SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
With 7 1/2 weeks left before National Signing Day, UM is in decent shape – with 11 oral commitments, including four ranked among ESPN’s top 150 – but still has several holes to fill. A half dozen highly-rated Dade/Broward recruits are undecided, and UM wants to come away with at least a couple of them.
Unlike last year, when UM signed 33 players, this Canes class will be limited to 15 to 18. Recruiting this year “feels different – more focused, more personalized, more selective,” coach Al Golden said.
“We don’t need that many and we’re trying to find the right ones and trying to be patient. We’re going through it methodically. A lot of these guys will be at All-Star games and we should be patient – give them an opportunity to say yes to us for sure.”
An update on where things stand with UM's 2013 class:
### Orally committed: UM has four --- under-the-radar Alex Figueroa (a linebacker/end who didn’t have the grades to qualify coming out of a Virginia high school and then suffered a torn labrum in a Virginia All-Star game in July); California junior college linebacker Devante Bond (17 sacks, three forced fumbles last season); and two well-regarded defensive backs: Miami’s Northwestern’s Artie Burns (ranked 69th in the county overall by ESPN) and Southridge’s Jamal Carter (rivals.com’s 20st-best safety prospect).
“Artie is a track athlete who’s tall, rangy and fast but still learning the game,” recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein said. “I think he has better upside than Tracy Howard. Carter is more of an in-the-box safety, very physical. More of a run-support type kid. In coverage, he’s not as fluid as Artie.”
The UM staff likes the versatility and athleticism of Figueroa, who attended a community college last season while recovering from his injury. Virginia and Virginia Tech had been showing interest in him before Miami offered. UM believes Bond can help immediately as a pass rusher.
### Still pursuing: More than a half dozen, including two of the nation’s top linebacker prospects: Alabama-based Rueben Foster and Booker T. Washington’s Matt Thomas. Foster, the nation’s No. 1 rated inside linebacker, says he’s considering Georgia, LSU, Washington, UM and Auburn.
Thomas, the nation’s No. 2 rated outside linebacker, has UM, FSU, Georgia, Alabama and Southern California as his final five, but his coach (Tim Harris) said Thomas hasn’t established a favorite. “I grew up watching Miami win championships,” Thomas told rivals.com. “They are right down the street, so my family and friends could come and see me play.”
Harris said Thomas also could play defensive end: “His pass rush ability is excellent.”…
Miramar’s Jermaine Grace, a big hitter and rated 17th among all inside linebackers, told canesport.com there’s a 70 percent chance he signs with UM.
Meanwhile, UM is pursuing several top-40 defensive tackles, including Fort Lauderdale University School’s Maquedius Bain (his coach, Roger Harriott, said UM, LSU and Oklahoma are his top choices); Delray Beach Atlantic’s Keith Bryant (a former UM oral commitment who said he favors FSU but hasn’t ruled out UM); Port Saint Lucie West Centennial's Jaynard Bostwick; and Immokalee’s Deadrin Senat (leaning toward FSU, but UM is in the mix).
UM also has been recruiting junior college tackles such as Toby Johnson (41 tackles, three sacks, blocked punt at Hutchinson Ks.), Ben Bradley and Lavon Hooks (who canceled a visit here).
Bostwick’s coach, Ron Parker, said Bostwick visited with Canes coach on Thursday night and that UM, UF and Alabama are front-runners for him. “He’s the best d-tackle in the country and will play right away,” Parker said, though rivals.com rates him 27th among tackles.
Dee Liner – the nation’s No. 2 ranked defensive end with the unusual but highly appropriate name – said he will visit UM in January, though he remains an Auburn oral commitment. UM is in the mix for New Jersey's Al-Quadin Muhammed, rated the nation's fourth-best defensive end. He visited UM last weekend.
One other defensive note: UM has been trying to convince four-star Pompano Beach Blanche Ely cornerback Rashard Robinson to drop his LSU oral commitment and come to UM. The Canes believe they have a chance here.
### Orally committed: Running back Ray Lewis III (a three-star prospect who averaged 13.1 yards per carry as a junior and 14.2 as a senior); two three-star offensive linemen (New Jersey’s Hunter Knighton and Cincinnati’s Alex Gall) and Kevin Olsen, rivals.com’s No. 6 quarterback prospect who missed considerable time with a foot injury this season but returned for the playoffs (his team lost in the second round) and finished the year 39 for 77 for 448 yards, with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Olsen, ESPN’s 67th best prospect overall, “is very polished, good feet and a Ken Dorsey type,” Fishbein said.
