Battle begins on gridiron
While America readied for the War on Iraq, a war of different sorts began to unfold during the first day of spring football practice Tuesday afternoon at the University of Miami’s Greentree Practice Field.
Junior quarterbacks Brock Berlin and Derrick Crudup, along with redshirt freshman Mark Guillon, and true freshman Kyle Wright began a battle over who will replace Ken Dorsey at the helm of the ‘Canes offense.
Crudup, who played behind Dorsey for the last two years, started the day with the first team offense, but as of now the coaches have not named a definitive No. 1 quarterback.
“I feel like its my job,” Crudup said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think I’ve been here long enough and I think I’ve worked hard enough.”
Despite Crudup’s confidence, Berlin has emerged as the fan favorite for the job. Berlin, who transferred to UM from the University of Florida after his sophomore season, spent the last year learning the system while working with Miami’ scout team.
Berlin came out of high school as the Gatorade National Player of the Year and decided to become a ‘Cane after failing to beat out Rex Grossman for the starting job in Gainesville.
Guillon, who attended the same high school as Dorsey, briefly played in two games last season, throwing for a touchdown against Florida A&M and completing two of three passes against Connecticut. Despite playing in those games, Guillon received a medical redshirt due to a lingering shoulder injury he suffered in high school.
Wright, the youngest of the quarterback quartet, graduated high school a semester early in order to attend Miami this spring, and have a shot at replacing Dorsey. Wright was widely considered to be the number one quarterback in this year’s recruiting class.
“We’re going to get all four of the guys some work with the [first team],” head coach Larry Coker said. “We’ll try to narrow it down because we’ve got to get somebody ready to play, and get somebody that these guys can rally around.”
Other Position Battles
The Hurricanes lost more than just their starting quarterback after last season.
Coaches will have to find replacements for running back Willis McGahee, receiver Andre Johnson, offensive linemen Brett Romberg and Sherko Haji-Rasouli, and theentire defensive line.
Frank Gore, who has gained ten pounds of muscle since last season, has the inside track over Jarrett Payton for the starting running back position. Gore showed flashes of brilliance in 2001 as a back up for current NFL running back Clinton Portis. Last spring, Gore tore his ACL and missed the entire 2002 season while recovering.
“I feel like I’m ready, and I’m not scared of nothing,” Gore said. “I sat out a whole year and it was kinda hard, but it helped me and I’m hungry.”
Senior Jason Geathers is the favorite to replace Andre Johnson as the number one receiver, but heavy competition will come from sophomores Roscoe Parrish and Aikeem Jolla, as well as redshirt freshman Ryan Moore, and true freshman Darnell Jenkins.
Junior Joel Rodriguez seems to lead in the race to replace Romberg at center and senior Joe McGrath played with the first team offensive line at the guard position.
Junior Vince Wilfork will start at one of the defensive tackle positions, while junior Santonio Thomas and sophomore Orien Harris will battle for the other opening. Junior college transfer Alton Wright may snag one of the defensive end positions, with redshirt freshman John Wood pushing hard to earn the remaining spot.
Position Changes and Injuries
Two ‘Canes who played tight end last season have changed positions.
Sophomore Eric Winston has gained a considerable amount of weight in the off-season and will try his hand at the left tackle position. If Winston earns the starting left tackle position, senior Carlos Joseph could move to right tackle, and senior Vernon Carey could move to right guard.
Ex-tight end David Williams will now try to compete for playing time at defensive end.
A number of players will not participate in contact drills this spring because of various injuries.
Notably, senior strong safety Maurice Sikes, junior full back Kyle Cobia, senior wide receiver Kevin Beard, and junior linebacker Carl Walker will stay on the sidelines in order to heal.
Nate Johnson can be reached at NPJ44@aol.com