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Wide Receiver Slot Remains Ugly Mess

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff



July 20, 2005

CORAL GABLES -- Miami receiver Darnell Jenkins, who led the team in receptions through the first three games, shut it down for the season after tearing the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Louisville.

Jenkins tried to get back on the field without undergoing surgery, sitting out two weeks of practice, but the knee kept swelling. Friends and family members convinced him that his best option was to repair the knee instead of continuing to play on it.

"It's going to keep swelling on me," said Jenkins, a senior who finished the year with 13 receptions for 183 yards.

It's likely that Jenkins, who was named Florida's Mr. Football coming out of high school in 2002, will receive a medical redshirt. He didn't redshirt as a UM freshman in 2003, and the three games he played this fall didn't surpass the NCAA's threshold for receiving a medical exception.

His return next season certainly could provide a boost to an already-depleted group of average receivers, considering that he was the most seasoned vet on the field this season. What was expected to be a shaky group has been even worse.

Fellow senior Ryan Moore has been suspended indefinitely for an altercation he had with a woman at an on-campus party in July, and there's no telling when he'll be allowed back on the team.

The Florida state attorney's office hasn't decided if it will file battery charges against Moore, who allegedly pushed the woman to the ground and damaged the door of her car by kicking the vehicle.

Coker appears supportive of Moore's return, but the administration won't allow it until his legal troubles are behind him. However, the uncertainty of the legal process has left Moore, who has caught 82 passes for 1,205 yards and nine touchdowns in his first three years of play for the Hurricanes, in limbo.

Moore's teammates have argued on his behalf, asking what's the harm in letting him rejoin the team -- allowing him to practice, get in shape and receive treatment on an injured shoulder -- until the state decides if it will file charges?

He's already served a six-game suspension, going back to his forced absence from the Peach Bowl for violating an undisclosed team rule, and he certainly could provide quarterback Kyle Wright some help. UM's young receivers have some talent, but they aren't always running the right routes.

Junior Lance Leggett is the only somewhat dependable receiver presently playing. True freshmen Sam Shields and Ryan Hill still are learning the finer points of the college game, and redshirt sophomores Khalil Jones and Terrell Walden have not produced consistently in practice, much less in games.

CORNERBACKS SHOW VULNERABILITY

In four of the past five seasons, the Hurricanes ranked either first or second nationally in pass defense.

The Hurricanes were No. 1 in 2002, 2003 and 2005, and No. 2 in 2001. Their lowest finish through those five seasons was ninth, in 2004.

But UM will have to tighten up considerably for its remaining regular-season games if it is to match those performances. Through five games, the defense permitted an average of 188 passing yards, which ranked 52nd among the 119 teams in Division I-A.

"Statistically, we're not as good in the secondary as we have been," Coker said. "But look at the teams we've played."

Miami has faced two of the nation's top offenses this season, in Louisville and Houston, and Florida State is never a walk in the park.

But is there any justification for how bad the secondary has performed, considering that two of the nation's top safeties -- senior Brandon Meriweather and sophomore Kenny Phillips -- usually are roaming back there?

The Cardinals torched UM for 296 passing yards and two touchdowns in defeating UM 31-7 on Sept. 16. Houston's Kevin Kolb, the nation's active leader in completions, threw for 196 yards in a 14-13 loss to the Hurricanes.

UM defensive backs coach Tim Walton said the statistics aren't an accurate reflection of his unit's performance. Opponents are having far less success running the ball against the Hurricanes this season than they did in 2005, forcing them to throw more often, Walton said.

Last season, the Hurricanes permitted 117.9 rushing yards per game. This season, that average has been cut to 63.2 yards.

"Last year, people were hitting us for 150-160 yards rushing, and we led the country in pass defense," Walton said. "You want it to be the other way around. There's nothing wrong with the secondary."

To curb inconsistent play at cornerback, Meriweather, an All-America candidate, was moved there for UM's 27-7 win over North Carolina. He replaced sophomores Randy Phillips and Bruce Johnson, who have struggled at times while splitting the starts opposite Glenn Sharpe.

TAILBACK: GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS

Miami tailback Tyrone Moss sat on the bench with a towel over his head for most of UM's 14-13 win over Houston, but he wasn't sulking.

Coker said Moss was suffering from a severe migraine, which has been a problem from time to time throughout the running back's career. Coker also is concerned about the health of Moss' surgically repaired left knee, which underwent an MRI before the UNC game.

"There is no damage to the knee, some soreness," Coker said, "and they want to check and see if it was an issue."

According to offensive coordinator Rich Olson, Moss, who tore his ACL against Virginia Tech last November, has pain behind the knee he's rehabilitating. Moss has sat out two games so far, but his return to action is important to the team.

Freshman tailback Javarris James, who has rushed for 361 yards in five games, put together back-to-back 100-plus rushing performances in his first two starts. His running skills clearly rank among the best in the ACC, but it appears that his body isn't prepared to handle a starter's workload yet.

James' quadriceps were sore from the 18 carries he had in his first start against Houston, and if it wasn't for a 62-yard run he had in his 16 carries against UNC, he probably wouldn't have surpassed 100 yards. He wasn't making the same types of moves to shed defenders.

Olson said James, the cousin of former UM standout and current NFL star Edgerrin James, must learn how to take better care of his body to better endure his workload.

"He's young," Olson said. "He's never been hit like that before, not on a consistent basis."

Meanwhile, former starter Charlie Jones is averaging a dismal 3.4 yards per carry. The Hurricanes instead could back up James with redshirt sophomore Derron Thomas, who leads the team with a 7.5 average per carry, but UM's coaches don't trust Thomas' pass blocking enough to have him involved when the game is on the line.