CORAL GABLES -- After helping shut down one of the nation's most potent rushing attacks Saturday, Sean Spence was rewarded Monday with his third ACC Linebacker Of The Week Award.
Spence has been the anchor of the Canes' defense all season and has amassed 65 total tackles (10th nationally), 9.5 tackles for loss (seventh nationally) for 35 yards, three sacks for 23 yards and a forced fumble. And in the eyes of his coaches and teammates -- just someone UM couldn't survive without.
"He's the best linebacker in college football, bar none," said UM linebackers coach Micheal Barrow. "He's a guy that is so coachable, so instinctive, he's a leader of this team. He's a guy that anything I tell him to do he tries to do it. Last week I challenged him to try to knock guys back. So he spent all day Saturday doing that.
"He's having a great year not only at [weakside] but at [middle]. He don't complain. He just gets it done. He is what Peyton Manning is to the Colts, that's what he is for us. He has that type of smarts, that type of athleticism. He's a guy that is consistent everyday. I could be like Don King all day talking about him. It's unreal. His parents have done an outstanding job. It's hard to find a kryptonite for him."
If there's been a knock on Spence since the day he put on a Hurricanes a uniform, it's been his size. At 6-feet, 224-pounds he isn't exactly what the NFL is looking for in terms of an every down outside linebacker. But Barrow believes Spence will overcome that and prove his doubters wrong.
NFLDraftScout.com ranks Spence as the seventh-best outside linebacker prospect in the 2012 draft, behind North Carolina's Zach Brown (6-2, 230), Alabama's Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 265), West Virginia's Bruce Irvin (6-2, 245), Nebraska's Lavonte David (6-1, 225) and Oklahoma's Travis Lewis (6-2, 228). Spence, listed at 5-11 accoring to the website, is projected to be a second or third round pick.
"People on the outside talk about his size, but he plays bigger than his size," Barrow said. "When I came out they said I was too small. When Ray [Lewis] came out they said he was too small. Sean Spence is the same thing. He's just a baller. He'll prove everyone wrong. I'm just happy he's here."
So are his teammates.
"Without Sean I don't know where I would be, where anybody else on this team would be," Jacory Harris said. "Sean, he kind of is like the glue to everything. Everyone counts on him on the defense, counts on him as a leader."
Said defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio: "He's a rare player, a once in a lifetime type of guy you coach. There's very few you get an opportunity to coach like that. He's a special player. He's really instinctive, really smart, works really hard, practices really. He's a leader. Keeps a good temper, doesn't get too high or too low. He's just a great player."
According to UM, no other player at a BCS institution has won defensive player of the week honors for their conference three times. Only Mike Taylor, a linebacker at Wisconsin, has won it twice. Spence has 277 tackles, 42.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks and 35 starts in his career.