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15 posts from November 2012

November 30, 2012

Former UM coaches await their fate; Fins, Heat, Marlins notes

A few readers have asked about the fate of the former UM assistants implicated in the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Here’s an update:

 

UM officials and their fans aren’t the only ones nervously awaiting their notice of allegations from the NCAA, which could come at any time.

Former UM employees accused of wrongdoing will get separate notices of allegation at the same time UM does, people involved in the investigation confirmed.  The NCAA also confirmed that timetable. And for parents of UM players, that can't happen soon enough. (More on that later.)

That group likely will include former assistant football coaches Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill, and possibly Joe Pannunzio and Jeff Stoutland, who are both on Nick Saban’s Alabama staff. Ex-basketball assistants Jorge Fernandez and potentially Jake Morton also are expected to receive notices, and now-Missouri coach Frank Haith might, too, depending on the NCAA’s findings. The NCAA has forbidden all from commenting.

Two former UM assistants were forced to resign elsewhere this year --- Hill at Florida, Fernandez at Marshall. Morton was shifted from Western Kentucky’s coaching staff to director of basketball operations, though the school says that’s unrelated to the NCAA investigation. Hill and Fernandez are suffering from the fallout, their careers in limbo.

The allegations against Hurtt are worse than those against Hill, who was accused by Nevin Shapiro only of being present at Shapiro’s home for a recruiting visit by Ray-Ray Armstrong, Dyron Dye and Andre DuBose. Hurtt, by contrast, was accused of assorted violations: being at that meeting; taking a $5000 interest-free loan from Shapiro, which he repaid; and twice bringing large groups of recruits to a Miami Beach restaurant, using Shapiro’s credit card.

So why is Hurtt still on Louisville’s Orange Bowl-bound staff? An associate said Louisville told Hurtt it will stand by him, at least for now, as long as he tells the truth. According to a friend, Hurtt expects to be punished for the loan, at the very least.

Yahoo! previously reported that Pannunzio (now Alabama’s director of football operations) set up Matt Patchan’s 2007 recruiting visit to Shapiro’s home. But an associate said Shapiro never implicated him because they were close and Pannunzio introduced Shapiro to a friend who lost a lot of money in Shapiro’s Ponzi scheme. Shapiro’s only known allegation against Stoutland was that he attended the Patchan visit at Shapiro’s home.

Sources said Haith told the NCAA he had no knowledge of any violations by Morton (who is accused of paying money to a DeQuan Jones family member, then returning it) or Fernandez, who was punished for allegedly providing frequent flyer miles for a flight for Reggie Johnson’s mother and reportedly for a transportation violation involving Durand Scott. But we hear the NCAA has continued to search hard for any potential violations by Haith, amid Shapiro’s claims that he paid for dinners and strip club visits they made together.

Besides the Jones allegation – which the NCAA has vigorously tried to corroborate – Fernandez and Morton also were asked to address claims they were with Shapiro when Shapiro paid for entertainment for former AAU coach Moe Hicks.   

For the assistant coaches, the process will be similar to the one UM will undertake. The coaches will have three months to respond to the allegations before going before the infractions committee. Penalties could come two to four months later.

A few of the former UM assistants might face show/cause penalties, which means any penalties imposed on a coach involved in major rules violations will remain in force if he is hired by another school. Those coaches can be hired by another school but most aren’t during the length of their penalty, essentially blackballing them from the industry.

Parents of four former suspended UM players (Olivier Vernon, Jacory Harris, Marcus Forston and Ray-Ray Armstrong) have spoken out that the coaches need to be punished. “In law enforcement, it’s called culpable negligence for their actions,” Vernon’s father, Lascelles, a Miami Beach police officer, said this season. “Aubrey came to my house and said he was taking Olivier out. We didn’t know it was to Nevin Shapiro’s residence.”

“You can’t let these coaches get away with this,” Albert Armstrong said. “It was Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill and those individuals that walked those kids into negative stuff. They should call and apologize to them and they haven’t done that.”

UM continues to hope the former assistants will be held more responsible for their violations than UM is.

 

CHATTER

### Worrisome with the Patriots visiting: Dolphins linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett allowed all six passes thrown against them to be completed, for 74 yards, against Seattle. That cannot happen again Sunday against tight end Aaron Hernandez and other Patriots tight ends and running backs. But coach Joe Philbin correctly noted they have been generally good in coverage this year – Burnett is ranked third among outside linebackers, Dansby 11th among inside linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus.

### Nolan Carroll and RJ Stanford split time at cornerback opposite Sean Smith last Sunday, but Stanford said Carroll got most of the first-team snaps this week.

### With Charles Barkley saying Dwyane Wade is “starting to lose his talent and has to learn how to play below the basket,” the real issue is his struggling midrange game. He’s shooting 26 percent on three-to-nine footers (he has been 44 to 55 percent every year) and 33 percent on 10 to 15 footers, despite hiring a shooting coach.

### Livan Hernandez, 37, has approached the Marlins about pitching out of their bullpen next year. He was 4-1 with a 6.42 ERA last season. Miami hasn’t ruled it out… The Marlins say they will give Chris Coghlan another chance to compete in center with Justin Ruggiano, Gorkys Hernandez, Bryan Peterson, and he also may get a look at second and third base next spring. The Marlins say they aren't pursuing high priced center fielders such as Michael Bourn or Angel Pagan.

November 29, 2012

Barkley: Wade diminished; Parcells' last big decision under microscope

In case you missed the TNT broadcast of the Heat's far-closer-than-it-should-have-been win over the heavily depleted Spurs Thursday night, here were a few notable comments from Charles Barkley, who left the studio to work the game courtside:

### Barkley was pretty critical of Dwyane Wade: "He's starting to lose his talent," Barkley said. "He's got to learn to play below the basket. The days he can beat you one-on-one, those days are over.... He looks like he lost his explosion. He's going to have to learn to post up." When Wade missed a jumper, Barkley said: "He's got no lift."

### Barkley, on the Heat overall: "They're bored by the regular season. They need a challenge.... The only way to beat the Heat is to punish them down low.... They're not a dominant team because of their [lack of] size.... The Heat has got some issues. When they become a jump shooting team, they're streaky."

### Barkley said he had no problem with Gregg Popovich sending Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green back to San Antonio to rest them. (Commissioner David Stern was outraged and plans to punish the Spurs.) But when Reggie Miller said if he were Parker, he would want to play, Barkley cracked: "Yeah, cause he would be going against Chalmers!"

# # #

While doing a story on Jared Odrick and Koa Misi, I started thinking about the last big decision Bill Parcells made for the Dolphins. Curious what you think of that decision 2 1/2 years later. Read on, and then weigh in: 

# # #

The decision facing Bill Parcells in his final NFL Draft with the Dolphins was a difficult one.

Should he and Jeff Ireland keep the 12th overall choice and take a potential blue-chip prospect such as Earl Thomas or Jason Pierre-Paul? Or should they trade down to the 28th and 40th picks to select two players, filling multiple needs?

Parcells opted for the latter in 2010, seizing on San Diego’s desire to move up to draft running back Ryan Mathews. Two and half years later, the merits of that decision can still be debated.

Jared Odrick and Koa Misi, Miami’s selections with those picks, have become competent starters. So it cannot be said that trading down was an unspeakably bad mistake.

