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30 posts from July 2013

July 22, 2013

Marlins make big late-night roster moves; Fins notes; Al Golden speaks out; Heat

The Marlins, late Monday night, made roster moves with four players they hope will be a major part of their future, demoting center fielder Marcell Ozuna and second baseman Derek Dietrich to Double A and promoting top outfield prospects Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick to the big-league team.

Marisnick, acquired with several others in the big trade with Toronto in November, was hitting .294 with 12 homers, 46 RBI and 11 steals in 67 games at Double A Jacksonville. Yelich, who returned from an injury earlier this month, was hitting .280 with seven homers and 29 RBI in 49 games at Jacksonville, and was 11 for his last 22.

Manager Mike Redmond said both outfielders will start Tuesday night in Colorado, with Yelich in left field and Marisnick in center.

Ozuna (three homers, 32 RBI) had been mired in a prolonged slump and was hitting .138 in July (9 for 65), which dropped his average to .265. The Marlins remain hopeful he can be a longterm big-league starter.

Dietrich was tied for eighth in home runs among all big-league second basemen, with nine, but was hitting .214, including .204 in July (11 for 54). Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas likely will handle second base for now.


 If Ryan Tannehill is the player whose performance this season is most tied to the Dolphins’ success, Jonathan Martin might be No. 2.

In shifting from right to left tackle to replace Jake Long, Martin will be responsible for protecting Tannehill’s blind side, often against the premier pass rusher on the opposing team, as well as helping open holes in the run game.

This much is clear: If Martin again leads the league in most quarterback hurries allowed, as he did last season with 47, that would be quite problematic.

But the Dolphins believe Martin will be more effective back at left tackle, where he played at Stanford, especially after adding 15 pounds to boost his weight above 312.

“That [weight gain] will help a lot,” Martin said after Monday’s practice. “You have a better anchor, more power in the run game. I’ve felt really good so far. I played there in college, feel really comfortable there. Confident what I can do.”

The Dolphins decided to shift Martin to left tackle in May after Bryant McKinnie rejected their offer in free agency. Though it’s difficult to judge offensive line play when the players aren’t in pads, Martin has been decent – but hardly perfect – early in camp. Olivier Vernon beat him with a nifty inside move during a drill on Monday.

After Long suffered a season-ending injury, Martin’s play at left tackle was rocky during his five games at left tackle.

The Dolphins were pleased with his work against Jacksonville, but he had difficulties in two games against New England (allowing one sack and four hurries in one of them, six hurries in the other) and against San Francisco (one sack, four hurries while often matched up against Aldon Smith, who had 19.5 sacks last season).

Martin played very well for stretches at left tackle against Buffalo but also had a role in allowing two quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus.

Martin said he watched all of his games at left tackle “a bunch of times.” He admitted becoming angry while reviewing tape of the 49ers and Patriots games. “I definitely paid a lot more attention to what I did wrong than right,” he said.

Including his 11 games on the right side, Pro Football Focus rated Martin 76th among 80 tackles last season, with six sacks allowed.

“I played solid at times, not so good other times,” he said. “It’s about being consistent.”

Left guard Richie Incognito, who will play alongside Martin, said Martin is “at his best” when he is given a challenge.

Even without hearing Incognito say that, Martin expressed the same sentiment.

“I like having the pressure on myself. It makes me perform better,” he said. “It’s something I wanted my entire life – to play left tackle in the NFL.”

### With Long moving on to St. Louis, Incognito said: “I’m the vet on the o-line, the vet on offense. It’s my time to lead, my time to pick people up… I’m in charge of tempo and hard work and making sure we’re on track.”         

### Coach Joe Philbin said Lamar Miller “appears a lot more comfortable in what he’s doing. There doesn't appear to be much indecision in his play.”

And Incognito said Miller “has got a great feel for the zone game. I’m excited to block for him.”

Philbin on Monday also offered plaudits for quarterback Matt Moore, cornerback Brent Grimes (“very quick”), rookie tight end Dion Sims and receiver Brandon Gibson ("very good instincts" in his route running).

Receiver Brian Hartline said Gibson is well suited for the slot, where has been playing, because “he has a lot of body control, which you need a lot of times inside. He’s smart and can feel coverage.”

### In the ongoing kicking competition, Caleb Sturgis followed Dan Carpenter’s excellent work Sunday by hitting two of three field goals. He missed a 47-yarder but made a 48-yarder.

### Marcus Thigpen likely again will handle at least some of the punt returns, but the Dolphins are looking at a half dozen others to possibly share those duties. Brian Hartline, Lamar Miller, Nolan Carroll, Brandon Gibson, Brent Grimes and long shot receiver Jasper Collins have all taken turns. It would be risky to use Grimes, the Dolphins’ best cornerback, in that role.

Whereas Thigpen handles all the kickoff returns, the Dolphins had him share punt returns last season with Davone Bess, who was traded to Cleveland in April. Bess handled the punts that were backed up near the Dolphins’ goal line, and 18 of Bess’ 22 return opportunities were fair catches.

Thipgen averaged 12.2 yards on 26 punt returns, 27.4 yards on 38 kickoff returns.


### Quarterback Matt Moore threw a beautiful deep ball to receiver Rishard Matthews, who beat cornerback Dimitri Patterson for a 70-yard scoring play.

### Linebacker Alonzo Highsmith stripped Moore and recovered a fumble. And defensive tackle Kheeston Randall knocked down a pass from Moore.

### Tight end Michael Egnew made a terrific catch in traffic. Egnew got work with the first and second team on Monday. Dustin Keller also looked good.

### Receiver Marvin McNutt followed his outstanding day Sunday with a lackluster one Monday, including a drop and fumble.


### Olivier Vernon took the first-team snaps at defensive end, opposite Cameron Wake, for the second consecutive day. Randy Starks replaced Jared Odrick – alongside Paul Soliai – as the first-team defensive tackles, but Odrick rotated in and got plenty of work.

“We’ve been looking at a lot of different combinations,” coach Joe Philbin said of the defensive line. “Odrick, we’ll get him outside some as well. We’ll get him some looks there.”

Vaughn Martin, who played primarily defensive tackle in San Diego’s 3-4 defense, has been playing defensive end in the Dolphins’ 4-3, and Philbin said "we'll move him inside a bit... The more jobs [players] can master, the more valuable they become to us."

### In a change of pace, No. 3 quarterback Pat Devlin received the snaps with the second-team offensive players, with Moore working with the third- and fourth-teamers. Devlin handled the assignment competently, doing his best work on roll outs.

### Unlike Sunday, Richard Marshall lined up against slot receivers and Patterson played on the outside when the Dolphins went to a nickel package.

### The Dolphins run two 11-on-11 drills simultaneously, and Philbin has spent more of his time watching the third- and fourth-team players practice than the first- and second-teamers, because he wants to familiarize himself with the players toward the bottom of the roster, many of them rookies.

### The training camp crowd dropped from 2700 on Day 1 (Sunday) to 1220 on Day 2 (Monday), when more people obviously had to go to work.

### Dolphins players said they expect to practice in pads for the first time on Tuesday.

###  Quotable --  “We’ll be a more complete zone blocking team. [And] we’ll be a better pass protecting team.” --- Guard Richie Incognito, on the Dolphins’ offensive line, despite losing his buddy Jake Long to St. Louis



Among the comments from Al Golden Monday during interviews at ACC media day Monday in Greensboro, N.C., and with WQAM's Joe Rose:

### On opponents running 173 more plays than UM did last season: "It's definitely a concern. [But] we're stronger, more mature, more experienced [on defense]. There's more poise and a calmness factor in our defense than there was any time last year. The whole [starting] defense comes back [except Brandon McGee]." 

### On new offensive coordinator James Coley: "James will continue to make this offense his. James is so good at relationships, so genuine with student athletes and high school coaches, that sometimes he gets labeled a recruiter. James Coley is an excellent offensive coordinator. Has an excellent mind. He has scaled us down a lot. When he made the transition to UM, he adopted a lot of our language. That's seldom the case any more with coaches. They walk in, have a big ego, and say it's my way or the highway. He didn't do that."

### On how Duke Johnson will be used differently: "More. We wouldn't be able to do that if he hadn't made changes to his body [he's up to the mid 190s now]. He's stronger. It doesn't mean we're going to wear him out."

### He said running back Eduardo Clements (neck) hasn't yet been medically cleared but hopes he will be. He expects incoming freshmen defensive lineman Alquadin Muhammad and Ufomba Kamalu to qualify academically.

### Golden told CCS that he expects the NCAA will give UM its sanctions within two weeks. "It's been our coaches, everybody, that have been a victim of this for more than two years," Golden said. "There's going to be great days ahead. The worst is behind us."

Golden said "we're not going to forget" that a lot of people are taking shots at us" but added: "We've been operating with class, dignity and transparency and taken the high road. We're going to fight our way back to the top of college football and do it the right way."

### Corn Elder and Ray Lewis III were standout running backs in high school, but both will begin their freshmen years at cornerback.

### On defensive tackle: "I think we're going to be fine. We need to recruit really well and we started off well. Curtis Porter and Luther Robinson have had good summers. Olsen Pierre, we thought coming out of the spring, was ready to take that next step. Corey King has had a great summer."

### On UM getting 23 oral commitments for 2014: We've gotten great support from the high school community, the local high school coaches. It shows you who we really are. These kids want to build a program that will endure."

### By the way, UM still isn't sure if Wisconsin starting defensive end David Gilbert will transfer to UM. ESPN previously reported that he intends to and would be eligible to play immediately. Gilbert has a history of foot problems.


Marcus Camby on Monday was still mulling whether to sign with the Heat, Bulls or Rockets. (Please see our last post from last night for more Heat news.)        

July 21, 2013

Sunday 6 p.m. update: Heat calls Camby; Lots of Fins camp news; More UM recruiting

Greetings from Dolphins camp in Davie. Please scroll down a bit for a lengthy Sunday Dolphins report. First, a bit of Heat and UM recruiting news:

### The Heat has called to express interest in center Marcus Camby, who cleared waivers late this afternoon. Camby intends to consider the Heat, Chicago and Houston, according to a source.

"Marcus is weighing his options and would like to make a decision in the next few days," said his agent, Richard Kaplan.

The 6-11 Camby, 39, appeared in just 24 games for the Knicks last season, averaging 1.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and just 10.4 minutes. But he was effective the season before that --- averaging 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks (along with 4.0 points) in 59 games for Houston and Portland in 2011-12.

The Knicks dealt Camby to Toronto earlier this month in the Andrea Bargnani trade, and the Raptors bought out his contract last week.

Besides Camby, the Heat also continues to explore signing 7-0 center Greg Oden, who hasn't played since 2009 because of knee issues.

Oden's agent said the Heat will see Oden a second time, possibly this week in Ohio or Indiana, and watch him conduct his daily workout routine, including some shooting and weight training. Oden met with Heat officials, including Pat Riley, earlier this year but he did not work out for them at that time.

His agent, Mike Conley Sr., said Oden won't be cleared for contact work until August. So if the Heat visits Oden this week or next week, he won't do a traditional workout with another player on the court defending him.

If the Heat signs Camby, it would assuredly be for the $1.4 million veteran's minimum.

But it's unclear if the minimum -- $1 million in Oden's case -- would be enough to sign Oden, considering New Orleans is prepared to offer him $3 million next season, according to Yahoo! Dallas and San Antonio are the other top contenders for Oden.

The Heat has its $3.2 million taxpayer midlevel exception available. But Pat Riley --- while not talking about Oden specifically --- has said he's not sure there's anyone left in free agency that he would use that on. But Riley has repeatedly made clear that he's interested in Oden, if he's healthy. Conley said Oden should be ready for the season open.

What's clear is that the Heat very much wants to add another veteran big man, if it's the right fit.

By the way, the Heat lost to Phoenix in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Summer League, but James Ennis played well (25 points, 9 rebounds).

### In the wake of securing two high-end commitments in the past three days (Booker T. Washington cornerback Nigel Bethel and defensive end Chad Thomas), UM has risen to No. 2 in rivals.com's rankings of the 2014 recruiting classes. Though the oral commitments are obviously non-binding, Miami's success is impressive considering the NCAA cloud hanging over the program.

UM, which has 23 oral commitments, is behind only Tennessee in Rivals' rankings. Rounding out the top five: FSU, Kentucky and Texas. Alabama is eighth, UF 24th.

Miami could augment the class ever further by landing another top defensive tackle (more on that in a minute) or a big-time receiver such as Homestead's Ermon Lane (rated No. 2 among all receivers by rivals.com), Cardinal Newman's Travis Rudolph (22), West Palm Beach's Johnnie Dixon (20) or Raleigh's Braxton Berrios (39).

Lane has called UM his "dream school," and the Hurricanes and Alabama will get serious consideration. But Rivals.com reported that UF has become his leader, at least for the moment.

Meanwhile, UM will make every effort to snag four-star St. Thomas Aquinas defensive tackle Anthony Moten, who de-committed from UF in the past couple of days. "Florida is loaded at DT and I'm trying to get on the field," Moten told the Gainesville Sun. 

Moten said previously that he was considering Miami. He is now reportedly considering UM, FSU and South Carolina. Rivals.com rates Moten as the No. 12 defensive tackle in the 2014 class. UM already has a commitment from the No. 20 defensive tackle, Hialeah Champagnat's Travonte Valentine.

Luring Moten ---- in addition to Valentine and junior college standout Dalvon Stuckey, who is orally committed to UM --- would be huge, because defensive tackle is Miami's biggest need, with two of the team's top three tackles (Curtis Porter and Luther Robinson) entering their senior seasons. The third of those three, Olsen Pierre, will be a junior this season.


On to Dolphins.... Armando Salguero will post a column later on Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace, and Adam Beasley will have a story on Dion Jordan, who was placed on the non-football injury list (which is a misnomer, because his shoulder injury is very much a football injury). He hopes to be ready to practice very soon -- reportedly in a week or two -- but refused to put a timetable on it.

Here are my notes on what else was going on during Day 1 of camp today:

Olivier Vernon’s outstanding offseason work was rewarded Sunday when he spent the opening training camp practice with the first team, holding down the defensive end spot opposite Cameron Wake.

“O.V. might be the most improved guy in our camp,” Wake said. “He’s made a lot of strides.”

Jared Odrick, who started at defensive end last season but moved to tackle in obvious passing situations, worked at tackle alongside Paul Soliai with the first-team base defense on Sunday. Longtime starter Randy Starks rotated in at tackle and also got considerable work.

The quartet of Wake, Vernon, Odrick and Soliai comprised the first-team defensive line that the Dolphins used throughout May and June practices, because Starks missed the entire offseason program -- except the mandatory June mini-camp -- as he protested being slapped with the Dolphins’ franchise tag instead of being given a multiyear contract.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said last month that Odrick will play both end and tackle, as he did last season.

“I’m going to be all over the place,” Odrick said Sunday. “That’s why I’m here because I am able to help the team in multiple ways and do multiple things. [Sunday] was at d-tackle. You saw me there all off-season. I could be at a different position [Monday].”

Starks was very good last season, and Starks ($8.45 million) and Soliai ($5.7 million) have the highest 2013 base salaries on the team. So it would be surprising if either one of them is not a starter. And the Dolphins very much value Odrick.

Also, first round draft pick Dion Jordan will get work at defensive end, and possibly at linebacker, when he is eventually cleared after offseason shoulder surgery.

But the Dolphins want to give a lot of training camp snaps to Vernon, who impressed this offseason with his play against the run, as a pass rusher, and in pass coverage.

“O.V. had an awesome spring, and it’s going to carry over,” Odrick said. “He’s a guy that takes pride in his work, a real team player.”

Vernon, who beat backup tackle Jeff Adams for two would-be sacks on Sunday, said he has spent considerable time polishing his technique and “I’ve learned so much in one year.”

Vernon said he has not been given any sense of his chances of being a starter. Odrick said the mixing and matching on the defensive line is “off the cuff, trying to figure out what works as we go along. We’ll mix it around. We’re trying to get the best players in the best spots.”

Odrick said he’s equally comfortable at end and tackle and “I like to believe I’m good at both.” He must be at a weight where he can play both effectively and was told to report at 302 pounds, a few pounds less than last season. He said he’s probably 298 after the opening practice.

“From a human standpoint, when they’re asking me to be 302 instead of 310, I look a little better in my clothes,” Odrick cracked.

Asked if it felt unusual for three established starters (Starks, Soliai and himself) to be alternating at two positions, Odrick said: “The more the rotation, the better for all of us. We’re getting acclimated to the heat again. Hopefully, that will carry into the season and we can rotate more.”


Center Mike Pouncey refused to comment about attending his own birthday party last weekend wearing a hat with the words “Free Hernandez” – a reference to his former University of Florida roommate Aaron Hernandez, who is awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge.

But asked about a general question about player conduct, Pouncey said: “We get paid a lot of money to act a certain way and that’s the way we should be acting.”

Coach Joe Philbin refused to say if he discussed the matter with Pouncey but said:  “It’s important for every member of this organization – players, coaches – to represent the organization in a first class manner.”

Unlike Mike Pouncey, his brother -- Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey --- apologized after wearing the "Free Hernandez" hat.

### Pouncey said “we definitely miss Jake Long” --- who signed with St. Louis – but added Jonathan Martin “is adjusting to the left side. I love it.”


John Jerry remained with the first team at right guard, as former Chicago Bear Lance Louis works his way back from last November’s knee injury. The Dolphins are listing Jerry at 335 pounds, down from 345 in June. Louis wore a brace on his left knee and doesn’t seem to be at full strength yet.

### Charles Clay and rookie Dion Sims worked with the first- and second-teams at Sunday’s practice – along with starter Dustin Keller - while Michael Egnew was relegated to the side of the field where the third- and fourth-teamers were practicing.

### Dan Carpenter went 10 for 10 on field goals, including conversions from 47, 48 and 49 yards. His competition, Caleb Sturgis, is expected to kick on Monday.

### The Dolphins said the crowd of 2700 was the most for a training camp practice since 2006.

### Armon Binns and Rishard Matthews entered camp as the front-runners for the fourth and fifth receiver jobs. But Marvin McNutt will push them, judging from his performance Sunday, when he grabbed five passes, including a terrific over-the-shoulder catch from Ryan Tannehill, beating Nolan Carroll.  

McNutt, drafted in the sixth round in 2012, spent four weeks on the Philadelphia Eagles’ 53-man roster last season but did not catch a pass and was released in May.

Also, receiver Jeff Fuller caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from Pat Devlin, beating Jamar Taylor.


### Oregon rookie linebacker Michael Clay intercepted a Devlin pass and returned it for a touchdown.

### Tannehill ran for 15 yards on a read option play – something the Dolphins likely will use on occasion this season. He scrambled for a long gain on another play out of a traditional formation.

### Tannehill threw a few deep balls poorly, at least one the result of quarterback pressure. But he looked sharp on crossing patterns, including a dart to Mike Wallace.

### Wallace scampered for 10 yards on a reverse but also dropped a pass with several defenders in the vicinity.


### Taylor, who had sports hernia surgery in May, practiced without limitations, as did guard/tackle Dallas Thomas, who missed much of the offseason recovering from shoulder surgery.

### Cornerback Dimitri Patterson played opposite the slot receiver in the nickel package – on a unit with first-team cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Richard Marshall – and made a couple of solid plays, including a pass breakup on a Tannehill throw to Brian Hartline.

### Besides the two sacks from Vernon, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and defensive tackle Kheeston Randall had one apiece.

### The Dolphins often played without a fullback, instead using tight end Dustin Keller or tight end/H-back Charles Clay in the backfield.

### Lamar Miller showed good burst on several runs.

### Quote of the day (from Wake): “Expectations are very high. It’s time we get out of the middle of the pack identity and get to the front like we’re supposed to be.”


          Monday: 8 a.m.

          Tuesday: 8 a.m.

          Wednesday: 8 a.m.

          Thursday: Off

          Friday: 8 a.m.

          Saturday: 8 a.m.

          Sunday: 8 a.m.

All of this week’s practices will be at the team facility in Davie, with admission free to the public. Remember, the team spends the first 30 minutes or more inside the practice bubble, which is closed to the public.

 #### Please see the last post (the Sunday buzz) for Heat, Canes, Marlins and a lot more Dolphins.

July 20, 2013

Dolphins expecting more unpredictability; Fins, Heat, Canes, Marlins chatter


With Dolphins camp opening Sunday, there’s something else -– besides more points and takeaways -- that the Dolphins hope will result from their offseason roster augmentation:

Unpredictably, the sense that opponents will not necessarily know what's coming next.

The Dolphins did not have much of that in 2012. Just listen to center Mike Pouncey:

“Teams knew what we were doing last year,” he said. “We did the best we could with what we had. But what we’ve added is going to help tremendously. Teams can’t stack the box as much against us.”

Last year, opponents played eight in the box against the Dolphins 23.1 percent of the time, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranked in the middle of the pack, but consider that Miami faced more eight-man fronts than doormats Buffalo and Arizona (who both beat the Dolphins) and naturally, much more than teams with elite quarterbacks such as New England, New Orleans, Baltimore and Denver.

The Dolphins not only were limited by personnel at receiver and tight end – teams knew they would not complete a lot of deep passes over the top -- but they also were uneasy about Reggie Bush’s pass protection, and opponents knew it.

The Dolphins say they want a running back that can play any down if needed, which makes it more difficult for opponents to identify play call tendencies. That also keeps the Dolphins from needing to substitute as much, which makes it easier to play at a faster pace (Joe Philbin's preference) and keeps opponents from being able to substitute as much.

Backup Daniel Thomas and others will get carries, but the Dolphins believe they have that everydown back in Lamar Miller, whose blitz pickup is much improved, according to Ryan Tannehill. So the Dolphins are hopeful they're at the point that they can leave Miller in the game to pass protect without being vulnerable. 

Naturally, Mike Wallace should make the biggest difference in giving defensive coordinators more to worry about. “He makes everyone around him better, because you have to honor his speed,” CBS analyst Bill Cowher said. “It opens up the middle of the field. You can’t diminish that.”

But this also will make Miami less predictable: For the first time, the Dolphins can deploy two tight-end sets in which both are stretch-the-field targets: Dustin Keller and Charles Clay, or perhaps – if he develops – Michael Egnew. They couldn’t with Anthony Fasano.

“Having a stretch-the-field tight end, it’s going to result in more attention being paid to the middle of the field,” quarterback Matt Moore said. “With Keller and Wallace together, it’s pick your poison.”

And there’s this: For the first time in years, the Dolphins have size in the slot, with 6-0 Brandon Gibson instead of 5-10 Davone Bess, and 6-3 Armon Binns also working there. That will create mismatches with shorter slot corners.

“We would love to attack the middle of the field in a variety of ways, and sometimes it’s easier when you have a bigger body at times cruising through the middle,” Philbin said.

Former Dolphins receiver OJ McDuffie said this is "the best collection of receivers/tight ends here since Irving Fryar, Tony Martin, Mark Ingram and Keith Jackson. And the screen game should come alive. Get Lamar Miller out in space with screens. The offense is going to be a lot less predictable.”

What the Dolphins do on first down – and short yardage – also should become more difficult for defensive coordinators to anticipate. Consider:

### The Dolphins ran 55.1 percent of the time on first down in 2012, among the top 10 for most run-heavy. The league average was 50.3 percent, according to the good folks at Pro Football Focus.

### On second and one or third and one, Miami ran 78.7 percent of the time, which was in the top five. The league average: 67.5. With the new weapons, it makes sense to take more chances in those situations.

There also should be more unpredictability on defense if Dion Jordan emerges, because Miami can try to flummox teams by using him in various ways: hand-in-the-dirt at times, standing up other times, lining him up in different places.

The coaching staff wants to get Cameron Wake, Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, Jordan and Olivier Vernon on the field together in passing situations, and leave teams wondering whether all five will rush or whether Jordan or Vernon will drop into coverage.

And the speed and versatility of linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe –-- they are considered effective both as blitzers and in pass coverage --- also will allow Miami to mix coverages more, players say.

“I will probably be blitzing some,” Wheeler said. “Our coach liked what I did last year” blitzing for Oakland, when his per-play pass rush metrics were among the best of any NFL linebacker.


### Even though Dolphins safety Reshad Jones --- a 2014 free agent --- skipped one offseason practice to express displeasure about not getting a new contract, he said: “I’ve got faith it will get done at some point. I’m going to continue busting my butt and let them know they have the player they know they have. I’m not worried about it.” Talks with all the 2014 free agents have been put on hold after the spending spree this offseason.

### UM offensive coordinator James Coley said earlier this offseason he would love to see Duke Johnson get 24 touches a game, up from 15 in 2012.

"There’s a mental and physical toughness that goes with that –- 'Coach, give me the ball 25 times,'” Al Golden said. “We have to get to the point if we have this thing rolling where everybody knows Duke is going to get the ball and we’re still making progress. He’s got to learn how to do that.”

UM believes he’s ready for the extra pounding. “He’s a lot stronger than he was,” running backs coach Hurlie Brown said…. Bovada.com has Johnson’s Heisman odds at 12 to 1 --– seventh-best in the country.

### Friday's oral commitment from Booker T. Washington's Nigel Bethel was significant for UM because he's the first four-star, highly recruited cornerback in this class. UM's other two corner commits are more under the radar: Northwestern's Ryan Mayes (whose offers included FAU, FIU, Syracuse and Boston College) and Dillard's two-star Dennis Turner. UM has no prominent senior corners this season, so the 2014 group looks very good with Ladarius Gunter, Antonio Crawford, Tracy Howard, Artie Burns and Bethel, among others. Rivals.com ranks Bethel the No. 28 cornerback in the 2014 class.

### And Booker T. Washington standout Chad Thomas' pledge Saturday gives UM four very good defensive line oral commitments: Thomas (rivals.com's No. 11 defensive end), Northwestern's Mike Smith (the No. 21 DE), Hialeah Champagnat's Travonte Valentine (the No. 20 defensive tackle) and four-star junior college tackle Dalvon Stuckey.

