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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.

 

Comments

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Eddie

Thanks for the analysis. I'm optimistic about Tracy Howard and Rayshawn Jenkins. Jenkins seem like he's around the ball a lot.

frostdog0819

I am optimistic about our canes...think we will be ranked 2013?

NaplesCane

Probably will be in the "also getting votes" category just outside the top 25. Defense needs to prove itself before it's a top 25 team.

Al

Dont sleep on this team next year,,WRs will be deep and talented...Morris will be much improved as a Senior,,add in Duke Johnson, and Angelo Jean who may not be as fast as Duke but is very talented in the open field, and this offense is going to be hard to contain. Over on the defense, they just need to bulk up! Overall, another year of off season conditioning and development, and I can easily see "2" more wins to improve to 9-3 next year. FYI, skipping the bowl game was a wise choice and people, dont be surprise if those sanctions are not as bad as most people predict.

Georgia Cane

Let's not sugar coat anything, I like that! Let's start on the negatives; Fisch likes to throw the ball too much inside the ten yard line. Shame on him. Morris is looking too much long ball and isn't patient enough. O-Line still isn't dominating. D-fense is horrible, safeties and linebackers are OK. I would get 10 d-linemen next year. Coach "D" is under fire and better produce next season. Positive's Morris has an arm and Duke can run. Receivers are getting better. Big question? can Golden keep his staters from going elsewhere? Happy Holidays!

SammySmith

Reggie Bush has been the Dolphins' biggest disappointment. Or is their offensive line really that bad?

Lt. Lois Einhorn

Barry - a question that I believe most UM fans would like passed on to Al Golden:

He's been straightforward about everything since he's been at UM, but he isn't calling it like it is when it comes to UM's defense because it hasn't been acceptable by anyone's standards. It seems like D'Onofrio will be back next season and Golden isn't focusing on the defense or giving a real explanation because he doesn't want to fuel the calls for D'Onofrio to be fired.

Last season he said the team wasn't strong enough and that youth wasn't an excuse. This season the team's a year older and everyone is benching whatever weight the right amount of times.

The question - WHAT HAS BEEN WRONG WITH THE DEFENSE THESE PAST TWO YEARS? Seems clear that either the players can't execute D'Onofrio's scheme or D'Onofrio can't adjust his scheme to the players he has - what makes Al Golden think things will be different in 2013?

As an outsider looking in, it just seems like D'Onofrio's bend but don't break scheme doesn't work with the kind of instinctive, athletic athletes UM has on the defensive side of the ball. They can't bring pressure without blitzing and they can't cover receivers for over five seconds every play.

Metropolis75

The Marlins are shopping Escobar? Seriously? Not that Marlins fans were jacked about him, but to try to sell us him and then try and trade him off? Man these guys need to sell the team.

ATLCANE

I'm optimistic about the future, but when is the stupid NCAA going to be done with their investigation?? I thought we were going to hear something by the end of the month, but now I'm hearing next summer...please NCAA, can we be done with this!!!???

joe mama

this is the best freaking column in miami! we need more barry jacksons and less omar kellys!!

Jo jo

The defense has been infected with D Onofrio for 2 years.Golden refuses......STUBBORNLY to apply antibiotics to make his team well again.GOlden surprises with his lack of sincerity regarding his defensive coordinator/pal.GOLDEN continues his charade of masking how terrible a Coach D Onofrio is.Golden won t hear the end of D Onofrio s incompetence until Golden takes responsibility for it.....as the HEAD COACH OF THE MIAMI HURRICANES FOOTBALL PROGRAM.

greco9828

For all you Canes fan remember this. Miami has the best Coach their money can bye.#2 I read alot on this site about how Qb S. Morris is avg. are you kidding me this guy is one of the best qb in the nation period and there offence is DINE OH!MITE.And that week Miami defence will be the pride of the city next year you can take that to the....BANK.2013 will be the year of the CANES..

