12/19/2014

10 p.m. update: More details on Marlins' two trades today

An eventful Marlins offseason that began with Giancarlo Stanton’s historic new contract took an unexpected turn on Friday when the Marlins acquired a new starting third baseman in Martin Prado and then agreed to trade their incumbent third baseman, Casey McGehee, fresh off winning the National League Comeback Player of the Year award.

The day began with the Marlins snagging Prado and right-handed pitcher David Phelps from the New York Yankees in exchange for three players: first baseman Garrett Jones, whose $5 million salary they were eager to purge after signing free agent Michael Morse; disappointing pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, whose success never matched the sizzle of his fastball; and a minor league pitcher.

Then the Marlins agreed to send McGehee to San Francisco for minor league pitchers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo, according to industry sources.

That trade had not been announced as of 10 p.m. Friday and the Marlins declined to discuss the Prado trade before the McGehee deal was finalized.

Though McGehee was a pleasant surprise last season, he slumped over the final two months, and the Marlins decided that Prado would be an upgrade.

McGehee hit .319 with 53 RBI before the All-Star break, .243 with 23 RBI after the break.

Prado, 31, is a career .291 hitter who can play the outfield and all four infield positions.

He hit .282 with 12 homers and 58 RBI last season for the Diamondbacks and the Yankees, who acquired him in a July 31 trade from Arizona. He missed the final three weeks of the season after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Sept. 16.

A native of Venezuela, Prado was an All-Star in 2010 and has played seven seasons for the Braves, 1 1/2 years for the Diamondbacks and part of last season with the Yankees. He hit .282 with 14 homers, 36 doubles and 82 RBI for Arizona in 2013.

Prado will earn $11 million each of the next two seasons, the final two years of a four-year, $40 million contract.

The Marlins will pay $8 million of that $11 million in 2015 and 2016, with the Yankees covering the rest.

The Marlins have always liked Prado. They tried to acquire him in the Dan Uggla/Mike Dunn deal with Atlanta after the 2010 season but settled for Omar Infante instead.

Prado has played 414 of his 981 career games at third base and has 34 errors and a 96.5 fielding percentage in his career at that position.

McGehee, who was strong defensively, finished last season at .287 and four homers and 76 RBI and was projected to make $4 million in his final year of arbitration.

In Phelps, the Marlins acquire a pitcher who’s under team control through 2018 and has started 40 games for the Yankees and pitched out of the bullpen in 47 others.

Phelps, 28, has won 15 of 29 decisions with a 4.21 ERA in three seasons with Yankees. 

He was 5-5 with a 4.38 ERA last season and has 267 strikeouts in 299 career innings. He’s eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter and could earn a salary in the $1.3 million range.

Eovaldi showed promise in 2013, finishing 4-6 with a 3.39 ERA. But he struggled much of last season (6-14, 4.37) and allowed the most hits of any National League pitcher (223), in 199 innings.

Eovaldi, arbitration eligible, is expected to make about $3 million next season.

If recently acquired pitcher Dan Haren decides to retire --- something he has been seriously considering --- then Phelps and Brad Hand likely would compete for the Marlins’ fifth starter job to open the season, behind Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler. Staff ace Jose Fernandez is expected to return from Tommy John surgery in June or July.

Though Hand is out of minor league options, Phelps has had more success and would seem to be the front-runner for that No. 5 rotation spot, unless Haren joins the Marlins. Hand is 5-18 with a 4.42 ERA in his career.

The Yankees also received pitcher Diego German, who entered this past season as the Marlins’ sixth-best prospect, according to Baseball America. He was 20-10 with a 2.33 ERA in parts of five seasons in the low-level minors.

Flores, 23, one of the two pitchers that the Marlins acquired from the Giants, is 31-24 with a 3.47 ERA in five minor league seasons and was 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 105 innings at high-level Single A last season. Castillo, 22, is 3-6 with a 2.67 ERA and 32 saves in 36 chances in three minor league seasons, including 2-2 with a 3.07 ERA, 10 saves and 66 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings in low-level A ball last season. 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

Marlins, Yankees agree to big trade involving Eovaldi, Prado, others; Dolphins, Heat, Canes

The Marlins and Yankees have agreed to a trade that will send pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, first baseman Garrett Jones and a Single A pitching prospect to the Yankees for infielder Martin Prado and pitcher David Phelps, according to MLB sources. [2:45 p.m. update: The trade has been announced.]

Prado, 31, is expected to replace Casey McGehee at third base for the Marlins and Phelps will compete for a spot in the back end of the Marlins' rotation. The Marlins are now expected to try to trade McGehee, who is arbitration eligible. [Update: The Giants are among the teams that have spoken to the Marlins about McGehee).

The move is the latest in an active offseason for the Marlins, who introduced acquisitions Dee Gordon, Mat Latos and Michael Morse at Marlins Park earlier in the day.

Though McGehee was named the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year, he slumped over the final two months, causing the Marlins some cause for concern. McGehee hit .319 with 53 RBI before the All-Star break, .243 with 23 RBI after the break.

Prado, 32, is a career .291 hitter who can play the outfield, second base, shortstop or third base. The Marlins intend to play him at third.

Prado hit .282 with 12 homers and 58 RBI last season for the Diamondbacks and the Yankees, who acquired him in a midseason trade from Arizona. He missed the final three weeks of the season after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Sept. 16.

A native of Venezuela, Prado was an All-Star in 2010 and has played seven seasons for the Braves, 1 1/2 years for the Diamondbacks and part of last season with the Yankees.

He hit .282 with 14 homers and 82 RBI for Arizona in 2013.

Prado will earn $11 million in each of the next two seasons, the final two years of a four-year, $40 million contract. The Marlins will pay $8 million of that $11 million in 2015 and 2016, with the Yankees covering the rest.

Prado has played 414 of his 981 career games at third base and has 34 errors and a 96.5 fielding percentage in his career at that position.

Phelps, a right-hander pitcher, is 15-14 with a 4.21 ERA in parts of three seasons with Yankees. Phelps, 28, was 5-5 with a 4.38 ERA last season and has 267 strikeouts in 299 career innings. He’s eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter and is under team control through 2018.

Eovaldi showed promise in 2013, finishing 4-6 with a 3.39 ERA. But he struggled much of last season (6-14, 4.37) and allowed the most hits of any National League pitcher (223), in 199 innings.

If Dan Haren decides to retire --- which he has been considering --- Phelps and Brad Hand would compete for the Marlins’ fifth starter job to start the season, behind Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler.

Though Hand is out of minor league options, Phelps has had far more success early in his career and would seem to be the front-runner for that No. 5 rotation spot. Hand is 5-18 with a 4.42 ERA in his career.

Phelps also can pitch in relief, which might be necessary when Marlins ace Jose Fernandez returns from Tommy John surgery. Of Phelps' 87 career appearances, 47 have come in relief.

The Marlins are hopeful Fernandez will be back at some point in June or July.

As part of the trade, the Yankees also are receiving pitcher Diego German, who was rated the Marlins' sixth-best prospect by Baseball America entering last season. He was 20-10 with a 2.33 ERA in parts of five seasons in the low-level minors.

Please see the last post for lots of Dolphins, Heat and Canes chatter.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

12/18/2014

On the curious case of Lamar Miller; UM recruiting; Duke Johnson; Wade, Heat PGs

Talking Dolphins, Canes and Heat:

### Lamar Miller has produced a very solid third season, climbing to 12th in the NFL in rushing and ninth in per-carry average among running backs.

But his season has been somewhat strange in this regard: He hasn't been given as many carries as most of the other backs who rank among the league leaders. And when he is given a heavier workload, his production seems to tail off.

On his first through 10th carries, Miller has averaged a robust 5.4 yards: 134 for 718.

But on carries 11 through 20, his average drops to 2.4: 44 for 111.

That’s not typical of some of the league’s best backs. Of the players who rank in the top five in rushing, four had comparable averages on carries 1 through 10 as carries 11 through 20: Dallas’ DeMarco Murray (4.7, 4.9), Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (4.7, 4.7), Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (4.2, 4.3) and Baltimore’s Justin Forsett (5.6, 5.4). Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch’s average dips from 4.8 to 3.9.

So why the dropoff for Miller? “I don’t have any idea,” he said.

In each of Miami’s past three losses, Miller’s production tailed off significantly after halftime, though in the case of the past two games, lack of opportunity was a major contributing factor:

### Against Denver, he ran six times for 52 yards in the first half but just six times for seven yards in the second half.

### Against Baltimore, he had 9 carries for 47 yards before intermission, but his three second-half attempts yielded just six yards.

### Against New England last Sunday, he had 13 carries for 51 yards in the first half but lost four yards on three carries in the second half.

In Miller’s defense, he had such few carries in the second half against the Ravens and Patriots that it’s difficult to get into a rhythm. And it would be interesting to see what Miller would do if the Dolphins gave him 20 carries. (He has had just two games with more than 15 carries: 18 vs. Chicago and 16 in Sunday's Patriots game.)

The diminished production as the game wears on is surprising, partly because Miller said his weight gain from 212 to 220 last offseason made him more physical and “harder to bring down.”

That has helped in short yardage, even though he was stopped short on a third-and-three early in the second half against the Patriots.

Last season, on third and 1 or 2 or fourth and 1 or 2, Miller ran six times for eight yards, collecting first downs only twice on those six attempts.

This season, he has 10 carries for 56 yards on 3rd and 1 or 2 and two carries for nine yards on 4th and 1 or 2.

The added weight “helps, but it's more determination; wanting to do it. It just took time for me to adjust [to the NFL] as a player.”

Working with buddy and former UM star Frank Gore the past two off-seasons has helped. “Watching a guy work as hard as that, he works out twice a day, seeing something like that motivates you even more,” Miller said. 

With 829 yards for the season, Miller has a chance for his first 1000-yard season.

But helping him reach 1000 yards “absolutely has not come to my mind,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said.

The Dolphins are pleased with his progress.

“He’s a little more decisive when he has the ball in his hands,” Joe Philbin said today. “I just think he’s made better decisions running with the ball. It’s not always perfect but he does a good job and I think he’s done a better job less shuffling, less dancing, more running.”   

Miller, who attended Killian High in Miami, spends a lot of time sharing group texts with a group of eight friends that includes five former Hurricanes (Allen Bailey, Travis Benjamin, Sean Spence, Brandon Harris, DeMarcus Van Dyke).

“They tell me I’m lucky that I’m here in Miami,” he said. “To get drafted in my hometown, it's great. I cherish every moment of it.”

CANES, HEAT     

### Four-star Tampa-based prospect Dwayne Lawson, the only quarterback in UM's 2015 class, announced on Thursday night that he is de-committing from Miami and will "go another route."

Finding a high-end quarterback in the 2015 class will be awfully difficult because Brad Kaaya has three more years of eligibility. So does backup Malik Rosier. But UM needs to add another body at the position for depth.

With Lawson's decommitment, UM football has 18 Class of 2015 oral commitments and has space for 25 to 30; Mark D’Onofrio said Miami must add more linebackers in the next month. 

Has the 6-6 record negatively affected recruiting?

Not at all, according to national recruiting coordinator/receivers coach Brennan Carroll.

"They still see what Miami's all about, all the great things about Miami, not just the education, the location, but where the program's going," Carroll said. "They see a bright future and want to be part of it."

Carroll said the staff wants to sign "guys that can come in and push for playing time as freshmen ... everywhere. We did a good job last year bringing in a lot of guys to compete. Some were able to push for playing time early. That will always be our philosophy."

### We hear the UM basketball staff is very concerned about the possibility of UM switching from Nike to Under Armour or Adidas (after August 2015) because of the negative impact it potentially would have on recruiting. UM is pursuing several players with Nike ties, including some who play for Nike AAU teams. Those players often are pushed toward Nike schools. Though UM informed Nike it will listen to other offers, no decision has been announced.


### This UM football program probably isn't going to be elite again until it finds or develops high-end d-tackles. So what about the current group? There was some progress, at times, this season but not nearly enough.

"The standard is high," Al Golden said. "These guys have to keep going. It's five or six practices now that they've had (for the bowl game). Anthony Moten's showing up now, Calvin Heurtelou is playing with confidence, Ufomba Kamalu got better. They just have to keep coming. We feel comfortable with that group. Earl Moore has done a lot of good things this week, Jelani Hamilton. [Those two are redshirting.] We have a long way to go but we're excited about where they're putting themselves physically and experience-wise."

### Duke Johnson, who is widely expected to turn pro, said he won't be disappointed if the NFL Draft Advisory board gives him a second- or third-round grade instead of a first-round grade. Several draft analysts see him as a second or third-rounder.

"I wouldn't be disappointed at all because I don't really expect people to have high expectations for me," he said. "I have a chip on my shoulder whether they project me first round or last round. If I do decide to come out my work ethic, the way I play will show it all."

By the way, Johnson said he hasn't taken out insurance for this game. Billy Corben, director of The U Part 2, said Johnson shouldn't play because he needs to protect his body.

### With Josh McRoberts likely out for the season (according to his agent), none of the power forwards/centers that the Heat passed on last summer are available: Andray Blatche (Miami was worried about his baggage) and Michael Beasley are committed overseas; Rashard Lewis is rehabbing his knee; and Greg Oden (arrested in August on battery charges) is sorting out his life and not looking to play, his agent said.

### How unusual is it for Dwyane Wade to score 40-plus and lose, as he did Wednesday? The Heat is 21-12 when Wade scores 40. Conversely, Kobe Bryant is 81-40 in his 40-point games, according to the good folks at Elias Sports Bureau.

By the way, Wade scored 48.3 percent of his team's points Wednesday, the highest percentage in the NBA this season, according to Elias.

### More evidence of the Heat’s substandard play at point guard, which is a growing concern: Norris Cole ranks fourth-worst among NBA starting point guards in shooting percentage (37.9/ahead of only Jameer Nelson, Trey Burke and Brandon Jennings) and Shabazz Napier is worst among all point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.1-1). And that doesn't even take into account the Heat's season-long problems containing the ball on defense, though Cole has had some good moments on defense recently.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

12/17/2014

Postscripts, reaction after another Heat home loss; Canes add player; Dolphins, UM chatter

Heat, Canes, Dolphins notes on a Wednesday night:

### The Heat has been shockingly dismal at home in recent weeks, but tonight was a new low, with Miami succumbing meekly, 105-87, to a Utah team that entered 6-19 and having lost 12 of its past 13.

Incredibly, the Heat was dismantled, on its home court, by one of the NBA's bottom-feeders despite 42 points from Dwyane Wade –-- his first 40-point game since February 2011 and his highest scoring game since erupting for 45 in December 2010.

Not only has the Heat lost seven of its past eight at home, but six of the Heat’s eight home losses have been by double digits: 18 to Chicago and Utah (Miami’s past two home games), by 17 to the Rockets, Clippers and Warriors and by 10 to the Hawks.

And according to AP, this marks the first time since 1990 that the Heat has lost four home games in a row by double digits.

"Obviously, that was a disappointing performance," Erik Spoelstra said. "It's something we have to figure out. It's not for a lack of want. Guys want to do it. You saw a different personality last night [in the road win at Brooklyn] than tonight. That was a poorly executed offensive game on our part."

Why can't the Heat achieve consistency?

"I don't have that answer," Spoelstra said. "That's what I'm trying to figure out."

Said Wade: "We're depleted, but... coming back with this type of effort as a group, It's unacceptable for us. We didn't play aggressive enough. We've got to play more aggresive on the defensive end of the floor. As a team, we've got to be better. I felt explosive. Obviously with Chris [Bosh] out, I have to be a lot more aggressive."

### Wade shot 12 for 19 from the field. The rest of the team shot 15 for 51, including 3 for 13 from Mario Chalmers, 0-4 by both Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier and 2 for 7 from Shawne Williams.

Wade shot 16 for 21 from the line, and chipped in four rebounds and three assists.

### The Heat again played without Bosh, who remains out indefinitely with a calf injury. Chris Anderson started for the first time this season in an unusual frontcourt pairing with Justin Hamilton.

Spoelstra went that the Birdman/Hamilton combo to get "a little bit more size."

Utah became the latest team to make more than half its shots from the field against the Heat, finishing at 53 percent. The Jazz shot 14 for 25 threes and too many were uncontested.

At 12-14 and seventh in the conference, the Heat is very fortunate that the East is pretty putrid below them in the standings. But it’s also clear Miami is nowhere near the caliber of the top five teams in the conference (Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington and Toronto in whatever order you like).

This was the first game in a seven-game homestand, which includes Cleveland visiting on Christmas.

### UM landed the nation’s No. 1 ranked junior college tight end today, and Jerome Washington is an interesting story because he didn’t have any offers until the coach of his club team in Trenton, N.J. sent his video to a bunch of colleges earlier this fall.

The Hurricanes offered him a scholarship a day later, and others --- including Alabama, Nebraska and Washington --- started showing interest soon after. ESPN rates Washington the 19th best junior college player at any position.

Washington, 6-4 and 263 pounds, had no offers coming out of high school in Stony Brook, N.Y. He attends Mercer CC in New Jersey and plays for Gattaca Football, a club team. He will enroll at UM in January and has four seasons of eligibility.

“It's a very unique situation for a junior college kid. So from that sense he's a freshman,” Al Golden said. “He's coming in a big, physical kid. He can go get the ball. This is where he wanted to be, he made no bones about it. A lot of people came in and tried to get him. I think Larry (Scott) did a great job with him and James (Coley). He wanted to be a Miami Hurricane. We're excited about him. We'll have him at midyear. That part of it's good."

How does UM evaluate a player that isn’t competing against top competition?

"We did a real thorough evaluation," Golden said. "Twenty people offered him in a very short period of time. He got stronger, he's a worker, he's smart. He has all the requisite skills. I think he made the right choice. In his heart he knew he could play at the highest level. There's all different paths to get here, this is the path he and his mom chose. It worked out for him because he retained all his eligibility. I wouldn't recommend that path if someone asked me, but it really worked out for him and he's a great kid and can't wait to get him into camp."

Golden said he expects one more JUCO signee, believed to be offensive lineman Jahair Jones. He said six to eight recruits are positioned to enroll in January.

"A lot of it's in flux right now," Golden said. "We'll see how that goes."

### James Coley said today that "it's crazy" that Stacy Coley had only 153 receiving yards all season, 19 catches.

"That's part of that sophomore year sometimes," Coley said. "You get banged up a little bit because of an offseason that didn't go the way you wanted it to go, and then you get an injury and then you can't get out of that slump that you're in and you don't play well and it plays a factor in your confidence. He’s back in form. He’s looking real good.”

Said Stacy Coley: "My sophomore year will never, ever exist in my football days again. I want to get put down in the books [as one of the best at UM]."

### Coley said UM’s 6-6 record isn’t hurting in recruiting. He said "back in the day" recruits wanted to go to a winning program but “now they want to know how do I fit in and how can I make a difference.”

### Golden said he didn’t want The U Part 2, but Coley did.

"I love watching those teams play," Coley said. "I love hearing Ed Reed talk, watching Andre Johnson score touchdowns. I love that swagger Al Blades has. It's part of our tradition here."

### In a conference call with Minneapolis reporters, Joe Philbin partly blamed coaching for the team’s second half struggles.

Asked why his team has played so poorly in the past two second halves, Philbin could only state the obvious: “We haven’t made any plays. We haven’t stopped people well enough. We haven’t put enough points on the board. We haven’t played well. We haven’t coached well.”

### So has this team failed to maximize its talent?

“I’m not going to say we didn’t maximize our talent, but I don’t feel like we played well enough,” Mike Wallace said. “Because maximizing our talent, I would say would be on our coaches, but I think it’s on the players. I don’t think we played up to our potential, but as far as maximizing talent, if you would say that, then it would be on the coaches. I don’t think it’s the coaches’ fault, I think it’s our fault. We’re selling ourselves short, the players not the coaches.”

### Jared Odrick with the Dolphins keeping-it-real quote of the day: “Finishing 9-7 and not going to the playoffs doesn’t mean a thing.”

And yet, Stephen Ross might not agree, considering there’s a possibility Joe Philbin survives if he wins his last two games and Ross fails to lure Jim Harbaugh, who reportedly has a six-year, $48 million offer from the University of Michigan.

### Fox is sending Sunday’s Dolphins-Vikings game to just five percent of the country: Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa on the call.

### An example of the wide disparity in how NFL prospects are viewed in December: Mel Kiper said UM left tackle Ereck Flowers is a second- or third-round pick. Kiper’s ESPN colleague, Todd McShay, has Flowers being drafted 12th overall in his first mock draft. Flowers declined to make himself available for comment this week.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

  

Breaking down the Marlins' key pickups and scouts' views of them; Dolphins, UM, Heat notes

Please see the last post for a breakdown of the Marlins’ four major acquisitions and what scouts and the Marlins are saying about them.

 

CHATTER

### An associate of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Ross has never been a big fan of Rex Ryan (who’s expected to be fired by the Jets). The associate doesn’t completely rule him out as a candidate if Ross strikes out on Jim Harbaugh and others, but the odds are certainly against it.

### Dion Jordan, drafted third overall in 2013 primarily to rush the quarterback, said it is weighing on him that he doesn’t have a sack all year. “Not to get one [all season] would be a disappointment.”

But keep in mind that he has played just 180 snaps in eight games and was in pass coverage on 30 of those snaps. In his 84 pass rush chances, he has one hit and five hurries. As ESPN analyst and former Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik said, Jordan needs to keep working on his craft as a pass rusher.

### For those wondering if Al Golden might tire of all the negativity and leave for another job, don't count on that. Neither Pittsburgh nor any other program has asked for permission to speak to Golden, and UM doesn’t expect him to seek a job elsewhere.

### Golden said Ray Lewis III has been away from the team for awhile because he’s focusing on academics but remains on the roster.

### Brooklyn-based Jahair Jones, rated by 247sports.com as the 11th best junior college offensive tackle, orally committed to UM, according to canesport.com.

Also, Royal Palm Beach High Class of 2017 prospect Todd Centeio, a dual-threat quarterback in the mold of UM's Malik Rosier, orally committed to UM tonight.

### Go figure: A greater percentage of homes in Birmingham, Ala. (4.7 percent) watched The U: Part 2 on ESPN Saturday night than in Miami-Fort Lauderdale (3.3). Jacksonville ranked third among metered markets with a 3.0, with Greensboro fourth and Las Vegas fifth… ESPN’s first airing of The U: Part 2 was seen by 1.87 million viewers on Saturday, compared with 2.3 million for the debut of the first U documentary in 2009.

### Quote of the day, from Brad Kaaya: “I didn’t come here to go to Club Liv, or Live or how ever you say it. I came here to win championships.”

### Keep in mind Marcus Thornton as a potential backup shooting guard option for the Heat down the road. The Heat wanted to sign him this past offseason but he couldn’t agree to a buyout with the Celtics. A free agent next summer, he’s shooting 42.3 percent on threes.

