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The buzz on UM freshmen and where they stand; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins chatter

Note: See The Herald's story on the sports home page for a report on the Dolphins' trade of Vontae Davis to the Colts. 

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Picked by media to finish fifth in its six-team Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division, UM enters Saturday’s opener at Boston College faced with some of the lowest expectations in years. But here’s a storyline that should keep you engaged: following the growth of a freshman class that this coaching staff hopes can become the nucleus of a top-20 team within a couple years.

“This class,” five-star cornerback Tracy Howard told us earlier this summer, “has got to be the one to lead us back. Me, Malcolm Lewis, Deon Bush, Duke Johnson, we’re coming in with passion and hunger to turn things around. No disrespect to the upper classmen, but we’ve got to make things happen ourselves. We’ve got a lot of humble, unselfish guys in this class.”

Coach Al Golden says a “bunch” of freshmen will play and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch admits: “I didn’t realize how good our young guys were” before August. An update on the ballyhooed freshman class, which was ranked eighth by ESPN:

### Defense: UM says at least four freshmen defensive backs will play, in addition to sophomore newcomer Ladarius Gunter: Howard (listed as a second-teamer but still competing to start); Bush (battling Kacy Rodgers to start at safety); Rayshawn Jenkins (backing up at safety), and Antonio Crawford (projects to be in the five-man corner rotation).

Bush is very physical (according to Mike James), knows what he's doing and isn't prone to a lot of mental mistakes that others have made, a UM official said.

Jenkins “is very active on the ball, which is why he’s been getting reps with the ones,” Golden said. “He knocks them down, he intercepts them, he recovers fumbles. That’s what we’re looking for. The probability he makes a play on the ball is higher than a lot of other guys at that position… [And] we’re very excited about Crawford.”

But the jewel is Howard, who has set four goals: “I want to earn a starting job as a freshman. I want to be a freshman All-American. Hopefully I’ll be on the Jim Thorpe list [given to the nation’s best defensive back] as a junior.

“And I want to push Brandon McGee so hard by him knowing he has someone on his tail. That will push him to go in the first round next year. I feel like whatever I set my mind to, it’s going to happen.”

Defensive backs coach Paul Williams said Howard “has got something special”; coaches love his work ethic. Eduardo Clements said this off-season, Howard would take a nap at 9 p.m., then get up and study film at 11 p.m.

Howard, who sees similarities between himself and All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson, has consulted with Edgerrin James – who told him “to go handle my business and have fun” – as well as Brandon Harris, Jacory Harris, Reggie Wayne and others.

Howard’s strengths? “I press well. I’m very physical, quick. A smart corner. What sets me apart is knowledge of the game….

“I’m very humble. I don’t go out. I don’t play video games. I don’t want to party. I might graduate in three years, studying finance. But I want to win before I leave. Hopefully, I’ll win the Jim Thorpe and be the first corner drafted.”

Jelani Hamilton (Anthony Chickillo’s backup) and pass-rusher Tyriq McCord are ahead of the other freshmen defensive ends, Dwayne Hoilett and Jake O’Donnell, and are expected to play. The freshmen ends, Golden said, have been “up and down.”

Center Shane McDermott said Earl Moore has been the most polished of the three incoming defensive tackles (Moore, Dequan Ivery, Jacoby Briscoe). “Earl is 300 pounds of straight muscle, built like a bowling ball,” McDermott said.

Linebacker Raphael Kirby’s knee injury, which will sideline him at least part of the season, was a blow, but the coaches love speedy pass rusher Gabe Terry, a former 195-pound Nebraska high-school state wrestling champ who has overcome considerable adversity. (His father is serving a life sentence for murder.) “Gabe Terry plays as hard as anyone on our team,” Golden said.

### Offense: Coaches can hardly conceal their giddiness about Duke Johnson; one UM football staffer muttered in amazement after watching him recently. Johnson’s fakes in the open field are so lethal than Gionni Paul injured his knee after one of them.

Johnson - who is listed behind Phillip Dorsett on the depth chart on kickoff returns - averaged 10 yards per carry and scored 29 touchdowns as a senior at Norland, and his coach there, Daryle Heidelberg, compares him to former NFL great Marshall Faulk.

“He’s only 5-8, but he’s 190 pounds, which makes him more durable than you would have thought,” Fisch said. “And he’s electric in terms of speed. He can run a lot more downhill than I originally thought.” UM also wants to exploit his skills as a receiver in space.

“The guy,” Howard said, “is amazing. He’s very patient, very quick, can turn a negative play into a long gain. Even though he’s not that big, he’s so strong that nobody can bring him down. I’ve watched him take eight of 10 kickoffs to the house in high school.”

Right tackle Ereck Flowers, who has seized the right tackle job amid Seantrel Henderson’s personal issues, “is going to be a great player,” Fisch predicted.

“He’s got really good feet for a big man, and he’s got lateral quickness,” Golden said. “He’s so smart for an offensive lineman, for a freshman.”

Freshman guard Daniel Isidora also is pushing for time.

At least two of five freshmen receivers will play, with third-teamers Malcolm Lewis and Herb Waters trying to crack the top-four rotation. Robert Lockhart can make dazzling catches in traffic but has fallen behind Lewis (a polished route runner, quick and a red zone threat) and Waters (who is “fast, smooth, elusive,” Fisch said, and better than what UM coaches thought).

Cornerback Ladarius Gunter said Lewis is the most difficult of the freshmen receivers to cover because he’s “so shifty.” Lewis is listed behind Dorsett on the depth chart for punt returns.

CHATTER

### One NFL general manager said he couldn’t understand why the Dolphins didn’t draft a receiver in the first three rounds. Expect Miami to peruse the waiver wire at that position, as well as offensive line (especially a backup tackle); defensive tackle (if the Dolphins don't go with a prospect as their fourth DT); cornerback (fifth slot is open after Jonathan Wade's release); and possibly for a fourth tight end better than Jeron Mastrud if Miami keeps that many (the Packers kept five last year). 

The Dolphins were pleased with the work of backup linebackers Jason Trusnik, Austin Spitler and Gary Guyton on Friday, making that less of an issue.

### CBS’ Rich Gannon, who calls Packers preseason games, said Green Bay (Joe Philbin’s former team) has seven legitimate NFL receivers. Though Miami hasn’t called the Packers about a trade as of a couple days ago, that could change. CBS' Charley Casserly said Miami should trade a mid-round pick for Packers receiver James Jones, NFL people expect the Dolphins to consider receivers the Packers cut – potentially 2011 practice squad members Diondre Borel or Tori Gurley.

### The Dolphins - whose safety play in preseason has been mediocre - inquired about but have not pursued former Packers safety Charlie Peprah, who had five interceptions last year but was cut in July after failing his physical (knee).

### Some NFL people are not surprised by Michael Egnew’s struggles, with one noting the limited pro success of fellow Missouri tight ends Martin Rucker (fourth round, 2008) and Chase Coffman (third round, 2009). Those two have five combined NFL receptions and, like Egnew, played in coach Gary Pinkel’s spread offense.

The Dolphins, who took Egnew 78th, passed on four receivers drafted in the next 22 picks: Cincinnati’s Mohamed Sanu (four catches, 25 yards in preseason), the Colts’ and ex-FIU standout T.Y. Hilton (9 for 116, including 31 yard TD Saturday), the Rams’ Chris Givens (3 for 40), and the Browns’ and ex-UM standout Travis Benjamin (2-46). Former Cane Tommy Streeter, selected 199th by Baltimore and repeatedly passed over by Miami, caught a 33-yard touchdown Thursday.

### Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, speaking Saturday about the difficulty of picking receivers for this team: "They haven't helped matters. I don't know how much more clarity we're going to have after the last game, but hopefully we will."... He said Davone Bess and "a couple" other receivers (Brian Hartline presumably one of them) are guaranteed jobs but wouldn't name them. He also said he's concerned "a lot about our [offensive line] depth."

### The Heat, which continues to consider ex-Knick Josh Harrellson and several other centers, offered center Mickell Gladness a non-guaranteed one-year deal, but he hasn’t decided whether to accept.... Free agents Gladness, Terrel Harris and Juwan Howard are working out with the team, with Howard staying in shape in case Miami chooses to re-sign him….

Harris is weighing whether to re-sign with Miami or accept one of several European offers… Former Loyola Marymount small forward Drew Viney, the most impressive undrafted rookie on Miami’s summer-league team, signed to play in Poland instead of waiting for an expected Heat training camp invitation.

### Though it would be helpful to get a final read on 2009 Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, he hasn’t earned a Marlins promotion from Triple A, where he’s hitting .279 and is 6 for his last 35. He might be non-tendered this winter…. Former Cardinals prospect Zack Cox, whom the Marlins hope will be their third baseman of the future, is hitting .271 with 12 RBI in his first 18 games at Double A Jacksonville.

Comments

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shhhh U

bam

U'll be 5-7

UMcanes

shhhh U - seek help.
What kind of skank goes on and posts the first post in a UM article site? Just some parasite with no life...oh, that would be YOU!

If you're an FIU fan...NICE SCHEDULE...complete with Lousisville and UCF as your "tough non-conference" foes...ULM (football power), Akron (wow), Troy (condoms), ULL (what is that?), MTSU (are you playing Pop Warner?), FAU (OMG, below Pop Warner)...well, next year when you get into that powerhouse C-USA, it'll be better...has anyone from the C-USA ever won a national championship..........drum roll.....um, NO!

If you're FSU...another year for the "big gag"..you'll choke so bad that we'll hear that war cry turn to real tears.

If you're UF - too funny! You'll finish at the bottom of the SEC....you're football team will follow the FAILURES OF YOUR BASEBALL TEAM...waaaaaaaaa, sniffle sniffle..........waaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!

