The Hurricanes have waited eight months to get back on the field. They have had eight months to think about the National Championship that slipped away. Eight months to think about the 34-game winning streak that ended at the hands of Ohio State. Eight months of “what ifs.”
But a new season has arrived, and there is no time to dwell upon the past. New and old faces returned to the gridiron last night, trying to help the Hurricanes reach the National Championship game for a third straight year.
As with every team, the Hurricanes will have some question marks. Unlike most teams the Hurricanes will have to replace four first round NFL draft picks and the most successful quarterback in school history.
Below, The Hurricane takes a look at the 2003 ‘Canes.
After much controversy during Miami’s spring practice, Brock Berlin won the unenviable job of following Ken Dorsey. If taking over for a quarterback who lost just two games in three years and won a National Title doesn’t sound like pressure, then add in the fact that his first game is in his hometown of Shreveport, LA, and his second start is against his former team. If Berlin can handle the pressure then the ‘Canes won’t need back up Derrick Crudup, but Berlin knows Crudup can’t wait to get on the field after watching Dorsey for two years.
The hype over Frank Gore has intensified every day since Willis McGahee declared for the NFL draft. Everyone knows what Gore did his freshman year (9.1 yards per carry), but that happened a long time ago against second and third string defenses. Gore’s knee has finally healed after having two ligaments repaired, and if he lives up to even half of what is expected of him, he should do all right.
The players behind Gore are oft-injured senior Jarrett Payton and true freshman Tyrone Moss, while Quadtrine Hill returns to the fullback position.
The ‘Canes have potential coming from their young wide receivers. A few players who should get more recognition by December are Ryan Moore, Akieem Jolla, and Devin Hester. Senior Kevin Beard, coming off of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, will lead the corps, while fellow senior Jason Geathers, whose hamstring injury kept him out of last night’s game, will try to fulfill his enormous potential. Roscoe Parrish, a fan favorite, should also have a breakout season after showing glimpses of brilliance last year.
Kellen Winslow II, hands down the best tight end in the country, should soon become Brock Berlin’s best friend. For two tight end sets, or whenever Winslow needs a break, Kevin Everett will provide a more than ample second option.
The front five will feature former tight end Eric Winston at left tackle, with Vernon Carey next to him at guard, Joel Rodriguez at center, Chris Myers at right guard, and Carlos Joseph at right tackle. The injury to guard Joe McGrath leaves the line without a battle tested substitute. Rashad Butler and Tony Tella have stepped up their games but the coaches will start to get very uneasy if another big man takes a fall.
Defensive tackles Vince Wilfork, Santonio Thomas, and Orien Harris have more than enough ability, size, and experience to stop anyone that tries to go up the middle of the field. The question mark on this line rests squarely on the shoulders of the defensive ends. Thomas Carroll and Baraka Atkins will try to accomplish what the defensive backs did last year when they had to replace NFL players. John Square should return soon from a shoulder injury, and he will join junior college transfer Alton Wright and freshman Bryan Pata as back-ups.
Returning all three starters, including two Butkus Award semi-finalists in Jonathan Vilma, and D.J. Williams, along with rising star Rocky McIntosh, should make this unit one of the most formidable in the nation. McIntosh may start the season late after having minor knee surgery, but seniors Jarrell Weaver and Carl Walker will gladly fill in. Leon Williams will see plenty of time on special teams while he patiently waits for his turn at middle linebacker.
The secondary also returns all four starters along with its backup cornerbacks. Wide receivers would be wise to stay away from middle of the field with head-hunter Sean Taylor decapitating people with his vicious hits. Strong safety Maurice Sikes should improve greatly this season after playing almost all of last year with an injured shoulder. In fact, teams might not want to pass at all with cornerbacks Antrel Rolle and Kelly Jennings, who played all of last season with a cast on his left hand. Unbelievably, all four starters are candidates for the Jim Thorpe award, given to the nation’s top defensive back.
Replacing senior kicker Todd Sievers and punter Freddie Capshaw could prove to be pretty hard. Freshman Brian Monroe will take over punting duties and the coaches are very happy with his performance thus far. Monroe, who played defensive back in high school, will also give the ‘Canes more options for fake punts with his athleticism. Mark Gent and Jon Peattie may share kicking duties since Gent has not shown consistency and Peattie has missed some time with a hamstring injury.
Nate Johnson can be reached at NPJ44@aol.com