### ESPN's Chris Brossard said the Heat has inquired about Charlotte shooting guard Lance Stephenson, who is being shopped, but Miami doesn't have enough appealing assets to offer... The Heat also probably doesn't have enough to snag center Greg Monroe, the type of big man who traditionally has appealed to Pat Riley. But Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said he hasn't spoken to any team about Monroe.

### The Heat has applied for a $2.65 million exception to replace Josh McRoberts, but receiving that exception from the NBA hinges on an indepedent physician declaring him out for the season. His agent and the Heat say he is expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

 

12/16/2014

Breaking down Marlins' key pickups and scouts' views; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Chatter on the Marlins’ biggest off-season acquisitions, with views from four major-league scouts and the Marlins:

FIRST BASEMAN MICHAEL MORSE

### The good: Above average hitter throughout career, both overall (.281) and with runners on base (.285) and runners in scoring position (.275)… Played more outfield than first base for Giants, but his .279 average last season would have ranked sixth among NL first basemen… A right-handed hitter, Morse always has hit right-handers well: .283 in career, .293 last season…. Hit .314 in 35 career at-bats at Marlins Park.

### Concerns: History of assorted injuries, including oblique that sidelined him nearly all of last September and part of playoffs… Projects for cleanup spot here, but has hit just .242 when batting fourth in past three seasons and .269 in his career. Has hit much better hitting fifth (.284) or sixth (.282) in career… Doesn’t walk a ton (31 last season)… Hit just .249 vs. lefties over past three years, including .248 last season… Grounded into 19 double plays last season, eighth-most in NL.

### Scouts’ views: Three of the four scouts with whom we spoke today called him a clear upgrade over Garrett Jones, who the Marlins are trying to deal. “Proven run producer. Can hit in the middle of the lineup, good fit behind [Giancarlo] Stanton. Strikes more fear into pitchers than Garrett Jones. Good pinch-hitter if he is given day off [from starting].”… “Has power from gap to gap because he’s so strong.”…  

"Long swing and never very durable, but it's not much money [two years, $16 million]."... “Not a good defensive player. I watched when he played shortstop [at Nova High] and the question was always where to play him. He was a late grower, became really big [6-5, 245].”... Said another scout: “OK defensively, not great.”

### The Marlins haven't announced the Morse signing and thus haven't commented on him.

SECOND BASEMAN DEE GORDON

### The good: Led the NL with 64 steals last season (in 83 attempts). A left-handed hitter, hit .289 and was effective against both lefties (.295) and right-handers (.287)…. His batting average ranked fourth among qualifying second basemen... Led the NL with 12 triples and might hit even more in cavernous Marlins Park, with its spacious gaps... Had 20 bunt hits and Marlins see comparisons with Juan Pierre, who averaged 24 bunt hits in first three seasons with Marlins… Gordon was fifth in the NL with 176 hits.... Batted .314 with runners on base, .306 with runners in scoring position.... Young (26) and under team control through 2018.

### Concerns: Everyone will point to the .314 career on-base average, including .326 last season. He doesn't walk as much as ideal for a leadoff hitter (31 in 650 plate appearances)... Hit .228 in 87 games in 2012 and .234 in 38 games in 2013.... His 12 errors were tied for second most among National League second basemen.

### Scouts’ views: All four like him, in large part because of the havoc he creates on the bases. “He can really be disruptive to pitchers and that matters,” one said. “Your hitters behind him get more fastballs when he’s on base, and Christian Yelich is a good fastball hitter. He takes pitchers out of rhythm.”… “You have to play your infield in because he can bunt. His bat has shown steady improvement. Can hit a fastball.”... "I hear the complaints about on-base, but he gets on base enough. Wonderful pickup."

### Marlins executive Mike Hill said he’s not concerned about his on-base average because it’s “above the league average [which was .314 last season] and he had more stolen bases than our entire team last year. Defensively, he will fit in nicely. I love our up-the-middle combination with [Adeiny Hechavarria] and Dee Gordon.

PITCHER MAT LATOS

### The good: One of only five pitchers with at least 15 starts and an ERA under 3.50 the last five seasons, joining Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Madison Bumgarner and David Price… Batters hit only .240 off him last year and .232 in his career…. Clutch in key spots: Over past three years, he has allowed batters to hit .217 with runners in scoring position, .193 with runners in scoring position and two outs…. Has never allowed as many hits as innings pitched in any season (829 in 952 career; 92 to 102 in 2014)… Excellent career 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio…. Still very much in prime, at 27.

### Concerns: Limited to 16 starts and 102 innings last season because of elbow, knee and calf injuries. Had offseason surgery on his elbow to try to regrow tissue… Has lost 1.9 miles off fastball from 2013 to 2014; only six pitchers had a greater dip… His strikeouts have declined while his walks have increased…. Fangraphs.com calls him “a very volatile asset.”

### Scout’s view: “If he’s healthy, he’s their best pitcher to start the season and a No. 2 when Jose Fernandez comes back.”… “He was trending as a top end guy before the injuries. Always has had very good stuff. Deceptive, throws downhill, good breaking ball, really good competitor.”

### Hill: “We did due diligence with his health history. We fully expect that he’ll be ready to go and perform for us. He’s a front of the rotation talent. He’s going to help us win a lot of games next year.”

PITCHER DAN HAREN

Note: Haren has not told the Marlins if he will pitch for them or retire.

### The good: His 13 wins last season (against 11 losses) were more than anybody on the Marlins… His 4.02 ERA, though not great, is better than the 4.3 ERA from the Marlins’ other fifth-starter options (Nathan Eovaldi, Brad Hand)…. Still very effective against left-handed hitters (.226), and his .252 overall average against ranked 36th in NL…. Pitched better for the Dodgers last season than he did for Washington in 2013, when he went 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA.

### The concerns: Right-handed hitters hit .320, .281 and .279 against him over the past three years…. His fastball, which averaged 87.7 mph last season, lost nearly 2 1/2 miles over the past three years and a mile from the previous year…. His walks per nine innings have increased, while his strikeouts have decreased…. Last year, batter made contact on 84 percent of all his pitches --- by far the worst of his career, and 91 percent of his strikes (also the worst), per fangraphs.com.

### Scouts’ views: “Fits as back of rotation guy. Relies on tricking hitters more than he used to. He would give you innings.” …. “He’s evolved and figured out how to pitch with less velocity. Veteran fourth or fifth starter who can keep you in the game.”... "At this stage, fifth starter at best."

### Hill: He’s still “very much an effective pitcher. Knows how to control the strike zone and with our big ballpark really knows how to utilize his surroundings. We felt he could be successful at Marlins Park.”...

### Couple other quick things: The Marlins might trade Haren if he wants to pitch only in Southern California. But the Angels have told their beat writers that they're not interested... If the Marlins trade Jones, Justin Bour would be the front-runner to be the backup first baseman.

CHATTER

### An associate of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Ross has never been a big fan of Rex Ryan (who’s expected to be fired by the Jets). The associate doesn’t completely rule him out as a candidate if Ross strikes out on Jim Harbaugh and others, but the odds are certainly against it.

### Dion Jordan, drafted third overall in 2013 primarily to rush the quarterback, said it is weighing on him that he doesn’t have a sack all year. “Not to get one [all season] would be a disappointment.”

But keep in mind that he has played just 180 snaps in eight games and was in pass coverage on 30 of those snaps. In his 84 pass rush chances, he has one hit and five hurries. As ESPN analyst and former Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik said, Jordan needs to keep working on his craft as a pass rusher.

### For those wondering if Al Golden might tire of all the negativity and leave for another job, don't count on that. Neither Pittsburgh nor any other program has asked for permission to speak to Golden, and UM doesn’t expect him to seek a job elsewhere.

### Golden said Ray Lewis III has been away from the team for awhile because he’s focusing on academics but remains on the roster.

### Brooklyn-based Jahair Jones, rated by 247sports.com as the 11th best junior college offensive tackle, orally committed to UM, according to canesport.com.

Also, Royal Palm Beach High Class of 2017 prospect Todd Centeio, a dual-threat quarterback in the mold of UM's Malik Rosier, orally committed to UM tonight.

### Go figure: A greater percentage of homes in Birmingham, Ala. (4.7 percent) watched The U: Part 2 on ESPN Saturday night than in Miami-Fort Lauderdale (3.3). Jacksonville ranked third among metered markets with a 3.0, with Greensboro fourth and Las Vegas fifth… ESPN’s first airing of The U: Part 2 was seen by 1.87 million viewers on Saturday, compared with 2.3 million for the debut of the first U documentary in 2009.

### Quote of the day, from Brad Kaaya: “I didn’t come here to go to Club Liv, or Live or how ever you say it. I came here to win championships.”

### Keep in mind Marcus Thornton as a potential backup shooting guard option for the Heat down the road. The Heat wanted to sign him this past offseason but he couldn’t agree to a buyout with the Celtics. A free agent next summer, he’s shooting 42.3 percent on threes.

### ESPN's Chris Brossard said the Heat has inquired about Charlotte shooting guard Lance Stephenson, who is being shopped, but Miami doesn't have enough appealing assets to offer... The Heat also probably doesn't have enough to snag center Greg Monroe, the type of big man who traditionally has appealed to Pat Riley. But Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said he hasn't spoken to any team about Monroe.

### The Heat has applied for a $2.65 million exception to replace Josh McRoberts, but receiving that exception from the NBA hinges on an indepedent physician declaring him out for the season. His agent and the Heat say he is expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz     

Tuesday morning: Marlins sign 1B Mike Morse and what it means

The Marlins filled their lone remaining major need of a busy offseason on Tuesday morning, agreeing with first baseman Mike Morse on a two-year, $16 million contract pending a physical, according to a source with direct knowledge.

Morse, a native of Fort Lauderdale who attended Nova High in Davie, hit .279 with 16 homers and 61 RBI in 131 games for the Giants last season.

He missed nearly all of September, as well as the Giants' wild card game and division playoff series, because of a strained oblique. But he hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning of the Giants' Game 5 series-clinching win against St. Louis in the National League Championship Series, then went 4 for 16 in the with four RBI in the World Series.

Morse, 32, is a career .281 hitter in 10 seasons with Washington, Seattle, Baltimore and San Francisco. He has 99 home runs and 333 RBI in 704 career games.

The Marlins believe he will be an upgrade over Garrett Jones, who hit .246 with 15 homers and 53 RBI last season. The Marlins will try to find a taker for Jones and his $5 million salary next season in the final year of a two-year deal.

If not, they could keep Jones as a backup first baseman and fourth outfielder.

Morse is a right-handed hitter, and the Marlins initially preferred to add a left-hander hitter, but ultimately deemed him the best available option.

Earlier this offseason, the Marlins were outbid for free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, who took the Chicago White Sox' two-year, $25 million offer instead of two years and $20 million from the Marlins.

They also had trade talks involving several first basemen, including Colorado’s Justin Morneau, Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez.

The Marlins very much liked Morneau but declined the Rockies’ request of pitcher Henderson Alvarez or Jarred Cosart.

Morse rebounded well last season after an injury-plagued 2013 season, in which he hit .215 with 13 homers and 27 RBI in 88 games for the Mariners and Orioles.

He was very good the two previous seasons for Washington, hitting .291 with 18 homers and 62 RBI in 102 games in 2012 and .303 with 31 homers and 95 RBI in 146 games in 2011.

Morse spent the first four seasons of his career with Seattle and the next four with Washington.

Morse figures to slide into the fourth hole in the Marlins’ lineup, behind Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, and ahead of Marcell Ozuna, Casey McGehee, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Adeiny Hechavaria and the pitcher.

The Marlins hope Morse will be a defensive improvement over Jones, who committed 13 errors last season.

Morse committed two errors in 84 games in the outfield for the Giants last season and three errors in 43 games at first base. (He also was used as a designated hitter in four interleague games).

Morse has missed substantial time with injuries throughout his career, including ailments involving his knee (very early in his career), shoulder, back, quadricep and oblique.

The Marlins' remaining off-season work includes signing another backup outfielder, agreeing to terms with several arbitration-eligible players including Steve Cishek and McGehee, and awaiting word from recently acquired pitcher Dan Haren, who hasn't told them if he plans to pitch for them or retire.  

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz           

12/15/2014

Monday afternoon: Notes; Philbin/coordinator comments; fallout after another Dolphins' season goes to waste

Quick 7 p.m. note: The Dolphins released third-string tight end Gator Hoskins and promoted tight end Gerell Robinson, a second-year player from Arizona State, to the 53-man roster.

#########################################################################################

Joe Philbin declined to say Monday if he expects to return as coach, but one thing is clear:

Stephen Ross has told confidantes he plans to explore the possibility of luring Jim Harbaugh from the 49ers if the Dolphins do not make the playoffs. Though the Dolphins haven’t been officially eliminated, they’re obviously not going to the playoffs.

Even if Ross doesn't get a sense that he has a chance to land Harbaugh, Philbin is still very much at risk, though it’s not yet certain if Philbin could somehow survive 9-7.

If Ross cannot lure Harbaugh, there’s no obvious second choice.

Ross has high regard for Tony Dungy, but Dungy has made clear he’s not returning to coaching. Ross also very much likes Jon Gruden, but Gruden tonight said he has signed an extension with ESPN through 2021.

Ross is expected to solicit input from a small inner circle including his New York-based sports executive (Matt Higgins), his president (Tom Garfinkel), special assistant Dan Marino, team consultant Mike Tannenbaum, and perhaps Carl Peterson (who has been less visible this season) and others that he respects around the league. In the past, he has sought counsel from Tony Dungy and Bill Polian.

As I noted two months ago, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tannenbaum recommended any of the clients that his agency represents, a group that includes Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.

It also wouldn’t be surprising if Tannenbaum gives Ross some positive feedback on Rex Ryan, who is widely expected to be fired by the Jets after the season. Tannenbaum and Ryan worked together with the Jets.

The Dolphins’ past three head coaching hires have been assistants. If Ross cannot lure Harbaugh but wants to hire an experienced coach, appealing college options would include Texas A&M’s Mike Sumlin and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn.

Sumlin denied overtures from NFL teams last offseason, and Malzahn --- when linked to the Cleveland Browns opening last offseason – insisted he was committed to staying at Auburn.

Here’s where the franchise stands after prolonged mediocrity:

### They have just one winning season in the past eight years (11-5 under Tony Sparano in 2008) and are 60-82 over those eight seasons and this one.

### They’ve had only one playoff appearances in the past 13 years. The past five seasons, before this one, ended 7-9, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9 and 8-8. These Dolphins are 7-7 with home games left against the Vikings and Jets.

### Since the 2001 season, the Dolphins have gone 103-119, compared with 169-53 for the Patriots, who have won the AFC East 12 of those 14 seasons.

On Monday, Philbin declined to say whether his body of work warrants a return.

“What my focus is and the team and staff is, this week, this is game 15, this is the 2014 season," he said. "What’s happened in the past certainly at some point in time is relevant, but right now what’s relevant is getting our team to play up to their potential for 60 minutes against the Minnesota Vikings. That’s really all that is important to me right now.”

He said he spoke with Ross in the aftermath Sunday and the focus of the conversation was the Patriots game. “He and I talked. We’ll talk again a number of times throughout the course of the week. We’re both disappointed in how the team performed in the second half.

