« November 2012 | Main | January 2013 »

30 posts from December 2012

December 11, 2012

UM football starter decides to turn pro, but UM will reach out to him again

An update on our earlier post:

UM announced earlier today that starting linebacker Ramon Buchanan has not sought a sixth year medical redshirt and has decided to pursue an NFL career.

But UM said this evening that it will reach out to Buchanan again to make sure he knows that he has a good chance to get a sixth year at UM, from an NCAA compliance standpoint, if he chooses. 

UM doesn't expect him to change his mind, but will make him aware of this in case he does change his mind.

Buchanan suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season. Because he missed most of the 2011 season with an injury to the same knee, there had been hope that the NCAA would grant him a sixth season if he wanted one.

UM still feels like it's in good shape at linebacker, with Denzel Perryman, Eddie Johnson and several others.

Check back in a few hours for a lot more UM news, plus Dolphins and Heat, in the Wednesday buzz column.

December 10, 2012

Monday update: Dolphins sign receiver; Philbin feels no need to play young players more; Sherman, Coyle speak out

The Dolphins on Monday were awarded receiver Armon Binns off waivers from Cincinnati, where he caught 18 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown this season. Binns, 6-3, had been active just two of the past six games before being released Saturday. Miami cut cornerback Michael Coe to make room.

 

# # #

Highlights from Monday’s news conferences with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and coordinators Mike Sherman and Kevin Coyle:

 ### With the playoffs unlikely, I asked Philbin if a case could be made – for the greater good of the franchise – to give more playing to young players, especially Michael Egnew – to see what the Dolphins have. Philbin appears disinterested in doing that.

 Here’s how he answered: “I told the team in the locker room – we have a game on Dec. 16 against Jacksonville at 1 p.m. So they are going to show up to prepare to win this game. That’s all I’m concerned about right now.”

### Sherman said Egnew made a couple of great catches on the scout team in practice last week but “he hasn't 100 percent shown that consistency in practice. He’s shown signs of greatness every once in a while, but we want to see it a little more often.”

Sherman said the question of whether Egnew needs to play “is a question Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin need to answer.” He said it’s something they probably should be discussed.

### Philbin was asked how much of the offensive problems are correctable and how much comes down to talent. Philbin continues to insist it’s not talent (though it would be stunning if he feels that way privately.)

“It’s correctable,” he shot back. “There are plays to be made on both sides of the ball. Most of these games in the NFL, a vast majority, get decided in the fourth quarter.”

### Philbin: “The game unfolded much like we anticipated. We thought it would be decided in the fourth quarter. Teams don’t get in the red zone a lot against those guys. We tell guys all the time you have to earn victories.”

### Philbin, on how Jonathan Martin played at left tackle: “He did a good job [in run blocking]. I like the way he played. I thought there were some good things on film. The line competed hard every play. Two sacks – it was OK. You still need improvement.”… Martin and Richie Incognito each gave up a sack.

### Defensively, Philbin said: “We disrupted their passing game well. That creates issues for them offensively.” On the Colin Kaepernick touchdown, “We did not adhere to those basic principles of a run fit.”

### On how Ryan Tannehill played: “He did some good things. He played better in the first half. Statistically, he didn’t perform as well as he would have liked [in the second half]. It wasn’t [all] on him. There wasn’t as much separation in the route running we needed. It wasn’t wide open guys that he was flat out missing. The depth and width of the pocket was compromised as well.”

### Philbin said he would not comment about -- and did not see -- Brandon Fields push Jonathan Freeny after Freeny’s ridiculous special-teams mistake (running back and touching the goal-line while trying to down a punt).

   

# # #

 

### Sherman, on Martin and Garner: “I thought they did a good job. The o-line did some good things.”

### Sherman said Lamar Miller “did an adequate job. There wasn’t a whole lot there on the first one we had. He did a great job on the screen. He needs to play in the games more. He knew what he was doing. He was aggressive. He did a decent job.”

### Sherman said the inability to make enough plays to win games late in the game is “expletive frustrating.” (And yes, he said expletive). “We feel like we’re close but we’re not close enough. They are one of the hardest working groups I’ve been around. They were very disappointed after the game. You could have a heard a pin drop on the bus.”

### Sherman said: “The throw Ryan made to Fasano was an unbelievable play. Our guys were competing. That’s what makes it so hard. They’re giving us everything we have.”

           

# # # 

 

### Coyle, on Colin Kaepernick’s touchdown run (Jason Trusnik and to a lesser extent, Jared Odrick appeared at fault): “It wasn’t just one or two players. They featured a different type of perimeter run they had not shown. The play before was pretty similar – I thought they were just going to run the ball and be content to punt. I wish we had a little better position….

“You take the 50-yard run away, they averaged 3.9 per carry, which is way below their average.”

### Asked if Koa Misi could have returned from his ankle injury in the second half, Coyle said: “The decision was made to hold him out. We certainly would want him on the field.”

### Coyle, on whether Jared Odrick is better at end or tackle: “In our scheme, he’s an end who moves to tackle. He’s over 300 pounds but has agility and mobility to play at an end. We have him in the right spot. This is his first full year of playing. There’s a lot of progress being made.”

### The Dolphins have forced only one turnover in the past six games (a Reshad Jones interception), and Coyle said: “It’s hard to figure. We’ve created 17 turnovers and only gotten three of them. It’s hard to pinpoint the reason why, because it seems we’re right there.”

### He said Cam Wake (three sacks) was “outstanding. He’s a complete player. He’s a joy to coach. He’s among the best players in the league.”

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

      

     

December 08, 2012

Why Ireland's 49ers dream hasn't happened; UM/NCAA news; Fins, Heat Marlins chatter

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland was sitting in the stands at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., in January, after a Senior Bowl practice, when he spoke admiringly about how the 49ers transformed from 6-10 in 2010 to 13-3 and within minutes of a Super Bowl last season.

“They’re an inspiration,” Ireland said. “They’ve got a good defense, a really good offensive line. They’ve got a new leader [Jim Harbaugh]. They needed new leadership and a new inspiration. That’s what you aspire to be. That’s what we would like to be next year.”

Eleven months later, as the Dolphins visit San Francisco on Sunday, the 49ers are serious Super Bowl contenders, and Miami (5-7) remains a lot closer to 6-10 than 13-3. So why hasn’t Ireland’s 49ers vision materialized, at least not yet?

Comparing their rebuilding projects and lessons to be learned:

### High picks: The 49ers were worse than Miami for a longer stretch: 46-82 between 2003 and 2010. That’s significant, because the 49ers got more high first-round picks than Miami -- six in the top 11 since 2005, compared with Miami’s four (Jake Long, Ronnie Brown, Ted Ginn Jr., Ryan Tannehill).

And though the 49ers erred by taking Alex Smith first in 2005 (Aaron Rodgers went 24th), they generally procured more impact players in the first round, when they often – but not always – picked higher than Miami.

The 49ers drafted elite tight end Vernon Davis sixth in 2006 (Miami took Jason Allen 10 picks later); All-Pro linebacker Aldon Smith – who has 31.5 sacks in his first 27 games, most in NFL history - at No. 7 in 2011 (Pouncey went eight picks later); receiver Michael Crabtree 10th in 2009 (Miami took Vontae Davis 15 picks later); and right tackle Anthony Davis 11th in 2010.

Then there was the draft of 2007, when then-Dolphins GM Randy Mueller took Ginn at No. 9, and the 49ers followed with five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis at No. 11 and Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley 28th.

Staley is rated the second-best left tackle by Pro Football Focus, compared with 46th for Long.

The irony is that the Dolphins dealt Ginn to the 49ers for a fifth-rounder (cornerback Nolan Carroll) in 2010. Ginn has been pretty good on returns but has just two catches for one yard in 2012.

And the jury is out on whether Tannehill (picked eighth in 2012) will be better than the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (36th in 2011).

### Picks in the third round and lower: Both teams have done a good job with some of them. Miami plucked Paul Soliai, Reshad Jones, Brian Hartline and undrafted Davone Bess, among others. Soliai has been a Pro Bowler and Jones might be one soon.

But the 49ers found four Pro Bowlers in those rounds: linebacker NaVorro Bowman (selected 18 spots after Miami took John Jerry), safety Dashon Goldson (drafted long after Miami took John Beck, Lorenzo Booker and others), punter Andy Lee, and Frank Gore (65th), who proved far better than Ronnie Brown, taken second overall by Nick Saban that year (2005).

By the way, the 49ers’ fifth-round starting cornerback (Tarell Brown) has played much better than Miami’s (Carroll).

Also, in 2011, the 49ers took Kendall Hunter 115th, long after Miami took Daniel Thomas 62nd. Miami wanted a bigger back – and Thomas is much bigger than Hunter – so the move made sense. But Hunter has been the better pro, averaging 5.7 yards per carry before a season-ending injury; Thomas is at 3.6.

### Free agent pickups: Both teams made several good one between 2008 and 2010, including Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks for the 49ers; and Cam Wake, Randy Starks, Karlos Dansby for the Dolphins. But the 49ers acquired more contributing players in 2011 and 2012 --- cornerback Carlos Rogers (a Pro Bowler last year), safety Donte Whitner, receiver Mario Manningham (41 catches, 449 yards) and Jonathan Goodwin (ranked seventh among all centers). Randy Moss (19 catches, 296 yards) has more touchdowns (two) than any Miami receiver.

The Dolphins added Kevin Burnett and Matt Moore in 2011 but nothing of value beyond Marcus Thigpen and injured Richard Marshall this year. In March, they passed on Manningham, who got a reasonable two-year, $7.4 million deal and would have given Miami a better top-three receiver group.

### Coaching: Players think highly of Joe Philbin, but he isn’t Coach of the Year in his first season, as previous Dolphins target Harbaugh was in 2011.

### Among lessons to be learned here: Miami cannot afford a second consecutive year of securing little from free agency, despite Philbin’s reluctance to dabble much. The league is too good, and the Dolphins have too many holes, to fix every need in the draft, where their record is spotty. The 49ers demonstrate how to supplement the roster selectively but effectively. The 49ers' depth is so strong that they haven't needed to use their 2012 draft class at all this season (until Sunday's game).

