August 23, 2004 * Miami's touted 2004 recruiting class suffered significant attrition, including some big and unexpected hits. As expected, defensive tackle Antonio Dixon failed to meet NCAA minimums. In a surprise, tailback Bobby Washington (an NCAA qualifier) was denied admission by the university. The status of a third signee, defensive lineman Joe Joseph, remained uncertain in late August after he encountered clearinghouse complications. A fourth, defensive lineman Kellen Heard, won't play for the Hurricanes this fall and likely will postpone his enrollment after recently undergoing surgery for a serious knee injury. Two other prospects, offensive lineman Josh Kerr and receiver Cedric Hill, followed through on previously discussed plans to defer their enrollment until January.
The biggest loss was Washington, a projected 2004 contributor whose situation had nothing to do (despite rumors to the contrary) with the Hurricanes' 85-scholarship limit. (UM kicked off August practice with 82 scholarship players.) Washington ran into problems when school officials questioned irregularities with the player's standardized tests. A learning-disabled student, Washington had the equivalent of a 350-point jump between a regular SAT (750) and an untimed, special-circumstances ACT (24), and school officials were investigating another incident in which an imposter allegedly signed up to take one of the tests in Washington's name. A prep All-American from local power Killian High, Washington reportedly spoke with N.C. State even before the Hurricanes announced his official release. He then enrolled in Raleigh a few days later.
Losing Bobby Washington takes the shine out of (the 2004 class) for me, Coker said, because I think he's a terrific player.
Sophomore Devin Hester, who was considered one of the nation's top high school defensive back prospects two years ago, was moved from receiver to cornerback for the start of fall practice. After sitting out 2002 because of academic issues, Hester spent all of last season at receiver but had trouble picking up the offense and rarely played, although he did finish sixth nationally in kickoff returns with a 28.7-yard average. After spring practice, Hester requested to be switched to defense, and Miami's coaches quickly agreed. Coker said Hester would remain on defense only if he can make an immediate contribution, but that appears likely.
Tailback Frank Gore looked so good during the first week of August practice that Coker said he had no doubt the injury-plagued junior will be ready when Miami opens the season against Florida State on Labor Day. Gore, whom Coker has called one of the best tailbacks he's ever coached, is coming off season-ending knee surgery for the second consecutive season. In 25 seasons at the college level, Coker has coached NFL-bound backs Eddie George, Edgerrin James, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas.
Junior Quadtrine Hill started 18 games at fullback in the past two seasons and likely would have been the starter there this year. But Hill requested a move to tailback before spring practice and now finds himself third on the depth chart, behind Gore and sophomore Tyrone Moss.
Under an agreement with university officials, controversial freshman linebacker Willie Williams is not expected to play in Miami's first four games, and he must meet unspecified academic standards before he is cleared. But Coker said that Williams, who spent the spring and summer mired in legal problems, will play at some point this fall. Privately, one assistant compared Williams to former UM star and current NFL all-pro Ray Lewis.
Keep an eye on the right knee of starting receiver Roscoe Parrish. He missed three days of practice in the first week because of problems with the knee, which underwent two arthroscopic procedures last year.