“We just talked in general about the game. Anytime you are down by one point and you end up losing by 28 (points), if that’s the final number, there were some things we didn’t execute well enough. We didn’t perform well enough in the second half. We were both disappointed. Players were disappointed. Coaches are disappointed. Owners are disappointed. I think that’s understandable.”

Philbin said he’s not surprised that several players rose to his defense after the game because “we have an outstanding locker room. I think we have an excellent working relationship, our staff, with the players and the players with the staff. It’s a mutual thing. I’m not surprised.”

None of the Dolphins’ seven losses are against teams that currently have a losing record. Asked if most of the teams the Dolphins lost to simply have more talent, Philbin said: “I don’t believe that.”

So has the team underachieved?

“I go into every game thinking we’re going to win every single game,” Philbin said. “So I want to win every game that we play. Part of my job is to get the team to play up to their potential each and every week. So to that degree, certainly I feel like we could do better. And that’s a fact. But I’m not sitting, again, the season still has got two more weeks. There’s still more football to be played and we have to see how this thing finishes out.”

Asked if it’s difficult to focus on the final two games with his future in jeopardy, Philbin said: “You’re a professional. I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’m excited about getting team read for Vikings.”

Philbin’s challenge now is motivating a team with very little to play for.

"What I told the team yesterday is what we really have to do is keep our minds focused on playing a 60-minute football game because it’s obvious, we’re disappointed at the way we’ve played in the second half the last couple of weeks,” he said. “We certainly have to play 60 minutes…. That’s certainly one thing the last few weeks have proven. Winning in this league, I think we all know this, we haven’t demonstrated it enough this year, is playing a full game.”

On the motivation issue, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said: “You are dealing with professionals, guys that have a great deal of pride in what they do. We’ve got a great group of guys. I still believe in those guys. Hopefully we can play better and not make some of the mistakes we’ve been making down the stretch.”

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, asked if he has begun to reflect on the future and the uncertainty of this staff’s status, said “No. We’ve all done this too many times to let this thing affect us. We have to win a game this week. We are moving on – giving everything we have to the Minnesota Vikings. When they walk in the door, they will great our greatest effort to help get a W this week.”

### Among other things that troubled Philbin about Sunday’s 41-13 loss and in recent weeks: “There has been too much inconsistency, that’s for sure. When you look at yesterday’s game, in the second half, we went out there and obviously we had played relatively well on defense in the first half, but the opening drive we gave up a couple of explosive plays, big plays.

"We didn’t respond well on offense, we went three and out and I think we came up a yard or two short. Then they drove the ball down and kicked a field goal if I’m not mistaken. Then we had an interception on one play. So pretty quickly things turned against us, we got down by 18 and didn’t respond well offensively. We’ve got to find a way to make more plays. We didn’t complement each other as a football team in the second half the way we needed to. We didn’t make them work hard enough for some of their points.... [With rund defense], we had a couple fundamental things we didn’t do well the other day, schematically, certain things that need to be fixed.”

STRATEGY QUESTIONS

Two questionable strategy decisions during Sunday’s game:

### Why did Bill Lazor call a handoff to Lamar Miller on a third and six on the Patriots’ first possession, which preceded a blocked field goal, and on a third and three early in the second half, which also failed?

“I thought earlier in the season we ran the ball a little more on third down than at the midpoint in the season,” Lazor said. “When you find runs that you think are going to convert third downs into first downs, you should use them. The third and 6 run, third and 3 run at beginning of second half, we felt great about them. Both of them failed. That was disappointing.”

Also, considering Dion Jordan had success covering Rob Gronkowski in the past, why wasn’t he given that assignment more Sunday? Jordan played just 18 of Miami's 65 defensive snaps and just four or five with coverage on Gronkowski, according to Coyle. Jason Trusnik, Philip Wheeler and Jimmy Wilson were all beaten by Gronkowski in the second half.

Coyle said much of Gronkowski’s success came on early downs when “we don’t have substitution defense in. Deon did a very good job [when matched up with Gronkowski]. As I’ve tried to explain, situations explain who you have in the game based on what a team’s tendencies are."

### Miami’s depleted linebacker unit was shredded in pass coverage. Overall, Tom Brady completed 4 of 5 passes for 55 yards against Trusnik, 3 for 3 for 62 yards against Wheeler and 2 for 2 for 19 yards against Sheppard.

“They did a good job. They competed,” Coyle said. “Kelvin in his first real action did a good job. He was very active, tackled well. He was calling the defense."

### Wilson, who replaced injured Louis Delmas at safety, allowed four of four passes thrown against him for 74 yards and a touchdown.

### Tannehill completed 3 of 7 passes that were thrown 20 yards or more, for 104 yards. He entered the game 8 for 35 on those throws.

“Ryan had a number of deep balls as good as any we’ve seen him throw in games,” Lazor said. “It was a boost to hit one [to start]. He had some good ones. We thought we would have some opportunities for them. We have seen improvement in practice. We felt like it should be showing up in the game."

### Where in the world has this team’s pass rush gone? The Dolphins had no sacks “and we didn’t get to [Brady] enough," Coyle said. "We have to a do better job. He has only been sacked 18 times in the season.”

### Lazor, on Jarvis Landry: “Jarvis is rare. He’s exceptional in his approach for a young guy. This week, he proved he could learn to study particular DBs. The sky is the limit for Jarvis. I wasn’t surprised” that the Patriots often had Darrelle Revis on Landry.

### Lazor: For three quarters, “I thought we protected pretty well” before it fell apart. All four sacks were in the second half. “It’s our responsibility to keep the game the way we wanted. We started the second half poorly. Offensively, that’s where we failed.”

### Jamar Taylor, coming off a separated shoulder, did not play in the game, but Coyle indicated that was a coach's decision, not a health-driven decision.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

           

12/13/2014

Dolphins deluding themselves about defense: How to fix it; Marlins hot stove; Heat, Canes

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Dolphins for years have become very defensive when anyone suggests their defense might not be as good as they would like us to believe. After watching the past three opponents obliterate Miami for a combined 661 rushing yards, coordinator Kevin Coyle defiantly disputed the notion that his run defense isn’t as good as advertised, and Cam Wake insisted this slump does not “all of a sudden turn us into a bunch of bums.”

The Dolphins claim that the critical times they unravel --- in the fourth quarter against Green Bay, Detroit, Denver, in the first half against the Jets and second half against Baltimore --- are an anomaly.

But this seems to be a more accurate portrayal of who they are: a defense that can play quite well at times, such as the San Diego shellacking (good enough for Miami to rank sixth overall in yards allowed and tied for seventh in points allowed); but often shrinks in key moments against quality offenses; and a run defense that can no longer be trusted, considering Miami was 24th against the run in 2013 and 22nd this season.

Perhaps this Dolphins defense gets its act together Sunday against a Patriots team that’s third in the league in scoring. But if they’re steamrolled Sunday, it’s time the Dolphins admit this defense needs more than tinkering.

A look at where this unit stands and looming personnel issues for whoever ends up in charge here (which is very much in question):

### Defensive tackle: It’s increasingly likely that Randy Starks won’t return on a contract that has a $6 million hit if he’s on the team, $1 million if he’s not. During the past three weeks, Starks has graded out poorly against the run and doesn’t have a single pressure as a pass rusher.

What’s more, it’s highly questionable if the Dolphins will pay Jared Odrick what he could command elsewhere as a free agent. It’s telling that in Pro Football Focus rankings, the Dolphins don’t have a tackle that ranks in the top 30 against the run. Among 79 tackles, Earl Mitchell (who’s likely to return next season) is 32nd, Odrick 38th and Starks 77th. Paul Soliai, who left for Atlanta, is 22nd.

If Starks and Odrick move on, the Dolphins figure to sign a run-stuffer from a free agent class that includes Arizona’s Dan Williams (sixth among tackles against the run, per PFF), Denver’s Terrance Knighton (ninth), Detroit’s Nick Fairley (14th) and Atlanta’s Corey Peters (18th), among others.

The Dolphins then could add a third tackle in the draft. Mel Kiper’s top four tackle prospects: Washington’s Danny Shelton, FSU’s Eddie Goldman, Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips and Ohio State’s Michael Bennett.

### Defensive end: Except for restricted free agent Derrick Shelby, the other ends --- Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, Dion Jordan and Terrence Fede --- are signed for 2015. The question is whether Miami will ask Wake to rework a contract that carries a $9.7 million cap hit next season.

### Linebacker: This staff likes Koa Misi, who has a $4.4 million hit if he’s on the team, $1.7 million if he’s not. But Misi played poorly against Baltimore and is  at risk if Miami can upgrade, partly because of durability issues. Sunday would be the fifth game he would miss this season, – he’s listed as doubtful - and he hasn't been able to finish three others. Misi hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year.

The Dolphins’ other options in the middle? They could draft one high (Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney, UM’s Denzel Perryman and UCLA’s Eric Kendricks are Kiper’s top three) or pursue a free agent who excels against the run, such as Dallas’ Rolando McClain, Minnesota’s Jasper Brinkley or Buffalo’s Brandon Spikes.

Jelani Jenkins very likely will keep the weakside linebacker job ahead of Dannell Ellerbe, who has a $9.9 million hit if he’s on the team or $4.4 million otherwise. Ellerbe figures to take a pay cut or be cut.

The dilemma with Philip Wheeler --- who really needs to uplift a depleted linebacker unit on Sunday --- is that his cap hit is nearly as high if he’s cut ($4.2 million) as if he stays ($4.4 million).

The free agent class of 4-3 outside linebackers isn’t very good, but there are several high-end 4-3 outside linebacker draft prospects, including Clemson’s Vic Beasley and Oklahoma’s Eric Striker. Moving Jordan to Wheeler’s spot is an option, but Coyle has been opposed to that.

### Safety: Jimmy Wilson gets another shot as a starting safety over the next three games and it could be an audition. If Louis Delmas hadn’t suffered a torn ACL, there was a good chance Delmas would be asked back. Now, that’s in question, even though he should be healthy for training camp.

If the Dolphins move on from Delmas (who is ranked 47th of 86 safeties by PFF), they could turn to Wilson or free agent options such as New England’s Devin McCourty (ranked fourth; very pricey and could get the franchise tag), the Jets’ Dewan Landry (16th), the Colts’ Sergio Brown (22) and Denver’s Rahim Moore (35), among others.

### Cornerback: The Dolphins have gotten by despite injuries, but this needs to be addressed longterm. Beyond needing a reliable starter opposite Brent Grimes (Cortland Finnegan says he will play Sunday but is unlikely to be back in 2015), they also would be wise to at least give thought to the nickel corner spot.

Wilson has had some good moments as a nickel corner, but his passer rating against, during his snaps at cornerback, is 114.4, 95th among 113 corners.

It would be risky projecting Jamar Taylor or Will Davis as starters unless Taylor shines the next three weeks.

There’s a good group of free agent corners, and though the Patriots’ Darrelle Revis isn't a realistic option for Miami, there are others available, including San Diego’s Brandon Flowers (seventh), Houston’s Kareem Jackson (13th), Arizona’s Antonio Cromartie (21) and the 49ers’ Chris Culliver (12) and Perrish Cox (32), among others…. Kiper’s top cornerback prospects: Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre Olomu, Washington’s Marcus Peters and Michigan State’s Trae Waynes.

CHATTER

### The Marlins have been dangling Nathan Eovaldi in a trade for a first baseman, and entering the weekend, they were still exploring several first base options: free agent Michael Morse or trades for Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez (whose power they really like), Arizona’s Mark Trumbo, Colorado’s Justin Morneau and Baltimore’s Chris Davis.

They have continued conversations with Morse in recent days, and it wouldn't be at all surprising if a deal is struck. He appears to be the best realistic option.

The Marlins love Morneau, but declined Colorado’s initial request for Henderson Alvarez or Jarred Cosart.

### Pitcher Dan Haren hasn’t told the Marlins which way he’s leaning about retirement and the Marlins haven’t given him a deadline. But Haren did tell the Marlins they have a "great" young team.

### The Marlins were willing to part with top prospect Andrew Heaney in the Dodgers trade because they had lost some level of conviction about him after his seven big-league appearances.

“His confidence and mound presence were not there in the big leagues; he kind of looked like a deer in the headlights,” one Marlins official said.

### Though the Dodgers flipped Heaney to the Angels for All-Star second baseman Howie Kendrick, the Marlins preferred the offer of Haren (and $10 million from the Dodgers to pay Haren or somebody else) and All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon (with the Dodgers agreeing to cover his salary, too).

### Shabazz Napier, who was sent to the Heat's D-League team in South Dakota on Saturday, shot 8 for 26 in his past eight games and went scoreless in three of his past four. Though he had no turnovers in four of his past five games (a problem earlier in the season), he has struggled defensively. What's more, his minutes were dwindling (3, 13 and 9 the last three games).

The stint with the Sioux Falls team will allow him to play regular minutes and work on his game. Napier and Hassan Whiteside, who was also sent to Sioux Falls, will still count against the Heat's 15-man roster limit, as will guard Andre Dawkins, who was dispatched to South Dakota two weeks ago.

Whiteside's re-assignment suggests Chris Andersen is very close to returning from an ankle injury.

### The need for Luol Deng to play well for the Heat is underscored by the huge disparity in his play between wins and losses. He’s averaging 17.4 points and shooting 59 percent in wins, 11.1 and 39 percent in losses.

“Trust me, I know, and it’s upsetting,” he said. “My worst games are really our low assist games when we haven’t moved it as well. I barely do anything with the ball. Most of my stuff is without the ball and cutting and moving. It’s something we really need to address as a team.”

### Kiper said running back Duke Johnson should turn pro (which many expect) but left tackle Ereck Flowers would benefit from another year at UM.

Kiper projects Johnson going in the second or third round “because running backs fall down; that is the nature of the position.” As for Flowers, “he has tremendous ability. He’s a second or third round pick who could be a first by coming back.”

### Al Golden said he didn't plan to watch The U Part 2 with recruits on Saturday night because they had other planned activities... Offensive coordinator James Coley cleverly tweeted out The U Part Tres and a logo during the movie tonight.

### Golden, speaking Saturday on receiver Rashawn Scott, who redshirted this season because of a shoulder/clavicle injury:  "He is starting to understand who he is as a receiver --- play bigger, be a threat in the red zone, be a slant catcher. Hopefully he's going to settle into who he is. We missed him this year; he was a starter when he went down. I think he'll have a good contribution for us" in 2015.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

12/12/2014

Friday night Fins/Heat/UM items and a Q&A with Billy Corben on eve of Saturday night airing of UM documentary

A few quick hits on a Friday night, followed by our Q&A with Billy Corben:

### The Dolphins have a roster spot to fill after placing Anthony Johnson on IR tonight with an ankle injury sustained in practice Thursday. Johnson, an undrafted rookie from LSU, had played defensive snaps each of the past three games and 76 snaps for the season. 

### Dwyane Wade shook off an illness with 29 points and seven assists in tonight's 100-95 win at Utah, which sent Miami home with a 2-3 record on this road trip. At 11-12, the Heat returns for one home game (Chicago), goes back on the road to play Brooklyn on Tuesday, and then plays seven home games in a row.

"We're not close to where we want to be," Wade said. "We needed this win."

