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2 posts from January 12, 2013

January 12, 2013

UM says no to a Gator; Dolphins' contract talks; Heat/Obama visit set; Fins, UM, Marlins, Heat

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

When UM coach Al Golden arrived on campus two years ago, Miami had only three scholarship quarterbacks (including the immortal Spencer Whipple) and Golden admitted being “scared to death as I go to sleep every night that you don’t have the depth to get you through a season.”

Now, UM feels so good about quarterback that it quietly rejected recent overtures from the Gators’ 2012 opening day starter.

West Palm Beach Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said UM was the “top choice” of Jacoby Brissett, who is transferring from UF,  but the Hurricanes informed him “they don’t have room for him” because they have five quarterbacks on scholarship and a sixth (Kevin Olsen) arriving this summer.

Brissett, rated the third-best duel purpose QB and 75th player overall in the 2011 class, completed 23 of 35 passes for 249 yards in 2012. He started the season opener against Bowling Green but was replaced after a quarter, replaced an injured Jeff Driskel and helped rally UF to avoid an upset loss against Louisiana-Lafayette, then started against Jacksonville State and threw for just 154 yards. He then lost the job to Driskel, decided to transfer, and likely will pick between North Carolina State and West Virginia, Daniels said.

Based on how he closed last season (11 touchdowns, no interceptions in the final four games), UM believes Stephen Morris should be among the nation’s best as a senior. “He’s been spectacular,” Golden said. “We had maybe the hottest quarterback in the country the [final] four games. He has grown into a man. His leadership is extraordinary.”

The job in 2014 will be an open competition among Ryan Williams, Olsen (ESPN’s No. 5 quarterback in the 2013 class), Preston Dewey (finished the year ahead of Gray Crow), Crow and David Thompson, who is recovered from labrum surgery but will skip spring football to play baseball. But people close to the situation make Olsen the favorite if he’s as good as the UM staff believes.

“I like Olsen’s chances,” said former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci, who coached him at an All-Star game last weekend. “He has size, smarts, has enough arm strength and good touch. I’m anxious to see him play.”

### Former Miami Palmetto High quarterback Wyatt Chickillo, cousin of UM defensive end Anthony, is about to become the fourth Chickillo to play at UM, dating to 1950. He’s walking on, potentially as a receiver.

### In scheduling the Hokies to play at UM for a second year in a row, the Atlantic Coast Conference finally consented to the Hurricanes’ wishes to split up the Virginia Tech and FSU series so that UM plays one at home and one on the road. The Canes also have asked the ACC not to give them a Thursday night home game and are optimistic that will be granted. It could hurt UM in recruiting if high-school players see small crowds on ESPN Thursday games.

### UM doesn't know what to expect when it receives NCAA allegations imminently, but UM is optimistic there won't be any big surprises based on the fact that the NCAA hasn't informed UM of any bombshells recently. UM is hopeful of avoiding another bowl ban, but nobody will know that until the infractions committee rules in a few months. Scholarship reductions remain likely....

By the way, Jamie Israel, who was UM's associate compliance director when some alleged violations occurred, now works for the NCAA, as assistant director for academic and membership affairs. He's not involved in the investigation, but the NCAA says there is no rule to prevent him (or anyone else) from giving information to the enforcement committee. Israel, who is respected by his former UM peers, declined to comment.

### For more on the NCAA investigating and UM recruiting news, see our last post.

DOLPHINS CHATTER

The Dolphins have opened talks with defensive tackle Randy Starks and made clear they want to sign him. But the sides aren’t close on financial terms. Some had speculated that Miami might prefer to move Jared Odrick to tackle and draft or sign a starting defensive end. But that would become a possibility only if Miami is unable to sign Starks.

### Matt Moore would love to find a team where he can compete to start and has relayed to the Dolphins that he is going to test the free agent market, barring an incredible offer from Miami.

The Dolphins told Moore they want to keep him but have never given him a firm offer. If the Dolphins lose Moore, their free agent backup quarterback options include Jason Campbell, Brady Quinn, Tarvaris Jackson, Drew Stanton, Rex Grossman, Matt Leinart, Charlie Batch, Brian Hoyer and Bruce Gradkowski. Third-stringer Pat Devlin, a favorite of Joe Philbin, also could compete for the No. 2 job if Moore bolts.

### Among the season’s biggest disappointments: Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman expected a fast-pace, no-huddle offense that would average 75 plays per game. But because the Dolphins couldn’t sustain enough drives, they actually averaged fewer plays this season (61.3) than in 2011, when they huddled and averaged 61.9 --- something nobody in the organization ever would have expected.

