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This and That: Canes holiday updates

Hello and welcome back to the Holiday edition of Eye On The U. As you can see, I'm not in San Francisco with the football team this week as it prepares for the Emerald Bowl. And, I won't be going to New York either for Saturday's showdown at Madison Square Garden with St. John's. But The Herald still has you covered.

Emerald_bowlSusan Miller Degnan has the football team covered this week and Jeff Darlington will be watching Frank Haith's team try to rebound from a bad loss last Sunday against Clemson. Me? I'll be enjoying the holidays and trying to provide you with what I learn this week aside from covering the Orange Bowl. I hope your holidays thus far have been good to you. They have been to me. I got a chance to check out Cirque De Soleil's Corteo Tuesday night with my wife and loved the show. I recommend it.

As for the Canes...

> Recruiting is certainly starting to heat up. Earlier this week, Canesport reported Miami received an official commitment from the nation's No. 2 prep school player, offensive tackle Jermaine Johnson. The 6-6, 310-pound former St. Thomas Aquinas basketball-turned football player is a big get for Miami considering UM's need on the offensive line. Look for Plantation American Heritage's Jared Wheeler to possibly be the next o-o-lineman to jump on the Miami bandwagon. His dad told me late last week distance would likely play a factor in his son's decision between UM and Vanderbilt. Also good news: highly-touted guard Peter White, a 4-star guard from the Washington, D.C. area, told Canesport UM will get a visit from him along with Tennessee and Maryland.

> Defensive end Olivier Vernon, an early UM commitment, called me Tuesday while I was doing my weekly Q&A and talked to me for about 10 minutes about his current status. The 6-3, 240-pounder from Miami American High told me he's likely going to call me the day after Christmas to let me know where he's ultimately headed.

Olivier_vernonThere's no question the kid is confused. He told me he wished had never committed to UM in the first place and just let the recruiting process play out. He definitely liked his visits to Alabama and Florida State and it now seems his decision is coming down to whether or not he really wants to leave South Florida. Miami is definitely pushing hard. Vernon said he got an in-home visit from Randy Shannon last week. He said while he loves UM's tradition, he wants to pick the school he thinks has the best shot at winning a national title. Alabama obviously came close this year and is enticing Vernon with the thought of playing a outside linebacker/defensive end role. I'm favoring the Canes right now on a hunch, but not by much. If he doesn't come to UM, I think he goes to Bama. Vernon, by the way, is still not 100 percent healthy after his left ankle sprain early this season. He said he's still rehabbing.

> Out in the Bay area, Susan tells me the Canes are having a great time visiting some historic San Fran landmarks. The team visited Alcatraz Monday and then went on a cruise with Cal players later that afternoon. UM coach Randy Shannon told reporters Wednesday he expects receiver Travis Benjamin to play in the bowl game. I'm hoping to have a Q&A with California Bears' beat writer Demar Richardson from Scout.com for you later this week.

> As for the basketball Canes, UM coach Frank Haith said after Sunday's loss his team's recent free throw woes come down to mental toughness. The Canes were among the best in the ACC last year as a team, shooting a shade below 75 percent as a team. Jack McClinton, James Dews, Lance Hurdle and Brian Asbury all shot over 85 percent individually. This year, UM is shooting 65 percent as a team. And McClinton leads the team with at 84 percent. Dews, Asbury and Hurdle are all shooting under 75 percent.

> They aren't going to be nearly as good as last year's team, but the baseball Canes are at least earning some respect. Collegiate Baseball Preseason Poll debuted earlier this week and has the Canes at No. 18. Miami returns three Preseason All-Americans in sophomore left-hander Chris Hernandez, junior shortstop Ryan Jackson and junior right-hander Kyle Bellamy.