Canes Conclude Sluggish Practice

Coker joked with the media at the conclusion of Tuesday's practice about keeping the questions short because he was tired from staying up late to watch the Kansas-Syracuse NCAA men's basketball national championship game.

And apparently most of the Hurricanes were tuned in as well.

"This was kind of a little sluggish day coming off the scrimmage on Saturday I thought and I told the team we made too many mental mistakes today," said Coker after practice at Greentree Field. " It wasn't a bad practice but we weren't as sharp as I expected us to be. I would expect us to come out tomorrow and be a lot sharper football team."

Junior defensive tackle Santonio Thomas, who missed Saturday's scrimmage because his grandfather passed away, was not with the team on Tuesday.

"John Wood has been suspended for the rest of the spring because of violation of team policy, Coker said. Wood, a junior defensive end who practiced with the scout team for most of last season, was expected to add depth to a defensive front that will have four new starters in 2003-04. Wood wasn't with the team on Saturday.

Coker said that Wood's return for the fall is still unclear at this point.

"I think that's still up in the air," said Coker. "We'll make that decision after spring practice."

Wood's suspension deepens the lack of experience up front for the Hurricanes. But Coker said that he feels comfortable with several young players on the rise including walk-on Javon Nanton and Baraka Atkins. Nanton scored on a blocked punt Saturday, while Atkins had two sacks.

"I think we're fine there. We feel really good about the kids we have there," said Coker. "We just might need some help from the younger players, but I feel good about the situation. Javon has done very well. He's done a great job rushing the passer and I've been – I won't say surprised- but I've been very, very pleased with him. He's been on the scout team and we had trouble blocking him on the scout team. He's really done well."

SQUARE A STARTER: Coker said that junior John Square would start at right defensive end if the season were to start on Saturday. The 6-5, 202-pounder has impressed Coker with his pass rushing and constant effort.

"I think the thing with John is that he really likes to play and plays hard," said Coker. "He gives great effort and really goes all out and I think that says a lot. If we played today he would have it. There's no doubt about it. If we started the season today he would start with the first-team at right defensive end."

Square recorded six tackles in four games as a reserve last season.

GORE UPDATE: Starting tailback Frank Gore was held out of contact today after missing the scrimmage with a bruised shoulder. Coker said he would like to get Gore some work before the end of the spring.

"I'd like to get Frank in there a couple of days, some on Friday," said Coker.

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