FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
### No, UM is not threatening to ban former players who have been critical of the coaching staff from coming to campus, athletic director Blake James assures us.
But one UM coach isn’t just sitting back and taking it.
After former UM offensive line standouts Brett Romberg and Joaquin Gonzalez sharply criticized the coaching and publicly advocated change --- Romberg called for Al Golden’s ouster, Gonzalez said UM needs a “Butch Davis type” coach --- offensive line coach Art Kehoe called both of them separately last week and said loudly and clearly that he didn’t appreciate their opinions.
“He was yelling,” Romberg said.
“He chewed [me out],” Gonzalez said.
Kehoe recruited and coached both of them and was furious that they suggested a move that would put Kehoe’s job at risk.
“Art said, ‘Why the hell are you trying to get your former coach fired?’” Romberg said. “But it’s frustration building up. It’s a giant cloud hanging outside the Hecht Center that people inside won’t acknowledge….
“Ultimately, it has been a piss-poor decade by the Miami football program. And Al is reluctant to fire his friend [defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio].”
(A friend of Golden cautions that perception is overstated, and a friendship will not prevent Golden from changing his staff if he believes it’s needed.)
Romberg, a former All-American who now works as a talk show host on The Ticket, has great respect for Kehoe.
So after going back and forth on the phone for a while, did Kehoe say anything to make him feel better about the state of the program?
“No,” Romberg said.
Gonzalez sheepishly declined to discuss his conversation with Kehoe.
### Why did Golden ask former players to watch film with him during the weekend of the spring game in April?
Romberg said players told Golden “we were frustrated with the way they were playing and questioning the dedication of the kids. Al said there was a big difference between this spring and the spring before and wanted to assure us the old-school mentality had come back. But that message he portrayed didn’t come through [on film]. Al couldn’t get the film off quickly enough.”
Still, even though former defensive player Julio Cortes asked Golden what Denzel Perryman was being coached to read (as esteemed writer Dave Hyde recently noted), Romberg said he cannot recall anybody else posing confrontational questions during that film session. And for all his criticisms of the UM staff, Romberg said players appreciate that Golden has been very welcoming and invited them to come to practice.
### Though Golden has been classy in not addressing criticism from former players, Romberg said Kehoe indicated to him that it bothers Golden. A friend of the coach said Golden believes some players who criticize him are living in the past, to an extent, and don’t fully grasp that the game has changed.
### One person very close to the staff said the Golden/Mark D’Onofrio philosophy defensively, which often includes safeties playing deeper than they should, is that UM would rather bend and give up smaller chunks of yards --- with the hope of eventually forcing a punt or turnover --- than risk giving up the big play. They would prefer a slow death to a fast one, in other words.
But it hasn’t worked enough, so why not change?
“There’s not enough confidence they can do anything else,” the UM person said. One reason is that “none of our safeties are very good at playing the ball in the air.”
### Who could have envisioned this back in May? Brad Kaaya, who has thrown 20 more passes than Jameis Winston, leads Winston in yards (1806/which ranks 17th in the nation to Winston’s 1605) and touchdown passes (16, 13th in the nation, to Winston’s 11). Winston has the edge narrowly in passer rating (159.5/17th in the nation), one spot ahead of Kaaya (156.3).
### The Dolphins’ deep-passing game has been almost non-existent; their longest passing play all season is 35 yards. “I’ve never seen that,” Mike Wallace said. “I always surpassed that in the first game! I will make it happen this week.”
Wallace said he asked offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to call some deep balls and Lazor “said they will come… We threw more deep balls this week in practice than anytime since training camp. That’s my first love --- catching the deep ball.”
One problem is that Ryan Tannehill has completed only 4 of 15 balls that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, for 100 yards, less than any starting quarterback on those types of passes except Alex Smith (73 yards), Geno Smith (72 yards entering tonight's game) and Cam Newton (52).
By comparison, Brian Hoyer has thrown for 531 “deep yards,” Austin Davis 368 and Ryan Fitzpatrick 338.
### Daniel Thomas, who was inactive last week, said he hasn't been told whether he or Damien Williams will be Lamar Miller's new backup in the wake of Knowshon Moreno's season-ending ACL injury.
Thomas --- who averaged 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 yards per carry in his first three seasons --- is averaging 7.1 this season in limited work (seven carries for 50 yards). Williams is averaging 3.3 yards per carry (39 yards on 12 carries).
The Dolphins also continue to closely study LaMichael James, who hopes to be promoted from the practice squad at some point.
### Based on history, what are the Dolphins’ chances of making the playoffs if they lose Sunday to fall to 2-4?
Since 1990, only 8.6 percent of teams that opened 2-4 made the playoffs (14 of 163). Only 22.1 percent of 2-3 teams made the postseason (44 of 199).
### Not only did the Panthers draw their lowest crowd in history Monday (7311), but it’s not like the fans were watching on TV.
According to Nielsen, only 3265 Dade/Broward homes tuned in that Panthers-Ottawa game on Fox Sports Florida; 232 television programs that night drew higher local ratings, including something called Barbecue University, Mystery Diners, Pawn Stars and Chowder.
### With 18 players still in Heat camp, Shannon Brown (a front-runner for a job), Tyler Johnson, Andre Dawkins, Khem Birch and Shawn Jones are competing for a maximum of two spots on the roster. It’s possible the Heat could keep only Brown from that group and leave the last spot open or fill it with a player who's not on the team now.
Brown shot just 36 percent overall last season, and just 33 percent on threes in his career, but Pat Riley told “me he thought I could bring athleticism and toughness. They like that I play with a chip on my shoulder and like me as a defender.”
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz