''Let me introduce you to Phil Buchanon,'' Kehoe said to his visitors. ''He's one of the top 700 cornerbacks ever to play here.''
A moment later, though, out of earshot of Buchanon, Kehoe turned to his companions and said, ''Seriously, I think he's the best kid on our whole team.''
That is a mouthful considering that the No. 1-ranked Hurricanes (10-0) are coming off a combined 124-7 mashing of Syracuse and Washington and have a roster filled with future N.F.L. players. But a closer examination makes Kehoe's sentiment look more plausible.
While the touted offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie has never given up a sack heading into Saturday's final regular-season game at Virginia Tech, Buchanon has never surrendered a touchdown pass.
Buchanon, a junior who has inspired people in his native Fort Myers, Fla., to compare him to Deion Sanders as the best defensive backs the town has ever produced, has four interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. His numbers are not even more eye-catching for one reason, Kehoe said. After his two interceptions in the victory over Florida State, teams became more reticent to challenge him.
''There was a period there -- against Temple, West Virginia, Boston College -- where I only had like three balls thrown my way,'' Buchanon said today. ''That seemed real odd. I was thinking, 'Do they really have that much respect for me?' I guess you don't see too many teams like F.S.U. that will t ry to pass on you, no matter what kind of defense you have.''
Larry Coker, Miami's first-year head coach, said he had long been convinced that Buchanon has distinctive ability. ''He's as good as anyone I've coached,'' Coker said, comparing him to Shawn Springs of the Seattle Seahawks and Duane Starks of the Baltimore Ravens.
Buchanon, a 182-pounder who can run a team-best 4.2 in the 40-yard dash, is a second cousin of the Tennessee Titans' Jevon Kearse and has become an electric punt returner. Buchanon has a 16.7-yard average in 26 returns with 2 touchdowns. He might even try more kickoff returns after a 60-yarder in Miami's 65-7 victory over Washington on Saturday.
''The way he's playing, I'd recommend anybody to kick away from him,'' Coker said. ''The more he returns punts, the more confidence he seems to be getting back there.''
The only concern about Buchanon these days among the Hurricanes -- especially if Miami wins its fifth national title -- is whether he will return for his senior season or enter the N.F.L. draft.
''I really believe I'm coming back, unless something really unusual happens,'' Buchanon said. ''It feels good at school. Funny, but when I first got here I said I can't wait for my junior year so I can leave. Now I'd like to stay and get my degree.''
Majoring in criminology, Buchanon is expected to graduate a year from December. Pending what happens in the N.F.L. draft, he is talking about playing for the Hurricanes' baseball team. As a center fielder at Fort Myers Lehigh High, Buchanon said the Cincinnati Reds offered him a $500,000 contract.
''I just wasn't ready,'' he said. ''I wanted to go to college and play football. But I've always liked baseball, too. It was the first sport I played as a kid, and I'd like to get back in it, if it works out.''
Buchanon acknowledges that the N.F.L.'s millions may be difficult to resist.
''If I knew for sure that I was the No. 1 or No. 2 cornerback in the draft,'' he said, ''that would be kind of hard to pass up, not knowing what might happen to me next year if I got hurt.''
Kehoe, who recruited Buchanon, said it had been rewarding to see Buchanon evolve into a pro prospect. Kehoe recalls watching Buchanon become almost invisible as a free safety in a high school spring game.
''He'd backpedal 5 yards and then walk back to the huddle,'' Kehoe said. ''They'd never throw a pass. Same thing when they had him in the slot on offense.''
So Buchanon arrived as a relative unknown for a summer Nike combine. That is, Kehoe said with a chuckle, until he shut down Andre Johnson and Kevin Beard, now two fixtures of the Hurricanes' celebrated receiving corps.
Special thanks to Scott Martineau for securing permission to post this article.