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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.)