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28 posts from August 2013

August 30, 2013

Postscripts from UM's season-opening win against FAU

Postscripts from UM’s 34-6 season-opening win against FAU:

### Joy-to-watch Duke Johnson needed less than three quarters to set a career high in rushing yardage (186, on 19 carries), topping his previous career mark (16 for 176 in last season’s finale against Duke). He finished with a 9.8 per carry average, including gallops of 42 and 53 yards, the latter going for a touchdown. It was the most yards on the ground by a Hurricane since Tyrone Moss ran for 195 yards in October 2005.

### Got to love James Coley’s aggressive play-calling, including a flea-flicker that produced a 38-yard gain on a short pass to Johnson, and a reverse to Herb Waters for a 63-yard touchdown.

UM played up tempo much of the night, one reason FAU won the time of possession, 33:08 to 26:51. UM finished second-worst in the country in time of possession last year, at 26 minutes per game.

But the possession number was irrelevant Friday; UM outgained FAU, 504-250. The Hurricanes ran for 303 yards (8.0 per carry) -- its most rushing yards since a November 2007 game against North Carolina State.

### Stephen Morris closed 15 for 27 for 160 yards, one touchdown and an interception that ended a streak of 156 consecutive passes without a pick. He had thrown 12 TDs since his last interception. Of course, Morris would have thrown for 3 TDs if Stacy Coley hadn’t dropped two.

Left tackle Ereck Flowers whiffed on a block on Morris’ interception, forcing Morris to throw prematurely.

### Morris’ best throw of the night was a dart to Clive Walford for a 16-yard touchdown. Asante Cleveland and Beau Sandland also got work with Walford in two-tight end sets, though neither of the two backups caught a pass. Sandland made a terrific block on a Duke Johnson run --- an encouraging sign for a tight end known largely for his pass catching skills. Walford finished with three catches for 34 yards.

### Stacy Coley opened as the third receiver (in a package with Allen Hurns and Phillip Dorsett) and caught a short pass for seven yards early in the game but dropped two potential touchdowns (one that was dislodged by an FAU defender in the end zone and another across the middle, deep in FAU territory, that likely would have been a score). He wasn’t thrown a pass again until he caught one from Ryan Williams in the fourth quarter for a 12-yard gain.

Waters ended up getting the bulk of the work as the third receiver and caught two passes for 49 yards, in addition to his long TD run. Rashawn Scott and Malcolm Lewis appeared to enter the night fifth and sixth on the depth chart.

Scott made a terrific lunging catch from Williams in the fourth quarter -– a 26-yard reception to FAU’s two-yard line – but injured his shoulder on the play and did not return… Hurns had 5 catches for 34 yards, Dorsett 2 for 14.

### Al Golden's take, afterward, on WQAM: "We learned a lot about our team tonight... Stacy will get over that. He's done such an amazing job in camp... We missed some opportunities, had some penalties... We upped Duke's load. He handled it well."

### Seantrel Henderson and Jon Feliciano split time at right tackle, and both had good moments and missteps. Henderson committed an illegal motion penalty and was beaten badly on a play when Morris’ pass was deflected, then caught by Morris for a 16-yard loss. Feliciano started, but Henderson played the next two series.

### UM still needs a short yardage back to emerge –- a notion reinforced when Johnson (betrayed on the play by poor blocking) couldn’t pick up a first down on a fourth and two early in the game. Fullback Maurice Hagens might be best suited for the job, but he’s also valuable as a lead blocker.

UM hopes Gus Edwards (six carries, 19 yards) could eventually seize that role, but he was too upright on a fourth-down goal-line run from the FAU two late in the game, and was stopped inches from a touchdown.

Eduardo Clements, back from a neck injury, finished with 23 yards on 6 carries. Dallas Crawford had a six-yard touchdown run after David Gilbert recovered a fumble; Crawford’s only other carry went for no gain.

### UM, which had a school record-low 13 sacks all of last season, closed with five --- by Thurston Armbrister, Anthony Chickillo, Olsen Pierre, Kacy Rodgers and a combined sack by Gilbert and Ufomba Kamalu. It’s difficult to make any sweeping conclusions about the defense because of the quality of the competition. We’ll know a lot more next Saturday, when the Gators visit.

But UM’s defensive line depth appears much stronger, so much so that Chickillo – UM’s best pass rusher last season --- didn’t even play on most third down passing situations. In those situations, UM used a package often featuring freshman Al Quadin Mohammad --- who generated quarterback pressure on several plays --- and sophomore Tyriq McCord and freshman tackle Kamalu. Gilbert also got work in that package.

Luther Robinson, as improved as any UM player over the past year, again gave UM good snaps behind starting tackles Pierre and Curtis Porter. And Virginia transfer Justin Renfro was inserted early in the game (on Miami’s second series) and also was stout against the run.

FAU averaged just 3.1 yards on 43 rushing attempts.

“We got some pressure,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said on WQAM. “I thought the execution was good. We ended up playing 11 [linemen], 8 at linebacker and 11 in the secondary.”      

### Tracy Howard opened at cornerback opposite Ladarius Gunter, but Antonio Crawford played a lot as the No. 3 corner. Gunter made a couple of very good plays in coverage.

### D’Onofrio made good use of safety blitzes a couple of times, and Kacy Rodgers’ sack forced the third-quarter fumble that Gilbert recovered.

### Much improved Armbrister, who beat out Alex Figueroa for a starting linebacker job, was active and generally productive, but Figueroa also made three dynamic plays.

### Disappointment of the night, besides Coley’s drops: Denzel Perryman dropped an interception, which likely would have been returned for a touchdown, and committed two foolish penalties, including a late hit.

### A bunch of freshmen played late in the game, including Edwards, Corn Elder, Jermaine Grace and Artie Burns, who had two impressive pass breakups late, including one that prevented a potential touchdown in the final minute…. Matt Goudis kicked 35- and 45-yard field goals… Dallas Crawford showed his speed on a 21-yard punt return.

### Safety Deon Bush, returning from June hernia surgery, was in uniform but did not play, with Rodgers logging most of the work alongside Rayshawn Jenkins…. UM said that the announced crowd of  50,051 included 7752 UM students.

Regular buzz columns will resume in several days.

August 28, 2013

Media note: WQAM firming up plans to replace Sedano; UM/NCAA item

I interrupt vacation briefly for a quick media note and something unrelated:

WQAM-560 is promoting from within to replace Jorge Sedano, who will do his final show Thursday before taking a job as a weeknight host on ESPN Radio.

Though nothing has been announced, WQAM has offered the 3 to 7 p.m. slot to former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder (who would move over from the 1 to 3 p.m. slot) and WQAM staffer Brandon Guzio. Both want to do it, but contracts must be finalized before this is official.

Meanwhile, longtime WQAM staffer Curtis Stevenson would replace Crowder in the 1 to 3 p.m. slot, alongside Adam Kuperstein. Again, contracts must be finalized for this to be official. The station won't comment until that happens.

WQAM hopes the new lineup will be in place starting Tuesday.

Kuperstein could not join Crowder in the 3 to 7 p.m. slot because Kuperstein has a significant gig that time of the day - as the lead co-anchor on NBC 6's evening newscasts.

Before deciding to offer the 3 to 7 p.m. shift to Crowder and Guzio, WQAM also spoke with Evan Cohen, who does a radio show in West Palm Beach and for Sirius. But those talks did not materialize.

Guzio has appeared regularly on WQAM, and before that, on 790 The Ticket, in recent years. Sedano hired him after joining WQAM as program director.

Coincidentally, Crowder and Guzio have been as critical of the Dolphins as any hosts in the market in recent years. They've worked together on air in the past and have a good relationship.

As for Sedano, he will co-host a 7 to 10 p.m. show with former Broncos offensive lineman Mark Schlereth on ESPN Radio beginning Sept. 9. Meanwhile, Dan Le Batard's 790 The Ticket show is expected to be picked up by ESPN Radio and begin airing nationally (as well as locally) sometime this fall, potentially as early as late September or October.

By the way, WQAM staffer Andy King is expected to succeed Sedano as the station's program director.

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The letter that Nevin Shapiro wrote to Greg Cote (now appearing on Greg's blog) was very much like the one he mailed to us this past spring, and one we wrote about in a May 26 post.

Incredibly, Shapiro keeps insisting to anyone who will listen that UM is the subject of a new NCAA investigation (one involving agents and runners) -- something he referenced in a separate letter to me this summer. But UM people have assured us that they have no indication that UM is being investigated for anything new -- nothing beyond the scope of the investigation that ended many months ago.

UM believes the NCAA has stopped listening to him, even though Shapiro continues to allege ongoing rules-breaking by UM, as he did in the letter to Cote, without explaining how anyone in a federal prison would be aware of such violations even if they were occurring.

The NCAA's infractions committee told UM in June that it would try very hard to rule on the case within six to eight weeks of UM's hearing. It's now 10 1/2 weeks and counting. But remember, North Carolina waited four months for its sanctions. UM remains hopeful that its worst punishment will be scholarship reductions.

Regular buzz posts will return next week.

August 18, 2013

UM commitments explain keys to Canes' recruiting success; Dolphins chatter; Heat personnel notes

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

No, UM hasn’t landed everyone it wanted in this loaded Dade/Broward 2014 recruiting class. Elite running back Sony Michel picked Georgia. Premier receiver Ermon Lane chose Florida.

But to appreciate what UM has accomplished in building a 2014 class ranked fourth by ESPN and Rivals.com, consider everything working against Miami: The looming NCAA penalties. Nasty negative recruiting.

And Michel cited this: “What concerned me was Miami’s facilities,” Michel said, adding Georgia’s are nicer. “They should be more up to par. And the fan base is not too big, not what I would expect.”

Make no mistake: Weak attendance is a turnoff for some UM recruits, so much so that UM asked not to be given any Thursday night home games so the empty seats aren’t exposed to the nation. But UM’s facilities should not be a deterrent now; the new Schwartz Center is beautiful.

So how has UM overcome those obstacles to assemble terrific classes under Al Golden? We spoke to 10 of the 13 Dade/Broward Class of 2014 players orally committed to UM, plus several coaches. Six factors they cited:

### Players love the personal attention from Golden and his staff, easier now that the NCAA has relaxed rules regarding contact on social media.

Booker T. Washington’s Chad Thomas, rivals.com’s No. 11-rated defensive end, said Golden has sent him a quotation before practice most every morning the past two months.

“I know it’s just for me because he’ll say, ‘I know this one is appropriate for you this day,’” Thomas said. “He sends me quotes from NFL stars, like Ray Lewis, or people who made it in life. They’re not even dealing with football, just life. I don’t get that from other coaches. Coach Golden will make sure my day is going right. That’s how I know it’s a coach that cares about you.”

Miami Northwestern three-star defensive end Mike Smith said UM linebackers coach Micheal Barrow “sends me motivational speeches and letters on Facebook. He quotes a lot of scriptures from the Bible. That’s different from other schools.”

### Several players cite Golden’s honesty. “Coach Golden is different from all coaches,” Hialeah Champagnat four-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine said. “He took me in his office, locked the door and said, ‘I’m going to be real with you.’”

Said three-star St. Thomas Aquinas center Nick Linder, brother of UM guard Brandon: “He’s not two-faced. He’ll talk to you like a friend. You know he has your back.”

Four-star Miami Central running back Joseph Yearby said Golden “says really how it is” and doesn’t “sell [players] a lie.” Yearby's teammate, four-star offensive tackle Trevor Darling, said Golden "is an easy guy to talk to. We talk about practice, life, how his family is." And Booker T. Washington defensive end Demetrius Jackson said he was drawn to Golden because “he’s a God-fearing man and so am I. That’s a connection we have. He’s a family man.”

### Golden interacts effectively with recruits’ parents. Miami Northwestern three-star cornerback Ryan Mayes said: “My mom and grandmother were very happy, and that was a big deal, because it is hard to satisfy women, especially those two. They liked the fact coach Golden is respectful and well mannered.”

### A skilled staff of recruiters, strengthened by the addition of personable offensive coordinator James Coley. “The staff is awesome – they’re great with the kids,” St. Thomas Aquinas coach Rocco Casullo said. “Al Golden spoke at our banquet and people were mesmerized.”

Miami Central and former Northwestern coach Roland Smith said this UM staff is “real good at building relationships. Coach Golden asked me to coach at his summer camps when I wasn’t coaching, and I so appreciate that.”

### UM’s small class size also was mentioned as a major lure. “I can’t focus in big classes,” Booker T’s Thomas said. “At Miami, I’m not going to be sitting with 100 people. It’s 30 people. The professor knows who you are.”

### Golden has embraced UM’s tradition, such as playing a Michael Irvin motivational speech while players were stretching before a recent practice.

Jackson said Golden shows recruits the program’s championship rings, its two Heisman Trophies and more. Golden tells them how many Hurricanes are in the NFL. So even though most recruits were 5 or 6 when UM last won a title, the program’s rich history still resonates.

Valentine “did my research” on the great UM teams in the 1980s and said “I can bring that back. After my [former] Florida and Louisville commitments, I said, ‘Man, let me stop making mistakes and come to Miami.’”

### FYI: UM has seven oral commitments among ESPN's top 171 players in the Class of 2014 --- led by Yearby at No. 21 --- and 11 in ESPN's top 300.

### Please check Saturday's post for buzz from UM's Friday night scrimmage and first couple weeks of practice.

CHATTER

### Though Dwyane Wade said he intends to stay with the Heat beyond next season, he did not rule out opting out of his contract. He would make $20 million in 2014-15 and $21.5 million in 2015-16 if he does not opt-out either preceding summer. It’s possible he could take less money in exchange for more years.

“We’ll see,” Wade, 31, said Friday of the opt-out. “You have to figure out what’s best for yourself and what’s best for the team and then you come up with that answer.”

### Of adding to his game, Wade said: “The only thing left for me to do is become Mike Miller and shoot a lot of threes.” But he shot just 17 for 66 on threes last season and said he won’t decide until during the season whether to shoot more.

### Greg Oden's agent, Mike Conley Jr., said the parties involved changed their mind and decided that Oden would sign a one-year deal with the Heat, without a second-year player option as originally planned. Conley said that helps Oden (because of a league ruling involving injury contingency language in his contract) and helps the Heat because Miami would not be burdened with his contract in 2014-15 --- and potentially $3 million in luxury tax payments -- if he suffers another major injury this season.

