The Miami Hurricanes made great strides in 2013 to making it “back” as one of the premier teams in college football. After an excruciatingly long NCAA investigation finally resolved, the Canes raced out to a 7-0 start before falling apart and losing four of their last six games to close out the year at 9-4. If Miami hopes to make a serious run in the ACC this fall, they need to tighten things up, particularly on defense. Can linebacker Denzel Perryman spark The U by being one of the best defenders in the conference?
Last season, Perryman was a force of nature as he led the team with 108 tackles, including five for loss and 1.5 sacks. He won the team’s defensive MVP award and was named All-ACC first team for his efforts and will be sliding inside to the middle linebacker spot this fall where he will be at the center of everything. Many have pegged Perryman as a preseason All-American for 2014 and he may have to be if Miami hopes to go toe-to-toe with the heavyweights of the ACC next season.
The Hurricanes were hurt last season by their defense, which struggled to contain opposing offenses late in the season. After winning their first seven games, the Canes dropped three straight where they allowed 41 points or more to the Florida State Seminoles, Virginia Tech Hokies, and Duke Blue Devils. That slide essentially ended their ACC title hopes and was a preview for the team’s 36-9 shellacking at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals in the Russell Athletic Bowl to finish the year.
Overall, the Canes finished No. 89 in the country in total defense last season and No. 66 in scoring defense. To make a run at the ACC title in 2014, they have to be better on the defensive side of the ball. Any hope of improvement defensively, however, rests squarely on the shoulders of middle linebacker Denzel Perryman. If he rises to the challenge and emerges as an ACC defensive player of the year candidate, the Canes have a chance to shock the world.