Reshuffling behind McGahee?

Running back Jason Geathers has done little wrong in the University of Miami backfield so far this season. But Willis McGahee seems to be doing everything right for the defending national championships these days. Geathers, a junior, has seen his carries decrease at an alarming rate the last several weeks and found himself practicing with the third-team offense during an 18-play scrimmage Thursday afternoon.

Jarrett Payton received most of the repetitions with the second-team.

Don't read much into it, according to Miami coach Larry Coker, who said that Geathers remains the back-up running back behind McGahee. With McGahee, who leads the Hurricanes in rushing (533) and all-purpose (662) yards, igniting the Hurricanes to a 4-0 start there hasn't been much need for Geathers.

"You said it all right there. Willis is the guy right know and he is going to get the carries," said Coker, when asked about Geathers' lack of playing time as of late. "Willis is our best back and he is going to get his opportunities."

Despite Payton playing ahead of Geathers in the scrimmage, Coker added that Geathers has not lost the back-up running back position behind McGahee. But that may or may not change during the rest of the season. Coker praised Payton, who has been bothered all season by back spasms, and said both players are pushing each other at the position.

"It's extremely competitive right know," said Coker. "Each guy is putting a lot of pressure on one another. I don't think Jason has done anything wrong, I think Jarrett has done a lot of things right. That's why there's competition for the job."

After a strong start to the season, including 199 yards rushing in a 63-17 victory over Florida A&M in the opener and 72 yards against Florida, Geathers has been used sparingly. Last week against Boston College, the 6-3, 210-pounder did not have a rushing attempt until the second half and finished with five carries for 16 yards. A week earlier against Temple, Geathers rushed for four yards on just five carries.

Geathers is the team's second-leading rusher with 283 yards on 45 carries, with 35 of those carries coming in the first two games of the season.

"I don't think things for me are going bad, matter of fact I think I'm doing well." said Geathers, who was moved to running back during fall practice after not playing the position his high school. "As far as playing time is concern, Willis is going great right now and if it isn't broken, then don't fix it."

And Geathers isn't about to cause any disruptions on a team that has ran off 26 consecutive victories and looks primed to grab one of two spots in the Fiesta Bowl national championship game.

"Like I said, Willis is the man and he's going lights out," said Geathers. "If and when my number gets called then I'll be ready to go in there and do my job."

Geathers, who rushed for 846 yards as a senior at Spanish River High in 1999, has not played the position in three years and admitted that he is still adjusting to some of the aspects of being a running back. Both Geathers and running backs coach Don Soldinger agree that picking up blitzes is still something that he is working on.

"I feel I need work at picking up the blitzes and that's something that I think I can get better at with time," said Geathers. "You have to realize that I haven't played back there in quite a while. It's not going to happen overnight. I'm still learning a lot of different things."

Said Soldinger: "People just don't understand what Jason is being asked to do. This is the first time he is lining up at tailback and having to do the blitz packages and learning the whole offense. I figured it would take him four or five games. As soon as he is comfortable with it he will be back to where he was running the ball."

And just like Coker, Geathers wants to make sure that nobody makes a big deal about the current situation in the UM backfield.

"My time will come," Geathers said. "I just have to be patient."

McGahee, who has surpassed the 100-yard mark in three consecutive games, has been bothered this week by a blister on his foot.


The Hurricanes will not practice until Sunday when they start preparing for Connecticut...

Defensive back Kelly Jennings had pins removed from his right arm and is probable for practice this weekend. Jennings had surgery several weeks ago to repair a torn tendon in his thumb. Coker said that Jennings will likely play with a cast for the rest of the season.

Linebacker D. J. Williams missed practice for the second straight day with a sprained ankle. Coker said he didn't have a ‘new update'.

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