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23 posts from January 2008

January 31, 2008

What I'm Hearing

Covering recruiting in the weeks leading up to National Signing Day is absolutely crazy. Getting confirmation on anything -- visits, where a recruit kid may be leaning -- is next to impossible because so many things change from one moment to the next. You basically make hundreds of phone calls to ask questions and write about things recruits and the colleges they are considering are not only tired of talking about, but really prefer to keep quiet.

Alas, I've decided to preface all of the info I provide from here on out on recruiting with this little intro ... What I'm hearing ... in other words, it might change.

LIUGET UPDATE: I spoke to Hialeah coach Mark Berman this afternoon regarding highly-touted defensive tackle Corey Liuget, who recently told several recruiting websites Miami was in his final three. Turns out, Berman said Liuget was busy hosting several visitors Thursday at school including two coaches from LSU, the entire defensive staff at South Florida, Bobby Bowden and several defensive coaches from Florida State and a few coaches from Rutgers. All four of those schools are scheduled for in-home visits today. Illinois and Ron Zook are schedueld to visit Liuget tomorrow. I asked Berman when UM was planning a visit and he said he hadn't heard from UM since Tuesday. Berman told me earlier this week Liuget recently had a close friend who was shot and killed in the parking lot outside of a 7-on-7 flag football tournament and said it could be a sign for Liuget to leave town. When I asked Berman if he thought Miami still had a chance to get him, he said "I don't know. I think so." Berman said he told Liuget to spend time this weekend jotting down positives and negatives about the schools he's considering and to get back to him with an answer by Sunday. "I feel bad for Corey, he's in la-la land right now," Berman said. "He's got so much on his mind. This is going to be a real difficult decision." Berman said thinks Liuget will wait until NSD to announce his decision at school at 9 a.m.

WILL ICE FOLLOW BRANDON?: There's been a rumor floating out there for a long time that Booker T. Washington coach Ice Harris could end up following his son, highly-touted cornerback Brandon Harris, to the school he ends up choosing. Harris (who is still set to visit the University of Central Florida this weekend) told me Sunday night his leaders were UM and Ohio State. Back to the Ice rumor... I spoke to Ice Harris Thursday afternoon about the rumor of him following his son and he said while it would be "a blessing" if he could end up getting a college job "anywhere," it could be difficult for him to find one because he still does not have his college degree (a requirement for assistant coaching positions). Ice Harris is still taking online courses with the University of Phoenix and could finish within a year. Ice said Randy Shannon and UM are supposed to visit with the Harris home tonight.

JONATHAN JACKSON SITUATION: Harris isn't the only player at Booker T. Washington the Canes are after. Defensive end Jonathan Jackson, who had 3 1/2 sacks in the Class 4A state championship game for the Tornadoes, is a kid the Hurricanes made a push for late in the game. Apparently, though it was too late. Ice Harris expects the 6-3, 215-pound defensive end to stick with FIU, who has been recruiting Jackson all season. "I think he's going to be set with FIU," Harris said. "He's not visiting UM. I think once he went on his recruiting trop to FIU and established that relationship with Coach Cristobal, he feels like he fits them better and what they're looking for. He's the type of kid that he knows he can come in as a freshman and provide leadership and start from the get-go."

WEST COAST RECRUITS: As many of you know the Canes are in the running for a pair of Long Beach Poly California defensive backs Vaughn Telemaque and Herman Davidson. I spoke to Poly coach Raul Lara Thursday afternoon who told me Telemaque is supposed to have his announcement broadcast regionally on TV tonight at 1:30 a.m. (EST). Telemaque's finalists are UM, USC and Oregon -- and the Trojans are expected to come out the big winners. Lara said Davidson, who will choose between UM and North Carolina, will wait until 5 p.m. (EST) on NSD to announce his college choice.


KICKOFF CLASSIC: Lara and Harris both confirmed Thursday that their teams will be participating in one heck of a preseason high school kickoff classic Saturday, August 30th at FIU. According to both coaches, their teams will be part of a three-game showcase presented by Nike at FIU's new stadium. Long Beach Poly is supposed to take on defending national champion Miami Northwestern. Booker T. will play Odessa Periman (Tex.) -- the school the show Friday Night Lights was based on. And Pahokee, the Class 2B state champions, are supposed to take on a team from Tennessee. "It was supposed to be us against Northwestern and St. Thomas against Booker T.," Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said. "But St. Thomas already had another game scheduled. We're still not sure who we are playing, but its going to be a great night for high school football."

January 29, 2008

Courtside blog: Wake Forest 70, UM 68 (F)

I'm here in Winston-Salem for tonight's UM-Wake Forest game where the Canes will try to pick up their first ACC road win since Jan. 10 of last year.

As usual, I'll bring you my thoughts and observations throughout the game as time permits. Normally, we're scheduled for a live Q&A from 8 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday tonight. But I'm going to have to hold off on that for obvious reasons. No worries. I'll be handling the recruiting live Q&A from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and will even add an extended hour to make up for the hour we're losing tonight back here on the blog from 8 to 9.

So, please hold off on recruiting questions tonight. Other than the interviews I did with Brandon Harris, Taylor Cook, Tom Lemming, Larry Blustein and a few other conversations I've had with a few high school coaches, I haven't spoken to any kids. I was swamped yesterday doing the Terrell Pryor story and then my UM advance on tonight's game. The good news is, when I get back to Miami tomorrow afternoon I plan on talking to a few players of UM recruiting interest -- Corey Liuget and Tommy Streeter to name a few.

I will share this for now:
* I spoke with Liuget's coach yesterday and I think it appears real likely he's headed elsewhere despite telling a few websites UM is among his top three with Illinois and LSU. His coach told me he thinks Liuget's case to stay home hit a rough spot over the weekend wihen a friend of his was shot and killed at a 7-on-7 flag football tournament. I was told the shooting did not occur during an actual game, but in a parking lot away from the field.
* I also spoke to Jacksonville Trinity Christian's coach, Verlon Dorminey, who told me Jamie Harper intends to visit UM this weekend and he gives Miami as good a chance as any of the other finalists. You can listen to his interview it is up online already.

Alright, it's almost game-time. I've got a few things to do before tip-off. Enjoy the game.

- 15:45 left, UM 7, Wake Forest 5: Got a unique vantage point tonight. I'm right next to the UM bench and behind the basket, about five feet from the floor. Anyway, Jack McClinton made it four three-pointers in a row -- dating back to Sunday -- when he opened the game with a made three. Good to see Jack get off to a good start. That's obviously something he hasn't done enough of lately.
- 10:27 left, UM 14, Wake Forest 10: As UM kept finding a way to turn the ball over, Wake went on a 5-0 run to take a quick 10-9 lead . The Canes answered with a James Dews three-pointer and a nice basket from Dwayne Collins in the post to take a four-point lead again. Turnovers are the story so far for UM. Wake just doesn't look good. They miss a ton of shots and doesn't seem to have a player other than 7-foot center Chris McFarland who can beat someone one-on-one. At least now anyway.
- 7:22 left, UM 20, Wake Forest 20: Wake forward Chris Skeen has killed UM in this stretch, hitting a pair of three-pointers and collecting a steal and dunk. Skeen's last three-pointer answered Jack McClinton's third three-pointer of the game which gave UM a 20-17 lead. Wake started the game 3-of-18 from the field. Dino Gaudio's team is doing a good job of nullifying UM second chances like it wanted to. The Canes have one offensive rebound so far.
- 3:37 left, Wake Forest 26, UM 24: Kyle McFarland, Wake's 7-foot center, was injured in the Clemson game and there was a chance he might miss the game. Unfortunately for the Canes, Wake had a week to rest up. McFarland has definitely caused problems for UM, which can't seem to generate much inside.
- Halftime, UM 34, Wake Forest 34: Haven't see the final numbers yet, but the Canes have to be shooting the ball well. Jack McClinton has 14 points and is 4-of-5 from three-point range. The problem is Wake is just as equally hot from long distance, hitting on 6-of-11 from three-point range in the first half.

- 16:30 left, Wake Forest 46, UM 40:
Note to Canes -- can somebody guard the three-point line? Wake connected on back-to-back three-pointers by Harvey Hale and Jeff Teague to take a six-point lead. Wake is 8-of-13 in the game. Miami can't allow that and expect to win this game.
-12:48 left, Wake Forest 50, UM 46: Wake Forest's 10-0 run put them in front. But this game is starting to get a little more testy than your average ACC game. Jimmy Graham and McFarland drew double technicals after some physical play and jawing.
- 7:34 left, Wake Forest 60, UM 58: It's turned out to be another great ACC game. Brian Asbury has done a good job here in this little spurt to keep UM in the game. He's got 11 points including the last five -- a three-point play and a jumper from the free throw line. It's all going to be about defense here over the final 7 minutes. Can Miami get stops and more importantly stop getting burned by the three-point shot?
- 3:22 left, Wake Forest 67, UM 64: Anthony King only has eight points, but he's been huge in the second half, grabbing rebounds and doing the little things to create more balance inside for the Canes. Jeff Teague is playing out of his mind for Wake Forest. He's got 27 points. And Miami needs to stop him. Jack McClinton anyone? Jack has taken two shots in the second half and has 0 points.
- :30 left, Wake Forest 68, UM 68: Miami had a chance to take the lead, but Collins missed a shot inside. Now Wake has the ball and there is no shot clock.
- :2.6 left, Wake Forest 70, UM 68: Ish Smith hits the game-winner from the same spot and the same shot he did to beat Virginia Tech on Dec. 23.

January 27, 2008

Courtside blog: UM 75, Clemson 72 (F)

i'm at BankUnited Center for today's afternoon ACC showdown between the Canes and Clemson. I'll be here to provide my thoughts throughout the game.

I wouldn't call this a must win for Miami -- but it's awfully close. The Canes don't want to be 1-4 in the conference and 1-2 at home after today.

14:32 left, UM 14, Clemson 5: Well, this was the start UM was looking for. Anthony King and Dwayne Collins have combined for 10 points in the early going as the Canes are beating Clemson's press behind Lance Hurdle and scoring easy baskets.
11:25 left, UM 19, Clemson 12: Clemson forward Trevor Booker is down with an apparent knee injury. Doesn't look good. The Canes, however, do. Jack McClinton got the board with a three-pointer with 13:10 left. So far, Miami has done a good job defensively and getting their hands on the boards.
7:32 left, UM 24, Clemson 19: The Tigers have put together a little 7-0 run here to get right back in it.
4:54 left, UM 27, Clemson 25: Well, since going up 24-12 on an Anthony King three-point play (layup and foul), Clemson has gone on a 13-3 run.
3:20 left, UM 29, Clemson 28: Lance Hurdle just picked up his third foul. Not good.
1:15 left, UM 35, Clemson 32: Nice little stretch for UM just now. Jimmy Graham collected back-to-back blocks to save Brian Asbury's rear-end following a turnover. UM ended up scoring on a Collins dunk on the other side of the floor.

15:59 left, UM 45, Clemson 43: Dwayne Collins is playing great for Miami today. He's got 14 points and close to double-digits in boards. Unfortunatley, Miami can't seem to pull away from the Tigers.
11:43 left, Clemson 51, UM 49: Tigers have really made it tough for Miami's guards to score today with their press. While Collins (16 points) has benefitted from some easy looks, the Canes have suffered two shot clock violations already and look uncomfortable in thier offense. Clemson center James Mays has 10 points in the second half.
7:20 left, Clemson 57, UM 55: Another ACC thriller. Lance Hurdle hit a big three-pointer to cut Clemson's lead to 55-53. Brian Asbury then followed it up with a big offensive rebound and putback. The Hurricanes just aren't getting enough from Jack McClinton right now. They need him to turn it up here. Mays, who was killing UM inside in the second half, picked up a big foul (his 4th) with 9:33 left. Let's see if it helps the Canes.
3:53 left, Clemson 60, UM 57: This is going to be a tough one to swallow if the Canes can't pull this one out. They were up 12 in the first half. McClinton, where are you?
2:28 left, Clemson 63, UM 60: McClinton makes an appearance with 2:30 left -- and just in the nick of time to cut a six-point deficit to three. Canes fans might not forget about the foul Jimmy Graham picked up as time expired on the shot clock. It sent Terrence Oglesby to the line for three free throws. He swished them all.
1:07 left, UM 66, Clemson 65: Now that's what I call a Big Mac Attack. McClinton's three consecutive three-pointers has lifted UM to the lead. Wow!

January 26, 2008

Forget Stars, Count 'Ships

How do we measure talent and success? Better yet, how do we project talent and success?

The one thing I've enjoyed most in my 10 years in this business, covering recruiting and National Signing Day,isn't that we geeky sports fans and reporters sit on edge waiting for a pimple-faced teenager to finish this sentence: So, after yanking your chain for six months, having schools spend thousands to wine and dine me and after putting these five hats on the table I've decided I'm going to...

Nope, the thing I love most about National Signing Day is how we all end up getting bent out of Randy_shannonshape on the number of tiny, shiny little stars Joe Blow Jr. has next to his name. I love the way we  believe how Joe Blow Jr. is going to be the next Ray Lewis or Michael Irvin because Joe Blow expert who watches Joe Blow Jr. films for a living says Joe Blow Jr. is going to be "special." Aren't they all, every year? The funny thing we often forget is what exactly all those stars really mean: an expert's opinion. Yet, every first Wednesday in February, we collectively beat our chests about how good or bad the collection of Joe Blow Jr.'s our schools signed to scholarships. We believe whole-heartedly, NSD, is the day the future is made or broken. Then, when the team goes 6-6, then 5-7 under a new coach named Randy Shannon we like to kick and scream. And then we say... "but the stars... they said we were supposed to be good."

The truth is judging high school football talent and projecting what it will be like at the next level is practically impossible. Simple mathematics will tell you that. How is it humanly possible for an expert to fairly judge talent in a country with hundreds of thousands of high schools and millions of football players? And how do recruiters honestly know what they're getting? How do they know players will come through the way they hoped they would when they get here? How will they know they'll behave themselves, grow into the players they are supposed to be? Sure, there are hot-beds for talent. And it's pretty easy to figure out a 6-foot, 5-inch, 300-pound lineman with 10 percent body fat is going to have a better chance of being a better football player than a 6-1, 250-pounder with 25 percent body fat. But after those first 300 "blue-chip," "can't miss" prospects, isn't recruiting pretty much a best guess?

Recruiting talent is one thing. But the real secret to college football success isn't just collecting gold stars like your in the fourth grade. It's building a team with depth and then making sure that talent grows the right way once its in your home. And then, its making sure you adjust when things don't work out.

A look at the last five years in recruiting at Miami could tell you all you need to know about the value of star-ratings. It also should tell you how poorly the guys on this staff adjusted to recruiting  mistakes and how they might not have gotten enough out of Devin_hester2the talent they did have here. In the 2003, Rivals.com rated Devin Hester, Greg Olsen and Kyle Wright as Miami's only five-star recruits. Defensive tackle Teraz McCray was the lowest-rated recruited player for UM at two-stars. McCray as it turned out sure seemed to have a better career than nearly all of the guys rated ahead of him in his class (4-stars: CB Terrell Walden, RB Tyrone Moss, S Willie Cooper and 3-star: OL Cyrim Wimbs). And Hester, Olsen and Wright sure didn't play at a consistent 5-star level while they were here. But Hester (everyone knows what he's doing) and Olsen (a first round pick last season) are sure doing pretty well now aren't they? How about 4-star linebacker Jon Beason (another first round pick)?

Tyrone_mossSo what does that all tell us? That somewhere between those Joe Blows getting to UM and then leaving not enough good happened. There are so many factors, so many places to lay blame. Like the players. Why couldn't Willie Williams get his act together? Why did Tyrone Moss, Broward's all-time leading rusher, get beat out by a freshman by his senior year? Why couldn't Greg Olsen hang onto the ball on third downs in college? Why is Jon Beason such a stud now and why couldn't he do more at UM?

But to me, the blame goes to the inconsistency and leadership at the top. I'm sure Wright didn't imagine he'd go through as many coordinators (4) as he did when he signed at Miami. I'm also sure Wright had no idea that after Darnell Jenkins, UM wouldn't sign a receiver in 2005 and the rest of his receiving corps would include five-star bust Lance Leggett, troubled Sam Shields, converted cornerback Ryan Hill, Khalil Jones and George Robinson.

- If you're a fan, ask yourself how Miami couldn't sign a quarterback for three years after Kirby Freeman walked through the door in 2004?
- Ask yourself why the Canes have signed one linebacker in 2006 (Colin McCarthy) and one in 2007 (Allen Bailey who is likely going to be a defensive end), after signing four in 2005 (Spencer Adkins, Eric Houston, Demetri Stewart and Daryl Sharpton) who have rarely seen the field? And how they never really replaced two big ones they lost in 2004 (Willie Williams) and 2003 (Arlington Highsmith)?
- Ask yourself how four highly-rated players in the last five classes still haven't or never really did end up sticking to a position -- Kylan Robinson (2006), Richard Gordon (2006), James Bryant (2004), Hester (2003)?
- Now that you're done assessing just part of the mess, ask yourself how Miami had classes ranked by Rivals to be 5th (2003), 4th (2004), 7th (2005), 14th (2006), 19th (2007)? Then wonder why UM ended up with seven fewer wins than Kansas this past season when the Jayhawks' classes were rated 50th (2007), 38th (2006), 48th (2005), 51st (2004) and 39th (2003)?

Yes, Randy Shannon was a part of all these decisions and part of the previous coaching staff. And yes, he shouldn't be let off the hook completly. But last I checked, wasn't UM's defense before this past season the only good thing about this team for about three seasons? And how about the fact coordinators aren't nearly as involved in recruiting as assistants are? Does his burden lessen al ittle now? And how could I forget the Hurricanes, until Shannon assumed control, didn't have a recruiting coordinator in place for at least two seasons.

Whether or not ESPN, Rivals or Scout.com decides to rank UM's Class two Wednesdays from now No. 1 when it comes to those little gold stars shouldn't mean as much to you as what the Hurricanes have already accomplished in the year leading up to this class. Miami's staff has not gotten nine early entrants into school -- saving scholarship spaces for others and getting a head start on the future and spring drills -- they've addressed long-standing needs this program has had with only not only guys who have a lot of stars next to their names, but well, depth.

* Since last February, Shannon and his staff have brought in more quarterbacks (4) than the two the previous leadership of this team inked in five years from 2002 to 2006.
* This class already has five receivers -- Aldarius Johnson, Davon Johnson, Thearon Collier, Travis Benjamin and Kendal Thompson -- who could run circles around the majority of the receivers still on this team. That's my opinion anyway.
Arthur_brown* The collection of linebackers -- Sean Spence, Arthur Brown, Jordan Futch, Marcus Robinson, Antonio Harper, Brandon Marti and Zach Kane -- not only adds serious depth to a position that was lacking, but it gives you, I believe, two major studs (Spence and Brown) who should be on the field quickly.
* Defensive tackle, a position the Hurricanes have been hurting at, has potentially three studs in Marcus Forston, Micanor Regis and Jeremy Lewis who are likely more talented than anyone UM has at the position now.

Is it a perfectly constructed class? Does it fill all the needs right now? No. The Hurricanes sorely Brandon_harrisneed to get a few cornerbacks (Brandon Harris would be really nice) and need another offensive lineman (Ben Jones, anyone?). Do I think all the guys going to pan out as superstars? History would tell you no. Somebody is going to be a bust. But whether or not the stars align, the one thing Hurricanes fan can't deny is that Shannon and this staff have raised the level of intensity in recruiting. They've addressed the majority of the serious needs. And whether or not UM gets five stars or just one for that, in the end that's all you can ask this staff to do. The hole left behind is a huge one to dig out of. Hopefully, we don't need stars to help us see that.

** PROGRAMMING NOTES: Susan Miller Degnan is going to have a very good Sunday feature on Taylor Cook and the rest of UM's incoming quarterbacks. Be sure to check it out. Also, if you haven't already been over to our new recruiting site, do so. I've been busy this week doing interviews and writing stories for our new recruiting page, which The Herald is apparently planning on keeping past National Signing Day. I've done audio interviews with Florida-bound receiver Frankie Hammond, Ohio State-bound linebacker Etienne Sabino, Pahokee receiver Martavious Odoms and a feature story on Micanor Regis, who Larry Blustein keeps telling me is going to be a force with Marcus Forston. Speaking of Blustein, he and I did another podcast. We covered FIU's class and what's happening with UM at the cornerback spot. Check it out.

January 23, 2008

Courtside blog: UNC 98, UM 82 (F)

Checking in from BankUnited Center where the Canes are set to take on Carolina tonight at 9 p.m. The student section has come out in force and have been sitting for more than two hourse before tip-off. My take: It's about dang time.

I'll give you my thoughts as usual as the game progresses.

Just a couple of notes...
- I spoke to someone at UM this afternoon who tells me they expect the four Northwestern kids -- defensive tackle Marcus Forston, receiver Aldarius Johnson, quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence -- to begin class tomorrow. That being said Harris' father Rodney Harris told me yet again this afternoon he and his family had yet to hear from UM. I guess we'll find out for sure tomorrow. The person I spoke to at UM also told me not to expect Jordan Futch to enroll early anymore and that Futch will likely sign up for summer classes in May.

- I also spoke to Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson this afternoon about defensive tackle Micanor Regis, who is definitely headed to UM and receiver Martavious Odoms who will visit The U this weekend. Thompson calls Regis (6-4, 300) a complete and total beast and says Miami is getting about as an athletic big man as there is. He said Regis started both ways for Pahokee and took off between 10-15 plays the whole year. Maybe we can call him the anti-Antonio Dixon.

- As for Odoms, Thompson told me Odoms has UM at the top of his list and simply wants to go to a program where he can be on the field and part of a spread-type offense. He said UM coaches have told him they are contemplating running more spread sets next season. Odoms also has South Florida and West Virginia high on his list.

- FYI, The Herald is launching a ton of recruiting coverage tomorrow for the two weeks leading up to National Signing Day. I've compiled the national, state, South Florida, Dade and Broward rankings for players and it will all be posted online along with lots of audio interviews. Aside from my interview with Blaze Thompson, I also spoke with Ohio State-bound linebacker Etienne Sabino this afternoon. Anyway, look for a ton of recruiting coverage over the next two weeks.

- I've been told Udonis Haslem, Dwayne Wade and Dorrell Wright are in the house. Haven't seen them yet. But they are supposed to be here. It's definitely a loud gym tonight, more so than I've ever experienced in covering this team for two years.

- 15:05 left, UNC 13, UM 10: Well, for those of you worried about the Canes having a hangover from Saturday's loss, they sure haven't played like it. The problem is for all the good things UM has done early, UNC still has the lead. Ray Hciks has four points to lead UM early. Ty Lawson's three-pointer gave UNC its first lead at 7-6.
- 13:44 left, UNC 15, UM 10: Just spotted Edgerrin James waiting on the sideline. Canes are turning the ball over too much here.
- 11:25 left, UNC 18, UM 13: I'd like to welcome Brian Asbury back to the team. His three-pointer with 11:45 left ended a 7-0 UNC run. Turnovers are killing UM early. Anthony King has made two bad passes that have eld to turnovers already including an inexcusable one over the head of James Dews.
- 6:14 left, UNC 29, UM 27: Miami pieced together a 10-run and took a 20-18 on a Ray Hicks lay-in with 8:35 left. An Asbury three-pointer extended UM's lead to 23-20. But UNC has climbed back ahead behind Ty Lawson, who left tread marks on Edwin Rios' back on a three-pointer and layup. Miami's big men -- Dwayne Collins and Anthony King -- both have two fouls now. Jimmy Graham limped off the court with 8:56 left after appearing to tweak his ankle.
- 3:36 left, UNC 36, UM 32: There are only so many opportunties you can give UNC before they shoot you down. The Heels just had a series where they grabbed four offensive rebounds. Eventually, Lawson went to the line and hit two free throws. Miami is hanging tough. But they aren't going to win unless they can secure boards and take care of the basketball.
- :38.1 left, UNC 44, UM 40: Whoever kidnapped the old Ray Hicks and replaced him with this new one deserves a reward. Hicks has 14 points and is pacing UM, which is doing just enough to hang with UNC.
- Halftime, UNC 47, UM 40: Well, if UM was hoping to win this with defense -- they aren't. The Hurricanes

- 14:19 left, UNC 59, UM 50: Miami simply can't keep playing at this rate. They can't run with Carolina all night. The defense has to start digging down and making stops or Carolina is simply going to run Miami off the court. Eventually, Hicks, Asbury and Hurdle are going to cool down.
- 13:01 left, UNC 64, UM 52: The more I keep watching Hansborough the more I keep picturing the character from MadTV... "I don't wanna."
- 11:36 left, UNC 66, UM 54: The Tar Heels have just so many weapons. Lawson eats you up with his speed. Hansborough is such a tough inside scorer. The Canes have played valiantly, but five points from Jack McClinton isn't going to keep Miami in this game.
- 7:44 left, UNC 73, UM 62: The Hurricanes have fought hard all game. But it feels like everytime they are on the verge of starting a run, they make a mistake, a turnover to shoot themselves in the foot.

Recruiting Checklist

With exactly two weeks left until National Signing Day (Wednesday, Feb. 6) the nerves of internet recruiting junkies are at all an time high. Do a quick search of UM recruiting message boards and you'll find subject lines like these...

-- The B-Wash Saga... what's the deal? (Translation: What is happening with Northwestern offensive lineman Brandon Washington?)
-- Buchanon makes the switch (Translation: Melbourne Palm Bay linebacker Ramon Buchanon says he is now going to sign with the Gators)
-- The Heck With Streeter already (Translation: Frustrated UM fans are tired of waiting for Northwestern receiver Tommy Streeter to follow his teammates and pick the Hurricanes)

For those of you not so deeply connected to the insane world of recruiting but who suddenly got a bug to find out what Randy Shannon and crew are trying to do to build a better future for this 5-7 program, I've decided to compile a checklist if you will of what has happened, might happen, could happen and potentially happen in the next two weeks. Basically, here's what you need to know and what you need to follow over the final 14 days of recruiting insanity if you wear green and orange on Saturdays.

- There are between 32-34 scholarships Miami is trying to use by Feb. 6 to go toward this upcoming Randy_shannon_runsoutfootball season. So far, 26 scholarships are accounted for from kids who have given Shannon their word they'll sign scholarships (that number was higher before a few decommitments). Just so you know: Miami can use a maximum of 25 scholarships on national signing day. The rest of the commitments will either have to enroll early or wait until the following January to sign with UM. There's also the junior college route and prep school route, but it also means those players are open to being recruited again and possibly choosing other schools.

- Back to early enrollees, the kids that are trying to sign up early for the spring semester at UM so they can participate in spring practice. The deadline to enroll in those classes is today (Wednesday, Jan. 23). If any of those early enrollees are unable to begin classes by today (barring some new unforseen rule stretching), it means they'll have to take up one of the 25 scholarships used on NSD (National Signing Day) and begin taking classes in the fall. Or, go somewhere else.

- According to a previous count, 11 commitments were supposed to be enrolled by today. We already know that Boyd Anderson safety Joseph Wylie (short by a credit) Marcus_forstonwill have to wait until NSD to sign with the Hurricanes. As of Tuesday night, five other EE (early enrollees) remained in question -- Miami Northwestern quarterback Jacory Harris, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, linebacker Sean Spence and receiver Aldarius Johnson and Hollywood Chaminade linebacker Jordan Futch. *Despite an internet report that the Northwestern four would be allowed to enroll in classes by Wednesday because their transcripts from high school had cleared UM admissions, I was told by Jacory Harris' father Rodney Harris, the families of the players had yet to be informed of anything by UM late Tuesday night. "As soon as I hear something I'll let you know," he said. A family member from Futch's family said they too had yet to hear from UM as of late Tuesday night. Futch's family member said Futch was NCAA eligible and the hold-up was in the UM's admissions office. "Jordan is ready to go. He's anxious. But no matter what happens, whether he starts school in the fall or now, he wants to be a Hurricane. We're just not realy optimstic right now its going to happen tomorrow." We should find out by Wednesday night what finally happened.

- The other five early enrollees -- linebacker Arthur Brown, kicker Jake Wieclaw, quarterback Cannon Smith, fullback Patrick Hill and tight end John Calhoun -- are already said to be Arthur_browntaking classes at UM. The school is supposed to announce an official list later this week. If the other five scheduled early enrollees are unable to begin classes by today, it would likely leave UM with 21 commitments for NSD and only four open available scholarships (perhaps more if any of the current commitments do not qualify academically). The Hurricanes already hosted a large group of visitors this past weekend are set to host more than dozen over the span of the next two weeks.

Below is a list I compiled of who could end up choosing the Hurricanes on NSD or before then as well as an update on current "soft commitments" of players. Basically, its a whose-list-of-who could end up choosing the Hurricanes from now until NSD.

RB, Jamie Harper, Jacksonville Trinity Christian (6-0, 210, 4.4):
Rivals.com reports he will visit UM on Feb. 2. Clemson is said to be the front-runner although the return of James Davis to Clemson could make things more interesting. Harper is consider the fifth-best running back in the country by Scout.com. He is the only running back Miami has consistently recruited. His close friend, safety Daniel Andrews, is a Clemson commitment. He recently skipped a trip to the University of Florida. He is also said to be considering Florida State and will visit the Noles on Jan. 25.

OT, Ben Jones, Miami Northwestern (6-6, 280): The starting right tackle on Northwestern’s state championship team, Jones took a trip out to Clemson on the weekend of Jan. 11. He is said to have whittled his choices down to the Hurricanes and the Tigers. The Hurricanes have felt strongly they'll get Jones in the end. Canesport.com reported Shannon visited Jones' home Tuesday night but didn't come away with a commitment.

WR, Tommy Streeter, Miami Northwestern (6-5, 200, 4.5): One of the top Tommy_streeterremaining high profile recruits from Northwestern who has maintained an open stance toward his recruitment. Streeter recently visited South Carolina and went to Boston College and Oregon earlier this year. Scout.com reports he will visit Mississippi the weekend of Feb. 2. Despite what many people perceive as a cooling off between Streeter and the Hurricanes, the fact remains four of his teammates are already at UM including quarterback Jacory Harris and fellow receiver Aldarius Johnson. That alone leaves the Hurricanes in the mix for what is expected to be some signing day drama.

WR, Martavious Odoms, Pahokee (5-8, 175, 4.5): The Hurricanes will supposedly get a visit from Odoms on the weekend of Jan. 25 and are one of five teams with a shot at him. South Florida, Auburn and West Virginia are also in the running. Odoms is considered a four-star recruit by Rivals.com.

WR, Laron Byrd, (6-4, 205, 4.5): Rated the 69th best receiver prospect in the nation by Scout, Byrd has been busy making trips over the past month. He recently visited Mississippi State and supposedly will hit Nebraska before coming to UM on the weekend of Feb. 2. He had 50 catches for over 630 yards and 13 touchdowns his senior season. He also picked off three passes from his safety spot.

DE, Nicholas Perry, Detroit Martin Luther King (6-4, 235, 4.7):
Perry was a menace and tallied more than 30 sacks his senior year in Michigan. Considered the fifth-best defensive end in the nation by Scout.com. He recently made a trip out to USC and loved it. He is set to visit nearby Michigan this weekend before making his final trip to Miami on the weekend of Feb. 2. Perry said he has no front-runner, but would like to be a part of a talented incoming class. He is said to have hung out with Northwestern defensive tackle and UM commitment Marcus Forston at the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio.

DT, Corey Liuget, Hialeah (6-3, 270, 4.7): Liuget committed to Illinois in October but has since said opened up his recruitment, including the Hurricanes with Florida State and LSU. The Hurricanes have made an in-home visit to Liuget, but are not likely to receive a visit from him. Word on the street is his family would like Liuget to leave South Florida.

LB, Gavin Hardin, Jackson Central, TN (6-4, 240, 4.7): Hardin has been an oral commitment to Mississippi since before the football season began, but after a coaching change he opened things back up and visited UM the weekend of Jan. 18. He told Scout.com he loved the trip and was blown away. He is still set to visit Mississippi the weekend of Jan. 25. The Hurricanes have a strong shot of landing him.

CB, Brandon Harris, Miami Booker T. Washington (5-10, 185, 4.4): Will visit UM Brandon_harris_2on Jan. 25 with high school teammates and current Hurricane commitments Thearon Collier and Davon Johnson. Harris is the top remaining available local player and considered one of the country’s five best cornerbacks -- and a must get for Miami by most experts. Miami will not be his final visit. He could end up going to visit South Florida on the final recruiting weekend. Herald High School Writer Andre Fernandez thinks Harris is going to choose either Ohio State or Miami. Harris' announcement is expected to come on national signing day, likely to a live TV audience.

S, Vaughn Telemaque, Long Beach Poly, Calif. (6-2, 187, 4.5): Telemaque has come out of nowhere to become one of the best defensive backs in the country. He visited UM on the weekend of Jan. 18-20 with several friends from California and said he came away impressed. He lists UM in the top three with Oregon and USC, who he is supposed to visit on Jan. 25. Telemaque told Scout.com he will announce his decision on FSN on Jan. 30.

CB, T.J. Bryant, Tallahassee Lincoln (6-0, 185, 4.4): Bryant is considered the prototypical cornerback. He has kept his recruiting quiet for the most part and is said to be down to six schools along with Miami, Alabama, Florida, LSU, USC and Florida State. Scout.com reported he is visiting UM this week. Bryant is rated a top five recruit in the state.

CB, Alonzo Lawrence, George County, MS (6-0, 180, 4.5): Being recruited by special teams coach Joe Pannunzio, Lawrence is rated the nation’s 11th-best cornerback by Scout.com. He’s visited Alabama and Ole Miss and recently added UM after an in-home visit. He’s supposed to visit UM Jan. 25. He had 30 catches for 772 yards and 11 touchdowns his senior season. He also returned five kickoffs for touchdowns. On defense, he had 91 tackles, two touchdowns, and two picks.

DB, Herman Davidson, Long Beach Poly, Calif (6-2, 216, 4.6): Davidson made the trip down to Miami with teammate Telemaque on the weekend of Jan. 18 and told Scout.com UM opened up his eyes. He lists UM with Cal and North Carolina. He finished the 2007 season with 71 tackles and six interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He is rated the 19th-best safety prospect in the country by Scout.com.

- There are a number of other low-profile recruits Miami could end up extending scholarships to if the Hurricanes strike out with the big boys -- especially locals like Archbishop Carroll cornerback George Baker or Booker T. Washington defensive end Jonathan Jackson. But for right now, those are the big names to worry about.

- As for those soft commitments (those would be kids who are committed, but are still taking trips or looking elsewhere)... Palm Beach Lakes defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis, who has visited four Brandon_washingtonother schools, is expected to solidify his commitment this weekend when he visits Miami... Northwestern offensive lineman Brandon Washington told me Tuesday night his trips to other potential suitors have been ruined by the fact he has yet to receive his ACT scores. Washington had planned to visit North Carolina (Jan. 11), LSU (Jan. 18) and South Florida (Jan. 25) before hitting Miami on Feb. 2, but he says those plans are now on hold. When asked who he would pick in the end, he said "The team who recruits me the hardest." Washington, who played left tackle this season for the state champion Bulls, also said he has no problem playing guard in college if it is in the best interest of the team.

January 22, 2008

Live Q&A at Canespace

Here's the link to the live chat over Canespace.com tonight from 8 to 9 p.m.

Wanted: Chill Pills for everyone

Dealing with disappointment has become the norm in this town. Between the Dolphins, Heat and every other team losing in Miami, I believe every die-hard sports fan in South Florida is suffering from Loseritus. The moment anything seems to go wrong -- even in every day things -- South Florida Joe seems to be losing his mind.

Take my friend Abel for example. He's a die-hard Miami fan. When the Canes lost to N.C. State on Saturday night , I got a phone call from Abel at 2 a.m. in my hotel room. Abel demanded to know what Anthony King was thinking before he threw the ball -- and a Miami win -- away. His wife, who was sleeping next to him, had to yell at him to get off the phone. My other friend Richard, a die-hard Heat and Canes fan, nearly stuck his fist through a wall Monday night after he dropped his beer. When I asked him what was wrong, he said: "The ****-ing Heat suck!" And then, I climb onto this blog today and see more panic, frustration and anger because a pretty good teenage football player from Melbourne who was committed to the Hurricanes changed his mind and decided to go to Florida.

Look, I'll be the first to tell you South Florida Joe sports makes me a bit looney. But I think we all need to take a step back, take a deep breath and refocus. Don't let Loseritus dominate your life. Winning is just around the corner. I mean, besides, there is no way to go but up.

Seriously, while the loss of linebacker Ramon Buchanon to the Gators hurts (I won't lie, he was one of the top five kids UM had as commitments), it certainly isn't the end of the world. In fact, losing Buchanon -- along with Lerentee McCray, Matt Patchan and Patrick Johnson this recruiting season -- certainly shouldn't have come as a surprise. And it certainly shouldn't ruin the good work Randy Shannon and his staff have done in accumulating talent this recruiting season.

With or without Buchanon, Miami's class is still considered Top 10 in the country by everyone. I spoke to both Larry Blustein and Charles Fishbein today about it. Both weren't surprised Buchanon jumped ship. Both say Miami's class is still strong.

"The key for the Hurricanes is just to finish strong," said Fishbein, of MSLCombines.net. "They get a Brandon Harris at cornerback, Ben Jones on the offensive line and just keep adding depth and this is still one of the best classes in the country. Everyone just needs to chill out. There's two weeks left. The Northwestern kids are already at UM. And the rest of the ones who are set to come in probably aren't going anywhere else."

Said Blustein: "If Miami gets Brandon Harris this is still an amazing class. People have got to remember this team went 5-7. It's hard to get whoever you want when you have a record like that. Randy has done a good job getting the guys he has this year. This isn't an overnight project by any means."

So, there's a little perspective. Take some. It might help your nerves.

-- If that doesn't help, I was told the Hurricanes expect linebacker Gavin Hardin, who visited UM over the weekend to become the Canes next commitment. Hardin is a Rivals three-star recruit and mammoth kid at 6-5, 225. He could end up playing defensive end at the next level.

January 19, 2008

Courtside blog: N.C. State 79, UM 77 (F-OT)

RALEIGH -- OK, the game is about to get underway. I'll be here with my thoughts during the game. Feel free to chime in.

- UM coach Frank Haith has gone with a small starting lineup against N.C. State's big team: Guards Lance Hurdle, Jack McClinton, James Dews with forward Ray Hicks and center Anthony King.
- 15:23 left, NCST 8, UM 5: The game started the way UM wanted. Miami took its first four shots from inside the paint, hitting three. King scored twice on post moves to put UM up 5-0. But the Canes have once again turned to taking jump shots and once again has cooled. The Wolfpack have gone on a 8-0 run and Miami is getting in early foul trouble.
- 11:45 left, NCST 16, UM 13: State 11-0 run finally ended when Ray Hicks rebounded and laid in a bad shot by Eddie Rios, who still looks uncomfortable being out there. Moment's later, Hicks dunked over Brandon Costner to make it 11-9. King has since paced Miami with back-to-back buckets. The Hurricanes have scored 12 of their 13 points inside the paint. Foul alert: James Dews and Jimmy King both have two fouls.
- 7:02 left, NCST 31, UM 19: State went on another run, this time 9-1, before Lance Hurdle's three-point play with 9:11 remaining. State has connected on four big three-pointers early in the first half and its helped open up the floor inside. For all the talk about Miami's poor shooting, the Hurricanes finally hit their first jumper with 8:23 remaining, an 18-footer by James Dews from the wing.
- 3:51 left, NCST 34, UM 23: It seems everytime Miami starts to claw back into the game, the Wolfpack hit a big three. This time after a 4-0 run, Courtney Fells hits a three with 4:20 left to extend the N.C. State lead back to 11.
- 1:18 left, NCST 35, UM 27: Wow -- that was funny. The crowd just booed loudly. The reason: Barry Manilow's concert scheduled for Sunday night in Raleigh has been postponed due to inclement weather.
- HALF, NCST 36, UM 27: The Wolfpack have connected on 5 of 9 from three-point range and are shooting 52.2 percent from the field. UM is 11 of 31 from the field and is 0-for-5 from three-point range. The Hurricanes have outrebounded State, 19-16, outscored them in the paint 14-8 and outscored State in second-chance points 6-0. Translation: Miami isn't doing so bad. They just can't hit baskets.

- 15:52 left, NCST 43, UM 35:
Miami started the half strong -- especially Hicks who has been playing out of his mind tonight. But once again turnovers and some poor outshooting is killing UM. Jack McClinton is now 2-of-9 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range. Hicks has six points in the second half and a team-leading 13 in the game.
- 13:12 left, NCST 46, UM 45: Miami has gone on an 8-0 run to climb right back into the game. The Hurricanes have taken turns scoring in the pos. Haith has talked for a long time about Miami becoming a post team. They look like one now.
- 10:40 left, NCST 52, UM 51: Welcome back, Jack. McClinton's back-to-back three-pointers finally gave Miami its first lead with 11:31 remaining since UM scored the first five points of the game. An interesting development a few minutes ago when Dwayne Collins picked up his second foul. Collins took a shoulder to the chest afterward from Gavin Grant. Officials didn't see it. Miami's big men are picking up a ton of fouls. That could be the story late in this game.
- 7:21 left, UM 55, NCST 54: Jimmy Graham's offensive rebound and stick-back has given UM the lead again. McClinton is starting to heat up for the Canes, who have outplayed N.C. State's big men in the second half.
- 5:11 left, UM 61, NCST 58: Lance Hurdle has fouled out. The Hurricanes had a five-point lead with 5:45 remaining.
- 3:30 left, UM 65, NCST 64: How about a shout out to former Miami Dr. Krop standout Javi Gonzalez. The freshman's three-pointer with 4:48 to play tied the score at 61. UM has now retaken the lead at 65-64 on another Jack McClinton jumper.
- 2:26 left, UM 68, NCST 66: If you don't like Jack McClinton's game, then something is wrong with you. This guy has icewater in his veins. Another big shot -- a three-pointer with 2:50 left -- to give UM the lead again.
- 1:25 left, UM 72, UM 69: How many big shots can McClinton hit? Another three to give UM the lead again. Then, Graham draws a charge on Ben McCauley before hitting one of two free throws to give UM a three-point lead.
- 17.7 left, UM 72, NCST 72: High drama in Raleigh. Canes have the ball and are now tied after Hicks made a foolish mistake fouling Gavin Grant on his way to the basket. Grant hit the free throw and the game is tied.
- End of regulation, UM 72, NC ST 72: Can't explain what happened there in the final 45 seconds except to think the Canes blew their opportunity. McClinton put up a bad three-point shot. King got the rebound then forced a bad shot. N.C. State had a chance to win, but Courtney Fells' three-pointer rattled out right before time expired. Let's see how UM handles overtime.

Emptying the notebook

Checking in from inside the RBC Center in Raleigh where the Hurricanes are set to take on the N.C. State Wolfpack in about half an hour. I know this has been a busy weekend for news out of UM and I plan on touching on those subjects in a few. But I'll start with basketball.

- I know someone asked me the other day if the Hurricanes were only going to wear black uniforms from now on when on the road. UM SID Margaret Belch tells me the Canes will be debuting their orange jerseys tonight. UM has three uniforms: their home whites and road orange and black.
- Considering No. 1-ranked North Carolina is coming to town Wednesday -- and just lost to Maryland at home -- I'd pretty much say this is a real important game for the Canes, who don't want to be 1-2 going into that game against the Tar Heels.

Tonight's game in Raleigh will be a homecoming not only for coach Frank Haith, who grew up in North Carolina, but also for center Anthony King, forward Jimmy Graham and freshman Julian Gamble. There actually will be plenty of Canes family members in attendance. Jack McClinton's family is expected to attend along with the family of guard Lance Hurdle, whose family has moved from San Diego to Virginia to be closer to their son on the east today. Today is McClinton's birthday.

POINT GUARD PLAY: There were few items I couldn't get into my advance of today's game including Haith's thoughts on Hurdle, who could start seeing a lot more playing time at the point. With freshman Eddie Rios struggling to get acclimated to the college ball and with McClinton seeing a lot of defensive pressure, Haith said Thursday plans to ease it up with more of Hurdle, who is the fastest guard on the team.
Lance_hurdle"The point guard thing, I think we just have to find a way to get into our offense better, get the focus off of Jack a little bit," Haith said. "I think sometimes particularly early in the game, people are focused on taking Jack away. Maybe it’s a little easier at the start of the game because he’s out front. I know defenses are particularly the best at the beginning of the games. And when the defense loosens up, you have a tendency to lose guys."
"There’s no question Lance will [see more playing time at the point]," Haith said. "I thought he had a really good performance in the second half against Boston College. And I think the more time he gets the better he’s going to be. You’re seeing him grow and get better. I think he’s gotten more comfortable with his quickness and his speed, he’s got that ACC speed, athleticism which will definitely help us. We need to get some easy buckets and I think when Lance does that, he helps us create easy buckets because of his speed."

GETTING MORE OUT OF THE POST: There is no question Haith needs to get more out of post players for Miami to be successful and I expect the Hurricanes to make it a point to establish and inside presence early. But I asked Haith to talk about his big men on Thursday and this is what he said: "Anthony obviously it could be a little bit of the injury. I don’t know. He didn’t complain about being hurt. We need Anthony to be more aggressive and more assertive. We need to find Anthonyking more ways to get that out of him. When he is, we’re a different team. When he's passive and not as active it hurts us. We need him to be more assertive. He's very capable of it. Just getting comfortable and getting back out there. He's very emotional. I know Georgia Tech was his first ACC game getting back. Hopefully, we're going home for him in that Durham-Raleigh area. Hopefully we can see the Anthony King of old.
"Jimmy is doing well. I think Jimmy was 1-for-4 [against Boston College]. But I love his activity. His defensive presence. His aggressiveness. I feel real good about his level of activity and what he brings to the table."
"Dwayne [Collins]? We need more. We need more out of Dwayne. I don’t know if Dwayne has played well in either ACC game in terms of what he’s capable of doing. He’s our best low post scorer. We need more production out of him."

Susan Miller Degnan and I had been hearing for about a week Aubrey Hill was the leading candidate to replace Marquis Mosely -- even before Mosely was officially fired. The tough part of this job is getting confirmation on rumors. Susan did a great job finally tracking Aubrey down on Friday. My hats off to her.

Hill looks like another solid hire for the Canes because he's young and has been very much involved in recruiting -- especially here in South Florida -- during his stints at Florida, Duke and finally Pittsburgh. I haven't spoken to Hill since he was named coach, but Susan said he sounds like a very enthusiastic guy.
Hill played receiver at Florida, but before he was a Gator he was a Carol City Chief and someone coach Walt Frazier always thought highly of. I spoke to Coach Frazier Friday about Hill and this is what he had to say: "Outstanding person, football player. Everytime he comes home he visits me. The thing that stood out about 'Bre is he did all the little things good players are supposed to. When he was here, teams always double covered him and he rarely got the ball. But he made it a point to make sure if he wasn't getting the ball, he was making his teammates better so when they got the ball, they could explode. He always handled things well. He blocked. He was a leader. I think that's what makes him such a good coach."
Hill played with UM strength coach Andreu Swasey at Carol City. I also know he is very good friends with Randy Shannon's right hand man, former Edison coach Corey Bell.

BIG RECRUITING WEEKEND: This weekend is one of three busy weekends at The U. I've heard there is somewhere between 8 and 10 visitors this weekend at Miami including four commitments, linebacker Zach Kane, receiver Travis Benjamin, defensive end Andrew Smith and defensive tackle Micanor Regis. The out of towners are believed to be California defensive backs Vaughn Telemaque, Herman Davidson and Aaron Hester and Tennessee linebacker/defensive end Gavin Hardin. Telemaque and Hardin are the two guys Miami has the best shot at. It's imperative Miami starts landing some cornerbacks. Telemaque is considered a safety. But at this point, I'm sure Hurricanes coaches will do whatever they have to do to stockpile talent and turn guys in corners if they have to.

PODCAST: I finally recorded this week's podcast and uploaded it to The Herald's website on Friday. Here's the link. I spoke to Larry Blustein for close to an hour on a variety of topics including looking ahead to the Class of 2008, the hiring of Bill Young as UM's defensive coordinator and the storylines to follow in the coming weeks. I also spoke to Charles Fishbein on what the Gators and Seminoles are doing in recruiting.

January 17, 2008

DC hire "a home run" for Canes

Despite reports to the contrary Wednesday, University of Miami coach Randy Shannon has apparently hired 61-year old Bill Young away from the University of Kansas Thursday afternoon in a move I can only deem eye-opening.

Young, a 38-year coaching veteran who turned the Jayhawks into one of the Bill_youngnation's best defensive units last season, told the Lawrence Journal World he wanted a new challenge. Well, Mr. Young, you got one. Miami was pretty bad near the end of last season. But if Young can do what he did in his six years at Kansas (with guys a little more less athletic than at UM to say the least) with some of the defensive talent the Hurricanes are hording in recruiting now, Randy Shannon may have hit himself a home run today.

"This is a huge move for Miami," national recruiting analyst Larry Blustein told me moments ago. "This goes with everything Miami has done in recruiting this year. He's a guy who has proven himself. What probably got him the job was what he did at the Orange Bowl against a Virginia Tech team Miami couldn't stop. I don't think Kansas athletes can compare to what Miami has and is getting in recruiting. Miami could have a very, very special defense in a couple of years."

It wasn't that long ago when Shannon's defense was special here at Miami. It was obvious last season the Hurricanes not only had a drop in talent, but likely coaching too. Tim Walton, whom Shannon promoted to defensive coordinator before firing him last month, simply couldn't maintain what Shannon had achieved -- even with two potential first round picks on the defense in Calais Campbell and Kenny Phillips.

What the Hurricanes are getting in Young is someone who won't have to look over his shoulder. While I believed the Hurricanes would actually go after a Patrick Nix-type like it did with the offensive coordinator job -- someone young, hungry and relatively cheap -- it appears Shannon tried swinging for the fences on this one and connected.

The Jayhawks finished as the 12th ranked defense in the nation and the No. 4 scoring defense, allowing just 16 points per game last season. But what I liked most about them last season was the fact they produced so many turnovers, and took chances and they were good at stopping the run. Young's teams have always been good at that. In 1999 at Southern Cal, the Trojans led the nation in takeaways and led the Pac-10 in rushing defense.

Perhaps the best part of this hiring too is that Young is a veteran coach. If you look at what Miami has, the majority of its staff is filled with guys relatively young in coaching experience -- guys like Clint Hurtt, Michael Barrow. Young will provide leadership and coaching experience to those guys.

"I thought Randy would take his time, wait until after signing day -- at least that's what I heard," Blustein said. "But what probably happened was that he took a shot at a high-caliber guy and it just so happened Young was interested too. This is a perfect place for a guy like Young who probably isn't looking to be a head coach. He's an older guy who has been there, done that. And Miami is certainly a nicer place than Lawrence, Kansas -- especially this time of year and for retirement."

With the current early enrollees unavailable for comment, I made a few phone calls to current Hurricane commitments coming in the fall. I spoke to Rivals 2-star linebacker Zach Kane, a 6-3, 220-pounder from New Jersey, who is supposed to be visiting UM this weekend. Kane was excited.

"I actually watched Kansas a lot this year and I didn't know who their coordinator was, but I was very impressed by what they did," Kane said. "He definitely knows his stuff.

"The best part about it is he's coming in fresh and we're coming fresh. He doesn't know any of the juniors or seniors more than he does us. It gives us all equal footing."

*PROGRAMMING NOTE: The podcast I planned to record with Larry Blustein isn't going to happen until tomorrow morning, which means the podcast likely won't make it online until late afternoon. I'm hoping to do a few recordings later tonight at the Dade-Broward All-Star practices to include with it.

January 16, 2008

Wednesday's Q&A

Hate to do this to you guys, but a long day at the airport, followed by another long night helping my brother move is going to force me to answer questions later tonight and not do this week's session live.

My apologies. Feel free to start leaving questions for me below. I hope to be on tonight around midnight to answer them if you guys are willing to stay up that late.

UPDATE... 1:09 a.m. - OK, I'm finally going to start answering questions. For those of you who waited up until midnight I apologize. I was tied up with the move and didn't get home until now. I heard about the Bill Young rumors. I'll address it below.

The Hoops Report: Post BC loss

After watching the Hurricanes bury themselves in a huge hole Tuesday night and lose to Boston College for a 13th consecutive time, I know South Florida Joe (that's my nickname for the average fan) is likely to come to a simple conclusion about Frank Haith's basketball team today. What is that? This UM team is just like the good ones who have come before this one -- nothing special and maybe good enough to make the NCAA Tournament and win a game or two.

And while that may be so by season's end, there certainly is no reason to jump off the bandwagon yet. This team is 14-2, 1-1 in the conference. And truth be told, if Frank Haith's team doesn't come out like Three Blind Mice for the first 15 minutes of Tuesday's game, UM likely has a shot to win it at the end.

I know, nobody cares about what-ifs. All everyone wants to see is this Miami team follow right in the footsteps of Billy Donovan's Florida Gators and carry South Florida (aka, Loserville) on its back on the way to an NCAA title. Here's a newsflash folks: That's not going to happen. Haith and company aren't saying it is either. Not yet anyway. Not anytime soon. Maybe a couple years from now. OK, maybe never. But the point is Haith and his team shouldn't be compared to those basketball Gators or even their UM football counterparts, who have five national titles and a reputation they need to start maintaining again. Meanwhile, what has UM basketball ever accomplished? One trip to the Sweet 16 and a co-Big East title. Oh, and Rick Barry played there too.

I'm not yelling at you, South Florida Joe. I know you don't like to get scolded. But before you drop this team for dropping one ACC road game, remember it takes take time to build a winner. It takes baby steps. And when you consider how far this team has come in a matter of nine months -- from 12-20 to 14-2 and nationally ranked -- well, it's like one giant leap for Hurricane-basketball kind.

Anyway, I'm done preaching. Here's some stuff that might make you feel better or at least make you think...

- During the game, I got a chance to sit next to ESPN's College Basketball Writer Andy Katz. First off, Katz is probably as good as their is in the business. Covering one team can create headaches. This guy covers the entire nation. Anyway, Tuesday night was the first time Katz told me he had seen UM in person. But he said he also saw UM play two times on TV, the championship of the San Juan shootout against Providence and UM's road trip to Mississippi State (How he finds the time is beyond me). In a nutshell, Katz says he thinks UM can finish anywhere from fourth to seventh in the conference, behind obviously No. 1 North Carolina, Duke and Clemson. His biggest concern: Miami's post presence. He says the Canes are still relying a lot on their guards and not getting enough inside.

WHERE'S KING?: Haith agreed with Katz assesment after Tuesday's game and told reporters he thought his team did a poor job getting the ball inside against the Eagles. Haith also said his big men didn't do enough to draw contact and were almost fearful of it. I agree to an extent. But from what I saw Tuesday, it doesn't look to me like Jimmy Graham or Dwayne Collins are fearful. It's senior Anthony King, who when facing an imposing shotblocker has now faded into obscurity twice. King played just 18 minutes Tuesday, putting up only two shot attempts and grabbing six rebounds. Part of it was 6-11 Tyrelle Blair, who was redirecting shots left and right and grabbing most of the boards for BC. The bigger problem from my point of view? King isn't be aggressive enough. He's settling for jumpshots. It's almost as if he's intimidated at times to go inside. He did the same thing against Mississippi State when the Bulldogs big-shot blocker was redirecting his shots. Miami needs King, who obviously isn't as athletic as Collins or Graham, to get his confidence back. Like Shaq's dad once said in a commercial: TAKE IT TO THE HOLE. Ultimately, UM needs King's leadership and they need his presence, especially defensively, on the floor.

PROBLEMS PASSING: The other part of what Haith was talking about in the postgame -- getting the ball inside -- is obviously part of the biggest problem this team has in my eyes: point guard. While Jack McClinton has done a decent job running the point for Miami, he had three assists and only one turnover on Tuesday, this was the second consecutive game he struggled with his shot. At times, it even looked like he was forcing them again. Meanwhile, it also was the second consecutive game shot poorly to start the game. I know I talked about this in the Courtside Blog, but I'll touch on it again. The Hurricanes have simply been out of rhythm -- at least in the early part of both of their ACC games. What's causing it? Good coaching on the other side and the fact this team doesn't have a true point guard. Even though Haith was hoping freshman Eddie Rios, who played one minute Tuesday, might develop and be able to handle more minutes come January, it hasn't happen. Rios has shown he's not ready yet to see significant minutes at the point. Tuesday, for about the first 10 minutes of the game, Miami's offense looked like a chicken with its head cut off. Instead of going toward the basket, McClinton and Dews would keep coming back to retrieve the ball from each other or from their post men. With a guy like Tyrese Rice running the point for UM, the Hurricanes wouldn't have that problem. Rice is the type of guy that can thread passes inside. McClinton and Dews can do it, but not at a high enough rate to keep UM's offense in a flow. And as long as the Canes keep struggling with that, you can get bet your house opponents are going to keep applying that pressure and trying to exploit.

A NEW SOLUTION?: Junior Lance Hurdle could potentially be the solution for Haith. The JUCO transfer played for 28 minutes Tuesday, third most behind McClinton (36) and Dews (31). Hurdle scored 13 points and had two assists, one turnover and a steal. But what was most impressive was his speed and ability to get to the basket quickly for lay-ups. The problem I see is that Hurdle needs to work on seeing his teammates a little better. There were times he pulled up for three-pointers and jumpshots when teammates were open. But all in all, if he can handle the rock and play with that much speed all the time -- he's also not a bad defender -- then he's a key asset that needs to see more minutes.

January 15, 2008

Courtside blog: Boston College 76, UM 66 (F)

Checking in from the Conte Forum up here in Boston where the 21st-ranked Canes are set to take on a familiar nemesis, Boston College. The Eagles have won 12 consecutive games in this series. But this is one the Canes need to win if they're going to prove they're among the elite in the ACC.

This Eagles team isn't as good as past BC teams. They don't have the toughness and size they used to have with Jared Dudley, Sean Marshall and others. It's a guard driven team. This UM team is also improved, deeper and should win this matchup. I'll take you through the game with my thoughts. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts as the game progresses. It will be on live at 9 p.m. on FSN-Florida.

- Miami will be wearing their road black uniforms. The starting lineup is the same as last time out: Jack McClinton, James Dews, Brian Asbury, Dwayne Collins and Anthony King. Collins had a huge outing the last time was at BC. If he has the same type of night he did last year, Miami is probably going to win.
- 17:01 left, BC 8, UM 2: Jack McClinton's jumper with 17:17 remaining ended an 8-0 run to start the game for the Eagles who are attacking Miami in the paint and are having a lot of success. This certainly wasn't the start the Canes wanted.
- 12:55 left, BC 14, UM 4: Uhhh. What is going on here? UM has another horrendous start. The Hurricanes start the game 1 of 14 from the field. Nothing is going right. This wasn't what they needed. Dwayne Collins finally ends the draught with a hook shot with 13:07 to play in half. Feels a lot like the Georgia Tech start. But is UM going to do what it did Saturday and comeback?
- 7:12 left, BC 20, UM 10: A horrendous start became more horrendous before James Dews finally ended a 2 for 20 start from the field for the Hurricanes with back-to-back three-pointers. Miami simply hasn't looked comfortable on offense lately. ACC coaches are doing a good job scouting this team and figuring out ways to disrupt Miami's flow. That's what happens when you play in a tough conference. By the way, ESPN's Andy Katz is here watching Miami. I'll see if I can talk to him and get his thoughts on this UM team at some point.
- 3:56 left, BC 28, UM 13: So far, its the same two guys -- Jimmy Graham and James Dews -- providing the only real lift for this team. Only this time, it looks like Miami isn't going to comeback.
- Halftime: BC 36, UM 22: The good news is Miami isn't out of it. The bad news is the Canes are going to need to play out of their minds in the second half to pull this off. The Canes shot 26 percent from the field in the first half (9 of 34) and was outrebounded 20-17. Not a winning formula against the Eagles.
- More thoughts... I think this game is further evidence of how bad UM needs a true point guard. It's obvious Eddie Rios isn't ready. What's happened to Miami's offense is that opponents have figured out how to stall it, force Jack McClinton and James Dews, who are not true point guards, to keep shuffling the ball back and forth to one another. We knew this would be a problem. I think we are finally seeing it. My other observation is Anthony King always seems to struggle against shot blockers. He can't create a shot other than a long-distance jumper. That's not going to fly in the ACC. Miami may have to spend more time using Collins and Graham because they are more athletic and can create their own shots.

- 15:36 left, BC 43, UM 22: Well, it's safe to say we know how this one is going to end. Miami's shooting woes have now netted a 9 for 40 night (23% FG). Is this just a bad night? Or are the Eagles exposing the Canes? I think a little of both.
- 11:59 left, BC 48, UM 27: Miami is now 10 of 43 from the field.
- 8:33 left, BC 56, UM 40: The Canes have put on a bit of a flurry here with an 8-1 run. But it's likely too little too late.
- 5:59 left, BC 60, UM 50: Maybe I spoke too soon. The Canes are clawing back behind a three-point barrage. Jack McClinton's latest three-pointer has made it a 10-point game. The Hurricanes have been in a full-court press for almost five minutes now. They'll need to keep up this fast and furious pace to stay in it.

Chilling in Boston

CHAMPIONSHIPVILLE, USA -- Hello Eye On The U Crew from up in chilly Boston. I just flew into Beantown a few hours ago for tonight's UM-Boston College basketball game. As soon as I got off the plane, not only did the temperature drop (it's in the 20s), but so did the number of losses I was carrying with me from Miami.

Good lord is Boston spoiled these days. Can you imagine what it would be like having the Heat on top in the NBA, the Dolphins with Tom Brady and another undefeated season on the brink and the Marlins as World Series champs all in the same calendar year? When I checked into my hotel an hour ago the guy at the front desk actually apologized to me -- like if someone I knew had died -- when I told him I was from Miami. Where would South Florida be right now without Frank Haith's 14-1 team?

Anyway, I'll be blogging live during the game tonight. But the Tuesday night special, Live Q&A, will have to hold off until Wednesday for obvious reasons. The Herald didn't send me up to Boston to answer questions. They sent me up here to freeze my $*% off and cover this basketball game.

I know many of you are clamoring for football news. There's a ton of hot stuff on the plate (receivers coach Marquis Mosely, recruiting and of course that defensive coordinator position) and I'll try to get to it once I get back to Miami Wednesday (I'll do another podcast Wednesday too).

EARLY ENROLLEES: Just so you know, I spoke to the folks at UM and there will not be an official announement of who actually is part of the early signing class for football until next Wednesday (Jan. 23). They have to wait until then to announce it per NCAA rules. We might or might not get access to the players then. But for now, I've been told all incoming freshman are off limits to the media. And I plan to respect that until told otherwise. That being said, I called Northwestern quarterback Jacory Harris this weekend and spoke to him briefly. He informed he couldn't talk, but did confirm he and his four Northwestern teammates -- defensive tackle Marcus Forston, receiver Aldarius Johnson, and linebacker Sean Spence -- are all waiting on their transcripts (which will not be available to them *and all students in Miami-Dade until Friday). I mentioned this during a Q&A awhile back, but now I'm saying it here.

All of UM's incoming recruits have until Jan. 23 to be enrolled in classes. Harris told me he's confident he and the Bulls will be fine. The only casualty appears to be safety Joe Wylie of Boyd Anderson High in Broward, who will now have to enroll in the fall because he's a credit short of qualifying. I've been told linebackers Arthur Brown and Jordan Futch, quarterback Cannon Smith, tight end John Calhoun, fullback Patrick Hill and kicker Jake Wieclaw are all already on campus.

GOOD READ: For those of you who might have missed it, my former editor Walter Villa, now a freelance writer, wrote a good story on quarterback Robert Marve for the St. Pete Times. Check it out.

January 12, 2008

Courtside blog: UM 78, Ga. Tech 68 (F)

Bring on the ACC. I'm here at BankUnited Center for UM's ACC-opener against Georgia Tech. I'll be here to give you my thoughts during the game as well as updates. Be sure to watch the game on TV and tune into 560 WQAM if you can't get to one.

But give me your thoughts here. UM is a 5-point favorite according to Las Vegas. I'd say that's about right. Georgia Tech's 7-7 record is a bit deceiving. The Yellow Jackets have lost 6 of their 7 games by nine points or less.

- 15:52 left, Ga. Tech 6, UM 4: Canes have come out looking a bit nervous here in the early going. They are rushing a lot of shots, trying to be aggressive. A lot of the shots simply aren't falling.
- 13:18 left, GT 14, UM 4: A nervous start has now officially turned into a horrendous start. The Hurricanes haven't hit a basket since Brian Asbury sunk a jumper with 17:30 left to give UM a 4-2 lead. Tech has gone on a 12-0 run and UM has missed everything it has put up.
- 11:15 left, GT 16, UM 7: Anthony King finally ended an 0-for-10 Hurricanes drought with a score inside and a foul. It made the score 14-7. Jack McClinton has attempted one shot up to this point. Not good for your leading scorer to not even attempt more than one shot up until now.
- 7:34 left, GT 22, UM 12: The Hurricanes have scored three points of their last five points on free throws. Turnovers and bad shots are killing them. Anthony Morrow has 10 points including the last three-pointer for the Yellow Jackets.
- 5:01 left, GT 22, UM 21: Is your adrenaline pumping yet? The Canes have gone on a 11-0 run to make it a game again. Georgia Tech has helped out. First Gani Lawal was called for a technical. Then coach Paul Hewitt was T'D up. ACC basketball. The BankUnited Center is finally feeling it. Give Jimmy Graham some credit for sparking this. He had a dunk, then a couple of nice post moves for baskets to get this rally going. The Canes are starting to take advantage in the post and it's creating baskets and opportunities.
- Halftime, UM 33, GT 31: It was a frantic finish into the break. Can't say enough about how much Jimmy Graham has contributed here with his offensive rebounds and put-backs. James Dews hit back-to-back jumpers to finally put UM up with 49.6 seconds left in the half. An impressive comeback to take the lead for UM considering how poorly it played early on.

KEY FIRST HALF NUMBERS -- FG%: UM 13-35 (37%), GT 12-29 (41%). REB: GT 21, UM 20. 2nd chance points: UM 14, GT 6. Leading scorers -- GT: J. Smith 10, Morrow 10; UM: Graham 9.

- 17:30 left, UM 37, GT 31:
The Canes have clawed for two early baskets, an Asbury layup and McClinton lay-in to extend their lead a bit.
- 15:51 left, UM 41, Ga. Tech 37: Miami went 0 for 9 from three-point range in the first half and so far has missed its first three attempts from three-point range in the second. The Hurricanes had shot the ball extremely well from long-distance before today. The 10-day lay-off might have a little to do with it. But consider those numbers and the fact Miami is still winning this game, its a good sign.
- 11:55 left, UM 53, GT 45: Start sending your thank you letters to James Dews. After finally hitting a pair of baskets late in the first half, he's got the motor running. His three-pointer with 14:55 left ended an 0-13 UM 3-point draught. He's since followed it up with another three-pointer and runner to give Miami a bit of a comfortable lead. Dews leads the team with 14 points. Jimmy Graham has 11.
- 7:01 left, UM 59, GT 47: A lot of sloppy basketball in the last five minutes. Jack McClinton just looks uncomfortable out there. He's put up lots of bad shots. The story today has been the play of Jimmy Graham and James Dews. Both have hit some big shots. Let's see if the Hurricanes can hold on to this 12-point lead.
- 5:45 left, UM 63, GT 56: We are getting down to the nitty-gritty and two of UM's lightning rods today are on the bench. Graham has four fouls. Dews left with 5:52 with an apparent left leg injury. He's being looked at on the bench.
- 1:57 left, UM 71, GT 63: It looks like this one is going to come down to free throws the rest of the way -- and if UM can protect the ball and not turn it over.
- :58.5 left, UM 73, GT 63: Jack McClinton hit an important runner with 1:26 left to basically ice it. Looks like UM is going to come awaty with this game with what it was supposed to -- a 14-1, 1-0 ACC record.

January 10, 2008

Catching up with DVD & more

With the 2007 football season officially behind us, I wanted to take a look at what some of the current young Canes are doing to prepare for 2008. So, I caught up with an old friend of mine, freshman cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke earlier this week. 

Q: So, what have you been doing since the end of the season?
A: Been lifting weights, doing routes, going down to school and watching a little bit of film.

Demarcus_van_dykeQ: Have you put on any weight since the end of the season?
A: I haven’t jumped on the scale since the end of the season, but I’m hoping to gain about 10 pounds. I’ve been packing up on mom’s Christmas dinner. I was weighing about 174. I put on about 12-15 pounds from high school to the end of my freshman year. I want to get to about 185 by the spring.

Q: Who have you been hanging out with?
A: Mostly my old high school teammates, friends. I've been having a good time.

Q: I heard your friend from Monsignor Pace, UM safety Lovon Ponder had thought about possibly going to the pros, leaving school early. Have you spoken with him lately?
A: I haven’t spoken to him in a long time. I heard he was thinking about going pro, but he backed out and said he was coming back for one more year. I was happy about that.

Q: You still rooming with Allen Bailey? How is he doing with his weight? I know people thought he was pretty big when he came in and if he put on any more weight he might not be able to play linebacker.
A: He’s doing good. I talked to him yesterday. He’s been working out, doing a lot of running to stay in shape, stuff like that.

Tim_waltonQ: What was your reaction to Coach Time Walton being let go of as defensive coordinator? I know you guys still don’t know who your next defensive coordinator is going to be. Are you hoping its somebody on the current staff? Are you excited there are going to be some changes?
A: At first I was kind of shocked when I heard about it. But I understand it was a business decision for coach and the team. Whatever he does is good with me. Hopefully he brings in a great coach like coach Walton was.

Q: Have you been able to catchup with any of the incoming freshman? I know they should be coming in soon and I know you are close to some of those Northwestern guys?
A: Not really. They’ve been playing in those All-Star games. But I talked to Marcus Forston today and he asked me what to bring in for the dorm. I just told him to bring some sheets and stuff like that.

Q: What advice do you have for those new guys coming in? I guess there is 11 in all? And who are you closest with?
A: First of all, it’s a huge advantage for those guys coming in the spring. You can get a jump on the playbook, the game plan, the spring time and the academic part of it as well. It’s going to be an exciting time for all of those guys. I guess if I know any of those guys the best its Jacory Harris and [Marcus] Forston. I haven’t talked to Jacory in awhile because he’s been rehabbing his knee. But I hope he gets better soon because it’s going to be a great competition between he and [Robert] Marve at quarterback and Cannon Smith and the kid from Texas, Taylor Cook.

Q: Have the guys talked much about what happened at the end of last season? I know it wasn’t the way you guys wanted to finish out. But are there positive emotions? Are guys excited about next season?
A: A lot of guys coming back are really excited about next year’s team. We know we have a lot of great players coming in, great athletes. Coach Shannon is going to play the best guys this year – it doesn’t matter if they are freshmen or not. So, we should win at least 10 games this year.

Q: I know you were among the freshman to get a lot of playing time, but any of the other guys that were redshirted that came in with your class that are doing real well now?
A: Adewale Ojomo and Jermaine McKenzie, those guys are beasts man. Had those guys played this year it would have been a huge impact. They took their redshirts this year, but next year they are going to be Freshmen All-Americans. Ojomo is just one of those guys that goes hard every play. You watch him when he works out, he goes hard. Jermaine is one of those guys that runs routes by himself on the outside. He’s getting himself back together like he was in high school.

Q: Have you gone up against Jermaine lately, maybe during some 7-on-7?
A: Oh yeah. Jermaine in every 7-on-7 last summer he was on fire. Then we he came back from his injury he was doing the same things. He beats you off the line, runs good routes. He picked up where he left off.

Brandon_harrisQ: Are you helping to recruit any of these local guys? I know there are a couple local guys who could end up at UM but are on the fence – Brandon Harris, Corey Liuget.
A: I’ve been talking to Brandon Harris a lot. I call him and tell him together we can bring The U back to the way it used to be. He’s a great kid and a great athlete. I saw him play on Saturday in the Under Armour All-American game. He was shutting guys down all game. They couldn’t do anything against him. I told him he’d be a great asset if he came here next year.

Q: How has Robert Marve looked? Have you seen him throw the ball lately?
A: His arm is strong man. Before we left he’d throw a pass 65, 70 yards downfield on the money. He hit McKenzie in stride a few times on those deep ones. He’s special.

PODCAST UPLOADED: I know some of you have been clamoring for a new podcast. I finally recorded one Wednesday, more than 60 minutes worth of recruiting talk with two of the best in the business Larry Blustein and Charles Fishbein. Blustein and I covered a lot of topics: the high school all-star games, the top players in the country including quarterback Terrell Pryor, I got his reaction to Matt Patchan and Patrick Johnson going elsewhere and I got his thoughts on the impeding QB battle at UM. Fishbein, who was at the NCAA coaches meetings in Anaheim this week, talked to me about what he was hearing out there on the defensive coordinator front (don't worry it's nothing earth shattering), plus his thoughts on highly-touted defensive tackle Corey Liuget and what he saw from him at the Offense-Defense game last week at the Orange Bowl. Enjoy.

-- I'm sure most of you read Barry Jackson's Buzz Column this week which touched on how the Canes have done up until now in recruiting and what they plan to focus on in the next four weeks leading up to National Signing Day. He did a great job. But I've got some more for you based on my conversations with Blustein and some other experts on the outside as well as a few guys on the inside at The U.

-- Cornerback is without question the one area I think Miami needs the most help at. While the Canes have landed three/four defensive backs in this class (it depends on how you view Ramon Buchanon), none of them are natural cornerbacks. C.J. Holton, who is the most talented of the group, is the one player who I've been told could be converted to corner if need be. But Joe Wylie, C.J. Odom and Buchanon (who could be an outside linebacker) are all safety prospects. As it stands now, Bruce Johnson (Sr.), Carlos Armour (Sr.), Chavez Grant (Jr.) and Van Dyke (So.) are the only DBs on the roster now who are natural corners. Harris, whom Blustein and UM coaches absolutely love, could potentially come in and be the best on the team right away. If he opts to go elsewhere, the Canes could turn to Aaron Hester, T.J. Bryant, Victor Johnson and Vaughn Telemaque. Hester, Johnson and Telemaque are all scheduled to visit UM the weekend of Jan. 18-20 (a big weekend for out of town recruits). Another possibility, which Blustein hopes happens for Miami, is that the Canes give local Archbishop Carroll standout George Baker a chance. Blustein believes Baker could be a star at UM. Baker it appears is waiting to hear more, though, from the Canes.

-- Hialeah High defensive tackle Corey Liuget has moved up the recruiting charts all season much the way his weight has. When I first saw Liuget play last season as a junior, he was a slim Corey_liuget_herald_photodude about 6-3, 220. He played quarterback, tight end, defensive end. Now, he's lining up with the big boys in the trenches and tipping the scales at 270. Fishbein tells me seeing him play in the Offense-Defense bowl last week was impressive. He believes Liuget could potentially be as good if not better than Cane commitment Marcus Forston, who is considered the best defensive tackle in the country. Consider Liuget and Harris the prime two targets for UM down the stretch. Get them, and the Hurricanes likely have the best defensive class in the country.

-- Rumors keep swirling about who else could potentially end up transferring from the current roster. Running back Charlie Jones, who was supposedly entering the NFL Draft, has now opted to transfer to another college program according to my source. Tight end Dajleon Farr is also expected to end up at Memphis (where Tim Walton is now defensive coordinator) and Doug Wiggins is likely headed to Western Michigan (although I'm still trying to confirm it with his high school coach).

-- I know there have been reports to the contrary, but I spoke with incoming linebacker Jordan Futch Tuesday night who told me there's a chance the family of fellow incoming linebacker Arthur Brown will be moving to South Florida from Kansas. Brown, one of two current five-star UM recruits, has a younger brother, Bryce Brown, who is expected to be one of the most saught-after running backs in the country in 2009. Futch said his mother, who dabbles in real estate, is helping the Browns look for a house in Weston. He said Bryce would likely end up playing for coach Mark Guandolo at Cypress Bay.

January 08, 2008

Programming updates...

I will be doing a live Q&A tonight over at Canespace.com. As many of you know, during the football season I jumped back and forth between Canespace and right here at Eye on The U for live Q&As. We are picking them back up this week and starting over at Canespace.

After taking two weeks off for the holidays, I plan to also record another recruiting podcast with Larry Blustein and Charles Fishbein on Wednesday. It should be available to you by Thursday morning. I'll come back and let you know what it will touch on as well as provide you with links.

Barry Jackson will have lots of UM recruiting news in Wednesday's paper regarding who else UM is targeting. I've tried to stay away from it early on this week. But after Barry's buzz column runs tomorrow I'll have some fresh stuff for you on the recruiting front and an interview with UM freshman cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Remember me?

LSU won the national title Monday night and I bet you might have remembered some of those faces on stage accepting the national championship trophy.

How about defensive MVP Ricky-Jean Francois, who made the game-changing play Monday when he blocked a field goal. Jean-Francois? Sounds familiar? Oh yeah. The Herald's two-time Athlete of The Year in Dade. The guy who played in front of Kenny Phillips and caused havoc for Carol City's vaunted defense. The Freak wanted so badly to come to UM, he held off on signing his scholarship to LSU for eight days. He sat at home crying, wishing UM would offer. The Hurricanes never did.

How about All-American linebacker Ali Highsmith? Remember him? He signed with UM out of Miami Central. He had issues with his grades and ended up at LSU, heartbroken just like Jean-Francois that he couldn't be a Cane. Yes, that's Highsmith, the cousin of former UM standout Alonzo Highsmith.

How about receiver Demetrius Byrd? You probably never heard about him because the Hurricanes never even bothered. Another academic casualty who signed with FIU before going the JUCO route. He was the third-leading receiver on the team this season and led the squad with 7 touchdown catches.

I hate to bring up the painful past. But these guys were right here in UM's backyard. And now they are national champions -- somewhere else. Another reason to shake your head today Canes fans and hope none of these other superstars in South Florida get away.

By the way, I was having a little fun tonight during the game. Since I figure it is going to take UM another season to get these young talented recruits ready and productive on the field, I started jotting down what a possible BCS UM starting lineup might look like in 2009. Remember this was just for fun...

QB: Robert Marve, R-Jr. or Jacory Harris, So.
RB: Graig Cooper, Jr.
FB: Patrick Hill, Sr.
WR: Sam Shields, Sr.
WR: Jermaine McKenzie, R-So.
WR: Aldarius Johnson, So.
TE: Dedrick Epps, Sr.
LT: Brandon Washington, So.
LG: Harland Gunn, R-So.
C: A.J. Trump, R-Jr.
RG: Orlando Franklin, Jr.
RT: Matt Pipho, R-Jr.

RE: Adewale Ojomo, R-So.
DT: Marcus Forston, So.
DT: Jeremy Lewis, So.
LE: Allen Bailey, R-So.
WLB: Sean Spence, So.
MLB: Colin McCarthy, Sr.
SLB: Arthur Brown, So.
CB: DeMarcus Van Dyke, Jr.
CB: Brandon Harris, So.
SS: Damien Berry, Jr.
FS: Ramon Buchanon, So.

P: Matt Bosher, Sr.
K: Jake Wieclaw, So.
PR: Davon Johnson, So.
KR: Travis Benjamin, So.

* I'm guessing sophomore Jason Fox ends up going pro after his junior year.

January 07, 2008

The Hoops Report: Bring on The ACC

I know football/recruiting is what spins the wheel at The U, but I'd like to make The Hoops Report a weekly feature on my blog now that ACC play is set to begin. The 13-1 Hurricanes deserve that at least.

So, I'll start with the big picture. The Hurricanes open ACC play Saturday at 2 p.m. at home against Georgia Tech (6-6, 0-0 in ACC play) in a game that is already sold out. UM then hits the road for Boston College (10-2, 1-0) and North Carolina State (9-3, 0-0) the following Tuesday and Saturday respectively.

For Frankhaiththose of you hiding under a rock or still buried under football season, here's a quick recap: The men's basketball team actually started the season 12-0 -- two wins shy of tying the school record -- before a six-point loss to a solid mid-major team in Winthrop (The Eagles have averaged 26 wins the last three seasons) at the Orange Bowl Classic. The Canes even climbed into the Top 25 poll, reaching as high as 19th before the Winthrop loss knocked them out. At that point, UM was one of nine remaining unbeatens in all of college basketball. The highlights of the winning streak: UM won a preseason tournament in Puerto Rico, beating VCU (9-4) and Providence (9-5) in the tournament, then the Canes picked up a really nice road win at Mississippi State (9-5).

So what has helped UM get off to such a great start? Some would say an easy schedule (the Canes strength of schedule is rated 242nd by RealTimeRPI). The schedule has helped, but the success on the court can be attributed to health, defense and some great three-point shooting.
Adrianthomas- Redshirt sophomore forward Adrian Thomas (torn ACL, out for the season) is the only player who has missed significant time this season due to injury. Last year, Miami was riddled with injuries and had several player suspensions.
- The Hurricanes defense, which finished dead last against the three and in field goal percentage defense, has climbed to No. 2 in the ACC in field goal defense (.375), scoring defense (60.3 ppg) and No. 3 in 3-pt. percentage defense (.306).
- Jack McClinton, who led the ACC in three-point percentage and free throws, is no longer the lone gunmen on this team. He and teammate James Dews have combined to hit on 68 of 140 (.486) from behind the 3-point line and 51 of 60 (.850) from the free throw line. The Hurricanes lead the ACC in three-point shooting and both rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the category.
- The Hurricanes don't have many guys ranked very high in the ACC in individual categories. McClinton ranks 8th in scoring (15.5 ppg), 5th in free throw percentage and 1st in three-pointers made per game as well as 3-pt shooting percentage (.508). And Anthony King (7.9 rpg) and (1.71) ranks 6th in both rebounding and blocked shots.
- But where UM is excelling is team categories. The Hurricanes have the fifth-best scoring offense (77.4 ppg), fourth-best rebounding margin (+5.8) and the second-best assist to turnover ratio (+1.17).

All that being said, the real schedule begins now and the Hurricanes know finishing under .500 in the ACC usually doesn't mean an NCAA Tournament berth. The ACC is rated the toughest conference in the country by the RPI with a 118-33 record in non-conference play, including a 29-16 record against the Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC combined.

OK, those were all the facts and numbers here's some analysis and insight. The Hurricanes have to win Saturday against Georgia Tech. No, it's not a REAL must win. But for confidence and to keep fans behind this team, UM needs to beat the Yellow Jackets Saturday afternoon. Georgia Tech owns the worst record among ACC teams at 6-6. Yes, Tech's six losses have only come by six points or less and yes, the Yellow Jackets appear to be improving according to coach Paul Hewitt. But this is a game UM has to win if it wants to finish in the top half of the conference and make the dance.

WILL KING PLAY?: Miami's starting senior center pulled his groin in last week's win over Penn and missed the second half of the game. Monday, coach Frank Haith provided an update during the ACC Anthony_king_action teleconference: "He hasn’t practiced since the game. He’s day to day. He’s moving better. We’re hopeful he’ll be ready for Saturday. We’re hopeful by Wednesday or Thursday maybe him doing a little bit of something [in practice] to see how it goes. He did have groin pull and we’re just going to take it day by day. That’s why we’re being cautious with it. There’s no need to rush it. In all honesty, it’s a blessing we’re not playing until Saturday. We’re trying to give it sometime. With a groin pull there’s not a lot you can do except rest it a little bit. The good news is he’s being more active on the sidelines in the stuff our trainers are having them do." Translation: He's iffy. If King is back in practice by Wednesday or Thursday, look for him to start. If not, Haith has the rest of the season to worry about and can likely survive with Dwayne Collins, Ray Hicks and Jimmy Graham.

NEW STARTING LINEUP: If King is healthy and ready to go, don't expect Collins to come off the bench anymore. Graham, usually Miami's starting power forward, found himself on the bench to start the game Jimmygraham against Penn the last time out. And it may be where he does the majority of his production. Haith said he feels Graham gets himself into foul trouble too quickly, a result in his opinion because officiating is so tight early in games. "It wasn't anything bad that Jimmy did," Haith said. "What we looked at was Jimmy starts the game and I don't want to [criticize officals], but I think officiating in the beginning of the game is when it's the tightest. And I think Jimmy always gets two fouls and he sits for 17, 18 minutes and he comes back in the second half and he gets his third foul. So, he ends up playing 18 minutes for the game. We want to get him more minutes, we want to get him on the court more. He got his first foul - I'm not going to move my theory like an Einstein - but he got his first foul in the second half. His aggressive nature hurts him start games sometimes. Obviously that was the whole thing behind that. He played a lot more minutes and played without fouling."
- Graham played 23 minutes, had seven points, five rebounds and just one foul against Penn. His replacement, Dwayne Collins, had 18 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and three steals in the same game. After missing three games with a sore ankle, Graham played only 11 minutes in back-to-back games. So, it looks like Haith's strategy is working out.

GETTING RIOS GOING: There is no question freshman point guard Eddie Rios hasn't Edwin_rioshad the type of start he hoped for even though he leads the team with 14 steals on the season. In 14 games, Rios has shot 27.7 percent from the field, with 39 assists, 30 turnovers. The former Miami High standout and highly-touted recruit finally got going a bit against Penn, connecting on three of four from three-point range and finishing with 9 points, 4 assists and only 2 turnovers. Haith said he played Rios the majority of the second half in the hopes it might help him with his confidence. Miami certainly needs him to come around now that ACC play has started. McClinton, who is definitely more of a scorer, has had trouble with turnovers at times handling the point. While Lance Hurdle has filled in nicely, it would be nice to see UM's future at point guard show some more growth. Haith said Rios needs to handle his defensive assignments better, namely the way he handles ball screens.

"We need Eddie to play for us. I think Eddie needs to come along," Haith said following the Penn game. "I think in the first half, he went under the screen instead of over it. You go back to the Winthrop game, we gave up two threes because we didn't go over on ball screens. Tonight, we go under and they nail you. When we go over scouting reports and game planning, we got to be solid with what we do. He went underneath on the screen, the kid nailed the three. We got to get better from an execution standpoint in paying attention to the little things. "We need him to get out there and get comfortable. He's played a lot of minutes. He's played about 18, 19 minutes and but at some point in time he's got to take care of the basketball and make good decisions. He can playmake. He made some nice plays out there tonight."