How far away are Miami Hurricanes from championship-level depth? Ask a champion


CORAL GABLES — Joel Rodriguez knows what a championship Hurricanes team looks like. He was on the 2001 squad, considered by some (and probably everyone who regularly reads this blog) as the best team in college football history.

Joel Rodriguez during a 2003 game at Florida State. (Getty Images)

Joel Rodriguez during a 2003 game at Florida State. (Getty Images)

Rodriguez, an offensive lineman from 2000-04 who now serves as UM’s director of player development, knows that the program isn’t at that level now. The main reason: while Miami has several talented front-line players, the necessary depth isn’t there.

“How far are we from having a roster of 85 guys, with 65 about which you can say, ‘We’re going to play winning football in the ACC with these guys?’ We’re probably a couple years away still,” he said. “You’ve got young guys you’ve got to develop, you’ve got guys you need to bring in still. Right now, all of our receivers are going to play next year, because the numbers tell you that. Whereas in the past, in 2001 and those days, you had to be a really, really, really special player to play early on, wherever you were playing position-wise.

“In terms of that type of depth, we’re probably still a couple years away. In terms of the talent of the front-line guys, I don’t think we’re that far off at all, to be honest with you. I mean, Stacy Coley compared to Andre Johnson, they’re both phenomenal talents. Quan Muhammad compared to Jerome McDougal, they’re both phenomenal talents. Our front-line guys at every position are probably very similar to the ones from those quote-unquote glory years, or whatever you want to call it.”

Brad Kaaya, he said, compares favorably to most of the quarterbacks UM has ever had.



“He’s a better quarterback than anyone we ever had [during his college years],” Rodriguez said. “That’s not a knock on Kenny Dorsey or Brock Berlin – he’s just so much more physically talented than those guys could ever dream of being.”

What about the running backs?

“They’re still so young, it’s hard to say, for me at least,” Rodriguez said. “Mark [Walton]’s been here not even a full year. Joe [Yearby]’s been here for a little bit, but last year was his first as a true impact player. Gus [Edwards] was hurt last year. We’re still bringing Trayone [Gray] along, and obviously Travis [Homer] just got here. The difference between that group and this group is, that group always had a senior or a returning older player who was in line already.”

He mentioned the “line of succession” from James Jackson to Clinton Portis to Willis McGahee to Frank Gore. None of the current backs have shown that level of play — but then again, only Yearby has been “the guy” for a full season. “Is there a Clinton Portis or Willis McGahee in that group? You would say probably not, right now, but that could change from three months from now, or five months from now, very easily,” Rodriguez said.

One more thought from Rodriguez (who, as an aside, I feel slighted I didn’t get to cover; he is quite intelligent and I’m told he was an excellent quote as a player). He played under Butch Davis and Larry Coker and says he enjoys working for Mark Richt. 

“Coach Richt is very, very different from any head coach I’ve worked for in terms of his overall poise,” Rodriguez said. “Nothing seems to frazzle him. Even when he calls you with an issue, it’s like, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on, just handle this.’ There’s no panic. Obviously, there’s urgency, but there’s no, ‘Holy crap, the sky is falling.’ A lot of coaches, myself included at times, you kind of get to where everything is a huge deal. He doesn’t really show that very often, which is great.”



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