Terry King

THANK YOU GRECO9828 FOR SEEING EXACTLY WHAT I SEE. NEXT YEAR THIS TEAM CAN WIN 10 GAMES EASILY WITH ANY SORT OF IMPROVEMENT ON DEFENSE MAINLY PASS RUSH AND I DON'T SEE ANYONE IN THE ACC STOPPING THEM. I KNOW PEOPLE WILL SAY FSU,NC,AND VATECH ON THE ROAD BUT OF THOSE 3 ONLY FSU CONCERNS ME BUT THEY WILL LOSE E.J.MANUEL AND VA.TECH IF THEY LOSE THOMAS THEY WILL REALLY STRUGGLE AGAIN NEXT YEAR. IF HE STAYS THAN IT WILL BE TOUGH BUT FOR THE LAST 2 YEARS BUD FOSTER'S DEFENSE HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO STOP FISCH'S OFFENSE CONSISTENTLY EVEN AFTER WE LOST OFFENSIVE TALENT FROM 2011. AS FOR NORTH CAROLINA REMEMBER OUR TERRIBLE DEFENSE THIS YEAR SHUT THEM DOWN IN THE SECOND HALF. THE BOTTOM LINE IF CANES IMPROVE THERE DEFENSE OVERALL I SEE US WINNING 2-3 OF THOSE GAMES. NOTRE DAME LOSE T'EO AND THEIR OFFENSIVE LINE AND THEY ALREADY HAVE NO SECONDARY, WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF THESE RECEIVERS AND THE DEPTH YES WE WILL BEAT NOTRE DAME NEXT YEAR. THAT LEAVES THE GATORS AND VIRGINIA, OF THOSE TWO WE WILL WIN ONE IF NOT BOTH DEPENDING ON HOW MUCH GATORS IMPROVE, GOOD THING THE GAME IS HERE. WE WILL CRUSH VIRGINIA NEXT YEAR! BOOK IT! IT WON'T BE CLOSE THE PLAYERS WILL PERSONALLY BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE TIRED OF LOSING TO THEM. ADD THAT UP AND WE WIN 10- GAMES MINIMUM. GO CANES 2013 ACC CHAMPS

Jo jo

Wow.......where have the previous posters been all season?????/Have they watched the DEFENSE give up about 600 yards each game and not get better?They look the same as in the 1st BC game......."lousy".Unless Golden gets a bunch of experienced JUCO players.....Canes defense ...especially the D line won t look much different.Offense will be great.DEFENSE...........just a failure as long as the incompetent D Onofrio is the DC.

Nick from Charlotte

In response to Lt. Lois Einhorn regarding Coach Golden not being straightforward about D'Onofrio's inept defense. Please check out Golden's interview with Joe Rose this morning on WQAM.com (interviews). It was more than enlightening (he's actually talked about it a lot all year through interviews like that or on the weekly Hurricane Hotline with DBJ and Joe Zagacki). Also, in response to Terry King, we don't play ND next year (its in 2016 @ ND, and 2017 ND @ home, but don't forget ND just signed on to partial ACC play starting in 2014). With playing FAU and UF at home the first 2 weeks of next year we most certainly will lose the advantage of playing in warmer weather more towards the end of the year. Hopefully we can get VT, UNC, and NC State no later than thru October and play FSU in November. We still have to find an out of conference team to complement @ USF last game of the year as well but it will most likely be an FCS team. Is it September yet?

Lt. Lois Einhorn

Thanks for pointing out that interview Nick from Charlotte but that is EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

Listen to the interview again, listen to Golden's explanations:

1. 'Well we played uptempo offense so the defense was on the field a lot.' OK, but anyone who watched the Canes these past two years knows that it's not just numbers, their defense can't stop anyone regardless of how often it's on the field.

2. 'We have to generate pass rush'. HOW???? D'ONOFRIO NEVER BRINGS ANY PRESSURE!!!!

3. 'I challenge anyone to look at coach D'Onofrio's record...look at what he did at Temple'.

I challenge Al Golden to look at coach D'Onofrio's record and look at what he's done at Miami.

Last year they were 82 out of 120 in total defense.

This year they're 116 out of 120.

D'Onofrio is out of his league and his bend but don't break scheme isn't suited to Miami's instinctive, athletic players.

Nick from Charlotte

Lt. Lois, "D'ONOFRIO NEVER BRINGS ANY PRESSURE!!!!", this is clearly not true. I've seen us blitz on a number of occasions with mixed results. What I hear Coach Golden state in this interview is as a staff they knew they didn't have the strength (D-Line) or understanding (DB's) going into every game (including ND #1, and K-State previous #1). The tactic they felt gave them the best chance to win was to play conservative. As a fan, it is really frustrating to watch, but premature judgements for a coach and staff as a whole who have dealt with one TMZ issue after another along with a number of injuries (I know part of the game). Please find another school in the country who has had a different defensive starting line-up 21 times since last year. Clearly, the tell-tale stat. Coach D'Onofrio needs 2 more years as far as I'm concerned to consider having a fair shake. Any thoughts?

Mikeyboy

One thing about this I dont like. Isadora ahead of Taylor Gadbois??!? Danny plays Guard and Taylor plays both Tackle postions. Watch out for Taylor Gadbois in the spring

Laurie carton

I am so unimpressed with QB #1 and #2
If Golden goes with them it is going to be another mediocre year
I really like the way Crow looks let Dewey keep improving

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