Star running back announces he will enter the NFL Draft after Duck Commander Independence Bowl

SHREVEPORT, La. – The two star running backs in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl are friends – and one of them revealed to reporters Thursday that he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

    No, not Duke Johnson.

   It was South Carolina tailback Mike Davis, though Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier told reporters before he arrived in Shreveport that this would be Davis’ last college game.

    “Yeah, it’s officially my last game,’’ said the 5-9, 223-pound tailback, who rushed for 927 yards and nine touchdowns this season and has 2,385 career yards. “Of course I always want to go out with a bang. I want to tell my team that I love them and that I’ve enjoyed this long ride.’’

    Davis said he met and was roommates with Johnson at The Opening in 2012, a Nike elite recruiting event in Beaverton, Oregon. “We’re really good buddies, spent a lot of time talking to each other [Wednesday],’’ Davis said. …He was trying to recruit me [at The Opening] to come to Miami. That’s how good of a person he is.”

   Davis said he and Johnson “talk everyday’’ and . We’re in a group [text] message with him, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and all the top running backs.

    “Lots of positivity, wishing each other well, telling each other that we hope you have a good game or to do this or that. Talk about family and stuff outside of football. No trash talk at all, always wishing each other well.’’

   And that’s not the only Davis-Hurricanes connection.

   Davis played on the same team his senior year at Stone Mountain, Georgia's Stephenson High with UM linebacker Raphael Kirby, who will try to pummel him Saturday.

   The two are good friends.

   “It’s going to be very fun,’’ Kirby said. “We’ve had a few conversations. Once we get on the field there’s not going to be much talking, but that’s my homeboy.

   “He’s a powerful running back and he fools a lot of people because he’s very fast as well. …He’s a complete back in my eyes. It’s going to be a great challenge for us and I’m looking forward to it.”

CHRISTMAS BOWLING

  The Canes had a closed practice Thursday, then spent Christmas afternoon bowling at Holiday Lanes. The players had Christmas dinner together at the Shreveport Hilton.

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

    

December 24, 2014

Day 3 in Shreveport for Miami Hurricanes: high-stake offenses, Ray-Ray Lewis & Nick Linder updates

     SHREVEPORT, La. – The Duck Commander Independence Bowl on Saturday features two strong offenses that will challenge two relatively weaker defenses.

    South Carolina’s defense is ranked 91st nationally, allowing 433.6 yards per game. The Gamecocks (6-6) are also 91st in scoring defense (31.2 points per game allowed) and 101st in red zone defense.

   The Hurricane’s defense, despite being ranked 14th nationally (327.6 yards allowed), has had its share of struggles this season in holding teams in the red zone, sometimes deficient tackling, often playing opponents too far off the ball to dominate and in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

   Thus, UM coach Al Golden was asked after Wednesday’s practice how he can prevent his players from being caught up in the pressure of a back-and-forth shootout.

   “Just enjoy it,’’ Golden said. “They’re going to make plays. We’ve got to make more plays. And when adversity strikes, don’t let one play define us or determine the game.”

   Offensive coordinator James Coley said UM’s objective is simple: score points.

   “We tell our guys that every possession ends in a kick,’’ he said. “As long as we don’t give them the football, we’re going to play some good football.

    “Really, there’s no frustration. Hey, you should be happy if you have the ball. Go match. …You’re out there. It’s your time to shine.’’

 RAY LEWIS III

    Defensive back Ray Lewis III, a redshirt freshman who is the son of former UM linebacker great Ray Lewis, has not practiced or been involved with the team since mid-October – but is still on the roster, Golden said.

    “Ray’s taking care of his grades right now,’’ the coach said. “We’re in constant communication with him and the family. When he’s ready to talk about it, or we’re ready to talk about how we’re going to move forward, then we’ll do so.’’

   Golden said UM is “giving him the best opportunity to move forward academically,’’ and that whether he returns in the spring is “up to him.

  “We’re just giving him his space.’’

  Lewis has yet to play.

LINDER CLOSER

  Freshman left guard Nick Linder (knee, wrist) will practice Thursday without the yellow, non-contact, jersey given to injured players, Golden said. “I expect him to be ready to play, be available to play. We’ll see how he does Thursday and Friday.’’

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

 

December 23, 2014

Day Two in Shreveport for Miami Hurricanes: Rain, rain go away (but on game day, it's here to stay)

SHREVEPORT, La. – The Hurricanes got a good taste of the elements they might face Saturday at the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.T he forecast calls for more than a 60-percent chance of rain in Shreveport on game day, with temperatures in the 60s decreasing to the low 40s at night.

On Tuesday at the First Baptist Church in Bossier City, the wind whipped, the air was cold and the rain came down hard, making players slip-slide on the artificial turf during some drills.

“We don’t know exactly what the forecast is yet but if it is like that I think that will help us,’’ UM coach Al Golden said. “We got a lot done, so at the end of the day it wasn’t all perfect, but we got used to the conditions.’’

Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said the dress-rehearsal weather “absolutely’’ helps prepare the players. “Whatever weather that will happen on Saturday I think we’ll be ready for it now,’’ D’Onofrio said. “[Monday] it was warm – 60 degrees. And [Tuesday] it was raining sideways and freezing.’’

• Golden said that freshman left guard Nick Linder (knee, wrist), who wore a yellow (limited contact) jersey Tuesday, was “a little better. “It’s going to be down to the wire for him. Maybe he can do more tomorrow.’’

• When asked if junior left tackle Ereck Flowers has told Golden if he is turning pro after this season, the coach said, “No. Any of those questions will be addressed after the game.’’

• Junior running back Duke Johnson, who already disclosed that he will announce on Sunday whether he is turning pro, said he has already made his decision. He added that he might announce that decision during a news conference at UM.

• South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Gamecocks receiver Shaq Roland “is not with the team anymore. I think he’s elected to maybe drop out of school and go pro. That was his choice and we wish him the best.’’ Roland had 26 catches for 356 yards and four touchdowns this season.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

PROUD PAPA: Howard Schnellenberger thinks Boca Raton Bowl will continue to grow in his FAU Stadium

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Moments before stepping onto the field bearing his name for pregame ceremonies, Howard Schnellenberger proclaimed bigger and better things were in store for the Boca Raton Bowl.
"This is larger than life,'' Schnellenberger said as he kicked back in a leather chair steps from his field.
"This is much grander than I thought it would be in the first year. Obviously this stadium, this program and this town are exceptional. We've put our best foot forward and we're three years ahead of where we should be.''
The first installment of this made-for-TV bowl game -- it's owned and operated by ESPN -- pitted the champions of two mid-major conferences in Marshall (Conference USA) and Northern Illinois (MAC) in a stadium Schnellenberger fought to have built on the FAU campus.
The FAU Stadium, which opened in 2011, has Schnellenberger's touch all over it.
"Football in Paradise" was his selling card when he started the FAU football program from scratch in 2000 with the Owls finally hitting the field in 2001.
The 30,000-seat stadium -- which was declared sold out Tuesday although may have only been 50 percent filled -- has neon palm trees on the south end zone scoreboard and a view of the Atlantic Ocean from the press box.
A statue of Schnellenberger greets visitors at the main gate. His bronze likeness is, of course, surrounded by palm trees.
"A bowl game was always part of the plan,'' said Schnellenberger, who stepped down as FAU's coach following the Owls' first season in the new digs.
"And how could you not be excited for the matchup? This wasn't the luck of the draw, it was the magnetism of this community and stadium in a sub-tropical climate 1.2 miles from the beach with an ocean view. This reminds me of the Orange Bowl games back in the 50s and 60s when it was a community event. That's the beauty of this. They have brought the fathers of our community together to make this great.''
If anyone can rally a community around an event, it's Schnellenberger.
The stadium he built stays busy throughout the year, not only hosting FAU football games but All-Star games and other events such as soccer and lacrosse.
Building the stadium in Boca Raton wasn't his first foray into the construction business.
While coach at Miami in the early 1980s, Schnellenberger pushed for the school to build a stadium closer to campus -- something that never happened. The Hurricanes eventually left the Orange Bowl and now play in north Miami-Dade County at Sun Life Stadium.
"Now they're driving 60 miles to get to Dolphins Stadium,'' Schnellenberger said.
And it was Schnellenberger's work at Louisville (he was head coach there from 1985-94) that helped get his hometown Cardinals their own stadium.
The growth of the Louisville program -- and expansion of Papa John's Stadium -- helped get the Cardinals into the ACC.
"It's the same thing I've said here at FAU, 'I told you so','' Schnellenberger said. "If you build a stadium, things start to happen.''
-- With three catches in the first quarter, Miami Central's Tommy Shuler set the Marshall record for career receptions with 307. Shuler passed Josh Davis (2001-04).

 

December 22, 2014

First day of Independence Bowl practice over in Shreveport -- on Linder, Knighton, Howard, Kaaya...

   SHREVEPORT, Louisiana – Freshman left guard Nick Linder, who started against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina this season but sustained late-season injuries to his knee and wrist (among other body parts), increased his workload Monday at practice.

    After landing at Shreveport Regional Airport in the afternoon, the Hurricanes bused to the FirstBaptistChurch in Bossier City, where they practiced on two newly installed artificial turf fields in temperatures that hovered in the mid-60s.

 "From not practicing for a couple days, we had a couple days off I heard a lot of guys say they felt fresh and they felt fast,'' linebacker Denzel Perryman said. "It felt pretty good to start up again."

 

   It previously appeared that Linder would be unable to play against South Carolina (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, but UM coach Al Golden seemed more inclined to open the door for the possibility of Linder participating.

    “Nick did a better job,’’ Golden said. The coach compared Linder to his older brother Brandon, the former UM guard who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

   “He’s going to tell you he’s ready to go,’’ Golden said. “He’s tough. He’s going to fight and scratch and claw. So, we’ve got to see how he looks [Tuesday]. But he was definitely moving a lot better and the last 72 hours off helped him tremendously.

   “He’s got a chance now. I wasn’t sure about that last week.’’

  Starting left guard Jon Feliciano will continue to wear a protective covering on his left hand and lower arm for protection during the game, Golden said.

   *** Cornerback Tracy Howard, who Golden has praised lately for his practice performance, wore a black jersey given to players excelling.

   “I’m just trying to go out there and get better every day, just improve my overall game,’’ Howard said. "I hone in on my mistakes and the next day I try to work on my mistakes and my negatives and keep moving on forward. So, each day I’ll get better and better and eventually I’ll be the best."

   *** Riding exercise bikes near the practice field were tackle Kc McDermott (knee) and fellow offensive lineman Hunter Knighton. Knighton has been slowly rehabbing this season after being hospitalized last February, when he was diagnosed with heat stroke following a workout. He spent two weeks in intensive care.

   "Unbelievable,'' Golden said of Knighton. "He’s our Christmas…that’s a Christmas gift. We’re just ecstatic. He looks unbelievable. I said that to him the other day. He weighs now more than he did this time last year, he’s really making a lot of progress and I know he has a March…he has a timeline in his head, he’s making a lot of progress. So this first 30 days is something we have to monitor a lot. We’re getting toward the end of that, at least the last third of that and next month it’ll be a little bit more aggressive. He’s doing great. He’s a tremendous young man. I’m so proud of him.”

   When asked what Knighton has been doing lately, Golden said: “He’s been doing a lot of cardio and rehabbing and doing the little things he needs to do to move forward, and he will.”

    *** Quarterback Brad Kaaya met the media Monday wearing a gray Miami Dolphins cap that he said went with his gray UM warmup.

    “I’m a Dolphins fan now,’’ Kaaya said. “The city’s adopted me, so I’m a fan.”

    Kaaya said his favorite Dolphin is quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and that he hopes he can one day meet him.    

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

In Bossier City/Shreveport. Miami Hurricanes to arrive for Duck Commander Independence Bowl

Bossier City/Shreveport -- After being deplaned because of mechanical problems, changing flights, being delayed again, finally made it to Shreveport, home of the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.

It's 55 degrees outside and very gray -- no sun at all.

The media is staying at the Margaritaville Resort and Casino (any Jimmy Buffett fans out there?)

Margaritaville

The Canes are at the Hilton in downtown Shreveport.

  HiltonShrevport

The Gamecocks, who arrive Tuesday, are at Sam's Town, another hotel/cassino right nearby on the Red River in Shreveport. You can view that hotel from some windows of this one. It's right across the river.

  Samstown

South Carolina, as you see, is staying in a resort/casino. The Canes are not.

That's probably good, right?

The Hurricanes are practicing today at 1:45-3:15 p.m. Central time (2:45-4:15 Eastern). We can watch the first 15 minutes of practice, then will meet selected players after practice at the Shreveport Conventon Center, which is part of the Hilton complex, I'm told.

UM is practicing at "Bossier Field'' at the First Baptist Church in Bossier City.

The Gamecocks, designated the home team, will practice beginning Wednesday at Loyola College Prep Messmer Stadium in Shreveport. On Monday and Tuesday, South Carolina will practice in Columbia, S.C. before leaving for the bowl Tuesday.

The Miami news before leaving was that 6-5, 315-pound offensive lineman Jahair Jones signed a National Letter of Intent to join UM's 2015 signing class.

Jones is from Edgewater, Md.  He will begin the 2015 season as a true sophomore and plans to enroll in January.

 Jones is listed as a three-star recruit according to ESPN.com and 247Sports.com. He chose Miami over Ohio State and Virginia Tech. This past season, Jones played for Brooklyn (N.Y.) ASA College. ASA finished 6-2.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

December 19, 2014

UM's only committed QB for Class of '15 pulls commitment. Guess who scared him away?

  As I wrote in Friday's Miami Herald article, UM freshman All-American quarterback Brad Kaaya is a powerful recruiting tool for the Hurricanes.

  He also could scare folks away, such as high school senior quarterbacks who might otherwise have come to Coral Gables to play for UM.

  Thursday night, four-star quarterback Dwayne Lawson of Hillsborough High in Tampa -- UM's only committed quarterback for the Class of 2015 --  posted this on his Twitter feed:

 "I want to thank all the coaches at the university of Miami for the opportunity but I've chosen to go another route in this recruitment."

 Can't blame him. 

  Lawson, listed by ESPN.com as 6-4 and 200 pounds, is rated by ESPN as the sixth best duel threat quarterback in the Class of 2015. According to a HokieHaven.com report from the Rivals network, Lawson is now glowing about Virginia Tech.

 With Kaaya a superstar in the making (and already there in terms of first-year quarterbacks), and fellow freshman Malik Rosier at Miami already having learned the playbook, Lawson realized that barring injury, he'd likely be keeping the bench warm.

  "At the time when I committed [in May], it was the best opportunity for me,'' Lawson told HokieHaven.com. "They had a freshman quarterback playing and all these other things going on and I felt like that was the best decision. He's probably gonna be there another three years. I wish him the best, I wish the program the best and we'll see what happens from there. I don't consider myself committed there anymore.''

  Quarterbacks should keep in mind that Rosier, who is redshirting this season, is a baseball player as well -- and look what happened to former Canes quarterback David Thompson, who started out as a dual-sport Cane but left football to concentrate on baseball.

  UM also has Gray Crow among its scholarship quarterbacks. Crow, a very smart young man who also has mastered the playbook but did not get on the field this season, is a 6-3, 235-pound third-year sophomore who was recruited out of Clearwater Countryside as a three-star prospect. He played in two games in 2013, completing six of eight passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. Coaches switched him to tight end/H-back before the 2014 season, then switched him back to quarterback after he requested it.

  Fifth-year seniors Ryan Williams and Jake Heaps are in their final season of eligibility.

 Wanted: another  quarterback recruit to replace Lawson.

  SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 



December 18, 2014

This can only help: top-ranked JC TE Jerome Washington signs with Canes

TOP-RANKED JUNIOR COLLEGE TIGHT END SIGNS NLI
Four star-rated Washington will enroll in January

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Jerome Washington, the top-ranked junior college tight end in the country, has signed a National Letter of Intent to play football for the Miami Hurricanes and will enroll in January.

Washington, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound standout from Elizabeth, N.J., will have four years of eligibility with the Hurricanes. Washington was a consensus four star-ranked player by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN, and was ranked the 19th overall junior college prospect by ESPN. He was also ranked the 16th best junior college prospect in 247Sports’ composite rankings.

Washington enrolled at Mercer County Community College this past fall but played for the Gattaca Football club team under head coach Manuel Galarza.

December 17, 2014

To swoosh or not to swoosh? UM Hurricanes could sever ties with Nike, switch to Adidas or Under Armour

All that clothing and merchandise the Canes and their fans wear?

Adorned with the Nike swoosh.

But perhaps, not for much longer.

Spoke Tuesday night to allCanes general manager Harry Rothwell, who basically asked UM Hurricanes fans on Saturday via Twitter to let him know which sideline provider of clothing/equipment/shoes they prefer: Nike, Under Armour or Adidas.

Rothwell should know. His retail store sells Nike, Nike and more Nike because that's the company contracted with the Hurricanes. 

The answer to Rothwell's tweet overwhelmingly was Nike. "Nike, Nike, Nike,'' he said. "It goes back to recruiting, to shoes, to image, to people thinking Nike is the better brand.''

But now, the Hurricanes could be saying bye-bye to Nike.

Two undisclosed companies, believed to be Under Armour and Adidas, have made bids to be the Hurricanes' sideline provider of all Hurricanes' clothes/merchandise/shoes/equipment, etc.

"Nike is our partner and has been a very good partner of this program,'' said UM athletic director Blake James on Wednesday. "With that said, our contract with Nike is set to expire in August of 2015 and Nike extended an opportunity for us to renew for another 10 years.

"However, I decided it was in our best interest to test the market and determine our value moving forward."

 James said "there has been no date determined'' as to when UM will decide which company to go with, "because right now we are in agreement with Nike.''

  Added James: "There will not be an announcement before the bowl game.'' 

"I have orders pending with Nike through the fall of 2015,'' Rothwell said. "But that merchandise could disappear with a delete button if they're not licensed with MIami anymore.

"There would be new jerseys, new polos, new hats, new shoes -- everything.''

Rothwell said his Nike rep told him that Nike might not match the other offers.

 On Wednesday, in fact, another school -- Arizona State -- announced that it signed a contract with Adidas through 2022-23. "The eight-year contract, which starts in July 2015, is worth $33.8 million or $4,225,000 annually,'' reported the Arizona Republic. "That amount is double what ASU is receiving in equipment and cash for 2014-15 from Nike, and it is among the top 10 nationally per data compiled by the Portland Business Journal.''

UM is a private school and does not disclose its financial dealings.

The Hurricanes just switched to their new football uniforms this season. The jerseys have been popular among fans, and the uniforms well liked by the players.

"It really comes back to it being a bidding war,'' Rothwell said. "It's no different from Coke bidding with Pepsi to take over concessions in a stadium or school. The highest bidder is probably going to win out.''

Rothwell said he's concerned "that losing a great partner like Nike would affect our retail sales, but we have no choice. We have to hope that whoever gets the contract will make merchandise that the teams and fans will like.

 "I've been a Nike fan for a long time, but it's not to say that whoever comes in won't do better.

 "These are all billion dollar companies with big egos that are all trying to get as many schools as they can.''

  Adidas lost its Notre Dame partnership in the past year. The Fighting Irish now have a 10-year contract with Under Armour worth $90 million in cash and merchandise.

  Rothwell said he has heard from sales reps from both Adidas and Under Armour that they're going after the UM contract. One rep told him Adidas was going after Arizona State and MIami, so the Arizona State part obviously has come to fruition.

  The answer is in NIke's -- and UM's -- hands.

  Canes fans, what's your preference and why?

  Do you prefer Nike, Under Armour or Adidas -- and why?

  SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

December 16, 2014

Kaaya, Canes react to The U Part 2 documentary; Perryman, Walford selected AP All-Americans

UM quarterback Brad Kaaya said he couldn't keep his eyes open long enough to sit through "the Nevin Shapiro part" of The U Part 2 documentary he watched over the weekend, but he and his teammates said they saw enough of Billy Corben's ESPN 30-for-30 documentary on the school's fifth national championship team to come away feeling inspired by the film.

"For me, it was big motivation," said Kaaya, who on Monday was named to ESPN's Freshman All-America team. "... Guys are walking around saying ‘We need to be Part 3.' "

"It’s good motivation for us," Kaaya continued. "I think it will help recruiting a lot. Look at what guys of the past did – the first one and part 2. It’s good motivation for everyone.”

The Hurricanes, who in a month will be 12 years removed from playing in their last national championship game, resumed practice Tuesday for the Duck Commander Independence Bowl. Unlike last Friday and Saturday when veteran players were off on the side coaching up freshmen, sophomores and scout team members, everyone healthy participated as the team began working in its game plan for South Carolina (6-6).

On the surface one might imagine it's going to be hard for the Hurricanes (6-6) to get amped up for the low profile bowl game especially after three straight disheartening losses to end the regular season. But Kaaya said that won't be the case.

“In some ways [it’s the start of the 2015 season], but at the same time we have to win it for all our last year guys, for all the guys graduating and the guys declaring [early for the draft]," Kaaya said. "We still have to win it for them.”

So what about the U Part 3? “It’s unwritten – to be continued," Kaaya said. "We’ll see.”

Will it have a sixth national championship? “That’s why I came here," Kaaya said. "That’s why I came to Florida, to Miami. I didn’t come to Miami to go to Club LIV or Live or however you say it. I came here to win a championship. They said Florida has the best football.”

A big element in Miami's last run to a national championship was how players like Al Blades, Ed Reed, Ken Dorsey and Joaquin Gonzalez were strong leaders and even ran some practices by themselves.

“What’s big is developing that trust. Their coaches had trust," Kaaya said. "They were running half the practices on their own. So I say it’s big for a lot of the young guys to see that. If you see all the young talent we have and all the guys that are here to win I think we can get back to that. You see guys like Chad [Thomas], me and Joe [Yearby] and even some of the sophomore guys [doing that]."

> Freshman defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins said he saw parts of The U Part 2. "I took away that this is a place where people come and work hard and win championships and have a championship mentality, leave it all on the line and win."

Did it bother him seeing the movie end on a downer with this year's 6-6 Canes?

"We've got to live up to what they expect from us -- our alumni base, player-wise and from our coaches," Jenkins said. "We've got to start living up to that, start winning and producing on the field."

"[The U Part 3] is going to look like what it looked like back in the 80s -- when championships and first round picks came out of here."

> Seniors Denzel Perryman and Clive Walford were honored on Tuesday with third team All-American honors by the Associated Press, the first Hurricanes to be recognized on the team at all since safety Kenny Phillips earned third team honors back in 2007.

Perryman, a finalist for the Butkus Award given annually to the nation's top linebacker, led the team in tackles (102) and tackles for loss. Walford, a finalist for the Mackey Award, led the team with 44 catches for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. Walford is expected to miss the bowl game.

> Freshman offensive lineman Joe Brown was carted off the field Tuesday. Golden didn't know the severity of the injury, but said Brown "rolled his ankle."

December 13, 2014

Miami Hurricanes hold their football team awards ceremony Friday at Gusman Concert Hall

From the Hurricanes:

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes held their 2014 Canes Football Awards Show on Friday night at the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall located inside the Frost School of Music.

Former Miami offensive lineman and current analyst on the Hurricane Sports Radio Network Don Bailey, served as the awards show’s emcee. The show opened with the top 14 plays of the 2014 season:             

14. Denzel Perryman makes a key stop on third and one at Louisville
13. Malcolm Lewis makes sideline touchdown grab at Nebraska
12. Denzel Perryman forces a fumble against Duke  
11. Thurston Armbrister’s sack-fumble puts the Canes in scoring position against Louisville
10. Phillip Dorsett tallies a 79-yard touchdown reception against Cincinnati
9. Duke Johnson scores from 80 yards out against Cincinnati
8. Tyriq McCord takes interception to the endzone for a touchdown
7. Duke Johnson races 90 yards for a touchdown against North Carolina
6. Deon Bush forces a fumble at Virginia Tech
5. Duke Johnson hauls in a 24-yard touchdown pass to end the first half at Virginia Tech
4. Clive Walford’s 61-yard touchdown reception against Florida State
3. Deon Bush makes a great interception against Florida State to end the half
2. Phillip Dorsett makes a diving catch in the endzone against FAMU
1. Brad Kaaya hits Herb Waters in the endzone for a touchdown on 4th and 16 versus Duke

The Hurricanes coaching staff handed out 26 annual player awards. Freshman QB and ACC Rookie of the Year Brad Kaaya was named the team’s Newcomer of the Year; junior LB and Butkus Award Finalist Denzel Perryman was named Defensive MVP, while senior TE and Mackey Award Finalist Clive Walford was named Offensive MVP.

Third-team All-ACC P Justin Vogel was named Special Teams MVP and junior RB Duke Johnson was awarded the Jack Harding Team Most Valuable Player award.

Senior OL Shane McDermott was the recipient of the Plumer Award for Leadership, Motivation and Spirit. Walford received the Melching Leadership Award. Both awards are voted on by the team.

The program also saw OL Jonathan Feliciano receive the inaugural Kelly UTough Player of the Year Award.

Throughout the evening, those in attendance were treated to several video highlights. In additon, former #ProCanes Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis send along a video message to Johnson on becoming the school's all-time leading rusher.

At the end of the night, head coach Al Golden thanked the senior class and all 19 seniors were presented with their framed jersey.

Miami (6-6) will play South Carolina (6-6) in the 2014 Duck Commander Indepedence Bowl on Dec. 27 in Shreveport, La. Tickets, which are priced at $45 and $50, can be purchased through the UM Ticket Office online at CanesTix.com, in-person at BankUnited Center (M-F 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) or by phone at 1-800-GO-CANES.

For more information on Miami Hurricanes Football, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, add us on Snapchat (@MiamiHurricanes) or LIKE Miami Hurricanes Football on Facebook.                                                                                                       

2014 Canes Football Awards Show
The Mariutto Family Scholar Athlete Award Nantambu Fentress
The Scout Team Players of the Year Garrett Kidd
  Demetrius Jackson
Strength Training Athlete of the Year Phillip Dorsett
Hurricane Media "Good Guy" Award Olsen Pierre
Training Room Comeback Player of the Year Ryan Williams
Walt Kichefski Hurricane Award Shane McDermott
Community Service Man of the Year Award Dallas Crawford
Kelly Utough Award Jonathan Feliciano
Nick Chickillo Most Improved Player Award Raphael Kirby
Miami Sports HOF Unsung Hero Award Phillip Dorsett
U Respect Award Jake Heaps
Albert Bently Award - Most Valuable Walk-On Justin Vogel
Melching Leadership Award Clive Walford
Newcomer of the Year Award Brad Kaaya
Plumer Award for Leadership, Motivation and Spirit  Shane McDermott
Hard Hitter Award Denzel Perryman
Captains Awards Anthony Chickillo
  Jonathan Feliciano
  Shane McDermott
  Denzel Perryman
  Clive Walford
Defensive MVP Denzel Perryman
Offensive MVP Clive Walford
Special Teams MVP Justin Vogel
Jack Harding Team MVP Duke Johnson


 
 

December 12, 2014

Miami Hurricanes finish first bowl practice, generate plenty of news: Duke, Walford, Bush, Waters, Gayot.

   After nearly two weeks off, the Miami Hurricanes hit the practice field Friday in preparation for the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.

    And what a happy, engaged and energetic bunch of players they were on this sunny, crisp and absolutely beautiful South Florida morning.

    Here’s what you need to know before I get back to writing my more in-depth story to post online later:

   ***Junior Duke Johnson said he will announce his NFL Draft-related decision a day after the Dec. 27 bowl game. Most expect him to forgo his senior season and turn pro.

   *** Senior Clive Walford, who hurt his knee in the season finale against Pitt and had surgery a week ago Wednesday, will miss the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, ending his University of Miami career.

    ***Junior safety Deon Bush, who has struggled with various injuries but is nonetheless a significant talent, said he will “100-percent’’ return for his senior season in 2015.

    ***Junior receiver Herb Waters, who watched a bit of practice wearing a neck brace after his injury sustained at Virginia, will miss the bowl game while recuperating.

    ***Freshman guard Nick Linder still has an undisclosed injury and did not practice, but “has got a chance’’ to play in the bowl, UM coach Al Golden said.

    ***Freshman Marques Gayot is being converted from a safety to  weakside linebacker.

    ***Freshman David Njoku has moved back to tight end from receiver.

     ***Several veteran Canes, including Johnson and junior left tackle Ereck Flowers (also a high-probability NFL Draft entrant), served as player-coaches in street clothes Friday on Greentree Field.

    The Canes practice again at noon Saturday. They leave for Shreveport, Louisiana a week from Monday.

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Note to Billy Corben/Alfred Spellman: Thanks for the memories! (the rest of U tune in at 9 p.m. Saturday)

  Thursday night, I asked filmmaker Billy Corben which of his ESPN "30 for 30" documentaries was his favorite: The U, or the world premiere sequel, The U Part 2 – the one that about 400 folks watched Thursday at The Colony Theater on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.

   I savored The U Part 2, my favorite, but that’s understandable, because those were the years I started covering University of Miami football – right there along with the introduction of Butch Davis as head coach in 1995.

  So for me, this movie, produced by Alfred Spellman as well as Corben, was my easy choice.

  Billy had a more diplomatic answer.

  “Listen,’’ he said, after a hearty, laugh-tinged, “Oh!

   "Movies are like children. You have your favorites, but you don’t tell anybody which one.’’

   And as millions of college football fans and Hurricanes aficionadas anxiously await the first nationally televised showing of 30 for 30: The U Part II at 9 p.m. Saturday following the Heisman Trophy ceremony, Corben will keep tinkering with it until it’s time to air.

   “We’re going back to the office and we’re going to finish it,’’ said Corben, who might break a world record for no sleep. “I mean there’s a bunch of things we’ve got to tweak. It’s the longest stretch I’ve had without the movie, which was on the plane ride [back from Bristol, Connecticut, home of ESPN]. We’ve been living with this for six months. It helps to get a little distance and objectivity to be able to say, ‘What can we do to tweak it?’ We’ve got a few things to do tonight.

   “We’ve got like 36 hours, right? So, we’ve got plenty of time!’’

   Continued Corben: “This is great. The turnout is unbelievable. [FIU Athletic Director] Pete Garcia is here, which is awesome. Go Fighting GEDs! Or whatever the hell that FIU team is!  

   “The chaos outside – and inside – has kind of like an Orange Bowl vibe to it. It kind of has an Orange Bowl smell to it, too, now that I think of it.”

   The night was pure joy, from reconnecting with Butch Davis and Garcia, who came together and sat next to me, to seeing the guys I spent the glory years covering: Randy Phillips, Joaquin Gonzalez. Sherko Haji-Rasouli, Javon Nanton, Bryant McKinnie, Brett Romberg, Phillip Buchanan and dear, dear Donnie Soldinger and Phyllis (phenomenal, old-school coach and his wonderful wife – an amazing couple).

   Former UM defensive line coach Greg Mark and his wife were there, and Uncle Luke (didn’t even see him), Canes classic Harry Rothwell and his son, Larry Milian and his son, former UM baseball star Javy Rodriguez, my colleagues Dan LeBatard and Papi, beat writers in crime Matt Porter and Christy Cabrera Chirinos and goodness knows how many others I missed.

   I asked Butch Davis how he felt about being there.

   “It feels great. I’m excited about it,’’ Davis said. “It has been a terrific project. I hope it’s as successful as the first one. The few days I got a chance to talk to Billy about it and actually do some of the interviews I had a chance to run into Najeh Davenport and a lot of those guys. And I kind of helped Billy a little, tiny bit with some of the guys he was having a hard time getting in touch with – Kellen Winslow, Jr., he was down living in Austin.”

   I asked Butch, if given the opportunity, would he ever return to the Hurricanes to coach. He avoided that question (I think the answer, in my opinion, is yes). He did, however, gush about his time with the Canes.

   “I want to coach again someplace,” he said. “I’d love to have an opportunity to coach. It will come out in the movie. The 11 years I spent coaching in Miami were probably the greatest, most instrumental years that happened in my life. I am so grateful that Jimmy Johnson brought me to Miami and gave me a chance to be an assistant coach here and come back and be a head coach.

  “Almost everything that I was ever able to accomplish as a coach, its roots took place in Miami. I am grateful for having been here.’’

   Now, for the movie, I just LOVED all of it. SO MANY MEMORIES!! I was at every one of those games – from Edgerrin James’ UCLA explosion to the Syracuse stinker in the Carrier Dome to the Washington whipping in the Orange Bowl to the Washington loss that preceded the 34-game winning streak to the Rose Bowl national championship to the Fiesta Bowl national… Oops. I mean, double-overtime loss.

  And so on, and so on.

  Donnie Soldinger was terrific in the movie (so much heart), Davis was an excellent narrator of sorts, and the players were compelling, funny, forthright, intriguing to watch and hear. Even Kellen Winslow ranting (Guess who asked him the question that got him going on his famous rant? Haha) struck a chord.

   Al Blades’ wild hair made me laugh (and feel melancholy) and Santana Moss and little bro Sinorice are two of my favorites.

   Watching Nevin Shapiro run out of the smoke-filled tunnel was pathetic, as was watching the Canes get that pass interference called on poor Glenn Sharpe.

   Re things that are yellow and fly: Billy, the ending was terrific.

   I would go into more specifics, but guess what people? I have University of Miami bowl practice numero uno at 9:30 a.m. Friday – and guess what time it is now?

   3:40 a.m.

   So, I must try to sleep now for a very few hours. then head to cover The U: Part (fill in the blank) at Greentree Field.

   Good night everyone.

   And thank you again, Billy and Alfred.

   It’s all about you – and the U.

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

  

   

December 10, 2014

Just released: Three Hurricanes make first-team coaches' All-ACC team (and more)

Last week the writers' version of the All-ACC team was released.

On Wednesday, the Atlantic Coast Conference released the coaches' All-ACC team.

Quarterback Brad Kaaya was voted Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Center Shane McDermott and running back Duke Johnson were voted on the first-team offense.

Receiver Phillip Dorsett, tight end Clive Walford (one of 3 finalists for Mackey Award, won by Nick O'Leary of FSU) and tackle Ereck Flowers were voted to the second-team offense.

Linebacker Denzel Perryman, who "very narrowly" got "edged" out by UCLA's Eric Kendricks for the Butkus Award announced yesterday, was a first-team defensive player. 

And defensive end Anthony Chickillo got voted to the third team, as did punter Justin Vogel.

Honorable mentions were DT Olsen Pierre, CB Artie burns and S Deon Bush.

Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players, and ballots were worth three points for each first-team selection, two points for each second-team and one point for each third-team.

  Twenty-three of the 26 first-team selections to the Coaches' team were also first-team selections to the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association All-ACC team.

 Interesting difference: The coaches voted senior center Shane McDermott as a first-teamer.

 The writers didn't vote McDermott on any team.

Also: The writers had Brad Kaaya an honorable mention QB (as well as Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year). The coaches voted Kaaya as Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year, but didn't include him at all on the individual teams. 

The coaches had punter Justin Vogel on the third team All-ACC. The writers had him as an honorable mention.

The coaches had defensive end Anthony Chickillo as a third-team All-ACC. The writers had Chick an honorable mention.

Finally, the coaches had cornerback Artie Burns as an honorable mention, while the writers did not include him. 

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

December 08, 2014

Blake James: "6-6 isn't acceptable for UM... I believe [Golden] is going to fix it."

Here is the audio of today's press conference with UM athletic director Blake James, and some of the questions he addressed.

AUDIO: UM ATHLETIC DIRECTOR BLAKE JAMES

Q: How do you see the state of the program and how do you get them up for a bowl game that isn’t considered a major one?


“The reality is different people are going to look at games differently. I think it looks like a great game. Anytime you can go against an SEC opponent and then you add in Steve Spurrier, one of the great coaches in colleges football, and you have the rivalry right there right away knowing you’re going against an SEC opponent, going against Steve Spurrier. I’m confident that Al and our guys will be ready to go, go out there and play a great game in Shreveport. The Independence Bowl is one of the long standing bowls that has been there as far back as I can remember. I think there are a lot of things to look at as a real positive in this opportunity and a lot of things for our guys to get excited about, particularly, as I said, going against an SEC opponent right away.

 

Q: How about being 6-6 and how you see the state of the program? 

“6-6. We’re 6-6 this year. Any time you go into a season you want to win all your games. Reality is that doesn’t always happen. Right now I think there’s one team that’s won all their games in college football. You look at every week as a new season. I know Al will have our guys ready to go for this one. Overall, I think there are some positives; there are some disappointments. I don’t think anyone was happy with the results in any one of the losses. Every game you go into you want to win. At the end of the year, the losses to Virginia and Pittsburgh obviously were disappointing. As disappointing as the loss was to FloridaState I thought there was some progress made in that game. But again, you want to win the games. So anytime you lose it’s disappointing. Six Saturdays this fall we were disappointed in the results and we have to continue to get better. That’s not the University of Miami football program. That’s not our expectations for our program. With that said, I think it’s important we keep things in perspective and recognize everyone is going out there trying to win. On any given Saturday 50 percent of the teams aren’t doing it.”

 

Q: People say the college football playoff takes the attention off the other 35 bowl games. Your thoughts?

“It’s the first year so it’s hard for me to assess it. It will have to be something we look at as we go through the bowl season this year and in future years. I think it’s something we have to continue to assess as an association in terms of what we do. I think it remains important to all the bowls. I think different programs go to different bowls for different reasons. Some obviously are playing for the championship. Everybody goes for different reasons, getting team better, getting the experience. Our team, going against the SEC, it’s something I know our fans and our guys will be excited for. It will be interesting to see where this goes over the years. Do we stay at four? If we expand what does it mean for the future. I do believe there’s a benefit in the bowl system. We were able to create the format of the championship as it is right and still keep in tact a lot of the bowls that have helped advance college football. I think it’s a wait and see. I say that, at the same time different teams are going to look at their games in different ways and everyone is wanting to win.”

 

Q: UM isn’t likely to discuss what you receive from bowls, but there was a story last week that said the ACC pool was going to be $90-95 million as opposed to it not even being half that in the past. How much of a boon is that to Miami and why they’re in this conference. How is it nice that all of a sudden these coffers are going to be a lot more filled really quickly?

 

“It’s a huge win for our institution and for our program. It’s the guarantee of knowing that revenue is going to come every year. So when I’m doing my budget – and I’m doing it right now – I look out for the next 10 years and know what revenues are going to be coming in for the most part through the agreements we have in place. That credit goes to Commissioner Swofford and Michael Strickland, who really did a great job of setting up the league with some attractive bowl opportunities. Again, to have a lot of the teams in the bowl picture this year and to have all of our teams have a spot to go play, to have those expenses incorporated in there and still seeing everyone getting a check that will help the growth of the program it’s important. It’s one of the reasons we’re so excited to be a part of the ACC. Again, credit to Commissioner Swofford and the great job he’s done in really setting up our school to be in this role and have a great experience for our student athletes.”

 

Q: Do you feel like the Florida State game and the way you played it and ended impacted the performance of the last two games and how disappointed were you in that? 

“Al’s probably the best one to answer that question, the guys and the team. From my perspective did it look like maybe there wasn’t the same energy as we had going into that game? Yeah, but as close as I am to the program I don’t know all the ins and outs of everything that’s going on and what happened in a particular play and what coverage were we supposed to be in and who was supposed to pick up which guy and all those things. From a fan perspective looking at it -- did I look at it and say, ‘Yeah, we’re not performing at the same level that we did against FloridaState?’ Without a doubt. But at the same time I don’t want to take away from Virginia and Pittsburgh for doing the job they did. But as I said earlier, I’m disappointed any time we lose. It probably maybe stung a little bit more in those last two just in that I thought we had seen such great progress through the Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, North Carolina game and even into that Florida State game. I felt coming out of there we’d be able to go out and perform at a high level and I didn’t see it from my vantage point in those final two weeks. And I know that’s something Al and the guys will be working on and we need to get that fixed and be ready to go here in a couple of weeks in Shreveport.”


Q: Do you feel any differently about this coaching staff now than you did at this time a year ago?

“No. This time a year ago we were just coming  off what was a very interesting season, one in which we had the NCAA sanctions handed down I think probably the sixth or seventh game in. We started out 7-0 and then hit a few bumps down the road there and finished up with the bowl game where we had a disappointing performance against Louisville. So again, right now, we’re not through the season. After I get a chance to look at the entire season, including the bowl game, I can probably answer that question better. We could go out and play an incredibly great game against South Carolina and I’m going to feel one way. And we could go out and not come out on the end we want to and I’m going to feel a different way. I think it’s important to keep it in perspective. So to answer your question I don’t feel any different, but I feel it’s important to evaluate things holistically. After the bowl game is over, I’ll really reflect on the entire season and talk with Al about it. As I’ve said numerous times over the past few weeks, he’s our coach. He’s going to continue to be our coach. With that said he knows we have to get better. I know we have to get better. So I need to talk to him about how we can get better and what I can do to support his efforts to getting better. Because at the end of the day that’s the expectation of the University of Miami football program.”

 

 

Miami Hurricane Jon Feliciano "can't wait'' to meet Duck Dynasty folks -- Independence Bowl, here they come

    University of Miami offensive lineman Jonathan Feliciano “can’t wait to meet the duck dynasty ppl,’’  a sentiment he tweeted Sunday night after the Hurricanes learned they were playing South Carolina in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.

   Maybe the Hurricanes will starting growing those wild beards, like my son tried to do during “No Shave November.’’ (Note: Thank you, December).

  Glad Feliciano is excited about the bowl (3:30 p.m. Dec. 27 on ABC), or at least meeting Phil Robertson and family of the reality (mixed with some creative reality) television series on A&E.

   Hopefully, the Canes actually get pumped for a bowl game that, despite not appearing sexy on paper or to the general masses, could do wonders for their collective state of mind heading into the offseason.

   A Steve Spurrier coached team? Love it.

   But most of us won’t be convinced of anything until kickoff, evidenced by the Hurricanes’ ugly loss to Louisville last year in the Russell Athletic Bowl. I knew quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was a gem, but I never thought UM would be so unprepared to put up a fight.

   It would be impressive if some players on this team step up as real leaders in attemping a reversal of misfortune. But this being so late in the season, I have my doubts after the way the Canes collapsed after playing with so much heart against Florida State.

   Maybe they’ll surprise everyone.

   As for the Duck Dynasty folks…

   For those who are wondering about “Duck Commander,’’ according to Wiki, “it is both the brand of a best-selling duck call and the name of the company in West Monroe, Louisiana. The company manufactures these calls and other duck-hunting merchandise, as well as deer-hunting merchandise under the Buck Commander brand.

   “Phil Robertson, a star studded football quarterback at LouisianaTechUniversity, founded the company rather than play professional football in the NFL. He began his business in a dilapidated shed, where he spent 25 years making duck calls from Louisiana cedar trees.’’

   A self-proclaimed “bible thumper,’’ as written in a controversial GQ magazine article last January, Robertson, according to his company’s bio, in the mid ‘70s “turned his life over to the Lord and made dramatic changes. Phil Robertson is not only known as the Duck Commander, but also he has built a reputation across the country for his faith and belief in the Almighty.’’

   Additionally, he’s known for his nationally reported anti-gay sentiments and got suspended from A&E after some detailed remarks in the GQ magazine about “homosexual behavior’’ and “bestiality.’’

SHREVEPORT

    Getting back to the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, the bowl website describes Shreveport-Bossier (Bossier is separated from Shreveport by the Red River) as “a little different than the rest of the state. It’s a mixture of spicy Cajun tradition and wide-open Texas spirit, where cowboy meets Creole.”

    Shreveport has a population of about 200,000, and for Miami folks, it’s a small-town feel with not a lot of excitement, although “six riverboat casinos’’ might get some attention.

   Independence Stadium, with artificial turf (FieldTurf Duraspine Pro) has a capacity of 49,565.

    Miami fans, go here http://hurricanesports.com/fls/28700/bowl2014/index.html for ticket information and more. Ticket prices are $45 and $50.

   I’m thinking South Carolina fans, who would have a daunting 11 ½-drive from Columbia to Shreveport, will show up in a lot better numbers than Miami fans (about 17-hour drive), who just don’t show. But Miami’s national brand and impressive television viewership are what Independence folks like.

   Typical, lovely quote from Spurrier on Miami, as tweeted by The State beat writer Josh Kendall: “Miami is another team that almost beat FSU this year. Gotta be what? Seven or eight of those that almost beat FSU.’’

   Spurrier said he was thrilled to be playing in the game.

   Said South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson, who has thrown for 3,280 yards and 24 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions: “We are excited to be able to play another game against a big-name school, get a chance to go out and end on a high note. Obviously, Clemson didn’t go the way we wanted it to, the way a lot of people wanted it to go, but we’re excited.’’

   The Hurricanes are expected to begin bowl practice late this week, possibly Friday. Neither players nor coaches have been made available yet to the media.

GIFTS  

   Regarding player gifts,  Street & Smith’s Sports Business Daily listed a “Timely Watch Co. watch, New Era ski cap and football’’ among the gifts the Hurricanes will receive.

   “The NCAA allows each bowl to award up to $550 worth of gifts to 125 participants per school,’’ the Sports Business Daily article wrote. “Schools can, and usually do, but additional gifts that they can distribute to participants beyond that 125 limit.’’

    Anyone excited out there for this matchup? I am, but I always am. Kickoff sometimes has a way of dulling the excitment. Still, until kickoff (or until I decide otherwise), I am psyched for the Independence Bowl. Despite all the angst and anger over UM's season, college football is so much fun.

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

  

December 07, 2014

Miami Hurricanes headed to Shreveport, Louisiana for Independence Bowl

The Miami Hurricanes are Shreveport, Louisiana bound.

The Hurricanes will represent the Atlantic Coast Conference in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced.

Their opponent: South Carolina of the Southeastern Conference, coached by the one and only Steve Spurrier.

The bowl will be played at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 27 and televised by ABC.

The Hurricanes are 6-6, 3-5.

South Carolina is 6-6, 3-5. 

The Gamecocks' wins came against East Carolina, Georgia, at Vanderbilt, Furman, at Florida in overtime and South Alabama.

The Gamecocks' losses were to Texas A&M, Missouri, at Kentucky, at Auburn, at Tennessee in overtime and in the season-finale at Clemson.

South Carolina is ranked 107th nationally in rushing defense, 90th in total defense and 91st in scoring defense.

Offensively, the Gamecocks are 30th in total offense, 58th in rushing offense, 20th in passing offense and 36th in scoring.

Miami and South Carolina have played 15 times since 1936, with UM holding a 8-5-2 advantage. Their last game was in 1987, when Miami won 20-16. UM was ranked second, and South Carolina, eighth.

The Canes, who have lost their past three games, have not won a bowl since beating Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho, after the 2006 season. They have never played in the Independence Bowl, but played at its stadium against Louisiana Tech to open the 2003 season -- Brock Berlin's first game as the UM quarterback. The Hurricanes, then ranked third, won 48-9.

Miami desperately needs a victory in the Independence Bowl to end 2014 with a winning season.

A Miami loss would give UM a 6-7 final record and would be its first losing season since 2007, when it finished 5-7.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

December 06, 2014

Miami Hurricanes appear headed to Independence Bowl -- possibly against Texas A&M

 Barring a change on Sunday, it appears UM will travel to Shreveport, Louisiana for the Duck Commander Independence Bowl – possibly against Texas A&M.

BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

    It has become increasingly likely that the University of Miami will leave the state of Florida for its bowl game.

   As of Saturday, indications pointed to the Hurricanes being the Atlantic Coast Conference’s representative in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 27 in Shreveport, Louisiana, according to multiple individuals familiar with the bowl scenario.

   Two sources said a good possibility exists that Miami (6-6, 3-5) will face Texas A&M (7-5, 3-5 Southeastern Conference), rather than the UM-UF Gators (6-5, 4-4) matchup that many were expecting.

    However, nothing is certain until the ACC reveals the destinations for each of its bowl-eligible teams at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

   Until then, the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26 against an American Athletic Conference team such as UCF (9-3, 7-1), remains one of the possibilities.

   Go to TheACC.com/Bowls to view “The ACC Live: Bowl Selection Show.’’

   Should UM travel to the Independence and not play Texas A&M, it could also meet Arkansas (6-6, 2-6), South Carolina (6-6, 3-5) or the Gators.

   This year, with the College Football Playoff making its debut, the bowl system works differently.

   The Hurricanes will be slotted for a “Tier Two’’ bowl, which, in order of selections, encompasses the Military (Annapolis, Maryland), Independence and Quick Lane (Detroit) – with the Bitcoin teams being decided after the others pick.

   The Tier One bowls (Belk, Sun, Music City or Taxslayer, and Pinstripe) don’t make picks. Conference officials work with bowls and athletic directors to try to make everyone as satisfied as possible.

   Conference officials are also involved in Tier Two matchups.

   The Independence, which had Arizona-Boston College last year, has in its selection pool on the ACC side UM, North Carolina (6-6, 4-4), Pittsburgh (6-6, 4-4) and Virginia Tech (6-6, 3-5).

   Shreveport is a four-plus hour drive from Texas A&M and six-hour drive from Arkansas. The Hurricanes do well on TV, and this game will be televised on ABC.

    The thought is that despite Miami fans not traveling, the Independence would have the national brand covered with the Hurricanes, and sell some tickets with a Texas A&M (or Arkansas) as the opponent.

    Gator fans, like Canes fans, do not travel well to bowl games.   

   UM has never played in the Independence Bowl, but played at its stadium against Louisiana Tech to open the 2003 season – Brock Berlin’s first game as quarterback. The Hurricanes, then ranked third, won 48-9.

  Miami is 2-1 against Texas A&M, winning the past two games 34-17 in 2007 at home and 41-23 at College Station in 2008. 

 

December 04, 2014

Everyone who's thinking St. Petersburg Bowl: Don't count out Shreveport, UM-Gators.

    The Atlantic Coast Conference said Thursday that it will announce the bowl destinations for all ACC bowl-eligible teams at 5:30 p.m. Sunday on the ACC.com (@the ACCDN).

    The ACC Live: Bowl Selection Show will be viewable on theACC.com/Bowls page.

    The two strongest contenders to land UM (6-6, 3-5 ACC) in a bowl are the Duck Commander Independence Bowl at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 27 in Shreveport, Louisiana, which could match the Hurricanes with the Gators (6-5, 4-4 SEC); or the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl at 8 p.m. Dec. 26 at Tropicana Field, which would possibly match UM with UCF (8-3, 6-1 American Athletic Conference before Thursday-night game with East Carolina, which was going on while I wrote this). 

   At this point, the Bitcoin could also opt for Pittsburgh (6-6, 4-4) or North Carolina (6-6, 4-4).

   A UM-UF matchup in Shreveport is believed to be the game that would please UM most. I wouldn't count out Shreveport, Canes fans.

   Don't you think UF-UM would be a fun way to end the season?

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

   

December 02, 2014

Kaaya named ACC Rookie of the Year; Walford to have surgery, bowl status uncertain

Hurricanes freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya was named the Atlantic Coast Conference's Offensive Rookie of the Year on Tuesday after leading the league in efficiency (148.2), yards per completion (14.27), touchdown passes (25) and finishing second in passing yards (2,962) to Florida State's Jameis Winston.

He becomes the third Hurricanes player to win an ACC Rookie of the Year award. Running back Duke Johnson won the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and linebacker Sean Spence won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2008.

Kaaya was named All-ACC Honorable Mention on Monday.

He received 22 of the 55 votes from members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. Virginia safety Quin Blanding placed second with 16 votes and was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Kaaya's 2,962 yards are the fourth-best by a freshman in ACC history, trailing only FSU's Jameis Winston (4,057 in 2013), FSU's Drew Weatherford (3,208 in 2005) and N.C. State's Phillip Rivers (3,054 yards).

Kaaya finished the season ranked in the top 20 nationally and was the only true freshman quarterback in the country to throw for 2,900 yards and 25 or more touchdowns.

WALFORD TO HAVE SURGERY, BOWL STATUS UNCERTAIN

Contrary to a report, UM told our Susan Miller Degnan tight end Clive Walford has not been ruled out for the Hurricanes' upcoming bowl game.

Walford injured his right knee in the loss to Pittsburgh last Saturday and will have surgery on Wednesday.  

> If you are interested, here is the audio of coach Al Golden's interview with WQAM's Joe Rose this morning

December 01, 2014

My view: Coaching only half the issue for Canes

There’s no defending Al Golden and the way his football team finished this season.

A record of 6-6 and being tied for last in a weak Coastal Division with the amount of talent UM had this season is just ugly. The Hurricanes should have been better than they were, and yes, this has all the same feel to it of Randy Shannon’s four years on the job.

There's been no significant progress. Just the same old mediocrity.

The numbers tell you a big part of the story: Golden is 28-21, 16-16 in ACC play. Shannon was 28-22, 16-16 in ACC play. Both coaches lost the focus of their teams for the final two games of their fourth seasons once they were eliminated from division contention.

It’s been equally embarrassing and abysmal for Canes fans to swallow.

But I’m here to tell you coaching has only been half of the problem during this 11-year run of average football. The other part: Nobody in charge seems to care as much as the fans or former players do about winning titles or shedding this new image of being average.

I’m not talking about Golden. He gets paid and is contractually obligated to care through 2019. I’m talking about the school president, athletic director, board of trustees on down. Those people. It’s one thing to be visible, clap and say the right things, be supportive. It’s another thing to invest in winning, to demand it, to expect it.

I’ve only been around this program as a reporter since about 2003, but I can tell you few people were more visible, more vocal and more passionate about winning on the field than former athletic director Paul Dee. Nobody demanded it more.

He was there for the good and bad after UM’s first run of titles was over in 1991. Dee arrived in 1993 and was in charge until 2008. He guided UM through the Pell Grant scandal, hired Butch Davis and then kept Larry Coker around to lead UM to its last national title in 2001. 

You might remember that 2001 season for the title. I also remember it for what happened in June the summer right before it happened. Donna Shalala took over as president.

Shalala has done a tremendous job for UM, raising billions, being a leader. Brand new buildings have been cropping up all over campus for the past 13 years. She’s been there to support all the athletic teams, fighting the NCAA through the Nevin Shapiro mess (it would have been worse for UM if she wasn’t there in Indianapolis front and center). She’s done a lot of great things. Making sure the football program hasn’t slipped to where it is now isn’t one of them.

Since Dee stepped down in 2008 (it felt like his power was dwindling toward the end of his reign), UM has been through three athletic directors and the Shapiro mess. Meanwhile, the demand for excellence on the field –- the push for that sixth ring –- has quietly faded to the back burner. What we hear now is ‘Let’s win the Coastal!’

How did we get here? Here’s my theory: money.

UM did a lot of winning in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s because they had a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches. But they did it without really spending a whole lot of money on the coaches, the facilities, their home stadium or anything else. College football was relatively small back when the good times started. Howard Schnellenberger figured out he had the most talent-rich backyard in the country and laid the foundation. State of Miami he called it.

In the end, though, there’s a reason Miami went through a number of coaches while Florida State held onto Bobby Bowden and Florida had Steve Spurrirer for years. When college coaches started making more money, Bowden and Spurrier got paid. Why did Schnellenberger leave UM after winning the title in 1983? The USFL was going to pay him more. Jimmy Johnson? Dennis Erickson? Butch Davis? They went to the NFL too. You might remember UM hired all those guys without really breaking the bank for any of them.

That happened for years with assistant coaches too. Remember Rob Chudzinski? Mark Stoops? Dave Wannstedt? The Canes had a pretty good run on assistants when coaches were willing to take a little less money to build their resumes before moving onto bigger and better things.

What’s happened over the last decade? Well, it’s not just that Miami’s remained cheap. It's also that everybody else has been raising their game too. New TV contracts and conference affiliations have put schools that once couldn’t stay on the same field with UM’s team speed on equal or better footing with the Canes everywhere else.

Up until the last year or so, UM’s facilities were considered among the worst for a power conference school. Now, the Canes are better, but still below average of what Top 25 programs have to offer. Have you seen what they’ve got in places like Alabama, Oregon, Texas, Florida State and Florida? Heck, scouts tell me all the time there are teams in non-power conferences with indoor practice facilities and all kinds of stuff UM doesn’t have.

Attendance is another issue. Say what you want about former greats not caring about playing in a half-empty Orange Bowl on some Saturdays when UM played snoozers against weak Big East teams, but the OB never felt as empty or lifeless as Sun Life Stadium has for UM over the last seven years.

What five and four-star can’t miss recruits would want to come play at No Life Stadium when just about every other school in a power conference puts UM’s real attendance and atmosphere to shame with on-campus stadiums? How can UM compete with that? Recruits nowadays care about everything –- not just about UM’s fading glory days or rich NFL history. That used to sell. Not anymore.

The saddest part of all of this isn’t that the Canes are behind on many fronts aside from coaching. It’s that Dee really was the last guy in charge at UM that made you feel like somebody was really fighting to maintain a gold standard.

Remember that ticket advertisement UM put out back in June urging fans to “GO TO FEWER GAMES!” The message was buy tickets for Florida State and North Carolina because we know you won’t show up to the other games. How pathetic was that?

UM likes to portray itself as frugal because it has to be. Small, private school setting, no stadium of its own. But don't let that fool you. The Canes have dough. They've received all the same TV deal money and conference money every other ACC school has. It’s just that the dollars don’t seem to be going back into football enough.

How do I know that for sure? I don’t. UM is a private school. They don’t share one ounce of information on how much they spend on coaching or the football budget in general.

But this is how you know they aren’t keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to paying football coaches: the results. Outside of former offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch (now with the Jacksonville Jaguars) how many assistants since Shannon took over in 2007 have moved onto bigger and better jobs? Has anybody seen or heard from Patrick Nix? Mark Whipple in now the head coach at 3-9 UMass. I can tell you nobody has been trying to pry away the assistants who have been here the last four years.

Athletic director Blake James said last week -- before the Pittsburgh loss -- Golden wouldn’t be fired after this season regardless of how things panned out. James also said Golden reserved the right to make all changes on his staff. No moves would be forced upon him.

At this point, I would have to expect Golden will make moves. He has to. Status quo isn't cutting it. 

It wasn't at Florida. That's why the Gators cut coach Will Muschamp, who was hired right around the same time as Golden. He went 28-21, but won the SEC East and made it to the Sugar Bowl in 2012.

Sunday, Nebraska fired Bo Pellini because his team finished 9-3. Pellini won at least nine games every year he was there and finished 67-27 combined. You know who pulled the plug on Pellini? Former UM athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who spent two years at UM, and gave Golden his extension through 2019 because of how he handled the Shapiro bomb that was dropped on him shortly after getting the job.

Ironically enough, Eichorst told Nebraska reporters Pellini was fired because he “didn’t win the games that mattered the most.”

Remember when winning the games that mattered, mattered at Miami?

Golden hasn’t done that yet. That’s a fact. His biggest win to date? Over 9-3 Duke this year.

Bottomline: he should have won more with this year’s team. The Coastal, weak as ever, was there for the taking. The Hurricanes, potentially with four top 100 picks in next year’s draft (only Florida State and Oregon have more), grossly underachieved. 

It's hard to explain some of the things that happened this year. How does five-star cornerback Tracy Howard start a ton last year and regress to hardly playing this year? How did Stacy Coley, one of your most electrifying players last year as a freshman, regress? Why was Dallas Crawford -- one of your 22 best -- sitting behind a former walk-on most of the season?

The one thing I don’t blame Golden for -- not being able to get his team up for these last two meaningless games. The Canes did the same to Shannon. When UM lost to FSU -- after investing all it had to beat the Seminoles and keep its Coastal Division hopes alive -- there was nothing tangible to play for anymore. Virginia and Pittsburgh, meanwhile, were fighting to become bowl eligible.

Golden was essentially a coach without a carrot to dangle. In the end, do you think it really mattered to the players if they were 8-4 or 6-6 when they couldn’t win the one thing they set out to accomplish in the beginning? Maybe to the fans, but certainly not the players.

Here is where we’re at: If UM’s leaders want to get serious about winning again it starts with who is chosen to replace Shalala.

That new school president can’t be satisfied with just winning the Coastal Division or selling fans on what this week’s uniform combination is going to be. They don’t want to see another 3Penny Film about how hard guys are working, read another report about where UM’s next recruiting class is ranked or be reminded about that NCAA cloud Golden had to deal with. 

Canes fans are tired of all that. They want results.

Enough quality talent has come and gone through Coral Gables over the last 11 years  -- no, not as frequently as it did before, but enough -- to win the Coastal at least once. Miami hasn’t done that.

A huge part of that failure is on coaching. The bigger part of that is how much financial support Shannon and Golden have received to go out and bring in quality assistant coaches and coordinators to help make these players better and get the most out of them. In the end, you can have a real nice car, but you can’t expect to win the race if you’ve got a below average pit crew you’re paying with nickels and dimes. You’re giving the driver no chance.

The proof is in player development. Anybody remember the last time UM had a pass rusher opponents feared while he was here? No, but we’re quick to point out how good Olivier Vernon looks with the Dolphins. How about a defensive tackle who plugged the middle and was a menace? Vince Wilfork is in his 10th season in the NFL. How about a ball-hawking safety like Ed Reed? Where’s that next guy been?

Until Brad Kaaya showed up, we were all wondering when UM was going to have a top flight quarterback again.

Why? Yes, there have been recruiting mistakes. Lots of them.

Much of the local talent UM has been able to hang onto lately didn’t pick the Canes because they were an elite program. They stayed home for the love of The U, because they grew up rooting for Sean Taylor and dreaming of being Canes.

Imagine where UM would have been this season if Duke Johnson hadn’t decided to stick with the hometown Canes even after they fired Shannon? How about Denzel Perryman? Or Phillip Dorsett?

In the end, this blog post isn't a fire Golden letter or even a fire Mark D’Onofrio letter.

I’m just saying UM’s problems extend beyond Golden. It extended beyond Shannon.

The U needs somebody in charge to really care about how far this program has fallen, come up with a plan to right the ship, demand excellence and invest in the program all out.

Right now, to me, it just seems like the folks in charge in Coral Gables are happy if you show up for two games a year. They're okay with mediocrity.

November 29, 2014

Golden's Q&A following loss to Pittsburgh

AUDIO:

Coach Al Golden

Duke Johnson

Denzel Perryman

Brad Kaaya

Shane McDermott

AL GOLDEN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS

On playing from behind for most of the game…
“It was disappointing. That’s their M.O. If they can play with a lead, they’re tough. We let them do that. They had field position on us all night. They converted their chances, starting with that first third down that ended up being a big play. A couple of plays later, they ran it in. It was disappointing that they came out. We needed to respond a little bit better, and we did not.”

On if he envisioned the end result…
“No. No. If you look at the line, they had 60 plays for 360 [yards] we had 73 for 421 [yards]. They made more plays than we did. They had a shorter field than we did. Our kickoff coverage was not good, theirs was outstanding. We’re just not getting it deep enough like their guy was doing to us…they made us pay with that. Even when we answered in the beginning of the third quarter, we kick off and they start at our 40 [-yard line].

On if his team is more talented than its 6-6 record indicates…
“We’re responsible for the record at the end of the day. I’m responsible for the record. I feel like we have a lot of guys on our team – Clive [Walford], Duke [Johnson], Denzel [Perryman] – that are chasing elite. Maybe we haven’t had that for a while. Overall as a team, we need to perform better, and that’s my responsibility. We are what our record is, period. I’m disappointed.”

On why Pitt was so successful in the red zone…
“We didn’t stop them enough on third down. I think they were 50% on third down. We didn’t get any takeaways. It was a short field. When you play a team like this, it’s a little bit like playing Georgia Tech – in that you have to make them go a long field, so if they’re going to play like that, they need to get three or four more first downs. It gives you more opportunities, because that’s how they play the game. They converted down there. We needed one stop. On the other end, we needed one more play in the red zone and we did not.”

On if his team became divided during the last few weeks…
“No. I think there’s frustration. We have a lot of guys that worked hard and a lot of guys that have been through a lot and a lot of guys that want to win. I wouldn’t say that that’s accurate or fair. I don’t think it’s divided. I think there’s some frustration. We have Jon [Feliciano] and Shane [McDermott] and those guys who have been around a long time, and they’re playing next to [Christopher] Herndon and [Brad] Kaaya and Trevor Darling. There are guys at different stages in their careers, but I don’t think it’s splintered.”

On the team’s schedule for next week…
“No. 1, just get the team healed up. From our standpoint, we have to go out recruiting right away and then we’ll find out where our bowl assignment is. We’ll go from there.”

On his message as he hits the recruiting trail…
“My message right now? I’m really disappointed in our performance tonight and how we played. Obviously we think there are still a lot of positives. It would be fruitless for me to talk about it right now. It wouldn’t be fair.”

On if his team suffered a letdown after emotional investment in Florida State game…
“I think obviously as a coach, it’s one of the things that I have to evaluate. I have to look closely at it. Going back to that, we did invest a lot, but it’s easy during the week to just paint a brush and say that’s the reason. That’s one of the things that I will evaluate personally. In terms of our kids practicing, or mindset, or things like that, I haven’t noticed a difference.

On playing from behind for most of the game…
“It was disappointing. That’s their M.O. If they can play with a lead, they’re tough. We let them do that. They had field position on us all night. They converted their chances, starting with that first third down that ended up being a big play. A couple of plays later, they ran it in. It was disappointing that they came out. We needed to respond a little bit better, and we did not.”

On if he envisioned the end result…
“No. No. If you look at the line, they had 60 plays for 360 [yards] we had 73 for 421 [yards]. They made more plays than we did. They had a shorter field than we did. Our kickoff coverage was not good, theirs was outstanding. We’re just not getting it deep enough like their guy was doing to us…they made us pay with that. Even when we answered in the beginning of the third quarter, we kick off and they start at our 40 [-yard line].

On if his team is more talented than its 6-6 record indicates…
“We’re responsible for the record at the end of the day. I’m responsible for the record. I feel like we have a lot of guys on our team – Clive [Walford], Duke [Johnson], Denzel [Perryman] – that are chasing elite. Maybe we haven’t had that for a while. Overall as a team, we need to perform better, and that’s my responsibility. We are what our record is, period. I’m disappointed.”

On the status of tight end Clive Walford, who left the game due to injury…
“I think he’ll be okay. I wish I knew if the x-rays came back negative, but it sounded like it was going to be okay.”

On how difficult he thinks it will be to turn the team around emotionally…
“I think we’ll definitely turn around, I don’t think there’s any question about that. It’s hard. You have different classifications that you’re dealing with. There are a lot of guys that played a lot of football tonight - Christopher Herndon, Tyre Brady, guys like that - they have to stay positive. Some of the older guys, we need them to stay positive, finish what they started, continue to improve and try to get us our first [bowl game] win in forever.”

On the balance between elite talent and younger players on the team…
“We didn’t play well enough tonight. In terms of the big picture, I’m trying to get everyone better. I don’t think any of us sat here in spring ball and thought we were going to be playing with a freshman right tackle or a freshman quarterback. That’s how it evolved. At the end of the day, we didn’t play well enough to beat Pitt. I just don’t want to get into excuses or rationalization or anything like that. At the end of the day, we’re responsible for every player on the team and how they perform in every position and every unit. We all know there were some challenges there, but nothing that would alleviate not playing better tonight.”

On the performance of special teams…
“We’re struggling with our kickoff coverage. We’re not driving the ball deep enough, we’re not giving our guys enough time to cover it, and we’re not hanging it up right now. I tried both kickers again today. Pitt did a better job than we did in that department. Overall, I think [Justin] Vogel has had a very productive year for us. Our return game is something that we’re going to have to really sit down and look at here and work on a lot before the bowl game. We haven’t had an explosive return. That’s disappointing.”

On Duke Johnson, who became the program’s all-time leading rusher…
“I wish it was a better environment to celebrate what he has accomplished, because I think it’s extraordinary, I really do. For him to do it in the timeframe that he has done it makes it really unique for him. He’s a unique young man. [I am] grateful for the opportunity to coach him every day. The way he has responded and accepted coaching and changed a lot of little things in his game to be as productive as he has been this year, he deserves it.”

Gameday blog: Miami Hurricanes vs. Pittsburgh Panthers

Live Blog Miami Hurricanes vs. Pittsburgh: Nov. 29, 2014
 

November 27, 2014

Freshmen want Canes' run of mediocrity to end with them

Come January it's going to be 12 years since the Miami Hurricanes last played for a national championship, and 11 since they went to a major bowl game.

Mediocrity has become the norm in Coral Gables. Let's count the ways:

> Counting Miami's 6-5 record heading into Saturday night's regular season-finale against Pittsburgh (5-6) at Sun Life Stadium, the Canes have lost at least four games every season since 2006. That happened only three times at UM from 1983 to 2003.

> Miami hasn't had a double-digit win season since 2003. Meanwhile, rivals Florida and Florida State have had four double-digit win seasons each and they've won three national titles combined.

> Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, the Canes have floundered at 81-55 overall. That's fewer wins than six other teams in the conference: Virginia Tech (104), Florida State (103), Clemson (93), Louisville (92), Georgia Tech (87) and Boston College (82). Meanwhile, lowly Wake Forest and Duke have each won division titles while the Hurricanes simply tied for one and had to vacate it because of impending NCAA sanctions.

When will the mediocrity end? When will UM become a real threat for a national title again? Al Golden's youngest Canes have talked about that. Several have said they won't accept the losing.

"Me, Brad [Kaaya], Chad [Thomas], Braxton [Berrios] we talk about [national championships] a lot, saying that next year we have to turn things around, do what we've got to do to get to that spot," said freshman running back Joe Yearby, who went 53-5 and won three state titles in his four years at Miami Central.

"We've got to shoot higher than [the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division Title]," Yearby continued. "We've got to take everything day-by-day to accomplish everything we have to do. But we believe we can be champs again. That's still very much a goal."

Thomas, a five-star recruit who won a national title at Miami's Booker T. Washington last season, has said in the past he expects the Canes to win a national title while he's here -- and that he hates losing.

Before Miami's 30-13 loss at Virginia last Saturday, Berrios said the Hurricanes should win the remainder of their games. He said UM's three-game win streak following its loss to Georgia Tech -- and close loss to Florida State -- was a sign UM is getting closer to being what it wants to be.

Kaaya, UM's brightest young star, spoke this week about what it has been like losing five games. Kaaya went 26-4 and won a state title in California.

“I see it all as a part of the whole progression,” Kaaya said of the ups and downs. “It’s all a test; every single game is a test. I don’t know if God is testing me or something like that, but I take it all as a trial or a test and just get better. That’s my whole view on it.

"College football, the way it’s going now, it’s almost like every game is a playoff. You win one game two weeks ago and the next game you lose, everyone is pissed off so you’ve just got to keep playing. It’s week-by-week warriors.”

Golden this week said he doesn't "think anybody will ever get used to losing" at UM and he's glad his young players are talking about winning national titles.

"Nobody likes to lose, nobody wants to lose," he said. "Saying that is one thing. The other thing is addressing the things we need to address individually and collectively, charting a course and getting it fixed in the time span we have.

"I want them to be winners. I want them to be champions. I want them to scratch, claw and compete. Joe Yearby is one of those guys that I'm glad he feels like that because when he practices it looks like that. We want everybody in the organization to think like that."

Restocking the roster with the kind of talent it once had hasn't been easy. UM had 10 first round picks and 18 top 100 picks on the last team that played in the Orange Bowl (drafted between 2004-07).

Randy Shannon coached Miami's last first round pick, Kenny Phillips, in 2008. Shannon had nine players drafted with top 100 picks during his tenure and another four taken in 2012 he recruited to the program.

Golden had those four top 100 picks that were Shannon recruits his first year at Miami (Olivier Vernon, Sean Spence, Lamar Miller, Travis Benjamin) but has had just one other top 100 pick (Brandon Linder) during his tenure. That will change this May.

Scouts believe UM could have as many as five players (Ereck Flowers, Duke Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford) taken among the first 100 picks. NFLDraftScout.com listed four Hurricanes as top 100 picks this week (Dorsett not among them). Only Florida State (10) and Oregon (5) have more than that. UM is tied for the third-most with Louisville, Washington, Alabama and Baylor. Only Washington has as many losses as UM. The other teams are all ranked in the Top 25.

"Miami has dynamic NFL talent and everybody can see it," said Rob Rang, a writer for NFLDraftScout.com. "They also have a very talented, but inexperienced freshman quarterback. To me, they've just had some trouble late in games they could have won. That's been the difference."

Most NFLDraftScout.com Top 100 prospects by college

> Florida State (10): QB Jameis Winston (3), DT Eddie Goldman (20), CB PJ Williams (27), CB Ronald Darby (47), DE Mario Edwards (50), OT Cameron Erving (54), OG Josue Matias (59), WR Rashad Greene (68), OG Tre' Jackson (71), TE Nick O'Leary (90)

> Oregon (5): QB Marcus Mariota (1), CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (32), DE Arik Armstead (46), C Hroniss Grasu (82), OT Jake Fisher (87)

> Miami (4): RB Duke Johnson (51), LB Denzel Perryman (58), TE Clive Walford (74), OT Ereck Flowers (77)

> Alabama (4): WR Amari Cooper (5), SS Landon Collins (7), RB TJ Yeldon (55), OG Arie Kouandjio (61)

> Baylor (4): DE Shawn Oakman (12), OT Spencer Drango (49), QB Bryce Petty (88), WR Antwan Goodley (100)

> Louisville (4): DeVante Parker (18), FS Gerod Holliman (28), DE Lorenzo Mauldin (36), CB Charles Gaines (52)

> Washington (4): OLB Shaq Thompson (6), DT Danny Shelton (22), CB Marcus Peters (34), DE Hauoli Kikaha (48)

> USC (3): DT Leonard Williams (2), WR Nelson Agholor (73), RB Javorious Allen (75)

> Auburn (3): WR Sammie Coates (39), C Reese Dismukes (63), DT Gabe Wright (78)

> Fresno State (3): FS Derron Smith (44), WR Josh Harper (53), DT Tyeler Davison (96)

> Michigan State (3): CB Trae Waynes (13), FS Kurtis Drummond (93), RB Jeremy Langford (97)

> Oklahoma (3): WR Dorial Green-Beckham (31), OLB Eric Striker (62), OLB Geneo Grissom (90)

November 26, 2014

D'Onofrio one of 40 nominees for Broyles Award

He doesn't have a lot of support from the fan base, but Hurricanes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio really is one of 40 nominees for this year's Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach in college football.

No, really he is. Click on the list of nominees that was released Wednesday.

D'Onofrio, in his fourth season as UM's defensive coordinator, has made significant progress this season at least statistically. 

UM ranks 15th in total defense (324.6 yards per game), 22nd in opposing QB rating (111.0), 31st in run defense (136.0) and 39th in scoring defense (23.4 points per game).

Last year, the Canes ranked 90th in total defense (426.4), 59th in opposing QB rating (125.71), 78th against the run (176.54) and 66th in scoring defense (26.8).

> Coach Al Golden said safety Deon Bush (hamstring) didn't practice Wednesday, but didn't rule him out for Saturday's game against Pittsburgh. "It's going to be close for Deon," Golden said. "Hamstrings are funny. You can get strong fairly quickly or it can linger on. Right now we're prepared for him not to go, as we were last week."

> Left guard Jon Feliciano, who has had a cast on his left hand/wrist all week, should be fine to play Saturday Golden said.

> Golden said receiver Herb Waters (strained beck) will miss the Pittsburgh game, but should be back in time for the bowl game. "I'll leave that up to the doctors," Golden said.

November 25, 2014

Clive Walford named Mackey Award finalist; Duke Johnson out of contention for Doak Walker

   Clive Walford is another Hurricane who’s glad he returned for his senior season.

   Walford, who leads all Miami pass-catchers with 40 receptions this season and ranks second on the team with 627 receiving yards, was named a finalist for the John Mackey Award on Tuesday.

   Also named finalists were Florida State senior Nick O’Leary and Minnesota sophomore Maxx Williams.

   Walford, who has seven touchdowns, has amassed 127 and 105 receiving yards, respectively, in his past two games against FSU and Virginia.

  Not receiving the recognition many believe he deserves was Hurricanes junior tailback Duke Johnson, who was not among the three finalists announced Tuesday for the Doak Walker Award. Those finalists (in alphabetical order): Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska, Tevin Coleman of Indiana and Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin.

  • Coach Al Golden said Tuesday that Hurricanes safety Deon Bush (Hamstring) is day to day and receiver Herb Waters, who injured his neck at Virginia, is out for the game. Guard Jon Feliciano, whose left wrist is in a cast, was in a yellow (limited contact) jersey in practice.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Walford named finalist for Mackey Award

Hurricanes fifth-year senior Clive Walford has been named one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's top tight end.

Walford leads UM in catches (40) and is nine catches of shy of passing Kellen Winslow Jr. for the most catches ever by a Canes tight end. Walford is already the career-leader in receiving yards (1,704) by a tight end in UM history and leads all tight ends nationally with a 15.7-yard yard per catch average this season. He's tied for second among tight ends with seven touchdown catches. 

The other finalists are Florida State's Nick O'Leary and Minnesota's Maxx Williams. 

Winslow is the only Hurricane to win the Mackey Award. He won it in 2003. 

On Monday, senior Denzel Perryman was named a finalist for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker.

Running back Duke Johnson, a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, did not make the final cut. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Indiana's Tevin Coleman and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon were the three finalists selected.

Canes enter AP basketball poll at No. 17

In case you missed this yesterday...

Canes (5-0) voted No. 17 in AP poll, No. 20 USA Today. Here's the story...

Hurricanes play at Charlotte tonight and home Friday vs. South Alabama? Will fans show up for a change?

November 24, 2014

UM men's hoops leap to No. 17 in AP poll!

Hey Canes fans! From now on, I'll be posting UM basketball news on here, so stay tuned. Big news today, as pollsters clearly noticed UM's thrilling upset of No. 7 Florida and tournament win in Charleston.

Here's the story...

--Michelle Kaufman.

 

November 23, 2014

Herb Waters has strained neck; Golden talks the day after loss to Virginia

Here is everything asked and said during Al Golden's teleconference with reporters Sunday following his team's 30-13 loss at Virginia:

Q: Up until last night it felt like everything was trending in the right direction, you were playing well. I know you've got and the players have the "bunker mentality" to block out all the noise. But recruits live out here with us, hear the negativity and some of the things being said. What's your message to them after that performance?

"We didn't play well enough last night. We got beat by a team that executed better in all three realms better than we did. There's no excuses. It's my responsibility and we've got to move forward. I think the last, I'm including practice and games, over the last six weeks we've made a lot of progress. Whether it was turnovers, blocked kicks or penalties we didn't play well enough to win the game." 

Q: Recruits are going to look at your record (28-20) and the guy before you [Randy Shannon 28-22] and say the program isn't moving forward. How would you convince them that it is, that there's real progress being made?

"As you know I can't worry about the outside. It's really important for us to coach the kids we have, try to make them the best players and team we can. Continue to make sure our staff, executes, works together, has good morale and do everything we can to move the program forward. Again, we've got to get ready for Pittsburgh. None of this is going to help us do it. We have to get ready for Pittsburgh and win a game and go to a bowl game and win a bowl game for the first time in a while. If we do that we can show some progress. So I think other than that, it's not going to help us get ready for Pittsburgh today." 

Q: What's the update on Herb Waters?

"He has a strained neck. He's in great spirits right now. We'll know more by the end of the week or the middle of the week in terms of where he's at. All the tests came back negative, which is great." 

Q: How much of a boost was it for the guys to have him fly home with the team?

"A lot. It was a scary moment. Whenever somebody goes down like that you really don't know what's actually going on. Most of us were not in the medical industry, don't really understand the difference between precautionary protocols or the severity of the injury. It was a scary moment. We all said a prayer for Herb and we're glad he's going to be healthy." 

Q: Kids saying forget the senior let's do beat Pittsburgh for the coach. That can be a rallying cry, but you don't hear that much. Is that indicative of maturity?

"I really don't know what exactly was said. From our standpoint we're just trying to get ready for Pitt all day. From the head coach down in this organization we're going to responsibility for how we played. And there is no excuse starting with me. For all I thought we did well in preparation going into the game, it wasn't good enough. Our field goal protection wasn't good enough. Our discipline as it relates to penalties wasn't good enough. We didn't protect the ball well enough. We didn't protect our quarterback well enough. So again, I think all of us are going to take responsibility for that. But as we get into this game with Pitt it's about preparation and obviously all of us want to see the seniors go out with a win." 

Q: What did you say to the players after what happened to Waters?

"We don't meet with them until [Monday]. So the good news is they all have evidence that Herb is okay. Not only did he go back on the plane with us last night we were able to communicate throughout the plane that he's going to be fine. They saw him around the training room today. From that standpoint, we're very fortunate he's okay. We're happy for happy for him. Obviously it's a relief. As it relates to Pittsburgh, we have football players and football coaches on our team. Football players and football coaches. We worked year round to play games. We have an opportunity again in Pitt, a team coming off a win, trying to fight for bowl contention. It's our last home game, our last home game for the seniors. It's a big game for us. That's where our focus needs to be." 

Q: How did Herb Waters get hurt exactly?

"Herb is excellent as a blocker on the kickoff return. He kind of took somebody face-to-face. I think at that point his neck got strained. He ended up falling back on it as well. I don't know if that made it worse. At least all the extremities were good on the field. We were able to communicate that to all the players on the field. Dr. Kaplan was communicating that to me. From that standpoint, at the end of the day it's a strained neck. We just got to be careful and see where he's at here in the next couple days." 

Q: Have you had conversations with Blake James about goals and the direction of the program and where it needs to be?

"We're in constant communication in terms of what the vision is and the things we need to do to move the program forward. From that standpoint the communication is pretty constant." 

Q: Eight, nine days ago, before the FSU game, there was still something very tangible to play for in the Coastal Division crown. How tough is it to keep kids heads in it when there isn't that thing they can grab onto and say we're playing for this?

"There's no question it's a challenge. But it's not an excuse. I want to make sure I say that clearly. In answering your question, it's not an excuse. Everybody on the team is not only trying to improve or play their best. For example, I think Denzel Perryman played one of his best games. As did Clive Walford. We have some of our older players playing some of their best football. Clearly, we have older guys motivated to be the best players they can be, to finish the season off strong, win a bowl game, do those type of things. That's one side of it. On the side of it is, you would hope a lot of guys Joe Yearby, Darrion Owens, Chad Thomas, Brad Kaaya, who are playing for the first time, not only are they trying to improve, but establish a winning tradition and compete every day to get better and really relish these opportunities. There's so much motivation still even though it may not be the ultimate prize in terms of moving the program forward, in terms of getting better as a team, in terms of being the best player you can be as evidenced by what Clive and Denzel did." 

Q: Any other health updates? Deon Bush didn't make the trip. Anybody else get hurt aside from Herb Waters?

"Deon we're going to know more honestly in the next 48 hours. It's really going to be the tell-tale for Deon. Herb is the only one coming out of the game [who was hurt]. Everybody else should be fine." 

Q: Gus Edwards didn't play much at all did he?

"We're trying to get him there. He did some things for us. The cutting and start and stop and all of that were just not where we needed it to be. There were a lot of situations, short yardages where we really needed him. We just didn't feel like he's where he needs to be to help us. I can't imagine it going longer than a couple more days based on where we're at. He's going to keep practicing, controlling the environment in practice. Each week I hope when we get to those final 48 hours he's going to heal and feel really good and be able to do everything we need him to do to not only protect himself and execute."

Q: Did Gus Edwards not play at all?

"Gus played very limited snaps, not many. [Tackle on opening kickoff and] a couple kickoff returns as well. I don't if there were any other reps."

Herb Waters' update for those who turned off the agony on ESPN2.. and player reaction

CHARLOTTESVILLE (pre-flight home) -- Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya didn't know what hit him last night at Scott Stadium -- literally and figuratively.

Neither did receiver Herb Waters.

Thankfully, both are alive, if not well, this morning.

Waters, a warm, friendly junior from Homestead who is always smiling, was hit hard last night on a helmet-to-helmet episode during a kickoff late in the third quarter. From what I recall, he stumbled backward and his head kind of snapped back, and then he fell.

Doctors and trainers and lots of other people surrounded him for quite a while, and then he was  strapped to a gurney and driven by cart off the field, as his teammates prayed on their knees and star tailback Duke Johnson cried.

He was taken by ambulance to University of Virginia Medical Center.

Thankfully, just before midnight, UM reported that Waters was released from the hospital and was cleared to return home with the team. That's awesome news that all of us needed to hear. 

If you recall, last year's last home game was against Virginia, and in that game, UM cornerback Ladarius Gunter had the same type of experience with a neck injury. He also ended up being fine, after wearing a neck brace.

"I wouldn't say we lost our concentration, but everyone was sad after that,'' said UM safety Jamal Carter, who made his first career start because Deon Bush is injured (hamstring) and didn't travel. "He just waved to us and gave us a thumbs up so that we knew he was alright.''

Speaking of Deon Bush, UM needed him badly last night. After watching the touchdown play deemed No. 2 on ESPN SportsCenter last night -- the 23-yard pass that Canaan Severin of UVA acrobatically grabbed with one hand (gorgeous catch) and then fell into the end zone with 3:21 left in the second quarter to make it 10-7 Virginia -- it seems Bush would have known just what to do to prevent that.

Carter leaped awkwardly trying to make a play near, but not with, Severin. He needed to defend Severin and put a hurtin' on him (legally, of course).  He also, obviously, shouldn't have spiked the ball after intercepting a 43-yard pass by Greyson Lambert with 12:30 left in the third quarter.

What was he thinking on the spike? I don't think much. I just think he's young and was very psyched about the pick and did something that he won't do again.

 As for poor Kaaya, after getting sacked four times and pummeled much of the night, it's understandable that he was shaky and rushed some throws and made some errant ones. The kid is a fighter. Love his attitude.

  The "Fire Al Golden" shouts are back, as expected, and likely louder than ever. After that 30-13 loss, it was inevitable. Golden was definitely down last night. And his players defended him, especially tight end Clive Walford. Walford was asked if any players addressed the team. He said he did.

“I told the team, ‘You know, we’ve got senior night coming up next week. Forget about the seniors. Let’s do it for Coach Golden. He always puts the team on his back, never pinpointing anybody. We need to just go out and do it for him. Let’s not do it for anybody else. Let’s do it for Coach Golden.”'

Walford was basically asked why he felt compelled to defend Golden.

“Because, man, that’s a great coach,” Walford said. “He wants it as bad as we do. Every single week, if we come up short, he never points the finger at no player. He always takes the blame. I feel like it’s time for the players to start taking the blame and lay it on the line for coach.”

Linebacker Denzel Perryman, who had another impressive performance, with 15 tackles and a forced fumble, sat near Walford and agreed wholeheartedly. Both will soon be in the NFL.

“Clive pretty much just said it all,” Perryman said. “It’s time for us to take the blame and get the load off coach Golden. Like Clive said, he always gets up here in front of you all and puts the losses on the coaches. But at the end of the day it’s on us. We’re out there making the plays.”

Perryman said he takes the criticism of Golden "real personal because a lot of people are looking at it from the outside in. They really don’t know what’s going on. Outsiders, they think they know football. That really gets to me.

"Whether it’s family, friends, or just normal fans, that kind of stuff … they criticize the coaches, but little do they know, [the coaches] put us in great situations to make plays.”

Added Walford: "I feel the same as Denzel. You’ve got a lot of people who think they know football looking from the outside in, that don’t really know all the hard work and dedication that goes into calling certain plays and doing certain things. Me personally, I think coach Golden is a great coach. He always puts us in the right situation to come up and win the game.

“It ain’t on the coaches. The coaches coach. The players play. The players have to actually get out there and win the game.”

UM's final regular-season game is at 7 p.m. Saturday against Pittsburgh. At this point, nothing is a given, though UM plays very well at Sun Life Stadium. Hope some fans show for Senior Night. 

Something kind of crummy for Hurricanes 'round the nation crossed my mind more than once. If UM should lose next week and then lose the bowl game, it would end the season 6-7.

Then again, if Miami wins its next two, it would finish 8-5. OK, not fabulous, to say the least. But it beats the alternative.

Off to the airport.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN