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2 posts from March 23, 2013

March 23, 2013

Wade out vs. Orlando; Winston update; UM, UF tip times announced; Fins book more draft visits; Heat, Canes

The Sunday buzz column is below. First, three quick updates:

1) Dwyane Wade will miss his second game in a row against Orlando on Monday. He's continuing to nurse a sore/bruised right knee.

2) Agent Drew Rosenhaus said on his weekly WSVN-7 segment that free agent offensive tackle Eric Winston "would really like to play" for the Dolphins and that the Dolphins have interest, but that the situation is "fluid." But the Dolphins have had a week to strike a deal since he visited and so far have not.

The Dolphins, as of Saturday, had not shown any interest in free agent Bryant McKinnie, who also has expressed interest in the Dolphins. Miami also has considered a trade for Kansas City tackle Branden Albert.

3) UM's Sweet 16 game against Marquette was set for 7:15 p.m. Thursday on CBS, with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery announcing. Florida's regional semifinal game against Florida Gulf Coast is scheduled for approximately 10 p.m. Friday on TBS, with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr announcing.

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

A six pack of Dolphins notes:

### Though it might not necessarily be the best fit with Miami’s pick at No. 12, the Dolphins want to add defensive backs in next month’s NFL Draft and have begun quietly reaching out to several.

According to sources, the Dolphins have booked the draft’s best safety, Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro, to visit team headquarters and are working on bringing FSU cornerback Xavier Rhodes here, too. The Dolphins like several corners in the draft, including Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer.

And here’s a sleeper alert: According to an Arkansas State source, the Dolphins have spent a lot of time with explosive under-the-radar safety/corner Don Jones – the Patriots also like him – and are summoning him to Davie to meet with team executives. Jones, a great athlete with good speed, could go in the mid-to-late rounds.

A defensive back might not make sense at 12 if Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is long gone, as expected, by Miami’s pick. Mel Kiper projects Vaccaro to go 16th, noting he’s “sound in coverage, takes great angles, makes very good reads.” But safety isn’t a huge need, and he had just five career interceptions.

Draftinsider.net's Tony Pauline said No. 12 would be too high for Rhodes, and he’s not the perfect scheme fit for Miami because press man is his specialty and the Dolphins will play some zone.

Besides Milliner, Kiper has only two other first-round corners: Rhodes 29th and Washington’s Desmond Trufant 28th. Todd McShay has Rhodes 28th and Connecticut’s Blidi Wreh-Wilson 29th.

### If Miami waits until picks 42 or 54 for a cornerback, Pauline sees five possible options: Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks (“problem is he’s a liability down the field, because of his lack of speed”); perhaps Wreh-Wilson (decent chance he will be gone by 42; “great cover skills but a lot of injuries the past two years”); Boise State’s 5-11 Jamar Taylor (“underrated, could go earlier than 42”); Virginia Tech’s Logan Ryan (speed a question); and Poyer.

Other evaluators also would include in that group Mississippi State’s Darius Slay (fastest defensive back at the Combine) and San Diego State’s Leon McFadden, who’s also fast but at 5-10 struggles sometimes against bigger, more physical receivers.

Southeast Louisiana’s Robert Alford, Utah State’s Will Davis, Connecticut’s Dwayne Gratz, and William & Mary’s B.W. Webb could be Miami options at 77 or 82, if they’re still available. So might North Carolina State’s David Amerson, who had 13 interceptions in 2011 but “was beaten far too much last season,” Kiper said. Some have UM’s Brandon McGee in the third/fourth round range, some later.

The cornerback class overall “looks deeper now, with Trufant, Rhodes and a handful of others running well to back up the tape,” Kiper said.

What about former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, a 2011 All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist who was kicked off LSU’s team before last season (reportedly for failed drug tests) and later arrested for marijuana possession?

Miami hasn’t shown interest so far, and Kiper said he’s a fourth- or fifth-round pick. “He’s not a great cover guy,” Kiper said. “But day three is when you roll the dice on him. He can help your defense and special teams.”

### The Dolphins are showing considerable interest in North Carolina and former St. Thomas Aquinas running back Giovani Bernard, who spent five hours at Dolphins headquarters Thursday. Bernard, an option for Miami’s picks at 42 and 54, had 1228 rushing yards (6.7 per carry), 490 receiving yards and two punt returns for touchdowns in 2012.

Miami also will do a private workout with Clemson’s Andre Ellington, another potential second-round back. The Dolphins want a back that can compete with Daniel Thomas for carries behind likely starter Lamar Miller, who “impressed us,” Philbin said because he’s “instinctive” and has “explosiveness.”

### We hear that after being badly outbid by St. Louis for Jared Cook, Miami made a late run at Martellus Bennett, but the Bears offered him a bit more. The Dolphins then signed Dustin Keller.

They love Keller’s receiving skills, but Joe Philbin admitted “we have to work with him” on blocking. Philbin said “we are going to keep looking” for tight ends. Miami prefers to add a skilled blocker to the Keller/Charles Clay/Michael Egnew troika, with Cincinnati mid-rounder Travis Kelce among those drawing Dolphins interest.

