November 10, 2015

UM taking fresh look at Butch Davis; Canes coach search notes; Pat Riley addresses trade, Green; Dolphin, Heat, Marlins chatter


A UM official who was close with former president Donna Shalala said it was obvious speaking to her that she felt strongly that Butch Davis should not be considered if the UM job opened. But with Shalala now working at the Clinton Foundation, UM has been taking a fresh look at Davis, examining the circumstances that led to his firing at North Carolina and evaluating his viability as a candidate, according to multiple sources.

“He hasn’t been written off; he’s among people given initial consideration,” one UM official said, noting Davis will be given more scrutiny.

Davis, who led UM to a 51-20 record from 1995 through 2000, badly wants the job and has strong support among fans and a few notable Board of Trustee members.

“There’s pressure being placed by the public and some of the Trustees to hire him,” one high-level Trustee said.

But another trustee who likes Davis said athletic director Blake James “isn’t going to be swayed by anyone from doing what he thinks is best. There are an awful lot of people who want this job.”

As one UM person said, James knows he has Davis available if other potentially more appealing options do not materialize or do not prove to be a good fit.

A Davis hire would surprise (but not shock) some at UM, but the Davis supporters can take comfort in knowing that UM is taking a hard look at him. So he's certainly a possibility, as are more than a dozen others. There's no favorite because it's still very early in the process.

Citing harm to its reputation, North Carolina fired Davis on July 27, 2011, following an academic fraud scandal that covered 18 years and multiple sports.

Davis was never implicated and has said he has a letter from the NCAA indicating that. The NCAA found UNC guilty of academic fraud and failure to monitor the football program and was docked with a 2012 postseason ban and 15 scholarship reductions.

In a statement on the day of Davis’ firing, UNC chancellor Holden Thorp said that while there had been no changes against Davis in the NCAA investigation, Thorp had "lost confidence in our ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution."

UM was expected to research that case, as well as the 2010 resignation of Davis’ defensive line coach and assistant head coach John Blake; the NCAA said Blake was paid by now-deceased agent Gary Wichard, to whom Blake referred players.

Davis, 63, wasn’t implicated in that scandal, either, but no school has hired Davis since he was fired in 2011.

UM is believed to have contacted the NCAA for more information on Davis.

Said one high-level trustee who supports Davis: “Besides being a great recruiter, Butch can bring people into the stadium and that has to be something we consider. And Butch was cleared at North Carolina. Why does this tarnish him?”

But UM will make its own conclusion after reviewing the case.

### Though public denials would be expected, UM people are under the impression that Texas’ Charlie Strong and Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville have interest in the UM job.

Strong is considered an appealing candidate if he and Texas part ways, but that likely wouldn’t happen until after the Longhorn’s regular-season finale Dec. 5.

### reported there have been conversations between reps for UM and Mario Cristobal, but that is not the case, according to a coaching friend of Cristobal.

Cristobal, Greg Schiano and Rob Chudzinski, among others, remain in the mix, however. A UM official said a bunch of additional candidates, including perhaps some surprises, are expected to surface because this will be a true national search with inquiries made to some perceived to be out of reach. But there is no front-runner at this point. 

### Former Alabama coach Mike Shula, who had support among some UM trustees, has conveyed to friends that he wants to remain in the NFL (he’s the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator) and won’t pursue the UM job, an associate said last week.

### During the last UM football coaching search, highly-respected Trustee Paul DiMare attended coaching interviews with then-athletic director Kirby Hocutt.

Beyond DiMare, Stuart Miller, chairman of the Board of Trustees and the mortgage giant Lennar Corp., is expected to be involved. The Miller family and his company have donated $271 million to UM over the years and he wields considerable influence.

### Please see the last post for a lot of on-field UM football news from today.


### Heat president Pat Riley addressed the Mario Chalmers trade moments ago: "We're going to miss Mario. We love the guy. This is not an easy day for me or the organization, but we decided to give these young guys some room to grow and gain confidence. They're not going to do it in the D-League. It has a lot to do with opportunity, where we see the team in the future, has a lot to do with economics of the game. Personnel flexibility is part of it. Cap flexibility is part of it. [My interjection: This trade has no impact on the summer of 2016 free agent.]

"Obviously, when we didn't make the playoffs last year, we were fortunate to get the 10th pick and we ended up with Justise Winslow," Riley said. "We really like Josh Richardson. We love what Tyler Johnson has done.... We have a very young player in Hassan Whiteside...

"There has to be a great balance between veteran players and having some young players not just sit there and perform. This is not a youth movement. You have to give [people] room to grow. It's injecting young talented players who are hungry and want to win and have proven to us they can compete at this level. Mixing those with the veterans we have is a good mix right now. I know coach likes it.

"When Gerald [Green] gets back and Beno [Udrih] and Jarnell [Stokes], you'll have even more depth. We like Beno. Jarnell is a beast, he's young, 22 years old." 

Riley said contrary to a report, the Heat wasn't trying to trade Udrih and Stokes.

### On lowering the team's tax burden, Riley said: "Micky [Arison] has proven he wants to win. I don't think we would ever sacrifice a competitiveness by worrying about what financial obligations we might have, trading away players we felt could help us win a title and saving money. The economics of the game are part of the whole thing that moves the parts. You have to consider that obviously. But that wasn't the No. 1 reason why we did it. We aren't looking actively to do that in the future."

### Riley declined to discussed the specifics of Green's incident that led to a six-game absence, which will end after Thursday's game against Utah.

"It's a personal matter," Riley said. "It doesn't need to be discussed."

Riley said he believes "we can" count of Green. "I've been around this game for 48 years. He's a great kid, great athlete, can really shoot the ball, is explosive. We're going to need him."

### An Eastern Conference scout, on the two players the Heat acquired Tuesday (point guard Beno Udrih, forward Jarnell Stokes): “Udrich can score, get offense for himself, but he’s not a great playmaker. Adequate defender at best. Tyler Johnson is the better athlete but Udrih is more of a natural point guard. Stokes is a borderline NBA player. He will have to distinguish himself as a rebounder because he has limited range. He overpowered people [for offense at Tennessee]. He needs a consistent 15-foot jumper.”

### One Heat motivation for dealing Chalmers (besides reducing its tax) is the belief Johnson warrants regular minutes. He’s shooting 59 percent and ranks fourth on the team in both plus minus (plus 30) and NBA efficiency rating (65th in the league) entering Tuesday…  Sign of the times: James Ennis found out he was traded on Twitter.

### Good stuff from tonight's 101-88 win against the Lakers: Chris Bosh had 29 points and 11 rebounds, meaning he has double-doubles in four of the Heat's first eight games. He had just seven in 44 games last season before his illness. "I really want to do well this year," he said.

He's averaging 9.8 rebounds per game, highest since his Raptors days....

Hassan Whiteside --- who entered tied for fifth in the NBA in rebounding (10.9) and tied for first in blocks (4.0) --- had 19 points, 15 boards and three blocks tonight.   

Goran Dragic, the NBA's only guard to shoot 50 percent each of the past two seasons, has fallen below 46 percent after tonight's 2-for-10 struggle.

### Who’s at fault for the Dolphins ranking an astounding 31st against the run?

According to Pro Football Focus, the blame rests primarily with four players:

1) Earl Mitchell (rated 187th among 187 qualifying interior defenders against the run; incidentally, backups Jordan Phillips and CJ Mosley are 172nd and 173rd);

2) now injured Cam Wake (rated 128th against the run among edge defenders);

3) Olivier Vernon (107th); and  

4) Kelvin Sheppard, rated 142nd of 162 linebackers against the run.

PFF doesn’t blame these four who all rank in the top 40 at their positions against the run: Suh (37), Derrick Shelby (40), Koa Misi and to a lesser extent, Jelani Jenkins (fifth and 40th). 

### Wake smartly had surgery for a torn Achilles the day after the injury and he’s already ahead of schedule and expected back well before the start of next season, a close associate said. He hopes to begin running in four months and have some involvement in May/June practices.

According to a Dolphins source, the team hasn’t conveyed its intentions with Wake, including a possible restructuring of a contract that carries a $9.8 million cap hit, likely too high for Miami’s liking.

