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15 posts from March 2012

March 30, 2012

Perryman (2 INTs), Chickillo (3 sacks) star for defense in Canes 2nd scrimmage

FORT MYERS -- News, notes, quotes and stats from UM's second spring scrimmage at Bishop Verot High , where 6,500 showed up to watch Friday night:

> The defense clearly out-shined the offense, producing 10 sacks and three interceptions in a scrimmage that ran about 120 plays in total outside of short-yardage situations. Linebacker Denzel Perryman had two interceptions and Anthony Chickillo had three sacks. Quarterback Ryan Williams struggled a bit, finishing 17 of 33 for 177 yards with two touchdowns and two INTs.

"We need guys to make plays -- to execute the defense and take it beyond the design of the defense," UM coach Al Golden said of Perryman and Chickillo. "I thought they did that. They played hard. There were other guys in there, too: [Freshman linebacker Raphael] Kirby. [Defensive tackle] Darius Smith did a nice job. [Defensive tackle Curtis] Porter. There were a lot of guys who played good football.

"We haven't been that physical on the defensive line and at linebacker in a while. I thought we ran around and hit. Clearly, we've got to take care of the interceptions, take care of the football better. But I'm telling you, our defensive line came to play today.."

> A couple players went down with injuries including sophomore receiver Phillip Dorsett, who pulled his left hamstring pull after going up for an overthrown pass from Williams early in the scrimmage. Also hurt: fullback C.J. Holton (right ankle). Both did not return. Holton had trouble putting any weight on it.

> UM ran nine plays in short-yardage situations at the start of the scrimmage and scored twice -- on a 1-yard run by Mike James and a 3-yard TD pass from Ryan Williams to fullback Holton. But it took the offense a lot longer to score once they were forced to drive the length of the field (the offense lined up at various spots throughout the field and started series with all 3 units) 

The Canes ran more than 110 plays from scrimmage after those short-yardage situations and didn't score again until Williams connected with Kendal Thompkins on a 13-yard pass (roughly 100 plays in). Thompkins caught the pass in the flat, shook a defender and dove in for the score. Rashawn Scott score later on a 7-yard pass from Williams.

"He wasn't as sharp as the last one," Golden said of Williams. "But I'll reserve judgement until we see [the film]. I thought the d-line and linebackers had a lot to do with that -- with the pressure. So, that's a function of the offense and the protection. I also think the Dorsett going out early hindered him as well."

> Scott, the star of UM's first scrimmage, had another solid performance. He had six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown to lead all receivers. He had the longest offensive play of the day, hauling in a 34-yard pass from Williams in stride down the sideline. Scott beat junior college transfer Ladarius Gunter on the play. Gunter later intercepted Williams in the end zone. Tight end Clive Walford, meanwhile, had two catches for 36 yards including a nice 27-yard catch and run.

"We didn't quite have our timing like we did the other day," Golden said of his quarterbacks and receivers. "[When] Dorsett caught his hammy a little bit reaching for a high ball, that screwed up our rotation a little bit. [But] Rashawn's obviously a guy who is coming to play a little bit [this spring]. I thought Clive made a really, really spectacular catch. We need that from him. He needs to become that guy for us."

> Freshmen quarterbacks Preston Dewey and Gray Crow weren't spectacular, but appeared more in sync with the offense. Dewey finished 9 of 14 for 71 yards -- most of them short passes to running backs out of the backfield. Crow finished 11 of 18 for 64 yards and an interception, which Perryman almost returned for a touchdown.

"I thought Dewey did better," Golden said. "Gray tried to fit one in there. It doesn't work anymore. He'll learn. Again, we're putting those guys out there. It's a tough operation for those quarterbacks the second time around. We're just going to keep putting them out there until we get it."

> The running game was pretty non-existent. The two longest runs from scrimmage belonged to Mike James (15 yards) and walk-on Darris Hughes (15-yards).

> Golden took a moment to pull tight end David Perry off to the side after he dropped a pass wide open in the flat. Perry, who fumbled in the first scrimmage, simply nodded his as Golden talked to him about his mistake.

> Here is what defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio thought of the defensive effort: "I felt like they were a little more physical out there today, a little more locked in and knew what they were doing.

"But again, it's a process. We're trying to teach them to be the same guys everyday. I was glad we got some takeaways. We caught the ones they threw us this time. We dropped some last week. We've got to become that defense -- that opportunistic defense that can get takeaways and score points, like the Hurricanes used to do.

> D'Onofrio on Denzel Perryman's big day: "He's a tremendous talent. What we need from Denzel is work ethic and his preparation to match his talent, and then we'll have something special. He's not in the category of Sean Spence or anybody until he proves he can work like that on a daily basis. He has a lot of ability. But talent isn't enough."

> D'Onofrio on his true freshmen -- linebacker Raphael Kirby and defensive end Dwyane Hoilett (who had two sacks) who played well: "They were better. If you think about it, these guys shouldn't be out here yet. They should be going to their senior prom. I knew that first scrimmage would be tough. Kirby looked like he showed up. Dwayne looked like he was better technique wise. Sometimes sacks are results of guys being unblocked. I don't take too much credence in that. But they looked they were better and faster and that's what I wanted to see."

STATS (UNOFFICIALLY TAKEN BY UM SPORTS WRITERS)

> Passing: Williams 17-33-177, 2 TDs, 2 INTs; Dewey 9-14-71; Crow 11-18-64, 1 INT.

> Rushing: James 15-56; Clements 14-17; Crawford 3-14; Hughes 7-21.

> Receiving: Scott 6-75, 1 TD; Thompkins 3-27, 1 TD; Crawford 3-6; Cleveland 2-16; Walford 2-36; Haney 1-15; M. James 1-3; Kidd 4-49l; Barnes 1-9; Clements 4-23; Johnson 2-20; Dye 2-23; Perry 1-2; Holton 2-3.

> Defense: Gunter 5.5 tackles, 1 INT; E. Johnson 5 tackles; Chickillo 3.5 tackles, 3 sacks; Cain 5; Perryman 2 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INTs; Cornelius 4 tackles; Finnie 7 tackles, 2 PBU; Paul 6 1/2 tackles, sack; Kirby 4.5 tackles; D. Hoilett 2 sacks; Porter 3 tackles, 1 sack.

March 29, 2012

New UM Canes depth chart released day before Fort Myers scrimmage

UM Coach Al Golden released his newest depth chart Thursday, a day before the Friday-night scrimmage in Fort Myers. Some of the changes you already know about. For example: Jermaine Johnson at left guard on the offensive line, and understandably, with Allen Hurns still recuperating from shoulder injury and Rashawn Scott having an outstanding first scrimmage, Scott is at first team wide receiver -- opposite Phillip Dorsett (Kendal Thompkins is behind Dorsett).

One notable change: A.J. Highsmith is now first-team strong safety, ahead of Vaughn Telemaque and Andrew Swasey. Highsmith has really paid his dues on this team, and has definitely been a team player. Happy for him, although you have to wonder about Vaughn. He's a senior with lots of experience, and was expected to take charge and lead the way.

On defense, Shayon Green is ahead of Anthony Chickillo at end, but only because Chickillo injured his back. Chickillo, as I tweeted a couple days ago, is a beast. I said if he were any tougher, he'd be made of steel. The guy is a winner. Was told he could be out for the spring, or at least for most of it, and now he'll be competing in the scrimmage tomorrow. Just hope he's healed enough to take the contact. UM needs a healthy Chickillo in the fall.

Usual outside linebacker Kelvin Cain is opposite Green at defensive end. Barry Jackson was at today's availability with Golden. He said Golden said that if UM strictly ran a 3-4 defense, Cain would be the outside linebacker. This way he can shift from one to the other, if need be. Golden said Cain is up to 230 pounds, and will get bigger.

Sophomore Denzel Perryman is now a first-team middle linebacker,with Jimmy Gaines and Tyrone Cornileus on either side. "Perryman is our most explosive tackler,'' Golden said today.

FB Maurice Hagens (groin) will miss tomorrow's scrimmage.

See you guys tomorrow night at the scrimmage!

Newest Depth Chart released March 29th, 2012:

OFFENSE

QB

First team: Ryan Williams

Second team: Gray Crow

Third team: Preston Dewey

RB

First team: Mike James

Second team: Eduardo Clements

Third team: Dallas Crawford

FB

First team: C. Holton

Second team: Mike James

WR

First team: Rashawn Scott

Second team: Allen Hurns

WR

First team: Phillip Dorsett

Second team: Kendal Thompkins

TE

First team: Asante Cleveland

Second team: Clive Walford

LT

First team: Malcolm Bunche

Second team: Ereck Flowers

LG

First team: Jermaine Johnson

Second team: Jeremy Lewis

C

First team: Shane McDermott

Second team: Jared Wheeler

RG

First team: Brandon Linder

Second team: Ben Jones

RT

First team: Seantrel Henderson

Second team: Taylor Gadbois

DEFENSE

DE

First team: Shayon Green

Second team: Anthony Chickillo

DT

First team: Darius Smith

Second team: Jalen Grimble

DT

First team: Curtis Porter

Second team: Luther Robinson

Third team: Olsen Pierre

DE

First team: Kelvin Cain

Second team: Dwayne Hoilett

OLB

First team: Jimmy Gaines

Second team: Eddie Johnson

MLB

First team: Denzel Perryman

Second team: Raphael Kirby

OLB

First team: Tyrone Cornileus

Second team: Gionni Paul

CB

First team: Ladarius Gunter

Second team: Larry Hope

FS

First team: Ray-Ray Armstrong

Second team: Kacy Rodgers

SS

First team: A.J. Highsmith

Second team: Vaughn Telemaque

Third team: Andrew Swasey

CB

First team: Brandon McGee

Second team: Thomas Finnie

SPECIAL TEAMS

K

First team: Jake Wieclaw

Second team: Matt Goudis

P

First team: Dalton Botts

Second team: Jake Wieclaw

KR

First team: Phillip Dorsett

Second team: Dallas Crawford

PR

First team: Phillip Dorsett

Second team: Dallas Crawford

H

First team: Dalton Botts

Second team: Ricardo Williams

 

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 27, 2012

Brandon McGee finally appears to be getting the message, plus news and notes from UM on Tuesday

CORAL GABLES -- Brandon McGee is no longer sitting on the bottom of the Hurricanes depth chart. The cornerback was wearing a black jersey Tuesday -- a sign that he's doing what coaches want and expect of a senior who is supposed to be starting and anchoring his unit.

Brandon McGee“He’s working,” UM coach Al Golden said of McGee, who started 12 games for UM last season, but emerged fifth on the team's depth chart after the completion of the off-season U Tough program.

“I see Brandon a little bit differently than maybe most do. I see a kid that’s very talented, that’s willing, that's working hard and we just have to get enough confidence where he then goes out and makes plays. Not freelance, but go out and finish plays because he has all of the skill set that you want, and now he’s 190 [pounds]."

McGee has always had the physical gifts to be a star at UM in the eyes of coaches. He's 6-feet tall, was 180 pounds last year, and was timed at 4.29 seconds in the 40-yard dash last summer. "But I don't think he uses all those gifts the way he should," defensive coordinator Mark D'Onoforio said Tuesday.

D'Onofrio and Golden tried to get that message across heading into spring football -- not only by placing McGee fifth on the depth chart, but with frequent text messages throughout the off-season.

"They'd send me texts asking, 'How great do you want to be?'," McGee said. "Even though I went up in my squat from 380 [pounds] to 415, I guess there was a point where in their eyes I had to push the threshold even more. Even though I beat the man next to me [in U Tough], they didn't want me to beat him just by a yard, I should have beaten him by five yards. It's pushing yourself further and further. It's definitely bringing out good qualities in myself now."

In Saturday's scrimmage in Hialeah, the first of the spring, McGee started showing coaches what they've wanted from him all along -- more physicality.

"The one thing about Brandon in Saturday's scrimmage was that he was physical probably for the first time since I’ve been here," Golden said. "He’s in those short-yardage [situations] mixing it up. I think he feels more confident with his body and the physical nature he can play at 190. Now, we have to get him staying in the system, converting and making plays, getting more interceptions, being more of a ball disruptor for us.”

"I don't want him to press to make a play. I want him to trust D'Onofrio and [defensive backs coach Paul] Williams and let that take him to the play."

D'Onofrio echoed those sentiments.

"If you date it back to this time last year, it's night and day the way he's playing physically now," D'Onofrio said.

"I think he saw himself as an athlete who was a cover corner and there is no such cover corner position on our defense. You have to be physical, you have to be tough and I think he's trusted what we're asking him to do. I think he's delivering on it. Now, we're looking for consistency, not 70 percent, 75 percent of the time, all the time. He has to demand it from himself and give his body up for the team."

McGee had 38 tackles last season (eighth most on the team) including 2.5 for loss with a sack and his first career interception. 

But as a unit, UM's secondary had an awful season in 2011, ranking 95th in pass efficiency defense (they were fifth in 2010). UM's defense produced just six interceptions -- 10 fewer than the year before -- and opposing quarterbacks completed 66.35 percent of their passes (sixth worst among 120 FBS schools).

