Miami has to bump up sack numbers

One of the biggest spring priorities in Miami has to be fixing its defense. To break down the priorities even further, Miami has to do a better job of rushing the passer.

Last season, the Canes had no intimidating or imposing presence up front, and no true pass rush to speak of, contributing to the overall weak performance on defense. There were some bad numbers to digest from 2012, but the one that truly sticks out -- and is unacceptable given past history -- is total sacks.

Miami managed just 13 sacks last season. Only five other teams in the nation produced fewer.

On first blush, that number seems strikingly low. After all, Miami just had a defensive lineman inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame for the second straight year in Warren Sapp, and has a rich history of producing dominating men in the trenches.

Guys like Sapp, Cortez Kennedy, Russell Maryland, Ted Hendricks and the late Jerome Brown made it their mission to harass opposing quarterbacks. They did their job in impressive fashion. To that end, Miami has produced 14 All-Americans along the defensive line, further proof that the Canes have not had much of a problem developing studs up front.

That individual development has been lacking in recent years. Jerome McDougle is the last All-American Miami has produced from the defensive line, back in 2002.

But despite that, the Canes have not had a huge problem rushing the passer in most recent seasons. Going back to 2005, the first year the NCAA began compiling total sack rankings, Miami has finished in the top 20 in the nation in this category three times.

Six of those eight seasons, Miami has racked up 30 or more sacks.

I went a step further and asked Miami for some stats help. Sports information director Chris Yandle looked at the media guides he had available to him going back to 1988. Not once did Miami post 13 sacks or fewer in a season.

You now see why the 2012 sack total stuck out. Miami returns all four starters on its defensive line, so with more experienced players should come more of an ability to bring down the quarterback. One more interesting note: Going back to 2002, Miami has produced its lowest sack totals in three of the past four seasons. Back in 2002, Miami had a whopping 47.

To me, this is most certainly an area to watch once the season gets under way.

Miami sack totals, with NCAA rank:

2012: 13, No. 113

2011: 23, No. 59

2010: 37, No. 9

2009: 23, No. 74

2008: 30, No. 38

2007: 31, No. 28

2006: 38, No. 12

2005: 35, No. 17