The road to national championship will be extremely tough for the Hurricane football team with the loss of 11 players to the NFL, contests against three top ten teams (UF, FSU, and Tennessee), a strong Big East schedule, and a home opener against Florida A&M. Yes, Miami will compete against three Florida foes this season, and they must not overlook tomorrow’s game.
Head coach Larry Coker stressed the importance of tomorrow’s game, noting that this year’s team has a lot of new faces that are out to prove something come kickoff.
“This year expectations are sky high for our football team,” Coker said. “The anticipation is definitely higher than last year. We must get off to a good start Saturday.”
“We are prepared for a hungry Florida A&M team,” quarterback Ken Dorsey added. “We want to execute our game plan and come out with a lot of confidence to win the game, no matter what it takes.”
FAMU is coming off an 8-2 season that won them the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Despite being a Division 1-AA team, the Ratlers are running a Heisman Trophy campaign for TCU transfer quarterback Casey Printers.
“Their quarterback (Casey Printers) has an outstanding record as a starter,” Coker said. “Facing a team with that talented of a leader is certainly not a tune up game.”
FAMU is known for using four and five receiver sets in what many call the Gulf Coast Offense. Printers (6-3, 208, Sr.) will attempt to stretch the field and throw the ball deep against the inexperienced Hurricane secondary.
“You make a mistake against this quarterback and he can hurt you,” defensive end Jerome McDougle said. “We need to play a great game.”
Printers was 23-8 at TCU and left the school as the third all-time passing leader with 4,621 yards and 37 touchdowns, while completing 56 percent of his passes. Printers led TCU to a bowl game in each of his three seasons.
Printers’ prime targets will be speedy wideouts Marco Junious (6-3, 185, Sr.) and Charlie Allen (6-4, 208, Sr.). Junious had 33 receptions for 657 yards and three touchdowns last season, while Allen led the Ratlers with 46 catches for 575 yards and two touchdowns.
“Their spread out offense will be a tremendous test for our young secondary,” Coker said.
The Florida A&M rushing game should struggle against the tenacious Miami front seven. The Ratlers leading returning rusher is E.J. Collier (5-9, 175, Jr.) who rushed for only 100 yards on eight carries last season.
The battle at the line of scrimmage will be a difficult task for the Ratlers on both sides of the ball. FAMU lost two starters to graduation from last year, but do bring forth a good pair of tackles in seniors Shedrick Moten (6-6, 300) and Fletcher Williams (6-4, 295).
On the defensive side, the Ratlers also have strong set of ends in junior Sean Kelly (13 sacks in 2001) and sophomore Jeff Green, who is coming off a knee injury.
“Playing a team like Florida A&M in the first week of the season is beneficial to our team,” Dorsey said. “We must take them seriously especially because there are a lot of players on our team who want to prove themselves and Saturday is the first significant action for a lot of them.”
The FAMU linebacker unit is strong, led by senior Alex Fortson (58 tackles and seven sacks in 2001) and Joe Sanders (28 tackles and two sacks in 2001).
As for the Ratlers secondary, FAMU returns its two leading tacklers in junior safety Levy Brown (98 tackles and three interceptions in 2001) and junior cornerback Shedrick Copeland (78 tackles in 2001).
The Hurricanes have to keep their focus on tomorrow’s FAMU contest in order to reach their goal of a second consecutive championship. Miami, like last season, must take one game at a time.
“If we concentrate on this game, the positives will carry on to the next game which enables to learn something no matter who the opponent is,” said defensive tackle Matt Walters.
“We don’t know our chemistry yet, but I really like our focus,” said Coker. “This game will answer a lot of questions.”