EL PASO -- Time to renew the rivalry. The Miami Hurricanes (7-5) and Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-5) will meet for the first time in 20 years at the Sun Bowl. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on CBS. UM is a 2.5 point favorite.
> REWIND: In it's heyday, the rivalry was called Catholics vs. Convicts. UM is 7-15-1 all-time against the Irish, but won five of the last seven meetings. The series opened in 1955. Notre Dame won the last meeting 29-20 in South Bend in 1990.
> ABOUT NOTRE DAME: The Irish, who played the nation's toughest schedule, enter Friday's game on a three-game winning streak. Those wins were pretty impressive -- at home versus a ranked Utah team, Army and at USC. Sophomore linebacker Manti Te'o leads the Irish, who run a 3-4 scheme, with 127 tackles, 17th most in the country. Notre Dame's pass defense (ranked 40th) can create problems. The Irish have produced 28 sacks this season and are giving up under 10 yards per completion, one of only eight teams nationally to do that. The Irish have also picked off 14 passes. Darrin Walls has returned two of his five interceptions for touchdowns. The Irish are also very experienced at safety. Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees was called into action after Dayne Crist went down against Tulsa with three games left. Rees has thrown at least two touchdown passes in three of his last four games. His favorite target, junior receiver Michael Floyd (73 rec., 916 yards, 10 TDs) ranks second all-time in touchdown catches at Notre Dame and needs only one more to tie Jeff Samardzija. Notre Dame kicker David Ruffer, a former walk-on, is 20 for 20 on field goal attempts since last year -- including a career-long 50-yarder this season.
THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON FOR THE U...
> How starting quarterback Jacory Harris plays... Harris' play is an obvious key for the Hurricanes to win this game. But for his own future, he needs to have a good game. Harris has struggled with interceptions throughout his career and this game could go a long way toward deciding his future. New coach Al Golden, who will be watching the game from a box, will probably prefer to go with freshman Stephen Morris going forward anyway. But if Harris continues to struggle, he could make it easier for Golden to make that decision.
> The emotional life Mike James delivers... The sophomore has been dealing with the death of his mother, who passed away in a car accident Dec. 20. Her funeral is today and he's missing it to be with his teammates. Interim coach Jeff Stoutland said James would provide a huge lift to his teammates being with them. He also promised James would play in this game. Let's see if James and the players' motivation to play for former coach Randy Shannon play a factor.
> If the Canes look like a cold team standing on the sidelines... You remember last year's Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, right. UM players huddled up on the sidelines as temperatures dipped into the 40s. This game will be played in similar -- if not colder -- conditions. UM players came out for warmups wearing ski masks. I didn't notice any heaters on the sideline. Notre Dame? The Irish play in this weather all the time and brought their own special heated benches for the game.
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EL PASO -- It's a "special day" at the Sun Bowl -- especially for stadium workers.
The facility, set to host Miami and Notre Dame in the 77th annual Hyundai Sun Bowl, welcomed visitors Friday morning with an inch of ice and snow.
Brad Thomas, the stadium's field/turf technician for the last nine years, said he expected to have the snow off the field before kickoff at 2 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on CBS.
"It's a special day," Thomas said. "We have a street sweeper here. First time we're using it for snow. I talked to the actual company that installed the turf this morning. They said about an inch, two inches at the most we will be able to take off. We're doing what we have to do to make it work."
Stadium workers were using long, buffet-type tables and foldable chairs in addition to the sweeper to drag the snow and ice off the turf.
"It's a mixture of ice and snow, mainly snow. It's about an inch thick and it's starting to melt right now," Thomas said about three hours before kickoff. "We're going to start breaking it up and help it melt, before we start sweeping it up with a street sweeper."
Thomas said the field conditions will naturally be a bit slippery during the game.
"It will be like it rained. It will be wet," Thomas said. "The turf actually won't be icy once the ice is off. But It will be wet."
EL PASO -- For the first time in 20 years we'll get to see the University of Miami take on Notre Dame on a football field. The Irish and Canes are both 7-5 and far removed from their glory days. Still, Friday's 77th annual Hyundai Sun Bowl will mean a lot to the winner in terms of building momentum toward 2011.
The Hurricanes have lost two in a row coming in and the Irish have won three in a row. Yet, the Canes are a 2.5 point favorite. With temperatures forecasted to range from the mid 40s to lows in the 30s (it was feel like the 20s with the wind chill factor) and winds ranging from 15 to 25 miles per hour, it is obvious the conditions will be more familiar for the Irish than UM. So who is going to win? Here's a breakdown:
> When UM runs the ball... Canes ranked 26th in the country in rushing, averaging a little over 190 yards a game on the ground. Notre Dame ranked 56th in run defense (146.75) but surrendered only 93 yards a game in its final three victories. The Hurricanes are led by senior Damien Berry (865 yards, 5 TDs), redshirt freshman Lamar Miller (633 yards, 6 TDs) and sophomore Mike James (384 yards, 3 TDs). Sophomore linebacker Manti Te'o leads the Irish, who run a 3-4 scheme, with 127 tackles, 17th most in the country. As improved as Notre Dame might be against the run, the Hurricanes should still have some success. Edge: Miami.
> When UM throws the ball... Jacory Harris (54.8 pct, 1,756 yards, 14 TDs, 12 INTs) has had trouble with interceptions throughout his career. He'll have Leonard Hankerson (66 rec., 1,085 yards, 12 TDs) to throw to. But Notre Dame's pass defense (ranked 40th) can create problems. The Irish have produced 28 sacks this season and are giving up under 10 yards per completion, one of only eight teams nationally to do that. The Irish have also picked off 14 passes. Darrin Walls has returned two of his five interceptions for touchdowns. The Irish are also very experienced at safety. Edge: Notre Dame.
> When Notre Dame runs the ball... The Irish rank 96th nationally in rushing (121 yards per game) and lost leading rusher Armando Allen (Hialeah-Miami Lakes) for the season in late October. Cierre Wood (522 yards, 2 TDs) has done a decent job filling in. The Canes rank 81st in run defense (171 yards per game) and have been steamrolled on the ground by a few good teams. But the Irish prefer to throw and the Canes, who lead the nation in tackles for loss (8.58 per game), should be able to line up and defend against the run in this game. Edge: Miami.
> When Notre Dame throws the ball... Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees was called into action after Dayne Crist went down against Tulsa with three games left. Rees has thrown at least two touchdown passes in three of his last four games. His favorite target, junior receiver Michael Floyd (73 rec., 916 yards, 10 TDs) ranks second all-time in touchdown catches at Notre Dame and needs only one more to tie Jeff Samardzija. But the Irish will be tested. The Hurricanes pass defense ranks second nationally and has 16 INTs. UM also ranks sixth in sacks (3.1 per game). Normally, this is probably a push. But with the conditions being what they will be, that has to favor the defense. Edge: Miami.
> Special teams... Notre Dame kicker David Ruffer, a former walk-on, is 20 for 20 on field goal attempts since last year -- including a career-long 50-yarder this season. He is 34 of 37 on extra points. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas grad Ben Turk averaged 38.2 yards per punt this season. The Irish blocked a punt against Utah and returned it for a score. The Hurricanes' Matt Bosher has been inconsistent on field goals going 12 of 16 and making only one of three attempts longer than 40 yards. He's averaging 44.3 yards per punt. The Canes had a kickoff and punt return taken back for a touchdown at Ohio State. But they haven't done much since. Edge: Notre Dame.
> Coaching... Since 2001, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has the fifth-most wins of any FBS coach at 101-29 -- only Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Texas' Mack Brown, Ohio State's Jim Tressel and Florida's Urban Meyer had more. UM interim coach Jeff Stoutland, who will return to coach the offensive line for the fifth year, has never been a head coach. Six UM assistants aren't expected back next season and that has to play at least a psychological role. The Irish, meanwhile, are gaining confidence under Kelly. Edge: Notre Dame.
> Intangibles... Who is more battle tested? Notre Dame played the toughest regular season schedule in the country, taking on 11 teams that finished .500 or better, including nine that made it to bowl games. Of Miami's seven wins, only five came against teams with winning records. Who is more disciplined? The Irish are the eighth-least penalized team in the country. UM ranks 114th out of 120 FBS teams in penalties per game. Edge: Notre Dame.
Now that you have seen the edges who do you think is going to win and why? Provide your prediction below. Susan Miller Degnan and I will announce our picks shortly before kickoff on Twitter.
EL PASO -- In less than 24 hours, the Miami Hurricanes will put an end to the 2010 season when they take on Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl. For UM interim coach Jeff Stoutland and his players, the game will mark the conclusion of what has obviously been a difficult month of change since Randy Shannon was fired.
As soon as the Canes board a plane back for South Florida after the game, the Al Golden era will officially commence. Stoutland, one of three assistants who will be retained, said he's thrilled at the prospect of coming back, not having to move his family to another city and starting over.
But this past month? Not an easy one. The 48-year old veteran offensive line coach hasn't had much free time to enjoy his first head coaching opportunity. Between running practices, travel and every other head coaching responsibility he's had, he's also had to recruit. Fun? Stoutland said he was going to spend about 20 minutes with his father and son Thursday afternoon to go and see Stoutland Street in El Paso before rushing back to the team hotel in time for Thursday's walk through.
His players, he says, have handled their challenges with class. Not once, Stoutland said, have any of his players come in late for curfew. He even gave them an extra hour on the first night in Texas and claims "they all came back early."
"[Finishing 1-0 as a head coach] would be special," Stoutland said. "That would be super special. Most importantly it will be more special for us as a group. This will really be the last time we'll all be together. It's an emotional time for a lot of people. Like I said, it could have gone either way. The guys could have said I'm doing my own thing, been late for curfew, not shown up to practice on time or missing team meetings. But I have to give credit to the players -- they stayed together."
Stoutland said he's spoken to Shannon nearly every day since he was fired. "He's a good friend of mine," Stoutland said. "He's not going to [give me advice]. I would have to ask him, say coach what do I do here? He has helped me along the way. I have asked him. But he's not the type of guy to call me every five minutes and start telling me what I should do. It's not his style. These players here are like his kids and he's close to them all. I guarantee you he's going to watch the game."
Golden, meanwhile, has been "very supportive" and Stoutland said he talks to him everyday.
"He shoots me a text or an email," Stoutland said. "He's very good about giving me a couple words of encouragement, motivation and stuff. He's pretty much kind of stayed away, let us finish things up. I respect him for that. But I do talk to him every day, most of it pertaining to recruiting."
The Hurricanes, who currently have six players orally committed to the 2011 class, have a lot of catching up to do on recruiting when the dead period officially ends Jan. 3. As tired or worn out as he might be, Stoutland is ready to tackle that challenge as well.
"The minute I land in Miami, my whole brain is going to flip and it's going to be a mad scramble for four or five weeks," Stoutland said. "I'll be excited about that too. It will be very, very challenging to build a great class together here in a short period of time. I think the coaches understand that and they're looking forward to that."
A FEW MORE NUGGETS...
> Don't underestimate the emotional lift sophomore tailback Mike James could provide the Canes. James, who left the team shortly after his mother died in a car accident Dec. 20, was scheduled to rejoin the team Thursday afternoon after being stuck in the northeast while visiting family. His mother's funeral is Friday morning -- the same time the Canes will be taking on the Irish.
"We're all looking forward to seeing him, embracing him," Stoutland said. "His words were 'All I want to do is play.' He was nervous he hadn't been here and maybe we wouldn't play him. I told him 'Mike, you practiced all the way up until the final day.'
"Mike [James] coming in today we'll bring us even closer together. He's a special kid. Some of you guys know Mike. His work ethic and his seriousness about the game, his leadership qualities, he brings a lot to our team."
> Stoutland has been telling reporters all week how focused and ready Jacory Harris has looked in practice, which is why it was no surprise he was named the starting quarterback Thursday.
But how different is Harris really? According to Stoutland, Harris is more confident than he's ever seen him. In fact, Harris caught Stoutland walking onto the field Wednesday -- instead of jogging -- and gave him a little lip for it.
"I was walking on the field and he ran by me and slapped me and said 'Hey coach are you ready for practice today?' I said 'I'm absolutely ready.' He said 'You don't look like you are.' I started chuckling. I said 'This guy, his confidence right now is different than it has been.'
"I think his decision making -- which is the key ingredient for a quarterback -- right now is at his best. Coach Whipple feels that way. We think he's a different player right now. We'll find out. We're going to see here in a couple hours."
Harris of course threw a boatload of interceptions last season -- including one late in the season finale when UM was driving for the winning score against USF, a game the Canes eventually lost in overtime.
"I think Jacory right now is really focused to me," Stoutland said. "He's a straight line right now. He's not up and down. He's excited, not too crazy. I think he's looking forward to the opportunity. To me, he's been really sharp. I've been saying that all week. His read and reaction stuff has been right on point. That guy is the conductor of the band. If that guy makes good decisions we got a really good chance here."
> Stoutland said he doesn't expect for the Hurricanes to look rusty at all Friday despite the long layoff or the altitude and conditions in El Paso. He said while the team struggled with the altitude a bit during their first practice, he's "run it out of them."
"That's why you have all these practices," he said. "I don't think anybody is rusty. We've been real competitive. Even though we don't run the same defense Notre Dame does, the speed factor, the ones against the ones, very important. Sometimes we'll go against each other and not even worry about the scheme."
> As mentioned earlier today, freshman All-American Seantrel Henderson will not start Friday, but will play. Jermaine Johnson will start in his place at right tackle. Henderson missed several bowl practices because of the flu and his conditioning isn't up to par.
"He's not totally [back] yet," Stoutland said. "He's made progress, but conditioning is the factor for me. We're in a different altitude as well. I think that's the fair thing to do. I have to assess it. I have to be fair to all players. The great thing about him is he'll be the first one to grab Jermaine Johnson, give him a head butt or give him a hug, I'll be right there for you."
> Expect to see an increased role for freshman tailback Storm Johnson. "He's put himself in position where you just can't look away from him," Stoutland said. "Every day in practice, he's making a play."
> As for the challenge of facing Notre Dame's defense, which has given up only 22 combined points in its last three wins over Utah, Army and USC, Stoutland said: "The front seven to me, especially the nose tackle -- that's where the defense really starts," Stoutland said. "Just the whole front seven. You can't negate the back end of it either. Those guys will come up and slam you -- very aggressive players. That's why we have to be able to establish the run and take a shot over the top because we do have some speed to get behind you."
EL PASO -- If the Hurricanes needed some bulletin board material heading into Friday's Sun Bowl showdown with Notre Dame they can thank ESPN College GameDay Final analysts Mark May and former Irish coach Lou Holtz for providing it.
Both analysts are not only picking Notre Dame to win Friday they also believe the Irish will rise back to prominence faster than the Canes.
"I think if you look at both teams right now, Miami has better overall talent," May said on a conference call Thursday. "Randy Shannon did a great job recruiting Miami, getting some great pieces in place. I just don't know if Al Golden is the guy to take them to the next level.
"If you look at Notre Dame in my opinion, I think Brian Kelly struggled early, then they got their quarterback hurt and were able to come in with Tommy Rees, put some good efforts together at the end of the season, strung together some nice impressive victories. I think they're going in the right direction.
"This is a football team in which every one has bought into the program under Brian Kelly. I look forward to them getting better in their future. They're 7-5 right now, coming in on a three-game win streak. I think Notre Dame will be better down the road. And what impressed me late in the season is Notre Dame played better on defense. The last couple years they were atrocious on defense. But the last couple games they've been a lot better defensively."
Holtz thinks the biggest advantage Notre Dame has over UM at the moment is at quarterback.
"I do believe it will be Notre Dame for several reasons -- No. 1, they have an established quarterback -- two of them. [Dayne] Crist has been injured. But the young freshman [Tommy Rees] has done an excellent job," Holtz said. "Kelly will going to be in the second year of this program. Recruiting is going good.
"As far as Miami they don't even know who their quarterback is going to be. Is it going to be the freshman? Is it going to be [Jacory] Harris? I think the big thing is they both have the potential to get back. I don't think there is anything that keeps them from being an outstanding football program like they were in the 1980s and 1990s. Its nice to see them get back, nice to see them playing again. They both should get back. It just depends on the leadership of the head coaching position."
EL PASO -- A couple of quick notes from Thursday's press conference with UM interim coach Jeff Stoutland.
> As expected, Jacory Harris will start at quarterback, but freshman Stephen Morris will be available to play. Stoutland said he was waiting to see what happened with Morris' left ankle, which he injured during practice Tuesday. Either way, consider this a big opportunity for Harris. He needs to play well to have any shot of trying to convince Al Golden to give him a chance to start next year. Stoutland said Harris has been "extremely sharp in practice."
Harris played in nine games this season, starting the first eight before a concussion sidelined him for the better part of a month. On the year, he has completed 144-of-263 attempts for 1,756 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Morris, who played in five games and started Miami’s last four games, completed 60-of-120 attempts this year for 958 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
> All-American freshman Seantrel Henderson will not start for the Hurricanes at right tackle; redshirt freshman Jermaine Johnson will. Stoutland said Henderson's conditioning is the key factor. Henderson missed a number of practices while he was out with the flu. Henderson will play, however, Stoutland said.
> Sophomore running back Mike James, whose mother died Dec. 20 in a car accident, is supposed to join the team today at 1:15 p.m. local time. Stoutland said James was on his way in on a flight from Chicago. Stoutland said he's assured James he will play because he practiced with the team everyday before they left South Florida.
> Expect to see more of freshman running back Storm Johnson in Friday's game. Stoutland said Johnson has earned more playing time with the way he's practiced. "Everytime you are ready to turn away, he does something to keep your attention," Stoutland said.
Redshirt freshman requests release to play closer to home.
Coral Gables, Fla… Redshirt freshman Donnavan Kirk of the University of Miami men’s basketball team has been granted a release in order to play for a program closer to his Michigan home due to personal reasons.
“I want to thank Donnavan for all of his hard work,” said Miami head coach Frank Haith. “We will do whatever we can to help Donnavan as he moves forward and wish him nothing but the best.”
A native of Pontiac, Mich., Kirk made three starts and appeared in all 13 games for the Hurricanes this season, averaging 2.7 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
The 10-3 Hurricanes, winners of eight of their last nine games, return to the hardwood on Thurs., Dec. 30, versus Pepperdine at 6 p.m. at the BankUnited Center.
At the press conference this morning, this is one of the things I asked coach John Lovett, UM's defensive coordinator who was fired by Al Golden and will end his career at UM Friday in the Sun Bowl. Also leaving on the defensive staff are defensive line coach Rick Petri and defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff.
UM, by the way, finished 16th overall in the nation in defense, and second in the nation in pass defense. I believe they are 81st in run defense, however. As Coach Lovett pointed out, it doesn't matter what you're ranked in any category if you don't win enough.
Here are my questions about this subject and his answers. He makes some powerful points.
Can you talk about the commitment that you’ve made to continue follow through with all of this and how you are all together and how frustrating it is that you’ve done a good job and know you won’t be coming back?
It’s part of the business. When you’re in this business, it’s a people business and it’s driven by a lot of different people. It’s not necessarily the guys in the room, the guys on the field. There are a lot of things that go on: T.V. revenue, fans, whoever. People make decisions on how things are going to be and they go on with it. When you make a change, for whatever reasons you make a change. Bottom line was that we didn’t win enough games to keep people happy around here. The statistical part of it really doesn’t make much difference. We could be 116th in the country or we could be 1 in the country -- if we don’t win enough games to keep the right people happy, then change is made for whatever reason.
Has it been emotional for you and the team?
I think for the players. You make bonds with kids and that part is always tough. You get friendly with coaches and you’re used to being around them and that’s always difficult. You understand coming in. I remember reading a book by George Allen, “Merry Christmas, you’re fired” was one of his famous lines in there and you understand that when you get into this business. It’s a rough business, it’s a people business. You all out there, when you write, you sit there and say we’ve got to do this, this and this. Well, we do need to do this, this and this in order to keep our jobs.
If I did this, this and this I may be walking in there and saying “I’ll see ya.” I may be going somewhere else because somebody wants to do something else for me that the University of Miami may not want to do. That’s all part of the business and we’ve all been there. Head coaches come and go. A head coach will get hired and when they do, they bring their staffs or people they are comfortable with in. That’s kinda what’s happened here. I know Al Golden very well and I have no animosity toward him at all and I have no ill feelings toward the University at all. I knew when I came here, I knew what this place was and what the expectations were and didn’t think anything short of this would happen with what happened this year at the end of the year. I’m just going to leave it at that because I don’t want to get into anything else. It’s a tough business and it’s toughest on the families. We just move forward as we go.
I asked UM offensive coordinator Mark Whipple today if he knows his job status and if he's staying. He never gave a definite answer, but it's seems more likely than not that he won't be returning -- unless Al Golden all of a sudden decides to publicly announce he's keeping him. Here's his answer. The ... represent where he just stopped talking, then continued with the other stuff.
"I don't know. The most we said when this whole thing happened was that we were going to do the best things we can, for the players, the kids, that's what it's all about. That's what you're in it for. So, that's all we're doing, focusing on today's practice and tomorrow we'll get them mentally ready and we'll play the game on Friday.''
And as far as you guys knowing if you're going to be here after the season? "I don't... that's irrelevant at this point. One way or the other... Randy put a great staff together. We have great people. That's always... but it's part of the deal, it's part of it sometimes. When you win, you know, big games and everything else and championships the staff breaks, and sometimes when you don't win the staff breaks.
"But the relationships are really what... With John [Lovett] and all the other guys on offense and defense and then, but mostly with the players and the things that way. And I think this group of people and the coaching staff -- and obviously Stout has done a great job -- and I really... It hit home maybe a little bit more when [UTEP coach] Mike Price, an old friend, a great friend, said at practice the other day, 'Jeez, I was really surprised at your enthusiasm and the way the guys competed;' not surprised, but, he said 'Hey, you don't know what's going to happen in this situation.' And I think that's a tribute to the staff and Stout and what everybody has done. The relationship this group of men has with the players, and hopefully it will just continue today and then through Friday.''
UM offensive coordinator Mark Whipple spoke to the media at a news conference this morning and talked briefly on injured quarterback Stephen Morris, who hurt his left ankle during yesterday's practice.
When asked if Morris would practice today, Whipple said, "I don't know. We'll see. You know, he rolled his ankle. He was walking around pretty good. It was a lot better last night. So, we'll just see where he's at in the whole thing. I don't think it was bad as they originally thought.
"I quickly saw him this morning so we'll just see what that's like.''
UM will practice later this morning (it's two hours earlier here than in Florida). The practice will be closed, but we will be able to talk to interim coach Jeff Stoutland.
More from Whipple:
With starting job open at qb, how has that impacted Jacory and Stephen's performance in practice as far as competition?
"They both have gotten a lot better. Obviously Jacory is healthy, both physically and mentally, coming off of that kind of a violent concussion. Those guys have been tremendous. We said, 'Her's what we're going to do, and pretty much even the reps.' Obviously Jacory got a lot more [reps] yesterday but I feel really good about that position going into the game -- the best I've felt at any time. Now we'll see where Stephen is at.
"So it's been a positive. They've handled it really well, gotten a lot of reps and we practiced more than we did last year, so it's been really good.''
Moving forward, do you feel like both of those guys, having someone to push each other, is going to help them? "I don't think competition is ever a bad thing. They're talking all the time and they always [did]. When Stephen played, Jacory was on the sideline helping him out with some things. They'd be there together -- and Spence -- 'Hey, you see this coverage,' or 'Look at this corner,' or 'Look at this safety and what he's doing..., all the things we talk about in meetings, and it carries over to the field. That has always been there. That's kind of why we said, when Randy and I talked, 'Hey, it's important that Jacory went to the Georgia Tech game,' or on the road. He wasn't going to play, but it was important that he was there as another kind of coach.''
We always talk about we've got a real good [meeting] room. Those guys are respectful of one another and have a great relationship.''
Practice is ending soon, and I'll get back to you all on Miami quarterback Stephen Morris' status. All we know is that on his second snap of this morning's practice in El Paso, Morris went down. He lay on his back, while UM assistants rushed to his side.
They then helped him off the field, and he could not touch his left foot to the ground as he was being carried off.
They examined him on a table, kept feeling his left ankle, and then gave him crutches. We (reporters) were asked to leave the practice field.
Very sad, considering UM has had a great bowl week so far. They're about to end and I have to go. I'll be back later.
ADDENDUM: We still don't know Morris' diagnosis, but at the end of practice he was seen wearing what appeared to be an inflatable boot. Practice will now be closed tomorrow. Coach Jeff Stoutland will talk to reporters afterward.
Coach Stoutland said he still wouldn't rule Morris out until he knew his exact injury. However, it appears pretty clear that Jacory Harris will start. We all would be pretty shocked to learn otherwise, although depending on the injury and what they could do to stabilize the ankle (along with painkillers), we still don't know if Stephen could somehow come into the game if needed.
Stoutland said third-stringer Spencer Whipple shared the reps with Jacory today.
In other news, receiver Aldarius Johnson will not play in the bowl game because of a knee injury sustained before UM arrived in El Paso, Stoutland said. Johnson was in street clothes and had his right knee heavily bandaged Tuesday.
UM interim coach Jeff Stoutland just spoke at a Sun Bowl news conference at the Hawthorn Suites in El Paso.
He was asked, as he has been asked continually, who is going to start at quarterback for the Hurricanes. Will it be junior Jacory Harris or will it be freshman Stephen Morris? Someone asked if he had told the team.
Stoutland: "I get asked that question about five times a day. I’ll get there with this thing. We are not going to announce that today or maybe even tomorrow.. There are still a couple of practices left. And when I tell you it's close, it’s real close. We’re monitoring a lot of the thing we just talked about. There might be times in the game where we might play both players based on what we’re doing schematically.
We have not announced that to the team – no, we have not announced that."
Is it important for the team to know?
"Not really," Stoutland said, "because if you notice you guys are out there and everyday they are rotating with the ones, with the twos. There really has been no one guy playing with the ones all the time. I think the only person sometimes who knows is the center."
Stoutland also said running back Mike James, whose mother died in a car accident last week, has not arrived because of the snow storms in the Northeast, where James had to go regarding family matters.
"He’s stuck in a snow bank,'' Stoutland said. "Really, I’m not joking. He’s in New Jersey. He had to go with family to New York. I talked to him last night and he literally can’t get a plane out. Those airports were closed down. So, we’re trying to get him on anything here. He should be here, if not today, tomorrow for sure."
Also, Stoutland said that all the coaches on the UM staff know their job status as far as if they will be retained by new UM coach Al Golden. He said he didn't know what had been formally released, because he said he doesn't read the papers.
"I just know there are three coaches who have been asked to stay,'' he said, referring to himself, receivers coach Aubrey Hill and linebackers coach Micheal Barrow.
Nothing has been announced regarding offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Joe Pannunzio and running backs coach Mike Cassano, so suffice it to say that it appears their UM coaching career will be over after this bowl.
"It has been an emotional week for the coaches,'' Stoutland said.
I'll be back after practice with any updates or news...
UM right tackle Seantrel Henderson -- the 6-8, 360-pound monster on the field and thoroughly nice and low-keyed guy off it -- missed almost all the bowl practices in Coral Gables because of a wicked stomach virus that depleted him of fluids and had him quite sick.
He came back to practice the day before UM's final session back home, but missed the last one because he hadn't fully recuperated. Most of us were wondering when (and possibly if) he'd be back healthy enough for the bowl game.
But Seantrel is back, despite a snow storm in his home of Minneapolis that caused his plane reservations to be rebooked. I bumped into him last night in the El Paso Airport after he arrived. He seemed really happy to be here and said he was all better.
Hopefully, the time missed won't affect his stamina. But he has today and Tuesday to get into the grind, before tapering off Wednesday.
UM needs him for sure.
Addendum: Just watched the first part of practice and Seantrel was practicing at second team, with Jermaine Johnson at first team. Makes sense. Seantrel has been away from practice for a long time. Not sure what will happen in game. We'll talk to Jeff Stoutland in about an hour.
Also: Jacory Harris was taking the first-team snaps today in practice at a local high school in El Paso. Coach Stoutland informed a UM spokesman that he will not announce the starting quarterback today after practice. It seems that it will be Jacory, but we have not been told anything yet.
I've been to many bowl games, but the greeting the Canes (and Irish) got Sunday afternoon was the nicest I've seen (them, too).
There were mariachi musicians and festively-dressed dancers and even the Sun Bowl queen and her court of princesses showed up to honor the players.
The Sun Bowl officials -- Bernie Olivas and John Folmer among them -- are some of the nicest bowl people we've ever dealt with. They made it a point to publicly welcome the Hurricanes "to the second oldest bowl game in the country'' with warmth and sincerity.
The players went to a team barbecue Sunday night at Sunland Park Race Track & Casino. There's a photo in the local paper here of Jacory Harris ladling barbecue sauce over his food. The Canes (including Lamar Miler and Jacory) posed for pictures with children and adults who flashed the "U.''
Today, selected players will visit the pediatric unit of a hospital. Then, the whole gang will go on a Lucchese Boots shopping trip. El Paso is famous for its cowboy boots.
Practice is at 10:15 a.m. at a local high school. Remember, it's two hours earlier here than in Florida.
Anyway, it is very nice to see the players truly enjoying themselves and feeling appreciated. It's been a really tough season for them. Putting it together on the field would go a long way in closing the door on the negativity of this season and opening a new one.
As you probably know by now, UM running back Mike James' 47-year-old mother, Elgusta James, died last Monday morning, Dec. 20th, in a car accident in Haines City.
James immediately left UM with his uncle to drive to Haines City when he learned the news after practice last Monday. His sister, who was driving the car, and her 5-year-old son survived.
We learned from UM this morning that Elgusta James' funeral will be the exact day and time of the Hyundai Sun Bowl kickoff in El Paso, Texas, where the Canes are heading this afternoon and where they will meet Notre Dame at 2 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Dec. 31.
UM said Mike has chosen to play in the game because that's what his mother would have wanted him to do. What a painful decision that had to be. I'm saying my prayers for Mike, who could probably use them right now.
Mike is expected to join the team Monday in El Paso, according to UM spokesman Chris Freet.
Tailback Eduardo Clements said last week that he texted James.
"I told him that I love him and anything he needs, I'm here for him, " Clements said last week. "He texted me back and said, 'I love you, too, bro. Thank you.'''
UM said that anyone who wants to send flowers in memory of Mike's mom should send them to Holmes Funeral Home in Haines City. For more information, call (863) 419-2700.
> I'm in the Dallas airport now and have to go board my connecting flight to El Paso. We'll talk to coach Jeff Stoutland later.
At one point during his coaching tenure at the University of Miami, Don Soldinger had an office full of future NFL running backs fighting to carry the ball in the Hurricanes backfield.
"I got pictures now that if you saw them, you would just shake your head," said Soldinger, who spent 16 years at UM as a linebackers/tight ends coach from 1984 to 1988 and running backs coach/special teams coordinator from 1995 to 2006.
"At one point or another in my office, I had [James] Jackson, EJ [Edgerrin James], [Clinton] Portis, [Jarrett] Payton, [Najeh] Davenport, [Willis] McGahee and Frank [Gore]. I'd love to start another round like that again."
Soldinger, now 66, has spent the last five years since being let go by Larry Coker working as a strength training and speed development coach. He's spent the last two years serving that role at Miami-Dade Community College, training the national championship winning softball team, Steve Hertz's baseball team and most recently the men's and women's basketball teams. He's also traveled the country working special camps and coaching running backs. The bug inside him for coaching at the University of Miami? That remains as strong as ever.
New Canes coach Al Golden hired his fourth new assistant coach Wednesday when it was announced Brennan Carroll, the 31-year old son of former USC coach Pete Carroll would become the team's new tight end coach and national recruiting coordinator. But the offensive coordinator spot along with running backs coach and special teams coordinator remains open. Soldinger? He's interested in the latter.
"I hope does enough research just to talk to me," Soldinger said Saturday at the Citrus Bowl as he watched Miami Central play Orlando Dr. Phillips in the Class 6A state championship game. "Whether he comes up to me or not, I think I can help him. I know so many people in the state, still have a little bit of coaching left. The way it all ended wasn't good. I had a great career and I like to finish it off on the right note.
"[Golden] seems to want to want to have some sort of tie to the old players and tradition whereas I think Randy [Shannon] kind of made a mistake that way, turning a few people off that way. I love Randy because I coached him. But I think he kind of pushed some guys away.
"We'll see what happens. I've kept my hands in football in case something happens. I actually did a clinic for Butch [Davis] recently, went up to North Carolina, met with their staff for a few hours. I did a high school clinic for them. He really doesn't have anything there yet. But this is the first time I thought about leaving Miami. I haven't wanted to because my wife does real good in real estate. But if something came open I'd certaily like to help out."
Soldinger said the talent he sees in UM's backfield now "is probably the best group they've had since I've been gone."
"It's similar to the guys I had sitting in my room just a few years ago," Soldinger said. "[Mike] James, [Storm] Johnson, [Lamar] Miller, the kid from Booker T. Washington [Eduardo Clements] those guys all have it. They just need to be patient, stay positive and not worry about who is the man. All of the guys I had before were like that. They didn't like it back then. But they like it now. They're all making a ton of money."
The Miami Hurricanes have themselves a new assistant coach with a famous last name.
Brennan Carroll, the 31-year old son of former USC coach Pete Carroll, has joined Al Golden's new staff where he will be tight ends coach and national recruiting coordinator.
Carroll was on the USC staff from 2002 to 2009 and is a former tight end at Pittsburgh.
In 2007, he coached Fred Davis, who won the John Mackey Award, honoring the nation's top tight end. This past season, Carroll worked in private business in Los Angeles.
"Great hire for UM," WQAM and Miami Herald recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said. "He and Jethro Franklin will get a lot of West Coast kids. Brennan is very good, works hard, just like his dad."
Tom Lemming, national recruiting analyst for MaxPreps and CBSSports, said he's liked what Golden has done in building UM's staff early on.
"Everyone on that staff is a good recruiter," Lemming said. "I'm glad he kept [Micheal] Barrow, that will really help with the guys locally, act as a bridge."
CANES WORKING HARD TO FIND QBS: Now that Teddy Bridgewater has moved on to Louisville, the Hurricanes have picked up the intensity in finding a quarterback for their 2011 class.
The most appealing and perhaps most realistic shot the Hurricanes have of finding a quarterback is at national perrenial power Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) with 6-2, 210-pound signal caller Gary Nova, who recently de-committed from Pittsburgh.
"I’m looking for a chance to play at a stable place; that’s what I had at Pittsburgh and that’s why I’m disappointed that it didn’t work out," Nova told NorthJersey.com. "I want to be at a place that is close so my parents can see me. That all factors into my decision."
Most believe that close place could be Rutgers, who recently hired a former Pitt assistant. But Nova, who went 24-0 in two years as the starter for Don Bosco, could end up giving the Hurricanes a serious look.
"Growing up I wanted to play for Miami," Nova told Canesport.com. "I committed early to Pitt, never got a chance to look there. As soon as I heard [Dave] Wannstedt got fired, Miami was the first school I wanted to look at."
Nova threw 23 touchdowns and 3 INTs this season at Bosco. Lemming believes Nova would be a great fit at UM.
"I've liked him from the get-go," Lemming said. "He's the No. 1 QB in New Jersey. He's a real good guy if they can land him. He has tremendous potential, decent height. He's not there yet. But those coaches at Miami can make them a real good one."
> Golden told WQAM on Monday he would like to recruit two quarterbacks in his next class. Who the other QB could potentially end up being isn't clear right now.
The Hurricanes have been in hot pursuit of St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Jake Rudock, a long-time commitment to Iowa, since Shannon was fired. But a couple of sources have told me it appears Rudock will probably stick to his guns and stay with the Hawkeyes. It also just isn't in Aquinas coach George Smith's nature to allow his players to switch schools once they've made a commitment.
Lemming said Miami is looking at quarterbacks in California and a couple others in the Southeast currently committed to other programs.
> Two defensive backs the Hurricanes have stepped up their local recruiting efforts for recently, Southridge's Gerrod Holliman and Andrew Johnson, de-committed from Ole Miss on Tuesday night.
Holliman, an Under Armour All-American safety who along with Johnson grew up a huge Canes fan, said the Hurricanes' recent pursuit played a factor but not as big as UM fans might hope.
"As of now, I just wanted to open up my options again and see how everything plays out from there," Holliman said Wednesday afternoon. "I know Ole Miss already recruited four safeties and three coming back. I just wanted to open my options to other schools with less players on depth chart.
"In a way, UM has played a role. But they took so long to start recruiting us. Now they have to play catchup with all the other schools, ones we've already narrowed it down to."
Holliman said he's scheduled to visit Ole Miss, Cincinnati and Louisville in January. Will the Hurricanes receive a visit?"I don't know," Holliman said. "Until recently, the only thing they've ever talked to me about was stopping by practice on my own time. But I haven't spoken to coach Golden yet. Maybe things will change."
Sad news trickled out of the University of Miami this afternoon when it was learned that the mother of sophomore running back Mike James died in a fatal car accident Monday morning.
UM canceled all afternoon activities after learning of the tragedy. James’ sister and nephew were also involved in the car accident and are currently hospitalized. James, who is from Haines City, Fla., left the Coral Gables campus Monday afternoon to attend to his family.
“He is a member of our family,” interim head coach Jeff Stoutland said in a statement released by the school. “He grieves and we grieve. He hurts and we hurt. We are all here to support Mike and his family in any way possible.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike and his family,” UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt said. “Family is the foundation of our football program, and today the entire Hurricane family is grieving with Mike."
For those of you who would like to send Mike your thoughts and prayers here is a link to UM's Facebook page.
Teddy Bridgewater is taking his talents to Louisville, Ky.
The nation's No. 2 dual threat quarterback and a top recruiting priority for the University of Miami before Randy Shannon was fired decided over the weekend according to his mother he will be following his Miami Northwestern teammate and favroite receiver Eli Rogers to Cardinals Country. Both players were recruited by former UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt.
"Man, more than anything it came down to playing time," Bridgewater told Scout.com "With me enrolling early I can come in and compete for a starting spot. When I visited I had nothing but love from all the coaches but especially coach Hurtt and coach [Charlie] Strong."
Bridgewater was committed to UM until about a week after Shannon was fired. His mother, Rose Murphy, was unhappy with the way Hurricanes fans reacted to her son de-committing from UM. "Every kid has to look out for what is best for them," Murphy said. "Teddy is a great kid, hardworking kid. He doesn't deserve all that hate."
Bridgewater was once considered the centerpiece to UM's 2011 signing class. But the Hurricanes may not end up signing a quarterback in this class at all. Most of the best ones have long been committed to other programs.
> The Hurricanes picked up their first commitment under new coach Al Golden over the weekend when 6-6, 280-pound prep school defensive lineman Olsen Pierre announced he was going to be part of the class.
Pierre, a former Temple commitment at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, visited UM over the weekend with three other players: Brockton, Mass. cornerback Albert-Louis Jean, Vero Beach High offensive guard Marcus Jackson and Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic High punter Spencer Roth.
"I had the best time of my life," Pierre told Canesport.com of his visit. "[Golden] recruited me to Temple, and I'm the only one from Temple that he's taking with him here. He's been recruiting me since my freshman year [at Rahway High School in New Jersey], saw me grow."
Louis-Jean's father said his son will announce his final decision at a press conference at school on Jan. 5. Jackson's recruiting coordinator Pete LeDuke said last week he would make his final decision at the Under Armour All-American Game in St. Petersburg on Jan. 5.
Canes fans, It's official: Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, linebackers coach Micheal Barrow and receivers coach Aubrey Hill will be part of new UM head coach Al Golden's new Hurricanes coaching staff.
Below is the news release just put out by the university:
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – University of Miami head football coach Al Golden has announced that assistant coaches Micheal Barrow, Aubrey Hill and Jeff Stoutland have joined his first Hurricanes’ staff.
Barrow will coach linebackers, Hill will serve as the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator while Stoutland will coach the offensive line.
The announcement of Barrow, Hill and Stoutland being added Golden’s staff does not necessarily rule out the possibility of other current Miami assistants joining his staff at a later date.
On Dec. 16, Golden announced his first three assistant hires in Mark D’Onofrio (defensive coordinator), Jethro Franklin (defensive line) and Paul Williams (defensive backs).
Barrow has served as a defensive coach at Miami since 2007, serving as linebackers coach in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and as a defensive assistant in 2009. Barrow, who also works with Miami’s special teams, has played an important role in the development of Sean Spence and Colin McCarthy, both of whom have already reached the 100-tackle mark this season. He has also been instrumental in the development of several linebackers that are currently playing in the NFL – Tavares Gooden of the Ravens, Darryl Sharpton of the Texans and Spencer Adkins of the Falcons. As a player, Barrow earned All-America honors at Miami in 1992, winning BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year while finishing seventh in Heisman Trophy voting and second in the Butkus Award voting. From 1989-92, Barrow tallied 423 tackles – the fourth-most in school history. He went on to play 13 seasons in the NFL, recording 1,133 tackles and 43 sacks in 173 career games with five different teams.
Hill has coached Miami’s receivers the last three seasons and served as the program’s recruiting coordinator for the last year. Since 2008, Hill has guided one of the top receiving corps in the nation at Miami. Headlined by All-America senior Leonard Hankerson, Hill’s top three receivers combined for 2,178 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2010. Hankerson recorded arguably the most productive season for a wide receiver in school history in 2010, catching a school-record 12 touchdowns while becoming the first player in school history to record 2,000 receiving yards in a career and 1,000 yards in a single season. Hill has also overseen the development of Travis Benjamin, who recorded 293 yards as a freshman, 501 as a sophomore and 699 so far this year as a junior. Before arriving in Coral Gables, he spent three years on the University of Pittsburgh coaching staff, where he tutored first-team All-Big East performers Greg Lee in 2005 and the tandem of Derek Kinder and freshman All-American Oderick Turner in 2006.
Stoutland has served as Miami’s interim head coach since Nov. 28, 2010 and has coached the Hurricanes’ offensive line the last four years. As one of the nation's most respected line coaches, his lines at Miami, Michigan State and Syracuse are well known for their outstanding run-blocking. In 2010, his offensive linemen earned All-ACC weekly honors five times, while the 'Canes have rushed for more than 200 yards in five of Miami's last seven games. Stoutland has overseen the development of numerous All-ACC players in his tenure in Coral Gables, including current Detroit Lion Jason Fox, as well as Brandon Washington and Seantrel Henderson, among others. Prior to joining the Miami staff, Stoutland spent seven seasons as the offensive line coach at Michigan State, following three years as an assistant coach at Syracuse and four years at Cornell.
Miami will take on Notre Dame in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas. Stoutland will continue to serve as the team’s interim head coach up to and during the game.