Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rolle's Return a 'Gut Instinct'; 'Canes' Shutdown Corner Projected to Be an Early Pick in '05 NFL Draft

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rolle's Return a 'Gut Instinct'; 'Canes' Shutdown Corner Projected to Be an Early Pick in '05 NFL Draft

Article excerpt

Byline: ALEX ABRAMS, The Times-Union

CORAL GABLES -- The most impressive thing about the record six Miami Hurricanes taken in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft:

It could have been seven.

But for some reason -- which cornerback Antrel Rolle has a hard time explaining -- he had a feeling that he should return to Miami for his senior season.

Teammates Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow and Vince Wilfork decided otherwise, leaving school early to become three of the unprecedented six Hurricane players taken in the first 21 picks in April's draft.

"It wasn't hard for me. I went off basically my gut instincts," Rolle said. "But it was something I had to also think about for awhile. I mean, that's the NFL. That's the place where I've wanted to be my whole life."

Rolle might not have to wait much longer. Projected as a late first-round selection last year, his stock as a shutdown cornerback who can use his speed and athleticism to overpower wide receivers may rise with his return to Miami.

Apparently, not even Rolle's arrest in July for his alleged involvement in a near-campus altercation has hurt his NFL potential. The charges -- including felony battery on a police officer -- were later dropped, clearing the way for his return to the Hurricanes.

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has the 6-foot-1, 202-pound Rolle rated as the No. 6 best overall player in college football, and his versatility as an explosive cornerback and punt returner makes him even more valuable to NFL teams. He has also gotten some work in practice at safety.

"I have a passion for having the ball in my hands. I was never a defensive back until my sophomore year in high school," Rolle said. "I've always been a running back or receiver or quarterback in my years growing up, so I pretty much know what to do when the ball's in my hands."

Rolle scored two touchdowns in last season's opener at Louisiana Tech, returning a punt 66 yards and an interception 30 yards. He finished the season with 51 tackles and two interceptions while solidifying his place as the nation's top returning cornerback.

"He just frustrates you to death when you try to go against him. He's so physical," Miami coach Larry Coker said. ". . . Antrel, to me, is a little bit like Phillip Buchanon, personality-wise. Loves to play. Very animated."

When Rolle arrived at Miami in 2001, Buchanon took the freshman under his wing, teaching him the proper technique for the position while telling him to wait patiently for his turn to play. The two former teammates still talk.

And while Buchanon was the last Miami cornerback drafted in the first round, in 2002 by the Oakland Raiders, Rolle will likely be the next.

He said his chances of entering the NFL Draft after his junior season were around "20 percent. …

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