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McClinton practicing at full speed again

ATLANTA -- The Miami Hurricanes didn't have a healthy Jack McClinton for their final three games of the regular season and it showed. McClinton, the ACC's third leading scorer this season at 19.7 points per game, shot an astonishing 9 of 37 from the field including a sub-par 6 of 18 from three point range.

UM needs a vintage Jack McClinton to win games at this week's NCAA Tournament, not the one slowed by a knee sprain in his last three games. The old Jack McClinton may finally be ready to lace them up Thursday at noon when the Canes (18-11) take on the Hokies (17-13) in a game vitally important to UM's NCAA Tournament chances. I didn't get a chance to talk to the team when they went through their walk through early Thursday morning at the Georgia Dome (my flight got in just after they were finishing up), but word from other reporters is McClinton looked awfully sharp. 

UM coach Frank Haith said Tuesday McClinton has been practicing at full speed since Monday. "[Monday] was the first day where he was full-go," Haith said. "We’re trying to get his knee right and I think he hasn’t been playing as well because of it. Yesterday he really let it go and hopefully he can build on that in practice today and have a great game Thursday."

The Canes have won their last three ACC Tournament openers and will face a Hokies team that has lost six of its last seven. But just because it looks like McClinton is finally healthy and Virginia Tech is sliding should we take it to mean UM is a shoe-in to be playing No. 1 North Carolina on Friday. The Hokies' last three losses came to three of the top four teams in the conference. UM, which has won 3 of its last 4, picked up two of its wins against teams behind them in the standings. Oh by the way, the Hokies have won two in a row against UM, too, including an 88-83 win in OT in January.

"We did a really good job last time in terms of execution offensively," Haith said. "But we did not defend as well and we have to defend a lot better. With that said, I thought [A.D.] Vasallo and [Malcolm] Delaney were outstanding in that ballgame. They both shot the ball extremely well and we have to do a good job on both of those guys and the big three – [Jeff] Allen, Delaney and Vasallo. They all had great performances against us."

> HAITH: 2009 NOT A DISAPPOINTMENT Despite being picked to finish fourth in the preseason and starting the season ranked 16th in the polls, Haith reiterated Tuesday that even if UM does not get an invite to the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday, he still would not consider this season a disappointment.

UM coach Frank Haith "I think this team has done well," Haith said ."I still go back to five years ago when I took the job and now you look at where it’s at now – we’re in the talk every year. Obviously I want us to win and get to the NCAA Tournament. I think that’s our goal every year, but in terms of a disappointment, I think some of our fans may feel something like that. I don’t feel like that. We have great seniors that will graduate and have won some big games. We’ve put ourselves in position to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament. Some years we may get there and some years we may not. Four games have come down to the last possession. This team could be totally different if the ball bounces our way. It’s not like we have lost games by 20 or 30 points every night. We’ve been in every game and I think that shows there is progress in this program."

Just one sports writer's opinion, but the two games I'll point to should Miami miss the tournament are the road losses at Maryland, and the let down at Georgia Tech last week. Both of those games, UM didn't show the type of desire and fight it needed to. Despite being more talented, they were inexcusably flat emotionally. It's hard to point the finger at Haith for that. With a team full of seniors and veterans, it's on the players to show up and play better than that.

> NO LAWSON?: Not that I'm looking ahead, but if UM gets past the Hokies Thursday, the Canes could see a North Carolina team without ACC Player of the Year Ty Lawson. The Tar Heels point guard injured his toe in the win against Duke is a bit questionable for this week's tournament. Lawson was huge in UNC's win over UM on Feb. 15. Of course, Lawson does have an extra day to rest that toe before Friday. UNC did not practice on the Georgia Dome floor Wednesday.

> CANES TO SCRIMMAGE THURSDAY: I won't be there because I'll be up here covering the ACC Tournament, but Randy Shannon's football team will be scrimmaging for the second time this spring on Thursday night at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami. It's supposed to get started at 6:30 p.m. Our Susan Miller Degnan will be there along with Barry Jackson. They'll send me some notes for the blog when it ends. The football team will be off after Thursday until March 23rd.

If you go, be sure to enjoy watching running back Mike James (No. 22), Miami's talented receivers (you'll be really impressed by Kendall Thomkins) and safety Vaughn Telemaque (No. 7). If your looking for improvement, keep your eyes on the backup quarterback battle between Tyler Cook and Cannon Smith, how some of the new offensive lineman (Matt Pipho, Ben Jones, Harland Gunn) are handling a talented deep defensive line core, and if UM's young linebackers are winning any of the one-on-one battles with a talented stable of running backs.

> RIVALS TOP 100 RELEASED: I finally got around this afternoon to taking a gander at Rivals first Top 100 player rankings for football in the 2010 class. Rivals will end up juggling this list 1,000 times before National Signing Day. But I was a bit surprised at some of the names I saw on the list and didn't. Northwestern defensive tackle Todd Chandler, Miami-Dade's No. 1 recruit, wasn't on there. Miami Palmetto defensive end Delvin Jones (in the 20s in The Miami Herald preseason rankings) is in there. Not trying to rip Rivals, who does a good job following the right kids for the most part. But I'll take our Larry Blustein over any of those guys. There's only so much you can gain from watching a combine. Larry and I knew Sean Spence would be a star at UM. Rivals never had Spence in its Top 100. 

> ON A PERSONAL NOTE: I normally don't share too much about myself here, I wanted to pass along the happy news that Tuesday night my wife and I closed on our first house. I'm definitely thrilled to finally have a real place to call my own. As happy as I am about that, I can't be more upset or heartbroken about the news we learned today about several colleagues who lost their jobs. The Miami Herald cut more than 200 jobs Wednesday in an effort to keep surviving in the struggling newspaper business. Thankfully, I still have a job. But I'm praying for the families of the people here no longer don't. It's a sad day at The Miami Herald.

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Glad you still have a paycheck, Manny, especially with that mortgage. Tough times for everyone these days. Thanks for the update.

Congratualations Manny on the house, and thanks for the heads up info about what to focus on at the scrimmage and the strange (crappy) Rivals 100 list.

My prayers are also with the families of the people that were laid off.

per rivals,

Asked his thoughts on the scrimmage scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Traz Powell Stadium, cornerback Ryan Hill said, "This is my fourth one. I know how it is. A lot of people will come, there will be a lot of `Oohs' and `Ahs.' But the main thing is we want to execute and prevent injury."

Of how new defensive coordinator John Lovett does things differently, Hill said, "He's a slower teacher, slows things down a lot. I know for me personally, instead of getting a whole bunch of stuff at one time and trying to pick it up, he slows it down and teaches it to you one by one. I appreciate that as a player because I don't catch onto stuff as fast as other players do."

Is Hill worried about the depth at cornerback?

"It goes back to the old saying, `You get the three guys you want and stick with it,'" Hill said. "It's not anything to worry about. When the season comes we'll all be out there playing and there's only a certain amount of players that can play at one time. The cornerback position will be fine."

Hill says he's added weight since last year and is up to 202 pounds.

* It seems as though Mike James has had a big play in every practice this spring. And today was no exception, as he took a short screen pass for a long touchdown.

Asked what part of his game he's trying to improve, James said, "Getting around people more, out-running people more, getting faster, better at my cuts."

James began getting first team reps yesterday with Lee Chambers out due to injury.

"It's a shock to me," James said. "It's great I'm doing that."

Of Mark Whipple's offense, James said, "I think it's a great offense. The past guys, older guys are telling me how advanced it is. I don't know any better, but it's a great offense and I'm adapting to it. The plays seem like they're working. It's a good offense."

How hard is the spring for a true freshman like James?

"It's hard, but I like it when it's tough," James said.

* Brandon Harris said today was his best practice of the spring.

The cornerback had two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and two passes broken up.

"It was just two great plays," Harris said of the interceptions. "The first one I had a chance to read the quarterback and drive on a route. I was able to jump in front of the receiver. It's something we've worked on in the secondary the whole spring.

"The second one I was at the nickel position, and I read a crossing route coming across and just jumped in front of it."

* Taylor Cook got his first snaps with the first team today. While he wasn't available for interviews following practice - he left early due to a class conflict - the UM sports information department said his increased work load was simply to get him more work.

It's also expected he will continue working with the first team in some scrimmage series.

* DE Gavin Hardin says he's working hard on his pass-rushing skills.

"I want to get that down to a T," he said. "I have to get some sacks."

* Highlights from today's 11-on-11 work in full pads:

Graig Cooper burst up the middle and made a quick cut to break free on a long TD run, and Mike James continued to impress as he took a short pass up the middle and out-raced the defense for a 65-yard score. Javarris James had a couple of short screen passes he took for 15-yard plus gains.

Leonard Hankerson had a nice 20-yard grab in traffic, and Thearon Collier had a pair of nice downfield receptions.

On defense Brandon Harris was a standout with two interceptions, one returned for a 30-yard touchdown, and two passes broken up. He intercepted Taylor Cook on the first interception and Cannon Smith on the second.

Sacks came from Micanor Regis, Olivier Vernon, Josh Holmes (he had two), Marcus Robinson and Arthur Brown. And Joe Joseph had a sack for a safety on the first play of 11-on-11's coming off the goal line. Joseph also had a fumble recovery of a fumbled snap.

* Orlando Franklin was injured in the early part of drills and remained on the sidelines with his hand in an ice bag. It's unclear if he will be able to go in tomorrow's scrimmage.

* The team will scrimmage tomorrow at Traz Powell Stadium beginning at 6:30 p.m. An autograph session is scheduled to be held before the scrimmage begins, and the team is expected to arrive at the stadium around 6 p.m.

* Cannon Smith's father, Fred - the founder of FedEx - watched on from the sidelines during today's practice.

Numero uno!

Jr reed,
Thanks for the update.

Hey man, congrats on your first house. I know your bittersweet feelings about your fellow workers. I think we hit bottom on this economy and things will look up for everybody. I think the printed newspaper will evolve into e news anyway and won't help the laid off co workers. But, they will find jobs quickly -- hopefully right away.

We can do this! Beat the Chokies!

Manny: congrats on your first home and hope you and your wife will be happy there. I think Mike James is the real deal - let's hope Miller will also show that he belongs whe he shows up this fall. With Coop and Baby J, Chambers, Miller and Mike James we are set at RB for a while, and that is not even counting next year's RB class which is shaping up to be great if we can pick up 2 of the top guys from S. Fla. Can't wait to see the new offense in action against the Crimnoles. However, it seems like our defense is giving up a lot of big plays, is our new offense that good? Or does our defense need to catch up and improve real fast?

Herald,

Make sure you keep Manny. He is doing a good job. Felicidades Manual, por la nueva casa!

UM arriving flat for GTech and MD is not Hiath's fault if it happens once or twice, but it happened a lot this season. I am not a FIRE HAITH guy, but he does deserve some blame this season.

Congrats on the home purchase. I hope that you found an incredible deal. I also hope the herald gives you a raise. I can only assume by how many people post on this blog, the herald has got to be pretty happy with the work that you are doing. Make yourself indispensable and for hurricane information manny, you are.

congrats on the house, keep the info coming

Miami Monsignor Pace offensive lineman John Ragoo has a Miami offer and says the Canes currently lead.

http://insidetheu.com/news/viewnews.php?v=49b8914b16d33

Manny; Let me add a few comments here from someone that lived in Miami over 25 years and grew up there following the Canes because they were the only show in town. I use to work for the Miami Herald when it purchased the Miami News. I delivered papers on a bike and sold them on a street corner. I fell in love with the Canes in 63 and never left their side. After the Dolphins came here and Shula took over with Bob G. as QB I still kept my Miami ticket. I remember times when the "U's" Alumni would not even go to a game they stood outside the OB and gave their tickets away. I remember when you bought a ticket and could sit anywhere you wanted. I remember playing ND and loosing by only 17 points we felt like we won the game. Then came coach Saban then Howard S. and the rest is history. I have told many fans not to give up. This team will return to #1. The Miami Herald newspaper will return to #1 and Manny you will grow and become better also. Congrats on the first home. We had three there in Miami. The last one was killed by Andrew. We left for good. Now all you have to do build a family and hope some day to have a SON that will grow up and attend the U and play football. It was a dream of mine till I had 2 girls. The oldest wanted to go to Miami but in the interview decided to stay home in NC and go to a rival college to Miami now. However she has moved back home now and lives not far from C Walk where we used to live. She loves it there and is along with you and this blog my eyes and ears for the Canes. Keep up the good work and GB you and your family. I will close with a phrase an old friend in Maimi use to tell me and everyone "Keep looking up". Thanks Manny and thanks to all the Cane fans that also write in to this blog.

Congrats on the home Manny!

Congrats on the house and on being one of the unfortunate people who were let go. Stinks that we have to be so grateful to have a job these days, but it is what it is. We are all selfishly happy you're still here.

For those of us stuck at work today, can someone give us some updates on the BBall game as it goes down. I know they're showing it live on FSN.

Congrats on the new house....get it blessed by a priest.

8:28 left in the 1st quarter and its UM 8 VT 20

3:15 left in the 1st UM 15 VT 24

OK, for thos of you that can't watch the game for whatever reason, here's an update -

33 seconds left in the half and

UM 24
VT 28

Hurricanes are making a run now.

Congrats on the house. Let me know if you need lawn service I can hook you up.

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