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33 posts from October 2011

October 31, 2011

Larranaga lands commitment from one of nation's top centers: Champagnat's Tonye Jekiri

Tonye Jekiri, a 6-10, 220-pound senior center at Hialeah Champagnat, committed to the University of Miami on Monday morning, giving new Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga a big man for the future he sorely needs.

Tonye JekiriJekiri moved to South Florida from Nigeria in Sept. 2010 and hasn't been playing basketball very long according to Champagnat coach Danny Serrano.

"But he's got a huge upside," Serrano said. "From the minute that school started I was getting phone calls from Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson, George Mason, Alabama, Florida State, Auburn -- name it they were all after him.

"He's a legit 6-10, but a gazelle. I think this is his fourth year of playing organized basketball, but he's come an unbelievable ways and still has an unbelievable upside. That's why these schools have been so desperate to get him. Apparently, though, his visit with Miami over the weekend was so good he verbally committed."

Jekiri averaged 10 points and 14 rebounds last season.

"He's just so quick. He runs like a guard," Serrano said. "He's such an imposing figure under the basket defensively. He's real good on the help side. Offensively, he has nice a 10- to 12-foot midrange shot. He can play with his back to the basket or facing the basket. But his gift is how well he runs the floor."

Jekiri played for Florida's Team Breakdown (AAU) over the summer. That's where Serrano said he made his biggest strides.

Jekiri, rated the 17th-best center in the country by ESPN.com, is the second player Larranaga has gained a commitment from for the 2012 season. UM also received a commitment from Bronx (N.Y.) St. Benedict's Prep shooting guard Melvin Johnson (6-3, 175). Johnson is rated by ESPN.com as the 44th-best shooting guard in the country in 2012.

October 28, 2011

Friday night: Jacory's arm went numb but should be "OK", and Golden's overall assessment

Here's what I transcribed from Al Golden's teleconference this evening:


How is Jacory doing?

I think he’s doing OK. What happened on that play was he took a shot to the upper biceps. I don’t know if he hit a nerve or something but his arm went completely numb on him for the last two plays. But I think he’s OK.


So he can practice pretty much fully once that starts?  


You said you wanted more efficiency in the running game on first and second downs to avoid third-and-long. What are you seeing right now that’s causing the problem?

Some of the issues are we had a couple false starts in the game and you get behind the 8-ball there. There are a lot of things we have to improve. No. 1 is our blocking and No. 2 is Lamar has just got to hit singles. He’s got to hit it up in there. We’re dancing a little bit too much. Maybe we’re trying to do too much at running back but we’ve got to just press it a little bit more, trust the scheme and trust the blocking. Right now we’re trying to do too much with the running game

Is Lamar’s shoulder OK?

  I think he’s OK. I don’t know what he did on the third-and-[3] and fourth-and-[2] plays. He came out of the game and he got banged up in some capacity and came out of the game. But everything I’m seeing on the injury report is that he’ll be OK.

How did the defense do generally?

Ultimately when you give up those kind of ex plays that we gave up it’s hard to overcome. When you get something for nothing it makes it really, really hard. Clearly we didn’t get enough pressure on Rocco, the Va. Quarterback; We didn’t do a good enough job getting off the field on third down, they had the ball the entire third quarter;  we have to do a better job getting off the field there. The explosive plays were just too much to overcome, really was. That part of it was disappointed. I was disappointed in our tackling and I was disappointed in the ex plays we gave up. Another thing is we had a fake field goal that led to points and we have a roughing the punter that leads to point and then we have a late hit on the quarterback that leads to points. Those are hard to overcome, too.

 In the four games you lost you only forced two turnovers and five sacks. How big of a factor is that?

  I’ve been saying it all along. I don’t pull any punches on who we are right now, especially on defense. If we don’t take the ball away, play really good red-zone defense and get off the field on third down, it’s going to be hard for us to win.  We’re trying to build, we’re trying to grow, were trying to move forward, but if we don’t take the ball away it makes it really hard right now.

 Again, just disappointed in the overall play of the team, not just the defense, the overall play, and that falls on me.

 Lamar has a heavier workload than last year, with a third of the season to go. Is it getting to him?

 I think that’s fair but if you recall I said he really didn’t start understanding or appreciating or recognizing how important it is to be in incredible condition as an elite tailback until after spring ball. You’re not talking about somebody who has been working out on an elite level in the offseason for two or three years. You’re talking about really May, June, July and August. It served him really well. I’m glad he made that approach, but I’m certain now he understands what we’re talking about in terms of your body being your biggest investment especially at running back and the things he needs to do to prepare himself for that.

 I’m concerned about everybody’s health. It’s seven straight games and then a short week. I was concerned about it. I was concerned about transitioning from Georgia Tech to Virginia and concerned about our health and our fatigue.

 The final long touchdown play for Va, it seemed like Jimmy Gaines was one-on-one, was he supposed to get help on top?

  If we don’t get pressure on quarterback it’s hard for anybody to hold up there, let alone Jimmy. They really had a great call on there but we didn’t get any pressure, we didn’t get anybody in the quarterback’s face and the longer that play goes the harder it is for Jimmy or any safety to defend. That was a tough one.We had a blown assignment on the screen that went for one and a clearly we had a safety out of position on the pitch pass so three explosive plays and hard to overcome them. (8:40)


When you looked at the play, did it appear to you that Olivier got blocked into the quarterback?

  I don’t see the TV copy so obviously you start to hear somebody saying this or what perception and reality is. We watched the tape and on the sideline view (Olivier) he clearly got blocked and pushed from behind, No. 1. And No. 2 you can clearly see him trying to turn his upfield shoulder at the last second and there’s actually probably a half yard between his helmet and the young man’s knee. So I was convinced that it was not intentional and I wanted to make sure we did our due diligence here. I brought him in and reviewed it with him and I’m confident that there was no intent there but Olivier does play hard. He made a hard turn to the quarterback and he did tell me he was trying to avoid him up high because he could see the kid start his windup. But I do know there was a push in the back. I know there was an attempt by Olivier not to go for the kid’s knee with his head gear. That was clear. If that is portrayed differently or if there’s an angle that shows differently I’ll have to examine that.

 We know you’re focused on process but do you worry how this team holds it together with long ACC odds and throughout the last third of the season?

  don’t because it’s Year One. We’re trying to fix long term problems in the short term and that’s the challenge of our staff and for me as the head coach and for this team. There’s still so much to play for and we are playing a lot of young guys mixed in with the veterans. We need the seniors to continue to lead and stay focused and improve, and obviously they are. Sean Spence is playing well, [Jordan] Futch is probably playing the best football of his career, I think Jacory obviously played well yesterday, Travis Benjamin, Harland Gunn, Tyler Horn. So, a lot of the seniors are stepping up for us and playing well. We just need some of the young guys to step up and understand, we have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be yet. We fight back, we don’t quit, we’re competitive but we’re not consistent, and that’s what gnawing at me today. I want to build a team that is consistent every day, that practices consistently, that has the same approach and plays the same way. There were too many lulls in that game for us to be consistent.

 How much does two extra days of treatment when you’ve gone seven straight?

It’s huge. We’re not doing anything with them at all Friday, Saturday, Sunday. They’ll just take care of academics and get rested. I was nervous going into the game. I knew we were going to face a downhill running attack with two really good running backs, a big offensive line. I was concerned how we came out of the Georgia Tech game. I was hoping and praying we’d be able to hang in there and get some stops. But clearly we gave them explosive plays, we miss a field goal, we fumble on the 12 and we miss a fourth-and-1 on the 13 and that’s the difference in the game despite all the easy plays that we gave them. 

 Could you assess the plays of the safeties and the cornerbacks?


At safety we’re not where we need to be. Clearly JoJo [Nicolas] is playing the best for us there. He has been consistent both in his ability to operate the defense and the way he’s playing and leading. We’re not disciplined enough and we keep giving up explosive plays on the back end – the pitch pass for one. We had a blown assignment in the secondary on the screen. I believe it was the first quarter that scored  a touchdown. We’re not consistent enough there and obviously we need to improve. Our tackling is inconsistent as well. At times Vaughn [Telemaque] and Ray [Armstrong] really tackled well, but there’s still too many times where we don’t execute the way we need to.

At cornerback?

We’ve got to get [Brandon] McGee over the hump now. He’s doing so many things better. He’s becoming more reliable. He’s just got to become to the point where he’s dependable and frees it up and starts to make some big plays for us, some interceptions, or some big tackles, or some caused fumbles. Those types of things. He’s maturing, he’s improving but we really need him to finish strong here in this final stretch an clearly we need from Mike Williams, we need more from [Thomas] Finney and we need more from [Lee] Chambers at this point in time.

Duke is ranked 22nd nationally in passing offense. They have two big-play threats, in  Vernon and Varner, from Miami. How concerned are you with that?

 I’m concerned about everything. My focus here today and tomorrow will be making sure we’re taking care of the things that we need to take care of on our end.  I’ve watched all three phases of Duke here today. But our attention will go squarely on Duke on Sunday. I’m concerned about it all. I’m concerned about every team we play. I’m mostly concerned about making sure we have a team that adheres to the preparation, the process and understands what it means to be consistent and play consistently game in and game out. We have not done it yet. We just have not. That was the challenge for the team this week and we didn’t bring all three phases for four quarters and that’s why we end up on the 8-yard line and falling short just by a little bit again.

 Are their spirits down?

 I hope they’re down right now. I do. I hope they feel badly. That’s the kind of culture we want. We want it to hurt. We don’t want it to be easy to lose. WE don’t want that .500 mentality where it’s OK to lose. We did too many things in that game.. we don’t miss a field goal or we don’t fumble on the 12-yard line clearly the game is different. We’re kicking a field goal to win. The same thing with the fake field goal and roughing the punter. We go from having a chance for an ex play blocked punt to roughing the punter and giving them a first down and points. We’re just trying to develop consistency and that starts with my approach to staff and we want that from the team as well.


The offensive line play?

I would say that [Harland] Gunn, [Tyler] Horn and [Brandon] Linder played really well. Seantrel [Henderson], that was probably the most he’s played – I think it was 43 reps. That was the first time he got back to kind of a normal game for him. Not full game, but probably three quarters. But we gave up three sacks and we just didn’t block as well as we need to block. It’s not just the O-line, it’s the tight ends and running backs hitting their aim points and getting positive yards.

 When you look at last night’s loss, do you look at it as a setback for the program or is it part of the growth process and the big picture?

 It’s part of the growth process. I’m not even going to deny that. I’m disappointed but I’m not discouraged. We’re just not consistent right now. We understand the impact that penalties and mental errors and special teams have on the game last week and we protect the ball and keep our penalties down and do a really good job on special teams.  And then we turn around this week. I’m trying to develop a consistent team here. I don’t know if they don’t know how to handle success right now. In a short week we were just trying to keep them fresh and develop some momentum and just keep them focused on the process but I just didn’t do a good enough job. I just did not do a good enough job. We just had too many mental breakdowns in that game to win.


Gaines talks winning TD play; Jacory said he'll be ready for Duke & other UM post-game notes

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The mediocrity continues.

The Miami Hurricanes (4-4, 2-3 ACC play) still haven't won three games in a row since Oct. 2009 and they've got nobody to blame but themselves. Dumb penalties, blown coverages and an inability to execute when it mattered -- the same old losing recipe -- is what hurt them in Thursday's 28-21 loss to Virginia.

Here is some of what we learned post-game:

> Linebacker Jimmy Gaines, beaten on the game-winning 78-yard touchdown pass from Michael Rocco to Perry Jones, said he thought he had safety help in coverage and said that's why he lunged for the ball. Of course, Gaines didn't and Jones ran untouched into the end zone.

"Every play is full of one-on-one battles. On that play, I didn't win mine," Gaines said. "I didn't win the battle. I was hoping somebody was back there. I was just trying to make the play and I didn't. I have to make sure I use the proper technique, get him on the ground."

Of course, it would have been nice if somebody else -- say Vaughn Telemaque or Ray-Ray Armstrong -- were around. But they weren't.

> Quarterback Jacory Harris wasn't on the field for the final plays of the game. Although Al Golden said Harris has been "banged up" for a few weeks and needs rest, Harris said he'll be back for Duke. He finished 21 of 30 for 311 yards and three touchdowns and was sacked three times.

" I'm cool. No matter what you'll still see me on the field," Harris said. "Broken leg, whatever it is, I'll be there. Been doing it my whole career.

> Since climbing to as high as the third-leading rusher in the country (135.4 yards per game) on Oct. 9, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia have made it a point to try and take Lamar Miller (5-11, 212-pound redshirt sophomore) out of UM's offense. They've stacked the box with eight and nine man fronts, forcing quarterback Jacory Harris to try and beat them instead.

Although Miller had 93 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown Georgia Tech, he's been held to just 3.2 yards per carry over his last three games -- a total of 192 yards on 59 carries. Al Golden said that's not good enough.

"We have to examine the whole thing," Golden said. "I'm not going to sit up here and say it's one guy. We're just not running the ball as effectively as we need to and we're not staying on track on first and second down efficiency."

Harris said it's up to the passing game to make plays. "When teams stack the box we have the passing game open and I guess we don't enough there to win the game," Harris said. "I guess we have to step it up passing wise because teams are going to sell out."

> Receiver Tommy Streeter had a career-high seven catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns including an amazing 51-yard TD grab between two defenders.

"I just trusted him," Harris said. "I knew he would make the play. He basically had one guy underneath him and the other guy was just one-on-one with. So I said I'm just going to trust him to make the play. We needed something to spark us and fuel us to go forward. That was our momentum."

> UM, penalized just four times in their previous two wins, was flagged five times for 51 yards. The big dumb ones -- roughing the passer on Olivier Vernon on and incomplete pass on third down (Virginia scored its second TD three plays later) and a roughing the kicker penalty in the third quarter (Virginia missed a field goal, but ran 10 more plays after it).

"Clearly we had some penalties that were just absurd," Golden said. "We can't have those penalties and the mental breakdowns we did. The blocked field goal too. We weren't sharp and we didn't execute and that starts with me, period."

October 27, 2011

Gameday blog: Virginia at UM

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The Miami Hurricanes (4-3, 2-2 ACC) play host to the Virginia Cavaliers (4-3, 1-2 ACC) in an 8 p.m. kickoff Thursday night, a game that will be televised nationwide on ESPN. UM is coming off back-to-back wins at North Carolina and at home against previously 20th-ranked Georgia Tech. Virginia knocked off the Yellow Jackets on 24-21 on Oct. 15, but lost last week at home to N.C. State 28-14. The Cavaliers knocked UM off last year 24-19 in Charlottesville. 

> ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: The Cavaliers own one of the best pass defenses in the country, ranking 12th nationally (176.00 yards per game). They also 19th in total defense (314.29) while allowing just 23 points per game. While Virginia doesn't necessarily create a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks (10 sacks in 7 games), they are very good in coverage and in creating picks (8 INTs). UM has thrown 7 INTs in its last three meetings against Virginia. Freshman cornerback Demetrius Nicholson and senior Chase Minnifield each have two so far this season. Minnifield has 12 in his career (3rd most actively in FBS). Offensively, Virginia is a run-first team, ranking 34th nationally with 183.43 yards per game on the ground. Junior tailback Perry Jones (5-8, 185) has 576 yards on 113 carries and two touchdowns, but freshman Kevin Parks (5-8, 195) is the guy they like to use near the end zone. He's has seven touchdowns and 386 yards rushing on 74 attempts. If Virginia does decide to pass, UM should be looking to cover Kevin Burd (34 catches, 447 yards, 0 TDs) and going for picks. Freshman quarterback Michael Rocco has thrown eight interceptions in seven starts and just four touchdown passes. His backup, David Watford (6-1, 190) has thrown four INTs himself. Kicker Justin Moore has been unreliable this season going 4-for-8 on field goal attempts with a long of 40 yards and two blocked kicks.

> WHAT TO WATCH FOR WHEN IT COMES TO THE CANES: UM is 15-2 all-time on Thursday night games, but hasn't won three games in a row since it beat Oklahoma, Florida A&M and UCF in Oct. 2009. Starting right tackle Jonathan Feliciano (left ankle) will miss his first start in six games and will be replaced by Malcolm Bunche, who will get his first start of the season and share time with Seantrel Henderson. Aside from that injury, the Canes are getting healthier and deeper. Defensive tackle Micanor Regis is back from his suspension and will backup Darius Smith. Defensive end Olivier Vernon (1 tackle vs. Georgia Tech) figures to see more playing time in his second game back from an NCAA-mandated suspension. Lamar Miller, once fourth in the nation rushing, has slipped to 14th nationally after rushing for just 2.8 yards a carry (122 yards, 43 attempts) over his last two games faces another decent run defense this week (49th, 138.29 yards per game). Jacory Harris has thrown just one interception over his last 18 quarters.

> MANNY'S PREDICTION: Canes 31, Virginia 17. I'm 5-2 picking the Canes this season (Georgia Tech, Kansas State were my losses). Last week, though, I was way off and pleasantly surprised to see the Canes come around and play as good on defense as they did. Virginia isn't a good team on paper. They pounded William & Mary 40-3, won at Indiana by 3, needed overtime to beat Idaho at home and were beaten by double-digit points in both of their ACC losses (North Carolina, N.C. State). Canes should roll here. But I'm apprehensive to pick a blowout based on the fact this is a short week and Virginia's defense isn't so bad. What will kill the Cavaliers in the end is quarterback play (12 INTs in 7 games). UM will score a defensive touchdown this week (my money is on a freshman) and make enough defensive stops in the second half to feel pretty good about themselves. But I could see this being close for a half.

FYI, No Cover It Live this week since I'll be on a late night deadline. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Follow me on Twitter at Manny_Navarro.

October 24, 2011

D'Onofrio says Canes are finding more guys on defense that can execute

CORAL GABLES -- UM defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio didn't have a great first half. But he started the second half of the season with a bang -- shutting down one of the nation's most potent rushing attacks and scoring offenses in Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Mark D'OnofrioHe called the team's defensive performance against the Yellow Jackets "gratifying." While he said he didn't care ultimately how many yards Georgia Tech ran for, his goal was to eliminate "the explosive plays," "cheap touchdowns," and "make them drive." Georgia Tech's longest run from scrimmage was 11 yards. The Yellow Jackets' longest pass was 17 yards. So, mission accomplished.

"We tackled really well -- at the 90 percentage, which is our goal, which isn't easy. That's the second time we did that (Ohio State was the other)," D'Onofrio said.

"The biggest thing I took away from that game was how hard we played, our finish grade. This is the game where we had our least amount of loafs -- where guys weren't running to the ball hard. We finished plays with toughness and we tackled well. Those two things are indicative of what type of defense you have. You can throw everything else out the window if you can control those things and those are things you control. No penalties, finish and tackle well. Those are prerequisites. Those core things we've been trying to dictate since we got here. Those showed up Saturday."

D'Onofrio said he put Sean Spence at middle linebacker in part because he wanted him to be able to cover both sides of the field. "[Denzel] Perryman was playing the strongside and Jimmy [Gaines] played weak. I was trying to get a faster lineup out there based on what they did in the perimeter," he said.

"If you look at the stat line and you look at the amount of guys who got snaps in the game, a lot of starters didn't have to play 60-70 plays, they played 40 plays become somebody got in behind them and played 20. That's why we played fresh and why I think we played at that high finish level. The more guys we can play that can execute, the better off we're going to be."


> UM coach Al Golden wasn't happy starting right tackle Jonathan Feliciano injured himself Saturday celebrating Lamar Miller's 14-yard touchdown run right before the half. But he isn't about to start teaching his guys how to party after a touchdown either.

"If I got to coach the celebration now, we're in trouble," Golden joked. "We should have a no air policy for our offensive linemen."

Feliciano remains doubtful for Thursday's game against Virginia in Golden's words. Feliciano is wearing a boot on his left foot. He was injured after leaping up and landing awkwardly on a teammate. Tight end Chase Ford was apparently Feliciano's intended target of a chest bump that never happened.

"That was scary," quarterback Jacory Harris said. "I was actually running in the end zone with Mongo and Seantrel [Henderson] right next to me. And I see [Feliciano] go up in the air and come down, so I thought he tripped. And me and Seantrel are trying to pick him up and we just hear him saying `Ahh!' We got scared, but he'll be okay. I'm pretty sure he'll fight through it."

> Golden seemed pretty happy junior Darius Smith played well enough Saturday to possibly knock Micanor Regis out of a starting job. "You can create competition, but when other guys see it on film, that's real competition," Golden said. "Darius is going to be tough to supplant in there now. He's going to compete."

As for the state of his defensive line, consider Golden a happy camper now that there are more healthy and able bodies around. "We're as deep right now as we have been since Aug. 13 or 14," he said.

> The reason Ray-Ray Armstrong hasn't taken the safety job totally away from JoJo Nicolas is because he's still taking too many chances.

"I think he's progressed," D'Onofrio said of Armstrong. "I think he's practicing better. I think he's more confident back there. But the biggest thing right now is not trying to do too much. He's a guy who has playmaking ability, but we keep trying to preach the plays will come. Guys got a chance to make plays by doing their job, letting plays come to them. Everybody shines when that happens -- not when guys try to go out of their way to make a play or go outside of what their job description is on that play. That's really what we need from Ray."

> The reason we didn't see more of freshmen Olsen Pierre at defensive tackle before he provided two tackles Saturday? Apparently, a bum ankle.

"He's kind of been nursing it all the way through," D'Onofrio said. "We really haven't seen him play up to his capability. What we saw on Saturday was a little glimpse of what he could do. He played with a better pad level, played with a better get-off, played with a better motor. He took some steps in that regard."

Barrow on Spence: "What Peyton Manning is to the Colts, that's what he is for us"

CORAL GABLES -- After helping shut down one of the nation's most potent rushing attacks Saturday, Sean Spence was rewarded Monday with his third ACC Linebacker Of The Week Award.

Sean SpenceSpence racked up 10 tackles including six solo stops and a tackle for a loss of two yards against Georgia Tech while starting and finished at middle linebacker for the first time in his career.

Spence has been the anchor of the Canes' defense all season and has amassed 65 total tackles (10th nationally), 9.5 tackles for loss (seventh nationally) for 35 yards, three sacks for 23 yards and a forced fumble. And in the eyes of his coaches and teammates -- just someone UM couldn't survive without.

"He's the best linebacker in college football, bar none," said UM linebackers coach Micheal Barrow. "He's a guy that is so coachable, so instinctive, he's a leader of this team. He's a guy that anything I tell him to do he tries to do it. Last week I challenged him to try to knock guys back. So he spent all day Saturday doing that.

"He's having a great year not only at [weakside] but at [middle]. He don't complain. He just gets it done. He is what Peyton Manning is to the Colts, that's what he is for us. He has that type of smarts, that type of athleticism. He's a guy that is consistent everyday. I could be like Don King all day talking about him. It's unreal. His parents have done an outstanding job. It's hard to find a kryptonite for him."

If there's been a knock on Spence since the day he put on a Hurricanes a uniform, it's been his size. At 6-feet, 224-pounds he isn't exactly what the NFL is looking for in terms of an every down outside linebacker. But Barrow believes Spence will overcome that and prove his doubters wrong.

NFLDraftScout.com ranks Spence as the seventh-best outside linebacker prospect in the 2012 draft, behind North Carolina's Zach Brown (6-2, 230), Alabama's Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 265), West Virginia's Bruce Irvin (6-2, 245), Nebraska's Lavonte David (6-1, 225) and Oklahoma's Travis Lewis (6-2, 228). Spence, listed at 5-11 accoring to the website, is projected to be a second or third round pick.

"People on the outside talk about his size, but he plays bigger than his size," Barrow said. "When I came out they said I was too small. When Ray [Lewis] came out they said he was too small. Sean Spence is the same thing. He's just a baller. He'll prove everyone wrong. I'm just happy he's here."

So are his teammates.

"Without Sean I don't know where I would be, where anybody else on this team would be," Jacory Harris said. "Sean, he kind of is like the glue to everything. Everyone counts on him on the defense, counts on him as a leader."

Said defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio: "He's a rare player, a once in a lifetime type of guy you coach. There's very few you get an opportunity to coach like that. He's a special player. He's really instinctive, really smart, works really hard, practices really. He's a leader. Keeps a good temper, doesn't get too high or too low. He's just a great player."

According to UM, no other player at a BCS institution has won defensive player of the week honors for their conference three times. Only Mike Taylor, a linebacker at Wisconsin, has won it twice. Spence has 277 tackles, 42.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks and 35 starts in his career.

Golden jabs Dolphins for Gator Day; Regis makes strange apology

CORAL GABLES -- Hurricanes fans made their feelings felt Sunday by booing Urban Meyer and the Gators when they were honored at halftime Sunday of the Dolphins-Broncos game at Sun Life Stadium.

Monday, UM coach Al Golden took his jab at the Dolphins when asked about the ceremony that will take place Thursday night to honor UM's 2001 national title team when the Canes (4-3, 2-2 ACC) host Virginia (4-3, 1-2 ACC).

"I'm just glad we got it right, honoring the right team on Thursday night," Golden said. "Clearly a lot of those guys have set the standard here. That's what we're trying to get back to. We're not going to get there overnight, but man they set the standard with the way they played and their work ethic and commitment to each other."

Last week reporters tried to get former Hurricane and current Dolphins right guard Vernon Carey to talk about the Gators being honored at Sun Life Stadium. But Carey declined to get into it.

UM spokesman Chris Freet said the Dolphins approached UM about having a ceremony to honor the 2001 National Title team, but the Canes already had made plans to honor them themselves at halftime of this week's game against Virginia. The reason: a Thursday night game allowed more of them on NFL rosters to be in town for it.


UM defensive tackle Micanor Regis, who served a one-game suspension Saturday for punching a North Carolina player in the crotch a week prior, met with reporters Monday briefly in what might have been the strangest interview ever. Regis didn't address what happened, sported a grin for much of the interview and dodged questions.

When told his actions seemed unlike him by a reporter, Regis said: "I'd like to thank my team. They pulled the win out for me. I'd like to thank them."

The reporter then followed up, "That wasn't what I asked you. I asked you this was unlike you, so why did it happen?"

Regis' response: "I'd like to thank my team. They did a great job with the win, especially with Georgia Tech. I love them guys."

Asked how hard it was for him to miss a game, he said: "It was very tough, man."

"Do you feel remorse?" Regis was asked. Regis then turned to a reporter who was there previously: "Tell them what I said earlier," he said.

That reporter declined, so Regis then said, "Once again I want to apologize to everybody. You know, I regret it. I just want to move on from it. That's it."

Regis was finally asked if knowing Darius Smith had a real good game made him less sure of his starting role. Again Regis responded, "I'd just like to thank my teammates for pulling it out for me. I love them."

UM, which uploads all the videos it records of reporters' interviews with players on YouTube, took down Regis' interview about half an hour after uploading it.

> Golden required Regis to perform community service at the Miami Rescue Mission Saturday while his teammates played. Asked about that, Regis said: "I was helping out with those guys. I'd like to thank them, too. They gave me an opportunity to help out. I was helping out with the shelter and everything. It was a blessing for me."

October 23, 2011

Golden on Sunday night (Feliciano probably out and Regis loses starting spot)

Here's what I just transcribed of Al Golden with us on a teleconference tonight:

Is this week most complete in terms of everybody being back from suspension?

You’re exactly right. I thought last week would be and then obviously we had a suspension during the week. This clearly will be the first time… barring any health issues. We have a couple of health obstacles here we have to overcome but we don’t anticipate any suspensions or off-the-field issues at this point.

 How good does that feel to have your team in tact and what are you guys capable of and how much better can you be at full strength?

  I think we’re making progress. The guys are starting to understand the process and going back to work day in and day out. If you have a team that does that and is consistent and executes on a daily basis you have a chance to improve.

It’s a short week. We’re coming off an option on our defense and our offense is coming off a 3-4 week so we have to adjust very quickly here going into this game.

With a week this short, are there things you won’t be able to get done?

No question. Both teams have the same issues though. There are no excuses here. It is what it is. The game is Thursday night. We manage our side of it and Virginia manages their side. I don’t think either side can say they can do everything they could normally do in a full week. We were very banged up coming out of that game on Saturday so we have to get our team healed up and ready to go for  Thursday.

One penalty and four over the course of two games. Is that a sign they’re hearing your message?

We’re making progress there. We have a long way to go, but clearly as a team we’re starting to understand what we’re trying to get done there. .. We just have to keep moving forward..

Any word on Feliciano or McGee?

Feliciano doesn’t look good right now for this game. Of course it’s a short week but we’ll know more tomorrow. I don’t anticipate there being anybody else that’s out. Mcgee would be probable until we see him on the practice field.   

We have a lot other guys, to be honest it’s still too early, we have to see how they react tomorrow. Our meeting is after this. It’s hard to gauge where they’re at.

Micanor Regis, has he learned his lesson for lack of a better way of putting it?

 I hope so because it’s zero tolerance, I’m not putting up with that and we don’t want that on our football program. Certainly he paid a price. It’s his senior year. He lost a whole game. And instead of being at the stadium with his teammates he was doing community service. He filled his end of the bargain so now its on to reinstatement and then getting back to competing for a job. The bad news for Micanor is that Darius Smith played his best game of the year so he has his hands full in terms of a short week competing for a starting job. (Note that Smith is the new starter at left defensive tackle on the depth chart just released)

 Was that something you saw watching film?

No. It does not show up on our sideline or end zone copy of our game film. I wasn’t made aware of it until I came off the field on Wednesday morning. What time is that, 11:30? By 1:30 he was suspended. I did my ACC call, got off the phone, brought the kid in, interviewed him, learned more about it, talked to his position coach. Brought the AD in and told him what was going on and that was it.

Who let you know?

I guess there was some kind of TV video that was circulating that ended up getting to me and I immediately called [North Carolina} Coach [Everett] Withers once I saw it and apologied once I saw it and handled it accordingly.

Could you put into context the type of season Sean Spence is having and how important he has been to the ups and downs of this defense and getting them ready?

 Sean Spence right now is playing lights out. I’m happy for the young man and I’m proud of him as his teammates are. He prepares, he leads, he’s the same guy every day. And he plays is how he practices. Right now he is invaluable to us and clearly having a special year. There are good years, there are great years and there are specials years. Right now he’s having a special year.

If Feliciano can’t play this week, will you stick with Bunche or will there be more evaluation of the offensive line?

I apologize if we did not release that, but Seantrel and Bunche will fight for the starting job at right tackle and we’re bringing Jermaine Johnson up at left tackle to back up Brandon who played his best game of the year.

What happened on the play he got injured?

I think he got stood up on a celebration and came down on someone’s leg.  I didn’t understand the extent of it because when I got out there (laughing) to check on him all the offensive linemen were laughing. They were telling me he got hurt during the celebration. I thought they were kind of joking around because they knew he was going to be all right. But the X-Rays were negative. He’ll be OK, but it’s such a short week and I don’t think he’ll be all right right now. We’ve got to celebrate a little smarter than that I guess. [We’ve] got to coach everything.

 His status?

If you’re asking me right now, I’d say doubtful.

We didn’t get out of there until 8 O’Clock last night and I have no idea what his status would be until we get out on the field.

He went to jump up, you know how they jump up together and chest bump or whatever they do. Whoever he was doing it with decided at the last second that wasn’t a good idea and he came down on someone’s foot.

At that position, Bunche is going to be competing at the right side. In the spring, Bunche was leading at left tackle and it seems like he fell off the earth in a way. We haven’t really talked to him that much. How is he doing?

I don’t think he fell off the earth. Clearly he had a back injury in Week 2 or Week 3 where he was out for whatever it was – 14 days. But the five guys we’re playing with we felt like they’ve been doing a good job. They’ve been protecting the quarterback good. We’ve been running the ball fairly well. The last two weeks we encountered some trouble but prior to that we were running the ball real well and we’ve maintained our pass protection really well. It hasn’t been an issue, it’s just that the competition there is real good. Seantrel is another guy that’s trying to fight in and get in and so is Fig and Wheeler and Shane, so there are a bunch of guys competing there.

After Jon went out, it was Bunche mostly. How much did Seantrel play on offense? Seantrel played a couple of series and Bunch played somewhere in the 30s. He played a good number.  He did a good job. He did a really good job. That’s why we have the confidence right now. There are a lot of different ways we could have reconfigured it this morning but we thought the way Malcolm played he and Seantrel should compete for the starting job over there.

Jermaine Johnson is going to back up at left tackle? What has he been doing that you’ve seen lately?

As I said earlier, for us it’s just a function of who is playing the best, not who has played the best or what did they do last year. I look at all these guys as how they’re practicing and how they’re playing. Malcolm, we thought, coming out of the spring was our best offensive lineman. Malcolm had a tremendous spring. But Harland Gunn has been playing really well and Tyler Horn has been playing well and Linder…  They’ve been playing good football. Jermaine has got an opportunity to be with the varsity this week and not on the scouts. He has a chance to come up and see what he can do. And then we’ll go from there. Clearly, Brandon played his best game of the year. He was 90 percent with his grade and 98 percent finish. And some of the plays he had were tremendous in that game. We’re excited about the way he practiced and the way he performed in the game.

UM’s offense and Va’s pass defense seems to be one of its strength. Could you talk about UM’s offense?

No question. We weren’t as sharp on offense. Give Georgia Tech a lot of credit. They weren’t ranked 20th because they’re not any good. They’re well coached on both sides of the ball. Now we’re going against Virginia. They’re 19th in total defense, 12th in pass defense, and if my memory serves me correct, they’re Top 20 in red-zone defense and top 40 in scoring defense. It’s a team that has active linebackers, one with 65 tackles, another with 49. Eight interceptions – the corners are really good. The safeties are active, they play a lot of quarters, from what I can tell. The ends do a nice job for them. The Snyder kid and Cam Johnson. It’s going to be a great challenge for our guys on a short week but we have to play better on offense than we have the last six quarters.

How pleased are you with your guys as they’ve fought back to put themselves in this position with everything that has gone on this season?

 They’ve done a great job. I don’t really pay attention to it, but there are a lot of teams in our conference that have played really good out of conference schedules and I think ours is right up there. We lost at Virginia Tech in a heartbreaker and we lost to Kansas State on the 1-yard line and those teams are whatever they’re ranked right now. I’m sure they’re both in the Top 12 or so. So, we’ve played a tough schedule amidst a transition year amidst a lot of adversity that we could not foresee coming. So there has been a lot of transition, there has been a lot of inconsistency now we’re starting to get some traction. They’re starting to understand the process, they’re starting to understand what it means to be consistent and to take care of your business everyday and they’re starting to see results.

 In retrospect, how much of a factor were the suspensions?

 I think we all know they were a big factor. I don’t think there’s any question when you look at the players involved, and then, of course, the impact that they’ve made. To say that Jacory Harris or Travis Benjamin or Sean Spence or Ray Armstrong or any of those guys wouldn’t have made a difference early in the season. I think it’s fair for us to say they would have made a difference.

 Couldn’t help but notice that you guys had over 50 yards on kickoff return yesterday. A lot of people call that hidden yardage but I guess that wasn’t so hidden. Can you talk about your return game?

 Well, we weren’t pleased with it the week before. North Carolina did a good job against us in special teams in general. I thought we responded yesterday. And the one that we got yesterday with a minute left in the half was big because it set up a touchdown and chance to go up 21-7 against Georgia Tech. So that was big, and clearly we got a touchdown from our punt-coverage unit yesterday, which was really good and we got a fourth-down stop from our punt-return unit. So special teams were pretty good yesterday and we’re going to be challenged again. I’ve already seen Virginia’s special teams and Virginia’s defense and we’re going to have quite a challenge there.

Your defense has been good, but it seems like yesterday it really rose to the occasion?

The last six quarters or so, maybe the last seven quarters, they’ve kind of grown up, playing with more unity and clearly there’s more continuity there despite the fact that we’ve had some injuries inside and some guys that have gone down we have more continuity. They’re playing the defense called. They understand it and everybody is executing their job right now. We’re improving. We’ve got a long way in all three phases but certainly improving in defense.  

 How is the process affected with the short week? Are there elements of the process challenged? Studying, how they have to do their classwork today because it’s a short week?

That’s it. That’s a challenge enough. That’s what we’re constantly talking to the players about. Basically, human behavior, what we ask them to do today and what they need to do during the week is what we’re trying to... That’s what makes up a culture, your decisions and the things you have to do on a daily basis, They have to be disciplined, they have to get their schoolwork done today, we have to watch yesterday’s game and then move forward to Virginia. So, it’s a short week, so not only do theyhave to do the things that we ask them to do, they have to take it a step further and do a lot of things on their own. It’s going to be that kind of a week. We need discipline right now and we need a smart football team.





October 22, 2011

UM notes: Feliciano hurt in celebration; Spence starts, finishes in middle; big day for freshmen

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The Miami Hurricanes suffered a handful of bumps and bruises in Saturday's 24-7 victory over 20th-ranked Georgia Tech. Some were football related. One was celebration related.

Starting right tackle Jonathan Feliciano was involved in the latter.

After Lamar Miller scored on a 14-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left in the first half to give UM a 20-7 lead, the redshirt freshman hurt himself during the celebration in the end zone. Feliciano limped as he was helped off the field by trainers. Feliciano was replaced by redshirt freshman Malcolm Bunche, who saw his first action since the Bethune-Cookman game on Oct. 1. Feliciano returned to the UM sideline in the second half on crutches and had a walking boot on his left foot.

"I can tell you the x-ray was negative," UM coach Al Golden said afterward. "What does that mean? I don't know."

Also hurt for the Canes: starting cornerback Brandon McGee. He collided with receiver Embry Peeples on a 16-yard reception with about 10 minutes left in the first half and didn't return. It appeared to be a right arm injury.

Defensive end Marcus Robinson, linebacker Denzel Perryman and defensive tackle Adewale Ojomo also left with injuries. Ojomo and Robinson returned. Perryman didn't, but said afterward he was "OK." The Hurricanes (4-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have a short week to get healthy. They host Virginia (4-3, 1-2 ACC) Thursday night.

"I'm concerned about all of them," Golden said referring to McGee and Feliciano. "There's a couple others banged up, limping around. We're not going to do too much [this week]. We got to get rested up."


Linebacker Sean Spence, UM's leading tackler, has played middle linebacker at times throughout his career. But Saturday was the first time he played there from start to finish -- something defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio asked him to do to help slow down Georgia Tech's vaunted triple option rushing attack. UM held the Yellow Jackets to a season-low 134 yards rushing.

"Playing in the middle was something I played in training camp, something we knew coming into this game I was going to do," said Spence, who finished with a team-high 10 tackles. "I just fit right in."

Perryman said Spence's job was to protect against the dive, while he and Jimmy Gaines, who normally starts in the middle, worried about the pitch.

"He did a great job. He's Mr. Know-It-All, Mr. Smart Guy," Perryman said. "Sean's job is just to protect the guys. Today he did a great job with it. Outside, me and Jimmy Gaines pretty much had that. Sean called things out, gave us the heads up."

Golden said it's likely Spence will go back to his weakside spot and this was a one-game experiment. He will continue to play spot duty in the middle.

> Golden said the key for UM's run defense success was the play of the defensive ends, who remained poised and disciplined. 

"We had 25 plays in that North Carolina game where everybody was doing what they had to do," Golden said. "I guarantee there was twice as many today."


All in all, it was a great day for UM freshmen on defense.

With Spence in the middle, Perryman made his first career start and finished second on the team with seven tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a three tackles for loss. "Denzel gave us some evidence today he deserves to play more," Golden said.

Defensive end Anthony Chickillo, making his fourth career start, had two tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. Olsen Pierre, who played sparingly in his first five games, made two tackles in the most action he had seen all year at defensive tackle. Cornerback Thomas Finnie also saw a lot of action at cornerback once McGee went down. Finnie had a tackle.

"Before the game, me and Chick talked like 'Let's go out there and play ball," Perryman said. "Coach D [defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio] said at the beginning of the week he needed the freshmen to play like juniors. We went out there and dominated."


Running back Mike James, who forced the fumble on the punt that JoJo Nicolas recovered for UM's second touchdown, didn't have a whole lot of experience on the Canes' punt coverage team. It was actually his first tackle on punt coverage in just his second game (Maryland was the other) on the unit.

"I just saw him bobbling the ball and hit him in the ribs," James said.

> Olivier Vernon, back from his six-game NCAA mandated suspension for accepting gifts from former booster Nevin Shapiro, said he got in for about 20 snaps Saturday. He finished with one tackle.

> Punter Dalton Botts, who nearly lost his job this week after his worst performance of the season at North Carolina, responded Saturday with his second-best game of the season. He had four punts for a 46.5 yard average including a long of 58.

"It was a great feeling to get back in the game," Vernon said. "I didn't have to go against Brandon Washington so it was nice."

> After saying earlier this week he wanted to see more from his left tackle, Golden praised the play of Washington after the game.

"I thought B-Wash's play on the 4th-and-1 on the pitch in the fourth quarter where he chased that guy out and made the block, that's what we're trying to get from him," Golden said. "He played better this week and it carried over into the game. I know I'm excited about him and excited about the way he played today."

Gameday blog: Georgia Tech at Canes

CORAL GABLES -- The Miami Hurricanes (3-3, 1-2 ACC) will attempt to win their third game in a row against Georgia Tech (6-1, 3-1 ACC) when the teams meet at 3:30 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN. The 20th-ranked Yellow Jackets dropped their first game of the season last week at Virginia. UM is coming off a 30-24 win at North Carolina.

> ABOUT GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets' triple option offense is ranked in the top 10 nationally in five different statistical categories -- rushing (2nd), third-down percentage (2nd), fewest sacks allowed (2nd), total offense (9th) and scoring (10th). Over his last two games, junior quarterback Tevin Washington has put up Josh Nesbitt-like rushing numbers: 235 yards rushing and four touchdowns. No single player averages 70 yards rushing, but three Orwin Smith (69.7), David Sims (66.7) and Washington (60.6) -- average better than 60 yards. Receiver Stephen Hill is the team's big play threat in the passing game. He has three 100-yard receiving games this season. Georgia Tech has four pass plays of 70-plus yards and 48 plays of at least 20 yards this season. Defensively, while the Yellow Jackets have been giving up yards on the ground (177.14 yards per game, 81st nationally), they've held opponents to just 21 plays of 20-plus yards. 

> WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN IT COMES TO THE CANES: Maybe it's a good week to show more 3-4 defense. After all, the defensive tackle position took a hit this week with the one-game suspension of senior Micanor Regis. Junior Darius Smith (10 tackles, 1 sack) will start alongside former defensive end Adewale Ojomo in the middle. Their backups -- all freshmen: Corey King (who hasn't played a down), Olsen Pierre (2 tackles) and Jalen Grimble (0 tackles). UM's run defense ranks 94th nationally (187 yards per game). Offensively, Lamar Miller will try to bounce back from a 16-carry, 29-yard performance at North Carolina against a Yellow Jackets defense that gives up yards on the ground. Quarterback Jacory Harris hasn't thrown an interception in 14 quarters. But he needs to be careful today. Georgia Tech has eight interceptions (as many as they had last season). The Yellow Jackets don't give up many points either in the second half. They shutout Virginia last week in the second half and have give up just 14 points in the third quarter. Last week, the Canes produced two first downs and three points against North Carolina in the second half.

> MANNY'S PICK: Georgia Tech 34, Miami 31. I want to believe the Canes can overcome the suspensions and injuries on defense, that young guys will step up and deliver. But it's hard to picture it happening against a team that has run the ball as well as anybody in the country since Paul Johnson arrived. Assignment football? That just hasn't been the Canes thing on defense. Lamar Miller will have success running the football this week and Jacory Harris should continue to do a good job protecting the football. But one mistake could end up killing the Canes today. And chances are somebody on offense is going to slip eventually. In the end, that will be the difference.

October 21, 2011

Al Golden preparing for showdown with his old mentor, Ga. Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh

CORAL GABLES -- When it comes to pure upper body strength, nobody on the University of Miami football team is stronger than left guard Harland Gunn. The 6-2, 317-pound senior from Omaha, Nebraska benches 450 pounds and knows how to move a pile.

Al GoldenBut as good as the Hurricanes offensive line has played this season -- opening holes for Lamar Miller to put together five consecutive 100-yard games to start the season -- Gunn wasn't pleased that streak came to an ugly end against North Carolina. Miller finished with just 29 yards on 16 carries and UM's offense struggled to move the football in the second half, netting just two first downs and three points.

"We obviously want to put up more rushing yards than we did," said Gunn, who has started 24 games in his career including 19 in a row. "But it's a new week. New game. We're just going to work so it doesn't happen again."

This week's challenge for the Canes offensive line is one they don't see very often: a 3-4 defense. The good news for UM: the Yellow Jackets aren't necessarily that good at defending the run. They rank 81st nationally -- giving up 177.14 yards per game. On the flip side: Georgia Tech does a pretty good job putting heat on opposing quarterbacks (16 sacks in 7 games) and they aren't too shabby on pass defense either -- ranking 14th nationally, 174.86 yards per game.

If there's one advantage UM has it's that coach Al Golden knows Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh really well. Golden served as Groh's defensive coordinator for five years at Virginia (2001-05) and learned the 3-4 system from him.

"Brilliant tactician," Golden said of Groh. "The hardest worker I’ve ever been around. Just a ball coach, and he loves that. If you said what do you want to be remembered as, I would say that he was tough, great tactician, a football guy, a football coach, and certainly a guy who has spawned a lot of other coaches. If you just look around, [current Virginia coach Mike London] or myself. There were some other guys that were on that staff, Ron Prince, and Danny Rocco and the list goes on that were on that staff that went on to have great careers.

Al Groh"I learned more football from him in five years than I have in the rest of my career. He taught me the 3-4, and the flexibility of it. He taught me a lot about football, no question."

Golden said while he knows Groh's system well, he expects the veteran coach to throw in a few wrinkles -- like he always does. "The one thing about Al is he's a game plan guy," Golden said of Groh on Hurricane Hotline. "We'll see something different in every game.

"There are some core things you see week in and week out -- odd defense, Cover 2. You're going to see that. What drives him crazy are free access throws, hitches, all those things a lot of teams give up. He's not going to let you do that. He doesn't want to get beat for explosive plays. Something on third down is also always different. We've watched all the third downs and Cover 2s for Georgia Tech in the last two years. There's always a game plan on third down for Al."


There's always stuff we can't get into our stories because of space in the paper. Here some left overs from my feature on redshirt freshman and starting right tackle Jonathan Feliciano:

> Despite being Puerto Rican and having Sicilian decent, Feliciano doesn't speak a lick of Spanish or Italian. "But I love my sauce and my beans," he said.

> Although Feliciano finished with over 20 scholarship offers while being recruited (all the state schools except Florida), it took the Canes a little while to jump on him. When former UM assistant Tommy Robinson first visited Western, he left without even noticing Feliciano. But Feliciano's coach chased him down and gave him his film. UM got back to Feliciano quickly, offered him a scholarship and he committed. "Miami was always my dream school," he said.

> Despite impressing coaches and teammates with his strength, Feliciano said he came in relatively weak. "When I first got here I couldn't bench 315," he said. "Now, I'm benching 375. [Strength coach Andreu] Swasey worked me hard." Feliciano said he squats 500 pounds and his power clean is 340 -- among the best on the team.

> Feliciano spent all of his freshman year playing left guard and started fall camp at right guard. It wasn't until he knocked a few guys on their butts in one-on-one drills at tackle midway through camp that Kehoe decided to give him a shot on the outside. The first guy Feliciano took down? Senior Adewale Ojomo.

> What has Kehoe been telling Feliciano he likes and doesn't like? "He's been praising my run blocking mostly and then always harps on me on my backside pulling technique. I need to get that backside cutoff," Feliciano said.

> Gunn said he's never seen Feliciano nervous and that his personality fits right in with the rest of the o-line.

"What's most impressive about Jon is how he stepped up this year, just rising way above everybody's expectations," Gunn said. "He's been competing out there, a finisher. He just plays real hard, doesn't really make too many mistakes out there at all. You have to take your hat off to a guy like that, especially being real young."

October 20, 2011

Canes Midseason Awards: Winners, Blinkers and Stinkers

The Miami Hurricanes head into Saturday's game against 20th-ranked Georgia Tech with a 3-3 overall record and a 1-2 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play. 

If you listen to WQAM play-by-play man Joe Zagacki and color analyst Don Bailey Jr. -- who always see the bright side of things -- the Canes are just a few plays away from being 6-0. That may be true. But by the same rationale, North Carolina and Bryn Renner were a mere 30 yards away from rallying from a 24-point deficit to beat UM last Saturday and drop the Canes to 2-4. And that's something that surely would have dropped the old Canes Satisfaction Meter on Greg Cote's blog way down.

In the big picture, this team still is what I said it was three weeks ago after Kansas State beat them: Mediocre. Al Golden is trying to squeeze more out of his team. He's trying to create a real sense of competition, questioning the level of play of some of his best players to get them to play even better (Golden said Lamar Miller has a long way to go as a running back; Brandon Washington isn't playing up to par at left tackle). But until proven otherwise, until UM can play four strong quarters of good Hurricanes football (not one very good half in Chapel Hill) I'm not ranking this team's overall grade better than a C. 

But I am giving away fake awards. So, here are your Eye on The U Midseason Winners, Blinkers and Stinkers:

Jacory Harris> MVP: Quarterback Jacory Harris. Yell all you want for Lamar Miller. But this category is Most Valuable Player not Best Player/He's Going To Be The First Cane To Get Drafted In The First Round since Kenny Phillips in 2008. No doubt Miller has played lights out. Before North Carolina held him to 29 yards rushing on 16 attempts, he'd run for at least 100 yards in five straight games. He still ranks 11th in the country in rushing with 117.6 yards a game (706 yards on 110 attempts). But Harris has been more valuable. UM might not have come back to beat Bethune-Cookman (OK, maybe that's a bit dramatic), held on to beat North Carolina or even been close at Virginia Tech or at home against Kansas State if Harris didn't all of a sudden find his mojo. Since halftime of the Kansas State loss, Jacory has gone 56 of 81 (69.1 completion percentage) for 900 yards, 10 touchdowns and 0 INTs. He now ranks as the eighth most efficient passer in the country with a QB rating of 170.77.

> MIA: Receiver LaRon Byrd. Not sure if he made Jacory Harris mad at him or not, but Byrd has gone from starter and second-leading receiver (41 catches, 440 yards) in 2010 to a Where Are They Now TV special (4 catches, 41 yards). Somehow I've got a feeling the 6-4, 220-pound senior will still end up on an NFL roster down the road and we'll be scratching our heads as to why he fell out of the picture.

> Most Valuable Coach: Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. Jacory Harris couldn't have made this amazing turnaround without Fisch. How amazing? Well, a year ago, Harris ranked 88th in passer efficiency with a rating of 116.60. He threw 15 interceptions (two less than national co-leaders Boo Jackson of Ohio, Ryan Radcliffe of Central Michigan, Duke's Sean Renfree and Texas' Garrett Gilbert). And Harris would have taken home The Canes' Biggest Stinker Award had we had it last year. But behind the 35-year old Fisch, Harris has had a rebirth (0 picks in his last 14 quarters). UM's offense might not have as good a numbers in terms of yardage -- 56th rushing (159.5), 66th passing (224.83), 71st total offense (384.33) compared to a year ago -- 30th rushing offense (182.46 ypg), 43rd passing offense (238.85), 31st total offense (421.31). But where it matters is on the scoreboard and Fisch (48th scoring offense, 30.33 points per game) is outdoing what Mark Whipple did (67th scoring offense, 26.31 points per game). Fisch is also doing a better job getting the team's best playmakers the ball (running reverses, receiver screens, the Wildcat and a handful of trick plays).

> Razzie Recipient: Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio. Every year Hollywood hands out their thumbs down awards for the worst things they've seen on film. D'Onofrio can send in a lot what we've seen from his unit this year. Not that he doesn't have plenty of legit, acceptable excuses. 28 players have lined up for UM's defense this year. Two of his best players -- Ray-Ray Armstrong and Olivier Vernon -- have missed multiple games because of NCAA mandated suspensions. The defensive tackle position has been riddled by injuries to Marcus Forston, Curtis Porter and veteran linebacker Ramon Buchanan was lost for the season against Bethune-Cookman. But who wants to hear excuses? The Canes rank 94th in rushing defense, 58th in pass defense, 81st in total defense and 48th in scoring defense. What's worse? They've blown the lead in the fourth quarter in all three losses. D'Onofrio deserves more time and a chance to have his entire unit in place before anyone tosses him to the sharks. But right now, his unit needs to figure out a way to slow the other team's option down (UM has been shredded by it). The challenge this week is monumental against Georgia Tech. And it wasn't made any easier by Micanor Regis' suspension Thursday.

> Questionable Call: Coach Al Golden. Virginia Tech. Opening drive. 4th and 1. Fake field goal run by Spencer Whipple. I rest my case. 

> Play That Made Me Say Wow: This run by Lamar Miller against Virginia Tech. Click here. The pass by Phillip Dorsett to Miller two plays later comes in a close second.

> Sean Spence Award: Linebacker Sean Spence. Hard to give a defensive trophy to anyone else who has played defense for the Canes over the last three years. Spence leads the team with 55 tackles (14 more than the next guy behind him Jimmy Gaines), leads the team 8.5 tackles for loss, ranks second with 3 sacks and was named ACC Linebacker of the Week the past two weeks. Nationally, he ranks 11th in the country in tackles per game, 8th in tackles for loss. His late sack of Brynn Renner Saturday in Chapel Hill was the first big play anybody on Miami's defense has made in the fourth quarter all season. Sorry, but it's true.

> Mr. Big Surprise: Right tackle Jonathan Feliciano. There were a lot of strong candidates for this one. Receiver Allen Hurns appeared to have it locked up after two weeks (10 catches, 123 yards, 2 TDs) but he only has eight catches for 163 yards and one touchdown over his last four games. Touchdown Tommy Streeter has sparkled (18 catches, 332 yards, 5 TDs). Sophomore linebacker Jimmy Gaines is second on the team with 41 tackles. But nobody -- and I mean not even his position coach Art Kehoe -- saw Feliciano coming. The 6-5, 320-pound redshirt freshman has started five consecutive games and he's done so well of late Golden wasn't thinking of pushing Feliciano out of the starting lineup to make room for Seantrel Henderson, he was considering veteran Brandon Washington. Yes, Feliciano leads the team with four false starts. But nobody is a bigger surprise on the team. Just listen to Kehoe: "I'm real proud of him. He wasn't even in the picture at all. Now, he's putting guys on [their butts]. He had four pancackes and five metrorails last week. He's on guys, tearing after them and having fun. It makes it fun as a coach."

> The Fab Freshman: Defensive end Anthony Chickillo. Denzel Perryman may end up beating him out by the end of the season -- especially if he cracks the starting lineup and finishes in the top five in tackles (he's currently fifth with 27). But for now, Chick is the man. With Olivier Vernon out, he's been one of the few bright spots for UM on the defensive line. He's started three games, is tied with Micanor Regis for the most tackles on the defensive line with 25, has four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

> Special Teams Standout: Kicker Jake Wieclaw. This guy was supposedly unusable while Matt Bosher was here. All of a sudden, Al Golden has found a way to make Wieclaw look like Matt Bosher without the tackling ability. Wieclaw is a perfect 7 for 7 on field goals with a long of 43 yards and he could end up taking the punting duties over by Saturday with Dalton Botts struggling. Who knew? Joe Pannunzio apparently didn't either.

> Deserving of honorable mention -- Senior defensive back JoJo Nicolas. He's third on the team with 29 tackles and has played a valuable role in UM's secondary, shifting from corner to safety at the last moment because Ray-Ray Armstrong had to serve a four-game suspension. He also is playing with a heavy heart following the passing of his newborn son in fall camp. Senior receiver Travis Benjamin: Despite sitting out the season-opener due to an NCAA-mandated suspension, T3 leads the team with 24 catches for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns and has shown the type of attitude in practice Golden said he wanted to see. Senior defensive end Marcus Robinson: A year ago, UM had 37 sacks as a team. This year, the Canes have 17 through their first six games. Not bad when you consider Vernon has been out. So who has helped pick up the slack? Robinson. He leads the team with four sacks and two forced fumbles. He also has 22 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.

October 19, 2011

Regis suspended for Georgia Tech after punching UNC receiver in groin

CORAL GABLES -- Micanor Regis won't be suiting up for the Canes against Georgia Tech Saturday. He's punched his way out of the starting lineup and onto the suspended list.

The 6-3, 300-pound senior defensive tackle was suspended by UM coach Al Golden Thursday for what was described as a violation of team rules. The rule Regis broke? He was caught on film punching North Carolina receiver Dwight Jones in the groin early in the third quarter.

"Micanor's actions in the North Carolina game will not be tolerated," Golden said in a statement released by the school. "We expect our players to represent our program with class on and off the field, and when they do not, there are consequences. Quite honestly I'm embarrassed and I just apologized to Coach Withers and shared that sentiment. We do not teach, nor will we ever condone this type of behavior in our football program."

Regis has started all six games this season and leads all defensive linemen with 25 tackles. He also has three tackles for a loss, one sack, and two pass breakups.

With Regis out, the Hurricanes will likely start senior Adewale Ojomo (6-4, 265) and junior Darius Smith (6-3, 335) at tackle. Freshmen Olsen Pierre (6-4, 265) and Jalen Grimble (6-2, 280) would provide depth.

"I'm truly sorry for my foolish actions Saturday during the North Carolina game," Regis said in a statement released by the school. "It was hurtful, wrong, and embarrassing to both football programs, to both schools, and to the millions of college football fans that were watching. Specifically, I want to apologize to Dwight Jones, coach Withers, and the entire UNC football program. I am hoping and praying that you all forgive me for my actions."

Georgia Tech averages 347 rushing yards per game.


Brandon Washington named starter at left tackle; Golden wants more all-around

CORAL GABLES -- The stormy weather in South Florida continued Wednesday and for the first time this week it kept Al Golden's football team indoors.

The team tried to go out for its usual Wednesday practice at 7 a.m., but decided to hold off until 9 a.m. When the Canes tried to go out again, lightning kept them in for good. In place of practice, Golden said the team did a walkthrough in the gym and held position meetings.

"You can get negative about it or just be positive," Golden said. "We choose to be positive. We met more and we walked through more things. Again, we'll come back tomorrow and go again. We had three good solid days on the option.

"We're dealing with two issues right now. First time we've seen odd defense and we're dealing with the option. Mental days are good for us right now."

> If there's been one common theme this week down here, it's that coach Al Golden wants more from his team all around. Golden started the week by saying the team isn't getting enough from Brandon Washington at left tackle and opening the competition up at punter.

Although Golden tempered his comments a bit Wednesday on Washington (he also told us Washington beat out Seantrel Henderson for the starting job for this week's game), it's clear Golden's goal is to get players to step up their game.

"I want to make sure I'm clear. When I'm talking about [the lack of] production at the left tackle spot, we've had Fig over there, we've had Bunche over there, we've had now Seantrel over there. Sometimes you need a second guy to push your first guy so you're playing with your best five," Golden said.

"I don't know what the best five are. Certainly Brandon is in the best five right now. He didn't lose his job yesterday. We're trying to create competition at every spot. I know he doesn't like it. But again, what I want to do is make sure is it doesn't become personal in the media. Okay, it's something I've talked to him about. We're both on the same page. It has nothing to do with the North Carolina game. It has to do with his body of work and our want to get Seantrel better, Bunche better going into the game.

"They're not playing enough right now. Bunche was one of the best offensive linemen coming out of the spring. He's not playing enough right now. Seantrel is healthy. He needs to get in the game. Again, if one of those guys emerges at tackle, maybe Brandon goes inside. Maybe he moves to right tackle. I don't know. But we need competition there badly right now."

Golden later added: "I think the competition at every spot is good for our team. We need to get it. There's no more saved spots. The spots belong to the University of Miami and the players who came before us."

> Golden said he isn't getting to excited about his team turning the ball over less lately or having a season-low three penalties for 19 yards at North Carolina.

"I don't get too excited about that. I've been burned a couple times," Golden said. "We kind of had a false recovery after Ohio State. Then we had a bad penalty game against Bethune-Cookman. I just kind of temper my thoughts on penalties. We're going to have to be really good against this group. I think they're 40 yards a game, which is excellent.

"Turnovers, we're moving a positive direction. But I think you would agree we need more on defense. We need interceptions. We're not getting enough interceptions right now."

The Hurricanes have just three defensive interceptions this season, which ranks 101st nationally. Golden thinks that will improve "because we have stability now" on defense.

"We have the same guys playing the same positions for multiple weeks," Golden said. "We're getting our hands on a couple balls better, breaking on the ball better. Again, it's like everything else. We had success last week as a defense. Again, I know it's not dominant yet. But we had success as a defense because everybody did their job. Everybody was in the right spot."

> Senior JoJo Nicolas has been playing both safety and cornerback since the return of Ray-Ray Armstrong two weeks ago. "It might be like that the rest of the way," Golden said. "If two other safeties emerge and end up being better than him at safety, then we'll try him at corner. But right now he's one of the best safeties.

"The corners aren't hurting us right now. We need more production out of the corners. They know that. But McGee is playing better. Mike Williams has been solid. This will be a great test for them this week in terms of supporting the run and defending the deep ball. But again, it's going to be a fluid situation until we can say these are the best four. And right now we feel a rotation is the best play there."

> Golden said sophomore tailback Eduardo Clements has evolved into a third down back because of his success on special teams and could see more touches.

"It's not like they're saying 'Coach can we put Eduardo in?' I'm good with it now. I trust the kid. He's working hard. He's doing a good job," Golden said.

> Golden reiterated Wednesday it may take defensive end Olivier Vernon time to get back into the mix after returning from suspension -- as it was for Ray-Ray Armstrong and others, but he praised the 6-4, 265-pound junior for showing a great attitude in practice and returning in excellent physical condition.

"We just got to make sure we don't ask him to do anything he can't do right now," Golden said. "[At his best] he should be a multi-faceted end. He should be a good run stopper. He plays with a good motor. He should be a good pass rusher. He should be able to do all three for us."

> Freshman defensive back Dallas Crawford has played the role of scout team quarterback this week to help simulate the speed of Georgia Tech's triple option. Golden said coaches still haven't decided if Crawford will be a cornerback or safety down the road.

"He came in a little bit overweight to be honest with you," Golden said. "But he did a good job getting his body fat down, really getting a regiment. He's in good condition right now. I'm excited about him. Sometimes on Thursdays we'll take the young guys, guys that aren't playing for us right now and work them out a little bit after practice. Last Thursday he did a real good job. He's getting better."

October 18, 2011

Canes' left tackle Brandon Washington irked his job is open for competition

CORAL GABLES -- If Al Golden's goal was to get under Brandon Washington's skin with his comments Monday -- mission accomplished.

Brandon WashingtonThe 6-4, 320-pound junior, who has started 20 consecutive games for the Hurricanes (second-most on the offensive line behind senior Harland Gunn), said he is irked his starting job at left tackle has become an open competition with Seantrel Henderson. Washington also seemed puzzled as to why.

"I have no idea," Washington said Tuesday when asked why Golden thought his performance Saturday at North Carolina wasn't good enough. "I was obviously frustrated with my play. I was going against a good player [Quinton Coples]. They were talking about him being a possible first round draft pick. I didn't give up a sack on him. I think he had one solo tackle. So, I don't know what the deal is. I just need to get better."

For the record, Coples finished with three solo tackles, three assisted tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. There's no telling exactly how many of those came against Washington (maybe offensive line coach Art Kehoe can clear it up since he broke down the film), but Golden was pretty clear Monday when he said "we're not getting enough out of the left tackle."

Washington was also pretty clear he was bothered by that. "Of course it bothers me," he said when asked if having his job up for grabs gets under his skin. "Like I said I was an All-Conference guard and they asked me to move out there because of the injury to Seantrel. Now, they're telling me the three inside guys are solid. And that possibly won't change.

"It's a tough adjustment," Washington said of moving from guard to tackle. "I was a dominant guard. I was an all-conference guard. I was a preseason all-conference guard, preseason All-American guard. Something changed with me going to tackle. I didn't just all of a sudden start to dominate guys as a freshman. I was a starter my sophomore year in what they called my come out year. I knew I could play. I got confidence in it. [Then] they moved me to tackle. I could use another year at tackle, and come out and execute the way I did at guard."

Lighting a fire under a player's butt is always a good thing if you can get more out of him. But in this case, it's clear Washington's feelings are bruised. Now, is he going to take a good attitude and approach to the competition? Or, is he going to sulk and become a problem?

Despite some of his comments, it doesn't appear Washington will do the latter. "I'm going to come out with the same composure, same humble guy I've been, play my physical brand of football," Washington said.

"[This] changes my mindset in a positive way, like just me wanting to get better, me wanting to execute my role even more. Now, I've got competition."

> So what was it that Washington didn't do right at North Carolina? The second time we asked him, we got a better explanation.

"Now that I watch film, we got this solid count with this head bob. [Coples] was beating me off the snap count," Washington said. "It was an away game. We had to go to a silent count. I was asking Tyler Horn could he do a two-head bob. He kept telling me 'Yeah,' but he wasn't getting there. I was doing the best I can. He was getting off the ball faster. I couldn't get my hands up faster. I couldn't get my hands on [Coples]. He was already on the edge."

Washington said making the switch from guard to tackle isn't easy and gave his explanation as to why. "You're in more space. The hand adjustment from the snap of the ball is quicker than at guard," Washington said. "You can handle it somewhat [at guard] -- opposed to a guy who runs 4.7, 4.6 speed, a guy who is big, fast and physical. You try and tie him with your hands. That's why I said I can use another year at it."

October 17, 2011

Golden not happy with left tackles -- or punter, or... you name it

Al Golden was intense today. He didn't seem pleased with much of anything. With Georgia Tech coming up at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Sun Life Stadium, he has precious little time to prepare his troops for Tech's triple-option offense.

Golden seemed especially disgusted at the play of UM's left tackles -- starter Brandon Washington and backup Seantrel Henderson. On this week's depth chart, there's an "OR'' between the names of Washington and Henderson at left tackle.

Golden said Henderson played "15 or 16" snaps last game.

"We’re not getting enough out of the left tackle,'' he said. "It’s just as simple as that. We’ve tried multiple guys over there. I don’t like the way it looks and it’s going to get fixed. Art [Kehoe] knows it. Jedd [Fisch] knows it. And I know it, and I can’t look at it anymore. We need to play better at left tackle."

Golden was asked if Henderson ended up starting at left tackle, would that slide Washington over to guard, his former position. But the way the coach answered, no one was good enough yet to play left tackle proficiently, let alone going to another position on the line.

"We just play the best five. That’s it. Whoever the best five are, they’ll play, and we’ll go from there.

"It’s a function of ‘Who do you want me to take out right now?’'  So he [Henderson] is going to have a chance to compete over Brandon, over at the left side, for the very reason you’re asking me the question. Maybe he should be giving us more. He hasn’t demonstrated that he’s better than the other four. Maybe he’ll have a chance to compete over there at left tackle.''

Pretty harsh words. Golden obviously is trying to light a fire under Henderson -- and Washington for that matter, who had what looked like some sort of cast or heavy-duty wrapping on his left hand/forearm. But Golden usually is pretty frank about these things, and is also obviously disappointed in those players. The Canes had a great first half passing the ball, but were stifled in the second half.

UNC held the Canes to 44 yards rushing for the game, and the Canes allowed two sacks Saturday. The Canes are 37th nationally in sacks allowed (Georgia Tech is the ACC leader in that category, by the way). Two weeks ago, they were 20th. Three weeks ago, they were 10th.

Golden continues to praise right tackle Jon Feliciano.

"Very well,'' he said, when asked how Feliciano was doing. "I don’t want to go ranking them. I think guard [Harland] Gunn has performed the most consistent. [guard Brandon] Linder was [like that] the first three games and I think Gunn has taken his game up to the next notch. Now it’s time for [center Tyler] Horn and Linder to try to take their game up. I don’t think there’s anybody in that building that would say right now Felic isn’t really doing an excellent job for us.''


Golden also expressed his dissatisfaction with punter Dalton Botts, who had been having a fine season -- until last Saturday. Botts punted five times for an average of 34.2 yards, and put UNC in some very favorable field positions. In the fourth quarter, a 23-net-yard punt gave the Tar Heels the ball at the UM 27-yard line. It only took the Heels four plays to get a touchdown and narrow the score to 27-17.

Golden said he will put place kicker Jake Wieclaw in as punter this week if Wieclaw outpunts Botts in practice. What did Botts do wrong? His punts were "short and there wasn’t a lot of hang,'' Golden said. "His last one was his best one so hopefully he’ll build off that. [He's] Just not relaxing through the swing, not rhythmic and he just has to settle down and relax.''

Golden: "Dalton [Botts] struggled the other day and we can’t have that in a game of that magnitude. Period. We’ll let them compete all week. We’ll probably figure it out by game time."


Golden on safety Ray-Ray Armstrong: "He’s got to be more consistent. He has definitely improved from Week 1 to Week 2 but there are still too many glaring plays in there where he just has to become consistent. He has to learn how to prepare. That’s a process. If you don’t submit to the process you can’t get better. Until it becomes a habit you can’t get better. So, it’s a process each week, to gameplan, prepare, do all the mental work and let it rip. And that’s where we have to get with him.''

Here's the gist of where Golden is going. He does not want the Canes thinking they are better than they are because of one road victory. He seems to think that's what happened after Ohio State, and he does not want to go there again.

"Hopefully they’re not as high as they were after Ohio State,'' he said Monday. "We’re trying to keep them consistent."


Congratulations once again to linebacker Sean Spence, who was named Atlantic Coast Conference Linebacker of the Week for the second consecutive week. Sean made the game-saving sack against UNC and had 14 tackles.










October 16, 2011

Sunday transcript of UM coach Al Golden: "We're 3-3. I hope we're angry."

After reviewing film of his team's 30-24 win at North Carolina Saturday, UM coach Al Golden spoke with reporters for nearly 15 minutes Sunday. Here's the Q&A:

Q: You won your first ACC game, but Georgia Tech lost and now everybody in the Coastal Division has an ACC loss. You can get right back into the division race with a win this week. You talk about that with the coaches or players?
A: "For us right now, it's about taking care of what we have to take care of. I can't really worry about anybody else. For us, we're just trying to teach them consistency, trying to teach them a process that they can rely on no matter what. That's paramount for us right now."

Q: Are you concerned at all about facing Georgia Tech after a loss? They could be an angry team.
A: "An angry team? We're 3-3. I hope we're angry. I hope the kids are angry that we're 3-3. We have enough to worry about. We can't worry about what's going on with the other team before we play them. Again, it speaks to -- every time I have to answer these questions -- what kind of swirls around this program. Right now, we have to get our kids focused on the process and executing everyday and let the product take care of itself."

Q: After watching the film did you see anything as to why there was a lack of a consistent running game in second half?
A: "Like I said after the game, you have to give North Carolina a lot of credit. I think they're an excellent defensive team. Certainly their front seven was excellent and played that well. It was by design early in the game that we passed as much as we did. To their credit, when we tried to go back to the run we couldn't. By virtue of not being able to do that, we enlongated the game. To me, it was a couple plays where a guy was getting beat that type of thing. The individual matchups were difficult for some guys. A guy getting beat here, a guy getting beat then, we didn't run as hard as we needed to run. Overall, I give North Carolina a lot of credit."

Q: Any improvement on defense? There was obviously breakdowns at the end, but what were your thoughts on the overall performance? Progress?
A: "Yeah. Clearly. I think we got two takeaways -- one on a kick cover team and the other, which was really big. I think that was positive. I think we didn't really let up a lot of explosive plays until the end when we gave up the long pass that got them going there in the last minute in a half. So that was good. I think there's more guys that are executing and on the same page than weeks before, which was great. No question I saw a lot of progress. I thought we ran to the ball well and played physically against a very physical team."

Q: Did you come out good as far as injuries?
A:  "So far so good. Again, we won't know until we actually get the pads on and see where we're at on Tuesday. But so far so good."

Q: Did you faced any of the triple option when you were at Temple or what Georgia Tech runs?
A: "We faced a guy named Paul Johnson when we we're at Temple. He's the best at it. We faced Navy and or Army every year. One year we played both of them. Again, with a different style of defense than we have here now. We have to take our personnel here and construct a game plan that is going to fit to our personnel and our style. I think the thing that is great about Coach Johnson is he's always evolving with his offense. It's a great challenge for us. We don't have a lot of time to get ready for it. So our guys have to get on the horse tomorrow morning."

Q: North Carolina coach Everett Withers said he spent time in spring and fall camp preparing his team for option offenses like Georgia Tech. Did you do any of that?
A: "Option defense is always part of our installations in summer camp and in spring. But in terms of just playing against full blown Georgia Tech, or trying to defend Georgia Tech, being that we were just installing our defense and those type of things the first year it was a little difficult. But certainly, we covered it in both spring and in summer."

Q: Olivier Vernon will be back this week. What do you expect from him and what kind of role do you think he will play?
A: "I don't know. We're going to see. He's been out for two months. He hasn't been part of our defensive practices for eight weeks total. We've learned as kids come back it's been a difficult transition for them. We learned from the previous guys that have come back. This is not like coming in and working where you rush the passer 65-70 times in game. This is a difficult week for him to come back. It's going to be a great challenge for him to get ready and prepared. We need disciplined football from everybody. For a guy who hasn't played much, it's going to be a great challenge for him. We're going to try and get him going, get him acclimated and get him out there and see how well he responds Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday."

Q: Travis Benjamin has been getting a lot of touches -- wild cat, reverses, punt returns, kickoffs, receiving -- and responding well.
A: "I think he's responding. I think he's in good shape. I just wish we did a good job for him on kick returns and punt returns. We really aren't doing a good job as a staff or as a unit on kick returns and punt returns. That starts with me and ends with me. We're going to have to get it fixed. I think Jedd is doing a good job getting him the ball. Give a lot of credit to the young man. He's working incredibly hard right now at his conditioning. He's shown he can take a hit and carry the load as a ball carrier and as a receiver. We're proud of the way he's working."

Q: Any reason for the lack of scoring in the second half?
"There's a couple plays here and there where we just didn't execute. Again, you have to be careful not taking away anything from what North Carolina did. North Carolina was exactly what we thought they were coming into the game. But we didn't execute the way we wanted to execute. We left a couple plays there, either yards or points on the board. Clearly the holding call coming out of our end was critical. It was a very costly error. And I there were just a couple blocks we missed where we could have had something big going on. Again, we have to get better. We're not a finished product yet. That's the good news right now. As a team, we're still growing, still evolving, still getting better. So, we just have to get back to work here on offense."

Q: Can you tell us what happened on the onside kick late in the game?
A: "There was no miscommunication. We just didn't execute. Period. That's something we work every week. That's something we've worked ever since I've been here. I'm really disappointed. The breakdown wasn't just one guy. It was two or three guys. It's disappointing we didn't perform better in that situation. I think some guys were kind of in shock. We just have to get them to have poise and execute in that part of the game."

Q: Was Lamar Miller dinged up at all in the game or was it a matter of their defense shutting him down?
A: "They played really good defense. We didn't block as well as we could have, or as well as we should moving forward. Also, it was a function of early on of taking what we could. I like to get Lamar 100 yards every game. But if we can get 27 points in the first half, I'd rather get 27 points. We were executing, taking what they were giving us and converting on. It's hard to go back and second guess, 'Say man we should have run the ball more.' I certainly did not think when we did want to go to the run in the situation we had to, we didn't execute the way we wanted to or are accustomed to. Give North Carolina credit. We have to get better still."

Q: Dalton Botts struggled with his punts.
A: "He shortened his swing, came across his body a little bit. H's just got to stay in his rhythm. He has to relax right now and just get back to being aggressive, being in a rhythm, being in his swing and not worry about it as much. That was uncharacteristic of him. Hopefully he'll go back to doing what we need him to do. In general, our special teams were anything but special."

October 15, 2011

Gameday blog: Canes at North Carolina

The Miami Hurricanes (2-3) will look for their first-ever win in Chapel Hill Saturday when they take on the North Carolina Tar Heels (5-1). UM won last year's meeting at Sun Life Stadium 33-10, but against a North Carolina team depleted by injuries.

Gio Bernard> ABOUT CAROLINA: Interim coach Everett Withers suffered his only loss 35-28 at undefeated Georgia Tech back on Sept. 24. The Tar Heels rank 52nd in total defense (363.67 yards), 39th versus the run (119.17) and 87th versus the pass (244.50) and are led on defense by senior linebacker Zach Brown, who leads the team with 42 tackles, five for loss, 2.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. Offensively, UNC has the fourth most efficient passer in the country in sophomore Bryn Renner (99-136, 1,305 yards, 12 TDs, 6 INTs), a star freshman tailback in Giovani Bernard (657 yards, 103 att., 8 TDs) from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas and senior receiver Dwight Jones, who is second in the nation with seven TD receptions (37 catches, 605 yards). Carolina has scored on 16 of 19 opportunities in the red zone -- all 16 are touchdowns. In 21 trips inside the red zone, Tar Heels opponents have scored just eight touchdowns. UNC ranks eighth in the nation in red zone defense.

> WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN IT COMES TO THE CANES: UM's porous run defense figures to get abused again this week by Bernard and the Tar Heels. The usually slow starting Canes need to be wary of not falling behind by too much. Carolina hasn't allowed a first quarter touchdown this season and has outscored opponents 42-3 in the opening quarter and 94-42 in the first half. UM quarterback Jacory Harris has thrown for 837 yards, nine touchdowns and just three INTs -- and sparkled over the last 10 quarters. But his last trip to Chapel Hill wasn't a good one. He threw a career-high four INTs as UM lost. Redshirt sophomore running back Lamar Miller, who ranks third in the nation with 135.4 yards per game, is looking to record his sixth consecutive 100 yard game. Expect to see a lot of Miller early and often.

> MANNY'S PICK: UM 33, North Carolina 30. Nothing really favors the Canes in this game as UNC -- in the words of Al Golden -- probably the best team they Canes will face. Only, I'm not buying it totally. North Carolina struggled to beat lowly Louisville 14-7 last week and figures they have this one in the bag at home against a beat up and reeling Canes team they've owned at Kenan Stadium. UM has played out of its mind on offense of late while the defense has played with a cheese-like stench. I don't expect the offense to keep up this pace all season. But for this week, they will. I see big day from Jacory, a big day from Lamar, and a Wieclaw field goal in the fourth quarter that wins it for the Canes.

Herald Sports Writer Andre Fernandez will run today's live blog. Manny Navarro is covering the Miami Dolphins today. Remember to please keep your comments clean of profanity or you will be removed from the chat room.

October 13, 2011

Canes penalty tracker

CORAL GABLES -- Coach Al Golden wanted to clean up the penalty problem at UM after the Hurricanes finished 117th last season. So far, the Canes have shown improvement. They've been flagged 34 times totaling 251 yards -- tied for 83rd nationally.

Here's a look at who has been flagged and why:

> By unit: Offense 23-155 yards, Defense 5-41 yards, Special teams 6-55 yards.
> By penalty: False start 12-70, Holding 4-40, Personal fouls 3-45, Illegal block 3-35, Delay of game 2-10, Illegal formation 2-10, Offsides 3-15, Substitution infraction 3-15, Roughing passer 1-11.
> By player: Feliciano 4-20, Linder 3-30, Gaines 2-16, Figueroa 2-10, Spence 2-10, Armstrong 1-15, Byrd 1-15, Henderson 1-15, Paul 1-15, Perryman 1-10, Scott 1-10, Hurns 1-10, Bunche 1-5, Ford 1-5, Streeter 1-5, Gunn 1-5.

Maryland (UM 10 penalties, 65 yards)

1. Offense - 1st quarter - False start on Joel Figueroa (5 yards). Play: 1-10 at UM 38. Result: 1-15 at UM 33. Result of drive: Canes turn it over on a fumble.
2. Offense - 2nd quarter - False start on Malcolm Bunche (5 yards). Play: 2-12 at UM 33. Result: 2-17 at UM 28. Result of drive: Canes turn it over on a fumble and Maryland scores to take a 20-14 lead.
3. Offense - 2nd quarter - Holding (undisclosed, 10 yards). Play: 1-10 at UM 20. Result: 1-16 at UM 23. Result of drive: Canes take a knee, run out the clock.
4. Offense - 3rd quarter - False start on Chase Ford (5 yards). Play: 2-5 at UM 43. Result: 2-10 at UM 38. Result of drive: Stephen Morris scores on 5-yard TD run.
5. Offense - 3rd quarter - Illegal block on Brandon Linder (15 yards). Play: 2-12 at UM 30, Morris 6 pass to Dorsett. Result: 2-27 at UM 15. Result of drive: Canes punt.
6. Offense - 3rd quarter - Delay of game (5 yards). Play: 3-14 at UM 28. Result: 3-19 at UM 23. Result of drive: Canes punt.
7. Offense - 3rd quarter - Delay of game (5 yards). Play: 3-19 at UM 23. Result: 3-24 at UM 18. Result of drive: Canes punt.
8. Offense - 4th quarter - Illegal formation (undisclosed, 5 yards). Play: 2-4 at MD 15, Miller runs to the MD 3. Result: 2-9 at MD 20. Result of Drive: Canes settle for a field goal, take 24-23 lead with 4:01 to play.
9. Offense - 4th quarter - Substitution infraction (5 yards). Play: 3-10 at UM 33. Result: 3-15 at UM 28. Result of drive: Chism returns interception of Morris 54 yards for game-sealing TD.
10. Offense - 4th quarter - Substitution infraction (5 yards). Play: 2-10 at UM 27. Result: 2-15 at UM 22. Result of drive: Morris intercepted by Tate to end the game.

Ohio State (UM 5 penalties, 31 yards)
1. Offense - 1st quarter - False start on Brandon Linder (5 yards). Play: 2-6 at OSU 38. Result: 2-11 at OSU 43. Result of drive: UM scores TD on Harris to Hurns 3-yard pass.
2. Defense - 2nd quarter - Roughing passer on Jimmy Gaines (11 yards). Play: 2-9 at UM 22. Result: 1-10 at UM 11. Result of drive: Ohio State kicks field goal to make it 14-3.
3. Offense - 2nd quarter - Illegal formation on Tommy Streeter (5 yards). Play: 1-10 at OSU 15. Result: Wipes off 15-yard TD pass from Harris to Walford. 1-15 at OSU 20. Result of drive: UM settles for a field goal and 17-6 lead at halftime.
4. Offense - 3rd quarter - False start (Undisclosed 5 yards). Play: 1-10 at UM 25. Result: 1-15 at UM 20. Result of drive: Canes punt.
5. Special teams - 3rd quarter - False start on Sean Spence (5 yards). Play: 4-6 at UM 14. Result: 4th and 11 at UM 9. Canes punt.

Kansas State (UM 4 penalties, 30 yards)
1. Offense - 1st quarter - False start on Jonathan Feliciano (5 yards). Play: 3-1 at KS 17. Result: 3-6 at KS 22. Result of drive: Canes settle for field goal.
2. Special teams - 1st quarter - Holding on Rashawn Scott (10 yards). Result: Instead of 1-10 at UM 26 it is 1-10 at UM 16. Result of drive: UM punts.
3. Offense - 1st quarter - False start on Joel Figueroa (5 yards). 4-4 at KS 37. 4-9 KS 42. UM punts
4. Special teams - 4th quarter - Illegal block on Denzel Perryman (10 yards). Result: Instead of 1-10 at UM 23 it is 1-10 at UM 13. Result of drive: UM punts.

Bethune-Cookman (UM 6 penalties, 41 yards)
1. Defense - 1st quarter - Offsides on Marcus Forston (5 yards). Play: 2-7 at BCU 31. Result: 2-2 at BCU 36. Result of drive: Wildcats lose fumble at UM 2.
2. Defense - 1st quarter - Offsides on Jimmy Gaines (5 yards). Play: 1-10 at BCU 48. Result: 1-5 at UM 47. Result of drive: Wildcats lose fumble at UM 2.
3. Special teams - 1st quarter - Substitution infraction (5 yards). Play: 4-7 at UM 37. Result: 4-1 at UM 31. Result of drive: Wildcats lose fumble at UM 2.
4. Defense - 1st quarter - Offsides Sean Spence (5 yards). Play: 3-6 at UM 48, 3-1 at UM 43. B-CC scores a TD.
5. Offense - 2nd quarter - Personal Foul on Laron Byrd (15 yards). Play: 1-10 at UM 29. Result: 1-10 at UM 14. Result of drive: Canes punt.
6. Offense - 2nd quarter - False start on Jonathan Feliciano (5 yards). Play: 1-10 at UM 43. Result: 1-15 at UM 38. Result of Drive: Canes punt.

Virginia Tech (UM 9 penalties, 84 yards)
1. Offense - 1st quarter - False Start on Harland Gunn (5 yards). Play: 1-10 at UM 20. Result: 1-15 at UM 15. Result of drive: Canes punt.
2. Offense - 2nd quarter - False Start on Jonathan Feliciano (5 yards). Play: 2-11 at UM 19. Result of play: 2-16 at UM 14. Result of drive: Canes punts.
3. Offense - 2nd quarter - Holding on Brandon Linder (10 yards). Play: 1-10 at VT 48. Result: 1-20 at UM 42. Result of drive: Canes score on Harris to Hurns TD pass.
4. Offense - 2nd quarter - False start on Jonathan Feliciano (5 yards). Play: 2-13 at UM 49. Result: 2-18 at UM 44. Result of drive: Canes score on Harris to Hurns TD pass.
5. Defense - 2nd quarter - Pass interference on Ray-Ray Armstrong (15 yards). Play: 3-6 at VT 28. Result: 1-10 VT 42. Result of drive: Hokies score a TD right before the half.
6. Special teams - 3rd quarter - Illegal block on Allen Hurns (10 yards). Play: Hokies punt. Instead of UM taking over at their 27, Canes start at own 17. Result of drive: Canes score TD on 73-yard Harris to Benjamin pass.
> Special teams - 3rd quarter - Kick out of bounds on Jake Wieclaw. Result: Hokies have 1st and 10 at own 40. Result of drive: Virginia Tech scores on next play, a 60-yard TD pass.
7. Special teams - 4th quarter - Personal foul on Gionni Paul (15 yards). Play: Hokies kick off with UM trailing 31-21. Result: Canes start on 10 instead of 20. Result of drive: UM scores a TD on trick play pass.
8. Offense - 4th quarter - Holding (undisclosed, 10 yards). Play: 1-G at 6. Result: 1-G at 16. Result of drive: Canes scored on 30-yard Miller TD run.
9. Offense - 4th quarter - Personal foul on Seantrel Henderson (15 yards). Play: 2-G at 15. Result: 2-G at 30. Result of drive: Miller scores on 30-yard TD run.

October 12, 2011

Jedd Fisch: UM offense needs to play better late in games, key penalties need to stop, and why he needs more from Lamar Miller

CORAL GABLES -- Fans can point to the' defensive woes as the reason UM has lost three of its first five games this season. But ask Canes offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch why UM lost heartbreakers at Maryland and Virginia Tech and at home against Kansas State and he points the finger at himself and his offense.

Jedd Fisch"We didn't score in our last possession against Maryland, Virginia Tech or Kansas State. If we scored in those last three possessions we would have won those games," Fisch said.

"Our expectation is to score. So our job is to do everything we can to move the football every time we touch it. Whether or not the head coach says that or not, when you interview for the job you tell him you're going to go score. That's kind of our philosophy. We're disappointed when we don't score. We're disappointed when we have a three and out. We feel like we leave points out there everyday. We're going to continue to just put the pressure on our players, put the pressure on our coaches and try to perform at the highest level we can in order to be a great offense."

The Hurricanes, who have failed to protect fourth quarter leads in all three of their losses this season and who rank among the nation's worst defenses (97th vs. run, 82nd in total defense, 50th in scoring defense), are averaging 30.4 points per game on offense (up nearly four points from a year ago). But Fisch has plenty of reasons to be frustrated with his unit, particularly late game execution and penalties.

In Saturday's 38-35 loss at Virginia Tech, UM got the ball back at its own 30 with 47 seconds left and all three of its time outs. UM ran seven plays and gained just 15 yards.

"Guys were open," Fisch said. "We had a first down play we converted on third down [a Mike James third down run] that had an opportunity to go for 20, 30 yards. Unfortunately, they made an arm tackle to get us down at the 45-yard line. We took a time out and had two time outs left.

"When we lined up on the next play we had a chance for a touchdown pass and they took a time out because they knew their coverage was off. We came back, threw a incompletion and then came back with an open play and overthrew Tommy Streeter on a seam route. Then, [Harris] got caught scrambling around a little bit and when you scramble around a little bit you lose clock. So on the last play we only had five seconds left so we had to throw it deep.

"Our plan really was to take two vertical shots. The first one of the series and then the one that we had Tommy on the seam route. Unfortunately we just overthrew him. We would have been on the 25 yard line if we hit that. It happens. You're not going to hit every pass and you're not going to hit every run. We were disappointed in the way that ended. We had some plays in the two minute drive we could have executed."

UM, who finished 117th in penalties last season (107 for 893 yards), has been flagged 34 times for 251 yards this season (tied for 83rd in NCAA out of 120 schools). Of those 34 penalties, 23 have come on offense and cost the Canes 155 yards. 12 have been false starts totaling 70 yards. Fisch said he can live with those when they come in noisy stadiums like Lane Stadium. But he said the Canes have to get their act together when the game is on the line and cites 4th quarter penalties against Maryland (an illegal formation that wiped out a Lamar Miller run to the Terps 3) and early penalties against Kansas State (false starts that stalled UM drives early against the Wildcats) as backbreakers.

"We honestly believe we hurt ourselves more than other people hurt us," Fisch said. "We have a third and 1 and if you don't false start against Kansas State you should be able to pick it up. Instead, we kick the field goal. Same game if you have a fourth down and you convert it and have a false start you score and then the game doesn't come down to the last play. That's the same thing at Maryland. We run the ball, have a first and goal at the 3-yard line and we line up wrong. Then we had some substitution problems during the last two minutes. All those things need to be cleaned up."

> Fisch agrees with UM coach Al Golden in that he thinks Lamar Miller, who currently ranks third in the nation in rushing, still has a long way to go in terms of development.

"I think he's a really gifted, unfinished product," Fisch said. "I think there's a lot of stuff he can continue to work on. I'd like to see him become a better pass protector. I'd like to see him become a better route runner, be more used in the passing game and with that I love how he runs. I'd like for him to be able to continue to be our workhorse. I challenge him all the time."

"At the top of my game plan every week it says 'Lamar till he can't.' I don't want him to tap out. I want to ride him. We're going to get him to be that guy for us. He's going to continue to develop and get stronger. But right now, he's a special player. We're going to continue to use him every way we can."

> Fisch said quarterback Jacory Harris' improvement over his last 10 quarters is no surprise to him. "I kind of think he's played really well the whole time," Fisch said. "There are a couple throws in there -- the Kansas State interception -- I wasn't happy with. But I thought he played well in the first half against Kansas State and I thought he played well against Ohio State.

"I think everyone just points to the fact he hasn't thrown a pick in the last 10 quarters and think what's happened. But I think he's managed the game very well. I think he's handled himself very well as a leader and the team has responded well to him. There is a lot of room for improvement. There's a lot of room for him to grow. He's not where we want him to be. We want him to be a much better player. We're going to keep working for him to become a better player. And I believe he will be."