NCAA Football Preview - Miami-Florida Hurricanes
By Scott Haynes
Aug 18, 2004
2003 SEASON IN REVIEW: One of the nation's premier programs had another superior campaign in 2003, although the Hurricanes fell short of a national title. Miami won its fourth consecutive Big East crown (shared 2003 title with West Virginia), winning its last four games of the season en route to an 11-win campaign. The season began with a whipping of Louisiana State (48-9), followed by six more victories to put the 'Canes right in the middle of the national title hunt. Not all the wins were as flashy as that season-opener, including a remarkable come-from-behind win over Florida in Week Two (38-33). The team pulled off another magic act against West Virginia (22-20), but the well ran dry with back-to-back losses at Virginia Tech (31-7) and against Tennessee (10-6). Larry Coker rallied the troops down the stretch with victories over Syracuse (17-10), Rutgers (34-10) and Pittsburgh (28-14) in the season-finale. The Hurricanes got to stay home in the postseason, taking on rival Florida State in the Orange Bowl, squeaking out a 16-14 win and completing a two-game sweep of the Seminoles on the season.
OFFENSE: Despite inconsistent play from the quarterback position last year, Miami was still a dangerous offensive team, generating almost 400 yards per game (394.9 ypg) and just over 27 points (27.8). The passing game produced a mediocre 215.1 yards per game, but the rushing attack remained lethal at 179.8 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry. Brock Berlin struggled under center in his first year in Coral Gables. Despite completing nearly 60 percent of his passes, he finished with just 2,419 yards passing, with 12 TDs and 17 interceptions. A good portion of the receiving corps is gone, including All-American Kellen Winslow, who decided to leave school early and enter the NFL. Still, leading receiver Ryan Moore (44 receptions, for 637 yards and three TDs) and Roscoe Parrish (24 catches, for 322 yards and two TDs) return to the fold to give the team some experience on the outside. Moore was a freshman All-American last year. The ground attack will feature sophomore Tyrone Moss, who was forced into action as a freshman and was more than serviceable (511 yards, 4.8 ypc and five TDs). Junior Frank Gore was an exciting freshman two seasons ago (5.3 ypc), but torn ACLs have caused him to miss most of the last two campaigns. If he can stay away from injury this year, and Berlin gets better in his second season under center, this offense could really thrive. The offensive line will be the biggest question mark this year, as three key components are missing, including All-Conference guard Vernon Carey. The unit will be anchored by First-Team All-Big East tackle Eric Winston (6-7, 310) and Second-Team All-Big East guard Chris Myers (6-5, 300), but this offensive front will not resemble the mammoth lines the team has enjoyed in the recent past, with three potential starters tipping the scales at under 300 pounds (Rashad Butler - 286, Tony Tella - 298 and Joel Rodriguez - 284).
DEFENSE: With so much talent on this side of the football last year, the unit really excelled, allowing just 15.1 ppg, while shutting down both the run (116.6 ypg) and more importantly, the pass (140.9). Key figures are no longer in town however, with the losses of All-World safety Sean Taylor and All-American LBs Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams. Even the defensive front was hit hard, with the departure of monster tackle Vince Wilfork (all of which were first-round draft picks this year). The cupboard isn't exactly bare and though the Hurricanes may not be as star-studded this season, the unit should be effective. Cover corner Antrel Rolle will be relied upon to be a vocal leader out on the field for the 'Canes. Legal issues this summer clouded his playing status, but charges have been dropped and Rolle will be on the field for the 'Canes and could have a monster year. A Third-Team All-American last year, Rolle finished with 51 tackles and two INTs. The linebacking corps certainly has a huge void to fill with the departures of Vilma and Williams, and the unit will need unproven players like sophomore Tavares Gooden and juniors Leon Williams and Roger McIntosh to stand tall. The defensive line is young, but could be very good. Sophomore Baraka Atkins is the player to watch on the outside, as he registered 43 tackles and five sacks as a freshman. Junior end Thomas Carroll (51 tackles, five sacks) and junior tackle Orien Harris (39 tackles and four sacks) will also be looked upon to provide pressure up front.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking duties are left to a pair of sophomores in placekicker Jon Peattie and punter Brian Monroe. That isn't a bad thing though, as Peattie earned All-Amercan honors last year as a freshman, converting 22-of-28 field-goal attempts, including a long of 51 yards. Monroe had 49 punts as a true freshman, netting out at 33.3 ypp. Devin Hester is a dangerous return man, who averaged a solid 28.7 yards per return last year, including one TD-scamper. His elusiveness as a return man will make Miami's special teams a real threat to score every time he falls back to handle the return duties.
OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes have won four consecutive league titles, but a fifth will be much harder to come by, with the team moving over to the ACC this year. The step up in competition will be apparent week in and week out, as the ACC has solidified itself as one of the top conferences in college football with the additions of Miami and Virginia Tech. The season hits a fevered pitch in the opener, with the Hurricanes playing host to Florida State. The Seminoles will want to give Miami a taste of ACC football right off the bat, while also trying to finally get past the 'Canes on the gridiron. The non-conference slate is not exactly awe-inspiring with Louisiana Tech, Houston and Louisville all on the docket. However, the league slate will test Miami each week. Home games including FSU, Clemson, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech won't be easy, while the road slate includes trips to Georgia Tech, NC State, North Carolina and Virginia. Once the big boys on the block, the Hurricanes will try to set the tone early on in the ACC. However, there is a team or two in the conference with more talent and Miami may have to settle for second-fiddle in 2004.
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