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January 22, 2013

Where UM stands two weeks from signing day; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Two weeks from National Signing Day, UM has oral commitments from three of ESPN’s top 100 recruits: Al-Quadin Muhammed (58), Artie Burns (70) and Kevin Olsen (87). But impending decisions of a half dozen top players will determine whether this is considered a pretty good class or a great one.

“For them to get out of the seven-, eight-win mold, they need another class like last year,” recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said. “They need to come up with [receiver] Stacy Coley, [offensive tackle] Denver Kirkland and [linebacker] Matthew Thomas to consider this a staggering class, to get to a 10-, 11-, 12-win plateau and become what Florida State is now.

“There’s nothing wrong with the kids they have committed, but they need marquee kids [like Duke Johnson and Tracy Howard last year] to take it to the next level.”

ESPN analyst Jeremy Crabtree said his network ranks Miami’s class 23rd and “but they need Thomas” and at least one among Coley, Kirkland and Keith Bryant “to push them toward the top 15.”

Longtime analyst Tom Lemming said: “It’s a top 25 class, but a lot depends on how they finish. Al Golden is a brilliant recruiter. He reminds me of Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. I mentioned that to Meyer, and he laughed. It’s personality, smarts and non-stop working.”

UM has 10 oral commitments, plus three junior college players signed to letters of intent. An overview with two weeks to go:

DEFENSE

### Still pursuing: Booker T. Washington’s Thomas, the nation’s second-rated outside linebacker, will visit Miami on Wednesday and FSU this weekend will choose among UM, FSU, Alabama, Southern California and Georgia on signing day, said his coach, Tim Harris. We're told FSU feels confident about landing him, but Miami believes it has a decent chance. So this week's visits to the two schools are critical. “I’m not sure what Miami’s chances are,” Harris said Tuesday, adding that Thomas told him he enjoyed last weekend's trip to USC…

The Hurricanes are optimistic about their chances with Port Saint Lucie Centennial West’s Jaynard Bostwick, the nation’s No. 27 defensive tackle, and Miramar’s Jermaine Grace, the No. 19 outside linebacker. Bostwick is picking among Miami, Alabama and UF; his mother believes he will end up at Miami. Grace will choose among UM, Louisville and Tennessee early next week. He has said he’s leaning toward Miami….

Delray Beach Atlantic’s Keith Bryant, a former UM oral commitment and the 17th-ranked defensive tackle, visited UM last weekend and “Miami kind of helped themselves,” he told InsidetheU.com. “[But] I didn’t really talk to the coaches much. I’m not sure why.” Bryant, who said he loved his FSU visit, also is considering South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU. His coach believes Miami still has a chance, but UM can’t be confident by any means….

UM is still trying to get Pompano Beach Ely defensive back Rashard Robinson to switch from LSU, but his coach, Charles Hafley, said Robinson told him Tuesday he is “100 percent” committed to the Tigers.

UM is considered a long shot but not out of the question for Daytona Beach linebacker Quinton Powell (nation’s 15th-best outside linebacker) and defensive tackle Donta Wilkins, a Virginia oral commit planning a UM visit on Jan. 25.

### Orally committed: Miami Northwestern’s Burns (ESPN’s 69th best player) and Miami Southridge safety Jamal Carter will compete for time immediately.

“Burns will help them right away,” Blustein said. “He’s up with Tracy Howard as far as athletic skill. He’s a world class sprinter, and when he hits the weight room, he’s going to be really good.”

Former UM assistant and ex-Southridge coach Don Soldinger worked with Carter last summer and draws comparison with Sean Taylor: “He’s not quite as tall, probably a little faster. He can be as good as anyone who has been there.

“Physically, he has all the tools. He’ll hit you. Real fast. Can take physical punishment. Returns kicks. He’ll be exceptional. But he has to be more disciplined, as far as being where he needs to be.”

UM hopes Mohammed, the nation’s fourth-ranked weakside defensive end, can provide immediate help on the pass rush, but he needs to bulk up from 220 pounds.

“He’s big time,” Lemming said. “Explosive moves. Eventually, he will be 6-4, 260 as an outside linebacker or a great defensive end.”

Also committed: Two junior college players - linebacker Devante Bond and end/tackle Ufomba Kamalu - and linebacker Alex Figueroa, an early enrollee who was being pursued by Virginia and Virginia Tech. “Figueroa was a legit four-star prospect if he had been healthy coming out of high school,” Lemming said.

