3:30 p.m. update: UM loses WR to injury & checks out Orlando stadium; Marlins add pitcher; FSU's Fisher, UF's McElwain speak out in South Florida visits; Heat, Panthers, Marlins items; Nation down on Dolphins; Marlins
Updated at 3:40 p.m:
Two noteworthy UM developments at this hour: UM has lost sophomore receiver Lawrence Cager for the season because of a torn ACL, and UM officials are inspecting Orlando's Camping World Stadium as a potential site for their opener.
• As The Palm Beach Port reported and I confirmed, Cager suffered a knee injury in 7 on 7 drills Thursday and I am told it was a torn ACL to his right knee and he will miss the season.
His loss further depletes a position where UM's depth was somewhat shaky.
Cager exited spring as the first-team "X" receiver and was the slight favorite to start in three-receiver sets, along with projected starters Stacy Coley and Braxton Berrios.
If UM opens in three-receiver sets, Malcolm Lewis, Darrell Langham (who was the No. 2 X receiver behind Cager), Mississippi transfer Dayall Harris, plus freshmen Sam Bruce and Ahmmon Richards are the remaining candidates for that third job (with Coley and Berrios).
Bruce is facing a one- or two-game suspension unless coach Mark Richt changes his mind.
UM expects freshman receiver Dionte Mullins will qualify, but he is still awaiting a test score.
Berrios, who began his UM career as a slot receiver, has been getting a lot of work on the boundary, as well, this offseason. Bruce is best suited to the slot.
Another option would be giving tight end David Njoku some snaps at receiver or using more two tight end sets (Njoku with Chris Herndon primarily, with Standish Dobard also getting work) and fewer three- or four-receiver sets.
Cager, 6-5, was UM's biggest receiver and an appealing red zone target.
He said earlier this offseason that Mark Richt challenged him to study Bengals Pro Bowl receiver AJ Green, who played for Richt at Georgia.
“He wants to see me be consistent and be a dominant big receiver,” Cager said.
Cager, a four-star prospect coming out of Calvert Hall in Towson, Md., caught eight passes for 70 yards and a touchdown as a UM freshman.
• The Dolphins say barring an unforeseen setback, their stadium remains on target to be ready for the Dolphins' Sept. 1 fourth preseason game against Tennessee and UM's Sept. 3 opener against Florida A&M.
But UM is taking no chances.
Orlando's Camping World Stadium has emerged as the clear front-runner to host UM's opener IF the Dolphins' stadium is not ready, according to a source.
And UM officials today are taking a tour of the Orlando facility (previously known as the Citrus Bowl), Herald correspondent Peter Ariz and I were told.
UM confirmed to me that members of football operations and its ticket staff are in Orlando today checking out the stadium, so that Miami is fully prepared if it has to move the game.
That said, UM has been assured that Dolphins stadium renovations remain on track to play the opener there.
UM also has considered Marlins Park as an alternate site option but needs a slightly bigger facility to accommodate a season-ticket base that's approaching 40,000.
9 a.m. update: The Marlins have agreed to terms with first-round pick Braxton Garrett, a highly-regarded prep lefty from Alabama, a source with direct knowledge confirmed. (He must first pass a physical.)
The Marlins and agent Scott Boras struck a deal less than 24 hours before the deadline for first-round picks to sign. Garrett would have gone to Vanderbilt if he hadn't reached a deal with the Marlins.
Garrett immediately will become one of the Marlins' top prospects. He had 131 strikeouts and 15 walks in 65 1/3 innings as a high school senior, finishing 6-2 with an 0.54 ERA.
Scouts rave about his curveball.
“I think he’s probably the most polished high school kids that we’ve ever taken,” said Stan Meek, Miami’s vice president of scouting. “He’s a left-hander who already has pitches in place. "Everything we saw about him, we liked. He's a great competitor. “[He has] probably one the top-five curveballs I’ve seen. The thing about it he’s got plus-control of it at a young age. For a left-hander, it’s a big plus. We have really three plus-pitches in place [with him], which is kind of unique."
His fastball is in the low 90s. “We like the fact that he doesn’t try to overthrow. It’s a comfortable velocity but a velocity that works because you’ve got plus-life on his fastball,” Meek said.
Michael Hill said when the team watches Garrett, former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee comes to mind.
FRIDAY BUZZ COlUMN
We don't write much about UF and FSU football but wanted to share information that we hadn't gotten to yet, highlights from Jim McElwain's and Jimbo Fisher's offseason speeches to local booster clubs, plus McElwain's interview with me and a few other reporters and Fisher's conversation with me last month in Coral Gables:
For a change, UM will begin this college football season with a quarterback projected to be a first-round pick in Brad Kaaya.
For Florida State and Florida, there likely will be far less ballyhooed signal-callers: Seminoles senior Sean Maguire and Gators sophomore Luke Del Rio, a former walk-on at Alabama.
Though front-runners, neither Maguire nor Del Rio has the job locked up, as FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and UF coach Jim McElwain indicated in South Florida appearances this offseason.
At FSU, Maguire replaced the struggling Everett Golson last season, started five games and finished with 1,520 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. But he had four interceptions in a loss to Houston in the Peach Bowl, while sustaining an ankle injury that sidelined him this past spring.
Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, incoming freshman Malik Henry and redshirt sophomore J.J. Cosentino took all of the spring snaps, and Francois could become the biggest challenger to Maguire.
“Malik will be a special guy,” Fisher said.
Francois has a strong arm and was the No. 3 pro style quarterback coming out of high school, according to 247sports.com.
“Every one asks who’s going to start,” Fisher said at an offseason event in Miami. “I don’t know.”
Does Maguire have an edge because of experience? “There’s no doubt, experience and knowledge,” Fisher said. “That guy plays with so much heart and toughness. Big arm. Can make all the plays.”
At UF, Del Rio is considered the front-runner, though former Purdue quarterback Austin Appleby will push him.
Del Rio “tried to do too much early [in the spring],” McElwain said. “In the spring game, he took what the defense gave him. He really knows how to prepare. Austin has done a really good job situationally: red zone, third down.”
Del Rio has thrown 18 college passes, all for Oregon State in 2014, and completed eight of them for 144 yards. Appleby, a four-star prospect out of high school, completed 55.3 percent of his passes over three seasons for Purdue, with 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
Speaking before a Broward audience of Gators fans this spring, McElwain referenced his ability to develop quarterbacks, noting that Garrett Grayson (whom he coached at Colorado State) was “picked [by the Saints, 75th] ahead of the guy [the Jets’ Bryce Petty] who threw for a million yards at Baylor. When I got there, [Grayson] was going to be moved to safety.”
More highlights from what Fisher and McElwain told South Florida booster clubs this offseason and in separate interviews:
• McElwain wouldn’t satisfy a UF fan who wanted him to bash UM, instead expressing his respect for UM coach Mark Richt because “he does it the right way. There are some that don’t. Real quality guy. He'll do an outstanding job here. I was wishing he would get a job somewhere else.”
But he made clear that he will continue to fiercely battle UM and others for top South Florida recruits.
“This has been an important area for us,” McElwain said. “We have 20-plus on our roster from this neck of the woods and we need to continue to do that. It [helps] having Randy Shannon on our staff and Kerry Dixon, who spent some time at FAU and has some real relationships. Randy Shannon is not only a great coach but a quality role model to our guys. We’re going to come down and get as many as we can.”
Fisher also raved about Richt and said it might be tougher to recruit here now. But “you’ve got to come down and get these kids,” he said. “This area has been very good to us.”
Florida has 22 players on its roster from the tri-county region. FSU has 17.
• McElwain, on losing his final three games in his first season (to FSU, Alabama and Michigan) to close at 10-4 and ranked 25th: “Didn’t like how we finished… The Gators belong on top in everything we do.” But he said “now we get off the bus and at least we look like an SEC team.”
• McElwain has instilled the type of discipline (regarding penalties) that Richt is determined to achieve at UM. “We led the conference in penalties the last 10 years [before 2015],” McElwain said. “We weren’t even close last year. They thought what they were doing [before] was OK.”
• McElwain said: “I'm not saying we have the best backs by any stretch of the imagination, but we have a group of four guys who can really play. Both Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite have grown up. Mark Herndon is healthy. The addition of Mark Thompson gives us a great competition.”
• Fisher sees running back Dalvin Cook as a Heisman candidate: “He will be one of the best players in Florida State history. He’s going to play a long time in the league.”
• Who will surprise at FSU? Tight end “Ryan Izzo is due for a breakout; Ryan will play a long time in the NFL,” Fisher said. “And we hope Matthew Thomas can make the impact we want. I’m glad to get Matthew back; you will see him as an inside backer starter and rushing the quarterback.”
• Remember the name Derwin James. The sophomore defensive back, who also can play defensive end, “will be one of the best players in FSU history,” Fisher predicted. “I’ve never been around a guy who can play every position. He literally can.”
• How low are expectations for the Dolphins nationally? At the MGM Grand and 11 other Nevada casinos, the Dolphins (and 49ers) have 60 to 1 odds to win the Super Bowl. Only Cleveland (75 to 1) and Tennessee (100 to 1) have longer odds. The Dolphins’ over/under for wins is 7.5 and most have been betting Miami will win fewer, according to the MGM.
• One veteran AL scout assigned to the NL East cites the second through fifth starters as the Marlins’ key after the All-Star break: “I thought Wei-Yin [Chen] would be better in Miami’s ballpark than Baltimore’s. He’s more of a middle of the rotation type who’s being paid as No. 2 [starter]... I always thought [Tom] Koehler would take a little more of a jump; he's remained the same. You like the stuff but it always seems like he has trouble getting through that one inning. I think Adam Conley could be a middle of rotation starter. You've got to get command to higher level, but he could be an impact kind of a guy. His stuff is really strong.”
• Before Dwyane Wade left for Chicago, Pat Riley called Caron Butler’s agent and expressed interest, but there has been no call since, with Miami opting for younger veterans.
The Heat also bypassed a potential reunion with Mario Chalmers, who’s coming off a torn Achilles. Beyond the injury, the Heat originally dealt Chalmers last year not only for tax relief, but also because Miami didn't feel he would deal well with less playing time.
• The Heat is expected to sign former FSU 6-9 forward Okaro White, according to someone with direct knowledge. He would bring their roster to 17, with teams permitted to carry as many as 15 players during the regular season and up to 20 before then.
White, who is playing for Miami's summer league team, went undrafted in 2014 and spent the last two seasons in Italy and Greece, where he averaged 13.5 points and 7.0 rebounds last season.
• Panthers GM Tom Rowe said Thursday that when the front office told the owners in an early June meeting what they wanted to accomplish --- a plan that ultimately resulted in in $200 million in allocations this summer with longterm contract extensions and free agent pickups --- owner Vinnie Viola didn't flinch. Rowe said the Panthers got everyone they wanted, with defensemen Keith Yandle No. 1 and Jason Demers No. 2 on their list. In that meeting, Viola said Demers "better not get away."...
Rowe said goaltender Roberto Luongo, off hip surgery, will be ready for opening night, but the plan is for backup James Reimer to play 30 to 35 games and Luongo was informed of that thinking and is on board.
• UM cornerback target Maurice Smith has graduated and wants to play elsewhere (UM is among the schools he’s considering) and he’s appealing Alabama’s refusal to grant him his release, AL.com reported. UM would like the depth but also feels good about potential No. 2 corner Sheldrick Redwine. “He’s been good since he got here,” Brad Kaaya said.