July 31, 2016

7 p.m. Sunday UM news; Steve Ross on the Dolphins' search for a new stadium name; Sunday 1 p.m. Brandon Harris story; Sunday morning Gase and Fins news; More buzz on Marlins' trade and Heat's Waiters pickup; Fins, UM football chatter

Two quick 7 p.m. Sunday UM notes: 1) Nebraska grad transfer Andrew White will visit UM on Monday, CBS first reported. White, a 6-7 wing player, averaged 16.6 points and shot 41 percent on threes last season. White, who's also considering Syracuse, would be potentially a big addition for UM, which has one scholarship left.

2) Linebacker Raphael Kirby, who did not sign with a team following the NFL draft because he was still recovering from last year's knee injury, announced on Twitter that he's joining the Detroit Lions.

After posting this column, I added more Dolphins chatter at the bottom (in italics), including a look at former UM standout cornerback Brandon Harris, who was signed by the Dolphins today. 

 

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Several Sunday morning Dolphins notes in addition to the 15 we posted here earlier on Saturday:

• The Dolphins are hoping to finalize a deal for stadium naming rights in the next few weeks, and Hard Rock International remains a top contender.

Asked if he expects Hard Rock to be part of the stadium’s name, owner Stephen Ross said: “I hope.”

So will it definitely be Hard Rock? “We have a lot of other different opportunities, but I like the [brand] name.”

Sun Life's naming rights deal with the Dolphins ended early this year.

Adam Gase, on Dion Jordan, who is sidelined for a few weeks after knee surgery and was placed on the non-football injury list: "He has a fresh start with me. Whatever happened in the past is irrelevant. His job is do everything he has been told to do right. That check list is fairly long. This is good fresh start for him, a chance to start his career over."

Gase said Jordan's timetable is similar to Xavien Howard's. He could be out two to three weeks.

Gase said the knee surgery was "news to us."

Jordan said: "I'm a good person... I've made mistakes." He's now at 275 pounds, meaning he likely will stay at defensive end.

• Gase said Arian Foster "was really ready to go" after last October's Achilles tear. He said Foster "annihilated" his conditioning test. "We've got to be smart; he's coming off a major injury. When I watch him run routes, he's so smooth. Looks effortless."

• The Dolphins signed former UM cornerback Brandon Harris, who sat out last season with a torn ACL. (More on him later today.) Gase said defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who coached Harris in Houston, was a fan of his.

• Haven’t heard a single player say a negative thing about Gase or his staff, which is very unusual in these parts over the past 15 years.

Asked how practice is different from last year’s camp under Joe Philbin, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said: “Definitely different. I felt like we got a lot of work done [Friday]. It was a lot better practice.”

Center Mike Pouncey said it’s different because Gase “brings energy every day. We enjoy going to meetings because we know it’s going to be exciting. He has a young mindset dealing with the players. It’s easy to have a conversation with him. Very outgoing personality. It’s a different feeling. First time in a long time we’ve had that feeling around here.”

And there’s this from linebacker Koa Misi: “We've got to trust in the calls [coaches] are making and work together as a team. Sometimes in the past, that [was] the reason why we weren't winning games.”

• Pro athletes often shrug off whether starting is important to them, but that’s not the case with Earl Mitchell and Jordan Phillips, who are competing to start at defensive tackle. “We’re not out here to be second; I want to start,” Phillips said, adding he’s quicker after dropping from 325 pounds to 316.

Mitchell so far has had the majority of first-team snaps.

• Though the Dolphins haven’t ruled out extending or restructuring safety Reshad Jones’ deal after he ended his offseason protest, Jones said that hasn’t happened yet and he’s no longer concerned. “Just worried about helping my team win.”

• Please click here for a lot more Dolphins personnel notes from today, including Dion Jordan, starting lineup battles and a cornerback they auditioned.

CHATTER

• Beyond the fact they really like Andrew Cashner, another reason the Marlins were comfortable making the Padres trade is that Colin Rea is under team control for six seasons and Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said the Marlins believe Rea “has the potential to be a solid No. 3” starter.

If you missed it, Rea left his Marlins debut with elbow pain. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow sprain; Nefi Ogando was recalled. Rea reportedly will undergo an MRI on Monday.

• Hill said there have been no discussions about a new deal with Cashner, an impending free agent: “We haven’t yet given that thought.”

• Hill said it was “extremely difficult” to trade injured Carter Capps but the Marlins were comfortable with their bullpen depth led by AJ Ramos, Kyle Barraclough, Fernando Rodney, plus prospects Brian Ellington, Nefi Ogando and Austin Bryce, among other.

• Hill said the Marlins wanted minor-league right hander Tayron Guerrero, the third pitcher obtained in the deal, because “we love the arm. Throws 100 mph. We felt he could be an impactful third piece. Very intriguing.” Guerrero, 6-8, has been pitching in relief but the Marlins might make him a starter, Hill said.

• Another Marlins official said other teams repeatedly asked for JT Realmuto, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna and the Marlins would not consider dealing any of them.

• ESPN analyst and former Nationals GM Jim Bowden, by phone: “The price was exorbitant [for the Marlins], but sometimes you have to… overpay. I don’t think the Marlins make the playoffs without making this move. I credit Jeffrey Loria for going for it. When good, Cashner is a third starter. You look at the stuff and think he could be more. His breaking ball is an issue. Rea is a back of the rotation guy.”

Bowden said the Marlins are plus 14 in infield runs saved, and the Padres minus 18, and Cashner “will benefit from the Marlins’ infield defense.”

• Some nuggets on Heat addition Dion Waiters: The Heat is looking at him as a potential starter at shooting guard and his numbers are similar in 179 career games as a backup and 110 as a starter. But last season, he was far better as a backup, especially on threes (38.5 percent on threes as a backup, to 27.6 percent on threes as a starter)….

Opposing players shot slightly worse when they were defended by Waiters last season (43.1 percent) than they did overall (43.6). For perspective, players guarded by Dwyane Wade shot 42.7, Josh Richardson 44.9, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan 47.3….

Erik Spoelstra might look at how OKC coach Billy Donovan used Waiters, which Waiters appreciated. Donovan put the ball in Waiters’ hands more when Russell Westbrook was on the bench --- “Dion just loves to have the ball in his hands,” Kevin Durant said --- and unlike past coaches, allowed Waiters to roam without the ball instead of sticking him in the corner.

“There are a lot of things that Dion does that do not show up in the stat sheets,” Donovan said earlier this year. “He's a really, really good defensive player. He can put the ball on the floor. He can generate shots for others. He's a smart player, got a good feel for the game.

“Listen, there's been some times where he's not played great and I've had to take him off the floor and put him back in later on, but overall I trust Dion in terms of even when he's not playing well he can kind of refocus himself and get back to where he needs to get back.”…

Waiters struggled in the clutch (7 for 23) and his 17 points per 48 minutes ranked 37th among 54 shooting guards… He struggles finishing in the basket area; he shot just 49 percent within five feet, in the bottom quarter of shooting guards – Wade was at 63 percent – and missing two of 19 dunks.

• During his spring booster tour, UM coach Mark Richt said he asked all his players two questions after spring ball ended: What can your teammates count on you for? And who do you think is a leader?

This staff quietly has worked to create a bond among players and coaches. “We’re spending quality family time inside and outside of the facility,” Kc McDermott said. “We've had the occasional meal over at coach [Stacy] Searel's house.”

Richt also has players at each unit working out together in the weight room, which players say is new.

“It’s going to be interesting,” ex-Canes great Reggie Wayne said. “One thing that has been lacking in the program is the fellowship, getting to play for each other, letting your teammate know, ‘I got you.’ It seemed like a bunch of individuals [the past few years]. Our teams did everything together.”

MORE SUNDAY FINS NEWS JUST ADDED

When Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon left in free agency this past offseason, the Dolphins lost their only two players who grew up in South Florida and attended the University of Miami.

They now have another who fits that unique criteria: Brandon Harris, who on Sunday joined a crowded competition for the Dolphins’ final cornerback job.

The former Hurricanes and Booker T. Washington standout hopes to revive a career sidetracked 14 month ago by a torn ACL in his left knee.

“It is so special to be at home, going back to the same stadium where that allowed me this opportunity to be in the NFL, where I made my name on a national stage,” said Harris, who joins former Melbourne Central High alum Rashawn Scott as the only former Hurricanes on the Dolphins’ roster. “I am excited to play in front of my family and friends every day in training camp.”

After tearing the ACL in his left knee at a Tennessee Titans minicamp practice in June 2015, Harris sat out last season, then visited the Dolphins for a medical checkup in May.

The Dolphins called him last week and asked him to audition on Saturday, along with two other corners: former Ravens and Patriots corner Rashaan Melvin and ex-Chicago Bear Albert Louis-Jean. Melvin was signed after the workout, but Harris left without an offer.

“Figured I would get ready for my next move, and then I get a call early [Sunday] morning [from the Dolphins] saying come on back,” he said.

Harris said his knee simply wasn’t ready earlier this offseason. Now, “the knee feels great. First time I’ve been in pads since the last regular season game of 2014.”

Harris posted on Instagram that it has “been a long year of recovery after tearing my ACL. I cried so many nights fearing I'll never play again, that all changed this morning. Miami I'm Home.”

Harris has played in 42 NFL games but has started none of them and has no interceptions.

Drafted in the second round (60th overall) by Houston in 2011, he appeared in 31 games over three seasons for the Texans, who cut him before the start of the 2014 season.  He played 11 games for the Titans in 2014.

Coach Adam Gase said Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph likes Harris, whom he coached in Houston.

“I would have liked to have had more of a household name at this point,” Harris said. “I take pride in playing physical. Playing with a lot of energy is my biggest strength.”

Harris, 5-10, said he has played most of his NFL snaps in the slot. “That’s where I am most comfortable [but] I am excited to go outside a little bit, too,” he said.

