August 25, 2016

Thursday 2 p.m.: UM scrimmage insight; NFL/Dolphins media notes; College football TV schedule

UM coach Mark Richt didn't reveal a ton about today's scrimmage, but here are some details, courtesy of Richt and another UM official in attendance:

• Brad Kaaya threw the ball well, and at least one of his interceptions to Romeo Finley wasn't his fault. Finley had two picks off Kaaya, one the result of a deflection that hit a tight end in the hands. The ball bounced into the arms of Finley when the intended receiver was hit hard. 

Finley was playing the role of a FAMU safety. The scrimmage pitted UM's offense and defense against the scout team, with UM's scout team players wearing FAMU numbers in advance of Miami's Sept. 3 opener at Hard Rock Stadium.

The scout team was given a 28-0 lead by the coaching staff, with UM's offense and defense forced to rally. UM drew to within three, but couldn't make up the entire deficit partly because of the late Kaaya interception that wasn't his fault.

The other Finley interception also was deflected, according to someone in attendance. At least one of those picks went off David Njoku.

• Njoku made a couple of great catches today, including one that was SportsCenter worthy.

• Mark Walton had a long touchdown run on a screen pass in which he cut back across the field. 

Overall, UM ran the ball well today.

• Ahmmon Richards started in three-receiver sets. He dropped a pass but also had some good moments and did a good job blocking.

• Richard McIntosh and Kendrick Norton were against disruptive. They've been UM's first-team defensive tackles for three weeks.

• Jaquan Johnson continues to work in the slot in nickel packages. Adrian Colbert and Sheldrick Redwine continue their battle to start opposite Corn Elder.

• Safeties Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins administered several hard hits today. Coaches have liked how they've played all camp.

• Even with the possibility of suspensions for Stacy Coley, Al Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace, that hasn't affected their playing time during scrimmages. They're still getting considerable work (with the first team, of course).

• Linebacker Jamie Gordinier, battling Mike Pinckney at weakside linebacker, continues to usually be in the right spot at the right time.

• There were too many turnovers today (four) and penalties remain an issue. We hear the scrimmage began today with a false start penalty on the offensive line. There was also a targeting call when a defensive lineman hit Kaaya.

And Richt said the ball got knocked out "at least twice."

• Malik Rosier and Vincent Testaverde, batting for the No. 2 quarterback job, did not play, according to Richt.

MEDIA NOTES

• Mike Tirico works tonight's Dolphins-Falcons preseason game on NBC, with Cris Collinsworth, and this was supposed to be NBC's Thursday night booth for nine November/December games.

But it won't be, because of a ridiculous decision by the NFL to force NBC to use its Sunday night booth (Al Michaels and Collinsworth) on Thursday games, as well.

NBC hired Tirico away from ESPN believing that the NFL wouldn't make an issue of Tirico working the Thursday games, because of Tirico's cache and experience calling Monday Night Football for a decade.

But the NFL said NBC was awarded the package with the understanding that it would use its lead announcing team. The NFL says it is not favoring Michaels over Tirico, and that NBC reserves the right to use whoever it wants in the booth on Sunday nights --- as long as it promises to use the same announcers on Thursday nights.

And with Michaels under contract and still on top of his game, there was no way NBC would (or should) replace Michaels with Tirico on Sunday nights.

So Tirico is left without NFL games this season, beyond two preseason games in the next four days. And Michaels, 71, who had no interest in adding to his workload with a Thursday package, is essentially forced to call the Thursday games.

Shame on the NFL for not compromising.

• CBS released its NFL announcing assignments for the first month of games, and the Dolphins have been assigned CBS' No. 2, No. 3, No. 5 and No. 1 teams. The assignments:

Dolphins-Seahawks Sept. 11: No. 2 team Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts

Dolphins-Patriots Sept. 18: No. 3 team Greg Gumbel, Trent Green

Browns-Dolphins Sept. 25: No. 5 team Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots

Dolphins-Bengals Thursday Sept. 29: No. 1 team Jim Nantz, Phil Simms (This one is airing only on NFL Network and not on CBS nationally, but CBS produces the game as part of its Thursday package during the first half of the season.)

• Jason Taylor joins Adam Kuperstein for NBC 6's Dolphins pre-game show at 7:30 tonight.

• For those who sometimes question Pro Football Focus' metrics (and we run a lot of them in this space), it's interesting to note that 24 NFL teams and 15 college teams are paying PFF for their analytics, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Collinsworth is a part-owner in the site.

• For this season's college football TV schedule, please click our post here from a couple hours ago. This lists where and when to find all the early-season games, plus key games later in the season. The season opens Friday.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 

This season's college football TV schedule unveiled

College football season starts in less than 48 hours, and for those eager to plan their fall Saturdays (and Thursdays, and other days), here's a look at the games that have already have claimed by television networks.

Keep in mind that most games beginning Sept. 24 will be chosen by networks about two weeks in advance. And our thanks to fbschedules.com and ESPN.com for this information.

 

Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Matchup Time (ET) TV / Online
Cal vs. Hawaii (at Sydney, Australia) 10:00 pm ESPN / WatchESPN

Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016

Matchup Time (ET) TV / Online
Charlotte at Louisville 7:00 pm RSN / ESPN3
Maine at UConn 7:00 pm ASN / ESPN3
Presbyterian at Central Michigan 7:00 pm ESPN3
Tulane at Wake Forest 7:00 pm ESPN3
UT Martin at Cincinnati 7:00 pm ESPN3
Appalachian State at Tennessee 7:30 pm SECN / WatchESPN
Indiana at FIU 7:30 pm ESPNU / WatchESPN
William & Mary at NC State 7:30 pm ESPN3
Jackson State at UNLV 8:00 pm MWN
Rice at WKU 8:00 pm CBSSN
South Carolina at Vanderbilt 8:00 pm ESPN / WatchESPN
Southern Utah at Utah 8:00 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
Montana State at Idaho 9:00 pm ITVSN / ESPN3
Oregon State at Minnesota 9:00 pm BTN / BTN2Go
South Dakota at New Mexico 9:00 pm ROOT Sports
Weber State at Utah State 10:00 pm MWN
Friday, September 2nd
Army at Temple 6:00 pm CBSSN / CBSSN Video
Furman at Michigan State 6:00 pm BTN / BTN2Go Video
Northwestern State at Baylor 6:30 pm FSN Affiliates / FSGo Video
Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver) 7:00 pm ESPN / WatchESPN
Kansas State at Stanford 8:00 pm FS1 / FSGo Video
Toledo at Arkansas State 8:00 pm ESPNU / WatchESPN