### Tidbits: Ricky Williams, who now gives life lesson seminars, agreed to coach running backs at University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. The program is moving to Division 1… Former Dolphins and Hurricanes offensive lineman Vernon Carey, who retired abruptly last summer, received text message inquiries from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and others in the past year and lost 40 pounds working out at Fast Twitch Performance Training in Miami, with the thought of possibly making a comeback. But Carey decided against it…. The American Athletic Conference (featuring USF and some former Big East schools) has spoken to Marlins Park about anchoring a college football bowl game.

### What prospects have surprised and emerged on the Marlins’ radar? Marlins executive Larry Beinfest cites two: Left-handed starter Brian Flynn, acquired with Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly in last year’s Anibal Sanchez deal with Detroit, “has put himself right on the doorstep," Beinfest said. Flynn has a 3.23 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 114 innings in Double A and Triple A.

“And [outfielder] Kyle Jensen doesn’t get a lot of love," Beinfest said, "but he continues to put big power numbers [21 homers]. To have a power prospect is kind of a big deal for us.” But he's hitting only .232 in Double A and Triple A and isn't as highly-rated an outfield prospect as Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick.

### After floating a lot on the perimeter, Heat center Chris Bosh tells us he is determined to “be more of an inside presence offensively” next season. “As I get older, I’m not as quick as I was. Finishing around the rim, short jumpers are going to be huge.”

He plans to ask coaches and friends how he can improve his game this summer and “I'm looking for blunt honesty.”

### Richard Hamilton is among the guards being considered by the Heat. He tweeted this weekend that he has "several choices."... Deaquan Cook's agent said he will tell the Heat that Cook is interested in returning, to replace Mike Miller. But Cook has struggled with his shot the past two years.... Marcus Camby would consider the Heat if Miami contacts him, but there had been no contact as of Friday night. His agent called Houston a "leading contender." The Clippers and Bulls also are expected to pursue him.

### At last week's Brooklyn Nets' introductory news conference for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, new Nets guard Jason Terry declared: "We have the formula to beat the Heat. Jason Kidd and I are the only ones to crack that code." Kidd, the new Nets' coach, and Terry were on the 2011 Dallas team that beat the Heat in the FInals... And there's this: Rick Barry told Dan Sileo on WMEN-640 last week that Ray Allen traveled on his game-tying three-pointer late in Game 6. Oy!

### LeBron James understandably wants to keep paparazzi from his September San Diego wedding – to the point that the invitations did not include the location, but a phone number to call by Aug. 1 to receive details, according to TMZ, which obtained a copy.

July 18, 2013

Fins pass on Leach for now; Assessing Marlins' young players; Heat free agency, Canes

Quick Friday update: The Dolphins informed Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach's agent that they will not be making him an offer before training camp begins. Jeff Ireland told Leach's agent that he still has interest in Leach but wants to start camp with the current roster. Miami will go to camp with Jorvorskie Lane and Evan Rodriguez at fullback but have not ruled out making an offer to Leach during training camp. (There is reportedly sentiment on the coaching staff to add Leach.) Leach is considering a return to the Baltimore Ravens.



With the post All-Star break schedule beginning Friday, a look at where many of the Marlins’ prominent young players stand (excluding Giancarlo Stanton), with feedback from three scouts, Marlins executive Larry Beinfest and others:

### Center fielder Marcell Ozuna. Notable: Though his overall average has dropped to .273, he’s batting .352 with runners in scoring position and 5 for 7 with bases loaded… His eight outfield assists rank fourth in baseball.

Quotable: One scout said he has “All-Star caliber” ability. Another: “Has a lot of refining to do but will be a pretty good five-hole hitter long term. Love the bat speed. The power will come eventually.”… Has only three homers, but Marlins special assistant Andre Dawson said he should be a 25-home-run-hitter in time… Marlins believe he can play center field for years to come. “He has the speed and arm strength to play center, and his throwing is really good,” Beinfest said.

### Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Notable: Hitting .412 in July, which is best among NL shortstops and has raised his overall average to .240. Only five shortstops have committed fewer errors than his six.

Quotable: Beinfest: “He has been awesome. We love Hechavarria.”…  Scout’s view: “He has a chance to be a Gold Glove guy in time.”…. “Remember, there are lot of defenders at shortstop, who became better hitters later in their careers, like Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Smith.”

### Second baseman Derek Dietrich. Notable: His one home run every 23 at-bats (nine overall) is second behind Dan Uggla among NL second basemen. But hitting only .218.

Quotable: Beinfest: “He has been great. Hard nosed kid. The power has been impressive. Now he’s got to work on the contact, the consistency.” Scout’s view: “He reminds me of Uggla because of his pop, and he’s a little better defensively than Uggla.”… Another scout raised concerns whether he will hit for a respectable average: “He swings at a lot of non-strikes.”… Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon: “We liked the bat a lot when we had him. He’s got an easy swing. The challenge is to polish him defensively.” (The Marlins have been pleasantly surprised by his defense.)… Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez: “He scares you at the plate.”

### Catcher Rob Brantly. Notable: Average has dipped from .290 in 2012 to .242, with one homer. Throwing out 35.3 percent of base-stealers (well behind teammate Jeff Mathis’ league-leading 61.9). Has six passed balls, and the Marlins’ ERA with him behind the plate is highest among NL catchers.

Quotable: Though Mathis has played more than Brantly recently, Beinfest is still optimistic Brantly can be the Marlins’ longterm catcher. “Rob can be better offensively than he has,” Beinfest said. “The package is there. As far as the catching goes, the blocking is better, the throwing is very good. So let’s get it all together.”… Scout’s view: “It’s probably 50-50 if he’s an everyday catcher. I would have said yes last September off the way he was hitting.”… Another scout said he needs to improve how he calls a game and handles a staff.

### First baseman Logan Morrison. Notable: With his knee problems behind him, his average (.282) is nearly identical to his rookie season in 2010, after hitting .247 and .230 the past two years.

Quotable: One scout: “I wonder if his power will uptick some more (back to his 23 home run level of 2011). I’m not sold yet as a middle of the order bat. You want to see him sustain what he’s doing now as far as getting on base. You worry about his durability.”… Another scout: “He’s less of a problem defensively at first than left field.”

### Pitcher Jose Fernandez. Notable: Only three other qualifying pitchers have allowed a lower batting average than Fernandez’s .196.

Quotable: Hall of Famer pitcher/Braves announcer Don Sutton: “Love the bulldog attitude and command. He pitches older than his age.”… Maddon: “He could be the top pitcher in baseball in two or three years.”

### Pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. Notable: Not enough innings to qualify for leader board but allowing just a .181 average.

Quotable: Scout: “Power arm and has a chance to be a No. 2 starter. But I would have concerns about whether he would hold together physically long term.”

### Pitcher Jacob Turner. Notable: ERA (2.33) and batting average against (.230) are sterling.

Quotable: Scout’s view: “He’s not a power guy, and he needs to continue to work on his entire arsenal because his stuff isn’t as good as Fernandez and Eovaldi. But I think he can be a No. 3.”

### Pitcher Steve Cishek. Notable: Has 17 saves, but five losses and two blown saves.

Quotable: Scout’s view: “I would like to trust him a little more than I do. He doesn’t trust his stuff as much as he should. He has a good sinker and throws harder than it seems like he thinks he throws.”… “I’d prefer him in a set-up role ideally.”

### The Marlins believe Henderson Alvarez (4.58 ERA in three starts) can be a long-term rotation piece but need to see more.


### Agent Mike Conley Jr. said the Heat still has as good a chance as anyone to land center Greg Oden and is expecting Heat officials to come to Ohio or Indiana, possibly next week, to observe him during his regular workout routine -- including agility work, shooting and jumping drills. But Conley said there are no plans for Oden to do traditional on-court workouts for teams – when a player competes against another - because he won’t be cleared for contact until August.

No team has made an offer yet; “teams are in the information gathering stage,” Conley said. Asked if he would be receptive to an offer at the minimum salary from Miami, Conley said he and Oden haven’t discussed that. If Miami offers only the $1 million minimum, that might not be enough. Yahoo! reported that New Orleans is expected to offer $3 million in the first season of a multiyear deal.

Oden, who hasn’t played since 2009 because of knee issues, hopes to sign within a month and should be ready by the opener, Conley said. Besides the Heat and Pelicans, the Spurs, Mavericks and Kings also have shown interest. Cleveland is no longer pursuing him, and Boston hasn't called recently.

"Miami has a need at center, and they don't need him at his best [early] to win games," Conley said. That's appealing to Oden.

### Marcus Camby, in the process of being bought out by Toronto, has been linked to the Heat, Bulls, Rockets and Clippers, but he cannot schedule meetings with any teams until the buyout is finalized. (It was very close on Thursday afternoon.) 

Last week, the Heat and Raptors discussed a trade that potentially would have included Camby and Mike Miller --- according to an official briefed on the situation --- but nothing materialized. If that deal had happened, Miami could have saved a lot by trading Miller and perhaps amnestying Joel Anthony.

