A dozen UM football items from Thursday:
1) We're going to be hearing a lot of comparisons between Shaquille Quarterman and great UM linebackers of yesteryear, and Rayshawn Jenkins offered this one today: "Shaq and Denzel Perryman basically are the same player, as far as mindset and physicality."
2) Who played well defensively in Wednesday's scrimmage?
Manny Diaz mentioned Quarterman first, then his three safeties: Jaquan Johnson, Jenkins and Jamal Carter, and also cited Corn Elder, who returned an interception for a touchdown (according to Diaz), and Gerald Willis, who had five solo tackles.
3) Willis is challenging for more playing time, but Richard McIntosh and Kendrick Norton remain the top two d-tackles. Though Willis has impressed, Diaz also mentioned "an issue of not being where he's supposed to be" at times.
4) But Diaz emerged from the scrimmage with some concerns: He said the starters are playing like starters, and the backups like backups, and the "disparity is growing larger and larger. It's hard for us to be above average if we can only rely on our first-level starters."
5) And this was Diaz's other concern: Of the five scrimmages UM has held since the spring, "our physicality and tackling was at its lowest level" Wednesday.
6) Linebacker Darrion Owens, off last year's major knee injury, didn't participate in Wednesday's scrimmage, and Richt is unsure if he will be ready for the opener.
"I don't know what he used to look like," Richt said, "but he doesn't look like he's flying around."
7) With Owens limited and a hamstring still sidelining Mike Pinckney, we're seeing a lot of Jamie Gordinier with the starters at weakside linebacker. "He's physically gifted, has a really bright future," Diaz said. But UM wants him to play with more confidence.
8) Cornerback Malek Young is making a move. "Malek is fast and tough," Diaz said. "The arrow is pointing up."
9) We hear none of the backup quarterbacks were very impressive Wednesday. Richt said he will narrow the race to two on Thursday, and it will be SOMEWHAT surprising if Evan Schirreffs and Malik Rosier don't make the cut. But we'll see. Maybe Jack Allison or Vinny Testaverde will sneak in there. Rosier took the first second-team snaps in Wednesday's scrimmage.
10) Diaz said UM needs Jenkins "to be one of best players" and that he's "more bought into" what UM is doing than he did under the previous regime. Asked UM's leaders on defense, Richt first mentioned Jenkins.
11) Richt reiterated that he expects receiver Dionte Mullins to be admitted before the season starts. [UPDATE: MULLINS HAS BEEN CLEARED TO ENROLL, UM ANNOUNCED AT 5:30 p.m.]
12) Told again today that Mark Walton was very impressive in the scrimmage. He keeps doing damage on screen passes, draws and traditional carries.
Heat and Dolphins and Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday:
• Hurricanes players love UM’s new 4-3 attacking defense after reluctantly tolerating ousted coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s read and react approach in recent years. But here’s the unknown variable: Does new coordinator Manny Diaz have enough skilled personnel to play this bold style, especially if Al Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace are disciplined for the rental car scandal?
"We have what we need to be a good defense,” Diaz said when I asked him last week. “The question is: do we have enough? Do we have the depth?... And we need to grow up in a hurry at some spots, which is rather obvious. There will be growing pains; it's unavoidable.”
What works in Diaz’s favor is a potentially strong group of pass-rushers, less so if Muhammad misses much time (UM had nine sacks in the first scrimmage last week), plus cornerbacks that Diaz believes can play press.
"You have to be able to get to the quarterback, and we feel we’ll be able to do that better this year,” Diaz said. And “to be one of our corners you have to be able to [play press]. Sheldrick Redwine, Corn Elder and Adrian Colbert have that ability. The first defense we called in spring and in fall was bump and run man to man.”
We’re told UM has blitzed a lot in practice, and the defense has generally gotten the better of the offense. But one UM official expressed some concern about how the corners will hold up playing more press.
Even though Diaz plans to blitz and wants to use more press coverage than D’Onofrio did, he won’t accept a flurry of explosive plays against his group. Blitzes will be dialed back if his players can’t handle the bold new style.
That puts pressure not only on the corners, but also the safeties – Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter, who have not yet joined the class of great safeties at UM. That needs to change.
“Assignment-wise you can't grade 95 at safety," Diaz said.
Case in point: Even though safety Jaquan Johnson forced two fumbles in the scrimmage last week, Diaz was bemoaning how he made two critical errors.
Safeties coach Ephraim Banda predicts Jenkins and Carter “are going to be special if they continue to trend this way. There is nothing like coaching two senior safeties who are dying to be good. I have their ear right now. I can tell them almost anything and they will execute it.
