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2000 Miami Hurricanes Football Preview

2000 Miami Hurricanes Football Preview

Aug. 22, 2000

MIAMI – The University of Miami football team enters 2000 in its best position in Head Coach Butch Davis’ six years at UM to be considered among the nation’s top teams. Miami, coming off a 9-4 record and a No. 15 final ranking, returns an abundance of impact players on both sides of the ball in 2000.

Offensively, the ‘Canes return nine players that made at least three starts last season, including six that made six or more starts. There is a deep talent pool at the wide receiver and running back positions to compliment experienced personnel at quarterback and fullback. The biggest challenges for the ‘Canes will be replacing senior offensive linemen Richard Mercier and Ty Wise, as well as junior tight end Daniel “Bubba” Franks. Franks left UM early to enter the NFL Draft where he was a first-round selection.

On defense the Hurricanes return eight starters that made six or more starts in ’99, returning starters at two linebacker and all four defensive back positions. Competition will open up on the defensive line as two of the four first-team spots are up for grabs as the ‘Canes look to replace departed seniors Michael Boireau and Matt Sweeney.

All total UM returns 19 players that recorded a start last season, including 14 that made at least six starts in 1999. Moreover, the Hurricanes return 39 of the 50 players listed on their Gator Bowl depth chart.

Second-year sophomore Ken Dorsey takes over the reigns as the University of Miami’s starting quarterback. Dorsey, who started three games in 1999, takes over for Kenny Kelly. Kelly left UM in February to pursue his professional baseball career on a full-time basis after signing a new four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Dorsey appeared in six games as a true-freshman, completing over 60 percent of his passes, throwing for 807 yards and 10 touchdowns on 74-of-120 passing. Additionally, Dorsey threw just two interceptions, contributing to a 142.3 passing efficiency rating.

In his three starts last season Dorsey exploded with record-setting numbers. Facing Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple to close out the regular season, he engineered a Hurricane offense that combined for 155 points, the most points ever scored by UM over a three-game span. In those three games, Dorsey’s completed 64 of 91 attempts for 718 yards and nine touchdowns. Against Temple his four touchdown passes established a new single-game mark for a true-freshman signal caller at UM, breaking the old record held by Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar.

Third-year sophomore Ethenic Sands moves to quarterback from wide receiver. A former high school quarterback Sands guided Carol City HS to consecutive Class 6A state titles.

Running Back
The Hurricanes return a plethora of talented running backs in 2000, all of whom bring a different dimension to Miami’s offensive attack.

Senior James Jackson returns for his fifth season at UM. Jackson, a lightning quick runner who can score from anywhere on the field, ranks fifth on Miami’s career rushing chart with 1,947 yards. Last season Jackson was hampered by nagging injuries that limited him to nine games, rushing for 782 yards and nine touchdowns.

Fourth-year junior Najeh Davenport is back after missing the final 12 games of 1999 following ACL reconstructive surgery. Davenport, a rare combination of power and speed at 6-1, 235, brings a punishing running style to the Hurricane backfield.

Clinton Portis and Jarrett Payton return for their sophomore seasons following productive true-freshman campaigns. Both players look to improve upon last season’s numbers. Portis, thrust into a starting role for five games due to injuries to Jackson and Davenport, responded with five 100-yard rushing performances en route to setting the UM freshman rushing record with 838 yards. Portis also delivered in the Gator Bowl where he led UM with 117 yards including a 73-yard touchdown run which broke the game open.

Payton, in just his third season of football, ran for 262 yards and one touchdown in seven games. The son of NFL Hall of Famer, Walter, Jarrett switched to #34 late in the season in honor of his father’smemory.

Several players are in the mix to replace departed senior Mondriel Fulcher at fullback. Senior Will McPartland is the incumbent at that position. McPartland played in 11 games, making three starts, last season, rushing for 51 yards on nine carries.

Redshirt-sophomore Nick Nettles is expected to press McPartland. He moved from defensive line to fullback during the offseason.

Wide Receiver
As talented and deep as Miami’s running back unit is, the Hurricane receiving corps may be even more lethal. UM has seven receivers who will compete for playing time at the flanker and split end positions.

Santana Moss, the team leader in receptions (54), yards (899), and receiving yards per game (75) last year enters the spring ready to improve on a superb junior season that saw him garner first-team All-BIG EAST honors. Moss, the fastest runner on the UM team, holds the Hurricane indoor track record in the 60-meter dash and looks to use that speed to blow by defensive backs. He currently ranks third on UM’s career receiving yards list (1,788) and fourth on the career touchdowns list (14).

Reggie Wayne bounced back from reconstructive ACL surgery that forced him to miss the final three games of the 1998 season to have an outstanding ’99 campaign. Wayne ranked third on the team in receptions (40) and yards (486). He ranks third on Miami’s all-time receptions list with 130 and fourth on the career receiving yards list with 1,755.

