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UM spring football postscripts; Dolphins draft notes; Heat issues; Marlins

Sunday afternoon update: Sources confirm to The Herald that Richard Pitino, son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, will be FIU's next men's basketball coach, replacing ousted Isiah Thomas. Richard Pitino has been associate head coach at Louisville for the past year, working for his father; Rick praised his scouting reports, among other things. He had worked at Louisville for four years previously, before leaving to be an assistant at Florida for two years (2009-10 and 2010-11). He then returned to work with his dad this past season. Pitino's hiring was originally reported early Sunday by AllKyHoops.com.

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

UM emerged from spring practice with several jobs legitimately open -- on both lines, in the secondary, tight end, receiver and elsewhere. Spring ball postscripts, by position:

### Cornerback: An intriguing battle looms, with six summer arrivals, including All-American Tracy Howard. “You need at least six going into the season,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. He expects Brandon McGee, Thomas Finnie and early arrival Ladarius Gunter to be three “and the young guys” – including early arrival Larry Hope – “fighting it out for the other three.”

McGee, who had been with the starters most of spring, was not with the first team on Saturday - Gunter and Finnie were - but D'Onofrio said all three are close in the staff's estimation. Finnie picked off a Ryan Williams pass Saturday, and McGee made a nifty interception of a Gray Crow pass and returned it 40 yards.

"McGee making that sort of play is something we've been looking for, for a long time," Al Golden said.

Gunter also had a few good moments, including forcing a fumble by Rawshawn Scott after Scott beat him for a long gain. Nobody should be surprised if Howard ends up starting at some point this season.

### Safety: One surprise was Vaughn Telemaque being relegated to the second team most of spring; Kacy Rodgers was with the first team Saturday, opposite Ray-Ray Armstrong. “AJ Highsmith and Kacy have closed the gap for sure," D’Onofrio said. But Telemaque and Armstrong had interceptions Saturday, and UM's four picks were just two fewer than its defense had all last season.

Telemaque “has been inconsistent,” defensive backs coach Paul Williams said. “He needs to run the show like we need a veteran safety to do.”

### Defensive end: D’Onofrio said linebacker Kelvin Cain likely will stay permanently at d-end. Expect a battle between Cain and Shayon Green to start opposite Anthony Chickillo, who had a sack Saturday.

Green “had the best spring of any defensive end,” D’Onofrio said, before his knee flared up in April. D’Onofrio expects five to play: those three, plus two from among Ricardo Williams and freshmen Dwayne Hoilett (who flashed this spring), Tyriq McCord, Jelani Hamilton and Jake O’Donnell.

### Defensive tackle: Curtis Porter and Darius Smith “have distanced themselves” over Luther Robinson, Olsen Pierre, Jalen Grimble and Corey King (who missed spring), D’Onofrio said. He expects to play five; a summer arrival (Earl Moore, Jacoby Briscoe, DeQuan Ivery) has a decent chance to crack that group. Pierre had a sack and a played well Saturday. Robinson, who declined the coaching staff's request to move to the offensive line before spring ball, also had some good moments.

### Linebacker: UM is delighted how Denzel Perryman adjusted to middle linebacker – “great instincts, all the tools to be a great one,” D’Onofrio said. Ramon Buchanon, who missed spring, and Perryman likely will start, with Jimmy Gaines the favorite for the third starting job.

D’Onofrio spoke of a potential third-down role for improved Eddie Johnson – who could push Gaines - and/or Tyrone Cornelius (“fast guy who can blitz or cover”). Also, “I like what [freshman] Raphael Kirby did, and Gionni Paul improved.”

Cornelius had a sack on Saturday, and Kirby and Paul each had six tackles - second-most behind Gunter (seven). Converted safety Thurston Armbrister, now at linebacker, also had a couple notable plays Saturday.

### Quarterback: Williams (15 for 27, 169 yards) threw two interceptions Saturday (only one was his fault) and made some mental errors, according to Golden. He did nothing to change Stephen Morris' position as the clear front-runner.

