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2 posts from June 17, 2014

June 17, 2014

Why UM's desperate move at quarterback could make some sense; Lots of Heat chatter; Dolphins

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The university once known as Quarterback U hasn’t had one drafted before the seventh round in 22 years. And now, less than three months from the opener at Louisville, UM is welcoming a quarterback, Jake Heaps, who lost his starting job for a 3-9 Kansas team and finished 126th of 127 major college football qualifiers in completion percentage last season.

What in the name of Brock Berlin is going on here?

UM’s decision to bring aboard Heaps --- who is eligible immediately --- and allow him to compete with Kevin Olsen and incoming long shots Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier for the starting job --- might seem desperate, but there is reasoning behind it.

Though Olsen could still win the job, there were serious concerns internally about automatically handing the position to him in the wake of Ryan Williams’ knee injury.

One UM official, after Williams’ injury during spring ball, admitted he was very worried. Heaps, while erratic throughout his career, is by far the most experienced option for the difficult season opener.

There’s no question about Olsen’s arm and raw talent. But several concerns have been voiced privately. Among them: Olsen needs to be more receptive to coaching, polish his mechanics (which contributed to his dismal 7 for 21 showing in the spring game), stop throwing into double coverage and not force the home-run ball when it’s not there. In other words, don’t be afraid to take what the defense gives him.

He must be studious about film work (he has improved somewhat in that area) and gain a complete grasp of the offense. Olsen was stumped when asked several questions by the offensive coaching staff during a meeting late in spring practice. One UM source said the impression is that he works harder when his brother Greg, the Carolina Panthers tight end, is in town.

UM has been trying to figure out what buttons to push, so that Olsen is motivated to work maniacally, instead of feeling entitled to the job with Williams out. Bringing in Heaps, who has one year of eligibility, solves that issue.

Here’s the good news on Heaps: He was rated Rivals.com’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback in 2010, set freshman passing records at BYU, has a strong arm, is intelligent and has 28 games of starting experience, combined, at BYU and Kansas. He has 32 TDs and 27 INTs in his career.

The bad news: ESPN’s quarterback rating system ranked him 122nd in 2013, sixth-worst among all FBS starters. His 49 percent completion rating was abysmal, though mitigated somewhat by 48 drops by Kansas receivers (not all thrown by Heaps). He twice left schools after being beaten out, at BYU after 2011 and Kansas this year.

Williams’ mother said Williams hopes to return for the fourth game, Sept. 20 at Nebraska, but UM has no idea if that will happen. So Heaps is an insurance policy, as one UM official termed it.

Heaps said he visited UM a month-and-a-half ago and has been studying the UM playbook for a while.

“This has been definitely been in the works for a while now,” Heaps, who's married and a devout Mormon, told our Manny Navarro. “If they didn't think I could bring anything to the program, this wouldn't have happened. All I wanted was a strong opportunity to compete.”

Adding Heaps also could allow UM to potentially redshirt Kaaya and Rosier, which could be of benefit down the road. 

CHATTER

### Please see the last post for details about what LeBron James and Chris Bosh said today.

Here are two other notable comments from LeBron:

1) "I've been fortunate enough to play in five Finals. On the other end, I've lost three of them. That doesn't sit well with me at all, to be in this position, being able to get to this point, and be under .500 and not be able to be successful in those games."

2) "We need to get better. We have some holes that need to be filled." Heat fans can be encouraged by his use of "we."

### Perhaps Steve Kerr was right last summer when he said the Heat would ultimately be doomed by exhaustion.

“We’re playing until the [beginning] of the summer – to have to do that every year, it takes a toll,” Chris Bosh said Tuesday. “The whole thing felt forced [this season]. If we won, it would just be a relief. Pure joy – you didn’t see much of that. Toughest year I ever had.”

Bosh said “we’re going to have to find a way” next season to solve that conundrum. “I don’t know think there is an answer to it.”

As retiring Shane Battier put it Tuesday: “With the success we’ve had, you become numb to success and being able to improve from losing. Wins were relief and losses just nagged at you. When it gets to a point like that, it’s dangerous. I don’t know how you correct it.”

### Ray Allen said he hasn’t decided whether to retire but “if I came back, there’s no other place I’d rather be" than Miami.

### Bosh said communication among the three is better now than in 2010, when they came together.

"I think it's easier to get on the same page now," Bosh said. "Because we know each other. I didn't really know those guys. I didn't know LeBron and D back then, like that. We hung around each other, but not really. So we didn't really know each other. I think communication is so much easier, because we can get the kids together, we can go out together with the wives. We can do something, and we know how to talk to each other. And those things allow us to connect and feel each other out. Before, it was awkward." 

### The Heat hasn’t told Michael Beasley if it wants him back, and Erik Spoelstra, even in praising his “courage” to come to Miami, said: “We’ll see what happens with his career; we’ll see where he goes next season.”

### As for Greg Oden, Spoelstra also declined to answer when asked if the Heat wants him back. Oden is the Heat's only free agent who has declined to say whether he wants to play in Miami. 

"He'll have a very committed summer again, and then we'll see," Spoelstra said. "I loved having Greg around."

### ESPN reported "mutual" interest between the Heat and Toronto free agent point guard Kyle Lowry, but Lowry reportedly wants $11 million per season, and the Heat couldn't afford that unless the Big Three all take substantial pay cuts.... Mario Chalmers said he's "excited" about free agency while reiterating his desire to return.

### UM, which could use more size in its frontcourt, will host three-star, 6-foot-10, Class of 14 prospect Isaiah Manderson at some point soon and hope to convince him to enroll ASAP. Manderson committed to Oregon State but received his release after coach Craig Robinson (President Obama's brother-in-law) was fired.

Manderson --- who received offers from FSU, UCLA, Maryland and others during his initial recruitment --- is a good rebounder with a developing offensive game. He reportedly has no other visits scheduled besides Miami.

### Please see the last post for Dolphins tidbits and notes from Tuesday.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz                 

6 p.m. update: LeBron, Bosh address future; Tidbits, observations from Dolphins OTA practice; UM quarterback talk

Dwyane Wade declined to comment to reporters today; LeBron James was non-committal about his future; and Chris Bosh said he wants to stay with the Heat and believes LeBron and Wade also want to stick around.

A quick synopsis:

### James said he hasn’t decided whether to exercise his early termination clause  but “being able to have flexibility is what we all would like.”

LeBron passed on an opportunity to say whether he intends to stay with the Heat or whether he wants to look elsewhere.       

"I haven’t even begun to wrap my mind about it. I need to get away with my family before I start to think about what will happen next."

Among factors that will influence his decision, James cited family and a desire to win. "For me, I just want to win," he said, "and that's all that matters to me."

He said the Heat doesn't need to tell him anything, per se, to influence him to stay.

"I understand what this team, this franchise, brings to the table."

He said he plans to talk to Wade and Bosh before making a decision.  "I think there will be a conversation between the three of us," he said. "I'm not sure what Dwyane is thinking right now."  

Asked if he would talk to outside free agents about possibly signing here before making a decision, LeBron said he didn't even know the list of free agents and did not necessarily feel it's his place to do that before Pat Riley determines which players he wants to pursue.

Asked three times in some variation if the Big Three might be interested in taking less money like the Spurs' Big Three, LeBron essentially deferred, showing no interest in addressing the matter.

### Bosh said he hasn’t decided whether to opt out but: “I want to be here. My family is here. I love working here. It's a great place.

"We will talk with Riles, hear his plan, talk with our families and try to figure this out. I’m sure Riley has finite plan moving forward. It starts with listening to him. Eventually we will come together and figure this thing out. We feel that if we stay together, we can continue to compete. Everything is a possibility. That's why they negotiate. But I want to be here."

He also is optimistic about the Big Three staying together: “We like it here. We have a pretty good thing going.”

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Quick notes on the first of the Dolphins' three OTA practices this week:

### The Dolphins, who have only two cornerbacks who have started more than two NFL games (Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan) have passed on a slew of veterans this offseason, assuming Jamar Taylor and Will Davis are ready to handle the No. 3 and No. 4 jobs.

Early signs are very encouraging for Taylor, who intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass Tuesday. Davis either seems to break up passes or allow too much space to receivers; there isn’t a lot of middle ground.  

"Like where they're at," Joe Philbin said of Taylor and Davis. "They're progressing well. You feel Jamar a little more [than last year, when he was slowed by a groin issue]. Davis made a couple nice plays today."

### Lamar Miller, being used more as a receiver out of the backfield, remains clearly ahead of Knowshon Moreno for the starting running back job. He had a long run for a touchdown Tuesday.

### Rookie receiver Jarvis Landry continues to make an impression; he has had a few one-handed receptions in camp.

“He’s sneaky quick, sneaky fast,” Philbin said. "He understands the soft spots in a zone. There isn't a lot of hesitation to his game."

### Most impressive of the undrafted rookies? LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who’s running with the second team. “Quick and explosive,” Philbin said.

### Rookie cornerback Walt Aikens lined up at safety for a few plays. He appears to be the sixth best cornerback, at best, in camp.

### Philbin seems concerned about the backup tight ends behind Charles Clay. "We've still got some things to sort out," Philbin said of the position.

Dion Sims is No. 2 on the depth chart, but Philbin said he wants to see him successfully block defensive ends during games. "He has a lot of great traits [but] he has some work to do," Philbin said.

Rookie Arthur Lynch made a couple of tough catches in practice Tuesday. Philbin said Michael Egnew has had a solid camp.

### Rookie seventh-rounder Terence Fede showed impressive athleticism in intercepting a Matt Moore pass.

###  Quarterback play was spotty Tuesday, with Tannehill throwing the pick to Taylor and having another pass nearly intercepted by Louis Delmas. Jalil Brown intercepted Moore.

Meanwhile, Pat Devlin overthrow Rontavious Wooten and Marcus Thigpen on deep balls and hardly shows the type of improvement you would have hoped for by now. And undrafted rookie Brock Jensen isn’t as good as Devlin.

### Rookie receiver Matt Hazel had a couple of nifty catches but fumbled one of them…. Earl Mitchell and Dion Jordan each had sacks.

### Good to see Brandon Gibson back in 11 on 11 drills ---eight months after a major knee injury.

### Dallas Thomas remained the starting left guard and remains ahead of Billy Turner at that position.

### The No. 2 defense: Jordan, Derrick Shelby, Johnson and A.J. Francis on the defensive line; Jelani Jenkins, Jason Trusnik (middle) and Jonathan Freeney at linebacker; Brown and Davis at cornerback (Taylor was filling in for Cortland Finnegan on the first team); and Jimmy Wilson and Don Jones at safety.

Keep in mind that Jared Odrick remains out of 11 on 11 drills.

### Like Finnegan and Moreno, Mike Pouncey also was given time off from full 11 on 11 drills. Sam Brenner filled in at center.... Moreno appears to have lost some weight, and Philbin insisted he's pleased with him.

### The Miami-Dade County commission approved Sun Life stadium renovations. Please see the home page of The Herald for a full report.

### Adam Beasley will have a story posted shortly on Tannehill, who is getting on his receivers more than the past two years. He chewed out Rishard Matthews Tuesday and also yelled at Wooten. Philbin said he is showing more leadership and is completing more "vertical" passes than during OTAs last year.

### In adding Jake Heaps, UM now has Rivals.com’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback in 2010 (Heaps), the 12th in 2013 (Kevin Olsen) and the 8th in 2014 (Brad Kaaya).

The good news on Heaps, who will challenge Kevin Olsen for the starting job: He has a strong arm, is very bright, set several freshman passing records at BYU and has experience starting 28 games combined for two schools (BYU and Kansas).

The bad news: ESPN’s quarterback rating system ranked him 126th of 127 qualifiers last season. His completion percentage (49) ranked 123rd of 127, though he was hurt by a ton of drops. He twice has left schools after being beaten out, at BYU in 2011 and Kansas after last season.

But UM knows it cannot assume Ryan Williams will be back by mid-to-late September (his goal) and has serious concerns about whether Olsen is ready.