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College football

Seminoles wary of Hurricanes' vaunted veteran defense

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published July 31, 2005

ORLANDO - Miami's defense put ten players in the NFL draft's first round in the past four years, but with nine starters back from last season, continuity could be a huge edge, especially in the Sept. 5 opener at Florida State.

"They've got the No. 1 ingredient I think you'd want, and that's a loaded defense," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said Saturday at the Florida Sports Writers Association's annual preseason gathering. "They're loaded defensively, and sometimes you don't have to be very good anywhere else if you can play great defense."

Miami lost Antrel Rolle in the first round in April, but coach Larry Coker said Rolle wasn't his most productive cornerback last season, saving that praise for returning starter Kelly Jennings. Add defensive linemen Baraka Atkins, Orien Harris and Thomas Carroll, and Coker said the veteran leadership reminds him of his national championship team, which was made possible because talents like safety Ed Reed and tackle Bryant McKinnie didn't leave early for the NFL.

"It's a tremendous advantage, because they know what it's all about," Coker said. "They know how painful it is to lose, and they know how great it is to win at the University of Miami."

THAT'S MY BOY: Bowden was asked if his son, offensive coordinator Jeff, merited as much criticism as he got last season, when he took much of the blame for the Seminoles' offensive struggles.

"I trust my son as much as I trust anybody, as long as he does what I tell him to do. ... Is he getting any more criticism than Mark Richt got when he was with me? Not death threats. (Richt received death threats?) Ask him."

"That's it. That's part of it," the coach said, smiling. "I gave Jeff one last year."

Bowden had a few more laughs, including deflecting talk of his potential retirement, saying he and Penn State's Joe Paterno will stay as long as they're winning.

"There ain't many coaches my age coaching. Old Joe. He's old. He's seventy-dadgum-eight," Bowden said. "Both of us are on our back nine. Every time I hear that, I say I'm going to try to get in 36."

MORE FREE TIME: USF coach Jim Leavitt has had a weekly ballot in the national coaches poll but said he wasn't invited back this season.

"I guess I didn't do a good job," said Leavitt, who said he spent "hours and hours" each week researching his ballot. "I don't mind not doing it. It took me a lot of time, but I knew it was important ... I think it's an honor to be allowed to do that. It's one of those important priorities that you just do."

Leavitt said he disagrees with the decision to make the final coaches' ballots open: "What if everybody knew how you were going to vote for the presidency? Do you think there'd be pressure as you walk in there? Everybody knows, "I voted this way.' Say you're the last vote, and it's going to be president or not, you think there's any pressure on you? Why is this any different? You don't think coaches can do a thorough job?"

THIS AND THAT: Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger said his program's next step is building a 40,000-seat domed stadium in Boca Raton, something he said must be in place by the 2008 season. The Owls' schedule includes a nationally televised ESPN2 home game Sept. 8 against Oklahoma State, and Schnellenberger said he's decided it's better to risk a big loss on national television than anonymously win against lesser opponents. "It's 10 times better to be on TV and reap the benefits of that exposure," he said. ... Leavitt said the Bulls' home opener against Florida A&M on Sept. 10 will probably draw "over 50,000" to Raymond James Stadium. USF's RJS record is 36,549, set last season against Army, a mark that could fall in each of its first three home games (Sept. 10, Central Florida and Sept. 17, Louisville).

[Last modified July 31, 2005, 16:18:20]


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