Golden said Gray Crow was ahead of Preston Dewey heading into Saturday, but added they're "very close" now. Dewey (6 for 12, 56 yards, no picks) had the better showing in the spring game. Crow (12 for 21, 95 yards) threw two interceptions.

### Running back: Mike James (15 for 57 Saturday) exited spring ball as the clear favorite to start over Eduardo Clements. "Mike had a great spring,'' offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. Clements finished 16 for 51, after managing just 17 yards on 14 carries in the second scrimmage.

"I don't think anyone thought he would come in and beat Mike James," Fisch said afterward. Still, you would have liked to see more explosiveness from Clements.

Fisch said both will play a lot, as will ballyhooed freshman Duke Johnson and potentially Danny Dillard. “Duke, with his explosiveness, is somebody you want on the field," Fisch said. UM's running game should be helped by the return of underrated fullback Maurice Hagens, who was sidelined Saturday and for much of spring ball.

Fisch said Dallas Crawford was moved from running back to receiver earlier in the spring, but UM decided later to play him at both positions and will determine this summer where he can best help. Fisch compared him to a utility infielder. He's most effective as a slot receiver.

### Receiver: Rashawn Scott had a terrific spring but ended it with a thud Saturday, fumbling a ball after a long gain and failing to hold onto another pass that was intercepted by Armstrong. "I told Rawshawn, 'Your job between now and July 29 is to become great,'' Fisch said.

Three spots in the receiver rotation likely will go to Scott, Allen Hurns and Phillip Dorsett, who set up the game's only touchdown with a 44-yard play, 39 of which came as yards after catch. Five incoming receivers will compete with Kendal Thompkins for two other jobs, with Robert Lockhart and Miramar’s Malcolm Lewis the most polished route-runners of the five.  (As we reported here Friday, UM's highest rated receiver recruit - Angelo Jean-Louis - is headed to prep school instead.) Thompkins, Mr. April, had a good spring and solid showing Saturday (six catches, 45 yards).

### Tight end: Asante Cleveland spent all of spring with the first team, because he was more consistent than Clive Walford, who dropped a pass Saturday "that would have been a 60-yard game," Fisch noted. But they will be paired together a lot this season. “Those two are going to be elite players,” Fisch said. “The tight ends had 29 catches last year. I’d like to see them get up to 60.” David Perry and Dyron Dye “are tied for third” at tight end, Fisch said, with Cory White out injured.

### Offensive line: Fisch said Malcolm Bunche and Seantrel Henderson “have shown they can be starting tackles for the next couple years. Brandon Linder and Shane McDermott had awesome springs.” That leaves one job open (left guard) – between Jon Feliciano (injured) and Jermaine Johnson. Jeremy Lewis “is in the mix too,” Fisch said.  Lewis started Saturday with Feliciano and Johnson out.

### Of the lackluster offensive display Saturday, Fisch said, "We hurt ourselves a lot, which was disappointing. We didn't catch the ball very well and blocking was just OK... Rashawn -- catch a [36] yard pass and don't fumble. Phillip Dorsett, don't get caught from behind."

Of his young skill position players, Fisch said pointedly, "We can't say they are [playmakers] yet because they didn't make plays today. They have to fulfill their potential sooner than later.'' 

DRAFT CHATTER

### Count Michigan State’s Keshawn Martin (66, 777), Iowa’s Marvin McNutt (82, 1315) and Arizona’s Juron Criner (75, 956) among receivers the Dolphins have been showing interest in. We hear the Dolphins also are intrigued by FIU's T.Y. Hilton, among others.

### The Dolphins have been calling about San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley, a potential mid-rounder if Miami doesn't get one of the five or six higher rated quarterbacks available to them.... Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler are the only first or second-tier QB prospects that Miami has had "alone time" with since the NFL Combine. They've done nothing private (workout or visit) with Brandon Weeden and Kirk Cousins since the Combine, though they have told NFL people that they like both. Keep in mind this Dolphins regime has drafted several players that were not brought in for visits.

