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Hurricanes offensive line looking to rebound after ugly performance; protecting Duke Johnson's body a priority assistant says

The Hurricanes starting offensive line is one of the most experienced and polished in the country, a proud group which has been going by the nickname of The Great Wall of Coral Gables since the sports information staff coined the phrase at the start of the season.

But their weekly film session after the win over Florida nearly two weeks ago was a painful experience, guards Jonathan Feliciano and Brandon Linder admitted earlier this week. Feliciano said it was the ugliest game film to recap from a unit's perspective since he's been here.

"It wasn't like we all messed up on one play. It was like we all took turns messing up," Feliciano said this week of the line's performance. "If I was doing good one play something happened on the backside. And vice-versa.

"Coach Kehoe has his way when he's being loud and making a joke of letting you know he's upset. He just wasn't happy with the landmarks we had [where players were lined up] and the way we were coming off the ball. We saw one of the best defenses in the nation. Now we know how they are and how it feels to play against them. We have to come every week prepared like that."

Miami was held to only 50 yards rushing in the game, a week after rolling up 303 against FAU in the season opener. UM only had fewer yards last season twice: at Kansas State (40 yards on 29 carries) and against Florida State (29 yards on 21 carries).

Kehoe took responsibility for his line's struggles, saying he didn't prepare them well enough for all the shifting the Gators did and the explosion they had off the ball. Kehoe said defensive tackle Dominique Easley was jumping cadence and disrupting the backfield way too often. Easley is rated the third-best defensive tackle prospect in the country according to NFLDraftScout.com.

Linder said Easley was definitely the toughest assignment he and his teammates have faced thus far.

"Looking back in hindsight I wish I had done a better job preparing for No. 2 [Easley]. He was like a human wrecking ball in that game," Kehoe said. "That being said, I think we just had five great practices and are getting better. The guys are starting to figure it out. You either bring it or you lose it."

Savannah State, a 60-point underdog, and the University of South Florida (0-3), who hosts UM in two weeks, will hardly present the same challenge the Gators did.

In fact, Miami may not face another big, fast and dominant defensive front like Florida's until it travels to Tallahassee Nov. 2. The Seminoles have top-notch junior defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (6-2, 298) and senior Demonte McAllister (6-2, 290).

A road trip to North Carolina for a Thursday night showdown with the Tar Heels won't be easy either. Kareem Martin (6-5, 265) is rated the No. 2 defensive end prospect according to NFLDraftScout.com. Senior Tim Jackson (6-4, 285) is rated the 18th best defensive tackle in the country according to the same website.

"The combination of [what happened against Florida] makes you study the film hard and hope you don't repeat it because it can become a blueprint of what teams are going to do against you," Kehoe said. "But I don't know if they got the blueprint to put No. 2 against you. He caused a lot of problems, messed with a lot of our concepts. It was a good learning experience. The good thing is we learned and won. That's the good thing."


> Running backs coach Hurlie Brown said "it's really important" for the Hurricanes to protect Duke Johnson's body so he stays upright for the length of the season. Johnson said on Hurricanes Hotline this week coming off the Florida game he was "bruised bad and sore."

Through two games, Johnson has carried the ball 40 times for 245 yards and two touchdowns. He's touched it six other times -- three catches for 50 yards and three kick returns for an average of 18.7. A year ago at this time Johnson had 13 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He also had five catches for 28 yards and eight kick returns for an average of 26.3 yards for a grand total of 26 touches, 20 fewer than he has now.

"We just got to be smart about it all," Brown said of the amount of times Johnson (5-9, 196) is asked to do something with the ball. "As coaches, that's what you try to do -- whether it's Duke or anybody else. You try and protect those guys and make sure they can go the distance. Duke's the type of kid that can play a lot, who is a strong kid. We just got to be smart as a staff to make sure he can go the distance."

> By moving Feliciano from right tackle back to left guard after one week it's opened the door for Seantrel Henderson (6-8, 45) to get more playing time and to join the starting rotation. Kehoe said Feliciano is still going to play some tackle, but he's more suited for guard.

"He's been versatile, tenacious and tough," Kehoe said. "The more I look at our guys it becomes kind of fun figuring who can do what where and who is better than other guys. Some guys play tackle better, guard better and some guys are versatile like Jon and Brandon and can play all five.

"Seantrel is in good shape. He's come around in a lot of ways. He knows his time is running out. He's playing hard and getting better and starting to learn from these guys. He's an exceptional player and if he's on, he's hard to deal with. He's got some unbelievable tools he's putting together."

> It's hard to tell exactly what kind of crowd Miami will get for Savannah State Saturday night, but the atmosphere of a sellout against the Gators was one that will stick in the minds of players and coaches for a long time.

"Joe Robbie or Sun Life Stadium is built for baseball and for football. Since I've been back I haven't been in there where I saw a crazy crowd like I saw Saturday," Kehoe said.

"People were dancing and screaming and jumping up and down. Our kids were getting into it and we were in a fist-fight against a really good team. And it was the kind of environment we all wanted to see around here for a long time. The Orange Bowl was more tight, a tighter joint, but that was the first time this place was popping. It was a fun environment and our kids really loved it."