May 07, 2015

Randy Shannon returns to town as a Gator, embraces new job; Dolphins, Marlins, Heat chatter

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Randy Shannon was back on his home turf now, just three miles from the University of Miami campus where he became the first member of his family to earn a college degree, helped the Hurricanes win three national championships (two as an assistant coach, one as a player) and made history as UM’s first African-American head football coach.

But as Shannon stood behind a podium addressing about 30 University of Florida football fans inside a Coral Gables museum on Tuesday night, there was something jarring about the visual:

Shannon was dressed in a bright orange shirt sporting the Gator logo, talking about how the Gators “are my family” now, and punctuating his closing remarks with the traditional Gator chomp, the one that can irritate any warm-blooded Hurricanes fan.

So isn’t this all a bit strange, working now for Miami’s arch rival as the Gators’ associate head coach, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach?

“Being back in Coral Gables is kind of ironic, being a graduate of the University of Miami,” he conceded before addressing the fans. “But I work for the University of Florida, which is a great institution, a great place.”

Four and a half years after UM dismissed him with a 28-22 record --- which happens to be Al Golden’s record at Miami --- Shannon seems like a man very much at peace.

“I’m happy; I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” he said. “Being back in the state of Florida has been unique. The embracement of all the coaches in South Florida has been unbelievable. [New Gators coach Jim McElwain] has been unbelievable…. I love [Gainesville]. It’s a college town. No traffic.”

Bouncing back from his firing at UM was, of course, not nearly as difficult as what Shannon overcame as a child growing up in Liberty City.

At 3, his father was murdered. His older twin brothers became addicted to crack cocaine when Shannon was 10 and died of AIDS, as he did his sister.

But Shannon was a survivor, always has been. He was an all-state football player at Miami Norland, started at linebacker for UM’s 1987 national championship team, played 17 games over two seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, and distinguished himself for his defensive acumen as an assistant coach for the Dolphins and Hurricanes before being promoted to replace Larry Coker as UM’s head coach in December 2006.

His players graduated and were law-abiding, but he didn’t win enough games to the administration’s liking. After UM fired him, he spent some time at ESPN, one season as Texas Christian’s linebacker coach and two years as Arkansas’ linebacker coach.

Not long after his firing, Alabama coach Nick Saban invited Shannon to visit. There, he met McElwain, Saban’s offensive coordinator at the time.

“Said maybe three or four words to Jim,” Shannon said.

Years later, when McElwain was hired away from Colorado State last December to replace Gators coach Will Muschamp, Shannon got a call.

“He said, ‘It’s Jim,’” Shannon said. “I said, ‘Jim who?” 

McElwain broached the idea of Shannon joining his staff, then called him again after Arkansas’ bowl game and said, “I’m serious. Would you like to be a part of Florida?”

Shannon was intrigued. Even in all his years as a Hurricane, there was a respect for the Gators program.

“It’s the brand that makes Florida special,” Shannon told the audience. “The Florida brand is bigger than the University of Miami brand. I’m being honest with you.”

A fan asks him, essentially, how he can reconcile being a Miamian working for the Gators.

“I’m invested in Miami because I’m from Miami,” he said. “But I’m invested in Florida. That’s my family.”

Still, old habits are tough to break. At the museum on Tuesday, he began to answer a question by saying, “Our biggest emphasis at the University of Miami,” eliciting chuckles from the crowd, before catching himself.

Shannon’s skills as a savvy defensive technician (he’ll share coordinator duties with well-regarded former Mississippi State coordinator Geoff Collins) complement McElwain’s talents as an offensive mastermind, and Shannon very much has McElwain’s ear.

One of the first things Shannon told McElwain is that he needs more coaches to recruit South Florida. “I said, ‘I can’t do it by myself,” Shannon said.

McElwain agreed and assigned six coaches to Dade, Broward and Palm Beach recruiting. The move has paid dividends.

Four of the Gators’ nine oral commitments for 2016 are South Florida-based, including Vosean Joseph, a three-star linebacker from Miami Norland, Shannon’s alma mater.

“When I first arrived in January,” recruiting for the Gators in Miami “felt a little strange,” Shannon admitted.

When high school coaches see Shannon, they naturally tease him about being the Hurricane now working for the enemy.

“All the time, they joke,” he said. “When I first arrived at Florida, [UF athletic director] Jeremy Foley said, ‘That F must be blowing your chest up. How does it feel, that green turning into blue now?’ We joke about it all the time.”

He said his relationship with South Florida high school coaches “help out a lot. The South Florida area especially is one of the areas we need to get into. Florida was successful when they had a lot of guys from South Florida on the football team.”

Though the Gators, like Miami, have been in a down cycle (7-5 last season), Shannon sees many reasons for optimism.

He is “very excited” about the offensive creativity of McElwain, whose Colorado State teams averaged 36 points each of the past two seasons; says incoming running backs Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite are “game changers with phenomenal speed” and vows “we are going to make people know the Gators are back. We are going to do a lot of great things.”

At 49, Shannon has no idea if he will ever get another head coaching job. But “I don’t think about it no more,” he said. “What I think about is the job I have at hand.”

Even if requires the longtime Hurricane to do the Gator chomp.

CHATTER

### The Dolphins have declined Rishard Matthews’ trade requests in the past, so it would be surprising if it’s granted this time, at least initially. Matthews would be a No. 5 receiver if he sticks, and he’s probably better than that.

He’s cheap ($660,000), a good special teams player, generally produces when called upon and is insurance in case one of the top four receivers is injured. Matt Hazel would be among candidates for the No. 5 job if Matthews’ request is granted. See Adam Beasley’s story on the home page for more details.

### One of the more interesting stories of Dolphins rookie minicamp Friday and Saturday will be watching Michigan State receiver Tony Lippett at cornerback, a position he played as a freshman but only four games since then (all last season). 

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio sees him excelling there: “He is not going to get beat deep because he's got two or three inches on most people, very long arms, and he's got great deep ball judgment.”

### A few days after Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker’s mother said she was happy the Cleveland Browns didn’t select him four spots before Miami did, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the Browns thought he wasn’t tough enough and didn’t love the game enough. A lot of people, including the Dolphins, would vehemently disagree with that.

### The Dolphins had reached agreements in principle with five of seven draft picks as of 6 p.m. Still awaiting deals: Jamil Douglas and Tony Lippett. [9 p.m UPDATE: Both Douglas and Lippett also have agreed to terms.]

### It’s obviously unrealistic for Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon to sustain his .430 average, entering Thursday. But for perspective on how remarkable he has been, consider he entered Thursday on a pace for 284 hits, which would break Marlins teammates Ichiro Suzuki’s single-season record of 262 (with Seattle in 2004) and shatter Juan Pierre’s Marlins record of 221 that year.

### ESPN's Hubie Brown and Heat TV voice Eric Reid were among five people casting first-place votes for Heat center Hassan Whiteside for Most Improved Player, with Whiteside finishing fourth behind Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert….

With a June 29 deadline, the Heat is waiting before deciding and informing Michael Beasley whether it is picking up his 2015-16 option. Whether Miami keeps its draft pick (91 percent chance) could factor in. Henry Walker also stands his risk, with his deal including partial guarantee thresholds if he survives past a few dates over the next several months.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 06, 2015

Heat notes (lottery, Whiteside); Dolphins (Collins, Brady); Panthers' GM addresses issues

Some Dolphins, Heat and Panthers items on a Wednesday night:

The Heat announced today that Alonzo Mourning will represent them on the podium of the May 19 NBA Draft Lottery. General manager Andy Elisburg also will attend the lottery in Secaucus, New Jersey and observe the lottery procedings in a sequestered room before the results are unveiled later in the evening to everyone on the podium and to the rest of the world.

Miami, as most of you know, has an 87 percent chance of having the 10th pick, a 1.1 percent chance of landing the first pick, a 1.3 chance of securing the second pick and a 1.6 chance of getting the third pick.

Miami cannot pick between 4 and 9. And the Heat has a 9 percent chance of falling outside the top 10, which would require the pick be forwarded to Philadelphia to complete a 2010 trade with Cleveland.

The NBA draft is June 25.

### Though he had a strong case, Heat center Hassan Whiteside won't win the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

ESPN reported the award will go to Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, who raised his scoring average from 13.1 to 20.0 and dramatically improved his shooting.

### La'el Collins' appeal to NFL teams received another boost today when the Baton Rouge police department confirmed that paternity tests showed he was not the father of the infant child of his murdered ex-girlfriend.

The child was delivered after the child's mother, Britney Mills, was killed. But the infant died days later from lack of oxygen.

ESPN's Josina Anderson reported that Collins also passed a polygraph test.

### The Baton Rouge Advocate reported the Cowboys are the latest team to schedule a meeting with Collins. The Dolphins continue to have strong interest... CBS reports the Dolphins are expected to be a finalist....

Bleacher Report's Jason Cole said Collins prefers to sign with a team where he could play tackle. But Collins said before the draft that he's OK playing guard or tackle.

