COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- A University of Miami representative tried to get me to shut the door to the media room so the profanities flying around the adjacent Hurricanes locker room couldn't be heard by reporters following Saturday night's loss to Maryland.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- This week, I exchanged emails again with Terps beat writer Patrick Stevens of The Washington Times, who shared my thoughts on tonight's showdown with his readers over on his blog D1SCOURSE.
1. What on earth has been happening up there the last few weeks? Gary Williams is having a war of words with school officials, the team is struggling, blowing leads. Is this Maryland basketball team on the verge of falling apart? Or, is this just a hiccup?
From a micro perspective, it all depends on how you define "on the verge of falling apart." If you mean enduring blowout after blowout, it's hard to see that coming. Maryland, for all of its talent deficiencies, has played hard. Of its five losses in the last seven games, it was only completely horrible once (a 41-point loss at Duke). This just doesn't seem like a team that will tank in the second half of the league schedule. Now, does it have the talent to get even a .500 league record? That's highly debatable. From a macro perspective, the program suffered some damage this week. Gary Williams has taken heat for his recruiting, and his ability to do so was further compromised with the in-fighting. It's tough to see things getting much better for the Terps until there is some demonstration of stability and unity --- and it sure doesn't look like that will come easy.
2. The Terrapins have lost four straight to Miami, so there is obviously going to be extra motivation for them to win Saturday's game. But did the blown 17-point lead the last time around shake Maryland's confidence to the point where maybe some guys are believing they just can't beat Miami?
3. Maryland did a great job forcing turnovers and pushing the ball up the floor last time against Miami. Any reason to believe there will be a change in philosophy this time? Or, are the Terps just going to try and do the same thing they did last time?
PS: Maryland built that 17-point lead by remaining aggressive, pressing and making sure it collected plenty of points in transition. Then, as coach Gary Williams acknowledged that night, the Terps became tentative and the lead quickly vanished. Miami's absurd 3-point shooting had something to do with that, but until those closing minutes Maryland's defense (especially on the interior) was impressive. Maryland struggled to score in the halfcourt in the final 12 minutes that night, and it's been a common refrain for much of the month. If the Terps can get into transition, they would be wise to do so since points are so hard to come by elsewhere. I'd expect to see Maryland try to push things again Saturday night.
Time is ticking and with National Signing Day approaching quickly, Randy Shannon and the Miami Hurricanes are taking their final shots at adding some of the nation's best players to their 2009 Signing Class.
UM will host its final recruiting weekend starting Friday, and a group of about 10 visitors are expected. Six are already considered UM commitments: RB Lamar Miller (Miami Killian), CB Jamal Reid (Mayo Lafayette), DE Dyron Dye (Sanford Seminole), DT Luther Robinson (Fort Pierce Westwood), DB Ray Ray Armstrong (Sanford Seminole) and DB Prince Kent (Norcross, Ga.). The four uncommitted recruits are OL Andrew Tiller (Nassau Community College), OL Quinton Washington (St. Stephen's, S.C.), OL Peter White (Washington, D.C.) and tight end Sheldon Richardson (St. Louis, Mo.). The reality is some players are coming for a fun weekend in sunny South Florida, and some are here for serious business.
I spent all day Thursday trying to catch up with the recruits themselves, their coaches and reporters who cover them to see how serious a chance Miami has at landing their signature on signing day. I did the same with the kids who have been on the fence (visiting other schools) or already visited UM, but have continued the recruiting process. Here's a checklist that hopefully will prepare you for what is going to happen over the next few days.
UM has flirted with a lot of kids throughout the recruiting process and plenty of big names have been thrown out there as players the Canes may have a shot at. With five days left before things start becoming official, the following players are the only non-committed players I think Miami has a shot at.
> LB Sam Barrington, 6-2, 220, Jacksonville Parker: Took his final recruiting trip to UM on Jan. 23 and told his coach Jim Scible, whom I spoke to Thursday night, that he really enjoyed his trip. Miami coaches are done with their visits to Barrington and now must wait to see if they've done enough to win him over against Illinois and South Florida. Scible said Illini coach Ron Zook was in Jacksonville yesterday and watched Barrington coach a girls' Powder Puff game at his school. "It's funny the things adult men do to get their players," Scible said. Barrington is expected to announce his decision on Tuesday night during a party at a Jacksonville night club (No, I won't be there). UM's chances: Very good. Before I hung up with Scible, he told me he was going to be expecting a call from me next week. Maybe, he gave it away?
> OL Marcus Hall, 6-5, 295, Cleveland (Oh.) Glennville: Hall visited Miami on Jan. 23 and told nearly every national recruiting website it was going to be his last trip. Turns out, according to Glennville offensive coordinator Matt Chinchar, Hall isn't done yet. He's visiting Tennessee this weekend. The U.S. Army All-American definitely enjoyed his trip to South Florida and has told everyone close to him he's really considering the Canes. But he was also seriously considering Michigan not that long agom too. And now, his new flavor of the week is Tennessee. UM's chances: Slim. You would like to think you could take a kid for his word, but in this case I get the sense Hall is playing some games and telling people (reporters and friends) what they want to hear. The truth is, the only person he really wants to make happy is his mother. And mom wants him at nearby Ohio State.
> OL Andrew Tiller, 6-6, 330, Nassau (N.Y.) Community College: Baby Huey has long had Miami in his top three along with Syracuse and Rutgers. Miami will get their shot at him this weekend and will have the South Florida Sunshine and plenty of playing opportunity to sell. But unless Miami does an unbelievable sales job, Tiller is going to be playing for Syracuse come the fall. His former JUCO coach, John Anselmo, was hired as the secondary coach by the Orange. UM's chances: Not good. Tiller can tell reporters whatever he wants, but don't you think his former coach is going to be under tremendous pressure to make sure Tiller is with the Orange next year? He'll say distance is a factor. But we'll know the truth.
> OL Peter White, 6-5, 325, Washington (DC) St. John's Prep School: Of the remaining offensive line recruits UM is chasing to try snatch, White is the player I think the Canes have the best shot at. The Under-Armour All-American has been to Maryland and Tennessee and is making the visit with his parents this weekend (a great sign). His coach Joe Patterson said UM coach Randy Shannon had a great in-home visit with White earlier this week and impressed his parents. UM's chances: Very good. Maryland and Tennessee are closer to home, but as Patterson pointed out, White is looking for a private school environment and an opportunity to play early. Miami offers both of those up big time. Look for a possible White commitment on Sunday or Monday. Patterson told me he won't wait until NSD.
> OL Quinton Washington, 6-4, 320, Timberland High, St. Stephen's S.C.: After being offered by Miami early on, coach Art Craig told me Thursday night the Canes disappeared on Washington. Part of the problem was Washington's primary recruiter was former offensive coordinator Patrick Nix. Clint Hurtt took over the recruitment in December and moved UM into Washington's top five (they weren't in it originally). "He's interested not necessarily because of what they did recruiting, but becasue of the allure of the school," Craig said. "You say University of Miami to a kid and their ears perk up." Washington doesn't do many interviews because he has a speech impediment, but his coach says part of it is because he is a no non-sense guy. After his trip to Miami this weekend, he'll decide between the Canes, Michigan and South Carolina and we'll probably find out where he's going by Monday at the latest. UM's chances: Slim. The fact Miami is getting his final visit helps, but after speaking with longtime South Carolina recruiting writer Billy Baker, I've been told Washington is a Gamecock lock. Coach Steve Spurrier has targeted five offensive lineman in this class (and Washington is the last piece). Plus, Craig works South Carolina football camps in the offseason. Something tells me Mr. Spurrier is going be upset if Quinton goes elsewhere.
> TE/DT Sheldon Richardson, 6-4, 280, 4.7, St. Louis Gateway: Richardson has been committed to Missouri for a very long time and told local reporters thought he was done with his recruiting back in December. But UM coaches have continued to put the pressure on Richardson to give the Canes the school he grew up dreaming of playing for) a chance. He is supposed to be doing that this weekend with an official visit. I tried calling Richardson several times tonight to confirm it was still on, but could not reach him. Richardson is definitely intrigued at the possibility of playing tight end (which looks even better now with Dedrick Epps out).
UM's chances: Decent. I was told UM definitely feels like they've got a great shot at stealing one of the nation's top players late in the game, but there is no way it will happen without a visit. Ultimately, Miami is not only going to have to impress Richardson, but his family, too. His mother wants him close to home. The final hurdle ultimately could be academics. I was told by a St. Louis reporter Thursday Richardson might not have his test scores or grades and might end up in prep school anyway. Either way, expect NSD drama on Wednesday if he makes the trip to UM.
> TE Terrell Mitchell, 6-5, 230, McEachern High, Powder Springs, Ga.: I told you all last week Mitchell was going to be Plan B. It still looks that way. He is not scheduled to visit this weekend and could hold off on his NSD decision. His coach Kyle Hockman told me last week Mitchell had some academics to take care of. Unless he does, I can't see how he signs with the Canes: UM's chances: Good, but... Georgia dumped Mitchell and Arkansas and Missisippi State seem to be the only horses in the race. Still, academics appear to be a major problem. I can't see Miami taking him.
> OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Miami hosted two other offensive linemen back in December -- Bobby Massie (6-6, 330) and Daniel Campbell (6-5, 320) from Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. I've tried numerous times reaching their coach Robert Prunty and have come up empty. But word I've received from others is Massie is likely going to the SEC (Alabama or Mississippi State) and Campbell has disappeared off the face of the earth since his UM visit. From my conversations with UM insiders, it's doubtful any of them come to UM.
> SCRATCH THEM FROM THE LIST: Receiver Andre Debose (sticking with UF, but visiting FSU this weekend), cornerback Greg Reid (consider UM nothing more than a flirtation, my people tell me he's headed to Florida State), linebacker Tana Patrick (no longer considering UM), linebacker Greg King (needs a test score and is likely headed to the SEC anyway) and tight end Billy Sanders (guess he's not going to take that last minute trip to UM after all).
COMMITTED GUYS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
> CB Kayvon Webster, 5-11, 181, Monsignor Pace: If you listened to WQAM on Thursday night you probably think there is no way Webster is going to Miami, especially the way he talked about South Florida and West Virginia (who have continued to recruit him). But when I spoke to Webster over the phone moments later he sounded totally different, like someone who was enjoying getting people nervous. He said he expects to come in and play cornerback at Miami and plans to have a fun weekend with Randy Phillips while other recruits visit the Canes. I expect Webster to choose the Canes when he makes his announcement at Pace at noon on Wednesday.
> DT Luther Robinson, 6-3, 280, Fort Pierce Westwood: Robinson took a couple of trips to Florida and UCF over the past couple of weeks and has his final trip lined up for the Canes this weekend. If he wasn't taking it, there might be reason to be nervous. But Robinson sounded to me like someone who just looking and I suspect some of this might have been to create a little excitement on NSD. I'd be very surprised if he didn't ink with the Canes Wednesday.
> CB Jamal Reid, 6-1, 175, Mayo Lafayette: Reid took a midweek trip to Mississippi State to visit with former Gators assistant Dan Mullen. They are definitely trying to sell Reid on the fact he could play both ways, something he could probably pull off there. When I spoke to Reid last week about what he would play at UM he talked about playing anywhere on the field. I know getting a shot at receiver, which he played mostly in high school, intrigues him. Miami coaches might need to promise him that this weekend to avoid a signing day surprise.
> RB Bryce Brown, 6-0, 215, Wichita East (Kan.): No, the nation's No. 1 recruit won't be signing anywhere Wednesday. But I still believe he will end up being a Hurricane in the end. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple paid him a visit this week and Brown is taking things slow. There are rumblings he could take a visit to Auburn in the next couple weeks. If he does, it will just be more drama to follow. Frankly, I'm convinced that is all this is. Look for Susan Miller Degnan's feature on Bryce in the paper in the coming days for more details.
When Eddie Rios signed with the University of Miami two years ago he told me his goal was to take the Hurricanes to the NCAA Tournament and turn the program around. Rios was a senior at Miami High then and on top of the world, considered one of the best players to come out of South Florida in years.
His life has been taking a U-Turn ever since. Wednesday morning, the suspended sophomore point guard was booked into a Miami-Dade County jail on charges of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and third-degree grand theft. Late Wednesday, he was out on bail. But I'm not sure where he'll be going now.
Earlier this week, his family contacted UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt with hopes of trying to get him reinstated after being suspended on Jan. 12 by coach Frank Haith for failing to communicate with his coaches. Rios was sick, but didn't go to UM trainers according to Haith to get checked out until a week after first disappearing from the team. Now, whatever thoughts his family had of getting him reinstated are out the window. And, so could his opportunity of playing college basketball anywhere else.
I'll be interested to hear what Haith has to say about this at 2 p.m. press conference tomorrow. Rios' family, which emails me on a regular basis, could not be reached for comment.
> For those of you wondering where I've been since Mark Whipple's press conference Tuesday, I'm finally done filming a new show for MiamiHerald.com with Larry Blustein called the Recruiting Report. It is set to debut on Monday. It's nothing too spectacular, but will serve as a nice preview of National Signing Day for the Canes and Golden Panthers. I'll be back on the Canes beat full-time tomorrow.
New offensive coordinator Mark Whipple just finished his half hour press conference introducing himself to the media Tuesday afternoon. I have a few quick notes I wanted to share relating to what he talked about. For those of you who would like to listen to the entire press conference, just click on the link.
> For starters, credit the hire of Whipple to coach Randy Shannon (who much like in what he does with recruits) had a great one-on-one session with Whipple and helped convince him he really was ready to come back and be a playcaller on the college level. Eagles coach Andy Reid obviously talked to Whipple about becoming the team's quarterbacks coach. But even Reid realized Whipple was ready to come back to college and call plays. It seemed the two knew Miami was where Whipple needed to be. Whipple said he first started receiving inquires in his interest at UM about three weeks ago from others close to the program down here.
"The thing I missed a little bit in the NFL was teaching and seeing people get better," Whipple said. "I think I have a lot to give this place and kids in general."
> Whipple will be more than just the offensive coordinator. He was hired and given the title of assistant head coach. That could very well mean Shannon has decided to take on the role of defensive coordinator.Nothing official, however, regarding Shannon's move to defensive coordinator was told to us by Whipple or any other sports information staff members.
> Whipple played his high school ball in Arizona and has spent most of his life in the northeast, but that doesn't mean he's not familiar with South Florida or the Canes. As a recruiter he said he spent a lot of time in Miami and Broward. He said the tradition of the Hurricanes has always intrigued him. He was actually at the Fiesta Bowl for UM's two national championship losses to Penn State (1986) and Ohio State (2002). He shared a story about how he spoke with Tom Brady at the Pro Bowl about the talented players coming out of UM -- including receiver Andre Johnson.
> How long Whipple sticks around UM remains to be seen. But there is no question he has aspirations of being an NFL head coach one day. He didn't tell reporters how much money he's being paid or how long his contract is for. But he talked plenty about winning championships. Whipple has obviously done a lot of it in his career with a I-AA title at UMass in 1998 and a Super Bowl title with the Steelers.
"To me it's about being the best," Whipple said. "I believe in saying, no one rises to low expectations. If you are playing for runner-up, you'll probably finish third. If you play for No. 1, it's probably the only way you'll be No. 1. You walk into Pittsburgh, you see the four Lombardi trophies you know what it's about. You walk into UM, you see the five national titles. You know what it's about. This is what I'm about."
> As for the type of offense he would like to run, Whipple said it will all depend on personnel. He said he watched tape of three UM games: FSU, Virginia and Cal and has some early impressions. He also got to know players a little during a team workout. But he's got to see what they can do on the field before deciding how he's going to run his offense: "Brian Westbrook is different than Jerome Bettis. Hines Ward is not the same as Desean Jackson," Whipple said. "It's a little bit of a mix and match. I got to see what our players are like. Do we have guys that can pull [block]? What are our quarterbacks like? What is Jacory comfortable with? To me, it's not what I like. I have an arsenal of plays. To me it's what you put up on the board. I've always had a good relationship with the players. I want to put guys in the best positions they can be in. I think its going to be a little bit of what Pittsburgh does with Hines Ward. It's going to be a little bit of what Arizona does with what I did with Whisenhunt. It's not how much I know, it's what our guys know. I learned you can always challenge guys more. I'm trying to make this place the best classroom they have. I want to make their football class the greatest classroom they have."
> UM released a few other quotes from folks in the NFL talking about Whipple. Here they are.
Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid: “On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles, I wish Mark and his family all the best in Miami and thank him for all of his contributions to the Eagles during this past year. He is an excellent football coach and has proven that on both the college and pro levels. He has a great opportunity in Miami and I’m sure he’ll be very successful with that program. He is a great addition to the University of Miami and will help them continue their high standard of football and academics.”
Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "Whip is a great coach and is the perfect fit for any coaching position at any school or team. I know he will do great things at Miami and help that program tremendously. He will help the players not just as a coach, but as a leader and a mentor to them. I have nothing but the upmost respect for Whip and what he stands for."
Former Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher: “Mark Whipple was without a doubt instrumental in the development of Ben Roethlisberger. He has a wealth of experience on the offensive side and is a great teacher and leader of young men.”
When it comes to recruiting, most of the information that ever really gets out about the high school player being brought into a signing class are the basic nuts and bolts. Position. Height. Weight. 40-time. Star count. Ranking. Along the way, we get some sort of an evaluation and hear footnotes. Questions might be raised about academics. We'll hear about his visits and if there is a chance he might not stay committed. And, finally, someone will try and tell us how long it might take before this recruit will be able to make an impact.
A lot more obviously goes into recruiting than that. Before coach Randy Shannon walks into a family's living room to deliver his home run sales pitch, his assistants do their research. When Clint Hurtt or Micheal Barrow stand on the sidelines at practices or at games, they are looking for more than just effort and big plays. They want to know about his character. They want to know: How does this recruit interact with his teammates? Is he a leader, a good follower or is he a selfish player? What are his eating and preparation habits? Does he work hard in the classroom and the weightroom? Is he a knucklehead? Can I trust him? Is he smart or are we going to have to babysit him?
The Miami Hurricanes picked up the 20th commitment of their 2009 class Monday night from Newark, Del. offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche. He became the fifth offensive lineman to pick UM, an important need for the Canes in this class. Look anywhere online, and you can find out Bunche is 6-5, 315 pounds, plays offensive tackle and is rated a 3-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout. Monday night, I went in search of a little more beyond the commitment. Unlike most of the players in South Florida whom I do get a chance to watch with my own eyes, I've never seen Bunche play. So, I'm not going to speak to his abilities. But I will share what I learned after talking to Malcolm, his mother Melinda Henry, and his coach Butch Simpson.
> Malcolm Bunche is more than a football player and All-State selection from Delaware. He's a 17-year old kid (he just turned 17 in October) with some pretty good athletic genes, who plays basketball and most recently took second place in the shot put at the Delaware State Track and Field championships. His family takes health and personal fitness extremely seriously.
His father Curtis Bunche was a defensive end and eighth round pick out of Albany State (Ga.) to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1979 draft. He spent a few seasons in the NFL before playing in the USFL with Chicago Blitz and then in the CFL. He's been an assistant coach Newark for two years. Malcolm's older sister Cetera was a long distance cross country and track runner at Hampton University, who eventually became an assistant coach Jacksonville University. His mother, Melinda Henry, is now a personal trainer and recently began competing in power lifting events at age 50. Henry won four gold medals at the Florida State championships in December (most in the bench press) and will compete here in Miami in the national championships Valentine's Day weekend.
Malcolm, who lives and trains with his father in Newark, has developed the same workout traits as his family. At 320 pounds, he has 16 percent body fat (FYI, Antonio Dixon came to UM at over 30 percent). Simpson said he warms up with 225 pounds (what players bench at NFL combines) and reps it 19 times without a breaking a sweat. Bunche said he benches 400 pounds, squats a little under 500 and power cleans 220 (Check back to my Andreu Swasey blog if you want to compare). Simpson said Bunche is always on time at 3 p.m. in the weight room Monday through Friday and takes weekends off.
As for his nutrition, Bunche said he takes his eating seriously and said he will only go out for fast food once a month when he wants to treat himself. "With my dad, we're always eating steak, fish, salmon, tilapia, chicken, mixing in power bars and muscle milk," Bunche said. "We also drink this really bad vegetable juice to flush out the system. I've always been taught if you take care of your body, your body will take care of you."
> Before his visit and before his gut told him commit to UM Monday, Bunche committed to Rutgers last summer. He said Hurricanes coaches -- especially offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland -- did a good job convincing him to take UM seriously. When he made his visit to UM this past weekend he came with more than just mom and dad. His sister and his uncle were along for the ride too. The Bunches said what caught them instantly was the family atmosphere.
"I didn't know Malcolm had met Coach Stoutland before, but what caught my eye was how he was interacting with him, pushing him around, tugging at him, like we do," Henry said. "It was really a great bonding experience. Malcolm hit it off right away with all of the other recruits. So much so, he made sure to call his quarterback [A.J. Highsmith] first he was committing. It's funny, even the mom's got close. I was even sharing a cheesecake with A.J.'s mom and I had just met her."
The trip had plenty of highlights for Malcolm and his family, including some nice dinners with other recruits. His first night, Malcolm said he had the Chicken Cordon bleu. The second night he had lobster tails and steak. He said he was so impressed by tour guide Orlando Franklin, he returned home and told his girlfriend he's thinking of shaving his head for a mohawk cut, too. But as good a time as the family had, what made the visit special according to Malcolm was the half hour of one-on-one time he spent with Shannon. "He was sincere in everything he said," Bunche said.
Henry said Shannon had already gotten to her when she came in for the unofficial visit with Malcolm last sumemr and said she was blown away when Shannon stepped up to his dry erase board and began diagraming his offensive line and exactly where he thought Bunche could fit in (right tackle) and showed him how he could come in and immediately help. As for Ms. Henry? She's ecstatic her son is going to be a Cane. So much so, she's already joined the First Coast Canes Club in Jacksonville. "All I know is I'm getting a new Saturn," Henry said. "and it's going to look so hot in Orange."
> Simpson, who has coached his fair share of talented players including former Canes defensive tackle Orien Harris, said he believes Bunche will eventually find his way to left tackle because of his quick feet and his strong upper body. Bunche's physique reminds Simpson of Orien's older brother of Kwame Harris, a former first round pick of San Francisco 49ers.
"The best thing about Malcolm is he's still a baby and his best days are ahead of him," Simpson said. "He's not just a big high school kid who is going to have to learn how to make adjustments. He can play. When coaches come in here and see him walking around in a tank top and shorts, they say to me coach this guy could be a fourth-year junior. He's going to need a little time to get adjusted to the speed. But he's got great passing blocking skills. I know he'll learn quickly."
> Bunche already has learned something quickly -- developing friendships and bonds with other recruits. Not only has he reached out to other recruits, but he said he plans on calling a few on the fence. No. 1 on the list? Running back Bryce Brown. "I've got Bryce's number, but I haven't had a chance to hit him up yet," Bunche said. When I call him up I'm planning on telling him I want to block for him, help him get his 3,000 yards and win the Heisman trophy. I know want him to know we all want him here."
> Want to know how committed Canes coaches are to recruits? Micheal Barrow attended Bunche's All-State dinner party knowing full well Bunche had already committed. According to Simpson, "He simply went to show Malcolm his support."
There's been a long stretch recently where every bit of Canes news coming out of Coral Gables has been causing fans to feel like reaching for Rolaids or Pepto Bismo. What started in about the second quarter of the Georgia Tech game, intensified with the firing for Patrick Nix, the troubled transfer of starting quarterback Robert Marve and reached its peak with last week's news that defensive coordinator Bill Young was leaving for Oklahoma State.
It looks like the stomach ache might be coming to an end. Monday afternoon, UM finalized its courtship with new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Then, in the evening, the Canes got more good news when they picked up an important recruiting commitment from a big-time player, 6-6, 322-pound offensive tackle Malcolm Bunche. Here's the best news: it may only be the beginning of a good Canes run.
With National Signing Day around the corner, the Hurricanes now look like they are on pace to sign another Top 10 class -- one that will likely still include the nation's No. 1 recruit after today's news. When East Wichita running back Bryce Brown recently reaffirmed his commitment to Miami, he mentioned he would be looking for two things -- good news on the coordinator front and good news among potential offensive line recruits. UM got both Monday.
> I'll have a more in-depth blog for you late tonight on Bunche. I spoke at length with his mother and his high school coach and have some good stuff to share. I also plan on being at Whipple's press conference tomorrow to give you the scoop from there.
Mark Whipple answered his phone Saturday night in Philadelphia and told our Barry Jackson he was deciding whether or not he would take the vacant offensive coordinator position offered to him by coach Randy Shannon. He even joked that in a week he'd either be in Miami or still with the Eagles staff coaching the NFC All-Stars in Hawaii.
All signs are pointing that Whipple has chosen Miami. Sunday night, when our Susan Miller Degnan called the Whipple home, his wife Brenda answered the phone. She said her husband was not there and would be unavailable. When asked if her husband had accepted the coordinator position at UM and was on his way to Miami, she politely said: "I think it would be up to them to give you that information. I really couldn't."
When reached by phone Sunday night, the University of Miami sports information department would not confirm if Whipple had been hired. But a staff member I spoke to said the hiring was imminent. "There's a only slight chance it won't happen," the source said.
That slight chance is likely passing a mandatory drug test and meetings with President Donna Shalala and athletic director Kirby Hocutt. Whipple told The Miami Herald Saturday he had discussed the possibility of replacing Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur with head coach Andy Reid. Reports out of Philadelphia and ESPN tonight said it looked like Whipple had already told the Eagles he was leaving the team to return to college. A representative with the Eagles late Sunday night could not be reached for comment.
Whipple spent 13 seasons as a head coach at the collegiate level at New Haven, Brown and UMass, where he won a I-AA national title in 1998 before moving onto the NFL for four seasons. He coached Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh to a Super Bowl title and spent this past season with the Eagles.
BANKUNITED CENTER -- I'm here at the BUC for today's showdown with the Hokies. I've come to realize the courtside blogs don't get much attention. So, I've decided to abandon them until we get into some bigger games later in the year (I'll try to keep up with Beyond The Boxscore blogs for you hoop fans for now).
Let's get to the football news. For those of you who missed it, Barry Jackson reached the Canes' leading cadidate to fill the offensive coordinator position, Mark Whipple. UM is waiting to see if Whipple will take the job. If not, the search will continue. I'm not going to speculate on any other names until Whipple officially declines.
As for immediate news, the first of two big recruiting weekends ended earlier this morning. Miami was able to pick up one new commitment from the group of eight visitors, linebacker/defensive end Shayon Green from Tift County, Ga. I caught up with Shayon when I got to the arena to ask him what happened over the weekend to make him switch his commitment from Purdue to the Canes.
"It was just a great visit. I saw it with my family and from the moment I got there I knew I wanted to be a Cane," Green said. "I had come here last year and stopped by and I liked it then. But after I talked with Coach Shannon, he made me realize this was the place I needed to be. I'm excited."
Green said he was hosted by linebacker Darryl Sharpton and said he spent a lot of time with Sean Spence during his visit. But he said the special relationship which helped UM sway him from Purdue and the other 15 offers he received during recruiting was his relationship with fellow Tifton County native Wesley McGriff, UM's secondary coach. The fact his grandparents lived in Homestead also helped.
Green said Miami coaches told him he'd likely start out at linebacker when he gets to UM in the summer. But he could play anywhere. At 6-3, 225 pounds with 4.67 speed, his high school coach played him at defensive tackle, defensive end and linebacker during his three seasons on the varsity level. As a senior playing mostly at linebacker, Green tallied 67 solo tackles, 48 assisted tackles, eight tackles for loss, one sack and one caused fumble.
"He's got a pretty good knack of getting off really well on the snap," his coach Jay Walls told me before the visit on Thursday. "I think you'll see him play [weakside] linebacker or defensive end. He's going to get bigger too. He'll probably get close to 250 pounds. We've got a real good weight program here already. He power cleans over 300 pounds and benches over 300 pounds and squats about 600. He's a good one."
> The other non-commitments UM hosted this weekend included linebacker Sam Barrington and offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche and Marcus Hall. I'm going to try and reach them or their coaches sometime this week. I know Barrington is expected to announce his decision Feb. 3.
The excitement surrounding the next football hire at the University of Miami reached the basketball court earlier today when coach Frank Haith opened his press conference with with an update. "I've got breaking news," Haith joked. "I'm taking the offensive coordinator job."
All jokes aside, somebody is expected to get the job soon (at least that is what I was told by a UM source inside). The hot name I and everyone else is hearing now in the last 24 hours is the one our Barry Jackson reported first a few weeks ago -- Philadelphia Eagles assistant coach Mark Whipple. I'm not saying that's definitely the guy, but that is the name emitting from just about everywhere.
Just so you know, I got off the phone with UM Sports Information Director Kerwin Lonzo at 4:15 p.m. who told me "we've got nothing to report yet." Lonzo promised me as soon as he hears something he'll get back to me and the other trillion news services who cover the Canes. Just so you know, I called the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this morning and spoke to their media relations department twice. No news from them either. I was told "all of our coaches are not in today."
The question is, is Whipple in the UM office today? "I know this, coach [Shannon's flight] got in late [earlier today]," Lonzo said. "We obviously have a big recruiting weekend. As soon as we get a chance to talk to him, we'll let you know if there is any news."
So, stay tuned. In the meantime...
Recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt, running backs coach Tommie Robinson and strength coach Andreu Swasey pulled off a nice surprise earlier this week when they were able to convince Missouri commitment U.S. Army-All American Sheldon Richardson (who grew up dreaming of playing for Miami) to agree on taking a visit to the University of Miami on the final recruiting weekend before National Signing Day.
Now, it looks like Hurtt may be on the verge of pulling off some more magic by getting the Defensive MVP of the Under-Armour All-American Game, blue-chip cornerback Greg Reid to take a visit to UM that same weekend. That is, if Reid (5-9, 175) backs out of his scheduled visit to Georgia. The Valdosta Lowndes standout has been getting tugged Miami's way for awhile now, especially after learning in late November he's actually related to another Canes recruit -- cornerback Jamal Reid.
"We actually found out in late November that our granddaddies were brothers," said Jamal Reid, who played against Greg Reid in the Under-Armour Game. "Our families are originially from Jasper and we never knew it. Ever since then, we got each other's cell phone numbers and have been talking to each other. I'll call him every now and then to tell him he should be a Cane with me. I was supposed to be visiting Miami this weekend, but I changed it so we could come together on the 30th. Hopefully, he can come with me."
Greg Reid originally committed to the University of Florida nearly a year ago but recently upset Gators coach Urban Meyer on his official visit to Gainesville when he told him he wanted to continue taking visits. He is supposed to be taking his final two visits to Alabama and Georgia the next two weekends.
As for Jamal Reid, he says he's keeping his fingers crossed his cousin will give the Canes a shot. "He’s a good athlete. He’s got great skills," said Jamal, who said Canes coaches have told him they are bringing him in to play wherever he can help UM the best -- receiver or corner. "He said he wants to get playing time wherever he goes. I told him what better place than Miami. They'll play you there as a freshman. The best man sees the field. I think it would be awesome for us to line up against each other every day in practice."
> For those of you crossing your fingers about possibly seeing Andre Debose pull a similar surprise and joining Reid and his two Sanford Seminole teammates on the last recruiting weekend of the year, don't hold your breath. I've been told Debose has made it clear to UM he's sticking with the Gators.
> Earlier today, I came out with what I thought was the right list of visitors for this weekend based on conversations I had with high school coaches and in some cases the players themselves. Turns out, some of my dates were a little mixed up. I was told the correct list of visitors for this weekend are: QB A.J. Highsmith (Fort Bend, Tx.), OL Cory White (Fleming Island, Fla.), OL Malcolm Bunche (Newark, Del.), OL Marcus Hall (Cleveland, Oh.), OL Jared Wheeler (Plantation American Heritage), DE Shayon Green (Tift County, Ga.), LB Sam Barrington (Jacksonville Parker) and CB Kayvon Webster (Monsingor Pace).
The visitors for the weekend of Jan. 30 are expected to be OL Andrew Tiller (Nassau CC, NJ), OL Peter White (Washington D.C., St. John’s College Prep), TE Sheldon Richardson (St. Louis, Mo.), CB Jamal Reid (Mayo Lafeyette), DE Dyron Dye (Sanford Seminole), DB Ray Ray Armstrong (Sanford Seminole) and DB Prince Kent (Norcross, Ga.). Greg Reid will join them if he decides to switch his visit (we could find out as early as tonight). Another possible surprise visitor could include former commitment and tight end Billy Sanders, who switched his commitment to UCLA but I'm told is now having second thoughts and UM is under the impression he will visit that weekend.
> As for the Bryce Brown drama, I was told by a staffer tonight the Hurricanes fully expect Brown to sign with UM on national signing day. But he has expressed interest to the coaching staff about knowing who the offensive coordinator will be. Brown could take a visit to UM on the weekend of the 30th too.
> Earlier today, I reported linebacker Greg King and tight end Terrell Mitchell as possible targets and visitors over the next two weeks. Consider them backup plans at this point. King's coach told me himself after I posted my earlier blog this morniing that UM coaches had been cooling off King, who is likely going to pick someone else anyway. Mitchell's coach told me they just began recruiting him last week. Smells like a fall back plan to me.
> Also of note, I was told earlier today Miami is not hell-bent on using all 27 scholarships on NSD. They could hold a few. As of now, I've been told UM coaches figure on only having 15 scholarships available for 2010.
It's going to be a big recruiting weekend for the University of Miami, an important one for the Hurricanes who are looking to impress some big-name recruits and fill some key needs. With a few late additions (and barring any last minute subtractions), it looks like Randy Shannon and his staff are going to host between 10 or 11 recruits. Six recruits are uncommitted and five have called themselves Canes' commitments for awhile. UM currently has 18 commitments. Shannon said his team could sign as many as 27 on National Signing Day Feb. 4.
The biggest new name added to the visitors' list and the news of the day? Tight end/defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who after getting a visit earlier this week from recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt, has agreed to make the trip down to Miami according to Scout.com. Richardson (6-4, 292) played in the U.S. Army All-American game and is considered one of the nation's best athletes. I confirmed with a source inside UM that Richardson is definitely considering Miami, a program he grew up admiring. It would be a huge steal if Miami were able to get him to decommit from Missouri, a program he has been committed to since the summer. But it could just end up being a joy trip for Richardson (update: Canesport reported late this afternoon Richardson will now be visiting the weekend of Jan. 30 and not the 23rd like Scout.com had reported). But you got to give Hurtt, who told me Tuesday he was in St. Louis, credit for at least bringing Richardson to town.
While Richardson's visit is good news for the Canes, the bigger story this weekend will involve the three nationally-rated offensive linemen scheduled to be here, too. They are 6-6, 320-pound Malcolm Bunche (a Rutgers commitment) of Newark, Del., 6-5, 325-pound Peter White (considering Miami, Maryland and Tennessee) of St. John's College Prep in Washington, D.C., and 6-5, 295-pound Marcus Hall of Cleveland Glenville High (who is coached by Dolphins receiver Ted Ginn's father and will be tough to convince from leaving behind nearby Ohio State).
BUNCHE UPDATE, 6 p.m.: I got a phone call back from Bunche's high school coach this evening, who gave me a little insight into Malcolm and the relationship he has with Miami. Newark High coach Butch Simpson told me Bunche (who orally committed to Rutgers earlier this year before decommitting) has establish a great relationship with UM offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland throughout the recruiting process. In fact, Simpson has history not only with UM, but Stoutland, too. Newark is where former Canes defensive tackle Orien Harris played. Stoutland tried to recruit Harris to Michigan State and developed a good relationship with Simpson then. Simpson said Bunche, whose father played in the NFL and CFL, had a good visit with Randy Shannon on Tuesday and said he will probably wait about a week after his visit to make his final choice between the Canes, Rutgers and Maryland (both of whom visited Bunche Thursday at school).
The Hurricanes currently have four offensive line commitments. Two former prep school standouts are already on campus in former Miami Northwestern standout Brandon Washington (6-5, 320) and former St. Thomas Aquinas player Jermaine Johnson (6-6, 330). The other two, Plantation American Heritage's Jared Wheeler (6-6, 310) and Fleming Island's Cory White (6-5, 250) will also visit this weekend. Coach Randy Shannon is looking to ink between 6 or 7 linemen in this signing class. The Hurricanes are expected to host 6-6, 350-pound junior college prospect Andrew Tiller on the final recruiting weekend of the year Jan. 30.
I caught up with White's high school coach, Neal Chipoletti, this afternoon, who told me Miami wants White to be 270 pounds by the time he arrives in the summer or he could end up being moved to tight end. He played left tackle all season for Fleming Island.
As for the other non-committed visitors, Miami will host three players who are considered more under the radar talents: 6-2 1/2, 218-pound outside inebacker Sam Barrington of Jacksonville Parker High, 6-3, 225-pound defensive end Shayon Green of Tift County, Ga., and 6-3, 202-pound linebacker Greg King of Memphis' Melrose High (the same school which produced current UM running back Graig Cooper). FYI, of the three, King is the only iffy arrival at this point (his coach called me later Wednesday and said he could also end up visiting the 30th. Tight end Terrell Mitchell, a 6-6, 230-pound prospect, from Powder Springs', Ga. will now visit January 30th (I was previously told it was going to be this weekend).
I caught up with the coaches of Barrington and Green Thursday before lunch to get their insights into their players and their impending visits.
> Parker coach Jim Scrible, who has coached 45 Parade All-Americans in his near 40 years of coaching including former Florida running back Willie Green, said Barrington is as good as any he's ever coached. Barrington had more than 100 tackles on defense as a linebacker, but also ran for 1,250 yards with an 11-yard average as a running back.
"Sam Barrington is a spectacular person. That’s where it all needs to start," Scrible said. "He has tremendous ability to elevate people around him as a person. There’s a lot of cats running around, Rivals 5-star, this that and whatever. Sam is a spectacular leader. He’ll make the locker room better for being there. Now, as a football player, got all the physical tools. He’s a hitter, got a good motor. I’ve had many Parade All-Americans in 45 years and he ranks up there with him. He’s projected in my mind to have a great career."
This will be Barrington's final recruiting trip. He's already made visits to Illinois and South Florida. Scrible said Barrington has a connection with an Illinois assistant coach, who is a Jacksonville native, but says Miami is definitely in the picture even though the Hurricanes got in a bit late. "He wouldn't be wasting their time if he wasn't serious," Scrible said. "That's not Sam."
> Green has been orally committed to Purdue, but appears to be seriously considering the Canes. His high school coach Jay Walls said Green has to be interested in the Canes because he's turned down other teams and visits before. The reason he likes Miami? A bond with UM defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff, a Tifton native himself. Green has played all over the field in high school, lining up as an interior defensive lineman as a sophomore, a weakside linebacker as a junior and most recently as defensive end. He had 67 solo tackles, 48 assisted tackles, 8 TFL, 1 quarterback sack and caused 1 fumble as a senior.
"Everybody has recruited him as a will linebacker or maybe a rush end kind of guy on passing situations and bring him off the edge," said Walls, who has his own Canes' connection having coached former cornerback Kelly Jennings and senior Bruce Johnson when he was a high school coach in the Florida Panhandle. "He does have a pretty good knack of getting off really well off the snap. I think you’ll see him play will linebacker or defensive end. He’s going to get bigger too. He’ll probably get close to 250 by the time he's a freshman."
> Of the commitment who will be visiting -- Wheeler, White, cornerback Jamal Reid, quarterback A.J. Highsmith and cornerback Kayvon Webster -- the trip will be most important for Webster. He has been a "soft commitment" and entertained thoughts of possibly switching to the University of South Florida, where a few other high school teammates could end up.
> As for Terrell Mitchell (who I had previously included in this weekend's list of visitors) McEachern coach Kyle Hockman told me he is now coming on January 30th. Mitchell is visiting Michigan this weekend. Coach Micheal Barrow has been the one courting Mitchell for Miami (here's what Mitchell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the Canes two days ago.)
“Miami didn’t start recruiting him until last weekend and they haven’t communicated with me a whole lot, but they know Terrell is talented,” Hockman said. “He’s an NFL player. He’s 6-6, 230, can run and catch and block. He’s a big time player. He had like eight touchdowns and 27 catches and blocked great for us all season. He’s got to get his test score up to be eligible up. He needs 60 more points. But we think he’ll get there. He’ll be visiting Michigan this weekend. He’s been to Kentucky, had offers from Arkansas and Georgia. Clemson and Kentucky are the only official visits. People are certainly interested.”
** Look for any other updates I might get (I'm waiting on a few phone calls) in this same blog or in our response section below.
Jacory Harris joked with reporters Wednesday, telling them to prepare to see the Incredible Hulk take the field next fall. Harris definitely didn't arrive at college looking like The Hulk. As a freshman, he was not even supposed to be doing much more than helping Robert Marve in a backup role.
But Wednesday, a little more than a year after he first began taking classes at the University of Miami, Harris was standing in front of the media with a bigger role than most expected him to have this early in his career. He is no longer Marve's backup, no longer Plan 1B. He is the man -- and in a way much bigger than many other Canes quarterback before him. Harris, who will turn 19 in May, is now the leader of this team. He is the voice in the locker room, the huddle, the one his teammates will turn to when the tough gets going from now on. He is the guy shouldering the hopes and dreams of Canes fans, who are tired of the losing and starving for success. And the truth is he'll have to be as strong as the Hulk to carry the weight.
"To be the starting quarterback at the University of Miami is every kid's dream," Harris said. "You grow up watching UM on TV, the swagger they had, the NFL players the have. It's something so special that you want to be a part of it. I'm happy I am."
Jacory talked about a lot of things Wednesday during his half hour press conference. His dreams (winning championships). His weight. His injured shoulder. His friends Patrick Nix and Robert Marve (he said he was surprised both left). What he hopes Miami gets in its new offensive coordinator. What he tells visiting recruits about the future at Miami. How he really felt last season while sitting behind Marve. What went wrong at the end of the Emerald Bowl (he called it a case of miscommunication). Here are some of the highlights.
> First, his health. Harris told us Wednesday he expects to be fully healthy for the start of the spring (it looks like Feb. 24 will be the day). As we all suspected, he did re-injure his shoulder on the final play of the first half in the Emerald Bowl. Harris, who has been going to rehab 2 to 3 times a day, reassured us that while he still feels it a little bit "I've got my regular strength back. I'm 100 percent for the spring."
> As for his height and weight, Harris said people have been telling him he looks a little taller, but he hasn't measured himself. He did weigh himself, though, and said he's up to 186 pounds from 176 at the bowl game. He said by the start of next season he would like to weight at least 190, 195 pounds. He would like to leave UM (after he gets his degree) weighing 215.
> In regards to UM's offensive coordinator search, Harris said he has remained in contact with coach Randy Shannon on a regular basis and that he puts all his trust in Shannon. Ultimately, Harris said, all he wants is someone who will help him get to the NFL, "whatever style of offense" it takes. As for having to learn a new offense, Harris doesn't expect it to be too hard.
"It wasn't a problem for me last year," Harris said. "I learned the whole playbook in the spring. Summer and two-a-days was there to sharpen my knowledge. My role will be a teacher - I was a teacher this year too. I've got a lot in my small head. I'm a visual learner, so if you put it on the board I'll learn it."
> Harris admitted he's been a bit concerned while the Hurricanes have been undergoing major changes on its coaching staff. But he said he's done a lot of thinking and has come to the idea coaches aren't what make up a program, rather it is the players. And that's the message he has been delivering to recruits, who have voiced their similar concerns to him.
"I really don't think we're starting over because the nucleus of the team is here, and that's the players," Harris said. "I'll [the recruits] you can't worry about this coach here, this coach there, because if that coach has a down year and the school decides to fire him then you'll be with a different coach the next four years. You got to decide based on the coaches that are there, have fun with the player and whatever vibe you get from the players that's what school you should go to. That's how I picked my school, whoever I was most comfortable with."
> As for the two-quarterback system, consider Harris happy it is over with. Harris shared a story with reporters about how he was a bit down with the situation before the Duke game last year. He said his performance helped lift his spirits. "I learned you got to put your ego behind you," Harris said. "Even though I didn't start the next week, I knew I helped us win the game. I played and was able to win a game for my team and that's all I wanted to do."
> As for his backups, Harris had nothing but glowing comments. He said he watched Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith at times compete with the scout team last year and came away impressed. He plans to be supportive in helping them each come along. He said Cook has the strongest arm of any quarterback "He can probably throw the whole football field," Harris said.
Is there any news on the offensive coordinator front? Do we know who has been interviewed or contacted?
In short, my answer is no. I have nothing concrete from anyone at UM. Randy Shannon has always been somebody who keep his thoughts close to the vest. What I do know is the vacancy could be filled by Friday. Here is what I'm hearing in terms of candidates along with what is being reported by others across the country.
> From conversations I've had with sources, the No. 1 guy on Shannon's OC wish list has been Eagles offensive assistant coach Mark Whipple. The former coach at UMass won a I-AA national title and has a Super Bowl ring as Ben Roethlisberger's position coach in 2006. Whipple, 50, has spent his entire coaching career in the Northeast (except for one season with the Arizona Wranglers of the USFL in 1984). That reason, and because he's now been in the NFL since 2004 (once you move up you rarely see guys move back down to college) makes me believe he'll likely pass -- or has passed -- on the job. Also of note, an early morning report Wednesday out of Philadelphia said Eagles quarterbacks coach Mark Shurmur is leaving for the Rams offensive coordinator job. Whipple could become his replacement in Philly.
> I've been told the new top candidate is Rutgers offensive coordinator John McNulty. I received a phone call Tuesday night from a friend very deeply connected in the coaching circles who said McNulty has been offered the job at Miami and is now mulling it over. McNulty, 40, previously interviewed for the UM job in 2007. He passed and returned to Rutgers with a pay raise. Last year, McNulty interviewed with Nick Saban at Alabama and returned to Rutgers again.
From what I was told, McNulty passed on the UM job the first go around because of the lack of talent on the offensive side of the football. Now, he likes what he sees (except for the offensive line). McNulty apparently would like to bring assistant coach Kyle Flood with him. Rutgers gave up the fewest sacks in the nation under Flood in 2007 and 2006. As for McNulty, Rutgers set school records for total offense (5,841 yards), points scored (421) and first downs in his first full season in 2007. The Knights also became the first Bowl Subdivision team to boast a 3,000-yard passer, a 2,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers in the same year.
> Other names have popped up aside from those two. The ones who might appear to have some substance are former Minnesota and Syracuse offensive coordinator Mitch Browning, Cleveland Browns quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer, former San Diego State coach Chuck Long and Ron Prince, formerly of Kansas State. Long told The Miamih Herald he has had no contact with UM. Browning is apparently considering joining Lane Kiffin's new staff at Tennessee and Prince will likely end up in the NFL. Scherer signed a deal to be the quarterbacks coach with the Carolina Panthers Tuesday.
We waited all afternoon to hear what Randy Shannon was going to say about losing his defensive coordinator. He released the following statement -- I consider the ending a bit eye-opening -- a few moments ago.
“I appreciate Bill’s contributions to our football program and thank him for that," Shannon said. "I understand and respect Bill’s strong ties to his alma mater and his family’s ties to Oklahoma. I wish him and his wife, Lawana nothing but the best. I will be looking for the best possible defensive coordinator to replace him. If that candidate is not out there, those responsibilities will fall to me.”
Shannon told us when he first fired Tim Walton he preferred to find someone to coach the defense because being a head coach brought on too much responsibility. Now, it appears Shannon may be welcoming the idea.
As for Bill Young, this is what he said through UM's sports information department.
“I could not have worked for a finer man than Coach Shannon. It was a privilege to be associated with him and be part of an outstanding staff of coaches. Coach Shannon welcomed me and my family into the program from day one. I don’t think everyone realizes the caliber of kids that play at Miami. Not only are they great athletes but their character is what stands out the most and is something I will remember. The draw to go back home, be near family and coach at my alma mater was just too great to pass up."
The Miami Hurricanes are looking for a defensive coordinator -- again. As expected, Bill Young has left the program to join his alma mater Oklahoma State, the school's website announced moments ago. Young, 62, wasn't answering his phone Tuesday. Now, we know why. He was on his way to join the Cowboys.
Young played defensive end and linebacker for OSU from 1965 to 1967. So, it's understandable why he left. And although there is a strong belief he might have bolted for what was reported as a $700,000 annual paycheck I was told that number was a little high. I was also told by a UM source Young was the second highest paid defensive coordinator in the ACC.
I know I was supposed to have a live chat with you today at 2 p.m., but I've been swamped following this story, the men's basketball team and more. I'll get to your questions by the end of the night and apologize for not getting to them earlier.
As for recruiting, don't expect Young's departure to affect it much, if at all. While opposing programs may try to paint a picture of instability, Young was hardly involved in the recruiting process with kids at all. In fact, I spoke to cornerback Prince Kent moments ago who told me he hadn't even met Young or spoken to him before. Kent will be one of four commitments and 10 recruits visiting UM this coming weekend.
"I'm for whatever coach Shannon does," Kent said. "I know he's going to lead our team in the right direction, no matter what's going on. He's going to keep the team focused. He's setting high goals and he knows what this team is capable of. I'm sure coach Young was a good guy. But he's not why I wanted to come to UM."
If you haven't heard by now, the University of Miami is dangerously close to having to find a replacement for another coordinator position. Oklahoma State has come after defensive coordinator Bill Young, offering him $700,000 to leave the program -- much more than he currently makes with the Canes. Even the highest paid coordinators rarely make more than $500,000.
RALEIGH -- The Hurricanes had an opportunity Saturday night to really make a statement in front of the nation. It didn't exactly work out. North Carolina stormed back from a nine-point first half deficit and made the Canes look ordinary in a 82-65 victory at the Dean Dome. The extraordinary? That was provided by freshman DeQuan Jones. All the Canes lost to fall to 2-2 in the ACC, there was some good to come out of it -- as well as some bad. We'll break it all down in Beyond The Boxscore.
> GAME BALL: Carolina's Wayne Ellington. I wasn't overly impressed with the Tar Heels Saturday night. I actually think they were better last year -- at least more focused. What made the Tar Heels look good in the end was Ellington, who went off for 23 points in the second half, drilling a career-high seven three-pointers to turn a close game into a breeze. Tyler Hansbrough finished with 24 points and seven rebounds and scored 20 of Carolina's 36 first half points. Right now, he's really the only Tar Heel playing like a superstar on a regular basis. That should tell you just how good Carolina is.
> PLAY OF THE GAME: DeQuan Jones' first half super-funkafied up-and-under dunk. It was more than just the Play of the Game. It was the Play of the Day on SportsCenter. If someone finds a highlight of it on YouTube, please link it. The dunk was spectacular, better than anything any Cane has ever done. It wasn't the only athletic play Jones made. He also volleyball spiked a Carolina shot into the third row. Jones got the start in place of Brian Asbury Saturday, a move Frank Haith made to try and get the young guy jump-started. He scored eight points and played well. But Jones still has a ways to go in terms of locating guys in transition defense and his shot. He's shot more than a few airballs this year and seems to put the ball up a little too hard. But you got to like some of those flashes tonight. Maybe, its the start of something special for Jones.
> TALKING STRATEGY: We knew what Miami's weakness was coming into this game -- transition defense. The Canes did a good job getting back early to stop the fast break. But will killed UM down the stretch was what Roy Williams did to stretch Miami's zone defense thin, asking his players to make long passes and set screens which allowed open shots for guys like Ellison. The Tar Heels also put the clamps on Jack McClinton, throwing a mix of guys at him to get him tired.
> INSIDE THE NUMBERS: The ugly numbers of the night belonged to Canes point guard Lance Hurdle, who finished 0-for-7 from the field, with no points, three assists and two turnovers. Last year, Hurdle had a career-high 20 points.
> PUTTING IT IN PERSPECTIVE: Haith made it a point in his post game press conference to say his players decided to turn the game into a battle of one-on-one when things got bad. I'm not sure who he might have been pointing the finger at, but he followed up by saying his team isn't good enough to win that way. Haith is right. They aren't. But they still were playing pretty well against the most talented team in the country and we're leading before they unraveled.
Here's the bottom line, Miami isn't talented enough to beat Top 10 teams on most nights. But they certainly are experienced enough and good enough when they play as a team to make the NCAA tournament again. They just can't afford any mishaps against teams they should beat. That includes the next four -- vs. FSU, Virginia Tech, at N.C. State and Maryland -- before Wake Forest and North Carolina visit and Miami goes on the road at Duke. If the Canes can be 6-5 in ACC play by the time Feb. 18 rolls around, than the Canes will be more than capable of reaching the tournament.
RALEIGH -- I'm sitting in my hotel room here in chilly North Carolina waiting for tonight's prime time showdown at the Dean Dome and listening to the radio back home. And, shockingly enough, despite the fact Frank Haith's team is playing in huge game tonight, UM football is still dominating the airwaves.
I'll keep feeding the beast. As I told you last night, I still had plenty of left overs from the time I spent with Canes strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey. I know there are still a lot of questions out there about what exactly he does with his players, what his focus is on workouts and how exactly UM compares to other programs. While I'd love to have the weight room numbers for USC, LSU, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and any other top BCS school, I cover the University of Miami. That's where I got my info from. If I get the chance in the next couple months to compare and contrast the program with others I will. But for now, you'll have to settle for what I got from my time with Swasey this week.
Here's my warning -- it's a long read. But if you really want to know the ins and outs of his strength program from what they do through each phase, who Swasey's influences were, what he thinks of the program and its direction and much more -- you'll read it.
Q: Who would you consider your biggest influences in coaching, is there somebody you shadowed your program after?
A: Mainly I'd say the discipline part of it is my biggest influence. Growing up at Carol City with Coach [Walt] Frasier and the discipline I learned from him. There is a lot of carryover too from the time I spent with track, plus what I studied over time.
I learned from [former UM strength coach] Darryl Hewlett. God rest his soul. He ended up passing away. He gave me an opportunity when I first got here [in 1997]. Even though his philosophy and things he did were totally different from my philosophy, I learned from him. I learned some things from Tommy Moffett [now at LSU]. I learned a lot from him.
Q: How would you say your philosophy is different from those guys?
A: Hewlett is totally opposite. He ran HIT, which is high intensity training. We do Olympic Style lifting which is free weights with multiple sets. There are some things I did learn from Dale. But HIT, you didn't do Olympic lifts, you aren't going power clean. It was a bunch of machines that are controlled. I ain't doing that.
Q: So what are the benefits of Olympic style, free weight lifting?
A: Power and speed. It's a track based system. You are talking about recruiting the most power and speed. HIT, you are going to get it from absolute strength and controlled weight. That one is set to failure. We're dealing with multiple sets here. Moffett's program and ours, your dealing with a lot of similarities. It's basically the same.
Q: A lot of people look at the program and see that its gone from national champion to where it is today. Everybody wants to point fingers and some people point it at you. Have you changed your strength and conditioning program at all?
A :As far as the basic work, it hasn't changed much. To be successful, it's about constantly doing what you do. To be honest, if it changed so much, I wouldn't have so many kids come back after leaving for the National Football League. The consistency is what they respect about the program.
Q: Do you have the same workouts for every player or does it vary by position?
A: Every coach wants their big skill athletes to be just as strong and just as fast their small skill [athletes]. And they also want their small skill to be just as strong and fast as their big skill. There's a balance. In the game of football you have to be strong and you have to be powerful and you got to be able to run.
Q: In terms of what the kids are doing, maybe the easiest thing to do is compare player by player what the kids on this team did last year in your program versus the last time you won a championship. Are the strength numbers, speed numbers the same?
A: To go player by player for what we have right now, you are comparing and its that's hard to compare freshman to seniors. I'd be comparing Ed Reed to a freshman or sophomore like a [Vaughn] Telemaque. But if I was to compare him to Randy Phillips, strength numbers they compare to Ed just as strong. I mean being in the program for four years, Randy [Phillips] is strong. He's benching 315, squating mid 500s. Antrel [Rolle] squated about mid 450s. Randy is just as strong. [Ed] Reed wasn't as strong in the legs, but he was strong in the upper body.
I think everybody has their different strengths. I mean, I can see the comparisons. Roscoe Parris to Travis Benjamin. Roscoe came to me about 140 to 145, now he's like 175. Travis came to me, oh lord, 150 to 155. You are talking about in one year Travis is probably up to the mid 160s, 170. But his body type is compatible to a Roscoe Parrish.
You take a Santana Moss, to me he's like Pimp [Thearon Collier] because of the strong lower body. I've been here long enough, I can take each kid and compare and contrast with. Andre Johnson left at 232 as a junior, but came in at 205. Aldarius came in right at 200. You got that going a little bit.
Me, personally, I hate the comparisons. Aldarius is Aldarius. Travis is Travis. I want kids to have their own identity. I do want Travis trying to be Roscoe Parrish. He's going to be good enough he'll be Travis Benjamin. Aldarius is going to be good enough to be Aldarius. I know we got some great kids right now. I can look at the scale, tell you how strong they are. I just know they're on the path of getting us back to where we want to get back to.
I mean, [Jonathan] Vilma came in here 190 pounds. He ran a 4.91 in the 40-yard dash and ended up working his way up. Spence, he came in 193 pounds. He was just like Vilma was. Now, he's already up fluctuating between 205 and 208. Kellen Winslow came in here 215 and left 255 as a junior. I can give you Epps, who came in 228 or 230 and now he's at 252. The program is set when start going through the numbers. Epps is can run a 4.5 just like they did. You got a lot of symmetry, a lot of comparisons. If you go to quarterback, you take Ken Dorsey came here 160-something and left at 195. Jacory came in 166 and he's already at 185. Some guys are actually ahead of the curve. I mean can compare and contrast all day. We just got to give a kid time to get into the system and develop.
Q: Can you talk about how your program is structured. Do you have phases, times where you focus on strength more than speed or conditioning more than other things?
A: We basically got five phases. It starts before spring ball, right now when class begins Jan. 20
Phase I is the six to eight weeks before we start spring ball. Basically, this is the time when you're trying to develop as much strength, speed and power as you can. It's not as much conditioning here. You are trying to recruit as much mass and muscle as you can. That's what helped Jacory and Spence and all those guys that came in early. That's why it's important to get the young guys in early. If you look at the season, you saw those kids hold up because they had a good base. They were able to put on the weight and able to endure the early development phase. We spend four days a week doing this, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Throughout it, we'll do multiple agility drills, we'll use the sandpit. I work on acceleration stuff, doing sled pulls. This phase is nothing but strength, power and speed. I could care less about conditioning at this point because I'm just trying to make them physically bigger.
With the lifting, you got to shock the body so you can continually develop kids. Muscle has memory. You always got to continue to shock the body to allow it to continue getting stronger. We got to two upper body days -- Monday and Thursday -- to do that and then power and leg days on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Now, when spring practice begins we hit Phase II. We go to a three-day workout because they're practicing. You are not really cutting back on workouts because they're practicing, but you are still hitting [the weights]. At this point, we're still looking to recruit muscle mass. But now we also go into more agility drills.
As soon as spring ball is over, we hit Phase III and go back to a four day program. We'll go back into the weight room for another six weeks and work again on muscle mass recruitment, concentrating on strength and size because when you get back from your little summer break, you are going to work even harder.
Q: And this is all mandatory, this phase after spring ball?
A: [Laughter] This is not voluntary. This is what's required. This is what comes with it territory.
So, then after that, they get about a 2-3 week break. We have a discussionary period, I talk to them give them feed back and I send them home with a workout over the break for them to do continuously. I tell them, an active break is the best break. And I'll change it up a little, maybe make them workout with dumbbells to change the monotony of it.
So after that break, we go into Phase IV in the summer time. Now, we got more blocked time [because there is no school]. We go back to a four day workout.
Now is when we're trying to put it all together, strength, speed, endurance, conditioning, plyometrics. Now, you are trying to peak and get the guys ready for the coaches. Now, when the coaches get them in August, they're not passing out and falling out in two-a-days. Wednesday is a day we'll come in and do stretching and 7-on-7. Players set that up on their own -- Wednesday and Saturdays. That phase is everything in one.
Q: At this point you are the only one having contact with them. When you go out and watch the 7-on-7 what are you looking for?
A: For me, I'm just monitoring the injuries. I'm hard on guys who get hamstrings or anything at this point. Really, all I'm making doing is making sure everything ties together.
Now, Phase V is when the season starts. Here, you want to try to continue what you were doing. Now, you are not going to maintain the same pace like the other phases. All you are doing is just trying to try and add a little bit to maintain what you earned. The program is setup on Sundays after games and we end up working out Wednesdays and Thursdays. This is the block times where kids come in at different hours of the day. They sign up for their workout times and hold them accountable to be there when they say they will. Now, that's only a sophomore or higher. If your [butt] is a freshman, you come in with me at 6:45 a.m.
Q: So how do you plan the lifting workouts? Do guys max out all the time? What are they actually doing during a work out?
A: Basically, based on their testing, I give them a sheet with their information. If you max 252 on your power clean max, you'll lift a certain percentage of weight for x amount of reps and work your way up to the max. It's built to make you stronger. Basically, you are given an upper body day and then a lower body day, rotate four days a week.
I mean basically, this is a game of collisions and everybody needs to get padded. I don't know anybody who has played the game of football without being padded up in terms of muscle mass. So, everybody is going to benefit from this.
I look at it like this, genetically a kid is going to come in like Vernon Carey or Orlando Franklin. But if I can get Orlando to move just as fast a guy and just as powerful as a guy at a skill position, Orlando becomes a better football player. That's my philosophy. I want to help every athlete increase their first step.
You talked to the new guys around here. The one thing he finds intriguing is the strength and endurance our guys have. He was lifting weights and saying I don't know how they can keep going. My goal is a better conditioned athlete. Bigger, faster, stronger is always going to out-do a guy who is not in shape and a guy who is not strong. I want every athlete to develop coordination and develop that first step. Because every position you want to be able to beat somebody to the punch
whether its o-line, d-line, tight end, DBs, linebackers. So, why wouldn't I do that for everybody.
Like Bosher. Let's say I got Bosher on a whole different program. Why? What if Bosher needs to make a tackle as a kicker? Power is power. So when you leave here, this is my theory, they're going to get better at football at their own specific position. As a strength coach, my job is to make sure that everybody has a great first step and that they're powerful and strong and in great shape. It's my job to get them to the coaches like that.
Q: How do you feel about people blaming you?
A: It's hard to get upset if you didn't have results. If I wasn't getting results from what I was doing, I could get upset. I understand where we're at. Nobody is happy with the losses right now and I'm not happy. I was here in 1997 when were 5-6 and I watched the development. I've been here long enough to know that I have patience to see where we're headed and where we're going.
If you go through history with programs, there's going to be times when things are great and not great. New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, the University of Miami. We're a high profile program where excellence is the way and championships is the only success rate measured. And so when you have been at the stage for awhile and you aren't winning championships, you are going to get criticized. And It's OK. You got to understand the nature of the beast. It's what comes with Miami. I've been here long enough to know where we need to be at. All the greats get down before they get up and I think our time is coming back around. I see the kids we have coming in. You look at our young guys and the number one thing Coach Shannon preaches is the depth of the program. He's trying to create the depth. He's been here, won championships, played in championships. I've been there with him and he understands the formula.
At the same time, I think it takes a little time for chemistry to get involved. You got to have the chemistry and the development of the kids and I think that's where we're at. I think we're headed in the right direction. Staff chemistry, staff continuity -- all that plays a part in winning games.
Q: What do you like about the players you are getting?
A: The one thing you're doing is taking care of home. He's taking a lot of our guys in our own backyard. If I bring up the Jon Vilmas, Willis McGahees, he's getting the kids from our backyard. The same trend happened when we we're 5-6. You recruited all the local guys and went out and handpicked a guy from Texas, Louisiana and California. I think in the last two years you can't argue we didn't do that. He really took care of Florida. I see the trend coming back and creating the depth.
Q: Who excites you the most of the young guys?
A: What excites me are the qualities they're bringing. They're real young. Weight room is mental. It starts with the mental game. Mentally, they're starting right. That's what I love about this group. You got Marcus Robinson, Marcus Forston. You are adding Allen Bailey to the group. We're adding all these kids in -- with vets like Eric Moncur.
When you got these type of guys together, what your creating is depth and chemistry of guys being very supportive around each other. When the kids took control with the chemistry and developed a closeness. That's what Jacory Harris, Aldarius, the Booker T. kids are bringing -- that hunger, that fire. They know each other. That's what happened earlier. You sprinkle in an Ed Reed from Louisiana or a [Vaughn] Telemaque] now, you're getting back to the chemistry and the development you want in the weight room. That's what I'm looking at more importantly. The development is going to take care of itself. They've done a great job genetically and mentally getting kids in here. I see the comparisons. Roscoe Parrish and Travis Benjamin. All these kids are coming in. I'm seeing a lot of that. My thing is the chemistry is first. Development is the last of my worries, that's going to work. That's going to take care of itself.
> FYI, one final note... As far as testing goes, Swasey only tests the 40 once -- in the summer. He tests strength and power numbers twice (during the first phase and again in the summer).
If you haven't seen the story I wrote on UM strength and condtioning coach Andreu Swasey yet, here's the link. This week, I spent two days with Swasey as he prepared seniors (as well as a collection of other football players from other colleges) for Pro Day. Inside his gym were players from Louisville, Memphis, Mississippi State -- even former Canes who transferred out like James Bryant and Charlie Jones and were granted returns to train by Randy Shannon.
For all of us that like to pretend we know what we're talking about when we jump onto a blog or an internet message board, I learned a lot about Swasey and his program. One, he's a genuinely good person. Two, there probably isn't a strength and conditioning coach in the country who comes better recommended.
When I asked Swasey if he might be able to set me up with phone interviews with some of his former players and other Pro Bowlers whom he trains during the offseason, I was thrown the gauntlet. And many of them were more than happy to talk about their mentor. Jonathan Vilma and Sinorice Moss responded to me within hours of my initial text message. Andre Johnson, Jon Beason and Reggie Wayne did too. They all love Swasey, respect him like he was a father and firmly believe he's as big a reason as any they are in the league.
While I understand the frustrations of fans who have lost their patience with this program, they need to realize -- as I did -- Swasey is probably not at fault for the 19-19 record over the past three years. In fact, he's probably the guy fans should be happy isn't gone. Swasey in all honesty could care less about proving it to you. He didn't want to do the interview or even be part of the story. When I asked him if he had heard the criticism from fans, he simply said: "If I didn't have confidence in the job I was doing and knew I wasn't helping these guys, I wouldn't be doing it anymore. But I know I am." And he is.
There were a lot of facts and figures that never got included with my online story tonight, numbers and statistics Swasey pulled out of his file cabinet for me. They weren't fudged, either. They all still were in the same pen color they were written when he first jotted them down. No scratches. No corrections. Just the numbers. Here's a close look at some of the charts I compiled.
> For all the talk we've heard about the Canes being weaker than the teams of the past, here are some team strength averages Swasey dusted off for me. When Miami won the national title in 2001, the Canes were squating an average of 411 pounds, power clean lifting 270 pounds and benching 320. Surprisingly, not that far off the 2008 team.
Year Squat Power Bench Record
2008 410 272 309 7-6
2007 422 268 291 5-7
2006 476 293 313 7-6
2005 398 267 292 9-3
2004 395 269 332 9-3
> In terms of individual improvement, Swasey and I spent about an hour researching the 2006 recruits to get a sampling of how players have improved from the day they arrived at UM until the team's last testing in the summer. While everyone may not be putting up amazing numbers, you can see clearly improvement in their physical performance.
Athlete Yr. Ht Wt Sqt Pow Bch 40 Vrt. Shuttle
Matt Bosher '06 6-0 185 315 242 275 4.80 30 NA
Kicker '08 6-0 200 450 301 315 4.70 33.5 4.35
Dedrick Epps '06 6-4 238 375 220 280 4.75 33 4.40
Tight end '08 6-4 252 480 318 335 4.62 38 4.35
Joel Figueroa '06 6-5 345 455 200 350 5.4 28 5.17
Guard '08 6-5 336 520 308 425 5.1 32 5.03
Chavez Grant '06 5-10 169 345 200 205 4.78 32 4.41
Cornerback '08 5-11 182 390 242 255 4.65 36.5 4.12
Ryan Hill '06 6-0 185 365 264 265 4.53 33 4.28
Safety '08 6-0 203 425 286 295 4.43 34.5 4.06
Jav. James '06 6-0 200 500 220 260 4.56 35 4.3
Running back '08 6-0 217 545 318 325 4.51 36.5 4.31
C. McCarthy '06 6-1 214 350 242 245 4.65 33 4.18
Linebacker '08 6-3 236 415 301 335 4.58 38 4.38
Sam Shields '06 5-11 166 345 200 235 4.35 35 4.28
Receiver '08 6-0 192 400 264 295 4.28 39 4.12
S. Wesley '06 6-2 237 425 242 295 4.96 31.5 4.67
Defensive end '08 6-3 260 465 301 355 4.92 31.5 4.5
> The final tidbit of statistical information I gathered included individual players' 2008 testing results and the Hurricanes' all-time records for work in the weight room and in speed and conditioning drills. I figured this might be a good way to compare the current Canes versus the greats. I broke it down by positions. All I'm going to tell you is expect to be shocked by who some of the Canes' all-time best by position are and who is not on the list.
FYI, if there are some guys (like Jason Fox) who were injured during testing they didn't participate. That is why you might not find a couple of guys. The other reason you won't is because they weren't very good.
SKILL POSITIONS (QBs, RBs, WRs, DBs)
> Bench: Damien Berry 315, Randy Phillips 315, Javarris James 315, Lovon Ponder 315, Khalil Jones 315, Graig Cooper 310, Tervaris Johnson 305, Anthony Reddick 295, Carlos Armour 295.
Record book: QB: Ryan Collins, '95 (405). RB: Derrick Harris, '95 (455). WR: Randall Hill, '90 (355). CB: Leonard Myers, '99 (375). S: Andrew Moser, '00 (350)
> Squat: Javarris James 535, Derron Thomas 500, Shawnbrey McNeal 455, Damien Berry 425, Graig Cooper 425, Khalil Jones 420, Jared Campbell 415, Carlos Armour 415.
Record book: QB: Vinny Testaverde, '85 (500). RB: Derrick Harris, '95 (655). WR: Jeff Popvitch, '97 (500). CB: Antrel Rolle, '04 (445). S: Randy Phillips, '07 (500)
> Power clean: Javarris James 318, Khalil Jones 318, Randy Phillips 294, Ryan Hill 286, Leonard Hankerson 286, Lovon Ponder 286, Joseph Nicholas 274, Derron Thomas 274, Carlos Armour 274
Record book: QB: Kirby Freeman, '07 (264). RB: Willis McGahee, '02 (360). WR: Andre Johnson, '02 (320). CB: Antrel Rolle, '04 (313). S: Sean Taylor, '03 (313).
> 40-yard dash: Sam Shields 4.28, DeMarcus Van Dyke 4.30, Ryan Hill 4.43, Kayne Farquharson 4.50
Randy Phillips 4.50, Javarris James 4.51, Graig Cooper 4.51, Leonard Hankerson 4.51.
Record book: QB: Kenny Kelly, '99 (4.43). RB: Willis McGahee, '02 (4.32). WR: Sam Shields, '07 (4.26). CB: Marcus Maxey, '02 (4.25). S: Darryl Williams, '90 (4.34).
> 20-yard shuttle: Sam Shields 4.12, DeMarcus Van Dyke 4.17, Ryan Hill 4.19, Leonard Hankerson 4.21, Lee Chambers 4.23, Shawnbrey McNeal 4.25, J.J. Davis 4.25, Jared Campbell 4.30.
Record book: QB: Kirby Freeman, '07 (4.08). RB: James Jackson, '00 (4.00). WR: Roscoe Parrish, '03 (3.85). CB: Phillip Buchanon, '00 (3.88). S: A. Moser, '00 (3.85).
> Vertical leap: Carlos Armour 41½, Sam Shields 39, Randy Phillips 39, Lee Chambers 38½, Bruce Johnson 38, Graig Cooper 37½, Tervaris Johnson 37½, Damien Berry 36½, Khalil Jones 36½, Kayne Farquharson 36½.
Record book: QB: Kenny Kelly, '99 (35). RB: Willis McGahee, '02 (41½). WR: Santana Moss, '99 (42)
CB: Glenn Sharpe, '03 (41½). S: Randy Phillips, '06 (40)
THE BRUISERS/BOOTERS (LBs, TEs, FBs, Ks)
> Bench: Spencer Adkins 405, Chris Zellner 390, Richard Gordon 360, Darryl Sharpton 350, Eric Houston 345, Dedrick Epps 325, Patrick Hill 325, Matt Bosher 315.
Record book: LB: George Mira, '87 (455). TE: Charles Henry, '87 (400). K-P: Matt Bosher, '07 (315)
> Squat: Spencer Adkins 545, Darryl Sharpton 535, Chris Zellner 500, Richard Gordon 500, Dedrick Epps 470, Eric Houston 455, Matt Bosher 450, Arthur Brown 445.
Record book: LB: Victor Morris, '85 (600). TE: Dajleon Farr, '07 (555). K-P: Matt Bosher, '07 (450)
> Power clean: Spencer Adkins 330, Chris Zellner 330, Glenn Cook 310, Darryl Sharpton 310, Dedrick Epps 310, Richard Gordon 310, Matt Bosher 301, Eric Houston 286.
Record book: LB: D.J. Williams, '02 (360), TE: Greg Olsen, '06 (362), K-P: Matt Bosher, '07 (301)
> 40-yard dash: Richard Gordon 4.53, Colin McCarthy 4.58, Dedrick Epps 4.62, Chris Zellner 4.66
Daniel Adderley 4.71, Arthur Brown 4.75, Sean Spence 4.76, Kylan Robinson 4.82, Alex Uribe 4.82.
Record book: LB: Jerrell Weaver, '02 (4.35). TE: Ronald Williams, '98 (4.45). K-P: Brian Monroe, '05 (4.62)
> 20-yard shuttle: Sean Spence 4.24, Darryl Sharpton 4.25, Daniel Adderley 4.25, Glenn Cook 4.26
Eric Houston 4.31, Chris Zellner 4.31, Dedrick Epps 4.35, Kylan Robinson 4.35.
Record book: LB: Chris Campbell, '00 (3.90). TE: Kellen Winslow, '02 (4.06). K-P: Brian Monroe, '05 (3.92)
> Vertical leap: Dedrick Epps 38, Colin McCarthy 38, Spencer Adkins 37, Daniel Adderley 36½, Sean Spence 36, Eric Houston 36, Richard Gordon 35, Romeo Davis 35.
Record book: LB: Jerrell Weaver, '02 (42). TE: Dedrick Epps, '07 (37). K-P: Brian Monroe, '05 (36)
THE LINEMEN (OL, DL)
> Bench: Joel Figueroa 425, Joe Joseph 405, Harland Gunn 405, Dedrick Epps 390, Luqman Abdullah 385, Matt Pipho 385, Allen Bailey 380, A.J. Trump 375.
Record book: OT: Vernon Carey, '03 (480), G-C: Carlos Callejas, '97 (500), DT: Dan Sileo, '86 (535), DE: Kevin Fagen, '85 (560).
> Squat: Harland Gunn 575, Allen Bailey 550, Joel Figueroa 520, Tyrone Byrd 510, Eric Moncur 500
Marcus Forston 475, Joe Joseph 465, Ian Symonette 450.
Record book: OT: K. Blaise, '99 (620), G-C: Andrew Bain, '06 (650), DT: Jim Burt, '80 (680), DE: Denny Fortney, '97 (555).
> Power clean: Allen Bailey 375, Reggie Youngblood 340, Harland Gunn 330, Joe Joseph 318
Matt Pipho 318, Jason Fox 310, Joel Figueroa 310, Steven Wesley 296.
Record book: OT: Eric Winston, '06 (360), G-C: Ty Wise, '99 (360), DT: M. Lawson, '98 (320), DE: Allen Bailey, '08 (375)
> 40-yard dash: Allen Bailey 4.83, Courtney Harris 4.87, Xavier Shannon 4.99, Orlando Franklin 5.03
Marcus Forston 5.03, Joel Figueroa 5.11, Tyrone Byrd 5.18, Jason Fox 5.28.
Record book: OT: Eric Winston, '03 (4.78), G-C: D. Handy, '89 (4.76), DT: M. Lawson, '98 (4.71), DE: K. Harris, '88 (4.46).
> 20-yard shuttle: Allen Bailey 4.50, Courtney Harris 4.50, Marcus Forston 4.57, Antonio Dixon 4.65
Jason Fox 4.68, Chris Rutledge 4.84, Tyrone Byrd 4.87, Joel Figueroa 4.87.
Record book: OT: Eric Winston, '03 (4.33). G-C: Chris Myers, '03 (4.25). DT: M. Lawson '96, (4.34)
DE: Kenny Holmes, '96 (4.25).
> Vertical leap: Allen Bailey 38½, Adewale Ojomo 34, Jason Fox 33, Orlando Franklin 32½, Joel Figueroa 32, Matt Pipho 32, Marcus Forston 31½, Chris Rutledge 31.
Record book: OT: Tyrone Byrd, '06 (34½). G-C: Orlando Franklin, '08 (32½). DT: B. Stinson, '00 (33½). DE: Allen Bailey, '08 (38½).
Olivier Vernon isn't going anywhere. He's staying home with the Hurricanes. In a small get together in his high school principal's office, Vernon told friends and family moments ago he is going to stick with his commitment to the University of Miami, which he made back in August.
"It was kind of hard because all three teams can win a national championship," said Vernon a 4-star Rivals.com recruit and 6-4, 240-pound defensive end, who was mulling over UM, Alabama and Florida State until the past week. "But UM has been my dream school since I was young. I felt like I was destined to play for them."
Vernon, who graduated from American High Thursday, will begin classes at UM Jan. 20 and will room with freshman defensive tackle Curtis Porter in the spring. He will wear No. 17. Eventually, he will switch over and room with fellow incoming freshman Dyron Dye in the fall.
He's looking forward to rehabbing his injured left ankle, which he injured in the season opener against Coral Reef, with UM doctors and trainers. He said he's still experiencing some pain and could have some ligament damage. But he expects to be ready for spring ball in late February.
The Hurricanes are definitely getting a strong player. Vernon is benching 335 pounds and squating 455. "I've kept lifting, kept working in the weight room even though I haven't played," Vernon said. "I'll be ready."
Frank Haith opened his post game press conference with the same thought everyone in the room had: "What a game." He was right. No team in UM history -- at least since 1991 -- had mounted a bigger comeback than the Canes did in their 62-60 win over Maryland, rallying from 17 down with a little over 12 minutes to play.
> GAME BALL: Who else? Jack McClinton. Maybe the greatest news aside from the fact the Hurricanes are now 2-1 in ACC play was that McClinton showed us he's still McClutch. Although McClinton has had some pretty good games this season (he put up 27 against UConn and 24 on the road at Kentucky), tonight was the first time all we really got to see him perform like the player who comes to life late in games and tears the heart out of opponents with big shot after big shot. McClinton did it plenty through the 2007-08 season. Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia and St. Mary's all got a taste of it. And Miami likely wouldn't have made the NCAA Tournament without those performances. Wednesday, with Miami trailing 60-59, McClinton asked for the ball and delivered again.
> PLAY OF THE GAME: For all the big shots McClinton made, Lance Hurdle actually takes home the honors. Hurdle stripped the ball clean from Adrian Bowie with a little over a minute to play to give UM its first lead at 60-59. Hurdle finished with 10 points and three assists in 28 minutes. He also was one of the three players to hit key three-pointers during Miami's comeback. James Dews deserves a pat on the back for his eight points.
> TALKING STRATEGY: The Hurricanes didn't do anything special to aid their comeback other than hit some big shots. It was actually Maryland coach Gary Williams who deserves credit for putting together a great game-plan. Despite being undersized, he took Dwayne Collins (6 points on five shot attempts) completely out of the game by double-teaming him in the post and forcing him to pass out of it. Williams turned UM's one strength and made it irrelevant and for 30 minutes, he used his team's speed to get into the frontcourt for easy baskets.
> KEY STATS: After turning the ball over 10 times in the first half, UM cleaned up its act in the second, turning it over only twice. Other than that, Maryland dominated Miami with points in the paint (32-16), points off turnovers (14-8), and fast break points (15-2).
I know we usually keep our Q&As with out of town writers strictly to football, but with ACC play really heating up and the Canes (12-3, 1-1) set to take on Maryland (12-3, 1-0) tonight in a rather large early conference game I figured I'd try to do it with hoops.
This week, I exchanged emails with Terps beat writer Patrick Stevens of The Washington Times, who shared my thoughts on the game with his readers over on his blog D1SCOURSE. This 3-point shot of questions should get U ready for tonight's big game.
Q: Considering Miami has won five of the six meetings since it joined the ACC, I've got to imagine the Terps are very much looking forward to this meeting Wednesday night. Is this a game Gary Williams and his players circled on their calendars with red ink? Or, is it just another ACC game?
A: It's certainly an important game for Maryland, but it is probably best the Terps don't think too much about their repeated debacles against Miami.
Three things stand out about Wednesday. First, it is Maryland's first true road game of the season. The Terps have played four neutral-court games, but they might be the last team in the country to actually venture into an opponent's home gym (determining that, by the way, is my Tuesday morning project). Three, Maryland is the only team in the league playing Duke and North Carolina twice, and it gets a home-and-home with Miami on top of that. That is a big hole to climb out of on paper, and poaching one of those three opponents on the road would go a long way to making a successful season.
Q: The Terps haven't participated in the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three years. I know they've gotten off to a nice 12-3 start. But why should people believe this Maryland team will get back into the tournament this year? How are the Terps better?
A: It's three of four years in the NIT, as a lot of cranky fans in the Baltimore/D.C. area would no doubt quickly remind anyone who asked.
In terms of resume analysis, Maryland is better because it has a couple nonconference victories (vs. Michigan State, Michigan) that should hold up for the rest of the regular season. As for actual on-court reasons, this team defends better (out of necessity) than the Terps have in the last few years. Though it is prone to spells of shaky play, those woes are more a function of ability than effort.
In many ways, this is a true test of Gary Williams' ability to coach up his kind of players. All the highly regarded recruits who entered the program in the years immediately following the 2002 national title are gone. In their place are a bunch of steady, useful players --- but of them, only Greivis Vasquez qualifies as a standout right now.It's anyone's guess if this actually can be a tournament team. Certainly, the last week offered plenty of reasons doubt it can happen. But if there's a logical argument in support of a team without a true consistent post option making the postseason, it's the presence of a wily coach with a shiny national championship trophy on his resume who still feels he has plenty to prove.
Q: When you look at this matchup, what is the one weakness you think Miami can expose to win this game?
A: Maryland is going to feel like it's stuck in "Groundhog Day" by the time the ACC tournament rolls around. Assuming a team (a) is smart; (b) has some decent size in the post; and (c) doesn't commit 28 turnovers like Georgia Tech did, it is going to try to maul Maryland inside.
The Terps start the 6-foot-7 Dave Neal at the five. The interior rotation also includes the 6-foot-7 Dino Gregory and the 6-foot-8 Braxton Dupree. Both are Baltimore products, and Dupree in particular has looked lost for much of the season. That's a harsh blow for the Terps, because he is the one true big body they have even after dropping 20 pounds in the offseason. (Miami fans might remember sophomore Jerome Burney, who played well off the bench last year in Coral Gables. Burney, a truly unlucky fellow who redshirted his first season because of foot problems, hasn't played since early December with a stress fracture in his right foot).
If I'm Miami, I am trying to figure out how to get it to Dwayne Collins. And Cyrus McGowan. And Brian Asbury and Adrian Thomas. And Collins again. And again. And again. That's not to say Jack McClinton couldn't fill his usual role as perimeter assassin. But Maryland is more vulnerable inside, and even Williams conceded last week the Terps still must figure out how to counteract bigger teams. Wednesday represents a huge test in that regard.
With only three weeks left before National Signing Day, the recruiting rumor wire is going bananas.
Bryce Brown talk is at a fever pitch. Is Rivals.com's new No. 1 national player sticking with the Canes or heading elsewhere?
Does Miami have a chance at getting receiver Reuben Randle, the country's No. 2 overall recruit? Or will he stick with those SEC schools in his backyard?
Are the Canes going to lose any other recruits now that tight end Billy Sanders (UCLA) was the first one to jump ship? Will Kayvon Webster, Luther Robinson, or [gasp] will Brown be next?
All of those are nice burning questions for you recruiting junkies. Here's one at least that looks like it will finally be resolved: Defensive end Olivier Vernon told me he's made a final decision and will announce it Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at his school. Vernon, a 6-3, 240-pound defensive end at American High in Miami, was one of the first players to commit to Randy Shannon's 2009 signing class last August. But he's been flirting with Alabama and Florida State ever since. While UM expects Vernon to begin taking classes Jan. 20, I was told by someone last night Vernon still hasn't given the Canes his final notice he's really coming.
I finally got down to chatting with Olivier last night -- two weeks after he told me he had planned to make a decision. Why was he holding out? To allow Bama's Nick Saban, FSU's Chuck Amato and Shannon to make in-home visits. Each made a different pitch. Vernon said Saban talked about how 'Bama could use him as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end; Amato talked about FSU's tradition and academics; Shannon didn't even talk about football, preferring to stick to life. Now, Vernon says he's ready.
"I already know where I'm going, I'm just got to let everybody else know on Thursday," Vernon said. "I just wanted to decide on the best school. All I really care about is going to the school where I think I have the best chance at winning a national championship at."
> Much the same way Vernon needed some extra time before making his final decision, Bryce Brown needs some time, too. According to reports from Canestime and Canesport, Brown is waiting to see who UM hires as its next offensive coordinator and waiting to plan his final recruiting visit for either Jan. 23 or 30th so he can meet and greet the new coordinator. The good news? Now, you can follow this saga all on your own. According to Canesport, Brown's mentor, Brian Butler is building a webpage at www.potentialplayers.com so fans can track Brown's latest thoughts. Amazing how far we've come in recruiting isn't it?
> Defensive back Prince Kent, who was supposed to graduating early, is holding off on enrolling at UM until the summer time. I spoke with his mother Bernetta Walker this afternoon who told me Prince needed some extra time to pass an online trigonometry class and fell behind because of football (the Under Armour All-American game). Kent, who grew up following his mother who was in the U.S. Army, has spent most of his life trying to rally his academics after falling a bit behind when his mother was stationed in Hawaii. But, he's been working with UM's academic department throughout the recruiting process to make sure his academics are in order. Prince is retaking the SAT soon to try and score higher than 1,000. "Our plan is to have all our paperwork in hand by the time we head down there for signing day," Walker said.
> Scratch Michigan standout and tight end Dion Sims off the Canes' list of potential recruits. Sims, rated Rivals.com's 7th best recruit, committed to Michigan State Tuesday. He was supposed to be visiting the Canes on Jan. 23, but those plans now look nixed. Sims picked Michigan State in part because he also hopes to play basketball. You can't blame the Canes for not trying to sell both sports. I spoke with Frank Haith Monday, who told me he and Shannon have spoken in the past and present about potential recruits playing in both sports. "We definitely work together when we've had to," Haith said. "[Assistant] Jorge [Fernandez] has made calls to kids when he's had to and I definitely know the kids they were looking at recently were good enough to play basketball for us, too, if they wanted."
I know many of you have been waiting for me to start answering questions in our weekly Q&A and I apologize for not getting to them yet (I'm hoping to at around 4 p.m.), but this Eddie Rios news has been keeping me busy this afternoon.
If you don't know by now, Eddie Rios was suspended indefinitely by coach Frank Haith for the second time this season Monday and now it looks very likely his days as a Hurricane are over. Haith went into details Tuesday, basically telling reporters he wanted his backup point guard to see team doctors. Instead, Haith said there was a lack of a communication on Rios' part with his coaches as he stayed home in bed battling a stomach virus. I caught Haith in the hallway after his press conference and he told me he was disappointed because he really wanted things to work out with the former Miami High guard, who started the first four games of the season for him with regular starter and senior Lance Hurdle out.
"We really like Eddie," Haith said. "But he can't be doing what he did. We needed him at Boston College. We wanted him to see our doctors, get help, get healthy. I've got a team playing gritty, trying to win in a tough ACC. We can't afford to have those distractions that type of attitude at a time like this."
The problem is losing Rios is going to hurt Miami this season and moving forward. While Haith has a solid point guard in waiting in Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant (he's sitting out per NCAA transfer rules) for the future, Rios' presence at the very least provided depth for this team. Haith said Tuesday Rios' suspension will lead to more minutes for Lance Hurdle and Jack McClinton -- the team's leading scorer -- at the point. But the loss of Rios means Miami doesn't really have another go-to ballhandler after that.
The scenario already played out last Saturday and the Hurricanes were able to escape with a 77-71 win at Boston College. But earlier this year, when Rios was suspended for Ohio State and McClinton was ejected, the Hurricanes set a season-high for turnovers with just Hurdle available. Haith said Tuesday he could play freshman swingman De'Quan Jones more in a ballhandling type role and already has gone with James Dews and Brian Asbury more when McClinton and Hurdle have been out. But it's not a longterm solution. It looks more like a longterm problem.
Playoffs? NFL playoffs at Eye On The U? Normally, I wouldn't bother bringing them up in this blog. But these days -- with recruiting really heating up -- you never know what can help and hurt. And my guess is you probably won't find a bigger Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens fan this coming week than UM coach Randy Shannon.
While Philadelphia and Pittsburgh don't have any UM players on their teams, the Cards and Ravens have seven former Canes between them. You know who they are: running backs Edgerrin James (Arizona) and Willis McGahee (Baltimore), safeties Antrel Rolle (Arizona) and Ed Reed (Baltimore), defensive lineman Calais Campbell (Arizona) and linebackers Tavares Gooden (Baltimore) and Ray Lewis (Baltimore). But if there was ever a real reason for Canes Nation to root for an Arizona-Baltimore Super Bowl in Tampa Feb. 1, it's recruiting.
While recruits obviously know all about Miami's history (the five rings and the countless first round picks) having something fresh and as big as the Super Bowl to talk about in those living room and in-home visits with mom and dad could prove quite valuable to Shannon. Let's not forget all the times those former Canes could throw up a U during Super Bowl week and on media day. Writers are sure to jump on that angle. In the end, that's some nice, very visible free advertising for the Canes. And, at the perfect time for Shannon, who is coming off a mediocre 7-6 season.
> After finally getting back home from the snowy Boston Sunday night, I got a chance to have a long conversation with one of my guys at The U who told me the NFL -- and helping players reach it -- is what Shannon has been selling hard to recruits over the last couple of weeks. And, my source told me, that's why Shannon is intent on bringing in an offensive coordinator who will run a pro style offense. "Whoever thinks coach Shannon wants a conservative offense is wrong," he said. "He wants an offense that's going put up points and help guys get to the next level. That's who we are. We've always been about winning and getting guys to the pros. Ask Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and all those guys how much it helped to play a pro style. It got them ready."
> As for the offensive coordinator search, I was told there is now some level of urgency on the coaching staff's part (not athletic director Kirby Hocutt) to fill the spot in the next few weeks. The reason: UM wants to be able to show recruits like Bryce Brown (a soft commitment) what type of offense the team will run. UM isn't scared it'll lose Brown (who is supposed to visit either Jan. 23 or 30) but the Canes want to ensure him and other potential recruits the offense will be in good hands. Brown, the nation's No. 1 running back, visited Kansas State over the weekend and told The Manhattan Mercury he's opened up conversation with Tennessee.
> By the way, I've also been told nobody has officially been interviewed in person for the OC job, but several candidates have been contacted over the phone. Our Barry Jackson reported Sunday Mike Shula was one of the ones to decline interest when asked. Shannon, who is not at the College Football Coaches Association meetings in Nashville this week (the majority of his staff is), will likely begin formal interviews this week. Shannon had been on the road doing in-home visits with recruits over the past week -- including making a stop at the home of receiver Rueben Randle, Rivals.com's No. 1 pass-catcher. Randle has told several publications he is now considering Miami again because the Canes got rid of Patrick Nix.
BOSTON -- Checking in from the Hurricanes' house of horrors, aka The Conte Forum. Got a little good news and a little bad news to report pregame.
> Jimmy Graham looks like he'll play tonight. UM SID Margaret Belch told us Jimmy practiced some this week and will see some action. The bad news? Eddie Rios (sick) didn't make the trip and Julian Gamble is out. Gamble collided with Graham during practice this week and suffered a mild concussion. He made the trip, but won't dress out.
> Another rough start for UM from the field. The Canes started 2-for-20 last year and 0-for-6 tonight. But this time, they started hitting buckets before getting into a real slump. Jimmy Graham has a pair of stickbacks and looks good in his first real action in about three weeks. Rebounding is going to be the difference in this game. Miami came in leading the league in rebounding margin. They're going to need to win it tonight to win the game.
> Got a lot of national media in attendance tonight -- ESPN's Digger Phelps and Andy Katz and FoxSports national columnist Jeff Goodman.
> It will just go down as a basket on the boxscore, but I got to take note of Bryan Asbury's steal and eventual dunk over Rakim Sanders midway through the first half. That was about as an athletic a play I've ever since Asbury make in his time at UM.
> Since falling behind 22-16 on a beautiful Tyrese Rice up-and-under layup with 9:08 to play, Miami has gone on a 6-0 run to the score at 22 with 7:23 left. Miami is playing good defense for the most part on Rice. He's 2 of 7 with two assists. Where he's killed Miami is with four long offensive rebounds.
> Miami used a 9-0 run to take the lead at 25-22 and have held on. Most of it has been with free throw shooting from Dwayne Collins, who is 7-of-8 from the field. Looks like the career 55 percent free throw shooter got his problem corrected.
> Key halftime figures with the Canes leading 38-33... Miami outrbounded BC 18-15 and 8-3 on the offensive boards... UM was 12 of 14 from the line.
> Amazing how the Canes are up right now 49-41 with 15:54 to go. Here's the basic formula -- Dwayne Collins hitting free throws and Adrian Thomas hitting three-pointers. Three weeks ago we would never imagined Collins going 10 of 12 in a game. After two years being shelved by injuries, we would have never imagined Thomas being Miami's second-leading scorer in an ACC road game.
> There's 11:42 left, UM is up 55-48 and Jack McClinton has five points and is 2-of-10 from the field. What does that tell you?
> Couple big momentum swings here in the second half -- all end up going in UM's favor. First, Dwayne Collins gets blocked by Rakim Sanders leading to a BC fastbreak. But on the other end, James Dews steps up and draws a charge on Tyrese Rice on a basket that would have gone for a 3-point play. Then, trailing 55-51, Rice misses a three, BC gets the offensive rebound and gets two close range shots only to be turned away. Then, on the other end, Brian Asbury scores a post basket with three guys on him and draws a foul to give UM a 57-51 lead with 7:25 left. Big series of events.
> Canes clinging to a 65-60 lead behind lots of grit. BC cut the Canes lead -- once as large as 8 -- to 57-56 with 5:23 to go. Adrian Thomas came through with a big offensive rebound and putback before McClinton and Hurdle hit threes to stretch back out a little. J-Mac and Hurdle both have four fouls and are going to have to play safe down the stretch.
BOSTON -- My flight just got into frigid Beantown an hour ago -- not in time for me to listen in on offensive lineman Jared Wheeler's live announcement on 790 The Ticket. But in case you haven't heard already, the 6-6, 305-pounder chose the Canes over Vanderbilt as expected.
I caught up with Jared and his dad as they were leaving the studio. Apparently, this decision wasn't such of a slam dunk as many of us thought it might be. Jim Wheeler said his son was torn until his mother gave birth to the Wheeler's 10th child -- John -- last Sunday. "I really just wanted to stay close to home," said Jared, who is second to Jenna, a sophomore at the University of Florida, among the Wheeler siblings.
"With the new baby John being born I wanted to be there while he was growing up. Family comes first for me."
Vanderbilt nearly did, too, for Jared. Jim Wheeler said the Commodores were making a hard push, visiting as late as Monday. But Jim said his son had his mind made up. "It was a tough decision," Jim said. "It was close."
Jared said he had a little fun making his announcement on the radio Saturday. First, he asked the show host to pick up a Vanderbilt helmet. After a pause, he said he told him "keep it as a gift."
The Hurricanes are certainly relieved Wheeler -- a good student who has a 4.1 GPA and 1070 SAT score -- has decided to stay home. His addition brings more depth to an offensive line position in dire need of it. Aside from Brandon Washington (6-5, 330) and Jermaine Johnson (6-6, 310) who are scheduled to begin classes Jan. 20 and participate in spring ball, UM now has two more offensive lineman coming in the fall with Wheeler and Fleming Island's Cory White (6-4, 240). The Hurricanes, who are up to 20 commitments, are likely going to add two to three more linemen in the coming weeks. Wheeler said he's not sure where he'll play once he arrives. The good news is he has experience playing guard, center and tackle.
In Wheeler (a Rivals 3-star recruit rated the 7th best player in Broward by The Miami Herald) Miami not only gets a unique athlete -- but possibly an in roads at American Heritage. Jared's father, a former defensive tackle at Hollywood Hills High who played with Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez as a teenager, is a middle school football coach at the school. Jared said Miami has already begun to sending mail to his younger brother, Jacob, a 6-7, 240-pound defensive end and tight end for Heritage.
Wheeler, who benches 315 pounds and squats more than 450, said he's already begun getting to know his new teammates and said he speaks with A.J. Trump and Jason Fox frequently. He said he's excited to be joining the family.
"I'm excited -- they're on the rise," Wheeler said. "They're going to be a really good team. They got all those kids from Northwestern, who I know are great players. All they need are some big guys and I want to help out with that."
> I'll be at the Canes-BC game later tonight with a live blog. Forecast for today is calling for 6-10 inches of snow in the area. I may be here longer than I thought.
Eugene Marve went on a local radio station last week and apologized for what he said after his son was told by UM coach Randy Shannon he wouldn't be allowed to transfer to Florida, Tennesee or LSU as well as any state schools or any schools in the ACC.
He made a passionate plea that all his family wanted was for their son to be close to home. He talked about having cancer, how his ex-wife was struggling financially and how Robert chose Miami to begin with because it was close to home. Thursday, UM heard Robert Marve's appeal and a three-person committee voted to keep the restrictions on the three SEC schools and the ACC, but leaving open the possibility to play at USF and UCF. Apparently, the Marve family still isn't happy with that. Why? Isn't playing close to home what Robert Marve and his family really want? Isn't that possible now at UCF and USF -- two schools who will be playing Miami over the next few years?
The truth is that really isn't what matters to the Marves. What matters is probably what Randy Shannon has been getting chastised for -- having a chance to go to those schools Marve's representatives were rumored to have made contact with before he formally decided to leave UM. In the end, we'll never know for sure if any of that happened. Nobody is ever going to admit contact was made or clarify if it wasn't. But we will have tonight's reaction from the Marve camp and that speaks volumes.
By the way, if Shannon's stance on transfers and the way he treats his players is so horrible, why don't we hear Jermaine McKenzie, Daniel Adderley and the many other players who have transferred out of this program crying?
As I was watching the game tonight, I got a few text messages from my buddies who were asking me how many of the guys playing in tonight's BCS National Championship game could have been at the University of Miami. So, aiming to please, I spent some time tonight doing a little research.
While many of us believe coaching is important, there's no denying when you get the best players in the country you are going to go places. Recruiting is simply the most vital element of all. The Hurricanes certainly tried to win over some the players from Oklahoma and Florida in tonight's game. They just didn't get them and that's a big reason Florida and Oklahoma were in tonight's game. Here's a look back at the players UM battled for over the last four years and ending up losing to the Sooners and Gators and whom Miami ended up with. It's a bit eye-opening.
The good news is if you are a Canes fan is the closer you get to next year's signing class, the more it looks like Miami is winning the recruiting battle.
> WR -- Oklahoma: WR Malcolm Kelly (2nd round pick now with the Washington Redskins). Kelly never visited UM, but got an offer. Miami: Didn't sign a receiver.
> LB -- Oklahoma: LB Curtis Lofton (2nd round pick now with the Atlanta Falcons). He never visited the Canes. Florida: LB Jon Demps (career cut short, arrested, kicked off the team).
Miami: Eric Houston (career special teams player), Spencer Adkins (career role player), Demetri Stewart (transfer) and Daryl Sharpton (most productive of the group).
> CB -- Florida: Avery Atkins (died in 2007). Atkins visited UM in December and wen with the nearby Gators. Miami: Bruce Johnson, Ryan Hill, Chavez Grant (all three have started and were part of a secondary that produced just 2 INTs in 2008).
> RB -- Oklahoma: Demarco Murray (All Big 12). Miami: Kylan Robinson (Rivals rated No. 11 running back, moved to linebacker), Javarris James (injured most of his career, had 286 yards rushing, 4 TDs in 2008).
> WR -- Florida: Percy Harvin (All-American), Jarred Fayson (transferred to Illinois). Miami never got a visit from the nation's No. 1 receiver in Harvin. Miami: Sam Shields (Rivals' No. 17 receiver now playing mostly on special teams), George Robinson (no longer with the team).
> TE -- Oklahoma: Jermaine Gresham (All Big 12). The Canes got a visit on the final weekend, but couldn't pull off the magic. Miami: Dedrick Epps (top receiving tight end, caught 22 passes for 304 yards, 2 TDs), Richard Gordon (has switched from DE to TE twice), Jason Fox (moved to left tackle and has been a starter for 3 years).
> OL -- Florida: Marcus Gilbert (backup left guard) and Carl Johnson (starting left guard). Miami signed: Ian Symonnette (has never played) and Joel Figueroa (Played in 12 games, started four).
> DT -- Oklahoma: Gerald McCoy (All Big 12). Miami: Josh Holmes (injured most of his career, 5 games, 7 tackles, 1 sack), Chaz Washington (has yet to play).
> WR -- Florida: Deonte Thompson (4th on team with 269 yards receiving, 3 TDs). Miami signed: Kayne Farquharson (had 18 catches, 280 yards, 3 TDs), Daniel Adderley (transferred out), Leonard Hankerson (disappeared midway through the season, 10 catches, 99 yards) and Jermaine McKenzie (never caught a pass)
> OL -- Florida: Maurkice Pouncey (started 24 games at guard and center) and Michael Pouncey (started all 13 games). Miami: Harland Gunn (still on the scout team), Orlando Franklin (started 10 games at guard this season).
> DT -- Florida: John Brown (still hasn't played). Miami: Chris Perry (transferred to Texas Tech).
> DE -- Florida: Duke Lemmens (Played in 9 games, 2 sacks). Miami: Adewale Ojomo (10 games, 21 tackles, 3 sacks), Allen Bailey (Had 22 tackles, led team with 5 sacks).
> LB -- Florida: Lorenzo Edwards (key special teams player) and Brandon Hicks (starting stronside linebacker). Miami: Didn't sign a linebacker.
> S -- Florida: Major Wright (started 20 games in his career, was third on team in tackles in 2008). The Canes got a visit from Wright, but couldn't convince him to pick UM over UF. Miami: Damien Berry (top recruit now a scout team running back), Joseph Nicholas (Played in 10 games, had 28 tackles started a few games), Jared Campbell (has not played).
> WR -- Florida: T.J. Lawrence (redshirted), Frankie Hammonds (redshirted). Miami: Aldarius Johnson (led team in receiving with 30 catches, 321 yards, 3 TDs), Travis Benjamin (16 catches, 276 yards, 3 TDs), LaRon Byrd (had 18 catches, 184 yards, 3 TDs), Davon Johnson (caught 5 passes for 71 yards, 1 TD), Thearon Collier (2nd in receiving with 25 catches, 318 yards, 1 TD), Kendall Thompkins (redshirted) and Tommy Streeter (redshirted).
> OL -- Florida: Matt Patchan (moved to defense, played in 11 games with one start). Oklahoma: Ben Habern (redshirted). Miami: Ben Jones (redshirted), Brandon Washington (spent '08 in Prep School).
> DT -- Florida: Byran Jones (moved to offensive side, redshirted). Miami: Marcus Forston (Started 1 game, 17 tackles, 3 sacks), Jeremy Lewis (redshirted), Micanor Regis (played in 10 games, 10 tackles).
> LB -- Florida: Brendan Beal (ACL injury in spring, redshirted) and William Green (moved to defensive end, played all 12 games, 7 tackles). Miami: Sean Spence (ACC Defensive Freshman of the Year), Marcus Robinson (moved to defensive end, 33 tackles, 4 sacks), Arthur Brown (played in 10 games, 4 tackles), Gavin Hardin (redshirted), Jordan Futch (redshirted), Antonio Harper (spent year in prep school), Zach Kane (never made it to UM), Brandon Marti (off team?).
> CB - Florida: Janoris Jenkins (11 starts, leads team with 11 passes defended, 3 INTs). Miami: Brandon Harris (Several starts, 26 tackles, 3 PBU, 1 INT).
> S - Oklahoma: Joseph Ibiloye (redshirted). Florida: Will Hill (Played in all 12 games as backup safety, led all freshman with 45 tackles). Miami signed: Ramon Buchanon (played in 9 games and finished with 7 tackles), C.J. Holton (redshirted), Vaughn Telemaque (redshirted) and Joe Wylie (redshirted).
I know some of you have become fans of our high school podcast The Countdown. With National Signing Day just around the corner, we've turned the focus of our podcast to recruiting. Tonight, I began our latest series (we had one last year) with The Herald's Larry Blustein.
This week's episode is a half hour conversation between Larry and I that touches on FIU, Miami and Florida as well as several local recruits including Northwestern High's Wayne Times and Gulliver Prep's Frankie Telfort. We'll have more shows in the coming weeks that will go into more detail with our home teams -- The Canes and Golden Panthers -- as National Signing Day draws near. Among the Canes' topics tonight: Which offensive linemen Blustein thinks Miami has the best shot at getting, his thoughts on Bryce Brown's performance at the U.S. Army All-American game and how he thinks the Canes' class is shaping up. My favorite Blu liner: "UM better super glue Brown's feet to the ground, so he doesn't talk to anyone else."
Here are some other recruiting tidbits I've got to share:
> Defensive end recruit Olivier Vernon still hasn't gotten back to me about whether or not he's going to stick with the Canes or is passing up on them to leave for Florida State or Alabama. He told me he would likely have a decision not long after Christmas. I did, however, speak with his mother tonight. It looks like the decision continues to linger in Vernon's head. He graduates Jan. 14 and is expected to enroll at UM Jan. 20.
> Offensive line recruit Jared Wheeler will make his college announcement -- it should be Miami -- this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. on 790 The Ticket. Vanderbilt is his other finalist.
> Even if Wheeler picks UM, the Canes are still likely going to remain with 19 commitments after this weekened. Blustein told me tonight it looks like tight end Billy Sanders (Blustein speaks to his father) is backing off his commitment and going with UCLA, who Sanders is supposed to visit this coming weekend. Of the three tight end commitments, Sanders is probably the best Miami has. But that's not really saying much. Cory White is expected to be an offensive tackle and Stephen Plein has played mostly defensive end in high school.
Miami does have a few other players they are looking at including Dion Sims, a 6-5, 230-pound kid from Michigan who is supposed to visit UM in three weeks. Sims' first love is basketball. My take on the tight end search: Orson Charles would have had a great opportunity to play right away here if things with Robert Marve, Robert Weiner and UM's program hadn't gone sour. Now, it looks like UM will still be another year away from signing that game-changing tight end.
> I got an email today from the mother of defensive back recruit Prince Kent. It looks like he'll be coming down from Georgia to be with his father -- who lives in Fort Lauderdale -- when he signs his letter of intent on National Signing Day. I'm looking forward to being there for it.
As I was writing my game story on deadline Monday night out at the BankUnited Center I got a visit from UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who was nice enough to come back and look for me after the game to follow through on a chat I had requested with him while he was busy earlier in the evening. On a night when he was hosting other guests and chatting with President Donna Shalala, Hocutt could have just forgotten about it entirely. But the fact he remembered was nice.
Anyway, it wasn't a very long conversation, but I did get to throw a few questions at him. I didn't have my tape recorder, but I did have my notebook. So, some of this will be paraphrased off my notes. We'll start with football.
> The first question was obvious -- what if anything could he tell us about the search to fill the offensive coordinator vacated by Patrick Nix. While he obviously wasn't going to drop any names or give us any hints he did provide some insight. "One thing I can tell you is we're looking for the best candidate possible, somebody who is experienced and can do the best job at not only developing these young players, but helping us win games. There is nothing we're in an urgency to do. We're in the process of talking to some people and finding the best candidate to run the system that Coach Shannon wants to run. That's really the biggest factor."
> I brought up the fact that last year Miami took its time -- about a month -- before replacing Tim Walton with Bill Young. "Again, we're not in a rush," Hocutt said. "We don't see hiring a coordinator before national signing day as a necessity. We see choosing the right person as the top priority."
> I asked him how he felt about the team's fade from being in the ACC title hunt to losing its final three games. I asked him if there was going to be more pressure on Coach Shannon and his assistants next season to compete for a conference title and national championship.
"That's the goal to compete for championships here. It was a tough finish to the season. But I saw it as a step forward. This was a really young football team. What I really admired about the team was that those players never gave up. They were hurt, short-handed, but the kept fighting. It's a testament to the coaches. I really believe we have the right guys coaching this team. The future is bright. Randy is with us for the long haul. I know everyone wants to see this program win a championship tomorrow. I do. But I really believe we're doing it right. Randy is not out looking for the quick fixes. He's recruiting not only great athletes, but great kids. We're looking to build a winner to stay over time. And I think we've got the right man leading us."
> Before I had to run back to finish my game story, I had to toss a couple basketball questions his way. Hocutt's face lit up talking about coach Frank Haith, who got an extension and a raise this past offseason through the 2013-2014 season. Hocutt, who watched Monday's win over FAU, said he expects UM's new basketball practice facility to be completed by March 1st -- just in time for the McDonald's All-American game. As for other facility upgrades and endeavors... "We're in the planning stages right now of planning some major upgrades to the Hecht Athletic Center. We really want to get the work on the football locker room and training room done. After that, the athletic training center, Cobb Stadium upgrades, the Hall of Fame and the tennis center."
Not everything I wanted to get into my basketball game story made it. Here are some leftovers...
> UM coach Frank Haith said he was proud of his team's 11-2 non-conference schedule. "11-2 non-league, with the schedule we played, I feel real good about us being in good shape, where we want to be. No bad losses, strong RPI, strength of schedule top 5 in the country, we are where we want to be. That strength of schedule won't change in the ACC."
> Forward Jimmy Graham, who bruised his right wrist severly two weeks ago when he slipped in the shower, saw his first action in three games. He played with what appeared to be a soft cast for nine minutes. He grabbed four rebounds and had one steal. Haith said Graham practiced for the first time Sunday in a few weeks. "Jimmy is quite yet back to form," Haith said. "He's going to need to get a few more practices in. He's not quite ready yet."
BANKUNITED CENTER -- Just checking in from the BUC where Frank Haith's team will get its final tune-up before entering ACC play for good against coach Mike Jarvis' 4-10 Florida Atlantic Owls.
I'm hoping to have a halftime chat with athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who is entertaining a few special guests -- not sure who they are -- for tonight's game.
As usual, I'll be here to provide you with my thoughts on this game. UM (10-3) has been blowing out everyone they've played since the Clemson loss. Not that they were really facing world-beaters of late, but UM is actually in the Top 10 nationally in three impressive statistics: 3-pt defense (2nd), rebound margin (3rd) and field goal pct. defense (9th).
> Jack McClinton has hit a pair of threes early to put Miami back in front 10-8 after it fell behind 8-5. Apple Jacks has been shooting the three less than he did in his first two seasons and driving past opponents more this season. Maybe Haith wants him to get warmed for ACC play. I can't wait to see him and Tyrese Rice go at it in Boston Saturday.
> Just read Mike Bakas' latest story over at Canestime.com and it looks like the Canes' football team received some good news this afternoon: Offensive line recruit Jermaine Johnson will be reporting for class in two weeks. "I just wanted to let you know that I just got cleared by the NCAA so I'm all ready to start school on the 20th," Johnson told Bakas. "I'm real happy about it. It's a big relief knowing that I'll be there for the spring."
> Down 13-10, the Canes went on a 14-2 run to take control of this game. They used the three-ball to do it. Adrian Thomas hit back-to-back threes before Edwin Rios and Cyrus McGowan capped the run with back-to-back treys.
> Miami is struggling with the Owls tonight. They've expanded the lead to double digits twice only to see the Owls come back and make a game of it. UM is 9 of 18 from three-point range. The Owls are 9 of 22 -- including 6 from Carderro Nwoji.
If you do the math, there are still another eight spots to fill in the University of Miami's 2009 football signing class. Which means there is still ample room to add some of the nation's top future college football players. But if you a chance this weekend to watch the U.S. Army All-American game and the Under-Armour All-American games you know what coach Randy Shannon has already got lined up looks pretty special.
I know I'm not breaking any news here (I had a long day out covering the Dolphins-Ravens playoff game) but if you don't know by now I'll repeat it: the Canes added two major studs to their collection of 19 commitments Sunday night when they picked up verbals from Sanford Seminole High's Ray Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye.
Three weeks ago before Seminole rallied from a 21-0 deficit to beat Miami Northwestern in the Class 6A state championship game, I got a chance to speak to both of Armstrong and Dye as well as their coach. Although Miami lost out on the third part of the special Seminole trio (receiver Andre Debose chose Florida), there's no doubt the Hurricanes landed special players. And unlike a lot of those guys you hear about being 6-4, 215 pounds only to find out they're really 6-2, 200 -- these guys are legitimately as large as advertised and just as good.
Armstrong (6-4, 215) tossed the winning touchdown pass to Debose in the 6A state title game and ran for another score, outleaping the Bulls into the end zone. What impressed me that night wasn't just that he had the athleticism to play quarterback, running back and receiver, it was his physical toughness. He started at safety and was in on a number of tackles and always looking to lay the wood. ESPN rates him the 18th best recruit in the country and Rivals and Scout each list him as a 4-star recruit. But his addition to UM's class gives the Canes its most special defensive player and someone I truly believe will make an immediate impact like Sean Spence this season. He's too physically gifted and strong not too. His coach called him a Sean Taylor-type player when I spoke to him before about Armstrong. If you watch his highlight reel, you see some of the similarities.
Dyron Dye (6-5, 230) could potentially make the same type of impact. He played both tight end and defensive end in high school and has tremendous burst and athletic ability. What impresses me the most about Dye is that he already has the NFL body. With some coaching, he could be really special. I think he has the potential to move over to tight end and play that at the next level if he wanted to. But all signs are point right now to a future at defensive end. Check out his highlight tape.
> As good as Miami's two additions are, I think no player might be better in the country than running back Bryce Brown, who earned National Player of the Year honors at the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio. UM recruit Brandon McGee told me last Friday he was thoroughly impressed with Brown during the East's practices. He called Brown a special player.
Bryce proved it to the nation Saturday. After dropping a pass that would have gone for a touchdown in the first quarter, he hauled in two long touchdown passes in the second half -- a 60-yarder and a 41-yarder -- displaying his speed and athleticism in earning co-MVP honors. He also led the East with 44 yards rushing on seven carries. While there are reports out there Brown could end up switching schools, I'm not buying it.
> Not all of the Canes had great AA games. Defensive back Prince Kent got beat a few times at the Under-Armour game including by fellow Canes recruit Jamal Reid, who shined at receiver. Miami has plans to try both Kent and Reid at corner. But I'm beginning to believe Kent might be better off at safety and Reid at receiver, a place where he routinely makes plays. McGee played well at corner in the U.S. Army game, but not spectacular. Maybe one of those eight remaining scholarships should be invested on another legit cornerback.
> Later this week, I'm going to start my interview tour with current Canes commitments and potential recruits. I'm also planning on picking up the recruiting podcasts with Larry Blustein and Charles Fishbein.
> One quick basketball note. Did anybody see Boston College's upset of No. 1 North Carolina Sunday? The Eagles were picked to finish last in the ACC and some folks were thinking the Tar Heels might go unbeaten. Guess not. The Eagles are 13-2 and host the Canes this coming Saturday. I'll be up there for the game.
The University of Miami has lifted part of the restrictions UM coach Randy Shannon placed earlier this week on former quarterback Robert Marve's impending transfer. Instead of being barred from going to all SEC schools, Florida, Tennessee and LSU are the only specific SEC schools Marve will not be able to attend.
A statement released moments ago explained why -- because UM believes Marve's family members or others on behalf of Marve contacted those schools during the season.
"Due to the attention this issue has received, the University feels it is appropriate to state the reason for keeping the restriction on those schools. The University of Miami has reason to believe that the Marve family or others on behalf of the Marve family contacted those institutions during the 2008 season regarding Robert's potential transfer prior to him having been given his release by UM," the statement said. "We are not suggesting any wrong doing on the part of any of the universities mentioned. Robert's desire to request a transfer was reviewed in the same manner that we do for every student-athlete in every sport. It is important to note that any stipulations imposed on any possible transfer are always the result of circumstances and are not done in haste or spite. As per NCAA regulations, a student-athlete can appeal any restrictions or stipulations given by a school regarding his or her transfer."
I really wanted to get away from having to work much today after spending the week covering the Orange Bowl and with all the news coming out of the U. But it seems like the tap down in Coral Gables just isn't going to be shut-off these days.
Instead of leading with the same old story (Robert Marve, coaching rumors), I'll start with something fresh -- incoming cornerback Brandon McGee, who I caught up with earlier tonight on the eve of Saturday afternoon's U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio. B-Smooth, who will be wearing No. 25, told me he found out Friday night he'll be starting at cornerback and on kickoff and punt returns for the East. And he's definitely thrilled he'll be able to show a national audience what he'll be bringing to Coral Gables when he starts classes on Jan. 20.
"Practices have been cool, we've been doing two-a-days from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day and I've been going up against Je'ron Stokes (Tennessee), Josh Adams (North Carolina and Orson Charles," McGee said. "The competition is great. But I'm definitely feeling real comfortable at corner. I've only been beaten once in practice -- Adams got me one time on the fly, but I didn't know the ball had been snapped. I definitely have made an impact, made my name known, playing against some of the top receivers."
McGee said he's looking forward to his matchups Saturday against two of the nation's top receivers who play for the West -- five-star receivers Reuben Randle and Kendall Kelly. McGee said he's had a fun week since arriving in San Antonio Sunday night. He said he's spent a lot of time with East running back and fellow UM commitment Bryce Brown, whom McGee said has impressed him in practicing.
"He's definitely the best running back on the field," McGee said. "Me and Bryce have been talking a lot. He's real funny. I know people have said maybe he was just good in Kansas because he didn't play against top competition. But he stacks up awesome. He has tremendous speed for being so big. He's doing great in practice, making cuts, embarrassing guys. I don't know if I can make any comparison to anybody back home -- maybe [Ohio State commitment] Jamaal Berry. But he's on another level. To be honest, a lot of the guys here shouldn't be ranked among the nation's best. But he's not one of them for sure."
McGee said he has no doubt Brown -- rumored to be interested in Oregon -- will be coming to Miami. He said all week they've been talking to other players trying to convince them to go to Miami, especially Detroit native and defensive tackle William Campbell, who set to chose between Miami, Michigan, LSU and Florida on Saturday. While McGee said he has been busy trying to convince Campbell to join him at UM, he's received a number of phone calls from other schools trying to convince him to not go to Miami. He said in light of recent events -- the firing of offensive coordinator Patrick Nix and the Marve fiasco -- other schools have been trying to jump in and persuade him and others to go elsewhere.
"A lot of people have been calling me to see if I'll be de-committing, trying to get me to switch because they say there will be more firings, more transfers," McGee said. "They've even been calling my dad. I just tell them I made my commitment and I'm sticking to it. The only way I'm de-commiting is if the school blows or something."
> It looks like UM coach Randy Shannon, whom McGee said he spoke with Tuesday after learning of the Nix firing and Marve transfer, has taken notice. It could explain why today he contacted his sports information department and had them call every South Florida reporter to tell them there would be no more coaching changes at the program. In the three years I've been covering this team, I've not once received a phone call from anyone in the UM sports info staff directed by Shannon or any Canes coach to give us anything. It's pretty clear Shannon wants that message out there.
By the way, don't be so sure that no other coaches are leaving comment to include strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey. We've heard rumors this week Swasey could be leaving for a job in the NFL.
> Speaking of messages, Robert Marve's father appears like he wants to change the tone of the ones he fired out earlier this week. As many of you probably already know, Eugene Marve spoke with WQAM's Joe Rose Friday morning and tried to apologize for his comments earlier this week ripping into Shannon and the program. He told our Susan Miller Degnan part of the reason he wants his son to transfer is because he has prostate cancer and would like for him to be closer to home.
I can understand Eugene wanting to make amends. He was speaking like an angry, frustrated father Tuesday. He probably wouldn't have said half of what he said to reporters if he had a chance to step away from the situation. But I'm pretty sure he still meant what he said. The real question is will any of it help his son avoid the stipulations Shannon placed on his transfer Tuesday. Marve's high school coach Robert Weiner, who also ripped into Shannon, supposedly told a Tampa radio station Friday night it has and that UM could possibly now take away some of those restrictions. I called UM's sports information staff after first hearing of it. There is nothing official yet. But who knows -- that could be tomorrow's news.
DOLPHIN STADIUM -- Just wanted to wish the Eye On The U crew a Happy New Year -- even if things are a bit rocky these days in Caneland. Tonight, I'm where Randy Shannon was hoping his team would be this year: the Orange Bowl. God knows the BCS needs the Canes or Seminoles to start getting here more often. This place has plenty of seats still available.
By the way, win or lose tonight, the ACC has shown it really is a mediocre conference at best. 3-6? I'm beginning to wonder if the ACC really even deserves that automatic BCS bid anymore.
> Just wanted to share my thoughts from the news today regarding Jermaine McKenzie's transfer to Memphis. Last month when I spoke to his father John he told me his son was very happy at Miami and didn't think his son would be going anywhere. Looks like a lot changed from then until now. Can't say I'm disappointed in Jermaine. He did the best thing he could for himself. He was never going to see the field at Miami, no matter what Shannon said. He has got too many studs in front of him and it wasn't fair to him to spend three to four years waiting to really see the field.
But he is going to see the field at Memphis. I just think J-Mac never recovered from his car accident. I kept getting the sense from coaches he was still playing with some fear in practice (how can you blame him after coming so close to paralysis?). It's a crying shame. J-Mac was one of the nicest kids I ever had to deal with. I would have loved to see him get a chance to really make a play this season. I'll be rooting for him with the Tigers.
> In case you already didn't know, you'll be able to catch a few Canes commitments and recruits the program is chasing on TV this weekend at the country's two biggest All-American games.
Cornerback Brandon McGee and running back Bryce Brown will be playing for the East at the U.S. Army-All American game in San Antonio Saturday at 1 p.m. on NBC. Two other potential Canes recruits will be announcing their college decisions on TV and playing for the East -- defensive tackle William Campbell (who has UM in his Top 3) and Ohio offensive tackle Marcus Hall. Playing for the west are QB A.J. McCarron (an Alabama commitment) and WR Rueben Randle. Of the four, UM's best shot is at Campbell.
Over in Orlando at the Under-Armour game, Miami will have two commitments playing Sunday night at 8 on ESPN. Cornerback Jamal Reid will represent the White team and defensive back Prince Kent will represent the black team. Other recruiting targets participating include offensive linemen Xavier Su'a Filo (white team) and Peter White (black team), and the Sanford trio -- receiver Andre DeBose, safety Ray Ray Armstrong and tight end/defensive end Dyron Dye. The feeling inside UM is they believe they'll land two-third of the Sanford trifecta -- Armstrong and Dye.
> I didn't get a chance yesterday to follow up on the 53-point beat down the Canes gave North Florida -- the largest margin of victory for a UM basketball team since the program was resurrected in 1985. I nearly fell asleep watching it. What kept me awake was watching Julian Gamble. The kid had 13 points and 13 rebounds to go with three blocks in 19 minutes. But it's more than his production, it's his fearlessness. One of the things his teammates say about Gamble is he's probably one of the most confident guys on the team. "Julian is a hard worker and he listens," Jack McClinton said. "When coach tells him something, he just goes out and does it. He doesn’t say anything back to him."