Coker hopes changes pay dividends

— At the University of Miami, reputation means a lot. That reputation doesn't include finishing eighth in a 12-team conference in total offense.

Nor does it include scoring just a field goal in the Hurricanes' most lopsided bowl loss ever, a performance that had former Miami players text messaging admonitions to current players as the game went on.

That 40-3 Peach Bowl loss to LSU capped a period that showed changes needed to be made, Miami coach Larry Coker said Saturday at the Florida Sports Writers Association's Media Days. With those changes in place, Coker hopes the offense — and the Hurricanes' season-ending results — will improve.

At Miami, change came in several forms. It came with an assistant coaching purge that replaced the team's offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and running backs coach. Those new coaches and the new offensive wrinkles they bring should help the Hurricanes, especially second-year starting quarterback Kyle Wright.

"With his leadership skills, his command of the offense and his gravitation to some of the new members of our staff, I'm really excited for the future of Kyle Wright," Coker said. "I think he's got great potential."

Coker felt Wright slipped under the radar last year, leading the ACC in touchdown passes (18) and finishing second in passing efficiency (137.2 ). Getting sacked 36 times last season didn't help.

Coker

Coker

Coker said new offensive packages designed to get the ball out of Wright's hands quicker will work, but the offensive line needs to hold its ground as well.

"Our protection was horrendous," Coker said. "Let's face it. He was sacked too many times and you can't win big games with negative plays. You're better off having penalties because, at least with penalties, you get the down over. We have to do a much better job protecting Kyle Wright than we did."

The running game, which finished in the bottom half of the Division I-A national rankings, also must improve, but that could come with the return of starting running back Tyrone Moss.

Moss was on his way to a 1,000-yard season – averaging 5.1 yards a carry and scoring 12 touchdowns – before a knee injury shelved him after eight games.

Coker said Moss was on his way back to game shape, but he couldn't be sure of Moss' progress until he strapped on his pads. If Moss can't get back to 100 percent, that door opens for playing time for several other running backs, including true freshman Javarris James.

James, Immokalee High's two-time Naples Daily News Offensive Player of the Year, has quite the reputation to uphold. His cousin and close mentor, Edgerrin James, starred for the Hurricanes. Coker said that, while recruiting Javarris, he was sure to tell him that he wasn't here simply because of Edgerrin.

Coker added that Javarris has smoothly transitioned from high school to college.

"He's a player that other players gravitate to," Coker said. "I saw that on a recruiting visit. He was kind of like the Pied Piper. Guys were gravitating to him. He seems to be a very mature kid.

"Edgerrin swears (Javarris) is better than he is," Coker added. "If that's the case, I'll be fine with that."

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