Following a subpar 10-6 record last year and missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season, the Miami Dolphins hoped to change quite drastically. Offseason talk focused on getting better on both sides of the ball and getting back to the postseason in 2004. The roster saw 38 free agents added -- an extraordinarily large number -- but what did we expect? The prospects of going 16 and out for a third consecutive year could prove apocalyptic for pigskin-crazed South Florida. The Dolphins' biggest moves included signing free agent wideout David Boston, trading for backup QB Jay Feeley, and drafting Hurricane offensive lineman Vernon Carey. All offensive moves, granted, but this team is still defensive in nature. If he does make the playoffs, Dave Wannstedt will do it riding the shoulders of Jason Taylor, Patrick Surtain, and Zach Thomas. The coach is confident, but he knows there's much work to be done in all facets of the game. "The team has done a lot of good things in the offseason," he says. "Improvement is an ongoing process that will continue with training camp and into the season." Camp opens on Saturday, July 31, at the Davie facility (7500 SW 30th St.). All sessions are free and open to the public. Call 954-452-7000. --Russ Evans
A fan-friendly day of football
So it's been three years since the Hurricanes won a national championship. 2002 saw heartbreak at the hands of Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, while last season was filled with disappointing losses to Virginia Tech and Tennessee. 'Canes fans are champing at the bit for another title, and they just might get it. The 2004 version of Larry Coker's squad is stacked with talent and looks poised to win. Quarterback Brock Berlin is back with a year of experience under his belt; running back Frank Gore is 100 percent healthy this year, determined to prove naysayers wrong; and the team boasts a plethora of young talent at the skill positions, including Devin Hester, Jon Beason, and Darnell Jenkins. The season officially starts Sunday, August 1, with the University of Miami Barbecue and Canes Fest at the South Florida Fairgrounds (9067 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach). Fans can meet players and coaches, get autographs, and prepare for that first weekend in September at home against the Seminoles. Call 561-793-0333. --Russ Evans
With a little help from your friends
Nineteen-year-old Nick Mayberry, founder of Hardkore Championship Wrestling, has some big names in his cell phone: Dagon Biggs, pro wrestler. Jill Dahne, the Love Psychic. Gil Hyatt, the pretty boy who won Average Joe 2: Hawaii. Mayberry called in some favors from these folks, plus another 20 wrestlers like Kid Romeo, Don Montoya, and "Headbanger" Mosh, and they all agreed to help him put on the third-annual "Incredible 8 Tournament," a fundraiser for the Special Olympics of Broward County. Head over to the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds (4271 Davie Rd., Davie) for some neck-snappin', tights-wearin', choke-holdin' good times. The bell rings at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5 to $10. Call 954-460-2645, or visit www.incredible8.com. --Deirdra Fucheon
Sign My Skate!
How many pro athletes have their own punching bags? Well, skateboarder Corey Duffel, for one. In town today with the Vans Warped Tour, the skate rat signs autographs from 2 to 5 p.m. at B.C. Surf & Sport (1495 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale). Ask him what the deal is with those weird graphics on his "Jam" board; it looks like the flag of Algeria would if the country were ruled by mods. Call 954-564-0202. --Jason Budjinski