WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN (updated Wednesday morning with news of Mike Cameron)
One problem that has arisen for UM in the NCAA investigation is that a few former players are implicating assistant coaches.
Ray-Ray Armstrong’s father said his son stayed with then-UM assistant coach Clint Hurtt during a recruiting visit, which is a violation regardless of whether it was an official or unofficial visit. Armstrong was forthright about that with the NCAA.
Also, the father of another current player who was interviewed by the NCAA told us that his son indicated that then-UM assistant Joe Pannunzio brought the player to booster Nevin Shapiro.
“How did my son even meet this creep? He would never have met Shapiro without Pannunzio,” said the father, who requested anonymity because the NCAA has asked the players not to reveal what they said. “To have one of the coaches deliver him up to this guy, it’s incredible.”
The NCAA has been trying to determine Hurtt’s and Pannunzio’s level of involvement, and that could significantly impact UM’s punishment. One prominent UM Board of Trustee member said the concern is Hurtt “is up to his neck in this.”
UM hopes the NCAA punishes the coaches (Hurtt is now at Louisville, Pannunzio at Alabama) more than it penalizes UM.
The NCAA took that approach this summer by ruling that former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl cannot recruit for three years, making it essentially impossible for him to get another college coaching job during that time. Meanwhile, the NCAA allowed the Tennessee basketball program to impose its own sanctions, which weren’t especially punitive (fewer recruiting days on the road, etc.). Tennessee’s violations included, among other things, impermissible calls to recruits and Pearl hosting a barbecue for recruits, then lying to the NCAA.
Former FSU coach Bobby Bowden said by phone Tuesday that “one of my pet peeves with the NCAA is I don’t like that they punish the school. They should punish the coach and the kid that messed up.”
### Attorney Maria Elena Perez said Shapiro remains in contact with the NCAA, sharing information and answering questions. Shapiro has been relocated to a prison in New Orleans, which Perez expects will be his final stop as he serves 20 years for a Ponzi scheme.
The Marlins cut outfielder Mike Cameron late Monday night for conduct detrimental to the team. Two sources on Wednesday gave the reason: Cameron got into a verbal altercation with a flight attendant on the team's charter flight from Pittsburgh to Atlanta on Sunday.
The altercation did not turn physical, but the charter company filed a complaint. The Marlins' front office believed it could not keep Cameron after the incident. He wasn't in the team's longterm plans, anyway, and his release gives the Marlins a chance to give Bryan Peterson (.280) more at-bats over the final two weeks of the season. Cameron was hitting .238.
### One common theme in the UM and Dolphins openers was a lack of pass rush. The problem is acute for UM with Allen Bailey now in the NFL and Olivier Vernon suspended another five games. Al Golden made clear he expects a pass rush, in particular, from Adewale Ojomo (back from suspension and coming off what he calls a “very mediocre” five-sack season), Anthony Chickillo, Andrew Smith (who graded out well against Maryland) and Marcus Robinson.
"If we have to bring six or seven [pass rushers], we will be in trouble,” Golden said. “We’re trying to tell Adewale, ‘This is what you have to be.’ We want him to be a rugged player, not a finesse player.”
### The Dolphins decided to use backup ends Jared Odrick and Phillip Merling a lot in their nickel package, with Tony McDaniel, who left with an injured thumb. But neither Odrick (whose interception was the first of his life) nor Merling got much heat on Tom Brady. Merling, who started Monday’s game, registered only one tackle against the Patriots and has just four in six games since returning from an Achilles’ injury last December.
Excluding Cameron Wake, the linebackers also didn’t get much pressure on Brady. “At times, it looked like he was back there for an eternity,” Jason Taylor said. "We didn't rush worth a darn." McDaniel, wearing a cast, will be evaluated before his status is determined.
### The Dolphins worked out several running backs Tuesday, including Brian Westbrook, Julius Jones and Thomas Clayton, and also have looked at ex-Lion Kevin Smith. Westbrook tweeted that Miami didn’t offer him a contract.
### The Dolphins re-signed Will Allen on Wednesday morning, according to a league source, believing he will be an upgrade over Benny Sapp, who was released. Allen signed a one-year deal. Meanwhile, the Dolphins also continue to eye young cornerbacks to develop. They summoned Purdue alum Brandon King and plan to sign him to the practice squad. He spent his rookie season with the Colts last year, finishing the year on injured reserve.
### ESPN’s Herm Edwards gave the Dolphins a firm message about how to use Reggie Bush: “You can’t keep running him inside the tackles! His body won’t hold up!”
### Sean Smith defended himself to Twitter followers: “Ya’ll coming at me like I gave up all 500 yards??? I can only remember one catch. Check the stats again, people.”… About 10,000 tickets remain for Sunday’s Houston game, which is at risk of a local TV blackout.
### UM was disappointed about losing speedy former South Broward High running back Kevin Grooms, who did not receive NCAA clearance to play this season and enrolled at Marshall… Golden said Michael Williams and Lee Chambers will share time at one cornerback spot - with Brandon McGee at the other – and how they play will determine whether JoJo Nicolas is moved back from safety to corner when Armstrong returns in the fifth game…
Golden said he will pick two defensive tackle starters from among Marcus Forston (a front-runner), Micanor Regis and Darius Smith.... Golden wants to get tight ends Clive Walford and Chase Ford more touches... Golden told fans at an offseason event after even if a player messes up during a game, “I will not embarrass players. I will correct them.” And he said Tuesday, “Our style is not to get in players’ faces on the sideline. We’re not going to fight with players on the sideline.”
### Marlins president David Samson said owner Jeffrey Loria’s recent message to his baseball people was to consider anything to “win as many games as possible” next year. “If it means trading 25 players to get better, Jeffrey said, ‘I’ll trade 25 players.’’… Samson said the Marlins expect to be awarded the 2015 All-Star Game.
### The Heat’s Udonis Haslem still isn’t fully over last year’s foot injury (he had follow-up surgery to remove a screw this summer) and won’t resume playing until he’s pain free. But his agent said Tuesday that Haslem still expects to be ready when camps open post-lockout. It could be awhile before a new labor deal is reached.