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21 posts from March 2011

March 31, 2011

New UM football depth chart for first scrimmage

The new depth chart is out, just in time for Saturday's 10 a.m. scrimmage at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton.

The changes: starting quarterback is Jacory Harris OR Stephen Morris, as opposed to just Harris in the last released depth chart.

> First-team tailback is Mike James OR Storm Johnson OR Lamar Miller, as opposed to just Storm Johnson.

> First-team cornerback is Brandon McGee, as opposed to Thomas Finnie.

> First-team right defensive tackle is Micanor Regis, as opposed to Curtis Porter.

> First-team right defensive end is Olivier Vernon, as opposed to Adewale Ojomo.

Some "ors'' in the second-team department are Tyrone Cornileus OR A.J. Highsmith battling for second-team strong safety; Keion Payne OR Eduardo Clements battling for second-team left cornerback; Thomas Finnie OR Lee Chambers battling for second-team right cornerback.

Also, Malcolm Bunche is still listed as a co-starter with Seantrel Henderson; and Harland Gunn and Brandon Linder are battling for first-team left guard.

Click on this to get newest depth chart:



    It seems like more Canes are wearing the red jerseys every day. Add tailback Lamar Miller to the list on Thursday. OLJoel Figueroa, DE Dyron Dye, TE Andrew Tallman, WR Aldarius Johnson, TE Asante Cleveland, LB C.J. Holton and LB Kelvin Cain were sidelined. DT Marcus Forston also is injured. UM coach Al Golden said he didn't want to release any new information about Forston (knee) until "we feel we have enough information to talk about it and when he's comfortable with his doctors and our trainers. We're just moving forward right now... until we learn more.''



When: Saturday, April 2

Where: Spanish River High School, Jog Road and Yamato Road, Boca Raton

Time: Parking opens at 8 a.m.; Gates open at 8:30 a.m.; Kickoff is at 10 a.m.

Admission: Free

Note: There will be a "coffee with the Canes" session for all Silver Canes donors and levels above that, as well as high school coaches from Palm Beach County, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. For more information, Hurricane Club members can call 305-284-6883.

Golden said there aren't enough healthy bodies to do a full spring-game type scrimmage Saturday, so the Canes will use an "offense vs defense and we'll do multiple situations -- short yardage, backed up, third down. We'll move the ball all over the field and go from there.''

Golden said he's particularly interested in seeing how the quarterbacks perform. All three will share reps, he said.


March 29, 2011

Spence, Golden on Forston, scrimmage, etc.; students invited again Thursday, Wieclaw speaks.

    Doesn’t seem that long ago that Sean Spence came to the University of Miami on the heels of a Miami Northwestern High national championship –- an undersized outside linebacker who hadn’t hit 200 pounds but had more than 100 tackles as a senior and the determination of a future collegiate star.

     Now, Spence is closing in on his final season as a Hurricane, proudly wearing the black jersey awarded by new UM coach Al Golden for being a first-teamer. Some have relinquished their black jerseys to more deserving players, but not Spence. He’s holding on tight.

     “He’s not resting on his laurels,’’ Golden said before Tuesday’s practice. “He’s not satisfied. We can’t take credit for any of that. It’s his expectations. We don’t have any goals we can impose on him that are greater than what he has on himself. He has been working very hard, has done a tremendous job.

    “He’s gotten better in every facet of the game.’’

     Spence, 6-0, is up to 225 pounds. This 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Rookie of the Year, was UM’s Most Valuable Player in 2010 with 111 tackles – a team-leading 17 of them for losses.

     He said he wants to be “a vocal leader’’ this season “by taking charge of the defense and making plays.

    “I can do a lot of things better. I can get off blocks better, shed quicker, help other guys by tipping them [as to] which way the ball is going to go. I want to help in any way I can.’’

   He said defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s new system allows for “a lot of versatility. We have a great mixture of blitzes and coverages.’’

   For now at least, Spence – backed by Jordan Futch (who can also play in the middle) – is staying on the outside, with sophomore Jimmy Gaines wearing the black jersey in the middle and redshirt freshman Travis Williams also on the outside.

   Linebacker was a position without a lot of experience at the start of spring, but with former starter Ramon Buchanan (middle) suspended indefinitely and Kelvin Cain (middle) and C.J. Holton (outside) working out with the injured players, the situation is even more precarious.


      Golden confirmed that defensive tackle Marcus Forston is “banged up.’’ Forston told Canesport.com that he sustained a knee injury in practice last week and was on crutches initially and now wearing a brace. Golden said Forston hasn’t had his MRI yet. “Certainly we expect to have him for the season if he is banged up now,’’ the coach said, adding that Forston has had a “tremendous’’ spring.


      About 100 students and faculty members showed up at Greentree Field for Tuesday’s session, but instead of the usual three-hour grind, lightning shortened the practice less than an hour into drills. Because of the weather, Golden has invited UM students and faculty back to practice at 2:15 Thursday. Students and faculty must bring their valid Cane Card for admission…The public is invited to UM’s first scrimmage of the spring at 10 a.m. Saturday at Spanish River High in Boca Raton. It’s free.


  Golden said he is treating this week, leading to the first scrimmage, as he would a game week during the season. "For us, what we don't want to do is get into Maryland game week and then start teaching the guys what it's going to look like -- what the handouts are going to look like, what the cut-ups are going to look like, what the expectations are for us in the meetings. So, we're going through it now. It will allow us to play faster on Saturday, hopefully  play with energy and enthusiasm and just eliminate the mental errors. We're trying to get better here over the last eight practices.''

    How much does a spring scrimmage reveal to Golden? "A lot,'' he said. "You've got to think on your toes. Here, in practice, it's more controlled. I'll tell them when we're in the red-zone, or I'll tell them when we're in a goal-line period or third-down period. I think they're going to have to think on their toes out their [at the scrimmage] because if you're not right mentally and you're not on top of it, it will be third down and you won't know it. We want to get them thinking in that game mode and we'll continue to do that here throughout this week to get them ready for Saturday.

  Malcolm Bunche is at first-team left tackle again; 6-6, 275-pounder Cory White, who was switched from offensive line to tight end, has impressed coaches. "We've been pleasantly surprised with his fluidness,'' Golden said. "He's 275 pounds and you can tell he was trained as a tight end at some point in his career because a lot of it is coming back to him. We'll keep him right at that weight. We want a big, strong tight end there, but he has really been a bonus in the passing game. We didn't realize he'd have that impact for us.''


  Fans will get a chance to see what rising junior Jake Wieclaw and walk-ons Alex Irastorza and Cameron Dean can do in the kicking game Saturday. Irastorza is a 6-3, 190-pound sophomore who grew up in Miami (and graduated from Columbus High) and transferred to UM from Marist CollegeDean is a 6-3, 225-pound junior punter who transferred from Fordham.

   Wieclaw, 6-2 and 200 pounds, is a scholarship player listed as first-team kicker and punter. A rising junior, he has basically spent his career sitting behind Matt Bosher, who is hoping to play in the NFL. Wieclaw, from New Lenox, Ill., was the Illinois prep record-holder for most field goals in a season (19 in 2006) when he came to UM in 2008 from Lincoln Way Central High. But he was slowed after breaking his right ankle making a tackle in a game as a senior.

    As a high school senior in 2007, Wieclaw was 9 of 11 with a long of 52 yards. He also was a wide receiver, with a team-leading 35 catches for 485 yards and three touchdowns in 2007. He blocked three punts on special teams.

   "It's been a learning experience,'' Wieclaw said Tuesday. "Everybody coming in out of high school has to learn kicking off the ground [as opposed to off a tee], and they have to learn the speed of the game. The last three years have been a learning experience for me, and being behind someone as good as Matt Bosher has helped."

   Joining Wieclaw this fall will be 2011 signees Matt Goudis and Dalton Botts. Goudis, 6-0 and 160 from West Hills, Calif, was ranked the 13th-best kicker according to Rivals.com and 18th on ESPNU. He converted 12-of-16 field goals as a senior with a long of 55 yards, adding 37 extra points to earn all-league honors. He averaged 40 yards per punt .

    Botts, a 6-3, 198-pound punter from Taft, Calif., comes to UM from Moorpark Community College, where he averaged 37.5-yards a punt.

   Said Wieclaw: "As of now, it's open competition across the field. We're all just working to get better and competing amongst each other"

   Golden has not gotten entrenched in the kicking game yet, but that will change with the first of three scrimmages Saturday.

     "It has been more segmented right now,'' he said. "We'll kick live kicks on Saturday. If a drive stalls, we'll finish it with kicks. We'll get a really good shot at seeing them. I purposely withheld some of the special teams early in terms of [installation]. We're starting to get into that special teams segment now.''


March 26, 2011

Golden on Seantrel, Streeter, Nelson, young Swasey, OL-GPAs, and more...


Early morning practice today at Greentree Field. Coach Al Golden addressed reporters before the 9 a.m. session.

> On wide receiver Tommy Streeter, a player Golden previously said he wanted to get a better look at during spring practice: "Tommy is one of our most improved players right now. He did a nice job in the offseason and right now he's really starting to mature. I'm excited about the direction he's going. I'm not ready to annoint anybody yet. We haven't been in any of these scrimmages, but you can see, in what we're getting done everyday, the progress that certain players are making. Certainly, his trend right now is positive.''

> On the other players who have stood out to Golden that didn't play a lot last season: "[DT] Olsen Pierre is a guy right now that's making a move. So we're excited about him.

   "The tight end group in general is a positive issue for us. Right now, obviously Blake [Ayles] didn't play for us. He's improved, Chase [Ford] has improved. Clive [Walford] is really doing a nice job now because he's getting to be a more physical tight end.

   "I really like what receiver [Allen] Hurns is doing. I like the way he is preparing. Eduardo [Clements] we already talked about. I'm sure there are other guys. When you guys give me a question like that I always leave guys out. But those are the guys that jump out.''


 > Golden is allowing all UM students to attend the next practice, which begins at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday. UM students and employees that plan on attending practice that day (March 29) need to bring a valid Cane Card for admission. No video cameras will be allowed.

 Gates to the Greentree Fields will open at 1:45 p.m. Golden was asked Saturday if there were any ground rules (other than no video cameras) students must adhere to if they attend practice -- just in case they want to distribute any reports of what they see. "I hope not,'' he said of the prospect of students relaying information from practice. "Again, we're all partners on it. Look, with the scrimmages it's going to be, whatever you see is in the public domain. So, that's kind of like where we're drawing the line. Hopefully when they come here -- it's a little bit more intimate, because they'll be walking around our field. That's a little different than watching a scrimmage. We just hope that they'll be courteous of that and respectful of that.

"We want the students here. It's a great opportunity for them at the end of the school day to come over here and watch the players and get to know the coaches and just get an inside look. It will be great for the students and hopefully, our faculty and employees to come over and watch us.''


 Golden on a Seantrel Henderson update and the commotion over whether he wanted to transfer, etc. "Well, No. 1, you should talk to the young man about the commotion, because he's extremely happy here and he's excited to be here and as I said last week he has made an incredible amount of progress in the last two weeks. His weight is in the 340s now. He was probably close to 380 when he came back in January. That's not a young man that's despondent or disheartened or disenchanted. That's a young man that's working. And when you watch him play, he loves football. That's the one thing about Seantrel. He gets excited. The other day, Streeter made a great catch and he ran down there and that's great for our program that we have guys like that."

NOTE: Seantrel, who is 6-8, told us today he weighs 345 now. He said he "weighed 385 coming in last August,'' and his playing weight last season was "around 375.''

"All I would say to you is I'm excited about him,'' Golden said of Henderson. "The expectations with him are almost unrealistically high. But if he just learns to follow the process and doesn't have the ups and downs and just can ignore you guys, if you will, and the outside expectations, he's going to be a really good player. He's a really, really good kid. He's the kind of kid that is really easy to like, a really likeable kid. That's why his teammates think of him so highly.''


Golden talked about walk-ons Saturday. Who has impressed him among walk-ons? "I can tell you this, [Andrew] Swasey (a defensive back and the son of strength-and-conditioning coach Andreu Swasey) is probably the guy that jumps out right now. He is the guy that, as we're sitting in meetings, we're saying, 'OK, we've got to get him on multiple special teams.' [Linebacker Erik] Lichter is another guy. We always talk about being ready for your opportunity, and next-man-in mentality and obviously we've had some injuries. We're a little bit depleted at the linebacker position right now. He gets an opportunity and he executes. He knows where to align, he knows how to execute, he knows what the plays are, he has studied, he is prepared.

    "We're a little bit behind in the kicking game because of all the offensive and defensive installations but the heart of the spring is when we're going to focus on the kicking, starting today.

   > On linebacker Kevin Nelson, and how he did his first day of practice last week: "He's doing good. Today he'll be in a helmet and then he'll be able to be in full pads with the rest of the team Tuesday. For us it's about being educators, and if there's any reason why a student is not with us it's to teach him something, it's to get him to grow, to learn, and I think he's done that. We're excited about having him return and we're anxious to see what he can do over the next three weeks.''


> On the players' academics, and in particular the offensive line having the lowest cumulative grade point average of all the position groups: "I'm sorry that you see that, but whatever is in the building is in the private domain, so if you've seen that..''

   On that information having been tweeted by other people, including one former offensive lineman: "Yeah, well, those are all the things we're trying to work on here at the University of Miami, but we post it because we want everybody to know what the expectations are, and we want all the positions to be accountable to each other. Plus, we want improvement. It doesn't matter what your GPA was in the fall, we want to see improvement. That's the kind of culture we're developing, academically, socially and athletically.''


   > Rehab/injury report: The guys who were pedaling on the rehab bikes today were CB Eduardo Clements, TE Asante Cleveland, DL Dyron Dye, OL Joel Figueroa,  WR Aldarius Johnson (who wore what resembled a shin guard, from his ankle to the top of his right calf -- with the plastic guard part actually covering each side of his leg, as opposed to the front and back), and LB Kelvin Cain, who had a large black boot covering his left leg, and was limping.


March 23, 2011

Talking with Morgan, Wayne and Moss -- about to become UM Sports Hall of Famers

At 7 p.m. Thursday at Jungle Island, three Hurricane football greats will be part of a class of eight former UM athletes inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.

I covered all three when they played at UM, and had a great time last week chatting with each one of them separately about their memories and thoughts about being inducted.

Santana Moss, Dan Morgan and Reggie Wayne were part of a phenomenal class in more ways than just talent. These were the guys who came to UM during the NCAA sanctions, knowing UM would be losing before it started winning again. These were the guys who vowed to bring the program back. These were the guys who had so much pride, and by their senior year, set the table for their successors in 2001 to win the national championship.

Moss, Morgan and Wayne never got that national title, mainly because all three had to play as true freshmen following severe scholarship sanctions that saw the Canes lose 31 scholarships over three seasons. But they told me they wouldn't have changed a thing. They helped guys like Ken Dorsey and Ed Reed grow up, and still regret deeply losing that 34-29 game at Washington the second game of 2000 -- Dorsey's first start on the road at quarterback.

When you think of that incredible 34-game win streak that started the game after the Washington loss and ended with the loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, you realize that these guys were the ones who got the first 10 games of that streak going, and the ones who came so close to getting in the title game (they were bypassed in the BCS by a fraction by the Seminoles, whom the Canes defeated during the regular season), only to watch FSU lose to Oklahoma in the national championship.

Here are some of their comments during our conversations:


Morgan, who did the pregame Dolphins and Canes shows for WQAM last year, and would like to get into NFL scouting:

 "That was the time nobody wanted to come to Miami, but we all had that desire and that love to play Miami Hurricane football. It didn't matter what happened in the past. We knew we wanted to bring it back. We took it as a challenge and we worked our butts off, everyday pushing each other. The result is we finished No. 2 in the nation and I think at the end of the year we were the best team in the nation. We didn't get the opportunity to play Oklahoma, but if we did, the outcome would be different.''

"Me, Santana and Reggie playing our true freshman year, it was almost surreal. We grew so much that year and learned so much because we got our butts beat every week. It made us stronger."

Morgan on Al Golden: "I hear that he's a great recruiter. He brings the same kind of mentality that Butch Davis did. He is going to recruit guys not because they're five-star athletes, but guys he feel will fit into his system and the type of personalities he wants.''


"I got an email from my manager telling me the University of Miami was trying to contact me because I was to be inducted this year. I was like 'What?!!' I was so flattered. I called her baack to make sure she knew what she was talking about. That's one of the highest honors I could possibly get.

"Those memories of UM are with me every day. I see a lot of those guys. Me and Reggie and Reed, I see them all the time. Delvin Brown, he's a police officer on the beach. I'm always bumping into him when I'm on the beach."

Moss on how he would characterize his class: "I just think we were one of the classes that changed everything back around. When we came in there was so much going wrong, between the probation and lack of scholarships. So many of us played as freshmen -- me, Reggie, Darryl Jones, Dan. By our sophomore and junior years, we were light years ahead of the guys who were starting to play against us. That's why we were so dominant when we got into our later years.

"I was just happy to have an opportunity to stay home. My senior year at Carol City we went to state and won state and I was a big difference in us winning that year. Knowing that the schools that wanted me weren't really big schools, and that UM said, 'Hey, we've been looking at your for track, but we will allow you to come play football if you walk on,' that was like a no-brainer. I took it and ran with it. That was a chance for me to stay home and be close to my family and still do what I love to do.''

Moss on Al Golden: "I haven't met him yet, but I heard he's a great coach. I heard he's a coach that pretty much is going to install what these players need so they can learn how to be the U again. A lot of guys told me he's a great recruiter. I just hope he goes out there and gets these guys fired up to play some good football again.''


"To me, getting inducted is the biggest honor I could get in college football.

"That particular year was a special year. We had a special group of guys who came in and played very young. In 1997 we had a rough year, finished 5-6. No depth. If we would have redshirted, things would have been REALLY scary [in 2001]. But we moved on after showing them the way. I still love the way it all happened.

"I committed to LSU verbally and changed my mind the last minute because there was something about that trip to Miami. The brotherhood of all those players there at the time is still with me. At Miami you can get that one-on-one with your teacher. At LSU you were like No. 217. I looked at the graduation rate and all those things -- and it was hard to turn down palm trees. I had never seen a palm tree before.

"The years do go by fast. I broke the record for receptions against West Virginia my senior year. (He laughed) I pray each year [it isn't broken]."

Wayne on seeing other former UM players during NFL games: "We always talk before and after games. First thing we say to each other is, 'Man, did you check them out yesterday?' because we play on Sundays. We talk about whether the Canes won or lost.''

Wayne on Al Golden, who he was planning on meeting for the first time this week: "I just think this change will help -- a breath of fresh air. They need some leadership and they need some discipline and from what I understand about Coach Golden, that's something he specializes in.''

On UM strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey: "Swasey has been the key to my career, man. He's been the key to my career. I haven't missed a game since my rookie year -- knock on wood -- and I credit the majority of that, if not all of it, to my workouts in the offseason.''

The other five former UM greats who will be inducted Thursday: Divers Tyce Routson and Daphne Jongejans-Bousquet, women's tennis coach Ian Duvenhage, baseball player Bobby Hill, and track-and-fielder Yolanda McCray.





March 22, 2011

Hurricanes linebacker Ramon Buchanan suspended indefinitely, facing felony charges

Hurricanes linebacker Ramon Buchanan has been suspended indefinitely and is facing felony counts of resisting arrest with violence and battery, as well as three other misdemeanor charges after being arrested last week.

“We are aware of Ramon’s situation and we are disappointed,” UM coach Al Golden said in a statement released by the school. “This is out of character for a young man who has been a positive influence in our program. He is contrite and apologetic for the situation and is currently taking the appropriate actions towards resolution.

“UM’s track record in the community has been very positive and we will continue in our pursuit of the highest standards.”

Buchanan started 10 games last season as a junior and finished fifth on the team with 54 tackles, including eight tackles for a loss, with an interception. He was slated as the starter at weakside linebacker when spring practice began.

> UM released its latest depth chart Tuesday morning. Seeing how the depth chart figures to be tweaked several times over the rest of the spring practices, I would caution you to get too worked up over it.

The most notable nuggets: sophomore Eduardo Clements switched to cornerback from running back; freshman Olsen Pierre has moved from defensive end to defensive tackle. Clements, a tremendous all-around athlete in high school, has always been linked to corner. Pierre is probably better served at tackle because of his size.

Other quick tidbits: Jacory Harris is listed No. 1 at quarterback. Spencer Whipple is back to third; Seantrel Henderson (one of six players expected to be suspended for the season opener at Maryland) is listed as the co-first team left tackle with Malcolm Bunche.

> For those of you wondering where I've been, I'm currently on vacation/paternal leave as my wife and I expect our first child in the coming days. 

March 18, 2011

Report: Five more UM football players suspended; And Ohio State fiasco

Nearly a week after InsideTheU.com reported that UM left tackle Seantrel Henderson had been suspended for the opener at Maryland, Adam Kuperstein of NBC Miami reported five other players have been suspended for the opener as well.

According to Kuperstein, those players are defensive backs Keion Payne and Devont'a Davis; running back Storm Johnson, linebacker Kelvin Cain; and defensive lineman Dyron Dye. Kuperstein said the suspensions were not academic related, and that all six players "broke team rules.''

I put in a call to UM associate athletic director for communications Chris Freet, and he said coach Al Golden is on vacation this weekend and will be back next week. Spring football practice resumes Tuesday.

I cannot confirm the suspensions, but it is quite obvious by now that Golden runs an extremely tight ship, and I can almost guarantee he won't comment on the report. He wants to keep everything within "the U family,'' as he calls it.

My guess is that if six players were suspended, the infraction is related. I don't know for sure.

> Golden also didn't discuss injuries at all at Temple, but will comply with the ACC suggested policy of divulging injury statuses the Thursday before a game (you know -- doubtful, probable, out, etc.) Don't know if he'll go the "upper extremity" and "lower extremity'' route.


> You've all probably heard by now that Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel said he wants the same punishment as his five players who took improper benefits (selling autographed memorabilia and receiving discounted tattoos): suspensions for the first five games of 2011.

Ohio State conducted its own investigation of the matter and suspended Tressel for two games before he came out with his newest suggestion yesterday. He was suspended because it was learned he knew about his players' improper benefits for more than nine months (including all of the 2010 season) and never reported it to anyone. Tressel had signed an NCAA disclosure form last September that he didn't know about the violations -- "even though he had exchanged e-mails in April and June with a Columbus lawyer who told him of his players' relationship with a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner and of the benefits the players had received,'' according to an Associated Press report.

Tressel could be handed down a more severe punishment by the NCAA.

So, when UM play Ohio State in Miami on Sept. 17, here are the Buckeyes who will not be playing in that game: quarterback Terrelle Pryor, starting offensive lineman Mike Adams, leading rusher Daniel Herron, first-team receiver De Vier Posey and backup defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

And Tressel will not be coaching against Miami.



March 17, 2011

UM Baseball (back to winning) heads to Wake Forest -- and Bobby Hill to return


     UM baseball is back in the win column, where a program of its pedigree and prestige belongs.

     Its coach, Jim Morris, is happy to be back in the dugout after a nasty infection that resulted in surgery to remove his gall bladder Feb. 25.

     Morris, who missed six games because of his physical ailment, is feeling a whole lot better in every way, he told me Thursday while waiting to board a plane to Winston-Salem, N.C. to play Wake Forest in a three-game series beginning at 6 p.m. Friday.

     "I feel really good,'' said Morris, who lost 12 pounds in the hospital.

    After starting the season 5-8 and dropping out of the rankings, UM has won its last four games -- including a three-game sweep against Virginia Tech in its first Atlantic Coast Conference series -- to stand at 9-8.

    Morris explained last week, before the about face, that his team had to start approaching the game differently. He said the Canes needed to "get on top and hit line drives, get on base, run more, bunt more -- instead of trying to hit home runs.'' He said they had to take some pitches instead of immediately swinging.

     Morris shook things up a bit by "flip-flopping'' usual third baseman Harold Martinez and freshman first baseman Brad Fieger before the second game against VTech. "I think maybe that relaxed Harold a little bit,'' Morris said Thursday. "He's hitting fewer fly balls and more line drives. Sometimes when you're not winning you have to shake things up.''

     Martinez, who led the ACC in home runs last season with 21, was in a horrible slump. But Martinez has recorded a hit in six of his last nine at-bats (with three sacrifice bunts) since moving to first base. His batting average has improved almost 100 points to .245. And lifetime against Wake Forest, Martinez is batting .333

     Pitching-wise, UM's biggest unknown before the season, the Canes have been outstanding -- especially their starters. UM has a 2.65 team ERA, which ranks fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference behind Virginia, Georgia Tech and FSU.

During the past four wins, UM starters gave up one earned run.

   Morris also praised left-handed reliever Sam Robinson (1-0, 0.00 ERA in 10 appearances) and left-handed closer Danny Miranda (1-0, 0.93), who have obviously been strong from the pen. "[Right-handed] Sam Sargent (0-1, 3.18) threw well Tuesday night against FAU. We need a right hander throwing well out of the pen, too.''

  Wake Forest is 7-9, but took two of three games last weekend against North Carolina (15-3).

"I don't ever remember Wake Forest doing that in at least the past 10 years,'' Morris said. "They're vastly improved.''

    No. 7 Virginia (17-1, 3-0 ACC) leads the Coastal Division, with No. 6 Florida State (15-2, 3-0) first in the Atlantic Division. Miami is third in the Coastal behind Georgia Tech (14-4, 3-0) because of its unblemished ACC record.


   Former Canes All-American shortstop Bobby Hill will return to UM next week for the UM Sports Hall of Fame banquet and ceremony on Thursday, March 26. Hill led the Canes to the 1999 national title with a .391 batting average and 52 stolen bases. He is UM's career leader in stolen bases with 139. In 1998, he set a school record with 87 runs scored, led the team with 97 hits and had a batting average of .404.

    Hill is in Miami's Top 10 in career hits (253), career walks (166) and reached base in 97 consecutive games. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the second round in 2000 and spent four seasons with the Cubs and Pirates. Last season he signed with the Chico Outlaws, a member of the Western Division of the independent North American League.

    He resides in San Jose with his wife, Melissa, and their son, Bobby.

    "I'm very excited about him being inducted,'' Morris said. "he's going to be in all week and watch all our games. He's one of our all-time favorites because he played hard and loved the University of Miami so much. He was a great leadoff hitter for us, and he always had a smile on his face.''


    Tickets for the Hall of Fame banquet are $85 apiece and can be purchased by calling 305-284-2775 or by going to www.umsportshalloffame.com. Also being inducted are Ian Duvenhage (women's tennis coach), Daphne Jongejans-Bousquet (diving), Tyce Routson (diving), Yolanda McCray (track) and football players Santana Moss, Dan Morgan and Reggie Wayne.


   Georgia Tech at UM baseball will be televised at 7 p.m. Friday, March 25th; 1 p.m. Saturday, March 26th and 1 p.m. Sunday, March 27th, on CSS -- Comcast Sports Southeast







March 14, 2011

UM women enter NCAA Tourney as No. 3 seed

FORT MYERS -- The University of Miami women’s basketball team didn't have to sweat out Selection Monday. The Canes knew they were headed to the NCAA Tournament -- they just didn't know where or who they would be playing.

Well, now they know. 

Miami (27-4) earned the No. 3 seed in the Dayton Region and will travel to Charlottesville, Va. where it will face No. 14-seed Gardner-Webb (23-10) in the opening round Sunday.

The winner of that game will face the winner of the match-up between No. 6-seed Oklahoma (21-11) and No. 11-seed James Madison (26-7). The top seed in the region is Tennessee (31-2). Notre Dame (26-7) is the No. 2 seed.

The No. 3 seed is the second-lowest in program history for UM behind the No. 2 seed earned by the 1991-92 Hurricanes, who won the Big East title and reached the Sweet 16.

The NCAA appearance is the seventh in school history. Miami is 2-6 all-time in NCAA play, with the last win coming on March 17, 1993 against St. Peters.

> NCAA Tournament women's bracket

March 13, 2011

Canes draw No. 2 seed, FAU in NIT opener

The Miami Hurricanes have another home game.

Frank Haith's basketball team was selected Sunday night to the National Invitational Tournament as a No. 2 seed. UM (19-14) will host FAU (21-10) on Wednesday night at the BankUnited Center.

The Canes own a 19-1 all-time record versus the Owls, the only loss coming in overtime back on Dec. 3, 2002. UM beat FAU 87-69 the last time the teams met on Dec. 19, 2009.

The Owls are led by sophomore guards Greg Gantt (13.9 ppg) and Ray Taylor (11.7 ppg). 

If the Hurricanes win, they would potentially host the winner between No. 3 seed Missouri State (25-8) and No. 6 seed Murray State (23-8) in the next round.

The top seed in UM's bracket is Alabama.

March 11, 2011

Golden: Seantrel staying at UM (but didn't say whether he is suspended)

OK, the important thing here for Canes fans is that Seantrel Henderson is not transferring. His dad said based on conversations with his son, his son is not suspended for Maryland. However, I have no idea if he's suspended or not, especially since Al Golden won't comment on internal situations with individuals.

I do know that UM offensive linemen are not producing very well academically -- as a group. The GPA (grade point average) of that group is lower than any other position group of the Hurricanes. I don't know if Henderson has academic issues.

Quote from Al Golden, provided by UM: Seantrel has every intention of remaining with the University of Miami and our football program. It is disappointing that individuals are taking the liberty to hypothesize on his future. He is coming off a strong finish to off-season workouts, rotated with the first team on Thursday and is well respected and liked by his teammates. Seantrel is growing into a leader, loves the game and cares deeply about being a part of the Miami Hurricane family.”

And this quote just in from Seantrel, provided by UM: "I am committed to my teammates, coaches and the championship goals we are chasing at the University of Miami. I have no desire to play anywhere but at the U."

I asked UM several hours ago to ask Al Golden if Seantrel Henderson is suspended for first game against Maryland. UM said it would relay the question to Golden. I recently got a reply from UM associate athletic director for communications Chris Freet on the suspension question:

"He will not address it,'' Freet said of Golden.

I also talked to Seantrel's mom and dad. Both said he's completely happy at UM.

Sean Henderson, his dad, said:  "To my knowledge, Seantrel is not suspended at all. Based on what he’s telling me, nothing is wrong.''

 "He’s enjoying himself down there. He loves it down there. He loves that Al Golden actually has a plan and feels real confident down there for this fall. He spoke real highly of Coach Kehoe. He has been working hard. His weight is down. He’s having a great time. He has no intention of playing anywhere else.

"The first thing he said when he saw me was, 'Dad we’re going to kill it this year. we’re going to take the whole thing.'''



Report: Seantrel Henderson suspended for UM season opener

There is a report by InsideTheU.com that University of Miami soon-to-be-sophomore offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson is suspended for the opening football game at University of Maryland.

We have requested a comment from UM coach Al Golden and are still awaiting a response. We do know that there are some academic issues within the offensive line personnel, but don't know to exactly what extent the problem reaches -- or if the Henderson situation is related.

InsideTheU.com wrote that "multiple sources have confirmed'' the information. The report also said "multiple sources have also confirmed that Henderson is unhappy with the new staff as former head coach Randy Shannon was a big reason why he chose to attend Miami after being released from his letter of intent he signed with USC [last] March.''

Henderson, a freshman All-American who was the nation's No. 1 recruit in the 2010 signing class, is a 6-8, 345-pound behemoth who was listed on Golden's opening spring depth chart as the No. 2 left tackle behind redshirt freshman Malcolm Bunche. Henderson started nine games last year, and he is a substantial talent who will only get better as he gets more mature. That depth chart was based on the off-season conditioning program. Henderson did lose at least 10 pounds, one coach said last week. Another report had him losing 35 pounds. Not sure he actually lost that much, but don't know.

Players worked out this morning, finished their classes and dispersed for a week-long spring break. And that includes Henderson, who is heading back to Minnesota.

On Thursday, I asked Golden what coaches do during the break. "The coaches are off,'' he said. "I'm sure there will be coaches that just can't get away from it and will be around a little bit. But for the most part, everybody has got some business to tidy up somewhere else, so we have to take care of our families in making the transition here.''

Golden was asked what his message will be to his players about break and what they do? "The same as it always is,'' he said. "Protect the university. Defend the team. That's it. Don't embarrass yourself, the program, your family or the U family. We've got to make sure we're always teaching them lifeskills and develop them on a daily basis. And choices, attitude and partners are a big part of that. Hopefully they'll make good choices and choose good partners over spring break.''




March 10, 2011

UM combine hit by rain (With Calais, Beason, A. Dixon and Colin McCarthy)

For the first time that anyone can remember, UM Pro Timing Day -- aka the UM combine -- was rained out midway through today's event at Greentree Field on campus. A torrential downpour halted everything after eight players completed their 40-yard dash.

Players got their lifting and verticals done inside the weight room just before the downpour erupted.

The remainder of Pro Timing Day is scheduled for Friday, March 25th at 9 a.m.

What a disappointment for all those Hurricanes seniors who were training to be in optimum shape for running the 40 and doing outside drills on this day.

Many of them, though, such as wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke and linebacker Colin McCarthy, did a lot of their work and running already at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

 Van Dyke ran a lightning-fast 4.28 second in the 40 in Indianapolis.

UM posted the 40 times. The fastest 40 among the ones that got done? A 4.39 run by former special teams player and reserve cornerback Cory Nelms. Nelms also had the best vertical jump -- 37 inches.

Tailback Damien Berry ran a 4.45 40, with Graig Cooper running a 4.6.

Defensive back Ryan Hill ran a 4.52, fullback Patrick Hill ran a 5.05, tight end Richard Gordon ran a 4.65, Kylan Robinson ran a 4.73 and Jared Campbell, Calais' younger brother, ran a 4.7.

The second best vertical jump was  Brandon Harris' 34.5 inches

"It was a good turnout,'' said McCarthy, who said he kept all his NFL Combine numbers and the only thing he would have done Thursday was position drills. "Obviously it would have been nice to get out here and perform, but the weather didn't hold up. The best thing about this is everyone has two more weeks to prepare.''


> Former UM defensive end Calais Campbell, who plays for the Arizona Cardinals, said the UM event is more nerve-racking than the one in Indianapolis. "The combine everybody is in the stands, and it's just the other guys around. But when you're here, it's more personable. Everybody is around, especially in the weight room and everything. All these GMs and decision-makers are right there in front of you while you're getting ready to jump or getting ready to lift. The combine, everybody is farther away.''

Campbell said he was impressed with UM's future NFLers. "Brandon Harris, I feel like is one of the better corners in the league. I wouldn't mind having him on the Cardinals. We could use a little help. And Allen Bailey, he'll definitely turn some heads.

   Campbell said he  has met most of the UM coaches except for Al Golden -- "Everytime I go up there he's been kind of busy so I'm going to meet him eventually. One thing I know for sure is I'm glad they brought Art Kehoe back just because he's the only guy who has been here for all five national championships. Hopefully we can make it six.''


Antonio Dixon, 6-3 and 325 pounds, entered the NFL as a free agent in 2009, and now is a defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles. Dixon, who lived in homeless shelters as a child and has persevered in battling what was once a severe stuttering impediment, recalled his UM Pro Timing Day: "You never count anybody out,'' he said. "It is a little nerve-racking because it's the first time doing it here in front of all these scouts and coaches. But somehow I stayed calm and collected,'' he said, laughing.


Jon Beason, a star linebacker whose first season with the Carolina Panthers was in 2007, seemed to be having a good time on Greentree Field. "I absolutely remember this day,'' he said. "It was a very exciting day for me. I didn't have the best combine workout so coming out here and doing the drills again proved to be a big day. Guys get all bent out of shape about it, but they don't know that this is the best time of their lives, man. You know you're going to go, if you're one of those guys who's going to get drafted, and it's like a dream come true. This is what it's about for us. This is it. This is your last chance to show what kind of person you are to get a chance for people to actually meet you and show what kind of player you are.''

Beason said he met Golden and "he's a real sharp guy. I believe in him. I like the way his system is. He's very structured -- attention to detail and small things. I think that's what we needed to get over the hump. Obviously I'm a big Coach Shannon fan. I thought based on where he came into the program and where he left it, he did a good job.''


> And this, from former UM running backs coach Don Soldinger, who runs football camps all over the country: "This thing here is big -- it's big. A tenth of a second can mean a lot of money. A tenth of a second, a rep on the bench. Because they put a lot of stock in it. I think they should put more stock in 'Can a guy play?'''

> Other former UM players who attended the rain-shortened event: Willis McGahee, Jimmy Graham, Spencer Adkins, Dedrick Epps, Greg Olsen, Brian Monroe and former old-time greats Jim Kelly, Warren Sapp, and Bernie Kosar.

> Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio attended, as well as Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

> Canesport reported Thursday that 6-4, 202-pound Cordele (GA) Crisp County High wide receiver Jontavious Carter committed Thursday to the Hurricanes' Class of 2012. Carter's numbers in his only season of football this past fall: 49 catches for 650 yards and eight touchdowns.







March 09, 2011

What a difference! (with Lamar, Travis, Blake, Vaughn and Brandon M.)

It is becoming more evident every day that either the Hurricanes didn't work exceptionally hard last season, weren't exceptionally organized or efficient and weren't intricately taught --at least in the structured fashion they are being taught during practice now.

     I am very impressed with the meticulousness and organization of the Golden staff and how they are obviously translating that to actual teaching during these early spring practices.

     Sophomore running back Lamar Miller said UM's first practice was three hours long. "We're not used to that,'' he said. "Usually practices are like an hour and 30 [minutes]. But it's a lot of teaching periods so you get to rest during the teaching period.''

   What else is different between the last coaching staff's practices and the new one's? "The tempo,'' he said. "It's a lot faster.''

   More from Miller on the new staff: "I see a difference. Everybody sees a difference. They're changing the attitudes around here and that should help us out a lot.''

   When the depth chart came out, how 'pissed off' were some guys? Miller was asked.

    "Well, some guys were really pissed,'' Miller said. "But it depends on how you worked in the offseason. Now guys get the idea of what they've got to do in the summer.''

    Miller, who is listed third on the depth chart behind Mike James and Storm Johnson, said he wasn't upset at his placement. The reason: He had been working out with the track team when the new conditioning program was implemented.

     "I was expecting that because I was really doing track and them guys have been out here working hard, so now in the spring and summer I have to come out and work harder than everybody else and make my teammates better.''

    Miller said it was "very tough" balancing football and track, but that "it helps keep you in shape and helps with your turnover while you're running.''


> Senior wide receiver Travis Benjamin has either shrunk (we think not) or been measured correctly for this season. The new depth chart/roster has him listed as 5-10, as opposed to last season's 5-11 in the media guIde. Benjamin, who said he has gained six pounds since last year, was asked how coaches told him he would be used this season.

    "They haven't really gotten into details just yet,'' he said. "But I know that I'm going to develop in any kind of way -- even at slot receiver, outside receiver, lined up close to the line, anything.''

    How does he feel about being listed as the No. 1 guy on punt- and kickoff returns? "I like to do anything to put us in the best field position and score points. Special teams is like a free play you get to score touchdowns.''


   > Talked with new tight end Blake Ayles -- a national phenom coming out of Orange Lutheran High in 2008 -- for the first time, and he seems pretty personable and frank. He said he didn't get along that well with USC coach Lane Kiffin, and Miami had always been his second choice. He said he really likes this coaching staff and his teammates. Now, all he has to do is catch some passes and do some heavy-duty blocking. At 6-5 and 265 pounds, he is a definite physical force. His three seasons at USC were not impressive, but he spent a lot of time injured. Last year he had one catch.

       New UM tight ends coach Brennan Carroll, who coached Ayles at USC, said Ayles originally contacted him by Facebook and wished his son Dillon (he's 2) happy birthday and congratulated him on the soon-to-be birth of his first daughter (she's due on St. Patrick's Day). Then Ayles contacted Carroll about transferring.   


> Safety Vaughn Telemaque, the hip Southern Californian who uses his skateboard for transportation, had no turnovers in 2008 and 2009, but ended up with a team-leading three interceptions (tied with Ray-Ray Armstrong and Ryan Hill), three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and four pass breakups to go along with his 58 tackles.

   Telemaque is elated to be wearing the black jersey that coach Al Golden has awarded to first-team defenders. "You can take pride in wearing these black jerseys,'' he told me. "You want to keep it going and show all your teammates around you that you're working hard and you're getting rewarded for working hard and doing the right things.

    "The coaching staff is great, man. They have their philosophy and that's what they feed to us and we just have to eat it up and take it in stride, man. You really buy into this group of people they have around us.''

    Telemaque called the UTough conditioning program "fun'' and challenging. "You definitely had to answer the call,'' he said.

    Telemaque believes converted safety-to-cornerback JoJo Nicolas will be a success story and brings "a more physical presence,'especially at the spot he's playing in the boundary. A boundary corner technically helps with run support a lot,'' and Nicolas' experience at safety should only help in that area.'' 


> Junior cornerback Brandon McGee is on the track team along with Benjamin and Lamar Miller. He is listed second on the depth chart behind freshman Thomas Finnie.

   Here's McGee's take on the UTough program: "It works. It does what it's supposed to do. It makes a man out of you and brings the best out of you. When Coach Golden first introduced it we were at track and so I didn't know anything about it. Then all the guy were like, 'Yeah, when you all come back you all gotta see what it's like.' We came back ready to work and we were excited.''


P.S. Next practice is Thursday afternoon. UM Pro Timing Day is Thursday at 11:30 a.m.







March 05, 2011

Day One: Mike, Marcus, Olivier and more...

     Tailback Mike James, known for his ever present smile, is still flashing that positive spirit in the aftermath of his mom's death, according to one teammate -- though he declined interview requests Saturday on the first day of spring football practice at the University of Miami.

Understandable. James' mother died in a car accident in December before the Sun Bowl, an accident in which his sister and nephew were also involved. He arrived in El Paso just before the game, and got the first carry for seven yards. He ended up with four carries for 10 yards that day, and was undoubtedly emotionally spent after UM's 33-17 loss to Notre Dame on the same day his mother was buried.

But James, a sturdy 5-11, 222-pound junior, has persevered, and found himself on the top of the UM depth chart when it was revealed Friday.

"The biggest thing Mike did was really compete in the offseason from the weight room to on-the-field drills,'' running backs coach Terry Richardson said Saturday. "He's an excellent leader. He won it from a physical standpoint and also he won it from a leadership standpoint. He deserved to line up at No. 1.''

Richardson said James is a versatile player who, because of his "size and strength,'' is "a slasher. Sometimes you can hit him at four yards and he ends up with eight. He has good balance and good vision. And the one thing that impressed me is his versatility and how they used him in a lot of ways.''

LaRon Byrd said the team has rallied around James in the aftermath of his tragedy.

"Losing your mom, that's one of the worst things that could happen in this world,'' Byrd, a receiver, said. "Seeing him come to the bowl game, you've got to tip your hat off to him. He loves the game of football and we're like his family so we've got to be there for him.

"I've never really seen him cry. I don't know what he does in his off time before us. But when he's around us he's always happy and always keeps a smile on his face. Always [smiling], that's Mike James."

> Richardson said the coaches have "developed the work ethic'' of tailback Storm Johnson, a sophomore listed behind James on the depth chart, and ahead of Lamar Miller. "He's very talented and I think he's bought into what we're teaching him.''


Defensive tackle Marcus Forston is taking care of himself, and it shows. He says his new lifestyle "is carrying over to the offseason workouts.''

Forston lost 21 pounds, and does he ever look it. He said he's down to 295, and feeling great. Forston was one of the defensive players who ran out onto Greentree Field on Saturday wearing a black jersey -- awarded by coach Al Golden for earning first-team status on defense.

"Just eating right man, just leaving all that fast food alone,'' is how Forston said he lost the weight. "For the past six to seven weeks, the only thing I was eating was chicken and turkey and stuff like that -- spinach. Just putting all the right things in your body, it's amazing if you eat right what can happen and how much better you'll feel.''

Forston said he spoke to his teammates at halftime and after the Sun Bowl and learned then that he could be a leader and have an impact on the team. "There are a lot of guys that earn respect, you look up to them and you know that [I want] to lead by example. Everday I come into that weight room I'm going to go hard. No matter who I'm going up against -- If I'm in there working out with a linebacker or defensive back I'm going to try to beat them working out and finish first. That's something you've got to do. A positive mind always equals a positive outcome.

"If you come out here on this field every day with a positive mind, man, you're going to get positive results.'' 

Forston, a junior, said he told his teammates after the Sun Bowl, "That will never happen again. As long as I'm on this team and leading this team, that will never happen.''

> Wide receiver  Byrd, minus the boot he wore last month, was at practice with that same upbeat attitude as always. Byrd, who wore former UM Canes great Michael Irvin's jersey number of 47, switched his jersey number to 2, Graig Cooper's old number.

Some fans were wondering if Byrd was told by coaches to switch his number because he wasn't living up to Irvin's. Not at all. Turns out Byrd had wanted that number for a while. "It was for a personal reason. My cousin had died in the summer of '09 and his favorite number was 2. I said whenever I had the opportunity to change it, I was going to change it.''


>Defensive end Olivier Vernon, who started 11 of 13 games last season, was not even listed as a first- or second-teamer on the depth chart for the beginning of spring practice. "You can't be comfortable,'' Vernon said Saturday just minutes before practice. "It was just a wakeup call for the people who were starting. As long as I'm able to play and I'm not hurt, that's all that matters to me.''

Vernon was asked about the new coaching staff and how things feel different. "All these coaches are hyped, man. It's like everyday they're hyped. They've got so much gratitude. They're just happy to be out here.''

       Golden said Vernon and linebacker Kelvin Cain were not listed on the two-deep depth chart simply because “they got edged out in the offseason program. They’ll have an opportunity out here to earn their stripes.’’


> Golden on freshman cornerback Thomas Finnie, listed as first-team cornerback ahead of Brandon McGee: “His work ethic is ahead of his years right now. He came in with excellent maturity, work ethic and a no-nonsense approach. He’s had a great off-season program.’’


> About to get started on my feature on the UM quarterbacks for Sunday's paper. Interesting situation, with senior Spencer Whipple, the usual third-stringer and son of former offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, starting spring at first-team ahead of Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. I respect Al Golden for doing what he said he was going to do from the start, organize the depth chart according to how they performed in the conditioning pre-spring phase. Any parent can tell you that when you are consistent with setting the rules and following through with repercussions should they be broken, there tends to be far less confusion and turmoil in the long run. That said, be assured that their on-field performance in the long run, given that they don't break any rules we may or may not know about, will be the deciding factor.




March 04, 2011

UM releases spring depth chart, wake up calls

Al Golden said there were going to be a few surprises when the team released its first depth chart on the eve of spring football. He didn't disappoint.

Among the surprises: Walk-on quarterback Spencer Whipple listed with the first team; freshman All-American offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson listed with the second team and true freshman cornerback Thomas Finnie, who was playing with Miami Central in the Class 6A state championship game just this past December, is already with the first team. Also somewhat of a surprise: no fullbacks listed at all. Got to figure someone will be in there on short yardage and goalline situations.

Here's the new depth chart according to UM (check out the pre-workout depth chart below to compare). Reminder: This is all based on what players did and didn't do in the weight room and during conditioning over the last month and a half.

QB: Spencer Whipple, Jacory Harris, Stephen Morris
RB: Mike James, Storm Johnson, Lamar Miller
WR: Kendall Thompkins, Travis Benjamin
WR: Aldarius Johnson, LaRon Byrd
TE: John Calhoun, Chase Ford, Blake Ayles, Clive Walford, Cory White
LT: Malcolm Bunche, Seantrel Henderson
LG: Brandon Linder, Harland Gunn
C: Tyler Horn, Sean McDermott
RG: Brandon Washington, Jared Wheeler
RT: Jermaine Johnson, Ben Jones, Jermaine Barton

DE: Adewale Ojomo, Olsen Pierre
DT: Curtis Porter, Micanor Regis
DT: Marcus Forston, Luther Robinson
DE: Shayon Green, Andrew Smith
WLB: Ramon Buchanan, C.J. Holton
MLB: Jimmy Gaines, Jordan Futch
SLB: Sean Spence, Sean Goldstein
CB: Thomas Finnie, Brandon McGee
CB: Jojo Nicolas, Keion Payne
FS: Vaughn Telemaque, Andrew Swasey
SS: Kacy Rodgers, AJ Highsmith 

Special teams
K: Jake Wieclaw, Alex Irastorza
P: Jake Wieclaw, Cameron Dean, Alex Iristorza
FG: Jake Wieclaw, Alex Iristorza
KR: Travis Benjamin, Lamar Miller
PR: Travis Benjamin, Kendall Thompkins
H: Spencer Whipple, Jacory Harris
LS: Chris Ivory, Billy Sanders, Andrew Tallman 

For comparison, this was the pre-spring depth chart following a 7-6 season and a bowl loss to Notre Dame according to the team's website shortly before 3 p.m. (first through fourth team, from left to right):

QB: Jacory Harris, Stephen Morris, Spencer Whipple, Alonzo Highsmith
RB: Lamar Miller, Mike James, Storm Johnson, Eduardo Clements, Darian Hall
FB: John Calhoun, Maurice Hagens, David Thompson (walk-on)
WR: Aldarius Johnson, Tommy Streeter, Allen Hurns
WR: Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd, Kendall Thompkins, Davon Johnson, Ben Breneau (walk-on)
TE: Asante Cleveland, Chase Ford, Billy Sanders, Andrew Tallman, Clive Walford
LT: Ben Jones, Jared Wheeler
LG: Harland Gunn, Shane McDermott
C: Tyler Horn, Brandon Linder, Eduardo Lopez (walk-on)
RG: Brandon Washington, Malcolm Bunche, Jonathan Feliciano
RT: Seantrel Henderson, Jermaine Johnson, Cory White, Jermaine Barton

DE: Olivier Vernon, Adewale Ojomo, Andrew Smith, David Perry
DT: Marcus Forston, Curtis Porter
DT: Micanor Regis, Luther Robinson, Jeremy Lewis, Jeffrey Brown
DE: Marcus Robinson, Dyron Dye
WLB: Ramon Buchanan, C.J. Holton, Kevin Nelson, Erik Lichtner (walk-on)
MLB: Kelvin Cain, Shayon Green, Sean Goldstein (walk-on)
SLB: Sean Spence, Jordan Futch, James Gaines, Tyrone Cornileus, Travis Williams
CB: Brandon McGee, Nathan Cholston, Keion Payne
CB: Lee Chambers, Devont'a Davis
FS: Vaughn Telemaque, Cory Nelms, Jamal Reid
SS: Jojo Nicolas, Ray Ray Armstrong, Kacy Rodgers

Special teams
K: Jake Wieclaw, Ben Hopfinger
P: Jake Wieclaw, Cameron Dean
KR: Storm Johnson, Lamar Miller, Eduardo Clements
PR: Travis Benjamin, Lamar Miller
LS: Chris Ivory, Billy Sanders
H: Spencer Whipple 

> Thoughts on offense: I'm pretty confident that by the time the season starts Sept. 5 at Maryland, Morris or Harris will be the team's starting quarterback. This was one of the moves Golden made to send a message to both to compete at a higher level... the fact Mike James is listed as the starting tailback is no surprise. James has always been a fierce worker in the weight room. Could he keep the job come the fall? Absolutely. But the Canes are also in good hands whether Storm or Lamar Miller ends up winning the job... It's good to see Kendall Thompkins showing effort and starting out with the first team. Throughout his career, all we've heard about is how amazing this guy does in practice. Yet, he only has five career catches for 42 yards. The Canes desperately need a good slot receiver. Maybe Thompkins is finally ready... Seantrel Henderson not being listed on the first team at left tackle makes me ponder if he came in a little heavy and Golden simply wants him to lose weight... as for the other spots, no position will be more interesting to watch to me than tight end. With Asante Cleveland out and UM looking for more physical play, these guys are going to bring it.

> Thoughts on defense: Right off the bat, where is Olivier Vernon and Ray Ray Armstrong? Both could be banged up. But the fact neither are nowhere on the list makes you a little worried. I think Vernon has been the most consistent pass rusher UM has had over the last two seasons. Armstrong was coming off injury. Maybe that hurt him from making this list... Seeing Shayon Green with the first team after he was the starting middle linebacker when camp opened last fall makes you wonder if the Canes shouldn't have just started him at end to begin with... The middle linebacker spot will be interesting to watch. Golden praised Kelvin Cain on Thursday for his work ethic. Yet, Jimmy Gaines is listed with the ones. I expect Jordan Futch to be UM's starting middle linebacker by the opener... Could true freshman Thomas Finnie really win the starting job? If former safety Jojo Nicolas can why not. In the end, I expect McGee and Payne to be UM's starting corners.

> Thoughts on special teams: Golden said he doesn't like dancers returning kicks or handling punts. Travis Benjamin better put away his tap shoes... I don't know about you, but not seeing Matt Bosher's name on here makes me a little bit queasy.

March 03, 2011

Golden sets tone for start of spring football

Hurricanes coach Al Golden spoke to the media for about 35 minutes Thursday in anticipation of the start of spring practice 9 a.m. Saturday at Greentree Field.

AUDIO: Coach Al Golden's Press Conference 3/3/11

Al Golden2 How much of a feel do you have for the team at this point?
“Light years from three weeks ago. I had a chance to go outside with them in the offseason program, take them through drills, conditioning and really see the team grow and develop. We’re light years ahead of where we were three weeks ago as far as knowing the personnel.”

Will getting a chance to coach the team on the field for the first time Saturday be sort of like Christmas morning for you?
“I’m smiling because it’s been fun. I’m very grateful to the seniors. Because generally when there’s a transition – I’ve been a part of four of them on the ground floor – the seniors are the ones that rebel. There’s a little bit of malicious obedience there. They’re maybe detached at times. And that hasn’t been the case. This group of seniors is rallying and they’re leading. And I’m grateful for that. I know the coaches are. It’s fun to watch and fun to be a part of. I’m excited to be out there Saturday. With all due respect to everybody in the room, I’m tired of all this. I just want to go coach.”

How do you balance looking back on what happened last season and not dwelling or harping on the past?
“I don’t think you can leave it completely behind. What you try to do is almost detach the personalities that were involved with last year’s team and really talk about what transpired in terms of execution. Penalties, turnovers…the more we keep digging as a staff in NCAA stats, ACC stats, rankings, the more we learn about the nuts and bolts of that team last year. It’s kind of a guiltless autopsy.

“We have to find out without placing blame where the issues are. And I think our coaches have done a good job of not placing blame on any entity in the past. That’s important for the student-athletes that we do that and we say, ‘OK, this is where we were a year ago, and this is what we have to concentrate on and fix.’”

How do you go about assessing the quarterback situation and what’s your plan for choosing a starter?
“My plan for choosing a starter is that they’re going to choose the starter. All three of them [Jacory Harris, Stephen Morris and Spencer Whipple] are going to rotate and get ample number of reps with the 1s and I’m just going to let it evolve. There are going to be plenty of reps to go around. Field space won’t be an issue here.

“We’ll get them all out there throwing. We’ve got a good group of receivers and tight ends and running backs to throw to. We’ve got some depth there. We’ve got a couple of injuries at wideout. But other than that, we have some depth. So they’ll all get quality reps. There won’t be any excuses. It’s going to be about performance and execution.”

Do you plan on announcing the starting quarterback in the spring, summer or later?
“I don’t have a timetable to be honest with you. If one of them is blowing [the others] away in the spring and he looks like our leader, then we’ll do that. If not, we’ll let it play itself out in the first 14, 18 practices in the summer.” You’ve talked about the areas of the team you like such as offensive line. In some of the other areas, what would you really like to see happen in the first week or two, say, at linebacker?

“There have been a lot of individuals that have popped up already, just in the last three weeks, kids that have really made great progress. We’re looking for that same progress from others at those positions. I’m looking at the talent at corner. We have talent. I’m just looking for some guys to separate from the pack and declare themselves starters. The same thing at linebacker — we have some returning starters, but there’s a little bit of a depth issue there. Those are the things I’m looking for early in the spring. I’m looking to see who is going to pop [out] once we put the pads on and step up.”

Can you talk about who’s competing at cornerback?
“We have JoJo Nicolas, [Thomas] Finnie, [Brandon] McGee, [Lee] Chambers…I hate to just run through it because I’m going to miss somebody. But we have a good group of guys we’re working at corner right now. It’s going to be important we just keep working guys through there to find the right combination. Maybe we’ll try some of the safeties at corner or vice versa…see which guys are better suited for what we want to do.”

Jojo Nicolas JoJo has always been a safety. What made you decide to try him at corner?
“He’s bright. He can learn it. He was one of our best competitors in the offseason. If you said, ‘Who are your best four?’ JoJo would be in our best four, right now. Ray Ray [Armstrong] has been hampered a little bit with an injury. Hopefully he’ll be back soon. For us, it’s always going to be about getting the best guys on the field. So we don’t want to stack one position. And it looked like there was a little more depth or veterans at safety. We’ll try them out there. We can always move them back.”

Are there any guys coming back from surgery or injury that you’re going to be cautious with?
“I don’t want to go through that. Our final evaluation will be with [trainer Kevin Blaske on Friday]. We’ll have an idea where everybody stands, who’s going to be limited participation, who’s going to be able to come back at some point during the spring. We have a couple of guys slated to come back after spring ball. We’re going to get a full report [Friday]."

Is it an awkward time for you right now with the man that hired you going to another school?
“To be honest with you, we’re so engaged with our student athletes and so excited about spring it’s really not something that’s taken a lot of our time right now. I know Kirby [Hocutt] personally, and I’m happy for him. He made a decision based on what was best for him and his family and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be the head coach at the University of Miami.

“This place is bigger than all of us so we’re going to keep moving forward. Tony Hernandez is the interim AD. He’s an incredibly talented person, has done an unbelievable job internally here. There are not a lot of things we need to fix internally. He’ll give us the marching orders now. We’re excited for him and his opportunity.”

What other position changes have been made?
“Cory White has been moved [to tight end]. A.J. Highsmith is obviously back at defensive back. He’ll be playing safety. He might play some corner too. We’re not as much fullback oriented so some of those guys, [John] Calhoun and [Maurice] Hagens, are either playing tight end or running back and we’ll use them in different situations depending on personnel grouping. Tyrone Cornileus is playing safety. I always tell the coaches our job is to get the best 22 on the field. We have to make sure we do that here.”

Did you need to inundate players completely to your way of football or will you ease them in?
“It’s a process. We’ve hit them with a bunch. If your seniors and your leaders aren’t buying in, it’s going to be an uphill battle. That has not been the case. I had all the seniors in here the other day and that’s the thing I’m so excited about. They have come to work.

“There are guys really stepping up and leading. They’ve been very diligent in their preparation. Somebody asked me what the difference is  between here and the other transitions I’ve been a part of, and that’s the single greatest element right now – - the seniors. We have to keep that going.”

How much of this spring practice will be different than a usual practice because you have to teach?
“The first five practices will be a lot slower than I’m accustomed to or I would normally want. It’s going to be a lot more teaching. There will be periods we’re going to go up-tempo. But we’re going to slow it down a little bit and go a little bit longer than we would normally want to go the first three to five practices.

“We’ve alerted the kids to that and said because we’re doing that we’re going to tell you when it’s time to go and when it’s time to listen and be in a teaching period. We’re going to clearly mark that for the guys to understand.”

The playbook – do you start big and scale it down or start small and add to it?
“We start big. I think what we want to do is give it to them. Again, this is the way we planned it. To have three practices before spring break, get them those nine days for it to soak in a little bit, give them their first five or six installations before spring break, let it soak in, come back, pick it up again.

“Toward the end, we’ll scrimmage three times the last two and a half weeks. So that’s the plan. We’re going to give it to them, but not at the cost of being good at something. At the end of the day we want to be good at something in all three phases.”

Chase Ford Which of the seniors have stepped up?
“On offense Whipple and Jacory jump out right off the bat. Chase Ford the last couple of weeks in the offseason has just taken off. He’s done a great job. Blake Ayles has been a big factor with that in terms of his work ethic and his approach and he’s been a great addition for us.

"LaRon Byrd has done a nice job really kind of getting out there and being a leader. I’m happy what he’s doing. On defense, [Ramon] Buchanan has done a great job. [Sean] Spence has done a great job. JoJo. It’s been a really good group. Adewale Ojomo is doing a really great job. Again, when I answer questions like this quickly you leave some guys out. As an entity, they’re committed to getting this right and it’s good to be around.”

With so few options at linebacker, did you consider moving Spence inside?
We didn’t. Again, we’re going to start the best three and play the best six. Sometimes you only play the best five. It depends if somebody can learn two positions. For starters we want to make sure we give [Jordan] Futch a good run. He plays with such energy. He’s strong. He gives us a physical presence there. He’s animated. I really like Kelvin Cain.

“Kelvin Cain has matured probably — him and [Keion] Payne and Seantrel [Henderson]. Some of those freshmen have matured really well here over the last five, six weeks. I’m excited about Kelvin at inside [linebacker]. Jimmy Gaines has done a great job and some of those other guys. We’re going to let them fight it out and we’re going to find out who the best three are.

“I’m not afraid to change the depth chart. Again, you guys don’t really know me too well yet. I’m not afraid to change the depth chart to find the right combination. The guys know it’s going to be based on merit and how you practice every day.”

You’ve got a blank slate here. How does that build cohesion with the players?
“It goes hand and hand. You have to make competition, and finish, and mental toughness part of your DNA. And you have to learn to be able to handle that. If you can’t handle that internally I don’t know how you can handle it when you start adding another team and external factors or going on the road or playing in a hostile environment or playing against a really good player across from you.

“They have to learn to manage that. There are life skills inherent in that we’re trying to teach them. Poise under pressure and knowing how to compete and prepare every day and how to practice. We’re trying to make that the process. There’s no one on this team right now that’s not competing. There’s going to be a wake-up call when the depth chart comes out [Friday] because the team hasn’t seen it yet, either.

“I’ve been spending most of the morning going over it and there’s going to be some wake-up calls because there are some guys that got their butts beat out in the offseason program. Now, it’s going to be up to them to win this second phase. We made sure that the kids knew how it was going to be declared, who the starters were going to be and how the depth was going to be listed going into the spring. That was going to be based on the offseason.”

You’ve moved some guys to tight end…
“The tight end position is going to be critical for us. I wanted a little more of a physical presence with Cory White and Blake and Chase. Both of those guys are in the 260s [in weight]. Cory is in the 270s. So, we’ve gotten more physical and bigger there. We have Clive Walford and Calhoun and a couple others that give us a little bit more fluidness — pass-receiving, a motion guy.

“We can deploy them, because as fast they are, many of them can play in a couple different spots. That’s going to give us the opportunity to be a little more flexible there. It’s going to be that we have a physical presence at that spot. [UM went] a lot of unbalanced [with the offensive line] last year, using Seantrel over there and those type of things. We prefer not to do that. There’s always a place for it. But we prefer not to do it. So we’d prefer to be more physical at tight end.”

You didn’t mention Asante Cleveland. Was that just an oversight?
“Asante Cleveland will not participate in spring practice. If they’re not going to participate the entire spring because of injury we will release that [Friday]. I normally don’t discuss injuries. Injuries lead to excuses. So I really don’t discuss it much.”

Can you sum up how Phase 1 went?
“Phase 1 is ending now as we speak. The guys are going through their last lift. I’m very pleased with it. We accomplished a lot of our objectives. Some of them are very broad and I think you heard them in here. There are some of them that are internal and we don’t share them publicly. Externally, the ones I’ve shared with you are mental toughness and unity. You can’t have mental toughness and unity if you don’t provide opportunity. We’ve put the team in some situations where they have to come together and have unity.

“We needed some leaders to step up and we’ve done that. It’s been challenging. We’ve got a lot of the weights under control. I think you’d be surprised to see how quickly a lot of these guys who were overweight in January over the last six weeks have really have gotten their weight under control. They’re taking a real serious approach to this. So I’m pleased with the first phase and now the second phase is going to be exciting. That first phase gave us the opportunity to have a successful second phase. I’ll put it to you that way.”

How long will guys who start atop the depth chart stick with the first team?
“It’s going to be based on performance, preparation and production. It’s no different than the offseason program. We rank them every week. The final ranking will be out tonight. We’ll take that and make sure it’s what our depth charts are to start and go from there. That’s the way it’s going to be from now on.

“You can’t screw around all week and start on Saturday. You can’t have a good team doing that. I really believe that. Basically every coach I’ve been around or been mentored by believes in that. So it’s really important that the kids understand whoever practices and prepares the best is going to be the starter. We’re making sure we adhere to the policy.”

Any word on Joel Figueroa receiving a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA?
“He’ll be out for the spring. We’re hopeful that he’ll be granted that sixth year. It looks positive. But I don’t know any more than you do right now.”

Is it accurate to say you can’t win games in the spring, but you can win a season?
“You’re getting deep on me now. You haven’t taught until they learn. The more you give them and they can retain by themselves or do as units in the summer…that’s really one of our goals right now — to give them a piece of that.

“Not just say, ‘You guys go line up over here and do this.’ But to get them to own that and to be empowered to know the plays, to know the techniques and be able to perform at a high level and execute at a high level. Your statement is true, though. It’s going to be really important for us to have this foundation set by April 16.”

How will you handle social networking among staff and players?
Facebook-icon “I said this to the team and the staff – I’m trying to treat them like men and I’m trying to give them responsibility and I’m trying to empower them. If they don’t share that responsibility for what they represent here – the university, the alumni, the football program, the coaching staff and their teammates – then they’re more likely to tweet something that they shouldn’t be doing.

“I told them I’d rather teach them the life skills of how you want to represent yourself and the program and the university and there might be a little bit of trial and error with that, but I’d rather do that as an educator and as a coach than just say you’re not going to do it.

“Certainly if they can’t handle that, we can always go to Phase 2. I’d like to stay away from Phase 2, but it’s a different world that we live in. For me to sit here and say my kids aren’t going to be on Facebook is crazy. I mean, that’s the only way they communicate anymore – texting and Facebook.

“If they came in here for an interview and weren’t dressed the right way I would say, ‘look this is what you have to do.’ I’m just using Facebook as another opportunity to teach them a life skill. I have confidence that they’ll learn the proper way to represent themselves and the players.”

In the same breath, are you worried about your guests at practices seeing stuff and posting stuff on the Internet?
“If they’re going to post it, we’re going to shut the practices down. It’s as simple as that. We don’t want that. There won’t be any filming either at practice. We’re not interested in somebody sitting there and filming our pass routes for the day. We have enough to worry about. We want our football alumni back. I would hope our football alumni aren’t going to post it.

“We want to have a great relationship with the coaching community. I would think as peers and as coaches they would be able to understand that we wouldn’t be recruiting two neighborhood high schools and leave one and tell the other what we saw on the field. We would hope they wouldn’t do the same thing as a professional courtesy. We’ll make sure that we monitor that and keep it under control as much as we can.

“When it’s open to the public, I can’t do anything about it. That’s the decision we made here because we have a lot of ground to make up in the public arena and certainly with the high school coaches in the three counties.”

Will you do much with the kicking game during the spring?
“Not live, meaning to the ground. But we will thud and it will be physical. From what I understand it will be a little more demanding. We’re going to treat it like one-third of the game. We’re not teaching them as much early just because we have to get our systems in the first three practices, but ultimately we’ll bring that along.” What are you looking for as far as punt and kick returners?

“For punt returners, we’re going to use Travis [Benjamin], Darion [Hall]…Kendal Thompkins. Kick returners — obviously Travis and Lamar [Miller]. There will be a bunch of guys that we’ll evaluate.”

What do you look for in a returner?
“Punt returner, it’s clear – reliability, trustworthiness and someone that understands if you dance, you’re going to get us into trouble. The first part of the offense is the punt return and the punt returner is responsible for getting us a first down – get us 10 yards . Ten yards would be top 10 in the country in punt returns. It’s more important that we have a punt returner that takes the ball, secures it, makes one move and gets upfield.

“And clearly as a kickoff returner, fearless, courage, a guy that’s not a dancer. If he’s a dancer and a lateral-cut guy, generally they’re not great kickoff return guys. They’re guys that just hit it and have courage and trust the return. I think we finished at Temple No. 1 in the country and in the Top 20 three of the last five years.”

Sports Illustrated came out with an article about players with criminal records. UM has had a good track record. How much does the university look into the background of recruits?
“No. 1, anybody that fills out an application goes through the process at the university. We don’t use an official background check, but background checks are important to us in terms of the community, in terms of coaches and guidance counselors, vice principals, principals, Hurricane alumni that are in the school.

“All those things are critical and have a say in how we decide what we’re doing. In any of these cases, if they are looked at by the university, it’s always case-by-case. Just as if you weren’t a student-athlete. The only thing I would disagree with your assessment is that I don’t think it’s been very good — it’s been outstanding at the University of Miami. Coach [Randy] Shannon and his staff did an incredible job, among the best in the country the last couple of years in off-field behavior. They need to be commended for that.”

So you don’t do state background checks as far as the recruiting process?
“We don’t go through the state or any government entity at this point, but that’s part of the background check as a coach…Anybody that touches that kid or has anything to do with that kid, even if it means going back to middle school or elementary school, we would want to make sure we know as much as we can about them.”

You’re going to be the only game on Labor Day. Can that be a plus in selling the brand?
“Why wouldn’t that be a plus? We just have to get the team ready now. It’s exciting. …I’m grateful for the opportunity, we’re honored. It’s exciting to be in that role.”

A bye in the second week is probably not how you would have drawn it up, right?
“No excuses. That’s when they gave us a bye. That’s the schedule we’re playing. You’re not on a golf cart. There are no erasers or anything. That’s it. It’s done. It’s done in ink. Wherever they put us, we’re playing.”

What about playing games Saturdays at noon?
“For us, it’s two acres and a ball. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re responsible for – two acres and a ball. I can’t worry about anything else except our team, my staff, our attitude, our approach, our preparation. Do I prefer to play at 12:00 or 3:30 at Sun Life Stadium? You bet. I would love to do it. But we have to do what’s best for the University of Miami as a whole, our football program, our alumni and obviously exposure from a television standpoint.”

> The sites for Miami’s three spring football scrimmages, which are open to the public, are now set: April 2 at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, April 9 at Traz-Powell Stadium in Miami and April 16 at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

Canes head to Gainesville without Morris

CORAL GABLES -- The last time Hurricanes outfielder Nathan Melendres saw Jim Morris, he and his teammates watched in disbelief from their dugout as their 61-year old coach was taken by ambulance to a nearby campus hospital.

Jim Morris A week later, as the Canes prepare to face No. 1-ranked Florida (7-1) in a three-game series this weekend, Melendres and his teammates got on a bus bound for Gainesville Thursday knowing that at the very least Morris -- who had emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder last Friday -- was finally home resting.

"Obviously great news," Melendres said. "He's a big part of the program. He's the chief of our staff. He takes care of us. We care about him. He cares about us.

"As soon as we saw him in the ambulance getting taken out of here, we were all really worried. We only want the best for him."

Morris, who had been to the hospital earlier last week complaining of stomach pains, expected to be out of the hospital sooner. But complications from an infection kept him in the hospital longer than anticipated.

When will he be able to get back to coaching? Not at least for another two weeks per doctor's orders. For now, it will be rest and relaxation while the struggling 24th-ranked Canes (4-4) try to find their footing after a rough start to the season.

"I'm meeting doctors again on Monday, and we will find out more about how I'm progressing at that time," Morris said in a statement released by the school. "I'm anxious to rejoin the team."

According to acting manager J.D. Arteaga, the team's pitching coach, he's been speaking to Morris twice a day. Arteaga said they talk about lineups and what the two-time national championship winning coach wants the team to focus on in practice.

"It's tough," Arteaga said. "You don't want to bother him when he's not feeling well. But at the same time I try to get as much guidance from him as I can. I know he's anxious to get out here. He's fired up."

The Canes don't need any extra reasons to be fired up for this weekend's showdown against top-ranked Florida. The Gators have knocked UM out of the post-season each of the last two years. In last year's Super Regional, UM committed seven errors in an extra inning loss. It's a game, Arteaga, said still haunts the sophomores and juniors on the team.

"It creates an itch inside you that just bothers you, makes you want to go out there and shove it in their face before they do it again to you," Melendres said of beating the Gators. "Ranked No. 1, No. 10, whatever. They're UF. They've beat us the last two years. There's enough motivation for us to go out there and play with fire."

The good news for UM is they'll have at least one of their best hitters back from injury this weekend. Outfielder Chris Pelaez, who finished second on the team last season with a .314 average, was cleared by doctors this week after straining his left shoulder playing catch in the preseason. Pelaez was available to hit in Tuesday's loss to USF. But Arteaga said it simply wasn't the right scenario.

Pelaez will serve as a pinch hitter Friday against the Gators and likely be re-inserted in the lineup as a designated hitter on Saturday.

"I'm just trying to strengthen it up back to where it should be," Pelaez said of his shoulder. "It's always tough not being able to help the team out and being able to play. Hopefully I'll get back into the swing of things."

The Canes would obviously love to do that against the Gators. Pelaez said after only eight games there is no way the team could be in desperation mode. But Arteaga and his players believe they have to start turning things around soon.

"If we come out and have a strong series, win or lose, it will give us a jump start for the rest of the season," Melendres said. "We just have to come out with attitude, play hard."

Canes sweep: Katie Meier, Shenise Johnson take home ACC Coach, Player of the Year Awards

CORAL GABLES -- The University of Miami women's basketball team enjoyed a glorious turnaround from worst to first in the ACC this season. And that turnaround just got a little sweeter.

Shenise Johnson As many expected, UM junior guard Shenise Johnson and Canes coach Katie Meier were named the ACC's Women's Basketball Player and Coach of the Year Thursday morning.

Johnson, a two-time All-ACC First Team selection, was the only player in the ACC to rank in the Top 10 in scoring (second, 19.6 ppg), rebounding (eighth, 7.8 rpg) and assists (ninth, 3.7 apg). Johnson, who had a league-high three 30-point performances and 11 20-point showings while being named the ACC Player of the Week on three occasions this season, was also named to the 2010-11 All-Defensive team. She is one of UM players to average more than three steals per game and owns an impressive 86 percent free throw accuracy. In addition, Johnson has found time to lead her team in blocks, registering 26 in 29 games played.

After leading her team an appearance to last year's NIT championship game, Meier guided the Canes to a 26-3 overall record and a 12-2 ACC mark, tying with Duke as regular season champions. The regular season title is the first for the Miami program and the No. 2 seed in the 2011 ACC Women's Basketball Tournament is the team's highest seed in school history since joining the league in 2004-05. Meier, who is in her sixth season at UM, is just two victories away from earning her 100th win at UM and would become just the third coach in program history to reach the milestone.

Katie Meier "Obviously I'm thrilled with the progress that we made this year," Meier said Tuesday. "The regular season was so much fun. I just love the ACC coaches and the games and the arenas and the crowds. It' been kind of a magical little run for us."

UM opens the ACC Tournament on Friday at 6 p.m. against the winner Thursday's first round game between Boston College and N.C. State. 

"I really want to see us play free, confidently, passionately like we've been playing all year," Meier said. "It's been a unique chemistry, a unique energy about the team. That's a very hard thing to bottle up. It's a hard thing to make sure you know is there. That's where I'll be challenging them. I'll be pretty energetic and passionate in practice this week before we get up there making sure that it's consistent, it's there."

UM vet Tony Hernandez to serve as acting AD

CORAL GABLES -- The University of Miami announced Thursday morning it has appointed Tony Hernandez, who has been at the school for 13 years, as acting Athletic Director as the school searches for a successor to Kirby Hocutt.

Tony Hernandez Hernandez currently serves as Deputy Athletic Director. Hocutt left the program for the same job at Texas Tech last week after only 2 1/2 years in Coral Gables. UM has begun a national search for a replacement and a successor is expected to be announced by the beginning of the fall.

According to UM, applicants for the position should apply through the University of Miami employment website. To apply for this position visit www.miami.edu/careers and type in keyword 010547.

Hernandez joined the University of Miami Athletic Department in 1998 and has served in various capacities since that time. He began his career in Academic Services as a Graduate Assistant. He was hired full-time in 1999 as a Compliance Coordinator subsequently being promoted to Director of Compliance in 2002, Assistant AD for Compliance in 2004 and Associate AD for Compliance a year later.

In 2005, he also served as the Interim Associate AD for Development and has served as the Interim Associate AD for External Affairs on two separate occasions. During his term as Interim Associate AD for Development, the Hurricane Club exceeded its annual giving budgetary goal by nearly 9%.

Hernandez also serves on various committees or organizations including as President of the National Association of Athletic Compliance (NAAC), NCAA Amateurism Cabinet, Division 1-A Athletic Directors' Compliance Task Force, and the ACC Constitution & By-laws Committee. He has previously also served on various committees including the NCAA Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet and as Chair of the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Waivers Sub-Committee. He is a member of Iron Arrow, the highest honor attainable at the University of Miami, and served a term as president of that organization.

Hernandez earned a Law Degree and a Bachelor's of Business Administration in Finance, both from the University of Miami.

Prior to being named as acting Athletic Director Thursday, he has served as Senior Associate Athletic Director since February, 2007. As Deputy Athletic Director, Hernandez is the Chief Operating Officer for the Department and is responsible for day-to-day operations of many aspects of the Athletic Department. In addition, he directly supervises Compliance, Academic Services, Training Room, Strength and Conditioning, Equipment Room, Video Operations, and Women's Soccer.

> UM's struggling baseball team (4-4) could get a big lift before this weekend's tough series at Florida. According to UM spokesman Brian Harvey, outfielder Chris Pelaez, the team's second-leading hitter from a year ago, has been cleared to return this week and could be in the lineup Friday in Gainesville.

Pelaez, who injured his shoulder in the preseason, took swings on Tuesday for the first time in the batting cage and has made great strides. The Hurricanes will meet with the media at noon Thursday before boarding a bus for Gainesville.

March 01, 2011

Haith says poor decision making from his point guards has hurt Canes in crunch time

Frank Haith's basketball team will wrap up it's home schedule Wednesday night when it hosts Maryland (18-11, 7-7) at the BankUnited Center at 7 p.m.

Frank Haith Haith is holding out hope the Canes (17-12, 5-9 ACC) will at the very least earn a trip to the NIT Tournament with a strong finish this week and potentially a win or two in next week's ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. 

What would a post season trip anywhere mean for the Canes after finishing 20-13 and staying home last season? For the future success of Haith's program one could argue that it's vital.

"I think this team needs to play games," Haith said Tuesday. "Outside of Adrian [Thomas] everybody is back [next year]. Whether it's the NCAA Tournament or NIT, we'd be very happy to compete in the postseason. It's important for this team to get into the postseason."

All Haith needs to do is look right down the hallway at UM to see how much a trip to the postseason can help a team the following season. Katie Meier's team reached the NIT finals last season and is now ranked in the Top 10 nationally.

If anything, the Canes might finally learn how to win tight games more consistently. UM has a record of 6-8 this season in games decided by six points or less. Asked how his team could win more games late Haith said it starts with better decision making from his point guards.

"One thing really need to get better at is our decision making and ball handling," Haith said. "Our guard play has to be really good. [But] the teams that are really good in those last four minutes, you have to make good decisions. You got to get to the free throw line, you got to make free throws and a lot of it is guard play. We have good guards. Durand [Scott], Malcolm [Grant], those guys are good. We just need them to be better in late game situations."

When Scott and Grant first joined forces at UM last season they were expected to be improvements at the point guard position. But both combo guards have struggled when it comes to distributing the ball. UM's assist to turnover ratio a year ago was 464 to 448 or -0.5, eighth best in the ACC and 210th nationally. This season, UM's assist to turnover ratio ranks 10th in the ACC (336 assists to 400 turnovers). The Canes are 11th out of 12 teams in turnovers per game. 

Grant, who finished sixth in the ACC a year ago with a 1.8 assist to turnover ratio (117 assists to 66 turnovers), has slipped to 1.3 (94 to 70). Scott has gone from having a 1.5 (113 to 73) turnover-to-assist ratio in 2010 to 1.1 (93 to 83) this season.

"You improve by experiences, what you've done in the past games so you know what to do and what not to do," Haith said. "I think we've had some improvement there. I've pointed out to you before the comparison of what happened at N.C. State and Wake Forest, same type of scenario. Obviously Wake Forest was a positive play. We executed better."

Still, Haith admits there have been conversations between he and his staff that the program might be better off finding natural point guards instead of combo guards going forward. That's something he hasn't done very often in his first seven years in Coral Gables.

"There's no question it's something we've talked about," Haith said of scrapping the combo-guard concept. "I think Durand is going to be able to do it in terms of what we need him to do. It's just a matter of him... It's a learning process. He's doing something he's never done before."

It should be noted that the Canes don't have any natural point guards waiting in the wings for next season. The only high school recruit UM signed, North Carolina native Bishop Daniels, is known for his dunks not for his passes. Trey McKinney-Jones, a transfer, is a 6-5 shooting guard.


> Former Canes cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke opened some eyes at Tuesday's NFL combine in Indianapolis when he posted a 4.28 time in the 40-yard dash, faster than any other competitor in the field. Van Dyke (6-1, 176) ran the third-fastest 40 at the combine since 2000 behind Titans running back Chris Johnson who turned in a 4.24 in 2008 and Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt`s 4.27 in 2005.

> According to UM, baseball coach Jim Morris remains hospitalized after having his gall bladder removed on Feb. 25. Morris was recovering from surgery before an infection required him to check back into the hospital. According to UM, doctors have stopped the spread of the infection. No word yet on when he'll be back on the field. Pitching coach JD Arteaga has served as interim manager during Morris absence.

"I'm progressing and getting better day by day," Morris said in a statement released by the school Tuesday morning. "I'm anxious to get released from the hospital and rejoin the team as soon as possible."

Originally, he was expected to rejoin the team for the Hurricanes' trip to No. 1 Florida for a three-game series beginning Friday. But UM spokesman Bryan Harvey said in a Tweet that's unlikely now.