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51 posts from August 2011

August 21, 2011

Questions for fans

Tomorrow is UM's second scrimmage of preseason camp.

Do you think Al Golden will keep most of the players who have been implicated in the NCAA investigation off the first teams?

And do you think he should?

We're all kind of trying to figure that out. This year could be like 1997, when future stars such as Dan Morgan, Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne had to step up as freshmen and make their marks.

I'm really interested to know who he is going to name starting quarterback.

Good night everyone.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

 

August 20, 2011

Lucky Strike co-owner said UM President Donna Shalala 'shouldn't be demonized' in infamous photo

By now, you've seen the picture or read about it from someone ripping the administration at the University of Miami.

Donna Shalala Former booster Nevin Shapiro holding a bowling ball, standing next to former men's basketball coach Frank Haith and UM President Donna Shalala, who is looking down and smiling at what was a $50,000 check the convicted felon made with stolen Ponzi money at Lucky Strike Lanes in Miami Beach back in 2008.

Shapiro told Yahoo! the picture sums up "the whole problem [at UM] right there." Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel described Shalala in the picture as having "the promise that thousands might one day turn to millions practically dancing above her head."

But Shapiro's old friend, Lucky Strike co-owner Brian D. Elias, said he wishes somebody from Yahoo! would have called him to ask him about that particular picture. "Because then maybe," Elias said. "the entire country would have a more accurate portrayal of Shalala other than somebody who is in bed with the devil."

Elias, a 49-year old Law School grad of UM, said he was there the night Shapiro presented UM with the $50,000 check because he co-hosted and helped plan the event.

"We were going to introduce Frank Haith and at some point Nevin said, 'Can I have the mic I'd like to say something,'" Elias said. "So he grabbed the mic and literally, spontaneously said 'I'm going to make a donation for what I think was $50,000.'

"We were all stunned. It's funny when you look at the picture, Donna is looking down at the check smiling because I think she was stunned. So naturally, you see the picture and we were all smiling. When you're trying to fundraise and get a check like that, it was a huge success. But I just think the way this picture has been talked about in articles, it demonizes her. And that couldn't be further than the truth."

Among Shapiro's many allegations against the school he supported for years as a booster is that he often treated UM players to food and entertainment at Lucky Strike including current players Ray-Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Dyron Dye, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, Jojo Nicolas and Aldarius Johnson.

On at least one occasion according to the Yahoo! story, Shapiro alleges he rang up a bill of $2,114.18 on Sept. 13 to Sept. 15 during a "bowling for dollars" event where he gave players on winning teams $100 each.

Elias said while that may have happened under his nose, he doesn't remember seeing Shapiro at Lucky Strike often with UM players. But he does remember Shapiro ringing up similar tabs while he partied with his girlfriend and others.

"He would go there virtually every weekend to watch college and pro football," Elias said. "It got to a point where we would speak every time I saw him there. We became friends. He may not have been tall in stature. But he had a huge personality. Everybody liked him. People gravitated to him, I'm not talking about football players, I'm talking about people in general. He liked to brag about not just UM [players], but anybody, playing around with Dwyane Wade, Shaq, the Chief of Police. He never ever, ever, mentioned to me he had a tournament bowling for dollars at Lucky Strike in all the times I knew him.

"Now, occasionally I would see a few UM players there. I don't ever recall seeing all the guys he mentioned, usually it was two or three who came to watch football or bowl or whatever. Now, I never collected credit cards, but he never ever told me he paid for them. He never he told me he paid for this bowling for dollars. In seems to me in knowing him and the the way he would talk about all his contacts with famous people he would have said it. But he never mentioned that to me."

Elias said that to his knowledge nobody from Yahoo! contacted him nor anybody on his staff about the allegations made by Shapiro. And he says none of his friends who associated with Shapiro ever imagined he would be involved in such a way with UM players or much less a $930 million Ponzi scheme.

"I never went out with him. But I remember friends tell me all the time that they would go to Club Mansion, Cameo and Nevin was ordering bottles like crazy," Elias said. "That's just what he did for everybody. He was a really generous guy. Obviously if you believe what you read, it was with other people's money. But he was an incredibly generous guy.

"I've met Donna on four or five occasions and what I know of her she had absolutely no idea those funds were from some illegitimate source. I'm a pretty astute guy, I'm not a dope and I was clueless he was running a Ponzi scheme. To say I'm shocked by what I've read would be an understatement."

Al Golden mum on out clause in contract should NCAA come down hard on UM

CORAL GABLES -- UM coach Al Golden said earlier this week he had no idea the allegations made by Nevin Shapiro would be coming his team's way -- even though school administrators knew the convicted Ponzi schemer had threatened to expose ugly secrets in a tell-all book.

Al Golden Saturday, Golden was asked if he had an out in his contract that would allow him to leave the program without penalty should UM be hit with severe sanctions once an NCAA investigation into Shapiro's claims is finalized.

"I'm not going to get into all that," Golden said. "Listen, my family and I are excited about being here. This is a great place, and we're going to get this fixed."

UM, which has been under investigation for at least five months, will likely be waiting awhile to find out what sanctions will be handed down by the NCAA should Shapiro's claims prove true (Shapiro, currently serving a 20-year sentence for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, told Yahoo! Sports he funneled impermissible gifts that included cash, cars, prostitutes and entertainment to at least 72 players, seven former coaches and members of the equipent staff from the football and basketball teams).

But as for the 12 current players in question -- which include quarterback Jacory Harris, linebacker Sean Spence and safety Ray-Ray Armstrong -- that could end with a resolution before the team's regular season opener Sept. 5 at Maryland if school officials make a decision on their own. Golden said Saturday he's confident the implicated players "did a great job in terms of being open and honest. That's going to allow everyone to move forward." But he has no idea what their fate will be.

"We'll deal with whatever comes down, whatever the issues are as they come. Right now we're moving forward and we're going to select our (starters and travel) team accordingly," Golden said. "Once the President and the AD on the other front talk to us about however we're going to move forward with that [regarding the 12 student-athletes under investigation], we'll release that to you as well."

The Hurricanes practiced Saturday morning for the 18th time this fall and have a second scrimmage set for Monday. After that, Golden said, he hopes to have his 60 man travel roster set and a depth chart out to the public by as early as Tuesday.

"I know you guys are here because there is a sensational story out there, but this is a critical time for our football team," Golden said. "We have a special teams scrimmage [Saturday], and our last scrimmage on Monday afternoon. Then our team is set. There are as many as 30 guys that don't know whether they're on the bus or fighting for a job right now."

Golden said the fight for the starting quarterback job -- once the biggest story in camp before Shapiro's allegations dropped Tuesday night -- is still neck-and-neck.

"Right now they've been alternating with the ones, repping," Golden said of Harris and sophomore Stephen Morris. "We don't know where Ryan [Williams] stands either, so we've been alternating him and Whip [Spencer Whipple]. All those guys are getting reps, are going to get reps on Monday [in the scrimmage] and then we'll go from there."

As for the format and focus of Monday's scrimmage, Golden said he already had "a draft Monday night" to split the team in half. He said unlike the first scrimmage where coaches were up in lifts and the focus was on situational drills (red zone work, etc.) "it'll be the team understanding the importance of field position and actually playing the game and subbing in and out and going to a special teams unit and not having to sit there and call out guys and all those things that cost you timeouts and penalties."

"We're trying to pick up the tempo and teach them the game pace," Golden said. "So it'll be orange vs. white. The only thing that might change is the quarterbacks - the quarterbacks may play on both sides."

MORE NEWS AND NOTES...

> Don't be surprised if you see more starters playing on special teams this year. Golden said as much when he was asked about the progress of his special teams units.

"We didn't excel in that part of the game [last season]," Golden said. "Bosh [Matt Bosher] accounted for a lot of the special teams units that we were good in. Bosh was a great punter, so we had pretty good net punt. But we weren't very good in kickoff return, weren't good in punt return. And I don't think we blocked a kick. Those are things that are important to us, so we spend a lot of time on it, to be quite honest. Also, I think you'll see more starters playing on special teams this year for us."

> It doesn't look like the competition at middle linebacker is going very well for senior Jordan Futch, who has been passed up on the second team by freshman Gionni Paul. Although Golden said the competition for the starting job "is very good," sophomore Jimmy Gaines continues to be one of the few players on defense still wearing a black jersey along with senior Sean Spence.

"There's a lot of different combinations we have in there," said Golden, who said its likely Spence will play middle linebacker in nickel situations. "They're all trying to steal each other's reps. There's a lot of competition there. But I've been really pleased with Jimmy. Jimmy had a really good scrimmage last Saturday, has a great attitude. Jimmy is the same guy every day, which is critical for us because we're looking for consistent players. He brings it every day."

> Golden said he likes that Paul is physical and fast, "plays low, is powerful, explosive, really studies the game." But Paul isn't the only freshman he's excited about. According to Golden, defensive end Anthony Chickillo, receivers Phillip Dorsett, Rashawn Scott, linebackers Eddie Johnson and Denzel Perryman, defensive backs Thurston Armbrister and Thomas Finnie and defensive tackle Olsen Pierre are all "in the mix" for playing time.

"We're worried about the freshmen right now, because we've asked them to do a lot," Golden said. "There really isn't a break when you're a freshman. You go from four weeks of class to training camp. We're worried about some of them hitting a wall. This transition to school will help them get their legs back underneath them, clear their mind. But clearly we're ecstatic with our selections from January... it's a good group of guys that are ready to contribute."

> Saturday's player/coaches were running backs Mike James and Lamar Miller, defensive end Olivier Vernon, linebacker Ramon Buchanan, cornerback Mike Williams and receiver Allen Hurns.

> Injured tight end Chase Ford was back out at practice for the first time in at least a week. He was wearing a yellow, non-contact jersey, but participating in drills.

> The Associated Press poll, released moments ago, did not have the Hurricanes ranked in the Top 25.

VIDEO COURTESY OF HURRICANESPORTS.COM

August 19, 2011

Board of Trustees Chairman releases letter to community

A letter from University of Miami Board of Trustees Chairman Leonard Abess to the community:

For more than eight decades, our community has embraced the Miami Hurricanes through both celebrations and commiserations. This devotion is not limited to University of Miami students and alumni—the ranks of past and present fans swells to include thousands of adopted ’Canes, many of whom have never even set foot on UM’s Coral Gables campus. This is why it is understandable that recent news of potential NCAA violations committed by current and former University of Miami student-athletes and staff have aroused such strong emotions in our community and the greater “U” family.

Without a doubt these allegations are troubling and demand a thorough and honest evaluation of Hurricane Athletics. President Shalala has taken a strong position, insisting on full cooperation with the ongoing NCAA investigation. The process will be long, and in the ensuing months the Board of Trustees and the university administration will provide both leadership and unwavering support for our great institution, which we all care so deeply about.

While attention has been rightly focused on the allegations this week, during the same time, the University has also welcomed the finest ever incoming freshman class, and campus is in the midst of the wonderful excitement surrounding move-in day and the beginning of the academic year. We must not allow our current crisis in athletics to diminish the excellence and hard work of generations in the UM family.

It is especially important that the alleged misconduct not overshadow our current leadership and institutional values. Moving forward, I ask for your support in helping to ensure that the University of Miami and Hurricane Athletics come out stronger in our continued commitment to excellence in every endeavor.

Rest assured, ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the overall athletics department lies with the UM leadership, which includes President Shalala, the Board of Trustees, and the Athletics Director.

With everyone’s support, the University of Miami will continue to be a community leader and an invaluable resource to all of us.

Tyler Horn, Mike James say Canes are focused on football, not Shapiro or allegations

CORAL GABLES -- Al Golden tabbed the second week of training camp at the University of Miami as "moving week," the period when starting jobs would be won and lost.

Mike James But after Yahoo! Sports unfurled a tsunami of allegations by former booster and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro against the University of Miami Tuesday night, the attention the Hurricanes have been getting has been anywhere but the football field.

So how have the Canes dealt with this rather large distraction? How have they handled having NCAA investigators on campus asking questions? Friday, center Tyler Horn and running back Mike James, the first football players to do interviews since the allegations became public, said they've dealt with it by focusing simply on what they came to Coral Gables to do -- play football.

"Of course it was a shock, these allegations," Horn said. "But we're focused on football. That's all we're focused on, all we can control. We're coming out everyday, working hard, busting our butts to be the best team we can be.

"I'm not scared by it. I can't control it. When I'm out here I can only stay on my craft. We can't come out here and actually lollygag around. We have to actually play. You don't play, you get hurt. We're out here to have fun playing football. That's why you play the game."

While Horn said he's had family and friends texting him and calling him to find out how he and the team are doing, he said it's been easy to focus on football because he and his teammates are at the Hecht Athletic Center from "6 a.m. to 10 p.m." everyday.

"Football is like a soothing sport. It keeps us going, keeps our mind focused," said James, who said that the team leaders, linebacker Sean Spence, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, quarterback Jacory Harris, receiver Travis Benjamin, Horn and himself got the team together earlier this week to deliver a message of unity.

"It's not very difficult at all [to stay focused]. Coach Golden instilled what we have to do and the things we have to focus on, core values. It becomes easy after a while."

Still, with the season opener at Maryland right around the corner (Sept. 5) and potential sanctions on the way how could the team not be worried about possibly losing 12 players implicated by Shapiro for allegedly taking improper benefits, including 10 starters?

"The way we've been taught from the very beginning is the depth chart is in the sand," Horn said. "We don't even know who is going to start. All we can do is come out and play as hard as we can.

"[Coach Golden has] told us to be optimistic and keep the spirit of the team up. We can't let this get us in the tank. All we can do is focus on football and that's what we're going to do."

James said the 12 players implicated by Shapiro (Harris, Forston, Spence, Benjamin, safeties Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque, defensive ends Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson, and Adewale Ojomo, cornerback Jojo Nicolas, receiver Aldarius Johnson and tight end Dyron Dye) have been the same guys they've been everyday.

"Nothing has changed," James said. "They're doing the same things we always do. Staying on process. Tunnel vision, staying on track."

Still, former players have said this could potentially tear the team apart, or bring the team together. Horn said he believes the latter.

"Honestly, it should be us against the world," Horn said. "That's all we can focus on. The only thing that matters are the people inside that Hecht. All the people that matter are the people who are on this football field every day. That's what we see. Those are my brothers and we're going to stick together."

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

> Horn said the competition on the offensive line for starting jobs is intense. "We have a lot of great players and a lot of guys rotating in at the tackle spots, guard spots," Horn said.

"Everybody is playing at a very high level now. You have guys like Malcolm Bunche, Jermaine Johnson. Jonathan Feliciano is making a strong push. [Joel Figueroa] played some tackle yesterday. It's great to have all these guys out here playing so hard. It's very comforting to know guys want to win that bad, that want to get on the field, they're playing this hard."

> James said the quarterback competition between Harris and sophomore Stephen Morris is "going good."

"They're working hard," James said. "Shoot, I don't know who its going to be. They're doing such a great job, they're making it hard on everybody."

> The Hurricanes practice Saturday and then are off Sunday before their second scrimmage of the fall on Monday. Asked about the scrimmage, James said: "It's going to have a lot of juice. There's a lot depending on it because guys are trying to get on the bus. That's been the theme of the week -- it's moving week. So guys are trying to do that. It's dog eat dog. Nobody is letting up because everybody is trying to go."

August 18, 2011

UM athletic director Shawn Eichorst releases statement

Here's the statement from UM athletic director Shawn Eichorst:

Shawn Eichorst "When I accepted the position of Director of Athletics at Miami in April, I not only embraced a new opportunity, but also a new family; a family of Hurricane students, coaches, staff, alumni, faculty and supporters. I know our family is hurting right now and that is what has made the past few days so difficult, upsetting and disappointing for me, as I am sure it has been for many proud Canes.

"But these are not times for pity and reflection. All of my efforts and energy are committed to ensuring the integrity of the NCAA investigation, demanding the full cooperation of our employees and student-athletes and providing unwavering support to our more than 400 plus student-athletes and more than 150 coaches and staff. Along with our passionate and devoted supporters, they are the true essence of Miami athletics.

"There are tough times ahead, challenges to overcome and serious decisions to be made, but we will be left standing and we will be stronger as a result. I understand there are unanswered questions, concerns and frustration by many but this Athletic Department will be defined now and in the future, by our core values, our integrity and our commitment to excellence, and by nothing else. The University of Miami, as an institution of higher learning, is a leader in exploration, achievement and excellence and we will work hard to do our part to live up to that standard.

"In my introductory press conference back in April, I asked the community for their unconditional support in our efforts to achieve the goal of excellence. Now, the community, the coaches, the student-athletes and the University have my unconditional support as we move towards a better day. And there will be a better day."

Thursday's post-practice Hurricanes update (with actual football information)

Is it already Thursday?

Feels to me like one long day since Monday.

Some tidbits from my second office -- aka my car (with ac running):

*A ton of national media (well, a ton for UM standards) set up for coach Al Golden this morning, and as usual, he had a lot of patience in dealing with us. I can't tell you how much I admire how he is handling this situation publicly. He continues to answer questions respectfully and pretty much in depth, though some of the repeat questions by national media was getting to him a little. Still, he answered everything.

* So I hear we're getting some kind of prepared statement by UM AD Shawn Eichorst today. A little on the late side, I'd say. He still has addressed us in person since he first arrived on campus a few months ago.

* I asked the coach if this situation makes it any clearer as to naming a starting quarterback (because Jacory Harris is on the NCAA list, as opposed to Stephen Morris). "Obviously you're referring to one of the quarterbacks being mentioned (yes, Jacory, I said) so for me to jump in to say he did have an infraction or he did something wrong would be wrong. I'm going to wait and see what the investigation leads to us and then we'll go from there, but right now, we're just grading them on the field.''

*Jacory Harris was in a gray T-shirt and green UM shorts this morning at practice, with a whistle in his mouth. We were told by UM he is a player-coach for the morning session but will be dressed in uniform and pads and practicing this afternoon.

*Cornerback JoJo Nicolas was not at practice today. UM Associate AD for Communications Chris Freet said it was "for personal reasons.'' JoJo is one of the implicated players on NCAA list.

* DT Curtis Porter has a hand or finger injury. He was wearing a red jersey (for injured players) and his left hand was thickly bandaged with either his forefinger or thumb (or both?) wrapped heavily. It looked more like his forefinger, but I can't be sure. We're very far away.

* TE Chase Ford wore a red jersey.

* G Joel Figueroa was fully dressed in practice uniform then walked off the field looking somewhat out of it after about 10 minutes. We leave after 15. According to UM, he then served as player-coach. Not sure what the story is there.

* Golden said Wednesday's practice was "our best'' practice since all the Nevin Shapiro stuff broke. "Tuesday was the day the story broke so there was some shock and guys were unclear. but yesterday We really came out and had a lot of energy. If anything it's going to bring us a lot closer together. ...For the most part, inside here we're moving forward.''

* How much does the fact that so many guys are fighting for positions now are keeping them grounded? Golden: "Right now they know they have five practices [left] and one scrimmage and then the team is going to be be set. our travel team will be set, our depth will be set and then we'll go from there. They know right now this is crunch time. We call this moving week and next Wednesday is cut down day. They know what they need to do.''

* (timeout for commecial break:) http://redraiders.com/filed-online/2011-08-17/twenty-questions-kirby-hocutt

* How much has the depth chart changed from the first scrimmage going into scrimmage 2?  Golden: "I think it has changed a lot. We're trying to find the right combination on the offensive line. We'll report to you when we know something about Seantrel but we're operating like he's not with us. You have to do that. We've been moving guys around to get the best combination there.

 * "Dalton Botts has been doing an excellent, suburb job at punting,,'' Golden said. [Placekicker] Jake [Wieclaw] was 9 for 10 the other day in our special teams scrimmage Tuesday afternoon and clearly he had the better day, although [Matt Goudis] is right there with him.'' Wieclaw is also practicing his punting.

Have a good day everyone.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

August 17, 2011

VIDEO: Uncle Luke weighs in on Shapiro, NCAA investigation

CORAL GABLES -- I made it down to Miami Northwestern High this afternoon and caught up with former rapper Luther Campbell, whose ties to UM go way, way, way back.

Here's what Uncle Luke had to say about Nevin Shapiro (who called himself Little Luke).

Former UM coach Jimmy Johnson rips Nevin Shapiro

Former University of Miami football coach Jimmy Johnson called into the "Paul & Young Ron Show" Wednesday morning to weigh in on the allegations of improper benefits involving former booster and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro.

Jimmy Johnson On the show, Johnson called Shapiro a "jock-sniffer wannabe" and offered perspective on a number of the aspects of the story:

On Shapiro: "This little scumbag is in prison for bilking a billion dollars from a bunch of people and obviously he's going to embellish the truth a little bit, but I'm sure he took advantage of some of these kids and I hate it for the program."

On boosters with their own agenda: "These parasites hang around every program and the players have got to be smart enough to know that they want something, that they aren't giving out free drinks to them unless they get something in return."

On current UM football coach Al Golden: "He wants to do it the right way. He's very thorough, very detail-oriented. He's gonna be fine, but I hate that he inherits some of this mess."

On the temptation to student-athletes to accept extra benefits: "A lot of these kids come from the inner-city without a penny to their name and some booster wants to buy them dinner. It's hard for them to say 'no'."

Top recruit Duke Johnson said he'll stick by Canes until they pull his scholarship away

Randy "Duke" Johnson, widely considered the top 2012 recruit in Al Golden's next recruiting class, said Wednesday his plan is to stick by the Hurricanes through this NCAA investigation until somebody pulls his scholarship away.

Duke Johnson "If it's my scholarship that's taken away, then I'll have no choice," said Johnson, a 5-9, 170-pound running back at Miami Norland. "But if I still have a full ride to go, I'll be there."

Johnson, who grew up a huge Hurricanes fan and has helped UM recruit other 2012 players to Coral Gables, came down to The Miami Herald building Wednesday to shoot his picture for the cover of the Miami-Dade High School Football Preview.

With the future of UM's program under a cloud of uncertainty, one might imagine Johnson is already considering Plan B -- especially if the mountain of allegations from former booster Nevin Shapiro lead to sanctions such as potential loss of scholarships, post-season bans and maybe much more. But Johnson said he isn't flinching or thinking about jumping ship. He plans on standing by Al Golden as long as Al Golden stands by him.

"Miami has been a school I've been loving since growing up," said Johnson, who along with Norland teammates Keith Brown (a 6-2, 230-pound star linebacker) and Ereck Flowers (a 6-6, 305-pound offensive tackle) are part of UM's 2012 class."

"It was always been my dream. If I ever had the opportunity to go to the University of Miami, that would be the school I would attend..."

Johnson, who wears a UM jacket to school and can always be spotted with a Canes cap, said he hasn't been contacted by any other schools since the Yahoo! news story broke. But adds, "I expect it will happen soon." Regardless, Johnson says, he's confident he'll be a Hurricane in the end.

"I would be shocked [if the NCAA handed down the death penalty]," Johnson said. "The death penalty for this? It hasn't been given often. I think it was given one time like 20-25 years ago [SMU]. So if they were given the death penalty, I wouldn't know what to do.

"But I think [the NCAA] shouldn't take away from what Coach Golden has accomplished -- what he's doing and working so hard to do. We're bringing in kids. Just cause something happened eight, 10 years ago, that's out of his power, that's out of our power. There's nothing we can do about it. The only thing we can do is avoid it from happening again."

Johnson said he hasn't reached out to any fellow UM recruits yet. He's trying "to give it time to blow over." But once he knows a little more about the penalties UM might incur, he said, he'll reach out and call others.

"I think we could do some special things with the freshman and sophomores that are already there and the upcoming freshman, my class 2012," Johnson said. "I just hope they let us keep it together."

After tsunami of allegations, Canes, Golden -- and 12 players in question -- return to practice

CORAL GABLES -- Less than 24 hours after an 11-month investigation by Yahoo! unfurled a tsunami of allegations of improper benefits made by former booster Nevin Shapiro to players and former coaches at the University of Miami, Al Golden and his team returned to the practice Wednesday morning.

And the 12 current players who were implicated by Shapiro in the Yahoo! story, were out there in uniform, too -- albeit under a much more subdued setting.

Safeties Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque; linebacker Sean Spence; quarterback Jacory Harris; receivers Travis Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson; tight end Dyron Dye; defensive tackle Marcus Forston; defensive ends Adewale Ojomo, Marcus Robinson and Olivier Vernon; and cornerback JoJo Nicolas were all involved in practice Wednesday. The question now -- as the team tries to move forward under a cloud of an NCAA investigation -- is for how long.

"Right now, the only facts I'm going by are what we received from the NCAA and the university from a compliance standpoint. Until we hear an infraction or that we did break a rule, everybody is practicing," said Golden, who also told reporters he has yet to read the Yahoo! article. "If it is determined that somebody broke rules than certainly it will first be dealt with from a university standpoint, from an eligibility standpoint."

Golden, the only person at UM to speak to the media since news of an NCAA investigation in Coral Gables broke Sunday night, said while the last 24 hours have been difficult he's still focused on getting his team ready for its Sept. 5 opener at Maryland. By then, he hopes, the NCAA will have determined or let him and his staff know who might have to sit out.

"If there are guys that are going to have to sit out games, then we'll adjust our practice accordingly," Golden said.

"Whatever the number that is being interviewed right now or being named, that makes up less than 10 percent of our team. It's really important to understand we have a lot of guys in that locker room that do things the right way and come from great families and have made good decisions and want to improve today and want to get better. We have to manage this team -- not just the guys that if they did make a mistake [will be out].

"We've been talking about being a mentally tough team, a unified team. This is going to test that. We'll see where we're at. I'm no different than you guys. I come to work. I come and talk to you guys and when I'm talking the players start coming out behind me. I don't know what their attitude is going to be and how they're going to approach practice here, but I hope there is good leadership in that locker room. I hope there's enough guys that know they've done it the right way and paid the price. I know we have those types of student-athletes here. I have a feeling they'll keep focusing on getting better and getting ready for Maryland."

Golden said his message to his team has been not to judge any of the 12 players potentially involved in the Shapiro allegations.

"I would hope they would learn from them," Golden said. "We're in an educational setting. It's no different than if a student makes a mistake on campus. We don't toss them out. We don't turn our back on them. We try to educate them. And they're all at an age right now if they were exposed to Mr. Shapiro, clearly we have to make sure we prevent that going forward.

"So, how do you do that? You do that by getting to the facts, by getting to the truth. How did this guy how did he get around our players like that? Me as the head coach, I want to know. And I know our assistant coaches want to know. We want to make sure it never happens again."

Golden, who already has one of the nation's top recruiting classes in place with 24 commitments, said assistants began making calls to recruits Tuesday night. The message: sit tight.

"I think their [high school] coaches obviously wanted to wage what the heck was going on. So our coaches got in contact with their coaches and ultimately with the recruits," Golden sad. "Until I know what the facts are and I know what's going, it's important we don't rush to judgement and start saying things I'm not privy to. With us, we're trying to move forward quickly."

Golden, who took over for Randy Shannon in December, said Tuesday he had no knowledge that any investigation by the NCAA might be coming down the shoot. Asked Wednesday if he felt the university had the responsibility to inform him of it when they hired him, Golden said: "Only if they knew.

"If they knew this was perculating then I believe they did have a responsibility to tell me. I believe they had the responsibility to tell [athletic director] Shawn [Eichorst].

"I mean, I'm happy. My wife is happy here. We have great kids on this team. We have 24 commitments from young men and their families that appreciate and share our core values moving forward. Again, from what I'm understanding, many of these allegations go back. At the minimum all the way back to the early 2000s. So it's hard for me. I only had one kid at that time. Now, I have three children. My life has changed a lot since then. I'm just trying to move forward."

Asked if he felt broad sided by what UM is facing, Golden said: "No. We'll get through this."

"Again, I feel Temple prepared me for this opportunity," Golden said. "We had so many issues when we got there and so many of them were carry overs from the previous team. And we stood in there and fixed it. We fixed it with the lowest APR in the country. We had players suspended for violations, from things that happened before I got there. We had 54 scholarship student athletes my first year and we came through it.

"Again, I think that has prepared me for this. You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself and say you got blindsided, but at the end of the day we have a chance to be a really good football team and a chance to be a really great program."

August 16, 2011

Golden: QB competition still 'a close call' after scrimmage; he'll temper excitement on Streeter

CORAL GABLES -- After discussing the NCAA investigation for nearly 10 minutes Tuesday, coach Al Golden Golden was happy to answer football-related questions.

Here's what he talked about:

Tommy Streeter > Golden said he's going to "temper" his excitement over Tommy Streeter's three touchdown performance in Sunday's scrimmage.

"For me, it's about consistency," Golden said. "I don't want to say he's this and that. For me, it's be the same guy everyday, be consistent, but no question he caught the ball in traffic, caught the ball with his hands, made some really big plays. He's in much better condition and he's trusting his hands right now, which is really the difference.

"[I want to see the] same guy every day. Consistent. He's got the foundation now. He's used his hands more to catch the ball instead of trapping it against his body. He's playing like a 6-3 wide out now. We always knew he can run. He's not getting tired. Again, for me, for him to make the last play in a 2-minute drive and catch a ball that was literally 11 feet, above the crossbar, that's telling me he's not tired. He's ready to compete. He's finishing and that's what we want to get out of him everyday."

> Golden said the quarterback competition remains "a close call" after Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris combined to complete over 70 percent of their passes in Sunday's scrimmage.

"It's a competitive deal right now," Golden said We'll try to figure it out in the next five to eight days and we'll let you know who the starter is as soon as we know."

> Defensive tackle Curtis Porter is "healthy and running with the 1s" despite reports to the contrary after Sunday's scrimmage."He's had a real good camp," Golden said. "I really appreciate his attitude, especially the last four practices. I think he's made a lot of progress."

> Golden said there is still no word quarterback Ryan Williams' hardship waiver. Williams, who is seeking to play this season, "also had a good day too, 6 for 6 with a TD," Golden said.

> Golden said UM's first Family Day Sunday went well. The Canes picked up their 24th commitment shortly afterward -- Tampa Hillsborough High defensive tackle Earl Moore (6-1, 285).

"When you have a scrimmage and your coaches are coaching and preparing and meeting and all that, a lot of coaches don't want to do that because it just exposes you for who you are," Golden said. "But that was the greatest thind about it. It was just who we are. From the lunch we had, to Shalala talking, and our Deans and professors telling recruits what our academics is all about. Then they came over here and did a panel with injured players -- Seantrel, John Calhoun, 5-6 or guys, came out here and watched the scrimmage. That's pulling the covers back and showing who we are. And they loved it.

"So that's what I'm excited about. I can't speak for what happened here before, but I'll go back to what I said earlier. Right now, we have 24 commits and not one of them has taken an official visit, not one of them had been on campus. Whatever this guy was doing prior to that, we're doing it the right way and it's working. We're committed to these young people and they're committed to us."

> Golden clarified that the team didn't go back to his house after Sunday's scrimmage for a BBQ -- the were over at the pool on campus. "I don't know if my wife would go for the whole team," Golden said. "We had a good time. Kids were jumping in the pool. They worked real hard the first week, so we wanted to give them Sunday night off. Yesterday they were off. Hopefully they got their legs underneath them."

Here it is, word for word: Al Golden on NCAA investigation

I thought I'd make it a bit easier for you to dissect and put in perspective if I transcribed, word for word, what UM coach Al Golden told reporters this morning.

It took me a while, but here it is. Here are the questions, and replies.

I continue to be impressed by Golden, but I am somewhat bewildered that the UM administration would not have briefed him on Nevin Shapiro by this point. Even if he didn't know when he accepted the UM job, you'd think he would have known by this point. We wrote an article about Shapiro and his allegations in late August 2010.

Did departed UM AD Kirby Hocutt not tell him? And if the answer is no, then why didn't current AD  Shawn Eichorst tell him? Did Al really not know about Shapiro? (actually, Golden makes it seem like Eichorst was surprised about NCAA stuff) If anybody can shed light, feel free.

One more thing. Here's the prepared written statement UM sent out on this:

University of Miami statement on NCAA investigation

8/16/11

 When Nevin Shapiro made his allegations nearly a year ago, he and his attorneys refused to provide any facts to the University of Miami. The University notified the NCAA Enforcement officials of these allegations. We are fully cooperating with the NCAA and are conducting a joint investigation. The University of Miami takes these matters very seriously.

 

 

Here's my transcript

Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011

 Al Golden

Obviously we’ve learned of a situation here that we’re working through right now. I’m as surprised as all of you and I’m learning and gathering information as you are.

 

Q: How much did you know about this at all?

A: “None. Zero. Absolutely nothing.

I just found out, just found out. Clearly there were some articles yesterday. But in terms of contact with the NCAA, I haven’t had any. Our AD and president have, but other than that, it’s a joint effort, it’s a cooperative effort. Once we learned of the allegations we wanted to make sure we’re doing our due diligence and obviously want to cooperate with the NCAA on this.’’

 

Q: Any idea how long the NCAA will be on campus?

A: “I have no idea. I really don’t know. My job is to support that. Clearly, this is not aligned with the University’s mission or goals or values; it’s not aligned with Mr. [Shawn] Eichorst or the president [Donna Shalala]. It’s certainly not mine. And again, I’ve been in this profession for 16, 17 years and haven’t had any NCAA issues. It’s important that if there are things there we’re honest, we don’t compromise our integrity and that we move forward. Again, ever since I’ve been here, the kids have been incredible. We’ll make sure we get to the bottom of it.”

 

Q: If there are current players that were active in some elicit behavior, what would your message be to them?

“Well, to be honest, to be truthful, and move forward. Again, I’m learning of it, so it’s hard for me to comment on it, but as we move forward there’s only one way to go here, and that’s to be honest. Clearly, we don’t need these types of things to be a great team. We don’t need it. We have 24 commitments right now and not one of them have taken an official visit, not one of them have been on our campus. They’re aligned with our core values, what we want to get done, the types of principles and cultures that we’ll have here, that are obviously congruent with our coaching staff and the direction of our football program. Again, this is tough for me to discuss guys, because this happened all before I got here and certainly Mr. Eichorst feels the same way. So we take this stuff, seriously, but at the same time, boy, we’ve made so much progress in the last eight months that we don’t want to go backwards.”

 

Q: What are you going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

“We do something everyday. I can’t speak for the previous coaches that have been here, but for instance, every players has a ‘Cane Code’ and in that Cane Code we talk about extra benefits, we talk about agents, we talk about different things. So, there’s not only a compliance component, there’s an educational component. Everyday this summer our kids get an email from me about the things that have occurred in Chapel Hill or at Georgia Tech or at Ohio State, so we’re going to continue to be proactive and we’ve got to make sure third parties stay away from our student-athletes. Again, I said this to Shawn yesterday: Since I’ve been here, this is the tightest compliance department I’ve been around. And what I mean by that is they are strong, they have incredible manpower, they’re on top of everything. And for me that’s good as a head coach – because it helps you sleep at night. Dave Reed and his group do a tremendous job.”

 

Q: If you knew then what you know now would you still be here?

A: “Absolutely. This University of Miami, it’s a special place. It is. I can’t tell you enough that this is an incredible place and that you have a chance to do so many wonderful things, whether it’s academically or from a football standpoint. So we’re not going to let this knock us backwards. Again, we have great kids on this team. To the extent that they may have made a mistake, OK, that’s fine. But that’s also part of growing up. And what we have to teach them now is that if something did occur, let’s be honest and move forward.’’

 

Q: What was your emotion when you found this out?

 

A: “Well, you can probably see it on my face right now that I’m disappointed but I’m more disappointed because of the strides that we have made as a football program and the culture and understanding – how to conduct ourselves in the community, and those types of things. And how hard these kids have worked and how much leadership the seniors have provided, so we’ve made great strides. Again, I don’t know the extent of it, but we’re going to look at it like we’re disappointed in it, but we’re not discouraged. We’re going to keep moving forward.’’

 

Q: Have any of your players been interviewed or do you expect them to be interviewed by the NCAA?

A: “Well, I’m sure they will. Again, I’m learning this as you guys are. I’m no different than you. Again, they’re not going to include me in this process. And to be honest with you, what we’ve learned from some of the other incidents that have occurred recently is that they’re not permitted to discuss it with me. So, if they do contact a student-athlete they’re going to talk to them specifically and not include me in the situation.”

 

Q: Are you concerned at all that there might be an effect on commitments, recruits or current players that might get worried and transfer?

A: “I don’t think so. I really don’t believe it’s to that level. Clearly, the student-athletes that are committed to us know who we are, know what our core values are, know what we’re committed to, so again, the timing is unfortunate because we’ve been doing so many great things. Our kids are doing a great job in practice. Recruiting is going well. So the timing is unfortunate. But again, if the allegations, if some prove to be true, then we’ll get it corrected.”

 

Q: How do you keep them focused?

A: “We just have to. We have to. I mean, that’s part of being tough and having unity and staying together. We’ll stay focused. I’m certain of that. Again, we’re disappointed, but we’re not discouraged. There’s going to be a life lesson here if, if.. Again, we’re talking about allegations from a man that’s behind bars now. If these do hold some truth then we’ll deal with it. There’s no other way to do it.

 

Q: The NCAA can’t talk to you, but can you talk to your kids [about it]?

A: “No, no, no, no. The NCAA, if they’re doing an investigation, they will not have me interfere with their interaction with our student athletes.”

 

Q: So you can’t say to your kids, ‘Is this true? Tell me what happened?’’’

A: “Nope. Nope. I’m out of it. I’ll be completely out of it. And we want it that way. We want to be cooperative. Again, it’s unfortunate but it’s hard for me to stand up and defend something that occurred, you know, three, four, five, six years ago. My record with the NCAA, our staff’s record, our commitment to our student-athletes since we’ve been here. It speaks for itself and we’re going to leave it at that.’’

 

Q: Players weren’t available today. Was that just for today, or until you figure out what’s going on?

A: “I’m living day by day right now. We just had the meeting where everybody was told that we just make sure we cooperate and all that. So I don’t think it was fair to have them just come out here. We’re getting ready to practice so from that standpoint we didn’t think it was fair for the kids.

 

Q: Were there multiple NCAA investigators on campus – more than one or just one?

A: “Don’t know. Can’t tell you that.’’

 

Q: There were reports that there has been here an internal investigation about this? Is that true?

A: “It is true. That’s what I started with. It’s a joint venture. As soon as Shawn got wind of something he made sure we’re making sure that we look back at all the years and his involvement with UM. We’re doing all the things we should be doing.’’

 

Q: So the internal investigation started now? I didn’t start previous to maybe you or Shawn getting here?

A: “I don’t know that. I don’t know the extent of that. This is the first I’ve heard of it, so I don’t know.’’

 

Q: How tough is it to police guys like that [Nevin Shapiro] around the program? This guy was on the sideline. How tough is it?

A: “It’s tough. I’m going to reserve judgment until I learn more. But we’ve got to continue to do that. But clearly, we’re not immune to it. If it can happen in small college towns across the country it could certainly happen in Miami. I’m going to learn and see what the facts hold and we’ll go from there.’’

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

Golden discusses NCAA investigation, says he wants players to be honest

CORAL GABLES -- University of Miami coach Al Golden met with reporters before practice Tuesday morning and discussed the big issue facing his program right now -- the NCAA investigation into allegations players took gifts from a former booster now in jail.

Al-golden-p1 Golden, hired in December to replace Randy Shannon, said he won't be part of the investigation since he wasn't here. But several current players will be or already have been interviewed as the NCAA tries to find out if the claims made convicted by felon Nevin Shapiro, currently serving a 20-year sentence for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, are true.

"Obviously we have learned of a situation here that we’re working through right now," Golden told reporters in an opening statement. "I'm as surprised as all of you and gathering information as you are. With that I'll open it up to questions."

Despite reports by The Miami Herald last August that Shapiro was planning on "dropping a bomb on UM," Golden said he knew "absolutely nothing" in the way that these allegations were coming or that the NCAA would be on campus.

"I just found out," Golden said. "Clearly there was some articles yesterday. But in terms of contact with NCAA, I haven't had any. Our [athletic director] and President have. Other than that, it's a joint effort, a cooperative effort. Once we learned of allegations, we want to make sure we're doing our due diligence and cooperate with the NCAA on this."

Shapiro’s alleged allegations happened during Larry Coker's and Randy Shannon's time at UM from 2001 to 2010. Golden said he's been instructed by the NCAA not to talk to his players about it and to stay out of it. He also said the school had already launched its own internal investigation before the NCAA got there.

"I'm out of it. I'll be completely out of it," Golden said. "We want it that way. It's unfortunate. It's hard for me to stand up here and defend something that occurred three, four, five, six years ago. Again, my record with the NCAA, our staff's record, our commitment to the student-athletes since we've been here speaks volumes for itself."

Athletic director Shawn Eichorst and President Donna Shalala have yet to comment on the matter. But the University of Miami issued a statement Tuesday morning following Golden's meeting with reporters.

It read: "When Nevin Shapiro made his allegations nearly a year ago, he and his attorneys refused to provide any facts to the University of Miami. The University notified the NCAA Enforcement officials of these allegations. We are fully cooperating with the NCAA and are conducting a joint investigation. The University of Miami takes these matters very seriously."

The NCAA began conducting interviews on Monday and will continue to do so. Golden said he has no idea how long they'll remain there. He said all he wants is for players "to be honest, be truthful and move forward."

"There's only one way to move here, to be honest," Golden said. "Clearly, we don't need these types of things to be a great team. We have 24 commitments right now and not one of them has taken an official visit. Not one of them has been on our campus. They're aligned with our core values, what we want to get done. The types of principals and cultures we'll have here are congruent with our coaching staff and direction of our football program. Again, this is tough for me to discuss because this all happened before I got here and certainly Mr. Eichorst feels the same way. We take this stuff seriously. But we've made so much progress in the last eight months, we don't want to go backwards."

Golden said he's sent emails to his players when similar issues have occurred Georgia Tech, Ohio State and North Carolina and used those events as educational tools. He said each player is given a "Cane Code" manual where it discusses extra benefits and agents.

"We're going to continue to be proactive and we got to make sure third parties stay away from our student athletes," Golden said. "Again, I said this to Sean [Eichorst] yesterday. Since I've been here, this is the tightest compliance department I've been around. They are strong. They have incredible manpower and on top of everything. For me, as the head coach, that's good. That helps you sleep at night. Dave Reid and his group do a tremendous job."

Asked if he would still be here had he known about Shapiro and the allegations, Golden said. "absolutely."

"This is the University of Miami. It's a special place," Golden said. "I can't tell you enough that this is an incredible place. You have a chance to do so many wonderful things whether it's academically or from a football standpoint. We're not going to less this knock us backwards. We have great kids on this team to the extent that they may have made a mistake. Okay, that's fine. But that's also part of growing up. What we have to teach them now is that if something did occur, let's be honest and move forward."

Golden said he isn't concerned that the investigation might scare away any of his 24 commitments or potential recruits.

"I really don't believe it's to that level," Golden said. "The student athletes that are committed to us know who we are, know what our core values are, know what we're committed to. Again, the timing is unfortunate because we've been doing so many good things. Our kids are doing a great job in practice, recruiting is going well. The timing is unfortunate. Again, if the allegations, some prove to be true, then we'll get it corrected."

Asked if his team won't let this become a distraction, Golden said: "We have to."

"That's part of being tough, having unity and staying together. We'll stay focused. I'm certain of that. We're disappointed, but we're not discouraged. Again, there's going to be a life lesson here. We're talking about allegations here from a man who is behind bars. If these do hold some truth, we'll deal with them."

Golden said players were not made available to the media because they were informed in a meeting prior to Tuesday's practice of what was going on.

"I don't think it was fair to have them come out here," Golden said. "They're getting ready to practice. From that standpoint, we didn't think it was fair to the kids."

VIDEO: Al Golden talks NCAA investigation, scrimmage

CORAL GABLES -- Here's what Al Golden had to tell reporters Tuesday morning amid the NCAA investigation into allegations made by former booster Nevin Shapiro. Video courtesy of Hurricanesports.com

We'll have a transcript up shortly. FYI, players were not made available to the media Tuesday.

A few quick notes from the 15 minutes we got to see from practice:

- Golden said defensive tackle Curtis Porter is healthy and running with the first team despite reports he was hurt in Sunday's scrimmage. 

- Freshman linebacker Denzel Perryman and offensive lineman Jonathan Feliciano were the only players wearing yellow non-contact jerseys. Perryman had a noticeable limp, but participated in drills.

August 14, 2011

Report: NCAA to question UM over relationship with former booster Nevin Shapiro

According to InsideTheU.com, the NCAA will be at the University of Miami Monday to question people involved with knowledge of potential violations regarding impermissible benefits and former booster Nevin Shapiro.

Citing multiple sources, InsideTheU reported Sunday that the NCAA is looking into comments made by Shapiro that he was involved in giving former players money.

Shapiro, who contributed $150,000 to the UM athletic program, pled guilty to running a $930 million Ponzi scheme and was sentenced to 20-years in prison in June. Shapiro has said he plans on writing a “tell-all book” about his involvement with former UM players -- dating back to 2001 during the Larry Coker and Randy Shannon eras.

The issue in the end will be if Shapiro has any real evidence or credibility to prove the allegations. When this first surfaced over a year ago, nobody around the program told me they thought he did.

Stay tuned for more. I'm sure we'll get a response from UM at some point in the next 24 hours.

Link: InsideTheU.com's story.

Golden talks scrimmage: QBs, Gaines, Streeter shine

The University of Miami had its first scrimmage of the fall Sunday afternoon (it was closed to the media). Here are some of the highlights according to UM and insight from coach Al Golden from an interview done by the sports' information staff

Tommy Streeter-Lamar Miller > Golden called the quarterback play "excellent." According to UM, the quarterbacks combined for 407 yards through the air on 38-of-52 passing for six touchdowns and only one interception.

“I’d be interested to see where our [completion] percentage will be for the day, but I thought we did a good job,” he said. “We found our check-downs a couple of times and to me that’s very important. Lamar [Miller] made a big play, we hit the tight ends [with passes] underneath with Clive [Walford], Cory White -- and we got a couple explosive [plays] down the field as well.”

According to UM, White and Walford stood out among the tight ends, making key grabs in the middle of the field and in the flats. Sophomore Asante Cleveland caught a touchdown pass near the goalline according to UM.

> According to UM, receiver Tommy Streeter had five catches for 71 yards and three touchdowns -- including one heck of a TD grab according to Golden. "It was a tough one. He went up where he was above the goal post there and snatched it. It didn’t look like he had a chance, to be quite honest with you, but he really got up high," Golden said. "The biggest thing with Tommy right now is he’s more mentally tough and he’s in really good shape. He’s learning how to play at a higher level and he’s catching tougher ones every day.”

> UM's offense committed only one turnover. Middle linebacker Jimmy Gaines made the interception. UM didn't say who threw it. According to UM's stats, Gaines finished with five tackles and a sack as well.

"Jimmy’s doing a good job for us,” Golden said. “It’s going to be quite a competition inside there at linebacker. Gionni [Paul] and [Jordan] Futch will have something to say about it. We’ll see how it shakes out.”

According to UM, senior cornerbacker JoJo Nicolas led all defenders with eight tackles (six solo) and two tackles for loss. Senior linebacker Ramon Buchanan and freshman Gionni Paul each had six tackles, with Paul also recording a tackle for loss. In all, the defense totaled eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a total loss of 29 yards according to UM. The defense also stopped the offense in five of eight 4th-and-1 situations.

> Golden said the team ran over 100 plays. Golden said the first team players ran about 55 plays; second teamers between 45-50 plays and third teamers about 15 plays. "So we got a good look at everybody," Golden said.

> According to UM, junior kicker Jake Weiclaw was impressive in connecting on 2-of-3 long field goal attempts. He was successful from 45 and 54 yards out on consecutive possessions, before narrowly missing left on a 56-yard attempt according to UM.

> Golden said he was pleased with running backs Lamar Miller and Mike James. But he was "disappointed [the offense] didn’t execute as well as we need to in the short-yardage situations, both the ones we set for them and the ones that occurred naturally in the flow of the scrimmage.”

> Golden said he wasn't pleased with the tackling in the second half. "That might be a function of fatigue, but that’s inexcusable,” he said. “We’ve got to be better. I thought we were really good early on, to be honest with you. I thought we wrapped up well and pursued with force. And then we tailed off a little bit.”

> Golden will give players the day off on Monday. He invited the team back to his house tonight for a BBQ and a pool party.

> The scrimmage was closed to the media and open only to recruits, family and special guests.

August 13, 2011

Sunday's scrimmage will have game-day feel

CORAL GABLES -- After 10 practices in eight days, University of Miami football coach Al Golden said he's going to treat Sunday's scrimmage -- the first of fall camp -- as close to a game-day situation as possible.

Al Golden Not only will his assistants be up in lifts to simulate game-day operations in stadium booths, players will be wearing game-day uniforms and first and second team players will be getting the bulk of the snaps. About the only thing the scrimmage won't have: punts.

"We're hoping to get 50 plays for the 1's and 2's, another 12-15 for the 3's and 4's," Golden said Saturday morning before the first of two practices.

"We'd like to get everybody on film, give everybody an opportunity to compete. We'll have some of the 2's run with the 1's; we'll have some of the 3's run with the 2's -- wherever we think is a competitive situation. We'll put the ball in all kinds of different situations so we get everything on tape -- short yardage, goal line, backed up. There will be two-minute period, that type of thing."

Golden, who earlier this week said he wouldn't name a starting quarterback until after the team's second scrimmage on Aug. 22, said Sunday's practice game will count more toward winning starting jobs across the board than regular practices.

"Not that they should have anxiety, but it should feel like a test," Golden said. "We're trying to get them to perform, to free up and trust their technique and trust what they've learned and go out there and perform and execute. It should feel different when they prepare tonight. It should feel different when they come over in the morning. We put uniforms on them just to make sure they know it is different."

There will even be a crowd in attendance -- recruits and commitments, who along with family members will be special guests for the scrimmage. Golden said some coaches might not want to open scrimmages to outsiders, "but we want them to see who we are, how we coach, how our team reacts, all those things."

"It will be about as close as you can get to actually being here as a student-athlete," Golden said. "Because it's very real. It's not like we're over there talking to them every minute of the day. We're out there coaching, running the scrimmage and they're watching. They'll have a chance to meet some players, have a meal with the guys, get around our deans and professors and be around our student-athletes, which will be good."

> Golden said tight ends Chase Ford and Blake Ayles are the only players he expects to be held out of Sunday's scrimmage because of injury.

> Golden said freshman defensive end Anthony Chickillo, who was wearing a non-contact yellow jersey Saturday, should be okay to play in Sunday's scrimmage. Cornerback Brandon McGee, who has won a yellow jersey for two straight days, is likely questionable.

> Receiver LaRon Byrd, who was wearing a yellow jersey Friday, practiced normally Saturday.

MORE NEWS AND NOTES

> Golden said the thing that's been most impressive to him about this training camp is that the entire playbook has been installed on both offense and defense after just eight days.

"We had an eight-day aggressive install," Golden said. "You can't do that with a team that didn't prepare or study independently over the summer. We have most of it in, are actually scaling back for the scrimmage and then will go back and try to refine some things next week. It will be a limited package; we don't want a lot of mental errors, a lot of moving parts. We want them to go out and see who is improved."

> Although he won't say Dalton Botts has won the starting job at punter yet, it's clear the redshirt sophomore has distanced himself from the competition. Botts has been wearing a black jersey (worn by starters and leaders) since midweek. 

"I'm hoping someone will come up and really challenge him in the next 10 days," Golden said.

As for the kickoffs and placement kicks, Golden said, those "are too close to call right now."

> Golden hasn't allowed any freshmen to talk with reporters since camp opened, but that could change soon.

"It's not really that I'm not allowing them to talk. I'm trying to let them get in," Golden said. "This is a grind. Literally the last day they had summer school they started camp. I'm sure we'll sit down and give [media] access before we get going here. But this first week there was too much. Every minute they had they're either with a position coach or trying to learn the playbook."

Golden said he likes his freshmen class, "and all but one or two will be playing for us in some capacity. They're all in the mix."

> Running backs coach Terry Richardson doesn't have to worry about who his No. 1 and No. 2 options are. Lamar Miller and Mike James have clearly cemented themselves in those roles.

But the No. 3 job, which became open when Storm Johnson transferred to UCF this summer, remains an open competition between sophomore Eduardo Clements and redshirt freshman Darion Hall.

"I think it's going to come down to who is the better special teams guy," Richardson said. "They're both [Clements] and [Hall] getting the same amount of reps. So it'll come down to that."

Had incoming freshman Kevin Grooms not been held up by the NCAA Clearinghouse, one might only assume Grooms could have won the third-string job easily.

"Speed, quickness, playmaking ability," Richardson said when asked about what he likes about Grooms. "Being a young guy and just coming in he would have to grasp the offense. But he returned kicks, just scored so many different ways for his high school team.

"Right now, he's behind, has to get caught up if he comes in [this fall]. The longer it goes, he's behind and has to get up to speed."

> Offensive lineman Harland Gunn, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, quarterback Jacory Harris, cornerback Lee Chambers and linebacker Ramon Buchanan all served as player-coaches Saturday.

August 12, 2011

Matt Bosher misses the "family'' (with Warren Sapp sighting and uniform news)

Happy Friday, I hope.

I spoke with new Atlanta Falcon and recently departed UM kicker Matt Bosher by phone this week.

After a long day at training camp, he told me he was relaxing watching some television -- after playing video games.

No way getting around the fact that Matt, who was drafted in the sixth round, will be severely missed.

Matt did it all for the Hurricanes -- place-kicking, kicking off and punting. He told me he is competing to punt for the Falcons and possibly will do kickoffs. The Falcons are the ideal team for a kicker, because they play indoors. Also, Matt said his family can easily hop on a plane or even drive from Jupiter in Palm Beach County to Atlanta.

The Falcons' practice facility is outdoors in Flowery Branch, Ga., about an hour north of Atlanta.

Dalton Botts, who is expected to replace Matt as the punter, was wearing the coveted black jersey at Hurricanes practice Friday. Botts, a 6-3, 198-pound sophomore, is from Taft Union High School in Taft, Calif., about 45 minutes west of Bakersfield, he said.

"I haven't seen him kick, but I've heard good things about him,'' said Bosher, who worked out at UM during the summer at times when Botts was there.

"I met him in the weight room [in July],'' Botts said of Bosher. "He seemed real cool."

Bosher said he enjoys being a Falcon, and that there are "a great group of guys -- great special teams coach and a lot of solid veterans helping me. I have a veteran longsnapper (Joe Zelenki) and kicker (Matt Bryant). They've all been big helps.''

He said camp is going well, but that there was a learning curve for him regarding the new system and its terminology. Bosher is smart, so I doubt there will be any problems in that area.

Bosher said playing at UM "was a dream come true'' and that "everybody there was my family.

"Of course I miss it. Miami became my home. Leaving was tough, but it's a new chapter in my life. That's where I'll always have roots and come back to.''

Bosher said his message to the competing kickers would be: "Just keep working hard, stay confident in what you do and do it to the best of your ability. Always know you have an important job. Don't let the typical  kicker comments detract from what you're trying to do. It's an important role and if you treat it that way you can make an impact in just about every game.''

I asked Bosh about Jake Wieclaw, who has only kicked off once in one game. He's a fourth-year junior and fighting for the starting kicking spot. "That's just how it goes,'' Bosher said. "I had the opportunity to play, but Jake was a great guy, a great kicker. He's still a really good kicker and I'm sure he'll be able to prove that. He's a hard worker and he's confident, and that's good. When it's time to prove himself, he will. Jake is one of the more athletic specialists.''

WARREN SAPP SIGHTING

Former Hurricanes great Warren Sapp showed up at practice this morning a few minutes after the Canes got out there. He said he had never met coach Al Golden. Sapp previously dissed Golden publicly because he said the coach snubbed him when Sapp waited to meet him months ago, and also sent out mean-spirited tweets about UM's hiring of Golden in December.

  A few moments after Sapp walked onto the field, Golden saw Sapp and the two bear-hugged with gusto.  Lots of energy in that Canes lovefest moment. I guess Sapp is now a fan.

Sapp sparked the Hurricanes with a pep talk before the heart of the practice session got underway.

UNI NEWS

UM recently noted that the Canes would only have two uniforms this season: orange jerseys and white pants for home games, and all-white for road games.

Turns out that the road uniforms now will be white jerseys and orange pants.

When Golden was asked about the back-to-basic uniforms with no other options, as originally relayed, he was surprised (especially about the all-white uni, it seems).

"I don't think we're a [Nike Pro] combat team this year, so that's out. But in terms of the other colors, I haven't even talked to [equipment manager] Bobby [Revilla] or the AD about it. I do have something to do with it. But I didn't know we were going to be all white and what's the other?  We'll get that tied down for you.''

  UM later made the update, and did note, when I called and asked, that other color combinations could be used periodically.

 So for those who love those weird combos or the out-there looks, there's still hope. However, if the Canes keep winning, I'm betting they'll keep it simple.

TIDBITS

LT Seantrel Henderson is out-and-about already after back surgery on Aug. 8. Guard Brandon Linder said Henderson spent Thursday with the players and attended position meetings. Henderson is not back at practice and will be out indefinitely.

WR LaRon Byrd and CB Brandon McGee wore yellow non-contact jerseys Friday. McGee was limping but Byrd seemed OK.

Golden said there's no update on the statuses of RB Kevin Grooms, LB Antonio Kinard and DT Corey King. They are still waiting for clearance from the NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly called the NCAA Clearinghouse).

  --SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

August 11, 2011

QBs still neck and neck. Who do you think should be named starter? Also: Howard Schnellenberger to make announcement at 4 p.m.

So, as of Thursday, we still don't have a clear picture -- or even fuzzy one -- of who the starting quarterback will be for the Hurricanes.

I asked Coach Al Golden, "Are you hoping to wait until after the second scrimmage to decide the starter at quarterback?"

Golden: "Sure. Yeah. Again, we’ve had five practices now and you look at the stats, you look at the completion percentages, you look at the touchdowns, you look at all that and it’s like a dead heat right now. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be resolved before that time."

Is that good?

Golden: "Yeah, it’s good. If they’re going to keep competing that’s great. I think that’s awesome. Neither one is backing down and the team is rallying around both of them. So all those things are important right now.''

Since we don't see the qbs competing against each other in practice I'm not sure how good it really is. Are they both doing great? Are they both so-so? Or not-so-great?

 So if you were the coach, and the two were truly in a dead heat after the second scrimmage (Aug. 22), would you

1. Wait to make your decision and announcement until closer to the Sept. 5 opener?

2. Make your decision and stick to it.

And if you had to make the decision right now, knowing both are in a "dead heat,'' who would you pick and why? Jacory Harris or Stephen Morris.

I have my thoughts but am a bit hesitant to throw it out there (I am not a columnist, though the lines sure are blurred these days with this new media stuff).

What do you guys think?

ALSO:

> Blake Ayles is injured and sat out again Thursday. For the record, Coach Golden said the reason he came out of practice earlier this week was not heat-related.

"Blake is dealing with a little injury right now,'' Golden said. "Hopefully it will be day to day with him. But he’s good on his assignments. Obviously at his age, from a technical standpoint, he’s solid so he’ll get back soon."

> Former defensive lineman Dyron Dye has been moved to tight end.

In closing, FAU has called a press conference for 4 p.m. Word is that Howard Schnellenberger will announce he is retiring after this season. I have a soft spot for Howard. How can you not? The man brought UM its first national title. I know he bolted, but what a great figure and representative for UM. Let's face it, he might be the FAU coach, but he'll always be a Hurricane.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN