Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
Here is Miami’s updated injury report for Saturday's game at Clemson:
RB Graig Cooper - Lower Extremity
OL Malcolm Bunche - Lower Extremity
DL Curtis Porter - Lower Extremity
BAILEY NAMED TO LOTT WATCH LIST: Allen Bailey has been nominated for the Lott Trophy presented to college football’s Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year, as announced by the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation Thursday.
Bailey was one of four outstanding college defensive players added to the 2010 Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List for the award given to a player who exhibits the same characteristics Ronnie Lott embodied during his distinguished career: Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.
Bailey was joined by Quinton Carter of Oklahoma, Lawrence Guy of Arizona State and Prince Amukamara of Nebraska as additions to the initial list.
Voters for the award include selected members of the national media, previous finalists, members of the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation Board of Directors and distinguished alumni of various schools around the nation.
The winner, who will be announced at the annual black-tie gala in December, receives $25,000 for his school’s general scholarship fund. Three runner-ups each receive $5,000.
When Marcus Forston met Andrew Smith two years ago when they arrived on campus together as part of UM's nationally acclaimed 2008 recruiting class, Forston admitted he didn't think Smith would end up looking like the sleek, 6-3, 245-pound ab-muscle flaunting pass rushing defensive end he is today.
"That guy came in with a linebackers body and an offensive lineman's stomach," said Forston, who at 6-3, 305 pounds has never exactly tried to pass himself off as an Adonis. "Right now, he's got his abs. He's slimmed down, toned. Guy is looking good right now."
Smith looked good at Pittsburgh last week, enjoying his finest hour as a Hurricane. On a night when UM produced five sacks and nine tackles for loss, Smith led the charge, producing two sacks and three tackles for loss on a four-tackle night. The fact Smith was UM's best pass rusher last week didn't surprise anyone in the Canes' locker room -- nor would it if he finished the year leading the team in sacks.
As lightly regarded as Smith was coming out of Coconut Creek Monarch High (he was ranked the 89th best defensive end in the country by ESPN.com), his raw skills and ability to play both end spots -- with his right or left hand down -- are unique according to coach Randy Shannon. And it might not be long before opposing teams starting giving him as much attention as they do senior Allen Bailey (sack), junior Adewale Ojomo (two sacks) and sophomore Olivier Vernon (team-leading 3.5 sacks).
"If you would have asked me this or asked anybody on this team two years ago about Andrew Smith making this big adjustment or this big jump, nobody would have seen it," Forston said. "That's a guy who has the best pass rush on the d-line right now. As a defensive line, we know we don't have a guy that can come off the line the way he does right now. He has great hands, great leverage and he's good at leaning. A lot of defensive ends are tiny in the hips and can't bend. He can bend and lean."
Smith said he's added about 20 pounds since arriving on campus -- all of it muscle. Shannon said the fact Smith spent the entire offseason running and conditioning with Bailey, UM's most physical defensive lineman, was a huge help.
"When you have a guy who competes with Allen Bailey in conditioning, you can only get better," Shannon said. "Andrew has improved his mind, strength and mind strength. You expect big things out of a guy that works that hard."
The Hurricanes, who rank second in the country in sacks, will face a heftier challenge this week getting to the quarterback against Clemson. The Tigers, who bring back four starters on their offensive line, have only given up two sacks this season (fewest in the ACC). With Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker battling back from a few bruised ribs in his back, it's likely the Tigers will try and max-protect their quarterback and roll him out of the pocket.
So far when the Canes have been at their best defensively, it's been because they've been able to get the quarterback on the ground and make plays in the backfield. “Tackles for losses are really important for us," Bailey said after the win at Pitt. "It sets the tempo and [gives us] momentum for the whole game."
Said Vernon: "Parker is very quick, he throws the ball pretty fast. We just need to rush him out the pocket. Once we get him on the run, he's not going to be too fast."
A FEW MORE TIDBITS/NOTES
> Former Hurricanes starting quarterback Robert Marve was lost for the season at Purdue on Thursday. Marve, who went 6-5 as a starter at UM in 2008 when he threw 9 TDs and 13 interceptions, tore the ACL in his left knee for the second year in a row in a 31-20 loss to Toledo.
Marve had completed 67 of 99 passes for 512 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He also had 32 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Some Hurricanes fans might not be happy with quarterback Jacory Harris (55-86, 690 yards, 6 TDs, 6 INTs), but the grass is not necessarily greener without him. Marve obviously wasn't playing much better than Harris has this season and former backups Taylor Cook (Rice) and Cannon Smith (Memphis) are not exactly flourishing either.
Cook has played in mop-duty in two games and is 13 of 22 for 98 yards and an interception. He's one of two backups to former Hurricanes recruit Nick Fanuzi (who was headed to UM before Marve picked the Canes). Smith was the starter at Memphis before going down with a concussion. Now, he's the backup to former Miramar High standout and true freshman Ryan Williams. Smith is 13 of 21 for 130 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in two games worth of action.
The Hurricanes have A.J. Highsmith (4-7, 18 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) and Spencer Whipple (3-4, 22 yards, 0 TDs) as the current backups with true freshman Stephen Morris expected to be redshirted.
Miami Northwestern QB Teddy Bridgewater, the only quarterback the Hurricanes appear to be signing in the 2011 class, has looked good in his first three games for the Bulls. He's 55 of 76 for 932 yards, 11 TDs and 0 INTs. But he'll have three tough opponents over the next three weeks -- Saturday against Miami Booker T. Washington, Oct. 9 vs. Miami Central and Oct. 14 vs. Columbus (ESPN).
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney spent 10 minutes on the ACC Teleconference Wednesday morning talking about Saturday's game against the 16th-ranked Hurricanes.
Among the keys to beating the Hurricanes, Swinney said, forcing quarterback Jacory Harris to feel uncomfortable in the pocket. The Tigers rank 10th in the country in sacks and have two terrors at defensive end in Da'Quan Bowers and Andre Branch, who each have three sacks through the first three games of the season.
"We’ve got to just try to not give up big chunks of plays," Swinney said. "They like to get their offense in chunks. They’ll throw it up and they got really talented wideouts that we’re going to have to do a great job with. The biggest thing is just getting pressure on the quarterback. We’ve definitely got to affect him, not let him get comfortable in the pocket. He likes to be in the pocket. We have to make him get on the run, so to speak.
"Against these guys you better tackle well because if you don’t there’s a lot of yards after the catch or some type of homerun score. So we’ll have to do a super job on that. they have an excellent group on offense. they like to be balanced. They do a lot of formations, a lot of unbalanced type of alignments which can create some issues for you as far as getting lined up on defense and stuff."
Swinney said he was impressed by the growth he's seen from UM's defense under second-year defensive coordinator John Lovett. They key will be the battle up front. The Tigers have only given up two sacks this season -- one against Presbyterian and another in their loss to Auburn. Left guard David Smith, though, one of four returning stareers, will miss Saturday's game with an ankle injury.
"They’ve got pretty good people and stats to back it up," Swinney said of the Canes. "No. 1 defense in our conference and we have total respect for them.
"Our offensive line has got to win at the line of scrimmage. No doubt about it. we cannot let them tee off on us. We have to do a great job at the point of attack whether we’re running the ball or throwing the ball. That’s a big matchup. We’re not giving up a lot of sacks – we’re one of the better teams out there and they’re obviously one of the better teams in getting sacks, so that matchup is going to be critical throughout the game."
> Gene Sapakoff from the Post and Courier writes about the Tigers' search for receivers after the depature of Jacoby Ford.
HERBSTREIT THINKS CANES CAN RUN THE TABLE: ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit told WQAM's Joe Rose Wednesday morning the 16th-ranked Hurricanes should finish the regular season 11-1.
"If I were a Miami Hurricane fan, instead of spending time worrying about Jacory Harris and taking shots at him, I would be looking at this week as pretty much, if you win this game, Miami's not losing another game the rest of the year. That's how much is at stake this week," Herbstreit said. "I don't see anyone beating Miami. I've told you since August, this team's gonna win 10 or 11 games and go to a BCS bowl game, and I don't see any reason to change my mind. This game Saturday at Clemson is two of the best teams in the ACC going at it. I think Miami wins this game and goes on to win the rest of their games."
So what happens if the Canes do go undefeated the rest of the way? Could they play in the national championship game? There's always that possibility -- but vaulting an undefeated team like Boise State isn't likely. In fact, there's a chance the Canes might not face a ranked team the rest of the regular season. And that would obviously hurt them in the BCS standings.
The Seminoles, who will play at Sun Life Stadium on Oct. 9, are the only remaining team on UM's schedule who is even receiving votes in the Associated Press poll. Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina -- all teams most expected to give UM fits in conference play -- each have two losses. And South Florida (2-1) hasn't looked very good. The Bulls struggled to beat Western Kentucky 24-12 last week.
A year ago at this time, Orlando Franklin was trying to play the role of a 6-7, 312-pound sponge. Everything four-year starter Jason Fox taught him in practice about playing left tackle, Franklin said he stored away.
Monday, that extra tutoring reaped some reward when Franklin was named the ACC's Offensive Linemen of the Week after compiling eight pancake blocks and two lumberjacks (cut blocks) in a 31-3 win over Pittsburgh last Thursday. The start was only his fifth at left tackle since moving over from left guard and it was further evidence Franklin is growing more comfortable with the responsibility of covering the quarterbacks' blind side.
According to UM, Franklin has graded out at 95, 96, and 96 percent with 12 pancake blocks and he's yet to give up a sack in three games.
"I'm pretty comfortable, but there are still a few things that get me," said Franklin, who points to pad level as an area in which he wants to improve. "I give Fox [now with the Detroit Lions] a call after every game, ask him if there is anything I could be doing differently... there's always room for improvement."
The Hurricanes' offensive line does not have an easy task in front of it Saturday at Clemson. The Tigers are tied for 10th nationally in sacks (UM is 2nd) with 3.33 sacks per game. Franklin, who has yet to give up a sack this season, figures to have his hands full with Andre Branch, a 6-5, 260-pound junior who is tied for the Tigers' team lead with three sacks.
On the other side, senior Joel Figueroa (who went back to taking some snaps at guard this week), redshirt freshman Jermaine Johnson and freshman Seantrel Henderson will have the responsibility of trying to slow down 6-4, 275-pound junior Da'Quan Bowers, who also has three sacks and is considered a future NFL First Round pick. Last week at Pitt, Figueroa and Johnson were both beaten for sacks, including one that left quarterback Jacory Harris' left shoulder "nicked," according to coach Randy Shannon.
Franklin said Wednesday he's looking forward to the head-to-head battles -- including the way Henderson (6-8, 355) handles them. Franklin said he's been trying to play the role of mentor to the freshman phenom, who is expected to receive a larger role Saturday after getting in on eight plays (mostly in goal-line and rushing situations) at Pitt.
"I try to sit with him and talk to him, let him get a better understanding of the game," Franklin said. "In high school, you're not really taught anything. Then, you come here and they throw everything at you. I know it's hard. I keep stressing to him -- if he sticks with it, he's going to learn it. The more you repeat it, the easier it is to learn. "
Franklin said he's seen Henderson, rated the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country last year coming out of high school, make big strides over the past couple of weeks in practice and said he thinks Henderson has a "pretty good" understanding of the playbook. He just wishes Franklin had a saavy veteran playing next to him.
"The thing about it is he doesn't have a guy like Fox sitting right beside him like my freshman year," Franklin said. "If I messed up with a call, Fox would have corrected me right before the play even started.
"[But] that kid is going to be real exciting. I'd hate to see how that kid is going to look a year from now when he really knows everything about this game. It's going to be pretty exciting to watch that kid."
NOTES FROM WEDNESDAY'S PRACTICE AND SOME LEFTOVERS...
PRACTICE IN RAIN: Despite heavy rain in the area because of Tropical Depression 16, Shannon said the Canes were able to get in a full practice Wednesday morning. "We did some good stuff today," Shannon said. "It was good to practice in the rain, just the concentration part of it."
"You always get worried about it the day before, have to make alternate plans. But we came out this morning and the field wasn't flooded and the lightning rods were out. We did some live stuff, ones against ones, pass rush stuff, third downs, red zone stuff just to keep us sharp."
RED ZONE FOCUS: Much like gang tackling was a focus last week before the Pitt game, red zone scoring has become a major emphasis for the Canes this week in practice.
UM scored points on 43 of its 53 drives a year ago (81 percent) including 34 touchdowns (64 percent). This season, the Canes have driven into the red zone 13 times in their first three games and have scored 10 times (77 percent). They've scored eight touchdowns (61 percent).
"Last year, I remember it seemed like everytime we got in the red zone, we were getting in the end zone," Franklin said Wednesday. "It hasn't really been the same this year. Kicking field goals looks good -- it's great to help out [kicker] Matt Bosher. But we're not really trying to major in that."
TEAMMATES SAY JACORY HARRIS IS FINE: Throwing six picks in two games might rattle most quarterbacks. But according to Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, center Tyler Horn and receiver LaRon Byrd, Jacory Harris is just fine and focused on Clemson.
"He's going great," said Forston, was also Harris' former high school teammate at Miami Northwestern. "Like I tell him, make the people stop talking about the interceptions. If you keep doing what your doing, making plays, we keep on winning, everything is going to be all right."
Said Spence: "You can't break Jacory's spirit. He's still the same old Jacory. Jacory has been here for three years. Even the greats throw interceptions. Peyton Manning. Brett Favre. He just has to keep firing."
Shannon told WQAM's Joe Rose Tuesday morning that his receivers need to battle more for the ball. Shannon told us last Thursday that four of Harris' six interceptions were receiver Travis Benjamin's fault. Byrd said Tuesday it's up to the receivers to make the play on balls up for grabs -- regardless if they're small like Benjamin (5-11, 176).
"When that ball is in the air, it's the job of the receiver to make that play," Byrd said. "You either knock it down or take the 15-yard penalty. But you don't let him catch it... You always want you to have your quarterback trusting your receivers. When they get to the point where he's not throwing it up, then that should be the question. But as long as the ball is in the air, the receiver has to make the play."
If you're looking for an extra story line to sink your teeth into this Saturday when the 16th-ranked Hurricanes travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson at high noon, here's a good one: consider this game the 2008 recruiting national championship.
The Canes, you might remember, were tabbed with having the No. 1 recruiting class in the country by ESPN in 2008. The Canes signed 12 of the Top 150 players in ESPN's class. Clemson was right behind UM with 10, a class considered the second best in the country.
Here's who was on ESPN's list...
1. DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson
12. Jamie Harper, RB, Clemson
21. Sean Spence, OLB, Miami
27. Marcus Forston, DT, Miami
28. Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
34. Kyle Parker, QB, Clemson
39. Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
40. Spencer Adams, S, Clemson
44. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
53. Ramon Buchanon, OLB, MiamI
63. Aldarius Johnson, WR, Miami
65. Xavier Brewer, DB, Clemson
68. Davon Johnson, WR, Miami
77. Jordan Futch, LB, Miami
78. Antoine McClain, OT, Clemson
83. Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
90. Marcus Robinson DE, Miami
104. C.J. Holton, LB, Miami
145. Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami
If you take score based on starters alone, the Tigers have obviously gotten more bang for their buck. Parker, Bowerrs, Harper, Ellington, Thompson, McClain and Allen are all consistent starters for Clemson. UM has defensive stars in Spence, Harris and has gotten plenty of big plays from Benjamin. But not enough to claim to have the better class at the moment, especially when you consider Clemson played for an ACC title last year and the Canes are still looking for their first trip to one. But a lot can change on Saturday with a big Canes win.
Harris, who along with Spence got to know many of Clemson players in the 2008 Under Armour High School All-American game, said last year's 40-37 overtime loss is incentive enough for him to seek revenge.
"It was a tough loss," Harris said Tuesday. "It was one of those games we felt like we had a win and let it slip through our hands. It was unacceptable. We came in yesterday and looked at the film and it kind of hurt."
Spence, who was hurt in last year's game, is playing down the class rivalry. For him, it's about the teams. "That's 2008. This is 2010," Spence said. "We're going to see who the best team is, not the best class."
A FEW MORE TIDBITS FROM TUESDAY...
> Freshman offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson practiced with the first team Tuesday, but don't take that as a sign he's won the right tackle job or will be starting Saturday against Clemson. Just take it as a sign he's being tested and will probably play more.
In a 10 minute private interview with Shannon, our Susan Miller Degnan learned senior Joel Figueroa is back taking snaps at guard. Shannon isn't necessarily disappointed with Figueroa, who was moved out to tackle from guard to try and help fill a position of need. It's just evident Figueroa, who gave up the sack that led to Jacory Harris "nicking" his left arm, probably isn't fast enough to play out there. So, it appears Henderson, who continues to improve, will split time out at tackle along with redshirt freshman Jermaine Johnson while Figueroa still fills in some as well.
"Everyday he's getting better," center Tyler Horn said of Henderson. "As the year goes on, you're going to see him a lot more. He's a good player and he's earning his time on the field. He asks questions all the time with the coaches, with the GAs, learning the offense so he can be on the field. He has a lot of desire."
> The reason I was told cornerback Ryan Hill will probably remain in the starting lineup at cornerback this week over DeMarcus Van Dyke is because Hill (6-0, 205) is simply more physical than DVD (6-1, 185). The coaches also want to reward Hill for the way he helped shut down Pitt's Jon Baldwin (6-5, 230).
> Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker was suffering from bruised ribs after the Auburn game, but practiced full speed Monday. The Hurricanes' defense ranks second in the nation with 4.67 sacks a game. While defensive end Olivier Vernon said the Canes' No. 1 goal will be to put heat on Parker, they don't necessarily want to hurt him. "We're just trying to get to him," Vernon said. "We're not trying to hurt the man."
> Vernon by the way was a little bothered by the fact the Tigers are hosting the Canes on Homecoming weekend. The Tigers are 64-19-3 in Homecoming games and have only two losses on Homecoming since 1971. "I'm just guessing they want a good game," Spence said. "We'll put on a show for the home crowd."
> While Clemson's receivers posed a huge threat last season to the Canes, Saturday's game looks like it will be more about slowing down the Tigers' running backs Andre Ellington (7.4 avg, 4 TDs) and Jamie Harper (5.0 avg, 1 TD rushing, 5 catches, 59 yards, 3 TDs receiving) and tight end Dwayne Allen (8 catches, 156 yards, 1 TD).
"They got two good tailbacks," Shannon said. "Those guys are very explosive. Ellington is probably the fastest one. Harper is probably bigger, but he's got speed also. They're going to try to get matchups, linebackers on running backs.
"The tight end [Allen] is a key for them. He does a great job running option routes, getting to the sticks, getting first downs. It's going to be very vital for us that we take him out of the game when they go to the passing game. Their offense -- they run screens to the tight end, tailback, run sprint out and throw it to the tight end, wheel routes back to the running back. Everything they do is predicated on mismatches. That's what we have to notice and observe on film. "
Shannon said freshmen Eduardo Clements and Storm Johnson have done a nice job playing the role of Ellington and Harper this week on the scout team.
> Canes defensive tackle Marcus Forston has a soft cast wrapped around the thumb on his right hand. He said he dislocated it, but will play Saturday for sure. "They put it back in place," Forston said. "I'm good."
Come check out a few video clips from today's interviews with Sean Spence, Tyler Horn, Vaughn Telemaque, Marcus Forston, Ryan Hill and LaRon Byrd as they all looked ahead to Clemson.
We also have audio interviews that go further in depth on other topics including Randy Shannon's entire press conference from today.
I'll have more notes and thoughts for you later today.
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, who hurt his left shoulder (non-throwing side) when he was sacked at Pittsburgh Thursday night, was out there at practice early this morning (Tuesday) throwing passes. Have no idea if he's 100-percent (on the left side), but it has to be a good sign that he was out there.
Seantrel Henderson, the nation's top recruit (this past year) out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, was practicing at right tackle with the first team. Henderson is a 6-8, 355-pound beast on the field, and he has been used lately in goal-line and short-yardage situations. When Henderson is in there, the Red Sea parts. But he hasn't been in Coral Gables that long and he still has a lot of learning to do with his new offense, so he has been carefully used. It will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets at Clemson, which is the loudest stadium I've been in and could create havoc for UM's offense.
Seriously, it is LOUD.
The noise was deafening the last time UM played at Clemson, in 2005. I still remember Kenny Phillips -- then a freshman -- making the game-saving interception in triple-overtime. One of the most exhilarating games I've covered.
Back to practice: Sophomore cornerback Brandon McGee was on the sideline with his lower-left leg propped up on his helmet as he was examined by a trainer. It appears that he might have injured his left ankle or around there. He got up and walked gingerly to where the DBs were practicing. We left practice shortly afterward.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
How do you tell a player who has blown out his knee and is out for the season to keep fighting their way back? What do you say to a player whose older brother was shot and killed over a set of car rims? How do you comfort an athlete who just lost an uncle -- and a big fan -- to a brain tumor?
University of Miami linebacker Jordan Futch didn't ask for all of that anguish, but it came his way last October. First, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee five games into his sophomore season (his second season-ending injury in a row).
Then, it got worse when his mother, Caroline Futch, called him frantically and in tears on Jan. 21. Much to her relief, her first born, Jordan, was fine. Her elder step son, Sean Jr., wasn't as lucky. The rumors she'd been hearing about her husband's son being killed later turned out to be true. Sean Jr., 21, was with found in the back seat of a friend's car in Liberty City hunched over the backseat of baby he was trying to protect from gunfire. There was a bullet hole in the back of his head, all part of a deal gone wrong.
"It wasn't his fault," Jordan contends. "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some guys tried to steal some rims he was trying to sell. They started beating his friend up and so he got his gun out and tried to protect himself. And then they started shooting. There was a child in the back seat and my brother was trying to protect this child. My brother jumped back into the car and tried to protect the child and get in the way. They put a couple rounds in the car and unfortunately one hit him in the back of the head, which was the killer shot. That was it. He was gone.
"He wasn't do anything bad. He was trying to get some money for his rent. It's a hard world out there with this economy."
Guns, drugs and bad neighborhoods are things Randy Shannon tries hard to keep his players away from. But as much as he's done to build a divide from trouble, tragedy still finds its way into their lives through friends and family members. Futch isn't the only Hurricane who has lost a family member close to him recently. Last season, safety Randy Phillips lost his younger brother Randall to a drug overdose. This summer, freshman linebacker Travis Williams lost his brother to gunshots shortly after arriving on campus.
Tragedies? Shannon knows them all too well from his own life. You know the stories. His father was gunned down when he was 3. He had older twin brothers addicted to crack cocaine and other siblings die from AIDS. Some people might could grow numb to bad news. Somehow, Shannon doesn't.
When Futch's mother called him to tell him about what her son was dealing with -- two weeks before National Signing Day no less -- Shannon called Futch into his office. Shannon put his arm around him -- like he does with all the others you never hear about -- and he let Futch cry.
"I know they speak on a man-to-man level I'm not privy too," Caroline Futch said. "But whatever he's done to help Jordan, he's done an amazing job. When I spoke to Randy, I told him 'Look I know you have a perspective going through this with your family. I've never lost a child or sibling. Please do what you can.' He just knew what he had to say to Jordan. I can't tell you where it came from other than the coaches' own personal experiences. I'm grateful. You see how Jordan is now."
Futch is grateful, too. The way he talks about Shannon goes beyond your typical coach-player relationship. It's not easy to get a 6-3, 240-pound linebacker to cry. But when Futch talks about what Shannon means to him, the tears flow.
"I just have to thank god everyday, thank the man above and thank coach Shannon for the love and support," Futch said. "Coach Shannon, like I said, I don't want to start tearing up, he was the real supporter. He had his issues with his family, a lot of people lost. It was real special to have him and that's why I love coach Shannon so much and I'll do whatever for that man because I know he'll do whatever for us. It means so much to have him here as coach. He's another father figure for me. I really appreciate him."
As you know, Shannon isn't one to smile much. But when I told him what Futch had said about him, he couldn't help himself. If there's something Shannon loves about being the coach of this program -- in the city he grew up in -- it's being more than just the coach.
"It's part of the job being a counselor, being a motivator," Shannon said. "Sometimes you have to be a father to them. Sometimes you have to be a grandfather. It's all kind of things and all kind of hats you have to wear, which is part of the job. Families give you their young men and they expect you to keep them on the right track. That's what we do here."
The powers that be (that would be television officials) have chosen Florida State at Miami as the premier ACC game on Saturday, Oct. 9.
The Hurricanes and Seminoles will square off at 8 p.m. that night at Sun Life Stadium -- to be nationally televised by ABC.
And by now you probably know that UM at Clemson this Saturday is at noon on ESPN2.
Here is the TV slate for Saturday, Oct. 9:
Boston College at NC State, ACC Network, 12 p.m.
Central Michigan at Virginia Tech, ESPNU, 12 p.m.
Clemson at North Carolina, ABC/ESPN*, 3:30 p.m .
Virginia at Georgia Tech, ESPNU, 3:30 p.m.
Navy at Wake Forest, ESPN3.com, 6:30 p.m.
Florida State at Miami, ABC, 8 p.m.
ALSO: Senior left tackle Orlando Franklin, 6-7 and 312 pounds, earned ACC Offensive Lineman
of the Week honors Monday after grading out at 96 percent in helping UM defeat Pittsburgh
31-3 Thursday. Franklin helped UM's offense compile 348 yards -- 248 passing and 100
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
With the now Canes preparing for a trip to Clemson and important ACC showdown, here's one final look at the 31-3 win over Pittsburgh and a few final post-game thoughts:
> The Canes defense showed us they're much improved... Coach Randy Shannon said his defense was embarrassed when they watched film of the Ohio State game. They can be proud of the Pitt game. All week long the emphasis was placed on cleaning up missed tackles and creating turnovers. The Canes resolved those issues with gang tackling and two interceptions in the fourth quarter deep in their own territory. Pitt finished with 11 first downs and 232 yards of total offense. Those numbers are similar to every good game the defense played last season (Georgia Tech had 12 first downs, 228 yards total offense; UCF had 11 first downs, 229 yards total offense; Virginia had 10 first downs, 149 yards total offense; and USF had 11 first downs, 220 yards total offense). The difference is this Canes defense dominated up front, creating five sacks and nine tackles for loss (more than in any of those previous wins) and the turnovers (USF, GT, UCF and UVA had one or less). What I liked most were the 3-and-outs -- the Canes forced seven in all before Pittsburgh began to have a little success late in the game against some second team players.
WHAT ELSE TO LIKE FROM THE GAME
> Sean Spence proved he's moved past his sophomore slump... He didn't necessarily look bad against Ohio State (he had a career-high 11 tackles), but we almost needed to see another good game from Spence to reassure us he really is back to being the playmaker he was as a freshman. We got it Thursday. He led the team with nine tackles and produced 2.5 tackles for loss to go with 1.5 sacks. He now not only leads the team in tackles with 24 overall, but he also leads the team in tackles for loss (6.5) and pass breakups (2). So why is Spence doing a better job than a year ago when injuries and a move to the strongside seemed to slow him down? It's simple: the guys around him are doing a better job and offenses are no longer able to take him out of the game. "I give a lot of credit to my d-line," Spence said after the Pitt win. "They kept me free, kept guys off me. The secondary did a great job covering guys, making sure they threw the ball underneath and allowing me and Colin to make tackles."
> The Canes continued to show us they have a legitimate pass rush... Remember how frustrating it was last season to see quarterbacks have all day to throw the football? Not so in 2010. While Pitt's offensive line was not the greatest, the Canes rebounded from their one-sack performance against Ohio State by getting in the backfield early and often. Andrew Smith led the charge with two sacks. Don't discount Smith's value especially with Marcus Robinson (right ankle) still dinged up. Robinson traveled to Pitt, but didn't play. As Allen Bailey pointed out after the game "[Smith's] ability to play both sides really helps out. With injuries on the inside, it gives me a chance to go inside and him to play left side."
> Damien Berry's effort... Berry set a new career-high for carries with 21 for 87 yards and a touchdown. A lot of those yards were hard earned. He had to break several tackles to keep drives alive and pick up first downs on third down. He also got more involved in the passing game, catching two passes for 18 yards. Lamar Miller finished with 31 yards on eight carries and touchdown. Miller still finished nine touches shy of the 20 Shannon said he would get before the game. But 35 rushing attempts compared to 32 pass attempts was a nice sign of balance for the offense.
WHAT WAS TROUBLING
> Obviously, the interceptions by Jacory Harris... Six picks in two games isn't good no matter where you point the finger. Shannon is obviously pointing most of them toward Travis Benjamin, who isn't free from blame. Here is what troubles me -- and gives me some hope, too. Regardless of whether or not Benjamin is running the right route or not fighting enough for the football, Harris needs to know better than to throw floaters his way, especially into heavy coverage. Now, one thing I liked from Harris was how he bounced back from his rough first half. He finished 8 of 10 over the final two quarters for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Instead of allowing Harris to scan the field in the second half, offensive coordinator Mark Whipple made him roll out of the pocket more and concentrate on one or two options with safe passing plays. If that's what it is going to take for Harris to stop throwing interceptions, at least we know now there is a bit of a solution.
"Jacory is a real good quarterback and we know if that kids' heads on right we can go a long ways," left tackle Orlando Franklin said after the game. "It was definitely important for us to come out and make a statement for him. If he's on the right page, if we're on the right page with Jacory, there's no telling how far this team can go."
> The struggles Jermaine Johnson and Joel Figueroa had at right tackle... After doing a pretty good job at Ohio State, Johnson and Figueroa finally looked like this was only their third game starting at right tackle. Both were beaten for sacks and on several other plays that Pitt's athletic defensive ends made. Look, neither of these guys are going to be perfect. But in the ACC, where there always seems to be great pass rushers this is something we'll have to continue to monitor. The good news is, it looks like freshman Seantrel Henderson is making strides. He was in on key running situations and it might not be long before he's ready to push Johnson and Figueroa for some real playing time.
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS/NOTES
> The special teams deserves some props for improving their tackling after giving up a few long runs at Ohio State. The Panthers only started one drive in UM territory and started five of their six drives following a kickoff inside of their own 26 yard line. Pitt, which came in having blocked 23 kicks in the last five seasons, didn't come close to blocking any Thursday night.
But there were also a few mistakes -- two illegal block penalties that negated a 65-yard punt return by Travis Benajmin and a 29-yard punt return that turned into a 44-yarder and gave Pitt possession at the UM 20 following a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Vaughn Telemaque.
> Other than Harris' "nicked" left shoulder, there didn't appear to be any serious injuries to Canes players although left guard Brandon Washington and linebacker Ramon Buchanon both spent some time on the ground before leaving and returning. Although Shannon said Harris is fine, we've heard Harris was seen with his left arm in a sling after the game.
> For Shannon's teleconference review of the game on Friday, check out our UM audio page.
> The Canes are expected to resume practice as usual on Tuesday.
PITTSBURGH -- Couple of thoughts and post-game interviews after UM's 31-3 win at Pittsburgh on Thursday night:
> The defensive effort I saw Thursday night was about as good as I've seen a UM defense play in a long time. The Canes' defense finished with nine tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions. I think I could count the number of missed tackles this week on one hand. Hats off to the coaching staff for a great job in practice this week. Now, that being said, Pittsburgh's offense was horrendous. Even when their quarterback had time to throw, he still missed open receivers downfield. When he did find them, many times they dropped it. The Canes deserve credit for a great effort. But Clemson will be a much stiffer challenge next week.
> UM coach Randy Shannon continues to put the blame for Jacory Harris' interceptions on his receivers. After the game (and in the interview you can watch below) Shannon says Travis Benjamin is responsible for four of Jacory's six interceptions this season. When I got back to my hotel room and watched the rebroadcast of the game on ESPN, I heard the announcers say that they had spoken to offensive coordinator Mark Whipple about the INTs before Thursday's game. According to Craig James and company, Whipple is also putting much of the blame on the receivers joking at one point that if he was in the NFL, he'd cut them.
I'd love to ask Whipple myself what the issue is but assistant coaches are no longer being made available to local beat writers who cover the team -- just ESPN (TV) and WQAM (radio). I'd also like to ask Jacory what he saw on those plays. But we were informed in the fourth quarter tonight Harris would be "taking a break" from interviews. We're not sure how long it is going to last. But I'm guessing he might be the only college or pro quarterback in the country who gets to avoid post-game interviews and tough questions. Call me a whiny reporter, but even as a fan I'd be crying about it.
> Freshman offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson looks like he's making strides -- and I wonder if it won't be long before he gets his shot at the starting job. The Canes are using him mostly in rushing situations. He came in near the goalline on the opening drive and sprung the key block that got Damien Berry into the end zone.
> Senior defensive tackle Allen Bailey ended his sackless streak (7 games) on the first defensive play of the game. Bailey said he was in for about 12 snaps at defensive tackle. He said the emergence of Andrew Smith (2 sacks Thursday) is part of the reason he's been able to move inside and help the Canes' at tackle, where a few players have been lost for the season with injuries.
> Congratulations to Ryan Hill on getting a pick in his first start at cornerback. He said he wasn't even sure he had made the interception until after his teammates told him. Hill was recruited at corner, but had to play receiver when he got to UM because the Canes were shorthanded. And how about DVD? DeMarcus Van Dyke, who lost his starting job to Hill, made his second career pick to cut short a Panthers potential scoring drive. He then added to it with a beautiful 74-yard return.
PITTSBURGH -- The 19th-ranked Hurricanes (1-1) try to get back on the winning side of things by facing one of their former Big East rivals, Pittsburgh (1-1), for the first time since leaving for the ACC. The 7:30 p.m. game will be televised on ESPN and on the radio at WQAM.com. Feel free to participate in our discussion below as you tune in.
REWIND: The Canes lead the all-time series 21-9-1. The last time they met, UM came away with a 28-14 win at Pitt. Jarrett Payton led UM's offense rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown while Jonathan Vilma had a game-high 11 tackles as UM's defense produced nine sacks and three turnovers. The Canes have won six in a row in the series. The Canes are looking for its 33rd consecutive win against an unranked, non-conference opponent in regular season play.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH: The Panthers opened the season ranked, but quickly dropped out of the Top 25 poll with a tough loss at Utah. The following week, they crushed New Hampshire on the same day the Canes lost at Ohio State. Pitt has compiled a 6-9 mark on Thursday night, its last appearance coming on Oct. 2, 2008, when the Panthers defeated No. 10 USF in Tampa, 26-21. Pitt is 1-3 against Miami on Thursday night, the lone victory a 21-17 decision in 1997 at Pitt Stadium.
Pittsburgh's offense is led by Big East 2010 Offensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year Dion Lewis (5-8, 195), who has struggled rushing for only 102 yards on 35 carries (2.9 avg) in his first two games as a sophomore. Last season, Lewis lead the country in rushing with 1,799 yards. Utah held him to 75 yards on 25 carries. Ray Graham (5-9, 195) has had fewer carries, but has been explosive, rushing for 115 yards on nine carries. First-year starting quarterback Tino Sunseri has completed 65 percent of his passes for 459 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs in his first two starts. His top two targets in the passing game are big receivers -- Jon Baldwin (6-5, 230) and Mike Shanahan (6-5, 220). Baldwin is the experienced veteran with 15 catches of 40 yards or more -- including nine that have gone for touchdowns.
The Panthers defense was one of the best country last season, leading the country in sacks and ranking 17th in rushing defense and 23rd overall in total defense. But injuries have hurt them a little bit. Big East Defensive Player of the Year Greg Romeus (Coral Glades High) had back surgery and isn't expected to return at the earliest until November. Junior defensive tackle Chas Alecxih (6-5, 280) could still present a huge problem for the Canes in the middle, especially after seeing the success Ohio State had creating pressure up the middle of Miami's offensive line. Alecxih has three of his team's six sacks this season. Right end Brandon Lindsey (6-2, 250) has two sacks starting in Romeus' place. Strongside linebacker Greg Williams (6-3, 240) ranks second on the team with 11 tackles. The Canes are going to want to keep the ball away from sophomore free safety Jarred Holley (5-11, 180) who has both of the Panthers interceptions this season.
Interesting special teams stat for Pittsburgh: The Panthers have blocked 23 kicks under Dave Wannstedt since the 2005 season. In 2008, the Panthers blocked a school-record and national-best 10 kicks. Six current players have blocked kicks during their Pitt careers. The Panthers blocked one in their season opener versus Utah.
FOR THE CANES, THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON...
> First and foremost, how quarterback Jacory Harris bounces back from what he called his worst week as a Hurricane following a loss. It wasn't just the four interceptions against Ohio State for Harris, but the off the field issues -- racist Twitter messages, etc. The Canes need Harris, who was obviously bothered by it all, to prove he's focused on football and zeroed in on his receivers. The smart thing for offensive coordinator Mark Whipple to do is take the pressure off Harris from having to make too many big plays with his arm. UM coach Randy Shannon said his running backs Damien Berry, Lamar Miller and Mike James would get at least 20 touches each this week between rushes, returns and receptions. If the Canes are smart, they'll do just that. Pittsburgh's run defense isn't at full strength and gave up 122 yards on 27 carries in its loss to Utah. The Canes should be able to run the football and then throw it pretty easily. The Panthers rank 94th in pass defense.
> All week long we've heard about the amount of attention the Canes have spent in practice trying to improve their tackling and trying to create turnovers. It's time to see if the hardwork paid off. Pittsburgh's offensive line had to replace all three interior linemen from last season's team -- a big reason the team has struggled running the football. There's no reason the Canes shouldn't be able to bottle up Pitt's running game and put pressure on the Panthers' young quarterback. Allen Bailey, who hasn't had a sack since last Halloween (a stretch of seven games), will see more time at tackle this week. I'm guessing he'll be a big factor in this game.
> Heinz Field can be a tricky place to kick field goals because of the wind. After missing one in his last game and having another blocked, Matt Bosher can go a long way in improving his NFL stock with a good game in this one.
> MY PICK: This Pittsburgh team was picked to win the Big East in the preseason and as upset and focused as UM might be, I don't see a blowout happening. Including its season-opening 27-24 overtime loss at Utah this year, Pitt's last four losses have come by an average of just 3.5 points per game. The Canes are 8-12 all-time under Shannon away from home. This won't be easy, but they'll find a way. UM 26, Pitt 17.
With the late game start, I won't be doing any live chat this week. Feel free to discuss the game below.
Here is the University of Miami football Tuesday injury report heading into Thursday’s game at Pittsburgh.
OL Joel Figueroa – Upper Extremity
DL Luther Robinson – Lower Extremity
DL Marcus Robinson – Lower Extremity
RB Graig Cooper – Lower Extremity
OL Malcolm Bunche – Lower Extremity
LB Kelvin Cain - Dental
DB Lee Chambers – Upper Extremity
DL Curtis Porter – Lower Extremity
Surgery and Out for the Season
FB John Calhoun – Lower Extremity
LB Shayon Green – Upper Extremity
RB Darion Hall – Upper Extremity
DL Jeremy Lewis – Lower Extremity
LB Travis Williams – Lower Extremity
Randy Shannon has had a lot of teachers throughout his life. But none know him better than the guy who will be coaching against him Thursday night.
Wannstedt isn't kidding. As the linebackers coach and defensive coordinator at Miami under coach Jimmy Johnson, Wannstedt was involved in recruiting Shannon out of Miami Norland High and coaching him with the Canes. When it was time for Shannon to go the pros, Wannstedt was in Dallas with JJ when the Cowboys used their final pick in the 1981 draft to take Shannon. When Shannon's playing career was done, Wannstedt hired him to be the Dolphins linebackers coach.
"When you hire coaches you want people that No. 1 are very knowledgeable particularly about what you want to do defensively. Randy is very smart that way," Wannstedt said. "You want to hire people you know as people, you know their work ethic, you know what they stand for. And people that you trust so when you get to those tough parts of the season people as you always do, you want to surround yourself around people that are loyal."
Shanoon been loyal to the Canes since leaving the Dolphins. And when he became head coach four years ago, he once again went to Wannstedt for assistance.
"I asked him to come up and spend some time [two days] with some of our defensive coaches. They talked about some of the things they were doing on defense and it was a great exchange," Wannstedt said. "We talked a little bit about certain things that come up with head coaching and hiring people. There were no specific topics that we sat down and talked about. Me knowing the culture at Miami and having coached there, we were able to have a real good conversation. Heck we talked about ex-players, from their involvement to spring practice. We kind of just talked back and forth on a lot of topics."
There's no telling how much Wannstedt's familiarity with Shannon will really help or hurt the Hurricanes Thursday night. But the Panthers, picked by many to win the Big East this year, will be no pushover. Shannon said Sunday he expects a physical battle.
"Knowing Dave Wannstedt for a long time - him being my coach and working with him at the Dolphins, I've spent a lot of time with him. He wants to be a physical, tough team that will bend but don't break defense," Shannon said.
"It's going to be an exciting game, two teams that are 1-1 and looking for an opportunity to get better on both sides of the football and also on special teams. The Pitt offense, they have a 1-2 punch running the football that will be key to this game. They have a big-time receiver that makes a lot of plays for them, is their go-to guy. Defensively they play together as a group. They may not have any superstars, but they line up in a 4-3 scheme and play sound. It's going to be fun to see what happens Thursday night."
A few more tidbits from practice...
> While tackling has been a huge emphasis this week in practice, creating turnovers -- particularly hanging onto interceptions -- haven't been far behind.
"That's probably one of the biggest things we've worked on this week," senior cornerback Ryan Hill said. "Striking the ball carrier, stripping the ball, intercepting the ball. I think coach Shannon, he's out there throwing balls after every play to the cornerback.
"It's kind of funny but we're doing everything we have to do to make sure we catch the ball. I saw him out there today throwing the ball to Demarcus Van Dyke. I was like what is he doing? But I like when coach Shannon does stuff like that. It's having fun. But it's also making us work and making us think about creating turnovers at the same time."
> Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri has only made two starts in his career, but he's thrown for 459 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 65 percent of his passes.
"He is doing a great job for them,'' Shannon said Tuesday. "He is not turning the ball over a lot and doing a lot of good things just managing the offense. They have two great receivers that they are going to throw the ball to and they have a great running back. We know we have to come out and control the run game and make sure that those big guys don't get big plays.''
> A big key for the Canes secondary will be covering receiver Jon Baldwin, who at 6-5, 230 pounds will have a rather large size advantage against UM's corners. In just over two seasons, Baldwin has 15 catches of 40 yards or more -- including nine that have gone for touchdowns.
"That's the matchup you want,'' Hill said Monday. "If he's the go-to guy, that's who you want. You can kind of make a name for yourself covering a receiver like that. You look at Randy Moss and Darrelle Revis yesterday. You want that challenge if you're a corner. Obviously, we have a challenge in front of ourselves.''
> Heinz Field is notorious for having some of the worst wind conditions of any stadium in the NFL. Shannon said Monday it will be up to special teams coach Joe Pannunzio and kicker Matt Bosher to determine which way they want to kick.
"You just wait until game time because the wind does swirl with that stadium and Giants Stadium is like that,'' Shannon said. îîSometimes the Dolphins' stadium swirls a little bit, you have to figure out what type of wind it is each day."
> On the injury front, Shannon said defensive end Marcus Robinson and defensive tackle Luther Robinson both practiced Monday. We just aren't sure to what extent. I saw Marcus Robinson limping off the field and with a brace on his right ankle after practice.
Marcus Forston knows Jacory Harris about as well as anyone at the University of Miami. They've been friends forever -- since before Harris even became the starting quarterback on Miami Northwestern Senior High's back-to-back state championship teams in 2006 and 2007. Win or lose, Forston has learned, Harris usually bounces back and is always usually positive.
So when Forston noticed Harris being unusually quiet after last week's 36-24 loss at Ohio State, he knew something was wrong. Turns out, there was. Harris revealed Sunday that shortly after the loss to the Buckeyes he received a racially charged tweet directed at him. The message: "[UM fans] don't want a black quarterback here."
"It hurt him a lot," said Forston, whose locker was across from Harris. "He never in his life would expect that to come from a fan, especially at UM, being in Coral Gables, how diverse it is down here. He didn't really tell me what happened. He just said a lot of stuff was going on from Twitter, but he didn't get into details."
Harris called the message "disheartening" and admitted "it kind of brings you to tears." He's absolutely right. The type of bigotry we still see in society today is sad. Some of the comments on this blog after the Ohio State loss had to be deleted because they were horribly racist and just flat out disgusting. And there is no place for it in public forums or even the social networks.
Harris has every right to feel hurt. But at the same time, he shouldn't let any of this get out of control. Harris' comments Sunday -- whether he intended them to or not -- is sure to shine the spotlight on him even more over the next couple days as the 19th-ranked Hurricanes try to regroup in front of a national ESPN audience Thursday night at Pittsburgh. It's only natural now that the national media will jump all over this story because of three key elements: racism, black quarterbacks and social media.
Frankly, if there is anything Harris could use right now it's less of that. As cool as he's proven to be at times throughout his college and high school career at handling pressure in the fourth quarter and leading his teams to victory, Harris showed us Sunday where his mind was at -- and it wasn't necessarily football. He was already accused of that before, when two hours before kickoff in Columbus he was tweeting how upon arrival at the Horseshoe there were "middle fingers everywhere."
Look, it's not easy being the starting quarterback at the University of Miami. Being black makes it even tougher when there are obviously some people in this world who continue to be racist pigs. But this football team needs Harris, perhaps more than any other player, to be focused on football. They need him to be a leader about as much as they need him to stop throwing interceptions.
Like it or not, there doesn't appear to be a Bernie Kosar or Vinny Testaverde here in waiting. Stephen Morris is being redshirted and that other next star -- Teddy Bridgewater -- is still at Miami Northwestern.
Racism sucks. But at the end of the day, Harris should care a lot less about being disliked by some racist idiots and a lot more about winning. He shouldn't be sending out tweets apologizing to Canes fans who stick with him and then chastising the large majority that jump on and off the bandwagon. He needs to go back to what he came to UM for. That's to win football games and to try to lead this program back to the top.
A few more tidbits from Sunday's press conference...
> Harris said receiver Leonard Hankerson is leading the team in receptions not because he's become his favorite target, but because "he's in the right spot at the right time - he's always basically wide open when I throw it to him. He works hard, does everything right like the rest of the receivers. I guess the ball is just flying that way. And it's still the beginning of the season, just two games."
> Asked about taking chances as a quarterback and knowing when not to throw the ball, Harris said, "No matter what the situation the game is, I'm going to be the same quarterback. I don't think the less chances I take I make smarter reads. It always seems at the end of the game everything opens up and it gets kind of easy. I don't have to take many chances when I'm in the game, because it's basically there."
It's really the last part of that quote that opened my eyes a bit. If you think about it, the only thing that's usually common at the end of a game is that Harris is in the shotgun, running a no-huddle offense with five receivers. That's pretty much what he did in high school. I don't want to put words into his mouth. But it sounded to me like he almost admitted he's only comfortable throwing in those situations.
> The Hurricanes still aren't very good at forcing turnovers, but they rank No. 1 nationally in tackles for loss with an average of 12.5 per game. At that rate, Miami would finish with 150 tackles for losses this season. Last season, the Hurricanes compiled 91 tackles for losses over 13 games. Shannon said Sunday it's all a product of maturity.
"It's the most tackles for losses I've seen at the University of Miami this early in the season," Shannon said. "The more tackles for losses you get, the better you're doing because it [sets up] third and long."
Banning Twitter wasn't the beginning of the new, meaner Randy Shannon. And hopefully for the Canes, it's not the end.
As most of you know by now, the Hurricanes were banned from using Twitter earlier this week by their head football coach. What most of you probably aren't aware of is "that punishment" was not the worst of it. According to a story by the Associated Press, Shannon lit into his players after Saturday's loss at No. 2-ranked Ohio State. Some of you might be thinking, well, what's the big deal? He should have.
As it turns out, it might have been the first time Shannon has actually given his team a real tongue-lashing. "I never have seen him like that," offensive lineman Orlando Franklin told AP, "but I can't say I was shocked."
Said linebacker Jordan Futch: "We deserved it."
According to the story, Shannon spared no feelings in that postgame meeting. Receivers and running backs who ran the wrong routes and played a role in Jacory Harris throwing four interceptions all felt his wrath. Linemen who missed blocks that led to sacks, they felt the heat as well. And most of the fire was directed toward those defenders who missed tackles, especially ones in the backfield - Shannon stopped counting after that list exceeded 10.
""I've never been a guy that just goes off," Shannon said Thursday after Miami's first practice since the loss. "But they needed it at that time because I was frustrated. We're a good football team. And we could have done something that hasn't been done here in a long time. Ohio State is a good football team, a great football team, but we made so many mistakes we didn't give ourselves a chance."
I've got three words: About freaking time.
As tough a stance as Shannon might take on guns, grades and goofing around, it is during the games most of his critics would like to see more of Nasty Randy. If you haven't noticed, Shannon hasn't been one to show much emotion on the sidelines at all. At times when the Hurricanes have been at their worst in his four years as coach, TV cameras have caught Shannon almost expressionless.
There have been only two times I can recall Shannon being upset. The first time was when Urban Meyer ran up the score with a late field goal against UM in 2008 and Shannon shook Meyer's hand quickly before rushing off the field. The most visible was last year's game against Clemson when he and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple exchanged heated words on the sidelines before halftime.
Those two brief moments shouldn't be what we remember. There should be at least two blow ups a game according to a few former Canes I spoke with on Wednesday night.
Leon Searcy, who won two national titles at UM (1989, 1991) and now hosts the Canes4Life TV show on CBS-4 every Saturday at 11:30 a.m., shared a few great stories with me about Jimmy Johnson and the fire he coached with on the sidelines.
"I remember my freshman year, we were up on Arkansas 51-0 in the fourth quarter," Searcy recalled.
"Now, Jimmy wanted to destroy these guys. Arkansas was a school that had passed him up for a coaching job. He came over to us on the sidelines and said 'If you mother [expletives] let these guys score, I don't care what the final score is, I'm going to run your mother [expletives] [expletives] for three days.' We were scared. Second team was in there. Arkansas ends up scoring on like the last play of the game. The next three days, all we did was run.' We knew the next time he said 'Don't let this happen, we weren't going to let it happen."
Fear can be a remarkable motivator. Former Canes cornerback Duane Starks (this week's guest on the Canes4Life show) told me fear of losing his starting job is what kept him pushing himself to be the best on the field every week during his time at UM.
"I knew when I played that half-ass stuff wasn't going to work," Starks said. "You had to bring it every day or somebody was going to take your job from you. Maybe, they need a little more of that."
Part of that, starts with emotion. And that starts at the top.
I'm not saying the players on this team don't want to win. The loss at Ohio State stung. But when players begin to feel comfortable they'll be out there every Saturday because the guy behind them can't beat them and then, they don't have anyone coming down hard on them from the top when they don't deliver, well, mediocre play becomes accepted.
With the defensive line thinner because of injuries, look for defensive end Allen Bailey to play some defensive tackle -- particularly in third-down situations.
"He came close a couple times, but that's part of it," Shannon said. "It goes in rhythms. Like last year, he didn't have anything , then all of a sudden in the middle of the season he got seven real quick, then dialed off a little and kept coming back. It just goes in rhythms and cycles on what the protections are doing and what people are trying to accomplish on offense."
A few more tidbits from Thursday morning's practice:
> Defensive linemen Luther Robinson and Marcus Robinson were dressed but on the sideline not participating. Both were seen limping. Shannon said both "should be back [practicing] probably tomorrow or the next day. They walked around today, did some stuff. At least they're not in a boot or nothing like that, which is good. They should be back, but we still always move guys around [on the defensive line] in practice.''
> Defensive tackle Curtis Porter, who was carted off the field at Ohio State with a right-knee injury, was not at Greentree Field Thursday as far as we could see. When asked about the extent of the injury, Shannon said: "long term, don't know yet. We'll just see how he comes along."
> Shannon on his defensive line philosophy: "When you're able to rotate guys, that's when you'll play real good. If you only have got five guys that are real good then only five guys are going to play and you've got to get in great shape at defensive line. But fortunately we have numbers and guys we feel real good about playing and stuff like that."
> Shannon also said right tackle Joel Figueroa was "a little nicked during the Ohio State game but then he came back, bounced back.''
> We also didn't see linebacker Shayon Green. Shayon had his right forearm wrapped in ice and was holding it up gingerly after Ohio State.
> Of outside linebackers Kylan Robinson and Ramon Buchanan, Shannon said: "Ok, coming around. You still want those guys to get a lot better. You're always wanting them to be like Sean [Spence] and those guys but, you know, everybody is different. When there are two backs in the game they'll be playing a lot but when there are three receivers you just go best personnel. Our best personnel with three receivers in the game, you just put in an extra DB.''
> Shannon said he never thought about taking out quarterback Jacory Harris after things started snowballing with the interceptions (despite at least one not being his fault): "No, no, no, no,'' the coach said, "because he wasn't frustrated. He was disappointed, but he wasn't frustrated. ..He's a gamer. He's not going to be a guy who shies away.''
> Shannon said linebacker Jordan Futch, in his first game back from reconstructive knee surgery, "wasn't sharp, wasn't crisp. But as far as running around and all those things he did all the twisting and turning in the game and played on special teams. You've got to ease him back into it.This week when we play Pitt he'll probably get a little bit more action, maybe on base defense.''
-- SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
University of Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt admitted to reporters last month he was a little nervous about entering the social network known as Twitter. It didn't take him long to discover its impact.
"Three weeks ago, I'm in New York. I go to the Yankees-A's game. I wake up the next morning. I have some time to spare before I go to the Nike event introducing our new uniform for the Virginia Tech football game.
"I said, ‘You know, I'm going to throw my meeting with the Yankees [to get a UM football game played in Yankee Stadium] to our fan base. I said, ‘We'll do it on Twitter.' It was my seond tweet I had ever sent out -- ever. I said, ‘Canes fans, met with Yankee executives about a possible football game in Yankee Stadium. What do you think?'
"Ten minutes later, Chris Freet, our associate AD for communications calls me and says, ‘What in the world have you done?' The Associated Press had picked it up. ESPN had picked it up on their website. Our local media had picked it up. And I sat there and thought, ‘Wow! How powerful and how fast social media is.'
Football coach Randy Shannon obviously has never been a fan of Twitter, Facebook or any other social network. And Tuesday, he put the clamps on Twitter for his players. Although he was also on Hurricane Hotline for nearly 10 minutes, he was never asked about his decision. Hocutt, however, did shed a little more light on the issue.
"[Twitter] gives us a chance to control our brand and our messaging and get our viewpoints out. But at the same time there is a sense of control and it's up to our student-athletes if they participate or not," Hocutt said. "But then it goes to their program and to their head coach. And there are times where a coach will make a decision, as the public knows, was made recently, where Coach Shannon said, ‘We've got to focus.' And part of that commitment, finishing the season as we all are committed to finishing it, we don't need to be communicating and talking via Twitter until this season is over."
Although he never came out and said it, there was a sense players might be able to use Twitter once the season is over. In fact, a few players made references to that in some of their final tweets Tuesday. We'll have to see what happens. But my guess is Facebook will also be banned by next week.
If you want to know what quarterback Jacory Harris or any other Miami Hurricanes are thinking before their next big game, you'll have to be friends with them on Facebook because they won't be on Twitter anymore.
University of Miami coach Randy Shannon has ordered a shutdown of all players' Twitter accounts, effective by 2:30 p.m. Wednesday according to UM's sports information office. The reason: Shannon wants less distractions.
"I called coach Shannon, who is out recruiting, and he told me he's asked players to shut down their Twitter accounts," UM sports information director Chris Freet said. "The goal is to limit distractions and help them focus. There are bigger goals than Tweeting."
Here are some of the players' final Tweets:
> Brandon McGee: "who gonna write my twitter account obituary??? lol" yall holla at me on facebook lol ill be there bean bag chilling Jet living
> Ryan Hill: "I’M SHUTTING DOWN MY TWITTER ACCOUNT IN 5 MIN. I THANKYOU ALL FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND FEEL FREE TO FACEBOOK ME-RYAN HILL. GOD BLESS YOU ALL"
> Damien Berry: "It’s soo hard to say good bye to twitter mane…"
> Lee Chambers: "Twitter it’s been a pleasure. My account will no longer exist after today. Nothing personal, it’s business….."
> Jordan Futch: "dis my last tweet see yal in da spring."
Shannon used to have personnel monitor players tweets. Apparently, he hasn't been happy with the fact players are tweeting so close to kickoff and sharing so much personal information.
I'll have more later.
Now that the Canes have wrapped up a 36-24 loss to the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, here are few final post-game thoughts:
> The Canes proved they aren't ready to compete for a national championship yet... All week long this game was presented as an opportunity for this program to put itself back among the elite in college football. Had the Canes played better, they might have been able to say that even in a loss. But it's the way they lost with the turnovers, missed tackles, penalties and mistakes that proved to me that this team is still not ready to make the jump up. Here are the facts: Randy Shannon's record against Top 25 teams is now 1-6. His record away from Sun Life Stadium (those would be road games or bowl games) is 8-12. Only one of those wins was against a ranked opponent (FSU in last year's season opener). Point the finger at the coach as much as you want to, but at what point do the players have to start delivering?
> Jacory Harris' interception woes continue... I put a lot of the blame for Harris' 17 interceptions last season on his injured thumb. Safe to say it's fair now to just criticize his decision making. Ohio State is obviously a very good defensive team and they deserve credit for the plays they made and the confusing coverage schemes they ran (dropping defensive linemen back into coverage on zone blitzes). But Harris is a junior now. The pacifier is out of his mouth. Travis Benjamin didn't help Harris out on two of his four interceptions Saturday, literally deflecting one pick right into a defenders hands. But the interception that bothered me the most was the one Harris threw with Benjamin's back turned to him. Both players messed up. But Harris said himself he should have never thrown the ball. The bigger issue here isn't that he manned up for his mistakes after the game. It's that he's still making them. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple shares in that responsibility. So does the fact Harris' doesn't have anybody pushing him for the starting job. Let's not forget three QBs left this program in the last three years. Maybe it's a little easier to take chances when you know you're the only guy who is going to play.
WHAT TO LIKE FROM THE GAME
> Lamar Miller... The talented redshirt freshman continues to show us why his teammates rave about him. His 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was impressive. So, was the fact the distance between himself and the Buckeyes chasing after him continued to widen as he sped away downfield. It's a shame he isn't being utilized more. He had only three carries for eight yards and one catch for eight yards to go with one other kick return (12 yards). Memo to Mr. Whipple: No. 6 needs to touch the ball more than six times a game.
> Defensive stops in red zone... The Canes' offense didn't do the defense any favors Saturday with their turnovers. Same with the kickoff coverage team, which gave up three returns of over 40 yards. But you had to like the way the defense stiffened in the red zone. Ohio State had nine drives inside the Canes' red zone Saturday and only three resulted in touchdowns. UM forced them to go for field goals five times. That's improvement. I also liked the fact the defense had 11 tackles for loss in the game.
WHAT ELSE WAS TROUBLING
> The rest of the day on defense... Sean Spence had a career-high 11 tackles and couldn't do much to stop the 18-yard touchdown pass Brandon Saine made on a perfect throw from Terelle Pryor. Spence played well and I don't think the Buckeyes threw once to Brandon Harris' side of the field. But the rest of their homeboys on defense? Not so much. Shannon guessed after Saturday's game that Ohio State had at least 70 yards after first contact. That equates to missed tackles galore. Ohio State ran for 181 yards -- Pryor picking up 113 of those on scrambles. Pryor was only 12 of 27 for 233 yards passing. But he found DeVier Posey for a 62-yard gain and Dan Herron for a 47-yard gain and orchestrated a 2-play, 80-yard scoring drive that took 36 seconds to complete. That's not good defense. Neither was just one sack and zero turnovers.
> Special teams kickoff coverage... Miller and Travis Benjamin (79-yard punt return) might have become the first UM duo to return a kickoff and a punt return in the same game -- at least through the late 1970s anyway. But as nice as those returns were, the Canes have up a lot of field position on kick coverage. Matt Bosher also had a kick blocked and a 46-yarder he missed. I'm not upset with Bosher. He's missed a total of six field goals now in his career. But why does he continue to have to make the tackle on kickoff coverage? This isn't a new problem.
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS...
> I said this before the game and I'll say it again: This loss wasn't crippling. UM can obviously go on to win the ACC title and the season would be deemed a success. This loss was just disconcerting because we saw much of the same mistakes we saw a year ago from a team that is supposed to be more mature and ready to win. As long as the Canes continue to improve, win the next two games on the road and make a strong push to the ACC title, Shannon and Harris don't have to worry about job security.
> It's officially time for UM's other receivers to start catching up to Leonard Hankerson.
> Allen Bailey and Vaughn Telemaque need to start delivering bigger plays. Bailey hasn't had a sack since Halloween, that's a seven game stretch. Telemaque had four tackles Saturday. We're all still waiting for his first career interception and fumble recovery.
> The injuries to Marcus Robinson and Curtis Porter could turn out to be huge. The one strength of this UM defense has is the depth on its defensive line. But the injuries are beginning to pile up.
> FYI, the Canes will be off this week until Thursday and Friday.
The University of Miami dropped to No. 17 in both the USA Today/Coaches Poll and Associated Press polls released Sunday after their 36-24 loss at 2nd-ranked Ohio State.
The Hurricanes (1-1) are now officially carrying the flag for the Atlantic Coast Conference as the only ACC team ranked in either poll. The ACC had a terrible weekend as Virginia Tech lost to the FCS' James Madison, Florida State was blownout at Oklahoma and Georgia Tech lost at Kansas.
UM has a bye this week before heading to Pittsburgh (1-1) for a Thursday night showdown on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23.
> I'll have some thoughts on Saturday's game Monday after I get a chance to watch it again on my DVR.
COLUMBUS -- The 12th-ranked Hurricanes and 2nd-ranked Buckeyes mix it up at 3:40 p.m. this afternoon at the Horseshoe. Watch it on ESPN or listen to it on WQAM. Feel free to participate in our discussion below as you tune in.
REWIND: The Buckeyes beat Miami 31-24 in overtime of the 2003 National Title Game, the last time the teams met. The last time UM played in Columbus, they lost 10-0 in 1977. UM won the second meeting 23-12 on Aug. 29, 1999 in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium. UM is 27-16 all-time against current Big Ten teams.
ABOUT OHIO STATE: Ohio State is 53-5 at home since the start of the 2002 season and are looking to win their sixth consecutive Big Ten title this season. The Buckeyes have finished in the top 10 of the AP poll in seven of the last eight seasons and are the only team to have finished in the Top in each of the last five seasons. How good are they at shutting down the run and pounding it down opponents throats? Over their last six games, they've outgained the opposition on the ground by 1,138 yards. Last week, OSU opened the season with a 45-7 win over Marshall, rolling up 529 yards of offense and giving up their only points on a blocked field goal return for a touchdown.
FOR THE CANES, THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON...
> How the Canes handle Ohio State's pass rush, particularly on the right side of the offensive line. Left end Cameron Hayward (6-5, 288) is an Allen Bailey-type monster who is a potential first round pick. He'll likely be going up against Joel Figueroa, Jermaine Johnson and Ben Jones, who have one combined start between them at right tackle.
> How the Canes handle the scrambling and running ability of Terrelle Pryor, who ran ran for 779 yards last season (5th most in the Big Ten). Ohio State is 13-1 in games in which Pryor has rushed for at least 50 yards. The only loss was the 24-21 loss to Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. It's going to be important for UM's pass rushers to stay in their lanes and for linebackers Sean Spence and Colin McCarthy to lead a defense that does a good job wrapping up in the open field.
> The Canes might have a magic number to reach to win this game (22). Those would be points. Ohio State's defense is no joke. They've held opponents to 21 points or less in 51 games since 2006 and are 48-3 in those games. FYI, in both losses last season, the Buckeyes gave up fewer than 300 yards total offense.
> The Buckeyes intercepted 24 passes last season -- the 5.8 interception percentage ranked 2nd among all FBS teams. But the feeling in Columbus is Ohio State could be beaten deep. Their safeties aren't overly experiences and Miami's receiving corps is obviously very good.
> MY PICK: This Ohio State team is a much better team than Wisconsin was in last year's bowl game. But this Miami team is also better and a lot healthier. This defense in particular looked entirely different with a successful pass rush last week -- that's something this program hasn't had in years. I think special teams is another area where UM can win this game. Ohio State has struggled, especially in kickoff coverage. I'm going with the upset. But, it's clear why Ohio State is the favroite. UM 24, OHIO STATE 22.
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COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Our Israel Gutierrez wrote a column this week that was dead on about Saturday's showdown with the second-ranked Buckeyes at the Horseshoe.
In the grand scheme of things, the 12th-ranked Hurricanes don't have to win this game. Ultimately, the real way to measure the success of this season hinges on if this team wins the conference title or reaches a BCS Bowl game. Losing at Ohio State wouldn't cripple those hopes.
But if you bleed orange and green, there is a bigger reason you want the Canes to win Saturday at the Horseshoe. And it shouldn't have anything to do with referee Terry Porter, revenge or what happened the last time these teams met. This game for UM is all about regaining respect.
As much work as Randy Shannon has done to turn this program around, this still isn't The U it used to be. It's not even close. Do you think opponents fear coming to Sun Life Stadium the way they used to when they went to the Orange Bowl? Do you think the Buckeyes are nervous the Canes (who haven't beaten at Top 10 on the road since 2006) are coming to town?
Maybe a little. But not like when Michael Irvin or Ray Lewis or Ed Reed or Ken Dorsey were playing. Why? Those guys knew they could win whenever and wherever they were playing. These Canes have to learn how to do that. They have to make themselves a feared team again -- beyond what national recruiting rankings tell us.
Bringing in highly rated recruiting classes shouldn't be celebrated around The U. It should be expected. South Florida is the richest area in the country at producing high-end talent. The 44 players from Miami-Dade County on NFL rosters at the start of this season -- the most anywhere in the country -- is all the proof you need.
Shannon has done a good job restocking the shelves again in Coral Gables. Larry Coker let things get bad. But it is time for this program to put itself back among the elite. What does that mean? That means winning bowl games and winning tough games on the road. That means ending a losing streak to North Carolina and beating teams they're supposed to beat.
Say what you want about last year's 3-1 start, the road win at Florida State, the blowout of ACC champion Georgia Tech at home and the 21-20 win over Oklahoma. Did any of those victories by the end of the season really make you feel like this program was "back"?
Oklahoma didn't even have its best quarterback under center when it played the Canes. They were 8-5 by the end of the year. Florida State? They finished 7-6 and lost at home to South Florida. Georgia Tech? Ok, the Canes looked great that night. But where was it the next week at Virginia Tech?
This "opportunity" -- as Shannon and his players called it this week -- is too huge to for Miami. Ohio State is a BCS regular, a team that is sure to find itself back in the Rose Bowl if not the National Title game if it wins this one. Remember when the Canes used to beat those kind of teams? Remember when Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas, Florida State just couldn't beat the Canes?
The talent between the teams in this game is not that far apart. Sure, the Canes aren't as loaded as the 2000, 2001 or 2002 teams that were all capable of winning national titles. Depth is still a concern in some places and there are still a few holes that need work. Right tackle and that third linebacker spot next to Sean Spence and Colin McCarthy? Those are question marks that need answers. But there is a lot of talent here and enough healthy players available to beat the Buckeyes.
I say enough with the baby steps. It's time for this program to take a big leap forward. Saturday, we find out just how close the Canes are to being elite again. Or, just how far away they still are.
University of Miami quarterback Jacory Harris knows how to clown around and keep things light.
Last season, he showed up to class wearing funny outfits and even brought in tapes of Spongebob Squarepants after the team's 21-20 win over Oklahoma to make sure they wouldn't watch too much sports television praising them.
So, what did Harris have in store this week as the Canes prepare to face the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes? Take a look at what he wore and tweeted (JacoryHarris12) on his way to class on Thursday morning: "Going to class with an Oakland raiders snap back, no shirt, with the Oakland raiders overalls! Fly!!!!!! I'm me!!"
Harris told us Wednesday he listens to his R&B playlist before games to make sure he isn't too jacked up.
“It calms me down, mellows me, has me thinking about the game, really focused,” Harris said. “I don’t think a quarterback should be like a defensive lineman listening to rap music or an offensive lineman listening to rock music ”to amp him up.” That gets me unfocused. I’d just want to go out there and knock somebody’s head off.”
Two of the artists he regularly listens to: Chris Brown and Trey Songz. He especially like’s Brown’s “Without You.”
> STATE REP-CORAL GABLES MAYOR HAVE FRIENDLY CANES-BUCKEYES WAGER: Always have to love it when two state politicians try to take advantage of a big college football game to get a little press.
According to a press release, Ohio's Stephen D. Slesnick (D-Canton) and Coral Gables mayor Don Slesnick, who are cousins, have a side bet riding on UM-Ohio State Saturday. If the Buckeyes win, Stephen will receive an order of stone crabs. If the Canes win, Don will be treated to Ohio wines and Peanut Butter Buckeyes.
“I can taste those stone crabs already,” Rep. Stephen Slesnick said. “And it’s a fitting bet for my cousin, given how much crabbing ‘Canes fans did after Ohio State beat them for the National Championship.”
The friendly wager also includes Mayor Slesnick promising to wear an Ohio State jersey to an upcoming meeting of the Coral Gables City Council. If the Canes win, Stephen will wear Canes jersey to an Ohio House floor session.
Here is the University of Miami football Thursday injury report heading into Saturday’s game vs. Ohio State:
LB Jordan Futch – Lower Extremity
OL Jermaine Johnson – Upper Extremity
DL Micanor Regis – Upper Extremity
DB Jamal Reid – Lower Extremity
DL Curtis Porter – Upper Extremity
DL Andrew Smith - Upper Extremity
RB Graig Cooper – Lower Extremity
LB Kevin Nelson – Upper Extremity
DL Luther Robinson – Lower Extremity
Surgery and Out for the Season
FB John Calhoun – Lower Extremity
RB Darion Hall – Lower Extremity
DL Jeremy Lewis – Lower Extremity
LB Travis Williams – Lower Extremity
Sometimes, you're just born to be a Cane.
Highly-touted Tampa Alonso High defensive end Anthony Chickillo, whose father Tony (1979-82) and grandfather Nick (1950-52) played for the Hurricanes, realized that Thursday when he announced his intentions to be part of the University of Miami's 2011 signing class.
"Deep down in my heart, that's where I've wanted to be since I was a little kid," said Chickillo, a 6-4, 235-pound senior considered by both Rivals.com and ESPN.com to be a consensus Top 10 defensive end in the country. "I'm ready to be a Hurricane and help Miami recruit."
Chickillo had more than 50 scholarship offers. Last season, he played in only six games because of a broken collarbone, but still managed to compile 80 tackles, 12.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He announced his commitment just after 2 p.m. Thursday in his school gym, choosing Miami over Florida and South Florida.
Throughout the recruiting process, Chickillo said he made it a point not to let his family ties to Miami get in the way of picking the best school for him. But after making his announcement, Chickillo put on a Miami baseball cap and held up a shirt that said "THIRD GENERATION." On the back of the shirt it read: "BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER."
"Orange and green run through my veins," said Chickillo, who plans to enroll at UM in January. "As much as I tried to separate it, I couldn't. Once I figured out where I wanted to go, I didn't want to waste any coaches time. I told Coach Shannon and the staff last night and they were screaming."
Chickillo said the Gators and the hometown South Florida Bulls made his decision tough. "Both of them did a great job of recruiting me," Chickillo said. "My uncle in the beginning of the process was real worried. I was talking about Florida a lot. But my heart has always been in Miami. I grew up in Tampa. But I've always felt like my real hometown is Miami. Now, I'll just be going home."
The Hurricanes don't have many scholarships for the 2011 class. Chickillo becomes the program's seventh non-binding oral commitment. He likely will be the only defensive end the Canes sign.
"They want me to be a speed rusher, maybe come in and contribute on passing situations," Chickillo said. "I'm excited to be a part of the defensive line. They have a great group of guys right now. I saw they had eight or nine sacks against FAMU. They didn't have that in any game last year. You can tell they're improving with coach Petri, he's a technique guy. We clicked from the beginning."
Tony Chickillo, who was the starting nose guard for the first Hurricanes team to beat a No. 1-ranked team (Penn State, 1981) in the modern era, said UM coach Randy Shannon did a great job fostering a relationship over the years with his son. Anthony Chickillo has been attending UM football camps since he was six years old.
"I remember how Anthony used to drive Randy crazy because he always wanted to go and practice with the older kids," Tony Chickillo said. "I would have been damned if [Anthony] didn't go there. We've been season ticket holders for 20 years. He cried when the 58-game winning streak came to an end and when they tore down the Orange Bowl. Being a Cane has just always been in his DNA."
Nick Chickillo, an All-American guard in 1952, passed away in 2000. But Tony Chickillo said his father always knew his son would follow in their footsteps.
"When Anthony was real young he was a good little league player, but he wasn't sensational. He just loved the game," said Tony Chickillo, now an area sales manager for Brulin.com, a company which sells industrial cleaning products. "Nick saw something in Anthony before we all did. He always used to tell me that I had to prepare him for high school because he was going to be a good one. We're all very proud."
The sun wasn't up yet, but it was still plenty loud in Coral Gables Wednesday morning. That's because six speakers were blaring crowd simulation noises as your 12th-ranked Miami Hurricanes began practicing at 6:20 a.m., four days before their showdown with the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at the famed Horseshoe.
UM coach Randy Shannon said Tuesday he doesn't think his players will be fazed by playing at a tradition rich stadium that seats 105,000 because they've played in tough places before and live in star-studded South Florida.
"You see a lot of traditions in small towns and in little cities like [Columbus]," Shannon said. "But the guys aren't enamored with it because of what we see when we go out [in South Florida]. You may see an Alex Rodriguez, a Wayans brother, or Dwyane Wade. Those are big name guys. When you go to places that are traditional, like Ohio State, Michigan, places like that, it's great to play there, but you've been in awe already. The difference will probably be the noise [factor]. No matter what happens, you can't simulate that in practice at all."
So how loud of a place is the Horseshoe really? That's debatable. The loudest football stadium I've been to remains the Orange Bowl with Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Florida and Florida State's Doak Campbell Stadium not far behind.
UM linebacker Colin McCarthy and cornerback Brandon Harris were both heavily recruited by Ohio State coming out of high school. McCarthy went to a game at Ohio Stadium. Harris said he didn't because coach Jim Tressell wouldn't allow out of state visitors to go to games during the season. "He prefers for guys to come in February or January so they get a feel for the cold winters," Harris said.
But from what McCarthy remembers: "It’s a crazy atmosphere.”
“I’ve heard it’s a loud stadium," defensive tackle Marcus Forston said. "But once you go out there and do what you have to do, you can quiet the crowd.”
A couple more notes from Wednesday's practice (in the five minutes we got to see of practice in the dark) and leftovers from Tuesday...
> Running back Graig Cooper, not expected to play Saturday at Ohio State, was in full pads Wednesday. But he wasn't practicing. He was just standing around during practice.
> Safety Ray Ray Armstrong picked off a pass from A.J. Highsmith during 11-on-11 drills before taking a big lick from right tackle Jermaine Johnson, who was running with the second team.
> According to UM SID Chris Freet, the Canes will wear white jerseys on top of green pants for Saturday's game at Ohio State. The all-white "Storm Trooper" uniforms will make their debut at Georgia Tech.
> UM coach Randy Shannon said on Dan LeBatard's radio show Tuesday he planned to watch episodes of NCIS or old, black and white war movies during his free time to prepare himself for Saturday's game.
> UM defensive tackle Marcus Forston, who started in his first game Thursday after missing most of the 2009 season, said he felt fine physically after playing the entire game for the first time in his career. "Jeremy Lewis got hurt. So, I ended up playing the whole game," Forston said. "I wasn't winded or nothing. That's the first time I played a whole game and finished a game with a whole lot of energy. I thank coach Shannon and [strength] coach [Andreu] Swasey for giving me that extra running to help me get to where I am today."
> Forston had the best quote of the day Tuesday in discussing the growth process at UM: "Coach Shannon preaches every day about the process. Like he said, if we put a lot of crumbs together it'll eventually make a loaf of bread. Every day you have to go out to practice, try to get something out of practice, try to go for greatness. You go to practice and focus on what you want to do to get better."
> I asked running back Damien Berry the type of challenge Ohio State's defense presents . His response reminded me of how some former Canes used to talk: "There is no challenge. We're going to go in with our game plan and stick with our game plan. If our game plan is to run, [offensive coordinator] Whipple says run, that's what we're going to do. If there game is to pass. We're going to pass the ball.
"I face the hardest defense in practice. From what I've seen they have a great defense. But we have Sean Spence, Colin McCarthy and a great defense right here. Why should I be worried about what they have?
> One common theme from several UM defensive players Tuesday -- it's time for them to step up and deliver because the offense has usually been responsible for most of the team's big wins.
"I don't think our defense is getting a lot of credit," McCarthy said. "We did it against FAMU. But we have to do it against Ohio State, one of those power house teams. A team like Ohio State is a great opportunity for us. As a defense, we're as ready as we can be. I think our coach has put us in a great situation, great scheme to stop them. The biggest thing for us is to stop the run. I think we force them to be one dimensional, that's going to be enough to help us win this game."
> UM cornerback Brandon Harris said Ohio State's receivers are very good. "In all honesty, we have great respect for those receivers," Harris said. "[DeVier] Posey is obviously the leader of that group. He does a great job of getting open. They like to throw the ball vertical. That's been the main emphasis. We have to stop those deep threats. Hopefully, everything else should follow from there."
A few additions to Manny's notes, from a short chat with Randy Shannon this morning:
Do you expect Graig Cooper to be involved in this week's game? Shannon's reply: "He didn't practice. I don't think so.''
From watching replays on TV, Cooper was hurt when he was knocked out of bounds. It looked like defender's helmet got him near the knee. But he bounced right back up after that. Some reports have him with an ankle injury.Some other Shannon comments:
* On right tackle Joel Figueroa: "All of them did well on the offensive line. They did some good things. But every week you've got to get better and this week his technique will have to get a lot better from last week to now. That's the key.''
* On starting right tackle Ben Jones: He did some good things in the game that show you he's maturing. He's still got some things he needs to improve. The more he gets opportunities like that, it'll make him better and we'll get more depth at that position, because he's a young one.
* CB DeMarcus Van Dyke "is fine.''
* DE Andrew Smith and DT Micanor Regis "practiced today." D-tackle Jeremy Lewis, who was last seen on crutches after the FAMU game, "didn't practice today. We'll find out more about him later this week.''
* RT Jermaine Johnson: "He practiced today and didn't feel any kinks in his arm. He felt pretty good. We'll find out as the week goes on.''
It appears Lewis might be out for a while. The injury report will be released Thursday.
What are the similarities between Ohio State and Wisconsin (from Champs Sports Bowl)? "It's going to be a very physical game up front.''
That didn't bode well for the Canes in December. Maybe this time will be different.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
A couple quick notes from a busy media day at UM as the 12th-ranked Canes prepare for a trip to No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday:
> Running back Lamar Miller was selected as the ACC Rookie of the Week after leading the Hurricanes with 122 all-purpose yards in his debut against Florida A&M. Miller led UM with 65 yards rushing on 11 carries and scored his first touchdown on a five-yard run in the third quarter. He added 34 yards on kick returns, 15 on punt returns and eight receiving yards.
> I know a lot of you have been asking about Storm Johnson and his status for this season. My money is on a redshirt unless one of UM's top three backs go down. This week, the only guys I think will be carrying the ball at Ohio State are Damien Berry, Lamar Miller and Mike James. UM coach Randy Shannon told WQAM's Joe Rose this morning that a red-shirt decision isn't usually made until after the sixth game of the season.
> Cornerback Brandon Harris -- now neck and neck with Berry for the best go-to- quote on the team -- said the toughest thing about watching the 2003 National Championship game for him was watching his close friend Willis McGahee go down in a heap of pain: "We grew up in the same neighborhood, in the same block," Harris said. "When he got hurt, it was devastating. That's what was most memorable for me that game. The ending was controversial and all. But we have no control over that now. The only thing we can control is what happens Saturday."
Here are a few video interviews with Brandon Harris, Vaughn Telemaque, Colin McCarthy and Marcus Forston discussing the challenges of facing the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday and Heisman candidate Terrelle Pryor.
Good morning everyone. Susan here.
We got about five minutes today to view practice.
* Graig Cooper, who did a great job in his limited touches in the opener, was sitting out of practice. That would be a shame if he's hurt again.
* Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, who sustained an undisclosed injury against FAMU, was back -- obviously not sure how much he did.
* Defensive lineman Jeremy Lewis, seen on crutches after FAMU, did not appear to be at practice.
* Guys who coach Randy Shannon said were injured and therefore did not dress for the game -- offensive tackle Jermaine Johnson, defensive tackle Micanor Regis and defensive end Andrew Smith -- were back.
* Stephen Morris is the scout teamer acting as Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
* No 11-on-11 drills for us to view now.
* According to one of the Vegas lines, Ohio State is favored by 9 1/2 points.
That's it for now.
Have a great day!
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
Now that the Canes completed their warm-up for Ohio State with a 45-0 blowout Thursday, a few post-game observations:
Most important development...
> Quarterback Jacory Harris showed no ill effects from last year's thumb injury. Playing in a game for the first time since undergoing off-season surgery, Harris looked sharp. He connected on 12-of-15 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns in one half of action. No, the Rattles defense will not come close to what he'll see next week in Columbus. But his rhythm and timing were on the money, especially with Leonard Hankerson and Aldarius Johnson. With his 3 TD passes, by the way, Harris moved into eighth place all-time on UM’s list for career TD passes (39) ahead of Kyle Wright. His next TD pass will tie Bernie Kosar.
What else to like...
> The pass rush. Olivier Vernon had a career-high 3.5 sacks and the team had eight total (the most since Sept. 29, 2007). Five different players got in on the pressure. Last year, the Canes had a combined nine sacks in their final six games. After the game I asked Vernon the reason for the improvements. His answer: "Coach Petri."
> Lamar Miller's debut. We heard plenty during camp about how good Miller looked. He showed the kind of burst and explosion in the open field this team hasn't had enough of in the backfield, rushing for a game-high 65 yards and a TD on 11 carries. On special teams, he had a nice 34 yard kickoff return to start the game and then exploded on a punt return (it was called back by penalty). After Damien Berry, he's the second best back on this team in my mind.
> Leonard Hankerson looks even better than last year... He finished with a game-high six catches for 115 yards and two TDs without even playing in the second half. His emergence as the true No. 1 target for Harris is important. I know coaches like to spread the ball around and all. But just like the quarterback and running back positions, I feel there has to be a primary receiver in every offense, somebody the defense has to track every week. Hankerson is clearly that guy again.
> Ray-Ray Armstrong’s 22-yard INT return for a TD... The kid was the top prospect in the 2009 signing class and to see him start and make a huge play on opening night is a very encouraging sign. Wish I could say the same for Vaughn Telemaque. The Canes need him to get going too.
What troubled me some...
> The missed tackles. Not going to harp on this too long, but if you were watching on ESPN3 or at the stadium you saw that FAMU's second drive exposed some bad tackling. UM rebounded later in the game and still put up its first shutout in a couple years. But if they had those ugly moments Thursday against Rattlers QB Martin Ukpai, imagine what Buckeyes QB Terrell Pryor could do. He has to be licking his chops some.
> The slow start at tight end. UM quarterbacks completed 19 passes, but not one went to a tight end. Chase Ford had a chance at a big play inside the FAMU 10-yard line in the first quarter, but dropped the ball. I never saw Richard Gordon do anything more than block (not surprising). I also hoped to freshman Asante Cleveland. The Canes didn't really need a tight end Thursday. But they will down the road.
> Right tackle remains a question mark. OK, it was only the first game and a lot can change in a week, but I'm still kind of worried about the right tackle position. Sophomore Ben Jones got the start ahead of senior Joel Figueroa. Jermaine Johnson didn't even dress. It would have been great to see Johnson, who needs to play, work out his kinks this week before going to Ohio State. And I'm not convinced Figueroa is fully healthy. If he was, he would have started.
Remember that it happened...
> The big guy saw his first action. Seantrel Henderson got in during the third quarter for a total 14 plays according to Randy Shannon. In all, UM said 16 players made their debuts: TE Chase Ford, S Kacy Rodgers, LB James Gaines, QB Spencer Whipple, RB Eduardo Clements, FB Maurice Hagens, WR Allen Hurns, TE Asante Cleveland, DL Luther Robinson, LB Kelvin Cain, TE Billy Sanders, DL Dyron Dye, LB Shayon Greene and OL Jared Wheeler. I could have sworn OL Brandon Linder did too.
> Not all the newcomers played. RB Storm Johnson, QB Stephen Morris, DE David Perry and DB Latwan Anderson didn’t dress. Johnson was the only real surprise. We'll never get a straight answer as to why some guys dressed and others didn't. Johnson had a great camp. But he could be on his way towards a redshirt like the majority of the new guys. If there was a surprise for me it was how much Clements played. Because of his play on special teams, he might actually now be ahead of Johnson on the running back depth chart.
> First starts. Cornerback Brandon McGee, right tackle Ben Jones and center Tyler Horn all made their first career starts. The ‘Canes started out in the nickel package on defense, thus the reason McGee was starting. Jones, though, was the surprise ahead of senior Figueroa.
SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The 13th-ranked Hurricanes and Rattlers open the season at 7:30 tonight. Feel free to participate in our discussion below.
REWIND: The Hurricanes defeated the Rattlers, 48-16, last season and have combined to out-score FAMU, 355-to-49, dating back to 1980.
ABOUT FAMU: Florida A&M is coming off an 8-3 season in 2009. The Rattlers closed out the year winning four of their last five, including a 42-6 victory over Bethune-Cookman in their season finale. This year, FAMU is predicted to finish second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference behind South Carolina State. Five Rattlers also earned preseason all-conference honors this year, including leading tackler Alvin Graham and top receiver Isaac West. Graham is coming off a 69-tackle, 6.5 tackle-for-a-loss season while West had a team-high 641 receiving yards a year ago.
FOR THE CANES, THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON...
> If senior running back Graig Cooper plays. He's coming back from knee surgery and was listed first on the depth chart at punt returner. Coach Randy Shannon told several media outlets Cooper would play as long as the weather isn't bad.
> Keep your eyes open for freshmen. After this game a lot of them could end up red-shirting. Running back Storm Johnson and Lamar Miller are probably the first ones you will see -- on the kickoff team. Tight end Asante Cleveland could be the next one. The offensive line has three to watch: Seantrel Henderson, Brandon Linder and Malcolm Bunche. Defensively, linebackers Kelvin Cain and Jimmy Gaines should see some playing time on special teams and on defense in the second half.
> I'll be watching right tackle a lot tonight (where Jermaine Johnson and Joel Figueroa will be) as well as the overall play of the offensive line. Keeping Jacory Harris upright is the entire key to the season in my opinion. FAMU shouldn't breath on him. If they do regularly, it could be a long year.
> The Canes' pass rush. It wasn't very good last year. New defensive line coach Rick Petri is supposed to make them better. Allen Bailey and his cohorts should dominate in this game.
MY PICK: The goal of this game is simply to get out on the filed and work out the kinks while staying healthy. The Canes should do that and coast to an easy win. UM 55, FAMU 10.
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