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'Coach Cook' ready to lead

Go ahead and try to find one. Search UM's roster for defensive players and see if you can locate the go-to veteran, the man with the plan, the ace in defensive coordinator Bill Young's new deck? Is there a senior like Jonathan Vilma, Ed Reed or Sean Taylor to turn to? You probably found a few names you think you can toss out there, seniors like Lovon Ponder, Anthony Reddick or even a young guy with some experience like Colin McCarthy.

But the truth of the matter is when the Miami Hurricanes open their season against Charleston Southern on August 28th, they will not have a reliable, proven star to turn to. Will there be talent? Absolutely. Allen Bailey, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Sean Spence and cast of others could all turn out to be the next great stars at The U. But when it comes to veteran leadership, there is no doubt Miami will need someone from now until then to step forward. And my money is on sixth-year linebacker Glenn Cook to become that guy.

You remember Cook, the 6-foot, 235-pound kid from Hollywood Chaminade who came in with Jon Beason and Tavares Gooden in 2003 and was supposed to be part of that new linebacker trio that Glenn_cook was supposed to star at The U. Well, things -- like injuries -- happened. And just like Beason and Gooden before him, it seems like Cook will inherit the role of defensive leader next season. Coach Cook -- that's what his teammates actually call him -- was supposed to be the leader last year. But a foot injury followed by surgery cost him his senior year at Miami and it cost the Hurricanes too. UM sorely needed him last year and was left to survive with Gooden and a cast of inexperienced young guys. Well, Cook, coming off an 11 start season in 2006 in which he was named Linebacker of the Year on his team, finally got the good news he was looking for Tuesday when the NCAA granted him a sixth-year of eligibility. Consider it good news for the Canes too.

Cook, who spent last season coaching his teammates from the sideline, has probably been the smartest player coach Randy Shannon has had on his defense in the last four years. He picked up the defense quickly when he first arrived at The U. And now it appears he will not only be around to make plays in '08, but he'll also be able to mentor the next guy who looks ready to fill his shoes as resident smart guy on defense -- freshman Sean Spence. While Cook has seen time at outside linebacker this spring (Linebackers coach Michael Barrow likes to work his guys at all three spots just in case), Cook will most likely end up being the starting middle linebacker in the fall. I caught up with him Wednesday and spoke to him for about 10 minutes about his teammates, his role on the team next year and getting that all important letter from the NCAA this week.

“I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous,” Cook said. “I’m just thankful I have another year, that I’m not in the real world and I got another year of college."

Q: Do you feel like you are going to have to lead this defense this year because you have the most experience?
A: "I have the most experience – me and Daryl [Shaprton]. Between the two of us we really got to take the young guys and show them how its supposed to be done. From the film room to practice, everywhere we go, but it’s not going to be a problem with their talent. It’s more about instilling that work ethic to be a Miami linebacker. Between him and me we’ll take that role with the whole defense.”

Q: How did coaching go for you last year? Why did you want to do it? Did the guys actually call you Coach Cook?
A: “They clowned me a little bit about it. They used to call me coach a little bit before last year Glenn_cook_actionbecause I pretty much knew what was always going on. I picked up the defense pretty well. I just wanted to do what I could. I just wanted to be a part of it, help the guys out. Me knowing what’s going on, I just wanted to help the guys be successful. It was a different experience getting to see it from a different perspective, watching every game, just seeing, trying to help the guys from the sideline, giving the guys tips. I learned a lot.”

Q: How is the new defense coming along? Is it different than last year’s?
A: “Everybody has improved. You got a couple guys coming off injuries – me and Reddick. I think our secondary is improving a lot. They’re making interceptions. Chavez [Grant] is doing a lot. But [the defenses] are similar. It gives you an opportunity where you make it or take it. It’s a big risk defense. We’re trying to make big plays, cause big things to happen. We’re trying to dictate what the offense is doing. We’re not going to sit back.”

Q: So, it sounds different. Are you guys more aggressive, taking more chances than last year’s defense?
A: “I think we were aggressive [last year]. But I don’t think we were real confident as a group. I think we had a couple guys here and there that were confident in making plays. But I think overall as a group we weren’t confident with what we were doing. To me, any defense can be great. You can run three D-lineman. It’s just the players and just being comfortable with your group. I think this group we feel real comfortable. We flow off each other.”

Q: So are there different packages, three-down lineman?
A: “It’s variations. I wouldn’t call it a 3-4 package. A lot of things are different. We do a little more zone blitzing than in the past, that’s kind of the basis of it. We’ve put in so much stuff in these last couple of practices.”

Sean_spenceQ: A lot of people have been impressed by freshman Sean Spence and how quickly he’s picked up the defense. Do you see him maybe following in your footsteps, a guy who knows things so well coach will put him in the middle one day too?
"I definitely see Sean as that type of kid. He kind of reminds me of myself when I came in. You are going to make your mistakes because its something new or maybe a little more detailed. But he’s a very smart kid. He picks it up. He understands football, which is key. That’s something you can’t really teach. He picks up little things. I think he’s going to be a great one.”

Q: You said during the first spring practice that Arthur Brown had to work on his fundamentals. Is he improving?
A: “He’s getting better. It’s just a work in progress. I mean he’s definitely improved. He had a good practice today. I think its going to take time with him. Once he understands all the concepts and what we’re doing, he’ll be fine. It’s just a different world from what he’s been doing. I think he’s going to be fine."

Q: Colin McCarthy has missed the spring with an injury. Does it look like when he comes back in the fall, he’ll be ready to roll and where do you think he’ll end up on the weakside or the strongside?
A: “Colin wants to come back and play. We joke around and he’s like man I want to practice. He has a good attitude. I just tell him, get your shoulder stronger. To, me he can [play] both [strongside and weakside]. He’s another good cover guy. He’s also good on the run. For him, it doesn’t really matter. He’ll be somewhere on the outside.”

Q: How is Darryl Sharpton coming along? Where have you seen his improvement?
A: “He’s probably having the best spring I’ve seen him have. He’s flying around, making a whole bunch of plays. I expect him to have a great season. I think his [improvement] has been mental. That’s always been his thing. He’s always been a great player physically. But I think with the new defense he’s worked hard to get it down pact. He’s like another Beason. He gets to the ball. He’s going to fight to get to the ball. He’s just a natural linebacker.”

JUST SO YOU KNOW... HERE'S A LIST OF DEFENSIVE PLAYERS AT UM WITH CAREER STARTS -- Cook has 14 starts, followed by fellow linebacker Romeo Davis with 13. Who is next? Defensive end Eric Moncur has 12. Cornerback Bruce Johnson and safety Lovon Ponder have 11. Safety Randy Phillips has 10. Linebacker Colin McCarthy has nine, Darryl Shaprton has eight and linebacker Spencer Adkins has five as does defensive tackle Antonio Dixon.

** I'll have more from what I gathered from Wednesday's practice later Thursday.