### Mitch Frankel, the agent for center Jarvis Varnado,said a report in a European publication that Varnado is close to signing in Italy is untrue. "A lot of teams in Europe have shown interest, but we haven't talked to the Heat about it, and Jarvis is planning to go to Heat training camp," Frankel said. Varnado has a one-year non-guaranteed contract.

### Alex Rodriguez has donated only $1 million of the $3.9 million he pledged to UM’s baseball park in 2003, but athletic director Blake James said he’s not behind in payments. “A-Rod made a tremendous commitment to us,” James said Friday. “Our commitment is his name on the stadium. If we feel that needs to be addressed, we’ll address it.”

### The Dolphins are exploring tight end options who could provide depth after the loss of Dustin Keller, who is out for the season with a knee injury. But one of the best remaining free agents, Kevin Boss, hasn't been cleared to play after concussion problems, his agent said. What's left of the free agent class is weak.

### Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said Joe Philbin “is a joy to be around and… doesn’t have a whole lot of highs and lows, which I love.” But he also told his team he wants that personality from them. Philbin was happy when Caleb Sturgis did not openly celebrate his 58-year field goal against Jacksonville.

So essentially Philbin wants players who are quiet conformists who say nothing controversial or discuss hot-button issues outside of football, and aren’t too outwardly emotional.

Players generally like him, but some wish he was more tolerant of colorful personalities or those who speak candidly. One Dolphins player on offense said a lot of players were fined last season for assorted minor violations.

“If you’re just 30 seconds early to a meeting, he will point at his watch,” the player said. Among his other rules: Shoes must be tied at all times; players must wear Dolphins gear in the facility and the locker-room must be clean. “What upsets him is if they have to go over the same stuff twice with you.”

### Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks (knee) assured us Friday that he will be ready by the opener.

### Please see my last post for lots of Dolphins-Texas postgame notes and thoughts.... No buzz columns for the next couple weeks. Back in September.

Postscripts, observations from Dolphins' loss to Texans

Postscripts from the Dolphins’ 24-17 preseason loss to Houston:

### Anything good that happened tonight – including Mike Wallace’s first three receptions as a Dolphin – was thoroughly overshadowed by the knee injury to Dustin Keller, who was undergoing an MRI Saturday night. Joe Philbin said after the game that there is no diagnosis yet. (But the team fears the worst, as Armando noted in his report from Houston, and Wallace said: "I'm pretty sure he'll be out for a while" -- possibly the season.)

“We all are wishing Dustin well and hope his return is sooner rather than later,” Philbin said. “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Keller was injured on Miami’s fifth possession, when Houston’s D.J. Swearinger hit Keller squarely on the side of his right knee with his helmet. Keller dropped the pass and soon after had to be carted off, unable to put pressure on the knee.

With Keller, the Dolphins' group of tight ends assuredly ranked in the top half of the league. Without him, they're in the bottom fifth, unless Dion Sims blossoms quickly.

 “We’ll adjust,” Philbin said. “We’ll take a look at what we have and what our options might be. Michael Egnew is a big man. Dion Sims is a big man. Charles Clay has caught the ball down the middle before. We have some big targets.”

Sims is good enough as a blocker – he had a terrific block on Lamar Miller’s four-yard TD run --- and teammates believe he has upside as a receiver. They like how he uses his size (6-4, 265) to essentially block out defenders.

But he hasn’t shown he can create separation in the middle of the field like Keller did. He started Saturday’s game but couldn't haul in two catchable passes after Keller’s injury.

Egnew hasn’t even proven he can be a No. 2 tight end, let alone a starter. He had one catch late in the game (for 14 yards) but also had a holding penalty early on, negating a 9-yard Lamar Miller run. His blocking --- considered dismal last season --- has improved, but projecting him as a starter would be a reach.

Charles Clay would be another option, but playing him a lot at tight end means the Dolphins likely would need to keep fullbacks Jorvorskie Lane or Evan Rodriguez. Clay opened Saturday’s game as the starting fullback and has played there quite a bit during training camp. But he had a false start penalty on Miami’s second possession and hasn’t caught a pass in preseason.

Kyle Miller – who has displayed some receiving skills – has a chance to stick but missed Saturday’s game with an ankle injury.

There aren’t any particularly good options left in free agency, with past-his-prime Randy McMichael, Will Heller and Kevin Boss the best of what’s still available. Dallas Clark signed last week with Baltimore, which lost starter Dennis Pitta to injury.

### The good news: Ryan Tannehill completed three passes to Wallace, for 58 yards, on Miami’s TD drive on its third possession, which was punctuated by Wallace’s nine yard TD catch. And Brandon Gibson had two catches for 32 yards from Tannehill on Miami’s other first-half scoring drive, which ended with a Lamar Miller four-yard TD run.

### Tannehill closed 10 for 15 for 141 yards and the touchdown. “I thought Ryan managed the game pretty well,” Philbin said. “We had some big play opportunities we missed. He had Brian Hartline one time and missed that play. Overall, he played good.”

Matt Moore, constantly harrassed, finished a dismal 3 for 11 for 15 yards.

### Daniel Thomas outperformed Lamar Miller for the second straight game. Thomas had four carries for 25 yards and one catch for 27 yards on a shovel pass. Miller ran for just 10 yards on five carries, was limited to three yards on two receptions, and dropped a short pass on 3rd and 2 on Miami’s second drive. Philbin was upset about Miller’s drop.

### Jonas Gray (4 for 14) and Mike Gillislee (3 for 9) had nondescript nights. Marcus Thigpen carried twice for nine yards.

### Jonathan Martin played well, but backup left tackle remains a mess. Just as Dallas Thomas proved in the opener that he isn’t equipped to be Martin’s backup, Will Yeatman apparently isn’t, either. Yeatman allowed two sacks, and most of the backup offensive line remains inadequate. One exception is Lance Louis, who made his Dolphins debut as the second-team right guard.

Four of Houston’s five sacks came against the Dolphins’ backup offensive line.

### Josh Samuda struggled at right guard, allowing a sack and a tackle for a loss on a run. John Jerry could return to practice this week, and he and Louis remain the best options at that position.

### Cameron Wake and impressive undrafted rookie Tristan Okpalaugo had Miami’s two sacks. Reshad Jones, on a safety blitz, forced an incompletion with a near sack on Houston’s second possession.

### None of the receivers competing for the fourth and fifth spots did anything to seize a job. Rishard Matthews had one catch for 7 yards and dropped another pass. Brian Tyms could have scored on a deep ball if Moore didn’t overthrow him. Pruitt had one catch for nine yards, Marvin McNutt 1 for 7. Chad Bumphis, Jeff Fuller and Keenan Davis didn’t catch a pass.

And Bumphis, given a chance on punt returns, had two fair catches, including one when he seemingly had space to attempt a return. He returned a third punt for four yards. Thigpen assuredly will be the punt returner.

