Hurricanes Roundup 8/30/04
By The Source
Aug 30, 2004

- Hurricanes cornerback Antrel Rolle hopes a new conference will bring new challengers.

It would be a welcome change from the Big East, where teams rarely threw Rolle's way the last two seasons -- and for good reason.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound defender has become one of the best cornerbacks in the nation. He has the size and strength to jam receivers at the line and the speed to run with them down the field. He could have left school early for the NFL, but opted to return for his senior season and anchor No. 6 Miami's revamped defense.

He thinks the decision, coupled with the Hurricanes' move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, could land him more opportunities to make plays.

``Maybe teams will try me and feel they can get something my way,'' said Rolle, one of four returning starters on defense. ``I hope so. Then I can prove them wrong.''

Miami begins the season next Monday night against No. 5 Florida State at the Orange Bowl. It's the teams' third meeting in 11 months, so the Seminoles are well aware of Rolle's ability.

When they played in January, P.K. Sam caught a 10-yard pass against Rolle on the Seminoles' first offensive play, then didn't have a reception the rest of the way.

Rolle was nearly as good against Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald last season, helping hold the nation's top receiver to three catches for 26 yards and a meaningless late touchdown. Rolle wasn't covering Fitzgerald on the scoring play. ``People not only can't throw against him, but they almost refuse to throw his way because he's such a terrific lock-down corner,'' Miami coach Larry Coker said. ``He's been almost unbeatable the last two seasons.''

Rolle hasn't given up a touchdown since the 2002 season opener against Florida A&M; - a 25-game streak that highlights his talent.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver since Penn State's Bryant Johnson caught six passes for 149 yards and a touchdown in Miami's 33-7 season opening victory in 2001. That's 37 games since a receiver eclipsed the century mark.

They led the nation in passing defense in 2001, ranked second in 2002 and were back on top last season when they gave up 143.5 yards a game.

Some of that can be attributed to Rolle.

``Once he gets his hands on you, it's pretty much over,'' teammate Kelly Jennings said. ``That's the key to him. This year, everybody will see what he can do.''

Rolle played the last two seasons in the shadow of safety Sean Taylor, an All-American who led the nation in 2003 with 10 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. Rolle had two interceptions and seven pass breakups.

``I really don't know much about the ACC, but I'm looking for a tougher schedule and more competition,'' he said. ``I'm looking for more balls coming my way. I love challenges.''

Rolle feels like he already has overcome a big challenge.

He was arrested in July in the Miami neighborhood of Coconut Grove on two misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct and on a felony charge of battery on a law enforcement officer. Not only was Rolle suspended from the team, but he had to face his father, the chief of police in Homestead.

After a few painful weeks, prosecutors chose not to file formal charges.

``There's not a single day that goes by that I don't think about it,'' Rolle said. ``To be arrested and be in handcuffs in front of my father, that was a terrible experience for me. That's something I never want to face again. I learned a lot from that.''

Rolle said a late-night argument was perceived by officers to be worse than it really was. The state attorney investigated the complaint and decided that the physical contact between Rolle and the officer was ``merely incidental.''

Coker reinstated Rolle the same day.

Rolle called the ordeal ``heartbreaking,'' but also said it made him stronger. Now he plans to use it as motivation. ``Someone's going to pay for it, and I know it's going to be the opponents on the other side of the field,'' he said. ``They're going to pay for what I felt every single day. Someone's going to feel my hurt, someone's going to feel my pain.''

But only if they decide to throw his way.

``Hopefully he'll have the chance to show the nation just what an exceptional cornerback he really is,'' Coker said. ``He's been overshadowed a bit to this point in his career, but he's one of our most vital players.''

- The fifth-ranked Miami football team practiced in full pads for two hours on Sunday afternoon at the Greentree Practices Fields after lightning delayed the start of practice by almost an hour.

"I felt offensively some guys really stepped up today, I really was impressed," Head Coach Larry Coker said. "I thought Ryan Moore had an excellent day and Brock Berlin also had an excellent day."

The Hurricanes' defense continues to impress Coker this fall and after praising the offense, he turned his attention to the defense.

"Defensively, are top players are still playing well," Coker said. "I thought Antrel Rolle had a great practice and Leon Williams was extremely impressive today. He (Williams) seems to be getting things going pretty good."

After struggling through the beginning of fall practice with a sore hamstring, Moore, UM's starting split end, has flourished in recent practices.

"Ryan seems to be past the hamstring problem," Coker said. "He looks full speed to me, and he has practiced well. Knock-on-wood we hope he is healthy."

The Hurricanes are scheduled for a 3:30 practice Monday at the Greentree Practice Fields. All Hurricanes' practices are closed to the public for the remainder of the year.

- Expect Derrick Crudup to be Brock Berlin's replacement if Miami's starting quarterback struggles or gets injured during the Sept. 6 season opener against Florida State.

Even though the Hurricanes have classified Crudup and Kyle Wright as co-backups to Berlin, coach Larry Coker said Crudup's steady performance this preseason, the poise he's shown running Miami's offense, and his game experience have given the former Deerfield Beach standout the edge over Wright, a redshirted freshman who is viewed as the future of the team.

"I feel a lot better about Derrick as our No. 2 right now. Kyle is coming along, but if the game were today and you ask me to put the No. 2 in I'd put Derrick in," Coker said. "He's making fewer mistakes and is running the offense better. It's not [a question] of skills with Derrick. He's a very skilled athlete. Those intangible parts of the game I've seen him get better at."

Crudup, a senior who has spent four years as Miami's primary backup, starting only one game in his career, has taken most of the snaps with the second-team offense the past week and said his "calmness" has been the difference in his play.

"I expect great things out of myself," said Crudup, who has 703 passing yards and six touchdowns in mop-up duty.

Since Wright's arrival at Miami, Crudup has also served as his primary mentor. Crudup believes the 2002 Parade All-American and Gatorade High School Player of the Year has a bright future as a Hurricane.

"Kyle is a great quarterback," Crudup said. "He's going to be someone to watch here at the University of Miami."

But will it be sooner or later? That's the tough question the coaches have been debating. While Crudup provides UM the experience needed to win close games, Coker said the staff realizes Wright's the future and needs to get some game experience.

"We're in a little bit of a quandary," Coker said.

- True freshman Lance Leggett has steadily worked his way up the depth chart to become the second-team split end receiver, passing sophomore Akieem Jolla.

"He's moved himself up pretty good. He's a big play type of player," Coker said of Leggett. "I don't care if he's a freshman. He's going to play a lot."

- Starting receiver Roscoe Parrish (knee) participated in all of Sunday's practice and showed no signs of being slowed by injuries. Offensive guard Tony Tella (back/knee) participated in Sunday's practice on a limited basis.

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