### Quarterback has gone from a liability to an asset in luring free agents. New Dolphins receiver Brandon Gibson said of Ryan Tannehill: “I’ve watched tons of film and think he’s going to be one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s got a big arm, very intelligent.” Said Keller: “Very impressed with him. Like his game a lot.”

### Philbin said the Dolphins studied every catch and drop by Mike Wallace the past two years and suggests people sell him short if they view him as just a deep threat.

### Besides pursuing cornerback Brent Grimes, the Dolphins also made an inquiry on Tracy Porter, an associate said. But they’ve so far stayed away from mid-30s vets like Antoine Winfield.

### Philbin said the Dolphins believe new linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler “might be able to make a couple more impactful plays” than Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett. Meanwhile, the Dolphins internally have discussed the possibility of playing Koa Misi at middle linebacker, though Ellerbe still could end up there.

CHATTER

### One underrated key during this Heat winning streak: Erik Spoelstra is always keeping LeBron James or Dwyane Wade on the floor (before garbage time), after experimenting in January with a disastrous second-quarter lineup with Chris Bosh and four reserves.

Surprisingly, the Heat’s second-most used lineup during the streak is Wade with four backups: a group that has outscored teams by 13 and is shooting 52 percent. During the winning streak, only the Heat's starters have played more minutes, as a group, than that lineup, which often starts the second quarter.

So what are Miami’s best lineups during the streak? Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and the Big Three (plus 73 in 82 minutes) and Ray Allen, Chalmers and the Big Three (plus 55 in 45). Not coincidentally, one of those two lineups usually is on the floor at the end of close games.

### The admiration from James’ ex-teammates keeps growing. “What I like,” Lakers forward and ex-Cavs teammate Antawn Jamison said, “is he always says, ‘I can improve.’ He can win the MVP five straight years, but it doesn’t matter to him. Five years ago, it might have mattered. It seems like the weight of the world is off his shoulders. Winning has put him at ease, and he’s invincible.”

### So why are the Marlins waiting until after the season to make a long-term offer to Giancarlo Stanton, who cannot be a free agent until November 2016? One official said the Marlins philosophically do not like to sign players before they’re arbitration-eligible, which would be next winter for Stanton. Though it’s very difficult to see him signing here long term if the Marlins keep payroll so low, a close Stanton associate said Stanton actually loves Miami as a place to live.

At least one Marlins official advocates trading him now rather than waiting a year or two to maximize his value. But another Marlins official said: “We won’t do it [now]. He’s important to our team with what we’re trying to do.”

### Though UM’s Shane Larkin said last month he will return for his junior year, he deflected that question Thursday, and a UM source said the coaching staff isn’t certain he’ll be back. ESPN’s Chad Ford rates him 37th among all draft-eligible prospects, adding: “If he were a few inches taller [than 5-11], he would be a lottery pick.”

### The UM early enrollee drawing the most raves? First-team linebacker Alex Figueroa -  and that was even before he impressed everyone with his instincts, hard hitting and coverage skills in Saturday's scrimmage. "He’s smart, tough, will be good in coverage, is stout against the run and a good blitzer,” coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said…. Coaches says Ladarius Gunter has emerged as UM’s best cornerback, with Tracy Howard and Antonio Crawford battling for the other starting spot and Nate Dortch running fourth.

### For notes and thoughts from Saturday's UM scrimmage, please see our last post.

### An NCAA source says UM sent a strongly worded letter to the NCAA essentially saying that it reserves the right to sue the NCAA (that’s considered a last resort) and disputing the NCAA claim that the infractions committee doesn’t have the right to dismiss the case, which UM will formally request this week. 

Notes, stats and observations from Saturday's UM football scrimmage; UM gets hoop commit

Notes and observations from UM’s football scrimmage at Traz Powell Stadium on Saturday morning:

### Phillip Dorsett (shaken up after dropping a pass in the end zone), Rayshawn Jenkins (ankle) and Clive Walford (shoulder) needed assistance, but Al Golden said the only injury he is “worried about” is Dyron Dye, who suffered a leg injury (reportedly an ankle), couldn’t put any pressure on it and needed assistance to get off the field. Dye was beginning to feel comfortable at defensive end again after switching over from tight end.

### Among Saturday’s standouts: Early enrollee Alex Figueroa – He was outstanding in goal line work, including a big hit on Duke Johnson, and then bottled up Phillip Dorsett on an end-around. (We’ll have more on Figueroa in our Sunday column)…

Other standouts: Herb Waters (several nifty catches); Olsen Pierre (snuffed the run on several plays) and Anthony Chickillo (deflected and then intercepted a Stephen Morris pass), and of course, Johnson, who showed his usual burst and quickness (including on a 30-yard run) and will be incorporated selectively in the passing game in James Coley’s offense, much like Jedd Fisch utilized him.

### Coley’s offense looked a lot like Fisch’s, though Johnson said there are some subtle differences. Coley ran a lot of rollouts for the quarterbacks and made ample use of slants and screens. He smartly has adjusted to his players’ strengths, rather than making them to adjust to him.

### Throwing at times against a stiff wind, Morris was erratic with his accuracy, but that’s no big cause for concern considering how good he looked last November. “He rushed a couple throws, not as crisp as we want to be,” Golden said. “We’re just a little bit off. But he was right on in terms of [knowing] where the ball should go.”

Morris had three passes batted down, overthrew Waters down the sideline on what could have been a potential touchdown, overthrew Waters again when he was wide open in the end zone, misfired on several other throws, and threw a pick to Antonio Crawford to end the scrimmage – Morris’ second pick of the day.

But Morris also made several sharp throws (including a dart to Allen Hurns) and was victimized by drops, from Hurns and Rashawn Scott, among others.

### Ryan Williams, clearly the front-runner for the backup QB job, had some good moments and appears improved on intermediate routes. Williams threw a 20-yarder to receiver Garrett Kidd, who is replacing graduated Kendal Thompkins as Mr. March, apparently.

### UM played five quarterbacks, including walk-on Garrison Lassiter. Gray Crow, No. 3 at the moment, badly overthrew his first pass before completing two short throws.

Preston Dewey, during limited work, appeared sharper than at the start of last spring, when he seemed overwhelmed after arriving from high school.

### UM didn't release stats, but Canesport.com listed these final numbers for the QBs: Morris: 16 for 29, 166 yards, one TD and two picks; Williams: 6 for 11, 67 yards; Dewey 2 for 2, 16 yards; Crow 2 for 4, 16 yards.

### Ladarius Gunter, Tracy Howard and Crawford shared first team cornerback snaps. Howard made a couple of nice plays in coverage but also was beaten badly by Dorsett on a 32-yard gain.

### Jenkins and Deon Bush opened at safety, but AJ Highsmith got a lot of work with the ones.

### Jimmy Gaines opened with the first group at middle linebacker, flanked by Figueroa and Denzel Perryman, but Raphael Kirby has a real shot to win the middle linebacker job. Olsen Pierre and Curtis Porter opened at defensive tackle, but Luther Robinson got a chunk of first-team snaps. Chickillo and Shayon Green remain the starting ends.

### UM generated a strong pass rush at times, but Morris escaped on several of those occasions. Of the seven sacks, Dwayne Hoilett had 2, Kelvin Cain 1.5; Jelani Hamilton, Jalen Grimble and Corey King 1 each, and DeQuan Ivery had half a sack.

### Dallas Crawford – the No. 2 tailback behind Johnson – was bottled up on a handful of carries before showing his dynamic speed on two plays: a screen from Morris, which he took for 22 yards, and a 29-yard run in which he turned the corner and scampered down the sideline against mostly second- and third-team defenders.

### Beside Johnson and Crawford, other carries were shared among Danny Dillard and Brandon Yosha, who ran well against reserves. Dillard turned the corner for a five-yard TD run during the red zone portion of the scrimmage.

Canesport.com had these final stats for the running backs: Johnson - 6 for 52; Dillard 5 for 12; Crawford 10 for 51. Johnson left the field before the scrimmage to take medication for a headache.

Two more backs – Gus Edwards and Corn Elder – arrive this summer. Eduardo Clements’ football future remains very much in question because of a neck injury.

### Dorsett (before he left), Hurns and Waters often were used in three-receiver sets, with Scott also getting a lot of playing time. Jontavious Carter and D’Mauri Jones played behind them.

But Waters was the best of the group Saturday, including one play where he caught a short slant and exploded for 20 yards of YAC. He also caught a TD from Morris on third and goal from the 8. (That was Morris' only TD throw of the day.)

The safeties played too deep on the play; Waters could plant his feet just past the goal line for an easy catch.

Waters finished with 4 catches for 43 yards, Hurns 4 for 35 and Dorsett 4 for 43.

### Not a great day for UM’s new tight ends. Standish Dobard couldn’t fight off Howard for a pass at the goal line and dropped another pass. And Beau Sandland dropped an easy pass from Williams.

But Jake O’Donnell, who redshirted as a defensive lineman last year, made a couple catches and seems to be making a smooth transition to tight end.

Asante Cleveland, battling Sandland for the No. 2 job behind Walford, also dropped a catchable pass.

### Several defenders missed tackles, including Perryman whiffing on Johnson (OK, that could happen to anyone), resulting in a long gain.

### The offensive line remained without key starters Brandon Linder and Shane McDermott. Taylor Gadbois had a couple of penalties.

### Matt Goudis made three field goals from 36, 25 and 49 yards. His underdog competition, Ricky Perez, missed from 50 and 49.

UM HOOPS COMMIT

According to several recruiting web sites, UM received a basketball commitment from James Kelly, a three-star junior college power forward from Toledo, Ohio.  He averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds this season. He had several other offers, including Lousiana Tech and Marshall.

UM still needs to add three or four more players, in addition to Kelly and previous commitments DeAndre Burnett and Davon Reed. Football recruits Corn Elder and Derrick Griffin will walk on with the basketball team and could end up as rotation players, especially Griffin if he qualifies academically.

### Check back later for the Sunday buzz, with lots of Dolphins and more Canes, Heat and Marlins... In case you missed it, the UM-Illinois NCAA Tournament game has been set for 8:40 p.m. Sunday on TNT.