### Neither of the top contenders for the No. 4 cornerback job --- Nolan Carroll and Will Davis – played well. Davis was beaten for a 23-yard catch by Keyshawn Martin and on a 38-yard TD by Lestar Jean. As Bob Griese noted on the telecast, opponents have noticed that Davis has a tendency to jump routes to try to make interceptions, which leaves him vulnerable at times, including on Jean’s stop-and-go for the touchdown.

“I apologize for the double move. I jumped the double move,” Davis tweeted after the game. “Glad I learned it now that later. Learning every day.”

What’s more, Davis was admonished by special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi after he apparently forgot whether to enter the game for a Houston extra point, which resulted in a Dolphins penalty.

Carroll was beaten on two potential touchdown passes, but both were overthrown by Case Keenum. Carroll said overall defensively, “there was bad communication. Some guys were not communicating across the board.”

 ### Aside from a few good plays (Brent Grimes’ interception, a nifty pass breakup by Dimitri Patterson, and solid coverage by Koa Misi on a deep pass to Garrett Graham), the Dolphins’ pass defense was largely inadequate.

Matt Schaub, Keenum and T.J. Yates combined to go 26 for 38 for 303 yards. Safety Kelcie McCray was beaten by Owen Daniels on a 15-yard touchdown. Safety Jordan Kovacs seemed overwhelmed in coverage a couple of times.

What's comforting is that the starting defense played pretty well in its 2 1/2 series.

### Backup defensive linemen Derrick Shelby and Kheeston Randall continued their good work. Both had outstanding stops on two running plays; Randall forced Keenum to get rid of the ball prematurely; and Shelby batted down a pass. Linebacker Josh Kaddu and defensive tackle A.J. Francis also had their moments; Kaddu forced a fumble, which Lee Robinson recovered.

### Houston averaged 4.0 yards per carry, compared to the Dolphins’ 3.4…. Cornerback Jamar Taylor played in his first game as a Dolphin… Caleb Sturgis hit a 43-yard field goal... Jimmy Wilson's taunting penalty was his second personal foul penalty in two games... Philbin’s overview: “We did some good things [but] there is a lot of room for improvement. We had some penalties, things that slowed us down a bit.”

### Please check back Sunday morning for the Sunday buzz column and check out the last post for UM news.          

August 17, 2013

Saturday update: Hurricanes football chatter, Dolphins notes entering Texans game

Some Saturday Hurricanes and Dolphins notes:

CANES CHATTER

### We hear Herb Waters and Philip Dorsett were among those who were impressive in UM’s scrimmage Friday night. (There was a high-school presence at the closed scrimmage, so it’s inevitable that a few details leak.)

Waters caught two long passes, and Dorsett caught a long pass down the sideline. Freshman Stacy Coley caught two TD passes from Ryan Williams – that’s the only specific detail that UM announced about the scrimmage. UM people reiterate that Coley is too good to keep off the field this season. Coley has even taken some first team snaps.

Expect Coley, Waters, Allen Hurns, Rashawn Scott, Phillip Dorsett and Malcolm Lewis all to play this season.

Offensive coordinator James Coley said there’s certainly enough snaps to use at least six receivers because UM expects to play at a quick tempo and expects to get a lot of offensive plays.

Dorsett figures to be the primary punt returner, but UM people expect Coley could eventually be a factor there.

### Tight end Clive Walford has been very impressive and did a lot of damage in the middle of the field Friday night. Asante Cleveland and Beau Sandland have had their moments in camp and each will play. Sandland is much improved from the spring. And Coley seems to value Cleveland more than Jedd Fisch did.

### Al Golden said he wants to see a big back emerge as a backup option behind Duke Johnson. But it hasn’t happened yet, with Gus Edwards not yet cleared to practice because of an NCAA Clearinghouse issue, and Danny Dillard not asserting himself. (Dillard has to be more physical.) So it wouldn’t be surprising if fullback Maurice Hagens gets some short yardage carries.

We hear Dallas Crawford and Eduardo Clements have been the best backup running backs so far. Clements is showing no effects of the neck injury that sidelined him for many months, until recently.

### Former Wisconsin defensive end David Gilbert has displayed quickness off the edge in his first week of practice. He might begin his UM career as a pass rush specialist initially, but it wouldn't be surprising if he eventually challenges Shayon Green for a starting job. Green is valued more by UM coaches than by many fans, who are understandably troubled by the fact he didn’t have a single sack last season.

### The third down pass rush package should be much better, with Gilbert, impressive freshman Al-Quadin Muhammad and improved Tyriq McCord. UM keeps experimenting with combinations there. Defensive end/tackle Ufomba Kamalu still needs time to learn the system after sitting out the first week of practice while awaiting NCAA clearance.

### The linebacker battle between Thurston Ambrister and Alex Figueroa keeps swinging back and forth, with both making plays at different times in the past two weeks.

### Jimmy Gaines remains ahead of Raphael Kirby for the middle linebacker job.

### We hear the UM defensive backfield clearly misses Deon Bush’s athleticism and play-making. Golden said he expects him back for the opener, after sports hernia surgery in May.

### Defensive tackle Luther Robinson is an excellent shape and playing well. His improvement – and his value to this team – have risen markedly in the past year.

### UM did not crack the AP top 25, announced Saturday, and finished fourth in "others receiving votes." So UM was essentially ranked 29th.

 

DOLPHINS CHATTER

Six unresolved issues we’re eager to track in tonight's preseason game against Houston:

### Fourth and fifth receivers: The sense here is Rishard Matthews is the likely No. 4, but a couple of good preseason games will help solidify that. Chad Bumphis and Brian Tyms have been the best of the others recently. Tyms has an interesting skill set; he’s big (6-3) and fast but needs polishing. Marvin McNutt’s hands aren’t reliable enough. Keenan Davis and Jeff Fuller need big nights.

### Offensive line: Josh Samuda will get work at right guard tonight, but it will be surprising and unsettling if he begins the season there as the starter. The starter figures to be John Jerry, Lance Louis or Nate Garner, if he’s back in time from shoulder surgery. Louis said last week he’s hoping to play tonight – nine months after major knee surgery. Jerry remains out but should be ready to start the season.

It’s a big night for Will Yeatman, who needs to follow his solid game in Jacksonville with a repeat performance. Three more good games, and Yeatman could be the backup left tackle. If not, Miami likely will need to scan the waiver wire for one. Jeff Adams isn’t the answer.

### Backups in the backfield: Running back Jonas Gray and fullbacks Jorvorskie Lane and Evan Rodriguez need to be impressive to give Miami reason to keep any of them. With Charles Clay able to play fullback, it remains highly questionable if Miami keeps either Lane or Rodriguez.

The Dolphins could keep three running backs (Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas and Mike Gilislee), one fullback/tight end hybrid in Clay and three natural tight ends (Dustin Keller, Dion Sims, Michael Egnew). One more could make it at those positions depending on how the Dolphins want to construct their roster.

The way Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman have been raving about Egnew, there’s a good chance he sticks.

Miller, the likely starter, needs more work tonight after just two carries (for six yards) against Jacksonville.

### One or two backup linebacker jobs: This is one of the few spots on defense where a roster spot is realistically unresolved. Josh Kaddu, Austin Spitler, Jonathan Freeney and Lee Robinson are top contenders for one or two jobs behind the three starters, Jason Trusnik and Jelani Jenkins. Found it interesting that Philbin singled out Kaddu last week as one of the impressive players in camp.

