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29 posts from September 2013

September 20, 2013

Friday night file: Thirteen Dolphins, Hurricanes, Heat notes

Thirteen quick Dolphins, Canes and Heat notes:     

### This wasn’t the way Randy Starks would have wanted to re-capture his starting job, with his friend Paul Soliai sidelined Sunday and potentially beyond with a knee injury.

But Starks is expected to be back in the starting lineup Sunday, alongside Jared Odrick at defensive tackle, after coming off the bench behind Odrick the first two games – a scenario that Starks never complained about publicly but one that displeased him, his agent said earlier this month.

“It will be fun starting,” Starks said.

And he said he’s more than capable of playing well as a starter “in case there are any doubts around here.”

Starks has been productive in his 82 snaps, with two sacks and eight quarterback hurries. Starks, who has played 34 fewer snaps than Odrick, picked up a half sack on Friday -- without even playing -- when the NFL ruled that he deserved a share of Philip Wheeler's sack on Andrew Luck that ended the Colts' final drive.

Without Soliai, who has played 90 snaps, “I have to play in the middle and take up blocks like he does,” Starks said.

### Soliai might be the Dolphins’ best run defender, but even with him, Miami has allowed 4.6 yards per carry, which ranks 27th in the league.

“We would love to be less than four yards a carry,” coach Joe Philbin said. “Teams aren’t necessarily lining up and [running] the ball on us without us not having a chance to stop it. But there is certainly room for improvement in our run defense, no doubt.”

### Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was limited in practice earlier this week with an injury to his right (throwing shoulder) sustained in the Colts game, participated in all of practice Friday and threw the ball well, according to an offensive player. He was listed as probable and is expected to play.

Also listed as probable: linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (pectoral/ribs), defensive ends Dion Jordan (shoulder) and Olivier Vernon (thumb), cornerbacks Will Davis (toe) and Jamar Taylor (groin), safety Jimmy Wilson (groin), guard John Jerry (knee) and offensive lineman Nate Garner (shoulder).

Listed as questionable: receiver Mike Wallace (groin), center Mike Pouncey (ankle), safety Chris Clemons (hamstring), linebacker Koa Misi (knee) and No. 3 quarterback Pat Devlin (ankle).

Besides receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, the Falcons also listed starting cornerback Asante Samuel and backup defensive end Cliff Matthews as questionable. 

### With cornerback Dimitri Patterson the only other Dolphins player listed as out besides Soliai, Davis said he believes he might get defensive snaps Sunday in his first regular season appearance as a Dolphin.

### According to Philbin, the running game’s dramatic improvement from the Cleveland to Indianapolis games went beyond better blocking.

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas combined for 99 yards on 22 carries against Cleveland. The backs “were decisive,” Philbin said. “The week before, they weren’t necessarily able to get to their landmark without veering off course.”

### Dolphins right tackle Tyson Clabo, who played the past seven seasons for the Falcons, said he emailed some former Falcons teammates some tips about South Florida, including dining establishments.

“This is Clabo’s Super Bowl,” guard Richie Incognito said.

### Fox assigned Chris Myers and Tim Ryan to Sunday's Dolphins game, which will be televised in 15 percent of the country but just a small part of Florida (Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and the Tallahassee area).

### UM coach Al Golden said he wants to get more touches for running back Dallas Crawford. Saturday should provide plenty of opportunity, with UM a 60-point favorite over Savannah State. Crawford so far has two carries for six yards and three punt returns for 27.

"We have to find ways to get Dallas the ball," Golden said.

### UM coaches are especially eager to see more of Artie Burns at cornerback, believing he’s ready to challenge for meaningful playing time. “His length and speed give you a pretty good weapon at corner,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said.

Burns has shown a knack for picking off passes in practice.“Some guys you have to coach it over and over again. There are other guys who are instictive, the Arties and Tracy Howards."

### Everyone knows Sun Life Stadium doesn’t provide the home field edge that the Orange Bowl did, and offensive line coach Art Kehoe touched on that this week. “The Gators game was the first time I said, ‘This place is popping!’ It was the kind of environment we all wanted to see around here. The OB was a tighter joint and on you.”

### UM announced Friday that basketball coach Jim Larranaga has been appointed an adjunct assistant professor of Kinesiology and Sports Sciences. He will be a guest lecturer at several different class in the School of Education and Human Development.

### A person at LeBron James’ wedding noticed only two non-Heat players: Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul.

### Former FSU guard Von Wafer has been invited back for a second week of workouts with Heat players at AmericanAirlines Arena, as Miami explores options to fill out a training camp roster.

 

September 19, 2013

Wade chats with Leno; UM on lookout for receivers; Dolphins, Canes, Heat notes

A relaxed and engaging Dwyane Wade spoke on a few issues on an appearance a little while ago on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC. Some highlights: 

### On Game 6 of the Finals: "We were only down five with 20 seconds left. That’s what we do. We practice that all day."

### On free agency next summer: “There’s a lot of media probably watching this in Miami, so I can’t give them nothing.” (Wade said earlier this summer that he wants to stay with the Heat beyond next summer and is optimistic the Big Three will stay together.)

### On the possibility of a three-peat: “We hope. We're trying to get like the Lakers and Bulls. It’s going to be tough."  

### On LeBron James’ wedding last weekend: “It’s a beautiful, beautiful wedding. Without giving away details, we had an unebelievable time. And I can’t tell you guys nothing else.” He said no phones were allowed and “no phones nowadays is unbelievable. You go nowhere without your phones.”

### On his relationship with actress Gabrielle Union: “I’m going to tell you something personal. Celebrity relationships is very hard. This was a big year for us in our relationship from the standpoint of she was shooting her show… I was dealing with my injuries, trying to win a championship. We kind of took a step back. We supported each other, but we took a step back for a little while. At the end of the day, we came back together and said, ‘Listen, we want to continue this. We want to try to continue to get better each day. She’s been with me and I’ve been with her all summer long. We’re going strong now.”

### On his vacation with his sons this summer to Turks and Caicos: “I’m a punk when it comes to anything in the water. My kids say, "Let’s go parasailing.' I say, 'In my Heat contract, it says,'.... I want to be a cool dad, but also I want my kids to respect the rules [I] lay down. I've got good kids."

Wade also discussed his new line of socks and his charity Fashion Show next week in Miami.

CANES, FINS, HEAT NOTES

### Twice this week, Al Golden has expressed serious concern that the Hurricanes “have six scholarship receivers” – actually seven, counting injured Rashawn Scott, who Golden expects back before or after the Oct. 17 North Carolina game.

“That’s a scary number,” Golden said. “Most have 11, 12. We badly need to add receivers.”

Of those seven, Allen Hurns is a senior; Phillip Dorsett and Scott juniors; Herb Waters and Malcolm Lewis sophomores, Stacy Coley a freshman and D'Mauri Jones a redshirt freshman. UM could always move Corn Elder to slot receiver in a pinch, but coaches like his development at cornerback.

What’s clear is this: Adding at least a couple more receivers is a priority in the remaining months of recruiting.

Three that UM remains firmly in the mix for: four-star Johnnie Dixon of Dwyer in West Palm Beach (rated 16th among receivers nationally, by rivals.com), Raleigh-N.C. based Braxton Berrios (rated 39th but gaining momentum) and South Dade’s Tyre Brady (a three-star prospect who has generated some buzz).

Berrios, who projects as a high-caliber slot receiver, told me today: “I’m deciding in 3ish weeks. So really figuring things out right now. But just know Miami will be in the mix ‘til the end, for sure.”

Berrios, who visited UM a couple of weeks ago, has many offers, including from Oregon, South Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech.

Dixon’s coach, Jack Daniels, told me earlier this month that UM is a slight favorite, but that Alabama is close behind. And Dixon reportedly was impressed by Arkansas during his visit last weekend.

Brady, a former Kentucky oral commitment, told Canesport.com that “there’s a great chance I’ll wind up a Cane.” But he’s also strongly considering USC, Mississippi and Mississippi State.

UM has three oral commitments who project as potential receivers: Carol City’s Trayone Gray (who has been playing quarterback), Norcross, Ga.’s  Christopher Herndon (who also can play tight end or H-back) and Lantana’s Darrell Langham. All are three-star prospects, with Langham probably the most polished of the three. Herndon has 10 catches for 175 yards in three games, Langham 5 for 115 in two.

UM also continues to recruit Miami Northwestern’s JoJo Robinson, rivals.com’s No. 50 receiver and an FSU oral commitment.

UM has heavily recruited Palm Beach Cardinal Newman four-star receiver Travis Rudolph, but he said recently that Miami isn't in his top five.

UM remains uncertain whether elite receiver prospect Derrick Griffin will be admitted eventually, though football and basketball coaches remain hopeful he will clear academic hurdles.

### Good to see Jon Gruden give a shout-out to Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler at halftime of the Monday night game this week. Wheeler has been highly active through two weeks, and his sack to squash the Colts’ final drive was obviously one of the biggest plays in the game.

But also keep this in mind: Wheeler has allowed 9 of the 10 passes thrown against him to be completed (for 84 yards) after allowing 54 of 64 to be completed against him as a member of the Raiders last season.

Wheeler and SEVERAL others must do better work against Tony Gonzalez on Sunday and Jimmy Graham the following Monday than they have against tight ends the first two weeks of the season. Reshad Jones also must be more of a factor with tight ends; all three passes thrown against him have been completed, for 29 yards.

### The Dolphins are going week to week with Paul Soliai, whose injured knee will need time. How soon he returns depends on how quickly he heals, but associates remain insistent that it doesn’t threaten his season.

### Vaughn Martin, who played 484 snaps for San Diego last season, has logged only seven through two games but likely will play more in Soliai’s absence, as the primarily backup tackle behind Jared Odrick and Randy Starks.

Asked if he expected to play more when he signed here as a free agent, he said: “My only concern regarding playing time is to make my reps as impactful as possible. It’s a long season. Don’t count reps. Make reps count.”

### Practice squad receiver Brian Tyms said “there’s a lot more of the offense” that the Dolphins haven’t shown yet. And UM offensive coordinator James Coley made the same point about his offense this week.

### One lesson that everyone should take from the past month: Timetables for recovery from a sports hernia surgery can vary widely, and discomfort can linger for a while.

Dolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor had his surgery in May and still isn’t deemed healthy enough to play in a regular-season game, even though he practiced at the start of training camp. And UM safety Deon Bush, who had surgery in June, said this week that he continues to experience discomfort.

Taylor, who has had some setbacks, said this week he’s feeling a lot better and insists he will play this season. The Saints game is the newest target.

### With the Falcons boasting one of the league’s most dangerous passing games, this is not a good week for five Dolphins defensive backs to be nursing injuries: Dimitri Patterson, Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson, Taylor and Will Davis.

### Though the Heat liked what it saw of undrafted Marquette guard Vander Blue the past couple weeks, Yahoo reports that he signed today with Philadelphia, which gave him a partial guarantee. Blue, who helped oust UM from the NCAA Tournament, has said Dwyane Wade is like a big brother to him.

September 18, 2013

Media column: Heat difficulties ahead?; Personnel moves; Odd NFL TV scenario Sunday

If the Heat thought winning a title the last two seasons was difficult, they haven’t seen anything yet. That’s the message conveyed by a couple of analysts this summer.

Stan Van Gundy said these Bulls, Pacers and Nets will be more difficult to beat than any Eastern Conference teams the Heat has faced the past three years. 

And Steve Kerr’s public prediction that the Heat likely won’t make the Finals – which he expressed to me in August and also told the Los Angeles Times this week – is based partly on personal experience.

(I planned on writing Kerr’s August comments from our phone conversation shortly before training camp, when they seemed more timely, but I offer them now in light of Kerr talking to the Times a few days ago and 790 The Ticket this afternoon.)

“Having been a part of the three-peat in Chicago (1996-98) – I don’t know if anybody really understands how taxing it is emotionally and physically to go through this that many years in a row,” Kerr, TNT's lead analyst, told me several weeks ago. “Nobody has made it to four Finals in a row since Boston in the mid-80s. Miami has so much fatigue to overcome.”

Looking back on his Bulls experience, Kerr said: “It was dramatically different in year three than year two of the three-peat. In year two, we had a dominance about us that we felt like nobody could touch us.

“But in year three, we were just hoping to get out alive. We were exhausted. What Pat Riley calls the disease of me – there is always stuff going on that can get in the way – it’s more likely that stuff comes up in the third year. When we won that last game in Utah, it felt more like a relief than a moment of celebration. We were running on fumes. That third year, you lose your edge and it feels more like a relief to win it.

“You’re playing over 100 games three years in a row, and it’s well over 400 games in four years. But it’s also the magnitude of those games. Eighty-plus playoff games all bring with it a ton of stress and exertion and it’s really a difficult season. Miami is the best team in the league, but people don’t realize how exhausting it is to go for three in a row. Teams are hungrier than you. It just wears on you.”

He said it was tougher to maintain motivation for the Bulls in the third season of their three-peat “because it doesn’t matter as much and you have to fight the human instinct of, ‘We’re going to be in the playoffs and it won’t matter until April and May.’ You let your guard down and don’t have the same edge. And you don’t improve when you don’t have that edge.”

Kerr said coach Erik Spoelstra needs to be committed to resting his players some during the season, more so than last year.

“He did that this year with Dwyane Wade, and you are going to have rest LeBron James and Chris Bosh at times, too. And cutting LeBron’s minutes is important. You have to be willing to lose some games” for the greater good of saving their bodies for the playoffs. “This is not going to be a 60-win season.”

Kerr said the Heat will “miss Mike Miller. He helped them win huge games. [Potential replacements] James Jones and Rashard Lewis are older, and it’s tough to match what Miller did. Those guys are going to have to figure out a way to come through in the clutch.”

And Kerr has other concerns. “Shane Battier is older. His shooting suffered in the playoffs until the last big game. Ray Allen is older. The floor spacing won’t be quite as terrifying this year.

“I would be concerned about Wade because of the number of difficult games where he looked older and vulnerable far outnumbered the dominant ones. And you add another year to that body.”

He likes the Greg Oden pickup --- “it's a perfect fit because they need him especially to guard Roy Hibbert in the playoffs, and he gives them an emotional lift” – but said his health “is too big of an if” to predict the Heat will three-repeat because of him.

So who is Kerr’s favorite? “I’m picking Chicago. The Bulls have always played Miami so well and they get Derrick Rose back. Indiana poses more problems because of scoring inside with David West and Roy Hibbert.

“Indiana is more of a threat, but I like both of their chances to get past them because of the emotional impact of not having scaled the mountain yet. Both teams know this is the time get past the Heat.”

And what about Brooklyn? “I have the Nets fourth. They’re not as good as Miami, and when you have older players, it’s tough to proclaim them as great.”

AROUND THE DIAL

### Personnel moves: ABC/ESPN is talking to former 76ers coach and longtime announcer Doug Collins about joining the cast of its NBA Countdown studio show. He reportedly would replace Michael Wilbon, who would concentrate on Pardon the Interruption and other duties… ESPN parted ways with Chris Mullin, a decent analyst who took a job as a consultant to the Sacramento Kings' new ownership...

CBS moved Greg Anthony to its lead college basketball announcing team (with Jim Nantz) and re-assigned Clark Kellogg to the studio, where the network believes he is better suited. Nantz and Anthony likely will be joined by TNT’s Kerr for the Final Four.... Hopefully, ESPN Radio will allow Van Gundy to remain on Dan Le Batard's 790/104.3 The Ticket show when the program goes national beginning Sept. 30. The sides are still discussing it.

### Most weeks, South Florida gets three Sunday afternoon NFL games. So why only two this week (Ravens-Texans at 1 p.m., Dolphins-Falcons at 4 p.m.?) Because the Dolphins are home (on Fox), but are not on the network carrying the double-header (CBS). Only in that scenario do we get two afternoon games, instead of three.

### And for South Florida viewers, something odd will happen this weekend that only occurs once every year or two or three. Though CBS’ 4:25 p.m. doubleheader game cannot be televised locally, CBS says WFOR-4 will join one of CBS’ three NFL telecasts in progress at 7 p.m: likely Colts-49ers or Jets-Bills, to be determined. (Jaguars-Seahawks is the other CBS late game but might be a blowout by then.)  CBS plans air NFL programming nationally until 8 p.m. Sunday night, leading into the Emmy Awards.

So when the Dolphins are done on Fox, switch over to CBS-4 to catch the fourth quarter of the Colts or Jets game. 

 

September 17, 2013

Panthers being sold; The difference in UM's player development; Dolphins nuggets; Marlins, Heat

PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR THE WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Wednesday update: Vinnie Viola, a prominent New York businessman, is closing in on buying the Florida Panthers from Cliff Viner, an industry source said today. Letters of intent have been executed, but the sale is not final and must still be approved by the league. The source said it's conceivable it could fall through but that is not expected to happen.

The Panthers' arena lease runs through 2028, so there are no plans to move the team.

Viola is a prominent hedgefund manager who previously was chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and is now chairman of Virtu Financial.

He previously was a Brooklyn Nets minority owner.

Viner had been losing more than $20 million a year and has been quietly looking to sell in recent weeks. It was unclear whether CEO Michael Yormark would remain with the team.

Here's a bit more about Viola, from the Nets' web site:

Vincent Viola was born in Brooklyn in 1956 where he went to local schools, St. Cecilia’s elementary school in Williamsburg and Brooklyn Tech High School. He received an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point, graduating with a B.S. degree in 1977 as well as from US Army Ranger School. He served as an officer in the 101st Airborne following West Point. Viola and his wife, Teresa, now live in Manhattan after raising three sons in New Jersey.

What is the source of his wealth?
After leaving the Army, where he achieved the rank of major, Viola joined the New York Merchantile Exchange as a "local" trader, becoming a member of the exchange in 1982. That same year, he graduated from New York Law School with a J.D. degree. During his career, Viola served in various positions of leadership at NYMEX, serving as the Chairman of NYMEX from 2001 to 2004. He helped the exchange through the turmoil of the 9-11 attacks and took it public. Viola is a founder and principal of numerous successful proprietary trading and clearing firms and as such is one of the nation’s most successful commodities dealers. He is also a member of the New York Stock Exchange. He is currently the CEO of VirtuFinancial, an electronic commodities trading company and senior strategic advisor to NYMEX.

 Viola, who has been widely credited for his philanthropy, was discussed at length in a book by Leah McGarath Goodman. In the book, interviewee Ben Kaufman, the son of a big oil trader who interned at NYMEX, describes Viola:

"Viola was the street-smart Italian guy, always with a bunch of Brooklyn and Staten Island kids hanging around him. Vinnie had the influence and the intimidation factor going for him... He dressed and acted like a Mafioso don."

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WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

One of the encouraging signs of the UM football program’s resurgence has been better player development –- in other words, players improving significantly once they arrive. There wasn’t enough of that during Randy Shannon’s tenure. But this column is not about bashing Shannon.

In fact, though Shannon’s final UM class had a bunch of flameouts, he and his staff deserve credit for eyeballing a dozen two- and three-star players that Golden’s staff has deftly developed into key contributors (players that Shannon's staff obviously didn't have the time to develop because of his firing). Among those players, from Shannon’s 2010 class, the one before his final season:

### Stephen Morris: Don’t forget he was merely a three-star prospect from Miami Pace, with little interest from college football powers. Northwestern, Purdue, Virginia and Central Michigan were his next-best offers. His growth in the past year (14 touchdowns, one pick in last six games) has been dramatic, the second-half issues against UF aside. Now he’s in line to potentially become a mid-round NFL draft pick, or higher. (One scout said second round isn't out of the question.)

### Jimmy Gaines: A two-star player with very few offers (Buffalo, Syracuse), Gaines sent a highlight tape to UM, and Shannon offered him. Under this staff, Gaines has developed into a capable middle linebacker with a quick first step and an ability to decipher plays. His work against UF was among his best.

He’s “like a coach on the field,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said, “and he puts himself in good position to make plays.”

### Clive Walford: Shannon’s staff wisely offered the three-star tight end who had only three other reported offers: FIU, Indiana and Purdue. And this staff has helped mold him into a dangerous weapon, with 15 of his past 16 receptions for touchdowns or first downs.

Why has he become a better player since last November? “I’m paying more attention to details,” he said Tuesday.

### Jon Feliciano: With offers from only Akron and Indiana at the time, Feliciano waited outside the UM bus after the 2009 spring game to give his tape to then-assistant Tommie Robinson. Shannon offered him, and he has become a better offensive lineman that many expected.

“He’s got a little bit of the devil in him,” offensive line coach Art Kehoe said Tuesday. “If you are lollygagging around him, he will take you out.”

### Others: Shayon Green, Curtis Porter, Allen Hurns, Malcolm Bunche, Kacy Rodgers and Tyrone Cornelius were all three-star prospects signed under Shannon in 2009 or 2010, and all have become useful pieces here. Though Green isn’t much of a pass rusher, he’s very difficult to dislodge and was a major factor in the UF game.

And Kelvin Cain -- a two-star player with offers from only Portland State, San Jose State and Nevada -- has had an up-and-down career here but gave the Canes good work playing on the second team in the UF game.

Among recruits in Golden’s three signing classes, the poster child for player development – aside from three-star Olsen Pierre -- has to be two-star Thurston Armbrister. The coach at Hollywood Hills convinced D’Onofrio to look at Armbrister, whose only offer was from Northern Colorado.

Armbrister and Cornelius were tweeners –- initially too small for linebacker, too big for safety. This staff has sculpted both into assets, with Armbrister emerging as a surprise starter, and Cornelius thriving in pass coverage.

“Armbrister is smart, versatile,” D’Onofrio said. “In the past, Cornelius did a good job… on third down, but when he got in on first down, it was spotty. You weren’t sure he was going to be in the right spot or do the right things. Now, when you take Denzel Perryman out… there is not much of a drop-off.”

So why are players improving under this staff? For linemen and linebackers, adding weight had a lot to do with it; Anthony Chickillo has jumped from 235 as a freshman to 275 as a junior; Armbrister from 195 pounds to 230, among many others. Now 240, Gaines and Perryman “are knocking guys back” when tackling them, D’Onofrio said. That wasn't consistently the case last year.

Attention to detail has made a big difference; this staff requires players to do things over, especially with technique, until they get it right. Feliciano said players are drilled to be “perfect on footwork.”

But Feliciano points to this as the biggest reason players are developing better under this staff than the last one: “We’re learning the game better.” He said this staff has more meetings with players about “how to get better,” with emphasis on specific skills.

Bottom line: No longer can UM fans make the case, as many did four years ago, that most players don’t become appreciably better after they sign here. And that’s critical for a program that is still taking more two- and three-star players than UF and Alabama do.

D’Onofrio, filling in for an ill Al Golden at Tuesday’s news conference, said coaches take pride in the player development. But more so, “I’m excited for the players. They put a lot of work into this thing.”  

### Dyron Dye has joined Thomas Finnie and Jontavious Carter at Bethune-Cookman. All three were dismissed from the UM team.

CHATTER

### While the Dolphins have extended the contracts of potential 2014 free agents Reshad Jones, Koa Misi and John Denney –- and made a proposal to Paul Soliai –- 2014 free agents Brent Grimes, Richie Incognito and Chris Clemons say they haven’t received offers.

Now that Grimes has fully recovered from last September’s Achilles’ injury and is thriving, a multiyear offer would make sense. “I hope so,” he said. “That would be cool.”

(Randy Starks, another 2014 free agent, hasn’t received a multiyear offer since February.)

### How things change in a week: Mike Wallace said owner Stephen Ross made a point to tell him how “proud” he was of Wallace after Sunday’s game (Jeff Ireland also said something similar). And Wallace said this offense is more “fun” for him than Pittsburgh’s because he can run several more routes and he's allowed to move around more “so nobody can key on me. I was the deep guy there [in Pittsburgh]. But I always want to show people I can do more than deep routes. So this is fun for me.”

He said the Dolphins have lined him up in the slot several times, which he said Pittsburgh didn't like to do.

### Daniel Thomas had more snaps than Lamar Miller (36-30) Sunday – and started the second half -- despite Miller having the far more productive game. But Joe Philbin said he wants to keep their playing time comparable unless “one guy is breaking tackles left and right and taking the ball a long way, and the other guy is not being productive.” But as much as the Dolphins like Miller, they don't view Thomas as a clearly worse player.

### We hear Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was angry that manager Mike Redmond did not defend hitting coach Tino Martinez, Loria’s hand-picked choice, before Martinez was forced to resign over his verbally abusive conduct. There has been nothing so far to suggest Redmond’s job is at risk, but one close Loria associate cautioned that it's impossible to predict what Loria will do with managers. 

### Former FSU guard Von Wafer, who has averaged 5.3 points in 200 NBA games, is among players auditioning for the Heat this week. Wafer, who played in China last season, last played in the NBA in 2011-12, averaging 5.9 points in 33 games for Orlando.

Guard Julyan Stone, who played four games for the Nuggets last season, also has been auditioning, along with several other young undrafted players -- including Marquette rookie Vander Blue, who was invited back by the Heat for a second week.

### Former UM guard Trey-McKinney Jones will attend training camp with the Milwaukee Bucks.

September 16, 2013

Monday Dolphins update: Soliai; Tannehill rises up rankings; coordinators address issues

Some Dolphins notes from Monday:

### Off Sunday's knee injury, Paul Soliai’s availability for Sunday is in question; the Dolphins aren’t sure yet whether he will be able to play. It will depend largely on how he recovers this week.

But the injury is not believed to be season-threatening.

“We’re not certain how Paul’s condition will be as the week goes on,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said, adding he would prepare his unit for the scenario of him playing or not playing.

If Soliai misses a week or two, Randy Starks would resume starting alongside Jared Odrick. But Soliai hasn't given up hope of playing Sunday against Atlanta.

### Ryan Tannehill, who ranked in the bottom third or quarter of the league in most offensive categories last season, now ranks in the upper half in most. He’s 10th in completion percentage, 12th in yards, ninth in average gain per completion, 14th in quarterback rating and sixth-best in interceptions.

The big difference? "Ryan's play speed is a little bit better," Joe Philbin said. "We talked a lot about a thousand reps he has in the bank. He's a very good student of the game. He's sees things on the field a hair quicker."

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman's take on Tannehill? “Having gone through an NFL season and an [offseason program] as a starter, he has grown in to the position, has tremendous confidence. He shows me great composure when he’s on the field.”

### The Dolphins’ vision of having an offense that could strike quickly materialized on the first drive Sunday, when Miami needed just 2:19 to go 58 yards in six plays, punctuated by Mike Wallace’s 18-yard catch and run on a screen.

“That screen was set up for Mike if we had the right look. If we didn’t, it would have gone to the other side,” Sherman said. “It’s predicated on what the defense is giving us.”

Ball distribution in the passing game, Sherman said, is “predicated on coverage, techniques, tendencies and sometimes who’s going again who.”

### Defensively, the Dolphins believed Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler would make a greater impact than Karlos Dansby (now with Arizona) and Kevin Burnett (Oakland), and Sunday’s game offered some evidence, with Wheeler’s sack ending the Colts’ final drive. Ellerbe had 14 tackles in the game, Wheeler 12.

“Their play speed has been good, blitzing has been good,” Philbin said. “They’re aggressive. They’re off to good starts.”

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said “between the two of them, Dannell had 16 hits and Philip might have 13 or 14. They fly around, play with great energy. We have to keep on limiting the mistakes. They play at a very high tempo. We’re really pleased with them.”

### Let’s be clear: Though everybody knows improvement is needed, there is some satisfaction internally about the blueprint coming together so effectively and so quickly.  “It looks good right now,” Wheeler said. “It’s a great confidence builder. We feel like we can beat anybody.”   

### Rookie first-round draft pick Dion Jordan played just seven of the Dolphins’ 73 snaps on defense against Indianapolis on Sunday, but defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he is “going to try to get Dion more involved.”

Jordan rushed the quarterback on five of those snaps and dropped into coverage on two of them.

