February 05, 2016

Heat-Hornets postscripts; Dolphin player discusses Tannehill being "babied"; Lots of NFL media notes

 

So in this three-centric NBA era, how do you win a game going 0 for 9 on threes?

With a dominant display from Hassan Whiteside (10 points, 10 rebounds, 10 blocks), clutch late-game work from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, a 31-22 fourth quarter run,10 boards from Justise Winslow and a near triple double from Goran Dragic (12 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds).

All of that added up to a 98-95 Heat win in Charlotte tonight.

Playing off the bench for the second game in a row, Whiteside produced his third triple double of the season in just 27 minutes.

"Whatever amount of minutes coach gives me, I'm going to try to make an impact,' he said. "I'm going to go out with a chip on my shoulder. I feel I should have been in [the All-Star Game]."

Erik Spoelstra opted to continue starting Amare Stoudemire for reasons he declined to explain. But the experiment has worked, with Whiteside sparking the Heat to a road win for the second game in a row.

"There is no controversy; he's embracing what this team is about," Spoelstra said of Whiteside. "He protected the basket extremely well, doing it only the way he can. He's coming in with a great deal of energy but also focus to the details of our defense, building that trust with our teammates. I like the way he competed."

Dwyane Wade had 22, including a key layup in the final minute. And Bosh had 20, including a blow-by for a basket (and foul) to put Miami up two with 23 seconds left.

The Heat's streak of 323 games with a three-pointer was snapped. Miami is now 30-70 all time when it doesn't make a three, as AP's Tim Reynolds noted. As Ethan noted, the Heat is now 5-1 when it makes four threes or less.

So make it six wins in seven games for the Heat, which moved to 29-22 after going 8-8 in a stretch with 14 of 16 on the road.

More reaction:

### Spoelstra, on Dragic: "Goran is a gritty competitor. It just shows you his growth. It's not just about attacking and scoring. It's how do you make winning plays. 

### Wade: "It really shows a lot about this team. Start of this season, we had a lot of home games and we weren't ready for it. The biggest thing is we stuck with each other, stuck with what our coaches wanted us to do. We're playing good, confident basketball right. If we get stops, we have enough offensive firepower to get great looks.... Hassan was incredible down the stretch, protecting the basket."

### Bosh, on his late go-ahead basket: "I saw Marvin Williams was off me. Figured it was a good time to be aggressive.... I'm proud of the way this team has played, the perseverance after being gut-punched in the middle of the month. I think we came out all right. It's a huge statement for this team. We just have to continue to keep the momentum going. Once we settle in, we're pretty good. We're all collectively chipping in vocally. Nobody is taking it personal."

DOLPHINS ITEM

When I wrote an extensive story last October revealing just how many restrictions were placed on Ryan Tannehill by then-coordinator Bill Lazor, Greg Jennings seemed more flabbergasted than anyone I spoke to.

Jennings explained that Tannehill had no audible ability whatsoever and said he hadn't witnessed anything like that.

Jennings reiterated that in colorful terms on CBS Sports Net today.

Asked how good Tannehill is, Jennings said: "I don't think anyone knows yet because he's been kind of babied... He has the work ethic and he has the desire to be great. But he hasn't been given the reins to where he has the liberty and freedom to call his shots sometimes. It's almost like taking a baby who's six years old and he still has a bottle in his mouth. Gotta take it out and see if he can drink out of a cup."

We'll see how much Adam Gase trusts Tannehill.

MEDIA NOTES

### CBS will use Saints coach Sean Payton, Jets receiver Brandon Marshall and Ravens receiver Steve Smith as guests analysts on its 2 p.m. pre-game show.

### Among the features on CBS’ 2 p.m. pregame show: interviews with both quarterbacks, Broncos executive John Elway, Denver defensive standout DeMarcus Ware and others; a piece on former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle; an examination of what would have happened if the Bills won Super Bowl XXV; past Super Bowl MVPs discussing the game and an essay on how the game has changed over the past 50 years.

There’s also a segment on the six living play-by-play men who have called Super Bowls: CBS’ Jim Nantz (who will call Sunday’s game with Phil Simms), CBS’ Greg Gumbel, NBC’s Al Michaels, Fox’s Joe Buck, now-San Diego Padres announcer Dick Enberg and retired Jack Whitaker. And Gayle King will interview President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

### During CBS’ last Super Bowl broadcast (from the New Orleans Superdome in 2013), a power outage caused a 34-minute delay, and CBS lost cameras and some audio, though the network never left the air.

“I will be honest; we will be more prepared than we were last time,” McManus said. “We’ll have a plan in place, at least one correspondent from CBS News. We learned a lot of lessons from the blackout and will be prepared to do a really good job if there’s a news story that happens to take place during the Super Bowl. I can’t speak for the power in the stadium [but] we are as sure as we possibly can that in the CBS compound, we won’t have a power failure. We have three redundant power sources.”

### Though McManus described ESPN’s six-network Megacast of the College Football Playoff championship game as “a cool idea,” CBS never considered doing that for the Super Bowl for two reasons: “We don’t have those platforms,” McManus said. Also, “we’re focused on getting as many people as we can to watch the CBS television network. That’s what we feel is best for our company.”

### Nantz said it’s “cool” that Don Shula “is around to see” his son, Mike, make the Super Bowl as Carolina’s offensive coordinator “31 years after his dad last coached in the Super Bowl, a few miles away in Palo Alto. Very special.”

So why has Mike Shula not been pursued for head coaching jobs?  “I would say the biggest reason Mike’s name doesn’t come up is he doesn’t seek a lot of publicity,” Simms said.

There is some symmetry in Nantz calling Super Bowl 50 because he also was involved in broadcasts of the 50th Final Four and 50th Masters. “It means a lot,” Nantz said. “I stumbled across that [factoid] accidentally this year.”

### During CBS’ last Super Bowl broadcast (from the New Orleans Superdome in 2013), a power outage caused a 34-minute delay, and CBS lost cameras and some audio, though the network never left the air.

“I will be honest; we will be more prepared than we were last time,” McManus said. “We’ll have a plan in place, at least one correspondent from CBS News. We learned a lot of lessons from the blackout and will be prepared to do a really good job if there’s a news story that happens to take place during the Super Bowl. I can’t speak for the power in the stadium [but] we are as sure as we possibly can that in the CBS compound, we won’t have a power failure. We have three redundant power sources.”

### Though McManus described ESPN’s six-network Megacast of the College Football Playoff championship game as “a cool idea,” CBS never considered doing that for the Super Bowl for two reasons: “At the moment, we don’t have those platforms,” McManus said. Also, “we’re focused on getting as many people as we can to watch the CBS television network. That’s what we feel is best for our company.”

### Nantz makes a valid point in noting the Carolina Panthers would be generating much respect and more buzz if they played in a larger market.

“When we put it in context, I really want them to get their due,” Nantz said. “I get really sensitive to this. If this was a major market
team and they were going to the Super Bowl at 17-1, we would be setting those stories up more.

“Every step of the way, people say, ‘Yeah, it’s a good team, but they lost Kelvin Benjamin, don’t have a guy on the outside… [People] say all these reasons why they’re not that good. They’re damn good. If it works their way, we will [say] Carolina is completing one of the great seasons this league has ever seen.”

### Nantz said it’s “cool” that Don Shula “is around to see” his son, Mike, make the Super Bowl as Carolina’s offensive coordinator “31 years after his dad last coached in the Super Bowl, a few miles away in Palo Alto. Very special.”

So why has Mike Shula not been pursued for head coaching jobs?  

“I would say the biggest reason Mike’s name doesn’t come up is he doesn’t seek a lot of publicity,” Simms said. “He’s very low-key. Maybe a lot of people view what they do in Carolina as gimmicky. Which it is truly not. It is power football, running and passing, which will always have a place in the NFL. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I promise you this: He will get credit from me and Jim before the game.”

### As SI.com reported, ESPN isn't renewing Keyshawn Johnson's contract.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 04, 2016

UM announces spring change; New UM defensive coordinator Diaz goes in-depth on his philosophy, one that Canes fans will embrace; Dolphins, Heat, Panthers

Quick 2 p.m. Friday note: UM announced its spring football schedule today, and Mark Richt has made a significant change from Al Golden's approach.

UM will no longer start spring practice before spring break and resume it afterward. Instead, UM will wait until after spring break to begin practice, then spread 15 practices over five weeks.

The spring game will be 2 p.m. Saturday, April 16 at Lockhart Stadium in Broward County because Sun Life Stadium is unavailable while renovations continue.

UM will practice every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday beginning Tuesday, March 15. All non-scrimmage practices start at 9 a.m.

There will be scrimmages on Saturday, April 2 (at Greentree) and April 9 at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach.

Richt had great success in Palm Beach County in his first UM recruiting class, and Oxbridge is the school of Travis Homer (the only running back in this class).

The Oxbridge scrimmage will be free and open to the public; the Greentree one will not be open to the public, UM says. And the spring game obviously will be open to the public.

 

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

New UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz explained his vision Wednesday, and if this were a campaign speech, he would have received a standing ovation from Canes fans -- even some players and parents -- who detested the read and react elements of predecessor Mark D’Onofrio’s defense.

But this goes beyond the promise to play an attacking 4-3 scheme, something Mark Richt made very clear the day he hired Diaz. This is also about playing the style that fits the talent of South Florida high school players.

“Historically, when you think Miami football, you think speed,” Diaz told me, after his group interview was completed. “[It's] what Jimmy Johnson revolutionized way back when -- we’re going to be undersized on defense, but we can fly and run and hit. To fly and run and hit, you have to play an aggressive style of defense. If you’re big, then you can hold point and you can absorb. This isn’t advanced physics. The smaller you are, the faster you have to play.

“The biggest crime I can have as a coach is to recruit speed and slow it down, because when you think of Miami, we should always be able to run. We should always be fast. When you’re fast on defense, things that are open [for offenses] don’t stay open for very long.

“Stylistically, that’s the style [new defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski] and I like to play anyway. But it does suit Miami because of the type of kid we’re going to find here. We may not necessarily be able to find the largest kids in the world, but the ones we can find that can run and strike, I think it’s up to us to put them in position to best do that. Stylistically, it fits us down here.”

That philosophy, which seems so simple and logical, was never articulated by the former staff. As former All-American center Brett Romberg and the parents of multiple UM players noted, the Golden/D’Onofrio system seemed better suited for a Northeast or Midwest team. Ex-UM defensive tackle Michael Wyche was the latest to vent this week about the former staff’s “bum ass defensive” scheme.

“Who doesn’t want to attack? It almost sounds cliché,” Diaz said. “There’s a running joke. Every new defensive coordinator you hire says, ‘We’re going to be more aggressive than the last guy.’

“Everyone is going to say that. It’s not just about that. But if you look historically, Missouri last season was second in the nation in tackles for loss [with Kuligowski on that staff]. We were ninth [at Mississippi State, where Diaz was defensive coordinator]. We want to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. The only way you do that is you’ve got to get your body across the line of scrimmage. The fact that we’re so aligned on that, I think our players are really going to pick up on that.”

Diaz added: “It’s not just going to a 4-3. It’s a mentality of the way we’re going to play blocks. We want our defensive line to penetrate. And that should sound familiar, because it was here in the ‘80s where that really became the trend in college football. We’re really not doing anything that Miami should not be used to.”

Diaz loves to blitz, and in his last four full seasons as a coordinator, his teams had 133 sacks, compared with 93 for Miami over that period. 

“You can try on the front end to penetrate and create as many negative plays as possible, while at the same time on the back end, be as big-play averse as possible,” Diaz said. “Last year, at Mississippi State, we were [12th] in the country in fewest 20-yard plays allowed. We are big on not giving up the big play. A lot of things go into that, not just schematic. You’ve got to be a great tackling team. You lose games by giving up long touchdowns. It’s the quickest way to lose a game.”

He said his first priority is improving a run defense that ranked 105th of 128 FBS schools last season. “I don’t know [what the issue was] last season and I don’t really care,” Diaz said, adding he hasn’t watched tape of UM’s 2015 defense because he wants to give every player a clean slate.

“We are going to make sure we are defined by our toughness first,” he said. “And the toughest guys will play. We have got to at least represent what I think of with a Miami Hurricane defense. What I think of is toughness. We’ve got to get that back.”

The question is whether Diaz has enough talent to execute his vision. He has intriguing personnel in his front seven, led by Al-Quadin Muhammad, Chad Thomas and Jermaine Grace, but no clearly elite defensive tackle. The biggest concern is cornerback, where only one returnee (Corn Elder) has substantial experience.

“We will do some things to help them out coverage wise,” Diaz said, adding he will play both man and zone.

He said he doesn’t have a full grasp yet of how good this defense is.

“We’ve got some guys, but we can’t be defined by talent alone,” he said. “That’s all everyone has talked about – we’re talented, we’re talented. [But] we’ve got to… be productive, stop walking around patting ourselves on the back for being talented. Let’s learn how to be productive. And more than anything, let’s learn how to be tough. You’re hard to beat when you’re tough.”

In his nine full seasons as a defensive coordinator, Diaz’s teams finished in the top half of FBS teams on five occasions.

His Middle Tennessee State units (2006-2009) ranked 48th, 81st, 64th and 62nd in total defense. His defense at Mississippi State were 52nd (2010) and 55th (2015). His Texas defenses were 12th (2011) and 80th (2012), before he was fired two games into 2013 after Texas allowed 550 yards in a 40-21 loss to BYU. His 2014 Louisiana Tech defense was 54th.

New UM cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph, who went 35-6 and won two state championships at Plantation American Heritage, believes Diaz’s style will attract top local players.

“Manny has a way of simplifying things,” Rumph said. “Most defenses react. We’re going to attack and make them react to us.”

CHATTER

###  Among NBA stars, the Heat might have no bigger fan than Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, whose team has lost to Miami twice this season.

“They’ve got length, they’ve got speed, they’ve got shot-making, they have rebounding and a shot-blocking presence [with Hassan Whiteside],” Nowitzki said. “They are good defensively. Goran Dragic is a great guard. They can beat anybody at home. They are right up there with anybody. They’ve got everything you need to be a great team.”

### With Rishard Matthews saying “there is a greater than less chance” he will be elsewhere next season, the Dolphins will be on the prowl for a reasonably priced No. 4 receiver. Matt Hazel said he received good feedback from the team and will be in the mix for a more significant role.

Miami also is investing time in developmental projects, including former UF and Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy, who worked as a receiver on Pittsburgh’s practice squad this season and took Miami’s offer instead of one from the 49ers last week. Murphy will be a receiver for Miami during the offseason program and also could be an emergency third quarterback if he makes the team.

### The Panthers’ biggest shortcoming? Their power play – they’re 25th in the league (scoring 17 percent of the time) and they’re last on the road (10.3 percent/ 7 for 68). So it was encouraging to see two power-play goals Tuesday at Washington. This column is being posted during tonight's Detroit game, but Aleksander Barkov's first-period goal, giving Florida an early 2-0 lead, also came on the power play.

### UM coach Jim Larranaga said he has been telling teams that guard Sheldon McClellan should be a first-round pick. One NBA scout we asked leaned more toward the second round but wouldn't rule out the first.

### With Joy Taylor leaving to be part of a new, not-yet-announced Fox Sports 1 program in Los Angeles, 790 The Ticket will consider both men and women to replace her.

Local women with broadcasting experience will be in the mix, a group potentially including Johanna Gomez, Jessica Blaylock and Panthers in-game host Andrea Ocampo, among others.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 03, 2016

Highlights from Mark Richt's National Signing Day press conference

Here's what Mark Richt had to say at his just-completed press conference:

### On losing two and gaining four this week: “Recruiting is a relationship game. It’s a very big part of the process. It’s very common across the country – guys get flipped one way or the other. I don’t know if you can keep it from happening. Usually when a guy commits, it’s where recruiting starts, not where it ends.

“It’s an emotional time for a lot of families. By the end, they’re pretty frazzled. Historically, I’ve been the type of coach that doesn’t want to twist somebody’s arm or coerce a guy into committing on the spot. I want guys to really be sure. When you do it that way, you have less of that. There's always going to be good players you don't get.”

### On the three linebackers: “Three midyear enrollees at linebacker. Pretty good ball-players. People around the country were wanting these guys in their program. Give credit to the [former] coaches. All were committed or moving in the right direction. They’re runners, they’re strikers. They’re going to have a chance to compete. These young men will be on a level playing field when it comes to competition. They will be learning right along with the current players.”

### On the receivers added in this class:

Sam Bruce: “Very explosive when it comes to change of direction, quickness, toughness. Very well put together guy, very strong young man. Very good ball skills. A lot of people would say he’s more of a slot receiver. Can get on the edge as well with his speed.”…

Dionte Mullins “has tremendous speed and agility. He will get a little more polished with route running. When you talk about raw ability at the position, he’s what you are looking for.”

Ahmmon Richards “very smooth athlete. Looks effortless because of his athleticism. A guy that also will grow. Just a great talent base for that position. “

### On running back Travis Homer: “Very skilled back. He was the second guy I watched after Jack [Allison]. Had a big grin when I watched the tape. He was a guy I was thankful was already committed. Like most backs, great balance, vision, toughness. Has some good ball skills as a guy that can catch the ball out of the backfield.”

### With recruiting, “The first thing I did was I began to look at the young men committed by position. The first guy I watched was Jack Allison. Really enjoyed watching his tape. Very athletic for a guy that tall. Throws the ball extremely well. Very smart.”

### Richt said scholarship docking from the Nevin Shapiro scandal ends next year. “I think next year we are back to full speed ahead with our numbers.” UM had to relinquish nine scholarships as part of its sanctions.

### He said five scholarships receivers is not the number that he wants. Three more were added today and more will be added next year.

