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Dorsey goes deep into UM tradition

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 5, 2000


CORAL GABLES -- Ken Dorsey is well aware of the tradition. He has about committed it to memory. You know, the long list of success at Quarterback U. A legendary line of quarterbacks.

For Dorsey, it is humbling. It also presents an exciting challenge.

The expectations are enormous, and Dorsey, Miami's starting quarterback, embraces them.

In addition to spending the summer lifting weights, studying films, throwing passes to his receivers and working on his 3.0 grade-point average, Dorsey sought out the stars who once occupied his position.

"I talked to Steve Walsh a lot, Gino Torretta. I also had the opportunity to talk to Bernie Kosar," Dorsey said. "It was a great feeling, being able to talk to those guys, just listening to their stories about what they've been through. I think that will make me so much better.

"You don't think about the tradition until you get to fully understand it by talking to these guys, seeing them sharing that part of the past."

And what a past it is. Kosar directed the Hurricanes to their first national championship 17 years ago. Vinny Testaverde won a Heisman Trophy, as did Torretta. Walsh and Craig Erickson won national championships.

Now it is Dorsey's turn.

"It can be overwhelming," he said. "You don't realize where you're at. Sometimes that's the best thing, not to even think about it. Otherwise you'll start thinking, "Why can't I play as well as Bernie Kosar?' Those guys accomplished so much through their careers. I haven't done anything. It's not even fair to compare."

A big test awaits Dorsey this week. The fourth-ranked Hurricanes (4-0) travel to Seattle to play 15th-ranked Washington (1-0) on Saturday. The game will go a long way toward determining whether UM is capable of contending for the national championship.

If there are doubters, it is because of Dorsey.

Dorsey, 19, is the youngest starting quarterback of any team ranked in the preseason top 10. The sophomore's inexperience is perceived as perhaps the biggest weakness on this team.

Dorsey took over the starting role from Kenny Kelly, a former Tampa Catholic player who left UM to play baseball full time in the Devil Rays organization. Dorsey backed up Kelly last season and started three games when Kelly was injured.

In those starts, Dorsey fared well, completing 64 of 91 passes for 718 yards and nine touchdowns. All three were victories, but they came against Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple.

Dorsey had no problems in theseason opener Thursday against McNeese State, completing 17 of 29 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters of work.

Still, he has yet to face an opponent as strong as Washington.

And yet, few previous UM teams had the depth at receiver and in the backfield that will help Dorsey this season.

"I feel like I'm driving my dream car right now," he said. "I've got a six-disc CD changer in the back with all the receivers we've got. And I can just recline the seat and hand the ball off to all those running backs we've got. My job is easy. We've got all these weapons. I just have to do my job -- get them the ball."

"We all know Ken has to be the man this year," senior tailback James Jackson said. "He has to step it up. But we have to protect him. The receivers have to run perfect routes. The running backs have to pick up linebackers in blitz protection. He's a big key for us. Those four or five games he played toward the end of (last) season helped him out. But the (experience) on this team will make it even better for him."

Dorsey grew up in Orinda, Calif., near Berkeley. He became a fan of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, watched tapes of Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, even started collecting classic college and pro games on tape. The idea was to study the best.

He became the starting quarterback in his junior year at Miramonte High and passed for 4,968 yards and 52 touchdowns in two seasons. Always tall and skinny, Dorsey is 6 feet 5 and 195 pounds. He added nearly 20 pounds in the off-season.

Dorsey got home for a brief visit this summer, but his main focus was to stay on campus, take classes and immerse himself in football. A typical day: classes from 8:30 a.m. until noon, weightlifting from 1 to 3 p.m., throwing passes to his receivers from 4 to 6 p.m., and studying opponents from 6 to 8 p.m.

Looking at tape was a crucial part of Dorsey's education. For the first half of the summer, he concentrated on the UM offense and what it did last season. During the second half, he viewed tape of every team the 'Canes play this season.

"That stuff you can't do at home," he said. "I had to be here to get better. It was a sacrifice I had to make for the team. I didn't mind it at all."

It is something that did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

"I have a lot of confidence in Ken," senior linebacker Dan Morgan said. "I think he's going to have a great year. He works too hard, and he's too smart not to have a good year. He has a lot of targets, a lot of weapons. He's not a worry at all."

"He's going to make mistakes," coach Butch Davis said. "But by midseason, he's going to be a very dangerous quarterback."

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