Perryman, Chickillo return to Hurricanes with more to prove

Denzel Perryman and Anthony Chickillo decided to return to the Miami Hurricanes football program with much more to prove in their time at the school.

Anthony Chickillo ready for final year with 'Canes

 
AUG 13, 11:33 pm
Senior defensive end Anthony Chickillo looks forward to his final season with a refreshed outlook and attitude

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Ray Lewis. Ted Hendricks. Jonathan Vilma. George Mira Jr. Dan Morgan.

The lineage of University of Miami standout linebackers is a long one.

Denzel Perryman elected to return for his senior year rather than enter the NFL Draft after going through a list of pros and cons with his family and head coach Al Golden.

At the top of it? Not yet being satisfied with his legacy as a Hurricane.

"To be added to the list of one of the great linebackers who came in, made an impact, was an All-American, was on the Butkus Award List," Perryman said. "Stuff like that."

Defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo faced the same dilemma this past spring and arrived at the same decision.

Both players began their collegiate careers under the shadow of the NCAA investigation and saw glimpses of the other side when the saga ended last season. They can now work towards what they always envisioned -- winning titles -- when they signed with Miami on National Signing Day.

"We're so excited to just be out of that chapter," Golden said. "As I've said a million times really proud of this group for hanging in there during that time and leading us through that."

Although Perryman and Chickillo have earned All-ACC accolades, they acknowledged room for improvement and growth in their respective games.

Chickillo quickly experienced the pressure of expectations as a five-star recruit and Under Armour All-American out of Tampa Alonso.

From the get-go, he played in 12 games, starting the final nine as a freshman. He recorded five sacks and 38 tackles with a fumble recovery and forced fumble. The past two seasons have been a struggle to feed off that early success with little support on a thin defensive line. In 25 games -- all starts -- he has 91 tackles, 7.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries.

Not only is Chickillo now bigger than he was as a freshman -- 6-foot-4, 277 pounds -- but he's also more outspoken.

"His body's different but I think he's just developed more confidence," defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said. "He's really stepped up as a leader. He's not afraid to challenge his teammates because of the standard he's setting for himself. He's working his tail off. He had a great summer. He knows the defense very well, so at the end of the day if he's not making mental errors and he's outworking everybody you earn the right to be a leader at that point. He has confidence in that regard."

According to Golden and D'Onofrio, Chickillo is living in the moment, trying to be himself every day. In interviews, he mentions following the process and avoiding outside distractions.

Chickillo and Perryman were among the quieter players upon their arrival on the Coral Gables campus. As the years have passed, they have developed and matured into leaders, coming to realize their teammates feed off their energy.

"I changed my attitude towards everything, just buckled down," Chickillo said. "This is my last year, and I want to make the best of it. I take things in stride. Before when I first came in I didn't focus on today. Looked into the future and thought about that instead of just taking one day at a time and just checking boxes, knocking each day out."

Perryman, who has 241 tackles in 34 games, notched honors in each of the past two seasons. As a three-star prospect out of Coral Gables High, he started five games his freshman year and six as a sophomore.

Anthony Chickillo (71) and Denzel Perryman (52) gang up on a tackle against the Florida Gators in a September 2013 game.

Brad Barr / USA TODAY Sports

The 6-footer broke through in 2013 by recording a team-high 108 tackles, including six games with double-digit stops. Known for his hard hits, Perryman has upped his weight to 245 pounds.

"I would say one thing I need to work on this year is shedding blocks and pass coverage," Perryman said. "Last year I caught myself getting stuck on a lot of blocks. I would say being lost in pass coverage but I was pretty much attacking my zone."

Remarkably enough, these two top recruits from the Class of 2011 are just 15 days away from their final opener at the collegiate level.

Both marvel at how quickly time has gone by. They have seen the gradual changes in the program's landscape since the NCAA saga -- from the development of the Schwartz Center to the implementation of turf at the Greentree Practice Fields.

"I can just remember coming in my freshman year and I think of how it's my senior year," Perryman said. "It happened so fast. That's what I've been telling the young guys. Enjoy every day, enjoy every moment 'cause senior year is about time for you to get up out of here."

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.