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15 posts from July 2012

July 31, 2012

Conditioning is not "punitive,'' UM Canes coach Golden says; And NCAA hits UCF with sanctions

Just a little more than two days before the Hurricanes take to Greentree Field with Coach Al Golden and company to embark on a new season.

And what a year Golden has been through. He was asked the other day about the things he didn't anticipate a year ago at this time. He got right to some off-the-field issues -- NCAA investigation not included. 

"The three things that jump out to me that we have identified as areas that we need to make progress in -- and are making progress -- that I would have never guessed going to the University of Miami,'' he said, "are conditioning, strength and nutrition.''

 He mentioned the combination of those three factors "and what it means to our team in terms of how we execute and how we play, perform in the fourth quarter and don't atrophy as the season evolves.

"I'm just saying in particular that teams that really don't have discipline in terms of their strength and conditioning, that really don't pay the price in the whole off-season, have a hard time staying strong and being as strong in November [as] they are in September -- have a hard time finishing games. There were a lot of opportunities where we did not finish.

"It's my team. It's not a function of the players; It's a function of what we demand and expect.''

Golden said he is using a nutritionist, educating players about what they should eat and drink, and monitoring their body weights -- "holding them accountable [and] creating more competition in the weight room.

"We didn't have a bencher [who could lift] over 400 [pounds] a year ago and now we have three. We didn't have anybody who could do 225 [pounds] 30 times, a year ago. Zero. Now we have 11.''

Golden said the players are holding each other accountable in the weight room and "not treating conditioning as punitive.''

UM running back Mike James, one of the best lifters on the team, pound-for-pound, told me he's in the best shape of his life at about "223, 224 pounds," and went from 375 to 400 on the bench, 500 to 525 in the squat and 310 to 320 in the power clean.

Cornerback Brandon McGee said he improved his squat max from 385 to 415 and is benching 300 now, up from 255.


The NCAA punished UCF today for recruiting violations and lack of institutional control.

"The case centered on what the committee noted was an ever-increasing problem in college athletics today,'' reported the NCAA, "namely the involvement of outside third parties with prospects and student-athletes. This impermissible activity also resulted in findings of unethical conduct for the former director of athletics [that would be Keith Tribble, former long-time Orange Bowl Committee executive director and ex-Gators football player] and a former assistant football coach [David Kelly] and a failure to monitor by the head men's basketball coach [Donnie Jones].''

The NCAA-mandated penalties for UCF include:

  • Public reprimand and censure.
  • Five years probation from February 10, 2012, through February 9, 2017.
  • Postseason ban for the 2012 football season and 2012-13 men’s basketball season.
  • The head men’s basketball coach was suspended for the first three conference games of the 2011-12 season (self-imposed by the university) and given a three-year show-cause order starting with the 2012-13 season. Details of the show-cause orders can be found in the public report. Additionally, the coach may not recruit off-campus during all three July evaluation periods for the July 2012 and July 2013 evaluation periods.
  • An assistant men’s basketball coach was suspended for the first two conference games of the 2011-12 season (self-imposed by the university). Additionally, the coach may not recruit off-campus during all three July evaluation periods for the July 2012 and July 2013 evaluation periods.
  • A three-year show-cause order for the former director of athletics and a one-year show cause for the former assistant football coach. The show-cause orders do not allow any contact with prospective student-athletes. The public report contains further details. Disassociation of three representatives of athletics interest (self-imposed by the university).
  • Reduction of five initial (from 25 maximum) and five total (from 85 maximum) football scholarships for three academic years.
  • A limit of 11 men’s basketball scholarships (from 13 maximum) for three academic years.
  • $50,000 fine.
  • Vacation of all men’s basketball wins in which an ineligible student-athlete competed for the 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. The public report includes further details (self-imposed by the university). 
  • Reduction of the number of permissible off-campus recruiters:
    • Reduction of two full-time football coaches permitted to recruit off-campus during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years.
    • Reduction of one full-time men’s basketball coach permitted to recruit off-campus during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years.
  • Reduction in the available number of recruiting person days by 25 for men’s basketball during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (self-imposed by the university).
  • Reduction in the available number of recruiting person days by nine in the fall football evaluation period and 34 in the spring football evaluation period during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (self-imposed by the university).
  • Football official paid visits are limited to 30 for each of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years.
  • Men’s basketball official paid visits are limited to seven for each of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (self-imposed by the university). 

 According to the Orlando Sentinel, the NCAA "first began investigating UCF recruiting practices in April 2011.''

The program was found to have runners for sports agents and made cash payments to recruits.

The Associated Press wrote that Greg Sankey, an associate SEC commissioner and NCAA Committee of Infractions member, said the lack of control UCF had on outside entities was the most egregious finding.

"Part of what was troubling here is there was knowledge of the representatives or third parties being involved in the recruiting process and [UCF officials] facilitated that,'' Sankey said Tuesday.

Note that UCF is appealing the postseason ban in football.

You can't help but wonder when the NCAA will end its investigation of Miami, and how hard it will come down on the Hurricanes. No time seems like a good time. 



