When Miami quarterback Ryan Clement took over for injured
starter Ryan Collins midway through the Virginia Tech game last
September, Clement's grandmother Dorothy couldn't bear to watch.
After seeing her grandson absorb one particularly gruesome shot,
she sought refuge in the ladies' room of Blacksburg Stadium,
where her daughter Jan stopped by to provide periodic updates.
Following the game, a 13-7 Miami loss, Dorothy approached her
grandson and in a firm voice said, "Now, you tell that Ryan
Collins to get better real fast." Only much later did she summon
the courage to watch her grandson play again. "As the season
went on, I got hit less," says Clement. "She'd watch me on TV."
Once hideous to behold, the Hurricanes, too, again appear safe
for public viewing. After losing three of its first four games
for the first time since 1976, Miami won its final seven games,
including a 35-24 defeat of a very good Syracuse team in its
season finale. With its favorable schedule and the return of 17
starters--including 10 on defense--Miami should vie for a place
in a New Year's Day bowl game.
That the Hurricanes finished so strongly last fall is a
testament to coach Butch Davis and his staff, who somehow
cobbled together an eight-win season with a roster that was
decimated by injuries. Thirty-six different players started for
the Hurricanes last fall, and several others gained valuable
game experience that they would not have gotten under less dire
circumstances. One of those players was Clement, who completed
59.2% of his passes and threw for 1,638 yards and seven
touchdowns, figures that compare favorably with the second-year
numbers of former Hurricane quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde, Craig
Erickson and Gino Torretta.
Clement will play behind an experienced line anchored by the one
of the country's top centers, K.C. Jones, whom Davis compares
with standout Houston Oilers center Mark Stepnoski. And after a
slow start in the season opener, running back Danyell Ferguson
(1,069 yards) flourished in Davis's two-back set. He may have to
be that productive again because Clement will have few
experienced passing targets. All-Big East wideout Jammi German
was suspended for the year for his role in the June assault of
Miami track captain Maxwell Voce. (German has pleaded not
During the summer Davis suspended four other players
indefinitely for various offenses. Even so, it's possible none
of them will miss more than the season's first month, during
which Miami plays Memphis, The Citadel, Rutgers and Pitt
(combined '95 record: 11-33). With home games against Florida
State and Virginia Tech and a lone tough road game at Syracuse,
anything less than 9-2 come Dec. 1 seems unlikely. That alone,
however, will not satisfy Davis. "I'm convinced we can win at
Miami, but we're going to do it the right way," he says. "As
long as there are problems off the field, you aren't going to be
recognized for how good you are on the field."