On a 3rd and 11 early in the fourth quarter, Jordan squandered a chance for a sack when he tried to push Andrew Luck to the ground instead of tackling him. Luck scrambled for a first down.

“I thought Dion thought he threw it, so he pulled up,” Coyle said. “Luck jerked the ball as Dion was approaching him.”

The lesson there?

“Finish the play!” Coyle said.

### Coaches are delighted with the progress of Charles Clay, whose 163 receiving yards through two weeks ranked 21st in the league – and fourth among players who don’t play wide receiver -- entering Monday night’s Steelers-Bengals game.

“He’s playing faster,” Philbin said. “His play speed is better. He’s a smart player. He obviously has things to work on.”

The first carry of Clay’s career was a one-yard touchdown Sunday, and “hopefully we’ll employ him a little more” as a runner, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said.

Clay averaged 5.1 yards on 179 carries at Tulsa. He said his one thought before the rushing attempt Sunday was simply: “Just hold onto the ball.”

Besides being pleased with his work as a receiver, Sherman said: “This last game, we challenged him to be a better blocker. And he really contributed. On the first pass to Mike Wallace, they blitzed us, he made a huge block for us.”

Sherman praised Clay for that play during Monday’s film session.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, coming into his own, doing things without hesitation,” Sherman said. “In the past maybe he wasn’t 100 percent sure of what he was doing.”

Clay played 53 of the Dolphins’ 66 offensive snaps, while Dion Sims’ snaps more than doubled, to 35, and Michael Egnew’s were reduced to nine. That was a function of the Dolphins using more of the package that features Sims, Sherman said, adding not to read anything more into that.

### Philbin said Nolan Carroll, starting in place of injured Dimitri Patterson, “did a good job. Jimmy Wilson did as well with an expanded role.”

Patterson said Monday that he hopes to play Sunday against Atlanta, but “groins are tricky.”

### Sunday marked only the sixth time, and first since 1998, that the Dolphins had no penalties in a game.

### Though the Dolphins’ defense improved after halftime, “we weren’t drawing up new stuff in the sand,” Philbin said. “We got refocused. It’s a credit to our defensive staff. We did a better job of eliminating penetrations.”

And though Miami relinquished 448 yards in its 24-20 win, “defense is more about points than yards,” Philbin said.

### Right tackle Tyson Clabo were charged with allowing two sacks, and Mike Pouncey one, according to Pro Football Focus. Clabo has now allowed three this season.

 Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas each allowed a sack. Thomas had 36 snaps, Miller 30. As pass-blockers, Thomas and Miller have “improved [but] it still has a ways to go” and is not where it needs to be, Sherman said.

### The Dolphins closed with 101 yards on 27 carries and Sherman said: “I should have rushed it more than I did. I thought the linemen really came off the ball. We had a very simple package. Maybe the simplicity enhanced their ability to execute the plan.”

### Wheeler praised Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, but said unlike Andrew Luck, “I don’t think Ryan has that ability” to escape pressure as effectively.

### With Tony Gonzalez awaiting this week, Coyle said of the Dolphins’ difficulty defending tight ends: “It’s not just us. These tight ends are darn good athletes. They’re mismatch athletes in terms of coverage. We just happen to be facing some really good ones. We have to do a better job against them. The tight end position has become such a key focal point.”

 

September 15, 2013

Dolphins getting praise; Playoff odds for 2-0 teams; UM note

Six very quick Dolphins notes, and one UM item:

### The Dolphins’ 2-0 start has caught the attention of national analysts.

“Miami fans, you’ve got a football team to go along with your basketball team now,” Tony Dungy said on NBC. “I think Miami’s legit. Very good defense.”

Said Rodney Harrison: “I have to agree with you because the gap in the AFC East has closed. The Patriots don’t look like the dominant team we’re used to seeing.”

### Paul Soliai left with a knee injury, but his agent – David Canter – tweeted that “so far the news is encouraging. We will know more [Monday].” Soliai said after the game that he will be fine.

### For those who wondered, since 1990, 63 percent of NFL teams that started 2-0 made the playoffs (119 of 188), according to ESPN. It’s 41 percent for teams that start 1-1, just 12 percent for teams that start 0-2.

### Ryan Tannehill, who had a subpar 76.1 quarterback rating as a rookie, is at 94.6 after two games –which narrowly ranks in the top half of the league. Tannehill stands 15th, a smidgen behind Tony Romo and ahead of Sam Bradford, Matt Schaub and Robert Griffin III, among others.

### Jeff Ireland’s offseason linebacker swap paid dividends Sunday. Not only did Philip Wheeler sack Andrew Luck to end the Colts’ final drive, but he and Dannell Ellerbe combined for 26 tackles, with Ellerbe closing with 14.

### Check out the video of Joe Philbin addressing his team after the game on Miamidolphins.com. Rest assured you’ve never seen the man this excited.  Philbin punctuates it with: “It doesn’t get any better than that! We got a helluva team in the making!"

### Freshman cornerbacks are rising up the UM depth chart. Artie Burns is now listed as a co-starter with Ladarius Gunter, opposite Tracy Howard. And Corn Elder has risen to co-backup status (with Antonio Crawford) behind Howard.... UM dropped a spot to 16th in the AP poll.

Check back Monday afternoon for updates from Dolphins news conferences.  

September 14, 2013

Comparing Luck/Tannehill body of work; Wake's unusual edge; Beasley fallout; UM, Marlins

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

This will end up among the most telling quotes of Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland’s tenure, and the reason he felt no urgency to move up in the 2012 NFL Draft:

“If we had 8 to 10 more games of film to watch Ryan Tannehill play that position,” Ireland said before selecting Tannehill eighth overall, “I think we’re looking at him in the same breath as Robert Griffin and maybe Andrew Luck. I think he’s got that kind of ability and arm talent.”

Fast forward 17 months, as Tannehill and Luck square off Sunday for the second time. Predictably, Luck has been the better quarterback, with his resume already featuring eight game-winning drives and five fourth-quarter comebacks. Conversely, Tannehill has one of each, last November against Seattle.

So through 17 games for both, how do their bodies of work compare? We picked nine other categories --- aside from the critical game-winning drive statistic. How they stack up head-to-head so far:

### Accuracy. Edge: Tannehill, at least statistically. He has a 58.6 career completion percentage, topping Luck's 54.9. And Luck’s 7.0 average per completion is barely above Tannehill’s 6.8.

### Touchdowns. Edge: Luck, 25 to 13.

### Interceptions. Edge: Tannehill. Luck has thrown four more (18 to 14) but also has attempted 128 more passes.

### Quarterback rating. Edge: Luck, but it’s close --- 78.3 to 76.5. Luck has thrown for a whopping 986 more yards.

### Deep balls. Edge: Even. Tannehill has completed 38.1 percent of passes thrown 20 yards or more (to Luck’s 34.6), and for a slightly longer average (33.6 yards to 31.8). But Luck has completed 35 of those deep balls, Tannehill 21.

### Fourth quarter, close games. Edge: Luck. With a margin of seven points or fewer, Luck has completed 58 percent of his fourth-quarter passes (compared to Tannehill’s 50), has a higher rating (91 to 75) and more touchdowns, four to two.