### Daniel Thomas’ mid-December knee injury required surgery, according to his representation – he should be fine by the spring – and the second-round pick has fallen behind Lamar Miller in the organization’s eyes. Disconcerting: His three fumbles were the most by any NFL back with fewer than 100 carries, and only four backs with as many attempts had a lower per-carry average than Thomas’ 3.6. Incidentally, Reggie Bush tied for the league lead among backs with five fumbles.

### Look for the Dolphins this week to propose using public money --- partly through a hotel tax and possibly through a sales tax – to partially fund upgrades to Sun Life Stadium. The cost of the project has risen to $400 million.

“We’re furious what the Marlins did slashing payroll, because this will make it more difficult for us [with politicians],” a Dolphins official said. If approved, “Sun Life will be like a new stadium,” the official said, “and it will delay the need for a new stadium by 25, 30 years.... Stephen Ross will cover a large chunk of the costs.”

CHATTER

### Center Chris “Birdman” Anderson, who auditioned for the Heat on Tuesday, is staying in South Florida to work on improving his conditioning, with the hope Miami will sign him. But the Heat has made no decision.

### Though free agent Kenyon Martin would love to play here, he’s less appealing to Miami because his rebounding numbers for the Clippers last season weren't especially good --- clearly below Udonis Haslem’s this season….

### The Heat's visit to the White House has been scheduled for Jan. 28, according to someone invited to the ceremony honoring the NBA champions. President Obama was unavailable when the Heat visited Washington in early December.

### Nothing has pleased the UM basketball staff more than the improved focus and play of forward Kenny Kadji, whose numbers are better (13.8 points, 9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks) in the six games without injured Reggie Johnson. “People who scouted me only think I can shoot, so people run at me,” Kadji said. “I had to work on ball-handling, rebounding and defense, so if I don’t shoot well in a game you can affect it in other ways.”

### Look for the Marlins to re-sign outfielder Austin Kearns (.245, four homers, 16 RBI)… The Marlins are among several teams in talks with Matt Capps, who had 14 saves for the Twins in 2012, but also a rotator cuff injury.

### Besides forbidding president David Samson from doing his radio show, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria also told Samson that he can no longer do interviews. That’s short-sighted, because Samson made himself more accountable and accessible than many team presidents, even amid unpopular decisions made solely by Loria. Loria, by the way, has refused to speak to the media since mid-November.

Saturday update: NCAA/UM investigation; UM recruiting, Heat, Panthers

Some Saturday quick hits:

### A source told us Saturday morning that the NCAA has told several former UM coaches and staffers to be available Monday and Tuesday for phone discussions about the allegations against them.

Meanwhile, two UM officials said they were told the allegations against UM will be delivered "imminently." But under the typical NCAA timetable, it will be several months before UM learns its punishment. That might not happen until June, July or August.

### While UM obviously respects Alabama and Nick Saban’s power of persuasion, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing that four UM targets are visiting Tuscaloosa this weekend, before making their way to Coral Gables later this month. Unless any of the four commit on the spot, which isn't expected, there are advantages for Al Golden being able to make his case after Alabama does.

UM remains hopeful of landing at least three of the four players: Booker T. Washington’s Matthew Thomas (rated the nation’s second-best outside linebacker by rivals.com); Baton Rouge-based Tim Williams (the third-ranked weakside defensive end) and Port Saint Lucie’s Jaynard Bostwick (the 27th-rated defensive tackle).

UM realizes it’s a long shot to snag Auburn-based Dee Liner, the nation’s No. 2 defensive end prospect.

All four are reportedly visiting Alabama this weekend and all four have visits lined up with UM before signing day Feb. 6.

Besides UM and Alabama, Thomas also is considering FSU, Georgia and Southern Cal. Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell calls “Miami and FSU the leaders, but watch out for USC.”

Besides UM and Alabama, Bostwick also is considering UF. Playing early is important to him, and he certainly would have that chance at Miami, with defensive tackle a big area of need.

Farrell said the competition for Williams is “between Alabama, UM and FSU, with the Hurricanes having the most momentum.”

Farrell predicts Liner, an Auburn oral commitment, likely will end up at Alabama.

### The Heat would fall to 7-9 on the road if it somehow loses at Sacramento tonight. Miami hasn’t been two or more games under .500 on the road since the first month of the Big Three Era (November 2010), when the Heat dropped to 2-5 on the road with that “Bumpgate” loss in Dallas. But that team finished 28-13 on the road.

### For those still wishing it could have worked out here with Michael Beasley, consider that he’s shooting 36 percent and has been used only 24 minutes in the past seven games on a dreadful Phoenix team.

### Panthers president Michael Yormark announced on WQAM that the hockey team will open at home next Saturday against Carolina and play at least half of its 24 home games on weekends.

### Check back later for a lot more UM news – plus Dolphins, Heat and Marlins – in the Sunday buzz column.