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Scary trip home for Pipho

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.

1245480"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_johnson"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."

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