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3 Miami The Hurricanes rode out a stormy off-season and stayed on course for another title run

When coach Butch Davis left to take over the Cleveland Browns on
Jan. 29, nine days before national signing day, it seemed as
though the Hurricanes might struggle again, as they had in the
mid-'90s. The Miami players felt betrayed because Davis had
repeatedly told them he would remain with the program, and rival
coaches suddenly were back sniffing around a strong group of
recruits who had orally committed to Davis. What's more, the
administration was looking outside the program for Davis's
replacement, courting, among others, Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez,
who presumably would bring in a new system.

In the end Alvarez stayed put and, to the delight of the
Hurricanes, veteran Miami offensive coordinator Larry Coker was
promoted. "When Coach Coker was hired, it was a big relief
because we knew that nothing would change," says junior
quarterback Ken Dorsey. "We knew that we could compete for the
national championship."

With 14 starters returning from an 11-1 team that proved it was
back among college football's elite by defeating Florida State,
Virginia Tech and, in the Sugar Bowl, Florida, Miami will be a
leading contender to win the national title, which it last won in
1991. The Hurricanes, who ended the season ranked No. 2, have as
much talent as any team in the nation despite having lost four
starters who were first-round NFL draft choices.

The key to Miami's championship hopes is Dorsey, who last season
threw for 2,737 yards and 25 touchdowns while being intercepted
only five times. He will be protected by an experienced line
anchored by two senior All-America tackles, Bryant McKinnie, who
didn't allow a sack last season, and Joaquin Gonzalez. Dorsey,
however, will be working without an established receiver, and
that will force him to assume a greater leadership role,
something he relishes.

"I understand what's expected of me," says Dorsey. "For the first
time in my career I have to go to guys and tell them what to do.
We don't have a Santana Moss or a Reggie Wayne anymore. We all
have to work together."

The 53-year-old Coker, who was the Hurricanes' offensive
coordinator for the past six seasons, says he will have an
offensive philosophy similar to Davis's but hopes to put more
emphasis on the running game. Despite losing last season's
leading ground gainer, James Jackson, Miami should be able to run
the ball because of a trio of talented backs: senior Najeh
Davenport, who gained 308 yards last fall; junior Clinton Portis,
who averaged a team-high 6.3 yards per carry last year; and
sophomore Jarrett Payton, son of the late Walter Payton.

The loss of Butkus Award-winning middle linebacker Dan Morgan to
the Carolina Panthers leaves a major hole on defense, which is
why sophomore D.J. Williams, the 1999 USA Today [high school]
Defensive Player of the Year, will move back to linebacker after
playing fullback last season. The secondary is loaded, led by
senior strong safety Edward Reed, who was third in the nation
last season with eight interceptions, and cornerbacks Phillip
Buchanon, a junior, and Mike Rumph, a senior.

To compete for the national championship Miami will have to win
at Penn State, Florida State and Virginia Tech, but the
Hurricanes insist they have already won the most important fight
with the hiring of Coker. "Right now everyone is feeling pretty
good," Coker says. "The players went to battle for me, and I
have a responsibility to them to keep this program on the right
track. There's no uncertainty. They're comfortable with me, and
I'm comfortable with them. Before Coach Davis left, we had our
sights set on a national championship. That's not going to


COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE Showing the way for a pack of mostly untested running backs will be Davenport, a senior capable of flying feats.


2000 record: 11-1 (7-0, 1st in Big East)
Final ranking: No. 2 AP, No. 2 coaches' poll


Touchdowns needed by quarterback Ken Dorsey to become Miami's
alltime leader.


QB Ken Dorsey [Jr.]
2,727 passing yards, only five interceptions

LT Bryant McKinnie [Sr.]
6'9", 335-pounder is a line coach's dream

RB Clinton Portis [Jr.]
Runs of 82 and 61 yards in a reserve role

RT Joaquin Gonzalez [Sr.]
Allowed just two sacks in his last 23 games

SS Edward Reed [Sr.]
Big East leader with eight interceptions

An opposing team's coach sizes up the Hurricanes

"They're loaded. They've always had great skill kids, but
they're different now because they're so good up front. Miami
really tries to pound you more than ever before.... Ken Dorsey
is an extremely poised quarterback and very accurate. He's got a
good head on his shoulders and is difficult to rattle.... The
Hurricanes lost some big-play receivers but still have a lot of
speed at that position. Daryl Jones is as fast as Santana Moss
and should emerge as their big-play guy.... It's going to be
interesting to see if they can sustain their intensity on
defense. [Former defensive coordinator] Greg Schiano had them
playing hard, and he kept you off-guard. They played basic
defense until third down and then threw the book at you....
Their secondary is the best in the nation. Phillip Buchanon is
an excellent cover corner .... I don't expect much difference
with [coach] Butch Davis gone. This team has so much talent it
would be hard to mess it up."

Strength: 36th of 117

Sept. 1 at Penn State
27 at Pittsburgh
13 at Florida State
10 at Boston College
Dec. 1 at Virginia Tech