- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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When Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman first came into the program, he was strong enough to bench press 17 reps of 225 pounds.
Now? His max is 425 pounds, and he can bang out 33 reps at 225 pounds.
If all goes well this fall, Perryman will finally be able to show his ACC opponents just how strong he is -- and durable. After an ankle injury derailed his season in 2012, Perryman has a modest goal for 2013:
“My goal is to play all 12 games,” he said. “Keep my ankle healthy and stay healthy.”
There are high expectations for Perryman, who will be one of the veterans on the team this year. He has shown improvement this spring both on and off the field, and he will be needed to continue that progress this fall as one of the quarterbacks of Miami’s defense.
“Denzel has tremendous ability,” said defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio. “He’s got a good attitude, a good mindset. He’s learned how to work. He’s learned how to work off the field, in the weight room. His mental errors this spring are really, really down. He hasn’t made a whole lot, knock on wood. He’s playing fast, and that’s what a junior should do, a guy who’s played a lot of ball and started midway through his freshman year. Last year he got banged up, so it wasn’t quite the year he wanted. I think now he’s got a chance to reflect on it, he knows after two years this is how you do it, and that’s the benefit of playing those young guys. You watch them grow up, and I think he’s growing up.”
Perryman had no choice but to grow up quickly. He played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2011 and started five. Last season, he played in nine games and started six, mostly at middle linebacker. Despite missing three games with an ankle injury he suffered against Bethune-Cookman in Week 3, Perryman finished second on team with 64 total tackles and led with 45 solo stops. He also had six tackles for loss.
Even with that starting experience, though, Perryman was still a young player figuring out the playbook.
“There were times when we were out there, and they’re trying to signal in the defense, and I call the front, and I call the wrong stunt, and Anthony Chickillo or other d-linemen correct me,” Perryman said. “They’ll turn around and say, ‘That’s not right, we’ve gotta run this stunt.’”
Not this spring. Perryman and his teammates have put more effort into studying. They’ve spent time outside their dorm rooms going over plays, watching film, and it’s paid off for the entire defense.
“Everyone is studying and watching film a lot more,” he said. “The plays are starting to become second-nature to guys. Everyone is pushing each other to get better.”
If Perryman can be as strong in his knowledge of the game as he is in the weight room -- and stay healthy all season -- the Canes could have one of the best linebackers in the ACC.
4hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information