July 26, 2004 CORAL GABLES The arrest of cornerback Antrel Rolle on felony and misdemeanor battery charges on July 11 could result in the senior's absence for Miami's season opener against Florida State on Labor Day.
That's not good news for a secondary that already was replacing three starters and dealing with injuries to cornerbacks Glenn Sharpe and Terrell Walden, two players who likely would have the first shot at replacing Rolle in the lineup.
A two-time All-Big East selection and a third-team Associated Press All-American last year, Rolle was suspended by coach Larry Coker following his arrest. Rolle will not be allowed to work out with the team and cannot practice until his legal problems are resolved.
Rolle, whose father is the police chief for the nearby city of Homestead, was charged with felony battery on a law enforcement officer and a pair of misdemeanors resisting arrest without violence and breach of peace after an early morning altercation. He was released on a $6,500 bond, and a hearing was set for Aug. 2.
All of that is bad news for Miami but potentially good news for Florida State quarterback Chris Rix, who has been unable to solve the Hurricanes' secondary in four previous career starts. In a pair of losses to Miami last season, Rix completed just 26 of 61 passing attempts for 287 yards and three interceptions.
If Rolle is forced to sit out the game, Rix will face a much different secondary than the one that baffled him and most of Miami's opponents last season. The Hurricanes ranked No. 1 nationally in pass defense in 2003, but safety Sean Taylor, safety Maurice Sikes and cornerback Alphonso Marshall are now working in the NFL. Taylor went No. 5 overall in this year's draft, to the Washington Redskins.
Replacing Rolle, a 6-1, 202-pounder with sprinter-like speed, won't be easy. Sharpe is expected to get the first crack, but he's returning from a knee injury that required surgery and forced him to miss the final six games of the 2003 season. Walden, a redshirt freshman and Miami's fastest player, also would have been a possibility if not for a knee injury he sustained during spring practice that could force him to miss most, if not all, of the 2004 season.
Other possibilities are sophomore Travarous Bain and former walk-on Tanard Davis. Junior Kelly Jennings, who started five games as a nickel back last season, is assured of a starting spot at the left cornerback position.
Tailback Rotation Also Worrisome
In late July, Coker said he still was uncertain whether tailback Frank Gore will be ready to play in the season opener.
Gore is recovering from his second major knee surgery in as many seasons. The junior blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last fall, after injuring his right ACL the previous year. Several Miami sources said in July that Gore's comeback was moving slowly.
"He's in rehab," Coker said. "I think it's coming pretty well. Now will he be back for Florida State? I think that's still a question mark. He's still a work in progress."
Gore, who rushed for 468 yards in 2003 before getting hurt, already has used up his redshirt season. If Gore can't play, the tailback position will be filled by sophomore Tyrone Moss, converted fullback Quadtrine Hill and a trio of freshmen.
"I'm concerned about the running back position," Coker said. "I really like Tyrone Moss, but who's going to be his backup? We think we had some great signees at the running back positon. Somebody is going to have to come through for us there."
One candidate is prep All-American Bobby Washington, who recently said he's been accepted by the Miami admissions department. Washington, a product of Killian High in Miami, was considered an academic question mark but recently attended night school in an attempt to boost his grades. Ranked by SuperPrep as the nation's fourth-best running back prospect, Washington participated in seven-on-seven drills with his future teammates at Miami in July.
"Two of us (freshman running backs) will play right away," Washington told CaneSport.com. "I'm pretty much ready to play, but there's a lot of work to do."
The other two freshmen who will compete for playing time are Derron Thomas of Louisiana and another local product, Charlie Jones. They also were prep All-Americans, generally rated among the top 20 high school tailbacks in the nation last year.
How much the freshmen play could depend on how well Hill adapts in his move to tailback, after spending his entire college career as the lead blocker for Gore and Willis McGahee. In his two seasons as the starting tailback, Hill rushed seven times for 20 yards.
More Williams Controversy Soon?
The attorneys for controversial Miami signee Willie Williams said they expect their client to receive word concerning his admissions status by early August. The Hurricanes are scheduled to report to preseason camp on Aug. 9.
It's widely believed that Williams will be accepted at Miami, after a Broward County judge sentenced the 19-year-old player to three years of probation but no jail time on a probation violation charge on July 6. Judge Michael Kaplan also agreed to withhold adjudication on the probation violation, meaning that (again) Williams' record will not include a felony conviction if he can meet the court's requirements.
Avoiding a felony conviction and escaping jail time were two of the requirements Williams had to fulfill in order to have his admissions application considered by UM, according to a letter written by Miami athletic director Paul Dee to Kaplan. The other conditions Williams must agree to comply with include completing 50 hours of community service; attending 10 hours of study hall each week during the 2004-05 academic year; meeting weekly with a mentor; having a professor submit a report on his progress; and meeting every two weeks with an associate athletic director.
Williams has been arrested 12 times, including four times on felony charges, and he now has pleaded no contest to two separate felonies. He was charged with probation violation in February, following his involvement in a series of incidents during a recruiting trip to Florida. He faced charges of felony criminal mischief and battery in Gainesville but pleaded no contest to the charges and was given additional probation.
"I just feel great right now," Williams told reporters after his probation violation case was resolved. "I'm just ecstatic about the outcome of this whole situation."