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Virginia Tech Football: What To Expect From The Miami Defense

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We take a look at a Miami Hurricanes defensive unit that is much improved from a season ago.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Coordinator: Mark D'Onofrio

Scheme: 4-3

Scoring Defense: T-53rd nationally (24.4 PPG)

Passing Defense: 10th nationally (175.9 YPG)

Rushing Defense: 56th nationally (151.57 YPG)

Front Seven:

Senior linebackers Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister lead the Hurricanes front seven unit. Perryman tops Miami in tackles with 51, and has also added a sack and an interception. Armbrister has set the standard in sacks for the 'Canes with five, and chipped in 39 tackles. Fellow defensemen Raphael Kirby and Tyriq McCord have combined for 53 tackles and three of the teams seven interceptions, including a pick six for McCord against Cincinnati on October 11th.

Defensive tackle Anthony Chickillo, is a third generation 'Cane, and one of the unquestioned leaders on defense for Miami. He has registered 26 tackles in 2014, most on the team's front four. Ufomba Kamalu is a solid contributor in the middle along with Chickillo, and has recorded three quarterback sacks and 20 tackles this season. The Hurricanes run defense is in the median of college football at 56th, but will be facing an injury riddled Hokies backfield that rushed for only 26 yards against Pittsburgh last week.

Secondary:

The Miami secondary has helped a pass defense that finished 91st in the country a season ago rebound into a top 10 unit in 2014. Through seven games Mike D'Onofrio's group has limited opponents to 175.9 yards per game through the air -- down from 249.8 in 2013. The Hurricanes defense has also intercepted opposing quarterbacks seven times, including two from cornerback Ladarius Gunter.

The 6'2", 195-pound Gunter uses his size and physicality to shut down opposing receivers, and he has recorded 15 tackles along with his pair of interceptions this season. Sophomore, and Miami native Artie Burns plays across from Gunter as Miami's other cornerback, and excels in man-to-man coverage for the 'Canes. Also an accomplished track and field star, Burns uses his speed and athleticism to contain opponents speedy receivers. Burns presents an interesting match up against Virginia Tech's speedy freshman receiver Isaiah Ford this Thursday.

Junior strong safety Deon Bush leads the Hurricanes secondary in tackles with 36, already surpassing his total of 31 in 2013. Bush perfectly blends his speed and 6'1", 200-pound frame, and has a nose for finding the ball despite not recording an interception thus far this season. Senior Nantambu Fentress has 22 tackles on the season, and recently supplanted junior Dallas Crawford at the free safety position.

Special Teams:

The bulk of the Miami return game is handled by sophomore wide receiver Stacy Coley. He has returned 10 punts for 91 yards and 14 kickoffs for 342 yards for the Hurricanes in 2014. Freshman kicker Michael Badgley has taken over field goal duty following an injury to junior Matt Goudis. In five games Badgley has converted five of six field goals attempts, and 19 of 21 extra point tries. Sophomore punter Justin Vogel has punted 28 times and has a season average of 44.46 yards per punt.

Outlook:

Virginia Tech will need to depend on freshman running back Marshawn Williams being able to return to form after an ankle injury in order to make progress against the Miami defense. If the Hokies have to rely on the running back by committee that played last week in Pittsburgh, the results are unlikely to improve. Michael Brewer and the receiving corps are capable of driving the ball down the field, but will be faced with a second top 10 pass defense in as many weeks, this time in the form of an improved Hurricanes defensive unit.