### Among the maximum 30 players without South Florida ties who are allowed to visit Dolphins headquarters, the Dolphins have used several on defensive backs, including two from LSU - cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety Brandon Taylor. They also like Oregon State safety/cornerback Brandon Hardin and Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who both visited. It's a bonus, in Dolphins management's eyes, if you can play safety or corner.... Contrary to a report on another local internet site, people directly involved say the Dolphins have not hosted visits with potential first-round linebackers Courtney Upshaw, Zach Brown or Whitney Mercilus, though Upshaw and Mercilus are not out of the question as options if Miami trades down from No. 8.

### NFL Network's Mike Mayock said North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples - who has visited the Dolphins and remains in the mix at No. 8 - "would win the bathing suit competition" but should not be a first-round pick because of questionable effort. In fact, Mayock said he's not even sure he would take him in the second round.

### Iowa's Riley Reiff is no longer the only possible right tackle projected in Miami's range, or soon after. Sports Illustrated's Tony Pauline said scouts now believe elite Stanford guard David DeCastro also can play right tackle, and CBS' Charley Casserly said he's one of the draft's top 10 prospects. Still, it would be surprising if the Dolphins use another first-rounder on a lineman.

### While most prominent mock drafts have Miami taking Ryan Tannehill at No. 8, projections for the Dolphins' pick at No. 41 range from Clemson linebacker Andre Branch (Kiper's pick for Miami) to Marshall linebacker Vinny Curry (Casserly's pick).

HEAT, MARLINS CHATTER

### If it seems the Heat allows more open shots than most teams, you’re right. And it can be exasperating, but partly a function of Miami's defensive philosophy, which involves protecting the paint and sending extra defenders to the side with the ball, which leaves Miami vulnerable when the opponent swings the ball to the weak side. Consider these gruesome numbers:

According to mysynergysports.com, Miami has allowed a way-too-many 801 unguarded catch-and-shoots - second-most in the NBA and 225 more than Chicago. What’s more, opponents have made 43 percent of those shots (only Washington allows a higher percentage). When Miami actually guards the shooter on catch-and-shoots, opponents shoot only 33 percent.

Also troublesome: The Heat has relinquished 439 three-pointers – second-most behind Denver. Miami’s three-point percentage defense has slipped from ninth last season to 28th, which should very much concern them.

Shane Battier explains it thusly: “When you don’t have shot blockers, you have to be aggressive on pick and rolls. When we are, it’s essentially a double team, which leaves an open man. To cover that man, you need to get into rotations.” But Miami’s problem, ESPN’s Jalen Rose said, is “they’re slow on rotations.”

### LeBron James is posting up more than ever (3.1 shots per game), and his points per possession on post-ups is fourth best (minimum 150 shots), behind Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. But as TNT’s Steve Kerr noted, James doesn’t do it enough late in games.

Here’s why he should: During the last five minutes of close games (margin of five or fewer), James – as a member of the Heat, including playoffs - has shot 31 for 94 (32 percent) outside the paint/basket area, including 36.9 percent on two-pointers outside the basket area. Yes, he hit a big three Thursday night, and we aren't suggesting that he not take some of those shots. But weaving in more post-ups would raise his late-game efficiency.

Kerr said playing James at point guard late in games discourages him from posting up. “But you can still do it, like Chauncey Billups does,” an Eastern Conference scout told us. “Dwyane Wade or somebody else can make the entry pass. He’ll probably get doubled, but you’ll have open shooters. It’s bizarre Erik [Spoelstra] doesn’t use James Jones more to discourage his guy from doubling. Jones isn’t that bad a defender and his stroke is much better than Battier’s.”

### Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire said Josh Johnson’s velocity is down from early 2011 (91-93 mph; usually 95-96). Blame that, plus location, for his struggles (0-2, 8.38 ERA, 21 hits in 9 2/3 innings). “I’m unhappy, but I feel really good and I’m not giving up line drives,” Johnson said.

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