Meet the 'Canes

No. 4 Miami (6-0, 3-0 ACC) appears to have a solid grip on its first conference title in as many participatory seasons, with a national championship still a possibility. But the Hurricanes have five chances to slip before they can claim another BCS bowl invite -- starting Saturday at Kenan Stadium.

Their obstacles are hardly insurmountable, and the chances of an 11-0 start to 2004 get better with each passing week. A win on Saturday would mark the fourth straight year the ‘Canes have started the season 7-0.

UNC leads the all-time series, 4-3, but the Tar Heels' last win over Miami occurred less than one week prior to the Kennedy assassination – a 27-16 victory in Chapel Hill on November 16, 1963. Carolina amassed 440 yards of total offense that day, but don't expect history to figure much in this year's renewal match-up.

Still as desperate as things have seemed from a UNC perspective, Carolina (3-4, 2-2) is in the league's seventh position – not exactly the cellar anymore – and currently with the nation's toughest schedule. A win Saturday and the Heels could actually separate themselves from the league's second division, with arguably the easiest part of their schedule remaining. But even with a loss, Carolina shouldn't slip much if at all, as eighth-place Clemson (3-4, 2-3) hosts sixth-place N.C. State (4-3, 3-2) this week, while ninth-place Maryland (3-4, 1-3) travels to Florida State.


Miami appears to be hitting its stride right now and Brock Berlin (#7, 6-1, 215, Sr.) may have finally come of age. He has endured his share of criticism since taking over the reigns at the start of the 2003 season -- but all Berlin has done is complete 60 percent of his passes for 3,668 yards. His career winning percentage as a starter (16-2, .888) is better than the marks set by Bernie Kosar, Jim Kelly or Vinny Testaverde. He completed 15 of 30 passes for 265 yards and tied a school-record with five touchdown tosses in last week's 45-31 win over the Wolfpack. Over his last three games, Berlin has thrown for 773 yards and 11 touchdowns, and in doing so, he has improved his efficiency rating from 117.2 to 145.5 – second best in the ACC behind UVA's Marques Hagans. In event of an emergency or blowout, the backups are Derrick Crudup (#18, 6-1, 216, Sr.) and Kyle Wright (#16, 6-5, 208, Fr.*), who are a combined 6-of-14 for 69 yards passing.

Running Backs

Rushing the football is not exactly what the Hurricanes do best, and tailbacks No. 1 and No. 2, Frank Gore (#3, 5-10, 220, Jr.) and Tyrone Moss (#30, 5-10, 221, So.), have combined for 761 yards rushing this season, with each scoring four times. Gore has overcome two major knee injuries to lead the team, while Moss showed his skills last season in Gore's absence. Tailback/Fullback Quadtrine Hill (#23, 6-2, 221, Jr.) has just 15 rushes on the season, but he is getting 6.5 yards per run. As a team, Miami is averaging 146.5 yards per game on the ground, just eighth-best in the ACC. The starting fullback Talib Humphrey (#41, 6-2, 250, Sr.) has not touched the ball this season.

Wide Receivers

Then 'Canes' real strength is throwing the ball around the field, and their league-best 219.7 yards per game passing average is due in large part to a stable of gifted receivers. The most dangerous of five quality wideouts is split end Roscoe Parrish (#1, 5-9, 172, Jr.), who has caught five touchdowns this year. Flankers Darnell Jenkins (#8, 5-10, 183, So.), one of the most explosive playmakers in college football, and Lance Leggett (#9, 6-4, 174, Fr.*) has two touchdown receptions. Speedy Sinorice Moss (#83, 5-8, 182, Jr.), who has also caught two touchdown passes and is averaging 20.4 yards after the catch, has been slowed by a hamstring injury he suffered against Louisville. Ryan Moore (#85, 6-3, 215, So.) was expected to be a big contributor this season, but has only three catches for 17 yards this season.

Tight Ends

So much for missing 2003 NFL first-round draft pick Kellen Winslow, Jr. On Tuesday, UNC coach John Bunting called Kevin Everett (#84, 6-6, 251, Sr.) and Greg Olsen (#82, 6-5, 247, Fr.*) the best tight end tandem he had ever seen. With a tremendously talented offensive line and a fullback used solely for blocking, Miami will throw frequently to Everett and Olsen, the team's second- and fourth-leading receivers, respectively. Everett has 15 catches for 219 yards and Olsen has 12 receptions for 229 yards and a touchdown.

Offensive Line

This unit has already had to overcome the season-ending injury to All-America candidate and potential first-round draft pick Eric Winston (#74, 6-7, 310, Jr.) at left tackle. But Tyler McMeans (#68, 6-5, 337, Jr.), who has also battled injury, returns this week. The reshuffled offensive line has survived and even thrived because of its overall versatility. Right tackle Chris Myers (#77, 6-5, 300, Sr.) is proof of that after moving to over to replace Rashad Butler (#64, 6-5, 286, Jr.), who missed the first four games with a sprained ankle, but is now back starting at left tackle. Along with Myers, center Joel Rodriquez (#70, 6-3, 292, Sr.) is also expected to battle for postseason honors this year. Left guard Tony Tella (#61, 6-5, 298, Jr.) excelled this spring and held off backup right guard Derrick Morse (#71, 6-5, 325, Fr.*) for a starting position.

Defensive line

The Hurricanes have a bevy of talented ends to work with led by returning starters Thomas Carroll (#90, 6-5, 230, Jr.) and Baraka Atkins (#98, 6-4, 263, So.). Both combine exceptional first-step quickness, great speed and good size, and have become accomplished pass rushers and run stoppers. At tackle, Orien Harris (#92, 6-4, 301, Jr.), an emerging superstar, is a staunch run stopper, who also has the ability to destroy passing plays. Santonio Thomas (#56, 6-4, 308, Sr.) and Kareem Brown (#99, 6-5, 301, Jr.) have been highly effective in replacing Vince Wilfork, a first-round draft pick by the New England Patriots.


From the strong side, Roger McIntosh (#50, 6-3, 237, Jr.), the most experienced of the group, is second on the team with 71 tackles and its co-leader with six tackles for loss. In the middle is Leon Williams (#44, 6-4, 237, Jr.) who is filled the spot vacated by All-America Jonathan Vilma. Tavares Gooden (#52, 6-1, 220, So.) ranks third on the team with 45 stops, and along with McIntosh, has five quarterback hurries.

Defensive Backs

Opposing quarterbacks are completing a league-worst 47.2 percent of their passes against the Miami defense. Cornerback Antrel Rolle (#6, 6-1, 202, Sr.) is ninth in this week's "ESPN Heisman Watch." With opponents scheming to take him out of the game, Rolle has been allowed to blitz from many angles. In five games, he has 4.5 tackles for loss – 51 yards total, 1.5 sacks, 28 total tackles, an interception, a 47-yard fumble return and five pass breakups. Two-year starter Kelly Jennings (#22, 6-0, 177, Jr.), who has an interception this season, is the other starting corner, but also expect to see return-man extraordinaire Devin Hester (#4, 5-11, 185, So.) in coverage, as well. Strong safety Greg Threat (#5, 6-2, 193, Jr.) is the ‘Canes' leading tackler with 73 total stops. He's also picked off two passes and has three tackles for loss to his credit. Free safety Brandon Merriweather (#19, 6-1, 184, So.) also has an interception to go with his five pass breakups.

Special Teams

Hester is one of the most dangerous weapons on a team with an already full arsenal. He set a school-record last week with a 100-yard touchdown return to open the game with N.C. State. Hester has also run three punts all the way back this season. Kicker Jon Peattie (#13, 6-3, 207, So.) is ranked fourth in the league in scoring, with nine field goals and 24 extra points. Although punter Brian Monroe (#39, 6-2, 202, So.) is averaging only 40.4 yards per kick, he has pinned opposing offenses inside their 10-yard line on 13 of his 31 attempts.

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