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Lots of UM chatter: Elder, Morris, NCAA, defense better in camp; Fins, Heat, Marlins notes


Lots of Canes chatter:

### It will be fascinating to watch Corn Elder and eventually, Derrick Griffin (if he qualifies) try to juggle football and basketball --- something rare in modern UM history.

Jimmy Graham was the only recent Cane to make an imprint in both of those sports but played one season of football only after he was done with basketball.

Elder will play football this fall, then shift to basketball –- possibly in mid-November if he redshirts, Al Golden said. Elder said Friday he won’t pick up a basketball until he’s done with football this season and “hopefully if I can make difference in football, I won’t redshirt.”

Because of positional need, Elder is playing cornerback for the first time –- it's “pretty hard; I’m starting to get it down” -- and also is working as a returner. He ran for 6351 yards (a Tennessee record) and scored 84 touchdowns in high school, averaged 20 points as a senior in basketball and won a combined five state championships.

"If anyone can do both sports, it's him," said Ricky Bowers, his football and basketball coach at Ensworth High in Nashville. "That's because of his skill level, speed, and competitive spirit.”

Elder, 5-10, conceded Friday “it’s going to be pretty challenging.”

So why do it? “I love both of them. I grew up playing both. Coach Golden was fine with it.”

Elder is close friends with a player who did exactly what he’s doing –- playing cornerback and point guard in college: former Vanderbilt athlete Jamie Graham. “He said it’s really hard but he thinks I can do it,” Elder said.

As a football player, Elder "has excellent speed, lateral quickness, change of direction,” said Golden, who said he might be a slot receiver eventually.

And as a basketball player? At this year’s Final Four, “two guys from the state of Tennessee came up to me,” coach Jim Larranaga said, “and they asked me: Do you know how lucky you are that your football program signed Corn Elder? Because he’s the best basketball player in the state…' He has tremendous defensive skills. He knows how to run a team. Great leadership qualities.”

Elder could end up sharing point guard this season with guard/forward Garrius Adams and Belgian freshman Emmanuel LeComte.

Larranaga said juggling both sports “is more difficult” now than many years ago “because at younger ages you’re told to specialize. [Elder and Griffin] are such gifted athletes that they’ve enjoyed great success in both.”

Larranaga appreciates that Golden allowed Elder, during the summer, “to come over in the afternoon and get to know the basketball players.” Elder said he used that time to “show them what I can do.”

By the way, Elder said he spoke to Griffin a few weeks ago about the challenge of juggling two sports “and he should be coming soon.” But UM believes it’s too early to tell if Griffin will qualify and enroll in December, which Griffin said is his intention.  

Ranked No. 41 in this class by rivals.com as a football recruit (third among receivers) and No. 81 for basketball, Griffin “is a big red zone threat like Tommy Streeter was,” Golden said. “Maybe he’ll grow into a Jimmy Graham.”

Larranaga loves him: “He’s one of the great run and jump athletes in the nation. You can throw him a lob pass anywhere around the rim and he can catch it and throw it down. He reminds me of DeQuan Jones athletically."

Griffin’s high school coach, Tim Teykl, said “he’s in the top one percent in football, 10 percent in basketball.” But he needs to qualify first.

### This is encouraging: UM people say the maligned defense has more than held its own against UM’s elite offense in practice all last week, and that was even before former Wisconsin starting defensive end David Gilbert joined the program Saturday afternoon. During Friday’s session (the only one open to reporters this month), UM’s defense was exceptional in goal line run defense and stuffed a bunch of other rushing attempts. The flip side: Duke Johnson and Dallas Crawford broke two long runs.

Receiver Allen Hurns said UM’s defensive line is getting much better penetration against the offensive line than a year ago, and mental errors are way down.   

Coverage has been much better, too: Cornerback Antonio Crawford bottled up Stacy Coley on consecutive plays Friday (“he quicker, starting to be a technician,” Golden said), and linebackers Jimmy Gaines and Denzel Perryman intercepted Stephen Morris passes Friday and had long returns.

Defensive backs coach Paul Williams said impressive freshman cornerback Artie Burns will play right away and Tracy Howard is so much improved compared with 2012, when he “was just so undisciplined at times that it got him in trouble.”

### After telling UM it hoped to have a ruling within eight weeks (this past Friday), the NCAA again delayed a decision. UM received no updated timetable but expects it will be soon. Typically, the NCAA will announce a news conference 24 hours in advance but doesn’t inform the school of its punishment until several hours before it’s announced.

