UM football combines old and new in 2003

It is hard to say if this is a good sign or not, but this year’s football team was already getting headlines this spring for a variety of reasons. Now, the Miami Hurricanes hope to rack up the headlines this fall as well.
In what was a controversial but entertaining spring, fans found out a lot about the 2003 Hurricanes. The most important question was answered when Larry Coker named Brock Berlin as the starter over underdog Derrick Crudup.
Coker pointed to Berlin’s physical skills and big-game ability as reasons for naming him the official starter.
“I’ve been very impressed with both players,” Coker said. “Brock, having had very little time in the offense, has really made tremendous strides in the offense. I think the same thing with Derrick. I’ve really seen Derrick come miles. I think we can win with both of those players on our football team at quarterback.”
The quarterback controversy almost became a race issue when Crudup’s father questioned quarterbacks coach Dan Werner’s ethics during team meetings. The situation resolved itself but not before appearing on ESPN and in national newspapers.
“We had a very productive meeting in which we discussed several issues,” Coker said. “We are all in agreement that race was not an issue in deciding the quarterback competition. The Crudups regret that Coach Werner was unfairly labeled.”
The ‘Canes will have a different look in other positions as well. The offensive line must overcome the losses of Brett Romberg and Sherko Haji-Rasouli by putting together a makeshift line featuring converted tight end Eric Winston. Senior Vernon Carey has already been put on the watch list for the Outland Trophy and is expected to anchor the inexperienced line.
Only a few months removed from Willis McGahee’s remarkable 2002 season, the Hurricanes are looking to Frank Gore for a repeat performance from his freshman campaign in 2001. Gore was expected to be last season’s starter before injuring his ACL in the spring. Fully recovered, Gore will have to take some pressure off of Berlin by having big rushing games.
The receivers all have increased responsibility after Andre Johnson declared for the draft and Ethenic Sands graduated. Sophomore Roscoe Parrish handles most of the kick returning duties and will also be a primary target for Berlin.
Seniors Kevin Beard and Jason Geathers will also look to come up with critical catches during the season. Kellen Winslow is expected to build on his breakout 2002 season and become the best tight end in the country.
While the offensive unit has many unanswered questions, the defense should be near the top of the country, returning many starters and looking impenetrable as a unit during the spring.
Seniors Jon Vilma and D.J. Williams should dominate the middle of the field. Vilma has been listed as a candidate for the Nagurski Award.
The secondary did not suffer any losses from last season and should be one of the most sound units in the nation. The combination of Maurice Sikes, Sean Taylor, Antrel Rolle, Glenn Sharpe, and Kelly Jennings should rack up interceptions and make opposing receivers frightened to go over the middle of the field.
The defensive line will be anchored by tackle Vince Wilfork, who was a candidate to leave for the draft after a breakout 2002 campaign. Wilfork chose to stay, much to the delight of the Hurricanes, and should team up with end David Williams to swallow up ball carriers.
Despite the kicking situation not being etched in stone, it seems that Mark Gent will replace Todd Sievers after an impressive spring that featured several 50-plus yard field goals. Jon Peattie will be the punter to start the season.
There are several newcomers expected to make an immediate contribution. Tyrone Moss could earn some carries backing up Gore and Jarrett Payton, and Terrell Walden looks to emerge as a nickel back in the secondary.
It is hard to imagine how a team that lost so many players to the draft will be able to immediately duplicate last year’s success with different players at key positions. But that is the beauty of Hurricanes football. No matter what combination of guys the ‘Canes put out on the field, they always find a way to win.