Anthony now cannot be amnestied but could still be traded. Meanwhile, Miller cleared waivers and can sign with any team excluding the Heat. He has been linked to Oklahoma City, Memphis, Houston and Clippers, but the Thunder reportedly is the favorite. OKC general manager Sam Presti is traveling to Miami to meet with Miller this week.

### Heat second-round pick James Ennis' rocky play in the Las Vegas Summer League continued late Thursday night when he shot 3 for 9 (closing with 11 points and 6 rebounds) in a win against Chicago. Jarvis Varnado (two points, four rebounds) remained foul-prone, with five in 14 minutes.

### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross tells us that team CEO Mike Dee’s successor will not be longtime friend Carl Peterson nor will it be former Jets executive Matt Higgins, who runs Ross’ sports and entertainment business. But Ross said: “Matt does have a significant involvement with the Dolphins.” Dee's successor will run the business side of the operation, and likely will have no involvement in football decisions.

### The Dolphins season-ticket sales are lagging at around 40,000 - though they say they are ahead of last year's pace - but they're encouraged that they have distributed well over the initially allotted 2000 tickets for Sunday's first training camp practice at 8 a.m. in Davie... Ryan Tannehill this week thanked Chad Pennington publicly for "being a big help to me" this offseason, as we detailed in a previous blog. 

### Hialeah quarterback Alin Edouard, who remains a UM oral commitment, tweeted that he will be on the road visiting other schools this weekend, beginning with Cincinnati. UM is prepared to take three quarterbacks in this class, but some believe only two of the three oral commitments will end up coming (Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier or Edouard, with Rosier considered more likely).

"There will continue to be strong recruitment of quarterbacks until we get symmetry and the position where we want it," Al Golden said this offseason. 

### Tough summer for several UM players starting their pro careers. Dallas’ Shane Larkin broke his ankle; Durand Scott has gone scoreless in just 25 Las Vegas Summer League minutes for the Spurs; Kenny Kadji is averaging 5.5 points (9 for 22 shooting) for Cleveland’s Summer League team, though he played better Thursday; and Reggie Johnson and Trey McKinney Jones are still looking for work. Julian Gamble signed in France.

July 17, 2013

Parcells on Fins; Heat cleans up at ESPYs; Canes, Marlins; Olbermann returns to ESPN

A six pack of Wednesday night notes:    

### In a Wednesday conference call to preview his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Bill Parcells defended his record running the Dolphins and took no accountability for the team’s regression after his first season.

Parcells, who left the Dolphins early in the 2010 season, said “I think the personnel was definitely better” than before he arrived. “But I can’t prove it to you.”

Parcells said working with a first-time coach, first-time general manager and first-time owner presented a “difficult dynamic because everyone, rightly so, wants to put their mark on the franchise.”

He said he has “a high regard for [owner] Steve Ross. I like him very much. I talk to him from time to time. I think their division is such that they can be competitive and even maybe have a chance to win it.”

### The Heat dominated the ESPYs more than any team in sports on Wednesday, with Miami winning the "best team" award and LeBron James winning "Male Athlete of the Year” for the second year in a row.

After the Heat won the team award, Erik Spoelstra thanked every one of his assistant coaches by name, then handed the trophy to Dwyane Wade and said: "This never would have happened if the face of our franchise hadn't allowed this to happen."

Wade then thanked every Heat player by name, including Jarvis Varnado, whose Heat summer league team was in the process of dismantling the Knicks, 113-66, in the Las Vegas Summer League. 

James beat out Miguel Cabrera, Michael Phelps and Adrian Peterson for his personal honor. “This is for all four of us,” James said. “I’m just going to keep it at my house.”

Meanwhile, Game 6 of the Heat-Spurs NBA Finals won the ESPY for Game of the Year. LeBron, Wade, Ray Allen (whose late three pointer sent the game to overtime), Spoelstra and assistant coach David Fizdale accepted the award, and Spoelstra and Allen spoke before James chimed in: “Thank you, Jesus.” (That was a reference to Allen, who played Jesus Shuttlesworth in the movie, He Got Game.)

The Heat also took its fair share of barbs.

Host Jon Hamm cracked that the Heat won its second championship in a row “thanks in large part to their coach, Bruno Mars.”

Hamm, poking fun at the Heat fans who left Game 6 of the Finals early, said: "Are there any Heat fans here or did they leave already? Is Chris Bosh chasing them down?"

Hamm said he would rather be an actor than an athlete because “Chris Bosh was fined $5000 for flopping. Johnny Depp got paid $20 million for flopping.”

Bosh did not attend because he’s in India promoting the sport.

Asked by reporters outside the ceremony about the likelihood of the Lakers pursuing him next summer, James said: “I haven’t thought about it.”

### Colin Moran, the Marlins’ first-round pick in last month's draft, homered in his first professional at-bat for low-level Class A Greensboro on Wednesday night.

### UM receiver Malcolm Lewis did not apply for a medical redshirt and will be a sophomore this season, not a redshirt freshman. Lewis suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth game against Georgia Tech last September and could have applied for a redshirt. But UM says he can apply for another year after his senior season, if he chooses.

### Keith Olbermann, who admittedly burned his bridges after an otherwise successful five-year run at ESPN in the 1990s, is returning to the network to anchor a weeknight ESPN2 studio show, appropriately named “Olbermann,” which will air opposite the 11 p.m. SportsCenter on ESPN beginning Aug. 26.

“I’m very grateful for the chance [for] what I hope will be necessary viewing for all sports fans and put a different story on my relationship with ESPN,” Olbermann said on a conference call. “We could get everybody that ever took offense at anything I did and bring them all into one place. We would probably need Yankee Stadium. I could point to everybody and say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’

“I know we can’t undo everything that happened 20 years ago, but I’d like to correct as much as I can. I appreciate the fresh start. I had a heart to heart with Chris Berman at the All-Star Game last night. I told him the motivating thing was reading something about the past and my connection to ESPN and all the terms that have been used to describe my departure. I don’t want that to be in the obituary. I don’t want that to be the end of the story…. All that’s going to make a difference is how I conduct myself.”

Olbermann’s vision for the show?

“A good sports broadcast to get people thinking. There will be commentary, guests, celebrity sports fans, highlights, various running features. And many may be evocative of shows I’ve done in the past. There will be a significant highlight load.”

ESPN president John Skipper said: “We want it to be smart, provocative, informed and funny.”

Olbermann, 54, helped launch ESPN Radio and ESPN2 and also co-anchored highly popular editions of SportsCenter with Dan Patrick – a show they dubbed “The Big Show.” He returned to do some work for ESPN Radio from 2005 through 2007.

Olbermann, whose liberal leanings were evident when he hosted news shows previously for MSNBC and Current, said “there will be no political segments, no cultural segments…. [But] If George W. Bush wants to come on and talk baseball, I would be happy to have him.”

Skipper said he would have no problem with Olbermann expressing a view on Trayvon Martin or issues that intersect with sports.

Olbermann’s program will debut a week after Fox launches a new cable network – Fox Sports 1 -  that will feature an 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. studio show, with former tennis star Andy Roddick among the regulars. Asked about Fox, Skipper said the timing of Olbermann’s launch was not a coincidence.

As it turns out, Olbermann might be more formidable competition for SportsCenter than anything Fox airs in that slot.

Besides the ESPN job, Olbermann also will anchor TBS’ postseason baseball coverage.

### WQAM-560 will take its time to fill the afternoon drive slot of Jorge Sedano, who will leave in early September to co-host a show for ESPN Radio. Don’t expect a reunion with any former WQAM hosts such as Sid Rosenberg, Dan Sileo or Orlando Alzugaray.

WQAM assistant program director Andy King has a good chance to succeed Sedano as the station's program director.

July 16, 2013

Buzz grows around S. Morris; Canes chatter; Heat roster, coaching news; Fins, Marlins


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.

July 15, 2013

Heat releases Mike Miller and free agent replacement options; Fis, Canes quick hits

Quick Tuesday update: The Heat has used the one-time amnesty clause to release Mike Miller, a move that will save the Heat's $17 million in luxury tax payments, and even more than following season. The Heat must still pay Miller $6.2 million next season and $6.4 million the following season. Miami is not permitted to re-sign him at any amount during those two seasons.

Heat president Pat Riley had said he prefered not to release Miller and would do so only if he received a mandate from owner Micky Arison. The move leaves Miami with 12 players with guaranteed contracts, plus Jarvis Varnado, who has a non-guaranteed deal.

Remaining available free agent guards or small forwards include Richard Hamilton, potentially Hedo Turkoglu (who is working out a buyout with Orlando that is not yet finalized), James White, Damien Wilkens, Sam Young, Dahntay Jones, Luke Babbitt, Roger Mason, Alan Anderson, Cartier Martin, Xavier Henry, Dequan Jones, Dominique Jones, Marquis Daniels and Kelenna Azubuike.

