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35 posts from November 2011

November 30, 2011

Aldarius "Glue Hands'' Johnson hoping to make his return to football

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

 

 

 

 

 

D'Onofrio visits Norland, talks with LB Keith Brown

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.

November 29, 2011

Could Norland LB Keith Brown end up back in UM's class? Plus, Golden visits Booker T.

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.

Keith BrownNow 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.

Golden's contract extension helped pave way for commitment from Cypress Bay OL Danny Isidora

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.

Danny IsidoraTuesday 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

November 28, 2011

Canes' commitment Malcolm Lewis has Miramar 3 wins away from 2nd state title

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.

Malcolm LewisMarlene, 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."

Tracy HowardTracy Howard, Lewis' best friend and an All-American cornerback at Miramar, says Lewis remains the best receiver he's had to face in high school.

"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."

Golden wraps up season, looks ahead

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. 

UM coach Al Golden 11-28-11

As for what Golden talked about, here are some highlights/notes:

> UM's Spring Game is scheduled for April 14th.

Al Golden> 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."

November 26, 2011

Tale of the Tape: How do you measure 2011 Canes?

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

MORE ANALYSIS

> 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.

November 25, 2011

Al Golden discusses contract extension; Lamar Miller, Olivier Vernon deflect talk of future

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.

MILLER SHINES

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.

SENIORS HONORED

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."

UM extends Al Golden's contract through 2019 season

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.

Gameday blog: Boston College at UM

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.

Luke Kuechly> 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).

November 22, 2011

Golden to Penn State reporter: "I believe I'm going to be the head coach at Miami in 2012, that's correct."

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.

Al Golden on Tuesday's ACC teleconference

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."

November 21, 2011

Golden assured no scholarship reduction for 2012 recruiting class; Miller won't go pro unless he's a 1st rounder

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.

Lamar Miller

> 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."

November 20, 2011

Canes decide to skip bowl game, take some of impending NCAA punishment now

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.

Shawn EichorstWith 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.

November 19, 2011

Independence Bowl would love Canes-Boise State; Seantrel hurt; Botts MVP;

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."

HENDERSON HURT

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.

BOTTS SHINES

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.

Gameday blog: UM at USF

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.

BJ Daniels> 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.

November 17, 2011

A year later, how do you feel about Randy Shannon now?

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.

Randy ShannonShannon 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?

November 15, 2011

Ojomo unsure if he'll return in 2012; plus news on Benjamin, Seantrel and more

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.

Adewale OjomoAnd 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."

Futch doubtful for USF after collapsing at Tuesday morning practice

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.

Jordan FutchLuckily, it appears the 6-3, 235-pound senior linebacker is going to be fine according to UM coach Al Golden.

"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."

Unidentified, unconscious UM player taken to local hospital for heat exhaustion

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.”

AmbulanceA 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.

November 14, 2011

UM's No. 1-ranked recruiting class of '08 failed in its quest; now it's all about the Golden process

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

Al GoldenWhen 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.