Coley's plan to make Kaaya better; UM recruiting and outlook; Dolphins news; Marlins; Big Heat problem
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
### Freshman Brad Kaaya closed his first regular season with some impressive rankings: 20th among all quarterbacks in touchdown passes (his 25 were more than FSU’s Jameis Winston and UCLA’s Brett Hundley, among many others), 21st in passer rating (three spots ahead of Winston) and 33rd in passing yardage.
But after UM’s bowl game against South Carolina, more work awaits the studious freshman. UM coordinator James Coley has started formulating a plan to help transform Kaaya from good to great.
“I’m going to wear him out this offseason as much as I’m allowed to,” Coley told me. “The biggest gain happens in the offseason for freshmen. In their sophomore year, if they remain the same, the game catches up to them. And people now know, ‘Hey that’s Brad Kaaya. This is how he plays.’
“You’ve got to elevate your game, so that when you go out there, you’re not the same guy. You’re better than you were last year. That’s the biggest part and that’s where guys fail their sophomore year: in the offseason.”
Coley’s mission for Kaaya will include improving his footwork --- “we want to make sure he’s at a good base so when he gets ready to throw, he’s not fading,” Coley said. UM believes that will improve his accuracy, just as his improved footwork has helped Ryan Tannehill's accuracy this season. That's important for Kaaya, considering his 58.6 completion percentage ranks just 69th nationally.
Coley also wants Kaaya to build up his body: “I can’t wait for him to get into the weight room to get stronger." And he needs to improve throwing on the move.
And Coley has an interesting homework assignment for Kaaya.
“One of the biggest things I’m going to do with Brad is I’m going to have him mock game plan every opponent we have next year and let him give me the scouting report,” Coley said. “Here are their top three coverages, here are the top three blitzes. OK, so how are we handling those blitzes? What’s our best protection versus it? What’s our best runs versus it?
“Then when we get to that time during the season I can say, ‘Hey this is your idea. Or remember when you thought this? You were right.’ It will make sense to him. Every player deserves a little ownership.”
Kaaya said this year’s 6-6 record is “everyone’s fault. Next year we have to flat-out win. In tight games, we have to be able to handle adversity.”
### What former UM quarterback was most helpful to Kaaya this year? He said he hears from Gino Torretta the most (“he sends me texts, with tips, before games”) and Stephen Morris also stays in contact.
### Coley said he wants to develop a special package next season for Malik Rosier, who will be the backup quarterback provided Ryan Williams isn’t granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA. (Williams has said he’s trying but doesn’t expect it to happen.)
“We could use Malik in the Wildcat and he can throw it well enough where we can do more out of that with him,” Coley said.
The challenge for Rosier this season was learning to play some under center, something he didn’t do as a dual-threat quarterback in high school in Mobile last season.
“Brad just had such a jump on him working underneath the center and the gun, doing both,” Coley said. “And when you just do [shotgun], you hurt these kids. When you’re coming into an offense like this, you have to be multiple.”
### So what reasons are there for hope next season beyond Kaaya?
A UM football staffer (not Coley) pointed to the belief Stacey Coley will be motivated to be very good after his falloff this year, the return of receiver Rashawn Scott and safety Rayshawn Jenkins from injuries, a deep secondary, a strong collection of running backs (two already here and others on the way in this recruiting class) even with the likely departure of Duke Johnson, and a skilled group of young pass rushers and offensive linemen.
But defensive tackle and linebacker remain serious concerns and neither has been addressed well enough yet in the 2015 recruiting class. Though UM has oral commitments from 10 four-star prospects, only three play defense: four-star Killian safety JaQuan Johnson, four-star Alabama-based cornerback Michael Jackson and Bradenton-based defensive end Scott Patchan, who is coming off a torn ACL.
UM has no top recruit committed at its biggest need positions. Three-star prospect Ryan Fines, UM’s only defensive tackle oral commitment, has only one other reported offer (USF).
Neither of UM’s two linebacker commitments are rated in the top 35 at their position: New Jersey based Jamie Gordinier and Royal Palm Beach’s Charles Perry, who is reportedly considering UF. That's troubling, because UM loses its best linebacker (Denzel Perryman) and another starter in Thurston Armbrister.
