09/06/2014

Midnight Heat, UM football news; Clock ticking on Tannehill: What has changed and what people say about him; Fins chatter; Marlins

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR SATURDAY'S LATE-NIGHT HEAT AND UM UPDATES

Lots of Dolphins talk on the opening weekend of the season:

### Ryan Tannehill’s renewed mission to prove he’s a playoff-caliber franchise quarterback begins Sunday, and he’s unusually blunt about what he will demand from himself.

“I am at the point in my career now where progression has to be made fast and there are no more rookie mistakes,” he said. “You can’t play quarterback and have excuses.”

So much rides on this season for Tannehill, for both his team and his financial outlook.

Tannehill has 2014 and 2015 remaining on his four-year, $12.68 million rookie contract.

But the Dolphins must decide by next May whether to exercise his fifth-year option. Because he was a top-10 pick, that option would entail paying him, in 2016, the average salary of the NFL’s 10 highest-paid quarterbacks, a figure of about $15 million.

If the Dolphins pick up the fifth-year option (which is very, very likely if he plays well this season) but he bombs in 2015, the Dolphins could still escape paying any of that 2016 salary unless he sustains an injury that sidelines him all of 2016.

But if he plays great this season, the Dolphins might offer a long-term contract after the season. The Bengals did that after three seasons with Andy Dalton (given six years, $96 million) and the 49ers did it with Colin Kaepernick (six years, $126 million), although they did not have fifth-year options because they weren’t first-round picks.

The fascinating question is how much new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor can elevate Tannehill, who said the new system has been challenging but enjoyable.

Asked if he needed a new voice at this point in his career, Tannehill politely shrugged off the question, out of respect to Mike Sherman, his coach at Texas A&M and coordinator with the Dolphins.

He said he is “making the best of” the change, noting diplomatically it has altered his “perspective on some plays." He calls the system "challenging" but said he has enjoyed the new approach.

Backup Matt Moore said Lazor “has opened up Ryan’s eyes to some things” and is “more demanding” than Sherman was: “He sets the bar high and lets you know if you’re not reaching it.”

Former NFL coach Dan Reeves told me Lazor might be the smartest assistant he has ever had. And as Dan Le Batard noted, Joe Gibbs has called him the brightest young assistant in football.

Lazor made it a priority to polish Tannehill’s footwork, which Tannehill believes will improve his accuracy.

And this is key: Tannehill was the NFL’s fifth-most effective quarterback when he left the pocket the past two seasons, according to ESPN. But he inexplicably did it less often than the league average. Lazor is expected to roll him out more.

But can Tannehill, who was drafted 80 spots before Nick Foles, achieve anything close to what Foles did last season (27 touchdowns and two interceptions) under Lazor and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia?

“Before last year, Tannehill had more consistency on accuracy and decision-making than Foles,” former Texans and ex-Redskins general manager Charley Casserly said.

“Can Tannehill do what Foles did? In theory, yes. But Foles had a hell of a line, a Pro Bowl receiver, great running back. Tannehill doesn’t have those things.”

Nobody is expecting a 27/2 TD/INT ratio from Tannehill, who said this week: “I’m not Nick Foles!”

But the most optimistic comparison might be Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, whose second-season numbers were very similar to Tannehill’s.

Tannehill had an 81.7 rating last season, with 24 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 60.4 completion percentage. Ryan, in his second season, was at 80.9, with 22 touchdowns, 14 picks and a 58.3 completion percentage.

But Ryan improved dramatically in his third season, finishing with a 91.0 rating, 28 touchdowns and nine picks. The Dolphins would love that type of growth.

But also consider this: Of the 18 quarterbacks drafted in the top 10 from 2000 to 2011, seven experienced drops in their QB rating in their third season.

Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez and Cam Newton improved their QB ratings slightly in year three. Ryan, Sam Bradford and mediocre quarterbacks David Carr, Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich improved a lot.

There’s a lot of faith in Tannehill around the league. Some of the feedback from other NFL coaches:

### Saints coach Sean Payton: “You're seeing someone who hasn't had a ton of reps at the position who may not have had the same amount of work a lot of his peers had, based on his college playing time. He's very smart.

“When we prepared to play them last season, we saw him as someone who is very athletic and can move. Time will tell, but his future is bright. I've heard nothing but good things from people who have been there that have worked with him.”

Payton, who I spoke to earlier this offseason, isn’t convinced that definitive judgment can be formed during a quarterback’s third season.

“I don’t think that was the case for Kurt Warner [or] Trent Green,” Payton said. “I think it varies based on players and situation. It's a position that may be one that can have success later than earlier, a little more so than other positions.”

### Falcons coach Mike Smith: “I think Tannehill is a very good quarterback. He can create when the play breaks down. That's one of his strongest traits, that he has the ability to run and create.”

### Redskins coach Jay Gruden told me: “No question he’s got all the tools you want. Great arm, quick release, can get out of trouble with his legs. He’s on the right track, no doubt.”

### Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tannehill is "excellent" in the two-minute offense and Chargers coach Mike McCoy said: “I think he has a bright future. Remember, any young player is going to have some ups and downs.”

### ESPN’s Ron Jaworski, who ranked him 23rd among all quarterbacks: “I really expected more out of Tannehill last season. I loved what I saw his rookie season and thought he was a potential superstar. In 2013 he held on to the ball too long and wasn't decisive with his reads.

“To be fair, he also had a historically bad offensive line blocking for him and was sacked 58 times (10 more than any other QB). That certainly had an impact. Lazor will help him with an up-tempo offense, and Tannehill should be improved this season.”

Though Andrew Luck has been the better player, Tannehill’s career rating isn’t substantially lower than Luck’s (81.5 to 79.1). And even with his deep-ball struggles, Tannehill’s 7207 passing yards --- albeit in a passer-friendly league --- are the fifth-most in NFL history by a quarterback in his first two seasons, behind Luck, Cam Newton, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino (7294).

Where has Tannehill improved most? “He’s seeing his reads a lot faster than last year,” receiver Mike Wallace said. “And his confidence in the pocket has improved.”

CHATTER

### Tight end Dion Sims said the offense Sunday will be “a lot faster” than what the Dolphins have shown in preseason: “The tempo will be something New England hasn’t really seen.”

### Wallace is convinced Lazor will make a big difference. "He's finding new and creative ways every day... to make plays look like a whole different one," Wallace said.

He said Lazor’s willingness to allow him to line up in different spots --- something Sherman opposed --- is giving him more of a cushion against defensive backs.

### Tannehill, easygoing by nature, has said he will be more vocal with teammates, which some of his teammates would like him to be. That’s needed. It seemed odd when guard John Jerry (now with the Giants) said last year that one thing the offensive line liked about Tannehill is that he never angrily scolded them for any of the 58 sacks.

### The Dolphins made an inquiry, but not an offer, to former starting safety Chris Clemons after he was released by Houston on Sunday. They could revisit the idea of signing him if they feel they need to upgrade in the coming weeks. Pro Football Focus ranked Clemons 19th among safeties last season, with a solid 82.8 quarterback rating in his coverage area.

### Heading into Sunday's game, keep in mind Tom Brady has targeted Jimmy Wilson a lot in their past four meetings, with Wilson allowing 16 of 26 passes against him to be caught for 149 yards.

Now Wilson’s role is bigger than ever, as the replacement for suspended Reshad Jones at safety. “I’ve always wanted to be a starter, waited my whole for this,” he said.

### Also key Sunday is whether Will Davis, now Miami's No. 3 cornerback, is more equipped for this matchup after allowing 7 completions in 9 throws against him (for 90 yards) in the Patriots game last December. The Dolphins believe he is.

### How much can new Patriots Don Jones and Marcus Thigpen –-- who were Dolphins a week ago --– help New England with inside information?

“I’m sure it will help a little,” safety Jimmy Wilson said. Several teammates agreed.

But Brent Grimes said even if they tell Bill Belichick “exactly what you’re doing on offense, they still can’t stop it if you block it right.”

### Among NFL rookie Hurricanes, Brandon Linder (right guard/Jacksonville) and Seantrel Henderson (right tackle/Buffalo) won starting jobs, and undrafted Allen Hurns is the Jaguars’ No. 3 receiver. Pat O’Donnell is Chicago’s punter.

Among Canes rookies on practice squads: Stephen Morris (Jacksonville), Asante Cleveland (49ers), Erik Swoope (Colts) and Luther Robinson (Packers).

MARLINS ITEM  

Good news for transplanted New Yorkers and New Englanders in South Florida: MLB plans to announce in the coming days that the Marlins will play at home and on the road against both the Yankees and Red Sox next season.

HEAT ITEM

Still in search of veteran depth at center, the Heat on Friday summoned 7-0 center Ryan Hollins to Miami to meet with Erik Spoelstra and his staff, according to a person briefed by the team. No offer was made Friday or Saturday but Hollins remains under consideration.

Hollins, 29, who has played for six teams in eight seasons, averaged 2.3 points, 1.5 rebounds and 7.9 minutes in 61 games for the Clippers last season, all off the bench. He has career averages of 3.8 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.5 blocks and has started 55 NBA games.

The Heat auditioned veteran center Nazr Mohammed a week ago and also has inquired about free agent center Andray Blatche. The Heat is very intrigued by free agent center Emeka Okafor, but ESPN has reported he might not play until midseason because of a bulging disc in his neck.

UM-FAMU POSTSCRIPTS

A few notes, quotes and thoughts on UM's 41-7 thrashing of Florida A&M:

### Terrific defensive effort by the Hurricanes, who limited an overmatched opponent to 114 yards --- including .8 per carry on 33 rushing attempts and 6 for 17 accuracy (for 89 yards) in the passing game. The only blemish: There were a couple of sizable completions --- one against Tracy Howard, the other against Ladarius Gunter.

