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Thursday, September 18, 2008
Improved Miami 'D' strength of young team


Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Come Saturdays, college football suddenly becomes a lot easier for Miami standout freshman linebacker Sean Spence.
That's right, easier.

Of all the things this talented teenager is still adjusting to, Spence said practices are at the top of the list. How much harder is football during the week?

"A lot harder," said Spence, who has two tackles for a loss of 14 yards. "Our practices are very high-tempo; [we] run everywhere."

It's paying off, though, when it counts. Miami's defensive front is more dependable than it was a year ago, and that's important for a young team trying to grow up quickly on offense behind rookie quarterback Robert Marve.

Part of the improvement can be attributed to more depth, healthy players and a mix of core veterans and talented newcomers. But those within the program also give a lot of the credit to former Kansas assistant Bill Young, who was hired as defensive coordinator.

Spence said Young is making "the right calls at the right times."

"They break film down to the tee," Spence said. "The scout players are giving us a great look, so when it turns over to the game, it's easier for us. It's not like a Chinese fire drill out there. Everyone knows what they're doing."

Junior linebacker Colin McCarthy gauged the improvement by comparing what the Hurricanes did against Florida to what they didn't do in a 51-13 loss Oklahoma in 2007. They allowed the Sooners 5.6 yards per play, and 411 yards of total offense. In their 26-3 loss to Florida, Miami held the Gators to just nine points in the first half and 89 total rushing yards.

"Just with the scheme that coach Young has brought in, you can see the difference," said McCarthy, who has nine tackles and one forced fumble. "We're blitzing a lot more, we're disguising things a lot better, and I think everybody on the defense knows what's going on. People know what they're supposed to do and can make plays."

Miami enters Saturday's game at Texas A&M with the No. 3 scoring defense in the conference, allowing Charleston Southern and Florida a combined average of just 16.5 points per game. The Canes are also No. 2 in total defense, allowing 235.5 yards per game. Possibly the most impressive, though, has been the rushing defense, with an average 69 yards.

"They've done a great job," coach Randy Shannon said. "... Right now it's our strength. We know that. Anytime you've got a bunch of young guys on one side of the football, the other guys have to carry the load. Usually defense carries the offense for a time until they catch up. And they will catch up."