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Will UM avoid another late-season stumble?

Randy Phillips laughed at my question even though I didn't mean for it to sound funny.

If you had to estimate the level of pain you are playing with -- what would you say it is? Instead of answering the question, Miami's senior safety showed me how much his torn labrum and rotator cuff limit his ability to raise his right arm.

Randy Phillips "I can bring it up to right about here," Phillips said as he lifted his arm to about the same height an umpire does to call a base runner safe. "If I'm going to deflect a pass, I have to do it with my left arm. Last week against Wake Forest my knee popped. I had to put it back into place. This is football man. You have to be tough, fight through the pain."

Randy Phillips Playing hurt is one thing, playing injured is another. And right now this University of Miami defense -- in the words of coach Randy Shannon -- "is banged up" worse than he's ever seen it, even when he was a player.

How banged up does that mean? We really don't know. Each week, a different player ends up on the team's "extremity report." Shannon simply won't discuss injuries. But if you ask Phillips -- and I did -- he says there are only three players on Miami's defense who aren't playing with some form of pain or coming off injury. Those are: cornerbacks Brandon Harris and Sam Shields and safety Jared Campbell. So, its quite evident, most of the guys out there on defense are playing with pain.

Here's what we do know as fact: UM's defense had its worst performance of the season last week. The Canes gave up 555 yards, 33 first downs and looked awfully inept against an offense that produced a combined 13 points against Clemson and Navy the two previous weeks.

So, if you are a Canes fan that raises an obvious concern and question: With all these injuries are the Hurricanes headed toward another late season stumble? Like it or not, UM is showing the same signs it did when it lost the final four games of its first season under Shannon in 2007 and its last three last year. It's called limping to the finish line. Shannon said it himself. He said his team hit a wall last year, said his players were burned out and worn out. And it is starting to happen again.

So how do the Canes avoid it from happening again? For starters, they can't let their defense stay on the field for 97 plays like it did against Wake Forest. Part of that is game-planning (the Demon Deacons stuffed UM's running game -- the Canes ran it a season-low 21 times -- and held the football for 38 minutes, 52 seconds). But the other part of it getting contributions from other guys.

Chavez Grant "We can't have guys playing 97 plays and coming back and playing 70 plays this week," cornerback Chavez Grant said. "I don't care how conditioned you are. It's going to wear on your body."

The Hurricanes have gotten some contributions from others. Shannon said freshman Curtis Porter and sophomores Micanor Regis and Jeremy Lewis have begun playing more over the last couple weeks on the Canes injury-plagued defensive line. And Shannon said Ramon Buchanon, who filled in last week for Sean Spence, did "okay." But after eight weeks of the regular season, fall camp, two-a-days in the spring and offseason conditioning isn't time others started stepping up? For starters, where is Arthur Brown? When are we going to see Brandon McGee?

The answer is they obviously aren't ready. So where does the blame lie? On both sides of the equation. 

"The transition from high school to college is all mental," Chavez Grant said when I asked him why some of the young players aren't ready to contribute yet.

"You're going to get faster, you're going to get stronger, but this game is played between your ears. You have to understand where you are and where you need to be, what plays are called, what those plays are designed for. And what those guys are struggling with is that. You can't just learn two coverages if you're going into a game with six coverages. Then, the coaches would have to pick and choose based on what you can do. That's the biggest problem. They have to learn the plays. Physically, Brandon [McGee] can play football. Arthur Brown, he can play with the best of them. Arthur Brown will be the first one to find the ball in practice. But when it comes to schemes, blitz coverages and blitz pacakges, dropping into coverages those are not those guys' strong points. And it's not the coaching. We're all in the same meetings. We're all getting taught the same way. If those guys really want to learn, they have to put in the extra time."

The reality is this UM defense is going to have to heal somehow, and the guys that are in there that are not producing are going to have to step up. Because as Shannon pointed out there is no telling when Sean Spence will be back. Or, when Ray Ray Armstrong will be healthy. Or, if Eric Moncur will really be able to play again.

"Right now those guys are out and we have some other guys on the team that have to step up," Shannon said. "As far as coaches, we're going to grind those guys each and every day. Right now, this part of the season, it's all about execution. We're gong to teach those guys each and every day to learn. If they don't learn it, we have to keep teaching it."

So, its time for Olivier Vernon and Marcus Robinson to answer the bell and help Allen Bailey create pressure. It's time for Ramon Buchanon to do more than just "fill in." It's time for Demarcus Van Dyke to add to his interception total by more than just once every three seasons. And it's time for Randy Shannon and his coaching staff to prove they can get those guys ready to play, and it's time for those players to start delivering. Or else, these Canes could end up falling flat on their faces again come December.

TAKING A LIGHTER APPROACH... One thing Shannon learned from his first two seasons was that he wore his team down in practice towards the end of the year. This week, he's made a change from having two hour practices to one hour practices that will be quicker paced and allow for less stress to his players' bodies.

"We did it in the NFL," Shannon said. "Last year at this point I kept them longer because we were young and I thought we needed the reps, and it got us toward the end of the season. But now we're a year older, it'll help us out. It'll give us freshness going into the game from a mental standpoint."

WHY IS UM GETTING BEAT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD? The first place blame always goes when things go wrong is toward the coaching staff. I'm a firm believer players are just as responsible for the breakdowns on the field as coaches are for putting them in certain schemes.

One thing that has become a consistent problem for this UM defense against the pass has been the middle of the field. Obviously, not having a strong enough pass rush gives receivers time to get open and quarterbacks time to find them. But as Phillips told me Monday, there is at least one constant mistake that keeps happening to UM in pass coverage.

"It's the communication between the guys who have to cover the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers," Phillips said. "We have to get that [fixed]. If the team is going to that underneath stuff, we have to come up and make the tackle. But we also have to pass those underneath routes off. We're fixing that right now with the linebacker and the nickel back in terms of guys dropping off guys and letting them be wide open."

ARE THE CANES GETTING OUT-SCHEMED? So why does it seem like UM is always a step behind the opposing offense? If you ask Randy Phillips it is because they are. According to Phillips, the only time UM came out and saw what they game-planned for was when they faced Georgia Tech.

"Other teams have done a great job coming out and not running the same offense they ran the previous game," Phillips said. "Clemson didn't run anything we expected them to run. For some reason, they attacked the middle of our defense where our linebackers were. Wake Forest didn't run anything we've seen them run. They usually ran the high-low scheme. Against us, they really tried to put athletes on the edge, run their quarterback and go in the middle of the field with crossing routes.

"It comes down to us being ready for everybody's best shot, not worrying about what the other team is going to do, we just have to run our own defense. Because every team has shown us something different. When we go out and play, there doing something else. We have a certain package defense and they never do it. So, we end up having to make adjustments. I think we're doing a great job making halftime adjustments. Last week, we only gave up seven points after half time. That's improvement."

Said Grant: "It's not that I believe a lot of teams are figuring us out, but the more teams watch us the more they see our weaknesses. I think teams are trying to hit us underneath. The secondary, what we emphasize, is that we don't like to give up the deep balls. That's what we play a lot and that leaves us vulnerable to the short passes."

WORKING TOGETHER... Despite the mistakes in coverage and mental breakdowns, Phillips said coaches remain open to communication before, during and after games.

Last week against Wake Forest, he and Grant came to Shannon when the Demon Deacons had the ball for the last time down 28-27 and suggested putting in Grant at middle linebacker instead of a tired Darryl Sharpton.

"Coach Lovett is the eye upstairs and every time at half time we meet up he's always there ready to listen to us and to tell us what's going wrong," Phillips said. "We tell him this is what they're doing out on the field. This guy did this and this guy did that. We work together. The coaching staff always has the answers. We work it out."

Grant said assistants don't usually get to do a lot of teaching during the regular season because so much time is spent on game-planning. But he says every assistant will spend bonus time with younger players without fail.

"When we leave out of meetings -- Brandon [McGee], Ray Ray Armstrong, Jamal Reid, all those guys stay in there. Coach McGriff makes it his business to stay longer with those guys because they have to learn," Grant said.

"I'm not sure about the linebackers because I'm not a linebacker. But coach Lovett is a great coach and I always see him staying late too. A lot of those linebackers do understand what to do. But there has to be extra effort if you want to play football."

Comments

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Coach P, could not disagree with you more. The WF game shows that the same kids were told to do something else in the 2nd quarter, and it worked, so it had nothing to do with the player's inexperience or depth, it was their coaches not telling them how to adjust soon enough.

Posted by: Cane75 | November 04, 2009 at 10:47 AM

Making changes at the 1/2 is called great coaching. WF came out with a different game plan, which means you have to gradually make adjustment with your scheme. Experienced player will be able to pick it up faster than an inexperienced kid, that's why 1/2 time coaching is so crucial. If Randy had 3 experienced LB they would be able to make the adjustments just on experience alone and in the 1st 1/2. And, if not for the injuries they would have a 2nd string which would eliminate the fatigue factor.

Sarasota 'cane - Couldn't agree with you more!

Can't see this team doing any better than 8-4. Thought that at the beginning of the season and I think so now. Team is just too thin. We got fooled by the fast start we had this season, but the difficult schedule then led to a rash on injuries as expected and we will again stumble to the finish line....as always.

YES!! Without a doubt, mark it down. Losses to UNC and, urgg, USF. This team is not getting better. 8-4 here we come.

Posted by: ponce | November 04, 2009 at 07:50 AM

8-4 this year is not an improvement from the 7-5 we were last year? You have truly demonstrated to the internet world how much of a moron your are. Do the math buddy (not that "new" math, either).

IT SOUNDS AS THOUGH THE (backup) LINEBACKERS are a weak spot. When the front 3 (spence, macarthy, sharpton) go down with injury or are gased, this is where opposing offenses seem to pick us apart underneath.

COACH BARROW needs to correct this ASAP. I am attending the Homecoming game (flying in from Connecticut) this Sat and I really, really do not want to lose to UVA!

GO CANES!

Got this off of the USA Today site.

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore had 134 total yards and a touchdown against the Colts in Week 8.
CAPTIONBy Brent Smith, ReutersMiami Hurricanes alum Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers rushed for a touchdown in the first quarter of San Francisco's 18-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

No big deal? Typically no, except it was the 113th consecutive week in the NFL that a former Hurricane scored a touchdown. That is more than 6½ seasons without missing a weekend.

Pro-football-reference.com lists every touchdown scored since 1940, so unless a team such as Army or Notre Dame can claim a longer streak before World War II, 113 games is the longest such streak. Here are the top streaks of 40 games or more:

School Start year, week to end year, week Streak
Miami (Fla.) 2002, Week 15 to present 113 games

Ohio State 1996, Week 10 to 2001, Week 6 82 games

Michigan 1996, Week 14 to 2001, Week 1 73 games

Southern California 1978, Week 2 to 1982, Week 3 66 games

LSU 1986, Week 14 to 1989, Week 16 50 games

Notre Dame 1994, Week 14 to 1997, Week 2 40 games


Closest team is 31 weeks behind. Notice FLORIDA is not on the list. Guess if you play a gimmick offense like the run and shoot or the spread, you aren't ready for the NFL!

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/fantasyjoe/post/2009/11/need-more-touchdowns-look-to-the-u/1

Didn't Reggie Wayne score a TD too on a halfback pass? And wasn't it in the same game Gore scored his? Or is it because Gore scored first?

NFLU baby!

GO CANES!!!

This is a great post from Manny! Really gets into what our problems are, and have been the last couple years. There have been too many 5 star players here(like arthur brown) who haven't developed. I don't think it is coincidence, i think it's bad coaching. I also do not doubt strength and cond. coach swasey, but we have had alot of injuries to guys who are supposed to be in top shape. it is down right disturbing the number of injuries! lovett better step up his game, cause in the middle of the season there are way too many coverage breakdowns. guys just don't know where to be, and we are too far into the season to have that keep happening. i love the whipple hire, but even he hasn't done a good job lately. look at jacory harris just throwing balls up for grabs and hoping for a miracle on most of his passes against wake. harris seems to be regressing as the year goes on, much like alot of his teammates!

Manny Manny Manny you tha man homie. All this info on our canes and we don't know what to do with ourselves. All I can say is with the work you put some of us do appreciate the effort.

Welcome to the Fam Clements, Storm, and Dent. I got a question posted on rivals check it out. I knew something was up with this season. Everybody is runnning a new offense when they face us. This reminds me of years past but the difference is our depth. I do not believe its conditioning I do believe its just football. On my team we played hurt constantly. Its just apart of football. You gotta play banged-up. Offense is not helping out by 3 and outs. Defense has to create more tunrovers. We should be okay if those things happen.

Throwing it up to a tall receiver isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I don't think Jacory has regressed, but he's not improving. He needs to develop patience. I was really looking for a methodical drive with several first downs on the last possession against Wake.

We need to do a better job of teaching pass blocking. The OL is better at run blocking than pass blocking. We should really make that adjustment if we are going to throw so much.

" On my team we played hurt constantly. Its just apart of football. You gotta play banged-up."

Injured is beyond banged up and injured players do not dress for games.

Thats okay...Chick a fillet bowl here we come!!!

Eat More Chicken!!!!!!!!

Ha ha...

BCS NC talk where is it?

Rain, injuries, Wake Forest's incredible D, what now..

Looks like da U is going to play Auburn.

You know what...

I'm a big Hurricane Fan, but Chavez Grant, watch you mouth... Why put all of our teams weaknesses out on print. Be smarter than that Bro...

If one of our corners were to go down now... All of our opponents know to pick on Brandon McGee... Duh!!

Talk about between the ears...

Thanks for manipulating the kids for the inside info Manny.. With all of the knowledge Chavez is speaking off, what has he done for Da U lately???

...Ugh

Terrible defensive coaching. It is very possible the defensive scheme that the coaches use is contributing to injuries.

Is it better to hit or take a lick on the field, passive defense gets you more injuries, just makes sense. The defense coaching messed up by not having the right approach, in schemes and teaching in fall practices.

Sound like Phillips threw Sharpton under the bus when he said "There has to be extra effort if U want to play football". I have been saying for 3 yrs that Sharpton was just a guy. Very ordinary and that positio needs a upgrade. With Buchannon in the starting line up. Sharpton is still the weakest link. We must avoid a late season stumble. There is to much to play for. A possibly Coastal Division Championship. A 10 win season and a possible BCS at large bid. (It's time to get some of that BCS money)

i knew arthur brown was dumb once he said he'd go to whatever school god told him to go to. the guy just doesnt seem very smart. ton of talent but im not so sure about him upstairs.

to blame injuries on the S&C coach is absolutely ridiculous. this team is full of true sophomores and freshman. they have young bodies. they havent redshirted. they havent had the time to develop fully yet. injuries are mainly the result of misfortune more than anything. and most of them have been guys who have been injury prone throughout their careers like moncur, phillips, james, etc.

although i would like to see alot of our players bulk up big time. namely benjamin, j. harris, buchanon, van dyke.

Hats off to Randy Phillips for playing with a SLAP tear, that is one painful injury.

The rest of this season will tell us a lot about the fortitude of this team.

Will they rise to the challenge of talented youth compounded with injuries upon injuries?

I have a feeling that they will find away to finish strong with maybe 1 more L.

Good Luck and Health Team against VA and for the rest of the season.

O'yah it is time for your nap Pedro.

Ridiculous? You want to hear ridiculous? Ridiculous is the people who come on this board and blame every coach on the staff for the teams poor performance except the S&C coach. Why is he such a sacred cow for you people?

If these kids' bodies are too young to handle the rigors of the game, why are they being pushed so hard? Maybe they need to back off in the weight room and on the practice field. At least Shannon has come to the realization that perhaps he is pushing these kids too hard, now that the season is 2/3 gone and half of his starters are hurt.

The injury-prone excuse is also ridiculous. As a matter of fact, it is so ridiculous that if a kid constantly goes to the doctor with injuries and the parent uses that excuse, that physician is going to report abuse because he/she won't buy that it either. Think about that.

The worst thing of all is this Pedro, Curse of Kehoe, etc ruining this blog just like he does the sun sentinel blog. It is pathetic to see the pornography and garbage he writes. Insulting Cane fans, Manny anybody he can....it makes a positive a negative, and nobody at either newspaper will come up with a solution to end it. This kind of foolishness shows the incompetency at the head of both newspapers. I have a 14 year old who has followed Miami for 10 years. I played against them in the 70s, and have been a follower for over 30 years. My son cannot believe the things you people allow to be written in this paper. Freedom of speech is not the issue...you are allowing pornography to be freely disbursed. Do something about it people.

Posted by: Riffer | November 05, 2009 at 05:14 PM

I have been playing nice because I had invited the UM athletic department and ticket office to snoop around here. I even offered FREE advertising, but they will not even return my emails.

Posted by: 86Cane | April 13, 2008 at 02:52 PM

for the unitiated …
that's the disadvantaged competition in sheep's clothing offering unsolicited advice …
tom thumb popadak aka 86Cane assumes an insidious alias to undermine Eye on the U …
jealousy consumes …
the little dic(k)tator …

RUN AMOK

The biggest problem with this team is coaching, and I believe that our coaches are not doing a good job at minimizing injuries.

I remember one of Bill Parcells first press conferences with the Dolphins where he said that the injury list next year is only going to be about 10% of what the list is this year. He said that he didn't know what the reason was for all the injuries, whether it's because the Dolphins didn't have good enough athletes or whether the players just aren't in shape but that it's going to get fixed.

Parcell's seems to believe that good coaching can reduce injuries, and I agree (whether it's pro or college). Unfortunately, we don't have good coaches.

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