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31 posts from January 2014

January 02, 2014

How Dolphins running backs measured up; Golden/Penn State; UM recruiting

Some Thursday Dolphins and Canes items:

One of the many decisions looming for the Dolphins front office (whoever that might be) is deciding how much of the running game’s shortcomings should be blamed on the backs and how much should be pinned on the blocking. The Dolphins ranked 26th in rushing yards per game and 17th in yards per attempt (4.1).

Too many times, Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas simply had no place to run because of blocking breakdowns. Our sense is that even an elite back would not have produced great numbers behind this line.

But the Dolphins’ backs also bear some level of accountability, and the question is whether the management (be it Jeff Ireland or his replacement) will deem it necessary to add someone to compete with, or replace, Miller or Thomas.

A strong case could be made for adding a hefty back who excels in short yardage – one who could potentially replace Thomas --- or supplement Miller and Thomas, who are both under contract for next season. (The Dolphins like Mike Gillislee, but he’s not a short-yardage back and the Dolphins aren’t sure when or if he will become more than a third-stringer.)

A few points to consider when assessing the work of Miller and Thomas:

### Among the 55 running backs who played at least a quarter of their team’s snaps, Miller’s 4.0 per carry average tied with Bilal Powell and Danny Woodhead for 31st, and Thomas’ 3.7 tied with Pierre Thomas for 39th.

Thomas averaged 5.3 yards as a senior at Kansas State but has averaged just 3.5, 3.6 and now 3.7 yards with the Dolphins. At this rate of a tenth of a yard per-year improvement, he’ll average 4.5 yards per carry (Reggie Bush’s average this season) by his 11th season!

Or Thomas will go somewhere else and average four yards a carry there, because that’s what happens when players leave the Dolphins. Bush, by the way, finished 14th in the NFL in yards per carry average for Detroit this season.

### In terms of yards after contact, Miller ranked 31st of 55 backs at 2.1 (same as Bush) and Thomas was 39th at 2.0 (same, surprisingly, as Frank Gore and Stephen Jackson) . Both obviously ranked in the bottom half of the league in that category. Miller sustained a few runs after contact in the Jets game, but that’s an area he needs to improve.

Of the top seven running backs in yards after contact this season, three will be free agents: Indianapolis’ Donald Brown (first at 3.3), Oakland’s Rashad Jennings (sixth at 2.8) and New England’s LeGarrette Blount (seventh at 2.7). Any of them would obviously help the Dolphins.

### Mike Sherman said he was disappointed that the Dolphins didn’t generate more big-play runs; Miami finished with only eight runs of 20-plus yards, which ranked 22nd in the league and was well behind San Francisco (20) and Philadelphia (19).

Of those eight, Miller had four and Thomas one. Ryan Tannehill had the other three. Miller, with his speed, should produce more than four 20-plus yard runs a year, but he also needs holes to run through.

### We could get clarity on Dolphins firings today or Friday, as Stephen Ross spends another day talking with confidantes and trying to make decisions.


It will be a nerve-racking next several days for UM, amid reports that Penn State is interested in Al Golden for its coaching job. The Harrisburg (Pa.) newspaper reported that Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Golden top Penn State’s wish list.

The UM administration expects Golden to stay at UM and would be surprised if he left.

But one of Golden’s friends at UM --- who has not spoken to him about this job --- predicted the Penn State job will appeal to him because it’s his alma matter, because Penn State has better facilities, more fan support in terms of attendance, among other reasons.

That said, Golden has repeatedly said how much he wants to see this through here, and his family likes it here. He appreciates that UM, more than a year ago, extended his contract through February 1, 2020, and gave him a significant pay boost last January.

Only Golden could end the speculation by saying that he is not interested in the job, but it serves him no purpose to do that if he is interested or if he wants to use it as leverage. Golden declined overtures from Wisconsin last December.

### UM hoped to come away with an elite receiver among three local prospects in this recruiting class, but they have lost out on two and a third said he is leaning toward Alabama.

Palm Beach Dwyer’s Johnnie Dixon, rated 17th among receivers by rivals.com, orally committed to Ohio State two weeks ago.

Homestead’s Ermon Lane, ranked sixth, said this week he’s “85 percent committed” to Florida, but there’s rampant speculation he might switch to FSU to join buddy Dalvin Cook, the Miami Central running back who committed to the Seminoles Tuesday.

Meanwhile, West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman receiver Travis Rudolph told Canesport.com that Miami is in “good position,” but told another reporter that "Alabama is my leader." FSU also remains in the mix.

Rudolph said he will announce at halftime of Thursday’s Under Armour All American Game at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

UM is expected to continue recruiting all three, even after their announcements. Remember, Al Golden has said UM was able to flip Stacy Coley very late in the recruiting process last year.

### Please check back later today for Heat notes.