Miami Offense Preview

Hard to watch an NFL game on Sunday without seeing Warren Sapp chasing Brett Favre or Ray Lewis terrorizing runners in the backfield. Even rookie defensive end Damione Lewis is making an early mark as a starter with the Rams. It was a rock solid defense that led the Canes to four National Championships.

Flip the script this year.

While Miami's defense will be one of its strongest ever it is the Canes explosive offensive unit that will steal headlines in 2001. If offense sells tickets, expect a sellout when UM brings its show to a town near you.

Look no further than Ken Dorsey when beginning to describe this explosive bunch. After a stellar 2000 season, the junior quarterback returns to build upon that 11-1 record. Dorsey was almost perfect last season throwing for 2,737 yards, 25 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. After stumbling at Washington early in the season, #11 was on a mission. Cane fans could forgive the slip up in Seattle after his poised game winning drive against Florida State. So in the zone he seemed almost possessed at times, Kenny became a man in 2000 and capped off a stellar season with a 270 yard, three-touchdown performance against Florida. The only question this year seems to be who he will throw to after losing three of his favorite targets to the NFL.

You don't replace the receiver arsenal of Moss, Wayne and King overnight. But in Miami the drop off in talent isn't too far off. Senior Daryl Jones will provide the experience and leadership while newcomers Andre Johnson and Ethnic Sands will have to hit the ground running. Lest not forget about tight end Jeremy Shockey who started the 2000 season a no name an Oklahoma JC transfer and twelve games later was Dorsey's go to guy. Miami mastered the art of utilizing the tight end the past few years – don't expect that to change.

With Penn State returning only one starter in both the cornerback and safety positions, Hurricane receivers will rely on speed and their experienced quarterback to keep that Lions' defense honest. New offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski must utilize Jones' speed and Johnson's size this weekend against PSU's inexperienced secondary.

Hurricane opponents used to plan their afternoon around defending the aerial attack and having Miami beat them with the running game. They know better that that now. There is no deeper backfield in the country than Miami's. Clinton Portis is the starter but he better not get too comfortable with that role. This young man will have to earn every start as freshman phenom Willis McGahee is impatiently waiting for his moment in the sun. It may be a wee bit early for all those Edgerrin James comparisons that are being dropped so freely – still, make no mistake – McGahee flat out comes to play.

So does fullback Najeh Davenport. Last time a Big Ten audience saw #4 he was mowing down Buckeye defenders – or so they were called – left and right. He chewed up Ohio State in 1999 and will do the same to the Nittany Lions. While Penn State will field a more experienced d-line than last year's, they are still the same crew that let Toledo's Chester Taylor burn them for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

But what are Miami running backs without an amazing line? I think we used to call them Danyell Ferguson and Dyral McMillian. Former Cane backs who never reached their full potential because they didn't have the opportunity to run behind the wall of talent that will anchor Miami's offensive line this season.

The sweetest news after the Sugar Bowl victory was when All-American Bryant McKinnie decided to return for his senior season. He manhandled former Florida State lineman and first round pick Jamal Reynolds last season and will absolutely embarrass PSU's Haynes or Jones. One must feel for the Lion that attempts to take on McKinnie this weekend. Unfortunately for the other, his 292-pound consolation prize comes in the form of Joaquin Gonzalez. Sorry, there is no door number three.

More veteran leadership anchors Miami's line in the form of Brett Romberg, Ed Wilkins and Martin Bibla with sophomore sensations Vernon Carey and Carlos Joseph waiting in the wings. This offensive line is the best in the country, hands down. No way on earth Penn State is able to penetrate it. The holes will open and it will be gangbusters when Miami's running backs are set loose.

For those few and far between times the Canes can't punch it in the end zone, Groza Award Candidate Todd Sievers is up for the challenge. During the 2000 season Sievers connected for 11 of 17 field goals and 52 of 58 extra-points attempts – two of which were 50 yards out.

Explosive, electric, loaded and ready to play – that is the best way to describe the Canes' 2001 offensive unit. Forget the drama surrounding Penn State's big evening plans in Happy Valley this Saturday night. It will be the Miami's offensive unit that steals the spotlight Saturday night.

Born and raised in Miami, Chris Bello now lives in San Diego, CA and works as a freelance writer. Feel free to send your comments or to contact him for potential writing assignments at cbello@san.rr.com

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