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Youthful Canes defense at the midway point of a historically bad season

If you've been thinking this might be the worst Hurricanes defense of all time after just six games -- your eyes are not deceiving you. 

A look at how the 2012 Canes rank among the worst UM defenses of all timeAt the midway point of the 2012 campaign, the Canes are on pace to shatter the school record book for the worst statistical season ever on defense.

They've already given up more points (208) than Larry Coker's team did in his final season as head coach in 2006 (201 points) and they are on pace to give up 416 in total -- 102 more points than UM did in 1984 under Jimmy Johnson and 2008 under Randy Shannon (tied for the current worst all time).

Yards? Take your pick, rushing or receiving. Both records appear as though they will go down easily.

The 1,504 rushing yards given up already are nearly double of what the 1989 national championship team allowed (1,520, 2nd fewest all-time), and should easily surpass what the 1944 Canes allowed (2,492 yards, the current worst) by the time UM is on its way out of Virginia on Nov. 10.

The record for most passing yards allowed -- 2,695 in 2009 -- should end up going down around the same time at Virginia. These Canes are on pace to give up 3,112 yards through the air in all. That's 1.7 miles.

Total yards? Miami has already surrendered 3,060. These Canes should easily crush the record of 4,369 allowed during the 1997 season. Same with first downs. UM's given up 158 of those in six games. The current record is 238 set by the 1997 squad.

Sacks? This UM team is on pace to end up with the fewest in that category too. They've got seven and would finish with 14 -- two fewer than the 1984 team which has the current low of 16 sacks.

Now, before you run down to Coral Gables with pitch forks and ask Al Golden to hand over his best friend -- defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio -- take a deep breath. This is also one of the youngest defenses in the country. I know what you're thinking: No excuses (that's Miami's mantra right?)

Well, for all the armchair defensive coordinators out there complaining D'Onofrio doesn't blitz enough and there is too much cushion in pass coverage (I agree), ask yourself if anyone out there could honestly do a better job with 19 first or second-year players (that would be true freshmen, redshirt freshman or true freshman) on the Canes' two-deep.

Eight of those young guys -- Anthony Chickillo, Corey King, Olsen Pierre, Eddie Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Gionni Paul, Ladarius Gunter and Deon Bush -- are all slated to start against North Carolina Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.

I'm not saying there isn't some talent to work with here or that D'Onofrio deserves a free pass from criticism. But no Canes defensive coordinator in the last five seasons has had to work with so much youth (trust me, I looked it up).

That probably goes for any Canes defensive coordinator since UM started winning national titles.

I'm pretty sure you remember when UM was dominant prior to this sour stretch of football -- sophomores freshmen and redshirt freshmen weren't being counted on to play a high number of snaps. Right now, eight 1st or 2nd year players are starters and 19 of them total are among the 29 players in the two deep. Those are players who all arrived in 2011 or later.

Five-year look

 

Last year, D'Onofrio only had nine players in his two deep of 23 who were 1st or 2nd year players. Only three -- Perryman, Kelvin Cain and Chickillo -- started UM's final regular season game against Boston College.

In 2010, there were only six 1st or 2nd year players in UM's two-deep of 24. Defensive end Olivier Vernon was the only starter in that group.

In 2009, there were 12 1st or 2nd year players in UM's two deep rotation of 26. Four were starters in the bowl game: Vaughn Telemaque, Brandon Harris, Sean Spence and Marcus Robinson. That defense gave up the most passing yards ever in school history.

In 2008, there were also 12 1st or 2nd year players in UM's two deep rotation of 24. Five were starters in the bowl game: JoJo Nicolas, Brandon Harris, Spense, Robinson and Steven Welsey. That 2008 team gave up 314 points -- tied for the most points allowed in Canes history.

I took a look at every depth chart in the ACC as well to see how UM stacks up in terms of youth. Miami is pretty much in a league of its own.

The closest ACC teams with as much youth on defense as these Canes: 

> Clemson has nine players in their 24-man two-deep on defense who are 1st or 2nd year players. Five of them are starters -- all in the front seven. The Tigers by the way rank 71st in scoring defense (27.33 ppg), 96th in total defense (445 ypg) and 102 in rush defense (202.67 ypg) and sacks.

> Boston College has 12 players in their 22-man two-deep on defense who are 1st or 2nd year players. Four are starters. The Eagles rank 82nd in scoring defense (29.0 ppg), 52nd in total defense (416.6 ypg), 117th in rushing defense (259.0 ypg), 35th in pass efficiency defense (115.06), 110th in sacks and have forced 10 turnovers (t-7th in ACC).

> Florida State has 13 of its 26 players listed on the two deep who are 1st or 2nd year players. But only one of them is a starter -- cornerback Nick Waisome. Virginia has 13 1st or 2nd year players on its 26-man two-deep. Three are starters. North Carolina has 14 of 24 players in its two-deep that are 1st or 2nd year players. Only two are starters, both in the secondary.

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