"We all appreciated he was out there," Erik Spoelstra said. "He was really weak, not able to eat anything in the past 24 hours except half a bowl of chicken noodle soup. It was tremendous. He dug deep."

Justin Hamilton, of all people, played key moments down the stretch, because Utah was playing a big lineup, and had nine points and four rebounds --- but also a foolish late-game foul --- in 29 minutes.  "He has good hands and also can space the floor and shoot the three," Spoelstra said.

McRoberts started in the absence of Josh McRoberts, who was ill.

Bosh had 22 and 9. The Heat missed 10 of 31 free throws but shot 50 percent from the field.

### As a selling point, UM defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio told recruits in recent days that Miami finished 15th in the country in defense.

"All that stuff is great," he said. "It's proof of improvement, big improvement. But we're looking for certain guys we want to go to the next level to be a dominant defense. There were certain games we did that this year, but we didn't do it the whole season. In order to do that you have to plug in the pieces, show kids where they fit, how they'll fit in the scheme and how they can impact our scheme starting next year. That's really what you're trying to do."

### UM is moving Marques Gayot from safety to linebacker but the staff feels it has enough at safety next season, with Deon Bush, Jamal Carter, injured Rayshawn Jenkins and Dallas Crawford returning and the addition of oral commitment JaQuan Johnson, the four-star Killian prospect.

Also, UM is one of three finalists, with Kentucky and Washington State, for Washington D.C. based four-star safety Marcus Lewis, according to rivals.com, which rates Lewis sixth among all safeties.

As for Gayot, D'Onofrio points out he is 10 pounds heavier than linebacker Jermaine Grace.

"We want to be fast, don't want to sacrifice speed because of scheme," D'Onofrio said. "So the way we play and the way we have it set up right now, we can play with a 200-pound WILL linebacker, 205-pound WILL linebacker. Marques is 210. I bet he's probably 220 in the future.

"We're just looking around and trying to gain flexibility, continue to gain athleticism because the way it is you're going to play a different [style of] offense every week. You want to be able to have flexibility in your scheme, get the best guys on the field."

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In our last post, we previewed The U Part 2, which airs on ESPN at 9 p.m. Saturday. We asked a few additional questions to the movie’s director, Billy Corben:

### What did you omit from the film because of time constraints that would wish you could have included?

“There were only a couple of things we were sorry we had to cut out. [The murder] of Marlin Barnes was one of them, in particular, because we spent some time on [the murder of] Bryan Pata.”

### Do you believe these two films help UM in recruiting?

"I know Randy Shannon is on the record saying what a help the first one was in recruiting. Countless times I heard stories that when they had prospects come into town, that they showed the movie on buses to recruits. I have heard from players on this Miami team that before they ever got offers from UM, they saw U documentary.”

### What kind of effort do you make to reach out to Nevin Shapiro?

"I spoke to [his attorney], Maria [Elena Perez] extensively – at the time, he was not available to communicate on or off the record or via email. I don’t know if I would have used a phone interview [even if Shapiro was permitted to do one]. Whenever we’re going to make a movie about someone, it’s only fair to give them an opportunity to be heard. I tried. I would have liked to have had opportunity to speak with him. She said I couldn’t.”

### Were the players comfortable talking about the Shapiro scandal?

“Some guys brought up Nevin themselves. Everybody was pretty cool about it.  Randy Phillips is about keeping it real. Nevin dragged him into this mess and then sold him out.”

### Does it bother you that UM refused to participate in either movie? I know you mentioned you requested interviews with Al Golden, Donna Shalala, Andrew Swasey and Art Kehoe.

“Much like the first time, it doesn’t matter. I put in requests with the athletic department and president’s office: I did it at the tail end of production. We started May 27. It was more of a formality [because he wasn’t optimistic UM would be agreeable]. We got a straight no after 24 hours. There was no reason given.”

When Corben started the project two years before the original movie aired in 2009, UM allowed him to shoot Miami’s final game in the Orange Bowl, the blowout loss to Virginia. After that, “UM stopped cooperating” without explanation.

### How did the sequel come about and how happy were you to get the green light from ESPN to do it?

“It’s the first 30 or 30 sequel. We wanted to tell this story from the very beginning. When we first pitched Hurricane Season --- and that was the original name [before it was renamed The U] --- it was the entire national championship history. But early on, we realized it was the teams of the 80s.

"Ever since 2009, we’ve been pitching the sequel and they had been saying no, no in part because they hadn’t been doing sequels. They came to us very late last year, very early this year and said, ‘Are you guys interested?’ They rejected it in 09, 2010. We had given up on it. The fact we always wanted to do it and to come back with this opportunity is amazing and really gratifying. I hope we make it a trilogy.”

### Who did you find particularly insightful of the 22 interview subjects?

"I enjoyed Butch Davis. It was a great time talking to him. He had left on such a sour note. You get a sense from him like interviewing Jimmy Johnson, the spark in him that makes him such a sensational football coach. Sanction wise, for Butch, it was far more difficult than what we experienced in recent years."

### We started talking about a scene in which Ray Lewis was yelling at teammates, even though Miami was winning at FSU, because UM wasn't winning by enough.

“The leadership you see," Corben said, "there’s a real lack of that today. How they dealt with each other. How they demanded success with each other. You see that in most successful structures. They just had not only a ridiculous amount of talent but they had young men of great character. That is completely night and day attitude from the Hurricanes we saw against Pitt. It’s striking.”

### You included a quick reference to the season-ending losses to Virginia and Pittsburgh. Did you expect to include this season when you started the project?

“We always planned to have this reference to this season. We just didn’t expect it to go this poorly. If there’s any ray of hope, it’s Brad Kaaya. I’m sorry this was the generation Duke Johnson had to play for. He was a Cane of another generation. This kid shouldn’t take another blow for this program.

“It’s the same end as the last movie. Parallels between 1995 and today are creatively sound but not entirely accurate. Sanctions were far worse in ‘95, but this is much more difficult a task Al Golden has today because of the nature of college football.

"The cyclical nature of Hurricanes national championship history was really what gives you hope for the future. [But] there is no getting back. These players and coaches are gone. There’s a different logo and different venue.

“Can you win again? That’s a fair question. But you never get it back. That doesn’t happen. Those players, that era, has long since ended and big time college football has passed UM by. That’s the perception. Unfortunately, that may be the perception of too many recruits and high school coaches.”

### Everybody knows Billy Corben has strong opinions on UM sports. As a UM grad, do you root for Hurricanes sports teams? And where do you stand on the Al Golden issue?

“I’m a passionate advocate of University of Miami college athletes. I am not a blind faith supporter of the administration and coaching staff. I root for the team and those kids. What the university administration put the college athletes through with the Nevin Shapiro thing was a crime.

"It's their mission to protect its students and student athletes. Coaches went into living rooms and told parents to send your kids with us. They are saying we’ll take care of your kid. They exposed them to this criminal who was able to buy access to them. And then first chance they got, they threw them under the bus.

“I don’t advocate Golden’s firing. I have not been this frustrated with a Hurricanes coach since the last coach and the one before that. I am not an advocate that firing anybody is a cure all. New coach, then you have to give them a few years to fix what we perceive as the previous guy’s mess. [But] there has to be at least some Coker-esque massacre of assistants in the interest of self-preservation. He’s got to do something.”

### Are you pessimistic about the program’s future?

“I’m realistic. It is not now nor has it ever been a football school. What happened before happened despite the administration. The football program became an ATM machine. They are not willing to invest anymore. They are content to keeping players out of trouble, graduating. But how do you fault an academic institution for focusing on academics? They have plenty of money; they are just not investing it in football.

“The University of Miami is not willing to make an investment in the multimillion dollar industry that is college football today. They are content with their current profit margins.”

 Twitter: @flasportsbuzz