An experienced secondary will return for Miami University’s football team in the fall, but questions surround the most important piece.
Rising senior cornerback Dayonne Nunley underwent knee surgery at the end of the 2012 season and hasn’t practiced this spring. He is on schedule to be ready when fall camp starts Aug. 3, but knees can be tricky things.
“We’re counting on Dayonne being back. God forbid he’s not,” MU defensive backs coach Ron Carpenter said. “We get constant updates that he’s right where he should be, but that’s pretty much all we know right now.”
A healthy Nunley, a two-time All-Mid-American Conference performer, would headline a group that should be a strength for the RedHawks in 2013. D.J. Brown is the only major player that won’t be returning.
MU ranked fifth in the MAC in pass defense last season, allowing 226.6 yards per game. Part of that, of course, was solid play. But also in the equation was the fact that Miami was so bad against the run (241.1 yards per game) that opponents didn’t need to throw as much.
“We’ve got some experience and some smarter guys,” Carpenter said. “We’re way beyond where we were last spring. The players have a much better understanding of what the coaches want.
“The strength of our defense is and always will be our defensive line. We go as they go. As they can put pressure on the quarterback and get in the backfield and stop the run, that’s going to make our job a whole lot easier on the back end. And we’re going to be a lot better up front this year.”
Jarrell Jones, Jay Mastin, Brison Burris and Chrishawn Dupuy were the first four DBs on the field in last Saturday’s scrimmage, though injuries to Nunley and Marshall Taylor affected that lineup.
Trey Payne, Dante Taylor and Orne Bey are very much in the mix as well. So are J.J. Greenwood of Middletown, a converted wide receiver, and walk-on Jake Aleck.
Nunley is the key. He’s got 12 career interceptions and is four away from Carpenter’s Miami record.
“He’s a guy that can play at the next level, so I challenge him all the time,” said Carpenter, a former NFL player. “I tell him all the time that I’m the G.O.A.T., the greatest of all time. Every time I walk past him, I’ll say, ‘What’s my name?’ He’ll say, ‘You’re the temporary G.O.A.T.’
“I will gladly call him the G.O.A.T. if he breaks my record. I’ve had it for 20 years, it’s time for somebody else to have it. I’m going to try to help him get there.”