<
>

Freeman gets nod at quarterback for Hurricanes

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Kirby Freeman became Miami's
quarterback last season by default, taking over only because Kyle Wright suffered a season-ending injury.

This time, he earned the job.

Freeman was named the Hurricanes' starter Tuesday, beating
Wright in the most-scrutinized competition of training camp. Miami
coach Randy Shannon wouldn't say how Freeman separated himself in
the race, only insisting "Kirby gives us the best opportunity to
win games."

"He's given me an opportunity and I'm going to run with it,"
Freeman said. "I'm going to do everything I can. I'm not going to
just try to keep my position. We're going to go win ballgames. It's
time to play now. It's so far beyond trying to win a job. All this
is over with now and we're going to move forward."

Miami was unranked in the preseason poll for the first time
since 1998. It opens Saturday at home against Marshall.

Freeman went 2-2 after Wright got hurt last season, throwing for
272 yards and two touchdowns to take MVP honors in Miami's 21-20
win over Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl. He spent 21 games as
Wright's backup over the previous 1½ seasons.

"We're excited by both of the quarterbacks," Shannon said.
"We still consider Kyle as a starter because we're fortunate
enough to have two quarterbacks with the ability to go in and lead
us in the right direction, but as far as this week right here,
Kirby's going to be the starter."

Freeman and Wright opened camp tied atop the depth chart, and
Shannon said months ago that he wouldn't announce the starter at
quarterback -- or any other position -- until the final week of the
offseason. There was speculation during camp that Freeman was
winning the race, especially after it became known that Wright had
a sore knee for much of the summer.

But Shannon never tipped his hand until Tuesday, when he made
the most-awaited choice of his first eight months leading the
Hurricanes.

"I had no idea who it was going to be until today," left
tackle Jason Fox said. "They're two great quarterbacks and they
both bring a lot of things to the table."

Wright did not speak with reporters Tuesday, although Freeman
said he sought him out and offered congratulations and other kind
words.

"I know what he's going through because I've been there
before," Freeman said. "Twice."

Wright was the nation's top recruit when he signed with Miami,
yet simply hasn't lived up to the expectation that he'd be the next
great one at "Quarterback U." He threw for eight touchdowns in
nine games last year and five of those scoring passes were against
Florida International and Duke, the only winless teams in Division
I-A during 2006.

And in 2005, Wright threw for 18 touchdowns, with 12 against
Duke, Temple and Wake Forest -- teams going a combined 5-28 that
year.

Meanwhile, Freeman waited for his chance, albeit impatiently at
times. He considered transferring after the 2005 season before
announcing that he'd finish his college career at Miami, even
getting the Hurricanes' distinctive "U" logo tattooed on his back
to prove his devotion to the program.

In his starts last season, Freeman completed only 54.4 percent
of his throws for 745 yards, with five touchdowns and six
interceptions. But he threw at least one TD pass in all four games,
matching the best streak of Wright's career.

"I'm overwhelmed. I'm really excited," Freeman said. "This is
everything I've worked for ... everything I hoped it would be. Now
it's time to play ball."

Miami's first depth chart had plenty of interesting moves, not
only in the quarterback column.

Shannon has co-starters listed at seven positions, including
tailback, where Javarris James and Graig Cooper will likely end up
splitting the workload. There's no such designation at quarterback,
but Shannon made it clear that Wright has pushed Freeman so far and
will continue doing so.

"There is always competition," Shannon said. "No matter what
we do, we will get the best guys on that field. The more that we
can push and get other guys to push the more successful we will
be."