 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 3


Matchup Time (ET) TV / Online
MVSU at Eastern Michigan 6:00 pm ESPN3
Albany at Buffalo 7:00 pm ESPN3
Army at Temple 7:00 pm CBSSN
Ball State at Georgia State 7:00 pm ASN / ESPN3
Colgate at Syracuse 7:00 pm ESPN3
Furman at Michigan State 7:00 pm BTN / BTN2Go
Northwestern State at Baylor 7:30 pm FSN / FS Go
Colorado vs. Colorado State (at Denver) 8:00 pm ESPN / WatchESPN
Kansas State at Stanford 9:00 pm FS1 / FS Go
Toledo at Arkansas State 9:00 pm ESPNU / WatchESPN
Cal Poly at Nevada 9:30 pm
Matchup Time (ET) TV / Online
Georgia Tech vs. Boston College (at Ireland) 7:30 am ESPN2 / WatchESPN
Boise State at UL Lafayette Noon ASN / ESPN3
Bowling Green at Ohio State Noon BTN / BTN2Go
EKU at Purdue Noon ESPNews / WatchESPN
Fordham at Navy Noon CBSSN
Hawaii at Michigan Noon ESPN / WatchESPN
Howard at Maryland Noon BTN / BTN2Go
Missouri at West Virginia Noon FS1 / FS Go
Oklahoma vs. Houston (at NRG Stadium) Noon ABC / WatchESPN
South Alabama at Mississippi State Noon SECN / WatchESPN
Western Michigan at Northwestern Noon ESPNU / WatchESPN
Liberty at Virginia Tech 12:30 pm ACCN / ESPN3
Villanova at Pittsburgh 1:30 pm ESPN3
Abilene Christian at Air Force 2:00 pm MWN
Rutgers at Washington 2:00 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
Kent State at Penn State 3:30 pm BTN / BTN2Go
LSU vs. Wisconsin (at Green Bay) 3:30 pm ABC / WatchESPN
Miami, OH at Iowa 3:30 pm ESPNU / WatchESPN
Murray State at Illinois 3:30 pm BTN / BTN2Go
Richmond at Virginia 3:30 pm ESPN3
SE Louisiana at Oklahoma State 3:30 pm FSN / FS Go
Texas State at Ohio 3:30 pm CBSSN
UCLA at Texas A&M 3:30 pm CBS / CBSSports.com
Louisiana Tech at Arkansas 4:00 pm SECN / WatchESPN
UC Davis at Oregon 5:00 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
Georgia vs. North Carolina (at Atlanta) 5:30 pm ESPN / WatchESPN
Austin Peay at Troy 6:00 pm ESPN3
Florida A&M at Miami, FL 6:00 pm ESPN3
Hampton at Old Dominion 6:00 pm TBA
NC Central at Duke 6:00 pm ESPN3
Savannah State at Georgia Southern 6:00 pm ESPN3
Southern Illinois at Florida Atlantic 6:00 pm CUSA.tv
Western Carolina at East Carolina 6:00 pm ESPN3
VMI at Akron 6:30 pm ESPN3
Alabama A&M at Middle Tennessee 7:00 pm TBA
Alabama State at UTSA 7:00 pm KMYS-CW 35
Rhode Island at Kansas 7:00 pm Jayhawk TV
San Jose State at Tulsa 7:00 pm CBSSN
SE Missouri State at Memphis 7:00 pm ESPN3
SMU at North Texas 7:00 pm ASN
South Carolina State at UCF 7:00 pm ESPN3
Southern at ULM 7:00 pm ESPN3
Towson at USF 7:00 pm ESPN3
Southern Miss at Kentucky 7:30 pm ESPNU / WatchESPN
UMass at Florida 7:30 pm SECN / WatchESPN
EWU at Washington State 8:00 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
Fresno State at Nebraska 8:00 pm BTN / BTN2Go
New Mexico State at UTEP 8:00 pm beIN SPORTS
Northern Iowa at Iowa State 8:00 pm Cyclones.tv
South Dakota State at TCU 8:00 pm FSN / FS Go
Stephen F. Austin at Texas Tech 8:00 pm FSN / FS Go
USC vs. Alabama (at Arlington) 8:00 pm ABC / WatchESPN
New Hampshire at San Diego State 8:30 pm TBA
Clemson at Auburn 9:00 pm ESPN / WatchESPN
Arizona vs. BYU (at Glendale) 10:30 pm FS1 / FS Go
Northern Illinois at Wyoming 10:30 pm CBSSN
Northern Arizona at Arizona State 10:45 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016
Matchup Time (ET) TV / Online
Notre Dame at Texas 7:30 pm ABC / WatchESPN
Monday, Sept. 5, 2016
Matchup Time (ET) TV / Online
Ole Miss vs. Florida State (at Orlando) 8:00 pm ESPN / WatchESPN
Friday, Sept. 9, 2016
Matchup Time (ET) TV / Online
Maryland at FIU 7:30 pm CBSSN
Louisville at Syracuse 8:00 pm ESPN2 / WatchESPN
Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016
Matchup
Boston College at UMass Noon ESPN3
Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Noon FS1 / FS Go
Cincinnati at Purdue Noon BTN / BTN2Go
Howard at Rutgers Noon BTN / BTN2Go
Indiana State at Minnesota Noon ESPNews / WatchESPN
NC State at East Carolina Noon ESPNU / WatchESPN
Nicholls State at Georgia Noon SECN / WatchESPN
Penn State at Pittsburgh Noon ABC or ESPN
Prairie View A&M at Texas A&M Noon SECN Alt. / WatchESPN
Rice at Army Noon CBSSN
UCF at Michigan Noon ABC or ESPN
Wyoming at Nebraska Noon ESPN2 / WatchESPN
Charleston Southern at Florida State 12:30 pm RSN / ESPN3
Troy at Clemson 12:30 pm ACCN / ESPN3
Lamar at Houston 1:00 pm ESPN3
Stony Brook at Temple 1:00 pm ESPN3
Georgia State at Air Force 2:00 pm MWN
Utah State at USC 2:00 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
Youngstown State at West Virginia 2:00 pm TBA
Ohio at Kansas 2:30 pm FSN / FS Go
Mercer at Georgia Tech 3:00 pm ESPN3
North Dakota at Bowling Green 3:30 pm ASN / ESPN3
Akron at Wisconsin 3:30 pm BTN / BTN2Go
Eastern Illinois at Miami, OH 3:30 pm ESPN3
Illinois State at Northwestern 3:30 pm BTN / BTN2Go
Kentucky at Florida 3:30 pm CBS / CBSSports.com
Nevada at Notre Dame 3:30 pm NBC / NBCSports.com
Old Dominion at Appalachian State 3:30 pm ASN / ESPN3
SMU at Baylor 3:30 pm FS1 / FS Go
Tulsa at Ohio State 3:30 pm ABC / WatchESPN
UConn at Navy 3:30 pm CBSSN
Wake Forest at Duke 3:30 pm ESPNU / WatchESPN
Western Kentucky at Alabama 3:30 pm ESPN2 / WatchESPN
Ball State at Indiana 4:00 pm ESPNews / WatchESPN
Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt 4:00 pm SECN Alt. / WatchESPN
UTSA at Colorado State 4:00 pm MWN
Wofford at Ole Miss 4:00 pm SECN / WatchESPN
Portland State at San Jose State 4:30 pm TBA
Idaho at Washington 5:00 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
Idaho State at Colorado 5:30 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
Elon at Charlotte 6:00 pm CUSA.tv
Florida Atlantic at Miami, FL 6:00 pm ESPN3
Morgan State at Marshall 6:00 pm beIN SPORTS
North Carolina A&T at Kent State 6:00 pm ESPN3
Arkansas at TCU 7:00 pm ESPN/ESPN2
Bethune Cookman at North Texas 7:00 pm C-USA.tv
Maine at Toledo 7:00 pm ESPN3
Georgia Southern at South Alabama 7:00 pm ASN / ESPN3
McNeese State at UL Lafayette 7:00 pm ESPN3
NC Central at Western Michigan 7:00 pm ESPN3
Northern Illinois at USF 7:00 pm CBSSN
Savannah State at Southern Miss 7:00 pm TBA
SC State at Louisiana Tech 7:00 pm CUSA.tv
South Carolina at Mississippi State 7:00 pm ESPN/ESPN2
ULM at Oklahoma 7:00 pm FS OK
UTEP at Texas 7:00 pm LHN / WatchESPN
Arkansas State at Auburn 7:30 pm SECN / WatchESPN
BYU at Utah 7:30 pm FOX
Eastern Michigan at Missouri 7:30 pm SECN Alt. / WatchESPN
Iowa State at Iowa 7:30 pm BTN / BTN2Go
Jacksonville State at LSU 7:30 pm ESPNU / WatchESPN
North Carolina at Illinois 7:30 pm BTN / BTN2Go
New Mexico at New Mexico State 8:00 pm AggieVision / ESPN3
Southern at Tulane 8:00 pm ESPN3
Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (at Bristol) 8:00 pm ABC / WatchESPN
UNLV at UCLA 8:00 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
Sacramento State at Fresno State 10:00 pm TBA
Texas Tech at Arizona State 10:00 pm FS1 / FS Go
Washington State at Boise State 10:15 pm ESPN2 / WatchESPN
California at San Diego State 10:30 pm CBSSN
Virginia at Oregon 10:30 pm ESPN / WatchESPN
Grambling State at Arizona 10:45 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
UT Martin at Hawaii 11:59 pm TBA

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016

Matchup Time (ET) TV / Online
Houston at Cincinnati 7:30 pm ESPN / WatchESPN

Friday, Sept. 16, 2016

Matchup Time (ET) TV / Online
Baylor at Rice 8:00 pm ESPN / WatchESPN
Arkansas State at Utah State 9:00 pm CBSSN
Arizona State at UTSA 9:30 pm ESPN2 / WatchESPN

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016

Matchup
Akron at Marshall Noon CBSSN
Florida State at Louisville Noon ABC / WatchESPN
Georgia State at Wisconsin Noon BTN / BTN2Go
Iowa State at TCU Noon FS1 / FS Go
Kansas at Memphis Noon ESPNU / WatchESPN
Miami, FL at Appalachian State Noon ESPN/ESPN2
Middle Tennessee at Bowling Green Noon ESPN3
New Mexico at Rutgers Noon ESPNews / WatchESPN
North Dakota State at Iowa Noon ESPN2 / WatchESPN
Ohio at Tennessee Noon SECN / WatchESPN
South Carolina State at Clemson Noon RSN / ESPN3
Temple at Penn State Noon BTN / BTN2Go
Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech 12:30 pm ACCN / ESPN3
Virginia at UConn 1:30 pm SNY / ESPN3
Idaho at Washington State 2:00 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
North Carolina A&T at Tulsa 2:00 pm
MWN
Florida Atlantic at Kansas State 2:30 pm FSN / FS Go
Eastern Kentucky at Ball State 3:00 pm ESPN3
Fresno State at Toledo 3:00 pm ESPN3
UNLV at Central Michigan 3:00 pm ESPN3
Alabama at Ole Miss 3:30 pm CBS / CBSSports.com
Boston College at Virginia Tech 3:30 pm ESPNU / WatchESPN
Colorado at Michigan 3:30 pm BTN / BTN2Go
FIU at UMass 3:30 pm TBA
James Madison at North Carolina 3:30 pm RSN / ESPN3
Monmouth at Kent State 3:30 pm ESPN3
Oregon at Nebraska 3:30 pm ABC / WatchESPN
Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State 3:30 pm ESPN / WatchESPN
San Diego State at Northern Illinois 3:30 pm CBSSN
USF at Syracuse 3:30 pm ESPN3
Western Kentucky at Miami, OH 3:30 pm ESPN3
East Carolina at South Carolina 4:00 pm SECN / WatchESPN
New Mexico State at Kentucky 4:00 pm SECN Alt. / WatchESPN
Northern Colorado at Colorado State 4:00 pm ROOT Sports
UC Davis at Wyoming 4:00 pm WyoVision
Western Michigan at Illinois 4:00 pm ESPNews / WatchESPN
Idaho State at Oregon State 5:00 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
Eastern Michigan at Charlotte 6:00 pm CUSA.tv
Old Dominion at NC State 6:00 pm ESPN3
ULM at Georgia Southern 6:00 pm ESPN3
Delaware at Wake Forest 6:30 pm ESPN3
Army at UTEP 7:00 pm ASN
Liberty at SMU 7:00 pm ESPN3
Louisiana Tech at Texas Tech 7:00 pm FSN / FS Go
Maryland at UCF 7:00 pm CBSSN
Mississippi State at LSU 7:00 pm ESPN/ESPN2
Navy at Tulane 7:00 pm ESPN3
South Alabama at UL Lafayette 7:00 pm ESPN3
Texas A&M at Auburn 7:00 pm ESPN/ESPN2
Troy at Southern Miss 7:00 pm beIN SPORTS
Georgia at Missouri 7:30 pm SECN / WatchESPN
Michigan State at Notre Dame 7:30 pm NBC / NBCSports.com
North Texas at Florida 7:30 pm ESPNU / WatchESPN
Ohio State at Oklahoma 7:30 pm FOX / FS Go
Texas State at Arkansas 7:30 pm SECN Alt. / WatchESPN
Duke at Northwestern 8:00 pm BTN / BTN2Go
Portland State at Washington 8:00 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com
USC at Stanford 8:00 pm ABC / WatchESPN
Buffalo at Nevada 9:00 pm MWN
UCLA at BYU 10:15 pm ESPN or ESPN2
Texas at California 10:30 pm ESPN/ESPN2
Utah at San Jose State 10:30 pm CBSSN
Hawaii at Arizona 10:45 pm Pac-12N / Pac-12.com