The Heat still faces a luxury tax payment of at least $16 million next summer, considerably more if Miami uses its $3.2 million midlevel exception.

Riley said the Heat tried unsuccessfully to trade Miller to a contender. The Heat kept saying it didn't plan to amnesty Miller because it wanted to preserve that trade value. But nobody bought, convinced he would be amnestied.


Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland returned to the office from vacation on Monday with a few unresolved issues. Most notably: signing first-round pick Dion Jordan and potentially working out a deal with free agent fullback Vonta Leach.

The Jordan deal has been delayed by the Dolphins’ insistence on offset language, which protects Miami if Jordan is a bust and is released during his rookie contract.

Last year, Ryan Tannehill accepted some offset language, but the Dolphins made concessions in other areas. He signed on the second day of camp but could not practice in pads until the fifth day, because of an NFL rule stating that players that sign during camp cannot practice in pads for three days.

Camp opens on Sunday.

The Dolphins and Leach’s agent plan to speak again this week, and Leach’s representative remains hopeful a deal can be struck. But Leach could return to Baltimore if the Dolphins offer only a one-year deal at the minimum.

### Remember Cecil Collins, the Dolphins' fifth-round draft in 1999 who ran for 414 yards in his first nine games, then was arrested for burglary? He could finally be released from prison this week after serving more than 13 years of a 15-year sentence.

Collins, drafted by Jimmy Johnson out of LSU, is serving time for breaking into the apartment of a woman he knew from his South Florida gym; he told police he merely wanted to watch her sleep. Collins got married while in prison six years ago.

### Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey on Monday apologized for wearing a “Free Hernandez” hat, a reference to Aaron Hernandez, who is charged with first-degree murder. His brother – Dolphins center Mike Pouncey – had not apologized as of Monday evening. Both played with Hernandez at UF.

Mike Pouncey is expected to talk to Joe Philbin, and likely will be strongly discouraged from wearing that hat again.

“I fully recognize the seriousness of the situation involving my former teammate and I regret that my actions appear to make light of that serious situation,” Maurkice said. “I apologize to anyone who was offended by my actions.”

### Quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Dolphins and then returned briefly in 2011, retired this week. He closed his NFL career with more TDs (30) than picks (29) but also will be remembered as the guy who – as a Dolphin – made himself available (for a fee) for parties and bar-mitzvahs.

### Free agent center Greg Oden, who met with the Heat earlier this year, plans to meet with Dallas, Sacramento and New Orleans in Las Vegas this week, according to ESPN. Oden, who has had five knee procedures, also is considering the Heat, Spurs and Celtics but does not plan to work out for teams until August. He reportedly wants a multiyear deal.

### Just in case you can't get enough Summer League basketball: The Heat, 1-1 in Las Vegas, next plays at 4 p.m. Tuesday against Minnesota (NBA TV). Forward James Ennis scored 11 points in Miami’s 75-71 loss to Atlanta late Sunday night, with Jarvis Varnado contributing eight points, seven rebounds and three blocks. The Heat has committed 30 turnovers --- several of the mindless variety --- in each of its first two games in Las Vegas.

### We told you previously that Alquadin Muhammad’s coach said he expects the defensive end to be eligible to play at UM this season (though it's not definite), and Devante Bond’s coach is unsure if he will qualify. The other UM player whose status is unresolved – Ufomba Kamalu – told canesport.com that he is finishing online classes and expects to enroll at UM in August. At 6-5 and 280 pounds, he said he prefers to play defensive end but also could factor in at tackle.

### Good to see former UM forward Julian Gamble sign with a pro team in France on Monday. He said his season begins in September, and his team will play only one game a week. Reggie Johnson and Trey McKinney Jones are still looking for work.

Gamble said he gave encouragement on Sunday to former Canes forward Kenny Kadji, who has been disappointed by his play for Cleveland in the first two games of the Las Vegas Summer League. Kadji had seven points and seven rebounds in his first game, five points and five boards in his second.

### FSU will play Massachusetts in the Orange Bowl basketball classic in Sunrise in December, with UF playing an undetermined opponent in the other game. UM again decided not to participate, instead opting for a Thanksgiving tournament in Anaheim.


July 13, 2013

Assessing Dolphins' battles; Zimmerman verdict reax; UM facing lawsuit; Heat, Canes, Marlins


The five positions/competitions we’re most eager to see play out when Dolphins training camp opens next Sunday:

### Front seven on defense: This is where Miami is deepest, and interesting decisions loom about playing time.

The Dolphins remain inclined to use Jared Odrick at defensive end in the base defense – like last season – with Cam Wake, Randy Starks and Paul Soliai alongside.

On obvious passing downs, Odrick likely will move to tackle, Soliai will exit, and Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan will enter, complementing the pass-rush of Wake, Odrick and Starks.

When he’s not playing end in passing situations, the Dolphins have discussed using the 244-pound Jordan as an outside linebacker at times (strong side preferably) in the base defense --- though it would be surprising if he plays much in the base initially. It wouldn’t seem to make sense yet to use Jordan ahead of Odrick or Koa Misi in situations where running plays are anticipated.

But no firm decisions will be made until they see Jordan in pads. Bottom line: If Jordan looks dominant in preseason, the Dolphins will need to consider playing him more than merely in passing situations. As for Vernon, the Dolphins love his versatility, upside as a pass rusher and ability to drop back in coverage.

The other question is which starting linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, Misi) proves most worthy of staying on the field on third downs. Ellerbe would seem to make the most sense. Wheeler is considered above average in coverage, though his metrics last season did not support that notion.

Keep in mind that coach Joe Philbin likes linebacker Josh Kaddu’s potential as a pass rusher, and rookie linebacker Jelani Jenkins has the skill set to play on passing downs eventually. At defensive end, impressive undrafted Louisiana-Lafayette rookie end Emeka Onyenekwu could challenge Derrick Shelby (who had three sacks on the final day of mini-camp) and others for a roster spot.

Veteran tackle pickup Vaughn Martin – signed to replace Seattle-bound Tony McDaniel -- is a favorite to stick, but with Odrick’s ability to play tackle, Martin needs at least a decent preseason to remove any doubt. Tackle Kheeston Randall, who impressed the Dolphins last season, will try to hold off rookies Chris Burnette and A.J. Francis.

### Right guard: The Dolphins signed Lance Louis with the plan to make him a starter, considering he was Chicago’s best lineman in 2012 and considering the Dolphins weren’t entirely thrilled with John Jerry’s work. But Louis needs to be fully recovered from last November’s knee injury. He’s close, but not there yet as of last week.

### The No. 2 through No. 5 cornerback jobs: Richard Marshall enters as the favorite to start opposite No. 1 corner Brent Grimes, but he needs a solid preseason to fend off Dimitri Patterson and rookies Will Davis and Jamar Taylor. More likely, those three and Nolan Carroll will compete for the top two backup jobs.

Patterson, earning $4.6 million, could be deemed expendable if Marshall, Davis, Taylor and Carroll are very good in camp. But everything with this team is about winning now, and Miami will keep Patterson if they’re convinced he will help a lot. D’Andre Presley had some good moments in camp, but it’s hard to envision him, veteran returnee RJ Stanford or Julian Posey having much of a shot barring an injury to one of the top six.

### Backup tight end, behind Dustin Keller: Rookie Dion Sims closed the offseason program with momentum and has a good chance to win the job. Tight end/H-back Charles Clay will factor in, unless he continues his penchant for drops. Michael Egnew has improved, but his blocking remains questionable and he faded late in the offseason program. Players tell us not to overlook Kyle Miller.

### Kicker: Caleb Sturgis, younger and cheaper than Dan Carpenter, remains the favorite. In sessions open to reporters, the two were comparable in accuracy this offseason, with Sturgis showing more range as expected, including a 58-yard field goal. Carpenter has a far bigger cap hit if he sticks ($3 million to Sturgis' $442,000).

### Others: Tough to see anyone beating out Armon Binns and Rishard Matthews for the fourth and fifth receiver jobs, though Brian Tyms and Jeff Fuller could push Matthews. And the Dolphins will give a long look to former Big 10 standout Marvin McNutt, who spent last season with the Eagles and played at Iowa when Dolphins receivers coach Ken O’Keefe was offensive coordinator with the Hawkeyes…

Vonta Leach will become the starting fullback if he signs. There were no negotiations last week between Leach and the Dolphins, but that could change this coming week with Jeff Ireland returning from vacation. Leach wants a multiyear deal, which could be an issue. If Leach passes on Miami, Jorvorskie Lane will try to hold off Evan Rodriguez. Miami wants to upgrade over Lane….

Daniel Thomas so far clearly has held off Mike Gillislee for the No. 2 running back job, with Marcus Thigpen being incorporated more than last season. The Dolphins like Jonas Gray, the former Notre Dame back who missed all of last season with an injury, but he’s a long shot, as is Arizona State’s Cameron Marshall, who had his moments in the offseason program….

Aaron Corp showed nothing in the offseason program to suggest he can beat out Pat Devlin for the No. 3 quarterback job….

Jimmy Wilson is the heavy favorite for the No. 3 safety job, with Kelcie McCray, rookie Don Jones and long shot Jordan Kovacs competing for one spot….

Jenkins, Jason Trusnik, Austin Spitler and Kaddu are favorites for backup linebacker jobs, but former CFL-er Lee Robinson (impressive at times in OTAs), Alonzo Highsmith, veteran Jonathan Freeny and others will push them…. The Dolphins will continue looking at several options, including Hartline, to share punt return duties with Thigpen.

Two of the backup offensive line jobs should go to Dallas Thomas (who is being used at left tackle and left guard and could emerge as a starting guard in 2014 or beyond) and jack-of-all-trades Nate Garner, with Jerry trying to grab another roster spot if he loses the starting job to Louis. Josh Samuda and Will Yeatman will compete with Andrew McDonald and a bunch of others for one or two remaining backup o-line jobs. (There’s nothing quite as exciting as talking about backup o-line positions.)


We digress from the fun and games of sports for a minute for something far more serious -- the George Zimmerman not-guilty jury verdict Saturday night. Several South Florida athletes weighed in on Twitter. Dwyane Wade wrote: "Wow! Stunned!! Saddened as a father!! Som1 make sense of this verdict for me right now please!!!... How do I explain this to my boys."

Among reaction from Dolphins players: Mike Wallace - "Wowwwwwww. (Expletive) crazy.".... Clay: "Dats some bull [expletive]."... Shelby: "There might be riots."... Binns: "The justice system failed today. My prayers go out to Trayvon's family." 

And from UM's Duke Johnson: "Heavy heart right now for the [Trayvon Martin] family, and I just want everyone to say a prayer for the Martin family." UM's Deon Bush tweeted: "Straight b.s.! Reverse the sides and Trayvon would of had a life sentence. Maybe death sentence." (Bush deleted most of that comment a few hours later.)


### While the NCAA case nears a conclusion, UM has yet another off-field issue to deal with. Jimmy Goins -- who purchased human growth hormone and other drugs from Anthony Bosch’s Biogenesis clinic, according to a Miami New Times report in January -- is suing UM for firing him as the baseball team’s strength and conditioning coach, asserting the university breached his contract by dismissing him “without following rules laid out in the UM employee handbook.”

UM filed a motion to dismiss the case on Friday, with UM attorney Eric Isicoff writing in the motion that Goins “does not point to a specific provision” in the UM handbook that UM “has allegedly breached.”

Goins, who was fired in March after more than nine years on the job, also is suing Biogenesis, New Times, The Miami Herald and The New York Times.

Goins’ attorney said in the suit that he went to Biogenesis with the belief the clinic “was properly licensed and that Bosch was a medical doctor – neither of which was true.”

Goins’ attorney said blood work determined Goins needed testosterone, and his Biogenesis treatment included HGH. He alleged the medical records published by New Times – and media reports in the other publications – led to his termination from UM.

### One tweak in UM’s offense from Jedd Fisch to James Coley: Expect, on occasion, more of a power running element, with guards pulling and extra tight ends. Al Golden is so appreciative of Coley using the terminology already in place with Fisch, so the players wouldn’t have to learn an entirely new system.... Please check the last post for more Hurricanes tidbits from Saturday.

### The Marlins have been lampooned nationally for offering, on their web site, an “exclusive discount” for Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez’s family and friends for this weekend’s Nationals series, even though he wasn’t scheduled to pitch. But the ridicule is unfair; Gonzalez’s family asked the Marlins to do that. 

### The Marlins are thrilled with the progress of the three minor-leagues acquired in the Toronto trade: outfielder Jake Marisnick (.286, 10 homers, 41 RBI in Double A), and pitchers Justin Nicolino (5-1, 2.18 at Single A) and Anthony DiSclafani (6-3, 2.40 at Single A and Double A). “They came as advertised,” Marlins executive Larry Beinfest said, adding Marisnick might be promoted in September. 

### With ESPN already speculating about the possibility of LeBron James joining the Lakers next summer, keep this in mind: ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said that James “doesn’t really like L.A… L.A. isn’t really his flavor.” And a friend of James told us he couldn’t envision James signing with the Lakers.

Smith – who predicted the Big Three would come together in 2010 – kept saying last week there’s at least a 50 percent chance James will leave the Heat next summer. But James’ friend still makes the Heat a strong favorite, with Cleveland a possibility. James said he won’t give it any thought until after next season but said keeping this group together is the “goal.”

### Please check the last post for Heat summer league/free agency chatter, including details from their Las Vegas Summer League opener late Saturday night.

### Sightings: James’ party at The Venetian in Las Vegas last weekend included a chariot carrying a pair of gold-painted women through the crowd, confetti showers, a cake shaped as two championship rings, and James telling the crowd he should be referred to only as “King James.”

Updated with Heat Sat. night result: Heat free agent, summer league notes; UM nuggets

Some Saturday Heat and Canes items (See the 7th paragraph, in bold, for an update on Saturday night's Heat Summer League result):

### When the Heat begins play against Toronto at 10:30 tonight in the Las Vegas Summer League, one of the issues that must be sorted out over the next week is whether second-round pick James Ennis needs to be stashed overseas or whether it’s prudent to bring him to training camp.

The early impression is that Ennis -- an athletic, rangy 6-7 forward -- probably needs more development overseas. He’s athletic and a strong finisher in the open court, but his game needs polishing – especially his ball-handling and perimeter shooting. After a rocky start, he finished 11th in scoring in the Orlando Summer League, at 14.3 points per game (43.2 percent shooting) and 4.3 rebounds.

The Heat’s best player in the Orlando Summer League, guard Ian Clark, is playing for Golden State in Las Vegas, but his representation said he remains very interested in Miami if the Heat is interested. (It could come down to which NBA team is willing to offer him much of a financial guarantee.)

Clark playing shooting guard at Belmont, where he finished third in the nation in three-point field goal percentage last season. He transitioned to point guard with the Heat in Orlando and finished fifth in the Summer League in scoring at 16 points per game, shooting 49 percent.

“He had a very good week for us,” Pat Riley said, adding he tried to dissuade Clark from shifting to Golden State’s team in Las Vegas.

Former Texas point guard Myck Kabongo was a disappointment in Orlando, and his playing time was limited as the week progressed. And though center Jarvis Varnado had some good moments, he was clearly outplayed by first-round centers Andre Drummond (Detroit) and Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn) in head to head matchups.

### LATE SATURDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Ennis was decent, but hardly extraordinary, in the Heat's 81-72 win against Toronto to open its Las Vegas Summer League play. Ennis had seven points and seven rebounds but also four turnovers and shot 3 for 9.... Varnado had a good night (13 points, five rebounds, four blocks).... Kabongo was again a non-factor, with two points in 16 minutes. And the Heat was outscored by 22 with Kabongo on the floor.... D.J. Kennedy (St. John's) and James Nunnally (Santa Barbara) led Miami 16 apiece.... FYI: Ian Clark played just 11 minutes for Golden State on Saturday, scoring one point.

### Riley, who said in late June that the Heat would pursue no outside free agent aggressively in July, surprisingly disclosed Friday that Miami pursued several perimeter players with its $3.2 million mid-level exception, but none of them bit. (It would have been easier to amnesty Mike Miller if one of them had accepted the offer.)

Who was Riley talking about? Keep in mind that aside from a star like Chris Paul, there were a half dozen appealing unrestricted free agent perimeter players (younger than 30) who have agreed to deals so far this offseason, at higher than the Heat’s mini mid-level: J.J. Redick, Jarrett Jack, O.J. Mayo, Corey Brewer, Martell Webster and 6-7 small forward Chase Budinger (who does most of his offensive work on the perimeter).

There’s nobody remaining in free agency who’s probably worth the exception money, Riley said. And none of the shooting guards, small forwards or swingmen still available are clearly better than Miller. Richard Hamilton, Metta World Peace and Corey Maggette are serviceable, but Riley said he is interested in young veterans, and none of those three qualifies.

The other unrestricted free agents still available at those positions include James White, Damien Wilkins, Sam Young, Dahntay Jones, Luke Babbitt, Hedo Tukoglu (very much on the decline), Roger Mason Jr. and Cartier Martin.

### Riley and owner Micky Arison will meet Tuesday and decide whether the Heat will use the amnesty provision before the deadline at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. Riley has said he doesn't plan to use it "as of today," but clearly left the door open for a change of plans.

### The Heat's Las Vegas opener will air on NBA TV, on tape, at noon Sunday. NBA TV will carry the Heat's Sunday game against Atlanta live at 10 p.m. 

