Right on the Mark

If the season were to start tomorrow, University of Miami defensive line coach Greg Mark would think about suiting up himself or barging into athletic director Paul Dee's office in search of another year of college egibility. He thinks the defensive line has a lot of work to do to get ready for the opener.

But the Hurricanes won't play for real until August 31 –against Florida A&M at the Orange Bowl- so Mark isn't losing any sleep these days over the inconsistencies of the UM defensive line, just days into practice. Especially, when adding the loss of defensive ends Jerome McDougle and Andrew Williams into the equation.

"We're not even close right now in terms of were we want to be," said Mark, who played at UM from 1986-89 and led the Hurricanes with 15.5 sacks during the 1989 national championship season. "Whenever you get going you want to have all your players, but we have to go with the players that are healthy. We've only had four days so I'm not going to go crazy at this point, we'll just hope Andrew and Jerome get healthy and back in here."

McDougle, out with a strained pectoral muscle, had 59 tackles and 11 sacks in 11 starts last season as he became one of the main forces along a versatile defensive front, while Willams played in eight games last year –starting five at defensive end- and collected 30 tackles and four sacks. Williams is still recovering from off-season knee surgery that forced him to miss the spring.

"I don't expect it –the injuries- to drag and we're hoping they get back as soon as possible," Mark said. "But getting them healthy is our main concern. Obviously, they mean a lot to our football team.

The injuries to McDougle and Williams have provided a chance for several other players to step in and ‘get plenty of action', according to Mark. Among those players: Santonio Thomas, John Square, Thomas Carroll and John Wood. Mark also said sophomore Vince Wilfork also excelled early in camp.

Square had 29 tackles in nine games in 2001 and Thomas recorded 26 tackles in 10 games. Carroll is a red-shirt freshman, while Wood is a true freshman out of American High in Hialeah. "The positive-if there is one- is that guys like Wood, Square and Thomas are getting more reps and the chance to prove themselves out here," said Mark. "And William Joseph is a monster and basically picked up what he was doing last year. We'll be fine because they've come in here ready to work.

Mark credited the off-season work that the defensive line players did with Miam strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey for having them players at the start of camp.

"They definitely came in here ready to work," Mark said.

Junior defensive lineman Larry Anderson, out since Saturday with dehydration, is expected to rejoin the team by the end of the week.

"We have millions of miles to go and three weeks to get there," said Mark.

Canes Time Top Stories