‘CanesFest' on Tap

University of Miami head coach Larry Coker indicated earlier this week that no matter what happens at ‘CanesFest' in the Orange Bowl April 6 in the team's final scrimmage of the spring, there will be plenty of unsettled positions on the roster come August.

One of the most looked at spots on Greentree Field by the fans and the coaching staff the last several weeks and likely to be on Saturday is the defensive secondary where the Hurricanes will have to replace all four starters that helped the team to a national championship and undefeated 2001-02 season.

Gone are Ed Reed, James Lewis, Mike Rumph, and Phillip Buchanon, all likely to make the NFL their next destination. In their place: cornerbacks Kelly Jennings, Antrel Rolle and safeties Sean Taylor and Al Marshall, a junior. Taylor and Rolle saw limited action last year. Jennings is a redshirt-freshman.

Coker has constantly praised the young secondary throughout the spring and declared that the potential is unlimited with the group, especially in the case of Taylor and Rolle. But Coker isn't handing the reigns over to the untested and inexperienced quartet.

"They know what to do and have loads of talent, but nothing is etched in stone as far as them starting. There's no question they all have the skills to go out and make plays, but they also have to develop that confidence that Ed and those guys went out there with" said Coker. "We haven't penciled in anything and that probably won't happen until early summer or late August."

Marshall, who backed up Rumph last season at right cornerback, is the most experienced of all four players expected to be in the starting line-up when the Hurricanes kickoff the season. The third-year player had 27 tackles in 11 games last season, Taylor, a Gulliver Prep standout, recorded 26 tackles in nine games, while Rolle added an interception and nine tackles in nine games.

"I'm not to worried right now with what's going on around me," said Taylor. "I just try to go out everyday and make plays. If I take care of my side of things there's no reason why I shouldn't crack the line-up."

Already this spring Taylor has collected five interceptions and was on one end of the collision that sidelined sophomore running back Frank Gore with a torn ACL in his right knee.

"I'm just out here doing my job," said Taylor. Another player apparently not fazed –even before Gore went down- by the rigors of spring ball is sophomore running back Willis McGahee, who rushed for 321 yards on 67 carries and three touchdowns last season. McGahee said after practice April 2 that he thought the starting running back slot was open even with Gore in the backfield.

"As far as Frank it's really unfortunate, but it really bothered me that people started forming their own opinions even before the spring started," McGahee said. "I was confident that the job was up for grabs and that I would be the starting running back regardless. In my opinion, I'm the best runner out here. I just have to stay with it and hope that (Jarrett) Payton keeps pushing me."

Payton had 26 yards on 14 carries last season. Coker is optimistic that Gore could return by the fall.

"Frank has been rehabbing for several weeks now and is coming along nicely, I want Frank Gore at 100 percent, but there is no reason to believe with his desire and work ethic that we could see him again this season."

Gates will open at 8 a.m. and fans will have an opportunity to tour the Orange Bowl to select-a-seat for Hurricanes season tickets along with a chance to go inside the team locker room and visit the touchdown alley. Coker will participate in a answer and question session with fans at 9:30 a.m.. An autograph session with selected UM players will take place from 12-12:30 p.m. to close out the event. The scrimmage will run from 10-11:30 a.m.

BUCKEYES ON HORIZON

The Hurricanes will play a home-and-home series with the Ohio State Buckeyes. UM will travel to Columbus, Ohio on Sept. 4, 2010, while the Buckeyes will visit the Orange Bowl on Sept. 17, 2011.

The Hurricanes and Buckeyes have met twice in football, each team owning a victory. The most recent meeting was in the 1999 Kickoff Classic in New Jersey with Miami taking a 23-12 victory. Ohio State defeated Miami 10-0 in 1977 in Columbus. Should the their schedule remain the same, the 2011 game would be the first regular season opener for the Buckeyes in the state of Florida. The Buckeyes defeated Colorado 27-10 in the 1977 Orange Bowl, their last trip to Miami.

The Hurricanes are 26-14 all-time against Big Ten opponents. UM is 7-6 against Penn State which they have played more than any other Big Ten team. The Buckeyes are 29-9-1 all-time against teams from the Big East.

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