December 24, 2001
‘Cane Mutiny on Draft Day?
If only they could, Houston would be well-off forgoing the 2002 draft and just importing the entire 2001 Miami Hurricane roster. After all, no less than 10 seniors from their current roster could be drafted next April, and there are 3-to-4 underclassmen who might join them before all is said and done. Former head coach Butch Davis and the current regime under his replacement, Larry Coker, have built an NFL factory in south Florida.
Recently, we asked Andrea Szulszteyn of the Florida Sun-Sentinel to help sort out Miami’s embarrassment of riches, and she was, as you’ll see, more than game.
HPF: Where to begin, where to begin… there are so many Hurricane prospects to wade through; let’s start by trying to shorten our list: what can you tell us about the 2002 draft plans of some of Miami’s heralded underclassmen, including QB Ken Dorsey, RB Clinton Portis, TE Jeremy Shockey, DL William Joseph and DB Phillip Buchanon?
Szulszteyn: For sure, Dorsey is staying. He’s said it a thousand times. As for the others, no one else has come out and said they are staying in school. I expect Portis and Joseph to return but Shockey and Buchanon to leave. But that’s just my opinion. I think they will make their decisions after the Rose Bowl.
HPF: Staying with the underclassmen theme, what do you think is Dorsey’s NFL outlook? Is he a legitimate prospect? There seems to be no real consensus among scouts.
Szulszteyn: I think Dorsey is a legitimate prospect, but I don’t see him as a first or second round draft pick. He’s definitely as smart as quarterbacks come, but he doesn’t have tremendous arm strength. Dorsey has had a hard time this season connecting on long passes. Most of the time, UM runs slant routes or crossing routes in which the receivers are able to make plays for big gains. He is tall, can read defenses and studies harder than anyone, which all should be advantages come draft time.
HPF: OK, on to the guys we know will definitely be available in 2002. First, Bryant McKinnie recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee – how is he doing?
Szulszteyn: McKinnie is rehabbing and should play in the Rose Bowl. He is supposed to miss at least one week of practice, so we’ll see how he is doing when he returns.
HPF: Talk a bit about just how good McKinnie is.
Szulszteyn: McKinnie is awesome, and I’m saying this as an unbiased observer. His size and wingspan give him a tremendous advantage over any defensive end he’s ever faced. How many guys can say they’ve never given up a sack in two years at UM and two years at a junior college, and held Jamaal Reynolds to no sacks and Dwight Freeney to no tackles? Offensive line coach Art Kehoe raves about him simply because there is no end that can come close to the quarterback when they face McKinnie. Once McKinnie has his hands on a guy, there’s no way around. And he is still raw. He’s played offensive line five years, which isn’t much time at all. He should reach his peak in the NFL, which could be scary to think about for opposing defenses.
HPF: Does he have any weaknesses?
Szulszteyn: Aside from inexperience, McKinnie also can sometimes be lazy in the weight room, but I guess maybe sometimes he can afford to be because he’s so good.
HPF: McKinnie’s tackle-mate, Joaquin Gonzalez, is pretty good, too, but we don’t hear as much about him. What are your thoughts on Gonzalez?
Szulszteyn: Gonzalez is good, but I’ve heard he’ll be a late first-day selection. Scouts say he doesn’t have the physical ability to become a first or second round selection. He’s also a smart player who walked on to UM and became a four-year starter. He holds the record for most starts by an offensive lineman at UM. He’s durable and experienced, which also should be plusses.
HPF: Have either of those guys been challenged this year, in terms of opponents? We know they shut down Dwight Freeney – but is the Big East known for getting after the QB?
Szulszteyn: Well, Temple broke the streak the UM offensive line had in which it went more than 700 plays without giving up a sack. The major players UM faces come from Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Florida State. Not much competition comes from Rutgers or West Virginia. In last year’s Sugar Bowl, Alex Brown did nothing against McKinnie but had one sack when he went against Gonzalez. That’s all he got. And in the world of college football, there are only are a handful of teams in each conference that can really challenge you.
HPF: Najeh Davenport is an interesting prospect; big (6’2", 245), but also reportedly very fast, scouts seem intrigued by his talent. But Miami hasn’t really showcased him this year, and his numbers don’t jump out at you. What’s his NFL outlook?
Szulszteyn: Davenport is an interesting draft candidate. When he arrived at UM, everyone thought he would be the next Edgerrin James because they had similar builds and speed. But, Davenport was moved to fullback last season when there were injuries at the position and has stayed there ever since. He wasn’t happy about that idea at first, but he made the sacrifice for the team. Davenport has not been showcased because the fullback in the UM system is primarily a blocking back. He has had a handful of carries and receptions this season. Many believe playing tailback and fullback at UM is an added bonus. But Davenport says he is going to every combine and workout this spring so scouts can see just how good he is. He is one of the top five fastest players on the team, and he and coaches say he has not lost a step since tearing his ACL in 1999. I think Davenport has good NFL potential because of his size and speed.
HPF: Ed Reed leads a talented secondary, and is expected to be a first round pick next April. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Szulszteyn: Reed is everywhere on the field. It always seems he’s near the ball whenever he needs to be. The senior came back to school to win a national championship and is one win away from making that dream come true. He played free safety this season and did a tremendous job. He owns the school record for interceptions — with 21 — and always makes big plays when they are needed. He’s smart and always knows where to be and where to tell his teammates to be. One area not to be overlooked — his special teams. He’s blocked several punts in his career and also returned some punts. Reed does take big gambles which sometimes cost him, and it will be interesting to see where he plays (in the NFL), whether it’s free safety or strong safety.
HPF: Mike Rumph certainly has the size to play CB in the NFL, but there’s concern he’s a bit too lanky and stiff? What’s the word on his prospects?
Szulszteyn: I’ve heard Rumph has good prospects, to be either a late first rounder or early second rounder. This season has helped his draft status because he’s shut down his receiver. A big part (of his success) is (due to) the slight change in the UM defensive system under new coordinator Randy Shannon. The DBs are now allowed to be more physical rather than playing off their guys, (as they did) last season. That has helped Rumph because he can use his size to his advantage. He is lanky, but his long arms are a huge plus. He’s able to jam receivers and make plays on the ball.
HPF: Were there any games where the secondary just took over this year?
Szulszteyn: Name a game. Early in the season, UM faced many spread teams with three and four receivers at a time. The Hurricanes secondary shut them down. Reed came up with a huge interception against Virginia Tech to seal the game. Rumph had a huge play against Boston College in which he went for a pick, but the ball bounced off his knee and landed in teammate Matt Walters’ hands, to seal the game. Buchanon has yet to give up a touchdown, and James Lewis was a huge upgrade over Al Blades.
HPF: Now that we’ve discussed a few of them, would you mind ranking Miami’s top senior prospects (say, the top 10, or so)?
Szulszteyn: 1. OT Bryant McKinnie
2. S Edward Reed
3. G Martin Bibla
4. CB Mike Rumph
5. OT Joaquin Gonzalez
6. FB Najeh Davenport
7. LB Chris Campbell
8. S James Lewis
9. CB Markese Fitzgerald
10. WR Daryl Jones
HPF: Miami’s always had a bit of an outlaw reputation, but this group seems almost choir-boy-like by comparison. Is that a fair assessment of their off-the-field behavior (referring to the top senior prospects)?
Szulszteyn: That outlaw reputation should be erased by now. None of these players have gotten into trouble off the field. When Butch Davis arrived in 1995, he made sure to recruit guys with good character as well as good athletic ability. All these players came in under Davis, so it could be a tribute to him as well.
HPF: Any thoughts on why Miami seems to churn out NFL-ready players year-in, and year-out? Obviously, Butch Davis had a remarkable recruiting run, so we’re talking about topflight talent, but what’s remarkable is how often that talent is realized on the professional level.
Szulszteyn: I think it’s a combination of things. UM always lands top flight recruits because of the school’s tradition and reputation, and also because of the tremendous talent base in South Florida. Also, UM has strongholds in Texas, California and the northeast, which are key recruiting grounds. The system UM runs on offense and defense is more of a pro style, which gives players a taste of what they will see in the NFL. Obviously there has been continuity in the coaching staff for a while, and all the coaches are great ones who help these players realize their potential.
HPF: Lastly, we’ve mentioned 8-10 prospects here, including underclassmen. Anyone on the horizon that we didn’t get around to talking about?
Szulszteyn: Guard Martin Bibla. Kehoe says he’s the best player on the offensive line. He does not get much attention because of McKinnie and Gonzalez, but Bibla should be a first-round selection. He is a workhorse and has tremendous size and strength. He’s smart, has good instincts and also can handle the huge guys inside. He did not give up a sack this year.
Andrea Szulszteyn has been at the Sun-Sentinel for 2 1/2 years covering the Hurricanes the past two. Prior to that, she graduated from the University of Florida, where she covered the Gators for two years.
We threw a lot of questions at her and she had a turnaround time of less than 24 hours, so big thanks go out to her for helping and being so accommodating.
Bryant McKinnie Return to The War Room