Here is the second part of my report card from the end of fall camp focusing on defense and coaching.
Grade: D. Chickillo might feel like a one-man show at times this season unless some other guys step up here. UM ranked 68th in run defense last season, giving up 161.92 yards a game. The Canes also produced just 23 sacks, 59th in the nation. By the way, what happened to sophomore Ricardo Williams? Suddenly he's invisible on the depth chart again.
> Linebackers: The return of second-leading tackler and sophomore Denzel Perryman, who has moved over to the middle, should ease the loss of Steelers' third round pick Sean Spence. But there are plenty of questions at linebacker beyond that. Junior Jimmy Gaines (6-3, 232) has been battling an ankle injury from the spring throughout camp and hasn't locked down a starting spot despite being one of the most experienced players on the field. He's currently Perryman's backup. Fifth-year senior Ramon Buchanan (6-1, 228) is back and the starter at weakside linebacker, but it's unclear how effective he'll really be coming back from knee surgery. Meanwhile, a number of other young, inexperienced players are in the mix for playing time. At strongside linebacker, sophomore Thurston Armbrister (6-3, 222), a converted safety, and redshirt freshman Eddie Johnson (6-1, 238) are listed as co-starters. Johnson, however, may have bowed out of the race recently as it appears he could face disciplinary action. Another player in the mix for playing time, sophomore Gionni Paul (6-1, 230) still doesn't appear to be 100 percent healthy after sustaining a knee injury early in camp. It also hurts that true freshman Raphael Kirby, who had been impressing since the spring, went down with what appeared to be a season-ending knee injury. Freshman Gabe Terry (6-3, 215) could see some third down work as a pass rusher.
Grade: C. Without all the injuries, this group might have had a chance to be real good and deep. But there are a lot of questions now heading into the start of the season. If a converted safety all of a sudden is your starting strongside linebacker you have to be concerned.
> Defensive backs: UM signed eight defensive backs in their 2012 class and one -- freshman Vernon Davis -- has already left because of how tough the competition is. While senior Brandon McGee (6-0, 194) was in-and-out of Al Golden's doghouse at times in camp, it appears he's solidified a starting spot at field corner. The other guys who will be at corner with him are all new arrivals with the exception of sophomore Thomas Finnie (5-10, 183), who is battling for the backup job at boundary corner. Junior transfer Ladarius Gunter (6-2, 198) has impressed coaches with his ability to break up passes in camp and is the starter there. Former Miramar High All-American Tracy Howard (5-11, 185) wore a black jersey for most of camp and appears as though he's worked himself into the top three at the position. Freshman Antonio Crawford (5-11, 188) has also flashed and is McGee's backup. At safety, fifth-year senior Vaughn Telemaque (33 career starts) will provide more leadership and experience than anyone at any other position. Junior Kacy Rodgers (6-2, 210) has run with the first team throughout camp alongside Telemaque, but has recently gotten a push from 6-1, 195-pound true freshman Deon Bush, an All-American out of Miami Columbus.
Grade: B. No position has improved more dramatically than the secondary. The results may not be immediate in terms of wins and losses because the talent is so young. But in the long run, Miami should be much improved in the coming years. UM ranked 95th in pass efficiency defense last season and produced just 6 INTs while giving up 16 TDs. My guess is the INTs and defensive pass efficiency rating goes up.
> Coaching: For the first time in a long time there wasn't a single coaching change on the staff at Miami from one season to the next. There hasn't been that kind of stability since the last national championship season of 2001. Having the same offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator two years in a row should help a lot. The question on defense is how much assistant Mark D'Onofrio will use a 3-4 scheme instead of a 4-3 scheme. Considering UM's problems at both linebacker and on the defensive line, it will be interesting to see what combinations D'Onofrio uses. Offensively, the Hurricanes should be able to try and stretch the field more with Morris under center and not Jacory Harris.
Grade: A. With all the Hurricanes have had to deal with in terms of the NCAA investigation, for Golden and his staff to still produce a Top 10 recruiting class and get so many freshmen ready to play in a short amount of time Canes fans have to be ecstatic. Golden and his staff have definitely opened the door up to real competition and position battles. The guys who don't like it have moved on. If Golden can improve on last year's 6-6 record with this young, injured team that still is missing quality players at defensive tackle, he will have done a fine job this season.