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This is from the Miami Herald
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
When UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio was asked at a Canes recruiting party what he plans to do differently next season, he had four words.
“Get after the quarterback!”
Applause naturally followed. There will be even more applause if, well, it actually happens.
UM spring practice begins next Saturday, and there will be no greater defensive priority than figuring out how to improve a pass rush that produced a meager 13 sacks in 12 games.
Also high on D’Onofrio’s list: Upgrading a run defense that improved in November, when Curtis Porter returned, but still finished 112th of 120 Bowl Subdivision schools.
D’Onofrio has the trust of Al Golden and until last year, a record of fielding generally stout defenses. But last season produced mostly angst: Miami allowed 30.5 points and 487 yards per game, and D’Onofrio faced a torrent of fan criticism.
“It’s something I have to ignore,” he said of fan backlash. “I have to put trust in my training. I’ve called over 85 games. First year I came here, we were in the top 20 in scoring defense. The year before at Temple, we were in the top 20 in scoring defense.”
Last year, he had a young group (Brandon McGee was the only senior) and had to overcome injury issues (Porter missed the first eight games), suspensions (Eddie Johnson, Gionni Paul) and the early NFL departures of Olivier Vernon and Marcus Forston.
Despite those impediments, some questioned his philosophy.
One scout said he had no issue with D’Onofrio’s approach, but another scout said he would like to have seen more blitzes, creative pressure packages, and more use of man-to-man coverage (especially bump and run) and less zone.
McGee defended D’Onofrio: “It’s a good system if it’s executed. All Coach D can do is the make the calls. We had mental breakdowns, guys not getting deep enough in coverage.”
D’Onofrio blitzed some, but not a ton, because he didn’t want to put his young secondary at risk and “you have to figure out the risk/reward. It comes down to putting guys in situations they’re ready for….
“I don’t know if the casual fan understands the depth of what we’re doing. There’s not a coverage we don’t have. We pressure a lot of different ways; I probably ran five different safety pressures last year. I’ve never been so stubborn that I say, ‘This is what we do.’ It’s about the players and what can they do well. I never get boxed in and say, ‘This is our scheme.’
“If you’ve got corners that can play press and play it well and the situation dictates it, that’s great. Press man is tremendous and we run it. [But] you can’t press every down because it doesn’t make sense. If the receivers are going to run your corners off and they have their back turned to the ball and the run pops, you’re playing with two less guys… At the end of the game, we’ve got to be able to make plays.”
One thing D’Onofrio wants to do differently: Play fewer players. He said UM used 25 to 27 a game on defense last season. “We have to get to the point where it’s not quite that many. If it’s 18 or 19, there can’t be that much of a dropoff from the first 11.”
Here’s how he plans to address other issues:
### Pass rush: UM doesn’t want to put all the pressure on Anthony Chickillo, who faced frequent double teams and saw his sacks drop from five to four. But more is obviously needed.
“Everyone wanted him to play like a senior, like he’s supposed to all of a sudden have 10 sacks as a sophomore,” D’Onofrio said. “That’s not realistic. He continued to improve.”
Equally important is getting more pass rush from the other end spot. Here’s the conundrum: Shayon Green led UM with 67 tackles but had no sacks. D’Onofrio conceded “it will be awful, awful hard to knock him out of the [lineup]” because of his “toughness, leadership, the way he plays.” But unless Green improves as a pass-rusher, that also means conceding that you're not going to get much of that from one of your starting ends.
So the pressure will again fall on the young ends: promising Tyriq McCord, who had 3.5 sacks, and Jelani Hamilton, who played sparingly in five games while rounding back into form from an ACL injury in high school.
“Jelani is getting stronger, starting to blow up,” D’Onofrio said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him in the spring.” There’s also hope that Olsen Pierre (1.5 sacks) can produce more pressure from a tackle spot.
And D’Onofrio expects immediate pass rush contributions from newcomers Al-Quadin Muhammed (12 sacks last season) and junior college transfers Devante Bond (17 sacks) and Ufomba Kamalu (7.5 sacks). “Those guys can get to the quarterback – that’s their expertise,” D’Onofrio said.
### Stopping the run: It all starts with Porter, who must stay healthy. He and Pierre formed a capable tackle duo in November, and having “Jimmy Gaines healthy at mike linebacker helped a lot, too,” D’Onofrio said.
But behind Porter and Pierre, UM needs growth from Luther Robinson (“he really played well for us the second half of the year,” D’Onofrio said), Jalen Grimble, DeQuan Ivery, Earl Moore and Corey King. D’Onofrio said Kamalu may end up playing tackle, too.