### The Wells report on the Patriots' deflated ball scandal asserted, among other things, that it was "more probable than not" that Tom Brady was generally aware that Patriots employees were taking air out of footballs to give the Patriots a competitive advantage.

There's no way of knowing yet whether Brady will be suspended.

But if he's suspended early in the season, the Bills would gain a competitive advantage over the Dolphins and Jets.

That's because Buffalo plays New England in the second week of the season. And if he's suspended for multiple games, he would be more likely to miss that game than New England's first game against the Jets (the Patriots' sixth game) or Dolphins (their seventh).

Leagues never suspend players for games against a particular opponent, and doing so here would set a precedent that the NFL assuredly would have no interest in setting. 

But if the league decided Brady deserved a three-game suspension, the fairest thing to do from an AFC East standpoint would be to sit him for New England's first game against the Jets, Bills and Dolphins.

The rest of the AFC would justifiably complain about that, but because he's still arguably the best player in the division, it would preserve the integrity of the division race more than simply suspending him against the Bills and letting him play against the Jets and Dolphins. 

Crazy thought? Probably. But the league is always talking about the importance of division games. We won't hold our breath.  

PANTHERS TALK

A few Panthers notes that we haven't had a chance to get to amid the NFL draft, Marlins news and the Heat season ending: 

### The Panthers finished 25th in scoring (2.41 goals per game) and even after re-signing Jaromir Jagr, general manager Dale Tallon intends to add “speed and scoring on the wings.”

He said he probably will address that need through a trade because in “the free-agent market, there’s not a lot of that type of player. Basically trade or draft. It would be nice if we could make a deal to get another sniper. That would make our team really whole.”

### Beyond that, Tallon sees no other pressing need.

“It’s a tweak slightly," he said. "We know what our needs are and it’s not a lot. We’re in good shape. We’re starting to get depth in our organization. We’ll probably go with some of our young guys. We want to see how our kids do.”

### Owner Vinnie Viola has authorized Tallon to spend to the cap ceiling, which isn’t set. That might not happen.  But “we’ll be in upper third probably [in player payroll],” Tallon said.

### Tallon was non-committal on the team’s three unrestricted free agents: winger Tomas Kopecky (could return), winger Scottie Upshall (seems less likely to return) and goalie Dan Ellis.

Could Ellis’ good work late in the season motivate Tallon to re-sign him to challenge Al Montoya for the backup job behind Roberto Luongo? “We haven’t talked about it but you are probably right,” Tallon said.

### With even more quality prospects on the way to supplement the high-end young players already on the roster, Tallon said: “I’m excited about the next decade. I think it’s going to be great.”

But Tallon wants improvement in “shootout overtime success more than anything.” Florida won only eight of 18 shootouts…. On special teams, the Panthers' 16.3 percent success rate on power plays was 24th in the league. And the Panthers scored only one short-handed goal, fewest in the league.

### Unless his contract can be moved, the Panthers need more from center Dave Bolland, who has four years left on an onerous five-year, $27.5 million deal. He had 23 points (six goals) in 53 games.

### Plus/minus leaders on the Panthers: Aaron Ekblad had the best (Tallon can't stop raving about him) and Kopecky the worst.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 05, 2015

Lamar Thomas on his prized pupil, DeVante Parker, and what Dolphins asked Thomas; Fins, Marlins, Canes chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Long before the Dolphins made DeVante Parker their first-round draft choice, a Dolphins scout had a question for Lamar Thomas, the former Hurricanes and Dolphins receiver who is now Louisville’s wide receivers coach:

“If we drafted DeVante in the first round and in five years if he’s not successful, why would it be?” the scout asked.

Thomas had a good answer: “That means that you guys will have done an awful job developing a quarterback.”

Excluding Parker’s family and Dolphins officials, there was perhaps nobody happier about Miami drafting Parker than Thomas was.

“The crazy thing is he has heard so many Dolphins stories from me,” Thomas told me. “After the draft I told him, ‘Now it’s time to make your own.’”

Thomas said the Dolphins will love what they’re getting.

“I think the world of the kid,” he said. “To have him in my room last year was awesome. He already had a first-round grade last year and he came back to school to finish his degree; his grandmother wanted him to graduate. I almost wanted to cry when he hurt his foot last season.

“His hand/eye coordination and ball catching radius are amazing. He knows how to adjust his body. He can get off jams. As a route runner,… he does a lot of good things. He’s good at slants, hitches, comebacks.”

Thomas said Parker studies diligently and "is like a sponge" absorbing things. When Parker was injured last season, he told Thomas he wanted to come back and dominate. 

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin asked Thomas if “I was surprised how fast DeVante ran [at the NFL Combine]. I said I was disappointed he was a 4.45. [Louisville cornerback] Charles Gaines runs a 4.3 and I saw DeVante run by Charles Gaines a lot. It's like a Jerry Rice type of speed where DeVante can accelerate.”

The receivers that Parker reminds him of? Thomas mentioned Cincinnati’s A.J. Green (a four-time Pro Bowl selection) and retired former Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith (a five-time Pro Bowler).

Thomas disputes any notion that Parker is not strong enough, noting he benched 365 pounds last year.

Dan Marino texted me [during the draft] and said, ‘We got your guy,’” Thomas said. “I told Danny, ‘You would have loved to have this guy on your team. He would have made you even better.’”

And Thomas got another recent phone message that meant a lot to him.

“DeVante sent me a text that shocked the hell of out me. He said, ‘Coach, I appreciate everything you've done for me this season, not only being my coach but my mentor.’ That was awesome. I’m so excited he’s with the Dolphins.”

CHATTER

### If the Dolphins succeed in signing LSU offensive tackle/guard La’El Collins, they will emerge from this draft with four of Mike Mayock’s top 67 players: Parker (ninth), Collins (16), defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (35) and running back Jay Ajayi (67). Plus, they used their third-round pick to acquire Kenny Stills, who led the NFL in yards per reception with the Saints in 2013.

### The Dolphins are giving a rookie minicamp tryout this week to a cancer survivor –-- 25-year-old Fort Lewis (Colorado) guard Arthur Ray Jr., who was diagnosed with bone cancer shortly after accepting a scholarship to Michigan State in 2007, then underwent nine surgeries on his left leg in two years. Doctors told him he would be lucky to walk, let alone play football.

### Please see the last post for details on Dolphins players' visit with La'el Collins today, as well as information on the SEC starting quarterback that will take snaps at Dolphins rookie minicamp this week.... Update: Michael Cauble of the ABC affiliate in Baton Rouge reports tonight Collins won't sign anywhere until he is officially cleared by police.

### Zach Hocker, who was a seventh-round pick by the Redskins out of Arkansas last May, was supposed to challenge Caleb Sturgis for the Dolphins' kicking job this summer. But Hocker apparently didn't do enough to impress the Dolphins, who released him Tuesday.

Instead, Sturgis' competition will be undrafted rookie Andrew Franks, who hit only 37 of 56 career field goals at RPI in New York but excels at kickoffs. Franks worked out privately for Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi before the draft. 

### Among the things Marlins first baseman Michael Morse has done to try to snap out of his month-long slump to start the season: He asked Andre Dawson (the Marlins’ special assistant to the president) to watch him and tell him exactly what he sees.

Dawson suggested Morse use a lighter bat “to have more bat control,” and Morse has been trying that.

Keep in mind Morse --- who entered Tuesday hitting .193 (third-worst among big-league first basemen) has hit below .279 only once in his past five seasons (.215 in an injury-wracked 2013). So the odds are he will snap out of this.    

Mike Redmond played Justin Bour ahead of Morse for the second consecutive game tonight, but Morse told our Manny Navarro tonight in Washington D.C. that he has no problem with that at all.

"I'm always just about winning," said Morse, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal this past winter. "I'm happy for anybody that gets a chance to play — especially Bour. He's swinging the bat awesome."

Incidentally, the first baseman that the Marlins tried to sign before Morse, Adam LaRoche, is hitting just .211 with three homers and nine RBI for the White Sox.

### After trading ace prospect Andrew Heaney in the Dee Gordon deal with the Dodgers, one high-ranking Marlins official said he thought left-hander Justin Nicolino ultimately would be better than Heaney.

And Nicolino is justifying the faith; he hasn’t allowed an earned run in four consecutive starts (spanning 24 innings) at Triple A, where he’s 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA.

But with their bullpen struggling, what the Marlins really need is hard-throwing relievers Carter Capps (0-1, 2.79 ERA) and Nick Wittgren (3.38 ERA) to reach their potential at Triple A and earn a promotion to the Marlins.

### Asked by WQAM-560's Marc Hochman if he wonders how UM could have gone 6-7 and have seven players drafted, Al Golden said Tuesday: “It's not about me.... If you want to go back to critiquing the team on its performance, go ahead. But right now this moment is their's...

"I hate to attach anything remotely negative to those kids accomplishing their dream.... We put that season to bed five months ago.”

