Let's get physical

Nobody will know for sure if the University of Miami football can leave Alumni Stadium with its No. 2 national ranking (Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls) and unblemished record (3-0) intact until close to midnight Saturday night.

But win or lose, the Hurricanes offensive and defensive linemen will likely head for the team bus afterwards accompanied by several bumps and bruises of their own thanks to a Boston College team that loves to run straight ahead against opponents with an occasional play-action pass on offense.

Defensively, the Eagles (2-1) don't pull off many surprises either in their 4-3 set-up. Although Boston College's defense may not posses UM-type speed overall they are very adequate on their feet aside from being a solid tackling and technically sound unit.

So after having to prepare for opponents that favor spreading the field on offense and defenses that fly to the ball, especially in the win over Florida two weeks ago, over the first three weeks of season the Hurricanes must now get ready to get dirty in the trenches on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

UM coach Larry Coker would expect nothing less from the Eagles.

"We have a tremendous challenge in BC. We know they have very large offensive and defensive linemen," said Coker, who has been part of eight of the 13 consecutive victories Miami owns over Boston College dating back to 1985. "They run very well on defense. They are much like the Boston College teams that we're accustomed to seeing - big and physical with an excellent quarterback and fine running back."

Coker was adamant in his praise of the Hurricanes defense for their improved tackling and aggressiveness a day after they forced five turnovers, opening the door for a 38-3 lopsided victory over East Carolina last week. But Coker knows the Hurricanes D will have to be even better against a huge offensive line and productive running back in senior Derrick Knight.

Knight, who leads the Big East in rushing with a 156.7 average in three games this season, is coming off a 170-yard performance at Connecticut in a 24-14 victory over Connecticut. The 5-9. 205-pounder ran for 144 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries in the opener against Wake Forest. He followed that up with a 156-yard rushing day at Penn State.

With the aid of 12 100-yard rushing games in his career at Boston College, Knight is currently sixth on the Eagles all-time rushing list with 2,480 yards. After gaining 1,432 yards on the ground in 2002, Knight is already on pace to become the sixth consecutive Boston College running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, following Mike Cloud (1998, 1,726), Cedric Washington (1999, 1,122) and William Green (2000, 1,164 and 20001, 1,559).

"Derrick is such a breakaway runner as well as a physical runner," Coker said. "The thing we have to do is tackle. We have to get people involved. We have to tackle Knight and also have people around the ball because if he does break tackles we can't let him have long runs after that."

"Arm tackles don't bring him down. You have to tackle him. The encouraging thing is I think our defense really took a step up as far as last week against the run and is tackling much, much better. I think that's something we're going to have to continue to do and to have a chance to win this game."

Two of the Eagles offensive linemen – sophomore left tackle Jeremy Trueblood and senior right tackle Keith Leavitt will be starting for only the fourth time in their collegiate careers. Leavitt moved over from the defensive side of the ball before the start of the season. But the line, which averages 319 pounds a player, has lent Knight good run support and allowed three sacks this season. Senior left guard Augie Hoffman, a co-captain, anchors the group after starting every game last season. He has made 22 consecutive starts for the Eagles.

Miami red-shirt defensive end Baraka Atkins doesn't sound too concerned.

"I believe they are going to run the ball a lot. That's why they always do," said Atkins.

While Atkins and the rest of the Hurricanes defensive line will have their hands full in trying to stop Knight, Miami's offensive line will go up against a BC defensive line that has accounted for seven sacks in three games. Junior defensive end Phil Mettling leads the way with three sacks. The Eagles defense has allowed an average of 337 yards per game.

"I really think we can do some things against them," said UM receiver Sinorice Moss. "From what I seen there's nothing really special we have to prepare for."

A higher level of emotion from Boston College fans will also be something the Hurricanes will have to deal with on Saturday.

With the Hurricanes leaving the Big East behind and moving into the Atlantic Coast Conference next season the possibility exists that UM will be walking into an even more-than-usual hostile environment in Chestnut Hill, Mass on Saturday. But Coker said that the Hurricanes wouldn't change any of their preparation habits in getting ready to visit the Eagles.

"Well we always try to prepare for road games with heightened noise and some of those things," said Coker. "Again I don't think its just another road game. It is an important game for us because it is a league game."

"So I certainly think we do have to deal with it. But on the other hand I think we have played in a lot of different venues. We have played at Boston College before and our older players have been there before. So its not like we've been in a tough environment before. We expect that in all our games. Those are just things that if we're going to be a good football we have to handle."


Coker said that right tackle Carlos Joseph and guard Vernon Carey will be in the starting line-up against the Eagles. Carey, bothered by a left ankle sprain the last several weeks, did not play against East Carolina, while Joseph played in spots.

"I really feel Carey is back 100 percent. We were able to hold him back last week to rest him. That was very important because we don't want the injury to linger the entire season. I'm kind of anxious to see them back now that they are healthy."

Fullback Quadtrine Hill, who practiced on Tuesday, is expected to start against BC, while freshman receiver Devin Hester is questionable according to Coker. Hester, who had a boot removed from his right ankle earlier this week, is ‘questionable' according to Coker.

"We will know more as the week progresses," said Coker.

Coker said that freshman Jon Beason has decided to have shoulder surgery. Coker did not say when or if Beason would return this season.

"I don't know how long it's going to take," Coker said.

Sophomore linebacker Roger McIntosh remains sidelined after having knee surgery in the fall.

Canes Time Top Stories