at the U. I never seen a coaching staff throw his players under the bus, and preaches we are family and we keep the outside things from impacting what we are doing together...inside. Ray Lewis was not a 4 or 5 star recruit; Ed Reed was not a 4 or 5 star recruit; Russell Maryland was not a 4 or 5 star recruit; ....etc! They did not play in a 3-4 system either! Furthermore, Manny and Susan, ask the coaches at VT, GT, Duke, Maryland, Wake Forrest, BC, NCS, and U Of L...what would they do with the talent at the U?


Somebody needs to step in and tell Golden Mark has to go, its no better today same stuff before they came so all their excuses dont mean crap. We dont have the time for Mark to grow mentally, why doesnt the school do something at end of season, fans and money will slow up, plenty of much better coachs available at end of year. Goldens buddy or pal and DB coach have to go, stop blaming the athletes same when Randy was here with better results. AD Blake needs to address or higher cant have this idiot next year we will fix it, you cant fix stuoid.


The fans and stands will be worse next year, schedule a lot more difficult, all we will hear is to young we can fix it, they cant fix it and guess what they will always be young just like other teams, look at the rest of ACC and other teams. People wake up in south florida or be the joke of ACC, Duke will shut us out next year. We are not improving we are going into a backward slide, only a experience defense coach can correct, not Temple or PSU grads.


*** If the 277-pound Chickillo returns ? ***

"IF" ? And where would he be going ? Is there a new European League ?

Chris H. '88

Here the bottom line. Golden has had some good 3 and 4 Star gets in recruiting over the years. He has some really nice 3-4-Stars this year. But less than half his classes are ALWAYS filled with those guys. The real problem is how he's filled out those classes. Say he gets 8 or 9 solid 3-4 Star kids that can play and were also recruited by other top programs. But when you round out those classes with 10-12 UNRANKED and 2 -Star PROJECT kids that not ONE, ZERO, ZIP, NADA Top-30 program offers, that's going to show up on the field eventually. Sure you need a few of those types of kids each year to experiment with. But maybe 1-2, not nearly half your class with 8-10 of them. And before anyone researches past classes, I assure you, there were 8-10 unranked and 2-Star kids, each recruiting year, that were elevated to VERY LOW 3-Star kids by the Recruiting websites so fans would pay the $9.99 a month and read articles how these Unranked and 2-Stars (elavated to barely 3-Stars, that NO TOP PROGRAM would even sniff, could be future "Top" players for Miami. (In fantasyland)... When more than a THIRD of your teams roster is comprised of these type of lacking good-elite talent players, and you keep bringing in 8-10 a year, it will show as a huge lack of Top Talented Depth and mediocrity will eventually, when injuries occur, on the field. Always has, always will. And EVERY TEAM gets injuries. It's the top programs, with the Elite players and depth that overcomes them.

Or to quote one who knows...

*** As one UM insider said, UM’s defense has nobody who does anything extraordinary, nobody who’s a consistent game-changer.

“Their biggest talent void is up front; they’re getting controlled on the line,” former UM assistant coach Don Soldinger said. But “they also need a guy in the secondary that’s a big-time guy like Antrel Rolle, that will lay the wood. They need a big-time linebacker.

“They have one guy at each position, but they don’t have two or three. It bothers me, because it doesn’t look like they’re in the right spots. They need guys that can run better. Their linebackers can’t make plays downhill; they’re too much east and west.”

Besides speed, UM also covets more size. The UM staff aspires for this unit to look more like a top-caliber SEC defense.***


Bottom line... If Miami wants to be like an SEC team, they better start signing Top-Talented kids that only other SEC teams offer and round them out with SOLID-Consensus 3-Star kids that others offer as well and not the 10-12 projects that Golden is bringing in yearly that the #50-#75 Schools are battling for year to year... That's the Formula. Miami needs better ingrediants and lots of them.

Barry Chitwood

Yes, UM has a lack of talent on defense but the coordinator's scheme consistently cedes ten yards on many downs.

Lt. Lois Einhorn

Not that Miami shouldn't (or doesn't) pursue the top prospects in the state but I'm a huge fan of Al Golden's camp system.

That was the first thing he did when he got here, he dropped the fees for the camp way down so that they aren't making money off them but instead get a personal look at the talent in the state - including the lower star prospects.

That was how Miami won all of their championships, by collecting players from Florida that had flown under the national radar.

Maybe they have too many of those guys and too few four and five star prospects but I'm not against recruiting the guys they like from camps on principle.

Lt. Lois Einhorn

I usually give professionals the benefit of the doubt but when it comes to coach N'oD there are three huge red flags.

1. indefensible results. Among the worst defenses in the league last year and Miami just got pasted in three losses in a row by FSU, Va Tech, and DUKE.

2. a seemingly fair and logical criticism of the defense that everyone who watches this team arrives at. The scheme seems like a bad fit, they don't bring pressure and the bend-but-don't-break style seems to negate the abilities of the instinctive and athletic players Miami recruits.

3. the fact that Al Golden reacts completely differently when asked about his BFF (and the best man at his wedding) than when asked about any other topic. For everything else, he's straight up - talking about the losses, players leaving the program, players not developing, he makes no excuses, the buck stops with him.

For his BFF he gets defensive and has all the excuses in the world, "we still don't have enough players", "the players are missing tackles", when asked last week about N'oD he actually said "I wasn't listening when you guys were loving him either".

As if anyone down here has ever loved N'oD or thought he was a good coach.

I'm all-in with Golden but he's either dishonest or delusional when it comes to his BFF.

Reality Bites

So there is no defensive talent and there won't be for several years to come.
We all now there is no coaching talent right this minute.
LOL, the sorry canes want to have an SEC caliber defense.
They will wish it into happening
They will dream it up in the spring and summer
In the fall it will be the same Ibis manure of the past decade. Again and again.
Can't have SEC caliber team with MAC caliber coaches, lol!!!!!!!!!

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