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44 posts from November 2010

November 30, 2010

Would Canes-Gruden really be a great fit?

University of Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt is expected to deliver his pitch to Jon Gruden in person Wednesday and try to snag the biggest fish in all of football. But if Hocutt can't bait him (I'd say there probably is a better chance Hocutt won't) it doesn't mean the Hurricanes will necessarily be losing out.

Jon Gruden As sexy a hire as Gruden might be for the people powering this push for relevance at UM, the truth is there are probably better fits the Hurricanes can find elsewhere. History tells us the most successful coaches at UM -- Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis and, yes, Larry Coker -- weren't exactly big names or established championship coaches before they became the man at Miami. They made their mark at UM as hungry, up-and-comers looking to establish their own fame and success.

Gruden has already tasted his. He won a Super Bowl when he was 38 years old, the youngest ever at the time. Now, he entertains us on Monday Night Football (kind of reminds me a little of John Madden). The issue here isn't if Gruden would be a good coach at Miami. The man knows football. He was 100-85 and made the playoffs five times in 11 NFL seasons. There's no doubt he would give Hocutt and UM's administration exactly what they're looking for: an instant shot of relevance and excitement for a rabid fan base starving for some.

The issue for UM, in the end, is if Gruden will really be the perfect fit -- especially for around $3.5 million (astronomical rates by Canes standards). Is the grind that is recruiting something Gruden is going to want to do? How about the every day stuff like chasing 18 and 19-year old players to class, making sure they stay away from South Beach, and helping who ever needs counseling get through tough struggles off the field? You know, The U family stuff. UM President Donna Shalala may love winning more than anybody at UM, as Hocutt said Sunday. But she doesn't seem to me like a person who will all of a sudden let the principles she asked Randy Shannon to uphold slip, so UM can win more games and play for championships. 

I'm not saying Gruden couldn't be Superman here and do it all well. But the fact is he hasn't coached in college since 1991. All he's known for the last 19 years is the NFL. His reputation (one I gathered from talking to a sports writer who covered him in Tampa) is that of a football coach who is a competitive junkie, someone who loves the X's and O's with a passion and drives his assistants hard to achieve perfection. He's a guy who wakes up at 3 a.m. and is in the building to work by 4:30 or 5. Nothing wrong if you want to win. But college football is clearly a completely different animal than the NFL.

And that formula of winning at the NFL level doesn't always translate to college. Bill Walsh went from winning three Super Bowls with the 49ers in the 1980s to spending three years at Stanford in 1992. He won 10 games in his first season including the Pac 10 title, then went 7-14-1 over his next two. Bill Callahan led the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 2002 (against Gruden) and in 2004 found himself at Nebraska. He went 27-22 and in four seasons and played for the Big 12 title only once. He's now back in the NFL as an assistant. Al Groh (Virginia) and Chan Gailey (Georgia Tech) are others who won some, but didn't have major success in the ACC. The point is for every Pete Carroll at USC or Nick Saban at LSU and Alabama, there are examples of an NFL coach going back to college and not working.

And Gruden will definitely have to recruit. This isn't a team built to win a championship right. The quarterback play remains questionable. Receivers, linebackers and defensive tackles aren't stacked either. This isn't a matter of a team ready to win a championship and just needing the right leader.

In the end, who really knows what Gruden's intentions are and why he's even meeting with Hocutt at this point. Maybe, he'd like to coach his son Deuce (currently a junior in high school) in college? Maybe coaching at Carrollwood High got him thinking he'd like to go back to coaching young players, teach them the fundamentals of the game. Maybe, he would like to coach with his brother, Jay, potentially his offensive coordinator, and be the next biggest thing on South Beach behind LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Maybe, he'd love to be the next Pete Carroll and win three national championships. Or, maybe, this is all about Gruden trying to get his name out with the NFL season coming to a close soon and big jobs likely to become available. Whatever his intentions, that's Gruden's business. Miami seems to be willing to go to extremes to get him.

All I know is on Sunday, as we listened to Hocutt, I heard three different messages about his search for a choice. The first: "At the U, we expect to compete for championships and nothing less." The next: "Miami must be relevant in college football." And the last: "You can be relevant nationally and not win your conference. But at the end of the day, you must be relevant nationally here at the University of Miami."

Gruden would definitely make the Canes relevant. But I'm not sold on the rest of it. I'd rather have a guy who has done it all already somewhere else and is ready to take his success -- and UM's -- to the next level.

> I just want to give credit to our own Barry Jackson and Susan Miller Degnan for some excellent reporting tonight on this Gruden story. It's easy for anybody -- me included -- to get on Twitter and post stuff we hear from sources. But I can tell you putting it in print is a different deal. Barry and Susan worked hard last night to get a lot of good detail in today's story from sources as close to the situation as possible.

> As the story mentioned, if Gruden doesn't pan out the other potential targets include Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, Connecticut's Randy Edsall, Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Arizona's Mike Stoops, plus at least two others names, sources said.

Of that group, Mullen, Harbaugh and Edsall intrigue me the most. The issue of course is that Mississippi State is trying to act fast as possible to resign Mullen to a bigger contract. Harbaugh, a Michigan grad, has done a great job at USC and would also be a huge get for Miami. But I suspect he'd be Wolverines all the way if he left Stanford. Edsall is probably the most reachable. He just isn't the name that sparkles and gets fans excited. So, essentially, I think this list will expand to include some more top-notch names.

As I was told last night by a source, UM is ultimately looking for a charismatic leader who is an established winning he coach and doesn't come with any baggage. Just thinking out loud, but I think Wisconsin's Bret Bielema (45-16 at Wisconsin) and Baylor's Art Briles are guys who have won in tough conferences that probably deserve consideration. Outside of that, a good NFL coordinator wouldn't be bad -- especially with the labor issues in store for next year.

November 29, 2010

Hankerson leads Canes on All-ACC team

Three Hurricanes made the All-ACC First team on Monday. Here is the complete team -- voted on by 61 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. NOTE: A first-team vote was worth two points and second team vote one.

FIRST TEAM
Offense
QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (77)
RB Montel Harris, Boston College (122)
RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech (108)
WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami (118)
WR Torrey Smith, Maryland (96)
TE George Bryan, NC State (92)
OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (79)
OT Chris Hairston, Clemson (69)
OG Rodney Hudson, Florida State (116)
OG Brandon Washington, Miami (50)
C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech (91)
K Chris Hazley, Virginia Tech (100)
Spc. Tony Logan, Maryland (69)

Defense
DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson (120)
DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (101)
DT Quinton Coples, North Carolina (101)
DT Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson (63)
LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College (112)
LB Nate Irving, N.C. State (105)
LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland (78)
CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (112)
CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia (57)
S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson (99)
S Kenny Tate, Maryland (78)
P Matt Bosher, Miami

SECOND TEAM
Offense
QB Russell Wilson, NC State (75)
RB Damien Berry, Miami (37)
RB Keith Payne, Virginia (30)
WR Conner Vernon, Duke (70)
WR Owen Spencer, NC State (41)
TE Dwayne Allen, Clemson (31)
OT Orlando Franklin, Miami (65)
OT Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech (39)
OG Jaymes Brooks, Virginia Tech (41)
OG Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech (35)
OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (35)
C Ryan McMahon, Florida State (47)
K Will Snyderwine, Duke (38)
Spc. David Wilson, Virginia Tech (61)

Defense
DE Allen Bailey, Miami (51)
DE Steven Friday, Virginia Tech (42)
DT John Graves, Virginia Tech (46)
DT Joe Vellano, Maryland (33)
LB Bruce Carter, North Carolina (43)
LB Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech (41)
LB Sean Spence, Miami (37)
CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State (49)
CB Brandon Harris, Miami (45)
S Davon Morgan, Virginia Tech (48)
S Ray-Ray Armstrong, Miami (25)
P Brian Saunders, Virginia Tech (48)

Honorable mention - Offense: WR Dwight Jones, North Carolina (20); OT Jake Vermiglio, NC State (34); Paul Pinegar, Maryland (27); OG Thomas Claiborne, Boston College (34); C Beau Warren, Virginia Tech (22); TE Cooper Helfet, Duke (24); Andre Smith, Virginia Tech (23); RB Johnny White, North Carolina (22); QB T.J. Yates, North Carolina (21); PK Casey Barth, North Carolina (20); SP Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson (24). Defense: DT J.R. Sweezy, NC State (26); LB Colin McCarthy, Miami (34); Abraham Kromah, Duke (30); CB Greg Reid, Florida State (20)

Making sense of Gruden, UM coaching search

This weekend was only the first couple days in what will probably be a stretch of a long days and nights for reporters covering the Miami Hurricanes. So, please bear with us.

With all of the reporting and rumors to chase, I didn't get a chance to come back and share some thoughts on what I've been hearing and thinking in the aftermath of the firing of Randy Shannon and the coaching search. Here are a few things on my mind:

Gruden > From the get-go, all of this Jon Gruden talk (heard it last week) seemed like a stretch to me. Why would a coach who has won a Super Bowl, has a Monday Night Football gig and potentially a lot of big-time offers to get back into coaching at the NFL level take a college job when he hasn't coached at that level since 1991? But the reporting -- and tweeting -- we've done since yesterday on what we were hearing is legit.

