Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'04 Finish Enough to Stir Hurricanes; after Three Losses Down the Stretch, Miami Is out to Silence Critics This Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'04 Finish Enough to Stir Hurricanes; after Three Losses Down the Stretch, Miami Is out to Silence Critics This Year

Article excerpt

Byline: ALEX ABRAMS

Art Kehoe has seen or tried nearly every motivational ploy during his 26 years as a football player, student assistant, graduate assistant or assistant coach at the University of Miami.

He watched former head coach Howard Schnellenberger play the role of the intimidating disciplinarian and Jimmy Johnson as the positive re-enforcer who wanted his players to fly around in practice.

As for current Miami coach Larry Coker? Kehoe said he's the mild-mannered coach who's always prepared and never over-reacts. But don't let Coker's calm personality fool you -- he can unleash a rare, expletive-laced tirade.

"The kids will look at him and look at me," said Kehoe, Miami's excitable offensive line coach. "They appreciate [him yelling] because he doesn't do it often, so it has an effect."

But Coker won't have to raise his voice to catch his team's attention this season. The Hurricanes lost three games last season, causing fans to criticize Coker and doubters to suggest the program was in decline.

Miami's offense struggled to score points down the stretch, and the defense didn't come up with enough big plays. As a result, the Hurricanes lost three of their last five games, missed a chance to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and finished No. 11, their lowest ranking since 1999.

It's not what Miami players had expected, and they have used the disappointing finish as motivation as they prepare for the Sept. 5 season opener at Florida State.

"We will be a hungry football team," Coker said. "I don't think talent is an issue. I think we have enough talent to play with anybody. I do really, really sense that our guys are not happy, not satisfied with last season. I really think there's some embarrassment there for all of us."

Coker watched footage from last season to see what issues needed to be addressed, and players say they have pushed each other even harder in practice to avoid another letdown. Kehoe said there's "a sense of urgency" to put things back on track.

To accomplish that, sophomore and first-year starting quarterback Kyle Wright must jump-start Miami's offense that has lacked consistency over the last two years. And the Hurricanes' defense -- which returns 10 starters -- must help take the pressure off Wright to win games.

"I think everybody has to look at themselves and decide who's going to make a play," said Miami offensive lineman Eric Winston, who's returning after missing most of last season because of a knee injury. "These last two seasons, it seems like we were waiting for other people to make plays. We've got take it upon ourselves."

Kehoe said the motto that coaches have adopted for this season is simple: "No excuses." Coker has never been one to make excuses for losses, and after the way things went last season, players have put more pressure on themselves to return to their winning ways. …

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