“Rayshawn’s urgency is at a whole other level. Jamal has always had the urgency. Now I’m teaching him how to understand the game and see it. They really grew.”
• Also critical: UM defenders cannot miss nearly as many tackles as they did in past years.
To correct that, UM has taught players rugby-style tackling --- which Mark Richt says takes the “helmet out of the tackle” and emphasizes wrapping up below the waist --- and one UM official said the tackling is appreciably better than it was a year ago.
And the defensive tackles are in better shape and quicker, players say. Richard McIntosh and Kendrick Norton look like they’re going to be a stout, effective combo at tackle, one UM official said.
Diaz’s defenses, which typically forced a lot of tackles for loss, are measured not only by points allowed but by something he calls a chaos index: "We take our tackles for loss, our sacks, our PBU's (pass breakups) and forced fumbles - it's all the times you can disrupt an offensive play," Diaz said. "Then you divide that by the amount of plays you had.”
But Diaz doesn’t want fans or players to believe the new scheme is the panacea. “We told the players immediately, `Do not expect the scheme to save you.' We have to get our players better. That's the nutrition, conditioning.”
• UM is placing renewed emphasis on speed in recruiting – partly because of the way the college game has evolved. More and more ACC teams are going to use spread offenses this season, which puts an emphasis on speedy defensive backs or linebackers with coverage skills.
“You really have to be able to run now," Diaz said. "And it's speed of thought (too), guys that are instinctive. You have to have guys that can process things quickly. And you defend space - with the faster guys you have, the more that space shrinks.
"We should be able to run on defense, recruit kids down here that can run and play fast. The coaching changes have really changed the dynamics. You look at Virginia Tech, Virginia, NC State from a coordinator standpoint, Syracuse on the other side - it is more of a spread league this year than even it was a year ago. So you have to make sure you can handle the tempo offenses are going to play with yet still maintain the physical edge."
• A UM official who has watched practices said (before Ahmmon Richards' toe injury), there was reason to feel much better at receiver than UM did a month ago: Stacy Coley has been great on double moves and impactful and developed great chemistry with Brad Kaaya; Braxton Berrios is consistent; no player at any position has been appreciably better than Malcolm Lewis; Dayall Harris has been better than expected before a couple of drops this week; before his injury, Richards has been catching everything thrown his way (“he runs like a horse; he’s going to develop into a top player in the country,” Redwine said); and Sam Bruce dashed by a corner and safety for a long catch the other day…
That official said Travis Homer already is UM’s best breakaway threat at running back…. Fullback Marques Williams has impressed everyone with his punishing blocking and pass-catching ability.
• The past regime didn’t want players to feel the pressure of living up to UM’s tradition. This regime is different.
"I want you to feel the weight of putting on a UM jersey," Diaz says. "I tell recruits `It's crazy that this guy [like Michael Irvin or Ray Lewis] knows who you are. You're in high school and this great player knows who you are.' There's an accountability that comes with that.”
• Point guard Beno Udrih agreed to re-sign with the Heat today, adding more depth to a crowded Heat backcourt.
Udrih will sign a one-year guaranteed deal at the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million.
Udrih, 34, averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 assists and 16.3 minutes in 36 games for the Heat last season after a November trade from Memphis. He missed the final two months of the season with a foot injury and sacrificed $100,000 in salary as a favor to the Heat to keep them under the luxury tax threshold.
According to a source at Octagon basketball, Udrih had a standing offer from the Heat for more than a month. He had other options but felt comfortable with the organization. Coach Erik Spoelstra made no assurances about playing time but has asked Udrih to provide veteran leadership.
His signing gives the Heat 19 players, with teams permitting to take 20 to training camp but keep no more than 15 during the regular season.
Barring trades, Udrih's signing will make it challenging for the Heat to keep any of their developmental prospects -- point guard Briante Weber, forwards Stefan Jankovic and Okaro White and guard Rodney McGruder.
The Heat likely will try to stash several of those players in its D-League affiliate in Sioux Falls, S.D., though Weber appears in line to land an NBA job somewhere, and his skill set intrigues the Heat.
Players signed during July and August cannot be traded until Dec. 15.
Udrih gives the Heat a natural backup point guard behind Goran Dragic, but there's no assurance that he will get playing time, because the Heat wants to give regular minutes to combo guards Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson.
Johnson said the Heat has emphasized improving as a point guard during his offseason workouts.
The Heat signed shooting guards Dion Waters and Wayne Ellington during the offseason, and Waiters is the front-runner to start.
