As far as running backs Donnell Bennett and Larry Jones are concerned, their performances against Penn State were big _ and not just because it was a key game in Miami's quest for the national title.
Running back Danyell Ferguson, a true freshman, is pushing for playing time. Miami coach Dennis Erickson expected to use Ferguson against Penn State because he has played well in practice and the other two have struggled. But Bennett and Jones combined to rush for 148 yards in the game.
"We were going to use Danyell in the game, but Larry and Donnell played well," Erickson said. "It was also a tough place to put a young player in. Danyell is going to play a lot more in the coming weeks."
Senior fullback Stephen McGuire also is expected to get more playing time against Texas Christian, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, UM's next three opponents.
McGuire has been slow to recover from a severe knee injury he suffered late last season. McGuire carried just once against Penn State and gained no yards.
"I'm not sure if Steve will ever get back to where he was before the injury," Erickson said. "But he's getting better each week and improving. We'll work him in more as the opportunity arises."
With quarterback Gino Torretta struggling, the Hurricanes need to develop their running game while they have a chance against weaker opponents.
Late-season boost: The UM offensive line will get a boost late in the season. Brad Shirey, who was projected to start at strong guard, broke his leg in preseason practice. He was expected to miss the season but will return to practice soon and should be able to play in the final three games.