 

Thu, Sep, 22 #2 Clemson at Georgia Tech 7:30 PM
 
Fri, Sep, 23 #13 TCU at SMU 8:00 PM
 
Sat, Sep, 24 Mississippi State at Massachusetts 3:30 PM ESPN 3  
Thu, Sep, 29 Connecticut at #15 Houston 8:00 PM
 
Fri, Sep, 30 #8 Stanford at #14 Washington 9:00 PM
 
Fri, Sep, 30 Toledo at BYU 10:15 PM
Wed, Oct, 5 Georgia Southern at Arkansas State 8:00 PM
 
Thu, Oct, 6 Temple at Memphis 8:00 PM
 
Fri, Oct, 7 #2 Clemson at Boston College 7:30 PM
 
Fri, Oct, 7 Tulane at UCF 8:00 PM

 
Fri, Oct, 7 SMU at Tulsa 8:00 PM

 
Sat, Oct, 8 #7 Michigan at Rutgers TBA


 
Wed, Oct, 12 Appalachian State at Louisiana Lafayette 8:00 PM
 
Thu, Oct, 13 Navy at East Carolina 7:30 PM
 
Fri, Oct, 14 Duke at #19 Louisville 7:00 PM
 
Fri, Oct, 14 Memphis at Tulane 8:00 PM
 
Fri, Oct, 14 Mississippi State at BYU 10:15 PM
 
Sat, Oct, 15 Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee 2:30 PM ESPN 3  
Sat, Oct, 15 #6 Ohio State at Wisconsin 8:00 PM


 
Thu, Oct, 20 Miami at Virginia Tech 7:00
Sat, Nov, 12 #7 Michigan at #17 Iowa 8:00 PM


 
Tue, Nov, 15 Kent State at Bowling Green TBA

 
Tue, Nov, 15 Ohio at Central Michigan TBA

 
Wed, Nov, 16 Northern Illinois at Eastern Michigan TBA

 
Wed, Nov, 16 Ball State at Toledo 7:00 PM

 
Thu, Nov, 17 #19 Louisville at #15 Houston 8:00 PM
 
Thu, Nov, 17 Arkansas State at Troy 9:30 PM
 
Fri, Nov, 18 UNLV at Boise State 9:00 PM
 
Sat, Nov, 19 UTEP at Rice 12:00 PM ESPN 3  
Sat, Nov, 19 Middle Tennessee at Charlotte 2:00 PM ESPN 3  
Tue, Nov, 22 Akron at Ohio 7:00 PM
 
Tue, Nov, 22 Ball State at Miami (OH) 7:00 PM
 
Tue, Nov, 22 Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan 7:00 PM
 
Thu, Nov, 24 #5 LSU at Texas A&M 7:30 PM
 
Fri, Nov, 25 #23 Baylor vs Texas Tech 6:00 PM
 
Fri, Nov, 25 Arizona State at Arizona 9:30 PM
 
PM

Tue, Nov, 1 Bowling Green at Northern Illinois 8:00 PM

 
Tue, Nov, 1 Western Michigan at Ball State 8:00 PM

 
Wed, Nov, 2 Toledo at Akron 7:30 PM
 
Thu, Nov, 3 #3 Oklahoma at Iowa State 7:30 PM
 
Thu, Nov, 3 Arkansas State at Georgia State 7:30 PM
 
Fri, Nov, 4 Temple at Connecticut 7:00 PM
 
Fri, Nov, 4 San José State at Boise State 10:15 PM
 
Sat, Nov, 5 Texas San Antonio at Middle Tennessee 2:30 PM ESPN 3  
Sat, Nov, 5 Florida Atlantic at Rice 3:30 PM ESPN 3  
Sat, Nov, 5 Louisiana Tech at North Texas 5:30 PM ESPN 3  
Sat, Nov, 5 Nebraska at #6 Ohio State 8:00 PM


 
Wed, Nov, 9 Toledo vs Northern Illinois 8:00 PM

 
Thu, Nov, 10 #22 North Carolina at Duke 7:30 PM
 
Thu, Nov, 10 Louisiana Lafayette at Georgia Southern 7:30 PM
 
Fri, Nov, 11 Boston College at #4 Florida State 7:30 PM
 
Sat, Nov, 12 North Texas at Western Kentucky 3:30 PM ESPN 3  

 

 

August 24, 2016

Dolphins draft picks, developmental players in jeopardy as cut-downs loom; Marlins, Heat notes

 

One of the toughest decisions for an NFL team is determining when to give up on draft picks and undrafted developmental success stories. The Dolphins have a bunch of them who stand at risk with roster cut-downs looming, to 75 on Tuesday and 53 on Sept. 3.

Among them, and updating battles at their positions:

• Chris McCain and Terrence Fede; defensive line. If Miami keeps nine linemen, which coordinator Vance Joseph hinted was likely, then Chris Jones, Terrence Fede, Chris McCain and emerging underdog Julius Warmsley are battling for two jobs. All except McCain can play defensive tackle.

Jones logged Miami’s second-most snaps on defense against Dallas (behind cornerback Tony Lippett) and two strong games should earn him a roster spot. He has drawn praise from coaches throughout camp but needs to close preseason well.

McCain – a skilled pass rusher -- played a lot on special teams against Dallas but had only 12 defensive snaps (compared to 30 for Fede) and Joseph said “he's got to play the run better as far as setting the edge.” McCain said he needed the special teams work (more than usual) to show he can handle it.

McCain said this week he feels very good about his chances of making the team. "I haven't had any bad feedback."

Fede has value because he can play both end and tackle, but he hasn't flashed as much as a pass-rusher during this camp/preseason as he did last August.

The Dolphins don’t need to create a spot on the 53 for Dion Jordan until he is activated from NFI, potentially in September.

The Dolphins could stash McCain, Fede or Warmsley on the practice squad, but another team could claim McCain.

• Jamil Douglas; offensive line. The Dolphins’ opening-day starter at guard in 2015 stands behind undrafted Anthony Steen at backup center and seems unlikely to stick.

If Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas make the 53 (likely), that leaves probably three more spots among Steen, Jermon Bushrod, Kraig Urbik, Sam Young and long-shots Douglas, Ulrick John and Vinston Painter.

To me, the decision comes down to Urbik and Young, because Bushrod has value as an experienced left tackle and guard and Steen is needed as the backup center, unless he flops the next two weeks.

• Damien Williams; running back. This could be one of the toughest calls, because of Isaiah Pead’s impressive work. Pead has done enough to stick unless he totally bombs the next two games. The fact Miami wants to get him some first-team work against Atlanta is telling.

The easiest solution? Place Kenyan Drake on short-term injured reserve (eight games) and open the season with Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi, Pead and Williams. As we reported in the previous blog, Drake, back from a hamstring injury, said Tuesday that short-term IR is “not a possibility. Period.” But this isn’t Drake’s decision. The Dolphins can do what they want with this.

Williams hasn’t shown a ton in preseason, but Gase keeps raving him “because he’s a big man that can run really fast and catch the ball.” Gase mentioned a practice sequence last week where Williams told the coach he wanted the ball and then made a big play. Williams has value as a receiver out of the backfield, and his special teams work is generally good, but his 3.5 career average (on 52 carries) is pretty mediocre.

Regardless, it looks likely that Miami will keep four backs.

• Brandon Doughty; quarterback: There is internal sentiment to keeping the rookie seventh-rounder as a third quarterback – coaches really like him. If Doughty plays well the next two games, it would be risky to try to sneak him onto the practice squad.

And Matt Moore's concussion (timetable for a return undetermined) could create an additional reason to keep a third quarterback.

• Thomas Duarte; tight end. Practice squad seems more likely for the seventh rounder, whose blocking error led to Matt Darr’s blocked punt Friday.

Gase said “we need somebody to step up” among the group of middling No. 3 tight ends, including Duarte, MarQuies Gray, Dominique Jones and Gabe Hughes. That group, Gase said, "is clumped in together."