### On Palm Beach County, where UM landed four players: “It has gotten better and better. Palm Beach County is great. So is Dade, so is Broward. All but one in the state of Florida. The state of Florida is so crucial. Palm Beach County is near and dear to me because I was a Boca High Bobcat.”

### Richt said: “I give a lot of credit to the former staff. They did a wonderful job evaluating, recruiting…. The fact I had been a head coach 15 years was helpful. For me to have a vision of what I wanted everything to look like. I really only knew one way --- Bobby Bowden’s way.”

“I want him to be a good father, good husband, good citizen. I want him to be a leader. The big thing is these guys have got to understand we’re going to take care of them. It’s a Cane for life philosophy. That’s the philosophy I had at Georgia. We want this relationship to bless you for the rest of your life.”

### On three sons of alumni committing (Irvin, Bethel, James): Former players here love it. We will have an alumni event on the Friday prior to our spring game. Never hurts to have children of championship athletes.”

### He said coaching the offense again “is energizing. I’m really excited about that.” He credited the administration for getting him “things he needs. I have a true peace where God wants me to be. It’s tired but a good tired.” He said he has a “good vision” of what he wants the program to look like and what needs to happen for success.

### On the reception he got in South Florida high schools: “I can’t think of one high school I went into that wasn’t almost overwhelming in what they felt was going to happen at Miami. They felt everything they need is right here.”

### “We’re thankful for the young men that put their faith in this university, program and coaching staff. Very talented bunch. Everybody this time of year is going to say that but we truly believe we have guys that can help us win.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Highlights from Mark Richt's National Signing Day press conference

Here's what Mark Richt had to say at his just-completed press conference:

### On losing two and gaining four this week: “Recruiting is a relationship game. It’s a very big part of the process. It’s very common across the country – guys get flipped one way or the other. I don’t know if you can keep it from happening. Usually when a guy commits, it’s where recruiting starts, not where it ends.

“It’s an emotional time for a lot of families. By the end, they’re pretty frazzled. Historically, I’ve been the type of coach that doesn’t want to twist somebody’s arm or coerce a guy into committing on the spot. I want guys to really be sure. When you do it that way, you have less of that. There's always going to be good players you don't get.”

### On the three linebackers: “Three midyear enrollees at linebacker. Pretty good ball-players. People around the country were wanting these guys in their program. Give credit to the [former] coaches. All were committed or moving in the right direction. They’re runners, they’re strikers. They’re going to have a chance to compete. These young men will be on a level playing field when it comes to competition. They will be learning right along with the current players.”

### On the receivers added in this class:

Sam Bruce: “Very explosive when it comes to change of direction, quickness, toughness. Very well put together guy, very strong young man. Very good ball skills. A lot of people would say he’s more of a slot receiver. Can get on the edge as well with his speed.”…

Dionte Mullins “has tremendous speed and agility. He will get a little more polished with route running. When you talk about raw ability at the position, he’s what you are looking for.”

Ahmmon Richards “very smooth athlete. Looks effortless because of his athleticism. A guy that also will grow. Just a great talent base for that position. “

### On running back Travis Homer: “Very skilled back. He was the second guy I watched after Jack [Allison]. Had a big grin when I watched the tape. He was a guy I was thankful was already committed. Like most backs, great balance, vision, toughness. Has some good ball skills as a guy that can catch the ball out of the backfield.”

### With recruiting, “The first thing I did was I began to look at the young men committed by position. The first guy I watched was Jack Allison. Really enjoyed watching his tape. Very athletic for a guy that tall. Throws the ball extremely well. Very smart.”

### Richt said scholarship docking from the Nevin Shapiro scandal ends next year. “I think next year we are back to full speed ahead with our numbers.” UM had to relinquish nine scholarships as part of its sanctions.

### He said five scholarships receivers is not the number that he wants. Three more were added today and more will be added next year.

### On Palm Beach County, where UM landed four players: “It has gotten better and better. Palm Beach County is great. So is Dade, so is Broward. All but one in the state of Florida. The state of Florida is so crucial. Palm Beach County is near and dear to me because I was a Boca High Bobcat.”

### Richt said: “I give a lot of credit to the former staff. They did a wonderful job evaluating, recruiting…. The fact I had been a head coach 15 years was helpful. For me to have a vision of what I wanted everything to look like. I really only knew one way --- Bobby Bowden’s way.”

“I want him to be a good father, good husband, good citizen. I want him to be a leader. The big thing is these guys have got to understand we’re going to take care of them. It’s a Cane for life philosophy. That’s the philosophy I had at Georgia. We want this relationship to bless you for the rest of your life.”

### On three sons of alumni committing (Irvin, Bethel, James): Former players here love it. We will have an alumni event on the Friday prior to our spring game. Never hurts to have children of championship athletes.”

### He said coaching the offense again “is energizing. I’m really excited about that.” He credited the administration for getting him “things he needs. I have a true peace where God wants me to be. It’s tired but a good tired.” He said he has a “good vision” of what he wants the program to look like and what needs to happen for success.

### On the reception he got in South Florida high schools: “I can’t think of one high school I went into that wasn’t almost overwhelming in what they felt was going to happen at Miami. They felt everything they need is right here.”

### “We’re thankful for the young men that put their faith in this university, program and coaching staff. Very talented bunch. Everybody this time of year is going to say that but we truly believe we have guys that can help us win.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 02, 2016

Local radio departure; A few thoughts from Mark Richt; Noon update on UM targets and losses; Three analysts assess UM class; UM waiting word from several; Whiteside; Heat personnel notes; Dolphins LBs; Panthers rated highly; Marlins

We'll have a post on Mark Richt's 3:30 press conference later. In the meantime, here are a couple of quick thoughts he shared with Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey on ESPN3:

### On the challenges of putting together this class: "When you are in a transition year, you don’t have the year-long relationship with the young man. As you’re beginning to create and develop new relationships, it is a challenge. Recruiting is built so much on relationships; trust takes time. In the future, it will get even better."

### He said he probably knows "the recruits a little better than our current players" because he watched so much tape of them.

### On quarterback Jack Allison: "Wonderful young man. He was the first guy I saw. Watched his tape. Saw him throw the ball. He’s got great zip. A very athletic guy who’s 6-6, 6-5 ½. He’s still a little skinny. When he muscles up, he’s going to be a wonderful player. Very smart, loves the game."

### He said UM began its grueling "mat program" of conditioning on Monday. 

"The mat drills are an early morning conditioning program that is done in a certain way that everyone has to do it exactly right or everyone pays the price. It’s a thing of beauty. It creates mental and physical toughness, learning how to get off the ground, agility, overall conditioning. We will do eight more before the spring."

One quick radio note: 790 The Ticket announced Joy Taylor's final appearance on the station's morning show will be Thursday and that she is expected to take a TV job for Fox in Los Angeles. A search is underway for her replacement.

 

BUZZ COLUMN

See bolded paragraph below for Larry Blustein's reaction on UM's loss of Tyler Byrd tonight.

On the eve of National Signing Day, UM got mixed news tonight. It lost arguably its best recruit, four-star Naples cornerback Tyler Byrd, who flipped to Tennessee. But it picked up four-star safety Romeo Finley.

UM is still waiting word from several targets: receiver Ahmmon Richards (reportedly will pick Miami/will announce noon Wednesday), receiver Randrecous Davis (UM or South Carolina), receiver Tyler Simmons (UM, Georgia, Alabama), defensive tackle Marcel Southall (Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi also in play), safety Romeo Finley (announcing 7 p.m. tonight, with Clemson and Georgia Tech also in the mix), cornerback Shyheim Carter (also considering Alabama, Mississippi), cornerback Henry Miller (Pittsburgh commit), UF commit/cornerback CJ McWilliams; and cornerback James Pierre (North Carolina commit).

UPDATE: Southall says he's signing with Texas, and McWilliams is sticking with UF, and Carter is joining Alabama, Miller is sticking with Pitt and James Pierre with North Carolina. Also, WR Latrell Williams just flipped to Tennessee. But Richards picked Miami.

In the meantime,…

As Mark Richt closes out his first two months of UM recruiting, we assembled a panel of three recruiting experts (Rivals national recruiting director Mike Farrell and South Florida-based Larry Blustein and Charles Fishbein) to assess UM’s 2016 class. Here's what they had to say:

### So what’s the strength of the class?

Farrell, whose service ranks UM’s class 21st: “Receiver and linebacker. Sam Bruce is an electric kid, not big, but a matchup problem for everybody. You can’t cover him out of the slot solo. You can do jet sweeps, reverses with him. [Fellow receiver] Dionte Mullins missed his whole senior year [with academic problems], but looked very good at the Under-Armour [All-American] Game. At linebacker, Shaquille Quarterman will be an All-ACC guy. Not the tallest guy, but a big, thick linebacker than can move. Instinctually, he’s off the charts. Throw in Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud and that’s a pretty good mix of linebackers.”

