Berlin Ready To Go

University of Miami junior Brock Berlin has worked behind the scenes for over a year in preparation of what's to come. Now, the time is up as Berlin gets his chance to join the long list of quarterback greats at the school. Dennis Dunn believes in Brock Berlin. And Berlin has never given Dunn a reason to think otherwise.

Dunn, the long tenured coach at Evangel Christian Academy, was in his office after the team had just suffered a season-ending defeat in the postseason when Berlin, a highly promising freshman at the time, knocked on the door with a few words for the coach.

"Brock sat in a chair directly in front of me and said coach as long as I'm your starting quarterback and I'm on this football team you won't lose another game."

Dunn didn't know how react considering that Berlin was just a young quarterback that had not even started at that point in his career.

"I just thought this kid is coming in here and just trying to put a positive spin on this whole thing, after all our season had just ended."

But the fiery and confident kid that Dunn remembers wasn't joking.

Berlin went on to finish his prep career 45-0 as a starting quarterback on his way to throwing for 13,902 yards with 145 touchdowns and just 33 interceptions, while leading Evangel Christian Academy to three state titles and compiling a completion percentage (65.7, 964-of-1,467) that ranked second in national prep history.

Berlin blossomed as a high school senior throwing for 4,219 yards and 36 touchdowns as he received numerous national wards, including being named as the 1999 USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year.

"Brock certainly isn't shy," says Dunn. "When he says he's going to do something he gets it done."

Years later Berlin's high school days are over and a much greater challenge awaits him. One that he's been gearing up for since transferring from the University of Florida to Miami in the winter of 2001. Berlin lurked in the shadows last season as he learned the Hurricanes' offense while Ken Dorsey led the team to a National Championship game appearance against Ohio State.

Now, it's Berlin's turn to take over the quarterback reins after being named the starter at the conclusion of spring practice. A tall order as Berlin must follow in the footsteps of Dorsey, who set numerous career records while at UM and had a 38-2 record as a starter. There are the legends that UM quarterbacks of the past such as Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde and Bernie Kosar created long ago.

Berlin says he's ready.

"I know a lot is expected, not just of me but any quarterback that decides he wants to play at the University of Miami," says Berlin, 22, who will make his UM debut Thursday, Aug. 28 when the Hurricanes open the regular season at Louisiana Tech. "But that's one of the reasons I came here. I relish being the guy with the ball in his hands with the game on the line. I want to be that guy."

After two years under the tutelage of Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida, Berlin decided that coming down to Coral Gables would suit him best. Berlin, a student of the game, practiced with the team as the Hurricanes made their run to the Fiesta Bowl last January.

"I learned so much just watching Kenny and the way he went about his business," says Berlin. "The way Kenny prepared was just amazing."

But even more might be expected of Dorsey's replacement. The 6-1, 212-pound Berlin has the uncanny confidence of a gunslinger and the rifle arm to go with it. He is a bit slicker on his feet than Dorsey was and willing to take a chance or two along the way. UM fans and supporters might have to put up with some interceptions. But Berlin has already shown that he can get the job done - at least in the eyes of those watching him closely.

"I don't think there was a day from the beginning to the end of the spring that Brock didn't get better," said UM offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski. "He's just taken the bull by the horns and become one of the leaders of this football team. Brock has that intangible of believing it's his show out there."

Says UM Coach Larry Coker: "Brock has all the talent in the world. But what sets him apart I think is his confidence. He isn't afraid. He believes in himself."

Berlin has added a few pounds, developed a liking for the golf courses and worked on his always present suntan by making good use of South Beach as often as possible - all squeezed in while keeping his books in order and getting ready to begin a new era behind center at the University of Miami.

"I have no complaints," says Berlin. "It's been a pretty smooth transition and I just can't wait to get started."

But Steve Spurrier's former pupil will have plenty of company, at least from the start.

As is always the case with a high-profile position changing hands in Coral Gables, Berlin will be closely monitored by coaches, fans and media alike as he attempts to take the reins at quarterback and make Dorsey a distant memory. But by all accounts it won't be a walk in the park.