Here's more of what Golden had to say about that question:

"Well, I think, from my standpoint it’s really about the kids. I hate to attach anything remotely negative to those kids accomplishing their dream, guys. At the end of the day, we put that season to bed five months ago.

For these guys, it’s about them and whatever we can do to help them as they finish out their careers. Some of them are graduating. Obviously a lot of them went to the Combine, and went to all-star games, and have been around working out. So, to see them transition from doing all those things I just mentioned and then having their name called is nothing but awesome. So, I’m happy for those guys at the end of the day.

And, again it’s been a long drought for us – seven years since we’ve had anyone in the first round. So, I know the way our team’s looking at it, the way our staff’s looking at it, this is the first of many to come as opposed to the culmination. So we’re excited for those guys and obviously we can learn a lot from them in terms of how to be that. Those guys didn’t have a lot of defects and that’s why they went high, which is great."

### UM cornerback Ladarius Gunter, who some thought would be drafted, signed with Green Bay.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

4 p.m. update: Fins players meeting with Collins; Dolphins auditioning SEC quarterback

Several Dolphins players traveled to Baton Rouge, La., on Tuesday to meet with LSU offensive lineman La’El Collins in an attempt to persuade him to sign with the Dolphins.

The Dolphins did not send coach Joe Philbin or any coaches or team officials to the meeting. That would have risked violating an NFL rule limiting contact in certain circumstances between undrafted players and coaches, according to the league.

Jarvis Landry and Anthony Johnson, who were teammates of Collins at LSU, posted pictures of themselves flying to Louisiana for the meeting. Mike Pouncey joined them on the flight, according to a picture posted on Instagram. There were initial reports that former LSU player Kelvin Sheppard also would be part of the Dolphins’ contingent.

A source close to Collins said the Dolphins have emerged as a possibility for Collins but there’s a lot of interest from other teams and it’s too early to establish a front-runner.

The Buffalo Bills, who met with Collins on Monday, as well as New England, Tampa, Chicago, Detroit and the New York Giants are among the teams that have expressed interest in Collins, according to media reports. ESPN reported that it’s unlikely Collins will sign with the Bills.

The Dolphins declined to discuss the players’ meeting with Collins, whether they asked the players to meet with him or whether they paid for the plane.

Collins was expected to be a first-round draft pick before his name was linked to a former girlfriend who was murdered. The Baton Rouge police department met with Collins on Monday and said he is not a suspect. But no arrest has been made in the case.

Johnson, who played with Collins at LSU, said on Twitter that he was “going [to] bring my brother back to South Beach.”

Dolphins coaches and front office officials met with Collins during a pre-draft visit and team headquarters, so there was no urgency for them to meet with him again. And there's also the question about whether any such meeting would have violated NFL rules.

Bills coach Rex Ryan met with Collins at a Baton Rouge restaurant on Monday night, but the NFL said teams cannot meet with players who were eligible for the 2015 draft at their campus or residence if the player has withdrawn from school (Collins did not enroll at LSU for the spring semester and the NFL told LSU it considers that withdrawing, according to LSU's sports information director) and if the school’s final exams have not concluded. LSU’s final exams conclude on Saturday.

Asked whether a player would be permitted to meet with a team at a restaurant, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said players "would not be able to meet at a restaurant in the player's city."

So does that mean Ryan violated an NFL rule? The league declined to comment.

The Dolphins' pitch to Collins could offer several attractive elements: the likelihood he could win a starting job at guard; the lack of a state income tax in Florida; and the fact he would be reunited with two players who were teammates at LSU.

Teams can offer Collins a contract for as much as $1.58 million over three years.

If Collins signed, he would immediately become the front-runner to beat out Dallas Thomas, rookie fourth-rounder Jamil Douglas and veteran Jeff Linkenbach for one of two starting guard spots. The Dolphins privately project Billy Turner to be one of their starting guards.

It's also possible the Dolphins could play Collins at tackle and move Ja'Wuan James to guard, though there's no indication that is being considered.

Collins has said he's OK playing guard or tackle. But Collins could maximize his value for his second professional contract by playing left tackle, because tackles tend to command bigger contracts than guards in free agency.

QUARTERBACK ADDED

Former Georgia starting quarterback Hutson Mason will audition for the Dolphins during their two-day rookie minicamp this week.

If he impresses, Mason could be signed to compete with Josh Freeman and McLeod Bethel Thompson for the No. 3 job, if the Dolphins keep three quarterbacks.

Mason threw for 2168 yards, with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions last season, and completed 67.9 percent of his passes. He topped 200 yards passing in only one game: 319 against Florida.

Here's the scouting report on Mason, from NFL.com's Lance Zierlein:

Positives: "Accuracy is his calling card. Throws receivers open. Plus ball placement and touch. Most accurate quarterback in SEC on deep throws, completing 51.9 percent during 2014 season. Has understanding of where to put the ball to maximize receivers' chances and minimize interceptions. Plays with calm demeanor and maintains poise in pocket. Shows pre-snap recognition of blitzes and is ready with adjustment.

Negatives: "Weak arm. Short-arm thrower who doesn't generate power from his lower half. Floats perimeter throws. issues throwing behind post routes on play-action. Feet won't frighten defense. Just three completions for more than 43 yards. Generally defaults to the safe throws."

Overall: "A game-managing pocket passer with arm strength that is below the desired NFL level. Must play in timing-based offense. Mason displays the football intelligence, accuracy and poise worthy of an NFL camp. Must prove his intangibles can overcome his lack of arm."

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

May 04, 2015

Dolphins reportedly will meet with La'El Collins; Dolphins to audition five-star RB; More Fins draft postscripts

Some Dolphins notes on a Monday (updated at 10 p.m.):                 

### We reported this afternoon that the Dolphins planned to pursue LSU offensive lineman La'El Collins once he is cleared of involvement in the murder of an ex-girlfriend.

And that pursuit apparently has begun. Collins will meet with the Dolphins on Tuesday, a day after he met with police in Louisiana in the morning and the Buffalo Bills in the evening, according to a report Monday night in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

The Dolphins declined to comment.

Collins, a second-team All-American in 2014, met with police in Baton Rouge on Monday to discuss the murder of an ex-girlfriend, Brittany Mills. Mills was eight months pregnant at the time of her murder; the baby, Brenton, was successfully delivered after the shooting but died a week later.

After the meeting on Monday, the Baton Rouge police department said "Collins fully cooperated with investigators and is still not considered a suspect in the homicide of Brittany and Brenton Mills."

Collins, who went undrafted because of the ongoing police investigation, met with Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan on Monday night and will have meetings with several other teams after his session with the Dolphins on Tuesday, according to the Advocate.

The newspaper said Collins' agents, who declined to comment, have heard "from almost every team."

The Dolphins will have considerable competition to sign Collins, and he probably could maximize his value for his second contract if he signs with a team that would play him at left tackle instead of guard.

If he joins the Dolphins, he likely would play guard, though right tackle Ja'Wuan James is versatile enough to play guard. Collins said before the draft he would be OK with playing tackle or guard.

“Every team, every scout, every coach, offensive line coach from teams that have worked me out has said definitely I'm a left tackle," he said at the time. 

“I believe in my abilities. And I think the fact that I'm even in the conversation to be able to play guard or tackle at the next level is huge, that's value. Being able to play both positions is something I love to carry on my shoulders. I feel like I can fit in anywhere, plug in anywhere."

Any team can sign Collins to a three-year deal worth as much as $1.58 million. He could become a free agent after two years if a team agrees not to place an exclusive tender on him.

The Dolphins expressed interest in Collins before the draft and brought him to Miami for a visit.

Dolphins linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who also attended LSU, has publicly lobbied the Dolphins to sign him.

"Need the whole 954/305 to reach out and support my LSU fam (Collins) and get him to Miami,” Sheppard said on Twitter.

Sheppard later deleted that tweet. The Dolphins apparently want to pursue Collins quietly.

Dolphins defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, another former LSU player, also is tweeting support for the move.

### The Dolphins are giving a mini-camp tryout to running back Dee Hart, a former five-star recruit who won the 2010 Hall Trophy for the best high school football player in the nation.

Two knee surgeries hampered his development at Alabama, where he ran for 166 yards on 43 carries in two seasons before transferring to Colorado State a year ago.

Hart, 5-9, ran for 1275 yards and 16 touchdowns, while averaging 6.6 yards per carry, for the Rams last season, and also caught two touchdown passes.

Hart left the Alabama team before his February 2014 arrest for possession of marijuana and giving false information to police.

“Dee is one of the most competitive guys on the team,” Nick Saban once said. “Maybe the only guy on the team I’m taller than.”

### According to a UM source, the Dolphins also are giving a tryout to former Miami basketball player Raphael Akpejiori, who was on the Hurricanes’ football team last season but didn’t play.

### Factoid we discovered about the four linebackers added by the Dolphins after the draft:

All were ranked in the top 14 in the country in tackles last season.

