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12 posts from November 2006

November 29, 2006

The Hot Stove: New WR recruit, McClinton and the Northwestern loss

AdderleyAs the search for a football coach continues and rumors run rampant, I've got to say I was a bit surprised this morning to find out the Hurricanes landed what looks like a diamond in the rough in 6-6, 215-pound South Carolina receiver Daniel Adderley. I spoke to Adderley's coach, former Clemson standout Dexter Davis this morning, who says Adderley is the real deal and is currently working on his speed at the D-I camp in Greenville, S.C., a camp Peyton Manning help setup. Davis compares Adderley, who had zero offers before UM came along, to Dwayne Jarrett from USC. Big comparison for a guy with zero offers. But then again, 6-6, 215 with 4.5 speed, I'm not sure you can teach that. (To hear the interview just check out our audio interview section. The link is the logo of the microphone on the UM homepage).

Anyway, what's encouraging about a guy like Adderley, who by the way has only been playing football since he first arrived in the U.S. from the Bahamas as a sophomore, is that he seems to be the type of under the radar star the Hurricanes used to get all the time -- the guy who is ranked nowhere in the Rivals.com Top 2,000. Assistant coach Marquis Mosely had himself a rough season this past year. There were more big drops than big catches. But if Adderley turns out to be a stud, consider it a huge victory for Mosely, who had a tough job to do to begin with. People forget UM lost Darnell Jenkins after only three games, Ryan Moore for most of the season and had to convert two DBs Ryan Hill and Rashaun Jones to receivers.

McclintonOn the basketball front: How about Jack McClinton? His 30 points in Tuesday's 61-59 loss to Northwestern was impressive. He was fearless and took good shots for most of the game -- all except the last one really, which clanked off the rim from about 22-23 feet out. McClinton has clearly become the best player on the team and after seven games really looks to be of the same mold -- if not better -- than what Rob Hite and Guillermo Diaz provided for UM the last two seasons.

The biggest problem, though, is the rest of the team -- especially Anthony Harris and Anthony King -- looks like they haven't broken the spell of deferring to the star player. Harris, who was 2 of 8 from the field Tuesday and is now shooting 31 percent from the field, looks flat out uncomfortable. King, who has always been a great rebounder and defender, hasn't become more offensive this season. He has some range, but he's not playing like the beast he should underneath. Miami had 19 offensive rebounds and took 18 more shots than Northwestern, but didn't convert enough underneath. When you can't do that against a Wildcats team that really isn't that good down low to begin with -- that's bad.

In the end, the three losses to Buffalo, Cleveland State and now Northwestern, a team that barely beat North Florida 40-39 a few days ago, aren't good and will prove to loom large if UM improves and becomes NCAA or NIT competitive by the end of this season.

November 28, 2006

Crucial time for recruiting

There is no time more important for a program to be at its best than during the peak of recruiting season. The University of Miami entered its stretch run this year by firing its coach and sending a bunch of assistants, many who likely will not be here, to go out and bring in a strong recruiting class to help salvage the future.It doesn't exactly sound like a great plan. But the truth is Miami can still salvage its future and stay away from suffering what likely will be another down year somewhere down the road if this administration can hire quality with some quickness.

Miamihurricanes_1Recruits at this point can tell you whatever they want. Believe me, I've found that out the hard way covering preps in this town for more than 7 years. North Miami Beach offensive lineman Max Jean-Gilles had me convinced he was going to be a Hurricane. On Signing Day, he pulled out a Georgia cap from underneath a table and made me feel stupid. I got over it. UM didn't. I'm sure they would have loved to have Jean-Gilles, an All-American guard at Georgia, opening holes instead of some of the guys they had there during what's turned out to be three bad seasons by UM standards in a row.

Nowadays, the recruiting game has changed a bit. Guys like Jean-Gilles make their decisions before the holidays so they can announce them on TV. The guys who really aren't that special wait until National Signing Day. The Hurricanes have missed on certain key players the last couple of years, especially locally... Davin Joseph (Oklahoma), Nate Salley (Ohio State), Quintero Frierson (Rutgers), Dwayne Bowe (LSU), Elvis Dumervil (Louisville). This year, in all honesty, they can't afford to. The top athletes in Dade and Broward this season are solid.

The fact the Hurricanes don't have any commitments from any Dade or Broward player at this point is disturbing. I know the Hurricanes hit an all-time low at 6-6 this season, well, for at least the people in my generation. But I talk to these kids all the time. As much as Northwestern RB Antwain Easterling may love the Gators right now, the truth is you can hear in his voice he'd love to be just like his cousin, Willis McGahee, tearing up the Orange Bowl turf and being a star in front of his friends and family. Ditto for St. Thomas Aquinas safety Major Wright and Homestead WR Alphonso Bryant, two elite players.

This is the time when whoever ends up staying at Miami has to make a serious push to keep the local guys here. Not next month when the new coach comes in and the players UM fought so hard for outside of Florida have already picked USC, Texas, Florida and Tennessee. Now is the time, when the Hurricanes have to take care of the local guys and actually make them feel like they aren't being treating like a last resort. If they don't, I fear whoever ends up with this coaching job will have two seasons to make up.

I_tomlemmingOK, I'm done yapping. I interviewed quite a few local players in the last couple of days, the father UM commitment Nick Fanuzzi, as well as CSTV.com's Tom Lemming, a recruiting guru who has been at this thing for years and told me he thinks UM has to have their coaching search finalized by Dec. 10 or likely faces another terrible recruiting season. Lemming is great. We talked about plenty of things including the coaching search, recruits UM should target, their current commitments and who he thinks will get away, etc. Anyway, I've posted all of the audio interviews in our audio section. Click on the link and listen in if you have time. In the next few days as I have conversations with coaches and recruits from across the nation, I plan on sharing them with you so you can here the people themselves react to the questions.

Here's what I would like you to react to:
1. Of the current UM coaching staff, who would you like to see retained?
2. Are there any local recruits you would like to see UM go after?
3. Now that we've seen a ton of candidates' names get tossed into this thing, who do you think absolutely has to be crossed off the list?

Also, before I wrap this up. Just have to send my condolences to UM men's basketball coach Frank Haith, whose nephew was the 23-year old bachelor who was shot and killed by police in New York Saturday night. Sad story for the Haith family, but yet another chapter in what has turned out to be one of the worst seasons for off the field incidents for members of the University of Miami family I can remember.

November 24, 2006

Canes, Coker win... but now what?

They did it. They won. Now what?

Ncf_a_coker_195That's a question Hurricanes fans may not have to wait long to have answered. Coach Larry Coker's future at the University of Miami could be decided and announced as early as 11 a.m. today when the media are scheduled to congregate in the Edgerrin James Room on campus for the usual postgame talk with coach. Thursday night, Coker said he expected to return (SEE THE VIDEO) and planned to go to work Sunday  when the recruiting season officially begins. But that all will likely change today as most members of the media figure the Hurricanes 6-6 season won't be enough to save Coker's job.

Canesport.com editor Gary Ferman reported early Friday morning, sources close to the situation had told him Coker will be fired this morning. According to Ferman's story, "University President Donna Shalala reportedly wanted to try to avoid dismissing Coker. But the steady decline of the program over the past three seasons combined with a restless fan base has left Shalala with no choice but to make that difficult decision to let Coker go."

Ncf_u_dee_195We tried in the closing moments Thursday night to find athletic director Paul Dee for some insight. He was nowhere to be found on the field, where he usually stands and watches the final moments of every game. We all kind of got the sense Dee was avoiding us. Sure enough, when I saw him hanging out in the coaches lockerroom after the game, the only question I was able to sneak in before the door was closed in my face by a security guard was "Are you going to make a comment tonight?" To which Dee replied simply, "No." Same for the other members of the media. He didn't look happy, kind of like somebody who had to break bad news.

In search of further insight, I asked several players on the team if they thought Coker was still going to be their coach if they get to a bowl game -- likely either in Boise or San Francisco. The overwhelming response was basically "We think so." Anthony Wollschlager admitted while some players are privately worried Coker will be gone, he said Coker didn't say anything to make them believe Thursday's 17-14 win over Boston College would be his last game at UM.

Cristobal_1 Assuming Coker is fired this afternoon, speculation is Randy Shannon will likely assume the head coaching duties for the bowl game. My hunch is Shannon will not be the first choice for the job and will likely end up being the No. 2 or No. 3 choice if others like Greg Schiano pass it up. Either way, the next few hours figure to be real interesting. I'd be surprised if a decision is not made quickly because it appears the hiring process will take a long time. In the meantime, I think Mario Cristobal would be the likely choice to stick around and help with recruiting until a coach is finally hired. Thus, probably meaning he'd be retained in some form.

OK, enough about Coker and the coaches.

There are likely three players who could leave the team early and enter the NFL Draft -- tight end Greg Olsen, defensive end Calais Campbell and Jon Beason. Campbell reiterated he plans to come back and be the leader of this team next year despite what has to be the best season of any player on the team. Beason and Olsen are a little more questionable. Beason flat out said if Randy Shannon is gone he will test the NFL waters. If it's good enough, he's gone. Olsen was a little less clear. I think he too feels a coaching change could spring him to leave.

To see what both of them had to say as well as several other players, please follow the links to our videos and audio.

OK, so here's what I want to know from you. Did this victory Thursday night do enough for you to make you feel Coker should be given another shot? Also, what bowl game would you like to see Miami play in? And finally, has Kirby Freeman done enough in three games to beat out Kyle Wright to begin next season as the starting quarterback?

Chew on that and fire back.

November 22, 2006

Line Juggling

We couldn't get these notes in the paper because their wasn't enough space. So, I figured I'd throw it in my blog so at the very least they are available to you guys somewhere. It says a lot about Cristobal and his value to this team.

LINE JUGGLING

Cristobal With the offensive line decimated by injuries, assistant coach Mario Cristobal summed up the situation Tuesday by asking the media for help: "We're down to the bare minimum. If you see anybody big on your way out, grab them. We'll give them a playbook." UM is hurting most at tackle. With freshman Jason Fox (dislocated left elbow) out this week, Cristobal said he could have to do some creative work should sophomore Christopher Barney or Chris Rutledge, Thursday's expected starters, get hurt.

Cristobal said his first choice will be going to injured starter Reggie Youngblood, who has been out since the Virginia Tech game with a hyperxtended knee, but has practiced some this week. Cristoabl said Youngblood could be available for about a half's worth of work. If he can't go, senior guard Alex Pou, who is also coming back from injury, would be fourth on Cristobal's list, followed by scout teammer Cyrim Wimbs.

"There's [magician] David Copperfield and there's Mario Cristobal," Coker said Monday. "He's done a marvelous job with these young men. Theyr'e still motivated, they're still watching tape, they're hungry, they want to play well. And I contribute that a lot to them, but also to him. He's had to reshuffle and move and try to help them move and he's done a great job with those guys."

November 20, 2006

The Hot Stove: Virginia, Spurrier, BC, recruiting and the worst season ever?

With the UM basketball team out of town and the Canes football team playing at Virginia, I got my first weekend off in three months. So if your wondering why I skipped on the 5 Most Important Things and Sunday Shout Outs this weekend, you've got your answer. I was enjoying life. Besides, I figured there probably aren't too many Canes fans left who actually care about this season anymore.

VirginiatdAfter all, it has to be the worst Hurricanes season I've watched in my 28 years on earth. Did I watch Saturday's game? Yes. It was painful. What did any of us really learn about this team from this recent loss we didn't know already? I'll say this about Saturday's 17-7 loss (not that it deserves much): Why on earth did the coaching staff wait until the final 5 minutes to start throwing the ball downfield? Did they miss the video of FSU's rout of Virginia two weeks ago? Anyway, like I said before, this season is shot. The likelihood of a UM victory Thursday against Boston College is slim. The Canes are banged up physically and the emotional toll is beyond repair. A win over BC at this point would be the result of some guys -- namely the seniors -- on this team playing out of their minds because they don't want to go out on a 5-game losing streak and be known as the leaders of the worst team at UM in the modern era.

Anyway, the real point of discussion here for Canes fans are the latest developments regarding next year's new coaching staff. I know it hasn't been reported as official yet. But is there any real reason to believe Coker and company will be back? Most in the biz believe the decision of his departure will be made Friday morning. Stay tuned.

SpurrierAs for the possible replacements: A few weeks ago I told you all one of my sources told me South Carolina's Steve Spurrier was UM's No. 1 choice. Canesport apparently found other sources on the UM campus who are saying the same things. Spurrier may have denied the rumors Sunday. But stop for a moment and think about why. He's still the coach of South Carolina. He's got a job. For him to come out and flat out say he is interested in the midst of his season would be stupid. He's got recruits to worry about if he doesn't decide the money is right. Same for Schiano. The bottomline in this business for the people involved to deny, deny, deny until a deal is completely finalized. Was it just me, or did any of you hear Butch Davis on Hank Goldberg's show last week deny he had any serious discussions on the North Carolina job? Two days later, UNC made the formal announcement Davis was going to be its coach.

If anything good came out of Sunday's latest rumor mill -- and the Canesport article by Gary Ferman -- is that UM is apparently sending out the message it is interested in spending big bucks. Of course, that's no guarantee until the Hurricanes pull the trigger. But where there's smoke, there usually is fire. And if that's the case, the fact the school is apparently willing to spend the money to make an immediate fix should make Canes fans happy.

Some people have asked why didn't UM can Coker in the middle of the season and open up the coaching search early? In the end, I feel like Paul Dee and the rest of the powers that be at UM felt the need to at least give Coker the rest of the season. After all, didn't he win a national title? I feel like Dee felt he owed Coker at least that. Besides, to me, I don't know what good firing Coker in the middle of the season would have honestly done anyway. Common sense tells you everyone who could be a possible replacement is probably in the middle of coaching another team. Well, what about Butch Davis (I'm sure you're thinking)? I don't think he was ever seriously someone The U was considering. And I'm sure that message was delivered in some way.

Oops. Before I forget, here's a recruiting update:
-- Expect Monsignor Pace DB DeMarcus Van Dyke (an early UM committment) to spurn the Canes and pick Florida along with cousin, RB Armando Allen, when the two announce their decision together on Dec. 1.
-- Of the nine oral commitments UM currently has, the only ones I'd say are locked in stone are RB Graig Cooper (No. 1 Prep School Player in the country), Belle Glade Glades Central DB Damien Berry, JUCO WR Kayne Farquharson, OL Harland Gunn, recent addition WR Taurus McKinley (Berry's teammate) and QB Nick Fanuzzi.
-- Defensive back Phelon Jones (a four-star recruit from Alabama) was one of the original nine oral commitments. But he told several recruiting gurus recently the murder of Bryan Pata has his parents concerned.  Plus, Phelon has been checking out other schools of late. Doesn't sound like a guy headed here.
-- Defensive tackle Chris Perry, a 6-3, 319-pound defensive tackle from Texas (an original UM oral commitment) recently took an unofficial trip to Oklahoma. Perry of course made his solid commitment "a soft one" two months ago when the rumors of a major overhaul at UM began to appear imminent.

OK. I'm done reporting and ranting. It's your turn. These are the items for debate:
1. Should UM give defensive coordinator Randy Shannon consideration for the coaching job and instead of spending big money, give Shannon a chance to be the leader of this program?
2. Should UM use Thursday's game as an exhibition for freshman and sophomores and the future leaders of this team? Or should they play their best and try to win and salvage a meaningless bowl berth?
3. Has this been the worst season and stretch ever for the Hurricanes? If not, what has been the worst/stretch ever?

November 12, 2006

Deep frontcourt encouraging sign for Canes

neJust got back from UM's season-opening 73-50 win over FIU and have to say like Tuesday's exhibition victory, I came away impressed again.

AnthonykingdunkUM's outside shooting came back to reality, dropping from 60 percent to 49. But we all kind of expected that. Anyone could shoot 60 percent against Northwood. What I didn't expect was for UM to play so well in the frontcourt. Anthony King, Jimmy Graham and Dwayne Collins blocked shots, redirected others, rebounded and scored on put backs, dunks, fade aways, jump hooks and jumpers. King scored a career-high 19 points and shot 9 of 12 from the field. He finally looked like he had the confidence to not only take shots, but make them. Something UM fans have longed for from the 6-9 North Carolina product.

OK, so this was FIU, an 8-20 team from a year ago that started a 6-7, 222-pound guy in the post and four guards. But considering how UM hasn't really had a dominant frontcourt force since the days Mario Bland was in the middle, this had to impress Canes basketball fans everywhere. It wasn't just the fact UM looked more athletic, bigger, stronger and longer. It's the fact UM appears to have not one, not two, but three viable options in the post. That's unheard of depth at UM.

Collins had 10 points, 12 rebounds, a block and still looked mediocre at best on the offensive end. Coach Frank Haith said he knew the frontcourt was going to be the focus this season. But I'm not sure he honestly thought Collins would look this ready to contribute this quickly. Mind you, the Hurricanes dominated FIU the way they did without Ray Hicks, who appears like he's going to be out more than another game or two for his team violation.

I don't want to get too out of control here or make you think UM is going to beat North Carolina or Duke this season. That's still a longshot. But through the early going, UM looks better than most people expected them to be without Guillermo Diaz and Rob Hite. Even FIU coach Sergio Rouco admitted new shooting guard Jack McClinton, who scored 14 points and sat out nearly 10 minutes of the first half, looks like he was going to help UM forget about what it lost with Hite and Diaz.

AnthonyharrisactionI'd say the only positions and players that looked a little shaky Saturday night were Anthony Harris at the point and Brian Asbury at the three. With Harris, it could have been fatigue. With backup Denis Clemente out and McClinton in foul trouble, Harris played without too many breathers and looked a little too sloppy at times. Asbury, who finished with 7 points, shot only 2-of-8 from the free throw line and missed a handful of layups. Asbury took some contact on them. But if he's going to be a scorer, he needs to make a few.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. UM's next game is Tuesday night at home against Alcorn State, the team Steve McNair once quarterbacked. Alcorn State lost to Texas by 60 points in its opener and is 0-2. Not exactly a great test for UM. But it's another opportunity for the young guys to grow.

If you've got a thought on the Canes basketball team, fire away. And be sure to listen to postgame interviews after all home games. I post them along with my stories.

Sunday Shout Outs: The day after Maryland

Hard to say what I feel after UM's recent loss at Maryland 14-13. Mixed emotions is probably about right. The Hurricanes fell behind 14-0 on two bad defensive plays by a weakened secondary, rallied behind Kirby Freeman and doomed themselves with the usual two turnovers in the game's final five minutes syndrome.

Patapic_1UM should have won this game. But considering how the season has gotten away from them and the focus over the last few days have been on Bryan Pata's murder, I'm not going to place blame on anybody here. I thought UM's coaches actually had the right game plan for once on offense. Coach Rich Olson took pressure off Freeman and his injured offensive line by establishing long, ground-driven drives that let Freeman make the plays he could.

I think the reason the Canes lost is ultimately why this team hasn't been very good this season -- they lack of play makers on offense and the team is so depleted on they have to depend on young guys like freshman Ryan Hill to win games. Hill should have caught that ball. But then again, how many other things this season should other UM players have done wrong -- like call a fair catch (Bruce Johnson). I'll say this: had UM employed this ball-control, running offense against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, I think they would have won both of those games. But this recent loss was simply the result of a beaten, battered, injured and heart-broken team trying to salvage something for a fallen teammate.

Canes fans can take solace in this: at least UM isn't getting blasted the way Florida State is these days. 30-0 to Wake Forest at home? Yikes.

UM has two games left. I think they'll beat Virginia and become bowl eligible. Boston College? Not likely. But considering it will be the last home game of the season and the fact this team has been close in defeat in all of its last three games, don't rule out a 7-5 finish.

ButchdavisOK, I'm through with my football thoughts. Here is what's up for debate:
A) I think regardless of whether or not Kyle Wright is healthy to play, UM should give Freeman the rest of the season. Right now, I think he's the better quarterback and gives this team its best chance to win because he can run and create on the run. Do you agree?
B) Will UM win another game this season? Give an explanation on how you think they'll finish.
C) With Butch Davis apparently off the board (North Carolina) and Greg Schiano likely to stay at Rutgers, I think the type of coach UM needs to replace Coker with is somebody young and energetic -- an Urban Meyer clone, who would help recruiting and bring energy to the program. Do you agree? And who do you think now UM would consider if and when it makes a change.

Everything else is worth discussion, too. But I'd like to try and give you a few topics to digest. Chew, chew some more and then spew.

November 10, 2006

5 Most Important Things vs. Maryland

Got to admit it's hard putting together a list of the five most important things UM's football team must accomplish to beat 23rd-ranked Maryland following the murder of defensive tackle Bryan Pata.

PatapicFootball is football. The Xs and Os will eventually take over. But it's hard to imagine how UM's football team is going to play when they have something so hard like the murder of a teammate on their minds. Personally, it's been a tough week on all of the sports reporters who cover the Canes locally. We've all poured in countless hours between gathering reaction, talking to investigators and oh by the way covering not only the football team but the two basketball teams that are playing this weekend. It's a lot to wrap your mind around, especially when you also feel terrible about the loss of a young life. I stayed up for hours yesterday talking with a few other writers about Pata. We all tried to play the role of CSI investigators, wondering why and who would want to kill him. I'm sure all of you are wondering too.

MarylandhelmetAnyway, I'll try to get back to what this blog is supposed to be focused on: this upcoming game against Maryland. Since UM is already 5-4 and really has nothing more to play for other than qualifying for a bowl game, one would think UM is probably not going to win this game. The Canes are broken hearted and reeling from back-to-back losses. As it is, Maryland is 7-2, playing well and at home. And UM will be without countless key players -- safety Kenny Phillips, left tackle Reggie Youngblood, quarterback Kyle Wright, linebacker Tavares Gooden and of course Pata, a starting defensive tackle and emotional leader. How are the players honestly going to be up for this game when so much is already against them?

Anyway, here are the keys:

1. UM MUST TRY ITS BEST TO STAY EMOTIONALLY IN CONTROL: There's no question the Canes are going to come out pumped up on behalf of their teammate. Somebody in the lockerroom is going to use his passing to get the Canes juiced up for the beginning of this game. But sustaining that emotion is probably the biggest key to this game. The moment something goes wrong on the field, the players may shut it down altogether. That's why UM can't get too high and can't get too low. They've got to try and put Pata's death out of their mind for 4 hours and play the game as even keel as possible.

2. THE RUNNING GAME MUST CARRY THE LOAD: Considering Kirby Freeman will be making his first start, UM's running game must try to take as much pressure off him as possible. Maryland's defense ranks 96th against the run in Division I-A. Tyrone Moss, Javarris James, Charlie Jones -- all three along with Freeman are going to need to run the ball well and give UM's defense as much of a break as possible in light of their losses.

3. WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE: UM had three turnovers in last week's loss to Virginia Tech and only produced 1. As good as UM's defense is likely to play, UM's offense can't give the ball away deep in their own territory and give away points. That will only demoralize the defense more and possibly shutdown the heart of the entire team.

4. KEEP KICKING WELL: Jon Peattie booted a 55-yard field goal last week and appears to be past his woes. Miami's offense will probably move the football against Maryland. Missing field goals would kill the spirit of the 'O'.

5. NO DROPPED PASSES: Kirby Freeman is going to need all the help he can get. He's sure to get pressure. UM's receivers need to come through for him. If he starts to feel like a one-man show, he's going to take off running and the passing game will not be successful.

My prediction: UM 19, Maryland 17. I think UM is going to win. Why? They've been through so much already, they are bound to shock us and win a game nobody expects them to win. Peattie will kick four field goals including the game-winner as time expires. There you go. Maybe my judgement is clouded. But it is my take.

November 07, 2006

Pata will be missed

As many of you are aware by now, UM defensive tackle Bryan Pata was shot and killed tonight outside his apartment in Kendall.

Pata Having covered Pata as a senior at Miami Central, I got to know him pretty well over the past few years and was saddened to hear of his loss. A few months ago, we hung out for more than two hours for a video project I had come up with: Chillin with the Canes.

It never got off the ground and we decided to scrap it because after filming more than an hour's worth of video, it somehow never showed up in the camera. No picture. No sound. Nothing. Instead, I kept the audio interviews because I also recorded what we shot on a separate audio recorder for sound quality. To listen to me and Bryan chatting in his car and the tour he gave me of his apartment visit our interviews link on our UM homepage or click here.

Aside from what you will hear, I wanted to share what interviewing big Bryan was like. First off, he always greeted me with high-fives. That's the type of kid he was. Friendly, talkative and always in a good mood.

The day I conducted the interview, I met him for lunch on campus then we took off for his apartment where he showed me pictures of his family and introduced me to his dog, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier named Cheerio. Pata shared the apartment with teammate Dwayne Hendricks. There were pictures of Bryan and his girlfriend all over the place along with photos of him and his mom. Bryan told me how happy he was to be a player at the University of Miami. He called it a dream come true. He loved being a Cane.

On the tour of his apartment, he showed me several things including his old jerseys, his clothes and his gun collection. Bryan was a big fan of guns and going to shooting ranges. He told me that if football never worked out and he didn't make it in the pros, he wanted to become an FBI agent or work in law enforcement.

Tonight's news was certainly shocking and sad. I liked Bryan a lot and thought he was a good person. If you guys have your own memories or thoughts on Bryan please share them in this forum.

Aside from the tragic news, I'd also like to get your thoughts on whether or not the team should play this weekend. UM sports information director Rick Korch said the team wouldn't make a decision about on either anytime tonight. Considering most sports tragedies do not happen in the middle of the season and there really is no precedence for it, what do you think the ACC or Miami should do with a game only four days away?

And the beat goes on...

Have lots to share with you football and basketball related since Sunday.

KylewalkoffI'll start with the football first. I couldn't get to Tuesday's weekly press conference in time to hear what coach Larry Coker had to say because I had to pickup some family at the airport. So, there's no audio of Coker. But I'm guessing its the same old stuff we probably heard on Sunday. If you want to get a play-by-play check out Canesport.com. Matt Shodell keeps a good listing of everything said including the questions asked. HurricaneSports.com has video.

Here's the news of the day: Quarterback Kyle Wright fractured the thumb on his throwing hand (the same hand he's had injured since high school) and probably won't play Saturday against Maryland.

Here's the controversy of the day: Wright admitted suffering the injury on the third play of the game (HEAR THE AUDIO) and Coker claims he didn't know until the second half.

Pass05_vtum_spts_add Here's my take: I want to give Kyle credit for staying in the game and toughing it out, but shouldn't he have told somebody sooner about his injury? For the record, Wright didn't blame the thumb for his two fourth quarter interceptions or his worst performance as a quarterback at Miami on Saturday. But if your hurt and it's going to affect the team, why not pull yourself out? I know the competitor in him wants to stay in and at that moment you don't know its fractured. But come on. Your team needs a win and you aren't exactly playing at your best. Center Anthony Wollschlager said he didn't know Wright was injured, but he did notice him wincing throughout the game. Anyway, I'd love to hear your take on this.

Kphillips The other football news. Safety Kenny Phillips is likely out for the year. He broke his hand against Georgia Tech and apparently made it worse playing against Virginia Tech. He'll have surgery this week. If I'm the Canes, I tell Phillips to sit out the rest of the year. At this point, Phillips junior year is much more valuable than three games. Phillips wasn't made available to the media before practice, but Baraka Atkins (HEAR HIS INTERVIEW), Wright and Wollschlager (HEAR HIS INTERVIEW) were. Wollschlager was great as always, funny and truthful. With all the negative talk, I decided to ask him a few fun questions to lighten things up.

Like what it was like to see Coker go berserk as he claimed he did after the Louisville loss. Wollschlager said it was "kind of weird." Coker pounded some furniture and apparently used a few bad words. It was stark contrast to the lovable grandfather look he has on the sidelines. I asked Wollschlager who does the best Coker impression on the team. The answer: sophomore tackle Reggie Youngblood. Hopefully, Youngblood will do a little rendition after practice for us tomorrow and I'll let you be the judge.

Onto basketball, where I have to say after seeing the team for only the third time this season (two previous intra squad scrimmages) I came away impressed with UM's 94-54 exhibition win against Northwood Monday night. OK, Rollie Massimino didn't exactly have his 1985 Villanova squad on the floor. In fact, there were a few guards who looked like my 15-year old cousin. Still, UM shot the ball extremely well -- especially from distance and that's a good sign.

JackmcclintonFreshman guard James Dews really impressed me with his cold-blooded instincts. The first time he touched the ball midway through the first half, he chucked up a three and drilled it. There wasn't a single hint of hesitation. He then hit his next two. Jack McClinton also played well, scoring 13 points and hitting a big three right before the half. It's obvious the No. 1 concern on this team is who will not only provide offense, but who will have the ball in their hands late in the game. I think McClinton will likely be the first to get that chance.

As for the other hoops observations, Dwayne Collins looked solid. Despite only scoring four points, he had a thunderous block and rebound slam. After watching him play for three years in high school I can tell you he is going to end up helping this team tremendously when he catches up to the speed of the college game. Denis Clemente, another local I watched for two years, made better decisions with the ball than when I saw him on TV last year. And perhaps, the biggest improvement, was sophomore forward Jimmy Graham. He scored 14 points, but dominated under the post. Here's the best part: he only drew two fouls.

I'm looking forward to Saturday night. Hopefully, a good crowd will be out there to watch FIU and UM start their seasons.

November 05, 2006

Sunday Shout Outs: The day after V-Tech

OK, so for about 3 hours Saturday night it looked like my UM-Virginia Tech prediction (UM winning a defensive standoff 13-10) was about to come true. Then, like most UM losses this season, the Hurricanes offense went into malfunction mode.

Two Kyle Wright interceptions in the fourth quarter sent UM home 17-10 losers, ruining yet another outstanding defensive effort and putting UM on a path to its worst season since 1997. Yes, that's right. 1997. When the Hurricanes went 5-6 (while on probation and scholarship reductions). With three games left, it is hard to fathom UM winning out and avoiding what has been the worst mark (9-4 in 1999) since the bad old days.

Copy_of_coker_is_a_joker At Maryland next week seems so much tougher now that the Terps beat Clemson Saturday. At Virginia, with this offense, is no cupcake either. And Boston College on Thanksgiving night? If UM loses both road games, what honestly makes anybody believe they'll have any heart left to eek out a 6th victory and become bowl eligible? It really does look that bleak, especially when your defense holds the other team to 139 yards and you still lose.

KYLE WRIGHT'S DAD LOSES HIS COOL
OK, I'm done venting. Now, I share the scenes from the postgame lockerroom. Rather, let's start with the final moments and the tunnel where after Larry Coker was booed off the field with "Fire Coker chants," Kyle Wright's father, Ken, got involved in some intense foul-mouthed conversation with a few UM fans in the stands, who had a lot of NOT nice things to say about his boy.

Mr. Wright exchanged a few f-bombs with the fans who were telling his boy to "Go back to California, you (expletive)." There was a lot more colorful language between the group before Mr. Wright called out stadium security guards by saying "why don't you people in yellow shirts get up there and shut that f---er up." Athletic director Paul Dee, always in and around the UM lockerroom after games, saw what was happening and along with some UM staff tried to quell the situation by yelling at Mr. Wright to hush up and not bother with the fans. Mr. Wright didn't like that and responded, "When the hell is somebody [f---ing] going to stick up for my son?"

Wright_2 Nobody on UM's staff did at that moment. They were too busy trying to stop Mr. Wright from possibly getting arrested in front of a pack of reporters, who didn't know the "guy who was yelling" was Kyle's dad. Mr. Wright's told one UM assistant "that's my son. Do you have one?" The UM assistant told Mr. Wright, "that's part of being here."

To hear what it sounded like, click on this link: Download nov4_kylefatheredited.mp3 . I will warn you, I tried editing out as many f-bombs as I could and I'm sure I couldn't get all of the foul language out in the distance for fear it would become one giant bleepfest. As for who is saying what, it is easy to figure out who Wright's father is when you hear him say "Hey, Hey! followed by the "you guys in yellow shirts" comment.

INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM
Inside the UM lockerroom it was a different story. There was silence. A lot of banging of shoulder pads and disappointment. Several players including guard Derrick Morse said "they still believe in Wright." Kirby Freeman, who looked spectacular and awful in matter of the four plays he got Saturday's game, was holding Wright's hand in the lockerroom (it was in a consoling manner). Assistant Andrew Swasey came over and tried consoling Wright too. Kyle, who didn't even shower after the game and sat at his locker in full pads for nearly half an hour, was red-faced and on the verge of tears all night.

BETTER PLAYCALLING NEEDED
In my eyes the bottomline is this: While Wright may have played the worst game of his career Saturday, this loss wasn't entirely his fault. At this point in the season after all UM has been through, somebody on this coaching staff has to realize UM can't win with Wright or Freeman having to do more than what they are capable of. What does that mean? That means Kyle can't be asked to drop back and lead UM to victory with his arm. He needs a running game to take the brunt of the work. UM had that Saturday night against Virginia Tech even without Javarris James. Tyrone Moss and even Charlie Jones were eating the Hokies up between the tackles.

Yet, every time Miami started moving the football on the ground, offensive coordinator Rich Olson called for a pass. On UM's second drive, the Hurricanes had a 3rd and 1 at the Hokies 49. Wright got into the shotgun, faked a handoff to James and fell down back at the line of scrimmage. I know UM struggled last week against Georgia Tech on 3rd and 1, but that was last week. It is the first quarter, you have the ball in Virginia Tech territory on a windy night -- RUN THE FOOTBALL.

Another example... on UM's third possession which begins at the V-Tech 45. Wright fakes a handoff and gets sacked on first down for a 10-yard loss. Why isn't UM just mowing the Hokies down on the ground? Then, on second down, Wright nearly gets picked off before firing a 30-yard pass up field to Lance Leggett who runs a 20-yard post. There are just so many times this offense could have just stuck to the run Saturday night and won the game. But instead Olson and Coker put the ball and the pressure in the hands of a quarterback who has cracked under pressure.

Anyway, the guys in the lockerroom were great. If you want to hear some of the interviews, click on the microphone on our UM page. It links to the audio interviews. Derrick Morse, Kirby Freeman, Tyrone Moss were all good. I would post the audio I got of Mr. Wright going bananas, but there is so much foul language it would probably be an FCC violation.

CampbellMy last thoughts and then the forum is yours to vent. Here are some good things. As bleak as this season has been for the Canes, there have been bright spots. Calais Campbell is one of them. He is a straight up All-Star. The kid had three sacks last night and now has had a sack in his last six games. Jon Peattie's 55-yard field goal was also impressive. I'll say this and I think you'll agree: this defense is really, really good and if there was any semblance of an offense this UM team would probably be 8-1 today and not 5-4. And while UM may not have a first round pick this year, breaking a long string, Campbell is sure to get big NFL dollars in his future.

Now, it's all yours. Vent. Vent. Vent.

November 03, 2006

5 Most Important Things vs. Virginia Tech & more

First off, I want to apologize for not posting in a few days. Been busy preparing our UM basketball previews for next week along with maintaining our online coverage. I worked 18+ hours between covering UM's press conference Tuesday and the Heat opener Tuesday night. But it's all worth it. You feel like your stealing money when you cover sports for a living.

Colvrt8030400 Anyway, considering the Canes don't have much more to play for than not going to Boise, Idaho for the MPC Computers Bowl anymore, I figured interest has wained a bit. Before I get to the 5 Most Important Things for Virginia Tech, just want to share a few notes from b-ball and rumblings of what is going to happen as far as coaching changes on the football field at The U.

Asbury_1 As for the b-ball, when I went out for our photo shoot on Thursday, I saw Brian Asbury working overtime -- something he has done with roommate and now starting shooting guard Jack McClinton for weeks. Asbury and McClinton take anywhere between 250 to 500 shots on their own every day aside from practice. In the one and a half hours I was at the BankUnited Center, Asbury took 250. He missed 43. I know. I counted the clanks. That's pretty impressive for a guy who couldn't hit the wide side of a barn last year. I know a lot of the so-called experts have the Canes picked near last in hoops. But I think they are going to be a lot better than people think. McClinton and Asbury may only be sophomores, but they could end up making UM better than it was last year if what they do in practice translates to the court when as Frank Haith puts it "the lights come on."

Coker_1 As for the coaching rumors... I have to point out how chipper Larry Coker has been of late. For a guy who is 5-3, he doesn't look like someone worried at all about his future. Maybe there is good reason. A little birdie told me Larry's agent is close with the AD at North Carolina. Considering the Tar Heels will have a new coach next season, maybe Larry isn't too worried about getting his contract bought out at The U and having a new place to live next year. Who knows. That's what the birdie said. As it stands, Coker says he plans on staying until the end of his contract, which has three years left or whenever it gets bought out.

My source also says not to expect Butch Davis to end up coaching at UM. They said Davis likely wouldn't be first on the list of wants. When UM lets go of Larry, they are going to want a big name, a guy like Steve Spurrier. As the birdie put it, "Spurrier would bring instant attention to recruits and fans." I tend to agree although I'm not sure how Canes fans would react to a former Gator running the show at the OB.

Now, onto the five most important things and my prediction for Saturday:

1. SHUT DOWN BRANDEN ORE, SHUT DOWN THE HOKIES: Randy Shannon wasn't kidding when he said earlier this week Tech likes to run and not throw. The reason? Have you seen the Hokies quarterback? We all know UM's defense is the heart and soul of this team. They kept Miami in last week's loss against Georgia Tech until UM's offense started passing out freebies. This week, the Hurricanes D will play with heart again and force Virginia Tech's weak offense to punt plenty. But if Ore gets away for one big play or sets up a TD with a big run, that could be all the Hokies need to beat UM, which figures to have its own troubles with Tech's defense.

2. DON'T HAND OUT FREEBIES: Kyle Wright is going to start and if we see Kirby Freeman for more than 2 series I'd be shocked. With that said, Kyle can't do what he did last week against Georgia Tech (hold the ball too long and take sacks on 2nd-and-2) or turn the ball over late. This game is going to be low-scoring and if UM is going to win Wright and the offense has to play mistake free.

3. WIN ON SPECIAL TEAMS: It was only a month ago when Jon Peattie looked like he couldn't make a 35-yard field goal. Now, he's making everything again and former ACC-leading punter Brian Monroe is having woes. Both need to be on their A-game to beat the Hokies, who are Jedi Masters on special teams. Aside from last week's late fumble on the punt return by Rashaun Jones, UM's special teams has played well of late. Taking a step back on Saturday will doom UM.

Jamestd_1 4. BABY J MUST RUN THE BALL WELL AGAIN: Last week UM stayed close with Georgia Tech and actually produced points for one reason -- Javarris James kept the Yellow Jackets honest. James made runs out of nothing against Tech and had a few chances to provide something UM's offense has needed all season: the big play. In order for UM's offense to score a TD this week against the Hokies stingy D (12.0 ppg), James is going to have to break a big run. I think he will.

5. NO HEARTBREAKING PLAYS: This team's soul has been tested all season. The players already know what they really were playing for -- The National Title, The ACC title -- are no longer attainable. UM will show up with a lot of heart on Saturday at home because they don't want to lose anymore. But if something terrible happens, an INT return for a TD, a fumble return for a TD, a kick return for a TD, I'm not sure they'll be able to survive the disappointment. The "It's happening to us again syndrome" will set in and the team will fall apart. Avoid that and UM can win this game.

My prediction: UM 13, Virginia Tech 10. Hokies are favored and playing better than UM. But the fact Virginia Tech is so one-sided on offense and the fact their strength, running the ball, is what Miami does best tells me UM has more than a shot of winning this game. They should really be favored. This will be a defensive struggle all night. UM's defense, led by a healthy Jon Beason, will once again lead the way and force turnovers and limit Tech to one offensive score, a field goal. The other score will likely come via a UM offensive or special teams lapse. James will ultimately be the player of the game when he breaks free for a big run on this Tech defense in the second half as Miami salvages a little pride.

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Don't like my prediction? Think it will go another way? Tell me how Saturday's game will play out and feel free to chirp-in on UM hoops and the Larry Coker rumors.