Bob McClellan Rivals.com College Football Columnist
There were two things University of Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon didn't have to concern himself with this year that occupied too much of his time last year.
The first was the telephone. According to the UM sports information office, Shannon decided this season to sack Alexander Graham Bell and anything he had spawned. The Hurricanes assistant would not be fielding any media requests from out of town. Say it to his face, or save those rollover minutes.
The second was finding his defense in the NCAA stats. In 2004 it required scrolling down a little further than usual. The Hurricanes 2004 unit was 68th in the country against the run and 28th in total defense.
So Shannon refocused, and the result is why he is Rivals.com's 2005 National Defensive Coordinator of the Year. The UM defense was No. 1 against the pass, No. 3 in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense. It produced 33 sacks and 28 takeaways, and allowed more than 17 points only once all season.
"He's good because of his style," junior strong safety Brandon Meriweather told Rivals.com. "He knows how to communicate with his players. He knows you can't coach everybody the same way, and he's mastered that. That's what separates him from every other defensive coordinator in the nation."
The Hurricanes also showed dramatic improvement against the run. After yielding 155 yards per game in 2004, Shannon's troops cut it back to 104 yards this season. They yielded only two 100-yard rushers, and both of those were in games the Hurricanes won handily.
When teams needed to run again UM, they couldn't. Shannon was no more impressive than in his gameplan for Virginia Tech. He wanted to stuff the Hokies powerful ground game (77 yards on 34 carries) and force Marcus Vick to beat him. UM terrorized Vick, sacking him six times and forcing him to turn the ball over six times. The result was a 27-7 thrashing in Blacksburg.
"Randy is a very intelligent person who understands offenses very well," UM defensive backs coach Tim Walton said. "He tries to put his best players in the best situations to have success. To be successful, you have to have a great understanding of both coverages and the running game, and Randy has that. And he knows the importance of the balance of both."
Shannon also believes in rotating players based not only on situations but on number of snaps. He's busier than a bullpen coach at times.
"He's good at rotating his players, especially with the guys who hit a lot, the linemen and linebackers," Meriweather said. "You have to keep them fresh. You can't have a d-lineman going 70, 80 plays a game. They're banging all the time. He keeps his players healthy and fresh, and that's why he's the best. It works."
Might as well make everyone feel as though they have something to give.
"He likes to rotate guys in and out, and we play a lot of players (20-22 per game)," Walton said. "That keeps players fresh, but it also keeps everybody happy. You get players who love to go out and play the game and want to compete hard when they're in there. It keeps them hungry and working hard.
"Randy is good at making the players know that they have input in the defense. They have to execute, but he puts them in position to do that."
Randy Shannon's Coaching Experience
University of Miami (graduate assistant)
University of Miami (defensive line)
University of Miami (linebackers)
Miami Dolphins (defensive assistant)
Miami Dolphins (linebackers)
University of Miami (defensive coordinator)
Bud Foster, Virginia Tech: The Hokies were the nation's leader in total defense under Foster, yielding less than 240 yards per game. They were fourth against the run, second against the pass and third in scoring defense.
Gene Chizik, Texas: Chizik's Longhorns had a stellar season, finishing sixth in total defense. They were fifth against the pass and fourth in scoring defense.
Jim Heacock, Ohio State: Led by its stellar linebacking corps, the Buckeyes terrorized the Big Ten, leading the conference in all four major categories. OSU also led the nation in stopping the run, allowing less than 75 rushing yards per game.
Tom Bradley, Penn State: Bradley got All-American type seasons from players on the line (Tamba Hali), at linebacker (Paul Posluszny) and in the secondary (Alan Zemaitis) as his unit was 11th in the nation in scoring defense and 17th in total defense.
Joe Kines, Alabama: Led by a supremely talented secondary and linebacker DeMeco Ryans, the Tide had the best defense in the nation's best conference for defense, the SEC. Kines' unit led the nation in scoring defense (10.7) and was second in total defense.