Spring Preview: Offense

The football team begins spring practices tomorrow and will conclude on April 9 with the annual spring game. On the offensive side of the ball the Hurricanes return a number of key players.

The most important battle heading into the spring will be for the most important position on the field—quarterback. Though breaking in a new quarterback can be a difficult transition, Miami has done it successfully before. Former UM QB's Bernie Kosar and Steve Walsh led UM to a national championship in their first season as starting quarterback. Just like Walsh and Kosar in their first years, Miami's two returning QB's Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman have very little or no game experience.

Kyle Wright: Heading into the spring, redshirt sophomore Kyle Wright is the favorite to win the position. Wright is a classic drop-back passer at 6-foot-4 and 215-pounds. The sky is the limit with his arm-strength, but at times his passes can be off the mark. Before injuring his ankle, Wright completed 5-of-9 passes for 30-yards during the 2004 season. Wright's competition during the spring will be redshirt freshman Kirby Freeman.

Kirby Freeman: Though he does not have as strong an arm as Wright, Freeman has more speed and accuracy. Working on the scout team this past season, Freeman impressed the coaches. Scout team coach Clint Hurtt said that Freeman's athleticism reminds him of former ‘Cane QB Kenny Kelly. "He puts the ball in spots where you are going to catch the ball or it is going to be incomplete. He doesn't throw bad passes and get picked off," Hurtt said.

The Hurricanes enter next season with only two quarterbacks under scholarship. The third quarterback will be walk-on Trey Burklin. Burklin, 6-foot-3 and 210-pounds, took some snaps at QB, TE, and WR for the scout team this past season.

Running Back:
With the departure of Frank Gore, Miami must also replace it's starting running back from last season.Due to shoulder surgery, Moss will be held out of practice this spring. Competing for the position this spring will be three young players: sophomore, Charlie Jones, redshirt freshman, Derron Thomas, and converted defensive back, George Timmons.

Tyrone Moss: Going into the spring, junior Tyrone Moss is probably the number one back on the depth chart. Last season, Moss rushed for 445-yards on 102 carries, second best on the team. Though Moss is effective in short-yardage situations, he does not posses the breakaway speed that Miami RB's have.

Charlie Jones: Of the three able to compete, Jones looks like he is the favorite to compete with Moss for the starting job. At 5-foot-11, Jones is a powerful back that can break tackles and has a little breakaway speed.

Derron Thomas: Thomas is a smaller RB, in a Clinton Portis mold. Thomas has great hands coming out of the backfield and has good vision, he is a cutback runner.

George Timmons: Timmons, a speedy back was recently converted to running back. In high school, Timmons ran for 1000 plus yards.

Andrew Johnson: Sophomore, Andrew Johnson will not practice due to an ACL injury.

Wide Receiver/Tight End
The deepest position going into spring football, this group returns everyone except Roscoe Parrish and Kevin Everett. The young group gelled during the 2004 season and can only get better in 2005. Last season, offensive coordinator, Dan Werner, implemented a more vertical attack, that at times produced big plays missing during the 2003 season. Only after the quarterbacks and receivers made the commitment to stay after practice to work on timing did the results come. Now that the group knows that the extra work pays off, look for this unit to be one of the most productive on the team.

Ryan Moore: Moore, UM's leading receiver in 2003, will be healthy after a foot injury hampered him through most of the 2004 season. When Moore, 6-foot-3 and 215-pounds, is healthy, he is an effective possession receiver. In 2003, he caught 44 passes for 627-yards.

Lance Leggett: As a true freshman last season, Lance Leggett started seven games and served as the primary deep threat in the offense. Leggett caught 17 passes for 349-yards—an impressive 20.5 yards-per-reception. This offseason Leggett will look to add weight to his slight frame, making him a more physical receiver.

Sinorice Moss: Senior, Sinorice Moss, had his first consistent season during 2004 and looks to carry that consistency over to 2005. Moss made the biggest catch of his career when he sent the FSU game into overtime on 30-yard touchdown pass. Moss has been plagued with injuries in the past, but when healthy nobody is faster or quicker. Moss can accelerate as fast as anybody, causing Larry Coker to say that Sinorice may be faster than his brother Santana of the New York Jets.

Darnell Jenkins: Whenever a big catch or first down had to be made, it always seemed that Darnell Jenkins was on the receiving end. The junior receiver was second on the team with 21 receptions. Jenkins, along with Moss will be looked to be the leaders of the unit, the same way Roscoe Parrish stepped up last season.

Aikeem Jolla: Jolla, a junior, is a physically gifted receiver that needs to put all his tools together on the field. At 6-foot-4 and 182-pounds, Jolla is one of the fastest players on the team. Jolla received valuable playing time last season and will compete for more time this spring.

Khalil Jones: Redshirt freshman Khalil Jones is a physically imposing, but raw wide receiver. He has legitimate speed for a player his size, but he needs to work on his catching ability.

Greg Olsen: Olsen will most likely sit out the spring, due to a recovering broken wrist. During the 2004 season Olsen showed spots of brilliance, catching 17 passes for 275 yards. When all is said and done, Olsen may be the best tight end to come out of Miami.

Buck Ortega: Ortega served as the number three tight end last season. A former quarterback, Ortega is a smart player who knows the offense well and posses nice hands. At 224 pounds the senior is a little undersized for blocking schemes. The Hurricanes will look for him to add some weight during the offseason.

Chris Zellner: A converted defensive end, Zellner brings added depth to the tight end position. Though not as tall as the Miami coaches like their tight ends to be, Zellner brings speed and athleticism to the position.

Offensive Line:
The group that will need to improve the most this spring is definitely the offensive line. Due to injuries and new starters last season, the line struggled to open holes and give the quarterback adequate time. With the loss of senior leaders Chris Myers and Joel Rodriguez, the young line will have to gel quickly and step up to see who will be slotted at key positions. All-American tackle Eric Winston will be held out of practice, so he can fully recover from his torn ACL, suffered during the fall. Tony Tella will also not participate, so he can recover from recent shoulder surgery.

Players returning on the O-line that saw valuable time last season are guards Derrick Morse and Tyler McMeans. McMeans, a junior college transfer, was particularly impressive during his first year playing in division one football. McMeans injured his knee last season, causing him to miss three games. After McMeans went down with the injury, sophomore Derrick Morse stepped into the role nicely. Morse has been called "a bull in a china shop" by coach Art Kehoe. Morse brings intensity and a strong work-ethic to the line. Morse and McMeans have reportedly lost 25 and 10 pounds each since the end of last season. After Winston went down with an injury, Rashad Butler stepped in and played adequately at the left tackle position. Butler allowed only 1.3 sacks the whole season, and with the added experience should be that much better heading into 2005.

The closest watched battle will be the center position. Alex Wollschlager, Alex Pou, Jon Rochford, and Jonathon St. Pierre will all get time to show what they can do. If needed, guard Andrew Bain could be inserted at center.

Cyrim Wimbs, Tyrone Byrd, and Chris Rutledge are all young players who will see valuable time at tackle during the spring. Dave Howell, a converted defensive lineman, has been converted to the offensive line.

Canes Time Top Stories