McCarthy coming back, not looking to 2010 just yet

Nov 18, 2009 - 9:26 PM By TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer

CORAL GABLES, Fla.(AP) -- Colin McCarthy already has a few highlight-reel moments from his time at Miami.

He blocked a punt in 2006, had a fumble recovery for a touchdown that clinched a win at Florida State in 2007, had the bone-jarring block that freed up Thearon Collier for a 60-yard punt return score this season in a victory over Virginia, and is Miami's leading tackler in 2009.

But there's no rings on his fingers.

And that's part of the reason why he's coming back in 2010.

The linebacker from Clearwater, Fla. - who wears No. 44, a time-honored jersey for Miami linebackers considering Dan Morgan wore it when he was the nation's best at the position a decade ago - is already giving next year's team a boost by saying he won't even consider testing the NFL waters this offseason.

Instead, he's only thinking about how No. 21 Miami (7-3, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) can finish this season up strongly.

"If we win these last two games, then play in a good bowl game and go into next season on a high note, there's still a lot of positive things to get out of this season," McCarthy said. "We've still got a lot of young guys. We've got some guys hurt that are coming back. We're still positive as players and we want to get these wins."

With a healthy McCarthy, who signed with Miami hoping to one day play for a national title, the Hurricanes certainly rate a chance of making that happen.

He has six double-digit tackle efforts in his career with the Hurricanes - with three of those coming in the last four games, including a career-best-tying 13 stops in last week's loss at North Carolina.

Finally feeling strong again after two years of fighting off shoulder injuries, McCarthy is starting to live up to his billing.

"I think it's been tremendous for us to have a guy like Colin McCarthy to finish up the year, knock on wood," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "For him to really, really stay healthy, the way he's been playing for us, he's done a phenomenal job of playing and being aggressive and tackling people."

He had 11 tackles against Clemson, 11 more against Wake Forest and then 13 against the Tar Heels. He's playing more on special teams and even getting on the field in pass situations as well, a bit of a deviation from previous roles with the Hurricanes.

Mainly, the added work is because he's been able to stay on the field.

He received a medical redshirt from the NCAA after last season, has been nicked up at times this fall and has remained on the ground after hard collisions in games this season more than once.

But he's typically popped right back up, and back into games before too long.

"I'm just trying to work hard and just trying to improve," McCarthy said. "There's still a lot of things to work on. Just trying to get better. I feel great. It's been a while since I had a healthy season and so far, I've been fine. Just playing game by game and having fun in practice."

He's taking it upon himself to help teach a young team that just because hopes of the ACC and Bowl Championship Series are gone, there's still plenty to play for - like a 10-win season, something Miami hasn't had since 2003.

And maybe the best testament of how far McCarthy has come was offered by Shannon, who doesn't hide how much of a leader he thinks the linebacker is for Miami's defense.

"The better he'll play," Shannon said, "the better we'll play."

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