In his five years at the University of Miami, offensive lineman Chris Rutledge has not been someone to make a whole lot not of noise when it comes to dealing with the media. The big 6-5, 311-pound right tackle has been more like a big teddy bear -- quiet and cuddly. But it should tell you just how tired it appears this UM football team is becoming with the quarterback drama developing publicly about Robert Marve and Jacory Harris when even Rutledge is voicing his displeasure with the questions being asked of his QBs.
Sitting about 20 feet away from where reporters were interviewing Harris after practice Tuesday, Rutledge started his mockery of the media: "Hey Jacory are you tired of being the backup to Robert Marve?," Rutledge shouted. "Jacory shouldn't you be starting? Jacory do you get mad when you go back to the bench? Hey Jacory? Jacory?" A collection of teammates sitting next to Rutledge got a nice chuckle out of the whole performance. But the truth is, this quarterback drama is going to become a lot like a tired joke if it isn't already.
UM coach Randy Shannon started fielding questions about his quarterbacks during his Tuesday press conference before he basically reached his limit and told reporters he was going to put the questions to rest with one long answer (below). He followed it up by telling the media "You all can call their parents, too. I don't care. Do what you got to do to get your story."
Shannon doesn't like the questions, but he has to realize they are going to keep coming as long as Marve and Harris share the position. While he's obviously nowhere near reaching a decision as to who will eventually be THE GUY in the future, we at least got some insight as to how he feels about the drama being stirred up by the media -- and how happy he feels no one is questioning him anymore as to why Jacory was getting playing time in the first place.
"Early in the season people were talking about Robert, don't play Jacory when Marve is doing well," Shannon said Tuesday. "But it's like I said before, this is a partnership of two quarterbacks that are going to help us to win games. I told you before we're going to play Jacory because we're going to need him.
"To me, this is no different than Javarris James and Graig Cooper, Laron Byrd and Aldarius Johnson, Davon Johnson and Travis Benjamin, Allen Bailey and Andrew Smith. They are all in the process of helping us win games at the University of Miami, are young guys, are going to make mistakes, but if we all in this football program understand what we're doing with this football team we'll be fine. People outside want to make a controversy here, a controversy there, but there is no controversy. This is where we're at with this football program."
For their part, Jacory and Marve really are putting the team first. Their coaches aren't just saying it, their teammates are too. Offensive tackle Jason Fox told me Tuesday he was worried after the Duke game Marve might be upset with seeing the bench for the second consecutive game, but was pleasantly surprised to see Marve happy the Canes had won. "I just wanted to make sure he wasn't down or anything because you know that's just the natural reaction, Fox said. "But he was excited we won the game. He just said I have to go back and work harder. The coaches still have all the faith in him and so does this team and he's still going to play and do a great job for us."
Across the board, other teammates backed Fox's claim. Receiver LaRon Byrd admitted Tuesday he worried there would be problems when he first arrived at UM, but says Marve and Harris have made the most of it. "I thought there was going to be a battle, but they're like brothers," Byrd said. "They watch film together. They study together. They teach each other things. Marve has been here a year longer and he'll teach Jacory things. Jacory will then come to us and say this how you to need to run things, your routes, things like that. So we all work together. I don't think its going to be a problem. LSU did it with Matt Flynn and Ryan Perriloux and they won a national championship. Why can't we do it here?"
Marve was pressed on the QB issue plenty Tuesday. So, was Harris. Both keep tossing out the company line. Marve said "As long as we keep winning I'm down for it." Harris said: "We're just trying to win games and whoever is in and taking control and helping us win games, we're both satisfied with that. We just want to win. We just want a ring to have on our finger and just have fun and live life."
Why is it so hard for us to really believe that? Harris probably said it best Tuesday. "I understand what people are saying because before coming in I used to think like that, this is nothing but a competition, I want to start, things like that," Harris said. "But as you come in and see that your playing with somebody that can also lead this team to victory, you also humble yourself, you notice that your not bigger than the team. You aren't the only person that can do the job for the team. And that's how I kind of learned me and Robert, we can do this together. And that's what we basically began doing."
The question ultimately is if Marve and Harris will finish it together. The odds are long and stacked against them, especially for two guys as competitive as they are. But for now, here's a plea from me to the rest of the media to just let these guys play out their freshmen seasons. Nobody is going anywhere right now. Let's worry about it when the season is over. The questions are starting to become about as bad as a tired joke.
TUESDAY'S OTHER NOTES AND QUOTES
> Saturday against Duke, Miami's receivers caught more passes than they had in any game this season and probably had their best day as a collective group too. The reason? They're growing up and they aren't giving away their routes anymore. Last week, offensive coordinator Patrick Nix said of UM's young receivers like Travis Benjamin were lifting their shoulders and giving "tells" to defensive backs about the routes they were running. It appears Nix and receivers coach Aubrey Hill have made breakthroughs in the film room.
"We realized it every Sunday when we'd come in and watch film," Byrd said. "We'd sit down and say man I'm not getting no catches, the quarterbacks are not throwing me the ball. But then, we'd sit down and focus in on ourselves we'd realize I ran this route wrong, I could have had a catch on this route. Coach Shannon would tell us y'all think your open, but your not, you need to get some separation. The defense would tell us the same things like 'you guys are good, but we're still on you. 'We were kind of sloppy on the little things. Finishing the top of the route, bursting off the route, little things like that. We still have to work on them."
> Shannon said Tuesday he likes the fact the Canes do not have a go-to receiver and a different guy every week who emerges as a lead target. But there's a reason freshman Aldarius Johnson now leads the team with 20 catches for 195 yards. He's not only physically imposing at 6-2, 205 pounds and probably the best receiver at squaring his shoulders to make the catch on the team, but Miami's offense has been tailored to his strength -- those short passes where UM receivers have to muscle their way to the ball and for yardage.
The Hurricanes simply aren't throwing the ball very deep downfield. Aside from Graig Cooper's 51-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin, Miami's longest completions of the season have been a 36-yard catch and run by Dedrick Epps, the 29-yard strike Kayne Farquharson hauled in late against North Carolina, the 26-yard TD pass Thearon Collier scored on against Texas A&M and the 27-yard catch and run Aldarius Johnson had late against FSU. The rest of UM's completions have been 20 yards and under.
"I know that nobody can really stick [Aldarius] unless they know he's running the go route and they're playing off," Jacory Harris said Tuesday. "Aldarius is not that fast, but on the other hand, Aldarius is the guy that is going to make that for sure catch. He just knows how to adjust the ball."
> That being said, "Glue Hands" has still been balling lately. Despite going without a catch against UCF, he's had 13 catches in his last three games. Shannon said Tuesday he's taken another step up in his development and Hill said its because he's now learned how to fight for balls -- something he excelled at in high school -- at the college level. Shannon said Johnson, who has often been compared to former Cane Andre Johnson for his physical play, size and soft hands, is probably "a tad step slower" than the former first round pick was when he was a freshman. Johnson took a page from Denver quarterback Jay Cutler (who said he has a better arm than John Elway) and said he believes he'll be faster than Andre when he's a junior.
The good thing is, Aldarius will get plenty of encouragement from Andre to be better than him. Aldarius met Andre when he was in the seventh grade when he used to come to UM to watch him practice and the two have maintained a friendship for awhile. Aldarius said Andre will often call him on gameday to give him words of encouragement. "He calls me and tells me to have a great game," Aldarius said Tuesday. "He called me the week before against Central Florida. He just calls me his little brother, that's it."
Word of advice, feel free to go out and buy AJ's No. 4 jersey. He said while he wanted to wear No. 5 like Andre when he first got to UM, he's going to stick with No. 4.
> Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said in his Tuesday press conference the team is likely to get its best offensive weapon back for Saturday -- kicker Sam Swank, the school's all-time leading scorer and one of the nation's top placekickers and punters. Swank has missed the last two games with a quadriceps strain. He's definitely a game-changer in the field position battle and a tremendous asset for Wake if he plays.
> I got the sense from Jason Fox Tuesday one of the biggest hurdles for sophomore left guard Orlando Franklin has been keeping down his weight. Franklin (6-7, 334) has been seen several times this season with the oxygen mask on between series. He might be able to play more when he gets in even better shape. "When he keeps his weight down he's able to fly around and really crush people," Fox said. "He's really been picking it up lately... he's actually a pretty intelligent player. It's nice when you can play next to a big physical guy, who is also intelligent."
> Even though UM ran the no-huddle effectively against Duke, don't expect for the Canes to employ it into their offense permanently, at least if you believe what Shannon said Tuesday. "Everyone would like to say let's run no huddle, run two minute. But [defenses] make changes," Shannon said. "When that happens and you don't see the changes and start to get some blitzes, coverage, you can't relay it back to the guys. They're gone, and that's what gets you in a little trouble with that."
> Shannon explained the reason Javarris James (3 carries for 13 yards) got very few carries was "because his foot was numb." Look for more JJ this week against a good Wake Forest defense.
I know there was a lot to digest in this blog, but if you have room for dessert, I've uploaded all the audio interviews I collected from Tuesday. Among the features on the menu. We got safety Ryan Hill talking about how the switch from receiver to starting safety has gone. We got safety Anthony Reddick chiming on just how cool a dude Hill is (he's got a Dodge Magnum tricked out with Canes colors inside and on his rims (black and orange). Marve and Jacory fielding those tough QB questions. Byrd, Travis Benjamin and Aldarius on turning the corner. Jason Fox on everything -- and more.
> By the way, I'm not sure if you guys saw last weeks first episode of Getting To Know The U with Jason Fox, but Herald.com reporter Mollie Rose and I will have a sitdown with Chavez Grant tomorrow to talk about his life off the field. Let me know what you thought of our first take.