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Miami coach Coker benches Winslow, others for mistakes

Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2003

CORAL GABLES, Fla. Miami coach Larry Coker benched tight end Kellen Winslow on Tuesday, punishing the team's top receiver for his behavior on the field.

Coker also benched center Joel Rodriguez and quarterback Brock Berlin, meaning the 14th-ranked Hurricanes (7-2) will have a total of six offensive players in new positions Saturday against Syracuse.

Winslow was benched for committing two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in losses to Virginia Tech and Tennessee. Rodriguez was benched for committing a critical holding penalty in the fourth quarter against the Volunteers. And Berlin was benched after throwing 14 interceptions and fumbling three times in nine games.

''We're doing everything we can to address any problems we have on our football team,'' offensive line coach Art Kehoe said. ''If it means somebody's got to get benched or we've got to start somebody else, we're going to do whatever it takes to get this ship right.

''The bench has always been the coach's best vehicle throughout sports history. Has it not? It's the best thing I know of.''

Winslow and Rodriguez will not start against Syracuse (5-3), but Coker said they will play in the game. Berlin could play, too, but Coker said it will depend on how backup Derrick Crudup performs.

Winslow was penalized 15 yards in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 10-6 loss to Tennessee for taking off his helmet. After the game, Winslow said his helmet was ripped off. He then lashed out at the officials in a profanity-laced tirade that ended with him referring to football as war and himself as a soldier.

Winslow apologized a day later.

He also nearly got flagged for celebrating a hard-hitting block on safety Corey Campbell in the third quarter.

In a 31-7 loss to Virginia Tech, he was flagged 15 yards for punching linebacker Brandon Manning.

''We've got to understand we can't have that,'' Coker said. ''It hurts our football team. The most pain you can inflict on a player is playing time, so I am going to take away some playing time.''

Kevin Everett will start in place of Winslow, who leads the team with 51 catches for 527 yards.

Rodriguez was flagged for his fifth holding penalty of the season against the Vols. It came on first-and-10 at the Tennessee 30 with Miami trailing 10-6 early in the fourth quarter.

The 10-yard penalty took the Hurricanes out of field-goal range, and the drive ended three plays later when Berlin fumbled.

''It is embarrassing,'' Rodriguez said. ''It would be worse if it was just me, but the fact that it's me and Kellen eases the tension a little bit because Kellen is such a marquee player. It's unsettling, but that comes with the territory of starting at a big-time program like this and not doing things that coaches have addressed.''

Without Rodriguez, the Hurricanes will move right guard Chris Myers to center, shift left tackle Eric Winston to left guard and insert Rashad Butler at left tackle and Joe McGrath at right guard. The moves are also necessary because left guard Vernon Carey is likely out with a sprained right ankle.

The only linemen who remains unchanged is right tackle Carlos Joseph.

''We're just trying to make a statement that if you're going to make a lot of penalties, you're going to sit along the sideline with me and watch the game,'' Kehoe said.

Berlin threw four interceptions and fumbled once in the two losses. Even more glaring, the offense managed just one touchdown in the two games.

''I'm not happy about being on the bench,'' Berlin said. ''I don't want to be on the bench, and I'm going to work very hard and just as hard as I've been doing to get back on the field and get my job back.''

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