Also, UM has oral commitments from three tight ends: Tampa-based Travis Johnson (rated 102nd among all players by ESPN), New Orleans-based Standish Dobard (rated 138th by ESPN) and St. Petersburg-based Jeremy Kerr. “Johnson is the best receiver of the three,” Fishbein said. “They can flex him out. One of the better receiving tight ends they’ve had in a while. Kerr is more of a blocking tight end. Dobard (52 catches, 723 yards this season) is like Bubba Franks – can do blocking and running.”
### Still pursuing: Golden said UM wants another high-impact back to complement Duke Johnson.
Even though South Plantation’s Alex Collins (rated 147th by ESPN) dropped his oral commitment to UM a few weeks ago, the Hurricanes believe they have a decent chance to reel him back in. His coach, Doug Gatewood, said UM, Wisconsin, UF and FSU “all have the same chance.” He said Collins de-committed not because he doesn’t like UM but, “to use an analogy with dating,…it wasn’t right looking at other girls and dating this one.”…
Among running backs, UM also covets Philadelphia-area back David Williams, ESPN’s No. 124 overall prospect who ran for 1804 yards this season (9.5 per carry) and 24 touchdowns. Williams, a powerful runner who has been compared with Dallas Cowboys back DeMarco Murray, said he's considering UM, South Carolina, Arizona State and Ohio State, and is looking at visiting UM in January. And Santacules’ Diocemy St. Juste (1400 yards this season) is a fallback option...
UM is pursuing even more tight ends: 6-9 Indiana-based prospect Nate Wozniak (considering UM and Purdue) and Woodland Hills CC (Cal.) prospect Beau Sandland, who will decide Dec. 19 among UM, Nebraska and Arizona State….
Booker T. Washington’s Denver Kirkland, rated the ninth-best offensive tackle, remains a high priority but doesn’t have a favorite, coach Harris said. He visited FSU and Mississippi and will visit Miami, USF and TCU … UM is in hot pursue of Oakland Park Northeast receiver Stacy Coley (ESPN’s 30th best player overall) and also has offered University School receiver Jordan Cunningham (ESPN’s 51st).
Northeast coach Donnell Bennett said “Miami is high on Stacy’s list; he enjoyed his visit a lot” but that FSU, UF, Mississippi and North Carolina also are in the running. Among former Canes, Bennett compares Coley’s ability and route-running to former UM standout Lamar Thomas, and his speed to ex-Cane Horace Copeland. Cunningham’s coach, Roger Harriott, said UM and Stanford are his finalists.
### Though Dolphins owner Stephen Ross declined to comment about Jeff Ireland’s status last week, associates say Ross has seen enough improvement this season – and is encouraged about Ryan Tannehill - that he still has faith in his general manager. “He sees progress,” a friend said. There has been no internal discussion of replacing Ireland, though it’s impossible to say what Ross would do if the Dolphins lose their final three.
### Ross cannot like this, though: Not only are the Dolphins producing the worst local TV ratings of any team, but they sold only 77.8 percent of available tickets to their first six home games, by far the NFL’s lowest percentage. In fact, Miami’s average paid attendance (58,484) is lowest since the team started tracking it in 1997 – and fewer actually show up.
But to suggest fans don’t come because there’s so much else to do here “is kind of a cop out because… the beach isn’t going anywhere,” Brian Hartline said. “You have eight games a year in the fall to watch NFL football. I don’t know what you’re doing on a Sunday at 1, but I don’t think people are out raging and having parties.”
### The Dolphins are very intrigued by the size/speed combo of 6-3 receiver Armon Binns, who will be asked to stick around if he impresses this month. “Jeff Ireland told me he’s excited to have me and knows I can make plays,” he said. “Lots of defensive backs told me I have quick feet for my size. I caught a lot of deep balls in college.”
### The final word from Dwyane Wade on Charles Barkley’s criticism: Though Wade he understands it’s Barkley’s job to talk about players,” he believes the heart of his criticism “is not reality. It’s opinion. I don’t know why he’s saying stuff but I can’t concern myself with it. It doesn’t change anything in my life… You can say anything you want to about me. But if you want to continue to say anything about me, reach out to me as well or don’t even speak to me when you see me.” Barkley hasn’t called Wade and “he’s not going to do that,” Wade said.
### An official with an American League team said though the Marlins aren’t actively trying to dump Ricky Nolasco, they indicated they would be open to trading him if the right deal comes along – perhaps not until during the 2013 season – but haven’t had an appealing enough offer.