CHATTER

### Tannehill has only seven touchdown passes (on pace for 9.3), and for some historical perspective on how bad that is, consider: Elias tells us that since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, only two quarterbacks have started all 16 games and thrown fewer than 10 touchdowns: Trent Dilfer (four in 1995) and David Carr (nine in 2002).

The fewest by a Dolphins quarterback (minimum 12 starts)? Bob Griese in 1970, with 12 in 14 games.

### A bad sign, with Aldon Smith awaiting: Nate Garner has allowed four sacks in his two most recent games playing tackle. And the 49ers don’t seem overly impressed with Jonathan Martin; Justin Smith calls him merely “serviceable.”

### Former Canes great Alonzo Highsmith says the NCAA is out to get UM. You certainly have to wonder from some of its actions recently, not only that threatening letter to former players, but also the fact they’re going on a fishing expedition by asking people – during interviews - whether UM followed rules regarding practice hours and whether staff volunteers violated rules by doing any coaching. What’s the justification for looking into that?

The NCAA essentially has used Nevin Shapiro’s claims as an excuse to investigate every aspect of the football and basketball programs. It even has asked people about Shapiro’s involvement with baseball (there’s no indication of any). By the way, the NCAA has not responded to a local attorney who told the NCAA that his former players would not speak to the NCAA but would not be admitting guilt by their silence.

### A person involved with FSU program confirms that Randy Shannon's name has been tossed around internally - along with others - for the Seminoles' vacant defensive coordinator. Shannon, the former UM coach, is TCU's linebackers coach..... As reported by CBS' Bruce Feldman, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins (Mississippi State) and Manny Diaz (Texas) are on FIU's radar for its head coaching job, unless Butch Davis suddenly decides to take the gig. Collins was formerly FIU's d-coordinator; Diaz is son of the former Miami mayor.

### Telling about the Heat’s defense: According to synergysports.com, the only Heat rotation player who is holding players he’s guarding to a lower shooting percentage than last year is Shane Battier. LeBron James is the same.

Players guarded by Udonis Haslem (who is playing more center this year) are shooting 54 percent, compared with 36 last year. With Chris Bosh (now exclusively at center), it’s 51 percent, compared with 36 last year. Mario Chalmers (victimized by repeated blow-bys) has jumped from 38 to 47, Ray Allen 33 to 47.

“Numbers wise, we have never had a defensive team this low,” said Haslem, who as team captain, said Friday he plans to gather players – without coaches – to discuss it.

He wonders whether exterior motivation is needed to snap them out of this. “This team performs best when people are not rooting for us," Haslem said. 'Maybe we can get back to being the most hated team in the world.”

### The Marlins, turned down by Jeff Keppinger, now will have to settle for a journeyman third baseman such as Ryan Raburn or Matt Downs or try to trade for one.

 

Dolphins-49ers preview: Where will the points come from?

We'll post the Sunday buzz here later this evening. In the meantime, here's my newspaper advance for Sunday's game, which we'll leave posted here for a few hours:

#   #  #

The Dolphins take their sputtering offense into San Francisco on Sunday, and this question is difficult to avoid for even the most optimistic of Dolfans:

Where are the points going to come from against a 49ers defense that allows the league’s fewest?

The Dolphins are 27th in scoring and have topped 20 points only once in their past five games. Oddly, during that stretch, Miami generated its highest point total (24) against Seattle’s fourth-rated defense.

The Dolphins mustered just 14 points against the Bills’ defense (ranked 24th), 16 against the Patriots defense (ranked 26th) and three against a Titans defense ranked 27th.

“They’re the best [defense] we’ll go against all year,” center Mike Pouncey said of the 49ers.

Coach Joe Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill both made the point last week: Teams aren’t going to win a lot scoring 19 points per game, which is the Dolphins’ average and better than only St. Louis, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Kansas City and Arizona.

And the challenge this week looks especially daunting:

### The 49ers are No. 1 in the league in yards allowed per play. The Dolphins are 25th offensively in yards per play.

### The 49ers have allowed the second-fewest rushing yards per attempt. The Dolphins are averaging more yards per rush than only 11 teams.

### The 49ers have allowed the second-fewest passing yards. The Dolphins are 23rd in passing yardage.

Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman have tinkered a bit in recent weeks – such as using tight end Anthony Fasano several snaps at fullback, running a reverse to Marcus Thigpen last Sunday, targeting Charles Clay far more than usual against Seattle and incorporating receiver Rishard Matthews into the offense the past three weeks after he wasn’t used at all the first nine.

But nothing has mattered in the big picture. Miami still struggles to sustain drives. Third downs have become a disaster area, with Tannehill posting the league’s lowest passer rating (60.1) and tossing six interceptions compared with just one touchdown.

And the Dolphins have been in too many third-and-longs because of an inability to crank out yardage consistently on first and second down.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” running back Reggie Bush said. “It’s red zone, it’s third down. We haven’t hit a consistent stride at any point in the season. We’ve been up. We’ve been down. We’ve been here. We’ve been there. Some games, we’re running well and not throwing it well. Some games, we’re throwing it well and not running it well.”

Here’s what’s a bit disconcerting: Whereas the league’s other rookie quarterbacks have raised their play, Tannehill has had only one clearly above average game in the past month -- the sterling performance in the comeback victory against Seattle.

