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36 posts from December 2008

December 31, 2008

Courtside blog: UM 94, North Florida 41 (F)

BANKUNITED CENTER -- Out here at the BUC where UM is taking on North Florida in the final game in 2008. As usual, I'll share thoughts and highlights as this one moves along.

> The top story today -- Jack McClinton not starting this game for the Canes. He was replaced in the starting lineup by freshman DeQuan Jones. Not sure what is up. But I'll ask.

> Nothing to get alarmed about I guess regarding McClinton. He came into the game with 16:52 left along with Brian Asbury. This could just be Frank Haith wanting to show the guys it doesn't matter who starts, something he talked about in his press conference Tuesday.

> This is some ugly basketball. Miami leads 11-3 with 11:58 left. The Canes have shot 2 for 12 from the field. North Florida finally got on the board with a three-pointer with 13:55 left. The Ospreys (2-8) have shot 12.5 percent from the field.

> So far, the best part of this game has been watching longtime message board poster Paul Burkhart miss a halfcourt shot during a timeout. Paul, a student, had an opportunity to win the Sweet 16 contest -- a suite at a game for him and his friends. His shot bounced just beyond the foul line and about three feet to left to the hoop.

Will haterade hurt Canes?

Patrick Nix fired the first shots, saying Miami's football coach preferred to be conservative (a bad word to play making recruits) than aggressive with his offense. 24 hours later, Robert Marve, Eugene Marve and Tampa Plant coach Robert Weiner fired theirs with an uzi. They used words like shameful, unsupportive, mistrust and cowardly as ammunition. Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon? He has stood like a super hero with a steel chest, letting each and every comment bounce off.

Randy_shannonBut while Shannon is taking the high road and avoiding a public war of words (maybe he did learn something from that little Urban Meyer fiasco), the haterade being fired by Marve's peeps and Nix are landing somewhere. They are falling into the waiting arms of UM's opponents who plan to use the juicy, tasty material to try and keep the Canes from succeeding. And it couldn't come at a worse time as Miami is trying to strengthen its coaching staff and trying to wrap up a strong recruiting class five weeks before national national signing day.

The Canes of course have survived these times before. Five-time national champions get fired upon plenty over time. We've remember the old bullets. After the Bryan Pata and Sean Taylor murders the talk was 'Miami isn't a safe place.' Before things got cleaned up, it was all about 'Thug U.'

The question is will the new flavor of haterade hurt the Canes? I mean, can't you hear them being uttered already? A certain coach from an in-state school going into the home of a recruit also being chased by the Canes and telling him: "Why would you want to play for Randy Shannon? He doesn't take care of the players he recruits. He doesn't back them up. And, he doesn't want to run a high-scoring offense."

Or, what about potential coaches who might know Nix? Think some of the guys Shannon has let go won't be apt to tell people, "Shannon has brought in his own guys, then fired them and didn't even really give them a chance to do what they wanted."

Robert_marveIt's going to happen. The question is again will it hurt? The short term answer is it very well could. The long term answer could be no -- as long as Shannon continues to play his cards right. I spoke to one UM official earlier this morning who told me the fact Shannon reacted positively to the dirt being tossed his way by Marve and Nix was a great first step. The next? Could be letting this issue die by freeing Robert Marve from his SEC transfer ban. But as of now, the same UM official told me, that doesn't look like its going to happen.

> The good news for UM: Current UM commitments and recruits at least don't seem phased. While the Hurricanes are no longer in the running for Tampa Plant tight end Orson Charles (he was likely headed to Georgia anyway), many of the recruits I've spoken to in the last few days don't seem bothered by what's transpired in the last 48 hours at Miami.

Plantation cornerback Brandon McGee, a UM January arrival who has impressed scouts this week in San Antonio out at the U.S. Army All-American game, told me he wasn't shocked Nix was fired and said everything being said about Shannon is "bull."

Aj_highsmithQuarterback recruit A.J. Highsmith, the son of former Cane Alonzo Highsmith, said he respects Shannon's tough love tactics and the fact he's a disciplinarian. "I've known coach Shannon probably longer than most people because of my dad. Unless something really crazy happens, I'm going to UM,'' said Highsmith, who led his team to the Texas 5A state finals two weeks ago.

"I think its just one of the things that goes on in the football business. I never had a problem with coach Nix. But I don't think my opinion matters with him leaving. Miami is going to be Miami no matter what. As for Marve, I think with him leaving, I'll probably have even more of a chance to play. So, that's exciting."

One thing I can gather from all of my conversations with current and future players is that whoever Miami hires to replace Nix as offensive coordinator has to be someone aggressive. "I'd like somebody who runs the spread offense, but incorporates the pro offense," Highsmith said. "That's what a lot of guys run now in offense. I think the spread is what works for them. But I think as long as we're scoring points, the ball is getting spread around, nobody is going to care."

December 30, 2008

Marve granted release (confirmed)

It doesn't come as much of a surprise anymore, but quarterback Robert Marve has been granted his release and will leave the program. UM sports information staff has just sent a release confirming  the report by Canesport earlier this morning. Marve started 11 games for UM and was suspended for two others.

A little more than a week ago, Marve voiced his frustrations through his high school Robert_marvecoach Robert Weiner about his strained relationship with coach Randy Shannon and his displeasure with sharing the quarterback duties. Jacory Harris started in place of Marve at the Emerald Bowl. And it appears the writing was on the wall for Marve. Early Tuesday morning, UM coach Randy Shannon spoke with WQAM's Joe Rose and told him regardless if Marve returned, Harris would go into the spring as the starter.

"If Robert chooses to leave the University of Miami, we got Jacory, we got Taylor Cook, we got Cannon Smith, so we’ll be fine," Shannon said. "We’ve got enough talent on this team, we’ve got an experienced quarterback with Jacory, if Robert leaves, Jacory will be our guy, he’ll lead the way, because he has a lot of game experience...

"Jacory did everything to be our guy right now. Robert has to accept that hey, I have to be a person that is willing to do what we are doing at the University of Miami and I think he will if he wants that opportunity to do it, but if not and he wants to transfer, I will grant him his transfer."

Stay tuned to hear Marve's part of the story soon.

> Among other things Randy discussed during his interview, his idea about where he would like to go with the offense moving forward. Monday, Patrick Nix was fired and told The Miami Herald he and Shannon had philosophical differences -- he wanted to open it up more and Shannon wanted to play more of a traditional style.

"If you look at our team, we’ve got tailbacks, we’ve got fullbacks, we’ve got tight ends, we’ve got Jacory_harrisreceivers, now we have all those things in place. I just want a team where we can score some points," Shannon told Rose. "If you watch SC [Southern Cal], it’s a pro-style offense, they use multiple sets, do a lot of great things. Do they have a fullback? Yes. Do they have receivers? Yes. Do they have tight ends? Yes. Do they have three or four tailbacks? Yes."

"You want to be able to have a pro-style offense that can score points. I can’t sit up there and say that we’re gonna line up in 2-back and play smash-mouth; we can line up in one back, we can line up in 2-backs, and do a lot of great things. We should be able to throw the ball out of every personnel group that we’re doing. You want more of a pro-style offense that can score a lot of points.

Jimmy_graham> Not that many of you probably care to talk hoops at a time like this. But I just got back from Frank Haith's press conference. The news of the day is a bruised right wrist will likely keep Jimmy Graham out until ACC play. Graham slipped getting out of the shower two weeks ago and banged his wrist against the toilet. "We've got to give him some time, let that thing heal," Haith said. "He's tried to play with it and we've got to let it heal, because we need him down the stretch."

The injury should open up more playing time for redshirt freshman Julian Gamble, who has been playing well. He had 10 points and three rebounds in 12 minutes at St. John's. "With or without Jimmy's injury, he's earned more playing time," Haith said.

> I'll have an interview with Julian up for you later.

Let the next OC name dropping begin

University of Miami coach Randy Shannon probably already has someone in mind for his newly vacated offensive coordinator position. But like most coaching searches, there still figures to be plenty of names thrown out there as potential targets and replacements for Patrick Nix in the coming days and possibly weeks.

About 99 percent of them will be wrong. And, obviously, only one will be right. But last night, I figured why not join the fun and start throwing some names out there. After speaking with several guys in the coaching and recruiting business, I came up with this list of names with bios and reasons why they might or might not work in becoming UM's new offensive coordinator.

We all know the situation at UM. This program isn't exactly loaded with money. So, big time spending isn't expected. And the last time Shannon hired a coordinator, he went after a veteran in Bill Young for his defense. He might decide to do the same here. Still, there is no telling right now which way Shannon wants to go this time. But if you listened to coach Patrick Nix last night you gathered what Shannon is ultimately looking for in a coordinator is a coach that doesn't run the spread and rather plays more the traditional Canes' pro-style attack. That being said, you never know. Here's my just for fun potential candidate list broken up by categories.

FORMER CANES
Rob_chudzinskiRob Chudzinski: At the moment, still the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator. The 40-year old played at UM and won two national titles in 1987 and 1989 and coached as an assistant (1996-2000) and offensive coordinator (2001-2003) before leaving for the NFL in 2004. He's been Cleveland's offensive coordinator since 2007 and was thought to be on his way to an NFL coaching job before the Browns finished this season 4-12. Now, his future is uncertain after the firing of coach Romeo Crennel. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: Chud has had high hopes of becoming an NFL coach and he makes a lot of money right now in Cleveland. Coming back to coach The U isn't really what you'd think he'd want to do. But you never know.

Bernie Kosar: Has never coached. The 45-year old led UM to its first national title in 1983 and spent 12 years in the NFL, finishing his career asa backup to Dan Marino and the Dolphins. Since retiring, he's gone into the business world as part owner of the Florida Panthers and as a steakhouse owner. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: Kosar's name came up the last time. But with no coaching experience I just can't see it happening. Just too wild.

Ken_dorseyKen Dorsey: Has spent five seasons in the NFL as a backup quarterback after leading the University of Miami to a national title in 2001. He's been the Cleveland Browns backup quarterback since being traded from the 49ers in 2006 and has carried the headset connected to offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: Dorsey's playing days look finished, but I doubt he would come here as an offensive coordinator. Quarterbacks coach? Maybe. Wouldn't it be great to see him coaching Jacory Harris?

COLLEGE VETS AT OTHER PLACES THAT WOULD BE UPGRADES
Chris Klenakis: Currently the offensive coordinator at Nevada, he runs the Pistol offense. The Wolfpack ranked second in the country in rushing and 12th in scoring this season. He's got 17 years of Division I experience and eight as an offensive coordinator. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: I doubt Randy will head out to Nevada to get a guy who runs the Pistol offense.

Jeff Quinn: A 24-year veteran and the right hand man of Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, Jeff_quinnwho has spent the last 17 alongside him. He served as associate head coach at Central Michigan and in 2006 the Chippewas ranked 23rd nationally in scoring offense and 32nd in total offense. He's spent the past two seasons at Cincinnati and helped the Bearcats set school records for points, touchdowns, passing touchdowns and finishing 16th nationally in scoring offense in 2007. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: Quinn has been tied to Kelly so long, he doesn't seem the type to leave a good thing now. But maybe Randy could convince him. After all, he's been here preparing for the Orange Bowl since last Friday. And we remember where Randy got his last coordinator don't we.

Steve Logan: The current quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Boston College with a long history attached to coach Jeff Jagodzinski. Logan began his college career under Jimmy Johnson in 1980 at Oklahoma State. Logan was East Carolina's coach for 11 seasons from 1991-2002. and developed three NFL quarterbacks -- Jeff Blake, Marcus Crandell and David Garrard. Spent 2007 tutoring Matt Ryan at Boston College after coaching the Berlin Thunder. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: What's the incentive to leave BC, which has played for the ACC title two years in a row, for Miami right now? Not the money because it won't be much more.

John McNulty: The current Rutgers offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach has more than 17 years of NFL and college experience -- mostly as a receivers coach at places like Connecticut, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: He was interviewed for the Alabama job before. Looks like he's holding out for a head coaching job somewhere.

STARS IN COLLEGE MAYBE LOOKING FOR A BIGGER CHALLENGE
Dana_holgersonDana Holgerson: Offensive coordinator at Houston. The 37-year old coached receivers at Texas Tech for five years under Mike Leach and helped developed Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker before moving on and becoming the offensive coordinator where the Red Raiders became one of the best passing teams in the country. In his first season in Houston, the Cougars had the nation's No. 1 total offense, No. 2 passing offense, No. 49 rushing offense and No. 10 scoring offense. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: He left Texas Tech for Houston. Wouldn't UM be an upgrade? Then again, is Randy Shannon going to run the
spread? Probably not.

Tom Herman: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Rice. The young gun has helped the Owls become one of the top scoring offenses and passing offenses in the country with his spread attack. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: Miami tried young and talented and then got rid of Patrick Nix. Plus, the spread at UM -- probably not going to happen.

UNEMPLOYED AND LOOKING
Chuck_longChuck Long: An NCAA Hall of Famer, Long, 45, was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator from 2000 to 2005 at Oklahoma before leaving for San Diego State in 2006. His career as a head coach lasted three years before he was fired after compiling a 9-27 record. A finalist for the Broyles Award in 2004. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: What better way to set yourself up for another head coaching job by bringing The U back to prominence?

IN THE NFL WITH PLENTY OF PAST EXPERIENCE
David_leeDavid Lee: The Dolphins' current quarterbacks coach and the architect of the Wildcat offense. The 55-year old spent four seasons with Dallas Cowboys as the team's offensive quality control coach and quarterbacks coach in 2005, helping Tony Romo turn from undrafted free agent to Pro Bowler. Was the offensive coordinator in 2007 at Arkansas, helping the Razorbacks average 37.3 points and 450 yards a game. He's got 29 years of experience at the college level -- including five as a head coach at UTEP from 1989-93. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: The Dolphins have a good thing going, but he is right down the road for Randy after all.

Kevin Rogers: The Minnesota Vikings quarterback coach was contacted the last time Miami was looking to fill its OC void. But he passed. He's now in his third year with the Minnesota Vikings as a quarterbacks coach after having spent four seasons at Virginia Tech, three at Notre Dame, seven at Syracuse and and seven more at Navy. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: He's coached Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick. Maybe the thought of coaching Jacory Harris -- or some more money -- might entice him this time around. No. Probably not.

Dirk Koetter: Currently the Jaguars offensive coordinator, the 49-year old Koetter was a
target for Randy Shannon two years ago when he was first looking to fill the position. He's got more than a decade of experience as an offensive coordinator and eight as a head coach at Boise State and Arizona State. The Jags improved from the 10th-best offense to 7th-best in his first season. But after the Jags horrid season maybe the front office will be looking to make changes. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: He passed it up last time in part because of family issues. I don't think that's changed.

Mike_shulaMike Shula: The son of Dolphins legend Don Shula and the former Alabama head coach, Mike has been the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterbacks coach since 2007. He's 43 years old and has plenty of coaching experience. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN: Might be the perfect veteran guy and a great backup plan. Plus, he'd be home in South Florida. Then again, maybe he wants nothing to do with college football anymore after what happened to him at Alabama.

Bill Musgrave: The 41-year old and current quarterbacks coach coach in Atlanta has specialized in QBs since he began coaching in 1997, touring the NFL with the Eagles, 49ers and Carolina Panthers. Spent two seasons at Virginia from 2001-02 as offensive coordinator before moving on to the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He's been back in the NFL since then as quarterbacks coach with the Redskins and Falcons. He's spent nearly all of his time in the NFL but hasn't really found the right fit. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT WORK: Maybe the road to a head coaching job has to go through a coordinator job in college first? Musgrave might have reasons to consider if asked.

YOUNG AND HUNGRY, BUT SHARING A JOB
Jay Norvell: The co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, Norvell has NFL and college experience. Began his career as an offensive line coach from 1989 to 1994 with Wisconsin before moving on to join Dan McCartney's staff at Iowa State where he served as assistant head coach, receivers coach and quarterbacks coach. From 1981 to 2001, he was the wide receivers coach from the Indianapolis Colts where he worked with Marvin Harrison. In 2002, he left for Oakland where he coached tight ends for two seasons and the Raiders left with coach Bill Callahan for Nebraska for three years where he became offensive coordinator. In 2006, Nebraska was one of only two teams to rank in the top 25 in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring offense while running a West Coast style offense. He spent a year at UCLA before joining Bob Stoops in Oklahoma. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT WORK: I'm sure Norvell, a coaching nomad, is going to jump at the opportunity at a head coaching job first before moving laterally to a program struggling.

Herb_hand_tulsa_co_ocHerb Hand: Currently the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Tulsa where he's spent the past two seasons running the spread, no-huddle offense. The 41-year old was instrumental in helping the Golden Hurricanes led the national in total offense in 2007. He was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at West Virginia for six seasons before that. His recruiting speciality? Offensive line, junior colleges and the state of Texas. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT WORK: This would be a step up for Hand, who can make a move to a BCS program and have full reigns of the offense. Then again, will Randy like his offense?

Gunter Brewer: Currently in his first season as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oklahoma State. Before that, he spent three seasons coaching receivers at OSU and the four before it at North Carolina. Coached Randy Moss before that at Marshall from 1996-99. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT WORK: Comes from Big 12 country, obviously a place Miami needs to recruit. Brewer, however, probably makes good money out there in the Big 12. Not sure UM will match it or give him much more of a reason to leave.

Trooper_taylorTrooper Taylor: The other side of Oklahoma State's co-offensive coordinator job. Taylor spent four years at Tennessee as the assistant head coach/wide receivers and running backs coach. He was a Top 25 recruiter in 2005 and 2007 according to Rivals.com. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT WORK: Taylor's a guy whose recruited South Florida before and probably knows Shannon. He just got out to Oklaoma State and coming to UM would be a lateral move, not a move forward. But maybe Randy could convince him.

YOUNG AND LOOKING FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO MOVE UP
Billy Gonzales: Florida's current receivers coach and recruiting coordinator who playedfor Urban Meyer at Colorado State and has coached with him. Was recently passed over for the vacant Florida offensive coordinator job by Steve Addazio. Wouldn't it be something if Shannon stole Gonzalez from Urban under his nose? WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT WORK: Gonzalez has never really an offense before and Florida and Urban will do all he can to talk Billy out of it.

Major Applewhite: Only 30 years old, the former Texas quarterback is currently back at Major_applewhitehis alma mater as the Longhorns running backs coach/assistant head coach. He started his career as the quarterbacks coach at Syracuse in 2005 before moving on to be the offensive coordinator at Rice in 2006 and the offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2007. WHY IT MAY OR MAY NOT WORK: Was recently passed up as Texas' coach in waiting by defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Major makes some major bucks and he's in the place he wants to be. But maybe getting passed up recently will encourage him to look elsewhere. Probably the best available candidate.

December 29, 2008

Nix fired, wanted to open offense up

The Miami Hurricanes have parted ways with offensive coordinator Patrick Nix. Really, that's not much of a surprise. The bigger surprise -- what he told our Susan Miller Degnan after she, Barry Jackson and I spent the day trying to hunt him down.

Patricknix100_64Nix said he and Shannon split because of philosophical differences. "I wanted to be a little bit more wide open - no-huddle, spread out, go for it. And he wanted to be more two-back, conservative. It was a fine line in trying to balance the two. And not that one is better than the other, its just a different philosophy."

For most of Canes nation this may be seen as a relief -- especially after the way Miami's offense sputtered in the final two minutes of the Emerald Bowl. All season long, fans ripped into Nix for leading an offense which finished 89th in the country in total yardage despite finishing 3rd in the ACC in scoring at 24 points per game.

Jacory_harrisMonday afternoon I spoke with the father of quarterback Jacory Harris, who told me after relaying the rumors to his son that Nix was likely out that Jacory "sounded very disappointed." "He said he felt real bad for Coach Nix, but he understands this is all part of what big time football is about," Rodney Harris said. "He's always had a great relationship with Coach Nix, been to his house. He's always felt like he was a great guy."

The irony is if Nix's part of the story in relation to what he wanted with this offense is true, then Jacory Harris is not going to be happy with Nix leaving and Shannon staying. "I know the one thing Jacory would like to see with whoever the new coordinator is, is someone who will open up the offense a bit more. Jacory likes to open it up, throw the football. He wants to attack."

> Today's news is likely just the beginning of the changes. Several sources I spoke with this afternoon told me more changes are expected with other assistant coaches in the near future.

Robert_marve> I also consider today's Nix announcement the last straw for quarterback Robert Marve, who has been considering transferring for weeks. Nix and Marve were obviously close.

Sideline confusion nothing new for Canes

Before I start dissecting each position on the team over the next week, I wanted to provide you with one final blog on the Emerald Bowl. After sitting in for coach Randy Shannon's final press conference of the season earlier this morning, I came away from our 34 minute interview with more questions than I came in with.

ShannonThe lasting image from Miami's final game of the 2008 season for me wasn't quarterback Jacory Harris getting stripped of the football and a lumbering Cal defensive lineman scooping it up for what led to the winning score. It wasn't even Jahvid Best ripping through the ACC's worst run defense like so many before him. It was what happened during those final 2 minutes and 41 seconds that can only best be described as the worst two minute drill ever orchestrated.

The image I'll have in my head with me forever -- Shannon racing over to offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, telling him something and then signaling for a timeout with 12 seconds left. I don't think there's a better snapshot to represent UM's entire season than that one moment, when sideline confusion and bad time management hit its peak an embarrassing 13 games into 2008. Shannon was asked to explain the situation Sunday with a trio of questions. Instead of sounding like a football coach who was there with a headset, with a voice, and the ability to control the situation, Shannon sounded distant. Like someone who was watching it take place from another sideline at another venue in another city in another country on another planet on a long telescope (think Marvin The Martian).

What bugged me wasn't just that Shannon called a mind-numbing time out following an incomplete pass. It wasn't just that Miami wasn't hustling up to the line of scrimmage, running out of bounds or doing everything in its power to conserve time (like they are supposed to know and have done before). What bugged me was the fact this wasn't the first time we saw Miami looked dazed and confused on the sideline in 2008. Heck, it wasn't the first time you saw it in the same game. The fact is Miami did a terrible job all season getting the right personnel in and out of games, lining up and handling the clock. Anyone remember Sam Shields running onto the field on a formation he wasn't even supposed to be on against Florida State? And, the Hurricanes had to have led the country this season in defensive timeouts and ranked second in ill-timed ones on offense. Second and 6 at the 40 with 2 minutes left in the first quarter? Let's call time out.

Shannon said Sunday he'll spend the next week evaluating his coaches and himself before making personnel decisions. When I asked him if there was anything he knew he could work on immediately, he said 'nothing came to mind' right away. I'm sure there are at least 100,000 UM fans who can give him at least one idea -- how about working on being a little more organized and time conscious on that sideline?

> As bad as those final moments were for Miami, I thought it couldn't take away from what I thought was a Jahvid_bestpretty good performance for the Canes, who were shorthanded with injuries and suspensions and still managed to be in the game in the fourth quarter after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter. People will forget this by next week, but Cal was ranked in the Top 25 in the country in every major defensive statistical category (except pass defense, where they were 40th). Jahvid Best, meanwhile, was the fourth-ranked running back in terms of yards in the country.

> THANKING THE SENIORS: After the game, Shannon said he talked to his team and basically thanked the seniors for letting the freshmen come in and play and not causing a stink. "Anytime when you have young guys playing before seniors it can be a distraction, it could get real bad in the lockerroom, and it didn't," Shannon said. "They stayed poised, they each found a role where they could help us out and win games."

While most people on the outside probably could care less about a senior stepping aside for a more talented freshman, think for a moment how much trouble this team could have been in if guys like Sam Shields, Khalil Jones, Glenn Cook and Romeo Davis preferred to be a little greedy and not really help the young guys who came in. After all, they were basically training their replacements.

>INCOMING ENTHUSIASM: One thing Randy has going for him -- and has had going for him since he took the job -- has been the enthusiasm of young players and recruits wanting to come and help salvage the program. Shannon said Sunday he had a handful of recruits call to cheer up him and his assistants after the loss.

"We got calls saying 'Coach we can't wait to get there. Coach, keep your head up, we're going to turn it around. We're going to be there, we're going to be the next group to get Miami to where we need to be at," Shannon said. "There's a lot of enthusiasm with the young freshman we have on this football team and a lot of enthusiasm with the guys we're recruiting. Even though we're not in a BCS bowl game, they see a young football team that's exciting that any point in time, in the long run are going to be where you want to be at."

The question is how long will that good will last. If Miami, which has gone 19-19 over the last three seasons, goes 7-6 again next year are recruits still going to buy that we're close to winning a national title pitch? Probably not. But my guess is with another 7-6 season, Shannon probably won't be around anyway for 2010.

> BREAKOUT PERFORMER: Redshirt freshman running back Lee Chambers had a breakout performance in the Lee_chambersEmerald Bowl despite the loss, rushing for 60 yards on nine carries and basically matching his season totals (9 carries, 56 yards) coming into the game. The 5-10, 185-pounder from Coffeeville, Mississippi basically got hurt midway through the season and disappeared from the radar because of it. The question is now will he really be back on Randy's radar for 2009 considering UM is scheduled to bring in three more running backs in this next class including the nation's No. 1 back in Bryce Brown. Randy didn't sound overly optimistic Sunday.

"We'd like to get him more reps. But it's going to be up to him," Shannon said. "The one thing you always got to remember about young guys is some young guys can handle success and some guys can't. Next year, these young guys won't have a chip on their shoulder because we're bringing in other guys at their position. That's going to be the deciding factor. Are guys going to keep working and getting better. Can't rely on what they did last year, they got to get better on what they did."

By the way, one of the funnier quotes about Lee came from quarterback Jacory Harris after the game on WQAM. Harris said he didn't even know Lee was in the game until after he turned around and handed the ball off to him.

> TOUTED TELEMAQUE: One of the more intriguing comments from Shannon Sunday came in reference to freshman safety Vaughn Telemaque when he said he and his staff thought the California kid might Vaughn_telemaquepossibly start by the fourth game of the season if not for his season-ending injury. He caught my attention even more when he compared him to former Canes great Ed Reed. "He has ball skills," Shannon said. "He's got great, great ball skills. He's a competitor. He'll run. He's an aggressive kid in the run game, kind of a vocal leader. You see Sean Spence out there and you can see what I'm talking about. You see him on Scout team like Edward [Reed] was, being able to make kill shots, but don't because its practice. He's able to read those type of things."

UM is going to need Telemaque to play like Reed next year if it really wants to make some improvement. Ryan Hill and Jojo Nicholas are the expected starters. Both have been down more than up this season.

> Shannon said he'd like for freshman kicker Jake Wieclaw to at the very least take the kickoff duties away from team MVP Matt Bosher next season. Wieclaw spent all season trying to learn to kick off the ground. In high school, he kicked off a tee.

> Spring football by the way looks like it will start the final week in February. Somebody needs to start a countdown.

December 28, 2008

Nix not headed to Auburn

Susan Miller Degnan called me moments ago to tell me that she spoke with Auburn beat writer Charles Goldberg of the Birmingham News. Goldberg says the Tigers have hired Gus Malzahn -- Tulsa's co-offensive coordinator the past two years -- to be Auburn's new offensive coordinator. That obviously eliminates UM's Patrick Nix from the job.

The Day After: Transfers, Marve and Nix

Just got back home from talking to a groggy Randy Shannon at his post Emerald Bowl press conference Sunday morning at UM and have some quick news to share before I start writing my story...

Robert_marve> Shannon said he expects to have a meeting sometime soon with quarterback Robert Marve and his father to talk about his future at UM. "We'll talk about what he wants to do and what we can do better to help him get better at the University of Miami, or other options he may want to venture in."

> Shannon said he will take some time off this week before he goes out recruiting to evaluate everything with his staff by watching film. "I'll evaluate myself and what I need to get better at," Shannon said. "If I can't look at myself and evaluate what I can get better at then I can't evaluate anything else."

> Running back Shawnbrey McNeal and tight end Daniel Adderley, two members of UM's 2007 recruiting class, are transferring out of the program. Shannon said he wasn't sure where either one will play next season, but said both made the decision to leave for family reasons.

> Linebacker Colin McCarthy will not be healthy enough to participate in spring football -- along with tight end Tervaris Johnson. Shannon said he expects several players to have surgery in the next few weeks and could add more players to that list soon.

> As for seniors and whether or not they'll return: Safety Anthony Reddick is leaving. Shannon said it would be 50-50 whether or not Moncur will be able to return. "His is a delicate situation," Shannon said. Safety Randy Phillips will have to get cleared by the NCAA for a return.

> As for recruiting, Shannon pointed the obvious: adding depth at the offensive line and in the defensive backfield. He said UM will have 27 scholarships to use in its next class.

> FYI, there are rumblings out there offensive coordinator Patrick Nix could still find his way to Auburn. Nix was given a courtesy interview by the Tigers before the school hired Gene Chizik. But there's a chance Nix could get yanked in because the school's former coach and Nix's former coach, Pat Dye, is playing a role in helping Chizik hire his staff and is looking for an OC.

I'll have more for you later. But if you want to listen to the complete 34 minute interview with Coach from this morning... click here.

December 27, 2008

Emerald Bowl: Cal 24, UM 17 (F)

Much like U, I'm getting ready to sit down and watch the final game of the Canes' 2008 season from the living room in my house. I'll be checking in with Susan Miller Degnan throughout the night for updates out in San Francisco. Meanwhile, I'll be here providing you with my thoughts on the game.

This game has plenty of storylines. But none bigger than freshman quarterback Jacory Harris, who for all Emerald_bowlintensive purposes will be the quarterback of this team going forward. We've heard the rumblings for weeks that Robert Marve (suspended for this one) would likely be heading elsewhere after this season. We heard from his high school coach who told me Marve's relationship with coach Shannon wasn't "buddy-buddy." So, tonight's game in a lot of ways, is a glimpse into the future of this program.

Harris is a kid I really believe will be able to help get this program back to the BCS level. He's a tremendous leader who has impressed me with his poise and knowledge since the day I met him in the 11th grade over at Miami Northwestern. Miami probably won't win tonight's game. This Bears team is playing at home and has far less holes on defense than UM does. But I've got a real good feeling Jacory is going to play well tonight and give U hope for the future.

So, feel free to join our in-game discussion below and give me your thoughts heading into this bowl game, during this bowl game and after it.

> By the way, nice win for the Canes today out in New York against St. John's. Miami definitely rebounded from that ugly Clemson loss. Coach Frank Haith wasn't around this week with the holidays to talk to reporters. But we know he worked his team hard after that loss. It paid off. Miami's three losses by the way are all to ranked teams. And the team's strength of schedule is No. 2 in the country right now.

EPPS OUT
Dedrick_epps> We learned shortly before the game Dedrick Epps will not play tonight after suffering a right leg contusion during practice this week. UM is already shorthanded at tight end. Richard Gordon and Tervaris Johnson were suspended earlier this week for violating team rules. That leaves UM with Chris Zellner as the only real available tight end. Tackle Tyrone Byrd will wear No. 84 tonight and play the tight end spot, mostly as a blocker.


FIRST HALF THOUGHTS...
> How about that? 18th-year senior Romeo Davis comes up with the first big play of the game, stripping Jahvid Best of the ball, allowing Jojo Nicholas to recover at the UM 49.
Jahvid_best> Cal makes the second big play and this one means something. A 74-yard catch and run from Nate Longshore to Verran Tucker leads to a 2-yard Jahvid Best touchdown run that gives Cal a 7-0 lead with 7:15 left in the first quarter.
> So far, we haven't been able to see if Jacory Harris can throw the football. Miami continues to go backward on first down before deciding to run it on second and long.
> Best has his second touchdown. A 43-yard run makes it 14-0 with 4:55 left in the first quarter. This could end up getting real ugly quick unless UM's offense shows up. This UM team is not only short-handed, but they can't generate anything positive either right now in the first quarter.
> Got to love Tyrone Byrd battling for that ball from the tight end position. And then Javarris James for catching it off the deflection.
> After getting off to a slow start, Jacory Harris engineers a nice 10-play, 80-yard drive, capped with a 15-Jacory_harrisyard touchdown pass to LaRon Byrd. Harris converted a 3rd and 9 with a nice 11 yard run and found Leonard Hankerson for a big pickup.
> Canes defense stands tall right after UM's first touchdown by forcing a three-and-out for Cal. Glenn Cook makes a nice play on a blitz on third down, forcing the Bears to throw an incomplete pass. Except for two really bad plays (Best's 43-yard TD run and the 74-yard pass) and another pair of 9-yard Jahvid Best runs, UM's defense has done a good job tackling today and getting pressure on the quarterback.
> Jacory makes his first bad decision in the game, throwing into zone coverage and getting picked off by Michael Mohammed at the UM 42. The Miami defense is going to have to hold here.
> Jahvid Best has 106 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. But for some reason, Cal has continued to throw the football. Not sure why.

SECOND HALF THOUGHTS...
> Miami gets good field position to start the second half, but does nothing with it after Chris Rutledge gets flagged for a late hit. The penalty turned a 3rd and 1 to a 3rd and 16.
> Miami averted trouble on its first bad snap moments later when Matt Bosher fielded a bouncer and got his kick off.
> Cal has tried to completely avoid kicking the ball to Travis Benjamin. On three kickoffs now, they've gone short on kickoffs. Benjamin has only had the chance to return one punt and didn't get very far.
> Miami ties the ball game with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Thearon Collier with 7:34 left in the third quarter Lee_chambers. Redshirt freshman Lee Chambers makes an appearance on the drive, picking up a key first down on a 18-yard third down run to the Cal 9 yard line. It caps a 10-play, 69-yard drive in which Jacory looked very, very good. Harris is now 17 of 27 for 145 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
> One thing Randy Shannon is going to have address after this season is how he used his timeouts. At the end of the first half, Miami used up the final minute and didn't use any of its three timeouts until there were four seconds left. Now, in the second half, Shannon has used two timeouts on defense.
> Cal puts together a 12-play, 76-yard drive to answer Miami's scoring drive. Jahvid Best once again is at the center of all the successful plays, starting the drive with a long run and then picking up 25 yards on fourth and 1. Cal had to settle for a field goal, though, after quarterback Nate Longshore gets stepped on by a lineman backing up out of the pocket and falls to the ground on third and goal.
> Matt Bosher makes his best play of the game yet at the start of the fourth quarter -- getting hit on a punt to give UM a first down.
> The five yard penalty leads to a game-tying 22-yard field goal from Matt Bosher. Lee Chambers comes up big again on the drive with a few long drives. Something not to be forgotten on the drive -- Graig Cooper recovering his own fumble deep in UM territory.
> People are probably going to forget about the play Glenn Cook made late in the fourth quarter to stop Cal running back Shane Vareen on third and one at the UM 17. But it was huge. Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 34-yard field goal with 4:24 left. But Cook's tackle was the play of the drive. OK, the second most important. Jahvid Best going out with an injured hand during the drive following a 20-yard run was big, too.
> Miami caught a break with the missed field goal, but couldn't cash in. Jacory Harris gets sacked by linebacker Zach Follett and loses the football. Two plays later, Nate Longshore finds tight end Anthony Miller for a two-yard touchdown pass with 2:41 left. Does Jacory Harris have another comeback in him?
> Miami got the ball back with 2 minutes, 37 seconds left and ran eight offensive plays. But what everyone is going to be talking about this offseason is the clock management on that final drive. In a word: Disgusting.

December 26, 2008

Five questions about the Cal Bears

Since I'm not out in San Francisco covering the Emerald Bowl, I figured the next best thing was to give you some insight on the Canes' opponent from an expert out on the West Coast. This week, I got the pleasure of exchanging a few emails with Bears beat writer Demar Richardson, who covers the team for CalSportsDigest.com, which associated with Scout.com.

Here are the five questions I sent Demar about the Bears followed by is responses.

Q: No knock on Cal running back Jahvid Best (he's had a tremendous season), but when you take a closer look at his numbers 511 of his 1,394 yards and 7 of his 13 rushing touchdowns came against Washington and Washington State, the nation's 117th and 119th rushing defenses. He's also put up some stinkers -- 25 yards against Maryland and 30 yards against USC. Is the 5-10, 193-pound sophomore really that special? Or, are his numbers a bit inflated? And, why did Maryland and USC have good days against him?
DR: Best's numbers against Maryland were down for two reasons. Maryland got off to an early lead against the Bears forcing Cal to pass a lot more and the Bears coaching staff made a mistake by completely Jahvid_bestabandoning the running game when they fell behind. Best has shown that he can break off fifty or sixty yard runs on a consistent basis. As far as the USC game goes I would just go with the theory that nobody will have success against that defense this year. Jahvid's numbers would have been better if he didn't miss the ASU game because of injury. One thing Jahvid must do this off-season is add some more muscle in the weight room and get up to 200 pounds. In my opinion Best will be a top five back in the country for the 2009 season. Jahvid is explosive running the ball and he has the ability to make defenders miss tackles. Best has tremendous hands. He finished the regualr season with 27 catches. At the NFL level, Best has the ability to give a team 10-15 carries a game, catch passes and be a very effective kick returner.

Q: As good as Best is, what impresses me most about Cal on paper is their pass rush and their ability to create turnovers. The Bears look like they bring the heat. Is that really the strength of this team? And, if so, has anybody had any real success against Cal's pass rush and pass defense?
DR: Cal is known for being a very good offensive team, but their defense was the strength of the team this Sydquan_thompsonseason. They have a very talented secondary lead by CB Syd'Quan Thompson who is very good in man to man coverage. The opposite corner Darian Hagan is only a sophmore and he is very solid in coverage. The Bears play a 3-4 and not many offenses are use to playing against that front. The linebackers get after the quarterback a lot, but the defensive line has been able to apply consistent pressure all season. The Bears have been very succesful when the get off to an early lead and force teams to become one demensional. This allows Cal to be very aggresive with their blitz packages. The top players on the Bear's defense are LB Zack Follett, DE Tyson Alualu and Thompson.

Q: With true freshman Jacory Harris slated to start at quarterback for Miami, I have to imagine the Bears must be salivating at the thought of knocking this kid out and or getting in his head. Miami's backups are walk-ons for this game. What are you hearing from the Bears this week about facing Harris?
DR: I don't see the Bear's defense being over aggresive, because Jacory Harris is young. If Cal gets up 10-0 or 14-3 that is when the Bears would turn up the heat. This game can remain very close if Miami can contain Best and consistenly run the ball with Graig Cooper. Miami should be more concerned with not turning the ball over instead of worrying about giving up sacks. The Bears defense has been very good at creating turnovers.

Q: How would you measure the excitement out there for this game? The University of Miami used to create a stir when it went out on the road during its championship years? Notice any real excitement from the Bears about facing a 7-5 Hurricanes team?
Emerald_bowlDR: Miami is a very respected program and this is without a doubt the best match-up in Emerald Bowl history. Cal has a very big student following. I'm not sure if the Christmas break will affect attendance or not, but Emerald bowl representatives expect a sell out for Saturday's game. I would expect 80-85% of the crowd to be Bear fans. I expect the Hurricanes to challenge for the ACC over the next few seasons and the Bears should be ready for a big year in 2009. Anytime you can play against a team with the traditon and talent of the Hurricanes I feel it will be a good test for Cal to see where they are as a program and what they need to add to their roster if they want to win the Pac 10.

Q: What's your prediction for this game? And what does Miami ultimately need to do to pull off the upset of Cal in your opinion?
DR: I believe this game will be very close because Cal is not explosive at the reciever position. Cal has very good kick and punt returners, but Miami's speed should contain the Bear's returners. The Hurricanes should have oppurtunities for big kick returns, because the Bears have consistenly left their kickoffs 10-15 yards short of the end zone. If Miami can run the ball they have a great chance to win. I believe Cal will again find ways to force a few turnovers. Final score: Cal 27, Miami 24.

December 24, 2008

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.

December 21, 2008

Courtside blog: Clemson 91, UM 72 (F)

BANKUNITED CENTER -- The Canes are opening ACC play tonight. I'll be here to provide you with my thoughts as this one rolls along. Clemson (11-0) is going to be a real tough opponent for Frank Haith's team.

> No band and hardly and fans, but this one has started just as intense as we expected it -- only fitting since Kimbo Slice is among the 3,000 or so in attendance. Cyrus McGowan scored UM's first nine points, showing Clemson forward Trevor Booker and everyone else he came to play tonight. The Tigers came out with their full court press early, doubling Jack McClinton at times. But UM has been able to beat it down court for open shots. The Canes don't have any turnovers four minutes in -- a very good sign against this Clemson defense.

> Since Cyrus McGowan tied the score at 7 with 17:39 left, UM has gone on a 12-2 run, turning up their defensive intensity. Sophomore point guard Eddie Rios has scored the last five points for UM. I'm happy for the kid. After turning the ball over on a bad pass, he rallied, knocked the ball away, came back down the floor and hit a three-pointer. Lance Hurdle, whom Haith had run to the substitution table after Rios' errant pass, quickly returned to the bench.

> So much for that 21-9 lead and great defensive start (Clemson started 3 of 14 from the field). The Tigers have started hitting three-pointers and creating Canes turnovers in a flurry to tie the score at 21 with 9:05 left in the half.

> It's hard to believe bad a free throw shooting team the Canes have become. UM came in shooting 67 percent, but is 2-of-9 from the stripe tonight in the first half. Last year, UM shot a shade under 75 percent for the season.

> Here's the only stat you need to know in order to explain UM's first half: 16 Canes turnovers. That's two shy of the season high against Ohio State.

> Clemson has continued to keep its distance from Canes here early in the second half. Dwayne Collins and Jack McClinton have begun to step up their game. But James Dews has missed three three-point attempts and just hasn't been able to hit the big shot to help Miami get back into this game.

> Miami is starting to turn up its defensive intensity after falling behind by 11 here in the second half. But they are going to have to start making free throws to have a chance down the stretch. Canes have started 5 of 16 from the line with 13:12 left.

December 20, 2008

Marve's high school coach: 'He's frustrated'

ORLANDO -- Robert Marve had a sideline pass waiting for him at the Citrus Bowl Saturday. He never picked it up. But somewhere, the University of Miami's starting quarterback was watching his former high school team capture its second state championship in three years.

Robert_marve_4Saturday, after the Citrus Bowl cleared out I caught up with his former high school coach Robert Weiner, who has kept in close contact with Marve since he left Plant. Weiner said he speaks with Marve every day and said his former star quarterback spent two hours with him Friday breaking down film before Plant went out and beat Tallahassee Lincoln 34-14 a day later. While most of Friday's conversation was about the upcoming title game, Weiner said Marve expressed to his coach what's been troubling him lately at Miami.

"Robert's a competitor for sure and like anybody else he wants the job," Weiner said. "And that's part of [what's bothering him], but that's not the only part of it. It's just a matter of him trying to get the most out of his experience so he can help his team. And he's not always sure that's happening."

With rumors rampant about Marve possibly seeking a transfer, I asked Weiner if Marve had discussed Robert_marverobert_weinerleaving UM with him. "I do know he's frustrated, and that the situation he's in now, he's frustrated with," Weiner said. "You have to see what all your options are and things like that. Robert would be torn if [transferring] was really the situation because Robert is such a team guy. He's developed quite a bond with his teammates in Miami, so that would be a difficult situation for him for sure. But at the same time, just like all of us in any of our jobs, in anything we do, we have to evaluate our situation and then determine what's best for our situation."

Weiner said he, as well as Marve's family and friends, have been frustrated -- possibly more than Marve -- about how his suspensions and his playing time has been handled. When asked about Marve's relationship with UM coaches, this is what Weiner said: "The guy who recruited him, Joe Pannunzio, has a tremendous relationship with him. And continues to have a great relationship with [him]. And I know he works with Patrick Nix, who he works with day in and day out. I'm not sure of his relationship with Randy Shannon. The relationship with head coaches can be different in different places. Sometimes, they can be a player's coach and have good relationships with their kids and some head coaches don't have relationships with their kids at all. I'm not sure what Randy is. But I know Randy's relationship with Robert is not a buddy-buddy relationship."

Weiner said Plant has had a lot of recruiters stop by in the last three weeks. Although he didn't say any specifically inquired about Marve, he said he's sure "if [transferring] was something Robert wanted to pursue, he'd have some opportunities."

> As far as potential destinations, Weiner said Marve returning home to play at USF would likely "not be a possibility" because UM plays USF four out of the next five seasons. He also said Alabama, a place Marve was once committed to, no longer shares the relationship it had with Plant.

Orson_charles> As for another Plant-UM connection, tight end Orson Charles talked a little about his recruiting situation Saturday. "Basically, everybody is up there for me," Charles said. "I'm going to pray about it and talk to the people I care about it most with. [What happened with Robert] doesn't really affect me. It just keeps me guessing. I'm just going to talk to Marve and see what's going on. But everybody is still in it. We're going to go see from there."

Charles said he spoke to Marve Friday before the game, but didn't talk at all about college. Charles put up MVP-type numbers in Plant's 34-14 win, catching 6 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He also made three tackles and recorded a sack.

December 18, 2008

Shannon, Jacory react to Marve suspension

GREENTREE PRACTICE FIELD -- UM coach Randy Shannon confirmed after Thursday's practice what Eugene Marve told us earlier this afternoon -- the Canes' starting quarterback has been suspended for the Emerald Bowl. But what stunned me wasn't that Shannon was short with his answers to reporter's questions to the Robert Marve story. We expected that.

Randy_shannon2What was strange to me was that he didn't seem extremely bothered by the fact the guy he started 11 times this season began his season suspended and will end it suspended for basically failing to what he's supposed to -- go to class and be there on time. "You're always disappointed when a violation of team rules occur," Shannon said after telling reporters the decision to suspend Marve was made Thursday morning. "But you know what, our job is to teach them and they learn from it. He'll bounce back and we'll keep him going.

"It's just a growing pain. He's a redshirt freshman, you got to get guys understanding that it takes certain time with guys. Everybody's not going to come in and do everything that's supposed to be done. It's our job to get them to do it... Our job is to educate the kids when something happens. And that's what my job is to educate them. This university has been very helpful in educating all the student athletes we have on campus and we'll keep doing those type of things."

Shannon said he hasn't heard any rumors about Marve transferring and said he expects him back after the bowl game. As expected, Jacory Harris will be the starter in San Francisco Dec. 27. The mild surprise? His backups will be walk-ons Matt Perrelli and Jake Byrne, the team's current holder and long-snappers. Shannon said he won't let Cannon Smith or Taylor Cook burn their redshirts (both would by playing this late in the season, despite not having played much if at all).

As for what this means for Marve's future, Shannon was asked if being suspended twice would affect his standing going into the quarterback competition (should Marve return) next year. His response, "Spring is Spring. This season is still this season. We're still in 2008. So we got to play this game as 2008. You can't get ahead of yourself. When you get ahead of yourself, that's when you screw up."

Jacory_harris2When asked a similar question in reference to what his second career start and the bowl game means to him, Harris responded a little differently than his coach: "This game right here for me is going to be the start of the 2009 season. It's going to start out like a miniature spring game. We're just going to go out there and show everybody what we have in store for next year."

Harris, who injured his throwing shoulder in the season finale, said right now his goal is "to lead the team to a bowl victory." "That's all I can do," Harris said. "It's unfortunate about the situation that took place. I just got to go out and have a good game and my team will be behind me."

> Don't expect Jacory to be scared about starting. He's looking forward to it. "I think its easier to start a game," Harris said. "Coming off the bench, that's where the pressure comes in. You got to keep the momentum. If your down, you got to come back. If your up, you got to keep them going. And if you don't, people will say why didn't your bring us back? Why didn't you keep the momentum going? I've heard a lot this year about Jacory -- the momentum lacks when he's in the game. I just laugh and have fun."

> Harris said he still hadn't spoken to Marve about what happened because the team hadn't learned about his suspension until practice. But he -- along with others -- inferred they would be calling Marve to make sure he was OK. But most said they were told not to talk about the situation.

> For those of you hearing the complete interviews with coach Shannon and Jacory, visit our audio page.

> I'll keep this short since it's basketball newsy and I know there's a lot smaller of an audience for it. UM forward Jimmy Graham was seen wearing a cast on his right wrist Thursday. But I've been told by UM sports information director Margaret Belch, the injury was not serious. X-rays were negative and Graham supposedly practiced like usual. "He slipped in the shower, but it's not that serious," Belch told me. "From what I've heard he's supposed to play Sunday." UM hosts 25th-ranked Clemson (10-0) in its ACC opener on Sunday. Frank Haith is supposed to address the media Friday afternoon.

> On the recruiting front, I spoke with the father of Jared Wheeler this morning on my drive back from Orlando. He said Shannon and coach Jeff Stoutland are supposed to make an in-home visit tonight to the Wheeler home. Tuesday, the Wheelers hosted Vanderbilt. Jim Wheeler said UM coaches have been telling his son they'd like to try him out first at tackle, but realize "he's a kid that could play anywhere on the line, from guard to center if he had to." As for UM's chances -- they look really good. Wheeler said while Vanderbilt is great and offers many of the same things UM does, the distance seems to be favoring UM. Look for a possible commitment announcement soon.

Marve suspension likely last straw

GREENTREE PRACTICE FIELD -- Now we know why Robert Marve won't be playing in the Emerald Bowl. According to his father, he was suspended for showing up late for a class. We still haven't heard Randy Shannon's version of the story because they are still practicing.

But the question now becomes as we wait for Thursday's practice to end, what happens if Marve does come back in the spring?

Coach Randy Shannon made a commitment to Marve this season, naming him the starter "no matter what." But it's quite obvious the redshirt freshman hasn't shown the type of character becoming of a starting quarterback. This is suspension No. 2 in his first real season at the helm. How can Shannon honestly look at anybody on his team now in the face -- much less Jacory Harris -- and keep Marve as the starter next season, even if he wins the battle in the spring? If that's the case, why would Marve even bother coming back. I'm sold this was Marve's last straw at Miami and despite what his father is saying, likely the end of his career as a Hurricane.

Miami will go with Jacory Harris as the starter in the Emerald Bowl Dec. 27. If Harris goes down, UM would have to go with either Cannon Smith and Taylor Cook in an emergency situation. It would blow a redshirt obviously, but at this point what else can the Canes do? I'll let you know what Randy talks about after practice. Stay tuned.

Practice resumes Marve-less

GREENTREE PRACTICE FIELD -- The Miami Hurricanes returned to practice Thursday without their starting quarterback. According to UM sports information director Kerwin Lonzo, who addressed the media as players were coming onto the field, Robert Marve asked to be excused from the team and has returned home to Tampa to be with his family.

Robert_marve2Lonzo did not say whether or not Marve is expected to return the team in time for next week's Emerald Bowl in San Francisco. This could signal the end to Marve's career as Hurricane. Many rumors over the past couple of weeks have suggested Marve has been considering transferring.

Although, there is a chance this could be academically related. Wednesday was the day grades were released after the fall semester and it was believed some players might not be eligible for the bowl game because of grades. Last Sunday after the team's end of the year banquet, Marve told our Susan Miller Degnan in a hotel lobby "my grades were fine."

Lonzo said Marve was the only player not to return to the team Thursday. He said coach Randy Shannon would address all questions after practice. We are trying to reach Marve's family and will keep you posted on this developing story.

Marve started 11 games this season for the Hurricanes completing 116 passes on 213 attempts for 1,293 yards, 9 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He shared the majority of snaps, however, with Jacory Harris, who had a better completion percentage and threw for more touchdowns (10) and fewer interceptions (6). Last week, Marve's father had a private meeting with Shannon before the team resumed practice after a two week break. Marve then dodged reporters questions after practice, running straight into the locker room.

December 17, 2008

Sanford trio talk Canes, recruiting

SANFORD, Fla. -- They say they want to go to a place where they have an opportunity to see the field right away. They say they want their college choice to have a family atmosphere -- similar to the high school where they play now. They say that deep down, they all really want to play together at the next level.

The question is will they? Meet the Sanford Seminole High All-American trio -- hard-hitting safety Ray Ray Seminole_trioArmstrong, the speedy Andre DeBose and the big and intimidating defensive end Dyron Dye. I did Wednesday and came away just as impressed as apparently all of the major college football powers have across the country. And, I came away just as confused as to what they might do when they make their college announcement on Jan. 4 at the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando.

While no one really has any clear insight into where each will end up, there are two things I learned for certain Wednesday -- the Hurricanes are not only in their thoughts, but UM probably is among the few schools that can fit all of their needs. The question is whether or not the Canes will have enough time to really convince the trio of that before their announcement in two weeks.

Seminole is set to take on Miami Northwestern in what I expect to be a great matchup in the Class 6A state championship game Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl. While making it to the state championship is obviously what DeBose, Dye and Armstrong wanted more than anything else this season, the unexpected, extended playoff run has created a time crunch for their visit and announcement plans. After the state championship game this weekend, the trio will only have one free weekend left before their supposed announcement date of Jan. 4 (that's Christmas weekend of Dec. 26-27). While they could make trips during the middle of the week the following week while school is out, they do have practice for the Under-Armour game in the days leading up to game day. Which means as DeBose hinted Wednesday, that despite an announcement on Jan. 4, these guys could still take official visits and leave the door open for change (not exactly shocking).

Since the start of the season, all three have kept tight lips throughout the recruiting process for the most part, hoping to keep their teammates and their season away from distractions. The result: each player has only been able to take two official visits thus far -- Armstrong and DeBose to LSU and Georgia and Dye to LSU and Iowa State. DeBose was the only player Wednesday who was willing to discuss potential visits and mentioned Florida, USC and the Canes as places he still wanted to take official visits to.

The good news is, each has already made enough unofficial visits (3 in all) to Miami -- including the Canes game against Florida State -- to get a great feel for the Canes. All three had nothing but wonderful things to say about the Canes coaching staff including Randy Shannon, who made the drive up to Sanford to watch the trio play with two assistants back in early November. Just know for sure Miami, though, UM is trying real hard to get one last crack at hosting the Sanford trio. As one UM person told me late tonight, "we really, really, really want to get all three down here one last time."

Here is what each of them discussed with me about The U and their college situation on Wednesday.

> Andre DeBose, who most insiders believe is headed to the SEC (LSU or Florida), said Andre_deboseMiami will get one last visit from him no matter what. He said throughout the year, he's developed "a great relationship" with quarterback Jacory Harris, who calls him once a week to check-in on him. He said he talks to receivers coach Aubrey Hill every other day and the two have "a special bond."

As for the Canes and his recruiting needs: "The school I'm looking for has to feel like family," said DeBose, a Rivals.com 5-star recruit. " I want an opportunity to play. I know they can't guarantee me a spot on the field. I just want an opportunity to play. Miami plays guys early. They don't mind putting young guys on the field early. UM will probably get an official visit from us, or at least from me for sure."

> Ray Ray Armstrong, who reminds me of a cross of Sean Taylor and Kenny Phillips, said he's learned to be cautious Ray_ray_armstrong
during the recruiting process. He said he values honesty above all else: "The thing I've learned is a lot of people are going to tell you everything you want to hear and some of it is just not true," Armstrong said. "You got to look through that and find the best fit. For me, I want to get to a college and play and I want to win. It was a great experience at Miami when we went there. The coaches are real with you. They make you feel like you're at home. The players really like to make you feel good too. They make you feel at home. For me, right now, everybody has a chance."

Dyron_dye>Dyron Dye uses the same words -- home and family -- to describe Miami. He said he speaks to UM defensive line coach Clint Hurtt and receivers coach Aubrey Hill at least once a week. While some people may be concerned with his academics, one insider at UM told me Wednesday night they believe Dye is not far from meeting the standards at UM to get in. "I'm looking to go somewhere I can play and be in an atmosphere where I can make a big impact," Dye said. "Miami lets young guys do that."

> I didn't get a chance to talk to defensive end commitment Olivier Vernon, who has basically disappeared off the face of the earth since taking his official to the University of Miami last weekend. But I did get a chance to speak with his mother, who told me her son told her he plans on waiting until after Christmas to make his announcement. "He wants some time to think it over a little more," she said. Vernon committed to UM early in the process, but took official visits out to Alabama and Florida State. The 6-3, 240-pound end would be a pretty big loss for UM if he chooses to back away from the Canes now.

> One guy Miami no longer has a shot at is JUCO offensive lineman Roy Watts, who signed with Houston Wednesday. Watts (6-5, 335) had Shannon for an in-home visit recently, but decided to back away from the Canes to stay close to home for his baby daughter and fiancee. It leaves UM with only one real JUCO opportunity -- Andrew Tiller of Nassau Community College.

Tiller (6-6, 320) recently visited nearby Rutgers, but told UM coaches he plans on visiting Miami in late January. Ultimately, this could end up the same way Watts did, with Tiller opting to stay closer to home. If not Rutgers, then possibly Syracuse, which is close to hiring Tiller's JUCO coach as an assistant.

> Miami's best shots at landing offensive linemen now looks like it will be through prep school or through high school. Plantation American Heritage's Jared Wheeler could be the first to jump on. As our Barry Jackson reported last week, Wheeler (6-5, 310) is now down to Vanderbilt and UM and folks at UM believe he could make his decision very soon. Last week, UM hosted the No. 1 prep school player in the country in 6-8, 335-pound Bobby Massie and Hargrave Military Academy teammate Daniel Campbell. This week, the Canes will get visits from offensive lineman Jermaine Johnson, defensive tackle William Campbell and offensive lineman Brandon Washington (who will sign in January).

> With former quarterback Steve Walsh getting into coaching Wednesday at West Palm Beach's Cardinal Newman High, I'm beginning to get the feeling several former players have caught the coaching bug with hopes of perhaps of getting on the UM staff eventually. Receiver Lamar Thomas joined the staff at Boynton Beach last year and has expressed interest of perhaps being on the UM sideline one day. The question is will any former guys actually find their way onto the coaching staff at The U any time soon? That's doubtful.

December 15, 2008

No new commitments yet

I know there is a lot of interest in recruiting after the Canes hosted their first big weekend of visitors. Unfortunately, there are no new commitments to report as of yet.

The Hurricanes welcomed seven players in all -- including five commitments, running back Mike James, cornerback Brandon McGee, tight end Stephen Plein, defensive tackle Curtis Porter and defensive end Olivier Vernon. The two big targets, however, were Hargrave Military Academy prep school offensive linemen Daniel Campbell (6-5, 320) and 6-8, 335-pound Bobby Massie (the No. 1 prep school player in the country according to Rivals.com).

Massie would be the prize and the Canes have a fair shot at him. Offensive line is obviously a huge priority for the Canes. As of now, only Brandon Washington (who will begin taking classes in January) and Fleming Island's Cory White are the only commitments expected to play on the offensive line at UM. James told me he and McGee were trying hard this weekend to get Campbell or Massie to commit.

Mike_james"We were really trying to get the big guys," James said. "We're talking to them about trying to win the championship and talked about winning. I think we sold the school hard. They sounded really excited about it. I got Massie's number, called him after the visit. He hasn't called me back yet. But I'm sure he'll call me back. I know they had fun. Miami really does have a chance with those guys."

As for his own impression of his visit, James said he had a blast. The 5-11, 211-pounder from Davenport, Fla. who ran for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns for a team that finished 10-2 this season, said he spent most of the weekend with Javarris James, a player he refers to as a big brother even though the two aren't related. He said they toured South Beach and Coconut Grove and talked plenty of football.

"The trip was awesome. It was probably the best time I had in my life," James said. "I can't wait to get back down there. We went out on the town, with Baby J most of the weekend, talked football and about school."

> The only player on the visit who you can't exactly consider a 100 percent lock to choose UM is Vernon, who I've been trying to reach since Sunday. The 6-3, 239-pound defensive end is a kid UM was trying to sure up after he made visits to Florida State and Alabama. He and his coach have yet to return phone calls.

> By the way, what looked like the entire Northwestern Bulls starting unit visited UM's practice Saturday. I forgot to mention it before. But 2010 commitment and defensive tackle Todd Chandler was there. If UM was smart, they'd already start working on two other Bulls -- junior receiver Michael Lee Harris and sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Harris impressed me with his smarts and speed. Bridgewater is just starting to figure out the quarterback position. But he already beat one of the country's best in Miramar quarterback Eugene Smith last weekend.

Later this week, I'll be in Orlando to watch Northwestern play Sanford Seminole for the state title. And yes, I am hoping to get a chance to meet up with the three kids of interest from Seminole -- defensive end Dyron Dye, receiver Andre Debose and Ray Ray Armstrong.

> From the how do you explain this department: The University of Miami men's basketball team completely fell out of the rankings this week despite going 2-0 with wins over FIU and Robert Morris. Miami had been ranked No. 25 in the Coach's Poll. Now, Clemson, UM's next opponent, is ranked 25th after starting its season 10-0.

December 14, 2008

Bosher selected team MVP

Matt Bosher turned out to be the only Hurricane to earn All-ACC honors second team honors. It's only fitting, UM's most consistent player was tabbed with Jack Harding (Team MVP) award Sunday night as the team held its annual awards banquet at the Westin Colonnade Coral Gables.

Matt_bosherWithout question, Bosher was the best player for the Canes this season. He was 17 of 19 on field goal attempts, a perfect 38 of 38 on extra points and was second in the conference in punting with a 41.1 average. His only field goal misses were at home against North Carolina from 43 and at the end of regulation against Virginia from 51. There's no doubt Bosher will find himself in the hunt for the Lou Groza award next year as a junior if he puts up those kind of numbers again.

> Most Versatile Player: Graig Cooper. Can't disagree with this one. Cooper led the team in rushing with 778 yards and four touchdowns and was third on the team in receiving with 24 catches for 102 yards. He averaged 4.9 yards a carry, threw a touchdown pass and returned a punt for a touchdown in the opener. I've got to wonder if Miami just isn't better off letting Cooper return more kicks next year with Travis Benjamin alongside. That would be one scary tandem.



> Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Gavin Hardin. This one is interesting. If you remember, last year Adewale Ojomo won this award. If UM can get Hardin in the mix at end next year, they might actually be able to move Allen Bailey inside -- where I think belongs.



> Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Damien Berry. I don't know if we should be disappointed or happy Berry won this award. I thought he looked good last spring at safety, making hits and plays on the defensive side of the ball. The move to running back didn't produce a single carry this season. Instead, Barry played in six games and made three tackles on special teams. 



Sean_spence> Hard Hitter Award: Sean Spence. You probably could have changed the title of this one to Best Defensive Player Award. Spence talked Saturday about how he was only expecting to play in a small role this season -- special teams and a maybe a few snaps at linebacker. Instead, he was pressed into major duty after Colin McCarthy went down. He made 62 tackles, 7 1/2 for loss, 2 sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown against Florida State. Let's not forget his big strip at Virginia. 



> Special Teams Player of the Year: Sam Shields. Since Bosher won MVP, this one is obvious -- especially after Travis Benjamin slowed down. This is a good award for Shields to build off of for next year. By the way, he made 8 tackles on special teams and 11 catches for 124 yards at receiver.



> Walt Kichefski Hurricane Award (commitment, consistency) and Strength Training Athlete of the Year: Khalil Jones. I really believe Khalil is probably Randy Shannon's favorite player. All year long, Shannon had nothing but great things to say about Khalil, who started nearly as many games (3) as he had catches (5) all season. I guess sometimes you just need that locker room leader.

> Nick Chickillo Most Improved Player: Chris Rutledge. Can't argue with this one especially considering Rutledge was a project from the day he got here. With Reggie Youngblood out, Ruledge started 10 games his senior season.

> Albert Bentley Most Valuable Walk-On Award: Chris Ivory. About the only thing the team's long-snapper did wrong was get suspended for the season opener.

> Mariutto Scholar Athlete (highest G.P.A.): Xavier Shannon. Come on, we knew Xavier had to get something right? He started 12 games and despite those high snaps, he never really hurt the team. 



Glenn_cook> Plumer Memorial Award (leadership, motivation, spirit) and Dale Melching Award (leadership): Glenn Cook. Glenn won't ever get confused for being a great player. His physical skills are average at best. But there's no question everyone on this team looked up to him on defense. His greatest contribution was probably helping Spence come along faster than most expected. He spent a lot of time with Sean in the film room.



> U. Miami Sports Hall of Fame Unsung Hero Award: Patrick Hill. He didn't get a chance to be in there very often, but when he did, he often laid guys out.

December 13, 2008

Canes get back to football

GREENTREE PRACTICE FIELD -- Two weeks after getting beat at N.C. State, the University of Miami got back to work with its first official practice for the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 27. And it didn't take quarterback Robert Marve long to show us that 4.5-speed in the 40.

Randy_shannon_vs_wakeMarve, whose possible transfer has been the hot story during the Canes' down time, zipped past reporters and straight into the showers after practice despite being requested for an interview. So, for those of you hoping to hear Mr. Marve's take on all the rumors concerning him, it looks like we'll have to wait until things cool off. Marve by the way had never skipped out on an interview request until today.

UM coach Randy Shannon was asked about Marve's status for the bowl game and said "as far as we know he will [play]. Like I said about three weeks ago, academics and all that stuff end Wednesday of the week coming up. Thursday we'll know."

Jacory_marveOne guy not darting past reporters -- freshman quarterback Jacory Harris. Jacory had fun teasing his teammates during their interviews with reporters, making faces and funny gestures to try and get them to laugh. He handled the Marve questions with similar ease, too.

"I don’t really worry about it," Harris said when asked about the Marve rumors. "I hear it. But I’m the type of person in a game, I brush away from it. Sometimes it gets kind of annoying. People keep asking the whole year: 'Are you going to leave? Are you going to transfer? What’s the word out there?' Everybody wants to know what’s going on in the UM family and the one thing about a family is you don’t let things out. I don’t know anything. So, I don’t know what’s going on about anything."

> What the Canes do know is that they're excited about going out to California for a bowl game -- even if most have never been out there before or know much about it. Receiver Aldarius Johnson said the furthest he's been is Tennessee (guess he forgot about that trip out to Texas A&M). While Harris has been to California for the Elite 11 Quarterbacks Camp he couldn't remember the names of some of the historic landmarks. "I’ve heard so many things about that big old bridge and Fisherman’s something," Harris said with a laugh. "It’s just going to be a fun experience."

Receiver Kayne Farquharson, fullback Patrick Hill, safety Vaughn Telemaque and defensive tackle Josh Holmes are the four guys on the team who either played in California or are from there. Kayne said he can't wait to go back to San Francisco because that's the place he won a JUCO national title as a sophomore.

> As for his health, Jacory told reporters his shoulder is fine and the only time he experiences pain is when he throws "the deep ball."