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By Alex Donno

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – During the glory days of Miami Hurricanes football, it was all about SPEED. Receivers would burn opposing corners. Miami’s linebackers and safeties would fly from sideline to sideline.

Head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz have worked tirelessly in recruiting to bring some of that speed back.

Diaz was asked about his defense’s speed after Wednesday’s practice: “We feel like we can run pretty good,” he responded. “Sometimes ‘speed’ goes into speed of thought. The more they know what they’re doing out there, the faster they will play.”

When Diaz discusses ‘speed of thought,’ he should see plenty of improvement in that area. His system has been in place for a full year, and all three of his starting linebackers return.

Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney, and Zach McCloud all started a year ago as true freshmen. They return as veterans.

Quarterman looked intense after Wednesday’s practice. He didn’t crack a smile during his media scrum.

He notes everyone looking “better now than this time last year,” with experience playing a big factor.

“We’ve got a lot of guys coming back (this year),” Quarterman said, “and that leads to more efficiency. So we’re just grinding it out.”

Quarterman was asked how big a jump Miami’s defense can take this season. Keep in mind, Miami’s D ranked 6th in tackles for a loss, 14th in scoring defense, and 26th in total defense a season ago. Those numbers were very good, but Quarterman thinks they can be better.

“Monumental,” he said, on how big a jump the Canes can make. “With the great coaching staff that we have, as long as we buy into the process, we can jump as far as we want to jump.”

In regards to last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl victory, Miami’s first bowl win in a decade, Quarterman says: “Russell Athletic Bowl, we’re trying to go to something way bigger than that.”

To Quarterman, the Canes “haven’t really accomplished anything. We want a ring. As long as we don’t have that, we haven’t really done nothing.”

Miami continues fall camp with day three on Thursday morning from Coral Gables.


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