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25 posts from February 2012

February 06, 2012

More linking of Peyton to Dolphins; plus LeBron, Super Bowl ratings, UM

A half-dozen notes on a Monday afternoon:

 ### ESPN’s Adam Schefter, one of the most reputable information men, said Monday on ESPN.com, “The team that is the favorite in my mind to land Peyton Manning is Miami. The Dolphins can offer warm weather and a favorable contract.”

Schefter disputes speculation that the 49ers might bid for him and give up on impending free agent Alex Smith. Miami, Washington, Arizona and the Jets are the four teams believed to have strong interest, with others (including Seattle) among potential suitors.

### As ESPN’s Chris Mortensen noted, if Manning’s recovery follows the exact timeline Chris Weinke did after his neck surgery – and obviously, that’s speculative and unknown – than Manning’s shoulder should be a lot better by March. And by June, it should be at full strength – if his recovery mirrors Weinke’s. But those are big IFS.

Manning, who will be 36 next month, had the surgery at a much older age than Weinke, who rebounded from the operation to win a Heisman Trophy at Florida State a year later.

### Sunday’s Super Bowl drew the highest rating for the game in 26 years --- a 47.0. But Miami-Fort Lauderdale’s 40.6 rating on NBC 6 was the lowest of the 56 metered markets. That means 40.6 percent of all Dade-Broward homes were tuned to the game – a huge number but not as good as other big markets.

### Magic Johnson is among those who have established LeBron James as the front-runner for MVP; coach Erik Spoelstra endorsed him for the award on Monday. “He’s the best player in basketball,” Spoelstra said after practice. “There really isn’t anyone that’s his peer.”

James said this is not the best basketball he has played “in my life.” He pointed instead to his senior year of high school. “I’m more free, more happy and excited than I was last year,” he said. “I always try to be the MVP every time I come on the court.” He said when fans leave the arena, “hopefully fans can say, ‘LeBron is the best player on the court tonight.’” James is averaging 29.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists, while shooting 55.2 percent.

### Spoelstra met with Shane Battier, who is shooting just 32 percent from the field. “My message to him is just to be patient – his shooting will come around. I wanted to clear his head and let him know he’s still very important.” Battier said Monday that his shot is technically sound and he hasn’t lost confidence.     

### UM, fresh off Sunday’s upset win at Duke, has clearly established itself as one of the top six teams in the ACC, and should get an NCAA Tournament bid if it goes 5-3 on the back half of its schedule to finish 10-6. But 9-7 comes with no guarantees, not without a strong showing in the ACC Tournament. Remember – the ACC got only four NCAA Tourney bids last year.

“To come in here and play with the kind of poise we did, play the kind of defense we did, especially in the first half and overtime, was something we can be very, very proud of,” coach Jim Larranaga said.

About 50 UM students welcomed the Canes home from Duke when they arrived on campus Sunday night. Meanwhile, ESPN2 picked up the Canes' home game against Virginia Tech at 9 p.m. Thursday.

 

 

           

February 04, 2012

Assessing Dolphins' free agent options on offense, plus other notes

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

With the Dolphins trying to upgrade their offense – especially at quarterback, right tackle, right guard and tight end – here’s some early chatter on their options and potential fits when free agency begins March 13:

### Quarterback: The timetable could be tricky, with Peyton Manning expected to be released by March 8, Matt Flynn hitting the open market March 13, and the unknown variable of when Manning’s arm will be strong enough to throw as well as he did before his neck injury.

If the Dolphins are led to believe by agent Tom Condon that they’re a serious contender for Manning when he's released – and that his arm should be strong enough by the start of the season – then they are expected to wait as long as necessary on Manning if he doesn't make a decision quickly. That's because owner Stephen Ross is infatuated with the idea of signing him. The Dolphins believe they have a realistic chance of luring Manning, who owns a condo in South Beach and has an affinity for South Florida.

If Manning doesn't choose a new team by March 13, the Dolphins would risk losing out on Flynn, whom they like but have clearly less conviction about than Manning. But that would not concern the Dolphins if they believe they can land Manning. Unless Cleveland or another team makes a big offer, Flynn might be better served waiting a short time, if needed, for Manning’s situation to sort out because some of Flynn’s potential suitors (Miami, Washington, Seattle) likely will pursue Manning first.

So after Manning chooses his next team, Flynn could get better offers from the losers of the Manning sweepstakes. But if Manning, 35, delays signing until May or June while his shoulder strengthens, then it’s unrealistic for Flynn to wait.

A close associate of Flynn, 26, said he likes and respects new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, his former offensive coordinator in Green Bay. That would play into his decision if Miami and another team make comparable offers, but probably not if there's a big gap between offers.

One Packers front office official whose opinion I trust said he’s confident Flynn will be a quality starter: “He’s going to be good. He’s got moxie, accuracy, good control of the game.”

But former Browns scout Matt Williamson, of ESPN’s Scouts Inc., said, “Flynn worries me, considering what it’s going to cost in terms of the contract. Those guys like Kevin Kolb scare me. They look good in a really small sample size in good offenses.

“In terms of physical skills, there’s a reason Flynn was a seventh-round pick. He’s really cerebral, moves well, does everything well pre-snap. But he’s not overwhelming physically. He will be an average starter who maybe goes to a Pro Bowl once.”

Williamson see Flynn’s ceiling as that of Houston's Matt Schaub. If Flynn becomes another Schaub, he’s worth the investment. But CBS’ Charley Casserly said Flynn is “a little like Matt Cassel. Accurate, but not necessarily accurate deep. He doesn’t have a big arm.”

Flynn, 26, has completed 82 of 132 passes and 1015 yards in four years as a backup, with nine touchdowns, five interceptions, three fumbles and a 92.8 rating. (Matt Moore’s 2011 rating was 87.1, incidentally.) Six of those Flynn touchdowns and 480 of those yards came in last month’s regular-season finale against Detroit.

With Drew Brees (Saints) and Alex Smith (49ers) expected to stay put, that leaves – beyond Flynn and probably Manning - a weak free agent class including Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell, Vince Young, Dennis Dixon, Rex Grossman, Chad Henne, Brady Quinn, Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Johnson and Patriots restricted free agent backup Brian Hoyer.

### Tight end: The Dolphins – eager for a stretch-the-field threat to complement or replace Anthony Fasano - obviously would love Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley, but he’s expected to get the franchise tag. Other notable free agents: Washington’s Fred Davis (59-796 in 12 games before a drug suspension), Minnesota’s Visanthe Shiancoe (36-409), Carolina’s Jeremy Shockey (37-455), Seattle’s John Carlson (missed last year with torn labrum), Buffalo’s Scott Chandler (38-389) and Dallas’ Martellus Bennett (Jason Witten’s backup; 17 for 144).

“Davis could be that stretch the field guy, but if he’s busted one more time, he’s suspended a year,” Williamson said. “All the other guys are not much different than Fasano. Carlson is slow. I’d rather have Fasano than Shiancoe: more sure-handed, better blocker. Bennett has a lot of ability, but effort is an issue.”

If Manning signs with the Dolphins, another possibility would be Colts free agent tight end Jacob Tamme, who caught 67 passes for 631 yards in 2010 but 19 passes in 12 games without Manning this season.

Because Davis is seemingly too risky, the Dolphins might look for a skilled receiving tight end in the draft, perhaps Clemson’s Dwayne Allen, Stanford’s Coby Fleener or Louisiana Lafayette’s Ladarius Green.

### Guard: With the Dolphins needing to save their cap space ($12 million to $15 million) for other needs, it’s unlikely they would offer big money to top guards Carl Nicks (Saints) and Ben Grubbs (Baltimore). Williamson said the most affordable “attractive” option to replace free agent Vernon Carey would be Eagles free agent Evan Mathis, who finished as the No. 1 ranked guard by Pro Football Focus this year after being cut by Miami in 2008. John Jerry is an option, but the Dolphins hope to do better.

The other free agent guards that PFF ranked above Carey (who was 44th): Nicks (2), Grubbs (12th), Tennessee’s Jake Scott (seventh, but run blocking has declined) and Cincinnati’s Bobbie Williams (23rd but on the downside at age 35).

### Tackle: If the Dolphins don’t sign a right tackle to replace Marc Colombo in a weak free agent class, they’ll draft a potential starter (perhaps Iowa’s Riley Reiff in the first round) or rely on Lydon Murtha (who missed 2011 with a foot injury but is valued by GM Jeff Ireland) or perhaps Jerry.

Free agent tackles, with PFF rankings: Jared Gaither (tied for 17th, better for Chargers after Chiefs cut him); Buffalo’s Demetrius Bell (tied for 17th, but has more value at left tackle), Pittsburgh’s Max Starks (33, but off a torn ACL in January), Detroit’s Jeff Backus (32) and the Giants’ Kareem McKenzie (65). Not a good group. “McKenzie had a real bad year,” Williamson said. “Gaither has a ton of baggage. I’d be shocked if Backus leaves.”

### Running back: Ireland – happy with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas – won’t go free agent shopping from a group that includes Ray Rice and Matt Forte (who both are staying put) and Peyton Hillis.

### Receiver: It’s doubtful Miami spends on top free agents Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson or Marques Colston - barring them striking out at quarterback and on a pass rusher. Reggie Wayne - whose streak of seven straight 1000 yard seasons was snapped this year (he had 960) is an option - at age 33, if Manning joins the Dolphins.

We’ll examine defensive options later this week.

 CHATTER

 ### After we wrote in this space about the Heat’s interest in Shane Battier last summer, one NBA scout warned us his skills had diminished. “Even Memphis told me last year he was having trouble guarding guys laterally,” the scout reminded us last week.

Now, not only is Battier shooting 32.6 percent – well below his 44.2 career average, but his rebounds and assists per minute are down. Only Corey Maggette and Jason Kidd entered the weekend with worse shooting percentages among players who have played as much as Battier.

On the plus side, Battier has had some good moments defensively late in games, and remains a good team defender, as a second scout noted. Plus, Erik Spoelstra said he’s like another coach on the floor. But the second scout said it would be difficult to justify playing Battier more than Mike Miller (a better shooter and rebounder) in the playoffs if Battier doesn’t snap out of his shooting slump. And for the first time all season, Spoelstra went with the lineup of the Big Three, Miller and Udonis Haslem in the decisive moments of Friday's win at Philadelphia.

### One change to expect in UM’s offense, style-wise: “We’re going to have to push our tempo,” coordinator Jedd Fisch said. “We have to get more plays run.” Several NFL teams called Fisch last month (including the Bears). But Fisch told us last week, “I want to spend many years here with Al Golden.”… Receivers coach George McDonald calls UM signee Malcolm Lewis of Miramar “the most underrated person in the state – one of the best, if not the best, receiver in [Florida]. He has so much upside, him and [Homestead’s] Herb Waters. I’m so excited all about six” new receivers, including Angelo Jean-Louis. And Fisch said Robert Lockhart "is a stud - unbelievable, explosive player.''

### Marlins executives spoke on many occasions with Hanley Ramirez this winter, waiting for him to embrace moving to third base, which they're confident he finally has. "When something happens immediately, there's a surprise," Marlins president David Samson said. "And then all of a sudden, it ends up being OK. I told him, 'If we tell you to pitch opening night, that's your job.'... Larry [Beinfest], Michael [Hill] and I have spoken to him numerous times.''

### Here's how the Marlins' bench looks, presuming they keep 12 pitchers and five backup position players: Greg Dobbs, Donnie Murphy, catcher Brett Hayes and two of these five outfielders: Aaron Rowand, Bryan Peterson, Chris Coghlan, Austin Kearns and Scott Cousins. Rowand (.233 for the Giants last year) is a favorite for one job unless he bombs this spring. “When we did our plan for 2012, we didn’t think Chris Coghlan would have to earn a job,” Samson said. "He has to earn one of 25.''

Coghlan hit .230 (five homers, 22 RBI) before his injury/demotion last season. Peterson (.265, 2, 10) had the best average of the five last season. If the Marlins get outfielder Yeonis Cespedes, he could begin the season in the minors.

February 03, 2012

Media column: Inside NBC's Super Bowl plans

 MEDIA COLUMN: A SUPER BOWL TV PRIMER

     

     

If you thought Super Bowl pregame shows already had reached their maximum limit in volume and excess, guess again.

Between NBC, NFL Network and ESPN, there were be 18 (18!) hours of live pre-Super Bowl programming on Sunday leading up to the 6:29 p.m. kickoff, on top of the dozen of cable hours spent blabbering about the game earlier in the week. (If you choose to watch a lot of this, make sure you have extra remote control batteries and easy access to caffeine.)

When NBC’s Bob Costas appears in our living room at noon, it will mark the earliest time that the network televising the game has begun live Super Bowl coverage.

Costas will then send viewers off to NFL Film’s taped Road to the Super Bowl, before resuming NBC’s live broadcast for good at 1 p.m.

When Costas hosted his first two-hour Super Bowl pre-game show in 1986, “We thought it would be too long.”

And now? “I wish we had 10 hours!” NBC’s Tony Dungy said.

Costas - who will be joined by a large cast including Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Doug Flutie, Dan Patrick, guest analysts Aaron Rodgers and Hines Ward, among others - assures, “I’ll try to do my best to make it good.

“My job is to try to set the scene, much of which will speak for itself. Even with all the talk and hype on every network prior to the Super Bowl, we will have elements others don’t: extensive sit-down interviews with Tom Brady and Eli Manning,… an interview with Madonna, who will be the halftime performer. It’s our job to present fresh and engaging material that people haven’t already been beaten over the head with for two weeks.”

Expect the usual mix of football talk and light-hearted fare, some of which elicits eye-rolling --- including Fox’s nauseating 2011 red-carpet interviews with celebs, many of whom who knew little about the sport. Actor/comedian Nick Cannon will handle that gig for NBC on Sunday, reporting from a “Super suite.”

“There’s a good blend of segments of interest to avid fans and the casual viewer,” Costas said. “But if you’re going to be on the air for six hours, by definition, there is some excess no matter how you do it. There has to be a winking at the audience that some of this stuff is not everyone’s cup of tea.”

Among NBC’s pre-game offerings: Matt Lauer’s conversation with President Obama; Costas’ interviews with Brady, Madonna and Roger Goodell; Dan Patrick querying Manning; Dungy’s chat with Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Giants receiver Victor Cruz; Harrison’s interview with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and an in-home profile of former teammate Vince Wilfork; and Al Michaels’ sit-down with Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Other features on tap: NBC visits the hometowns of five players (including Brady and Manning) and talks to the people who made an early impact on their lives, such as coaches, teachers and a priest. Peter King has a piece on former Saints player Steve Gleason, who’s battling ALS disease. There will also be performances by The Fray and Lenny Kravitz, and the obligatory cooking segment.

“Towards the four and five o’clock hour, you will see it become a very football-centric show,” NBC Sports president Mark Lazarus said.

And this could be good: Former Giants receiver David Tyree will make a live visit to NBC’s set to talk with Harrison about Tyree’s incredible catch (over Harrison) that was the most memorable play in the Giants’ late Super Bowl-winning drive against the Patriots in 2008.

“My heart is with the Patriots, but I’m the same guy who said I would take Eli Manning in the fourth quarter instead of Tom Brady,” Harrison said. “If it means criticizing my former team, I’ve never been shy about doing that. If you put pressure on Tom and force him to his left, you can rattle him. As much as I love Tom,… Tom is not Superman.”

NOTABLE

### Michaels, 67, will be announcing his eighth Super Bowl and his first alongside Cris Collinsworth, who has called one Super Bowl for Fox.

“We’re used to the national platform, the big stage,” Michaels said. “You don’t want to insult the intelligence of the people who watch football all the time. But I might say from time to time, ‘If you follow the game, you know this…’”

### Collinsworth, 53, spent the 2008 Giants-Patriots Super Bowl sitting in the stands, where he was heckled by some Giants fans because he predicted the Patriots would win.

“At the end of it, this Giants fan who was going after me the hardest came running through seven or eight people to get to me,” Collinsworth recalled last week. “He was 300 pounds. I didn’t know if he was going to punch me. He picked me up and was jumping up and down for 30 seconds. I was getting milk-shaked.”

### NFL Network’s pregame show will air from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and ESPN’s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m…. NBC Sports Network, formerly known as Versus, this week became the latest cable channel to use former Dolphin Jason Taylor, who has TV aspirations. He had cameos with ESPN last summer and NFL Network in January…. The last word, from NBC’s Peter King: “Of all the things I’ve covered in my career, the most surprising thing is Dan Marino played in only one Super Bowl.”

      

February 02, 2012

Friday update: NFL expands Thursday night package

 FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN - UPDATED WITH FRIDAY MORNING NEWS

 

We interrupt ESPN’s and NFL Network’s 1047 hours of pre-Super Bowl saturation to recap the NFL season on television. (We’ll preview NBC’s Super Bowl coverage in a column Sunday.) Our NFL-TV postscripts from 2011:

### Best move: The NFL announcing Friday morning that it will expand the league's Thursday night package. Instead of televising games on the first and final seven Thursdays of the season, the NFL now will air games every Thursday through Week 15. NBC continues to get the Thursday opener and adds the Thanksgiving night game that previously aired on NFL Network.

NFL Network will get the Thursday night games between Weeks 2 and 15, excluding Thanksgiving night. The one annual mid-December Saturday night game on NFL Network has been eliminated.

Also, every team will get at least one prime time appearance next season. And every team will play one Thursday game following a Sunday game.

Several networks, including Turner, hoped to bid for an early season Thursday night package. But the league decided to keep those games, in-house, with NFL Network, whose total number of games per season increases from eight to 13.

The NFL also will debut a new Spanish-language red zone channel next season.

### Most wasteful use of air time: ESPN’s over-the-top obsession with Tim Tebow. The network dedicated a SportsCenter special to him, devoted chunks of every pre-game show to him, and even wrote a Christmas ode to him, narrated by a dozen analysts. (We’re not kidding.)

Yes, it was a huge story. But where’s the self-restraint? Where’s the self-awareness that enough is enough? We don’t need to hear the same analysts – Merril Hoge, Tom Jackson, Skip Bayless and others – opining on Tebow week after week, or in some cases, day after day.

### Most useless new feature: Fox and CBS posting player tweets on their pregame scrolls. Most were rah-rah messages with no newsworthy information. “It’s game day! Let’s go,” Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs tweeted. And this deserves to be on television because?

### Most amusing mispronunciation of a name: Fox’s Terry Bradshaw calling Kansas City running back Dexter McCluster “Duster McCluster.”

### Most egregious decision: Fox shamefully fabricating headlines about Jay Cutler, including “Cutler lacks courage” and “Cutler is no leader.” Said Daryl Johnston: “These are actual headlines” from Chicago newspapers. No, they weren’t. But don’t blame Johnston, who didn’t know that. Fox’s production people were behind the scam and apologized when it was exposed.

### Oops: Fox leaving the air just as Lions coach Jim Schwartz and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh were beginning their much-discussed postgame confrontation.

### Most regrettable remarks: 1. Jimmy Johnson, who overall does good work in Fox’s studio, announcing when the Giants were 6-5 that we could “stick a fork” in them: “They will be lucky to finish 8-8.” 2. Bill Cowher predicting Washington would make the playoffs. The Redskins finished 5-11. 3. CBS’ Shannon Sharpe, saying in Week 1, “How many coaches is Alex Smith going to get fired before [people] realize he can’t play quarterback?” Smith – with the help of a great defense and running game - then guided the 49ers to the NFC Championship game.