### Under heavy pass rush. Edge: Tannehill -- Pro Football Focus said he had the NFL’s second-best accuracy last season when under pressure – behind only Griffin and well ahead of Luck, who ranked 23rd. But Tannehill was 3 for 9 when pressured last Sunday, Luck 2 for 4.

### Third down. Edge: Luck. Tannehill was the NFL’s worst in that category in 2012, with a 65.3 rating. Luck was only 22nd, at 75.5. But Tannehill excelled on third down against Cleveland: 9 for 13, 82 yards.

### Rushing. Edge: Luck. Tannehill has 214 yards and a 4.0 average, Luck 293 yards, 4.3. Tannehill has nine fumbles, Luck 10.

NFL Network’s Steve Mariucci insists Tannehill “belongs in the grouping of the top three” 2012 rookie quarterbacks – Luck, Griffin and Russell Wilson, though many would disagree.

Could Tannehill possibly end up nearly as good as Luck? NFL Network’s Mike Mayock doubts it.

“Luck is in a locker-room by himself,” Mayock said. “But Tannehill’s got an extremely high ceiling. I like the way he pushes the ball down the field. I’m a Tannehill fan.”

ESPN’s Cris Carter might the most effusive: “Tannehill is going to be a special player. He has the ‘it’ factor. You can’t win without one of those dudes. When the ball comes out of his hands, it comes out special. He throws the ball exceptionally on the move. Phenomenal athlete for a quarterback.”

CBS’ Phil Simms said he and Boomer Esiason “would have jumped for joy if we had rookie years like Tannehill did.”

Former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, now with NBC, said by phone last week: “Tannehill is progressing relatively quickly. Do I think he can start on a team that can go to the playoffs? Yes. Can he carry his team? I don’t know if he can or not.”

There are still some frustrating moments: the over-throw and under-throw on deep balls to Mike Wallace last week, the erratic ball location at times. But there are many encouraging signs, too: the pinpoint TD strike to Brian Hartline, the deftly-handled fourth quarter drive in Cleveland and the relative lack of bad decisions. And if Tannehill ends up even nearly as good as everyone believes Luck will be, the Dolphins will be thrilled.

CHATTER

### There’s a lot to admire about how Cameron Wake has transformed himself into an elite player, but his discipline with his diet is especially impressive.

He said Friday he has not consumed any alcohol or a single piece of fried food or even a taste of candy or ice cream since he left Penn State in 2005. That's more than eight years devoid of dietary decadance. 

So, Cam, you haven't made even a single trip to a fast food restaurant since leaving college? Not one, he says. The worst thing he'll eat is a piece of bacon once every two weeks or so.

Teammates kid him by giving him “shots” of water, and rookies bring him a bag of grapes every day.

“Nutrition translates to performance, and [not eating] two cheeseburgers – for the edge it gives you, it’s worth it. I can eat cheeseburgers for 15 years [in retirement]. The difference if I ate crap could be just one inch.” But he's convinced it makes some difference, not only in how he plays but also how quickly he heals from minor injuries.

Wake managed to add eight pounds this offseason by eating a ton of chicken, fish, salads, vegetables, fruits and egg whites (more than a dozen as part of spring breakfasts).

Wake said his diet habits have “rubbed off” on Paul Soliai and Derrick Shelby, and he good-naturedly tells less health-conscious teammates: “See, if you had that salad, you would have made that play!”  

### Amid some people questioning offensive coordinator Mike Sherman for not getting Mike Wallace more involved early in last Sunday's game, keep in mind that Dolphins players respect Sherman and his ability as a play-caller, but some players thought last season that he stuck too long with plays that weren’t working.

### The Colts downgraded starting tight end Dwayne Allen from questionable to doubtful, which is notable because of the Dolphins' difficulty stopping quality tight ends. Allen, beginning his second season, had a career-high 75 receiving yards in a game against the Dolphins last season.

### The Heat initially balked when Michael Beasley’s agent called to say Beasley would like to play here. But Pat Riley re-considered, and the concerns of Riley and Erik Spoelstra were eased when they met with him last week. Look for Alonzo Mourning to be closely involved in his mentoring.

### Beasley's addition has been well-received by players so far. “Well, well, well, the homie is back,” Mario Chalmers tweeted last week. “I want every Heat fan to welcome back my brotha.” Chalmers and Beasley were tight, and Chalmers has behaved more maturely since Beasley left.

Dwyane Wade considers Beasley "an unbelievable talent" with "potential to be a great player" and tweeted: "Welcome home Beas. We got your back."

Some Heat people who know Beasley well believe he's a good guy at heart -- albeit immature. Udonis Haslem was impressed when Beasley showed up at the 2010 funeral for Haslem’s mother, even though Beasley had been traded to Minnesota earlier that offseason.

### Riley, Spoelstra, owner Micky Arison and several players were among a significant Heat contigent expected at LeBron James’ wedding in San Diego on Saturday, with the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony and Clippers' Chris Paul among others receiving invites. "What a beautiful wedding," Arison tweeted afterward.

Wade tweeted that he got a flat tire on his drive there. A dancing Riley, Spoelstra and LeBron were among those who attended Haslem's wedding in Palm Beach last month.

### The Marlins have told people they are very interested in first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu, 26, the Cuban defector who hit .374 with 35 homers in 71 games in 2012, and .382 with 13 homers in 42 games this season.

But teams aren’t allowed to make offers yet and the Marlins know they easily could be outbid by a big-market club, with the Giants and Red Sox among those interested. The biggest contract for a Cuban defector was the Dodgers’ seven-year, $42 million deal with Yasiel Puig; many expect Abreu’s to top that.

### Even though elite football/basketball recruit Derrick Griffin, now reportedly in prep school, said he plans to enroll at UM in December and immediately play basketball, UM tells us he will not be eligible to play in basketball games this season, per NCAA rules.

### Quick quiz: Of the 10 or so UM players who have left the program since the end of last season, which one departed to pursue a music career?

Answer: running back Danny Dillard, who never ran with the power or force UM expected for a player his size.... By the way, receiver Jontavious Carter --- thrown off the UM team --- has surfaced at Bethune-Cookman and is already playing.

### UM feels very good about its post-Stephen Morris future at quarterback, with freshman Kevin Olsen making a good early impression (he's likely to redshirt) and oral commitment Brad Kaaya (rivals.com's No. 8 quarterback prospect in the country) thriving at his West Hills, Cal. high school, including TD throws of 75, 75, 33 and 81 yards on Thursday night.

UM's other oral commitment, three-star Mobile, Ala.-based Malik Rosier, also is off to a good start this season. By the way, Kaaya is 6-4, Olsen 6-3, Rosier 6-2. Offensive coordinator James Coley said he prefers taller quarterbacks.

UM wasn't surprised Hialeah's Alin Edouard de-committed. UM expected he would when it became clear to him that the Hurricanes weren't especially interested. His biggest advocate at UM during his recruitment was Mario Cristobal, who since left for Alabama.   

September 13, 2013

Friday night Dolphins, Hurricanes quick hits

Some quick Dolphins and Canes notes:

### The Dolphins hoped signing Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe would help tighten coverage against tight ends. It still might, but the problem persisted in the opener against Cleveland. In fact, 10 of the 12 passes thrown to tight ends were completed, for 117 yards.

