Pressure Situation Awaits Berlin

Any quarterback who has experienced playing at the University of Florida should know a thing or two about dealing with pressure. Having been in Gainesville for two seasons under the tutelage of offensive guru Steve Spurrier, Brock Berlin is no stranger to performing in a hostile environment with plenty of eyeballs tracking every move made.

But those expectations might pale in comparison now that the colors on Berlin's uniforms have changed and the junior quarterback gets ready to reach under center in a game for the first time in 18 months as the No. 3 Hurricanes head for Louisiana Tech, in Berlin's hometown of Shreveport, La., for their season opener tonight.

Berlin, who transferred to Miami from Florida in the winter of 2002, has had one full season plus entire spring and fall camps to learn the Hurricanes' offense in preparation for what has been over a year and a half of waiting, and essentially a homecoming. The 6-1, 213-pounder, who was born and raised in Shreveport, La., will likely see plenty of familiar faces when he takes the field at Independence Stadium, not to mention a number of family members and friends.

Berlin tore up the record books at Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport completing his prep career 45-0 as a starting quarterback and ranked No. 2 all-time in national high school history with 964 completions in 1,467 attempts (65.7 %) for 13, 902 yards with 145 touchdowns and just 33 interceptions.

As of that wasn't enough to get the 22-year-old's emotions skyrocketing. Berlin's father played for Louisiana Tech in 1971 and his brother Corey played for the Bulldogs from 1999-2002.

"Brock is a legend in these parts," says Dennis Dunn, who coached Berlin in high school. "I don't know how many people are going to be in that stadium but believe when I tell you that a lot of them will be rooting for Brock."

Although if Berlin is feeling any pressure at all he certainly isn't letting on. The right-hander has repeatedly brushed off the significance of his return to Shreveport by pointing out that he has played numerous times in the same stadium he will step into in his inaugural appearance as a Hurricane.

"Expectations are always going to be high at the University of Miami no matter where you play," said Berlin, after a recent practice. "Its great to playing there, but it's the Miami Hurricanes against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, not Brock Berlin against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs."

The former Gator is stepping into a high profile position that has a long history at UM. Kelly, Kosar, Testaverde and Dorsey are just some of the former Hurricanes' quarterbacks that Berlin, who has tremendous arm strength, will undoubtedly be compared to right from the start by demanding fans and media.

Whatever he accomplishes won't be easy.

Berlin takes over for Dorsey, who won 35 of 37 games in his final three seasons at UM and led the team to three consecutive BCS bowl appearances, including a National Championship in 2001. Dorsey, a seventh-round selection of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL draft in April, finished among the top vote getters for the Heisman Trophy in his final two seasons and earned high praise from the coaching staff for his leadership under any circumstances.

Berlin is stronger and faster than Dorsey ever was, but has never had the chance to prove he can guide an offense for an entire season. He played in 12 games for the Gators in 2000 and 2001, completing 53-of-87 passes for 653 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

As a sophomore two years ago, Berlin played in eight regular season games and was the starting quarterback for Florida in the 2002 FedEx Orange Bowl against Maryland. Berlin went on to complete 11-of-19 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown in the first half of the win over the Terrapins. But having to sit behind current Green Bay Packers back-up quarterback Rex Grossman, Berlin felt he could go elsewhere and restart his career.

Now, Berlin has the chance to prove to himself and others that he made the right move.

"I've had a lot of time to be around the guys and develop a comfort zone," said Berlin. "I just have to go out there and stay within the boundaries of the game and not try to do too much."

UM Coach Larry Coker feels the same way. Coker said earlier this week that he has already talked to Berlin about trying to do too much against Louisiana Tech although he understands that the quarterback isn't going to experience for the first time.

"He is not a rookie, he has been around for a while. He has been in big stadiums and big venues before," said Coker, who will coach his first game with a quarterback other than Dorsey. "He doesn't need to be calmed down yet, but I will talk to him about the game and let him know that he doesn't have to go out there and win the game."

"He just needs to make good decisions and be efficient because we have players like Kellen Winslow and Frank Gore and other guys that are going to be important. I've heard people say that if Brock Berlin can perform as good as a second year Ken Dorsey then Miami is going to be pretty good, and I think that may be a fair statement. Brock seems to perform better in big situations."

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