### Cornerback rotation: Perhaps tonight and next Saturday’s game against Tampa will offer some clarity about the Dimitri Patterson/Richard Marshall starting cornerback battle. Will Davis could crack the top four (ahead of Nolan Carroll) with another good game.

### Defensive line backups: Newcomer Antwan Applewhite and impressed undrafted Fresno State rookie Tristan Okpalaugo will try to give the Dolphins a reason to keep them around. Not sure how either makes the 53, unless there’s a serious injury or Miami keeps more linemen than expected. (Okpalaugo could make the practice squad.)

Derrick Shelby, Vaughn Martin and probably Kheeston Randall are poised to be the top backups, besides – obviously – Randy Starks (if Jared Odrick starts, as expected) and Dion Jordan. But Randall needs a strong close to camp.

### Quick aside: As @davehydesports noted earlier today, three members of the 1972 Dolphins have declined their White House invitations Tuesday because they disagree politically with this administration: Manny Fernandez, Bob Kuechenberg and Jim Langer.

August 16, 2013

Friday 2 p.m. update: Wade expects Big 3 to stay together, opines on several issues

More from a second straight day of access with Dwyane Wade, who spoke collectively and individually to several reporters Friday morning:

 

Determined to show his critics he’s still at the top of his game and feeling stronger physically after electric shock treatment to his knees, Heat guard Dwyane Wade was the portrait of optimism on several fronts Friday:

He said he has no reason to believe that any of the Big Three will sign elsewhere after next season, when he, LeBron James and Chris Bosh can exercise opt-out clauses.

He said he has no intention of abandoning the attacking style that has been a hallmark of his game, an element that became far more difficult as he dealt with knee pain during this past season’s playoffs.

He said he does not believe the knees – which were problematic the past two postseasons - will be a lingering issue for the remainder of his career. And he feels no need to curtail his minutes with the hope that will keep him healthy for May and June.

“I don’t worry about it because I’ve dealt with so many different injuries since I was young and I’ve always bounced back and found a way to be the player you guys have seen,” he said Friday morning at the Westin Diplomat before overseeing his fantasy basketball camp. “I’ve seen it work with my body before. I’m confident it will. My skills haven’t diminished. I’m not done yet. I still have more in the tank.”

Wade, 31, said he will not be “ready for opening night when training camp starts. But I’ll be ready for opening night when opening night gets here [Oct. 29 against Chicago]. I have a good amount of time to get ready for the season. I’m not on a clock.”

He had his first basketball workout of the offseason on Thursday, under the direction of noted trainer Tim Grover. That worked came one month after he received the OssaTron shockwave therapy.

Wade said this season, when the Heat will attempt to three-peat, “is going to be tough because we’re walking into unchartered water. Trying to muster up the motivation to try to win another championship. We understand the competition will be high. It will be very intense this year.”

And Wade wants the focus to remain squarely on the season, not the free agent frenzy that will follow. Wade and Bosh already have said they want to stay in Miami long-term, and James has said how much he enjoys it here but has stopped short of making a firm commitment.

Asked Friday about his gut feeling about whether all three will remain with the Heat beyond next season, Wade said: “I have no reason to believe anything else. We all love it here. We’re all committed to compete for many, many years to come. Obviously, the business side will take over at one point.”         

Of the criticism that he endured during the playoffs – when he played below his standards before coming through at key moments against the Pacers and Spurs – Wade said he would remember “all of it. Whether it was reading down your Twitter timeline, reading Instagram. I’m always motivated by what people say I can’t do or won’t do.

“Anytime any individual doubts you, you want to prove them wrong and prove that you can do what people have said your whole life you cannot do. When I’m healthy, I can do the things I want to do.”

Wade said people still have “misconceptions about what I went through” during what he called a “frustrating” playoff run.

“I just went through a lot of tendinitis and getting hit and bone bruises in the wrong places at the wrong time,” he said. “And those things take a long time to heal.  I didn’t go through any structural damage.”

Even bending to put on shorts was difficult, and he said “X-rays can’t tell how much pain you’re in. Only you know. I was able to have timely performances to help my team win a championship.”

Asked if he might be receptive to playing fewer minutes or sitting out the second night of back-to-back games to help preserve his knees, Wade said: “I’m not getting into what people say I should do. I want to be on the court.

“[But] I’m not stubborn or close-minded. I will always listen and talk to Pat Riley and coach [Erik Spoelstra] about how I’m feeling. But I want to be on the floor.”

Wade said he would not change his style to try to reduce the risk of injury. Of attacking the basket, he said, “I am going to do that. I am going to do that.”

But he also said: “Every year something changes in the way I have to play with this team and [I’m] prepared for whatever coach asks me to do. It could be more, hopefully not less, than previous years.”

He said he will continue to shoot midrange shots “until I stop playing the game” and added he expects to post up more – an aspect of his game that he has gone to more often, and generally effectively, in recent years.

During the Finals, the Spurs did not double team him a lot and even attempted to have center Tiago Splitter defend him briefly before coach Gregg Popovich thought better of it.

Wade said that did not offend him: “I welcome it. Whenever you get a chance to play one-on-one and you feel you’re capable of beating most guys one on one, especially when they put their bigs on us.”

Wade said the Heat’s competition “on paper” is the most formidable since the Big Three came together “but you never know until you get into the season. The East obviously has gotten stronger. Brooklyn did something unprecedented to put five all-star players on the floor at one time.

“Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett... bring something the [Nets] were missing in the sense of winning and toughness. You see a lot of teams in the league just trying to get better. Right now, we’re the standard. We’ve won two in a row. Teams are putting teams together to try to stop that.  It was a great summer for the NBA.” 

August 15, 2013

Wade addresses Heat future and knees; Friday media column: New network launching

With each member of the Heat’s Big Three holding opt-out clauses next summer, Dwyane Wade said Thursday night that it will not be an issue for him because he plans to stay with the Heat long-term.

“Everybody knows where I want to be. I want to be in Miami,” he said at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, at an event to kick off his annual basketball fantasy camp. “I have nothing to talk about [regarding 2014 opt-outs]. So there won’t be any exciting news over here.”

LeBron James said in June that his hope would be to continue playing with Wade and Chris Bosh long-term in Miami but stopped short of saying he definitely would stay with the Heat beyond next summer. Bosh said during the playoffs that he wants to stay with the Heat long-term.

Wade said he will answer questions about 2014 free agency on Heat media day in late September “and that will be the last time I address it.” He said the priority must be to “make sure we focus on this season and winning the championship.”

Meanwhile, Wade said his knees – which caused him discomfort during the playoffs – have improved considerably but are not 100 percent.

“They’re feeling a lot, lot better,” he said. “I’m not at great yet. Now I have to work at the strengthening part of it. I still have time before the season. By the time the season [starts], I’ll be as good as I’ve been.”

Wade said he underwent a treatment, OssaTron, that he hadn’t used since 2007. The procedure --- a non-surgical shock wave therapy --- relieves tendinitis and was the same treatment that Heat forward Rashard Lewis, among others, have used in recent years.

Wade said he needed to take a month off after receiving the treatment, and “this weekend will be a month to the day. I can start working out now.”

