There is no valid reason why the football team should not contend for the national title next season.
I know that it had nine players drafted and set a record with six first round picks. However, at the University of Miami, there are always players ready to step up and fill the void.
The 2004 Miami Hurricanes may not be as good as last year’s team on paper, but they have a favorable schedule. The two toughest games on Miami’s schedule are Florida State and Virginia Tech, and both of those games will be played in the Orange Bowl. Their only tough road game will be in Raleigh, N.C., in October when the Hurricanes battle the N.C. State Wolfpack.
With an easy schedule, there is no reason why this team should not be a contender for the national title game. Brock Berlin returns for his second year as the starting quarterback. While Berlin is not the most popular guy on campus, he has a year of experience under his belt, and that should help him entering the 2004 season.
The running back situation is perhaps the most intriguing, with Frank Gore trying to battle back from another injury and Tyrone Moss battling to win the starting job. This means that Miami has a good backfield that is capable of making big plays and will help the offense.
The receivers are all a year older, which is good news for Ryan Moore, Darnell Jenkins, Roscoe Parrish, and Kevin Everett. Greg Olsen is a promising young tight end who should get some playing time. The Hurricanes offense should definitely be one of the nation’s best units, but it will all come down to Berlin and his ability to execute and make plays.
Defensively, the Hurricanes lost Vince Wilfork, D.J. Williams, Jonathan Vilma, Al Marshall, Mo Sikes, Darrell McClover, and Sean Taylor. However, the defense is not in bad shape for next season.
On the line, the Hurricanes will be led by Baraka Atkins, who could become one of the best pass rushers in the country. Santonio Thomas, Javon Nanton, Orien Harris and Thomas Carroll will play a big role as well. The defensive line will definitely miss Wilfork, but it should be able to absorb the blow.
The biggest area of concern, if you ask me, is the linebacker spot. The Hurricanes lost three linebackers to the NFL draft, including Vilma and Williams, their best two players at the position. If Willie Williams plays, he might be able to provide depth and give the Hurricanes a solid player, but they are lacking a lot of experience here. They have Rocky McIntosh, who has played some. They also have Leon Williams, who will be a senior, but has not played all that much in college. Other than that, they lack experience and could be the weak point of the Hurricanes defense.
Despite losing Taylor and Sikes, the secondary is in good shape for next season because of the return of Antrel Rolle. Rolle, who decided to stay for his senior year, gives the Hurricanes arguably the best cornerback in the nation. Along with Rolle, the ‘Canes have Kelly Jennings and Glenn Sharpe, who have big game experience. The safeties will be young, but they are very talented as Brandon Meriweather got to play a lot last season and strong safety Willie Cooper led the defense with eight tackles during spring practice.
Overall, the Hurricanes lost a lot of talent, but as is the norm in South Florida, they will reshuffle the deck and be poised to make another title run in 2004. If they beat Florida State in the first game of the season, they have a schedule that is favorable for them running the table. How sweet would it be for the first year in the ACC to result in a conference title and perhaps a national championship?
Darren Grossman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.