UM remains optimistic the worst punishment will be limited to scholarship reductions. Incredibly, Nevin Shapiro –- from prison -- has tried to convince the NCAA that UM continues to break rules. But UM believes the NCAA has stopped listening to him.

### More plaudits for Morris: Archie Manning cited him as the most impressive player at the recent Manning Academy, and ESPN’s Todd McShay ranked him third among all 2014 NFL quarterback prospects, behind Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and UCLA’s Brett Hundley. Morris, who studied every one of his 2012 snaps, said Steve Walsh’s tutoring, which he very much appreciates, has improved his footwork.

### Personnel stuff: We hear quarterback Preston Dewey, who hasn’t reported to the team, has a back injury that will sideline him indefinitely. It would be surprising if he ever takes a snap for UM…. After internal discussion, UM decided not accepted Tampa defensive end Ernest Suttles, who was tossed by Nebraska this summer after hitting a teammate over the head with a bottle. (Never recommended.)

### Among the top rated running backs in the class of 2014, Plantation American Heritage's Sony Michel (rivals.com's No. 2 running back prospect) told us Saturday that UM is still trying to recruit him through social media, but he's firmly committed to Georgia. Miami Central's Joseph Yearby (No. 7 running back) said he's now sure he will attend UM. And Central's Dalvon Cook (No. 6) said he is firmly committed to UF, though UM would love to get him to switch. Cook was wearing a UF cap at the first annual high school media day Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.  

### HIaleah quarterback Alin Edouard said Saturday that he wants to go to UM -- but only if UM is genuinely interested. And Edouard, who is orally committed to Miami, said UM hasn't attempted to contact him in weeks, fueling a widespread belief that he's not a priority.

Edouard said he isn't bothered by the fact UM has oral commitments from two other quarterbacks (Brad Kaaya, Malik Rosier) but wants to know definitively if UM wants him. He said he will go to UM Sunday to try to get an answer.

### After watching him for a week, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio believes Al-Quadin Mohammad will help immediately: He has a few pass-rush “moves up his sleeve, that he can do, that you wouldn’t expect from a freshman.” One of them caused a ruckus on Day One of camp when -- during a no-tackling practice -- he knocked down Morris on a sack, which enraged the players on offense and prompted a scolding from one of his coaches.


### Heat center Greg Oden addressed his return to the court during a news conference in Indianapolis on Saturday. (Please see the last post for details.) Meanwhile, his agent, Mike Conley Sr., said Friday it's "definitely a possibility" that he might not play until around the All-Star break. "It could very well be that long."

But it's also quite possible that he could return long before that. The decision won't be made for a long time. "The goal is to have him ready by the end of the season to contribute," Conley said.

### Conley tells us that Oden weighs 271 pounds, his lowest since entering the NBA in 2007. He was 315 two years.... Speaking at his charity event in Akron on Saturday, LeBron James told ESPN: "We're not going to put too much pressure on [Oden]. Whatever he gives us is extra."... 

James also said the Nets -- who added Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, among others -- "are going to be good... It's great for the league."... No joke: Oden said he moved from Indianapolis to Columbus, Ohio, because someone in Indianapolis thought he was Pacers center Roy Hibbert. He didn't like that.

### It would be somewhat surprising to some if Randy Starks, the Dolphins’ highest-paid player, isn’t a starter ahead of Jared Odrick, provided Starks recovers from a recent knee injury. But it would be shocking to Starks’ agent, former NFL fullback Tony Paige.

“Why would you franchise the guy and not make him a starter?” Paige said. “Randy is going to start. It’s not even an issue.” And if he does not, “we’ll deal with it when we cross that road.”

Fortunately, “Randy’s attitude is outstanding,” Paige added. And Starks said he would not complain if he comes off the bench.

### Please see the last post for 17 more Dolphins notes in the wake of Friday's preseason game.

### Yes, Marlins fans can grimace that Hanley Ramirez is hitting .361 for the Dodgers. But remember that Nathan Eovaldi has pitched very well (2.82 ERA) and was hitting 100 miles per hour on the radar gun in the seventh inning last Sunday. And the other prospect acquired from the Dodgers in that trade –- 22-year-old Scott McGough –- is a promising reliever (4-1, 2.64 ERA, .221 batting average against at Triple A)…  

Ugh: Houston third baseman Matt Dominguez, acquired from the Marlins last July for now-retired Carlos Lee, has more homers (14) and RBI (55) than any Marlin. But he's hitting just .232.