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Lovett defends Spence, takes blame for struggles

The numbers aren't pretty. Through three games, the University of Miami defense has looked bad more often than it has looked good against three nationally ranked opponents. Canes fans want to know where the pass rush has been hiding, when the turnovers are going to start happening and when reigning ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Sean Spence is going to start playing like he did a year ago.

Sean Spence has 14 tackles through three games and ranks sixth on the team.

Wednesday, defensive coordinator John Lovett faced all those questions and concerns and defended his sophomore strongside linebacker rather passionately.

"You ever have a bad day? Unless everybody here in this circle is perfect, we're talking about the wrong thing," Lovett said referring to Spence. "I didn't do a good job coaching and we didn't good job last week. I got to do a better job getting them ready to play and the kids got to respond and play. 

"You can talk about turnovers, you can talk about missed tackles, you can talk about Sean Spence. As a unit we have to play well. Sean is not just going to make plays by himself. What happens is he takes advantage of other people around him playing well. If he's doing his job, somebody else might make a play. And if they're doing their job, he'll have an opportunity to make plays. It's a team game. There are 10 other guys out there with him, that's how we coach."

Spence, who has fewer tackles on the team this season than Sam Shields, talked some Tuesday about what's been going wrong for him this year (I'll have a feature on him in Friday's paper). But one thing that's become obvious about the undersized 6-0, 212-pounder from Miami Northwestern is that he's become a bigger focus of opposing teams.

"I don't know if its a sophomore slump," Lovett said. "A lot of people know about him, so they're accounting for him. I think everybody's expecting him to put an 'S' on his chest and be the man on every single play. I think last year he showed up a lot because you didn't know who he was. He's not as productive as you all think he needs to be and I think he needs to be. But he's playing well and playing within the scheme and doing OK."

What's not OK in Lovett's eyes -- besides UM's poor tackling -- has been the lack of a pass rush (UM has four sacks in three games) and the inability to create turnovers (the defense has one fumble recovery and one interception). Creating turnovers and creating pressure are two things Lovett said will be huge for Miami against the eighth-ranked Sooners.

"We're a four man front. If they're not playing well, we're not going to play well as a defense. That's the bottomline," Lovett said. "Last week, nobody played well. It was very obvious. But before that I thought they did pretty well. We played pretty decent in the Florida State game, up front against the run until the fourth quarter when we let two out of the game. Last week, obviously was a disaster. Bad game planning by me and we didn't play very hard."

Our Susan Miller Degnan will be all over those last two topics -- with some special insight from defensive line coach Clint Hurtt who gave us an exclusive interview. Look for her story Thursday.

> For the complete audio interview with Lovett visit our UM audio page.

Randy Phillips

> R. PHILLIPS COULD PLAY SATURDAY: It's looking more and more like UM won't be without safety Randy Phillips against Oklahoma after all. UM's second leading tackler, who injured his forearm against Virginia Tech and left the game for good late in the first half, practiced full-go Wednesday according to coach Randy Shannon. Usually, if players don't practice by Wednesday, they don't play on Saturday.

Phillips is obviously motivated to play in this game because he was lit up by the Sooners and Sam Bradford two years ago. He actually was switched from corner to safety after being beat on two scores. Shannon said Phillips return means a lot to the team too. Shannon said he just doesn't want to see the team's emotional leader play out of control.

"[This game] means more to him because of situations he was put in a couple of years ago [when] they got a couple of passes on him," Shannon said. "He felt like he let the team down. But, like I told him, `Don't make it a revenge factor. Make it something you learn from, learn how you got beat and what you have to get done.' I told him you have to come out and play the game and be smart about it. But if you go out there with a little revenge factor - mad, angry, upset - most of the time people make mistakes, say something wrong, do something wrong when they're angry. Me and him talked about it - now he understands the whole big picture."

> PUNT RETURN CHANGES IN STORE?: One of the biggest problems for the Hurricanes this season has been generating big changes in field position on punt returns.

UM actually ranks among the nation's worst with only a 2-yard punt return average. "Everyone's kicking to the left hash and it's going out of bounds - they're not giving us a chance to do what we need to do," Shannon said. "So we have some things we worked on in practice to (negate) those things they're trying to do, where we can field it. The biggest thing is trying to field the football."

Don't be surprised if you see the Canes line up with two return men on Saturday.

> LIVE CHAT: I couldn't make it in time for our live chat Tuesday at 2 since I've been pulling double duty this week by helping cover the big St. Thomas Aquinas-Byrnes showdown. I also know a few of you had trouble placing your questions into the chat. If you want, try again. I'm going to spend some time this afternoon answering whatever questions are there or posted here. 

> MEDIA MAYHEM: Almost forgot. I don't think I'll be asking Orlando Franklin for any interviews any time soon. We requested Franklin this morning and he blew reporters off with some colorful language when approached by UM's sports information staff. "[Forget] those guys," Franklin said. 

It wasn't the first time a UM player was upset with the media. After Saturday's game, quarterback Jacory Harris lost his cool with a Virginia Tech reporter, who asked him four times if the rain was a factor. On the last try, Harris finally said "You must be a reporter from Virginia Tech aren't you?"


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Sean Spence has never even come close to living up to the hype. I have no idea how he won ACC defensive rookie of the year. What I want is consistency and basic LB fundamentals.

He is constantly getting pushed around like a girl. I watch him on every defensive play. He gets blocked ALL the time. I never saw a LB catch some many blockers. With his speed and lack of size, a 300 lb lineman should get no where near him. He also takes horrible pursuit angles which all young linebackers need to learn. He also is lost in pass coverage. He is completely average.

Thank god for McCarthy. He is so much better than Spence its not even close. Every time they run to McCarthy's side there is a tackle around the line of scrimmage. Every time to Spence's side and the tackle occurs downfield in the defensive backfield.

I am not blaming him for anything. He is just not any good and a defensive liability. Our safeties are more physical than him and just a big.

I whatched the VaTech game again yesterday and the tackling issue is rearing it's ugly head again.I am more convinced then ever that we are not playing the best players. I saw Sharpton, R.Phillips and DVD missing tackles all game. The sad thing about it. They have been missing tackles for 5,4 and 3 yrs. Until U put those bad tackling guys on the bench U will always have that problem and hopefully it don't spread to the rest of the team (maybe to late). Also, as the game was out of reach. I saw guys like A.Brown,J.Futch,J.Campbell and Ray Ray flying to the ball making tackle and wrapping up. Who cares if R.Phillips is out. It's time for Campbell and Ray Ray. It's time for Futch and Brown. That may end up being Shannons down fall.

SEAN SPENCE IS A BEA......... uhh, nevermind


THE U IS BAAAA.....uh, nevermind.

Hit the road posers.

PAY ATTENTION TO TH..... uhh, nevermind

I'm paying attention to the U, it's really bad.

Man, it is so funny there was none of this hate last week! Anyways, wasn't

2-2 a good start??
3-1 Great!
4-0 unrealistic!
1-3 trouble!
0-4 out the door! Come on dude!!

This team can go 9-3 this season and go to a legit bowl!!! I hope we play LSU "Redemtion"
Win the bowl game and have a 10 win season......

NO Bradford Saturday. Glad I am faster then Manny.


Posted by: IN RANDY WE TRUST! | October 01, 2009 at 02:10 PM

Exactly! and now UM will be 2-2 at worst but I believe the 'Canes will beat OU so im predicting 3-1

pedro & truth hurts---im not sure what offense you've been watching the past 5 seasons but Whipples offense is obviously producing way better than anything Dan Warner or Pat Nix did, so i hope he stays at UM

Hi River Rat(pedro), i'm back. I see you are still on here letting a bunch of sh** come out of your mouth again. Answer one question for me please. you keep bashing the canes, who do you really like in college football. a real fan would not kick and piss all over his team regardless how bad they think they are.
so, who is it. are you a teabag lover. it's ok if you are, just show some love for some team.

UM D beware: last time a true freshman QB from Ok played UM... Well, we know what happened. Of course, This is a different team in every sense, 2007 was a 5-7 team that lost 48-0 to Virginia, so was Virginia better than Okilahoma?? No the answer is, the 2007 UM team (of which we still have a few players), Q-U-I-T on Shannon in several games, including Ok, Va, and NC. Our team played horribly against VT but I dont think tey quit. I think they were not focused, not prepared (incl the coaches), and the rain didnt help. VT on the otehr hand was superby prepared, superbly coached, and superbly focused. Hence the result.

I hope the players bring a giant chip on their shoulders. The U need to make a statement here. This, more than the FSU and GT games is a stetment game- a 3-1 start, and we have:

Va- W
Duke- W
NC St- W
Clemson and USF- maybe a split

Translation: Likely 10-2, possibly 9-3, at worse 8-4 going into a bowl against maybe ND or , Georgia.

This is a set-up for a 2010, 2011, NC runs.

Gotta love this blog,we win two games all the haters disapear.We lose one to a now top 10 team in Blacksburg and they're back.

Manny,why dont uyou block their isp's?

On last blog, the Two Team Tie would result like this in the explained scenario:

If Miami ends up ranked higher than VT at the end of the season, Miami would play in the ACC Champ game based on #7:

Two-Team Tie

1. Head-to-head competition between the two tied teams

2. Records of the tied teams within the division.

3. Head-to-head competition versus the team within the division with the best overall record.(divisional) Conference record and proceeding though the division. Multiple ties within the division broken from first to last.

4. Overall record versus all common non-divisional opponents.

5. Combined record vs. all non-divisional teams.

6. Record versus common non-divisional teams based on their order of finish (divisional and non-divisional) and proceeding through other common non-divisional teams based on their order of finish within their division.

7. The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the end of regular season games shall be the divisional representative in the ACC Championship Game.

8. The representative shall be chosen by a draw.

I don't need to see Whipple against OU's defense. We had guys open all over the field last week. 9 drops with 7 being for first downs sure as heck isn't Whipple's fault, now is it? Especially, JG's HUGE drops in the 3rd! I love the play calling!

ESPN has dissected this offense, and they love raving about it. They sure as heck weren't calling out the Whipple attack now were they? Seemed to me they were calling out the players.

Oh, and I've heard the recruits have seen the offense and their raving about it, too. I've heard we have a few silent commits because of it. I guess it pays to have a few connections, huh?

WHO CARES if the haters aren't raving about it? Continue the envy for the past and continue the fear for the future. WE LOVE IT!!!


updated game notes & depth chart:

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