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Focus is on UM offense this season

Top running back, wide receivers from 2000's record-setting group have moved on.

By JOE FRISARO

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 7, 2001


CORAL GABLES -- The Hurricanes set a school record for points scored last season. New coach Larry Coker hopes the offense continues to pile up the points today in Miami's annual spring game.

It will be a tough task. The defense returns eight starters and has gotten the better of the offense much of the spring.

"I want to see some efficiency out of the offense," said Coker, Miami's offensive coordinator the past five seasons. "I'd like to see the offense put the ball in the end zone."

Miami returns quarterback Ken Dorsey, tight end Jeremy Shockey, All-America candidate Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and center Brett Romberg.

Promoted to coach after Butch Davis left for the NFL's Browns, Coker remains hands-on with the offense that scored 469 points a season ago. He has entrusted the defense to coordinator Randy Shannon, formerly the Miami Dolphins linebacker coach.

"We've done some good things," Coker said. "We haven't turned the ball over that much. I'd like to see Kenny Dorsey have a good day and I'd like to see some receivers come up and make some plays for us."

"I can definitely take more of a leadership role, and become more vocal," said Dorsey, who threw 25 touchdowns as a sophomore last season, but will be without receivers Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne and running back James Jackson this season. "But I'm confident in myself, and I'm confident that we have guys who can make plays and make up for Santana, Reggie and those guys."

Shockey, 6 feet 5 and 240 pounds, has emerged as a top receiving threat. The junior tight end is shifting to wideout at times to create matchup problems. Only senior receiver Daryl Jones has started a collegiate game and caught more than four passes in a season.

Until the receiving corps steps up, Miami's offense could rely on its backfield. Junior Clinton Portis has the inside edge on replacing Jackson at starting tailback. Redshirt freshman Willis McGahee is pushing Portis.

Senior Najeh Davenport will play fullback and tailback and Jarrett Payton, son of the late Walter Payton, will compete for playing time. Payton has missed the entire spring with a gash on the bottom of his foot.

"There are a lot of teams that don't have one (back) as good as any of our four guys," Coker said. "We've got a good problem."

* * *

WHEN/WHERE: 10:30 a.m. today; Orange Bowl, Miami.

ADMISSION/PARKING: No charge.

TV: 10:30 tonight, Fox Sports Net (taped).

FORMAT: Offense vs. defense.

POINT SYSTEM: Offense -- 6 for touchdown, 3 for field goal, 1 for first down. Defense -- 6 for touchdown, 3 for turnover, 1 for forced punt.

TIME: Four 12-minute quarters.

NOTES: Gates open at 9:30 and CanesFest 2001 begins. Coach Larry Coker will have a Q&A session with fans. Fans can purchase season tickets -- $99 general admission, $150 UM alumni, $150 four corners-upper deck, $225 reserved, $275 chairbacks, $299 Publix Family Plan. Call 1-800-GO-CANES. -- Compiled by Joe Frisaro.

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