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News, notes, views on UM defense as spring ball nears close; Heat-Nets postscripts, Fins, Marlins

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Much of the focus at UM on Tuesday, and rightfully so, was Kevin Olsen taking over for injured Ryan Williams. (See the last post about that.) But the other big question that lingers over this program like thick smog is whether the defense --- generally deficient last season, especially late in the year --- is appreciably better.

Not even coaches know for sure, not only because it’s impossible to make sweeping conclusions off spring ball, but also because several key pieces missed practices (Anthony Chickillo, Olsen Pierre) and because two important additions (defensive tackle Michael Wyche and five-star end/linebacker Chad Thomas) haven’t arrived yet. And a few other newcomers (tackles Anthony Moten and Courtel Jenkins, end Demetrius Jackson, among others) also could factor in immediately.

A few developments, on defense, that emerged during spring ball, which wraps up Saturday:

### Ask coordinator Mark D’Onofrio why he’s optimistic his group will be better, and he immediately points to one position: Linebacker.

“The linebacking group has got me excited,” he said. “Raphael Kirby has had a great spring. Jermaine Grace is putting it all together. His playmaking ability is showing up. JaWand Blue has been a really big surprise…. You couple that with our rush linebackers who are our hybrid guys --- Al Quadin Muhammad, Tyriq McCord and Trent Harris. It’s a young, athletic group.”

What’s more, Denzel Perryman has capably handled his move to inside linebacker, Alex Figueroa shows flashes, early enrollee Darion Owens displayed pass rush potential “and Juwon Young has talent; he just has to learn the schemes.”

After last season, D’Onofrio spoke of Grace playing on third downs in 2014. But expectations have grown after a spring in which he batted down passes and played the run stoutly.

“He’s on his way to being a guy who will be hard not to want on the field on first and second down because of his instincts and playmaking ability,” D’Onofrio said. “He’s got a knack for finding the football. Good blitzer, good in pass coverage and has got good run instincts.”

### Less clear is whether this group of defensive tackles, beyond Olsen Pierre, will be better than average. UM believes summer arrival Wyche, from East Los Angeles Community College, will be a big upgrade. He’s a favorite to start opposite Pierre.

The good news about early arrival Calvin Heurtelou: He’s powerful and difficult to dislodge. The bad news: He hasn’t surpassed Moore on the depth chart. “We’ll have Calvin, Earl Moore and Wyche competing at nose tackle,” D’Onofrio said.

UM needs to upgrade over Moore, Jelani Hamilton and Corey King, unless two of those three improve considerably. Moore made the most strides of the three, but we need to see it in September.

### What most pleases Al Golden is the improved safety play, which coincided with the spring absence of injured former starter Rayshawn Jenkins, whose inconsistent play frustrated coaches last season. Deon Bush has regained his freshman form (“He’s breaking on the ball better, seeing it better,” Golden said. “He never was quite healthy last year. He looks fast.").

Jamal Carter has “been great –-- you can see a real jump,” Bush said. And Dallas Crawford’s transition from running back to safety has been “remarkable,” D’Onofrio said. “He’s got tremendous instincts. You feel him when he’s on the field…. You want people to fear your safeties.”

Overall, “we're getting more production out of our safeties,” D”Onofrio said. “That will lead to more picks.”

### Golden said the “biggest thing” about his defense is “Ufomba Kamalu is growing up. He gives us a 6-5, 283-pound [tackle/end]. We can use him in multiple ways.”

Kamalu is battling Chickillo for one starting end job, with UM opting to keep them on the same side so that Muhammad and McCord can compete at the opposite end spot. (Muhammad and McCord line up as stand-up linebackers when Miami is in a 3-4 scheme.)

### Because of Thomas’ dynamic skills, “we’ve got to find things that Chad can do well for us immediately,” D’Onofrio said. “His playmaking ability is too good, his football IQ is too high [not to play].”

### Artie Burns, hoping to unseat projected starters Tracy Howard or Ladarius Gunter at cornerback, said UM coaches will allow the defensive backs to play more man-to-man defense this season. But Perryman said he doesn’t expect any significant changes in D’Onofrio’s system.

“The majority of the fronts we play are 4-3,” D’Onofrio said. “That doesn’t mean we might not play more 3-4 defense in certain situations in games.”

### Am I convinced the defense is better? It might be, but I want to see proof in September (and against Louisville and Nebraska, not the Florida A&M and Arkansas State games in between). But the improvement of a few young players and influx of several quality recruits is reason for cautious (and I mean cautious) optimism. But defensive tackle still worries me. 

CHATTER

### Duke Johnson, who was 196 pounds last August, is up to 210, which could make him more effective on short-yardage runs.... UM hopes Justin Vogel will be the answer at punter, a position of great concern. Canesport.com reported that he's transferring from UF (where he hasn't punted in a game) and will be a walk-on at UM, with the chance to earn a scholarship if he becomes the Hurricanes' punter. Several other prominent programs also had interest in Vogel. He averaged 45 yards a punt in high school in Tampa. 

### A few postscripts from the Nets' 88-87 win in Miami tonight: New Jersey becomes the first team in the Big Three era to go 4-0 against the Heat in the regular season. And this was the first LeBron James team ever swept 4-0 in a regular season series.... Erik Spoelstra said Mason Plumlee's last-second block of James "was a foul from my vantage point, but what can you do?" LeBron agreed: "It was a foul. That's my thought. I should have been at the line. He grabbed my right hand. It wasn't on purpose." He said the ball would have gone straight down if Plumlee had gotten only ball....

Plumlee had firm contact with James' hand at the end of the play, but as Sun Sports' Tony Fiorentino said, "The officials consider the hand part of the ball" --- unlike the wrist. "We got lucky," Nets coach Jason Kidd said.

This was indisputable: Plumlee should have been called for goaltending on a block of a Chris Bosh shot with two minutes left.... ESPN noted LeBron was 128 for 130 on dunk attempts this season before that Plumlee block... TNT's Craig Sager asked LeBron if the Nets are the Heat's biggest challenger in the East. "Get out of here, Craig. Next question," LeBron responded.

Without Dwyane Wade, the Heat needed more from Bosh than his 12-point, 6-rebound game on 5 for 13 shooting....  Spoelstra again bypassed Michael Beasley, as well as James Jones despite his good work last week.

### If Miami beats Indiana on Friday to split the season series and if the teams finish the season tied, conference record would be the tiebreaker and the Pacers are 36-13, compared to 33-15 for Miami after tonight. The Heat leads the Pacers by half a game, but Indiana could regain the lead if it beats Milwaukee Wednesday and if the Heat loses at Memphis.

### Despite all of Indiana’s struggles and the Heat’s erratic play at times, Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett wanted to make one thing clear when we spoke Monday: “Miami and Indiana are the two best teams in the East. So you should assume they are going to make [the Eastern Conference Finals]. No ego here. I’m calling it like I see it.”

### Though the Dolphins hope to find their starting right tackle in the draft, they will give Jason Fox a chance to compete for the job. Fox has played only 281 snaps on offense in four years for Detroit, allowing one sack on 130 passing plays.

### The Dolphins are using some of their 30 permitted non-local visits on players they like who weren’t invited to the NFL Combine, with Marshall offensive tackle Garrett Scott the latest to come to team headquarters this week. He figures to be a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent.

### The Marlins shut down ace Jose Fernandez on Sept. 11 last season, not wanting him to pitch much more than 170 innings. (He pitched 172 2/3.) General manager Dan Jennings told The Ticket’s Josh Friedman that while Fernandez won’t be on an innings count this season, “there may be times during the season we skip him a start so we can pitch him deeper into September and hopefully October.”  

### Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner will miss his scheduled start Wednesday at Washington because he strained his shoulder during batting practice. (No kidding.) Brad Hand will start in his place. 

Comments

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TK SWANN

GOTTA HAVE HOMECOURT BECAUSE IT'S OBVIOUS THE LEAGUE WANTS TO SEE THE HEAT FAIL.. WOULD JORDAN HAVE GOTTEN THAT CALL ?? ASK 100 PEOPLE AND 98 WILL TELL YOU YES!! THE OTHER 2 DON'T KNOW WHO JORDAN IS !!. HEAT WIN HOME COURT AND THEY WILL WIN THE EAST BARRING A INJURY TO LEBRON. BUT THE HEAT WILL NOT WIN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP IF IT FACES SAN ANTONIO OR OKC..IT'S BEEN A GOOD 3 YEAR RUN AND I HOPE THE GROUP STAYS BUT RIGHT NOW WHO CARES.. LET'S GO HEAT WE CAN STILL REPEAT IF THE REFS CALL THE GAME CORRECTLY..

kdogg

Apparantly the refs were not part of James illuminati clan. They made the right call 100 percent. Hand is part of ball and block came first. Learn the rule pal.

Clwtrdan

Quietly, Thurston Armbrister continues to earn his starting reps. No mention here, but he will battle Fig to the end and possibly start.

Robert

If theyre counting on armbrister, they're in big trouble.

Scott Foster's Disappearing Whistle

Kdogg, that only makes sense if you make some contact with the actual ball or you make contact with the non-wrist part of the hand after the ball is out. Plumlee clearly did not do either. He hit Lebron's right hand which dislodged the ball. Zero contact on the ball. Like Lebron said, physics would tell you that if he got ball first, the ball would come back down towards Lebron, not away from the play back behind Plumlee.


If they call the goaltend correctly, this is moot anyways. Anyone know where I can get an application to be a ref? They have six figure salaries and I know I can do better than these chumps.

Dick Bavetta

pssst.

You don't have to hit the ball itself.

The hand is part of the ball.

That's the rule.

green

Wait. This was April 8? 4-8? Florida Gators football day? That's outstanding. Props to whoever came up with that.
-- Tim Reynolds ‏@ByTimReynolds

2 BITS 4 BITS 6 BITS A DOLLAR

Scott Foster's Disappearing Whistle

That's not how its applied, Dick. You have to hit at least a piece of the ball for the rule to apply. If you think that ain't the case, go ask Winking Plumlee himself.

green

ND/Georgia discussing possible 2018-19 home/home series

The possible game at Notre Dame would be Georgia's first north of the Mason-Dixon line since 1965.

That year, Georgia traveled to Ann Arbor to play Michigan. That is the last game they have played outside of the South ....since.
-- TerryD

COME IN FROM THE COLD

green

https://twitter.com/smillerdegnan/status/453530278209015808/photo/1

This #UM #Canes future practice field will be 80 yards & artificial turf
-- Susan Miller Degnan ‏@smillerdegnan

how about an indoor facility? even the schools in the south are stocking up on those.
-- Steve Gorten ‏@sgorten

it is in long term plans. Blake James shared this at 2013 football media day.
-- Chris Freet ‏@ChrisFreet

WHILE WE'RE YOUNG

green

You had to be an idiot or pervert to like Neil Rogers.

Posted by: Marios | 04/07/2014 at 05:18 PM

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8h2eiL0gjh9ccaSm8yEwCOWo7cHJ33Cd

Until his retirement on June 22, 2009, "The Neil Rogers Show" aired weekdays from 10am-2pm on 560 WQAM. It was consistently the top rated show in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale media market and had been since his Miami debut in 1976.

Regardless of his station, Neil Rogers was consistently the top rated personality in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market, prompting one Miami radio executive to call him "the most consistent performer among men 25-54 that this market has ever seen."
-- wiki

QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY

green

I had 3 different people tell me that Greg Schiano we all know was at practice but is there to meet with Blake James for a consultant position? Is there any truth to this?
-- gangis2169

Yes please be true I'd like to see Schiano add more aggressiveness to this defense. This is the Alabama model...take in proven past coaches who have been fired and have them improve your football team through a consulting role.
-- freespirted305

THAT'S HOW WE ROLL

Dick Bavetta

You're mistaken. There is no requirement that the defender touch the ball first.

The hand is considered a part of the ball.

"The hand is considered "part of the ball" when it is in contact with the ball. Therefore, contact on that hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal."

Neal

You're all mistaken. The hand being part of the ball usually only applies during a steal (when someone is being stripped of the ball), and even then it's almost always called a foul. Ever notice the amount of fouls called when someone is taking a shot and the defender nicks the shooter's hand after he releases the shot and a foul is called? Same concept with the dunk. Simple.

Dick Bavetta

That's completely false, it applies on a shot too.

When called, it's because the defender hit the shooter's wrist, which is not part of the ball.

thinker

As I posted in a previous post Neil Rodgers was nothing more than an angry bitter old hag.Her listeners were losers of life who blamed everyone and everything else for their crap lives,instead of at least taking ownership of their decisions in life.This morons would listen to their D-bag queen to feel better about themselves instead of trying to improve their lives.Neal has been dead and rotting for awhile now and I don't come to sports blogs to read about that useless angry old hag.

Dashi

The Refs can say whatever they want. Spo won't do anything. Even the refs punk this "2 Time World Champ".

The Heat get no respect!! No respect I tell you!!

same thing, new year on D

"It’s a young, athletic group.” Coach No 'D

So 4 years in and we are still "young and athletic" instead of being experienced and loaded with All-Conference/American type players.

DT's will be the same. A few decent ones and absolutely no depth behind them after 4 years.

Hope we score 40 a game.

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