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Tuesday, January 1
Shannon not worried about jobs, just Huskers

By Bruce Feldman
ESPN The Magazine

PASADENA, Calif. -- Randy Shannon faced a blitz of his own Monday. Word had just broke about Notre Dame hiring Tyrone Willingham as its head coach, putting an African-American in the most high profile coaching position in America. In any sport.

Shannon, Miami's 35-year-old defensive coordinator, was thrust into the media crosshairs. Was this an indication that his time was coming soon? After all, the former UM linebacker and one-time Miami Dolphin linebacker coach, did win the Broyles Award this season, in honor of being the nation's top assistant coach.

Shannon's answer -- over and over again -- was don't bother.

"I don't get caught up in that [African]-American head coaching thing," Shannon said. "I just want to beat Nebraska. And I believe in schools or companies hiring the best man for the job, period."

He says they will not get caught up in any distractions. Miami has business to deal with. Shannon was Miami's linebacker coach back in 1997, when many of the 'Canes seniors were redshirt freshmen on a probation-racked squad that went 5-6.

"That's part of our drive," Shannon said.

In a way it's emblematic of Miami's turnover game. Something which Shannon has the 'Canes working on weekly. It goes back to his training under Jimmy Johnson. UM led the nation in turnover margin with a per-game average of plus-2.36. Miami turned their 45 takeaways into a mind-boggling total of 172 points.

"We try to punch the ball out," Shannon said. "Then we try to scoop and score on fumbles. If we drop an interception, the guy does 10 pushups. We every time a defensive player touches the ball as an opportunity to score."

Big Red noise
Both Nebraska and Miami received more than 21,000 tickets for Thursday's game, but expect the Huskers to have a huge fan advantage in the Rose Bowl.

Even though the Hurricanes sold out their entire allotment of tickets, one UM official admitted Monday that many of them may have ended up in the hands of Big Red backers. Some are saying there could be as many as 60,000 fans of the Big Red at the Rose Bowl.

UM coach Larry Coker said he's not concerned about the makeup of Thursday's crowd. Miami played before 109,313 fans at Penn State and 82,836 at Florida State. The 'Canes won both games.

"We're not going to be affected by that," Coker said. "This team's not going to be affected by anything other than how well we play and how well Nebraska plays."

Big Mac back
Outland Trophy winner Bryant McKinnie, coming off minor knee surgery, deliberately hobbled up the ramp outside the L.A. Coliseum locker room to the Miami team bus after practice. But teammates say that's nothing to worry about. The 6-9, 336-pound tackle always walks like he's dragging a piano behind him. Coaches say they have actually been surprised at how well McKinnie has looked in his first few practices out west.

Bruce Feldman covers college football for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at

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