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12 posts from July 2007

July 31, 2007

R&R: Tatum transfer, Haith and Wake

With less than 72 before the official arrival of incoming freshmen at the University of Miami, I have to admit -- much like the natives -- I'm getting a bit restless.

I'm tired of gathering interviews over the phone and traveling to far off places to sit in on media days. I want to see some helmets, some hitting, something. With that said, I plan to fill in the rest of this week with as much as I can gather without actually being at a place where a UM player or coach is. How do I do that? With a little R&R (Rumors and Reasoning), the newest segment I plan to do every now and then when it's needed.

Josh_tatumI'll begin with what is currently making the natives on green and orange message boards everywhere a bit restless -- the hot rumor former disgruntled USC linebacker Joshua Tatum could be transferring to the University of Miami. And since this is a blog and not our actual newspaper (they don't allow us to use sources anymore in the paper), I'll report on what I've heard from my sources. First though, let's explain who Tatum is. Tatum (listed at 6-2, 220 with 4.5-speed in the 40 as a senior) was one of the nation's most highly sought-after linebacker recruits in 2005 out of Oakland McClymonds High in California. He picked USC early and signed with them, but said Miami was a close second. In a Scout.com article, he said he might have picked the Canes if not for Miami being so far from home.

Monday, on message boards painted green and orange everywhere, the rumor began spreading Tatum was on UM's campus. In an effort to solve the mystery, I spoke to one player who said he did indeed run into Tatum on campus. "Josh told me all he has to do is work out some paperwork and he'll be officially in by tomorrow," the player told me.  "He was in the lockerroom today, bringing his stuff in."

Shannon_this_is_my_turfBut then, later, I spoke to another source who said coach Randy Shannon stance at the monent is to not take transfers. I've never heard Shannon take such a chance publicly. But Saturday at the Florida Sports Writers Association meetings, Shannon said he had four scholarships that went unused on national signing day this past February. If there's a position that honestly could use some late additions, its linebacker.

Shannon apparently has already added one linebacker -- albeit a preferred walk-on -- in Patrick Smith, according to Canesport.com. Smith is an undersized standout who played at Concord De La Salle and for Ken Dorsey's old coach who is now at Solano Community College in California. Getting two LBs isn't far-fetched, even with the list of four current linebacker commitments for 2008. Plus, I find it hard to believe, Tatum, who is from Oakland, would fly across the country to be told "no." If he had a good relationship with UM coaches during his recruitment, then I got to believe Shannon might still have a soft spot for him and take him even if he supposedly doesn't want transfers.

My other R&R subject related to basketball coach Frank Haith comes on the heels of the tragic death of Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser who died last Thursday from a massive heart attack. I haven't spoken to Haith since Prosser passed, but I'm sure like most of college basketball's brass was stunned and saddened.

FrankhaithBut this R&R isn't about Skip. It's about Haith and the new opening at Wake Forest, a place where Haith spent four years (1997-2001) as an assistant and still has plenty of family close by. I'm not trying to spread a rumor that Haith is leaving. Like I said, I haven't spoken to him about it yet. And there haven't been any published reports about possible replacements just yet. In fact, I think he'll stay at Miami. But there's definitely reason to think the Demon Deacons could be interested in Haith. For Haith, a real basketball man, the selling points are simple. Its closer to home and in real basketball country. For Wake, the reasons to take Haith are endless. He's been successful there before as an assistant. Before Prosser arrived, Haith was instrumental in taking Wake to four consecutive postseason appearences and recruiting several top 10 classes. He's young, experienced and talented and thirsty to build a winner.

Haith, though, also has plenty of reasons to stay at Miami. For starters, he's told me on several occassions how he loves Miami and believes the program can be successful because of its location. There's also pride. For the first time as coach, this year's team will truly be filled by all of his recruits. Plus, there's no question that this season Miami will have its most talented team in the four years he's been coach. And while I know Haith feels strongly his team has a great chance to reach the NCAA tournament, the fact remains Wake Forest is still a step up in the basketball world compared to the Canes.

There's no question the loss of a pair of potential recruits this summer has to have stung a bit. The Canes thought they had Devin Ebanks, a national top 10 recruit, then lost him to Indiana late. Then, earlier this month, talented California power forward Tyreese Breshers committed to Miami and then rescinded and said he was staying closer to home and going to Washington. Haith has stayed positive through all of it and told me just last week he has full confidence Miami is going to be successful in recruiting. But could this be the job that pries him away from Miami?

Thoughts to ponder...

July 30, 2007

FAU-UM? Canes owe it to Schnellenberger

In the seven years he's been the coach at Florida Atlantic University, Howard Schnellenberger has quietly longed to go back to the place of his greatest triumph -- the Orange Bowl.

SchnellenbergerSadly, the man who laid the foundation for what has become the most dominant college football program in the past 25 years has had to wait patiently like one of the last guys standing in a Bachelorette episode. One by one, poor Howie has had to watch as South Florida, Central Florida and even FIU -- the younger, uglier dude -- have been called up by the Canes to receive a rose.

"I look at it as a personal compliment," the 73-year old said when asked Sunday at the FSWA Media Days in Tampa if UM's failure to schedule the Owls has irked him.

It appears now -- maybe -- old Howie is going to get his chance. Schnellenberger might have let out a little secret Sunday when he told a small group of reporters that his dream might soon become a reality.

Howie said The U is now apparently interested in the Owls and a date between UM and FAU could happen in the not-so-distant future.

"We hadn't talked to UM before, but we've been questioned recently about a game,'' he said. "It's an ongoing conversation now. And it could happen in the not-so-distant future."

My bet, if true, is 2009. Even though a UM official recently told one of our writers the Hurricanes' schedule was booked through 2013, my search through UM's new media guide Sunday showed the Canes have only 11 games scheduled in '09 (eight conference games and a three-game non-conference schedule which features Oklahoma, South Florida and Central Florida). There's a chance Miami hasn't announced just yet who that 12th opponent is. But if they've already done so for 2010, 2011 and 2012, why wouldn't they do the same for '09? Susan Miller Degnan and I tried reaching UM athletic director Paul Dee and FAU's athletic director Sunday night to see if there was more to the story, but couldn't reach them.

Even if someone on either end denies this story tomorrow in attempt to keep negotiations under wraps, the more I think about it, the more I think the Canes owe Schnellenberger a game and a date at the OB.

Last week, Schnellenberger didn't make the top four of The Herald's South Florida Sports' Fantastic Four competition. He finished ninth, but was the leading vote-getter among people once associated with the The U.

There's no doubt he deserve recognition. He started the Canes' football dynasty when the program was struggling to stay afloat in the late 1970s. People forget how bad Miami really was then. Some thought the program might have even better off folding. Then, he started winning, bringing a new mentality to the program. After winning the first national championship in UM history in 1983, he bolted for the USFL and a job that never materialized when the South Florida team he was going to coach folded. Schnellenberger returned home to Louisville, Miami brought in Jimmy Johnson, and the rest as they say was history.

But what if Howie had never made that mistake and gone to the USFL? Would UM not have had a situation very similar to that of Florida State with Bobby Bowden? Would Schnellenberger have won five national titles and become a god? There's no question UM's history could have gone in a totally different direction. Who knows. Either way, the Canes need to do something for the old ball coach. And one Saturday afternoon isn't going to kill them.

CHECK IT OUT: Aside from the poll here I'd like for you guys to vote on, drop on by to Canespace.com to checkout a nice Q&A a diehard Canes fan has put together with former Canes linebacker Rohan Marley. It's a three-part series with some really interesting stories.

July 28, 2007

Shannon speaks in Tampa

Randy Shannon is on his way back home to South Florida for Canesfest. But he spent his morning here in Tampa, speaking to the Florida Sports Writers Association about many things.

Among the topics: his desire for an early signing period (like basketball), a new daylight only driving policy following the Jermaine McKenzie-Robert Marve accident, and how he believes if he can get a parent on campus, UM has a 90 percent chance of landing that recruit.

UPDATED (2:11 p.m.). OK guys, the first day of meetings are finally over. I've put together the first couple of comments from coach today and uploaded the complete audio interview for your listening pleasure on Herald.com. Follow this link if you want to listen to all 26 minutes.

Randy_shannonEither way, I've included about the first 6-7 questions of today's interview with coach Shannon below. I'll come back tomorrow to give you my impressions, plus some of the other noteworthy items I've collected up here. First off, Randy started the press conference by addressing the three biggest issues of late -- the stadium situation, the accident involving Marve and McKenzie, plus the QB situation. I've decided to relay his opening comments, then some of today's Q&A. Feel free to pour your thoughts in and any thoughts from today if you made it out to Canesfest in Fort Lauderdale.

On the Stadium situation…
A: “Orange Bowl and Dolphins Stadium is an ongoing talk right now. When they make that decision it will be made. It’s going back and forth right now, so I can’t give you any other information."

On Jermaine McKenzie and Robert Marve…
A: “The two young kids who were involved in the accident were back on campus this Tuesday, joking around, having a good time. But we don’t know their status right now. Injuries heal different ways. Last year, Jon Beason got hurt and [team doctor] Dr. Uribe thought he was going to be done for the season. But a week, week and half later he came back and played. It depends on how those guys’ bones heal. Until Dr. Uribe says they are eligible to play, they won’t play right now. But in the middle of the season, if something changes and Marve and McKenzie heal and they come back in the fifth game of the season. We’ll let you know then."

The quarterback situation…
A: “Kyle and Kirby are doing fine. The players on the team say they’re both doing a great job. The feel like that we have two starting quarterbacks. And they say both of those guys have become friendly, genuine friends, guys who lead. One day Kyle leads the team. One day Kirby leads the team. And now they feel the quarterbacks are part of the team and not individuals or separate from the team. They do more with the team offensively and defensively. So, were doing some of the things for those guys to be successful."

Q: What was your reason for removing the names off jerseys this coming season?
A: “You get to a point, and I’ve always been on great teams as a player – NFL teams – there’s a lot of guys that when you have a bunch of teammates surrounding each other and playing like a team, it tends to be a good team. But when you have one guy stand out and all the focus is on him, and he starts to think he’s the team and not a part of the rest of the team. And that’s when you get the 7-4, 7-6 [seasons], bad situations."

Q: How do you feel your new disciplinary measures been received?
A: “It’s been great. You can tell by the recruiting aspect, we’ve been getting guys to commit early. It’s being held accountable for what you do. And when guys are being held accountable and they know what the consequences are, then they’re going to adhere to it. And the biggest thing you try do is distractions. That’s all the rules are [in place for], to keep them away from the distractions. Nobody can run an organization or business when you have a bunch of distractions. And those rules are in place to keep the distractions away, so we can keep being positive and moving forward."

Q: Is it hard to balance to balance being the tough guy disciplinarian, then be there for them when they come through your door?
A: “No. It’s not hard, because it’s more about if they respect you. If the players respect you and not fear you, then they can come talk to you all the time. But once they fear you, you can forget about any players coming to talk to you about any situations. This summer, we had a couple situations where we had players on the team had siblings pass away. Guys who had kids, brand new babies, first time fathers. So, those are things you have to deal with and sometimes they won’t come in and talk to you. We’ve had another person on the team, believe it or not, lost his uncle and then two weeks later lost his aunt. You always have to have an open door for those guys because if they don’t come talk to you, they really don’t talk to nobody else.”

Q: Will you still be very involved with the defense on game day?
A: “I’ll be a part of it. I’ll be part of the offense too. But I won’t be making the calls and stuff like that. The one thing I always notice is when you sit back and you are not coaching, you can see a lot more. And for five out of the six years I was just a coordinator, walking around on defense I can see a position on defense where maybe they’re not doing something right at defensive line or linebacker and the secondary and go and tell them he we need to get this done. Once the coaches know your not trying to say they’re [not] doing a good job coaching, then they’ll be OK. Because everybody has bad habits.

I mean everybody in this room is going to be confident in what they write. Everybody here is great writers. But when your editor comes up to you and says change this, change that, you get kind of pissed. Let’s be honest. You do. So, that’s the same thing in coaching, your coaches got to understand is that I’m seeing something different like your editor is seeing something different. So, its going to work out fine. We got a great staff and they’re funny. And they tell me some things that I do. So, I’m OK.”

July 27, 2007

Catching up with Jacory Harris

Before setting off for the Florida Sports Writers Association college coaches meetings in Tampa this weekend, I caught up with UM quarterback recruit Jacory Harris Friday afternoon to discuss his week-long trip out to California for the EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp.

JacoryharrisAs reporters, we're not supposed to have favorite players to interview. But I can't help but feel good everytime I speak to Miami Northwestern's leader. Jacory is quite honestly the type of kid you root for because he's a shining example of what the other kids who come from the rough streets of Liberty City should strive to be. He's an excellent student with a 3.4 GPA who takes honors classes, a tremendous leader who has held his team together through Northwestern's recent troubles and one heck of a quarterback. He proved that this week in the mountains in Mission Viejo, finishing fourth among 12 of the nation's most talented quarterback recruits in the Class of 2008 based on the opinions of guys like Joe Montana, Heisman candidates Colt Brennan (Hawaii), Chad Henne (Michigan) and many other talented camp counselors.

Harris, rated a three-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout.com, is sure to climb up the recruiting rankings soon. But even that won't do him justice in terms of value. The fact Miami was able to nab him away from LSU (his admitted first true love) has ultimately resulted in the Canes getting his more highly -soughtafter teammates WR Aldarius Johnson and DT Marcus Forston this week. Both love Jacory and gravitate towards him as their leader and are only following him to Miami because offensive coordinator Patrick Nix and company stood by his side when most so-called experts have had their doubts about a 6-4, 170-pound gunslinger being nothing more than the typical "athletic quarterback." Harris got rid of that stereotype this week and UM is richer for having believed in him before he proved it to the rest of the world.

To get an idea of what the camp counselors thought of Jacory, here is what former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin said of Harris in an interview with Student Sports Magazine.

Tee Martin on Jacory Harris: Tee_martin"To me, he would be the guy I would take if I could pick just one quarterback here," Martin said. "I think his upside is off the charts. He throws a great ball, has a quick release and his ability to throw rolling out is unreal. For me though, he brings so much more to the table than just how he plays. He's the guy that pumps up everyone else in the group he's throwing with. If one of the guys makes a good throw, he's yelling encouragement to him. He challenges the other guys to try and complete 10 balls in a row and if they do, he says, 'lets get 20.' Even at the beach, all the guys were playing volleyball just having fun but when Jacorey went over there, it instantly became very competitive. Then he went over to the basketball court and dominated there. I just love the kid and feel he could be special."

Harris scored 13 points in the passing skills competitions on accuracy from various passing distances. He placed eighth overall in the points standings. But his ability to throw on the run earned him the best feet award.

Harris, who was the first quarterback from Miami-Dade or Broward ever to compete in the prestigous camp, told me he had a ball out in California. In addition to the camp, he played beach volleyball, had a dunk competition with Star Jackson, a one-on-one receiving showdown with camp MVP and Nebraska bound Blaine Gabbert (who has 4.4-speed) and even a scary moment when he was tossed by 15 foot waves back onto the beach at Laguna Beach. In addition to all that, he came home with an autographed football and plenty of memories.

Anyway, I want to share with you some of the highlights of our half-hour Q&A session Friday. Our complete interview has been uploaded to Herald.com for your listening pleasure. Follow this link.

Q: What was the experience like?
A: "It was a wonderful experience because I got to meet a lot of people that I didn't know from across the nation. It was all great athletes and great players. It was a great opportunity. It was held at an All-Asian University in Mission Viejo. I had never been out to California, but the view was real pretty. It was something that I would be glad to move there one day."

Q: But not before before you finish college right?
A: "No. After college (laughter)."

Q: So what exactly was the competition like? Who did you meet? Who impressed you? And how do you think you did?
A: "There were 12 quarterbacks in the competition. We had to do footwork drills, good ball/bad ball, 7-on-7, we had chalk and film. We had those type of drills and I finished fourth... to pick one quarterback as the MVP would be unfair. I was telling my mother that we all were basically the same people. The way Jemarcus_russellwe act, the way we carry ourselves on the field. I'm usually going to say I am the best quarterback. But your ego changes when you get up there and you see the competition. When I started the competition, I didn't ever think I'd be able to sit in those same seats those same great players -- Chris Leak, JeMarcus Russell, Troy Smith -- once sat in. That really shocked me. Plus, when the counselors told us at the beginning of the camp we were projected to be one of the worst group of quarterbacks to ever come to the Elite 11 according to Scout.com, Rivals and all that, we came into the camp with a chip on our shoulders and more confidence than ever. It turns out the last day, Colt Brennan, Andre Woodson and all them told us we were the best group ever because everybody there was good. They said the past Elite 11 camps had 3 or 4 people who couldn't throw the ball. But they said everyone here [this year] had something and could do something on the next level."

Q: I heard you spent a lot extra time breaking down film on your own with some of the coaches, late into the night. What made you want to do that?
A: "Me, [FSU QB recruit] EJ Manuel and [Lake Worth High] Star [Jackson] would go down there. Sometimes it was me by Colt_brennanmyself. But sometimes we'd go down and look at film and break it down so that in the morning when he would ask us questions we knew what he was going ask us. One of the guys we were worked out with that I really learned from was Colt Brennan from Hawaii. He had been through somethings himself and showed that no matter what, you got to work through some things if you want to accomplish that bigger goal. [Missouri quarterback] Chase Daniels was somebody I hung out with too because he played for Southlake Carroll [whom Northwestern plays Sept. 15 in Dallas] and we were too busy trash-talking about that. We went on the board and broke down coverages and he would show me what he would do. It was a lot of things, but I took something from every counselor that was there."

Q: How much of the stuff you saw were you familiar with, and unfamiliar with?
A: "I was familiar with the majority of the stuff. But the language, that's kind of what was throwing me off. But when I was looking at things it was kind of the same stuff I see here in Florida, but some of it was on a college level, the linebackers dropping way back and doing certain things. I learned a lot looking at tendencies and other things I took from that film session."

Q: For some of the Canes fans who might be hearing you for the first time, just tell them when you started playing quarterback for the first time and how it all came about.
A: "I started playing QB my ninth grade year when as a receiver I was running a route and the quarterback through the ball behind me. got pretty mad and I took that opportunity and grabbed a ball and threw a strike. And that's when they said you need to play quarterback."

Q: Last night, before you got home your teammate Marcus Forston became the Marcus_forstonfourth Northwestern player to commit to UM. Were you surprised he announced this early? And what does it mean to have four of you guys going to school together?
A: "I wasn't that surprised because he had told me when I committed he was going to do it right when I do it. So, I did it and I called him and he was like 'No man, I'm not ready for that yet.' But I always knew because before this week they were talking about how it was going to happen soon. So, I was just waiting for it to happen. I really wasn't surprised... But it's great because now all we got to do is take what we have here and transfer it to Miami and basically do the same thing we're doing here at Miami. I think we can win some national championships there."

Q: When did your love affair with the Canes really begin and when did you really know you were going to be a UM quarterback?
A: "I really wanted to go to LSU at first even though I was a die-hard Cane because I wanted to go out of state and that was the team I was hoping to get an offer from. But then, I thought about it and I was like let me wait to see if I get a Miami offer. I did. Then, I weighed them out. Then, LSU stopped talking to me. So, I said I'm going to go with my obvious choice, my home team -- and the team I want to be at, so why not choose it."

Q: Now, there's a chance after this Elite 11 camp, some teams might come after you, maybe even LSU. Is your recruiting done with?
A: "Yeah my recruiting is done with. I'm going to Miami no matter what."

Q: Can you talk about your relationship with Patrick Nix and what it was that impressed you about him? And what about your relationship with coach Shannon and the rest of UM's staff?
A: "He's a real down to earth person and he's real cool. He'll tell you the truth, really. He's someone you can hang out with. He tells me 'We're married.' We're real cool. He went bowling the other day with the offense, so you know he's real down to earth. The relationship with coach Shannon is real good because he knows my father. They played against each other in high school. My daddy played for Northwestern in '84 and played against Randy at Norland."

Q:  Seven months ago, this program was coming off a bad season in which they went 7-6, they had the Bryan Pata tragedy, the brawl with FIU, what has Randy done to get 16 commitments this early Shannon_this_is_my_turfin the game --  and 16 good ones at that? What do you think Coach Shannon has done to change the image of Miami?
A: "I really don't know. Coach Shannon is real cool. The way he recruited as a defensive coordinator, he's the same as a head coach. He'll treat you the same no matter what. The things he has in place, the 2.5 GPA to live off campus, you can tell he's for the student athlete look. He's not just about football. He's about books before football and that's the way a coach should always be. A coach should never be about football over education or football over family. And that's the type of coach Shannon is."

Q: Is that something you think kids in the innercity really want, a father figure? You grew up with a good father, good parents, but a lot of your teammates and others don't have fathers in their lives. Do you think coach Shannon being that father figure, laying the discipline down is what has made him popular with a lot of recruits?
A: "Yes because without that, you'll have those guys running around and getting in trouble all the time. And that's just made the difference... there are a lot of other programs that will be like UM is only taking you because they're trying to get the rest of [Northwestern's players]. And when I hear that, I'll be like OK, so why are you telling me this? I know you're trying to get me. Why are you trying to down Miami? I haven't heard coach Shannon or any of his assistants ever say anything. They never even talk about other schools. They talk about us and how we're doing in life. They never talk about football, except how we're going to do our senior year."

Q: Why do you think that approach has been so successful?
A: "Because it makes you feel good because you know now somebody is going to have your back. Nobody is going to do anything behind your back and they're going to do what's best for the child."

July 26, 2007

Better Bull-eavit: Canes nab Forston

Marcus_forstonEarlier today around 5:30 p.m. I spoke with the mother of Northwestern defensive tackle Marcus Forston, who told me she had driven down with her son to the University of Miami campus where he announced his intentions to sign with the Hurricanes in February. This certainly is big news for Canes fans. Forston is without a doubt one of the nation's best overall recruits and quite possibly the most talented defensive tackle the school has landed since Warren Sapp. I spoke to Marcus earlier this week, thinking this might happen. But he told me he wanted to wait to make a bigger national announcement on TV. Looks like he got too excited.

For a moment today it also looked like another teammate of Forston would be joining him at UM. And at around 7:30 p.m. I reported on this blog linebacker Sean Spence would be joining Forston. But I've now been told Northwestern's star linebacker is not ready to announce his decision just yet. But he could be real close. Kids like Spece do this all the time. They want their own day in the sun and deserve it. Just don't be surprised if he announces in the next couple days.

Now, here's some of the highlights from the 20 minute interview I had with Marcus when he got home from his conditioning workouts at Northwestern on Thursday night.

Q: Tell us how it all went down this afternoon?
A: "I went down there earlier today, I was going down there just to check out the college academic-wise. I went down there with my mon and my family. When I went down there, I was talking to coach Hurtt, coach Walton and Randy Shannon and when I walked into that room, walked through that door there was just that feeling that this is home. I told you earlier I was going to wait till signing day because I had a lot of schools looking at me. But I never felt like that when I went to other colleges. Even though it doesn't have the big facilities other colleges have. So, when I went in there, they weren't even talking about football. They were talking to me about how they could help me about football. They were talking about how they could help me get a degree, they were talking about life. And that is something some colleges don't talk about. Colleges want to use me and I want use them to get a degree and be a better man because football is never promised."

Q: So how much of an influence did your teammates who are also Cane commitments -- QB Jacory Harris, OL Brandon Washington and WR Aldarius Johnson -- have in your decision today. Were they in your ear telling you to commit?
A: "No. I was pushing those guys away. But Aldarius told me when you go down there, I'm telling you, you aren't ready for it. He said Forston as soon as you get down there, you are going to want to commit right there. So, when I got down there, I said coach, is this something you set up down here just to make me feel good? Coach Shannon and Coach Hurtt said you can come down here any day unnanounced and it will be the same way. Some colleges put on a show because they want to make their program look better. So, when he told me I could come down here and it will be the same way everyday, I was like man, I got to check this out for myself. The thing that made me feel so good was that it its a college that doesn't have all the facilities and all the other things state schools have, but they're a private school and they're rebuilding things. I'm looking at the new generation and the things they want to have."

Q: You talked the other day about how you don't want to be the only superstar on a team, you want to play with 11 superstars. Can you talk about what it feels like to be a part of class like the one that is starting to come together? And can you talk about some of the guys who you play with?
A: "I'm very proud to be a part of this class. If we keep on getting these guys, like we're doing right now, this will be one of the best UM teams ever. There are a lot of hard workers in this group there that can really build this program and do some special things right there. Its hard to stop our guys. If you going up against Brandon Washington at 60-70 percent, Brandon Washington is going to throw you on your butt. Or if you don't pay attention to Aldarius Johnson, he's going to right past you. So you got to give 100 percent to even have a chance."

Q: What is about coach Clint Hurtt that makes him such a good recruiter?
A: "He's young man. The guy who likes to have fun. The thing that really got me about coach Hurtt and I know he's been through the same things I've been through, he told me he said 'Go ahead, Marcus. Go ahead and look at other colleges.' And the first thing that came to my mind was that this guy right here is not jealous. He's a coach that knows if a player wants to come to his program, he really wants to come. Every other coach would have said 'What you going there for?' Talking bad. One thing I can say UM doesn't do is say nothing about no college. Any college that something bad about another college, that right there is a turnoff to me."

Q: So are you going to be taking other trips still? What did you tell coach?
A: "I told him I'd be open to taking other trips. But I don't think I want to. I think I'm going to try and study and watch film for the next level. I'm trying to get to college, get better."

Q: So what can Canes fact expect from you in the future?
A: "A battle at defensive tackle. Out of the heart and soul of Miami comes a guy whose going to bust his butt everyday in practice and start as a true freshman."

For the complete 11-minute audio interview I recorded with Marcus, check out my interview with him right here.

OK guys, I'm done posting stuff for today.I'm still planning to interview Canes quarterback recruit Jacory Harris, who shined brightly at the Elite 11 camp in California, when he gets home later tonight. He finished 4th out of the 11 QBs and apparently impressed a lot people. I'll probably make him my topic of discussion on Friday.


July 25, 2007

The Stew: PJ, All-ACC, the Cape and recruiting

Cooking up good content for Eye On The U is a lot like making Thanksgiving dinner. It takes time. And sometimes, when there isn't a big turkey to put in the oven, you got to cook up a stew with a little bit of everything. That's what this entry is -- a stew of this and that, a new feature I plan to give you once or twice a week with a little bit of everything I collect between other entries like The Hot Stove and Keeping Score.

I'll start this stew with the freshest stuff I got this week. Tuesday afternoon, I spent most of my day with the Canes' top football recruit, Ely High cornerback Patrick Johnson and his father Patrick Peterson who visited The Herald for a photo shoot for our Broward High Football Preview (set to be released next month). Johnson, whom I met for the first time yesterday, will be our cover boy.

Patrick_johnsonListed at 6-1, 193 and rated one of the top 2 cornerbacks in the nation by most experts, the first thing I've got to say about Patrick is that he is about as polished an interview as I've ever had with a high school football player. He also is physically the most college-ready corner I've ever seen. While I don't want to give away all the stuff we collected yesterday (we do have to save something for our preview section) I want to share my impressions of PJ and some of the insight I got from speaking with his father.

Patrick certainly has a deep relationship with his dad, who has coached him since the age of 7 and is his defensive backs coach at Ely. "The first time I knew he was special, he was about 10 years old," Peterson told me. "He was in the Pop Warner league championship game and we threw a pass out to him and this kid had him wrapped up by his legs, he was twisting and turning, had two yards to go and dove backwards into the end zone. It was amazing."

Johnson has been a University of Miami football fan for most of his life. Despite his great relationship with USC's Pete Carroll and Florida's Urban Meyer, whom he speaks to every now and then, Johnson appears to me to be a lock to be a Hurricane. He told me he would be as long as nothing changes on UM's staff changes after this coming season.

"It's pretty firm," Johnson told our Bob Emanuel, our Broward High School writer, when he asked him about his commitment to Miami. "It's good to see a building process going on down there and to see Coach Shannon is stressing there is no 'I' in team. They'll be up and rising soon."

Johnson, who flashed a U for us on camera, told us he speaks regularly with Kenny Phillips, freshman receiver Leonard Hankerson and fellow Canes recruit Jordan Futch about how together they could lead Miami back to a national title.

"He loves all the fast guys, the speed, Devin Hester, and Portis and all the big boys that made it to the next level over at Miami," Peterson said. "I was shocked when he committed at first. We talked about it and he was like, 'That's where my heart is at.' I told him, son, you got the world to see. You got other options. Don't forget about it. I just want him to enjoy it all you know."

Johnson, who is taking only two classes this coming school year -- English and Economics, will be graduating in December. His father says his son has a 3.0 GPA and will retake the SAT next month. As for Patrick's personal life, his father said he's a kid who loves to play PlayStation2 and stay home -- a lot like Kenny Phillips was in high school to my recollection.

Patrick, the eldest of five siblings, definitely comes from an athletic family. His father and uncle both played football for Ely, his grandmother played basketball and his aunt ran track. His younger brother, Avery, who is only 13 years old, is already 6-2, 170 pounds and a stud receiver known as 'Scooter' in the Pop Warner leagues. "Everybody tells me Scooter is going to be the real top gun," Patrick's father told me.

There's a lot more. But hopefully, this will get you hungry for what else is in our preview section.

ALL-ACC RELEASED: The ACC released its Preseason team and as expected just three Canes were on the list, guard Derrick Morse, defensive end Calais Campbell and safety Kenny Phillips. The following is the complete list.

QB - Matt Ryan, Sr., Boston College
RB - Branden Ore, Jr., Virginia Tech
RB - Tashard Choice, Sr., Georgia Tech
WR - Greg Carr, Jr., Florida State WR- Darrius Heyward-Bey,So., Maryland
TE - Tom Santi, Sr., Virginia
T - Duane Brown, Sr., Virginia Tech
T - Barry Richardson, Sr., Clemson
G - Andrew Crummey, Sr., Maryland
G - Derrick Morse, Sr., Miami
C - Steve Justice, Sr., Wake Forest

DE - Calais Campbell, Jr., Miami
DE -- Chris Long, Sr., Virginia
DT - Andre Fluellen, Sr., Florida State
DT - DeMario Pressley, Sr., NC State
LB - Xavier Adibi, Sr., Virginia Tech
LB - Vince Hall, Sr., Virginia Tech
LB - Phillip Wheeler, Sr., Georgia Tech
CB - Brandon Flowers, Jr., Virginia Tech
CB -- DeJuan Tribble, Sr., Boston College
S - Kenny Phillips, Jr., Miami
S - Myron Rolle, So., Florida State

A DASH OF BASEBALL NEWS: Three Canes baseball players have been selected to the 2007 Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star Eastern Division roster -- first baseman Yonder_alonsoYonder Alonso, right fielder Dennis Raben and center fielder Blake Tekotte. Alonso and Raben will start in Friday's 6 p.m. game. According to the press release out of UM, Alonso is hitting.321 with 10 doubles, two homers and 30 walks in 33 games and ranks in the top 10 in the league in average, doubles and on-base percentage. Tekotte leads the league in stolen bases with 18 in 32 games. Raben leads the league with 29 RBI and is tied for second with six home runs. The game will be broadcast on NPR radio and can be seen online at www.capecodbaseball.org. There are five Canes in the league in all, including third baseman Mark Sobolewski and shorstop Ryan Jackson.

WHAT I'M HEARING ON Travis_benjaminRECRUITING: The next likely football commit will be Belle Glade Glades Central receiver Travis Benjamin and most likely sometime early next week. So far, what I've been hearing of late has been on the money. When I went spoke to coach Ice Harris at Booker T. Washington a couple of weeks ago, he told me Davon Johnson was close to picking a school. A week later, he announced for Miami. Same deal when I went out to Northwestern for Billy Rolle's hiring last week. I heard two Bulls would be picking schools very soon. So far, Aldarius Johnson has, becoming UM's 15th commitment for 2008 on Monday. For the record, I haven't spoken to Benjamin before. But the person I heard it from is very well connected at Belle Glade.

OK, that's what is in the stew for now. I'll be back later this week with more. Feel free to drop your thoughts and questions. Hopefully, I'll have an interview with Jacory Harris to share from his experience out at the Elite 11 camp. For now, I'm out.

P.S. - When you get a chance, go over Canespace.com and read the interview one of our devout readers had with former Hurricane linebacker Rohan Marley. The first part in the series was interesting. 

July 24, 2007

The No-Name Canes

In an another move in what I like to call Randy Shannon's attempt at Unifying The U, UM's new coach told our Susan Miller Degnan on Monday his team's uniforms this coming season will not include last names.

While this Randyshannonprobably will be portrayed as a bit of a shock in other places because the school known for having too much swagger is going old school, it should not come as a surprise to Canes fans considering the moves Shannon has made since becoming coach. Let's recap. In the spring, he instituted a new policy in the lockerroom where offensive players and defensive players -- once split apart by groups -- began sitting side by side. That was followed by new off the field rules including no firearms, no cell phones in meetings and classrooms as well as having all freshmen and sophomores living on campus.

For a guy who has only been on the job seven months, Shannon has certainly made huge statements and strides in short time. And they all seem to be the right buttons. Monday, UM picked up its 15th oral commitment since the spring when Miami Northwestern receiver Aldarius Johnson drove down to UM's campus in person to tell Shannon's assistants he wants a scholarship saved for him. Last year at this time, Miami had just two -- receiver Kayne Farquharson and center Harland Gunn.

Johnson (6-3, 195) is one of the nation's top 50 recruits and one of the game-changing weapons the Hurricanes have sorely needed the past several seasons. He became the ninth South Florida player to pick Miami and said he made the decision because he wanted to continuing playing with his high school quarterback, UM recruit Jacory Harris. In a lot of ways, Johnson, like most of Miami's early commitments, are a direct result of that same type of message Shannon began spreading the day he replaced Larry Coker and made once again Monday. And that is, Miami's football program is once again united and that it will feel like a family again.

"The thing I really like about Miami is that it feels like a family, just like we got here at the 'West," Miami Northwestern High defensive tackle Marcus Forston told me Monday. "Over there, all 11 guys feel like the superstars. Just like we do here. That's the type of place I want to be at. Where all 11 guys are the superstars."

Forston, one of the nation's top two defensive tackles on the nation's No. 1-ranked high school football team, hasn't committed to Miami yet. And he won't commit anywhere until January. He told me he says he will try to make his announcement on national television during the U.S. Army All-American game then. But his tone Monday in our conversation should provide you some insight as to why the Hurricanes have had such as successful time recruiting again under Shannon's reign. And why what seems like little things like taking the name off his team's jerseys, sitting offensive players and defensive players side by side in the lockerroom means so much.

So, how do you feel about the names being scratched off of UM's jerseys? And better yet, how impressed are you by the fact Canes have 15 oral commitments this early in the game? 

July 23, 2007

A Call From The Hall

Bennie Blades was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame this past Saturday, joining Ted Hendricks and Don Bosseler as the only Hurricanes to receive such an honor.

Bennie_bladesBlades absolutely deserved it. He was a two-time All-American and a flat out menace in the secondary, leading the nation in interceptions in 1986 and helping Miami win the national title in 1987 in a year he was also given the Jim Thorpe Award. In a lot of ways, he was the guy who really started UM's run of sick talent in the secondary.

Here's to hoping Blades induction Saturday will start another run -- one of Canes getting invited into the Hall. How in the world does a program that has won five national championships and produced the level of talent UM has put into the NFL have just three guys in the Hall of Fame? Better yet, how is Blades the only Cane so far to receive an invite in the era since Miami first began winning national titles in 1983? 

Like a good teammate and Cane at heart, Blades pointed that out Saturday in Jeff Shain's story. And then, perhaps, pointed out the reason: ``I want to get people to realize we're not bad people. We've been given a bad rap over all these years, but to know us is to love us.''

Great players, bad rap or not, should always be graded for what they did on the field. I've always been of the opinion Pete Rose deserves to be in the baseball Hall of Fame for what he did as a player and not the gambling he did as a manager. UM's football greats deserve to be honored too. But who deserves to get in next?

Blades mentioned Michael Irvin, Bernie Kosar, Jim Kelly and Chuck Foreman. My vote would go to Vinny Testaverde, the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner (first Cane to do it) and NFL veteran of more than 20 seasons. But there are plenty more deserving. Who do you think deserves the next call from the Hall?

How about Jerome Brown? Steve Walsh? Ottis Anderson? This ought to be a good debate. I'll be back Tuesday with something fresh. You guys need to give me a day now that I'm officially back on the job. But for now, hopefully, this will keep you chirping.

July 20, 2007

The Hot Stove: Billy Rolle, a chat with Haith and NCAA '08

I just got back from the most talent-rich high school football lockerroom in the country and wanted to share my thoughts from my one-on-one half hour interview with new Miami Northwestern coach Billy Rolle. (For those of you who want to read the latest, Andre Fernandez and I wrote a story this afternoon, check it out here)

I know there is a vested interest on the part of Canes fans considering the Bulls Billyrollecurrently have two Hurricane commitments and a number of 2008 recruits UM is very much interested in. But knowing Billy Rolle for as long as I have and speaking to him again today, there should not be an idea out there that Rolle will steer propsective recruits away from the Canes. In fact, it's my opinion the changes at Northwestern might end up paying dividends in the long run for UM -- especially for those talented recruits who still may not have the grades or test scores to get into The U.

Northwestern principal Charles Hankerson, who was brought into clean up the mess the Bulls made with Rudycrewthe Antwain Easterling fiasco, has made it very clear to me his focus is to improve the academic situation at Northwestern (a school that has traditional received F-rating the past several years). Aside from Superintendent Rudy Crew's initiative to raise academic standards for players and have players sign behavioral contracts, Hankerson has made it his mission to take academics seriously at Northwestern. As he so eliquintely told me Friday, "We're going to have school here. Real school. And there is not going to be any negotiating."

Rolle may not be the shining example of the education-focused football coach. After all, it was some of his best players at Miami Killian High who got involved with the diploma mill scandal here locally a couple years back. But he's no problem-seeker either. At 45, Rolle has enough experience (having coached the West to the title in 1998 and Killian to another title in 2004) to not only keep his new players focused on the field but off it too. He's respected and that goes a long way at the 'West. Plus, Hankerson has made it clear no antics will be accepted in his house. One slip-up, Hankerson said, and Rolle is gone. No questions asked.

So how does that all benefit UM? If all goes right, none of the players Miami signs from Northwestern come February should end up an academic casuality. With the eyes of Crew and Hankerson fixed on the football program, there shouldn't be any grade-changing, nor any test-taking scandals. The kids should really be in class, learning something all year.

As for Rolle, he told me one of the first people to call him and congratulate him on Wednesday (two days before Friday's announcement) was UM coach Randy Shannon. Rolle said he laughed when Shannon called and told him not to worry. Rolle said Shannon told him UM wants as many as nine players on Northwestern's roster. Even if Randy gets Northwestern's top seven -- QB Jacory Harris (already a UM commit), WR Aldarius Johnson, TE Tommy Streeter, OL Brandon Washington (already a UM commit), DT Marcus Forston, DE Ben Jones, and LB Sean Spence -- one scout told me Miami will instantly have one of the nation's best three recruiting classes.

Stay tuned. I fully expect at least two more Bulls to pull the trigger within the next month. As for Harris, Canes fans should keep up with what he does this weekend at the EA Sports Elite 11 passing camp. Canes fans can vote for Jacory in a make-believe tournament on the StudentSports website here.


Even though I'm not officially supposed to be back at work until Monday, I took some time Friday to give UM hoops coach Frank Haith a call to catch-up, especially after the team lost one of its two 2008 recruits this week when Tyreese Breshers, a 6-7 power nationally forward from Los Angeles, switched his commitment to Washington.

FrankhaithWhile Haith can't talk specifically about recruits, there is no question UM figured it might lose Breshers anyway. Breshers was apparently tentative when he made his commitment and wasn't exactly sold on moving across the country. Haith told me he and his staff have not and will not stop recruiting even if the team has filled its three scholarship vacancies for the Class of 2008. As for the recruiting focus, Haith said the team will not take a point guard until 2009 and is focused on getting a post player and a wing player for now. The post player could end up becoming American Heritage High's Eloy Vargas.

As for the current Canes, six players are playing in the Pharmed League at FIU -- guards Lance Hurdle and James Dews, forwards Ray Hicks and Adrian Thomas and incoming freshmen Edwin Rios and Julian Gamble. Hurdle has been getting rave reviews as has Thomas, who missed nearly all of last season. Hurdle's emergence should make Jack McClinton's move to point guard even easier. Haith said McClinton did not have surgery on his injured wrist.

While Haith is not allowed to watch his players during the summer per NCAA rules, he said he heard small forward Brian Asbury did very well during his two-week trip to Taiwan with Athletes In Action, a sports ministry team comprised of several US collegiate players. Haith said Asbury reported finished second on the team in scoring and showed an improved scoring touch on his jumpers. Forward Jimmy Graham is supposed to go on a similar trip to Australia next month.

Dwayne Collins, meanwhile, was cut from the U.S.-under 19 team. Haith said Collins is still a little too raw and apparently showed that during the tryouts. "He's disappointed," Haith said. "But at least he knows he has to work harder."

One guy who is certainly working hard is Anthony King, who has begun in the last week to play real pick-up games with his teammates. Haith said he be surprised if King didn't start the season at center. "He's really improved his offensive game and is making great, great strides," Haith said. "He's the most experienced guy we've got."

PARTING THOUGHT: For those of you gamers out there, one thing I have been able to enjoy in the past week has been the debut of NCAA College Football '08 on my PlayStation2. I've been a gamer my entire life, but there is no game I enjoy more than this series. My policy, though, since playing the game was too easy -- was to simply remain as coach.

Ncaafootball08So far, I've been able to get the first seven games of the season in with the Canes and am off to a surprising 7-0 start. The defense has been amazing. Four shutouts. Not that any of this should matter, but the stars of the team -- aside from Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell (clearly the two best players on the team -- have been Eric Moncur (10 sacks) and Charlie Jones, who has proven to be a more dependable back than both Craig Cooper and Javarris James.

My toughest game was a 24-0 shutout of Oklahoma, a game decided when Bruce Johnson took the opening kickoff back 90 yards for a score. It was 10-0 until the fourth quarter when Calais produced, a sack, fumble and touchdown all on the same play.

I know this is all fantasy world, but I just wanted to see who else out there has been able to play the game. What has your experience been like? Give me your thoughts / best fantasy football playing moments. Among my initial thoughts on the game, how about Kyle Wright getting an 87 rating and the starting nod above Kirby Freeman, who was rated with an 86?

* Anyway, I'm out. I'll be back fulltime on Monday. Until then, enjoy the rest of your summer and feel free to chime in on anything you like including the bad car accident with Robert Marve, Jermaine McKenzie and Colin McCarthy (Can the Canes ever catch a break?). I stayed away from it on purpose in this blog, but plan to address it with some of interviews of my own when I get back.

* Also, check me out on 560 WQAM today. I'm supposed to be doing an interview with The Beast around 3:30 p.m. tomorrow regarding Northwestern. See ya.

July 10, 2007

The Hot Stove: Bulls, Breshers, Commits

My attempts to stay away from work during my vacation are failing miserably. It's partly my fault -- I should be on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean and I'm not. But it's also partly the fault of what's been transpiring locally over the past week: UM getting two new football commitments, a basketball commitment and transfer.

I was going to hold off on doing some reporting of my own on those previous subjects, but with the most recent startling developments at Miami Northwestern High (READ THE STORY) and the possible cancellation of the team's 2007 football season I had to come back to work a little this week to throw my two cents out there.

Before I get to UM, I've got to start with Northwestern. Here's my take...

Has Rudy Crew gone mad? What in the world is Miami-Dade's Superintendent thinking? RudycrewWait a minute. I think I know. Crew wants to be known as the superintendent who cut down the nation's No. 1-ranked high school football team (Yeah, that's right. No. 1. Rise Magazine named Northwestern No. 1 Tuesday, one spot better than three-time defending national champion Southlake Carroll of Texas). And what better way is there for Crew to "lay down the law" and make himself look good in front of the national media than burying the No. 1-ranked team in the country?

Sorry Rudy. But You had your chance. Last December, when the news broke of star running back Antwain Easterling's sexual incident with a 14-year old girl, Crew and every other administrator at Northwestern had the opportunity to do the right thing and stop Easterling from playing in the state championship game. They had a chance to send a message, even after having previous knowledge of the incident, to say what happened was wrong and to admit that school administrators should have suspended Easterling when it first learned of the incident. But like everyone else in charge at Northwestern -- coach Roland Smith included -- Crew passed the buck. Easterling played. Northwestern won the state title 34-14 and could have done so easily without Easterling. Afterward, everyone in charge ducked the question: Why did Easterling play?

Seven months later, now Crew -- and even the FHSAA which always seems in the mood to stick it to South Florida schools -- wants to stick it to the Bulls. I understand the angle: send a message that this type of lunacy -- football ahead of the law (and books) -- will no longer be tolerated. But making the kids pay for the failure of administrators isn't the answer.

NorthwesternbullsAs much NFL talent and tremendous athletic talent as it has nurtured, Northwestern has more pressing problems to deal with. It has to address its academic downfalls. It's been an F-school for a long time. There are many times I bump into kids in the street who were former football players, basketball players who weren't good enough to play in college or didn't have the grades and are struggling in life now.

The one thing Northwestern can do positively is make money. And it makes a lot of it. All Crew needs to do is create a better system where those funds begin getting pumped into the right avenues. He needs to take that money and hire better teachers, administrators, security, all of the ingredients to make Northwestern better. Cutting the football season doesn't do that. It cuts off one of the few things Northwestern has going for it.

Something like this has never happened before. And for that reason alone I don't believe Northwestern will end up losing its season. Ultimately, I think Roland Smith, a former Hurricane, and some of his staff could be asked to step down as casualties of war. But if it does happen -- and nowadays anything can -- the downfall would not only hurt Northwestern's kids but others too. If the football season is canceled, those kids are going to head for neighboring schools (probably some of the ones they should be at anyway). Little Johnny, meanwhile, at nearby Edison, Booker T. Washington, Jackson, Central and Monsignor Pace, who has been busting his butt since the spring to finally become a starter isn't going to be happy when he loses his starting spot to an incoming Bull. Honestly, it's all just a much bigger mess than it needs to be.

I guess we'll find out what happens today. Stay tuned.


Lerentee_mccrayAs for the Canes, I got on the phone Tuesday with recruiting guru Larry Blustein to talk about the Canes' two newest football commitments, highly touted linebackers Lerentee McCray (Dunnellon, Fla.) and Ray Buchanon (Melbourne Palm Bay, Fla.). Both made "soft verbal commitments" to Miami in the last week. Or, as I like to call it, the old hold my scholarship and let me take my visits routine. From what I know about them, McCray (6-3, 200) had more than 100 tackles and 12 sacks and averaged 24 yards per kick return. He is said to have run a 4.53 in the 40. Buchanon (6-1, 190) plays running back and safety at Palm Bay and has tallied more than 200 tackles and 14 sacks in the last two years combined.

Blustein has been covering high school football in the state for 36 years and travels around the state watching practices, camps, combines and all of the big games. Honestly, there isn't any opinion I respect more when it comes to Florida prep football than his. So, I asked him for his take on the two commitments.

"McCray, he's just physical. He's the type of guy Miami likes. The Ray Lewis, beat your head in type guy. He's really a very physical football plays. He makes plays. He just jars you."

Blustein just seemed more excited though about Ray Buchanon: "Buchanon is the athlete of the two. He's the Ray_buchanon guy that can cover, drop back real well, play even the strong safety kind of guy. He can go sideline to sideline. He's very quick. He comes from a program at Palm Bay that is loaded every year. So, at practice, he gets tremendous competition. You look at the Reggie Nelson, Joe Cohen type of athletes [Both went to Florida] that have come out of there. He's just another one. He's definitely athletic. He's a lot like [Northwestern's] Sean Spence. He could probably play strong safety if you needed, but play up front and beat your [butt]. I'd compare him to Jessie Armstead. He's that thinnish type guy where everyone says he doesn't look big enough but every time you look down there, he's making a play."

If Miami can hang on to both of them through the recruiting process -- Buchanon will likely get a lot of pressure to go to Florida and McCray says he plays to visit USC, Tennessee, Auburn and Wisconsin -- it would be huge for the Canes. Linebacker is the most important position on defense to me in the Canes 2008 Class. So far, you've got to give new coach Michael Barrow some props for what he's accomplished at least in the early going including getting Broward's best linebacker in Chaminade's Jordan Futch. I've tried to reach Jordan since Monday and we're planning to do a little Q&A in the coming days. Look for it soon.

Something to keep in the back of you hat: As for future UM commitments, don't be surprised to see Booker T. Washington receiver Davon Johnson become the next big name to orally commit to the Canes. I spoke with Booker T. coach Tim "Ice" Harris on Monday who says Johnson (5-11, 180) is eager to get the recruiting process over with and will likely decide within the week. Ice told me South Carolina and Miami have been on him the hardest along with Ohio State, but added he believes Johnson has developed a special relationship with UM receivers coach Marquis Mosely. Harris told me Johnson, a state finalist in both the 200 and 400 meters in track, has consistently been timed at 4.3 in camps this summer. He says Johnson has been receiving special instruction -- along with the rest of Booker T.'s elite recruits -- from one of Harris' former players, Packers cornerback Marquand Manuel (Florida grad) and Bengals receiver Chad Johnson (on occassion) during morning workouts at Booker T. Johnson has a 3.0 GPA and scored a 780 on his SAT, high enough according to Ice for him to get into UM.

If you want to read more about Booker T. Washington, I'm writing a special preview on their big season-opener at Summerville, S.C., the nation's No. 5-ranked team according to Rise Magazine, for Recruitflix.com. Check it out here (RECRUITFLIX.COM).


Onto hoops, where I have to give coach Frank Haith some praise for landing his most highly-touted recruit yet for the Class of 2008 in Los Angeles born 6-7, 240-pound power forward Tyreese Breshers (READ THE STORY). I'm trying to reach Breshers and hopefully will have a Q&A with him soon as well as something on Arkansas transfer Cyrus McGowan.

But for now, I'll give you what I got on Monday on Breshers when I got the chance to speak to his AAU coach Bob Gottlieb (the father of ESPN college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb, and who coached Jacksonville U in the 70s).

"He's the best shot blocker I've ever coached and an excellent defensive rebounder," Gottlieb told me. "He's too good not to get some playing time as a freshman."

Tyreese_breshersFrom what I understand, Haith was one of the first coaches to offer Breshers, long before other schools caught on after Breshers supposedly began tearing up the hardwood at several camps including the May Fisher Easter Classic. One thing I like about him is that he's a winner. At Los Angeles Price High, he led his team to the equivalent of the state semifinals and led his AAU team Branch West Reebok to a 31-4 record and No. 25 ranking nationally. In the video I saw of him, he kind of looked like a bigger version of Sir Charles Barkley. He grabbed rebounds with authority and dunked with it too, soaring above the rim in the footage I watched of him on Scout.com. But when I mentioned the comparison to Barkley, Gottlieb snuffed at it.

"Barkley was the Round Mound of Rebound," Gottlieb said. "He wasn't good until he lost all that weight. Tyrese is big strong power forward who can play with his back to the basket. I know he's listed by some people at 6-6. But he's really more 6-7, 6-7 and half. But he plays 6-9 and jumps very well. He's also a sensational kid. 3.0 GPA, full qualifier. Very coachable. Washington, Washington State, UCLA, Boston College all liked him. But he went to Miami and fell in love with the place. He's a kid in my estimation that is right on the border of being recruited by the Top 10 programs in the country. But everybody else in the country would take him in a heartbeat."

Haith is supposed to give me a call when he gets back from his recruiting trails next week and I'm hoping to talk cover a lot of ground with him, including what Lance Hurdle, Edwin Rios and others have been up to during the summer, why Dwayne Collins didn't make the Team USA Under-19 team, and how Anthony King has been progressing.

Something to keep in the back of your hat: Plantation American Heritage center Eloy Vargas (6-10, 205) is expected to make a decision soon. He told Scout.com Miami was in his top six alongside, Ohio State, Louisville, Florida, Florida State, and Pittsburgh. Vargas is Scout.com's No. 46 prospect and likely the next domino to fall in UM's recruiting process. If the Canes get him, they're finished with the Class of 2008. 

OK. That's all I've got for now. But I'm sure to be warming up soon for a strong comeback when I'm officially back at work on July 23. For now, feel free to chime in on Northwestern, football recruiting and what you think about Breshers.

I'm out.

July 04, 2007

Keeping Score (Recruiting, Part II)

I hope you all enjoyed my first take on UM's football recruiting efforts. Here is the second part, focusing on UM's defense.

Defensive tackle: The Canes currently have eight guys on the roster who could play tackle and will lose two after this season including their top talent, senior Teraz McCray. 2008 commitments: Palm Beach Lakes' Jeremy Lewis (6-3, 280, No. 13 by Rivals), Pahokee's Micanor Regis (6-3, 305, MarcusforstonNo. 22 by Rivals), California's Justin Thompson (6-5, 280). Thompson, a JUCO standout at El Camino (where Kayne Farquharson attended) is considered the star of the early commitments, rated 5-stars by Scout.com. Other targets: Miami Northwestern's Marcus Forston (6-2, 285, No. 2 by Rivals) and Benjamin Jones (6-6, 280, No. 24 strongside defensive end by Rivals) and Georgia's Brandon Thompson (6-2, 290, No. 6 DT by Rivlas). The insight: Forston is the most talented defensive player on Northwestern's roster and a player highly coveted by the Canes. He lists UM among his favorites, but could be another silent Northwestern commitment to UM. The dream scenario is Miami gets Justin Thompson and Forston. But landing both could be tough. Both are big targets and Justin Thompson has listed Miami as a soft commitment with LSU and Ohio State right behind. Brandon Thompson has reportedly been a strong Clemson lean, but is said to be visiting UM soon. He also likes Georgia Tech and Florida State accoridng to Rivals.com. My take: UM will end up between three an five defensive lineman depending on what's available. Forston, Lewis, Regis and Justin Thompson would be quite a foresome at tackle.

Defensive end: There isn't a senior on the roster at end, but many expect Calais Campbell (6-8, 282) to Corey_liugetbe highly coveted by the NFL after this coming season. 2008 commitments: None yet. Other targets: Texas's Damion Square (6-3, 260, No. 38 strongside end by Rivals.com), Hialeah High's Corey Liuget (6-3, 230, No. 11 strongside defensive end by Rivals.com) and Alabama's William Green (6-4, 215, No. 2 weakside defensive end by Rivals.com). The insight: Green recently cut Miami out of his top seven, but that's not to say the Canes couldn't sneak back in. Square is the nephew of former Cane John Square. Liuget, who has risen up the recruiting charts, is the primary focus of UM's recruiting efforts. He played alongside 2007 signee Adewale Ojomo. My take: With so much youth on the roster, I think this is a position UM can settle to get one to two players at this position and survive. I think Liuget and Square will end up following their family and friends to UM.

Linebackers: This is the one position that has disappointed Canes fans the most over the last couple seasons and could certainly use an infusion of talent. With three seniors set to leave -- including a pair of experienced starters in Glenn Cook and Tavares Gooden -- new assistant Michael Barrow has been hitting the recruiting circles hard and has already netted one of the nation's top 10 at his position. Expect more to follow. 2008 commitments: Hollywood Chaminade's JordanfutchJordan Futch (6-4, 200, 4.56, No. 6 OLB by Rivals). Futch is a good kid, good student and a great first commitment for the Canes. Other targets: There are a littany of names out there. Nationally, there is Brendan Beal (6-4, 235, 4.5. No. 3 SLB by Scout), Utah's Lynn Katoa (6-2, 220, 4.6, No. 4 MLB by Rivals), Connecticut's Jonathan Meyers (6-1, 220, No. 9 MLB by Scout), Georgia's Ebele Okakpu (6-1, 201, 4.63, No. 18 MLB by Rivals) Kansas' Arthur Brown (6-1, 210, 4.4, No. 1 MLB by Scout) and Tennessee's Antonio Harper (6-4, 220, 4.6, No. 21 SLB by Scout). Locally, there is Miami Dr. Krop's Etienne Sabino (6-3, 230, 4.6, No. 5 MLB by Rivals), Homestead's Marcus Robinson (6-2, 210, 4.57, No. 4 OLB by Rivals), Dunnellon's Lerentee McCray (6-2, 200, 4.5, No. 5 WLB by Scout.com), Melbourne Palm Bay's Ramon Buchanon (6-0, 181, No. 1 WLB by Scout.com) and Miami orthwestern's Sean Etienne_sabinoSpence (6-0, 185, 4.5, No. 19 by Rivals). The insight: I'll start with Arthur Brown, who is considered the nation's best player by Scout.com and who has narrowed Miami into his Top 22. He will visit UM during his Summer Tour from July 18-27. Meyers, whose father went to Florida, recently listed the Gators and Michigan as his top two. Beal lists USC and Florida as his top two. Harper lists UM in his top three with Georgia Tech and Florida, but visited UM unofficially and is close friends with Graig Cooper. Buchanan lists Miami in the top three with Florida and Wake Forest. Robinson hasn't listed a group of favorites, but with Barrow, his former defensive coordinator now at UM, one would imagine the Hurricanes have a strong shot. McCray told Rivals he grew up a Hurricanes fan, but his mother loves the Gators. He lists UM, UF, Auburn, LSU, FSU, Tennessee and Wisconsin as his leaders but likes the Canes best. Katoa recently told Rivals he listed UM in his top five alongside Texas, Oklahoma, FLorida, Miami and USC. But he seemed to be really high on the Longhorns. Okakpu recently visited North Carolina and is high on the Heels. My take: The Canes will load up at linebacker, especially with the run of talent locally. I think in the end, Futch will be joined by three out of the following five -- Sabino, Robinson, Buchanon, McCray or Spence.

Cornerbacks: This is the one position in the last three seasons I felt Miami has actually managed to maintain its strong level of talent at, getting local talents in Chavez Grant and Doug Wiggins. Glenn Sharpe is the only senior set to depart after this coming season, but after that Miami has three juniors Patrickjohnson and a need for at least one or two corners in the Class of 2008. 2008 commitments: Pompano Ely's Patrick Johnson (6-1, 193, 4.47, No. 1 cornerback by Scout.com). Johnson recently expressed interest in USC after commiting to the Hurricanes in April. Other targets: Tallahassee Lincoln's T.J. Bryant (6-0, 185, 4.45, No. 1 corner by Rivals.com), Miami Booker T. Washington's Brandon Harris (5-10, 175, 4.45, No. 8 corner by Rivals.com), Pahokee's Janoris Jenkins (5-10, 170, 4.6), Orlando Boone's Jeremy Brown (5-10, 165), Cocoa High's David Rowe (5-10, 190, 4.55), Miami Krop's Travis Howard (6-0, 175, 4.43), Texas's Ugo Okpara (6-1, 175, 4.45) and Georgia's Terrance Parks (6-1, 200). The insight: Brown appears to be the only player Miami is out of the running for. Rowe says the Canes are in his top two with South Florida, where his brother pitches for the baseball team. My take: The Canes will end up getting at least two great cornerbacks. My picks are Brandon Harris and Johnson. If Miami can hold onto Johnson, Harris and get Bryant too, it would be the best cornerback trio in UM history.

Safeties: Willie Cooper is the only senior on the roster, but he probably won't be the only player to leave UM after the 2007 season. Junior Kenny Phillips could be gone too with a stellar season, leaving the Canes in need of getting at least one safety in 2008. 2008 commitments: Fort Lauderdale Boyd Anderson's Joe Wylie (6-2, 170, 4.5, No. 19 by Rivals.com). Other targets: North Carolina's Spencer Will_hill Adams (6-2, 180, 4.44, No. 11 by Rivals.com), Delray Beach Atlantic's Karnell Hatcher (6-2, 186, No. 14 by Rivals.com), Texas's Victor Johnson (6-1, 175, 4.5, No. 16 by Rivals.com), Jacksonville Sandalwood's A.J. Grant (6-2, 190, 4.45, No. 15 by Scout.com), New Jersey's Will Hill (6-3, 195, 4.50), Georgia's Darrell Simmons (6-2, 196, 4.5, No. 36 by Scout.com), Alabama's Burton Scott (5-10, 190, 4.45, No. 18 receiver by Scout.com). The insight: Hill, considered the No. 1 athlete in the country by Rivals.com, recently listed UM among his final eight schools. Adams, a track standout, told Scout.com in May that he really liked Miami a lot and listed the Canes among his favorites which include Michigan, Clemson and North Carolina. Hatcher listed Miami in his top five with LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and West Virginia. But he seems to like LSU and Alabama best. Johnson, who also runs track, calls Miami his dream school and lists them among his top two with Oklahoma State. Simmons listed UM after Alabama, but ahead of Florida, Ohio State, Michigan and Tennessee when interviewed by Scout.com last month. Scott, whom Miami is recruiting as a defensive back, told Scout he likes Florida a little better than FSU, Miami and Alabama. He will likely decide early. My take: Miami wouldn't mind landing two talents here, but I suspect they'll take the three best defensive backs available with a possible fourth regardless of position.


Before I go this was the third question I was asked to give my opinion on for the Rick George's blog. Figured it would make anoither good topic for you to chew on during these boring summer months. FYI, he's asked reporters from all over the country to take part in talking college football and is running an interesting series on some of the country's top programs like Florida, Tennessee, USC, Notre Dame, Penn State, Auburn, LSU and Texas. So far, Nebraska and Ohio State. Check it out here.
3. Who do you hate more as a rival - Florida, Florida State, Virginia Tech, or Notre Dame - and why?
Another great question that is awfully tough to answer. For Miami fans, no team is honestly a better rival than Florida State. The games, the battles have always been classic. No two programs mirror each other more as far as the players are concerned. The speed is equal. The talent is usually equal. I think if you asked a Canes fan, they'd say their favorite rivalry is with Florida State because the Seminoles are really the only team Miami has played on a yearly basis for a long time. But the most hated? That's a whole 'nother topic. While Notre Dame is a program UM fans hated during the 1980s when the teams actually met on the field, Miami has not played the Irish since 1990. And while there will always be a special place of hate for Notre Dame, no team is more disliked than the Gators. Florida, now at the top of the college football world, ducked UM when it was on its own magical ride and backed out of the annual series because they didn't like get blasted by the Canes. UM fans took their beatings from Florida in the 1960s and 1970s and never liked the fact the Gators decided to take a step back after 1987 and only renewed the series in 2002 after UM had gone through its struggles in the 1990s. So, to most Canes fans, the most hated rival has to be the Gators.

July 03, 2007

Keeping Score (Recruiting, Part I)

Every year, I make part of my summer vacation to get deeply rooted into recruiting. Not because I'm one of those sickos who hangs onto every word of a teenager, but because I like to get an idea of where Hurricane football coaches are spending their energy trying to bring in reinforcements. It's a good way to see where they think they need the most help and may not have enough talent.

So, for the past two days, I've made phone calls to my sources and scoured the two recruiting websites who spend the most energy on recruiting: Rivals and Scout.com to study up on the recruiting efforts. My goal is to create a recruiting cheat sheet for not only me, but for you to follow in the months and days leading up to the first Wednesday in February 2008. Yes, National Signing Day is a long time away. But when these names come up from now on, they will no longer be foreign to those of you who do not subscribe to the aforementioned websites.

By my count, there will be 16 seniors who will be leaving UM after the 2007 season. Through attrition and with what I expect to be the losses of juniors Calais Campbell and Kenny Phillips with early entry into the NFL Draft, my number of available scholarships for 2008 comes out to about 22. It's not a fact, just an estimate by my math. So far, the Canes have 10 early commitments. Some of them solid. Others not.

Instead of simply listing names here, I went ahead and broke down the recruiting picture by position based on the needs and info I was able to gather from reading up and talking to a few folks in the know. Today, I'll start with UM's focus on offense.

Quarterback: With Kyle Wright graduating after this season and Robert Marve waiting in the wings to Jacoryharristake over, the Hurricanes have already netted two commitments -- Miami Northwestern High's Jacory Harris (6-4, 170, 4.8, No. 6 dual-threat QB according to Rivals.com) and Texas' Taylor Cook (6-7, 210, 4.63, No. 16 dual-threat QB according to Rivals). Other targets: None at the moment. The insight: Harris was The Herald's Offensive Player of the Year and led the Bulls to the Class 6A title last season. Just last week, he was invited to participate in the EA Sports Elite 11 Camp in California. Cook is considered more of a project although his size and arm strength are very appealing. My take: Miami appears to only want two scholarship quarterbacks and has filled the need already -- although Cook could end up straying. He recently told Rivals he isn't sure if he would take other trips and mentioned he was still being contacted by LSU and Rice.

Running backs: Charlie Jones is the only senior on the roster and player expected to be gone after 2007. Getting a big name here could be tough for the Canes considering their top two Darrell_scottbacks, Javarris James and Graig Cooper, are a sophomore and freshman. 2008 commitments: None yet. The targets: Texas's Sam McGuffie (6-0,l 88, 4.32, the No. 1 all-purpose back in the country according to Rivals.com) and Cyrus Gray (6-0, 190, 4.4, No. 8 overall running back according to Rivals) and California's Darrell Scott (6-0, 204, 4.4, No. 1 overall RB according to Rivals). The insight: Only Scott was recently quoted mentioning UM. Locally, there really isn't anything special. Locally, Chris Anderson, the leading rusher in Broward last season, has struggled to net many offers and could be tainted goods. My take: Considering how many running back scholarships were handed out in the last two-plus seasons, tailback really is not a pressing need. I wouldn't be surprised to see UM end up with only one recruit.

Receivers: With three seniors on the roster and the fact there is still a pressing need for a big-time playmaker until proven otherwise, look for the Canes to follow up last year's high volume scholarship spending with another big spending year in 2008. 2008 Thearon_colliercommitments: Booker T. Washington's Thearon Collier. The 5-9, 163-pound senior has 4.5-speed and is a deep threat. But he isn't the big NFL receiver the Canes have sorely missed since Andre Johnson was last seen hauling in passes from Ken Dorsey. The targets: The Hurricanes do not need to go far to fill their needs. Miami Northwestern's Aldarius Johnson (6-3, 200, 4.45, No. 6 by Rivals.com) and Tommy Streeter (6-5, 200, 4.6, No. 29 by Scout.com), Booker T. Washington's Davon Johnson (5-11, 161, 4.3), Pahokee's Martavious Odoms (5-8, 164, 4.57), Glades Central receiver Travis Benjamin (5-11, 160, 4.45) and Lakeland Kathleen's T.J. Lawrence (6-2, 190, 4.5, No. 37 receiver by Scout.com). Nationally, there is Alabama's Julio Jones (6-4, 215, Rivals No. 1 receiver), Mississippi's DeAndre Brown (6-6, 208, 4.62, Scout.com No. 7 receiver), Kentucky's Aaron Boyd (6-4, 195, 4.6, No. 40 by Rivals), Georgia's Josh Harboe (6-3, 195, 4.45, No. 14 by Scout.com). The insight: Aldarius Johnson could already be a silent commitment. Benjamin has a 2.8 GPA and scored a 17 on his ACT. I'd be shocked if UM just didn't take the four Dade kids. Outside of Dade, only Boyd currently lists UM high on his list. My take: There is a ton of talent available and interested in UM. Ultimately, I think UM will end up taking four receivers. To me, the local kids are the best ones.

Tight ends: The run of first round talent at The U from this position is likely over with the departure of Greg Olsen. UM has four underclassmen at this position in juniors Dajleon Farr and Chris Zellner sophomores Dedrick Epps and Richard Gordon, who moved back over to offense after Jonathan_baldwinspending the year on defense. 2008 commitments: None yet. The targets: Pennsylvania's Jonathan Baldwin (6-6, 225, 4.4, No. 2 by Rivals) and Mark Wedderburn (6-6, 235, 4.65, No. 21 by Rivals), California's Blake Ayles (6-4, 235, 4.7, No. 3 by Rivals) and Louisiana's Tyler Edwards (6-4, 238, 4.7). The insight: Baldwin told Canesport he would likely be visiting UM in July and listed the Canes in his Top 10. Ayles listed UM among Ohio State, Wisconsin, USC, Arizona State and California. Wedderburn's brother went to Penn State and the Nittany Lions are believed to be in the lead for him. Edwards visited UM last month and has the Canes among his top four alongside LSU, Alabama and Florida. Locally, the Canes also have a decent option in Coral Springs Academy's Bo Reliford (6-6, 235, 4.80). My take: Miami would love to get a big talent at tight end, but getting more than one tight end isn't necessary. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if UM didn't sign any tight ends in 2008.

Offensive line: Miami has 15 lineman on scholarship and six will be gone in the next two seasons, four of which are expected to be starters or play significantly next season -- center/guard Derrick Morse, guard Andrew Bain, tackle Reggie Youngblood and guard/tackle Chris Rutledge. Jason Fox, the only starting sophomore, could be gone too by 2009 with early entry to the NFL Draft. That being said the Hurricanes netted a potential three-year starter at center in Harland Gunn and have a talent in sophomore Matt Pipho. 2008 commitments: Miami Northwestern's Brandon BrandonwashingtonWashington (6-4, 315, rated No. 6 guard by Rivals.com). Washington told me he still wants to take his trips and is not a done deal, although I'd be surprised if he didn't go to UM considering new assistant Corey Bell coached him at Miami Edison High. Other targets: While Lakeland Lake Gibson's Ricky Barnum (6-2, 260, No. 21 guard by Rivals.com) could end up being the second guard in the class, the Canes appear to be spending most of their efforts trying to land a tackle. There are two local big names in Monsingor Pace's Greg Shaw (6-5, 270, No. 12 offensive tackle by Rivals) and Miami Columbus High's Mike Goodman (6-5, 270, No. 28 offensive tackle by Rivals). Other big names with UM interest are Seffner Armwood's Matt Patchan (6-7, 270, No. 5 offensive tackle by Scout), Tennessee's Barrett Jones (6-5, 270, No. 17 by Rivals) and Preston Bailey (6-5, 315, No. 20 by Scout) and North Carolina's R.J. Mattes (6-6, 260, No. 29 by Scout) and Andrew Wallace (6-6, 260, No. 40 by Rivals). The insight: All are considered top 40 nationally by Rivals at their position. Shaw is the younger brother of former Hurricane linebacker Willie Williams, who is now at Louisville. Last month when I spoke to Shaw, he told me Miami had offered him and his brother's troubles at Miami would not scare him from staying home. Plus, the thought of staying home entices him because of his young daughter. But I suspect Shaw will end up following his older brother to Louisville. Goodman could end up picking Miami, but he strikes me as someone who is very interested in getting away from home. Wallace told Scout he grew up an N.C. State fan. Bailey recently mentioned to Rivals Miami among his offers, but didn't mention them when he talked about taking a visit. My take: Miami will end up taking at least three offensive lineman in this class. At least one tackle is imperative. Right now, though, it appears they have some work to do. None of the aforementioned kids were extremely high on UM.


OK, that's what I have on the offense. The defense will be coming tomorrow. Before I go, though, this was the second question I was asked to give my opinion on for the Rick George's blog. Figured it would make good topic for you to chew on too. FYI, he's asked reporters from all over the country to take part in talking college football and is running an interesting series on some of the country's top programs like Florida, Tennessee, USC, Notre Dame, Penn State, Auburn, LSU and Texas. So far, Nebraska and Ohio State. Check it out here.

Q: What is the greatest Miami football game that you have seen - whether it be in-person or on television?  Explain the game and why it was so great.
A: Wow. How in the world do you pick just one? If I could, I'd pick the entire UM-Florida State series and all of the Wide Rights and the Wide Left, the first national championship game in 1983, the 2002 national title game (Yes, I know they lost to Ohio State, but what a game), the great comebacks at Michigan in 1988, against the hated Gators at home in 2003 and any of the big wins against Notre Dame, Nebraska and Oklahoma. But honestly, of all the great games to choose, I'd have to go with the 1998 home game against third-ranked UCLA. The Hurricanes were not ranked and had just lost 66-13 at Syracuse the week before. It seemed like for every step forward the program was taking under Butch Davis, a bad loss to Virginia Tech, Syracuse or some other Big East school was holding the Canes back. Then, UCLA walked into the Orange Bowl looking for a spot in the national title game. Edgerrin James ran wild and Miami won possibly its most important game on the comeback trail from scholarship reductions and the dreadful 5-6 season of 1997. The game was back-and-forth and while likely not the most exciting, the most meaningful because it helped net the recruits that would make up the 2001 national title team and put the Canes back on the map.