UM News & Notes: 10/28

Two seniors whose careers have taken abrupt turns are playing key roles for Miami this season.

Running back Damien Berry, who will be going for a fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing day when the Hurricanes take on Virginia, began his collegiate career in the secondary.

Cornerback Ryan Hill, who spent his first two seasons as a wide receiver, is now one of the stalwarts in the secondary.

Berry was moved to offense as a sophomore but didn't have much of an impact until last year.

He didn't see his first action as a running back until the fifth game of the season, but he finished the year as Miami's second-leading rusher with 616 yards on his 93 carries. He is the primary ball carrier this year with 648 yards on 131 carries.

Coach Randy Shannon said he made the decision to move Berry to offense after Berry didn't seem to be the same player on defense at Miami that he had been in high school at Belle Glade, Fla. But Berry did show a spark at tailback, and Shannon made the decision to try him there.

"I took a lot of heat for it, but it was my decision to see what we could do in the future," Shannon said.

Berry spent his sophomore year on special teams, which is where he was for the first four games of 2009 until getting his opportunity against Florida A&M. He responded with 162 yards on 14 carries and has been in the mix at running back ever since.

And Hill's case?

"Same way," Shannon said. "Ryan Hill came out of a high school a great defensive back out of Tallahassee. Soon as he set foot here, he went through the entire camp and then went to receiver.

"Then we got some receivers here, and I just called him to talk. I wanted to move him back to defensive back. We played him at safety because he's an athlete, a big guy who can do certain things.

"Then he got injured last year."

After a redshirt season, Hill moved from safety, where he had played in 2008, to corner, where the Hurricanes needed help.

This season he shares the team lead in interceptions with safety Vaughn Telemaque. They have three each. Hill also has broken up four other passes and has been credited with 27 tackles, 1.5 of them for losses.

He had five tackles and broke up a pass in the win over North Carolina. Berry rushed for 109 yards and looks to carry a big workload against the Cavaliers.

Miami is 5-2 overall, 3-1 in the ACC heading into the game at Virginia. The Hurricanes are at the midpoint of their conference schedule with home games remaining against Maryland and Virginia Tech and the other road game at Georgia Tech.

By winning out, the Hurricanes would win the Coastal Division and play in the ACC championship game.


--RB Damien Berry looks to move into even more exclusive territory after becoming only the fourth Miami player since 1975 to rush for more than 100 yards in four consecutive games. He will go for his fifth consecutive such game at Virginia, which would leave him one short of joining Willis McGahee and Edgerrin James as the school record-holder with six in a row.
--Six of the last seven meetings between Miami and Virginia have come since the Hurricanes began competing in the ACC in 2004. The first time the teams met was in 1996, when the Hurricanes beat Virginia 31-21 in the 1996 Carquest Bowl. That game was played on Miami's current home field, Sun Life Stadium (formerly Joe Robbie, formerly Pro Player, formerly Dolphin, formerly Dolphins, formerly Land Shark Stadium).
--Miami has an interesting streak going in NFL play. At least one former Hurricane has scored a touchdown in every NFL game played since Week 15 of the 2002 season, a span of 129 straight weeks. Willis McGahee (Baltimore) and Santana Moss (Washington) kept the streak going last weekend.

SERIES HISTORY: Miami leads Virginia 5-2 (last meeting, 2009, 52-17 Miami).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Miami has developed a running game and is even more effective with TB Lamar Miller back from injury to spell starter Damien Berry. QB Jacory Harris has been more patient with only one interception the last two games, mostly because the offensive line has kept him protected. The Hurricanes are rushing for better than 202 yards a game in conference play and throwing for just over 220.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Hurricanes are second in the nation in tackles for loss (9.29 per game) and tied for second in sacks (3.57). They are limiting opponents to 302.71 yards per game in total offense, which leads the ACC and ranks 17th in the country. The big-play guy is LB Sean Spence, though DE/DT Allen Bailey is beginning to emerge as a force up front.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Just keep reminding them, and if a guy's not practicing well, put somebody else in. A letdown is not going to be by this team. It's going to be by an individual, thinking they already have it done." -- Coach Randy Shannon, on what can be done to avoid a letdown going to Virginia, which is 0-3 in ACC play.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Miami at Virginia, Oct. 30 -- The Cavaliers snapped a three-game losing streak when they stepped out of conference play to squash Eastern Michigan 48-21 in their last outing. They are 3-4 overall, 0-3 in the league with losses to Florida State, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Miami needs a win to keep control of its own destiny in the division.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Patience is the key on offense. The Hurricanes are much more effective running the football and getting it to their receivers, who then have the capability to make plays, instead of turning QB Jacory Harris loose for long ball after long ball. The defense should be able to get to Virginia QB Marc Verica, as the Cavaliers have given up 17 sacks.


-DE/DT Allen Bailey -- Bailey is starting to live up to his reputation as a playmaker after registering 3.5 sacks in the win over North Carolina. He now has 5.5 for the season. About one in every five of his tackles is a sack.
-LB Sean Spence -- It was Spence, appropriately enough, who forced the early fumble that not only cost North Carolina a touchdown but also woke up the Miami defense, Spence leads the Hurricanes in tackles with 59 stops, 10 of them for losses.
-RB Damien Berry -- Berry is a workhorse for the Hurricanes with 131 carries. No other running back has more than 40. He has made them good for 648 and has cracked the 100-yard mark rushing in four consecutive games.

--Senior OG Joel Figueroa (shoulder) could miss his fourth consecutive game when the Hurricanes play at Virginia. He was a starter at right tackle when the season began but was moved back to guard, rotating between left and right, as freshman Seantrel Henderson assumed the starting role at tackle.

--WR Travis Benjamin has seen his punt return average dip to 7.1 yards after netting zero yards on four returns against North Carolina.

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