For one Dorsey passed his way through the UM record books while only losing two games at the school, one being the last of his career. Stepping in for one of the greatest quarterbacks ever at Miami will also make Berlin the featured attraction on the field, if he isn't already. And coming from Gainesville, not exactly a favorite spot for UM followers, will only make the spotlight shine brighter.

Larry Coker attempted in vain to alleviate the added pressure off of Berlin during the spring by indicating repeatedly that the job was still there for the taking. Coker even added during the spring that all the quarterbacks on the roster including junior Derrick Crudup, sophomore Marc Guillon and incoming freshman Kyle Wright would be given equal opportunity to win the position.

But although no member of the coaching staff would publicly endorse Berlin as the team's next starting quarterback, many believed even then that it would take a monumental spring from his competitors and a not-so-good-one from Berlin to keep him from being named the starter.

Still after being relegated to practices, film sessions and endless weight training sessions, Berlin wasn't about to play behind anybody. Besides, Berlin has admitted in the past that he opted to come to Miami because he would have two years of eligibility remaining even after sitting out last season aside from an opportunity to win a National Championship. .

"After sitting out for so long I'm ready to go. It was a learning experience (getting to watch Dorsey),"Berlin says. "It was a frustrating experience but at the same time I got to learn a lot from the guys here."

Berlin played 12 games over the span of the 2000 and 2001 seasons, throwing for 653 yards and 11 touchdowns with two interceptions while completing 60.9 percent of his passes at Florida. After losing out to Rex Grossman in a close battle for the starting quarterback slot, he played in eight games as a sophomore including the 2002 FedEx Orange Bowl. Berlin was 11-of-19 passing with 196 yards in the victory over Maryland but transferred several weeks after Spurrier accepted an offer to become coach of the Washington Redskins.

To this day Berlin doesn't go into many details about his relationship with Spurrier. But he had said in the past that he enjoyed his time in Gainesville and doesn't regret the decision to go there initially.

"I have no regrets that's all I'll say," said Berlin.

With that in the past, Berlin only wants to focus on the future. Berlin has already started participating in off-campus drills with several teammates aside from working out four times a week.

"I hate losing and last season left a sour taste in my mouth," says Berlin about Miami's 31-24 defeat at the hands of Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. "I want to win."

With that in mind, Berlin worked with UM tight end Kellen Winslow on developing some kind of chemistry before the start of the season. Winslow, who led the team in receptions last year, came away impressed.

"We just clicked from day one," says Winslow. "He knows exactly where and when to throw the ball."

And after what Dennis Dunn saw of Berlin during an unblemished high school career in Shreveport, La. it won't take long for the Hurricanes' new starting QB to win over the masses at UM according to Dunn

"He's a fierce competitor with an unmatched desire to win and whenever he's sets a goal you better believe it's going to get done," says Dunn. "There is nothing not to like about this kid. The fans in Miami are going to fall in love with this kid."

Like Berlin himself, Dunn believes that sitting out a year and being able to absorb everything going on around him will actually help him down the line.

"I think he'll be fine. Brock has had time to learn the system as part of the scout team so he won't be behind," Dunn said.

Berlin has a history of finishing on top.

"I can't think of anything that young man can't do," Dunn said.

Scratch playing golf off the list.

Berlin, an avid golfer who was on the boy's team at Evangel Christian Academy, has taken his competitive juices on the links at the Biltmore Golf Course where he has repeatedly impressed the instructional staff with his ability. Considered a long-swinger, Berlin regularly shoots in the high 70's or low 80's.

"He's an incredible competitor. I mean the kid just hates to lose," says Biltmore assistant golf professional Sebastian Camillo. "I would say he's better than 90 percent of the celebrity golfers that come out here."

Berlin, who plays golf at least once a week during the off-season, has developed a friendly rivalry with UM assistants Mark Stoops and Dan Werner. And most of the time Berlin doesn't care that Werner (Berlin's position coach at UM) is on the premises.

Canes Time Top Stories