UM Receivers - big shoes to fill

There aren't too many things that the Hurricanes could be accused of not having as they embark on a season that many believe will end with a national title in the Rose Bowl. Not too many things should go wrong when a team posses a Heisman Trophy hopeful, running backs to chose from and a menacing defensive unit.

But if there is a major question being thrown out about the Hurricanes everybody is pointing at the wide receiver position.

No longer will University of Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey be able to stand in the pocket and chose from a group of speedsters that included Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne and Andre King. Moss, Wayne and King are all now providing the NFL with their services.

"I'm confident these guys will step up," Dorsey said. "Michael Irvin left and somebody took over for him. Randal Hill left and somebody took over for him. Same thing now. Santana and those guys were all great, but the guys we have are very talented They can all be great receivers."

The Hurricanes receiving corp ( Daryl Jones, Andre Johnson, Ethnic Sands, Jason Geathers and Kevin Beard) indeed have the potential and ability to put all those questions to rest. All they have to do now is to go out and start proving it. Something they believe won't take them too long to accomplish.

"I understand why people have questions about us," said Jones, a senior who is expected to take the role of leading receiver. "But it doesn't bother us. I know a lot of us have to still prove ourselves. That's why I can't wait to get on the field."

Jones will be attempting to fill some big shoes as the Hurricanes No. 1 option at wide receiver after years of playing second-fiddle behind Moss.

"This is why I came to Miami," Jones said."The pressure is on me to get the job done. I've worked extremly hard for this chance and feel like I can't let anybody down. I'm ready for the challenge."

Jones, 5-10,184 pounds, enters the season with just 33 career receptions and five touchdowns at Miami. Last season, in a back-up role, Jones had 12 catches for 181 yards. Although, Jones did earn first-team All-Big East honors as a kickoff return specalist.

"With Santana and Reggie here in the past I didn't feel the urgency of making plays. This season I know a lot of people are counting on me."

He first stepped on campus in 1997 as a high-regarded recruit from Dallas, Texas. But for some reason or another, Jones has never reached his full potential. After a strong freshmen season, Jones has slowed by a nagging injury the following season. Jones caught just 12 passes for 146 yards as he battled knee problems. The injury forced Jones to be redshirted in 1999.

Jones feels he has the past behind him. He worked all all summer in the weight room to get stronger and took to the practice field with Dorsey in search of improving the passing game.

"This is it for me," Jones said. "I'm going to leave it all out there."

Without question Jones is the most experienced of all the receivers.

But there are whispers around the coaching staff and those close to the program that redshirt sophomore Andre Johnson might turn out to be the best Miami receiver ever.

Johnson, who will start at the opposite side of Jones, is already being compared to former Hurricanes star receiver Michael Irvin. Johnson's combination of raw strength and blazing speed give him the ability to beat defenses going deep or make catches in traffic. And having 4.4 speed in the 40 and a 35-vertical leap won't hurt him either.

"I haven't really payed much attention to all the hype and things being said about me," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to become a better football player."

" To be compared to a guy that someday will be in the Hall of Fame is nice, but I have other things to take care of. I have to make plays on the football field when the lights come on. If mu number is called and a don't produce then all that stuff don't mean a thing."

Johnson will certainly get plenty of chances this season to back-up all the early clippings about him.

The 6-3, 220-pounder showed a glimpse of his talents as a freshman last season after sitting out in 1999. Johnson played in every game as a wide receiver and kick-off return specalist.

Although Johnson only caught three passes for 57 yards he left his mark as one of the Big East's most dangerous return men. The speed-burner had a season-high return of 37 yards against Washington and had 249 yards overall.

"Its good that I got my feet wet. I understand the offense a lot more and have worked with Kenny a whole lot. I have confidence that he has trust in me to throw the ball my way."

As a receiver at Miami Senior High School, Johnson made life difficult for opposing defensive backs. He was placed on the first-team All-Dade and All-State squads as a senior after pulling down 31 passes for 908 yards.

"I've always been used to team calling my number with the game on the line," Johnson said. "Hopefully I can do things on the field this year that can build that kind of confidence in my teammates about me. I'm ready."

Sands, who switched from quarterback to receiver this spring, has impressed the coaching staff with his quickness and finding a way to always get open. Sands could be ready to step right in for Johnson, if he struggles in the early stages of the season.

After playing at quarterback his first two seasons at Miami, Sands has limited experience at the receivers position as a Hurricane. He has four career receptions and 38 yards.

But this athletic skills have made the transition an easy one. Sands not only led Carol City High School to consecutive state titles as their starting quarterback, he was a solid guard on the basketball team.

"Its not like I'm jumping into a totally new position for me," Sands said. "I've been there before. I know what it takes."

The least mentioned of the group are Beard and Geathers.

Beard, a third-year sophomore, could find himself with a prominent role at flanker behind Jones. The 6-2, 185-pounder has the best hands on the team and also has tremendous speed. Beard participated in seven games last season.

Geathers came to Miami last season followed by high expectations as a heavily recruited reciever out of Delray Beach, Florida. But Geathers had trouble with the offense and ended up being used at both receiver and running back. He was limited to 18 rushes all season and did not catch a pass. He expects that to change.

"I came to Miami to play and be part of something special. It's time to get started."

Canes Time Top Stories