“I have to get the pass game going early on in games and be consistent throughout games,” he said. “Third down is an area we’re really focusing on right. We haven’t been good the past two weeks. We’re putting our defense back in tough situations.”

Tannehill’s completion percentage (57.9) has fallen to 27th in the league, and he was exasperated after misfiring on two potential touchdown passes to Brian Hartline last week.

“It’s tough when you miss throws you make 99 times out of 100 in practice and even in games,” he said. “It’s frustrating, but you can’t do anything about it except move on. I was definitely frustrated when I watched that film, but I’m over it now.”

For the first time as a pro, Tannehill will be starting a game without Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long blocking for him. That’s a concern, because the 49ers feature Aldon Smith, the league leader in sacks with 17.5.

Jonathan Martin, who is moving from right to left tackle to replace the injured Long, said he expects to be matched up with Smith much of the afternoon. But the Dolphins also expect the 49ers to use Smith some on Nate Garner’s side, too, trying to take advantage of that matchup.

“Aldon is a big, talented, athletic kid, but the guy who really makes that defense go is Justin Smith,” Dolphins left guard Richie Incognito said. “He frees up a lot of lanes for Aldon Smith to come running through.”

The 49ers might have the league’s best quartet of linebackers in Smith, NaVorro Bowman (whose 108 tackles rank fifth in the league), Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks. “Willis might be the best linebacker in the game,” Bush said.

The defensive line – Ray McDonald, Isaac Sapoaga and Justin Smith – is very good.

“They stop the run extremely well, they play physical up front, they’re sure tacklers,” Incognito said. “They’re the best tackling bunch I’ve seen on film in a long time. And they get after the passer. They do everything the right way.”

The secondary has two players coming off Pro Bowl appearances: cornerback Carlos Rodgers and safety Dashon Goldson, plus two others playing well: safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Terrell Brown.

“This is probably going to be the most physical game we’ve played all year to date,” Bush said.

### The Dolphins listed Jimmy Wilson (hip) as questionable. 49ers receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) is doubtful.

December 06, 2012

Fins leave Bush in dark; Lamar Miller eager for chance; Heat-Knicks fallout; UM chatter

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The running back with the sterling 5.4 per-carry average hasn’t had a carry in three weeks. The running back with one of the league’s lowest rushing averages openly yearns to start (eventually). And the starter – the team’s most accomplished skill position player, mind you – said he has no idea if the Dolphins want to keep him.

Such are the odd dynamics of Miami’s running back situation. Some points to chew on:

### Dolphins coaches remain bullish on No. 2 back Daniel Thomas --- in spite of his erratic production - and Thomas wants to use the final month to “to show I can be a starting back. That’s what I want to do. I think they know I can.”

Does that make it awkward with impending free agent Reggie Bush? “No,” he said. “That’s the NFL. Nobody is here forever.”

But here’s the issue: Though Thomas has shown flashes and physicality, Bush remains more productive. Bush’s 4.4 average ranks 20th among qualifying backs; Thomas is 43rd at 3.6 and only five NFL backs with as many carries have a lower average.

Bush also has been better the past six games since the bye week, averaging 4.4 to Thomas’ 3.9.

And this is a red flag: Four times this season, Thomas has received at least 10 carries in a game. He has averaged 3.6, 2.9, 2.8 and 2.8 yards in those games – not encouraging if you’re going into next season projecting him as a potential starter.

Against New England, Thomas “played 43 percent of the snaps and had about as bad a day as a player can have,” Pro Football Focus said, noting he gained 10 yards on five carries, fumbled and “was abysmal in pass protection,” which he’s usually decent at.

Thomas said coaches want him "to break leg tackles and try to make guys miss."

### Bush has played 10 more snaps than Thomas in the past two games, after Thomas played substantially more in the previous four.

### Bush said Thursday he wants to return but the team has not told him if they plan to offer him a  contract, and he’s curious.

The sense here, from people involved, is that he’s likely to go into free agency unsigned barring a change of heart by the Dolphins, who appear disinclined to pay him as much or more than his current salary ($4.5 million). Bush won't be motivated to take a paycut after two solid years of work here. So I'll be surprised if Bush returns, but we'll see how it plays out.

(Quick aside: The Dolphins showed no interest in re-signing Ronnie Brown for months in 2010, then made him a late offer before he signed with Philadelphia.)

Remember, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman prefers to play only two backs and the Dolphins have two younger and much cheaper ones already under contract for 2013 (Thomas, Lamar Miller) who can compete to start next season.

Some aren’t so sure that’s the right approach.

"Reggie brings a lot more to the table than… their other backs,” Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, told me at an endorsement event for Lincoln’s new MKZ Luxury Vehicle. “He’s been very productive and they can use all the help they can get. It warrants offering him a new contract.”

### The biggest surprise is that the Dolphins haven’t used Bush as a receiver nearly as much as everyone expected, Bush included. “Yeah, I wondered about that,” Bush said. “The proof is there.” Joe Philbin tap-danced when asked about that Thursday.

Bush is on pace for career lows in receptions (32) and receiving yards (252), excluding the 2010 season when he played eight games.

That’s well below his reception totals (88, 73) to start his career in New Orleans. The Dolphins suggested before the season that Bush often would line up in the slot and create mismatches, but many of his receptions have come on check-downs.

### The Dolphins don’t believe they need to see more of Miller – who is averaging 5.4 yards on 27 carries - to make a conclusion about him. “He’s going to be a good player,” Philbin said Thursday. “Good instincts as a runner, can catch the ball, good feet, has a chance to be a very good pass protector eventually. I’m excited about him.”

Sherman echoes those sentiments: “I’m excited when he gets in the game.”

Said Nolan Carroll: “He so fast and quick, he hits the hole and he’s gone.” And Cameron Wake said he's also "strong and powerful (enough) to run between the tackles."

### Miller said he hopes to get carries in the final month but “I’m patient. My time will come. The same thing happened at UM; I redshirted as a freshman. It makes you humble.”

HEAT CHATTER

### Another night, another ignominimous Heat "achievement". Tuesday, the Heat became the first defending NBA champion to lose to a team with a winning percentage as bad as Washington's (.071). Thursday against the Knicks, Miami suffered its worst home lose with the Big Three all in uniform. 

Serious concerns are emerging: an inability to stop penetration; a lack of an interior defensive presence (except Joel Anthony); deficient work defending three-pointers (the Knicks went 18 for 44), Mario Chalmers' contined slump; and Dwyane Wade's erratic play.

Wade was 3 for 13 with four turnovers Thursday, and the Heat was outscored by an astounding 33 with Wade on the floor --- the WORST plus/minus of his career. Miami was plus 13 without him.

"We're going to own this - we're not going to brush this off - and then we'll fix this," Erik Spoelstra said afterward. "We have to be honest with ourselves. It's time. We need to address our defense and commit to it."

Is there a sense of anger? "It's getting there," he said. "We're a proud group in that locker room."

Why so many open looks on three pointers? "There were some open threes in the first half that were really unnecessary," Spoelstra said. "There was a lack of concentration or extra effort... We have to do it a whole lot harder than what we're been doing."

### Angry about Thursday's performance, LeBron James went through a workout on the team's practice court after the game. "They kicked our ass. I need to be better," he said.

### Before Thursday's game, Wade disputed Charles Barkley’s claim that the Heat, off a championship, is bored with the regular season. “It’s too early to say that,” Wade said. “People are worried about last year more than we are.” As Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay said Thursday, “It’s December! It’s too early for boredom.”

###  Spoelstra has spoken to Pat Riley “virtually daily” – and UF coach Billy Donovan during the summer – about how to keep a championship team hungry and engaged. But Riley has not spoken to the team, LeBron James said. Maybe it's time for that. 

### Even though injuries left the Heat without a natural point guard for the second half Tuesday - and even though Heat point guards keep being broken down defensively, Spoelstra said Miami has given no thought to adding a third point guard.... After Tuesday, the Heat - oddly - is 2-3 in games in which LeBron James has had a triple double since joining the Heat.

UM NOTE

### A year ago, Angelo Jean-Louis was the highest-rated in an exceptional group of Hurricanes receiver recruiters. But academic problems forced Jean-Louis to go to prep school, with the intention of enrolling at UM in 2013. Unfortunately, academics have remained an issue for him at prep school, as well.

Jean-Louis was due to visit UM this weekend, but according to Canesport.com, UM told him not to come, raising questions about whether he will ever enroll here. Regardless, UM is in good shape at receiver and continues to recruit several, including University School's Jordan Cunningham.     

December 05, 2012

Costas explains controversial comments; broadcast notes

Some broadcast news and notes:

### As many of you know, NBC’s Bob Costas created quite a stir this week when he appeared to advocate gun control in an essay during halftime of Sunday’s Eagles-Cowboys game. Costas was discussing the murder/suicide committed by Chiefs player Jovan Belcher.

Appearing on Dan Patrick’s radio show this week, Costas said it was “mistake” for him to imply he was advocating gun control because his choice of words “left it open for too much miscommunication. I was thinking how can I come at this at a different angle?

“What I was trying to say was if you want some perspective on this, there are a number of issues related to this that we can begin to talk about and think about. The problem is I didn’t have enough time to get to many of them. I left it open to too much misinterpretation.”

Costas said producer Sam Flood told him he would have one minute, 15 seconds to address the Belcher story “in some way.”

On Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show this week, Costas further explained his thinking: “What I was talking about here - and I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear to everybody – was the gun culture. I never mentioned the Second Amendment. I never used the words gun control. People inferred that. Now do I believe that we need more comprehensive and more sensible gun control legislation? Yes I do. That doesn’t mean repeal the Second Amendment.

“No one is saying Belcher is not responsible. Earlier in the day, I said I was appalled by the way some of this had been covered initially by some of the sports networks, where they made it seem like there were two victims.”

But he added: “Sometimes the quality of those who oppose you speaks for itself. I was told that someone compared [the halftime segment] to blatantly racist comments. This is simply a case of people who don’t agree with this or they don’t agree with what people think I was saying.”

### Here was Costas’ essay, in case you missed it:

“You knew it was coming. In the aftermath of the nearly unfathomable events in Kansas City, that most mindless of sports clichés was heard yet again, ‘Something like this really puts it all in perspective.’