Nice game

Former FIU standout and Colts rookie TY Hilton had a great preseason game on Saturday. Led the team in passing yards at halftime, didn't play in the second half (bench warmers played in 2nd half)

There are currently 5 FIU alumni playing in the NFL, and recruits are taking notice.

sfalfan

Yes, I'm patting my own back here a bit. I've been saying since recruit signing date that this freshman class will be the best in Canes history and in 2 years, will have the U competing for a top 10 spot and a major bowl. I'm a high school football junkie. See alot of it! And the players from South Florida that they signed are all undeniable studs.

Duke and Howard dominated their respective positions. Not only in Florida, but the best at their positions in the country. I had no doubt that either or both SHOULD be freshmen All Americans. No brainers.

I knew South Floridians Deon Bush, Herb Waters, Crawford, Hamilton, Flowers & Lewis all had potential to be real good real fast, but you never really know. It's nice to see that they are all getting great reviews from the coaches and will be playing and gaining experience as freshmen.

It'll take 2 more seasons. And it will depend on whether or not the Canes hit on the next QB. It'll be when the new QB (Crow, Dewey, Thompson or the incoming stud Olsen) are going into their 2nd season, the current true freshmen are juniors, and hopfeully our stud sophmores like Chickillo, Perryman and Dorsett stick around for their senior years.

The 2014 season. Studs matured, santions out of the way, new regime firmly in place. That will be the year everything falls into place and they make their run! Until then, let's see steady progress.

Ronnie

The "U" SUCKS,and the program for that matter. Might as well stay with Dolphins this year. Go Phins!

mango

Great info Barry. Keep up the good work!

Penguin

I know: trade the entire Dolphins team for FK Šiauliai, which is a storied Lithuanian soccer team. Give the newly-constituted team a little time to learn to catch and pass with their hands. Add Channing Crowder so that someone intelligent and funny can be interviewed by the media (it may take a while for former FK Šiauliai players to become fluent in English, as they will be focusing on the shape of their new ball). Play ball! Win!

Ringling Brothers

Can we just fast forward to the NBA playoffs? Dolphins are the worst team in football, the Marlins are not too far from that label in MLB, the Canes will face some growing pains, as well as uncertainty with the NCAA, the up and coming young Panthers will be set back by the impending lockout in the NHL. The only team in town right now is the Heat. Heat/Lakers to meet in one of the most anticipated finals in NBA history!

MiamiSouthPaw

UM is quickly dwindling into the second best college football program in town. Wait until the NCAA finally drops the hammer and takes away scholarships. The Canes went 6-6 last year without NCAA sanctions, including losses to pathetic Maryland and Boston College. Just imagine how worse it's going to get. I like Al Golden. He's a good coach. But sooner or later, he's going to throw his hands up in the air and take another job.

frostdog0819

@sflafan...I think the 99 class is the best class of all time..hands down..they voted that team the greatest ever on espn...2001 team

Delusion is a hell of a drug

Posted by: MiamiSouthPaw | 08/26/2012 at 10:41 AM

Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

You do know UM and FIU had a common opponent last year, don't you?

FIU lost to Duke, Miami beat them by five touchdowns.

MiamiSouthPaw

The sad news is UM hasn't even reached rock bottom yet. Wait until the scholarship cuts are handed down by the NCAA. Canes went 6-6 last year and lost to cream puffs like Maryland and Boston College with no scholarship losses. Can you say 4-8? Should be a great college football season. Can't wait.

joe

Once the NCAA performs it s magic............and provides reasons for it s existence....just like USC....the Canes actually WILL rise again.Nice try for the insecure and trolls who wish bad on bad for the U...it s just they re over hyped with their zeal.Canes will attain the highs again among the college football elite.Just a matter of when........not if.We ll take our minimal lumps and recruit very well in the years ahead.Too storied a program to be kept down long.The U will most definitely persevere and challenge sooner than everyone thinks for their next national football Championship.GO CANES.

boe

The 97 class was the best class ever. Morgan, Moss, Wayne, E.Reed. These are the guys that turned it around.

Missouri Cane

Heard this all back in 2008 and here we are again.

SHOW ME !!!

MiamiSouthPaw

lol UM fans actually comparing themselves to USC. Too funny. USC already had a stacked roster before NCAA sanctions. They already had Barkley and that crew. UM is nearly a decade removed from being relevant. Golden has inherited an empty cupboard. You Cane fans actually think you're coming back to prominence while on probation? lol I really feel sorry for you delusional folks. It's not 2001 anymore. It's sucks to be U.

joe mama

Barry Jackson is da bomb

Tim

How can the Dolphins be allowed to keep dumping good players? How can Ross allow this?

Delusion? Right...

lol FIU fans actually comparing themselves to Miami. Too funny. Miami is in a BCS conference and competes for top recruits. FIU gathers up the 6th rate Florida talent that nobody wants and still can't compete in their joke of a conference with teams that NO ONE has ever heard of.

Again, we had a common opponent last year. Miami beat them by five touchdowns. FIU lost.

Delusion? Right...

BTW, there's nothing more pathetic than someone who needs to hate on a real school just because his community college is noncompetitive at a particular sport.

Get a life brother.

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