Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
University of Florida receiver Louis Murphy had something special to say about The U after the Gators' season-opening win against Hawaii Saturday. Consider it the first real shot in a war of words that will likely continue this week leading up to the showdown in the Swamp.
"If I'm right, the 'U' stands for the University of Miami," Murphy told our Joseph Goodman after the game (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN). "Well, we're the University of Florida. We're the 'U.' I don't refer to them as the 'U.' I refer to them as Miami. If the 'U' is for university and winning and championships, we're the 'U.' They are Miami, and that's what I call them."
Let's just say the message has been received. I spoke with UM receiver Leonard Hankerson tonight for a feature story I'm doing on him and close friend Major Wright, who starts at safety for the Gators and who played with Hankerson at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High.
Hankerson said when he arrived at UM Sunday night for a practice closed to the media, a copy of Murphy's quote had been blown up and posted in every locker. "It definitely pumped us up," Hankerson said by phone. "We were already pumped up for this game, but now the guys are really getting excited.
"We all want to win bad. Right now, we feel like nobody in the nation respects Miami. We're going to earn our respect."
I don't know about you, but I can't wait for this game on Saturday.
PS - For those of you wondering who Louis Murphy is, he's the guy who starts opposite Percy Harvin. He had 37 catches for 548 yards and 6 TDs last season. He had 2 catches for 51 yards and 1 touchdown against Hawaii. And he's a Recreation Event Management major from St. Petersburg.
ESPN just announced within the hour it will host its College GameDay show from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this coming Saturday, highlighting the Canes trip to the Swamp to face the fifth-ranked Gators. The show will be broadcast from the grass outside the North End Zone.
For Florida, its their 28th appearance on GameDay, which leads the nation. UF is 16-10 when they are
featured on the show and the first since at home since the Gators beat LSU in Oct. 2006. Miami has been involved in GameDay games 16 times, ranking 8th overall behind UF (28), Ohio State (22), FSU and Michigan (21), Notre Dame and Oklahoma (18), Tennessee (17) and ahead of Nebraska (15) and USC (14).
It's been awhile since UM was involved in a game of this magnitude and with this much hype. Coach Randy Shannon wasn't downplaying it when he spoke to the media on Friday. In fact, he even shared some of his fond memories from his previous trips to the Swamp.
All I know is, if UM pulls off the upset Saturday -- and that's an if about the size of Allen Bailey's biceps -- UM will gain huge respect in the eyes of the nation and it will put the program back to where it was before things headed south with Larry Coker. Saturday night is the biggest opportunity this program has had to be relevant and to really shine in three years.
> FYI, UM practiced this morning, but it was closed to the media.
> I hate to rip on the ACC anymore than it has already been ripped in the last 24 hours, but the losses by Clemson and Virginia Tech Saturday were flat out embarrassing. They are supposed to be the two best teams in the league this year. Clemson, which is supposed to have the best running tandem in college football, was held to 0 yards rushing. Tech, meanwhile, lost to an East Carolina team was just 8-5 last year. Maybe, the Hurricanes really do have a chance at contending for the conference title this year after all.
After a long night of uploading audio and video to our Herald website, I decided to pass on this morning's press conference with coach Randy Shannon since our Susan Miller Degnan was going to be there anyway. And because, well, let's face it: Randy wasn't going to stir the pot this morning anyway -- not with more than a week before his team travels up to the Swamp.
Here's what Randy told reporters in a nutshell:
> Aside from hitting a second quarter lull and a few moments of bad tackling, he was happy with the way team played in the first, third and fourth quarters of last night's 52-7 win. He said this is already a better and more complete team than he had a year ago.
> He said right tackle Reggie Youngblood will be ready to go against Florida, but he still isn't sure about defensive ends Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey.
> He reiterated Robert Marve will start at quarterback and that Jacory Harris will play.
> He said offensive coordinator Patrick Nix is coaching from the sidelines in order to coach his quarterbacks face to face instead of over the phone.
> He said all seven of the suspended players are back this week, none except Marve are guaranteed a starting job.
OK, now that we got that out of the way, I wanted U fans to have some fun. Since this is a big week, I was hoping each of you could come up with a Top 10 list of reasons you hate the Florida Gators. Think David Letterman's Top 10 lists. I figured since some of you guys are really talented, this could be fun and creative. Just don't include any profanities or any creative ways to cuss (like f*). I don't have anything to give away for the winner, so don't expect any prizes. Just mad props from your buddies and a chance to have your own Guest Blog right here next Friday.
Just got back upstairs from the press conferences following UM's 52-7 season-opening win against Charleston Southern with great news: We can officially start talking about the Florida Gators!
For weeks, the Canes have tried hard to avoid talking about Florida at all. And while there wasn't anything earth shattering said in the locker room Thursday night (or at least any poster board material), we at least got some initial thoughts from the guys on traveling up to Gainesville and playing against their rivals. OK, we'll get to what they said in a second, but first some notes...
> None of the guys we thought might be injured Thursday night -- right tackle Chris Rutledge (who left on UM's second series grabbing his back) or running back Graig Cooper (who asked out following a carry in the third quarter) -- looked like they were seriously hurt. Both were standing on the sidelines in the fourth quarter, hopping and celebrating as their buds put it on the Bucs.
> THE STAR OF THE NIGHT: Senior Spencer Adkins finished with two sacks. Adkins, a linebacker, got both of them as a defensive end -- the position he played mostly in high school. He told me after the game it's part of a special third-down package Bill Young implemented into his defense in the spring. He along with Darryl Sharpton and true freshman Jordan Futch are the only three guys involved in the package.
> In all, 16 true freshman saw the field Thursday night. 16! That's amazing. The two starters according to UM's sports information staff were quarterback Jacory Harris and defensive end Marcus Robinson. But Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post's swears to me Aldarius Johnson also started at receiver. I'm going to take his word for it.
> Jacory Harris' 190 passing yards versus Charleston Southern are the most for a true freshman quarterback since Ken Dorsey threw for 194 in his first start in a 55-0 win against Rutgers on Nov. 20, 1999. Harris finished 16-of-26 passing with a TD pass to Leonard Hankerson. Jacory told reporters afterward he really wasn't nervous and didn't start getting any butterflies until right before kickoff. Eleven receivers caught balls in all. Hankerson said he expects plenty of trash talking this week with his old buddy from St. Thomas, Florida safety Major Wright. The two grew up in the same neighborhood and go way back.
> UM's run defense, plagued at the end of last season, held CSU to 49 yards rushing the least allowed since UM beat Boston College and held the Eagles to 24 yards rushing in Larry Coker's final game as coach.
> Sophomore Graig Cooper's 66-yard punt return for a touchdown was the first in his career and the first for UM since Devin Hester housed it against Temple in Oct. 15, 2005.
> I'm in the process of uploading audio and video interviews right now. Be sure to listen to audio interviews I gathered after the game on our Sports Audio Page. I'll be at Coach Shannon's press conference tomorrow morning with a new report after he's done speaking.
The first game for the Canes at Dolphins Stadium has turned out to be exactly what UM fans wanted, a dominating performance by a program in dire need of one. Freshman quarterback Jacory Harris has looked pretty good. UM's defense has looked pretty good. And the Canes have a 28-0 lead at the half against Charleston Southern.
Since many of you haven't been able to watch the game (I know ESPN360 has had its troubles), I've been keeping a highlot log for you. They are below my thoughts and observations.
> Jacory Harris (9 of 17 for 127 yards and 1 TD) looked sharp early, leading UM to three consecutive scores on its first three possessions. But he's had moments where he's looked like a freshman. In the second quarter, he nearly had his first interception of the season. But he lucked out when officials ruled he stepped out of bounds for a sack. Still, he had a nice 30-yard run and hasn't panicked. I've counted 3 bad decisions in all.
> Linebacker Spencer Adkins has two sacks and leads the defense with big plays. Adkins, though, has gotten both of them while lining up at defensive end. I'm not sure if that's because of the shortage of defensive ends. But I talked to someone at halftime, a local radio personality who actually gets to watch practice, that told me that's a special package Adkins is a part of.
> The only injury to be worried about so far is to right tackle Chris Rutledge. He left on UM's second drive of the game clutching what looked to be his upper leg. I didn't see him get back in the game. But he was standing on the sidelines in the second half. Rutledge was starting in place of Reggie Youngblood, who we found out would miss the opener on Tuesday when UM released its injury report. Not good news. He's the only real backup UM has at tackle. Tyrone Byrd has been in since. Left tackle and Jason Fox and Byrd are all UM really has at tackle. Matt Pipho could move in an emergency situation if needed. Pipho hasn't played tackle at all until late in the fall.
> All of us in the press box drew a chuckle in the first half by the way when we found out Kirby Freeman was starting for Baylor tonight. Not sure how he's doing, but it's something fun to keep an eye on. Kirby by the way was 2-of-7 with a pick before reportedly getting pulled.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS
> CSU's 1st Drive: 3-and-out gets followed up by an electrifying 66-yard punt return for a touchdown by Graig Cooper to make it 35-0 with 13:24 to play. Miami got flagged for excessive celebration. Boo-hoo. UM 35, Charleston Southern 0.
> CSU's 2nd Drive: After a nice kick return into UM territory, the Bucs are forced to punt when Marcus Forston destorys quarterback Tribble Reese, forcing an incompletion. UM takes over at its own 15 with 12 minutes left in the third quarter.
> UM's 1st Drive: After picking up a first down, Miami was forced to punt. Matt Bosher got off a 35-yarder to the CSU 34.
> CSU's 3rd Drive: CSU finally gets moving down field and into scoring position when running back Antwan Ivey gets open and past the UM defense for a 39-yard gain down to the UM 6-yard line. Ryan Hill had the touchdown-saving tackle. But after a few penalties on both sides, Tribble's fling into the end zone on third and goal fell into the waiting hands of tight end Tyreese Harris for CSU's first score of the game. It took 10 plays, 66 yards and 5:20. UM 35, CSU 7.
> UM's 2nd Drive: UM starts its drive at the 40. Two plays in, running back Graig Cooper asked out of the game following a short run. On 3rd and 5 from the 44, Thearon Collier made a leaping catch to keep the drive alive at the 22 yard line for a 22-yard gain. On the next play, Derron Thomas rumbles down to the 5-yard line after a 16-yard sweep around end. On the next play, Thomas scored from 5-yards out on a run up the middle with :44 left in the third quarter. It took 6 plays, 60 yards in 2:55. UM 42, CSU 7.
> CSU's 4th Drive: The Bucs go three-and-out after linebacker Sean Spence deflects a pass at the line to end the drive.
> UM's 3rd Drive: Harris is still at quarterback and it doesn't like Cannon Smith will get any real PT. Miami started the drive on their own 48 and moved down field, eating up clock with an array of short passes and runs by redshirt freshman Lee Chambers. Harris threw an incomplete pass intended for Kendall Thompkins in the back of the end zone on third and goal from the 5-yard line. UM settled for a 22-yard field goal from Matt Bosher with 8:48 to play. UM 45, CSU 7.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS
> UM's 1st Drive: Jacory Harris leads the Canes on a 7-play, 66-yard scoring drive in 2:37 and caps the game's opening drive with a 30-yard scramble up the middle of the field for a touchdown on fourth down to give the Canes a 7-0 lead. Javarris James started the drive with 2 runs for 23 yards. Harris was 1-of-3 on the opening drive and had two passes batted down at the line. UM 7, Charleston Southern 0.
> Charleston Southern's 1st Drive: The Bucs pick up a first down on the opening drive with runs. Faced with a 4th and inches at the Bucs 42, the drive ends when a deep passes is batted away by the secondary. UM takes over with 8:48 left at the CS 42.
> UM's 2nd Drive: After taking over at the CS 42, the Canes lose a yard on their first carry and then Epps drops a Harris pass at the 37. On third down, Harris rolls out and finds Khalil Jones for a 12-yard gain and a first down. Six plays later, Javarris James scores his first TD of the season on second and goal with a 7-yard run up the middle with 4:29 left. The drive was 9 plays, 43 yards in 4:19 seconds. UM 14, Charleston Southern 0.
> Charleston Southern's 2nd Drive: The Bucs start at their own 20 and go three and out. UM cornerback Bruce Johnson nearly intercepts the first pass thrown. On third down, defensive end Steven Wesley gets good pressure on the QB and pats the ball down. CS punts and UM takes over at its own 40 with 3:21 left.
> UM's 3rd Drive: Jacory Harris opens the drive by running playaction and flinging the ball deep for Travis Benjamin. But the pass is underthrown and falls incomplete. On 3rd and 7 at the 43, he scrambles and finds Dedrick Epps for a 35-yard gain down to the CS 23. On the next play, Harris finds Derron Thomas on a screen pass, he rumbles down to the 4. Harris then tosses a touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson that gets nullified by a penalty. One play later, Leonard Hankerson catches a 7-yard TD pass, but is ruled out of bounds. That's when the play gets reviewed and called a touchdown with 1:06 left. The drive takes 5 plays, 60 yards, 2:15. UM 21, CSU 0.
> CSU's 3rd Drive: Following a long kickoff return to the CSU 40, UM freshman linebacker Sean Spence makes his presence known by crushing CSU QB Tribble Reese on an option play. Two plays later, the Bucs punt again and UM takes over at its own 20 with 14:47 left in the second quarter.
> UM's 4th Drive: Graig Cooper makes his first appearance of the game, rushing up the middle for 10 yards on second down. Two plays later, Thearon "Pimp" Collier takes a quick outlet pass for nine yards, setting up a 3rd and 1 at the UM 39. On the next play, Cooper gets hit back at the 35 yard line for a 4-yard loss. Miami is forced to punt, but Ryan Hill makes an amazing play to jump on a fumbled punt at the CSU 14-yard line giving UM possession again.
> UM's 5th Drive: Cooper scores his first TD of the season on the second play after the fumble, running in from 14-yards out untouched with 12:29 left. UM 28, CSU 0. > CSU's 4th Drive: After a bad kickoff return CSU starts on its own 17. After picking up a third down, Spencer Adkins picks up the first sack of the season by smacking quarterback Tribble Reese to the floor. Miami takes over at its own 40 following a punt.
> UM's 6th Drive: Miami moves to the CSU 40 when trouble takes place. First, Jacory Harris is sacked for an 8-yard loss. Then, on the next play, Javarris James fumbles at the CSU 35 and the ball is recovered with 7:46 left in the half.
> CSU's 5th Drive: The Bucs take over at their own 35 following the fumble. After a pass interference penalty on UM moves the ball to the 50, the Canes force the Bucs to punt again. Travis Benjamin fields it at the 15 on the run and gets out to the 31. If he doesn't get nipped by the ankles, he's running back Usain Bolt for gold in Beijing.
> UM's 7th Drive: Harris starts the drive by hitting Sam Shields for a 20-yard gain downfield. The drive fizzles though and UM is forced to punt. CSU takes over at its own 15 with 2:11 left.
> CSU's 6th Drive: Spencer Adkins makes his second sack of the game to end the drive and the half.
FIRSTS OF THE SEASON...
> Kickoff return: Ryan Hill returns the opening kickoff 29 yards to the 34-yard line.
> Play: Javarris James runs up the middle for 13 yards and a first down to the Charleston Southern 47.
> Pass: Jacory Harris completes an out pass to Chris Zellner for a 10-yard gain to the Bucs' 34-yard line.
> Touchdown: Jacory Harris scrambles for a 30-yard touchdown run with 12:23 left to play in the first quarter.
> Touchdown catch: Leonard Hankerson on a 7-yard pass from Jacory Harris in the first quarter.
> Touchdown run: Javarris James on a 7-yard run in the first quarter.
> Tackle: Linebacker Romeo Davis slams down Gerald Stevenson at the Bucs' 21 on a kickoff return.
> Sack: Spencer Adkins hits Charleston Southern's Tribble Reese during the second quarter.
> Helmet lost: Right guard Joel Figueroa right before the half on a running play loses his helmet almost right away.
> The first fumble of the evening, the UM helmet does not inflate for their grand entrance. Instead, they run out of a green inflatable tunnel.
> Team captains selected for the opening coin toss: Glenn Cook, Chavez Grant and Jason Fox.
> I've been here at Dolphin Stadium since 3:30 p.m. I took a tour, saw the fans tailgating before the game, and took some photos for you of what the place looks like dressed for a Canes game (they are posted below).
> I'll be here to blog throughout the evening, sharing highlights and thoughts as the game goes along. I know many of you don't have ESPN360 or are confused with how it works. I'm no expert. I just know it depends on whether or not your internet provider actually provides it. You have to go to ESPN360 and find out.
We are only a few hours away before Year No. 2 gets underway for coach Randy Shannon and his team tries to begin cleaning the taste of last year's 5-7 season out of its mouth. Charleston Southern, a Football Championship Subdivsion school (that's fancy for I-AA), awaits at 7:30 tonight at Dolphin Stadium.
There are so many new things with this team this year. New stadium. New defensive coordinator. New starters and players all over the field. In less than an hour, I'll be hosting my weekly live Q&A at a new time and place here at MiamiHerald.com. Normally, we used to hook up on Tuesday nights, but The Herald wants me to do this right after lunch when most of you probably aren't working and surfing the net anyway!
I have few notes and thoughts to share with you. Normally, I'd have a list of Keys to The Game waiting for you before kickoff, but seeing how this is Charleston Southern, I'll give you an abbreviated edition:
> The key to this game for UM is coming out of it healthy and with a decisive margin of victory. Miami only has four healthy defensive ends heading into this game -- three are true freshmen. With Allen Bailey and Eric Moncur battling back from injury and Adewale Ojomo suspended for the opener, a young, inexperienced defensive line cannot afford to be shorthanded moving forward. Especially, with a trip to the Swamp on tap next week.
> So what do the Bucs run? Charleston Southern (5-6 in '06) will run the spread on offense and will look at lot like the Gators -- just without Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and the rest of the Gators' personnel. Cornerback Chavez Grant told me earlier this week while UM is still getting adjusted to new defensive coordinator Bill Young's aggressive defense, this is almost the perfect game for UM to make mistakes and fix them before facing the real thing in Gainesville. Defensively, Shannon told reporters this week the Bucs' have a new defensive coordinator and they aren't sure what they will run against UM. Offensive tackle Jason Fox told us the line is expecting to see a lot of zone blitzing.
> My prediction: UM 37, Charleston Southern 3 . I'd like to think the Canes could produce more touchdowns against a bad FCS opponent. But we got to remember we're going to see a lot of young guys playing in this game. Fox told us earlier this week, the plan was to come out and pound the ball with the running game. If that happens, the clock will run quickly in this one. I think Jacory Harris finishes with a little over 200 yards passing and 2 TDs -- one to Travis Benjamin and one to Aldarius Johnson -- and Javarris James, Graig Cooper and Derron Thomas each finish with over 75 yards rushing and they collect two touchdowns between them.
THE STOCK REPORT...
One thing I'd like to make a weekly feature on here and didn't get a chance to doing yesterday since I was filming a TV segment for the Dolphins High School Gridiron Report, which is set to run Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. on CBS, is a weekly Stock Report.
This week's report will encompass everything that happened in fall camp.
> Marcus Robinson, defensive end: Even before we knew Allen Bailey and Eric Moncur were going to be out
for the opener for sure, Robinson was making moves up the depth chart on the defensive line. Shannon raved about his future after practice and defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said he could become an excellent third-down pass rushing specialist. Now, he's starting the season opener. Not bad for a converted linebacker and true freshman.
> Travis Benjamin, receiver: When Miami signed seven receivers in February, Benjamin wasn't the name
everyone was raving about. Yet, this fall, when the lights were on during the scrimmages, he shined, flashing his 4.26-seed in the 40-yard dash and proving he can be a playmaker. I'm interested to see how much Benjamin will be able to help this team right away.
> Leonard Hankerson, receiver: The St. Thomas Aquinas grad disappeared for awhile
and looked like he might get lost among the talented incoming freshmen. But he saved his best performance for last in the fall, catching three touchdowns in the final scrimmage to earn the starting nod at Split End. He might become the most reliable possession receiver on this team.
STOCK IS SLIPPING
> Arthur Brown, linebacker: It's tough for me to list a true freshman on here. But Brown
is a kid who came in with so much hype. The fact he was passed on the depth chart by Jordan Futch, who got here in the fall, after Brown himself arrived in the spring isn't a good sign. Brown, who we know from the spring needed help with his tackling technique, told us Monday he's still learning the playbook. Here's to hoping he gets it soon because when he's on the field he can be a force.
> Adewale Ojomo, defensive end Getting suspended is never a good thing. But the Scout
Team Defensive MVP from a year ago couldn't have done it at a worse time. Next week, Allen Bailey and Eric Moncur are set to return and this week while Ojomo is sitting on the sidelines, guys like Robinson, Steven Wesley and Gavin Hardin will have a chance to shine. Ojomo could find himself back at the end of line not only for disciplinary reasons, but because other guys prove they can do his job.
So much for the possibility of defensive ends Eric Moncur or Allen Bailey playing at all against Charleston Southern. According to the injury report released moments ago by the University of Miami, both will be out for Thursday's season's opener.
Perhaps, more eye-opening, though, is right tackle Reggie Youngblood who is listed as doubtful with a head injury. Expect Chris Rutledge to start in Reggie's place if he can't go.
Here's the complete list released by the U:
> Probable: OL Tyrone Byrd (leg), RB Javarris James (leg), S Anthony Reddick (leg), RB Derron Thomas (chest)
> Doubtful: Youngblood (head), S Lovon Ponder (shoulder).
> Out: Bailey (chest), OL Chris Barney (leg), DT Josh Holmes (leg), OL Ben Jones (leg), DE Eric Moncur (leg).
> Surgery/Out for the season: WR Tommy Streeter (arm)
UM MEN'S HOOPS SCHEDULE RELEASED
Nov. 15, Florida Southern, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 21, Paradise Jam, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, TBA
Nov. 22, Paradise Jam, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, TBA
Nov. 23, Paradise Jam, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, TBA
Nov. 24, Paradise Jam, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, TBA
Nov. 29, Stetson, 1 p.m.
Dec. 2, ACC/Big Ten Challenge vs. Ohio State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 6, @Kentucky, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 12, FIU, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 14, Robert Morris, 1 p.m.
Dec. 21, Clemson, 7:45 p.m. (FSN)
Dec. 27, @St. John's, TBA
Dec. 31, North Florida, 1 or 2 p.m. (FSN)
Jan. 3, North Carolina Central, 1 p.m. (FSN)
Jan. 5, Florida Atlantic, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 10, @Boston College, TBA
Jan. 14, Maryland, 9 p.m. (Raycom)
Jan. 17, @North Carolina, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Jan. 21, Florida State, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 25, Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m. (FSN)
Jan. 28, @N.C. State, TBA
Jan. 31, @Maryland, 8 p.m. (Raycom)
Feb. 4, Wake Forest, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Feb. 7, @Duke, 1:30 p.m. (Raycom)
Feb. 15, North Carolina, 7:45 p.m. (FSN)
Feb. 18, @Florida State, TBA
Feb. 21, Boston College, Noon
Feb. 26, @Virginia, 8 p.m. (Raycom)
March 4, @Georgia Tech, TBA
March 7, N.C. State, Noon (Raycom)
March 12-15, 56th Annual ACC Tournament, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Sorry it took so long, but it took me awhile to get through all of the interviews from today, a day when the University of Miami began moving past the weekend news of first game suspensions for seven players including starting quarterback Robert Marve. Coach Randy Shannon and select players met with reporters for the first of a dozen Media Days this season Monday. And they kept me busy.
Shannon has been catching a lot of heat for the way he handled the suspensions both nationally and locally, including from our own Greg Cote, who believe the coach should not have waited 10 months to remind Marve he was being punished. On my way to UM this morning, I got a phone call from a staff member close to Shannon who told me the program is not pleased with the way the situation is being portrayed. "There's always two sides to a story," they said. And the truth is, they've got a point.
For all the fuss being made about the situation, the only thing that really matters in my eyes is how the team and Marve handle the situation moving forward. And according to the source who called me this morning to voice his displeasure, the suspensions are not as big a distraction internally as it might seem from the outside.
Last night, Marve was obviously agitated when he spoke about the suspension to the media. He seemed like he had already rehearsed his answers, saying basically the same thing over and over. While his feelings were hurt according to his family like The Herald reported Saturday, it seemed to me that a day later when the lights of the cameras were shut off and recorders were tucked away, Marve looked like he had already moved on. As we left the practice field Sunday, Marve was already asking Jacory Harris and Cannon Smith where they wanted to eat dinner and where they'd be hanging out later.
Although players said they were stunned by the news (just listen to receiver Leonard Hankerson), I genuinely believe this team is not going to let the situation affect them. Sunday, Cannon Smith told me privately he thought Marve was "handling the situation like a man." "That's one of the things about Marve, he's a tough guy," Smith said. "Of course, we felt bad for our teammate. I talked to him about it. He's handling it great. That's the kind of guy Marve is, he's not going to let this get in his way. He's going to come back and he's not going to skip a beat. He's going to be firing on all cylinders."
Monday, I asked team captain and starting left tackle Jason Fox, who always his big thumbs on the pulse of the team, for his thoughts on how he thinks the team responded to the suspensions and news. quot;Really positive," Fox said. "... all the guys, they've all handled it real well. This is a program that's going to hold guys accountable and they know that they're still going to get their opportunities. The guys that are suspended are going to be there to cheer the other guys on. They're not there to hold any grudges. They're there to support the rest of the guys."
> While we know for sure the reason Marve was suspended was for his run-in with the last last October, Shannon didn't elaborate further Monday than he did Sunday as to why the other six players -- running back Damien Berry, receiver Kayne Farquharson, fullback Eric Houston, long snapper Chris Ivery, defensive end Adewale Ojomo, and safety Randy Phillips were suspended. So, we'll have to go with what he told us Sunday regarding "curfew, study hall and doing the right things in the classroom."
I asked Shannon if any of the six were supposed to be starters like Marve and he said no. We know that not to be the case at least with Ivery, who was supposed to handle snaps on punts. And I'm pretty sure Ojomo was going to start at defensive end. But hey, that's what Randy told us.
> As for Harris, Shannon said he will not shorten the playbook at all for his first career start Thursday. And he made no promises about Cannon Smith even getting a snap. Harris' teammates aren't worried one bit he's the guy starting Thursday -- despite being just eight months removed from his high school graduation and winning a second consecutive state title at Northwestern. Everything receiver Khalil Jones, Fox and right guard Joel Figueroa said about him Monday evoked confidence.
"He's very cerebral," Fox said. He's very confident. He's not a guy that will jump up and down and yell and holler. You can definitely see in the way he holds himself in the huddle, he's confident. He knows he's going to make the throw, that he's going to make a play. You don't really sense any type of timidness from him. He stands tall. You kind of respect him in the huddle already, even though he's a freshman. Marve's a little bit different. He gets excited. But they're both very confident in the huddle and they both kind of demand respect in the huddle. When they start talking everybody gets quiet and starts listening."
Jones said playing at Miami Northwestern, where the level of pressure is elevated, has prepared Harris well for his first collegiate start. "He's mature. He reminds me of a rockstar. To be that young, I marvel at how well he handles the pressure and how far he's come along in a short amount of time. He really doesn't act like a freshman quarterback. It's been a great transition from high school to now. He's taken it so well, really taken control of it. I'm proud of him."
Figueroa said the biggest difference between Harris and Marve as far as their play is that "Marve likes to get out of the pocket and scramble a little bit more. Jacory likes to stay in the pocket."
For those of you worried about Harris taking big hits and being able to get up from it, he told reporters Sunday night he's gained 19 pounds since he left Northwestern and is standing 6-4 and weighing 187 pounds. Ken Dorsey's height and weight his freshman season in 1999? A very similar 6-4, 185 pounds.
> UM's depth chart, released Sunday, had 14 true or redshirt freshmen on it's two-deep list. Shannon said he isn't worried about playing that many freshmen and neither are some of his older players. Shannon said many freshmen will play this season, but will not get the majority of work. "They'll play 20 to 25 snaps," Shannon said. "If we throw them in for 60 plays and 30 plays they don't know what they're doing, then you'll have problems."
Linebacker Glenn Cook said he's confident the freshman can handle it. "We have confidence because we prepared them for the situation," Cook said. "They've gotten a lot of reps in scrimmages and what not, so I think they'll go into the situation and be ready. They've gotten more work than most freshman have ever here. So, they won't be as brand new to things."
> Even though he was passed up by Jordan Futch for the No. 2 spot at weakside linebacker on the two-deep, Cook said freshman linebacker Arthur Brown is doing just fine. Shannon told reporters Monday Brown is not injured. Cook said not to pay too much attention to the depth chart because he believes a lot of linebackers will play.
> Even though Shannon told reporters last week Sunday was the deadline for defensive ends Allen Bailey and Eric Moncur to return to practice in order to be ready to play Thursday, he said Monday "the door is still open" on his projected two starting ends. I still believe its a safe bet they don't play in the opener.
"Allen Bailey the other day went through the whole entire individual work out and tossed one of the offensive lineman doing drills," Shannon said. "We just got to keep progressing. Both of them went to the doctor and the doctor said they looked good. As long as the doctors say its ok they could play. Moncur was probably more ahead of Bailey. But both of them are about equal now."
> Count cornerback Chavez Grant as a guy who is excited about the return of Cook at middle linebacker.
"Cook knows the defense like the back of his hand," Grant said. "When I came in as a freshman, he knew the defense like the back of his hand. And now he knows this one like that. It gives you a lot of confidence when you got a guy in there. When you know what to do, it gives you a lot of confidence."
Knowing what they have to do, though, could still be a challenge for the Canes, who are entering the second consecutive season with a new coordinator. Grant talked at length Monday about how much the terminology has changed under Bill Young and the growing pains.
"The terminology has changed a lot. And as we go through the season we'll pick up on a lot of things," Grant said. "Basically, what we have to do is erase everything from the last two years and start all over. It's not easy. But most of the time what we do is take something from last year and put a different name on it. It does create [a split second of hesitation]. And I believe [we'll see some growing pains]. I've seen it sometimes in practice where as a DB I said 'Oh man, I should have taken that route.' Repitition is the father of learning, though, and I think we'll be just fine.
> Fox said the difference with Xavier Shannon at center this year is having a guy who can stand up physically to the defense. Fox said he's proud, too, how fast Shannon has been able to adjust since coming over from FIU in the spring.
"He's graded out real well in all of our scrimmages and practices," Fox said. "It's real surprising when you think he's only been here one year. By the way he's playing it looks like he's been here a couple years.
"I wouldn't compare him to Rochford. [Xavier is] really athletic. Rochford was a guy who would beat you with speed. [Xavier] has a little more muscle on him. He some speed on him too, but he definitely can move people around."
> Sophomore Matt Bosher, who will handle all of the kicking duties Thursday, said the toughest challenge is "not so much physical, but more mental preparation."
"One minute, you could be getting ready to punt, then a first down comes and you might be in field goal range," Bosher said. "Things change pretty quickly. Coach has done a good job preparing us for it all."
I asked Bosher if its possible he could tire from handling all the duties. "You can kick your leg out just like a pitcher throwing too many pitches. You almost have to kind of be on a kick count," Bosher said.
As for his snapper, Bosher admitted Chris Ivery is a little bit faster than Jake Byrne when it comes to getting the ball back to the holder, but not much. "They both put it on the money every time," Bosher said. "Jake is a great long snapper and he's really going to do well with field goals. I'm completely confident with him for all of us to get our timing down."
FYI, safety Lovon Ponder is Byrne's backup. Ponder has been practicing at long snapper since the spring.
> Be sure to check out my feature tomorrow on Xavier Shannon, who took me inside his relationship with his father, including how much his Dad loves movies. Coach Shannon apparently likes war movies, adventure movies and one of his personal favorites is Get Rich or Die Trying with 50 Cent.
> This week will be the first Live Chat of the new season at our new time and day, 2 p.m. Thursday. The chats will no longer take place here on the blog, but on the same style Greg Cote used for his chat today. There should be a link up later this week for you to leave questions.
> FYI, for those of you who would like to hear the interviews, check out our Audio page. I post just about everything I collect.
OK, the news we've been waiting for since Friday night has been addressed by The U. Seven players will be suspended for the opener including starting quarterback Robert Marve. The others are: running back Damien Berry, receiver Kayne Farquharson, fullback Eric Houston, long snapper Chris Ivory, defensive end Adewale Ojomo and safety Randy Phillips.
UM coach Randy Shannon began his 4 1/2 minute meeting with the media by saying this:
"This Thursday night we'll have seven guys that won't be attending the game. Like I said before when I took the job at the University of Miami, we hold everybody to higher standards than most teams in the country. We have our rules and regulations, as far as curfew, study hall, and doing the right things in the classroom. We won't be having a few guys attending the game for those reasons and we'll move forward.
"Robert Marve will be our starting quarterback for the season. He will not be attending the game against Charleston Southern. We have two great quarterbacks. The competition was great between the two guys. They did a great job of competing. Jacory Harris will play in every game we will play this season. Robert Marve will be the starter. We will not have a controversy. When a guy goes in, like Jacory, and has a tremendous game, Robert Marve will be the starter. We got to build depth at that position.
"Some people may think this is a harsh decision because I'm such a stickler about the little things. But one thing I do know if you do the little things, but you forget about them, they add up to big things and that will cause a lot of problems for your team. As I said, we're going to build a championship team. We're going to do it the right way and we're going to keep enforcing those things to make a better team and better program by always doing the right thing. And like I said before, some schools may not be as harsh as we are, but we're the University of Miami and that's the stand we take."
Here's the official depth chart by the way...
QB: Jacory Harris | Cannon Smith
RB: Javarris James | Graig Cooper
FB: Patrick Hill | John Calhoun
FL: Khalil Jones | Travis Benjamin or Sam Shields
SE: Leonard Hankerson | Aldarius Johnson
TE: Dedrick Epps or Chris Zellner | Richard Gordon
LT: Jason Fox | Tyrone Byrd
LG: Orlando Franklin | Matt Pipho
C: Xavier Shannon | A.J. Trump or Tyler Horn
RG: Joel Figueroa | Harland Gunn
RT: Reggie Youngblood | Chris Rutledge
LE: Steven Wesley | Gavin Hardin
LT: Antonio Dixon | Marcus Forston
RT: Joe Joseph | Dwayne Hendricks
RE: Marcus Robinson | Andrew Smith
SLB: Darryl Sharpton | Jordan Futch
MLB: Glenn Cook | Romeo Davis or Spencer Adkins
WLB: Colin McCarthy | Sean Spence
LCB: Chavez Grant | Brandon Harris
RCB: Bruce Johnson | DeMarcus Van Dyke
SS: Anthony Reddick | Vaughn Telemaque
FS: Jojo Nicholas | Ryan Hill
K: Matt Bosher | Jake Wieclaw
P: Matt Bosher | Taylor Cook
KO: Matt Bosher
LS: Jake Byrne | Lovon Ponder
PR: Graig Cooper | Travis Benjamin | Thearon Collier
KR: Ryan Hill and Brandon Harris | Shawnbrey McNeal and Davon Johnson
> Check back later tonight for my reaction to everything, as well as audio and video from today.
Wow. That's all I got to say about this morning's news. After plenty of rumors on the internet Friday night and some great reporting work by our Barry Jackson and Susan Miller Degnan this morning (I made a few calls too Friday night but struck out), The Miami Herald confirmed quarterback Robert Marve -- and possibly a few other players -- have been suspended for the season opener in relation to incidents in the past year.
The news was supposed to break Sunday night, but as usual around UM it leaked out two days earlier. One thing is clear, the timing couldn't be worse. Miami is set to open its season in six days. Marve and the other players were told Friday by coaches about their suspensions after practice and according to Barry Jackson's sources, coaches held off on it because they didn't want the players to ease up during fall camp. I can understand that from a team perspective. You want Marve and the other possible suspended players to make sure they're ready for the season and you don't want to deflate them. And it's not like not having them against Charleston Southern is that big a deal.
But from a public relations perspective, this obviously doesn't shine well on the program. My question to you is could it have been handled better? Should coach Randy Shannon just have announced before fall camp that those guys were out for the opener? Would it have made a difference for you?
Those are the public relation issues, but there are team issues now, too. When a player is injured or gets suspended (we remember the Sam Shields incidents last year) they've always had to work to get back onto the first team. Obviously, Jacory Harris will start the opener now. Does Shannon just give Marve the reigns in Gainesville as week later? Not according to his own rules. It's going to be very interesting to see how this is all handled in the next few days.
Either way, one thing is clear, this has become an unnecessary distraction for a team coming off a 5-7 season and dire need of positivity heading into a new year.
Canes coach Randy Shannon said he plans to release a depth chart Sunday and that likely will include announcing his starter at quarterback.
Everyone around here is banking on Marve being named the starter. Shannon also said Marve, Jacory Harris and Cannon Smith are still receiving first team reps. I find that hard to believe, though, considering the team has already begun preparation for Charleston Southern.
> One guy that won't be playing this season is freshman receiver Tommy Streeter, whom Shannon said had surgery and will miss the season. Shannon didn't say what the injury was, but said "it wasn't knee surgery."
It's not surprising. Streeter hasn't practiced in more than a week. To be honest, it's not really that big a loss for UM, which obviously has seen Laron Byrd and Aldarius Johnson (it's other two big incoming freshmen) play well this fall.
> Freshman linebacker Brandon Marti has finally gotten into school. Shannon said he still isn't practicing because he has to go through orientation. Marti is a guy I'm expecting could be redshirted with the amount of depth the team has at linebacker.
> There is still no news on defensive ends Eric Moncur or Allen Bailey. Shannon said he still hasn't spoken to the doctors about whether either of them have been cleared. Both were at practice Thursday morning. Sunday is the deadline when Shannon said both need to be healthy to be eligible to play in the season opener against Charleston Southern.
As for his team's first opponent, Shannon said: "They try to run a spread offense and they're going to do a lot of blitzing and zone blitzing and things like that. You can't take them lightly. You got to make sure your doing all the solid things on defense and picking up the blitzes on offense."
> Leonard Hankerson's move from the inside to the outside after his big night Tuesday has moved around a few other players at the receiver position. Sam Shields said Kayne Farquharson is now playing inside with Kendall Thompkins and Thearon Collier backing him up in the slot.
By my count and after talking to receivers coach Aubrey Hill earlier this week, that means the flankers are Khalil Jones, Sam Shields, Travis Benjamin, Jermaine McKenzie and Davon Johnson. The Split Ends are Leonard Hankerson, Aldarius Johnson and Laron Byrd.
> Junior Tervaris Johnson spent most of his first three years at UM lost in the secondary at cornerback. But Shannon and special teams coach Joe Pannunzio both said earlier this week Johnson is making strides at tight end and on special teams and could be a contributor.
I remember watching Johnson as a junior at Monsignor Pace when he hauled in a long pass as a tight end and always wondered why he wasn't given a shot at tight end earlier in his career. Johnson who was always a big corner said he's put on 12 pounds in the offseason and is now at 240 pounds.
"I feel better at tight end than I did at corner. I never really played it in high school, I was more of a safety," Johnson said. "I'm more happy at that position. It's come easier for me. At the beginning, I was having a little trouble with playbook. As I grasp the playbook, I'm getting more comfortable."
Even though I consider it the biggest concern on the team heading into next Thursday's season opener, UM coach Randy Shannon told reporters Thursday he's not worried about his team's depth on the defensive line.
And it seemed like he meant even if projected starting defensive ends Allen Bailey and Eric Moncur (whom Shannon said are supposed to see doctors Thursday) aren't ready for Charleston Southern. Shannon told reporters both need to be practicing by Sunday to play in the first game.
"Anytime you have a rotation on the defensive line you're OK," Shannon said. "But anytime you don't have a rotation that's when you'll have problems. We have five guys working in at defensive tackle and another five guys at defensive end, so nobody is really going to have play more than 35 snaps a game. That's pretty good."
Part of the reason Shannon might be feeling better is the emergence of freshman Marcus Robinson, who has continued to impress coaches as a rush end. "Right now he's with second team," Shannon told reporters. "He's running, making plays and we're excited about him."
> Shannon said sophomore Leonard Hankerson's big day Tuesday (he caught three touchdown passes in the final scrimmage) was encouraging, so much so that coaches now have moved him from the inside slot position back to the outside.
> Shannon said kicker Matt Bosher missed a 54-yard field goal in Tuesday's scrimmage, but came back and hit one from "40-something." He said freshman Jake Wieclaw also made one from 40-yards. Shannon once again said if the season started today Bosher would handle all of the kicking duties.
Special teams coach Joe Pannunzio said he is comfortable with Bosher attempting field goals from as far out as 55 yards. "But I like extra points a lot better than 40 yard field goals," Pannunzio said. "But he has the ability to make them from that far."
"Matt has the strongest leg. Sometimes he's the most accurate," Pannunzio said. "He hit a little slump about two weeks ago. Part of that is probably me. We hadn't settled on a short snapper for extra points and field goals and now we've settled on that it's going to be Jake Byrne. Everybody talks about the kickers on the field goal, but that snapper is awfully important. I think he's lucky in that his holder is the same guy from high school Matt Perrelli."
Pannunzio said he believes Bosher has a strong enough leg and is athletic enough to handle all three duties, but admits he was worried last year Bosher would struggle with the punting. "If you look at him last year, after three or four games everyone thought it was going to be a nightmare," Pannunzio said. "But as the year progressed, he got better and it was just like if you or me and went out there and started something new we'd make a lot of mistakes early. As he became more comfortable, I thought he became pretty good. I thought when we played Virginia Tech, he held them down pretty good. Eddie Royal was as good a punt returner as I've played against and he did a great job holding him down."
> Pannunzio said what has been holding back Wieclaw, whom he insists is healthy after coming back from a broken foot, has been getting used to kicking off the ground and not a tee.
> As far as the return game is concerned, Pannunzio made it seem like Ryan Hill is a lock to start opposite either Shawnbrey McNeal or Brandon Harris. Bruce Johnson is also possibility. Even though Pannunzio said he still likes Aldarius Johnson back there, Shannon told reporters Johnson has been taken of kick returns.
> Graig Cooper is the front runner for punt returns. "And then Travis Benjamin, who is like lightning," Pannunzio said. "Thearon Collier, Chavez Grant is sure-handed and he's been back there before. That's kind of it."
> Former UM kicker Daren Daly has turned up at the University of Central Florida. Daly kicked for UM and FSU and is probably the only guy in the state's history to play for three different I-A schools.
The third and final scrimmage of the fall is all wrapped up. Even though we didn't get to see a single snap of this one (we at least got to see a little of No. 1 and No. 2), it's apparent the offense had it's best scrimmage of the fall so far.
"I think as far as an offense, this was our best scrimmage by far," left tackle Jason Fox said. "We executed. We didn't have a turnover tonight. Pass protection was there. I'm not sure if we gave up any sacks. No dropped balls. I think we had one penalty. This was a great way to finish off camp as far as an offense."
Fox told reporters the offense scored seven to eight touchdowns. Well, it wasn't that much. Chavez Grant told me somebody was multiplying by two. After all the interviews, I've concluded there were four.
Three belonged to sophomore receiver Leonard Hankerson, who told us he caught two long passes (one
from Robert Marve and Jacory Harris) and another on a bubble screen (from Harris). Hankerson admitted he's been feeling the heat from the freshmen, who up until Tuesday had been receiving all the praise from coach Randy Shannon.
"I felt I had to play well because in the previous [scrimmages] I didn't do as well as I should of," Hankerson said. "So, today I just had to come out and show I can play. The performance I figure it help with the coaches and my confidence too."
Hankerson, who said he's lined up at all three receiver positions (flanker, split end and slot), said he caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Harris in the end zone. His 45-yarder from Marve was caught at the 25-yard line, he then raced past the secondary into the end zone. His third and final touchdown came on a bubble screen at the 30-yard line.
"I guess he has that deceptive speed," cornerback Chavez Grant told me. "He's not a slim guy. He's kind of heavy set. He runs great routes. But you don't expect him to jump on the horse, but he did tonight. We kind of busted some coverages and once the offense got the momentum going. They just did well."
> Grant said the defense was called for offsides four times -- including once on a punt block, giving the offense new life.
> Shannon didn't say a word about Hankerson, a St. Thomas Aquinas grad once after we asked him who shined during the scrimmage. The only name that came out was freshman receiver Thearon Collier, whom Grant told us had a rushing touchdown. Shannon said Collier did a great job on punt returns.
Shannon told reporters before Tuesday the final scrimmage was going to focus on special teams. He reiterated that if the season started today, sophomore Matt Bosher would handle all of the kicking duties. Grant said he, Graig Cooper, Collier and Benjamin are the guys primarily working on punt returns and pointed to Ryan Hill, Brandon Harris and Shawnbrey McNeal as guys working in the kick return game.
> Grant said part of the reason he thinks the receivers have been enjoying so much success this fall is depth, something UM obviously hasn't had the past several season.
"I think we have a lot of speedy freshman, big strong guys like Laron Byrd," Grant said. "They're coming in, making it tough for us. They're rotating every play, so they got fresh bodies. It's making us tough on our DBs. All of them have great talent. If they keep rotating, they're going to be real good."
Grant said he and Bruce Johnson are the guys starting at cornerback, but admits he moves inside when DeMarcus Van Dyke comes in the game. He said Brandon Harris is seeing a lot of time at nickel. "I don't even want to take that spot back," Grant sad. "Right now, just like it was for my first two years, he's doing a phenomenal job, making all the right checks, that's his spot right now. You just got to give it to who is performing the best right now."
> Shannon said defensive end Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey still aren't participating in full contact drills. Safety Randy Phillips was held out. So was freshman receiver Tommy Streeter.
> I know Shannon doesn't want to be accused of favoring his son Xavier, who is expected to start at center. But we all cracked a laugh tonight when I asked him how Xavier is doing. "Don't know, don't watch him," Shannon said.
> Jason Fox is officially becoming my favorite quote on this team. He's answering questions honestly and with real thought. I asked him for his take on several subjects...
How is Xavier doing at center? "With Xavier, he's playing a new position, he played tackle over there, so he's picked it up. He's quick. He hasn't missed a beat. He's graded out well in scrimmages."
Who on the offensive line would you say has made the most progress since camp began? "AJ Trump he's a guy if he's not starting, he'll be the sixth man. He'll play a lot. He had a block that sprung a touchdown on the last play. He's a guy that's been working real hard and shined."
Who on the defensive line is making an impression on you? "Same old name keeps popping up -- Marcus Forston. He's a hard worker. He's playing real well for a freshman. He's making a lot of plays."
> UM is off Wednesday. Ill be back on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. The team practices at 5:30 a.m. on Friday.
Just wanted to check in before tonight's final scrimmage of the fall and share some leftovers and thoughts as fall camp draws near a close and preparation for Charleston Southern officially begins.
> Even though an official depth chart hasn't been released, I'm pretty sure the battle for all of the starting spots on this team have already been decided with the exception of the return men on kickoff and punt coverage. Coach Randy Shannon told reporters that special teams would be the primary focus of tonight's scrimmage at Greentree Practice Field, which will not be open to the public at all.
So, here's what I think the two deep will look like once the season gets going based on my conversations with coaches and players (remember JJ and Coop should both be considered starters, receivers will be doing a lot of rotating and the defensive ends are in the air because of injuries):
QB: Robert Marve | Jacory Harris
RB: Javarris James and Graig Cooper | Derron Thomas
FB: Patrick Hill | John Calhoun
FL: Khalil Jones | Sam Shields, Travis Benjamin, Jermaine McKenzie, Davon Johnson
SE: Kayne Farquharson | Aldarius Johnson, Laron Byrd
Slot: Leonard Hankerson | Benjamin, Thearon Collier
TE: Chris Zellner | Dedrick Epps, Richard Gordon
LT: Jason Fox | Tyrone Byrd | Ian Symonette
LG: Orlando Franklin | AJ Trump or Matt Pipho
C: Xavier Shannon | AJ Trump or Matt Pipho
RG: Joel Figueroa | Harland Gunn
RT: Reggie Youngblood | Chris Rutledge
RE: Eric Moncur | Steven Wesley (*could start if Moncur isn't practicing fully) | Marcus Robinson (3rd down)
DT: Antonio Dixon | Marcus Forston | Micanor Regis
DT: Joe Joseph | Dwayne Hendricks
LE: Allen Bailey | Adewale Ojomo (*could start if Bailey isn't ready) | Gavin Hardin
WLB: Colin McCarthy | Sean Spence | Kylan Robinson
MLB: Glenn Cook | Spencer Adkins | Romeo Davis
SLB: Darryl Sharpton | Arthur Brown | Jordan Futch
CB: Bruce Johnson | DeMarcus Van Dyke | Brandon Harris
CB: Chavez Grant | Carlos Armour
NICKEL: Grant (DVD moves outside) | Brandon Harris
DIME: Brandon Harris
FS: Randy Phillips | Joseph Nicholas | Ryan Hill
SS: Lovon Ponder | Anthony Reddick
> For those of you that read or missed my feature on Jermaine McKenzie, there is more I wanted to share on him that just wouldn't fit into the story for space reasons.
For starters, McKenzie told me he came dangerously close to being paralyzed, fracturing his C-2, C-5 and C-6 vertebrae. "If I would have broken my C-4, the doctor told me I would have been paralyzed. That's what I was told happened to Kevin Everett," McKenzie said.
McKenzie said before the accident he was extremely excited about the way he had been performing during 7-on-7 summer camps at UM and was building a special chemistry with Robert Marve, who is no longer one of his roommates. "I was kind of like Laron Byrd, tearing it up each day out there," McKenzie said. "I really thought I was going to help this team big time."
Instead, McKenzie said he was driven to tears when he came out of the tunnel with Marve before the season opener against Marshall. "All I can remember was feeling love," McKenzie said. "The fans really made me feel so much better. They kept saying 'Don't worry, you'll be back out there soon.' I know people say don't play for the fans, play for yourself, your teammates, your school. But I'll always be a fan of Canes fans for that day. I'll always play for them."
Receivers coach Aubrey Hill hasn't sounded overly enthusiastic about McKenzie like others have been about Byrd and Travis Benjamin, whom Hill said have stood out because of their work in the scrimmages. He said while McKenzie has improved with "his toughness and learning his ball place", he needs to be consistent "catching balls day in and day out."
As for Benjamin, whom our George Richards wrote about today, Hill said Sunday: "For whatever reason, he has progressed and when the lights are on and its a scrimmage like situation, he's been able to pass the test. And still, he has a long way to go. He's by no means a finished product. He's still a freshman. But at the same time, he's been able to show up and make some plays. Clearly from the scrimmages [he's been the most consistent guy]."
> By the way, on Sunday I saw linebacker Jordan Futch sporting a U on the back of his head and part of his new haircut. It doesn't surprise me considering Futch is such a die-hard Cane. I'll try to snap a picture of it for you next time.
> Also, for those of you looking for the audio interviews I post, we have been having a problem with our UM audio page. So, be sure to visit our Sports Audio page in the meantime.
The Hurricanes practiced through the rain, the sleet and the snow on Monday.
OK, so there wasn't any sleet, but it was pretty nasty out in Coral Gables today. Took me over an hour to make the drive to campus this morning from my place in Sunrise, but most of the guys seemed to enjoy the break from the oppressive heat as the rain and heavy cloud cover did make things much cooler than is the norm.
Not much news to tell you, Randy keeping things short.
-- Safety Anthony Reddick and linebacker Romeo Davis didn’t practice Monday. Freshman receiver Travis Benjamin left practice early because “of soreness,’’ Shannon said.
-- The Hurricanes will hold a closed scrimmage Tuesday. “There will be a little more special teams involved in it,’’ Shannon said. “We’ll do some more situational stuff.’’
-- Shannon said defensive end Eric Moncur (sports hernia surgery) continues to work on the side, but has been “getting reps during walk-throughs.’’
It's official. Yonder Alonso will not be returning to the University of Miami. The left-handed, power-hitting first baseman signed a $4.55 million deal late Friday night, an hour before the midnight deadline, to officially end his career as a Hurricane.
Alonso's agent Mike Maulini called me at 11:15 p.m. and had Yonder talk with me for about 10 minutes. Both are definitely relieved. I can't say it's a surprise. Even though Yonder told me last week there was a 50-50 chance he'd return for his senior season because contract negotiations weren't going well, the Reds weren't going to let him get away. They were supposedly $4 million apart (Yonder was asking for $7 mil, and the Reds were looking at $3).
Alonso, who led UM to the College World Series in June, says he plans to finish school at UM and get his degree in Criminology. I got to say I'm happy for Yonder. When he came out of Coral Gables High as the All-Dade Hitter of the Year, he was drafted and offered $170K to sign a pro contract.
Instead, he went to UM and made the most of it. Included in his $4.55 million, 4-year deal is a $2 million signing bonus. "My family doesn't know what to do," Alonso said. "They're on cloud nine."
Maulini, who also advises UM signee Harold Martinez, said the former Braddock shortstop will be a Cane. Maulini said contract negotiations with the Texas Rangers broke off earlier this week.
The second scrimmage of the fall is in the books and for the first time since Media Day we got a chance to speak with UM's top two quarterbacks -- Robert Marve and Jacory Harris.
Before I get to what they had to say, we'll recap what happened and what we learned.
>Travis Benjamin needs a better nickname than TB. The 5-10, 160-pound freshman from Belle Glade Glades Central, who has been making plays since fall practice began two weeks ago, had another big night Friday. He took a short pass from Robert Marve on a bubble screen and ran right past Miami's defense for what is estimated to be from different accounts between a 55 to 60-yard catch and run for a touchdown.
Coach Randy Shannon called Benjamin exceptional and even asked reporters to scratch the name of Kayne Farquharson from the list of interview requests to add the freshman.
"I remember watching Travis when he played Northwestern in the jamboree [as a senior in high school,'' Shannon told reporters. "He caught a hitch route and went 90 yards. And that hasn't changed. Anytime he goes one-on-one with anybody he can go the distance. That's the kind of players we need on this team."
Shannon wasn't the only guy gushing about TB. "[Throwing the ball to him] reminds me of playing NCAA Football on the PlayStation 3 and you hit the R2 button and he just takes off," Marve said. "The guy has amazing speed. You throw the ball out to him and he always has a chance to go 80 yards."
Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, who was on the field for the play, said he though the defense had a chance to catch TB. "He reminds me of Ted Ginn the way he just caught the pass and ran up the middle. He's just so fast," DVD said. When he caught it, I thought we had a shot at him, but he just split the defense and ran like 55 yards with it. It was a blur."
Maybe, that should be his nickname. The Blur from Belle Glades.
Benjamin said he caught about three passes Friday. We (the media) saw one of them, a nice 15-yard gain on another screen. Shannon was asked what the likelihood is Benjamin has of being used when the season starts. It sounded like he wanted to say yes, but then he held himself back. I honestly think it doesn't matter what Shannon says at this point. He's going to play no matter what.
> All in all, Shannon said he was pleased with the scrimmage, which he estimated ran between 95 to 115 plays. Shannon said the offense moved the ball better than it has all fall, but that the defense picked up its play in the second half and did a good job limiting the offense.
Shannon said the team ran the ball 16 consecutive times to end the scrimmage. "It was a bloodbath. It was mano-a-mano. The offense drove the ball down to about the 20-yard line and we kicked the field goal," Shannon said, "That's how you want it to be, treating it like its 4 minutes left in the game and you got to run the clock out. So, I think we're becoming a more tougher team because of the addition of the fullbacks, their doing a great job of blocking for us."
> Aside from Benjamin's thrilling catch and run, the offense supposedly scored two other touchdowns -- the 4-yard Shawbrey McNeal run we saw and another by Lee Chambers, who had a few big runs and was praised by Shannon along with sophomore Damien Berry.
Shannon said Javarris James and Graig Cooper got limited work once again because he wants to continue to build depth. "We got to find depth at running back," Shannon said. "We got six guys, but we can't get caught like last year where we ran out of running backs. The more we get those guys working the better off we'll be. If they do a good job picking up the offense, we'll be OK."
> Kicker Matt Bosher missed a field goal -- we're not sure how long it was -- but he did convert his extra point. Freshman Jake Wieclaw hit a field goal, we believe it was a little less than 40 yards based on Shannon's quote above.
> Individually, the defense didn't get a ton of praise. But Robert Marve told us Brandon Harris was the other player to make an interception. Shannon called the pick uncalled for. "Brandon Harris made a great play on the ball," Marve said. "He went lateral on me, jumped up and grabbed the ball."
Defensive end Joe Joseph had the first one (CLICK HERE FOR THE DETAILS FROM THE BLOG OF WHAT WE ACTUALLY SAW). Jacory Harris told me afterward he wishes he could have the play back. He's just glad he made the tackle. "As soon as it slipped it out of my hands I felt like I had a string on my arm and I tried to snatch it back and I couldn't," Harris said. "It was a turnover so I had to go and make the tackle to keep the points off the board. I had to go through about 5-6 guys, jump, stiff arm them and then I eventually made the tackle."
> I'll have the audio interviews up from both Marve and Harris later tonight as well as some video highlights. But I asked both of them how they feel they've improved since the start of the fall. Marve, we all feel, will be the starter. But at least Jacory is keeping a good attitude about it.
"I'm the type of person that whatever coaches want is what I want," Harris said. "I didn't come here with a guaranteed starting spot. No coaches told me that. They just told me I had to come in and compete and that's what I'm doing. And it's a wonderful competition right now."
"Right now, in the first two weeks I feel like I've progressed a lot from spring. I'm actually comfortable now with the plays. I basically feel like I'm a sophomore or junior. Coach Nix has been working with us booting and getting our heads around. We do that we can see the blitz quicker and that makes us quicker on our throws. I think I've gotten better with the team, my confidence, the plays and the things I got to do."
Marve said he feels like he's seeing the game faster and that he feels like he's just getting the kinks out. "I
feel good in camp," Marve said. "You got the whole playbook in by now. I'm trying to get all the little kinks out of it. We had a few penalties in our 2 minute drill. It's hard to get going when you get that on first down. I think we're doing really good as a group though. All the quarterbacks are feeling comfortable."
How have you improved? "How fast the game looks in my eyes, it's really slowing down a lot," Marve said. "I can use my abilities to throw on the run or throw in general and make my reads. That's probably my biggest improvement."
> Almost forgot, it really is the Marve and Harris show. Shannon said Cannon Smith got all of one to two series. "Cannon Smith got a series or two toward the end of the scrimmage -- about 18 plays," Shannon said. "He looked normal. He moved the ball well like he always does."
It's Friday night and I'm back on UM's campus to tell you about all of the exciting moments during the 15-plays we got to watch of the Canes' second scrimmage this fall.
The highlight of highlights? Quarterback Jacory Harris having a Garo Yepremian moment. Harris, who started the scrimmage quarterbacking the second team, had the ball slip out of his hands while attempting a rollout and squirt in to the hands of big, bumbling, stumbling Joe Joseph, who caught the ball and rumbled about 40 yards before Jacory caught up to him and yanked him down from behind by his shoulder pads. It definitely looked like Garo's big Super Bowl VII gaff.
There were a few other highlights...
> Redshirt freshman Lee Chambers had about a 40-yard run, escaping from the defense on the second play of the scrimmage. He was finally chased down by UM's secondary.
> Sophomore Shawnbrey McNeal scored the first touchdown of the night on a 4-yard run, capping Jacory Harris' second drive that was highlighted by about a 15-yard pass to Travis Benjamin.
> Right before we got escorted off, we got a chance to take a peek at the first team. On the field, quarterback Robert Marve, Javarris James and Pat Hill, the starting offensive line we've been reporting for the last week and Aldarius Johnson and Khalil Jones at receiver. Chris Zellner caught a short pass from Marve on the first play. That's all we got to see.
> By the way, Brandon Harris and Aldarius Johnson were back for the opening kickoff. Harris had a nice return, breaking a few tackles before finally getting corralled down at about the 25 yard line.
> I'll be back after the scrimmage to share my notes and even a few video highlights. Stay tuned. The quarterbacks are supposed to talk.
> YONDER ALONSO UPDATE: I haven't been able to reach Yonder or his advisors yet. But MLB.com posted this story within the hour. Expect the Yonder decision to go late into the night.
I decided to take the day off today since the Canes weren't practicing, but got a text message earlier this evening while I was out at dinner that coach Randy Shannon said another freshman had been cleared.
Defensive back Joe Wylie of Boyd Anderson is supposed to be arriving at UM tomorrow according to what Shannon said on Hurricanes Hotline Thursday night. That means there is only one freshman who has yet to report, linebacker Brandon Marti. I know Marti's family and have been told that he recently received a phone call from Shannon within the last 48 hours telling him he should be cleared soon (hopefully by next week).
Earlier this afternoon, I got a phone call from former Canes great Lamar Thomas. I'll share the details of it with you tomorrow.
George Richards here live from Miami Gardens Stadium where the Hurricanes begin play in just over two weeks. The Hurricanes have played here before, in the Micron and FedEx Bowls, but in a few days, this becomes the new home of UM football.
The stadium now has a few exterior signs showing off its new tenant, with the Miami U affixed to the main guard gate (pic at left, sorry about my finger in the shot!) off of Dan Marino Boulevard.
The other tenants -- Marlins, FedEx Orange Bowl and Dolphins -- also have their logos on display.
And there you go....
I couldn't make it out to practice today because I'm working on video and other multimedia content for our football preview, but Susan Miller Degnan, our football beat writer, was out there. Nothing earth shattering as far as news is concerned (there usually isn't a week into camp) except that defensive end Eric Moncur was finally participating a bit more. If you want to read Susan's practice notes, here's the link.
> One thing I kept thinking about last night after our Live Q&A was how many of the freshmen in this 2008 class will actually start against Charleston Southern on August 28th. And to be honest, I can't think of one. While coach Randy Shannon and his assistants have praised guys like Laron Byrd and Travis Benjamin at receiver, Arthur Brown and Sean Spence at linebacker, Marcus Robinson and Marcus Forston on the defensive line, and Brandon Harris in the secondary, I don't get the sense Shannon is ready to place the full burden of starting and playing major minutes on any of them.
And that's a good thing if you're a Miami fan. That means Shannon and the staff honestly have the confidence to put the bulk of the pressure on the upper classmen, despite going 5-7 last season with most of the guys who will start. That means they believe guys like Darryl Sharpton, Antonio Dixon, Randy Phillips, Orlando Franklin, Joel Figueroa, Chavez Grant, Sam Shields and Bruce Johnson are better football players than they were last year.
So, if you don't see Forston, Spence, Brown, Harris or Byrd in the starting lineup for the first month or two of the season, don't take it as a failure. Because the bottom line is all of those guys are going to play -- a lot. Guys like Marcus Robinson are going to see like 20 snaps a game at defensive end. Laron Byrd is going to catch a few passes a game. Brandon Harris is going to be in the rotation at corner. And in the long run, UM and those talented freshmen are going to be a better football team because of it.
> Ok, I promised to get to the rest of the questions you guys left me last night. I'll leave you my responses below this blog.
Also, a quick programming reminder, if you are a high school football fan, Larry Blustein, myself and Herald High School Sports Writers Bob Emanuel and Andre Fernandez will have a new podcast up every day at 2 p.m. for the next two weeks breaking down every team and district in Miami-Dade and Broward over at The Countdown.
When Canes offensive lineman Matt Pipho flew back home this summer to tiny LaPorte City, Iowa, he thought his trip was going to be a short stay. But instead of celebrating his brother's graduation, Pipho found himself treading through waist high water filled with manure.
Pipho went back home at the worst possible time this summer -- when floods were causing massive damage to the state of Iowa. But it didn't get bad until after he was already there.
"It was just amazing how much water there was," Pipho said. "One of my friends lost his house. A lot of my friends lost their crops, corn crops and it was just bad. My sister lives in Cedar Rapids which was one of the worst hit cities. She was fine. Everybody in the family was fine. One of my friends got an eye infection. I'm not sure how it turned up. He might lose his eye."
Pipho had been through floods before. "In 1993, we had a big flood. But in '93, the waters were 12-feet lower," Pipho said. "It was a night and day difference.
"I ended up having to stay the whole week because I couldn't get out. We had to wade through the water. My house is up on the hill, so I just stayed at the house. But I had to go help at one of my friend's house because he lived by a dam and the dam broke. So, you're just waist high in water trying to [survive]. Then you got to stay clean too because of all the manure plants, it gets the water dirty."
Thankfully, the 6-7, 307-pound junior said nothing bad happened to him. And now, he's back in Miami getting dirty for the Canes. Saturday, for the first time in his career, Pipho played some tackle during the team's first scrimmage. Tuesday, he said he was moved there because "we just have a few people that are a little banged up and they just needed to take a couple days off. I know tackle. I've never played it before. But I know the position, I know the job. So, they moved there and got some reps, and I cleaned up."
Pipho, who was back working at guard Tuesday, said he'll play wherever he has to. "I've been moved around my whole career and if I have to be moved around one more time, I'll do what I'm supposed to."
> Our UM beat writer Susan Miller Degnan will have a full feature tomorrow on defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, who talked with the media Tuesday for the first time since he was hospitalized nearly a week ago after suffering from the effects of heat. I don't want to steal any of Susan's thunder, so I'll keep it short.
Basically, Dixon is getting eased back into the drills this week and participating mostly in individual workouts.
"He's doing well," Shannon said. "He practiced today. He practiced about three-quarters, half the practice. We didn't do him the last part of practice. We got to ease him back gradually.
UM coach Randy Shannon said he's not concerned about Dixon and expects him to be back at full practice soon. "It's like anything. If you cramp up, you can't come back and throw him to the wolves. You got to ease him back into it, ease him back into the fitness part of it because he's going to be a little sore. And plus, they're going to be nervous. So, you give him a quarter of a practice. Then, you give him a half. And see how he responds and then give him a half and then another half and then total So, you ease him back into it."
Dixon, who lost 25 pounds in the offseason dropping from 345 to 320, said he really couldn't remember the exact details of what happened to him, but that he felt a bit tired and sluggish before trainers cut up his jersey, he was covered in ice and rushed to the hospital.
> In other tid-bits, Shannon said he remains confident defensive ends Allen Bailey and Eric Moncur will be available for the first game of the season and said Bailey could begin more intense work in individual drills by the weekend.
> No one has a better opportunity -- or the need -- to shine while Bailey and Moncur are out than sophomore Steven Wesley, whom defensive line coach Clint Hurtt told me last year it was time for the 6-3, 265-pound end to realize the prom was over.
Wesley, whom I spoke to for the first time Tuesday, told me he's really trying to make an impact with the coaches and show them he can be a contributor. "[Coach Hurtt] told me it's my time to mature," Wesley said. "I've been here, going on my third year now. It's time for me to step up and make an impact on this team here."
Wesley, who grew up in Bartow, Fla., said he's gained 15 pounds since last year. "I've gotten myself bigger and faster," Welsey said. "I think I've improved myself mentally and physically since last year. I've improved my strength a lot and my speed. This fall, I've been real good on my pass rushing. I'v been real good as a speed rusher. I've improved a lot on combo blocks with the tight end and tackle."
As for his young teammates -- Marcus Forston, Jeremy Lewis, Micanor Regis, Marcus Robinson and company , Wesley said, "My young defensive tackles, they're improving every day," Wesley said. "Coach Hurtt keeps telling them all three of them can make the bus this year. All three of them have the physical talent to play. They just got to get it right in the head."
> Shannon wasn't happy after Tuesday's practice and told his team he wants to see more consistency. Players said Shannon didn't like their effort.
Receiver Aldarius Johnson said Shannon was upset because "people weren't hustling. The offensive line wasn't where it was supposed to be. We got to come out tomorrow and come out hard and the offense has to execute on every play."
"It's normal for this time of the year, but as we're going to get better as a team we can't always go backward, have to go forward," Shannon said. "And this team understands that. They looked at last year and have to make an emphasis on last year. I don't like to bring up the past but we have to learn how to finish and not take anything for granted."
> Johnson, who was the only freshman receiver to come in the spring, surprisingly hasn't been a player coaches have talked too much about since the start of the fall. But Shannon said Tuesday, Johnson (6-2, 206) is coming along fine -- even if coaches aren't raving about him.
"Aldarius has picked up his game," Shannon said. "He's not staying the same. He knows we got some competition there. We got other guys that are very talented. He plays the game hard. He plays the game physical. And he's getting things done the way we want him to."
Johnson reportedly caught a touchdown pass Tuesday and said coming in the spring has helped him progress. He said the only thing he needs to get better at is "coming off the ball."
"It gave me an advantage to get in shape, get the concepts, get the speed of the game," Johnson said of arriving in the spring. "I'm really ahead. I'm not a freshman. I'm doing better. As [the other freshmen] get better, I get better. When I see them score touchdowns, I feel like I score touchdowns. It's just like a competition. All of us come out and compete."
For all the audio interviews from today, visit our audio page.
I wasn't out at Greentree Practice field this morning. I was at Plantation High where the University of Miami won the sweepstakes for one of the Top 10 cornerbacks in the country, Colonels captain Brandon McGee.
Consider it the biggest victory for the Canes since they landed running back Bryce Brown. McGee is Broward's No. 2 recruit, behind Miramar quarterback Eugene Smith. He told a crowd of about 50 people moments ago he wants to be a Cane. I was busy filming it all for our website and will have an interview with Brandon I'll post later today.
> I finally got a chance to finish editing that video of McGee tonight. It's now available on our video player on our UM page. Also available is about a six minute audio interview with McGee on our high school podcast, The Countdown. If you just want to listen to McGee, skip ahead to about 15 and a half minutes ahead (60-65 percent into it). In our live podcast, we also spoke to Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services who gave us his thoughts on the announcement.
> One thing I came away with from spending the morning at Plantation was how good a kid McGee seemed to be. He's very polite, well-mannered and someone who really loves his family. He told us that camraderie was the reason he chose the Canes and said he really did drop the Canes at one point before his father convinced him to put them back in the running. McGee told us it was very important to play in front of his grandparents. He got teary eyed when talking about his mother, who passed when he was 13. Either way, Miami seems to be getting not only a great player, but a tremendous young man.
Here is the only clip I was able to find of him on YouTube.
P.S. - If you are a high school football fan, you've got a treat coming. Over the next two weeks on our podcast, I'll take a look at every team and every district in South Florida with High School writers Andre C. Fernandez and Bob Emanuel and recruiting writer Larry Blustein. For the complete schedule, check out the high school blog.
Although we the media only got to see eight plays of Saturday night's opening scrimmage of the fall (rapper Luther Campbell and about 300 other guests got to see it all), Randy Shannon and his players shared some of the highlights from it with us after it was over (CLICK HERE FOR THE AUDIO).
> Shannon said the team had a situational scrimmage focusing on the two-minute drill and said he rested a lot of his veteran guys. "We treated it like it was a preseason game," Shannon said.
"The quarterbacks looked good," Shannon said. "They didn't turn the ball over. So, that was good. When you don't turn the ball over you have an opportunity to win the game. Those guys did a good job with that and we're excited about that."
Offensive tackle Jason Fox said the quarterbacks didn't show any timidness. "They've always seemed comfortable since camp started," Fox said. "I haven't seen any timidness. They don't act scared at all."
Fox said there were several presnap penalties, though, in the red zone that killed offensive drives.
"We had I think two jumps before the snaps and a couple of other penalties, where we had receivers lined up on the line or tight ends, I don't know the exact call, but they pushed us pack," receiver Kayne Farquharson said.
> Shannon said running backs Javarris James and Graig Cooper didn't participate in more than 5 to 10 plays, giving senior Derron Thomas most of the work.
"Derron Thomas did a lot of good things tonight. He ran the ball well, caught the ball well, protected well, he's the guy that stood up in the run game," Shannon said.
> The offense scored two touchdowns and made two of three field goal attempts according to coaches and players. Shannon praised the play of the tight ends, estimating that they made about five catches.
> Freshman receiver Davon Johnson had the highlight of the night, going skyward and pulling in a touchdown pass over two defenders on about a 20-yard pass by Robert Marve. "My job was to block the safety and get about two steps in front of him and about two steps up the field," Johnson explained of his touchdown catch. "Robert Marve threw the ball and then I made a big play. It was like a jump ball and I took it off one of the defenders heads and took two steps into the end zone."
> Chris Zellner scored the other touchdown on a short pass from Jacory Harris.
> Shannon said the receivers "caught the ball well pretty decent, not well." And he estimated about two drops including a big play in which tight end Richard Gordon was stripped of the ball by safety Ryan Hill. Gordon supposedly made up for it with a nice 15-20-yard catch down field. "It was unbelievable," Shannon said.
> Defensively, the Canes didn't create any turnovers, but Shannon said there were about four sacks. Players told us redshirt freshman Adewale Ojomo (READ HIS STORY) had two of them. Freshman defensive tackle Micanor Regis and sophomore Joe Joseph also supposedly had a sack.
Fox said the offensive line did a good job but that "we need to focus on picking up run blitzes better." He said Orlando Franklin replaced the injured Chris Barney with the first team. "But I know A.J. Trump got some reps there in the too," Fox said. "They were trying some guys at new positions. Matt Pipho even played some left tackle today. And he did real well from what I've seen. Coach Stoutland is just trying to get a feel for everybody is at."
> Shannon told reporters defensive tackles Marcus Forston and Antonio Dixon and safety Anthony Reddick will be back at practice Monday. "The other guys are still rehabbing and stuff like that," Shannon said, likely referring to defensive ends Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey. "When they come back they won't be full go. Eric will probably do some things Monday, but he won't be all the way to toe. He'll be eased back into it."
> Kicker Matt Bosher said he connected on a field goal within 35 yards and attempted and missed a 54-yard field goal. Walkon Alex Uribe also connected on a 38-yard field goal. Jake Wieclaw made an extra point.
"I just kept it out a little bit left and it didn't come back in for me," Bosher said of the miss.
> Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke said he thought he had a good day with a few tackles and a pass breakup. He talked about Hill's strip on Gordon and a tackle made by Carlos Armour on Daniel Adderley. "I think our secondary is getting real physical," DVD said of the DBs.
DeMarcus said he was with the ones and twos along with Bruce Johnson, Chavez Grant and Brandon Harris. The safeties were Randy Phillips, Joseph Nicholas, Ryan Hill and Lovon Ponder.
Eight thrilling plays. That's what me and the rest of the media were privy to tonight. And Jacory Harris was at quarterback for all of them. Maybe Randy Shannon is trying to confuse us.
Anyway, I'm still out here waiting for the closed scrimmage (there are 300 special guests in attendance in the stands) to finish. When it does, I'll give you the full report. For now, this is the only news I can report:
> Safety Anthony Reddick (who missed several practices this week) was not wearing pads and was off to the side.
> Linebacker Arthur Brown was dressed in full uniform, but also standing off to the side. I didn't see him get into any action.
> Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon (whom Shannon told us would practice after leaving the hospital Thursday) was in shorts and a t-shirt. That's it.
Chris Barney's injury is worse than initially thought. UM coach Randy Shannon first told reporters after Thursday's practice that he first heard the 6-5, 345-pound redshirt junior would be out from 4 to 6 weeks. But Shannon said on Hurricane Hotline Thursday night that Barney will now be out between 2 and 3 months.
I got a chance to catch up with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland Friday for a story I'm working on for next week on another player and asked him for his reaction to the Barney news.
"It's unfortunate," Stoutland said. "Chris had really turned the corner. He changed the way he was living, his approach to school, his approach to playing football. I didn't get a chance to talk to him last when I tried calling the hospital, but I'm going to tell him when I see him that this just a speed bump in the road. Sports has a way of teaching you lessons for later in life. The guys say Chris' spirits have been great. It's very important to have that positive attitude following an injury."
Barney had been in the starting rotation at left guard despite not playing much at all last year. Stoutland said Orlando Franklin, A.J. Trump, Joel Figueroa and Harland Gunn are all guys who will try to make up for Barney's loss.
> With the way some of the young receivers have looked through the first few days of camp, new receivers coach Aubrey Hill has been one of the most sought after interviews this fall. Reporters finally got their shot after Thursday morning's practice. The No. 1 thing Hill said he's looking for in filling up what likely will be an eight receiver rotation: "Consistency." That bolds well for two young guys imparticular, Travis Benjamin and Laron Byrd, who have been singled out now a few times after practice.
Hill, though, said he's counting heavily on veterans Kayne Farquharson, Leonard Hankerson, Sam Shields and Khalil Jones early on in the season to lead the way. "Those guys have been very, very good in terms of leadership and showing the freshmen everything they need to do, kind of giving them a taste of how Coach Hill is going to be. [They're] getting after them and they've done a great job of forewarning them, hey make sure you run every drill, staying in the playbook, making sure they do all the nuances at the position."
> Hills said what has impressed him the most about Byrd is that he's mature beyond his years. "It's not only on the field, it's in the meeting room. He's got his playbook open, asking questions. It's not like its brand new to him. It's not like its a new language like you deal with most freshmen. And then on the field, he's very physical and he has a presence about him. That's one thing you know, he's in the game and he's going full speed."
> On Jermaine McKenzie, Hill said he hasn't seen an ounce of timidness despite the fact he suffered a major neck injury last fall and then injured his ankle and missed the spring. "He's been in there running full speed, trying to hit the safeties and making catches and things like that. Actually, he still young. He missed two-a-days last year. He just needs a lot of reps like we all do in this time of year. But we're expecting him to help us also."
> Hill said there is no question the freshmen are pushing the older players, but says nobody has separated themselves into being a go-to receiver. He said he will look heavily at what happens in the scrimmages. "Right now, today, it's kind of a receiver group by committee. But as coaches you always have to adjust. Coach Nix, Coach Shannon we'll sit down and if somebody is really starting to separate himself, he'll be our go-to guy. But as of right now, we're going to have a receiver group by committee and find guys that can run specific routes and make plays for us."
> Hill said although he hasn't put a clock on him, he said Benjamin is one of the fastest receivers -- if not the fastest -- he's ever coached. "He can run as fast as he needs to. If there is a 4.4, 4.3 DB running, he'll run as fast as he needs to score. He's electrifying. Very electrifying."
> One of the criticisms Miami's receivers got in the past -- even from Shannon -- was that they didn't go up and fight for balls enough. Hill said he's implemented drills to make sure that no longer happens. "I've seen it at times where we do a great job at it and I've seen it at times where I have to coach it."
Randy Shannon told reporters after the team's second practice Thursday that left guard Chris Barney, a 6-5, 345-pound redshirt junior, suffered an injury and is expected to miss four to six weeks. Barney had been practicing with the first team offensive line, even though most expected Orlando Franklin to win the starting job. The injury was not disclosed.
"It may go into the season, we just don't know right now. The doctors will let me know, it may be four to six weeks, I don't know," Shannon said. "It's something that happened at practice. It's what it happens in camp. We got Orlando [Franklin], Fig [Joel Figueroa], Gunn [Harland Gunn], what's my buddy's name [A.J. Trump]. So, we still got four guys that played some and got some quality work in. You got to move on.
"It's bad for him because he'd been coming along, he dropped a lot of weight and he'd been doing great in practice. Whatever time it takes him to come back he's got to just start over and just get back into the groove of what he's doing."
> Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, who was sent to the hospital Wednesday after suffering illness from the heat, attending practice in shorts and a t-shirt, but did not practice. Shannon said he expects Dixon to be back in time for Saturday night's scrimmage, the first of the fall, along with linebacker Arthur Brown (who did not practice at all Thursday and was seen limping). Marcus Forston participated in the afternoon practice Thursday.
> Shannon said the quarterbacks will receive an equal amount of snaps during Saturday's scrimmage.
> Shannon said Matt Bosher connected on a 45-yard field with three seconds left during a two-minute drill. Shannon said if the season started today, Bosher would be the kicker.
> Of Taylor Cook, who is participating in the punting competition, Shannon said he needs to get used to the speed of the college game.
From the world of unlikely scenarios, one regarding the return of All-American first baseman Yonder Alonso to the University of Miami is quietly becoming a situation to watch. (READ THE UPDATED STORY)
According to our Marlins beat writer Clark Spencer, and now UM coach Jim Morris whom I spoke to this afternoon, negotiations between the Cincinnati Reds and Alonso (who was taken 7th overall) are not going well and there is a chance the star slugger could elect to return to the Canes for his senior year.
"I haven't talked to Yonder in about a week or so, but I know he's got a figure in his mind and I know they're a long way aways from that figure," Morris said Thursday afternoon. "If it doesn't work out, I think we could fit him in our lineup."
Alonso's advisor, Brian Peters, told Spencer recently Yonder is looking for "Pat Burrell money" -- or about $7 million and that if he didn't sign, Yonder would probably either return to UM or go to the Independent League, likely the latter. Alonso is currently working out in Miami with a trainer to stay in shape.
Alonso is one of eight first round draft choices currently unsigned, who must be under contract by the official deadline of August 15th. Otherwise, they can return to school or elect to play in the independent minor leagues.
The Canes, who were ranked No. 1 in the country before being bounced at the College World Series, were decimated by the draft. Morris expected some damage, with Weeks, Gutierrez, Raben, Tekotte and Garcia's signings not a surprise. But Sobolewski signing was somewhat of a surprise as was outfielder Adan Severino, who probably could've become a top-round pick in 2009 but opted to sign for $65,000.
"It's going to come down to the deadline of August 15th," Morris said. "If they've talked to Yonder in the last day or two, I'm not sure what's happened. He's got different alternatives. He can sign. He can come back to school or go to that northern league like J.D. Drew did. A good decision would be to come back to school.
"A guy like that coming back would be a big boost for anybody. He was arguably the best hitter in college baseball."
While Morris admits he's been intrigued by how long the negotiations have taken, he's not going to get overly excited or anxious. Still, he knows how much fun Alonso had at UM and how much it hurt him when the Hurricanes lost int he College World Series.
"Guys have signed at 11:59 p.m. on that last day, so I try not to get my hopes up too much because so many things happen on that last day," Morris said. "I don't know how many of the first rounders who have not signed yet, but I'm sure they're will be some that sign at the last minute.
"But we'd be more than ok if Yonder decided to come back."
UM coach Randy Shannon told reporters Wednesday that senior defensive tackle Antonio Dixon was taken to the hospital after suffering from dehydration. Thursday morning, he said Dixon didn't suffer from dehydration, but from hyperventilation.
"It was one of those deals we found out that Dixon was hyperventilating," Shannon explained. "He was excited during the practice and the drill he did. He got going, short of wind, short of breath and it was fine. His body temperature wasn’t above and beyond the normal. It was just a little high, but nothing great. But he was fine.
"Dixon is a guy to get excited. And when Dixon hyperventilates, he hyperventilates. He does it all the time."
There has been no official statement on Dixon's condition from doctors or UM's training staff. Dixon (No. 96) was taken to Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables Wednesday morning by ambulance and a UM press release Wednesday afternoon updated his status by saying the 6-3, 322-pounder was "in good condition."
One Canes website reported early this morning that Dixon had already been released, but UM football SID Kerwin Lonzo told reporters Dixon was still in the hospital as of 11 a.m. Lonzo said UM is expecting Dixon to be released later this afternoon. Shannon told reporters "he could be back out practicing here by this afternoon."
"I went over to see him [last night], everybody did," Shannon said. "He was joking around, talking about eating fried chicken and stuff like that. He was good. We just have to be careful with big guys like that. You always have those situations happen. He’ll bounce back, keep rolling."
Dixon (who has suffered from condition problems in the past and even earned the nickname Two Play Dix from defensive line coach Clint Hurtt) told reporters at media day last week he feels like he's in the best shape of his life after losing more than 15 pounds and dropping down to 322. Despite what Randy said, I doubt he'll be practicing this afternoon.
Miami once again practiced for more than two hours Thursday morning, but about 10 minutes earlier than usual this fall. Shannon said earlier this week he's trying to get his young players extra reps.
"With us knowing the situation down here with the heat at the University of Miami, we got to have precautions about the things we do," Shannon said. "We always got to think about the kid first and everything else second."
AUDIO REMINDER: Be sure to check out the latest audio interviews I've posted from practice -- including Shannon's entire Thursday morning post-practice press conference, freshman receiver LaRon Byrd, safety Randy Phillips, freshman defensive tackle Micanor Regis, special teams coach Joe Pannunzio (from Wednesday), running back Shawnbrey McNeal (from Wednesday) and Shannon's interview from Wednesday. All of it available daily on our UM audio page.
> Linebacker Arthur Brown did not practice in the morning session Thursday and Shannon told reporters he could be back by Saturday's first scrimmage of the fall.
> Defensive tackle Marcus Forston, safety Anthony Reddick and defensive ends Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey did not practice either. Of Reddick, who I believe has now missed four days of practice, Shannon said: "It was his day to rest."
Shannon said Forston was a weight related issue. "Some guys we just rest here and there," Shannon said. "Like I said, we’re going to be very careful in monitoring the weight that they do. Players after every practice weigh in and weigh out, we keep their weight at a certain amount of pounds. So, sometimes we’ll sit some guys out because they lost just too much weight. It’s certain amount of weight loss. You just can’t go out and say you lost 10 pounds in practice and they only got two pounds back. You got to be careful about that. So, we make sure we monitor that, especially those big guys."
> Shannon told reporters not to ask him about the quarterbacks until after the second scrimmage.
> Shannon told reporters freshman defensive end Gavin Hardin was flying in this morning and said the school is still "waiting on two maybe three more guys" to be cleared by the Clearinghouse. Defensive back CJ Holton arrived at UM Tuesday, which means he likely won't practice until next week. Linebacker Brandon Marti, safety Joe Wylie and defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis still have not been cleared to show up at UM. Some of those players have told The Herald they have not received phone calls back from UM. "When the paperwork goes in, they’ll just roll in,” Shannon said. "[Gavin] has to go through a five day acclimation period. He can only wear shorts, go through meetings. He can wear shorts, but he can’t practice."
> With so many guys out on the defensive line, freshman Micanor Regis of Pahokee High says he's been getting so many reps at right defensive tackle he's lost count. Shannon said Regis is "showing flashes of of being the defensive tackle of what we [once] had. He’s young, got a motor. Sometimes he’ll come off the ball looking like a typical freshman, but then he’ll come off and cause havoc in the backfield. We’re pleased with his progress and the way he’s going right now."
Shannon said if the season were to start today, Regis would get upwards of 25 plays a game. Regis, who was already cut up in high school, said he's trimmed down from 320 to 317 and added more muscle. Shannon said his biggest obstacle is getting used to playing against guys his size. "In high school I was the strongest guy on the field, but now it’s like there are 10 other guys just as strong as me," Regis said. "Now, instead of my strength I got to use my technique."
> Even though in the first week of practice several key players from a year ago haven't been practicing with the first team, I wouldn't read too much into it. Safety Randy Phillips is a perfect example. He's been practicing on the second and third team, providing leadership and instruction for the younger guys.
"I’m still not going with the first team. Just kind of practicing hard, working with younger guys and trying to get the younger safeties going," Phillips said. "If you got all the experienced guys going with each other then, you know, when I run with the younger guys I can tell them what to do, be the leader of whatever group I’m in. I’m just rotating every different day. Might go with the ones, the twos or the threes. I’m just floating around."
> I'm now convinced Laron Byrd is separating himself from the rest of the freshmen receivers as the most likely to make an immediate impact this season. Byrd said he caught two touchdown passes Thursday and has lost count of how many he's caught this fall. Thursday, Byrd caught a long pass down the middle of the field on a pass from Jacory Harris during a two-minute drill, then hauled in another on a fade route in the corner of the end zone during short-yardage drills.
I asked Byrd point blank what he's doing to make Shannon, who has now mentioned him twice after practice, blush about him. "I’m just putting in the hard work and effort. That’s all I’m doing. Every day I’m coming out to play. I’m just focusing on doing my job. We got to think hard, knowing your role and I know my role. I know what it takes to come in and play hard. If he’s impressed, that’s good. But I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team."
Although I'm going to save my interview with receivers coach Aubrey Hill for tomorrow, Hill had nothing but great things to say about Byrd. ""He's a very smart player. He's a big kid who can run. In our meeting room he's smart too. He always has his playbook open. It's not like it's all new to him, a new language. He knows what he's doing."
One day into full pad workouts and somebody is already in the hospital. Senior defensive tackle Antonio Dixon was taken to HealthSouth Doctor's Hospital on UM's campus for dehydration Wednesday morning and has been admitted.
"We sent him to get some fluids in him," Shannon told reporters after practice.
UM spokesman Kerwin Lonzo said doctors are running some tests on Dixon.
"We'll keep you posted," Lonzo said. Dixon is the first player to be hospitalized that we know of this fall. Shannon said Tuesday the team has been practicing longer to get more reps for the younger players. Javarris James, Damien Berry, Lee Chambers and Joe Joseph are other guys who have been sidelined by the heat since practice began Saturday.
> Shannon told reporters freshman linebacker Gavin Hardin has been cleared to arrive at UM. Freshman safety CJ Holton was out at practice Wednesday, but didn't participate in contact drills again.
> Safety Anthony Reddick missed practice for the third straight day. Reddick missed the 2005 and 2007 seasons with injuries. Not a good sign.
> Shannon said he sent both of his kickers -- freshman Jake Wieclaw and Matt Bosher -- to kick off the infield dirt Wednesday morning at Dolphins Stadium. "Since the goalposts are up because Miami is playing Tampa Bay this weekend, we figured they could get some work that way," Shannon said.
Special teams coach Joe Pannunzio said he tries to send his kickers to kick off an infield dirt surface every third day at UM. "We'll probably send them once or twice more [to Dolphins Stadium]," Pannunzio said. "Either that or we'll just go for it on fourth down [Pannunzio joked]."
> Pannunzio went into deeper detail about the progress of the special teams, particularly the kickers, the guys working in the return game, the fliers and more.
Pannunzio said freshman kicker Jake Wieclaw is "a very accurate kicker and getting better... his biggest issue is he's been kicking off a tee in high school... and it's a learning process for him. It's probably invaluable that he's been here since January."
Pannunzio said he's looking at all the skill players in the return game -- including all of the freshmen. "We're looking for somebody to get out there and give us some field position," Pannunzio said. "It doesn't matter what year their in."
Miami's search for a return man isn't the only spot in the special teams the Canes are trying to fill. Both long-snappers from last season -- John Rochford and Ross Abramson -- are gone. Pannunzio said Chris Ivory and walkon quarterback Jake Byrne are the two guys currently competing for the long-snapper duties.
As for the fliers -- the guys who go head-hunting on punt returns -- Pannunzio said "we should be good at that. We got Khalil Jones and Ryan Hill who have been my two guys for years."
> Regarding the tight ends, Pannunzio said he's excited -- especially about the three he says will play: Dedrick Epps, Chris Zellner and Richard Gordon. "They're a year older, a year smarter, a year stronger, a year faster and a year more mature," Pannunzio said. "They look like they're coming into their own so hopefully it will be a big year for them."
Pannunzio said he just doesn't have that all-around guy. He said Zellner is the better blocker and Epps is the better receiver. "With Gordon, I used to have to kick his ass to go to class," Pannunzio said. "But now all I have to do is push him a little. It's part of his maturity."
Pannunzio said he's been surprised by the play of Tervaris Johnson, who moved over from safety to tight end this summer. "He's better than I thought he would be and he's a guy you might see in there a little bit. He's got a big enough body and he's not afraid to put his face in there."
Pannunzio said it could prove to be tougher for redshirt freshman Daniel Adderley. "He's never had his hand on the ground, his facemask turned or his nose bloodied."
> Shannon said the team's first day in pads was very physical and focused on establishing the running game and focusing on playaction passing. Shannon once again pointed to Laron Byrd and Travis Benjamin as the standouts among the young receivers. "The other guys are doing well," Shannon said. "but those are two guys that are standing out right now."
> Shannon said he hasn't set a timetable as to when he'll be looking for separation among the quarterbacks. "We've got three scrimmages, so we got plenty of time," Shannon said. "That's why I'm not panicking and trying to rush things.
> Sophomore running back Shawnbrey McNeal said he's now weighing between 193 and 195 pounds. He came in as a freshman at 180 pounds. "Being JJ and Coop you learn a whole lot. It's not about just helping them. It's no hatred or down talk. Everyone has the same amount of respect for each other," McNeal said.
> I got a chance to speak to redshirt freshman receiver Jermaine McKenzie for about five minutes today and will have a feature on him later this week. McKenzie is obviously a kid who has endured a lot in his time at UM including the neck injury he suffered when he his car did several flips on I-75 with him at the wheel last fall which ended his freshman season. McKenzie didn't play in the spring because of high ankle sprain. But now he's back, bigger and stronger and competing with a talented crop of freshmen to get in the mix. Be sure to check out the story later this week.
DON'T FORGET TO... Listen to the audio uploaded from today's practice as well as the video interviews. I uploaded the feature on defensive end Adewale Ojomo this morning.
It wasn't too long ago the University of Miami consistently housed some of the top defensive lineman in all of college football. From 2001-04, the Canes had four first round draft choices on its d-line -- Vince Wilfork, Jerome McDougle, William Joseph and Damione Lewis.
The tradition of top-tier lineman has continued over the last three years with Baraka Atkins, Orien Harris, Kareem Brown, Calais Campbell and the late Bryan Pata. But entering the 2008 season, Miami not only doesn't have a recognizable star, but it lacks the experience and established talent it once had on a regular basis. The D-Line returns just one starter (Eric Moncur) and must replace Campbell (who left early to the draft) and 10-game starter Teraz McCray at tackle.
If that wasn't enough of a chore for defensive line coach Clint Hurtt, fall practice has begun with Moncur and very promising sophomore Allen Bailey sidelined and rehabbing from injuries. Tuesday, I caught up with Hurtt after practice to talk about how the defensive line is progressing. Among the topics, Scout Team MVP redshirt freshman Adewale Ojomo (YOU CAN CHECK OUT HIS VIDEO INTERVIEW LATER TODAY) and the progress others are making.
Hurtt, who is always upbeat and positive when we talk, sounded a lot like the Coach Hurtt I spoke to at the end of last year when he was running a short-handed ship. The good news is, that although most of Miami's talented linemen are young, at least they're making strides.
"Adewale is a high motor kid, has gotten a lot better rushing the passer," Hurtt said of Ojomo. "He's a very strong kid in the run game, has great explosion, great hands. We expect him to come in and be a key contributor, keep pushing Eric (Moncur) and the other guys because we want to get the best four linemen on the field. He's doing a great job of that. The offensive linemen come up and talk about him, but everybody's improving as a group."
When asked who is currently shining at end, Hurtt said he couldn't name just one.
"Right now you're always looking at playing about five," Hurtt said. "We like to keep that rotation heavy so guys stay fresh. Hopefully around five or six. It all depends on who is game ready. That's what dictates it. Ideally you want five, but you don't want to throw a guy out there who isn't ready to go."
But Ojomo, whom I spoke with Monday, said incoming freshman Marcus Robinson is providing signs he might be. Randy Shannon compared Robinson Monday to former Cane Javon Nanton, a third-down pass-rush specialist, and said he hoped to get 20-30 plays out of him a game. Hurtt and Ojomo said Robinson (who played linebacker and defensive end in high school and has 4.5-speed) has had several sacks in the early going of fall practices and has even deflected a few balls. Hurtt negated one of my primary concerns about the freshman by saying Robinson (who told me Sunday he's up to 240 pounds) will put on the weight he needs to because he will be eating right in college.
"He has more natural skills right now coming in the door than Javon did," Hurtt said. "I worked with Javon a lot, and Javon did some good things as a freshman. He was a little stiff. Coach Swasey and those guys did a great job in the weight room getting him together. Marcus Robinson has some unbelievable tools, great tools. So he's got a lot of potential."
As for the defensive tackle spot, Miami feels confident Antonio Dixon's weight loss this offseason will allow him to be better conditioned. Who starts alongside Dixon remains a mystery though. Hurtt said Tuesday Joe Joseph, who made five starts as a sophomore last year (primarily because of injuries to others) has had the most improvement of the returnees.
"He's definitely improved," Hurtt said. "Getting Dwayne Hendricks back healthy definitely helps out. Guys are working hard to get better, and there's competition. Micanor Regis has come in and done a lot of things. Competition makes us all better."
> The fight for the starting center job -- the only position on the offensive line really in doubt (I don't care what people are saying about Chris Barney at left guard it's Orlando Franklin's job to lose) --apparently is becoming Xavier Shannon's job by the day. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland told our Susan Miller Degnan Tuesday Shannon has done the little extra things to outshine his competitors, Tyler Horn, Matt Pipho and A.J. Trump.
"I feel very confident with him," Stoutland said. "I was amazed at how fast he was able to learn all this stuff. I have children myself. And I know coaches who talk to me and say I know your son is a coach's kid. Because he listens. He absolutely listens. And he tries to execute what we're saying. Xavier is a coach's kid. He's been around it his whole life.
"Here's a for instance. During the practice session, whoever is getting the play, I will look at the script and I look at whoever is getting the play and whoever is not getting the play. And I look over to a group of them and I'll look over to see who is not paying attention. And if your not paying attention, I might say to you "What's the play?' Now, you don't have a script, but you got somebody calling out the plays. And if you don't hear the play and I call on your name, then I know your real serious about learning. A mental rep to me is as important as a physical rep to me. And so Xavier, I was looking around when he wasn't in the game and someone asked what's the play. He rehearsed it to me(snaps his finger) like that. It's a maturity factor. It's the ability to focus and listen when coaches are coaching. And that's what some of the younger guys to be honest with you have to learn."
> Go ahead and scratch CJ Holton off the list of missing incoming freshmen at camp. That leaves linebacker Brandon Marti, defensive back Joe Wylie, defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis and defensive end Gavin Hardin.
Holton was at practice Tuesday, but didn't participate in team drills. "He has to go through the acclimation period, so it takes time," Shannon said. "You have to go through two days in helmets, the whole day. He did some conditioning stuff, which is good for him because he can't just come in and (play). A kid could get hurt that way."
I've spoken to the family of at least one of those players who is still waiting, who tells me they've had a hard time getting a phone call back from UM coaches or school reps. Among the remaining recruits, there is growing fear one of the four will be asked to greyshirt (enroll in January) because UM might be over its scholarship limit of 85.
> Junior cornerback Chavez Grant, who has played nickel back most of his career at UM, told me Tuesday he's spending most of his time on the outside this fall. "My role, I'm pretty much outside on the corner," Grant said. "Brandon Harris is right behind me, pushing me, so is DeMarcus Van Dyke. I'm trying to be somewhat of a mentor to Brandon because he's working a lot at the nickel. And I kind of look up to Bruce, he's a great corner. We're all just working together."
> Shannon said running backs Lee Chambers and Damien Berry left practice because of "hydration issues." Berry was seen by a reporter leaving in a cart. Shannon has been extending practices a little longer than the usual two hours because he says he wants to get his younger players more reps.
> Despite not having a tight end on his roster who caught more than 13 balls or had more than 105 yards receiving last season, Shannon sounded optimistic Tuesday the tight ends will be more involved in the offense this fall.
"When you have guys only the first time playing last year it's kind of hard to get them going," Shannon said. "With a new offense coming in, guys never touched the field. Now these guys are making catches left and right in practice, big key catches. So we're kind of excited."
> Safety Anthony Reddick didn't practice for the second consecutive day. But Shannon said, "Everything's fine with him. He's doing well. We're just monitoring Reddick because guys come off knee injuries, you go and practice him every day you won't get much out of him. It's one day off, one day on, trying to ease him back into it. But he's doing fine."
Fellow safety Lovon Ponder didn't practice either. No reason was given.
> BY THE WAY... Don't forget to check out the two video interviews I've uploaded including a close look at Orlando Franklin's new mohawk and Damien Berry talking about his move to running back.
University of Miami coach Randy Shannon said there were no individual standouts at Monday morning's practice, the first in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) and third of the fall. But there were a few interesting guys available to chat with following practice including linebacker Darryl Sharpton, safety turned running back Damien Berry, and freshman defensive back Vaughn Telemaque, whom the Canes reeled in from longtime California power Long Beach Poly.
I'm starting today's blog, though, with a guy who could prove to be quite valuable to Miami's success this season on the offensive line, junior A.J. Trump. It's hard to feel happier for a guy on this team than Trump, who finally appears healthy after injuring his knee six games into his redshirt freshman season in 2006. Although he really hasn't played since, Trump said Monday "I feel like a freshman again." Trump played in just the fourth quarter of last year's opener against Marshall and admitted to me Monday "I think I tried to come back a little early and it wound up setting me back. I know how to be safe with it now and really take care of it."
Now, the 6-3, 300-pounder from Clearwater should be called Mr. Diversity for offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who has Trump playing all three interior spots on the offensive line this fall. UM could certainly use a healthy Trump. Although Miami's team strength this season is clearly the offensive line with established tackles in Jason Fox, Reggie Youngblood and even the roving Chris Rutledge, there isn't much depth or established talent in the interior beyond Orlando Franklin or Joel Figueroa. Trump could not only become the answer as the team's primary backup -- like Rutledge has been at tackle, but also possibly the answer at center if Xavier Shannon, Matt Pipho or Tyler Horn can't do the job done.
"I'm working the most at right guard. But on a given day be, I'll be at a totally different position," Trump said. "The trouble with switching positions is getting in the right stances. I'm a natural lefty, so the left guard position is easier for me. But I'm starting to get it at right guard. What can screw you up is flipping the plays when flip positions. But once you do it enough, you can figure it out."
I asked Trump if he'd prefer to compete for the center spot, which is open. "I'd love to compete [for the center spot]," Trump said. "But if my role is to play both guards and make sure Fig and Orlando have enough rest, then that's my role. But if I have an opportunity to play center, I'm going balls to the wall."
> Damien Berry talked about his move to running back Monday, and just like Shannon, said that the move was the coaching staff's idea, one to add depth to a position the Hurricanes were hurting at by the end of last season (when starters Graig Cooper and Javarris James were banged up). Berry (5-11, 207) ran for 1,080 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior at Glades Central (while playing on a torn ACL) and can certainly play the position when healthy. "I think I was coming along, I think I was doing good at safety," Berry said. "But I appreciate the switch. I'll play wherever coach Shannon needs me. If he wants me at safety, cornerback, center, wherever."
Berry, whose father Kenny was a defensive back at UM, is obviously taking the team first approach and that's good for the Canes, which could use the added depth this season. But there are a few things that make me queasy when I think about the move. For starters, it was after the spring. And from what I remember, Berry was actually doing pretty good at safety, a position most recruiting experts thought he would thrive at. Let's be honest. Does this move really make sense? At running back, Berry is going to be buried behind Javarris James, Graig Cooper and Derron Thomas this year and is definitely behind other young guys like Shawnbrey McNeal and Lee Chambers, who came in as running backs. Next year, Bryce Brown and Mike James are slated to arrive. When is Berry supposed to see the field? Miami coaches obviously know better than I do. They watch practice. I don't. But how often have position changes honestly worked out at UM Did Devin Hester ever really find a spot? Did James Bryant really ever settle in at linebacker or fullback? Where is Kylan Robinson these days? I'm just saying I think it's a lot to ask a guy to start over after they've spent a year a two working up the depth chart at one spot to move to the end of the line at the other. Here's to hoping Berry has better luck.
> Sharpton is one of those Canes who likes to get his nose into the action. When I spoke to him after practice, the bridge of his nose was swollen and red, the result of having his helmet slam against his face. After having three sacks in the spring, Sharpton potentially could find his nose in the chests of opposing quarterbacks more often this season than any player on Miami's defense.
The 5-11, 235-pound junior, who started the final five games of last season, said he has been playing with the first team at both outside positions (though he's slotted at strongside) and has worked hard this offseason to become a more dangerous weapon. Sharpton said he's trimmed down his body fat from 15 percent to 10 percent and says he's 40-time is down from a little over 4.6 to 4.5 seconds. It might just help him become the key blitzer at linebacker on this team. Shaprton raved about how much he loves how aggressive UM's new defense is under Bill Young. He says the advantage the team has is that it has learned the new schemes (filled with zone blitzes according to other guys I've spoken with) at the same time.
"Everybody is having fun out there, running around, playing in this new defense," Sharpton said. "I think all the guys have it down pat."
That includes freshmen Arthur Brown, who rotates behind Sharpton on the strongside, and Sean Spence (who is on the weakside).
"I've been very impressed with the young linebackers," Sharpton said. "I've been with Spence and Brown. From the spring until now, they've progressed into regular guys. I think they definitely know it well enough to teach other guys."
> There were rumors heading into fall practice Telemaque, who played safety at Long Beach Poly, could see time at cornerback. When I asked him Monday to clarify his position, he said "defensive back," but admitted he's spending most of his time at safety.
Telemaque, who was kind of shy during our interview, said he's comfortable in Miami and that his teammates are doing a good job helping him with the transition from the West Coast to the East Coast. But he said he still spends a lot of time every day calling his mother.
"I talk to my mom daily because I love her a lot," Telemaque said. "But I'm comfortable here. I'm looking forward to the next four years of my life here."
> Although defensive end Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey continue to be held out of contact drills, redshirt freshman defensive end Adewale Ojomo said they were "involved a little bit more today."
"We need Allen Bailey," Ojomo said. "Right now we're taking a lot of reps, and we need him to come in so he can take some of the reps off our back so we can last throughout the camp and throughout the season.
"Eric is a big leader on the d-line in general. We really need Eric back. If he's not healthy, we'll go without him. But we really could use him."
Ojomo said he's up to 250 pounds -- gaining about 3-4 pounds, but said he's upped his stamina and strength in the offseason. He was the MVP of the Scout team last season. "I can pass rush," Ojomo said. "But I also take pride in stopping the run. I don't want to only be known as a guy who can only pass rush on third down, I want to known as an all down guy."
Ojomo said he had two sacks Monday and said freshman Marcus Robinson batted down two balls and had "a few sacks."
Other quick tidbits...
> Coach Randy Shannon told reporters the freshmen who reported in the spring will definitely see playing time this season and said because of attrition, at least four freshmen receivers "in some way, form or fashion will help us this year."
> When asked what's he's looking for in the quarterback competiion Shannon said: "Time management. With the new clock change, the way it is now, they have to run the offense and not panic. Be calm, stay calm, get in and out of the huddle, set the plays, be able to execute the offense – don't give us a negative play. If we do those things we're going to be fine."
> As for the other five freshmen signees still not at practice, defensive back C.J. Holton was seen on the sidelines Monday with his family. Shannon preferred not to talk about it when pressed on whether Holton or any of the other five signees had been cleared yet.
VIDEOS AVAILABLE: For those of you who haven't seen any of the videos I've been posting yet, be sure to check them out. Today, I finally uploaded my interviews with freshmen receiver LaRon Byrd and cornerback Brandon Harris. I'm trying to post a few a day with highlights from Saturday's practice, the only one open to the public and media.
Two practices are in the books for the Canes. I celebrated it by having lunch with my homeboy and Panthers beat writer George Richards -- who I rarely see anymore -- at Casola's Pizzeria off NW 17th Avenue and US1. If you haven't been to Casola's, you are missing some great pizza (it's the place I always went to after games at the Orange Bowl).
As for practice, nothing too exciting came out of it Sunday -- just more positive signs from some young receivers, a quick conversation with the oft-troubled Sam Shields and plenty of other notes and quotes.
> Saturday was LaRon Byrd's day to shine. Sunday it was Travis Benjamin's. The former Glades Central receiver who caught my eye during Saturday's open practice was on the receiving end of two long scoring passes according to teammates during 11-on-11 drills Sunday. Benjamin, who can be spotted easily on the field because of his trademark long dreads, has tremendous breakaway speed. Canesport.com, who spoke to trainer Andreu Swasey, reported Benjamin having the fastest 40-yard time of any incoming freshmen at 4.26 seconds. Other top 40-times include receiver Davon Johnson (4.32) and Brandon Harris (4.47). Safety Vaughn Telemaque, who has received rave reviews, was times at 4.75 seconds -- slower than quarterback Taylor Cook (4.59) and defensive end Marcus Robinson (4.56)
> Speaking of Robinson, coach Randy Shannon set some what I consider lofty goals for the freshman when I asked Shannon what he hoped to get out of Robinson at defensive end. Basically, Shannon painted the picture of turning Robinson into a third-down, pass rushing end. "If he can contribute 15-25 plays in game situations, that is great. One guy we had out here was Javon Nanton that played just 15 plays a game and was a third down specialist. He led the Big East in sacks one year. If he can do that, then great, but if not then he is our future."
To me, this is just further proof just how beaten-down Miami's defensive line situation is when you get an 18-year old to arrive in August and you are hoping he can already be counted on for that much action. Robinson played defensive end and linebacker in high school, but was tabbed as the nation's No. 4 outside linebacker by Rivals.com. Freshmen have been contributors at defensive end before -- the late Bryan Pata comes to mind. But Pata was bigger than Robinson and more built for lining up versus 300 pound tackles. It's certainly going to be an adjustment for the kid.
"We have a couple guys down. Since I played d-end in high school, coach made the decision I could make the move," Robinson said. "Physically, I feel good really. I just got to use my technique and I'll be fine. I've put on 15 pounds since I've been here. I'm up to 241. Right now, I got to use my speed, my feet, my technique when I take on a big guy. I'm working with Eric Moncur. He's teaching me pretty much. Steven Wesley too. They're teaching me to be fast with my hands and how to move on the line without standing still."
> I'm not the type of guy who wants to fan the flames, but it's never a good sign to me when reporters try and ask a player a question and UM reps intervene to say he's not interested in answering it. That's what happened when reporters tried to ask Shields about his academic situation (which has been a hot topic/rumor this summer). The fear is Shields had a lot of making up to do in the classroom. Either way, we'll find out soon if he is in trouble. Friday was the last day of summer school and finals and Shannon told us on media day that the coaching staff would be receiving grades early this coming week.
For his part, I got to give Sam credit. He answered other questions and stressed he's matured. Shields said he's also gained weight -- about five pounds -- and is up to 185. Shields said he's lining up mostly on the outside and said freshmen receivers have been doing a good job pushing the veterans.
"I'm just focused on the things I got to do now," Shields said. "I want to help this team win games."
> Sophomore cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke, who started eight games last season despite being one of the thinnest corners I've ever seen, said he's bulked up to 178 pounds this season. He was weighing 160 when he arrived at UM. Van Dyke was awfully impressive from what I can remember in the spring. He said he had a couple breakups during 7-on-7 drills. He said coaches are trying to find the best two corners "and then the next two for a first and second team."
He also spoke highly of the other freshmen -- who he is playing alongside and against -- Sunday.
"Those guys are coming along real well," Van Dyke said. "Those guys have picked up their game fast. Brandon [Harris] is a great defensive back who will help us a lot this year. Vaughn [Telemaque] and [Ramon] Buchanon are ballers right there, real ballers. They'll help us out this year."
"All [the receivers] are good. They got their different styles. LaRon is a big physical receiver. Thearon and Kendall Thompkins are slashy guys. [Davon Johnson] and Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter will spread the field on you. You have to watch how you cover them. Those guys are good."
> As for the walking wounded, the same three guys who sat out Saturday and did drills off to the side -- defensive ends Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey and defensive tackle Josh Holmes -- were in the same place again Sunday according to Shannon.
> Tampa Plant tight end Orson Charles (rated No. 1 in the nation by Rivals.com) watched practice again Sunday. In other recruiting tidbits, I got the sense from a few conversations defensive tackle Antwan Lowery would still be welcomed at UM even though the team already has two defensive tackles lined up for it's 09 class. The U though appears to be getting tired of Lowery's games. He was supposed to announce August 1st, but has since negated and reopened his recruiting to include Florida with Rutgers and Miami.
Football season has officially started at the University of Miami. I just got back home from Saturday morning's first practice of the fall and have plenty of thoughts and notes to share with you.
I took my new video camera out there and filmed plenty of practice, stuff I'll post as the year progresses (Note: Today's practice was the only one open to the press or public this season). In case you missed it, I posted a few video interviews yesterday with Jason Fox, Marcus Forston and Glenn Cook. There was also another video done on the quarterbacks by Emily Michot. I'll have more video up later today from practice including interviews with freshmen Brandon Harris, Laron Byrd, Jordan Futch and center Xavier Shannon.
To the highlights...
> The first noticeable difference in my eyes with this team -- there are playmakers at the wide receiver position. Even though the guys were just wearing helmets and shorts, the new arrivals made quite the impression. No one bigger than 6-4, 211-pound, No. 47-wearing LaRon Byrd. He was the first player Randy Shannon mentioned in his post practice meeting with the press.
"We're very excited about him, the way he's progressing and things like that," Shannon said. "He stood out. We threw a tight end option route where Laron ran over the corner and that as a big play for us. He has great size, he's blocking, he's doing those things. You don't come in and teach a freshman to do that. It's just natural."
Consider it a big deal to hear Randy say what he said. Shannon rarely singles out players for what they do in practice. (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO WHAT SHANNON SAID AFTER PRACTICE)
> Byrd (whom Herald recruiting guru Larry Blustein insisted to me months ago would make an instant impact this year at UM) wasn't the only freshmen to make me say 'Wow.' Freshman Davon Johnson of Booker T. Washington had a nice catch down the sideline, then stopped to avoid a cornerback before scoring a touchdown. Former Northwestern receiver Kendall Thompkins also scored a TD on a long pass from Taylor Cook during 11 on 11 drills. I also liked what I saw from Travis Benjamin and Thearon Collier, who look like they will be battling it out with Johnson in the slot.
> After dodging the question Friday, Shannon finally told us exactly which freshmen are still waiting to get into UM: Defensive back Joe Wylie, defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis, safety C.J. Holton, linebacker Gavin Hardin and Brandon Marti. None, obviously, were at practice Saturday. But they could be as soon as Monday. Ultimately, the wait could be a bit linger longer. As long as they report before the third day of school, they can play this season.
> For those of you worried about the depth of the defensive line, I saw something Saturday that might make you even more queasy. Defensive end Eric Moncur was unexpectedly held out of practice and was busy working out on the sideline with a trainer (he was tossing one of those weight balls while running side to side). Allen Bailey and Josh Holmes (also out with injuries) were also participating in the drills.
It might be good news that they're working out, but it wasn't good to see a few other guys leave. During practice, Dwayne Hendricks eventually made his way to the sideline (not sure if it was cramps or not) and defensive tackle Joe Joseph was carried off the field with cramps late. The good news, a leaner Antonio Dixon once nicknamed "2 Play Dix" was able to complete practice. As you know, Miami is already without Courtney Harris for the season and Holmes could miss significant time. Shannon insisted Saturday Moncur (who he says missed 5-6 weeks of workouts this summer) will be back for the start of the season. But to me, these are obviously not the kind of signs you want to see from a defensive line that lost so much and has been riddled with injuries. Also of note, freshman Marcus Robinson, who was recruited as a linebacker, was playing defensive end Saturday (call it out of necessity).
> As far as the quarterbacks are concerned, I thought both Robert Marve and Jacory Harris looked exceptionally well. Both did a great job during seven on seven drills, rollouts and connecting on deep passes. I still say both are better than Kyle or Kirby right now even though they still haven't thrown a pass in college.
> Cannon Smith, who I spoke to one-on-one Friday at Media Day, looked better than he did in the spring. Shannon told us his arm is stronger and I found out why. According to Smith, he was still recovering this spring from a separated shoulder. He said he couldn't throw the ball as hard as he wanted to. "I don't know what percentage I was at, but I know when I was throwing the ball, it wasn't all there," Smith said. "But now I'm back and after working hard with coach Swasey during the conditioning drills I feel I'm back to where I want to be." We'll see if that means in the race for the starting job with Marve and Harris.
> Shannon told reporters Friday that the team's fourth quarterback, Taylor Cook, was too far behind to compete for the starting job this fall. You saw why Saturday. Although, he showed some good arm strength and did connect with Thompkins for a touchdown, Cook looks like he'll need some coaching from Patrick Nix on his mechanics. He throws the ball sidearm and at times doesn't appear to be really stepping into his passes.
> Several player said they couldn't sleep last night before the start of practice -- including Byrd and Xavier Shannon. Shannon said he woke up early and was at UM early enough to still see the moon, "It was strange coming out here and still seeing the moon." Shannon, who has some great stories to tell about his father, said Randy recently called him at 6 a.m. on his day off a few weeks ago to ask him if the movie National Treasure 2 had been released yet. "He didn't ask me how I was doing or anything," Shannon said. "Just, 'Did it come out yet?"
> There were a few visiting recruits among the spectators and fans in attendance. I saw highly touted tight end Orson Charles from Tampa Plant, Northwestern safety Tevin McCaskill and Pace defensive back Kayvon Webster. I was told Cane commitment Stephen Plein of Fort Myers was there. Highly touted Plantation High defensive back Brandon McGee (who will announce his decision Aug. 11) was also reportedly there. I also spotted Booker T. Washington running back Eduardo Clements (Class of 2010) on the way out.
> The following is by no means an official depth chart, but it was where I filmed guys practicing at Saturday. Consider just a starting point for discussion as the fall progresses.
Offense (first team | second team | third team)
QB: Robert Marve or Jacory Harris | Cannon Smith
RB: Javarris James or Graig Cooper | Derron Thomas or Shawnbrey McNeal
FB: Patrick Hill | John Calhoun | Eric Houston
WR: K. Jones and K. Farquharson | A. Johnson, L. Hankerson or J. McKenzie | L. Byrd
Slot: Sam Shields | T. Benjamin, D. Johnson and K. Thompkins
TE: Dedrick Epps | Chris Zellner or Richard Gordon | Daniel Adderley, Tervaris Johnson
LT: Jason Fox | Tyrone Byrd | Ian Symonette
LG: Chris Barney | Orlando Franklin
C: Xavier Shannon | Tyler Horn
RG: Joel Figueroa | Harland Gunn
RT: Reggie Youngblood or Chris Rutledge | Ben Jones
Defense (first team | second team | third team)
DE: Steven Wesley (since Bailey was out) and Adewale Ojomo (since Moncur as out) | Marcus Robinson
DT: Joe Joseph and Antonio Dixon and Marcus Forston | Dwayne Hendricks, Micanor Regis
SLB: Darryl Sharpton | Arthur Brown | Jordan Futch
MLB: Glenn Cook | Spencer Adkins | Romeo Davis
WLB: Colin McCarthy | Sean Spence | Kylan Robinson
CB: Bruce Johnson and Chavez Grant | DeMarcus Van Dyke, Carlos Armour and Ryan Hill | B. Harris
S: Lovon Ponder, Anthony Reddick, Randy Phillips | Jojo Nicholas, Jared Campbell | V. Telemaque
With the start of fall practice set to begin Saturday morning, University of Miami coach Randy Shannon addressed reporters Friday afternoon during Media Day.
Here are some of the highlights of his half hour press conference.
> Shannon said all three quarterbacks -- Cannon Smith, Jacory Harris and Robert Marve -- will get equal snaps "just like they did in the spring" during the team's 24 practices and three night scrimmages (Aug. 9, 15, 19). Incoming freshman Taylor Cook, though, won't get the same number of snaps. "He's too far behind," Shannon explained.
> Shannon said although Cannon Smith doesn't get talked about by most media outlets when discussing who really is competing for the starting job, he said Smith "doesn't get down." He said Smith has "bulked up and his arm is stronger" than it was in the spring.
> Shannon said he is still changing the locker room assignments just like he was last year "every 2 to 3 weeks" to continue to build team chemistry with players who don't necessarily associate with each other. "This team was kind of spread out when I took over," Shannon said. "But they're together now."
> He said the key to having freshmen see the field will be if they are "physically and mentally" ready.
> Regarding injuries, Shannon said defensive end Courtney Harris will miss the season and said defensive tackles Josh Holmes and Chaz Washington will be out during fall drills.
> His reaction to Miami not getting a single vote in the Coaches' poll, released Friday: "When you 5-7 you're not going to get any votes." He continued: "We just got to keep building and we're expecting to be a much better team than we were last year."
> Regarding incoming freshmen and the Clearinghouse, Shannon said he could not give out any names but added "there are about 4 to 5 guys who still aren't cleared." When pressed on who they were, Shannon said "You'll find out tomorrow when you don't see them out there." He said he expects most to be fine and make it into school eventually.
HERE IS THE LINK TO THE COMPLETE AUDIO INTERVIEW. Check back over the next couple of days for video and audio interviews of players from today and Saturday's first practice.