"Well if so, that sort of perspective has a very short shelf life since we will inevitably hear about the perspective we have supposedly again regained the next time ugly reality intrudes upon our games.

"Please. Those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports, would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective. You want some actual perspective on this? Well a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock, with whom I do not always agree, but, who today, said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article.

"Our current gun culture," Whitlock wrote, “ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher's actions, (and its possible connection to football), will be analyzed. Who knows? But here, (wrote Jason Whitlock) is what I believe, If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

 

### ESPN named John Kruk to its Sunday night baseball announcing team. He replaces Terry Francona, who left to manage the Cleveland Indians.

### Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf call their second consecutive Dolphins game for CBS Sunday (at San Francisco).

### 790 The Ticket is taking its time to pick a replacement for Jason Jackson on its 1 to 3 p.m. weekday talk show. Eric Reid --- not the Heat announcer -- continues to handle the gig. Steve Goldstein is a possibility.

December 04, 2012

Early peek at Dolphins' options in 2013 draft; UM loses key recruit; Fins notes; Cristobal fired

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.

CHATTER

### 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.”

 

December 03, 2012

Dolphins coordinators address several issues; Marlins, Canes

Comments of note from the Dolphins coordinators' weekly Monday briefing with reporters:

### Several analysts, including former Colts GM Bill Polian, said Ryan Tannehill can't completely be judged until he has a better supporting cast. I asked offensive coordinator Mike Sherman if he agrees with that.

“Well, I think he’s evaluated every day with the people we have here right now," Sherman responded. "I’ve always thought this, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some good quarterbacks, I think your really good quarterbacks, your really great quarterbacks make those around him better. I think that’s the mark of a great quarterback. I don’t think the book is written on Ryan Tannehill just yet. I think there are going to be a lot of chapters, a lot of great chapters. Eventually the benchmark will be how good does he make those around him, and I think the really, really good quarterbacks make everybody play at a higher level. I’m assuming that Ryan will be that type of player at some point.”

(Frankly, it's impossible to ASSUME that will happen Tannehill. At this point, hoping would be a more accurate description.)

### Sherman has said he wants to make more use of Anthony Fasano in the passing game. But it's still not happening. Is he having difficulty getting open because of his hip injury?  “No I don’t think so," Sherman said. There have been times where he's been open but he didn’t get the ball (because) we went in another direction."

### Sherman, on whether he liked what he saw out of Marcus Thigpen on his only carry of the game, for eight yards:  “Yeah. I mean it wasn’t a great call by any stretch because the end played the play perfectly. They defended it, and so they bailed us out, bailed me out, on that play. I went into the game thinking that I wanted to have some misdirection, some fake misdirection. So I had that in my head we’re going to do some of those things, but on that particular play they read it perfectly and Thigpen made a great cut and got downfield and got us eight yards which could have been a seven yard loss. So I’m very thankful for his abilities on that play.”

### Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said there is no justification for questioning his decision to rest Cam Wake and Jared Odrick on eight key fourth-quarter snaps, insisting that Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby filled in splendidly.

“Shelby’s done a hell of a job," Coyle said. "I don’t know if you guys are privy of watching the film as opposed to trying to see what you can see at the game or maybe some highlights on TV, but Derrick Shelby and Olivier Vernon on the last drive were plusses in every snap that they had. I’ve heard the speculation and things like that, but it’s not warranted. Those guys went in there and they really did what we needed them to do. There were other break downs throughout the drive. I’ll admit to that, but it wasn’t because of those guys being in the game.”

### Coyle is giddy about safety Reshad Jones, who make a terrific interception: "I’m seeing a young player that’s becoming one of the better players at his position in the league right now. I think he is making plays in the pass game. The interception he made was exceptional. The run back was terrific. He had the sack. He had, I think, 10 or 11 tackles in the game, but he’s consistently starting to put one game after another together and he’s got a very high ceiling. I think he’s going to be a very, very good player for us.”

 ### Coyle has given more playing time to cornerback R.J. Stanford recently because "he played well and very consistent for us.”

###  Coyle said Koa Misi got a lot of work at defensive end, instead of linebacker, on Sunday because "of the style of defense that we ended up going into game believing we were going to have to play, which bore out as the game evolved. Koa played exceptionally I think. (He) had a heck of a game. He’s got as good a motor as anybody on the field. He plays as hard as anybody out there each and every play and he made some exceptional pursuit plays yesterday and just toughness. He dislocated his finger and was back in the game a couple of plays later like nothing (had happened). He’s just a tough hard-nosed throwback kind of guy and you really love having him on our defense.”

### Coyle, asked if he’s worried that Wake might be upset about not being on the field during the Patriots late drive:  “No, I’m not worried about that. Cam’s doing a great job and, if I’m Cam, I’d want to be on the field all the time and I think that’s a positive that he believes he wants to be out there. He’s making a major impact each and every week.”                        