But it also cannot be called a brilliant stroke, either, because the Dolphins passed on at least one All-Pro player at a high-demand position: Pierre-Paul, who was plucked by the Giants with the 15th pick and has 27.5 sacks in 2 ½ seasons, including 16 ½ last year and 6.5 this season.

The good news: Misi has improved in his third season, while Odrick has been stout against the run and produced a key sack to force a Seattle punt that set the stage for the Dolphins’ game-winning drive on Sunday.

Among players selected between 12 and 27 in 2010, a bunch have been productive: Seahawks safety Earl Thomas at 14 (nine interceptions in three years), Pierre-Paul, 49ers guard Mike Iupati at 17 (not that Miami could have justified taking a guard at 12); Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey at 18 (the Dolphins drafted a comparable player, his brother Mike, a year later).

Also: Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon at 19 (162 tackles in 2 ½ seasons), Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham at 21 (47 catches for 558 yards this season), Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas at 22 (61 for 1015 this season), Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga at 23 (made All-rookie team), Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant at 24 and Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty at 27 (12 picks in 2 ½ seasons).

Was passing on Bryant to trade down a mistake? Depends on how much stock a team places in off-field issues. The Cowboys require Bryant to follow a strict set of guidelines, including a midnight curfew, in the wake of his arrest this summer on a domestic violence charge involving his mother.

Bryant has 15 touchdown catches since the start of 2011 – including six this season, with 65 receptions for 880 yards – but also has been prone to fumbles and drops.

But at least Miami didn’t stay at 12 to pick Brandon Graham (15 tackles, one start for the Eagles this season) or Derrick Morgan (6.5 career sacks for the Titans).

As for Odrick, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle called his game against Seattle his best of the season. The key sack was encouraging because he entered the game with only two.

Among defensive ends who play in a 4-3, Pro Football Focus ranks Odrick 61st and last in pass rush but 20th against the run.

“There have been too many times I’ve been too close and just missed a big play,” said Odrick, who had five sacks as a part-time starter in 2011. “I’m putting myself in the right position. [But] I’ve made leaps and bounds in the run game.”

Whereas Odrick is 310 pounds, Miami’s other starting end – Cameron Wake – is 258.

“You do realize you’re one of the biggest, if not the biggest, right ends in the league,” Odrick said. “It’s a challenge my coaches gave me and a challenge I’m giving myself to hold myself to a higher standard even though I’m a heavier end.”

Odrick estimates he has moved inside, to tackle, on about a quarter of his snaps.

“We like that he’s done a lot of jobs,” coach Joe Philbin said. “He can fit into a lot of places in the defense.”

Like Odrick, Misi also has been capable against the run, ranking 10th among 43 linebackers in a 4-3 defense, according to Pro Football Focus. He struggled against the pass early, but not in the past month in limited opportunities in coverage.

He also has 2.5 sacks and has adjusted well to playing outside linebacker in a 4-3. He has become a reliable starter, though the Dolphins in retrospect can be questioned for not instead drafting tight end Rob Gronkowski, who went to the Patriots two picks after Misi.

“You look at the work Koa’s put in to be a role player in this defense – he’s been very productive, done all the things right,” Wake said.

 # # #

Other than Pierre-Paul, is there anyone else you would have assuredly taken at 12 instead of trading down for 28 and 40? A case could be made for several of the players above. But who knows how Joe Philbin would have dealt with Dez Bryant when he had no use for Brandon Marshall or Vontae Davis?    

November 28, 2012

Belichick breaks down Fins personnel; Van Gundy queries Golden; Canes, Heat

A six-pack of notes on a Wednesday night:

### No coach butters up an opponent like the Patriots’ Bill Belichick. But Belichick also goes into more detail on his upcoming opponent’s personnel than perhaps any coach in the league. Here’s some of what he said Wednesday about the Dolphins, a lengthy soliloquy without even being asked a question:

“The Dolphins are doing a lot of things well; they’re an impressive team. They’re really sound. I’ve been real impressed with the kicking game – [Marcus] Thigpen has done a good job for them returning. They have a lot of physical coverage guys [on special teams] like [Jason] Trusnik and [Olivier] Vernon, [Austin] Spitler, [Jimmy] Wilson, [Marlon] Moore, real good group there; a good group of specialists.

"Defensively I think they’re led by that front. Very explosive front with [Cameron] Wake and [Koa] Misi, Vernon outside and inside [Randy] Starks, [Paul] Soliai, [Jared] Odrick is playing well. I think a lot of those guys are having as good years as they’ve had. They put a lot of pressure on you with a lot of different blitz packages. [They] have a lot of good players up there – tough to run against, good on third down, good in the red area.

“Offensively,… a couple good running backs, a solid offensive line – [Jake] Long, [Mike] Pouncey, [Richie] Incognito – a real solid left side. Pouncey is one of the best centers in the league. [Anthony] Fasano has always done a good job for them. [Brian] Hartline is having a career year, a really explosive player. [Davone] Bess, we always know what kind of problem he’s been for us.”

### Here’s what Belichick said to say about Ryan Tannehill: “He’s done a good job, given them some spark. He’s really a smart guy. You can certainly see that by the way he runs the offensive team: their audibles, the way he controls the line of scrimmage, gets them in and out of plays based on different defensive looks, things like that. They give him a lot of responsibility there and I don’t think he has any problem handling it.”

### Don’t understate Shane Battier’s absence for at least the next couple of games. The Heat generally plays well with him on the floor – plus 63 this season in his 345 minutes. Oddly, Dwyane Wade is only a plus 24 in his 338 minutes. Among Heat players, Battier trails only Chris Bosh (plus 76) in plus/minus.

### UM’s 67-59 win against perennial power Michigan State on Wednesday is the type of victory that can push Miami over the top for an NCAA Tournament bid if the Canes finish 9-9 or 10-8 in the ACC, provided they plow through the rest of the non-conference schedule without many more bumps. They’re clearly a different team with Durand Scott, who was suspended when UM lost by 12 to Florida Gulf Coast.

Former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl and former Duke guard Jay Williams raised eyebrows in ESPN’s studio by ranking UM ahead of North Carolina. Pearl expects UM to finish ahead of UNC in the ACC. “Miami is for real,” he said. “This was a major statement game.”

UM got good work from all its perimeter players, including Scott, Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney Jones (18 points). Reggie Johnson (10 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks) was far more active after halftime.  

### Stan Van Gundy, guest hosting on Wednesday with Dan Le Batard and Jon Weiner on 790 The Ticket, asked Al Golden how much the NCAA investigation has hurt UM in recruiting.

“It’s hurt us. In many respects, it’s more difficult than dealing with what is handed down,” Golden said. “The unknown is what allows people to say what they want to recruits. We are vulnerable. We have been a victim of negative recruiting. It makes me angry. It’s easy to go after a program when you’re going through what we’re going through. But it turns a lot of [kids] off, too. It’s like being on probation now. The cloud is akin to being on probation. We’ll overcome it.”

### Van Gundy also got Golden going on the lunacy of so many teams switching conferences. “Do you know what league you’re in and what other teams are in the league?” Van Gundy said, whimsically.

Said Golden: “If I had to name all the other conference schools, I don’t think I could. It looks like we’re going to super conferences. I don’t know if we’re going to end up with four or five. How are we going to pay for it all? How are these teams in the Big East going to pay to go to Boise? Not [only] football, but a basketball game on a Tuesday night?”