Wade said the offseason has been “great. Winning a championship, going into the offseason makes it a lot easier. But it’s been a short one. You get back to the point now where you have to start getting back into the mode of getting ready for the season.

“I took enough time off. This weekend is my first weekend of getting back into basketball mindset and trying to focus on it.”

Wade was pleased with the Heat’s addition of center Greg Oden, who hasn’t played since December 2009 because of knee injuries.

“I think it’s great,” Wade said. “Greg has done a good job of trying to get his body back. He’s 25. He wants to play the game at a high level like we know he’s capable of. He’s been snakebitten a little bit. He’s done a good job of taking time off and trying to get healthy.

“He’s come to the right place. They will do everything in their power to make sure he is able to be on the court and be effective. Hopefully, he doesn’t rush it. We take him step by step. He can be one of those Shane Battier, Ray Allen summers. We sign a guy – Birdman as well – that a lot of people weren’t really looking at to be a big part of something. And he could become a big part of what we’re trying to do.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, Indiana coach Tom Crean (Wade’s friend and former coach at Marquette) and Hall of Famer Rick Barry are among those working at Wade’s camp this weekend.

“We’re selling a fantasy,” Wade said. “A lot of guys love the game of basketball. This gives guys an opportunity to relive those moments and build relationships. It’s one of the fun things I do.”

 PLEASE SEE THE LAST POST FOR THE FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN, POSTED TWO HOURS AGO.        

Media column: New network launches Saturday; late-night TV about to get interesting

WEEKLY MEDIA COLUMN

Though America is hardly clamoring for another all-sports network, we’re getting one anyway, when Fox transforms Speed into a multisport channel dubbed Fox Sports 1 at 6 a.m. Saturday.

The Fox Sports 1 menu includes college football (including Big 12 and Pac 12 games), college basketball (those conferences, the Big East and others), Saturday MLB games starting in 2014, a daily NASCAR show at 4:30 and Sprint Cup races in 2015, a weeknight NFL show at 6 p.m., UFC matches, soccer (a daily show at 4 p.m. and the UEFA Champions League, plus other matches), high school football, and Crowd Goes Wild, which is a 5 p.m. roundtable discussion show hosted by Regis Philbin, of all people.

"It's no secret -- we're a huge underdog in this race," Fox Sports COO Eric Shanks said of the competition with ESPN.

But the most intriguing subplot here is that late-night sports television is about to become far more competitive.

In recent years, among live sports studio shows, SportsCenter’s only serious competition at 11 p.m. were similar niche shows on NFL Network, MLB Network and NBA TV. That’s about to change.

Beginning Aug. 26, Keith Olbermann likely will lure some viewers from SportsCenter with his new ESPN2 studio show from 11 p.m. to midnight.

And beginning Monday, Fox Sports 1 hopes to do the same with Fox Sports Live, a nightly three-hour marathon (11 p.m. – 2 a.m.) with highlights narrated by popular Canadian sportscasters Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, as well as a nightly roundtable discussion, moderated by ESPN defector Charissa Thompson, that will feature former tennis star Andy Roddick, former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, ex-NBA star Gary Payton and former NFL offensive lineman Ephraim Salaam.

Fox Sports executive vice president Scott Ackerson said: “I don’t know if Keith would have been back [at ESPN] if Fox Sports Live and Fox Sports 1 didn’t exist.”

In some ways, Fox Sports Live sounds suspiciously like the late, not-so-great Best Damn Sports Show Period, a Fox cable incarnation that was too sophomoric and inane to survive long-term.

“Best Damn took a lot of liberties with being irreverent,” Shanks said. “We’re not going to be scripting comedy with this show.”

Said Ackerson: “I don’t want to sound like we’re going to have a clownfest.”

Fox is gambling that people will care what Roddick, McNabb, Payton and Salaam have to say about all sports, not just those they played.

“They want to hear me talk about basketball,” McNabb insisted on a recent conference call. “They want to hear our insights on [other] sports.”

Not so sure about that, Donovan. If they’re informed, intelligent and entertaining opinions, perhaps.

But Fox realistically needs to do something different that SportsCenter to have any chance of attracting an audience. Whether this is the right approach – or the right cast – remains to be seen.

“There is an appetite for a show that has a consistent cast of people giving opinion and insight, as well as highlights,” Shanks said. “We want to add spontaneity to sports television.”

### All major cable and satellite providers will carry Fox Sports 1, including Comcast and DirecTV.

### Fox grabbed U.S. Open golf rights away from NBC and ESPN beginning in 2015, and early round coverage will air on Fox Sports 1.

### Far more under-the-radar than Fox Sports 1’s launch: Fox will rebrand Fuel Channel as Fox Sports 2 beginning on Saturday, with UFC heavily featured.

A WORD ON ESPN

While we’re on the topic of late-night television, a few thoughts about ESPN’s 11 p.m. and late night editions of SportsCenter, which set a lofty standard for highlights show but nevertheless irritate us in some regards. Among SportsCenter’s few missteps:

### Sometimes prioritizing analysis over news. SportsCenter viewers often are forced to wait longer than they should for NFL, MLB and NBA highlights because ESPN feels obligated to trot out its analysts – a Rambis here, a Kruk there, a Legler over here – to explain what we just saw, even though no explanation is usually necessary.

The most egregious examples this year: 1) In January, on a day NFL coaches were hired and Lance Armstrong admitted doping, ESPN – before reporting any of that - devoted five minutes to college basketball analysis with Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams. Where’s the news judgment in that? 2) Last week, ESPN had multiple analysts opine on Alex Rodriguez’s suspension, shedding little new light on the subject, before revealing names of any of the other suspended players.

### Excessive coverage of legitimate or manufactured stories, such as Tim Tebow, the season-long obsession with the Lakers and Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday, which became a tiresome multipart series. And already, ESPN has begun unsubstantiated speculation on the Lakers’ chances of landing LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony next summer.

Last year, ESPN president John Skipper told his producers to curtail Tebow coverage and said it wasn’t the first time he felt the network was giving too much attention to a story.

“We’ve created an internal group to look at SportsCenter to balance the issue of hitting stories and staying on them” without overdoing it, Skipper said during a visit to South Florida earlier this year.

“The average person watches 20 minutes. We are ultimately in the business of trying to drive viewership to sell ads. But we are cognizant of not wanting to beat a story to death.”

### This likely has happened to most viewers: You’re waiting for a story that should be coming up shortly – according to ESPN’s on-screen graphic -- only to see it move down the rundown or disappear altogether. Exasperating.

By the end of August, SportsCenter will face more legitimate competition than it ever has. At the very least, it should be interesting to test-drive the new options. Ultimately, Olbermann could end up siphoning more viewers from SportsCenter than Fox Sports Live does.  

 

August 14, 2013

Wed. night report: Ireland addresses state of franchise; Lots of Fins notes; Stanton's future

Lots and lots of Wednesday Dolphins notes: (Please see the last post if you haven't seen the Wednesday buzz, with lots of Marlins and Canes and Heat).

### Injuries continued to create issues at Dolphins camp on Wednesday, with versatile offensive lineman Nate Garner and third-string quarterback Pat Devlin the latest to be sidelined.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins remain without defensive linemen Randy Starks (knee) and Dion Jordan, who re-injured his troublesome shoulder during Friday’s game at Jacksonville. A league source said the Dolphins expect Jordan will be ready before the Sept. 8 opener at Cleveland, but it’s uncertain when he will be able to practice.

The injury is to the same shoulder that was surgically repaired in February.

“We’ve got to get him back on the field,” general manager Jeff Ireland said Wednesday on Sirius Satellite Radio. “Until you get him back on the field, it’s really hard to kind of see progress. Getting him healthy and getting him to where he needs to be,… we’ll be there at some point.”

According to a league source, Garner underwent arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder this week and is expected to miss two to three weeks. On Monday, Garner handled first-team snaps at right guard, which has become the Dolphins’ most problematic position.

John Jerry, last season’s starter at right guard, is working his way back from a knee injury suffered early in training camp and remains limited. Lance Louis is still not 100 percent after last November’s knee surgery and has taken very few first-team snaps.

By necessity, Josh Samuda took first-team snaps at right guard at Wednesday’s practice, even though the Dolphins were so underwhelmed by his performance there against Jacksonville that they moved him back to center earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Devlin suffered an undisclosed injury that could sideline him a week or two. Needing a third quarterback in the interim, the Dolphins re-signed Aaron Corp, who was released earlier in training camp.

IRELAND MUSINGS

Ireland, who generally doesn’t do interviews between July and December, opined on several issues during his Sirius Radio chat with Bill Polian and Alex Marvez. Among them:

### He said Jordan “has a long way to go. He’s an extraordinary athlete. He’s 6 foot 6, has got 37 inch wingspan. He’s a 4.55 guy. He can come forward. He can go backwards. He can go laterally. He’s got a different skill set…. A smart kid, too.

“We’re not going to ask him to do a whole lot different than what he was asked to do in college. We’re going to let him hopefully rush the passer and do what the defensive coaches want him to do.  That should come naturally to him.”

Polian asked him where he fits exactly. “I think I learned from you – you never have enough of those guys,” Ireland responded. “Where he fits on third down, I’m sure we can find a place for him to come after the passer or maybe drop back into the backfield.”

### Left tackle Jonathan Martin “is doing a nice job,” Ireland said. “He obviously has a long way to go, just like the rest of the team. There are certainly some things we’ve seen during training camp he’s got to get better at. He’s a tireless worker. He’s very smart. We saw enough of him last year to make this move and not bring Jake Long back."

Martin has been matched up against Olivier Vernon and Jordan (when healthy) in practice, and Ireland said Martin’s “mindset has been, ‘These are some of the best pass rushers I’m going to face. I’ve got to block these guys in front of me.’ He’s certainly taken some lumps. But he’s also blocked those guys quite a bit, too. He just has to provide some consistency. I’ve got confidence in him.”  

### Ireland said it “looks like all [of the rookie draft picks] are going to be contributing.”  Though Ireland didn’t say this, the only draft pick who might not make the team is Don Jones, the No. 5 safety on a team that might keep four. But Jones could be kept on the practice squad.

### Ireland praised Lamar Miller but added “I don’t think it’s just going to be Lamar’s position. We’ve got a good running back in Daniel Thomas that’s certainly making some noise.”

He said he believes Miller and Thomas will each have a “breakout season” and “they’re a pretty good one/two punch.”

“Lamar is a tremendous athlete, He’s got great explosion. He’s about 218 pounds. He’s well built for the position, which I like. He runs low to the ground. He’s got very good instincts. He can stop on a dime. I just felt like going into the season, we had to get this guy going. He can catch it out of the backfield. He can block. He was one of our best pass protectors last year.... You give him a crease, he’s going to get through it.

"And Daniel also has got some one-cut quickness and downhill attitude about him. He can catch and block.”

### On Mike Wallace: “The last couple days, I’ve really seen some explosiveness from him. That’s been nice to see. He’s been hampered by a couple things in the last couple weeks. He’s very good in the offseason, works his tail off.

“We do things differently than Pittsburgh. When you bring a player over from a different program, he has to learn how Joe [Philbin] does things. But he’s been outstanding, really shining these last couple days and showing the speed and explosiveness and the catching ability that were the reasons we brought him over here.”

### Ireland said safety Reshad Jones’  “maturation process over the last couple of years has been outstanding” and fellow starting safety Chris Clemons “has really developed as a nice player for us.”

Ireland mentioned that with Brent Grimes, Dimitri Patterson and Richard Marshall at cornerback, “we’ve got some real veteran leadership back there. Very good professionals, very hard workers. Then you add the young kids to it –-- Jamar Taylor, Will Davis, Don Jones…. There’s a lot of competition back there. We’ve got depth there. We feel good about it. We’ve got to figure out what the right combination of those players are.”

### He said “I feel very confident that our defense is going to be pretty strong; said Olivier Vernon “is really coming on strong"; Vaughn Martin “will be good depth on the defensive line"; and that Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler and Koa Misi are “really good blitzers.”

### Asked how far along the Dolphins are, Ireland said: "We have some things we need to see developed. We’ve put a lot of resources into certain positions where we feel we’re going to be good for a while. We’ve obviously got some pieces we’ve got to address. I’m not going to name them on the air. Some of them are obvious, some of them maybe not so obvious.”

AND ANOTHER THING...

### A bit more on the kicker battle, which ended Wednesday, with the Dolphins releasing Dan Carpenter and keeping Caleb Sturgis, whose 58-yard field goal against Jacksonville was his longest ever in a game, from what he was telling me. Sturgis made three field goals on Wednesday (two from 42, one from 51) and was short from 57 yards.

Carpenter’s agent, Noel LaMontagne, is optimistic Carpenter will find work. “It’s always good to be the best guy on the market whose available,” he said. “You figure you are at the top of the call sheet. Definitely a few teams are in need for a kicker. Dan is damn good at what he does.”

### Wednesday's highlight: Mike Wallace made a beautiful catch, over Nolan Carroll and Kelcie McCray, on a well thrown deep ball from Ryan Tannehill.

### Dustin Keller scored on a 45-yard pass from Tannehill, but the play ended strangely: Keller fell at the 10 yard line, wasn’t touched, got up and ran into the end zone.

### Marvin McNutt, whose hands haven’t been especially reliable, made an outstanding one-handed grab.

### Philbin said starters will play at least one quarter Saturday at Houston, then would play more in the Dolphins’ fourth preseason game against Tampa.

### The Dolphins made ample and generally successful use of a formation with an empty backfield and five players lined up as receivers: Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, running back Lamar Miller, tight end Dustin Keller and either receiver Brandon Gibson or tight end/fullback Charles Clay.

“Ryan can see the field a lot better when all of us are out there spreading it out for him,” Wallace said. “He can just take his pick.”

The Dolphins even practiced with that grouping in goal line situations. “That surprised me and I’m on the team,” Wallace said. “If we can do that, we’ll keep catching teams off guard and get a lot of mismatches we want.

“It’s very dangerous and it’s fun. All our tight ends are like hybrid tight ends. Any time we have two of those guys in the game, it’s like we are going five wides. And Lamar is [joking that] he’s going to take one of our spots at receiver.”