"Our defense has improved a lot," said receiver Philip Dorsett, who caught TD passes of 4 and 32 yards.

Thurston Armbrister had a sack/strip for the second game in a row and added another sack later. Anthony Chickillo recovered Armbrister's strip sack and deflected a pass later in the game.

Denzel Perryman was exceptional in the first half, with six tackles --- one for loss and most of the others for short gains.

Insidetheu.com reported Perryman sustained a minor shoulder injury during the game. But Golden said Perryman didn't play in the second half only because he wanted to hold out Perryman, Duke Johnson and Stacy Coley after intermission.

### Brad Kaaya had some impressive throws, including a 32-yarder to a diving Dorsett in the back of the end zone, and closed 12 for 22 for 177 yards and two touchdowns and two picks in a bit less than three quarters.

One of the interceptions, off a deflection from Clive Walford, wasn't his fault. The other pick was slightly overthrown in the end zone; Herb Waters was the intended receiver.

"I'm not a big stats guy, just a big wins guy," Kaaya said. "I felt a little more comfortable. I feel we handled [the short week] well."

Said Al Golden: "Brad made really nice throws. We did a better job protecting him. I'm excited about Brad."

Golden said he didn't open up more of the playbook for Kaaya. "I think he got better," Golden said.

### Golden said Kevin Olsen's two-game suspension has ended. But there is no QB controversy. This is Kaaya's job unless Golden eventually decides otherwise.

### Jake Heaps played slightly more than a quarter, finishing 5 for 8 for 41 yards.

### Kaaya has developed terrific chemistry with freshman receiver Braxton Berrios, who led UM with six receptions for 63 yards. "He's a good route runner; he's a guy I look for on third down," Kaaya said.

Berrios started tonight and is playing a lot. By the way, freshman Tyre Brady also started at receiver, as UM opened in a four-receiver set (Dorsett, Herb Waters, Brady, Berrios).

### Duke Johnson finished with 98 yards on nine carries in his one half of work, moving into ninth place on UM's career rushing list with 2054 yards. Freshman Joe Yearby had 95 yards on 14 carries (6.8 per carry).

Gus Edwards closed with 34 yards on four carries (including a 15-yard TD run) and Trayone Gray had three rushes for 16 yards, including a 10-yard TD run on his first UM rushing attempt.

"The offensive line was much better tonight," Johnson said. But overall "we have a long way to go."

### Special teams is a concern. Ronald Regula's high snap, recovered by FAMU in the end zone, accounted for the Rattlers' only score.

"I haven't seen a high snap from Ronnie on punts all summer," Golden said. "I didn't know where that came from."

And Matt Goudis missed field goals of 45 and 32 yards, while hitting them from 20 and 23. "We've got to get Matt on track," Golden said. "He's proven to be effective."

### A bunch of newcomers who didn't play much or at all at Louisville 

### Another concern: UM was 2 for 10 on third down and now 3 for 23 for the season. Golden said he would need to analyze the tape before offering theories on the matter.

### A bunch of newcomers who didn't play much or at all at Louisville got playing time, including Michael Wyche, Anthony Moten, Nick Linder, Chris Herndon, among others.

### Golden's take: "It wasn't perfect but we got better in a lot of different areas. I was afraid we weren't going to have our legs. I don't know that I'm satisfied with anything right now."

### Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad was in uniform but again held out in what appears to be a double-secret suspension as UM mulls his status. Quite a while ago, Muhammad and his then-roommate (who has since graduated from UM) had a physical confrontation that left the roommate injured, according to a person briefed on the situation. The UM administration is still deciding how to handle this.

09/05/2014

JT, Chambers on what they learned about these Dolphins during volunteer coaching stints; UM chatter

After working as Dolphins volunteer assistant coaches for parts of the spring and summer, Jason Taylor and Chris Chambers are back to their permanent gigs --- Taylor opining as a new studio analyst on NBC Sports Network, Chambers running his fitness training and therapy facility and appearing weekly on WINZ’s Finsiders.

We asked both former Dolphins standouts for observations made and conclusions drawn from their time spent on-field with the team in recent months. Here's what they had to say:

### Taylor predicts “Koa Misi is going to be good inside” as the new middle linebacker. “He’s built for that. A big, physical, strong guy. He’s got the height and speed to play there and he loves to hit. It’s a better fit for him to be there than maybe on the edge.”

### Taylor said he spoke to defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers about working with Dion Jordan during his four-game suspension, but nothing had materialized as of earlier this week. (My view: Jordan should have asked Taylor about this a few weeks ago.)

Taylor said Jordan is “receptive to learning” but must do something useful in the next month: “It’s a big time for him to develop and hit the ground running in Week 5…. He’s learning the intricacies of playing in the NFL."

### Taylor, who worked with the team primarily in offseason practices, is highly intrigued by rookie defensive end Terrence Fede, who is out Sunday with a knee injury: “He was a playmaker when they were practicing in pajamas [OTAs]. He played physical and fast. Once he learns the technique more and learns to play with his hands, the sky is the limit for him.”

### Taylor said watching impressive undrafted rookie linebacker/end Chris McCain –-- who is expected to play Sunday --- is “a little reminiscent of looking in the mirror. I saw McCain when I first got there during minicamp and I asked Kacy Rodgers, ‘Who is that?’

“Tall, lanky kid. He really flashed. Plays his butt off. I saw a couple games where he made a mistake. Some young kids would go in the shell after making mistakes and he did not do that. He bounced right back and continued to play fast.”

### Olivier Vernon said Taylor taught him to use his hands more effectively on pass-rush moves, and Taylor said: “I love Olivier Vernon. Being around him for the first time, [seeing] how much of a sponge he is. It’s tough when you have been removed for a couple years, had a guy who had a bunch of sacks the previous year and you see little things that may or may not help him, you want to speak up. He was very receptive with all those things. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

### Chambers, who worked 10 days with the receivers this summer, said he expects new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will get Mike Wallace the ball early in games, so he feels engaged.

Chambers said Lazor will put Wallace in routes where he will be successful: “Deep stop routes or comebacks, which aren’t hard. A lot of speed routes and screens. You’ll see reverses to get him the ball early. I would like to see consistency [from him], be more of a leader. He’s saying all the right things.”

### Chambers said the read option "will be a staple of the offense. This offense is geared toward Ryan [Tannehill’s] skill set. The deep ball is a little bit of a concern, but I’ve seen Ryan grow. He hasn’t taken a step back. This year will be telltale.”

### Though Jarvis Landry ran a slow 4.7 at the NFL Combine, “he can turn it up a notch,” Chambers said. “He’s fast enough for people not to catch him from behind.”

### He said this offense is great for receivers, like Landry, who are “quicker guys who get in and out of routes.” Brandon Gibson, he said, “is very underrated.”

### Chambers loves how Lazor “is very creative and open to suggestions.” He said Lazor asked him to return “once in a while” this season.

### Both are encouraged about the team’s chances. Taylor’s take: “This is a team that definitely can get to the playoffs. They are a talented team. In certain areas, they are very talented. In other areas, they needed to improve and they took some steps in doing that.

“Very good defense. They need to play better with more efficiency on offense. They have a good quarterback. He’s really going to blossom in year three, hopefully. Bill Lazor will be a big addition for him.”

Could full-time coaching be in their futures? Chambers has “a coaching itch.” and Taylor --- though non-committal --- said: “I love being around the game, being around the team in any capacity. Coaching is fun, teaching technique. The whole football thing intrigues me, top to bottom.”

Taylor, who makes a real difference with his charitable foundation, spoke to us last weekend before his annual charity event at an Old Navy, where 60 kids shopped with a celebrity and received $300 each to spend on clothing.  

### As you might have seen, Philip Wheeler was ruled out for Sunday with a thumb injury. Jason Trusnik is the logical replacement.

### Please see the last post, if you haven't yet, on the state of the offensive line, through the eyes of o-line coach John Benton.

UM NOTES

### The status of two highly-regarded young UM defensive players remained unresolved as of this afternoon.

UM had made no final decision about how long Al-Quadin Muhammad will continue to sit out games.

UM has been investigating an alleged confrontation between Muhammad and another student --- an incident that reportedly happened quite a while ago when they were roomates.

It was odd that he traveled to Louisville and didn't play. UM didn't call his benching a suspension, but it certainly seemed that way. UM has declined to disclose his status for Saturday and Al Golden has refused to explain why he didn't play Monday, other than to say it was his decision.

Meanwhile, four-star freshman safety Kiy Hester might transfer to Rutgers, though that's not definite, according to a person briefed on the situation. Golden said he is away because of "a personal family deal."

### Big loss for the UM basketball program, which will be without forward Davon Reed for four to six months because of a leg injury. Reed, at 6-6, could have played power forward in the type of small lineups that the Canes figure to use a lot this season. A skilled defender, Reed averaged 6.6 points as a freshman. 

### FIU's Pete Garcia said he has no preference about whether to play the 2019 UM-FIU game at Marlins Park or Sun Life Stadium. He said it's not out of the question that FIU's stadium could be significantly expanded by that point, which would make that facility an option.

He said he scheduled the game in November that year so that Marlins Park could accommodate it. The 2018 game will be at Sun Life, as we've reported.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

09/04/2014

The state of the Dolphins' O-line, with analysis from man coaching them; Fins, Heat notes

Much has changed about the Dolphins’ offensive line in the wake of an historically dismal season in which they allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks --- eight more than any other NFL team last year --- and embarrassed themselves with a bullying scandal.

The unit has a new coach --- John Benton --- and five new starters who will suit up Sunday against New England, as center Mike Pouncey continues his recovery from hip surgery.

