Irvin on Gore; Spring Quotes

The "Playmaker" Michael Irvin talks about Frank Gore's injury after spending some time with Frank. He let's us know what he thinks is ahead of Frank this offseason. Irvin went through the same injury while here at UM. Even while decked out in Tar Heel garb from head to toe at the Spring game, Michael still bleeds orange and green! We also rounded up many more players and coaches quotes from the spring game.

At the end of the Hurricanes final spring scrimmage at the Orange Bowl, the scoreboard read: Offense 35, Defense 14. Starting quarterback Ken Dorsey was on target for most of the afternoon with a little assistance from Kellen Winslow and Roscoe Parrish, who brought the crowd of 14,442 to their feet with several acrobatic receptions.

But it was the Hurricanes defensive unit that was earning most of the praise after limiting the offense to 299 yards –a 3.2 yards per play- in the 94-play scrimmage. The defense stifled the UM running game allowing 60 yards on 57 carries and a touchdown.

Redshirt freshman Leon Williams and defensive lineman Orien Harris had eight tackles to lead the defense, while junior linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Jerome McDougle added seven.

"I think we made some good strides," said Vilma, who recorded 79 tackles last year. "It was nice to see the guys get pressure on the quarterbacks and some of the young players in the secondary made some plays. Obviously, we made some mistakes, but it was a good way to end spring."

Dorsey, who completed 6 of 10 for 86 yards without an interception in the first three series of the scrimmage, was encouraged with the performance of the offense despite the problems they encountered trying to run the ball.

"It's probably the best spring for us in a while," said Dorsey. "Last spring, the defense really had our number and the year before that they really handed it to us. But I felt we held our own and are improving. Going up against what I think is the best defense in the country is only going to make us better. There is plenty of time to work on timing with receivers and getting everything down."

Said University of Miami head coach Larry Coker: "We got to see players like Roscoe (Parris) and Winslow show what they can do and what they will mean to this program. I was really pleased with some of the offense and the defense was really in an attack mode."

But Coker made clear that the Hurricanes will need to improve the ground game. Sophomore running back Willis McGahee, who left the scrimmage with bruised ribs in the third series before returning later, had 40 yards on 14 carries. McGahee also provided the day's longest run as he raced down the sidelines for a 19-yard gain in the eighth series of the scrimmage.

Junior Jarrett Payton added 29 yards on 11 carries and fullback Quadtrine Hill rushed for 22 yards on eight carries and had the lone rushing touchdown for the Hurricanes.

Still, it was enough.

"For us to be a good football team, we have to run the ball better than we did this spring," Coker said. "We have to get a little more consistent in that area and not just the occasional big play. We need more three and four-yard pick-ups."

The Canes offensive-line, which will have to replace starters Bryant McKinnie and Joaquin Gonzalez before the start of the season, struggled at times and is still under construction.

With Sherko Haji-Rasouli and Ed Wikins out this spring with injuries, offensive-line coach Art Kehoe said that it will be a while before any starting positions are determined. Kehoe did compliment Carlos Joseph and Vernon Carey, two players that could fill key positions.

"We're young and we're raw," said Kehoe. "They got tossed around somewhat, but I felt the longer the spring went the more improvement we made. We battled the whole time and I was pleased with that. The guys didn't give in which can happen facing them (the defense).

After accumulating one point on the first two drives, the offense marched 73 yards to the goal line on the third series as Dorsey completed four passes. But the offense had to settle for a Todd Sievers 23-yard field goal after being called for illegal procedure on a Dorsey to Andre Johnson TD pass.

Back-up quarterback Derrick Crudup (6-11, 71 yards) completed a TD pass to Brandon Sebald to end the first quarter and put the offense ahead 16-3. Mark Gent nailed the extra-point attempt. Coker said that Crudup's experience at this stage should be enough to land him the back-up QB role behind Dorsey.

"Derrick is showing a better understanding of the offense and has really played well," said Coker. "Noting against Buck, but if you were to out a gun to my head, I would say Crudup is ahead somewhat."

But it was the defense that had everybody buzzing afterwards.

"They're really tough because they just keep coming," said Payton. "I feel bad for whoever has to face them in September and glad in a way that the season isn't too far off. Man, I've had enough of those guys."

It was Vilma who delivered the hit that sent McGahee to the sidelines early on. McGahee, starting in place of injured sophomore Frank Gore, did not return until the start of the second quarter. The blow of the day might have been delivered by junior defensive back Maurice Sikes, who drilled Ethenic Sands on a pass route in the middle of the field, drawing a loud reaction from the crowd.

Jamaal Green, John Square, Al Marshall and Harris had two sacks each.

Coker indicated that being around for the last year made him more comfortable the surroundings and in turn confident in his team. "The fact that I was around the whole season and more confident I think made for a good spring. We laid out a good foundation and this no doubt was a productive spring. I feel good going into August."

Winslow led all receivers with three receptions and 57 yards, which included a 19-yarder from Dorsey on the third series of the day. Parrish, who many compare to a young Santana Moss, had two catches for 57 yards.

The Hurricanes freshmen report Aug. 6 to open fall practice. UM opens the season Aug. 31 against Florida A&M in the Orange Bowl.

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 was burned on several occasions, but also had their moments. Kelly Jennings, Antrel Rolle, Sean Taylor and Al Marshall are all leading candidates to start in the secondary and replace Ed Reed, James Lewis, Mike Rumph and Phillip Buchanon.

Coker praised the young secondary after the scrimmage 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."

AN EXPERIENCED VOICE

Former Dallas Cowboys receiver and UM All-American Michael Irvin said he has talked to Gore and is keeping close tabs on his progress from a torn ACL suffered last month.

"A lot of it is up here," said Irvin, point to his head. "If he approaches all the rehab stuff just thinking that he can't get through it, he probably won't. He has to take it one day at a time understands what is ahead of him. Realistically, he's looking at 8-12 months of work."

Irvin, who suffered the same injury his second year with the Cowboys, hopes the Hurricanes make sure they bring Gore back slowly.

"Most of it is mental when you come back from an injury like that," said Irvin. "He has to overcome the fear factor of ‘can I cut on this leg as hard as I used to cut and that nothing is going to happen. It can be dangerous if he comes back too soon."

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