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Canes start work on Georgia Tech

The Miami Hurricanes began preparing for Georgia Tech Thursday morning with a 5:45 a.m. practice on campus before class. Our Susan Miller Degnan was there. Here are a few notes and quotes from the morning.

Eric Moncur > Sixth-year senior defensive end Eric Moncur, who was listed as doubtful for the opener with a groin injury, was back out at practice and participated in individual and team drills. "If he keeps progressing, he should be ready for Georgia Tech," Shannon said.

> Tight end Richard Gordon, who played a big role Monday in blocking schemes, had his left arm in a sling Thursday. "He’s out right now till the doctor says," Shannon said.

> Defensive backs Vaughn Telemaque and Ryan Hill returned to practice and are supposed to see doctors again on Thursday about their injured shoulders. "If they don’t have any aches and pains today then tomorrow they’ll go again," Shannon said. "And if they’re fine, they should be ready to go [for Georgia Tech].

> Shannon grew a little tired of the injury questions after that and when about the status of receiver Aldarius Johnson's injured groin said, "He’s doing OK. Just understand I can’t give you all injuries all the time. You all keep asking about injuries, I’m going to tell you the same answer, he’s ok."

> GRAHAM DID A GOOD JOB AS DECOY: Shannon praised the play of tight end Jimmy Graham, who saw between 15 and 20 snaps and definitely drew the attention of Florida State's defense when he got into the game. "He did pretty decent, not where we wanted him to be. Coaches always want more. But we’re pleased the way his progress is going," Shannon said. "He did a couple of nice things. When Travis got the TD, [Graham] was in the game and ran the correct route. It drew attention to him and then Travis came open."

> MAX PROTECTION PAYS OFF FOR CANES: Florida State coach Bobby Bowden praised UM's new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple in the ACC Teleconference Wednesday for the new wrinkle he used to give Jacory Harris more time to throw in Monday's win over the Seminoles. "They did something most people don't do," Bowden said. "Most people send out five eligible receivers. Miami sent out three and used the others to block. That was pretty darn smart. That made it difficult to get to the passer. We couldn't get to the darn guy and he ripped us apart."

Shannon talked about the tactic briefly Thursday. "All it is is you send three guys on routes -- that’s all," Shannon said. "Everybody does it. They got to max protect where they’ll keep the tight end and fullback in and you just send three receivers out on routes. That’s all it is. Protection wise you need to do certain things when you see people starting to blitz."

Harris told me on Monday night: "We didn’t even run most of our offense. We kind of repeated our stuff."

> SHIELDS CHALLENGED: Sam Shields knew FSU was going to come after him in his first collegiate start on defense. And he's lucky he caught a few breaks. Twice, he nearly got beat deep on blown coverages, but caught breaks when FSU receivers weren't able to hold onto the ball. On another play, he was lucky referees didn't call him for pass intereference when he had his back to the passer and face guarded the receiver. Shields said he knows he has to improve.

"I kind of knew that [I’d be tested by receivers] before the game started, before the season started," said Shields, who saw a lot of time in Monday's game after cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke left with an injury. "Receivers going to the corner, they look at that and they're like, we can go at that guy and feel like they can make plays on me. I have to have confidence and say nobody going to make plays on me. That’s one of my goals."

> COOPER'S TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO SPECIAL TEAMS: Graig Cooper's big day returning kicks against Florida State was no surprise to his teammates. Of handling the kickoffs, Cooper said Thursday: "Whenever I get the ball in my hands I’m going to try to do the best I can with it. It’s natural. It’s an instinct. That’s all it is."