Tech worries about defending against Miami

Updated: August 24, 2003, 7:45 PM ET

RUSTON, La. -- One of the most difficult tasks for the Louisiana Tech defensive coaches preparing for Thursday night's matchup with No. 3-ranked Miami in Independence Stadium is what they can expect out of Hurricanes' quarterback Brock Berlin.

The former Evangel standout hasn't been seen on film since the 2001 season when he endured mostly mop-up roles for starter Rex Grossman at Florida. His lack of actual game experience might give the Bulldogs a small advantage in the season opener.

"He hasn't been in a big game in a while, so our duty is to try to shake him a little bit ... maybe blitz him a little," Tech assistant head coach Ed Jackson said.

Berlin played in 12 games over a two-year span for the Gators throwing for 653 yards and 11 touchdowns with just two interceptions in 87 passes. But the former USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year isn't likely to be shaken by the Bulldogs defense.

"Brock's surrounded by great players, which makes his first start easier, but I would imagine going into the first game they'll limit their package a little until he gets his feet wet," Tech co-defensive coordinator Rick Smith said. "But he has been in the battle and I don't think he's going to freeze."

After Berlin led Evangel to three consecutive Louisiana state titles and became a consensus prep All-American in 1999, college recruiters drooled at the thought of getting his signature on a scholarship. Smith watched him play as a high school senior and came away impressed.

"I thought he was a great quarterback then and he's done nothing but get stronger," Smith said. "He has a really good arm, is a very good athlete and can scramble. I think he's a better athlete than (Ken) Dorsey was.

"Can he make the plays that Dorsey made? That's the key. He was in the system last year and he's very intelligent. He had all spring and has 29 (fall) practices before we play him, so he won't have a problem adjusting."

Tech linebacker Antonio Crow said Berlin's athleticism will make the junior a competitive matchup.

"He's a great athlete, a great passer and he reads defenses well, so he will also be a challenge," Crow said. "The great athletes around him will make him even better."

Berlin will operate behind an offensive line that averages 310 pounds and includes 6-foot-5, 363-pound All-America candidate Vernon Carey. Miami assistant head coach Art Kehoe said Carey has "phenomenal athletic ability for a man his size and continues to develop as a finisher."

"The big thing is you know they'll try to throw the ball with Berlin in there," Jackson said. "He's the guy we have to get ready for. He throws it well, so we'll try to get after him."

Last season, Tech sacked opposing quarterbacks 20 times in 12 games for 120 yards in losses.

Tech junior safety Michael Johnson said facing Berlin and his quick receivers is something the Bulldogs have been preparing for over the past few years playing games against quality teams.

"It'll be a challenge for everybody in the secondary, especially me in my position at safety,"Johnson said. "We have to avoid turnovers and our defense has to get turnovers. I understand with our offense that we might have interceptions, because we throw it about 50-60 times, but it can't be an interception inside the 20-yard line going in."

Berlin has been impressive in fall drills at Miami and Tech offensive coordinator Conroy Hines, who began watching the Shreveporter as a seventh grader, knows he'll be ready.

"I don't think anything will keep Brock out of this game barring a major injury," Hines said. "I'm excited for him. I know we're having to play against him, but you have a kid who's persevered and now he's getting an opportunity. I just hope he has a great year other than one ball game."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index