November 27, 2012

Dolphins get tough 2013 schedule; Barkley on Heat; Fins, Canes, Heat, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Here’s yet another reason why the Dolphins need to improve their defensive backfield: They will be facing some of the league’s best passing attacks next season.

The NFL has confirmed most of next year’s team-by-team matchups (without dates or times), and the Dolphins’ home schedule will include Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Carolina and the AFC West team that finishes in the same spot as Miami (likely Chargers, Raiders or Chiefs), as well as AFC East rivals New England, Buffalo and the Jets.

The Dolphins’ road schedule, besides the other AFC East teams, will include Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and the AFC South team that finishes in the same spot as the Dolphins (Colts, Titans or Jaguars).

That means, barring injuries, matchups against Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, much-improved Josh Freeman, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton – and, as usual – two against Tom Brady.

### With the Patriots visiting Sunday, it’s hardly the ideal time for uncertainty at cornerback, which is happening with Nolan Carroll and R.J. Stanford now sharing snaps about equally.

Also worrisome: Over the past four games, Sean Smith has allowed 16 of 24 passes against him to be completed (including five for five against Seattle) for 249 yards and two touchdowns. And with Wes Welker looming, Miami desperately hopes for more consistency from Jimmy Wilson in the slot; quarterbacks are completing 66 percent of passes against him, with a 104.5 rating in his coverage area.

### At least Reshad Jones remains No. 1 among all safeties according to Pro Football Focus, with a 57.1 quarterback rating against. Jones has been studying All-Pro Ed Reed on YouTube: “I look at Ed Reed and say that’s the safety I want to be known as.”

### Cornerback Richard Marshall insists if Davone Bess played for the Patriots, he would produce the numbers Welker does. Welker is fourth in the NFL with 80 receptions; Bess (55 catches) is tied for 15th with Brian Hartline, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Graham and others. 

### Rishard Matthews (22 snaps Sunday) has surged ahead of Marlon Moore (six snaps) for the No. 3 receiver job, but both are getting limited chances because the Dolphins are lining up Charles Clay and their running backs as receivers at times. Smith said the Dolphins’ fastest receiver is actually on the practice squad: 6-3 Brian Tyms.

CHATTER

TNT’s Charles Barkley, working Thursday’s Heat-Spurs game with Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller, said by phone Monday: “The Heat is the favorite [to repeat]. You won’t notice their weaknesses until they play a bigger team in a seven-game series. I’m comfortable with Chris Bosh at center unless they play the Lakers; he cannot guard Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol.”

Barkley said the only other teams that “could give them trouble” are the Spurs, Celtics and Nets. Barkley loves that he’s calling a few games because “I wanted to try something different. You get bored sitting in the studio every night. This is my 14th year.”

### One reason why Erik Spoelstra’s subtle rotation change – Mike Miller replacing Rashard Lewis – can be justified: The Heat has outscored opponents by 31 in Miller’s 145 minutes but has been outscored by 17 in Lewis’ 172. Only Udonis Haslem has a worse plus/minus at minus 20.

Also, the team allows more points per 48 minutes with Lewis on the floor than any other rotation player. Lewis figures to resume playing with Shane Battier injured.

### Not only has the NCAA threatened former UM players that it will believe Nevin Shapiro’s allegations if they don’t agree to be interviewed, but they also persuaded UM to call the players to encourage them to talk. And UM has told players that it might bar them from campus if they don’t cooperate, though stopped short of saying that’s definite. This has put UM in an uncomfortable position, but school officials are being advised by UM attorneys to cooperate fully.

### Coach Al Golden wants to make more use of intriguing weapon Dallas Crawford -- as a third-down back, in the slot and potentially “four or five times” a game in a Wildcat formation. “He’s going to have a big role,” Golden said. “He’s got moxie. Coaches trust him.”

### Asked what non-freshmen the staff (and the players themselves) have to extract more from, Golden cited defensive tackles Corey King and Curtis Porter (“I’d like to see Porter get one year where he’s doing everything right and staying healthy and having a big year”); linebacker Thurston Armbrister and tight end Clive Walford (“You want to see a year, a body of work, not four or five games).”

### Duke Johnson’s per-carry average of 11.5 per game likely will rise but probably not dramatically. “We don’t want to wear him out in two years. We want to keep [his] odometer down,” Golden said, noting Johnson had 443 snaps, half as many as guard Brandon Linder.

### In the wake of Maryland bolting the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big 10, UM and FSU remain committed to the ACC, and neither the Big 12 nor SEC has called. But FSU likely would listen if other schools start to bolt.

“I think the ACC is vulnerable right now,” Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said on his radio show. “More people are going to go after people in our conference now.”

ACCSports.com reported late Tuesday night that presidents and chancellors of ACC schools will participate in a 7 a.m. Wednesday conference call to vote on possible expansion candidates to replace Maryland as the conference's 14th school, and that Louisville is most likely to receive an invitation - instead of Connecticut or Cincinnati.

### An associate said the Marlins warned manager Mike Redmond about potential payroll cuts and he wasn’t blindsided by it. Predecessor Ozzie Guillen has stayed classy, but his sons have taken mild shots on Twitter, following Guillen’s firing and the Toronto trade.

“Restore the winning culture. LOL,” son Oney cracked. Ozzie Guillen Jr. tweeted: “Thank you for the favor, Marlins. Early Christmas gift.”

 

November 26, 2012

Tuesday update: Defiant Golden defends his defensive coordinator

UM coach Al Golden, in his season ending news conference Tuesday afternoon, sounded defiant when asked about defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, whose unit ranked 117th of 120 schools in total defense.

"Look at Mark's record in terms of defense, his track record of player development," Golden said. "Mark should be as mad as anybody because imagine coming to UM and having to use (so many young players). You come and have one corner, Brandon McGee! He is mad. He's going to fight. He's not a quitter."

(Translation: D'Onofrio should be mad with the depleted secondary that Randy Shannon's staff left him with.)

Golden suggested there's nothing D'Onofrio can do when players blow plays. He didn't mention Rayshawn Jenkins by name, but said a "young kid went the wrong way and we give up a 99-yard touchdown" against Duke. Golden added: "I wouldn't trade that kid for anyone. He's going to be a champion."

Susan Miller Degnan will have a lot more from Golden's news conference in a story posted later, and I'll have a few tidbits, too, in the buzz column that I'll post later.

# # #

If you didn't see it in the past 12 hours, here's my post from last night with Golden's comments from Monday WQAM radio interviews with Joe Rose and Jorge Sedano:

### Rose asked if he needs to change the style of play on defense: “It’s a function of many things," Golden responded. "One of them is the offense – controlling time of possession and improving our third down conversions and holding the ball a little better on that side. I made the decision to move to a different tempo and try to outscore people because of our youth….

“On defense, not only do we need to supplement what we have with recruits, but we have to generate a pass rush. We only get one sack against [Duke], a team that throws it as often as they throw it. That’s happened too often. If we don’t get pressure on the quarterback, it’s hard to play more man-to-man.”

### He made clear to Rose he’s firmly behind coordinator Mark D’Onofrio: “I challenge anybody to look at coach D’Onofrio’s record and what he’s built over the years and what we’re going to build here….. He’s going to do a great job with this defense. He was put in an unenviable position having to play a lot of young guys…. It’s about individual player development…. There was no symmetry when we got here.”

