Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
Each time I think about my trip to Dallas two years ago to watch Miami Northwestern take on Southlake Carroll, the first image that always pops into my mind is the one of receiver Tommy Streeter racing down the field underneath a long, rainbow pass from Jacory Harris for a touchdown. It was the highlight of one of the most impressive high school football games I've ever watched.
Friday afternoon during the University of Miami's third practice of the spring at Greentree Practice Field, Tommy and Jacory treated us to a replay of those long touchdown connections again. Only this time, they were wearing Canes colors. Streeter, who missed his freshman season with a wrist injury, made the play of the day Thursday. Not once. But twice! First, he hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass during 11-on-11 drills, beating newly converted cornerback Sam Shields down the sideline on a long pass. Then, Streeter used all of his 6-5, 207-pound frame to stretch out and make a diving touchdown catch in the back of the end zone during red zone drills.
There shouldn't be MVP awards for spring practices conducted in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. But when you consider how good Streeter looked in only his third practice back from wrist surgery, you got to give him something (at least a helmet sticker).
"It really surprised me to see him fly around like that,'' former Northwestern teammate and fellow UM receiver Aldarius Johnson said. "He looked pretty good for a guy coming off injury, being out all that time after surgery and having therapy. He talked a lot of smack before today's practice. Then, he came out and did what he said he was going to do. He stepped up today. It was like old times."
While Streeter definitely has to put on more weight to take the type of licking safeties will be sure to try and deliver on him, his emergence at receiver bodes well for the Canes. As Aldarius pointed out, "He can stretch the field," Johnson said. "That gives me and Laron and the other guys the underneath stuff. He can make a big impact."
> Streeter was the only player to a touchdown during full on 11-on-11 work, but he wasn't the only player to score Thursday. During red zone drills the following guys scored during red-zone work: Running back Graig Cooper scored on a 12-yard run, fullback Pat Hill on a 15-yard pass from Harris, tight end Richard Gordon on a 10-yard pass from Harris, and receiver Leonard Hankerson (who had a bad case of the drops for most of practice) hauled in a 15-yard jump-ball pass from Cannon Smith on a broken play.
> Other standouts from Thursday's practice included: Linebacker Kylan Robinson (who intercepted a deflected pass intended for Cooper and made a nice tackle of Javarris James after shedding a block); defensive tackle Allen Bailey (who also broke free from a block on a screen pass and drilled James); and defensive tackle Marcus Forston (who showed his speed chasing down Cannon Smith from behind).
> I've got to admit I've enjoyed the extra access coach Randy Shannon has given us for the first four practices this spring. Being on the sideline has allowed the media to really get a good look behind the scenes of who the real leaders, trash-talkers and effort guys are. During running drills today, we got a real good opportunity to listen in on how Orlando Franklin antagonizes opponents. During the entire drill he kept challenging defensive end Adewale Ojomo and clapped when Ojomo and Forston were given extra up-down drills for jumping offsides. Left tackle Jason Fox is another guy who likes to talk smack. He went over several times to the defensive players to ask them what was wrong. It was pretty funny.
> Speaking of Shannon, he wasn't at practice Thursday because he was participating in a Nike Camp in Pittsburgh according to UM's sports information staff. We were told he'll be back for Saturday morning's practice, the first in full pads.
> I don't have a lot more to share in terms of interviews after practice, but I did learn a little about the offensive line from center A.J. Trump. Don't be shocked this season if you see Trump snapping with both hands. The left-handed Trump says when quarterbacks in the shotgun, he'll snap left-handed. But when QBs are under center, he'll do it right-handed because that's how they prefer to receive it. It hasn't really caused any problems in practice yet that I've noticed.
As for potential backups, it's obvious Tyler Horn will be behind Trump when the season starts. But it was interesting to hear who UM is working in with Matt Pipho as the team's third and emergency center. According to Trump, freshman Brandon Washington is getting a look there. "He's a smart kid and he's picking up on things quickly," Trump said. "We need a third center right now, so why not."
Wednesday afternoon, instead of being out at the University of Miami for the second practice of the spring, I was inside The Miami Herald filming our newest installment of The Recruiting Report (a new webcast set to be released in two weeks). During our show, I got a chance to sit down and talk with the No. 1 recruit in Miami-Dade County for 2010, Miami Northwestern defensive tackle Todd Chandler.
By first impressions, Todd was one of the most polite and personable kids I've interviewed recently in the 13 years I've been following recruiting and covering high school football in South Florida. Everything out of Todd's mouth began with 'No Sir' and 'Yes Sir.' He was funny, engaging and had a lot of interesting things to say about himself. For starters, he fought obesity an early age (weighing 167 pounds when he was only 7 years old). He's also the nephew of former Cane Earl Little. But the most interesting stuff to come out of Chandler's mouth during our interview -- on and off camera -- was the reason why he decided to commit to the University of Miami before his junior season was even over. At first, everything Chandler said sounded great, the type of response you want to hear from a high school recruit.
"It just feels like family," Chandler said of UM. "I know Jacory [Harris], Marcus [Forston], all those guys. We all won a championship together. Plus, it's home."
And then, the word BUT got into our conversation. "But, I've been really beginning to feel the love from other schools," Chandler said. "Oklahoma, Florida State, they're really coming hard after me. I'm going to have to give those guys a look."
Before the conversation went any further, I'll admit I lost my cool. 'But aren't you committed to Miami?,' I asked. 'Did you say you were done with recruiting?', I continued. 'Or,' I stammered, 'Is this going to be another Bryce Brown situation?'
Chandler quickly backpedaled. "No way, Sir," Chandler responded. "With all due respect to Bryce and his decision making process, I'll never handle it like that. I'm committed to Miami. When I make up my mind, it will be over. I'm not going to create a circus like that."
Chandler isn't the first kid I've interviewed whose been committed but still isn't done with his head-scratching process. Bryce Brown wasn't the first either (Canes fans remember the Patrick Johnson show in 2007). Still, the phenomenon of being "committed while looking elsewhere" is relatively new to the recruiting world. Sure, kids have made dramatic last minute switches before. There were stunners on National Signing Day long before Bryce Brown ever became the nation's No. 1 recruit and running back.
But there is no denying the way the recruiting game is being played nowadays is much different than it was just a few years ago. A month before national signing day 2009, nearly 90 percent of Top 150 players in the country were committed -- and still taking other visits. It seemed like there were really just a few players who might make things interesting. Then, when it came time to sign the paperwork, stunning stories began to take place across the country as longtime commitments jumped ship, and others like Brown decided to hold off on signing. I was at Monsignor Pace for one of those stunning moments when defensive back Kayvon Webster (a longtime UM commitment) didn't even call Hurricanes coaches to let them know he was going with USF. He just bolted, did them dirty.
Somehow, NSD 2009 just felt very dirty to me too -- even more filthy than what I thought was the scummiest recruiting story I had been around. You know the one I'm talking about. The year was 2003. Me and more than a dozen reporters were sitting in a library at Carol City High, waiting for the then national recruiting story of the year then to make up his mind. We'd find out later a lot more about Willie Williams not long after that. But what I appreciate now (even after the circus that story turned into) was the genuine level of suspense and honest build up of emotion of it. Nobody knew where Williams was going to UM before that day. Nobody knew because even Williams (somebody with a lengthy police record) treated his recruiting process and the colleges chasing him with more respect than most kids do nowadays (even with his laugh out loud commentary in his recruiting diaries). Why? Because he didn't lie to anyone about his feelings. He didn't commit to Larry Coker or Bobby Bowden or anyone else and then change his mind. He spoke the truth when he was asked about where he wanted to go to school, telling reporters all the time 'I don't know.' High school athletes nowadays ought to know (whether their mentors want them to say it or not) there is nothing wrong with saying 'I don't know where I want to go to school.'
Now, just as I felt then when the Willie Williams diaries changed the game (it certainly did change the way colleges spend lavishly on recruits during their official visits), I feel this Bryce Brown saga has changed recruiting again. Maybe for the better (maybe the next high school superstar will stop short of committing when he knows he wants to take visits) or more likely for the worst (maybe it's the start of a permanent, new trend). At the very least, we know this: it's rendered commitments meaningless. Now, instead of being excited about a high school star's decision and the college choice they've made, fans are going to be wondering if any of it is true. We are going to judge them -- fairly or unfairly -- the moment "BUT I'M TAKING MY VISITS" comes out of their mouth.
Bryce Brown should not take all the blame for ruining recruiting and the word commitment. The media has done its part in further glorifying the "commitments" of high school players to prospective colleges. Rivals and Scout have certainly made a nice living off it. So has The Miami Herald, and every other struggling newspaper in the business. I've been a part of it, too. I've been just as guilty in trying to be the first reporter to tell you who the next high school superstar is to choose the Canes. Earlier this week, I dedicated an entire blog to a pair of high school players coach Frank Haith reeled in 'commitments' for in Miami's 2011 and 2012 classes.
But the truth is we've made this story much more than it needs to be. We've turned it into a yearlong odyssey. Blue-chip reporters from top-notch newspapers like the New York Times, magazines like Sports Illustrated and TV and radio stations have covered Bryce Brown nearly as much as the Alex Rodriguez steroid scandal. They've done it all because they want to be the first to tell you whether or not Bryce Brown's letter of intent was pulled by UM, or, if he may or may not make an official or unofficial visit to watch the Canes practice next week. Frankly, it's pathetic.
Ultimately, nobody will ever really know until March 16th what Bryce Brown is going to do. What I can tell you is I'm done using the word 'commitment' loosely when it comes to recruiting. I now fully understand why coach Randy Shannon doesn't believe in it. No matter what a kid can tell you about his heart, his feelings, his dreams and where he would like his future to be, it means absolutely nothing until he signs that scholarship. I think we can all agree, Bryce Brown has taught us that. From now on, when I talk recruiting with any prospective high school star and he mentions the word commitment, I'll follow it up with the obligatory question if he mentions taking other visits. You know what it is... Is this going to be another Bryce Brown situation?
I wasn't in Charlottesville for tonight's must-win game for the Canes, but I did catch UM's 62-55 win over Virginia at home and wanted to share a few observations...
> Before we get to the highlights, here's what Thursday's win means: Miami's NCAA Tournament hopes are still alive. UM has now improved to 6-8 in ACC play and moved up one spot in the conference standings after N.C. State fell to 5-8 with a loss to Wake Forest Thursday. What the Canes would love to do by the end of the season (at the very least) is move into eighth place in the ACC standings. Maryland is the next team ahead of UM, a half-game in front with a 6-7 record. The Terps have N.C. State, Wake Forest and Virginia left on the schedule.
> Thursday night's performance for Jack McClinton wasn't spectacular. But it was still special. The Cavaliers ripped the defensive playbook from Florida State and played McClinton face-up the entire night, denying him any breathing room when he got the ball. But when the going got tough, Jack still did what he had to do to put Miami over the top. People will point to his three-pointer with 46 seconds left, which put UM up 60-55. But his steal on Virginia's possession right before it was an ever bigger play. Most people weren't aware of this, but apparently McClinton was playing with a brace on a recently sprained left knee. He didn't practice all week because of it. McClinton's final stat line says he finished with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting to go with three turnovers. But he still was the reason UM was able to come away with a good road win.
> While Dwayne Collins has disappeared down the stretch this season (he had 6 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes Thursday), senior Brian Asbury deserves a lot of credit for stepping his game up and being the second leader UM has needed. In my opinion, AB has been the second-best player on the court in ACC play for UM night in and night out. He led the Canes with 13 points Thursday and had four rebounds to go with two assists. His numbers aren't eye-opening, but he does all the little things UM has needed from him to win these close game. His offensive rebound and put-back with 2:41 left gave UM a 57-55 lead. He made plenty more big plays before that, too.
> The Canes have two games left and a nice little break before their next game -- at Georgia Tech on Wednesday. That's a nice six day break for McClinton, who obviously could use more time to get over that sprained knee.
Hurricanes football is back in session. Day 1 of spring practice is in the books. What happened? What was said? What did we learn about Randy Shannon's football team after getting a chance to watch them run around in shorts and helmets for an hour and a half at Greentree Practice FIeld?
> All six freshmen who were early enrollees made their debut and did good things according to coach Randy Shannon, who said the first few days of spring practice are really intended for receivers and defensive backs to work hard while linemen and running backs wait for the pads to come on (Saturday).
Cornerback Brandon McGee, one of those six freshmen, described the day as a great experience. McGee is seeing most of his time at right cornerback behind junior Demarcus Van Dyke. McGee said he spends a lot of time going to senior Randy Phillips for advice. You can tell McGee is already fitting in just fine. During his interview, linebacker Sean Spence came by and pulled his shorts down. McGee laughed, but kept his composure and lifted them back up.
> If there is a freshman who is making an early impression consider it running back Mike James, who had sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris raving Tuesday.
"I could go into the city, go home and people will be like I can't wait for Lamar Miller [to get there]," Harris said. "I'll be like 'I can't wait for you to see Mike James.' This guy really impressed me. He would call me to come out and throw on Saturdays when nobody was out here. He would tell me I got to be like [former Georgia running back] Knowshown Moreno. He sits up there and admires everybody. He's just so hardworking and determined, he wants to make it. The man, for a freshman, is super strong. Today, he maxed out at 350 [pounds]. I forgot what he squated, but it was like 400, 500 pounds. He's a man."
> No one was a more popular man after practice with reporters than new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who was made available Tuesday to the media by Shannon for this one and only time (that is of course unless we decide to do a quarterback feature). Whipple didn't shed a whole lot of new information on the offense he's installing, but from what we heard from players there is definitely a lot of excitement surrounding the new offensive boss' creativeness.
For starters, they are no longer studying film at the college level. Whipple has them breaking down NFL film.
"The new playbook looks like a dictionary," Harris said. "When I first saw it, it was stacked 10 inches high. But to be honest, it's not that hard to figure out. Once you learn the concepts, everything comes into place and that playbook shrinks...
"You can definitely sense the creativity in some of the formations. It's something he was telling us is not his offense, but bits and pieces of everything he's learned from being in the NFL. That's his style."
> Harris said a big difference in the way quarterbacks play in Whipple's offense is how quickly they make their reads. He said it feels more like the offense he ran at Miami Northwestern because how quickly he gets the ball out of his hands.
"It's kind of a big difference," Harris said. "If your No. 1 option is not there on your third step, you move quickly to No. 2, No. 3, No. 4. Your eyes are constantly scanning so that as soon as you see a linebacker move here or a safety or a corner, somebody is open. The ball should be out quick. Basically, I'm not there to be the one to sit in the pocket and run around. I'm just here to deliver the ball to the playmakers."
> Harris (who separated his shoulder at the Emerald Bowl) told us he's still experiencing some slight pain in his throwing arm and has continued to participate in rehab twice a day. Tuesday, he was wearing a long sock taped to his arm. But that was more for style than protection. Jacory by the way is up another three pounds and says he weighs 189.
"Basically, I've been taking protein shakes and eating more," Harris said. "I don't have classes on Tuesday and Thursdays, so I go to the MLK restaurant on NW 62nd and 27th Ave. I go down there and get a big breakfast, come back go to sleep and go to meetings. I'm eating a lot."
> As expected, Harris took all of the snaps with the first team Tuesday and looked solid in a variety of drills, getting the ball quickly to his receivers, tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. He was often firing the ball before receivers even made their break, which allowed them time to react to the defense in open space.
> Redshirt freshman Taylor Cook certainly looked like the more impressive the two backup quarterbacks to me. Cannon Smith (5-11) can barely see over the offensive line and at times -- I thought -- had trouble finding receivers. Cook showed me he has a strong arm, but if you ask coaches, he has a ways to go.
TOP PLAYS: UM didn't run 11-on-11 drills very long and spent most of the day working on 7-on-7 drills. There were no touchdowns, long completions or turnovers -- just like there was no real hitting. But there were a few nice plays made by Graig Cooper, Javarris James and freshman running back Mike James. Baby J brought the loudest roar to the sideline when caught a ball in the flat and made a move on linebacker Kylan Robinson, shaking him out of his shoes, en route to a big gain upfield.
WHERE THEY WERE WORKING: As far as how players lined up, there were no surprises. The first team offensive line featured Jason Fox at left tackle, Orlando Franklin at left guard, A.J. Trump at center, Harland Gunn at right guard and Matt Pipho at right tackle. They were backed up in order by freshman Jermaine Johnson, Ian Symonnette (who did look a tad slimmer), Tyler Horn, freshman Brandon Washington and redshirt freshman Ben Jones (who is wearing Xavier Shannon's old No. 55).
The receivers constantly rotated with different units as did the running backs. The defense's back seven looked like this -- first unit: Demarcus Van Dyke and Chavez Grant at corner, Vaughn Telemaque and Jojo Nicholas at safety; Darryl Sharpton (middle), Sean Spence (weak) and Kylan Robinson (strong) at linebacker. The second team unit in the same order featured Ryan Hill and Brandon McGee at corner, Joe Wylie and C.J. Holton at safety and Jordan Futch (strong), Arthur Brown (middle) and Ramon Buchanon (weak) at linebacker.
INJURIES: Defensive end Gavin Hardin suffered some cramps near the end of practice, but other than that there were no injuries. Receiver Kendal Thompkins and tight end Tervaris Johnson wore green jerseys to designate they could not be hit during practice since they are both still returning from injury.
CORAL GABLES -- The 2009 season officially got underway moments ago with the start of 15 spring practices at Greentree Field.
The media is getting a rare opportunity to watch the first four practices of the spring -- normally we only get to watch the first 15 minutes. I'll have a full report once this one is over But I do have a few quick notes to pass along...
> Several veteran players are wearing new numbers. Sam Shields, who has been moved from receiver to cornerback, is now sporting No. 9. He's worn No. 83 his entire career here.
> Sophomore receiver Travis Benjamin is now wearing No. 3 instead of No. 81, which he wore last season.
> All six of the new incoming recruits are here and were practicing, cornerback Brandon McGee (No. 21), defensive end Olivier Vernon (No. 35), defensive tackle Curtis Porter (No. 96), offensive tackle Jermaine Johnson (No. 78), offensive guard Brandon Washington (No. 72) and running back Mike James (No. 22).
> FYI, several players we thought would miss the spring are out here participating in some capacity. Linebacker Colin McCarthy, sporting a new mohawk, is running and participating in drills. So, too are track standouts Brandon Harris, Travis Benjamin and Davon Johnson.
Before practice began, Randy Shannon met with reporters earlier Tuesday to discuss several topics before the start of the spring.
> On the new role of former linebackers coach Micheal Barrow: "Coach Barrow is more of our special assistant on defense and offense, special teams. His role is assisting everyone on defense. Most people think it's a demotion. It's not a demotion. It's giving him more responsibilities to keep going and further his career. It's a big change for us."
> On why sophomore Arthur Brown was moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker heading into the spring: "For four years we had Tavares Gooden at outside, he wasn't productive. We put him in the middle his senior year, he was. You have to move guys around and eventually they'll show what they can do. I think by moving him in the middle he seems more comfortable, quicker reacting, can diagnose plays faster than before.
> On what excites him about new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple: "Coach Whipple brings a lot to our offense, developing quarterbacks. We have young quarterbacks, and he's proven he can develop young quarterbacks. When he was at UMass and Brown, the offense scored points. Sometimes you have to outscore people. That's something coach Whipple has always been able to do."
> On what he's told tight end Richard Gordon about his opportunity to steal the tight end job with other players out: "I told Richard it's his time now. We have guys out that are out, are going to come back in the fall. This is his opportunity to put his stamp on the tight end position – you're big, fast, can run, now it's up to you to get it done. He's been fine catching the football. How many balls are thrown to him?"
> On the seniors he's expecting to step up: "Darryl Sharpton, Javarris James. You go back to Javarris' first year, and I told Javarris this, he was hungry. He came in as a true freshman, wanted to play. He had 800 yards. Then the next two years null and void. Did he slack off his work habits, doing the little things? I told him if you want to be the great running back here this is what has to happen. Now if you don't, we always bring in guys to have competition. He knows I care for him, but he understands the big picture is if you want to be a great football player what did you do as a freshman and what do you need to be doing now? If you go back to those ways, we're going to be a great football team. Darryl, it's time for him to be the Jon Vilma, DJ, Ray Lewis. It's Darryl's time, and that's the reason we recruited him."
> On what he likes about backup quarterback Taylor Cook: "He really does have a strong arm. He's 6-7, gets back, good rhythm, and when he releases it now it has a lot of velocity on it. His short throw are nice touch passes. When he wants to throw it downfield he can throw it downfield."
The Miami Hurricanes might not be done with their 2009 singing class yet, but that doesn't mean they're waiting to get started on 2010, 2011 or even 2012.
Monday afternoon, Frank Haith's team picked up two verbal commitments from players not only highly regarded, but who came to the U.S. recently from outside the country. They are: 6-10, 200-pound, Rwandan-born wingman Yvan Ngirabuakunzi (a 2011 commitment) and 6-10, 220-pound center Ismalia Dauda from Nigeria (a 2012 commitment).
Both phoned UM coaches to tell them they wanted to be a part of the Hurricanes future recently -- even if that future is several years away. Dauda, a freshman at Miami Choice Academy, is considered by some publications to be the best 15-year old freshman in the state of Florida. He hasn't even played for his high school team yet. According to his coach, former FIU and Miami High assistant Bernard Wright, UM coaches didn't need to see Dauda play to see what they liked. They only had to watch one practice.
"Coach [Jake] Morton came down here to see some of our upperclassmen. He saw Ismalia practice once and it didn't take Miami very long to offer," said Wright, who said Dauda also received an early offer from Arkansas. "[College] coaches aren't waiting anymore to jump on kids. They see the size, potential, they want to be in position to get a talent like him early. He went to the North Carolina game recently and came back and told me, Miami is where he wants to be."
Dauda played for the Nigerian Junior National team last year and plans to play for Global Elite, a Nike-sponsored summer travel team based out of Atlanta in the offseason. Wright said Dauda has an older brother who played professional basketball and lives in Fayetville, Arkansas. But he doesn't expect that to play a role in the recruiting.
"He visited Arkansas unofficially in December," Wright said. "He came back saying it was way too cold for him. He wants to play and live in the warm weather. I'm pretty sure Miami is where he wants to be for the long haul."
Ngirabaukuzi, who arrived in the U.S. this past summer, has gotten a chance to play to high school basketball in the states at Piney Woods School in Mississippi. The former member of the Under-18 national team is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds this season and is a very good three-point shooter according to his coach Lemuel Jones.
Spring football practice begins Tuesday at the University of Miami. In order to prepare you, I've compiled a list of important story lines and players to follow throughout camp, which ends March 28th with the BankUnited Canesfest at Lockhart Stadium.
This year, unlike the previous two under coach Randy Shannon, the media will be allowed to watch some of what goes on behind the scenes as the first four practices (Feb. 24-25, 27-28) will be open to the press. Two practices will be open to fans (the spring game March 28th, and a scrimmage at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami at 6:30 p.m. on March 12th). The team will sandwich some time off from March 13-23rd for spring break, but will basically practice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On the days I'm in town (and not following Frank Haith's basketball team) I'll be around to provide updates from football practice.
One thing I think needs to be understood about spring football (and all of the reports you'll be reading in the next few weeks) is that this time of year is really used by coaches to create depth and to experiment with their players more than anything else. Anything you read in the next couple of weeks should be used simply as a progress report heading into the fall. In nearly every case, it's fall camp where positions are really won and lost. So, just because you might hear Randy Shannon say Kylan Robinson is practicing with the first team at outside linebacker should by no means be taken as Robinson is going to be a starter in the fall. A lot of what is said by coaches this time of year is used to feed their players motivation (not only for the guys healthy and who have served as backups for most of their career, but for the guys who are hurt and need a little push when they return in the fall).
Anyway, here are the important storylines/questions the U will be trying to solve during the next few weeks of spring practice.
> 1. Does UM have the talent on the team right now to patch up the holes on its offensive line? According to the coaches I've spoken with the answer is yes. Here's what UM wants to accomplish this spring: find an everyday center, at least two solid rotating tackles to start alongside and backup captain Jason Fox and find at least three guards to rotate in the interior. That's not an easy task for position coach Jeff Stoutland, who really got average at-best performance out of Xavier Shannon, Chris Rutledge and Reggie Youngblood last season before they graduated.
The center job will most likely fall to senior A.J. Trump (6-3, 300), who is more experienced and more talented than redshirt sophomore Tyler Horn (6-4, 289). Trump, who has plagued by injuries most of his career, started nine games at guard last season and is definitely considered one of the top five linemen for UM behind Fox and junior Orlando Franklin. So, if Horn were to emerge at center, there is a very good chance he would move back to guard and remain in the starting lineup.
As for the interior, Franklin will begin the spring at left guard, where he started 11 games last season. But the ideal place the 6-7, 328-pound behemoth would like to play is at right tackle (where he could get a shot if others step up). The question is will they? Redshirt sophomore Harland Gunn, highly-touted freshman Brandon Washington and 6-9, 351-pound junior Ian Symonette will all be given an opportunity to show what they've got inside. Washington, a former standout at Miami Northwestern, is the most likely to emerge although Gunn will reportedly begin with the first team at right guard with junior Joel Figueroa (shoulder surgery) out for the spring.
The right tackle position will begin with a battle between senior Matt Pipho (6-7, 307) and redshirt freshman Ben Jones (6-5, 310). But as I said earlier, ultimately, Shannon wants the best five on the field come the fall. Look for prep school freshman Jermaine Johnson, slated to backup Fox on the left side, to get a shot in that rotation too.
> 2. Who will emerge in a secondary loaded with question marks? Ask Shannon to give you a depth chart at cornerback and safety and he simply can't. There is no area with greater unknowns on the team than here where every starting position is really up for grabs heading into the spring. While six veterans return with defensive back playing experience, each has plenty to prove. At corner, sophomore Brandon Harris, junior Demarcus Van Dyke and senior Chavez Grant will be joined in competition by seniors Ryan Hill (moving down from safety to corner) and Sam Shields (moving over from receiver) and true freshman Brandon McGee.
At safety, senior Randy Phillips is back after missing nearly all of last season, along with junior Jojo Nicholas among the veterans. But the name everyone expects to see a lot from is redshirt freshman Vaughn Telemaque, whom Shannon compared to Ed Reed at the end of last season. Those three are likely to be in the mix with the first team while redshirt sophomore Jared Campbell, redshirt freshmen C.J. Holton and Joe Wylie compete behind them. While more help will arrive in the fall in the form of players like Prince Kent, Ray Ray Armstrong and Jamal Reid, it's often very hard for true freshman to see the field immediately and beat the guys who have been competing since the spring for starting spots. But in this case, where so many guys have yet to prove they are the man, I would be surprised if it happened this year.
> 3. Whom, besides sophomore Sean Spence, is going to prove he is worthy of playing time at linebacker? Say what you want about the lack of big-time playmakers in UM's secondary last season, I thought the bigger problem was finding guys at linebacker who could make the basic plays (like tackling and stopping scrambling quarterbacks from carving the Canes defense). With John Lovett taking over for Micheal Barrow (who is now classified simply as a defensive assistant), task No. 1 will be finding guys who not only consistently wrap up, but have the speed and ability to make those special plays. The talent is said to be there with sophomores Arthur Brown, Jordan Futch and Ramon Buchanon, but we'll have to see how much they've really grown.
As it stands, the loss of Glenn Cook, Spencer Adkins and Romeo Davis means UM only has Spence (weakside) and senior Darryl Sharpton (middle) as healthy players on the roster this spring who have played actual real minutes at linebacker in games. Shannon said seldom-used junior Kylan Robinson (strongside) will get an opportunity to compete on the outside along with the young guys. The ideal goal for UM is finishing this spring knowing they've got playmakers behind Spence, Sharpton and Colin McCarthy (when he returns from his shoulder injury in time for the fall).
> 4. Will Richard Gordon get his act together or will the tight end position at The U disappear until real help arrives? Since the day he arrived at UM all we've heard about Gordon is what an athletic freak he is. At 6-4, 260-pounds, he's been used just about everywhere. He even handled a job as a kick returner for a few games two seasons ago. The bottomline is Gordon simply still hasn't found a place to contribute. This spring, with Chris Zellner gone (graduation), Dedrick Epps out until September at the earliest (torn ACL) and Tervaris Johnson battling injury woes, Gordon will have every opportunity to work with the first team and try and impress a new coordinator. When he needs some rest, sophomore Daniel Adderley, a recruiting bust, and Steven Wesley, who could move over from defensive end, are expected to share the snaps at tight end. Still, it's Gordon who is the only healthy Cane who has any of the ingredients to be a legit tight end. Last season, he had only three catches for 24 yards. Gordon's biggest problem according to position coach Joe Pannunzio has been route running. There's a chance new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple could devise an easier way to utilize Gordon. But if that doesn't happen, I seriously wonder if UM might just go into the fall deciding to abandon the tight end position until real help arrives.
> 5. Who will take a step forward as the backup quarterback to Jacory Harris? A year ago we went into the spring knowing Robert Marve would likely go into the fall with Harris as his backup. This year with Robert Marve gone, we know who the starter for The U will be for the next two seasons. But one of the biggest keys according to Randy Shannon this spring will be finding a backup to Harris. The candidates are the two guys who were red-shirted last season as freshmen, 6-7, 225-pound Texas native Taylor Cook or 5-11, 200-pounder Cannon Smith. Most expect Cook, who has the stronger arm and ideal size to emerge as the frontrunner to backup Harris heading into the fall. But we'll have to see how far along he's come since last year when the former option quarterback looked like he was struggling with his basic mechanics. For what it's worth, Smith actually took a few snaps last spring before getting injured on the scout team in the fall.
BANKUNITED CENTER -- As usual, I'll be here to watch Frank Haith's basketball team try and save its NCAA Tournament hopes with a win today against Boston College.
Haith told us in his pregame press conference Friday he was going to shrink his rotation a little bit to get the best players on the floor more. We'll have to see if that happens today. The starting lineup certainly features UM's best five in my opinion: Jack McClinton, James Dews, Brian Asbury, Dwayne Collins and Jimmy Graham.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS/THOUGHTS...
> Canes jumped all over Boston College and had as much as a 17-point lead in the first half thanks some terrific shooting. UM connected on 9 of 13 from three-point range, including four from James Dews who had 12 points. Brian Asbury and Jack McClinton each have 10 points. UM shot 58 percent in the first half and held everyone but Joey Trapani (8 pts) scoreless for the first 10 minutes of the game.
I had a couple of other quick notes I wanted to pass along from conversations I've had in the past week and from some of my personal experiences...
> Like most of you, I think its more than unfortunate the University of Miami's baseball stadium has been renamed in honor of an admitted steriod user. But I definitely liked the upgrade to the facilities. The new press box, locker rooms, media interview rooms, everything associated with the final phase of the $14 million facelift looked great. A program that has won four national championships was long overdue in receiving facilities on-par with just about every other major Division I school in the country.
But, I've got one complaint: Where is the ATM machine? If you don't come to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field with cash, you are basically screwed. Only one of the vendors (the pizza line) takes credit cards and you have to pay a minimum of $10 to be able to use it. Not cool. Also, don't make the mistake of getting in one line and thinking everything on the menu is on the menu. InsideTheU's Chris Stock thought he got in line for chicken fingers and fries. He found out 10 minutes later, it was only the line next to him that was serving it.
> Associate Athletic Director Jim Frevola told us late last night he expects the final finishing touches on the stadium (2,000 bleacher seats along the left field and right field lines) to be in place before UM hosts Florida State at the start of April.
> For those of you wondering if UM's basketball team is done recruiting, the answer is no. Haith can't talk specifics about unsigned recruits but basically confirmed his team still has a scholarship available to use in April. I've heard point guard Lisandro Ruiz-Moreno is no longer being recruited by Miami because of academics (most of his transcripts are still in South America) UM would probably like to get a point guard considering none of the three guards they have signed or lined up to come (Durand Scott, Antoine Allen or Garrius Adams) are not natural point guards.
TALLAHASSEE -- Just a couple quick messages to pass along. Got a text message on my way up here earlier today from 790 The Ticket radio personality Jorge Sedano to pass along that he's supposed to have Brian Butler (Bryce Brown's mentor) on his show tomorrow at noon. UPDATED: I'm not sure if Sedano did finally get Butler on his show, but here is the link to an interview with Evan Cohen on 760 ESPN in Palm Beach.
> Friday night before the baseball season opener against Rutgers, UM will induct Baltimore Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff into the Hall of Fame. Jim Morris, along with Pat Burrell, will present Huff with his Hall of Fame ring and jacket in an on-field ceremony before the game. Huff hit 21 home runs and drove in 95 RBI his final season at Miami in 1998. He hit .400 in his career (2nd all-time) and had a career .719 slugging percentage. For more information on a Parrott Jungle Banquet and the UM Sports Hall of Fame golf tournament on April 24th, go to UMSportsHallofFame.com.
TALLAHASSEE -- It took me awhile to finally settle in at the Donald L. Tucker Center (I had to fly into Jacksonville and drive) but I'm here for tonight's big Canes-Noles basketball tilt. We know Miami needs a win badly. I'll be here to provide you with a halftime update and postgame update.
> For you football fans, the Palm Beach post and Sun-Sentinel got a chance to talk to coach Randy Shannon "exclusively" today and collected some good nuggets before the start of spring next week. The most eye-opening news to come out is that Micheal Barrow is no longer the linebackers coach. Defensive coordinator John Lovett will now handle the linebackers and Barrow will be allowed to roam freely as a defensive assistant. The positive? Barrow is without question an excellent recruiter and this may allow him more time to go out on the recruiting scene.
> Sam Shields is indeed moving to cornerback as Canesport first reported last week. Shannon told the Sentinel he wanted more bodies there. My question is can Shields honestly help the team there or was this move simply made so he stops running out on the field at the wrong time on offense? I'm convinced the only place we are really going to see Shields on the field anymore is as a flier on punts and kickoffs.
> Well, the day has come and gone and Bryce Brown did not sign his National Letter of Intent. While UM has obviously told several reporters (including me) they will not renew the offer, I'm not going to buy it totally until I hear Bruce Brown, Brian Butler or someone from the Brown family say that's the case. The one thing I've learned covering this team is that things change quickly. And if Brown was told his scholarship offer was no longer available to him, he wouldn't be carrying on like normal. We would have had to have an update on potentialplayers.com, right?
> Almost forgot: I've been told The Miami Herald will have its "exclusive" day with Shannon on Monday. Feel free to begin leaving me some questions you would like for us to ask if we indeed get the interview.
FIRST HALF THOUGHTS/HIGHLIGHTS...
> Dwayne Collins apparently did enough in practice Wednesday to convince Frank Haith he deserved to play tonight instead of resting his sprained left ankle one more day. Haith is glad he did. Collins has come out strong with seven points, four rebounds and two assists.
> The bigger news is that Jack McClinton finally has some help. James Dews leads the team with 8 points at halftime. Dews replaced Lance Hurdle in the starting lineup and is showing us why. He's done a good job defensively. Hurdle by the way has obviously gotten a boost from being benched. He had 6 points in 13 minutes and was effective.
END OF REGULATION
> Tough loss for the Canes. Jack McClinton gets held to 13 points. I'll have more for you tomorrow. I've got to drive to Jacksonville and fly home from there in the afternoon.
For those of you Canes basketball fans, I got off the phone about an hour ago with UM coach Frank Haith right after his team's flight landed in Tallahassee and have some news to report.
> Forward Dwayne Collins, who suffered a sprained left ankle in practice last week, is expected to be a game-time decision for UM (15-9, 4-7) Wednesday night at FSU (19-6, 6-3). Haith said Collins, who missed Sunday's game and had a 32-game starting streak snapped, practiced some on Tuesday and the decision will come down to how he looks in practice Wednesday before the game. The one thing Haith said he doesn't want to do is make it worse. Miami does have four more ACC games after Wednesday.
> If Collins doesn't start, look for redshirt freshman Julian Gamble to be in the lineup instead of Cyrus McGowan. Haith said Gamble has really been coming on of late and probably deserves his first career start. "Julian needs court time," Haith said. "He has to get on the court. I think Julian is going to be good. He really has played well in limited minutes. He's got a good feel now."
> Lance Hurdle is going to the bench. Haith said he's trying to do whatever he can to get Hurdle going and has decided to bring James Dews back into the starting lineup. "Lance has to be better. Point guard has been our achilles' heel," Haith said. "The better he plays, the better we're goign to play. We got to do what we can to help him get his confidence back.
The drama continues. The nation's No. 1 recruit has announced on his website (potentialplayers.com), he'll take his final official visit to UM on the weekend of March 3rd.
The question is: Do the Canes still care? According to a UM source I've exchanged text messages with tonight, "That may be their plan. But it ain't ours." We'll have to see if UM stands its ground and decides to pull the scholarship from Brown, whose national letter of intent expires Wednesday like reports suggest. Or, if they let Bryce visit and try to patch things up.
Stay tuned for all the drama.
Late last week I was told by a source close to the situation there was a chance the University of Miami might end up passing on Bryce Brown, opting to go into the spring without waiting for the nation's No. 1 recruit to make up his mind.
Tuesday afternoon, the Associated Press quoted another source (someone recruiting Brown) saying that when Brown's scholarship offer expires Wednesday the Hurricanes would not renew it. Where does the truth lie? What is going to happen with Bryce Brown and could he still end up a Cane? At this point, I have no idea. Miami could change its mind and decide to throw a scholarship his way later on in this process. Or, as reports suggest, they've already decided to pull it and won't change their minds. What I do know is this: Days of Our Bryce has a new chapter.
Brown, who committed to UM a year ago, could not be reached for comment. But I did speak with his mentor Brian Butler moments ago, who told me he would be surprised if Miami backed off.
"We don't comment on rumors," Butler said. "But I can tell you we talked to UM this morning. Bryce talked to coach Shannon and none of that was said. He's still committed to Miami and he feels great about him. The conversation was very positive. He's looking forward to seeing what's going on with spring ball. He's definitely interested in making a visit there whether its official or unofficial. I know he's going to take a look at spring ball and see how the offense is doing."
Butler said he was about to update his website (potentialplayers.com) to inform readers of Bryce's recruitment and his visit last weekend to Tennessee. It is still unknown where Brown will be taking his final official visit. But Butler did say Brown has moved his announcement date to March 16 because of his visits. Brown was expected to announce on March 12. Brown has UM, Oregon, LSU, USC, Tennessee and Kansas State as his top suitors.
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from discussing recruits until they sign. I'll let you know what I hear "unofficially" from UM's end.
With a week to go before the start of spring practice we got a chance Tuesday to hook up with three returning veterans -- offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, running back Javarris James and defensive lineman Allen Bailey. We learned a lot about injuries, transfers, potential spring battles -- and more importantly -- how The U's two new coordinators have begun to interact with their players.
Here's what we know: Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has made an impression. According to his players, he isn't going to stroke any of them and let them live off the past. According to James, Whipple's first meeting with the team wasn't full of pleasantry. It was all about getting down to business.
"He's a straight-on guy," James said. "He gave it to us raw. He kind of put us in our place, said a few words in the meeting that caught us by surprise. It was like tough love. That's different from what we were used to. We know this guy came here to win. That's what he's been used to."
The same way defensive players have begun studying their new playbooks this week, so too have offensive players. James told us receivers have been walking around excited, talking about the new routes in Whipple's offense. James said there are also new reasons for the running backs to be excited.
"It's great for us," James said of the playbooks' design for running backs. "It gives us the opportunity to get in the open field, get the ball one-on-one, line us up against linebackers. The whole offense - it's a tough offense to learn, but once we get it down all of us have a lot of confidence in coach Whipple. It's really a pro-style offense. You have different terminology to learn. But it's not too bad. Once you get a feel you'll be fine. The offense is going to be fun for us. It's a lot of different from what I've been used to since I've been here. I really expect big things from the offense."
James said the offense has a lot more it asks of running backs to do -- especially in blocking schemes. "The things you see guys in the NFL doing -- pass blocking, catching the ball out of the backfield -- that's what we'll be doing. You have to be the quarterback's eys as far as protections. You have to look at the safeties, pay attention to it all."
OFFENSIVE LINE IN FLUX: Without question, UM's offensive line is going to be the area where the most competition and movement will take place. We learned a few new things Tuesday about the line. One, it looks like offensive guard Joel Figueroa could miss signinficant time this spring. Two, senior Chris Barney has apparently decided to transfer (he hardly played at all in his career at UM).
Figueroa, who started in four games last season as a sophomore, had surgery according to his teammates. He was seen walking around campus Tuesday with his arm in a sling. It's unclear when he'll return. But when he does, he'll likely be back at guard.
In his absecne though we learned redshirt sophomore Harland Gunn will see time with the first team -- a good sign for a player who has spent two years developing on the scout team. Gunn came to UM ranked the eighth best center in the country. Teammates say Gunn is expected to be pushed by prep school recruit Brandon Washington.
Center, the position vacated by Xavier Shannon, will come down to a battle between A.J. Trump and Tyler Horne. Trump played a lot of backup center last season during practice, especially when Shannon was out on Wednesdays because of class.
Left guard still belongs to Orlando Franklin, who made 10 starts there last year. But Franklin said Tuesday he's been told he'll get a shot at right tackle (a position I believe he will be moved to permanently) two weeks into the spring. Franklin said junior Ian Symonnette is currently backing him up at guard. Left tackle of course is being manned by veteran Jason Fox and prep school recruit Jermaine Johnson.
"Coach Stoutland said I’ll get my opportunity to play tackle," Franklin said. "I just always wanted to play tackle in college. When I got here it was easier for me to get on the field early at guard, so they bumped me inside. Last year I took a couple reps and did a lot of one-on-ones [at right tackle] with faster guys. When you play tackle you play against a lot of faster guys. When you are playing guard everything is just right there. When you play tackle you got to see more, you got to be smarter I think."
Franklin said he finished last season weighing 337 pounds. He said he's already trimmed himself down to 328 and said he would like to weigh 318 when the season begins so he can be lighter on his feet. Still, weight isn't the only thing Franklin said he'll be working on. He said he was disappointed with his season last year and wants to improve his technique.
"Technique wise I feel like I grew up a lot," Franklin said. "But I didn’t feel like I dominated people like I needed to. I just want to be that guy. Fourth and 1, there shouldn’t be any questions asked where they’re running the ball. But they passed the ball sometimes. That shows you something."
A MOVE INSIDE FOR BAILEY? The Canes defensive line obviously has less holes to fill and fewer questions. One question, however, that might not get answered this spring is where Allen Bailey's future is at. Is he going to be an end (where he played primarily last season) or is he going to make the move inside to tackle (where he played on third down situations)? Or will he just play both?
Bailey sounded Tuesday like coaches may ask him to move inside more often this year because of "the youth in the middle." Bailey said he can take the physical play inside (he's now up about pounds to 289-290), but he prefers playing on the outside."It’s way different than the end position," Bailey said. "You are in close quarters with everybody right there in front of you. You have to react quickly. It’s a little bit of a battle. I’m not a typical d-tackle, so there are some advantages."
Bailey said he's working at right tackle with Joe Joseph behind him. The left side is being manned by sophomore Marcus Forston and Josh Holmes. He said he expects redshirt freshmen Micanor Regis and Jeremy Lewis to contribute this season along with true freshman Curtis Porter. It sounds like left defensive end will be manned by Eric Moncur and Bailey. Sophomore Marcus Robinson, junior Adewale Ojomo and freshman Olivier Vernon are expected to rotate on the right side.
Bailey shed a little light on new defensive coordinator John Lovett's schemes."Seems like the defense will be a little easier," Bailey said. "No dropping back into coverage for the ends. It will be more basic stuff. It will probably allow us to do more rushing for the ends."
The 2008 Miami Hurricanes had one of the best lineups in all of college baseball, a talented collection of power hitters who could light up the scoreboard and send balls flying out of the park on a nightly basis. Barring a few unexpected surprises, coach Jim Morris knows his 2009 Hurricanes will not be that kind of team when they their new season at their newly reconstructed and renamed ballpark Friday night against Rutgers.
So what will the Canes do to win games this coming season? Morris is banking on pitching, defense, timely hitting and being the complete opposite of what his lineup was last year -- a successful small ball unit.
"We're not going to be a team that hits for power like last year," said Morris, whose 2008 team belted 106 home runs and drove in 517 RBI en route to compiling the fifth highest winning percentage in UM history with a 53-11 record before sputtering in Omaha. "Our team last year bunted the least of any team since I've been at Miami. This team might be one that bunts more than anybody. We got to sac bunt. We got to be very fundamentally sound. We got to play good solid defense. We’re not going to be a big inning club – unless I’m surprised."
Expecting the Hurricanes to duplicate what they did a year ago with the number of superstars who left would be insane. One look at the roster tells you all you need to know about how much work the Canes have in front of them. Of the team's top 11 hitters, only four are back. Gone from UM's lineup: 78 of team's 106 home runs and 358 of the team's 517 RBI last season.
There are several All-American candidates back: shortstop Ryan Jackson (.360, 50 RBI, 4 HRs), left-handed ace, freshman pitcher of the year Chris Hernandez (11-0, 2.72 ERA) and budding relief pitcher and newly annointed closer Kyle Bellamy (6-0, 1.86 ERA). But aside from those three, there are simply a lot of questions. Morris could not complete a lineup when asked about it on two different occassions Monday, instead giving reporters a rough draft of where some guys will likely be playing.
"This is probably the team where I have the least number of starters returning in my college career," said Morris, who had three players (first baseman Yonder Alonso, second baseman Jemile Weeks and pitcher Carlos Gutierrez) taken in the first round of the June draft and three more (outfielders Dennis Raben and Blake Tekotte and third baseman Mark Sobolewski) take on the first day.
"With that said, I keep telling myself and reminding myself when we lost [Pat] Burrell, [Aubrey] Huff, [Jason] Michael and [Alex] Santos that the next year nobody gave us a chance and we won it . That’s how I go to sleep every night. This club is like that club. It’s a very young club, even though we did have a few more veterans returning in 1999 than we do this year. It’s still exciting."
> The first four spots in the order appear to be locked in at least according to what Morris told us. He said he envisions freshman Nate Melendres leading off and playing center field followed by JUCO transfer Scott Lawson batting second and playing second base, Jackson batting third and playing short and JUCO transfer Chris Hermann hitting cleanup.
After that, it gets a little hazy. Morris mentioned senior Jason Hagerty (who could play first base, catcher or left field) next, followed by freshman Harold Martinez (a corner infielder) and catcher Yasmani Grandal in the seventh or eight spot. It looks like senior Dave DiNatale (the team's top returning power hitter with nine home runs and a .295 average) will be starting in right field. Ther other spot -- left field -- is a coin flip. Morris said senior Jonathan Weislow, used primarily as a pinch-runner last season and with six career starts, would likely get the first crack at the spot Friday. But Hagerty and senior Ryan Perry, a utility player, would also get a look.
"There’s going to be a lot of combinations to try and figure out how to get those guys in there," Morris said. "We got to get our best nine players in the lineup."
THE PITCHING STAFF
Pitching coach J.D. Arteaga seems a little less worried about his group, which obviously returns one of the best in the country in Hernandez. Despite the loss of No. 2 starter and left-hander Eric Erickson (who will miss the season recovering from Tommy John surgery), Arteaga told me he's confident UM will find somebody very good to fill his spot in the rotation.
Right now, it looks like last year's alternate starter, senior right-hander David Gutierrez, is ready to assume the role. Gutierrez went 5-0 last season in seven starts with a 4.75 ERA. "After that we have a group of freshman that I feel are going to be very good, just guys who haven’t done it yet," Arteaga said. "But the ability is there without a doubt."
Arteaga mentioned four guys with the potential to fill the next two spots. They are: redshirt freshman left-hander D.J. Swatscheno, freshman left-hander Danny Miranda and freshmen right-handers Kevin Youst and Travis Miller.
“Danny Miranda and Kevin Youst are the same pitcher,” Arteaga said. “One is left handed and one is right-handed. Both have outstanding changeups. They both locate their fastball very well. Both are very competitive. The change is up what really sets them apart from other guys. DJ is a little different. He’s a left-handed power guy, who was the highest ranked left-handed pitcher in the state before he had an arm injury. We’re just getting him healthy, getting him ready. I think before they’re done they will all have very good careers here. It’s just a matter of getting them going.”
The closer's role as I mentioned earlier will belong to Bellamy. But it's not a position he has locked in. "He closed a few games last year," Arteaga said. "But it’s a big jump. Just because you had a great year as a setup guy doesn’t mean it’s going to translate. Pitching the eighth inning and the ninth inning are two completely different animals. He did it in the ACC championship game. He has done it. I have confidence he’s going to do it."
If Bellamy struggles, his most likely replacement would be newcomer and JUCO transfer Taylor Wulf. The 6-0, 235-pound junior right hander was a starter as a sophomore at Alvin Community College, but was a closer as a freshman. He has strong curve ball as a strikeout pitch and has the full backing of Arteaga. "He's got the mentality for it," Arteaga said.
> I'll have more to share with you in the coming weeks from baseball including interviews with the Canes' three biggest newcomers: the Texas trio of JUCO players, who are being counted on heavily to deliver right away. Plus, some good stuff from Ryan Jackson and Ryan Hagerty.
BANKUNITED CENTER -- It is amazing how quickly things can change for you in college basketball. One minute, you are celebrated for beating a Top 10 team like Wake Forest by 27 points on your home floor. The next, some people want to roast you for losing by a combined seven points to Duke and North Carolina.
In all honesty, Canes fans who have something negative to say rather than positive after what this team has accomplished the past two weeks ought to realize they know very little about college hoops. Sunday, Miami played without Dwayne Collins. They got very little help from the refs (Miami didn't get to the free throw line until 6:01 to play and only made it there once). And still, some how, the Canes were a Ty Lawson missed three-pointer away and another Jack McClinton basket from beating the team everyone picked this season to win it all. Instead, heartbreak, a 69-65 Tar Heels victory and now a new dilemma. The Canes must win at least four of their last five to get to 8-8 in the ACC and have a chance at reaching the NCAA tournament.
UM coach Frank Haith wasn't trying to sugar coat anything in his post-game press conference. He knows there are no awards for coming close to wins. But he realizes this has to end and his team has to start winning some of these down to the wire games. Miami has lost five of its past six. Three came in OT and the other two by fewer than five points. UM had two possessions with the opportunity to take the lead late. The first one, McClinton drove to the basket and had his shot partially blocked before Jimmy Graham missed a tip-in. The second, Brian Asbury was called for a charge with about 44 seconds remaining. I am not sure what Haith could have done to prevent the last turnover, one other than ask Asbury to pull the ball back out and giving McClinton a chance. But on the other hand, how can you fault Asbury for trying to make a play? Bottomline: another tough loss.
Some more notes/thoughts...
> Ty Lawson finished with 21 points in 34 minutes. But those five three-pointers he made were a career-high and pretty much unexpected. Lawson has never been a big-time perimeter shooter. The game-winning three he hit with about three seconds left on the clock was basically a step-back prayer. Lawson, it should be noted, had been battling the flu since Thursday.
> Tyler Hansbrough's 8 points and 4 rebounds against UM wasn't a season-low (he had 8 points and 5 rebounds against FSU), but it was a tremendous effort for the Canes who were obviously short-handed without Collins. Jimmy Graham finished with 15 rebounds and five blocked shots in 27 minutes. He basically did it all without much help from Cyrus McGowan, who was held scoreless in just 15 minutes -- as much a redshirt freshman Julian Gamble (who scored four points and had five rebounds).
> Jack's 35 points marked his third consecutive game with a season-high. He had 32 vs. Wake, 34 vs. Duke and now has eight career 30 point games. Prior to Sunday night, Eric Brown (1988-89) was the last Cane to score more than 30 in three straight games. McClinton is now second all-time at UM in 3-point field goals (one shy of tying the school record held by Steve Edwards 265).
> McGowan wasn't the only starter to put up a stinker for the Canes. Lance Hurdle was 2 of 9 from the field with 4 points, 2 assists and 2 turnovers. It's amazing to think where UM would be today if Hurdle, Collins and McGowan had managed to show up for the last two games. FYI, Brian Asbury was the only other Hurricane in double figures Sunday with 12 points.
Tremendous first half effort for UM defensively, holding No. 3 North Carolina to 36 percent shooting in the first half. It just wasn't enough to establish the lead.
The Tar Heels finished the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 29-26 lead at the break. UM is obviously playing shorthanded without the injured Dwayne Collins, its No. 1 scoring option in the post. The problem for UM tonight is they can't get any offense generated inside the paint. Everything they are putting up is a tough shot.
Jack McClinton leads all scorers with 12 points. Lance Hurdle is still struggling with his shot. He was 1-for-6 from the field in the first half. We'll see if Miami can continue to play this way and remain in the game.
The Miami Hurricanes are going to be shorthanded tonight against third-ranked North Carolina.
Forward Dwayne Collins, the team's second-leading scorer, suffered a left ankle sprain this week in practice and will miss his first game this season. Collins had started 32 straight games for UM.
UM sports information director Margaret Belch said Collins is listed as day-to-day. But his loss tonight is obviously going to hurt. Look for Jimmy Graham to start in Collins place when the game tips off at 7:45 p.m. -- and more minutes for redshirt freshman Julian Gamble, who hasn't played since he was in for four minutes against Maryland two weeks ago.
I will not be blogging tonight during the game, but will check in at halftime and once it is over.
The University of Miami may not have the budget to pay coaches top dollar or a recent history of success one would imagine enticing enough to make outsiders believe this is a place the best football leaders in the country want to be.
But there is something about The U (no matter what it is lacking right now in a 19-19, three-year span of ordinary football) that still makes it an extraordinary place for coaches to want to be. I believe its because it's a place where all the right ingredients are in place to hit the game-winning home run and be the hero.
That's exactly what new defensive coordinator John Lovett meant when he used the phrases "very thrilled," "very fortunate," and "very lucky," to describe his feelings about getting the job. Lovett, 58, has been in a lot of other coaching huddles. Auburn. Clemson. Mississippi. And most recently, Butch Davis' up at North Carolina, a team most could argue is in a much better position than UM to succeed having won their last two meetings against the Canes.
But coming to UM? No way Lovett was going to pass that up, no matter how hard it was to walk into Davis' office and tell him he was leaving for another team in the ACC. The same could be said for offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. This is a guy who won a Super Bowl with Pittsburgh, was in line to move up the coaching ladder with a Philadelphia Eagles team that was in the NFC Championship game. But then, The U came calling. Didn't Bill Young say the same things a year ago before he returned home for the only job that was really better?
Lovett told us he's been eyeing the Canes a long time -- even before he stopped delivering furniture or driving a zamboni during hockey games at Mount Union College when he first got into coaching.
"When I was a coach, one of the first places I visited was the place," Lovett said. "I visited Dave Campo, who had just taken a job here. I was at the University of Maine. He said come down here and talk some football. They had just beaten Oklahoma, won the national championship that year Because of that trip I also met Tommy Tuberville. Coach [Butch] Davis was working here at the time. I made a lot of good contacts. Every time you looked when I was a young coach, this was the U. They always had terrific players, were in the hunt for a national championship. It was a place that `Geez, it would be great to coach here someday.''
> Lovett has his chance now and he knows he'll have to act fast with less than two weeks before the start of spring football. He told us he still hasn't familiarized himself with the players and only recently started to watch film. The good news is he's going to make UM's transition to a fourth different coordinator in four seasons as easy as possible. Instead of learning a new language, Lovett said he'll try to keep the same terminology for most of the stuff he's implementing. "I'd rather one person learn it than 50 people learn it," he said. "To me that makes a lot of sense."
> His defense will also not stretch beyond the playing limits of his player's talents or smarts. "It'll be similar to what they've done here," Lovett said. "We'll base out of a four-man front, play some zone coverage, man coverage, some type of pressure. It's not like we'll come in and change the whole scheme, be blitzburg. It'll be in that format and style. Every place I go I try to find out what the guys we have can do and cater to them. If you don't have corners that can cover, defensive ends that can play inside, you have to adjust the personnel you have to make it fit, be successful."
> Credit special teams coach Joe Pannunzio for helping bring Lovett over. Lovett said the two are old friends and after Pannunzio asked him if he was interested, he passed it on to Shannon who did the rest.
> While many of us think Randy Shannon might have a bigger hand with UM's defense in light of him telling us he might just do the job himself, Lovett expects to be running the show on his own. "Obviously everything we do I'll run by him, especially if it's something different," Lovett said. "I've worked for Tommy Tuberville, Butch Davis. Both those guys were defensive coaches. Neither really meddled in what I was doing. The big thing all of these guys want is they want to make sure what you're doing fits in their philosophy and that the kids are playing fast and hard."
In all, we got a chance to speak with four players Thursday: offensive tackle Jason Fox, linebacker Sean Spence, kicker Matt Bosher and defensive end Eric Moncur. We didn't learn a whole lot beyond the fact they're very excited about taking on what will be a very challenging start to the 2009 season. But there were some brief thoughts, notes to pass along.
> For starters, Canes fans need not worry about Sean Spence getting a big head after his big freshman season. The kid said his father, a Miami Northwestern assistant coach, still calls him every week to remind him where he came from and what he needs to work on. Spence said he's definitely taking on more of a leadership role with Glenn Cook gone, teaching fellow freshmen like Arthur Brown, Jordan Futch and Ramon Buchanon what he learned last year. Spence also told me he's gained six pounds of muscle from end of last season and is now weighing 213.
> Fox is stepping up his game, too. Fox said he can't believe he's already a senior (neither can I) and Spence said he's noticed Fox taking more of a leadership role in the weight room, getting on other players and holding them accountable. With several offensive linemen gone and several newcomers, Fox said he knows its going to be a challenge to fill some holes. When asked if he thought prep school recruits Brandon Washington and Jermaine Johnson might be able to help right away, he said it was up to them and their work ethic.
"I remember the first game I started at Florida State – it was an experience for me seeing the change in the speed of the game," Fox said. "If players don't see the field right away it's mostly learning the offense. The game is so complex. It takes as much time in the film room and studying the play book as anything else. It's harder than people realize. It can be extremely challenging to an incoming freshman who is not only trying to learn football, but get adjusted to college life. It's a whole out of body experience."
> As for Moncur, he said he was really worried he might not get a chance at a sixth-year of eligibility. ACC rules require players to wait until the end of the season to file for medical redshirts. Moncur's return next season should be a great influence on Adewale Ojomo, Allen Bailey, Marcus Forston and the rest of the talented linemen UM has.
This isn't the type of news I like to write or pass along, but I have to because it's my job.
Linebacker Brandon Marti, a member of UM's 2008 signing class, was arrested early Thursday morning on charges of battery and false imprisonment related to domestic violence. A police report has not been made available yet, so details are unknown.
Marti, 18, didn't play last season and was suspended while playing on the practice squad according to UM spokesman Kerwin Lonzo. He told me Marti was told after this past season he was no longer a member of the team.
But I spoke to Marti's older brother moments ago who told me Marti was in a trial period with the team and had been working out with players this week. Either way, this definitely signals the end of his Canes career. Marti was an All-Dade linebacker at Miami Gulliver Prep.
Although I'm sure everyone is going to jump on this story and start saying Thug U all over again, Marti's arrest is the first for a Canes player since former quarterback Robert Marve punched in a car window on Halloween 2007. Only two current or former Canes that we know of have been arrested since Randy Shannon was named coach.
> PS, I'll have plenty more for you from today's press conference with new defensive coordinator John Lovett and interviews with players Jason Fox, Sean Spence and Matt Bosher.
It's official. John Lovett was named the new defensive coordinator at the University of Miami on Thursday. The press release was just sent our way -- right after those schedules popped in.
We told you all about Lovett on Monday and spoke to coach Tommy Tuberville, his former boss at Auburn and Mississippi, too. Lovett is a veteran coach with 18 years of experience as a defensive coordinator with stops at Clemson, Auburn and Mississippi. Here is what Randy Shannon had to say about him in the release.
“John brings a wealth of experience and success, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of the ACC,” Shannon said. “He has consistently elevated the play of defenses at every school he has coached. Our players will love his approach and mentality. John is a tremendous recruiter and will also be a great addition to the University of Miami community.”
FYI, Lovett will be available to the media today at 1:30 p.m. -- right after we meet with a few players to discuss the start of spring football. I'll have interviews for you later.
The ACC has finalized its schedules for the start of the season. And your Miami Hurricanes have about as tough a four-game stretch to begin the season as anyone in the country. Here it is:
So what are your thoughts about the tough early stretch? Are you worried the Canes could start 0-4? Or, could this work in their favor because they'll be catching some teams early on? Here's a link to all of the ACC schedules released Thursday at 11 a.m.
Clint Hurtt just turned 30. He's got a daughter, a fiancee and a passion to stock the University of Miami football program again with talent as Randy Shannon's recruiting coordinator. Hurtt proved he's one of the best in the country at his job last week when he earned honors as a Rivals.com Top 25 Recruiter for the second year in a row.
One could argue Hurtt has the easiest job in the country with the type of talent he can pluck in a rich backyard consisting of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. And, that's pretty much what UM did to land ESPN's No. 1 recruiting class in 2008 (grabbing a boatload of talent from nearby mythical national champion Miami Northwestern and Class 4A state champion Booker T. Washington). But a look at UM's 2009 recruiting class (rated 11th by Rivals, 7th by ESPN and 19th by Scout.com) demonstrates how Hurtt can also do a fine job pursuing talent when the local area is having a down year. Of UM's 19 recruits in 2009, only six have roots in South Florida.
What Hurtt and his staff did mostly this past year was go out into the backyard of their in-state rivals (national champion Florida, USF and UCF) and pluck some of the state's best players. While Hurtt had his hand involved in all 19 recruits, he said he really either shared or handled the recruiting load by himself on eight recruits.
"The one thing I don't want people to get the wrong idea about is I did any of this by myself," Hurtt said Wednesday -- a week after putting together his third class at UM. "We have a great team of coaches who did a great job putting our class together."
Maybe so. But Hurtt deserves most of the high-fives. He and receivers coach Aubrey Hill combined to land UM's top recruit and his teammate -- safety Ray Ray Armstrong and defensive end Dyron Dye -- at Sanford Seminole. They also worked together on keeping defensive end Olivier Vernon from Miami American from straying to Alabama or Florida State. WIth the help of Micheal Barrow, Hurtt went into North Carolina to get defensive tackle Curtis Porter.
But Hurtt's best work -- aside from helping Joe Pannunzio convince tight end Billy Sanders to come back to UM on the eve of NSD -- was what he did in Gator Country by himself. He kept defensive tackle Luther Robinson from Fort Pierce Westwood from leaving UM for a late Gators push, he grabbed running back Mike James early from Polk County, and made sure he was first in line for cornerback Jamal Reid at his tiny high school in Lafayette, Fla.
Hurtt shared a lot of stories with me about UM's 2009 class, but it's Reid's recruitment he seems most proud of. Because, according to Hurtt, if the program was still recruiting the way it did a few years ago, the Canes probably would have been late getting in on Reid. Instead, they knew all about him before anyone else.
"One of the first things I told Randy we had to do when he made me the [recruiting] coordinator was we have to go into every high school in the state, every school no matter how big or how small," Hurtt said.
"You know as well as I do when you are wearing The U in some parts of this state, you get a funny look. This kid is 80 miles from Tallahassee and 45 from Gainesville. When I started making my way around everybody in this little town was telling me I got to go see Jamal Reid. Mind you this is the spring of his 10th grade year, the kid is coming off two 1,000-yard receiving seasons, 13 combined INTs. The first thing I do is make sure we're the first ones to fax that scholarship offer Sept. 1st. It made all the difference in the end when everybody else wanted him once he was an [Under-Armour] All-American."
> Going into every school in the state and making evaluations much earlier than previous UM staff's did aren't the only changes Hurtt has made as recruiting coordinator. In an effort to make sure the staff no longer wastes its time on high-level, out-of-state recruits UM has long odds of getting, Hurtt said he's implemented a rule.
"I call it the one-hour rule," Hurtt said. "If the kid lives more than an hour from a major airport, we really aren't going to bother because it's probably not worth it. Most parents aren't going to drive very far to then got on two flights to come see their kids play when they've got a bunch of other schools closer to them. That doesn't mean we won't go after a special kid who we might have a connection with. In recruiting nowadays, it's just so important to eliminate mistakes in a signing class. You can't make mistakes or it will set you back big time. You got to go after the best players, but the guys who fit your system, fit the character you want. You need to give those guys the attention instead of spreading yourself thin."
> Hurtt praised all of UM 2009 recruits, but we did talk specifics about a few players. For starters, he's very excited about getting Shayon Green, a 6-2, 230-pound defensive end/linebacker from Tift County, Ga. Hurtt said getting Green helps UM immensley, especially after the Canes signed eight linebackers a year ago, but lost out on the two (Zach Kane and Antonio Harper) who figured to play middle linebacker. Hurtt said Green was brought in to fill those losses and said he feels Green will make an impact down the road. "He's extremely explosive, plays hard and has a high IQ," Hurtt said. "That's what you want in a middle linebacker. He's going to be great on special teams this year."
> Hurtt is very excited about the defensive players Miami brought in, especially the guys in the secondary. He said Prince Kent and Ray Ray Armstrong -- both Under-Armour All-Americans -- have the size Miami has been looking for a safety. And he promises that is what both will play. He said both Reid and Brandon McGee, who have great hips and long arms, will be impact cornerbacks.
> As for the offensive recruits, the first name out of Hurtt's mouth was tackle Jermaine Johnson, who sat out last season (his second out of high school). "We got five offensive linemen and were very happy with that," Hurtt said. "We're definitely happy we got Jermaine. He's a kid who is ready."
> One thing Hurtt is very excited about is the 2010 class in South Florida, one most recruiting experts believe will be the richest area in the country this fall. "Dade, Broward, Palm Beach is always loaded," Hurtt said. "But this coming year, it's absolutely loaded. Arguably you can say its going to be better than '08. Why? Because despite all the athletes we produce around here, South Florida always has a shortcoming on offensive linemen. There are a ton of instate linemen. Not just good linemen, special linemen."
> Hurtt said UM will have between 22-23 scholarships to use for next year. Like he did a year ago, he laid out the slots for me: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 3 TE, 4 OL, 3 DL, 3 LB, 3-4 DBs and possibly a kicker.
So far, the Canes have commitments from two 2010 recruits -- both are defensive tackles. Jacksonville Raines' Louis Nix, a Rivals five-star recruit, and Miami Northwestern's Todd Chandler, Miami-Dade's No. 2 recruit. By NCAA rule, Hurtt isn't allowed to discuss any of the players UM is going after, but he told me the Canes have already offered scholarships to between 30-35 players locally.
> I don't have a complete list of who those players are, but I've been able to confirm through conversations with high schools coaches, players and my friend Larry Blustein who many of those kids already are. The hotspot? Defending national champion St. Thomas Aquinas. The Canes have already offered four Raiders scholarships -- center Brandon Linder (Broward's top recruit), running back Giovanni Bernard, kicker Mike Palardy and safety Brian Robinson. There are plenty more players UM is chasing in Broward, but so far it looks like Boyd Anderson defensive back Demar Dorsey is the only other 954 player with a Canes scholarship offer to date.
In Dade, Miami has high interest or offers already out for: CB Lamarcus Joyner (Columbus), WR Michael Lee Harris (Northwestern), RB Eduardo Clements (Booker T. Washington), K Oscar Diaz (Booker T. Washington), DL Corey Lemonier (Hialeah), DL Calvin Smith (Hialeah), OL Torrian Wilson (Northwestern), RB Jakhari Gore (Columbus) and QB Jeffrey Godfrey (Miami Central).
In Palm Beach, UM is after Pahokee receiver Joshua Jones, tight end Zach Allen, Royal Palm Beach's receiver Chris Dunkley, Palm Beach Central center Shane McDermott, Dwyer tight end Gerald Christian and running back Matt Elam, and Delray Atlantic athlete James Lewis.
"The guys we have offers out to so far are the can't miss guys," Hurtt said. "But we're still very much watching film and following guys closely."
Here's my official toast to the next 11 months and three weeks before the next National Signing Day.
For those of you starving for updates in the University of Miami's quest to sign the nation's No. 1 recruit (or as I like to call it the latest chapter of Days Of Our Bryce), there has been no better interview with Brown in the past two months than the one Rivals.com writer Jeremy Crabtree conducted Tuesday.
Although you can get all the info mentor Brian Butler would like for you to know over at potentialplayers.com, nothing beats hearing the man, the myth, the 18-year old legend discuss his recruiting situation himself.
If you want the Cliff Notes version: Brown doesn't sound like he's coming to Miami anymore... his meeting with UM offensive coordinator Mark Whipple didn't go so well... he swears he really isn't doing this for attention.
For the complete interview, here is what Bryce told Rivals.com.
The news coming out of UM never seems to take a break does it?
The Miami Hurricanes have a new guard who will be part of their 2009 signing class. And coach Frank Haith and his staff are hoping hard he turns out to be a lot like the one leaving after this season -- Jack McClinton.
Say hello to Antoine Allen, a 6-2, 186-pound combo guard from Mississippi Elite Christian Academy. Allen isn't another ESPN Top 100 recruit like the other two guards part of Haith's next class. But he's another good under the radar player from Baltimore, who just happened to play for the same AAU program McClinton did.
I caught up with Cecil Kirk coach Anthony Lewis, who coached both players, a few hours ago. His take in a sentence -- Allen is better defensively than McClinton was at 19 and just as good a shooter as he was, too. Allen told me he is averaging 23 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists at his prep school, which takes on other prep schools and junior colleges. He can play either point guard or shooting guard (like Jack) and can light it up from three-point range.
The good news is he apparently has the same work ethic as McClinton, which is probably the most important trait. "The one thing I asked coach was is if they had a 24-hour gym open for me," Allen said. "I'm a guy who loves to be in the gym at all hours, working hard. That's me."
> Allen is expected to sign in April and will start at Miami in the fall. He'll be one of four new guards on the team along with Malcolm Grant, who should be UM's starting point guard next season, Durand Scott and Garrius Adams. James Dews is the only guard expected back next season.
Newspapers, car dealerships and every other business in America aren't the only ones worried about economics these days. Consider your Miami Hurricanes high on the list of collegiate programs pinching pennies and looking for new ways to survive.
Athletic director Kirby Hocutt met with the media Tuesday to discuss UM's new ticket pricing plan for the 2009 football season. And surprisingly, nothing is going to cost you more money if you head to Dolphin Stadium. In fact, things are going to get a little cheaper.
Hocutt unveiled a plan in which the school is slashing prices on about 24 sections -- most in the upper levels -- that will cut the ticket prices on about $15,000 seats. It should make U happy. What should get you a little worried? The fact your five-time national championship program isn't riding first class to games anymore.
Hocutt said Randy Shannon, in an effort to help UM's struggling economic budget, has offered to take chartered buses to two road games next season instead of chartered flights. OK. It's probably not that big a deal when you consider its USF and UCF. But it's yet another sign of how cash-strapped the Canes are compared to some of the elite programs in college football.
In case you missed the article, USA Today ran a piece Tuesday with Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley talking about how he was worried the Gators might have to make a few cutbacks here and there. UF's athletic budget is $85 million this year. The Canes? $60 million according to Hocutt. That's actually around the middle of the pack -- about where the football team has played the past three seasons.
So, where do the Canes stack up to other football monsters? According to a Bloomberg report, Ohio State manages the biggest athletic budget at $115.4 million. Texas is not far behind at $101 million.
Still, in the ACC, Miami is doing pretty good. Only Maryland ($61.0M) and North Carolina ($61.4) are a slight bit richer. And they've actually got more teams. Comparing the Canes to the SEC? Seven schools have bigger budget than UM: Tennessee ($86.5M), Florida ($85M), Alabama ($77.0M), Georgia ($76.3), LSU ($75.8), Auburn ($75.2M), Kentucky ($67M).
> For those of you wondering if UM will nix its plans to rename Mark Light Stadium in honor of Alex Rodriguez this Friday, guess again. Hocutt said despite A-Rod's admission to using performance-enhancing drugs, the Canes will still honor him. "Our event Friday night is going to proceed as scheduled," Hocutt said. "Alex Rodriguez has been a very generous supporter to the University of Miami and its athletics program. We're looking forward to our event."
I have to admit when I first heard rumblings this past weekend the University of Miami was seriously considering hiring John Lovett as its defensive coordinator, my first thought was someone was joking about former SNL comedian John Lovitz.
Turns out, there really is a John Lovett. So who is he? As soon I received word this was becoming official, I started making a few phone calls this afternoon to find out. So, what is beyond Lovett's resume and the more than 25 years he's spent coaching college football? What is the most interesting thing I learned about Miami's next defensive coordinator?
He knows how to get out of tough situations. For starters, before he even began coaching, Lovett, 58, used to drive 18-wheeler trucks in New York City, delivering furniture. Can you find a tighter place to get out of than that? Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, who hired Lovett at Mississippi and then took him with him to Auburn, shared his insight into the Lovett's hiring with me. Lovett's wife Carol and Tuberville's wife have been best friends for years.
Tuberville said a similarly good relationship is what UM coach Randy Shannon said he was looking to build with his next coordinator when he called and inquired about him a few weeks ago.
"We hardly talked football to be honest," said Tuberville, who after being fired at Auburn told me he plans on taking a year off from coaching and will likely do some work with ESPN. "Randy just told me he was looking for somebody who would fit in -- fit into the community and understand the ACC. Being a defensive head coach, which I am, you got to be on the same page with your coordinator. There has to be a good relationship there. I think Randy and John are going to be a perfect fit."
Why? Because according to Tuberville, Lovett runs the same system Shannon learned under Jimmy Johnson, a 4-3 defense which lets speed take over. "John is going to run the same old 4-3 we used to," Tuberville said. "He'll mix in a few eight man fronts a little bit, be diverse in everything. Some odd man front. He knows the zone blitz game. He's been around it all."
Lovett, who moved up the ranks from walk-on to co-captain, is a stickler on technique according to Tuberville. "Everything he's going to do is going to be sound," Tuberville said. "He's very aggressive, likes to blitz. The greatest thing about that move is that he understands that league, been around it a long time now."
Another plus according to Tuberville, Lovett is also a very good recruiter, who is personable. Tuberville said Lovett is a specialist in the northeast and knows how to pull kids out of New Jersey, New York and the Washington, D.C. area.
"I know he's very excited about it," Tuberville said. "I didn't have to convince him at all. Miami is a unique school with unique players. I think its a great situation. I think they've got it going in the right direction. They've upscaled recruiting and brought in a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. John is coming in with high expectations, high goals."
Just got off the phone about a half hour ago with a high-ranking UM official who has confirmed North Carolina special teams coach John Lovett will be introduced as the Canes' next defensive coordinator later this week.
Lovett, 58, comes to the Canes a lot like the last guy who was here running the defense -- with a lot of experience. He's played the role of defensive coordinator at four different schools: Bowling Green, Clemson, Auburn and Maine. Most of his experience comes coaching the secondary and outside linebackers.
My question to you is: Do you like it? Lovett? Or hate it?
Lovett began his coaching career at the high school level in 1976 and has coached as a position coach with the New York Jets, Brown University, UNLV, Cincinnati and at Mississippi from 1995-98, where he first coached under Tommy Tuberville. Lovett eventually left Mississippi with Tuberville for Auburn where he had some success against Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators. In 2001, Lovett's defense shutdown then No. 1 ranked Florida, holding them 20 points, -36 yards rushing and 328 yards of total offense (all season lows) in an Auburn upset. He then moved onto Clemson where the Tigers became one of the best defenses in the country. In 2002, his defense intercepted 21 passes. He then moved onto Bowling Green before joining Davis' staff as special teams coach.
When I asked one UM official to describe his play-calling I was told "very aggressive." Miami was 28th in total defense (317.46) and 56th in scoring defense (24.1) last season. But they've got a lot of young, talented players including All-ACC Defensive Freshman of the Year Sean Spence at linebacker.
> To be honest, I don't know how to feel about Lovett. To me he looks a lot like Bill Young -- experienced, been around the block and to a lot of different places. Young was just at better schools like USC, Ohio State and Oklahoma. The fact he is also can help with the special teams is a plus (he was named a finalist for Special Teams Coach of the Year0. He certainly looks like a hard worker, too. He played at C.W. Post College and made the team as a walk-on before elevating himself to co-captain by the time he was a senior.
> On a basketball note, Jack McClinton has been named ACC Player of the Week. He had 32 points in a win over Wake Forest and a season-high 34 in the overtime loss at Duke. It is the third time he's been named the conference's player of the week and the first time this season.
DURHAM, N.C. -- I'm here for the showdown at Cameron Indoor Stadium where the Canes will try to chop of the second head of what Adrian Thomas referred to as the three-headed monster (a three-game stretch against Wake, Duke and Carolina).
UM coach Frank Haith has never won in this building. Obviously, never have the Canes. Duke is 13-0 here this year. They've won by an average of 20 points. This game is going to be awfully tough for UM to win. Clemson had a lot of success against Duke because of their full court press. We know Miami can't play that way. If Duke is on their game today shooting the ball, this one could be over quickly.
Miami won at home last year because they had an interior presence and because the Canes were red hot. UM shot 60 percent in the second half and 50 percent from three-point range in the game. They had a 30-point lead last year and still managed to only win by 1-point. Today, everything is going to have to be clicking for them to win again.
I'll check in at halftime and again once it's over to give you my thoughts. The game is on locally on WBFS-My 33. The radio broadcast is online at WQAM.com.
*** FIRST HALF THOUGHTS ***
> You couldn't have asked for a better first half if you wear green and orange. I thought on Wednesday Miami's zone defense caught a break because Wake Forest was "off." Not so much. Whatever Haith and his staff devised is working wonders. Duke was 6 of 31 in the first half. You could see their players just flat out frustrated and confused, not knowing what do with the ball when they had openings. Kyle Singler was 1 of 9 from the field.
> On the flip side, Miami wasn't spectacular on offense either. But the Canes were effective. Jack McClinton has 10 points. But I thought the real lifts came from Brian Asbury and James Dews, who combined for 14 points. Miami had nine turnovers at halftime. So, they are doing this -- holding a 32-19 lead -- despite still struggling to be safe with the basketball.
> If Miami can continue to play this way in the second half and hold on for the win, this would all but guarantee an NCAA Tournament bid. Big opportunity here.
*** POST GAME THOUGHTS ***
> It's hard to win in this building, much less a 16-point lead. The Hurricanes found out the hard way Saturday -- coming oh so close to a huge upset of Duke. Instead, they're going home wondering what could have been. What can you say about Jack McClinton? 34 points. So many big shots. Tough loss.
DURHAM, N.C. -- It's been more than 48 hours since Randy Shannon and recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt wrapped the 2009 Signing Class. And now that I've had time to get through my basketball assignments, I can reflect on what I learned, what I like and what I don't like about the 19 players UM inked (as well as the ones that got away).
> What the original goal was: Much to my surprise (after I went back and looked through the Eye On The U archives) Hurtt told me on National Signing Day last year the program was looking to sign between 19-21 recruits. Hurtt's exact breakdown? 1 QB, 2 RBs, 1 WR, 3-4 TEs, 4-5 OLs, 2 DEs, 2 DTs, 1 LB, 3 CBs, 1 S.
> What ended up happening: With the exception of falling a few tight ends short of the goal (blame the Robert Marve fiasco for UM not getting Orson Charles), Miami basically nailed exactly what Hurtt targeted a year ago. Yes, UM swung and missed on some big times. But in my opinion they set a goal to fill needs and accomplished it.
Quarterback: With Robert Marve and Jacory Harris expected to be a part of the future for a long time, UM never made this position a priority. That's why you never saw the Canes really make an effort to go after Miramar's Eugene Smith (West Virginia). So, when A.J. Highsmith (6-0, 190) committed back in February, the Canes were content with taking a player who could potentially switch positions. Now, because of Marve's departure, Highsmith will come in as a quarterback. And he's not a bad one. Highsmith led his team to the Texas state championship. As a senior at Hightower High, he thrw for 2,192 yards, 28 touchdowns and four interceptions. I wouldn't be surprised if he never switches positions after all.
Overall grade: B+. By not scrambling at the last minute to take another QB after Marve left, UM kept itself in position to sign another top-tier quarterback this year and not have him be scared off by the depth chart.
Looking ahead: Central's Jeffrey Godfrey is obviously the local talent Miami could chase after and I expect the Hurricanes will (his former high school coach is Randy Shannon's right hand man, Corey Bell). But I suspect his size (6-feet, 190-pounds) could play a role. If Miami has a chance to get a taller quarterback with similar skills or better, they will.
Running backs: With Javarris James and Graig Cooper close to seeing their careers end as Canes, Miami targeted two talented backs from the get-go -- the nation's top back Bryce Brown and Killian's Lamar Miller. That was supposed to be it. But when fears of possible academic problems for Miller were raised, Miami went out and got themselves something better than an insurance policy, 5-11, 220-pound running back Mike James from Davenport, Fla. Now, Miller and James are the two running backs who are signed and it's Brown (who committed way back in February) who is iffy.
Overall grade: A. Even if Brown decides not to come, I think Miami has scored huge with Miller and James. So, should Bryce decide he doesn't like UM's offense, the offensive line, the weather in January or the color of the tulips in June, don't worry, the Hurricanes will be just fine. Miller (5-11, 205) isn't another Bobby Washington, Charlie Jones or Tyrone Moss. He's a passionate kid who takes care of his body and runs hard every time he touches the football. And he proved it against not only a tough Dade County this year, but against the great Northwestern teams of the past few years. Ask Sean Spence about the blur he and his teammates couldn't catch when Miller was a sophomore and junior. In the end, he may not turn out to be another Willis McGahee or Frank Gore, but Miller will certainly be better than the other local guys who have come through here and were average at best.
As for James, I don't know a whole lot about him because I never watched him play in person. But from what I've heard from guys like Larry Blustein and Charles Fishbein is he's a better between the tackles runner than Miller, who is more of a hit the corner and see-you later guy. What I like about Mike and the conversations I've had with him over the phone is that he's an intelligent guy who is thoroughly excited to be playing at UM. Too bad Bryce isn't that way.
Looking ahead: There is certainly a wealth of talent available locally at this position. In Dade, you have Central's Brandon Gainer, Booker T.'s Eduardo Clements, Columbus' Jakhari Gore and Northwestern's Corvin Lamb. In Broward, you got Taravella's Devon Wright, St. Thomas' Giovanni Bernard and James White. Still worried about Bryce Brown not coming? My guess is UM will take between 2 or 3 RBs depending on whether or Brown comes.
Receivers: Considering the number of receivers Miami signed in its last class, the Hurricanes were simply swinging for the fences with the 2009 class. They took two real cuts -- going after Bastrop, Louisiana's Reuben Randle and Sanford Seminole's Andre Debose.
Overall grade: B. How do you get a grade when you don't sign a receiver? You get graded on everything all the time. And the Canes get a good grade here for being smart. Even though they didn't get Randle or Debose, they didn't waste a scholarship on some other receivers just to say they did. That being said, while Jamal Reid will probably be used as a cornerback, don't rule out the possibility he becomes the one receiver Miami has in this class. And if that's the case, I think Reid will be really, really good. Of what I saw of him this season, I really liked.
Looking ahead: The Hurricanes are going to need to go out and sign at least two in this class if they're smart because there is a real possibility Aldarius Johnson and LaRon Byrd could be heading to the NFL after the 2010 season. Locally, there are some good products to choose from -- Booker T. Washington has two in Ted Meline (6-2, 170) and Quinton Dunbar (6-3, 177). But my favorites are Northwestern's Michael Lee Harris (6-1, 175), Central's Joshua Reese (5-10, 170) and Miramar's Ivan McCartney (6-2, 175). If I had to pick two, I'd take McCartney and Harris.
Tight ends: Of all the positions UM recruited, this is the one area I think Shannon and his assistants could have done much better. While it's obviously hard to recruit tight ends in South Florida, UM had the opportunity to go after St. Thomas' Gabe Holmes (signed with Purdue) and didn't. Instead, they put all their eggs into two baskets -- Tampa Plant's Orson Charles (Georgia) and Billy Sanders. Then, they got desperate and went all out after Sheldon Richardson (Missouri). Miami ended up getting Sanders back in the end, but it would have been disastrous had they not. Stephen Plein (6-6, 250) is listed as a tight end, but I doubt he ever catches a ball.
Overall grade: D. Sanders could turn out to be a good tight end. But I don't envision him being a superstar. When I spoke to his mother she told me part of the reason he was turned off by UCLA was because they talked to him about playing defensive end. If the Bruins are thinking that how good could Sanders, who played in Idaho, really be? The good news is he has some good genes. His father Bill played in the NFL with the New York Jets.
Looking ahead: With two seniors slated to leave after next season in Dedrick Epps and Richard Gordon, Miami obviously is going to have to make this position a priority. Locally, Miami has a chance to go after Monsignor Pace's Charles' Fashaw (6-5, 210) or Palm Beach Dwyer's Gerald Christian (6-3, 230). But the emphasis is probably going to have to be put on places like Texas, Georgia and California.
Offensive line: For a school that hardly ever reels in high-caliber offensive linemen, I have to give the Canes credit for at least being in the game late for several of the nation's best. From my conversation with coaches, they really believed they had a great shot at getting not only Marcus Hall (who signed with Ohio State) but also Peter White (Maryland). Both would have been the home runs Miami was looking for. Instead, the Canes kept Brandon Washington (2008 signee) and flat out snook in Jermaine Johsnon (6-6, 304), who by the way is two years removed from high school and very good. Both should instantly find their way into coach Jeff Stoutland's rotation, if not the starting lineup by season's end.
As for the others, Malcolm Bunche (6-5, 315) is a player I really like. The fact he is not some big, flabby kid, but a real muscle, moving athlete tells me the Canes got themselves a heck of a player. He's going to need time to adjust to the speed as his coach told me, but I think it Bunche is the type of kid you will be able to count on as a two-year starter. Next up are Plantation American Heritage's Jared Wheeler (6-6, 305) and Fleming Island's Cory White (6-5, 250). Wheeler is a good player, who has the ability to play anywhere on the line right now. But he's going to take time and I envision him being sort of an A.J. Trump type talent, who will flourish late in his career. The same figures to happen for White, who started at left tackle all season in high school. White some thought he might be at tight end, Canes coaches fully expect White to put on weight.
Overall grade: B. The Canes had a chance to really finally land the big-name out of state lineman they needed. But they missed. In the end, though, they fixed their immediate problems.
Looking ahead: There isn't a player Miami needs to land more in its 2010 class than St. Thomas Aquinas' Brandon Linder. This kid has been the best offensive linemen in the state since he was sophomore. Miami offered him on the first day they could -- along with Florida and Notre Dame. He will be Broward's No. 1 recruit this year and quite possibly the best overall player in South Florida. After Linder, look for Miami to lock up Northwestern left tackle Torrian Wilson (6-3, 315). The kid is a quality prospect. If Miami gets those two, everything else will be gravy. Booker T. Washington's Jose Jose (6-0, 340) and Monsignor Pace's John Ragoo (6-6, 340) are nice fall back plans for now. I also like Cypress Bay's Joe McNamara (6-2, 275). I consider him this year's Stephen Jacques (USF).
Defensive line: Considering Miami was able to get talents like Marcus Forston, Micanor Regis and Jeremy Lewis, the fact Miami didn't grab one of the nation's best at defensive tackle doesn't both me one bit. As it stands with Luther Robinson (6-3, 280), and Curtis Porter, a clone of Antonio Dixon at 6-2, 334, what the Canes got was more than enough. Defensive end was the bigger need and I thought Miami did as good a job as they could there, yanking Dyron Dye down and holding onto the best defensive player in South Florida this year in Olivier Vernon. If Vernon can get healthy, he will be another great pass rusher alongside Marcus Robinson.
Overall grade: A. Miami tried to get Richardson, Gary Brown (Florida), William Campbell (Michigan), Arby Jones (Georgia) and Nick Kasa (Colorado). They just weren't going to win the battle playing on the road. Although, it will be upsetting if South Dade's Ed Stinson (Alabama) turns out to be a stud. Miami never really went after him.
Looking ahead: You can tell who the best recruiters are in the business when you've already got kids locked in for the next signing class before the current one is finished. Both of UM's 2010 commitments are defensive tackles. And both are studs. Louis Nix (Jacksonville Raines) and Todd Chandler (Miami Northwestern) are going to be Top 100 players nationally and both are already committed to the Canes. Tip your cap to Mr. Hurtt. The next player UM needs to lock down is Hialeah defensive end Corey Lemonier (6-4, 240). Get him and keep him and you are set for 2010. FYI, should Nix skip out on the Canes, look for Ricky Joseph (6-2, 300) at Miami Northwestern or Delvin Jones (6-6, 235) from Miami Palmetto to jump into the picture.
Linebackers: After tight end, I'd consider linebacker the next biggest disappointment in terms of recruiting in the '09 Class. Yes, Miami signed seven linebackers last season. But two will never play here -- Zach Kane and Antonio Harper -- and another, Brandon Marti, needs to overcome some off the field issues. While UM should be in good shape with Sean Spence, Jordan Futch, Ramon Buchanon and Arthur Brown for the next few years, they would have been smart to get at least two linebackers in this class. They tried to get Jacksonville's Sam Barrington, but he passed and went to South Florida. They did, however, get 6-2, 235-pound Shayon Green from Tift, Ga. Green could sprout into the big middle linebacker Miami needs down the road. But right now he looks a lot like another Spencer Adkins to me.
Overall grade: C. There were two really good local players Miami didn't really go after hard enough -- Gulliver Prep's Frankie Telfort (USC) and St. Thomas' Conner O'Neil (Wisconsin). Either one of those two guys should have been part of this class. Hopefully, the Canes won't regret it down the road.
Looking ahead: Coach Randy Shannon said in his press conference linebacker is going to be one of his priorities next season. I'm not sure the guy he wants is in his backyard. Gulliver Prep's Ralph Williams (6-1, 215), Hallandale's Rashad Gaitor (6-2, 205) and St. Thomas' Bincent Mauro (6-2, 210) are nice options, but not game breakers.
Defensive backs: Here's where Miami signed their most talented playmakers -- and in the area where it needed it sorely. No, the Canes didn't go out and get the natural corner, but who is these days? Most kids in high school do not play in very complex coverage schemes.
What UM got were talented, smart, heady kids. Nobody impresses me more in the group than Ray Ray Armstrong (6-4, 215). Here's a kid who has superstar written all over him. When I close my eyes and picture Ray Ray two images come to mind: The guy that took off from about the five yard line in the state championship game against Northwestern, leaped over two defenders and landed in the end zone. And when I visited him and he found out I was from a Miami newspaper before the Class 6A state champion game. Armstrong got angry because he thought I was there to scout for the Bulls and refused to talk to me. Got to love that if you bleed green and orange. He's that crazy and that competitive. Armstrong isn't the only special talent. Jamal Reid (6-1, 175), Brandon McGee (5-11, 180) and Prince Kent (6-3, 195) are all physically gifted to.
Overall grade: A. It was obviously disappointing to lose Kayvon Webster to USF on Signing Day. But it's not the end of the world. Webster was probably right. He'll have a better chance to play with the Bulls. He's a very good player, but probably just on par with the four Miami did get.
Looking ahead: With a few more seniors heading out the door after this coming season, UM once again has to bring in at least 2 to 3 more defensive backs. If that's the case, the Canes might just want to setup shop at St. Thomas where Cody Riggs (5-10, 165) and Brian Robinson (6-0, 195) are two of the best around. Or, they could try and do all they can to keep Southwest's Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 160) from heading up the road to Tallahassee (he's an FSU fan). Personally, if they don't get Joyner, I'd settle for Gideon Ajagbe (6-2, 200) from Ransom Everglades or Devin Drane (5-11, 175) from Plantation. Both of those guys are very good.
Since his football team ended its season, UM coach Randy Shannon has dealt with issues at a pretty fast pace. He fired offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, cut starting quarterback Robert Marve loose and then lost defensive coordinator Bill Young to Oklahoma State.
Last week, Shannon responded by making possibly his best hire in offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Shannon followed it up by landing another solid recruiting class Wednesday. Next on the to do list: replacing Young and finding a defensive coordinator. It appears that decision could be coming soon.
Wednesday, Shannon discussed the defensive coordinator search, telling reporters "he's already talked with a couple of guys here and there" and promising Miami won't go into spring football practice which begins Feb. 24 without a decision being made.
I've thought all along Shannon would just do the job himself. And he reiterated Wednesday (like he said when Young first left) that he was going to find the best guy that could get it done and if not he would coach the defense.
But after what he told us yesterday at his signing day press conference, that idea appears to be his last resort. Shannon said he's had conversations with other head coaches including Georgia's Mark Richt about pulling double duty. In all honesty, it seems Shannon is turned off by the idea. "That's why he got an offensive coordinator," Shannon said of Richt. "It was difficult on him He said he couldn't see [the field] like wanted to. He felt a lot better the way he's doing it now."
If that is the case, then maybe some of the rumblings we're hearing about a coordinator being hired soon (possibly in the next 48 hours) could be true. Canesport.com threw out three names as potential candidates Wednesday, all are college defensive coordinators: Georgia's Willie Martinez, TCU's Dick Bumpas and Cincinnati's Joe Tresey.
When I passed the three names through my source inside the building I was told only one of the three had merit (and that a decision could be coming soon). I'm not going to speculate which one it is, but I'm sure if Shannon said he made contact with Richt he had to have asked to have a conversation with Martinez, who was actually the first name we heard when Young left.
> Of the three candidates, Martinez would be a natural fit considering he's from Hollywood Hills, a UM graduate and a mmber of UM's first national championship team in 1983. Martinez has never done any interviews since the rumors first began. Probably, with good reason considering his friendship with Richt and the fact it would have created trouble during the recruiting process.
His resume certainly looks good. During his seven years at UGA, Martinez has been a part of three SEC Eastern Division titles, five bowl victories, and five top ten finishes in the final national polls including No. 2 in 2007. His 2006 Georgia defense ranked 8th nationally in total defense, 5th in pass defense and 1st in the SEC in third down efficiency.
> As for Tresey, he is an Ohio guy who has more than a dozen years of experience on the collegiate level and another 10 on the high school level. When he joined Central Michigan's staff in 2006, he quickly implemented a style that forced 29 turnovers and 31 sacks in 14 games. Two seasons prior to joining the Central Michigan staff, Tresey was defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Georgia Southern. The Eagles' defense ranked fourth nationally in total defense in 2004.
> Bumpas is an older gentleman who has been around the block a lot longer, coaching in the SEC (Tennessee, Arkansas), Notre Dame and he's been at TCU since 2004 as the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. He's been a Broyles candidate multiple times.
SOME MORE THOUGHTS/NOTES...
> We asked Shannon several questions pertaining to what he was looking for when hiring coordinators and how he went about searching for them.
His best response pertained to how he found Whipple. Basically, Shannon said he went through every NFL roster and started looking for people that he knew. "I knew coach Whipple when he was at UMass. But lost track of him. Then I saw he popped up with the Philadelphia Eagles when I started searching the website. I said 'Wow, there's coach Whipple.' Let me call him and see if he's interested."
I know by now all of us at one point or another have "googled" somebody. But I never would have thought Shannon would be doing the same to find his offensive coordinator. It's actually kind of funny.
> As for his thoughts on trying to find stable coordinators who will be around longer than 1 or 2 seasons, Shannon said: "I'm looking for guys we can have three or four years from now. I want guys who want to move up, be head coaches. You don't want a staff where guys are just satisfied being around you, you want those guys to develop, want more."
> Shannon talked a lot yesterday about how much previous relationships play roles in not only who he looks for as coaches, but even recruiting players. The fact UM signed the son of former Cane Alonzo Highsmith yesterday is no surprise.
But how they got tight end Billy Sanders was a bit of an interesting story. Sanders' father Bill Sr. played football at Sacramento State with Geoff Torretta (you should know why that name is famous around The U). It was through Torretta Shannon found out about Sanders, who left Phoenix to go play his senior year in Idaho. I'm pretty sure if not for the connection, Miami probably would have never known about Sanders.
As for other interesting recruiting connections: Defensive tackle Curtis Porter has a family member that knows someone who works on campus; offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche played at the same high school as Orien Harris; and Prince Kent, a cornerback from Georgia, is originally from Fort Lauderdale. One Shannon didn't mention involved running back Lamar Miller. His grandfather Edgar drives a student shuttle bus at UM.
> According to Shannon, defensive end Eric Moncur has been granted a sixth year of eligibility. Shannon said he thinks safety Randy Phillips will be back too.
> Shannon said only three players will miss this spring because of injuries: Tight ends Tervaris Johnson and Dedrick Epps and linebacker Colin McCarthy. Moncur is considered 50/50.
I know I promised a recruiting blog today, but I figured getting some of these notes in from yesterday was more important. We'll have plenty of time the next few weeks to breakdown this class. I've got tons of interviews already done with some experts and kids I want to share with you.
Consider be me officially done trying to figure out Frank Haith's basketball team -- or the madness known as the Atlantic Coast Conference (Did anybody see Duke's blowout loss to Clemson?)
Tremendous win for Haith and his boys, one I didn't see coming after their worst "effort performance" of the year at Maryland Saturday. I thought this three-game stretch of Wake Forest, Duke and North Carolina, on the heels of a three-game losing streak, were going to be the final nails in UM's coffin. Turns out I was dead wrong.
Miami played phenomenal Wednesday night, scrapping for loose balls, battling for boards and setting screens which left guys like L.D. Williams flattened in the first half. It certainly was an impressive 79-52 blowout of one of the nation's previously-ranked No. 1 teams. But don't mistake it for a sign of something much greater. UM coach Frank Haith said himself his team caught the seventh-ranked Demon Deacons on a bad shooting night.
Whatever Miami did with its zone (something Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said his team hadn't seen in awhile) made everyone other than Jeff Teague look confused. Consider this little gem of a stat on exactly how insane the ACC is. Miami plays the worst shooting team in the league and loses Saturday night. Then, the Canes face the league's best in Wake Forest and hold them to season-low 31.7 percent -- including 29 percent in the second half. In other words, these nights don't happen often.
The bigger thing to take away from this game is that this team isn't folding. That defensive presence Haith mentioned Tuesday lacking in the paint showed up wearing double-0 and looking like Jimmy Graham Wednesday. That tough stud off the bench Haith said his team lost after Ray Hicks left, showed up wearing Adrian Thomas' jersey. The lackluster point guard play? It ended at halftime. Like Haith said afterward, however, this kind of effort is the only way his team is going to win.
A coupe of quick notes...
> Jack McClinton's season-high 32 points moved him into ninth place on UM's all-time scoring list and past two names you'll remember -- Johnny Hemsley and Guillermo Diaz. Wake Forest coach Dino Guardio called Jack's performance one of the best he's seen in eight years in the ACC. I don't know about that. It was Jack's season-high, but not even close to being his best performance in his career. He's had six career 30-point games.
> There were more than 20 NBA representatives in attendance for tonight's game -- including Heat President Pat Riley. I've been told the Heat love Jack McClinton's shooting ability. I think tonight's performance certainly helped Jack. Maybe he will get drafted after all.
> The 27-point blowout gave UM it's biggest margin of victory over a ranked team in the school's history and the larget margin of victory in ACC play. It was the 12th win over a Top 10 team, but only the second under coach Frank Haith.
I'll have my Signing Day rewind section for you tomorrow. I got too bogged down today with stories to feed you everything I learned from Randy Shannon's press conference. But I promise to come back strong tomorrow.
On my way into the Hecht Athletic Center for Randy Shannon's 2 p.m. National Signing Day press conference I ran into tight end Dedrick Epps -- and some good news.
Epps, who underwent surgery for a left torn ACL in January, greeted me with a question: "Why are you guys saying I'm not going to play this year?" To which he followed, "I'm not going to miss the season."
Epps promised he wasn't just playing the role of Mr. Positive. "Dr. Uribe told me I could be out of this thing [his cast] in a few weeks. I'm already doing rehab. I'm planning to be ready for the start."
Epps played in 12 games last season and finished fourth on the team with 22 receptions for 304 yards and two touchdowns. He injured himself during Emerald Bowl practice.
If he does return in time, it would be huge news for the Canes, who are obviously short in supply of capable of pass catching tight ends.
I'll let you know what Shannon says about the situation and his signing class soon.
Good morning Canes fans. Today is National Signing Day. Or, as UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt once told me, Report Card day for him and the University of Miami coaching staff. It's the day all the hard work they've put in chasing after high school seniors becomes official or unofficial.
As many of you know, the Hurricanes had a collection of 20 commitments before the final 48 hours before NSD began Monday morning. After last night, they still do. Several recruits out-of-state recruits who visited UM the past two weekends have already decided they are passing on the Canes.
Last night, Jacksonville Parker linebacker Sam Barrington became the latest when he stunned friends and family by choosing the USF Bulls over the Canes and Illinois. Others did the same before Barrington. Cleveland offensive lineman Marcus Hall chose Ohio State. And more could end up doing the same. We just don't know yet.
Throughout the day, The Miami Herald will have reporters and correspondents following recruiting. I'll be on the road at Miami Killian for Lamar Miller's announcement at 10 a.m., Miami Pace for cornerback Kayvon Webster at noon and coach Randy Shannon's press conference at UM at 2 p.m. But reporters will be checking in with me to provide updates on other potential Canes and we will post stories online as soon as we get them. I will try to update the blog as much as I can while I'm on the road.
Here is a schedule of key recruits for you to follow with a few notes...
> OL Peter White, St. John's College Prep, Washington, D.C.: White is expected to announce his decision at around 8:45 a.m. There were rumblings late Tuesday night he had already told coaches at Maryland he was headed there. White visited UM last weekend and was also considering Tennessee. We'll have reporter there to send a story. UPDATED at 9:01 a.m.: White has chosen Maryland. Check for a story shortly.
> OL Andrew Tiller, Nassau Community College: The big 6-6, 330 pound tackle prospect is supposed to make a decision from his home around 9 a.m. I've got his phone number and will try to find out what happens shortly after he decides. UPDATED 12:01 p.m.: Rivals.com reports Tiller has chosen Syracuse.
> DL Luther Robinson, Fort Pierce Westwood: His coach Waides Ashmon told me to expect an announcement at 9:30 a.m. Robinson made a few visits to Florida and UCF, but is said to be expected to sign with the Canes. We'll find out soon enough. I'll call Ashmon for an update and interview if possible afterward. UPDATED at 9:58 a.m.: Robinson sticks with the Canes. I'll have an interview later today.
> CB Kayvon Webster, Monsignor Pace: I'll be at Pace at noon when Webster makes his announcement. There have been reporters Webster is still not 100 percent convinced on UM and is still considering USF. I'm not buying. I think Webster picks UM in the end. UPDATED at 12:31 p.m.: Webster spurns the Canes and shock the world by picking USF. He told me he made his decision about an hour before coming in. He said early playing time was the biggest factor. I believe the fact two of his Pace teammates are a bigger reason -- WR Sterling Griffin and WR Derrick Hopkins.
> TE/DT Sheldon Richardson, St. Louis Gateway High: Reporter Nate Latsch, a freelancer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, will be there to provide us with a story from what could be Miami's biggest steal of this class. Richardson, a Missouri commitment, visited UM this past weekend. He's expected to make his decision at around 12:30 p.m. our time. UPDATED at 12:37 p.m.: Richardson has decided to stay home and stick with Missouri.
> OL Quinton Washington, St. Stephen's Timberland, S.C.: All signs have pointed to the fact Washington, a UM visitor this past weekend, is not headed here. It's either going to be Michigan or South Carolina. But you never know if this becomes a stunner when the official announcement is made at 3 p.m.
I said earlier, continue to check back throughout the day for updates, notes, photos and quotes from players, coaches, recruits and recruiting analysts.
The recruiting visits are finished. The final phone calls and pushes have been made. Now, all that's left to do is wait. The Miami Hurricanes have 20 committed players heading into Wednesday, the first official day high school football players can sign national letters of intent.
They could end up adding a few more before then. But we know of at least two players Miami was chasing after who won't be among those. Earlier today and as expected, Cleveland Glennville High All-American offensive lineman Marcus Hall announced he had chosen the hometown Ohio State Buckeyes over the Canes. And, Powder Springs, Ga. McEachern High tight end Terrell Mitchell (who never officially got a Miami offer or made a UM visit) made a commitment to Kentucky.
The good news for Miami: It looks like the Canes are very much in the hunt for a few other top-notch recruits including St. Louis' Sheldon Richardson, a blue-chip tight end/defensive tackle prospect. Richardson is set to announce his decision around 1 p.m. (noon CST) Wednesday. I caught up with St. Louis Post-Dispatch correspondent Nate Latsch who told me he thinks the Canes have a great shot at yanking Richardson away from Missouri. Latsch will provide the news for us with a story shortly after Richardson's announcement.
Richardson figures to be one of a handful suspenseful National Signing Day stories to follow if you are a Canes fan. Two will involve Canes commitments Kayvon Webster, a cornerback from Monsignor Pace and defensive tackle Luther Robinson from Fort Pierce Westwood. The others will involve non-committed recruits. They are: Washington D.C-area offensive lineman Peter White and Nassau Community College offensive tackle Andrew Tiller.
> Regarding Webster, I spoke to Monsignor Pace athletic director Joe Zaccheo who told me he expects Webster to "stick with his Canes commitment" when he announces his decision at noon Wednesday. I'll be there to see if that happens or if Webster jumps ship to the University of South Florida, where a few of his high school teammates are headed.
> Robinson, meanwhile, will decide between the Canes, Gators and Golden Knights at a 9:30 a.m. press conference at his school. His high school coach Waides Ashmon told me Monday Robinson came back from his Canes visit this weekend very happy. "The UM trip was scheduled last for a reason," Ashmon said. "He wanted to compare his feelings and I think he got to do that. I know he enjoyed his visit to Miami very much."
> White, who visited Miami this past weekend, is expected to announce his decision Wednesday morning. I've been trying to reach White's coach for an update and will post something once I get it. White is expected to decide between Miami, Maryland and Tennessee. We will have a correspondent there to tell us what happens when he makes his announcement Wednesday morning.
> Tiller, who also visited Miami this past weekend, told Canesport he will make his choice between Miami, Rutgers and Syracuse (where his former JUCO coach is now a secondary coach) at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. I think Tiller, a New York area kid, is headed to Syracuse.
> Jacksonville Parker linebacker Sam Barrington will make his choice between UM, Illinois and South Florida at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. His coach John Scible told me last week Barrington was planning to make his announcement at a downtown Jacksonville night club and that looks like it still will be the case. I think Barrington will pick Miami.
> I'm still waiting back on a phone call from the coach of South Carolina offensive lineman Quinton Washington for an update. Art Chase told me last week Washington would reach a decision before Wednesday and call the colleges he wasn't going to choose to let them know first. School officials at Timberland High said the school's signing day ceremony is supposed to happen at around 3 p.m. -- after classes are over. I was told by South Carolina preps writer Washington is a Gamecock lock last week. One website reported today UM is not even in it anymore.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST... Check out our new online show The Recruiting Report. It's only our first effort and it's nothing extra special. But it's a start. Hopefully we'll be able to continue this show on a weekly basis starting in the fall and bring in special guests and recruits for interviews.