By MICHAEL SNYDER
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 31, 2001
PASADENA, Calif. -- If Miami is to win a fifth national title, it will do so without one of its defensive stalwarts.
Coach Larry Coker confirmed at Sunday's media day that linebacker Chris Campbell, who has an infection in his right knee, will miss Thursday's game and Howard Clark will start.
Campbell, a senior starter on the strong side, had an arthroscopic procedure after Miami's regular-season finale against Virginia Tech, but fluid built up. When Miami arrived in Los Angeles, Campbell went to the hospital to have it drained and the infection was discovered.
Campbell, who has started the past 30 regular-season games, spent three days in the hospital, was released Friday night and attended media day.
"His leg is immobilized and he's on antibiotics," Coker said. "At least we have some depth in that area. We're not going to let it affect us at all. Second-team players just have to be first-team players. We'll be okay, but it's disappointing for him."
Campbell, third on the team with 68 tackles, including a season-high 12 against the Hokies, is especially strong in coverage.
"That's a tough blow right there -- that hurts," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "I've played the whole season next to Chris. I'm real comfortable with him."
Clark, a junior, has seen extensive action as a backup this season, but at the middle and weakside spots.
"Howard's been practicing there for two weeks now so I'm pretty comfortable with him," Vilma said. "But we haven't played in a game yet."
CROP BEST EVER?: For weeks, people have been suggesting this season's Hurricanes may be the school's best. Heady talk considering the great teams that have called Coral Gables home.
"We shall see," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "Certainly up to this point they've done enough to be able to maybe begin to make those kind of statements. Certainly in their own minds I'm sure they feel very strongly that that is the case, and they've done a lot on the football field to reinforce that, but there's been some awfully great Miami football teams that featured some very talented athletes year after year."
Take the 1986 UM team. Jimmy Johnson, Vinny Testaverde, Jerome Brown and Co. lost in the Fiesta Bowl to Penn State.
Cornhusker faithful believe their 1983 team was the best to come out of Lincoln. That team lost to Miami 31-30 in the Orange Bowl, giving the 'Canes their first national championship.
DORSEY DREAMS: UM quarterback Ken Dorsey again downplayed a rivalry with Nebraska's Eric Crouch, who beat him out for the Heisman Trophy.
"He's a great person, and a great guy. He deserved to win ... he's a great player. He's one of those guys that when you talk to him you're very impressed," Dorsey said. "I just told him I wish I could catch some 40-yard touchdown passes but we know how different we are. I'm not going to run a 4.4 any time soon. He grew up ... was born and raised in Nebraska football."
Dorsey is expecting as many as 150 friends and family members from his native Orinda, near San Francisco, for the game.
Safety Ed Reed said it doesn't matter that Dorsey will be playing in his home state. "He's ice," Reed said. "Nothing rattles him."
FINALLY: Dorsey and Crouch had their helmets "disappear" Saturday. "I came to the locker room and thought someone was playing a joke on me," said Crouch, who got a replacement. "It fits better -- it happened for a reason."