### Among freshmen who redshirted, he said he’s excited about receiver Jontavious Carter, linebacker JaWand Blue, cornerback Nate Dortch and guard Danny Isidora

### On his approach: “We’re confronting everything on this team both culturally and systematically. [We’ll] eradicate the problems.”

### On recruiting: “We have eight or nine” orally committed. “We’re looking at six or seven kids in the next two months. We’re looking for the right 15 guys.” He said the portent of NCAA sanctions “is affecting” recruiting.

He said he’s exploring adding junior college players “at a number of positions.”

### He again dismissed any speculation that he would consider overtures from other schools: “The same ones who are asking me what I’m doing are the same ones who predicted us to finish 2-6 in the Coastal.”

### “I know 7-5 isn’t where we want to be, but a lot of people said we were only going to win four games.”

### Channing Crowder, during a segment with Sedano, asked Golden what’s one thing on offense and one thing on defense that needs to change.

“On offense, to be a team that can rush the ball for 200 yards a game, irrespective of what we pass for,” he said. “I would like to be more versatile by creating more pressure on the quarterback. Those things have to occur for us to move forward next year.”

### He said after the Duke win, there was “a little bit of frustration [in the locker-room]. We should be getting ready to play Florida State in Charlotte…. We’ve got one of the hottest quarterbacks in America and we can’t go to the championship game. It’s disappointing.”

### He said “our out of conference schedule was ridiculous. We played three teams that were No. 1 (Notre Dame, Kansas State, FSU).”

### He said he had a “positive conversation” Monday with linebacker Eddie Johnson and “I’m hopeful he will come back and improve” after being left home for UM’s final two road games.

### He loves how Herb Waters came on late. “This guy was fifth [at receiver] a month ago and he kept working. Pleasant, coachable, great work ethic. Great young man.”

### Tight end Clive Walford’s emergence “really changed the dynamic of [our offense]. The fact Clive has to be attended to, now, has made a big difference.”

### He said during Duke Johnson’s recruiting visit, “he pointed to the pictures on the walls and knew exactly what he wanted to be. He wanted to be listed among the best at his position.”

 

Monday afternoon Dolphins update: Fins player arrested; 'monster' looming; lots of notes

We'll get to Dolphins on-field news - and plenty of it - in a minute.

First, Dolphins backup safety Jonathon Amaya was arrested for battery, early Monday morning, after allegedly trying to choke a taxi driver.

The incident happened at 4:30 a.m. outside Club Bamboo at 500 Washington Avenue.

According to the arrest report, Amaya flagged the taxi down and asked the driver, 44-year-old Jonathan Vunge, to be taken to Weston. Vunge said he didn't go that far but agreed to take him after Amaya gave him $100 cash up front.

Vunge said as he drove, Amaya became "aggressive" and Vunge drove back to the spot where he picked Amaya up, gave him his money back and asked him to get out of the cab.

Vunge told police Amaya "leaned forward and wrapped his hands around his neck and started choking him."

Two off-duty Biscayne Park police officers who were working outside the club saw Vunge driving the cab erraticly and heard him scream, "This man is trying to kill  me!"

Amaya was then arrested.

Amaya was being held on $1500 bond. Vunge reportedly wasn't injured.

The Dolphins said only: "We are aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering information."

Amaya's agent did not respond to a request for comment.

Amaya has played in eight games, mostly on special teams, and has six tackles.

# # # 

There was a time, not so long ago, when the New England Patriots seemed vulnerable.

There was also was a time – very, very long ago, when the Dolphins defense actually frustrated Tom Brady.

Unfortunately for Miami, the former hasn’t been the case in five weeks, and the latter hasn’t been the case in five years.

When the steamrolling Patriots visit Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, Miami will be facing an offensive juggernaut that’s averaging 43.8 points during its ongoing five-game winning streak.

They’ll also be facing a quarterback that has tormented the Dolphins more than any other player in recent years.

And they will be a facing a team that has won 19 consecutive games in the second half of the season, dating to 2010. Two of those 19 were against the Dolphins.

“We got a monster coming in here next week,” Dolphins running back Reggie Bush said.

If there’s any consolation for Miami, it’s this: New England will be without elite tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is out for several weeks with a broken forearm.

But they’ll still have plenty of ammunition: Brady, tight end Aaron Hernandez, receiver Wes Welker and emerging running back Stevan Ridley (939 yards rushing, 4.6 per carry). What’s more, they’re plus 24 in turnover margin.

“We’re going to have to play our best game of the year to win the game,” Philbin said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for your guys. It’s going to be fun, a great opportunity to see where we are as a team. We are going to have to score points to beat this team. That puts pressure on your offense.”

The Patriots were 3-3 after early-season losses to Arizona, Baltimore and Seattle. Every team in the AFC East was 3-3 at that point, in fact. Since then, they’ve beaten the Jets twice, with wins over St. Louis, Buffalo and the Colts sandwiched in between.

So how do you defend them?

“I’m open for any suggestions,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle cracked Monday.

But seriously: “They’re not a team that uses a lot of trickery. They do a great job of working matchups. When you do things to try to negate their passing game, they’re very effective running the ball….

“Brady doesn’t make mistakes – he has three interceptions, 24 touchdowns. We didn’t great success against them in Cincinnati [when Coyle was defensive backs coach]. Hopefully we do a better job here.”

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s work against the Dolphins Sunday (21 of 27, 16 consecutive completions against the Dolphins) doesn’t bode well with Brady visiting Sunday. Nor does Brady’s mastery of the Dolphins – and many other teams, for that matter – in the past half decade.

Brady’s career against the Dolphins has followed an interesting arc.

For 10 consecutive games earlier in his career – when Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas were in their prime – the Dolphins flummoxed Brady, and he posted a quarterback rating between 52 and 78 in each of those games. The low point was a 21-0 loss in 2006, when Brady threw for just 78 yards, and Joey Harrington, Sammy Morris and Marty Booker spearheaded the offense.

In his nine games against Miami since then, Brady has consistently ranged from very good to extraordinary. Consider:

### In his past seven games against the Dolphins, Brady has completed 68 percent of his passes, averaged 315 yards and thrown 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The Patriots won six of those games, excluding the two Brady missed with an injury that cost him all but one game of the 2008 season.

### Brady’s numbers are absurd in his past four games at Sun Life Stadium: 91 of 126 (72.2 percent), with an average of 344 yards passing per game, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. His ratings in those games: 121.6, 107.1, 101.5 and a perfect 158.3.

He threw for 517 yards in the Patriots’ season-opening 38-24 win here last season, then passed for 304 in Miami’s 27-24 loss in New England on Christmas Eve.

And on Sunday, he will be facing a Dolphins secondary that is still experimenting at one corner spot. In the wake of Nolan Carroll’s four-penalty game in Buffalo, the Dolphins split time between Carroll and R.J. Stanford on Sunday. Carroll played 31 snaps, Stanford 28.

“We felt [Stanford] earn some opportunities in practice,” Philbin said. “He did some good things out there. There are still some things he has to do better.”

Should the Dolphins dial up blitzes or should they use extra defensive backs in coverage?

“It’s pick your poison,” Coyle said. “We are a pressure team to a high degree. We’re not going to change what we do. We’re going to have to do some of both. He’s not the most mobile quarterback we’ve faced. I don’t think you can cover them all day long.”