### One other quick note: The Marlins hope to trade Yunel Escobar shortly, with Tampa and Oakland among several suitors. That would create yet another hole - third base - which could be filled with a free agent such as Jeff Keppinger, Ryan Raburn, Eric Chavez, Scott Rolen and Mark DeRosa or incumbent Greg Dobbs or non-roster invitee Kevin Kouzmanoff. Marco Scutaro, Mark Reynolds (good power but poor contact hitter) and Kevin Youkalis (past his prime) are among other free agents available, though pricey. The Marlins have called about Reynolds.

Escobar is due to earn $5 million next season. The Marlins have only $36 million committed to players on their roster for 2013.

 ### The UM men's basketball team (5-1) received seven votes in this week's AP poll, which would have placed it 37th.

Monday afternoon update: Philbin expects more from Tannehill, defends not playing Wake, Odrick much late

Notable remarks from Joe Philbin’s Monday afternoon news conference:

### He refused to comment on Jake Long’s injury, which is feared to be a torn triceps.

### Asked to assess Ryan Tannehill’s play, he made very clear he expects more: “It’s difficult to win games in this league when you’re averaging 19 points a game. He’s making a lot of progress. [But] overall, offensively we’re not scoring enough points to win games consistently in this league.”

 On the two potential touchdowns to Brian Hartine that Tannehill didn’t throw well enough, Philbin said: “You’ve got to make those plays. We talked about making the plays that were there.”

He said he has given no iota of thought to inserting Matt Moore in a game this season, aside from the Jets game when Moore filled in for an injured Tannehill.

### Philbin said he does not think Tannehill’s knee brace is affecting him. “There are times we have to do better offensively as a whole in our passing game. Sometimes it’s the location of ball. Sometimes it’s the depth of the route. All of those things at times aren’t clean enough. Sometimes he doesn’t get the protection to set his feet.”

On Tannehill’s touchdown run, when he stretched the ball over the goal line, Philbin said: “I would like a little better ball security.”

### Philbin asked if he believes he has the players on the roster needed for this offense to thrive. “Absolutely,” he said. “We had some plays out there yesterday we didn’t make. We have to do a better job. It’s hard to win a lot of games scoring 19 points per game.”

### He said he has no regrets about not playing Cam Wake or Jared Odrick on the first eight plays of the Patriots’ game-clinching fourth quarter drive: “When you play the Patriots, it’s important to have guys that are fresh and ready to roll and guys ready to play hard every single snap….

“We believe in guys we put in the game. We don’t put them in the game if we don’t have confidence in them.”

### Why did the Patriots run successfully on that fourth-quarter drive? “At times, we didn’t get off blocks fast enough. At times, we didn’t tackle well enough.”

### On Jonathan Martin moving to the left side to fill in for Long: “He did a good job. He played well. He made a good adjustment.”

### On the performance of his defense: “We got good pressure on Brady. To sack an opposing quarterback four times is a good afternoon’s work. Didn’t play well enough in the fourth quarter.”

### On Marcus Thigpen: “He’s got that elusiveness. It’s hard to coach. If you can make a guy miss, that gives you a chance to get out in space.”

           

December 01, 2012

More Marlins outrage: Some regret voting for stadium; UM books opponent; Fins, Heat

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

After the Marlins’ salary-dumping trade with Toronto, several politicians who always opposed the deal ranted on local airwaves.

But with the community still outraged, we sought a different perspective last week from the other side: former Miami-Dade County manager George Burgess – who negotiated the stadium deal – and the commissioners who voted for it. They discussed their regrets, the Marlins’ future, and why they never asked for more contractual assurances from the team. Some of their feedback:

### I polled eight of the nine Miami-Dade County commissioners who voted in favor of the new stadium in March 2009; the ninth, Rebeca Sosa, was on a cruise last week. Though all were disappointed and some furious with the payroll-slashing, only two (Javier Souto, Natasha Seijas) said they would have voted against the ballpark if they knew the Marlins would slash payroll to this extent. Another, Audrey Edmonson, said she “may have voted differently.”

That probably would have been enough to kill the stadium, because with all 13 commissioners in attendance, nine “yes” votes were needed to pass several aspects of the deal.

“This ownership group is a disgrace. I regret supporting it,” Souto said, adding he originally voted yes because his constituents in his district like baseball and wanted the ballpark and he thought it would create jobs.

“I told [former Miami-Dade County mayor] Alex Penelas years ago when I met Jeffrey Loria: ‘This guy only cares about the money, not us, not the county, not the people.’ There were so many promises about all the things that would be happening around the stadium, in Little Havana, and I haven’t seen anything.

“This was a convoluted, complicated deal that Burgess concocted and only he understood. He promised us it was the best deal…. Now, we’re close to a total boycott of the team. The best thing that could happen is for this ownership group to get the hell out of here for the good of the community.”

### Burgess, who spent countless hours crafting the deal, insisted in retrospect, there was nothing he would do differently. The Marlins are covering $120 million of the $634 million project, with the county financing $395 million through tourist taxes, and the city paying $119 million for garages.

“People are trying to connect the stadium deal with the [payroll slashing] and one has nothing to do with the other,” Burgess said. “I’m not making a conclusion on a multigenerational investment based on a decision on trading five players. The facility was not built for this owner – it was built for this community. Owners come and go.

