Eighteen University of Miami football student-athletes will be awarded their undergraduate diplomas…
2003 Outlook: DL
Vince Wilfork (6-2, 350) is considered by many to be one of the best defensive tackles in the country. He has exceptional strength and quickness for a lineman of his size but is looking to shed some weight before the season begins. Wilfork also possesses extreme toughness and a positive work ethic. Coaches have been somewhat disappointed in his ability of not dominating for long periods of time. Expect Wilfork to draw numerous double-teams until other defensive linemen step up into a formidable player. Wilfork should be fun to watch this upcoming season in his first season as a starter.
Santonio Thomas (6-4, 302) is back after playing in just two games last season due to a season-ending shoulder injury. His injury should not be a factor this upcoming season as he worked hard to get back into playing shape. The junior from Glades Central High School in South Bay has a strong upper body that he uses to his advantage in stopping the run. Thomas had an impressive spring and should start at the other starting defensive tackle position. He has played in 15 career games and should be a factor this season if he stays healthy.
Orien Harris (6-4, 294) had a good spring as well and will be in the defensive tackle rotation along with Wilfork and Thomas. Harris had a good season a year ago after filling in for Thomas recording 36 tackles. The former Delaware Player of the Year has shown flashes of his potential and receiving more playing time should help the sophomore grow as well.
Senior Larry Anderson (6-4, 260) and redshirt freshman Kareem Brown (6-5, 250) should be solid backups at defensive tackle. With the primary rotation being Wilfork, Thomas and Harris, a substantial amount of playing time for Anderson and Brown could be hard to come by. Incoming freshmen Nate Robinson, Teraz McCray and Dave Howell all have the potential to be stars at Miami but they are candidates for a redshirt based upon the depth already established at defensive tackle.
The "other" competitive battle going on this spring is at defensive end. John Square, Alton Wright, Thomas Carroll and Baraka Atkins have been working extremely hard for the two starting positions left open by the four graduating seniors. Incoming freshman Bryan Pata should see some time as well.
John Square (6-5, 215) has had an impressive spring. He gets off the line extremely quick and uses great technique in getting by the offensive linemen. Square is looking to gain about 15 more pounds by August. The junior from Houston has improved each year since arriving at Miami. Square had an impressive spring game leading all linemen with four tackles and is looking to lock down the starting right end position.
Thomas Carroll (6-5, 230) is a sophomore from Lakewood, New Jersey. He has the tools to develop into a solid defensive end. For Carroll to be effective he needs to get stronger. Carroll played in six games last season and is looking to contribute more this year. During the spring, he improved on his run stopping abilities but still needs to work on his pass rushing. Look for Carroll to start at the left end position.
Junior college transfer Alton Wright (6-4, 225) also is figuring into the mix at defensive end. Wright was a teammate of tight end Kevin Everett at Kilgore Junior College. He originally signed with Miami in 2000 before going to Kilgore. Wright has great speed, size and quickness. He had a very productive spring after enrolling in January. During his three years at Jones High School in Houston he recorded an impressive 66 sacks including 36 as a junior.
The talk of the spring game centered on the development of Baraka Atkins (6-4, 240). He recorded two sacks during the game, returned a fumble for a touchdown and provided constant pressure on the quarterbacks. The redshirt freshman from Sarasota was widely regarded as one of the nation's top defensive ends out of high school. Atkins has good power and should continue to improve in time.
Incoming freshman Bryan Pata (6-4, 260) from Miami Central should compete for playing time as well. Pata has the potential to be a huge difference maker at Miami. He is an extremely athletic player with a lot of upper body strength. Pata will need to have a good August to figure in the defensive end equation.
Sophomore John Wood was suspended for the final week of spring practice and it does not look like he will rejoin the team in the fall. Sophomore walk-on Javon Nanton has created quite a stir this spring with his hard work and improving his abilities as a pass rusher. He could see some playing time as well. Junior David Williams has been moved from tight end to defensive end and is still learning the position. Incoming freshmen Eric Moncur and Vegas Franklin might be candidates for a redshirt.
The defensive line, although new and inexperienced, has showed promise this spring. This unit has worked extremely hard and has been improving with each practice. Improvement is the key for this group of players. The work ethic seems to be rubbing off on each other as they compete for playing time. Coaches can see the potential; it's just a matter of producing on the field.
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