### Prescient pre-season musings: 1) CBS’ Boomer Esiason predicting that Houston and Detroit would make the playoffs. 2) Fox’s Terry Bradshaw being justifiably cautious about the Eagles: “You can’t put a bunch of stars together and [expect] to win a championship.”

### Most outstanding game analyst: NBC’s Cris Collinsworth, who does the best job of telling viewers something they don’t already know. Such as: He noted in the Cowboys-Giants finale that Dallas knew New York would snap the ball – and need not worry about jumping off-side prematurely – whenever Eli Manning yelled, “Omaha! Omaha! Hut!” Why? Because that meant the play clock was close to expiring.

### Most verbose: Fox’s Johnston, who repeatedly repeats himself every game. “You’ve got to get something positive going,” he said of the 49ers during one game. “Try to create something positive. You’ve got to keep getting positive yardage.” Johnston’s approach: Why use 20 words when I can use 40?

### The what-were-you-thinking award: To NBC’s Michele Tafoya, who too often asks that exact question on postgame interviews. Let’s see if she comes up with something different after the Super Bowl.

### Best studio show: Showtime’s Inside the NFL. Collinsworth and Phil Simms – with an assist from Warren Sapp and host James Brown – usually raise the level of discourse, but with a whimsical touch, lobbing playful shots at each other. The discussions often are meatier and more conversational than the Sunday shows, with little time wasted on tired clichés or predictable X and O breakdown.

And the game highlights are worth watching – days later - because of Showtime’s terrific on-field audio courtesy of NFL Films, such as Tennessee coach Mike Munchak – during a 41-7 home loss to Houston – pacing the sidelines saying, “They’re going to boo us out of here. I’d boo us, too.” Or then-Oakland coach Hue Jackson telling Wes Welker: “You caught 16 balls the last game. That’s two games worth. So you can chill today.” Or Tony Romo telling Jason Garrett “I will give you a kiss” if Garrett called a certain play.

### Free pass award: ESPN, with its kid-gloves treatment of Bill Parcells. Because he’s their colleague, ESPN’s commentators act as if Parcells had nothing to do with the Dolphins’ three consecutive losing seasons. Keyshawn Johnson said Miami started declining when Parcells left - blatantly untrue. Miami was 7-9 the year before he left, then 7-9 with the team he put together.

### Best hires: 1. Draft guru Mike Mayock generally aced his first season as NFL Network’s Thursday night analyst but needs to pull back on the football jargon, such as scolding the Bengals for “bad backside discipline.” (Hate when that happens.) 2. CBS' Marv Albert, who made a seamless return to NFL TV broadcasting, though at least once he referred to the Dolphins as the Heat.

### Self-deprecation award: To ESPN’s Trent Dilfer. “Being patient as a dynamic player is hard,” he said of DeSean Jackson. “Not that I would know!” He later said: “I’ve been the problem on some of [my] teams.”

### Most amusing weekly segment: “Stop it!” with Mike Ditka on ESPN. “So Josh Freeman looks to Albert Haynesworth as a mentor,” Ditka said. “And I look to Howdy Doody as a mentor!”

### Bloom off: Jon Gruden. After a promising start in ESPN’s Monday Night booth, Gruden’s work declined this season. He often guessed wrong on play calls, made some observations that replays contradicted and spewed some other puzzling remarks. He called a regular season loss to Kansas City “the worst day of Norv Turner’s life.” Even including only football developments in his life, San Diego’s loss in the 2007 AFC title game, or two divisional playoff losses the next two years, certainly carried more weight for Turner.

### Stand behind my words award: To CBS’ Shannon Sharpe, who interviewed Carson Palmer and Tebow after blasting them, and told them exactly what he said. “I said you quit on your team, you quit on Cincinnati,” Sharpe told Palmer, who then conceded he made a “selfish decision.”

NEWS NOTE

Jason Jackson, the sideline reporter on Sunshine’s Heat coverage, will take over the 1-3 p.m. slot on 790 The Ticket next week. He replaces The Sports Brothers, who were dropped.

February 01, 2012

Some UM signing day postscripts and Heat note

A few UM signing day postscripts:

 ### Al Golden said UM “absolutely get crushed by opponents” – some of whom warned players not to go to UM because of impending NCAA sanctions. “At times, it entered the world of vicious,” he said. “They saw a soft spot and went after it. A lot of times you give them enough rope to hang themselves.”

### Golden is optimistic that UM’s punishment will not be too harsh because the Hurricanes had eight players suspended last season and self imposed a bowl ban. He said the NCAA seems more inclined “to go after the perpetrators” and that no coaches and few players remain who were linked to the Nevin Shapiro scandal. He said players “understood we’re not responsible for it but we’re responsible enough to fix it.” “I don’t know why we need an inferiority complex,” Golden said. “We've got to start thinking like we're the University of Miami again. Time to stop having an inferiority complex. We will tough to beat down here. We should be… Are we not supposed to beat Alabama, Florida, Florida State down here?”

### He said he started feeling good about his chances of luring top cornerback Tracy Howard after visiting his home. Howard has a good chance to start next season, perhaps opposite Brandon McGee. "He's very instinctive, studies the game," defensive backs coach Paul Williams said. "When you add the speed, the athletic ability, you've got something really special.''

### He’s not sure if quarterback David Thompson will decide to play pro baseball instead, but said he has spoken to coach Jim Morris and would be allowed to play college baseball if he plays college football. He said he signed three quarterbacks because he believes he needs "to have five on campus." UM has four now (including early enrollees Preston Dewesy and Gray Crow), and the fifth (Thompson) arrives this summer.

### Golden loves the speed and tenacity of defensive ends Jake O’Donnell and Dwyane Hoilett, who were uncovered at one of the Golden’s UM camps last year. Homestead receiver Herb Waters also was uncovered at a camp.

 ### Golden said of 6-5, 310 pound defensive tackle Jacoby Briscoe: “We need that size, bulk inside.” Late addition Dequan Ivery “is very flexible and powerful. I kept challenging the staff to find me another nose guard.”

### He said former NFL coach Steve Mariucci was among those impressed by receiver Angelo Jean-Louis at the Under Armour practices.

 ### Golden, on linebacker Gabe Perry: “I couldn’t justify going to other states with that kid down the road. He ran a 10.9 in the 100 meters at 212 pounds.”

### He said receiver Robert Lockhart “has excellent hands and brings us length.” Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch called him "a stud - an unbelievable explosive player.''

### Returning defensive back Dallas Crawford is moving to running back. “He was a wildcat quarterback in high school,” Golden said, noting he can be moved back to the secondary if needed.

### He said defensive back Rashawn Jenkins also can play on offense and that cornerback Vernon Davis is a great kick and punt returner.

### He said 50 of the team’s 80 players will be in their first or second year.

### He said UM “made a lot of progress in Tampa. Talent in the state is unbelievable.”

### Golden introduced UM president Donna Shalala as "Mariano Rivera... the closer" because of the job she does selling the university to recruits.

 

FOR MORE ANALYSIS OF THIS CLASS, SEE OUR LAST POST.

HEAT ITEM

As we reported in this space yesterday, the Heat wants to sign veteran 7-1 center Joel Przybilla and is awaiting a decision. He likely will choose between the Heat, Bulls and possibly one other team in the next few days.

The Heat also has an offer out to Kenyon Martin, who is being pursued by the Clippers, San Antonio, Atlanta and New York.

Martin can join a team when his contractual obligation to a Chinese basketball team ends, in mid-February or soon after. He isn't playing for the Chinese team, but his contract stipulates that he cannot return to the NBA until that team's season ends.