And against the Colts on Sunday, the Dolphins will face one or two tight ends that were considered among the best in the 2012 draft: Coby Fleener and possibly Dwayne Allen, if he’s able to play despite a hip injury that kept him out of practice the past two days.

UPDATE: The Colts on Saturday downgraded Allen from questionable to doubtful.

Allen had six catches for a career-high 75 yards against the Dolphins last season to highlight a 45-reception, 521-yard season. Fleener closed his rookie season with 26 for 281.

The Dolphins hope neither Allen nor Fleener inflicts as much damage as Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron, who entered last Sunday with 26 career receptions in two years and then produced 9 catches (in 11 passes to him) for 108 yards. Several Dolphins defensive players were victimized, Wheeler among them.

“A couple of things the [Browns] did enabled the tight end to get into an area where we might not have had the best coverage on a certain play,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “It was a schematic thing where I could have helped them with it.”

### Cornerback Dimitri Patterson was listed as questionable but said his injured groin is feeling much better and he expects to play Sunday. Cornerbacks Will Davis (toe) and Jamar Taylor (ankle) were ruled out. Brent Grimes, Nolan Carroll and R.J. Stanford are the only completely healthy cornerbacks on the roster.

Quarterback Pat Devlin (ankle) also is out.

Seven Dolphins were listed as probable: Dion Jordan, Ellerbe, Reshad Jones, Brandon Gibson, Josh Kaddu, Dion Sims and Jonathan Freeny.

### Indianapolis starting running back Vick Ballard sustained a season-ending knee injury in practice Thursday, meaning Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown likely will handle the bulk of the carries Sunday. Besides Allen, Colts starting linebackers Erik Walden and Jerrell Freeman also are questionable.

### Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said Charles Clay’s 64 plays (in 70 offensive snaps) were “probably too many for him.” On Friday, Joe Philbin left open the possibility of giving more work to Sims, who had 15 snaps.

Philbin said Sims “had a very good week of practice – better” than last week and “hopefully can contribute Sunday.” Michael Egnew had 21 snaps last week. Philbin wants his tight ends to improve their run-blocking.

### Though Danny Watkins doesn’t appear ready to unseat John Jerry at right guard, Philbin said Watkins “is picking the system up well. Seems like a bright guy. Been in the building a lot, getting extra help. I like the progress he’s making.”

### One major reason why seventh-round pick Don Jones, the former Arkansas State safety, made the Dolphins was his skills on special teams. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones graded out the best of any Dolphin on coverage teams last week, even though his most impressive tackle (for no gain on a punt return) was nullified by a teammate’s penalty. Philbin has been impressed.

### CBS is sending Dolphins-Colts to 18 percent of the country, with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the call.

### Cameron Wake, tweeting during Thursday’s Patriots-Jets game: “How do you watch a game where you want both teams to lose? I’m conflicted on every play.”

CANES NOTES

### Today marks 13 weeks since UM appeared before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, and UM is now well outside the window during which a ruling was expected, causing great frustration among school officials.

Remember, UM initially was told that the NCAA was hopeful it would render a decision within 6 to 8 weeks. And the NCAA tells schools that 8 to 12 weeks is a reasonable expectation. But UM has been given no recent update on the timetable or the reason for the delay.

### For those who have asked, if UM gets another bowl ban (and nobody at UM is expecting that), the Hurricanes could still play in a bowl this season by appealing, because a ruling on an appeal takes many, many months. (UCF’s took seven months.) If there’s another bowl ban, UM assuredly would appeal.

### Wisconsin accepted the offer UM declined: to open next season against LSU at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. We have no issue with UM rejecting those overtures because they will be breaking in a new quarterback next season, and you would prefer not to do that against a powerful SEC opponent.

### According to Canesport.com, UM has become the first school to offer 6-2 Lake Christian junior quarterback Christian Alexander, who threw for 28 TDs and six picks last season. But UF is also very interested. 

September 12, 2013

Wallace: "I need to get the ball," but with a caveat; Beasley criticism; UM, Marlins, Ross' bid

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Mike Wallace, wearing a broad smile, had just spent more than an hour –- and thousands of his own dollars -- giving eighth-graders computer tablets and treating them to an afternoon of games in Sunrise on Thursday. And in a quiet moment afterward, Wallace reflected on a somewhat uncomfortable first regular-season week as a Dolphin.

In spite of being visibly angry and not talking to reporters after the fifth one-catch game of his career Sunday, Wallace very much hopes nobody lumps him among those stereotypical diva receivers who place stats ahead of all else on their priority list.

"That would [bother] me," he said. He says he's not one of those receivers.

And as much as he wants to do more than he achieved in his Dolphins debut, he conceded: “You don’t want to just force me the ball, because that’s not good. I need to get the ball. Everybody knows I need to get the ball.

“But when you have two or three people on me, you don’t want to force me the ball. We have great receivers, that if you cover them one-on-one, will make plays.” (He said Cleveland’s Joe Haden did a good job against him Sunday, and Haden often got help from a safety.)

He spoke to coordinator Mike Sherman this week, and “I am pretty sure I will have more than my share of opportunities to make plays” going forward.

But did anyone tell Wallace this week that he cannot appear unhappy after a win like that, that it simply doesn’t look good?

“Yeah,” he said. “My mom. She knows me. She says, ‘You have to always smile, baby boy.’ She knows I’m really emotional about the game.

“For the last year and a half, I heard a lot of different things [about myself] that weren’t true. But my teammates know me. Ask any one of them about how I go about my business. After a game, it’s just a reaction of what happened in the game. Next day, it’s over.

"I don't jump around whether we win or lose." He said that's simply not his personality, so people shouldn't read anything into any lack of effusiveness after victories.

But he also adds this: "Winning is the thing that really matters to me. I just want to help my team. When you make plays, you feel like you help your team. I play this game for one reason: to be a great player.”  

There is no friction between Wallace with Ryan Tannehill, who came to Wallace’s charity event Thursday (along with the quarterback’s wife) and warmly embraced him. 

Wallace had 144 yards in receptions in his only previous game against the Colts (in 2011), and the Dolphins assuredly will look for him more early in Sunday's game than they did a week ago. 

CHATTER

The Heat’s signing of Michael Beasley to a non-guaranteed deal was low risk. But the broadcaster who analyzed his work for the Phoenix Suns last season isn’t optimistic about Beasley’s future and wonders why the Heat would inject a “knucklehead” into a locker-room filled with serious, respected professionals.

“If he stops smoking marijuana and stops ‘hanging out,’ the talent is there. But I don’t see it [happening] after all these chances,” Suns radio analyst and former NBA center Tim Kempton told us. “It’s difficult to believe he will change his stripes at this point.

“People have gone out of their way to make Michael Beasley successful, but he hasn’t accepted it. He spent time in Los Angeles with [former Lakers guard] Norm Nixon. You would think that would have helped him. The Suns had a life coach that traveled with us the entire season. But he slipped three times when he was here” -- an arrest on suspicion of drug possession, an ongoing investigation into a sexual assault allegation, and charges of vehicular violations, including driving with a suspended license.

On the court, Kempton said Beasley could exasperate teammates and coaches – both Alvin Gentry, before his dismissal, and interim coach Lindsey Hunter.

“The question was which Michael Beasley would show up,” Kempton said. “There were some nights sporadically you would see why people were still willing to take a chance. Some nights, he was caught in the AAU syndrome of, ‘Give me the ball, get out of the way and let me do it myself.’ Sometimes, he would be a ball stopper and everyone would stand around watching him make a play. That would frustrate his teammates and the coaching staff.”

Kempton found it troubling that Beasley couldn’t make it work on a bad team that needed offense.

“For someone that can score, it was the perfect scenario for him here,” he said. “But he doesn't understand positioning. He doesn’t understand, ‘I don't need to take 15 dribbles to take a shot. If I could get it closer to the basket, I could get an easier shot.’”

And Kempton said his defense remains deficient. “He's one of those AAU kids of the system - much more talented than other players - so there wasn't a defensive system he had to think about,” he said. “[His inability to] grasp team concepts frustrated the Suns staff. If teams wanted a basket, they would go right at Beasley. He didn’t understand what was going on, didn't understand scouting reports, didn't understand team concepts.”

Kempton added that Beasley “is a good kid. He obviously has all the talent in the world to be in the NBA, but will his brain and maturity catch up to that talent, with all the chances he has already had? I don’t know if he can get away from those demons.”

### While David Beckham considers bringing an expansion Major League Soccer team to South Florida, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross revealed this week he’s also trying to lure one to Sun Life Stadium. Ross might retain some role in ownership but would welcome a primary investor; Beckham’s group and others have been in contact. Though MLS generally wants new stadiums, Ross’ pitch to MLS is he would leverage Sun Life’s role as an international soccer hub to help build a fan base.

### Marlins manager Mike Redmond said he believes Chris Coghlan is good enough defensively to play a lot of third base if the Marlins opt for that in 2014. Impending free agent Placido Polanco, 37, said if he plays next season, it would be for the Marlins, who haven't told him if they want him back.

### With the defensive line far more stout at the point of attack than last year, UM has risen to 40th in total defense, from 116th last season. And its seven sacks are just six fewer than all of 2012.… But this must change: UM is 117th in time of possession, at just 24:11 --- largely a function of UM converting just 5 of 25 third-downs this season…. UM coaches really like freshman Corn Elder and believe he’s going to be a big help down the road, at cornerback or perhaps eventually at slot receiver.

### Among major markets, the UM-UF game oddly produced a higher rating in Birmingham, Ala. (15 percent of homes with TV sets) than Miami-Fort Lauderdale (13.4), with Jacksonville (14.8) No. 2.

September 11, 2013

Wednesday night tidbits: Michael Beasley, Dolphins, Hurricanes

 ### Talked to a Phoenix Suns person tonight who said two of Michael Beasley’s biggest problems last season were ones familiar to Heat fans: Hogging the ball at times (which frustrated teammates and his two head coaches) and deficient defense. He said teams often went to the player Beasley was defending to exploit that matchup.

### His efficiency and shooting percentage have either stayed the same or gone down every year. He shot 47.2 percent as a rookie, then 45, 45, 44.5 and 40.5 last season with Phoenix.

### He’s best from mid-range, shooting 46.1 percent from 10 to 16 feet last season, but just 30.6 percent from 3 to 10, and 34.9 from 16 feet to the three-point line. He shot just 31.3 percent on threes last season, 34.5 percent in his career.

### His metrics in games when he plays 20 minutes or fewer are much worse than games when he plays more --- which is largely the result of the fact that coaches will play him less if he gets off to a bad start. (In his Heat career, he shot 33 percent with 41 turnovers and 12 assists on nights he played fewer than 20 minutes.) But you wonder how he would do playing limited minutes, should it even reach that point here. He didn’t play well in Phoenix when his minutes were cut.

### If he simply makes the team but doesn’t grab a rotation spot, he essentially would be competing with James Jones and Rashard Lewis for the sporadic minutes that Mike Miller received. If he somehow becomes much closer to what everyone thought he would as the No. 2 overall pick out of Kansas State (and that seems highly unlikely at this stage), he could conceivably take some of Udonis Haslem’s minutes.

### At least last season he scored 32 points in 49 minutes against Chicago, 20 in 41 against Indiana!

### Beasley remains under investigation for sexual assault in Scottsdale, Arizona, for a January incident at his home. Phoenix released him after his arrest this summer for suspicion of drug possession. 

### Kudos to Yahoo’s exceptional NBA reporter, Adrian Wojnarowski, for sniffing out this story over the weekend. When Woj reported Saturday that the Heat was considering signing Beasley, the team denied it to our newspaper, the Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and the Associated Press, saying Miami had no interest in Beasley and prompting numerous reports to that effect.

Five days later, the Heat decided to sign him – despite last month’s marijuana arrest – after meeting with him, because the risk was so low (one-year, non-guaranteed deal at the $1 million minimum).

### Only $789,000 of Beasley’s salary would count against the salary cap, but keeping him all season would cost more than $2.5 million in luxury tax payments, in addition to his salary.

### Colts owner Jim Irsay, angry his team allowed four sacks against Oakland on Sunday, today tweeted: “I DEMAND better” pass protection Sunday against the Dolphins, who had six sacks against Cleveland. “The Fish CAN and WILL bring the heat,” Irsay tweeted. “We’ve got to man up and confront HEAT with NASA like Heat shield.”

OK then.

### Cameron Wake, on a conference call with Dolphins season-ticket holders tonight: “I feel like a kid in a candy store with all the new acquisitions.” He called Olivier Vernon “the most improved player we have.”… When a fan asked him what game he has circled on the schedule -– and ordered him not to say “one game at a time,” –- Wake said the two Jets games.

### Dolphins receiver Brandon Gibson, also on that conference call, pointed to two keys to Sunday’s game: “getting explosive in the running game” and “chipping on” and giving extra attention to ace Colts pass-rusher Robert Mathis.

### Every Dolphins starting offensive linemen allowed a sack, except Mike Pouncey, in Week 1, and Jonathan Martin also gave up four hurries.

### With Mike Wallace not pleased about catching only one pass last week, will Ryan Tannehill target him more Sunday?

“I’m going to play the quarterback position the way the coaches install the plays,” he said today. “We’re going to try and get him the ball when he’s in the play, but we’re not going to force him the ball.” But he said Wallace is back to “his same old self, practicing hard, joking around. He’s great.”

### UM’s Al Golden continued a series of national interviews today, and ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd asked if he believes the program has turned the corner with Saturday’s win. “No,” he said, adding he told the team: “The biggest thing is we really haven’t achieved anything yet.”

But one thing has changed. “We [had] lost our way, what the University of Miami was about. What people lost in the translation is this” program, historically, “was one of the hardest working teams in America, one of the toughest teams in America. The practice was quite often harder than the game.” The program is returning to that mentality.

### Golden told Cowherd: “We felt we were going to win all week” last week. There has been no media access to players during this bye week, but Golden assures: “We’ve been practicing like crazy. We’re getting a lot of young guys better, working on things Florida exposed.”