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7 posts from April 2009

April 28, 2009

Wall gives UM high marks after visit

The Miami Hurricanes took their best shot at the nation's No. 1 available basketball recruit this weekend. So, did staying on South Beach and hanging out with Jack McClinton this weekend convince future NBA Lottery star point guard John Wall that UM could be the place he spends one year before collecting a multi-million million dollar paycheck at the next level?

John Wall Let's just say the Hurricanes might now really be in the mix. After reading several interviews Wall gave various media outlets in the time since his visit, it appears at the very least Miami made an impression.

“Now they are up there," Wall told Scout.com's Evan Daniels. "I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t really considering them that hard, but I hadn’t taken a visit there and I didn’t know how it was going to be and how the coaches were. After I took the visit it really opened my eyes up."

“I feel like I like the school better than I did before,” he said. “I had Miami on my list but I never really considered them. I didn’t know how it was. I knew it was going to be nice in Florida, but didn’t know how it was school wise and that all the players from different sports get along great.”

“From talking to coach [Frank] Haith, I really got a chance to sit down and talk to him one-on-one for a few hours and we watched some film and I just felt like it was a great place.”

Great place? Sure, we've heard that before. But could UM really be the final destination? That remains to be seen. This week, Wall told several reporters he would cut his list of finalists -- Miami, Kentucky, Florida, Duke, Baylor, N.C. State, Memphis -- down considerably before making a final decision.

"I'm going to sit down this week and really talk it out," Wall told TheDevilsDen.com "I think I will have it down to two or three schools by the end of the week. After that I can concentrate just on those schools and make a decision I'm comfortable with."

What will he be considering?

"There's just a lot to think about, really," Wall told TheDevilsDen.com. "Do I want to leave home for a year? I mean you can't control where you get drafted, so this would be my last year at home. Which coaches do I fit well with? Which teams? How do I like the campus? That kind of thing. There's just a lot to think about."

You got to give coach Frank Haith some credit. At the very least, he not only got the nation's No. 1 available player to visit UM, but make them sound great, too. And believe me, other recruits listen.

April 24, 2009

Lamar Miller is scary fast

Lamar Miller hasn't had a conversation with a University of Miami coach since he attended the spring game last month. It's not because Miller is mad at the Canes, or the Canes are mad at Miller. They're still definitely in love. It's because Miller has eyes on something else -- winning the state title in the 100 meters.

Lamar Miller Thursday afternoon, I caught up with the Killian High running back at the District 16-4A track and field meet down at Southridge High School. He looked a little different from the last time I saw on National Signing Day when he wore a black suit and an orange and green Canes tie. This Miller was 10 pounds lighter, right around 208 he says, and wearing a pair of black track and field tights to go with a determined attitude. "I really want to win a state championship," he told me before the race. "I don't like losing at anything."

Miller proceeded to win his next race moments later by doing what he often does on the football field -- blowing past his competitors. At the horse track, he would have won by at least two lengths. It wasn't his best time (10.79 seconds), but it got him one step closer to where he wants to be in two weeks -- the FHSAA state track and field championships in Winter Park.

Miller finished 11th in the state last year and currently has the 25th fastest time (10.73) this season in the state according to flrunners.com. Normally, non-track officianados would think that's not that impressive. But when you look at who is in front of Miller this year (it's probably one of the fastest years in state history) and how his career best compares (10.56, which he ran as a junior) to other Hurricanes and football greats, you come to appreciate the great open field speed Miller possesses for someone who stands 6-feet and weighs close to 210 pounds.

Remember how in awe we were of the speed slender Canes receiver Travis Benjamin showed us this past season? His fastest 100-meter time at Glades Central was 10.72 seconds. Remember little, speedy Sinorce Moss and how he would blow past guys in the secondary? His career best in the 100 meters at Carol City was 10.96. Devin Hester -- the guy with the 100 speed rating in John Madden's video game -- his fastest at Riviera Beach Suncoast was 10.87 seconds. Miller (timed at 4.32 in the 40-yard dash as a junior) has not only run faster than those speedy Canes in the 100 meters, but Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (10.61) too. The fastest any Hurricane has run in 100-yard dash? Little-used former cornerback Terrell Walden (10.65).

