Butch's boys begin work
With Kickoff approaching, confident Miami opens camp
Posted: Wednesday August 11, 1999 11:40 AM
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -- For a surefire way to bring a team into training camp focused, few techniques work as well as a date in the Kickoff Classic.
Miami's opener against Ohio State was on the minds of several Hurricane players as they reported Sunday for the start of workouts, hoping to build on the momentum generated at the end of last year's 9-3 season.
"It definitely makes you more focused," said linebacker Dan Morgan, one of 17 returning starters who checked in Sunday. "It was always in the back of our minds during [summer] workouts."
An upset win over UCLA and Micron PC Bowl triumph over North Carolina State made Miami an attractive option for the Kickoff Classic, one of college football's traditional season openers.
The Miami-Ohio State contest will be played Aug. 29 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. It will be the Hurricanes' second Kickoff Classic appearance.
"Once they told us we had that game, everybody looked at each other and said, 'Are you serious?'" running back James Jackson said. "We worked like animals during the offseason."
Ohio State went 11-1 and finished No. 2 last season, the Buckeyes' fifth Top 10 finish in the past six years. But that doesn't appear to faze the Hurricanes, some of whom weren't shy about bringing up a national title.
"I hope we make a run at the national championship. If we're consistent and stay healthy, I think we can make a run for it," said Jackson, who takes over at tailback for Edgerrin James, the school's No. 2 all-time rusher taken fourth in the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts. The entire offensive backfield will be a primary focus during workouts, with new starters at every position. Sophomore Kenny Kelly inherits the quarterback job from Scott Covington, and Mondriel Fulcher moves to fullback from tight end.
"I don't see any difference," Kelly said. "We're going to keep pretty much the same offense. That offense worked pretty well last year, so why change it?"
As many as six freshmen from Miami's highly touted freshman class aren't in camp because of academic deficiencies. Two already have enrolled in junior college and three are expected to defer enrollment while seeking the necessary entrance-exam scores. The sixth, running back Jason Geathers of Boca Raton, should get word on his status from the NCAA clearinghouse this week. Officials were waiting for his high-school transcript.
Coach Butch Davis said the situation is no cause for alarm, noting that Ohio State and Florida State also have lost a half-dozen recruits. In fact, he said, the coaching staff had correctly projected all but one nonqualifier.
"There were some kids we knew absolutely that we weren't bringing in until next December," Davis said. "The parents knew we're deferring their admission."
As for those bound for junior college, Davis said signing them to letters of intent allows coaches to help structure class loads so their credits transfer properly.
"If you get them early enough, you can truly track them and help them get what they need," he said. "You can help orchestrate their classes so that 18 months from now, they'll come back to you."
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