Pipho, Joseph give young Miami a veteran edge
Not for Miami linemen Joe Joseph and Matt Pipho. They were just getting started.
Already with their degrees in hand, the fifth-year seniors are finally having breakout seasons for the ninth-ranked Hurricanes (4-1). Joseph leads the defensive line with five tackles for losses, a career-best 3 1/2 of those coming in last week's win over Florida A&M. And Pipho, who never was first-string as an undergrad, has started all five games at right tackle.
For a young Miami team, with half of the two-deep either freshmen or sophomores, a couple old guys are holding their own.
"When you're in your last year, in that situation, you don't want to be just a guy," said sixth-year defensive end Eric Moncur, one of Joseph's closest confidantes on the team. "You want to be at the top of your game. It does put a lot of pressure on you, forces you to work a little bit harder."
Maybe it was the urgency of it being their final season, maybe it's having one last chance to catch the eye of NFL scouts, maybe it was just years of work paying off.
Whatever the reason, Joseph and Pipho are making patience pay off. It's likely no coincidence that Miami has matched its highest ranking in the AP Top 25 poll since late in the 2005 season.
"In years past, it's sort of been like, 'God, I hope we play well,"' said Pipho, who has a biology degree and plans to enter medical school with hopes of becoming a radiologist. "Now, we just think we're going to go out there and kick some (butt). The way the coaches have prepared us has just helped us so much with our mentality going into the game."
Pipho's always had the intellect - after all, he is eyeing med school. But he had a bunch of things working against him in his early years at Miami, including a revolving door at the offensive-line-coach position and adjusting from being a tight end in high school to a lineman in college.
It wasn't easy, but Pipho didn't quit, either.
"A lot of guys, when they come in and they realize they're not going to play right away and that they're going to have to wait, the first thing that comes to their mind is transferring," left tackle Jason Fox said. "That's not Pipho. He worked his tail off until he got his opportunity."
Miami visits Central Florida (3-2) on Saturday night, and for Joseph - a sports administration graduate now pursuing a master's degree in liberal arts - that game will take on significant meaning.
It's a homecoming for the Orlando native, who has already matched his career-best season in tackles with 17, after just five games. Central Florida's on-campus stadium is about 20 miles from where Joseph went to high school, and to him, that adds plenty of significance to this week.
But the extra notoriety from making plays this season, Joseph insists he couldn't care less about that.
"It's all good, well, fine and dandy," said Joseph, born Joe Louis Joseph Jr. - not Joseph Joseph, as he is often asked, and not for the famed boxer, either. "But I'm just out here having fun and playing ball with my teammates ... enjoying my last year."
With injuries piling up on the defensive line, Joseph's emergence couldn't have come at a better time for Miami.
Once an afterthought, he's turning into a leader, getting starts already on the right and left side and seeming like he's made more significant plays already this season - including a game-turning fumble recovery that led to the go-ahead touchdown in a 21-20 win over Oklahoma - than ever before.
"For some kids, it happens faster than others," defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said. "But what people have to understand, D-tackle isn't an easy position to get down right away. It takes time to develop, and it's starting to show up for him. He's showing everybody he can play."