There were credible sources telling us (not only me) that Gruden and UM have had mutual interest for awhile and that money and a framework of a deal has already been discussed. A few other sources were saying it was done and a press conference was already in the works for Monday. Obviously, the latter didn't happen. No credible sources or officials at UM confirmed it. In fact, other sources -- as the night went on -- began spinning the story in the other direction. So, we didn't write a story saying that. But I strongly believe from what I heard, Gruden and Miami have been talking for awhile (before Shannon was fired) and numbers of a potential deal have been exchanged.

UM was -- and probably still is -- holding out hope they can land their dream candidate. If they do, it's because they go all-in and meet all of Gruden's demands (expensive staff, etc) as former Cane Dan Morgan told me Sunday morning. As for his "denial" on ESPN? There have been a lot of coaches who have left for jobs making similar denials and telling their current bosses what they want to hear as they negotiate. 

For Gruden, Miami is attractive on several fronts. He can pull a Pete Carroll and go back to coaching at a level where the head coaches are the real superstars. And, he would be given full control of football operations -- bring in people like his brother if he wants and friends. The question is will Miami really pony up all that cash for the big prize? If UM is smart, it will. The Canes have already done the research of the economic impact Gruden would have in terms of season ticket sales. Plus, there is the money donors and others have promised should UM snag a huge fish like Gruden. If UM wants to be relevant right away and "hire the best coach to take them to the pinnacle of college football" as Kirby Hocutt said, Gruden is that guy. 

The most likely scenario -- in the end -- is UM ends up landing a lesser high-profile coach than Gruden, who can pretty much choose wherever he wants to go. But I'd still hold out hope over the next 48 hours. If it doesn't happen by then, UM will probably move on. As I said earlier, I think the talks with Gruden have been going on for weeks. The money and particulars is what has been discussed over the last 24 hours (since Shannon was fired).

Dan Mullen > So who else is UM really looking at? Here is who I believe based on what credible sources have told me and other reporters here at The Herald who have covered UM in the past: Montreal Alouette's coach Marc Trestman (former UM offensive coordinator); Georgia's Mark Richt; former USF coach Jim Leavitt; Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville (he was the hot name last year for UM); Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen; and UConn's Randy Edsall

Yes, Richt said Sunday he has no interest in leaving Georgia. But he just had a 6-6 season. He played at UM and may be able to be sold on the come home and be a hero scenario. And if UM is really going to pony up big cash -- we heard upwards of $3 million per for a coach it really wants -- then why wouldn't he at least listen?

To me, the most intriguing potential candidates are Mullen and Edsall.

Mullen is making $1.2 million at Mississippi State through 2013. He's 38 years old, hungry and has quickly turned Mississippi State into a respectable program in a tough SEC West.

Edsall, 52, has been at UConn since 1999 and has made a basketball school excited about its football program. He's only 69-69, but the Huskies have been really competitive without much of a recruiting base. They shared the Big East title in 2007. Edsall makes $1.3 million a year.  

> I know some people are wondering about TCU's Gary Patterson, Boise State's Chris Petersen as well as former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.

I just think those are long shots at this point -- Petersen and Patterson especially since they're teams have obviously done so well and are ranked high in the BCS. But I wouldn't be surprised to see UM go after the them if given a warm reception. I've heard Leach's name from a few sources. But my gut tells me his ugly departure from Texas Tech has him a little tainted and UM probably wouldn't go after him unless they completely strike out with others.

> As for Shannon, I truly believe the decision to fire him was probably made after UM's losses to Florida State and Virginia. The Hurricanes became irrelevant after the Cavaliers loss and from all indications, that's when Hocutt began to start looking into replacements. 

November 28, 2010

Reaction to Randy Shannon firing (updated)

Going to make this a blog where I update and place running news from today. Check for updates throughout the day.

COMPLETE AUDIO OF ATHLETIC DIRECTOR KIRBY HOCUTT'S PRESS CONFERENCE

STATEMENT FROM RANDY SHANNON

"I am proud of the last four years at the University of Miami and what we have been able to accomplish. I have a deep respect and appreciation for the young men who have played here during my tenure.

"We established three winning seasons; continually improved in the Atlantic Coast Conference over the last four years; brought in strong recruiting classes; and just as importantly, made tremendous strides off the field with our academic progress rate and graduation success rate among the best nationally.

"I believe that I leave the Hurricanes football program with a stronger foundation upon which they can continue to build. I thank President Shalala for the opportunity. Those that know my history know of my passion and dedication to the 'U', and only want success for this University moving forward."

> Interim coach Jeff Stoutland: "The reason that I became a coach is to serve student-athletes. We are in a tough situation -- there is no doubt, but that does not change our commitment to the young men on this team. Everyone on this coaching staff remains fully committed to this program and finishing this season the right way. We are going to do everything in our power to prepare for a winning bowl experience, and continue the highest standard of excellence off the field."

RECRUITS REACT

When UM recruit and Tampa Alonso star defensive end Anthony Chickillo woke up Sunday morning he said he had more than 50 missed calls and text messages on his cell phone. The majority of calls? From other coaches trying to convince him to drop UM because the school fired Randy Shannon.

"Even when I committed to Miami, they still kept calling me," Chickillo said. "Coach Shannon had a real special relationship with me. Coach Urban Meyer called me this morning. Florida State called me and left a message. Every school you can think of called me. I haven't had a chance to speak to many of them."

"It really comes down to who is going to be a head coach. My love for Miami doesn't change. I have such a strong relationship with the school itself. It's my dream to go to the University of Miami since i was a little boy. This happening -- it shocked me. And I still can't believe it."

Chickillo said he went to Saturday's game at Sun Life Stadium and was disappointed by the 23-20 overtime loss to USF. But he was also disappointed by what else he saw.

"I went to the game Saturday and saw the plane flying around with the stuff saying fire coach Shannon," Chickillo said. "There weren't a lot of people in the stands. I've been a Miami fan, a Hurricane my whole life. I love the University of Miami. And, it was sad to see. I remember Miami in the hey day in the 2000s, one of the most dominant programs in college football. I don't know what to say or why they lost. They shouldn't have lost to that USF team. I'm trying to be positive about the whole thing and see what happens."

The Hurricanes currently have seven commitments as part of the 2011 signing class. Chickillo has been a vocal leader in trying to recruit other players to UM. But with UM in the midst of a 7-5 season, it has been tough to lure others.

"I need to talk to my family about it," Chickillo said. "I think I'm going to take all my official trips. I just have to see who is going to be head coach. I think that's what everybody is waiting to see. I've heard some names out there. I want to see who comes in as coach and what type of people he brings in. I've established a good relationship with the coaches there for the past three years and now I'm going to have to establish a good relationship with a new staff in a matter of months before signing day. I want to see who the defensive line coach is. That's a real important thing for me and the process."

One coach Chickillo doesn't want to see -- former USF coach Jim Leavitt. "Jim Leavitt wouldn't be a good one I don't think. What happened with the whole USF deal, he's not well liked. I don't think that would be a good situation."

November 27, 2010

Shannon out as coach at UM (updated)

The Randy Shannon era is officially over at UM. Shannon was informed earlier tonight by athletic director Kirby Hocutt he has been fired.

Randy Shannon

The fate of all his assistants still isn't known. According to an ESPN report, offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has already been told he is out as well. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is expected to become the interim coach for the bowl game.

One assistant coach, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was already speaking to his agent about latching on at other programs. As for Shannon, the assistant said: "I can't imagine what he's going through right now. He loved this program with all his life. It's the tough part of the business."

The Hurricanes finished the regular season at 7-5 after a 23-20 overtime loss to South Florida at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday. Shannon compiled a 28-22 record, including a 16-16 mark in the ACC in four years as head coach of the Hurricanes. He received a four-year extension just before the start of the 2010 season.

Who made the decision? The Associated Press says Hocutt made the final call. But sources say UM President Donna Shalala and the board of trustees gave Hocutt the green light to get rid of Shannon after the Florida State debacle and loss at Virginia. 

“We have made a decision to seek new leadership for our football program,” Hocutt said in a UM press release. “Our expectations are to compete for championships and return to the top of the college football world. We will immediately begin a national search.”

Hocutt will address the media Sunday at 1.

Over the past month, I've been told by several sources who have a vested interest in UM that Georgia's Mark Richt and former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach are at the top of UM's wish list. We'll see if that comes to fruition.

VIDEO: Canes talk after USF loss

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The regular season ended with a thud Saturday as the Canes lost to USF 23-20 in overtime. Here is some video:

RANDY SHANNON POST-GAME

Opening statement... "Today's game was one of those games you come out, fight, play hard each time. Had an opportunities in the red zone, couldn't convert all year long. That's been our stigma with this football team, getting in the red zone, couldn't convert, turning the football over in the red zone. Your sad to the seniors go out on not a good note. Guys on defense played hard, they kept us in the game the entire time. But like anything we had an opportunity on one of the drives to make a play, canceled out some points in that situation. Just down right now. That's how I feel right now. The players down. Seniors are down. Tough one. That's about all. I've kept saying it all year long, the same things been happening to us as a football team. You can't win games like that when those things continue to happen."

What were you telling officials on the last play... "That was between me and the official."

On why he started Stephen Morris... "Jacory just wasn't playing very well in practice this week. He wasn't in rhythm like he was, like we were used to. We knew were going to play him at some time during the course of the game. We didn't know when. We decided to go with him in the second half, see where he was at."

On what happened on Jacory Harris' interception at the end of regulation... "I don't know. I have to see it also on film, evaluate it."

On why he did not start Jacory Harris... "I said if he was ready as far as reps. I said that now. I said if he is practicing well, Jacory will start. I said he's the starter, but if he practices well, he will start. Now, other people might have misread what I said. But I said what I said."

On when Morris was told he would start... "Me and coach Whipple decided when we decided on playing him."

On why he called a timeout with 14 seconds left and UM on the Bulls' 31... "We knew we were going to get one more shot at it. It was a 50, 52 yard field goal. We were trying to get maybe five or six yards, something like that and make it a 40-something yard field goal."

On why he didn't run the ball to setup the field goal with two timeouts... "Why not run the ball? Our run game was not very good today -- besides Storm Johnson's long run. You take Storm Johnson's long run away from that game and we didn't do much in the run game. They were stuffing our run game pretty well today. So you have to take your chances with dinking and dunking to the receiver coming across the middle. Hankerson an out. LaRon doing those type of things today because they were really stuffing our run game.We got ourselves down by throwing the football with crossing routes and things like that. This last interception -- things happen."

On if the early offensive struggles were part of the kids coming out flat... "No, I don't think that. Defense kept us in the game, like I said. Offense couldn't run the football. We couldn't get nothing offensively. They did a great job stuffing our running game. We couldn't run it. The defense had to step up and keep us in the game like they did."

On UM's rushing struggles... "I have to watch film. Once I watch film and evaluate, I can tell you guys what it was."

On switching from Morris to Jacory... "We said we were going to give Jacory a shot. You guys are trying to make more than what it is. OK, you all continue to do it. Somebody, tells you it happened Sunday. That was on ESPN or whatever. Then it was always going to be from this point or whatever, I keep telling you guys two or three weeks ago, Jacory is the running starting quarterback for the University of Miami. I'm not going to put anybody in a situation where they aren't practicing very good, the way he should be practicing. If I'm wrong for doing that, tell me I'm wrong. But I'm going to look out for what's best for him and this football team. You guys want something different.

"Stephen wasn't doing nothing in the game. Jacory wasn't practicing well, we weren't going to start him. Now, you guys are going to ask me again and I'll have another question on it. This is my second time saying it."

How disappointing is the season... "It's always disappointing. You never want as a coach to be satisfied -- no matter what. No coach across the nation would be satisfied. I'm not satisfied, no. You only get satisfied until you win it all. That's when you get satisfication. If you're 10-2, you're happy, but you're not satisfied. You get never satisfied until you win it all."

On if he worries about his future... "That's you guys in here. You'll be discussing that all the time like you've been doing for the last six weeks. So..."

On if 7-5 is a step back... "Yeah, record wise we're not where we need to be. The only thing is that we improved some areas on defense. We finished second in the Coastal Division instead of fourth. But we didn't improve our overall record."

On what the mistakes have been all season... "Red zone, turnovers."

What will the team do now... "Go back, watch film, have a team meeting at 2:30, lay out what we have to finish school with and get ready for the bowl we have to attend."

On if all he was trying to do was finding a quarterback to win game... "That's all. You're just trying to find the best one and whoever is hot at that time is who you go with. We feel like we have two quarterbacks, they're making plays, doing certain things, but they're also making mistakes. You always get discouraged by that. But you want to keep grinding them so they can be the best that they can be and give us the best opportunity."

Does it matter who starts... "Everybody in here thinks it does. Not drilling you guys. But it's the truth. You guys always care about who starts. Kendall Thompkins started against Georgia Tech. Nobody really cared about it. They didn't realize Hankerson didn't touch the field the first 10 plays of the game at Georgia Tech. So, it's a big thing about who starts and doesn't start and I don't know the reason why."

Gameday blog: USF at Miami

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The banners calling for Randy Shannon's firing are flying overhead and there is still plenty of seats available for today's noon kickoff between your Miami Hurricanes and the South Florida Bulls. For your viewing pleasure, the game will be televised on ESPNU and can be heard on WQAM.com. Feel free to follow along and participate in our discussion below throughout the game.

REWIND: The Canes lead the all-time series 2-0. Last season, UM knocked off the Bulls 31-10 in Tampa.

Photo ABOUT SOUTH FLORIDA: The Bulls (6-4, 3-3 Big East) are coming off a 17-10 loss to Pittsburgh. Here is what Shannon had to say about USF earlier this week. "South Florida is a physical team, a two-back team, try to knock you off the football. And the defense is very physical. They're getting physical up front. Defensively they're doing a lot of things up front, eight man front football, try to give you fits. They try to line up and stop the run game, say you have to throw the ball to beat us. We have to come out and play football very fast, quick, be powerful on both sides of the football. We have to capitalize on opportunities they give us offensively and defensively. It's a big opportunity for us to play this game. It's senior day, and there's nothing more exciting than senior day when you can end on a great note."

THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON FOR THE U...

> Who starts at quarterback... Shannon said Jacory Harris would be his starter if he came back and did the right things in practice. We suspect freshman Stephen Morris will still get the nod, having taken all the first team snaps in practice this week. If Morris plays, expect UM to continue to pound the football with their running game.

> How the Hurricanes respond to being out of the running for the ACC... Until last week, UM still had something to play for. They don't anymore -- outside of Shannon's job. Whether they win or lose today, they're still likely headed to the Sun Bowl.

MY PICK: I'm tempted to pick South Florida here with the Canes having little to play for. But the Canes' running game is on fire of late. I can't see Damien Berry and Lamar Miller taking the day off. They'll do enough. UM 26, USF 14.

Reminder for Gameday blog participants: Participation in the Cover It Live program is intended for the exchange of meaningful questions and observations during the game between fans and reporters. Not all comments or questions will be posted. iPhone users are asked to be patient as it takes several minutes for Cover It Live to load.

November 26, 2010

A closer look at UM's senior class

A group of 16 seniors will run through the smoke one final time Saturday in the final home game of their careers when USF visits Sun Life Stadium. And just like the last three groups of seniors, none of them will have played for a conference title or in a BCS Bowl game. That's depressing obviously for Canes fans who have come to expect a lot more from this program. 

But here's a look at what each of those 16 seniors have contributed to the program in their time here:

2006 recruits

Matt Bosher > Kicker Matt Bosher earned All-ACC first team honors as a kicker and won the team MVP award in 2008 as a sophomore. He has been the starting kicker for three years and punter for four years and has made 42 of his 50 field goal attempts in his career and is 123 of 126 on extra points. He is averaging 44.9 yards a punt this season -- a career high -- and has pinned 14 inside the 20-yard line.

> Offensive lineman Joel Figueroa is out for the season after suffering yet another shoulder injury. Figueroa, a two-star recruit out of North Miami High, started two games at right tackle for UM and struggled this season. He started 13 games at guard between 2008 to 2009 and excelled a lot more on the inside than playing tackle.

> Tight end Richard Gordon has started nine games this season and has five catches for 26 yards to show for it. In 37 previous games before this season, Gordon had four catches for 32 yards. He's served primarily as a blocking tight end. He played defensive end and even returned kickoffs (5 for 104 yards) back in 2007.

> Ryan Hill came in as one of the nation's top high school cornerbacks but was switched to receiver because of a shortage of recruits at the position. He spent two seasons there and caught 19 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns before moving to safety in 2008. He racked up 34 tackles then suffered a season-ending injury before the 2009 season. This year, he's come on strong and has started the last eight games at cornerback. He has 44 tackles, six pass breakups and is tied for the team lead with three interceptions.

> Defensive tackle Josh Holmes has been injury plagued most of his career although he started nine games last season and had 22 tackles. This season, he's made five starts and has seven tackles and one sack -- upping his career totals to 38 tackles and three sacks.

> Colin McCarthy started his career being compared to UM's all-time leading tackler Dan Morgan. He hasn't lived up to that. But he's still started 34 games in his career and has made 284 career tackles, the most by a linebacker at UM since Jonathan Vilma. He was moved to middle linebacker a week before the season started and leads the team with 95 tackles and has an interception with eight tackles for loss.

> Kylan Robinson was a four-star running back in high school and spent his first two years in the Hurricanes scout team backfield before being moved to linebacker. He was given a chance to win the starting middle linebacker job in camp, but never did. He's played in 30 games at UM and has 15 career tackles, one tackle for loss and one fumble recovery.

2007 recruits

> Allen Bailey was recruited as a linebacker out of high school, but was moved to defensive end in 2008. He's made 25 career starts at UM. He led the team with seven sacks last season and 11 tackles for loss. He leads the team again this season with those same numbers. He has 19 career sacks and 100 career tackles.

Leonard Hankerson > Damien Berry began his career at safety and as a special teams standout before being moved to running back in 2008. Last season, he carried the ball for the first time five games into the season and finished with 616 yards on 93 carries with a team-high eight touchdown runs. This year in 10 games, he's run for 810 yards and five touchdowns on 166 carries. He's hoping to become UM's first 1,000 yard back since Willis McGahee in 2002.

> Defensive back Jared Campbell, the younger brother of former Canes defensive end Calais Campbell, started six games for the Hurricanes last season and finished with 31 tackles. This season, he's played in eight games, mostly on special teams and has four tackles and one forced fumble.

> Graig Cooper led the Hurricanes in rushing in each of his first three seasons, compiling 2,218 yards on the ground with 12 touchdowns in 20 career starts. But a major knee injury in the Champs Sports Bowl during a kickoff return -- and the emergence of a young group of star running backs -- has curtailed his career. He made his first start of the season last week against Virginia Tech and has run for 145 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown this season. His 2,363 yards rushing rank fifth all-time behind Clinton Portis (2,523), James Jackson (2,953), Edgerrin James (2,960) and Ottis Anderson (3,331).

> Offensive lineman Orlando Franklin is set to make his 13th career start at left tackle Saturday. In his career, Franklin has started 37 games -- most at right tackle. In 2007, he shared the team's rookie of the year award with Graig Cooper. This season, the 6-7, 312-pounder has been flagged more than any other UM lineman.

> Receiver Leonard Hankerson caught a total of 17 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns his first two seasons at UM. The last two seasons? He's led the team in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns. Combined, he has 102 catches for 1,759 yards and 18 touchdowns over his last 24 games. Last week, he passed Michael Irvin for the single-season record in touchdown catches (12) and with 57 catches and 958 yards is on the verge of setting more records. Eddie Brown owns school record with 66 66 (only two others Wesley Carroll and Kellen Winslow caught 60 or more) and 1,114 yards (Andre Johnson has 1,092 yards).

> Cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke started 18 games before this season and tallied 60 tackles and one interception. He's made four starts this season and has 18 tackles, two interceptions and five pass breakups. 

OTHERS
> Fullback Pat Hill signed with Miami in 2008 and was supposed to be done last season. But a season-ending ankle injury allowed him to come back for one more year where he's helped pave the way for the most productive running game at UM since 2004. 

> Special teams star and former walk-on Cory Nelms made his biggest impact last year in the Oklahoma game with a few bone-jarring hits on kickoffs. Nelms was injured last week against Virginia Tech and won't play Saturday. He has five tackles this season and one pass breakup. He made seven tackles last season.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Ideally, this year's senior class might have been larger had six of the 19 players UM coach Randy Shannon signed in his first class (2007) hadn't transferred out. So what are those six guys up to now?

> Receiver/tight end Daniel Adderley left UM in 2009 and last we heard was practice squad player at Tennessee.

> Quarterback Robert Marve suffered his second season-ending knee injury at Purdue back in September. In four starts, he completed 67 of his 99 attempts (67.7) for 512 yards, 3 TDs and 4 INTs and compiled a 2-2 record. Marve started 11 games at UM, finished 6-5, completed 116 of 213 attempts (54.5 percent) for 1,293 yards, 9 TDs and 13 INTs.

> Receiver Jermaine McKenzie, who left UM in 2008, is the second-leading receiver at Memphis. He has 24 catches for 405 yards and 3 TDs.

> Running back Shawnbrey McNeal, who left UM in 2008, ran for 1,188 yards and 12 touchdowns to help SMU end a 25-year bowl drought in 2009. He left school early and was undrafted free agent signed by the San Diego Chargers. Now, he's on the practice squad with the Falcons.

> Defensive tackle Chris Perry signed with UM but transferred to Texas Tech in Jan. 2008. He's played in three games this season and has a total of three tackles -- 12 total in his career.

> Defensive back Doug Wiggins transferred to Western Michigan in 2008. Over the last two seasons, he's started 17 games and has 102 tackles, six forced fumbles.

November 25, 2010

Mike James to miss USF game

The injury report is out and the Hurricanes will be down a running back when they face South Florida in their regular season finale Saturday.

According to the injury report released, Mike James will sit out because of illness. James is third on the team in rushing with 394 yards on 66 carries. He's scored three rushing touchdowns.

Defensive end Marcus Robinson, who has five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks this season, had season-ending surgery on his knee and is out the rest of the season.

Also out because of illness: backup middle linebacker Kelvin Cain, who has been sick for about a week, coach Randy Shannon said Wednesday. Defensive back Lee Chambers, special teams standout Cory Nelms and defensive tackle Curtis Porter will also not play this week. All have lower extremity injuries.

Defensive end Andre Smith is listed as probable with a lower extremity injury.

Canes QB quandary flusters Harris' dad

If Randy Shannon picks freshman Stephen Morris as his starting quarterback Saturday against South Florida he can expect a call from Jacory Harris' father.

Rodney Harris said Wednesday night he has been under the idea his son would retain his starting job once he was cleared to return from a concussion. But what has been reported during the past couple of days, Harris said, has troubled him.

Jacory Harris "I didn't think you could lose your job by being hurt," Harris said. "Randy has been saying that since Jacory got hurt. Now, how are you going to open it up for competition late in the year? If they feel that kid is a better quarterback, then they need to tell Jacory that. They haven't told him for whatever reasons.

"Either way, that still wouldn't be fair. Jacory wasn't allowed to run the offense they're running now. He threw the ball 60 times a game. Put him in a position to succeed, let him run that offense."

Shannon said this week Harris would start if he did "everything he's supposed to in practice.'' But Wednesday, Morris took the bulk of the snaps with the first team again. Afterward, Shannon said he still had not made up his mind on a starter and that Morris and Harris were doing "a good job in practice."

"[Jacory's] better, but he's still the same," Shannon said Wednesday. "I'm not going to sit up here and say `this guy is doing this, this guy is doing that.' The thing we have to do is make sure whoever is practicing the best, gets the best opportunity."

Local NBC sports anchor Adam Kuperstein reported Tuesday morning that Harris had already been told Monday he would remain the backup the rest of the season. Rodney Harris said he had not spoken to his son or Shannon since shortly after the Virginia Tech loss.  But Harris he said if Morris was taking the snaps with the first team on Tuesday and Wednesday, then it is a sure-fire sign he'll start Saturday against USF.

"I'm pretty sure they tell them what's going to happen on Sunday -- who is starting and all that," Harris said. "My thing is how do you lose your job when you are hurt giving your all for that team? When you come to practice and aren't doing what is supposed to be done, that's something different. But knowing Jacory, he'd go out there and put the same effort every time. What's changed?

"You made a kid captain last week and didn't play him. This week, you're not going to give him a shot? What's the deal? When I talked to Jacory Saturday after the game he was not taking that kind of stuff well. He's a competitor, he wants to be in there to play. How do you take a kid like that and just sit him down without a shot? I can't understand that. I won't understand that. Unless Stephen plays the first half and Jacory plays the second. Then what are we doing going back to the Robert Marve situation?

"I talked to Coach Shannon after the Virginia Tech game, told him they had some tough breaks but the game plan was good. That they should keep their head up. But I haven't spoken to him in reference to [Jacory playing]. I just assume when I read in the paper when he says this is my guy and who I'm going with when he comes off his injury -- he said that for three weeks -- that's what I'm going by. That's what everybody else is going by.

"If the kid don't play Saturday, then I'll have to schedule some sort of meeting with Shannon to see what's wrong with Jacory. The kid wants to help this football team. The kid is No. 2 or 3 on every list passing list at that school. How could you do that to the kid?"

> Shannon said defensive end Marcus Robinson, hurt in the Virginia Tech loss, wouldn't play this week. He said special teams standout Cory Nelms had about "a 25 percent chance" of playing against USF. He said freshman linebacker Kelvin Cain has been sick for over a week.

November 24, 2010

Herbstreit defends Shannon

Almost Thanksgiving! Happy Thanksgiving Eve to all of you.

I listened to Joe Rose's WQAM interview today with ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit, and he readily admits he's a Randy Shannon supporter.

Herbstreit thinks UM players have to step up and take more responsibility for their insconsistent play this season. He said he thought Jacory Harris would be more of a leader, and that he is surprised at what has transpired this season. He said he can't figure out who and where the leaders are on this team.

He does not believe Shannon should be fired, but did say "some adjustments, maybe tweaking the staff" needed to be done. He also said Shannon needs to "continue to go out and recruit players who understand about that tradition they have at Miami.''

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 Herbstreit:

"I’m a huge fan of Randy’s, and I have been. I like how he handles his team behind closed doors and the discipline and the  things he tries to instill in his team. but I don’t know, I was shocked by this year, I really was. I’m not necessarily caught up in wins and losses. You’re going to win some games and lose some games. Obviously it’s a disappointing year for them to be sitting, at this point, with this record [7-4]. And moving on from here, you wonder where they go to finish up the season. Hopefully 8-4 if they can end up winning their last game.

 But beyond that, I look at this and I think, ‘OK, the team hasn’t always played with passion. The team hasn’t aways played with discipline.’ It’s very easy to blame Randy. He’s the head coach. I’m sure, if he had a press conference, he’d be the first one to take that blame. But I think it’s easy to say, ‘Fire Randy Shannon.. Move on.’ I don’t think that’s always the answer. I think trying to make some adjustments, maybe tweaking the staff, is maybe an answer; trying to continue to go out and recruit players who understand about that tradition they have at Miami.

 

But I can understand the frustration because this is his fourth year and that’s the thing. At that point is when you want to see the improvement. You always have to keep in mind that Jacory Harris surprised me a lot this year with not  becoming the anchor or the rock of the team. the one thing I think that’s missing on the field – and it’s easy to blame coaches when things don’t go well, but who are the guys on that field that give you a feeling that there’s great leadership and this team is being self-policed at times? if you look at championship teams, not just at the U, but around the country. There’s accountability on the field. Coaches can stand up and down, scream and do all they want.

At the end of the day you have to have accountability in the locker room when the coaches are gone and have players that care about doing the little things right. And they play and they care about winning. This team has not always demonstrated that to me and that to me isn’t necessarily just a coaching problem, it’s a leadership issue on the team. I really thought Jacory would be that anchor and that rock. It started early in the year with twittering and just being kind of silly and just showing some immaturity and not really focusing on doing what it takes.

I don’t know. I don’t follow the team that close to be able to really know who that guy is. Who’s the leader of that team? I won’t sit here and tell you that Randy Shannon needs to be fired because I think this team can still win with him as a head coach, but I do think that they need to take a serious look in the mirror and make some adjustments to what they’re doing and the professional manner in which they approach the consistency that it takes to be able to win week in and week out, because think of how they played against teams like Pitt, Clemson early in the year when they were on a roll, and then to play the way they did against Florida State – that’s just unacceptable to have that kind of effort and that kind of emotion in a rivalry game.

 

That has a lasting impact on fans’ views of how the season went. And then to lay an egg at Virginia, it’s just a lack of consistency. The fans want to blame it on Randy Shannon and the coaching? I can understand their view. I look at the players a lot in college football, too. And I think it’s easy to look past them because being that they’re kids. But they’re 18 to 23 years old. They need some of the blame themselves. And I just don’t sense that there’s a great deal of leadership on that team."

 

USF Series will not be continued beyond 2013

The St. Petersburg Times reported in today's paper that "the Hurricanes have told athletic director Doug Woolard they are not interested in continuing the [USF] rivalry beyond 2013, when their six-game contract ends."

  "That article is accurate. We're not going to extend beyond the five-year window we're in the middle of,''  Chris Freet, UM associate athletic director for communications, told The Miami Herald on Wednesday. "We're not going to extend that.''

The article states that "the Bulls wanted to extend the series,'' but that UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt nixed the idea.

Freet also said in the report that UM has one opening in 2014, but is interested in a neutral-site game.

--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

November 23, 2010

Let the QB competition begin at UM

The Miami Hurricanes may not have much left to play for this season outside of matching their record from a year ago and picking up their first bowl victory since 2006.

Jacory Harris But for Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris, Tuesday's practice was really the official start of what should be a back-and-forth quarterback competition -- one that probably will not end until the week before UM begins the 2011 season next September. Although coach Randy Shannon said this week Harris would be the starter Saturday if he can show he's back in a rhythm with the offense during practice, I don't expect Shannon to just hand the job back over to the junior permanently. In fact, NBC-6's Adam Kuperstein said a source told him Morris was told Monday night he will start against USF.

Ultimately, Shannon knows very well the best thing for Harris and Morris is a healthy competition. And the fact Morris (50.5 comp pct, 880 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs) played pretty well when Harris (53.9 comp pct, 1646 yards, 14 TDs, 11 INTs) was out, I've been told, has convinced Shannon to leave the quarterback competition open heading into next season. When Shannon spoke on the ACC Teleconference Tuesday what he said seemed to support that belief.

"This is the first time I think since Robert Marve was here that he’s had somebody to push him where he needs to go,” Shannon said. “With Stephen there, Stephen and him talk a lot, they communicate a lot. It’s a competition factor of him staying on top of his game but also ... not feeling the heat, just knowing you have somebody by you that’s just as good as you that wants to work just as hard as you. I think it’s been a great cohesive deal between those guys that should really work out well.”

For what it is worth, Morris took all of the first team snaps when we were able to watch the first 15 minutes of practice Tuesday -- a sign Shannon clearly wants Harris to earn the job back. 

“He’s got to get back in the rhythm of running and cutting and doing those things,” Shannon said. “Jacory has to get back in the rhythm of throwing the football and the timing routes, dropping back, letting the football release at a certain time, getting back to handing the football off, doing all of those things. If he’s really sharp and crisp we’ll go with him. If he’s not really sharp when we need him to be, we’ll go with Stephen. He knows it, and he’s going to work hard this week in practice to get those things.”

Stephen Morris One thing Harris did that impressed Shannon as well as his teammates was that he kept coaching Morris while he was out -- something that won points all around after Harris was seen at times this season off on his own.

"Even though he wasn’t playing, he played a valuable role," senior running back Damien Berry said. "Jacory was coaching on the sideline. He was telling Stephen what he did wrong, his reads and what he saw, critiqueing him from the sideline. Jacory is a big part of our team. Stephen is also, whether on the field or off the field. Both of those  guys are great. I love the way Jacory hasn’t been selfish or anything. He stepped up and he was a real leader, showed how much he cared about this team being on the sideline coaching."

Berry won't be around next season for the competition, but he expects it to be a good one. "That will be very interesting," Berry said. "I’m waiting to see what’s going to happen with that one. It’ll be very interesting to see both of them compete because they’re two different styles of quarterbacks. I want to see what happens."

Berry believes that if Harris had real competition from the beginning of the season, he might have been better off and perhaps more focused. "That’s the goal, to put you into that fire and see how you come out," Berry said. "Some people break, some people fall. But most of the time, if you’re here, you’re going to step up to the plate."

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

> With 262 yards rushing against Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes have climbed up to No. 25 in the country in rushing (192.73 yards per game) and are on pace -- with what they've accomplished over their last six games -- to eclipse the school record for rushing yards in a season (2,558) set in 1954. As it stands, UM's 2,120 yards on the ground already rank 10th all-time -- behind five glorious season from 2000-2004 that featured Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, James Jackson and Najeh Davenport. 

> Between Harris (11), Morris (7), Spencer Whipple (2) and A.J. Highsmith (1) the Hurricanes have thrown more interceptions this season (21) than they have thrown touchdown passes (19). Of course, 12 of those TD passes have been caught by Leonard Hankerson (a new school single-season record). FYI, the school record for interceptions thrown in a season? 32 set back in 1944. Jacory Harris, who has 35 career INTs, is three picks shy of tying George Mira's school record of 38 (1961-63).

Antonio Dixon > Left tackle Orlando Franklin said he will be spending Thanksgiving with his mom and former teammate Antonio Dixon, who has gone from undrafted free agent two years ago to starting five games for the Eagles this season. Franklin said he actually sent Dixon a funny text message last week as he watched the Eagles-Redskins Monday night football game.

"I was surprised he didn't stutter the other night when I was watching Monday Night Football. He actually said 'Antonio Dixon, The U.' I made sure I called him and left him a message about that," Franklin said of Dixon, who battled a severe stuttering problem when he was at Miami Booker T. Washington High and at UM.

"He called me right after the game and cussed me out. It's all good. I'm happy for him. He just has to continue doing what he's doing."

Franklin said he often plays Call Of Duty online with Dixon.

As for his career at UM, Franklin said: "I definitely think I had a real good career. But really it's all about wins and losses. People are not going to see anything else. I remember last year, people telling me I had a great game against South Florida, but I had a horrible game against Wisconsin. Well, grade-wise I had a great game versus Wisconsin and a horrible game against South Florida. It's all about wins and losses here."

> The consensus among players as far as the most disappointing moment of the season? That was pretty easy, Virginia.

"Losing is one thing," cornerback Ryan Hill said. "You go into games with expectations of a win. But when you take a game like Virginia, you lose to guys you know you shouldn't lose to. I kind of stomach Florida State and Ohio State -- these guys are among the nation's elite just like we are. But to lose to Virginia, that's one game that really stuck out to me. I didn't have any answer for it. I don't really understand how we lost that game."

> Hill, to me, has been the most pleasant surprise of any senior on the team. He basically went from a receiver in Shannon's dog house to the second-best cornerback on the team as a senior. He's also a great, great interview.

When I asked Hill about being in Shannon's doghouse, he said: ""I wasn't in his doghouse, I was in his kennel. Coach Shannon wouldn't even talk to me. Coach Shannon, we'd pass by each other and he'd look at me - `uhhh.' We've grown and I love him to death. I'm sure he loves me and we talk all the time. There's not a thing I wouldn't do for him and I'm sure he feel's the same way."

VIDEO: Canes' seniors talk before USF game

As usual, your collection of Tuesday interviews before the USF game. For the complete audio soundtrack of coach Randy Shannon's press conference, click on this link.

Coaching comparison: How Shannon stacks up

Miami Hurricanes fans are tired of mediocrity. They're tired of losing big games. And some (I'd say a majority) are ready and hopeful Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon will be handed a pink slip after this season.

Shannon They've seen Shannon's record against ranked opponents (4-9), seen that he has yet to win a bowl game and are taking the 2010 season as a step backward instead of a step forward. The Hurricanes (7-4, 5-3 ACC) will wrap up their season Saturday against South Florida at Sun Life Stadium. Win, and the Hurricanes would likely end up at either the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando or the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas against a Pac-10 team or a rebuilding Notre Dame program.

Shannon could very easily win both of his final two games this season and finish 9-4 -- the same record as last season. Is that good enough to keep his job? Only UM President Donna Shalala really knows. But before you rush to judgement or an opinion, take a deeper look at some numbers I researched this morning.

For starters, 24 coaching changes were made at FBS schools before the 2007 season. Did you know that among the 16 coaches still at those schools Shannon ranks fifth overall in win percentage? Did you know among those 24 schools, UM is still in the top third of winning percentage (eighth overall)?

School                   Coach                 Total  (pct.)
Alabama                Nick Saban           37-10 (.787)
x-Cincinnati           Brian Kelly           37-13 (.740)
Tulsa                     Todd Graham       34-17 (.667)
x-Boston College     J. Jagodzinski     34-18 (.653)
Air Force                Troy Calhoun       33-18 (.647)
Michigan St.           Mark Dantonio      32-18 (.640)
x-Central Mich.      Butch Jones          31-21 (.596)
Miami                   Randy Shannon    28-21 (.571)
Stanford                Jim Harbaugh       27-21 (.563)
North Carolina       Butch Davis           26-23 (.531)
N.C. State             Tom O'Brien          24-24 (.500)
Arizona State         Dennis Erickson     23-24 (.489)
x-La. Tech            Derek Dooley         21-26 (.447)
x-Louisville            S. Kragthorpe       20-27 (.425)
Indiana                 Bill Lynch              18-30 (.375)
Rice                      David Bailiff         18-30 (.375)
x-Army                 Stan Brock             17-30 (.361)
x-Iowa State         Gene Chizik           17-32 (.346)
Idaho                    Robb Akey             16-32 (.333)
x-Minnesota           Tim Brewster        16-33 (.327)
UAB                      Neil Callaway         15-32 (.319)
FIU                       Mario Cristobal       14-32 (.304)
Tulane                  Bob Toledo             13-34 (.277)
North Texas          Todd Dodge             8-39 (.170)
NOTE: x-School made coaching change

> If you don't care where Shannon ranks among his current peers who took over at the same time, here are a few interesting facts...

- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer went 17-26-1 n his first four years as a coach (1987-90). He didn't go to a bowl game or win one until his seventh year.

> Here is how Shannon compares to the other two ACC coaching hires made in 2007: 
- Randy Shannon at UM 28-21 overall, 4-9 vs. ranked opponents (4.75 strength of schedule)
- Butch Davis at UNC 26-23 overall, 5-7 vs. ranked opponents (4.16 strength of schedule)
- Tom O'Brien at N.C. State 24-24 overall, 5-4 vs. ranked opponents (3.39 strength of schedule)

> The most common measuring stick used by fans is comparing Shannon to previous UM coaches. For starters, did you know each of the three previous coaches -- Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis and Larry Coker -- each spent six seasons at UM?

> Most fans compare Shannon's situation to that of Davis, who basically came in under NCAA sanctions and had to rebuild. Here is a look at Davis' first four years at UM compared to Shannon's...

Butch Davis
1995 -- 8-3 overall, 6-1 vs. Big East (T-1st), 1-1 vs. ranked opponents  *Bowl ineligble
1996 -- 9-3 overall, 6-1 vs. Big East (T-1st), 2-2 vs. ranked opponents, *Bowl win
1997 -- 5-6 overall, 3-5 vs. Big East (5th), 0-4 vs. ranked opponents, *Didn't qualify for bowl
1998 -- 9-3 overall, 5-2 vs. Big East (2nd), 2-2 vs. ranked opponents, *Bowl win
> 31-15 overall, 20-9 vs. Big East, 5-9 vs. ranked opponents, 2 bowl wins, Faced 8 Big East ranked teams

Randy Shannon
2007 -- 5-7 overall, 2-6 vs. ACC (4th), 1-3 vs. ranked opponents, *Didn't qualify for bowl
2008 -- 7-6 overall, 4-4 vs. ACC (3rd), 0-1 vs. ranked opponents, *Bowl loss
2009 -- 9-4 overall, 5-3 vs. ACC (3rd), 3-2 vs. ranked opponents, *Bowl loss
2010 -- 7-4 overall, 5-3 vs. ACC (2nd), 0-3 vs. ranked opponents, *TBD
> 28-21 overall, 16-16 vs. ACC, 4-9 vs. ranked opponents, 0 bowl wins, Faced 7 ACC ranked teams

> Larry Coker and his 53-9 record at UM often get thrown into the mix when talking about Shannon. But what was Coker's record once Butch Davis' recruits were all nearly gone starting in 2004?

Larry Coker's last 3 seasons
2004 -- 9-3 overall, 5-3 in ACC (3rd), 4-1 vs. ranked opponents, *Bowl win
2005 -- 9-3 overall, 6-2 in ACC (2nd), 2-2 vs. ranked opponents, *Bowl loss
2006 -- 7-6 overall, 3-5 in ACC (4th), 0-6 vs. ranked opponents, *Bowl win
> 25-12 overall, 14-10 vs. ACC, 6-9 vs. ranked opponents

November 22, 2010

Shields becoming success story for Packers

Got a link from a reader to an interesting article written last week by the Associated Press about former Hurricane Sam Shields, who has gone from undrafted free agent to knocking long-time veteran Al Harris out of a job with the Packers.

Sam Shields Although Shields was blessed with tremendous speed (he was timed under 4.3 at UM), he didn't accomplish as much as Canes fans hoped for in his college career. After three years of mediocre play at receiver, Shields was moved to cornerback his senior year by UM coach Randy Shannon. Although Shields spent an entire spring and an entire season at UM at corner, apparently, he didn't learn much.

According to the article, Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt was "at his wits' end when he found out that Shields had no idea how to watch film, learn defenses or prepare for games at the cornerback position." So according to the article, Whitt began at, well, the beginning.

"He had no clue. Trust me, no clue,'' Whitt said bluntly. "There was one day, I almost lost my mind."

To teach Shields, Whitt went back to an approach he used as an assistant at Louisville, where he helped turn two former offensive players - Arizona Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes and Philadelphia Eagles safety Antoine Harris - into NFL-caliber defensive players.

"Basically, I got flash cards. I drew a formation on one side, I drew the check on the back side, just like you do in school," Whitt explained. "The next day, I come in, he has a stack of flash cards, two inches deep, and he has everything on it. And from that day on, it was a total transformation because he understood the defense from that day on because he understood how to study."

Luckily for the Packers, Shields has been a quick study. In the Packers' 45-7 victory over Dallas before their bye week, he got his first NFL interception (an acrobatic one-handed catch) and, while also responsible for the Cowboys' only touchdown, proved once again on a big stage that the job isn't too big for him. In fact, his play solidified the Packers' difficult decision to sever ties with Harris, a 13-year veteran who'd started 106 career games in Green Bay and wound up with the Dolphins.

"Back when we started training camp, not many people knew who Sam Shields was, and I didn't know much about Sam Shields. But we thought he had potential, and he's continued to make improvement," defensive coordinator Dom Capers told AP. "We've played nine games with him out there now, and that's a tough position to stick a rookie out there because everybody in the National Football League knows."

Whitt believes Shields will eventually become a star in the league.

"Write this down," Whitt said of Shields, the Packers' No. 3 cornerback in their nickel defense. "Sam is going to be one of the top corners in this league in two years."

For the complete article, check out the link here.

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

> Despite the 31-17 loss to Virginia Tech, Brandon Washington and Lamar Miller were named ACC Players of the Week on Monday. Washington earned ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week while Miller earned ACC Rookie of the Week honors. It was the second time for both this season.

Washington graded out at 98 percent for the Miami offensive line and had seven pancake blocks and three lumberjacks. Miller ran for a UM season high 163 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries against the Hokies. Safe bet both of these guys will make the all-ACC team at season's end (likely 2nd team for Washington and the rookie team for Miller). 

> Don't know about you, but I'd love to see the Hurricanes face Notre Dame in a bowl game. As our Susan Miller Degnan wrote for Tuesday's paper, there is a chance UM could see the Irish in either the Champs Sports Bowl (that would take UM beating USF) or the Sun Bowl (it would take no Pac-10 teams being available). 

> The Hurricanes missed out on one of the top receivers in the country Monday when U.S. Army All-American Sammy Watkins announced his intentions to sign with Clemson. Watkins, a standout at Fort Myers High and the No. 1 receiver in the state (he's ranked 3rd by Rivals nationally), had the Canes in his top two with the Tigers.

The good news? Hurricanes are still in the running for Rivals' top-ranked receiver George Farmer (6-2, 192) of Gardena Junipero Serra High School in Calif., and Glades Central's Kelvin Benjamin (6-6, 210), considered the ninth-best receiver in the country by Rivals.

The Hurricanes currently have seven commitments and are expected to sign no more than 12 to 15 recruits. One of the current commitments, Tampa Alonso defensive end Anthony Chickillo told Canesport.com Monday UM hasn't exactly made it easy for him to sway other prospects with a subpar season.

"I've been trying, but it's been tough," Chickillo told Canesport. "A lot of different recruits are going different ways. There were some guys interested in Miami, and to be honest with you they just lost interest. I don't get a reason why - I guess it would be the season."

November 21, 2010

Thoughts on Virginia Tech, bowl picture & more

Time for the autopsy now that the hope for a record improvement from last year to this year is officially dead following Saturday's 31-17 loss to the Hokies...

... The easiest thing to do whenever a team underachieves is point the finger at the head coach. But did Randy Shannon miss tackles, draw holding penalties and drop the would-be tying touchdown pass in the fourth quarter? No, his players did. I thought Miami's game plan was very good. The Hurricanes stuck to the running game (262 yards on 42 attempts compared to 33 pass attempts) on. Defensively, they put pressure on Tyrod Taylor with a few surprise blitzes (Taylor was sacked five times). And when it came down to it, they took the right chances, putting the ball in the hands of their best players (they went for it on 4th and 1 and Damien Berry fumbled and let Matt Bosher try a field goal late in the half) to try and decide the game. The players simply let the coaches down. Six turnovers and too many missed tackles ultimately doomed the Hurricanes, even though they outgained the Hokies 464 to 369. 

... That being said at what point does Shannon start taking the blame from the administration? In his four years, UM is 4-9 against ranked opponents and has yet to win a bowl game or even get into the ACC Title game. Virginia Tech, which came over with UM from the Big East, will be making its fifth trip to the conference title game in seven years. Even Boston College has made it to the ACC Title twice.

No, Shannon wasn't handed the keys to a Ferrari like Nick Saban was at Alabama. But when you consider that Mario Cristobal is on the verge of winning the Sun Belt Conference with FIU after being handed an 0-12 program, the current state at UM is a little embarrassing to say the least.

And if you go simply on self-improvement: Where other than the play of the offensive line and running game do you point to in 2010? Receivers? Other than Leonard Hankerson, they've gone backwards. Defense? The pass defense is good, but the run defense has given up more than 500 yards in the last two games combined. Special teams? What's been special about that after the Ohio State kick return/punt return effort?

... Freshman Stephen Morris played spectacularly in the first half, completing 12 of his 17 attempts for 186 yards and a touchdown. His second half (3 of 16, 33 yards, 3 INTs) will most certainly put him back on he bench. Interestingly enough, the first words from Shannon after the game about Morris: "turnovers," "adequate," and "didn't do great." In Jacory Harris' 20-plus starts, I'm not sure Shannon was ever that hard on him. It was more like "receivers," "wrong routes," and "guys not helping him out." Just saying. 

... The most eye-opening quote in the postgame press conference from Shannon for me. "... we got a lot of little things we can look forward to ... " like "senior night." Don't know about you, but I can't remember the last time a Canes coach referred to Senior Night as one of the bigger highlights of the season. But that's where the Canes are today.

... We asked linebacker Colin McCarthy after the game what happened on Ryan Williams' 84-yard touchdown run, which put the Hokies up for good 24-17 in the fourth quarter. His response: "I couldn't tell you." Same for the 43-yard touchdown pass Danny Coale scored on to put Tech up 17-10. Here's what I saw on replay on the Williams' run: Sean Spence met the fullback head-on, Ramon Buchanan missed a diving tackle and McCarthy ran to the wrong hole. By the time he realized it, Williams was past him. Safety Ray Ray Armstrong, who was supposed to be the last line of defense, got picked (to use a basketball term) by the referee. On the Coale touchdown: Brandon Harris let Coale run free across the field where no safety (Armstrong) or cornerback (Demarcus Van Dyke) bothered to follow him. 

... The game actually couldn't have started better for the Canes. They scored on the opening drive then forced the Hokies to punt (Travis Benjamin fumbled), UM's defense got the ball back and Morris found Benjamin for a 43-yard gain down to the Hokies 21. Then, Orlando Franklin drew the first of two holding penalties in the game and the Hurricanes called time out after Leonard Hankerson converted a third and long. The time out actually gave officials more time to review Hankerson catch, overturn it, and then Damien Berry fumbled on fourth and 1. Talk about a momentum shifter.

... Lamar Miller ran for a career-high 163 yards on 15 carries. And he was cramping.

... Colin McCarthy had 14 tackles and the Canes defense had five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Still, somehow, it feels like feast or famine for that unit. 

... Here are some numbers that should grab your attention: 
- 18. That would be the number of turnovers UM's offense has had in its four losses.
- 12. That would be the grand total of turnovers in UM's seven wins
- 23. That would be the turnovers created in seven wins
- 3. That would be the number of turnovers UM's defense created in four losses.

... It's becoming more and more apparent the Canes could lose the only quarterback in their next signing class. Northwestern's Teddy Bridgewater declined to discuss recruiting when our own Andre Fernandez tried to talk about it when Bridgewater was selected as a U.S. Army-All American last week. When I spoke to Bridgewater's mother last week, she told me she very much wanted her son to stay close to home. But the Gators and LSU are making a hard push at Bridgewater. Some may disagree because they think he's a Jacory Harris clone, but losing Bridgewater wouldn't be good for Miami. There is no real backup plan and nearly every good quarterback is already committed. 

... The Canes were pretty much on path to head to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl with a win over the Hokies Saturday. At this point, all signs are pointing to the Sun Bowl with a win over South Florida next week. The Sun Bowl picks fourth among ACC schools. The Orange takes the ACC Champ, Chick-Fil-A picks next and the Champs Sports Bowl picks third. It's likely at this poin,t Florida State (8-3) and N.C. State (8-3) will both be picked ahead of Miami even though both could end up losing season finales to Florida and Maryland respectively.

Had USC (7-4) been bowl eligible this year, UM might have been pitted against the Trojans. Instead, it looks like after Oregon and Stanford are taken by better bowl games, any team from Arizona (7-3), Cal (5-6), Oregon State (5-5), Washington (4-6) and UCLA (4-6) could end up facing UM. Oregon State and Arizona would be the sexier matchups. But Oregon State still has to become bowl eligible by beating Stanford or Oregon to close the season. If Oregon and Stanford win out, they'll both play in the BCS (National title game and Rose Bowl) taking Arizona away because they would end up in the Holiday Bowl or Alamo Bowl. 

November 20, 2010

VIDEO: Canes react to Virginia Tech loss

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- Here is what they said after the game. Feast. 

RANDY SHANNON'S TRANSCRIPT

Opening statement: "Toss loss against tonight Virginia Tech, a team that came out, played hard, played well tonight. Thought the basically key to the game was that we turned the ball over in the red zone and they didn't turn the football over tonight. And when you have those type of things happen in the game, bad things are going to happen. We couldn't capitalize on big plays. They capitalized on big plays. Nobody how you call it, it's not individuals. It's not a person or that person. Basically, when we had chances in the red zone we had two fumbles. When we had opportunities, deep balls thrown, we had opportunities. They capitalized on the long run coming out of the third quarter. We had opportunities. We couldn't capitalize on it. That's the nut of it and the way the game went. I thought the guys played hard, they stayed into it. Like anything, you can't turn the ball over against Virginia Tech. I thought special teams we were equal. That stayed the same. Offensively and defensively we had chances to win the game tonight.

On Travis Benjamin's big drop: "We had drops, big key situations in the game. We didn't capitalize on it. Not just him, we had some other plays in the game where we had some drops that could have been the difference in the game. They made the plays and we didn't. You watch it, it's heartache because the guys played hard. We couldn't come up with the right plays at the right time and they did."

On how Stephen Morris performed: "Turnovers. He did adequate, he didn't do great. He threw some interceptions in the game. I thought the first half, he managed the football game well. But like I said, the two turnovers in the first half really got us behind. Those two turnovers might have put six points or 14 points ahead of where we needed to be going to halftime. But when those things happen, now it sets you back. We came back fourth quarter, he pressed, threw some interceptions and things like that. Those things are going to happen when you start pressing a little bit."

On Lamar Miller cramping up: "He came back in the game, cramped up again. That's all I can tell you."

On Virginia Tech's big runs: "They had a big run in the [fourth] quarter they went ahead on. They capitalized on some big plays and we didn't. Hard what happened tonight. I can't tell you any other different way to explain it. They made the plays and we didn't."

On physical nature of the game: "It was a very hard hitting game. The players played very hard, physical. It was one of those games like when we play Virginia Tech all the time. The hits and those type of things are going to happen. Luckily everybody got up off the field and there were no serious injuries. I thought it was a physical game on both sides of the football all night."

On his decision to go for it on 4th and 1 up 7-0 in the first quarter: "We had momentum going and came up with a fumble. First down, we're OK. He fumbled the football and now it's a bad situation. We don't fumble the football, it's first and 10 ready to go and try to capitalize. Our offensive line was doing a good job running the football. We were getting 3, 5, 8 yards a crack. In those situations, because you have the momentum, you expect to get the two yards. Didn't expect the turnover, it's just part of football."

On being eliminated from ACC contention: "It's disappointing being eliminated from a chance at winning this side of this division. But we got a lot of little things we can look forward to. We have another game against South Florida next week and that will be senior night. We got some seniors on this team that did a lot on this team to get back to where we're at right now. They know we have a long way to go. But it's a start for them and a start for this University to really recognize those seniors because that senior class came in and played as true freshmen. Those guys are playing now and helped with the recruiting class. Without those guys on this football team, we wouldn't be where we're at now with this football team."

Gameday blog: Virginia Tech-Miami

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The 24th-ranked Canes (7-3, 5-2) will try to keep their hopes of reaching the ACC Championship alive when they take on 14th-ranked Virginia Tech (8-2, 6-0) at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN and can be heard on WQAM.com. Feel free to follow along and participate in our discussion below.

REWIND: UM is 17-10 all-time against the Hokies, but is 2-5 in the last seven meetings including last year's 31-7 loss in Blacksburg. UM knocked off Virginia Tech 16-14 the last time the Hokies visited South Florida in 2008.

ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH: Virginia Tech has won eight in a row since they opened the season with losses to Boise State and James Madison. With a win over the Canes, they'll clinch the Coastal Division crown for the fifth time in the last seven years. Virginia Tech is led by quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who has completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 1,988 yards, 18 TDs and four INTs. He's also run for 581 yards and 3 TDs. The running game is led by Darren Evans (605 yards, 9 TDs). David Wilson (462 yards, 4 TDs) and Ryan Williams (262 yards, 5 TDs) also carry the ball plenty. Defenisvely, sophomore linebacker Bruce Taylor (77 tackles) is the leader. He leads the team in tackles for loss (15) and sacks (6). Sophomore cornerback Jayron Hosley has seven of the teams 16 INTs. The Hokies have three different players handling the kicking dutires. 

FOR THE U, KEEP AN EYE ON...

> Red Zone and 3rd down execution... It's been the focus in practice for UM all week. The Hokies convert 43 percent of the time on third down offensively (41st nationally) and are good in both red-zone offense (they've scored on 43 of 48 drives inside the 20, 90 percent clip) and red-zone defense (they rank 14th, 72%).

> Will Jacory Harris play... He practiced all week in a non-contact jersey. But conspiracy theorists believe UM coach Randy Shannon might throw a curveball at Virginia Tech and play him alongside freshman Stephen Morris. To me, whether or not Harris plays isn't as important as if UM maintains the same game plan they've had the last two weeks -- running the football. UM has pounded opposing teams into submission the last two weeks. Virginia Tech's run defense ranks 65th in the country -- giving up 155 yards a game. The pass defense? Much better (21st overall, 188 yards per game).

> Leonard Hankerson vs. Jayron Hosley/Hokies pass defense... Even though UM has run the ball plenty lately, they'll still have relied on the pass to produce points. Hankerson has been the go-to-guy for those big plays, hauling in a 79-yard TD pass last week at Georgia Tech and the game-winning TD pass versus Maryland. He is sure to be closely guarded by Hosley, arguably the best corner in the ACC.

MY PICK: Three-game winning streaks are pretty rare at UM these days. Since UM rattled off five in a row in 2008, the Canes have had only one three-game winning streak -- Oklahoma, FAMU, UCF. Since then, it's been a steady pattern of two wins followed by a loss. Time to break the trend. I'm picking the Canes here based on their running game. They'll pound Virginia Tech and hold Taylor out of the end zone just enough. MIAMI 27, VA. TECH 24.

Reminder for Gameday blog participants: Participation in the Cover It Live program is intended for the exchange of meaningful questions and observations during the game between fans and reporters. Not all comments or questions will be posted. iPhone users are asked to be patient as it takes several minutes for Cover It Live to load.

November 19, 2010

A behind the scenes look at Shannon, Canes

One of the most fun and revealing University of Miami videos to watch this season have been the behind the scenes looks on Hurricanes Gameday. With privileged access to the locker room and sidelines, Gameday has provided a chance to see Randy Shannon and his players up close and personal -- or at least the parts they don't want edited out.

Gerard Daphnis The most revealing moments for me have been seeing Shannon cut loose with his players, laugh and show a side of himself we in the media and TV cameras rarely see. For instance, in last week's episode when UM played Georgia Tech we get to see and hear Shannon say things like: "You know who I'm rolling with? Tyler Horn. Y'all watch his intensity. Y'all watch how he knocks people downfield." Then, we get to watch Shannon celebrate the opening touchdown drive by leaping up and bouncing off Horn in midair. It leaves you saying to yourself: Is this really the guy we talk to on Tuesday morning media days at UM?

The truth is as mild-mannered or unemotional as Shannon may appear on most days, he has shown in these videos week to week to be a very inspired and emotional coach. Former Hurricane Gerard Daphnis (who played tight end for UM from 1993 to 1996 and is now a co-host on the CBS-4 Canes4Life Show 11:30 a.m., Saturday) saw this first hand last weekend in Atlanta. Daphnis spent Saturday with former Cane Edgerrin James watching the Hurricanes from a different angle.

How was the experience for him? "It was eye-opening," Daphnis said.

"The most eye-opening thing for me from a positive perspective was that I saw the kids and the way they interacted with each other was the same way we interacted when I was there. Guys were teasing each other, getting up in each other's face. At one point in the first half, there was a running back that got up in the face of a linebacker and said 'If you miss another tackle, it's going to be me and you.' I liked that a lot. It shows you these kids are accountable for each other."

What also impressed Daphnis? Hearing Shannon's halftime speech and watching UM's assistants coach up each of their units.

"It's not that they're not getting the same thing from the motivational standpoint or coaching standpoint, the thing that was bothersome was how do you hear that speech and come out flat in the second half and let Georgia Tech come right down the field and score?," Daphnis said. "Me and EJ heard that speech and we were like where can we get some extra pants? Hand me a helmet."

Daphnis said he went to the game hoping to get a better idea of why UM (7-3, 5-2 ACC) just hasn't been able to get over "the hump and win big games against ranked opponents." After seeing UM pound the Yellow Jackets 35-10, he still doens't have an answer.

"It just doesn't add up," Daphnis said. "If I'm a coach, I'm frustrated. I keep hearing this constant thing between coaches in youth level, college level and NFL that the kids now are different, meaning what motivates them is different. What they gravitate toward is different.

"I remember when I played, a guy on the field would look at me the wrong way and I would want to take it to them. I'll give you an example. Darrin Smith, he's one of the nicest guys you'll meet in your life, very Christian based. He doesn't swear, doesn't do anything bad. When he put on his helmet, you couldn't tell that was him. All the rules changed. Looking at a guy like Darrin is indication to me that you can still be that good student and good person and then turnaround and be a beast on the field. Why is it not translating? I'm still searching for that answer myself. I'm doing more research.

"It's just kind of mind boggling. They have all the things available to them to be successful. The only thing I think, it's like having kids. I have five kids -- four girls and one boy. As an adult we always have this mentality we always want our kids to have it better than us. But that mindset is a little bit tainted and flawed. The thing that made me as hungry of a person is because I didn't have these things. It made me want to set goals. If your making it easier for these kids, they don't always develop the same type of hunger. In one hand your helping them out, but the other your taking that hunger away. The job is finding the happy medium.

"Something that stuck out to me was that when I played at Miami there were quite a few jerks on the team -- a-holes, guys who were selfish. Guys like receiver like Chris T. Jones who would say "I want the ball, throw me the damn ball, your messing with my money.' On the outside, that may be seen as a selfish person. But it was those guys who were selfish to a certain extent that went out there and wanted to make big plays and made big plays. The way I came off, you need a certain amount of those guys on your team. And right now, that type of guy doesn't exist on this team. Everyone does their part. There are no selfish individuals. They are truly a team. But sometimes the great players are selfish -- they want the ball, the game on their backs. As far as I'm concerned sometimes you need that. And there are none of those guys on this team."

> The final regular season episode of Canes4Life on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. on CBS-4 will feature a visit from former quarterback Ryan Collins. I'll be on at the end as usual to provide my reasons for Hope & Concern heading into Saturday's game against Virginia Tech.