Hurricanes Roundup 8/11/04
By The Source
Aug 11, 2004

CORAL GABLES - Where else can a team lose a game-changing tight end like Kellen Winslow, a space-eating defensive lineman like Vince Wilfork, a ball-hawking safety like Sean Taylor and three other first-round picks in the NFL Draft, yet not blink?

At Miami, the General Motors of football factories, talent replaces talent, so there's generally no need to be alarmed by a standout player's departure.

Never thought Ed Reed or Clinton Portis could be replaced? They were -- by Taylor and Willis McGahee, two players considered as talented, if not more so, when their UM careers ended. And so it goes.

The Hurricanes consistently reload their roster, turning unknown players into household names. This season is expected to be no exception with top-notch players like cornerback Antrel Rolle, offensive lineman Eric Winston and defensive tackle Orien Harris expected to elevate themselves into the superstar realm.

But it's not as if Rolle, Winston or Harris came out of nowhere. They gained notoriety last year with steady performances as starters. This season, UM's coaches expect about half a dozen players to do the same thing.

"It's a process," said Rolle, who turned heads when he shut down Pittsburgh receiver Larry Fitzgerald in last season's 28-14 victory over the Panthers. "You might be all this and that in high school, but when you come here you're a nobody and you have to work your way up."

That's what receiver Ryan Moore, defensive end Baraka Atkins, tight end Kevin Everett, linebacker Roger McIntosh and safety Greg Threat have been doing during their UM careers. Each has been preparing for the big season expected from them in 2004.

"Everybody would like to make a name for themselves, but it's a tough process here at Miami because of all the competition. If you don't like to compete, this isn't where you want to be," said Atkins, who had 43 tackles and five sacks in his first season as a starter last year. "When I was a true freshmen I came into a situation where just about all the guys in front of me were drafted into the NFL. That's a lot of talent. You've got to know what you're coming into, but the hardest thing is to wait your turn."

Their time has finally come, and with it the pressure of having large shadows cast over them by the standouts they are replacing.

"You can't put pressure on your yourself," said Everett, who Coker said is faster and more physical than Winslow but lacks Winslow's receiver-like hands.

"You have to focus on your game and what you can do and ignore the comparisons," said Everett, who started three games last season, contributing nine receptions for 90 yards and three touchdowns. "I learned a lot from Kellen, but I've got to go out and be me, and if I do that I feel I can be just as good as him."

And if tradition holds, Everett or one of UM's other budding stars might end up being better. Only playing time will tell.

-After a stressful summer, University of Miami cornerback Antrel Rolle came home to Greentree Field on Tuesday, right where he said he belonged.

Rolle might have been an NFL first-round pick had he opted to leave after his junior season. But minutes after the Hurricanes' first football practice, he said he was certain he made the right choice.

''It feels good to be back with my guys,'' said Rolle, a preseason All-American and Thorpe Award candidate whose arrest by Miami police this summer made headlines, and whose vindication through the Miami-Dade prosecutors' decision not to file charges made them again.

``That was pretty much my only serious concern, missing football, and of course not getting into any serious trouble. It feels great to be back out here with my family. I'm blessed about that.''

Rolle was arrested at about 4 a.m. July 11 in Coconut Grove on two misdemeanor charges of resisting an officer without violence and disorderly conduct; and on a felony charge of battery on a law enforcement officer. After a painful few weeks in which Rolle was suspended and involved in a criminal investigation, the state opted not to proceed with the case.

Rolle said he trained at The Flamingo Hotel Beach during the ordeal and turned to family and faith for comfort.

''I could concentrate,'' he said, ``because in the bottom of my heart, I knew that things would work out my way.

``Still, I prayed every night, because you never know how things may have turned. But I know I wasn't in the wrong in any situation. That's why I'm glad everything worked out the way it did.''


Rolle said he was measured at 6-1 and 200 pounds and recently timed at 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. He has been virtually impenetrable in his UM career, though he only had two interceptions last season because teams rarely threw his way.

He has not allowed a TD since the 2002 season opener against Florida A&M; and shut down star receiver Larry Fitzgerald in last season's game at Pittsburgh.

Rolle said he has no doubts that the UM secondary, rated the top pass defense in the nation last season (143.54 yards per game), will thrive despite the loss of NFL first-rounder Sean Taylor and Maurice Sikes at safety and Alfonso Marshall at cornerback.

After all, Rolle said, they were in an even worse predicament after the 2001 national championship, when five defensive backs left.

''I never expect us [to take a step back],'' Rolle said. ``When we lost Mike Rumph, Ed Reed and Phillip Buchanon -- myself, Sean Taylor, Mo Sikes and Kelly Jennings stepped in. We produce big guys every year.''


Sophomore Devin Hester, who described his first day practicing at cornerback as ''tough,'' said he looks to Rolle as a mentor.

''He's more than a teammate,'' Hester said. ``I look at Antrel as a bigger brother, because he's been there. He helps me out every day, and every little thing I mess up on he corrects me like a big brother.''

Rolle said he doesn't look back on his decision to return and get his degree.

''I'm here right now at the University of Miami and that's my only focus,'' he said. ``I'm not thinking about the NFL.

``I have to take care of the UM in order to get to the next level. I won [a national title], but I don't feel like it was mine. I want to play a major role in winning a championship.''


UM coach Larry Coker said he believes Rolle made the right decision to return.

''The year we won the national championship, [offensive tackle] Bryant McKinnie and Ed Reed would have probably been fairly high picks and then they decided to come back and they were real high picks,'' Coker said. ``Their decision was worth millions of dollars.

``It was a good decision for them, and I'm sure it will be a good decision for Antrel.''

-Frank Gore, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, practiced at tailback and had a very good day, according to Coker and running backs coach Don Soldinger. Coker expects him to have his first contact Saturday, ``unless things happen this week we don't anticipate. We're not going to be foolish, but I was very encouraged.''

Said Soldinger: 'I told him, `Read your body.' He's an upper-limit athlete. He knows his body.''

-Cornerback Glenn Sharpe, recovering from a torn ACL, is also expected to have contact.

-Coker said he hopes the older receivers play well enough to be able to redshirt freshmen such as Lance Leggett and Khalil Jones.

-Coker said it also was good to have linebacker Willie Williams in action for the first time. ''Willie likes to play, and he's a tremendous team guy,'' Coker said.

``He just wants to come out and learn the defense and have a chance.''

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