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2 posts from April 1, 2014

April 01, 2014

UM players opine on idea of unionizing; Dolphins, Canes, Marlins, Heat chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

All it takes is one player, just one, to form a union, convince teammates to join and throw the University of Miami football program into a place the administration very much does not want it to go.

In the wake of last week’s National Labor Relations Board ruling that Northwestern University football players are university employees and can form a union and collectively bargain, UM players on Tuesday offered diverse views about whether it would and should happen here.

“It would be smart” to unionize, senior-to-be tight end Clive Walford said, adding he would consider starting one. “Getting paid would be everyone’s desire.”

Asked if launching a union at UM is realistic, senior-to-be offensive guard Jon Feliciano said: “I think so. If it starts turning out good at Northwestern, people would start doing it here. But if nothing really happens, no one will follow. We have a lot of wild personalities on this team, so there’s a bunch of people that might try.  It’s not my main focus right now. But if we do start a union, I would not be opposed to it.”

The NLRB decision, which has been being appealed by Northwestern and sharply criticized by the NCAA, would affect only private schools such as UM.

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter said he’s not pushing for pay-for-play per se but reportedly would like players to receive stipends, be compensated for commercial sponsorships and possibly get health insurance. A UM official said providing health insurance for all players would be extremely expensive.

Feliciano said football players who live off campus receive -- as part of the "room and board" part of their scholarship -- a $1200 check each month for 10 months annually, which he said he uses toward rent, food and utilities.

He said having UM pay the players that amount in May and August, as well --- “when we don’t get checks” –-- would be helpful. “Just take care of us” that way, said Feliciano, whom Al Golden has identified as a near-certain starter.

Feliciano said players should be paid, beyond scholarships, if they “find a way to pay everyone equally. [The NCAA makes] a lot of money off TV, endorsements. Everyone is wearing UM stuff.” (It’s difficult to envision UM participating in pay-for-play beyond the enormous scholarship costs, but we’re in unchartered waters here.)

Injured Duke Johnson isn’t permitted to speak to reporters this spring, but two other future faces of the program --- Stacy Coley and Kevin Olsen --- said they would not want to spearhead union efforts at UM, though Olsen said “I could probably see that happening here” and Coley likes the idea of getting health insurance from UM.

By the way, UM quarterback Ryan Williams indicated he has no interest in getting involved in starting a union at UM.

And of course, all of this is moot if the NLRB decision is overturned on appeal or if UM players don’t ever unionize. But a UM source said the school is definitely concerned about the potential implications, both logistically and financially.

CHATTER

### Mike Wallace is not concerned about a CBS report that the Dolphins are continuing to try to trade him because his understanding is that it is not true. The Dolphins, privately, have vehemently denied the report, and Jason LaCanfora is the only reporter claiming Miami is shopping Wallace.

Though Ryan Tannehill has been throwing to receivers for more than two weeks, Wallace has been out of town. Wallace told me previously that at some point this offseason, he and Tannehill need to work on their deep-ball chemistry.

### Dan Marino on Monday confirmed interest in working for the Dolphins and said Pittsburgh is the only other team he would work for. A friend of Marino said a job on the Dolphins’ football side appeals to him, and meeting with free agents could be one element.

But the question is how much, if any, road work and scouting Marino would be willing to do. And if he’s expecting final say on personnel, that’s not going to happen. As noted in this space Sunday, owner Stephen Ross said he plans to talk to him.

### Cornerback Dimitri Patterson, released by the Dolphins last month, signed with the Jets today and will make $3 million in a one-year deal.

### Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan couldn’t stop raving about Chris Andersen last night: “His energy, his toughness, his flair; sometimes guys like that mean as much as your stars.” And also consider this:

At 66.3 percent from the field, Andersen is positioned to post one of the five highest shooting percentages since the turn of the century. Only DeAndre Jordan (this season and three years ago), Brandan Wright, Tyson Chandler and Shaquille O’Neal have shot better than Andersen's current percentage over those 13 seasons (minimum 200 attempts). Jordan’s 68.6 in 2010-11 is the NBA's highest since 2000.