Here's how the roster stands:
Centers: Hassan Whiteside, Willie Reed
Forwards: Chris Bosh, Justise Winslow, Derrick Williams, James Johnson, Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem, Luke Babbitt, Jankovic, White
Guards: Dragic, Waiters, Ellington, Richardson, Johnson, Udrih, McGruder, Weber
The Dolphins ended training camp with anger and agitation, as three separate fights broke out in a 30-minute period.
Receiver Jarvis Landry and cornerback Bobby McCain exchanged punches in the first drill, after they became physical with each other on a pass play.
"Nothing personal; no hard feelings,” Landry said. “Showing a little team love to each other.”
The second fight, involving more than 20 players but relatively tame, began when McCain and receiver Kenny Stills started jawing at each other. The third featured shoving between offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod and defensive lineman DeAndre Coleman.
“I like to see a little bit of that, a little bit of attitude, a little bit of swagger, we’re not going to take some crap,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “We don’t want four or five in a practice. A little bit of that is OK.”
Coach Adam Gase didn’t object: “It’s football. It happens. No one got hurt. I don’t want that to happen every day. But it’s going to happen once in a while….One guy makes a play and starts talking. Bobby is not going to take that. It got heated from there. Wide outs protecting their guy. DBs protecting their guy. That’s what happens.”
• The Dolphins haven’t been inclined to keep a third quarterback on the 53-man roster to start the season in recent years, but rookie seventh-round pick Brandon Doughty is giving the Dolphins incentive to possibly reverse that pattern.
His accuracy, quick mind and poise have impressed coach Adam Gase, who has final say on the 53-man roster.
Doughty was 7 for 9 for 66 yards in the preseason opener against the Giants and “I saw a guy that was very comfortable,” Gase said. “I felt good calling plays for him. I didn’t have any concerns. I wasn’t sitting there [saying], ‘I can’t call this, I can’t call this.’ Watching him react to everything I called, it was like there was nothing that was bothering him.
“He’d get hit, he’d bounce back up, look right at me. I love that part of him and then his progressions were really good. He was always in the right spot, which is good to see [because] it’s different in practice.”
In fact, Gase said Doughty’s performance was atypical of a rookie.
“I’ve been [around] a few times where it looks like, ‘Uh oh, what’s going to happen?’” Gase said. “He was good. He’s been in the shotgun a lot in his career. If there’s one thing that I would say he needs to really work on is just to make sure that he feels comfortable working under center.”
And that’s not the only thing Gase likes about Doughty.
"In this league, that window closes so fast,” Gase said. “As soon as you’re trying to evaluate whether that guy is open or not, he’s probably going to get covered by the time the ball gets there. With him having a great feel of the route concepts and turning the ball loose,… He’s done a great job as far as being that consistent in anticipation.”
Gase said Doughty’s next step is “controlling everybody,” correcting mistakes and correcting mental errors by others..
The Dolphins could put Doughty on the practice squad unless they believe another team would claim him and put him on their 53-man roster.
“I have a chip on my shoulder; my talents are a little better than a seventh round pick,” Doughty said Wednesday. “I’m excited to prove everybody wrong.”
• Gase said he anticipates playing everyone who is healthy on Friday against Dallas. Players who remain out: cornerbacks Chris Culliver, Xavien Howard and Chimdi Chekwa, running back Kenyan Drake, linebacker Zach Vigil, defensive end Dion Jordan and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, who is out indefinitely with a calf injury.
• Gase said he hasn't decided how much to play the starters and will go by feel. With Arian Foster: "I am going to be smart, especially with him, his history. How much do any of us really need to see? We know what he can do. I want to get him in rhythm with guys up front where he gets comfortable playing at line of scrimmage. He’s been in a huddle offense most of his career."
• Gase said he and his staff “tweaked a couple things” with Tannehill’s mechanics “that were in minor.. that he brought up himself.”
• Laremy Tunsil, who split first team left guard reps with Dallas Thomas, said it would be “nice” to start Friday (which Armando has reported is likely) but hadn’t received word, and Gase declined to say. Tunsil is now the heavy front-runner to start opening day at Seattle.
• As we first reported on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz), Hard Rock's deal for Dolphins stadium naming rights is 18 years. The press conference is at 2 p.m.
For a lot more Dolphins nuggets, the Marlins' plans regarding Tim Tebow and a prominent free agent on the Dolphins' radar, please click here.
Here's the full Olympic TV schedule for the final five days (when and were to find each event of interest to you).