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13 posts from February 2012

February 29, 2012

UM Canes football releases two-deep depth chart for spring -- QB Stephen Morris out!

 It's that time of year again. Football is upon us, as evidenced by the two- (and sometimes three) deep depth chart just released by the Miami Hurricanes.

And QB Stephen Morris is out for the spring, according to a note below the depth chart, and as just confirmed by UM associate athletic director for communications Chris Freet. Morris underwent back surgery two days ago, according to Freet, who said he didn't learn of the surgery until late last night and was originally told he was "limited.''

 If Morris is out, then Memphis quarterback transfer Ryan Williams, who sat out last year learning the offense, will have a great opportunity to show his stuff. But it's unfortunate for the quarterback situation in general. Competition makes everyone better.

Apparently, Morris hurt himself doing some sort of training -- not sure if it was weight-room connected.

There are some definite surprises below, but remember that coach Al Golden makes up this depth chart based on how these players have been doing in their offseason conditioning program, etc. Plus, we figure he's trying to light some fires.

Here it is folks:



First team: Ryan Williams

Second team: Gray Crow

Third team: Preston Dewey


First team: Mike James

Second team: Eduardo Clements

Third team: Dallas Crawford


First team: Maurice Hagens

Second team: Mike James


First team: Allen Hurns

Second team: Rashawn Scott


First team: Phillip Dorsett

Second team: Kendal Thompkins


First team: Asante Cleveland

Second team: Clive Walford


First team: Malcolm Bunche

Second team: Ereck Flowers


First team: Jon Feliciano

Second team: Jeremy Lewis


First team: Shane McDermott

Second team: Jared Wheeler


First team: Brandon Linder

Second team: Ben Jones


First team: Jermaine Johnson

Second team: Seantrel Henderson



First team: Anthony Chickillo

Second team: Ricardo Williams


First team: Darius Smith

Second team: Junior Alexis


First team: Olsen Pierre

Second team: Curtis Porter


First team: Shayon

Second team: Dwayne Hoilett


First team: Kelvin Cain

Second team: Eddie Johnson

Third team: Josh Witt


First team: James Gaines

Second team: Gionni Paul

Third team: Raphael Kirby


First team: Tyrone Cornileus

Second team: Denzel Perryman


First team: Larry Hope

Second team: Ladarius Gunter


First team: Ray-Ray Armstrong

Second team: A.J. Highsmith


First team: Andrew Swasey

Second team: Vaughn Telemaque


First team: Thomas Finnie

Second team: Keion Payne

Third team: Brandon McGee



First team: Jake Wieclaw

Second team: Matt Goudis


First team: Dalton Botts

Second team: Jake Wieclaw


First team: Phillip Dorsett

Second team: Dallas Crawford


First team: Phillip Dorsett

Second team: Dallas Crawford


First team: Dalton Botts

Second team: Ricardo Williams

Practice, closed to the public, begins Saturday.


February 27, 2012

Time to book your ressies: ACC releases 2012 UM Canes football schedule


After waiting and waiting and waiting, we finally know the University of Miami football team's schedule for 2012.

The Atlantic Coast Conference released its composite ACC schedule this afternoon. See below for UM's league schedule.

UM opens at Boston College on Saturday, Sept. 1.

And Hurricanes fans, don't forget about these four nonconference matchups that already had been announced: Sept. 8 at Kansas State (10-3 in 2011), Sept. 15 at home (Sun Life Stadium) against Bethune-Cookman, Oct. 6 against Notre Dame (8-5 in 2011) at Soldier Field in Chicago, and South Florida at Sun Life Stadium on Nov. 17 (that's the game that was just moved a week ahead from the originally scheduled Nov. 24 date).

So, here it is, UM's complete football schedule for 2012:

Saturday, Sept. 1, at Boston College 

Saturday, Sept. 8, at Kansas State

Saturday Sept. 15,  home (Sun Life Stadium) against Bethune-Cookman

Saturday, Sept. 22, at Georgia Tech

Saturday, Sept. 29,  home against North Carolina State

Saturday, Oct. 6,  vs. Notre Dame at Soldier Field in Chicago

Saturday, Oct. 13, home against North Carolina

Saturday, Oct. 20, home against Florida State


Thursday night, Nov. 1, home against Virginia Tech

Saturday, Nov. 10, at Virginia

Saturday, Nov. 17, home against USF

Saturday, Nov. 24, at Duke

ACC championship game is Saturday, Dec. 1, in Charlotte, N.C.


February 24, 2012

UM Canes hit jackpot with Peter O'Brien. Second home series to begin.

 UM baseball has a strong chance of getting back to Omaha for the first time since 2008.

Thanks to senior transfer Peter O'Brien and an impressive starting pitching staff, the Canes seem stronger than they've been in a few years.

There's no reason the Canes shouldn't win big tonight and this weekend at home against UAlbany, which is way up there in New York and as of a few minutes ago, was 35 degrees (feels like 29), with snow and rain forecast for today. Additionally, this is the Great Danes' season opener. They have gotten into the title game of the America East Conference championship the past three seasons. But here's a more accurate assessment: 21-31 last year.

UM ace Eric Erickson (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is pitching tonight at 7 at Mark Light Field (Alex Rodriguez Park).

As for catcher O'Brien, he has eight hits in his last nine at-bats and is leading the Canes with a .579 batting average and 1.000 slugging percentage.

