Spring Peak: Offense

Fresh off watching the University of Miami sign one of its best recruiting classes ever lets take a quick look at the upcoming season and the position battles that will be featured during the next several months, led by Art Kehoe trying to reload his offensive line.

At quarterback, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize Ken Dorsey will return as the starter. With a 27-1 record and a national championship under his belt, Dorsey will be backed up by sophomore Derrick Crudup and redshirt freshman Buck Ortega. Florida transfer Brock Berlin will get plenty of reps during the spring, but he'll be forced to sit out this fall due to NCAA transfer rules.

At tailback, the loss of Clinton Portis opens up a huge opportunity. The Hurricanes have been blessed with tremendous tailbacks – one after another – in recent years. From Edgerrin James to James Jackson to Portis, it's been an incredible run, and expect that to continue in the form of Frank Gore. Junior Jarrett Payton, who will make the transition from fullback back to his natural position, and redshirt freshman Quadtrine Hill, who has impressed the coaches early in his career, will back the sophomore sensation. Incoming freshman J.R. Mounts may also compete at this spot, although I think he'll eventually play on the defensive side of the football because of his rare athletic ability.

The loss of Najeh Davenport at fullback could have been a huge blow, but help is on the way in the form of Junior College transfer Talib Humphrey. At 6-2 and 225, Humphrey has tailback-like speed and brings a lot of maturity to the position. After all, he's already competed for two years at the college level. Humphrey will likely compete with sophomore Willis McGahee, who turned in a tremendous performance at the fullback position against Nebraska in the Rose Bowl last month. Sophomore Kyle Cobia also provides depth.

The return of Andre Johnson at the wide receiver brings back what should be Dorsey's favorite target next season. After a strong regular season, Johnson exploded in the Rose Bowl and began to tap into his natural ability. Johnson is primed for a huge junior season in 2002. There will be stiff competition on the other side. Junior Kevin Beard, senior Ethenic Sands, and junior Jason Geathers will all be given an opportunity to win that job. Beard is the sure-handed playmaker of the group, while Sands is the most experienced and most polished, and Geathers brings a different dimension with his freakish physical skills. Roscoe Parrish is an exciting redshirt freshman will get more and more playing time next season.

Replacing All-American Jeremy Shockey at tight end won't be easy. But when you have Kellen Winslow as a replacement, it's a big relief. Winslow provides a huge target and has game-breaking speed and pass-catching skills like the former Hurricane possessed. Sophomore David Williams and redshirt freshman Brandon Sebald will add depth.

As if losing skill players like Portis and Shockey wasn't enough to overcome offensively, the Canes also lost its best blockers up front. A pair of four-year starters is gone in Joaquin Gonzalez and Martin Bibla, as is the nation's best lineman – Bryant McKinnie. Don't worry, though, there are plenty of capable replacements. Senior Brett Romberg has been a fixture at center for the past two seasons and he will likely move out to right guard to replace Bibla in the spring, inserting sophomore Joel Rodriguez into the center position. Senior Ed Wilkins, who had a tremendous performance in the Rose Bowl, returns to the left guard spot, while senior Sherko Haji-Rasouli will likely become McKinnie's replacement at left tackle. Vernon Carey, a talented junior, will replace Gonzalez on the right side. Plenty of depth comes in the form of juniors Carlos Joseph and Joe McGrath, sophomore Chris Myers; and redshirt freshmen Robert Bergman, Tony Tella, and Reshard Butler.

One of the major reasons why the University of Miami was able to win the national title last season is placekicker Todd Sievers. The talented senior had a tremendous junior campaign and he should improve upon that performance next season.

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