Hurricanes Roundup 8/31/04
Compiled from a variety of sources throughout the day
- After missing nearly a week with back spasms and a knee injury, Miami tackle Tony Tella practiced Monday. His performance made coach Larry Coker optimistic that he would be available for next week's opener against Florida State.
Tella's return means the Hurricanes' offensive line could have at least one of its injured projected starters back.
Fellow junior Rashad Butler, a former Dwyer standout, has a small fracture in his left ankle and is expected to miss the game.
"I love getting back out there with the guys," Tella said. "Sitting out and watching them was just killing me."
Tella split first-team time at right tackle with senior Chris Myers, who started for two years at right guard but has been moved the past week because of the line's injuries.
Even if he can't start, Tella's presence will provide depth -- he can fill in at right tackle and left guard, where Pompano Ely standout Andrew Bain, a redshirt freshman, appears to have fortified himself as the starter.
Tella was the projected starter at that spot entering fall camp, but Bain's play during his absence has enticed the coaches.
"I think Bain's going to be hard to replace right now," Coker said.
- Because the Hurricanes are expecting an especially physical game against the Seminoles, the team has intensified its contact and hitting at practice.
"We know what we are in for," Coker said. "Or hopefully we know what we are in for. ... Florida State is a tough team, and that is the way they play. They are physical.
"We are going to have to respond."
- Leon Williams figures it is just the linebackers' turn to bear the brunt of the annual exodus of talent from the University of Miami football team.
"Every year it seems there is a position that [someone] has got to come in and step up because we have a lot of people leave," Williams said.
It's not hard to see the linebackers are that unit on the Hurricanes defense this season. Just take a look at the NFL draft list from last spring.
Outside linebacker Jonathan Vilma, selected by the New York Jets with the No. 12 overall pick, was the first linebacker to go in the draft. Inside linebacker D.J. Williams, taken five spots later by the Denver Broncos, was the second. The Jets drafted Darrell McClover, the other UM starter, in the seventh round.
Four other Hurricanes were drafted in the first round, but no defensive position was hit as hard as the linebackers.
"With those guys leaving, you definitely have to have that motivation and that chip on your shoulder [that] `I have got to live up to that hype,'" freshman linebacker Jon Beason said. "`[That] I have got to no so much be the next John Vilma, but I have to contribute the way he did, lead the way he did.'"
As juniors, Vilma and Williams were semifinalists for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the best linebacker in college football. Vilma was a finalist for the award in 2003, and both players started for three seasons.
They leave behind an athletic but inexperienced group will look to continue the tradition of fine linebackers at UM. Junior linebacker Roger McIntosh said there are no excuses because while the linebackers haven't started many games, they've been around the program long enough to know what's expected.
"There are a lot of young guys in the system, and when it is time for them to step up they are gong to be good," he said. "When their number is called, they go out there and perform."
Leon Williams, a junior, is set to replace D.J. Williams in the middle. Leon Williams started six games as a redshirt freshman in 2002 and had 23 tackles as a reserve last year. He has held off a challenge from Beason, the former Chaminade-Madona standout.
Sophomore Tavares Gooden will start on the weak side and McIntosh on the strong side. McIntosh started six games as a freshman and Gooden was a top special teams player last season.
UM Linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves said he senses the new linebackers are eager to meet expectations.
"So far, so good," Hargreaves said. "I think they are looking forward to the challenge of being real good and not necessarily feeling anybody's shoes, but just being as good as they can be."
The process for the linebackers started in the spring and continued in the summer, when the players worked out together regularly. The linebackers also went through seven-on-seven and position drills, with the aim of developing a rapport.
McIntosh said the offseason work should make a big difference in the transition.
"We did a lot this summer," McIntosh said. "We practiced a lot with each other and got our teamwork down and developed better relationships on the field. Just working with each other and getting to know each other."
They also pushed each other. Though there isn't an abundance of experienced depth at linebacker, Beason said the three starting spots open and a desire to continue the tradition of UM linebackers meant lots of spirited competition.
"We definitely compete against each other, but off the field, it is all love," he said. "We all hang out together. We all chill. I like that because some units don't have that, some teams don't have that.
"As a group I think we have so much potential. Big things this year no matter who is playing."
Hargreaves likens the circumstances this season to 1998, his first year at UM. That season Dan Morgan and Nate Webster, a pair of talented but inexperienced players, got their turn to start for the Hurricanes.