Andre King continued the solid play he has provided since his arrival on the UM campus. One of the top blockers among the receiving corps, King was fourth on the squad in receptions (20) and receiving yards (397) last season. As a kick returner, King had nine returns for 154 yards.Daryl Jones, who red-shirted this past season, provides the ‘Canes with another deep threat. He took first place honors in the 100-meters at the 1999 BIG EAST Outdoor Track Championships.Rounding out the receiving corps are red-shirt freshmenKevin Beard, Andre Johnson and Anthony Johnson. Allthree possess great quickness and instincts that willenable them to compete for playing time.

Tight Ends
The Hurricanes have several capable candidates looking to fillAll-American Bubba Franks’ shoes. Ivan Mercer, Robert Williams, and James Sikora will all battle for time at the tight-end spot.

Mercer looks to make an impact after grabbing five passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns, while appearing in nine games for the ‘Canes. Mercer came to UM after being an honorable mention All-American at Orange Coast J.C.

Williams played in 11 games last season, mostly on special teams. He possess good size and blocking ability, while Sikora hopes to earn playing time as a redshirt freshman.

Offensive Line
The Hurricanes return three starters along the offensive line. The unit enters spring drills healthy and with depth while looking to fill the holes left by All-American guard Richard Mercier and All-BIG EAST first team selection Ty Wise at center.

The right side of the line is solid for the ‘Canes. Two-year starter Joaquin Gonzalez returns for his junior year at right tackle. Gonzalez has started every game (25) over the last two seasons and in 1998 became the first offensive lineman in BIG EAST history to earn Rookie of the Year honors. Redshirt-sophomore Ed Wilkins will be serving as the primary back-up for Gonzalez and has the skills to become a dominant force.

At right guard Martin Bibla started every game last year and enters his junior year with 17 career starts at the position. Bibla remains one of the strongest ‘Canes and is very explosive coming off the ball. Pushing Bibla for playing time will be sophomore Joel McGrath out of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Competition will be fierce at center as redshirt-junior Scott Puckett and redshirt sophomre Brett Romberg look to assume first-team status following the departure of starter Ty Wise. Puckett served as Wise’s back-up last season, as Romberg moves over to the position from left guard.

Greg Laffere, who started the last nine games at left tackle, looks to nail-down the left guard position. Battling Laffere for time will be redshirt-freshman Vernon Carey (6-5,340). Carey, a Parade All-American, was one of the highest rated offensive lineman in the nation coming out of high school. Both players look to fill the void left by All-American Richard Mercier who started 48 games at the postion.

Redshirt-sophomore Sherko Haji-Rasouli and redshirt-junior Bryant McKinnie look to crack the starting lineup at left tackle. The 6-6, 310-pound Haji-Rasouli saw action in nine games last season, while the 6-10, 315-pound McKinnie was redshirted after spending two seasons in the junior college ranks.

Defensive Line
The Hurricanes return two starters on the defensive line in senior Damione Lewis and redshirt-sophomore William Joseph. The biggest challenge will be replacing defensive end Michael Boireau and tackle Matt Sweeney.

Fifth-year senior Damione Lewis will anchor the defensive line in 2000. A three-year starter, Lewis recorded 57 tackles, 12 for loss, and 6.5 sacks last season. Battling behind Lewis at right tackle are redshirt-senior Brian Stinson and redshirt-freshman Larry Anderson. Stinson, who backed up Michael Boireau last year saw action in 11 games, while Anderson red-shirted to prepare for the demands of playing major college football.

Junior Adrian Wilson looks to take over for Matt Sweeney at the other interior line spot. Wilson played in every game last season, recording 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Wilson will be pushed by third-year sophomore Matt Walters, who tallied 27 tackles in his first season. Fifth-year senior Clint Hurtt will be battling for playing time at both of the interior line positions.

Third-year sophomore William Joseph looks to retain his hold on the starting left end position which he won last year and maintained throughout the season starting in every game. Joseph totaled 48 tackles in 1999 to go along with 1.5 sacks. Competing behind Joseph for playing time will be redshirt-senior Jevon Rhodes and third-year sophomore Lavar Scott, who switched from linebacker to defensive end during the spring.

At the right end position, fifth-year senior Quincy Hipps and third-year sophomore Jamaal Green will battle for the starting position. Both players served as backups to William Joseph last season with Green recording four sacks and Hipps tallying 17 tackles. Pushing both Hipps and Green will be 6-5, 245-pound redshirt-sophomore Jim Wilson.

UM’s linebacking corps looks to fill the void left by the early departure of All-American Nate Webster, an AP second-team All-American who recorded 150 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions in 1999, but with the return of All-BIG EAST second-team selection Dan Morgan and eight-game starter Chris Campbell big things are expected.

