WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The Wednesday buzz column is below, but first, here are two Wednesday morning news updates:
### Mario Cristobal was fired as FIU's coach on Wednesday morning in a surprising development, according to two sources. Athletic director Pete Garcia told him he was unhappy with the team's performance this season, when FIU finished 3-9.
(Update: FIU has confirmed the firing. "Today, we informed coach Cristobal that a change was being made in the direction of our football program," Garcia said in a statement. "I want to thank coach for all that he has done to develop our football program in the past six seasons. We will now turn our attention to attract the very best candidate to fill the position of head coach. We will begin a national search immediately.")
Former UM coach Butch Davis, a close friend of Garcia, is a possible replacement, but that is not confirmed -- merely strong speculation by several people around the program. Davis, who has assisted Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano in an off-field role this season, has interest in returning to coaching. Davis was told this week that he is no longer a candidate for the Tennessee job, so nobody would be surprised if he ends up at FIU with Garcia.
The move is shocking because Cristobal had led FIU to 7-6 and 8-5 records and bowl appearances the previous two seasons. A former University of Miami assistant coach, Cristobal went 27-47 in five seasons at FIU.
His 2010 team shared the Sun Belt title and won the Litte Ceasar's Pizza Bowl. His 2011 team finished fourth in the conference and lost the Beef O'Brady Bowl. This year's team finished 2-6 in conference.
A year ago, Cristobal, 42, was considered a rising star in coaching. Cristobal, a former offensive lineman at UM, rejected overtures from Rutgers (where he previously worked as an assistant) and Pittsburgh last offseason to stay at FIU, which gave him a multiyear extension.
A friend described Cristobal as surprised by the move. Asked if he's kicking himself for not taking the Rutgers or Pittsburgh jobs, he said, "What's done is done."
Our FIU beat writer, David J. Neal, will have more info throughout the day.
### Delray Beach Atlantic defensive tackle Keith Bryant, UM's only oral commitment at a position of need (defensive tackle), has dropped his oral commitment. Bryant told the Palm Beach Post on Tuesday night that he hasn't ruled out UM, but has FSU first and South Carolina second. "I feel somewhere else is a better fit for me," he said. Bryant is rated 137th among ESPN's top 150 prospects nationally.
UM is vigorously pursuing more than a half dozen defensive tackles, including several at junior colleges.
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
All football talk today:
### If you’re hoping the Dolphins have a wide selection of receiver and cornerback options in their likely first-round draft range, you’ll be disappointed.
With the playoffs highly unlikely, here’s some early buzz on April’s Draft, when Miami likely will pick between eighth and 20th:
### Mel Kiper Jr. rates only one receiver and one cornerback among the top 25 prospects on ESPN.com, including juniors who haven’t declared.
The receiver is Tennessee’s 6-3 Cordarrelle Patterson, who hasn’t said if he’s returning to school. Rated 11th overall by Kiper, he had 46 catches for 778 yards and has “size, speed, body control, hands and go-get it ability and can physically overpower smaller corners,” Kiper said. “Has the ceiling of a very good No. 1.”
The next-best receiver prospect might be his teammate, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, or California’s Keenan Allen, both rated in the 20s by several analysts.
### There’s one other stretch-the-field option rated as a potential top 20 pick: Notre Dame 6-6 junior tight end Tyler Eifert, rated 17th by Kiper. He’s a converted receiver and “has the pass catching skills of a natural receiver,” Kiper said. “Can be split out and stretch the seams.”
### The only cornerback considered a top 20 pick is Alabama junior Dee Milliner, ranked 15th overall by Kiper. “Not an elite cover corner like [Dallas Cowboys and former LSU standout] Morris Claiborne, but he’s a really good player,” Todd McShay said on ESPN.com.
### Among the other players Kiper has ranked between 5 and 25, five are offensive linemen (hard to justify taking one unless Miami doesn’t keep Jake Long); four are 295-to-360 pound defensive tackles (not a Dolphins need); and three are defensive ends (could be a need, depending on what Miami does with Randy Starks and Jared Odrick).
There are also three linebackers (not a pressing need); one safety (Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro, rated 20th by Kiper); and two quarterbacks (Southern California’s Matt Barkley at 24, West Virginia’s Geno Smith at 25).
### If Miami parts way with Long, the best offensive tackle prospects are juniors: Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel (ranked No. 5 by Kiper) and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan (No. 9).
Kiper’s other top-20 offensive line prospects are guards: Alabama’s Chance Warmack (seventh) and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper (12th). If Jeff Ireland drafted a guard in the first round, Dolphins fans would chase him with pitchforks.
### If Starks signs elsewhere, Miami could move Odrick to tackle and explore drafting an end such as LSU’s Barkevious Mingo (ranked sixth by Kiper/four sacks) or his teammate, Sam Montgomery (19th/seven sacks) or FSU junior Bjoern Werner (ranked eighth by Kiper/13 sacks). Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore (ranked fourth by Kiper/12.5 sacks) could be off the board by Miami’s pick.
McShay includes three other defensive ends among his top 21 prospects: FSU’s Cornellius Carradine (13th/11 sacks), Oregon’s Deon Jordan (14th/five sacks) and Auburn’s Corey Lemonier (21st, 5.5 sacks).
"Werner looked dominant against UF, with 3.5 sacks,” Kiper said. “High ceiling. I worry about how Mingo disappears for stretches. Montgomery is more productive than Mingo but ceiling isn’t as high.”
### The three linebackers that Kiper rates between 5 and 20 are Georgia junior Alec Ogletree (10th), UCLA junior Anthony Barr (13th) and Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene (22nd). The Dolphins like their linebackers, but the 6-4 Barr (11.5 sacks) is intriguing – “a rising star and devastating pass rusher,” Kiper said.
### FYI: Kiper’s top five overall picks are Georgia junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and Texas A&M teammates Moore and Joeckel, both juniors.
### The Dolphins’ decision to rest Cameron Wake during a key fourth-quarter stretch Sunday was questioned by some players --- Karlos Dansby didn't even know until Tuesday and told WQAM's Jorge Sedano he didn't agree with it. "They're starters - they need to be in the game, period," Dansby said.
Some players also questioned defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle's strategy in covering Andre Johnson in the opener. Otherwise, Coyle has generally received high marks from players. Several praise him for blitz disguises and compare him favorably to well-respected predecessor Mike Nolan.
For perspective, consider Wake has been rested 170 snaps this season – oddly, 15 more than Odrick – while Karlos Dansby has sat only 18 snaps (16 for injury reasons, he said) and Kevin Burnett 13. Wake sat out 221 plays last year. Wake’s absence brought to mind Nolan removing Danbsy from Cleveland’s game winning drive last year, then apologizing to him afterward. But that was for strategic reasons.
Nolan didn’t use Dansby on 194 snaps last year, some – Dansby admits – because he was out of shape and needed a rest. But he appreciates Coyle playing him virtually every snap because “I’m an everydown player.” The difference with Wake is he’s rushing the passer far more and Coyle said that expends more energy.
### Don Shula said Tuesday night that he believes the Dolphins have finally found the right coach/quarterback combination.
"They've got the right leadership coaching now," he said. "Joe Philbin is an excellent coach, handles himself well. I like Ryan Tannehill - you can see he's a good athlete. He's going to just keep getting better. That's what this franchise needs: young players that are going to keep getting better. We're headed in the right direction."
But, he said: "This past week was a setback. Half the crowd was a New England crowd. You hate to see that - the team not having the full support they deserve."
Shula, who turns 82 on Jan. 4, received a Business Alliance award at Sun Life Stadium for his 36 restaurants, which have six different names. The 36th, a ShulaBurger, opened in Kendall this week.
### Junior offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson has led teammates to believe he’s returning to UM, but the Canes staff doesn’t know what to expect because he’s so unpredictable. Henderson would be a potential mid-round pick, though one executive with an NFL team said his maturity issues are a concern.
### Harry Rothwell, who runs AllCanes (one of many licensees for UM merchandise) placed an order for shirts with UM’s logo that said “Coastal Division Champions,” but UM instructed him to cancel the order.
A UM official said when it self-imposed a bowl ban, “the ACC told us we could not promote ourselves as ACC Coastal champions in any official capacity. All ACC schools voted anyone not bowl eligible cannot designate themselves as division champs. We still receive a full revenue share.”
Rothwell said: “People wanted the shirt. We keep punishing the wrong people. I'm so disappointed when you're punishing innocent fans and coaches.”