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23 posts from June 2009

June 30, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 22, DE Adewale Ojomo

As we move forward again in the countdown of the Top 60 players at the University of Miami, we take a look at No. 22 on our list: Defensive end Adewale Ojomo. The local product has made a few dumb mistakes off the field early in his career, but he's shown flashes of brilliance on the field, too.

Adewale Ojomo > What we heard about him on Signing Day ‘07: Ojomo was the first player Randy Shannon received a commitment from when he took over for Larry Coker. He convinced the 6-4, 253-pound sophomore from Hialeah High to become UM’s fifth commitment of the 2007 class in January after a senior season in which he tallied 60 tackles, four sacks and four forced fumbles. The cousin of Dolphins linebacker Akin Ayodele, Ojomo wasn’t very highly regarded. He was ranked 28 nationally at his position by Rivals.com, 26th by Scout.com and 47th by SuperPrep. Ojomo picked UM over N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Kentucky and Georgia.

> What he's done as a Cane: After earning Defensive Scout Team MVP honors as he was redshirted his freshman season, Ojomo played in 11 games in 2008, starting in three games and tallying 30 tackles and three sacks. He had plenty of impressive spurts. He had six tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble against Wake Forest. He also had a few bonehead moments, getting suspended for violating team rules twice (the opener vs. Charleston Southern and UCF). He missed the spring game with a wrist injury.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: If he can stay out of trouble, Ojomo is arguably the best all around defensive end Miami has. He’s fast, athletic athletic and a natural playmaker. Defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said Ojomo’s strength is his run defense and pursuit. If Hurtt and Randy Shannon can keep Ojomo’s head on straight, they’ll definitely have a contributor and starter. If he really takes it seriously, he can be an all-ACC performer. But if Ojomo resorts to being foolish again, he’ll have the same type of season he had last year – where you just see flashes of brilliance and not everything you hope he can be. "His youthfulness tends to show sometimes," Hurtt said back in October. 'But he's a good kid and works extremely hard. Last year, [offensive line] coach [Jeff] Stoutland and [offensive coordinator] Patrick Nix would come to me every day and say, 'Hey, that kid is going to be a stud.' We're starting to see it."

Top 60 Countdown: No. 52, DL Jeremy Lewis

As we move ahead in the countdown of the Top 60 players at UM, let's take a look at No. 52: Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis. He's one of several young, developing big men on the team.

Jeremy Lewis > What we heard about him on Signing Day '08: The 6-3, 314-pound redshirt freshman came to UM as a consensus Top 30 defensive tackle in the country according to ESPN, Scout and Rivals from Palm Beach Lakes High. He chose UM over North Carolina, LSU, Auburn and Mississippi.

> What he's done as a Cane: Lewis played mostly on the scout team and made one tackle in the season-opener against Charleston Southern. This spring, he made one tackle while playing mostly on the second and third teams at tackle.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: Of the three defensive tackles UM signed in 2008 (Marcus Forston and Micanor Regis were the others), Lewis is clearly the furthest behind. But with his size and talent, if he takes the next step forward he should be in the rotation at tackle -- especially in running situations. His 515-pound squat this spring made him the strongest defensive tackle from the legs down on the team. That should come in handy around the goal line this season. What you would like to see is for Lewis to be heavily involved in the rotation at tackle at the end of the season.

June 29, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 23, DT Joe Joseph

Another day, another player to focus on as we continue the countdown of the top 60 players at the University of Miami. Next on the list: No. 23, defensive tackle Joe Joseph, who wasn't very highly regarded coming out of high school but has started 14 games for UM in the past two seasons.

Joe Joseph2 > What we heard about him on Signing Day '05: Big Joe wasn't very highly regarded coming out of Orlando Oak Ridge High. Rivals.com tabbed him as the 32nd best defensive tackle in the country. He was ranked last among the three defensive tackles UM signed its class (Kellen Heard and Antonio Dixon were rated higher).

> What he's done as a Cane: While linebacker Darryl Sharpton is probably the biggest overachiever in the Class of 2005 (Sharpton is projected to be UM's top NFL Draft pick according to ESPN and Scout), Joseph isn't far behind. After spending two years on the scout team, he played a bunch in 2007 as a sophomore for a beat up UM defensive line, starting five games and compiling 25 tackles. Last year, he started nine games and made 35 tackles and one sack. He returns to UM for his senior season as the most experienced defensive lineman on the team next to Eric Moncur (16 starts).

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: At 6-3, 302 pounds, Joseph is a consistent meat-and-potatoes option in the middle for UM. He isn't flashy, but he usually gets the job done. His bench (395) is tied for second among defensive tackles with Marcus Forston and ranks right behind big burly Allen Bailey. Joseph's 480-pound squat ranks ninth, and second among defensive tackles. So, brute-strength wise, he's got what it takes to be yet another solid contributor on the defensive line this coming season. We expect him to start opposite Marcus Forston or Allen Bailey and play a ton.

Rest of '09 recruits arrive Tuesday, minus 2

The University of Miami inked 19 players on National Signing Day and welcomed six in for the spring. Tuesday, the rest of the incoming freshmen will arrive -- if they hadn't already -- when the second session of summer classes begin.

Prince Kent won't be among the '09 recruits who begin classes Tuesday at UM. So, who won't be among the new arrivals? So far, it looks like two players -- offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche and defensive back Prince Kent. Bunche told me he's headed to prep school. And although I haven't been able to reach Kent (he and his mom have changed their phone numbers) a source told me his academic situation isn't good and UM is trying to help him find another school (another source told me its Marshall).

But everybody else -- the remaining 11 recruits -- will be ready to go when fall football practices begin in early August.

"My test scores weren't as good as they were supposed to be," Bunche said. "So, I have to go to a prep school. Hopefully, its Milford. I'll spend a semester up there and then I will definitely get back to Miami in January and partake in spring practice.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not going to stop. I'm going to keep going to where I have to be. This is just a bump on the road."

Bunche said he took the ACT, but failed to score high enough to qualify for UM's sliding scale (GPA, plus test score). He said he was taking an SAT/ACT Prep course and thought he was going to be prepared for the exam. Unfortunately, he says he can't take another exam until September, which is obviously too late to get into Miami. His plan now is to attend either Milford Prep in New York or Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia.

"I'm sticking to my basic workout routine," Bunche said. "I went down from 320 to 315. I guess it's been all the running in the sun for the past two weeks. I'll be back."

> Bunche said he's spent the past two weeks in Miami training with his cousin, fellow UM recruit A.J. Highsmith. Bunch said Highsmith will begin taking classes at UM on Tuesday. He said his cousin expects to spend at least his first season at UM at quarterback.

A FEW NOTES ON OTHER INCOMING PLAYERS...

Shayon Green > Shayon Green said although he was recruited to play defensive end by the Hurricanes, he was recently told by defensive assistant Micheal Barrow he will start out at linebacker. The 6-2 recruit from Tifton, Ga. (the same hometown of UM defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff) said he's put on 10 pounds since the end of his high school season and is now weighing 235. He played linebacker his senior season and racked up 120 tackles and three sacks. He will room with defensive tackle Curtis Porter, who arrived in the spring.

"I can't wait to start classes," said Green, who has spent the past week getting acclimated to South Florida by living with his grandparents and aunt in Homestead. "All this waiting around can drive you crazy."

> Jim Wheeler, the father of offensive lineman Jared Wheeler, said his son is just as anxious about starting classes Tuesday. Wheeler said his son, who will be rooming with tight end Billy Sanders, has put on weight with his offseason conditioning program and is now 6-5, 328. "He's gotten a lot stronger," Wheeler said. "He's got that brute strength, but he can't wait to start with Coach Swasey. He's already up to benching 325 pounds. That's pretty good for a freshman."

Wheeler said UM coaches still haven't told him exactly where he will start out on the offensive line. But Wheeler said he hopes its center. "Jared has the brain and the speed to play center," Wheeler said. "[Jacory] Harris is a tall quarterback, but even still Jared can get down. He could also be a big guard. He's got the long arms."

> As for his younger son, Plantation American Heritage senior Jacob Wheeler, Mr. Wheeler said he recently received his first football scholarship offer from Maryland. The family visited Maryland this past weekend. "Miami wants Jake. Coach Stoutland told him if he decides to put his hand down, he's got a scholarship," Mr. Wheeler said. "But right now, that's Jake's big decision. Does he want to play offensive line or tight end? Everybody keeps telling him he's a lineman. I think he's starting to realize it."

Mr. Wheeler said many schools are recruiting Jacob Wheeler (6-8, 238) not only as an offensive lineman , but as a power forward too. Wheeler plays for the Coral Springs Intensity Jammers AAU Team and will be traveling to Las Vegas and New York for tournaments. "He's played with Kenny Boynton for two years so a lot of people have seen him," Mr. Wheeler said. "They just haven't seen him with the ball a whole lot. But they like him. Coastal Carolina, Fordham and Rutgers have all talked about him playing both sports at the next level. Miami hasn't yet."

Ray Ray Armstrong > Sanford Seminole coach Mike Cullison said both of his former players -- safety Ray Ray Armstrong (UM's most highly touted recruit) and defensive end Dyron Dye -- have already been in Miami for more than a week and will start classes Tuesday.

Armstrong, whom Cullison has compared to Sean Taylor in the past, will wear No. 26. Armstrong (6-4, 215) broke his finger after the season, but will not miss any time according to Cullison. Cullison said although Armstrong could put on some weight and play linebacker, he expects him to play safety. 

"I've never coached a kid as competitive as Ray Ray," Cullison said. "He's not going to come out of the game with a bump. They'll have to drag him off the field. I spoke to him last week because I didn't get a chance to say good-bye to him. He's read for this. He's ready to let loose and be a leader."

As for Dye (6-5, 230), he thinks he'll end up switching positions -- from defensive end to tight end -- before his career is done. ""He's got so much upside to him that he doesn't know how good he can be," Cullison said "But I think he could end up being a tight end -- if they use a tight end. He blocks very well. His hands are getting better. He's already got that quick first step. I think he could play in the league as a tight end."

> Speaking of tight ends, Stephen Plein said he's finally all ready to go and begin taking classes at UM on Wednesday. Plein tried enrolling in the spring, but was held up by the NCAA Clearinghouse. They finally passed him through two weeks ago. The holdup? "They made me take an online class over," Plein said. "So, I took online journalism at Brigham Young. It was actually kind of fun."

Plein said he's been working hard in the offseason with a speed coach -- former Tennessee assistant Wes Parker, who lives in the Fort Myers area. Plein said he's brought down his 40-time from 4.9 seconds to 4.62 seconds. He's now 6-6, 255 and eager to provide a hand at a position UM sorely needs help at. He played tight end before moving to Fort Myers his senior year, where he spent the season at defensive end. 

"I saw coach Pannunzio about three weeks ago when I went down to UM for my physical," Plein said. "He hadn't seen me since the spring. He was like 'Dang, you could start for me right now.' I just want to help any way that I can."

> Under-Armour All-American defensive back Jamal Reid said he's put on about 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason and now lists himself at 6-1, 178 pounds. Although he could play cornerback, he said UM coaches want him to come in at safety because of his playmaking abilities. He said he will be rooming with defensive end Olivier Vernon.

Reid said he's talked to Randy Shannon about playing baseball in the spring time. Reid was an outfielder at Mayo Lafayette. "Coach Shannon said as long as I keep my grades up, I can play baseball too," Reid said. "I'd love to do both. I'll be meeting with Coach [Jim] Morris when I get there."

June 27, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 53, OL Ben Jones

As we continue to stroll forward in the countdown of the Top 60 players at UM, we take a look at No. 53: Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Ben Jones.

Ben Jones > What we heard about him on Signing Day '08: Of the eight players UM nabbed from Northwestern's national championship team of 2007, Jones was among the least highly regarded although he was ranked 17th at his position by Rivals.com. Injured as a junior at Northwestern, he made the switch from defense to right tackle his senior season and played well. He chose UM over Clemson, LSU, Auburn, Ohio State and Tennessee.

> What he's done as a Cane: He hurt himself early in fall practices and came back late last season to participate with the scout team. This spring, he impressed line coach Jeff Stoutland at right tackle and is currently listed second on the depth chart behind Matt Pipho.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: Jones (6-6, 310) and fellow freshman Jermaine Johnson should see time in the rotation at tackle. Ultimately, he and Johnson are seen as the future at tackle for UM, who will be losing Jason Fox after 2009. Jones needs to improve his strength numbers. Right now, he trails most of the freshmen offensive lineman.

June 26, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 24, LB Darryl Sharpton

As the countdown of the Top 60 players at UM continues, we take a look at one of the team's few remaining 2005 recruits and seniors: No. 24, LB Darryl Sharpton. The nephew of the Rev. Al Sharpton is a rarity at UM. He's actually one of the guys who has overachieved the past few years.

Darryl Sharpton vs. UF > What we heard about him on Signing Day '05: Looking back at the 2005 class, there weren't many players who truly developed into big-time play makers outside of Kenny Phillips. Most of the class turned out to be filled with under performers who never lived up to the hype. Sharpton was one of four linebackers in the class, but was considered by Rivals to be the lowest rated of the group (Spencer Adkins, Demetri Stewart and Eric Houston were rated higher). Sharpton obviously turned out to be much better than that and one of the bigger contributors out of a very weak class. At Gables, Sharpton starred on both sides of the ball, making 96 tackles, three interceptions and blocking four punts. He chose UM over Stanford, UMass, Boston College and Brown.

> What he's done as a Cane: You want the only real example in the last four years of a UM overachiever? It's Sharpton. He's the most experienced linebacker on the team right now with 20 career starts. Yes, more than Colin McCarthy (who has 14). Sharpton hasn't been spectacular by any stretch. But, he's been out there, contributing in some fashion, which tells you all you need to know about why UM's linebackers have been subpar for the past few years. He had 66 tackles last season in 10 starts (4th best on the team) and has 160 in his career including 16 for loss, 10 quarterback hurries and 2.5 sacks. He can play inside, he can play outside. RIght now, most expect him to start alongside Sean Spence and McCarthy heading into the fall.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: At 5-11, 235 pounds, Sharpton doesn't have a whole lot of speed. But he can lay the wood. His 535-pound squat is the fourth best on the team and his 301 pound power lift shows you he has the muscle on top to bring guys down. The issue is you want to see guys like Arthur Brown, Ramon Buchanon and Jordan Futch outperforming him by the end of the season. Physically, those three are more talented than Sharpton and much quicker, too. If they are playing more than he is at the end of the season, UM's linebackers have improved. If not, if Sharpton is still out there making all the tackles with Spence, then you know UM's defense probably didn't have a good season.

McClinton, taken in 2nd round, faces long odds

First we heard the Knicks had traded with the Lakers to take him 29th overall. Then, we heard the Heat might scoop him up with one of their second round picks and keep him in town. Now, we know where Jack McClinton is going -- the San Antonio Spurs.

Jack McClinton, a two-time All-ACC First Team selection, will begin his life in the NBA with the Spurs. San Antonio took him in the second round with the 51st pick. Tim Duncan's team and the four-time NBA Champions took McClinton with the 51st pick late Thursday night. It was much later than he hoped, but not a stretch from where most expected him to go -- somewhere between the late first round to the middle second.

McClinton, who was in Baltimore with his family, had this to say about becoming the 17th player in UM history taken in the NBA Draft: "I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to play for a great organization like San Antonio," McClinton said in a statement released by UM. "I've worked for this my whole life and appreciate all the support from my family, coaches and former teammates. I am very excited for this next chapter and look forward to playing for Coach Popovich and the Spurs."

Now, the hard part begins for Jack. Will he be able to cut it? Will he be even be able to make the Spurs' roster or any NBA team's for that matter? At 6-1, 185-pounds and with mediocre point guard skills at best, the odds are long for the two-time All-ACC First Team selection. But if anybody has the will and the inner toughness to keep battling and to find a spot, its McClinton.

It's just going to be really hard. Most of the time, it all depends on who you get drafted by. In 2006, Guillermo Diaz left UM with more athletic ability than McClinton and was taken 52nd overall by the Clippers. L.A. had too many guards and no room for him. Diaz still hasn't cracked an NBA roster and will try to make another run this summer on an NBA Summer League team.

Ultimately, that's what's going to make or break McClinton, who will have to compete with NBA vets like Jacque Vaughn, Roger Mason and George Hill on the Spurs roster to earn a spot.

Either way, McClinton deserves a hand for what he did at UM. He went from a player nobody in the country really wanted to being the seventh player from the ACC taken in the draft. Not bad Jack. Not bad.

June 25, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 54, OL Jermaine Johnson

Time to move on in the countdown of the Top 60 players at The U with a look at No. 54: Offensive lineman Jermaine Johnson, who will be competing for playing time at tackle this coming season.

Jermaine Johnson > What we heard about him on Signing Day '09: Johnson developed into one of the top-rated prep school offensive linemen in the country at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. Not bad for a kid who played football just one season at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale after three in basketball. Johnson originally signed with Auburn before heading to prep school.

> What he's done as a Cane: Started the spring at right tackle behind Matt Pipho before moving to the left side behind Jason Fox. He worked with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and strength coach Andreu Swasey and made some improvements. He's already improved his strength numbers in the weight room. His squat went up from 375 to 425 (updated, misprint), his bench from 315 to 355 and his power clean from 315 to 365. 

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: Stoutland has high expectations for Johnson and expects him to be in his rotation at tackle behind Fox and Pipho. Miami certainly needs a big year from Johnson, who at 6-6, 302 pounds has to at the very least be a contributor. Last year, UM had a solid rotation going with Fox, Chris Rutledge and Reggie Youngblood. Only Fox is back. More importantly, though, Johnson has to grow up quickly. UM is counting on him to be their left tackle of the future. If it isn't him, the Canes could be forced to scramble through the JUCO ranks or continue to play patchwork with overachieving veterans. My guess is Johnson is raw and talented enough to develop into that nasty guy -- along with Brandon Washington -- once Fox leaves.

June 24, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 25, RB Mike James

Another day, another player on the countdown of the Top 60 players at The U. Today, we take a look at No. 25: Freshman running back Mike James. I got three words when it comes to Smiley: Believe The Hype!

Mike James > What we heard about him on Signing Day '09: James wasn't the headliner in UM's 2009 recruiting class. He wasn't even considered the best running back. Some guy from Kansas, who never signed, was supposed to be the big-time back UM had in it 2009 class. But a lot has changed since Signing Day. At 5-11, 217 pounds, we heard a lot about James' physical prowess. For the record, Scout.com rated him the 18th best running back in the country. Rivals had him No. 21 and ESPN had him No. 33. Something tells me he'll be a little better than that. He finished his senior year at Davenport High with 1,200 yards rushing and 12 TDs, a stellar follow up to a 1,108 yard, 15 touchdowns season as a junior.

> What he's done as a Cane: What he did when he arrived in January was explode on the scene. Right out of the gate, James was turning heads and impressing teammates in practice. He only had 14 yards on six carries in the spring, but he scored a 3-yard touchdown and caught two passes for 13 yards while flashing the toughness not seen by a UM back in years. In testing, he was time a 4.52 40-yard dash. His bench press of 350 pounds was the most of any tailback. He also squated 435 pounds and power cleaned 279.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: For all the hype and hoopla over the running backs UM has signed since Willis McGahee, Frank Gore and Clinton Portis left the program earlier in the decade, no UM running back has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark since 2002 (McGahee). James won't get there this season with players like Graig Cooper and Javarris James in front of him on the depth chart. But he could down the line. He showed a capacity to not only break tackles consistently, but to keep moving the pile forward throughout the spring. If anything, his biggest contribution could turn out to be how much he pushes Cooper and Javarris to perform consistently. If they don't deliver, I fully expect Mike James to be the ball carrier at the end of the season and in important times late in games. He's was that impressive this spring.

Top 60 Countdown: No. 55, TE Richard Gordon

Time to keep the countdown of the Top 60 players at UM rolling. Today, we take a look at No. 55 on our list: Senior Richard Gordon. For all the players who have switched positions at UM (Devin Hester, Ryan Hill, etc) few have moved as often as Gordon, who has resembled more of a pawn than a football player in his career.

Richard Gordon > What we heard about him on Signing Day '05: Gordon was a two-way standout at Miami Norland, catching passes at tight end and receiver and providing pressure on the quarterback as a defensive end. An athlete who also competed in basketball and track, he was selected to the now-defunct CaliFlorida Bowl in '04 before going to Milford Prep, where he was tabbed as the sixth best prep school in the country by Rivals.com.

> What he's done as a Cane: Gordon might have played more positions than any other player at UM, moving from tight end to defensive end, back to tight end and even returning kicks for the Canes in 2007. None of the experiments have really worked out. In 36 games at UM, he's made four catches for 32 yards and returned five kicks. His biggest contribution to date has been blocking a punt in UM's 20-14 win over UCF last season. Gordon had one catch for four yards in the spring.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: With Dedrick Epps out indefinitely (or rather, we have no idea when he'll be back for sure), Gordon is the only available tight end with any level of college playing experience. He'll basically be the band-aid for UM at the position until Epps returns or someone else emerges. Former basketball player Jimmy Graham (not in our Top 60 because I haven't seen him on a football field) could unseat Gordon if he can run routes better than Gordon, who has struggled to do so his entire career at UM. At best, I see Gordon making a few more catches than he has in the past and being a contributor on special teams.

June 23, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 26, CB Demarcus Van Dyke

As we move forward in the countdown of the Top 60 players at UM, we look at yet another defensive back: No. 26 Demarcus Van Dyke.

DeMarcus Van Dyke > What we heard about him on Signing Day '07: When DVD decided to stick with the Hurricanes instead of jumping ship to the Gators on Signing Day, it was big news for UM. A consensus Top 25 player in the state of Florida, Van Dyke had speed to burn at Monsignor Pace. He posted a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash in high school and was rated in the Top 20 nationally among athletes by Rivals, Scout and SuperPrep. He finished his senior season with 56 tackles, 7 INTs and caught 21 passes for 417 yards as a dual threat. At 6-1, 160 pounds, the only worry was his weight and how quickly he might be able to put some for the college game.

> What he's done as a Cane: Upon arrival at UM, Van Dyke was nearly an instantaneous hit. He started the season opener against Marshall and had three tackles. He's been on a downward slope ever since. After making eight starts as a freshman and compiling 14 tackles and one pass breakup, he saw the field even less as a sophomore. He started just twice and compiled 16 tackles and one pass breakup. He enters his junior year still without an interception in his college career and still without solidifying a starting spot despite tallying a career high 5 tackles in the Emerald Bowl. This spring, incoming freshman Brandon McGee arrived and immediately began pushing Van Dyke and sophomore Brandon Harris in terms of performance Will Van Dyke answer the bell now that he's a little bigger and more seasoned? He started in the spring and had five tackles. But will we see more consistency?

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: DVD should start the season as the team's No. 2 corner next to Brandon Harris. We'll emphasis the word should. What he does after that remains a mystery. At 6-1, 185 pounds he ought to be able to handle bigger receivers. He certainly has the speed to keep up with most. But he has to show he can make plays consistently and not get burned (remember the Emerald Bowl and the North Carolina game). If he develops the way he should, DVD has the size and goods to be a solid starting cornerback in the ACC. But if he doesn't, he'll be the same player who sat on the sidelines most of last season.

A LOOK BACK AT THE FIRST 10 PLAYERS RELEASED...

No. 60: LB C.J. Holton

No. 59: OL Tyler Horn

No. 58: DB Jamal Reid

No. 57: DE Gavin Hardin

No. 56: DT Josh Holmes

-------------------------------------

No. 30: DB Sam Shields

No. 29: LB Ramon Buchanon

No. 28: CB Brandon McGee

No. 27: DB Ryan Hill

No. 26: CB Demarcus Van Dyke

Top 60 Countdown: No. 56, DT Josh Holmes

As we move forward in the countdown of the Top 60 players at The U we take a look at No. 56: Defensive tackle Josh Holmes. The junior has been slowed by injuries in his career. But its time to put up or shut up...

Josh Holmes > What we heard about him on Signing Day '06: Came to UM in 2006 as a consensus Top 25 defensive tackle in the country, rated 15th at his position by Rivals.com. He also played tight end his senior year at San Diego Point Loma High and chose the Canes over USC and Florida State.

> What he's done as a Cane: He's been plagued by injuries and made 10 tackles in just eight games as a Hurricane including the final six last year. He picked up his only sack against N.C. State. This spring, he came out alongside Joe Joseph on the first team defense at tackle, but didn't make any tackles in the game. He also didn't come out among any of the top scorers in Andreu Swasey's testing this spring.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: It's basically put up or shut up time for Holmes, who at 6-foot, 280 pounds has a talented group of bigger freshmen and sophomores breathing down his neck for playing time. Holmes' gift is supposed to be his speed and ability to get to the quarterback on passing downs. But if doesn't do that well enough early, look for Shannon and new defensive coordinator John Lovett to lose patience quick and give some one else the opportunity.

June 22, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 27, DB Ryan Hill

As we move ahead in our countdown of the Top 60 players at UM, we take a look t No. 27: Defensive back Ryan Hill. The senior has played on both sides of the ball in his career after coming to UM in 2006 with a lot of hype. But has he really ever found a home on the field for his talents?

Ryan Hill > What we heard about him on Signing Day '06: The cousin of former FSU star Corey Fuller, Hill came to UM with plenty of hype and skills similar to that of No. 58 on our countdown Jamal Reid. As a two-way standout at Tallahasse Rickhards High, Hill made three interceptions and 54 tackles on defense and caught 26 pases for 488 yards and six touchdowns on offense. He played in the CaliFlorida Bowl and was rated the fifth-best cornerback in the country by Rivals.com and fourth best by Scout.com. Most considered him the best player in UM's 2006 class.

> What he's done as a Cane: Hill basically took one for the team his freshman year, moving over to receiver where UM had failed to recruit any talent of substance for nearly three years. The problem was, he didn't play much when he was there. Of his 23 games his freshman and sophomore year, he started two games and caught a total of 11 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. He also had one huge drop at Maryland as a sophomore. Last season, with the Canes thin on depth in the secondary, he moved back to safety and started the final five games, recording 34 tackles with one pass breakup. Hill played in the spring, but was passed up on the depth chart by redshirt freshman Vaughn Telemaque and fellow senior Randy Phillips. He had five tackles (4 assisted) in the spring game.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: There might not be a player tougher to figure out than Hill, who obviously has the talent to play, but never really seems to have found a home. If he was such a great cornerback coming out of high school, how come not once in his three years has he played there? At 5-11, 203 pounds, Hill will find himself on the field again somewhere for Miami, even if its in a backup role at safety. But I'd love to see him get a shot at cornerback. After all, what is the worst that can happen?

Here's an interview our Mollie Rose conducted with Ryan in the middle of last season during our Getting To Know The U segments.

Top 60 Countdown: No. 28, CB Brandon McGee

Time to resume the countdown of the Top 60 players at The U with No. 28, cornerback Brandon McGee. He's only a true freshman, but he's very good and could be the answer to a big problem at cornerback for the Canes this season.

Brandon McGee > What we heard about him on Signing Day '09: McGee is a kid I met early on in the recruiting process and grew to like right away. His story is unforgettable. His mother died when he was young and his stepfather survived throat cancer and has raised him since she passed. McGee, who grew up an FSU fan, basically chose UM so he could remain close to his home in Plantation. The Canes certainly lucked out. He was a two-way star at Plantation, starring at quarterback and playing mostly safety. He finally got a chance to focus on cornerback his senior year. He was a U.S. Army All-American and ranked a consensus Top 10 cornerback in the country.

> What he's done as a Cane: McGee enrolled in UM in January and played in the spring, intercepting a pass in a scrimmage and returning it for a touchdown. He then suffered a hand injury (broken finger) and missed the spring game.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: Hand injury or not, McGee was impressive in the spring because he made plays at a spot Miami hasn't had much playmaking from of late. With the sophomore Brandon Harris, junior Demarcus Van Dyke, converted receiver Sam Shields and senior Chavez Grant as his competition for playing time, Eye On The U believes it may not be very hard for McGee to win a starting job in the fall. That being said, whether he starts or not, the 6-foot, 185-pound McGee is going to play one way or the other. His 4.23-time in the 40-yard dash this spring and physical nature could make him UM's best cornerback by the end of the season. Yes, we expect a lot from Brandon McGee.

June 20, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 57, DE Gavin Hardin

As we continue our countdown of the Top 60 players at UM we take a look at No. 57: Redshirt freshman defensive end Gavin Hardin, who is a darkhorse to emerge on what should be very young and deep Canes defensive line.

Gavin Hardin - Courtesy of Canesfest.com > What we heard about him on Signing Day '08: Hardin was considered the fourth-best recruit in the state of Tennessee at Central-Merry High. Even though he played for a 2-8 football team, Hardin proved to be a two-way star, racking up 80 tackles and five sacks at linebacker while playing some at fullback. A PrepStar All-American, he picked UM over Mississippi.

> What he's done as a Cane: The 6-3, 240-pounder played some against Charleston Southern in the opener, then played on the scout team the rest of the year where he earned Defensive Player of the Year honors.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: Hardin has several other players currently in front of him on the depth chart -- including freshman Olivier Vernon, who was impressive and got the start with the first team in the spring game. Hardin has the goods to get into the rotation at defensive end this year, but could find himself back on the scout team if others outperform him in practice and in games. 

By the way, ESPN's Heather Dinich ranked Canes linebacker Sean Spence 11th in her countdown of the Top 30 players in the ACC. You got that one right Heather! 

June 19, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 58, DB Jamal Reid

As we continue to count down the Top 60 players at The U, we take a look at No. 58: Incoming freshman Jamal Reid, a highly-touted prospect who will likely be among the few new additions to see playing time right away if he lives up to the hype.

Jamal Reid makes a catch and turns on the burners. > What we heard about him on Signing Day '09: Reid comes to UM from a small school in the middle of the state -- Mayo Lafayette High -- but as one of the best athletes in the country. He starred at Mayo on both sides of the ball, catching 49 passes for 1,224 yards and 17 touchdowns and recording 68 tackles and six interceptions as a defensive back. He was selected to the Under-Armour All-American game and had four catches for 65 yards and a score.

> What he's done as a Cane: Nothing yet. He's expected to arrive at UM in a few weeks -- in time for fall practices.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: There aren't many recruits in the Canes last signing class who will come to UM with a much buzz around him. The question is where does Randy Shannon put him on the field -- offense or defense? Reid said he's been told he'll come in as a safety. But with how deep the Canes are at the position right now with veterans and a young talent in Telemaque, it might not be long before Reid is asked to play a bigger need position like cornerback. At 6-1, 195-pounds and with special playmaking abilities, Eye On The U doesn't expect Reid to be standing on the sidelines very long. Somehow, some way, he'll have to get into the game. He's just too good. 

Here is his highlight tape from high school...

June 18, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 29, LB Ramon Buchanan

As we continue the countdown of the Top 60 players at UM, we take a look at No. 29: Sophomore LB Ramon Buchanan, who is expected to play in a backup role at linebacker when the fall begins.

Ramon Buchanan > What we heard about him on Signing Day '08: Only two players in the 2008 class were more highly regarded -- defensive tackle Marcus Forston and linebacker Arthur Brown. Buchanan, who made over 100 tackles and had three interceptions his senior year at Melbourne Palm Bay, was tabbed the No. 2 safety in the country by Rivals and No. 3 outside linebacker by ESPN. He picked the Canes over the Gators.

> What he's done as a Cane: Buchanan played nine games, mostly on special teams but saw action in the Duke game at safety. He made six tackles the entire season. He missed the spring game with an injury.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: Although he's another player making a transition to a new position (safety to linebacker), Buchanan is a player who can handle it rather easily because he played linebacker in high school. At 6-1, 205-pounds, he obviously needs to put on weight. But you have to like his intangibles and how he scored on his physical tests. He was tied for the third highest vertical leap on the team (39 inches), his power clean lift (318 pounds) ranked fifth overall, and his 4.48-speed in the 40 was the fastest among linebackers. If he can continue to develop, there is no reason he can't be among the team's top three or four linebackers at season's end and more than just a player in the rotation.

Top 60 Countdown: No. 59, OL Tyler Horn

As Eye On The U's countdown of the Top 60 players at UM continues, we take a look at No. 59: Offensive lineman Tyler Horn, who will compete for playing time this season as a backup.

Tyler Horn > What we heard about him on Signing Day '07: Horn was not very highly-touted coming out of Memphis University High in Tennessee. He was a two-star recruit according to Rivals and picked UM over FIU and Arkansas State. But at 6-4, 290-pounds he was seen as a potential project with upside because he could play center, guard or tackle.

> What he's done as a Cane: Horn has spent two seasons on the scout team and was in for a few snaps against FSU and Charleston Southern in 2008. In the spring, he worked primarily as the backup center to AJ Trump.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: With Trump's injury history, Horn is a player who could find himself in a very important role with one bad break. Of the nine offensive linemen Jeff Stoutland hopes to include in his rotation this coming season, Horn will likely be the odd man out. But should the Canes suffer injuries, he'll be right in there trying to protect Jacory Harris. That's not exactly comforting considering Horn has little experience and did not test well in the weight room compared to other offensive linemen.

OTHERS...

No. 30, CB Sam Shields

No. 60, LB CJ Holton

June 17, 2009

Top 60 Countdown: No. 30, CB Sam Shields

As Eye on The U's countdown of the Top 60 players at UM continues, we've decided to skip ahead to the middle of the pack and take a look at No. 30: Canes cornerback Sam Shields, who moves over to defense after spending his first three years at UM as a receiver.

Sam Shields made the move to corner this spring > What we heard about him on Signing Day '06: A consensus Top 30 national receiver, it was big news when Shields picked UM over Florida and LSU. The former standout at Sarasota Booker caught 67 passes for 1,201 yards and 22 touchdowns his senior year to lead Booker to the Class 3A crown.

> What he's done as a Cane: His freshman year at UM began oh-so promising as he started seven games and caught 37 passes for 501 yards and three scores (the most balls caught by a freshman since Reggie Wayne in 1997). It's been all downhill for Shields since then. He was suspended for a few games a sophomore and caught just 27 passes before hauling in just 11 last year. Other than his big third down catch at Virginia, he basically disappeared behind the incoming freshman before finally getting moved to corner by coach Randy Shannon in the spring.

> What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: While Shannon has said he expects Shields to play considerably, Eye On The U expects that to mean on special teams. Shields, a flier on punt returns, can be special in that capacity because of his team-leading 4.20 speed in the 40-yard dash. But understanding coverages is a whole different ball of wax. Although he had one pass deflection in the spring, it's likely going to take Shields all season to adjust more complex passing schemes. If he plays corner, it will likely only be in the event of injury or in dime situations.

Top 60 Countdown: No. 60, LB C.J. Holton

Ranking the Top 60 Canes

It's still a long way until the start of football at The U. I know many of you are starving for any crumbs you can find on your favorite team.

While we'll probably have to wait until the start of July to actually start getting access to players (and fresh interviews), I figured we could pass the time by starting to take a closer look at the players who should be on the field for UM on Sept. 7 in Tallahassee. 

For the past three days, I've spent time looking over the roster and ranking the Top 60 Canes based on what they mean to the program, what they've done for the program and what we should expect from them in 2009. While there are 85 players on scholarship, I didn't feel right ranking guys who will probably never see the field (at least this season) and any incoming freshmen who aren't expected to do much in their first year. So, if you don't see Ian Symonette or Prince Kent or Cannon Smith, it's not because I forgot about them. They just weren't in the Top 60. 

ESPN's Heather Dinich is currently ranking the Top 30 Players in The ACC on her blog. So far, only kicker Matt Bosher (No. 30) has appeared for Miami. I've got Bosher in my Top 60. But he's not No. 1. He's not even top five.

Anyway, here's how Eye On The U ranks the Top 60 players at UM heading into the start of the season. We'll start with No. 60... 

C.J. Holton, LB

CJ Holton > What we heard about him on Signing Day '08: A standout at Crawfordville Wakulla, Holton was ranked the seventh best safety in the country by both ESPN and Rivals and a consensus Top 200 player nationally. He was a playmaker as a senior, making 65 tackles, six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) while helping Wakulla to an 8-3 season. He chose UM over nearby Florida State.

What he's done as a Cane: Played mostly on the scout team as he was redshirted in 2008. He had two tackles in the spring game including one for loss.

What Eye On The U expects from him in '09: Holton is an intriguing player because he wasn't somebody you heard a whole heck of a lot about because he was buried on the depth chart behind older players like Ryan Hill, Randy Phillips, Jojo Nicholas and even fellow freshman Vaughn Telemaque at safety.

But now that he's been moved to outside linebacker -- where there are plenty of Canes who still need to prove themselves -- the 6-2, 195-pounder might be able to shine. He certainly did in testing. His 308-pound power clean was tied for the sixth strongest on the team. Ramon Buchanon (318) was the only linebacker who was stronger. And Holton's 4.48-speed in the 40 is tied with Buchanon for fastest among linebackers. If Jordan Futch, Arthur Brown or any other guys in front of him falter, look for Holton to be the surprise performer at linebacker.