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10 p.m. update: UM recruiting; Evaluators on Marlins newcomers; Dolphins, UM, Heat

Please see the last post for thoughts on Fox's Super Bowl TV coverage, which ended a minute ago.

A quick 5 p.m. UM recruiting update with National Signing Day closing in on Wednesday:

### Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas, UM's only five-star oral commitment, has consistently told The Herald that he is 1000 percent committed to UM. His coach (Tim Harris) has told us that he expects Thomas will sign with Miami on Wednesday. But sometimes recruits tell school websites what they want to hear, and it's left to readers to make their own conclusions.

After completing his visit to Alabama on Sunday, Thomas told the Crimson Tide's rivals.com web site: "I am giving [Alabama] a good look. They gave me a lot to think about this weekend. Alabama is just different from Miami. Everything is different... It's different in a good way." He said he probably won't make a decision until a few hours before he signs.

Crimson Tide assistant coach Mario Cristobal, who was a UM assistant last winter for what seemed like a half hour, spent part of the weekend trying to get Thomas to flip.

### Tim Harris Jr. told Canesport.com's Matt Shodell that "there's definitely a chance" Booker T. quarterback Treon Harris could sign with UM (where he visited this weekend), but he remains an FSU oral commitment. Harris also wouldn't rule out UF or Auburn.

### North Carolina-based defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard, a Georgia oral commitment, told Shodell that his UM visit "was a good trip," a 7 or 8 on a scale of 10 and "it gave me a whole lot of stuff to think about." But he said he doesn't know that the visit pulled UM even with Georgia.

### An associate of four-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine told us Valentine spent the weekend with family instead of visiting UM. But his mother told Canesport.com this afternoon that UM and LSU "are tied. It's 50/50." He will make a decision over the next two days and announce at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Marlins’ offense was so abysmal last season that their 513 runs scored not only were 162 behind the big-league average, but 85 fewer than the next-lowest scoring teams (the White Sox).

They’re counting on that changing because of an expected resurgence from Giancarlo Stanton, hoped-for improvement from Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna and the arrival of four new starting position players.

With spring training two weeks away, what can the Marlins expect from those four newcomers? Feedback from two scouts and Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill:

### First baseman Garrett Jones:

The good: Hit between 15 and 27 home runs each of the past five seasons….

The concern: Average slipped to .233 in 2013. Jones, 32, has struggled against left-handers (.160 over the past three seasons), compared with .264 against right-handers…

The outside view: An American League scout said Logan Morrison, traded to Seattle, “has more upside, but you’re buying low on Jones [two years, $7.8 million] and he’s been the more productive player.”… A National League scout: “Fell off last year, but he didn’t play as much, either. I would platoon him, maybe with Ed Lucas,” who hit .330 against left-handers….

Hill's view: “We like the power and consistency. We wanted to go with a more proven record [at first base]. Even in a platoon, he gave you 15 homers last year, and in every-day situations, you saw home run totals up into the mid-20s. We’re aware he had occasional issues versus left-handers, but when he has had regular at-bats, he has been productive. He’s our everyday first baseman until he shows us otherwise.”

### Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia:

The good: Ranked eighth among all catchers in average (.273), ninth in RBI (65) and 12th in homers (14). Only 28 and seemingly improving….

The concern: Threw out 21.2 percent of base-stealers, second-worst in baseball…. A switch hitter, he struggled against left-handers last season (.218) and the past three years (.206)….

The outside view: AL scout: “I don’t think the [.273] average last season was a fluke; he’s got above average power and a lot of his outs were productive last year. He’s average defensively but guys like throwing to him. Money was a little high [five years, $28 million].”…

Hill's view: “He’s a very good offensive upgrade. Did a great job working with Boston’s pitching staff. With he and Jeff Mathis, we will have two of the best to navigate [opposing] lineups.”

### Second baseman Rafael Furcal:

The good: Three-time All-Star (but at shortstop), skilled defender and a .281 career hitter…. The concern: Missed last season after Tommy John surgery and is adjusting to a new position, at age 36….

Outside view: AL scout: “It’s a gamble, but a good one because you’re buying low [one year, $3.5 million]. You worry about him losing quickness at that age, but I think he can play second. Remember, he was an All-Star two years ago.”… NL scout: “He can steal bases, hits for average, always plays hard, athletic guy, solid defensively. Nice move if he’s healthy.”…

Hill's view: “His year out didn’t concern us. He’s a true leadoff man, injects speed, a true professional, a winning player. We heard nothing but great things about him. Once we knew the arm was good, we were full steam ahead.”

### Third baseman Casey McGehee:

The good: Hit .292 with 28 homers in Japan last season and was once a very good big-league player in Milwaukee….

The concern: Hit .217 in his last MLB season (2012) and at 31, is four years removed from a career years with the Brewers (.285, 23 homers, 104-RBI)…

Outside view: AL scout: “He was a swing-and-miss guy and was really scuffling his last year here. But we had good reports on him from Japan; maybe the success translates.”…

Hill's view: “He was a big-bodied player in Milwaukee. In Japan, he really got his nutrition and diet under control and had a dedicated physical regimen. That’s a big reason why he was so productive abroad and why we’re excited he can regain the form he had here. If he can give us 28 [homers] and 90 [RBI], we would be tickled.”

CHATTER

### ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported today that Tony Dungy received a somewhat confrontational call this week from Joe Philbin, who thought Dungy blamed him for the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin scandal. Dungy never said any such thing during his interview but did correctly ask Martin why he didn't feel comfortable talking to Philbin about it. (Please see the last post for more thoughts on Dungy's interview)....

It looked odd to see Philbin leave his new GM's press conference last week after his and Stephen Ross' opening statements, before any questions were asked. Dawn Aponte accompanied him in the mid-press conference walk-out. Perhaps they had a meeting or simply had no interest in hearing reporters' questions.

### Expect new Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey to prioritize the offensive line and finding ways to improve the run defense. “You’ve got to win up front,” he said. “That’s where it starts. Teams that play physical and tough – those are the ones that go far.”

### Hickey wants a “think-tank environment” where his scouts and coaches push “each other to greatness.” When I asked him if he would draft a player that coach Joe Philbin doesn’t want, Hickey suggested he would not.

"You're never going to agree on everything," Hickey said. "If you have time, go back to the tape and work through decisions collectively."

When I asked Hickey if he likes to pick the best available player or the best available player at a need position, he said strictly best available. (But it would be very, very, very difficult to envision him drafting a quarterback or receiver in the first round.) 

### One respected NFL agent said Hickey has never been stumped when the agent mentioned obscure players to him, but that happened several times with Tennessee’s Lake Dawson, who rejected the Dolphins job. “Hickey is very knowledgeable and thorough, way better than Dawson,” the agent said. “I always felt he was the brains behind Tampa’s organization.”

### Ryan Tannehill will have some big supporters on Fox’s Super Bowl set today. “Tannehill has shown me he can be an outstanding quarterback in this league,” Jimmy Johnson said.

Said Terry Bradshaw: “I am pretty impressed with what’s he’s done the first two years. Put some more players around him, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good quarterback.”

### What’s UM getting in Brad Kaaya, rated the nation’s No. 8 quarterback prospect?

“The whole package,” said Ed Croson, his coach at Chaminade High in West Hills, Cal. “Big arm. Good size [6-4]. We ran a no-huddle the whole game and he’s quick making pre-snap reads, figuring out where to throw. He’s not a runner but he moves around and gets rid of it. Best quarterback in California.”

What he's not, Croson said, is "a rah-rah leader," choosing instead to lead with his actions. Croson said in some ways, Kaaya reminds him of former NFL quarterback Erik Kramer, who Croson also coached.

Ryan Williams remains the front-runner to start in 2014, but the Kaaya/Kevin Olsen battle in 2015 and 2016 should be fascinating.

### Five-star prospect Bo Scarbrough, an Alabama oral commitment, reportedly was talked out of visiting Miami by Nick Saban. UM had coveted him as a running back... Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris, an FSU oral commitment, tweeted that he is "thinking hard" after his visit to UM Saturday, which following visits to UF and Auburn earlier.... Please see the last post for recruiting news from Saturday.

### In passing on Andrew Bynum, who signed with Indiana on Saturday, the Heat is gambling Greg Oden will stay healthy and also conceding that it wants to continue playing large doses of smallball, even though a couple of key smallball pieces (Shane Battier, Ray Allen) haven't consistently been at their best. (Battier was very good against the Knicks Saturday.)

What about that theory that the Pacers signed him to keep him away from the Heat? "I don't know who came up with that, but that's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard," Pacers executive Larry Bird said.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel told the Indianapolis Star that it likely will be weeks before Bynum plays. So the Pacers are paying him $1 million essentially for about 1 1/2 months of regular season work, plus the playoffs.

### The Heat presumably would love for Dwyane Wade to opt out of the final two years and $42 million of his contract and agree to less money and more years in July, which would free up space under the tax threshold to re-sign Mario Chalmers or add others.

But Wade, 32, said last week he’s not sure he will opt out: “I haven’t thought about it a lot. I know what’s out there. Right now, my main focus is on my health. I’m in a win/win situation, to have an option.”

### Troubling: The Heat entered Saturday allowing opponents to shoot an absurd 45 percent on corner three-pointers, by far the highest in the league. Erik Spoelstra blamed it on “teams moving the ball, attacking against our schemes.” The Heat hasn’t consistently been quick enough in its close-outs and defensive rotations. Knicks guard Pablo Prigioni was so alone on one of those corner threes Saturday night that he practically had time to make a sandwich.

### Because the Heat plays host to Detroit Monday, Spoelstra never broached the idea of staying in New York for the Super Bowl after the team's game there Saturday. And Chris Bosh said it's preferable to watch the game from warm South Florida than freezing New York, anyway. At least some Heat players will get together for the game later.

### Quick preps note: The Florida High School Athletic Association, which is exploring moving the state basketball championship from Lakeland in 2015 and beyond, said it is very impressed with the Panthers’ arena (the BB&T Center), and it’s under consideration.

### Please see the last post for media notes and a comprehensive look at Fox's plans for the Super Bowl... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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