Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
You surely remember him: Aldarius "Glue Hands'' Johnson, the star receiver who came from Miami Northwestern High to UM with Jacory Harris and Tommy Streeter and Sean Spence and Marcus Forston and the rest of the bunch in 2008.
At Northwestern, Johnson set Miami-Dade County records with 76 receptions as a senior in 2007, breaking his own mark, according to the 2008 Hurricanes media guide, of 72 catches set the previous year. He finished his senior season at Northwestern with 960 yards and 13 touchdowns. He caught seven passes for 84 yards in the state title game. As a high school junior, he caught his 72 passes for 1,361 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Johnson chose Miami over Florida, Florida State and LSU. But he never made it to his senior season as a college athlete.
He was suspended indefinitely by UM in late August for sending a tweet during CanesFest that asked his Twitter followers what the best strip club was in Miami. The tweet came after he already was among a group of UM players deemed ineligible before the season because of their involvement with former booster and convicted Ponzi-schemer Nevin Shapiro.
But Johnson was never reinstated. Published reports and multiple sources said his story did not match up with what other players told the NCAA about their involvement with Shapiro.
Now, Johnson is hoping for a second chance. He has signed a contract with Majestic Agents & Consultants in Miami and is training for the NFL Draft. He also has accepted an invitation to play in the new Battle of Florida North vs. South Collegiate All-Star Game on Jan. 21 at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton.
“I feel great,’’ Johnson, 22, said Wednesday. “I’ve been working out since I found out I couldn’t play this season. I learned from my mistakes. It made me a better person in life and made me take everything more seriously.
“It was really painful to know I couldn’t play a sport I loved and had been playing since I was 4. To sit out this season and see my team go through the things they went through, and know I could have been out there helping them win, was real painful.
“I can’t make any more boneheaded mistakes.’’
Johnson's agent, Carlos Rodriguez, said Wednesday that Johnson is working out with professional trainer Bo Smith and has lost 15 to 20 pounds. He is down to 205, Rodriguez said, on his 6-2 1/2-inch frame.
Rodriguez and his agency partner Manny Vadillo said UM coach Al Golden has given Johnson permission to participate in UM's pro timing day before the NFL Draft -- as long as he graduates. He is expected to get his degree Dec. 15, as UM allowed him to keep his scholarship.
"He's a guy who obviously didn’t live up to expectations,’’ Rodriguez said of Johnson, who caught 31 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns his first season in 2008 but only 15 for 157 yards and no touchdowns in 2010. “He gained weight and wasn’t working out as much and definitely wasn’t putting in as much effort as he should have.
“But having sat out, having not been able to participate with his class that came in so highly touted, not having an opportunity to make an impact, really hurt him to the point of motivating him. He’s a good kid at heart who made some bad decisions. He has the physical skills and body frame and is taking this one last chance to show he can do it.
“It’s going to come down to if he runs well. He already has great hands. He’s working on his routes. With time and opportunity he could succeed.’’
Rodriguez insists Johnson is remorseful. "He made some mistakes and he's looking forward to the next part of his life,'' Rodriguez said. "He's thankful to UM for giving him the opportunity to graduate.''
Also, just in case anyone missed this: UM quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence are being represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus.
--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
UM coaches have been on the recruiting prowl throughout Dade and Broward County since the end of the season.
Tonight I bumped into defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio during his visit to Miami Norland. D'Onofrio spoke with the father of offensive tackle Ereck Flowers for a while as I met and spoke with various Norland players as they prepare for their big playoff game against Glades Central Friday.
But once practice ended it was clear what D'Onofrio was there for -- a conversation with All-American linebacker and former commitment Keith Brown. The two spoke for roughly 20 minutes before D'Onofrio left. His message to Brown: "They still want me," Brown said.
The issue? UM doesn't have room in this class for Brown and his brother, Norland starting weakside linebacker Lamar Atkins. That's the reason Brown decommitted from UM and accepted a scholarship to Illinois. But now that Ron Zook is out Brown said he's looking again and considering UM along with Ohio State (he'll probably visit there after this coming weekend) and LSU.
"Everything was perfect with Illinois," Brown said. "But now that this happened with Coach Zook, everything is up in the air. Coach D just wanted me to know they still want me and are willing to take me. We're sort of starting all over."
Brown, who plans to enroll in January, said he remains committed to Illinois, but if another school is willing to take his brother on a scholarship (Ohio, Bowling Green and FIU have shown interest) then he said he will free himself up to go wherever he wants.
"If he gets a scholarship at the end of the year, then my job is done," Brown said. "He's a good player. The thing is he's only been here for a year. He was playing up in New Jersey, nobody really saw him up there. Miami can't take him because they've got 27 commitments and 30 scholarships total. So, they're limited."
Brown said the Canes have always been "the No. 1 team in my heart," but adds that he felt UM coaches sort of took him for granted. Brown claims he didn't hear from any coaches for two months at the start of the season. That, coupled with the fact he's trying to land his brother a scholarship made him open up to other schools who kept showing interest.
"I don't care where he goes, I just want to him to get a scholarship," Brown said of his brother. "Coach D just wanted me to know I had things with them all wrong and that they still want me to come in and be a part of this class."
Brown said if he had to handicap the situation he said he'll still probably end up at Illinois with his brother. But he's still going to weigh his options and see if his brother can land a scholarship elsewhere.
Two weeks ago Miami Norland linebacker Keith Brown parted ways with the Hurricanes and joined Ron Zook's recruiting class at Illinois after the Fighting Illini agreed to give scholarships to both him and his brother.
Now that Zook has been fired, though, Brown's plans have been "thrown up in the air" according to Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg. So is there a chance Brown, a 6-2, 230-pound All-American inside linebacker, could end up back in UM's class alongside current Norland teammates Duke Johnson and Ereck Flowers?
"It's definitely a possibility," Heidelburg said Tuesday night. "Miami was one of the schools that called me up today. They still want him. Even though he de-committed and went to Illinois, they have not lost interest. The kid is a good player and wherever he goes he's going to be an impact player."
According to Heidelburg, Brown is declining interviews because he wants to concentrate on football. The Vikings (12-0) will take on Belle Glades Glades Central (12-0) on Friday in the Region 3-5A final.
But it's clear the future of his brother, fellow Norland linebacker Lamar Atkins, is weighing heavily in his decision. Brown told Rivals.com on Nov. 20 a major reason he switched his commitment to Illinois was because they were also willing to take his brother. "I could have gone to a bunch of places that offered both of us. But Illinois was clearly the best decision for both of us," Brown told Rivals.
Atkins (6-0, 225) isn't rated by Rivals or considered by anyone to be a major prospect. Although the Canes like Brown, UM apparently wasn't willing to go for the 2-for-1 special. Could that change? It's hard to tell at this point. But if you take Heidelburg at his word, it's clear UM still has interest and would love to have the services of Brown, who is considered by Rivals to be the 4th best inside linebacker in the country.
Brown, who plans to enroll at a school in December, could end up sticking with Illinois. But it's more likely he will switch to a school willing to take both him and his brother. Heidelburg said Ohio State, South Florida and Florida all called him Tuesday expressing interest in Brown.
"Right now he's just going to take his time," Heidelburg said. "He has two visits left. The fact Al Golden got an extension is good for Miami. He wanted to make sure the guy wasn't going to Penn State or nothing like that.
"My job as far as his high school coach is done. It's up to him to decide what's best for him. I'm pretty sure he's going to sit down with his parents and decide what is best for his household. As his head coach, I'm going to support him no matter what he decides."
Heidelburg said Johnson, considered one of the nation's premier running backs, and Flowers, a 6-6, 325-pound offensive tackle remain committed to UM. "They're locked in," Heidelburg said. "There's no changes with that."
GOLDEN SWINGS BY MIAMI BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
Former University of Miami special assistant Tim "Ice" Harris got a visit from current Canes coach Al Golden Tuesday as his team prepared for its Class 4A state semifinal showdown against Cocoa.
Harris, the father of former Canes cornerback Brandon Harris and UM track star Tim Harris Jr., said Golden stopped by to wish his team luck and to check out some of the Tornadoes talented underclassmen. Among them: Ice Harris' youngest son, sophomore quarterback Treon Harris (5-11, 185).
"Golden watched Treon throw a couple passes and was pretty impressed," Ice Harris said. "He likes a lot of our young guys. I'm pretty sure UM is going to be down here a lot over the next couple years."
The Tornadoes have two of the top juniors in the state in offensive tackle Denver Kirkland (6-4, 300) and middle linebacker Matthew Thomas (6-4, 210). The sophomore class is loaded and led by Harris (80 of 134, 1,262 yards, 14 TDs, 5 INTs, 94 rushes, 811 yards, 17 TDs) and 5-9, 165-pound receiver Lamar Parker (22 rec., 329 yards, 5 TDs).
As for Ice, who returned to Booker T. after Randy Shannon was fired and Golden took over, he said he was shocked when Yahoo! Sports released its series of allegations that players at UM received impermissible gifts from former booster Nevin Shapiro.
Brandon Harris, a second round pick of the Houston Texans in April, was never implicated by Yahoo! in its investigation.
"I'm not sure where my head must have been at when that was going on, but I never saw that guy [Shapiro] and I never heard about any of that stuff they said he was doing," Harris said. "Brandon was never around any of that. He knew the rules. When he went out he wouldn't take pictures or accept anything from anybody he didn't know. If somebody strange came around, he would just leave."
> UM announced Tuesday spring football is tentatively scheduled to begin March 1. The spring game is also tentatively set for April 14.
> Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins (South Fort Myers High) was named the ACC's Rookie of the Year on Tuesday. UM defensive end Anthony Chickillo finished third in the voting. Virginia coach Mike London was named ACC Coach of the Year. The ACC will announce its overall, offensive and defensive players of the year Wednesday.
> On Monday, the All-ACC First and Second Teams were announced. UM linebacker Sean Spence was the only Hurricane to make first team. Running back Lamar Miller and center Tyler Horn were named to the second team.
If anybody wants to know why giving Al Golden a four-year contract extension last Friday was important for the University of Miami's recruiting efforts, Cypress Bay High offensive lineman Danny Isidora is willing to explain.
Tuesday morning, the 6-3, 340-pound offensive lineman for the Lightning called Golden and UM and committed to be a part of the Canes' 2012 signing class -- all a result of what transpired last week according to Cypress Bay coach Mark Guandolo.
"He had Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Florida State all after him, but on the back of his mind UM was always his favorite," Guandolo said. "He's been a UM fan since he was a young kid. He always dreamed of playing there. But he was a little apprehensive with all the talk about the NCAA sanctions and Coach Golden and the Penn State stuff. When coach got the extension that helped him make the final decision."
Isidora, rated as the 13th best offensive guard in the country by ESPN and the 29th best at his position according to Rivals, was being recruited by UM offensive line coach Art Kehoe to be a pulling guard according to Guandolo.
That relationship with Kehoe, Isidora said, ultimately paid off. Isidora said he and Kehoe spoke on a weekly basis. In fact, the first person he called to give his commitment to was Kehoe. But with the coach on a flight and unavailable, Isidora said he called Golden directly and the coach was thrilled to hear the news.
“I just love the coaches -- Coach Golden, Coach Kehoe. I’ve talked to Coach Kehoe once a week all season about everything, football, life. He’s a good guy,” said Isidora, whose mother is from Nassau, Bahamas and father is from Curacao. “Coach Kehoe kept me informed with everything regarding the NCAA [investigation], so I felt like they were being upfront and honest.”
In high school, Isidora served as the Lightning's starting left tackle for three years. Guandolo said Isidora benches 350 pounds, squats 450 pounds and power cleans 350 pounds. Guandolo said Isidora is a bright kid (3.9 GPA) who has always excelled picking up the diverse blocking schemes his team has used in its Wing-T offense.
Isidora said he would like to shed about 10 pounds "of baby fat" before he gets to UM. He doesn't mind redshirting either, but will play right away if needed.
"He's a hard worker, really dedicated young man with a great attitude. He's a quiet kid and not boastful, a great demeanor kid you like to be around," Guandolo said. "He got bigger and stronger as time went on here. He's very explosive and is a heck of an athlete. Great, great feet for a big guy. I think he's going to be physical in that running offense, be a pulling type guy for them."
Isidora is supposed to meet with Golden Thursday. He's the second senior at Cypress Bay to commit to UM. Linebacker Josh Witt (6-2, 220) committed back in the summer.
The Lightning have a trio of talented juniors including star receiver/defensive back Alex Montgomery (6-1, 190), running back Matthew Dayes (5-11, 190) and quarterback Jaranta Lewis (6-0, 180).
Isidora becomes the third offensive lineman to join UM's class. The Canes also have commitments from Miami Norland left tackle Ereck Flowers (6-6, 305) and Fork Union Military Academy's Taylor Gadbois (6-8, 300).
Here is a highlight reel of Isidora. He's No. 74
With the Canes season officially wrapped up, I'll be passing through a few local high schools over the next couple weeks to catch up with some of the top local players and teams as the playoffs wind down. Monday, I got a chance to catch up with Miramar High receiver and Canes commitment Malcolm Lewis. Here is the longer version of the feature story I turned in tonight.
Marlene Lewis and her husband Marvin like to get into playful arguments over where their youngest son Malcolm -- a star receiver at Miramar High and University of Miami commitment -- got his athletic talents.
Marlene, a mother of five and information management technician at Orange Brook Elementary in Hollywood, says Malcolm got his 4.3-speed in the 40-yard dash from her. In high school, Marlene ran on the 100, 200 and 4x100-meter relay teams at American High in Miami.
Marvin, a former defensive tackle at American High who now serves as a cook for inmates at various Miami-Dade County jails, takes credit for Malcolm's size (5-11, 190) and toughness -- and some of that speed, too.
But Malcolm's passion for football? That's all him.
"You watch him on the field and no matter what, he always gives his best effort. Whether they throw the ball to him or not, he always runs full speed," Marvin Lewis said. "I tell him he's better than me. I wouldn't run that hard every play."
Said Marlene: "He's been that way since he was a little boy. I'd take him to the grocery store with me and he would run around, make all these cuts and spins like somebody was trying to tackle him. I always used to have to scream at him, 'Boy you aren't on the field.' He just loves the game."
Lewis has grown up to be one of the best high school receivers in the country -- and a bonafide leader for the Patriots, who are just three wins away from winning two state titles in three years. Friday night, Miramar, 11-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation by USA Today, will host Palm Beach Gardens (9-2-1) in the Region 3-8A final.
According to Rivals.com, he's rated the 26th best receiver in the country. He's also considered an ESPN Top 150 recruit (146th) regardless of position. Statistically, though, his numbers hardly represent his talent. Lewis, who caught an 8-yard touchdown pass in his team's win playoff last week against Cypress Bay, has just 37 catches for 535 yards and six touchdowns this season -- middle of the pack numbers compared to other elite receivers in Broward County.
But a big part of that is the number of double and triple teams he draws, setting up opportunities for others on his team to succeed. Lewis is hardly bothered by his lack of big numbers and his coach, Damon Cogdell, said Lewis is an example of a selfless player.
"I don't pay attention to stats," Lewis said. "It's going to come to me. I'm just going to do what I do when I get the ball in my hands."
In the past, whenever Lewis has had the ball in his hands it's usually resulted in big plays. As a sophomore, he caught the winning touchdown pass from Ryan Williams (now at UM) in Miramar's state semifinal win over Miami Central. Earlier this season in Miramar's stunning upset of St. Thomas Aquinas, he caught a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone on fourth down to help rally the Patriots.
"Just a great kid and a real Patriot," Cogdell said. "He's the type of kid you want your daughter to bring home. Don't let the dreads fool you. He's a very humble kid. And truthfully, he's probably the most talented kid I got out here.
"He doesn't complain. I remember last year there was many games where he was wide open and we didn't get the ball to him. He never complained. It was kind of scary. He just never complains."
"He's just so fast. Once he gets up field, he's gone," Howard said. "He's 190. You don't expect him to be that fast. I like to play press. You play press and he beats you, that's it. I think that's what separates him from most guys. He's physical enough to break away and he's fast."
Miramar has sent quite a few receivers to college over the past few years: Ivan McCartney (West Virginia), Stedman Bailey (West Virginia) Donte Chambers (Morgan St.), Rashad Gholston (Florida State), Terrance Gourdine (Eastern Michigan), Denzell McCollum (leaving junior college now).
Cogdell won't go as far as calling Lewis the best of the bunch out of respect for all of the receivers who have played for him, but calls him special. Cogdell said Lewis has dropped just two passes thrown his way this season.
"Great hands, strong hands, good route runner, just overall good kid," Cogdell said. "I would love to have him on defense at safety or corner. But we try to utilize him on offense and special teams.
"The scary part about it is I don't think colleges are giving him due justice. He's got a lot of offers, but there aren't many schools who really followed up on him and recruited him that hard. Miami did and stayed on him. But I thought for sure there would be more teams on him. To me, he's one of the best in the country."
Lewis orally committed to UM coaches two weeks ago and says the decision is "a done deal for right now." While other schools continue to recruit him, he said it's doubtful he'll change his mind because he wants to stay close to home.
"For me, it's really all about family," said Lewis, who had LSU, Florida State, Alabama and Florida as his other finalists.
"I took a visit to West Virginia and I liked it. But it's so far away. I know if I stay down here I can play in front of my family. I live right down the street from [Sun Life Stadium]. On gamedays, this whole section over here [at Miramar] is filled with my family and friends. My granddaddy, cousins, nieces. I just want to play close by for them."
