By Peter Marx
OXFORD, Ohio – Dayonne Nunley headlines the list of returning secondary starters for the Miami University football team in 2013, but the RedHawks have a number of other veterans returning, too.
The junior cornerback was the only RedHawk player on offense or defense to receive First Team All-MAC honors last season, finishing 2012 tied for first on the team in interceptions (3), first in pass breakups (11) and fifth in total tackles (63).
The Monroeville, Pa. native, however, is still rehabilitating a knee injury, which he sustained when returning the opening kickoff of the second half in Miami’s second-to-last game of the year at Central Michigan on Nov. 17. He missed the RedHawks’ final contest at home against Ball State.
“Dayonne is doing well,” MU defensive backs coach Ron Carpenter said. “He’s rehabbing and we’re looking for him to be OK come two-a-days. From everything I’ve heard, he’s on schedule.”
That’s good news for Miami, which finished fourth in the MAC in pass defense last season, allowing 227.4 yards per game through the air. The main RedHawk departures are Justin Bowers and DJ Brown.
With Nunley likely out until next August, that leaves several other players vying for starting spots, including junior safety Brison Burris, sophomore safety Marshall Taylor, junior corner Jarrell Jones and junior corner Chrishawn Dupuy.
“I’m looking for those four guys to step up,” Carpenter said. “And we’re looking to have Dayonne back. That’ll be another guy, so we have five and then we’ll have to develop some of the other guys.”
Safeties Burris and Taylor have the most experience out of the team’s four key returners.
Burris, of Humble, Texas, started in 11 of 12 games last year and finished second on the team in total tackles (81), tied for second in solo tackles (42) and was tied for first in interceptions (3).
“He turned out to be a really good asset for us toward the middle portion of the season,” Carpenter said. “He’s coming back with a lot of experience.”
Taylor started five games and played in 11 contests overall last year as a true freshman. The Cordele, Ga., native was ninth in total tackles with 40.
At corner, Dupuy and Jones recorded a combined five starts in 2012. Dupuy, of New Orleans, tallied four of those starts and played in 11 games, while Jones, of Columbus, had one start and appeared in nine games.
Dupuy finished with 12 tackles and two pass deflections. Jones tallied 25 total tackles, a pass deflection and a forced fumble.
“Those guys know how to play college football,” Carpenter said. “There’s a lot more retention to what we are doing. We have changed some things a little bit, but for the most part we are staying consistent in what we do.
“I don’t have a lot of time where I have to spend teaching during spring ball; I can actually look at these guys and see how they are reacting to what we want to do and then from there I can evaluate who’s going to be a backup and who’s going to be a starter.”
One aspect the secondary has changed is how they go about practicing tackling.
“The one thing we have to improve on totally as a defense--secondary, d-line, linebackers--is tackling,” Carpenter said. “Everybody in the country knows we didn’t tackle well last year.”
“We did a few drills every now and then throughout the week. Everyday now, every position is taking their turn and making sure we know how to tackle and the coaches have opened it up and we are doing a lot more live tackling.”
Overall, Carpenter said the secondary is more physical this season, but they still have a lot of speed.
Miami’s spring practices are open to the public and continue Saturday, April 6 at Yager Stadium. For more information, please visit www.MURedHawks.com.
Read about the 2013 RedHawks here.