Butkus Award semi-finalist Dan Morgan moves to the middle for his senior year. Morgan spent his first three seasons as the Hurricanes starting weakside linebacker. After leading Miami in tackles during his first two seasons, Morgan finished second on the team last year with 139. Morgan registered double digits in tackles in ten games last year and recorded five sacks to go along with one fumble recovery and three forced fumbles. Junior Sheven Marshall looks to bounce back from a neck injury that sidelined him for the final five games last year to back-up Morgan.

Third-year sophomore Howard Clark takes over the starting duties at weak-side linebacker. Clark saw action in every game last year, recording 20 tackles. Redshirt-freshman Jerrmell Weaver is slated to provide back-up.

Junior Chris Campbell, who stepped in for the injured Michael Smith last year, started the final eight games of the ’99 season. Campbell recorded 55 tackles, including a career-high 13 against Boston College in the greatest comeback in Miami history. As well as recording over 50 tackles, Campbell also placed fifth on the team with nine tackles for a loss. Challenging Campbell for playing time will be redshirt-sophomore Ken Dangerfield, who played in all 13 games last year, in addition to redshirt-freshman Jarrell Weaver.

Defensive Backs
One of the most experienced units on the team, Miami returns its entire defensive backfield from last season. Great things are expected from this veteran group, which boasts outstanding depth at all positions.

At right corner, junior Mike Rumph looks to retain his starting position. An All-BIG EAST second-team selection, Rumph recorded 75 tackles, four interceptions, and four pass breakups in 1999. Pressing Rumph for playing time will be fourth-year junior Markese Fitzgerald and senior Delvin Brown. Fitzgerald has 13 career starts to his credit, while Brown has four.All-BIG EAST second-team selection Al Blades looks to become a three-year starter at free safety. Blades, the brother of former ‘Canes Bennie and Brian, finished the year third on the team with 89 tackles, while also tallying two forced fumbles, one interception and one fumble recovery. Backing up Blades, will be junior James Lewis and redshirt-sophomore James Scott. Lewis, started for the ‘Canes vs. East Carolina last season and recorded 4 tackles in that gameand 38 on the season. Scott played mostly on special teams, but looks to increase his playing time this year.

The strong safety position is anchored by All-BIG EAST second-team selection Ed Reed. A starter in 12 contests last season, Reed tallied 74 tackles, four sacks, two blocked kicks and two interceptions. Pressuring Reed for playing time will be converted wide receiver Aaron Moser, sophomore Maurice Sikes and sophomore Darell Arline.

At left corner, Leonard Myers enters spring as the incumbent. The 5-11, 200-pound senior recorded 49 tackles, three interceptions, eight pass breakups and one sack during ’99. A duo of speedsters, Phillip Buchanon and Tory Mitchell, will battle Myers for playing time.

Special Teams
The Hurricanes return veteran punter Freddie Capshaw, who handled the punting duties for much of last season. Capshaw finished with a 39.7 yards per punt average, as well as dropping nearly 30 percent of his 47 punts inside the opponents 20-yard line. Battling Capshaw for the punting duties will be sophomore Jesse Ohliger, who handled some of the Hurricanes kick off duties last year.

With the loss of senior place kicker Andy Crosland, the bulk of the field goal and kick off duties look to fall on the shoulders of Todd Sievers. Sievers, who redshirted last season, appears ready for the task and looks to put his booming leg to use.

The battle at long snapper looks to be fierce, with five players competing for the spot vacated by Pat Del Vecchio. Joe Fantigrassi, James Scott, James Sikora, Chris Harvey and Mike Hartley are all battling for this spot on the special teams. The holding position is also up for grabs, with the departure of Jeff Popovich.

Miami’s 2000 schedule is highlighted by visits from last year’s No. 1 and 2 teams, in Florida State and Virginia Tech. Five of UM’s opponents advanced to bowl games last year, with Florida State and Virginia Tech battling for the National Title, while seven of Miami’s opponents posted winning records.

The Hurricanes open the season on Thursday, August 31 against McNeese State at the Orange Bowl. Following the home opener, the ‘Canes do not return to the Orange Bowl until October 7, when they face Florida State. In between, the Hurricanes travel over 2,500 miles to play the University of Washington on September 9, over 900 miles to play West Virginia on Sept 23, and following a bye week, over 1,000 miles to play Rutgers on the evening of September 30.After the Rutgers game, the Hurricanes come home for an intra-state battle with rival and reigning National Champion Florida State. Following a bye week the ‘Canes head to Temple on October 21, before home contests against Louisiana Tech on October 28, and conference rivals Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh on November 4 and 11.

The ‘Canes then close out their season with a trip to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse on Nov. 18 and a home game against Boston College on Nov. 25.