Blustein: “Definitely linebackers. They picked up an entire corps in one class – inside, middle and outside. That was a huge need of the last three or four years. Pinckney and Quarterman are big kids. McCloud is very intelligent and strong. Pinckney, in the state championship game, crushed every Booker T. Washington player out there. He’s a beast. I’ve seen them all live and they’re all major college linebackers. That’s what they’ve been missing.”

Fishbein: “It starts with getting a top-rated quarterback and Jack Allison has got a ton of talent. And Sam Bruce is the best slot receiver in Florida in last 10 years. He’s a winner. They need to guys who have won.”

### What concerns you about the class?

Farrell: “You have to take three or four offensive linemen every year, and they [have one]. I know they took six last year. But [this] could lead to a big depth issue down the line.”

Blustein cites defensive tackle; UM has one end who can potentially play tackle in three-star Tyreic Martin.

“Now they have to strike gold on defensive tackle next year," Blustein said. "The only way to jump back [to an elite level as a program] is if you have a front seven that puts pressure on teams and you don’t have to put your cornerbacks on an island. Every nationally rated team, Clemson, Alabama all have massive defensive tackles. That’s where the Al Golden era was deficient. If you don’t have a front seven, your secondary will look pedestrian at best.”

Fishbein: Worries about defensive tackle because "there’s not a ton of great d-tackles in the state next year. So you are looking at going out of state and competing with other schools. There are good offensive linemen next year but you don’t want to have to sign six, seven kids to make up for this year.”

### What’s the overall assessment of the class?

Farrell (before Byrd flipped): “I like it better than I did last summer, when they had more kids committed. They were the only school with 20 plus commits at one point; Al Golden was reaching on a lot of guys, taking guys just to take guys. The average star of their commitments at that time was 3.1. Now it’s 3.4, which is very good. [But] I thought they would get more of a late bump with Mark Richt.”

Blustein, after Byrd flipped to Tennessee: “You addressed one major need in linebacker and continued to add depth at a few others. But it’s an incomplete class. You can’t hide your head in the sand. You got crushed two times on national TV. Losing Tyler Byrd was a big loss. It really hurts. I thought he would be a No. 1 corner [eventually]. I don't get it. He was always throwing up the U. Cornerback is a pressing need.... This isn't a marquee class."

I asked Blustein which of the three other committed defensive backs can play cornerback. "Malek Young can play cornerback. But Cedric Wright is a safety. Romeo Finley is a safety. Not sure he can play corner.” (Another defensive back addition, Jeff James, is a safety.)

Fishbein (before Byrd flipped): “Solid class. They kept most of their kids committed, which is very difficult when you have a new staff. You’re trying to build relationships in three, four weeks, when other schools have been doing it for two years.”

### Who’s the player most likely to make an immediate impact?

Farrell: “Bruce first and Quarterman second. It’s easier for receivers to play right away; linebackers have a whole lot more to learn. Sam, you could drop into the lineup and he will make an impact.”

Blustein: “Quarterman. He’s been ready for three years. He can be real special and he’s already enrolled” so he gets a head start in the spring.

Fishbein: “Quarterman. He’s the most physically ready of that group of linebackers.”

### Who’s the best player in this class?

Farrell: “Right now, Sam Bruce. Longterm, [defensive end] Joseph Jackson because he’s so athletic. We’ve seen him play tight end and d-end. He’s jacked out of his skull, 260 pounds. He will play at 270, 280 before he’s done. His ceiling is the highest.”

Blustein says the best player in this class was supposed to be Byrd, who's gone. Without Byrd, now "it's Sam Bruce," Blustein said.

Fishbein: “Bruce or Allison. Allison is the most important player in the class. He’s got the potential to be an elite level quarterback in the ACC. He’s got more upside than Brad Kaaya, has a bigger arm.”

### Who’s the most underrated player in this class?

Farrell: “[Receiver] Latrell Williams will surprise. He’s more of a speed guy than a football player, but those speed guys can sometimes turn out to be really good players. Speed is so coveted in the Southeast.  He’s not the biggest guy in the world. But he’s very quick in short spaces, reaches top speed quickly and cuts without slowing down. He wasn’t heavily recruited until the end. Has been a little bit low in the rankings because we didn’t scout him as much as we would have liked. Now people look at us and say, ‘How on Earth could we miss him?’” [UPDATE: WILLIAMS HAS FLIPPED TO TENNESSEE.]

Blustein: “[Coconut Creek cornerback] Malek Young. I’ve seen him play five positions in a game: corner, safety, running back, kick returner and slot and he beat the Christmas out of everybody. He can play safety or corner effectively, maybe safety a bit better.

“He will get on the field early because Miami needs a jack of all trades. Dallas Crawford was like that, but Malek has got a little more upside than Dallas.” Blustein also mentions Gulliver’s Cedrick Wright, “but he will do only thing: play in the secondary.”

Fishbein: “Joseph Jackson. He’s a guy who committed early, hasn’t had a lot of fanfare, but at a position of need. He has a chance to be an elite defensive end.”

 

### UM recruiting broadcast information: Blustein will be at Twin Peaks in Davie for a recruiting special, doing interviews for WQAM and their web site, beginning at 6:30 Wednesday night. Marc Hochman’s show will originate from that restaurant beginning at 2 p.m…. ESPN3 will have a UM signing day special at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

CHATTER

### A few things to keep in mind in comparing the Heat with and without Hassan Whiteside, entering Tuesday night’s game: The Heat has scored at least 100 points in five of seven without him, 13 of 41 with him… They’re averaging 3.2 points more per game without him but also allowing 2.5 points more without him… Surprisingly, they rebound slightly better in the games he hasn’t played… They entered Tuesday 5-2 without him, 22-19 with him.

Regarding his exchange with a Heat fan on Instagram (see the last post), Whiteside acknowledged today: "I've got to do a better job of leaving things alone."

### The Heat would have interest in Joe Johnson if he agrees to a Nets buyout of his expiring contract. Johnson on Tuesday wouldn’t rule out a buyout…

Though the Heat (now without Tyler Johnson for two months) could use another shooter and Sacramento’s Marco Bellinelli is available, he’s due $6.3 million next season and $6.6 million the following, and that’s a deterrent with Miami looking to maximize future cap space…. As of this afternoon, there was nothing percolating with the Heat and free agent guard Tony Wroten. The Heat made a due-diligence inquiry about him last month.

### The Dolphins want to acquire a new middle linebacker this offseason to upgrade over Kelvin Sheppard, but the front office already conveyed how much upside they still see in Zach Vigil and told him they envision him getting at least some first-team reps in OTAs (though a veteran pickup or high draft pick would appear likely to start).

The Dolphins have been privately non-committal about whether they will keep strongside linebacker Koa Misi, who’s under contract. Of the linebackers, Jelani Jenkins, Vigil and Neville Hewitt seem to have the best chance of being here in August. But we'll see; a lot still needs to be decided.

### Difficult to find a former Adam Gase pupil who doesn’t rave about him. Speaking to NFL.com at Super Bowl Media Day, Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler this week called him “one of the most brilliant minds in football.”

### How times have changed: USA Today rates the Panthers fourth among Stanley Cup favorites, behind Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles. “The industry standard is to believe you must lose in the playoffs to learn how to win in the postseason,” USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen wrote. “But the Panthers have older players, such as Willie Mitchell and Jaromir Jagr, who know abut winning championships. They also have… Roberto Luongo, and he has carried teams to an Olympic gold medal.”

### Add Kyle Lohse (5-13, 5.85 ERA for the Brewers) to the list of veteran free agent starters being explored by the Marlins, as The Boston Globe reported. He was 13-9 in 2014. Among others: Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum and Alfredo Simon. The Marlins have very little money to offer within the budget given them by Jeffrey Loria.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 01, 2016

Media column: Whiteside lashes out on Instagram; New NFL TV package; Super Bowl TV chatter; Poor Mike Carey; Ticket looks for new morning host

Because the news of the day (UM getting oral commitments from an offensive lineman and defensive tackle and the Heat announcing Tyler Johnson will undergo shoulder surgery that's expected to sideline him two months) were capably covered by Susan Miller Degnan and Ethan Skolnick in the UM and Heat blogs, we're posting a media column in this space tonight. Check back Tuesday for a lot of UM recruiting material.

MEDIA COLUMN

Hassan Whiteside engages with the public on social media as much as any player in our market. And a Miami New Times article suggesting the Heat may be better without Whiteside clearly got under his skin tonight.

Here's how Whiteside responded on his verified account (I am typing this twice for those with computers unable to see the Instagram photograph below): "What is the reason to post dum shit like this? The heat change the whole offense after the Wizards game. I just happened to be hurt now. We on a run. Not our first. Not our last. Be happy we went on 3 3-0 runs while I played... Be happy to have both PGs back." 

 

Here's specifically what irked Whiteside (we're typing this twice for those whose computers cannot see these Instagram posts):

"This might surprise you. The Miami Heat are statistically better this season without Hassan Whiteside. The Heat have 80.2 defensive rebounding percentage with Chris Bosh and Justise Winslow on the floor, which ties the best in the NBA.

"The Heat have a defensive rating (the lower, the better) of 102.0 with Whiteside on the court and a 96.5 rating with him off the court. With Whiteside on the court, Dwyane Wade scores just 20.6 points per every 36 minutes, and the Heat get outscored by 44 points. When Whiteside is off the floor, Dwyane Wade is averaging 26 points per every 36 minutes, and the Heat are outscoring opponents by two points.

"Miami is currently 5-2 without Hassan Whiteside this season."

 

 

NEW NFL TV PACKAGE

The NFL will split its Thursday night package among three networks, instead of two, beginning next season. And the league has figured out a way to pocket an extra $150 million by welcoming in a third rights-holder.

For the past two seasons, CBS aired eight Thursday games (mostly in the first half of the season), with NFL Network simulcasting those eight games and also exclusively airing eight of its own.

For the next two seasons, CBS will televise five early-season Thursday games, NBC will air five Thursday games (beginning Nov. 17), and NFL Network will carry eight others on Thursdays and at least one Saturday. NFL Net also will simulcast the CBS and NBC Thursday night games.

CBS and NBC each will pay $225 million for their five-game packages. That combined $450 million is a big increase over the $300 million that CBS paid this season for the eight Thursday games.

Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, NBC's Sunday night announcing team, also will call the five NBC Thursday telecasts. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will continue to work CBS' Thursday night package.

THE TICKET LOOKS FOR NEW HOST

Though Joy Taylor's move from 790 The Ticket's morning show to Fox Sports 1 in Los Angeles hasn't been announced, the radio station already has posted the job opening in anticipation of her departure.

Here's what the job posting says on the company web site: "The Ticket Miami, WAXY, an Entercom sports station, has a rare opening for a co-host position on our established morning show. We’re looking for the life of the party. Someone who is opinionated, but can back it up with facts. Entertaining, but entertaining doesn’t always mean funny. You’re a great storyteller and you know sports from all angles.

"The Ticket has an aggressive event schedule, and a co-host of the morning show is expected to participate. A good ratings track record and an excellent ability to work with the sales and marketing/promotions teams is required, as are strong Social Media and Digital skills. If you think you can help bring The Ticket morning show to a higher level, send audio and resume to: MiamiJobs@entercom.com"

Station GM Doug Abernethy said he's unsure how he will fill the job alongside host Jonathan Zaslow and Brett Romberg.

### On one day each season, ESPN likes to have its NBA announcers work college games and vice versa. That's why Jeff Van Gundy will join Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale on ESPN's coverage of Wednesday's 7 p.m. UM-Notre Dame game.

SUPER BOWL TV TALK          

No person on television, aside from polarizing Skip Bayless, has been subjected to more ridicule and derision on social media in recent months than CBS officiating “expert” Mike Carey. And if there’s an officiating controversy in Sunday’s Super Bowl, nobody will be under greater scrutiny.

By incorrectly predicting the outcome of several replay challenges in his two years as the network’s rules analyst, and by not measuring up to Fox’s esteemed Mike Pereira, Carey has left himself vulnerable to lampooning, especially on Twitter.

The critics have grown more vocal each week. During the AFC Championship, ESPN’s Dan Le Batard tweeted: “How is Carey ALWAYS wrong? It’s like a spoof of a referee expert.”

During a conference call last week, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus defended Carey, who worked 19 years as an NFL official, but suggested he wishes he did not predict replay challenges quite as much.

“I’ve seen some of the criticism – some of it is very hurtful, quite frankly,” McManus told me when I asked him to assess Carey's job performance. “Mike has been learning his craft. More often than not, he’s gotten it right. But I will also say he’s disagreed a number of times in some high-profile situations with what the officials have come back [with]. It doesn’t mean necessarily the officials are wrong or Mike is right or vice versa. But it’s a subjective media and it’s subjective calls.”

One such example occurred in the AFC Championship. On a play challenged by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw an incomplete pass that was overturned upon review and ruled a lateral. Carey said it was a forward pass and predicted the play would stand. Instead, the Patriots took possession after replays clearly showed the ball went backwards.

But according to a USA Today analysis, Carey isn’t wrong nearly as often as viewer perception. The newspaper said Carey offered a prediction on 40 replay challenges this season and was correct on 36 of them (90 percent).

“[His] vast majority of calls have been correct,” McManus said. “I will sit there on Sunday afternoons and there will sometimes be a dozen different cut-ins to our regional games and he is almost always right. Unfortunately, when Mike disagrees with the eventual call, he receives an awful lot of criticism. A lot of these calls are judgment calls.”

McManus conceded that “Mike has perhaps gone out on a limb more than he should in trying to guess or speculate what a call will be. But all he’s giving is his opinion of what he would call if he were on the field.

“And if it’s different than the end result, I think people get frustrated. But I hope they would understand that Mike is only giving
his opinion. A lot of times what we see on the screen differs in the end result from what the referees see.”

### Among the creative features on CBS’ 2 p.m. pre-game show: a segment on the six living play-by-play men who have called Super Bowls: CBS’ Jim Nantz (who will call Sunday’s game with Phil Simms), CBS’ Greg Gumbel, NBC’s Al Michaels, Fox’s Joe Buck, now-San Diego Padres announcer Dick Enberg and retired Jack Whitaker.

 

January 30, 2016

How good can Justise Winslow be? Answer critical to Heat's long term success; Dolphins, Canes, Marlins nuggets

 

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

What’s the quickest way for the Heat to become a legitimate championship contender, outside of the unlikely acquisition of Kevin Durant in free agency this summer?

If Justise Winslow, drafted 10th, can somehow become as impactful, or nearly as impactful, as Kawhi Leonard (selected 15th) or Paul George (10th) or Draymond Green (35th).

Whether Winslow can progress to their level is obviously impossible to predict. But at least one Heat star insists Winslow can be a star if he improves his jumper. And remember, nobody could have predicted Leonard or Green, off their rookie seasons, would be nearly as good as they've become.

Winslow is already Miami’s best defender, according to NBA TV’s Grant Hill, and his nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and stout defense on Jimmy Butler in Chicago on Monday, followed by 6-for-7 shooting Tuesday in Brooklyn, were a reassuring reminder of his diverse, dynamic skill set. All week, he showed an ability to facilitate, to bring the ball up the court at times, and get the Heat into offense when needed.

Players he guards this season are shooting 41.6 percent, compared to 43.7 overall, and Miami has outscored teams by 52 with Winslow in the game, compared to a negative-97 with Luol Deng on the court.

The big question, of course, is whether Winslow can fix what has been his glaring shortcoming: perimeter shooting. What we’ve seen the last week has been encouraging.

What if he develops a consistent jump shot?

“Then he could be one of the best players in the league,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “He has that type of talent. One of the best two-way players that he can possibly be. His upside is huge. That’s the last frontier for him.”

Winslow struggled through an 18-game stretch, ending with the Jan. 12 Clippers game, in which he shot 29 for 81 and made at least half his shots only twice in 18 games. Since then (entering Friday), he was 22 for 46 and 7 for 15 on threes.

“I know I’m a capable shooter; I shot 41 percent on threes [with a shorter three-point line at Duke],” he said, adding he’s receptive to subtle technique tweaks that Heat coaches have suggested. “But obviously, I’m not consistent enough. I have to keep repetition, repetition and shooting with confidence.”

Teams have been sagging off him, with Nuggets coach Mike Malone admitting that “lately you see a lot of teams trying to hide their [centers] on a guy like Winslow and guarding Bosh with a smaller, more versatile defender.”

Here’s what’s encouraging: Winslow is only 19, having played just one year in college, and there is considerable precedent for significant increases in shooting percentages. As a shooter, Winslow is further along as a rookie than another 6-7 defensively-skilled forward was at a similar stage: Golden State’s Green, who was named an All-Star on Thursday.

As a 22-year-rookie, Green shot 84 for 257; Winslow so far is 95 for 233 (40.8 percent).

Green shot 14 for 67 on threes as a rookie. Winslow is 22 for 83 (26.5 percent).

In his four seasons, Green has boosted his overall shooting percentage from 32.7 to 40.7 to 44.3 to 47.5. On threes, he has ascended from 20.9 to 33.3 to 33.7 to 41.4 percent this season.

“For [Winslow] to take the next step and be talked about, Draymond Green has become that guy you should look at and say, ‘I want to develop my game like that,’” ABC's Doug Collins told me off the air.

Though Leonard was a much better shooter than Winslow as a rookie (49.3 percent), the Spurs’ standout has lifted his three-point accuracy from 37.6 then to an NBA-leading 48.8 now. George’s three-point percentage rose from 29.7 as a rookie to 38.1 now. As rookies, both scored about two points more per game than Winslow.

Winslow also can look inside the Heat organization at director of college and pro scouting Keith Askins, who shot 29.8 on threes his first five seasons (78 for 262) but 41.1 percent (168-409) the next two.

