For guiding a defense that yielded the fewest points (9.4 per
game) of any team in the nation last year, Miami defensive
coordinator Randy Shannon won the Broyles Award, given annually
to college football's top assistant. A few months ago his
returning defensive linemen came by Shannon's office and pointed
at the trophy, which was displayed prominently on a shelf.
"You've gotta take that home, Coach," they said.
"But it's a testament to you guys," Shannon said.
"That's why you have to take it home," one of his charges
answered. "It's time to move forward."
The Hurricanes may be coming off a 12-0 season and a 37-14 win
over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, but they continue to show little
of the braggadocio displayed by Miami's great teams of the 1980s.
Instead, as they look ahead to a schedule packed with Alps-like
obstacles that include games against Florida, Florida State,
Tennessee and Virginia Tech, most players acknowledge that a
national championship repeat requires redoubled dedication. "The
thing that surprised me most about these players and coaches was
their eagerness to get to work the day after the Rose Bowl," says
Larry Coker, who last year became the first rookie coach in 53
years to lead his team to a national championship. "They
understand the danger of resting on our laurels."
The Hurricanes also know they have some rebuilding to do. They
lost 12 starters, three of whom were early NFL draft entries.
Only senior center Brett Romberg is back from the gifted
offensive line that was the foundation of the offense, which set
a school record by scoring 43.2 points per game. The secondary
that held opponents to 138.2 passing yards per game (second
fewest in the nation) is gone, replaced by a jumble of
underclassmen who collectively have zero starts. The biggest
void, however, may have been left by senior linebacker Chris
Campbell, whose death in a car crash last February cast a pall
over the team's spring sessions. "We all sat around after the
funeral and thought about what Chris would want us to do this
season," says senior defensive tackle Jerome McDougle. "His
desire to win gives us a special reason to succeed."
Despite its losses, Miami shouldn't fall far, as the Hurricanes
have no shortage of marquee players. In anticipation of
diminished protection, 6'5" senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy
contender Ken Dorsey (who has already passed for a school-record
58 touchdowns) has added muscle to his lanky frame through
intense workouts, hearty breakfasts and second helpings of
roommate Romberg's pasta with homemade marinara sauce. Slippery
sophomore tailback Frank Gore (9.1 yards per carry), who shredded
his right ACL in a March practice, should be back on the field by
Oct. 1. In his absence, capable backups Willie McGahee and
Jarrett Payton will share the running duties. On what could be
the country's deepest defensive line, no fewer than eight players
are in hot competition for places in the starting rotation.
McDougle, who had 48 quarterback hurries last year, is not the
only star on the line. Senior tackle William Joseph (10 sacks, 22
tackles for losses) has quietly become one of the best
run-stoppers in the nation. "Each of the eight gets 35 plays in
every practice," says Shannon. "They're not very boisterous, but
they are all quick, powerful and they're perfectionists."
Topping a near-flawless season will be tough, but the Hurricanes
believe that it can be done. A superior coaching staff and a
still-abundant array of talent give Miami as good a title shot as
anyone. If these relatively quiet and unassuming Hurricanes can
make some noise in tone-setting games (starting with a Sept. 7
brawl at Florida), they could have more trophies to put on the
shelf come next January. --K.K.
2001 RECORD: 12-0 (7-0, 1st in Big East)
FINAL RANKING: No. 1 AP, No. 1 coaches' poll
Wins last season under Larry Coker, who broke the 1-A record of
11 for a first-year coach, a mark shared by three others.
FIVE KEY RETURNEES
QB Ken Dorsey [Sr.]
58 TDs and 26-1 record as a starter
WR Andre Johnson [Jr.]
199 yards, two TDs in Rose Bowl
C Brett Romberg [Sr.]
Hasn't allowed a sack in his career
DE William Joseph [Sr.]
61 tackles ranked fourth on team
LB D.J. Williams [Jr.]
Had 43 tackles after move from FB
An opposing coach's view
The Hurricanes have stars on both sides of the ball
"They've got draft picks all the way across the defensive line.
The front seven will allow the secondary to grow up in a hurry.
The opposing quarterback won't have time to find a lot of holes.
The thing the defense is in need of is a leader. Two years ago it
was linebacker Dan Morgan. Last year it was strong safety Ed
Reed. This year it might be Jonathan Vilma, not only because he's
the middle linebacker but also because he makes big plays....
When the rush gets loose, quarterback Ken Dorsey does an
excellent job of buying himself a little room in the pocket.
He'll find somebody and can scramble without getting a
penalty.... Tailback Willie McGahee is a traditional Miami back,
a big guy who has very good speed....There aren't a lot of guys
playing on Sunday who can defend wide receiver Andre Johnson.
He's big, strong and very fast."
Aug. 31 FLORIDA A&M
Sept. 7 at Florida
14 at Temple
21 BOSTON COLLEGE
Oct. 5 CONNECTICUT
12 FLORIDA STATE
26 at West Virginia
Nov. 2 at Rutgers
9 at Tennessee
30 at Syracuse
Dec. 7 VIRGINIA TECH