But this, regrettably, has not changed: The Dolphins’ first three opponents, the Patriots, Bills and Chiefs, possess potent pass-rushes.

The Patriots, who visit Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, ranked fifth in the NFL with 48 sacks last season and had 10 in two games against the Dolphins, including 2.5 by Chandler Jones.

The Bills, who play host to the Dolphins on Sept. 14, ranked second behind Carolina in sacks last season with 57 and had nine sacks in the two games against Miami, including a key Mario Williams sack that forced a fumble and set up the Bills' winning touchdown in their October meeting.

The Chiefs, who visit Sept. 21, ranked sixth in the NFL with 47 sacks.

All of that is cause for some concern even though the Dolphins’ pass protection in preseason was generally quite good, aside from missteps by Dallas Thomas and a few other backups.

Benton, who was praised for his work as the Houston Texans’ offensive line coach the past eight seasons, says he’s “fairly optimistic” that his group will hold up in pass protection early in the season against formidable defensive lines.

“We’re doing some good things in protection as a group,” Benton said. “It’s something I’ve really tried to push, that as a group, we can be a lot better than we can be as individuals. It’s very true on the offensive line. I think we’ll hold up well. I expect us to. We’ll be disappointed if we don’t.

“I think we’ve got very good matchups on the edge with both tackles and we can grind it out inside. We’ve got five NFL caliber players and that’s what’s expected of them.”

As for run blocking, the Dolphins were poor in their first two preseason games but excellent in rushing for 200 yards against Dallas in the third. So what does Benton expect?

“Potentially, we can be very good [at run blocking],” he said. “We’re a work in progress right now. With the scheme, with the techniques and as much as anything, putting five new guys together, there is so much feel, and how I’m working with this guy and that guy. That should develop fairly quickly. That’s one of the biggest question marks in my mind.”

Benton feels very good about his tackles. Left tackle Brandon Albert --- who was a Pro Bowler for Kansas City last season and signed a five-year, $47 million deal with the Dolphins --- “has been doing a very nice job for us, both on the field and in the room. He brings a maturity and professionalism.

“He has proven himself to be a top level NFL player and he has not dropped off a bit. He’s one of our better guys up front in terms of the run game, a tremendous athlete.”

What’s more, Benton said rookie starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James has exceeded his expectations.

“Very optimistic about Ja’Wuan,” he said. “I really feel good about him. We did a lot of homework on Ja’Wuan going into the draft, and at the same time, I’m still surprised mentally how much more mature he is and ready for this level than I would have expected.”

He said James is “further ahead” as a pass-blocker. His run-blocking is not a “deficiency but it’s not where it can get to potentially,” Benton said.

“He’s got some athleticism to make some of the tougher blocks as he hones his skills and develops more power. He’s not weak by any stretch. With technique, he’s come a long way since he got here and you will continue to see a steady incline in his improvement.”

Neither Albert (77 snaps) nor James (133) allowed a sack or quarterback hurry in preseason. Against New England, Albert often will be matched against Jones (11.5 sacks last season) and James against Rob Ninkovich (eight sacks).

More questions surround the interior of the line.

Center Samson Satele, signed Aug. 2 to fill in for Pouncey, has been “maybe even a little better than expected coming in,” Benton said. “He’s really been schooled over the years from a protection standpoint, which has helped us, in terms of running the show and getting everyone targeted.” He will have his hands full with Vince Wilfork on Sunday.

Asked about the chances Pouncey returns by the end of September --- Miami’s fourth game is Sept. 28 against Oakland --- Benton said, “I don’t know. Optimistically, there’s a chance that could happen. I don’t feel confident enough to say there’s any plan in the works.”

As for left guard, Benton likes Daryn Colledge, who signed June 30 after starting every game the past six seasons (four with Green Bay, the past two with Arizona).

“Daryn’s done a nice job for us,” he said. “Very intelligent player and he uses a lot of that in his game. He and Samson are blue collar, bring-your-lunch-pale type guys.”

It was surprising that Shelley Smith --- the starter at right guard --- played behind Dallas Thomas for two weeks earlier in camp, and Benton, laughing, admits “Shelley was perplexed by that, too.” He explained that happened because the staff liked what Thomas was doing early in camp and the battle at both guard spots “just had to run its course.”

Thomas lost the job after being dominated by Tampa Bay All-Pro Gerald McCoy. “Hopes are still high for Dallas,” Benton said.

But Smith is the more experienced player and graded out well as a run-blocker in St. Louis.

“Shelley is real athletic, not the biggest guy in the world,” Benton said. “Does a real good job getting to the second level, cutting guys off. Real quick feet.”

Even though the five starters haven’t played together very long, Colledge said: “Everyone is feeling good about how we’ve meshed. Everyone is comfortable. Other than Ja’Wuan, everyone has been [an NFL] starter. Brandon is a very good player. Samson has been a starter in this league. Shelley and I know how to play.”       

FINS, HEAT TIDBITS

### Tom Brady missed Thursday's practice with a calf injury, but he told Westwood One tonight: "I'll be ready to go Sunday."

###  Chris McCain, who said he was playing primarily linebacker when he came to the team, said he's now splitting his snaps evenly between linebacker and defensive end in a role similar to Dion Jordan's.

He might be needed at linebacker Sunday --- along with backups Jason Trusnik, Jonathan Freeny and Jelani Jenkins --- if Philip Wheeler is sidelined or limited by a thumb injury. The Dolphins list Freeny as Wheeler's backup. Wheeler has been practicing with covering on the entire hand, making tackling a challenge.

Koa Misi has been limited in practice by a shoulder injury, but it would be surprising if he doesn't play. Dannell Ellerbe is healthy.

### It always amuses us that in conference calls or news conferences with reporters before games against the Dolphins, Patriots coach Bill Belichick often goes down the Dolphins' entire roster and heaps lavish praise on individuals or units, sometimes both.

He even made time this week to single out long snapper John Denney: "Real good snapper, experienced." And yes, he mentioned Orleans Darkwa and Billy Turner, too.

### Bruce Gaston, the undrafted defensive tackle claimed by the Dolphins off waivers today, was with the Patriots only for a few days. But that's enough time for him to be able to give the Dolphins some insight into the Patriots' defensive game plan this week --- something Don Jones and Marcus Thigpen cannot share with the Patriots.

But Gaston won't have as much institutional knowledge as Jones or Thigpen would about their former team. Gaston, who played at Purdue, spent training camp with Arizona and was among the Cardinals' final cuts.

### There's a "free Reshad Jones" sign above Jones' locker stall during his four-game suspension. Alas, no "free Dion Jordan" sign by his locker.

### As expected, longtime Heat assistant coaches Ron Rothstein and Bob McAdoo were formally assigned to new positions Thursday. Rothstein, 71, announced he is retiring from coaching and will become a corporate liasion for the Heat and a studio analyst for the team's cablecasts on Sun Sports. McAdoo, 62, will become a community liaison and pro scout for the Heat.

Erik Spoelstra has explored adding a new assistant to his staff, with former Warriors and Kings coach Keith Smart reportedly under consideration. Spoelstra's bench also is expected to include lead assistant coach David Fizdale, along with Juwan Howard and/or Dan Craig.

Media column: Lots of NFL TV changes; Odd Dolphins decision; Golden/Shannon question

WEEKLY MEDIA COLUMN

An NFL TV primer, less than 24 hours from the regular-season opener:

### CBS and Fox combined for more personnel changes than anytime in recent history, and Dolphins fans will notice a bunch of them the next two Sundays.

Former Dolphins quarterback Trent Green, hired by CBS when Dan Dierdorf left the network, works Sunday’s Dolphins-Patriots opener with Greg Gumbel.

And CBS’ new No. 7 team --- Philadelphia Phillies announcer Tom McCarthy and former NFL safety Adam Archuleta –-- were assigned to Dolphins-Bills Sept. 14.

So why are Gumbel and Green (CBS’ No. 3 team) calling Dolphins-Patriots instead of the lead team (Jim Nantz/Phil Simms)?

CBS is sending Dolphins-Patriots to 39 percent of the country --- the highest percentage of its six games Sunday --- but CBS said Nantz and Simms were assigned to Raiders-Jets instead because that game is airing in two of the nation’s largest markets (New York and Los Angeles).

Nantz and Simms originally were assigned to Cleveland-Pittsburgh but were taken off that game when Johnny Manziel lost out in his bid to be the Browns' starter.

Still, Dolphins-Patriots is CBS' best game Sunday and warranted the presence of its lead announcing team, or at the very least, No. 2 team Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts, who were assigned to Cleveland-Pittsburgh when Nantz and Simms were taken off that game.

(For a map displaying what parts of the country are receiving the Dolphins game and other games, see 506sports.com.)

CBS' six games Sunday are all 1 p.m. starts because the network is airing U.S. Open tennis at 4:30 p.m. 49ers-Cowboys will be the Fox late game Sunday, airing in most of the country (including South Florida).

### Three CBS announcers relinquished their NFL gigs by choice: Dierdorf (now calling Michigan football on radio), Marv Albert (who wanted to focus on basketball; Spero Dedes was promoted to replace him) and Bill Macatee (Andrew Catalon replaces him on CBS’ No. 6 team).

### Because of their strong chemistry and Eagle’s excellence as a play-by-man man, CBS made the sensible move promoting Eagle and Fouts to its No. 2 team rather than having Fouts work with Gumbel, who loses his spot on the No. 2 team following Dierdorf’s departure.

What seems unjustified is slotting Green (who was mediocre during a one-year stint at Fox) alongside Gumbel at No. 3, ahead of Rich Gannon, who deserved a move up the depth chart.

Gannon will be paired with Kevin Harlan on CBS’ No. 4 team, with Dedes joining Solomon Wilcots on the fifth team.