### Though nothing is imminent, Colby Lewis, Tim Lincecum and Scott Kazmir are among several free agent pitchers that intrigue the Marlins as they search for one or two starters to join Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler

As ESPN's Jason Stark noted, the Marlins are seeking a No. 2 starting pitcher for outfielder Marcell Ozuna. They could keep him if they don't get that.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Another quandary for this defense, D'Onofrio; Tuesday UM notes

A few Canes notes leading up to Saturday’s big one at North Carolina:

### UNC has an up-tempo offense, and that raises the issue that Miami faced against Duke’s quick pace: Does UM try to substitute between plays, a strategy that left UM defenders seemingly confused at times and resulted in two illegal participation penalties against Duke because of late substitutions?

Coordinator Mark D’Onofrio didn’t answer directly but suggested he wouldn’t stop substituting merely because of the issues that created against Duke.

He said coaches must send in the players quickly and players need to have their chin straps buckled and “locked in” to get in the game quickly.

“Make sure guys are prepared for it," he said. "We’ll look to continue to improve in that area.”

Larry Scott said UM is evaluating its approach on that issue.

“How can you do it better and faster and put your kids in the best position possible to defend [it],” he said. 

It’s understandable why UM would want to substitute personnel during series, but as former coach Dan Hawkins noted on the UM-Duke ESPNU broadcast, that strategy often left UM’s defensive linemen in motion, scrambling to get set, as the ball was snapped. Duke had several big plays when that happened.

“We have to get the plays called into the kids as quickly as possible so they can get aligned as quickly as possible when they accelerate the pace. It’s hard to re-enact in practice," Scott said. "Once the call is communicated, everybody can get in line and execute the call."

### Receiver Stacy Coley gave insight today into his sophomore slump and why he has rebounded as a junior.

“I had a lot of family issues last year,” Coley revealed. “My teammates didn’t know what I was going through. I kept it to myself. I’m more focused now, leaving all the problems behind me. Now I can be free and be me.”

Coley credited receivers coach Kevin Beard for a lot of his success this season and said “we want him to stick around” next season. The new coach will obviously make the call on that.

Scott said Coley is “learning how to prepare, how to take care of his body. He has a chance to be real special.”

### Coaches can’t stop raving about Trent Harris, who never played middle linebacker until midway through the season but has thrived in the role. He played three different positions during one series against Virginia.

“He’s a coach on the field, a leader through his play and the way he works. He’s everything you want,” Scott said. D’Onofrio called Coley “phenomenal, awesome.”

### I asked Scott if he has reached out to any head coaches for input, advice, etc. He mentioned two former USF coaches --- Jim Leavitt and Skip Holtz (now at Louisiana Tech).

### D’Onofrio, on what freshmen have impressed him, mentioned safety Jaquan Johnson and cornerback Sheldrick Redwine.

He then added that defensive tackle Kendrick Norton has “stood out” and redshirt freshman Mike Smith “quietly has gotten better.”

Among offensive players, D’Onofrio praised the work of offensive lineman Bar Milo on the scout said.

### UNC, unbeaten in the conference, poses a ton of challenges, with a dangerous offense and a strong secondary. What’s more, “they’re defending the run better this year than they have,” Scott said.

Scott said UNC “is a challenge I believe we’re up for. We’re going to win each day so we can win the week.”

### Scott said he’s encouraged by offensive tackle Trevor Darling’s progress after Saturday’s foot injury. UM expects he will be available Saturday, barring a setback.

### Brad Kaaya – who has 12 touchdowns, three picks and is completing 62.7 percent of his passes (up from 58.5 last season) – is pleased with his season. “I’m getting us in position to win a lot of games,” he said.

### UM used Chad Thomas, its only five-star front seven player, only one third downs and two-minute situations last week because he was coming off injury. He should have a bigger role Saturday.

### John Congemi, who does good work on college games and Dolphins studio shows, will be the analyst on ESPNU's cablecast of UM-UNC at 3:30 Saturday.

Please check back here tonight for a lot more Hurricanes football news.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz


November 09, 2015

Dan Campbell's Monday thoughts; Sifting through Dolphins' wreckage; Four things they mistakenly thought would work to their advantage

Highlights from Dan Campbell's news conference today:

On the poor rush defense: "You look at 266 yards of rushing [against]. That's alarming. You expect to do a better job. A little bit we had a few misfits here and there. Buffalo did a good job game planning against us with a bye week. They had some false keys where you start pulling guys and run the read option out of the backside. Your linebackers are asked to do two different jobs. Puts them in a bind.

"The more you're exposed to it, the better off you are. You have to clean up the fits. I don't know the next time we'll see a team run the offense quite like Buffalo,... trap, power, read the backside. I'm not trying to make excuses. We've got to stop it, no matter what. Some of the things they did were things they did for the first time this season. On a number of plays, we had a number of players in position to make plays that they need to make."

### He said the "most important thing is stay positive. When we do it right, we are good. We can play with anybody in the league when we do it right. When we don't, it's not good enough. We have the chips. We've just got to put it all together, cut out the penalties. Those things are killing us. If we do that, we'll be fine."

### On accepting a penalty that made it 3rd and 14 instead of 4th and 4 on a Bills drive (Sammy Watkins scored a touchdown, on a 44-yard pass and run, on that 3rd and 14): "When they throw a 60-yard bomb for a touchdown, you're like, 'My gosh, I wish I hadn't done that.' The percentages say you back them up. They're not very good on third down, especially third and 10 plus. It's easy to second-guess. I don't think I second-guessed that one."

Campbell also thought that on a fourth and four, there was a good chance that Dan Carpenter would make a 52-yard field goal because he had the wind at his back.

### On Sammy Watkins catching all eight passes thrown against Brent Grimes: "We had Grimes mirrored on him. We like that matchup. Grimes has been a dependable player for us for a long time. I have the utmost faith in Grimes moving forward. That doesn't phase me a bit."

### Campbell said Jay Ajayi has earned more carries after rushing for 41 yards on five carries Sunday. He said he thought Ryan Tannehill and the offensive line also played well.

"We stalled out on a couple of third downs. You don't ever want to start a drive with a safety. [But] we did some really good things. There are some good plays on that film."

### Miami is averaging 21 points per game. What's needed? "Anywhere 25, 28 at a minimum is what you would like to get to offensively."

### On Jarvis Landry throwing a pass to Tannehill, Campbell joked the form wasn't perfect but that Landry stood out during a day last spring when the Dolphins had their receivers and running backs throw passes. 

### On where Miami stands at 3-5: "We lost two in a row. We won two in a row before that. All we have to do is get momentum back and take it one at a time. I'm optimistic. This isn't going to break me."

### On throwing to Dion Sims on the last play of the first half from the 1 yard line: "You could second guess anything. But he was open. It was a good throw. You just have to make the play. We had good protection. We had guys in position we felt were there to make the play. It was a sound play."


The Dolphins believed they have constructed a roster that could legitimately challenge the New England Patriots.

Turns out what they actually built was a flawed team that has the worst division record in the league (0-4) and a roster that has been outscored 137-52 against other AFC East teams and ranks in the bottom half of the league in nearly every key defensive category.

In some ways, the gap between the Dolphins and Patriots appears as wide or wider than any time since Miami’s 1-15 season in 2007. What’s more, the gap between the Dolphins and the middling Buffalo Bills also appears sizable; the Bills have outscored the Dolphins 74-31 in two blowouts.

On Sunday, the Dolphins made history for all the wrong reasons: According to Stats Inc., this was the first time in NFL history that a team allowed two players (LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams) to run for more than 100 yards and a receiver (Sammy Watkins) to catch passes for more than 150 yards in the same game.

The Dolphins privately worried about their situation at linebacker, guard and cornerback during the offseason, but there were still several areas they figured would be strengths and have not been. A look at what the Dolphins thought would work in their favor but actually haven’t:

### Run defense: After being gashed on the ground over the final six weeks last season, the Dolphins figured Ndamukong Suh would be the panacea.

Instead, the team’s run defense is even worse, though the supporting cast around Suh shoulders far more of the blame than Suh.  

Last season, the Dolphins allowed 121 rushing yards per game, ranking 24th. This season, they’re relinquishing 142 per game after being plastered for 266 on Sunday. Only the Cleveland Browns have allowed more rushing yards per game than Miami (147.6).

Guard Richie Incognito said the Bills kept using the same running plays, with guards pulling to block linebackers, and it kept working. So why couldn’t the Dolphins stop it?

“Just guys getting blocked,” linebacker Koa Misi said. “Just wasn’t our day. There’s been some games where you definitely don’t want to give up that many rushing yards. They gashed us. It’s unacceptable.”

Suh said the Bills “took the interior guys out, even sometimes our ends. We have to find ways to combat that.” He mentioned "great coaches" as a part of solving that problem, but didn’t elaborate.

### Scoring: The Dolphins presumed that their point production would rise because of anticipated improvement from Ryan Tannehill, the overall comfort level increasing in the second year under the direction of coordinator Bill Lazor, left tackle Branden Albert’s return to health and the addition of three well-regarded weapons (DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron).

Instead, the Dolphins’ point production has dropped from 24.3 per game last season (11th in the league) to 21.4 (which ranks 21st).  The Dolphins have scored 0, 10, 16, 13 and 17 points over the past five AFC East road games, two of those this season.

Tannehill’s passer rating is down, from 92.8 last season to 88.7, after improving substantially every previous year of his career. He’s on pace for 18 interceptions, compared with 12 last season. He also has been sacked 23 times, tied for seventh-most in the league.

And the Dolphins’ new weapons haven’t made the impact many expected. Stills has had some good moments, including a 46-yard reception Sunday, but his 16 catches for 279 yards are well below his pace last season, when he caught 63 for 931 for New Orleans and had substantially more opportunities.

Tight end Jordan Cameron, who ranked among the NFL’s tight end leaders with 80 catches for 917 yards with Cleveland in 2013, is on pace for 40 catches and 526 yards and was targeted only once on Sunday (a five-yard reception).

And Parker, the team’s first-round draft pick, has played only 110 snaps all season and has four receptions for 49 yards.

### Performance against quarterbacks well below the top tier: Even with their concerns at cornerback, the Dolphins believed they would handle a string of quarterbacks who were either inexperienced, journeymen or perceived to be mediocre.

In the first half of the season, Miami faced seven of those in Kirk Cousins, Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor twice, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer and Marcus Mariota. They faced only one elite quarterback (Tom Brady).

And yet Miami is allowing a 97.1 passer rating, 22nd in the league, compared with 89.7 last season (18th).

Opposing quarterbacks have 16 touchdowns and just six interceptions against the Dolphins and Taylor (who has a career 97.1 rating) has a 145.7 rating with four touchdowns and 458 yards (on 32 for 41 passing) in two games against Miami. Bortles, who has a career 74.9 passer rating, had a 102.2 in Jacksonville’s win against Miami.

Several reasons: None of Miami’s cornerbacks have been close to elite; Brent Grimes, toasted by Sammy Watkins on Sunday, has slipped to 36th in Pro Football Focus’ cornerback rankings after finishing in the top 10 the previous two seasons. Linebackers have been shaky in coverage and the Dolphins in some ways have missed safety Louis Delmas, who is out with an ACL injury.

And this is worrisome: Over the final eight games, the Dolphins face top 10 quarterbacks in Brady and Tony Romo (projected to return that game from a clavicle injury) and Phillip Rivers; Super Bowl winners in Brady, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco; and No. 1 overall picks (Manning, Sam Bradford, Andrew Luck).

### Lack of consistent pass rush: This, along with shoddy run defense, is most confounding about the Dolphins’ season. Their 16 sacks are tied for 20th; they’re on pace for 32, behind last year’s total of 39, despite adding Suh, who has more sacks than any defensive tackle since 2010 but three this season.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

November 07, 2015

Wade responds to his summer changes: What's realistic for games played for him?; Dolphins, Canes, Marlins chatter


Months after Pat Riley challenged Dwyane Wade to “change the narrative about his injuries and about missing games,” Wade started the season impressively, ranking seventh in the NBA in points per 48 minutes and 10th in efficiency, before struggling badly with his shot Friday at Indiana.

But it’s durability, not ability, that remains the question with Wade, after missing 17, 13, 28 and 20 games the past four seasons, some for “maintenance,” others because of assorted ailments.

Wade --- who turns 34 in January --- made a change this past offseason, beginning a new workout program with a new trainer (Dave Alexander) --- one he hopes translates into fewer missed games.

“I love [former trainer] Tim Grover. I just wanted to give my body a different experience,” Wade said. “I thought Dave… did a good job of looking at my overall body, at my weaknesses and trying to correct those things.

“It challenged my body in a different way since I’ve been coming off injuries, since I’m older. We did a lot of power and explosion work. I got fit. Got lean. I came in the same weight as last year [but] I feel better than I’ve felt in the previous three years.”

Most of the 20 games he missed last season stemmed from hamstring injuries “and I worked as hard as I could to make sure that's not the case this year. But hamstrings are a luck thing. Sometimes, it’s bad luck; I’ve had a lot in my career."

So in terms of availability, what can we realistically expect from Wade as he approaches his mid-30s?

For some perspective, we studied 20 of the NBA’s top perimeter players over the past two decades. We considered only guards and small forwards and only those who played into their mid-30s and in many cases, beyond.

Only one of the 20 --- Paul Pierce --- never missed double figures in games in any season covering their mid 30s and beyond.

Of those 20, eight had pretty good durability in their mid 30s: Pierce, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Reggie Miller and Grant Hill.

The cases of Hill and Carter should be encouraging for Wade, because both missed a ton of games earlier in their careers. Carter, 38, missed just 18 games over the past three seasons.

Hill played 82, 81 and 80 as a starter between ages 36 and 38 (while averaging 30 minutes), before missing a lot his final two seasons. The limitation on Hill's minutes seemed to help his durability and longevity. 

Erik Spoelstra said he doesn’t want to place a limit on Wade’s minutes, but he is down this season, to 30 per game, from 31.8 last season.

Among our 20-star sample size, more ominous is what happened to a dozen players once they reached their mid 30s. There were tons of games missed, most due to injury, some due to lineup decisions resulting from diminished skills. The Heat better hope that Wade doesn't follow the pattern of 12 of the 20 high-end players we evaluated.

During their seasons at age 35 and beyond, Scottie Pippen played 64, 62, 64 and 23 games; Mitch Richmond 37 and 64; Glen Rice played 62 and 18, before retiring at midseason.

Chauncey Billups played 20, 22 and 19 in the three seasons after turning 35. In his career from age 33 on, Clyde Drexler played 52, 62 and 70.

Then there’s Kobe Bryant, who missed eight games at 33 and four at 34 but 76 and 47 the past two seasons. 

Does Wade worry what happened to Kobe could happen to him?

“I've been through a lot, and you knock on wood and hopefully it doesn't happen to you,” Wade said earlier this year. “I don't think about that. I just worry, how I can be effective at 33.”   

Wade has spoken to Hill, Bryant and Jason Kidd “just to see how those guys can still be successful at an older age.”

The first few games (before Friday's off night) suggest that Wade --- most nights --- remains one of the NBA's top half dozen shooting guards. Even after Friday's nine-point game, he still entered the weekend 20th among all players in efficiency rating.

But so much rides on his health, from the Heat’s chances to the salary he will command in free agency next summer. 

### Don't draw any conclusions about Wade's effectiveness in back-to-back games merely from his 4-for-15 shooting night Friday. Last season, in the second game of 11 back-to-back sets, Wade averaged 22.4 points and shot 48.5 percent.


### There are 129 NFL players who have had at least 25 passes thrown to them this season.

It's troubling that only one of those 129 (Carolina’s Ted Ginn Jr.) has caught a lower percentage of targets than Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron (44.2 percent, 19 for 43).

But don’t blame Cameron, who has no drops and is questionable for Sunday with a hamstring injury.

His lack of consistent chemistry with Ryan Tannehill is one reason why he ranks 24th among tight ends in receptions (19 for 257) and why he hasn’t approached his 2013 numbers with Cleveland (80-917).

“Work in progress,” he said of the chemistry with Tannehill. “We’ve been asked to block a lot. I’ve gotten a lot better as a blocker.”

The man Cameron replaced, Buffalo’s Charles Clay, enters Sunday’s Dolphins game with 34 catches for 350 yards. 

Tannehill undoubtedly had a better chemistry with Clay, who caught 69 percent of the passes thrown to him last season (58 of 84). The caveat is that some of the passes thrown to Cameron have been longer than balls that Tannehill threw to Clay.

Cameron is averaging 13.5 yards per catch this season; Clay averaged 10.4 yards per catch as a Dolphin last season, and is barely above that this season in Buffalo.

Incidentally, even Mike Wallace caught a much higher percentage of passes from Tannehill last season (58.3) than Cameron has this season.

Cameron seemed surprised to hear he was catching that low a percentage of passes, noting it included some balls thrown out of bounds when Tannehill had to get rid of the ball quickly.

### Dan Campbell said last week that Reshad Jones can effectively cover any tight end in the league one-on-one, so expect Jones on Clay at least part of the time on Sunday. But others also will get a chance. Clay caught five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in the Bills' 42-14 pasting of the Dolphins on Sept. 27.

"With Reshad Jones, we feel like he can lock down any tight end in this league," Campbell said. "And then if you draw Jelani Jenkins on man to man with a tight end, that’s a pretty good matchup, too."

### We hear Campbell is trying something unusual when a player is late to a meeting. Another player - not the one who was tardy - must serve the punishment, usually some form of physical activity.

“There’s no shortage of people volunteering; usually five or six offer,” linebacker Spencer Paysinger said. “Usually, the guy who was late the previous time volunteers. It breeds accountability.” 

### More Campbell creativity: The top performers at practice this past week were upgraded to a suite at the team’s Buffalo-area hotel this weekend. He also gave away parking spaces close to the team's charter flight, as he did for the first road game after taking over as coach.

### The Dolphins moved Jay Ajayi from short-term IR to the 53-man roster today, giving them four running backs on the 53. Guard Sam Brenner was cut.... DeVante Parker (foot) and Jordan Kovacs (knee) didn't travel to Buffalo and are out Sunday.

### A few Canes notes after today's 27-21 win against Virginia: Brad Kaaya (20-26-286-2 touchdowns-1 pick) has now played in 12 career home games, with sterling numbers: 3,005 yards, 26 touchdowns and seven picks... This was only the second career 100 yard receiving game for Stacy Coley (7-132)...

David Njoku, whom Kaaya dubbed UM's secret weapon during the summer, is just the fourth Miami tight end in the last 20 years to record a 58-yard reception.... Freshman safety Jaquan Johnson had his first career interception... UM can win the Coastal if it wins out (at North Carolina, Georgia Tech, at Pittsburgh) and UNC (which is unbeaten in the conference and looks very good) loses at Virginia Tech or at North Carolina State... So much for the thought that firing Al Golden would boost attendance; the announced crowd was just over 40,000.

Notable lineup developments: Corn Elder started at cornerback in the absence of Artie Burns, who was attending to personal matters two days after the funeral for his mother.... Chad Thomas, who had been starting, came off the bench, with Tyriq McCord getting the start at linebacker. And Anthony Moten got a start on Miami's defensive line, with Courtel Jenkins playing off the bench.

### UM-UNC next Saturday was set for 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

### Talk about forgive and forget: When the Marlins fired Brad Arnsberg as pitching coach in 2003, he told owner Jeffrey Loria to “shut the [expletive] up" and shouted expletives at Loria and then-GM Larry Beinfest as they left his apartment. His behavior was “unprofessional, abusive and bordering on violent,” Beinfest said.

Now, the Marlins have talked about hiring Arnsberg (who works as a rehab coordinator for the Diamondbacks) for a job, though they said last week that it will not be for the position of big-league pitching coach.

### The Marlins like Giants free agent pitcher Mike Leake but worry the bidding might get too high. Free agency started Saturday, incidentally... Miami’s free agents: Jeff Mathis, Casey McGehee and Don Kelly. Mathis remains a possibility to return because of his strong defense and the way he handles the pitching staff.

### The Marlins will explore making a multi-year offer to second baseman Dee Gordon, the National League’s batting and stolen base champ, and Gordon said he would be receptive because “I love it here –-- the ballpark, the coaches, the staff.” He isn’t eligible for free agency until after 2019.

### The Marlins are less optimistic about signing shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who declined their overtures last winter but remains under control through 2018. The Marlins were led to believe he wants a contract approaching the eight-year, $120 million deal that Texas gave Elvis Aldrus.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz    

November 06, 2015

Media column: Is there an anti-UM bias at ESPN?; Local radio ratings; TV notes


Over the years, ESPN has eagerly seized on UM’s polarizing popularity, yet never resisted kicking the Hurricanes in the teeth, tossing grenades ranging from imploring the NCAA to shut down the football program, to just last month breathlessly and foolishly asserting that Hurricanes football is "bankrupt."

The UM/ESPN relationship has been dysfunctional at times, yet often advantageous for both.

UM has capitalized on ESPN’s reach to help build its brand; the network allocated two two-hour prime-time documentaries to Hurricanes football, a promotional vehicle extended no other university.

Conversely, ESPN has happily used UM’s national appeal to draw eyeballs. Three of ESPN’s 10 highest-rated college football games of all time featured Miami (against FSU in 1994, 2006 and 2009).

Some Hurricanes fans have alleged an anti-UM bias at ESPN, an issue raised again in the wake of the controversial conclusion of the UM-Duke game.

At least five prominent ESPN commentators --- Scott Van Pelt, Michael Wilbon, Mike Greenberg, David Pollack and Robert Smith --- called for the Atlantic Coast Conference to overturn UM’s win, even though they know there’s no mechanism to do that, even though they know setting that precedent would potentially create unholy chaos, with any subsequently incorrect call thus providing grounds to overturn results days later.

“It’s unthinkable a conference could just let that result stand,” Wilbon said.

All conveniently ignored unjustified pass interference penalties against UM on Duke’s final drive, with those calls leading directly to the Blue Devils’ go-ahead touchdown.

So now that the ACC informed the Hurricanes that there were "multiple incorrect calls" against Miami, including a pass interference on the final drive, will any of those five ESPN commentators say they were premature or misguided in calling for the win to be taken away from Miami?

Apparently not. None had weighed in on the issue on their Twitter accounts since the news broke last night.

Then there was ESPN’s Heather Dinich opining earlier this week that “Miami can make it right by forfeiting.”

Curiously, when the Seattle Seahawks beat the Detroit Lions Oct. 5 because of an illegally batted ball, I don’t recall any ESPN employee saying “Detroit can make it right by forfeiting.” Nor did Van Pelt, Wilbon, Greenberg, Pollack or Smith call for the NFL to overturn the result.

A few ESPN announcers have pounded UM for years. Mark May called for the death penalty when the Nevin Shapiro allegations came to light. “If there was ever a situation that merited the death penalty, this would be it,” May ranted. “It’s a culture of corruption [there]. The university wasn’t run the correct way. If it’s not going to happen with this program, then what would it take?”

Lou Holtz, no longer with ESPN, said at the time that “you have to come down hard on the school and the coach,” even though the coach (Al Golden) wasn’t to blame.

After UM lost to Clemson, Van Pelt --- generally one of the more thoughtful anchors on ESPN --- delivered a blow to the gut of Canes fan with a soliloquy on the midnight ESPN SportsCenter that he now anchors alone:

“You are going to hear a word a lot when it comes to Miami. That word is swagger,” Van Pelt said. “….In many ways, the modern definition of swagger in college football has its roots there…. Here’s the word Miami should focus on: reality. The easiest thing for the Canes and their fans to do is throw up the U as if it means anything now. It does not. It’s a hollow gesture that reminds them of a time they mattered….

“By the time the [Clemson] game was over, the only people left on the Miami side had to be... Their home venue is part of the problem. It’s at least half an hour from a relatively small campus… One of the myths about the glory days of the old Orange Bowl was they had a great advantage because of the home field. The truth is they rarely filled it to capacity beyond the Florida State game.. Their advantage was on the field.”

Van Pelt went on to say “this is not an awful program,… far from it and there’s no reason Miami can’t aspire to be great again.”

Far more caustic was ESPN college football analyst Paul Finebaum, whose personal animosity toward the Hurricanes program was transparent with this recent rant: “I think Miami is just an absolutely terrible job. This program is bankrupt. It has a delusional fan base thinking this is the ’80s and the ’90s and maybe even the early part of the new millennium. I don’t get it. I don’t know why any coach in their right mind would want this job. They’re living in the past with no future. I don’t think it’s a better job than UCF.”

So is there systemic anti-UM bias at ESPN?

There’s no evidence to support going quite that far; ESPN lead college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit has been supportive of Miami over the years. Lead college basketball analyst Jay Bilas blasted the NCAA and defended Miami during the NCAA’s misguided, unseemly investigation of the Shapiro case.

But there appears to be anti-UM sentiment among a few of the network’s personalities, and UM officials --– though disinclined to comment about it publicly --- are certainly aware of it.

“I never detected any internal or systemic anti-Miami bias when I worked with [ESPN],” said Emmy-winning director Billy Corben, who crafted the two UM documentaries for ESPN.

“The analysts are entitled to their opinion and their opinion tends to the negative with Miami," Corben said. "The sports media does have a bias against Miami, but at the moment, it’s keeping us relevant. I don’t think the anti-UM bias is unique to ESPN. We’ve seen it across the national spectrum.  

“How irrelevant can your program be when you can’t stop talking about them?... Now you’re going to beat up on the Hurricanes when they’re at their lowest?”

### How did Mark Strassmann begin his UM-Duke report on The CBS Evening News? With hyperbole unbecoming of a network newscast.

“You are watching a robbery in progress,” he said over video of the final play.


For two years, while 790 The Ticket was pounding WQAM-560 in the ratings (except morning drive, which was very close), one question remained unanswered:

To what extent was The Ticket benefiting from having two signals (790 AM and 104.3 FM), compared to one for WQAM? Because Nielsen Media Research combined the 790 and 104.3 ratings, it was impossible to know for sure.

Now that 104.3 has changed formats (to alternative rock), the playing field between The Ticket and WQAM has leveled in the past two months. And WQAM has capitalized.

In the October ratings book, WQAM had a 1.3 share compared with a 0.8 for The Ticket and 0.4 for WINZ, which owns radio rights to the Dolphins and Marlins. It marked the first time that WQAM beat The Ticket at least two consecutive months since September through November 2012.

In the key male 25 to 54 demographic group, WQAM’s Joe Rose; Orlando Alzugaray; and Marc Hochman, Channing Crowder and Zach Krantz all beat The Ticket in their respective day parts.

The Ticket beat WQAM, and handily, from 6 to 10 p.m., which included an hour of The Ticket’s Ethan Skolnick and Israel Gutierrez, often three hours of Josh Friedman and Chris Wittyngham, plus Heat preseason games and postseason baseball.

“I’m skeptical of the numbers,” Ticket general manager Doug Abernathy said of the October ratings overall. “We had a lot of disruptions at one time [the format change, Dan Le Batard moving hours, etc.]. It will take a few months to get a true sense” of audience size.

WQAM management declined to comment. 

Abernathy said he is “really impressed” with The Herald's Skolnick and ESPN's Gutierrez and anticipates them becoming the permanent afternoon drive hosts, while stopping short of saying it’s definite. 

### Kudos to the NBA for finally doing what some football fans wish the NFL would: making out-of-market games available on a single-game and single-team basis.

The NBA’s League Pass package will be offered this season in three packages: $199.99 for every game (the only package available in past years), $119.99 for one team’s games or $6.99 per game.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league “had no choice but to adapt. It may cannibalize the overall package but ultimately the consumers dictate.”

### Everybody knows the NFL is King Sport, but from a ratings standpoint, the margin has never been more lopsided between regular-season NFL games and post-season baseball.

For instance: The Patriots-Colts game drew 14.6 million viewers, compared with 4.8 for Game 2 of the Mets-Cubs NLCS. Broncos-Packers had 23 million viewers, compared with 17.2 million for the World Series finale.

### CBS is sending Dolphins-Bills to only eight percent of the country on a CBS double-header week, and only part of Florida will get the game. See for a map. Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots work their third Dolphins game this season.

### Nice break for ESPN Radio and former South Florida personality Jorge Sedano: He will begin working shifts as both a host and analyst on ESPN2’s NBA Tonight; he will fill in when regular host Cassidy Hubbarth is off.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz     

November 05, 2015

ACC privately acknowledges that UM was victim of multiple bad calls against Duke

The ACC has privately acknowledged to UM that the Hurricanes were victimized by multiple bad officiating calls against Duke. Now the ACC needs to acknowledge this publicly.

How can the ACC justify releasing a statement Sunday saying that Duke was victimized by bad calls on the final play of the game but not publicly acknowledge the bad calls made against Miami?

I reported Tuesday that UM was angry and had complained to the ACC about a bunch of calls in that game --- not only some of the  school-record 23 penalties called against Miami, but also illegal picks that Duke was running on wheel routes.

Here's how UM athletic director Blake James explained the situation to some fans (Hurricane Club members and season ticket holders) in a letter today:

November 5, 2015

Dear Hurricane Supporters:

What an incredible, exhilarating and hard fought victory on Saturday in Durham! 

The eight-lateral, touchdown play which won the game will forever be cemented in college

football lore and in our storied history. 

The fact that the ACC publicly acknowledged officiating errors on the play does not, in any way, take away our victory

or our incredible spirit.   Some of you have emailed me this week, concerned about the wording of the ACC response as well as

the seemingly endless noise about The U not deserving the win.  I want to share briefly with you what has transpired since Saturday night.

Immediately after the game, I notified the conference office of my concerns regarding

the officiating of our game.  On Sunday morning, I had a conference call with

ACC Commissioner John Swofford and some of his staff, to discuss not only

the play in question, but my concerns regarding officiating throughout the game. 

Commissioner Swofford informed me that the league had determined that the officiating crew would be suspended for two weeks for officiating errors on the final play and that the conference would review the entire game film. 

Per ACC policy our football staff submitted the plays we believed were incorrectly

called as a matter of weekly protocol, and were notified by the league that multiple incorrect calls impacting our team occurred during the game, including a pass interference call on the final drive.

I spoke again with Commissioner Swofford on Monday, to voice my concern on

how this situation was being handled and the negative light it was creating for our institution.

  Rest assured, beginning just hours after our victory, the University was forceful yet respectful in our approach.

Earlier today we sent a formal letter to the conference office,

summarizing and reiterating our concerns, and now consider

this matter closed.  We have moved on to UVA and I am sure that all Canes will be ready to cheer on Coach Scott and our football players on Saturday!

Go Canes!

Blake James
Director of Athletics

November 04, 2015

Dolphins' Chris McCain, Jay Ajayi hope to make impact over final two months of season

Back in the summer, the Dolphins hoped Chris McCain would seize the open starting linebacker job and Jay Ajayi would seize on his chance to be the No. 2 running back.

Neither materialized, McCain losing out to Kelvin Sheppard, and Ajayi landing on short-term injured reserve with a broken rib, following an uneven training camp.

Now, both hope to provide a boost in the second half of the season.

McCain figures to get some playing time with the season-ending loss of Cam Wake to an Achilles injury.

Ajayi hopes to be activated for Sunday’s game at Buffalo, though interim coach Dan Campbell was non-committal about that today.

The Dolphins moved McCain from linebacker to defensive end when Campbell took over as coach nearly a month ago. McCain said he initially learned about the position switch from a fan on Twitter, then confirmed it with Campbell the next day.

He’s happy about the switch because at defensive end “there’s not too much thinking. You can play freely and loose…. That’s what we all wanted. That’s what we’re getting under [Campbell].”

Because McCain thought he would be playing linebacker, he dropped from 257 to 243 pounds over the past several months. Now he’s trying to get back to 257 so he’s better equipped to play defensive end.

“I still have a lot to work on,” he said. “I was preparing to be a linebacker.”

Undrafted out of California, McCain impressed when given the chance last season, producing a sack and a blocked punt in his first NFL game. (That was his only sack in 10 games last year and the only one of his career.) But he has played only a handful of plays on defense this season and has been inactive for four of Miami’s seven games.

“The frustrating part is you hear all week you’ve been doing good,” he said. With Wake out, “I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Campbell said the need to create roster space on game days for special-teams players has led to McCain being inactive for more than half the games.

But Campbell repeatedly mentioned McCain as a player who will compensate for the loss of Wake.

“I think you play to his strength,” Campbell said. “What we do know about him or we feel pretty good about -- and most of it obviously is practice -- is that he can rush the passer a little bit. And he’s a pretty good athlete. He’s kind of a long, lengthy guy. There’s a few things you can do with him but certainly rushing the passer is something that he can be in for.”  

As for Ajayi, the Dolphins said they have until next Wednesday to place him on the 53-man roster. Otherwise, he would be required to sit out the season.

He’s eligible to play Sunday, but Campbell was non-committal about that today.

“Now that decision, if it’s made, won’t be for a while. But certainly we are looking at him. We’re looking at everybody. That’s what I would tell you. He’s improving right now,” Campbell said.  “I guess we have basically another week or over until we have to absolutely make a decision. But at this point we can if we would like to activate him this week he will be eligible to do that. We don’t want to do it right now until we know for sure.”

Lasting until the fifth round wasn’t what Ajayi envisioned after setting an NCAA record last season. Nor, for that matter, was spending the first 10 weekends of his NFL career on injured reserve.

Now rested and healed from broken ribs, Ajayi is eager to show other teams precisely what they missed out on when they passed on him several times in the NFL Draft.

Ajayi was third-team Associated Press All-American at Boise State in 2014, ranked fifth in the country with 1823 yards rushing and became the first player in major college football history to have 1,800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season.

Some draft pundits rated him third among the draft’s running back prospects, behind Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. Instead, he ended up the 13th running back selected, sliding to the fifth round before Miami plucked him 149th.

Ajayi’s stock dropped because has missing cartilage in his right knee, a condition known as “bone-on-bone,” raising concerns about how long he will play in the NFL. Ajayi and his agent have downplayed those concerns.

Being passed up repeatedly in the draft “will always be my motivation,” he said this week. “I always play with a chip on my shoulder. When that happened, it changed a lot of things for me. It definitely opened my eyes, just motivated me a lot more to want to succeed, to accomplish my goals and dreams.

“I’m here, I’m eligible now. I’m ready to play. I hope it happens [Sunday]. I know I will be full of emotions and excited to play.”

Ajayi, born in London, struggled initially in training camp, particularly with pass protection, but impressed in the preseason finale against Tampa Bay, rushing for 66 yards on nine carries before breaking his rib.

He said his pass protection has “improved” since his struggles in training camp.

As a member of the scout team, Ajayi has been running against the first team defense since returning to practice three weeks ago.

“My mindset has been to attack it like I’m playing another team's No. 1 defense and go at it with everything I’ve got,” he said.

The Dolphins originally did not plan to place him on short-term IR but changed their mind when they claimed quarterback Logan Thomas off waivers from Arizona. But Thomas lasted just a week on the 53-man roster; he’s now on the practice squad. Ajayi said he would have been ready to play in the third regular-season game.

Dolphins officials believe Ajayi has the ability to be a three-down back and like both his pass-catching abilities and the physical, downhill running style that he displayed often at Boise State, but only in flashes during training camp.

Ajayi would seem to be an appealing option on goal-line runs. Last season, Ajayi led all college running backs with 25 red zone touchdowns and had the second-most red zone rushing yards (299, on 2.74 per carry).

According to ESPN’s KC Joyner, Ajayi and Melvin Gordon were the only two running backs that broke at least 60 tackles last season.

While he has been sidelined, Ajayi has drawn support from other rookie running backs. He’s part of a group that exchanges text messages, usually at least one a day.

The seven others were all drafted ahead of him: St. Louis’ Todd Gurley, San Diego’s Gordon, Detroit’s Ameer Abdullah, Cleveland’s Duke Johnson, Atlanta’s Tevin Coleman, San Francisco’s Mike Davis and Baltimore’s Javorius “Buck” Allen. Ajayi is particularly close with Gordon, having trained with him before the NFL Combine.

“We’re all in constant communication,” Ajayi said. “We’re cheering each other on,… following each other. We feel very strongly about our rookie running back class. Now we’re like a fraternity.

“I’ve kind of been the guy in the back just watching everyone because I’ve been out. I shot them a text, ‘I’m able to play this week,’ I’m excited to be added back into the conversation, have something to say. Everyone has been very supportive in that group.”

While the Dolphins have been playing games, Ajayi likes to “visualize myself throughout the whole game of doing the same things Lamar [Miller] has been doing. It’s been great to see him take off. I definitely want to be an added component to this running game.

“This is a dream come true for me, the NFL. For it to have happened this way, with an injury starting off, that’s not what I expected. At the same time, I’m still very excited for my career, still very motivated to prove a lot of things to myself that I feel I want to accomplish.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

November 03, 2015

Gerald Green update; Marlins to target pitching, try to reverse free agent cold streak; Canes schedule news; UM, Dolphins, Heat chatter

Quick 3 p.m. update on the curious, unfortunate turn of events with Gerald Green today:

The Heat guard is hospitalized at this hour after police were called to his condominium following a commotion earlier today. The city of Miami police department told The Herald that Green was not arrested.

Police call logs show that police were summoned to the Marquis Residences Condominium, at 1100 Biscayne Blvd., at 10:46 am today because of a "male down."

According to a Herald source, Miami Fire and Rescue requested assistance because of a "combative patient" at that address.

Police assisted but did not write a report and nobody was arrested at the condominium.

Multiple witnesses at the condo told TMZ that Green "was acting strange in the lobby of the condo ... screaming at the top of his lungs."

TMZ said it was by told by several people "that there was a huge commotion and it took several people -- including emergency personnel -- to restrain Green and get him on a stretcher and into an ambulance."

Mario Chalmers was at the scene, tried to help and accompanied Green in the ambulance, according to TMZ. The Herald has confirmed that Chalmers was with Green at the hospital today. 

"This morning we were informed that Gerald Green was admitted into the hospital," the Heat said in a statement. "Right now our concerns are with Gerald and we have no further comment at this time.”

Green, 29, was inactive for Tuesday's game against the Hawks with an undisclosed illness.

Green has never been suspended by the NBA for an off-court incident, and there is nothing documented in his past to suggest anything related to mental illness.

The Heat did not practice Wednesday and are flying this afternoon to play in Minnesota Thursday night.

Our Chuck Rabin and Ethan Skolnick contributed to this. 




Baseball free agency starts in the next week, and the Marlins simply must reverse a disturbing pattern.

While they’ve made some good trades, they’re on a disconcerting cold streak with offseason signings; most of their top free agent additions in the past several years weren't longterm (and in most cases, even short-term) solutions --- Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Garrett Jones, Michael Morse, John Buck, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Rafael Furcal. All except Reyes and Buehrle were busts.

Their best signing, Casey McGehee, faded after four good months and was traded last winter, then returned this summer and hit .182 here after the Giants released him.

Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president/baseball operations, said none of this will make the Marlins gun-shy about spending in free agency. “When they don’t work out, you take a step back and see why they didn’t work out because we don’t want to repeat a mistake,” Hill said.

Marlins president David Samson said “we have full belief in all of our baseball guys who work for Mike --- and Mike” but “you can’t deny that we’ve made some mistakes. We made the wrong decisions about the people surrounding our core. So we're going to have [some] new players. There’s one team that can deal with mistakes and cover them up. There used to be three or four. Now it’s just one: the Dodgers.”

The offseason mission is clear: “We need pitching,” Samson said. “Love the core we have of position players. You look at the NL East; this is our time. We have three of the top 10 players in baseball [Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez, Dee Gordon]. Maybe we're wrong. But we feel that way.

“[But] we need to get better pitching. We’ll figure out how to do it. We have to do it in a way where we lose as little money as possible. We are spending time trying to raise revenue. We’re trying to do a [stadium] naming rights deal which we hopefully will have by the beginning of next season, certainly by 2017. We’re trying to do a TV deal that we’ve been working on for years. We’re trying to sell more tickets. Our season tickets are up.”

Samson, who has already publicly ruled out pursuing the most expensive free agent pitchers, said the Marlins have challenged their baseball people “to tell us who on that list of 80 free agent pitchers,… which five guys are going to win 13 games and outperform their contracts.”

They are willing to spend $5 million to $12 million annually for a pitcher and might consider going to $15 million for the right one, but likely no higher. Texas’ Yovani Gallardo would be an interesting option in the high end of that range.

The lineup will remain the same unless Marcell Ozuna is traded; owner Jeffrey Loria has been down on him. Cleveland has interest in Ozuna and has young pitching to offer in return (Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco are among those who reportedly could be in play in trades). The Marlins likely would sign two starting pitchers if they keep Ozuna, one if they deal Ozuna for a pitcher.

“Ozuna has to commit himself to the game,” one veteran National League scout said. “He does so many things wrong. He doesn’t always concentrate defensively. He has to watch his weight, learn the strike zone. I would trade him if I could because I don’t know if he will get it."

Though several teams have inquired, the Marlins prefer not to trade third baseman Martin Prado, a respected team leader who finished the season strong. The Yankees will again pay $3 million of the $11 million he’s owed next season.

Though the Marlins have given thought to pursuing a closer, they’re more inclined to spend their money on starting pitcher, and an outfielder if Ozuna is traded. “AJ Ramos, you look at his numbers, he was a good closer,” Hill said.


### We hear UM football is close to finalizing a deal to play at Appalachian State (Boone, N.C.) next season, with the teams playing a game at Sun Life in a future year. Appalachian State, a member of the Sun Belt Conference, is 7-1, with its only loss to Clemson. The Canes needed to fill an opening, and Appalachian State was one school that could accommodate UM on short notice.

UM’s other 2016 non-conference games: Florida A&M, FAU and at Notre Dame.

### If UM wins its final four games, it would win the Coastal Division if Duke loses at least one among four (at UNC, Pitt, at Virginia, at Wake Forest) and UNC loses to UM and at least one among Duke, at Virginia Tech and at N.C. State.

### For all the talk about the last play Saturday, UM football people privately have complained about a bunch of other things in that game – not only unjustified penalties against UM but the strong belief that Duke committed illegal picks off wheel routes. The ACC has been made aware of UM’s concerns, a UM staffer said.

### Most famous person to reach out to UM’s Corn Elder (via Twitter) to congratulate him for his touchdown Saturday? Singer/actor Tim McGraw, who has won three Grammys. “His daughter went to my high school,” Elder said.

### Running back Jay Ajayi is eligible to return Sunday and expects the Dolphins to activate him for the Bills game. But here's the rule with regard to short-term IR: The Dolphins have until Nov. 11 to place Ajayi on the 53-man roster, according to the team. If he's not activated by then, he must remain on injured reserve all season.

### This wasn’t what Dolphins receiver Greg Jennings envisioned when he signed here: Playing nine snaps in interim coach Dan Campbell’s first game, just four last Thursday. But Jennings, a classy guy, said he won’t ask for his release.

Campbell “came to me and explained Kenny Stills was ascending and nobody had really set themselves apart and they wanted to try Kenny out at Z [receiver position],” Stills said. “They want me to continue to lead by example, practicing the right ways, taking those guys and nurturing them. They have a lot of talent. We want it to continue to manifest and take the league by storm.”

### Just the Dolphins' luck: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said today that Tony Romo remains on track to return Nov. 22 against the Dolphins. Dallas was 2-1 with him, 0-4 so far without him.

### Tuesday's 98-92 loss to Atlanta exposed three suspected Heat shortcomings: three-point shooting, even more so when Gerald Green is out; an inability to keep opposing point guards from penetrating; and a speed deficit in the starting lineup against teams with the kind of quickness that Atlanta has.

With Green missing the game because of illness, Miami shot 5 for 28 on threes. It didn't help that starting forwards Chris Bosh (4 for 14, 9 points) and Luol Deng (2 for 9, 4 points) combined to shoot 6 for 23.

Hassan Whiteside continued his excellent work with 23 points (11 for 12 from the field), 14 rebounds and four blocks. He's shooting 76 percent through four games (29 for 38). 

But Mario Chalmers, the subject of trade rumors, shot just 1 for 9, Justise Winslow 2 for 7. Chris Andersen gave the Heat a fourth quarter lift in his first appearance of the season. 

Erik Spoelstra said Dwyane Wade (21 points) missed a chunk of the second half because "he felt there was a possible onset of a migraine. Had some blurry vision, was able to go back in there." Wade said the migraine just "came on."

Poor starts remain an issue for the Heat early on this season. "That's something we will figure out," Spoelstra said.

### The Heat knows good things often happen with Tyler Johnson on the court --- one reason why Miami is still open to trading Chalmers.

Consider that Miami outscored teams by 84 with Johnson in the game in preseason (among the five best in the league) and he was plus 29 in 21 minutes in the regular season entering Tuesday. Johnson was minus seven tonight (7 points, 2 steals in 21 minutes).

Johnson often gets comments like this one from Andre Miller last season: “He said, ‘I didn’t know you could get up [jump] like that.’ It’s because I look like a white guy. I’ve gotten that for years. I’m mixed.”

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

Tuesday UM football nuggets: Kaaya update; Elder on "The Play" three days later; notes

Some quick UM football notes:

### Interim coach Larry Scott said Brad Kaaya, who missed the Duke game with concussion symptoms, “did some things” in practice today and “looked good, [but] was limited” and said Kaaya is still going through the concussion protocol process.

He said Kaaya is questionable for Saturday’s game against Virginia, and Kaaya stopped short of saying he would definitely play. But the early signs are promising.

“I’m still taking a few brain tests,” Kaaya said. “I feel good. [Last week], it was hard to have mental clarity, mental sharpness. There was sensitivity to noise and light. I feel a lot better.”

Scott said Malik Rosier (soreness) also is questionable for Saturday. Scott said Vinny Testaverde is the No. 3 quarterback.

### UM players expressed no anger with pundits saying the result should be overturned. What does Corn Elder --- who scored the touchdown --- think when he hears that?

“We won the game,” he said. “I don’t listen to all that.”

### Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, asked about the questionable calls against UM on Duke’s final drive, asked a reporter what he thought of them.

He said he corrected some of the mistakes but “I’m not going to tell a kid he had a penalty when he didn’t have one.”

Said Kaaya: “People can say one play changed the game, but a lot of plays are made in a game.”

Of the school-record 23 penalties, Scott said: “There are some we have to eliminate. There were consequences today for those penalties. Offsides, those are intolerable.”

He said UM has responded by 1) teaching and 2) “holding players accountable. There are some things we have to be smarter with.”

Scott said he didn't know if the ACC had given UM a report on all 23 penalties and which were justified. The ACC says it reviews entire games but was short-sighted in only making public its review of the final play of the UM-Duke game.

### Scott said he asked his team last week: “When did football become a chore instead of a release?” He said against Duke, they had fun, “unleashed, let it rip.”

### Scott said defensive end Chad Thomas is questionable for Saturday. “He’s a little banged up.”

### Elder said he watched UM’s game-winning touchdown about 100 times over the past three days. 

What was he thinking as he raced toward the end zone? “Just stay up. My legs were giving out.”

He said when he got to the end zone, “I couldn’t even think.”

He said when players piled on him, “I couldn’t breathe. I was telling them to get off me.”

### First time Elder saw the play on tape?

On the plane flying back to Miami, on somebody’s cell phone. Players passed it around.

What did Elder think?

“Crazy. Unbelievable,” he said. “I’m still in shock. It seemed like it took hours.” Actually, the play took 46 seconds.

Elder said the play was shown in a special teams meeting and there was hooting and hollering.

“They saw it and it brought a lot of energy,” Scott said. “We scored, so the guys got pluses [in film review].”

### Asked if he has any desire to play on offense, Elder said cornerback “is the best thing longterm for me.”

He said he misses basketball but “going against quick point guards” has helped his change of direction and lateral quickness.

### Players had the proverbial pep in their step at Tuesday’s practice. Of the energy generated by Saturday’s result, Scott said: “Hopefully it will sustain for a long time. We want it to be natural. Everything has to be about moving forward.”

### D’Onofrio loved how Trent Harris played in his time at middle linebacker Saturday, giving UM a solid 1-2 punch of Harris and Juwon Young after Raphael Kirby’s season-ending injury.

### Fox Sports Sun agreed to carry Saturday’s UM-Virginia game statewide at 3 p.m.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

November 02, 2015

Marlins and Dolphins nuggets: On Jose rejecting multiyear offer; Marlins won't bid on elite pitchers; More on Dolphins' plan to replace Wake

Lots of Marlins and Dolphins chatter on a Monday afternoon:  


For details on the Marlins' press conference with Don Mattingly, please see the last post. Some other nuggets to emerge today:

Marlins president David Samson said today that pitcher Jose Fernandez rejected a multiyear contract offer in the months before he returned from Tommy John surgery last July and that he does not appear interested in being presented with another offer at this point.

Fernandez, who won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season, has been one of baseball’s best pitchers when healthy, with a 22-9 record and 2.40 earned-run average in his career, over parts of three seasons. Fernandez, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, was 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts after returning from the major elbow surgery this past July.

“He was offered what we thought was a very fair, tremendous amount of money,” Samson said. “I don’t believe he had any interest in having another offer [this winter] but we always will talk. He is ours for three years at a minimum. Building around Jose and [Giancarlo] Stanton is two smart things to do, but it takes two people to sign a contract.”

Samson said conversations on a Fernandez contract broke down over money, not years. “He is a bulldog competitor; he goes out and never thinks about money…,” Samson said. “He is someone who you would want starting in the World Series.”

Though Samson did not say this, some Marlins people believe agent Scott Boras, who represents Fernandez, does not want his clients signing long-term deals before they get to free agency. Boras disputed that in a conversation earlier this summer.

“In Jose’s career, it’s a bit premature [to sign a multiyear deal] because he’s still young and has only been doing it for a couple years,” Boras said four months ago. “I’ve had many players go to free agency and re-sign with their existing teams. I’ve had other players that have pursued other avenues. I don’t make the decisions whether they do or don’t…. Miami is a great place for Jose and his family. It’s really a nice union.”

It’s questionable whether the Marlins ultimately can afford both Fernandez and Stanton, who just completed the first year of a 13 year-$325 million contract, as opposed to one or the other.

Boras doesn’t see why not: “With TV rights and the general fund contribution and everything --- every club, before they sell a ticket, they’re making $120 million. There’s a lot of revenue in this game to pay a lot of players and keep players at home.”

### Samson said the Marlins need pitching but do not intend to pursue the highest-priced arms in free agency.

“We will not be going after David Price. We will not be going after Zack Greinke,” Samson said. “That’s unequivocal. We don’t want to play in that space. In my experience, those free agent contracts don’t work and I would never have [owner] Jeffrey [Loria] spend his money that way and incur more losses for a contract like that that don’t work. Longterm position player contracts work. I just don’t think longterm pitching contracts work.”

Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president/baseball operations, said Loria has not indicated what the 2016 payroll will be.

### Samson said pitcher Henderson Alvarez, coming off shoulder surgery, will not be ready for the start of the regular season and said it will be a “very” difficult decision about whether to tender him a contract offer by the early December deadline. “Guaranteed he’s not in the starting rotation to start the season,” Samson said.

Alvarez was 12-7 in 2014 but just 0-4 in four starts this past season.

### Samson said the Marlins are a couple of weeks from determining dimensions for MarlinsPark. “There’s a very high likelihood there will be a change of some sort,” he said. “Part of the fences will move [in] is my guess. We may lower the fences [too].”

### In offering perspective on the Marlins’ recent history, Samson cited the Kansas City Royals, who had a winning record only once in 18 years between 1995 and 2012 before making the World Series last year and winning it this year. 

“Look at Kansas City,” he said. “How many years did they spend in misery? There was a lot of losing there for a lot of years and then it was time for them to win. It’s time for us to win.”


The Dolphins near the midway point of the season not only with an underwhelming sack total (their 13 are tied for seventh-fewest in the league) but also without the man who accounted for seven of those 13.

Though there was no gloom and doom at Dolphins camp Monday, Derrick Shelby didn’t attempt to sugarcoat losing Cameron Wake to a season-ending Achilles injury.

“Obviously,” Shelby said, “it’s a bad situation. There is no way to match [Wake’s] production.”

So how do the Dolphins compensate for the loss of the NFL’s third-most prolific pass-rusher since 2009?

“Like I told the team, Cam Wake’s production has got to come from somewhere else,” interim coach Dan Campbell said. “It could come from the interior. It could come from another defensive end. It could come from a linebacker… We’ll find a way to get it.”

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who had 8.5 sacks for Detroit last season but only two for Miami this year, will need to increase his pass-rush production. Campbell said the linebackers might rush more often, with Koa Misi well equipped for that.

But much of the burden falls on the starting defensive ends: Olivier Vernon and new starter Shelby.

Vernon had 11.5 sacks in his second NFL season (2013) but 6.5 last season and two so far in 2015. He said he feels no added pressure to replace Wake’s production but expects he will probably draw more attention from offenses now.

“We’ve got a lot of depth on this d-line, a lot of guys that can make plays,” Vernon said. “We’ll be all right.”

Campbell suggested it’s unlikely the Dolphins will shift Vernon to Wake’s side. Vernon said nobody has broached that to him.

“I don’t know if that’s the answer,” Campbell said. “I don’t want to tell you there’s no way we would do that, but obviously OV has done a really nice job on the right side. He’s comfortable there. Not to say he couldn’t, but we have a lot of confidence in Derrick Shelby and we can do some things on the other side that will help.”

Shelby, an excellent run stopper, has just 5.5 sacks in 3 ½ seasons, including none this season in 171 pass-rushing opportunities.

“I am not Cam Wake at all,…” he said. “Everyone plays the game to fit their own skill set. I’ve had quarterback hits; just haven’t got the sack production. But I’ll be fine. It’s a [big opportunity]. Got to make the most of it.”

But Shelby is excellent against the run and has played more snaps than Wake this season: 302 (43 per game), compared with Wake’s 265 (37.8 per game). Vernon has played 365.

Shelby, who describes himself as a “hard nosed, gritty player,” said he does not expect his snap count to rise dramatically.

“I was playing a bunch of first and second down snaps; that was a way to keep Wake fresh,” Shelby said. “Other guys will have to play more plays.”

Campbell said “we’re fortunate” to have Shelby because “he’s every bit of a starter for us as a rotation type player, so you couldn’t ask really for a better guy to come in and fill in for Wake. I have a lot of confidence in Shelby. Shelby is… fundamentally sound, an explosive athlete. He’s not the speed rusher that Cam is, but he’s going…  to do a nice job.” 

With unrestricted free agency looming, will this provide Shelby a bigger forum?

“I don’t think so,” he said. “Four years of film speaks for itself. Nothing nine games can do that four years haven’t already proved. I’ll be fine.”

There will also be more opportunities for backup defensive ends Terrence Fede and Chris McCain, who has played just a handful of defensive snaps all season and moved from linebacker to defensive end a few weeks ago.

“Chris McCain can generate some speed off the edge,” Campbell said. “The guy has worked extremely hard. Get a little more weight on him… He’s kind of been odd man out because of the whole special teams deal.”

###  Campbell said right tackle Ja’Wuan James will not need toe surgery. “We’re going to let this thing heal up and we anticipate having him back in a few weeks,” Campbell said.

### Receiver DeVante Parker said the newest issue with his surgically-repaired left foot, which sidelined him late in Thursday’s game and kept him out of Monday’s practice, stems from “scar tissue” and doctors weren’t surprised.

“I was feeling a little pain [Monday], but not severe pain,” he said. “It might hurt a couple days. Nothing serious.”

Asked about his availability for Sunday’s game at Buffalo, Campbell said: “I don’t see that being an issue.” Parker was non-committal, though.

### Running back Damien Williams was wearing protective covering on the hand that he injured during Thursday’s game but said it doesn’t prevent him from fielding kickoffs.

The Dolphins will need to make a roster spot if they choose to active running back Jay Ajayi, who’s eligible to come off short-term injured reserve this week.

### Cornerback Brice McCain practiced after missing the past two games with a sprained knee.

### Backup quarterback Matt Moore missed practice because he’s recovering from Friday surgery to repair a broken nose sustained during a freak accident on a handoff at practice two weeks off. Campbell said Moore will be available Sunday…. Safety Jordan Kovacs, who sustained a knee injury Thursday, also wasn’t at practice.

### Center Mike Pouncey said the offensive line played “like [garbage]” against New England.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz