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33 posts from November 2007

November 30, 2007

Time to defend myself

I know some of you have taken offense to some of the latest blogs, taken the Randy Shannon Q&A and the correction I ran yesterday as if I was trying to put down The U, make coach Shannon look bad or generate some sort of controversy.

If anyone of you know anything about me, nothing could be further from the truth. I was born in this city and have lived it in for 29 years. I grew up at the Orange Bowl. Am I a journalist? Yes. That's my job. But I also feel like a member of this community first and foremost. I love my job. I love covering the University of Miami. I love watching the kids in our neighborhoods grow up first hand, from their high school days until the day they get drafted. I consider it a privilege. I'm saddened, even to tears in some occasions, when the are tragically shot and killed the way Sean Taylor was earlier this week.

Since Taylor was shot on Monday, I've been requested -- like many other reporters who cover the Canes -- to talk about the incident. The O'Reilly Factor called. ESPN. FoxNews. Randyshannon CNN. Everybody who called wanted two things -- information on the investigation and for me to talk about "the ongoing dilemma at the University of Miami." You know what is happening. You aren't stupid. You've seen how the national media has wanted to come in here and smear The U. They want to throw more dirt on it and use Taylor as its excuse. I haven't wanted to be a part of it -- at all. I could care less about face time, fame. This story isn't about me. It's about Sean Taylor and nothing else. The only interview I did was with CNN -- and that's because they came down to the BankUnited Center, where I was covering a basketball game, to do it.

The first question thown my way: Why does this keep happening at the University of Miami? My response was simple and sounded a lot like coach Shannon's on Tuesday -- this has nothing to do with the University of Miami. There's only been one murder on this campus and that was Marlin Barnes, I told the reporter. We talked for 10 more minutes about Bryan Pata and how people around here really feel about it and how they are upset and hope Taylor's investigation doesn't last nearly as long.

On Tuesday, when Susan Miller Degnan and I spoke with coach Shannon. All I wanted to do, aside from finding out more about this team, was give him a place to defend his program. I knew what was coming. I knew what some of the people in my profession we're going to come with. So, we threw him a question so he could say what he wanted about Miami's image. He defended it. Since I was taught to do my job the right way, I wasn't about to censor anything he said. I gave it to you just like it came out of his mouth. That's my job, last I checked.

Fast forward a day, I get up and before I can even turn on my laptop, Susan is calling me. Coach Shannon's Q&A has already been edited -- without my permission -- and there is a storm brewing from Florida Gator and Ohio State fans who aren't happy with what Shannon said. In this profession, when somebody says something factually wrong, it is our responsibility to clarify it and not mislead the reader. Shannon spoke of his best friend, Walter Odom, being shot and killed in Gainesville. He "misspoke." Odom never got shot and killed in Gainesville. But he was stabbed at a party. I should have never posted it. I should have checked that fact before hand. I didn't. I was wrong. It needed to be corrected. We fixed it and ran a correction. Before that, I called UM Sports Information director Mark Pray to try to give coach a shot at correcting himself. Maybe, he got confused. Pray didn't want to make more of it, so he declined my request and said Shannon simply "misspoke."

You want to call me irresponsible for trying to fix a mistake, go ahead. But one thing you should never confuse me for is somebody trying to put this university down or trying to put coach Shannon in a position to say something wrong. If he does that on his own, that's not my fault. I can't answer for him. In the end, all he was trying to do was protect this school's image which has taken more of a beating than anyone else in America. All he was trying to do was remind people that the University of Miami isn't the only school in America who has had athletes get in trouble or get shot and killed. All he was trying to do is make sure people don't forget the only Hurricane to get into an off-the-field issue this season was freshman Robert Marve. Did he go too far to make his point? I'm sure Gator, Buckeyes and some other fans feel that way. Did he give me some misinformation about Odom? Yes.

But one thing he didn't do was censor himself. He said exactly how he felt. And all I did was report it in it's entirety, without a slant, without an agenda. I'm sorry if you guys have a problem with that. But last I checked that was my job. And that's all I'm trying to do, even if others in my line of work don't know how to do it without getting their fingers dirty.

The greatest irony here is that so many people outside of this profession complain about how quotes or comments are taken out of context. I give you the whole pie and now some of you want to take it out of context to serve your own agenda. And I'm the bad one!

November 29, 2007

Shannon "misspoke"

On Monday, Susan Miller Degnan and I had an exclusive interview with coach Randy Shannon, as he's made his way through different interviews with reporters this week.

Shannon talked about a lot of things, including the image of the University of Miami in the wake of Sean Taylor's shooting death earlier this week. Earlier today, my editors deleted a portion of that interview because it was false. The following is the direct Q&A -- word for word.

----------------------------------------------------
Q: I think its all because of the history…
A: But what history? My best friend Walter Odom got killed at the University of Florida, shot, when I was at school at the University of Miami.
----------------------------------------------------

According to Miami Herald archives, Odom was never shot or killed at the University of Florida. He was, however, stabbed at a party in Gainesville in 1989. It was two years after he was done playing as a Gator. Odom, a standout at American High who befriended Shannon in Northwest Miami, later died in 2002 from a long illness at age 36.
http://www.sptimes.com/2002/02/06/Sports/Two_could_be_picked_i.shtml

Just an hour ago, I asked UM Sports Information director Mark Pray if I could speak with Shannon. He said "Coach Shannon realizes he misspoke," and declined an interview request.

Shannon proceeded to make one further comment that The Miami Herald could not substantiate and felt was necessary to delete from the website regarding guns and the University of Florida. Here is the rest of that quote that had been previously deleted.

Q: But obviously though there’s kids that live off campus. But what do you tell parents about that?
A: We show them the neighborhoods. Everybody else in the country lives off campus and they still have the same problems. But their newspaper don’t beat them up about it. Like our newspaper beats us up about it. I know you guys are doing your job, you got to beat us up about it. But then understand we just want a fair shot. At Ohio State, do you realize you had more things happen at Ohio State more than anything. You think we’ve been bad? Go check out Ohio State, guys who have been arrested, bar fights. Everything at Ohio State and you’d think University of Miami was angels. Florida the same...

Guest Blogger: Taylor was my idol

Lelan LeDoux, a staff sports writer for The Miami Hurricane, the University of Miami student newspaper, asked me if he could voice his thoughts on Sean Taylor. Lelan, who I see at football practices and basketball games, deserved his shot. And here it is...

NOTE: Please take a visit over to themiamihurricane.com

From the days when he laid his body on the line here at the U to his best performance in the NFL, Taylor was not just a football player, but an idol to me.

I was always inspired by how much heart he showed on the field. Any Hurricane fan would be heartened by his play. We will all remember the two interceptions he had against Ohio State in the 2002 BCS National Championship game during his sophomore year. We will remember the spectacular performances he had against rival Florida State and the game when he completely shut down Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. We all know he tied a school record with ten interceptions in a season and was a finalist the Jim Thorpe award that year. We all know he was called “Meast” by his teammates because he was half man and half beast on the field. “Meast” was truly one of the best defensive backs in school history and was on his way to the top in the NFL.

Even though I’m not on the football team, Sean Taylor was the main reason why I came to the University of Miami—the main reason. Taylor was always an inspiration to me and I want to walk in the footsteps of this phenomenal athlete even though it won’t be in the same way on the football field.

For my senior high school senior pictures, I wore his jersey. I was always so anxious to turn watch the Redskins game just to see number 21 out there. Earlier this year I was shot and spent multiple days in the hospital. My situation occurred in a different way when one stray bullet of thirty-two fired struck me in the stomach. I thought my injury was difficult, but seeing what Taylor went through helped me put my injury in perspective. A massive amount of blood was lost due to the gunshot wound to his femoral artery in his upper thigh. Then he fell into a coma and he later couldn’t recover, though he showed signs of improvement. I was truly fortunate to survive my injury, but it breaks my heart not to see my idol pull through.

I had faith that this strong man was going to survive heading to sleep Monday night but there was still something in me that didn’t feel right. I was startled early Tuesday morning to know that the man touched me passed away.

I couldn’t stop myself from showing emotion knowing that this man was displaying progress in changing his life off the field for the better. I was proud not to hear Taylor’s name mentioned in any negative context for the past year and a half. The Hurricane nation was accustomed to hearing Taylor’s name associated with character issues and controversy, but since he has had his daughter, family and friends close to Taylor have said he matured immensely.

His maturity was shown drastically on and off the field. Taylor proved what type of player he had become when for he already had a career-high five interceptions in nine games before injuring his knee this season. He was on pace to appear in his second consecutive Pro Bowl.

But now it is all gone and it is completely shocking.

We will no longer see the bone-crushing hits on Sundays and intense attitude he brings to the game. In his finest season in his career, his life was taken. The Hurricane community will never forget the man who I found to my idol.

Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at l.ledoux@umiami.edu.

Guest Blogger: When will it end?

I know I didn't leave this open for everyone to compete to be a guest blogger on this subject, BG1906 -- Bryce Gaylor asked me if he could write on Sean Taylor and I figured, why not? He's been a voice on this blog for a long time. And I'll always have room for friends... Here is Bryce's take on Sean's death.

Damn…When will it end?

I was awakened yesterday morning by my wife as she was preparing to leave for work. As she always does, she gave me a soft kiss on my forehead and told me that she loves me. I told her that Bryce_gaylor I love her as well, and to be safe out there. She said ok, but this morning she had something more to say. She informed me that it had been reported that Miami Hurricane great and current Washington Redskin Sean Taylor had died from the gun shot wound he had received a day earlier. Wow! I was numb! I immediately woke from my slumber in a state of shock, and all I could say was DAMN! Not only damn because a beloved brother from The U had been slain in a senseless act of violence, but damn because a man’s family, friends, teammates, and fans were robbed of a son, a father, a future husband, a friend, and for the Legion of Hurricane fans, a true Cane through and through.

While I no longer reside in South Florida, I can only imagine the pain being felt down there by the tragic loss of one of our own. As a current resident of the Washington, DC area, I can truly say that this is one of the saddest days I can remember since moving here in 1987 as a high school freshman. The entire DC Metro area—No, in fact the entire Mid-Atlantic region from Washington, DC up to Boston (which I like to refer to as Hurricane Alley because of the sheer number of Hurricane players that play pro football in this region: Ray Lewis, Willis McGahee, Ed Reed, Clinton Portis, Rocky McIntosh, Santana Moss, Jerome McDougal, Najeh Davenport, Jeremy Shockey, Sinorice Moss, William Joseph, Jeff Feagles, Jonathan Vilma, Roscoe Parrish, Kevin Everett, Orien Harris, Vince Wilfork, Brandon Meriweather, and Santonio Thomas), seems to be in a somber and melancholy mood. In fact, I have not seen this area affected in such a way over a sports figure since the untimely passing of University of Maryland basketball great, Len Bias. The outpouring of love and the signs of admiration for Sean in this area have been amazing. I live near FedEx field and fan tributes and memorials have been erected there, as well in Ashburn, VA (Redskins Park). Fans in this area have shown how much they had grown to love and respect Sean for his unrelenting prowess on the football field.

Unfortunately, however, many local media outlets, rather than focusing solely on the tragedy of this event, have also tried to paint a picture of Sean as an out of control pro athlete, who was just beginning to get his life together. However, being a life long UM fan and having watched Taylor since his days at UM, I happen to disagree with that assessment. What I will always remember about Sean Taylor is that while at UM he was a model citizen and student athlete whose spectacular play helped us to what should’ve been 2 consecutive National Championships (I’ll never give Ohio State credit). I never recall Sean getting in any trouble whatsoever during his time at UM. In fact, I don’t recall him having any issues at all until he made it to the NFL and money was introduced into the equation. Money always changes things; for a young, black male to finally have that kind of money, you can understand why the late Notorious B.I.G. once said, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” Was Sean was perfect? No. Did he make some youthful mistakes (DUI, spitting at an opposing player, taking law into his own hands with stolen ATVs)? Sure he did, but how many of us haven’t? “Let him without sin cast the first stone!” Despite the negative media, I don’t believe any of those things will be what Sean is remembered for, nor will those things define the legacy that he has left.

What I will remember about Sean Taylor is that he will always and forever be one of the best to wear that orange, green, and white. I will remember him as an NFL star that was just beginning to realize his potential not only as an NFL superstar, but as a responsible person and a respectable man. He was a man who was accepting his role and responsibilities as a father and future husband before being taken away by a senseless act of violence. And for what? This wasn’t a case of a man who had gone out partying and was a targeted by jealous onlooker because of who he was, resulting in an altercation that lead to an unfortunate ending; but, this was the case of a man who was in his home doing what he was supposed to do: taking care of his family. That’s what I’ll always remember him for!

I sincerely thank Manny for this time to speak, and I do not want to use this brief moment in time to go on a social diatribe on the societal ills that affect Black America; however, I would feel remiss as a black male if I didn’t ask the following question to our young black brothers: When are we going to stop destroying one another? When are we as black men going to wake up? Homicide is the leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 18-24, and, unfortunately, just as with Bryan Pata last year, Sean Taylor now has to be added to that senseless and horrifying statistic.

Unfortunate as that may be, let us not dwell on the negative. Let’s remember Sean for what he truly was: a great teammate, a great friend, a great son, a great father, and a great person. By all accounts, Sean Taylor was on his way to not only becoming a superstar in the NFL, but also a superstar in the game of life. It is unfortunate that we will never get to see how truly bright his star would have shown.

Rest in peace #26. The Legion will never forget you, and your legacy as a true Hurricane will live on forever. We love you, Bro.

Damn…When will it end?
-bg1906 C.C.M.J.T.K.O.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bryce Gaylor is a 34-year old web applications developer from Bowie, MD. "I'm married (wife Maria) with no kids. I was born in Tennessee, but moved to Hollywood, FL when my parents divorced. During my high school years, my family would relocate again to the Washington, D.C. metro area, where I currently reside. I attended Bowie State Univ. (MD) but graduated from U of Maryland-University College. I have a BS in Computer Studies and am working on a dual master’s degree (IT/MBA). I’ve been a Canes fan since I was 8 yrs old. Go Canes!"

November 28, 2007

Canes get little known recruit

The University of Miami once made it regular business to toss recruiting lists out the window and find diamonds in the rough. When it did, it took chances on guys like Ed Reed, Jonathan Vilma and Frank Gore. It paid off handsomely.

The staff believes it may have found another gem in Sebastian River High athlete John Calhoun, a 6-2, 233-pound senior who played fullback, defensive end and linebacker and who committed to defensive coordinator Tim Walton Tuesday. Calhoun is coached by former Hurricane tight end Randy Bethel.

John_calhounIf you never heard of Calhoun (he's the guy blocking the pass left, No. 43), there's a reason. Rivals.com and Scout.com have never heard of him either. But Bethel said Miami is getting the type of player it used to get -- a diamond in the rough. Miami is also the first team to offer Calhoun a scholarship. Calhoun's mother Cindy said her son will be graduating early and enrolling at the school in December.

"He's a lowkey guy, but a tremendous football player,'' Bethel said. "There's not an ounce of fat on him. He runs the hurdles. He's so good, we have play for us all over the field. He sucks up everything on the field."

Sebastian River isn't a high school powerhouse. It finished 3-7. But Calhoun was the team's best player. Bethel said he finished the season with 98 tackles, playing middle linebacker and defensive end.

So, why has no one heard of Calhoun?

"He went to a few camps, but that's all about tests," Bethel said. "He's not a test guy. I think he ran a 4.78 in the 40. But they don't measure football speed. He's so talented, he doesn't worry about stats. He's one of the best blocking tight end in the state. You run behind him, he's going to blow guys up. We ran behind him a ton."

Bethel said Calhoun started for two seasons and was also a special teams standout.

"Miami is doing a fantastic job turning over every rock to find kids this year," Bethel said. "That's what Jimmy [Johnson] did. And Randy [Shannon] is going to be successful doing the same thing. It's all about heart and getting good football players. That's it."

* I've been told the Hurricanes also may have already received a commitment from Illinois kicker Jake Wieclaw, but I'm trying to reach him to confirm it.

UM plans to honor Sean Taylor

The University of Miami has announced its plans to honor Sean Taylor. The school released this just moments ago...

The University of family mourns the tragic loss of alumnus Sean Taylor, who died Tuesday. Taylor, a safety on the Hurricanes football team from 2001 to 2003 who became a star player with the Washington Redskins, was beloved by countless 'Canes, colleagues, and fans throughout the community and across the nation.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of former Hurricane Sean Taylor," said University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala. "Sean was not only a member of the University of Miami family, but he was a hometown star athlete with a promising, brilliant career in the National Football League before him. We all mourn his loss, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."

The University is organizing several activities in Taylor's memory:

* On Sunday, December 2, immediately following the 4 p.m. Hurricanes men's basketball game (at 6 p.m.), a candlelight vigil will be held on the lawn adjoining the BankUnited Center's Hurricane 100 Room. All members of the University community as well as the general public are encouraged to attend.

* At Wednesday's and Sunday's Hurricanes men's basketball game and Sunday's football banquet and awards ceremony, a moment of silence will be observed in Taylor's memory.

* On Thursday and Friday the UM Student Government will have students sign a banner in the University Center Breezeway that will be given to the Taylor family.

* On Monday, December 3 all members of the UM community are asked to wear orange and green clothing in honor of Taylor.

Shannon exclusive (Part II)

Here is the second part of our exclusive interview with Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon on Tuesday. To listen to the audio interview, visit our audio section. In this take, we talk to him about what the team is doing now, which players did well at the end of the season, how much he and his staff are counting on the incoming freshman class, throwing the ball late in the first half against Boston College and if it was a mistake, and his feelings about whether or not players like Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell should enter the draft early.

Q: What do you do now that the season is over?
A: We’re in the weight room. We’re in the weight room as of today. Everybody is lifting. We just start like we do in spring football. A lot of lifting. And most of the coaches are out recruiting. It’s like spring football without hitting. We’re out lifting, hitting a lot of weights. Getting ready for the upcoming season, that’s what we’re doing.

Q: Did that meeting have kids that aren’t coming back or can’t come back?
A: No. Everyone was there. We talked about what we got to do next season. What we expect out of everybody. Then, I told the seniors what they got to expect out of the draft and the combines and things like that. And that some of the guys might not get invited, but don’t think you’re not good players. Some of you guys will get invited to bowl games. Be honest and up front about the truth about anything that happens. And I told them from our standpoint we can’t release anything [regarding injuries] because we’re a private institution. If somebody says, a coach at the University of Miami said something, we cannot do that unless they sign a release.

Q: So, what’s the atmosphere like? Was it sad? How did they take this loss?
A: I don’t know. Some guys take it differently.

Q: All coacheds are going to be out recruiting? You’re allowed in home visits?
A: Yeah. A lot of coaches went out and did some and they’re doing it the rest of the week.

Q: How would your evaluate your season as a coach?
A: Not very good. We lost games. That’s all. Lost too many games.

Q: Is there anything you would like to do better, not the players, you?
A: We’re evaluating a lot of stuff now as we go along. Me and Coach Nix talked this morning about things we need to do offensively for the upcoming season. Things we need to look at, how we can make our team better.

Q: Nix had complete control of the offense?
A: Yes.

Q: And what about the play everybody is talking about with :52 left in the first half against Boston College?
A: Yes. It was fine. One thing I’m not going to do - and you can tell all your little blog people - 52 seconds left on the clock, if it was the end of the game, its 7-0 what would we do? We’d be in the 2-minute drill trying to get points.

Q: But that’s the end of the game. This was before halftime?
A: 52 seconds is a lot of time to move up the field. No matter how you call it. If you say well, coach gave up. He didn’t want to go for it. Well, next story will be written that coach Shannon has lost confidence in his players, he’s not trying to score any points. So, either way it goes, I’m OK this way, I’m OK that way. So, I’m really not worried about it.

Q: But it was before the half?
A: We need points.

Q: But knowing your offense, you guys have thrown a lot of interceptions, why risk it?
A: I can’t go into games thinking somebody is going to throw a pick. I’ve got to into a game thinking you got to execute what you got called.

Q: But you went in down 14-0 instead of 7-0.
A: It don’t make a difference, we tied the game 14.

Q: But it would have made a difference…
A: It’s not. It wouldn’t. You never know what would have happened. I’m aggressive. You realize I run more fakes than eve?. I’m trying to find a way to win games. I’m not going to sit up here and say we should have gone into the half down 7-0. So you think we should have ran the ball and gone out of the half…

Q: Larry [Coker] did that a lot.
A: I don’t do that. And you always cut throat him all the time [laughter]. There was different personnel. I’m not going to do that. When I tell the players I’m going to be aggressive, I mean that.

Q: Are you meeting with Donna Shalala? Does she meet with the coaches after the season to evaluate?
A: No.

Q: And Paul Dee?
A: No. Me and Paul always talk. We talk every once to three weeks.

Q: How would the athletic director affect you?
A: I don’t worry about that right now.

Q: You have three more years left on your contract?
A: I really don’t know. I can’t remember.

Q: What about facilities?
A: Next week Monday I got to meet with four companies on the locker room and upstairs and the big team meeting room.

Q: Is that from the money the Rock donated?
A: That’s from a lot of money. We’re trying to redo the weight room, meeting room, we’re thinking about redoing that to get it in more of an auditorium style deal. The locker room and some of the stuff upstairs, we’re going to try to redo. And next month, we’re going to live in trailers until about mid to late December until the entire spring football. Locker room and weight room.

Q: What about Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell and the draft?
A: I talked to them today. Kenny is filling out his paper work to see where he’s going to be drafted. Calais is filling out his paperwork. I think the thing that has happened is that too many people have been saying they’re number one picks and not letting those guys go through the proper procedure. I told them go through the procedures. Put your name into the NFL, let them evaluate you and let them tell you where you need to be at. They give you a range.

Q: If somebody is told their range is first round or top of the second round is that a good enough reason to leave?
A: That’s not for me to decide that’s for them to decide. I tell everybody and I use John Vilma and DJ [Williams], everybody wanted them to leave the year before. Oh, they’re going to be players. But when they got their paperwork back, they were third round. John and DJ stayed and they were top 15 picks. That’s the money difference people don’t realize. Devin Hester is doing a great job. Third round money. How much money has he missed?

Q: But Devin Hester is going to be rich soon isn't he?
A: Yeah, but you fail to realize the difference between $5 and $10 million you could have had two or three years ago. No matter what, if he waits, that’s $5 to $10 million he could have had. Now, he gets in the league, no matter what, he’s going to get another contract if he waited a year. So, add that $5 to $10 million that you never would have gotten otherwise.

Q: But here’s what your not saying, it’s the injury?
A: You can get injured just walking out the door. That’s just how it is.

Q: But its football, blown out knees can happen…
A: Its only happened one time, twice that I know of at the University of Miami. Melvin Bratton and Willis McGahee. It hasn’t happened any other time. Ed Reed stayed. Jonathan Vilma stayed. That defensive line.

Q: Frank Gore left and did well…
A: Third round money.

Q: What about Jeremy Shockey? People said he was making a mistake…
A: You got to remember one thing about me, I’m going to let the NFL make decisions. I don’t know if Shockey went through the procedures. Had he gone through it, he would have found out quick. That’s the thing I tell the guys, its your decision, but you got to understand, if you miss out on the money, you can never ever make it back. No matter what anybody says, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it on that second contract. Those $5 or $6 million you missed on that first go around, you’ll never ever get that again. Portis, prime example. My buddy Portis. He and I sat in that office and talked about it. We called some teams, called five teams all of them said second round. He sent his paperwork in, all of them said second round. Portis went second round.

Q: Portis was very upset, too, I remember he walked out of his draft party…
A: He was very upset. He got a lot of money now, but how much money did he miss? A lot. Because if Portis stays, you know he’s going to be a top five pick then.

Q: He was here now because of Sean. Have any of your former guys called you since the shooting?
A: No.

Q: What are you most proud from this season?
A: I look at it from the young guys standpoint all these young guys that have played. It reminds me and I tell everybody it reminds me of when we played Dan, Santana, Reggie, Damione Lewis and those young guys and the next thing you know. The following year, I was gone, but I think we won eight games, then 10 or 11, then the following year, they won it. So, that’s what I’m looking at. I see the progress of these young guys doing a lot of good things here and how they have stayed out of off the field problems during the season. And I said this, we’re going to build a team that does the right things on and off the field. The first thing is we’re building a team that is doing things right off the field. Now, we’re going to take the next step. Now, we’re going to build a team that has the mentality of this what we got to get done, lets work on it, lets create plays, lets get playmakers and get a lot of things that got to get done.

Q: What do you think is your strength? I know a lot of people said defense going into this past season.
A: I don’t know why everybody thought defense was our strength.

Q: Well, you had Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell coming back. Why not?
A: But your missing a valuable part, the middle. You missed your defensive tackle, your middle linebacker and your missing your safety which is Brandon Meriweather. That’s the middle of your defense. If you got those guys, your solid, your very fine in what you can get done. I don’t know what’s going to be the strength. I really don’t. I look at the offensive line, but we got to develop a center. That’s going to be a key ingredient. If we can develop a center, we’ll be fine then. If we don’t we’re going to struggle.

Q: But what about quarterback?
A: If you can’t snap, you can’t do anything.

Q: Right, but let’s say whatever happens, somebody young takes over quarterback, isn’t that hard to expect them to do well right away?
A: No. Because the offensive center has to make the line calls. He’s got to protect that quarterback. If we’re not able to make the line calls, you can forget it.

Q: Who would be the center next year?
A: Right now, we got [A.J.] Trump, Tyler Horne and Matt Pipho. Those are the three that got to compete for it.

Q: Is Trump OK?
A: He flew around. Came back from his injury, did OK.

Q: Are you looking for Glenn [Cook] to come back and be the middle linebacker?
A: Don’t know. It just depends on how we evaluate and when we’re watching film. Whatever the three linebackers are that are the best and give us the best chance to win.

Q: What about linebacker Romeo Davis?
A: He’s coming off his injury. He’s got another year.

Q: How about Daryl Sharpton? How did he do?
A: He did well this season. His last five games, he did well. He’s played a lot of football and he’s learned a lot.

Q: Is the biggest issue with linebacker the fact these guys have so much trouble covering backs and tight ends?
A: The biggest issue with the linebackers is we have no depth. All we had was three guys, if one guy gets nicked, it was always a problem.

Q: Has Spencer Adkins struggled a little bit?
A: He had to learn two positions. And Daryl is a middle linebacker, but he’s an outside linebacker. You don’t want to change Tavares Gooden who did pretty good at middle linebacker. You taught Daryl all of outside and now you got to teach him inside. It was a year that you know what, you had to coach the best out of them, all you can. They did a lot of good things at some point and then a lot of things when the screwed up sometimes.

Q: Any guys going to be switching positions?
A: There’s going to be some guys that switch positions and we’re evaluating that now as we watch some film. We’ll talk to some guys over the next couple of weeks. This is what we expect out of you by next year and compete at this position.

Q: Kylan Robinson is a guy that switched to linebacker…
A: He switched to linebacker because he really wasn’t a fullback. A guy that we just needed to just go and knock people off the ball. He’s not that guy. But he’s a good athlete.

Q: How about Colin McCarthy?
A: Colin did good when he was healthy. Colin is really a true freshman. Everybody thinks he’s a sophomore. Colin didn’t play much his freshman year. Really, I’m not even sure if he played at linebacker. I think he just played special teams for the most part.

Q: So which freshmen that were on special teams or the scout team do you feel is going to be able to contribute right away next year?
A: I really don’t know. I know offensive coaches talk about [Adewale] Ojomo. They love this guy. And usually when the offense is ranting and raving about somebody, that’s big. Harland Gunn and Tyler Horne did a good job on scout team for us. McKenzie did a phenomenal job. So, usually, when your coaches talk about the scout team players, those are really the guys that are going to step up.

Q: How is he? How is Jermaine’s neck?
A: Fine now. He’s able to practice and take hits. He’s doing a lot of good things.

Q: Some people say he’s got great hands, like Reggie Wayne?
A: He’s got great hands. Marve will throw him the ball and he’ll just go like this [Shannon holds up one hand and cups it like he’s catching a football with one hand]. Robert Marve, and he will just go like this [he does it again].

We got some young guys, some talented guys. But like I said, once we get this foundation and if we can ever do this, be like Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Arizona State, where those guys don’t lose juniors to the draft. They don’t. They keep ‘em and that’s where I think the stability part goes into those programs. Once we’re able to do that like when I was a player, when Ed Reed and them stayed for the next two or three year, they stayed and all grinded it out with each other, that’s when you get your great years. You have that class like Boston College and Virginia Tech had. Talking to coach Jagodzinski, they had 17 guys that were fifth year seniors that started. So, when things got tough, they knew how to stay focused and keep going. When you don’t have that type of class like us, we’ll get back into the games and then now we’re ready to fight and struggle. A veteran team will stay calm. If you don’t have that veteran team, somebody is going to do something they’re not supposed to do, because they’re taking a chance on making a play and that’s where they get you. And that’s what happened to us this year. Somebody would take a chance to make plays and you shouldn’t have. Just keep doing what your doing and that’s what comes when you have that veteran team you don’t have to worry about.

Q: Do you know who you are going to play next year yet in the opener? We heard it might be an ACC team.
A: Not at all. Don’t even know. The only thing I know is we got three road games in a row. The schedule was made before I coached here. Florida, Texas A&M and somebody else.

Q: Do you expect a lot of freshmen to play right out of the gate?
A: Don’t know. I think when you play a lot of freshmen right away, that’s going to cause you to still be behind. I think what you do, its like you build a house. You got your foundation, those guys are coming in to add onto a room or to a kitchen. They’re the add-ons. And when you add on 5 or 6 guys those are the ones in due time will be like [Leonard] Hankerson, the [Demarcus] Van Dykes who come in and help your team or like Shawnbrey [McNeal] and those guys.

Q: So your looking to get a lot of guys to sign?
A: We’re going to be depleted. We still don’t got the numbers. This is how you have to look at it. You need about 15 to 17 offensive lineman. You need about 14 to 15 defensive linemen. You need about 10 to 12 linebackers. You need about 12 to 14 DBs. You need about five running backs. You need about four or five quarterbacks. You need four tight ends, maybe five tight ends, unless you got fullbacks on the team. So when you get those numbers, we don’t have those numbers right now. Receivers is still down. Linebackers are like five down. The DB situation is down dramatically. Our numbers are about right at running backs and quarterbacks. D-Line numbers are not right. DB numbers are not right. Every number is not right.

The thing is everybody is trying to say, how you going to go to Miami? How you going to go to Miami? But everybody sees the numbers are not right at Miami and I think recruits see that. We’re leaving two receivers and the only thing you got left is Sam [Shields], [Jermaine] McKenzie, Leonard [Hankerson], Daniel [Adderley], Khalil [Jones]. Your still five receivers down. A lot of opportunity. The running backs, yeah we got five running backs. The quarterbacks, we got these quarterbacks coming in. If we don’t get these quarterbacks now, we only got two on the team. That’s tough. At linebacker, this year we played with three and half, four linebackers. That’s all we played with. Are we just going to stay with those guys? No. We need to find 5 to 6 linebackers to get our numbers back up. That’s the biggest thing, we got to get our numbers back up because that affects your special teams more than anything. Because those linebackers, safeties and those tight ends, cornerbacks are your special teams. And when your playing with a bunch of receivers and DBs on special teams, that’s how it gets tough and that’s why it was tough for us this year on special teams.

Q: What is your kicking situation?
A: We’re going to try and sign two guys out of high school. We got to get the competition back. We’re going to do it. We’re not just going to rely on Daren Daly. We’re going to rely on the best and whoever can get it done. What did I tell you were going to be two key factors this season? Kicking.

Q: What about the defense, they started giving up a lot of points, any chance of changing scheme?
A: Here’s the thing people don’t realize. We went into the last three games with three defensive ends and one of them had to play defensive tackle. You had Teraz McCray and nobody else ever played before. That’s why the defense was the way it was. Your going into the game where you don’t have Ponder for so many games and you don’t have people. The people said the defense wasn’t this, it wasn’t this. Well, when you don’t have bodies, I don’t care what happens, if I line up and play, it don’t make a difference. When your down in numbers and your only playing six defensive linemen and one of those of those six has to play defensive tackle, that’s tough. And when you only have three linebackers, that becomes tough.

So, there’s a lot of things that play into factor as to why the defense struggled at the end of the season. Early in the season we were doing pretty good. But when that injury bug hit. When you don’t have Courtney [Harris] for awhile. You have Colin out for a couple games. You have Ponder out for a couple games. You have Willie Cooper sitting out a couple games. Where you supposed to go next? Like I said, you can’t cut ‘em, you can’t trade ‘em. You can’t go to the waiver wire. Well, Ok, let’s put some offensive linemen in there. You put those guys in there, but they don’t know how to tackle. They don’t know how to get off blocks. Nobody ever looks at it the same. The defense, that’s supposed to be our strength. The defense was never our strength. I said this early in our season, the offensive line was probably going to be our strength. Everybody looked at Calais Campbell and Kenny Phillips. That’s two guys out of 11. But you never looked at DeMarcus Van Dyke at corner, Bruce Johnson at the other, a whole new lineup at linebacker. Nobody played the same position. So, know where do you go at?

Q: I guess people looked at the beginning of the year and thought you guys were better then…
A: They never looked at after the beginning of the year and the injuries that hit us. And that’s how evaluate what you do all the time. We’re still going to evaluate the last part of the season as a defense and say OK, if this happens again, what do we do? We’re not going to sit back and say those are excuses. Now, we’re going to sit back and look at these last games and say why did we give up all of these points? And we’re going to evaluate those reasons why.

Q: Coach Walton called all those defensive plays?
A: Yes.

Q: Any thought to playing a 3-4?
A: No. The 3-4 you got to have the personnel for it. Here’s how the 3-4 is. You need guys in 3-4 like, to run a 3-4 this is what you need. You need a big Vince [Wilfork] and a bunch of guys that are 6-4, 6-5, 280, 290 that’s playing like defensive ends. Then you need linebackers that are 6-3, 6-4 like Channing Crowder that can just take on blocks all the time. That’s what you need. And that’s why people say that’s why Bill Belichick does what he does. When Bill first got to New England, it took him a little bit to get that defense to where he wanted. Are we a little undersized right now? Yes. But that comes with recruiting. That’s why we’re recruiting these big guys out of high school and stuff like that and now, everybody is going to say, god, they look like that old defense. It’s called recruiting and coaching. Your missing the Cortez Kennedy, the Jerome Browns, the Russell Marylands, your missing those guys that can fit two seats. We’re missing those 310 pounders, 315 pounders and that’s why we’re doing a great job recruiting those type of guys.

Shannon exclusive (Part I) UPDATED!

Tuesday, Susan Miller Degnan and I had a chance to eat lunch with coach Randy Shannon at Dan Marino's restaurant at Sunset Place in Miami. We covered many topics including how the death of Sean Taylor may have affected recruiting, how he and the school are dealing with possible image issues, how he plans to handle who stays and leaves the program issues and much more.

I've spent three hours transcribing our 2-hour interview with him. And while in the coming days, Shannon will speak and meet with other media outlets, I figured I'd share what we gathered. To hear the audio interview, follow the link on our UM homepage to Audio.

UPDATE: I realize some of our readers have sent emails regarding a portion of this interview that was deleted this morning by my editors. Personally, I do not practice the habit of going back and taking back anything that was said in a Q&A. But coach Shannon's comments about former Florida Gator Walter Odom being shot and killed on campus at the University of Florida were incorrect. He also made several comments about crime at other schools, including Ohio State. Since, he was generalizing and not necessarily being accurate with his quote, The Herald has decided to take that portion of the interview down too. We pride ourselves on being an accurate and reliable source for news and insight. And we're not going to publish false or unsubstantiated statements. We apologize for not making the necessary changes sooner. There will be a correction.

Q: Can you talk about the incident with Sean Taylor and maybe the way it affects your recruiting?
A: What they’re dealing with has been very hard for the NFL. The incident that happened with Sean didn’t happen at the University of Miami. Sean left the University of Miami in good graces. He did everything well. It has nothing to do with Miami and I think that’s the thing people have to understand, he may have played for the University of Miami but it's not Miami. I don’t know if you guys know this after and check your stats. Three out of the last four games, there’s always something that happens after the game between Florida State and Florida. Are Florida State and Florida is that bad game to go to? Is that a bad place to go to. But I’m just saying, you can’t say Virginia Tech is a bad place. Those things happen in less than 6 months. Two incidents. Does that mean Virginia Tech is not a good school to go to? No. Not at all.

Q: So you are saying this isn’t a reflection on the University of Miami, especially for parents?
A: No. Because the thing that makes parents [believe] it is because everybody says it's only Miami. That’s the first thing everybody says. Oh, you live in Miami. But it is not Miami.

Q: Do you have to do damage control?
A: No, because I think what we’re doing is, we’re letting parents know up front that UM is in another part of Dade County. Coral Gables is a different part of Dade County. It is not Old Cutler Road. Kendall is different than Liberty City. I think that’s the problem we’re having. Everybody wants to say it's Miami. Instead of them saying what it really is.

Q: So you don’t have to call parents?
A: No. I think the thing happens when the media put it's out like that, you guys create more problems when there shouldn’t be problems. But you create problems because you designate it as Miami. And Miami is huge. Let’s face it. Miami is a big county.

Q: But when [The Herald] puts out a big box like we did today [listing UM tragedies], it probably doesn't help…
A: The problem is your putting out things about all these deaths, but what deaths have really occurred on Miami campus besides one? Think about that? How many deaths have occurred on Virginia Tech campus? How many deaths have occurred on Arizona State campus? How many deaths have occurred on Florida or Florida State’s campus? But you guys put it like it happened on campus and your not giving the university a fair chance because you put it as campus and not something that happened off and I think that’s the biggest problem.

Q: So what do you do? Do you show parents a map?
A: I do all of those things. The more I can show them and tell them it's Coral Gables and I don’t hide anything. I tell them, this is where Liberty City is at. But they say, well coach we got bad parts in our area. So everybody has bad parts, but I think what is getting us and I’m not saying it's wrong, the more you guys keep putting in, this right here, this right here, I’m going to say this and I shouldn’t, but Chris Campbell’s accident occurred off campus. Bryan Pata was off campus. Kevin Gibbs off campus. Only one thing ever happened on the University of Miami campus - that’s Marlin Barnes.

Q: Is it just the image, people always look at it as Thug U.
A: Exactly. But when I was in school here, besides the fatigues what else happened? Besides the fatigues and Michael Irvin running over somebody’s foot, what else happened at the University of Miami? Could you recall anything? Let’s do this, if you want to be honest… [Randy knocks on the wooden table]… we had no arrests this season. Nothing really bad happened. It’s been a long time correct? So, it's been a long time. How many different things happened at Florida and Florida State, during the course of the year? A lot right. Well, nobody wants to say how much we’ve changed. They still want to call us Thug U. So, like, no matter how much better we get off the field and we’re going to continue to get better off the field, what are we going to be called? ThugU.

It’s always going to be that way. Some coaches have some players that do some bad things with police officers and they’re still playing. But this happens all across the country. My job is making sure these kids are held accountable for everything they do. If I wasn’t doing that, I wouldn’t be doing right by the kids and right by the parents. I’m not going to sacrifice a win because I think a kid can help us win a game. If he’s wrong, he’s wrong. And that’s my job in educating. And when other players see that’s how we win games, we’re building that foundation. But like I say, until people stop thinking we’re ThugU or whatever and start looking at us for what we have done, I don’t know how much more to improve the image. Because no matter what I think and what I do, the image is always going to be there until people start writing positive things about the school and I’m not sure it's going to happen. I mean, have we had players that shoot another player? That happened at another college. Have we had players that walk around campus with an AK-47 and then are allowed back on the team? That’s happened at maybe 10 schools I know right now. But we’re the bad school. I don’t get upset about it. [The gun rule] is a good rule because it helps keep the kids out of trouble.

Q: How do you guys check on students to make sure they don't have guns?
A: We don’t. All I know is don’t get caught with one. I don’t care if it's in your truck. I don’t care if it’s in your mom’s house. I don’t care if it's your house or your friends house. If you have it and the police find you or arrest you with it, that’s it. You’re done. You’re done with the team. You can’t come back. And it's more of a safety valve for me because a lot of players on the team have kids and if you have a kid walk around or whatever and the kid picks up the gun, you know what happens - bad things happen.

Q: So, after this newest incident with Sean Taylor, you don’t have to reassure parents, even local parents?
A: Nope. But now, somebody will write a story on it and it say that. Everybody in the country says we got bad in kids Miami right. If they’re such bad kids in Miami and Miami is not a safe place, then why are you coming down to recruit these kids to help your program out? If we have such bad kids and that’s the first thing I’ll say. But that’s the first thing they’ll do./

Q: Let's change the topic a little. Do you think your cutthroat approach to competition in practice affected some of the players this season who might not have been used to it?
A: No. I think what happened is… I look at Derrick Morse and Rochford. Every week they lined up and played and competed. I look at Javarris James and Cooper and those guys. Every week they lined up and played. That’s why I say I don’t think we got bad kids. I’m not saying we got good players. But their mentality is not like mine because I’m a guy that always believed that when you line up, your going to have fun in practice. But you make the next guy across from you suffer. I didn’t mole around in practice and say, I’m going to do it on gameday. And I’ve seen great players like Michael Irvin, Steve Walshes, the Ginos, the Lamars, all of the great players that have been here, Winslow, they were always competitors. Every day in practice, they’d play to embarrass you in front of your peers. And I think by me being hard, all I wanted guys to do is give me their best. I’m not going to sit back and say, That’s ok, run that route the way it is. I’d say, ‘Next time, sprint to the right three yards instead of the end zone.’

Q: Do you feel that was the mentality beforehand and that guys were just sort of clapped along?
A: Yeah. They weren’t able to adjust. Now, did Dedrick Epps adjust to it? He came a long ways.

Q: So would you consider this year a try out, as in, who could develop that mentality?
A: Right.

Q: We’re players scared to go all out for fear they were going to lose their job?
A: No. Here’s the thing, I never ever [pause], here’s the thing about me. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody is going to make mistakes in football. You realize you don’t bench people for mistakes because everybody is going to make them. If you get on people it's for lack of effort. So, if a guy is not giving you the effort, you going to keep playing him? You got to move forward. I’m looking for effort more than anything. I keep telling you 1 plus 1 is 2 and you tell me 1 plus 1 is 4, after about the eighth or ninth time, am I going to keep it going or am I going to look for someone else to get it done? And that’s what you got to do. Ain’t nobody scared. It's like this, if I say to you all, this guy was nervous, that guy was nervous, this guy couldn’t play. Why? They can’t hear me on the football field. Do you realize none of those guys can hear me on the football field? They look at me like, I think he’s talking to me. I’m not sure. Don’t you realize that when somebody makes a mistake, they always go back into the game? Have you ever really seen us take somebody out who has really screwed up. So, when everybody said that guy might have been scared. If your going to be real good, you better demand what you want.

Q: You could Derrick Morse a true Hurricane. How many True Hurricanes did you have on this team?
A: There was a lot. I can’t give you the numbers. The biggest thing you have to look at from this team is we had some deficiencies. And what I mean by that is, who taught Lance Leggett and Darnell Jenkins how to be real Hurricanes? Nobody. Well, Santana [Moss] and Reggie [Wayne] taught Andre [Johnson] and Kevin Beard. I’ll go all the way back. Bernie taught Vinny. Vinny taught Steve. Steve taught Craig. Craig taught Gino and then there was a dropoff. And it just keeps going. One guy teaches the next guy teaches the next guy to be a Hurricane. We had a big separation at receiver. You realize we had a big separation at quarterback? Because Dorsey didn’t have backup. His backup was Ethnic Sands. So, now, who was going to teach the next quarterback when we had nobody? Now, you bring in a Kyle and Kirby and you bring in a Brock Berlin whose a transfer. So, he didn’t understand what to do. So, those are things I’m saying, you have to have people to set the trend, set the standards.

Q: By that rationale, doesn't that mean there is going to be a huge disconnect next season?
A: And that’s why you start now and you start the trend. The trend has been set. What Kyle has done and what Kirby has done last year, Marve has been in every meeting. He’s been in every quarterback meeting. He’s been watching film with them. He’s been learning. And Kyle and Kirby have done some things to help Marve out. Hey, don’t do what I did. Blah, blah, blah. And that’s what I mean helping him through the process and the trend.

Q: Is Robert Marve going to need any further surgery?
A: No. Not that I know of.

Q: Is Kirby going to be back?
A: I talked to Kirby yesterday and he says he’s coming back. Me and coach Nix talked to him yesterday.

Q: Well, you know why we’re asking…
A: Oh, you should ask that question.

Q: What’s his role, assuming you guys want to go with the young guys?
A: He knows his role and he’s going to be supportive of whatever decisions we make. This is what I mean by a True Cane. No matter what knows the only way we’re going to be successful is if everybody knows what we’re trying to do. Not just him. So, he knows he has to help the younger guys out to be more successful.

Q: Will he play or do we just expect him not to play?
A: No. You never expect the unexpected. Don’t do that. What I’m saying is, no matter what, if Kirby is helping the young guys… let’s say for example, we start the season and Kirby is the starter. If Kirby never helps those young guys and Kirby gets nicked, where are we going to be at? And that’s what I mean by true Hurricanes, we always help each other out to get the next guy to that level. Glenn Cook, prime example. He’s an all-time best guy I’ve ever seen at Miami. He wasn’t a starter but knew the defense when he was young. So, he helped the other guys. He played all three positions, but he always kept helping people because he knows if I get nicked, somebody has to step up. And when he’s out, he’s still trying to help and that’s why you need that kind of I mean, Hurricane mentality. Like D-Mo, no matter what happens, he’s going to stay on Orlando Franklin and Joel Figueroa, he was going to do that because if something happens, they have to step in and play.

Q: Will Kirby Freeman really compete for the job?
A: Yeah. All of them will. Everybody will. If Calais Campbell comes back, he knows he has to compete. It won’t be given to him. It’s all about competition. Kenny will be the same way. See people know who I am. They know I want the best for them and I’m not going to let a guy come in and just go through the motions at a program and say that they have it because most injuries come when you go half speed.

Q: Is Glenn Cook going to play next year or coach?
A: No. He’s probably going to get a medical [redshirt]. He’s got a sixth year medical. He didn’t play in any games and he was hurt his freshman year.

Q: Are you expecting anybody to not come back?
A: There will be some players that don’t come back.

Q: Is that your doing or their doing?
A: I never get rid of nobody.

Q: But you tell them how it is? You tell them they might not play?
A: I’ll be up front and honest with them. I’m not going to sit up here and say ok, your on the football team. You’ve been here for four years and I’m expecting big things out of you and then when the season starts, you don’t get a rep. I’m going to say, this is what you got to expect. We’ve got some young players that are really good and are better than you at this point, don’t expect to get any reps. Don’t expect to play a lot. This is what your role is going to be and if you accept it, fine.

Q: What could someone like that have their role be?
A: Anything. Their role may be to not even play this year. They might be a scout team player.

Q: But isn’t that in effect the same thing?
A: No. One thing I do is I’m honest. I’m not going to tell a kid something to keep him around and make him feel good. I’m going to be up front and honest.

Q: But what if they works hard, will you ever know it, give them a chance?
A: I'll know. But he’s got to understand the things that are going to happen. I’m not going to sit up here and say that you in great competition. If we think we got people who are better in this point in time, than the older guys, I mean like anything, if those guys got talent and are doing the same things as the older guy but better, you got to go with the better football player. Not age, but the better football player. We’ll never get rid of nobody. I’m not going to sit up here and say I’m going to take your scholarship, I’m going to be up front and honest with them. Now, whatever they want to do, if they want to continue to be on the football team. If not, they can go somewhere else. I’m not going to hold anybody back. I’m not going to hold Charlie Jones back.

Q: Has anybody told you they are leaving yet?
A: Nobody yet. I can’t say this right now, but there are some guys looking at other places and I’ll let you know when those guys are going to go. I’ll actually let you guys know that. I’ll release a statement.

November 27, 2007

Tuesday's Live Q&A

OK. I'll be here until around 9:30 answering questions. Reminders, I had a two-hour lunch with coach Randy Shannon today and talked about plenty. I'll be posting a Q&A up when I finish transcribing. I've also been covering UM hoops and the Sean Taylor tragedy. Feel free to hit me up on some questions relating to those topics.

Sean Taylor RIP

He's gone. Sean Taylor passed away this morning from the gunshot wound he suffered to his groin early Monday morning. I've been working on this story since I woke up today and have had no time to share my thoughts with you. And I won't until I can get some of these stories done.

I went to Gulliver Prep today and spoke to school officials and had a 2-hour lunch with Randy Shannon along with Herald Writer Susan Miller Degnan. Lots to share. But for now, I'll leave you with a place to pour your thoughts into after this tragedy.

Reminder, tonight I'll also have a Live Q&A from 8 to 9 p.m. That is tentative. But I'll try to be here on time.

November 26, 2007

Sean Taylor showing good signs

I just got home from Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Ryder Trauma Center where I spoke with family and friends of former Hurricanes safety Sean Taylor, who was shot early Monday morning at his home in Palmetto Bay by intruders.

His father, Pete Taylor, said around 7:30 p.m. tonight that his son is showing good signs, responding to doctors who were asking him to squeeze his hand. He's also moving parts of his face. This is great, great news for Taylor, who was listed in critical condition this afternoon after losing a lot of blood when the artery near his groin was severed.

The fear has been that Taylor lost so much blood it would affect his brain. I'm not a doctor and nor will I pretend to be. But from my conversations with his family today and from what they were hearing from doctors, Taylor was in serious trouble. Several sources told me it did affect his brain. To what extent, we won't know until doctors release that information. I spoke to Taylor's cousin, Anthony Leon Sr. and Anthony Leon Jr., a safety at Florida State as well as his cousin Emory Williams, a defensive tackle who played at Gulliver Prep in 2004 (CHECK OUT SOME AUDIO IN OUR UM AUDIO SECTION). All of them we're pretty worried about Sean and said they were told this would be "a long road back to recovery." But they say Sean is a fighter and will pull through this.

There were dozens of family members and friends at the hospital waiting downstairs for any news including the parents of former Hurricane Antrel Rolle, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, agent Drew Rosenhaus and running back Clinton Portis. Taylor's family said they are greatful for all of the support they are receiving as well as the well wishes.

The more troubling issue for me in all this, is that it is apparent there may have been warning signs this was coming. According to our Herald reporters and police records, someone also broke into Taylor's house between 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17 and midnight Sunday Nov. 18, by prying open a front window. No one was home at the time. The burglar entered several rooms in the house, rifled through drawers, and a safe in Taylor's bedroom. The police report says it was ''unknown'' whether anything was taken. In that incident, someone left a kitchen knife on a bed in Taylor's house, according to the police report.

I'm no detective, but those are signs this may have been an attack and not just a robbery. We'll have to wait until Taylor recovers and is able to tell police who his attackers were, if he can remember and if he can describe them. Hopefully, the police will not let this case slip through its fingers the way Bryan Pata's murders remain at large.

Sean Taylor shooting (updated)

Another sad day in University of Miami football history. As many of you already know, former Hurricane and current Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was shot at his Palmetto Bay home early this morning by an intruder at around 2 a.m. and is currently in critical condition at Ryder Trauma Center in Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The Herald is working the story hard. Since I covered Taylor since his playing days at Gulliver Prep in Coral Gables, I've been trying to find out as much information as I can through my high school connections. Here's what I've found out.

Sean_taylorAccording to family and friends, Taylor was at home with his girlfriend and their young daughter Jackie when he heard a noise in the back of the home. He went to investigate and was supposedly shot in the groin, in an area where a lot of arteries are. The gunshot by the intruder caused him to lose a lot of blood. According to my sources, the injuries sustained caused so much loss of blood, it has affected his brain and Taylor is expected to have "a long road back to recovery." My sources said Taylor's playing career is likely over.

The Washington Times blog Redskins 360 has quoted Chris Cooley saying Taylor is in a coma. "That's the word," Cooley told the Times when asked to confirm if the team was told of Taylor's condition. "Santana's mom has been with him, and the news is that he has been in surgery for like six hours this morning and in a coma right now. It's a fight right now. Everyone's prayers are with Sean. You hope for the best. He's a strong person."

UPDATE: According to reports, nothing was stolen from Taylor's home, which means this could have been an attempted murder.

Taylor, 24, has made a living jarring receivers in the secondary for the Redskins and his jersey remains as popular as ever with Hurricanes fans. But lately, he had gotten into a bit of trouble including in 2005 for waving a gun at people he thought had stolen his car. I know folks automatically assume that means Taylor was a gangster or some guy that was hanging with the wrong crowd.

But according to his cousin, Florida State safety Anthony Leon, Taylor was trying to shed those friends he grew up with in Florida City. Leon, who told me has spent his morning crying and praying from his dorm room in Tallahassee, said Taylor had "started to calm down."

"He's been trying to stay away from bad company -- especially for his daughter's sake," Leon told me. "Sean wasn't a bad guy at all. He's got his personality on the football field and off it. All he was trying to do was protect his family. And they shot him."

Gulliver assistant coach Ron Butler told me Taylor had stopped by Gulliver before the start of the season and often visited the school to speak to the team and to school administrators. Leon said he spoke to Taylor before the start of the season, "he told me just to keep trying hard, focus, that I was going to make it just like him."

Taylor was an absolute beast on the football field at Gulliver. He set a state record in 2000 when he scored 44 touchdowns in the Raiders' 2000 state championship season. He went to UM and tore it up, finishing second in the NCAA in interceptions in 2002 and making highlight reel hits on a usual basis. I was there at the beach house in the Keys the day he got drafted and I remember how happy he and his father were, hugging, celebrating. Taylor always had a confidence about himself that rubbed some people the wrong way, like if he was arrogant. I always just saw him as a kid who was proud of his accomplishments and determined to make it in life. He never seemed to have a problem with authority and he was always good to me about doing interviews when he was younger.

I just hope he makes it. The Hurricanes and this community cannot take another tragic death, especially for a guy who it appears was trying to clean up his act off the field and simply take care of his family. After what happened to Bryan Pata last year and Kevin Everett earlier this season, the Canes could use a little luck here and have Taylor get out of this OK.

"Folks around here are real shaken up," Butler said. "He's an icon around here. It's a tough day."

November 24, 2007

Canes nab Gulliver linebacker

Gulliver Prep linebacker Brandon Marti has decided to switch his commitment from Wisconsin to the University of Miami. Marti, 6-foot, 196-pounds, called linebackers coach Michael Barrow moments ago to inform him of the news.

"I always said that if the Canes came around, I'd always have to give them a shot," Marti said. "I've always wanted to stay home and play for Miami. So, today, was just the day I made it official."

Marti becomes the sixth linebacker to commit to the Hurricanes, joining Dunnellon High's Lerentee McCray, Memphis' Antonio Harper, Homestead's Marcus Robinson, Northwestern's Sean Spence and Chaminade linebacker Jordan Futch. He is considered a two-star athlete by Rivals.com. This season, he led Gulliver in tackles and to the first round of the playoffs.

He said he would like to play weakside linebacker, a spot he played in Gulliver's final few games this season.

"I know a lot of those guys and I'm not afraid of coming in and competing," said Marti, who said he plans to enroll at UM in January and compete for playing in the spring. "I played with Marcus at Hammocks. I feel its going to be a great class and I'm definitely excited about joining it.

"My plan is to come in and get in the rotation and definitely start on special teams."

Marti is the 22nd player to commit to the program since last summer. The Hurricanes will also be receiving visits from highly-touted linebackers Arthur Brown and current N.C. State commitment Colby Jackson in the near future. Miami is looking to sign between 6 to 7 linebackers this fall.

McCray, 6-2, 200, and a 4-star rivals recruit, is the one linebacker many recruiting experts expect to Miami to lose before National Signing Day in February.

What is this team good at?

I wasn't in Boston today for the end of the worst football season at UM in 30 years. I was here at home in Miami, watching Frank Haith's basketball team grow a little more.

The Canes survived 55-51, improving without its star Jack McClinton and against a team in Morgan State that is likely good enough to win the MEAC and get into the NCAA Tournament. Last year's basketball season was as dreadful as any I've had to watch. Injuries completely destroyed UM in a 12-20 campaign. Yet, still, the season somehow ended on a positive note. Miami upset Maryland and I left the ACC Tournament feeling like, man, this basketball team, if it only had some healthy players they might be pretty good.

UM's football season ended Saturday in Chestnut Hill and even though I wasn't there, I felt totally different watching Miami's football season end compared to the way UM's basketball season ended last March. When I saw Kyle Wright get smashed in the stomach one last time and his final pass fall incomplete, I tried to find a positive. I couldn't. Then, the question popped into my head. What can honestly make UM fans feel good going into next year? Last year, when Miami finished 7-6 and with a bowl win, you had something to look forward to. You had a new coach in Randy Shannon. You had a good defense with Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell. And you had hope with 18 starters returning.

None of that will come into play next fall. The only thing UM has going for it right now is the hope its next recruiting class is balls to the wall spectacular. How much growth do you expect to see from Kirby Freeman next season? How much better will Patrick Nix's play calling be? How much better of a defensive coordinator is Tim Walton going to be after 12 games? Didn't we just watch this team regress in its final four games? What are the Hurricanes honestly good at?

Offense? Let's see, Darnell Jenkins the team's best receiver is gone. Sam Shields and Ryan Hill, talented, but will they ever stop getting into trouble? The offensive line? Morse, the guy coach Randy Shannon made an example of as true Hurricane earlier this year, will be gone. Yes, you got Orlando Franklin and Jason Fox, but where are the other superstars? Quarterback? Exactly. A redshirt freshman quarterback in Robert Marve who has a lot to prove. Running back? Javarris James had 3 yards on three carries Saturday. Graig Cooper wasn't much better. Where were the long runs everyone expected to see? Where were those Willis McGahee-type screen passes that went to the house?

Defense? Here's three numbers for you -- 48, 44 and 28. Miami finished the season with tread marks on its back, victims of the prolific offenses Virginia, Virginia Tech and Boston College have always had (I'm joking about the prolific). Calais Campbell and Kenny Phillips, the team's two best players, are likely headed to the NFL. How about the defensive line? Eric Moncur and Antonio Dixon will be back, Adewale Ojomo will be a year older, but not much else to choose from. Linebackers? Gooden, the best of the group, is gone. Well, there's Colin McCarthy and... and how many times did we see guys out of position on pass plays?

Special teams? Where is the game breaker on returns? Where is the kicker who can make chip shot field goals? Matt Bosher was an average punter this season at best.

I don't mean to pick on the Canes when they are down and their season is over. I know some of you die-hards will take offense. But in a season when so much went wrong and so little happened positively, I ask you these question: What is this team good at right now? What can Miami say going into next season that it is good at? The reality is nothing. All Canes fans have right now is hope.

Hope that Robert Marve is as good as advertised and not a product of the system he was in at Tampa Plant (his predecessor, junior Aaron Murray, broke his state record with 51 touchdown passes this season).

Hope that Javarris James, Graig Cooper and Shawnbrey McNeal's poor finish to this season was a result of a downtrodden team, injuries and bad blocking.

Hope that Jason Fox, Orlando Franklin and Reggie Youngblood can stay healthy next season and anchor a very young offensive line that will feature freshmen that couldn't get on the field this year, but are supposed to be better next.

Hope that Jermaine McKenzie's neck is in good shape and those stories you hear about him in practice are true, and that Leonard Hankerson doesn't drop the ball anymore and that Hill and Shields grow up.

Hope that a tight end emerges from a group that couldn't emerge except for one game-winning catch against FSU.

Hope that Antonio Dixon's knee gets healthy, he can play more than 20-30 plays and that Adewale Ojomo really is as good as Eric Moncur was in spurts this season.

Hope that Glenn Cook can come back and play the middle, Colin McCarthy gets even better, Daryl Sharpton finally gets it and Allen Bailey doesn't get so big they need to move him to defensive line.

Hope that DeMarcus Van Dyke puts on a little more weight in muscle, Chavez Grant gets a chance to start at corner and Randy Phillips and Lovon Ponder are so good they keep Damien Berry and Jojo Nicholas off the field.

Hope that someone can finally become the game breaker UM needs on special teams.

And most importantly, hope that all of these young talented players Shannon and his staff are recruiting are not only great players, but good enough to start contributing right away.

Courtside blog: UM 55, Morgan State 51 (F)

I'm here at BankUnited Center to take in the men's basketball game against Morgan State. Susan Miller Degnan is up in Boston for UM-BC. I'll take you through the basketball game with updates, you tell me what's going on with the football team.

From what I saw on TV, it looks like the football team isn't going down without a fight. Your thoughts on that are appreciated.

As for the basketball team, no Jack McClinton today. He's wearing a soft cast on his left wrist. Sports Information Director Margaret Belch told me McClinton is day to day. He injured his thumb in Puerto Rico in the final against Providence. We'll see how serious it is. It moves Edwin Rios into the starting lineup.

FIRST HALF...
- Morgan State nearly upset UConn on the road in the season opener. But so far, the Bears don't look like anything special -- lots of turnovers, missed shots.
- Rios' three-pointer with 16:15 to go made it 9-0 and followed up a three by James Dews.
- Looks like I spoke to soon about the Bears. They've started picking UM apart. And the loss of McClinton has hurt the Canes because they don't have a go-to scorer. Anthony King is set to return to the lineup though after this break. Let's see how he does.
- Canes battle back and take a 20-18 lead on a King jumper and a three-pointer by Lance Hurdle.
- A 305 connection -- Rios (Miami High grad) goes up top to Brian Asbury (South Miami) for the alley-oop slam dunk at the 7:19 minute mark. UM leads 22-20.
- Canes go into the break down a basket. It's been a tough first half without McClinton. They need to get Dews more involved.
- Canes shoot 35 percent in the first half and are outrebounded 24-14. Marquise Kately has been killing UM in the paint. He's got 14 points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

SECOND HALF...
- Kately has continued to kill UM on the boards here in the early going of the second half. His putback broke a 30-30 tie and put the Bears back in front at the 17:01 mark.
- The free throw shooting in this game has been attrocious. Jimmy Graham just missed two. UM was 2 of 7 at halftime and is now 3 of 11 for the game. Yikes! Canes trail 38-33 with 12:47 left.
- Miami is in a slugfest. The most disappointing aspect to this game has been the rebounding. UM has been getting killed on the boards and Morgan State has definitely taken advantage of its second chance opportunities.
- Miami falls behind 48-41 -- its biggest deficit of the game -- at the 7:46 mark when Jamar Smith hits a three-point shot. The story of this game has been inability to beat Morgan State on the boards. Both teams are not shooting the ball great. Miami needed to win on the boards and hasn't.
- And just when you think Morgan State is going to run away with it late, UM turns up its defensive pressure. A steal by Eddie Rios and Brian Asbury on back-to-back possessions lead to fast break scores and UM regains the lead with 2:31 to play at 52-51.
- Morgan State went to Jamar Smith out of the time out and he missed a fade away. Jimmy Graham grabbed the board for UM and now the Canes have possession, looking to ice this game.
- After the Bears miss the back-to-back front ends of a one-and-one, Miami gets a free throw from Brian Asbury with 20.5 seconds to play. UM now has to play defense to hold on for the win.
- The Canes finish. Lance Hurdle's free throws with 5.1 seconds left ices the game for UM.

November 22, 2007

What are you thankful for as a UM fan?

I just wanted to send you all best wishes on Thanksgiving today. I've had a rough week since I got back from Puerto Rico, so this will be short. I figured I'd leave you a forum and raise the question: What are you thankful for today as a Hurricanes fan?

Is it the basketball team?
Is it the top-ranked recruiting class the football team appears to have?
Is it Randy Shannon?

I'd love to hear what you think.

November 20, 2007

Shannon: "I want stability with this staff"

I asked him the question. He gave me his answer. Randy Shannon said he wants stability with his coaching staff.

I know many of you have asked the questions -- will changes be made on this staff following this season? Shannon, who is still speaking during his press conference, basically just said he will not make any changes on this staff unless somebody decides to leave for another program. I'll have more after this press conference is over.

But basically he went at length about how important stability was to UM's success in the past. He said the coaching changes made the last three years affected players like quarterback Kyle Wright. He said when UM was at its best, it had the same staff together. Maybe he has a point. But for those of you wondering if defensive coordinator Tim Walton or offensive coordinator Patrick Nix are going to be doing something different next year, don't look for Shannon to make that change.

- As for the team, Shannon said Graig Cooper is expected to practice today. Shannon said Cooper will go "three-fourths."

November 19, 2007

Canes ranked! Sort of

I just flew back into town from San Juan a few hours ago with a very happy University of Miami men's basketball team, who brought home a rather petite championship trophy from the inaugural O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off this weekend.

The trophy may not be big, but for this program the tournament title meant a lot -- especially the players who had to endure last year's 12-20 injury-riddled season. After spending five days with them (in the same hotel and the same flight home) I can tell you it meant a lot. In the two years I've been covering this program, I've never seen players happier or more confident. The Canes are 4-0 for the first time since they started the 2001-02 season on fire and finished with a 24-8 record and NCAA tournament berth.

The start made somewhat of an impression on the pollsters. One writer from Arkansas, who votes in the Associated Press poll and was at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, told me he was going to rank Miami fifth nationally. Not sure if he was being legit or not. But the Canes did appear in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll under the also receiving votes category.

So, Canes fans, stick out your chest and scream it with me: "We're No. 35!" The AP poll gave UM 27 votes, good for 35th if you count all the teams in front of it. Unbeaten and two-time defending national champion Florida (4-0) took the No. 25 spot (The hated Gators strike again!) UM also got 7 votes in the coach's poll, good for 43rd along with Boston College.

Miami's next game is against Morgan State (2-1) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the BUC. Morgan State's not a bad team. They nearly upset UConn, falling 69-65 in the season opener. For those of you hardcore hoop fans, they are coached by former California coach Todd Bozeman, who was basically banned by the NCAA for nearly a decade for recruiting violations at Cal. He's been coaching Morgan State, based out of Baltimore, since last season. The program won four games in the three seasons before he got there. They went 13-18 last year. He's added more talent this year. MSU can shoot the three and has two good wing players and a 6-9 center who led the MEAC in rebounding last season. It will not be an easy game for UM.

Speaking of the Canes, I sat next to Dwayne Collins, James Dews and Julian Gamble on the flight home and got to talk to them plenty. Among the interesting topics -- Guillermo Diaz, who left school after his junior season to enter the NBA Draft. Dews asked me if I thought Diaz made the right decision. I told him I thought Diaz should have left a year earlier, before he was injured and when his draft stock was higher. Dews and Collins agreed. Then they added, "he should have come back if he was hurt." I found it interesting not because of the talk about Diaz (who was cut by the Clippers toward the end of the NBA preseason and was told is working on a comeback) but because it shows you that there are bigger aspirations on the minds of the players on this team. At 6-3, Dews could sprout into NBA player, especially if he keeps playing defense the way he has and hitting big three-point shots, ala a Ben Gordon. At 6-9, 245-pounds, Collins to me has the most raw skill and ability on this team and is likely the best future NBA prospect.

I know some of you have raised the question if I think center Anthony King is a potential draft pick. AnthonykingAccording to NBA Draft Press, King was rated the 31st best power forward prospect in the country last year at 6-9, 230 pounds. This year, he's proven to be a much better offensive player since his return. He's making free throws at an extremely high percentage (81%), he's hitting the mid-to-long range jumper and rebounding on both sides of the court (9.5 avg). He's still playing incredible defense too (14 blocks in 4 games). It's going to be hard for him to earn All-ACC First Teams honors with Tyler Hansborough and several other high profile big men in the conference, but that doesn't mean King might not finish this season as the best big man in the league. And if he is, there is no reason he should get drafted.

As for the team, the draft is the last thing they are thinking about. As I walked off the plane with guard Jack McClinton, we talked about the All-Tournament selection trophy he was carrying and how Anthoiny King got stiffed in the MVP voting. McClinton told me: "I could care less about this. We're winning. That's all that matters." I spoke with McClinton for more than 15 minutes in Puerto Rico about a ton of things. I posted it in the UM audio section. You should check it out -- along with my talk with freshman point guard Eddie Rios.

The Canes by the way were not recognized by many folks at Miami International Airport. They didn't even draw cheers. One security guy at the airport asked me, "Who is that?" I told him, "the UM basketball team, they just won in Puerto Rico." He told me, "I didn't even know they had a basketball team. I thought all they had was football." Made me chuckle. It still shows you how badly this program needs to win more games like it did Sunday night to garner the attention of folks in this town. I told the players as we were walking toward the luggage, "You realize nobody is cheering for you?" McClinton told me, "Hopefully we can change that. We just got to keep winning."

This team will win a lot more this year. Hopefully, it will be enough to get people to notice and help them convince recruits like Kenny Boynton to stay home instead of leaving for Duke. 

November 18, 2007

Courtside blog: UM 64, Providence 58 (F)

Checking in an hour before tipoff here from the Coliseo de Puerto Rico where the Canes will take on former Big East rival Providence in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

I know most of you still have football on your minds. But I think its time to give it a rest. I didn't watch the 44-14 beat down Virginia Tech gave the Canes -- I saw the highlights. But I think we all knew what was going to happen. To me, there really isn't a need any more to talk X's and O's when it comes to this team. The bottomline is you should be looking forward to next year already. Even if UM wins at Boston College, there isn't much that is going to make you feel better about this season. 6-6? Another trip to Boise?

I'm not going to beat a dead horse and talk about what this team needs, what it lacks, what it needs to do to beat Boston College next weekend. I could sum it up one sentence: better defense, run for more than -2 yards and stop making so many turnovers.

I think the bigger issues are whether or not this team was let down by its coaching this season. Did Tim Walton do enough with this defense to give it a chance to be successful? Was Patrick Nix the right choice as offensive coordinator? Or were they both victims of the lack of talent on this team?  Could they have done more? Was Randy Shannon's approach of having players fight for the job every week too much for some of these players to handle? What has Randy learned about his approach? Those are the questions I'd like to try and answer when I get back to Miami next week, even if I'm not sure I'll find an answer. These too... who will be gone, player and coach wise?

The next few months are all going to be about recruiting and whether or not Randy Shannon and his staff can keep some of the young talented players they got commitments from this summer and if they can add a few more talented players. Then in the spring, it will be about how quickly this year's freshman can come along. I think UM will keep the majority of the recruits they've got. But the names to worry about are Patrick Johnson, Ramon Buchanon, Lerentee McCray and Marcus Robinson. The names on the fence to hope for: Arthur Brown, Brandon Harris, Matt Patchan, Tommy Streeter, Martavious Odoms, Jonathan Baldwin, Corey Liuget and T.J. Bryant. Those are some of the names you'll hear over the next couple months. Get acquianted. And then start thinking about 2008. Because 2007 doesn't mean much anymore. It hasn't since the final score at the OB said 48-0.

Me? I'm going to watch this basketball team. You should too. Tonight on ESPN2 Frank Haith's team will try to take another step forward. I'll take you through it with my thoughts. Tell me what you think. This is always an open forum.

FIRST HALF...
- The biggest news early on is that Anthony King has drawn two quick fouls and leaves the game at the 17:18 mark. McClinton hit a three-pointer -- what else is new? -- to put UM up 5-2.
- Here's an amazing stat -- UM is trailing for the first time in the tournament. Dwain Williams' back-to-back three-pointers puts the Friars up 8-5.
- UM looks uncomfortbale with its offense. Providence is running the 2-3 zone on defense and it appears to be causing some indecision on Miami's part.
- We've hit a stagnant, scoreless run here. After McClinton's jumper made it 8-7 Providence with 15:16 to play, the teams haven't score in more than four minutes. Lot of turnovers and missed shots. UM is 3 of 10 from the field. Providence is 3 of 14.
- Not sure what UM's shooting percentage is in this game, but its got to be around the 20 percent range. Providence has caused a lot of trouble for UM by going small. Plus, the Canes are in foul trouble and lead that total 9-5. Losing King has certainly hurt.
- UM has decided to go small down 20-12 and is getting some results with James Dews, Brian Asbury, Edwin Rios, McClinton and Ray Hicks. A Dwayne Collins dunk and James Dews' three-pointer and free throw pulls UM to within 22-18 with 1:25 to go in the half. The question in the second half will be if Providence continues to dictate the pace of this game and if UM has to play small the rest of the way.
- Stats at the break are ugly for the Canes. UM shoots 28 percent from the field and piles up 9 turnovers. Providence didn't do much better, shooting 29 percent with 6 turnovers. Ugly basketball. Let's see if the return of the Anthony King has an effect. Miami finished the half with a small lineup that was effect. But its a game Providence thinks it can win.

SECOND HALF...
- Anthony King returns and makes a difference. He gets to the line immediately. Eventually, Miami takes the lead 26-25 when Brian Asbury hits a three-pointer from the wing with 15:52 to play.
- The Canes are doing more stuff now against the zone to get Asbury involved, which is important. They're running him through the lane for catch and shoot opportunities. And they are still playing great defense.
- Another King jumper puts UM up 35-32. Canes playing much better now offensively -- despite having Jack McClinton on the bench. Rios has done a nice job at the point guard spot and had a nice pass inside to setup Ray Hicks, who eventually went to the line for a score. This is where having depth is paying off for Miami.
- And right when things start paying off for UM, Lance Hurdle and Edwin Rios turn the ball over on back-to-back possessions and Providence's Dwain Williams scores twice to put the Friars up 36-35. Jack McClinton is expected to check in now after this latest break.
- This is turning into the James-Dews' Williams show. Williams has scored 10 straight points. Dews has hit back-to-back three-pointers for UM to knot the score at 41.
- Got to commend Eddie Rios for the job he's doing at the point off the bench. UM's offense has been running nicely. And how about Anthony King? He's playing great -- 10 points in the second half and how many big rebounds has he had?
- What a ball game. McClinton is on the bench and UM is battling with Providence shot for shot here. Weyinmi Efejuku has been awesome off the bench for Providence here in the second half. This has really turned out to be a great championship game.

November 16, 2007

Courtside blog: UM 69, VCU 63 (F)

Que pasa Eye On The U Crew? Checking in from the Coliseo de Puerto Rico where the Canes are about to take on VCU. I see some of you have been busy talking trash and getting into some verbal jousting. Just do me a favor and cut out the foul language.

The old asterick trick is creative, but it isn't like someone with half a brain can't figure out what you are saying. I don't want to start having to bozo people on here. What's that mean? That means you think you are posting something on this blog, but it isn't getting posted. Nice little technological trick. Of course, I don't want to have to do that. But some of you are starting to get a little out of hand. This is a Canes blog, but people with opposing views are welcome just like Canes supporters. This is an open forum. I don't want my editors to start shutting that down. OK. Enough on that crap.

Anyway, I'm going to take you through today's hoops game like I did yesterday. The game is on ESPNU if some of you can watch. It's also on 1360AM radio in Miami. Either way, feel free to chime in as this one moves along.

VCU is a good team. They got three starters back from a team that finished 28-7 last season including star point guard Eric Maynor. I spoke to a VCU assistant yesterday after the Canes played. His take: "This team is real good -- NCAA Tournament good. Anthony King has made tremendous strides. I love their size and physical play. If they can stay healthy, they are an NCAA tournament team."

VCU made the NCAA tourney last year and upset Duke in the first round before taking Pittsburgh to OT in round two. So, you can take this game as a very good measuring stick to where the Canes are in round ball.

As for me, I had some fun last night on the town. I went out with a couple of friends down to a restaurant in old San Juan called Dragonfly, a Latin-Asian restuarant with some great sushi. It's pricy, but the food was top shelf. I loved the Criollo roll (California roll with a fried plantain on top). If you are in the PR you got to check it out.

Before I went out, though, I ran into a couple of Canes players in the hotel including beloved bench-lifer Jonathan Stratton -- the walk-on white kid with blond hair who Canes fans always root to see get in the game. Stratton, a senior, is a funny dude. He told me it used to bother him when fans would root to see him get in. But he's grown to love it now. He still hasn't been able to score yet at UM's BankUnited Center. He told me coach Frank Haith got on him a little bit after he took three shots in 1 minute in UM's opener against Florida Southern -- and missed all three. Stratton, who did score last year in UM's road trip at Michigan, said his goal is to score at home before he graduates. There's a good chance he may finally do it with the light schedule UM will face at home over the next couple of weeks. I'll be rooting for him.

As for his take on the team, Stratton said this UM team has been the most fun he's ever been on. "The chemistry is great," Stratton said. "The first two years I was here with Guillermo Diaz and Rob [Hite] there was a big disconnect between guys. Some guys didn't like each other. Guys had other goals. This team is great. All of us get along. We really all like each other and it's made a huge difference. We have so much depth. And none of the guys are greedy -- not even Jack who could be if he wanted to. All we want to do it win. That's all we really care about."

James Dews told me last night he and his teammates weren't even thinking about leaving their rooms at the Condado Plaza. And I have to say I didn't see any Canes at the casino or out at the pool where a number of hot latin women were hanging out.

‘‘We're staying in our rooms," said Dews, who had 11 points in his first career start Thursday. "[Coach] doesn't have to tell us either. We've just been kicking back with each other in the hotel rooms. And that's all we want to do. Puerto Rico is just like Miami. We're focused. If we just stick together, play hard, anything can happen."

So far, it looks like nothing but good things are in store for this team.

FIRST HALF...
- Another great start for UM. They led Marist 10-1 yesterday early. This team is just coming out on fire early . A lot of energy and defense. Jack McClinton and Brian Asbury each have hit three pointers and Anthony King has a nice jumper inside.
- UM leads 12-6 with 14:18 to play. Jack McClinton made his first start at point guard yesterday against Marist and was OK. He had 11 points, 2 assists and 4 turnovers. But its pretty apparent he's not the best point guard on this team. Freshman Eddie Rios is the only pure point on this roster. He came off the bench and had 8 assists yesterday. But its not the fact he had better numbers than McClinton. Rios just knows how to run an offense a little better. Haith has inserted him and Lance Hurdle in the backcourt now after this break. Let's see how they do.
- VCU has crept back into this game by playing some better defense against UM's bench. Haith has once again subbed a full five for the starting five. This UM team has so much depth. It really makes a difference when you can keep guys fresh.
- Jack McClinton has started to heat up. He's got four three-pointers to help the Canes get back in front here by a comfortable margin.
- UM has been a bit sloppy with the basketball. I've got McClinton for three turnovers. Rios and Brian Asbury have been called for charges and Collins was just whistled for traveling. I'm sure Haith isn't happy with this. But VCU has a very good defense. Every basket Miami has made today, they've had to earn with good passes and setups.
- Canes finish the half strong on a 14-5 run to open up a 36-21 lead at the break. Aside from the turnovers in the first half, UM was impressive again.

SECOND HALF...
- VCU has come out with more press here in the second half. I thought UM did average against it in the first half. 10 turnovers was probably too many.
- The Rams came out with 5 quick points, but UM responds with defense and rebounding and ups the lead back to 15 behind a Brian Asbury jumper and three-pointer. Asbury is the one guy on this team that I think can be the x-factor. If he can become a more dependable weapon, this team can be even better. He's done a good job so far. But he needs to be more consistent.
- James Dews hits a three-pointer with 12:17 to play to put UM back up 48-32 and give the Canes their biggest lead of the game.
- VCU is crawling back into this thing thanks to some UM turnovers. Canes were just whistled for a 5-second violation when trying to inbound the ball.
- VCU cut it to 50-42 with 9:44 left and frustration was beginning to mount especially for freshman point guard Edwin Rios, who drew a foul for contact, but didn't get one when he was hacked. Then, Ray Hicks made a nice play for UM, driving to the hole for a lay-in to make it 52-42. UM has the ball with 7:56 left here and is trying to hold on for dear life. That VCU defense is tough. But it is a good test for this UM team, which needs to learn how to win these games -- especially with little experience at point guard.
- Miami has been getting a little lucky here a little. VCU has been missing a lot of close range shots. UM's defense deserves some credit for making them tough. But this game could be closer if not for some of those close-range misses.
- Canes have been shooting well from the line, too. 15-of-18 so far.
- VCU trims it to 52-46 before Jack McClinton hits a big three-pointer -- his fifth -- with a hand in his face. Big, big shot. Might change the momentum here.
- Less than two minutes to play and UM has a 10-point lead against a team that finished 28-7 and upset Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year. I'm impressed. What do you think?
- Maybe its not over. VCU has turned up its defensive intensity. UM has been called twice for 5-second violations on inbounds passes. Make that three.