© St. Petersburg Times, published December 29, 2002
PHOENIX -- Larry Coker said he wants to strike a balance between work and play as top-ranked Miami prepares for its title game with Ohio State.
He should know how; he hasn't lost a game.
Coker -- 24-0 as Miami's coach, including last season's national championship -- stepped off the plane Friday at the airport with the rest of the Hurricanes contingent and was asked how much fun he wants his team to have in the Valley.
"We don't want to have all fun, let's put it that way," Coker said.
"This is a reward for our players. I want this to be a great college experience. This is not life and death. When it's time to have fun, we'll have fun. When it's time to practice, we're going to be focused in between the lines, and we're going to practice hard."
EXTRA SPEED: There's one recurring theme whenever an Ohio State coach or player talks about the Hurricanes: team speed.
The Buckeyes are bigger and stronger, yet it is Miami's turbocharged quickness at almost every position that awes opponents and sets Miami apart from the rest of college football.
"Speed is the key to any game," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "Any time human beings play on their feet, the faster ones usually win."
The Buckeyes are working on ways to combat Miami's perceived advantage. To a man, they acknowledge that the Hurricanes' defenders are sprinters, that their wideouts allow no room for error by a defense, that a simple misstep can easily end in a long touchdown.
Every team puts a premium on speed. It's just that most believe Miami started the trend and corners the market.
Ohio State offensive lineman Alex Stepanovich said it's not just hype.
"Oh, yeah, they're definitely fast," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and tell anybody they're like any other team."