> Two Florida State coaches were on hand at Monday's practice at Miramar to check out Howard, who is considered the No. 1 cornerback in the country by Rivals.com.
Howard told me Monday, "Florida, Florida State, LSU and Alabama are the four schools that are really in it" for his services. Asked if the Canes have no shot at him Howard said: "They're still in the running, but not like those four schools.
"Malcolm picked Miami because it was the best school for him. They recruited him the hardest, showed him the most love. I feel like it's the best for him, especially with the quarterback situation. You got Ryan Williams who played with him two years ago. But I have to look at what the best fit is for me."
Is Howard closer to a decision? "I'm still in the same place," he said. "Everyday it changes. Somedays I want to make a decision, the next day I'll be like 'No.' Malcolm and I always told each other we might go to the same school. But when you look at it, you always want to do what's best for you. But it's still possible we could play together."
CORAL GABLES -- UM coach Al Golden spent 35 minutes Monday morning wrapping up the 2011 season and looking ahead to the 2012 season. For your listening pleasure, here is the audio of the complete press conference.
As for what Golden talked about, here are some highlights/notes:
> UM's Spring Game is scheduled for April 14th.
> The team began its off-season weight training program Monday and Golden said its vital the team gets stronger heading into 2012 because "there's too many times on the field we're getting pushed around."
"We have to get that fixed," Golden said. "As I said to the staff yesterday I think there's a blessing that we're not going to a bowl because we can fix our strength and size at the point of attack. Hopefully we can do that over the next seven weeks.
Is he unhappy with strength coach Andreu Swasey?
"I believe in coach Swasey, think he's one of the best," Golden said. "It's a function of the culture. We're vastly improved from where we were last January. We need to get stronger, educate the kids a little better on dietary and nutrition choices. You can't go out there and play with 208-pound linebackers and think that's okay. We're playing teams that are 230, 245 pound linebackers. I want a big, strong, powerful team. It's not just Swasey - get them bigger. There's a shift in the type of size and strength we want to be. There has to be a culture here on strength and conditioning."
> Golden said he will try to meet every player before they leave campus, but adds it will be a little difficult because of the recruiting schedule. As for his underclassmen, considering the NFL Golden said: "If there's decisions to be made, most of it will be done privately.
"We'll take each kid, make sure they get the paperwork filed, make an educated decision. What they have to do right now is make sure they're getting the accurate information, not hearing from runners, guys on the street. We're so far away from having an accurate evaluation on a lot of those guys that it's premature."
> Golden became most animated when asked about if he thought he deserved a contract extension after a 6-6 season.
"You keep talking about a six-win season like nothing else occurred," Golden said. "This is the craziest year I think on record. The adversity we endured - this is about our program moving forward. I think the university understood the undertaking we had. I'm real proud of the staff and student athletes. 6-6 not good enough for you? It's not good enough for me. We'll get it fixed."
"The irony is there's never been more instability or controversy than what we encountered this year. To have [a commitment] from the university is great. My intention was to be here, the head coach here. There were some in the media and outsiders who thought I was going somewhere else, looking for another job. The circumstances we inherited were unfortunate, but I wouldn't be here in front of you if [they weren't going to be overcome]."
Golden later said he told his wife last year before taking the job his aspiration was to coach at UM for the long haul. UM hasn't had a coach last longer than 6 years over the last 30 years.
> As for the NCAA sanctions, Golden maintains that from what he knows "the worst part is behind us. But he also said later that he is "out of the loop" and doesn't know when UM will hear from the NCAA regarding any future sanctions.
"From what I know, I've signed on because I think we're moving forward," Golden said. "We sat kids, had them reinstated, [gave up] a bowl game. That story didn't end for us in terms of suspensions, what all that adversity created, we were dealing with it every day. What our lineup would be, get a guy injured -- we dealt with it all year. I'm proud of the way our guys dealt with it. From what I know we're moving forward.
"... From what we understand now, this puts an end to this chapter. We move this forward. We'll face it. It's not going to be anything compared to what we faced at Temple."
> Golden said he doesn't anticipate any staff turnover "right now."
Asked how important is it for the offensive and defensive coordinators to be with the program over the next four or five years, he said: "It's critical that we retain coaches, make this a destination job for everybody. We believe it is. We're excited about what we're doing moving forward. As soon as I'm done here I go out recruiting, a big class I'm bringing in, and I fully anticipate our coordinators to be here moving forward."
Golden added he will sit down with his assistants before the holidays and "communicate with them what the expectations are and if they were deficient in a certain area."
> Golden said there are a lot of areas the Canes improved on the field this season, but adds the team is still a long way away from where he wants it.
"We have a baseline," Golden said. "We're plus 85 in penalty yards per game, plus 63 in number of penalties per game. So we're halfway home. We go from 36 turnovers to 19 this year, from 27 interceptions to 11 interceptions. We're halfway home, have a long way to go. We're plus 10 in punt returns, plus 7 in opponent's starting yard line on kickoffs, plus six in kickoffs. I can go on and on.
"We've made a lot of progress, need to continue to make progress. We need to be a tougher team, a stronger team, and we need to have depth. It's hard to compete for a championship if you don't have the depth. I think we got worn down at the end of the year, didn't have the depth. We have to have the symmetry that when a corner goes down he's replaced by a corner, not a safety that moved to corner."
> UM's offense ran 200 fewer plays than it did a year ago -- an average of 61 plays per game. Golden said the team should average 71 plays per game.
"We didn't take the ball away enough. We didn't flip the field enough," Golden said. "Sometimes teams got multiple first downs before we stopped them. I thought we were very good in the red zone on defense, but sometimes you have to take the ball away before that. There are still areas we can improve in the kicking game to create a shorter field for our offense. It makes it hard when you're backed up all the time. Our time of possession has a lot to do with that number. Our yards per play was good, is what we're looking for. But for us to get up to that 72 number, even 75, you're talking 400 yards. Clearly we didn't execute as well as we had to down the stretch."
> At the midway point of the season Golden said his defense was about as simple as it could be. But as the year went on, Golden said Monday, Mark D'Onofrio was able to get more complex -- a result of veteran players returning from suspensions and younger players growing up. Golden said the defense only gave up 14 points a game over its last six games.
"We had a lot thrown at us this year on the defensive side, just never had the same lineup until about week 7 or 8," Golden said. "So we settled down toward the end, started to play better defense. The team winning or losing is not just a function of defense; it's a function of everybody. I'm encouraged. 32 points is our margin of loss right now. We're going to get a jump on that here today."
Golden said he would like for his corners to play more aggressively in the future and admitted the reason played so much zone was because of personnel. Of the team's six interceptions on defense, Golden said: "That's not championship football."
Needless to say, cornerback is a big need in recruiting. "What we can't do is screw up in this class," Golden said. "Certainly quarterback, cornerback and the secondary in general, we need guys there. When I got here last year we basically had Brandon McGee at corner and that was it. I didn't walk in the door and expect to have one corner on the team. We had a lot to deal with. I know exactly where we're at and what we have to do. We had a plan to handle it. We moved Lee [Chambers] to cornerback, got Mike Williams, moved JoJo [Nicola] out there and on Aug. 15 had to move him back to safety. We had a lot to overcome.
"We have a great opportunity for corners, a great opportunity for linebackers. We don't have the depth - otherwise we wouldn't have been moving Marcus Robinson back and forth all year. And at wideout we don't have enough in the spring to line up at wideout. We need guys that want to come in and compete." As for recruits whose commitment is "soft", Golden said: "If they're looking, we're looking."
> Golden said he anticipates two other quarterbacks being here by Jan. 17 and having four quarterbacks in the program who will compete in spring football. "I think Stephen [Morris] made a lot of progress this year, has benefited from learning and growing and developing alongside Jacory, learning the system without having the pressure to produce week in and week out," Golden said. "There's something to be said for that. He's gotten better during the year. It's going to be great to see him, Ryan [Williams] and two kids we bring in mid-year compete."
In what ways did Morris make progress this year? "In every way. His understanding of the offense - he became more of a leader, more confident in terms of audibling," Golden said. "He made very confident throws. Against Duke he throws a rocket. He's stronger, is going to be a great runner for us, is legitimately fast, 4.5, 4.6. He got better at throwing fade balls, touch passes - has some work to do there yet. He's benefited from just putting his head down and working."
> Golden said he anticipates defensive tackle Adewale Ojomo will be back, but adds he'll have to go through an NCAA process to acquire a sixth-year of eligibility. Ojomo said two weeks ago he was having trouble finding medical paperwork for his freshman season in 2007, not the 2009 season he missed because of a broken jaw.
> Golden said the team will be hosting recruits over the next two weekends, but expects to be at high school state football championships Dec. 15-16.
"We're still evaluating a lot of kids because there's a lot of kids out there that give us great value," Golden said. "We just got a couple of commitments that are great players. They may not be five stars, but we have conviction on how they play the game, what kind of student-athletes they are. Not only are we recruiting, making sure we hold on to kids committed, we're also evaluating. It's a challenge to do that."
> As for the scout team players that stepped up, Golden said: "Dallas Crawford grew up a lot. Eddie Johnson kind of grew up as the season went on. I thought Gionni Paul grew up as the season went on, especially as of late. He just didn't get an opportunity to play as much. I think Corey King is really doing a nice job in growing up. There's a good group of kids there that are good, hard workers."
How do you measure improvement and regression on a football field?
Is it simply the bottomline? Wins and Losses.
Or, do you delve a little deeper and look at the statistics? And, what do all those numbers tell us? Are they a fair representation? Or, do you look at those numbers and take other factors into account as well? Things like injuries and suspensions, lack of experience with a new coach or a new system. What about the mental side? Attitude. Effort. Resiliency. How do those issues factor in measuring success and failure?
I guess my point is there are a lot of different ways you can look at this Hurricanes season and pick it apart. You can make the argument that this team improved. Or, you can look at it in another light and argue the bottomline results -- six losses -- are the same as last year. Before we get to my thoughts, here is the Tale of The Tape that will allow you to compare the 2011 Canes to the 2010 Canes.
Offense 2011 2010
Points for 318 (26.5) 342 (26.3)
First downs 220 288
Total yards 377.8 421.3
Rushing yards 145.7 182.5
Rushing TDs 18 19
Fumbles-lost 17-8 20-9
Passing yards 232.1 238.8
Comp. pct. 65.5 54.2
Passing TDs 21 21
INTs thrown 11 27
Sacks allowed 19-128 16-120
Time of poss. 29:24 28:06
3rd down pct. 43% 41%
Red-Zone TDs 27-41 (66%) 29-51 (57%)
Defense 2011 2010
Points against 241 (20.1) 269 (20.7)
First downs 236 219
Total yards 359.9 323.3
Rushing yards 161.9 172.8
Rushing TDs 8 20
Fumbles-recov. 22-9 20-12
Passing yards 198.0 150.5
Comp. pct. 66.3 49.7
Passing TDs 16 9
INTs made 6 16
Sacks made 24-127 37-241
Time of poss. 30:36 31:48
3rd down pct. 41% 35%
Red-Zone TDs 17-43 (40%) 19-50 (38%)
Special teams 2011 2010
FGs 11-14 13-17
FGs allowed 15-20 20-25
Onside kicks rec. 0-1 1-1
Onside kicks all. 1-2 1-1
Kick returns 21.3 19.7
Kick return def. 18.6 21.7
Punt returns 11.0 4.5
Punt return def. 10.9 8.2
Net punt avg. 37.4 38.8
Opp. net punt 36.0 38.3
Misc. stats 2011 2010
Penalties-yards 69-508 107-893
10-game starters 12 16
- Offense 6 6
- Defense 6 10
> The overriding sentiment after Friday night's 24-17 loss from players and coach Al Golden was that despite enduring the same number of losses this season this UM team improved for a variety of reasons.
At the top of the list: these Canes never quit or laid down.
Golden pointed out after last week's 6-3 win over South Florida how he showed his team a tape of 15 plays he referred to as difference makers between an 11-0 season and 6-5 season. He also pointed out how the team didn't lose by more than eight points in any of its games. When you add up the total margin of defeat (33 points) it is less than the total from a year ago (78 points). Four of the Canes' losses in 2010 were by 12 points or more.
But is that something to really be proud of? Is this what Canes football has come to: we didn't quit this time; we were competitive from start to finish? It's a step in the right direction obviously, but even Golden knows that isn't enough.
"There's too many variances or oscillations right now in our overall game for me to be pleased with it," Golden said after Friday's loss to a 4-8 Boston College team.
"I think we need to be physically tougher. We need to be mentally tougher. I think our competitiveness has come a long way. Obviously our penalties are down, our turnover ratio has improved. But not to the point where you can win, week in and week out. We knew what was coming in here [in Boston College]. And we're not consistent enough. We need a good offseason program, get re-situated and get a class in here as well."
The second best part about Friday -- obviously other than the fact you now know for sure Golden won't be going anywhere next season -- is that the coach obviously sees the deficiencies himself. He's not lying to himself or to anyone for that matter when it comes to the shortcomings of this team.
There is a lot more tinkering that needs to be done, particularly when it comes to strength and execution up front on the offensive and defensive lines.
For all the love and passion Art Kehoe brings to this program, it was painfully obvious his unit -- which was supposed to be the deepest and most talented on the team -- didn't perform up to expectations. Sure, not having an injured Seantrel Henderson around for most of the season didn't help. And Kehoe did get a lot more out of redshirt freshman Jonathan Feliciano (8 starts) than anybody expected. But UM not only gave up three more sacks than it did a year ago in one fewer game, they also struggled mightily in short yardage situations.
Is that all Kehoe's fault? Not necessarily. Golden, while pleased with the improved conditioning and stamina of his team, has now mentioned it two press conferences in a row that the team isn't strong enough. Maybe that's a reason for strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey -- or somebody else on staff to be worried. We don't know. But it says something Golden isn't giving his team any time off and expects them to be in the weight room Monday.
> Offensively, coordinator Jedd Fisch deserves a lot of credit for the improvement of Jacory Harris. Even with his four interception day against BC Friday, UM still finished much improved when it comes to throwing interceptions (11) than it did a year ago (27). But before you go giving Fisch all kinds of praise, realize his offense ran for fewer yards and threw for fewer yards than Mark Whipple's last year and accomplished roughly the same when it came to scoring and third down conversions. If there was a real improvement, it was the red zone where UM scored TDs 66 percent of the time compared to 57 a year ago. The issue really was that the offense just didn't get in the red zone enough was wildly inconsistent UM scored 42 points combined over its final 3 games. They had 49 against Duke. Also know this: UM had the same number of consistent, every game starters on offense (10-plus games) as it did last year (6).
> Defensively, there is little question UM regressed in most areas. They gave up more yards, touchdowns through the air, produced 13 fewer turnovers and sacks than it did in 2010, gave up a whopping 66.3 completion percentage (opponents completed 49.7 percent of their pass in 2010), was worse in third down situations (41% compared to 35% in 2010) and seemed to give up a lot more big plays. But for all the struggles and inconsistency it felt like the unit improved late in the year as freshmen Denzel Perryman and Anthony Chickillo became bigger and bigger contributors. Perryman had 14 tackles Friday, giving him 69 on the season (2nd most behind senior Sean Spence). Chickillo finished the year with 38 tackles (7th most) and tied for the team lead in sacks (5). While both of those freshmen emerged, though, safeties Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque failed to meet lofty expectations. Junior cornerback Brandon McGee (38 tackles, 1 INTs) didn't exactly take the next step either.
> If there is one area I felt the team really improved it was special teams. Despite allowing a back-breaking punt return for a touchdown at Florida State, the unit improved in nearly all phases -- even with the loss of punter/kicker Matt Bosher. And it seems the team will be better off now with freshman Phillip Dorsett as it's primary return man moving forward instead of the inconsistent Travis Benjamin.
> My bottomline: this football team is still a long way away from being what it once was, but the Canes are better off today under Golden than they ever were under Shannon. The biggest responsibility of a head coach is hiring the right staff to move the program forward and develop the talent you have. Shannon never did that. He switched defensive coordinators three times and offensive coordinators twice. Position coaches came and left.
It's up to Golden now to keep the coaches he feels can move this program forward and recruit players to fit those systems. When Jacory Harris and the No. 1 recruiting class got here in 2008, I was convinced things were going to change at Miami. There seemed to be too much talent for the Canes not to. But unless you have the right coordinators, assistants and systems in place along with the right kind of depth at certain positions you are going to continue to be what this program has been: mediocre. It's up to Golden now to get it right. Hopefully, it won't take the eight years left on his contract to get there. I don't think it will.
But if Friday's loss to BC and the 2011 season is any indication, this team still has a long way to go. They made improvements when it came to committing fewer penalties, throwing fewer interceptions and getting a few unexpected players to shine. Now, it's about weeding out the rest of the garbage and moving forward. It fees like Golden got Step 1 right. Now, it's getting Step 2 down. And the reality is, this is the harder part.
SUN LIFE STADIUM -- Here is a transcript of Al Golden's post-game press conference with reporters after the Canes lost 24-17 and he signed an extension through the 2019 season.
> Did you discuss the extension with the team? "I didn’t because the team knows that I’ve never discussed anything but being here with them. They know that. The team understands that. I’ve said it to them a million times that I love it here. I said ‘please don’t listen to what anybody is saying on the outside.’ This is where I want to be; this is a destination job. I know they’re excited. I think it’s a mutual admiration and respect and I think they know what we have to get done this offseason."
> How important it is to get the contract extension sealed now? "It’s vital. I just want to thank President Shalala for her leadership and Shawn Eichorst for his leadership. And clearly, I’m just excited about the future. I’m ready to go on the road. I’ll be at the first kid’s house at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Again, we have a lot of work to do. We know where we are as a team. I wish we had won. I’m sure we all do, but we again are where we are right now, and we’re going to fight out of it. And I’m just glad I have the opportunity to be the guy to lead this program out of it."
> When did you tell the team about the extension? "There was nothing for me to really to say to them. It was about people speaking on the outside. I think our players always understood what we were going to do."
> How did extension evolve... "I don't think I want to discuss that. That's private. But clearly when everybody is on the same page and the direction you want to go with the program that's how it gets done."
> Does this end the speculation of you leaving? "It’s been a tough year, and I said all along I plan on being here. You guys asked the question the night I came and I still feel the same way. I think it’s a destination job and I think we’re going to have a great recruiting class. We started four seniors on offense and three on defense. A transition year; a lot of adversity. Again, we’re not making any excuses. We know what we need to fix and we’re going to start fixing it Monday morning, period."
> Penn State still needs a head coach... "Right now Penn State has a great coach. His name is Tom Bradley. He's passionate. He's a leader. He's been there forever. The kids are playing for him. And I'm happy for Tom. I'm excited to be a Miami Hurricane."
> What was your plan if not for this extension? "I was going to work. This has been setup for a week now. I'm going to be in at least one kids house on Sunday. I was going on the road. Once we found out the bowl wasn't an option. We set the schedule and I'm going to be working through the holiday."
> Why is it important for you to be here through 2019? "I wanted to make a long term commitment otherwise the speculation is going to continue. I don't want to be sitting here answering these questions. Hopefully, now, I'll outlast a lot of you guys."
> What is your impression of the season? "I think it's emblematic of our inconsistency to go to some games and have incredible discipline and protect the ball. There's too many variances or oscillations right now in our overall game for me to be pleased with it. I think we need to be physically tougher. We need to be mentally tougher. I think our competitiveness has come a long way. Obviously our penalties are down, our turnover ratio has improved. But not to the point where you can win, week in and week out. We knew what was coming in here. We're not consistent enough. We need a good offseason program, get resituated and get a class in here as well.
> Was senior Day too much to bear? "I don't want to make any excuses. They played better at the end of the day. They didn't turn the ball over. They won field position battle..."
> Who decided to make the announcement? "Leadership decided to make announcement during the game."
> What did you tell Jacory and the seniors? "I just told them they were Miami Hurricanes and we love them, appreciate the way they stuck together through adversity and how competitive they were all year. I wish it had ended better for our seniors.
> Have recruits asked if you are staying? "For players and recruits we've only said the same thing for weeks. Whether or not anybody wanted to listen to what we were saying. Our message never changed and now it officially is never going to change. If we talk to recruits today or tomorrow, it's going to be what were telling them.
> What is the focus now? "To get stronger. We need to get stronger than we are right now. We have to create depth in a lot of different spots. We have to go out and recruit and match kids to not only what we're doing, but want to compete and start. There were a lot of seniors that walked out there today. Fortunately, we're losing a great deal of seniors, but not a great deal of starters.
It's still unclear if Lamar Miller will be in the NFL or the Hurricanes backfield next season. But if Friday's performance was his last in a Hurricanes uniform, the redshirt sophomore tailback left quite an impression, finishing with 114 yards on 12 carries while moving into third place all-time in UM's single-season rushing list with 1,272 yards on 227 carries and nine touchdowns.
His 79-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was the longest play of the season for the Hurricanes and a career-best for himself. Miller began the day fifth in UM history, but passed Clinton Portis (1,200 yards, 2001) and Ottis Anderson (1,266 yards, 1978) on the list.
He would have had 63 more yards Saturday if not for a holding penalty on Harland Gunn early in the fourth quarter. Still, he'll be listed third in UM's record book behind Willis McGahee (1,753 yards on 282 attempts in 2002) and Edgerrin James (1,416 yards on 224 attempts in 1998).
ESPN's Todd McShay lists Miller as the 14th-best prospect in next April's NFL Draft and the second-best draft eligible running back behind Alabama's Trent Richardson. Miller said earlier this week he would only declare for the draft if he knew he was going to be a first round pick.
That apparently hasn't changed even with Friday's news that coach Al Golden's contract has been extended through the 2019 season. Miller said he still plans to sit down with his parents and Golden and make the best decision once he hears back from the NFL.
"Now that the season is over I just have to get stronger, faster, finish with my school work," Miller said.
As for why he would come back, Miller said: "I always wanted to win a national championship and ACC championship. That was my main goal, just to get a ring. I'd still like to do that."
VERNON NON-COMMITTAL ABOUT RETURN TO UM
Junior Olivier Vernon, rated the 26th best draft eligible defensive end by NFLDraftScout.com, was non-committal when asked about his return next season.
"I'm not really trying to think about that," Vernon said when asked if he'll consider going to the NFL or returning to UM. "I'm just trying to move forward at the end of the day. I'm just going to have to talk to my parents and see what happens."
Vernon missed six games because he was suspended by the NCAA for taking impermissible gifts from former booster Nevin Shapiro.
The Hurricanes honored 25 seniors Friday at Sun Life Stadium. They came out of the smoke and met family members, with Golden hugging each player and greeting their families.
> The Class of 2011: wide receiver Travis Benjamin, receiver Ben Bruneau, receiver LaRon Byrd, fullback John Calhoun, cornerback Lee Chambers, tackle Joel Figueroa, tight end Chase Ford, linebacker Jordan Futch, cornerback Nate Gholston, linebacker Sean Goldstein, guard Harland Gunn, quarterback Jacory Harris, center Tyler Horn, long snapper Chris Ivory, linebacker Miles Levine, linebacker Erik Lichter, defensive back JoJo Nicolas, defensive tackle Micanor Regis, linebacker/defensive end Marcus Robinson, defensive end Andrew Smith, linebacker Sean Spence, running back David Thompson, quarterback Spencer Whipple, cornerback Mike Williams.
> Tight end Blake Ayles, who retired from football prior to the 2011 season due to a career-ending injury, was also recognized.
> Calhoun made his first career start Saturday and caught his first pass of the season, a four-yard grab.
> Byrd scored UM's first touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Harris. It was his first touchdown since Oct. 23, 2010 against North Carolina.
Asked about the 29-22 record the seniors compiled at UM and why they didn't win an ACC championship or a bowl game in their time, Horn said: "At some point you have to get the job done. I know it's hard to just say go do it. But at some point, you have to go do it. You have to make the play, make the catch, make the stop, make the block. While we did not do that all the time I felt we laid a good foundation of what the leadership of the team needs to be. Hopefully, guys like Ray-Ray [Armstrong], VT [Vaughn Telemaque], [Brandon] Linder coming back, B-Wash [Brandon Washington], it's going to be their team now. They just need to keep on building the house so to speak. Eventually it's all going to come together."
The University of Miami and head coach Al Golden have agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension that will run through February 1, 2020.
This pretty much ends any and all speculation he will be leaving for Penn State, his alma mater.
“I look forward to working side-by-side with Coach Golden for many years,” athletic director Shawn Eichorst said in a statement released by the school around 6 p.m. Friday. “Al has done a fantastic job of rebuilding and solidifying the foundation of our football program while fostering success both on and off of the field. He has been a first-class representative of our University and I am confident that with Al leading the way, our future is very bright.”
Golden’s extension adds four years to the initial five-year contract which began in December 2010.
“My family loves it in South Florida, we have embraced the community and we could not be more excited about the future of the Miami Hurricanes football team,” Golden said in the statement. “I can’t thank President Shalala and Shawn Eichorst enough for their support and commitment to our student-athletes and staff. We are ready to hit the recruiting road and begin our preparations for the 2012 season.”
We'll get reaction after the game.
SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The Miami Hurricanes (6-5, 3-4 ACC) will wrap up their first season under Al Golden today when they take on the Boston College Eagles (3-8, 2-5 ACC) at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.
> ABOUT BOSTON COLLEGE: If there is a strength for BC it is linebacker Luke Kuechly, whose 182 tackles are 35 more than the second-leading tackler in Division I football. The Eagles are far from an impressive team on offense, ranking 113th in total offense (293.64 yards per game) and 85th in rushing (128.91 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Chase Rettig ranks near the bottom in passing, sporting a 52.3 completion percentage, 10 TDs and 9 INTs on the season. The running back tandem of sophomores Rolandan Finch (5-10, 209) and Andre Williams (6-0, 222) have combined for 1,074 yards with 7 TDs. Each is averaging over 5 yards a carry. Kicker Nate Freese is 9 of 15 on field goal attempts, with a long of 52 yards.
> WHAT U NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE CANES: It's the final game for 25 seniors including quarterback Jacory Harris and Sean Spence. The 2011 senior class helped lead UM to a record of 29-11 since 2008 including three straight bowl bids -- without a bowl victory. UM is a second half team, outscoring opponents 153-888. In the fourth quarter alone, the Canes have outscored their opponents by 46 points. Harris has completed 172 of 261 attempts for 2,241 yards with 19 TDs and only one INT. Running back Lamar Miller currently ranks fifth all-time in terms of single season yardage with 1,158 yards. He potentially could catch Clinton Portis (1,200 yards) and Ottis Anderson (1,266 yards) today.
> MANNY'S PICK: UM 30, Boston College 13. I head into the season finale with an 8-3 overall record picking the Canes this season. My losses -- Kansas State, Georgia Tech and Virginia. At times, it's been tough to get a finger on this team. One minute they look phenomenal on offense, the next they struggle to two field goals at USF. Same thing on defense (look up Virginia Tech and then Georgia Tech two weeks later). Boston College is bad. But they aren't Duke bad. They beat an NC State team that beat Clemson, lost two Notre Dame 16-14 and beat a Maryland team that beat UM 28-17. I expect a close game for a half, a big day for Jacory Harris and Travis Benjamin and a good day for the Canes defense when it comes to creating turnovers (they're due).
CORAL GABLES -- For months, UM coach Al Golden has told us how much he and his family love living in Miami. He's told us how much he relishes the opportunity to coach the Hurricanes and how he plans to be here for the future.
Tuesday, during his weekly appearance on the Atlantic Coast Conference teleconference -- about 10 minutes before he met with local reporters at UM -- Golden was asked directly by a Penn State reporter if he had any interest in taking the vacant Nittany Lions job.
The question: "Do you have absolutely no interest in the Penn State job?"
Golden's response: "The question has been posed the last couple of weeks, and I said over and over again, I'm happy here. I'm excited about what we're doing with our program. I'm excited about the recruiting class that we're putting together, and clearly excited about what our team has done."
Patriot-News reporter David Jones then asked Golden: "So does that mean you absolutely will be the coach at Miami in 2012?'
Golden responded: "I believe I'm going to be the head coach at Miami in 2012, that's correct."
Golden has been asked ad nauseam by local reporters about his future in light of the impending NCAA sanctions at Miami and the opening at Penn State. What can you take from Tuesday's quote on the ACC teleconference? Exactly what he said. Golden "believes" he will be here in 2012.
That being said -- you never know. If you need any reminders, just ask the Dolphins about Nick Saban and that job at Alabama he wasn't going to take. I'm not saying Golden is a liar. I'm just saying other coaches have lied before.
Here is the audio of the exchange between Penn State reporter and Golden. I edited it down for your listening ears and added the following question from a different reporter when Golden went on to talk about why you would take a job at Miami.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES FROM TUESDAY
Here are few other highlights from Tuesday's weekly press conference with Golden and UM players.
> UM hasn't won its final regular season game since 2006. Golden said it's important for UM to go out on a high note Friday and win.
"I know Boston College feels the same way," he said. "They have 10 freshmen on their two deep on defense so they're looking at it as a springboard for them. They've given up two touchdowns in their last two games. They're playing good football right now. They have our staffs' attention, players attention.
"It is an important game for us, to go 7-5, know we had a chance to win every game. That's a big deal because that wasn't the case the last couple years. When they lost the last couple times it kind of unraveled and got away from them. This team didn't let that happen. This team never quit."
> Friday's game was rescheduled from Saturday to Friday before the season in honor of the famous Hail Flutie Game in 1984. Golden remembers the game vividly.
"I remember it like it was yesterday. I know exactly where I was. 1984. The day after Thanksgiving, our kids wouldn't understand it now, but it was one of those deals where my brother Greg was home from college and said `Let's VCR this game,' Let's tape this game.' I think he still has it, to be honest with you. We knew it would be one of those games. The more the game evolved it was `I can't believe what I'm watching.' Melvin [Bratton's] touchdown at the end or Bernie [Kosar] yelling at coach to run it in. I have a vivid picture in my mind of what it looked like. There have been a lot of great clashes. I was also on the other side in the 1999 game, 31-28, overtime. And the 2001 game. They beat us the last time we played. Our guys understand they're in for a physical, rugged team that doesn't beat itself. We have to be ready."
CORAL GABLES -- It was an emotional, somewhat sad day out at Greentree Practice Field as UM prepares for its final game of the season against Boston College Friday. Here are some of the highlights from Monday's interviews with players and coaches:
> If there is some positive news for the Canes, it appears Al Golden and his staff will have use of every scholarship available to them in this next signing class. Asked if he's been assured by UM the scholarship total for 2012 wouldn't be affected, Golden said: "Yes. Yes sir."
Of course, the NCAA could have something to say about it after they complete their investigation into the alleged gifts UM received from former booster Nevin Shapiro. But it's tough to say if the NCAA will complete it's investigation by National Signing Day, Feb. 1. Most investigations take 11 months to complete. The NCAA acknowledged its investigation into UM began last March.
> With the Canes no longer headed to a bowl game the hot topic now is whether not they my lose a couple underclassmen who could opt to head pro early. Running back Lamar Miller, the first UM rusher to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since Willis McGahee in 2002, said flatly the only way he'll consider going pro is if he's a first round pick.
Odds he will be back? "I'm not sure," Miller said.
I asked Miller, a redshirt sophomore, if he thought he was ready to make the leap. "I haven't been thinking about that yet. I just got to keep improving and get better day by day out here with my teammates. My coaches have been doing a great job telling me what to do to get better. I just have to keep improving... I know I have to improve on somethings. That's what I've been working on the last couple weeks. I just want to help my team really."
Golden said midseason Miller had a long way to go in terms of becoming a complete back. Miller agreed Monday. "I have to be more physical in my pass protection and get more tough yardage," he said. "I've been working on that the last couple games."
ESPN's Todd McShay, the director of College Scouting for Scouts, Inc., has Miller tabbed as the 14th-best prospect for next April's NFL Draft regardless of class. Miller is listed as the second-best running back behind Alabama's Trent Richardson.
> Receiver Tommy Streeter said the possibility of leaving early "hasn't passed my mind."
"I'm just enjoying these last days with the seniors. I'm not worried about what lies ahead," Streeter said.
"A lot of times I wish I could have this season back again. I don't think I'm ready for the seniors to leave. Everyday it's just vital I cherish this moment with these guys who came in with me. I don't even know how to say this. I'm sad everyday knowing the time is winding down with these guys and these are my last few days with them and they're going to be leaving me. It's going to be a weird feeling next year. I'm just trying to win this last game for them, have fun."
Asked later if he was coming back next year, Streeter said "Yes. I'm coming back...
"I haven't focused on my future at all. It's just been day-by-day, not focusing on the NFL and things like that. I just want to finish the season strong, slingshot the program in the right direction going into the spring and fall."
> Golden discussed Monday how he'll handle talking to his underclassmen about going pro.
"The same way we would with every kid," he said. "Make sure we go through the NFL and NFL players association and whatever we have to do to get as much feedback as possible for each one of those young men. Again, we'll always make sure we do our due diligence for them and provide anything the NFL can provide us on them."
Will he give them his personal opinion? "Certainly I give them my opinion," Golden said.
"I told them last year with Muhammad Wilkerson. I thought he was ready physically. I thought he was ready mentally. I thought it was time for him to come out. He's one of these kids that's different. If you have a chance to in the first round, that's life changing money. If you don't, then clearly you should come back and give yourself an opportunity to go in the first round. Because the difference between the first round and second and third is huge. So, again, we'll just share with them individually. Right now, we're just worried about beating Boston College."
> Aside from missing a bowl game, UM won't have the luxury either of having 15 extra practices. Golden said Monday: "That's tough. But we'll get over it."
"I really think one of the things we need is strength to be honest with you," Golden said. "We need to be a stronger team and we need to be a more physically stronger team. I think the only way we do that is by getting in the weight room. In practice, I hope to gain an advantage in the weight room. We'lll need it."
Golden praised the conditioning of his team prior the season, but the fact he's still not happy about the team's overall strength makes you wonder if there will be a change this offseason to the strength and conditioning staff.
> Senior defensive back JoJo Nicolas said Sunday's news that the team wouldn't be headed to a bowl game was a "pretty tough pill to swallow," but the team is looking forward to Friday's game against Boston College as it's bowl game. Golden said Monday's practice had "good focus."
What will be the legacy of this 2011 team? "This is a team that is very resilient and fought through every single game and competed. We played together as a family no matter what," Nicolas said.
"We've been knocked down a lot this year. Nothing is going to change now. It's just another thing we're going to overcome now."
Third-string quarterback Spencer Whipple admitted he shed a few tears after hearing Sunday's news as did others.
"Just thinking you're going to a bowl and all of a sudden you have four days left. It's just your time is cut down. It's more time cut down with teammates and coaches than anything else [that hurts]," Whipple said. "But we're just going to enjoy every moment now. That's all we can do. And stay positive."
Asked the legacy the 2008 recruiting class -- ranked No. 1 by ESPN -- will leave behind, Streeter said: "I don't know. I don't even know what to say. Those guys leaving this year. I'll remember those guys as being the first guys with Coach Golden, moving the program in the right direction. Senior leadership they exemplified this year stood out among all the years I've been here."
> Whipple said UM coaches have talked to him about possibly taking on a graduate assistant position next season on offense.
"It's something to think about," said Whipple, whose father was Mark was UM's offensive coordinator last year. "Coach Fisch, Coach Golden, the rest of the coaching staff is great. Miami is a great place to be. It's just something I have to think about."
In hardly a surprise move, the University of Miami announced Sunday it will withhold its football team from bowl consideration this year in response to the ongoing NCAA inquiry into its program.
With a record of 6-5 (3-4 in the ACC), the Canes became bowl eligible with Saturday’s win over South Florida and were likely headed to the Kraft Hunger Bowl, Independence Bowl or some other low-end bowl game.
Here is UM's official statement:
“We understand and share the disappointment that our student-athletes, coaches, staff, supporters and fans are feeling but after lengthy discussions among University leaders, athletic administrators and outside counsel, it is a necessary step for our University. The University of Miami has not self-imposed any other penalties.
"The team was informed of the decision earlier today and is in preparations for their final game of the season.
"As we stated in August, the University of Miami maintains the highest standards in our academic and athletic endeavors and we will remain steadfast in our commitment to building winning programs with the utmost of integrity. We will be more vigilant in our compliance efforts and continue to work cooperatively with the NCAA on the joint inquiry to determine the true facts.
"To continue to protect the integrity of the inquiry, the University will not comment further at this time.”
UM said the decision was made by athletic director Shawn Eichorst and president Donna Shalala and UM coach Al Golden was informed this afternoon as well as the rest of the team.
Golden obviously feels bad for his seniors, but understands it is the right thing to do.
Considering some of his seniors took impermissible gifts from former booster Nevin Shapiro, it's hard to argue their class pay for the mess being left behind once they're gone.
"I’m clearly disappointed," Golden said. "I believe it’s the right decision and I’m 100 percent behind the decision that was made. but we are disappointed. I think they will be resilient though and have a great attitude and move forward with intensity and prepare and play a great game on Friday."
"We know we are one step closer to putting these issues behind us," Golden said. "We can move forward and move the program forward."
Golden was asked about his own future at the program considering the potential sanctions at UM and the coach opening at his alma mater Penn State.
"I don't have any decisions to make," he said. "I am coaching the Miami program and moving forward. My family and I enjoy living here and we have a great group of kids on the team and I am excited about the direction we are going."
Eichorst assured the media he will do his best to make sure Golden remains the coach of UM for a long time. "I truly believe in my heart that I have one of the best football coaches in America and I plan on working side-by-side with him for a very long time," Eichorst said.
> Golden seemed encouraged by the MRI results of offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson on Sunday and has upgraded him to doubtful for Friday's game. "It doesn't look like it will be a surgery deal, which is great for the young man," Golden said.
TAMPA -- Jerry Anderson, one of 12 people on the Advocare 100 Independence Bowl selection committee, said Saturday he would love to pit the Hurricanes (6-5) against 10th-ranked Boise State in their bowl game Dec. 26.
"We like the TV appeal because they're a national team and have been for a long time," Anderson said. "They came [to Shreveport, La.] and played when [quarterback] Brock Berlin first started. So, the local people know them. We'll have a very good local turnout for Miami, whether we have Boise or San Diego State. If we can have Boise, it would be a pretty big deal."
UM, under NCAA investigation for gifts players accepted from former booster Nevin Shapiro, could end up declining a bowl invite to try and get a step ahead of potential sanctions that could be handed down.
Asked if there has been any talk of doing that, UM coach Al Golden said: "Not that I’m aware of , no. the first time the question was posed to me was in one of the interviews. I don’t know what day, Wednesday or whatever. My job is to get the team bowl eligible. That’s the first time I heard it when somebody brought it up the other day."
Center Tyler Horn said he doesn't care where UM plays its bowl game. "A bowl is a bowl. It's always a lot of fun," Horn said. "I've got 30 days left with these guys -- some of my best friends. The fact I can play football with them a little longer feels good."
Seantrel Henderson spent nearly all season fighting his way through off-season back surgery to get in UM's starting lineup.
The 6-8, 350-pound sophomore, who made his third consecutive start Saturday at right tackle, now has a new battle on his hands -- a right knee injury that Golden expects will keep him out of the season finale against Boston College on Friday.
With 5:05 left in the second quarter, Henderson went down face first on UM's 10-yard line after a teammate rolled up behind him. Henderson, who started his third consecutive game at right tackle, was carted off the field shortly after with ice on his right knee. He returned to the UM sideline on crutches early in the fourth quarter.
"I don’t think it’s good," Golden said of the injury. "I think it’s safe to say he won’t play next week. Let’s not speculate any further until we can get an MRI. But I think it’s safe to say he won’t play next week."
Redshirt freshman Jonathan Feliciano, who started UM's first six games at right tackle, was flagged twice for false starts after replacing Henderson. Feliciano leads the team in false starts.
"He’s a redshirt freshman. He’s got to just keep his poise a little bit, but he made some great blocks in the final drive," Golden said. "He’s just got to relax a little bit. What you can sense from the guys, and I was trying to make it light for them, was that they wanted to win so badly, and they wanted to do it for the seniors. So I think he’s part of the guys who are pressing right now."
UM's offensive line gave up a season-high six sacks and the running game was limited to a season-low 57 yards on 40 attempts.
A week after giving up an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown to Florida State's Greg Reid, Golden praised punter Dalton Botts effort Saturday. Botts had eight punts for an average of 43.4 yards. Only three were returned for 12 yards -- one was brought back for 11.
"Dalton Botts might have been the MVP of the game to be honest with you," Golden said. "I don’t know what his number are going to be but there were no returns I don’t think. It was all hang. He was either dominant or he was over 4.0 [seconds] because I don’t think there were any returns unless I’m mistaken. That made a big difference in the game.”
> Backup quarterback Stephen Morris, who had seen action in special packages in three consecutive games, didn't play Saturday at all.
"We just had a different game plan," Golden said. "Again it was a different running attack. You have to give them so much credit. They have an excellent defense and those two guys inside were all we could handle."
There were a couple of firsts for the Hurricanes Saturday:
> Receiver Phillip Dorsett made his first college start and cornerback Brandon McGee recorded the first interception of his college career when he yanked down a floater from BJ Daniels on USF's first offensive play from scrimmage. It was also the first interception of the season by a Hurricanes cornerback.
"We need to have more disruption at that position and get more turnovers," Golden said. "But clearly it’s big that he’s growing and maturing and he took a leadership role at the hotel last night."
> Receiver LaRon Byrd made his first start since the season opener at Maryland and hauled in a 25-yard pass on the opening play from scrimmage.
TAMPA -- The Miami Hurricanes (5-5) and South Florida Bulls (5-4) are both looking to become bowl eligible when they face off at Raymond James Stadium this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU. The Bulls beat UM 23-20 in overtime last year at Sun Life Stadium, and trail the all-time series 2-1.
> ABOUT USF: The Bulls lost four Big East games in a row -- 44-17 at Pittsburgh, 16-10 at Connecticut, Cincinnati 37-34 and at Rutgers 20-17 (OT) -- before winning last week 37-17 at Syracuse. Offensively, USF is just one of 16 teams nationally averaging at least 200 yards rushing (205.2 yards per game, 26th) and and passing (265.4 yards per game, 32nd). Quarterback B.J. Daniels threw for 274 yards and ran for 113 at Syracuse in his last start and is completing 60.4 percent of his passes for 2,262 yards, 12 TDs and 5 INTs on the season. The Bulls have two bruisers in its backfield, 6-foot, 210-pound sophomore Demetris Murray (99 att., 432 yards, 7 TDs) and 6-1, 240-pound junior Darrell Scott (10 att., 611 yards, 5 TDs). The team's leading receiver, sophomore Sterling Griffin (40 catches, 493 yards, 2 TDs), was UM quarterback Stephen Morris' high school teammate and top receiver at Monsignor Pace. But he was lost for the season against Cincinnati (Oct. 22). Defensively, the Bulls rank 37th in total defense (351.44 yards per game), 17th in rushing defense (108.00 yards per game) and 86th in pass defense (243.44 yards per agame). Their real strength is creating trouble behind the line of scrimmage. USF is 3rd in the nation in sacks, 2nd in tackles for loss. Linebacker DeDe Lattimore leads the team with 66 tckles, 10 for loss. Defensive end Ryne Giddins has 40 tackles and leads with 11 for loss. Giddins and Lattimore share the team lead with 5.5 sacks each. The Bulls created 21 turnovers (10 INTs, 11 fumbles) and are plus-3 in turnover margin. On special teams, the Bulls own the best punt coverage unit in the nation. They've allowed six returns for -2 yards all year. Punter Justin Brockhaus-Kann is averaging 37.4 yards per punt, including 12 punts inside the 20-yard line and three punts of 50-plus yards.
> WHAT TO WATCH WHEN IT COMES TO THE CANES: Last week at Florida State, Marcus Robinson started at strongside linebacker and left early with a shoulder injury. Robinson was lasted as probable coming into the game, but it's expected that Kelvin Cain will start in his place alongside, Sean Spence (middle) and Denzel Perryman (weakside). Safety Ray-Ray Armstrong will also be back this week, but won't start after serving a one-game suspension. Still, expect Armstrong to get in there and move JoJo Nicolas back to corner, where he helps the team more. As unit, UM's defense has played much better over the past two weeks, holding FSU to one offensive touchdown and limiting big plays. But creating turnovers remain a problem according to coordinator Mark D'Onofrio. UM only has 13 turnovers and will try to create more today against USF, which has turned the ball over 18 times. Offensively, expect the Canes to try and exploit the Bulls lack of size in the secondary. Free safety Jerrell Young (6-1, 209) is the Bulls' biggest defensive back. But UM will try to pound it. The goal: average 5 yards a carry. If they do that, they'll win. Running back Lamar Miller, currently fifth all-time in UM single-season rushing with 1,108 yards, needs 93 yards to move past Clinton Portis (1,200 yards, 2001) for fourth place.
> MANNY'S PICK: UM 30, USF 27. I expect a lot of offense in this game even if it doesn't equate into a lot of points. In the end, UM will find a way to win and get a little revenge for last year.
In case you missed it, Associated Press writer Tim Reynolds caught up with Randy Shannon this week for a real interesting interview on what he's been up to since he was fired as the Canes' head coach nearly a year ago.
Shannon told Reynolds that after spending time soaking up knowledge at Alabama, TCU, North Carolina, UNLV, Oregon, Iowa State and Minnesota, he's ready to coach again. Reynolds tried to get Shannon to talk about the Nevin Shapiro fiasco that happened under his watch, but unsurprisingly Shannon declined to do so in deference to the ongoing investigation at his alma mater.
Now, my question to you is how do you feel about Shannon now?
A year ago, a strong majority wanted him thrown off the team bus before he could steer the program any further in the wrong direction. Was he mistreated? Do you feel remorse at all for ripping him? I kind of do. I'll admit I was a little harder on him maybe than I should have been.
After all, he's supposed to be Cane family. Despite his struggles as a head coach (he went 28-22), Shannon helped lead UM to multiple national titles as both a player and defensive coordinator. Off the field, his players' grades and graduation rates improved and the number of arrests went down.
Or, are you unwilling to forgive? My biggest concern now really is how much he knew about the Shapiro scandal. Even though several people -- including Shapiro -- have said Shannon didn't want him around the program, Shannon was here the entire time the former booster was allegedly wreaking havoc. Did he really do all he could to push him away? Or did he look the other way like his assistants did who were willing to accept Shapiro's gifts and money to help bring kids in? Questions I'm sure that will go unanswered.
So, what are your thoughts on Randy?
CORAL GABLES -- Although he's classified on UM's roster as a junior, defensive tackle Adewale Ojomo said Tuesday he isn't sure if he'll be back next year in a Hurricanes uniform.
And the reason has nothing to do with him possibly going pro early. According to Ojomo, his future rests in the hands of the NCAA, who will have to determine whether or not he's worthy of being granted a sixth-year of eligibility.
When Ojomo signed with UM in 2007 he was redshirted his freshman season while he practiced with the scout team. In 2008, he played in 11 games, made two starts and had 22 tackles and three sacks. Then, he missed the entire 2009 season with a broken jaw after being sucker punched by a walk-on teammate in a preseason locker room brawl. That season, Ojomo said, he received a medical hardship for. The question now is if the NCAA will allow him to do the same for 2007.
"They're trying to figure out if they have any medical records from my freshman year when I had a groin injury," Ojomo said. "They're trying to figure out if there's any documentation so they can give it to compliance and file the paperwork. But if they can't, then I don't have another year."
Ojomo said he hopes to hear news on that "documentation" issue in the next two to three weeks. Getting a sixth-year usually isn't that difficult. Offensive tackle Joel Figueroa received a sixth-year before the start of this season. Former defensive end Eric Moncur got one a few years back. But Ojomo said the key is proving you were injured.
UM coach Al Golden would love to have Ojomo back. After injuries decimated the defensive tackle position two weeks into the season, Ojomo was asked to move inside from end to tackle despite being weighing only 260 pounds.
"I'm really proud of him," Golden said. "He's really an example of what we want in terms of being unselfish and being an example to the team. I think he's embraced it. He's been fairly effective in there, he has done a nice job there. He's a starter in the nickel as well, so it gives us more speed inside. Adewale is strong. He's over 270 pounds now. He's starting to become a harder player inside, hold the point better. It's difficult to do during the season. We appreciate what he's doing for us there."
Ojomo said he likes playing tackle and thinks it "suits me better than defensive end."
"I definitely have to add weight, probably another 10 pounds, get up to 280," said Ojomo, who in six weeks has packed on 11 more pounds by loading up on carbohydrates.
"My production hasn't been very good. But in terms of my job and the defense, I think I'm doing my job, holding my own. I'm taking on a lot of double teams. I know that's good because Olivier Vernon and [Anthony] Chickillo will come free."
If he is able to come back next season, Ojomo said he "would like to play all over the line. Just know the whole playbook, everybody's position and stay on the field as much as I can."
Over the past few weeks Ojomo said he's been getting about 45 snaps a game while alternating with Micanor Regis. He said defensive line coach Jethro Franklin told he him he needs to "bat more balls down and have more strip attempts, try to get more turnovers."
"I need to improve in that area," Ojomo said.
NEWS AND NOTES
> Golden said Tuesday that safety Ray-Ray Armstrong is all set to play on Saturday at South Florida after being cleared by athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Monday. But Armstorng will not start after serving a one-game suspension and will be "in the rotation and will be back on special teams as well."
> Seantrel Henderson is the new starter at right tackle.
"Seantrel played better [than Jonathan Feliciano] in the game and Seantrel's weight is where it should be [at 350 pounds]," Golden said. "And Seantrel is preparing the last seven or eight days like he should be. Prior to that it was hit or miss. Really, I think I said this about [Olivier Vernon] last week and I'm saying the same thing about Seantrel today -- he looks different. It looks like the conditioning, all the normal things you would get get in training camp, he has it right now. He has a great attitude. He really has. I'm excited to watch him play Saturday. That kid loves football. One thing about Seantrel. He loves football."
Henderson spent the last few minutes of Saturday's loss to Florida State stomping his feet on the sideline out of frustration.
> Golden said freshman Phillip Dorsett is the No. 1 punt returner -- ahead of Travis Benjamin, who had a key muffed punt return at FSU.
"They're competing, but if we were going to play today, Phillip's the guy," Golden said. "You can't do that in a game and not have some kind of repercussion. You just can't. We can't have that kind of decision-making in a game of that magnitude. Travis knows it, he's been communicated to. He'll fight back; I know Travis will. But he'll have to steal it back now, because that gave Phillip an opportunity."
> Defensive tackle Curtis Porter, who has missed the entire season with a right hand injury, could return this weekend. Golden said Porter is battling with freshman Jalen Grimble to get in the rotation at tackle.
> Golden said sophomore Kacy Rodgers, who gave up the touchdown at FSU, will focus primarily at cornerback this week.
"I don't want to say he froze," Golden said. "He just didn't execute. In fairness to the kid, you would like to have that exposed to him in training camp, in some scrimmage or at some game where you have such a lead that you're playing everybody and not for the first time in front of 85,000 and many more viewers. He wishes he had the play back."
Golden said Rodgers should "have run through and separated [the receiver] from the ball or intercepted it."
Senior JoJo Nicolas, who played the entire FSU game safety, will again stick to safety this week.
> Golden said the biggest difference between UM and FSU right now is depth.
"Just looking at Florida State. That's the one thing they're ahead of us on," Golden said. "We're going to work on that. We have a big recruiting class coming in. I think a lot of those guys are going to have to play.
"Where we're hurt the most is at linebacker. Those are the guys that are run and strike, carry weight. They're 225, 230 and can get down there and make plays. Right now we find ourselves protecting linebackers. We're sitting there with five guys the other day. I'm used to carrying 10 to 12 on the road. We're sitting there five, maybe six. That makes it hard, really hard. We're trying to protect those guys. We understand moving forward we have to get that fixed."
CORAL GABLES -- Jordan Futch, trying to work his way back from a shoulder injury he suffered against Duke two weeks ago, was recovering Tuesday from a suspected case of heat exhaustion, which necessitated him being taken from the Hurricanes' practice field by paramedics and transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital.
"I think it was a case of dehydration and low sugar levels," Golden said during his weekly Tuesday afternoon press conference. "Again, I’m not the doctor but I’m just trying to give you the idea that everything’s fine. He just felt really weak or faint. It was sneaky hot out there today to be honest with you. I don’t think we had a day like that in a couple weeks. I think it got sneaky hot, and Jordan has been limited in his activity for the last nine or ten days. So I think the combination of that and we wanted to be safe. From all accounts Jordan is doing fine.”
At first, however, it hardly seemed that way. A normally quiet morning at Greentree Practice Field was interrupted at around 8:30 a.m. by police and fire rescue sirens. An ambulance quickly pulled onto the practice field, surprising some players who had no idea Futch had even collapsed.
"I really didn't know what was going on to be honest with you," defensive tackle Adewale Ojomo said. "I was over there on the field, saw the ambulance on the field and heard something about Futch. That's all."
The National Weather Service reported that at 8:30 a.m., when paramedics were called to the field, temperatures in Miami were 81 degrees with 85 percent humidity and a heat index of 87.
Hope Gibbs, the division chief for the Coral Gables Fire Department, said when they received the call about Futch they were told "there was somebody unconscious on the practice field.”
A paramedic on the scene told The Miami Herald Futch was given fluids and was doing much better by the time he was whisked away in the ambulance.
Still, it's likely Futch still won't play Saturday at USF.
“I want to give Jordan the opportunity to see what he can do moving forward in the next 48 hours," Golden said. "If I had to give his status, it would be doubtful right now.”
Golden said the team usually starts practice at 7 a.m. and players are offered "fruits, Muscle Milks, Gatorade, and bagels and things of that nature" to make "sure their "equilibrium is good" before taking the field.
But, Golden said, "it's incumbent on every player to make sure they're hydrating and eating... I think his was a case he hadn't been doing anything for a couple weeks, 10 days."
CORAL GABLES -- An unidentified University of Miami football player was taken to a nearby hospital by ambulance Tuesday morning at around 8:45 a.m. after apparently suffering from "heat exhaustion" at practice.
"We received a call that there was somebody unconscious on the practice field,” said Hope Gibbs, division chief for the Coral Gables Fire Department. “The caller said that he was in and out of consciousness.”
A paramedic on the scene told The Miami Herald the athlete "was given fluids" and indicated everything was fine. A UM spokesman, who wouldn't identify the player, also indicated the player was fine and the incident was "nothing serious."
At first, however, it hardly seemed that way. Police and fire rescue raced onto the scene and an ambulance pulled onto Greentree Practice Field. It's expected UM coach Al Golden will address the issue during his weekly Tuesday press conference at 12:30 p.m.
The National Weather Service reported that at 8:30 a.m., when paramedics were called to the field, temperatures in Miami were 81 degrees with 85 percent humidity and a heat index of 87.
Miami Herald Staff Writer Monique Madan contributed to this report. Here is a link to her story.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
When the nation's No. 1-recruiting class walked through the doors in 2008, the Miami Hurricanes were supposed to return to prominence. Randy Shannon, the man tapped into South Florida's recruiting pipeline, was supposed to restock the shelves with the talent Larry Coker let escape under his watch.
Winning? That was supposed to come quickly.
But we're still waiting.
With two games left in Al Golden's first season as Canes coach, UM is still sputtering, struggling to play better than .500 football. Are they folding like Shannon's Canes? Nope. Not even close.
Golden and his assistants have gotten more out of this group than Shannon ever did. Tommy Streeter, no where to be found under the old regime, has become a star. Jacory Harris is no longer an interception machine, rather one of the most efficient passers in the country. Sean Spence? Even better than he was his first three years, even wreaking havoc at middle linebacker when they've smartly used him there.
But the overall results for this group of 32 signees in 2008 who were supposed to save the day? Not very pretty.
> UM's record is 28-21, 17-14 in ACC play.
> The Canes are just 4-5 against FBS in-state opponents, going 1-3 versus Florida State, 0-1 versus the Gators, 1-1 versus USF and 2-0 versus UCF.
> The Canes record against ranked opponents since 2008? 5-7.
> The highest UM has been ranked in the AP poll was No. 8, before Clemson beat them at Sun Life Stadium 40-37 in overtime in 2009. The highest UM finished a season in the AP poll? 19th in 2009.
> Bowl wins? Zero.
A few of those kids have shined individually:
> Brandon Harris, a second round pick of the Texans who left school a year early, was an All-American cornerback.
> Spence, considered the 11th-best player for UM in that recruiting class by Rivals.com, will go down statistically as one of best Canes linebackers ever.
> Streeter, who did nothing his first three years here, has the potential to be a first round pick.
> Travis Benjamin became just the sixth player in UM history this past Saturday to eclipse the career 2,000-yard receiving mark.
> And Jacory Harris, for all his interception woes, will likely finish second to Ken Dorsey in all the major career passing stats.
Some turned out to be decent starters and contributors:
> Linebacker Ramon Buchanan, out for the season with a knee injury after just four games and could return next year, has 106 career tackles, 13.5 for loss in 39 games.
> Vaughn Telemaque, once compared to Ed Reed by Shannon, is a three-year starter at safety with 152 career tackles, 5 fumble recoveries and 4 interceptions.
> Defensive end/linebacker Marcus Robinson has 14.5 career sacks and 102 career tackles.
> Defensive tackle Micanor Regis has 101 tackles, 14.5 for loss, 3 INTs in 43 games.
> Receiver LaRon Byrd, who has struggled to get on the field his senior season, has 100 career catches for 1,179 yards and 6 TDs.
> Defensive end Andrew Smith, a 2-star recruit coming out of high school, turned out to be a decent third-down pass rusher (49 tackles, 8 TFL, 4 sacks).
> Junior College signee Pat Hill had two decent years opening holes as UM's fullback.
> And kicker Jake Wieclaw, once considered a mistake by coaches, has finally worked his way into the kicker's job after Matt Bosher left.
But so many of those 2008 recruits turned out to be busts:
> Arthur Brown, the No. 1 linebacker in the country and recruit in UM's 2008 class, did nothing in two years at UM. He's now a starter at Kansas State.
> Marcus Forston, the other 5-star recruit in UM's 2008 class, has had two seasons cut short by injuries including this one. But he's still made just 60 tackles, 7 sacks in 31 games.
> Jordan Futch -- a kid with a great attitude and a lot of heart -- didn't crack the starting lineup until this year. He has 36 career tackles in 31 games after being tabbed as the fourth-best player in the class.
> Aldarius Johnson, the No. 1-rated receiver in UM's 2008 class, has done nothing since his freshman year and got booted off the team in August for allegedly lying to NCAA investigators about the impermissible gifts he received from Nevin Shapiro.
> C.J. Holton? Davon Johnson? Ben Jones? Jeremy Lewis? All four-star recruits who have never cracked the starting lineup or done much outside of mop-up or special teams duties.
> From the Where are they Now Department: Joe Wylie, Thearon Collier, Antonio Harper, Gavin Hardin, Cannon Smith, Taylor Cook, Brandon Marti, Zach Kane and C.J. Odom.
> And we're all still waiting to see when Kendall Thompkins -- practice superstar -- does more than just help out on special teams. Fullback John Calhoun is a nice kid. Not much to say beyond that.
The reason I bring all this up -- this recap of ups and downs for what in essence is UM's senior class -- is to try and clear up why I think the Canes (5-5) are still stuck in this muddle of mediocrity even whileGolden and his staff have done a better job than the previous staff. Two reasons are depth and talent. UM simply missed on too many recruits the last few years. Another, is the mental makeup of the kids who are here. When the tough has gotten going, they've simply cracked.
"We have some bad habits that surface during pressure situations that we have to fix," Golden said of his team Sunday. "It is frustrating, but at the same time it's part of the process. We just have to stay with it. The kids have to continue to be willing to make the changes necessary."
That's the frustrating thing with these Canes. They've had three to four years to break those bad habits. This 2008 group -- and the one that came in right after it in 2009 with Ray-Ray Armstrong, Lamar Miller, Brandon Washington, Brandon McGee, Dyron Dye, Mike James and Olivier Vernon -- has just always found a way to blow close games.
The same problems always arise. Poor tackling. Freelancing. Blown coverages. Brain farts. Jacory Harris always seems to make a bad decision near the end zone. Travis Benjamin runs the wrong routes at Ohio State then chases after a punt that's past him at Florida State. Ray-Ray? Forget that he's always out of position because he tries to make too many plays. How does anyone get in trouble off the field again after they've already served a four-game suspension for doing something similar to what they got into trouble for the first time?
It's maddening really.
You can look at this picture sunny-side up and say UM's five losses this season have been decided by a total of 26 points, three by four points or less. You can say UM is just a few plays away. You can say they are just a few players away.
But to me, it feels like the process is going to take awhile. Until this group leaves and new ones with a different late-game DNA come in, it really won't change. Golden has tried hard to change the culture. He's tried to get his team up for every game. But the woes just seem embedded in some of these guys.
In the end, you can't be an ACC or national title contender when you can only hit on 40 percent of what is supposed to be your senior class. Golden has to do better than what Shannon did in recruiting. He has to land quality backups.
And he has to continue to change the off the field culture. You can't build consistency when some of your best players are getting suspended for doing really dumb things (Ray-Ray, Regis, etc). All of that in the end is why I believe this team is 5-5. There's just a lack of depth in too many places (corner, safety, linebacker). And the football IQ just hasn't gotten better.
Now, I'm not trying to say all of 2011 has been bad by any stretch.
Golden has gotten this football team -- which has been smacked hard by distractions -- to improve dramatically in a lot of areas. Despite Saturday's nightmare performance, UM has improved on special teams. Same with penalties. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has worked wonders with Harris and UM's offense, which before Saturday was No. 1 in the country in efficiency. Miller became the school's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002. Sean Spence is having an All-American season. Freshmen Denzel Perryman and Anthony Chickillo have shown us they will be stars in the future. And Golden has 26 commitments and a consensus Top 10 recruiting class lined up for 2012.
But don't let your imagination wander into the danger zone of unreal expectations. Don't start believing championships are right around the corner. We're still talking about a 5-5 football team that will face scholarship reductions and bowl-bans once the NCAA's investigation into this Shapiro fiasco is completed. We're talking about a 5-5 football team that next season will be without any of those good seniors I mentioned earlier -- and maybe some of those underclassmen too. That's the football team somebody -- hopefully Golden -- will be putting on the field next year.
So, dig your heels in. As Al says, it's a process. One that is going to take some time.
TALLAHASSEE -- For much of the first half Saturday, Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris swapped in and out for each other at quarterback for the Hurricanes.
While the first half results in terms of offensive output weren't necessarily bad -- they combined to go 13 of 18 for 136 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and ran the ball five times for three yards -- the results weren't exactly stellar for the Canes offense.
UM only managed to put up seven points -- on a 2-yard Harris to Clive Walford touchdown pass. And Harris, who had thrown just one interception over his previous six games, was easily picked off in the end zone by Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner right after replacing Morris, who lost six yards on a poorly executed option read the play prior.
Did the in-and-out rotation of quarterbacks hurt UM's offensive rhythm? Harris didn't necessarily think so.
"Coach put some plays in for him and he gets in and runs them," Harris said. "[As for the INT] I had a little pressure, but I shouldn't have even went there. If I was going to go there, I should have threw it out the back of the end zone to let [Tommy] Streeter get a play. They were running quarters and he sat flat. I should have gone to the flat. That's on me. I blame it on me."
Said center Tyler Horn of the dual-QB system: "In practice, that's how it is in practice. Stephen goes in for a package and Jacory comes in and throws a touchdown pass. It's just part of it. In my opinion if we might have blocked it better, Jacory might have had time to throw it on point. Put that [INT] on us."
Morris only took one snap in the second half, on a trick play where he ran in from the receiver position and tried to unsuccessfully to dive into the end zone on a sneak near the end zone.
Receiver LaRon Byrd took such a vicious hit from Florida State linebacker Nigel Bradham late in the fourth quarter some of his teammates got on one knee and began to pray.
Luckily for Byrd, hit he took didn't appear to cause serious injury. After laying on the ground for several moments motionless, Byrd got up and jogged to the sideline.
"I' saw him on the sidelines after that. He was LaRon. He said nothing happened to him, it just knocked the wind out of him," Harris said. "But that was a big hit. It scared the heck out of me. Had to pray for a second."
Receiver Tommy Streeter might be less fortunate. He hobbled off the field with 3:03 to play after diving into the FSU sideline to make a catch. On the sideline, Streeter had his left foot examined by UM's trainers and winced in pain as they pressed down on it. His status moving forward is uncertain.
> Senior Marcus Robinson, who started at strongside linebacker with Jordan Futch out Saturday, left the game with 10:10 to play in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury and didn't return.
RARE FUMBLES FOR MILLER
Running back Lamar Miller moved past Edgerrin James and Daynell Ferguson and into fifth place in UM's single season yardage list Saturday. Miller ran for 92 yards on 22 carries and now has 1,108 yards on the season.
He also fumbled twice Saturday, the first time he's actually fumbled all season. UM, which came in having fumbled six times (four were lost), fumbled three times and lost two of them.
"They weren't making big hits. I was just getting careless with the ball a little bit," Miller said.
FALSE STARTS HURT
UM was flagged nine times for 55 yards Saturday. Five penalties were false starts. Right tackle Jonathan Feliciano, who started and saw his first action in two games, was flagged twice. Fullback Maurice Hagens and tight ends Dyron Dye and Walford were the other guilty parties.
"We practice with [noise] all week, have the speakers out there. But it's nothing like being on the five yard line [facing] the student section at Florida State. You know what can try to reproduce those decibles," Horn said. "At the end of the day you have to watch the football, get used to it if you're going to play college football. That's how it is everywhere."
TALLAHASSEE -- The Miami Hurricanes (5-4, 3-3 ACC) take on rival Florida State (6-3, 4-2) at 3:30 p.m. at Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday in what will be the 56th meeting in their storied series. The visiting team has won each of the last five games, but the Seminoles are considered a nine-point favorite coming in.
> ABOUT THE SEMINOLES: Jimbo Fisher's team has won four games in a row since dropping three in a row to Oklahoma, Clemson and Wake Forest. Quarterback EJ Manuel, the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, has played extremely well since coming back from a shoulder injury. He's completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,290 yards and eight touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions over his last five games. The Seminoles are averaging 292 yards passing per game and already have 21 TD passes including 40 pass plays of 13 yards or more. Freshman receiver Rashad Greene (St. Thomas Aquinas), who missed four weeks with an ankle injury, is expected to return this week only bolstering FSU's passing attack. Freshman tailback Devonta Freeman has helped spark the Seminoles running game over the last four games (710 yards). Freeman has run for 2888 yards and five TDs over FSU's four-game win streak. If there is a weakness for FSU, it's offensive line play. The Seminoles have given up 25 sacks this season as they've shuffled players around and dealt with injuries. Defensively, the Seminoles rank third in the country in run defense (78.89 yards per game), fourth in total defense (268.0 yards per game), fifth in sacks (3.33 per game) and 22nd in pass defense. FSU has also forced seven turnovers over their last two games. Punter Shawn Powell is averaging 45.8 yards per punt.
> WHAT TO WATCH FOR THE CANES: The suspension of Ray-Ray Armstrong hurts Miami in the sense it pulls the team's best cornerback -- JoJo Nicolas -- back to safety. Now, Brandon McGee and Mike Williams will be lined up against FSU's dangerous receivers. Not a good equation for UM's porous pass defense. The Hurricanes, shut out from any sacks the last two weeks, will need a big game from its best pass rusher this week in Olivier Vernon. If Vernon can apply pressure on Manuel -- he should be lined up opposite freshman tackle Bobby Hart -- UM may be able to find a way to mess up FSU's offensive rhythm. As good as UM has played on offense this season, this is only the third team they are facing with a consensus Top 40 defense. The return of Jonathan Feliciano should help provide extra support against FSU's pass rush. It will be interesting to see if Seantrel Henderson shifts over to left tackle if Brandon Washington struggles.
> MANNY'S PICK: FSU 34, UM 26. Would love to pick the Canes here and believe they've "turned the corner." But I've been burned too many times by this group. FSU is red-hot, has a dangerous quarterback who can kill you through the air and the ground -- Cane kryptonite. FSU's defense probably isn't as good as advertised. But that won't be enough for Miami. Defense has been the issue all season. In the end, too many explosive plays on pass defense will doom UM. But the Canes will play well and won't fold. If there's any way they've turned the corner in any way, that's what Golden has achieved. This team always fights and scraps.
TALLAHASSEE -- Some leftover notes from this week to get you ready for today's game at Doak Campbell Stadium:
> Former St. Thomas Aquinas star and FSU starting safety Lamarcus Joyner never got a chance to line up against former Miami Northwestern receiver Tommy Streeter in high school. So it's safe to say he's looking forward to trying to slow down Streeter and UM's vertical passing game Saturday.
Joyner, who grew up in Liberty City while despising the Hurricanes and loving the Seminoles, was named USA Today's High School Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, opposite UM offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, who was named USA Today's Offensive Player of the Year.
> FSU's defense has given up just 39 points over their last four games combined -- the stingiest four-game stretch for the Seminoles since the start of the 2003 season. FSU leads the ACC in defense, ranks 3rd against the run (78.89 yards per game), 4th in total defense (268 yards per game) and 5th in sacks (16 over their last four games).
Of the eight teams FSU has played that employ a single quarterback, the Noles have held seven below their season average for passing yards including holding Oklahoma's Landry Jones to just 1999 yards passing -- nearly 200 yards below his season average.
"Our main focus is to handle the line of scrimmage," Joyner said. "As for Jacory [Harris], he was already a great player. Everybody knew his potential. The guy is smart. So this is a big challenge for the secondary which is always a gift for me. We love opportunities like this. We just want to see where we're at with a quarterback who puts up those numbers Jacory is. With the great receivers he's got and the great running game with Lamar Miller, we embrace this challenge."
> Al Golden, who always speaks more candidly on WQAM's Hurricanes Hotline, said Wednesday offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch turned to him last Saturday when backup Stephen Morris threw a perfect strike to Travis Benjamin in the end zone that was dropped and raved about Morris' "elite arm."
"Sometimes that ball just jumps off his hands," Golden said of Morris. "The best thing for his career has been this year. Not just to see Jacory [Harris] flourish, but to listen to learn and get better everyday. The next time he plays for us he's going to be a very successful quarterback. If we had a better situation depth wise we probably could have redshirted him."
The Hurricanes have three quarterback commitments for next season -- St. Andrew Episcopal School's Preston Dewey (who came down for the Duke game) is really the only one considered elite. But Golden is confident Jedd Fisch, who is teaching an NFL system, will get the most out of all of them.
"I think he's one of the best quarterback coaches in the country," Golden said. "We got three young guys that can come in here, learn the system, get reps. There's not a lot of quarterbacks who are on the team. They'll be getting reps, they won't be just standing there.
"There's not one thing that we teach them that will not carry forward. Everything is putting money in the bank. Everything we teach them over the four years there here is gaining interest because when its time for the combine and questions about whatever they'll know exactly what they're talking about. Even on the [Jon] Gruden shows, ESPN guys, they all talk the same way. That's the language we're teaching these guys. A lot of programs don't do that right now. [They've got] gimmick offenses and might put up a lot of numbers and be successful and everything, but it doesn't carry over to the NFL. They're paying the quarterback too much money to carry the ball in the NFL."
> Here's what Fisch told me last week he thinks of transfer Ryan Williams, who has been running the scout team: "I don't get to spend too much time with him because he's been running our scout team. But he works super hard at things. He's done an excellent job of coming in extra, spending more time in the building, early, late.
"I would say his approach to the game is fantastic. It's a matter now that he hasn't been able to take reps with our offense because he's on the scout team. The spring will be huge for him, but mentally I think he'll be in a position where he's ahead of anybody coming in. He can make all the throws and obviously comes with great size. That always helps in the pocket."
> Getting back to Henderson for a second, Golden said he jumped up from getting about 10, 15, 17 snaps in his first three games since back surgery to around 50 plays in his first start of the season versus Duke. It sounded to me like Golden is happy redshirt freshman Jonathan Feliciano is back this week to cut into that workload. "Between these two guys we should get real good production over there," Golden said.
> In his five games back since a shoulder injury, FSU quarterback EJ Manuel has completed 83 of 125 attempts for 1,290 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions -- a 167.8 passer rating. He's now 12th in QB passing efficiency. Manuel has also run the ball 51 times this season and recorded a first down 18 times and scored a touchdown four others. "What we can't have him do is what the Virginia Tech kid did. We can't let that kid a two-headed monster," Golden said. "We have to make him one dimensional -- run it or pass it, but not both."
> ESPN's Corey Long weighed in on a few UM recruiting topics with me, including giving me his two cents on the Canes' latest commitments: Venice High running back Danny Dillard and Lakeland High receiver Ricquan Southward.
"He's extremely underrated and a heck of a pickup for them," Long said of Southward. "As for Dillard, he kind of fell off this year, had some injuries. He's a good powerful back, powerful legs, should be higher rated than he is, not a speedster. I think he's like a Mike James, same type of productivity. Good character kid. He might be 85 percent of what Mike James was. He gives Duke Johnson a nice compliment, a good combination."
Who makes the biggest impact of the incoming freshmen? "That's easy, Duke," Long said. "Lamar [Miller] isn't going to stay. I think he's too good. I think this kid Duke comes in there and has potential to be Miami's Reggie Bush. He's off the charts. I think he's the best high school football player in state of Florida. That's a guy if I'm starting a team in the state, he's the guy I choose. I have not seen a young man have the effect on a team like he does. He's awesome. He will be my favorite for ACC Rookie of the Year next year."
Long said he thinks defensive end Jelani Hamilton (St. Thomas Aquinas) and linebacker Reggie Northrup (Jacksonville First Coast) will eventually de-commit and head to other schools. But he thinks Miami Norland linebacker Keith Brown, who is visiting other schools, will stick.
"The more and more I know about it, I can see Brown sticking to that commitment. Keith Brown is just taking his visits and playing some games. I don't think he's confused," Long said. "The QB I do like is Preston Dewey. He came down this weekend. He's doing some recruiting. They've done a good job solidifying this class. There's still a lot of excitement of playing for The U and Coach Golden. At the end of the day it will be a solid class and a couple solid kids like Duke. They're going to fill in a lot of holes this year. Special teams. Linebacker. They just need bodies. You look at their roster right now, the numbers are just low."
> Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg said Johnson, Brown and a few other high school teammates would be visiting Illinois this weekend. Don't read much into it.
> For those of you worried about Golden leaving, the fears are legit. Penn State will make a run at him. But national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who has known Golden pretty well since his days at Temple, thinks Golden will stay in Miami.
"He was on my show a couple weeks ago. He seems happy, focused on the job ahead of getting Miami back to the elite schools. However, it's got to be both ways," Lemming said. "Miami would be foolish not to give him a long term contract and entice him to stay. They've got one of the premier young coaches in the country. If they lose him, it's their own fault. Who are they going to replace him with? At Penn State, Bradley is the head coach, but there is no AD, no President. It may take awhile to name a coach. It gives Miami long enough time to get Al secured."
Anthony Chickillo didn't need to listen to the Seminole War Chant -- played all week inside the University of Miami locker room -- to get him fired up for Saturday's rivalry game in Tallahassee.
"My dad has told me whatever happens in these games you're going to remember it for the rest of your life. Twenty years from now you're going to look back and say man this is how I did against FSU," said Chickillo, who has started six games this season and ranks sixth in tackles (33), second in sacks (3.5) and third in tackles for loss (5) on the Canes defense.
"I think my dad only lost one game to them when he played [from 1979 to 1982]. I know I don't want to have a losing record against them."
Chickillo, UM's top recruit last February, has lived up to his hype through nine games. Florida State, meanwhile, who had the No. 2 recruiting class in the country last year according to Rivals.com, has had a number of true freshmen make big impacts for them this season on offense.
Among the standouts:
> Running back Devonta Freeman, who led Miami Central to the state title in December, has started the last three games for FSU and leads the team with 367 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
> Tight end Nick O'Leary, the grandson of famed golfer Jack Nicklaus and a former standout at Palm Beach Dwyer the Hurricanes badly coveted, has started twice and ranks sixth on the team in receiving with 12 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown.
> Former St. Thomas Aquinas offensive linemen Bobby Hart, has started the last four games at right tackle. Austin Barron, who started alongside Hart on the Raiders' state and national championship team last Decemeber, made his first start for the Seminoles last week at center against Boston College.
> Receiver Rashad Greene, another star on that St. Thomas championship team, ranks second on the team in receiving with 26 catches for 457 yards and a team-leading six TD receptions. Greene has missed the last four games with an ankle injury, but it appears likely he'll return this week.
Aside from Chickillo, the Hurricanes (tabbed with the 36th best 2011 recruiting class in the country by Rivals.com) have had a couple of other true freshmen standouts shine this season.
Linebacker Denzel Perryman, who said he "hurt" last year when he sat in the stands and watched the Seminoles wallop the Canes 45-17 at Sun Life Stadium, ranks fourth on the team with 48 tackles despite making just two starts. He also has a sack, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Phillip Dorsett, who tried unsuccessfully at swaying his former Aquinas teammate Greene to defect to the Canes late in the recruiting process after taking an official visit to Coral Gables, is sixth on the Canes in receiving. Last week against Duke, Dorsett caught his first touchdown pass. He has 10 catches for 120 yards and a score. He also serves as the backup to Travis Benjamin on kickoff and punt returns.
While other true freshmen like cornerback Thomas Finnie (8 games, 13 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU), defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (7 games, 4 tackles) and linebacker Gionni Paul (6 games, 4 tackles) have had some playing time, UM coach Al Golden has been content with allowing the majority of the 16 players he signed in his first recruiting class spend the year learning on the scout team.
Asked if he thought any other freshmen might see more playing time over the last three games, the only player Golden mentioned was defensive lineman Jalen Grimble.
"We’ve got a lot of football left," Golden said Tuesday. "I think when freshmen show that they are capable of playing or making progress, you reward them with more time. I think some of the guys that we’ve mentioned already are doing that and will continue to do that as they grow here."
> A total of 48 players between UM and FSU have high school connections. The most popular: St. Thomas Aquinas, who has 11 total. Miami Northwestern High is next with eight.
> The Hurricanes, who recorded 18 sacks in their first seven games, have been shutout over the last two weeks.
"There's been some opportunities," Chickillo said. "But Duke was throwing a lot of quick passes, slants and stuff. You just have to get your hands up. Ball disruption is just as good as a sack. Batted balls and getting in the quarterback's line of vision is important. We need to do a better job of that."
FSU has given up 26 sacks this season. Despite being rather elusive, E.J. Manuel has been brought down 18 times -- including 10 sacks over the last three games.
Of his own play, Chickillo said: "My footwork has gotten a lot better. My technique has gotten a lot better. My feel for the game, knowing my job, learning the process, going week to week and how hard I have to study.
"Coach Jet [Jethro Franklin] is a perfectionist. He wants me to work on the little things to make me great. Having a pass rushing plan every single play, a counter to the pass rush play. I just have to keep working and getting better."
> Chickillo insists he was always going to UM, but had he gone with his second choice it would have been FSU. "I took 6 unofficial visits to FSU," Chickillo said. "I got a lot of friends at Florida State, a lot of friends who went there. Coach Fisher is doing a lot of good things, they have a lot of good coaches I had good relationships with. I can't wait to play against them. It's going to be an exciting game."
> Receiver Tommy Streeter, in the hunt for a 1,000-yard receiving season, figures to draw safety help over the top of him in coverage Saturday like he has over the past couple weeks to prevent the deep ball.
But Golden said Streeter is more than "just a go-runner."
"He is catching fades. He’s catching back-pad throws. He’s catching slants. He’s catching in-cuts. He’s doing a lot of different things. He’s more versatile," Golden said. "He’s done a great job with his hands. He’s running routes harder. He made some key blocks for us too. Knowing Florida State and watching how they played, I don’t think they’re going to pay any more attention to him than they did anybody. Whether it was the young man from Clemson, they’re just going to line up and do their deal and make you beat them. They’re aggressive and they have good cover skills. Their safeties can cover and can run and strike. They have 30 sacks and none of them seem to be breathing heavy because they just keep rotating them in there. It’s going to be a great challenge for our offensive line and quarterback."
Safety Ray-Ray Armstrong will not play in Saturday’s game against Florida State for what UM coach Al Golden deemed "a violation of team rules" on his weekly radio segment on WQAM's Hurricane Hotline Wednesday night.
"We're still trying to learn about the circumstance with Ray-Ray, but he's been suspended for violating team rules," Golden said. "That's the extent of it right now. We're trying to learn more about it. It's as simple as that. It's a violation of team policy -- what we term conduct detrimental. He won't be with us and we'll reevaluate when we come back from Tallahassee."
The Associated Press reported late Wednesday night that school officials are checking to see if Armstrong broke NCAA rules by having dinner with someone who owns a public relations firm that works with professional athletes. UM confirmed in a statement Armstrong didn't practice all week and hasn't been involved in team activities.
On Sunday, Ari Washington, the president of Double Coverage PR Group, used her twitter account to state she was having dinner at Prime 112 with Armstrong. Armstrong did as well, tweeting from his account boom_king26: "Just left Prime 112 wit @arinicolelife never seen a chicken this big." Armstrong followed it up with a picture.
With the NCAA investigating UM, the Hurricanes have been informed to be extra careful. This obviously was one of those instances where Armstrong wasn't.
Armstrong was suspended for the first four games of the season and asked to repay $788 due to his involvement with former booster Nevin Shapiro. Albert Armstrong, Armstrong's father, said Wednesday evening he hadn't heard anything yet about his son being suspended and was expecting him to play at Florida State.
Armstrong’s eligibility for the rest of the season remains unclear, but there is a possibility he will miss more than just Saturday’s game.
Armstrong has recorded 25 tackles, one interception, and one fumble recovery in five games. He was a preseason all-ACC pick. Senior JoJo Nicolas, who started and played cornerback against Duke, will move back to safety alongside Vaughn Telemaque with Armstrong out.
CORAL GABLES -- In the 11 months Al Golden has been the coach at the University of Miami, it feels like a day hasn't gone by where we haven't talked about the possibility of him ending up at Penn State.
Penn State has been under a firestorm since charges of sexual abuse against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky became public last week. Golden, who has been linked as a possible successor to Paterno since his days at Temple, was asked Wednesday for the reaction to the news at his alma mater.
"As I've been saying all week, just disheartening, sad," Golden said on Wednesday's ACC Teleconference. "Clearly thoughts and prayers go out for the young people, the victims in this case. Certainly equally my prayers go out to coach, too. It's tough.
"Again, I don't know much about it. Certainly you're more informed than me. We're in the middle of Florida State week. Just disheartened by the whole thing and saddened by it, keeping everybody in my thoughts and prayers from a distance."
Golden, who just last week reaffirmed his commitment to UM after his agent told CBSSports.com UM had made “overtures” to Golden about restructuring his contract amid the NCAA investigation that took him by surprise just months after he was hired, later was asked how he plans to counter the distraction of speculation he’ll face in the coming months that he might succeed Paterno.
"We're going to counter it by playing well and preparing well," Golden said. "We've gotten two commitments in the last 48 hours. I think there's going to be another one here today or tomorrow.
"We're excited about what we're building here. I can't worry about what other people are saying. I think you know me to know well enough that I don't worry about the media. Just moving the team and our players forward. Really trying to enjoy this. Trying to enjoy the fact we're in the middle of Miami-Florida State week, to be honest with you."
Golden later added he hasn't had much time to think about what's happened at Penn State because he's been busy preparing his team for the Seminoles. "I'm not sitting here watching ESPN," Golden quipped. "We're just getting ready for Florida State."
Hate to say it, but I don't think any coach at UM has had to deal with more off the field crap in their first 11 months on the job here than Golden. It just feels like he hasn't been able shake free of any off the field distractions since August. To his credit, he's answered all the questions with class. We'll see, though, what happens when he's directly asked if he's interested in the Penn State job. That hasn't happened yet.
MORE NEWS/NOTES FROM WEDNESDAY
> Golden said redshirt freshman Jonathan Feliciano -- coming back from a left foot sprain -- will play this week as expected and will likely split time with sophomore Seantrel Henderson at right tackle. "They're fighting it out," Golden said of the starting job. "Right now it's 50/50. We'll probably determine it by tomorrow."
> The news isn't as good for senior linebacker Jordan Futch who was "very, very limited" in Wednesday's practice.
"It'll have to be a really, really positive trend here in the last 72 hours for it to go the right way for him," Golden said.
Just my gut feeling here, but I expect UM to employ a starting lineup at linebacker like we saw versus Georgia Tech: Denzel Perryman (weakside), Sean Spence (middle) and Jimmy Gaines (strongside) with Marcus Robinson and Kelvin Cain providing depth and support.
"Kelvin is going to be a good player," Golden said Tuesday. "Kelvin just needs to be patient and continue to learn and grow. He’s got length. He can rush the passer. He’s strong so he can lock out on tight ends. He’s versatile enough to give us help in coverage."
> Defensive tackles Curtis Porter and Luther Robinson, on the injured list all season, both began practicing this week. Both were with the scout team Wednesday, and Porter wore a huge protective club on his injured left hand.
"This was Luther's first day back and this is Porter's second," Golden said. "They haven't had preseason camp - they're a long way away [from seeing the field]."
Translation: They'll only play in an emergency situation and are really just out there practicing.
Al Golden and his coaching staff were busy bees this summer, landing a collection of 24 verbal, non-binding commitments before the start of the season.
After blowing out Duke Saturday, UM got back to work on the recruiting front Sunday, landing commitments from two in-state stars: Venice High running back Danny Dillard (6-2, 215) and Lakeland High receiver Ricquan Southward (6-2, 190).
