As Hurricane Katrina ripped through Coral Gables Thursday evening, the Miami Hurricanes finished practice in monsoon conditions. With opening night drawing ever so close, the ‘Canes need as much time on the practice fields they can get.
Considered one of the greatest rivalries in sports, the Hurricanes will meet Florida State on Labor Day in Tallahassee. The Hurricanes have dominated the series recently, taking the last six matchups. Last year’s edition was one of the most exciting games ever between the two teams, as the Hurricanes rallied from a 10-0 deficit in the fourth quarter to win 16-10 in overtime.
Come kickoff Monday evening, some familiar faces in the rivalry will be missing. One glaring name from that list is former FSU quarterback Chris Rix, who lost to Miami five times in his tenure. Another recently departed Seminole is kicker Xavier Beitia, who UM fans came to know over the last few years for missing critical field goals against the Hurricanes.
UM will have a new face under center, as Kyle Wright earned the nod during spring practice. Wright wasn’t able to get as many snaps as the team would have liked last year because of injuries.
Miami will also have a new starting running back in Tyrone Moss. Moss lost 14 pounds in the off season and has Head Coach Larry Coker very excited about what he may be able to become.
One name that strikes fear in every opposing coach in the country is Devin Hester. Hester will not be a starter on defense but will see a lot of playing time, whether it be on defense, offense or special teams.
Coker said that fans will see a different Hester this season.
“I think you’ll see a new Devin Hester, attitude-wise. Not that Devin’s attitude was bad: just the maturity. Devin’s only played in the secondary for a year,” Coker said. “I think you’ll see that he’s grown up a lot. He has more of an understanding of what it takes.”
This is not one of the stronger Florida State teams that Miami has faced over the years, as FSU is expected to have a down year with inexperienced young talent. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes feel they had a down year last season by losing three games.
The Hurricanes’ defense is stacked with returning players, which may be the reason why the team succeeds in the ACC this season.
Junior defensive lineman Baraka Atkins said the defense is loaded with talent.
“We get [preseason hype] every year, and deservingly so with the amount of talent and athletes that we have on our team,” Atkins said. “We lost a couple of guys on defense, mainly Antrel Rolle, but for the most part everybody is coming back.”
With a rivalry as fierce as Florida State versus Miami, no matter how talented the two teams are in a given year, it is all thrown out the window after kickoff. Coker knows this very well.
“We’re playing an extremely tough team Labor Day evening. It’s a tremendous challenge there,” Coker said.
Kickoff is set for Monday at 8 p.m. at Doak Campbell stadium in Tallahassee.
Douglas Kroll can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.