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February 04, 2014

Noon update: UM recruiting, MLS, major NFL TV news; Analysis of UM class; Bynum spurns Heat visit; Dolphins

The Wednesday buzz column is below, but first, a noon update on UM, MLS and big NFL TV news:

### CBS, which has had the highest-rated prime time lineup for several years, further strengthened itself today by acquiring the NFL's Thursday night package of games. CBS and NFL Network will simulcast eight early-season Thursday games, and NFL Network will carry six Thursday games and two Saturday games in the second half of the season. CBS will produce all the games, with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms announcing.

A few other details: The deal is for one year, with the NFL holding an option for 2015... NBC still gets the Thursday night opener. So CBS' package begins on the second Thursday of the season...

Two of the losers in this deal are Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock, who relinquish their Thursday night NFL Network announcing gig because CBS is now producing the games. Nessler will continue to work for ABC/ESPN, and Mayock will continue to do Notre Dame games for NBC and other assignments (including, obviously, the draft) for NFL Network... CBS --- which still has the Sunday AFC package --- said Nantz and Simms will retain a prominent role on Sunday afternoon games but might not work every Sunday.... NFL Network analysts will appear on the Thursday night pregame, halftime and postgame shows. 

"NFL Network built Thursday into a night for NFL fans," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "Our goal is to bring these games to more fans on broadcast television with unprecedented promotion and visibility for Thursday Night Football on CBS."

“To add a primetime NFL package to our successful Sunday AFC package further strengthens our position in the sports marketplace," CBS Sports president Sean McManus said.  "We look forward to having Jim and Phil and our top production team showcased in prime time on Thursday nights.”

NBC, Fox, ESPN/ABC and Turner had also bid for the rights.

### UM didn't lose any oral commitments today but lost out on three players it hoped to land: Travonte Valentine (LSU), JC Jackson (UF) and Treon Harris (UF).

Valentine said he felt he had a better chance of making the NFL, a better chance of getting a degree and a better chance of winning a national title at LSU than UM.. Miami badly wanted Jackson and now has only one-corner in this class (three-star Ryan Mayes, though a few others could play corner in this class)...

UM also made a late push for Dillard DE Randy Ramsey, who chose Arkansas, and Tavon Ross, who picked Missouri.... Hialeah quarterback Alin Edouard, who dropped his UM commitment when it became clear to him that UM didn't really want him, committed to Syracuse.

### A couple highlights from MLS' announcement this morning that David Beckham has chosen Miami for an MLS team, pending completion of a stadium deal:

Commissioner Don Garber said the goal is for the team to begin play in 2017 but said it could possibly be earlier. The team likely will need to play in a temporary home for a year (Marlins Park is the front-runner), but Garber said that won't be addressed until a stadium deal is done.

Garber and Beckham prefer the PortMiami site, which the Miami-Dade county commission would need to approve. Mayor Carlos Gimenez has said he hasn't seen any red flags with that site, but four other sites are also being considered, including one near Marlins Park.

Parking would be an issue in downtown Miami, but Beckham said: "Football fans love to walk. I'm hoping that's the same in Miami." He said the stadium definitely will be downtown because "I've seen what Micky [Arison] and his family have done with the Heat" -- in terms of having success with a downtown venue.

Beckham also said: "We don't want public funding." But that's not true. He has hired lobbyists to try to secure state money. He isn't looking for money from Miami-Dade County, which will negotiate a stadium deal with Beckham's group and MLS.

Gimenez said there's a "time crunch" to select a site. "There's political support for getting this done," he said. During the press conference, a protest banner flew overhead saying: "Beckham, don't trust Gimenez."

Beckham said players have been calling him, expressing an interest in joining the team, but didn't offer any names. "I want to create a team, start from scratch," he said. He also said he will start a children's soccer academy in South Florida.




UM on Wednesday officially welcomes most of a football recruiting class that is rated eighth by ESPN and 11th by Rivals --- rankings that will be impacted somewhat by the Wednesday morning announcements of a few recruits, including defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (announcing at 10:30 a.m.).

We posed four questions about UM’s class to five recruiting analysts. Here's what they had to say:

### What do you most like about this class?

Larry Blustein: “They needed to add marquee players on defense, and they did. The two junior college defensive tackles will be really helpful, Michael Wyche especially. They’re ready-made players.”

ESPN’s Jamie Newberg: “The balance. There are really good players at every position. I love that they loaded up in the trenches.”

247sports.com’s Chris Nee: “Their biggest need was improving their front seven defensively and they have done a fairly good job, a great job if they get Valentine. The skill position guys offensively are very talented: Brad Kaaya, Braxton Berrios, Joseph Yearby. Kiy Hester and Marques Gayot were very good gets at safety. [Offensive tackle] Trevor Darling is a tremendous player.”

ESPN’s Jeremy Crabtree: “They loaded up on [quality] offensive linemen, and that was the big need.”

FUEL Recruiting’s Corey Long: “They got a legitimate quarterback of the future in Kaaya. He has NFL written all over him.”

