Snap Count Three QBs are vying to start at Miami, but Brock Berlin is still No. 1

April 25, 2004

While plenty of Miami fans question whether Brock Berlin should
be the Hurricanes' starting quarterback in 2004, no one can
question the senior's commitment to earning their confidence.
Every morning during a sometimes shaky 2003 season at Miami, the
former Florida Gator would wake up at 6 a.m., grab a cup of joe
from McDonald's and head to the Hurricanes' athletic department
offices. For the next hour, before most of his teammates had
started to stir, Berlin would dissect video of his previous game.

Berlin's study sessions have only intensified since the end of
his first season in Coral Gables. While he admits to having
shifted his film work from early morning to the afternoon--it is
the off-season, after all--he has also logged countless hours
talking strategy with new offensive coordinator Dan Werner and
compiling a list of ways in which he needs to improve in 2004.
Although Berlin says the contents of the list are private, it is
no doubt an extensive one. In an 11-2 season, he threw 12
touchdowns and 17 interceptions as the Hurricanes scored just
27.8 points a game, their third-lowest average in two decades
(though to be fair, his young receivers dropped plenty of
catchable balls). "Brock did a lot of good things last year, but
he had way too many interceptions," says Werner. "He's got to
work on his progression of reads. Often he'd get fixed on one
receiver and just skip over the rest."

If refining his game sense isn't enough of a challenge for
Berlin, he also has to fight for his job. Senior Derrick Crudup
and highly touted redshirt freshman Kyle Wright both have made
clear their desire to supplant him as starter. In early March
coach Larry Coker tried to quash controversy by naming Berlin the
Hurricanes' No. 1. In last Saturday's spring game, Berlin
validated Coker's confidence, going 10 for 16 for 185 yards,
including a 59-yard touchdown to Darnell Jenkins.

Berlin notes that Miami's increased emphasis on downfield
passing--a plan installed by Werner, who was promoted from
quarterbacks coach in January when Rob Chudzinski took a job with
the Cleveland Browns--could work in his favor. "I feel able to
throw the deep ball, and I know we have the receivers. Last year
was a rookie year for a lot of us, but the great thing is how
much we've learned from it."

Can such optimism, along with a year of hard knocks and dogged
film study, be enough to transform Berlin into the next great
Miami quarterback? Or even a consistent one? "All quarterbacks
can do is work hard. The rest must unfold from there," says
Werner, who notes that Berlin has cut down markedly on turnovers
this spring. "As long as Brock knows he's done all he can within
his control, that's important, because he's going to need that
confidence when he lines up for that first game." Especially when
that first game is Miami's Atlantic Coast Conference debut,
against Florida State on Sept. 6. No doubt the Seminoles, who
lost to Miami twice last year, are also watching plenty of video
on Berlin.

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Berlin, Wright and Crudup all want a shot at running Werner's passing offense.

In Search of The Main Man

Miami isn't the only high-profile school where the quarterback
job is up for grabs. Five others:

LSU Senior Marcus Randall (25 for 40 passing for 403 yards in
'03) is No. 1 based on experience, but redshirt freshman JaMarcus
Russell is the more dynamic playmaker.

MICHIGAN Sophomore Clayton Richard and touted true freshman Chad
Henne won't easily unseat poised junior Matt Gutierrez, who shone
this spring.

NEBRASKA Transfer Jordan Adams, who threw for 531 yards and four
touchdowns in his only junior college start last year, will
arrive in late May to challenge the slated starter, sophomore Joe
Dailey.

OHIO STATE Though sophomore Troy Smith is speedy and agile,
classmate Justin Zwick has a bigger build, stronger arm and, as
of now, a slight edge.

TENNESSEE Neither senior C.J. Leak (brother of Florida QB Chris)
nor junior Rick Clausen (brother of outgoing starter Casey) has
distinguished himself, leaving the door open for a talented
incoming class.

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