Both went on to star and now play in the NFL.
"It was sort of a similar situation because the guys I got now are pretty good players," Hargreaves said. "Those guys [Morgan and Webster] younger than the guys I have right now. The guys I have right now have been around a while, so the expectations for them might be even higher."
- University of Miami defensive tackle Orien Harris has used his hands as a weapon ever since his angry pounding tore up the punching bag his father bought him at age 5.
By age 6, he took out his aggression on some poor offensive lineman he pummeled in a Newark, Del., youth league. By high school, he targeted his wrath on older brother Kwame -- a scholar, classical pianist and now the 6-7, 320-pound left tackle for the San Francisco 49ers.
Harris, 6-4 and 300 pounds, always adored his brother. But he isn't too fond of the Florida State University offense he'll face in Monday's 8 p.m. season opener in the Orange Bowl.
Get ready for the death grip.
''Orien has this desire that is burning,'' said 2003 first-round draft choice Kwame (pronounced kWAYm) Harris, whose head-to-head battles against Orien during Newark High practices left their mother stressed and their coach begging them to stop for the sake of the team. ``He pours every ounce of his being into this game, because he knows how much goes into it.
``I love football and the sense of accomplishment I get, but I have an objective view of the game. I'm emotionally engaged in other things.
``Orien can sustain himself on just football. He doesn't need a girlfriend. He doesn't need food. He doesn't need water. All he needs is a pair of pads and someone to hit.''
Left tackle Harris, nicknamed ''Big O,'' is anchoring a defensive line that, despite losing ''Big V'' -- Patriots' first-round draft choice Vince Wilfork -- is the Hurricanes' deepest and most feared unit. Nine players will rotate.
Harris said he is completely healed from right-knee surgery last November. He missed Tennessee, Syracuse and most of the Rutgers game, then dislocated his left elbow against FSU in the Orange Bowl finale.
Known for his speed, strength, large hands and great leverage, Harris still ended the season with 39 tackles -- eight for a loss -- four sacks and 18 quarterback hurries.
''Once he gets his hands on you, it's like a death grip,'' defensive line coach Greg Mark said. ``He'll get you, grab you, throw you.''
UM offensive line coach Art Kehoe recruited Harris. He sees the damage daily.
''He's a beast, man,'' Kehoe said. 'He comes right up to my face and says, `Make them guys block me!' It's a running battle, an oratory all day long.
``Last year when Florida State had a 22-play drive against us, I think he hit the quarterback seven times. It was amazing.''
Orien -- only a junior but projected as a first-rounder if he leaves early -- is usually a man of few words. He does like to laugh, if you get him at the right time, and his smiles can suddenly leap out from a serious, sometimes scary demeanor.
''He's a little moody sometimes,'' acknowledged UM coach Larry Coker. ``You [wouldn't] want to take him home every day.''
But Eric Winston, UM's left offensive tackle, has another view.
''That's just a persona he puts on,'' Winston said. ``He's a nice guy. When you look the part, it helps you play the part. It's just part of his charm.''
Harris, who will earn his degree in criminology this spring, admits he is intense.
''I am moody,'' he said. ``I've always been moody. But I'm getting better.
``When I was younger I couldn't really control my moods. I couldn't take coaching well. I had a hard time weeding out the positive stuff from the negative stuff, and I was real hard on myself. I still am, but I can handle it better.''
Harris' parents are both from Jamaica. His mother Cordel is a registered nurse at a trauma-center hospital in Newark. His father Donovan owns three restaurants -- D&H; Jamaican Cuisine -- with a friend in Delaware.
Both parents said Orien, 21, and former Stanford student Kwame, 22, have different personalities. Orien is quiet and all football. Kwame is talkative, philosophical and worldly. The two brothers talk to each other almost every day, as they do with brother Duevorn Harris, 24, who was a defensive tackle at Colgate.
Sister Cordelia, 16, is an accomplished soccer player who wants to attend UM.
''Orien has the tough-guy personality,'' said Donovan, who had his sons take karate from an early age to learn discipline and channel the aggression. ``Whatever Orien does, it must be perfect. So when things don't go his way, he's a little bent out of shape.''
Cordel recalls attending one of his youth games when he was 6, getting lost in conversation, then hearing screams.
