Noon: Clarity offered on why Tunsil isn't opening with starters; Exclusive: Wade's return to Miami tentatively set for Nov. 10; Examining the most competitive UM football battles on the eve of the start of practice Thursday
Please scroll down for a noon update on Laremy Tunsil and the Dolphins' offensive line situation:
9 a.m. report: Dwyane Wade's first game back in Miami as a member of the Chicago Bulls has been scheduled for Nov. 10, a Thursday, according to a tentative, confidential schedule that has been circulated to NBA teams and TV partners.
The game will be televised nationally on TNT, according to a league source.
There had been some thought that the first Bulls-at-Heat game could be scheduled for Christmas, but the NBA instead opted for an early season date, the third Thursday of the season.
One caveat: The NBA occasionally makes changes to the schedule after distributing it to teams, so the Nov. 10 date is not set in stone. That said, we're told this Bulls-Heat game has been in place for quite some time.
The NBA is expected to release the regular-season schedule as early as next week.
The sports competition for Bulls-Heat that night would be a Cleveland-Baltimore NFL game, plus North Carolina-Duke and Utah-Arizona State college football games.
Wade, as you know, spent the first 13 seasons of his career with the Heat before signing with the Bulls in July.
DOLPHINS NOON UPDATE
One of the more interesting questions of Dolphins camp, so far, is this: Why aren't the Dolphins giving the majority of first-team left guard reps to Laremy Tunsil, considering he's the team's ballyhooed pick, and considering the career struggles of Dallas Thomas?
Through six days of camp, Thomas has opened with the starters consistently at left guard, with Tunsil getting some first team work at left guard and some first-team work at left tackle when Branden Albert is resting.
I would be surprised if Tunsil isn't starting in the opener Sept. 11 at Seattle. Others, including Mel Kiper, said they also would be shocked.
So could a case be made for giving Tunsil most of the first-team snaps immediately to get him ready for the opener?
I asked offensive line coach Chris Foerster what the thinking is in this. His answer:
"The depth chart hasn’t been set yet. So guys that have been here, guys that are doing better in drill work, guys that understand the offense better. Obviously, there’s a learning curve for everybody. At this point, we are letting Dallas roll, although Tunsil is taking some. A lot of it has to do with how we’re trying to get Laremy reps in other positions. It doesn’t always work out that he can go first, second. If it’s a day we’re trying to get Billy Turner reps at right guard, that affects everybody else in the rotation.
"If it’s a day we’re trying to get Tunsil more at left tackle, that affects everybody in the rotation. So it’s really all about how the rotation is going during the day, not so much, a little bit is, Dallas has been here and understands it a little better. But not that much better."
So how is Tunsil doing, overall and in his move to guard?
"Every player has something to work on, he’s not alone," Foerster said. "He’s really doing a great job. Having him in two positions, he’s studying having to learn 2 spots technique wise. He has done a really, really fine job. Couldn’t be happier with his progress.
"Everything happens quicker at guard – the guys are lined up closer to you. You don’t have to deal with space as much. They’re a different type of player. You look at the difference between how Mario Williams looks compared to Suh. Body types inside are usually stockier, shorter, you have to bend and get underneath. It’s a whole different game underneath. Things happen quicker…. Laremy has done a great job. Just the adjustment of space from tackle to guard.”
And what about Thomas, who has been beleaguered for much of his career?
"He needs to work on everything," Foerster said. "It’s a different style of offense now. He needs to work on being strong and clean in the pocket. That’s a big part of his game. He’s a very athletic guy. He did a really nice job of that all offseason and has done a good job again. Just playing fast. Our offense is about tempo, being on the line of scrimmage, with no hesitated. I’ve started coaching him from scratch."
Check back for more later.
With UM’s first training camp under Mark Richt set to begin Thursday, buzz on 11 intriguing position battles:
• Starting running back: This is Mark Walton’s job to lose. Joe Yearby had a significantly better yards per carry average last season than Walton (4.9 to 3.5), but Walton impressed the coaching staff the most this spring, both as a runner and receiver out of the backfield, and exited the spring as the front-runner to start, according to a UM official.
That UM official rated Gus Edwards and Yearby about equal in performance in the spring. The new staff likes Edwards, who averaged 5.4 yards on 127 career carries before missing all of last season with a foot injury. He’s fast for a player his size (6-2, 237) but UM wants him to be a bruising back and also take advantage of his physicality.
Running back “will definitely be by committee,” Richt said. “I don't know there will be four guys getting carries in a game. Probably two and three most of the time.”
• Starting weakside linebacker. One UM official called it a tossup between Darrion Owens --- who had 27 tackles in 10 games over two seasons before sustaining a serious knee injury in the second game --- and incoming freshman Mike Pinckney, who impressed in the spring.
The UM official said Owens’ experience shouldn’t be overstated because Pinckney has more experience in Manny Diaz’s system because Owens was sidelined for spring ball.
Shaquille Quarterman is the clear favorite at middle linebacker, and Jermaine Grace is the clear-cut starter at strongside linebacker, unless he’s suspended when UM concludes its luxury car rental investigation. (Richt hasn't ruled that out.)
• Starting receiver job alongside Stacy Coley. Braxton Berrios figures to start in the slot when UM opens with three receivers and also has gotten a lot of work on the boundary as well.
In three-receiver sets, a receiver with size (6-4 Darrell Langham, 6-3 Dayall Harris) would be the ideal complement to Coley and Berrios on the boundary, though Richt said tight ends David Njoku and Chris Herndon can serve as receivers in three-receiver sets.
Don’t discount 5-10 Malcolm Lewis, who had a solid spring. And the freshmen receivers --- Ahmmon Richards, Sam Bruce and Dionte Mullins (if he qualifies academically) – will be factors. Mullins won’t be on campus Thursday.
• Starting defensive tackles. Richard McIntosh, who has made a smooth transition from end, had a strong spring and is the front-runner for one job.
Kendrick Norton might have a slight edge for the other job, but it’s close among Norton, Courtel Jenkins, Anthony Moten and Gerald Willis, the UF transfer who flashed this spring. All five will play, with a UM official citing McIntosh, Norton and perhaps Willis as having the most upside of the group.
• No. 2 and 3 cornerback jobs. Sheldrick Redwine was solid all spring opposite Corn Elder but Texas transfer Adrian Colbert, a former safety, has made clear he wants to start. At the very least, Redwine should be one of Miami’s top three corners even if he is beaten out by Colbert.
That leaves Ryan Mayes, Michael Jackson and Terrance Henley competing for the No. 4 corner job. None seized the job in the spring. And don’t discount freshman Malek Young; cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph loves him.
• Fullback. Richt wants to use one at times, and his top options are Gage Batten (coming off injury; should be ready early in the season) and Mars Hill transfer Marquez Williams, with four other walk-ons competing. Williams is the front-runner.
• Tight end. Standish Dobard started seven games and David Njoku four last season, but Njoku and Chris Herndon surpassed Dobard this spring. Dobard came on strong this summer, Richt said, and is now back in the mix.
Njoku averaged a team-high 17.2 yards on 21 receptions last season and UM wants to maximize his unique skills. UM also wants Herndon (13.1 yards per catch) to play a lot. Dobard has been exceptional in the weight room (says strength coach Gus Felder) but a UM official said he needs to be a dominating blocker, the one area where he should be the best of the three.
• Defensive end rotation. Chad Thomas said he and Al-Quadin Muhammad got much of the first-team snaps this offseason, and based on talent, they are the favorites to start unless AQM is suspended for his role in a luxury car rental scandal, something that remains a possibility.
But don’t discount Trent Harris (49 tackles, 3.5 sacks in 10 starts last season) and he likely would start if AQM is suspended. Demetrius Jackson, who impressed the staff with his pass-rush skills this spring, also will play a lot. Scott Patchan is working his way back from a torn ACL and might not return until several games into the season, creating an opportunity for freshmen Pat Bethel and Joseph Jackson.
• Safety. Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins enter as the clear favorites, but don’t discount impressive sophomore Jaquan Johnson, who is UM’s best option on slot receivers. Johnson could see his playing time increase if Carter or Jenkins struggles.
UM wasn’t pleased with the tackling by its safeties this spring; they want them to stop tackling high and wrap up players on their lower body.
But coaches like Jenkins’ knowledge of the system and Carter’s and Jenkins’ range and believe there’s more to be extracted from both Carter and Jenkins. Robert Knowles came on strong late in spring and will be a factor.
• Backup quarterback: Richt has declined to say how he’s leaning, but Evan Shirreffs will have the edge if he follows a solid spring with a strong August. Incumbent Malik Rosier struggled this spring, and Shirreffs fits the Richt mold better, in terms of size (6-5 to Rosier’s 6-1) and having the mentality of looking to throw first instead of running.
UM would prefer to redshirt Jack Allison unless he’s clearly the best No. 2 quarterback in August. Vinny Testavarde Jr. is a long shot for the No. 2 job.
• Right tackle. An open competition between Sunny Odogwu, who started nine games last season, and Tyree St. Louis, who made an impression this spring when Odogwu was limited by injury. St. Louis said he fully expects to challenge for the job.
Whenever Stacy Searels was asked about the quality of the backup offensive linemen in the spring, he deferred, saying he’s happy with the starters.
That group of spring starters included Alex Gall, who now becomes Nick Linder’s backup at center. So that means Danny Isidora (UM’s best lineman this spring) and Kc McDermott at the two guard spots and Trevor Darling at left tackle.
But a UM official said Gall impressed and will challenge for time. That official also said the staff likes Tyler Gauthier.
Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check in Thursday for reports from both Dolphins and UM practice. (I expect to be the only writer covering both.)