WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Buzz around UM football as camp approaches Aug. 3:
### The program that used to be known as “Quarterback U” hasn’t had one drafted before the seventh round in, shockingly, 21 years, since Craig Erickson was plucked in the fourth in 1992.
Stephen Morris assuredly will be selected much higher than Round Seven next spring. And considering his talent and supporting cast, it's reasonable to believe he could produce the best season by a Canes quarterback since Ken Dorsey, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2003.
Morris -- who ended 2012 on an 11-touchdown, no interception streak and finished with the fifth-most passing yards in a season in UM history -- drew raves for his work at the Manning Passing Academy last weekend.
He won the skills competition, hitting short, intermediate and deep targets on a moving golf cart – beating out projected first-round pick A.J. McCarron of Alabama, Florida’s Jeff Driskel and others. And he also performed well in a passing exhibition with receivers, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen mentioned to us in an e-mail.
Though NFL Network’s Mike Mayock called North Carolina’s Bryn Renner the most polished quarterback there, he said Morris was “the guy I really enjoy. He threw a beautiful football. He’s got a big arm. Stephen Morris has great mechanics. You can see he has really been developed well the last couple of years.”
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks said Morris “might be the most talented quarterback in college football,” and that he “spins the ball with exceptional velocity and zip while showing a deft touch on intermediate and deep passes. Most impressively, he is deadly accurate, capable of making pinpoint throws to every area of the field. He displays terrific anticipation, awareness and timing in the pocket.”
UM coach Al Golden said Morris can throw the ball at least 65 yards in the air.
Earlier in his career, Morris was so unassuming that teammates couldn’t hear him in the huddle. He fixed that by practicing in the mirror. Now, “I watch Stephen talk and am amazed by his maturity,” Golden said.
### Good to see former UM quarterback and Palm Beach Cardinal Newman coach Steve Walsh offer mentoring to Morris this offseason.
“I said to Stephen, ‘Your arm talent is as good as guys in the NFL.’ The thing is his feet. They get out of whack, and then the arm doesn’t look as good. I’ve told him that,” Walsh said. “If he can work on fundamentals, he can go in the top three rounds of the draft. From a pure throwing standpoint, his arm is as good as there is in college.”
One NFC scout said he could see Morris going in the second round.
FYI: The other UM QBs drafted since Erickson were three seventh rounders: Gino Torretta in 1993, Scott Covington in 1999 and Dorsey.
"I'm excited to see how Stephen develops," said Dorsey, now the Carolina Panthers' quarterbacks coach. "You see a lot of strides. He's in great hands with this staff."
### Of the summer freshmen arrivals, nobody has impressed more in informal workouts than receiver Stacy Coley. “A freak,” one veteran player said.
Also, Morris predicts much-improved Jontavious Carter “is going to do something really big for us." It’s difficult to see anyone initially cracking a top five receiver group of Allen Hurns, Philip Dorsett, Rashawn Scott, Herb Waters and Malcolm Lewis. But Coley could get some opportunities this season and also might get a chance as a returner.
### UM players were timed in the 40 last week, and one player said Dorsett was the fastest – below a 4.3. Duke Johnson and Waters were close behind. UM players say Antonio Crawford is their fastest cornerback.
### One player said UM experimented with a 3-4 defense more this spring than last year, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we see more of it, along with the 4-3, which has been UM's base under Golden. Tyriq McCord and Kelvin Cain would be a natural edge rusher at outside linebacker in 3-4 formations. So would Devante Bond, if he qualifies, which remains in serious doubt.
### Incoming freshmen defensive linemen Alquadin Muhammad and Ufomba Kamalu say they expect to qualify.
### Players have mentioned how much more mature Seantrel Henderson seems. He said he wants to be a first-round pick, not the fourth-rounder NFL people projected after last season. UM people now know that Henderson responds better to positive reinforcement from coaches than he does to being admonished.
### Golden is encouraged that “we’re so much stronger than a year ago.” And bigger, too, which was a priority across the defensive front seven.
Linebacker Denzel Perryman, who came to UM at 208 pounds in 2011, bulked up to 239, Golden said. Linebacker Raphael Kirby has gone from 215 to 230, end Anthony Chickillo from 255 to 270, among other examples.
### The Dolphins and Dion Jordan’s agent will speak again Wednesday with the hope of striking a deal before camp opens Sunday. The offset language issue still must be overcome…. Fullback Vonta Leach’s agent will resume talks with Miami this week, as well, with the hope a deal can be reached soon.
### The Dolphins normally don't make players available before the start of camp, but they've scheduled a Ryan Tannehill press conference for Wednesday night, as he continues to grow more comfortable in his role as one of the faces of the franchise. "Now I can lead the way I want," he said. Last year, "I didn't want to step on toes."
### Heat assistant coach David Fizdale received permission to interview for the 76ers head coaching job, as Yahoo! first reported late Tuesday night. The 76ers also reportedly have reached out to Bulls assistant and former Heat TV analyst Ed Pinckey, Denver assistant Melvin Hunt and Chicago assistant Adrian Griffin. They also are said to have interest in Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga, son of UM coach Jim Larranaga.
Fizdale declined overtures to interview for Portland's head-coaching job last summer because he said he wanted to be part of the Heat's efforts to defend its title. But he said during The Finals last month that he would be interested in the 76ers job if they reached out to him.
### With Mike Miller gone, the list of dangerous streak-shooting guards remaining in free agency include point guard Nate Robinson (his agent has reached out to Miami) and Richard Hamilton. But there's a good chance James Jones will get first crack at Miller’s old job, with forward Rashard Lewis also assuming a larger role.
Former Heat standout Lamar Odom, who can play small forward or power forward at 6-11, remains available, but he's 33 and coming off a disappointing season for the Clippers (4.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 39.9 percent shooting and 20 percent on threes).
### Forward James Ennis, the Heat's second-round pick via a trade with Atlanta, has averaged 10 points in three Las Vegas Summer League games (10 for 24 shooting) -- including 11 points in Tuesday's loss to Minnesota -- and doesn't seem NBA ready. If the Heat brings him to camp and keeps him, it could stash him on its NBDL team in South Dakota; the Heat now will run basketball operations for that team in Sioux Falls.
### Pretty neat: The Marlins' Jose Fernandez on Tuesday became the third 20-year-old pitcher in All-Star Game history with at least two strikeouts in the game, joining Dwight Gooden and Bob Feller.... The reason outfielder Austin Kearns hasn't played since early May - and might not again this season - is because he's an only child caring for two seriously ill parents. The Marlins paid him for at least a month when he was initially out, which was generous and not required, but have not paid him recently, which Kearns certainly understands since he's on the restricted list.