‘Canes clean house after Peach Bowl blowout

In the wake of an embarrassing 40-3 loss to Louisiana State in the Peach Bowl, four prominent members of the University of Miami coaching staff lost their jobs.

Head Coach Larry Coker fired offensive coordinator Dan Werner, assistant head coach/offensive line coach Art Kehoe, running backs coach Don Soldinger and linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves on Jan. 2. One of the openings has already been filled: Louisiana-Monroe play-caller Todd Berry was hired on Jan. 13 to coach the quarterbacks.

Coker said he was worried about the prospects of the program after failing to make a Bowl Championship Series game for the second straight year.

“For me, personally and professionally, it was a very tough decision but it’s a decision that had to be made,” Coker said. “Our performance has not been up to expectations at the University of Miami. We have high standards here. The last five years have been a good five years. But my concern is the next five years and to make sure we are going in the right direction.”

While the timing of the firings seems to coincide with the Peach Bowl loss, Coker said the team’s performance was not the reason for their dismissal.

“This was not because of one game,” Coker said. “That was a very disappointing game. But we evaluate continuously. When things don’t go well, you evaluate and make changes that have to be made. You cannot stay the same. We have to go in the right direction with the right staff.”

Werner was a member of Miami’s coaching staff for eight years, the last two as the offensive coordinator.

“I understand the profession,” Werner said. “When the offense is not productive, it falls on my shoulders. I’m not happy with the decision, but I have to move on. I respect Coach Coker’s decision.”

Kehoe was a fixture in Coral Gables for 26 years, as a player, graduate assistant and coach.

Hester’s had Enough

The 37-point loss to the Tigers marks the end of kick returner/cornerback Devin Hester’s three-year career as a Hurricane. The junior will forgo his final season to enter the NFL Draft after gaining 28 yards on seven carries in the Peach Bowl. He also caught two passes for 40 yards, as he was featured extensively on offense despite getting few touches during the regular season. Injuries affected Hester’s explosiveness on special teams in 2005.

Defensive tackle Baraka Atkins and wide receiver Ryan Moore decided not to test the draft waters and will return to Miami for their senior seasons. Atkins finished the year with 49 tackles, five stops for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Moore hauled in 28 passes for 464 yards and four touchdowns this season, but was suspended by the team before the Peach Bowl for unspecified reasons.

Miscellaneous Peach Bowl Info.

With the loss, Miami fell to 18-14 all-time in bowl games, and 14-7 in postseason contests east of the Mississippi River.The Hurricanes lost to an opponent with a top-five defense for only the second time under Coker, who remains one win shy of tying Jack Harding (54) for the third-most wins in school history..The game marked the first meeting of top 10 teams in the history of the Peach Bowl.

Eric Kalis can be contacted at e.kalis@umiami.edu.