# # #

MORE MONDAY AFTERNOON ODDS AND ENDS

For some perspective on Ryan Tannehill’s performance Sunday, consider he had NEVER engineered a comeback from a fourth-quarter deficit of seven or less since becoming Texas A&M's fulltime quarterback midway through the 2010 season.

He had been 0-5 in that situation at A&M, 0-3 with the Dolphins. He did lead A&M to a late win against Nebraska in 2010, but in that game, the Cornhuskers were tied but never led in the fourth.

Entering Sunday, Tannehill had an 8.0 quarterback rating in the final two minutes of the first and second half (worst in the league) and had the league’s fifth-worst rating (62.5) in the fourth quarter of games with a margin of seven points or less.

Everything changed Sunday.

In the fourth quarter against Seattle, Tannehill threw for 156 yards and posted a 158.3 rating, with only two incomplete passes, one of which was on a spike to stop the clock.

He twice led the Dolphins to touchdowns that tied the score. And excluding the intentionally spiked ball (another spike was negated by an illegal motion penalty), Tannehill completed all three of his passes on the game-winning drive, for 51 yards. He also ran for 15 yards on that drive.

Asked the next step for Tannehill, Philbin mentioned “consistency” multiple times, as well as “continued improvement in decision making, continued improvement in accuracy and ball location. Those would be three things.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said the next step for Tannehill is “not to make that throw back” – the one which was intercepted in the end zone but negated by an Earl Thomas late hit.

“I doubt very much he will” do that again, Sherman said. “He’s the first one to know when he screws up. I’m glad he survived that. First step is to believe in himself.”

Before Sunday, the Dolphins had lost 49 consecutive games when trailing by seven or more in the fourth quarter, according to Elias. Their last win in that scenario: Dec. 28, 2005 against the Jets.

“Everyone offensively should look at this tape and see what we’re capable of doing,” Philbin said.

### The Patriots run their no-huddle offense at a faster pace than the Dolphins do, and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman would like to get to that point eventually, though not necessarily this season.

"I would prefer to go faster than we are,” he said. “Right now, we are where we are. As we grow, maybe move a little forward.” He said Tannehill usually snaps the ball “with 10 seconds or more. It gives him time not to feel rushed.”

### Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, on Charles Clay: “Defenses have to make a decision when he’s in the game whether they have to play base defense or nickel defense. We have to make sure we don’t load him up too much.”…

### Coyle said Sunday’s game was Jared Odrick’s “best overall. He had a big, big impact.”

### On why the running game succeeded after struggling previously: “We had less penetration up front. We did a better job in the second level sustaining blocks. And we had backs breaking a few tackles.”…  On the sprinklers going off: “That wasn’t in the head coaching manual – to prepare the team with the sprinklers going off.”

 

November 24, 2012

An early peek at 2013 Hurricanes; Dolphins, Canes, Heat, Marlins tidbits

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

With UM’s football season ending abruptly Saturday, coaches take solace that every starter is likely returning except Mike James and Brandon McGee, unless there are transfers or juniors turning pro.

“You’ve got 10 returning starters on offense and Duke Johnson,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. “Who wouldn’t want to coach that?”

The defense? Not nearly as rosy a picture, though the youth and potential of several key players offer at least some measure of encouragement. But let's not sugercoat: This defense must improve markedly for UM to have any chance of winning at FSU, at North Carolina and at Virginia Tech next year.

An in-depth position-by-position peek ahead to 2013, with input from Fisch and defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio:

### Quarterback: Senior-to-be Stephen Morris “will have an opportunity to be among the best,” Al Golden said. “He’s going to be an excellent quarterback; he’s pretty good right now. I’ve been around Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Schaub, and Stephen’s arm is the best of all those guys. Elite arm.

“His leadership is extraordinary. He’s 208 pounds. Next year, he’ll be 218, will be able to take some punishment. He’ll run the ball better.”

Morris must improve in the red zone -- he was a dismal 4 for 22 inside the opponent’s 10-yard line -- and must boost his 58.2 completion percentage. He closed with 21 touchdowns, seven picks and an average of 279 passing yards per game.

“His footwork has to get better,” Fisch said. “If he has better footwork in the pocket, he’ll be more accurate.” But as Fisch noted, Morris has been hurt by more than two dozen drops.

Preston Dewey ended the season as the No. 3 quarterback, though Fisch insisted that Dewey and Gray Crow are “dead even” behind Morris and Ryan Williams. Prized oral commitment Kevin Olsen isn’t expected to arrive until the summer. So “Preston and Gray will get a lot of reps in the spring.” David Thompson, who redshirted after shoulder surgery, will miss spring ball to play baseball.

### Running back: With James graduating, UM hopes Danny Dillard emerges as a complement to Johnson, UM's best player. Dillard “is similar to Mike James, probably bigger,” Fisch said. “We hope he can be as good as Mike. He can be a real physical presence.” FYI: Johnson, whose carries should increase as a starter next year, finished his freshman year with 947 yards rushing on 139 carries (a robust 6.8 average).

Fisch expects Eduardo Clements (neck issue) to be ready for next season --- he had just seven carries for 16 yards --- and Dallas Crawford will get another look. Maurice Hagens is back at fullback. Two backs likely will be signed, with Ray Lewis III orally committed and UM remaining privately hopeful of landing South Plantation’s Alex Collins, even though he dropped his oral commitment.

### Receiver: Should be UM’s best and deepest position, with at least six able to make a strong case for playing time. “To have the same group, other than Davon Johnson and Kendal Thompkins, is going to be awesome,” Fisch said. “The receiver corps is going to be really good. I expect a huge jump from Phillip Dorsett. We’ll have Allen Hurns healthy.”

The top six going into the spring: Dorsett, Hurns, Rashawn Scott (back from suspension in January), Malcolm Lewis (“he was almost starting as a true freshman in week 2” before his season-ending injury, Fisch points out); Robert Lockhart (Fisch said he resembled Tommy Streeter with amazing practice catches before his injury) and Herb Waters, who came on very strong late and scored another touchdown Saturday.

Among the redshirt freshmen receivers, Jontavious Carter impressed coaches more than D’Mauri Jones, though it's hard to see either cracking the top six barring injuries. And don't discount Angelo Jean-Louis, who was UM’s highest-rated Class of 2012 receiver recruit but went to prep school because of academic reasons. Jean-Louis said he will enroll here in 2013.

### Tight end: A priority will be getting Clive Walford involved heavily in the passing game to start next season, not just in November, as was the case this year. "He can be as good as he wants to be," Fisch said. "He’s so gifted, strong, athletic and fast.”

Asante Cleveland, Dyron Dye and David Perry are back, but Cleveland simply hasn't lived up to the staff's initial expectations. Miami has oral commitments from the nation’s 11th- and 12th-rated tight ends: Tampa’s Travis Johnson and New Orleans’ Standish Dobard.

### Offensive line: From left to right, starters Malcolm Bunche, Jonathan Feliciano, Shane McDermott, Brandon Linder and Seantrel Henderson have eligibility left, though UM isn’t certain if Henderson will turn pro. If he does, Ereck Flowers can move in seamlessly. Jared Wheeler would become the top backup if Henderson bolts.

Among 2012 newcomers, Danny Isidora is ahead of Taylor Gadbois and could be a factor at guard.

### Linebacker: D’Onofrio told me he now has peace of mind with a unit that was a major worry before the season. If Ramon Buchanan gets another year of eligibility (still in question), UM will have Buchanan, Denzel Perryman (UM likely will keep him outside, but D’Onofrio said that isn’t definite); middle linebacker Jimmy Gaines (“he was the guy we were sorely missing before he came back for FSU. He’s been great”).

They’ll also have Gionni Paul (third on the team in tackles despite missing three games); Eddie Johnson (led UM in tackles for loss); and Raphael Kirby (“his skill set is really good”), plus Tyrone Cornelius, Thurston Armbrister and freshmen Gabe Terry (special-teams standout) and JaWand Blue (who redshirted).

Is it a great group? Hardly. But it could be good enough if Johnson, Perryman and Kirby keep developing. Johnson needs to get his act together; he was left home Saturday for undisclosed reasons, just as he was for the Virginia game. (He missed a team meeting before that game.)

Bottom line: The linebackers must improve both against the run and in coverage against skilled tight ends and running backs.

### Defensive end: UM had only 13 sacks as a team, and the pass rush from this group wasn't nearly good enough, though freshman Tyriq McCord (3.5 sacks) was impressive in that regard. Starter Shayon Green didn't produce a single sack. McCord could challenge him for playing time -- opposite Anthony Chickillo - but only if he bulks up. “Tyriq has long arms but needs an offseason in the weight room. He’s 218 and needs to get to 235,” D’Onofrio said. “Shayon is a 255-pounder.”

Behind those three, UM needs at least two others to emerge among Kelvin Cain (UM thought he would be more of a factor), Jalen Grimble (a disappointment was who moved over from tackle), Ricardo Williams (hasn't done much) and freshmen Jelani Hamilton, Dwayne Hoilett and Jake O’Donnell. Hamilton played less as the year went on because McCord passed him, but D’Onofrio insists he didn’t regress. Hoilett and O'Donnell redshifted, and UM needs to see more to determine if either can help.

### Defensive tackle: After Curtis Porter returned for the final four games, he and Olsen Pierre became UM’s best tackle tandem, by far, and UM hopes Porter, a junior, eschews turning pro. With those two together, UM was competent defending the run after being abysmal earlier in the season.

But two more reliable tackles must emerge among Earl Moore, who D’Onofrio said was the best of the three freshmen tackles; Luther Robinson and Corey King (UM likes his upside); and freshmen Dequan Ivery (has dropped from 327 to 302 pounds) and Jacoby Briscoe.

D’Onofrio said Briscoe has practiced some on the offensive line but will stay on defense…. UM is in the mix for at least two junior college tackles (Lavon Hooks, Toby Johnson) and Delray Beach Atlantic’s Keith Bryant remains a soft oral commitment.

### Cornerback: The group struggled Saturday and loses McGee. Freshman Tracy Howard made his first start against Duke and almost assuredly will start next year, likely opposite Ladarius Gunter, who had some good moments this season but not Saturday. Figure on Antonio Crawford, UM's fastest corner, pushing Gunter. Thomas Finnie's play was too erratic.

“Tracy has improved quite a bit," D'Onofrio said. "Antonio has excellent coverage skills, can really run. And we’re excited about Nate Dortch and Larry Hope” - who both redshirted. 

### Safety: The safety play wasn't nearly good enough this year, but UM believes Rayshawn Jenkins/Deon Bush can be its best safety tandem in several years if both freshmen keep improving. “Jenkins is a tremendous talent, has all the skills to be a big time safety,” D’Onofrio said. Kacy Rodgers, who had numerous breakdowns, and AJ Highsmith likely move into backup roles.

### Matt Goudis will replace senior kicker Jake Wieclaw and potentially, senior punter Dalton Botts.

CHATTER

### Impending free agent Reggie Bush’s return to the Dolphins next season continues to look increasingly iffy. Even in games when he doesn’t fumble, he’s playing fewer snaps than Daniel Thomas, partly because of Thomas’ superior pass protection. And Dolphins coaches like how hard Thomas runs.

Thomas has 142 snaps, Bush 94 in the past four games, including the two that Bush was benched a few series for fumbling. Thomas’ 3.3 per carry average is third-worst among qualifying NFL backs and trails Bush’s 4.2. But here's the catch: Bush’s 1.9 average after contact is among the league’s worst, while Thomas is a bit better after being hit (2.1).

### Some in the Dolphins front office would like to see the coaches play seam-stretching third-round rookie tight end Michael Egnew, but offensive coordinator Mike Sherman suggested that’s not going to happen anytime soon. “I make a lot of good plays in practice but mess one up now and then,” Egnew said. “They want me to be more consistent. I believe Jeff Ireland still has faith in me.”

### According to one of his agents, the Dolphins never called about Seattle’s Russell Wilson before the draft, though several teams didn’t because of his size (5-11). Wilson, drafted 75th, has a 90.5 rating; Tannehill, picked eighth, is at 70.8.

### Though Internet speculation has linked the Heat to free agent Kenyon Martin – who would have interest in signing here – Miami has not brought him in for a workout nor made overtures. Martin, who chose the Clippers over the Heat last February, will be on Miami's list if a need for a power forward emerges. But Miami likes its roster as constituted.

### The Marlins are shopping shortstop Yunel Escobar, acquired from Toronto. If he’s dealt, that could leave Greg Dobbs and Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base, because Escobar is slated to play third if the Marlins can't find a taker.… Manager Mike Redmond last week called an angry Giancarlo Stanton, who is not eligible for free agency until November 2016, to try to smooth things over. The Marlins are not shopping Stanton, whose salary could jump from 500,000 in 2013 to $7 million in arbitration in 2014. Josh Johnson expects Stanton eventually wants to play in California, his home state.

 

November 22, 2012

Tannehill's late-game issues; Canes players lash out at NCAA; Fins, Canes notes

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

All football talk today:

It’s way premature to make conclusions about Ryan Tannehill; despite his recent slump, there’s reason to feel hopeful about his future. Nevertheless, Tannehill eventually must elevate his late-game play to address questions that Jon Gruden and others previously raised red flags about.

Gruden said in August his “big concern” with Tannehill at Texas A&M is “you would like to see a quarterback that finished games better, that dominates in the third and fourth quarter.” That has remained an issue in his rookie season, though he is hampered by factors beyond his control: personnel shortcomings around him and shaky pass protection. Consider:

### Over the past 15 months, Tannehill is 3-9 in games decided by seven points or less: 1-5 at Texas A&M, 2-4 with the Dolphins. And his teams had double-digit leads in all three of those wins, including 17-6 fourth-quarter cushions against the Bengals and Rams.

In his defense, Tannehill put the Dolphins in position to win the first Jets game in overtime, but Dan Carpenter missed a 48-yard field goal. He helped Miami tie that game with a late fourth-quarter field goal but was 2-of-8 for 13 yards on that drive.

### As a rookie, Tannehill is completing just 49.1 percent of his passes (26 for 53) in the fourth quarter of games with a margin of seven or less, including two interceptions in the final two minutes against Buffalo.

In that situation, his 62.5 rating trails the other rookie starters: Robert Griffin (88.8), Russell Wilson (87), Andrew Luck (81) and Brandon Weeden (71.6). It’s well below the likes of Christian Ponder (121.9) and Sam Bradford (119.7) and ahead of only Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez and John Skelton.

For perspective, last season at Texas A&M, Tannehill completed only 14 of 36 passes in the fourth quarter with a margin of seven or less, with one touchdown, one interception and a lost fumble.

