Newcomers provide needed jolt to ‘Canes defensive line

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The University of Miami nearly doubled its 2012 sack total over the weekend.

Two players who combined for 11.5 sacks last season officially joined the Hurricanes on Saturday. Defensive end transfers David Gilbert and Ufomba Kamalu — as well as defensive tackle transfer Justin Renfrow — took the field Tuesday morning for their first full-pad practice as ‘Canes.

“I think with a couple of these guys on the field today, it’s going to give us a little more (line) depth and a little more competition,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said before Tuesday’s workout. “And I think that’s really what we need there — a lot of tough competition. I think we need to have guys competing against one another daily.

“That brings out the best at any position. When you have competition and you have guys pushing one another, they all get better. And that’s the best way to improve the team.”

Last season, Miami produced 13 sacks, which ranked 113th nationally. Kamalu alone compiled 7.5 sacks … at Butler Community College (Kan.). Gilbert had four sacks as a redshirt junior at Wisconsin.

Gibert, who like Kamalu and Renfrow was not made available to the media Tuesday, said he was retiring in April following a series of foot injuries the past few seasons with the Badgers. The Coral Springs, Fla., native then surprised many people in Madison by deciding to play a final year at Miami.

“In his mind, he was going to come here or one of the other Florida schools,” Miami coach Al Golden said Tuesday. “He wanted to be closer to home. So we got involved, made sure his foot was OK and everything. I guess he missed (football). I guess he wanted to continue to compete. We’re very fortunate to have him.

“He’s on a mission. He wants to go to graduate school and he wants to play in the NFL. He’s guy that can rush the passer, so we’re excited to have him.”

The 6-foot-4, 256-pound Gilbert was honorable mention All-Big Ten after recording 42 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss in 14 games (13 starts) with Wisconsin last season.

Neither Golden nor D’Onofrio defined a role or expectations for Gilbert.

“It’s all going to be determined by what we see,” D’Onofrio said. “We’re obviously excited about his experience and what he has and brings to the table, and we think he can help us.”

The 6-6, 285-pound Kamalu, a Nigeria native, had 54 tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries last season as a sophomore at Butler.

Unlike Gilbert and Kamalu, Renfrow’s strength doesn’t figure to be putting heat on the quarterback. The 6-6, 320-pounder had 11 tackles and no sacks in 12 games at Virginia last season.

Hurricanes senior DE Shayon Green, who had no sacks last season, and junior DE Anthony Chickillo, whose four sacks were a team-high in ’12, both return.

Asked if anyone had stood out as a rusher in camp so far, D’Onofrio named freshman defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and sophomore linebacker Tyriq McCord, who had 3.5 sacks last season.

“I think McCord and Muhammad are probably our fastest guys off the edge who stand out right now,” said D’Onofrio, then adding other ways the pass rush could be helped. “Obviously Gilbert, and again, the pass rush can come from the middle, too. And you have the ability on third down to move guys around and take some guys who are ends and move them inside.

“Whatever it takes for us to get the best four to do that, and then to get the best four behind them. You gotta have depth there, as well, because you need to bring in fresh rushers when it’s a two-minute situation.”

Although a freshman, Muhammad comes from Irvington, N.J., with a rep and a nickname, “The Prophet.”

“I don’t feed into that type stuff,” Muhammad said during Saturday’s media luncheon. “Basically, I just stay humble, stay focus and just play my role. I’m not trying to take over anything. I’m just coming in as a freshman and I’m just playing my role. If the coaches feel I’m ready and fit to to play or start, then I’ll do what I have to do.”

“I’m only a freshman, so I’m taking it step by step. But it would be great to break a sack record. That would be awesome.”

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at

mac1763@bellsouth.net

or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas