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36 posts from August 2008

August 31, 2008

Murphy's message received

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 Gameday headed to Gainesville

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.

2408245235_d85c564193For 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.

August 29, 2008

Calling Out Gator Haters

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.

GatorhaterOK, 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.

Fire away!

P.S. - Don't forget to check out the great slide show from last night as well as the photo gallery.

August 28, 2008

UM-Charleston Southern postgame

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.

Spencer_adkins_2> 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.

Gameday blog: UM 52, Charleston So. 7 (F)

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> 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.

Spencer_adkins > 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 Chris_rutledgeon 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.

> 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.

> 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.

> 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.


Countdown to Kickoff

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.


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 Marcus_robinson
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 Travis_benjamin
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 Leonard_hankerson
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.


> Arthur Brown, linebacker: It's tough for me to list a true freshman on here. But Brown Arthur_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 Adewale_ojomo
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.

August 26, 2008

Injury report: Youngblood doubtful

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)

Nov. 15, Florida Southern, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 21, P
aradise Jam, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, TBA
Nov. 22, P
aradise 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

August 25, 2008

Moving forward

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.

Randy_shannon 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 Robert_marvemedia. 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."

Jason_fox 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. Jacory_harris 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, Khalil_joneshas 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."

Glenn_cook 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."

Chavez_grantKnowing 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.

August 24, 2008

Shannon talks about suspensions

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

Special teams
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.

August 23, 2008

Marve suspension reaction

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 Um_mug_rmarvecouldn'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.

August 22, 2008

Depth chart, QB decision expected Sunday

Canes coach Randy Shannon said he plans to release a depth chart Sunday and that likely will include announcing his starter at quarterback.

"We'll probably have a depth chart ready Sunday," Shannon said. "You'll find out whose what. I'll give you an update Monday on whose out, who won't be playing."

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."

"He won't be playing this season, injuries happen," Shannon said. "You feel bad for Tommy. We'll rehab him and get him ready for next season."

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."

August 21, 2008

Shannon not worried about DL depth

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.

August 19, 2008

Scrimmage 3 wrap-up

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 Leonard_hankerson
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.

Final fall scrimmage tonight

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.

Jermaine_mckenzie_neck_braceFor 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.

August 18, 2008

Rainy Monday

StormyThis is George Richards reporting on the Canes today, filling in for Susan Miller Degnan and Manny Navarro. They'll be back on the beat come Tuesday -- unless they float away.

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.’’

August 16, 2008

Yonder signs with Reds

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.

Yonder_alonso 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.

August 15, 2008

Scrimmage No. 2 wrap-up

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.

Travis_benjamin"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 Robert_marve
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."

Jacory's Garo moment

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.

August 14, 2008

Wylie cleared, Marti waiting, LT talk

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.

August 13, 2008

Signs of the Times

Jrsfront2aGeorge 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.

Jrsfront On the outside of the stadium, the U has also been included on parking signs along with the other tenants. UM is represented on the club level, with a mini Hall of Fame on display.

And there you go....