Confident Despite Outpour of Criticism

University of Miami coach Larry Coker washed away any kind of controversy by appointing Brock Berlin the Hurricanes starting quarterback before the opening of spring practice. With public support for redshirt freshman Kyle Wright to supplant Berlin on the depth chart growing daily, Coker pushed the issue aside by giving Berlin a vote of confidence.

Berlin doesn't intend to let Coker down.

"It's very nice to know the guy who makes the decisions out here is in your corner," said Berlin, who will be one of the featured attractions in the Hurricanes scrimmage tonight (7 p.m.) at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale. "But I'm not going to rest easy just because coach (Coker) is showing a lot of confidence in me. Just because I'm the (No. 1) quarterback today doesn't mean I'm going to be the quarterback tomorrow. I have to come out here everyday and take care of business, that way I can leave no doubts I can get the job done."

But getting the job done last season wasn't easy for Berlin, who came under heavy criticism as he struggled through an inconsistent campaign behind center. Berlin, who transferred from the University of Florida after the 2001 season, drew the displeasure of most UM fans after failing to match the high expectations that accompanied his arrival.

In 12 starts, Berlin threw for 2,419 yards and 12 touchdowns. The good: Berlin led the largest home comeback in school history with 272 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-20 passes in the final 21 minutes as the Hurricanes erased a 33-10 third quarter deficit to defeat Florida. Three weeks later, Berlin set a UM single-game record for completions (37) and added a season-high 352 passing yards to anchor a 22-20 victory over West Virginia.

However, the 6-1, 215-pounder also accounted for 23 turnovers, including 17 interceptions. Berlin lost the starting job after throwing two interceptions in a 10-6 defeat to Tennessee. Berlin didn't help his cause by adding two fumbles that erased any chance of a Miami comeback. And despite 157 passing yards in the Orange Bowl victory over Florida State last January, Berlin isn't being heavily endorsed - Coker aside - to remain the starting quarterback. He's doing his best to shrug off the non-believers.

"I'm not really concerning myself with that," says Berlin. "All I can do is just go out there and make the least amount of mistakes possible. Obviously, having a year under my belt makes it more comfortable in this offense. I really think that's going to work in my favor."

Coker recently defended Berlin's play last season by noting his productivity on third down. Berlin completed 68.3 of his third-down passes for 696 yards and two touchdowns. He has accounted for 45 first downs in said situations. Miami also produced points on 43 of 55 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard-line (78.2 percent), a statistic Coker also pointed out. Berlin said he would like to improve his decision-making whenever he's under pressure this season - something that was a problem in 2003.

"A decision is going to be made regardless," Berlin said. "I just want to go out there and do the best that I can."

SEARCHING FOR INTENSITY

Coker said he will be looking for an increase in intensity during the scrimmage. With a good crowd expected for the under-the-lights practice, Coker is convinced players on both sides of the ball will get after each other.

"This will give us a good chance to see some guys in game-like situations," said Coker. "It's not going to be a make or break situation, but we definitely want to see how players react in that kind of setting."

Berlin and senior Derrick Crudup are expected to get the majority of reps at QB, while sophomore tailback Tyrone Moss should also draw plenty of attention. Last week UM running backs coach Don Soldinger publicly questioned Moss' work ethic in practice. Sophomore punter Brian Monroe will also get an extensive look during the scrimmage, according to Coker. Monroe, listed behind Matt Carter in the pre-spring depth chart, averaged just 35.7 yards during an up and down 2003 season. Monroe had three punts over 50 yards in 49 attempts.

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