### Who’s the most underrated player in this class?

Newberg: [Quarterback] Malik Rosier, and the receivers, who all bring something different. [Receivers] Darrell Langham and Trayone Gray have tremendous upside; Gray is a big-time athlete [if he qualifies academically]. Berrios will be a tough slot guy who will create a lot of matchup issues. And [linebacker] Darrion Owens can become a star.”

Blustein: Miami Northwestern defensive end Mike Smith: “Played great against Booker T., the No. 1 team in the nation. Has a motor that can’t be taught. He’s going to make too many plays to keep on the bench as a freshman. I think the world of Owens. And Gray can play receiver, quarterback, running back.”

Crabtree: “Rosier. He’s not the tallest guy and doesn’t have Kaaya’s accolades. But he has a solid throwing motion. He can move around when the pocket collapses, which is so valuable in today’s college game.”

Nee: “Langham and [Booker T. Washington end] Demetrius Jackson have high ceilings. Langham has good hands; Jackson is very quick off the ball.”

Long: Owens. “Good skill set and can upgrade their size at linebacker or safety.”

### What disappointment or concern do you have about this class?

Newberg: Cornerback. “I was stunned they lost Nigel Bethel” to Texas Tech.

Blustein: He said UM needed to add more “true middle linebackers” beyond Pompano Beach Blanche Ely's Terry McCray. “They have prototype outside linebackers who used to be d-ends. They sorely lack that middle play. If Denzel Perryman goes down, what do they have? They have undersized kids.”

Crabtree: “The fact they weren’t able to get one of the elite receivers is surprising and disappointing.”

Nee: “Miami missed out on a few elite prospects [Sony Michel, Ermon Lane, Dalvin Cook]. You can’t be disappointed by the class, but they need to consistently pull multiple elite kids from their local area.”

Long: Defensive tackle. “Lost [four-star] Dalvon Stuckey and we’ll see what Valentine does.” Academics were an issue with Stuckey, who remained uncommitted as of Tuesday night.

### Best player in this class?

Newberg: Miami Central running back Yearby. “Love the way he runs; it’s like watching Warrick Dunn or Barry Sanders. You can’t get a clean lick on the guy. Amazing feet.”

Blustein: Yearby and Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas. “Dominant players.”

Nee: Palm Beach Central offensive tackle KC McDermott and Thomas. "Both can make an instant impact.”

Crabtree: “I should say Yearby, but there’s something about Chad Thomas. He has this air about him that he’s not afraid of anybody. Great frame, great motor. He might need a little time to add weight to be an everydown defensive lineman. He’s going to be something to deal with.”

Long: “Chad Thomas will be a star. He can put pressure on the quarterback, will be one of best defensive ends/outside linebackers in the country. But McDermott and Kaaya are right up there.”


Center Andrew Bynum originally planned to travel to Miami to meet with the Heat last Saturday, the day he decided instead to sign with Indiana, agent David Lee tells us.

Lee said Bynum canceled meetings on two occasions with Miami in the weeks after Chicago released him Jan. 7 “because of the timing.” He canceled a meeting a couple weeks ago because “we had other issues going on.”

Lee said Bynum decided “to go to Indiana” Friday, “after talking to [Pacers executive] Larry Bird. I couldn’t tell how strong Pat [Riley’s] interest was.”

Bynum had a Saturday flight booked to Miami, according to Lee, but he decided not to visit the Heat when Indiana made an offer.

Even if the Heat had eventually made an offer, it likely would have been the prorated portion (less than half) of the $1.26 million minimum for players with his years of experience. Indiana offered more than that --- a full $1 million.

### Ray Allen has been playing slightly more than last season, but shooting worse (by two percentage points) and scoring less (by two per game), and Erik Spoelstra said: "I would like to work Ray down to a more comfortable level, not overextend guys now."

### As Chris Mortensen reported Sunday, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin called Tony Dungy last week, concerned that Dungy was blaming him for the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito fiasco.

On Tuesday, Dungy told ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike that the conversation “really wasn’t confrontational. Coach Philbin saw the piece on the Today Show where I said at the end that I think Jonathan Martin can play, but he’s going to need the right type of locker-room. I didn’t think the Miami locker-room was a good situation for him.

“Coach Philbin took issue with that and wanted to know what I meant by that. We had a discussion and talked about it and I [still] didn’t think it was a good locker-room situation for him.”

Dungy never explained why specifically it wasn't a good locker-room but seemed surprised that Martin didn't feel comfortable telling Philbin about his issues before leaving the team.

### Though the committee hasn’t met yet, the Dolphins said Tuesday that Dungy, Dan Marino, Don Shula, Jason Taylor and Curtis Martin definitely will meet this offseason to create a locker-room code of conduct…. The Dolphins denied an ESPN report that new general manager Dennis Hickey was given only a two-year contract, insisting it’s longer than that. Philbin's deal is believed to have two years left.

### Free agent tackle Bryant McKinnie deserves credit for playing with a torn meniscus through his entire 10-game Dolphins tenure. And McKinnie is lobbying for the Dolphins to re-sign him. "I wasn't afforded enough time to help like I wanted to help," he told WQAM. "I'm a leader. I know what it takes to win. I still can play. I'm... getting my weight down." 

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz