Unlimited Potential

The list of University of Miami linebackers that have moved on to the National Football League seems endless. The most recent (Dan Morgan) to others of the past (Ray Lewis, Michael Barrow) have helped the Hurricanes earn the tag of ‘Linebacker U'. And the number may grow next spring when current senior linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D. J. Williams entered the NFL draft as likely first-round selections. But the trend may not end there if Rocky McIntosh has anything to say about it.

McIntosh, a sophomore expected to resume his role as the Hurricanes starting strongside linebacker when the season opens at Louisiana Tech Aug. 30, has lurked in the shadows of Vilma and Williams since arriving on campus last fall. But like both of his teammates McIntosh has done little wrong in his short time as a Hurricane and is already being mentioned with some of the former UM greats to play the position.

"I think he's playing much better than he did last year," says UM linebacker's coach Vernon Hargreaves. "Rocky isn't scared to hit you and is one of those kids whose going to keep coming at you even if he misses a play or two. He still has to continue to work on his tackling but he's extremely fast and athletic. He's made some marked improvements since last season and could be ready to really put the whole thing together."

The soft-spoken McIntosh struggled at the start of his freshman season, but was earned a starting position late last season and hasn't looked back. The 6-3, 220-pounder started six of 12 games, including the last four, and recorded 43 tackles. But that was just a glimpse of what coaches believe McIntosh can accomplish before he finishes his career at UM.

"I hear it a lot but I'm just trying to remain focused," said McIntosh who had eight tackles in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. "I have to work even harder to stay here and keep getting better. One thing I've learned is to not take anything for granted."

McIntosh, considered a superior athlete with great speed and instincts, is still learning although he will go into his second season at UM as a starter. And making a play isn't the problem; it's getting to that point that McIntosh is trying to improve on.

"I'm trying to know the game a little better. Once I learn the game I should be alright," said McIntosh.

Hargreaves isn't quick to start comparing McIntosh to players he's coached at the school like Morgan and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Nate Webster. But he has done enough at this stage of his development to earn plenty of praise.

"Well I tell what a lot of those guys have been a little different," said Hargreaves. "I'd say he's a little closer to Danny maybe at this point. But that's not to say he's not going to get any better."

University of Miami coach Larry Coker knows that McIntosh is still going unnoticed at this stage of his career, especially having to share the spotlight with two potential 2004 NFL first-round draft picks in Williams and Vilma. But like most around the team Coker has no doubts McIntosh's time to shine is just around the corner.

"You know what he might be the forgotten guy, but he may be better than any of them," says Coker. "I'll tell you. He's a special player. Rocky is a 13-7 high hurdler and if that tells you anything that would win the state (title) in Florida and he's a linebacker for us. He's going to be an outstanding player for us. He has great instincts, great feet. He's going to be a hell of a player for us."

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