Baker and Banda give takes on defense after first week of spring

Baker and Banda give takes on defense after first week of spring

Stefan Adams
After the first week of spring practice, new defensive coordinator Blake Baker gave his overall thoughts on what he’s seen from his defense.

“I think the energy is good - something we challenge our whole team with is physicality,” Baker said. “That’s something we’ll be known for on both sides of the ball is effort, attitude and toughness. That’s something we challenged them with early and I thought there was a great deal of it today.

“I think, overall, we still have a ways to go. I think we have great leadership but still have to bring some guys up. We’ll find 22 guys that can play at our standard, and we’re still searching for that. But overall, I’m pleased with where they’re at, I like their energy, their effort, their toughness. We can build off those things. We have to continue to get in our playbooks.”

Baker also spent some time breaking down the defensive line. Senior DE Scott Patchan has been working with the first unit and Baker is happy with his performance so far.

“I’ve been really happy with him,” Baker said. “He plays the way the game is meant to be played, knows his assignments. He’s really done a great job.”

Pushing Patchan for a starting role is redshirt freshman Gregory Rousseau and Baker has already seen flashes of brilliance from the young DE.

“He’s been really good,” Baker said of Rousseau. “The Lord blessed him in a lot of ways. He’s got a lot of talent.”

At first team DT, senior Pat Bethel returns the most experience and is impressing Baker so far.

“He’s doing a good job out there. We have to continue to push him, he’s responding very well,” Baker said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised with him the first three days. I really like the competition in that room, think they’ll make each other better.”

On DT Jon Ford, who has worked next to Bethel on the first team, Baker added that “he has great explosion, great length.”

In the secondary, UM is trying to replace three of their four starters from last season and new talent is starting to rise up. The Canes only have four scholarship cornerbacks to work with this spring and Baker admits they need more depth there.

“We are a little bit thin,” Baker said. “It’s an open competition across the board. We’ll see who is going to take it.”

Baker praised junior S Amari Carter and sees him as an early standout on defense; Carter has worked with the first unit all three practices.

“You can really see Amari, he really stands out to me,” Baker said. “He’s not a vocal guy by nature, but has been a lot more vocal on the field. He’s kind of a silent assassin from what I’ve seen. I’m really impressed with him.”

Miami also looking to build more depth at linebacker behind the starters, and Baker is still looking for more from the second unit there.

“We have a ways to go. We have to get those guys up to speed,” Baker said. “They’re talented - we need to get them reps.”

Miami ran the Oklahoma drill to kick off the first day of pads and Baker felt it brought a lot of energy to the practice.

“Coach (Manny) Diaz had to get them motivated to get going a little - it was great energy, great enthusiasm on both sides of the ball,” Baker said. “A lot of stalemates, toughness. It’s fun when he calls out a couple of kickers and quarterbacks, too. It was fun.”

Baker expects safeties Robert Knowles and Derrick Smith to return next week after being held out of practice today.

**Miami ran the Oklahoma drill to kick off the first day of pads and Co-DC/safeties coach Ephraim Banda says it gives the staff an idea of who the toughest players on the team are.

“It brings a lot of juice, they’re circling up on the U,” Banda said. “We’re going to see who is tough. The biggest thing you have to do in this program is prove your toughness to the locker room, not to us.”

Banda’s position group has already taken a hit early on this spring, with Derrick Smith and Robert Knowles dealing with injuries. Today, Amari Carter and Gurvan Hall worked with the one’s, and Banda says it’s Carter that is beginning to standout.

“I see a sense of urgency,” Banda said of Carter. “He had the ability to learn from two really good safeties - I see just his growth. I tell him every day, 'You haven’t done anything. It’s your job to go out and prove it out here.’ He’s proved himself as a tough guy on special teams, which has now opened the door.”

The progression of Gilbert Frierson is one of the spring’s most intriguing stories as he transitions from corner to striker linebacker.

“He’s a big guy who is long and has worked hard in the off-season,” Banda said of Frierson. “We said, 'Let’s see if he can get it done.’ We’ll do that in spring and training camp, experiment. So, we moved him over. He’s done a good job of increasing his urgency and overall toughness.”

What has new offensive coordinator Dan Enos brought to the offense?

“The biggest thing coach (Manny) Diaz wanted to do, he wanted to bring in an offensive scheme that gives defensive coordinator’s headaches, like you want to bang your head on this wall,” Banda said. “As multiple as they can be, what I really enjoy about the staff and coach Enos is the intensity and urgency and toughness and focus on those things that are so important. They do a great job schematically. They’re going to be a problem.”

Comments (28)

Something the defense has to get better at is defending the run. Should not let Wisconsin or LSU run it down our throats at will. Defense should get better overall when Bubba, Hill, Nnoruka, and the incoming freshman get here.
Loved that drill back in the day.gave a few headaches received a few as well.nothing like knocking the crap \snot out of someone on the field.