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19 posts from March 2010

March 31, 2010

Guard Antoine Allen transferring

The University of Miami announced Wednesday that freshman guard Antoine Allen has decided to transfer and pursue basketball at another school. 

Antoine Allen Allen, a 6-1 guard from the same AAU program Jack McClinton played for in Baltimore, averaged 2.9 points and 0.8 rebounds while converting 41.7 percent from long range in 17 appearances last season. He was named to the All-ACC Academic Men’s Basketball Team.

“I appreciate Antoine’s efforts this season,” UM coach Frank Haith said in prepared statement. “I support his decision to seek additional playing time with another program and I wish him well.”

The Canes return nine players including four starters -- Durand Scott, Reggie Johnson, DeQuan Jones and Julian Gamble -- who helped the team reach the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. Allen played one minute against Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament and had not played at all before that since the trip to Maryland on Jan. 26.

March 29, 2010

UM should be nastier up front (on defense at least)

UM coach Randy Shannon told reporters he wanted his team to "get tougher" this spring. So, now that the Canes are done with the spring, is UM a nastier football team in the trenches? 

QB AJ Highsmith gets tackled by safety Vaughn Teleamaque (No. 7) and defensive end Adewale Ojomo  There won't be any real way to tell until the season gets going. But strength and conditioning coach Andrew Swasey believes on size, strength and athleticism alone "we have to be." I caught up with Swasey Friday after UM's final practice of the spring and he had nothing but praise for the growth he's seen from the Canes' big boys in the weight room and on the field. He even went as far as to say the defensive line has as much talent -- if not more -- than the 2002 team that lost to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and boasted three first round picks, a third, a fourth and a fifth.

"I look at this crew and compare it to when Jerome McDougle, Andrew Williams, Vince Wilfork, [Matt] Walters, Jamaal [Green] and that crew was here," Swasey said. "That team was two-deep solid. This one might be three or four deep at end. Honestly, we've never had this many numbers."

Swasey said he is encouraged by the size and physicality of two players in particular at defensive tackle: junior Micanor Regis (6-3, 300) and sophomore Curtis Porter (6-1, 315). Both, he said, have elevated their play and development to a level the program hasn't had in some time. Swasey said he expects Marcus Forston, a 2008 five-star recruit coming back from a shoulder injury, to eventually blossom to that point as well. "When you go with Porter, Regis, Forston, you're sitting really stacked. I mean, it's a wrap guy," Swasey said. "What they are is tough. They're hard working kids. You can see the development, the maturity kicking in. You've created great depth."

UM produced only 24 sacks last season -- 19 from the defensive line. Former UM assistant Don Soldiger, who was at last week's final spring practice, said there is no way the program can't increase that number significantly with veteran Rick Petri now coaching a much more experienced defensive line. "He's going to take it to an entirely different level," Soldinger said. "He's a tremendous hire for Randy."

Said Swasey: "You look at end now, who hasn't played there? They aren't babies anymore. Olivier [Vernon] is coming back with a year in. [Allen] Bailey, [Adewale] Ojomo, [Steven] Wesley all have old head experience. Andrew Smith has a had a great spring. Marcus Robinson too. When you have a guy like [Dyron] Dye backing up, I mean come on man."

The Canes' offensive line, however, still has a lot more to prove before receiving high praise. Still, after surrendering seven sacks in the first spring scrimmage, progress was obviously made Saturday when the defense was only able to produce three sacks. With Orlando Franklin, Joel Figueroa, Harland Gunn and Brandon Washington the only returning players with real game experience, it was imperative for young guys on the offensive line to grow up or take at least a few paces forward this spring. Some clearly did; others are still working on it.

Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said the player he was most happy with this spring was center Tyler Horn, who probably solidified his spot entering the fall as the team's starting center. Swasey said it was good for redshirt sophomore Ben Jones and redshirt freshmen Jermaine Johnson to get a lot of snaps at tackle with Franklin out this spring. But of the many young players UM could end up having to depend on should injuries occur, Swasey was only confident telling me Johnson, Jones and true freshman Malcolm Bunche are probably physically ready enough to win battles in the trenches. But even Bunche, Swasey said, probably needs another year of development.

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

Brandon McGee > Sophomore cornerback Brandon McGee had a few mental lapses in coverage Saturday and got beat for big plays a couple times by the Canes' talented receivers. McGee's physical gifts certainly aren't to blame. Not only is he one of the fastest players on the team (he ran a 4.31 as a freshman), but at 5-11, 185-pounds he's strong enough in the eyes of Swasey to win most physical battles. 

"He's probably one of the most prettiest looking dudes out there," Swasey said. "There's just nothing like game experience."

McGee probably could have benefitted from a redshirt season as a true freshman. But considering UM was so thin at corner, he was asked to play. McGee is a talented player and it's just a matter of time before he takes the next step.

> Fifth-year senior Kylan Robinson made big strides to earn the top spot at middle linebacker coming out of the spring. But whether or not he keeps a starting job when juniors Jordan Futch and Ramon Buchanon return in the fall remains to be seen. "I think he has a good chance," said junior Sean Spence. "He's made big improvements in terms of mentally, physically. He's taking charge on the defense." 

Asked to compare Robinson to a few of UM's previous middle linebackers, Swasey said Robinson (6-1, 235) is "stronger than former middle linebacker Glenn Cook," but "not as fast as Darryl Sharpton." 

"He's very instinctive, athletic and knows where he has to be," Swasey said. "I'm excited for him. He can play."

March 27, 2010

Lot of scoring in UM Spring Game

TRAZ POWELL STADIUM -- If you took your eyes off the field Saturday at Traz Powell Stadium for even a second, you might have missed a lot. This year's Spring Football Game turned out to be about as action-packed as any played before it -- chock full of scoring from start to finish.

A.J. Highsmith threw 3 TDs as the passing game had a good day Saturday In the end, the team featuring UM's First Team Defense/Second Team Offense was able to rally for 58-53 victory over the First Team Offense/Second Team Defense. First, the stats and scoring and then few  thoughts/highlights...

RUSHING: Mike James 10 carries, 64 yards; Damien Berry 15-42, 1 TD; Stephen Morris 4-24; A.J. Highsmith 3-16; Storm Johnson 4-15; Lamar Miller 8-10, 1 TD; Spencer Whipple 2-(-10).

PASSING: Stephen Morris 12-for-21 209 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; A.J. Highsmith 11-for-20 131 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs; Spencer Whipple 7-for-16, 112 yards, 1 TD.

RECEIVING: Kendall Thompkins 8 catches for 84 yards, 1 TD; Travis Benjamin 6-171, 1 TD; Leonard Hankerson 3-61, 2 TDs; Davon Johnson 3-31, 1 TD; LaRon Byrd 3-26; Richard Gordon 2-22; Aldarius Johnson 2-20, 1 TD; Ben Bruneau 1-17; Allen Hurns 1-11; Billy Sanders 1-9.

SCORING
- Highsmith 16-yard TD pass to Hankerson (Jake Wieclaw kick)
- Highsmith 3-yard TD pass to D. Johnson (Wieclaw kick)
- Morris 75-yard TD pass to Benjamin (Wieclaw kick)
- Miller 2-yard run (Wieclaw kick)
- Highsmith 39-yard TD pass to Hankerson (Wieclaw kick)
- Whipple 9-yard TD pass to Johnson (Wieclaw kick)
- Morris 5-yard TD pass to Thompkins (Wieclaw kick)
- Berry 26-yard TD (Wieclaw kick)
- Wieclaw 33 FG

DEFENSE: Sean Spence 8 tackles; Brandon McGee 7 tackles, 2 pass break ups; Vaughn Telemaque 6 tackles; Tyrone Cornelius 4 tackles, 2 PBU; Steven Wesley 1 sack, forced fumble; Marcus Robinson 1 sack; Allen Bailey 1 sack; Ray Ray Armstrong 2 INTs; Colin McCarthy 1 INT; Adewale Ojomo fumble recovery. 

Ray Ray Armstrong > THE GOOD: Better quarterback play and pass protection. Three weeks ago in a scrimmage at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium, A.J. Highsmith, Stephen Morris and Spence Whipple had trouble just staying off their backs (they were sacked a combined seven times). Saturday, UM's offensive line played much better (only giving up three sacks). The extra time allowed for them to have a lot more success passing. After completing just 14 of their 23 attempts for 169 yards and one touchdown three weeks ago, the trio combined to go 30 for 57 for 452 yards, 6 TDs and 3 INTS... Ray Ray Armstrong stood out with two interceptions. 

> THE NOT SO GOOD: Secondary got torched at times. Sophomore cornerback Brandon McGee is going to want to delete Saturday's Spring Game from his memory banks. He was beaten several times in coverage and got an earful from defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff, who told him "you are better than that." For what it's worth, with All-American junior-to-be Brandon Harris out of the game, Canes quarterbacks spent a lot of time picking on walk-on Nate Gholston (listed at 5-7, 170). 

> INJURIES: Looks freshman running back Lamar Miller was the only one to suffer an injury. He went down with what I was told was a separated shoulder.

> FIRST TEAM OFFENSE: QB A.J. Highsmith, RB Mike James, FB Pat Hill, TE Richard Gordon, WR LaRon Byrd, WR Leonard Hankerson, LT Jermaine Johnson, LG Harland Gunn, C Tyler Horn, RG Brandon Washington, RT Ben Jones.

> FIRST TEAM DEFENSE: RE Adewale Ojomo, DT Micanor Regis, DT Curtis Porter, LE Allen Bailey, WLB Colin McCarthy, MLB Kylan Robinson, SLB Sean Spence, CB Brandon McGee, CB Demarcus Van Dyke, FS Jamal Reid/Ray Ray Armstrong, SS Vaughn Telemaque.

> SECOND TEAM OFFENSE: QB Spencer Whipple, RB Lamar Miller and Damien Berry, WR Aldarius Johnson, WR Travis Benjamin, WR Kendall Thompkins, LT Cory White, LG Jared Wheeler, C Shane McDermott, RG Malcolm Bunche, RT Stephen Plein.

I'll have more for you later including audio interviews and photos.

March 26, 2010

News & notes from Pro Day, final spring practice

CORAL GABLES -- It was a long first day back for me out at Greentree Practice Field after spending the better part of the last two weeks covering the Marlins. Here are a few news and notes from Pro Day and the final practice of the spring before Saturday's Spring Game...

AJ Trump  A group of a dozen Hurricanes participated in Friday morning's Pro Day and the overwhelming thought in my mind as I watched it with other reporters from high above on the second floor of the Hecht Athletic Center was: 'How many of these guys will really be Pros?' 

At this point, it's hard to see anybody in this class beyond tight end Jimmy Graham, linebacker Darryl Sharpton and offensive tackle Jason Fox getting drafted. The rest of the guys, like center A.J. Trump, running back Javarris James and possibly tight end Dedrick Epps are going to have to earn invites to camps and work hard to make practice squads and eventually impress enough to make the team.

That, however, isn't necessarily a bad thing. As Trump put it, being able to pick a team has its benefits. "I know I'm going to be a free agent," said Trump, who has workouts set up with the Lions, Titans and Bucs. "But that's actually a good situation for me because I get to choose where I'm going to go. In the end, I'm more excited about just getting my foot in the door somewhere else and representing the university."

Jimmy Graham GRAHAM WILL PROBABLY GO FIRST... It's pretty clear the guy drawing the most attention is Graham. The 6-8, 260-pound tight end and former power forward has had his toughness question by analysts like ESPN's Todd McShay. But it's obvious his athletic ability and upside -- as well as the success of other basketball players turned football stars of the past (Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez) -- has lots of teams interested.

After participating in the Senior Bowl and turning in the second-fastest 40-yard dash time among tight ends at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis (4.56), Graham passed on running the 40 Friday at the advice from his agent and really didn't do much. It was a smart move to be honest. As it stands, eight to 10 teams -- including the Miami Dolphins -- are interested in bringing him for workouts beginning Monday.

Pretty soon, Graham is going to have to send a big thank you letter to former Hurricanes quarterback Bernie Kosar. It was Kosar who drove down three times a week to throw passes to Graham and convinced him to give football a shot last summer. Graham said Kosar still calls him once a week to check on him.

"Being the first Cane taken is something I don't even think about," Graham said. "I'm just excited about the opportunity to play in the NFL."

Jason Fox FEELING FOR FOX... If there is one guy to feel sorry for these days it is former left tackle Jason Fox. After starting 47 games in his career, the past few months have been awfully tough for the 6-7, 314-pounder from Texas.

A knee injury cost him the final regular season game and the bowl game, then surgery. Friday, he was hoping to have a huge day -- especially after being unable to participate in the combine in Indianapolis. Instead, it turned out to be trouble. The All-ACC First Team selection suffered a left hamstring injury and slipped to the ground when running the 40-yard dash (It was on the same surgically repaired knee). Fox didn't talk to reporters afterward. But some draft experts were thinking he would go in the fourth round with a good Pro Day. It obviously didn't go that way.

"It's been tough to watch -- especially having been through so much with the guy, you've seen him play injured," Trump said. "It's been a difficult road for him. He kind of gave his heart and soul to this team. Now, he's kind of paying the price for it. But he'll bounce back. I told him many times I went to that all-star game and he can block all those guys. He'll get his shot and he'll be an established NFL player."

SHARPTON CONFIDENT... Darryl Sharpton would guess what round he's going to get picked , but he's confident he won't be around long. He was more than happy with his workout Friday where says he improved in every category. He said he ran a 4.6 in the 40 (he ran a 4.7 at the NFL combine, went from 24 to 26 reps in the bench press and ran the shuttle in 4.2-seconds. He also broad jumped 10-1.

"I'm a confident guy. I think I'm one of the best linebackers in the nation," Sharpton said. "And I expect to get drafted accordingly."

MORE NEWS AND NOTES FROM FRIDAY

Darryl Sharpton > UM coach Randy Shannon said Saturday's Spring Game, set for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff at Traz Powell Stadium on the campus of Miami-Dade Community College, will feature 10 minute quarters. One team will feature the first team offense and second team defense. The other will feature the second team offense and first team defense.

I asked Shannon for one positive he thought the team got out of this spring: "The development of certain players, developing young guys on the offensive line, the defensive front," Shannon said. "Like LaRon Byrd took the next step, the running backs. We knew our running backs were young, but then you see them progress. We've got a defensive line, now it's time to turn it on, and they did. You watch the quarterbacks be able to handle things. Everything changed a lot, which was real good, and you were happy to see those things happen."

I asked him what he wasn't happy with: "Bonehead stuff, turnovers," Shannon said. "But we didn't have that many turnovers because we worked in camp on turnovers. Last year we had some touchdown scores off returns, so every time there's a turnover I don't blow the whistle in practice. They know that's full speed. We're trying to get those things fixed from last year.

> Friday's practice was also alumni day and there were over 100 former players and coaches in attendance including Jimmy Johnson, Lamar Thomas, Ted Hendricks, Don Bosseler, George Mira Sr. and Cortez Kennedy.

> Defensive end Steven Wesley expressed a bit of sadness over the stabbing death of FIU running back Kendall Berry. Wesley, who attended Bartow High, played against Berry, who played for Haines City, in high school. Wesley said his best friend is Berry's cousin, Tyrone Berry.

Wesley said he knew Berry since the eighth grade, played AAU basketball and maintained a friendship with him through Facebook. "It seems like it ain't real," Wesley said. " He was a real cool, laid back guy, standup guy, a guy you can always depend on. I'm shocked."

Wesley said he called former high school teammate Aaron Davis, who plays for FIU, on Friday to pass along his condolonces. "The first thing that came to my head when I heard what happened was Bryan [Pata]," Wesley said. "I just told Aaron to keep his head up. I went through the same thing my freshman year when Bryan died. I told him just to keep his head up and keep praying."

March 21, 2010

Canes beat Gators 77-64 in second round of Women's NIT

Hey guys, Andre Fernandez here. Here's an update from the Canes' women's NIT game against the Gators:

In front of several of its women's basketball alumni, the Canes kept their season going with a 77-64 victory against the Florida Gators Sunday afternoon at the BankUnited Center.

UM won its second postseason game in a season for the first time in school history. The tournament expanded to 64 teams this season. It is the Canes' first trip to the Round of 16 since the 2005-06 season.

And UM will host again.

The Canes will play North Carolina A&T Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the BankUnited Center.

UM dominated the game and had four players score in double figures.

Shenise Johnson posted a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Canes, but Charmaine Clark had 16 points, Diane Barnes had 13 and Riquna Williams had 15.

The Canes also dominated on the boards, finishing with a 43-31 edge and 15-10 on offensive rebounds. The only thing that kept the game close was UF's three-point shooting. The Gators made 9 of 26 from beyond the arc, but Miami countered by making 7 of 22 from three-point range.

March 15, 2010

Seantrel Henderson will sign with USC

JUPITER -- For those of you still holding out hope the Canes will sign Seantrel Henderson, you can now stop. Word from ESPN's JC Shurburtt is that the nation's No. 1 offensive tackle will sign with USC later this week.

Henderson, who picked the Trojans over UM and Ohio State among others, was waiting to get a clearer understanding of the possible sanctions USC could be facing from the nCAA. Apparently, whatever he heard convinced him to sign. Shurburtt also reported Henderson received his ACT scores and is now academically eligible. 

> UM coach Randy Shannon said last week the Hurricanes were out of football scholarships anyway. Five-star defensive back Latwan Anderson signed a national letter of intent for a track scholarship last Friday. He will walk-on to the football team in the fall, but his scholarship won't transfer to football until he plays in a game. 

March 14, 2010

NIT passes on Canes

Frank Haith's basketball team made a lot of noise in the ACC Tournament. It apparently just wasn't enough to get the attention of the NIT selection committee.

When the NIT brackets were finally unveiled on ESPNU for the 32-team tournament moments ago, the Canes (20-13) were nowhere to be found. Unless Haith has a change of heart, that means UM's season has come to an end. Last week, Haith told reporters if his team received an invite to anything other than NIT, it would pass.

It's a tough way for UM to end the year, especially since they seemed to be playing at their best now. 

Miami won an opening round NIT game last year at Providence before losing to Florida in the second round. The Hurricanes have been to the postseason in four of Haith's first six seasons as coach. 

March 13, 2010

Canes aim for ultimate upset vs. Duke

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- For the past two days, Frank Haith's basketball team has been the feel good story of the ACC Tournament. The 12th-seeded Hurricanes have beaten two NCAA Tournament-bound teams with Dwayne Collins, their leading scorer and rebounder, relegated to cheerleading duties.

Nobody really expected them to pound Wake Forest by 21 points or come back from a 10-point first half deficit to knock off Seth Greenberg's Virginia Tech Hokies. But a win today against top-seeded Duke? If it happens, the collection of North Carolina basketball writers on press row could all suffer the same spastic facial reaction as the victims in 2002 cult classic The Ring.

Basically, the Canes have a chance to pull off the ultimate ACC Tournament upset versus Duke this afternoon. Only once has a 12th seeded team made it this far in the tournament to take on the top-seed. In 2006, Wake Forest played valiantly against top-seeded Duke before falling 76-66. What the Canes are doing in this tournament by just making the semifinals is rare. According to ESPN, only 28 teams out of the 482 seeded 10th or worse have made a major-conference tournament semifinal since 1994.

So how do the Canes pull off an upset for the ages? Cross their fingers and hope their zone defense doesn't get lit up by the three-point monsters wearing blue and white. And, play their butts off like they have the last two nights. 

STARTING LINEUPS
UM (20-12) Yr. Size Stats
G Durand Scott Fr.  6-3, 195    18.9 ppg, 3.5 apg
G James Dews Sr.  6-4, 213    11.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg
F DeQuan Jones        So. 6-6, 219    5.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg
F Julian Gamble R-So.        6-9, 255    3.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg
C Reggie Johnson      R-Fr.        6-10, 295    6.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Duke (27-5) Yr. Size Stats
G Jon Scheyer Sr. 6-5, 190    18.9 ppg, 3.5 apg
G Noaln Smith Jr. 6-2, 185    17.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg
F Kyle Singler Jr. 6-8, 230    17.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg
F Lance Thomas        Sr. 6-8, 225    5.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg
C Brian Zoubek Sr. 7-1, 260    5.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg

> The game will be televised on ESPN. If you aren't watching, you can follow along with my Twitter updates.

March 12, 2010

Canes proving they were better than last place

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The press room inside the Greensboro Coliseum is usually a pretty quiet place. At around 4:30 p.m. Friday, the neighbors did a nice job disrupting the peace. On the other side of the thick brick wall dividing the press from the locker rooms, a jubilant University of Miami basketball team could be heard celebrating their second upset win in a row at the ACC Tournament.

Durand Scott Before Friday, no UM team had ever won two post season conference games in the same season. Not the one Jack McClinton took to the second round of the NCAA Tournament two years ago. Not even the one that shared the Big East Title in 2000. Somehow, the most successful tournament team in UM history has become the one that finished in last place and is surviving without its leading scorer and rebounder.

"For real?" a puzzled Reggie Johnson told me when I mentioned his Canes were the first to win twice in a post-season conference tournament. "I had no idea. I guess that means we should have been doing this all year then."

It's far too late for UM (20-12) to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The only way for the Canes to go dancing is to beat top-seeded Duke Saturday and then win again Sunday. But one can only imagine the what-if scenarios at this point.
 
What if Durand Scott would have actually listened to Haith and been more aggressive at the start of the season instead of waiting for the final month to show everybody why he was so highly touted?
> What if DeQuan Jones would have averaged 14 points a game -- what he's done at the ACC Tournament -- instead of losing his spot in the starting rotation, his confidence and riding the pine since Christmas?
> What if Dwayne Collins would have gone pro? Would a full season of Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble been more fruitful for the Canes?
Would the Canes have blown a 17-point lead at home against Boston College?
Would UM have let their 12-point halftime lead against Duke wilt away?
> Would Miami really have finished in last place?

There's no way to really know. But there is a feeling in the Canes' locker room things would have definitely been different. Scott admitted he was nervous early this season to step on anybody's toes, despite the fact Haith was pushing him to take on a bigger role. 

Friday, though, Scott had no problem handling it. With the game against Virginia Tech in the balance, he scored 11 points over the final six minutes by attacking the basket like it was nobody's business. His teammates were glad he did.

"Coach said four low and just move out the way and let Durand go to work," guard Malcolm Grant said. "Durand's a great driver and a great finisher. It was just great for him to come through. The way I've always felt about it is whoever helps us win, that's who we want to do it."

The Canes are finally coming through this season. Win or lose against Duke, all U can say is better late than never.

I'm certainly not trying to single out Haith, Collins or anybody on this team for its regular season underachievement. What I'm saying is after watching them beat two NCAA Tournament teams in a row here, its obvious they should have been better than last place. This is a young basketball team and its taken time for them to learn how to win, feel confident. But it's obvious the talent was there for better results.

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

> For those of you still wishing for Frank Haith's reign as Canes coach to be over, ESPN reporter Andy Katz posted on his Twitter account that Haith could be a candidate to replace Jeff Lebo at Auburn, who was fired Friday. Haith and the Canes were already gone when Katz tweeted the message.

> With UM's two wins in the tournament, the Canes have gone from missing the NIT entirely to at least having a shot.

> According to UM's sports information office, Ohio star cornerback Latwan Anderson has formally signed his national letter of intent for his track scholarship.

Do Canes have another upset in them?

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Hurricanes' upset of fifth-seeded Wake Forest Thursday was by far the best thing that has happened for Frank Haith's basketball team since it began the season 15-1. It wasn't just the fact the Canes kept their NIT and NCAA hopes alive, but the way the team played in its 21-point blowout. UM finally showed the energy, aggressiveness and athleticism Haith thought his young team would display more of throughout the season.

Reggie Johnson  So the question now becomes: Was it just a one-game deal? Or, are we going to see this style of play from the Canes moving forward? Is DeQuan Jones going to go back into a shell? Are Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble going to continue to control the paint with their size and athleticism? 

The biggest thing injured senior Dwayne Collins said has been lacking this year for some of the young guys has been establishing consistent confidence. At times, he says, they don't realize how talented they are. "With DJ it's all about his confidence," Collins said. "When he has confidence, he can do anything. [Thursday] He just played free. He's a great player. But a lot of times he playes with a lot on his mind."

"I've been telling Reggie he's a beast forever. But sometimes, he doesn't believe it."

The Canes have won first round ACC games a few times before. This is the fourth time in six seasons UM has won a first round game at the tournament. But long post season runs aren't something the Hurricanes are known for. Miami has never won more than one conference tournament game in a season and reached the semifinal round just twice in the Big East (1999, 2000). 

So, if the Canes win today it won't just be a great step forward for this team, but for the program, too. 

Here are today's projected starting lineups...

UM (19-12) Yr. Stats
C Reggie Johnson, 6-10, 295      R-Fr.         6.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 12.7 mpg
F Julian Gamble, 6-9, 255 R-So.        3.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.8 bpg
F DeQuan Jones, 6-6 219 So. 5.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.5 bpg
G James Dews, 6-4, 213 Sr. 11.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.6 apg
G Durand Scott, 6-3, 195 Fr. 9.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.5 apg

Virginia Tech (23-7) Yr. Stats
C Victor Davila, 6-8, 245 So. 5.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.8 bpg
F Jeff Allen, 6-7, 230  Jr.  12.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 spg
F Terrell Bell, 6-6, 205  Jr.   5.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg
G Malcolm Delaney, 6-3, 190      Jr.  20.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.1 apg
G Dorenzo Hudson, 6-5, 220       Jr. 14.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.0 apg

Feel free to follow my in game updates on Twitter. The game will be televised locally on ESPN2 and or Raycom.

March 11, 2010

Scrimmage highlights; RBs Storm, Miller continue to shine

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- I wasn't at Thursday night's open scrimmage at Lockhart Stadium. But we had a few Herald correspondents there. Here are some of the highlights and stats provided by UM's sports information staff along with a few injury notes...

> STARS OF THE SCRIMMAGE... The big stars turned out to be freshman running back Storm Johnson and sophomore safety Vaughn Telemaque. Johnson ran for 104 yards and a touchdown and Telemaque had two interceptions.

> THE RUNNING BACKS... Johnson carried 10 times for 104 yards and scored on a 6-yard touchdown run. Redshirt freshman running back Lamar Miller carried seven times for 63 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 44-yard TD run and 5-yard touchdown run in a goal-line situation to end the scrimmage. Sophomore Mike James had 12 carries for 18 yards and one touchdown.

> DEFENSIVE LEADERS... Telemaque and junior defensive end Andrew Smith led the defense. Telemaque's first interception came on the second offensive possession of the game. He added another one right before halftime.

> QUARTERBACKS STRUGGLE... Sophomore quarterback A.J. Highsmith completed 7-of-11 passes for 94 yards and one touchdown, but was intercepted three times. Junior Spencer Whipple went 7-for-9 for 75 yards. Freshman Stephen Morris was 0 for 3.

Some Scrimmage Stats

Receiving:
Aldarius Johnson 3 catches, 45 yards;
Leonard Hankerson 2-35; Storm Johnson 2-14; Travis Benjamin 2-8, TD; Billy Sanders 1-17; Kendal Thompkins 1-16; Davon Johnson 1-14; Tommy Streeter 1-14 yards;
Lamar Miller 1-6.

Kicking:
Jake Wieclaw 2-for-2 Field Goals (33 yards, 27 yards).

Scoring
>
Highsmith 8 yd TD pass to Benjamin

> Miller 44 yd TD run

> Highsmith 13 yd TD run

> S.Johnson 6 yd TD run

> James 1 yd TD Run

> Miller 5 yd TD run

Defense: Andrew Smith 3 sacks;
Nathan Gholston 1 INT; Micanor Regis 1 sack; Tyrone Cornelius 1 sack; Adewale Ojomo 1 sack; Allen Bailey 1 sack; Ray Ray Armstrong 1 fumble recovery.

Did not participate: Running back Damien Berry (knee), guard Brandon Washington (knee), tackle Orlando Franklin (back), Brandon Harris (hamstring) and Joel Figueroa (shoulder).

Canes are Durand Scott's team now

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Frank Haith hasn't come out and said it yet (I'm not sure he ever will considering he never did it for Jack McClinton). But the University of Miami basketball team you will see on the floor this afternoon in the ACC Tournament (and over the next couple seasons) belongs to a new leader: freshman Durand Scott.

Durand ScottIt wasn't supposed to happen this quickly. Dwayne Collins, James Dews and Malcolm Grant were supposed to be the leaders of this team this time of year. But it's clear the future is now. Scott, the first UM player named to the ACC All-Rookie Team, has been given the green light to take over the team the last month. 

He's responded with 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 six assists over the Canes' last five games. It's not by accident that the team has looked better because of it, coming close to beating Florida State and nearly rallying UM from an 18-point deficit at North Carolina with 16 of his season-high 29 points in the second half. 

"There's no question Durand Scott is a guy players across the country are looking saying man, I'd like to play with him," Haith said last week. 

"He's a guy I think can attract other great players because he's a selfless player, but also a very good player. He's the kind of guy that will do whatever he has to do to win. When you look at his play and some of our other young guys, you got to feel like the future is bright. To go on that stage at North Carolina and put up the type of game he had at North Carolina, for that matter the game he had against Duke, you don't see many freshmen do that. That tells you right there he has a chance to be a special player."

A special player and perhaps the only big chip UM has left at the moment. If the Canes are going to win any more games this season and have a shot at the NIT (UM might have to win two games here to even be considered), it's clear Scott is going to have to lead them there.

> For updates throughout today's game against Wake Forest follow me on Twitter.

March 10, 2010

A good day for UM recruiting

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Is it just me or did Wednesday's news regarding five-star defensive back Latwan Anderson feel like the first big victory in recruiting for the University of Miami in a while? 

Latwan Anderson I'm not trying to put a negative spin on it. It's great the Canes were able to land a top-notch recruit they weren't supposed to get. But ever since Jacory Harris and those other guys from Miami Northwestern came in as part of ESPN's No. 1 recruiting class in 2008, the public perception has been the Canes have missed out on most of the big-time kids they really wanted.

You remember the names and the stories. It started with Patrick Johnson (now Patrick Peterson) dumping the Canes for LSU. Then, there was Matt Patchan, son of a former Cane, choosing the Gators over UM and talking trash about his dad's program. A year later, Kayvon Webster, Defensive player of the Year in Miami-Dade, switched from the Canes for USF on National Signing Day. Then, there was the whole Bryce Brown fiasco, which ended with him choosing Tennessee a few weeks after NSD. This year, Canes fans crossed their fingers for Seantrel Henderson and Ivan McCartney. Again, UM came up short.

Today, though, was a good day for UM. Anderson, a big-time talent in Ohio State's backyard, basically fell into the Canes' lap. Before Signing Day, he wasn't really even on the Canes radar. A U.S. Army All-American, he picked West Virginia on national TV and was all set to go there. Now, he's headed to UM without even being really recruited by UM coach Randy Shannon and his staff. 

The general response I gathered from fans since the news broke Wednesday morning was "it's about time." But is it really fair to say that? Last month, when the Canes wrapped up their 2010 signing class, the overall consensus from experts was that Miami underachieved. The thought was the Canes were supposed to do better with all of the talent available in their backyard. 

The truth is, nothing burns Shannon more than the perception he and his staff aren't doing their jobs as good as they should be doing it when it comes to recruiting in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. In his eyes, there have been a lot of great recruiting days since Jacory and company picked The U.

Randy Shannon LUNCH WITH RANDY... Three weeks ago, I got a chance to go out to lunch with Shannon. There were no tape recorders, no note pads. It was just two guys born and raised in Miami talking about the college football program they've been around (In my case, from a seat far away from the field for most of it). The hour and half I spent with Shannon was about as close as I've been able to get to him in the four years since I've been covering the team.

Shannon, guarded by nature, doesn't trust the media one bit. He thinks most of us don't do a good enough job investigating anything before we write it. But he also doesn't think he needs to volunteer any information he doesn't have to. This lunch -- in part -- was for us to get a better feel for where we come from, where our opinions are formed. 

In this case, Shannon doesn't want the idea to get out there that he's bashing programs in his backyard. So you won't ever read or hear any quotes from him saying high school programs are failing him. But the truth is he's worried about the way many local high school programs are being run these days. 

He says there are many issues that has made recruiting local players to UM a lot tougher than before. At the top of the list: Academic failure (test scores or low GPAs) and arrest records. The old UM might have been to take a chance those kids. But not this one run under President Donna Shalala. 

Then, there is the issue of individuals (street agents/assistant coaches) who are making deals (either for money or employment) with other colleges to send players away. On top of that, there are a few high school coaches for one reason or the other who have agendas against him and the program (in some cases because Shannon didn't hire them as assistants he was named UM's coach). Add it all up, and the field of high-end available recruits available to UM has shrunk. 

Shannon says he isn't asking for pity. He says he just thinks there needs to be a better understanding of why UM ultimately might not recruit a certain player or end up with them on National Signing Day. Ultimately, he says, every player now at UM has gone through the recruiting ringer (background checks, academic checks, character checks). Ultimately, he says, he is the final person to sign off on any written scholarship offer the program hands out. That whole Todd Chandler fiasco? Consider it one of a few mistakes by a now former assistant. But we know through Miami Northwestern coach Billy Rolle that Chandler was never given a written offer. 

Shannon says he is trying to help as many local coaches (many who are young and replacing legends) as he can better understand their responsibilities. He said he talks to them about image (he's scolded several local coaches for wearing bagging jeans and sunglasses on the sideline), instilling discipline (he says not enough suspend their best players for breaking the rules or missing practice) and not falling prey to recruiting promises (some high school coaches he says have been burned by college programs who promise they'll give them a job in exchange for a recruit). But it's hard sometimes, he says, to get through to them.

Whether you are a Shannon supporter or not, you still have to respect the fact the position he was put in wasn't easy. The Canes were well on the way to going in reverse by the time he took the steering wheel. Little by little he's made the program better than it was when he took it over. Nobody can argue that there isn't more talent on this team here now than when got it. Miami has a chance in 2010 to be really good again. And the bottomline is Latwan Anderson would not have picked UM if he didn't like the direction the program is headed in.

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

> I didn't make it up in time to catch the Canes basketball team practice at the Greensboro Coliseum, but I'll be at Thursday's ACC Tournament game against Wake Forest. I'll be sending updates on Twitter throughout the game. Our Michelle Kaufman wrote about the Canes' uphill battle coming into the tournament.

> Here is a highlight video I found on Latwan Anderson on YouTube.

Canes could still add two high-end recruits

With spring football in full swing, a forgotten storyline playing out behind the scenes these days in Coral Gables is that the Hurricanes are still in the running to add two of the nation's top 2010 recruits: cornerback Latwan Anderson (5-11, 185) and mammoth offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson.

Anderson, ranked the second best safety in the country according to Rivals.com, visited UM with his father last week and is expected to choose between the Canes and West Virginia Wednesday morning at his school in Ohio around 9 a.m.

Anderson originally committed to West Virginia, but chose not to sign a national letter-of-intent, instead opting to weigh all his options. If he chooses UM, word is he would come in on a track scholarship and then play football in the fall.

Henderson, who chose USC on National Signing Day but didn't, still has the Canes in the running with Ohio State. No word yet when Henderson will sign. But he is waiting to get a clearer picture on how the NCAA will come down on USC for possible NCAA violations.

March 07, 2010

Hurricanes Baseball from The Light: Florida Gators 4 @ Miami Hurricanes 2 (FINAL)

Maniac George Richards here LIVE! at Mark Light Field getting ready for a little college baseball as two in-state rivals battle it out in sunny South Florida.

Miami won the second game of the three-game set Saturday night with a 9-6 decision, meaning today's game is for the series.

Will be here all day, so keep checking in. The visiting Gators (wearing their road grays with blue caps) are taking infield now. The Canes are wearing their Sunday whites.

THE LINEUPS

UF: CF den Dekker; 2B Adams; 1B Tucker; DH Maddox; RF D.Pigott; SS Fontana; 3B Smith; LF J.Pigott; C Zunio. RHP Tommy Toledo (1-0, 2.08).

UM: CF DeVoss; SS Perez; 2B Lawson; C Grandal; LF Pelaez; 3B Martinez; RF Melendres; DH Ratcliffe; 1B Perry. LHP Eric Erickson (1-0, 2.31).

TOP 1: Erickson gets the first two batters to fly out before Tucker and Maddox line back-to-back singles. Dan Pigott grounds out FC to third to end the threat. UF: 0 R, 2 H, 1 LOB

BOT 1:With one out, Perez draws a walk but ends the inning trying to steal second. 0 R, 0 H, 0 LOB

TOP 2: 1-2-3 inning for Erickson....

BOT 2:1-2-3 for Toledo...And if you are ever in Toledo, check out Tony Packo's and get you a Hungarian hot dog...seriously, you will thank me. Any way, off to the third inning...

TOP 3:With one out, den Dekker singles then steals second. But he is stranded there. R 0 H 1 LOB 1

BOT 3: Melendres leads off after getting hit by pitch, moves to second on Ratcliff sacrifice. Melendres scores after E5. But that's all Canes get...R 1, H 1, E 1

TOP 4: The Gators get a big inning here in the fourth, with Bryson Smith smashing a shot over the left field wall. Smith's three-run shot brings in Dan Pigott (reaches on E5) and Nolan Fontana (single right). Erickson chased from game, E.J. Encinosa brought in with one out...Jon Pigott then doubles, steals third but Encinosa gets out of it with pair of Ks.

Off to the bottom of the fourth, Canes still getting no-hit...

BOT 4: With two outs, Chris Pelaez snaps one out into CF, then Harold Martinez goes to the LF; 1-2, 2 outs...Dan Pigott robs Melendres of extra bases and two RBI with a teriffic catch near the warning track in right...Canes get none...

TOP 5:Gators get an infield single but he's stranded at second...

BOT 5:Canes getting mowed down here...1-2-3

TOP 6:With runners on corners and 1 out, Morris goes to lefty Daniel Miranda out of the pen...he'll face Mike Zunino after warmups...Zunino, first pitch sac fly to RF, UF 4-1...

ALSO, YOU CAN FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER FOR UP-TO-MINUTE UPDATES: @OnFrozenPond

BOT 6: Stephen Perez leads off with a double, chases Toledo (3 hits)...lefty Kevin Chapman now in for UF...With two outs, Pelaez singles through gap and Perez scores...With runners at 1-2 with 2 outs, Melendres strikes out swinging...

TOP 7: 1-2-3 ... Time to stretch

BOT 7: DeVoss caught stealing after reaching on an error with two outs so that ends the inning...

TOP 8:Gators get a hit but nothing else...

BOT 8: Canes go 1-2-3...on to the ninth!

TOP 9:Gators go 1-2-3

BOT 9:Canes go 1-2-3 and that's it

UF: 000 301 000 4-9-3

UM 001 001 000 2-4-1

March 06, 2010

Saturday Scrimmage Report

Saturday, while I was up in Jupiter covering the Marlins, our Barry Jackson was in Coral Gables to cover UM's first scrimmage of the spring. Here is his report...

University of Miami coach Randy Shannon was pleased with the running game but unhappy with receivers' drops and missed tackles during Saturday's scrimmage, the first of three that UM will hold during spring practice.

"The guys we're depending on at receiver had too many drops and the tight end position had too many drops," Shannon said. "As a total offense, we had too many dropped passes. The best thing was the running backs really performed well. Damian Berry performed unbelievable. Lamar Miller did some great things. Storm Johnson did some great things, and Mike James."

Berry finished with 48 yards on eight carries, and James had 46 yards on six carries. Johnson, a freshman, ran for 34 yards on six attempts. Miller had 32 yards on nine carries and scored the only rushing touchdowns - one for nine yards and one for three.

The scrimmage was not open to reporters, but UM's sports information office reported that Miller bulldozed through the middle, carrying defenders with him, on the nine-yard score. But Miller said, "I have a lot of improvement to make on blocking schemes."

Other notes from the scrimmage:

> With Jacory Harris out while recovering from thumb surgery, A.J. Highsmith completed 9 of 18 passes for 95 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. The touchdown passes covered five yards to Leonard Hankerson, 17 yards to LaRon Byrd and 14 yards to Thearon Collier on a goal-line drill.

When Highsmith arrived at UM last year, "he scrambled more," Hankerson said. Now, "he's staying back" more and reading the defense.

> Spencer Whipple threw the only other touchdown pass, a 15-yarder to Travis Benjamin on a goal-line drill. Whipple also connected with Hankerson for the day's longest play (45 yards). But Whipple finished 2-for-10 for 60 yards and had one pass picked off by Ray Ray Armstrong, who had three tackles and the day's only interception.

> Freshman Stephen Morris, battling with Highsmith for the backup job, completed 6 of 11 passes for 63 yards. "Morris looks real good and stays calm in the pocket looking for guys downfield," said defensive end Steven Wesley, who had the only two sacks of the scrimmage.

Shannon liked how all three quarterbacks showed poise and "they didn't get down when a receiver dropped a pass."

UM didn't identify who dropped passes but said Benjamin led receivers in catches with four for 49 yards. Kendall Thompkins, trying to make a case for more playing time, had two catches for 32 yards.

> Defensively "we had too many missed tackles," Shannon said. "We got running backs that make people miss. But you know what? We've got defensive players that should make those tackles. I'm very disappointed the way we tackled. [But] we chased the football hard on defense." The defense held the offense to two first downs in the first six possessions before the offensive started playing much better.

> Linebacker Colin McCarthy had five tackles and a fumble recovery. Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke had three tackles and four pass breakups. Shannon said senior middle linebacker Kylan Robinson "is playing a lot better. Maybe the light came on."

> Kicker Jake Wieclaw, filling in for injured Matt Bosher, converted all three of his field goal attempts - from 32, 25 and 22 yards.

> Safety Jared Campbell (knee) and left tackle Orlando Franklin (back spasms) were among those who sat out the scrimmage with injuries. Franklin is unsure if he will return this spring... Former Canes Ken Dorsey, Jon Beason, Ed Reed and Antonio Dixon attended the scrimmage.

> UM will hold another scrimmage at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lockhart Stadium. The spring game is at 4:30 p.m. March 27 at Traz Powell Stadium. Both are free and open to the public.

March 05, 2010

Haith: 20 wins, postseason berth would satisfy

When the University of Miami men's basketball team started the season 15-1 it seemed inevitable the Canes would reach the 20 win plateau. Now, with only one regular season game left to play Saturday afternoon against Florida State at the BankUnited Center, all coach Frank Haith is hoping for is that his team still gets there.

Frank Haith Miami (18-11, 4-11 ACC) hasn't had the type of second half it was hoping for. But with a win Saturday against the Seminoles and a win Thursday in the first round of the ACC Tournament, UM will reach 20 wins -- likely good enough to earn a second straight NIT berth. And for Haith, who said his team shouldn't have lost at home to Boston College and North Carolina State, that would be good enough.

"I haven't had a chance to reevaluate the whole season. But I felt like if we would have gotten to seven league wins, that would have been awesome for these guys," said Haith, who said before the season he thought his team could finish in the top half of the ACC.

"We lost a whole lot with Jimmy Graham. You realize what those guys meant to your program as you go through the season. Jack McClinton, Jimmy Graham, Brian Asbury, Lance Hurdle, they were here for a long time. They won a lot of games and played in a lot of games. With that said, we're trying to build a program here. You want to have consistency, some winning ways. If we would have gotten to seven wins, that would have been awesome for me and the program to say we've been able to sustain winning, losing great players. Because you're going to take a dip. There's no way you're not going to take a dip when you lose guys that meant so much to your program... With that said, we still have an opportunity to get to where we want to be."

That would be the post-season for the third consecutive season -- and for the fifth time in Haith's six seasons as coach. Going to the postseason three years in a row is a rare feat at UM. It's only happened one other time when UM made it six seasons in a row from 1996 to 2002 -- the first four under Leonard Hamilton and the last two under Perry Clark.

"That's would be a pretty nice little deal for [our seniors]," Haith said. "I think for our program, you look at the history of our program and the tradition of our program, that's a nice little feat."

UM will honor its three seniors -- guard James Dews and forwards Dwayne Collins and Cyrus McGowan -- before Saturday's game. Haith said he doesn't know if Collins, who suffered a stress reaction in his leg, will play. Haith talked a little about both Collins and Dews Friday and what they've meant to the program.

"His freshman year, we wanted him to be a defensive stopper, something he probably hadn't had to do his whole career," Haith said. "But it was what the team needed and he was willing to do. His sophomore year he was a part of the team that went to the NCAA Tournament and was a critical member of that team, came back his junior year and we changed his role a little bit there. He's a guy who went through role changes his whole career. Now, he's been one of the leading scorers and been asked to to be a leader. There's no question James has been a special player for us and a special player for me to coach. You've seen his growth over four years. He's been not only a valuable player, but a valuable person on this team."

Collins, a player Haith pushed to attend NBA camps last year, hasn't had the type of senior season Haith was hoping for. But he said the 6-8, 241-pound forward has had to endure a lot during career.

"He was kind of thrown to the wolves as a freshman," Haith said. "We had a lot of injuries that year and Dwayne was asked to do so much early in his career. We lost Jimmy Graham, Ray Hicks, Anthony King for about nine games and he was the only post player we had and he had to play with a walk-on and a three-man at the other post position. To see him grow from that to where he is today is great."

Despite a few disappointments this season, Haith said he feels good about the direction of the program. He talked a lot about the growth of freshman Durand Scott and how he and redshirt sophomore Malcolm Grant will be a solid foundation heading into next season.

"We only have one senior on our team next year, that's Adrian Thomas," Haith said. "I'd be encouraged by what I see if I'm a fan and what's on tap for this program the next couple years."

> The Sean Taylor Foundation will host a celebrity All-Star Game Saturday at 3 p.m. at St. Thomas University to raise money for local youth programs. For more info, click here.

March 04, 2010

Spence eager to put 2009 behind him

If he wanted to reach for them, Sean Spence has plenty of viable excuses for his drop in production last season. 

Sean Spence He could blame the knee injury that cost him three games and slowed him down. He could point to his position switch -- from weakside linebacker to strongside linebacker -- as the reason why he didn't come close to matching the 65 tackles he made as a freshman when he was the ACC's Defensive Rookie of the Year. 

But the 6-foot, 217-pound junior-to-be isn't doing any finger pointing for his unspectacular sophomore season -- except at himself. "I have to go out there, make plays and help my team win. I didn't do that," Spence said Wednesday after the Hurricanes' sixth practice of the spring.

"I can't say it was a lack of maturity. I can't say it was my knee. All I can say was it was a lack of production. Last season just made me hungrier to want it even more this year."

Spence, who finished his sophomore season seventh on the team with 36 tackles including 6.5 for loss and three sacks, is already impressing his teammates this spring with his bounce-back attitude. Cornerback Brandon Harris said Spence, a childhood friend, "looks fast, looks physical."

"He's going in there, head on head with the offensive lineman, shedding blocks, making plays," Harris said. "He's a great motivator for the defense. He's a guy who is going to speak up when something needs to be spoken, keep everybody humble.

"I think it affected us tremendously [when he went out]. His presence on the field, it gives everybody a comfort level and a high and allows us to play faster and smoother. He makes sure everybody is on the right page. When you have somebody like Sean on your defense, you know automatically you can count on him to make a big play. When you got a guy like that on the field, the rest of our jobs are easy."

Spence started the first seven games of the season for the Hurricanes before injuring his knee in the first half against Clemson. He then missed the next three games, including arguably the team's worst defensive performance of the season against Wake Forest and the loss at North Carolina. He said he "didn't really feel right" until the bowl game. Missing time was tough to deal with mentally for Spence -- especially since he didn't miss any games in high school and played in all 13 games and started nine for UM as a freshman.

"Me and Sean are close friends and during that injury time he wasn't himself," Harris said. "It was hard for him to sit out and not be able to travel with the team and having to watch the games on TV and he'll call me after the games and was very disappointed he couldn't be out there. He did extra rehab, everything to make that injury process happen faster. But he sat out for a reason."

Spence, who said he's gained five pounds of muscle since the end of the season, has remained at strongside linebacker this spring with senior Colin McCarthy on the weakside. With so many young and inexperienced linebackers on the team, Spence said he's tried to take on more of a vocal leadership role on the field and in the film room at the urging of new linebackers coach Micheal Barrow.

"It's a new season, new year," UM coach Randy Shannon said. "and he's starting off fast right now in spring football."

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

Jake Wieclaw  > Trying to earn a kicking job on a team with Matt Bosher isn't easy. The All-ACC First Team kicker and second team punter handled all three facets last season for the Hurricanes including kickoffs. But redshirt sophomore Jake Wieclaw, who temporarily handled kickoffs before losing the job to walk-on Alex Uribe and then Bosher, is hoping he can finally win one of those three jobs come the fall. 

With Bosher out this spring (he reportedly injured his shoulder in a car accident), Wieclaw is being given every chance by Shannon to impress this spring. So far, Wieclaw says, all the special teams work has been centered on blocking. But he'll get a few chances to kick in pressure situations Saturday.

"I've always felt pretty comfortable inside of 40 [yards], Anything outside of 40 for a kicker isn't easy, but you should be making those," said Wieclaw, who feels his best shot at earning a job could be on kickoffs. "If [Bosher] does all three, then he does all three. If they need my help anywhere then I'll see what I can do to help out."

> It took cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke 33 college games before he intercepted his first past last season against Wake Forest. That's the only pick he has in three years. But so far through his first two practices in the spring, he's made interceptions on both days. Tuesday, Van Dyke said he got some tutoring from Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed about taking better angles. 

If Reed, 31, decides to retire, the Hurricanes might want to ask him to become a volunteer assistant. His senior year at UM in 2001, he had nine interceptions. Last season, UM had nine as a team (five more than in 2008).

March 02, 2010

Miller ready to flash breakaway speed

You have to give Lamar Miller credit -- at least he tried. Twice during track season the 5-11, 212-pound running back said he challenged receiver Travis Benjamin for the title of fastest Hurricane. And twice, Miller laments, Benjamin got the better of him -- barely.

Lamar Miller  "It's hard to beat him," Miller said of the much thinner Benjamin who placed fourth in the 60 meters (6.74 seconds) and two spots ahead of Miller (6.84 seconds) at last weekend's ACC Track and Field Indoor championships. "He runs at warp speed."

Miller might not be fast enough to catch Benjamin in track, but on the football field he's fast enough to grab just about everyone's attention. Tuesday, as the Hurricanes resumed spring practice in full pads and shorts, the redshirt freshman was back on the football field, flashing his speed and talent. And just like last season, he's receiving rave reviews.

Travis Benjamin "I couldn't wait to see him come back out on the field," said redshirt freshman defensive end Dyron Dye who faced Miller plenty on the Canes' scout team. "The things he sees, does, I've never seen a running back do the things he does. It's very exciting to go against him. It's crazy. I'm excited to see what he does this year."

Miller said he had a couple "big runs" Tuesday. "One, we were running a counter and I saw the hole, cut back and outran everybody," he said. "The next one was a stretch play, I cut back in the inside and did the same thing."

Miller knows the Hurricanes are likely to rotate running backs plenty this season and he said he just wants to earn his share of carries with the other guys -- likely senior Damien Berry and sophomore Mike James. He said his goal this spring is to stay healthy, drop down a few pounds (he wants to weigh 205 when the season starts), and work on his pass blocking -- something he didn't do a lot of at Miami Killian.

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

Dyron Dye  > I almost made the mistake Tuesday of confusing redshirt freshman defensive end Dyron Dye with senior Allen Bailey. Dye isn't as beefy as Bailey yet, but you can definitely see his 6-5, 250-pound frame has room to grow. Dye, who had knee surgery before the Oklahoma game last season, said he has added 15 to 20 pounds since returning.

"The way I put it on, I don't feel heavy," Dye said. "It came on bit by bit. I feel real good. I'm still moving the same as I did before."

> UM coach Randy Shannon said he hopes to run about 130 to 140 plays during Saturday's closed scrimmage at Greentree practice field. That's seems like a lot more than usual. The Canes usually run about 75 to 80 per scrimmage. Shannon said all players -- including the quarterbacks -- will receive equal reps. The scrimmage is open to local high school coaches and youth football coaches who participate in UM's weekend coaching seminar ($50 to register).

> The Hurricanes will have two open scrimmages for the public. The first one is Thursday, March 11th at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium at 7 p.m. The spring game is set for Saturday, March 27th at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami. Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on CSS. There will be an autograph session for fans an hour before both scrimmages are set to begin.

> Shannon said he was pleased with the first week of spring practice including the progress of his young quarterbacks in the offense. Occasionally, he says, a few scuffles have broken out between other players because of the intensity of the workouts. "That' the one thing you like, that those guys are really going after each other," Shannon said. "Instead of `you're my teammate, my roommate,' it's more of `you're on offense, I'm on defense, now I'm going to get after you,' which is good."

> Shannon praised receiver LaRon Byrd as one of his one of the opening week's biggest standouts. "He made a lot of plays last week, improved from last year," Shannon said. "We told him, and I told him Saturday, `Hey you had a great week. But now when we come back you have to have a different mentality; what you did last week is over with.' I'm trying to prepare those guys for next season, because we had success early in the season, guys were feeling good about themselves and probably slacked off. Now this is a time you can actually work on it to see if you take that next step, not relax now."

> Former Hurricane Ed Reed watched Tuesday's practice.