“Shooting is a skill; through working on your shot, breaking down your shot, if you really dedicate yourself, you can improve it,” said Malone, whose team might have drafted Winslow at No. 7 if Emmanuel Mudiay hadn’t been available. “The best example is a guy like Jason Kidd. Jason Kidd came in and was a non-shooter. [Late in] his career, he was 40 percent from three.

“Justise just has to commit to putting the time in the gym, getting the reps up, and he will become a better shooter because of that. I like his athleticism, his versatility, his defensive ability and potential. The kid has a hell of a future.”

Winslow is shooting just 31.7 percent on shots beyond two feet (45 for 162) compared with 55.8 percent at the rim. Though a veteran scout said Winslow’s shot is “broken,” Collins disagrees.

“I don’t think a bad shooter becomes a great shooter but he can become an adequate shooter,” Collins said. "[Winslow] has to make the commitment. Is his shot broke? Is it something he has to totally break down? I don’t think it’s broken.

“It’s a shot you can continue to tweak. It’s repetition and repetition and repetition. He can put the ball on the floor. He has a high motor. But the game gets harder and harder if you can’t shoot. There is such a premium on shooting. If you can’t shoot, you better be on the court with four guys who can. You can’t play two guys who can’t shoot."       

Winslow believes he's starting to figure out the NBA game and vows to keep putting in the work. Besides getting up a lot of shots, he says he analyzes film of his shot, and he already has a plan for this summer, not only to work on his distance shooting but also his ball-handling “so we can get better spacing.”

He won’t be satisfied until perimeter shooting has gone from perceived liability to strength.

“We’re working on the three obviously, but also the catch and go, attacking them off the dribble with a head of steam,” he said. “A lot of Milwaukee players do that great. I’m still young. That’s not an excuse at all but I’ll have time to grow [as a shooter]. Just trying to get more consistent with it.”

That consistency will determine whether Bosh’s words prove prophetic, whether the Heat has a high-end cornerstone player or merely a nice supporting piece. It will be fascinating to watch unfold, and the Heat will be much closer to being a true contender if Winslow somehow can improve over the next four years as much as Green has with the Warriors.

CHATTER

### This interesting Heat nugget from Elias today: Dwyane Wade has scored at least 20 points and made at least 50 percent of his shots --- as he did Friday in Milwaukee --- in 360 games since he entered the league, which is by far the highest total for any starting guard over that span.

Next highest: Tony Parker's 273. The only two players with more 20-point/50 plus field-goal percentage games than Wade since he entered the NBA are LeBron James (478) and Dirk Nowitzki (370).

### We hear UM players are very excited about Manny Diaz’s attacking defense, believing it is better suited to many of their skill sets.

“Coming back is the best choice I ever made,” defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad said on Twitter. “This staff is unbelievable. They have our best interest [in mind].”

### We’re told Mark Richt signed a six-year deal, not the five-year contract that is more typical, because UM preferred six. The deal averages more than $4 million per season.

### Receivers coach Ron Dugans revealed that Richt opens every staff meeting with a prayer, something Bobby Bowden did at FSU.

### Four-star Wellington receiver Ahmmon Richards, a key UM target, tweeted his finalists tonight: UM, Alabama and Auburn.

### Winning on the road in the ACC is awfully difficult, but UM's 85-69 loss at North Carolina State today was especially disappointing because the Wolfpack entered 1-7 in the conference.

Sheldon McClellan (5 for 14 shooting) and Ja'Quan Newton (4 for 13) were off their games, and Tonye Jekiri (six points, five rebounds, no blocks) didn't make nearly the type of impact on the boards, or as defender, as we've come to expect. NC State shot 51 percent, with UM offering little deterrence.

UM (16-4, 5-3) reaches the midpoint of the ACC schedule when it hosts Notre Dame on Wednesday.

### CBS lead analyst Phil Simms, on a Super Bowl call Thursday, told me that when Dolphins coach Adam Gase was Denver’s offensive coordinator, “you walk by a meeting room in the hotel when he’s on the road, and he’s the only guy in there still working. No other coaches, just him doing work. Tireless worker. He’s the right man for the job.

“We’ve seen what he did with Peyton Manning, how they changed the offense to make it really good for him. He was there with Tim Tebow. What he did this past year in Chicago just another reason why he got a head coach and why I’m sure Ryan Tannehill is pretty excited to have him as the head coach and [play-caller].”

### Because Gase really likes what he has seen in Tannehill, and Mike Tannenbaum is convinced Miami can win with him, the Dolphins do not feel compelled to draft legitimate competition.

### Former UM assistant coach Clint Hurtt's chances for a homecoming were dashed when the Bears denied Gase’s request to interview (and hire) him. Hurtt, who very likely would have been Miami’s defensive line coach, will be an option for Gase when his contract as Bears’ outside linebacker coach expires next offseason --- if the Dolphins’ defensive line struggles under Terrell Williams….

Whereas Hurtt is in the NFL, the two other ex-UM assistants who got NCAA show-cause penalties from the Nevin Shapiro scandal are head coaches at the high-school level: football coach Aubrey Hill at Carol City, basketball coach Jorge Fernandez at Doral. Basketball coach Jake Morton, who received a notice of allegations but no penalties, is an assistant at Coppin State.

### Incidentally, Dan Campbell could have stayed on Miami’s staff if he had wanted (he chose New Orleans), while the Dolphins declined to allow multiple teams to hire special teams coach Darren Rizzi.

### Marlins executive Michael Hill said new hitting coach Barry Bonds is already immersed in the job, studying tape of Marlins hitters. Word is, he’s excited about working with Marcell Ozuna, among others.

### Among familiar names invited to Marlins spring training: former big-league infielder Robert Andino, the Miami Southridge High product who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Marlins (2005-2008). Andino -- who has hit .232 with 18 homers and 96 RBI in 468 career games --- hasn't played in the majors since a stint with Seattle in 2013. Andino, 31, spent last season with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 29, 2016

Postscripts, reaction from Heat's win in Milwaukee; Wade's clutch numbers; UM recruiting news; Dolphins notes

A six-pack of notes on a Friday night:

### So in five days, the Heat has gone from its season nadir (losing seven of eight) to the satisfaction of a three-game win streak to close a five-game road trip.

Friday’s 107-103 win in Milwaukee featured some of the best offensive pacing we’ve seen all season from Miami, another immaculate night from Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire’s most impactful work of the season, and solid contributions from Chris Bosh (20 points), Luol Deng (16 points, 7 boards, and a big three with 2:23 left) and Goran Dragic (who returned from his calf injury, set the tempo early, scored 10 of his 12 in the first half and chipped in eight assists).

Wade filled the box score with 24 points (7 for 13 shooting), 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals. His scored the Heat’s final six points and 10 of their final 13, with his jumper putting Miami ahead for good, 103-101, with 44 seconds left.

How good has Wade been in the clutch? Using the NBA’s definition (final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer), Wade entered tonight with 77 clutch points (13th best in the league). More impressively, he entering shooting 49.1 percent in the clutch (28 for 57).

Of the 16 players who have attempted at least 50 clutch shots (again, using the NBA’s aforementioned definition), only Dirk Nowitzki (49.2 percent) and Deron Williams (50 percent) have shot as well as Wade in the clutch.

By comparison, LeBron James is shooting 46.8 percent in the clutch, James Harden 36.3.

When Wade plays, the Heat is 14-9 in games featuring “clutch minutes” and the Heat has outscored opponents by 50 points during those clutch minutes when Wade is on the floor.

And one more: As AP's Tim Reynolds noted, this is the first time since December 2010 that Wade has scored in double figures in three consecutive fourth quarters.

Regarding his go-ahead jumper with 44 seconds left, Wade said: "I came off as soon as I got a little seam. [Milwaukee] is very long. I shot it on one leg, fading back. I thought it was the best shot I was going to get."

Wade called this a "great win for us, a place we haven't had much success. I'm very proud of our team for figuring it out [after losing the lead briefly]."

Stoudemire, starting his third game in Hassan Whiteside’s absence, was outstanding, with 12 points, 8 rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes. Josh McRoberts played his first game since Dec. 9, closing with two points and two assists in 16 minutes.

Erik Spoelstra called Stoudemire "incredible," and it's impressive to see what he's done after being taken out of mothballs --- not only the dunks, rebounds and blocks tonight, but also how he set screens.

Miami closed at 50 percent from the field. Before scoring 102 in Brooklyn and 107 tonight, the Heat had scored 74, 79, 87, 81 and 89 in its previous five.

So what changed?

“We’re running our offense a little better, knowing what we’re looking for,” Bosh said.

Spoelstra said "the biggest area we've shown improvement is grit and toughness.... We look a lot different with [Dragic and McRoberts]. Goran is special, unique. He can really ignite your offense. He's a one-man fastbreak. He's grown so much in his ability to run the offense."

Dragic said he "felt great. Second half, I was not so aggressive because they played really well on pick-and-rolls. We did an amazing job sharing the ball. When we play like that, it's really tough to stop us."

Wade said "it was great to have [Dragic] back out there. We don't win this game without Goran's and J-Mac's contributions."

Of Wade and Bosh, Spoelstra said "on the court, they're being who they are" and off the court, "they're letting everyone know how important the details are."

The Heat (26-21) plays host to Atlanta on Sunday, then goes back on the road for Houston, Dallas and Charlotte.

### Among the visitors expected on UM’s campus on Saturday, the final weekend before National Signing Day: Orlando-based offensive lineman Tre Johnson (a soft Illinois commit now taking a hard look at UM); four-star Niceville (Fla.) receiver Elijah Stove (UM a long shot; he’s considered a solid Auburn commit), safety Romeo Finley and defensive end Tyreic Martin.

Finley, a four-star prospect out of Niceville, also is considering Clemson and Georgia Tech and told Rivals that he already has a pretty good idea where he’s going. That doesn’t sound encouraging for UM, because Finley raved about his visits to the two other ACC schools.

Martin, a three-star prospect out of Valley, Ala., was a Missouri commitment until defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski left the Tigers (or more precisely, wasn't retained by the new coach) and joined join Mark Richt’s staff here. Indiana, South Carolina and Jacksonville State are also under consideration.

### New Jersey-based four-star receiver Kelvin Harmon, one of a half dozen undecided receivers UM is pursuing, narrowed his choices to UM and North Carolina State and will announce Monday. (He will base the pick on whoever wins the Hurricanes-Wolfpack basketball game Saturday. No, just kidding.)

### It was notable that during his introductory press conference Thursday, new Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph praised two players he coached with the Bengals: cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones and safety Reggie Nelson. Both are impending free agents, and expect the Dolphins to consider both.

### With the Chargers announcing they will play 2016 in San Diego, here’s where the Dolphins will play next season: Los Angeles (to meet the Rams), Seattle, San Diego, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Buffalo, New England and East Rutherford, N.J. (Jets).

Miami’s home schedule: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee, New England, Buffalo, Jets.

### New Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen won’t get to call the plays, but he believes it’s a good idea that Adam Gase is keeping that responsibility for himself.

"I think it's how [Gase] got the head coaching job,” Christensen said. “I think a lot of those guys rise to the top because they have a knack for it. [Arizona Cardinals coach] Bruce Arians, who I've worked for a couple of times, just has a knack for calling games. I think some of the head coaches make a mistake not doing it.

“The reason that they kind of go up the ladder if you will, is because they have a knack for doing it and then all of a sudden they become an administrator, or a guy from the sideline. So I'm for it. Some guys just have a knack for it and I think Coach Gase is that, the  Andy Reid's. So I'm kind of for it."

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 28, 2016

MacLean, opposing team executive assess Panthers at the break; Dolphins, Heat, UM, broadcast news

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

With the Panthers hitting the All-Star break, we asked ex-Panthers coach/Delray Beach resident Doug MacLean (an NHL analyst for Canada-based SportsNet) and a high-ranking front-office executive with another top NHL contender to assess the Panthers’ roster and their chances. Some feedback:

### MacLean: “They’ve had three or four rebuilds that turned out to be disasters since I was there. Olli Jokinen and [Roberto] Luongo were the first rebuild; then [Nathan] Horton and [Jay] Bouwmeester. Hopefully this is a real one. The others were fake ones.

“There are lots of good things happening. They can be dominated some nights and still get points. They're a playoff contender. I’m not going to say they’re a Cup contender. The Blackhawks, L.A. Kings, Washington Capitals have a lot more experience and probably depth. That is not a knock on the Panthers. If I was to say today, I would say a Chicago-Washington final makes a lot of sense. But the Panthers are a great story. They have good leadership and youth.”

The executive, who requested his name not be used: “There was a time I thought they may or may not make the playoffs. Now I’m starting to look at them as one of the elite teams. Six to eight teams have a chance to win the Cup, and they are in that group. Depth is my only concern. A lot of success depends on luck. They have a real chance if they go through without a major injury. Dale [Tallon] has done a magnificent job putting that group together.”

### On the defensemen: MacLean: “They are a really big group and they’re skilled. I coached Aaron Ekblad in the Canadian prospects game – I was blown away at that time as an 18-year-old, the level of maturity he had. He has taken it to another level. You get lucky when you find those guys. They wanted to run [Dimitry] Kulikov out of town; [coach] Gerard [Gallant] showed confidence in him. Erik Gubrandson is maybe at best a No. 4 guy, but that’s fine. [Alex] Petrovic has a mean streak. I like the mix they have there.”

The executive: “Ekblad already is legitimately one of the top defensemen in the league. There aren’t very many legitimate No. 1 defensemen. He is one of them. They drafted a guy who will be a top defenseman for 15 years. He will end up playing 25 to 30 minutes on a regular basis, and that’s helpful because it cuts down the minutes of everyone else. Every time I watch him, he continues to get better…

"Brian Campbell is a much better player than people give him credit for. Effortless skater, can play a lot of minutes; he’s going to do high risk things but he does a hell of a lot more good than bad. If he costs you a goal, he will be responsible for three or four….

“Gudbranson adds a physical element. [Willie] Mitchell has done a pretty good job. Petrovic is still earning his stripes. They can go a long way if Kulikov plays at or near optimal level. He is an inconsistent player, so people will always question if he will. But he’s capable of being a top four defenseman.”

### On their centers: MacLean: “I remember [six-time All Star Sergei] Federov came in as a 20-year-old. First practice, Bryan Murray looked at me and said, ‘Can you believe the way this guy plays in all three zones?’ With [Aleksander] Barkov, that’s what people around the league are looking at, the way he plays all three zones. He brings the total package. Gerard told me he’s their best player. [Nick] Bjugstad is going to be a real good player when you’re that big and strong.”

Executive: “They are the best in the league at that position. What’s not to like about Barkov? You love the size, the intelligence, the skill. Not much missing. He wasn’t a consensus No. 2 pick in that [2013] draft; we didn’t have him that high. Now he’s arguably the best player in that draft. That was a brilliant pick.

Nick Bjugstad is just scratching the surface of what he can be, with his size, speed, his shot. Not only is he a monster, but a monster that can move and make plays. I like [Vincent] Trocheck’s improvement. As a junior, a lot of people liked him but didn’t love him. His game is at a point now where you notice him.”

### Forward: MacLean: “I’m surprised what [Jaromir] Jagr is doing. At 43, I mean, seriously. But he’s just such a natural. Jonathan Huberdeau was a third overall pick, a real good player.  People underestimate how smart Reilly Smith is; high hockey IQ.”

Executive: “What Jagr is doing is mind-boggling because of the age. You expect people to slow down [at 43]. The one thing he hasn’t lost is his strength. He’s a handful anytime the puck is in the offensive zone when someone is trying to check him…. Huberdeau is an amazing playmaker. His vision is off the charts. There was a reason he was drafted [third overall in 2011]….

“I was surprised Boston let go of Reilly Smith. He has proven to be a very good player. Not a tremendous skater, but a deceptive skater, and he does so many other things.

“They’ve got enough people who are capable of high-end scoring that if they get any kind of third- and fourth-line scoring, they are probably going to be fine. That’s where Trocheck becomes so important.”

### On goaltender Roberto Luongo: MacLean said he’s surprised how well he is playing considering his age (36). “You’ve got to put him in the top third of goaltenders,” MacLean said. “He’s playing like he deserves to be in the top six. Everyone knew [Florida] is where he wanted to be. And what about Al Montoya? He has won games for them in tough back to backs.”

Executive: “Luongo settles everything down and gives everyone confidence. He’s a driven kid. He wanted to prove a point.”

CHATTER

### With Goran Dragic expected back Friday at Milwaukee, it will be interesting to see if he can achieve his goal to improve the Heat’s pace (Miami is 29th in possessions per game) and if he can play as well with Dwyane Wade alongside as without him.

Consider: The Heat has outscored teams by 62 points in 300 minutes when Dragic plays without Wade, but only by eight in Dragic’s 902 minutes with Wade. For Wade, it’s the opposite: He’s plus eight with Dragic, but minus 50 without him.

### New Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is trying to forge a good relationship with Ndamukmong Suh, who a teammate said had little use for former coordinator Kevin Coyle. And Joseph will grant Suh’s request for input. Suh told Joseph he wants to be involved "in the scheme," and Joseph said “every player is going to have a voice. Whoever puts the work in and brings me ideas, I'll listen.”

### Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said today he wishes Andrew Franks could have gotten more than 16 field goal attempts (he made 13), but "for an undrafted Division III guy that really was not on anybody's radar, I'd have to say that I'm pretty pleased with what he did. Our touchback percentage went up tremendously this year; we ended up being (11th) in the league in touchbacks or touchback percentage.

"I'm a big believer that you have to bring in competition at every position. I think if we sat here last year and if anybody thought that Brandon Fields wasn't going to be the punter in 2015, we all thought he was going to be. But we brought in a guy [Matt Darr] that beat him out. We're always going to be looking to bringing in competition at every position and so I think it'll be the same thing with Andrew. But with that said, I think Andrew did a great job. I really believe this guy can play in the NFL for a long time with his skill set."...

For more on coordinators' availability today: On the home page, check out the Clyde Christensen story by our Adam Beasley, who broke the story of Miami hiring Adam Gase. 

### Even though they’re not assuming anything, the Dolphins are open to giving Dion Jordan another shot if he’s reinstated in April, as long as he's clean and has a good attitude.

### UM landed three-star New Jersey-based Jovani Haskins tonight, giving Miami a second tight end in this class (with Michael Irvin Jr.), and a player ranked 29th among all tight ends by Rivals.com.

I love Miami," Haskins told Canesport tonight. "I like watching Miami on TV, the attitude they play with. To be honest, when I play a college football video game I always choose Miami. 

"I already had my mind made up so I decided tonight that I might as well go ahead and commit.... [Mark Richt] is a legendary coach. He's as genuine as it gets. He was talking how it's more than just football,... how he cares about his guys, how I'd be used in the offense.... [Richt] said I'm a true hybrid, he would flex me out and put me in the slot, put me in the formation on the line."

### Though Irvin (who, like Haskins, also can play receiver) isn’t the caliber prospect his father was, St. Thomas Aquinas coach Roger Harriott told me the similarities are uncanny.

“He catches the ball the same exact way, which is bizarre to me,” Harriott said. “It’s interesting how genetics work. He has soft hands like his father, the same hand/eye coordination.” Irvin projects as a tight end; his father, of course, was a receiver.

### Defensive tackle Jelani Hamilton, who didn’t fulfill expectations, has left the UM football team. He's the sixth non-senior to leave, following Artie Burns (who turned pro), Gray Crow, Jake O'Donnell, Tyre Brady and Joe Brown. A UM spokesman said nobody else has left.... UM said Jamal Carter and Courtel Jenkins have been reinstated after Sun Bowl suspensions.

### 790 The Ticket morning co-host Joy Taylor informed the station that she has a TV offer to work for Fox in Los Angeles and Ticket GM Doug Abernathy says he assumes she will take the job but that she hasn't given notice yet. Taylor, who isn't commenting, was yanked from the air last week because she has been working for five weeks without a contract and Abernathy was pushing for resolution. Abernathy said he hopes Taylor can still have some role at the station.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 27, 2016

Wednesday night notes: Dolphins draft chatter; Tannehill; UM recruiting; Two UM assistants speak; Heat; Panthers

A dozen notes on a Wednesday night:

### This is one of the types of subplots that makes sports so interesting: Most recruiting services say the best recruit in this UM class is cornerback Tyler Byrd. And who’s the person charged with taking him away from Miami?

Larry Scott, Miami’s interim coach for the final six games last season. Scott, now Tennessee’s tight ends coach, has been courting Byrd, and Byrd has agreed to take a visit to Knoxville this week. Tennessee began pursuing Byrd vigorously after Scott joined the staff, not a coincidence.

Based on what Byrd has said, Scott apparently isn’t doing any negative-recruiting against Miami. That’s not surprising; Scott is a classy guy.

Another factor that has UM feeling a bit anxious: Byrd lives with Volunteer running back commit Carlin Fils-aime and considers him a brother. Fils-aime has been committed to the Vols since July and will join Byrd in Knoxville this weekend.

UM must hope that Byrd doesn’t fall in love with the Tennessee coaching staff and the UT campus this weekend. Byrd has said Tennessee has a lot of ground to cover to reach Miami’s level in his eyes.

### UM, with no offensive linemen committed, learned this week that four-star guard Johncarlo Valentin canceled his visit to UM this weekend. But according to Canesport, three-star Orlando-based Tre Johnson (an Illinois commit) will visit.

### UM lost out on Virginia-based three-star defensive back J.J. Givens, who picked N.C. State today.

### New receivers coach Ron Dugans, appearing on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline with Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey, said Stacy Coley made a “great decision” coming back to school and “is going to be a great leader…. Lawrence Cager has done a great job. Braxton Berrios has done a really good job. Darrell Langham has talent.”…. In recruiting, he said he’s looking for toughness at his position: “They’ve already called us prima donnas at that position.”….  Dugans previously coached the Dolphins’ DeVante Parker at Louisville and said: “Everything you threw his way, he was going to snag it. I’m excited for the kid. I know how hard he’s worked.”

### New UM cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph, the only former Canes player on the assistant coaching staff (besides head coach Mark Richt, obviously), said on Hurricane Hotline than UM will play “a good amount of man to man. It’s going to look like we’re doing something but not.” (In other words, disguising.) He said that’s what NFL top five defenses do.

Rumph said he likes “long corners, anyone similar to me. There’s tremendous support for our corners. We’re not going to leave you on an island 90 percent of the time.”

### Rumph said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has emphasized what others before him have said about recruiting: “Coach Diaz wants to lock down South Florida… I feel like no one is going to tell me no… Who’s going to tell me no?”

### Dwyane Wade joked Tuesday that people use the word “vintage” when he plays as well as he did this week, when he scored 28 against Chicago and 27 against the Nets.

Wade, who turned 34 on January 17, is the oldest player to score at least 25 points on two consecutive days since Kobe Bryant (at age 36) on November 18 and 19, 2014. For more on Wade, check out Ethan Skolnick's column on the home page.

### Found it funny today that LeBron James said he never met Heat minority owner Ranaan Katz. In fact, Katz told me James routinely came to Katz’s courtside seat to shake Katz’s hand and hug Katz’s wife. But Katz said he doesn’t know if James knew his name. (Please see the last post if you’re not familiar with the Katz/James controversy of the past 24 hours.)

### As NFL cap guru Joel Corry notes, Ndamukong Suh cannot refuse a contract restructuring that would reduce his cap number from $28 million to $10 million next season. His contract gives Miami the right to automatically convert his base salary into a signing bonus and the Dolphins intend to do that.

The Dolphins could ask Ryan Tannehill if he’s willing to do the same, which would cut his cap number from $11.6 million to $4.7 million. But the Dolphins prefer not to restructure Tannehill if they can clear enough money with restructuring Suh and executing other moves. They’ll revisit the Tannehill idea if they believe it necessary.

### As we first reported Sunday (and The Palm Beach Post reported today), Miami will keep a 4-3 defense. That means the Dolphins would like to add a natural mike linebacker to upgrade on Kelvin Sheppard, with the knowledge that they can move Koa Misi back there as a last resort if their search turns up empty.

The best player at the Senior Bowl this week might be Reggie Ragland, a standout at middle linebacker for Alabama the past two seasons. Ragland, whom Mel Kiper projects to go within a few picks after the Dolphins’ selection at No. 8, will play outside linebacker Saturday at the Senior Bowl.

“I just want to show I can cover, rush the passer,” Ragland said, via The Detroit Free Press. “I want to show I can do a multitude of things at the next level. I know I can play inside and play that, but I want to also show I can play outside, too. If a guy goes down, I want to show I can go out there and play it, too, so we don’t miss a beat.”

Former Browns GM Phil Savage, now executive director of the Senior Bowl, said Ragland “has the size of a [middle linebacker], but he’s got the speed of a [weak-side linebacker],” Savage said. “He’s a good combination linebacker that’s playing off the line of scrimmage, can key and diagnose and then take off and run to the perimeter and make plays.”

Ragland had 6.5 tackles for loss,  7 pass breakups, 6 QB hurries and 2 forced fumbles.

### Pressed by WQAM’s Orlando Alzugaray about why the Dolphins don’t automatically bring in legitimate competition for Ryan Tannehill, Mike Tannenbaum reiterated today: “My belief is we can win with him. If there is the right opportunity to add another quarterback, we would certainly consider it.”

Tannenbaum mentioned backups Logan Thomas and Zac Dysert but didn’t mention free agent Matt Moore during the WQAM interview. (Tannenbaum did mention Moore during an earlier media session in Mobile.)

### ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks UCLA linebacker Myles Jack the eighth-best player in this draft, right where Miami picks.

“He's the highest-rated linebacker on my board -- and he's coming off a torn ACL in September,” McShay said. “An explosive athlete who moonlighted as a running back for the Bruins, Jack holds up well in space and displays easy change-of-direction skills. He has shown the ability to cover bigger receivers in the slot and has excellent awareness and instincts in coverage.”

### This stat from Elias speaks to how moribund this Panthers franchise was for years, and how good this team is: This is the first time in the Panthers' 22-year history that they have won three consecutive games with each victory by at least a three-goal margin. They beat last year's Stanley Cup finalists on consecutive days, 4-0 again Chicago on Friday and 5-2 against Tampa Bay on Saturday, and defeated Toronto 5-1 on Tuesday.

The Panthers have 63 points after 49 games. They’ve had more than that at the same juncture only once before --- 67 in 1996, when they made the Stanley Cup finals.

If you missed it, check out the last post for a full UM recruiting update... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz