Thursday, January 2, 2003

Awash in talent, Hurricanes amaze


One-time bad boys as good as it gets

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TEMPE, Ariz. - What can we say about the Miami Hurricanes? That they could be the NFL's 33rd team, get a top-10 pick in the draft and use it on a Miami guy?

That their 1,686-yard tailback would be counting the bench splinters in his thigh pads if the projected starter hadn't been hurt?

That Miami draft picks fall from trees, like coconuts? Miami had three defensive backs taken in the first round last year and led the country in pass defense this season. What? The Hurricanes had 11 players picked in April. Draft guru Jerry Jones says 16 of their 22 current starters are draftable.

Watching Miami is like waking up Christmas morning and finding the North Pole under the tree.

The quarterback who threw for 3,073 yards and hasn't lost since Sept. 9, 2000, is considered the third-best player on his own offense. Ken Dorsey falls behind Willis McGahee, a 27-touchdown tailback, and Andre Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 227-pound wideout who averaged 21.6 yards per catch and is described by center Brett Romberg as "a genetic freak (with) veins in his back, for God's sake."

Miami's wideouts are so fast, Boston College practiced for them by lining up its own receivers one yard beyond the scrimmage line.

College football isn't supposed to work this way. Not when every team has 85 scholarships and almost every one plays on TV and goes to a bowl game. Oklahoma won 47 games in a row between 1953 and 1957. But Bud Wilkinson could suit up the entire state. "If we had unlimited scholarships, you couldn't believe who we could sign," Miami coach Larry Coker said. Coker is like the minder of the mint. He doesn't coach so much as keep the runway carpet clean.

There is a word for this: Ridiculous. In reaching the national title game, Ohio State won the lottery this season. Miami is the

lottery.

It helps that Florida produces football players like nowhere else. Players sprout from the ground there, like Palmetto bugs. Miami has 57 Florida kids on its roster, 41 from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, no more than 90 minutes from its Coral Gables campus.

Miami got Dorsey and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. from California and Romberg from Ontario, Canada. "Private school, great weather, great tradition," said Coker. "Sounds good to me."

There ought to be a law. Especially now that the Hurricanes have ditched their outlaw suit for coats and ties. "A bunch of really good guys" is how Boston College coach Tom O'Brien described them. It was fun watching the '86 bad-boy 'Canes trip over their self-obsession while losing the national title to Penn State. That won't happen in the Fiesta Bowl on Friday.

Coker, following a tradition started by Butch Davis before him, calls current players into his office to ask them about a recruit's character. "If we give the guy a thumb's down, coach Coker won't bring him in," Romberg said.

The old 'Canes would have come to Tempe on a scorched-earth mission. The new 'Canes were in bed by midnight on New Year's Eve. Dorsey, the quarterback at what used to be called Quarterback U., has the neck of a No. 2 pencil. He doesn't wear his national championship ring from a year ago "because my hands are so small and the ring is so big, it looks awful."

Even Romberg, the all-America center with shoulder-length blond hair, toes the good-boy line.

"We still have some guys, myself included, who are stuck back in the '80s (and) wish they could play for the teams back then and have that crazy, lunatic attitude," he said. ... But we've got guys who are humble and confident without being brash about it."

It's so much like watching an all-star team, you expect President Bush to throw out the first pitch.

E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




BENGALS / NFL
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Browns' Holmes still the talk of the Steelers' locker room
Parcells tells ESPN he's heading to Dallas
Raiders' Gannon named MVP
NFL individual leaders

FIESTA BOWL
Daugherty: Awash in talent, Hurricanes amaze
Clarett flap overdone
UC coach saw early stardom in Tressel
Quiet New Year's Eve for Fiesta Bowl players
Buckeyes have history of coming up short
Miami's 20-year run worthy of dynasty status
McGahee, Clarett come long way to reach Fiesta Bowl
Winslow could give Miami a mismatch
Arizona legislators offered free Fiesta Bowl tickets
How Fiesta teams match up

OTHER BOWL GAMES
OU rambles to Rose Bowl victory
Capital One: Auburn 13, Penn St. 9
Cotton: Texas 35, LSU 20
Gator: North Carolina St. 28, Notre Dame 6
Outback: Michigan 38, Florida 30
Rose: Oklahoma 34, Washington St. 14
Sugar: Georgia 26, Florida State 13
Big Ten 4-1 in bowl games

XAVIER
Chalmers' injury ails No. 19 XU

UC BEARCATS
Without 1 assist, Moore gets start

OTHER COLLEGE HOOPS
Defense must dig in, Smith tells Wildcats
No. 25 Texas Tech 62, Houston 48

PREP SPORTS
Preps sports schedules

PLAN YOUR DAY
Sports on TV, radio