• Matt Hazel; receiver. Caught a touchdown in the preseason opener, but odds are against him.

Jakeem Grant and Leonte Carroo are on the team. Hazel or Griff Whalen will need to show a lot (or an injury arise) to justify either sticking as a No. 6. Whalen did well in the offseason program when he got first-team work; he and Ryan Tannehill seemed to develop a good chemistry. But Whalen hasn't had that opportunity in preseason and isn't sure if he will.

One thing that could help Hazel or Whalen: If the Dolphins believe neither Carroo nor Grant is ready for a regular workload as a No. 4 receiver. Carroo is coming along slowly, and Gase said he doesn't want to overburden his returner (very likely Grant).

• Zach Vigil/Neville Hewitt/Mike Hull; linebacker. Their circumstances have changed since they signed as undrafted discoveries 15 months ago.

Vigil remains sidelined with a back problem and is unlikely to start the season on the 53; Hewitt is an asset on special teams and has a good chance to stick and Hull has helped his chances the past two weeks, though he still has work to do to make the roster. Spencer Paysinger will likely be on the team, and James Michael Johnson could stick unless the Dolphins can find a better option on waivers in the next two weeks.

• Sixth-round rookie cornerback Jordan Lucas and impressive undrafted rookie safety AJ Hendy. Both seem likely for the practice squad, with Brandon Harris, Chimdi Chekwa or someone currently on another roster better equipped for the No. 5 corner job and Walt Aikens (very good on special teams) seemingly secure as the No. 4 safety.

Lucas' play has been uneven and he hasn't done enough to earn a roster spot.

Hendy, who has impressed coaches, said he played slot corner at Maryland, but said Dolphins coaches have had him play safety exclusively here.

"Coaches have said I've done decent against the pass but need to be more of a run stopper," Hendy said. That sounds like a player who is more likely for the p-squad than 53, even though he has forced some turnovers and pass breakups in camp.

MARLINS, HEAT CHATTER

• Lefty Braxton Garrett, the Marlins’ first-round pick in June out of an Alabama high school, hasn’t pitched in a minor league game this season and won’t because the Marlins want to be cautious. "Garrett is fine," Marlins executive Marc Delpiano said. "We are taking it slow because he had never been built up. Plan is for him to pitch in [instructional league]."

Some already consider Garrett Miami's top prospect.

• Marcell Ozuna, whose career slopes and valleys remain puzzling, is hitting worse since the All-Star break (.207) than every other qualifying MLB center fielder except Washington’s Ben Revere. Ozuna left Tuesday's loss to the Royals because of a family emergency. He's hitting .277 overall after a terrific first half.

• New Marlins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia, claimed off waivers from Tampa, has a .241 lifetime big-league average, with 42 homers and 127 RBI in 272 games. He was batting .229 with six homers and 59 RBI in 53 games for Minnesota and Tampa this season. In 2014, he hit 20 homers for the Twins but has declined since.

• Though he was mentioned in trade rumors previously, the Heat has indicated to Josh McRoberts’ camp that he’s in the team’s plans for this season, his agent said, adding Miami called to go over his offseason training and make sure everyone is on the same page.

McRoberts will make $5.8 million this season and has a $6 million player option for 2017-18.

But the Heat will need to dump someone with a guaranteed deal if it wants to keep point guard Briante Weber. Free agent pickups this summer cannot be dealt until Dec. 15.

• Basketballinsiders.com reports that Blake Griffin fully intends to re-sign with the Clippers when he becomes a free agent next summer. Though a lot could change in a year, keep this in mind: If that's true, then there might not be a single star player that the Heat has a real shot to land next summer, with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Chris Paul all considered longshots for Miami.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 23, 2016

UM in mix for standout transfer; Tuesday Dolphins and UM personnel notes and nuggets; Another UM suspension

Lots of Dolphins and Canes nuggets after covering both practices today:

         

DOLPHINS NOTES

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Tuesday he “would love” to get emerging running back Isaiah Pead some first-team work in Thursday’s preseason game against Atlanta. But juggling carries among multiple players at one of Miami’s most competitive positions is tricky.

Gase also needs to get first-half carries for Arian Foster (who has only two in preseason) and Jay Ajayi.

Pead is averaging seven yards per carry in preseason and “we will keep trying to slide him in there to give him that opportunity to run behind the first-team line,” Gase said. “Ideally, you would like to give all those guys that opportunity.”

Against Dallas last Friday, “our plan was to try to slide [Pead] in there and see how it would go with him,” Gase said. “It almost felt like more like a two-minute mode when he was in, so he didn’t really get a chance to run the ball…. That whole group has done a great job…. They have all taken advantage. It is going to be tough decision [at running back] as far as how many do we keep. Consistency they've shown has been really impressive.”

Meanwhile, among the biggest lineup decisions Thursday is whether Cameron Wake will make his preseason debut after last October’s ruptured Achilles. Gase said Wake will go through pre-game warmups and “we’ll see how he feels before the game…. I am going to kind of put it on him. Once he feels right, we'll get him out there.”

Wake declined to say whether he wants to play Thursday but suggested that for him, the importance of playing in a preseason game is overstated. "I've been playing since July 27,” he said. “More is made of it than it really is.”

Wake also indicated it isn't necessarily critical for Mario Williams, Ndamukong Suh and himself to be on the field together before the opener.

If we were all a bunch of rookies, that would be one thing,” Wake said. “But we've all been down this road, all played football, with a lot of success. And we've been playing together quite a few snaps in the past month. We've come together quite nicely. When the real games start, those questions will be answered.”

Asked if he trusts the surgically-repaired Achilles', Wake said: “I will trust it when I need to trust it. I'm not necessarily worried about it.”

And of those questioning him because of his age (34), Wake said: “I've been old for five years now. I just laugh at that comment.”

• Two players who had been out for awhile with injuries returned to practice: running back Kenyan Drake and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa.

Chekwa, who didn’t rule out being ready for Thursday’s game, will resume his competition with Brandon Harris and Rashaan Melvin, among others for the Dolphins’ final cornerback job.

Drake returned from his second hamstring injury since joining the Dolphins but said he won’t play Thursday.  

“It’s a very lingering injury, especially in my case because it’s the second one in a couple of months,” he said. “You have to continue to build the strength up in it because even if you feel you know good, you can run distances, it’s that burst that you kind of lack. Especially at my position. And my kind of game, I need that burst. So until I feel like I have that burst, I’m not going to feel 100 percent.”

Several of us in the media have speculated that one way for the Dolphins to keep both Pead and Damien Williams (as well as Foster and Ajayi, of course) would be to stash Drake on short-term injured reserve, which would sideline him for five games.

Of being on short-term IR, Drake surprisingly said: “It’s not a possibility. Period.” But ultimately, it’s the Dolphins’ decision, and Drake has no control over that.

• Gase said defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, sidelined the past two weeks with a calf injury, remains on pace to be ready for the Sept. 11 opener at Seattle.

• Quarterback Matt Moore (concussion) and center Mike Pouncey (hip) remain out.

• Bobby McCain said he and Michael Thomas again got about an equal number of snaps at first-team nickel corner in practice this week, and that competition continues.

• With Laremy Tunsil continuing to emerge at left guard, Billy Turner said he, Jermon Bushrod and Dallas Thomas all got work with the first-team at right guard this week.

Thomas, who also continues to work on the left side, said starting at right guard “would be my plan” if Tunsil wins the left guard job, as expected. Turner said he, too, naturally wants to start.

• With DeVante Parker back from a hamstring injury, Gase said “the biggest thing for us is we need him to practice because we need the timing with the quarterback, that feel with the other players on the field. We have to find a way to keep those soft issue injuries out of the mix…. He’s done a better job [at hydration]. It’s really hit him that this is real down here. If you don’t hydrate down here, you will have issues.”

• Several players said special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi has been splitting up special teams work, including on coverage teams, among a lot of players to see what they can do.

For example, Chris McCain said he barely played any special teams in Week 1 but played a ton of them in Week 2 “and I needed” it. And Damien Williams, one of Miami’s strong special teams players, said he played less of them than usual in Week 2.

Performance on special teams is often a determining factor for players on the bubble.

 

CANES NOTES       

• 5 p.m. update: UM is now firmly in the mix for standout offensive tackle George Brown Jr., who is transferring from LSU. He was rated Rivals' No. 16 offensive tackle in the 2015 class. Our ace Herald contributor Peter Ariz has details here on his web site. He would be required to sit out next season.

• You would have hoped the Mark Richt era would begin would all Hurricanes players doing the right things and no discipline needed. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

As we’ve reported previously, UM was planning to suspend Sam Bruce for the first two games for his gun-toting photo in February, unless Richt has a dramatic change of heart in the next 11 days. Meanwhile, a source confirmed that defensive tackle Gerald Willis will be suspended for the opener for violating an unspecified team rule.

A UM player said players expect Stacy Coley, Al Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace to be suspended to start the season (at least a game, perhaps two) because of the luxury rental car scandal, but we are not reporting that’s definite because a final decision hasn’t been made.

It’s difficult to get 120 kids to all behave. But all of this is disappointing, especially after Richt implored his players not to hang around with “fools” or do anything stupid.

• I asked Brad Kaaya what defensive players have emerged this month and are ready to contribute a lot.

Besides Shaquille Quarterman, he mentioned cornerback Adrian Colbert (“really good; he is running stride for stride with Stacy Coley and our fastest guys”) and linebacker Jamie Gordinier (“he’s looked good; he’s always in the right spot. Always around the ball. He’s going to surprise people).”

Richt said the starting weakside linebacker job remains open between Gordinier and freshman Mike Pinckney (back from injury the past two days).

He said Darrion Owens (still not fully back after last year’s knee surgery) is trailing in that competition. “Not likely to be a starter at this point; we just want him to be healthy,” Richt said.

• One of many differences between Richt and former offensive coordinator James Coley: Malik Rosier said “when nothing is there” or when a play breaks down, Coley’s order was to “make a play.” But he said this coaching staff says absolutely do not do that. “This staff is no, burn it, throw it away,” Rosier said. “You have to adjust your mentality.”

• Bruce missed practice with an allergic reaction. Richards, who had been battling turf toe, returned but Richt said he doesn’t look 100 percent.

• I asked receivers coach Ron Dugans what receiver is going to help a lot more this season than he thought when camp began.

“I think Ahmmon Richards has shown some flashes; he stepped it up,” Dugans answered. “The thing with him is he’s got to be consistent and keep him healthy. Sam Bruce is coming along. Finally have Dionte Mullins back. That will take some time. He has a good skill set for us. Look for Dayall Harris to do some big things.”

Malcolm Lewis has had a good camp, but Darrell Langham “has to show us he can do it on a consistent basis. He’s moving in a good direction. I hope he plays for us,” Richt said.

• Dugans said he’s not sure who will be the No. 3 receiver alongside Coley and Braxton Berrios when UM goes to three-receiver sets. “Game time decision,” Dugans said. (In a lot of cases, it will be an tight end in a pseudo receiver role.)

Harris said he had been taking the first-team snaps at X receiver with Richards out. Today, Harris and Richards split those first-team snaps.

On Harris, Dugans said: “Has good body control. Struggles to catch the ball at times. Then some times, he catches everything. Got a good skill set. Good route runner.”

• Dugans said Mullins, who just enrolled, is not too far behind to help this year. “He’s behind, but that’s possible.”… Dugans said Coley and Berrios “have been playing like veterans, detailed players.”

• Corners who have been toughest to go against? Harris mentioned Corn Elder (“real smart”) and Ryan Mayes (“been really good; patient with a lot of routes”).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 22, 2016

Dolphins notes: Dolphins opting for unusual approach with offensive line; Pead thriving after he "blew" Dolphins workout

3:30 p.m. post-practice news from Dolphins coach Adam Gase: He said Xavien Howard, back from knee surgery, was able to do "a little" team drills today for the first time... Chris McCain was held out of practice, but it's nothing serious. He took hard hits both during Friday's game and in Sunday's practice and "we're just trying to be cautious."...

Matt Moore is out indefinitely with a concussion. "I'm not going to say he's doing OK," Gase said. "It was a pretty vicious hit. Still sore neck. It's going to be a minute [before he gets back]. We'll figure out who's going to go second and third [against Atlanta Thursday in Orlando]."  Expect to see Ryan Tannehill in the first half, with Brandon Doughty and Zac Dysert getting the rest of the work.

Does this make it more likely that the Dolphins keep a third quarterback (presumably Doughty)? "We'll evaluate and see where his health is," Gase said of Moore...

Jakeem Grant got only one offensive snap Friday, and Gase was vague when asked whether they didn't want to show other teams how they plan to use him on offense. "Any time I had a returner that was a specialist - you want to find ways to get him on the field but don't want to overdo it," Gase said.

Regarding Jordan Cameron, Gase said: "We have to figure out the right way to use him."...

Gase on Isaiah Pead: "Every time he touches the ball, something good happens for us."...

Defensive end/tackle Julius Warmsley continues his push for a roster spot. "You always see him penetrating," Gase said. "Seems like he's always causing some kind of problems. Always around the quarterback, always around the ball-carrier. You can tell something in him that I'm going to do everything I can to make this team."...

Gase said Jermon Bushrod "did pretty good" at right guard Friday but the competition at right guard might not be settled until just before the Sept. 11 Seattle game. (See below for a lot more on this.)

Reshad Jones was shaken up late in practice, and his lower left leg was examined on the side, but he seemed to be OK....

Besides McCain and Moore, Kenyan Drake (hamstring), Chimdi Chekwa (thigh), Mike Pouncey (hip), Earl Mitchell (calf), Dion Jordan (knee), Zach Vigil (back) and Chris Culliver (knee) also did not practice.

 

MORE DOLPHINS

The Dolphins have taken a novel, outside the box approach to address their perennial, perpetual offensive line problems.

Instead of signing players with experience at the positions they’re being asked to play, the Dolphins are doing things a bit differently.

If, as expected, Anthony Steen starts at center in place of injured Mike Pouncey on Thursday against Atlanta, and if offensive-tackles-by-trade Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod again start at guard, that means that three of the five positions will be manned by players who NEVER played a single snap at those positions in a game before this month.

It’s not unusual for offensive linemen to change positions, but having three starters who have never played those positions before is unusual.

The Dolphins could have signed a traditional guard in free agency in March, but bowed out when the prices rose to uncomfortably high levels for veterans who were of interest to them, such as JR Sweezy, who got five years and $32.5 million to sign with Tampa.

Instead, they opted for a low-money one-year deal with Bushrod, believing the longtime left tackle could make a smooth transition to right guard. But as Adam Gase has acknowledged, the change in sides – from left to right – is just as difficult, if not more so, than changing positions.

Bushrod is doing all he can to master it, but the move has been far from smooth, partly because he missed offseason team drills recovering from shoulder surgery.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be the easiest physically or mentally,” he said. “I have to get over the mental battles. Hopefully I’ll put it together.”

Bushrod –- who is competing with Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas at right guard -- played 20 snaps on Friday, which included allowing a sack that foiled Miami’s first possession. How did he play otherwise?

“There are some things I would like to clean up in the run game and be consistent,” he said. “At times, I feel good. At times, I feel awkward. I need to focus on things I need to give me success.”

Does he regret signing with a team that changed his side and position? No, he said. “Once you are here, you are all in,” he said.

Though Bushrod would have value as a backup tackle, he said the Dolphins have limited his snaps exclusively to guard the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, Steen --– who played only guard for Nick Saban at Alabama –-- said today he was surprised when the Dolphins asked him earlier this year to play center.

Besides Pouncey, the Dolphins have two other players on the roster who have played center in a game --- Jamil Douglas (a guard/tackle at Arizona State who struggled at times when asked to play center last year) and Kraig Urbik (who took a lot of center snaps in Buffalo).

But Steen remains ahead of both of them.

As for Tunsil, the Dolphins were pleased with his pass blocking but not as pleased with his run blocking against Dallas.

• Isaiah Pead, one of the pleasant surprises of training camp, said today that when he worked out for the Dolphins March 31, “I thought it was one of my lesser workouts. Dropped a couple balls. It was bad. I told my agent, ‘I blew this one.’”

Yet the Dolphins signed him two hours later and he has thoroughly impressed, averaging seven yards per carry.

Pead was out of the league last season, after knee surgery, and said he considered starting a trucking business in Columbus, Ohio. He said he is playing on all special teams, which should help his chances of sticking.

Check back in a couple hours, after practice, for a lot more and please follow me on Twitter for fast updates (@flasportsbuzz)

August 21, 2016

Dolphins hope Howard comes to rescue; Heat (Bosh/training camp/Williams); Marlins; UM (more Richt changes); Canes just miss top 25

 

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

There are reasons why, as Joe Philbin might say, we’re queasy about the Dolphins. Cornerback and run defense top the list.

But at least on Sunday they welcome back a second-round rookie who coaches say will need to play a lot ASAP, after missing training camp (knee surgery) before being activated from PUP on Thursday. 

There’s much to like about Xavien Howard --- his size (6-1), ball skills (nine picks and 23 pass breakups the past two seasons at Baylor) and physicality. He made a fantastic interception off Ryan Tannehill in minicamp that amazed even Adam Gase. There also are two concerns:

• At Baylor, besides allowing seven touchdowns in 2014, Howard the past two years was beaten several times on deep balls that weren’t caught, for whatever reason.

Concerns about Howard’s speed were eased after he ran a 4.41 in the 40 before the draft, but draft analyst Tony Pauline said “you have to protect him in a deep coverage” with safety help.

“He’ll lose feel for receivers at the break point,” CBS draft analyst Lance Zierlein said. “Quicker than fast with questionable long speed. Handsy and panics when he thinks he might get beat.”

• Howard had 14 pass interference and five holding penalties the past two seasons. "I need to chill out with a lot of penalties I had in college,” he said.  

Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said many cornerbacks have “one redeeming quality. It could be size but not movement, but [Howard has] both. He’s a 6-foot guy with a 5-foot-10 corner’s movement skills. That’s special.”

ESPN’s Mel Kiper, by phone, said Howard “had some games with his size and physicality, that he looked like a guy who could be a shutdown corner. But there were times he wouldn’t turn properly or had an eye on the ball and couldn’t make the play. On talent, he’s a top 15 pick. He just didn’t play to that talent on a week to week basis. If they can round off rough edges, he can be a hell of a value in the second round.”

The Dolphins better hope so. With Chris Culliver working back slowly from knee surgery (could miss six regular-season games), Howard or Tony Lippett figures to start opposite Byron Maxwell Sept. 11 at Seattle. The Dolphins would love if Howard can seize the job.

Lippett didn't play well Friday, as Nat Moore noted on the broadcast. 

And Howard will begin this week behind Lippett on the depth chart released Sunday. Howard said he will practice Sunday but won't play Thursday against Atlanta.

"Hopefully we can get him in a game before we hit the regular season," Gase said. "We just don't know yet. We have to see how his body feels, we have to see how his legs feel, we have to see how his movement skills are. There's a lot of little check marks we have to make before we throw him into a game."

“From college to the NFL, my game is going to improve with Vance Joseph getting me ready to be an NFL cornerback,” Howard assured me earlier this summer.

CHATTER

• With this draft class, Laremy Tunsil, Howard and Jakeem Grant should help immediately. The one variable is running back Kenyan Drake, who’s fifth on the depth chart and sidelined with a hamstring (his ninth injury in the past five years).

Though he caused 44 missed tackles last season on 142 offensive touches at Alabama, it seems less likely he beats out Damien Williams (or Isaiah Pead, if he sticks) for playing time as the No. 3 back early in the season.

• The Dolphins gave Grant just one snap on offense against Dallas, opting instead to play other receivers. He remained the primary returner, of course.

• This UM staff believes better teaching will help solve two huge problems from the Al Golden era: too many penalties (worst in the country last season) and poor tackling. But there’s something else Mark Richt is doing:

Safety Rayshawn Jenkins said Richt, after practice, calls out a list of players who committed penalties, missed tackles or did something coaches don’t like.

They’re then punished by having to push sleds or do “whatever hurts,” Jenkins said, adding this is different from Golden’s approach.

Jenkins believes that will help solve the problem because “people don’t want to be here doing that.”

• The perception is UM’s talent remains below FSU’s and top SEC teams. True?

“We have enough talent to be successful [but] we’re not as deep as we need to be at certain spots,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said. But "from a talent standpoint, the guys at the top are pretty freaking good.”

• UM is 26th (first in 'others receiving votes') in the first AP football poll released this morning. The Gators are 25th. Alabama is No. 1, followed by Clemson, Oklahoma and FSU.

• UM basketball already has made a scholarship offer to a familiar name -- Class of 2019 power forward Vernon Carey Jr., son of the standout former UM and ex-Dolphins offensive lineman. Carey averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds at University last year and has multiple offers, including from USC and Louisville.

But Carey told Canesport he has no favorites: "I'm keeping things wide open... I talked to the [UM] coaching staff when I went to visit the campus. They said they need me badly there."

• Though it was widely reported the Marlins have a $2 million team option on reliever Fernando Rodney for 2017, it has grown by another $1.5 million because of incentives met (games finished and appearances), and could potentially rise by another $750,000, with a max of $5 million total.

With Rodney erratic since being acquired, it’s questionable if Miami will exercise his option or pay a $400,000 buyout. In his defense, he has been much better since replacing injured AJ Ramos as closer...

David Phelps has been a huge help since moving into the rotation, with 2-1 record and 1.31 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. 

• With the Heat’s Chris Bosh, conversations are continuing regarding potential use of blood thinners that could be out of his system by game time. It remains undecided if the Heat will be OK with that approach (they weren't when he suggested that last spring) or whether they will clear him to play.

There are mixed opinions in the medical community about whether a player who has had two clotting episodes in the span of a year (but doesn't have the gene that makes him pre-disposed to clotting) should remain on blood thinners beyond the normal six-month cycle. Bosh falls into that category.

• The Heat has been discussing potentially holding training camp in the Bahamas, which they've done once before. It's not definite, but the Heat is trying to make it happen (and there are hoops to go through for this, no pun intended).

• The Heat wants forward Derrick Williams, who shot 29.3 percent on threes (seventh-worst among the 161 players who tried at least 150 of them last season), to get back to the attacking player he was in college at Arizona.

"With us, he can come here, be aggressive with his ability to attack the paint, get to the free throw line," Erik Spoelstra said last week of a player drafted second overall by Minnesota in 2011. "We will put him in situations where he can play anywhere on the floor, much like he did in college. You didn't know what position he was in college. You just know he was a basketball player. He can guard 1 through 4. He can handle, can play off the ball, play in the post, do a lot of different things.

"A lot of times with young players like a Derrick Williams, it's about the right fit, the right place and right time in your career. And we think this really is all three things with Derrick."

• Despite repeated delays in David Beckham’s MLS stadium pursuit (Beckham continues a search for investors), Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said last week he is not yet skeptical: “Things are going on. Still hopeful” on the Overtown site.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 19, 2016

Exclusive: Another UM player investigated; postscripts, stats and more from Dolphins' 41-14 loss to Dallas tonight

2 pm Saturday: UM's investigation into players who might have used cars from a South Beach luxury car rental agency, in exchange for future promises, has expanded and now includes UM receiver Stacy Coley, according to a source with direct knowledge.

As we have previously reported, Al Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace also are being investigated by UM for using cars from South Beach Exotic Rentals. UM, not the NCAA, is handling the investigation.

UM has declined to say if any of the players will be suspended. Some UM players are expecting short suspensions for the players, but it remains unclear if that will happen.

UM is still in the process of determining what, if any, discipline will be doled out.

DOLPHINS TALK

Well, at least we can all stop complaining about the offense this week. Ryan Tannehill was terrific (12-20, 162 yards, two touchdowns, 119 rating). Kenny Stills was dynamic (3 catches, 71 yards). And though starting right guard Jermon Bushrod allowed a sack, rookie starting left guard Laremy Tunsil was outstanding in pass protection.

The defense? We’ve been concerned about every aspect of this group for months (check our archives) and those worries were reinforced tonight, with Dallas piling up 300 yards and 27 points in the first half, scoring on five of their six possessions, then needing only two plays to march 59 yards for a touchdown to start the third quarter.

"It's tough when you get drummed like this - let's call it what it is," Adam Gase said. "[The run defense] surprises me a little bit, considering the amount of time we spend on tackling. We need to clean that up. We're doing the right thing in practice and reverting back when we get back on the field to being a little sloppy."

After three series --– against primarily Dolphins starters and a few backups --- Cowboys quarterbacks were 8 for 9 for 125 yards and a 115.8 passer rating, and the Dallas running game (primarily Alfred Morris) was averaging 7 yards per carry.

And oh yes, Dallas backup QB Dak Prescott had a perfect 158.3 passer rating (12-15-199 yards).

Dallas closed with 433 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per rushing attempt.

Nat Moore says “the defense was supposed to be the strength of this football team.”

Really? Why would he –-- or anybody –-- think that? What evidence of that was there was last season, or what about the offseason personnel moves suggested this group would be really good?

So we ask this again: What, specifically, is this defense going to be above average doing? They’re subpar against the run --- 28th last season and having added players who graded out well below average against the run last season (if you believe PFF, and we know some of you don’t).

Their pass defense is leaky, primarily because of a suspect group of cornerbacks. (Hopefully, Xavien Howard will be something of a panacea. But the kid is a rookie and mistakes are inevitable.)

The linebackers aren’t game-changers and historically, not particularly durable.

The Dolphins assume they will be well above average rushing the passer, and that could be the case. But against a high-quality Dallas offensive line (and with Cam Wake held out), the Dolphins didn’t get any sort of rush, finishing the night without a sack.

Breaking down the specific defensive miscues against the starters (and some backups) early on:

• There was a Tony Lippett pass interference against Dez Bryant before the Dolphins forced a punt, the only one they forced for hours.

“Lippett really struggled; he’s got to learn to locate the football,” team employee Nat Moore said late in tonight’s game broadcast.

• The second defensive series was a disaster, filled with breakdowns. Bryant beat Byron Maxwell for 18 yards, without a whiff of a pass rush. Jason Witten beat Kiko Alonso for 12 yards, with Alonso completely out of position.

Lippett was then out of position on a corner blitz, and Chris Jones was knocked away on a 13-yard run by Alfred Morris. Witten then beat Jelani Jenkins for another first down, with Jenkins missing the tackle. (Can’t wait to see Dion Jordan have a chance to defend big tight ends again.)

On Morris’ 15-yard touchdown run, Andre Branch missed a tackle, and Terrence Fede and Chris Jones were swallowed up. Not good.

• Prescott and the Cowboys did as they pleased on Dallas’ third series, with Isa Abdul-Quddus beaten for a 20-yard reception; Mario Williams embarrassingly whiffing on a tackle against Morris, which turned a play which should have been no gain into a 20-yard jaunt; Cole Beasley shaking free, completely uncovered in the slot, and then Bryant beating Maxwell for a touchdown.

• Later, on Prescott’s 20-yard TD run, Chris McCain was knocked to the ground while Prescott was still in the backfield, and Thomas, Fede and Lippett all failed to tackle Prescott as he sprinted to the end zone. That drive would have ended much earlier if an Abdul-Quddus pick hadn’t been negated by a roughing the passer penalty against Andre Branch, who didn’t have a good night.

• Then to start the second half, Brice Butler beat Bobby McCain for 58 yards on a terrific deep pass from Prescott, and then Butler beat Rashaan Melvin for a two-yard TD pass.

Other things:

• Pedestrian night for Jakeem Grant, who had 9 yards combined on two punt returns and 49 yards combined on two kickoff returns. Offensively, he didn't have a catch.

• Spencer Paysinger is serviceable and Neville Hewitt had some moments (including a blitz that forced a third-down incompletion), and Mike Hull had six tackles. But backup linebacker remains a question. James Michael Johnson looked lost on a screen pass, then whiffed on a tackle on special teams.

The Dolphins appear disinclined to spend much money on any free agent linebackers. They asked accomplished starter Steven Tulloch to work out a couple weeks ago, but Tulloch wasn’t interested because the Dolphins were only looking to sign linebackers to a very low-money deal. (They signed Danny Lansanah, who was gone less than a week later.)

Tulloch remains available, but the Dolphins haven’t shown interest in him (or apparently any linebacker) at the type of money he’s seeking.

• Arian Foster’s Dolphins debut was uneventful: 2 for minus 5 yards. Jay Ajayi ran 6 times for 19 yards, just 3.2 per carry.

The other backs: Isaiah Pead 4 for 48, Daniel Thomas 7 for 30 and Damien Williams 4 for 2.

• The Dolphins have put their tight ends on notice that more is expected, and Jordan Cameron disappointed by dropping a very catchable four-yard pass that should have been a touchdown. Three more plays (including incomplete passes to Landry and Kenny Stills) foiled that drive, but Tunsil was very good in pass protection on all three passes close to the goal line.

• Tunsil got snaps at left tackle and left guard in the second half, and had a terrific block on Pead’s 45-yard run.

• Matt Moore left late in the second quarter with a head injury on an illegal hit, meaning an earlier than planned appearance for Brandon Doughty.

Backup center Anthony Steen’s high snap was the first misstep in Doughty’s fumble late in the first half, leading to more Cowboys’ points.

Steen, surprisingly, has been ahead of Jamil Douglas and Kraig Urbik at backup center for the first two games.

Doughty, incidentally, was 2 for 3 for 7 yards before being lifted late in the third quarter. Zac Dysert (3-6-44 yards) finished the game.

• Rookie tight end Thomas Duarte, a skilled pass rusher not known for his blocking, whiffed on a block that led to Matt Darr’s blocked punt.

Dominique Jones, making a case for the No. 3 tight end job, had two catches for 36 yards but dropped a pass for the second week in a row.

• The Dolphins had four tackles for loss, only one by a player who might be on the team (Chris Jones).

• The Dolphins were 0-3 and outscored 94-45 last season in games televised to the entire nation. NFL Network witnessed this Dolphins drubbing tonight, and NBC nationwide get to see them against Atlanta on Thursday.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 18, 2016

Hassan back at work; Spo's challenge; Media column: ESPN uniting Butch Davis, Vilma all season and their reflections months after their involvement in coaching search; Media notes

2 p.m. update: Hassan Whiteside isn't showing any signs of contentment or complacency after signing his four-year, $98 million contract. He has been working with Heat coach at AmericanAirlines Arena, part of a large group of Heat players working individually and collectively with the staff.

"He doesn't want to live off the status quo," Erik Spoelstra said in a video posted on the Heat's web site today. "He wants to improve. He wants to add new elements to his game. I'm not going to put a ceiling on what he can become as a player.
I want him to be one of the best players in this league.

"He has that type of potential. Low post scoring is the No. 1 thing he wants to work on and I'm all for it. He will also work on his skill level top of the floor, handling the ball, getting us into second situations as a play-maker. Rebounding off the glass and continuing the overall development with his body, getting stronger while maintaining his weight and flexibility."

Whiteside averaged 29.6 minutes per game last season and that will increase.

"He will have to be able to absorb more minutes, more responsibility, more games, which is a different level of training in the weight room," Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra, looking back on Whiteside's development, said: "It was a two-year introduction. We were able to really learn about each other for two seasons. I was very impressed with Hassan's motivation, work ethic. He wants to be great. He's not afraid of putting in the time. Where he started to where he finished up at the end of two years is remarkable. Hassan has committed to the process of trying to get better every single day.... In order for our team to accomplish what we want to accomplish, Hassan has to continue to improve and maximize his potential."

• The Heat made partial season-ticket packages available today, with Chicago's appearance (Dwyane Wade's return) in the highest price tier.

 

MEDIA COLUMN

 

Butch Davis and Jonathan Vilma will forever be linked during two critical times in UM football history.

A Davis recruit, Vilma played for an 11-1 UM team in 2000 before Davis left, the start of a three-year run that featured only two losses and the most talented teams in Hurricanes history. They were intertwined again late last year, when Vilma was named to an advisory committee to help select UM’s next football coach, and Davis was a finalist for the job.

Now the two have been reunited for a third time. ESPN is expected to announce next week that Davis and Vilma will paired as studio analysts on ESPN2’s college football coverage on Saturdays this fall, alongside host Chris Cotter. Vilma, new to ESPN, replaces Fox-bound Robert Smith.

“I’m very excited about it; I love college football,” Vilma said. “I still remember when Butch first recruited me. I remember seeing Butch for the first time, and he was bigger than I thought: 6-4.  

“I think back to that time and everything has run its course. Now I get to sit alongside the guy who recruited me to UM and jump- started my career. We can’t have a Canes love-fest (on the air). It will be a lot of fun to talk football with him.”

Though the mark they left at UM came around the turn of the century (mostly before, in Davis’ case, after in Vilma’s), both figured prominently in this offseason’s coaching search.

Davis badly wanted the job and was immensely disappointed he didn’t get it. He said recently that he has moved on and voiced no complaints about the process.  

“I would have loved the opportunity; I have a lot of affinity for them; it was a very memorable place for me,” Davis said. “We [helped] rebuild the program and gave it back its character and integrity and put them in position to play for three national titles. It didn’t work out. The things I had accomplished weren’t what they were looking for.”

He presented his specific vision to UM during his interview and said he told UM that if he had gotten the job, he believes he would “have won a national championship in four years” because “we were not going to lose 31 scholarships in four years” as he did (no fault of his) during his tenure at UM.

Davis said he’s not sure how close he came to getting the job, and that’s up for debate.

One former UM assistant coach said he was told specifically by the top of the UM administration that Davis would have gotten the job if Mark Richt didn’t become available. But a prominent Board of Trustees member said UM had concerns about how Davis explained his hiring of assistant coach John Blake, who was later barred from college coaching for three years for taking money from an agent, and that Davis wasn’t UM’s second choice.

What does Davis think of the Richt hire? Don’t expect effusive praise. 

“I have no familiarity with him,” Davis said, even though Richt has been on a prominent national stage for 15 years. “I never coached against him. If you ask him, I'm sure he would say his record stands for itself.”

(The view here: Davis would have done a good job here and he deserves a chance to coach again. But Richt was the safer choice; he has been in the game more recently than Davis, who hadn’t coached since 2010 and at 64 is eight years older than Richt.)

As for Vilma, you have to admire the initiative he took in helping get the former players a voice at the table in the coaching search.

Three years earlier, Vilma “rocked the boat,” so to speak, during his battle with Commissioner Roger Goodell over his alleged role in the New Orleans Saints Bountygate controversy. Vilma vehemently denied any involvement; his NFL suspension was twice overturned but his defamation lawsuit against Goodell eventually was dismissed.

So it wasn’t surprising Vilma was the ringleader in efforts to get players input in the UM coaching search. He reached out to two dozen former players, called athletic director Blake James and several Board of Trustee members and eventually landed a coveted spot (with Vinny Testaverde) on the six-member coaching advisory committee.

“What made me want to do it,” Vilma said, “was watching” former players give opinions on social media and wanting to unite and galvanize them.  “We were all so fragmented,” he said. “I said I knew we would have a stronger voice if we talked behind closed doors [and not on] social media.”

Before going to James, “I first wanted the blessing of every era that you can think of that went through UM before saying I am going to speak on behalf of the players,” Vilma said. “I said, ‘Hey look, this is a group effort.’ We all care about UM, though we show it in different ways. For us to be involved in a productive manner was the emphasis.

“I spoke to Blake and I spoke to some of the board members. They thought it made sense not to alienate some of players who felt they were alienated. There has to be interaction between former players and the current players in as legal a scenario as possible. We love the university and we want to make sure we see it successful again. Having everyone come together in a productive manner was the first step of many to get back to where we want to be.”

Though Vilma declined to confirm whether he sat in on any interviews, he said he “was given input.”

He said “it’s not wrong for people to think” that he wanted Davis to get the job, but added the players “wanted the qualities that Butch represented when he was the coach. He instilled discipline and toughness and recruited well. We wanted someone with those qualities. We felt it may or may not be Butch.”

Vilma, a former first-round draft pick of the Jets who retired in 2014 after a nine-year NFL career, was fine with UM hiring Richt:  “He’s a very good coach. His resume speaks for itself. It doesn’t ensure future [success].”

He doesn’t believe UM necessarily would have gone wrong with any of the four finalists: Richt, Davis, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen or ex-Tampa Bay and ex-Rutgers coach Greg Schiano.

“But you never know until three or five years from now,” Vilma said. “We don’t know if Dan Mullen gets fired [eventually].”

Whether Vilma’s involvement in UM administrative decisions continues remains to be seen. He hasn’t asked James for any input since the coaching hire.

“Always my philosophy is let the coaches coach,” he said. “I love to come by. It’s not my job in my 10 minutes to think I have all the answers.”

As for these Canes, he says this could be a top 25 team but “we’ve looked on paper for many years at the talent we’ve had and we all assumed we would put out good teams and for some reason we didn’t.”

Davis, who still hopes to coach again, didn’t study the UM roster in depth before his interview with James and said he doesn’t know enough yet about the personnel to assess Miami’s chances. But he said quarterback Brad Kaaya “is a terrific kid and a great player. He has outstanding mobility, good arm. The unanswerable question is the offensive line and does he have supporting cast, which I have no idea.”

Davis wishes he could have been coaching Kaaya this fall.

Incidentally, ESPN senior coordinator producer Lee Fitting said: "It’s cool that he and Butch have the connection to Miami, but that wasn’t the reason for hiring Jonathan. We hired Jonathan for the commentating and analyzing skills he demonstrated in the last couple of years, in addition to the potential that we see in him.  Furthermore, he was a prominent figure in the sport for a long time, both in college and in the NFL. Adding that all together, it made a ton of sense.”

• Please click here for 12 on-field UM football nuggets from earlier Thursday.

• One other prominent former UM defensive player has found a broadcasting gig: DJ Williams will work four weekly shifts on 790 The Ticket --- with Ethan Skolnick and Chris Wittyngham on their show at 4 p.m. Mondays (as well as Friday this week); Jonathan Zaslow, Brett Romberg and Amber Wilson from 7 to 8 a.m. Tuesdays;  Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m. with Brian London and Leroy Hoard; and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday on the station's "Aqua and Orange Pre-Game Show."

• Sirius XM Radio airs a UM football preview, featuring Gino Torretta, from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday. There's some interesting stuff from Mark Richt, Manny Diaz and others.

• Former 790 The Ticket morning host Joy Taylor is getting another high-profile gig on Fox Sports 1: host of the Skip Bayless/Shannon Sharpe debate show.

• Miami-Fort Lauderdale's prime-time NBC Olympic ratings rank 42nd among 56 metered markets, with a 15.4 average.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 17, 2016

Thursday 2 p.m.; UM football news, nuggets: Nuggets on UM's defense and more personnel items; Heat adds Beno Udrih; the fallout and where the roster stands; Lots of Wednesday Dolphins news - Three fights, Doughty's push and more

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:

 

CANES CHATTER

• 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.”

 

HEAT CHATTER

• 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

DOLPHINS CHATTER

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).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 

August 16, 2016

Dolphins pushing hard for more from tight ends; LB on radar; Marlins on Tebow; Spoelstra's message; UM battle

 

TUESDAY NIGHT BUZZ COLUMN

 

Already blessed with the NFL’s most destructive tight end in Rob Gronkowski, the New England Patriots further strengthened themselves at the position by trading for Marcellus Bennett, giving them two tight ends who combined last season for 125 receptions and 1615 yards.

If the Dolphins get even half of that yardage production from their top two tight ends this season, it will be reason for a parade.

Tight ends were often an afterthought in the Dolphins’ passing game last season, with Jordan Cameron (35-386-3 touchdowns) and Dion Sims (18-127-1) combining for 53 catches and 513 yards. They weren’t prominently featured early in training camp or in Friday’s win against the Giants.

But they made a bunch of catches in practice Tuesday, including a touchdown by Sims, and Dolphins coaches are clear that they want to incorporate them more in the passing game.

“We need some big plays out of that room,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “That’s where your matchups are on third down. They’ve got to win and we’ve got to have some good stuff for them. We’re not there yet.”

Cameron said he accepted a $1.5 million pay cut, to $6 million, to stay with Miami partly because “one of my good friends, [Jaguars and former Broncos tight end] Julius Thomas, who played for [Adam Gase], said, ‘You've got to play for this guy.’ He does a good job of putting [tight ends] in spots to succeed.”

But Cameron said this week he isn’t sure how much more he will be targeted this season and insists it doesn’t matter to him.

“I’m tired of… these questions about my role; I really don’t care,” he said. “I want to win. I haven’t won. I haven’t had a winning season in the NFL. I’m tired of that. I just want to win games.”

The utilization of Cameron last season was somewhat puzzling considering he caught 80 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns for Cleveland in 2013, then averaged 17.7 yards on 24 catches in 10 games for the Browns in 2014.

But two things happened: The previous offensive staff asked Cameron to block more than he ever has. And his chemistry with Ryan Tannehill wasn’t very good.

Cameron caught only 50 percent of the 70 passes thrown to him. Among 51 qualifying tight ends, only Jacksonville’s Marcedes Lewis caught a lower percentage (43 percent).

Most good tight ends catch more than 60 percent of their targets, some more than 70 percent, including league leader Brent Celek (77 percent). Gronkowski was at 60 percent and Sims was at 72 percent, though Sims was thrown only 25 passes. In Cameron’s defense, some of his targets were deep throws.

Cameron’s low completion percentage, in the eyes of coaches, was partly a byproduct of erratic throws but also the result of Cameron’s inability to come down with enough contested balls despite his 6-5 frame.

“Contested passes - that’s something Jordan specifically is really working on,” tight ends coach Shane Day said. “It’s something we’ve talked about since the offseason when we were doing evaluations and he’s aware of it. We’re working on it every day.”

So can the Dolphins ever expect the type of production from Cameron that he gave the Browns?

“I don’t want to predict anything,” Gase said Tuesday. “I feel like what’s going on with him right now is that there’s a little bit of a learning curve for him. We went through some struggles there in the spring and a little bit at the beginning of camp. The thing about the tight end position is that there’s a lot of responsibility you have. You’re doing multiple phases of the game,…have a lot of responsibilities…. It’s just a lot on his plate.

“I went through the same growing pains with Julius Thomas. It wasn’t like that thing happened overnight. It was two years of he didn’t play and once it clicked for him, it clicked. Obviously with Jordan being a little more experienced, it’s going to happen a little faster.”

With Sims, Gase made clear in March that “potential has been used a lot with Dion. I told him this is probably the year we get this thing rolling.”

Day said Sims is “learning to use more of his size along with his speed, use more of his length to his advantage.”

Whether a legitimate No. 3 tight end emerges remains unclear. MarQueis Gray, third on the depth chart, remains out with a leg injury. Dominique Jones, who has caught three passes in 13 regular-season games for three teams, caught two for 25 yards Friday but also dropped an easy one.

Seventh-round rookies Thomas Duarte caught a touchdown against the Giants and must “utilize his strengths, which are his quickness and his speed to get on guys quickly and use his hands,” Day said.

And from a blocking perspective, “we’re kind of starting from ground zero because at UCLA he really wasn’t asked to play in-line tight end,” Day said.

How did Duarte do with in-line blocking against the Giants?

“I think there’s a little bit of a learning curve there for him,” Gase said. “I know the effort is there, which that’s the number one thing you want to see from a guy that really hasn’t had to do it before or asked to do it before. Hopefully sooner than later it will just keep getting better. Of course, you’d love to jump to step 100; but it’s early in his career and we’ve got a ways to go here before that first game and figuring out who (are) going to be our guys. But I see improvement and I see a guy who is willing to try to do the right thing.”

Gase has been pushing his tight ends hard, and Cameron said: “We have a good relationship. He holds us to a high standard. We’ve got to make the plays when they’re there for us.”

CHATTER

• Free agent middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, a Miami Killian alum and a longtime NFL starter for Tennessee and Detroit, is on the Dolphins’ radar. Miami wanted to bring him in for a workout recently, but the Dolphins made clear they were looking to add a linebacker on a low-money deal and Tulloch is waiting for something better than that. Tulloch, 31, released by Detroit last month, had 107 tackles in 16 starts last season.

• Though there’s a good chance Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan will begin the season on NFI, coach Adam Gase said: "Every time he’s supposed be somewhere, he’s been there. He’s been engaged in everything we’ve done. I see a guy that seems to be excited to be here and, for him, it’s like the first thing I told him, ‘Whatever’s happened in the past is irrelevant. You got a fresh start so make the most of it.’”

Please click here for a ton more Dolphins news, including one player lashing out at Donald Trump.

• UM running back Trayone Gray is out for the year with a serious knee injury, a source confirmed tonight. (The Palm Beach Post reported this a few minutes ago.) Gray likely wasn't going to get much playing time this year.

We're told that Gray was sixth in the hierarchy among UM backs, behind Mark Walton and Joe Yearby (who are competing to start), Gus Edwards, fullback Marquez Williams and freshman Travis Homer, who has impressed coaches with his speed. Gray would have been fifth if you don't count Williams.

Gray carried 23 times for 145 yards last season.

Malik Rosier, competing with Evan Schirreffs and Jack Allison for the backup quarterback job, said coaches indicated "whoever has the best performance throughout this next scrimmage [Wednesday] is probably going to be the No. 2 guy."

“I feel very consistent with my footwork," Rosier said. "During the spring I was very off. Sometimes I didn’t know what I was doing. Sometimes I was doing it wrong. This time I know what I’m doing. It feels natural now.”

UM coaches were unhappy with Rosier's penchant for turnovers in the spring, but Rosier said QB coach Jon Richt told him "through the fall I've gotten more and more consistent."

Schirreffs fits the Mark Richt drop-back mold better than Rosier, but he must play decently Wednesday.

The No. 2 offense will go against the No. 1 defense in this next scrimmage.

• While receiver Dayall Harris has impressed throughout camp (and he's now getting even more first-team reps with Ahmmon Richards injured), Darrell Langham has been underwhelming, though he played better the past two days (according to Mark Richt).

• Team president David Samson said he doubts the Marlins will send anyone to Tim Tebow’s audition for big-league teams. “Nothing is harder in sports than hitting a baseball and to not take a swing in [a game] for 10 years” makes this difficult for Tebow, Samson said.

• For a look at Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's message to fans today, please click here.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz