3 Miami While the Hurricanes are still loaded, their hopes for a second title in three years rest with some untested players

August 10, 2003

Miami running backs coach Don Soldinger never tires of telling his
favorite Frank Gore story. "It was during two-a-days not long
after Frankie had gotten to Miami [in 2001], and we were going
over protections," says Soldinger. "There were about 12 or 13 to
memorize, and I told the players to go home and learn 'em. So I'm
fast asleep that night when the phone rings at 2:30 a.m. 'Hey,
Coach,' says Frank. 'I learned the protections. You want to quiz
me?'"

Two years later Gore still has that sense of urgency--only more
so. After gaining 562 yards on only 62 carries in backup duty to
Clinton Portis as a freshman, Gore tore the anterior cruciate
ligament and meniscus in his right knee during 2002 spring
practice. Then he watched his replacement, Willis McGahee, become
a Heisman Trophy candidate last fall and play a major role in
helping the Hurricanes reach the national championship game. Now
that his knee is fully healed, and McGahee has moved on to the
NFL, Gore faces high expectations in trying to sustain a Miami
tradition. "I feel a lot of pressure because the running backs
before me put up some big numbers, and people are talking about
how I'm going to be the next one," says Gore. "When I get the
call, I want to make the big plays."

For Miami to play in its third straight national title game, Gore
will have to come through. While the Hurricanes' defense remains
formidable--among those returning are two of the nation's top
linebackers, middle man Jonathan Vilma and outside backer D.J.
Williams, plus all four starters from a secondary that tied an
NCAA record for fewest yards allowed per catch (9.5)--the offense
will be breaking in a new quarterback. Junior Brock Berlin, a
transfer from Florida who sat out last season, has played in only
12 college games and hasn't been tested in Miami's efficient,
quick-strike system. So it will likely be up to Gore to provide
the offensive pyrotechnics at the start of the season. Though
Gore isn't as powerful a runner as McGahee, Soldinger believes
the redshirt sophomore will meet the challenge. "He has the best
raw skills and running technique of any player I've coached,"
says Soldinger. "On the sidelines we're always saying, 'Now, how
did he get out of that one?'"

Gore was showing signs of his freshman form as early as March, in
an intrasquad scrimmage. In his first contact drills since
injuring his knee in a collision with safety Sean Taylor a year
earlier, Gore insisted on shedding his hands-off jersey (much to
head coach Larry Coker's discomfort). Running in his exaggerated,
low-to-the-ground style, he carried five times for 37 yards,
including a 22-yard run in which he dodged past three
first-string defenders for a touchdown.

The session boosted Gore's confidence, as did a heart-to-heart
with McGahee around the same time. "Willis told me that I would
have no problem doing well if I remember to do two things to
protect myself," says Gore. "The first was to never read what
anyone says about you in the newspaper. The second was to get in
the weight room and make myself stronger than ever."

Gore took the message to heart. During the summer he was up by
6:15 to be in the weight room at seven. In the team's notorious
spring sprint gantlet--the players run 110 yards full-out 12
times and have to repeat a set if anyone's late--Gore pushed
himself so hard that he fell into his bed immediately afterward.
(The oldest of three siblings, Gore, 20, still lives in the
Coconut Grove apartment where he grew up, so he can help his
mother, Lizzie, a single parent who requires multiple dialysis
sessions a week to treat a kidney ailment.) After briefly adding
four pounds over the off-season (he subsequently shed the weight
and comes in at 216), the 5'10" tailback worried about how the
increased bulk would affect his mobility. "He kept asking, 'Do
you think those four pounds are slowing me down?'" says left
guard Vernon Carey. "It's a ridiculous question, because the
guy's as quick as ever. He's become a perfectionist."

Gore expects near perfection again this year from the Hurricanes,
who were 12-0 before losing to Ohio State in double overtime in
the Fiesta Bowl. "As long as we stick together, we'll make
another run at the championship," he says. "I'm just glad I have
a chance to help us get there." --Kelley King

COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER (GORE) GORE CAMPAIGN Back from a knee injury that sidelined him for a year,the sophomore looks to regain the form he showed in 2001.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN Winslow

FAST FACTS

2002 RECORD 12-1 (7-0, 1st in Big East)
FINAL AP RANK 2
RETURNING STARTERS 12

KEY RETURNEES (2002 stats)

TE Kellen Winslow (Jr.)
Team-high 57 catches for 726 yards, eight TDs

LB Jonathan Vilma (Sr.)
Leading tackler in each of last two seasons

LB D.J. Williams (Sr.)
16 of 108 tackles were for loss; four sacks

RB Frank Gore (Soph.)
9.1 yards per carry as freshman in '01

FS Sean Taylor (Jr.)
Team-leading 15 pass breakups; 85 tackles

TELLING NUMBER

32
Consecutive regular-season wins for Miami dating to Sept. 23,
2000. Four more would tie the school record of 36 (1985-88).

SMART MOVE

Sophomore Eric Winston was a promising tight end, but his
coaches believe he can become a great left tackle. With
All-America Kellen Winslow and talented backup Kevin Everett
manning the tight end spot, the Hurricanes figure Winston's size
(6'7", 290) and blocking skills will help solidify an O-line
that lost center Brett Romberg and left guard Sherko
Haji-Rasouli. Winston will compete with incumbent Carlos Joseph
for the starting job.

SCHEDULE

AUG. 28 AT LOUISIANA TECH
SEPT. 6 FLORIDA
13 EAST CAROLINA
20 AT BOSTON COLLEGE
OCT. 2 WEST VIRGINIA
11 AT FLORIDA STATE
18 TEMPLE
NOV. 1 AT VIRGINIA TECH
8 TENNESSEE
15 SYRACUSE
22 RUTGERS
29 AT PITTSBURGH

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)