Besides needing to get stronger physically, “the group has to hold each other accountable that it’s not OK for a guy to be out of their gap and freelance,” D’Onofrio said. “It’s not just the coach out there going crazy, but a teammate that gets himself angry at another teammate.”
Things that I like:
Not rotating as many players. I said this last year that it was a year the coaches decided that we needed to get a lot if players field time because we were so young. There were players that weren't ready, but forced to play because our secondary was so empty. And the injuries and suspensions really hurt our LB core.
I'm training players for the NFL Combine and I talked to a player from K State and he said Miami's back seven was very undisciplined and made a lot of mistakes. That's what happens when you have mostly 1st and 2nd year players back there.
I like the part about players being accountable to each other. This is what happens as the team gains more veteran leadership. I think having kids in their 3rd and 4th year playing will have a major impact this year.
I'm liking what I'm hearing but at the end of the day you've gotta walk the walk...we play in the 2nd worst conference where we are the 3rd most talented team (behind Clemson & FSU) there is no excuse to not have a Top 25 Defense
D'Onofrio says the pass rush will be better which I believe w/ Bond, but its a big yr. for our Defense
I will wait right now, I am reserved on all the Talk, He has some pieces to work with I for one want to see Jelani. I think he has the size and if he can return to the form he had as a Junior in High School he will do fine. He really needed to get stronger in order to disengage with the OL.
Pierre and Porter and some of the other DT's have to make more of and impact this year to help the DE's. Coach D has to call better plays with the guys we have coming in AQM and Bond and Kelamu.
Good thing is there's potential but we have never seen it so we have to wait
Idk know about coach D schemes and coverages. When a opposing quarterback ( K- State) can call what your going to run and light you up, then there is real problem. His scheme made every quarterback damn near player of the year. Even GT quarterback lit us up. Coach D has the support of Golden so I will support him, but he seems like he's the one confused.
I'm with u when it comes to Jelani, Red. Truly believe Jelani wasn't even 75% recovered from knee injury. Whenever he heals completely watch out!
This was the side of the ball to watch for me during Spring ball. The depth chart across the board is pretty much up in the air. Seems like we maybe in for a defensive spring camp this year..watch out
Envy the past, Fear the future
Not sure if serious.
Golden is better then Jimbo... I feared it was true. He is going to hoist a crystal ball there - fsufsu
Top 25 is not unrealistic lamp but I agree that's a major jump for a team that was 118th out of 120. My thing is we don't have an identity besides running a really soft and hole filled zone
He isn't like most of our fans they see what they want, they assume that our great defenses were laden with freshman-sophomores...if they would take the time and watch old games you will hear a common theme: Senior/Junior players making plays!
Good article...gotta have faith
King, it is really un-realistic to assume we should have a top 25 D. I'm going to totally honest, I don't see the edge rushers and DB play to even give me a warm and fuzzy that we will be close to top 25. Now this is pre-spring, a lot can change, but as of now it makes no sense to assume we make a quantum leap into the top 25.
Blasphemy! This is the U, we should have true freshman dominating for day one....lmao!
I see it more as improbable rather than unrealistic. Unlike some posters who seem to think freshman are supposed to dominate from day 1 each year and we can mix and match schemes like u would do on a video game, my main issue is we dont run enough man and really have no true identity to field a top 25 defense.
I think we see a huge improvement on D. I've been saying for some time that we will see a Hybrid defense of a 3-4 which some jump and get upset over but it's still a 4-3 it's just has some elements of a 3-4. The reason being is that I think we will see guys like Chick and Umfoba playing the two outside guys (meaning they play the DE and have a NT between the two) with rotations of others across the whole line. Remember the staff liked Ufomba because he can play inside and the guys could hold their on playing those positions. The OLB's will be at the line of scrimmage to make it seem like there's 5 guys. What this does is confuse the Oline on who's coming and guys like Bond, AQM, McCord and etc can rush the qb or they will drop out in coverage. The staff can be alot more aggressive and create havoc. We may only see this on 3rd downs because that's when we have the pass rush package but regardless even in a traditional 4-3 we will finally have options to get after the qb which will allow our DB's to play more aggressive and jump routes which will lead to turnovers and more failed 3 downs for the opposition. I'm pumped for the D because Coach D has a track record of making huge improvements after struggling, the first year he had a solid D and that was with many suspensions and injuries but even then our issue was 3rd down. This will be the first year since he's been here that we have depth at all 4 DL positions if they chose the traditional 4-3 and the 3-4 Hybrid will make it easier for guys to get pressure if we get hit with the injury bug again.
This post was edited by dukejuke9 17 months ago
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