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December 28, 2005

Coker expects tremendous fan turnout at bowl game

Coach Larry Coker is expecting a strong Hurricane contingent when the Peach Bowl kicks off Dec. 30.

"At last count we sold just under 11,000 tickets, which is the most ever for Miami at not a BCS game," Coker said. "We're very appreciative of that. We have great fan support at the University of Miami. We're excited about that, especially for our football players."

A fan draw, of course, is the matchup of two top 10 teams.

"I think other than a national championship game, I think it's the best matchup in college football this bowl season," Coker said. "It's a great matchup. LSU is an outstanding team.

"They are very similar to us from the standpoint they have a lot of speed, talent, tradition. The similarities are there. We have to have positive plays, not turn the ball over."

A focus in the game will be controlling the Tigers' dominant defensive line.

Kyle Wright was asked about that.

"They do a great job with not only their front four, but blitzing linebackers," Wright said. "We've had that continually all year. That's something the offensive line and myself have gotten better at, recognizing pressure and getting off underneath throws if we need to get rid of it quick. We're going to get the ball to our playmakers and let them go out and make plays."

The Canes will get a reprieve in the game in that starting QB JaMarcus Russell is not playing due to a shoulder injury.

"The second team quarterback hasn't played as much," Coker said. "One thing we're preparing for is now he's had a month to get ready. When he played in the SEC Championship game it was a spur-of-the-moment type thing. The team will rally around him, I'm sure."

Orien Harris weighed in on the LSU offense that "LSU has a real outstanding team offensively. Their receiver corps is superb. Their running backs are real good. It's a challenge to us as a defense to get prepared for them. I think it's going to be a good game. Early in the season we were No. 3 and they were No. 4. So if Texas and USC had lost, that would have been a national championship game right there."

* Coker was asked if he views this as a statement game.

"It's a game we want to win," Coker said. "But to say it's a statement game ... I don't know I would go that far. For us to win the game would make a big statement for us.

* Wright addressed the depleted receiver corps.

"We lose Ryan (Moore to suspension) and Akieem Jolla transferring and Terrell Walden getting hurt -- I was really anxious to see how those (other) guys would step up in practice," Wright said. "And I've been impressed with how they've practiced. Lance Leggett, Khalil Jones, guys who haven't gotten as much action are going to have to step up."

Coker added, "I'm really not concerned about our wide receiver position. Guys have stepped up. It's a Miami tradition -- when someone needs to step up, we've done that. And I believe we'll do that on Friday."

The move of Devin Hester to offense might help with the lack of receiver depth.

He could line up at running back or receiver.

"He's been a receiver, running back, a defensive back," Coker said. "He's even thrown a pass - how many ineligible players did we have on that pass? I think about six. But that gives a bonus there because he can do several things for us."

Asked to comment on Hester's move to offense, Harris joked, "It's real exciting, because I've been waiting to see how fast I am."

Wright said of Hester's move that "When he lines up on offense you see the defense changing their defense, saying `Receiver in the backfield.' With that type of playmaking ability he has, he can take a little swing pass (for a touchdown). It's exciting. I'm really looking forward to getting the ball in his hands."

* Coker said winning this game could help UM's placement in next year's opening poll.

"LSU has a tremendous amount of respect," he said. "And to beat a team like that leaves a termendous impression. There are going to be a lot of teams that win bowl games -- half will win; half will lose. To beat a team like that will have a tremendous efect on the voting for next year."

* Coker was asked if Nick Saban, LSU's former coach and the current Miami Dolphins coach, has given him some helpful words of advice.

"Nick gave me the playbook," Coker joked."I can't trust Nick, though. He's got a lot of LSU roots."

* Coker said Ryan Moore will be eligible for spring practice.

Moore was contemplating leaving early for the NFL.

"He says he is staying," Coker said. "I think he can have a great year next year, really take it to the next level. I look at him as a Reggie Wayne type player for us. I think he has that type of ability."

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