Utah State inside linebacker Zach Vigil ranked second with 154, Penn State outside linebacker Mike Hull was tied for fourth with 138, Cincinnati inside linebacker Jeff Luc was tied for eighth with 133 and Marshall inside linebacker Neville Hewitt was tied for 14th with 123.

Hull, 6-0 and 235 pounds, was named the Big 10’s Linebacker of the Year and was third team All-American. CBS draft analyst Dane Brugler said Hull “has excellent diagnose skills and is the type of player that the ball carrier seems to find every snap” but “lacks ideal size/strength for the NFL and can be overwhelmed by blockers in the open field.” 

Luc, 6-1 and 256 pounds, was the nation’s top inside linebacker prospect when he committed to Florida State in 2010, but transferred to Cincinnati because of lack of playing time. He blossomed last season, with 6.5 sacks.

“Luc might be the most imposing inside linebacker in the country,” CBS’ Rob Rang said. “His powerful build and aggressive nature make him an ideal run-stuffing presence in the middle. [But] scouts worry that Luc lacks the lateral agility and speed, however, to handle coverage duties, making him strictly a two-down defender in the NFL.”

Vigil, 6-2 and 240 pounds, had nine sacks last season, and Hewitt, 6-1 and 231 pounds, had five sacks.

Though the Dolphins haven’t announced any of their post-draft roster moves, the signings of Vigil, Hull and Hewitt were confirmed to The Miami Herald by their agents. The signing of Hull was reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Dolphins are looking for a third starter at linebacker alongside Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins. Chris McCain and Sheppard are considered the top contenders for that job, with Spencer Paysinger and Jordan Tripp also in the mix.

### Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who has skipped the Dolphins voluntary workouts in recent days, arm-wrestled his friend, billionaire Warren Buffett, on an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Monday morning.

Suh let Buffett win; Buffett cracked, “I’m toying with him.”

Suh and Buffett met when Buffett was an honorary coach during a game against Oklahoma, and former Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne later arranged a meeting between them.

“We sat down and it was like speaking to my father,” Suh said, adding the opportunity to talk with Buffett about money was “a pleasure and honor.”

Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and second-richest man in America at $71.8 billion, said of Suh: “This guy is smart, believe me. I admire him a lot. He listens. He asked the right questions.”

Suh, once dubbed a “secret finance nerd” in The Wall Street Journal, said during Monday’s CNBC appearance, that “I’ve always loved numbers. So I like to be involved and understand what’s going on and not just be a person that always wants to take great advice.”

FINAL DRAFT ANALYSIS

Here’s how three draft analysts assessed Miami’s draft:

### ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “The Dolphins had one of my favorite picks of Round 1, and they didn't have to move to get their guy. DeVante Parker has the chance to be special and fills a clear need for them. I could have seen him going with any of the four picks ahead of Miami -- St. Louis, Minnesota, Cleveland and New Orleans -- so getting him at No. 14 was a good value. Jordan Phillips has first-round physical ability and third-round tape, so landing in Round 2 just about averages things out.

“The addition of Ndamukong Suh was impactful, but Miami can use the depth behind him or put Phillips and Suh on the field at the same time. If Phillips plays at Suh's effort level on every snap, there's a potential stud here. Jamil Douglas could play right away, given the need at guard, and though I thought Bobby McCain was a bit of a reach given some other cornerbacks available when he was taken, that's splitting hairs again.

“Jay Ajayi is a tough runner who fell on injury and ball security concerns, but if he's healthy, he can be really good. Tony Lippett is a player I expected to go earlier. If there's a question, it's the lack of a linebacker earlier on. The Parker pick really elevates this draft for me, and they can hope the coin flip on Phillips' becoming really good works out. But ultimately, I see one certainty here, and injury risk in a number of places.”

### ESPN’s Todd McShay: “I really liked the pick of Louisville's DeVante Parker. He was the No. 9 player on my board, and he gives QB Ryan Tannehill a true No. 1 wide receiver. His speed, leaping ability and ball skills as a vertical threat are a nice complement long-term alongside Jarvis Landry, who was a very effective slot receiver as a rookie in 2014.

"Oklahoma DT Jordan Phillips is a risk-reward pick, as he's one of the 10 or 12 best prospects in this draft based purely on his physical gifts, but his effort was way too inconsistent at Oklahoma. Ajayi was a great value on Day 3. The Dolphins really need a power runner, and Ajayi adds versatility as an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield.”

### CBS’ Rob Rang, who gave Miami a B plus: “In the weeks leading up to the draft Miami explored trading up into the top 10 to land a dynamic receiver, but ultimately didn't have to as DeVante Parker slid to the Dolphins at No. 14 overall.

“Parker's length, speed, body control and huge catch radius make him a potential No. 1 target for Ryan Tannehill in Bill Lazor's aggressive passing attack, and fifth round pick Tony Lippett could surprise as well (whether at receiver or cornerback). Jay Ajayi's knee is a concern but he has franchise-back talent. Jordan Phillips and Jamil Douglas are potential future starters along the line of scrimmage.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz          

May 02, 2015

Fins add 4 LBs tonight; Lots of reaction, analysis on Dolphins' Day 3 picks; Eye-opening Canes item; Heat, Marlins

The Sunday buzz column, with lots of Dolphins, Canes, Marlins and Heat, is below.

First, a 7:30 p.m. and then a 10:45 p.m. update with Dolphins post-draft signings:

The Dolphins, who did not select any linebackers in the draft, have signed four highly productive ones in the first hour after the draft: Penn State OLB Mike Hull (a third team All-American last season with 140 tackles, one pick and two sacks); Utah State inside linebacker Zach Vigil (154 tackles, 9 sacks last season); Cincinnati inside linebacker Jeff Luc (133 tackles, 6.5 sacks) and Marshall inside linebacker Neville Hewitt (123 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one pick).

The Dolphins had shown a lot of interest in Vigil and Hewitt throughout the process, as we noted earlier this week. Vigil is listed at 6-2, 240; Hull at 6-0, 231; Luc at 6-1, 256; and Hewitt at 6-1 and 231.

Other players added by the Dolphins tonight (with a caveat that while at least a couple of the names below have signed, others of these players might be just be coming in for tryouts this week, which won't be clarified until the Dolphins formally announce the names in a few days):

### Georgia defensive end Ray Drew. Had just 39 tackles, one sack last season but CBS' Rob Rang said his "relatively pedestrian statistics can be explained by the block-eating role he was asked to play at Georgia. He quietly emerged as one of the SEC's better and more versatile defenders."

### Tennessee punter Matt Darr. (Unlikely to unseat Brandon Fields.)

### RPI kicker Andrew Franks. Excels at kickoffs; special teams coach Darren Rizzi flew to New York to work him out two weeks ago. Caleb Sturgis already had one serious challenger: former Arkansas kicker Zach Hocker, the Redskins' 7th-rounder last season.

### Maine receiver Damarr Aultman. Had 48 catches for 498 yards last season.

### Illinois State offensive lineman Michael Liedtke. Played left tackle last season but well suited for guard.

### Tim Semisch, a 6-7 tight end from Northern Illinois, will try out for the Dolphins this week. He had just 10 career receptions for 100 yards.

### Bowling Green defensive end Kendall Montgomery. The Miami Pace High alum had two sacks last season. His agent said it's a contract, not a tryout.

### Alabama receiver Christion Jones. He had 19 catches and 264 yards last season after catching 34 the previous year. He averaged 23 yards on kickoff returns last season after scoring touchdowns on kickoff returns of 90-plus yards each of the previous two years.

### UCLA defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy. The 6-5, 330-pound tackle had three sacks last season.

### USC G/T Aundrey Walker. NFL.com's assessment: "Despite a promising start to his career, Walker has faded into irrelevance over the last two seasons and was a rotational player in 2014. His lack of functional strength and footwork might doom his draft chances."

### Kansas receiver Nigel King. Caught 30 passes for 537 yards, a 17.9 average last season. King has good size at 6-3.

### TCU 6-0 receiver David Porter. Caught 39 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns last season. He's coming in for a tryout with the Dolphins.

### Arizona offensive tackle Mickey Baucas. Started at left tackle and "boasts an intriguing build with great height and long arms," CBS' Rob Rang said. ###############################################################################

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

In the past 18 drafts, only one of the Dolphins’ fifth-round draft picks (Reshad Jones) has emerged so far as a longterm starter; a few others were decent (Chris Clemons, Caleb Sturgis, Donald Lee, Nolan Carroll), but most were forgettable: Tony Bua, Cecil Collins, Josh Kaddu, John Nalbone, among others. That’s worth keeping in mind when assessing a Dolphins draft that included four fifth-rounders and just three other picks.

But the Dolphins need at least a couple of Saturday’s fifth-rounders to become good players, and here’s a pearl of hope: The Dolphins snagged Jim Kiick, Bryan Cox and Zach Thomas in the fifth round.

