WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Eight UM players will participate in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis beginning today, and they have a lot to prove. Green Bay Packers scout Alonzo Highsmith, the former UM star, said several Canes underclassmen made a mistake by turning pro.
"A lot of these kids are in for a rude awakening,” he said. “Maybe parents are telling them what they want to hear. I don’t think they’re getting good advice. After watching film, it was rather disappointing. I watched the Virginia and Boston College tape and I didn’t see many good players. Lamar Miller shows flashes of dynamic speed and ability, but that’s all I saw.”
Draft analysts Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock project Miller to go in the second round, and nobody is criticizing him for turning pro. But evaluators have questioned Marcus Forston and Olivier Vernon for leaving early. Tommy Streeter and Brandon Washington could go in the second or third round, but Highsmith said both could have used another year.
“Forston is always hurt and he didn’t have a body of work,” Highsmith said. “Vernon maybe has the potential, but I didn’t notice him that much. If you’re a second or third-round pick, you should be able to get off a block on third and seven.”
Streeter didn’t play much until last season. And Highsmith said, in general, “History shows one-year players with one-year stats are often busts in the NFL.”
Highsmith said, “I’m all for kids coming out if they can make money. But to be a sixth- or seventh-round pick, I don’t understand it. Some guys don’t want to work and think pro football is easy. You’ve got to be tough to play for Al Golden. If you’re not willing to put in the time, the easy way out is to leave. But do you know how hard it is to make an NFL team?”
One current player said besides financial incentive, some players simply didn’t want to go through Golden’s offseason conditioning program again. But UM was puzzled that all the underclassmen turned pro before getting their assessment back from the NFL’s draft review board.
### Highsmith likes senior Sean Spence, who could go in the second or third round. Among some other seniors, Kiper sees Travis Benjamin as a fifth-rounder but says Jacory Harris will go undrafted. Mayock expects Micanor Regis, who won’t be at the Combine, will be a mid-to-late round pick…. UM’s eight players in Indy: Miller, Spence, Washington, Vernon, Benjamin, Forston, Harris and Streeter.
### One NFC personnel man said his philosophy is to draft players who can help his team win a Super Bowl and he sees only two departing UM players that he feels strongly could – Miller and Spence (as a special teamer, and nickel package player).
Kiper said Forston “is going to drop significantly down” and Vernon is “way down the line as far as the defensive ends.” He said Streeter “could be a second-round pick if he tests out well from a speed standpoint.” The Patriots already have called Streeter to express interest, but the Dolphins haven’t, his father said.
Kiper said Washington, rated his third-best guard, played inconsistently at tackle in 2011 but “can end up going a little higher than he’s graded” because he can play either spot.
### FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton, projected in the fourth-round range, will be at the Combine but won’t do drills because of a quadriceps injury.
### Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, whose quarterback opinion carries great weight with GM Jeff Ireland, thinks highly of Green Bay’s Matt Flynn and Miami has interest in him if they don’t get Peyton Manning. But here’s a precautionary note pointed out to us about Flynn’s signature game (480 yards, six touchdowns against Detroit on Jan. 1): A lot of his damage was done against two defensive backs ranked in the bottom quarter of the league (Chris Harris and Alphonso Smith) and a cornerback (Chris Houston) who was limited that day because of injury. Plus, the Packers had 223 yards after catch. As expected, the Dolphins have shown no interest in re-signing free agent Chad Henne. Matt Moore will return and is due to earn $2.5 million.
### A coin flip with Carolina, scheduled for 7 a.m. Friday, will determine if Miami picks 8th or 9th. NFL Network will air it on tape, but the league says there's no live coverage and no media permitted to witness it…. Though Bengals safety Reggie Nelson is very much on the Dolphins radar, keep in mind that Cincinnati wants to keep him and has $60 million to spend in free agency.
### Yet another reason to admire Udonis Haslem’s relentless effort: Of the NBA’s top 15 players in rebounds-per-48-minutes, Haslem (14th at 14.9) is the only one shorter than 6-10. Coach Erik Spoelstra says he’s actually 6-7, not the listed 6-8…
### The Jeremy Lin effect: Ticket of America’s Michael Lipman said courtside seats for Thursday’s Knicks-at-Heat game are selling for $6000 behind the basket, with one sideline courtside seat going to a rapper for $12,500 – both double what Lakers-at-Heat and the Celtics-at-Heat home opener commanded. Those sideline courtside seats cost $1500 to $2000 for most games. One went for $20,000 in the NBA Finals.
### Spoelstra insists he doesn’t “think the average fan sees” Joel Anthony’s value: “He does some things very few centers in this league can,” including on pick-and-rolls. The Heat allows two points less per game, over 48 minutes, with Anthony playing compared with when he's not. Because he's often on the floor with The Big Three, the Heat averages three points more with him in the game -- despite his serious offensive limitations.
### Marlins reliever Edward Mujica, a friend of Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez), said Oviedo doesn’t expect to receive a visa to return to the U.S. until after March 1. The Marlins won’t be surprised if he’s suspended by commissioner Bud Selig after he gets a visa. If they can’t trade him shortly after his reinstatement, they believe he will have value near the July 31 trade deadline, despite his $6 million salary… Perennial disappointment Sean West, once the top lefty prospect in the Marlins’ system, is the only borderline roster candidate who’s out of minor league options, meaning if he doesn’t beat out Wade LeBlanc for the No. 12 job on the pitching staff, another team could claim him.