### The Dolphins thought playing in a no-huddle offense would make Tannehill more proficient in two-minute drills. But Tannehill has the league’s worst numbers in the final two minutes of halves: 8 for 24 for 102 yards, no touchdowns, four interceptions and an 8.0 rating. He has a 45.8 rating in overtime.

“That’s the thing that makes quarterbacks [great] – at the end of the half, at the end of the game,” said Colts interim coach Bruce Arians, talking about Luck and not Tannehill. “You will your team to win. All-Star players have it.”

ESPN analyst and former Colts general manager Bill Polian said off the air that “you look past” Tannehill’s late-game struggles “for two reasons: One -- he’s a rookie and has to learn in those situations. And two – you have to protect him.”

So when it is fair to expect him to engineer game-winning drives? “When he has a complete team,” Polian said. “When he has smooth protection and receivers who can get open and make big plays. Coaches would tell you he’s playing with a short stick at receiver. They need a speed receiver.”

Former Browns scout and Sporting News draft expert Russ Lande said Tannehill’s late-game play, going back to college, “is a concern, not as consistent as you would like, but you sort of have to give him the benefit of the doubt it will improve.”

Actually, Tannehill’s biggest problem has been on third down, where his 56.8 rating is next-to-last, ahead of only Skelton (42.5).

CHATTER

With Jabar Gaffney cut, we get to see more of receiver Rishard Matthews (who debuted against the Bills), and Dolphins cornerbacks say everyone will be surprised how good he is. “He made this diving one-handed catch for 40 yards in practice,” Sean Smith said. “He’s been making plays all year in practice. He’s got size, speed, strength. It’s crazy he was [only] a seventh-round” pick. He caught 91 passes for 1364 yards at Nevada in 2011.

### Dolphins’ local TV ratings have plunged again; the 12.3 against Buffalo (which combined the cable and non-cable audiences) was by far the lowest for any NFL home market last week and one of the team’s lowest ratings in years.

### Former Hurricanes are lashing out at the NCAA for threatening to believe Nevin Shapiro if ex-players don’t talk to the NCAA. “The NCAA is a joke,” Greg Olsen, who wasn’t accused of violations, said on Twitter. “Assume guilt if kids don’t agree to talk to you? Are we not still in America?” Olsen’s tweet was re-tweeted by Jonathan Vilma and Kellen Winslow Jr., who were accused of violations by Shapiro and Yahoo!

Packers executive and Canes great Alonzo Highsmith ranted on Twitter: “Trying to understand why Miami is allowing the NCAA to run roughshod over the program… At some point, [UM president] Donna [Shalala] needs to take a stand. Amazing a school like Miami won’t stand up to the cartel and tell them to bring it! Now it’s time to tell them what you think and fight.

“The NCAA hates Miami anyway, so why would you think they were going to be fair to Miami? They [couldn’t] care less about self-imposing and they want our [butt]. Bet Vilma is glad he didn’t listen to all those jack offs [in the NFL bounty base] about sitting and not fighting? Some people have no balls.”

Olivier Vernon, who served a six-game suspension last year after meeting with the NCAA, said: “They’re believing a liar, and to do this during the season? It’s ridiculous.” Said Lamar Miller, who wasn’t accused of violations: “It’s unfair. It’s crazy.”

### Though he will be rumored for several jobs, Al Golden sounds genuine when he says: “The thing people don’t understand and accept is I want to be here for a really long time. We’re destined for great things here. I like the people, diversity, climate, urban setting, [proximity] to the Keys. My kids enjoy it. My wife is happy. Miami fits who we are.” He’s signed through Feb. 1, 2020.

  

November 21, 2012

UM player attorney responds to NCAA ultimatum; prominent attorney calls this 'unconscionable'

Some fallout from my Tuesday night post about the ultimatum that the NCAA has made to former UM players (see our last post to get fully up to speed):

### In the wake of numerous former Hurricanes football players receiving an ultimatum from the NCAA, an attorney representing several of those players said Wednesday he has contacted the NCAA to challenge the organization’s position.

The NCAA has threatened it will assume that Nevin Shapiro’s allegations against many of them are true if they do not agree to be interviewed by the NCAA by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, a prominent Miami attorney not involved in the case said those players potentially would have legal grounds for lawsuits if the NCAA follows through on that threat and identifies those players by name when it informs UM of its allegations or punishment.

“It would be catastrophic for the NCAA to do something that outrageous,” said Miami attorney Ben Kuehne, a former president of the Miami-Dade County Bar Association, adding the players would need to prove damages to their reputation.

As we reported in Wednesday’s Herald, the NCAA last week sent a letter to numerous former UM players and their attorneys telling them they have a Friday deadline to speak to the NCAA about the charges that Shapiro has made against them, adding: “If we do not hear back from you or your clients by that time, the staff will consider the non-response as your client’s admission of involvement in NCAA violations.”

The letter was signed by Molly Richman, assistant director of enforcement. But keep in mind that the NCAA’s infractions committee – not the enforcement division – ultimately will decide UM’s penalty, which might not be handed out until next summer. And it remains to be seen if the infractions committee will use information against UM that isn't corroborated beyond Shapiro's claims, phone records and receipts.

That stll must play out; UM would have the right to appeal.

### Miami attorney Bruce Fleisher, who represents several former UM players who received the letter, told my colleague Jay Weaver that he wrote to the NCAA and made clear that his clients are not admitting to any NCAA violations if they don’t respond by the deadline.

“We’re taking a wait and see approach,” Fleisher said, declining to identify his clients because of attorney/client confidentiality. “We’ll have a response for the NCAA once we know what their protocol is.”

### Meanwhile, Kuehne said if former UM players are named in the NCAA’s allegations against UM, based solely on uncorroborated claims by Shapiro, they could win a defamation suit if they prove damage to their reputation.

“If they can’t prove quantifiable damages, they can still win and receive nominal damages,” he said, noting a player could make the case that “any Internet hit where a player’s name is associated with a negative connotation does affect his reputation.”

Prominent former UM players who are deemed to be public figures, such as NFL standouts, would have a great burden of proof because they would need to prove malice, Kuehne said. Others lower-profile former Hurricanes would have a lower burden of proof if they sue the NCAA.

Kuehne said UM could have basis for a lawsuit against the NCAA if “the NCAA takes action based [solely] on the word of a convicted liar” and if UM proves damages, but acknowledged it’s highly unlikely UM would sue the NCAA, because the school is trying to cooperate with the investigation.

But UM can dispute allegations when it goes before the infractions committee, about three months after receiving the notice of allegations.

“It’s scandalous that this is the approach the NCAA has taken,” Kuehne said of the letter. “I’ve never seen a situation like this with the NCAA trying to throw around their weight. Everyone is presumed innocent in our society. For the NCAA to say you have to prove that a liar is liar is unconscionable to our legal underpinnings.”

Kuehne said if the NCAA is bluffing – “and I would question an organization that takes a bluff this far” – then legal action would be premature.

### Meanwhile, John Infante – considered an NCAA compliance expert – told WQAM's Adam Kuperstein and Channing Crowder on Wednesday: “There is only so much Miami can do. Miami has an obligation to kind of cooperate with the investigation. The NCAA is not bound by the Constitution. They are not part of the government….