### So who drew more eyeballs when the Heat and Marlins went head-to-head Monday? Heat-Raptors was viewed in 7.0 percent of Dade/Broward TV households (on Sun Sports), compared to 3.4 for the Marlins (between FSN and ESPN2), though that was a huge increase in audience over the 2013 Marlins opener.  

But because they have a larger capacity, the Marlins drew far more people to their game, with both games selling out.

### The Dolphins will audition several UM players --- including offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, quarterback Stephen Morris, receiver Allen Hurns, d-tackle Curtis Porter and guard Brandon Linder --- next week. FIU defensive tackle Isame Faciane is among other local players invited to that Dolphins workout.

Ten of the players also have been invited to dinner with Dolphins position coaches the night before, including Henderson and UM tight end Asante Cleveland. Henderson, by the way, also has been invited to visit the Steelers and Vikings.

### Among spring surprises at UM: Offensive coordinator James Coley said emerging sophomore-to-be tight end Standish Dobard has surpassed senior Beau Sandland, behind injured starter Clive Walford. Dobard is a skilled blocker with soft hands and the ability to make plays downfield. Drops have been an issue for him in practice in the past but less so recently.

### Among the behind-the-scenes issues playing out at UM in recent days: UM originally ruled that Bethune-Cookman’s Dyron Dye (kicked off the UM team last summer) couldn’t audition at its Pro Day this Thursday because he was mentioned in the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations. But UM changed its mind in recent days, aware Ray-Ray Armstrong was allowed to audition at UM under similar circumstances last year.

### Please see the last post, from earlier Tuesday, for a lot more UM notes, as well as Chris Bosh's amusing take on Indiana's pursuit of the No. 1 seed in the East.

### The Marlins never expected Colin Moran, their third baseman of the future, would be ready for the big leagues at any point this season, and now the start of his season at Single A Jupiter has been delayed at least three weeks by a knee injury. (There's no tear, according to the team.)

What’s more, outfielder Brent Keys, one of the Marlins' other top hitting prospects, is out indefinitely with what the team fears could be a bulging disk. Keyes hit .341 last season and was the Florida State League's Player of the Year.

### Marlins closer Steve Cishek's first save of the season tonight was his 30th successful conversion in a row, the longest ongoing streak in baseball. And the Marlins are 2-0 for the first time since 2009, when they opened 4-0.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Tuesday afternoon update: Lots of tidbits from UM football practice; Heat, Marlins chatter; NFL TV hire

Tuesday afternoon chatter: 

### With only two practices, one scrimmage and the spring game remaining in spring ball, Al Golden said Ryan Williams remains ahead in the quarterback competition. (This is a recording, because we've heard that all spring.)

“Kevin (Olsen) is getting better,” Golden said. But “Ryan has done a good job holding off” Olsen and obviously, Gray Crow.

But Golden said he wants more leadership from Williams and others on offense.

"We're getting more leadership on defense right now than we're getting on offense, which is the first time in a while (that happened)," Golden said. "We need Ereck Flowers and Jon Feliciano, Clive (Walford) and Duke (Johnson) along with Ryan and Kevin, guys like that to step up. Phillip Dorsett and Stacy Coley (too).”

### UM 6-9 senior forward Raphael Akpejiori has been watching practice (and catching some balls while being observed by receivers coach Brennan Carroll). He plans to  practice with the team in August.

"We're going to see what he can do," Golden said. "You can't coach 6-7 and all that other stuff he can do. But he can run. I had a chance to say hello to him a couple of times, not really in depth, but he seems like a great kid."

Could he actually help?

"At some point this must have been the conversation about Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates or any of those young guys, so we're looking at it like `Hey, the young man seems motivated, he wants to do it, he's learning it.' If he can do it we'll accommodate him, no questions asked." "Offensive coordinator James Coley said: “We’re short right now, and if [Akpejiori] can come in here and play, that would be great.”

