Coker Drops His Guard

In his last news conference before today's Rose Bowl national championship game, Miami Coach Larry Coker dropped the aw-shucks routine, if only for a minute.

Since arriving in the Southland last week, Coker has tried to deflect any praise given him.

Yes, it's rather unusual to get your first head-coaching job at the college level at age 53 and then find yourself on the verge of an unbeaten season and a national title, Coker conceded. But, over and over again, he stressed the credit should go to the players.

Coker, who was Miami's offensive coordinator before being promoted, was asked Wednesday if someone from the outside could have achieved the same results.

"Probably not," he said, his pride in this season finally kicking in. "Not knowing our players, not knowing our system, it would have been very, very difficult."

When asked if his predecessor, Butch Davis, who left for the Cleveland Browns, should get much of the credit for this team, Coker again was candid.

"Ninety percent of these players," he said, "were recruited by myself and other assistants who are still on the staff."

But, added Coker, "Butch Davis was a tremendous draw and gave us instant credibility. Nobody knew who I was."

Aw shucks, he's probably right about that.


Although it has been assumed all week, Coker made it official.

Strongside linebacker Chris Campbell, who developed an infection in his right leg following surgery and has not practiced since the team's arrival, will not play today.

His place will be taken by Howard Clark.


Willis McGahee, a freshman who will start at fullback, is learning to look forward rather than backward when he lines up in the backfield.

"I would get real upset when I would fumble or something," McGahee said. "I would just keep thinking about that fumble, so I've had to learn to just move on to the next play."

McGahee moved up on the depth chart when Najeh Davenport broke his left foot in a practice following the last regular-season game.

Davenport, who has remained with the team, has been talking to McGahee about his focus.

Said Miami offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski of McGahee: "He's going to have to grow up quick."

Steve Springer

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