Some reaction on Miami’s four fifth-rounders on Saturday and its fourth-round pick, Arizona State guard Jamil Douglas:

### Memphis cornerback Bobby McCain: NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “Ironically, he will be competing with Brice McCain for that nickel spot. Quick footed. This kid is feisty. [But] he’s too short to play on the edge. Tough, competitive kid.” (Brice McCain is the heavy favorite for that job.)...

ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “What I love about this kid is when he picks a pass off, he can take it the distance [did that four times in college]. This kid is an interception waiting to happen. What he needs is more consistency. Can be a nickel back right away and maybe develop into a starter. Needs a little more consistency. Also did a good job as a kick returner.”…

ESPN’s Todd McShay: “Really good instincts. Good feel for the game.”… NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein: “Lacks desired height and frame to be an outside cornerback. Undersized slot corner. His 19 passes defended and 11 interceptions over his last 22 starts are indicative of his athleticism and talent to play on the next level.”… Draft Insiders’ Tony Pauline: “Rarely has mental breakdowns or gets beat. He lacks deep speed but offers potential in nickel or dime packages and on special teams. Underrated corner with solid ball skills.”

### Boise State running back Jay Ajayi: Kiper: “A downhill runner. He’s a little loose with the football at times, especially when he gets into traffic. He’s got to shore that up. He runs with explosive aggressiveness, toughness. He is a physical runner. Can really challenge guys. You talk about a guy like Marshawn Lynch. This guy runs with that power and explosion. He’s got to block in pass protection a lot better than he did.”…

McShay: “He’s a great receiver out of the backfield. Very light on his feet. I don’t see quite as much power as [Kiper] sees. I see tough, hard running. Really impressive. Born in London to Nigerian parents. Moved to United States in 2000. Had a chance to play for the Nigerian national team; he was that good of a soccer player.” McShay said the concern is Ajayi had “673 offensive touches the last two seasons” which “really took a pounding on his body.”

ESPN’s Bill Polian: “The one thing Miami needed more than anything in the run game was somebody who could stick it up in there, hang in there with toughness. And this kid does.”… ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Ajayi flunked some physicals because of a knee issue; the Dolphins say they aren’t concerned…. Ajayi caught 50 passes for 535 yards and four touchdowns last season and has a good chance to wrest the third down job away from Damien Williams.

Mayock: “Unfortunately, Jay slid for something out of his control. The medical is the question mark. On the positive side, he has great pad level, acceleration and burst. I like his patience. His knee is bone on bone and teams don’t know how long they will get high level production. His tape is outstanding. He’s one of the toughest kids in the draft. They needed that big back to complement Lamar Miller.”

NFL Net’s Daniel Jeremiah said he rated him as a top-20 player in this draft… Pauline:  “Solid downhill grinder who can carry the load for a team on the next level. Large, powerful runner best on the inside.”

### Minnesota safety Cedric Thompson: Kiper rated him the draft’s 10th-best safety. “You love the way he plays,” Kiper said. “His game day tapes are very solid. He’s adequate in coverage. He’s a good tackler, he makes plays, very instinctive. Those kind of guys make it in this league, guys who can set up a defense that are consistent week to week, that understand how to play the game.”

NFL.com’s Zierlein disagrees with Kiper in one regard: “Above-average athletic traits and size, but instincts and awareness are below average. Takes too long to commit once play direction was been declared. Played as deep safety and near the line of scrimmage. Has enough size to match up against tight ends.”

Pauline’s thinking is more in line with Kiper’s: “Instinctive run-defending safety who keeps the action in front of him. Must earn his living on special teams.” 

### Michigan State cornerback Tony Lippett, a former receiver who played corner as a freshman and in four games in 2014: NFL Net’s Charles Davis: “I always thought corner was the right spot for him.  That length [6-2 1/2] can take away some of the [concerns about his] speed. He is going to have to play with the same intelligence that Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner play [to compensate for mediocre speed]. No false steps.…

Mayock: "I really want to see if he could be an NFL-quality corner because the length intrigues me. With all those big-bodied wide receivers, more and more teams are looking for corners that are 6-feet and above. He is going to have to be a Richard Sherman type corner.  [Sherman and Browner] are guys that have to use length to their advantage at the line of scrimmage.'

### Douglas: Kiper said he should be “solid” but “you would like him to play with a little more power.”… McShay: “Really smart player, 3.92 GPA. Impressive with his awareness picking up stunts and blitzes.”…

Tony Pauline: “Douglas was a terrific college lineman and possesses the skills necessary to start at guard in a run-oriented system.”

Zierlein again is the dissenting voice here, claiming Douglas “fails to generate push at the point of attack” and “shows very little fire in his play. Looks like he’s going through the motions.”…

Joe Philbin said he likes Billy Turner (a front-runner to start) at right guard, so it makes sense that Miami will put Douglas at left guard to compete with Dallas Thomas, Jeff Linkenbach and perhaps J.D. Walton.

 CHATTER

### How unusual is it for a college team to finish below .500, as UM did last season, and then have at least seven players drafted months later, as Miami did?

I studied the previous 11 drafts (entering this one) and found no team with that many draft picks that finished with a losing record the previous year.

Over those 11 drafts coming into this one, 48 teams had at least seven players selected in a single draft. Of those 48 teams, 33 won at least 10 games the previous season.

Only two of those 48 teams won fewer than eight games the previous year --- coincidentally, UM, which went 7-6 under Randy Shannon in 2010, then had eight draft picks in 2011. Also, South Carolina, which went 7-6 in 2008 and then had nine picks.

And now UM has seven players picked after going 6-7. Amazing.

By the way, the Gators, who went 7-5 last season, had eight players drafted today. Remember, UF had one game canceled for weather reasons last season.

And this will make blood boil further for Canes fans: McShay said “if used properly,” defensive end Anthony Chickillo, the seventh Cane picked today (by Pittsburgh in the sixth round), “will be a much better player in the pros than college.”

### Not only did Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon enter Saturday leading baseball in batting average (.423) and not only is Adeiny Hechavarria fourth among shortstops in average (.318) and first in RBI (16), but defensively, “look at the metrics,” president/baseball operations Michael Hill said. “Has there
been a better middle infield in baseball than ours? There has not been.”

If Hechavarria’s offensive evolution --- from .227 in 2013 to .276 last season to now this – continues over the next few years, his agents will have made the right gamble by declining the Marlins’
longterm contract offer this past winter. He’s under team control through 2018.

Not chasing pitches out of the zone “is the No. 1 thing” that has changed with Hechavarria, Hill said. “Omar Vizquel hit [.220, .247, .230 his first three seasons] but was playing Gold Glove defense. I’m glad it’s come along faster for Hech. Defensively, we knew he was one of the best.”

Incidentally, Gordon’s 34 hits were the most ever in a player’s  first 20 games as a Marlin, and then he had three more in the 21st game. And he has remained on fire since.

### More good news: Left-hander Justin Nicolino, who could be in the rotation next season, has now gone four starts in a row (24 innings) without giving up an earned run at Triple A.

### As of Saturday, Luol Deng hadn’t decided whether to opt out of the second year of his two-year deal (worth $10.1 million), according to his agent. He could pursue a longer deal somewhere by opting out.

If he opts in, and Goran Dragic re-signs as expected, the Heat will be well into luxury tax territory and Pat Riley couldn’t commit to the Heat’s willingness to use a $3.4 million exception (its best tool to improve). “Transcendent players change [owner] Micky [Arison]’s mind very quickly,” said Riley, who has been scouting draft prospects in Europe.

But transcendent players aren’t available at $3.4 million. And if Deng opts out but Dragic stays, Miami would not have cap space to replace Deng beyond an exception.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 01, 2015

Lots of reaction, analysis on Dolphins' selection of Jordan Phillips; Dolphins chatter

Reaction on Miami’s selection of Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and other thoughts after round two of the draft:

Mel Kiper: “You look at him; He is huge, a mountainous defensive tackle, 6-5, 330 pounds, incredibly long arms. He’s a space eater who can penetrate at times, work through a double team. Wore down late in games, second half of games. Up and down effort. Needs to increase his stamina, his endurance.

"Production was so-so. He was highly regarded coming out of high school. He had that back injury, back surgery in 2013. That was a concern through the draft process, along with the fact while he’s athletic for his size, he has to get in better shape, has to be better in the second half of games.”

ESPN’s Todd McShay: “You don’t see guys that have this ability. God only makes a few of these guys. He’s one of biggest, most athletic defensive linemen I’ve ever evaluated on tape. He can do back flips standing up at the size. But too high coming out of his stance. Doesn’t fight through the double team at times. He’s content just doing his job sometimes, which is fine.

"But when you’re talking about a top 55 player overall in the draft, you’ve got to do more. My hope for Jordan Phillips is, with all this natural ability, is he gets pushed and Suh will teach him how to be a great worker in order to get the most out of him. I’m telling you right now, Phillips is one of the 10, 12 most naturally gifted individuals in this entire draft class.”

### NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “Only started 16 games in college but he’s a dancing bear. Has first-round ability all over him. He controls the run game. He reminds me of Terrance Knighton. People question his football character, which is why he is being selected in the second round and not the first.”

### Lots of good stuff from CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang, on Phillips. Here’s his assessment:

Overall: “Phillips' blend of size and athleticism is certainly intriguing and teams operating out of traditional three- and four-man fronts, alike, will be interested. He commands double teams in the middle and makes the occasional splashy play, demonstrating surprising quickness for a man of his size. He comes with obvious red-flags, however, not the least of which is his relative inexperience and the back injury which ruined his 2013 campaign.”

Strengths: “Naturally large man with good overall weight distribution. Tall, broad shouldered, long-limbed player with a thick lower half. Surprisingly athletic for a player of his size, exhibiting good initial quickness, lateral agility and impressive straight-line speed. Occasionally explodes off the ball and can ruin plays before they have a chance to work.”

Weaknesses: Not yet the sum of his parts. Too often stands up at the snap, negating his own power and while very quick for a man of his size, too rarely makes plays at the point of attack, as ball carriers are often able to avoid him. Too often latches onto blockers and reacts to what he sees, rather than penetrating. Despite his length, has just two passes broken up in 27 career games.

“Underwent back surgery in October of 2013 in an attempt to correct issues that had bothered him for a few years. As head coach Bob Stoops said at the time of Phillips' surgery, the procedure wasn't due to one specific injury. Has only one full season of starting experience at the collegiate level.”

Rang compares him to Kansas City’s Dontari Poe: “Because of their similar build and eye-popping athleticism, Poe is the easy comparison for Phillips. While Poe has emerged as one of the NFL's most intimidating nose guards, many others with similar talents have struggled with consistency in the NFL.

“Phillips could just as easily wind up the second coming of Marcus Stroud or Albert Haynesworth, who lacked the requisite work ethic to take full advantage of their talents. Given Phillips' history of back issues, former first rounders turned early NFL retirees Marcus Tubbs (Seattle) and Justin Harrell (Green Bay) could unfortunately prove valid comparisons, as well.”

A few other thoughts:

### Phillips overcame a difficult childhood. According to The Oklahoman, his father was in and out of jail when Phillips was a child and his mother died in a car accident when Phillips was 2.

Phillips moved in with his grandparents in Wichita after his mother died, but his grandmother slipped into a coma after a stroke when Phillips was in sixth grade.

Phillips later moved in with the parents of a friend at school and got his grades in order.

### The Dolphins will be thrilled if Phillips is as good as their last three picks at No. 52: Chris Chambers, John Offerdal and Mark Duper.

### As we noted earlier this week, a defensive tackle was a possibility in the second round because: 1) Miami felt it needed depth behind Ndamukong Suh and Earl Mitchell. (AJ Francis and Anthony Johnson also have potential.) and 2) The Dolphins used three of their 30 pre-draft visits on second-round DTs: Phillips, Iowa's Carl Davis and Washington State's Xavier Cooper.

### It will be fascinating to see if Phillips ends up a better player than cornerback Eric Rowe (Miami traded the 47th pick to the Eagles, who used the pick on Rowe), UM linebacker Denzel Perryman and FSU cornerback Ronald Darby (who both went between 47 and Miami’s trade-down pick at 52), or Oregon tackle/guard Jake Fisher, who went after Miami’s pick.

### The fact Miami didn’t draft a cornerback increases the chances of Jamar Taylor or Zack Bowman starting opposite Brent Grimes. The Dolphins see Brice McCain as their nickel back; he’ll be on the field a lot.

And the fact Miami passed on Perryman (and never had a chance to draft Bernadrick McKinney or Eric Kendricks in round two) boosts the chances of Kelvin Sheppard or Chris McCain starting alongside Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi at linebacker. But Miami played with only two linebackers on the field a lot last year.

### Unless the Dolphins find a starting guard in the fourth or fifth rounds --- or unless they end up with the Eagles’ Evan Mathis, who could be cut --- then Miami’s starting guards figure to be two among Billy Turner (a front-runner for one job), Dallas Thomas and Jeff Linkenbach and former Giants starting center J.D. Walton.

### Miami’s remaining picks, after the trade with Philadelphia: one pick in the fourth round (114th) and four in the fifth (145, 149, 150, 156).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

April 30, 2015

Reaction, analysis on Dolphins' first-round pick; More draft chatter; Shalala speak out; Jose update

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Some reaction on the Dolphins drafting Louisville receiver DeVante Parker:

### ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “The board fell right for the Dolphins. Parker would give Ryan Tannehill no more excuses. This is a kid with a tremendous catch radius. Reminds me a lot of AJ Green. Can be an outstanding go-to option in the NFL. What I like about him is he will work hard, he will block. Respected team leader. He brings talent. Brings great character as well."

### ESPN’s Jon Gruden: “When you do it for two different offensive coordinators, that tells me something. He’s a natural. He’s a quick study. He has finishing speed. You talk about the catch radius; can cut the flight time down by two feet. Against tight coverage, that always wins. He’s got to stay healthy. He’s got to get stronger. That’s his only weakness. He has not been durable.”

### NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “Big bodied receiver [6-3, 209 pounds]. The thing I loved about this kid this year is he had a broken foot and only played in six games [but still] caught 43 passes, averaged 20 yards per catch. He’s one of the best run-after-catch big receivers I’ve seen in college football. He’s a special young man.”

### NFL Network’s Michael Irvin: “I love this pick. He can go up and get the football. That’s exactly what the Dolphins need. They need that big guy that can go up and get that football.”

### NFL Net’s Charles Davis:  Parker’s “catch radius is ridiculous. Anywhere it is, he’s going to get his hands on it. He’s long, he’s tall, he’s aggressive. They are doing everything they can to help Tannehill.”

### ESPN’s Louis Riddick: “He’s a guy who snatches the ball out of the air aggressively. [But] some of those contested catches he’s been out-physicalled at the point of attack. Making big plays, he’s done it in various different ways. He’ll be that outside threat and help out Jarvis Landry.”

### CBS’ Pete Prisco: "Great move. They had to get a go-to receiver and this kid is exactly that.”

### Parker had at least 120 yards receiving in five of the six games he played in 2014 and his 19.9 average per catch was 10th in the country… He dropped just two of 75 passes thrown to him last season and forced 15 missed tackles in six games, which is highly impressive.... He had 33 touchdown receptions in four seasons.... His yards per catch every season, chronologically: 16.2, 18.6, 16.1, 19.9.... He played in 11, 13 and 12 games his first three seasons before playing in just six last year due to the foot injury.

### Here's how College Football Focus, the sibling of Pro Football Focus, evaluated his tape:

"He can struggle if a cornerback gets into his chest on the jam, really laboring to disengage and get into his pattern. However, the number of times that actually happens in a game makes it a very minor problem. His quickness and footwork at the line is so good at defeating the jam that a cornerback in press rarely gets anywhere near his pads.

"He only really seems to have one move to defeat that press coverage at the line (I very rarely saw him release in a different way, though he did occasionally break it out), but that move works with frightening regularity. It looks like a defender should be able to key in on it and snuff it out. But Parker routinely beats the same guy with the same move in the same game over and over to prevent them getting hands on him.

"For a guy of his size, he moves incredibly well, and his suddenness in his routes allow him to snap open in a single step when he makes his break. While Kevin White ran a pretty spartan looking route tree at West Virginia, Parker was far closer to Amari Cooper in terms of running a complete route tree, and was visibly far closer in terms of polish and refinement to his game."

CHATTER

### Yes, the Dolphins could use another linebacker and they’ve shown interest in several: Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney, UM’s Denzel Perryman (who says Miami's linebacker coach told him he wants the Dolphins to draft him), Michigan’s Jake Ryan, Georgia’s Ramik Wilson, among others. TCU's Paul Dawson and UCLA's Erik Kendricks would also be worth considering if available at 47. The Dolphins liked Clemson's Stephone Anthony, who went 31st to the Saints.

But one Dolphins defensive starter cautioned not to underestimate Kelvin Sheppard, a former third-round pick with 32 NFL starts in his first four seasons. The front office likes him and quickly resigned him this spring. And remember the Dolphins had only two linebackers on the field quite often during the second half of last season.

### The Dolphins have told people they want to draft a cornerback, with Utah’s Eric Rowe, FSU’s P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, FAU’s D’Joun Smith and Miami of Ohio’s Quinten Rollins among day-two possibilities who have piqued their interest.

They also brought in LSU's Jalen Collins, who could slip to 47, though his reported positive drug tests in college could be a deterrent to Miami amid the Dion Jordan fiasco. Alabama safety Landon Collins would be good value if he slips to 47, though that's not a pressing need.

### Knowing the interior of their line needs bolstering, the Dolphins raced around to audition several guards in the past three weeks, including South Carolina’s A.J. Cann, FSU’s Tre Jackson and Josue Matias, UM’s Jon Feliciano, Pittsburgh tackle/guard T.J. Clemmings, and Louisville’s John Miller. They hosted Texas A&M’s Jarvis Harrison and Hobart’s Ali Marpet. 

Another player they like at guard, LSU's La'el Collins, remains available, his stock having tumbled because of an ongoing police investigation. (Google for details, if you aren't aware.) Also still available, entering round two: Oregon tackle Jake Fisher, who the Dolphins brought in for a visit as a potential guard option.

### Though cornerback, guard and linebacker are the Dolphins' biggest needs in round two, the fact they’ve brought in three second-round defensive tackles on pre-draft visits suggests that position should not be ruled out by any means for Miami in the second round.

### The Dolphins are among teams with interest in a trade for Rams starting defensive tackle Michael Brockers, according to draft analyst Tony Pauline.

### UM's two first-round picks tonight (Ereck Flowers ninth to the Giants, Phillip Dorsett 29th to the Colts) are the Hurricanes' first first-round picks since Kenny Phillips went 31st to the Giants in 2008.

### Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez threw to live hitters (15 of them) Thursday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last May. And it went very well; Fernandez indicated afterward that he felt great. He remains on track to return to the Marlins between mid-June and mid-July.

### As UM president Donna Shalala prepares to leave the university at the end of the month, she has a message for Hurricanes fans irked with Al Golden:  “Be patient.”

Why does she remain convinced that Golden is a good coach?

“He’s got integrity, he’s got coaching skill,” she told me last week. “I just think we have to be patient. We’ve been under the cloud of the NCAA. But more than that, it takes a long time to build world-class teams.”

Her proudest sports achievement as UM’s president? “It’s not just the national championships,” she said. “We’ve recruited some outstanding coaches. We have a group now that is truly exceptional. [Deceased legendary former baseball coach] Ron Fraser would have agreed with that.”

When the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds asked Shalala in a longer interview if UM would be playing at Sun Life Stadium in five years, Shalala said she didn’t know and that Sun Life is “too big and cavernous for a college of our size.”

As we reported last year, UM remains highly interested in a joint facility with David Beckham’s MLS team, provided the stadium has at least 40,000 seats (MLS ideally would prefer smaller) and that it could escape its Sun Life lease (highly questionable). The site near Marlins Park would appeal to UM.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 29, 2015

Lots of Dolphins' Wednesday night draft nuggets: WR, LB, RB, DT, TE, DB, Tannehill and more

Talking draft on the eve:

### Receiver remains as good as a possibility an anything for the Dolphins in the first two rounds of the draft. But if the Dolphins end up with a cornerback or Todd Gurley at 14 --- and we first reported a few weeks ago about the Dolphins’ interest and detailed level of research work on Gurley --- then many expect they will come back and grab a receiver in the next few rounds (they don’t have a third-rounder but could trade for one.)

"Kenny Stills can play [but] do I think they could still upgrade the receiver position? Yes,” NBC's Cris Collinsworth said when I spoke to him in the past week. “I still think they are going to end up needing a consistent playmaker.”

People who have spoken to the Dolphins say the Dolphins believe they still need more at receiver.

“Maybe it’s one of these guys [for Miami] that goes up over the top: Breshad Perriman, DeVante Parker, Jaelen Strong,” Collinsworth said. “They’re Larry Fitzgerald kind of players. Then the smaller, quicker players like Devin Smith, Phillip Dorsett.

“Back in my day, you had to get open to get the ball thrown to you. Now as long as they’re one on one, throw it and let these guys get up and make a play. It’s easy to say give me the 4.3 guy, but there is an alternative with the way the game is being played now, with these jump balls and back shoulder throws. That’s why I think you will see such a big run on receivers. There are about five of them that play above the rim.”

People who have spoken to the Dolphins have come away with the impression they really like the draft's top three receivers: Louisville's Parker, Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White. They would gladly pick any one of the three.

CBS’ Jason LaCanfora said today that Miami is trying to trade up for Parker, though it would be painful to sacrifice additional draft picks when this team has multiple needs.

They like Perriman (he's being considered at 14, though Parker is Miami's preference) and are intrigued by USC’s Nelson Agholor, but he might be obtainable with a first-round trade back. One person who has spoken to several league executives said draftniks seem more enamored with Agholor than some teams do.

If they don't get a receiver in the first round, the Dolphins would love if Dorsett were an option for them at 47, but most project he’ll be gone sooner. Auburn’s Sammy Coates is definitely an option at 47 and Ohio State’s Devin Smith would be if he lasts that long; both visited Miami. FSU’s Rashad Greene, who worked out for Miami, might be, though he could go lower than that.

And among receivers projected for the third or fourth rounds, the Dolphins have told people they like Georgia’s Chris Conley (as Armando reported on his blog) and Maryland’s Stefon Diggs. Diggs visited; Conley did not but that’s not for lack of interest. Jarvis Landry didn’t visit last year.

There are about 30 other draftable receivers, according to Mel Kiper, and Miami has shown particular interest in several, including Central Michigan’s Titus Davis, Houston’s Deontay Greenberry and Washington State’s Vince Mayle. They’ve auditioned two receivers from the University of New Hamphire.

And in the past week, they called Weber State’s head coach, offensive coordinator and receivers coach about potential undrafted free agent Shaydon Kehano, who caught 82 passes for 976 yards and had a 9.2 average on punt returns.

### The Dolphins have been privately working out several skilled returners, including USF cornerback Chris Dunkley, who averaged 24 yards per kickoff, 8.5 per punt.

### Don’t rule out a cornerback at No. 14 by any means, more so if Gurley is gone. Mike Mayock projects Miami to take Wake Forest corner Kevin Johnson, a quality player who has no red flags.

### Draft analyst Tony Pauline says Miami will pick Gurley if he's there at 14.

### After plucking Billy Turner from North Dakota State last year, the Dolphins have been showing interest in N.D. State running back John Crockett, who ran for 1994 yards last season and has been called a poor man's Eddie George.

He’s a potential late-round pick. They’ve also poked around on Texas A&M running back Trey Williams and BYU’s Paul Lasike (the former rugby player).

If the Dolphins don’t end up with Gurley (or Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon), they do want to address running back at some point this weekend, even if it’s immediately after the draft. Duke Johnson would be interesting in the third round (if Miami trades for a third round pick) or in the fourth round, if he lasts that long (as Mel Kiper believes he might).

### In the last post, we mentioned four defensive tackles that were summoned by the Dolphins to visit team headquarters. Three are potential second-round picks. (Their names are listed below in our visit tracker.)

Three others we hear they are high on: Arizona State’s Marcus Hardison (they like him a lot), Clemson’s Grady Jarrett (Miami’s d-line coach called to tell him what a good private workout he had for them) and Fresno State’s Tyeler Davison. They’ve also called on UCLA’s Ellis McCarthy.

Though the Dolphins like AJ Francis and Anthony Johnson, they believe they need more depth behind Ndamukong Suh and Earl Mitchell.

### Though tight end isn’t a need (with Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims), depth figures to be addressed there, perhaps on Day 3 or after the draft.

Besides bringing in UM’s Clive Walford, FSU’s Nick O’Leary and Massachusetts’ 27-year-old Jean Siffrin (a former warehouse employee), the Dolphins did a private workout with UAB’s Kennard Backman (39 catches, 399 yards last season) and Miami of Ohio’s Alex Welch (24-312).

### The Dolphins have spent considerable time with Louisville players besides Parker. Louisville safety Gerrod Holliman, cornerback Charles Gaines and guard Jon Miller have all privately worked out for them.

### Add Syracuse safety Durell Eskridge, who attended Miami Central High, to the potential late-round safeties Miami has shown interest in (as well as Minnesota’s Cedric Thompson)... The Dolphins also took a look recently at Texas A&M cornerback DeShazor Everett.

### If the Dolphins cannot address linebacker in the first four rounds, BYU’s Alani Fua, Marshall’s Neville Hewitt, Utah State’s Zach Vigil, Bowling Green’s Gabe Martin, and Tennessee Chat’s David Tull all hold some appeal later in the draft.

### Jon Gruden continues to rave about UM players more than any draft analyst. He said this week that he would draft linebacker Denzel Perryman in the top 10. Mayock has him going 30th.

### Pro Football Talk reported tonight what the Herald has said for months --- that the Dolphins will pick up Ryan Tannehill's fifth-year option for 2016 if the sides can't reach a deal on a longterm contract.

DRAFT VISITS

Teams are allowed to bring in 30 non-local players for visits, and we ultimately ended up confirming 28.  (Three of Miami’s first four draft picks visited last year.) The updated list:

### Potential first-round picks: receivers DeVante Parker (Louisville), Nelson Agholor (Southern California) and Breshad Perriman (UCF); cornerbacks Jalen Collins (LSU) and Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest) and Marcus Peters (Washington);  LSU offensive tackle/guard La’El Collins; Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. Reports say Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley visited.

### Potential second-round picks: Defensive tackles Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma), Carl Davis (Iowa) and Xavier Cooper (Washington State), Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones, Utah cornerback/safety Eric Rowe, Auburn receiver Sammy Coates, Ohio State receiver Devin Smith, Mississippi State linebacker Benadrick McKinney, Oregon left tackle Jake Fisher. (There was a report that former Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham visited, but that’s unconfirmed.)

### Potential mid-round picks: Guards Jarvis Harrison (Texas A&M) and Ali Marpet (Hobart); linebackers Jake Ryan (Michigan) and Ramik Wilson (Georgia); Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs.

### Potential later-round picks: Minnesota safety Cedric Thompson, Maryland defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, Bowling Green linebacker Gabe Martin, Tennessee State offensive guard/tackle Robert Myers.

### Potential free agents: Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy and USC receiver George Farmer.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

April 28, 2015

What should Dolphins do in first round? Ten analysts weigh in; Dolphins news; Canes, Heat, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

What should the Dolphins do with the 14th pick in the first round of Thursday’s draft? Here’s what five draft analysts told me they would do (and another five weighing in on their own elsewhere):

### ESPN’s Mel Kiper: He advocates Central Florida receiver Breshad Perriman, on the presumption that  Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes, Louisville receiver DeVante Parker and Georgia running back Todd Gurley are off the board at 14.

“We have the intermediate targets in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills,” Kiper said of the Dolphins. “Now I have the sub-4.3 speed to keep safeties honest, and Perriman is a playmaker after short catches as well. This helps my franchise QB.”

### NFL Net’s Charley Casserly, by phone: “I would take Trae Waynes if he’s there because you’re in a division where you have to beat New England. You need corners. If he’s not there, take Parker because Ryan Tannehill needs a true No. 1 receiver. Gurley is the best player in the draft but I don’t know that they have the luxury to take Gurley” with their needs at receiver and cornerback.

### ESPN’s Bill Polian, on ESPN2's mock draft show: “The Dolphins need to run the ball. That offense is an off-shoot of Chip Kelly’s and is a running offense. So if Todd Gurley passed their physical, take Todd Gurley and don’t look back. He changes their whole team.”

### NFL Net’s Charles Davis, by phone: “Parker, because he could be a legitimate No. 1 receiver. If Parker is gone, take Waynes. I would take Gurley out of the mix. I’m a monster Gurley fan, but we throw the ball 68 percent of the time in the league.”

### Draft analyst Tony Pauline, by phone: “DeVante Parker head and shoulders” if he’s there. “Parker is not a field stretcher but doesn’t drop passes.”

Pauline said if Parker is gone, he would take Kentucky defensive end/linebacker Bud Dupree because of his pass-rushing prowess. It would be easier to justify Dupree now than a week ago because of Dion Jordan’s season-long suspension.

Pauline said two others potentially in the mix, Waynes and Perriman, “are overrated. I like [Wake Forest cornerback] Kevin Johnson but he’s a bottom third of round one type of guy.”

### NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: He told me he likes a receiver or cornerback for Miami at 14, depending on who’s available.

“Perriman or Parker would be good, and even if Waynes goes 11 to Minnesota, there’s not a lot of drop off between Waynes and the next best corner,” Mayock said. “Kevin Johnson at 14 would not be too high for me. He’s a really good player.”

### NFL Net’s Daniel Jeremiah: Parker, if available. “If on the board, that would be a home run pick,” he told the Dolphins’ flagship radio show. “He doesn’t play with quite as much juice as AJ Green but there are a lot of similarities. His game is an easy transition to the next level.”

If Parker isn’t there, Jeremiah says Miami should take Waynes if he’s there: “Plenty of speed. Good instincts."

### Draft analyst Russ Lande, by phone: Assuming defensive end/linebacker Vic Beasley is gone (Lande loves him even though he isn’t a linebacker scheme fit for Miami), Lande said “it comes down to Parker, Waynes and Kevin Johnson for Miami, and I would lean Kevin Johnson. He has over 40 career starts, is polished in all three aspects of coverage. He is going to go a lot higher than people think.”

### Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, on SI.com: Gurley, because he’s “going to make a bunch of yards that aren’t there for normal backs. He’s the kind of back Miami hasn’t had in a long time.”

### CBS’ Pete Prisco, on CBSSports.com, says Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, if he’s there, because “they need help inside at guard and he also could play tackle, his college position.” Kiper said there’s no way Scherff will last to 14.

CHATTER

### The Dolphins summoned UM running back Duke Johnson to team headquarters Tuesday because a conflict with a Colts workout prevented him from attending Miami’s local pro day. Johnson said teaming with Lamar Miller with the Dolphins has “crossed my mind. It would be something to see.”

On NFL Network, Johnson named the Cowboys as the team he would love to join, citing their scheme.

### Even before his drug suspension, the Dolphins were exploring a trade for Dion Jordan; the Philadelphia Inquirer said a late-round pick or guard Evan Mathis were discussed.

But keep in mind that Jordan averaged just 22.3 defensive snaps last season and his friends thought he wasn’t being used correctly. That's all moot now.

Jordan’s $5.3 million 2015 cap hit will shrink to $3 million (according to cap expert Joel Corry), leaving Miami with $12 million in cap space, with an additional $3 million cleared in mid-May when Phillip Wheeler's contract comes off the books.

So Terence Fede, who defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle loves, becomes Miami's No. 4 defensive end for now, behind Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby. The Dolphins will add more defensive end help during and/or after the draft. Chris McCain also can play defensive end.

Last year, Jordan's ratio of sacks-per-pass rush chances (1 for 103) was lowest among the team’s defensive ends. Wake was 1 in 39, Vernon 1 in 72, Shelby 1 in 78, Fede 1 in 48 and McCain1 in 26.

### The Dolphins have done a lot of work with defensive tackles in this draft, knowing they need depth around Ndamukong Suh and Earl Mitchell. They brought potential second-rounders Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma), Carl Davis (Iowa) and Xavier Cooper (Washington State) in for visits, as well as potential late-round pick Darius Kilgo (Maryland).

### Despite signing Josh Freeman as a potential No. 3 quarterback, the Dolphins have been aggressive looking for a developmental backup and had private workouts with draft prospects Garrett Grayson (Colorado State; potential second-round pick so highly unlikely to land here), Connor Halliday (Washington State), Chris Donner (Colorado-Pueblo) and Andrew Hendrix (Miami of Ohio and formerly Notre Dame). They still figure to add a rookie quarterback after the draft.

The Dolphins don’t view Freeman as a threat to Matt Moore, who got a $1.6 million signing bonus.

Freeman could net the Dolphins a draft pick in a trade if he impresses in preseason, but his passer rating in his last three NFL games was ugly: 56.1, 54.5, 40.6.

###As Canesport first reported, Gerald Willis, the five-star defensive lineman who transferred to UM, is appealing to the NCAA to make him eligible to play this season, on the grounds that the Gators dismissed him from their team after multiple altercations with teammates.

### One FSU administrative official in regular contact with the athletic department said one of the problems with Jameis Winston is he always has to be the center of attention.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker said if the Buccaneers draft Winston, “We have some veteran guys, that will pull him to the side and make him understand that there’s a role here he has to play and sometimes he may have to tone that down,” David said.

### Though it wasn’t the overriding decision in parting ways with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Marlins had some concern about how gracefully he would deal with being a backup, according to a team official. One friend said he's pleased to be moving on, hopeful of getting more playing time elsewhere.

### Marlins pitchers love throwing to rookie J.T. Realmuto. “J.T. has done a great job of blocking the ball; his knowledge of the game is special; and he has a lot of talent and upside,” Mat Latos said. Dan Haren said Realmuto deserves some credit for the team’s recent drop in ERA.

### The NBA's list of early draft entrants, released today, includes at least seven underclassmen who could go before the Heat potentially picks 10th, thus pushing down other quality players for Miami should the Heat retain the pick. The pick must be forwarded to Philadelphia if it falls outside the top 10 (nine percent chance of that happening). 

### Among the reasons the Marlins should be concerned about their closer: Steve Cishek’s velocity is at a career-low: He’s averaging 89.1 mph on his fastball, down from a career mark of 92.0, and 79.0 on his slider (down from 82.2), according to fangraphs.com. 

Cishek rebounded from last night's blown lead with a save in tonight's 4-3 win against the Mets.

### First baseman Michael Morse, who entered Tuesday hitting .222, reminded me that his best season in the majors (.303, 31 homers, 95 RBI for Washington in 2011), “started the same way [hitting .224 in April]. So I’m excited. I know it will turn. I know I’m a good player.”

Though Justin Bour has hit .368 in 16 career starts, Mike Redmond understandably said he's committed to Morse because "we want to get his bat going." Morse's body of work warrants patience.

And Morse's eighth-inning RBI single tonight delivered the game-winning run for Miami.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz