First, though, I wanted to tell you about caching up with former UM quarterback <-- Steve Walsh and FSU fullback William Floyd. The two are now cohosts on Sun Sports' Tailgate Overtime. Both talked about their fondest memories of the UM-FSU series and the keys to victory this year.
Walsh told me his favorite moment as a college football player was the team's come-from-behind victory in 1987 when the Canes were down 19-3 at the half and stormed back for a 26-25 victory at FSU. He says his first touchdown pass to Melvin Bratton was his favorite play because it came on a checkoff at the line. To hear the complete interview, click here Download aug_28_stevewalsh.mp3.
Floyd said his block on UM linebacker Rohan Marley that sprung Sean Jackson for a 69-yard touchdown run in FSU's 28-10 win over Miami in 1993 is his favorite UM-FSU moment. FSU went on to win the national title that year. To hear Floyd talk about his memories, click here Download aug_28_williamfloyd.mp3
Ultimately both Walsh and Floyd think their respective schools are going to win (big shocker). Floyd said UM's off the field issues, having lost WR Ryan Moore and RB Tyrone Moss will loom too large for the Canes to overcome.
‘‘I think we have more weapons to work with than Miami. We got a guy that led the ACC in touchdown receptions last year in Greg Carr. DeCody Fagg, we just got guys that can make plays with Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith. You guys lost Ryan Moore and Tyrone Moss. I don't know if it will be the difference, but I think it will make an impact. As you know, it always comes down to the kicking game."
Walsh, who was down for practice last week, spoke with Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman and said he expects UM to respond. He expects UM to win 27-24.
"Miami has its backs against the wall and typically, Miami has responded in those situations. The fans are going to be jacked up. I think the players are going to respond and make enough big plays to win the game."
As for the team, as I wrote about after Tuesday's practice, there are still three big-time positions that are not resolved -- cornerback, middle linebacker and right tackle.
Cornerback: I know the coaches have been saying senior Glenn Sharpe is going to start. But after talking with defensive backs coach Tim Walton, I got the sense he's not 100 percent confident Sharpe is over his quadriceps strain. Sharpe had been coming along slowly in the fall. As you all know, he's gone through two ACL injuries and arthroscopic surgery in the past three seasons and hasn't made a tackle since Sept. 18, 2004. When asked when he had made his last tackle (before apparently making two in UM's last scrimmage), Sharpe couldn't remember on Tuesday.
Sharpe may start against FSU, but don't be surprised if he's not effective or not in there the whole game. There's a reason safety Brandon Meriweather has been used at corner and that's because I don't think the coaches are 100 percent convinced Sharpe is ready. You also have Carlos Armour who likely won't play until after FAMU. The others, albeit young, inexperienced and talented, are Bruce Johnson and Randy Phillips. Those guys are healthy and should do well. But when you look at FSU's strength coming into the season -- its passing game -- you have to think its going to be a tough test for the Canes, especially trying to cover 6-6 super sophomore Greg Carr who is a stud.
Middle linebacker: The other intriguing position of late has been middle linebacker. The feeling was coming into the fall, Glenn Cook was going to emerge with the starting job. Then after he got hurt and everyone was talking about how great Darryl Sharpton was, Romeo Davis, who was backing up Gooden on the strongside, ends up at the top of the depth chart when UM released late Monday. Hard to figure out who will exactly get the start, but this is a position in reality a lot of guys are likely to see action at anyway. Coker seemed real excited though about Cook's return. With Sharpton apparently having a little trouble running the defense, I think Cook or Gooden will end up getting the start with FSU. It could eventually sprout into the best position battle all season.
Right tackle: The biggest mystery of all -- right tackle. It looks like the rest of UM's offensive line is OK, but this could ultimately be the trouble spot for most of the season unless someone really comes out and establishes themselves as THE MAN. Coach Cristobal had Tyrone Byrd slotted at No. 1, then got hurt and replaced by Chris Rutledge. Then, Monday, freshman Jason Fox was with the first team. I think the truth of the matter is Fox is probably a tremendous talent and the future there, but for now, I expect Byrd to start against FSU. Rutledge has improved, but I don't get the sense they are extremely comfortable starting against FSU. If UM was playing anybody else, they'd probably give Rutledge a shot. Ultimately, I think what Cristobal doesn't want is for any of them to be disappointed and quit when they finally do announce a starter on Sunday. He wants all three to be available and ready so they can at least say they gave three different guys a shot.
As for the rest of the offensive line (I know Canes fans are worried after those nine sacks last season), I spoke to defensive tackles Bryan Pata and Kareem Brown at length about it last week before I wrote a feature on the two of them. Pata and Brown both said they have full confidence in the interior -- center Anthony Wollschlager and guards Derrick Morse and Andrew Bain.
<-- Kareem Brown said the offensive line has "improved leaps and bounds" since the spring. I asked him what that meant. "In the spring, we were beating 3-4 guys every play and getting to the quarterback," Brown said. "Now, about two of us are getting through every play." One thing to remember is Miami's defensive line is arguably Top 5 in the country. Brown said the line has done a real good job run blocking and opening holes up the middle. It's the pass protection that needs to improve. "The good thing is, coach Olson has Kyle releasing the ball a lot quicker. So, by the time we get to him now, the ball is already gone."
Other interesting tidbits in the last week: Look for punter Brian Monroe to play some at receiver after all. Receivers coach Marquis Mosely told us he would only play in emergency situations. With Khalil Jones (in a boot most of the fall), Ryan Moore (suspension), George Robinson (not ready) and Terrell Walden (foot) all either slowed or out, you can bet that constitutes as an emergency. Realistically, Monroe could be the fifth option behind Darnell Jenkins, Lance Leggett, Sam Shields and Ryan Hill (just moved over) at receiver. I still don't expect UM to throw it to Monroe unless they have no choice. Look for TE Greg Olsen and the other tight ends to get the ball before Monroe.
<-- Speaking of receivers, Darnell Jenkins made me laugh out loud the other day with his rap skills. He and Kenny Phillips are the team's best freestyle rappers thus far. In fact, Jenkins treated me and his teammates during an interview with Tavares Gooden to a little snipit of something he's come up for FSU. Listen here Download um_rap.mp3
Also, last but not least, the audio of Michael Irvin's speech to the team before last year's FSU game. It's been put on a track of an old Phil Collins song. It's pretty intense and gets your blood flowing -- even if you aren't a UM fan. Download irvinspeech.mp3
So, that's what I got. I'm sure they'll be plenty more to come in the next week. Tomorrow is the team's press conference and Susan Miller Degnan and I will be there talking to players. I'm sure I'll have plenty of audio to upload and for you all to listen to.
--> Stay tuned, Manny
Some tidbits before I pack it in for the night...
Tonight the Canes are having a closed scrimmage in the Orange Bowl to determine any starting positions that aren't solidified, such as right tackle. Offensive coordinator Rich Olson said the job would be Chris Rutledge's had the game been played today, but obviously it wasn't...
If there's one weak link on the line, that's likely it.
Here's a funny one to make you realize how hard it is to get correct injury information out of anyone. Larry Coker said Tyrone Byrd's right knee was bruised, when we initially asked several days ago. Then, I asked Tyrone after practice yesterday how it was doing and what exactly was wrong:
"It's not really bruised, it's badly stretched,'' Byrd said. "It's just like I guess a mix between a pull and a tear a little bit. Not a tear, but a pull and a sprain. I sprained my knee. There you go!''
The problem is, I think half the time these guys really don't know their injuries, or kind of know, but not totally. And to me, it sounds like Byrd's knee is more serious than a bruise.
Coker is very happy with his freshman class, calling it "tremendous" and praising tight end Dedric (pronounced DEE-drick) Epps, cornerbacks Chavez Grant and Tervaris Johnson (by the way, he said Johnson could also eventually play at safety), tailbacks Javarris James and Kylan Robinson and offensive tackle Jason Fox.
Fox looks like he could be a factor in his first year, which is pretty impressive to say the least.
Have a great weekend everyone.
P.S. Hope you enjoyed today's story on Andrew Johnson. http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sports/colleges/university_of_miami/15355832.htmWilliams. Tomorrow we have another interesting story on one of UM's newest young talents.
The UM baseball team got together Wednesday afternoon following the first day of classes, and there's reason for Canes fans to start counting the days until the first pitch. Scott Maine, who was drafted in the 23rd round in June by the Colorado Rockies, returned for his junior season.
Maine, who finished 12-3 last year with a 4.57 ERA, now has a full season behind him and should only get better. This season, he should be one of the top pitchers in the country.
Fourteen Canes from the College World Series roster are back, including phenom second basesman Jemile Weeks, outfielder/designated hitter Dennis Raben and first baseman Yonder Alonso.
The class of 10 freshmen also include plenty of talent, such as third baseman Mark Sobolewski (was drafted in the 20th round by the Astros) of Sarasota and shortstop Ryan Jackson of Miami Florida Christian. New right-handed pitcher Kyle Snyder of Wellington High was drafted in the 10th round by the Boston Red Sox.
UM baseball, to me, is always a blast. And this year's team should be even more fun to watch than last year's, which really turned it up in the postseason.
On a football-related note: Kyle Wright has been named one of 22 players on the Manning Award Watch list. Florida's Chris Leak and FSU's Drew Weatherford also are on the list.
I know you're sick of it by now. And contrary to what you probably believe, so am I. But Willie has finally found a football home.
Pretty unbelievable how Willie, who I personally liked because he was always very pleasant and friendly and respectful and upbeat, has ended up at this place.
I have already stated my opinion to my peers that I believe Willie will enter the NFL draft after this season. Some of them disagree and think he'll transfer to a major Division I football program.
But based on what I've seen from him, as far as a lack of commitment and unwillingness to accept the responsibilities and pure grind that it takes to play at a major program -- the lack of team concept -- Willie won't have the mental strength to endure another two years, or even one year, of college.
Also, on another subject: The more I think about this FSU game coming up, the more I think UM's offensive line will be the biggest factor in determining the outcome. That right-tackle spot could be a weak link, and the Seminoles would take advantage for sure. The line is such a crucial part of the game, and we really don't get a chance to see those guys in practice.
I just think if the line can protect Kyle a heck of a lot better than last season, he'll be so much better as a result. I also think if the line works, the other guys will work, though any more injuries to the receivers and running backs would be very bad.
Coach Coker moving Ryan Hill to wide receiver was smart, indeed, and the kid is talented.
"You'd like to have more time [for him to adjust to the offense],'' Coker said after Tuesday's open practice in the Orange Bowl. "We'll have a package for him and we'll find out next week what he can handle. And he'll have an opportunity to get zeroed in on the package we have for him.
"For a young player, that position is a position that a young player can fit in pretty well. Santana Moss started as a true freshman, so did Reggie Wayne. It can be done.''
Talk about guys with good hands! Watch out for big, bad tight end Richard Gordon. Whoa! Coker made a funny comment recently that Gordon looked like he's about 34 years old, as opposed to being a freshman with one year of prep school. The guy seems like a major talent, and be assured UM will take advantage of all those talented tight ends/H-backs...
Couldn't make it to last night's open practice for fans at the OB because I was tied down to helping put together our high school football preview.
(The reason? I was editing The Herald's first high school football podcast and editing video interviews with local 2007 recruits. For those interested in recruiting, I've spent the past month interviewing the top recruits in both Dade and Broward and on Thursday those videos will debut on our high school webpages. I'll get back to this subject -- local recruits and their interest in UM -- soon in a future post.)
But the fact I missed Tuesday's practice (Susan was there for us) made me think back to other Canes moments I've dreadfully missed as it happened live. The most painful for me personally, Wide Right I. I've seen video replays of the game thousands of times since, but at the time, I was 13-years old and in the middle of pitching in a baseball game at Tamiami Park.
Between innings I remember rushing back to the dugout to watch the game -- albeit for a few moments -- on a tiny black and white TV my Dad brought with him to the park. I remember being on the mound and trying to play the game and seeing a crowd of people huddled around the TV. The ump even stopped the game a few times to find out the score. Anyway, we won the baseball game and just as my team was coming off the field, Gerry Thomas misses the last minute field goal. I was so ticked off I missed ithe ending and had to see the replay on SportsCenter that night.
Which brings me to this... was there a time when you missed a famous Canes moment or game for a stupid reason and we're kicking yourself over it for a while? Fire back at me. I want to hear some good stories.
FYI: Those extra 2,000 tickets given back to UM by FSU are with the UM ticket holders, not the FSU section...(must be bought in a two-game package for $80 along with the FAMU game).
We were told there are still some other tickets left as well, but UM is trying to get rid of them in season-ticket packages...
Does anybody think this game won't be sold out? What kind of message would that send? Everyone knows the Canes don't sell out for the majority of games, but this one?
And how much does it help UM to open in the OB, as opposed to Tallahassee? Obviously, the Canes have proven vulnerable in their home the past couple of years, but personally, I can't help thinking that starting out in the OB will be a great help -- especially to the Oline and Kyle Wright.
Hi all. Here's my first scintillating post: It's raining at the U!
I left my house at 6:20 a.m. to get to an early practice in time to interview coaches, and the downpour started at about Hallandale Beach Boulevard. I then got a call from UM saying the morning practice was cancelled.
There's another practice later today, that is, if they can squeeze it around the bad weather. It's not a good time for this type of weather pattern, because classes at UM begin Wednesday and practices will be confined to the afternoon or evening -- just about the time the downpours usually begin.
The Canes (especially the offense and special teams) need the practice.
Later... P.S. Don't forget that Tuesday night at the Orange Bowl is the only open practice of fall camp. Select-a-seat for season tickets is from 6 to 9 p.m. and the practice is from 7 to 9 p.m. Have a great day!
After covering high schools in Miami-Dade County for the past five years, I'm excited about moving up to the collegiate level and covering a program like the University of Miami.
Before I begin reporting on the Canes, we just want to lay some groundwork as to what this blog's aim is. Basically, we want this to be a forum for discussion about the news that breaks out of The U, whether its football, basketball, baseball or anything else related -- that includes recruiting. At times, I will provide some analysis on what we're hearing and thinking over there and hope you'll throw us back your opinions and thoughts.
First off, though, I want to get one thing straight -- Susan Miller Degnan, who has covered UM since I was in high school, is our lead UM football and baseball beat writer. She and I plan to attack this blog together. Additionally, she'll answer the questions in the Q&A Forum. There will be many times I turn to her for news. As far as basketball is concerned, I'm the lead man on the job and hope to provide UM basketball coverage, news and analysis like it's nobody's business.
OK, now that we've gotten that out of the way... let's have some fun.