01/09/2015

Rob Konrad update after harrowing swim to safety; Barkley trashes Heat; Familiar names in new places; UM-UF

A six pack of notes on a Friday:

### Former Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad, who swam to safety Wednesday night after falling off his fishing boat off the coast of Palm Beach, remained hospitalized late Friday but said he’s OK and still recovering from the ordeal, according to a Dolphins official in contact with him.

Konrad, 38, was not ready to comment publicly on Friday, but two friends said he was stranded for nearly 16 hours, not the nine hours originally reported by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Konrad, alone in his boat, departed Hillsboro Inlet in Deerfield Beach at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and fell overboard at 1 p.m. after hooking a fish and losing his footing. The 36-foot boat, which was on autopilot, drifted away from him and was found Friday morning near Grand Bahama Island.

A friend in contact with the family was told that he was bitten by a man-of-war during his swim to safety. He ended up reaching shore at 4:40 a.m. Thursday behind a mansion off South Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach, a significant distance from where he fell off the boat in waters off Deerfield.

Wearing only underwear, Konrad told the security guard on duty about his harrowing experience, and an ambulance was summoned to transport him to Good Samaritan Medical Center, where he has been receiving treatment for dehydration and hypothermia.

According to an associate, a family friend contacted authorities when Konrad did not show up for a scheduled dinner. His personal assistant also contacted the Coast Guard.

Konrad, who played for the Dolphins from 1999 to 2004, is CEO of Alterna Financial, a financial services company in South Florida.

The Dolphins official said Konrad conveyed his appreciation for “everyone’s concerns.”

### In case you missed Charles Barkley’s musings on the Heat Thursday night, he said: “They’re awful… They stink… They’re a bad team.”

He cracked that the Heat is gaining on the woeful Knicks, that they’ll probably win only one game on this road trip (Tuesday at the Lakers) and that Dwyane Wade went to the locker-room not to get his ankle retaped but because “he didn’t want to cry in public.”

### The UM administration confirmed at the Adidas announcement on Thursday that the school’s basketball coaches expressed concern over how the Nike-to-Adidas decision would affect recruiting.

But the coaches are making the best of this, and they’re looking on the bright side.

“One thing I’ve shared with our point guard recruits,” Jim Larranaga said, “is take a look at the NBA, who’s wearing Adidas, three of the best -- Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose and John Wall. They’re in Adidas. We’ve had Shane (Larkin), Angel (Rodriguez) and now Sheldon (McClellan), great guards. If Adidas is good enough for them, there’s no reason you can’t come to UM and have that same kind of success.”

The switch to Adidas was a sensible one for UM, because it will deliver tens of millions more dollars for UM than the Nike deal did.

### Familiar name update: Former Marlins and UM first baseman Gaby Sanchez signed to play in Japan. He hit .229 with seven homers and 33 RBI for the Pirates last season…. Former UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, fired from the same position by the Jacksonville Jaguars, reportedly will be Jim Harbaugh’s passing game coordinator at Michigan and coach receivers and quarterbacks.

### Jim Morris said the UM baseball team is ranked 14th in one preseason poll.

### UM and UF have talked about playing a football game in Orlando, Tampa or New York, and Orlando’s Citrus Bowl appears to be the most realistic option. Blake James said he’s working on renewing the rivalry but nothing is imminent.

Please see the last post for the weekly media column, if you missed it. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

01/08/2015

Media column: ESPN's creative plan for Monday's championship game; Dolphins take over UM; Fins, UM TV notes

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

ESPN’s novel “Megacast” coverage of the BCS championship game last January was such a success that the Worldwide Leader is predictably repeating that strategy on Monday’s Oregon-Ohio State national title game.

If you prefer to watch traditional coverage, tune to ESPN. One big difference from last year’s FSU-Auburn championship: Chris Fowler, not Brent Musburger, will be calling the game with Kirk Herbstreit. A traditional ESPN Radio broadcast will air locally on 104.3 The Ticket, with Mike Tirico and Todd Blackledge.

But if you crave something different, here’s a look at your options:

### On ESPN2, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, new Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi and new Nebraska coach Mike Riley (along with ESPN analysts Chris Spielman and Tom Luginbill) offer detailed analysis of the game as it happens from a film room equipped with multiple camera angles, coaches clicker technology and a Telestrator.

This “Film Room” presentation was the highlight of ESPN’s championship game Megacast last January, because of the excellent work of then-Pittsburgh (and now Wisconsin) coach Paul Chryst, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Boston College’s Steve Addazio.

The coaches and commentators were more conversational than during a traditional game broadcast, and the coaches even predicted an FSU fake punt moments before it happened.

### On ESPNU, fans can eavesdrop on ESPN personalities watching the game from a "viewing theater." Among those scheduled to appear: Jay Bilas, Aaron Boone, Julie Foudy, Barry Melrose, Mark Schlereth and Michael Wilbon.

If last year was any indication, this option is best in small doses, unless you really enjoy watching people watch television and listening to their conversations.

During last year’s championship, the funniest moment on the “ESPN Voices” channel were unintentional, including actress Cheryl Hines asking if the person who snaps the ball to the quarterback is called the snapper, then admitting, "I could have Googled it before I got here."

### ESPNEWS is offering “Off the Ball,” described as “an inside look at the way former players and coaches – and current ESPN analysts – look at plays away from the ball,” focusing on matchups in the trenches, wide receivers against defensive backs, etc. Bob Wischusen anchors, joined by Kevin Carter, Matt Millen, Jason Sehorn, Matt Stinchcomb and Amani Toomer.

### ESPN Classic will present an announcer-less broadcast featuring only natural sounds of the game (from 100 microphones positioned throughout the stadium) and halftime performances by both bands. But four out of five doctors say silence on a sports telecast can induce lethargy, and you might be surprised how much you miss the announcers.

### ESPN Deportes airs the game in Spanish.

### ESPN3.com, the network’s broadband service, will offer five video options: a broadcast with the radio call of each school; a perspective of the game from a “Spidercam” positioned over the stadium; another perspective from the student section of each team, showcasing “how the most enthusiastic fans in the building are living and dying with every play” (I’ll pass); and a “data center” with on-screen graphic content including analytics and social media reaction.

### The “Command Center,” available on ESPN’s Goal Line, serves up a commercial free broadcast featuring the ESPN Radio call and a split screen, with one half showing live action and the other offering replays, stats and isolated camera feeds.

AROUND THE DIAL

### HBO transformed UM into Dolphins-land the past two days, placing Dolphins logos outside the athletic offices, on the practice field and inside the football locker-room as it films Ballers, a 10-episode fictional series debuting in June. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as a former player who becomes a financial advisor to pro athletes and helps them sort through life issues.

Several pro athletes appear, including three current Dolphins (Jared Odrick, Will Davis and Dannell Ellerbe), former UM and NFL tight end Jeremy Shockey, Raiders defensive end LaMarr Woodley, New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz, ex-NFL running back Rashard Mendenhall (who’s also a consultant on the project) and Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.

HBO wanted Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to appear, but he had a schedule conflict.

The series filmed a fictitious Dolphins practice this week, but HBO said only one NFL player participated: Jaguars receiver Arrelious Benn.

The show is being produced by actor Mark Wahlberg and producer Stephen Levinson, who previously worked together on hit shows Entourage and Boardwalk Empire. HBO said some taping was done at UM, not at Dolphins headquarters, for logistical reasons.

### After initially canceling Sports Final, NBC 6 management changed its mind and decided to continue airing the market’s longest-running Sunday night sports show, with Stefano Fusaro anchoring.

### Among markets with only one NFL team, Dolphins ratings in Miami-Fort Lauderdale were the lowest of any NFL market this season, just like last year. The highest-rated: 22.2 for the Denver game. Lowest-rated: 14.0 for the finale against the Jets.

Overall, Dolphins games averaged a 16.9 rating, down from a 17.7 in 2012 and 17.1 in 2013.

### Conversely, the 10 UM football games that aired on ABC or one of the ESPN networks averaged a 7.3 rating in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market. The three highest: UM-FSU with a 16.2, the UM-Louisville opener with a 9.0 and UM vs. South Carolina in the Independence Bowl with a 7.0. The lowest: UM-Pittsburgh with a 4.3.

### Most watched regular-season NFL game this season? Philadelphia-Dallas on Thanksgiving.

### In past years, CBS and Fox would each get two NFL divisional playoff games this weekend. But this year, NBC and CBS will each televise one and Fox two because of a change in the TV contract that moved one of NBC’s Saturday wild card games to ESPN and one of the divisional games to NBC. Next year, that NBC divisional playoff game will be taken from Fox.

### The New York Times announced this week that Knicks beat writer Scott Cacciola will get "a break from such woeful basketball," because the Knicks "appear to have officially given up on this season….

“He deserves to see the game played at a higher level. For the next month or so, we would like to point him to some good, quality basketball, wherever it may be. Any suggestions?"

### Please see our last post for our analysis of Al Golden's media tour this week. And one quick update from that post: We noted last night that insidetheu.com was reporting that defensive tackle Earl Moore is transferring. But a UM spokesman and Moore's mother told The Herald today that Moore is not transferring.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

01/07/2015

Golden's comments on various topics and analyzing the wisdom behind the words

Al Golden’s don’t-worry-be-happy, get-my-message-out media tour continued today when he chatted with each of the three local newspapers (Manny Navarro for us; Matt Porter for the Palm Beach Post and Christy Chirinos for the Sun Sentinel). Previously, Golden stated his case to Canesport’s Gary Ferman (who ran the first of these interviews) and AP’s Tim Reynolds.

Some thoughts on several things Golden had to say:

### The topic: Manny and I wanted to know specifically what Golden plans to change, because (these are my words) he would be quite foolish if he doesn’t change anything substantive – staff or scheme or style of play or something tangible.

I suspect Golden – who’s bright, albeit stubborn--- must realize that.

His answer, to Manny, was only partly satisfying:  “It's fair to say I'm evaluating every aspect, every part of the program whether that's personnel or staff or off-season programs or how we run summer camp, spring ball, right down to our systems," he said.

"I want to make sure we're doing things right. 2014 was unacceptable…. If it’s not improving our team or helping us reach our goals, we need to fix it or perhaps delete it, let it go. From that standpoint I’m looking at every aspect of it. There’s nothing in the organization that’s not on the table.”

Does that include changing defensive scheme? "Oh sure," Golden said.

The view here: Golden’s modifications cannot be window-dressing, cannot be the type of cosmetic changes that Joe Philbin made last year when he started hooking up players to devices to determine their omega levels and sleeping patterns.

Fundamental changes need to be made on either side of the ball. Either play a more attacking style on defense OR take advantage of the athleticism of your skill position players by incorporating more spread elements and simply trying to outscore people.  

If this team ran a high-octane, fast-paced offense --- and could successfully execute it --- then they wouldn’t have to worry about playing defense like they’re absolutely petrified to give up the big play.

But my expectations are probably too high. The sense here --- purely a sense, not a take-this-to-the bank prediction –-- is that there could be a change or two in the assistant ranks, below the coordinators, after National Signing Day.

### The topic: Golden told Manny that he doesn’t expect any more transfers beyond freshman cornerback Ray Lewis III. "But at this time of year,” he cautioned, “if kids are going to leave they do leave. We're just not anticipating it."

The view here: Don't believe all the transfer rumors. [UPDATE]: Though InsidetheU.com reported defensive tackle Earl Moore is transferring, Moore told UM he is not and a UM spokesman told me he is not. 

### The topic: Golden told Manny that at the end of 2014, “there was disappointment, but there was no finger pointing, no fighting, no dissension.”

The view here: That’s not completely the way we understood it. Though one incident should not be overstated, a credible person inside the locker-room witnessed an animated argument between a senior and underclassman who shall remain nameless here.

The underclassman questioned the senior’s attitude. The senior was resentful about the older players losing playing time to some younger players.

### The topic: Golden told Matt Porter: “You’ve got to be really strong and lead by example. You have to make sure you’re setting the standard in terms of positivity, in terms of being relentless and being consistent in your message and your work ethic. That’s what I have to do as a leader.”

The view here: For all the valid criticisms of this coaching staff’s inability to extract more from this roster, Golden’s ability to remain upbeat with his players, amid a sea of negativity, remains a commendable asset. Let’s hope that’s accompanied by substantive changes.

### The topic: Golden declined to discuss the Duke Johnson mother controversy. To refresh: Cassandra Prophet Mitchell created a stir on Facebook by saying "the majority of the team wouldn't be there" if players could transfer without sitting out a year and that "kids [are] tired of this crap."

A source at UM told Manny that Mitchell reached out to Golden to say her comments "were misrepresented" and "the issue has been put to rest.”

The view here: It’s worthless if Mitchell tells Golden in a private conversation that her comments “were misrepresented.”

If Mitchell wanted to reverse any perception that this was a shot at the coaching, she should have set the record straight publicly. Instead, Mitchell said she would not respond when asked directly if this was a shot at Golden and his staff.

### The topic: Golden told Ferman: “The message to recruits is, 'We've done this without you. Imagine what we can be with you.' We need this next group to continue to come in and compete and raise the level of play."

The view here: I like the second part of the message. First part? Not so much. What exactly does: “We’ve done this without you” mean? Done what without you? Go 6-7?

### The topic: Golden told Ferman: "I'm responsible for all of it. At least I am brave enough to stand up and say it. I'll take it all on my shoulders. That just motivates me. But this thing is close to being fixed and so is our infrastructure. It's my responsibility to fix it and I am doing it.”

The view here: The “I’m responsible for all of it” comment, while sounding very coach-like, satisfies no one if not accompanied by more specific details about how he’s going to fix it.

And Golden shouldn’t have said “At least I am brave enough to stand up and say it.” Praising himself will elicit only more derision from a fed-up fan base.

### The topic: Golden told Ferman: "We went from 90 to 15 in total defense and played eight top 50 offenses in the country. Overall, too many people blame the defense all the time and as much as we tell our guys to ignore the noise, it's only natural for our seniors to grow sick and tired of it.

“The truth is this year's team was, in many ways, better than last year's team. Our tackling all year was so much better….

"You should see recruits' and parents' faces when we show them our defensive stats. They fall over. Why? Because perception is reality. Everyone is too busy bitching to accept the progress that has been made. As I have said repeatedly, are we where we want to be? No. Do we have a long way to go? Yes. Are we making progress? Very much so. It was a huge undertaking over a three-year period to go from 90th in total defense to 15th. This year will mark the first time in the last three seasons that we will have someone in the front seven drafted.

“We'll see how guys develop over the next five months, but we have a chance at being the most talented group on defense since I got here and most importantly they will be walking into a room where the standard is top 15. That is a far cry from two years ago. It is completely realistic for our defense to set their eyes on a top 10 unit now. That would have been unimaginable after 2013.. The pass rushers will be the most dynamic since Olivier Vernon left. "

The view here: In the Ferman interview, Golden reeled off a series of statistics that cast the defense in a favorable light. It’s understandable, even advisable, for Golden to cast a glass-half-full perspective with recruits, and the stats --- if offered in a vacuum --- certainly accomplish that.

But Golden is making a mistake if he convinces himself, or tries to convince his fan base, that this was the type of defense that’s good enough for a program with this tradition, with this inherent advantage of being located in a recruiting hotbed.

UM was still below average in third down conversion defense, needs to allow the players to play more instinctively and play its safeties closer to the line against run-heavy teams (two points that a prominent former UM assistant coach keeps telling me) and do a better job getting stops when it absolutely needs one.

And if Golden believes his defensive tackle play is good enough, he’s miscalculating. I assume he knows it isn’t.

### The topic: Golden told all three newspapers that he and James Coley spent the past two days in Dallas observing practices and other aspects of the Cowboys’ operation.

The view here: Wise move. Erik Spoelstra and others have grown by listening, observing and incorporating/emulating successful approaches of others coaches. After visiting Oregon practices, Spoelstra even took elements of the spacing and pacing from a coach in an entirely different sport --- Chip Kelly, who has since moved on to the Eagles.

### The topic: Of ESPN’s top eight Dade/Broward recruits (all top 125 prospects), two have committed to FSU, two to West Virginia, two to Alabama, one to Ohio State and one to Texas.

UM didn’t pursue at least two of them but vigorously pursued several other.

Incidentally, the ninth and 10th best Dade/Broward commitments on ESPN’s list --- running backs Jordan Scarlett and Mark Walton --- remain UM commitments.

In some telling comments, Golden told Ferman: “In recruiting, fans lose their minds about who you don't get. But recruiting is, and always will be, about who you do get. We can't take every player from South Florida. We don't have enough spots. Two years ago we did an extensive study on recruiting in the state. That year I believe Florida yielded 373 Division I players. So if you figure we take 20 per year, that leaves a lot of Division I talent attending other schools around the state and country.

“Lots of that talent goes unnoticed by the big programs. There are so many instances of underrated or undervalued kids from South Florida going on to become great players - T.Y. Hilton, Johnathan Cyprien, Antonio Brown, Louis Delmas, Khalil Mack. The list goes on and on.”

The view here: Golden makes some valid points about needing to be selective about what local players UM targets. Some high-end recruits weren’t pursued by UM because of size or academics or character questions.

But overall, UM needs to do a better job of snagging more elite local players. Too many are headed to FSU, Ohio State or top SEC schools –-- partly because those programs have been more successful in recent years and partly because of assorted other factors.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

01/06/2015

A look at UM's defensive recruiting class; More Dolphins fallout; Smart Heat move; Ichiro/Marlins

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

UM keeps telling anyone who will listen that it rose to 15th in defense this season in yards allowed. But the Hurricanes, who are losing their best defender (Denzel Perryman), were 36th in points relinquished and 63rd in third-down defense and still clearly need not only development from within but also an infusion of genuinely impactful talent in their front seven.

With National Signing Day looming on Feb. 4, UM’s eight-man defensive recruiting class has several promising players but no four- or five-star prospects at two need areas: defensive tackle and linebacker. And that should be cause for concern.

A look at UM’s defensive class by position:

### Defensive line: Three are committed, including four-star prospect Scott Patchan, rivals.com’s No. 18 defensive end who had a slew of other offers (including Notre Dame, Nebraska and Alabama). Patchan, coming off an ACL injury last season, enrolls at UM in the next week.

“Tremendous prospect --- more athletic than Anthony Chickillo,” recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said.   

ESPN says Patchan, who's listed at 6-5 and 228, “could potentially be a player who could drop into coverage depending on the defensive scheme” but “will need to add size and strength to be a consistent defensive end with his hand in the ground.”

Also orally committed: Richard McIntosh Jr., a three-star 6-5, 265-pound defensive end from Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons; he had 32 tackles for loss and 14 sacks last season.

Though 247sports.com analyst Chris Nee said he “projects more as an inside guy longterm,” McIntosh told me that “Miami wants me to be an end.”

McIntosh said he’s “a little surprised” UM hasn’t been more successful but “6-7 gives me more motivation. Al Golden is a great coach and I like the scheme." (Yes, you heard the young man: He likes the scheme!)

McIntosh said "pass rush is my strength and I’ve gotten better against the run.”

UM’s only defensive tackle commitment, three-star Ryan Fines, was a teammate of Patchan’s at IMG Academy in Bradenton and produced 16.5 tackles for loss and a safety this past season.

But recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein said Fines projects as a backup.

“Miami has to step it up with [defensive tackles],” Blustein said. “For some reason, they’re not getting the top kids at that position.”

The upshot is that UM must hope all of its defensive tackles --- Calvin Heurtelou, Courtel Jenkins, end/tackle Ufomba Kamalu, Michael Wyche, Anthony Moten, Earl Moore and Jelani Hamilton --- improve considerably next season, because to use a variation of the old Rick Pitino line, Warren Sapp isn't walking through that door.

UM is in mix for several highly-regarded linemen, topped by five-star Gardena, Cal.-based defensive end Rasheem Green, rated the No. 25 overall prospect by rivals.com.

He has a final four of UM, Oregon, Arizona State and Southern California and told Rivals.com that “I feel really comfortable” at Miami. “The players are cool and the coaching staff is really awesome.” But it would be considered a surprise if he picks UM over a West Coast school.

UM also is in the mix for four-star Jacksonville Trinity tackle Kendrick Norton (he told rivals.com that he likes “the atmosphere” at UM and is considering Miami, UF, FSU, Auburn and Notre Dame) and New York-based three-star end Austrian Robinson (Maryland leads but UM and Mississippi are also in his top three).

### Linebackers: Two are committed, both three star prospects: New Jersey-based Jamie Gordinier (107 tackles this season, plus a sack and blocked punt) and Royal Palm Beach’s Charles Perry.

ESPN.com says the 6-4, 231-pound Gordinier “is a tweener outside linebacker/defensive end” who’s a “very good prospect” but doesn’t have the “ideal flexibility” for linebacker or the “great strength or edge speed” to be an effective pass-rushing end. But UM coaches like his instincts.

As for Perry, Blustein and Fishbein love him.

“He’s similar to Jon Beason coming out --– very instinctual,” Fishbein said. Rivals.com rates Perry as the nation's 44th best outside linebacker.

Said Blustein: “They have a very bad need at linebacker, but there’s not a whole lot in the state. They should pursue Shawne Curtis, [a linebacker from Reagan High in Doral], but they’re not interested.”

UM is pursuing several others, including New Jersey-based Saleem Brightwell, rated by rivals.com as the 49th-best outside linebacker. He has said that UM, Pittsburgh and Michigan State are his top three.

### Defensive backs: Blustein said UM early arrival Jaquan Johnson, a four-star safety prospect from Killian, is the best player in the state and “an absolute difference maker, a freak” who will be better than UM’s four-star safety additions in recent years, such as Jamal Carter.

Johnson said he’s enrolling at UM in the next week.

Golden told me Johnson --- who's the only defensive recruit that UM can talk about publicly because he has signed a grant-in-aid --- is “explosive and very smart. Runs all the checks at Killian. Has excellent cover skills, almost corner like in lateral quickness and his ability to cover. That’s something we’re really excited to have in our program. Great work ethic, vocal, great character.”

Like McIntosh, Johnson said he likes Mark D’Onofrio’s scheme and says his strength is “knowing tendencies” of other teams because he’s diligent with film study.

UM also has a commitment from four-star Alabama-based cornerback Michael Jackson and Edison safety Robert Knowles, who isn't rated by rivals.com.

ESPN says Jackson –--- whose other Power 5 conference offers were Minnesota and Nebraska --- has average speed and good instincts, would be a “good signee” for a “lower level power conference school” (not encouraging to hear) and “is a solid prospect [because if] he is not a corner he has the size to potentially help as a safety.”

Miami offered Knowles after it lost out on Tim Irvin to Texas, and Knowles promptly de-committed from FIU.

Blustein said he’s underrated: “He’s three-star kid in a five-star body. He’s a big-time player, hits like a truck and covers like a corner.”

UM is in the mix for several other defensive backs, including speedy four-star Jacksonville based corner Javarius Davis (a UM fan growing up; has visited UM and also is considering Auburn, Georgia, UF), three-star Louisiana safety Hunter Dale (will visit UM, UF, Arizona and Arizona State) and Washington D.C.-based four-star prospect Marcus Lewis (told rivals.com that Kentucky, Washington State and UM are his top three in that order).

Overall, “Miami has a mediocre defensive class for 2015,” Nee said.

The Canes have a month to improve it.

We’ll analyze UM’s offensive class next week.

CHATTER

### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross did not give new executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum the authority to fire a head coach, or hire one, because that’s one of the powers Ross likes having as an owner.

### The job that Tannenbaum got was similar to the one that Ross’ longtime friend, Carl Peterson, wanted here but was never offered, according to a Peterson associate.

### Please see the last post for 15 more tidbits on Tannenbaum's hiring.

### Though the coaching staff is fond of Koa Misi, look for the Dolphins to seriously explore upgrading at middle linebacker.

There’s no guarantee they will find one better than Misi, but they will look, with Dallas’ Rolando McClain and Buffalo’s Brandon Spikes among impending free agents who graded out well against the run. Figure Miami will also take a close look at UM’s Denzel Perryman.

### One Dolphins linebacker said he was left with the impression that the Dolphins are interested in playing defensive end Dion Jordan more at strongside linebacker. But no final decision has been made.

### Smart move by the Heat to sign center Hassan Whiteside to a two-year contract (instead of a one-year deal) in November, meaning there won’t be financial consequences for next season if he keeps blossoming in the coming months.

Among centers that have appeared in at least 10 games, Whiteside is averaging the second-most blocks per 48 minutes and ninth-most rebounds (17.6).

### Please see the last post for an in-depth look at the Heat's point guard situation.

### The Marlins had a preliminary conversation with the representation for Ichiro Suzuki, and we're told Ichiro has interest in becoming the Marlins’ fourth outfielder if talks advance.

Ichiro, 41, is a 10-time All-Star, a two-time AL batting champ (2001, 2004) and a .317 career hitter; he hit .284 for the Yankees last season while playing all three outfield positions.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

5:45 p.m. report: 15 nuggets on Dolphins' Tannenbaum hiring and Tannenbaum reaction; Heat's point guard predicament

A few more items on the Dolphins' hiring of Mike Tannenbaum as executive vice president/football operations:

### GM Dennis Hickey's contract assures him control over the team's 53-man roster and that will not change. Tannenbaum said Hickey ultimately will decide "who we pick. The roster decisions will rest with him. I've seen him work. He's a collaborative leader."

Tannenbaum said this move will allow Hickey to focus more "on scouting. There are a ton of administrative things I will handle with Dawn Aponte."

Hickey will report to Tannenbaum and the two will discuss personnel moves.

### Tannenbaum said he will begin his new job on Feb. 1.

### Tannenbaum called himself "a collaborative decision maker. I know we will get the best result of everyone's input."

### Tannenbaum said "Dennis Hickey and Joe Philbin have done a really good job. They're good at what they do. I'm excited to help them. Going into the last two weeks, the team was right in the middle of a playoff run. They have a good young quarterback. There are a lot of good things when you look at the [team] and it starts with the quarterback.

"I don't think we're far away. It's really critical we have our self-evaluation of where the roster is. We have to attack our needs aggressively. There's good talent, a really good foundation. This isn't a rebuild by any stretch."

### Tannenbaum said conversations about the job began in the past two weeks.

"I want to thank Steve Ross for giving me an incredible opportunity," he said. "It was a hard decision from the standpoint of my business is going really well. But football is in my blood. I missed it dearly, missed getting in a foxhill with people committed to a cause."

### Tannenbaum said "a lot of the progress we make will be every day. It will be small steps of getting stronger and faster."

### Tannenbaum said he plans to hire a sports performance director. Tannenbaum and Steve Ross are big on sports science. That's why the Dolphins hooked their players up to four devices this season, which tested everything from sleeping patterns to heart rate to omega levels.

### Ross' statement on the hire: “I am excited that Mike Tannenbaum has joined the organization full time. He is an experienced executive and leader that understands all facets of the sports landscape. During his time as a consultant this past season, I was able to see his impact first hand through his commitment and passion for innovation and using every possible avenue to find competitive edges.”

### Tannenbaum said he likes how detailed Philbin is.

### Aponte will remain the team's executive vice president of football administration.

### Philbin will continue to report to Stephen Ross.

### Team president Tom Garfinkel also will report to Ross.

### Tannenbaum said when he joined the Dolphins as a consultant several months ago, "Steve was interested in pursuing sports science. He asked me to do it. I was building a [sports agent] business over the last couple of years. I wouldn't trade that for anything."

### The Jets were 57-55 in Tannenbaum's seven years as Jets GM, including two AFC Championship game appearances: "In the seven years as GM, I'm proud of our record."

### Tannenbaum said Rick Smith, one of the other agents at Priority Sports, immediately will assume representation of Tannenbaum's coaching clients, which include NBA coaches Steve Kerr and David Blatt and Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, among others. Quinn is up for several head coaching jobs.

Please see the last post for more details.

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Shabazz Napier is rejoining the Heat when it begins its five-game road trip Thursday in Portland, and this much is clear: Whether Napier plays much or not, the Heat’s point guard play must improve considerably for Miami to climb higher than the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers are struggling through two of the worst shooting seasons of their careers and Napier has the worst assist-to- turnover ratio of any NBA point guard that has played at least 10 games. The Heat also has had trouble keeping quick point guards from penetrating.

Erik Spoelstra hadn’t used Napier in six games in a row before he was dispatched to the Heat’s NBDL affiliate in South Dakota for the past three games, where he averaged 18.6 points and 4.0 assists.

Spoelstra was told that Napier, in his NBDL stint, was “better as he went along in every part of it in terms of his attitude, leadership, defense, work ethic. He got something out of it.”

Spoelstra never explained why Napier lost his rotation spot, but shoddy defense and his poor 1.1-to-1 assist to turnover ratio assuredly contributed.

“He’s having moments where he has to learn the game,” Dwyane Wade said Tuesday. “He makes mistakes, but he does some great things as well. He’s not going to get bigger or faster but he has talent. He has ability to be a good point guard in this league.”

Cole, who will be a restricted free agent if the Heat makes him a $3 million qualifying offer by July 1, has seen his shooting percentage dip to a career-worst 38.5 percent, down from 41.4 last season. He’s shooting 25 percent on threes (19 for 76), which is down from 34.5 last season.

Cole has had stretches of impressive three-point shooting, including making 17 of 32 in the 2013 playoffs. He has been working recently with former NBA guard Sedric Toney, who has served as his shooting coach over the years.

“I’ve been struggling shooting the ball lately, but it’s going to come,” he said. “I know eventually I’m going to have a stretch where I get rolling. I’ve been in the gym working on my shot every day.”

After starting just 12 games over his first three seasons, Cole began the season as the Heat’s starter and started 23 games before Chalmers replaced him in the lineup seven games ago.  

Among 48 qualifying point guards, Cole is 25th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.51 to 1) but 36th in assists (3.3 per game).

“There are times when I make good plays and times I make plays I can learn from,” he said. “That’s a microcosm of what happens in our games this season.”

Cole is handling the ball “a little more” with LeBron James gone and “I like to have the ball in my hands.”

He admitted: “I’m not pleased about my play. Have I done some things well? Yes. But there are also some things I haven’t done well.”

Chalmers, meanwhile, flourished early in the season while adjusting to playing primarily backup shooting guard. But he’s back to playing more point guard and his 1.75 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks just 43rd among 48 qualifying point guards.

What’s more, Chalmers has shot just 33.9 percent over his past 21 games, which has dropped his season percentage to 40.4, fifth-worst among starting point guards and down from 45.4 last season.

A career 36.7 three-point shooter, Chalmers stands at 29.4 percent (32 for 109). His 11.0 scoring average is the highest of his career, but that’s a function of taking more shots.

“I’ve just got to find a rhythm somehow,” he said.

Asked if the Heat’s point guard play needs to improve, Chalmers said: “I don’t think so. Everybody was talking about how [the point guards] were scoring early. But most of the time, we were scoring when D-Wade or [Chris Bosh] was out. Our job is to distribute the ball and take shots when we get them, and that’s very few.”

Wade cracked that the Heat needs its point guards is “to take care of the ball. Leave the turnovers to myself!... [And] try to contain the other team’s point guard.”

### The Heat released guard Andre Dawkins a day before NBA contracts become guaranteed for the season. His agent, John Spencer, said the Heat expressed interest in signing Dawkins to a 10-day contract "down the road." Dawkins scored three points in 22 minutes over four games for the Heat.

The contracts of Hassan Whiteside, Justin Hamilton and James Ennis become fully guaranteed after 5 p.m. Wednesday.

### Hamilton, who has missed nine games dealing with the effects of a concussion sustained Dec. 17 against Utah, said he’s ready to play. “I had headaches, trouble concentrating,” he said.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

Tannenbaum joins Dolphins in high-level football position; Heat roster moves

Former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum is joining the Dolphins to head up the team’s football operations department, according to a source with direct knowledge.

The story was first reported by WQAM’s Zach Krantz.

Tannenbaum has been working for the Dolphins as a consultant on sports science projects over the past few months while also working as a sports agent.

He represents Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is being considered for several head coaching jobs, as well as Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and others.

Tannenbaum --- who will become the Dolphins executive vice president/football operations --- has the trust of Ross and Matt Higgins, Ross’ top New York-based sports executive. Tannenbaum and Higgins worked together with the Jets.

In recent months, Tannenbaum had essentially replaced former Chiefs president Carl Peterson in Ross’ inner circle of advisors.

Ross said previously that GM Dennis Hickey would remain with the team, and he will continue to have control over the 53-man roster. Hickey will report to Tannenbaum and the two men will work together.

Also, team executive Dawn Aponte will remain with the organization. She and Tannenbaum worked together with the Jets and they have a good relationship.

Tannenbaum will fill a role similar to the one held by Bill Parcells.

Tannenbaum was hired by the Jets on February 19, 1997 as the Director of Player Contract Negotiations. He] served in numerous administrative positions with the team including Senior Vice President of Football Operations and Assistant General Manager.

Tannenbaum succeeded Terry Bradway as the Jets’ general manager in 2006.

Tannenbaum had a role in constructing Jets teams that advanced to two AFC Championship games.

He signed a contract extension with the team through 2014 but after the 2012 season, Jets owner Woody Johnson announced that Tannenbaum would not return.

Before joining the Jets, Tannenbaum worked in the Cleveland Browns’ personnel department as an assistant under Bill Belichick. He also worked as an intern in the New Orleans Saints personnel department while he attended law school. In 1996, he worked for the team as a player personnel assistant.

Coach Joe Philbin will continue to report to Ross.

### Couple quick Heat notes: Shabazz Napier was recalled from the Heat’s Development League team in South Dakota and will re-join Miami before Thursday’s game in Portland… The Heat cut guard Andre Dawkins, according to his agent. Player contracts become guaranteed if they’re on the roster past 5 p.m. Wednesday. Dawkins is free to sign as many as two 10-day contracts with the team if Miami chooses to. His agent, John Spencer, said the Heat expressed interest in signing Dawkins to a 10-day contract "down the road."

01/05/2015

A dozen Monday night Dolphins, Hurricanes, Heat and Marlins notes

A dozen Dolphins, Canes, Heat and Marlins notes on a Monday night:

### As the Dolphins begin to evaluate potential upgrades at linebacker (Dion Jordan is among those options), there’s a need not only to improve against the run but in pass coverage, as well.

Though the Dolphins weren’t hurt by tight ends as much over the first half of the season as they were in past years, consider the completion percentages and yards per catch averages against the team’s linebackers this season, according to Pro Football Focus:

Philip Wheeler allowed 17 of the 22 passes thrown against him to be caught for 202 yards (11.8 per catch).

Koa Misi permitted 19 of 25 to be caught for 161 yards (8.5 per catch).

Jelani Jenkins, the Dolphins’ best linebacker in pass coverage, allowed 43 of 62 for 426 yards, which was sixth-most among all 4-3 outside linebackers (9.9 per catch).

And Jason Trusnik allowed 9 of 11 for 110 yards, or 12.2 per catch.

Completion percentages against linebackers will generally be high, because some of those passes are short dump offs to running backs. The bigger problem is the yards per catch. Wheeler’s was fifth-worst and Jenkins’ 14th-worst among 40 linebackers in a 4-3 defense.

The Dolphins can’t afford to give up as many passing plays that go for first downs (or close to it) when running backs or tight ends matched up against linebackers. Perhaps making Jordan a linebacker would help in that regard.

### As of close of business day Monday, the Dolphins coaching staff remained intact. That does not rule out staff changes by any means. But Joe Philbin, who is deliberate in his approach, hasn’t made changes eight days into the offseason.

### The Dolphins have lost one well-regarded employee since the end of the season: Claudia Lezcano del Campo, the team’s senior vice president/chief marketing officer, resigned due to health issues. She has started a marketing consulting business and will remain a consultant with the organization.

The Dolphins, led by president Tom Garfinkel, did excellent work marketing the product this season, considering the team ranked 13th in average home attendance (70,035) after averaging 57,379 in 2012 (29th) and 64,319 in 2013 (21st). Garfinkel is entering his 17th month as the team’s president and CEO.

### The Dolphins on Monday started tearing out seats from Sun Life Stadium as part of its stadium modernization. Whereas UM sold off seats and other memorabilia when the Orange Bowl was demolished, the Dolphins have no plans to put those seats up for bidding. But they are considering giving them to season ticket holders.

### Chris Grier, the Dolphins' director of college scouting, will be the latest candidate to interview for the Jets GM job on Tuesday, according to ESPN.

### With UM’s Denzel Perryman moving on to the NFL (Mel Kiper calls him a second-rounder), defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said Raphael Kirby will replace him as UM’s middle linebacker, with Juwon Young behind him.

### Defensive end Al Quadin Muhammad, who was suspended from school one semester for breaking another student’s nose with a punch in the parking lot outside Sun Life Stadium on April 12, has returned to campus, and he and Chad Thomas will compete to replace Anthony Chickillo. (Both will play a lot.)

D’Onofrio said UM football coaches were allowed to stay in close contact with Muhammad during his suspension, so he knows what’s expected of him.

### Perryman, Philip Dorsett, Ladarius Gunter and Clive Walford accepted Senior Bowl invitations.

Meanwhile, agent Drew Rosenhaus continued his strong track record of adding Hurricanes to his stable of clients. Walford, Chickillo, Shane McDermott and Olsen Pierre have all signed with Rosenhaus. Some other Canes haven’t announced agent selections.

### The Heat is 5-1 when Luol Deng takes at least 14 shots, and Deng said recently that Erik Spoelstra has “been adding more plays to get me more involved. Coach has been saying, ‘What can I do?’ and seeing what works in practice…

"I knew it wouldn’t click right away and it has been very difficult. If this was next year, I would be worried about chemistry and connection. The teams doing really well have been together a while.”

### We saw less of that Norris Cole/Mario Chalmers pairing in recent Heat games and that’s a good thing; the Heat has been outscored by 84 points (or 12.7 per 48 minutes) when they played together this season. That’s the worst plus/minus of any two-man Heat combination.

Not only has the Heat's point guard play been deplorable, but backup shooting guard remains a hole that hasn't been adequately addressed. 

FYI: The Heat is minus eight in the 482 minutes that Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade play together. Among combos not involving Josh McRoberts, the Heat’s best two-man plus/minus is Deng and Birdman (plus 46).

### The Marlins were very open to dumping the last two years and $15 million of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s contract, according to a team that spoke with them, but nothing materialized and Miami now expects him back, hoping for drastic improvement.

He finished his first Marlins season with the most errors of any catcher in baseball (15), the third-lowest average among qualifying catchers (.220), and among the worst averages in all of baseball with runners in scoring position (.182) and runners in scoring position and two outs (.122, 5 for 41).

The Marlins love top catching prospect J.T. Realmuto --- a excellent defender who hit .299 with 8 homers, 62 RBI at Double A Jacksonville. He would have been in line to share the job with Jeff Mathis if Saltalamacchia had been dealt.

### As our Clark Spencer reported, Ichiro Suzuki has emerged as a possibility for the Marlins’ fourth outfield job. Ichiro, 41, hit .281 for the Yankees last season.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

01/03/2015

Wade cautions against Heat putting all its hopes in 2016; Wallace fallout, perspective; UM adds recruit; Sun Life change looming

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

After LeBron James departed this summer, a “devastated” Pat Riley picked himself up and clearly articulated the Heat’s master plan: Be highly competitive this season and next, then try to make a big splash in the treasure trove of 2016 free agency, when the Heat can amass as much as $50 million in cap space, if the new TV contracts result in the huge spike that's widely projected.

The first part of that formula hasn’t gone as envisioned, with the Heat clinging to the eighth seed in the East. Don’t blame Dwyane Wade; he entered Saturday third among shooting guards in scoring (23.2 per game) and first in field-goal percentage (50.9).

Wade was in his 20s when he suffered through the 15-win disaster of 2007-08, then first-round playoffs exits the next two seasons. With his mid-30s creeping up, it isn’t quite as easy to be patient now as Riley eyes 2016.

And Wade, who turns 33 on Jan. 17, cautions there are no assurances the Heat will land another star in 2016.

“As you get older, anytime you’re in a situation where you’re not in the team position you want to be in, the years get shorter every year,” Wade told me recently. “You’re not 21 when you have so many years in front of you where you say, ‘It don’t matter.’ It does matter.

“But you know me. I’ve always been confident in this organization. They’ve always done what they can. I understand every year it’s impossible to be in the Finals. Sometimes you have to build to get to that point.

“For me, I’m not looking at it as, ‘Oh, I’m 32, I’ve got to do it now.’ I’m looking at it as I have to do the best job I can, the best I can with this unit, and if it changes, it changes. If it doesn’t, it’s doesn’t.”

But he also makes clear: "I want to win more than anything."

Asking Wade and Chris Bosh to wait before high-powered reinforcements arrive is probably unavoidable, and Riley is making a pragmatic decision by taking the long view here, as he did by patiently waiting out one hellish year and two mediocre ones before striking gold in 2010 free agency.

Even if Riley wanted to fast-track this rebuilding job, it’s not realistic. Miami already has $74 million in 2015-16 commitments, with the cap projected to fall at $66.3 million.

That commitment number would drop if Luol Deng opts out of his $10.1 salary for 2015-16, if the Heat parts with Norris Cole (who will be a restricted free agent if the Heat makes him a $3 million qualifying offer by July 1) and if Danny Granger ($2.2 million) opts out. But that still wouldn’t be enough to be a major player in free agency this summer unless Wade opts out of his $16.1 million salary next season, which he sounds disinclined to do.

Miami can use its $6 million mid-level exception this summer to add size (free agents include Amare Stoudemire, Luis Scola, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis) or a free agent point guard such as Aaron Brooks, Lou Williams, CJ Watson or Jeremy Lin.

Wade --- who will be a free agent himself in 2016 but has never shown any inclination to leave --- said Riley has not discussed that long-term master plan with him.

Wade helped the Heat last summer by taking a $11 million paycut to $31 million over this season and next, hoping it would help the Heat add talent around him if James left.

But this season so far has been a mess, and Wade said: “I’m not really focused on waiting until 2016. I don’t know what that means. That’s their organization. They do what they want from that standpoint. I’m not involved in that. I’m a player. Whatever decision they make from a 2016 standpoint is on them. The only thing I can control is the decisions I make and what I do.

“Whoever is here, whatever we decide to do, you just want to be competitive. That’s all I ask for myself and for our guys.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen in 2016; 2016, to me, is so far away and I hope people aren’t waiting on it thinking we’re going to land this quote, unquote Big Fish because it might not happen for you. No one knows if Riley is going to wait until 2016. It’s all speculation.”

To be clear, Riley is open to improving the team before 2016, and though he prefers not to take back contracts that extend beyond 2016, he would do it if he could somehow trade for a great player, according to an official in contact with him.

But that seems unlikely because he has limited assets to deal, with the Heat’s 2015 first-round pick (top-10 protected) already traded away to Philadelphia, via Cleveland and Minnesota.

As for the future, the Heat’s only cap commitments for 2016-17 are Bosh at $23.7 million, Josh McRoberts at $5.8 million, and if it chooses, Shabazz Napier (team option at $1.3 million) and James Ennis, with a non-guaranteed $980,431.

Even if Miami cannot land one of the most coveted stars in 2016 --- Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah or Dwight Howard (has an opt out) or Anthony Davis (restricted free agent) --- there will be plenty of other attractive names potentially available: Al Horford, DeMar DeRozan, David Lee, Danilo Galinari, Mike Conley, Nicolas Batum and Chandler Parsons.

Plus, a slew of 2015 free agents figure take deals with opt-outs to become free agents again in 2016, when the cap likely skyrockets. That group could include Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, Goran Dragic, DeAndre Jordan, Rajon Rondo, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Danny Green, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe, Eric Bledsoe, Monta Ellis, Tyson Chandler, Thaddeus Young and Roy Hibbert, among others.

For now, Wade is realistic about this roster. “This is what we got guys, this is it,” he said after the embarrassing home loss to Philadelphia.

“Our job is to come in here and whatever team we have to give maximum effort. Sometimes at the end of the year it results in you going to the Finals. Sometimes it results in you being eliminated in the first round.”

CHATTER

### Sun Life Stadium, which can now accommodate 76,000 for football, will plunge in capacity beginning next season to 66,000 (for the Dolphins) and about 55,000 (for UM, according to the school), because of stadium modernization that will put some seats closer to the field and eliminate others.

UM’s decision against selling upper level end zone season tickets accounts for the difference, though additional seats could be opened for select games if UM wishes.

### Two four-star local players recruited by Miami --- Westminster Christian safety Tim Irvin and Booker T. Washington defensive end/tight end Devonaire Clarington --- both announced Saturday they're orally committing to Texas.

But UM snagged an oral commitment from Towson, Md.-based four-star receiver Lawrence Cager, who chose the Hurricanes over Virginia Tech, Alabama and Georgia. Rivals.com rates him the nation's 36th-best receiver.

Cager, 6-5, caught 50 passes for 580 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He said he wants to play with Brad Kaaya and also mentioned his strong relationship with Al Golden and receivers coach Brennan Carroll.  

### A day after four-star running back Dexter Williams de-committed from UM, St. Thomas Aquinas four-star running back Jordan Scarlett told The Orlando Sentinel he's "85 percent" committed to the Hurricanes but plans to also visit FSU and UF, which are both pursuing him.

### Former Dolphins receiver Mark Duper has an interesting perspective on the sideline antics of Mike Wallace, whose pouting and initial refusal to go back into last Sunday’s game led to his second-half benching and has left his Dolphins future in jeopardy.

Mark Clayton got twice as many balls thrown to him as I did,” Duper said. “A couple times, I said to Dan [Marino], ‘Don’t forget about me.’ But there was never any tantrum. [Wallace’s alleged behavior] is petty. It's kids’ stuff. There is a line you don’t cross. I would never tell a coach I’m not going back in the game.

“We had a lot of great receivers and never had that problem. If that were Marino out there, he would have taken over the whole situation. But Ryan Tannehill is young. Joe Philbin is the coach and they need to respect him. Wallace is a good player. Is he a dominant player? I don’t think so.”

Whereas Wallace gets furious with Tannehill when he’s not thrown enough passes to his liking, Duper said he kept it light with Marino.

Duper recalled the time that Marino, who served as the team’s union representative, asked Duper for his union dues, “and I told him, ‘Throw me 12 balls, and I’ll pay my dues.’ Dan threw me a bunch of balls. I caught two touchdowns. I said after the game, ‘Consider it paid.’”

One difference, of course, is that Duper was targeted on more deep throws (and more accurately-thrown ones) than Wallace was this past season.

 ### It’s ironic that a couple weeks before last Sunday’s incident, Wallace told me he hadn’t complained about not getting more passes this season because “the last thing you want to be looked at is selfish. In Pittsburgh, people looked at me as selfish. You have younger guys looking at you. You don’t want to complain. Everything is not going to go your way all the time.”

Wallace is well-liked by teammates and coaches during the week because he’s amiable and hard-working. But festering frustration occasionally turns him into a much different person on game days. Tannehill publicly says he can deal with that. The question is whether Philbin can.

The view here is that Wallace and Philbin/Tannehill need to make this work, because the Dolphins have enough other needs to fill without worrying about finding a new No. 1 receiver.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

01/02/2015

A look at where Dolphins stand offensively and potential solutions; Canes recruiting news; Heat

Dolphins and Canes recruiting talk:

### This is a change: Thanks largely to Ryan Tannehill’s development, the Dolphins enter an offseason with more pressing needs on defense than offense. But Miami must address guard, and other decisions loom on Tannehill’s side of the ball.

We addressed how Miami can fill its defensive needs in a Dec. 21 post and examined first-round draft options in a post three days ago. Here's a look at where Miami stands offensively heading into the offseason:

### Offensive line: The Dolphins must acquire at least one starting guard, because Mike Pouncey said moving from guard back to center next season is “the only option.”

One of the 2015 starting guards might come from a group including Shelley Smith, rookie Billy Turner and guard/tackle Dallas Thomas. It would be very surprising if Daryn Colledge returns.

But the Dolphins need to invest in a proven starter at one of the guard spots, and impending Broncos free agent and former UM standout Orlando Franklin would make sense. He thrived after moving from tackle to guard this season, and Pro Football Focus ranks him 13th among 79 guards.

The 49ers’ Mike Iupati might be the most prominent free agent guard but his good work in run blocking was offset somewhat by deficiencies in pass blocking (seven sacks).

There are other decent options, including free agents Clint Boling (Cincinnati) and James Carpenter (Seattle) and a draft class headed up, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper, by FSU’s Josue Matias, South Carolina’s AJ Cann, FSU’s Tre’ Jackson, LSU’s Vadal Alexander and Texas A&M’s Jarvis Harrison. UM’s Jon Feliciano is seventh on Kiper’s list of guards.

The Dolphins stopped their left guard rotation against Minnesota and the Jets, opting to play Colledge the entirety of both games and not using Smith at all, unlike the two previous games. PFF ranked Smith 54th and Colledge 74th among guards and Smith’s $3 million cap number puts him at risk.

Finding a No. 3 tackle better than Thomas and free agent Jason Fox is essential because even though doctors are optimistic Branden Albert will be ready for the start of next season, that isn’t certain.

### Quarterback: The Dolphins are expected to pick up the fifth-year option on Ryan Tannehill, which would pay him in the $16 million range for 2016. (The deadline is in four months.) The Dolphins could escape paying that if Tannehill bombs next season, but the money is guaranteed if he suffers a major injury that would sideline him in 2016.

The question is whether the Dolphins offer him a long-term contract before the 2016 option deadline. Expect that to at least be considered.

Tannehill’s career is projecting on an arc similar to Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. Their second-year numbers were virtually identical.

And look at how their third-year numbers compare: Ryan’s third year: 28 TDs, 9 interceptions, 3705 yards passing, 62.5 completion percentage, 91 rating. Tannehill’s third year: 27 TDs, 12 picks, 4045 yards, 66.4 completion percentage, 92.9 rating.

So the Dolphins passed on Ryan in the 2008 draft but may have drafted someone ultimately comparable to him.

Matt Moore had the team’s fifth-highest cap number this season ($5.5 million) and said he doesn’t yet know whether it would be more appealing to return here as a backup or compete for a starting job elsewhere.

### Running back: With Miller establishing himself as a starter, there’s no need to pursue a pricey starting back from a free agent group include DeMarco Murray, Frank Gore, Ryan Matthews, Justin Forsett, Mark Ingram and Stevan Ridley.

Though they like the upside of Damien Williams as a receiver and third-down back, he averaged only 3.4 yards per carry and the Dolphins will explore adding another No. 2-type back, either through free agency (Shane Vereen, Ahmad Bradshaw and Bilal Powell are among options) or through the draft.

Kiper’s top eight backs: Georgia’s Todd Gurley, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, Alabama’s TJ Yeldon, UM’s Duke Johnson, Southern California’s Javorius Allen, South Carolina’s Mike Davis and FSU’s Karlos Williams.

### Tight end: If the Dolphins can re-sign Charles Clay --- who wants to be here --- they’ll have a solid tandem with Clay and emerging Dion Sims. “We feel good about our tight ends,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. But the Dolphins haven't yet made an offer to Clay.

Clay could be the third or fourth-best tight end in this free agent class, behind Denver’s Julius Thomas, Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron and arguably Cincinnati’s Jermaine Gresham.

Others set to become free agents: ex-FAU standpoint Rob Housler, Washington’s Niles Paul, Carolina’s Ed Dickson, Baltimore’s Owen Daniels and St. Louis’ Lance Kendricks.

The draft’s top tight ends, per Kiper: Michigan’s Devin Funchess, Notre Dame’s Ben Koyack, FSU’s Nick O’Leary, Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman and Rutgers’ Tyler Kroft. UM’s Clive Walford is 10th on Kiper’s list.

### Receiver: With Jarvis Landry’s emergence, the expectation is the Dolphins will purge at least one veteran receiver for cap reasons, with Brandon Gibson very much at risk, and Brian Hartline now also is in jeopardy.

And Mike Wallace is also in jeopardy now because of his sideline antics, including last Sunday's tantrum that resulted in him not playing in the second half.

Before closing strong Sunday with five catches for 94 yards, Hartline was marginalized for much of the season for reasons beyond his control. He was targeted just seven times in the first four games in December --- compared with 36 throws to Landry --- and he has just three catches for 20 yards in those games.

He finished with 39 catches for 474 yards and two touchdowns and his $7.4 million 2015 cap number is awfully high if he remains an afterthought in Lazor’s offense.

Rishard Matthews remains good value ($673,000 cap hit next season) but has been disciplined by the team several times over the past three seasons, including a benching against Minnesota. 

As noted in Tuesday's post, free agent options will include Torrey Smith, Kenny Britt, Randall Cobb, Reggie Wayne (who said he will play only for the Colts), Hakeem Nicks, Eddie Royal, Michael Crabtree, Nate Washington and Wes Welker.

With franchise tags at their disposal, it's difficult to imagine Dallas losing free agent Dez Bryant, Philadephia losing Jeremy Maclin or Denver losing Demaryius Thomas.

Three 6-3 receivers are considered potential first-rounders: Louisville’s 6-3 Devante Parker, West Virginia’s Kevin White and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong.

UM RECRUITING

The sky-is-falling feeling around the UM football program worsened this week when UM lost out to FSU for one of Miami-Dade's best receivers and also received word that one of its four-star running back prospects has de-committed.

Orlando-based Dexter Williams, rated by rivals.com as the nation's 13th-best running back and 114th-best prospect overall, announced on Twitter on Friday that he's de-committing from UM.

But Miami prioritized its two other four-star backs over Williams: St. Thomas Aquinas' Jordan Scarlett (rated 15th among backs, 131st overall) and Booker T. Washington's Mark Walton (seventh among backs, 61st overall).

As long as Scarlett and Walton remain committed, UM won't sweat losing Williams.

But the Gators and several others continue to pursue Scarlett and Walton.

Earlier in the week, the Miami Central-to-FSU connection continued when four-star receiver Da'Vante Phillips picked FSU over UM, Auburn and Louisville.

FSU, which lured Dalvin Cook from Central last year (while teammate Joe Yearby opted for Miami), has one other Central oral commitment in this class: four-star safety Calvin Brewton.

Meanwhile, at least three recruits who have been considering Miami are reportedly expected to make announcements at Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Game:

### Four-star Westminster Christian safety Tim Irvin, nephew of Michael Irvin, told rivals.com that he will pick among UM, UF and Texas. Rivals.com predicts he will choose Texas.

### Four-star Booker T. Washington tight end/defensive end Devonaire Clarington told rivals.com that he will have four hats displayed Saturday, for UM, UF, LSU and Texas. Rivals.com predicts he will choose Texas.

### Four-star Maryland base receiver Lawrence Cager is expected to choose among UM, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia Tech, according to canesport.com's Matt Shodell

[UPDATE: Cager committed to UM on Saturday, but Irvin and Clarington committed to Texas.]

### Moments after Williams de-committed Friday, four-star defensive end Scott Patchan --- a strong UM oral commitment --- tweeted: "I guess I'm one of a kind to actually understand what commitment means." Take that, Dexter!

### St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Sam Bruce, rated the fifth best receiver in the 2016 class, remains orally committed to UM but told rivals.com that he's only "60 percent" committed to Miami.

Please see the last post for Friday Heat news and the previous one for the best and worst of the year in sports media.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

For a Heat franchise that prides itself on player development, Hassan Whiteside showing flashes

After Pat Riley’s arrival nearly two decades ago, the Heat demonstrated an ability to transform unproven young big men into quality rotation pieces, most notably with Ike Austin in 1996 and Udonis Haslem beginning in 2003.

That developmental pipeline essentially dried up in recent years, with the Heat opting for veteran-heavy rosters during the LeBron James era.

But Hassan Whiteside offers hope in that regard, flashing the potential to perhaps become something that Mickell Gladness and Jarvis Varnado and Josh Harrellson could not here in recent years: a young, developmental center who warrants regular minutes and can legitimately impact the game.

Admittedly, the sample size is small; Whiteside, 25, has appeared in only nine games for the Heat since signing on Nov. 24.

But the past three have been particularly encouraging, with Whiteside corralling 21 rebounds (seven in each of the games), scoring 16 points and blocking five shots in 56 minutes against Memphis, Orlando and Indiana.

“Very pleased and encouraged by how much he has grown in the last five weeks since he’s been with us,” Erik Spoelstra said Friday.  “It has been a specific, detailed plan. He’s embraced the work.”

Most importantly, the 7-foot Whiteside has given the Heat rim deterrence, something the second unit needed with the insertion of Chris Andersen into the starting lineup.

“It gives us a different look than we’ve had here,” Dwyane Wade said. “Obviously, we get some [rim deterrence] with [Andersen]. And once Bird goes out, to be able to bring Hassan in, it’s big. It changes a lot of things. Our job now is to get comfortable with him in there and understand when he’s in the game we won’t have to pull as many as triggers because he’s a rim protector. It’s good for us.”

Whiteside, who grew up in Gastonia, N.C., led the nation in blocked shots (182, or 5.4 per game) and averaged 13.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in his one year at Marshall before turning pro. Sacramento drafted him 33rd overall in 2010 but he played just 19 games in two seasons for the Kings before being released.

During the past two seasons, Whiteside had two stints in Lebanon, one in China and played for three teams in the NBA’s Development League. But the time in Lebanon was unsettling off the court, to the point that he left last April to join a team in China.

“It had to be done for my safety,” he said. “I was MVP of that league [in Lebanon]. They didn’t want me to leave. But toward the end, I got a little nervous. You see guns and the army and tanks every day.”

What was most disturbing in Lebanon, Whiteside said, was “seeing someone die in a car accident. He drove off the highway. The car flipped over and I watched the guy die.”

Whiteside spent training camp with the Memphis Grizzlies, was released before the season, re-signed with the Grizzlies Nov. 19 but was cut a day later when Memphis needed to open a roster spot. The Heat plucked him off waivers days later, after a two-day stint in the NBDL.

“For the minutes I’m getting, I’m playing pretty good,” he said. “I feel more mature” than a year ago.

Haslem sees such upside that he says “in time, with work, he can be somewhat of DeAndre Jordan, probably,” referencing the Clippers’ starting center.

“There’s a lot of talent there,” Haslem said. “He brings something to us we don’t have, 7-foot, shot-blocking ability, the way he’s able to go get lobs and finish at the rim. And he can shoot, too, [up to] about 15 feet.”

Though they never met until late November, Whiteside followed former Heat All-Star and current team executive Alonzo Mourning’s career closely and took it to heart when he once heard Zo say “that a shot blocker can’t be scared to get dunked on.”

Assistant coach Juwan Howard is handling a lot of the skill development with Whiteside, just as Haslem was taught, a decade ago, by then-assistant coaches Spoelstra, Keith Askins and Bob McAdoo.

“We take a lot of pride in our player development program,” Spoelstra said. “You find somebody that is a talent like Hassan and see his upside and develop him as much as possible and play through the ups and downs.”

The Heat hopes 7-footer Justin Hamilton, who is still limited in practice because of a concussion, can become another developmental success story, but Whiteside’s ability as a rim protector makes him the more intriguing prospect.

### The Heat (14-19) enters the New Year having lost three in a row and stands at five games below .500 for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

“None of us feel good about what happened in 2014 and the first couple of months of the season,” Spoelstra said. “But we do see some positives. I do commend this group for its attitude.”

Spoelstra seems inclined to stick with the current lineup because “right now we’re just trying to find some consistency. That’s been the biggest challenge this year. There have a lot of moving parts and we’re going to do our best to slow down those moving parts.”

Said Chris Bosh: “I’m done with trying to figure stuff out. We just need to do it. We’re struggling with lineup changes and consistency with certain lineups and second groups. Maybe we just need to stop trying to finger-point. That’s coach’s job. He’ll figure it out. It’s on us as players to get the job done. We need to work with what we have.”

### Wade sat out of much of the contact work during practice but is expected to play Saturday at Houston.

###  Forward Josh Smith, who picked the Rockets over the Heat and a few other suitors and being released by the Pistons, is averaging  8.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and shooting just 34.1 percent in four games for Houston.

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