### CBS' studio show, The NFL Today, has become younger and more contemporary by replacing Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe with Tony Gonzalez and Bart Scott.

But is the show better? That’s not as clear cut.

Marino seldom said anything memorable or particularly insightful. But Sharpe offered cutting candor and a comedic touch, which the show sorely needed. He didn’t deserve to be pushed aside.

Scott flashed potential on CBS Sports Network’s pre-game show last season, displaying a willingness to criticize without fear of angering players. But he needs to become a lot more concise.

A standout linebacker for the Ravens and Jets, Scott said he “was surprised” to get the job and passed up a chance to resume playing after a year away because “we know how rare these jobs are, Shannon being around 10 years, Dan for 12.”

I spoke for a while with Scott earlier this offseason and was impressed by the depth he displayed in discussing the Dolphins’ bullying scandal, including taking issue with Mike Pouncey’s alleged contention that Jonathan Martin isn’t “black enough.”

Said Scott: “To all the African American players who said Jonathan Martin wasn't black enough, it's totally out of line. Who made them the Martin Luther King or Malcolm X of blackness?

“The same arguments they can say about Jonathan Martin, when they have kids, those are the same things that can be said about their kids [because of their socio-economic status as children of parents with money].

“When their kids play, they are going to say they had a silver spoon in their mouth. It's not racism. It's classism. So Martin is a victim of racism and classism. I feel bad for the kid.”

### Among Fox’s changes: Brian Billick was dropped; Tim Ryan left to join the 49ers' broadcast team; Erin Andrews was promoted to lead sideline reporter, replacing Pam Oliver, who drops to the No. 2 team; and former players David Diehl, Kirk Morrison, Brady Quinn and Donovan McNabb (who already worked for Fox Sports 1) were hired as game analysts. Quinn rejoined Fox this week after being cut by the Dolphins.

### CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus told me the network’s Thursday night package that begins in Week 2 will look somewhat different from its Sunday games, even though Nantz and Simms will be in the booth.

"We're trying to establish Thursday night as a destination for programming, much like Sunday night and Monday night have become,” McManus said. “It's going to look different. From a standpoint of the graphics, the music, the new technology, it's going to be considerably ramped up with respect to what we do on Sunday afternoon.

"It will feel like a CBS telecast but it won't feel like Sunday afternoon. And we'll have elements of NFL Network in the pregame and game telecasts. Kickoff will be 8:30 p.m. We're coming on the air at 7:30 and do close to an hour pregame show. It's not unlike our Turner relationship with the NCAA, where we take the cream of the crop from Turner and CBS for the NCAA Tournament."

McManus and NFL Network officials settled on a studio cast featuring two CBS personalities (James Brown and Bill Cowher) and one NFL Net analyst who previously worked at CBS before leaving in a contract dispute (Deion Sanders).

The first eight games of CBS’ Thursday package and one December Saturday game will air on CBS and NFL Network. The other eight games will air only on NFL Net, but with CBS producing, and Nantz and Simms announcing. NBC retained the regular-season Thursday opener.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL MEDIA NOTES

### Even though the Hurricanes are no longer among college football’s elite, they continue to draw eyeballs. UM-Louisville was ESPN’s highest-rated game of the weekend with a 2.7 rating (equal to 2.7 percent of U.S. homes with TV sets). ABC’s most-watched game was FSU-Oklahoma State, with a 4.1.

### WQAM host and NBC 6 news anchor Adam Kuperstein posed a question this week: If Al Golden had Randy Shannon’s personality, would he still be Miami's coach?

The sense here is yes, Golden would be, because UM feels indebted to Golden for steering the program through the turbulence of the NCAA scandal --- something he knew nothing about when hired --- and increasing his win total each of the past two years.

Still, it’s an interesting question. The fact Golden is a more polished speaker than most coaches --- and the fact he's not dour and combative like Shannon could be --- likely helps him long-term if the Hurricanes continue along this undistinguished path.

But what helps Golden most are two other factors: A) This administration believes in him a lot more than  former athletic director Kirby Hocutt believed in Shannon; B) Golden has a contract that runs through the 2019 season.

By the way, Shannon was 28-22 at UM. Golden is 22-16.

### Count ESPN’s Woody Paige among those who found it laughable that UF coach Will Muschamp lifted the one-game suspensions of Darious Cummings, Jay-nard Bostwick and Demarcus Robinson even though the Idaho game was never played because of poor weather in Gainesville.

Paige, the Denver Post columnist, said on ESPN’s Around The Horn that Muschamp’s decision is “the biggest, lamest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Muschamp’s response?

"It's not just about suspending players for games. There's a lot of things that go into discipline. It's about altering and changing behavior, which we've done. I think our discipline speaks for itself and how we've handled our football team, OK?

"If it was about the suspension, you'd never have an issue. Right? At the end of the day, it's more than that. There's a lot of things that go into those situations, a lot more than people know. And it's very frustrating for me as a coach ... to have someone being critical and you don't even have all the information.”

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

09/02/2014

1 p.m. update: Belichick strikes again; Ex-Canes players lash out; UM's historically dismal stretch; Dolphins rookie chatter; Heat adds two players

The Wednesday buzz column is below. Quick noon update:

Days before the Patriots and Dolphins meet in the regular season opener, Bill Belichick has now plucked two players who were on the Dolphins a week ago and can tell him everything he needs to know about the nuances, tendencies, signals and play calls of Miami's offense and defense.

Two days after claiming safety Don Jones off waivers, the Patriots have agreed to terms with receiver/returner Marcus Thigpen, who is expected to join New England's practice squad. Thipgen has been with the Patriots since Monday, though the team hadn't announced the move as of noon today.

Asked Tuesday about the Patriots signing Jones, Joe Philbin downplayed it, saying he wasn't the least bit concerned. He shrugged off a question about why the Dolphins don't do the same and sign an ex-Patriot, suggesting it wouldn't be of much help. We're not so sure about that.

Belichick has done this to the Dolphins before, signing AJ Edds a day after Miami released him in 2011, and days before the Patriots beat Miami, 38-24, in their season opener that year.

### UM is working to finalize a game against LSU to open the 2018 season at AT & T Stadium in Arlington, Tx., where the Dallas Cowboys play. A game against Toledo had to be moved to accommodate it.

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WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Hurricanes have been playing football since 1926, and never before --- in terms of margin of defeat --- have they been engulfed in a tailspin quite like the one they’re mired in now: Five losses in their past seven games, all five by 18 points or more.

Oh, there have been a lot of blowout losses before but never this many stretched over so few games, and it's pretty staggering when you consider the lofty company this proud program used to keep when it ranked among college football's elite.

For perspective, UM once went 10 seasons without five blowout losses (1984-93). Larry Coker had only three in six years before he was fired.

And there’s this: Against teams from major FBS conferences (even including the Big East), UM is 18-16 in Al Golden’s three-plus seasons, and seven of those 16 losses have been my margins of 18 or more. His ACC record is 13-12.

So how do former Canes standouts feel today?

“I’m fed up,” said former Canes and NFL defensive back Duane Starks, now a WQAM analyst. “Maybe I have to get over there and [give] them some pointers. [Louisville] is a mediocre team. What does it say about us?”

Starks isn’t alone; other former Hurricanes reacted angrily on Twitter and elsewhere after Monday’s loss in Louisville.

Ex-cornerback Phillip Buchanon has nicknamed Golden “Folden” and tweeted: “Folden is not getting the job done as a head coach or special teams coach. Folden’s leadership was always a major issue here….

“So he brings in a few good assistant coaches, but the changes should have come at the coordinator positions. When you have a lot of time to prepare for a game and your approach and adjustments suck, that’s a major problem.”

Former Canes defensive lineman Allen Bailey added: “Has to be some major changes done.”

Several ex-players took issue with the conservative offensive approach.

Packers executive Alonzo Highsmith tweeted: “Gotta play faster on offense and turn the QB loose. You gotta throw the ball downfield!”

Clinton Portis: “We have too many open playmakers to not open up the field. We have to open it up.”

Gino Torretta, on The Ticket: “I would have lined up in three, four wides and then run the ball. You have to do something to shake their defense.” Torretta said there were several things UM could have done, but did not do, to make it easier for Brad Kaaya. Among those he mentioned: Screen passes for Duke Johnson.

Michael Irvin bemoaned: “They know you are afraid to throw the ball!” --- which allowed Louisville to stack the box. At least Golden had the sense to admit today that UM played too conservatively Monday.

Some former players also questioned defensive decisions.

“No re-routing in this weak 3-4 defense,” Buchanon said on a Twitter rant. “We need to be more aggressive with strong zone blitzes with clearly defined zone responsibilities. The secondary is playing like robots with soft coverage and weak technique. Go back to the 4-3 defense.... The defensive linemen are in offensive linemen stance. We are not fundamentally sound on counters.”

Starks said: “If you are going to have a fourth guy standing up, send him! Don’t have him stand there in limbo.”

Warren Sapp mused, during the game, that a 3-4 defense “is covering grass if you can’t run or blitz.”

As usual, emotional Dan Sileo erupted on Twitter. “Congrats, Al Golden,” Sileo said. “Canes are now the Temple Owls.” 

Sileo, now a San Diego radio host who often goes overboard in his criticism, added: "Golden used the Shapiro card for three years. Team is awful."

### Please see the last post for Golden's comments from a 4:30 conference call with reporters.

DOLPHINS ROOKIES

No rookie draft class played fewer snaps than the Dolphins’ in 2013. But early signs suggest it will be much different with this 2014 class, though ongoing injuries are hampering a few of them. What we're hearing:

### Offensive line coach John Benton told me Monday that first-round right tackle Ja’Wuan James --- who didn’t allow a single quarterback pressure or hit in preseason --- has exceeded his expectations: “I’m surprised how much more mature he is and ready for this level than I would have expected.”

