Miami-Florida St. looks more like a track meet than No. 1 showdown

November 12, 1991|By Ken Rodriguez | Ken Rodriguez,Knight-Ridder

MIAMI -- Top-ranked Florida State and second-ranked Miami have blown past a combined 18 opponents in less time than it takes Keith Jackson to bellow, "Whooooaa Nellie!"

If the first 2 1/2 months of the season have been a Seminole and Hurricane blur, imagine what the next 60 minutes will be like Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee.

FSU vs. Miami is a world-class relay.

Speed?

"We could have an Olympic sprint team made up of our receivers," says Hurricanes defensive end Rusty Medearis.

Speed?

Three FSU players -- Terrell Buckley, Shannon Baker and Corey Fuller -- comprise three-fourths of the Seminoles' sprint relay.

"For the first time in four or five years," says Florida State track coach Terry Long, "we've had the relay speed that I felt could compete nationally."

Speed?

The Hurricanes have three starting linebackers -- Darrin Smith, Jessie Armstead and Micheal Barrow -- who run faster than their three top running backs; the Seminoles have a defensive end, Dan Footman, who anchored his high school state champion 440-yard relay.

"We may be the two fastest teams in college football," says Miami coach Dennis Erickson.

The question is: Who is faster?

Brigham Young coach Lavelle Edwards, who played and beat Miami in the 1990 season-opener and lost to FSU this season: "I thought Florida State had maybe a little more speed on offense, and they were pretty equal on defense."

Tom Heckert, the Miami Dolphins' director of college scouting, who times every Hurricanes and Seminoles football player each spring: "I think Miami has the most team speed of anyone in the United States. I think Florida State is a close second."

The question, some coaches and players say, is unimportant. Both teams are fast enough.

If Kevin Williams, Miami's punt returner, who runs a 4.28-second 40, breaks into the open, "he's gone," says Buckley, who runs a 4.35 and also returns punts. "But if I get two or three steps on

anybody, they might as well read the back of my shoes as I go down the sideline."

What sets Florida State and Miami apart is a rare combination of track speed and football speed. That is the ability to sprint from north to south in a blink (track speed) and the ability to run, stop and accelerate in a quick, single burst (football speed).

The combination is known as team speed, which cannot be measured in 40-yard -- times. A 40 may indicate straight-ahead speed, but it cannot measure quickness -- that important first step and subsequent explosion to the ball.

Quickness is what concerns Erickson.

"They close in on the football faster than anybody we've played," he says.

FSU coach Bobby Bowden: "Miami looks as fast as I've ever seen them, maybe faster. I see a bunch of racehorses."

A comparison of 40-yard -- times shows the 'Canes have a slight edge in track speed. Florida State, for example, has nobody in its secondary -- or anywhere else for that matter -- who can catch Hurricanes receivers Williams (4.28) and Horace Copeland (4.31).

The Hurricanes have four receivers who run sub-4.5 40s (considered an excellent time) -- Williams, Copeland, A.C. Tellison (4.41) and Lamar Thomas (4.49); the Seminoles have three -- Shannon Baker (4.35), Eric Turral (4.4) and Kevin Knox (4.4).

Miami also has the faster linebackers. Smith leads with a 4.42, followed by Armstead (4.47) and Barrow (4.64).

The Seminoles counter with Howard Dinkins (4.48), Marvin Jones (4.6) and Kirk Carruthers, who is slower and does not have a 40 time.

The secondary?

Slight edge to Miami.

Check out these Hurricanes' times: Cornerback Paul White (4.33), free safety Darryl Williams (4.34), cornerback Ryan McNeil (4.39), cornerback Jean Stiverne (4.40) and cornerback Dexter Seigler (4.48).

Compare with these Seminoles' times: cornerback Buckley (4.35), cornerback Fuller (4.35), cornerback Clifton Abraham (4.4), cornerback Tommy Henry (4.49) and cornerback Errol McCorvey (4.5).

"I think Miami is definitely the faster team," Heckert says, "but that doesn't mean they are going to win the game."

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