And everything seems to be much more in focus after the Hurricanes closed scrimmage Tuesday night in the Orange Bowl, says the first-year coach.
"There won't be any major surprises," Coker said. "We're going with pretty much what I expected."
First order of business: It looks like sophomore Jonathan Vilma has won the job as the Hurricanes middle linebacker. Vilma, who missed most of the spring and was limited early in fall camp, had been in a close race with junior Howard Clark for the first-string spot. Vilma and Clark had been alternating with the first and second teams since early August.
"Jonathan has done everything asked of him and more. He's just been terrific," said Coker. "All he does is make plays."
As a freshman last season, Vilma played extensively behind NFL first-rounder and Carolina Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan. In 11 games, Vilma recorded 38 tackles. Clark played in 10 games last season, starting eight, and had 60 tackles.
Vilma will be joined by weakside linebacker D. J. Williams and strongside linger Chris Campbell as part of the starting unit. Coker said Wednesday that Clark would get plenty of playing time as a back-up middle and weakside linebacker.
Coker wasn't kidding about his plans to play freshmen as early as this season. Safety Sean Taylor, a true freshman, has made great strides and will be a back-up to starter James Lewis (Maurice Sikes will also receive quality playing time). Antrell Rolle, a freshman out of Homestead High, is going to see a lot of action on special teams, Coker said.
Redshirt freshman Derrick Crudup will be the next guy in line if something were to happen to Miami starting quarterback Ken Dorsey. Coker is satisfied with the progress Crudup has made after sitting out all of last year.
Coker was enthused about the way the Canes offensive backfield looking during Tuesday's scrimmage and has already set a rotation. Junior Clinton Portis will start at tailback, with redshirt freshman Willis McGahee serving as his back-up. Najeh Davenport, who suffed a spained ankle in the scrimmage, is penciled in at fullback, with Jarrett Payton backing him up.
On defense, the only question remaining surrounds Hurricanes defensive ends Jamaal Grenn and Cornelius Green. Jamaal Green, who practiced earlier in the week, has been slowed by a knee sprain. Cornelius Green has been out for a week with a turf toe. Coker said the juniors Andrew Williams and Jerome McDougle could get the nod if both Greens don't practice by early next week. William Joseph and Matt Walters will start in the interior.
Defensive backs Phillip Buchanon and Mike Rumph, along with safeties Ed Reed and James Lewis, will open the season as the starters in the secondary.
NOTHING MAJOR: Sophomore Jarrell Weaver, the back-up at strong-side linebacker, has a sore shoulder.
No major changes
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