"Last year was really difficult," D'Onofrio said of the team's cornerback play. "I really didn't have anybody experienced to work with. Brandon was the fourth corner [in 2010], but didn't play a lot of snaps because he was behind the three guys who are all in the NFL now. [Transfer] Mike Williams didn't play for a year and them came over here and started 12 games. Thomas Finnie was a freshman. JoJo Nicolas was a safety and then he had to go back and forth because of the issues we had at safety. Lee Chambers was a running back.

"The hard part for us now is I lost most of those guys. The only guys we got back were McGee and Finnie. McGee got a lot of reps. Finnie didn't get a lot of reps in games, but he did get the second team reps during the week, which were a lot. But, it's better than the year before. We've got seven new guys coming in this class. Last year, we had one [Finnie]. At least we have a place to start."

And that place starts with McGee, who is taking charge not only of himself, but his unit as well.

"My phone is always open for those guys," McGee said. "[Early enrollee] Larry Hope, sometimes he'll hit me up and ask me to go watch film. When they make mistakes in practice, I'll pull them off to the side and try to clean up their technique, just telling them what to look for on the field. And I emphasize don't make the same mistake twice. If they hear coaches getting on me for a mistake, I tell them to listen so they don't do the same thing. That's the one thing that makes coaches hot."

McGee said he's been in constant contact with incoming freshmen Deon Bush and Tracy Howard, the nation's No. 1 high school corner. Whenever Howard or Bush visits UM, McGee gets right to work talking scheme and football.

"I've seen him work out. He has good hips, quick feet," McGee said of Howard. "He's a competitor, talks some trash. I like that about him. I'm just excited for him to get here. To see a guy like that work and be able to help him through the process is going to be good.

"It's never easy. No matter how talented you are and what kind of expectations are placed on you, it's never easy to make that transition from high school to college. I'm going to be there to help him along the way and that's something I promised his parents I would do. Him and Deon."

MORE NEWS AND NOTES FROM TUESDAY

> Both McGee and Finnie said D'Onofrio isn't changing much in the way of coverages or schemes in the playbook. "There's nothing really new added, just perfecting what we did before," McGee said.

Last year, many Canes fans griped that cornerbacks were playing too far off receivers, allowing them to eat up the defense underneath. I've felt all along scheme hasn't been the problem -- it's been personnel. Maybe some continuity in scheme and getting more physical play -- as well as talent -- is the answer.

> As for Finnie, D'Onofrio says toughness isn't his issue. "Finnie's not afraid to throw his face in there at all. He's one of the tougher guys we've got right now. When those guys come around the corner or those tight ends lower the shoulder, he's doing exactly what we want him to do. He's not ducking out of the way," D'Onofrio said.

"What we need out of him is consistency and knowing that on the back end [coverage] you don't get any mulligans like you do in golf. Somebody gets behind you, it's 7-0. You don't get to push the reset button like you do in Madden. That's where we're trying to discipline him. When you're deep, you're deep."

> With Keion Payne now off the team, UM has five cornerbacks in camp. McGee is listed on the first team at field corner with Johnson backing him up. Finnie is the starter at boundary corner with junior college transfer Ladarius Gunter and Hope behind him.

> Of course, there is another part to UM's secondary -- safety. I didn't get D'Onofrio or Golden's thoughts on how seniors Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque have been performing, but the overriding sentiment this spring has been that both are putting forth the effort required.

"Ray, every play he's out there talking. VT is brining energy," McGee said. "I've been around them for a long time and can see the change in the them. If we come out flat, they get everybody amped up."

> With left guard Jonathan Feliciano going down for the rest of the spring, Jermaine Johnson has stepped in with the starting unit at that spot. The other starters: Malcolm Bunche at left tackle, Shane McDermott at center, Brandon Linder at right guard and Seantrel Henderson at right tackle.

“Jermaine looked really good inside,” Golden said. “Right now he’s one of the best five. We’ll see how it shakes out.”

> Golden said he's pleased with former defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis, who is taking first team reps at times at right and left guard. "He just needs to get in better condition and play at a high level," Golden said.

> Golden said the only way receiver Kendal Thompkins becomes a real contributor is by "eliminating drops." Thompkins had a few in Saturday's scrimmage.

> Golden continued his praise of freshmen Ereck Flowers and Raphael Kirby this spring calling them "difference makers" on Tuesday.

UM Canes guard Jon Feliciano out for the rest of spring with injury (knee)

Just got the message from Chris Freet, UM associate athletic director for communications and marketing, that UM guard Jon Feliciano, a redshirt sophomore, is out for the rest of spring "after suffering an injury in the March 24 scrimmage.

   "Feliciano will be further reviewed this week.''

The injury that we saw he suffered in the scrimmage at Ted Hendricks Stadium was, unfortunately, a right-knee injury.

    I talked to Jon immediately after the scrimmage, when he had his right knee heavily bandaged, and had a large bag of ice over it. He was understandably upset, but gracious as ever.

    He had leg injury problems last season, too, so you have to feel for him (and the Canes).

   Here's how he described the situation on Saturday: 

   "I was pulling and I hit the safety, Ray-Ray, [and] OT [RB Eduardo Clements] was about to break but he got hit in the back and he kind of fell into my knee. Hopefully it's just a sprain. They haven't told me anything. I'll just keep some ice on it and see how it goes.''

     Here's hoping it isn't too bad for Jon.

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

March 24, 2012

First UM Canes spring scrimmage is history; Ryan Williams impresses; Injury report

The Hurricanes' first spring scrimmage is over, and Canes fans finally got to see their three scholarship quarterbacks -- minus the sidelined Stephen Morris, who is recuperating from back surgery; and minus signee David Thompson, who won't arrive until the fall (that is, if he doesn't choose professional baseball instead).

Ryan Williams did an admirable job, and publicly proved he will be competition for Morris.This was not a spring game-type scrimmage. It was situational, and very choppy with preplanned segments, such as goal-line and two-minute drill stuff. But Williams did move the chains, and he had some nice throws with good touch. That's not to say he didn't have some overthrows and the like, but I'd give thumbs up to his performance -- 14 of 21 for 228 yards and four touchdowns.

We really don't get to see much of practice (once a week and for 10-15 minutes), so we haven't seen Williams in action. His arm does not appear to be as strong as Morris' (I didn't say Williams has a weak arm, just that Morris has a stronger one) It's just an observation, nothing more. Don't read anything else into it. Williams' favorite former Cane, Ken Dorsey, (No. 11, just like Williams), was not known for a powerful arm.

The young quarterbacks need lots more work, but that was expected. They didn't arrive that long ago from high school. However, Gray Crow clearly looks better than Preston Dewey. Maybe Dewey was just nervous, but he did not look good. We'll see. It's only one scrimmage.

Receivers Rashawn Scott, Phillip Dorsett and yes, senior Kendal Thompkins, had good days today. Thompkins, who has had a frustrating career at UM, is a fifth-year senior out of Miami Northwestern High. He always seems to shine in scrimmages, then disappear during the season.

"He made some good catches,'' offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said of Thompkins. "I mean, [he] scored on the first touchdown, or whatever, once we were moving the ball. "He made some nice plays. Kendal has done a good job. He’s got to keep competing. He’s got to show up. I keep telling him: 'Keep showing up, keep showing up, keep showing up. keep making plays.

  'Right now you can’t be just kind of a play here, play there.. you’ve got to be a consistent playmaker.'''

   This, from Thompkins: "Everyday it's important to show the coaches what you've got.''

   Thompkins said of his past four years: "It's been frustrating but it's been a learning experience. I can't complain because I felt I learned a lot.''

    Before I forget, Coach Al Golden lauded backup offensive linemen Ereck Flowers, Taylor Gadbois, Jared Wheeler, Ben Jones and Jeremy Lewis.

   Some other observations:

   * Tight end Clive Walford has tons of talent. But again, Fisch said that coaches are looking for consistency from Walford.

   *Mike James looked mighty fast sprinting down the right sideline for a 55-yard touchdown.

   *The DBs made some nice stops, including a great defensive play by S Andrew Swasey, who prevented Thompkins from catching a long pass from Williams.

   *Defenders dropped at least two would-be interceptions. The balls were basically thrown right to them.

  * The Canes fumbled way too many times -- at least four times, from my count.

  * The artificial turf was dangerously slippery Saturday at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah. Guys slipped several times.

   Now, the injuries:

   * Defensive end Anthony Chickillo, a star-in-the-making and one of the most enthusiastic and loyal Hurricanes, hurt his back last Thursday during practice. I was told by a couple of sources that he will not need surgery. However, he is expected to be out for an extended period of time. The sources told me he will miss the rest of spring. Knowing Chick, he's already dying to get back on the field. Coach Al Golden downplayed the injury, saying of Chickillo, "He got a little pull. Hopefully he'll be back Tuesday.''

    * Former offensive tackle Jon Feliciano, who is now playing guard, hurt his right knee today when he was pulling and hit safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, before Eduardo Clements got hit in the back and fell into Feliciano's knee. "Hopefully it's just a sprain,'' said Feliciano, who had a big bag of ice over it, and then thick wrapping. "I'll just keep some ice on it and see how it goes.''

     Feliciano said the Canes did "pretty well'' during the scrimmage, but "we got a little winded. We'll have to work on that.''

     * Right tackle Seantrel Henderson hurt his right knee during the scrimmage, and it was examined closely by the trainer and team doctor. He eventually went back in. "I kind of hurt it a little bit. I just tweaked it a little bit,'' Henderson said. "But it's fine. I felt better once I went back in.''

     * Tight end Dyron Dye was examined for an injury. Brian "The Beast'' London tweeted that he injured his finger.

    The next practice is Tuesday at Greentree Field. The next scrimmage is at 6:45 p.m. Friday in Fort Myers.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 21, 2012

Fisch wants to use Hurricanes tight ends the way Patriots do; plus QB Ryan Williams, receiver talk

CORAL GABLES -- With all the friends and connections he's made in the NFL, University of Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he spends a lot of time in the off-season picking the brains of other offensive gurus.

Asante Cleveland"A lot of times we'll talk schemes and situational football," Fisch said. "Other times, I'll ask questions like 'Hey, how did you guys do this?' -- see if we can take a few ideas.

"Obviously what New England did with its tight ends is something that stands out. You've got to study that. You've got to see how they utilize them -- and that's something we've done this offseason."

While he isn't ready to declare Asante Cleveland and Clive Walford as the next Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (combined for 169 catches, 2,237 yards, 24 TDs in 2011), Fisch believes his new tight end duo can create matchup problems for opposing teams next season. He also foresees many situations -- in light of the inexperience and youth at receiver -- where both will be on the field at the same time.

"I think between them, I'd liked to see the tight end receptions go up to about 50 [in 2012]," Fisch said (UM's tight ends combined for 28 catches, 266 yards, 2 TDs in 2011).

"I think Asante and Clive can give us a really good 1-2 punch, that we'll be able to get them on the field at the same time and spread the ball around, see what they can do to open things up."

Cleveland, who showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman in 2010, couldn’t do much of anything last season.

Following shoulder surgery, he missed spring practice and showed up to fall practice last August still slowed by it. The result: one catch for six yards in eight games.

But Cleveland (6-5, 270) is healthy and much stronger now (he showed up to camp with 15 pounds more muscle) and is catching a bunch of passes in practice everyday with only three scholarship receivers available this spring.

Coach Al Golden said other than safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, Cleveland did the best job of any player in UM's off-season conditioning program and called him "more of a pass threat right now than I think we all anticipated."

"He looks great," Fisch said of Cleveland. "He's running well, carrying the weight well, playing physical. I think he's 100 percent healthy."

Walford, who started eight games last season and caught 18 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown, bulked up 12 pounds himself in the off-season. Walford (6-4, 250) said Tuesday his primary focus this spring is on improving his pass blocking.

"We just have to get Clive healthy and improving his game," Golden said. "He's got to be more of a factor in the pass game without question."

MORE FROM FISCH

> The Hurricanes ranked 54th in red zone efficiency last season (they scored 27 touchdowns and made seven field goals of 41 trips), converting at a higher clip 84 percent than they did in 2010 when they scored 75 percent of the time (52 trips, 29 TDs, 10 FGs).

But most will remember UM's shortcomings inside the 20 that cost them against Kansas State (stopped on 4th and goal), Virginia Tech (fake field goal) and Florida State (first quarter interception in the end zone in a 23-19 loss).

"I was real happy [with the improvement]," Fisch said. "But my feeling on red zone is we have to continue to build on what we did. The biggest thing is if we get inside the 3, we have to score. We were 15 of 16 scoring touchdowns inside the three-yard line. That's great. But I tell our offense every single day when you're 15-1 everybody wants to know who the one is, not the 15."

> Of the three scholarship receivers healthy this spring (Rashawn Scott, Phillip Dorsett and Kendall Thompkins), Fisch didn't say any has particularly stood out yet. But he said he's sees progress across the board. "Those guys are getting a ton of work and getting better at what they do," he said. "They're learning how to run routes, how to perfect their craft a little bit. It's nice to watch them grow."

