Early Morning Practice Notes, 8/20

University of Miami head coach Larry Coker said Monday that the red-zone problems the Hurricanes offense have been encountering as of late could be blamed on a group that takes the field with Ken Dorsey and co: UM's defense.

"It's so hard to say," said Coker, when asked if the offense had been making a progress near the goal-line. "What it might really say about our football team is that our defense is really special. So until we actually get out there and play, we won't know for sure.

Although Coker did say that he was pleased with their performance after struggling in a pair of scrimmages last week. Even with several big plays, the defensive unit held the UM offense to field goals on two seperate occasions inside the five-yard line last Wednesday. The offensive unit did not score on Saturday

Coker complained that the offense looked 'slow'.

"We haven't been able to run the ball," Coker said. "We're going to have to run the ball to beat teams like Penn State, Washington and them guys."

If the season started today, senior Daryl Jones and sophomore Andre Johnson would open up at the wide out positions.

"We'll narrow that thing a bit more after Tuesday," Coker said.

KEEP A SPOT OPEN

Coker said on Monday that freshman receiver Kellen Winslow II will have a role on this year's team.

"He's going to play this year," Coker said. "We're just trying to work him in and determine his role on the football team."

Winslow II, the son of Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow, wil not play tight end for the Hurricanes.

CROWDED BACKFIELD

Coker shot down any potential problems among the slew of Miami running backs, including Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and Najeh Davenport. Whoever performs the best will play, Coker said.

"Whoever is the better player, that's the guy that is going to play. The running back position is one of the those ego positions, but if there is an ego bigger than this team that guy won't be on this football team," Coker said.

Running back coach Don Soldinger said that although Portis is 'being pushed a whole lot' by McGahee, he remains the favorite to start at running back.

"He's just productive. You can put that in bold, black letters. He's a productive player," Soldinger said. "There are two things Clinton has- a competive charge and confidence. I don't lose any sleep when he's in the game."

NEXT IN LINE

With back-up center Scott Puckett out 3-4 weeks with a slight tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee, redshirt freshman Joel Rodriguez has been moved up the depth charts. Rodriguez will most likely fill in as Romberg's back-up Sept. 1 when the Hurricanes travel to Penn State for the season opener.

Rodriguez, who played in Saturday's scrimmage in place of an ill Romberg, has never taken a snap during a game. Although, offensive line coach Art Kehoe has plenty of confidence in the 6-3, 277-pounder.

"Joel has been a here a while so I feel comfortable with his familiarity of the offense," Kehoe said. "He's real quick and a phenomenal athlete. He'sgoing to have to grow up a little faster tthan he wanted to and put in a lot of work."

Kehoe praised Rodriguez for the work he's done in the fall practice and most recently Saturday's scrimmage.

"It's a shame for Scott, but we're in a good situation," Kehoe said.

Rodriguez, a Monsignor Pace graduate, is jumping at the chance of getting extentive playing time. Rodriguez spenty many long days in the South Florida heat along with several teammates. He is ready if and when the Hurricanes call his number.

"I didn't know how to react at first, but with all the guys we have on the line I'll be alright," Rodriguez said. "The guys have really been helpful."

Just in case-the Hurricanes can turn to redshirt freshman Chris Myers and junior Joe Fantigrassi at center if Romberg or Rodriguez went done.

"I feel the guys we have will get the job done," Kehoe said.

INJURY UPDATE

Aside from Puckett and senior defemsive end Cornelius Green (turf toe) no other injuries were reported. Junior defensive end Jamaal Green, who missed all of last week with a knee sprain, practiced for the second straight day. Green said the knee felt 'fine'.

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