January 31, 2005 CORAL GABLES Anthony Harris has been learning on the run all season. First-year Miami coach Frank Haith wants to make it clear that he thinks Harris is doing a "yeoman's job" while running this Hurricanes in 2004-05. That's based on the fact that this is the first season at UM in which Harris has played extensive minutes, and he's doing it in his first stint as a college point guard.
But for the Hurricanes to continue to elevate their performance, Harris, a sophomore who is averaging 13.3 points and 4.7 assists a game, is going to have to become a better floor leader. Heading into the Jan. 30 game against Wake Forest, Haith, a former Demon
Deacons assistant, told Harris to pay close attention to how Wake Forest sophomore guard Chris Paul plays under control.
Haith believes that Harris has the speed, instincts and shooting ability to make a similar impact in the league. But the coach also thinks that Harris needs to use his experiences this season to become more savvy about the details of running his team.
Harris took his coach's advice as a challenge, lighting up the Demon Deacons for a career-high 28 points, to go along with nine assists and one turnover in Miami's 94-82 loss. It was the most accurate Harris' shooting has been all season, but the performance was an aberration.
Entering February, Harris was shooting less than 40 percent from the field and 31 percent from beyond the three-point arc. Before that Wake Forest game, not only was his shot selection regressing, but his assist-to-turnover ratio (1.57) had been declining since league play began.
Harris' biggest problem is that when his shot is off, the rest of his game is negatively impacted. Miami's coaches have pinpointed that as one of the reasons the Hurricanes' offense has been erratic since ACC competition began.
"I'm not taking my time, not shooting in rhythm like I was at first," Harris said. "Certain shots I'm passing up. I'm second-guessing myself."
Haith said Harris also has to begin communicating better on both ends of the floor, running the team as a point guard should. Haith calls most of the plays from the sidelines, but he'd like Harris to take on more of those responsibilities.
"It's part of the learning curve. You've got to be more vocal as a point guard," Haith said. "When you're at the free throw line, you've got to make sure everyone knows what defense we're running. In big arenas where there's a crowd, I can't call every play. He's got to get a feel for it, got to be more of a leader."
Football: QB Situation Troubling
Quarterback U might be facing a quarterback shortage.
Miami's 2005 signing class took an early hit when top-rated quarterback Derek Shaw, who committed to the Hurricanes last summer, decided at the 11th hour of the recruiting process that South Florida was too far from his California home.
Making matters worse, the Hurricanes struck out on their other quarterback target when Jefferson County's Carlton Hill, the co-MVP of Miami's 2004 summer camp, stuck with his commitment to play for South Florida despite a hard push from the Hurricanes in January, after Shaw's change of heart.
Shaw's de-commitment and Hill's decision left UM with only two scholarship quarterbacks rising sophomore Kyle Wright and redshirt freshman Kirby Freeman available for the 2005 season. Starter Brock Berlin and backup Derrick Crudup finished their eligibility in 2004, and reserve Marc Guillon transferred to Alabama in the fall of 2003.
Obviously, an injury to Wright or Freeman this year would be potentially devastating. In addition, having a third quarterback is critical to the team's preparation during the season, because that player typically runs the scout-team offense, getting Miami's defense prepared for its next opponent. That means the Hurricanes might have to use a walk-on, probably Trey Burklin, to run the scout team if no one else is signed.
Another option is for junior tight end Buck Ortega, who signed with Miami as a quarterback, to return to that position. But Ortega hasn't played there in more than three years and might be against making his fourth position switch, after finally settling in as a pass-catching tight end.
Despite the quandary the lack of quarterbacks will bring to practices, UM's coaches are quick to point out that the Hurricanes have been in similarly scary spots in the past and emerged quite well. In fact, the program won a national championship in 2001 with Ethenic Sands, a converted receiver who was an option quarterback in high school, as the backup to starter Ken Dorsey.
UM sources said the de-commitment of Shaw and Hill's decision not to attend Miami weren't the disastrous developments some portrayed them to be. It would have been worse, for example, if UM had signed one and he wound up not getting through the admissions department. (That was a strong possibility for both prospects, who have low standardized test scores.) This way, at least the Hurricanes know they still have a need, and they still had a scholarship available to offer to someone else before signing day.
"Fire Coker" Website Surfaces
Getting a website that calls for their firing seems to be a rite of passage for high-profile coaches these days, so perhaps that explains why Coker has become the latest target of sports-minded web designers.
Following Miami's 9-3 season, which concluded with an impressive Peach Bowl victory over in-state rival Florida, firecoker.com surfaced. The site lists Coker's records since his undefeated national championship season in 2001, then asks "Notice A Trend?" The coach's loss total increased by one each season in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
The site also reads, in part: "Besides a national championship with another coach's players, Larry Coker has done nothing to maintain prestige of the Miami Hurricanes program! His horrible conservative game plans have cost the Hurricanes games against inferior opponents." It then goes on to list Coker's losses, while running pictures of each foe's postgame celebrations, before continuing with the following text.
"After a great' win over Florida in the Peach Bowl, some people may question the existence of this site. Bottom line: The Miami Hurricanes won't win a damn thing with Larry Coker as their head coach! If adjusting the brim of your hat and clapping your hands made you winners, we'd be a dynasty. But we're not! Coker has to go!"
Through late January, the site's guest book had been signed by a few dozen visitors. Most issued their support for Coker and requested that the website be taken down.
More Scholarships Become Open
As previously predicted in the Sport Journal, Miami cornerback Travarous Bain left Miami after the fall semester. He transferred to Hampton, a Division I-AA program in Virginia that has taken numerous ACC castoffs in recent years.
A 6-0, 177-pound redshirt sophomore, Bain played sparingly during his three seasons at UM. The son of former UM player Tolbert Bain, Travarous had been passed over by just about every defensive back on the Hurricanes' roster, at least in part because of his injury-plagued past.
Bain's departure, along with Brandon Sebald's transfer to Hofstra and the early entries of juniors Roscoe Parrish and Frank Gore into the NFL draft, provided UM with four additional scholarships for the 2005 signing class. Gradually, projections for the Hurricanes' expected February haul have grown from as low as 14 to as high as 20.
Another player who recently was mentioned as a possible transfer candidate, sophomore receiver Akieem Jolla, recently said he intends to finish his college career with the Hurricanes.