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33 posts from September 2008

September 30, 2008

The QB debate, possible DB changes & more

The one complaint I've heard more than any other since Miami lost to North Carolina Saturday isn't that the Canes secondary imploded or that the pass rush didn't do a good enough job getting in Cameron Sexton's face. It wasn't that UM offensive coordinator Patrick Nix did a bad job calling plays late in the game (although that's becoming another big complaint again). Nope, what Canes fans are most concerned about is the way Randy Shannon is handling his quarterbacks.

Robert_marveThe complaint is simple: fans feel sticking in freshman Jacory Harris for a series is killing Miami's offensive momentum. Coach Randy Shannon has said time and time again this season he wants to get Harris in the game to make sure he's ready to go should starter Robert Marve go down. Tuesday, during his meeting with the media for the Florida State game, Shannon addressed it again and defended the decision. "The last two times we put Jacory in he went down and got three points. So we're scoring points," Shannon explained. "It helps Robert out to see what the defense is doing since we've been moving the ball, are they changing their defensive scheme? When he comes back he doesn't miss a beat."

For his part, Harris has done well when he's been in. He certainly hasn't hurt the team. He hasn't turned the ball over and he's moved the offense down the field. Marve, meanwhile, has still been able to move the team downfield and score points when he comes back in.

"I don't think it throws me out of my groove – I came back and completed balls," Marve said Tuesday. "I didn't feel out of groove. I felt good when I came back in (vs. UNC)."

The bottomline is there is more to this story than just 'Jacory needs experience.' I spoke with one of Harris' former position coaches at Northwestern Monday night who told me a big reason Harris decided to come to Miami in the first place was because Shannon promised him playing time -- regardless if whether or not Marve was healthy. If that's true, it might explain Shannon's commitment to his playing time. If you think about it, Shannon is in a tough spot here no matter what. Not only does he need Harris to be ready if needed, but he needs Harris to be here at the University of Miami and happy should anything happen to Marve. Neither of UM's other backup quarterbacks, Cannon Smith or Taylor Cook, look like they'll be ready any time soon to run this team. If Shannon doesn't play Harris like it has supposedly been promised, what's to stop Harris from leaving?

Privately, Jacory's former position coach told me Harris' family is anxious about Jacory having to wait three years to become the starter on this team (something Jacory mentioned to us last week). According to his position coach, other schools have continued to tell Harris' family and friends he could come in and start if he transferred. Miami obviously can't afford that. There is no star quarterback coming in with UM's 2009 class. Although AJ Highsmith plays quarterback in high school, he is likely headed to another position when he gets to UM. Locally, Miami has a real good shot at getting the next great QB in South Florida in Miami Central's Jeffrey Godfrey in 2010 (UM's Corey Bell was his head coach at Edison and Godfrey has known Tim Harris since he was a kid playing optimist ball in Overtown). But that's two years away. Harris, meanwhile, continues to put his best foot forward and maintain a positive attitude. "I just have to be ready," Harris said when asked of what's it like waiting to see if and when he'll come in and play. "If I'm not, there'll be a lot of mess-ups."

> While the hot topic this week has been the quarterbacks, the real area of concern for the Canes in all honesty is its secondary.

Before Tuesday's practice, UM coach Randy Shannon told reporters he expects Florida State to try the deep ball because "we haven't been able to stop it" and that there would likely be some changes in the Canes secondary this week. Looks like the first one could be moving freshman Brandon Harris into the starting lineup at cornerback.

Brandon_harrisHarris, who has been playing about 35 snaps a game in nickel situations, told us after practice he's been elevated to working with the first team with Chavez Grant. The depth chart lists Grant behind Bruce Johnson, but Harris said Grant is now playing more at nickel and DeMarcus Van Dyke, Johnson and Carlos Armour are splitting time at the other corner position.

Shannon said earlier in the day Tuesday that safety Anthony Reddick visited him in his office this weekend and told him he thought guys were pressing, trying to make plays. UM's secondary has yet to produce an interception and has given up eight touchdowns through the air. Brandon Harris said another problem is "guys peaking into the backfield and worrying about the run." Harris said "guys have to train their eyes and be disciplined" and that position coach Wesley McGriff is doing that in practice this week." But the big problem is urgency.

"I think that's the big problem, guys really want to make the big play and sometimes we go out of our territory to make the big play and we leave our zones open," Harris said. "I think if we just focus on our assignments, everything will come together."

That's what happened to Van Dyke, who said he received phone calls from several former players including Kenny Phillips and Mike Rumph over the weekend. He said Rumph told him he made the same mistake against Penn State years ago in the Orange Bowl and bounced back from it.

"I was trying to make a play and undercut the rout," Van Dyke explained of giving up the winning score to Brooks Foster with less than a minute to play Saturday. "I saw the man run a corner route and I tried to make a big play for the team, but it didn't quite happen. I learned from my mistake so next time it won't happen. I'll go for the tackle or the breakup and save my team a W instead of an L.

> Shannon said he's been really encouraged by the play of freshman Travis Benjamin on punt returns and is expecting him to "break one soon." Benjamin is averaging 17.7 yards a return this season and had a 36-yard return against North Carolina and a 44-yarder against Texas A&M. Benjamin has gotten some big blocks to spring him on those returns. Colin McCarthy has been in on both of them.

Travis_benjamin"I feel like every game my ability to catch the ball and follow my assignment, eventually I'll break one pretty soon," Benjamin said. "Before I even go on the field, I look at Chavez and Colin because they are my keys on which way I'm supposed to go. They say if I got them, they got me."

Benjamin is the next freshman I expect to have a breakout performance -- ala Thearon Collier. Last week, offensive coordinator Patrick Nix called for two runs for Benjamin, who played in the backfield in high school, too.

"Coach told me last week they got to find a way to get the ball in my hands because of my speed and my ability," Benjamin said. "Because to them, when I get the ball in my hands, there's no telling what I can do."

> Shannon defended offensive coordinator Patrick Nix Tuesday morning saying he believes Nix has done a great job with his young quarterbacks, managing Graig Cooper (who has 2 100-yard games) and creating great balance. Shannon pointed out UM ran the ball 33 times and threw it 33 times against North Carolina.

> Running back Javarris James is out of his walking boot, but Shannon told reporters to still not expect James back yet this weekend. He said James would likely start working on a bike this week. The expectations are he could be back on the practice field at some point next week as UM prepares for UCF. But my guess is James would likely be questionable at best whether or not he plays that week as well -- especially considering UCF is a non-conference opponent and Randy's new philosophy with injuries.

"Javarris was running around today, but he won't go this week," Shannon said after Tuesday's practice. "But he's out of the boot. He ran around a lot with the trainers today, did some sled work. It will probably be next week that he'll be back into it. I'm hopeful for the UCF game."

> As for the other injuries, freshman defensive tackle Marcus Forston is back this week after his shoulder injury caused him to miss the North Carolina game. Backup running back Derron Thomas was also back out at practice after leaving the UNC game early, which is a good sign.

> Receiver Thearon Collier is another story. I saw him walk off the field today (he wasn't wearing pads or practicing) wincing and holding his side as he walked off. Shannon told us Collier was taken to the hospital Saturday and released after being treated. Rumor is its either his ribs or even his spleen. There's probably no way Collier plays this week. "Thearon, I doubt if he'll be going this week," Shannon said. "Maybe if he works some mojo he'll be back. But I doubt it."

> As for Miami's other star running back, Shannon reiterated this week he's trying not to overuse Cooper. He said again Tuesday he wants to keep Cooper fresh. Cooper played mostly in the first and fourth quarters against North Carolina.

"We need Cooper fresh in the game," Shannon said. "That last three minutes of the game when Cooper slipped on the ground, we were about to get what we needed to take the game over. We can't go in the game and say use Cooper the first three quarters and the fourth quarter comes and he can't do those things. That's why we do the things with Cooper and Derron [Thomas] to spell him. We're going to continually do that and make sure we don't spend Cooper out the first half and now the fourth quarter we don't have one of our best players on the field."

> Shannon said he's not ready yet to announce who he'll be redshirting this year. "You've still got time. Injuries can happen. If they can help us, we won't redshirt them."

Here's my guess as to who will redshirt (games played in parenthesis): RB Damien Berry (1), fullback John Calhoun (1), safety Jared Campbell (1), defensive end Gavin Hardin (1), defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis (1), quarterback Cannon Smith (1), receiver Kendall Thompkins (2), safety Joe Wylie (1), quarterback Taylor Cook (0), kicker Jake Wieclaw (0), safety Ramon Buchanon (0), receiver Tommy Streeter (0), offensive lineman Ben Jones (0) and defensive end Andrew Smith (2).

Canes 'solidify' secondary in '09 Class

The University of Miami has been busy lately picking up help for its struggling secondary. Last week, they picked up one of the best two-way players in the state in Mayo Lafayette senior Jamal Reid. Tuesday morning, they picked up the piece that our own recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said "solidifies the secondary" -- Monsignor Pace safety Kayvon Webster.

Jamal_reidMiami is now officially up to 13 oral commitments in its 2009 class, four of the potential signees are defensive backs. The other two are Plantation cornerback Brandon McGee (a consensus top 10 recruit at his position) and Georgia's Prince Kent (a two-way star at Norcross High). Blustein says the quartet UM has lined up for this class is as solid a secondary group as any in the country -- and better overall than what Miami collected last year with Brandon Harris, Vaughn Telemaque, Ramon Buchanon, CJ Holton and Joe Wylie.

"Three of those four guys are guys that in my opinion can come in right away and get on the field," Blustein told me this morning. "Reid is a steal. Here's a kid who lives all of 26 miles outside of Gainesville and is a player. He's got great hips, knows the receiver position so well that when he goes on the opposite side of the ball, he's always a step ahead in coverage.

"Kayvon is a kid that reminds me a lot of Sean Spence because he always knows where the ball is going. He's a step ahead too. I think he'll make a great safety at Miami. You throw in Brandon McGee, who is going to make another great corner, you got two starting caliber corners and a kid who will make an impact at safety. That's a solid, solid group."

Reid (6-1, 175) and Webster (5-11, 185) are only considered three-star recruits by Rivals.com and are ranked 29th overall at their respective positions nationally. Reid is rated as an athlete. Webster is a safety.

Kayvon_websterI've only watched Webster play, but I told you here earlier this year when I covered one of his games against Miramar High I thought Webster was the best defensive player in Miami-Dade County this season. Like Blustein said, Webster is a lot like Spence because he's smart and knows where to be on the field at all times. I liken him a lot to Brandon Harris, too. He's a good kid who isn't afraid to get himself dirty. He's more physical than either of the previous two players UM signed out of Monsignor Pace High -- DeMarcus Van Dyke and Tervaris Johnson. He's also blazing fast and a member of Pace's 400-meter relay state championship team.

September 28, 2008

Progress report: North Carolina

One of things I've shied away from on this blog is grading this team on a week-to-week basis. I never liked getting my report card when I was in school because it usually meant I was going to be grounded (my parents weren't happy when they saw anything less than B).

So, when I got to high school, I made a decision that paid off. I decided to sign up for weekly progress reports, thinking at the very least the whole shock factor on report card day wouldn't be as strong. Instead of receiving grades, my parents received comments from my teachers like 'He's trying hard and he's doing good' or 'He missed an assignment this week and needs to focus more.' It somehow made the blow of when I did get a C a little less hard to take.

Anyway, that's my long-winded explanation as to why I've decided to begin giving you weekly progress reports instead of report cards after each game. My grading system system, in honor of the Canes, is simple: National championship material (excellent), BCS worthy (good), MicronPC Bowl here we come (average), Coker-esque (poor) and Scout Team reserve (the bottom of the barrel).

Robert_marveQuarterbacks: Say what you want about Robert Marve's two fourth quarter interceptions, he still was only making his third career start. He finished 18 of 27 for 135 yards and two touchdowns and nearly led the Canes to a thrilling come-from-behind victory with :46 seconds left and the ball on his own 31-yard line. He threw an absolute bullet to Kayne Farquharson to bring the Canes within the red zone and then just missed on the winning touchdown pass. Jacory Harris, who played a series, also moved the team down the field after getting new life on a running into the punter penalty. He didn't make any mistakes and led UM to a field goal for the second week in a row. This week's Progress Report says: BCS Worthy effort. Stay clear of making a few silly mistakes and get some better coaching and you can move up to the next level.

CooperRunning backs: Before North Carolina quarterback Cameron Sexton stole the show and brought UNC back from a 24-14 deficit, Graig Cooper was en route to MVP honors. He had 19 carries for 110 yards and caught 3 passes for 29 yards and scored twice. Without Javarris James and not a lot of help from the rest of Miami's backfield (Derron Thomas carried the ball 3 times), Cooper moved the pile plenty and made plenty of special plays on his own. My worry is, if Coop goes down, how much trouble are the Canes going to be in? How about big? This week's Progress Report: BCS Worthy effort. With Coop making the plays he's making, he's making UM's backfield look amazing. But when you consider nobody else is getting involved right now you worry this unit can go back to being MicronPC material should Cooper stutter or get hurt.

FarquharsonReceivers/tight ends: Kayne Farquharson didn't make the big catch. But he's quietly becoming the go-to receiver for Marve. The 29-yard pass he hauled in before taking a licking from Darius Williams was Terrell Owens-esque. He also caught a touchdown for the second consecutive week. Also starring for the Canes, tight end Dedrick Epps, who picked up a crucial first down on third and long to set up Aldarius Johnson's first career touchdown reception. While there were some bright spots, UM's receivers still are dropping passes. Richard Gordon had two. Thearon Collier had another that would have kept a drive alive in the first half. Laron Byrd only seems to get short, quick out passes. It's not entirely the units fault. Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix has to give these guys some room to work. This week's Progress Report: MicronPC Bowl Here We Come. A few different, more aggressive pass patterns and less drops and you'll be flying into the BCS level in no time.

Offensive line: Jason Fox provided the first sign Saturday UM's offensive line came out meaning business when he absolutely flattened a Tar Heel lineman on the second play of the game. The Canes offensive line did its job for the most part facing a tough defensive front. But two holding penalties -- one on Fox and another on center Xavier Shannon -- hurt UM in the fourth quarter badly. This week's Progress Report: MicronPC Bowl Here We Come. A BCS-worthy effort became wasted with those penalties late.

The Front Seven: For yet another week, Miami's front line of defense had a stellar day. Colin McCarthy, Sean Spence, Glenn Cook, Steven Wesley and Eric Moncur helped shut down North Carolina's running game, limiting the Tar Heels to 35 yards on 33 carries. Moncur notched a sack for the second consecutive week. But unfortunately for UM, he was the only guy in the front seven to get a sack. Freshman defensive back Brandon Harris had one, too. But it certainly wasn't enough pressure to stop Sexton from mounting a comeback. This week's Progress Report: MicronPC Bowl Here We Come. Another BCS-worthy effort stopping the run was wasted because UM simply couldn't get to Sexton when it mattered.

Missed_tackles The Secondary: For two series, Miami's secondary looked like a national championship contender. Then, Mike Paulus went out and Cameron Sexton came in. He torched the Canes secondary to the tune of 242 yards and two scores. A lot of it was because of the play-calling by Bill Young, who tried to bring in extra blitzers to create pressure. It left guys like Bruce Johnson and DeMarcus Van Dyke on an island to make plays. They didn't. Johnson missed two tackles. Van Dyke failed to cover Brooks Foster on the game-winning touchdown pass. Shannon lamented on blown coverages after the game. How about just very poor secondary play? UM still doesn't have an INT on defense. Chavez Grant said some guys might be pressing to make plays. If Miami doesn't find a remedy, good teams will continue to exploit. Even teams with guys like Cameron Sexton at quarterback. This week's Progress Report: Coker-esque. This was really the only unit who still resembled last year's 5-7 team. And you saw how much it hurt Miami late.

Special Teams: There were big hits and big returns on the Canes' special teams again this week. Colin McCarthy had a big block. Grant had the biggest. It sparked freshman Travis Benjamin on a 37-yard punt return. Matt Bosher, meanwhile, connected on 1-of-2 field goal attempts (he missed off the infield dirt) and had three of his four punts downed inside 20 (including one at the one by Sam Shields who finally made an appearance). But it's his last punt everyone will remember, the one that was partially blocked and gave UNC good field position on its final scoring drive. It wasn't Bosher's fault, another blown assignment by a blocker according to Shannon. But it still hurt. So, did a few long returns by Brandon Tate. This week's Progress Report: MicronPC Bowl Here We Come. The missed assignment on Bosher's last punt was the killer.

Shannon_defeated Coaching: Tough not get on Canes coaches here considering they had a 24-14 lead with nine minutes to play and blew it. It wasn't all their fault. But Shannon and his assistants obviously needed to make some adjustments and didn't. I thought the offense shutdown after Aldarius Johnon's touchdown catch and simply tried to run out the clock instead of giving Marve a chance to win the game with his arm. Instead, they gave a tired, beat up Graig Cooper the ball. Defensively, Young gambled with the blitz today and lost. He left his corners on an island far too much. This week's progress report: When you lose a game you should have won, you don't get to the BCS or play for it all. MicronPC Bowl Here We Come.

September 27, 2008

Gameday blog: UNC 28, UM 24 (F)

SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS
> UNC's 1st Drive: The Tar Heels get some field position help when the opening kickoff by Bosher goes out of bounds. A few plays later, Brandon Tate strikes with a 37-yard catch and run to the UM 11-yard line. On fourth and goal, Ryan Houston puts UNC right back into the game with a 2-yard scoring run with 9:38 left in the third quarter. UM 17, UNC 14.

> UM's 1st Drive: The Canes get great field position at the UNC 44, but can do nothing with the ball. Marve gets sacked by Mark Paschal on first down back at the 31. Two plays later, UM punts, giving UNC possession at its own 19.

> UNC's 2nd Drive: After picking up another first down on the ground, UNC tries a reverse to Brandon Tate that loses a yard. Two incomplete passes later, UNC punts and Miami takes over at its own 47.

> UM's 2nd Drive: UNC's defense keeps coming up with stops. After Marve picks up one first down with a scramble, UM is forced to punt. Sam Shields come through with a heck of a play catching the punt and pinning UNC at its 1-yard line.

> UNC's 3rd Drive: Pinned on its own 1, UNC can't move and is forced to punt from its own 1 when Spence smacks down UNC's running back on 3rd and 10. UM gets great field position when a UNC punt is return to the UNC 27. But the return gets negated on a block on the back by Romeo Davis. UM starts its drive on its 36.

> UM's 3rd Drive: Robert Marve comes through again. Faced with a 3rd and 11, Marve scrambles and finds Dedrick Epps in the flat for a big 3rd down conversion down to the UNC 22-yard line. Big, big, big, play. Graig Cooper then moves the ball even deeper with another solid run up the middle. UM caps the drive with a Marve to Aldarius Johnson touchdown pass with 9:59 to play. UM 24, UNC 14.

> UNC's 4th Drive: Right when it looks like UM is going to put the 'Heels away, UNC's speciality -- the big play -- strikes. On third and 10 at his own 26, Sexton finds Nicks down the center of the field for a 74-yard scoring strike. Bruce Johnson had the coverage on the play and missed the tackle. There was no safety help. UM 24, UNC 21.

> UM's 4th Drive: The Canes catch a break when the ensuing kickoff goes out of bounds, giving UM possession at the 40. After Graig Cooper picks up a couple first downs on the ground, UM gets called for holding at the UNC 39. Faced with a third and long, Marve forces a deep pass that gets picked and returned to the UM 43.

> UNC's 5th Drive: UNC picks up one first down and move to the UM 29. But on third and long, freshman Brandon Harris sacks Sexton back at the 36. On fourth down, Jay Wooten's 53-yard field goal attempt sails just wide left with 3:50 to play.

> UM's 5th Drive: Miami runs the ball three times trying to run the clock, but a holding penalty on Jason Fox hurts the team. Miami s only able to eat up 49 seconds off the clock as Butch Davis uses all three of his timeouts to leave 3:01 to play.

> UNC's 6th Drive: UNC partially blocks Bosher's punt and takes over at its own 44. On first down, Sexton picks up a 13-yard completion to the UM 42. Two plays later, Sexton finds Nicks for about a 22-yard gain when Bruce Johnson misses yet another tackle. But UM catches a break when Nicks get flagged for an offensive face mask. The ball is moved back to the UM 35. Sexton then finds Tate for an 11-yard gain and first down to the UM 24. On second and 9, UM's Chavez Grant collides with Brooks Forster at the 15-yard line. Referees throw flags and ultimately rule pass interference on Grant at the UM 14. Two plays later, Foster sneaks behind DeMarcus Van Dyke and makes a leaping catch for a touchdown with :46 left.

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS
> Couple of injury notes... backup running back Damien Berry left the game midway through the first quarter with a lower left leg injury... receiver Thearon Collier had his abdomen looked at after taking a hit and dropping pass late in the first quarter... right tackle Reggie Youngblood is having his lower left foot looked at by trainers.

> UM's 1st Drive: The Canes start at their own 11 after Jojo Nicholas gets flagged for holding on the kickoff. Graig Cooper, just like a week ago, gets the Canes rolling with three long runs including a 31-yard scamper to the UNC 9. On the next play, quarterback Robert Marve finds Kayne Farquharson in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown. Miami scores in 8 plays, going 89 yards. Impressive. UM 7, UNC 0.

Butch_davis_randy_shannon> UNC's 1st Drive: The Heels pick up a first down on three straight runs when UM's defense wakes up. Colin McCarthy and Chavez Grant pick up the first tackle for loss. Two incomplete passes later, UNC punts and Grant picks up the second big hit of the game when he absolutely lights up Melvin Williams on the return. It springs Travis Benjamin for a 38-yard punt return to the UM 48-yard line. That block just edged out Jason Fox for the biggest hit of the game so far. On the second offensive play of the game, Fox destroyed defensive end Robert Quinn.

> UM's 2nd Drive: The Canes once again move the ball down the field, picking up first downs on two third down conversions including another nice run by Graig Cooper and Benjamin. But on 3rd and 11 at the UNC 25, Thearon Collier drops a pass at the first down marker. Matt Bosher's 42-yard field goal attempt goes wide right.

> UNC's 2nd Drive: Penalties, penalties, penalties. Carolina moves the ball and then picks up a 36-yard run by Shaun Draughn deep into UM territory. But it gets negated by a holding penalty. Carolina eventually is forced to punt. Punter Terrence Brown the bobbles the punt and falls on the ball at the Carolina 11 giving UM great field position.

> UM's 3rd Drive: Following an incomplete pass to an open Dedrick Epps and a 1-yard run by Cooper, Marve finds Cooper on a middle screen and Coop does the rest, avoiding two tackles on his way to the end zone with :39 left in the first quarter. Joel Figueroa had a key block to spring him. UM 14, UNC 0.

> UNC's 3rd Drive: Cameron Sexton comes in the game quarterback, replacing Paulus, and instantly sparks the Tar Heels offense. Carolina caps a 7-play, 58-yard drive and scores with 12:49 left when Greg Little follows a pack of blockers into the end zone on a 6-yard run. UM 14, UNC 7.

> UM's 4th Drive: Jacory Harris replaces Marve at quarterback with 12:46 left in the half and the offense goes three and out. But Carolina keeps the drive alive with a running into the punter penalty. Miami takes advantage of new life. Harris connects on one key passes on third down to Farquharson and another 14-yard gain to freshman Davon Johnson. UM caps a 14-play, 62-yard drive that chews up 7 minutes, 42 seconds with a 35-yard field goal by Matt Bosher. UM 17, UNC 7.

> UNC's 4th Drive: Sexton picks up a first down on his first play of the drive. But the Heels offense fizzles and the drive ends when DeMarcus Van Dyke bats away a third down pass.

> UM's 5th Drive: Marve comes back in at quarterback, but UM goes three-and-out before draining the clock and punting it. Carolina takes over at its own 7 with :25 left.

HERE ARE SOME FIRST HALF NOTES...
> Miami's starting offense featured Aldarius Johnson and Khalil Jones at receiver, Chris Zellner and Dedrick Epps at tight end, Robert Marve at quarterback, Graig Cooper in the backfield and Jason Fox, AJ Trump, Xavier Shannon, Joel Figueroa and Reggie Youngblood starting from left to right on the line.
> Miami's starting defense featured Steven Wesley, Dwayne Hendricks, Joe Joseph and Eric Moncur starting left to right on the line, Darryl Sharpton at strongside linebacker, Colin McCarthy at weakside, Glenn Cook in the middle, Chavez Grant and Bruce Johnson at corner and Anthony Reddick and Jojo Nicholas at safety.

PREGAME NOTES
> Defensive tackle Marcus Forston is definitely out for this game. He's not dressed out.

> Checking in before kickoff here at Dolphin Stadium where Miami is about to open ACC play against former coach Butch Davis and the North Carolina Tar Heels in what will be overcast and maybe rainy conditions. I've got my pregame keys to the game as well as this week's market watch and prediction to share with you.

But before I do, some interesting comments from ESPN analysts Kirk Herbstreit moments ago. Herbstreit said he believes the Canes' ceiling is winning the ACC title this year. Lee Corso, meanwhile, picked the Canes to win today by at least two touchdowns.

KEYS TO VICTORY
> WIN THE BATTLE UP FRONT: This is where Carolina can win the game. Next to the Florida Gators, this could be the most physical team UM faces all season. North Carolina's strength is its defensive line. Up front, Marvin Austin and Cam Thomas are two of the best defensive tackles in the country. Butch Davis teams have always been good at shutting down the run. We know that's going to be their focus today. Carolina only has three sacks this season -- but had two last week against Virginia Tech, which means they could be getting better at rushing the passer. If Miami can own the line, they'll own this game.
> CONTAIN BRANDON TATE: With starting quarterback T.J. Yates out, nobody is expecting either of Carolina's quarterbacks to Mike Paulus or Cameron Sexton to be flinging the ball deep down field. Davis is going to play this game conservatively and try to get the ball in the hands of his best playmaker and that's Tate. The 6-1, 195-pound senior had 54-yard touchdown run last year against Miami and leads the nation in all purpose yards (265.7 yards per game) and is explosive on punt returns. Miami can't let Tate have a big day.
> GET OFF TO A BETTER START: Last year, Miami fell behind North Carolina 27-0 before a rally fell short. Last week, UM gave up an early score and responded with a scoring drive. Although UM has shown some toughness in being able to come back in games, this UM team is still a young team. You can't keep putting yourself in a hole and expect to come out of it every time. This is a game Miami should win because Carolina is without its starting quarterback. But come out slow and give a Butch Davis team confidence and you give Carolina a chance to win a game it shouldn't.

MARKET WATCH
> As usual, we take a look at the guys we expect to blow up, guys who are on the bubble and guys who probably won't factor into this game.
BUY 'EM
> Steven Wesley, defensive end: Eric Moncur was the star last week at A&M. I think Wesley will be the guy this week. He's been UM's most consistent end and stopper in the run game. I think the Canes turn up the pressure today and Wesley racks up a few sacks and maybe recovers a fumble.
> Dedrick Epps, tight end: Epps caught 3 passes for 48 yards last week and has five catches this season, but still hasn't gotten into the end zone. I think when UM gets into the red zone today, Carolina will be focused on stopping the run. Epps will get some chances to catch touchdown passes.
ON THE BUBBLE
> Xavier Shannon, center: You might as well as include Orlando Franklin, Chris Rutledge, A.J. Trump and Joel Figueroa in this group considering the interior of Miami's offense will be tested today by UNC's defensive tackle duo. If these guys have a good day, UM has a good day. If they struggle, Carolina has a chance to win this game.
> Bruce Johnson, cornerback: Guess who is probably going to be covering Tate? You got it. Bruce, who has nine tackles this season, is going to have to do a good job wrapping up and making sure the rest of the secondary doesn't give up a lot of big plays. Carolina's offense has generated three scoring plays this year of 50 yards or more and has nine passes of 20 yards or more.
PASS ON IT
> DeMarcus Van Dyke, cornerback: What's happened to DVD? He's gone from projected starter to lost in the shuffle. Today could be an opportunity to bounce back. But he may not see the field very much other than special teams.

> My prediction: UM 30, North Carolina 13. I'm expecting a close game for three quarters before Miami's defense starts creating turnovers in the fourth quarter that lead to a few easy points. It's going to be a battle though. Carolina is going to be real physical.

September 25, 2008

Injury report, Ring of Honor announcement

The University of Miami released its injury report for Saturday's noon kickoff against North Carolina and as usual there were a few surprises.

Marcus_forston_um_mugSafety Vaughn Telemaque has been ruled out with an arm injury, further depleting the secondary and safety spot after the injury to Randy Phillips last week. Starting freshman defensive tackle Marcus Forston, whom coach Randy Shannon told reporters on Tuesday was "simply sore", has been classified as doubtful with an arm injury. And freshman linebacker Jordan Futch (head) is listed as questionable. Last week, we were led to believe defensive end Eric Moncur wouldn't play. He did and had a huge game. So, basically, I'd take these injury reports with lots of caution.

Edgerrin_james> In another report released by the school, athletic director Kirby Hocutt and Shannon have announced the selection of five new members to the UM Football Ring of Honor -- the first time the school has placed new members in it since 1999. So, who is in? Edgerrin James, Jim Kelly, Cortez Kennedy, Jim Otto and Gino Torretta will all be placed in the Ring of Honor during halftime of Miami’s home game against Virginia Tech on Thursday, Nov. 13, at Dolphin Stadium.

“The University of Miami has a football legacy that rivals that of any program in the country, and this group exudes the success and excellence that is synonymous with the U” Hocutt said in the release. “All five inductees have had a great amount of success in life – on and off the football field.”

Jim_kellyThe selection of UM’s Ring of Honor members is determined by the director of athletics and head football coach, in conjunction with an anonymous advisory committee. Criteria used in the selection process include athletic achievements at UM and at the professional level, commitment and loyalty to the continued success of the university and its athletic department and a personal commitment to courage, fortitude, honesty and integrity.

“We have had so many great players play at the University of Miami, and it’s never an easy decision when it comes to adding to our Ring of Honor,” Shannon said in the release. “A tremendous group has been selected for this next induction."

Are there any other Canes you believe deserve to be in the Ring of Honor? The current list includes George Mira, Jim Dooley, Ted Hendricks, Vinny Testaverde, Ottis Anderson, Don Bosseler, Bernie Kosar and Burgess Owens. My first vote would go to Michael Irvin.

September 24, 2008

Harris adjusting to backup role positively

When Jacory Harris first began sharing snaps with Robert Marve last spring, one of the unfortunate worries that crept into the back of the minds of Canes fans was that one day one would have to accept playing the role of supporting actor instead of star. After all, both were nothing less than the man as they set Florida high school passing records, led their teams to state titles and earned Mr. Florida Football honors their senior seasons.

With a breakout performance against Texas A&M last Saturday its become more apparent this team will be Robert Marve's to direct at least until proven otherwise. So, how is Jacory handling it? In a sentence: Like a team player.

Jacory_harris2"I'm starting to get more comfortable with it," he said. "At first I was like kind of like `Dang, will I ever have a chance to get into a groove or would I make one mistake and then not be able to showcase my skills again?' But now I'm realizing it's best for the team. Whatever the team needs that's what I am, a team player."

There's no question in my mind Marve has shown us in two starts he's at least a little bit further ahead than Harris when it comes to being ready to take the starting role. He looks a little bit more confident in the pocket (he's looked calm scrambling for big first downs). He's made some better decisions on when and when not to throw it (remember that pass Harris almost had intercepted against Charleston Southern). And he's got a stronger arm than Jacory -- in my opinion -- right now. But I think the bottom line is Canes fans ought to be joyous. Because right now, both of these guys are better than anything else this team has had since Ken Dorsey left. And to have two quarterbacks on the same team is a blessing. Look what Saturday's opponent, North Carolina, is going through right now with its starter.

UM needs Harris as a backup. And they need him to be happy (after all, we remember what things were like when Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman were battling for the starting job). Harris is happy and says he can accept the fact Marve is the starter (at least for now) and that he'll likely continue to be used for a series or two in each game. He admitted Tuesday he's had family and friends wonder why he hasn't seen the field more. And he's brushed it off because he and Marve are worried more about victory than individual fame and glory.

Robert_marve"Yes, there's been a lot of people that question why I'm not playing as much," Harris said. "But I always tell them Robert is a good kid, he actually is a good athlete, a good quarterback. Coming into the season when coach was talking about who was going to start, in the back of my mind I knew coach (Patrick) Nix had prepared either one of us – if one gets the job, whoever it is is going to lead this team to a great season. It made me feel more comfortable knowing that Robert was a good quarterback.

"I know the coaches have faith in me, that I'll be used in the offense sooner or later more. I just go out there and do what I have to do. If they tell me to go out there and hand the ball off, I'll hand the ball off. Whatever the team needs to win, that's what I want to do."

Marve said he isn't surprised the system the coach Randy Shannon has implemented has been successful. "Me and (Harris) talk about it all the time," Marve said. "We really don't care the situation we're put into as long as we're winning game, are both playing good, are both helping each other out. We're both trying to listen to the advice coaches are giving us. I'm not surprised. I know Jacory's a great quarterback. To have both of us helping each other overall helps the quarterback position so much."

> Still, there are some adjustments to be made. Harris admitted he wasn't ready to enter the game when Marve got the wind knocked out of him Saturday in College Station. And he admitted, he was nervous. "This was actually my first time being nervous because Marve got knocked out in the game," said Harris, who said it took him an incomplete pass to get the jitters out. "I saw him about to get up but then I'm like `Oh crap, I might have to go in.' I ran onto the field and my mind wasn't on being in the game at the time. I was kind of nervous going onto the field at that time. We got a field goal out of it, so it really didn't show."

"I wouldn't say I wasn't mentally ready; just at that point in time I didn't expect that to happen. It was like, `Dang, where's my helmet at? I have to find my helmet.' I had to run onto the field. I did some good things on that drive - so we came out with a field goal, so I guess it was alright."

Patricknix100_64_2> The good news for Miami is that it appears Shannon is taking the development of his quarterbacks very seriously. Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix has spent the first three games of the season coaching from the sideline -- instead of the press box -- so he can personally attend to his QBs needs. "Me and coach Nix talked about it, him going on the sideline where he can talk to them face to face – instead of getting them on the phone `Here's the game plan," Shannon said. "Now you have to rattle off all the plays instead of the kids looking at them, `This one I like.' That has made a big difference in the quarterbacks."

Marve and Harris agreed they like having Nix on the field next to them. "It gives you a sense, you know your coach is there with you," Harris said. "You can see by his expressions if you're doing good or not. When your on the field, when your off the field you can learn from just looking at him how he reacts to things determines if you're doing okay, how the game goes... as soon as you come to the sideline you can have someone that relates to you that's not a player. You talk to him about anything that happens. With me, I ask him what plays he called, what's going on on the field."

Said Marve: "You feel you can talk to him about a lot more things; any little thing pops into your head you can whisper it into his ear, see what he thinks about it. It's a lot better communication overall. Me and Jacory being so young, it really helps where he can talk to us, calm us down. We can see his emotions, not guess about things."

** REMINDER: I've uploaded all of my audio interviews from yesterday into the UM audio section including conversations with defensive tackle Joe Joseph, offensive lineman A.J. Trump, receiver Leonard Hankerson, linebacker Glenn Cook, tight end Dedrick Epps, Marve, Harris and Shannon. It's a cool feature other websites don't have and something I work hard on making sure you get here at Herald.com.

Also, for those of you that missed it, here's a link to Tuesday's chat transcript

September 23, 2008

Canes turn focus to UNC, ACC

There is no feel-good, Texas A&M hangover. University of Miami coach Randy Shannon and his players met with the media Tuesday following their impressive win against the Aggies. And despite a few feel good moments -- like quarterback Robert Marve saying he spent 10 minutes smiling after his first career touchdown pass -- most of the talk was about moving forward.

Glenn_cookUM linebacker Glenn Cook, who was awarded Defensive Line Player of the Week honors by the ACC (the ACC doesn't give out an award for linebackers), said the Canes aren't thinking at all about former Canes coach Butch Davis. The Canes are more preoccupied with getting past the Tar Heels, who have gotten the better of the Canes for the most part since UM moved into the ACC.

"North Carolina has been an issue with us. They've played us real hard," linebacker Glenn Cook said. "I wouldn't call it redemption. I'd call it setting the tone for the ACC, the rest of the year."

With my chat set to begin right now (YOU CAN CLICK ON THE LINK TO LEFT), here is a bare bones notebook about what else was talked about Tuesday. I'll come back at you later tonight with more. Feel free to also check out our UM audio section. I'm uploading my interviews from this afternoon as the day progresses.

> Running back Javarris James is meeting with doctors Tuesday and is expected to be placed in a walking boot soon. Coach Randy Shannon estimated it probably would be at least another three weeks of rehab for James, who has to get back into playing shape with his ankle.

> Safety Randy Phillips will be out at least six weeks -- if not longer -- after having surgery Monday in what is believed to be a knee injury. Shannon said Phillips was hurt on the first play of the game and kept playing on it because "he thought it was just a nick."

> Defensive tackle Marcus Forston's shoulder is simply sore. Shannon didn't say if he thought Forston, who left the Texas A&M game in the second half, would miss any time.

> Running back Graig Cooper had a big day against A&M, rushing for a career high 128 yards and two touchdowns. But Shannon said Coop played too much. Shannon estimated Coop had 40 plays and wants to trim it down by 10. "It's for the long haul," Shannon said.

Butch_davis_randy_shannon> Shannon started his press conference by saying he has nothing but respect for former Canes coach Butch Davis saying "he's always been good to me." It's no secret that last year Davis was telling recruits during UM's 5-7 season Shannon wouldn't last very long at UM. When asked a hypothetical question to test his feelings about when an opposing coach uses such a tactic in recruiting, Shannon simply said "I don't worry about that. I don't worry about what other guys say. I worry about the University of Miami." Maybe, its water under the bridge between two friends. Or, maybe, Shannon learned a little bit about staying away from a war of words after what happened with Florida coach Urban Meyer a couple weeks ago.

Brandon_tate> As for the Tar Heels, Shannon said the biggest challenge is going up against "a very big, physical" defensive line. Shannon also praised the play of Carolina's receivers, including "No. 87" -- senior Brandon Tate, who leads the nation in all-purpose yards and is second in punt returns (28.2 avg). Last year, Tate lit UM up with a 54-yard touchdown run. Carolina, much like when Davis was running the show at UM, lives off the big play. The Tar Heels have produced 8 runs of 15 yards or more and nine passes of 20 yards or more.

> Shannon said it would make no difference this week who starts for Carolina at quarterback in place of the injured T.J. Yates. Carolina can go with either redshirt freshman Mike Paulus (the younger brother of Duke point guard Greg Paulus) or Cameron Sexton. Paulus struggled mightily against Virginia Tech when he came in for Yates, throwing two interceptions as Carolina blew a 17-3 lead. Sexton has five career starts, but played in just one game last year.

> Backup quarterback Jacory Harris had plenty of interesting things to say when he stepped up to the podium today. I'll have more of what he talked about -- especially how he's adjusting to the backup role -- later.

September 22, 2008

TRR: Big Week for Bryce Brown

After a brief week off because I was buried in work last Monday, The Recruit Report returns this week with highlights on how the 11 verbal commitments in the Canes' 2009 signing class are doing in high school.

With the Canes taking a trip out to Texas A&M last week, two of UM's more prized recruits got a chance to watch the Canes in person -- five-star running back Bryce Brown (who made the nine hour drive from Kansas) and quarterback/athlete A.J. Highsmith. Both took in the game at Kyle Field and were impressed with the UM's explosive offense. Highsmith, whose family escaped the wrath of Hurricane Ike basically unscathed, has had two games canceled because of the storm. And he's anxious to get back on the field soon.

Bryce_brown > Bryce Brown, RB, 6-0, 215, Wichita East, Kan.: If you thought Ronnie Brown had a special day on Sunday against the Patriots -- you missed what Bryce Brown did for his high school team on Friday. In a 34-24 victory over Kapaun Mount Carmel, he ran for 263 yards on 20 carries and scored four times to lead his team to victory (VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS, STORY). The week before, Brown scored five touchdowns and ran for 109 yards on 27 carries with one catch for 13 yards in the Aces' 46-7 win over Dodge City according to The Wichita Eagle.

> A.J. Highsmith, QB, 6-0. 186, Fort Bend (TX) Hightower: After a bye week two weeks ago, Highsmith's second game of the season was washed out by Hurricane Ike. He was off last week and will finally get back on the field this Thursday against Willowridge.

> Mike James, RB, 5-11, 211, Davenport Ridge: James got a week off last week, but carried his team two weeks ago on offense in a 9-7 defensive struggle victory over Auburndale by rushing for 93 yards on 25 carries, including a 55-yard touchdown run. In three games (including the kickoff classic), he's rushed for a combined 353 yards on 59 carries and five TDs.

> Prince Kent, ATH, 6-3, 195, Norcross (GA): Prince had four catches for 32 yards in a tough 33-19 loss to North Gwinnett. That followed up a 2-catch for 20 yard performance in a 19-0 win over Mill Creek a week earlier. Kent is playing both ways for the Blue Devils and has 209 yards receiving on 17 catches this season.

> Brandon McGee, DB, 5-11, 186, Plantation High: It's been a rough start to the season for McGee and his team whichBrandon_mcgee  dropped its second straight game last week with a 47-13 loss to Miramar. After looking like he might be able to make the full-time switch to corner, McGee had to come in at quarterback l ate in the game agaisnt Western and then started against Miramar before leaving in the third quarter with a bit of slight concussion and a right knee injury. Before he left, he was 4-of-8 passing for 7 yards and 47 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Steven_plein> Stephen Plein, TE, 6-6, 240, Fort Myers High: As the team's starting defensive end, Plein has played well in the team's 2-1 start. He leads the Green Wave in tackles with 19 and sacks with 1½ on the season. Fort Myers beat Cypress Lake 42-14 last week.

> Curtis Porter, DT, 6-2, 334, Charlotte Victory Christian: I wasn't able to get a hold of the big fella in our first two installments of TRR, but I reached his coach Frank Crockett today. Crockett said Porter Curtis_porter  was a big factor in Victory Christian's 42-7 win last week against Eastern Randolph. "The ballgame Friday night was one for the ages for Curtis," Crockett said. "The last two games is one you look for in a Division I prospect. I don't have the stats in front of me right now, but he's setting the pace in tackles. It's been a great year so far for him. We also have him the backfield in the jumbo package in short yardage situation. He's playing the role of a big fullback for us. He's 6-2, 325. He's dropped 10 pounds. The work he's getting a the three-technique and the backfield is trimming him up." Crockett said Victory Christian has a big-time quarterback Miami is going to notice when they head back up to North Carolina. James Harbin, a 6-2, 175-pound junior quarterback, has thrown 7 TDs in his first two games at the school and averaged more than 300 yards passing in each. Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are already on him.

> Luther Robinson, DT, 6-3, 280, Fort Pierce Westwood: It's been a great start to the season for Robinson and the Panthers, who are 3-0 following a 21-7 over Centennial. He had five tackles and a sack in a season-opening win against Vero Beach according to the Prep Zone.

> Billy Sanders, TE, 6-4, 235, Lake City Coueru d'Alene, Idaho: Sanders, a star at Brophy Prep in Arizona, has gotten off to a good 2-1 start with his new team in Idaho. I'm hoping to hear from his coach in the coming days to find out how he's doing statistically.

> Olivier Vernon, DE, 6-3, 239, Hialeah American: After spraining his ankle in his Olivier_vernonteam's season-opening loss to Coral Reef, Vernon hasn't been able to play since. His team missed him in a 15-13 loss to Norland or a 35-0 loss to Carol City last week. When I reached Vernon by phone this afternoon he told me "I'm at the doctors right now. I'm trying to rehab it right now. I'm trying to play this week. But if not, I should be 100 percent next week." Vernon said he's decided to take official trips to Florida State, South Florida, Alabama and Miami. "I'm just going to check them out, see what they have to offer."

> Cory White, TE, 6-4, 225, Fleming Island: According to assistant Joel Brighton, White has been a standout in the Golden Eagles' 3-0 start. "He's been our left tackle for the early part of the season. He's about 240 pounds right now. It's the same Cory White, agressive and nasty Cory. He'll be either tight end or a tackle at the next level. But I know Miami really wants an athletic. He's that guy." Fleming Island beat Lake City Columbia 17-16 in a thrilling game last Friday and is averaging 370 yards of offense a game. Here's a highlight reel of Cory.

Marve named ACC Rookie of the Week

Robert Marve's big day in Texas has been rewarded with ACC Rookie of the Week honors. Marve, making his second career start, completed 16-of-22 passes for 212 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in helping lead Miami to a 41-23 win over the Aggies. He threw his first career touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in the first half – a 26 yarder to freshman receiver Thearon Collier. Marve completed 13 of his first 16 passes. For the game, he completed 72.7 percent of his passes and had a passer efficiency of 174.58.

Glenn Cook was named Defensive lineman of the Week after he picked up a season-high nine tackles – one shy of his career-high – and returned a fumble for a touchdown. It was his second career fumble return for a TD. He knocked the ball loose, picked it up and ran it back two yards for a touchdown in the third quarter giving the Hurricanes a 41-10 lead. He also had a half tackle for loss. Cook leads the Hurricanes with 18 total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.

It's the second time this season the Canes have been honored. Jacory Harris was named Rookie of the Week for his start against Charleston Southern. Spencer Adkins earned Defensive Line Player of the Week honors for his game against Charleston too.

Carolina starting QB out

The visiting North Carolina Tar Heels will be without their starting quarterback this week when they visit the Canes at Dolphin Stadium. T.J. Yates suffered a small fracture in his left ankle according to reports during his team's 20-17 loss to Virginia Tech and will miss the next six weeks.

Tj_yatesFreshman Mike Paulus will start in his place. Paulus was 3-of-8 for 23 yards and two interceptions Saturday after replacing Yates, who is the third-leading passer in the ACC. It's a big blow for the Tar Heels considering how much they love to throw the football.

September 20, 2008

Canes crush Aggies 41-23

Sitting here at FIU Stadium where the 12th-ranked South Florida Bulls are playing the Golden Panthers. But I'm still keeping an ear out to hear what's going on with the Canes.

I'm listening to the game here on WQAM and following the game on CBS Sports' Gametracker. I've been really impressed at how UM responded to getting punched in the mouth on the game's opening play. Since the 62-yard touchdown pass by Jerrod Johnson to Mike Goodson, the Canes have gone on a 24-3 run.

> Robert Marve has been impressive, connecting on 11 of 13 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. He hit freshman Thearon Collier for a 28-yard touchdown and had a 66-yarder to Collier called back by penalty. Solid, solid outing for Marve. He's showing us he can be effective when the offense is opened up.

> Graig Cooper has two touchdown runs and 77 yards on only three carries. UM has thrown the ball 20 times and run it only 8 times. I expect that to flip flop in the second half with a 14-point lead.

> So far, three Canes have gone down with injuries. Guard Chris Rutledge, Marve (who returned in the second quarter) and defensive tackle Marcus Forston. WQAM is reporting Forston injured his shoulder. In a move that didn't surprise me one bit, Allen Bailey saw some time at tackle while Forston was out. Bailey is certainly big enough to handle the war in the trenches.

> Despite reports he likely wouldn't play, Eric Moncur started at defensive end for Miami Saturday. He's made two tackles for loss in the first half.

> Huge punt return by the way by Travis Benjamin to set up UM's final score of the first half. He had a 46-yard return to set up Collier's touchdown pass. It's amazing what happens when you have a few playmakers available.

> Moncur comes through with the first defensive turnover of the season, picking off a pass to setup another UM touchdown -- a Marve to Farquharson TD pass. Canes are now blowing out A&M 34-10.

> Shannon said turnovers come in bunches. He was right. Glenn Cook recovers a fumble and scores to make it 41-10.

> Big, big win for the Canes, who showed they could move the football on the ground with Graig Cooper and use its weapons at receiver. The defense causes two turnovers that lead to easy points. This is what U wanted to see today.

Texas A&M: Keys to the game/Market watch

Since I won't be blogging live during the game, you guys can go ahead and post your in-game thoughts here as it progresses this afternoon. I'll check in throughout the afternoon as I help cover FIU's new stadium debut and the visiting South Florida Bulls.

As for the Canes, these are my three keys to victory in today's game at Texas A&M:
Tamu> 1. Turnovers: The talk this week has been about how UM's defense still has yet to produce a turnover this season despite playing well for three quarters. But here's a stat that was probably more important to UM's success -- 0 turnovers against the Gators. Robert Marve didn't throw any picks in his first career start. Jacory Harris didn't either. UM has turned the ball over just once in two games. While creating turnovers on defense will surely help this young offense, turning it over can kill it -- especially in a wild-place on the road like A&M. The Aggies have forced five in two games this season and definitely feed off them.
> 2. Establish the threat of the pass: Texas A&M's run defense has been bad so far this season. The Aggies have given up on average 235 yards a game to Arkansas State and New Mexico. So, you know what their weakness is. But A&M also knows Miami had trouble throwing the football two weeks ago against Florida and can stack eight men in the box if Marve and company aren't able to at least establish the threat of the pass. Marve doesn't have to throw for 200 yards and three scores in this game. But if he can connect on 2 or 3 balls longer than 20-25 yards today, he'll give Graig Cooper and Derron Thomas the running room they need to be effective.
> 3. Play with emotion: All UM has heard in the two weeks since its loss to Florida was how great it played, how great this team is going to become as the season progresses. That's the perfect ingredient for an emotional letdown. Miami obviously needs its defense to play as well as it did two weeks ago if its going to win any games this season. If the Canes come out flat emotionally, they can get buried quick.
> My prediction: Miami 23, Texas A&M 17 . Some folks believe this game is going to be Miamithe breakout game for this program. But I still think we are a few weeks away from that. This Canes team is going to have to win with defense. Today, I think Robert Marve has a very good day throwing the football, but still doesn't find too much success deep. You have to crawl before you can sprint. Marve will find a few 10 to 15-yard connections downfield and keep A&M's defense honest. But I also expect a few mistakes. Miami will win because the defense will create pressure on A&M's quarterbacks and force a few turnovers. It will be a busy day for Matt Bosher. A&M will score a late touchdown to make it closer than it really was. Miami runs out the clock and holds on for the win.

THE MARKET WATCH
Our third installment is ready to roll. Again, these are the players I think will shine, have the chance to blow up or fizzle and the guys I expect little from in this week's game against A&M.

BUY SOME NOW
Derron_thomas
> Derron Thomas, running back: UM coach Randy Shannon told us he expects Shawnbrey McNeal and Lee Chambers to pick up the slack for the injured Javarris James. I don't buy it. I think Thomas being a senior steps up and has a great game in front of his friends and family, who are making the drive over from Louisiana to watch him. I'm calling for 75 yards and a touchdown and a few key catches out of the backfield to help UM win this game.
> Brandon Harris, cornerback: I know fans -- include myself -- were pretty pumped about the way Sean Spence played in Florida two weeks ago. But I smell a big day for Miami's second-most talented freshman -- Harris. He dropped a pick two weeks ago against Florida. I say he grabs his first career one today and stops a crucial A&M drive in the second half with a big play.

ON THE BUBBLE
Glenn_cook> Glenn Cook, linebacker: Although he ranks third on the team in tackles with nine and has two for loss, there are a lot of fans who think Cook, who isn't the fastest linebacker on the team, can be a liability. Many are already clamoring to get Spence into the starting lineup. With a solid game against A&M, Cook can show people why Shannon has him in the starting lineup. With a bad game, the complaining will continue.
> Chavez Grant, cornerback: Chavez is probably the nicest guy on this team and it pains me to put him on the bubble. But he's a guy who at times has looked bad dropping back into coverage. Like Cook, he could use a game to solidify his spot in the starting lineup. But if he struggles and Harris or sophomore DeMarcus Van Dyke shine, folks are going to be clamoring for Grant to move back to nickelback.

TRADE IT IN
> Joel Figueroa, offensive lineman: The rumor is Figueroa will not start this week and will be replaced by Chris Rutledge at right guard. Fig is a big, strong, talented kid. But he's still very raw and only a sophomore. If Rutledge has a good day, Fig could lose his starting spot for awhile.
> Kayne Farquharson, receiver: When Shannon released his depth chart this week one of the bigger names off of it was Kayne, who for all intensive purposes we thought would definitely be in the rotation at receiver. Instead, Sam Shields, Aldarius Johnson, Khalil Jones, Leonard Hankerson, Laron Byrd and Travis Benjamin are listed ahead of him heading into this week. Shannon said he only plans to rotate seven guys today. With the freshmen coming on, Farquharson has to shine today or he could find himself being passed up for good.

> Ok folks, feel free to leave your predictions for today's game below. Please pick an offensive and defensive player of the game too. My picks are Derron Thomas and Brandon Harris.
> I'll check in from FIU in the second half. See ya.

September 18, 2008

Sean 'Sleepy' Spence?

Before freshman linebacker Sean Spence even made it through the door at Miami last January he was already carrying with him a luggage full of nicknames. There was The Eraser. Don't-run-my-way Spence. Sean-All-Over-The-Field-Spence. The Cobra.

Turns out his best nickname might be sleepy. In the handful of interviews I conducted this week to Sean_spence learn more for Friday's story about about the budding young star at linebacker, I found out waking up early in the morning just isn't his thing. Brandon Harris, who has known Sean since he was about 6 years old, told me Spence fell asleep in the elevator on the way down to an early morning practice a few weeks ago. Coach Randy Shannon hasn't been helping Spence out. He moved Thursday practices, usually in the early afternoon, to bright and early in the morning before school at 6 a.m. for the rest of the year. Spence told me he hates it. Defensive tackle Marcus Forston, his roommate, tells me he struggles in the morning to get Spence up from bed.

The good news for the Canes is once he's up -- Spence appears to be money. Through two games, he's already fourth on the team in tackles and has arguably the two biggest plays made by the defense this season -- the sack on Tim Tebow and the big hit on Florida running back Brandon James.

For those of you worried about Spence's size (6-1, 211), I heard Ray Lewis weighed 215 his freshman season and Jonathan Vilma (whom Shannon compared Spence to earlier this week) weighed less than Spence as a freshman. They turned out alright.

> In another funny Spence-related story, Forston made me laugh out loud this week when he told me he's grown so sick and tired of seeing Spence (his roommate and best friend) the two have put their dressers together and stacked books and clothes on top of it to block each other from seeing each other in their rooms.

> Look for left tackle Jason Fox to play with some extra inspiration this week. Fox, a Fort Worth native, has been trying to collect more than 40 tickets for this game for family and friends from his teammates since last year. He's one of five Texas' natives playing for the Canes in this game Saturday.

> FYI, I'll be back tomorrow with my keys and my stock market watch for the game. I'm not traveling to Texas for the game this weekend and I won't be blogging either. The Herald is sending Susan Miller Degnan and Greg Cote. As many of you know, times are tough in the industry. Two writers is all The Herald could afford to send. I'll check back in Sunday to share my thoughts on the game, which I'll try to watch while covering FIU's home opener on Saturday night.

Moncur listed as doubtful

After plenty of speculation about whether or not he'd play this week, UM defensive end Eric Moncur was officially listed as doubtful for Saturday's game at Texas A&M Thursday when UM released its injury report moments ago.

Moncur, who missed the opener after missing most of camp following sports hernia surgery, practiced Wednesday with his right foot heavily taped. His injury is listed as "leg."

The other players listed on the injury report are the usual suspects -- offensive linemen Chris Barney and Ben Jones, defensive tackle Josh Holmes and running back Javarris James.

September 16, 2008

Shannon shakes up depth chart

Robert Marve was asked Tuesday afternoon how long it would be before we got to see him and Jacory Harris start throwing the ball down the field more. Before the question could be completed, Marve answered: "I hope in a couple of days."

Randy_shannonDon't hold your breath Canes fans. Texas A&M, which will host the Canes on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC, has one of the worst run defenses in the country. The Aggies rank 113th in the nation defending the run, 83rd in total defense and 24th against the pass. So, for those wondering what exactly Miami will do offensively after playing about as conservative as can be against the Gators, I, for one, am expecting more of the same.

Marve, Harris, coach Randy Shannon and a handful of other players met with the media as usual Tuesday to share their thoughts on the Aggies and how Miami will try and beat a team that has already lost to Arkansas State and barely got past New Mexico 28-22 two weeks ago.

The biggest news from Tuesday? It appears Shannon is trying to light a fire under a few guys' butts by making some changes to the depth chart. The biggest moves are on offense, where Shannon said he's moving a few guys around at receiver (and trimming down the rotation from eight players to seven) and moving Chris Rutledge exclusively from backup tackle to seeing some more time at backup guard too. There will be changes on special teams too. Arthur Brown will see more time there according to Shannon. And the new kick returners are Travis Benjamin and Brandon Harris according to Shannon. The new punt returner is Thearon "Pimp" Collier. That's move according to Shannon is to give Graig Cooper (who will handle more carries) a rest.

> As for Rutledge, he told me has been practicing some at guard for a few years now, but still hasn't seen any live action at the position. He said he's been playing both sides at guard since last week. "I don't mind I'm doing whatever it takes to help the team out and win," Rutledge said. "I played a little bit of it in high school. I played some of it when the new coaches came in two years ago. Coaches had already told me to prepared to play guard. I'm looking to get some live reps this week."

Jermaine_mckenzie> For those of you worried about receiver Jermaine McKenzie transferring, he told me he today he plans on "being a Cane for life." The fact he didn't play at Florida, he says, had nothing to do with performance. He told us he had a sprained MCL in his left knee and is now 100 percent healthy. McKenzie, who was a practice star when he first arrived at UM last year, said he's going to do all he can to impress coaches and get on the field soon. Players do not find out if they are on the 70-man travel roster, according to McKenzie, until noon Thursday.

Shannon was asked if McKenzie might get into the wide receiver rotation. "Whenever Jermaine is ready to crack that rotation he will," Shannon said. "Jermaine is like any other receiver. We don't play favorites. Whoever is good to play we're going to play. One thing is we're not going to put anyone in who is not ready to play. Guys have to prove it to us in practice. Is Jermaine doing great? He's doing wonderful. We think he's going to help us out this season. He's been nicked up, now he's back and we'll see what he can do."

The only thing that strikes me a bit strange about this all is that McKenzie was healthy enough to play the role of Percy Harvin the week before Miami traveled to Gainesville on the Canes' scout team. So, I guess we'll have to take their word that he was hurt.

> As for the receivers as a group, Shannon said he isn't sure who will be left out of the rotation. But according to the depth chart released to the media, the six guys listed were Sam Shields, Leonard Hankerson and Travis Benjamin "at The Z" and Aldarius Johnson (listed first), Laron Byrd and Khalil Jones "at the X." Who turns out to be No. 7 remains a mystery. It could be either McKenzie, Davon Johnson or Collier -- who will already be accounted for as the punt returner.

> Last week, Robert Marve defended his offensive coordinator. This week, it was time to stand up for his receivers, who dropped a few passes against Florida.

Robert_marve"We have great receivers here at The U. We have great receivers. I want to make that clear. Everyone talks about these couple drops in one game, in the second game of the season. I wish you guys could see practice, the plays they made for me. In practice, I'll scramble around and I've thrown balls to Leonard Hankerson he's caught one-handed in the back corner of the end zone. It would make you guys say Heisman Trophy winner. The guy is good. Everybody is good. You'll see how good this receiving corps is. When you have guys you can pitch it to that can take it 60, 70 yards. You all will see. And to be fair most of those guys are young. Even Leonard. He's a sophomore. Those guys are going to be ready to play. I trust them with everything. I'm going to throw them the ball -- anybody -- it doesn't matter. I'm looking forward to finding those guys and throwing some touchdowns."

Jacory_harris2> One of the more interesting responses I got today was from Jacory Harris, when I asked him how much freedom he and Marve have to change a play at the line of scrimmage. Basically, he estimated, that about 50 percent of the time he and Marve are given a play with the option of either passing or running. And he said they decide based on what they see at the line of scrimmage. Such was the case against Florida two weeks ago when Harris came in with UM pinned at its own 1-yard line. It was actually his check off to skip the run and hit Kayne Farquharson for the 12-yard gain.

Harris said it's been tough getting used to running the plays called by a coordinator. At Miami Northwestern, he called 99 percent of the plays for the Bulls. But he says he's prepared himself mentally to deal with it. He said he believes, eventually, Nix will give him and Marve the chance to audible more.

"Going into college I knew I was not going to be the person calling plays," Harris said. "People get paid to their job. They get paid good money to do their job and they're not going to let you call your plays, call your shots and do what you want. I prepared myself mentally to understand that."

> Another big topic of late for U has been freshman linebackerArthur Brown. Shannon told WQAM's Joe Rose that Brown has an ankle injury which has been slowing him down. But senior linebacker Glenn Cook said it could be that Brown is still behind when it comes to the playbook.

"I think he just hasn't learned as fast as some of the other freshmen," Cook said. "We just got to keep working with him. He's still getting acclimated. I don't think his level of high school ball was the same as some of the other guys. But I think he'll be fine. He is getting better. It's just a slow process. He's a real positive kid. It's not affecting him."

> In case you missed it, we had a live chat today from 2 to 3 p.m. Here is the link to the chat transcript.

> Also, for those of you who would like to hear Shannon's press conference or anything else that was said Tuesday, here's the link to our UM audio page.

September 15, 2008

Canes land big hoops commitment

It's been a busy, busy day for me. I've got two stories tomorrow in the paper -- one on Plantation cornerback and UM football commitment Brandon McGee and the health battles his parents had to endure and another on defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff and his military background.

But today's blog will bleed basketball. Tonight, the Canes landed a big commitment -- and another budding star from coach Frank Haith's home state of North Carolina -- when swingman Garrius Adams announced he was picking the Canes over South Carolina.

Garrius_adamsAdams, a 6-5, 185-pound senior Apex Middle Creek High is rated a four-star recruit by Scout.com and is in Rivals's Top 150. And according to his coach, David Kushner, he'll fit into the Canes offense perfectly.

"Garrius is a guy who is a late bloomer, someone the bigger schools past on at first, but were chasing late," Kushner said. "When he went down and visited Miami with his parents two weeks ago, he really felt at home. He's what coach Haith is looking for, a guard that can shoot the ball and is long and lean. He's got an 82-inch wingspan. He can be a ridiculous defender."

Adams averaged 18.2 points and 7.8 rebound a game last season for Middle Creek and was the conference player of the year in Wake County. Kushner said Adams can play the point too and is the type of combo guard Haith likes. He is the fourth player Haith has recruited to Miami from his home state and the second member of the 2009 class for Miami. The Canes still have two available scholarships and Kushner said he was told they are looking for another big man and another guard in the class.

My take is it's a great pickup for the Canes, who have had undersized guards in the Haith era. And it shows signs Haith is beginning to make bigger and bigger in-roads in what has to be the richest basketball recruiting state in the country. Adams is a big time player in North Carolina and likely the best public school player in the state. Kushner told me he's been fielding phone calls on a nightly basis from college coaches and basketball recruiting writers for months hoping to find out where Adams was headed. For you football junkies, that's what the Northwestern and Booker T. coaches and kids were having to deal with in terms of attention last year.

Kushner shared a funny story on how Haith exactly was able to land Adams. "I think the first time Frank saw him it was the at an AAU tournament in South Carolina. Garrius had probably his worst game of the summer in front of a crowd of just about every ACC and SEC coach. The next night, there were maybe a handful of coaches and Haith was there. Garrius was awesome that night. He hit 5 or 6 3's, played great defense and showed everybody just how good he really is. Haith offered him on the spot. And he showed Garrius he's the type of coach who would stick with him."

I'm going to try and get Adams at some point. But for now, here's what I was able to dig up on him on YouTube. It's a MixTape. Enjoy.

> PS, I'll see you guys for my live chat tomorrow at 2 p.m. -- after Randy Shannon and his quarterbacks talk to us. I'll also share my weekly special -- The Recruit Report -- tomorrow as well.

September 14, 2008

Another Big 12 opponent waits

Sitting at home watching the NFL as usual this Sunday and saw a little news flash come across the email. The Canes' trip to Texas A&M next Saturday will be a 3:30 p.m. kickoff instead of an 8 p.m. start.

Isuwsbig12I know this happened on Friday, but I wanted to get your reaction to the news that UM has agreed to play Nebraska in 2014 and 2015. Do you like it? Obviously, Miami and Nebraska haven't played of late like the national championship contenders they were in the past. My question is will Nebraska even be any good? The Cornhuskers have obviously dropped off since Tom Osborne left the program and seem to be just another Big 12 team these days. Not, that UM has done much either since the 2001 title game.

Still, my question is why has UM been so focused on playing Big 12 teams in the regular season? Since 2005, UM has scheduled games against Oklahoma for a home-and-away series (2007, 2009), Texas A&M (2007, 2008) and has Kansas State in (2011 and 2012). Now Nebraska? Miami does have a home-and-home with Ohio State in 2010 and 2011. But, can I formally request athletic director Kirby Hocutt to venture outside the Big 12? How about the Pac-10? Washington (2001) was the last Pac 10 team UM played in the regular season. How about a trip out to Southern Cal? Miami hasn't faced the Trojans since 1968.

Or, how about somebody other than Florida from the SEC? Miami played Tennessee in 2002 and 2003, but hasn't played anyone else from the SEC since it won at Arkansas in 1991. How about a home-and-home against Georgia (whom UM hasn't played since 1966) or Auburn (1984). LSU bombed the Canes 40-3 in the 2005 Peach Bowl. But how about a home-and-home with the Tigers, who last hosted UM in the regular season in 1988? I'm just saying.

September 13, 2008

Hurtt: "We got to find o-linemen"

On my way out of Canes camp Thursday, I ran into defensive line coach and UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt. The Big Hurtt has been relatively quiet since fall camp began, but he and I have a pretty good relationship when it comes to talking about recruiting. He never talks to me about specific players -- he's not allowed to by NCAA rules -- but he has been candid in the past about what Miami is looking for in terms of numbers per position and the type of players they are trying to land.

Clint_hurttThursday, he told me flat out "We got to find some offensive linemen." The Canes currently have 10 commitments in their 2009 class. None are officially classified as offensive linemen. Three have the potential to be -- Fort Myers' Stephen Plein, Fleming Island's Cory White and Lake City Idaho's Billy Sanders. But all three have played tight end at one point or another in high school and will have to put on size upon arrival if they will play on the line.

"It's been a huge challenge trying to get linemen to come here because the best ones usually want to play in the Big 10 or the Big 12," Hurtt said. "Around here, we've had to take guys who are little undersized or don't have too much experience and coach the hell out of 'em. Coach Shannon, myself and the rest of this staff are really going to be busting our humps trying to find guys over the next couple months. We'll hit the Houston area, we'll scour down here and try to find the best we can. We need to."

UM signed two offensive linemen in its 2008 class, but only was able to sign one (Ben Jones). Brandon Washington, who was considered one of the nation's top five offensive guards, is in prep school and will have to go through the recruiting process all over again (which means UM could lose him). Since 2006, UM has signed five players who have played on the offensive linemen. But only one who has cracked the starting lineup, left guard Orlando Franklin, was a truly highly-touted pure lineman. Starting left tackle Jason Fox was a tight end coming out of high school and Joel Figueroa, a 2-star recruit, was considered a project coming out of North Miami High. Both are in Miami's starting rotation. Backup guard Harland Gunn (2007 signee) has shown the most potential of the remaining signees, while Ian Symmonette and Tyler Horn are far down on the depth chart.

Miami has gone after some big names in the '09 class, but have struck out so far. They still, however, have a shot at a few big names. According to Rivals.com, UM has a shot at the nation's No. 2 offensive tackle Xavier Nixon (who lists UM with LSU and Florida). Washington DC area offensive guard Peter White, ranked fourth by Rivals, lists UM high with Oregon. Locally, UM has a shot at Plantation American Heritage's Jared Wheeler. But Wheeler's sister attends the University of Florida and I believe the only way Miami gets Wheeler is if Florida declines him.

> Over the last two nights, I've been out watching several local high school football games including Killian's big upset of highly-touted North Miami Beach 35-20 on Thursday and Miramar's 23-9 win over a very, very good Monsignor Pace team on Friday.

4184338900embeddedprod_affiliate56Running back Lamar Miller had a huge night with 227 yards rushing and three scores on 25 carries for Killian. Miller is a kid Miami backed off of a bit after landing Mike James and Bryce Brown. But it would be foolish of the Canes to let Miller get out of town. He has tremendous explosion and speed in the open field. Killian, by the way, has a pretty solid group of young players. My favorite is 6-2, 215-pound defensive end Arrington Jenkins. He's only a sophomore. But he's a beast in the making.

At last night's game, Pace's Keyvon Webster impressed me with his ability to make plays. Although he had a big drop -- for what would have been an important touchdown right before the half, he came back later an caught a touchdown between two defenders. I don't think I saw Webster leave the field once. He was relentless on defense, making tackles and big hits and chasing after Miramar quarterback Eugene Smith (who had Gators representatives watching him) all night long. Miami is hoping to land Webster, who in my eyes could be a solid strong safety in UM's defense. The Canes have to get him. To me, Webster is by far the best defensive player I've seen in Miami-Dade County. As for Miramar, I was impressed with a hustle play receiver Stedman Bailey made chasing down a defensive player who had a recovered a fumble for Pace and was headed up field for a score. Bailey trailed Sterling Griffin by 20 yards, but caught up and made the tackle. Miramar junior linebacker Jamal Bass was also impressive. He's a 2010 kid Miami needs to watch closely.

September 11, 2008

Will the Canes open up the offense?

One of the biggest criticisms the Miami Hurricanes received after their 26-3 loss to Florida last weekend was that offensive coordinator Patrick Nix wasn't aggressive enough with his playcalling. Canes fans were upset Miami didn't throw the ball down the field more.

Coach Randy Shannon explained Wednesday it was because receivers weren't getting open and that his quarterbacks have been taught not to force the ball downfield and into turnover situations. So, what are the Canes doing to get those guys open and open the offense? And is Miami going to try and be more aggressive as the season progresses? The short answer to both questions are I'm not sure and I don't know.

Wednesday, quarterbacks Robert Marve and Jacory Harris talked for the first time since the loss. And when I asked Harris if Nix had told either him or Marve there would be a change in philosophy and more passing, he basically said "No."

Jacory_harris"Running is the strength of our team right now and with the great backs we have we're trying to establish the run first and then open up with the pass," Harris explained of UM's offensive philosophy. "We're doing the same things we've been doing since the spring and since the summer. Why tweak the offense? Make defenses adjust to us."

Robert_marveHarris and Marve were two of the most prolific passing quarterbacks the state of Florida has produced in the last two years. As a senior at Tampa Plant, Marve broke state records for yards (4,380) and touchdowns (48) before Harris topped him a year later at Miami Northwestern with 49 TD passes. While both defended Patrick Nix's playcalling, both said the decision is not up to them and they wouldn't push the issue.

"It's not a part of us," Harris said when I asked him if he'd like to be more of a gunslinger. "We never overstep our boundaries and go over the head of our authority. We understand what going on at hand. We know we have five talented running backs and we know if we run the ball eventually the passing will open up."

"What quarterback wouldn't want to throw the ball more?," Marve said. "It's whatever man. It's up to the coaches. I trust them. If Coop grabbed the ball and went for 50, we wouldn't be talking about throwing the ball more. It doesn't matter. Just get points on the board and we'll get that done."

> Contrary to fans beliefs, Marve said going to the sidelines during the second quarter at Florida Saturday actually helped him out. "No it didn't take me out [of rhythm] at all," Marve said. "It showed me what they were doing. It helped me out in seeing what I needed to do. And what I was seeing on the field was right."

> Sophomore cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke had a rough game against the Gators, getting beat on a few passing plays that led to touchdowns. There have been rumors circulating Van Dyke met with Florida coach Urban Meyer after the game and was told by Meyer he would have been better off coming to Florida (he picked UM over the Gators). Van Dyke refused to talk about it Wednesday on the record and said all he wanted to focus on was Texas A&M. There is a Gator website that reportedly has a photo of the event taking place. Sources told me it did happen.

> The same could be said for coach Shannon, who if you listen to yesterday's audio clip, will clearly see he's become annoyed with questions related to the Gators and Urban Meyer's decision to kick a late field goal. Shannon repeatedly shunned off questions by saying "all I'm talking about is Texas A&M."

> To hear everything Shannon, Van Dyke, Marve, Harris, offensive tackle Chris Rutledge and running back Derron Thomas (who will obviously have an increased role with Javarris James out) were talking about Wednesday, just check out our UM audio section.

September 10, 2008

This and that: Bryce, Bowling, Baseball

With UM taking some time off this week before resuming practice and preparation today for next week's trip to Texas A&M, things slowed down a little bit here at Eye On The U. But we're ready to get rolling again.

In case you missed it, since I didn't have a blog Tuesday, I had a live Q&A yesterday at 1 p.m.  -- my new time slot for the rest of the season. Most of the questions I fielded were about offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, Florida's decision to kick a late field goal, Miami's game-plan against the Gators and UM freshman linebacker Arthur Brown. Here's a link to the chat transcript.

Bryce_brown> Before I get to what UM coach Randy Shannon talked about during the ACC Teleconference Wednesday, I wanted to share with you what I learned from my conversation with Miami's most prized 2009 recruit, Rivals.com's No. 1 running back Bryce Brown. The younger brother of Canes freshman linebacker Arthur Brown doesn't talk to the media much. So, getting him is a rare treat.

I already shared with you Monday Bryce's excitement about the way Miami played Florida last weekend, but here is what else we talked about.

Q: When are you planning to visit UM officially? And are there any other trips lined up?
A: Well, I was supposed to head down there this weekend during UM's off week. But I talked to Coach Barrow this week and he told me it would be better if I came later in the year. So, I'll take it in December to help out with more recruits. I'm going to take my trip this weekend instead to TCU.

Q: Are there any other schools you'll visit? And are there other schools you are seriously considering besides UM?
A: It's really Missouri, Oregon, Clemson and Miami. The two main schools I really want to consider (aside from UM) are Clemson and Oregon, but more Oregon. I'm very impressed with their offense and the way coach [Chip] Kelly coaches The way he runs his offense is amazing. He's always getting balls to his playmakers.

Q: How often do you get to talk to your brother?
A: I talk to him every now and then. He's been busy. And I've been busy with trying to graduate early. I'm trying to get finish with a 4.0 [GPA]. I always strive to be the best. Right now, I'm taking five glasses. Normally, seniors around here take two. I've got Sociology, Modern Lit, English Comp, Psychology, Chemistry. So, it's a challenge. But I really want to finish with a 4.0. That's what I got right now and that's my goal.

Q: What have UM coaches telling you lately?
A: I talk to coach [Tommie] Robinson and coach Barrow after games. He's always calling me to talk a little bit about life. They just want me to come in prepared, ready to go. I told them that after the season, I'm going to take a week off. And then, when I come down, I'll be ready to go.

Q: What is your goal when you get to UM?
A: My goal is to actually start. I know Graig and Javarris, they definitely showed me a good time when I was down there. They're very respectful and great guys. But they know when I come down, I'm not coming to sit on the bench. I'm going to play hard and try to get on that field right away.

Q: Arthur isn't playing a whole lot right now. Is he still happy with UM?
A: He loves it. He says the atmosphere is amazing. It's really a family there. He'd rather be no other place.

Q: Is there a chance you could really end up somewhere else other than Miami?
A: If I had to say a school, I'd say Oregon. But I've never seen it. It's a free trip, a good opportunity to check it out.

>As for Shannon, he stayed away Wednesday from picking anymore at Florida or coach Urban Meyer during his 10 minutes on the ACC Teleconference. I'm glad he did. I just wish he had done the same Sunday and again on Tuesday when he went on the Joe Rose show. Maybe now, we can move on.

As for news, all Shannon did Wednesday was confirm running back Javarris James has a high ankle sprain and that he he expects him to miss 2 to 4 weeks. He also expanded a little bit on how much the Canes missed JJ in its running game. "Javarris is our big back that can pound it," Shannon said. "... Florida did a good job coming off blocks when we didn't finish the blocks, diving and making a lot of good arm tackles, hitting the backs of legs and things like that. With Javarris he might have kept his footing. This week we'll work on guys continuing to do their leg drives."

Shannon said to look for Coop, Derron Thomas, Shawnbrey McNeal (who is from Texas) and Lee Chambers to get the majority of reps against a bad Aggies team (that lost to Arkansas State in its opener at home). Shannon, by the way, didn't mention converted running back Damien Berry at all.

Shannon also said he'd like for the Canes to play at 8 p.m. Right now, the team will either play at 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. on Sept. 20. The game will be carried on ABC.

> COME BOWL WITH THE CANES: I know it's almost against the law at UM to break up any football conversation with talk of basketball or baseball, but I figured you might let me get by since this is an off week.

For those of you in South Florida, UM coach Frank Haith and his team will be conducting a team fundraiser this weekend from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Lucky Strike Lanes (located at 1691 Michigan Avenue) in Miami Beach.

Frank_haithGuests will have the opportunity to meet and mingle with the team and coaching staff, and participate in an auction for prizes, including a game experience package with travel to Lexington, Ky., to watch the Hurricanes play at Kentucky on Dec. 6.Tickets for guests are $100, while tickets for children 12 and under are $50. Admission includes food, beverage and a UM gift. For additional information or to register for the University of Miami Men's BasketBowl, please contact Stephanie Mansdorf (305-284-5240/smansdorf@miami.edu).

I'll be there to talk to a few players and coach Haith before the event kicks off. As for Haith, his team as you know had a pretty good season last year. Earlier this week, ESPNU announced it will air three ACC road games for the Hurricanes -- Jan. 10 at Boston College, Jan. 27 at N.C. State and Feb. 18 at Florida State. UM will make 10 national TV appearances this coming season. Not bad for the Canes.

> BASEBALL ANNOUNCES CLASS OF 13: Since we're already in trouble for talking basketball, why not go the extra mile and share with you some baseball news. After their spectacular run to the College World Series, UM announced its 2008 Signing Class Tuesday.

The list includes five players who were drafted. Here are the names with some short bios.

Ted Blackman, OF, 6-0, 180, S/R, Fr., Altmonte Springs Lake Brantley High, Fla.: Hit .380 with one homer and 12 stolen bases during his senior year in 2008. Named to the Seminole Athletic Conference first team as a senior and MVP of the Florida State Game his junior and senior seasons Led lead Lake Brantley to a 20-4 record and a 6A state championship.

Gerry Gonzalez, OF, 5-10, 170, L/L, Fr., Coral Gables Ransom Everglades High: Hit .470 with two homeruns, 25 RBI and five stolen bases his senior season and .420 with 18 RBI and six stolen bases his junior year.

Chris Herrmann, 3B/C, 6-0, 182, L/R, Jr., Tomball HS/Alvin CC, Tex.: Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 10th round (296 overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Hit .442 with 14 home runs and a .711 slugging percentage at Alvin Community College and named to the NJCAA Division I All-American Team in 2008. Honored with the NJCAA Rawlings Big Stick Award

Scott Lawson, 2B/INF, 5-10, 185, L/R, Jr., Colleyville Heritage HS/Grayson CC, Tex.: Drafted by the Houston Astros in the 40th round (1,202 overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Led Grayson to the Junior College World Series Championship as a sophomore, hitting .468 with six homers, 40 RBI and 22 stolen bases on the season.

Harold Martinez, INF, 6-3, 200, R/R, Fr., Miami Braddock High: Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 19th round (573 overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Hit .410 with eight homers and 27 RBI as a senior and .500 with three homers and 23 RBI as a junior at Braddock. Named first-team all-county as a senior and led his team to a district championship in 2008 and 2006. Played on the USA Junior National Team (18U) and the USA Youth National Team (16U).

Nathan Melendres, INF/OF, 5-10, 185, R/R, Fr., Miami Florida Christian: Named second-team All-Dade his senior season after hitting .398 with four home runs, 30 RBI and 15 stolen base. Brother Nick is a pitcher at Florida Atlantic University.

Travis Miller, LHP, 6-2, 210, L/R, Fr., Jupiter High: Had a combined record of 6-3 with 62 strikeouts in his two seasons at Jupiter HS. Helped team to a combined record of 44-11 (23-6 in 2008; 21-5 in 2007).

Daniel Miranda, LHP, 5-11, 220, L/L, Fr., Miami Killian: Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 50th round (1,490 overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Earned third-team All-Dade his junior season after going 7-3 with a 1.94 ERA and 83 strikeouts.

Vickash Ramjit, 1B-3B-OF, 6-3, 200, R/R, Fr., Miami Columbus: Named all-county as a senior after hitting .387 with two home runs and 37 RBI in 2008.

Sam Robinson, LHP, 6-2, 175, L/L, Fr., Miami Killian: Named first-team All-Dade his senior year, earning a record of 5-2 with a 1.11 ERA and 50 strikeouts. Went 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 45 strikeouts as a junior in 2007, earning third-team All-Dade.

David Villasuso, C/1B, 5-10, 198, R/R, Fr., Miami Florida Christian: Hit .365 with seven home runs and 30 RBI as a senior and .375 with 11 homers and 33 RBI as a junior at Florida Christian.

Taylor Wulf, RHP, 6-0, 235, R/R, Jr., Santa Fe HS/Alvin CC, Tex.: Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 39th round (1,180 overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Went 10-1 with a 3.82 ERA and 74 strikeouts his sophomore season at Alvin and was a unanimous all-conference selection in 2008 and served as the team's closer in 2007.

Kevin Youst, RHP, 6-3, 200, R/R, Fr., Plantation American Heritage High: Missed his senior season due to injury. Went 1-0 with a perfect 0.00 ERA as a junior.

> Ok, I'll be out at practice Wednesday and Thursday and will share with you what I learn.