### Rookie second-rounder Jarvis Landry has impressed everyone and is listed as the first-team punt and kickoff returner: “He’s awesome. His catching skills are off the charts,” Matt Moore said.

An NFC scout told me: “The best player in that draft class is Landry. He’s going to be a great No. 2 receiver eventually.” 

### Four of their small-school picks --- Ex-Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp (out for now has a bruised sternum), ex-Marist defensive end Terrence Fede (out with a knee issue), ex-Liberty safety Walt Aikens  (playing but dealing with a hand issue) and ex-North Dakota State guard Billy Turner (bone bruise on his left foot) --- have all left the staff encouraged, and all except possibly Turner are expected to play at some point this season once they are healthy.

Turner needs to improve in pass protection, but the Dolphins like his run blocking and view him as a potential future starter. Benton said he's "like a bull in a china shop" but must continue to work on refining his technique.

The Dolphins love Tripp’s speed and intelligence. “I’m not surprised; Tripp stood out to me at the Senior Bowl,” an NFC scout said. “I like his vision, instincts, motor, his will to get to the football.”

Jason Taylor raved about Fede this week. And Aikens has impressed coaches with his instincts and athleticism at safety, a position he hadn’t played much since transferring from Illinois, where he was dismissed from the team. Aikens was a cornerback at Liberty.

Also encouraging: An analysis of 2013 small-school NFL draft picks belies the notion that they do not contribute much as rookies.

A seventh-round offensive lineman from Northeast State in Oklahoma (who was kicked off Oklahoma's team) started nine games for Super Bowl champion Seattle. Rookie seventh-rounders from East Central in Oklahoma, Missouri Western, Chadron State and Harding made contributions for several teams in 2013. Arkansas Pine Bluff third-rounder Terron Armstead started twice for the Saints as a rookie and is now their starting left tackle. And there are other examples from last year alone.

Of Miami’s small-school picks, all except Aikens had a history of not being wanted. Turner and Tripp say their only scholarship offers were from the schools they attended. Only Marist and Albany recruited Fede and nobody offered him a scholarship.

“At lower-level schools, you can get away just with athleticism,” Fede said. “Here you need a lot more. Jason Taylor was a good help for me.”

### The Dolphins ended up keeping six undrafted rookies --- a very high number. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle indicated linebacker/end Chris McCain is expected to play some defensive snaps on Sunday. Anthony Johnson might get playing time as Miami's fourth defensive tackle.

HEAT CHATTER

### Two undrafted rookies --- Duke guard Andre Dawkins and UNLV center/power forward Khem Birch --- accepted training camp invitations with the Heat, putting Miami's roster at 18, two under the maximum permitted for camp. Dawkins, 6-5, averaged 7.9 points and shot 42.1 percent on three-pointers for Duke last season and shot 12 for 30 on threes for the Heat's summer league team in Orlando.

Birch, 6-9, averaged 11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks for UNLV last season. CSNWashington said Birch opted to join the Heat instead of Washington after playing for the Wizards' summer league team.

### Though the Heat has only two available openings, it could always cut someone who has been extended a training camp invitation to create an additional spot. It's possible another skilled shooter could be added, though that's not a certainty. Jordan Crawford, Wayne Ellington and Carlos Delfino are the top shooting guards still available.

Ellington, who shot 42 percent on threes last season for Dallas, would be a sensible addition. The Heat has been reluctant to offer guaranteed deals the past couple of weeks, according to an NBA agent who has spoken with them. But Miami could make that commitment if Pat Riley has a strong conviction about a player. 

### According to Yahoo!, former Warriors and Kings coach Keith Smart is a candidate to join Erik Spoelstra’s revamped coaching staff. Smart is 93-170 as an NBA head coach, including an interim stint with Cleveland.

Ron Rothstein, who was re-assigned, is expected to do Heat community relations work and handle other assignments. The Heat expects Bob McAdoo will also accept a re-assignment. Spoelstra essentially wants to be able to select his own assistants instead of continuing to retain ones he inherited, and Pat Riley has given him that autonomy.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

09/01/2014

4:30 update: Golden's thoughts a day later; Notes, quotes, thoughts from UM's season-opening loss at Louisville

4:30 p.m. update: Some thoughts from Al Golden on a conference call moments ago:

### On Brad Kaaya: "He had poise. His line of scrimmage operation was good. There are two plays he wishes [he had back]. He made some really good throws. We clearly didn't protect him well enough. He was hit too many times. And we weren't good enough on third downs."

### Golden said Ryan Williams is not available for Saturday. "He's making good progress. When he's cleared, I'll let you guys know."

### Golden suggested UM shouldn't have played so conservatively last night.

"That's a fair criticism," he said when asked if the offense needs to be opened up more for Kaaya. "We probably should have opened it up more for him, based on where he is as a player."

### On the offense, in general: "We were taking too many negatives, particularly on first down. We need to do a better job protecting [Kaaya]. Louisville was going to jam the front with eight or nine guys. They were constantly moving around. 

"We didn't play with great pad level. we didn't convert on money downs on offense. We didn't protect the quarterback. That's inexcusable."

### On the defense: "The defense got 3 and out on 6 of 12 series, 50 percent of their series. That's elite.... That's as productive at nose guard as we've been in a long time, with Calvin Hertelou and Courtel Jenkins. We were much more physical up front. Anthony Chickillo played some of his best football. We had minimal mental errors on defense. I thought we tackled really well. We held them under 4.7 yards a play. So if you play a little better on offense and take care of the football, that should be winning football."

### On the freshmen beyond Kaaya: "On offense, I was pleased with Braxton Berrios. The game wasn't too big for him. Joe Yearby did a nice job. We didn't think that was the environment to start out [KC McDermott or Trevor Darling]."

### Among other freshmen, Golden said receiver Tyre Brady and tight end Chris Herndon, and perhaps offensive lineman Nick Linder, will play against Florida A&M.

### He said "there are going to be a lot of jobs open, in terms of starting jobs up for grabs. That's going to be the case at a lot of positions. We've got to get better in the next 48 hours. We need to learn from that game, take ownership and move on to mission two."

### I asked Golden if he could confirm a web site report that that defensive end Al Quadin Muhammad was suspended. Golden declined to say if that was true. "It was my decision not to play him," he said.

################################################################################################

Postscripts from UM’s 31-13 season opening loss at Louisville:

### Yes, this was a competitive game for much of the night, with the Cardinals making the score lopsided with a late touchdown.

But if you want to make judgments based on simply the neon lights of the scoreboard, this is the painful reality, folks: Of UM’s past seven games, five were losses by 18 points or more: to FSU (27), Virginia Tech (18), Duke (18), Louisville (27) and Louisville again (18).

That's unacceptable for a once-great program that should demand far more than what we're seeing. Either the recruiting classes have been overrated or the recruits aren't being developed. Or perhaps a combination of both.

### Last season, UM mixed too many three-and-outs with a bunch of explosive plays. The Canes offense we witnessed tonight still had too many three-and-outs but served up just a few explosive plays, and none of those explosive plays for touchdowns.

That’s a lethal combination, especially when you have a defense that might be improved but cannot necessarily be trusted.

Brad Kaaya, making his first college start, obviously needs to play better. He was efficient in the first half (8-12-84 yards, one touchdown on a two-yard pass to Clive Walford) and poor in the second (9-17-90 yards, with two picks and 46 of those 90 yards coming on the meaningless final drive). He closed 17 for 29 for 174 yards.

His poise, work ethic and talent suggest he’s going to get better with experience. The question is how much, and how soon, and whether he eventually relinquishes the job to Ryan Williams, who still hopes to return later in September or October.

But UM’s offensive issues extend beyond Kaaya. The offensive line wasn’t nearly good enough, especially the right side.

Guard Danny Isidora cost UM its last real chance of winning the game with two awful plays: an illegal-man-downfield penalty that wiped out a 36-yard pass from Kaaya to Duke Johnson, and a whiffed block that led to a Kaaya sack later on that possession.

Right tackle Taylor Gadbois, who irritated UM coaches with his lack of diligence about his conditioning during the summer, also had several breakdowns.

Stacy Coley, as good as he is, could have made a better effort to pounce on the lateral in the first half that resulted in a turnover.

Duke Johnson, done no favors by his offensive line, closed with decent numbers (20 for 90 yards), but keep in mind that three of his runs were for 24, 13 and 21 yards. He gained only 32 on the other 17 carries, undone by poor blocking and an inability to shake tacklers. And Johnson faced a lot of stacked fronts, because Louisville didn't seem too worried about Kaaya beating them downfield.

Bottom line: When you have a shaky defense playing on the road against a quality (albeit unranked) opponent, you simply cannot afford to muster just 13 points on five red zone appearances. And you can’t be inept on third down (1 for 13).

Down 14-10 early in the third quarter, UM got the ball at the Louisville 8 after Raphael Kirby recovered a fumble forced by Thurston Armbrister. But UM went nowhere, with Philip Dorsett unable to scramble into the end zone on a pass-run option gimmick on third down.

“That play worked in practice,” WQAM’s Don Bailey noted. But it wasn’t going to work against a defense as stout as Louisville’s.

### More disturbing numbers: In two games against Louisville (the bowl and Monday night), UM was 1 for 24 on third down. UM failed to convert any of its first nine third downs Monday…

Miami averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. Gus Edwards managed just one yard on three carries and ballyhooed freshman Joseph Yearby was never given a rushing attempt. (Yearby caught one pass for four yards.)

And there’s this: Of UM’s 13 possessions, six ended in punts, one on downs, two on interceptions and one on the aforementioned fumble on the lateral.

James Coley insisted UM wouldn’t play conservatively with Kaaya. But that wasn’t the case.

### No, UM can’t land every top prospect in Dade and Broward. But this hurts: 19 players on Louisville’s roster are from Dade or Broward. And many made key contributions: Corvin Lamb (97-yard kickoff return for touchdown), James Burgess, Eli Rodgers. Palm Beach's Gerald Christian had six catches for 59 yards.

### UM’s defense, overwhelmed on Louisville’s 12-play, 93-yard drive in the first quarter, held the Cardinals to 72 yards on its six other first-half possessions before unraveling in the fourth quarter. ESPN’s Samantha Ponder said UM defensive players were exhausted by that point, so fatigue was assuredly a factor.

Denzel Perryman (12 tackles) was generally outstanding, and Thurston Armbrister had some good moments, but the linebackers were again deficient in pass coverage (including Raphael Kirby), and end/linebacker Tyriq McCord was exploited in pass coverage, too. (Not sure why Mark D’Onofrio put him in that position.)

Calvin Hertelou, who returned to start the second half after sustaining a contusion in the first half, plugged the middle at times but was sealed off other times (including on Dominique Brown’s 15-yard TD run) and missed a few tackles. Freshman defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins flashed potential.

### Louisville outgained UM, 336-224. And despite occasional bursts of pass rush and a sack/strip (thanks to Anthony Chickillo and Perryman), Miami didn't do enough to disrupt inexperienced quarterback Will Gardner, who completed 20 of 28 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. Brown rushed for 143 yards on 33 carries (4.3 average).

### Al Golden’s take, on WQAM: “The errors we made tonight, there’s no excuse. That starts with me. I need to challenge the coaches to look at everything we’re doing on the way back and use all day tomorrow. It’s important we get better. We made too many mistakes against a good team in a tough environment to win the game. [We had] some penalties we hadn’t seen.”

### Golden, on Kaaya: “There are some good throws, some ones he would like to have back.”

The lateral that resulted in a turnover "was a designed run," Golden said. "[Kaaya] got a little anxious. We didn’t do a good enough job protecting him. He got hit too much for a first-time starter. That’s on all of us. We didn’t convert on third down on offense at all. We made too many mistakes. Our preparation was good. Our approach was good.”

### Golden, on his defense: “On the field too long.  There’s a lot of things we need to fix on defense. Took the ball away twice, gave ourselves a chance. Got to continue to work on our pass rush. Was it good enough? No, it wasn’t good enough. I want to make sure I evaluate all three phases before I talk in-depth. We’ve got to be accountable, can’t make excuses starting with me.”

### Walter Tucker was among several players sealed off on Lamb’s 97-yard kickoff return and Nantambu Fentress missed a tackle. “We had too many guys get stuck on blocks," Golden said of that play. "We didn’t have enough guys go on the top of their man and recover their lane.”

### Another special teams mistake: An unecessary Juwon Young hold that negated a long gain by Coley on a punt return.

### Yes, some people are getting impatient. (You don’t say?) Former Cane Allen Bailey tweeted: “Man, it has to be some major changes done.” And ESPN’s Jesse Palmer said: “The excuses are over. There’s a lot of talent on this team.”

### Armbrister: “We were prepared. We invested a lot. Just didn’t execute. They got momentum and they just rolled with it.”

### UM's final reception numbers: Herb Waters 6 for 61; Phillip Dorsett 1 for 39; Clive Walford 3 for 38; Gus Edwards 1 for 19; Coley 3 for 9; Duke Johnson 1 for 5; Yearby 1 for 4; Braxton Berrios 1 for -1. 

### Please see the last post for Dolphins notes from Monday... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Monday 7 p.m. Belichick adds a Dolphin; Dolphins update: Coordinators Lazor, Coyle address issues; Heat coaching shakeup

7 p.m.: Coincidence or not, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has signed safety Don Jones, one day after the Dolphins cut him and six days before the teams meet in Miami. It isn't the first time in recent years that Belichick has signed a just-released Dolphins player just before the teams meet.

##########################################################################################

Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was much more complimentary of Knowshon Moreno than Lamar Miller today and clearly wants Miller to be more productive. Armando has those interesting comments on his Dolphins blog.

Lazor had more to say on other issues. Among them:

### For competitive reasons, Lazor understandably declined to say why the Dolphins haven’t often, in the preseason, showcased the fast-pace offense that some players expected or how much of an up-tempo attack will be used during the regular season.

“The strategy of how we would like to approach each game, we will probably keep those to ourselves,” Lazor said.

Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese has said that the Dolphins intend to play at a faster pace beginning in Sunday’s opener against New England at Sun Life Stadium.

### Lazor likes how Ryan Tannehill has developed. “You are talking about a guy that has the desire to be great and the desire to work at it. We ask him every day to be the most prepared player when he walks on the practice field. [His] work off the field, he’s done a great job with that.

“We need Ryan to continue to show a mastery of what we’re doing, decisions he makes, making them fast, being accurate with the football, spreading the ball around. We try to put him in really hard positions in practice to get him ready to do that in a game.”

### Where has Tannehill shown the most growth? “We’ve seen him work to be decisive and on time and get the ball out of his hands," Lazor said. "In the games, he’s proven he can do that. He’s getting the ball off on time. We’ve been pretty pleased how he’s done that in the game.”

### Lazor offered plaudits for rookie receiver Jarvis Landry: “I have no concern about Jarvis Landry being ready to play. In every preseason game, he’s played at a high level."

### Lazor doesn’t seem terribly concerned about the possibility of the Patriots again trying to take away Charles Clay, as they tried to do in Miami’s win last December when they limited him to one catch: a big fourth-down reception on the Dolphins’ final drive.

“I have great confidence in his ability to get open,” Lazor said of Clay. “If you have an average player on him, he’s probably going to get open…. I’ve seen the film from last year.”

### The Dolphins ranked 26th in the league in scoring last season, at 19.4 per game. Philbin said he wants to get to 25 points per game.

Lazor declined to quantify his numerical goals but likes what he has seen: “Overall, we’re getting faster. We want guys who can play in space, when they get the ball in their hands, know what to do with it. And we want guys that can separate.

"Every guy that’s blocking has to block with a certain kind of attitude and every guy that’s running has to run with a certain kind of attitude. We expect to be productive when we run the ball. We think we have good backs. I think we have a good offensive line. I like how quickly they’ve learned to communicate together.

"I feel very good about the talent level we have. When you start new there is always that little bit of first couple games to see certain people. We have some new people we need to see operate real games. It’s time to put up some points.”

### Lazor said he will not call plays from the press box, but on the sidelines instead, because “it’s a comfort level for me and for some of the other coaches and for the players.”

Tannehill told Griese that he gets the play call 10 seconds faster when Lazor is on the sideline.

### Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle feels optimistic about his unit, noting they allowed the second-fewest yards per play in preseason.

### Linebacker was a weakness last season, but Coyle is encouraged by how Koa Misi has adjusted to middle linebacker and mentioned he “was in on six hits in 23 plays” in his second and final preseason appearance, at Tampa.

“Dannell Ellerbe is comfortable where he is,” Coyle said. “We’ve seen productivity out of Philip Wheeler in defending the run and pressuring the quarterback, as well as the backup guys.”

And Coyle said: “I feel good about the secondary. I’m excited about Brent Grimes… and Cortland Finnegan. Cortland and Louis Delmas have been joys to coach. They bring a toughness, an edge. Louis brings tremendous amount of energy, excitement, physicality to the defense. People have to be aware where Louis is. I expect him to be a physical force for us.”

### Coyle said Will Davis will be the Dolphins’ third corner at times and Jamar Taylor might handle that role in other packages.

### Who will take the snaps that would have gone to Dion Jordan during his four-game suspension?

Coyle said Derrick Shelby, Chris McCain and Terrence Fede (if his knee is healthy) will all play.

“Early in the season, particularly down here, you have to roll people through,” he said. “It’s hard to play 70 plays in conditions we’ll be playing.”

### Philbin said he hasn’t decided on punt and kickoff returners. Jarvis Landry is the logical option for punts. Landry and rookie running backs Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa are all capable of kickoff returns. “They’ve all shown flashes,” Philbin said.     

Please see the last post, from late last night, on the Heat's coaching staff shakeup.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please check back later for UM-Louisville postscripts. 

08/30/2014

11:30 p.m.: Heat shakes up coaching staff; UM schedules series with FIU; Ex-players vocal on UM program; Heat summons FA center; Dolphins, Marlins

Quick 11:30 p.m. update: As Yahoo! reported tonight, Erik Spoelstra is shaking up his coaching staff.

Ron Rothstein and Bob McAdoo will no longer be in the significant positions they've held for years and have been offered other jobs in the organization. Juwan Howard is expected to take one of their spots on the bench.

The other spot held by Rothstein and McAdoo might go to a former NBA coach (Yahoo! said that has been discussed) or possibly to Dan Craig, who has coached the Heat's summer league team the past two years.

Meanwhile, David Fizdale, 40, will become Spoelstra's unquestioned lead assistant. He joined the Heat's staff in 2008, one of Spoelstra's first hires as coach, after holding assistant jobs with the Warriors and Hawks. He declined overtures to interview for Portland's job a couple of years ago, saying that he wanted to remain with the Heat.

Rothstein, 71, was the Heat's first coach and has been a Heat assistant for the past 11 seasons. McAdoo, 62, has been a Heat assistant for the past 20.

###################################################################################

 

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN  

Hurricanes chatter as we approach Monday's season opener:

### Eight years after an ugly football brawl created a rift between UM and FIU, the schools have struck a deal to resume their cross-town rivalry. Look for UM and FIU to announce that they have scheduled football games in 2018 at Sun Life Stadium and 2019 at a site-to-be-determined.

The 2019 meeting is technically an FIU home game, but the game will not be at FIU Stadium because it’s too small; it figures to be played at Marlins Park (the Marlins would be interested) or Sun Life. The schools also will resume playing in other sports.

Emotions have thawed since 13 players were ejected and 31 assessed one-game suspensions after a bench-clearing brawl in their 2006 game. After that incident, UM said it would not schedule any more football or basketball games with FIU, beyond the 2007 football game already scheduled.

### I asked several UM players and officials for tangible reasons why this defense will be better after finishing 89th last season.

Among their answers: better defensive line depth with the additions of Chad Thomas, Trent Harris and Demetrius Jackson; the instincts and physicality that Dallas Crawford will bring to safety; talent and depth at cornerback; and the belief that Calvin Heurtelou, Courtel Jenkins and eventually Michael Wyche will be slightly better at defensive tackle than Curtis Porter (out of football), Justin Renfrow (cut by Arizona last week) and Luther Robinson (cut today by Green Bay).

Anthony Chickillo cited another reason: “Our defense is an NFL system and you have to put in the work. Guys are taking the initiative to learn it more” than past years.

Cornerback Tracy Howard said one reason for that increased player diligence is “we got a lot of distractions out of the program,” declining to elaborate.

Still, one UM person voiced concern about how UM will defend runs to the perimeter.

In general, “how they play defense is just crazy,” Fox analyst and former UM assistant and ex-Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said. “I’m pulling for them but they have some issues.”

### Some former UM players are restless with the state of the program.

“It’s a short leash this year,” Brett Romberg said this offseason. “Excuses are over. You’ve getting good athletes. No excuses any more! You’re seeing the same mistakes, and that’s coaching.

“They aren’t capable of running a 3-4 defense [which they will play sometimes]. Their linebackers aren’t capable of holding the gap in a 3-4. Bill Belichick was able to get the most even when he didn’t have great talent on his lines.”

Clinton Portis likes Al Golden --- "he's the right man for the job" --- but said: “For what we’re used to in a defensive coordinator, it’s not up to our standards. But we also don’t have the defensive linemen, linebackers and secondary we’re used to, don’t have playmakers who command double teams, don’t have linebackers who wreak havoc. But you have to give Mark D’Onofrio something to work with.”

And Randal Hill said: “Fans are spoiled because it’s Miami. And rightfully so. Butch Davis went through sanctions and won games. You can’t just win against only teams with losing records. A lot of former players want to see better defense and a better team. Are they going in the right direction? My jury is out.”

### Offensive coordinator James Coley insists UM has no intention of playing conservatively because Brad Kaaya is a freshman. “But you wouldn’t know he’s a freshman,” receiver Malcolm Lewis said, noting his poise and sound decision-making.

Provided Kaaya fulfills expectations, the future --– regardless of whether suspended Kevin Olsen sticks around --- looks promising at quarterback with Kaaya, Malik Rosier, 2015 Tampa-based oral commitment Dwayne Lawson (rivals.com’s 23rd-ranked dual threat quarterback who also has offers from UF, FSU and Ohio State) and 2016 four-star UM oral commitment Jack Allison, the 6-5 Palmetto High junior whom analyst Charles Fishbein calls “elite” and comparable in ability to Kyle Wright.

### Running backs coach Tim Harris predicts freshman Joseph Yearby “is going to be very special this season and the future, one of the great ones that comes through here. He reminds me of Clinton Portis. He has that type of ability to make guys miss in space and accelerate for a long run.”

CHATTER

### What do Las Vegas bookmakers think of the Dolphins? Not much.

Miami’s over/under for wins at the MGM Grand and 12 Nevada casinos is 7.5 and its odds to win the Super Bowl are 60-to-1. Only three teams have longer odds: Buffalo (80 to 1) and Tennessee and Jacksonville (125 to 1).

### Remember that committee that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross formed to review the team’s conduct policies and make suggestions? Tony Dungy told me last week that the group (Dungy, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor, Don Shula, Curtis Martin) never even met and has no plans to.

### The injury to Dolphins rookie linebacker Jordan Tripp is a bruised sternum, and the team is hopeful he will be back this week or next.... Please see the last post for a wrap-up of the Dolphins' roster moves, as chronicled in our running blog Saturday.

### The Heat, looking to add another veteran backup center, summoned 6-11 Nazr Mohammed, 34, for a workout and meeting with team executives on Thursday. Mohammed, who has career averages of 5.9 points and 4.8 rebounds, played in 80 games for the Bulls last season.

Among free agent centers, the Heat is most intrigued by Emeka Okafor. But ESPN said he might not play until midseason because of a herniated disk. The Heat also has inquired about 6-11 free agent center Andray Blatche, who has a home here.

### One veteran NBA scout said of the most prominent shooting guards still available last week --- Ray Allen, Jordan Crawford, Golden State-bound Leandro Barbosa, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Heat-bound Shannon Brown --- the Heat signed the worst in Brown, who’s an erratic shooter.

But the Heat wanted a backup two-guard with size (6-4) and one who can defend, and there were concerns about Barbosa’s defense and durability, and maturity questions about Crawford, who remains available. Also, Brown was willing to take a non-guaranteed deal, according to basketballinsiders.com.

The Heat would love for Allen to come back but know that’s unlikely. Associates say he has been conflicted about whether to retire or sign with Cleveland or another top contender (the Clippers and Spurs also want him).

Incidentally, before they were charged with trespassing, the seven teenagers who traipsed through Allen’s home tried to placate Allen and his wife by sending them flowers. The Allens refused to accept the flowers.

### Though David Beckham’s two preferred MLS stadium sites were rejected (PortMiami and the boat slip), a friend said Beckham remains very optimistic about finding another Miami location (downtown or nearby) to place a team here. Broward's interest, to this point, has not been reciprocated.

### Among the perplexing Marlins’ developments: how right-handers have gone from hitting .185 off closer Steve Cishek in 2013 to .289 in 2014, entering the weekend.

Teams have hit .279 off Cishek since the All-Star break and .248 overall, compared with .211 last season. One scout said his “slider is not as hard as it was; he’s a little shaky for me” and his overall velocity is down from last year.

Cishek (4-5, 3.74) has a good save percentage (31 for 35) and should command trade interest this winter. He would top $4 million in salary if he goes to arbitration, and the Marlins will need to decide if they believe he’s worth that.    

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

5 p.m. Saturday update: A look at Dolphins' 53 left standing; Dolphins, UM, notable cuts

We'll update some Dolphins and other notable cuts around the league over the next couple of hours.

### 10 a.m.: Among UM players released in the past day: cornerback Brandon Harris (Houston), quarterback Stephen Morris (Jacksonville), fullback Maurice Hagens (Atlanta), guard Jared Wheeler (Buffalo). Jacksonville wants to re-sign Morris to the practice squad.

### 11 a.m.: The Dolphins have released cornerback Kevin Fogg, per our Adam Beasley. Tight end Kyle Miller was cut yesterday, leaving Miami with 20 more moves to make.

### 11:05 a.m.: Tampa Bay has released former UF running back Jeff Demps.... Minnesota cut former Dolphins DT Fred Evans... Carolina released G Andrew McDonald, who was among players harrassed in the Dolphins locker-room last year, according to the Wells Report.

### 11:15 a.m.: The Dolphins have cut Marcus Thigpen, leaving Jarvis Landry as the team's likely punt returner.... Kevin Cone has been cut.... Daniel Thomas also is expected to be released. He was summoned to team headquarters today to get the news. And so another second-round bust exits, stage left. Thomas' final rushing numbers in three years for Miami: 1312 yards, 3.6 per carry, 8 TDs.

### Noon update: Per our Adam Beasley, Rishard Matthews definitely will not be cut.

### 12:10 p.m. update: The Dolphins have released OL David Arkin and WR Matt Hazel. They want to re-sign Hazel to the practice squad, but there's a chance he might get claimed by another team. Hazel, a sixth-rounder, is the Dolphins' first rookie draft pick to be cut.

Arkin lost out in his bid for the team's ninth offensive line job. Miami is scanning the waiver wire for offensive linemen. As of 11:30 this morning, Mike Pouncey hadn't been informed if he's going on PUP.

### 12:20: The Dolphins have cut Andrew Wilson, the undrafted Missouri linebacker.

### 12:30: The Dolphins have cut quarterback Seth Lobato but have told him they likely will sign him to practice squad. They like his arm.

### 12:35 p.m.: The Dolphins have told Kemal Johnson, the undrafted Temple defensive tackle, that they are placing him on season-ending injured reserve with a torn miniscus.

### 12:40 p.m.: The Dolphins have informed undrafted running back Orleans Darkwa that he has made the 53-man roster, according to agent Brian Michael Hannula. Darkwa also was left with the impression that undrafted running back Damien Williams would make the team as well. (He is not a client of Hannula.)

Obviously, the Dolphins could change their mind in the coming days if they find a back they like better on waivers. But for now, two undrafted rookie RBs are on the team, according to Darkwa's camp.

### 12:45 p.m.: The Dolphins have cut safety Jordan Kovacs.

### 1:10 p.m.: The Dolphins have told defensive end Tevin Mims and defensive tackle Garrison Smith that they are being released. But they are interested in signing Smith to the practice squad; he had a sack and tackle for loss in Thursday's game against the Rams.

### 1:20 p.m.: The Dolphins have released offensive linemen Evan Finkenberg and Tony Hills. The Dolphins have announced nothing today, but the aforementioned moves account for 15 of the necessary 20 roster moves today.

### 1:30 p.m.: With Caleb Sturgis recovered from his groin injury, the Dolphins have released kicker Jake Rogers.

### 1:45 p.m.: The Dolphins have told undrafted rookie tight end Harold Hoskins that he has made the team, according to agent Jarian Lyons. Hoskins, at the moment, is slotted as the No. 3 tight end behind Charles Clay and Dion Sims.

But the Dolphins also are auditioning tight ends this weekend, including undrafted Central Arkansas rookie Chase Dixon (six TD catches in 7 games last year before breaking his leg, cut by Seattle recently) and Jacob Maxwell, an undrafted rookie from Louisiana-Lafayette who was released by the Detriot Lions when they signed ex-Dolphins TE Michael Egnew this past week. (Update: The Lions have released Egnew, according to Yahoo!)

### 1:48 p.m.: The Dolphins have cut defensive tackle Isaako Aaitui and guard/center Sam Brenner. They have left open the possibility of Brenner returning to the practice squad but there's no firm commitment on that. With Arkin and Brenner cut, Jason Fox looks to be in good shape for a roster spot. 

To the moment, the Dolphins have cut 17 players and put one on IR. The team hasn't announced anything yet but will later in the day.

#### 2:15 p.m.: The Dolphins have released defensive end D'Aundre Reed, the third-year player from Arizona. Nearly all of the team's roster moves are done, with a pending decision on whether to put Mike Pouncey on PUP.

### 3 p.m.: Undrafted rookie Anthony Johnson announces he has made the 53-man roster, as expected.

### 3:05 p.m.: The Dolphins have released tight end Evan Wilson. That means they now have room to keep every remaining player on the 53-man roster (including Mike Pouncey) without cutting any else, unless (and it's a big unless) they sign any players off waivers. And teams generally sign players off waivers after the Labor Day weekend roster cuts.

That means, for the moment, the Dolphins have kept six receivers (including Damian Williams), four backs (including the two undrafted rookies) and eight linebackers. But again, all that can change in a heartbeat if the Dolphins find players they like on waivers. And they are working out several this weekend.

### 3:10 p.m.: The Dolphins have decided to keep Pouncey on the 53-man roster instead of putting him on PUP. He would have been sidelined for six games if he had gone on PUP, but the Dolphins are encouraged he will be back before then. Pouncey said recently he's targeting Game 4 against Oakland in London.

### 3:40 p.m.: The Jets released former Dolphins cornerback Dimitri Patterson.

### 4 p.m.: The Rams released former UM OL Brandon Washington and DE Michael Sam, the NFL's first openly gay player.

### 4:30 p.m.: The Jets cut former Dolphins receiver Clyde Gates.... Carolina cut former UM DT Micanor Regis.... The Colts cut former UM basketball player Erik Swoope, who was trying to make the transition to football in one summer. He might join Indy's practice squad... Dallas cut former UM receiver Laron Byrd.... Cincinnati cut former FSU RB James Wilder Jr.... Atlanta cut former UM guard Harland Gunn.

DOLPHINS 53-MAN ROSTER AS OF 4 P.M.

Quarterbacks: Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore

Running backs: Lamar Miller, Knowshon Moreno, Damien Williams, Orleans Darkwa

Tight ends: Charles Clay, Dion Sims, Harold Hoskins

WRs: Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews, Damian Williams

OL: Mike Pouncey, Samson Satele, Brandon Albert, Shelley Smith, Daryn Colledge, Dallas Thomas, Ja'Wuan James, Jason Fox, Nate Garner, Billy Turner

DL: Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, Terrence Fede, Anthony Johnson, Derrick Shelby, Earl Mitchell, Randy Starks, Jared Odrick

LB: Philip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe, Koa Misi, Chris McCain, Jason Trusnik, Jonathan Freeny, Jordan Tripp, Jelani Jenkins

Safeties: Louis Delmas, Jimmy Wilson, Walt Aikens, Michael Thomas, Don Jones

Corners: Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, Will Davis, Jamar Taylor

Specialists: Brandon Fields, Caleb Sturgis, John Denney

Note: Dion Jordan and Reshad Jones -- both suspended for four games -- don't count against the 53.

Please check the last post for the weekly media column, if you haven't read that.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

08/29/2014

Media column: Lots of college football TV changes; NBA and local personnel moves; Lakers injustice

WEEKLY MEDIA COLUMN

Expect to see a bunch of changes in television coverage of college football this weekend, none more significant than the mantle being passed from Brent Musburger to Chris Fowler on ABC’s lead announcing team, alongside Kirk Herbstreit, beginning with FSU-Oklahoma State on Saturday night.

Though Musburger is still proficient at his job --- albeit a target for criticism because he injects opinions more than most play-by-play men --- ESPN executives believed the time was right for a change for several reasons:

Both announcers had expiring contracts, and several networks were courting Fowler, who had strong interest in doing play-by-play. At 52, Fowler is 23 years younger than Musburger.

And the launch of the ESPN-owned SEC Network allowed Musburger’s employers to give him a job he could feel good about, as the fledgling network’s lead play-by-play voice on Saturday night games, paired with Jesse Palmer, and select other games, including Thursday’s South Carolina-Texas A&M opener. Musburger’s games often will be the weekend’s third-best SEC matchup.

Fowler has handled football play-by-play before, calling Thursday night games for ESPN from 2006 through 2009. He’s better in the studio, but he’s smart, well-prepared and should be highly competent in his new role.

“I try not to sound announcery,” he said. “I don’t try to make it about me or catchphrases. I try to document the action and stay out of the way. Our booth will sound conversational.”

Fowler made his new gig more challenging by asking to continue anchoring College GameDay on Saturday mornings. Fowler and Herbstreit then will fly from the GameDay site to the site of the Saturday night game when the broadcasts are in different cities.

Other notable changes:

### With Palmer leaving his studio job, ABC replaced him with two analysts: former FSU quarterback Danny Kanell and ex-Texas coach Mack Brown.

### Two coaches with past ties to UM landed prominent studio gigs: Dave Wannstedt, the former Dolphins’ coach, with Fox, and Butch Davis with ESPN2. Davis replaces draft analyst Todd McShay, who said he requested a move to a sideline reporter role.

### Tim Tebow –-- awaiting another NFL opportunity --- will be a studio analyst on SEC Network, which launched this month in more than 90 million homes.

### CBS, which doesn’t begin its Southeastern Conference coverage until Georgia-South Carolina on Sept. 13, changed hosts, replacing Tim Brando with Adam Zucker. Brando recently joined Fox for a college play-by-play job.

### FYI: ESPN assigned Rece Davis, Palmer and David Pollack to Monday’s UM-Louisville game.

NBA CHANGES

### Some fans assuredly will celebrate Bill Simmons’ decision to leave ABC’s and ESPN’s NBA studio to host his own NBA program on ESPN. Because he offered a perspective different from ex-jocks and ex-coaches, Simmons’ presence on NBA Countdown didn’t annoy this viewer to the extent it did others.

But some of his observations were dubious (especially when he wondered if LeBron James was distracted in Game 2 of the Indiana series because Cleveland won the draft lottery), and he too often dominated the conversation, which resulted in Doug Collins not getting enough time to speak.

For now, ABC/ESPN is leaning against adding a fourth person alongside Collins, Jalen Rose and Sage Steele. Polarizing Stephen A. Smith would lure some viewers but probably drive others away.

### Somebody must have forgotten to tell the networks that the Lakers probably aren’t going to be very good.

They were given 20 ABC/ESPN/TNT games, compared with 19 for the champion Spurs. Yes, the Lakers draw higher ratings than most, but that much exposure isn’t warranted.

Eight teams have more national TV games than the Heat’s 16: Chicago, Cleveland and Oklahoma City (25 each), the Clippers (23), the Lakers, Spurs, Golden State (19) and Houston (17). Portland also has 16.

### A year after its launch, ESPN2 is moving Keith Olbermann’s show from 11 p.m. to 5 p.m., beginning Sept. 8, and slicing it from 60 minutes to 30. Olbermann said he also will host SportsCenter “now and then.”

### Can’t blame Rams coach Jeff Fisher for criticizing reporter Josina Anderson for being “very, very unprofessional” in asking Rams players this week about the showering habits of openly gay Rams defensive end Michael Sam. Raising the issue on air was unseemly, and ESPN apologized.

### Tidbits: Marlins ratings are up 25 percent, to a 1.6, from last year, when the team was dreadful… ESPN built a studio at the Clevelander in South Beach for Dan Le Batard to do his TV and radio shows, beginning next week. The public cannot watch in person because of lack of space on site…

FIU hired Mike Levine, who had been working UM baseball on WQAM with Joe Zagacki, as its new English-language football announcer on ESPN Deportes 1210, alongside Pete Pelegrin…Channel 33 in Miami agreed today to carry FIU's opener against Bethune Cookman at 8 p.m. Saturday, on one-hour tape-delay. That will air opposite the FSU game on ABC, the UF-Idaho game on ESPNU and a bunch of other games...  NBC 6 is searching for a new No. 2 sportscaster to replace Courtney Fallon, who is leaving for a college football sideline job on CBS Sports Net.

### This is the last U.S. Open tennis championship on CBS, which has carried the tournament for 46 years. The entire event moves next year to ESPN, which now carries weekday matches. Appropriately, CBS is bringing back Dick Enberg to call matches on Sunday and provide a retrospective on the network's coverage over the years.

The upshot is CBS, after this year, will no longer be limited to airing only 1 p.m. games on the first Sunday of the NFL season, which is necessary now to accommodate the men's U.S. Open final at 4:30 p.m. on that Sunday.

### Good move by 790/104.3 The Ticket to pair Josh Friedman with Chris Wittyngham on its evening show on weekdays. They’re rational, reasonable and can discuss issues with balance and perspective, without yelling or over-the-top criticism.