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.
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."