“The 70/30 public/private [financing ratio] is comparable to other ballparks. We got a stadium built without any new taxes. This was as good a deal as you were going to get. The product we put there was a gorgeous facility.” Burgess said development around the stadium is “inevitable” but was not going to happen “overnight.”

### Several commissioners said Marlins president David Samson assured them orally that they would field a competitive team. But “competitive” was never defined, one commissioner said.

“We wanted to make sure they had enough revenue to bring in a quality product on the field,” said commissioner Dennis Moss, who voted yes. “That was part of the dialogue, basically promised to citizens.”

So why didn’t the county get this in writing? “You can’t assume payroll at an exact number,” Burgess said. “How are you going to do that for 40 years?”

But why didn’t the county push for the Marlins to assure – in writing – that they would have a payroll between, say, MLB’s 10th and 20th highest payrolls of any previous season?

“We can’t make management decisions for a professional franchise,” Burgess responded. “I’m not sure that would make a lot of sense.”

Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who voted for the stadium, said asking for such an assurance wasn’t realistic because “payroll doesn’t guarantee you a winning season. And I imagine they wouldn’t have guaranteed it.”

### Regrets? Among the commissioners who supported the stadium, Moss said: “We probably needed to be more involved in the negotiations. We should have asked more questions and gotten more details.”

Barbara Jordan, who also voted yes, said: “What I regret is we didn’t have all the information relative to finances. If we did, I certainly would have demanded the Marlins put in more.”

Said Dorrin Rolle: “We made decisions based on erroneous [financial] information. If they wanted our money, we should have insisted to see their records. Or we should have said no…. You come to us for public money and then do this? It’s embarrassing.”

### After the stadium was approved, deadspin.com obtained leaked documents showing the Marlins made $48 million in 2008 and 2009. So why didn’t the county push harder to see the Marlins’ books?

“We pushed hard, and it wasn’t going to happen,” Burgess said. “Private businesses rarely open their books. We were able to figure out everything we needed to know to make a decision. The deadspin.com report did not prove… they were swimming in money.”

Burgess said he strongly believes the Marlins were losing money before that two-year sample size.

### Barreiro called Samson after the trade to seek an explanation. “It definitely concerns me,” Barriero said. “They have an obligation to field a competitive team. “David Samson told me they would have a competitive team.”

Would he still support the stadium if he had it to do over? “I still believe there has to be a substantial amount of public funding for a venue,” he said. “Could we have negotiated $50 million more, or whatever the number is? Monday morning quarterbacking is not my thing.”

### Several would like to see Loria sell the team. “He should because he has not respected the community,” said Seijas, no longer in office. “I have respect for Samson because he stood there and negotiated step by step. Loria showed up once. I don’t think he’s a very nice man. This is a slap in the face to the community.”

### Burgess still believes if the stadium had not been built, “the real likelihood is there would have been contraction or relocation because it wasn’t viable in the other facility.”

He said he doesn’t feel deceived by the Marlins’ cost-cutting. But “as a fan, I don’t like it remotely. I thought it was not a way to build a fan base. If you don’t have a product fans will enjoy, their business will not succeed. They need to do what they need to do to field a quality product and win games. Period.”

### FYI: On the city side, former Mayor Manny Diaz, a strong stadium advocate, declined to comment about his views on the project, in retrospect. Former city manager Pete Hernandez said during negotiations, “there was never any discussion about the product on the field” or payroll. Regrettably.

CHATTER

### Despite his up-and-down play, the Dolphins have told people that keeping impending free agent Jake Long remains a high priority.... Though the Dolphins have made offers to some impending free agents (including Brian Hartline), they oddly have not made one to Randy Starks, a key piece of their defensive line. "Still waiting," he said. "I would like to stay."

### The Dolphins have attempted only 30 passes that have traveled in the air 20 yards or more – in the bottom six of the league and well below many others, such as the Ravens (70), Colts (69) and even the Jets (44). Brian Hartline suggests that must change: “Throwing deep is something I hope we go back to… We’re still in need of a couple more playmakers to step up consistently.”

### An associate of LeBron James said a report about the Lakers pursuing him in 2014, and James possibly being receptive, “came out of left field and no one is taking it seriously. I would be surprised if that happened. He’s happy here.” But a return to Cleveland later in his career isn’t considered out of the question by his associates.

### UM is finalizing a 2013 home football game against Savannah State, which was 1-10 and lost 84-0 to Oklahoma State and 55-0 to FSU. Home games against UF and FAU and a road game at USF are also scheduled. UM is philosophically trying to move toward an easier non-conference schedule.

### UM, which has about 15 scholarships to offer, now has oral commitments from 11 after receiving one Saturday night from Alex Figueroa, a 6-3 linebacker who graduated from a Virginia high school earlier this year but wasn't heavily recruited at the time because of academic problems. He planned to play at Fork Union Prep this season but couldn't because of a torn labrum. He reportedly had no other offers, besides UM, as of last week.

### The Marlins have had conversations with the representation for multi-position players Jeff Keppinger (.325, 9 homers, 40 RBI for Tampa) and Ryan Raburn (.171 last year but .256, 14, 49 for Detroit in 2011). Raburn would be more affordable, and the Marlins are among several teams in the mix. Talks will continue at the winter meetings next week.