"I try not to get too much into the stats and stuff like that,'' O'Brien told me yesterday. "I go out there, play 100 percent and whatever happens, happens. I Kind of just see the ball,  hit the ball."

O'Brien, 6-4 and 226 pounds (he said he was proud of the extra pound, but admitted he wasn't the 6-5 listed on the roster), played at Bethune-Cookman last season and opted not to play pro ball this season after being drafted in the third round by the Colorado Rockies -- a huge gift for UM.

"It’s amazing,'' O'Brien said. "I love being out here with all the guys. I’m proud to rep the University of Miami and I hope to continue to do so in the same fashion.''

However, the Canes need to get the bats consistently going, and Rony Rodriguez needs to connect, which hitting coach Gino DiMare and coach Jim Morris believe will happen if he stops trying to do too much, relaxes and just goes with the pitch instead of trying to pull everything.

Also, a couple injuries have already struck. Redshirt freshman center fielder Julian Santos, the talented speedster who endured two reconstructive knee surgeries (one on each leg) before starting out this season fresh, has a pulled hamstring he sustained in the opener. Jim Morris said last week that he hoped he'd be back for tonight's home-series opener against Albany, but hamstrings usually take longer than that to heal. We'll see.

Closer E.J. Encinosa, a 6-5, 242-pound junior who regularly reaches 95 mph, hurt himself during his last appearance Wednesday at Ft. Myers. Don't know the extent of that either, but wondering if it's a groin or sports hernia or some type of stomach thing. Will let you know on that one when I find out.

Reminder: Sunday's home-series finale is at 11:30, NOT 1 p.m. because of Albany's travel plans being changed.







February 22, 2012

Combine combustion? BCS changes? Bowling with some Canes

Should be interesting to see how UM's eight players (Sean Spence, Travis Benjamin, Jacory Harris and underclassmen Lamar Miller, Brandon Washington,  Marcus Forston, Tommy Streeter, Olivier Vernon) perform at the Combine this week. The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson flew to Indianapolis this morning to be there.

Speed and other physical gifts sometimes seem to trump most everything else these days, as teams often figure they can take these kids and coach them into players if they haven't already stood out as stars. UM's track record recently has been positive for that, so I wouldn't bet against some of these underclassmen.

I'm very curious about how Brandon Washington and Marcus Forston will end up. I think Olivier Vernon might end up doing better than people expected.

But Alonzo Highsmith, a former UM star and 14-year scout for the Green Bay Packers, told me he believes the only sure future picks -- meaning they'll end up on an NFL team -- are linebacker Spence and tailback Miller.

"The speed and all that other stuff is awesome, but it still comes down to being a good football player,'' said Highsmith, whose son, A.J. (now up to 201 pounds), started out as a UM quarterback but was converted to a safety. "If it was just speed, anyone off the street could come out and try out for a pro football team. To be a good football player you've got to have a body of work. Guys who have bodies of work and they're good college football players, eight out of 10 times they're going to play well as a pro."

Highsmith said he believes all eight of these players will get drafted. "But they might not be happy where they go,'' he said.

"When you say you're going to forgo your senior year of college football, when you've been a dominant player I'm all for it. When you see kids leave like [Oklahoma State receiver]Justin Blackmon and [Alabama running back] Trent Richardson, and [former Canes] Sean Taylor, Cinton Portis, Frank Gore, those were great players. But when you see average players come out, and you see it all across the nation, not just Miami, and the kid gets drafted in the sixth or seventh round and don't make the team, they're out of football. They could have been playing another year and making themselves better.

"I'm not trying to bash Miami kids or anything like that. This is a business. This is about you're a man, you're coming out and you're being judged against every other player coming out."

In closing, Highsmith said he believes the combine is "just a small part'' of what determines someone's draft status. "It just solidifies what people see on film, or it can help. But too many people get worked up about this combine thing. Yeah, it's good to work out well, but there's also a lot of film work and a lot of character that goes along with it. The combine doesn't make you or break you.''


In his SI.com 2012 Scouting Combine Preview (Inside the NFL column) posted today, Tony Pauline listed two Hurricanes under the category "Who will surprise?"

From Pauline:

"Lamar Miller, RB, Miami -- Miller has not let postseason shoulder surgery slow him down. The speedy back recently returned to training after rehabbing his shoulder and has been posting times in the mid-4.3s.

Oliver Vernon, DE-OLB, Miami -- Vernon sat on the sidelines for half of last season, serving an NCAA suspension. His stats, including 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, are nothing to get excited about. But on film Vernon looks fast and athletic. He could be the talk of the Combine; at more than 260 pounds, he has been regularly posting times in the low-4.6-second range."


BCS commissioners, Notre Dame's athletic director and BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock met the past couple days in Dallas to discuss possible changes to college football's postseason.

If the BCS does decide to create a four-team playoff to decide the champion, the setup has not been determined.

"It's very clear the commissioners do not want the championship game to be played too late," Hancock told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

He couldn't define too late, but in the past the BCS title game has been held as late as Jan. 10, and has regularly been played on Jan. 7 or 8 since it was implemented for the 2006 season.

Hancock told the AP commissioners were "resolute about not having BCS games in the midweek after Jan. 1".

The Sugar, Orange and Fiesta bowls take turns being played after Jan. 1, but ratings and attendance for the weekday games have been sagging, the AP said.

Hancock said part of the 4-hour meeting was spent reviewing final exam schedules for all 120 schools. He said the commissioners would like to avoid playing games from early December to about Dec. 21, when most schools have finals.

 "Whatever we do, we want to protect college football's regular season which is the best and most meaningful in sports. We want to preserve the great bowl tradition while making it better and more attractive.  We also have heard the message about playing bowl games closer to or on January 1, the way it used to be,'' the commissioners wrote in a statement I received today.

 "As we proceed, we will evaluate the many pros and cons of numerous possible changes."


 John Routh -- UM Sports Hall of Fame executive director, Canes fan and hard worker extraordinaire (not to mention former Sebastian the Ibis!) -- wanted me to remind you that the 2012 UM Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Bowling Tournament is at 6 p.m. next Monday, Feb. 27th, at Splitsville, 5701 Sunset Drive, Miami, 33143.

"Come eat, drink and bowl with some of your favorite Cane All-Stars,'' the event ad states.

Some of the Hurricanes who will be attending: UM Hall of Famers Darrin Smith, K.C. Jones, Eddie Brown, Randal Hill, Leon Searcy, Rich Mercier (inductee for next month), Alex Santos and Mike Pagliarulo. Also attending will be Falcons center Brett Romberg and Raiders tight end Richard Gordon.

There are about a dozen others, as well.

The event benefits the UM Sports Hall of Fame.

A silent auction, open bowl and registration all begin at 6 p.m.

The awards ceremony and live auction begin at 9 p.m. (Live auction includes the 2001 Hurricanes National Championship Ring -- fyi: the ring doesn't belong to a former player; it is an exact replica and will be specially made for the winner and include his or her name)


Team of 4 (includes one former Cane): $400. Individual bowler: $125. Each bowler gets buffet dinner and soft drinks and bowling and T-shirt. Cocktails are extra.

Social Tickets: $75. Kids under 12: $25

Trophies for winning team and best score

Call Routh at 305-284-2775 or email him at umsportshalloffame@aol.com; or call Gerard Loisel at 305-361-5301.


P.S. You might have seen my tweet, but I saw Canes linebacker Gionni Paul yesterday walking very slowly on crutches, his right knee in some sort of brace and not bending when he walked. 

P.P.S. UM's  baseball game Sunday at home against Albany has been switched to 11:30 a.m. (instead of 1 p.m.)


February 10, 2012

UM spring schedule includes football-baseball double-header

UM announced its spring practice schedule Friday, including sites for the two open scrimmages and the addition of "Fan Appreciation Day" -- a football-baseball double-header on campus.

Anyone that purchases a ticket to the Canes' (March 4) baseball game against Florida will be granted access to the football team's practice at Greentree Practice Field. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.

The Canes first scrimmage will be held on Saturday, March 24 from 10 a.m.-Noon at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah, Fla. The second scrimmage will be held Friday night on March 30 at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Fla. A 7 p.m. kick is scheduled.

Aside from those events and the previously announced spring game on April 14 at Sun Life Stadium, the other 11 practices (March 3, 5, 6, 20, 22, 27, 29 and April 3, 5, 10, 12) will be closed to the public.

> Following the Canes' scrimmage in Fort Myers, the Hurricane Club will host a golf tournament on Saturday, March 31 at the Heritage Bay Golf and Country Club.  Registration is at 7 a.m. and a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Lunch and awards will begin at 1 p.m. The deadline to register for the event is March 23. Please contact the Hurricane Club for more information: 305.284.3838.

> The spring game on April 14, free and open to the public, will kickoff at 2 p.m. and will be aired on Comcast South Sports (CSS) on tape delay at 5 p.m. that day. Schedule of events for the day will be released at a later date.

> In conjunction with the BankUnited CanesFest the Miami Hurricanes will be hosting a stadium wide Select-A-Seat. Fans are invited to come walk the Sun Life Stadium and select their seats for the upcoming season featuring home games against Florida State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, N.C. State, USF and Bethune-Cookman.

February 09, 2012

Report: UM to play at Boston College on Labor Day weekend

A report from the Boston Globe has UM football playing at Boston College on Labor Day weekend to open the 2012 season.

It could definitely happen, as the two teams do not have nonconference games scheduled for that weekend.

However, the Globe, which cited sources from Boston College, said "the likely dates are Sunday or Monday, although the entire weekend remains in play.''

I just did my own snooping around, and it seems that UM, if it does travel to Boston College on opening weekend, would likely play on Saturday, Sept. 1, and not Monday, Labor Day, Sept. 3.

The reason: UM will meet nonconference opponent Kansas State, AT Kansas State, Sept. 8. It seems unlikely Al Golden would want to meet KSU on a short week, especially since the Canes will be traveling.

But I do not know for sure. The Atlantic Coast Conference likely will release its 2012 football schedule next week.




    The Miami Hurricanes could start the 2012 season facing the same team they finished against in 2011.

     Boston College will be host to the Hurricanes during Labor Day weekend, according to The Boston Globe. The Globe cited “sources at Boston College.’’

     The Atlantic Coast Conference is in the midst of finishing its football scheduling for 2012 and would not confirm the report.

     “I can’t comment on it,’’ said ACC associate commissioner for football operations Michael Kelly. “The schedule is still in development. I can’t confirm any games at this time.’’

    UM opened last season on the road at Maryland on Labor Day, so it seems unlikely that the Hurricanes would play BC in 2012 on that day. Additionally, the Canes play Kansas State the following Saturday, Sept. 8, so it’s likely they would meet BC – if the game does materialize – on Saturday, Sept. 1.  However, the Globe reported that “the likely dates are Sunday or Monday, although the entire weekend remains in play.’’

    Most ACC teams have nonconference game scheduled for Labor Day weekend. Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech do not have nonconference games slated for that weekend.

    UM’s other nonconference opponents in 2012: Bethune Cookman at home Sept. 15, Notre Dame at Soldier Field in Chicago on Oct. 6 and USF at home Nov. 24.

    UM finished the 2011 season by losing to the Eagles 24-17 at Sun Life Stadium. The Hurricanes ended 6-6.

     Kelly said the reason the ACC’s scheduling has been delayed is because West Virginia dropped Florida State last Friday from its nonconference schedule.




February 08, 2012

High school coach of Darion Hall 'saddened, but not surprised' to hear RB was suspended indefinitely by UM

Coach Al Golden told Canesport.com Wednesday running back Darion Hall, who was expected to start spring football third on the team's depth chart, has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.

Darion HallHall (5-10, 190) made his only appearance last season against Bethune-Cookman, but didn't have any carries. He is no longer listed on UM's roster.

His former high school coach at Naples Lely, Steve Pricer, said Wednesday night he's "saddened to hear the news," but "I'm not surprised."

"Darion had a great junior year for us -- ran for more than 1,700 yards. But he had discipline issues," said Pricer, who is no longer at Lely. "We tried to get him in line, but he was always getting in trouble.

"Frankly, I was surprised Miami took a chance on him. I'm sad for him because he had a lot of talent. But how many times now have we heard a story of a talented kid blowing his opportunity?"

Last week, Golden confirmed redshirt freshman Dallas Crawford had been moved from cornerback to running back for spring ball. UM heads into the spring with senior Mike James, junior Eduardo Clements and junior fullback Maurice Hagens as its other scholarship running backs.

Blue-chip recruit Duke Johnson of Miami Norland and Danny Dillard, a 6-2, 205-pound back out of Venice, are expected to arrive in the fall.

> Golden also told Canesport the team has moved junior Tyrone Cornileus from safety to linebacker. Cornileus (6-2, 195) has 13 tackles on special teams in two seasons.

Reggie Johnson is the reason Canes have rallied to get in March Madness discussion

CORAL GABLES -- If you based team MVP awards simply on points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and three-pointers you could make an argument for a handful of different players on what numbers-wise is a very balanced Hurricanes men's basketball team.

Reggie JohnsonYou could give the award to Durand Scott because he leads the team in scoring (13.1 points per game), assists (3.4) and minutes (34.9) and is averaging five rebounds a game.

Malcolm Grant has an argument because he's hit a number of big shots, averages 12.7 points a game and leads the team in three-pointers made with 44.

Florida transfer Kenny Kadji has played lights out in the post, averaging 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds while leading the team with 35 blocked shots.

Even freshman point guard Shane Larkin deserves some consideration. His 37 steals lead the ACC and he's provided a big boost since being inserted into the starting lineup four games ago.

But if you throw out stats and look at overall impact, there is no question who the best basketball player at the University of Miami is. It's Reggie Johnson.

The 6-10, 293-pound center starred in Sunday's overtime win at then No. 7-ranked Duke. But his career-high 27 points and 12 rebounds in the Canes' first victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium isn't the only reason he deserves it (I'd give it to him for just flexing in the face of those Cameron Crazies after they taunted him by shouting 'Please Don't Eat Us'). It's UM's 9-3 record since his return that outweighs the 11.8 points and seven rebounds a game he's averaged since sitting out five months to heal from a torn meniscus in his right knee. That, and how good he's made his teammates since his return.

"Don't do anything for five months at anything you could possibly do, and you're going to be rusty," UM coach Jim Larranaga said. "Reggie came back and had an immediate had an impact. In Reggie's case, he not only plays well, but impacts the whole game and his teammates. If you look at Kenny Kadji's numbers, Kenny was averaging seven points a game before Reggie became available. He's been averaging about 17 points per game since Reggie has been back. Durand Scott was shooting in the low 30s when Reggie was not available. He's shooting 50 percent and above playing with Reggie."

Although Johnson said Wednesday he feels like he's close to getting back to 100 percent, Larranaga pointed out Johnson can only curl about 30 pounds with surgically repaired right knee (he curls 75 pounds with his left knee) and that Johnson's flexibility is "less than half" than the healthy leg.

"Until he has full strength and flexibility he will not be at 100 percent," Larranaga said. "That's not going to happen this season. It's going to take the spring and even the summer. When you sit out five months, it's been my experience it takes five months to recover from that."

Still, Larranaga said Johnson has noticeably improved his conditioning (even though he's only dropped from 295 to 293 since returning from injury). Larranaga said Johnson is also getting a stronger grasp of the offensive and defensive concepts he's employed.

"We were a zone team primarily last year. Now we're primarily a man to man. That puts a tremendous burden on him," Larranaga said. "A lot of teams ball screen and he has to get out there to get on ball screens. When you're in a 2-3 zone, you basically play in the middle and don't move around much.

"Anybody notice who switched out on [Duke's] Austin Rivers for the second to last shot of the game [Sunday]? Reggie Johnson. They ball screened. We were planning to switch. Reggie was there. Ryan Kelly got the rebound and Reggie was there on the perimeter. So, when you play in a zone, you're not asked to do those type of things. It's been a challenge for Reggie and he keeps getting better and better at it."

Despite the win at Duke, the Canes, who've won four consecutive game and five of their past six, are still hardly a lock to get into the NCAA Tournament. Even with an RPI ranking of 38, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi didn't include them this week in his projected field of 68. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com had them as a 13th seed.

"I'm not surprised at all," Johnson said Wednesday. "I go into every game thinking were not in the tournament. We have to play one game at a time to get there. Don't get into your mind we're in the tournament because we beat Duke. That's false. One year, Virginia Tech beat Duke. Dick Vitale said they were in and that meant absolutely nothing. Virginia Tech went to the NIT like we did."


> Speaking of the Hokies (13-10, 2-6 ACC), they're next. Thursday night they'll visit BankUnited Center for a 9 p.m. tip, televised on ESPN2. With eight games left to play in the ACC, UM (14-7, 5-3) could conceivably finish 9-7 in conference play and still not make the tournament. So taking care of business against teams they should beat is top priority. And for Johnson there won't be any less motivation playing the Hokies, who are 2-7 since January 1.

"We don't like Virginia Tech, they don't like us. In the game, there's a lot of trash talking going back and forth," Johnson said. "They're the other school that recruited me in the ACC. They took [Victor] Davila over me, they're starting center. Every time I play them that plays in my head.

"They're 2-6. But I watched them when they played North Carolina and they can shoot the ball, they can drive. It was a close game going into the second half. They're record doesn't speak to what kind of team they really are."

> Despite what most people may call a breakthrough performance for Johnson at Duke, the big fella still believes his first game back Dec. 17 against FAU remains his best performance. "It was the most fun game for me. I was getting everybody else involved. I had a career high five assists. That's big for me. As a big man, I love assists."

> Johnson said he and several teammates have remained contact with former coach Frank Haith, now at Missouri through text messages.

"I texted him and told him good win against Kansas the other night," Johnson said. "I definitely keep up with Coach Haith. He's my guy. He gave me a chance to play in the ACC. I'm happy for him. They're No. 4 in the nation. At one point, they were No. 2 in the nation. I'm proud of him. I just want to see him succeed.

"His wife texted us after the Duke win. She said 'Good win and keep it going.'"

> NBADraft.net currently projects Johnson as the 42nd pick (2nd round) to Houston. But his stock could be on the rise following the performance against Duke, especially when you consider he looked better than Mason Plumlee, currently tabbed to go 24th overall to the Celtics.

"The Plumlees are probably highest on the NBA radar in the ACC when it comes to big guys," Johnson said. "Those guys jump, dunk, sky hook, whatever. It was real fun playing against those guys. Duke just guarded me a certain way and I took advantage of it."

February 07, 2012

Bullpen biggest question mark heading into Canes' baseball season Morris says

CORAL GABLES -- Normally, interviews at the University of Miami prior to the start of baseball season begin with the same question for coach Jim Morris: Is this Hurricanes team good enough to get back to the College World Series?

Jim MorrisThat didn't happen Tuesday. Morris, whose team opens the season a week from Friday at home against Rutgers, wasn't asked about Omaha until he was nearly done answering questions. Why did it take so long?

"Probably because a lot of our guys don't know where Omaha is -- except me and [sixth-year senior pitcher Eric] Erickson," Morris joked. "We haven't gone there much lately. We went there 11 out of my first 15 years and only once in the last five years. As a coach, you always feel you have a chance to go to Omaha if you play well. I think this club has a chance. That's all you want -- a chance.

"If we develop these guys and get a few breaks -- we've already had a couple with Eric and [catcher Peter] O'Brien -- we can get there."

The Hurricanes, who finished 38-23 and lost to national runner-up Florida for the third year in a row in regionals, have reason for optimism.

In addition to getting a healthy veteran in Erickson back for a sixth year (23-6, 3.08 ERA, 221 2/3 IP, 178 Ks, 40 BBs in three healthy seasons), all four of the team's starting pitchers from a year ago are back. 

Junior right-hander E.J. Encinosa, a freshman All-American who struggled last year as a starter (5-6 with a 3.45 ERA, 70 Ks, 33 BBs), will be going to the bullpen and will serve as the team's closer. But junior right-hander Eric Whaley (7-5, 2.70 ERA, 82 Ks, 22 Bs), junior left-hander Steven Ewing (8-2, 2.66 ERA, 77 Ks, 23 BBs) and sophomore left-hander Bryan Radzewski (9-2, 3.55 ERA, 92 Ks, 37 BBs) will be back in the rotation. Morris said Tuesday he isn't sure what order they will pitch in yet, but he's confident his rotation is the team's strength.

"It could be as good as any rotation I've had since I've been here," Morris said. "Ewing won [eight] games last year. [Whaley] was our No. 1 guy for most of the year. B-Rad ended up our No. 1 guy. Those are good, quality guys. That's important for us because we're not going to score that many runs early."

"We just have to get our bullpen settled. Got to have those seventh, eighth, ninth inning guys set."

With left-hander Sam Robinson, right-hander Travis Miller and closer Danny Miranda, UM had a solid trio in the bullpen. All three are gone now and Morris said he has "two or three young guys battling" for reliever spots. So far, junior college transfer Eric Nedeljkovic, a right-hander, appears as though he could be the setup guy. "He has good stuff, is a good athlete and can do it," Morris said.

Morris said his plan is to develop the bullpen early in the season and that he won't let his starters go deeper into games just because relievers could struggle early. "We're going to give them the opportunity early," Morris said.


As for the Canes' lineup, that remains a bit in flux as well -- especially at the corner infield spots. Juniors Stephen Perez (.263, 0 HR, 31 RBI, 14 SBs, 15 errors) and Michael Broad (.248, 3 HRs, 31 RBI, 4 errors) are battling hamstring and knee and back injuries, but Morris said he expects them to be in the starting lineup at shorstop and second base respectively for the opener.

First base, Morris said, remains a three horse race between sophomores Brad Fieger (.280, 2 HRs, 29 RBI last season) and Scott Wiebel, and freshman Esteban Tresgallo. At third base, Morris said University of Florida transfer Tyler Palmer is competing with Wiebel and Fieger for playing time. "Whoever ends up hitting is who is going to end up playing at those corner spots," Morris said. "We're not getting a lot of offense out of any of those guys at the moment. And those are spots where you need offense."


Morris said one person who is hitting the ball well this spring is redshirt freshman Julian Santos. The Miami Killian grad is leading the team in hitting with a .563 average in practices and has struckout just once according to Morris. Santos tore his left ACL and MCL two weeks before enrolling as a freshman and then tore his right ACL and MCL in his first game back last March.

"I never had a player work for a year to play and the day he's cleared to play he comes back and blows out the other knee," Morris said. "I remember calling him that night because I felt so bad for him. He told me it was just another bump in the road.

"When he came back this fall, though, he struggled. I told him 'Geez, you aren't making any progress, you better turn it up a notch or your not going to play.' I don't know what that did, but he came back this spring and was ready to play."

Morris said if the season started today Santos would hit leadoff and start in centerfield. The rest of his outfield? Morris said sophomore Dale Carey, who made that crazy SportsCenter Top 10 catch in the regional loss to Florida, junior Chantz Mack and senior Rony Rodriguez will split those spots, with Rodriguez likely to serve as the designated hitter when he's not in left field.

"Those guys are all hitting about .200 so far this spring," Morris said. "But they've proven they can hit before so they'll be fine."

Morris said Rodriguez (.308, 13 HRs, 44 RBI) will probably hit right behind or in front of O'Brien, the Bethune-Cookman transfer who hit .304 with 14 home runs and 69 RBI last season. Other than hitting Santos in the leadoff spot, Morris said he's not sure where anybody else will hit just yet.


> Morris said if Broad and Perez aren't ready to start the season, freshman Jarred Mederos would start at shortstop and freshman Alex Fernandez Jr. would start at second base. "Alex has improved a lot as a hitter since this fall," Morris said. "He's pitched good too."

> The Canes are ranked 13th in the USA Today/Coaches' Top 25 preseason poll. "I'm happy with where we're at," Morris said. "I wish I still had a vote. I really enjoyed voting in it. I'd get the scores on Sunday night and couldn't wait to send my votes in. I'm not sure who is voting now. They don't tell you."

> Aside from the players already mentioned, Morris was complimentary of junior catcher Alex San Juan and freshman catcher Garrett Kennedy. "San Juan has looked good, made some real progress," Morris said. "Kennedy is going to be a good player here."

> Morris said one thing he's noticed about Erickson is that "he's matured a lot."

"I'm sure at times he thought his career was over with after two arm surgeries," Morris said. "Then being forced to move to Tallahassee because that's where your parents live. That's like being forced to go you know where. You can fill in the blank. It's a been a long process for him. Then the process of getting your sixth year of eligibility that wasn't an easy to thing do, a lot of paperwork and a lot of time. But we're very excited for him."

February 03, 2012

ACC's plan once Pittsburgh, Syracuse join bumps conference schedule up to 9 games in football

Hurricanes fans can say good-bye to a fourth non-conference game once former Big East partners Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the ACC.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced Friday the future scheduling formats once the league expands to 14 teams and instead of playing eight conference games in football, every team will now play nine.

The format will consist of each team playing all six teams in its division each year, plus its primary crossover partner (in UM's case Florida State) each year and two rotating opponents from the opposite division.

Pittsburgh, which will join UM in the Coastal Division, will be Syracuse's cross over opponent.

Here's how the divisions will look in football:

> Atlantic: Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest, N.C. State, Boston College, Maryland and Syracuse.

> Coastal: Miami, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke and Pittsburgh.

> When it comes to hoops, the ACC has already employed an 18-game conference schedule that will begin next year.

When Pitt and Syracuse join, each school will have one primary partner (Boston College and Syracuse; Clemson and Georgia Tech; Duke and North Carolina; Florida State and Miami; Maryland and Pitt; NC State and Wake Forest; Virginia and Virginia Tech).

The scheduling model will be based on a three-year cycle during which teams will play every league opponent at least once with the primary partners playing home and away annually while the other 12 rotate in groups of four. The format allows each program to see opponents with more regularity and creates an increase in competitive balance throughout the teams.

All 14 league members will continue to automatically qualify for the conference tournaments. Tournament formats will be announced at a later date.

> In other sports, all teams will continue to play each conference team at least once during the regular season -- except baseball, which is the only exception as they currently don't play all conference opponents.

The league will continue to sponsor an ACC Championship event in all sports except volleyball, which will continue to recognize its champion from regular-season play.

The conference will now sponsor an ACC Championship in the sport of gymnastics. There are currently three institutions that sponsor gymnastics (Maryland, North Carolina and NC State) and with the addition of Pitt, the ACC will have four programs, the necessary number in the league's bylaws to host a conference championship. The ACC previously sponsored a conference championship in gymnastics in 1984.

February 02, 2012

VIDEO: Behind the scenes at UM on Signing Day

Here's a good behind the scenes look of what National Signing Day was like for UM coach Al Golden and his staff by 3 Penny Films.

February 01, 2012

Negative recruiting against Canes was hurdle that led all the way up to Signing Day

CORAL GABLES -- The first thing Al Golden did after putting the finishing touches on UM's 2012 signing class Wednesday afternoon was thank everyone who helped him put it together.

Jawand BlueEveryone got a shout out: UM President Donna Shalala; school professors; the wives of his assistant coaches who never saw their husbands; the fans and boosters who lent their private planes to allow Golden and his assistants to fly all over the country; the current players who hosted recruits; the recruits who became early enrollees and the longtime commitments who recruited the recruits on the fence.

Nope, this job wasn't easy. The way UM arrived Wednesday to a Top 10 nationally class of 33 recruits (second most in the nation behind Troy St. and Tempe who each brought in 35) was grueling process, a job only made tougher by looming NCAA sanctions, a 6-6 season and a whole lot of negative recruiting. 

"This was the most grueling six or seven weeks in my career in 17 years in the business," said Golden. "I can't remember any time when we were at Temple and we took over that we were facing anything harder than this.

"It was an incredible effort in light of all the things we encountered, all the obstacles in the last couple months. I won't sit here and tell you we didn't get absolutely crushed by opponents [with negative recruiting]. They saw a soft spot and they took it, went after it."

> The Hurricanes dealt with another dose of negative recruiting Wednesday after West Boca Raton linebacker JaWand Blue switched out of his commitment to Virginia Tech and picked Miami.

When Blue called Virginia Tech assistant coach Charley Wiles by phone, Palm Beach Post writer Matt Porter was there with Blue and overheard their conversation. According to Porter, Wiles tried to sway Blue by touting his program’s success in the ACC and cleanliness – a shot at Miami following the Nevin Shapiro scandal.

Without naming Virginia Tech directly, Golden fired back close to the end of his 40 minute press conference Wednesday: "At times [negative recruiting] can enter in the realm of vicious. I heard that happened today. You give them enough rope, they hang themselves. Let them say all those nasty things. At the end of the day when you're in the pressure cooker, how you react in front of recruits and their parents says a lot about you and the program. You lose kids, we wish them good luck."

Golden's fight is far from over. Until the NCAA hands down its punishment, UM will continue to get pelted. The good news for the Canes? None of it really appeared to affect the 2012 class Golden was able to put together.

Miramar All-American cornerback Tracy Howard said the NCAA investigation really didn't play a factor -- playing time did. Blue told 760 ESPN in West Palm Beach all he was thinking about was staying home and that he trusts the Canes aren't in big trouble. Same with St. Thomas Aquinas defensive end Jelani Hamilton.


> Golden said the reason UM's class grew to be so large wasn't because of fear of impending NCAA sanctions but rather the departure of key underclassmen. So how many scholarships are available should a player come along? According to Golden, none.

> Golden said of the class: " I think it personifies and embodies what we're looking for. Lot of guys that want to be Miami Hurricanes. Lot of guys that understand what it means to be part of the tradition, not only how they play, but conduct themselves off the field, the passion they exhibit, the toughness. [They come from] a lot of championship programs, a lot of captains. A lot of tough guys. I'm probably a little surprised we're ranked as high as far as all the rankings and that stuff goes. Primarily I'm surprised because so many of them came from [UM camps]. A lot of the guys that came from the camp are under the radar. We've never been catalog shoppers."

> Golden said he looks for in players at his camps is character. "Our guys, if they're under the radar guys, we really don't care," Golden said. "They came to the camp - Jake O'Donnell and Dwayne Hoilett come to mind. I didn't care if either one of them had any offers. What we saw at camp with their speed, the tenacity they exhibited. Those are guys we need to get in the program. Herb Waters is another guy who came to camp and did a good job. We're not worried about the stars. We're grateful we have the recognition that goes along with having a highly ranked class."

> So when did Golden begin to believe UM really had a shot at luring Tracy Howard? After his in-home visit two weeks ago.

"The last couple weeks we started to build some momentum there and I just felt he was listening more. Then we had an opportunity when we went into the home, I think I left out of there and I felt good. I sensed something different. I think the more we talked to Tracy about football, academics, commitment to core values, I think the more his family understood. I think Shaiy and Tracy Sr., they were looking for something to carry on with the young man."

> On late addition Dequan Ivery, a 6-1, 300-pound defensive tackle from Lake City Columbia, Golden said: "A lot of people chase stars down the stretch. I kept challenging the staff to find me another nose guard in this class or next class. He's on the strength team, over a 400 pound bencher already, has leverage, can bend. He wanted to be a Hurricane."

> Golden likes all four players UM got from Palm Beach County: "[Receiver] Angelo [Jean-Louis] had a great week at Under Armour. All the coaches said `Who is this kid?' He did a great job up there. Gabe Terry is one of those guys, finished runner up in wrestling in his weight class, has a 3.6 (GPA) and the tape that he had. A beautiful young man, had a chance to visit with him during the season. He'll play [strongside linebacker] for us. Jawand [Blue] is a late addition for us today not because of his talent but because of scholarships that were promised before we got to him. He communicated with us down the stretch. We're grateful that he decided to join us. He'll help us at linebacker. [Receiver] Robert Lockhart I think is going to be a really good player. He'll be with us in May. He brings us length. That's a really good group in an area we haven't done great in. "

> Westminster Christian quarterback David Thompson has the green light to play baseball, Golden said. " He's going to help both programs out, is a tremendous young man. We'll see which way it goes. Coach [Jim] Morris and I have talked about how we'll manage it; we're both on the same page there. The wildcard is pro baseball, the draft. We'll see where that goes. [Quarterbacks] Preston [Dewey] and Gray [Crow] are doing well. Those guys are doing a great job for us and we're really excited about them competing. I think we've improved that position."

> Golden said cornerback Brandon McGee isn't running track this year and is instead focused on football by his choice.. walk on linebacker Nantambu Fentress apparently has interest in playing baseball... Golden confirmed Dallas Crawford has been switched to running back. "Dallas was a wildcat quarterback [in high school]. We ran him on scout team, will take a look at him [at running back] in the spring. We can always move him back to DB."

Miramar CB Tracy Howard talks about picking UM

MIRAMAR -- Tracy Howard made a nation full of Hurricanes happy Wednesday morning when he announced he was picking UM over Florida.

So why is the All-American cornerback -- considered the best in the country at his position -- heading down to Coral Gables and not Gainesville, where he was locked in before taking his official visit to UM last weekend? Here's what he had to say about it not long after announcing his choice.

Your mom [Shaiy Howard] said you were kind of going back and forth with this the last couple days. When did you really say 'That's it -- I'm going to Miami'?

"This morning. I prayed about it. I asked God give me a sign. I'm locked on Miami. If this is the wrong choice, just give me a sign. I got no sign telling me it was wrong. My family was happy about the decision. I was happy about it."

What did your family say when you were finally done with the recruiting process and had chosen the Canes?

"Dad was the happiest man in the world. He's a Miami fan. Of course he wanted me to stay close to home, but it wasn't even about that. My mom was cool with it. My mom was actually a Florida fan and I knew when my mom was happy, I was going to be happy. I'm happy with Miami. I want to be a great player there and I'm going to be a great player there."

So who is going to wear No. 3, you or Norland running back Duke Johnson?

"I don't know. But to be honest, both of us can wear it. I'm not sure we're going to do that. But we could if we wanted to."

How much did playing with your friends: Duke, Deon Bush, Malcolm Lewis play a factor?

"It didn't really help. They were talking to me for months. I was like 'I'm going to Florida, I don't know what you're talking about.' I told Deon 'You go do your thing at Miami, I'm going to go do my thing at Florida. We'll go to the league and meet each other there.' But I mean I just looked at the opportunity and I couldn't throw it away. The opportunity there is great. I have to take advantage."

Do you think you'll start as a true freshman right away -- your first game?

"I'm not really a guy who is going to talk and say I'm going to start. It's up to me to produce. Do I feel like I'm going to produce and show out, compete and work hard? Yes. I do. If I do that I'm going to start. I feel like I'm going to go in there, work hard. Do I feel I'm the best? Yes, I feel I'm the best. Even if there's a senior in front of me, this is about business. I'm going in there working. I'm going in there hungry. I want everybody to know that. I can't tell you I'm going to be starting, but that's what I really want to say. I want to say you'll see me starting opening game. But I'm a humble guy. And I feel like if I handle business the way I have throughout my life, then why not. I did great on the optimist level. I did great on the high school level. So why would I not succeed on the college level?"

Who did you really rely on to make the decision?

"My dad. Me and mom are very close and everybody knows that. But at the end of the day, he means a lot. He molded me into the man I am today. We just talked about everything. He never told me go to Miami. He said whatever you do, I'm behind you 100 percent. I just weighed everything about Florida, Miami and Florida State and I felt Miami was the better fit."

Happy it's over?

A: Yes. I'm relieved."

What's next for you?

"I'll be running track in the spring. I'll run the 4x100 meter relay, the 100 and the 400 -- I want to run the 400 to get stronger."

Miami is coming off a 6-6 season, is facing NCAA sanctions, why didn't that affect your decision at all?

"It did. I talked to coaches about it. Nobody really knows what's going to happen. But I feel smart about it. The guys were suspended for what happened and they took a bowl game away. I think Coach Golden did a good job handling it. In the end, I prayed about it and God led me the right way."

What are your expectations for the signing class you are coming in with?

"National championship. Of course we feel we have the best football in South Florida. Same in Texas and California. But we feel if all of us get together, we're going to be dominant. I think we will be."


Here's what teammate Malcolm Lewis also had to say about Howard picking UM.