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JUNIOR KYLE WRIGHT MIGHT JUST BE THE NEXT GREAT HURRICANES QB--IF THE O-LINE IS ABLE TO PROTECT HIM
2005 RECORD 9-3 (6-2 in ACC Coastal)
RETURNING STARTERS 16
KEY RETURNEES WR Ryan Moore (Sr.) Caught 28 passes for 464 yards and four touchdowns last year; DE Baraka Atkins (Sr.) The 6'4" 275-pounder has 14 career sacks and 201/2 tackles for loss; FS Brandon Meriweather (Sr.) Led Canes in tackles (115), tackles for loss (13) and interceptions (three).
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS Add Greg Olsen to the list of game-breaking tight ends ( Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow Jr., Bubba Franks) who've gone through Coral Gables. At 6'5" and 252 pounds, Olsen has the hands and speed of a flanker, creating matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. He had 31 receptions for 451 yards and four TDs as a sophomore.
Kyle Wright always noticed them, standing on the sideline, their eyes riveted on his every move. Bernie Kosar, Gino Torretta and Steve Walsh rarely said anything to Wright when they attended practice last season, but their presence was a vivid reminder of the tradition at Quarterback U. "Those guys have national championships and Heisman Trophies," says Wright, a 6'4", 220-pound junior. "I've got a lot work to do if I ever want to be as good as them."
Wright got down to business in the off-season. When he wasn't in class or in the gym, he could usually be found alone in the film room, analyzing every offensive play from the Hurricanes' 2005 season. What did he learn? "I wasn't as consistent as I need to be, and I made too many mental mistakes," says Wright, who completed 58.6% of his passes for 2,403 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first year as a starter. "I felt like I improved in the spring, and now I've got a higher comfort level with my receivers. Plus, we're all playing with a chip on our shoulder after how things ended last year."
Last Dec. 30, LSU spanked Miami 40-3 in the Peach Bowl. The debacle, which capped a second straight 9-3 season, prompted coach Larry Coker to bring in six new assistants. His hope is that the fresh blood will pump up a program that's five years removed from its last national championship. "Sometimes you need to go in a new direction," says Coker. "It helps that we have Kyle. He has a chance to be the best quarterback I've ever been around."
Wright, who was named the 2003 Gatorade Player of the Year after his senior season at Monte Vista High in Danville, Calif., was under constant pressure last year, when he was sacked 34 times. Because only one starting lineman returns, new offensive coordinator Rich Olson plans to use more three-step drops and quick-hit passes to ensure that Wright stays upright. Those schemes will be put to an immediate test: a Sept. 4 home opener against Florida State, which four players will have to sit out after violating a team rule.