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2 posts from April 12, 2014

April 12, 2014

News, views, stats and reaction from UM's spring game Saturday night

Observations and reaction from UM’s spring game Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium:

### You thought defense was this team’s biggest concern? Quarterback play might now be atop the Hurricanes' list of worries.

Kevin Olsen and Gray Crow did little to elicit confidence during this pseudo scrimmage, at least during the 11-on-11 portion, which was played on a 65-yard field. And the offense produced only seven points in 11-on-11 play, which spanned 75 minutes (of real life time, not game time).

Olsen finished 7 for 21 for 65 yards and one pick. Crow was 9 for 20 for 63 yards and one pick. Neither threw a touchdown in 11 on 11 drills, with Miami's only score coming on a Walter Tucker three-yard run.

Al Golden said afterward that Olsen “is clearly ahead” of Crow. But Golden said: “We need someone to emerge who can execute.”

While I still make Olsen the favorite to open the season as the starter, I would no longer be shocked if Brad Kaaya – who arrives in May – wins the job.

In fairness, Olsen didn’t take many first-team reps in spring ball until this past week (following Ryan Williams’ injury) and Crow never expected to be No. 2 on the depth chart.

But it’s clear both quarterbacks need a lot of work.

Olsen’s first three 11-on-11 possessions went quickly, ending in what would have been punts if Miami actually punted. He underthrew Phillip Dorsett and overthrew Stacy Coley on the first.

Ufomba Kamalu sacked him on the second possession. He overthrew Clive Walford on his third possession, which ended with Gus Edwards being tackled for a two-yard loss on third and one.

Olsen’s fourth possession ended when he overthrew Malcolm Lewis.

On Olsen’s fifth possession of the 11-on-11 portion of the scrimmage, Olsen finally completed a pass, a 25-yarder to Malcolm Lewis, who caught a five-yard pass on the sidelines a bit later on. Walter Tucker ended that drive with a three-yard score, the first points in the first nine possessions of the scrimmage (five quarterbacked by Olsen, four by Crow).

Olsen strung together consecutive solid throws on the sixth drive --- 14 yards to Herb Waters and 10 to Clive Walford. But that drive ended with Phillip Dorsett failing to catch a low throw.

Olsen’s seventh possession? Forgettable: A poorly thrown deep ball to Stacy Coley, which was intercepted by Tracy Howard. The eighth ended with Olsen overthrowing Lewis.

Here’s the glass-half-full perspective: Olsen has enough physical gifts to suggest that he will improve over time. He threw two impressive long touchdown throws Saturday (to Rashawn Scott and Dorsett) in one-on-one drills (against Larry Hope and Artie Burns, respectively). He made a terrific throw to Malcolm Lewis during 9-on-9 drills.

But there are going to be growing pains with Olsen if he indeed wins the job, and Miami must hope he grows up quickly enough to curb his turnovers and mistakes when the Hurricanes open in Louisville on Labor Day night.

“I would like to have performed a little better,” Olsen said. “It wasn’t nerves. We didn’t connect [on some plays]. The defense made a couple of good plays.”

### As for Crow, his best pass of the night was dropped, a 30-yarder to D’Mauri Jones.

Crow often struggled with his touch; throws on two sideline patterns were uncatchable, as were several other passes. Matt Guodis missed a 47-yard field goal on Crow’s first drive, and Crow couldn’t sustain drives the rest of the night. His sixth possession ended with a Juwon Young interception.

### Golden tried to put a positive spin on the quarterback play, noting that UM’s offense used “only about four formations.”

On Olsen’s performance, Golden said: “I thought he did a good job. He knows what he needs to do. He made the right calls. We have to execute better…. We’ll see where Ryan Williams is in late July, early August.” (Williams is not expected back for the start of the season.)

Golden praised Olsen for his poise, for making the right pre-snap reads and for not being culpable on any penalties.

### Edwards (19 carries, 70 yards) looks much improved, despite being tackled for a loss on the aforementioned short yardage play when he didn’t get any blocking in front of him. He ran hard, decisively and carried defenders with him for extra yards.

Tucker (11 carries, 36 yards) also had some strong runs, including the only touchdown of 11 on 11 drills.

“Gus is 235, Walter 220 --- that will give us physicality to complement Duke Johnson and Joseph Yearby,” Golden said. “Gus did a good job of stopping, starting, getting his shoulders squared.”

### Jermaine Grace again made his presence felt, as he did in the second scrimmage. He knocked away a pass to Walter Tucker in the flat and nearly picked off a Crow pass.

### Goudis didn’t elicit any confidence, missing two field goals, from 47 and 50 yards.

### Other notable numbers: Lewis was UM's leading receiver with three catches for 36 yards. Others with receptions: Herb Waters (3-12), Scott (2 for 33), Walford (2 for 13), Beau Sandland (1 for 3), Tucker (1 for 9), Garrett Kidd (1 for 6), Coley (1-6), Jones (1-no yards)....

Jamal Carter and Dallas Crawford led UM in tackles with five apiece... Kamalu and Anthony Chickillo had Miami's only sacks... Darrion Owens, JaWand Blue, Raphael Kirby, Olsen Pierre and Nantambu Fentress also had tackles for losses... As noted, Young and Howard had Miami's two picks...

Duke Johnson and Joseph Yearby did not participate as they recover from leg inuries. De'Andre Johnson had five carries for 11 yards.

### Golden said “a lot of positives” emerged from spring ball, “most notably...  [improvement at] linebacker and safety.”... The announced crowd Saturday was 12,160.

Please check back Sunday morning for the Sunday buzz column, packed with Heat, Dolphins, Canes and Marlins

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz                     


How Pacers explained, shrugged off loss to Heat and No. 1 seed battle; Heat, Dolphins chatter

After this resounding 98-86 Heat win over Indiana Friday, the most interesting place afterward was the Pacers locker-room, if only to see their players sit in front of their locker stalls staring morosely into space, trying to explain what has shockingly happened to them over the past month.

Here was the best they could do, after losing for the eighth time in 11 games, and 13th in their past 21:

### David West said “we had no energy and intensity tonight.” Asked why, he said: “I got no clue. No answer for that.”

More West: “We haven’t played well enough to be the top seed. We got what we deserve, I guess.”

### Lance Stephenson: “Whatever God put us at, I feel like if He puts us in the second place or if he puts us in first place, we got to live up to the challenge. I like us as underdogs and us coming after people. I feel we’re better as underdogs.”

### A couple Pacers starters chose to dismiss the ramifications, with the Heat now ahead by half a game in the race for the top seed in the conference.

“Now the No. 1 seed is not in our hands we’re perfectly fine with that,” Paul George said.

And George Hill said: “It doesn’t mean anything. It’s one loss. It would’ve helped us but it doesn’t mean anything.”

### And then there was Roy Hibbert, speaking barely above a whisper, trying to explain why he didn’t even take a shot in the first half (despite the six-inch height advantage over Udonis Haslem, who did more good work against him) and why he didn’t get his first rebound until just over three minutes remained in the third quarter.

“I’m disappointed in my play,” he said. “I felt good. I’ve got to do something on the boards. I’ve got to get long rebounds and work on that.”

He said he didn’t want to force shots in the first half “and we were in a rhythm. We were taking all good shots. I was fine with it. I wasn’t worried about shot attempts.”

But in the next breath, he said, “it was tough getting into a rhythm” offensively “in the second half,” suggesting it was a byproduct of him not taking any shots in the first half.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of Hibbert: “We have to get more from him and break their defense as well as box them out.”

The Heat had a 40-31 edge on the boards. Hibbert closed with five points (2 for 7 shooting) and one rebound in 33 minutes.

Paul George (22 points) shot 7 for 17 with four turnovers.

George Hill didn’t attempt a shot in 32 minutes.

Stephenson (11 points) had four of the Pacers’ 16 turnovers.

“Having 10 turnovers in the second half cost us in the third quarter,” Vogel said. “It was too much for us to overcome. I don’t think we played that bad, other than the third quarter.”

The Heat opened that third quarter on a 16-0 run, then ran off a 9-0 spurt to open the fourth.

“It’s still a good basketball team," Vogel said of his reeling group. "Overall, we feel very confident.”

### Chris Bosh, on the Heat’s approach with Hibbert: In the past, “we were allowing him to get too many easy dunks and layups. That was really hurting us and it got him going. Today we were able to stay between him and the basket and make his catches in the paint tough.

“We want to challenge him every time and test his conditioning level. If he is going to be down there every time, we are going to make him work. I think before we were trying to avoid putting him in pick-and-roll situations, and today I think we just attacked him a lot more.”

### LeBron James, who had 36 points and six rebounds, said: “The best thing about tonight is we didn’t force passes” and commit turnovers (just nine overall).

He said “for us, it’s big” to win because of earlier losses this week. But “it’s not as big as everyone wants to make it.”

Asked about the No. 1 seed, LeBron again downplayed it, saying: “It’s more important for us to play the right way. The No. 1 seed doesn’t guarantee you a playoff series.”

And LeBron showed respect for the Pacers, saying “they have their record for a reason. They are going to be there.”

### Since the Pacers own the tiebreaker by virtue of a better conference record, Miami (54-25) would need to finish 3-0 to claim the No. 1 seed IF the Pacers (54-26) beat both visiting Oklahoma City and Orlando on the road to finish out their schedule. The Heat's remaining games: at Atlanta, at Washington and home to Philadelphia.


### New Dolphins receiver Damian Williams said Miami broached the issue of being a return man during his visit Thursday. But he would be an underdog in that competition with incumbent Marcus Thigpen.

Thigpen ranked 18th in the NFL in kickoff returns last season, averaging 22.5 yards per return. He ranked 19th in punt returns with a 7.8 average.

In his career, Williams has returned four punts for 12 yards, and five kickoffs for 129 yards.

### The Dolphins worked out 50 players during their local day today, the majority from UM, FIU and FAU.

### Clemson tackle/guard Brandon Thomas had planned to visit the Dolphins before tearing the ACL in his knee during a recent workout with the Saints.