OFFENSE

### Still pursuing: South Plantation coach Doug Gatewood said Alex Collins, rated the nation’s 11th-best running back, “loved the visit” to UM last weekend but remains conflicted among Miami, UF, FSU, Wisconsin and Arkansas, where he will visit this weekend. “I think he believes he will step on a campus and it will be love at first sight, but that’s a pipedream,” said Gatewood, who wouldn’t be surprised if Collins chooses any of the five.

The Wisconsin running backs coach visited Collins on Tuesday and “asked Alex, ‘What are you looking for?’ I don’t know if Alex knows that,” Gatewood said, adding that Collins hasn’t mentioned any concerns about UM aside from potential NCAA sanctions….

UM badly wants Oakland Park Northeast’s Coley, the nation’s No. 11 receiver prospect. It will likely come down to UM or FSU, with Mississippi and Clemson not yet eliminated. “Miami has a good chance,” said his coach, Donnell Bennett, who calls Coley a combination of ex-Canes Kevin Williams, Horace Copeland and Lamar Thomas.… Though UM initially pursued University School receiver Jordan Cunningham, who remains uncommitted, coach Roger Harriott said: “Miami kind of moved forward. I haven’t heard from Miami coaches or Jordan talk about Miami in a while.”…

Booker T. Washington’s Kirkland, rated the nation’s ninth-best offensive tackle prospect, has UM in the lead, followed by FSU and Mississippi and will visit Arkansas this weekend, his father told Canesport.com....

UM is scheduled to get a Feb. 2 visit from Staten Island-based Augustus Edwards, rated the nation’s No. 2 fullback. Edwards, a Syracuse oral commitment, is being recruited by UM as a tailback and said he has no front-runner among Syracuse, FSU, UM and Rutgers.

### Orally committed: Lemming said Kevin Olsen, rated the nation’s sixth-best quarterback prospect, “reminds me of Steve Walsh. Similar build, arm strength, production. Almost everything is identical. He has great feet. Arm strength is good and will be better when he gains another 30 pounds.”

Beau Sandland, the nation’s top junior college tight end, is reportedly enrolling. Also expected to enroll this week: tight end Standish Dobard (“who can stretch the field,” Lemming said), Figueroa and offensive linemen Hunter Knighton and Sonny Odogwu. Among early arrivals, UM has confirmed only Figueroa and Odugwu.

“Miami fans will see big things from Sandland,” Crabtree said. “And I’m intrigued by [offensive lineman] Alex Gall. Our scouts like him a lot.”

UM told Ray Lewis III it will decide this summer whether to play him at running back or defensive back, probably safety… Tight end/tackle Jeremy Kerr remains orally committed to UM but is considering FSU.

CHATTER

### Wednesday’s Duke-UM showdown will be ESPN announcer Dick Vitale’s first game ever at the BankUnited Center and “I’m really excited about it. The UM kids defend exceptionally well. Kenny Kadji is rebounding a lot better and Durand Scott and Shane Larkin give them a tough-minded duo in the backcourt.

“I wish Miami had Reggie Johnson. They have Sweet 16 ability with Reggie in the lineup.” Vitale ranks UM with North Carolina and North Carolina State in the ACC’s next tier behind Duke.

### Disconcerting: Among full-time starting centers, Chris Bosh’s rebounds-per-48 minutes (10.2) has dropped into a tie for last with Robin Lopez and ranks 33rd of 38 centers that have played enough to qualify. Backup Joel Anthony (9.6) is even worse – 36th of 38. Here’s some good news: Last season for Denver, news Heat addition Chris Andersen was 10th among 109 power forwards in rebounds per 48 minutes, at 14.6.

### For the highlights of Jeff Ireland’s briefing, see Adam Beasley’s story on the home page. Some other snippets: Ireland sounds willing to get more out of free agency than last year, speaking of "[utilizing] some of our cap space to bring some veteran players." Besides craving playmakers on offense, he said: “We’ve got to find guys that are disrupting the passer, disrupting the receiver getting into the route.”

He called Anthony Fasano “a great pro”; said he was “proud” of guard John Jerry (“he certainly is athletic enough; still has a big arrow”) and praised Ryan Tannehill but said he has a “long way to go” and wants improvement from him in four areas: “accuracy, ball placement, getting the ball out faster and tempo.”

### The Dolphins gave assistant coaches one-year extensions, through 2014. Joe Philbin’s deal, with four years left, wasn’t changed.

### Besides Matt Capps and Chad Durbin, the Marlins – who want to sign a reliever – also are talking to 6-11 Jon Rauch, who has 36 saves over the past three years.... Tampa, late today, signed former Marlins closer Juan Carlos "Don't call me Leo Nunez" Oviedo, who's coming off Tommy John surgery. The Marlins had no interest in bringing him back.