“There is not the same sort of protection you might see in a criminal courtroom, like a 5th amendment right not to incriminate yourself or Miranda rights to remain silent. Everyone who works or plays in the NCAA says they’re basically giving up that right to participate in college athletics.”

### A UM spokesperson declined to comment on the letter. Acting athletic director Blake James, asked about the letter by WQAM’s Jorge Sedano on James’ weekly radio show, said: “It’s very sensitive…. We want the most accurate information for our investigation. The means of getting to that are not something we’re a part of.”

### Here's the standard the evidence must meet with the Infractions Committee, according to Infante: It  shall base its findings "on information presented to it that it determines to be credible, pursuasive and of a kind in which reasonable prudent persons rely on the conduct of serious affairs." Unlike our legal system, there is no "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard.

### Infante said he doubts UM will get another bowl ban but expects Miami to lose 10 scholarships or so per year for “two to four years,” as well as other recruiting restrictions.

November 20, 2012

NCAA gives ultimatum to players in UM investigation; Canes, Dolphins, Marlins, Heat chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The NCAA has delivered a new and disturbing ultimatum to numerous former University of Miami football players: Either talk to us or we’ll believe Nevin Shapiro’s claims against you.

The NCAA last week mailed a letter to former players that allegedly committed NCAA violations by accepting gifts from Shapiro, including dinners, prostitutes, trips to nightclubs, cash and other perks. Shapiro told the NCAA that 114 players committed violations; Yahoo previously identified 72 of them.

Only players who were playing college football at the time the investigation was launched are required to speak to the NCAA. Thirteen current or former UM football players did so in 2011. So the players who were sent the letter last week are no longer playing college football; some are in the NFL.

The letter, which I obtained, gives the players a Friday deadline to speak to the NCAA. What’s surprising is that the NCAA states in the letter that it will conclude the players committed violations if they do not respond.

UM officials were privately hopeful that many of the allegations made against players who left UM several years ago cannot be corroborated. Unless the NCAA is bluffing, it appears it might take Shapiro’s word on these claims unless the players refute them.

In recent days, several players and their attorneys have been trying to decide whether to speak to the NCAA.  Even Tuesday, one said he's not sure what he will do. So it’s unclear how many players will speak to the NCAA.

Here’s how the letter to one player attorney reads:

"The purpose of this letter is to apprise you that the NCAA enforcement staff is requesting to schedule an interview with your clients regarding their knowledge of or involvement in possible NCAA violations concerning the University of Miami, Florida, football program.

"Interviewing your clients is important in order for the enforcement staff to conduct a thorough investigation, and both the staff and the institution request you and your clients’ cooperation in this matter. However, at this time, all attempts to schedule and execute interviews with [blank] have been unsuccessful. As a result, this letter serves as a formal and final request by the NCAA enforcement staff for interviews with [blank] to be completed by Nov. 23, 2012.

“If we do not hear back from you or your clients by that time, the staff will consider the non-response as your client’s admission of involvement in NCAA violations. You may contact me at [blank] in order to arrange this interview. Your assistance in this matter is appreciated.”

Sincerely,

Molly Richman,

Assistant Director of Enforcement

### My opinion: Regardless of whether it's bluffing or not, the NCAA - by sending this letter to former players - is being heavy-handed and manipulative. Considering the NCAA has no jurisdiction over former players, it's offensive that it would threaten to believe a convicted felon without additional corroboration. A felon, for that matter, who's in jail for a crime involving lying (a Ponzi scheme).

CHATTER

### Keep this in mind: Shapiro claims player violations started in 2002, but the NCAA’s four-year statue of limitations doesn’t apply when there’s a longstanding pattern of willful violations that continues into the past four years. The NCAA previously told UM that it will consider invoking that “willful violators” clause.

### Though several high-ranking UM officials believed UM should play in a bowl game if it won the ACC Coastal, a UM official said the school went with the advice of outside attorney Mike Glazier, who thought it would mitigate future penalties but was given no assurance that UM would not have any more bowl bans. Though Penn State got a four-year bowl ban this year for the Jerry Sandusky tragedy, no school has had a recruiting-related three-year bowl ban since Oklahoma State (1989-91).

One upshot, a UM official said, is self-imposing lessens the chances of prematurely losing seniors- and juniors-to-be, who could transfer and play elsewhere immediately, if UM gets a one- or two-year bowl ban, respectively.

### Some former players are upset about UM’s self-imposed bowl ban --- “These players don’t deserve it and Miami could be punishing themselves for no reason!” Olivier Vernon told me --- but current players “were told to watch what we say,” Brandon McGee said. That's one reason why you haven't heard any current Canes voice displeasure.

### Seniors McGee and Mike James are expected to be drafted, and UM hopes a few juniors (including Seantrel Henderson and Curtis Porter) don't turn pro, too. UM lost five early entrants to the NFL last year, but Al Golden said Tuesday: "There's a stronger relationship with a lot of these young men [now].... A lot of guys understand from last year, perhaps guys would have gone higher if they had stayed. We want to make sure they have the facts, not just leaning on one side."

### Golden, on his WQAM radio show Tuesday night: "The thing people don't understand and accept is I want to be here for a really long time."

### Here’s what has changed in how teams are defending Ryan Tannehill: According to Matt Moore, he’s seeing more zone coverage and “looks that are better disguised.” Also key: Tannehill is being blitzed less; he faced only three blitzes against Buffalo and threw his only touchdown against one of them. His 2012 quarterback rating is 77.2 when blitzed, 66.5 when not blitzed.

“Teams are adjusting to what the Dolphins are doing. There’s not much separation from their receivers, so the windows are always tight that Ryan is throwing into,” ESPN’s Ron Jaworski said off air Tuesday.

### Coach Joe Philbin said Tuesday that owner Stephen Ross – who expected this team would be a playoff contender – “has been fantastic, very, very supportive” through this losing streak but “of course, I give him a 72-hour cool down period.” Ross, predictably, was down in the wake of the Bills loss, a friend said. But he likes this coaching staff.

### Chris Leible, one of Jose Reyes’ agents, said Reyes was “shocked” about being traded and confirmed a Fox report that the Marlins had orally promised he would not be traded. “He was told many times he wasn’t going anywhere,” Leible said, declining to say who told Reyes that. (Another friend of Reyes said it was Jeffrey Loria who told him.)

Mark Buehrle also was angry and told associates that he, too, was told he wouldn't be traded, an associate said… The Red Sox pursued Reyes before the Toronto deal but offered only marginal prospects and wouldn’t pay most of his salary.

### Marlins executive Larry Beinfest suggested he would explore adding a power-hitting center fielder (either a cheap free agent -- good luck with finding one of those -- or through a trade) but otherwise would go with a combination of Justin Ruggiano, Gorkys Hernandez and Bryan Petersen in center. Chris Coghlan also might get yet another chance.… Beinfest said Wade LeBlanc, Brad Hand and Tom Koehler will compete for the fifth rotation spot behind Ricky Nolasco (Beinfest won’t guarantee he will be back), Jacob Turner, Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi.

### Though the Heat’s Mario Chalmers continues to allow too many blow-bys defensively, his improved passing is encouraging: His career-best 3.1-to-1 assist to turnover ratio ranks 10th among starting point guards. Last season, his 1.56-to-1 ratio was third-worst.

“We need Chalmers to be low turnover,” Shane Battier said. “He still has a tendency to go off the reservation and get crazy at times, but he’s better. He makes less young-player mistakes.”