### Tough start for the former UM players at the Las Vegas Summer League. As many of you know, Dallas guard Shane Larkin broke his ankle in a practice and will miss two to three months. Kenny Kadji started Cleveland's opener in Las Vegas and shot 3 for 9 and committed six fouls in 21 minutes, closing with six points and six rebounds. Durand Scott received only 2:55 minutes of playing time for the Spurs and went scoreless.

### Among players who received DNP/CDs (did not play, coach’s decision) in their Las Vegas openers: former Heat center Dexter Pittman (on the Spurs) and ex-Gators guard Kenny Boynton (on the Lakers).

### Already with 20 oral commitments, UM continues to pursue a bunch of other players in the 2014 class, including Raleigh-N.C. four-star receiver Braxton Berrios, who reportedly is strongly considering Miami. He grew up a Canes fan and has cousins in Miami.

And four-star junior college defensive tackle Corey Johnson told rivals.com that he will choose between UM and Kentucky.

### UM players continue to anticipate that Wisconsin starting defensive end David Gilbert will transfer to UM, but the school says it's still not definite. And with a history of foot problems, he must be cleared medically. Having graduated from Wisconsin, he would be eligible to play immediately.

### The UM baseball program received very good news Friday when it learned that only two of its commitments signed MLB contracts before the 5 p.m. deadline for draft picks to sign. That means UM will welcome these four well-regarded newcomers, among others:

Willie Abreu (Hialeah, FL – Mater Academy – OF), who was picked in the 14th round by Cincinnati; Derik Beauprez (Cherry Creek, CO – Cherry Hills Village – RHP/1B), who was picked in by the 25th round by Boston… Zack Collins (Pembroke Pines, FL – American Heritage – C/1B), who was chosen in the 27th round by Cincinnati; and Jacob Heyward (McDonough, GA – Eagle’s Landing Christian – OF), who was plucked in the 38th round by Atlanta.

According to Perfect Game’s ranking, five of UM’s incoming players rank in the top 200 high school prospects in the nation (led by Collins at No. 31). And 12 of UM’s newcomers are in the top 500.

Also significant: pitcher Bryan Radziewski (9-3, 1.78 ERA), selected in the 29th round by St. Louis, decided to return to UM.

### Check back later for the Sunday buzz, with Heat, Marlins, Canes and lots of Dolphins.

July 11, 2013

Friday update: Prominent radio host leaving; Lamar Miller turning heads; Oden update; Marlins, Canes

Quick Friday afternoon update before we get to the Friday buzz column below:

According to sources, Jorge Sedano soon will be leaving his job as WQAM-560's afternoon drive host and program director to take a position with ESPN.

Sedano, who will remain with WQAM through August, will join former NFL offensive lineman Mark Schlereth as hosts on ESPN Radio's 7 to 10 p.m. weeknight show. On the TV side, he will make appearances on several of ESPN's opinion shows.

A graduate of Monsignor Pace and FIU, Sedano, 35, has been a fixture on the South Florida airwaves since 1999. He was 790 The Ticket's morning host from 2009 through spring 2012, then later joined WQAM as program director and afternoon host last September. Earlier in his career, he anchored Heat radio pregame and postgame programming and hosted an overnight show for Fox Sports Radio from 2004 to 2007.

Sedano also is leaving his gig as studio host on Sun Sports' coverage of Heat road games.

WQAM immediately will begin a search for new afternoon drive-time host and a new program director. In his year as program director, Sedano made several personnel moves, including hiring Channing Crowder to join Adam Kuperstein on a weekday talk show, firing Dan Sileo and replacing him with John Renshaw, and hiring a few former 790 personalities, including Brandon Guzio.

ESPN and Sedano will be able to discuss the hire publicly sometime later this month.



So this is what your new Dolphins starting running back is doing while much of the NFL vacations:

Running. Lifting. Squatting. Sled-pulling. Pushing to validate every ounce of faith the Dolphins have placed in their gifted young back.

What makes the monotonous grind more pleasurable for Lamar Miller is that he is doing it alongside his friend and fellow Hurricane, Frank Gore.

“The way Lamar is learning from Frank, it’s a beautiful thing,” Steelers linebacker Sean Spence, another former Cane, said this week.

Gore’s mentoring of Miller has been one of the neater Dolphins-flavored stories of the summer, the four-time Pro Bowler and 49ers star taking the second-year protege under his wing. They work out together twice a day – with a group of other NFL players in the morning in North Miami Beach, and just the two of them, with a trainer, on a Davie field at night.

“Since Lamar started gravitating toward Frank, his work ethic and mentality are unparalleled,” said Pete Bommarito, who runs the highly-regarded Bommarito Performance Systems, where Gore, Miller and many other NFL players train during offseason mornings.

Miller, who almost assuredly will replace Detroit-bound Reggie Bush as Miami’s starter, began spending a lot of time around Gore a couple of months ago, at the suggestion of their agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Bommarito said Gore helped show Miller “how to take care of his body, what to do beyond what is required.”

Gore has noticed another change since they became workout buddies: “His footwork got a lot better."

Privately, the Dolphins believe Miller can be not merely a good starting back, but a great one.

“He’s the fastest running back I’ve ever seen,” said Bommarito, who has trained dozens of them, including Maurice Jones-Drew.

What’s more, Miller said he’s even faster than the player who averaged 4.9 yards on 51 carries as a rookie.

“I’ve gotten quicker doing lateral work, and I’ve become more explosive by training every day doing squats on my legs,” he said.

“[And] I’m stronger. Last year, I was kind of lost getting adjusted to the speed of the game and knowing where I’m supposed to be at all times. Now I’m very comfortable with the system.”

Gore said of the elite UM backs of the past 20 years – Edgerrin James, himself, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Miller – “Lamar is probably the fastest. He reminds me of Portis.”

Teammates, impressed with Miller’s improvement in his pass protection, believe he’s ready for the more prominent role that awaits.

Olivier Vernon, Miller’s Dolphins and former UM teammate, compares him to Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, who ran for 2006 yards in 2009. Philip Wheeler said “he’s really good. Speedy, and that’s what we need.”

“He’s just so smooth,” Matt Moore said. "As shifty as Lamar is, he's more of a downhill guy than Reggie. His nature is to go north and south.... You can see during walkthroughs that his leadership has stepped up. He has grabbed it."

Brian Hartline jokes he has a “man crush” on Miller, while also expressing affection for backup Daniel Thomas.

“And he’s a good kid,” Gore said. “We motivate each other.”

The relationship is especially meaningful for Miller because of their common roots. Both starred in high school locally: Gore at Coral Gables, Miller at Killian. 

“We grew up in the same neighborhood – he’s just 10, 15 minutes away from me,” Miller said. “I used to look up to all the UM running backs growing up because that’s where I wanted to go. I want to keep the legacy of the University of Miami going.

“It has been great working with Frank, and it is going to help me in my game. He has given me a lot of tips.”

As they work side by side in the evening, Gore reminds Miller that most players around the league aren't doing anything like this on a July night --- traditionally a vacation period for many players -- and how that will give him a leg up on the competition, some way, some how, once the games begin. 


### The Heat remains very much in the running for center Greg Oden, with the Spurs, Celtics and Mavericks also receiving strong consideration. Cleveland has lost steam after signing Andrew Bynum. But Oden is taking it slowly and likely will not work out for teams until August. He believes he will be ready to play by the start of the season. Oden has had five knee operations and hasn't played in an NBA game since 2009.

### With the Marlins’ payroll now $34 million, owner Jeffrey Loria declined to answer when asked whether he would start spending more in free agency when he believes the team is ready to contend. An associate of Loria said that decision hasn’t been made and would depend on what’s available and team revenues. This will help: Beginning in 2014, each team will make $57 million in national TV revenue, compared with $26 million now.

“Money will have to be spent to fill certain voids,” Marlins special assistant Andre Dawson said. Several key players remain under team control and will be paid less than $550,000 next season.

Giancarlo Stanton could get $7 million or so in arbitration, but the Marlins already have his salary budgeted into 2014 projections, if they don’t trade him. Only Adeiny Hechavarria ($1.75 million), Jeff Mathis ($1.5 million) and Jacob Turner ($1 million) know their exact 2014 salaries.

### With UM basketball getting a non-binding commitment this week from 6-6 Jacksonville forward DJ Russell, not sure what’s stranger: An eighth grader orally committing, or the fact HoopsReport.com actually ranks eighth graders (Russell is No. 3 on that list).

### Of all the UM football departures this offseason (Thomas Finnie, Gabe Terry, Eddie Johnson, Gionni Paul, Jacoy Briscoe, Dequan Ivery, Robert Lockhart), only Lockhart left completely by choice. Others didn’t follow the program, so to speak, and Finnie and Terry were arrested…. After UM gets its NCAA sanctions in the next few weeks, it will have 15 days to decide whether to appeal, according to bylaws provided by former infractions committee member Jerry Parkinson… Good to see Spence running at Bommarito's center this week after last summer’s devastating knee injury. He hopes to make his NFL regular-season debut for the Steelers by midseason.