### Golden said Standish Dobard “is setting the standard” at tight end.

Said Coley: “He’s tough. He has that Louisiana in him. He’s a guy if you’re going to squat on when you’re running a route, he’s going to run you over. He has brought it every day. Right now, Standish is wearing orange, Beau [Sandland] is not.”

### Golden said that Earl Moore and Calvin Heurtelou were standouts at tackle in the scrimmage.

"(Heurtelou) might be our strongest D line guy [physically] right now," Golden said. "Now it's reducing mental errors."

### Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said Jermaine Grace “made a lot of plays [in Saturday's scrimmage]. Didn’t have mental errors. Has a ways to go, but doing a good job.”… He also is “proud of what Raphael Kirby has done” at two linebacker positions…. He said safety Dallas Crawford “did what I knew he would do when the lights went on. Physical guy. Great feel for playing the game. For what he’s done in a 10-day period [moving over from running back] is really remarkable, not making mental errors.”…

### D'Onofrio said tackle Earl Moore has been “steady. He’s gotten better. Kind of the light went on. Earl has been really consistent. The thing that hurts us right now is Olsen Pierre is not out there. Ufomba Kamalu has gotten better.”

### More D’Onofrio: He said Alex Figueroa and Tracy Howard lost their black jerseys today because they are “not up to the standards” in the scrimmage. “It’s just about being consistent. We love Tracy. We want [black jersey] to be something special. You’ve got to grade out higher to be at level of a championship.”

### Al Quadin Muhammad is out with an ankle injury and Olsen Pierre with a concussion. UM is hopeful both will return this spring.

### D’Onofrio said Jamal Carter “has had a great spring with his competitiveness and passion and willingness to try to get better. He’s an example of a guy that benefited from bowl practices.”

### Coley, asked who has impressed him this spring: “Ryan Williams has a good command of the offense. I’m impressed with his ability to change plays and get us into great calls at the line… Taylor Gadbois has set himself apart at right tackle… Walter Tucker has had a really good last two days… D’Mauri Jones has gotten better every day.”

### Coley said Kevin Olsen has “made some nice throws” but needs to improve his communication with other players at the line of scrimmage so that they recognize the play he’s calling.

### The staff wants more from Gus Edwards. “What Gus has to grow into is a big guy that moves fast all the time,” Coley said. “Sometimes big guys choose when they want to go fast.”

### Coley, on the state of his offense: “We still have to play our brand of football. We’re not there yet. We want to be a tough team, physical, a team that people want to play us and have a bye week.”

### Coley likes the Rashawn Scott is “finally playing at 204. He’s not the 196 pound receiver any more.”

HEAT, MARLINS, NFL TV

### Now that the Heat has pulled ahead of Indiana (by percentage points), you’ve got to love Chris Bosh’s take on the situation.

"You know, that's why when the Pacers were talking, 'Hey, No. 1 seed, home court!' It's like, hey, it's August. Calm down a little bit. We know how it is. We know it's a marathon. That's one of the conversations you have to have amongst yourselves, and it's a reason to go out there and play hard every day. Saying it to everybody, shouting it from the mountain top, that's not our style." 

LeBron James continues to downplay the value of claiming the No. 1 seed.

### A few tidbits about Jose Fernandez’s debut Monday, courtesy of Elias: He’s only the second pitcher to have nine strikeouts and no walks on opening day in the past 16 seasons (Jered Weaver was the other) and the 16th ever….

He’s also only the second pitcher to earn a win on opening day after being voted the Rookie of the Year the previous season. The only other man to do that is the Giants' John Montefusco, who was the National League's top rookie in 1975 and then started and won San Francisco's season opener in 1976....

Most impressive: Fernandez is now 10-0 all time at Marlins Park, with a 1.21 ERA.

### CBS today hired former Dolphins quarterback Trent Green as a game analyst. He fills the opening created by Dan Dierdorf’s departure, but he’s likely not going to replace Dierdorf on the network’s No. 2 announcing team. That slot could go to Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts, with Greg Gumbel also still a candidate to maintain his spot on the No. 2 team.