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24 posts from January 2010

January 31, 2010

DT recruit Jeffrey Brown a star wrestler

The final recruiting weekend of the 2010 season has come and gone. So how did it go in Coral Gables? We really won't know until Wednesday. But as expected the University of Miami landed the commitment everyone expected them to from Evanston (Ill.) Township defensive tackle Jeffrey Brown.

Brown pledged his allegiance to the Hurricanes this morning when he met with UM coach Randy Shannon before leaving campus. Of course, it wasn't very hard for Brown to fall in love with the place considering his other offers were from Illinois State, Eastern Michigan and Toledo. Still, Brown became the 27th player to say he'll sign with the University of MIami Wednesday.

So what kind of player are the Canes getting? According to Rivals (2-star), ESPN (3-star) and Scout (75th defensive tackle in country), another under-the-radar recruit. But if you ask his high school coach Mike Burzawa, Brown (6-3, 275) is someone UM defensive coordinator John Lovett fell in love with after seeing on film. 

Burzawa, who attended a UM alumni dinner in Chicago with Shannon two years ago, said he called Hurricanes coaches in November and told them about Brown, who had received very little attention from BCS schools until that point.

"The biggest problem for Jeff was he didn't go to a lot of camps, so he wasn't seen by a lot of scouts," Berzawa said. "I think everybody gets caught up on the recruiting service, the four-star, five-star. Some kids develop in their senior year. Jeffrey was a dominating force this season. We had every coach in our conference sending scouts over here. To me, it was surprising nobody was all over him. Michigan called, liked him. We sent tapes to everyone in the Big Ten. They all liked what they saw. But nobody followed through. Everybody has different needs. Miami is doing things this year a little differently. And I know they like what they see in Jeffrey."

Brown is actually a three sport star. On the football field, Berzawa said Brown had 42 solo tackles, five sacks, nine tackles for loss, a forced fumble, four fumble recoveries, two blocked kicks and blocked for a 1,300 yard rusher as a pulling guard. But his talents were not only reserved for the gridiron. As a wrestler, he's compiled a 39-1 record as a senior and is a favorite to win a state title in the heavyweight division. Last year in track, Brown was a state qualifier in the shot put.

"The No. 1 characteristic is he's an outstanding young man," Berzawa said. "He's a leader in our school, a leader in the field. Wrestling has helped him. He wins the leverage war and has some huge hands and can dominate defenders. We played Hubbard High from Chicago and he was the Channel 2 Player of the Week with 12 tackles and a couple fumble recoveries. Against Main South, the 8A state champion, he had one of the most incredible performances we've ever seen."

> I'm at the UM-Virginia Tech basketball game. I'll have more recruiting news for you as we near National Signing Day.

January 30, 2010

Canes LB recruit impressive in All-Star game

It's not often you get a chance to represent your country, especially in football. University of Miami linebacker recruit Travis Williams, however, made the most of his opportunity Saturday representing the red, white and blue in the Team USA vs. The World All-Star Game at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium.

Travis Williams In fact, he didn't wait long to make his presence felt, racing down the field on the opening kickoff and drilling the kick returner for the game's first tackle. Williams went on to start at strongside linebacker along with MVP Mike Hull (Penn State) and Steele Devitto (Boston College). Williams (6-2, 200) finished with a team-leading eight tackles (5 solo) in USA's 17-0 win. Williams (from Lake Taylor High in Norfolk, Virginia) said the experience was "once in a lifetime."

"It was awesome, I enjoyed myself," Williams said. "I played with a great group of fellas and played my part. I made a couple big tackles and did what I needed to. It was a great week down here."

Williams can't wait until he's down here permanently. Considered the nation's 14th best outside linebacker by Rivals.com (44th by ESPN.com), Williams said he still has some work to do in the classroom before can qualify at UM. He said he's working to raise his GPA (currently 2.4) and waiting on the SAT he took last weekend (he needs at least an 820). But he has big plans once he qualifies and arrives at UM in the summer.

Travis Williams "When I visited last weekend, coach [Randy] Shannon basically told me he wanted to see me at every linebacker spot and which ever one I felt most comfortable with, the one I could help the team most, that's where I would be," Williams said. "Personally, I like playing the [strongside linebacker]. I feel comfortable in coverage, or bringing pressure off the edge."

Williams spent the week rooming with future Hurricanes teammate and team captain Keion Payne. He said when he gets to UM, he's supposed to room with running back Storm Johnson, who has been enrolled at UM since last week. All week, Williams caught the eye of Team USA coach Chris Merritt, who coached LSU-bound running back Jakhari Gore this past season at Miami Columbus.

"He's a little bit of an athletic freak," Merritt said. "He's aggressive, covers a lot of ground quickly. He fits a lot of Miami linebackers of old, the type I grew up watching. I picture him as an outside linebacker guy, dropping in coverage. He can hit now, too.

"One day of practice this week we were doing some head-on hitting. I had to smile at him a couple times and tell him to pull off the reigns a little bit. He's a kid when he wants to bring it, he brings it. He can play with fire."

Williams certainly did when he was little. He actually burned down his grandmother's home playing with matches at the age of three. No one was seriously injured.

He's since saved his most destructive behavior for the football field. He had 72 sacks in his high school career and earned first team honors in the Virginia "Tidewater area" his junior and senior seasons.


> I caught up with the coach of Seantrel Henderson Friday morning and he said the one thing he has to congratulate UM coaches on is there "persistence." He said while every school in the country came in and offered, few kept recruiting Henderson as hard as UM did. He said the fact Henderson's parents are moving to whatever city their son chooses gives the Canes "a real chance."

"Seantrel is a smart young man," said Mike Scanlon, who has coached the 6-8, 340-pound Parade Magazine National Player of the Year at Cretin-Hall High School in St. Paul, Minn. for the past three seasons. 

"A lot of his decision is going to be based on his relationship with his position coach. I told him, everybody is going to be nice to you during the recruiting process. But what is he going to be like when you get there, when your sitting in his office, breaking down film? I think he's looking for somebody who is not only to give him an opportunity to play at a high level, but take his abilities to an even higher level."

Scanlon said he doesn't think the coaching changes at USC or Notre Dame put either of those programs at a disadvantage and said he has no inkling of where Henderson is headed. Florida, Oklahoma and Ohio State are Henderson's other favorites. He will announce his decision between 3 and 7 p.m. on CBS College Sports TV with analyst Tom Lemming.

> How desperate is UM basketball coach Frank Haith for some positivity? In a team meeting this week he had his players write something positive about each other on paper and had them read it in front of the rest of their teammates.

Frank Haith One description that clearly didn't show up on Haith's sheet for any of UM's seniors was "great vocal leaders." "I think what this team is [searching for] is that great leadership," Haith said. "I'm not sure we've had that this year. Our seniors are not great talkers. James [Dews], Cyrus [McGowan] and Dwayne [Collins] aren't great talkers. They're more lead by example type guys."

Haith talked a lot Friday about how difficult his team's ACC schedule has been. He pointed out once again how four of his team's first six ACC games in January have been on the road and how after Sunday's afternoon tip with Virginia Tech, UM has to get on a flight and ready for a game at Wake Forest on Tuesday. "That's not exactly easy when you consider the Demon Deacons have three days to prepare," Haith said. Hard to blame Haith for feeling the way he does. But it's life in the ACC.

> One comical side note: UM's sports info office made a tiny mistake when it sent out a press release regarding its Save Haiti campaign. It read: "In future games, the Hurricanes will be sporting a patch on their uniforms in support of Save Haith Saturday..." We know they meant Save Haiti. But it was still funny. UM sent a correction shortly afterward. 

January 28, 2010

Canes set to make final recruiting push

University of Miami coach Randy Shannon and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland will be in the living room of the top offensive lineman in the country tonight, trying to convince Seantrel Henderson and his parents that The U is the best place for him. 

Seantrel Henderson After they're done, Shannon and Stoutland will come racing back home from chilly St. Paul, Minnesota to host what will be the final recruiting weekend before National Signing Day. Most experts think Henderson, a 6-8, 320-pound monster left tackle and Parade Magazine's National Player of the Year, will opt to stick with Big Ten power Ohio State or Notre Dame when he announces his decision Monday afternoon in a CBS studio in New York. 

But his coach said the Canes, who will host Henderson and a rather large group of visitors this weekend are definitely in the running. "They're definitely on the short list he's seriously thinking about," Cretin-Derham Hall coach Mike Scanlon said. "He wouldn't be wasting their time if he wasn't."

Even though fans might feel down, the Canes have a consensus Top 20 recruiting class according to all three major recruiting services. ESPN currently has UM highest at 12. Both Scout and Rivals have UM 20th. But landing Henderson -- or any other of the top-end weekend visitors -- would go a long way in improving that ranking. And it might even put a smile on some of even the most critical of Shannon bashers. 

So who else will UM get a visit from? Aside from U.S. Army All-American receiver Ivan McCartney from Miramar High (whom UM has a 50-50 shot at) and a handful of other commitments, the rest are out of towners the Canes are hoping to make a big impression on. 

> There is highly-touted defensive tackle Ego Ferguson from Hargrave Military Academy, whose father McDonald played at Miami Edison with UM director of football operations Corey Bell. Florida State and Notre Dame are considered the front runners, though, for the 6-4, 270-pound standout who also has Cal and LSU in the mix. He's supposed to announce his decision Wednesday in New York.

> In addition to Ferguson, two other less touted defensive tackles will be visiting. UM probably has a better shot at landing at least one -- if not both.

Jeffrey Brown, a 6-2, 270-pound senior from Township High in Evanston (Ill.) is expected to become UM's 27th commitment after his weekend visit to Coral Gables. Lightly recruited out of the Chicago area (his other offers are from Eastern Michigan, Illinois State and Toledo), his coach told me Brown is an under the radar star with big hands and a lot of upside. He was discovered by defensive coordinator John Lovett.

Jeff Whitaker, a much more highly-touted player (Rivals has him ranked as the fifth best defensive tackle in the country) out of Warner Robins, Ga., has taken a liking to the Canes and defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff. Whitaker's coach, Bryan Way, said the Canes have worked hard since December 1st to convince Whitaker (also considering Auburn and Georgia) to give UM a look. Wednesday, new defensive line coach Rick Petri was at Warner Robins with McGriff to meet Whitaker.

"A month ago when McGriff came in here, I told him coach, I really don't think you should bother," Way said. "But since that time, their chances have definitely gone up. I still think it's probably going to be Georgia or Auburn. I'm not sure Jeff wants to go that far from home. But then again, a month ago, I wouldn't have even considered Miami. Jeff is definitely intrigued by it and wants to see how it's going to be down there. So, I'd give them a chance."

Whitaker is planning to announce his decision Monday during a press conference at his school at 2 p.m.

> Three other players are scheduled to make trips to UM: Olive Branch (Miss.) offensive tackle Shon Coleman, Fontana (Calif.) linebacker Josh Shirley and Decatur (Ga.) cornerback Marques Dixon

Coleman was committed to Auburn and is likely to end up there or somewhere else in the SEC; Shirley might not even make the trip after a "strong visit" at USC last weekend and Dixon, a Tennessee commitment, might not visit either.

> For those that are interested, three video segments I recorded this week have been posted on MiamiHerald.com. There is the Recruiting Report with Larry Blustein, a studio interview with Miami Beach defensive tackle and Canes recruit Delmar Taylor, and another I shot with 2011 quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Check it out. 

January 27, 2010

Northwestern coach: "There is no rift with UM"

Miami Northwestern, the elite high school football program in Miami-Dade County, has long been a pipeline to the University of Miami. And despite what other "sources" may be saying, Bulls coach Billy Rolle, a longtime friend of Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon, told me Wednesday afternoon that won't be changing. 

Billy_Rolle "This thing is plain and simple: it's a big misunderstanding," said Rolle regarding reports that say a rift has been created between the Canes and its biggest feeder school. "I don't have any problem with the University of Miami, no matter what anybody might think or say. No one here does. The recruiting process is the recruiting process and sometimes kids don't know what it's about. They don't know it's a business. And some of our guys had to learn that, the hard way."

Rolle is of course referring in part to the recruiting saga of highly-touted defensive tackle Todd Chandler, who committed to Miami as a junior (right after the Bulls won the mythical national title with Jacory Harris and seven other future Canes in 2008) but is no longer a Canes recruit. 

Tuesday, ESPN.com ran an article, quoting Chandler (as I did back in December) voicing his frustration with the Hurricanes and his understanding that he once had a scholarship offer from Miami, but had it taken away." The article also quoted Terrence Craig (as a Northwestern assistant) saying "the people in the community here at Northwestern won't forget this." Other news outlets later quoted sources saying a rift between UM and Northwestern had grown so big, the Bulls wouldn't send future players to UM until Shannon and Rolle resolved the issue. 

According to Billy Rolle, all of it is hogwash. Craig, he says, wasn't even a part of his staff this year at Northwestern. Craig, a former Bulls offensive line coach, left the program last year for Miami Southridge, which is closer to his home. And those sources, Rolle said, "I'm not sure sure who they are."

"Some people do a lot of talking, they like to be spokesmen," Rolle said. "But they don't know. You know me. I don't like talking on the phone. I'm a face to face guy. I talked to coach after I read something in the paper... We ironed it out."

What also got ironed out, Rolle said, was the situation regarding Chandler. Rolle admitted he was shocked when he first heard Chandler was no longer headed to UM. But he said after he looked into the situation, spoke to Shannon and Chandler, Rolle said he came to "a clear understanding" of why Chandler won't be playing for the Hurricanes.

"A kid may commit early, but a school can change their mind the way a kid changes their mind," Rolle said. "It was just one of those things, a kid commits early and trusted the situation. But it's a business. s years go by, the recruiting process changes. Unfortunately, the recruiting process probably changed for Miami. Like coach told me, they had a lot of injuries this year, young guys and old guys coming back. It was a numbers thing. At first, Todd was kind of distraught, he really didn't understand it. But after we talked to him and things like that, he understood by taking trips to other schools -- he understood what went down with him.

"I was just shocked because he wanted so badly to go there because of the guys who were there previously. He had a nice little bond with the guys who were here before and because he was one of the younger guys who started and played here a lot when they were here. He had decided before anything that's where he wanted to go play. At the time, it was something big going on with us, winning the national title. So, everybody was excited, thought it was only natural Todd would go to Miami too. He made a commitment to himself to commit to Miami because he was sold on it.

Randy Shannon "But usually, when a school offers a kid, the coach gets a letter. That's the thing. I never got a letter for Todd. I looked for it, didn't find it. That's how [UM] covered their butts."

Rolle said the situation with Chandler proved to be a valuable lesson for his entire team. He said he recently had a scout explain how programs "have different needs" each and every season. 

"People assume the best players at Northwestern should go to Miami. And to me, that's how I believe it should be," Rolle said. "When you go to Alabama, the best players from Alabama go to Alabama. Same at Texas, LSU, Georgia. You may see one or two guys from other parts, but that's it. Me, personally as a coach, I always tell the kids to look around, don't say no to a school just because you've chose one. You never know what can happen. A coach might get fired or leave to another school. Now, that school doesn't want you anymore.

"Sometimes, kids just love a school so much, they don't want to hear 'No.' If you look at Antonio Bryant and Torrie Cox, my guys here from the 1998 team. They were going to die if they didn't go to University of Miami. And here comes this guy from Pittsburgh. Torrie was going to die if he didn't play running back. I showed him a media guide of all these cornerbacks and their bios about how they were running backs. What happened? Torrie went to Pittsburgh, got drafted in the third round and is still playing. Same for Antonio. The point is, Miami ain't always going be ready for you. But I think us being right here in Miami, UM should get its choice and all the coaches around the county should support that."

Rolle insists the Canes haven't loss any ground -- or faith -- from other potential recruits at Northwestern. In fact, he said UM is on solid ground with three of the Bulls' premier 2011 recruits: quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, receiver Eli Rogers and linebacker Lyndon Edwards. In fact, Bridgewater, considered the top player in the state in 2011, told me his love for the Hurricanes hasn't changed.

"I've always a good feeling about the Miami Hurricanes," Bridgewater said. "They're my hometown school and I've watched them put a lot of players in the NFL. As far as Jacory, I watched him as much I could this season and picked up as many things as I could from him. I like the way he puts touch on his passes.

"What they did to Todd Chandler, it's just what college is. It opened some eyes. You may be committed to a college and you never know what can happen. In the end, Miami did what it had to do. Since my ninth grade year, I've seen a lot of my teammates go there and play. Right now, I'm wide open. I've got six offers -- Florida, Miami, Tennessee, West Virginia, Rutgers and FIU. My plan is to take as much time as I need to figure it out."


> Rolle said he's been very happy with the Hurricanes have handled the current Bulls at UM and he hasn't heard any complaints from his players. When I asked him about receiver Kendal Thompkins possibly seeking a transfer, he said Thompkins continues to work out at Northwestern with his UM gear and hasn't mentioned a work to him about leaving the program.

"I tell the kids all the time, when you go to college there are going to be five, six guys just like you, you have to compete," Rolle said. "Personally, I think a lot of luck is involved. Injuries could get you. But luck is big. You might make one catch in a game or practice that catches the coaches eye. You just have to be ready when the opportunity comes. Kendall hasn't told me once he isn't happy there. I haven't asked him either. But the kids coming back to me complaining? No. It's not happening."

> If you are wondering where Northwestern's best players will be heading this year, it looks like Louisville is the destination. Coach Charlie Strong visited with Rolle Wednesday right before I got to Northwestern. Running back Corvin Lamb, offensive lineman Torrian Wilson, receiver Michaelee Harris and Chandler will likely be signing with the Cardinals. Oddly enough, former Hurricanes recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt will be the guy coaching Chandler. 

For Nelson 'long battle' will be over soon

Kevin Nelson can't contain his excitement. In a week, the Gainesville Sun's Class 6A-3A Player of the Year will be able to put pen to paper, sign his name on a National Letter of Intent and officially call himself a Miami Hurricane. 

Kevin Nelson For Nelson, a 6-1, 215-pound middle linebacker, National Signing Day can't come fast enough. Neither can June 12th. That's the day he scheduled to graduate from Gainesville High. Three hours after he takes off his gap and gown, Nelson says, he plans to drive down to South Florida where he'll move in with cousin and future University of Miami teammate Demarcus Van Dyke. Soon after that, Nelson says, he plans on putting on an orange and white jersey with the number 52 on it. That would be the same number of his idol, Canes great Ray Lewis. 

Ask Nelson where he'll be come the season opener in September against Florida A&M and he's got a prediction on that, too. He says he'll be starting at middle linebacker, on his way to the ACC Rookie of the Year award and leading the Hurricanes to a national title. 

To say Nelson dreams big would be an understatement. But if you ask his coach, his family and his friends, the fact Nelson is making bold predictions about his future is a welcome relief -- because it wasn't long ago that Nelson wasn't sure where he was headed. 

A troubled teenager, Nelson had trouble coping with the death of his mother, Bonnie Coleman, who died in 2002 after a long battle with brain and lung cancer. His biological father, Connie, who died last year from a stroke, didn't develop a relationship with him until he was older. Discipline and focus? It's taken time for Nelson to wrestle with that.

"It was crazy, man," Nelson said. "My brother was off to college so it was just me and my mother when I was little. My stepfather, when he was in the picture, was usually off to work. So, I'd come home and take care of my mom when she was sick. Sometimes, I wasn't able to do my homework because I was crying at night, trying to see if my mom was OK. It was hard. Things like that mess up a kid at that age. It takes time for them to learn how to be strong, realize that this happened for a reason. It was a battle. It still is to this day."

Nelson's battle became his aunt Shirley Williams' problem. Thankfully, he says, with his cousins off at college and plenty of room for him in her house, Nelson was able to grow up with plenty of support. He'd watch the Golden Girls with his grandmother, Irene Cudog, and his aunt, and iron out his behavioral issues. In a lot of ways, he says, he looks up to Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon, who grew up with plenty of his own family struggles. He considers the way both grew up "a deep bond."

"On Sunday, the last day of my official visit, we were talking about that," Nelson said. "He told me about how things were hard for him growing up, family members he lost. He told me situations like that prepare you for life, make you stronger. The way I see it, he never quit and ended up great. It took me some time to figure out how life is. In the ninth grade, I finally got control of it. I just turned a whole 180 degree turn and made some success in my life."

Now, Nelson says, he can't wait to go battle for Shannon. And the truth is, the Hurricanes might be stealing a superstar under Florida coach Urban Meyer's nose. 

Nelson, rated a four-star recruit by ESPN and the third-best inside linebacker in the country, has developed into a far better player than most expected. He finished his senior season with 141 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and helped Gainesville High to its city championship since 1988. His coach, Ryan Smith, said Nelson and teammate/fellow UM recruit Devont'a Davis (a 6-1, 170-pound cornerback) are the two primary reasons why the program went from 1-8 to 5-5 to 10-2 and its first playoff victory since Clinton Portis was around in 1998.

Kevin Nelson "Great players make great coaches," Smith said. "Miami is getting great players. They led the way for us all year. Their leadership, work ethic and the ability to make plays is phenomenal. If you want to look at one game. Look at the win over Buchholz. We won 14-9. Kevin scored both touchdowns (interception and a fumble recovery) and Devonta intercepts a pass on a two-point conversion at the end of the game to clinch it."

Former UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt jumped on Nelson early. But if you ask Nelson, it was his persistence that got the Hurricanes to offer him a scholarship his junior year after the Gators passed and UCF and Arkansas were the only programs who bit.

"Before Miami even recruited me, I had to call them," Nelson said. "I called Ms. Cindy in the office and got coach Barrow's office number. I kept calling it and calling it until I got coach Barrow on the phone. After that, It just went from there.

"I told him 'I want to be the guy you can count on in fourth down situations, you feel me? Or, the guy you want to put it on his shoulders and be the leader -- the whole season -- of the defense. I don't want to give up no rushing yards, no passing yards and have the DBs and safeties moving, the d-line moving and linebackers making plays.' I told him I wanted to be that guy. He said 'Dang man, I really like the way you're talking.' After that, he fell in love with the way I was talking. I sent him film and two or three weeks later, coach Shannon offered me."

Nelson didn't have to sell himself his senior year. LSU, Florida, and a number of other SEC schools came looking for him. Although the offer to play for LSU "and beat UF every year" was tempting, the Hurricanes stayed on him hard. And soon, UM could be reaping the benefits. With Darryl Sharpton gone, the Hurricanes do not have a bonafide starting middle linebacker. Going into the spring, most expect senior Colin McCarthy to slide over to the middle and Sean Spence, Jordan Futch and Ramon Buchanon to eat up most of the snaps at outside linebacker. Nelson, the only middle linebacker in a class with five outside linebackers, could ultimately find his way into playing time if he catches on quickly.

"I feel like I'm the best linebacker coming in this class -- and I feel like with the guys I've been around and the knowledge I'm going to be receiving it will be something great for the University of Miami," Nelson said. "It's about time for Coach Shannon to get another ring on his finger. I told him I'm going to do everything in my power, with the last breath in my body to get him that championship ring."


> You can never get everything you want into a story or a blog. I've uploaded the complete audio interview with Nelson to our UM audio section. If you are a Canes recruiting junkie and want to get pumped up about this class, check it out. Nelson has a ton of passion.

> Check out this A to Z segment with Nelson in the Gainesville Sun.

January 26, 2010

McCartney: "I have to find a fit for me"

As a former college football star at West Virginia and professional football player, Damon Cogdell is trying his best to prepare Ivan McCartney for the tough decision he's going to have to make soon. As McCartney's football coach at Class 6A state champion Miramar High, Cogdell is also trying to toe the fine line of telling him what's right for him and letting him think all for himself.

Ivan McCartney  McCartney still hasn't decided whether or not to join the team he grew up rooting for in Coral Gables, his former high school teammates who are now Mountaineers, or fill some big receiver needs for Urban Meyer at the University of Florida. But after McCartney spends his last recruiting weekend at the University of Miami beginning this Friday, Cogdell expects him to be ready with a decision come Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m.

"I think he kind of has his mind set of where he's going, but he'll know for sure by Monday," Cogdell said. "I told him he has to be thick skinned. This is a business decision, not an emotional decision. He's taking everything into account.

"He wants to go up to a place where he can play and make a big impact on that team right away. And if not right away, he wants to play the next year. I told him, he also has to look at the school with the highest graduation rate, which coach has been the most loyal to you and always been there. I don't like it when the coach calls you and just talks football. Neither does he. I told him you can't look at in terms of where you are going to live the rest of your life, just the next four years. At the end of the day, he knows it's his life decision."

McCartney, a 6-3, 180-pound U.S. Army All-American, hasn't spoken to reporters recently. But last week, when he came in to take his photos as an All-Broward First Team selection, he spoke to me for five minutes about what he was feeling. Ultimately, he wants to make the best decision for himself. Most experts believe with his coach being a West Virginia grad and two teammates already playing for the Mountaineers (current Miramar receiver Dante Chambers is a WV commitment), the Hurricanes don't stand much of a chance. But McCartney insisted when I talked to him the Hurricanes are very much in it.

"When I went to West Virginia, I felt like I was at home, especially with [quarterback Eugene] Smith and [receiver] Steadman [Bailey] up there," said McCartney, who caught 37 passes for 693 yards and 10 touchdowns -- including three in the state championship victory.

"West Virginia was a fit for Gino and Steadman. I'm not saying it's a fit for me or it isn't. I have to find somewhere that is a fit for me."

Although some might believe otherwise, McCartney said he is not turned off by the number of receivers currently on the Canes roster (1 senior, 4 juniors, 3 sophomores). "I feel like anywhere you go there are going to be receivers," McCartney said. "Depending on your work ethic, that will determine if you get on the field or not. I know anywhere I go, I'm going to work hard to get on the field."

Cogdell calls McCartney's relationship and his own with UM coaches "outstanding."

"Miami has been there loyally for a long time," Cogdell said. "Coach Shannon and I have a great relationship. We have history together. We both grew up at Scott Park. He recruited me coming out of high school. He coached me when he was an assistant with the Dolphins, when I was a linebacker there. We talk all the time about life, how we both grew up at Scott Park and became coaches. He's come by the school a couple times and had a great in home visit with Ivan. They've done what they've had to do."

The question remains, though, will it be enough to keep McCartney home? "I'll find out Monday, but you'll find out Wednesday like everybody else," Cogdell said with a laugh. "I told him to enjoy it, have a little fun with it."


> Locally, McCartney might be the only player Hurricanes fans will be holding the breath for on National Signing Day. Although I haven't spoken to Hialeah defensive end Corey Lemonier of late, our Larry Blustein says it looks more and more like the No. 1 recruit in Miami-Dade County will be going to Florida State.

> Speaking of Mr. Blustein, he and I recorded three podcasts in a Countdown To National Signing Day on Monday night. They are all available for download on our high school podcast The Countdown. Part 2 of our discussion is on the University of Miami. 

> Two years ago, Jordan Futch became sort of the spokesman for the 2008 recruiting class. This year, I'd have to say that guy is Gainesville High linebacker Kevin Nelson. The more I talk to the kid, the more I'm reminded of the old school Canes mentality. The kid bleeds green and orange. I'll have a full interview (audio included) for you tomorrow.

January 25, 2010

Haith wants to see more aggression from Scott

Having a long break after a tough loss can usually hurt a team. But in this case, University of Miami basketball coach Frank Haith said Monday his team's long after last Tuesday's 79-75 loss to Boston College might be just what his team needs to get jump-started going again.

Durand Scott  "I think it was great for us," Haith said during Monday's ACC Teleconference. "We got some really good practice time in. We have a lot of guys competing for playing time. We did a lot of scrimmaging. It was good for us because we got better during the time off."

Few Hurricanes could have needed a break more than freshman point guard Durand Scott. Haith said Scott recently returned home to attend his grandmother's funeral during the break. Haith said Scott and fellow New York guard Malcolm Grant "really struggled at times" getting their teammates good shots during the 10 minute stretch Tuesday that saw Boston College erase a 17-point deficit. Haith said he would like to see Grant become more aggressive again on the offensive end.

Scott is averaging 7.6 points and only two assists a game in ACC play. He averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 assists in non-conference games. "Durand can score more and we need him to do that," Haith said. "He's very capable of doing that... Hopefully, we can see Durand in terms of what we saw earlier in the year when he was aggressive on both ends of the court."


- Haith said he expects senior Adrian Thomas to see starter minutes at small forward and power forward. Thomas replaced sophomore DeQuan Jones in the starting lineup against Boston College. Jones has only played a combined 34 minutes (20 against Virginia Tech) in his last four games.

- Look for redshirt freshman Reggie Johnson to continue to get more chances to score in the post. Johnson, who has started the last two games, fell just one rebound shy of his first career double-double with a career-high 15 points and nine rebounds. Haith said Johnson has a nice touch around the basket. Believe it or not, he's also the team's best free throw shooter at nearly 77 percent.

January 24, 2010

LB Gaines becomes latest UM commitment

One recruiting weekend down, one to go. The University of Miami hosted its next to last group of weekend visitors. Here are a few tidbits I was able to gather... 

As expected, the Canes were able to nail down a commitment from Buffalo (N.Y.) Canisius High linebacker Jimmy Gaines. The former Buffalo recruit apparently had a great time on his visit and told UM coach Randy Shannon Saturday night he was ready to join the family. "He just loved it from the moment he got there," Canisius coach Brandon Harris said. "I think the kid is going to be a really good player for Miami. In three years, you'll find me and say 'Coach, you were right." 

Sacramento area tight end Asante Cleveland made a recruiting visit to UM this past weekend and might switch from Washington State to UM. While it looks like St. Thomas Aquinas kicker Michael Palardy is going to stay true to his commitment to Tennessee, UM was able to bring in Sacramento (Calif.) Christian Brothers tight end Asante Cleveland and his parents for a visit. And word is, Cleveland had a great time and is now considering switching from Washington State to Miami. Cleveland (6-5, 230) would be a great get for the Canes considering the need at tight end. Stay tuned for updates this week.

> Gaines might have enjoyed his visit, but he did get a little razzing from his future teammates. According to Davie Western offensive lineman and now fellow UM commitment Jonathan Feliciano, players were deliberately ignoring him until he decided to commit.

"We kept messing with him, telling him 'We don't talk to guys who aren't Canes," Feliciano said. "He's cool. I didn't get a chance to see him [Sunday] before we left. But I heard he decided to become part of the family. That's great news."

Feliciano, who had Wake Forest, Florida State and Tennessee still chasing him up until last month, said he's grown an inch (he's now 6-5) and put on another 10 pounds (He weighs 318) since the start of the season. He said UM coach Randy Shannon told him he's happy he never strayed and is looking forward to him competing for playing time at guard.


> I've been told the Hurricanes are hot after another defensive tackle, current Ole Miss commitment Byron Bennett. Although I haven't been able to confirm it with Bennett or his coach, the 6-3, 265-pound senior at Madison Central High in Mississippi could be making a visit to UM this weekend. 

> Miami Springs receiver Willis Wright hasn't heard from Miami coaches in a long time. But his high school coach Alex Pacheco said he received a phone call from UM assistant Wesley McGriff on Friday to see if Wright was still interested in UM. 

Wright, who visited FIU this past weekend and has West Virginia as another of his finalists, told me Sunday afternoon he would love to visit UM next weekend. But he still hasn't heard from Canes coaches.

"I'm willing to give them a look," Wright said. "I've taken three visits and can take one next week if they wanted me to."

Pacheco said Wright, who is still awaiting his ACT test scores and should get them this week, took his studies seriously his senior season (he worked with a tutor) and raised his GPA to 2.6. "Willis isn't a dumb kid," Pacheco said. "Is he lazy? Yes, he had been. I know grades could have been an issue with Miami. But he might have what he needs to get in there now."

> There is no reason to hold out hope anymore on Winter Park Lake Howell linebacker Christian Jones giving UM a visit. His coach, Tom Oliver, told me Friday Jones has basically eliminated UM. 

"I think he was supposed to go down there and visit and just decided not to," Oliver said. "I know the last thing he wants to do is waste anybody's time. I know Micheal Barrow has made a strong effort to convince him to give Miami a look. But it just doesn't look like its going to work out. He's probably going to give USC a look next week."

January 22, 2010

Finding hidden gems no easy task for Canes

I've never been a believer in the star system used to rate recruits. Just because a player has a certain number of stars -- or offers -- doesn't necessarily mean he'll become a superstar in college. 

Is linebacker Kelvin Cain going to be another Colin McCarthy or will he end up being the next Eric Houston?  But on the flip side of the argument -- and one I think maybe isn't discussed enough -- are the under the radar players, the kids who don't have offers from many BCS schools. There has been a long held belief that when the University of Miami was thriving in the 1980s and late 1990s, it did a great job at finding those hidden gems and signing them. 

Over the past couple of days, we've heard about how UM has gone after players like Miami Beach defensive tackle Delmar Taylor (a player with five high school games under his belt), Buffalo Canisius High linebacker Jimmy Gaines (a Buffalo commitment and 2-star prospect visiting UM this weekend), Clovis (Calif.) Buchanan High linebacker Kelvin Cain (a player with no other BCS offers). 

If there is one common theme with the Hurricanes' 2010 recruiting class its that most of the players expected to sign on Feb. 3 aren't among the most highly coveted in the nation. In fact, if you look at Rivals for instance, only six of UM's 24 commitments are rated four stars (elite) or above. Those are: RB Storm Johnson, OL Malcolm Bunche, RB Eduardo Clements, OT Tavadis Glenn, OT Brandon Linder and LB Travis Williams. ESPN also has six players rated four stars or above. Their list has: Johnson, Clements, Linder, Glenn and DE David Perry and LB Kevin Nelson. 

For argument sake, let's say there are eight players that are being recognized as "BCS caliber." That means the Hurricanes are counting on 16 current commitments, considered "middle of the road" to "2-star gambles" that UM's staff is hoping develops into gems. So what is the likelihood of that happening? Who really knows. But if you look at UM's recent history with players rated 3-stars or less, it's easy to see finding a gem is harder than it might have been when UM was winning national titles. 

Here's a look at the good, the bad and the ugly since 2005 when the Canes signed players considered by Rivals.com to be three stars or less. Note: *-denotes 2-star player.

- Eric Houston, LB: Career special teams player
- Daryl Shaprton, LB: Late bloomer broke out his senior year
- Matt Pipho, OL: Didn't play until his fifth season, struggled at right tackle
* Jerrell Mabry, FB: Never panned out 

- Chris Lewis, DE: Transferred to Fresno State, had 20 tackles, 1 INT in 2009
- Colin McCarthy, LB: 3-year starter, All-ACC First Team in 2009 
- Ian Symonnette, OL: Career special teams player
- Chavez Grant, CB: Never made a strong impact. Started 19 games, 2 INTs
- Steven Wesley, DL: Has started 17 games and has 3 sacks heading into senior year
- Matt Bosher, K: Team MVP in 2008, All-ACC First Team
- Chaz Washington, DT: Never panned out
* Daniel Stegall, QB: Returned to baseball, career fizzled with Mets in minors
* Joel Figueroa, OL: Has 13 career starts heading into senior year at guard
* George Robinson, WR: Quit football after one year

- Lee Chambers, RB: Career backup has 272 yards rushing, 1 TD heading into junior year
- Harland Gunn, OL: After two years on scout team, he started five games in 2009
- Leonard Hankerson, WR: Had breakout 2009 season and enters senior year highly touted
- Shawnbrey McNeal, RB: Transferred to SMU and had breakout season, entering NFL Draft
- Jojo Nicholas, S: Injured in '09, likely will be passed up on depth chart in 2010
Chris Perry, DT: Played in eight games in '09 at Texas Tech, four tackles, 1 sack
Adewale Ojomo, DE: Broke jaw in a preseason fight with walk-on; expected to start in 2010 
Jared Campbell, S: Made 6 starts in 2009, 31 tackles, 5 pass breakups 
* Tyler Horn, OL: Projected started at center in 2010
* Daniel Adderley, WR: Has not panned out 

- Micanor Regis, DT, Made strong push toward end of '09 season, 2 INTs in 13 games
LaRon Byrd, WR, Struggled down stretch of '09 season, 33 catches, 460 yards, 1 TD
Joe Wylie, DB, Left the program last summer 
Thearon Collier, WR, Shined as a punt returner, finished with 18 catches, 250 yards
Antonio Harper, LB, Academic casualty, now a defensive end at Troy
Kendall Thompkins, WR: Has hardly played, rumored to be transferring or switching to cornerback
Gavin Hardin, LB: Played in one game in '09, missed rest of season with injury
Cannon Smith, QB: Transferred to Memphis, expected to assume backup role in 2010
* Taylor Cook, QB: Transferred to Rice, expected to assume backup role in 2010
* Brandon Marti, LB: Arrested, cut from the team; in JUCO trying to revive career
* Zach Kane, LB: Arrested, cut from team, not heard from since he entered prep school
* C.J. Odom, DB: Another academic casualty. Out of football
* John Calhoun, FB: Has played mostly on special teams
* Patrick Hill, FB: A two-year starter expected to return in 2010 after missing most of '09 with injury.
* Jake Wieclaw, K: Hasn't been able to wrestle away any of the three kicking jobs from Bosher 

- Prince Kent, DB: Academic casualty, signed with Baylor after shining in prep school
Curtis Porter, DT: Filled in well during his freshman season for injured Marcus Forston
A.J. Highsmith, QB: Elevated himself to backup quarterback in the spring
Billy Sanders, TE: Expected to compete for the starting tight end job
Jared Wheeler, OL: Could compete for playing time at guard or center
Cory White, TE: Converted to offensive tackle, played on scout team
Shayon Green, DE: Injured, missed entire freshman season
Stephen Plein, TE: Converted to offensive tackle, played on scout team

Canes targeting New York area linebacker

With two recruiting weekends left before National Signing Day, the University of Miami is close to wrapping up its 2010 class. But there are a few players they still are trying to land, including someone relatively new to the recruiting radar: Buffalo (N.Y.) Canisius High linebacker James Gaines.

James Gaines The 6-3, 216-pound senior grew up a huge fan of former Hurricanes running back Willis McGahee and is one of a few uncommitted recruits visiting the Hurricanes this weekend with his family. According to his coach, Brandon Harris, Gaines was all set to go to the nearby University of Buffalo before coach Turner Gill bolted for the University of Kansas on Dec. 13. Shortly after Gill left, Gaines reopened his recruiting and sent out highlight tapes across the country.

Using his connection to the University of Miami, Harris quickly got the attention of Hurricanes defensive coordinator John Lovett, who made the trip up to Buffalo, made an in-home visit and watched Gaines play basketball. The Hurricanes have been among several BCS schools in hot pursuit of Gaines ever since.

"It's been crazy since we sent those tapes out around Christmas," Harris said. "Being in Buffalo, we're in an area where some of the top schools in the country drive right past. But Jimmy is a diamond in the rough. He's a great player. He wouldn't be down [at UM] visiting right now if he wasn't. Oklahoma wouldn't be calling either if he wasn't good. In fact, they're a little irritated because there just aren't enough recruiting weekends left. Right now, I'd say it's either going to be Arkansas, Miami or Buffalo."

Gaines can't be found on Rivals.com, ESPN or Scout.com. But he comes highly recommended by Harris, who was coached at Idaho by former Hurricanes receivers coach Curtis Johnson. Harris has had plenty of run-ins with the Hurricanes since his playing days. At Brophy Prep in Arizona, he coached Raiders tight end Zach Miller (who was recruited by UM) and current Hurricanes redshirt freshman tight end Billy Sanders. 

According to the team stats on MaxPreps.com, Gaines had 154 tackles (108 solo), three sacks, an interception while playing inside and outside linebacker. On offense, he played tight end and running back and finished with 15 catches for 270 yards and three scores.

"Usually when I call Miami and tell them I got one, they know I'm not just throwing any player at out there,"  Harris said. "Jimmy brings a lot intensity and a lot thud when he hits people. When I called over there, I said he's another Sean Taylor. Jimmy can hit. Miami loves his frame and the fact he's a 4.5 kid. Once [strength and conditioning coach Andreu] Swasey gets a hold of him, he'll be exactly what they want. He can bench over 300 now and squat in the 400s. His mom was a track star and his dad played football and basketball. And he's got the grades too with a 3.5 GPA and a test score in the four digits."

Harris said if UM offers Gaines a scholarship, he's almost sure he'll commit and cancel his scheduled trip next week to Arkansas. "When I told him the University of Miami was coming in, he was beaming," Harris said. "The U is his dream school."


> Aside from Gaines, the only non Canes commitment visiting UM this weekend appears to be St. Thomas Aquinas kicker Michael Palardy, who is still committed to Tennessee. UM was chasing after Bjoern Werner, a 6-4, 264-pound defensive tackle/tight end from the Salisbury School in Connecticut. But Warchant.com quoted Werner's coach saying he had canceled his visit to UM and was deciding between Florida State and Oregon.

> Delray Beach Atlantic receiver Quadarius Mireles has told a lot of recruiting websites he was visiting UM this weekend. But that was news to his coach. Andre Thadbies said Mireles was probably playing reporters and has simply been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse so he could enroll at Mississippi. 

"Coach [Aubrey] Hill and their offensive coordinator [Mark Whipple] we're here about three weeks ago to talk to him and check him out when things were heating up," Thadbies said. "But no ever called us back. Quad's always been set on going to Ole Miss."

Thadbies, who was the defensive coordinator at Atlantic when Orlando Franklin was there as junior and senior, said UM coaches are very much interested in 2011 receiver Ezekiel Turner (5-10, 170-pounds). Thadbies said Turner is close with Franklin and stays with him at times when he visits Miami. Turner caught 23 passes for 458 yards and eight touchdowns this past season.

> Palm Beach Post high school writer Jason Lieser reported earlier this week that the Hurricanes were no longer recruiting Pahokee safety Raheam Buxton. Not much of a surprise considering Buxton was an early commitment and had a tough senior season. The real worry here is how this might hinder UM from recruiting more Pahokee players in the future. 

Brother of Canes LB Futch shot and killed

Our Susan Miller Degnan confirmed through the University of Miami that a brother of linebacker Jordan Futch was shot and killed. The details surrounding his death have not been verified, but Susan and I wanted to send our condolences as well as Futch's former high school coach Mark Guandolo.

"Jordan is a very respectful kid with a really good heart," Guandolo said. "And he's very talented. He has the ability to be very special. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. We are thinking of him."

Guandolo coached Futch for two years at Hollywood Chaminade and now coaches football at Cypress Bay High School. If you'd like to share your condolences feel free.

January 21, 2010

McDermott eager to make impact

If there is one area the Miami Hurricanes absolutely needed to address in the 2010 recruiting class it was offensive line. With three starters (Jason Fox, Matt Pipho, A.J. Trump) headed out the door and only four players (Orlando Franklin, Harland Gunn, Brandon Washington and Joel Figueroa) returning with real in-game college experience, the Hurricanes absolutely need to not only find big bodies but guys who could play if called upon.

Shane McDermott  Shane McDermott is ready to be one of those guys. I caught up with the 6-3, 275-pound All-American center from Palm Beach Central High before he began taking classes at UM this past Tuesday to see where his mind was at heading into spring football next month. Needless to say, this guy sounds like he's ready.

"I want to make an impact," McDermott answered when I asked him about his expectations for his freshman season. "Coach [Jeff] Stoutland told us if you come in and you perform, we'll play you. We aren't scared to put a freshman in that position. I've let him know I'm not scared to be in that position."

As it stands, the Hurricanes are bringing in seven offensive linemen in this class. There could be more. But of the seven, a source at UM told me its not hard to imagine McDermott, Milford Prep offensive tackle Malcolm Bunche or St. Thomas Aquinas offensive tackle Brandon Linder seeing real playing as true freshmen. The truth is none of them have much in the way of competition -- especially McDermott. 

Redshirt sophomore Tyler Horn, penciled in as the starting center, played in all of six games this season -- garbage time minutes mostly against Florida A&M, UCF, Virginia and USF. Brandon Washington has taken snaps at center in practice, but the Hurricanes want him to take over the left guard spot while Franklin moves out to left tackle. The other returning scout team offensive linemen -- Ben Jones (6-5, 300), Jermaine Johnson (6-6, 310), Jared Wheeler (6-5, 330), Cory White (6-5, 260) and Stephen Plein (6-6, 260) -- are expected to compete mostly at tackle and guard.

"I think I could make a big difference early," McDermott said. "I'm pretty much second string. Coach told me they're looking at converting a couple of other guys to center, the guy who used to play tight end [Plein]. But I'm graduating early for a reason, that's to play early."

McDermott is definitely gifted. Despite playing on a 3-7 team, he graded out a 98 percent according to his coach and is already as strong as some of UM's biggest linemen. He benches 365 pounds and squats 490 pounds. He also received great reviews at last month's Under-Armour All-Star Game in Tampa, where he lined up opposite former Canes recruits Louis Nix (now of Notre Dame) and Todd Chandler (USF) and dominated. 

"It was a great experience and awesome to compete against some of the best in the nation," McDermott said. "I thought I did really good, especially against Nix and Chandler. It was a little weird facing them after they decommitted. There were some serious battles and we were going at it a little bit. But I felt like I came out on top."

McDermott is definitely one of the brightest minds in the class. He graduated with a 3.4 GPA and scored a 1010 on his SAT. His plan is to double major at UM, Marine Affairs and Marine Biology. It's not surprising since he won the Palm Beach Science fair with a project on the on the effects of acidification on the asexual reproduction of corals. It's no surprise either that in addition to his love for the study of the sea, McDermott loves spear fishing, something he said he plans to do a lot with Linder.

"Being in the ocean, hunting, is a lot of fun," said McDermott, who is rooming with quarterback Stephen Morris. "Brandon and I have been keeping up on Facebook a lot. He told me how cleaned up during mini season, 60 lobsters. The biggest thing I've ever caught is a six pound hog fish."

Truth is, the biggest catch McDermott could end up with this fall is a starting job. He's going to give it his best shot. 

"I've been lifting everyday at 6 a.m. since the season ended," McDermott said. "I've been doing speed and agility drills with Athlete's Advantage. I feel like I'm ready for college. It's all I've been focused on. I can't wait to get in there."


> I wasn't able to hook up with Malcolm Bunche before he began taking classes Tuesday, but word is he'll be given every opportunity to win the starting right tackle job this fall. Hurricanes coaches felt Bunche could have made an impact last year if he hadn't had to go to prep school. 

> I wasn't able to attend Tuesday night's basketball game because I spent a few days taking care of my wife who is sick with a vicious stomach virus. But I spoke to a few well respected coaches last night to get a feel for what they believe might be wrong with the Hurricanes. 

In their opinions, while UM coach Frank Haith has done an excellent job recruiting talent to Miami, he needs to find more help in terms of X's and O's. "Everyone knows Frank can recruit, but just like Leonard Hamilton needed to go out and get him a Stan Jones, Frank needs to do the same," one coach said. "Once Leonard got Stan, UM really started winning. What I see now is a lot of confusion."

The other criticism: Substitutions. "It kills me to see him yank guys like clockwork," another coach said. "At the four minute mark every game, he gives his starters a blow. Why? Post guys like [Dwayne] Collins need to feel the ball, need to get into a flow. He needs to go with his best guys more often."

January 16, 2010

Source: Hurtt on way out; McGriff says he's 'staying'

CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Rumors have been swirling for days that a few Hurricane assistants could be on their way out. Turns out one of them is true and one isn't.

Clint Hurtt According to a source who spoke with our Susan Miller Degnan moments ago, defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt has been interviewed by Louisville and is likely going to be given a job on new coach Charlie Strong's staff. 

The other rumored coach to be leaving, defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff, told me moments ago he isn't going anywhere and "to please end the rumors."

"Any rumors of me leaving are totally false," Wesley McGriff said by phone Saturday night. "I'm staying at the University of Miami. I haven't spoken to anyone at Kentucky or any other school. I haven't interviewed. I'm a Hurricane. Please let everyone know that."

Hurtt has not answered repeated phone calls. But if we can get him on the phone, we will try to get something from him. Last week, a source told me the Hurricanes are interested in bringing in former UM defensive lineman and USF defensive line coach Kevin Patrick as Hurtt's replacement.

Stay tuned.

Courtside blog: UM-Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. -- Checking in before the 23rd-ranked Canes (15-2, 1-2 ACC) take on the Cavaliers (10-4, 2-0 ACC) here at John Paul Jones Arena. This is without question the nicest arena in the ACC. 

I'll provide some thoughts and observations as this one goes along. Feel free to follow on Twitter. The game is being televised on ESPNU. 

> Reggie Johnson in the starting lineup for the first time this season. Looks like Haith likes the way he's playing lately.
> Another slow start for Frank Haith's basketball team. Virginia jumps out to a quick 6-0 lead with 18:14 left
> Canes started the game 0-for-8 before Adrian Thomas drilled a three-pointer with 14:03 left to make it 12-4 Virginia; Frank Haith has already played 11 players in this game.
> Canes go into the half trailing 33-21. They shot 5 of 23 from the field in the first half and were 1 of 9 from 3pt range. UM shot 7 of 26 at Virginia Tech Wednesday night. So, this is even worse.

January 15, 2010

Clements open to idea of playing corner

ROANOKE, VA. -- The only position Eduardo Clements took seriously growing up was running back. But as he prepares to begin taking classes at the University of Miami, the Miami Booker T. Washington standout isn't sure that when he finishes his college career he'll still be taking handoffs.

Eduardo ClementsFor the past two weeks, Clements has been working out with former high school teammate and Canes cornerback Brandon Harris, who apparently has been getting in Clements' ear about giving the secondary a try.

"Brandon and I got into a heated discussion the other day," said Clements, who is expected to begin taking classes at UM on Jan. 23, a few days after he receives his final report card from Booker T. "He said, 'Bro, if you go in there and learn the system, I know you can play corner.' He said because a couple of other guys will be doing track, they'll only be like three corners around for the spring. [Defensive backs] coach [Wesley] McGriff] jokes with me all the time about going out for corner.

"To be honest, if I had to make a choice and switch, of all the positions I'd pick corner. I always liked playing it during 7-on-7. If I had to do it, I could."

With Miami's wealth and depth at running back, Clements (5-10, 190) might eventually be asked to do so. But at least when spring football begins in late February, Clements expects to be where he always has -- on the offensive side of things. That is, of course, if he's physically ready.

Five games into his senior season, Clements badly sprained the meniscus in his left knee while playing defensive end in the Tornadoes' 35-28 win over rival Miami Northwestern. He sat out his team's next three games in October before returning for the final month of the season. He finished with 694 yards rushing and 12 catches for 151 yards and a score, his worst season his freshman year when he ran for 624 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 107 yards. Clements still finished his career as one of the best all-time in Miami-Dade County, rushing for 3,105 yards and 50 touchdowns and catching 77 passes for 743 yards and five TDs. He also was named Most Valuable Player of the Class 4A state championship game in 2007.

"Basically, I'm still rehabbing," said Clements, who is graduating from Booker T. with a 3.2 GPA and 22 on the ACT exam. "The last time I saw my doctor he told me I didn't heal the way it needed to. So, now, I'm wearing a brace, trying to workout with it, stuff like that. The past two weeks, [Brandon] has been coming to Booker T., training me at corner. I'm just working to get my knee back 100 percent. I should be there by the spring game."

Rated by Rivals as the 10th best running back in the country (14th by ESPN), Clements said he feels like he closely resembles the playing style of Graig Cooper, who has become a close friend of his. With Cooper not expected to play in 2010, Clements feels he could fill the Canes' need for "a scatback."

"When you look at it, Damien Berry, Lamar Miller and Mike James are all downhill runners," Clements said. "Me and Coop are guys you can split out wide, just like he was against Florida State when he caught the touchdown.

"Basically, in all our meetings, coach Robinson tells me to be patient because they don't really know how they're going to use me. I can be patient. If I have to do the same thing Lamar Miller did, run the scout team, I will. Lamar was still ringing bells, though. I can do the same."

Clements said what he loves about Miami is the family atmosphere, which he said showed itself perfectly in the Champs Sports Bowl. "If you want to know why I picked UM, just look at one play -- when Coop got hurt," Clements said. "The first guys on the field where JJ [Javarris James] and Berry. They picked him up, helped him off the field. On this team, there are no selfish attitudes. There is just family. That's why I love The U."

> For what it's worth, Clements said Cooper told him recently his decision to return to UM or enter the NFL Draft remains "in the air." But Clements said he thinks Cooper will come back to UM. "He's down, but he's trying to stay positive," Clements said. "I think Coop just loves the UM family too much to go out like that. I think he'll be back."

> Althought I haven't been able to confirm it yet with Carol City High receiver Allen Hurns (he wasn't answering his phone late Thursday night), Clements said Hurns will be his roommate in the spring. Hurns has been waiting on receiving news regarding his grades. 

> So much for giving up on Seantrel Henderson. On Thursday, Scout.com spoke to the father of U.S. Army-All American and the nation's No. 1 offensive tackle, who said his son will take his last official to the University of Miami on Jan. 22. Henderson (6-8, 330) would be the home runs of home runs if the Canes were to land him in this class. But being from Saint Paul, Minnesota, I've always felt this was a long shot. And I'm sticking to it, no matter all the nice things his dad might have to say about UM.

January 14, 2010

Georgia duo ready to begin UM career

ROANOKE, VA. -- They grew up playing football together at the Pop Warner level and spent most of their lives in homes just a 10 minute drive apart in of the richest areas for football talent in Georgia. Tyrone Cornelius and Storm Johnson always thought there might be a chance they could be college roommates one day. They just never thought it would be at the University of Miami.

Tyrone Cornelius But Coral Gables is exactly where both will begin college this weekend when six 2010 football recruits begin arriving for the start of classes Tuesday (Jan. 19). 

"We've known each other since we were little kids," said Cornelius, a 6-2 1/2, 190-pound outside linebacker with 4.5-speed from Stephenson High in Stone Mountain, who played up the road from Johnson, a 6-1, 217-pound All-American running back from Loganville with 4.48-speed.

"For the longest time I thought he was going to LSU. Then, he decommitted and joined the University of Miami in November. I was stunned. But it made me feel better. At least now I know I can go down there with somebody I have a bond with."

Little by little, the Hurricanes have begun creating stronger bonds with top-notch recruits in Georgia. Call it the Wesley McGriff factor. UM's defensive backs coach is from Tifton, a three-hour drive south of Atlanta. Last year, he plucked defensive end/linebacker Shayon Green (6-2, 225) from his hometown (Green missed the season with a knee injury). This year, McGriff was all over Cornelius and was ready to pounce on Johnson, an ESPN Top 150 player, the moment he parted ways with his first choice, LSU.

All three Georgia players represent more of what the Hurricanes are looking for in their recruiting classes: players that don't just have more size, but are smart enough to handle more complex schemes and have the grades to get into school early.

Cornelius, who hopes to add on 20 pounds of muscle to his frame, graduated from high school with a 3.0 GPA and scored a 20 on the ACT. When you talk to him, he sounds just as smart as Jordan Futch and about as football saavy as Sean Spence. Johnson, who graduated with a 3.2 GPA and ACT score of 20, seems destined to make the same type of impact Mike James made last season.

"Coach McGriff actually came at me and showed me a lot love the spring before my junior year," said Cornelius, who plans on majoring in Forensic Science.

"The one thing he said he loved about me from the start were me academics. I've always been on top of my books. I think I've made only one C in high school. Graduating early has always been a big deal for me. Starting off on college early, getting that head start on football and academics is huge."

The Hurricanes could certainly use reinforcements at both linebacker and running back. Last season, after Futch went down with a torn ACL, UM rotated four linebackers -- senior Darryl Sharpton, junior Colin McCarthy, sophomores Sean Spence and Ramon Buchanon -- the rest of the season. Entering the spring, Cornelius said he hopes to learn a lot from the veterans to put himself in position to compete with Arthur Brown and Futch for playing time.

"As long as I'm on the field and helping the team out, that's all I care about," Cornelius said. "Either side -- weak or strong -- is good for me. I think I'll be able to catch on pretty quick. Their run defense is a lot like the one we ran at my high school, a pro style 4-3. Zone coverages, blitzes, stunts, I've done those before. I'm actually a very smart kid on the field.

"I could be a big hitter. But I prefer to see myself as a real fast linebacker. I can get from one side of the field to the other in a matter of seconds. I'm fast, take on blocks as well. I can also drop back in pass coverage. I know a lot of linebackers can play the run extremely well, but can't drop back in pass coverage with ease. But I can do that. Coach McGriff told me he wouldn't be scared to put me at safety either."

Storm Johnson Cornelius, a three-star recruit and Top 40 outside linebacker according to Rivals, Scout and ESPN, finished his senior season with 108 tackles, an interception, two forced fumbles, two blocked punts and eight tackles for loss and helped lead Stephenson to an 11-1 record and the second round of the playoffs.

He didn't get to play against Johnson, who literally lives 10 minutes from his house, because Loganville is in a different classification and county. But he respects his game plenty.

"Storm is a fast, bruising back, a North-South runner who you better be ready to take on," Cornelius said. "He's a strong worker in the weight room and very smart when it comes to the books. He does everything he has to do to stay on his game."

Johnson, who ran for 1,933 yards and 32 touchdowns on 252 carries his senior season in 11 games, said Cornelius "is gifted."

"Tyrone is a good guy, quiet, hard working and very smart," Johnson said. "He just flies to the football."

Johnson will arrive in Coral Gables Sunday night (a day after Cornelius) and said his goal is to make an immediate impact -- whether its carrying the football, blocking or handling kickoffs. With Javarris James gone and Graig Cooper (torn ACL) expected to miss all of 2010, UM's available backfield veterans are senior-to-be Damien Berry, redshirt freshman Mike James and junior Lee Chambers. Redshirt freshman Lamar Miller is also expected to make an impact. 

Johnson's recent performance at the Under Armour game in Tampa elevated his recruiting ranking on Rivals from a three-star recruit to a far star level and his him ranked 106th nationally overall. He will be joined by Booker T. Washington running back Eduardo Clements, ranked 156th overall by Rivals, in the spring.

"If I could wear the number 5 [a jersey number expected to be available after the departure of Javarris James] that would be great," Johnson said. "But other than that, I just want to come down, be another hard worker and get after it.

Reports: Whipple not headed to USF

Rumors and reports began swirling last night that Canes offensive coordinator Mark Whipple had not only been interviewed for the head coaching job at South Florida, but was the leading candidate. 

Mark WhippleRegardless of whether or not either was true, it looks like Whipple won't be going anywhere at the moment. FanHouse.com is reporting the USF job will be going to former East Carolina coach Skip Holtz and according to the Tampa Tribune, a deal with Holtz is imminent. 

The bigger question for the Canes now becomes if and when they'll lose their offensive coordinator. Whipple has made it no secret he's interested in becoming a head coach at a BCS-level school. He was reportedly a finalist for the job at Cincinnati. He's also got plenty of NFL connections and could always end up leaving if former boss Bill Cowher ends up finding work. 

The Miami Herald has tried reaching Whipple by phone several times, but has been unsuccessful. Either way, losing Whipple, who is the assistant head coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, would be a major blow for the Canes. Hired a year ago to replace Patrick Nix, he turned UM's inept offense around. The Hurricanes scored 394 points, their most since 2002, and ranked 45th in total offense and 31st in scoring offense. 

> The Hurricane club is hosting "An Evening with UM Football Greats" on February 1 at the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach from 7 to 10 p.m. It is open to 500 guests and will feature UM coach Randy Shannon, former coach Jimmy Johnson and many former UM players including Russell Maryland, Ted Hendricks, Michael Irvin and Darin Smith. Tickets are $200 per person and will feature an open bard, hors d'oeuvres, buffet stations, coffee and dessert service. Call 305-284-6699.

> UM running back Javarris James and center A.J. Trump have accepted invitations to play in the East-West Shrine Game, which will be played in Orlando on Jan. 23. 

January 13, 2010

Courtside blog: UM-Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, VA. -- Just got to my courtside seat for tonight's ACC showdown between the 23rd ranked Canes (15-1, 1-1 ACC) and Virginia Tech (12-2, 0-1). It's been a long day of travel. I left my house at 4:30 a.m. and after two flights I arrived in Charlottesville, where I picked up a rental car and drove for 3 hours to get here tonight. 

Hopefully, the Canes didn't have such a strenuous venture to the game tonight. I'll provide some thoughts and highlights as this one rolls along. No TV, but Joe Zagacki is sitting two seats to my right and will be broadcasting the game on WQAM. Be sure to follow along.


> Virginia Tech has come out shooting threes early. Hokies have hit 3 of 4 to start the game and have an early 13-4 lead. Funny thing is Canes lead the league in three pointers made and Hokies are 11th out of 12 in 3-point percentage. Go figure.

> Hokies have started this one off red-hot and Miami ice cold. Canes are 2 of 11 and 0 for 6 from three-point range to start. Hokies are 7 of 9 from the field and have an 18-5 lead.

> DeQuan Jones ends UM's 2-for-11 start from the field with a bucket with 11:50 left. Canes trail 20-7.

> This might have been a long trip for nothing. Canes getting blown out 26-8 with 9:11 left in the first half. Yikes!

> Well, the Canes are only down four touchdowns, 35-8. Maybe Jacory can get the offense rolling in the second half.

> Nothing positive you can say at this point for the Canes. They are trailing 48-13. Worst hoops game ever? Feels like it.

> Here's all you need to know: Canes close out the first half with a 7-0 run and still trail 50-23.

January 12, 2010

Canes land Bahamian defensive tackle recruit

You won't find Delmar Taylor on any national recruiting lists. And unless you attended one of the five high school football games he played in at Miami Beach High this past fall, you probably have never seen him. 

Delmar Taylor But assuming all goes well over the next month, the 6-5, 260-pound Bahamian born defensive tackle will be one of the recruits who is a part of the University of Miami's 2010 signing class. Taylor is about as raw and unknown a player as there is in South Florida. But according to our recruiting coordinator Larry Blustein, who saw Taylor play twice, he is very, very talented.

"I came away very impressed with his quickness and strength," Blustein said. "This is an athlete who never takes plays off, which is something any college coach notices right away. This is an athlete who has a real chance to do some big things at the next level."

According to Miami Beach coach Ralph Jimenez, FIU coach Mario Cristobal was the first to spot Taylor and offer him a scholarship. Bowling Green and Western Michigan followed. Memphis was about to offer. But according to Jimenez, when UM assistant coach Wesley McGriff came in a day before students went on vacation for Christmas break and watched film of Taylor, it was love at first sight on both sides.

"If he stays injury free and stays hungry and shows me the way he has shown me since he showed up in January, he could definitely play in the NFL one day," said Jimenez, who has been at Miami Beach High for two seasons. "He has to stay coachable and watch a lot of film. All the things he's done with us, he has to continue to do. But once you meet the kid, you fall in love with him. He didn't even know how to get into a three-point stance when we got him last January. But he's got a lot of talent and a lot of hunger."

Taylor first came to South Florida, according to his uncle Tony Hamilton, when he was 14 and enrolled at Miramar High. But after his mom was involved in a bad car accident, he was forced to return home and work to financially support his mom and now eight-year old brother Malik.

"His mom is better now, which is why he was able to come back," Hamilton said. "But when he went back, he was working with his uncle in plumbing, learning the trade and making whatever money he could to take care of his mom and brother. It was pretty tough. He sacrificed himself."

According to Hamilton, Taylor returned to South Florida his junior year and went out for football at Miramar, where Taylor lives. But he never saw the field because he was still learning how to play. In January 2009, Taylor enrolled him at Miami Beach High, not far from where he works at a nearby Publix. Unfortunately, do to some eligibility issues, the Florida High School Athletic Association only allowed him to play in five games at Miami Beach. Still, Jimenez said, Taylor made his presence felt. He earned best rusher award at the Down & Dirty Camp and played well in his five games.

"One thing he's done is gotten a lot stronger," Jimenez said. "When he first got here he was 6-4, 225. Now, he's 6-5, 260. He was benching 185 and now he's up to 260. He was power cleaning 125 and is at 225. We really pushed himself in the weight room. He was one of the guys who broke records. Now, he's squating 385 pounds. He's a great story."

Jimenez said Taylor has the grades to get into UM. "He's got like a 2.8 GPA and an 18 on his ACT score," Jimenez said. "Believe me, UM wouldn't have offered if they didn't think he could make it into school. He's a qualifier."

Taylor isn't the only good recruiting news for the Canes in the last 24 hours. Monsignor Pace quarterback Stephen Morris said he's a full-go to begin classes next week at UM and participate in spring football. Morris had been waiting on clearance from his school's principal on graduating early. He got it. Pace usually doesn't let students graduate in January. 

It looks like Morris will be joined by running backs Eduardo Clements and Storm Johnson, linebacker Tyrone Cornileus, center Shane McDermott and offensive tackle Malcolm Bunche as early entrants. UM is still waiting on word regarding JUCO tight end Chase Ford, who needs approval on a class he took at another school to begin this spring.

> Two current Cane commitments and cornerbacks -- Devont'a Davis from Gainesville High and Jeremy Davis from Cape Coral -- will take visits to other schools this weekend. Jeremy Davis is visiting North Carolina and Devont'a Davis is headed to Arkansas. 

> Don't hold your breath on the top offensive tackle in the country, Seantrel Henderson, visiting UM on Jan. 29. The Hurricanes weren't probably going to land him anyway.

Here are some clips on Delmar Taylor...

January 10, 2010

Is UM fading down the recruiting stretch?

I got to enjoy a few days off after the Orange Bowl last week and took comfort in the fact there probably wouldn't be much Canes news outside of what Frank Haith's basketball team would do Saturday night against Wake Forest in a big ACC showdown.

It was definitely a good win for the Canes, who needed a big win to hang their hat on after going 14-1 against what was ranked the 313th best non-conference schedule. But as much as I want to keep focus on Canes hoops, the disturbing trend of emails I've been receiving lately concerning what U perceive as UM fading down the recruiting stretch warrants conversation.

Javarie Johnson Sunday night, UM lost yet another commitment from its 2010 class when Javarie Johnson of Dunbar High in Washington -- considered the Canes' top linebacker -- switched from UM to Maryland. According to several recruiting websites, Johnson's coaches said he wanted to stay closer to home.  Canesport.com reported Johnson scored below an 820 on his SAT, which is the athlete requirement for admission to UM. Either way, Johnson became the third highly-rated recruit to drop off UM's commitment list since December, joining Miami Northwestern defensive tackle Todd Chandler (now headed to USF) and Jacksonville's Louis Nix (bound for Notre Dame) 

The Hurricanes basically replaced Johnson with little known Kelvin Cain, a 6-4, 215-pound linebacker from Clovis Buchanan High School in California. Cain's other scholarship offers were from Fresno State, Portland State, Nevada and San Jose State, according to CaneSport. 

Losing "commitments" is never good, especially those considered highly ranked. But it happens in recruiting. So you probably shouldn't be stunned or feel like the Canes' recruiting efforts are crumbling to the ground when it happens. 

The real cause for concern will be if UM doesn't close strong come Feb. 3. Right now, most recruiting analysts would tell you this UM class being put together after a 9-3 season and bowl loss to Wisconsin is average at best, and certainly not anywhere near the top of any national rankings. UM has met needs. There are seven offensive linemen (St. Thomas Aquinas tackle Brandon Linder, Malcolme Bunche and Shane McDermott are solid), four linebackers (Gainesville Kevin Nelson is impressive), four cornerbacks (none highly regarded), three running backs (Storm Johnson and Eduardo Clements are considered high-end), two tight ends (JUCO signee Chase Ford should help right away), a quarterback, a safety, a defensive end and a receiver. 

But where critics say UM has failed is nabbing the stars in their own backyard. And they -- the critics -- would be right. The 2010 class in South Florida was considered one of the best in the country (as usual). Yet, when you look over the top names from Palm Beach south all the way to Homestead, there aren't many who will be heading to Coral Gables in a few months to continue their football careers. 

Look at the Top 40 players from South Florida according to Rivals.com and see where they are headed or what schools they are considering. I bolded the future Canes to make them easier to find... 

1. Matt Elam, DB, Palm Beach Dwyer (Florida commitment)
2. Lamarcus Joyner, CB, St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida State commitment)
3. Jeff Luc, LB, Port St. Lucie (Florida State commitment)
4. Ivan McCartney, WR, Miramar (UM/West Virginia)
5. Gerald Christian, TE, Palm Beach Dwyer (Florida commitment)
6. Chris Dunkley, WR, Pahokee (Florida commitment)
7. Corey Lemonier, DL, Hialeah High (UM among six schools, but not favored)
8. Cody Riggs, CB, St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida commitment)
9. Michaelee Harris, WR, Northwestern (Louisville commitment)
10. Joshua Reese, WR, Miami Central (UCF commitment)
11. Quinton Dunbar, WR, Booker T. Washington (Florida commitment)
12. Eduardo Clements, RB, Booker T. Washington (Miami commitment)
13. Jakhari Gore, RB, Columbus (LSU commitment)
14. Giovanni Bernard, RB, St. Thomas Aquinas (Notre Dame commitment)
15. Lynden Trail, DE, Booker T. Washington (Florida commitment)
16. Delvin Jones, DE, Miami Palmetto (Tennessee commitment)
17. Torrian Wilson, OL, Miami Northwestern (Michigan, Tenn, Louisville)
18. Todd Chandler, DT, Miami Northwestern (USF commitment)
19. Brandon Gainer, RB, Miami Central (undecided)
20. De'Joshua Johnson, WR, Pahokee (Florida State commitment)
21. Brandon Linder, OL, St. Thomas Aquinas (Miami commitment)
22. Ethan Grant, RB, North Broward Prep (TCU commitment)
23. James Louis, WR, Delray Beach Atlantic (Ohio State commitment)
24. Jeffrey Godfrey, QB, Miami Central (UCF commitment)
25. Demar Dorsey, S, Boyd Anderson (Florida commitment)
26. Ted Meline, WR, North Miami (Tennessee commitment)
27. Richard Ash, DT, Pahokee (Michigan commitment)
28. Calvin Smith, DT, Hialeah (Tennessee commitment)
29. Brian Robinson, DB, St. Thomas Aquinas (undecided)
30. Shawn Corker, WR, Cardinal Gibbons (Texas Tech commitment)
31. Keion Payne, CB, St. Thomas Aquinas (Miami commitment)
32. Allen Hurns, WR, Carol City (Miami commitment)
33. David Perry, DE, University (Miami commitment)
34. James White, RB, St. Thomas Aquinas (Wisconsin commitment)
35. Darrius Milines, WR, Delray American Heritage (West Virginia commitment)
36. Max Beaulieu, DE, University (Syracuse commitment)
37. Shane McDermott, C, Palm Beach Central (Miami commitment)
38. Zachary Allen, LB, Pahokee (Wake Forest commitment)
39. Tony Grimes, CB, Hollywood Hills (Michigan/Mississippi)
40. Charles Fashaw, TE, Miami Northwestern (Undecided)

There were a few other Canes sprinkled in the Rivals 100 for Florida from other parts of the state: OT Tavadis Glenn from Jacksonville Parker was sandwiched in between Meline and Ash in the state rankings at No. 44; RB Darion Hall from Naples Lely is ranked 75th, right after Fashaw. Gainesville LB Kevin Nelson follows at 77, Fort Myers High CB Jeremy Davis is ranked 78th, OL Jonathan Feliciano from Davie Western is listed 92nd and QB Stephen Morris from Monsignor Pace is 93rd. 

Rankings and stars aren't everything. But the fact remains there is a lot of talent in UM's backyard heading to other place (namely pretty good football programs). Randy Shannon and his staff could make up for it with some excellent evaluation work and coaching, getting under the radar guys, making them better players and superstars. And they still have plenty of other high-end recruits (No. 1 OL Seantrel Henderson, Lemonier, McCartney, LB Christian Jones, TE Christian Thomas) at least reportedly interested in giving the program a look with visits.

But here's my advice: Keep your fingers crossed and hope the guys Shannon hired to restock his program with talent are a lot better at this than Rivals.

> In case you were wondering... Last year, the Canes nabbed RB Lamar Miller, DB Brandon McGee, DL Luther Robinson and DL Olivier Vernon among the Top 12 South Florida prospects according to Rivals. Among the state's Top 100 recruits, UM signed No. 2 overall player and safety Ray Ray Armstrong, No. 33 prospect in defensive end Dyron Dye, No. 39 prospect in cornerback Jamal Reid, No. 43 prospect in RB Mike James and No. 92 prospect in OL Cory White.