Quick 6 p.m. Wednesday update: UM got a big oral commitment today from Hialeah Champagnat's Travonte Valentine, rated among the nation's top 20 senior-to-be defensive tackles. Check back later for more on this.
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Most of the incoming UM football class – the one that started with 16 players and just kept growing after Signing Day --- has arrived on campus. That’s the good news.
The discouraging news: Four key pieces to this class aren’t here because they have not qualified academically: highly-regarded tight end/receiver/basketball player Derrick Griffin and three defensive players needed to bolster a shaky pass rush: Defensive end Alquadin Muhammad, end/tackle Ufomba Kamalu and end/linebacker Devante Bond.
A UM official said Tuesday that though it’s still possible Griffin might qualify, it’s not looking promising and he still has a lot of ground to make up academically. Muhammad and Kamalu also are in jeopardy --- their former coaches declined to discuss their predicament --- and an academic official at Bond’s school said on the record that it’s very much unclear if he will make it to UM this year.
On the record, UM declined to speculate on the chances of any of the four, so this will remain unresolved for several more weeks, at least.
Receiver/tight end Ryheem Lockley didn’t achieve the needed test score and will attend Fork Union Military Academy this fall, then hopes to enroll at UM this spring.
On the flip side, several players who should help immediately have already enrolled. Looking at where the incoming class stands:
### Defensive line: With Muhammad and Kamalu in limbo, it’s a good thing former Wisconsin starting defensive end David Gilbert (42 tackles, four sacks last season) is planning to enroll at UM, pending finalizing of paperwork. He would be eligible to play immediately, and certainly talented enough to start ahead of Shayon Green, but his history of foot injuries is worrisome.
UM has been counting on Muhammad, Kamalu and Bond --- or at least one or two of them --- to provide immediate pass rush help, coordinator Mark D’Onofrio has said repeatedly, because “all three have shown they can rush the quarterback.”
But Gilbert’s arrival, health provided, would lessen the need for Muhammad --- whom Al Golden calls “one of the premier pass rushers in the country” –-- to play right away, IF he qualifies. Gilbert, Anthony Chickillo, Green, Kelvin Cain, Tyriq McCord, Dyron Dye (if eligible), Jelani Hamilton and new arrival Julio Derosier would be available at defensive end regardless of whether Muhammad gets into school this fall.
Kamalu, if he makes it, could play end and also tackle,where nobody has seized the No. 4 job behind Curtis Porter, Olsen Pierre and Luther Robinson.
### Linebacker: January arrival Alex Figueroa was the most pleasant surprise of spring ball and is a heavy favorite to start. Golden said he expected him to hit a wall at some point during spring practice, but it never happened.
Jermaine Grace, ESPN’s 11th-best linebacker in this class, arrived in May and has a decent chance to earn time at a position depleted when UM parted ways with Eddie Johnson and Gionni Paul.
Grace -– whom Golden called “one of the two best linebackers in the state” -- had 140 tackles (20 for loss), nine sacks and two interceptions at Miramar High last season, and assistant coach Micheal Barrow calls him a “combination of Sean Spence and Denzel Perryman.” What's more, UM people have been raving about his character and leadership.
And don’t forget late addition Walter Tucker – a football and track standout at Plantation American Heritage. He’s a high-energy linebacker with superior speed to chase down ball-carriers. But not having Bond, who had 17 sacks in junior college last year, would be a big loss if he doesn’t qualify. Bond and McCord are ideal for the hybrid rush end/linebacker role.
### Cornerback: Artie Burns, rated ESPN’s 10th-best corner, arrived in May and will try to beat out Nate Dortch for the No. 4 job behind Ladarius Gunter, Antonio Crawford and Tracy Howard. “Burns is a superstar, a tremendous talent,” Golden said.
Northwestern coach Stephen Field said of Burns: “For a guy with all the speed he has, to be able to be physical at the same time is very impressive.”
### Safety: Jamal Carter, rated the No. 21 safety by rivals.com, arrived in May and likely will begin camp behind at least four veterans: potential starters Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins and seniors A.J. Highsmith and Kacy Rodgers.
Former UM assistant coach Don Soldinger, who knows Carter well, said he has the potential to be “a great one.”
### Receiver: Stacy Coley, who enrolled last week, might be UM’s best recruit – he was ESPN’s fourth-rated receiver – but will be hard-pressed initially to crack a top five of Allen Hurns, Phillip Dorsett, Herb Waters, Rashawn Scott and Malcolm Lewis. But he could return kicks immediately, and his time at receiver will come eventually.
“Stacy is a No. 1 receiver,” UM receivers coach Brennan Carroll said. “He’s got ridiculous transition ability, great hands. We’re going to throw balls to him in the end zone and he’s going to score touchdowns and he’s going to tell you about it.”