Dillard, who grew up in the Miami area before moving to Venice when he was 9, told his hometown newspaper the Sarasota Herald-Tribune Sunday he chose the Canes over offers from Kentucky, Marshall, Ohio, Pittsburgh and UCF. Dillard has gained 724 yards on 105 carries for a 6.9-yard-per-carry during seven games this season, battling through injuries throughout according to the Herald-Tribune. He also has scored 14 rushing touchdowns, five in just more than two quarters against Sarasota Booker, and one through the air with five catches for 50 yards. Last year, he rushed for 1,245 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Southward, a first-year starter for Lakeland who attended Saturday's game against Duke, has over 700 yards receiving and 13 touchdown catches in eight games this season. He told Canesport.com Sunday night it's "a soft commitment."
"I'll still visit other colleges just to look around - I'm set up to see Ohio State [Nov.] 19th," Southward told Canesport. "I've never been up there. Right now that's only official I have set up."
The UM offer was Southward's third offer, joining Ohio State and Mississippi.
Here is highlight video on YouTube for Dillard.
Here's what I transcribed from this evening's teleconference with Al Golden going into Florida State week:
One thing we didn’t touch on yesterday is how much you’ve learned and followed about the Penn State situation in the last 48 hours? I was just curious just to learn your reaction to that story and some of the people’s names that are in it.
“Just shocked and disheartened, but other than that I really don’t know much about it or what’s going on. But just the news that I did learn I was shocked and disheartened just like so many others, I’m sure.’’
I know you have a big game to prepare for, and that takes up much of your time. But is this one of those times where you sort of will find time to follow this a little bit more than maybe you would some other outside stories this week. I know it’s Florida State week and it’s a big week and you’ve got enough to do, but is this a story that you will find time to stay up to date on because you know so many of the principals involved?
“I think you know me well enough to know that I’m just focused on what we’re doing here. I got home last night at about 9 O’Clock last night and I was in here about 6:30 this morning. So, I don’t really have time to worry about anything else other than Florida State. This is as big as it gets in college football. I really can’t split my time."
How much more of a big deal is it to beat a storied program like that, when it is such a huge program like that on the other side? How much more does it add?
"I don’t know how much you could possibly add any more to this rivalry than what it has become over the yrs. This is one of those deals that is kind of self-explanatory. I don’t think either side needs to talk much about it. I’m sure we’re both just going to be focused on what we need to do in this game. Because I think the kids and everybody associated with both programs understand what it’s all about."
Given that so many kids usually know each other or have grown up together or have played together, is this the type of game that you have to work extra hard to not let get in the way of your focus – or your process so to speak?
"To me what’s going to be publicized or in the media and all those different angles or sound bytes that come with a game like this is really immaterial to me. For us and especially for our student-athletes, we’re trying to teach them the process and we’re trying to teach them to be consistent and we haven’t done that really for consecutive games. That’s the challenge this week and clearly there’s no better way to challenge your team and test your team on whether or not they believe in that process, than Florida State week. From that standpoint I’m fine with it."
They talk to their friends from FSU or they text and they have little whatever it is they have going on back and forth. Would you rather them not?
"I hope they don’t have anything going on like that. Nothing has been brought to my attention. I hope that’s not going on."
Seantrel said after the game that this was one of his most studied weeks and he talked about the process and said he studied and really got prepared the best he’s ever done. Did you see him doing that? And other players who are starting to buy in more?
"There’s no question Seantrel did make that commitment this week and I’m glad he said that because I think even he recognizes he wasn’t preparing or studying to the degree he needed to. But I think that’s the floor for Seantrel, not the ceiling. That’s the starting point."
Anyone else mimicking him in the process?
"I don’t think there’s any question. The biggest point there is the guys who have bought in the most are having the most success right now, whether it’s Jake Wieclaw or Tommy Streeter or Jacory or JoJo Nicolas or Sean Spence. The guys that have bought in the most are having the most success right now. They really are. I don’t think there’s any question that Malcolm Bunche improved in that category this week and Dyron Dye and David Perry. Certainly other guys. Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque have been doing a better job there. So we’re making a lot of progress there.’’
On Jacory, he actually has a better quarterback efficiency rating than Andrew luck over his last six games. Any part of what he’s done since the second half of the Kansas State game been a surprise you?
"No it really hasn’t to be honest with you. I think he’s been locked in since January. I think he was a man on a mission. He’s a very bright young man, he’s talented. He has learned to trust not just the coaches but his teammates and himself. Right now he’s having success by raising the game of everybody around him. He distributed the ball beautifully yesterday. You guys would know the facts but it seems to me there were more people who touched the ball than any game so far, especially in the first half. I think he’s doing a really good job. He’s making good decisions with the football and I’m real proud of him. He’s doing a great job."
He had a great game the last time they played in Tallahassee. He led a fourth-quarter comeback to lead UM to victory. Does that play any role come Saturday?
"No. I don’t think. I don’t think he’s the type of young man that gets flustered. He’s got poise and we’re going to need that certainly in this environment. Certainly he can draw from being in a loud stadium and having been up there before but different teams, different systems and so many things have changed since then. I think it’s just a function of him going out and continuing to do what he’s doing. Right now he’s honoring the process every day. He has bought in. He spent a lot of time studying, he’s prepared and he’s making quick decisions on the field."
Did Seantrel play well enough to keep that starting job?
"He played pretty good. He didn’t play great but he played pretty good and he’s improving. He’s getting better. I was kind of joking with him after the game, I said, ‘Preseason is over now.’ It looked to me like he played a lot of snaps. He went from a guy playing in the teens to all of a sudden playing 60 snaps. I know Feliciano is going to be as close to 100 percent as he’ll be the rest of the year come Monday morning so clearly he was a young man who was playing really well before he got injured, so we’ll see how that works and how we want to orchestrate the offensive line. But clearly Seantrel is improving and Feliciano had played well up until his victory."
At least two or three times you guys have won the coin toss and elected to receive? Your thinking on that?
"There are so many things that go into it, in addition to the weather. It’s the opponent and how the opponent tries to operate and what they’re trying to do and also what we’re trying to get done. I don’t want it to be overplayed. Sometimes it’s just a hunch. You’ve got to go with your gut and how you feel and based on what the other team is doing and whether or not you believe you can either score or pin the other team deep. You better if you take the ball. You can’t be three-and-out. So that’s what it’s a function of."
Is there an update on Jordan Futch and Tommy Streeter's status?
"I just can’t chase all these down. Tommy Streeter has been in a walking boot since last Wednesday. He seemed to do all right in the game. And then Futch, I don’t know what his status is. He’s a guy who got treatment today. I don’t think we’ll need any additional X-rays. Hopefully he’ll be ready. We’ll learn more as the week evolves."
Talk about offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and the innovation he’s brought to the offense recently and his ability to use everybody on offense and the weapons you have?
"Obviously Jedd, to some degree – most certainly the defensive side – but Jedd to a certain degree, and the growth and maybe the development of the offense was stunted a little bit by the events of late August. I don’t think there’s any question about that. We really didn’t play any warmup games so every game we were kind of fighting for our life right from the beginning. And then we had a bye week. So we really didn’t have three or four games of let’s see where we’re at and then a bye week and then let’s add some things. So we’ve been kind of running right out of the chute because so many guys didn’t practice or play in the first game that all we were trying to do with the second game was get them back in the offense and get them going. With the nine days here it gave us an opportunity to add some things."
When you hired him when you took over, I’m going to guess that this was all part of that process of knowing that he would get the job done and get the ball to the playmakers?
"Yeah, I don’t think there’s any question. He’s overqualified. He’s got a tremendous pedigree and has done a great job everywhere he’s been. He came highly recommended. I knew he was going to run a pro system, an NFL system. The thing that I like – because there are a lot of teams that run a pro system – the thing that I like is that it’s really not about Jedd, it’s about getting the ball into the hands of the playmakers. From that standpoint, how can you be disappointned with what he’s done in that capacity?"
You guys are on TV just about every game. When it’s coast-to-coast, when most of the country is going to see your team at 3:30 on Saturday, is that still a big deal given the fact that so many teams are on TV so often?
" I think it’s a big deal. Obviously it’s a great opportunity to represent your program and your university. I don’t think there’s any question, especially when you have a chance to be a national game. I think that’s great for our program and obviously a great opportunity for both universities in this case. And it should be. It’s that type of game. It’s clearly one of the greatest rivalries in sport and I’m just really excited to be a part of it for the first time."
Is this one of those games where you’ve gotten the sense that no matter what you do, you beat Florida State, is this on par with Auburn-Alabama, Michigan State-Ohio State. Have you gotten the sense from people down here that this means as much as any game you play?
"I don’t think there’s any question that this is that game. There are maybe a few that have rivaled the intensity and what it has meant from a national implication standpoint and of course the breadth and depth in talent that has been represented in this gamee over the past quarter centerury. The mantle has been passed and it’s our job to carry it and move the program forward. It should be a great game and a great atmosphere and a great challenge for our program."
Florida State is very strong on defense. Can you talk about that?
"Because it’s Sunday, we just wrapped up all three of our phases and started on their special teams and their offense but we’ll have a better idea. What I don’t want to do is start saying things and not be ready to back it up."
--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
SUN LIFE STADIUM -- It wasn't just Homecoming Saturday for the Hurricanes. It was Get Back To Lighting The Other Team Up Day too.
For the first time all season -- yes I'm not counting the wins over Ohio State, Georgia Tech or Bethune-Cookman -- the Canes really dominated a team for four quarters, from start to finish. Not once did we really worry Duke was going to come back and win this game.
The Canes' offense scored on their first five possessions, rolled up a season-high 265 yards on the ground and a season-high 49 points in a 35-point blowout.
UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch threw several new wrinkles out. He showed us a lot of double tight end sets early with both Dyron Dye and Asante Cleveland, a spread option package for Stephen Morris and the Wildcat with Mike James, which netted runs of 32 and 14 yards on two tries.
It all added up to giving Florida State a lot more to think about heading into next week's showdown in Tallahassee. UM's defense didn't dominate. Penalties stalled Duke's first two drives and by the time Sean Renfree and the Blue Devils finally got going they were already down 21-0.
Duke finished with 148 yards rushing and a 194 yards passing before a Ray-Ray Armstrong interception and a Olivier Vernon fumble recovery helped end two other drives in Blue Devils territory that led to more Canes points in the fourth quarter. All in all, not a great defensive effort, but the big plays were cut down. Duke had just one play that went for more than 20 yards -- a 30-yard pass to Donovan Varner.
Here's some news and notes with quotes we gathered post-game:
> Lamar Miller could have lied and told us he wasn't thinking about becoming the first UM running back since Willis McGahee to run for 1,000 yards since 2002. But he didn't.
"I was thinking about [1,000 yards] throughout the day," Miller said. "Throughout the game, [center] Tyler Horn came up to me saying I needed 30 yards to get 1,000. That just gave me motivation and I just kept running hard.
"Once I got back on the field, I knew I needed 11 yards. I was telling Mike James I needed 11 yards. He said just keep running hard, and the big run came. It was a blessing."
Miller, who told the Palm Beach Post earlier this week he would break the 1,000 yard mark this week, finished with 147 yards and two touchdowns -- the first time he'd broken the 100 yard mark since Virginia Tech Oct. 8. He broke the 1,000-yard mark with his 22-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
UM coach Al Golden, who said earlier this week he wanted Miller to "start hitting singles," was pleased with Miller's effort.
"I'm proud of him and the offensive line in general," Golden said. "they're sitting there with an eight- and nine-man front all game. I thought he really ran hard. Clearly, he finished his runs better than he had been the last few weeks. He was trusting and not really pittering his feet in the holes. I think he made a lot of progress with that.
Said Miller: "They've been talking to me about throughout the whole week -- just run hard and the good runs will come. I was just there hitting the holes hard and getting yards."
> How about the turnaround of quarterback Jacory Harris? Since halftime of the Kansas State game, he's thrown 17 touchdowns and 1 interception. That's Player of the Year type stuff. He finished 14 of 20 for 202 yards, 3 touchdowns on Saturday.
> Seantrel Henderson, who had back surgery in the offseason and thought he might not play this season, made his first start of the year at right tackle for the Hurricanes and played all but two series.
And UM coach Al Golden was impressed with his play. " I think training camp is over for him now," Golden said. "He looked like Seantrel should look so hopefully that will prove itself in the film."
Henderson said he was told by offensive line coach Art Kehoe during pregame stretching exercises he would replace redshirt freshman Jonathan Feliciano, who sat out his second straight game with a sprained left foot. Golden said afterward Feliciano would have probably played a few series had UM not gone up by three touchdowns early. Instead, Golden said he opted to rest him.
"Jon will be back next week for sure," Golden said.
Henderson, who said he had a few pancake blocks Saturday, said he felt like he's turned the corner.
"I feel like I played way better than ever. Coach is right training camp is over for me," Henderson said. "- It was more of the learning part. I have the physical part down pact. I just to make sure sure I'm staying in the playbook, studying as much as I can so I can stay mentally fresh in the game. It just came together, it was just more of me applying myself to what we do as a football team."
> Don't call it the WildCane. James said offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch refers to the special, direct snap package as the Wildcat.
"Coach Fisch is big on getting the playmakers the ball, so that's what he's doing," James said. "I like it because I get another chance to get the ball in my hands, so that's always a good thing."
James finished with 58 yards rushing and two touchdowns as well as two catches for 43 yards -- a season-high in terms of total yards from scrimmage.
Quarterback Jacory Harris said he likes the fact Fisch is eager to be creative with the Canes offense, giving guys opportunities to do different things.
"I don't know if you saw the first wildcat play, but I got a crackback [block]," Harris said. "It's pretty fun, especially when it's working. The first thing would have happened if we lost two yards the crowd would have booed. But it's fun when it's working."
> Quarterback Stephen Morris, who gained four yards on two option runs, said Travis Benjamin owes him a few meals for dropping what would have been his first touchdown pass of the season in the first quarter. Benjamin let what would have been a 50-yard touchdown catch slip out of his hands at the last moment.
"He's buying me dinner, breakfast, lunch," Morris joked. "That would have been my first touchdown. I was running down the field and me and B-Wash [Brandon Washington] we're just like 'Hold up, did he drop it?' I know he'll come out next week with a big performance. I'm not worried about it all."
Morris said he isn't bothered at all he's sitting behind close friend Jacory Harris. "My time is coming," Morris said. "I'm not frustrated at all. Matter of fact, I just talked to Jacory. We're like best friends. He's having a tremendous season. I'm waiting my time, not rushing anything or pushing anything. Whatever comes in the game plan I'm going to do what he asks me to do. I'm looking forward to the end of this season and next season as well.
> Senior JoJo Nicolas said Saturday was the first time all season he played cornerback from start to finish.
> How good a day was it for the Canes offense? Chase Ford scored a touchdown, first time for a Canes tight end since the Ohio State game last year (20 game span). And LaRon Byrd made a 9-yard catch. Everyone literally got involved.
SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The Miami Hurricanes (4-4, 2-3 ACC) welcome the Duke Blue Devils (3-5, 1-3 ACC) for a 3 p.m. kickoff, a game televised on the ACC Network. UM is 7-1 all-time against Duke and hasn't lost to the Blue Devils since 1976. Duke is coming off a 14-10 loss at home to Virginia Tech and has wins over Boston College (20-19), Tulane (48-27) and FIU (31-27).
> ABOUT DUKE: Coach David Cutcliffe has come close to beating UM before. Although UM has won the last four meetings by double digits, 28-13 (2010), 34-16 (2009), 49-31 (2008) and 24-14 (2007), Duke have kept the games relatively tight and came within a Canes goalline interception in 2006 of pulling off an upset. UM won 20-15. This Duke team still has two big playmakers at wide receiver in former Miami Gulliver Prep standouts Conner Vernon (51 catches, 740 yards, 4 TDs) and Donovan Varner (37 catches, 443 yards, 0 TDs). Tight end Cooper Helfet ranks second among ACC tight ends in catches (28 for 276 yards, 2 TDs). Quarterback Sean Renfree has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 2,004 yards, but also has just 6 TD passes to 7 inteceptions. Defensively, the Blue Devils will often employ an eight-man front to shut down the run. Safety Matt Daniels is their big playmaker. He leads the team with 82 tackles (26 more than the second person on the list) and has 2 INTs and 13 pass breakups (more than UM's entire secondary, 8). Duke is among the best teams in the country in kickoff return defense (5th overall), allowing just 17.19 yards a return. But they rank 66th in punt coverage (7.67 yards per return). Kicker Will Snyderwine is 7 of 14 on field goal attempts.
> WHAT TO WATCH FOR THE CANES: Redshirt freshman Jonathan Feliciano is expected to make his return to the starting lineup at right tackle, which should help UM's running game which has sputtered over the last three games. Receiver Tommy Streeter, who was apparently took a cleat to the top of his left foot on Wednesday during practice, has 14 receptions for 347 yards and 3 TDs over his last three games. With 45 more receiving yards, Travis Benjamin will become just the sixth player in program history to reach the 2,000 yard plateau -- joining Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, Michael Irvin, Lamar Thomas and Leonard Hankerson. Defensively, the Hurricanes will look to rebound after a deflating performance against Virginia. The Canes gave up six plays of 20 yards or more in the loss including three TD passes of 37 yards or more. Look for Duke to try and expose UM's struggling safeties with playaction, especially when Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque are in the game together. UM's pass defense ranks 102nd in efficiency and has surrendered 12 touchdown passes already with only four interceptions. Kicker Jake Wieclaw has either missed a field goal or had one blocked in each of his last two games.
> MANNY'S PICK: UM 33, Duke 21. Canes offense hasn't played well over the last 10 quarters, struggling in the red zone and in short-yardage situations and relying too much on Touchdown Tommy Streeter to make the big catch. Defensively, the Canes have also given up too many long pass plays and looked bad in coverage. Duke is well coached enough to expose all of those areas and upset the Canes the way Virginia did. But UM is the better team and this week Al Golden has scared them enough to make them act like it.
As the son of a part-time DJ, Hurricanes offensive lineman Harland Gunn said he grew up listening to all kinds of music in his home in Omaha, Nebraska.
"I've been listening to Led Zepplin and stuff like that to get me ready for the games." said Gunn, a fifth-year senior who has started 26 games in his career for the Hurricanes including 21 in a row.
"If I had to pick one song as my theme song it would be Power by Kanye West."
Why? "Because it's all about power," Gunn said. "You got to have power in this world."
Truth is there may not be a more fitting theme song for Gunn, hands down the strongest and most powerful player on UM's football team. Strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey said Gunn owns the highest marks on both squat (600 pounds-plus) and bench press (500-plus). "I think [defensive end] Olivier Vernon might be the only one who has [Gunn] on the power clean," Swasey said Wednesday.
Those strength numbers hardly surprise Gunn's father, Harland Gunn Sr. In the eighth grade, Gunn Sr. said his son was bench pressing 250 pounds, wearing a size 13 shoe and challenging his dad to lift offs in their garage.
"Harland's hands are bigger than mine. My fingers might be a little longer. But his fingers are thick. He's got big paws, man," said Gunn Sr., who at 6-6, 320-plus pounds was a standout high school football player himself who didn't make it further because he "tore his right knee up" and "started making children early."
"Harland's always been a competitor. When you're a young man, you see your father as a big guy and you want to be as strong as him. We'd go at it on the bench. I'd try to push him and keep him going. It didn't take him very long to pass me by."
Of course, there is more to Gunn than power and strength.
After hardly speaking a word to his teammates the first three months he was at UM according to center Tyler Horn, Gunn has grown into a chatter box, comedian and team leader. Gunn has even learned how to perfect his Spanish in his time time in Miami, taking two Spanish classes at UM after taking four years of classes in high school.
"I try to speak to the natives, people around town," Gunn said. "I know the basics. Como estas? [How are you?] Estoy bien, y usted? [I'm good and you?] I'm a pretty big guy, I like to tell people 'Tengo hambre, necesita comer ahora.' [I'm hungry and I need to eat now]. Basic stuff."
"I think you'd be surprised how funny he is because he looks like a quiet guy," Horn said. "[Those glasses he wears] that's the studious Gunn -- that's his costume for Halloween... He's a big personality. He's one of those guys that takes a while to open up and now that he has he's a lot of fun."
Said right tackle Jonathan Feliciano: "Sometimes we can't get him to shut up.
But on the field, Feliciano said, "he's like a bowling ball. He kills people like they're pins."
UM coach Al Golden said Gunn's only bad game this year was against Georgia Tech. But despite that game, Golden feels Gunn is having "an all-conference type year" and said the senior has "the most second level cuts of anyone on the offensive line."
"I don't know if he's the foundation of [the offensive line], but he might be," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "He's a solid, strong, high character, high work ethic, lunch pail guy. He's a true blue collar approach to offensive line play. He'll fit in great for the rest of his life playing offensive line. They love those type guys in the NFL."
Offensive line coach Art Kehoe said Gunn's style of play reminds him of former Hurricanes K.C. Jones and Claude Jones.
"He's explosive man," Kehoe said. "I'm trying to get him a little more functional, a little more loose on his hips so he can use better footwork. But man, I like the way he plays. I like the way he pulls. He's a terrific person. He's almost a better person than he is a player. And he's a hell of a player."
Still, Gunn himself, wants to see improvement on the Canes offensive line as a whole. UM, which has given up 12 sacks (40th-fewest among 120 FBS schools), has struggled in short yardage situations this season.
The running game, which on Oct. 9 was averaging 182.6 yards per game (39th best in the nation), has struggled to get going over the last three games (UM now ranks 75th best in rushing offense at 145.5 yards per game). And the way the team was manhandled against Virginia left a bad taste in the mouths of everyone in charge of blocking.
"Last Thursday was probably our least physical game as an offense," fullback Maurice Hagens said. "When we watched the film, offensive linemen were in the backfield. Tight ends were getting blown up, fullback was getting blown up. That was something we weren't seeing. The last four games we have to go and blow everybody off the line."
Gunn agrees. "For some reason, we were just off rhythm, out of sync," Gunn said. "Offense is all about rhythm, timing, executing. This was our worst game in terms of execution by far.
"To me, it's just been about finishing. Guys are getting on their blocks. Nothing is wrong with the schemes or the blocks. It's the finish factor and it hasn't been here the last few games. It's the attitude. You have to reinvest in the attitude of running the ball."
The Miami Hurricanes haven't been very good on run defense this season (they rank 82nd nationally).
But the pass defense hasn’t been any better. Here are some sobering, eye-opening stats on UM’s struggles:
> The Hurricanes' pass efficiency defense has dropped from fifth nationally a year ago (99.12 rating) to 102nd (144.37) heading into Saturday's 3 p.m. kickoff against Duke (3-5, 1-3 ACC) at Sun Life Stadium.
> UM has surrendered 12 touchdown passes on defense (they gave up nine last season) and is on pace to give up 18. The most passing TDs UM defense has surrendered since 2000 is 15, set in 2008 and 2007.
> Opposing quarterbacks are completing 65.28 percent of their attempts against UM (in 2010 it was 49.7 percent). This year's number ranks 12th-worst among Football Bowl Subdivision schools. The previous completion percentage high set by opposing QBs against UM since 2000 was 56.81 in 2007.
> The Hurricanes aren't only struggling to get interceptions (UM has four this season), they aren't getting their hands on many balls at all. Of the 16 pass breakups, only eight belong to the secondary: Ray-Ray Armstrong has two and Brandon McGee, Thomas Finnie, Lee Chambers, Mike Williams, Andrew Swasey and Vaughn Telemaque each have one. Last season, UM had 47 pass breakups and 16 interceptions -- 36 PBUs from its secondary. Brandon Harris alone had 10 pass breakups last year.
> And while UM's defense has given up 10 runs of 20 yards or more, it’s surrendered 20 through the air -- including six pass plays of 20 yards or more that have gone for touchdowns.
Of course, a lack of a consistent pass rush hasn't helped. UM is on pace to finish with 27 sacks (the Canes had 37 a year ago). Nor does it help either that last year's starting cornerbacks Harris, an All-ACC cornerback (2nd round pick by Texans) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (3rd round pick Raiders) are now in the NFL.
But after eight games, Armstrong and Telemaque -- who were supposed to be the strength of the secondary -- haven't played like the best safeties on the team in Al Golden's eyes. And McGee, the one returning experienced player at cornerback, hasn't turned the corner yet.
"At safety we're not where we need to be," Golden said a day after the loss to Virginia. "Clearly JoJo [Nicolas] is playing the best for us, has been consistent in his ability to operate the defense and the way he's playing and leading. We're not disciplined enough and keep giving up explosive plays on the back end... our tackling is inconsistent as well. At times Vaughn [Telemaque] and Ray [Armstrong] tackled well. But there's still too many times we don't execute the way we need to.
"[At corner] we have to get McGee over the hump now. He's doing so many things better, is becoming reliable. He has to come to the point where he's dependable, that he frees it up and starts to make some plays for us - interceptions or some big tackles, caused fumbles, those type of things. McGee is maturing, improving, but we really need him to finish strong here in this final stretch. And clearly we need more from Mike Williams, Finnie, [Lee] Chambers at this point in time."
Defensive backs coach Paul Williams, whose secondary his final year at Temple last year finished 14th nationally (110.98) in pass efficiency defense, said the turnaround has to start with getting more out of Armstrong and Telemaque.
"Your safeties need to run the show. They need to be your quarterback. They got to get it right, make all the checks. And we got to do our job," Williams said. "Again, we're just inconsistent. We got talent, but at the end of the day it's all about production."
Armstrong, tabbed in the preseason as an All-American candidate, has 18 tackles and a fumble recovery in four games. Telemaque, who has started at safety all eight games, is fifth on the team with 40 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Armstrong said Wednesday he doesn't think he's played well since returning from a four-game NCAA-mandated suspension, but isn't playing the layoff or the new defensive schemes brought in during the spring. He's playing himself. "I think I can do better," he said.
How? "Just working on staying disciplined, being responsible for my responsibilities, Armstrong said. "Just got to listen to the coaches and trust the calls. When you're deep, stay deep. When you're up, play the run. It's not tough. You just have to focus in and do what coaches call."
McGee (25 tackles, 2.5 for loss, a sack and a pass breakup) said Tuesday he feels like he has made strides in his tackling, but said he knows he has to do more. “It's definitely important for me to just lit it rip," McGee said. "Turnovers come when everybody does their job, plays their role and the offense makes a mistake. It's about being patient."
Golden, though, doesn't want McGee to be patient anymore. He wants McGee to play faster and trust his technique.
"There's a curl route against Virginia and it's man to man and he's too far off the ball," Golden said. "He's one of the top three fastest guys on the team. He needs to challenge that guy a little more, trust his technique, have the confidence to be a little more aggressive and assertive, start making more plays on the ball. He's ready to do that."
McGee said he would like to be more physical, but is asked to play differently in UM’s defensive scheme. "I actually played a lot of press [last year]. It was a different defense. Now we play a lot of off," McGee said. "I feel like I've been able to make the transition. Playing off, playing press is pretty much the same to me now. "But I know I have to do more. Whatever they call, you play within the system. I pretty much feel like I can run with any receiver. So, playing press man, bump and run is almost second nature to me."
Duke's passing offense ranks 28th nationally and quarterback Sean Renfree ranks 25th in the NCAA in completion percentage (65.7). Receivers Conner Vernon (51 catches, 740 yards, 4 TDs) and Donovan Varner (37 catches, 443 yards, 0 TDs) both have over 175 catches in their career and could both pass Duke's all-time receiving leader Clarkston Hines this Saturday. And Duke's offense has at least 32 plays of 20 yards or more this season.
"It's going to be a great challenge," McGee said. "Being that those guys are from Miami I expect some trash talking. I know Conner [Vernon] and [Donovan] Varner. I played on the same 7-on-7 team with Conner and have a good relationship with him. We just have to make sure we don't let him loose."
In case you were wondering, Al Golden still loves wearing orange and green.
A day after CBSSports.com reported that Golden’s agent, Brett Senior, said UM has made “overtures” to Golden about restructuring his contract amid the NCAA investigation that took him by surprise just months after he was hired, Golden took the time during Wednesday's weekly ACC coaches' teleconference to reaffirm his commitment to the program.
“I just want to make sure I’m clear to everybody that we love it here at Miami,” Golden said. “My wife, kids and I, and the staff, we love it here. We’ve got incredible support from the president and our AD, Shawn Eichorst, and we’re certain that support will continue in a number of ways moving forward."
Golden said that in his opening statement, then followed up later when he was asked if he had addressed the issue with his team.
"Again, for me, it was tough for me because when I was asked the question yesterday, I really didn't understand the context of it. I had no idea about the story, what was said, purportedly said, all that," Golden said.
"I had a chance to speak with my attorney and I expressed my displeasure. Again, I'm going to say it. I love it here. I know there were some questions yesterday. But my wife and kids are happy here. I think our staff is happy here. The president, this administration, Mr. Eichorst, have all been ultra-supportive. I'm certain, I'm positive, that that support will continue in a myriad of ways moving forward.
"Again, I don't think it's something I really have to address too long. I think since I've been here, I've been committed to turning Miami around and implementing a process and a structure and a culture that will endure.
"We're just out of the blocks. We're just out of the gates. I wish these types of things would go away in terms of we don't need any distractions. We're just trying to move forward with the program.
"I hope that answers your question."
CORAL GABLES -- The way receiver Tommy Streeter has shined lately you could definitely make an argument he's taken over the role as the go-to-guy in the Hurricanes offense.
Wednesday, before UM wrapped up its morning practice, Touchdown Tommy was in a position that would have made Canes fans queasy if they were around. The 6-5, 215-pound junior limped off Greentree Field without a shoe on his left foot and headed to the locker room. Before he went in for treatment, Streeter spent 15 minutes with his lower left leg submerged in an ice bath.
While it initially appeared to be an ankle injury, coach Al Golden said he was hopeful it was just a case of Streeter being stepped on.
"I don't think it's an ankle or a high ankle," Golden said. "I think he got stepped on, which generally is a cleat on the top of the foot. As long as there isn't anything too serious, which doesn't look like it was, I think he'll be alright."
Streeter had a career day against Virginia last Thursday, hauling in seven passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. He earned ACC Receiver of the Week honors for his big game despite UM's 28-21 loss to the Cavaliers. The week before, Streeter also led UM in receiving against Georgia Tech.
> Golden said redshirt sophomore tight end Dyron Dye (6-5, 275) will see more playing time this week because he gives the team "a big, physical presence on the line of scrimmage."
"He's about 268 (pounds) right now. He's a big, strong kid. He has a big lower body. He is doing a good job. We need him to step up, especially in short yardage," Golden said.
The Hurricanes were let down by senior Chase Ford on a crucial 4th down-and-2 late in the game and deep in Virginia territory last Thursday. Ford missed his block and running back Mike James was hit in the backfield for a loss. Ford owned up to his mistake Wednesday.
"The play called for me to motion over and I came out too far," Ford said. "I tried to play the guessing game and I guessed wrong. He blitzed and I didn't pick him up in time. It was my fault."
Dye, an ESPN Top 150 recruit coming out of Sanford Seminole High, began his career at UM on defense -- playing end and then tackle. But three weeks before training camp ended, Dye said Golden asked him to move over to tight end to help provide depth. He was then suspended along with high school teammate Ray-Ray Armstrong for four games by the NCAA for accepting improper gifts from former booster Nevin Shapiro when they were being recruited. Golden said now that Dye has been back for four weeks, he's coming along and has earned some playing time.
"The thing about Dyron is he runs well for a big guy," Golden said. "I'm not going to tell you that he's finished as far as his hands; he's got a long way to go. But he runs really well, which is why we moved him there. He can get down the field. We're excited about him right there. He has a really good attitude."
UM's tight ends have combined for 16 catches and 155 yards this season.
> Don't look for redshirt junior Adewale Ojomo to move back to defensive end any time soon. Golden believes Ojomo (6-4, 270) is better suited for tackle.
"I think ultimately we put kids where they can have the most impact," Golden said. "I think we would all agree he's having more of an impact -- whether its pressuring the quarterback or getting sacks -- as a three technique than he did at end. It makes our team better. He's 270 pounds right now; a year in the off-season program he'll be 285, 288 and still give us that athletic three technique. I'm excited about him. He's had a great attitude."
> Right tackle Jonathan Feliciano remains in a walking boot but took it off for practice Wednesday in favor of an ankle splint. He was limited doing work today but Golden said he's "probable" for Saturday's game. He also explained why Feliciano, a redshirt freshman, has maintained his starting job.
"He's smart, on top of his game so he has a lot of money in the bank you know what I mean," Golden said. "He's got a lot of credibility with us because he was the same guy every day. So now that he has an injury we're trying to get him back, and hopefully we'll get him ready for the game."
CORAL GABLES -- Could Al Golden be getting a new contract soon? Or, could his agent be giving us the first hint Golden might be planning an exit strategy?
Tuesday, Brett Senior, Golden's long-time representative, told CBSSports.com there have been “overtures made” by UM about adjusting his client’s contract in the wake of the current NCAA scandal involving former booster Nevin Shapiro.
Golden, who expressed frustration about not being told about the full scope of the scandal involving Shapiro when he was hired by former athletic director Kirby Hocutt back in December, declined to comment when asked about it Tuesday at his weekly press conference.
"Number 1 I have to talk to my agent," Golden said. "I really don't want to get into that right now. I just want to focus on Duke. We had a good practice yesterday, good practice today. We have our hands full with what these guys present us offense, defense and special teams. If you want to say I'm side swiping it, I am. I don't want to talk about it. I want to talk about Duke and our football team and the challenges we have ahead this week."
Senior, Golden’s long-time representative, told CBS' Dennis Dodd at least one UM official has reached out to Golden specifically about his contract (reportedly 5 years, $10 million).
“I’ve got the feeling they’ll [Miami] do the right thing,” said Senior who has represented Golden since he came out of Penn State in 1991.
Asked about an escape clause in the current deal that would allow Golden to leave Miami based on the severity of NCAA sanctions, Senior told CBS: “I will say this. We’ve got options available to us.”
That’s believed to be the first time there has been some kind of acknowledgment that Golden could get out of his deal. Senior added that NCAA penalties “that would cripple a program for five years,” would be tough for Golden to deal with.
“We’ll evaluate all options,” Senior said. “You only have so many bites at the apple.”
“We’ve got to get sort of a feel for what the NCAA implications might be,” Senior added. “Those kind of things may take a fairly long time … [You] certainly expect that something is going to come down. It certainly can debilitate a program at least a couple of years.”
Senior also said that any contract issues will be addressed after the season.
Here is the link to the complete article on CBSSports.com.