© St. Petersburg Times, published September 1, 2002
MIAMI -- A depleted Miami secondary was supposed to be propped up by a stout defensive line. But injuries and lackluster play made that position a question mark heading into the season. Because of a lack of pass rush, senior Matt Walters, the starting defensive tackle, was moved to end.
"We've got to get better play out of our ends, and we didn't get that in the first couple of scrimmages," coach Larry Coker said. "We got one sack and a few hurries. I realize we're not sacking the quarterback, but it's got to be a frenzy. It's got to be an attitude."
Even with four former starters competing for two starting end positions, only senior Jamaal Green showed that "attitude." He locked the starting spot on the right side.
Seniors Jerome McDougle, a Lombardi Award candidate, and Andrew Williams practiced sparingly because of injuries. McDougle has a strained pectoral muscle in his chest and Williams is slowed by knee problems. They combined for 89 tackles and 11 sacks last season. Another question is Cornelius Green, who missed last season with a toe injury.
RIGHT MOVE: Receiver Jason Geathers was moved to running back in the preseason because of an injury to Jarrett Payton. And it appears to be a good move. Payton, the son of late NFL Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, was slated to be Willis McGahee's backup at tailback. But pain in his lower back kept him from practicing most of the preseason. An MRI revealed he has a strained erector spinea muscle.
"There's some bleeding in some of the muscle tissue, like a bad bruise," Coker said. "It's not in the spine. It's in the back. There's nothing we really know what to do with it."
UM is holding Payton out of contact drills until treatment is determined. Geathers has been working with second-team offense. Starting fullback Quadtrine Hill is No. 3 tailback.
STREAKING 'CANES: Miami ran the nation's longest active winning streak, including bowl games, to 23 against Florida A&M. It is the second-longest in the program behind a 29-game streak that began with a 45-10 win over Texas Tech on Oct. 27, 1990, and ended with a 34-13 loss to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 1, 1992. UM extended its win streak at the Orange Bowl to 17 games, second behind Nebraska (22).
DORSEY TOPS: Ken Dorsey became UM's all-time winningest quarterback, improving to 27-1 in 28 career starts, the blemish coming at Washington. Dorsey entered with the best winning percentage by a Miami starting QB, but was tied with Heisman Trophy winner Gino Toretta with 26 wins before the season opener.
"That's the record you shoot for," Dorsey said. "Not number of touchdowns or gaudy statistics because it doesn't matter if you don't win the game."
Dorsey, who had three touchdowns against the Rattlers to give him 61 for his career, tied Boston College's Glenn Foley (1991-93) for third on the Big East career TD passes list.
BOBBLING COKER: As part of the national championship pregame festivities, the first 10,000 fans received Coker bobbleheads. Coker said he was honored to become part of one of the hottest trends in sports giveaways. "I just hope I don't leave the Orange Bowl and see heads strewn everywhere," he deadpanned. "That would be a bad sign."
-- BOB HARIG, MICHAEL SNYDER