Aside from forcing seven more turnovers than it did the season before, the Miami Hurricanes defense broke school records as it went backward in 2012.
Mark D’Onofrio’s defense couldn’t get to opposing quarterbacks often (13 total sacks), couldn’t stop the run (ranked 112th out of 120 FBS teams), couldn’t stop the pass (102nd) and gave up a lot of points (30.5 per game).
“I’ve seen a big improvement,” D’Onofrio said Thursday after the team’s final spring practice. “Particularly the first group and the guys that rotated in with that group. There’s16 or 17 guys that in scrimmages we really used with the first group and rotated in. And then we had a second/third group. I really felt that first-team group really improved. We need more guys to get into that group, we need to get up to 22 where we feel good about the two-deep without a drop-off.”
D’Onofrio’s defense, also restocked with talented freshman linebacker Alex Figueroa and a few budding young stars in the secondary who went through growing pains last season, hopes to put that improvement on display during Saturday’s BankUnited Spring Game at Sun Life Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
For fans, the fun will begin earlier. Parking lots open at noon and fans can enter the stadium through Gates F, G and H a half hour later for a special select-a-seat event. The best available season tickets for next year’s seven home games will go on sale as well as parking. An autograph session with the team will run from 1:15 p.m. to 2 p.m. on the north side, 100 level concourse area. Autograph posters will be provided (fans are asked to bring only one item to be signed).
Quarterback Ryan Williams, who has spent the spring fighting off Gray Crow for the backup quarterback job, will start for the White Team. Incumbent starter Stephen Morris will quarterback the Orange Team, loaded with most of the starters.
“I’ve just been focused on the No. 1 job, not really the two,” Williams said Thursday after his team’s final practice. “I’m not settling for the backup spot. For me, I’m really competing with [starter] Stephen [Morris] every day.”
Golden said the game “won’t be a situation scrimmage” like the other two scrimmages have been. But he will decide where drives will start. As for the rosters, Golden said he is eager to see some intriguing matchups.
“It’s easy to say ones vs. ones. But then I really won’t know where some of the twos are at,” Golden said. “I have to see if some of the twos can play with the ones.”
However Saturday’s scrimmage ends, D’Onofrio said he feels good about his unit.
“I’m excited about the maturity of this team,” he said. “We’re really moving in the right direction. I wouldn’t say it’s a finished product because we have to get that bottom level of guys up to speed with the other guys.
“I think what’s happened is our experienced players have played like experienced players. … Shayon [Green], Curtis [Porter], some of the older guys [Anthony] Chickillo, Olsen Pierre. We’re getting a lot of benefit out of those guys being juniors and seniors.”