After cutting Tyler Patmon on Sunday, the Dolphins now have several defensive backs competing in the slot: Bobby McCain, safety Michael Thomas, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Harris and Jordan Lucas.

With Xavien Howard recovering from knee surgery, the 6-2 Melvin gives Miami another option on the boundary, with projected starters Byron Maxwell and Tony Lippett, plus Chimdi Chekwa. Olomu and Lucas also can play outside.

Melvin, cut by the Patriots in May, said his strength is “putting my hands on guys and being a physical corner, using my size to my advantage.”

On adding two corners and cutting one this weekend, Gase said: “We want competition. If we feel like it’s time to move on from somebody, we’re going to do it and try to bring somebody else in.”

• Sunday notables: Ryan Tannehill completed a perfect 40-yard sideline pass to DeVante Parker, who extended over Lippett… Andrew Franks kicked a 59-yard field goal and continues his very good summer, dating back to May practices… With Branden Albert given the day off, Laremy Tunsil opened with the starters at left tackle…Sam Young and Chris McCain got into a brief shoving match after a drill... Dolphins quarterbacks haven’t thrown an interception in three days of camp.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 30, 2016

3 p.m.: Dolphins sign corner; 15 notes, quotes, nuggets and thoughts from Dolphins' Day 2 training camp practice on Saturday, including Jordan update; CB audition; personnel moves and more

Lots of stuff from Day 2 of Fins camp:

• Miami signed 6-2 cornerback Rashaan Melvin after a Saturday workout, according to agent Mike McCartney

The Dolphins made room on the roster by cutting tight end Jake Stoneburner.

Originally signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois in 2013, Melvin has played in 12 NFL games, all over the past two seasons --- four for Baltimore and eight for New England after the Patriots claimed him off waivers last October.

Melvin was briefly on the Dolphins' practice squad in 2014 before the Ravens plucked him.

Melvin has played well at times in the regular season but as a member of the Ravens, he allowed 12 catches for 224 yards against New England in a January 2015 playoff game. But the Patriots claimed him when Baltimore released him last October. 

The Dolphins also worked out former Bears cornerback Al-Louis Jean Jr. today. 

• Dion Jordan, conditionally reinstated from NFL suspension, was back at Dolphins headquarters on Saturday. But coach Adam Gase said he has no idea when he will be back on the field.

In its announcement Friday, the NFL said Jordan may “participate in meetings, conditioning work and similar activities.” But the league said he could not begin practicing or play in preseason games until “arrangements have been confirmed regarding Jordan’s clinical resources in Miami.”

Gase said: “We’re taking everything very slowly. We’re trying to make sure we do everything by the book, exactly the way the league wants us to do it. He’s trying to do a good job of doing exactly what he’s told to do. You talk about step 1 of like 500. It’s going to take some time for us to make sure we do every little thing right for this thing to turn out the right way.”

• Dallas Thomas again lined up with the starters at left guard in the first 11-on-11 team drills, with Billy Turner at right guard.

But rookie first-round pick Laremy Tunsil later got some first- team work at left guard in 11-on-11 drills, and Jermod Bushrod received some first-team snaps at right guard. And during one sequence, Tunsil was with the starters at left guard and Thomas at right guard.

Asked about Tunsil’s progress, Gase said: “Once we get in pads, we’ll figure out more. Right now, we’ve been nothing but jerseys and cleats and helmets.”

• Good to see left tackle Branden Albert mentoring Tunsil.

“He is the future left tackle of this team,” Albert said. “When my time is done, he’s going to step in [and] I’m going to make sure [he’s prepared]. That’s how you leave your legacy.

“You teach a young guy and sit at home retired and see that young guy flourish [and know] I helped him on his way and have the potential to make a lot of money and change the future of his family generation after generation… They learn something from me and can say, ‘Branden Albert was a great mentor.”

Albert said former NFL guard Brian Waters mentored him.

Albert said Tunsil “has the potential to play next to me and Mike [Pouncey]. He’ll learn. He’s going to have his bumps and bruises. But for the most part, he will flourish. It’s a grown man business. He has the physical capabilities to do it. As long as he learns the plays, I think he’s good.”

• As for other starting battles, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell again opened with the starters, ahead of Jordan Phillips.

“Jordan has done a good job; Earl has done a good job,” Gase said. And “you are seeing [Ndamukong] Suh causing havoc on most plays.”

• Isa Abdul Quddus opened with the starters at safety, opposite Reshad Jones, after Michael Thomas got the nod on Friday. But Thomas remained the first team slot corner in the absence of Bobby McCain.

• McCain said he was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list Friday because he cramped up late in the team’s conditioning test on Thursday. He was taken off PUP late Saturday afternoon.

 Going on PUP “was precautionary to let me get adjusted,” McCain said. “Now I’m fine and will be back [Sunday].”

Kenyan Drake, who played with both the fourth team and first team, fumbled on a poor exchange with Matt Moore but also had a nice run. Arian Foster remains on PUP.

The coaching staff likes Jay Ajayi, and it’s clear the Foster signing was more a reflection of the Dolphins believing they need a second back who can be relied on. (Damien Williams is on PUP because he’s out of shape.)

• Byron Maxwell broke up a touchdown pass, intended for Kenny Stills, that was thrown by a non-quarterback (we’re not allowed to fully describe the trick play or say who threw it, per Dolphins policy). “Anytime Maxwell is covering a guy, he’s so long and has great speed to recover,” Gase said.

Safety Reshad Jones also had a nifty breakup on a Ryan Tannehill pass. Cornerback Chidmi Chekwa broke up a pass to Leonte Carroo.

 

• Chris McCain, who said he’s very happy to be back at defensive end after being moved to linebacker last year, made two notable plays, including what would have been a strip sack of Brandon Doughty, but faces an uphill climb to make the 53. He still has practice squad eligibility.

• Veteran Jason Jones did a good job rushing the passer. That was a smart post-draft signing. And Andre Branch, another solid signing, continues to work with the first team at defensive end, ahead of Cameron Wake.

• Kicker Marshall Koehn, who was less consistent than Andrew Franks during May/June practices, missed from 33 but made his other field goals, including from 46. Franks was perfect on Friday.

• Gase is non-committal about whether he wants to keep a third quarterback on the 53. (Gase did not say this, but it’s clear it will depend largely on how good Brandon Doughty is over the next six weeks.)

“If you want to keep three, you figure out a way to make it happen,” Gase said, then adding that two is a good option, too.

Gase said Doughty “does a great job as far as finding completions. I made the comment to him one time, ‘Well your progressions are usually wrong, but somehow you find a completion.’ He’s like, ‘That’s what I do.’”

• Still cannot understand why the Dolphins cut Brice McCain and his cap friendly contract. I hear that one Dolphins coach was unhappy after watching 2015 tape of McCain, specifically one play in which he missed a tackle. McCain now plays for the Titans. But McCain does fine in the slot, and the Dolphins could have used the depth there.

• With Bob Griese working the team’s three preseason telecasts on CBS-4, former Dolphins great Jason Taylor will replace him in the booth for preseason games, alongside Jimmy Cefalo and Joe Rose on new rights-holder WQAM (560).

•  More than two years after being dismissed as the Dolphins’ offensive line coach in the wake of the team’s bullying scandal, Jim Turner is in trouble again.

This time, Turner was suspended by Texas A&M for injecting sexually suggestive slides into a football clinic for women.

Texas A&M suspended Turner, who is the Aggies’ offensive line coach, and special teams coordinator Jeff Banks for two weeks without pay after they included derogatory sexual humor during the Wednesday evening clinic.

Turner and Banks offered coaching tips with several sexually suggestive terms, such as “keep your hips down.” The comments became known on Thursday after a woman, Tonia Dousay, expressed her displeasure on Facebook. It was unclear if she attended the event.

“There is absolutely no place in our program or in our University community for inappropriate conduct or degrading comments towards women, or anyone, regardless of intent,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said Friday.  “While I was in attendance at the Chalk Talk event this week, I was engaged in meeting participants, taking photographs and signing autographs and I was unaware of the contents of Jim and Jeff’s presentations until this morning.

“Upon learning of the details, I immediately consulted with Director of Athletics Scott Woodward, and made the decision that both Jim and Jeff will be suspended without pay for two weeks effective immediately and will serve 20 hours of community service. I have addressed the issue with both of them and have their commitment to be better representatives of our program.”

In a statement, Turner and Banks said "we want to sincerely apologize to the passionate Aggie fans and to women everywhere for our failed attempt at humor during this week's Aggie Football Chalk Talk and fundraiser. We clearly understand now that our comments and slides were not appropriate or consistent with the values of our football program or our Department. We must do better, and we will."

The Dolphins fired Turner in February 2014 after NFL-appointed attorney Ted Wells mentioned Turner several times in his report on the Dolphins’ bullying scandal.

Wells said Turner participated in a running joke in which players questioned the sexuality of one of the team’s offensive linemen.

Around Christmas of 2012, Turner gave that player a male blow-up doll, while giving his other offensive linemen a gift  bag including inflatable female dolls.

Wells’ report said Jonathan Martin and another Dolphins player were surprised Turner did this, but Turner told Wells he could not remember if he did that.

Turner later filed a lawsuit against Wells and his law firm, alleging defamation. That lawsuit was dismissed by a Miami federal court on Friday.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 29, 2016

Wade meets Chicago media, calls playing for Bulls "dream come true" and speaks candidly on Heat; Dolphins notes, nuggets from Day 1 of camp; UM football chatter; Marlins trade

Dwyane Wade had his Bulls introductory press conference today. Some highlights:

• "This is one of those moments for me that is a dream come true. I'm a Chicago guy. I grew up here. When I can sit Indian style and watch the Chicago Bulls win their third championship, I remember looking at this little bitty TV and saying that's what I want to be. I want to be a champion. My dream of becoming an NBA player, here in my home town. This is a place I really wanted to be, a place my heart pulled me towards.

"I know it took a long time to get here. But I am here and I am excited to be here. I can't tell you guys in words what this moment means for me, what this organization, since the day I said I'm coming, the support they've shown, the excitement the city has shown, I can't tell you guys what that means to me. I'm just thankful.

"I came out of the draft in 2003. Had a lot of workouts. Had two workouts with one team - the Chicago Bulls. I was thinking I would be playing for my hometown team. I felt I would be drafted by my hometown team. I had no idea what Miami had up their sleeve."

• "I have no rift with Pat Riley. I have nothing but respect for what he's done in this game. For me, as a player, when you get opportunities to be a free agent, you have to sit and look and see what is the best situation for you. 2010, the best situation for me was to play with Chris and LeBron because I wanted to be able to compete for a championship.

"Last year, I wanted more money. Let's be real. I got more money. This year, the direction and focus for that organization, which I have nothing but respect and love for, was a little different than it has been in the past. My focus and direction was a little different than it had been in years past.

"I told them I wanted to see what the market was for me. At the end of the day, I made the decision. I had a contract offer in Miami I could have took. I decided not to take it. It was my decision to be selfish and to live out a dream of mine. I've brought a lot of excitement to Chicago. It will always be my home. I want to bring some to Chicago while I have a little bit left.

"This was not a money deal for me. At the end of the day, this was the place I wanted to be. This is a decision solely for me and it was nothing to do with Pat Riley. It has nothing to do with Pat Riley and Micky Arison. They wanted me back in Miami. But my heart was telling me to go back home."

• He said when he was a free agent in 2010, "I was 28, in the prime of my career. My first meeting was here back home. I met with a few teams. Once again, I met with the Chicago Bulls twice. There's a notion out there that somehow, someway I used the Bulls for some sort of leverage [back then]. I don't know how a 28 year old in his prime, that can be maxed out anywhere, can use a place for leverage. It was a place I really wanted to be, but I had the opportunity of a lifetime to play with two great players, LeBron and Chris. As hard as Chicago tried, they couldn't put all three of us together.... There were times I envisioned being here."

"I dealt with Micky Arison, Nick Arison when it came to my contracts the last two years. That's what he means when he said he wasn't involved, meaning he didn't sit at the table. He didn't call or email or text or nothing like that to try to sway me or try to get me back. I guess that's what he meant.

"I dealt with two people I respect in the organization. And like I said, at the end of the day it wasn't about Pat Riley, it wasn't about Micky, it wasn't about Nick. It was about me. I told that to the Arison family in our meeting. They asked me, 'What else? Is there anything else we can do? I said, 'This is a decision I'm going to have to make. And I made that decision.'

"I wasn't looking for Pat to reach out to me. That wasn't the focus of mine. My focus was making the best decision for my family. He has to make the best decision for the organization, which he has done an amazing job over his tenure there. And we all benefited from it.

"But, this decision was basically mine and I couldn't concern myself or worry about someone reaching out to me or not reaching out to me. That's [wasn't] why I made the decision. It wasn't because he didn't reach out to me. How petty is that? I sat down with the guys who pay the bills. I knew they wanted me to still be there, but ultimately I wanted to be here. And I ultimately made that decision."

• "I respect the Miami community. It will always be a part of me."

• Wade said of wife Gabrielle Union: "She just built her dream home, or what we thought in Miami" and Wade told her they need to move. "She supports me." His sons "heard winter and got scared. They're Chicago tough."

• Wade was non-committal when asked if this would be the final stop of his career. He signed a two-year with a second year player option.

• "I remember when Shaquille O'Neal came to Miami, we had no championships at the time. I remember his press conference. I was playing in the Olympics at the time. I remember Shaq said "we're not going to go through this all long. This is Dwyane Wade's team.' This is Jimmy Butler's team. Myself and Rondo are here to bring what we bring as athletes to this team and this city. We are going to depend on him a lot.

"This wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler called me and told me he wanted me here. At the time, I didn't know.... We all have one common goal, and that's to win. Jimmy Butler will be a better player because of what Rondo brings and because of what I bring."

• "I am a better three-point shooter than my numbers. I showed it in the playoffs."

 

DOLPHINS DAY 1 NOTES     

The Dolphins placed Arian Foster and four others on the physically unable to perform list on Friday, even though Foster had said he is fully healthy after sustaining a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in a game against the Dolphins last October.

Also placed on PUP: cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain, running back Damien Williams and linebacker Zach Vigil. Players can be removed off PUP at any point before the regular season.

Foster did not have a setback and the Dolphins expect him back at some point this preseason. “We thought this was a smart decision to make,” coach Adam Gase said. “This is part of the process we’re going through.”

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said of Foster: “He’s a veteran guy that has had a lot of success. He’s one of the league leaders in drafted guys as far as yards. To have that veteran presence in our backfield is huge. He’s great running the zone read game, which we run here. As a receiver out of the backfield or split out wide, he has a great knack for getting open and having great hands on the outside.”

Howard had knee surgery but is expected back by the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at Seattle. McCain’s issue is nothing serious and he’s expected back in a day or two.

Williams’ conditioning is not where Gase and team officials want it to be. He will be activated when he gets in better shape.

Vigil had back tightness during the latter stages of the offseason program and the Dolphins want to make sure he’s completely fine. He might miss a few days.

Except for Howard, Gase said all of the players on PUP are “day to day” and said it was too early to tell if any of the four would miss any preseason games, with Miami scheduled to open Aug. 12 at the New York Giants.

• In McCain’s absence, Michael Thomas lined up in the slot when the Dolphins went to a nickel package on Friday. When the Dolphins were in base defense, Thomas joined Reshad Jones as the first-team safeties, ahead of Isa Abdul-Quddus.

• Dallas Thomas (left) and Billy Turner (right) were the first-team guards, with first-round pick Laremy Tunsil taking second-team snaps at guard and tackle.

• Earl Mitchell was the first-team tackle opposite Ndamukong SuhAndre Branch got some first-team work at defensive end, because the Dolphins are somewhat limiting the practice snaps of Cameron Wake coming off a torn Achilles’.

“We just have to be smart with him,” Gase said. “We want him to be able to get through the duration of the season."

• Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and Michigan assistant coach and former University of Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch were among those who attended practice.

• Tannehill said Gase “is an expert at pushing guys to reach their potential, and I’m excited to have him…. It’s such a relief to have his confidence and him giving me the freedom to change plays and get us into a good play, that latitude, is only going to help us score more points. He’s a great offensive mind. He’s able to relate to players and motivate players and that’s something we’re excited about having.”

Tannehill said “every day,” Gase “gives me a couple things he wants to work on and think about. Constantly trying to push my buttons, put me in difficult situations. It’s going to pay off.”

• Tannehill, whose wife gave birth to a boy (their first child) last week, called it “such a blessing to see the birth of your child, the love you feel immediately. Really exciting thing to be a dad.”

But amid the responsibilities of being a father for the first time, Tannehill said he “tried to spend a couple hours every day going over the installs [during the past month], spent time with receivers, quizzing them.”

• Per NFL rules, Dolphins players can wear shoulder pads on Sunday and full pads beginning Monday.

Please follow me on Twitter for the latest on the Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and Canes. And please click here for all the details on the Marlins' trade today, plus a ton of UM football notes.

July 28, 2016

11 a.m. Friday Dolphins notes; Marlins acquire two starting pitchers; Steve Ross speaks; Examining UM's incoming class and who's best positioned to help right away; Dolphins, Marlins trade news, Shula update

Couple quick Dolphins notes following the Dolphins' first preseason practice:

• Except for Xavien Howard (off knee surgery), Adam Gase said the four other players on PUP are all day to day (nothing terribly serious): Bobby McCain, Arian Foster, Damien Williams, Zach Vigil.

Will they miss any preseason games? "Can't answer now," he said.

McCain is expected to miss only a couple days. "We'll get him back out there soon," Gase said.

• Gase said he hasn't met Dion Jordan and wasn't in position to comment about him after his conditional reinstatement today. Jordan can play in preseason and will be cleared for the regular season if his meeting with the NFL in early September goes well and if he has no missteps.

• Did everyone pass the conditioning test? Gase wouldn't say. But he said he was pleased how the team looked, from a conditioning standpoint.

• Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner were the first team guards, with Laremy Tunsil playing backup guard and tackle... Michael Thomas was ahead of Isa Abdul Quddus at safety. When the Dolphins went to nickel, Thomas moved to first team slot corner (with McCain sidelined).

Check back for a lot more Dolphins later.

 

MARLINS TRADE

8 a.m. Friday: Per sources, the Marlins have reached an agreement to acquire two starting pitchers from San Diego: right-handers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea. But they had to pay a big price to get them.

The Marlins are giving up two top prospects (first baseman Josh Naylor and pitcher Luis Castillo), right-hander Jarred Cosart and Carter Capps, the hard-throwing reliever who had Tommy John surgery this year.

The Marlins also are getting Tayron Guerrero, a right-hander who is 13-21 with a 4.09 ERA in seven minor league seasons, including 0-3 with a 4.94 ERA for San Antonio this season. He has made one appearance for the Padres, with a 4.50 ERA in two innings.

Cashner (4-7, 4.76 ERA) and Rea (5-5, 4.98) fill the Marlins' desire to add two starting pitchers.

Cashner will join Jose Fernandez, Tom Koehler and Adam Conley in the rotation, and the expectation is that Rea will, too, though that's not confirmed.

The Marlins believe left-hander Wei Yin Chen will be out several weeks with a strained elbow and nobody can be 100 percent certain that he will return this season.

In Chen's absence, the Marlins have been going with Jarred Cosart as their fifth starter. Jose Urena had pitched well in two recent starts as the No. 4 starter, but the Marlins wanted a veteran addition to stabilize their staff.

Cashner, who was being pursued by several teams, is an impending free agent, while Rea is under team control through 2022.

Cashner has allowed 80 hits and 30 walks in 79 innings, with 67 strikeouts. He has a 30-49 career record, with a 3.73 ERA, in seven seasons, including two with the Cubs and the past five with the Padres.

After allowing 8 runs in 2 2/3 innings July 8 against the Dodgers, Cashner has pitched well recently, allowing one, one and three runs in his last three starts, though he hasn't gone more than six innings in any of them. 

Rea has allowed 101 hits and walked 44 in 99 innings, with 76 strikeouts. He was 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA as a rookie last season.

Rea has allowed 3, 1, 4, 4, and 3 earned runs in his past five starts, not going more than six innings in any of them.

The Marlins also had been pursuing Philadelphia's Jeremy Hellickson, the Yankees' Michael Pineda and others in recent days.

 

STEVE ROSS

Dolphins owner Steve Ross said: "This year, I am as excited as I can be. I have great expectations."

• On Adam Gase: "When we selected him, I was very excited, and just as excited if not more so today."

• He said he is not making playoff predictions but expects to make the playoffs.

• He said he gets a phone call every day at 4:30 about the stadium and it will be ready by Sept. 1. "There is no backup plan," he said.

• On Tannehill: "I'm not going to say it's do or die for Ryan. Everyone is very good about Ryan. Adam Gase will bring out the best of those capabilities."

 

 

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

With the start of fall practice a week away, UM coach Mark Richt, knowing his depth is shaky, will need to rely immediately on transfers and several members of his first Hurricanes 18-player recruiting class (16 are enrolled).

Examining who is ready to help immediately, by position:

• Linebacker: Shaquille Quarterman – having bulked up after a fabulous spring --- is the clear front-runner to start at middle linebacker, and freshman Mike Pinckney will compete with junior Darrion Owens at weakside. One UM official called that Pinckney/Owens battle a tossup.

“They have certainly made a mark,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said of linebackers Quarterman, Pinckney and Zach McCloud. “What all three kids did was not easy to do… Shaq possesses tremendous instincts and vision. He seems to feel right at home in the middle of the defense. Mike made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage [in high school]. Zach plays with a very high motor, has tremendous range.”

Yes, growing pains are inevitable in a night road game in the ACC, when opponents are trying to fool wide-eyed freshmen. But a bunch of players are convinced Quarterman is going to be an impact player immediately.

“Shaq is going to be a great leader and he’s going to be a great player,” defensive tackle Richard McIntosh Jr. said. “The way he plays, it's unbelievable, to be an incoming freshman and [do this]. He has a high motor. And he knows his stuff. He doesn’t complain about anything. We can expect big things from those linebackers this year.”

• Defensive line: With Al-Quadin Muhammad at risk of discipline because of an ongoing luxury car rental investigation, and with Scott Patchan recovering from a torn ACL, there’s an opportunity for freshmen ends Pat Bethel and Joseph Jackson and end/tackle Tyreic Martin. UM would need a No. 4 defensive end to start the season if AQM (Miami's top defensive end) isn’t available.

Among ESPN’s top 300 prospects in the 2016 class, Bethel was No. 111 and Jackson No. 182. Jackson had six sacks and four forced fumbles at Gulliver Prep last season and “should be a dominant player” at UM, defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said, citing his “relentless” pass rusher motor and “great speed to get around the edge.”

Kuligowski believes Bethel, who had some good moments this spring, “should be great at stopping the run and rushing the passer.”

Martin, who projects as a tackle if he puts on more weight, “has a huge ceiling,” Kuligowski said. “When you find one of those [end/tackles] that can run, that’s a neat thing.”

• Defensive backs: Adrian Colbert, the senior safety transfer from Texas, is playing cornerback for the first time since high school but predicted to Canesport: "I feel I'm going to come and be a starter this year. I came in with a whole different mentality. I refuse to do anything but start.… It's a different thing in Texas. We take pride
in being able to cover fast receivers….

“I love the position. I'm doing really well, transitioning well and I've already got the playbook down to a T. It's the same as some of the stuff we had run at Texas, just some minor tweaks to it."

Four-star former Coconut Creek alum Malek Young has an immediate chance to compete for a top five-cornerback job, because none of the young corners behind Corn Elder and Sheldrick Redwine did enough in the spring to remove doubts. Young, at 5-9, also can play in the slot and had seven returns for touchdowns in high school, including four kickoffs.

“I got emotional when Malek committed to us,” cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph said. “I know what it’s like to be committed to a team going through so much turmoil. Very natural, really good ball skills. Amazing kid, a thinker, very articulate.”

The other freshmen --- Cedric Wright (not yet cleared to enroll while awaiting high-school credits to clear),  Romeo Finley, and Jeff James --- are safeties, though Diaz said James can play some corner.

“What I love about Romeo is his physicality,” safeties coach Ephraim Banda said. “What we put a premium on here is safeties who are physical in the middle of the field….The thing that jumps out with Ced is his ability to pass rush and blitz. We blitz our safeties all the time. [And] Jeff has a natural ability to go get the ball in the air.”

• Quarterback: Jack Allison impressed everyone this spring, and Richt said he’s not reluctant to burn his redshirt if he’s the best of the four options for the backup QB job. But UM would prefer if Evan Shirreffs or Malik Rosier wins the No. 2 job and Allison’s redshirt can be maintained.

QB coach Jon Richt likes a lot about the 6-5 Allison: “Big, tall, athletic, moves very well, great arm, great accuracy.” But a UM official said he needs to get stronger and bigger in the weight room.

• Running back: It’s difficult to see Travis Homer having a significant role this season behind Mark Walton, Joe Yearby, Gus Edwards and Trayone Gray (who Richt made a point to praise after the spring game).

But UM coaches, eager to add more speed on offense, love that element of Homer’s game.

“He’s a home-running hitting tailback,” running backs coach Thomas Brown said. 

Rated a four-star prospect by ESPN, Homer ran for 3200 yards at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach.

• Receiver: Sam Bruce and Ahmmon Richards are going to play as freshmen (though Bruce faces a potential suspension) and Dionte Mullins might, too, if he qualifies academically in August.

Special teams/tight ends coach coach Todd Hartley said he wants to give all three freshmen a look on returns.

Bruce, at 5-8, figures to get some time in the slot, because polished, productive slot receiver Braxton Berrios is also now able to play outside more.

“I can’t wait to see the Samburgini in front of me,” receivers coach Ron Dugans said of Bruce. “I hope he’s Samburgini at the U. He’s a dynamic player. He will be a good return man for us as well. I want to put the ball in his hands. I don’t think he’ll be as nervous; he’s been in the dog fight before against a lot of good players at St. Thomas. He’s not afraid of anything.”

Dugans calls Mullins “a playmaker with really good speed” and predicts Richards “is going to be a red zone threat.”

Mississippi transfer Dayall Harris also will get snaps; the former four-star Mississippi signee, who will be a sophomore, never played in a game there, but “he’s a little further along than a true freshman would be. He’ll definitely be able to help,” Richt said. “Smooth, fluid athlete.” 

• Offensive line: Tre Johnson, a three-star lineman out of Orlando, “has the size to be an elite offensive tackle,” offensive line coach Stacy Searels said. “He’s a basketball player so he can move his feet. I really like this kid a lot.”

UM doesn't necessarily need him this season, but he will have an opportunity compete, because UM wasn't thrilled with its backup offensive linemen in the spring.

• Tight ends: Michael Irvin Jr. and Jovani Haskins will compete for any remaining time behind David Njoku, Chris Herndon and Standish Dobard. (One of the two freshmen could redshirt.)

Roger Harriott, Irvin’s coach at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, says it’s uncanny how much Irvin resembles his Hall of Fame father in how he catches the ball.

Hartley calls Irvin “mature beyond his years, a very gifted pass catcher.”

Haskins, a three-star recruit from New Jersey, played quarterback in high school.

But UM sees him as a tight end because, at 6-4, “he has the ability to make people miss, run over people and is extremely athletic,” Hartley said. “We think he is going to be a very special player.”

• Fullback: Four arrivals, including one on scholarship (Marquez Williams from Division 2 Mars Hill) and three walk-ons: Dewayne Washington, Zachary Lawler and UM shot-putter Gian Piero Roagnesi. They’ll compete with Gage Batten and Corey Giordano.

UM wants to use a fullback at times.

• FYI: Jack Spicer, a former UF walk-on, is walking on at UM and could succeed preseason All-ACC senior Justin Vogel as UM’s punter in 2018.

CHATTER

• With training camp beginning Friday morning, the Dolphins will demand a lot more consistency and production from a bunch of their players, and tight ends Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims are high on that list.

Adam Gase has said Sims must turn potential into results. And the front office expects Cameron to do a better job fighting for balls in the air.

There will be an overhaul at the position next spring if both don’t improve... We'll have training camp updates all day Friday and for the next several weeks.

• There has been a significant development in Don Shula's health. Please click here for that, from earlier this evening.

• The Marlins are determined to add at least one starting pitcher, and two ideally, before Monday’s trade deadline, and we hear these are three new names in whom they’ve expressed interest: Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez (8-8, 4.56 ERA, $10 million mutual option this winter), the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker (5-11, 4.17, under team control through 2020), and Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71, due $6.3, $8 million, $11 million through 2019).

They’re also still in the mix for the Phillies’ Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.65), San Diego’s Andrew Cashner (4-7, 4.76), the Angels’ Hector Santiago (9-4, 4.28) and the Yankees’ Ivan Nova (7-5, 4.65) and Michael Pineda (5-9, 5.00), plus Seattle's Wade Miley (6-8, 5.23), among others.

Hellickson, Cashner and Nova are impending free agents.

• Teams keep asking the Marlins about Class A Greensboro first baseman Josh Naylor (.265, 9, 53) and Class A Jupiter right-hander Luis Castillo (7-3, 2.75). The Marlins would at least consider trading any prospect.

• Don Mattingly said the Marlins have discussed making David Phelps a starter again, with a decision pending the trade deadline. Phelps said he would talk to the Marlins about it "if it came to that."

Such a move, seen as a last resort, would require stretching him out back to starter's innings.

Phelps is 16-19 with a 4.36 ERA as a starter (mostly with the Yankees) and 7-8 with a 3.56 ERA as a reliever.

•Reliever Bryan Morris, off back surgery, said he should be ready to return to the majors by early-to-mid September.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

New names surface in Marlins' search for a starting pitcher; Don Shula health update

Quick Thursday evening update:

The Marlins are determined to add at least one starting pitcher, and two ideally, before Monday’s trade deadline, and we're told these are three new names in whom they’ve expressed interest: Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez (8-8, 4.56 ERA, has a $10 million mutual option next season), the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker (5-11, 4.17, under team control through 2020), and Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71, due $6.3, $8 million, $11 million through 2019).

Shoemaker hasn't quite been the same since going 16-4 and finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2014. But he still has upside and the Angels are said to be listening to offers. He generally has pitched well since May, though he allowed five runs in his last start.

MLB.com reported that it's unlikely the Braves will trade Teheran because he's signed to a longterm affordable contract.

The Marlins also remain in the mix for several names that have been mentioned previously: the Phillies’ Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.65), San Diego’s Andrew Cashner (4-7, 4.76), the Angels’ Hector Santiago (9-4, 4.28) and the Yankees’ Ivan Nova (7-5, 4.65) and Michael Pineda (5-9, 5.00), among others.

Hellickson, Cashner and Nova are impending free agents.

The Marlins are open to adding short-term rentals such as Hellickson or pitchers who will be under team control for several years (such as Shoemaker).

Jeffrey Loria views this as a real chance to end baseball's second-longest postseason drought and is committed to improving the rotation.

• Teams keep asking the Marlins about Class A Greensboro first baseman Josh Naylor (.265, 9 home runs, 53 RBI) and Class A Jupiter right-hander Luis Castillo (7-3, 2.75).

The Marlins would consider trading any prospect, depending on the quality of the pitcher they're getting in return.

• Don Mattingly said the Marlins have discussed the possibility of making David Phelps a starter again and said it's certainly not out of the question, with a decision to be made after the trade deadline.

Phelps said he would talk to the Marlins about it "if it came to that." Such a move, seen as a last resort, would require stretching him out back to starter's innings.

Phelps is 16-19 with a 4.36 ERA as a starter (mostly with the Yankees) and 7-8 with a 3.56 ERA as a reliever.

• Reliever Bryan Morris, off back surgery, said today he should be ready to return to the majors by early-to-mid September. Morris began throwing this week - a few days sooner than projected - and said this is the first time in a year-and-a-half that he hasn't felt back pain while throwing.

For an update tonight on Don Shula's health, plus news that could change your holiday season plans and Dolphins chatter, please click here. And check back in a little while for lots of UM football.

July 27, 2016

6 p.m. Don Shula update; Major change for Orange Bowl; Some perspective on Dolphins contracts - the good and worrisome; More media football announcing changes

For those who have asked me how legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula is doing after being hospitalized earlier this offseason, some good news:

Shula’s wife, Mary Anne, told me that her husband getting a pacemaker three months ago “has made a tremendous difference in how he feels. He looks fantastic and is moving in the right direction. The doctor told him he can travel.”

Shula, 86, and Mary Anne will spend some time in Pebble Beach, Cal., this summer before returning in time for Miami's Sept. 25 home opener against Cleveland.

Shula was hospitalized in May because of fluid retention and sleep apnea. 

Shula is the winningest coach in NFL history (with 347 regular-season and playoff victories) and a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He is also the owner of a successful chain of steakhouses throughout the country.

Don and Mary Anne Shula live in Indian Creek Island.

 

OB NEWS

Noon update: Good news -- The College Football Playoff has relented and has moved two future Orange Bowl games off New Year's Eve.

The 2018 game has been shifted from Monday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 29.

The 2024 game has been moved from Tuesday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 28.

The 2021 playoff semifinal game will remain on Dec. 31, a Friday, because that day is recognized as a national holiday.

Here was the letter sent to OB committee members today, as obtained by the Herald:

Dear Fellow Member,

I trust that this email correspondence finds you well and enjoying the summer!

Earlier this year, we announced a date change to the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl to Friday, Dec. 30 in primetime.  Consistent with this schedule revision, we have continued discussions with our partners to explore optimal dates/times for future bowl games.

In recent weeks, the OBC was presented with a unique opportunity by the College Football Playoff (CFP) and ESPN to move two of our three remaining Playoff Semifinal games off of New Year’s Eve.  After discussions with OBC leadership and our key stakeholders, I am pleased to announce changes to College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Capital One Orange Bowlin 2018 and 2024.

Specifically, these changes involve moving the 2018 CFP Semifinal game from Monday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 29 and the 2024 CFP Playoff Semifinal from Tuesday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 28.  The Playoff Semifinal in 2021 will remain on Friday, Dec. 31, as that is the nationally recognized holiday for New Year’s Day.

Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter and the number of parties involved, we were respectfully asked to keep the feasibility discussions confidential among our leadership and key stakeholders, including Capital One and the Miami Dolphins. Once it was determined to be viable, we immediately brought the opportunity to our Board of Directors who voted unanimously to support the move. 

The official announcement is attached. We are excited about the moves and anticipate they will be beneficial both in attendance and television viewership.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact myself or Eric Poms at any time.

 

DOLPHINS NEWS

 

Some notes with just two shopping days left before the start of Dolphins training camp:

• Pro Football Focus rated the best and worst contracts for this season, and the Dolphins were prominently mentioned.

On the positive side:

Koa Misi’s contract (two years left, with an average cap hit of $4.2 million per) was rated the fifth-best among all NFL linebackers. Here’s why:

“Year after year,” PFF says, “Koa Misi plays between 400 and 800 snaps and grades out favorably, even though he doesn’t always post high tackle numbers. In 2015, Misi posted career-highs in snaps and stops. His 85.7 run-defense grade was 13th best among linebackers. He was able to get pressure on over 20 percent of his pass rushes, which was fourth-best for 4-3 outside linebackers with at least 50 pass rushes.

“The combination of his consistency and decent play means that Misi should be getting paid like a top-20 linebacker, while in reality he’s only getting paid like a top-30 linebacker. That isn’t a huge difference, which just speaks to the fact that there aren’t many veteran linebackers who are getting paid less money than they deserve.”

• On the negative side, PFF rated Mario Williams’ contract the worst in football among edge defenders. PFF consistently has criticized Williams in recent months because of his subpar performance (playing out of position) with the Bills last season.

Williams’ two-year deal has a cap hit of $8.5 million per season. Here’s why PFF said it ranks his contract worst in the NFL at his position:

“The Dolphins could have retained Olivier Vernon on the franchise tag for only a little more than they gave Mario Williams over two years. Williams suffered a dreadful season in Buffalo, recording the worst pass-rush grade of all edge defenders. He managed only 37 combined pressures in 507 rushes, ranking fourth from bottom in pass-rushing productivity. Williams’ 42.5 pass-rush grade helped him to 93rd in our overall edge defender rankings.

“The Bills wisely noticed the decline in Williams’ performance, cutting ties with him at the right time. The fact Miami decided to hand him $17 million over two years is baffling. Their bookend pass-rushers consist of a 34-year-old coming off an ACL surgery [Cam Wake] and a 31-year-old coming off the worst season of his career. In the likely case of another disappointing season, Williams will cost $2 million in dead money to cut. It would be a surprise if he played well enough to make the $10.5 million he’s set to earn.”

• What’s more, PFF says Jordan Cameron’s deal (one year with an $8 million cap hit) is the third-worst among all tight ends, even though he took a pay cut.

PFF’s explanation: “After two solid years as a receiving tight end in Cleveland, the Dolphins signed Cameron to a two-year contract, and the first season of that deal was a flop. Last year, his 0.97 yards per route run mark was the lowest for tight ends with at least 300 routes run. In fact, in each of the last two games of the season, fellow Miami tight end Dion Sims played more snaps than Cameron. Even at his best in 2013, Cameron recorded the second-most receiving yards for tight ends, but part of that was simply volume of targets—his receiving grade was only 15th among his positional peers that season. It doesn’t help his case that he’s graded out as a below-average run-blocker each of the last four seasons.

“After his poor performance, he took a pay cut (which saved him from getting released), but his cap hit is still the fourth-highest for tight ends in 2016. If we were just looking at worst contracts in 2016, Cameron would have topped the list, but since the Dolphins are free from his contract after the year, that dropped him to No. 3 on this list.”

• And finally, PFF ranks Earl Mitchell’s contract fifth-worst among interior defenders, even though his cap hit averages just $4 million the next two seasons. Here is PFF’s justification:

“Playing alongside Ndamukong Suh in 2015, Mitchell struggled mightily, finishing 97th among interior defensive linemen with a 64.1 overall grade. He was especially weak against the run, finishing 60th among defensive tackles with a 4.2 run-stop percentage (for an overall run-defense grade of 34.2). He didn’t grade positively after Week 8 of 2015, accumulating just three stops and four pressures during that stretch.

“Mitchell’s contract is not an onerous one for the Dolphins, as he is due—at most—$1 million in dead money were he to be cut at any point over the next two seasons. That said, Mitchell has never finished higher than 30th in overall grading among defensive tackles during any point in his career, and yet his salary is currently 16th among 4-3 defensive tackles on a per-year basis. With the Dolphins allocating significant resources to Suh for the foreseeable future, it’s probably not the best use of resources to pay Mitchell like an above-average interior defender, especially given that they’re making a similarly questionable move by paying Mario Williams $17 million over two years to replace Olivier Vernon.”

 

MEDIA PERSONNEL NOTES

Tom Jackson is leaving ESPN by his choice, meaning the network will have an entirely new cast of analysts alongside Chris Berman on Sunday Countdown. Gone: Jackson, Mike Ditka, Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson. New: Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss, Trent Dilfer (already an ESPN employee) and Charles Woodson.

And Berman reportedly will leave ESPN's NFL host job after this season.

• Fox hired former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman to replace ESPN-bound Moss on its 11 a.m.-noon NFL pregame show that most Fox affiliates carried last season, before the main pre-game show at noon. Tillman joins Charissa Thompson, Colin Cowherd and Dave Wannstedt on that prelude to Fox's main pregame.

• ESPN assigned Dave Flemming and Jesse Palmer to Thursday night college games, a change from last year’s team of Joe Tessitore (who was promoted to Saturday nights to replace Brad Nessler), Palmer and David Pollack (will now work exclusively as a studio analyst)...

• One other note: Despite winning their division, the Panthers are getting just one appearance in a combined 106 NHL telecasts on NBC and NBC Sports Net next season. And the one appearance is in the lowest-profile of time slots: a late Wednesday night February game in San Jose, on NBC Sports Net.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 26, 2016

Examining Dolphins' roster battles, by position, with camp looming; Scout assesses Dion Waiters; Marlins nuggets

 

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Dolphins training camp starts Friday with five legitimate starting battles: Laremy Tunsil vs. Dallas Thomas at left guard (I expect Tunsil to emerge as the starter); Arian Foster vs. Jay Ajayi at running back (Adam Gase loves Ajayi, but Foster is obviously far more accomplished); Billy Turner against a cast of thousands at right guard; Isa Abdul-Quddus vs. Michael Thomas at safety and Earl Mitchell vs. Jordan Phillips at defensive tackle.

The Tony Lippett vs. Xavien Howard cornerback battle isn’t much of one now, with Howard out potentially a few weeks after knee surgery, but expected back by the Sept. 11 opener at Seattle.

But there are also many unresolved questions about who makes the 53-man roster. Keep in mind that Adam Gase contractually has control over who makes the 53.

Where things stand:

• Defensive line: Cam Wake, Mario Williams, Jason Jones and Andre Branch will share time at end, and Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell and Jordan Phillips are set at tackle. So that's seven.

That leaves potentially two jobs open among Dion Jordan if he's reinstated, Chris Jones (a former Patriots starter who was deemed expendable after missing last season with an injury), Chris McCain and Terrence Fede (both have practice squad eligibility but need a strong camp to stick on the 53), plus long shots DeAndre Coleman and Cleyon Laing, among others.

The Dolphins have a plan for Jordan if he's reinstated, and agent Doug Hendrickson has told me that the Dolphins have indicated he's in their plans. I would make Chris Jones the slight front-runner for the other job, but that job is very much open.  

If McCain and Fede outplay Chris Jones, then Jason Jones could fill the role of Miami’s fourth defensive tackle.

• Linebacker: Kiko Alonso, Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi are set as starters, and the Dolphins want to develop Neville Hewitt and Zach Vigil, though neither is assured of anything.

Miami values Spencer Paysinger for his special teams work. They might only keep six, if Gase opts for more players on offense than defense, which isn’t uncommon.

James Michael-Johnson, who appeared in three games for Miami last season, Mike Hull and undrafted rookies James Burgess, Tyler Gray and Akil Blount would need to unset Hewitt, Vigil or Paysinger and none of the three undrafted rookies made the type of offseason splash that Vigil did last year.

• Cornerback: Bryon Maxwell, Lippett, Howard and Bobby McCain are automatic.

That leaves Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, former Cowboys backup Tyler Patmon, and seventh-rounder Jordan Lucas competing for one job (backup slot, behind McCain). It’s a toss-up among those three, with Lucas a practice squad possibility if he’s cut. Unless Ekpre-Olomu regains his pre-knee injury form, Miami might find a better option on waivers on Labor Day weekend.

Howard’s injury will give more reps to Chimdi Chekwa and creates the potential need to keep a sixth corner to start the season.

Chekwa is essentially competing with every cornerback cut in the next seven weeks. Miami isn’t believed to be pursuing Antonio Cromartie, the biggest name among unsigned cornerbacks.

• Safety: Reshad Jones is automatic, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Michael Thomas presumably will stick and Walt Aikens is the clear front-runner for the No. 4 job (ahead of Shamiel Gary and AJ Hendy), because the Dolphins consider him one of their best special teams players, and because Vance Joseph says he sees Aikens developing into a good safety.

The question is whether Thomas holds onto a starting job ahead of Abdul-Quddus, who thrived as a late-season starter in Detroit.

• Running back: Gase likes Damien Williams --- and Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead had some moments this summer and the Dolphins aren’t opposed to keeping a fourth back behind Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake. Because the Dolphins don't have a fullback, they believe that gives them the luxury to keep an extra tailback or tight end.

• Receiver: DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Leonte Carroo are automatic and 5-7 Jakeem Grant almost assuredly will be Miami’s fifth receiver because of his return ability. What's more, the team believes he can contribute as a rookie receiver, too.

“The skills are there” for Grant to be a dangerous slot receiver, backup QB Matt Moore said. “He’s as fast as lightning. He’s getting a grasp of the offense. He’s understanding leverage on the field. Absolutely, he can be a player. There’s a future there, I think.”

If Miami keeps a sixth receiver, a case could be made for Griff Whalen, a competent possession receiver who worked well with Ryan Tannehill this offseason. This could be the last chance for Matt Hazel, entering his third year.

• Tight end: Because of his lack of in-line blocking experience, the odds are against seventh-rounder Thomas Duarte can beat out Jake Stoneburner, Dominique Jones (12 NFL games for three different teams) or a player who will become available later for the No. 3 job behind Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims.

But the Dolphins really like Duarte's pass-catching ability and he will get a long look, with the practice squad a strong possibility if he doesn't make the 53.

Undrafted Gabe Hughes has strong receiving skills and, like Duarte, is a candidate for the practice squad.

• Quarterback: Gase indicated he hasn’t decided whether to keep a third quarterback behind Tannehill and Matt Moore. But Brandon Doughty will have every chance to make his case if he impresses a lot in preseason, and if the Dolphins fear that he would be signed elsewhere if they try to move him to the practice squad. Zac Dysert is a camp arm, essentially.

• Offensive line: Stiffest competition on the team. Four jobs are automatic, with Branden Albert, Mike Pouncey, Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James.

Billy Turner has a good chance to stick – if not as the fifth starter, then as the backup, because there’s still upside there. Dallas Thomas, the first team left guard through minicamp, isn’t automatic but has a good chance to stick as a backup swing tackle/guard. That’s six. Then it gets interesting.

Jermon Bushrod has value as a potential starter at guard and backup at tackle and should make it unless he bombs. That’s seven. Jamil Douglas has value as a backup center and backup guard and should stick, though it's not a complete slam dunk if he’s beaten out by Kraig Urbik or Jacques McClendon for the backup center job.

I would make Bushrod, Douglas and Urbik the favorites if Miami keeps nine, with McClendon and Sam Young also in the mix. The Dolphins originally signed Young as Jason Fox's replacement as the No. 3 tackle, and he will get a look, but the subsequent additions of Bushrod and Tunsil make Young potentially expendable.

And Thomas can’t be awful in preseason, or he would be at risk.

CHATTER

• A veteran scout, on what the Heat is getting in guard Dion Waiters: “The reigning perception is he's a knucklehead, but I have heard otherwise from one of Oklahoma City’s scouts who said he wasn’t. He's a streak shooter, can get to the basket, can get his own shot. He is not bad defensively. He can get into guys. I’ve always liked his passing. He can make plays. He's got a pretty good feel.

“The reservations about him are he was such an erratic player. He had a terrific playoff [this past season] at different points. He's a good backup on a very good team. If he's starting, his warts are going to come to the forefront more.

“He’s a talent, better than Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington,  different than Josh Richardson. Richardson is the better defender. Waiters has got a got a game off the dribble. Ellington has no game off the dribble; he’s a spot up guy, end of story.”

Please see the last post here for what Pat Riley and Waiters had to say about their marriage.

• Coincidental timing: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and CEO Nick Arison got married the same day on opposite coasts on Saturday, Spoelstra at Vizcaya Village, Arison in Santa Barbara, Cal.

Congrats to both. Pat Riley attended Spoelstra’s. GM Andy Elisburg attended Arison's.

• Though Derek Dietrich has played well in his absence, the Marlins indicate Dee Gordon (ineligible for postseason) will play immediately when he comes off suspension Thursday and will play a lot.

“Dee is getting back at the perfect time,” Don Mattingly said today.

Dietrich entered tonight on an 0 for 14 skid.

• The Marlins, continuing to search for pitching in a trade, were buoyed by Jarred Cosart’s strong start Monday.

Before Monday's game, owner Jeffrey Loria told him: “When you walk in those doors, I want you to be the guy you were mentally in 2014.”

Loria and Cosart believed that would translate to on-field performance.

Cosart said "hearing that from the owner was encouraging; I owe a lot to him and this front office for getting me over in Houston."

Cosart said when he was demoted this year, “I was in a rut longer than anyone would like.”

He tinkered with his delivery at Triple A New Orleans and the change appears to have helped.

Giancarlo Stanton now has 18 RBI in his last 16 games, including a two-run triple in a 5-0 win against the Phillies tonight. Miami broke it open with four in the eighth.

• For tons of UM notes today, including Mark Richt addressing his receiver situation, recruiting, Michael Irvin Jr., and more; plus Pat Riley's comments about Dion Waiters, please click here.

Please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

Scout analyzes Dion Waiters; Marlins buzz including Loria's message; Canes football talk

A few notes on a Tuesday night:

• A veteran scout, on what the Heat is getting in guard Dion Waiters: “The reigning perception is he's a knucklehead, but I have heard otherwise from one of Oklahoma City’s scouts who said he wasn’t. He's a streak shooter, can get to the basket, can get his own shot. He is not bad defensively. He can get into guys. I’ve always liked his passing. He can make plays. He's got a pretty good feel.

“The reservations about him are he was such an erratic player. He had a terrific playoff [this past season] at different points. He's a good backup on a very good team. If he's starting, his warts are going to come to the forefront more.

“He’s a talent, better than Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington,  different than Josh Richardson. Richardson is the better defender. Waiters has got a got a game off the dribble. Ellington has no game off the dribble; he’s a spot up guy, end of story.”

Please see the last post here for what Pat Riley and Waiters had to say about their marriage.

• Coincidental timing: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and CEO Nick Arison got married the same day on opposite coasts on Saturday, Spoelstra at Vizcaya Village, Arison in Santa Barbara, Cal.

Congrats to both. Pat Riley attended Spoelstra’s. GM Andy Elisburg attended Arison's.

• Though Derek Dietrich has played well in his absence, the Marlins indicate Dee Gordon (ineligible for postseason) will play immediately when he comes off suspension Thursday and will play a lot.

“Dee is getting back at the perfect time,” Don Mattingly said today.

Dietrich entered tonight on an 0 for 14 skid.

• The Marlins, continuing to search for pitching in a trade, were buoyed by Jarred Cosart’s strong start Monday.

Before Monday's game, owner Jeffrey Loria told him: “When you walk in those doors, I want you to be the guy you were mentally in 2014.”

Loria and Cosart believed that would translate to on-field performance.

Cosart said "hearing that from the owner was encouraging; I owe a lot of to him and this front office for getting me over in Houston."

Cosart said when he was demoted this year, “I was in a rut longer than anyone would like.”

He tinkered with his delivery at Triple A New Orleans and the change appears to have helped.

• Giancarlo Stanton now has 18 RBI in his last 16 games, including a two-run triple in a 5-0 win against the Phillies tonight. Miami broke it open with four in the eighth.

• For tons of UM notes today, including Mark Richt addressing his receiver situation, recruiting, Michael Irvin Jr., and more; plus Pat Riley's comments about Dion Waiters, please click here. And check back in a little while for a ton of Dolphins. 

Riley on Dion Waiters; Richt on Arian Foster pickup; Lots of news from Mark Richt

Couple quick 1 p.m. notes:

• Guard Dion Waiters today explained on Instagram why he took the Heat's $2.9 million room exception: "I didn't do it for the money. I did it for the opportunity to go out and ball and have fun. Everything else will take care of itself!!! I just felt like it was the best situation for me and my family. I could have waited and got [what] I wanted.  But I rather be happy than miserable at the end of the day!!! Meaning you can have everything and still not be happy. #heatnation let's get it. #provethem wrong." 

And Pat Riley said: "Dion is not a Room Exception player. He wanted to play for the Miami Heat and chose to forgo other more lucrative financial opportunities to be a part of our championship organization. We are very honored that he made the commitment to come to South Florida and sign with us. Dion is young, athletic and explosive, which fits in with our roster. He will add a great dimension for us at the off-guard spot. I really like the depth and versatility that we now have in our perimeter positions. Welcome aboard Dion!”

• Adam Gase, in his pre-training camp press conference, said of Arian Foster: "I just think it adds great competition to that group. I really like his skill set. I’ve been an admirer of his for I don’t know how long he’s been playing. It just feels like forever. A great opportunity for us, him still being out there. We had been in conversations with him for a while. We had brought him in on a visit and we had a really good talk and just kind of allowed him to get healthy and work to get back. It’ll be interesting when we get him out there and just to see how he kind of fits in.”

On his route running, Gase said: “I’ve always been a fan of how he does things. He’s the type of guy that he can run his route tree similar to what a wide receiver’s is. When we worked him out, I put him in a couple of spots just to see how that looked and he runs about as smooth as any running back that I’ve ever seen. I’ll be interested to see how far we can grow the running back position with him.”

• Though Xavien Howard will begin camp on PUP after arthroscopic knee surgery (Gase expects him back by the Sept. 11 opener), Gase is confident in Tony Lippett, who's the front-runner to start opposite Byron Maxwell: "I thought he did a good job. Me and Vance were talking about it the other day, as far as, as the spring went on, we saw him get more comfortable. He did a good job. He had a couple of picks there towards the back half. It seems like he did a good job, even when the ball popped up in air, he gets his hands on it. He makes sure he does a good job he comes down with the ball when he does get his hands on it. We're seeing improvement. The fact that he'll get to the line of scrimmage and press and be aggressive. We just need guys to be able to hang in there for a short period of time. That's why I love our pass-rush. That thing's coming."

MARK RICHT TALK

Lots of UM football today, on top of last night's post here about a big oral commitment for UM:

• Interesting last night to watch Mark Richt address a bunch of 3 to 14 years at Gwen Cherry Park in Miami. (Credit to Mark Walton and Chris Herndon for also attending.)

Richt told one child: "In eight years, I might be able to sign up."

Richt wants to visit local parks weekly, even during the season.  "We're just trying to love 'em up," he said, adding he didn't do this at Georgia.

• I asked Richt specifically if he envisions Al-Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace being available for the opener, or are they both at risk for suspension.

“I will give you any information if it’s appropriate to give it to you," Richt said. "Right now, it’s not.”

The fact he didn't rule out a suspension confirms what we have been told: The investigation into AQM has not been closed.

As we've reported, UM has been investigating players (including AQM, Grace and Juwon Young) for possibly taking heavily discounted cars from a Miami Beach dealership (South Beach Exotic Rentals) in exchange for giving the car rental agency a stake in their professional future.

Young has been suspended and is not expected back at UM, barring a dramatic change.

• With Lawrence Cager out for the year with a torn ACL, UM is down to seven healthy scholarship receivers. Dionte Mullens would be an eight if he qualifies, as UM expects.

"It's going to be all hands on decks at that position," he said.

On Darrell Langham, who's one of several competing to replace Cager, Richt said: “We wanted him to cut to a certain weight, but the reality was he got down to a certain body fat, which was excellent; sometimes if they hit a certain body fat and they’re at a weight that maybe we didn’t think was low enough…we’re asking a guy to go lower when he already has the proper body fat.He looks good. He’s just a big man. He’s probably in the 225, 230-range. He’s plenty fast. His body, his presence is a big, strong receiver. He’ll be able to get open just by virtue of his size and his range.” 

Richt said transfer Dayall Harris is a "smooth, fluid athlete. He can help, no question.... Got great ball skills. And he’s got some experience. He played a year at Ole Miss. He played in junior college. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s a little further along than a true freshman would be. He’ll definitely be able to help. He’s going to have to.”

• Might tight ends Chris Herndon and David Njoku play some at receiver?

"They really are," Richt said. "They flex out and they can play the receiver position. Am I going to train one at the split end and train one at the flanker? Probably not. But they know the two inside slot positions. If we go three receivers, they can easily be one of the three, both of them.”

On Herndon, Richt said: "Herndon…he’s a legit tight end, he’s a legit fullback and he’s a legit receiver. I haven’t really had a guy that can really be proficient at all three and be smart enough to really pick it up. In one spring, he knew all the fullback position, he knew all the tight end position, he knew all the slot receiver position. I mean, the guy’s…like he said, he has a 3.1 and he’s a smart kid. He really cares.”

And Richt said Standish Dobard, who was the third-string tight end coming out of spring, has had "a great summer. He’s slimmer, he’s trimmer. His body fat, he cut it. He’s in better shape. I see a difference just looking at his body type and his conditioning now compared to spring. He’s showing me he really wants to play ball and he will. He will.”

Michael Irvin Jr., who hopes to get snaps at tight end as a freshman, also has impressed. 

"[Brad Kaaya] talks about his catch radius," Richt said. "He does have really good hands and he’s got good agility and mobility, good route-running. He was a little heavy, but he cut weight in the beginning. Now he’s starting to build good weight. He had a little baby fat on him. He’s trimming up and getting strong and getting lean. He’s a smart kid too. He’ll throw his hat in that competition.”

• Richt isn't sure who will back up Brad Kaaya. My sense is Evan Schirreffs is a slight front runner over Malik Rosier, but this absolutely could go either way.

"Don’t know the answer," Richt said. "I want to see if they’re on it as far as assignments and they can take the assignments from the meeting room to the field, just see what kind of accuracy and decision-making they have, get us in the right run game. Can they function and help these other skill guys do their jobs?”

• Richt, so far, has been far more successful drawing alumni back to campus than Al Golden ever was, made clear this week they will be invited to campus whenever they want.

“It’s been great," he said. "I’m one of them. I’m a former alum as well and I think that’s helped. They feel like one of their own has come home. Our football alumni have been great. I have also reached out to them. I want them to be a part of this program. I
want them to feel welcome. I want them to drop by. I want them to pop in and say hello to our players…

"If they want to come to practice, I want them to come to practice. Spring game, bunch of them the sideline, I want them there. I don’t want them there trying to coach our guys but I want them there. So far the relationship has been really good. They’re hungry for success. The one thing about them is they love the University of Miami. They love that school, man. They love that team and want to see it succeed. They want to do anything they can to help. I had what I called Paradise Camp a couple days ago.

"I don’t know many came, 15 or whatever it was. We asked a few guys to come. I bet you we could have had 50. Once the word got out we were doing it, they were texting and calling, ‘I’d love to come.’ They all got there on their own. They didn’t get paid. They did it because they love the place and they want us to be great. It’s been great.”

 • Richt, on what he’s learned in recruiting in 15 years at Georgia: “The bottom line in recruiting is you’ve got to be diligent, you’ve got to have relationships, cultivate coaches and players, maybe their mother, brother, cousin, uncle. You’ve got to know everything about that kid whether they’re nearby or not.

“There’s a lot of great talent in that tri-county area. A lot of that talent is not as developed as some other places around the country. Some players aren’t used to eating the way we begin to feed them when they get to campus. They start eating and lifting a certain way, start learning how to take care of their bodies. All of a sudden, this skinny kid 175 pounds turns into 215-pound gazelle of a wide receiver. What happened to this guy?

"How many great three star players come out of South Florida? A bunch. Ray Lewis was a three-star. There are a bunch of guys who were these three-star. If that kid was in another area of the country, he would be a 5 star. There are so many great players down there, in some ways they cancel each themselves out in front of standing out…. You take some of these guys and put them in
other spots around the country, they would be the best players in the league. Four and five star guys. There are a bunch of gems in there that may not have the ratings, which I’ve never been too concerned about anyway. Fans like it.”

• Richt, on calling plays again: "On a personal level, if I am going to really enjoy it and have an energy level I think it takes to be great, calling plays and game-planning and scheming has really energized me. It’s important for the staff to see me compete. I think it’s important for the players to see me compete. Every day in practice, it’s offense vs. defense. I want the defense to make big plays. But for that moment, when I call a play, I want execution on offense.

"The players see that, my competitive juices may be different than if you are on the side watching, offense does good or defense does good, it’s good but you don’t have any emotion toward it. It’s been good for me and good for the players.” 

 Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 

1 p.m. Tuesday: Waiters and Pat Riley explain Heat move; Gase weighs in on Arian Foster: Richt on receivers post-Cager, Michael Irvin's son, recruiting, involvement of alums, AQM and other issues

Couple quick 1 p.m. notes:

• Guard Dion Waiters today explained on Instagram why he took the Heat's $2.9 million room exception: "I didn't do it for the money. I did it for the opportunity to go out and ball and have fun. Everything else will take care of itself!!! I just felt like it was the best situation for me and my family. I could have waited and got [what] I wanted.  But I rather be happy than miserable at the end of the day!!! Meaning you can have everything and still not be happy. #heatnation let's get it. #provethem wrong." 

And Pat Riley said: "Dion is not a Room Exception player. He wanted to play for the Miami Heat and chose to forgo other more lucrative financial opportunities to be a part of our championship organization. We are very honored that he made the commitment to come to South Florida and sign with us. Dion is young, athletic and explosive, which fits in with our roster. He will add a great dimension for us at the off-guard spot. I really like the depth and versatility that we now have in our perimeter positions. Welcome aboard Dion!”

• Adam Gase, in his pre-training camp press conference, said of Arian Foster: "I just think it adds great competition to that group. I really like his skill set. I’ve been an admirer of his for I don’t know how long he’s been playing. It just feels like forever. A great opportunity for us, him still being out there. We had been in conversations with him for a while. We had brought him in on a visit and we had a really good talk and just kind of allowed him to get healthy and work to get back. It’ll be interesting when we get him out there and just to see how he kind of fits in.”

On his route running, Gase said: “I’ve always been a fan of how he does things. He’s the type of guy that he can run his route tree similar to what a wide receiver’s is. When we worked him out, I put him in a couple of spots just to see how that looked and he runs about as smooth as any running back that I’ve ever seen. I’ll be interested to see how far we can grow the running back position with him.”

• Though Xavien Howard will begin camp on PUP after arthroscopic knee surgery (Gase expects him back by the Sept. 11 opener), Gase is confident in Tony Lippett, who's the front-runner to start opposite Byron Maxwell: "I thought he did a good job. Me and Vance were talking about it the other day, as far as, as the spring went on, we saw him get more comfortable. He did a good job. He had a couple of picks there towards the back half. It seems like he did a good job, even when the ball popped up in air, he gets his hands on it. He makes sure he does a good job he comes down with the ball when he does get his hands on it. We're seeing improvement. The fact that he'll get to the line of scrimmage and press and be aggressive. We just need guys to be able to hang in there for a short period of time. That's why I love our pass-rush. That thing's coming."

MARK RICHT TALK

Lots of UM football today, on top of last night's post here about a big oral commitment for UM:

• Interesting last night to watch Mark Richt address a bunch of 3 to 14 years at Gwen Cherry Park in Miami. (Credit to Mark Walton and Chris Herndon for also attending.)

Richt told one child: "In eight years, I might be able to sign up."

Richt wants to visit local parks weekly, even during the season.  "We're just trying to love 'em up," he said, adding he didn't do this at Georgia.

• I asked Richt specifically if he envisions Al-Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace being available for the opener, or are they both at risk for suspension.

“I will give you any information if it’s appropriate to give it to you," Richt said. "Right now, it’s not.”

The fact he didn't rule out a suspension confirms what we have been told: The investigation into AQM has not been closed.

As we've reported, UM has been investigating players (including AQM, Grace and Juwon Young) for possibly taking heavily discounted cars from a Miami Beach dealership (South Beach Exotic Rentals) in exchange for giving the car rental agency a stake in their professional future.

Young has been suspended and is not expected back at UM, barring a dramatic change.

• With Lawrence Cager out for the year with a torn ACL, UM is down to seven healthy scholarship receivers. Dionte Mullens would be an eight if he qualifies, as UM expects.

"It's going to be all hands on decks at that position," he said.

On Darrell Langham, who's one of several competing to replace Cager, Richt said: “We wanted him to cut to a certain weight, but the reality was he got down to a certain body fat, which was excellent; sometimes if they hit a certain body fat and they’re at a weight that maybe we didn’t think was low enough…we’re asking a guy to go lower when he already has the proper body fat.He looks good. He’s just a big man. He’s probably in the 225, 230-range. He’s plenty fast. His body, his presence is a big, strong receiver. He’ll be able to get open just by virtue of his size and his range.” 

Richt said transfer Dayall Harris is a "smooth, fluid athlete. He can help, no question.... Got great ball skills. And he’s got some experience. He played a year at Ole Miss. He played in junior college. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s a little further along than a true freshman would be. He’ll definitely be able to help. He’s going to have to.”

• Might tight ends Chris Herndon and David Njoku play some at receiver?

"They really are," Richt said. "They flex out and they can play the receiver position. Am I going to train one at the split end and train one at the flanker? Probably not. But they know the two inside slot positions. If we go three receivers, they can easily be one of the three, both of them.”

On Herndon, Richt said: "Herndon…he’s a legit tight end, he’s a legit fullback and he’s a legit receiver. I haven’t really had a guy that can really be proficient at all three and be smart enough to really pick it up. In one spring, he knew all the fullback position, he knew all the tight end position, he knew all the slot receiver position. I mean, the guy’s…like he said, he has a 3.1 and he’s a smart kid. He really cares.”

And Richt said Standish Dobard, who was the third-string tight end coming out of spring, has had "a great summer. He’s slimmer, he’s trimmer. His body fat, he cut it. He’s in better shape. I see a difference just looking at his body type and his conditioning now compared to spring. He’s showing me he really wants to play ball and he will. He will.”

Michael Irvin Jr., who hopes to get snaps at tight end as a freshman, also has impressed. 

"[Brad Kaaya] talks about his catch radius," Richt said. "He does have really good hands and he’s got good agility and mobility, good route-running. He was a little heavy, but he cut weight in the beginning. Now he’s starting to build good weight. He had a little baby fat on him. He’s trimming up and getting strong and getting lean. He’s a smart kid too. He’ll throw his hat in that competition.”

• Richt isn't sure who will back up Brad Kaaya. My sense is Evan Schirreffs is a slight front runner over Malik Rosier, but this absolutely could go either way.

"Don’t know the answer," Richt said. "I want to see if they’re on it as far as assignments and they can take the assignments from the meeting room to the field, just see what kind of accuracy and decision-making they have, get us in the right run game. Can they function and help these other skill guys do their jobs?”

• Richt, so far, has been far more successful drawing alumni back to campus than Al Golden ever was, made clear this week they will be invited to campus whenever they want.

“It’s been great," he said. "I’m one of them. I’m a former alum as well and I think that’s helped. They feel like one of their own has come home. Our football alumni have been great. I have also reached out to them. I want them to be a part of this program. I
want them to feel welcome. I want them to drop by. I want them to pop in and say hello to our players…

"If they want to come to practice, I want them to come to practice. Spring game, bunch of them the sideline, I want them there. I don’t want them there trying to coach our guys but I want them there. So far the relationship has been really good. They’re hungry for success. The one thing about them is they love the University of Miami. They love that school, man. They love that team and want to see it succeed. They want to do anything they can to help. I had what I called Paradise Camp a couple days ago.

"I don’t know many came, 15 or whatever it was. We asked a few guys to come. I bet you we could have had 50. Once the word got out we were doing it, they were texting and calling, ‘I’d love to come.’ They all got there on their own. They didn’t get paid. They did it because they love the place and they want us to be great. It’s been great.”

 • Richt, on what he’s learned in recruiting in 15 years at Georgia: “The bottom line in recruiting is you’ve got to be diligent, you’ve got to have relationships, cultivate coaches and players, maybe their mother, brother, cousin, uncle. You’ve got to know everything about that kid whether they’re nearby or not.

“There’s a lot of great talent in that tri-county area. A lot of that talent is not as developed as some other places around the country. Some players aren’t used to eating the way we begin to feed them when they get to campus. They start eating and lifting a certain way, start learning how to take care of their bodies. All of a sudden, this skinny kid 175 pounds turns into 215-pound gazelle of a wide receiver. What happened to this guy?

"How many great three star players come out of South Florida? A bunch. Ray Lewis was a three-star. There are a bunch of guys who were these three-star. If that kid was in another area of the country, he would be a 5 star. There are so many great players down there, in some ways they cancel each themselves out in front of standing out…. You take some of these guys and put them in
other spots around the country, they would be the best players in the league. Four and five star guys. There are a bunch of gems in there that may not have the ratings, which I’ve never been too concerned about anyway. Fans like it.”

• Richt, on calling plays again: "On a personal level, if I am going to really enjoy it and have an energy level I think it takes to be great, calling plays and game-planning and scheming has really energized me. It’s important for the staff to see me compete. I think it’s important for the players to see me compete. Every day in practice, it’s offense vs. defense. I want the defense to make big plays. But for that moment, when I call a play, I want execution on offense.

"The players see that, my competitive juices may be different than if you are on the side watching, offense does good or defense does good, it’s good but you don’t have any emotion toward it. It’s been good for me and good for the players.” 

 Twitter: @flasportsbuzz