Kaaya news fallout; Details on ESPN's new documentary about UM football; Dolphins, Canes, Heat/Beasley, Marlins
The Sunday buzz column is below. First, a few thoughts and tidbits on freshman Brad Kaaya being named UM's starting QB this afternoon:
### Sensible move for this staff to go with its quarterback of the future right away instead of investing a year in a stopgap option (Jake Heaps) who had the nation's fifth-worst rating and third-worst completion percentage last year.
If you had a senior who was a proven, established winner, then starting him ahead of the freshman would be justified. But that was not the case here.
Most importantly, Kaaya was UM's best quarterback in the past month and coaches believe he gives them the best chance to win Labor Day night in Louisville.
### Offensive cordinator James Coley said Kaaya began to distance himself from Heaps eight days ago. Al Golden said he made the decision today.
With Kaaya, "it went from flashes to 'I can see it' to 'He's the guy,' Coley said. "He got stronger and stronger and stronger with command and his passing percentage got better as camp went on, which is crazy. The kid acts like he's 30, watches a lot of film."
### Coley said Kaaya has made a "big-time" improvement in pre-snaps reads, which was an area that Heaps excels at.
### Asked what gave him the edge over Heaps, Coley said: "He can see the field." (He then added Heaps can do that too.) Being "6-4 helps. He's got spatial awareness."
### Coley said the offense won't be conversative because a freshman is starting. "You've got to let him play. I don't want to build a crutch for anybody. Conservative deal? I don't see it that way."
### Asked how Kaaya is similar to FSU's Jameis Winston, Coley said: "Their confidence is very similar."
### Coley said when he saw Kaaya in high school, he thought "this kid is cool, calm, collected" and wondered "when he gets here, what's he going to do when he sees that speed."
Coley said he got his answer quickly. "When we got out here the first couple days, I said, 'Hold on. This guy is pretty special.' The speed did not affect him at all."
### Linebacker Denzel Perryman said he tried to rattle Kaaya this summer and "I couldn't rattle him for nothing. He's poised."
### Coley said Kaaya's arm strength is "very good."
### Phillip Dorsett said Kaaya is usually the first guy to show up for practice and "has been playing his butt off. He's a calm, cool, collected guy. He's going to be able to handle it." He said Kaaya has good arc on his deep ball.
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
No, director Billy Corben assures, the much-anticipated ESPN sequel to the “U” documentary will not evolve into The Nevin Shapiro Show.
“This is not what the movie is about,” Corben said, as he and producer Alfred Spellman craft another two-hour film about the University of Miami football program, set to air sometime this winter.
“Make no mistake, [the Shapiro saga] will be in there, but the focus is on the 2001 team.”
Even so, UM declined to participate, just as it did for the first film, which debuted in 2009 and drew the most viewers (2.3 million) ever for an ESPN documentary to that point.
This time around, UM denied their request to speak with president Donna Shalala, coach Al Golden, offensive line coach Art Kehoe and strength and conditioning coach Andrew Swasey.
“This is not a surprise to me but perhaps not the wisest strategy,” Corben said. “I’m never shocked but always disappointed by UM. They’re perpetually in damage control mode. Nobody wants to see the documentary the administration wants you to see. People want to see the unauthorized story.”
Corben said UM tried to obstruct the process during the first movie “but the consternation they needlessly caused us last time was a positive for us. I was shocked the last time how they treated us.”
Corben wanted to speak with Shapiro, but inmates in federal prisons are not permitted to do on-camera interviews, Corben said.
Shapiro couldn’t speak by phone with Corben because he said Shapiro’s phone and email privileges were revoked.
“There is some very compelling new information we’ve received to offer something new to the Shapiro narrative,” Corben said, declining to detail the information because he understandably wants to use it in the movie. “We have received a lot of insights that shed light on previous allegations or refute prior allegations. Not new allegations but new information that we’ve received on the record.”
Corben assures that none of the new information could result in a new NCAA investigation.
Several players agreed to discuss the Shapiro scandal, on camera, and Corben and Spellman are deciding how much of that to incorporate. We hear former safety Randy Phillips spoke candidly, on-camera, about the perks Shapiro gave players.
“For some, it was a sensitive subject,” Corben said. “Some were outright cool talking about it. Some brought it up themselves.”
Corben and Spellman interviewed close to 30 people. Among them: Ed Reed, Bryant McKinnie, DJ Williams, Jonathan Vilma, Phillip Buchanon, Santana Moss and Sinorice Moss.
The documentary begins where the last one left off, in 1992.
“It’s not a dissimilar arc to the first movie – the rise and fall [of the program],” Corben said. “The bulk of the story is coming out of the Pell Grant scandal, the NCAA sanctions of 1995, the SI cover story of 1995 and what Butch Davis did.
“You have this down-on-its-luck team experiencing a lot of issues, and in comes Butch Davis and he builds it even better than years before. Those 2000, 2001 and 2002, what should have been three consecutive national championships, that’s the primary focus.
“They had 17 first-round picks and nearly 40 players from a single roster that ended up in the NFL; 2001 is not only greatest college team of all time but probably the greatest NFL team ever assembled. The idea that after the devastating sanctions of the early-to-mid 90s, the idea you could not only rebuild the program to former glory, but surpass that, is a measure of hope for the future.”
That aspect of the story held personal meaning for Corben, who was a UM freshman in 1996.
Though Corben and ESPN share editorial control, he said the network has not pushed him to include more about the Shapiro scandal.
Corben originally planned to incorporate the 2001 team into the first documentary but realized there would not be enough time to fit that into a two-hour film. Corben pitched ESPN on a sequel in 2010 and 2011, before doing another critically-acclaimed and highly-rated movie for ESPN (Broke, about athletes squandering money).
“I gave up any hope we would do [the sequel],” he said. “Then, very early this year, the opportunity came from them. I said, ‘Hell, Yeah.’”
The name of the film has not been determined.
“Bono would be pissed if we called it U2,” Corben said. “At the moment, The U Part 2 is the working title. Names are above my pay grade. The [original movie] was entitled Hurricane Season. ESPN said, ‘Why don’t we call it the U?’”
### A 90-minute documentary about UM football, which was co-directed by former Hurricanes fullback Najeh Davenport and is entirely separate from the Corben/Spellman film, focuses on the resurrection of the program in the mid-1990s through the early 2000s and will debut at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the O Cinema Wynwood ($50 admission, limited tickets) and be shown again to the public at 5 p.m. Sept. 1 at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ in South Miami ($25 admission), hours before the UM-Louisville opener.
The U Reloaded: Rise for Five also is available for $20 on DVD. See theureloaded.com for more information.
### We’ve all heard questions about why these UM coaches do certain things the way they do. Addressing a few of them:
Many, including former UM receiver Randal Hill, are puzzled why UM has its entire offense often look to the sideline seconds before the play is run. (No matter how many times this happens, it's always a strange visual.)
The thinking there is UM wants to see how the defense lines up, and that offensive coordinator James Coley is in better position than the quarterback is to change the play. But Coley’s approach isn’t unusual; Steve Spurrier was one of the first to do it.
Former players also have criticized the fact that UM’s defensive line isn’t often set before the snap –-- which is sometimes the result of coordinator Mark D’Onofrio having the defensive ends flip positions before plays. But as one former Canes standout said, it makes the defense look like a fire drill and sometimes leaves open gaps.
So why does D’Onofrio do this? “We’re trying not to tip our hand as far as who the fourth rusher is,” he said.
Some have asked why UM doesn’t allow its defensive backs to play more press man instead of zone. Former Canes and NFL cornerback Duane Starks said “something has to change” to allow UM’s defensive backs to “disrupt routes instead of playing so far off. They have guys that can do that.”
Ladarius Gunter said he sometimes lobbies D’Onofrio to play more press man. But D’Onofrio said: “We played more man-to-man last year than previous two years. And our man-to-man is press.”
### The Dolphins could use another stretch-the-field tight end to complement Charles Clay. So why not re-sign Dustin Keller?
“Dustin needs a little more time” after last August’s gruesome knee injury, agent Eugene Parker said. The Dolphins haven’t inquired about him recently.
Jermichael Finley, about whom Miami made an inquiry earlier this offseason, hasn’t been cleared medically to play after a neck injury, according to his representation.
Perhaps Harold Hoskins eventually becomes another stretch-the-field threat --- if he makes the team. He had an impressive 27-yard TD catch Saturday.
### Please see the last post for Dolphins-Cowboys postscripts, notes, quotes and thoughts.
### One veteran NBA scout said Michael Beasley is a far better player than journeyman Shawne Williams and questioned the Heat for signing Williams to guaranteed money. So why hasn’t the Heat tried to re-sign Beasley when it could use his offense?
A person with direct knowledge cited several reasons for the Heat's lack of interest: Inconsistency, lack of trust in his defense (and ability to execute the Heat's defensive system), and maturity/focus issues, which are still a concern even though he improved somewhat in that regard last season.
I would give Beasley another shot at the minimum; he ranked in the top 52 in points-per-48 minutes last season and the Heat might regret not having his offense this season if Dwyane Wade or Danny Granger is injured. Beasley would have interest in returning if the Heat calls.
But essentially, this comes down to lack of trust by the Heat coaching staff after working with Beasley for nine months. It spoke volumes that the Heat instead prefered a player (Williams) who has had just one good NBA season (2010-11 for the Knicks) and spent much of last season in the Developmental League.
The Heat has told Beasley it has not closed the door on a return, though Miami never really tells any free agent that it has ruled out a return. But Miami hasn’t made an offer to him, either, and it appears barring a change of heart that the Heat has moved on, having given Beasley's jersey number to Williams. The Lakers recently auditioned Beasley.
### A reminder, as we noted last month, that the Heat's 2015 No. 1 draft pick that was originally sent to Cleveland and ended up with Philadelphia in the three-team Kevin Love trade is top-10 protected for Miami in 2015 and 2016 but unprotected in 2017. Miami traded that pick to Cleveland in 2010 in the sign-and-trade for LeBron James.
### Though the Marlins were criticized by some for giving up 2013 first-rounder Colin Moran in the Houston trade, a team source said Moran had slow feet, low energy and “wasn’t what we expected,” to the point he was nicknamed The Sloth.
The deal has worked out well so far: Right-hander Jarred Cosart, under team control through 2019, has been very good.
Kike Hernandez (.323 in Triple A this season) could develop into an Emilio Bonifacio-type backup, with a chance to be a starting second baseman if he can hit well enough. Speedy outfielder Austin Wates is hitting .217 at Triple A New Orleans, but was better at Triple A Oklahoma City (.299) before the trade.
Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the last post for a lot more Dolphins chatter.