Asked how many of the six incoming freshmen receivers might be asked to play, Fisch said: "It doesn't matter. Our young guys have to come in and make an impact. If it's two it's two. If it's five it's five. But they've got to play and they have to come in here and make things happen. They have to be dynamic like they are on tape. Somebody needs to fill Tommy Streeter's shoes in terms of catches and touchdowns. Somebody has to fill Travis Benjamin's shoes. Rashawn and Phillip could do it, but other guys need to do it as well."

> Asked for his take on quarterback Ryan Williams this spring, Fisch offered: "Done a nice job. Manages the game well, stands in the pocket tall, has good vision, makes some tough throws. He doesn't leave the pocket really, so it's nice. He sits in there. He's comfortable in there, knows how to have slight movements in there to find throwing lanes. That's fun to watch."

Told receivers have said Stephen Morris has a stronger arm than Williams, Fisch said: "Stephen has an elite arm. He has a special arm. So, it's going to come out a little faster. That's not a knock on anybody. Other than that, Ryan's a very accurate passer. He has very good ball placement. Guys respect that and like that."

> While redshirt freshman Dallas Crawford will receive carries at running back to this spring, it's more likely the former defensive back will end up playing slot receiver. "We moved Dallas into the slot and he's making so many plays for us," Fisch said. "He's exciting to watch."

> There were reports in January Fisch was linked to an opening with the Bears.Asked how close he came to leaving to any NFL team this past season, Fisch responded: "I'm really happy here. I made a commitment to Al. And Al made a commitment to me. It's a very good one.

"I want to watch this thing go. I want to see how good we can become. I don't want to watch it as a fan. I want to watch it as a coach. I love the kids here and I love what they're doing. Sometimes you get lucky and get opportunities. But the best opportunity for me is right here at Miami."

Q&A with UM quarterback Ryan Williams

Quarterback Ryan Williams was unable to speak with reporters following Tuesday's practice, but took the time to answer some questions left behind by the media on Wednesday.

> How much are you looking forward to the scrimmage on Saturday at Milander Park in Hialeah and why?

"I’m really looking forward to the scrimmage. It will be the first time that we can get out there in a game-like situation and see how the offense is coming together. Are we keeping score? I want to get out there and win, beat the defense."

> What are you looking to accomplish during the scrimmage, both personally, and as an offense?

"To go out and execute each play and not have any mental errors or turnovers. To see how the offense competes.

> What would make the scrimmage successful for you?

"A win."

> Will it be tough considering the depth issues at receiver?

"No. We have a whole group of offensive skill players who have stepped up, including walk-ons."

> How have you seen freshmen Preston Dewey and Gray Crow improve since they've gotten here?

"They are learning the offense and getting a feel for the speed of the game."

> How much are you looking forward to getting out there in front of fans, friends and family?

"I’m excited to get out there. It will be fun to be able to give the fans to see how far the team has come since last year with a bunch of new faces."

March 19, 2012

Peter O'Brien named ACC Player of the Week; Hurricanes football resumes

While UM men's http://tinyurl.com/6rgh637 and women's http://tinyurl.com/7ha63ep basketball programs continue through their respective tournaments, UM baseball has been getting it done as well.

The Canes are now 16-4 overall and 5-1 in the ACC.

Senior catcher Peter O'Brien was named ACC Player of the Week on Monday.

 FROM UM'S RELEASE:

O’Brien, who recorded an impressive .529 batting average over the past five games, finished the week with three homeruns, three doubles, nine RBI and 21 total bases. O’Brien had hits in all but one game this past week, including multi-hit games in three of his team’s five contests.

 “It’s a great honor to be selected,” O’Brien said. “But I think an even bigger honor is seeing our team on the top of the Coastal Division of the ACC.”

O’Brien powered the ninth-ranked Hurricanes to victory in a midweek battle with visiting Illinois State and in the team’s series finale against Duke, recording four RBI’s in each game. The Miami Gardens, Fla. native is now tied for the conference lead in homeruns with seven, and is hitting an impressive .389 on the season, good for fifth-best in the ACC.

“I feel great. I’m still going up to the plate and being aggressive, but I felt a lot better balance this week,” O’Brien said. “I’m hitting the ball a lot better and I’m starting to drive it to all fields. I’m just happy to help our team win.”

O’Brien finished the week with splits of .529 AVG/ .600 OBP /1.235 SLG. He leads the Hurricanes in nearly every hitting category on the season, including average, runs (17), hits (27), doubles (7), homeruns (7), RBI (25) and total bases (57).

“He's a very talented player that's getting better, no question about that," Head Coach Jim Morris said of his team captain. "He's got great power, he's got an outstanding arm and he's a big strong guy, so he's got all the tools to be really good.”

************************************************************

 Canes baseball is now ranked ninth in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, Collegiate Baseball poll and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, 12th in the Baseball America poll. The Canes play at FAU in Boca Raton at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and are home for a three-game ACC series against Maryland from Friday through Sunday.

*************************************************************

Football resumes tomorrow morning at Greentree Field. It is closed to the public. The Hurricanes' first open scrimmage is from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah. It will be one of three open scrimmages this spring. The second one is Friday, March 30th, from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers. The final one will serve as the spring game, from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 14, at Sun Life Stadium.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

March 14, 2012

Durand Scott reinstated by NCAA, but must serve 5 more games worth of suspension

University of Miami junior guard Durand Scott was reinstated by the NCAA after being declared ineligible by UM for receiving impermissible benefits according to a release from the school.

The reinstatement provisions are that Scott must pay the value of the received benefits to charity and serve a six-game withholding penalty. The benefits were received prior to the arrival of the current coaching staff at Miami.

Scott's six-game withholding will include the Florida State game in the ACC Tournament, the 2012 postseason and any remaining withholding games at the start of the 2012-2013 season.

March 13, 2012

NCAA hits UNC football with probation, scholarship losses, post-season ban -- UM Canes still await day of reckoning

After a 16-month investigation, the NCAA announced its sanctions regarding the UNC football program. The Tar Heels had imposed their own sanctions, including vacating all 16 of its 2008 and 2009 football victories, a nine-scholarship reduction over the next three academic years, a $50,000 fine and two years probation.

But note that UNC did NOT self-impose a bowl ban, as the Miami Hurricanes did this past November (the only self-imposed step the Canes have taken thus far in the Nevin Shapiro case), and the NCAA obviously didn't agree with UNC's decision on that.

The NCAA Comittee on Infractions hit UNC with

* Three years' probation from March 12, 2012 through March 11, 2015

* A reduction of 15 scholarships over those three years

* Postseason ban for the 2012 football season.

* A three-year show-cause penalty for former assistant coach John Blake, who, "while employed by the university,'' according to the NCAA statement, "was compensated by a sports agent [now deceased Gary Wichard] for the access he provided to student-athletes and failed to disclose the income to the university." Blake, who was forced to resign from UNC after the scandal broke, will not be allowed to do any recruiting-related duties. Thus, he is expected to remain out of coaching for at least the three years.   

The NCAA said Blake "was also cited for a failure to cooperate and [for] unethical conduct. According to the Division I Committee on Infractions, not only did he refuse to provide information relevant to the investigation, but he also furnished false and misleading information. At the hearing, in a reverasal of his previous refusal to provide information, the former assistant coach expressed a willingness to provide the pertinent records. However, he did not provide the documents for more than three months following the hearing, resulting in a significant delay in bringing this case to conclusion.''

 Some more interesting info on the case from the NCAA findings:

 * "The academic fraud violations stemmed from the former tutor [Jennifer Wiley] constructing significant parts of writing assignments for three football student-athletes... and also provided $4,000 in impermissible benefits, including airfare and paying for outstanding parking tickets, to 11 football student-athletes after she graduated and was no longer a university employee. The tutor also refused to cooperate with the investigation.''

* "This case also included the provision of thousands of dollars in impermissible benefits to multiple student-athletes.'' The NCAA found that seven football players "accepted more than $27,500 in benefits from various individuals, some of whom triggered NCAA agent rules. These impermissible benefits included cash, flights, meals, lodging, athletic training, admission to clubs and jewelry, among others. Whle the value of the benefits the student-athletes varied, one student-athlete received more than $13,500 cash and gifts.''

UNC, by the way, will not appeal the penalties.

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp called those penalties "more severe than we expected.''

Former UNC football coach (and former UM football coach) Butch Davis, who now is a defensive assistant in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was not cited for any violations in the NCAA report. Davis was fired by Thorp just before fall training camp began last season.

Here's the statement by Davis, that was released Monday, and ran in the Charlotte Observer:

"As was stated by the Chancellor this summer, and has been noted in this report, I was not named in any of these allegations. I cooperated fully with the proper entities throughout this entire investigation. I felt that my staff and I implemented many practices into the program to try to prevent these types of issues. Indeed, the NCAA report stated that 'there was no indication during the joint investigation that student-athletes are not well-educated on regulations concerning agents, extra benefits, and preferential treatment.'

"I am truly saddened this matter has affected so many innocent people. i wish UNC the very best.''

 UNC finished 7-6 last season (losing to Miami 30-24).

Telling quote by NCAA: "This case should serve as a cautionary tale to all institutions to vigilantly monitor the activities of those student-athletes who possess the potential to be top professional prospects. It should also serve to warn student-athletes that if they choose to accept benefits from agents or their associates, they risk losing their eligibility for collegiate competition.''

MY THOUGHTS

I think this is a pretty severe penalty, though, yes it is only the 15 scholarships over the three years (five per year) -- including UNC's nine scholarship losses already self-imposed (Aside: thanks Ken, and have a great day!).

In the mid 1990s, in UM's big NCAA pell-grant case, UM self-imposed seven scholarships and lost an additional 24 through NCAA sanctions, for a total of 31 over three seasons.

Also, please note should UNC qualify for winning the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference this coming season, it is banned from playing for the ACC title.

Is UM next? I heard a couple weeks ago that UM's case was still not close to being decided. But with this one over, it could begin to move faster.

UM, understandably, declined to comment on the NCAA's ruling of the UNC case.

UM should hear its fate, for sure, before the end of the 2012 football season -- and possibly before the season begins. Can you imagine if UM were to strike gold and win the Coastal and qualify for its first ACC title, only to be banned from playing in the championship? 

UM's self-imposed bowl ban was definitely a good idea. If the NCAA can prove more of Shapiro's allegations, and obviously some have been proven because of previous football and basketball suspensions, no doubt UM will be losing scholarships. (Will find out more about the status of currently suspended hoopster Durand Scott later; the timing of the last two UM hoopsters' suspensions, just hours before playing FSU, can't help but conjur head-shaking and all kinds of curious thoughts)

I just think it's strange that former UM coaches implicated by Shapiro in this case are seemingly flying high with their respective football and basketball teams. Let's see what happens when this all shakes out.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

March 07, 2012

RB Hall no longer on team

Running back Darion Hall is no longer with the University of Miami football program, the school's sports information office confirmed.

"He hasn't been with the team for weeks," spokeswoman LaTonya Sadler said.

Hall had been suspended indefinitely by coach Al Golden for a violation of team rules last month.

Hall was redshirted his freshman year after undergoing shoulder surgery, and was a member of the scout team last year, appearing in only the Bethune-Cookman game.

He rushed eight times for 51 yards in the spring game last year.

March 06, 2012

Chickillo leaning on Spence for leadership advice

CORAL GABLES -- The last thing Anthony Chickillo imagined when he signed with UM 13 months ago was that he'd become the voice of experience for the Canes' defensive front seven this quickly. 

But after several questionable early departures for the NFL Draft, that's exactly what the 6-4, 261-pound sophomore defensive end is.

Anthony Chickillo"There's no doubt we're going to have to grow up fast," said Chickillo, who made nine starts for the Canes last season, one of six players in the defensive front seven who have starting experience (Jimmy Gaines has 8 starts; Darius Smith 7; Kelvin Cain 6; Denzel Perryman 5; Luther Robinson 2).

"We have to be accountable for each other, push each other and make sure everybody is doing what they're supposed to be doing at all times. I thought coming in I'd still be learning from older guys at this point. But everything happens for a reason. I think I can anchor this defensive line and be one of the leaders of this team."

Leadership is something that comes natural to Chickillo. He said he's been a leader at every level he's played at. Last year as a freshman he deferred to seniors like Sean Spence and JoJo Nicolas. But this year, neither of those guys are around. 

And the only players on UM's defense with more starting experience than Chickillo are safety Vaughn Telemaque, who has 36 career starts, and cornerback Brandon McGee (13).

"Chick is starting to step up and become that leader a lot of guys are scared to be," said redshirt junior defensive tackle Curtis Porter. "He knows we need one."

Chickillo said he speaks to Spence frequently about the challenge he has of leading such a young front seven. Spence, he says, tells him not to worry and to lead by example.

"Sean just tells me to stay focused, don't bite off more than I can chew," Chickillo said. "He told me that as a sophomore he felt the same thing, to try and step up and be a leader. He told me his sophomore year wasn't anything great and that I need to stay focused and just work hard, have a better year than last year.

"He knows I get real hard on myself when I make mistakes. He's a guy who kept me focused when I needed it last year. Now, I have to do it myself and push other guys the way the Sean did. I have to become one of those leaders."

Last season, Chickillo finished with 38 tackles and five sacks, tied for the most on the team. He also finished third in the voting for ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

While he's concentrated a lot on improving his hands this off-season, Chickillo also said he's gotten "a lot stronger and more explosive at the point of attack."

He said he's gained about 20 pounds in the offseason and is now up to between 261 to 262 pounds. He wants to get up to between 270 pounds and 275 pounds by the time he's a junior. His body fat is down to 12 percent.

"When I first came in I was doing about 20 reps on 225 pounds. I'm up to 24 reps now," Chickillo said. "My power clean went up 44 pounds, my squat 40 pounds. I'm more explosive with my vertical jump, too. I'm up to 33 inches."

Said right tackle Jermaine Johnson: "Chick is a bad ass. He's more mobile now, quicker, sneaky. You have to stay locked in or he'll blow by you.

MORE NEWS AND NOTES FROM TUESDAY

> Porter (6-1, 312) said defensive line coach Jethro Franklin has him learning the three technique at defensive tackle this spring, something Porter considers a challenge because he's only played nose guard (one technique) most of his career.

"Having short arms is the challenge," Porter said. "I'm very strong, compact. But guys that I go against are usually taller and have longer arms. I got to find ways to beat them because there are always hands in my face and I can't get to them. It's a mission right now. I just have to find ways to beat these guys with long arms. I'm beating them off the ball with my quickness and explosiveness, but I need to engage them and beat them there also."

Porter said he's trimmed down his body fat percentage from about 28 percent to 20 percent since arriving at UM.

> Both Porter and Chickillo say redshirt freshman Junior Alexis (6-2, 280) might be the strongest defensive lineman on the team. "I've never seen a freshman throw up 32 reps on 225," Porter said. "We just have to work on him keeping his leverage because he's a shorter guy. He has a low center of gravity. We're working on that now."

> Sophomore receiver Phillip Dorsett -- one of the few healthy receivers on scholarship actually participating this spring -- said redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Williams has looked good in practice and is more accurate than junior Stephen Morris. But Morris still has the stronger arm and can get the ball to receivers quicker.

"Both of them can do the job," Dorsett said. "As a receiver, we just have to adjust."

> Redshirt sophomore Jonathan Feliciano, who moved from right tackle to left guard this spring (he's replaced All-ACC First Team guard Brandon Washington), had minor knee surgery in December, but has recovered quickly. He said he's lost 10 pounds (he's listed at 6-5, 322).

"Last year I couldn't bench 225 pounds over 20 times. No I'm doing it over 25 times. That helps inside with the big guys," Feliciano said. "Being lighter, I don't get tired as fast, I can run down field and make plays for receivers."

> The three players who missed practice due to suspension last week returned Tuesday, including former starting left tackle Seantrel Henderson.

"He's stronger than any point last year, is healthier, in better condition," coach Al Golden said Tuesday. "He's more flexible, is moving his feet better."

Henderson isn't being allowed to talk to reporters.

> Golden said former defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis, now the backup at left guard is "fighting for a starting job."

Lewis, a four-star defensive tackle out Palm Beach Lakes in 2008, is "going to be a good player there for us," Golden said. "He moves his feet well, is strong. He's 325, in that range and can move. I'm happy with him."

> Reserve tight end Billy Sanders, a redshirt junior, was out of practice with a cast on his lower right leg. Sanders is on crutches.

March 05, 2012

UM says Canes offensive tackle (6-7, 305 pounds) Jermaine Barton "chose to leave'' and is no longer a Hurricane

University of Miami offensive tackle Jermaine Barton is no longer a member of the Miami Hurricanes football team, UM confirmed Monday morning.

Barton, a 6-7, 305-pound alum of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High, was dropped from the roster this past weekend.

He has never played in a college game.

According to Chris Freet, UM's associate athletic director for communications and marketing, Barton "chose to leave.''

Other specifics were not divulged, though UM coach Al Golden has been candid about suspending three players for this past weekend -- offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, linebacker Kelvin Cain and cornerback Keion Payne.

Freet said the departure of Barton is unrelated to the three suspensions.

Since the Hurricanes signed only 24 of their NCAA limit of 25 new scholarships in February, if they have not reached the NCAA team limit of 85 total scholarships, they could still sign another player before the signing period ends April 1. Freet said Golden wouldn't divulge the total number of players on scholarship. Golden has said more than once that he does not expect to have his full slate of 85 scholarships when the season begins.

The Canes could go, for example, for someone who is unhappy with the situation at his current college, and wants to transfer. Spring ball will start soon across the nation, and those guys will begin appearing.

Barton would have been a redshirt sophomore in 2012. He was on the scout team last year, and broke the fifth metatarsal of his right foot playing basketball just before coming to UM as a freshman. The injury required surgery.

Barton, who grew up in Coral Springs, was a star basketball player at St. Thomas and late bloomer in football. He was a Rivals.com three-star recruit coming into UM in 2010.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

March 03, 2012

UM Canes open spring football practice with news of three suspensions; Al Golden "disappointed.''

Offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, linebacker Kelvin Cain and cornerback Keion Payne have been suspended for the first weekend of spring practice, UM coach Al Golden said Saturday afternoon.

The three violated team policy, though Golden didn't elaborate.

They will be back for the next practice on Tuesday, the coach said, and rejoin the team for Monday meetings.

Golden used the word "disappointing'' more than once to describe the situation.

Kelvin Cain had been slated to practice at first-team outside linebacker because of the absence of injured Ramon Buchanan (knee), and was still listed as the starter ahead of Eddie Johnson and Josh Witt on the depth chart released to reporters Saturday. Cain will be a junior.

Henderson, a 6-8 and 350-pound rising junior, is listed as the second-team right tackle behind Jermaine Johnson.

Payne, who will be a redshirt sophomore and graduated from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, is listed as a second-team corner behind Thomas Finnie.

Golden was asked how disappointing it was to deal with repeat offenders such as Cain and Henderson, who have been disciplined before.

He compared the problem players to, well, weeds in a garden.

"It think it's disappointing for the team, to be honest with you,'' he said. "You can't just weed all the time. If you weed all the time, if you're just constantly weeding, that's the problem. When you're trying to improve the program and move the program forward, you can't just weed your garden, you've got to water your garden, too.

"And so we're sitting here saying to the guys, 'That is an incredible offseason,' and 'Great job,' and then the next day you've got to weed the garden again. It's like after a while, you know, you stop using the weed whacker and you get a shovel and get the whole root. That's kind of where we're at.

"There are a lot of kids on that team that have given up a lot and that will continue to give up a lot, that love the University of Miami, that are trying to do things the right way. As a group and as a team, we're all disappointed because it's really not that hard. What we're asking them to do is not that hard. Just do what we're asking you to do, what everybody else on the team is doing. And that's it. I'm not going to get into it. It's a team. It's a team rule. That's it. Period.''

 Golden seemed very pleased with the initial practice as a whole, saying the players were in much better shape than they were a year ago at this point, and that he doesn't expect them to be in excellent condition yet. That will come in time.

Some of the players he praised: center Shane McDermott, junior-college transfer cornerback Ladarius Gunter, quarterback Ryan Williams, safety Vaughn Telemaque, freshman cornerback Larry Hope. But he especially lauded the talent of Dallas Crawford, who will have a versatile role as a running back, special teams return man and as a slot receiver.

"Dallas Crawford looks like he's really in shape and got his quickness back,'' Golden said, describing his "lateral quickness'' and saying he was a "strong competitor'' and "good with the ball in his hands.. Very versatile. ...Good start for him.''

Quarterback Stephen Morris spoke to reporters but didn't want to talk too much about the reported back injury or give details about his surgery. "I feel fine,'' he said. "Today I was tossing the ball, throwing the ball around.'' Golden said Morris acted as a coach in practice.

Safety Armstrong said he expects to be a leader this season. On his decision to return for his senior season, he said: "I come from a family when you start something you finish it. I started my freshman year so I have to go through the four years and get my degree. If I left last year I couldn't do that... I'm not a finished product yet.''

Armstrong said he tried to get the five underclassmen who left early for the draft "to come back, but they felt that was the best decision...''

The strongest Hurricane pound-for-pound, according to strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey? Tailback (and backup fullback) Mike James, who is 5-11, weighs 222 and bench presses 225 pounds for 28 reps with a 400-pound max, back squats 525 pounds and power cleans 308.

Quarterback Williams, who has taken over the first-team responsibilities with Stephen Morris out, said he had a good day. "First practice was good,'' Williams said. "Get out there, get in the flow of things, finally get everything moving with the O-line, the receivers and everything. Just nice to get out on the field and do it for real.''

Don't forget that tomorrow morning's practice on what UM is calling Fan Appreciation Day is open to the public -- as long as you are either a football season-ticket holder or show your ticket for Sunday's UM vs. Gators baseball game at 1 p.m.

The football practice starts at 11 a.m. on Greentree Field and will conclude in time for first pitch at 1 p.m.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

Hurricanes football open for spring cleaning -- quarterback Ryan Williams speaks

The Hurricanes start practicing for the 2012 season at 9 a.m. Saturday, and, given the fact that they were prevented the opportunity to play in a bowl game (thereby missing several more practices), they must be incredibly hyped to get onto that field.

Though they'll be in shorts Saturday, and will be easing into practice the first couple of days, their spring leader -- quarterback Ryan Williams -- will have plenty of eyes on him.

The Memphis transfer who sat out last season while trying to learn the offense, finally gets his chance to play with the big boys, while experienced quarterback Stephen Morris recuperates from back surgery.

Following is what Ryan, who will be a redshirt sophomore this season, told reporters Thursday afternoon at UM:

 I’m real excited to get out there on the field. We practiced on just routes and stuff but I’m ready to bring it all together with the O-line and everything and get things started.

 Can you get this team in a groove? Yeah. last year I had to sit back and watch, just learn by watching and learn from Jacory [Harris] what he knows, what Stephen knows and Coach Fisch. Now I’m able to get on the field and do it for real.

 It’s a great opportunity to get reps and learn the offense and get a chance to run it and see it and not just see it on paper and actually do it with live contact.

 What about Gray Crow and Preston Dewey?They're really hard workers. They’re smart. They’re picking up a lot but we've got to see how it goes on the field. Anyone can learn it in the playbook but I expect high of them. I hope they expect high of me on the field. I think they’re going to do real good.

 Last year? I learned a lot, especially from jacory. He was my mentor when I came here. He just sat down with me in camp and we went over the playbook. Just sitting  back and watching him during the season handling the media and the adversity through the season and him on the field how calm he is. I learned a lot from both of them.

 On the UTough offseason strength and conditioning program: At first I didn’t know what to expect, what the coaches really wanted from us because I had never done it before. I was just going to go out there and work as hard as I could, and I got a green jersey my first day which was the second level. Then I realized what they were looking for, what type of effort, what type of work you needed to put in to get to that top level black jersey and I found it at the end and figured out what I needed to do to get to that point.

 During the season I was around 230 pounds and I didn’t feel like I was able to give my best effort. I didn’t feel comfortable and I lost five to six pounds and I feel a lot better running around and moving.

 The biggest difference between end of last year and now? We’re really focused. We saw the opportunities we had last year that we missed and that we needed to capitalize. we have a lot of open spots from all the departing srs and former starters and a lot of opportunities to get some playing time and get on the field.

The goal should definitely  be to win, no matter what team you’re playing. You’re here to play; you’re here to win.

 Any extra work you’ve done? I watched a lot of film, seeing last year's reps, watching Jacory run them against the teams we’re playing this year. Seeing what he saw and if I saw the same thing and if he didn’t see something then I could see it on film and not make the same mistake.

 You've got three healthy wide receivers on scholarship this spring. How tough will that be? it’s going to be tuf but you’ve got to expect the nonscholarship receivers to step up and make plays. I expect the same from schlarship  and non scholarship [players].

What did you envision when you transferred? I envisioned the team from the old [past], how excited they were to be on the field with each other and the passion they had for the game and to be able to go out and win every game and expect to win every game.

 How excited are you for this opportunity? This is a chance to show my abilities, to show I came here for a reason, that I wasn’t just nobody who was given a scholarship, that I can prove myself on the field to my teammates. They haven’t really seen me play yet so I ‘ve got to to prove myself that I’m worthy to be on the field with them.

How was it that you ended up here? Coming out of high school I wasn’t very highly recruited because I played at a smaller school for my first three years and I transferred to Miramar High School for my senior year and ended up winning the state champ and I got a few offers off that. I ended up going to Memphis for a year and started as a true freshman and after the season they decided they wanted to go a different path with the offense, that I didn’t feel best suited me and I told the coach I’d rather leave than try to fit into something that I didn’t feel I would fit into.

 And my high school coach got in contact with  some schools after I told him I wanted to transfer and ultimately it came down to between here and Arkansas and I chose to come back home to the school I wanted to go to. They wanted to go to more of a spread oriented with a duel type quarterback, and I’m more of pocket passer and I’m not going to run zone reads and stuff like that.  

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

P.S. Just got back from the UM-Gators baseball game. UM lost 7-5.

Going to sleep, then waking up at 6:15 to get to Greentree Field bright and early for practice (then, back to Mark Light Field for the baseball game at night). Talk to you all tomorrow