''Who do you think was in the middle of it?'' Cordel said. ``It was Orien, fighting with this kid because he said [the kid] was trying to hold him.
``He was always bigger than the other kids, but I believe in discipline. I raised my kids with consequences -- they still have them. If he abuses his cell-phone usage, he won't have a phone next month.
``I'm quite sure Orien got what he deserved.''
Kwame Harris, whose dream is to be Orien's NFL teammate, said his not-so-little brother just can't help the way he's internally built. Most football players are a little angry, he explained, and don't allow themselves to get comfortable.
''Orien always had an innate sense of how one play can have a critical effect on the game,'' Kwame said. ``He doesn't take things lightly. I can't tell you how many times I've seen him break down after a loss -- or after a close win.
``He loves the game, and you can't replace that with any coaching. Will outdoes genius. Will outdoes talent.
``If you have a sense of will, you can accomplish anything.''
- Andrew Bain thought he knew what to expect when he arrived on Miami's campus as a highly-touted recruit last summer. But he really didn't have much of a clue. Bain couldn't finish a number of conditioning drills, something he addressed after being redshirted last year.
Bain slimmed down over the summer, losing 50 pounds by dropping fried foods, limiting his carbohydrates and increasing his workouts.
Today, he is poised to be Miami's starting left guard when the Hurricanes open up Monday night in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. Coach Larry Coker said he expects Bain to start against the Seminoles in his college football debut.
''A fat cat don't hunt -- ever heard that story?'' asked offensive line coach Art Kehoe. ``Well, he's not fat anymore, and he can hunt.
``He's done all the right things and is looking good, but I'd like him to lose 10 or 15 more pounds. He doesn't believe it, but if he does that, he'll be a freak.''
Tony Tella came into summer as the starter at the position but has been limited because of injuries. That opened the door for Bain, a former Pompano Ely High standout. Bain went from close to 370 pounds to 315 on his 6-3 frame.
''With the weight off, things are coming easier to me,'' he said. ``I'm going to be a lot better. I know I have a long way to go here.
``I'm excited [about starting] in a way, but I'm just trying to do what they tell me to do. I have to be ready so I can help my team.''
So far, he has. According to Coker, Bain played well in Miami's scrimmage in the Orange Bowl last week and ``will be hard to replace.''
- The fifth-ranked Miami football team practiced in shells for two hours on Monday afternoon at the Greentree Practices Fields in preparation for sixth-ranked Florida State next Monday night at the Orange Bowl.
"We had a little heat wave today, but that is good," head coach Larry Coker said. "We had Tony Tella back today. He was some what limited in practice, but it was good to see him back out there."
Tella worked at right tackle and left guard and could see action at either position against the Seminoles.
"I think we are making some progress, but we still have some work to do," Coker said.
The Hurricanes' defense continues to impress the coaching staff during practice sessions this fall.
"I think the defense had an excellent day today," Coker said. "The defense flew around and is really starting to hone in on the things they need to do to help us win a football game."
With sixth-ranked Florida State just a week away, the Hurricanes turned their focus to the Seminoles and opening the season with a win.
"I think the attitude of this team has been good from the standpoint of `we know what we are in for,'" Coker said. "Or, hopefully, we know what we are in for. They (Florida State) are an outstanding team with great athletes, and obviously the coaching goes without saying. It is going to be a tough, tough football game. Florida State is a tough team, and that is the way they play. They are physical. We are going to have to respond, and that has been the attitude we have been taking as coaches and as players."
ESPN's television show `The Season' is in Coral Gables this entire week leading up to the Florida State game. The show will be taking viewers on a behind-the-scenes look at the Hurricanes' preparations for the Florida State game. The show will air at 1 a.m. Sept. 10, on ESPN.
The Hurricanes are scheduled for a 3:30 practice Tuesday at the Greentree Practice Fields. All Hurricanes' practices are closed to the public for the remainder of the year.
- A camera crew from ESPN's The Season started following UM on Monday and will be with the team through its game with FSU. The program, which will visit a different ACC school each week, will air days after the game.
- As expected, Miami will wear its traditional home uniform of orange jerseys and white pants against the Seminoles.
- When asked if UM had FSU's number after winning the past five meetings, Coker chuckled and said: ``If we beat them six times, I can answer that question. It's been one of those games where one play here or there can make a huge difference.''
By The Source
Aug 30, 2004
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