### Tight end: Beau Sandland and Standish Dobard arrived in January. Sandland, a one of the top junior college tight ends in the country last year, is ahead of Dobard, and will enter camp trying to hold off Jake O’Donnell and Dobard for the No. 3 job, with the hope of overtaking Asante Cleveland, who finished the spring ahead of likely starter Clive Walford.
“I was impressed with Beau because of his natural talent,” tight ends coach Larry Scott said earlier this offseason. “There’s still an adjustment for him. You’ve got to be able to handle being moved around.”
Before leaving for Alabama’s staff, Mario Cristobal dubbed Sandland “the Shock-Meister” because of his similarities to former Canes great Jeremy Shockey. “Every time he has a chance, he’s looking to run somebody over,” Cristobal said.
UM loves Dobard, because of his speed and how difficult he is to bring down. But UM’s depth at tight end will give him time to develop.
### Running back: UM is eager to see Gus Edwards, who enrolled last week, and will compete with Dallas Crawford and Eduardo Clements (if cleared medically) for carries behind Duke Johnson. Former UM running backs coach Terry Richardson, who left for the Jacksonville Jaguars in February, said Edwards reminds him of former NFL standout Eddie George.
UM coaches love that Edwards barrels over defenders and doesn’t run out of bounds.
One of UM’s post Signing Day additions, Corn Elder, arrived last week and will play basketball, too. He was Tennessee’s Mr. Football in 2011 and 2012 and is quick, shifty and can also play in the slot, where UM will consider using him at times.
UM is listing Ray Lewis III as a running back, but he can also play defensive back if needed. The Canes will decide within the coming months where he best fits.
### Quarterback: Kevin Olsen figures to redshirt and some around the program make him the favorite to beat out Ryan Williams for the starting job in 2014, with Gray Crow and 2014 recruits Brad Kaaya, Alin Edouard (if he sticks) and Malik Rosier also challenging. Preston Dewey is still on the roster, too, but unlikely to get on the field.
### Offensive lineman: Tackle Sonny Odogwu arrived in January and impressed coaches but is still viewed as a developmental project. At least two of the young tackles --- Odogwu, Alex Gall and Hunter Knighton -- could end up redshirting.
### Punter: Pat O’Donnell, a May arrival, will replace Dalton Botts after ranking 57th among 118 in puting average for the University of Cincinnati last season, at 41.8.
### To his surprise, the Dolphins haven’t made a multiyear offer to defensive tackle Randy Starks since slapping him with the $8.45 million franchise tag – which happened after Starks rejected a multiyear offer that wasn’t remotely close to his asking price. But we hear Starks, who sat out most of the offseason program, has a good attitude going into camp and won't complain about his contract.
The Dolphins also haven't talked to 2014 free agent Paul Soliai about an extension. Miami likely will choose between Starks and Soliai next spring.
### The MGM Grand and 11 other Nevada casinos have changed the Dolphins odds’ from winning the Super Bowl from 50 to 1 to 60 to 1; only 11 teams have longer odds. So the enthusiasm about the team locally isn't necessarily mirrored in betting trends in Las Vegas.
And despite losing Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots’ odds were changed from 10 to 1 to 8 to 1 this week because there was so still much money coming in on New England. As one MGM sports book official said, people are still convinced the Patriots will be Super Bowl-quality because of Brady/Belichick.
### The Heat showed zero interest in UM’s Kenny Kadji, who joined Cleveland’s summer league team and also passed on Reggie Johnson, Julian Gamble and Trey McKinney Jones, who are still looking for jobs.... Undrafted Gators guard Kenny Boynton joined the Lakers’ Summer League team.
### Among the players on the Heat's summer league team is forward Ricky Sanchez, a Puerto Rico national team member that Miami received in the Dexter Pittman trade with Memphis. Sanchez, who was in Argentina this past season, has played overseas, in the NBDL and in the CBA since Portland drafted him 35th in 2005. Though he has never played in the NBA, he has the distinction of being traded for three players who have (Pittman, Jarrett Jack and Sam Young)... Tough break for center Justin Hamilton, the Heat's second-round pick out of LSU in 2012. After leaving a foreign team earlier this season because he wasn't paid, Hamilton now will miss summer league because of a hamstring injury... Please see the last post for Miami's full summer league roster.
### The Padres left town raving about the Marlins’ pitching staff. “It reminds me of the Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett staff,” catcher Yasmani Grandal said.
Padres manager Bud Black said Jose Fernandez has “one of the best breaking balls I’ve seen all year.” Outfielder Mark Kotsay raved about the movement in Jacob Turner's pitches -- “he commands all four of them” and said Nathan Eovaldi is unique in that “not many starters can stay above 95 miles per hour six innings" into a game.
Batters are hitting .177 off Eovaldi, .193 against Fernandez and .229 off Turner.