Unsolved concerns?

University of Miami football coach Larry Coker was recently asked if he had put the Hurricanes double-overtime loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the national title Fiesta Bowl last January behind him. Coker responded by admitting that he spent days after the game tossing and turning in his bed, adding that he may never be able to get over one of the most heart-wrenching defeats in the program's history.

But for his team's sake Coker better have a clear state of mind starting Monday. That's when the 2002-03 national runner-up Hurricanes open fall camp in preparation for the upcoming season. Despite a 35-2 record, including a national championship, since the start of the 2000, Miami enters camp with a new starting quarterback, a surgically repaired running back and untested defensive ends, among other issues.

Miami hits the field for real Aug. 28th at Louisiana Tech. Will they have everything in place by then? Nobody knows. But the Hurricanes do have a number of unsolved questions to deal with.

Starting with …

1. Has the quarterback situation been put to rest?

Coker tried to end any lingering effects of a quarterback controversy by naming Brock Berlin his starter after spring practice. However, with back-up Derrick Crudup still around and Crudup Sr., alleging that the decision wasn't fairly made (Hint: racism) and sparking plenty of tension around the team it will be interesting to see if the Hurricanes can move forward without any distractions. Has it already caused division on the team? Only time will tell. Everybody will have to be a little more mentality resilient that's for sure.

2. Is Berlin the real deal?

The former Gator will finally get a chance to prove it after sitting out a year and learning the Hurricanes offense from afar. He'll have mighty big shoes to full in replacing Ken Dorsey, one of the school's best ever at the position. Arm strength isn't expected to be a problem because Berlin can wing it. But on the flip side Berlin will have to go to work with a young stable of receivers and an offensive line that still has some leaks. If Berlin has leadership qualities in him this is the perfect time to display them.

3. Is Frank Gore fully healed?

Coker pronounced Gore fit and ready to go in this spring. But despite Coker's optimism the truth is Gore was held back all spring and had his contact limited. It is still unclear how Gore's knee will respond to the pounding it will take. And don't forget there were a few changes on the offensive line in the spring, not exactly the springboard to consistency several months before the start of the season.

4. How efficient will the offensive line be?

How many hits can the Canes afford before feeling the effects. Miami lose Bryant McKinnie. Joaquin Gonzalez and Martin Bibla in 2001. Now they must deal with the loss of two more starters – Brett Romberg and Sherko Haji-Rasouli. Romberg and Haji-Rasouli combined for 61 career starts at UM. Vernon Carey, Carlos Joseph and Chris Myers, all starters last season, had a tough time in the Fiesta Bowl keeping Dorsey clean. They will have to display marked improvement in the coming weeks. The play of converted tackle Eric Winston will be just as important. Winston was switched from tight end to left tackle in the spring. A big responsibility for a player that has never played there before.

5. What receiver(s) will step to the front of the line?

While Miami has an abundance of talent here the inexperience can't be overlooked either. For the last several seasons the Hurricanes had Andre Johnson to turn to when they needed a wide out to deliver a big play. But Johnson is in the NFL now. How will be Berlin's prime target at receiver? With a year under his belt, Roscoe Parrish can turn into that guy, but Miami will still need help from others (Jason Geathers? Kevin Beard?). Look for some of the young receivers like Darnell Jenkins, Ryan Moore, Aikeem Jolla and Sinorice Moss to be thrown into the mix in camp and hit with a cram course. Moore, Jolla and Moss missed valuable time in the spring.

6. Will the defensive line shrug off departures?

Going up against Gore in practice everyday in practice should only help them. And they will certainly need it. The Hurricanes will go into the season without six players off of last year's unit, including all four starters up front. Will the Hurricanes go into the season still searching for a reliable rotation of defensive linemen? Vince Wilfork and Orien Harris are safe in the middle, but the defensive ends are all raw. Keep in an eye on red-shirt freshman Baraka Atkins in camp as he continues his emergence.

7. Will Canes get their kicks?

This is also something that will be closely monitored in the next several weeks. Miami had the luxury of two of the nation's premier kicking specialists in Todd Sievers and Freddie Capshaw in recent years. But now they must start over with third-year sophomore Mark Gent (kicker) and red-shirt freshmen Jon Peattie (punter). Peattie might be extremely important because field position is always critical.

8. How key is the secondary's play?

Last season, the secondary was being targeted as a weakness. Going into this season its one of the team's strengths. How they perform in camp and early on in the season will definitely help set a tone on defense.

9. How hungry are the Hurricanes?

How sharp and motivated will this team with the season approaching is something to consider after the loss to Ohio State- especially with so many young faces on board. But Coker and his staff should help overcome any lingering affects. A leader or two that steps up wouldn't hurt either

10. Fast start anybody?

Nobody talks about it in camp but getting out of the gates quickly will only increases Miami's chances of getting to the Sugar Bowl. The Hurricanes could be 5-0 a little over a month into the season and heading into a four-week stretch in which they face Florida State, Virginia Tech and Tennessee. They can't afford an early slip-up if they intend to contend for the national championship.

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