The flip side, of course, is that it leaves the Dolphins vulnerable on blitzes if Tannehill doesn’t throw very quickly. “If you go empty, you’re inviting the defense to pressure," Philbin said. "I don’t know that you can live and die by that package. It’s certainly something we’ll use at various times throughout the year.”

### Tannehill’s first pass on 11 on 11 drills was dropped by safety Reshad Jones. But Tannehill was very sharp the rest of the day.

“He takes some chances and believes in his arm,” Wallace said. “A lot of times, those work out for him.”

####  QUOTABLE:

“It’s good to see John Jerry back out there. He’s been on vacation, hanging out in the air conditioning, sucking down Gatorade and relaxing while the rest of us have been working.”---

Richie Incognito, on Jerry, who has recovered enough from a knee injury to do some on-field work.

Again, please see the last post if you haven't read the Wednesday buzz column, which I posted late last night. I'm on Twitter at @flasportsbuzz.

 

August 13, 2013

Noon Wed. Fins update; Struggling Stanton faces choice; Fins' Wallace speaks out; UM, Heat

Five quick Dolphins notes from Wednesday morning before we get to the buzz column:

1) The Dolphins cut Dan Carpenter. As expected, Caleb Sturgis wins the kicking job.

2) We hear OL Nate Garner had arthroscopic shoulder surgery and is expected to be out two to three weeks.

3) Was told Pat Devlin has an injury (not certain what it is; one associate mentioned an ankle) that could keep him out a week or two. That's why Aaron Corp was re-signed last night.

4) Ryan Tannehill looked very sharp in practice. Mike Wallace caught a beautiful 45-yard pass from Tannehill over Nolan Carroll and Kelcie McCray.

5) Joe Philbin said starters will play at least one quarter against Houston on Saturday.

######################################################################################

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The issue hangs over the Marlins’ head like threatening storm clouds. And no matter how much owner Jeffrey Loria tells his staff he wants to build around slumping Giancarlo Stanton, this ultimately will be beyond Loria’s control.

Loria would not allow his front office to consider trades involving Stanton the past few months; other teams were told not to even bother making offers. The Marlins privately say they will offer him a multiyear contract this offseason, one that would buy out his arbitration seasons (2014, 2015 and 2016) and at least a couple of years of free agency.

So would Stanton even consider signing here long-term, taking into account his dissatisfaction with last winter’s payroll purge and Marlins Park’s pitcher-friendly dimensions?

“I won’t think about it until it’s in front of me,” he said. “I’ve had zero thought or worry about that.”

He added: “You have plans already in your head” but declined to elaborate.

One Stanton associate would be surprised if he accepts a Marlins offer, though he might consider one that’s especially big.

Some Marlins people believe Stanton is inclined to sign with a team in his native California, but Loria at least wants to make the attempt to keep him, barring a change of heart. In 2008, Hanley Ramirez accepted a six-year, $72 million Marlins offer in this same situation –- before his first year of arbitration. Keeping Stanton likely would be more costly.

Stanton likes his teammates, respects manager Mike Redmond (“he’s done a good job -- does nothing crazy if we win or lose”) and enjoys South Florida.

But Braves second baseman Dan Uggla says what Stanton won’t: Stanton is a great talent but "to be special, you have to surround him with legitimate guys."

And with Logan Morrison the only other established quality hitter in the lineup, Stanton’s average has sunk to .238, well below his .265 career mark. He is averaging one homer every 21 at-bats, compared with one-per-15 in his career.

He entered Tuesday night’s game hitting .210 since the All-Star break and .191 with runners in scoring position. And this depicts how he is often being pitching around: According to fangraphs.com, only 37.6 percent of all pitches thrown to him have been inside the strike zone, compared to 42 last season.

He has hit better at home (.302, 10 homers) than on the road (.184, three homers), but he makes no secret of his distaste for Marlins Park’s roomy dimensions.

“This place is ridiculous,” he said during a recent homestand. “It shouldn’t be like this. You hit balls that would be 20 rows deep in the seats of other parks.”

Has he become used to it?

“I don’t think anyone ever will get used to hitting in this park completely, if you’re a power guy. Everyone that comes in and plays here -– it’s the first thing they bring up. It’s in everyone’s thoughts. [The issue is] who’s going to talk about it.”

Stanton said he felt it wasn’t his place last winter to express his concern to Loria or the front office. He’s not sure he will this winter, either. “It could come up,” he said. “It’s their decision.”

The Marlins declined to comment about Stanton’s ballpark opinions but previously said they need a larger sample size before making any decisions on the size of the field.

Stanton admits having five hitting coaches in three-plus seasons has been difficult. But he is a big fan of the interim hitting coach, John Pierson.

The Marlins already have accounted for Stanton’s 2014 salary (likely $6 million to $8 million) in their internal budget projections. If he turns down their multiyear offer, the question becomes how soon to trade him before he becomes a free agent in November 2016.

An official who spoke to the Marlins said they might hold onto him into next season even if he rejects their multiyear offer. But a trade would be inevitable in that scenario.

The Marlins typically look for pitching when trading prospects, but offense -– especially infielders and possibly a catcher –- are a far greater need now.

CHATTER

### Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace wants to make one thing very clear: Anyone who believes he’s only dangerous on deep balls is sadly mistaken.

“I score every single way you can score – handoffs, posts, slants… Every single route I’ve scored on,” he said Monday. “Last year, I only had seven catches over 20 yards. Those people must not watch our games. Must just see highlights.”

Wallace, by the way, added: “I’m always open.”

And this: “I want to be the best player in the league,… want to lead the league in everything I possibly can.”

### We hear Dolphins veterans have been thoroughly impressed by Dion Jordan –- from his work ethic to professionalism to enormous upside. “He’s surprised me -– his athleticism, his power for a skinny guy,” linebacker Philip Wheeler said.

Quarterback Matt Moore said: “He’s so big and fast – his length is so big that it’s hard to throw around him or over him. He has such an effect on the other 10 guys on defense. Even if he doesn’t make the sack, he puts other guys in position to.” (Update: Jordan missed his third straight practice Wednesday because of a shoulder injury.)

### Who has stood out as pass-rushers? Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said two: Tyriq McCord and freshman Al-Quadin Muhammad. “They’re our fastest guys off the edge.”… Freshman linebacker Jermaine Grace impressed UM coaches during Sunday's scrimmage.... Please see the last post for an item on UM's new defensive line additions. Even before those additions, running back Eduardo Clements said it's clear that UM's defensive line is "much better" than last year.

### ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said off air Tuesday that UM is a top-20 caliber team and “people don’t have a full appreciation for how good Stephen Morris is. If they can improve as much as we anticipate on the defensive side,… Miami can be a team to look out for in the ACC.”

### UM's Clements said one problem last season was “people crying about” how many reps they got in practice. Those players are gone “and no one here thinks it’s all about me,” he said. “[Golden] said, ‘If you are going to cry about reps, you might as well leave.’” 

### Content with its roster for now, the Heat passed on forward Al Harrington, who was closing in on a deal with the Wizards on Tuesday afternoon. With 13 players holding guaranteed contracts, the Heat has felt no urgency to make additional moves, beyond inviting young players (such as Campbell's Eric Griffin) to training camp.