The point is there aren't many guys who have come to UM with that type of long-range speed. Even Sam Shields, who was timed at a UM record 4.2 seconds earlier this week in the 40-yard dash, turned in his fastest 100-meter time of 10.82 seconds at Sarasota Booker.

One glance over state record books shows you it's not easy for football players who take a beating in the fall to make the speedy transition to track in the spring. Many usually pass on it to give their legs a rest, while others have competed in the sport or used the training to make themselves faster. But the guys who win the big races are usually those who aren't getting slammed into by linebackers and 300-pound defensive lineman. Miller, obviously, isn't one of those. His focus was to lead Miami-Dade County in rushing and his team deep into the playoffs (which he did). But like the five guys I mentioned before, he has that extra special gear and the ability to pull away from the pack, which makes it exciting to think what he could do with the ball in his hands in the open field this fall.

For comparison, current Florida Gator Jeffrey Demps owns the state record with a 10.37 100-meter dash time. He nearly broke under 10 seconds at the U.S. Olympic Trials is by far the fastest high school football player the state has ever produced. Miller will likely be trying to beat a pair of future Gators when he gets past next week's regionals at Traz Powell Stadium. Among the speedy runners in front of him expected to make the final eight-man field -- receiver Andre Debose (10.63) from Sanford Seminole and 2010 cornerback Demar Dorsey (10.55) from Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson. Another big name expected to participate in the race, future Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (10.44) from Deerfield Beach. All will be trying to chase down one of the country's future Olympians in Dentarius Locke (10.35), who is headed to Tennessee on a track scholarship.

With freshman running back Mike James already in camp and making noise on the depth chart and veterans Graig Cooper and Javarris James back, there likely aren't going to be enough balls to go around in 2009 for Miller to get much of an opportunity to show what he can do in the backfield. But in the kicking game, he could prove to be extremely valuable. In his three varsity seasons at Killian, he returned nine kickoffs back for touchdowns. "Kick returns, I'm very comfortable with those," Miller said. "I've been doing that my whole career. Punt returns? I got to work on those. But I like getting the ball, seeing an opening and hitting it full speed."

Miller plans on doing just that when he gets to UM in the summer, which he says he should do because he's "already gone through the clearinghouse with an ACT score of 20" and because his GPA will get a boost from 2.57 to somewhere around 2.7 to 2.8 when he graduates at the end of May. "I got 2 A's, 3 B's and 1 C on my last report card," Miller said. "My GPA should move up even more on my next one."

But first, before prom and before he starts taking classes at UM shortly after, there's a state title to contend for on Saturday May 9th. "I feel very confident I'm going to win," Miller said. "I have great competition. I know that. But that just drives me even more. I'm working hard on dropping that time, getting aster. I'm going to do it. You'll see."

April 22, 2009

Why John Wall should pick Miami before going pro

In a little more than a year, John Wall will walk to a podium in New York City, shake NBA commissioner David Stern's hands and walk out a happy 20-year old millionaire. But until then, the 6-4, 175-pound point guard has a year he has to spend in college.

John Wall Next week, Wall -- this year's recruiting version of Derrick Rose -- is supposed to decide where he'll spend that year. Every big name in college basketball has taken their shot. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski got another Wednesday when Wall and his mother drove over to Durham from their home down the road in Raleigh. Sidney Lowe and N.C. State would love it if Wall decided to spend an extra year at home with his mom, while helping Lowe keep his job at least for one more year. Most, though, expect new Kentucky coach John Calipari to win the Wall sweepstakes. After all, look what he did for Rose, this year's NBA Rookie of the Year.

But before John Wall decided who will get those rented services, he'll be making a trip this weekend to visit a school that doesn't usually host NBA Lottery Picks. That would be your University of Miami and coach Frank Haith, who -- despite being told repeatedly by experts he has no chance at landing Wall -- has continued to chase after the future NBA star with a supreme man crush.

Like the rest of the one-hit wonders who have made their way from fab freshman to the NBA Lottery, Wall will probably end up going to Kentucky or Duke and making a run at a national title on a team loaded with talent. After all, that's what all the big stars have been doing (look up Carmello Anthony, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant). But if Wall really wanted to be different, really wanted to enjoy his one-year of college, he'd pick Miami. Where else is he going to get everything South Florida has to offer?

Do you think in Lexington or Durham he would be able to pick the brain of Dwyane Wade, or spend his off nights down at a nearby NBA arena like Jack McClinton did? Out in the Bluegrass or in the safe haven of Cameron, would he be able to celebrate a 50-point night the way he could in the hometown of Playboy Magazine's No. 1 party school in the country? No way. OK, so Duke and Kentucky may offer more tradition, a chance to follow in the footsteps of other greats and win a national title and really boring Saturday nights. But at UM, Wall could spend his 12 months in NBA purgatory being a king, being the first future NBA superstar to lead the Hurricanes places they've never been before, and to enjoy South Beach while he does it. Honestly, what is better than that?

> For what it's worth, not everyone believes Wall is headed to Kentucky or Duke. Tonight, I caught up with Dave Telep, Scout.com's National Recruiting Editor, who told me he no longer can put a finger on where he thinks Wall will end up.

"My gut feeling went out the door a long time ago," Telep said. "[Miami] definitely is not the favorite. But he hasn't visited yet. If you have what Miami has in terms of opportunity and environment and a guy like Haith, who is from North Carolina, grew up in the same environment Wall did, you have a lot to sell. It's a great idea to take a shot at the guy. Sometimes you have an advantage being the team no one expects."

> Even without Wall, Haith deserves kudos for inking one of the nation's Top 20 classes this season. ESPN ranks UM 16th in its rankings. Scout currently has UM 15th, but the Canes could move up or down depending on what happens according to Telep with a few top-tier recruits in the next week.

Wednesday, Antoine Allen -- the 6-2, 183-pound combo guard who played for the same Baltimore-based AAU program Jack McClinton did -- became the fourth high school senior to join UM's class when he received the necessary paperwork he needed to get into UM. Allen joins a class that features Scout.com five-star recruit Durand Scott, who played in the Jordan All-Star Game in New York this past weekend, and fellow Rivals.com Top 150 recruits Garrius Adams, a 6-5 guard from North Carolina, and 6-8 forward Donnovan Kirk. They'll be among the five new players on Haith's team next year, which will also add highly-touted point guard Malcolm Grant, who sat out the season after transferring in from Villanova.

Telep told me while it will be hard for UM to replace McClinton's offense, he sees this class as a nice foundation for the future, one that should help the Canes get back into the NCAA Tournament quicker than most expect.

"Nobody is taking Jack McClinton's place offensively," Telep said. "But Durand Scott is going to be one of the best defensive players in the ACC. He's better than advertised offensively. But he carved out his niche and forces his way onto the court because he's a very prideful player on defense. Over four years, he's going to be one of the best defensive players in the country. Much like the role Marcus Ginyard plays for North Carolina, Frank Haith has his Marcus Ginyard in Durand Scott."

"It's a balanced class. They've replaced some guys on the wing and add a Malcolm Grant, it's a good group of guys. They're all different. Garrius Adams has size and could be a good offensive player down the road. Antoine Allen is the junkyard dog in this class. Donnovan Kirk does a good job as a rebounder and a nice job scoring around the basket. It's a nice foundation for the future."

But it's a foundation that needs a cherry on top, a star to tie it all together. Even if that star is a one-year rental named John Wall, the Canes should do everything in their power to sell him on South Beach.

April 15, 2009

Graham giving football a shot

Jimmy Graham hasn't played football since the ninth grade. But he's not letting it stop him from giving it another shot. 

Jimmy Graham Around lunchtime Wednesday, University of Miami coach Randy Shannon confirmed the rumors we'd all been hearing for weeks when he told reporters during his 10-minute ACC teleconference that the 6-8, 260-pound Canes power forward will indeed be trying out at tight end.

"We will give him a chance if he wants to do that," Shannon said. "I told Jimmy he has an opportunity to come back to school, enjoy the dream of playing football. He's been around, been with the players, Jacory Harris some... with his size and speed he may help us."

The Hurricanes could definitely use the help. UM is not only thin on experience at tight end, they don't have any proven talent aside from Dedrick Epps. Seniors Richard Gordon and Tervaris Johnson and redshirt sophomore Daniel Adderley took the majority of the snaps the spring and looked average at best. Stephen Plein and Billy Sanders will likely not be ready to help as true freshmen. 

Wednesday, Shannon provided some good news when he told reporters Epps, coming off knee surgery in December, was ahead of schedule. "He should be ready for camp, should be running full speed in July," Shannon said. "He should be full speed and ready to go." 

But it's Graham who could be the most intriguing prospect at the position considering his size and athletic ability. Some of the NFL's best tight ends -- Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez -- have come from the basketball court. Graham, who is declining interviews according to UM sports information director Margaret Belch, could be the next one. 

Wednesday, after Shannon's press conference, I caught up with Carlos Peralta, Graham's old basketball coach at Charis Prep in N.C. Peralta, who has talked to Graham at least once a week since he's been at UM, told me the football team approached Graham about giving tight end a try. Peralta said Graham wrestled with the decision for weeks, praying on it for days before finally telling Shannon recently he would give football a shot. 

"First and foremost what swayed him was that he's enjoyed his time at UM," Peralta said. "And he saw this as an opportunity to extend his experience a little bit. He talked about going to graduate school, how he'll be able to be a double major [marketing and business] by the time he graduates. Jimmy always loved football. It was his first love really. The way he and I see this is he gets to let go of more unleashed aggression -- without the fouls."

According to Peralta, Graham explored all of his basketball opportunities before deciding to give football a try. He looked into potential agents and contemplated offers from overseas -- as far East as Russia.

"Options were available to him," Peralta said. "I think the bottomline is he felt like it was a bit of an unknown in terms of environment. Although the money looks good on paper, he didn't know if he'd enjoy living for six months in Russia. That's what it really came down to."

> Shannon discussed a few other topics during his teleconference including his new coordinators, UM's NFL First Round Draft Streak coming to an end and how Taylor Cook will enter the fall as the team's No. 2 quarterback (which we expected). Nothing was earth shattering. FYI, it's likely the last time we'll hear from Shannon until fall practice begins.

> While I realize many of you might have been miffed by my last blog on recruiting becoming a little more challenging locally for the Canes, I want you to know I had several interesting conversations with several UM staff members behind the scenes about it this week. 

One person told me the reason it is getting harder is because of the emergence of more "mentors" locally. These people could be trying to earn "favors" with outside schools. I'm not going to point any fingers (just know I don't write blogs to stir up controversy or to get hits). I've had my finger on the pulse of recruiting here in South Florida for years. Something isn't right. With severe budget cuts happening on the high school level in Miami-Dade and Broward, assistants and people around programs are losing their jobs. Understand there might be a few desperate guys out there trying to find "help." They are beginning to point kids toward a particular school for that reason. UM knows it and they're trying to fight it. It's just not so easy when some schools have something to offer and The U does not want to get involved in that at all. 

April 10, 2009

Intruders breaching UM's local recruiting wall

Cover your eyes Canes fans, or just turn away. What you are about to read might burn your eyes and cause your blood pressure to rise. Consider this your final warning.

Outsiders are beginning to make serious recruiting inroads into South Florida. Did you hear me? There's been a breach in the Great Wall of Canes. The green and orange protective layer that used to shield the hearts of players born in the area codes of the 954 and 305 is beginning to disappear like the ozone. And if the University of Miami isn't careful, the hole could get bigger. The intrduers could end up becoming permanent residents.

No, I'm not hitting the Hurtt Alert button because the Gators picked up their first commitment from a Miami-Dade player since 2005 in Ransom Everglades linebacker Gideon Ajagbe earlier this week. I'm sounding the Shannon Siren because I'm starting to hear a change in the voices of the kids from just around the corner. I'm starting to get the feeling the Miami magnet -- the one that always seemed to yank kids in South Florida naturally toward Canes nation -- is losing its pull.

Thursday, The Miami Herald hosted a media day for local 2010 recruits. We filmed interviews, took pictures and I got a chance to sit down and talk with many players (and their coaches) who are part of what is expected to be a loaded local signing class this coming February. One by one, I heard the same answers from the recruits I've heard for years. Hialeah defensive end Corey Lemonier, running back Jakhari Gore, Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Jose Jose and Miramar receiver Ivan McCartney all told me they grew up huge fans of the Canes. But what was different listening to these recruits was that there was no longer that overriding sense that their childhood love for UM is going make the Canes the team to beat in the end. What I sensed was a greater awareness from our local players, that there are more choices out there and just because you are from Miami doesn't mean you have to play for the Canes. It sounded to me like many of them have been listening to the other guys.

And the fact local players are beginning to realize that, should scare the heck out of the University of Miami. It may only be the second week of April -- 10 months before anything becomes official on the next National Signing Day. But there are serious signs the old Miami mystique is evaporating. The truth is outsiders have been working hard to make advances for years, and they aren't just knocking on the door anymore. They're busting through it and really are getting into the mind of local players once considered untouchable.

How else can you explain how a player like Booker T. Washington running back Eduardo Clements (the top RB on UM's board) has Georgia as his leader despite the fact his former high school coach works at UM and three of his former teammates are in Coral Gables? How else can you explain why receiver Quinton Dunbar, who committed to UM last month, decided recently he made a mistake and was reopening his recruiting? What started out with the University of South Florida stealing Monsignor Pace's Kayvon Webster on National Signing Day last February is beginning to smell a lot to me like just the start of a fire.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to the kids themselves. The first school out of Lemonier's mouth Thursday was Florida. He said the Gators speak to him more than any other team. Same for about 20 other kids. With two national titles in the last three years, the Gators have the attention of both Dade and Broward -- something they couldn't achieve before. Even FIU is gaining steam. Miami Springs receiver Willis Wright and 2011 recruit Rakeem Cato both told me, "Mario Cristobal is the truth. He recruits you the way you are supposed to be recruited. We can believe him when he says we can go to FIU and be stars there."

Believe me, I'm not relaying this message so guys like Canesrule and FIUFanatic come over to the blog,(which they will) beating their chest and telling the Greens and SarasotaCanes of the world I told you so (which they will). I'm just saying as a guy who has stood on the recruiting fence for 13 years in South Florida, the enemy is moving in and the battles aren't going to be so easy to win anymore. Consider it a warning.

> For those of you interested in watching some of the interviews we conducted, look for the Recruiting Report in our video section to pop up over the next couple of weeks.

BLOG NOTICE: I know many of you have been wondering why I haven't been posting many blogs lately and why I didn't participate in this Tuesday's Q&A. Here's the answer: The Herald moved me late last week onto the Marlins/Baseball beat. It's the result of the loss of four other sports writers following budget cuts last month. 

For now, during the offseason, I'll focus more on the Marlins and local recruiting. I'm going to try and stay on the Canes beat as much as I can between those assignments. But I've got to tell you expect a slow down in production until news happens or football resumes in August. As it stands, other than Canes baseball, it's going to be pretty quiet around UM for the next few month outside of recruits making early commitments. One thing I'd like to do, though, is welcome topical questions through my email as news happens. I'm still going to be talking to sources at UM every now and again to provide you with fresh stuff. But during the down period, I'll welcome topics you guys would like for me to address. It will at the very least keep the blog going.

April 02, 2009

FSU series has evolved into real dislike

Florida State and Miami are rivals when it comes to every sport. But there may not be more real hate involved in any of them moreso than in baseball. At least that's what it seems like.

Ryan Jackson Thursday, with UM set to host the Seminoles in a three-game series at The Light, I caught up with several players and coaches to see exactly where the rivalry is at. After last year's heated battle in Tallahassee, which saw the Seminoles refuse to shake hands (and fans get ugly) after the Canes escaped with a series-clinching Sunday win, consider the rivalry on orange alert.

"It was definitely more of a fun rivalry for me when I played," said pitching coach J.D. Arteaga, who pitched for the Canes from 1994 to 1997. "I had players I knew on their side. Mickey Lopez and Doug Mientkewicz were my high school teammates. We went to dinner after it was over. I don't know if we have that anymore because we usually don't recruit the same kids. It's a little more different rivalry now after a few things that have happened over the past six, seven years. It's a little hotter to say the least."

Hot for even the two guys are supposed to be setting the example, Jim Morris and Mike Martin. Morris got his first coaching job under Martin. But each year their relationship has higher levels of stress, especially after Morris beat Martin to win the 1999 national championship.

"That's part of the reason why I don't like to schedule friends," Morris said. " People think it's a game - it's a game to people in the stands. But to me it's my life. To Mike Martin, it's his life. I think about it all the time. It's my life. It's not just a game."

Players agree, especially when it comes to this series. Shortstop Ryan Jackson said he got sprayed with Sunkist and middle fingers by FSU fans last year at the end of Sunday's wild finish. He says while players from both sides don't like each other, playing in atmosphere where you don't like your opponent jacks up players and makes the games even more excting.

"I'm not going to beat around the bush. We don't like them. They don't like us," Jackson said. "I'm sure they're saying the same thing up there. We're looking forward to playing good, clean baseball and hopefully come out on top."

David Gutierrez SOME HELP FROM BIG BRO: Earlier this week, David Gutierrez found out he would be making the move from No. 2 starter to Friday night ace. The redshirt junior right-hander didn't have to think twice about who would be the first person he'd call to share the news with -- his big brother, former Hurricanes closer Carlos Gutierrez.

Why big bro and not mom and dad? Because it was big bro that taught him that new pitch this summer past summer -- a hard sinker -- that has helped David put together a 2-2 record and the lowest ERA (1.51) in the ACC the first half of the season.

"We worked on it a lot this offseason while he was training down here," the younger Gutierrez said Thursday. "That's what's helped me take the next step. Last year, I didn't throw it all. Now, I use it on every batter at least once. It's an effective pitch because it looks like a fastball and dies. They'll roll over it and I get groundouts."

As for the elder Gutierrez, drafted in the first round by the Twins last June, David says his older brother expects to begin High-A ball in the coming days.

WHAT'S SLOWING DOWN CHRIS HERNANDEZ?: While Gutierrez has thrived for UM this season, last year's ACC Freshman of the Year and ace, left-hander Chris Hernandez has hit a hard sophomore slump. In six starts and 33 2/3 innings, Hernandez has given up 22 earned runs and walked 12 batters. He gave up 18 walks and 34 earned runs all of last year.

Arteaga said the difference is while Hernandez is throwing harder, he has less command. Morris said Hernandez is trying to be "too fine," and is losing two strike battles he won with opposing hitters last year.

"The first thing we talked to him about was not worrying about duplicating what he did last year. And that's exactly what he's trying to do. He's trying to be perfect," Arteaga said. "This game is to hard to be perfect. As soon as one bad thing happens, it kind of multiplies because you're waiting for the next [bad thing to happen]. Like I said, he's throwing the ball better. But it's nowhere near where he was last year. I didn't expect what he did last year to happen again. He's 2-2 right now. If he ends the year 11-3 with a 3, 4 ERA, it's still a great year."

OUT OF THE SLUMP?: Jackson began the season hitting third in Morris' lineup. But a first half slump ultimately has had him moving all over the place, from 1, 2, 3 to 7, 8, 9. Thursday, Morris said Jackson put too much pressure on himself to start the year and was hitting too many flyballs. But both Morris and Jackson see signs the .283 hitter could be on the verge of turning the corner.

"In my last 10 at bats, I think I've hit seven balls hard," Jackson said. "I feel like I'm getting back on track, staying positive.

"I came out of the shoot trying to do too much. I had a good spring and fall and sometimes when you do that you come out trying to do more than you can. My stride was a little too big. Sunday's game versus Georgia Tech was kind of the turning point for me in terms of how I felt my season was going to go. I hit some balls hard in every bat. I carried it over against Barry. I'm optimistic about the rest of the year. I know what I can do. That's why I got the second half."

A chat with Kirby Hocutt & more

Two weeks ago when the University of Miami was on the road in the NIT at Providence, I got a chance to catchup with athletic director Kirby Hocutt and pick his mind on a few hot button issues. I figured the highlights of our discussion might be the best way for me to start sharing a boatload of notes I've collected in the past week since the end of the spring football.

Kirby Hocutt > UM football coach Randy Shannon has two years left on his current contract. Entering his third season after going a combined 12-13, Hocutt said he has yet to broach the subject of a contract extension with Shannon and didn't share a timetable either when negotiations might begin. But he didn't sound like an athletic director whose begun looking yet for Plan B either. 

"We haven't talked yet," Hocutt said. "But that's no indication of our support for Randy. He's done an excellent job. There's an excitement around the program as well as optimism for next year. Miami football is on the right track. Randy has a plan and we're going to continue to support him and he's going to be the leader of the program for a long time. I'm confident of that."

> One thing that Shannon did that pleased Hocutt was the way he handled the recruitment of running back Bryce Brown, who went from longtime UM commitment to signing with Tennessee two weeks ago after Shannon decided not to renew his scholarship offer.

"He made the right decision in my opinion and I respect him for handling it the way he did. We're going to be fine moving forward," Hocutt said. "[Recruiting] has changed. Is it concerning? Yes it is. You would hope you can work directly with the parents and the young people involved. You hope the third party influence is not as involved as it is today, especially in the sport of basketball. This honestly was the first time I saw a third party involved in a football situation to the degree it was. And it's something I think we need to start talking about at the conference level and maybe moreso on a national level."

> One of the things Hocutt said he has become more involved in since taking over has been the future scheduling of opponents. He wants to get UM involved in big-time games including playing Notre Dame again and getting Florida on the schedule. Right now, Kansas State is looking to get off UM's schedule for 2011 and 2012. Hocutt said he and Shannon have agreed that as long as UM finds a comparable opponent for the series they would let the Wildcats out of their agreement. According to Hocutt, ESPN is trying to find a replacement to create a marquee TV matchup. Hocutt would not mention any names, but said it would be another Big 12 opponent. I've heard rumblings the possible home and home series could come against either Texas, Texas Tech or Missouri.

"We're going to make sure the opponent makes sense for Miami and what we're trying to accomplish," Hocutt said. "We'll see what opportunities present themselves and move down the road."

Speaking of down the road and opportunities, Hocutt seemed more confident there could be a future meeting with Miami and Notre Dame than with the Canes and Gators, who are currently scheduled to meet for the last time in football at Dolphins Stadium in 2013.

"If there is any way whatsoever to get [a series with Notre Dame] done, we'll get it done," Hocutt said. "I don't want to lead people on or sound too optimistic, but there has been an initial phone call and another conversation through a mutual relationship [TV]. There's definitely interest on both sides. If it's something we can get done in the future it sounds like we're both committed to it."

> When it comes to Frank Haith, consider Hocutt a huge fan of UM's 43-year old coach and a coach Hocutt would probably willing to fight for financially should Haith receive an offer to leave the program. Haith, who last week told reporters and his team he has no interest in leaving UM, has once again had his name resurface this week in filling a possible job opening. FOXSports.com reported Wednesday Georgia has Haith next on its list of candidates after Oklahoma's John Capel. Ten months ago, Hocutt and Dee extended Haith's contract at UM through 2014. Hocutt, who said he speaks to Haith on a weekly basis even during the offseason, said nobody has formally asked UM to speak with Haith.

"Frank and I spend a lot of time talking and its all focused around the future of Miami basketball, what we can continue to do to elevate this program," Hocutt said. "We have a great relationship. He knows we don't want anybody in this country to be our head basketball coach except Frank Haith. You hope you are in position as an athletic director and athletic department thatr people are coming after your coaches, your staff members. That's what you want. That means you got the right person in place and you are doing good things. I think it's a complement to UM that Frank's name is mentioned out there so much."

MORE NOTES, QUOTES & THOUGHTS...

This week I spent two days covering the McDonald's All-American festivities and got a chance to not only speak to a few big-time players, but pick the brains of high school basketball recruiting gurus on a variety of topics.

> UM's quest to land John Wall, the nation's No. 1 available point guard, should probably be considered what has been for a long time -- shaky at best. With John Calipari leaving Memphis for Kentucky this week, many gurus believe it won't necessarily stop Wall from following him. As I was told by SI's Andy Staples last night, Kentucky is probably the most ideal situation because they are desparate for a point guard. Wall has told several publications he plans to take an official visit to UM on April 24. But like Dwayne Collins told me last night when I bumped into him in the BankUnited Center parking lot at around midnight, "if I was him or anybody else living up in that cold, I'd want to take a trip to Miami, too. But that don't mean he's coming here."

> Speaking of Dwayne Collins, although there have been reports that the 6-8, 240-pound forward is considering leaving UM after this season to enter the NBA Draft, I'd consider the likelyhood of Collins leaving about the same as Wall coming to Miami. "Really, I'm just waiting on Coach Haith to tell me what he thinks," Collins said. "If he thinks I should go, I'll go. If he doesn't, I'll be back." NBADraftexpress.com ranks Collins 37th among the nation's Top Juniors. That's not close to being a first round pick.

> Jack McClinton's NBA Draft stock, meanwhile, remains up in the air -- especially after a knee injury slowed him toward the end of the year. McClinton will get a chance to make an impression on NBA Scouts again, however, when he participates in the Three-Point shootout of the State Farm College All-Star festivities Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at the site of the Final Four in Detroit.

> Florida-bound and local guard Kenny Boynton Jr. had a pretty good night (10 points) in Wednesday night's McDonald's All-American Game at the BankUnited Center. I asked Boynton Tuesday if there ever really was a bone in his body that considered playing at Miami, in front of his friends and family.

"There definitely was," Boynton said. "They did recruit me. Coach Jorge Fernandez recruited me real well. Coach Haith recruited me also. But I didn’t think he put more into it like Duke and Florida. I think coach Haith didn’t show me he really wanted me. He came to see me a few times. But he never called a lot. I think it would have been a good situation [coming to Miami]. It’s close to home, Miami is on the rise. I think I could have helped. But it’s a good situation where I'm going too. I like Florida a lot."

> Coming off their second series loss in 23 series in the ACC, UM's baseball team will open a three-game homestand against Florida State this weekend at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. The biggest news, though, is UM has decided to move No. 2 starter David Gutierrez into the Friday night starter role in place of the struggling Chris Hernandez Gutierrez is 2-2 with a 1.51 ERA. Hernandez is 2-2 with a 5.88 ERA.

By the way, the Canes will honor the 1999 National Championship team before Saturday night's game at 7 p.m. Get there early if you want to catch it.