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October 14, 2004SECONDARY
Entering the Louisville game, the Hurricanes' defense has not allowed a touchdown pass in 18 quarters of football. However, a disruptive secondary is nothing new to the players on the Miami football team. Since coach Larry Coker's arrival at the start of the 2001 season, no team has passed for over 300 yards. In fact, during that 41-game span, the Hurricanes have intercepted 61 passes and limited opponents to a pass-completion rate of just 47 percent. This season, Miami's secondary has held opponents to just 115 yards per game through the air.
The star of the unit is right cornerback Antrel Rolle. His play has been so outstanding this year that his name has even been mentioned for the Heisman Trophy. The team leader in tackles for loss with 4.5, Rolle also has 1.5 sacks, a 47-yard fumble return for touchdown and two pass breakups. At the left cornerback position is Kelly Jennings. The junior has seen extensive action this season as teams avoid throwing towards Rolle at all costs. Leading the safeties is the team's leading tackler Greg Threat. A part-time starter in 2003, Threat has been impressive as a full-timer this season. Against Georgia Tech Threat collected seven tackles to add to his season total of 37. The youngest starter in the secondary is free safety Brandon Meriweather. Only a sophomore, Meriweather has exceptional cover skills and already had 24 tackles.
Heading to Miami, the Louisville secondary has started to look like the type of shutdown unit that defensive coordinator Mike Cassity could have only dreamed of during the preseason. Gone is the unit that allowed an average of 44.7 points per game in last season's final three contests. Though the unit doesn't produce a great number of turnovers, the Cardinals' defense has been talented enough to help produce two shutouts in the season's first four games. The unit is a lead by a pair of seniors - J.T. Haskins and Kerry Rhodes. A team captain, Rhodes has 14 tackles and his tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Haskins has surfaced as the hard-hitter of the group and is fourth on the team in tackles and also has a sack to his credit.
The two seniors have also received help along the way from secondary teammates Antoine Sharp, William Gay, Antoine Harris and Early McCray. A transfer from the University of Florida, Sharp has been the most consistne of the aforementioned. One of the team's top cover defenders, Sharp intercepted a pass against East Carolina and also has two fumble recoveries on the season. As a collective unit, the Louisville secondary has allowed 179 yards per game through the air this season.
THE EDGE: Miami