UM's fortunes aren't going to get appreciably better without upgrades at both defensive tackle and linebacker. The hope internally is that all four new tackles improve, especially Michael Wyche and Anthony Moten.
### Newcomers have helped fuel UM basketball’s fast start, but don’t overlook the growth of sophomore guard Manu Lecomte (who has gone from 7.7 points and 42.5 percent shooting to 12.1 and 55.3, including 24 for 47 on threes) and junior center Tonye Jekiri (from 4.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game to 7.4, 9.7 and 2.2).
Lecomte said he took 1000 three-pointers on some days this past summer and “I’m playing more off guard so it’s easier to get open shots now. I love playing with Angel [Rodriguez].”
Jekiri has gained 30 pounds (to 245) but is “more agile and mobile,” Jim Larranaga said. “We asked him to develop a jump shot and now he has good arc on it, can shoot it up to 15 feet.”
### We hear Jared Odrick apologized to Dolphins teammates for creating a distraction after he lost his temper during Sunday’s game and yelled at Joe Philbin.
Odrick was upset because defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers blamed him for something he didn’t believe was his fault and got under Odrick’s skin, though the two have a generally good relationship.
### Despite allowing four sacks on Sunday, we're told Dallas Thomas lined up with the starters at right tackle in practice on Tuesday, and the coaching staff inexplicably remains more comfortable with Thomas than Jason Fox, at least for now.
### Samson Satele said Mike Pouncey “saved my career. I’m thankful for him moving to guard and I told him that.”
But despite Satele’s good work this season and Pouncey’s selflessness, Pouncey has been far less productive at guard than center.
Pouncey has allowed three sacks, yielded the most quarterback hurries per snap of any guard in the NFL and ranks 73rd of 80 guards, per Pro Football Focus. No wonder Pouncey wants to return to center eventually, likely next season.
### One of the first things Bill Belichick mentioned Tuesday was that the Dolphins don’t use much no-huddle, which is something some Dolphins players expected this season. So why don't they use more no-huddle, considering it worked (very briefly) on Sunday and considering Ryan Tannehill generally plays well in the hurry-up?
Philbin indicated it’s challenging to do a lot of no-huddle with a team that uses as much pre-snap shifts and motion as the Dolphins do.
### Cortland Finnegan expressed optimism about playing Sunday. Jamar Taylor also practiced Tuesday and is adjusting to wearing a harness on his injured shoulder. He's not certain about his availability for Sunday.... Though Jelani Jenkins (foot) expressed optimism about playing Sunday, his status remains in question. With Jenkins and Koa Misi unable to practice Tuesday, the Dolphins' linebackers were Philip Wheeler, Kelvin Sheppard, Jason Trusnik, Jordan Tripp and Jake Knott.
### Cam Wake insisted today that despite the Dolphins' recent struggles against the run, "that doesn't all of a sudden turn us into a bunch of bums." OK then.
### With the Heat now third-worst in field-goal percentage defense, some outsiders have questioned Erik Spoelstra’s five men-on-a-string defensive philosophy.
But one Heat player said privately that a huge problem is the inability of the team’s wing players (guards especially) to consistently prevent blow-bys, which compromises the whole system and exposes the Heat’s lack of size.
That dearth of size is reflected not only in the Heat ranking last (by far) in rebounding and blocked shots, but also this: Among shots in the basket area (five feet and in), consider the shooting percentages against some of the Heat’s power rotation players: 66.7 against Chris Andersen (worst in the league among qualifying centers), 61.2 vs. Chris Bosh (bottom quarter among starting centers; Golden State's Andrew Bogut allows 47.3 percent shooting by comparison); 69.3 vs. Udonis Haslem (among the worst for NBA power forwards) and 66.4 vs. Josh McRoberts (below average).
All must sometimes leave their man to defend a player that has blown by a Heat guard.
The Heat entered tonight's game in Phoenix having allowed the opponent to shoot at least 54 percent in four consecutive games --- longest in franchise history.
### I've mentioned the Marlins' interest in a trade for Diamondbacks lefty Wade Miley in past columns in the past month, and Fox reports late tonight that Arizona has intensified talks with the Marlins and Red Sox, among others about a potential trade for the pitcher, who has a 39-35 career record. [WEDNESDAY 4 p.m. UPDATE: Fox reports the Marlins' attempts to acquire Miley have been thwarted and he likely will be traded elsewhere.]