July 26, 2012

Former Canes assistant Don Soldinger plans to keep new recruit Jamal Carter in line at Southridge

Even at 67 years of age, Don Soldinger still has plenty of bite in his bark.

Southridge safety Jamal Carter shortly before making his announcement Thursday to commit to UM.

The former University of Miami assistant -- who helped mold some of the best running backs to ever wear a Hurricanes uniform and has two national championship rings -- was drawing up plays inside the Southridge High locker room Thursday afternoon when he was stopped and asked to give his thoughts on the Canes' latest Class of 2013 commitment: senior safety Jamal Carter.

"Who? The kid who [is built] like Tarzan and hasn't done anything yet?" Soldinger responded in a room filled with Carter's teammates. "What about Jamal Carter? What's he done? Third team All-Dade? That don't mean [expletive] to me."

Soldinger, as fiery and honest an assistant coach the Hurricanes have ever had (he was there from 1984-88, 1995-2005), has never been one to hand out compliments easy. He's been around the block too long. If you want to be praised, you have to earn it.

And as the new strength coach at Southridge High -- a program under the direction of his former USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year Lamont Green (1993) -- Soldinger has taken a special interest in Carter, the Spartans' best player. 

"I'm not going to let him get away with thinking he's better than he is," Soldinger said. "Because he can be pretty special if me and Lamont can kick his [expletive] into shape."

Carter, rated the 16th best safety in the country by 247Sports, "isn't a bad kid" if you ask Soldinger or Green. He's got a 2.6 GPA and scored an 18 on his ACT -- good enough to get him into UM when he signs in February according to Green. But while Green says Carter (6-2 3/4 inches, 215 pounds, 4.4-speed in 40) "has a little bit of Sean Taylor type playmaking ability," he also says the 17-year old senior-to-be has room to grow when it comes to maturity.

"I think what happened before we got here was he had the freedom to show up a little late to meetings, practices and didn't have to pay the consequences," Green said. "You know Coach [Soldinger]. If the meeting is at 2:30, he wants you here at 2:20 ready to go. Jamal is getting better at it. He and the rest of the guys here are learning we run a tight ship."

Soldinger said he brought in former Canes running back Clinton Portis to speak to the team earlier this month. Carter, he said, was the only player to miss the meeting.

"Pissed me off," Soldinger said. "I really wanted Portis to talk to him, help get his butt in gear."

Soldinger has extra incentive to make sure Carter gets his butt in gear. Carter's father Terrence Carter was a star cornerback on Soldinger's 1991 state title team at Southridge.

"He signed with Maryland. Three days later he was back home," Soldinger said. "I hate to see talent wasted."

If Soldinger has a say about it, this Carter won't fall short.

Soldinger said he's already been on the phone a few times over the past year with offensive line coach and close friend Art Kehoe to give the Canes updates on Carter. 

"You know me, I don't sugar coat anything," Soldinger said. "If he's screwing up, they'll know about it."

> Green said Carter recently power cleaned 270 pounds and squated 515 pounds.

"I think he's a natural safety. But he has the ability to play corner, safety, move into the box and play nickel linebacker too," Green said. "The sky is the limit for him. He can play offense, too. There's a lot of things his skill level allows him to do."

Last season, Carter returned seven punts for touchdowns. He said special teams is a big part of his game.

"I grew up admiring Devin Hester because he always took all the punt returns back," Carter said before unleashing a little Canes' swagger. "You saw my highlight reel right?"

One thing the Hurricanes have done since National Signing Day in February shut the door on some of the best defensive backs in the country who are in their backyard. If you close your eyes you can almost picture a South Florida dream team in the Canes' secondary: Northwestern's Artie Burns and Miramar's Tracy Howard at cornerback and Columbus High's Deon Bush and Carter at safety.

Carter said building chemistry with those guys won't be hard.

"I grew up playing with Deon on the Palmetto Raiders," Carter said. "I've known him since I was a little boy. He was a running back and I was a cornerback. I can't wait until we can be teammates again next year."

UM Canes nab their second four-star DB in one week. S Jamal Carter commits to Miami

On signing day next February, Al Golden's University of MIami Hurricanes could be stocking up on some much needed talent at defensive back. And Coach Golden, who isn't allowed to comment on specific recruits per NCAA rules, has to be thrilled.

Jamal Carter, a 6-1, 215-pound four-star safety from Miami Southridge, announced on Thursday afternoon his commitment to play at Miami beginning in 2013.

That would make two big-time DB commitments in one week for Miami. Earlier this week, highly rated Miami Northwestern cornerback Artie Burns committed to UM as well.

Carter, considered the 18th best safety in the country by Rivals.com, told our Manny Navarro on Tuesday that the other programs he liked are LSU, Florida State, Florida and Hawaii. He also said he read the latest Yahoo! report involving new allegations against UM and Golden, and told Manny,  "I read it. But I figured it isn't true. I believe Coach Golden. It won't affect my decision."

On Saturday, recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services told The Miami Herald,  “Getting both of those guys [Burns and Carter] would be huge for UM after they did so well to get Tracy Howard and Deon Bush last year. Most fans think they’re going to solve all the problems in one year. But it’s going to take two to three good recruiting years to clean up the mess they had here."

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/22/2906173/new-allegations-might-hamper-miami.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/22/2906173/new-allegations-might-hamper-miami.html#storylink=cpy

According to various reports, Carter was also offered scholarships from Arkansas, Auburn, Louisville, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Purdue, USF, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, , Virginia and West Virginia.

Let's just say he was a much wanted commodity and that if he and the other players who have orally committed for the 2013 class keep their word, Miami will be very happy. Four-star quarterback Kevin Olsen, younger brother of former UM TE and current NFLer Greg Olsen, is the gem of the 2013 class. Olsen, 6-3 and 196 pounds, is from Wayne Hills High in New Jersey and rated the eighth-best pro-style quarterback in the country, according to Rivals.com.

Coach Golden told me on Monday that he expects his 2013 signing class to be about half the size as this year's -- that would be around 15 players, give or take.

So far, so good for Golden.


Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/umiami/2012/07/southridge-db-jamal-carter-said-latest-allegations-in-yahoo-report-wont-affect-his-feeling-about-um.html#storylink=cpy


Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/umiami/2012/07/southridge-db-jamal-carter-said-latest-allegations-in-yahoo-report-wont-affect-his-feeling-about-um.html#storylink=cpy



July 25, 2012

ACC releases All-ACC Preseason Team & P Dalton Botts makes the list

Here it is, folks. I'm figuring by the end of the season there will be more Canes on the real list. How about DE Anthony Chickillo? LB Denzel Perryman? CB Tracy Howard or RB Duke Johnson as Rookies of Year?

2012 Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Team                                



Pos. Name (Votes)                                          Ht      Wt       Class             Hometown

WR  Conner Vernon, Duke (41)                      6-2     195      Senior            Miami, Fla.

WR  Sammy Watkins, Clemson (68)                 6-1     200      Sophomore    Fort Myers, Fla.                       

TE    Matt Furstenburg, Maryland (35)             6-4     245      Senior            Flemington, N.J.

T      James Hurst, North Carolina (48)             6-7     300      Junior            Plainfield, Ind.            

T      Oday Aboushi, Virginia (29)                    6-6     310      Senior            Brooklyn, N.Y.

G     Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech (57)          6-3     300      Senior            Lithonia, Ga.               

G     Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (55)     6-3     295      Senior            Wilmington, N.C.

C      Dalton Freeman, Clemson (58)                6-3     285      Senior            Pelion, S.C.

QB   Tajh Boyd, Clemson (29)                         6-1     225      Junior            Hampton, Va.

RB   Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (60)     5-10   205      Sophomore    Davie, Fla.

RB   Andre Ellington, Clemson (53)                5-10   190      Senior            Moncks Corner, S.C.



Pos. Name (Votes)                                          Ht      Wt       Class             Hometown                  

DE   Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (59)         6-3     265      Senior            Tallahassee, Fla.

DE   James Gayle, Virginia Tech (31)              6-4     250      Junior            Hampton, Va.

DT   Joe Vellano, Maryland (58)                     6-1     285      Senior            Rexford, N.Y.

DT   Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest (33)           5-11   260      Junior            Wylie, Texas

LB   Kevin Reddick, North Carolina (49)        6-3     240      Senior            New Bern, N.C.

LB   Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech (42)             6-2     253      Senior            Riceboro, Ga.

LB   Steve Greer, Virginia (32)                        6-2     225      Senior            Solon, Ohio

CB   David Amerson, NC State (63)                6-3     194      Junior            Greensboro, N.C.

CB   Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech (25)                6-0     181      Junior            Baltimore, Md.

S      Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State (45)         5-8     204      Junior            Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

S      Earl Wolff, NC State (30)                         6-0     207      Senior            Raeford, N.C.




Pos. Name (Votes)                                          Ht      Wt       Class             Hometown

PK   Dustin Hopkins, Florida State (54)           6-2     190      Senior            Houston, Texas

P      Dalton Botts, Miami (65)                         6-3     198      Senior            Taft, Calif.

SP    Greg Reid, Florida State (35)                   5-8     186      Senior            Valdosta, Ga.







UM indefinitely postpones the South Florida Touchdown Club's "Meet the UM Freshmen Dinner;" S.F. Touchdown Club now official chapter of the National Football Foundation

I was just about to blog about about the South Florida Touchdown Club Foundation recently becoming part of the National Football Foundation Chapter Network, and in connection, let you know about the "Meet the UM Football Freshman" dinner, originally scheduled for a week from today.

But then I learned the "Meet the UM Football Freshman dinner" was just indefinitely postponed, "at the request of the University of Miami,'' said Chris Ball, programs vice president and director of the South Florida Touchdown Club Foundation, in an email.

"With the recent news articles and internal disciplinary actions affecting the U, we agree that it's best to respect their wishes and defer this event," Ball wrote. "...We thank you for your consideration and continued support of the U.''

It's unfortunate programs such as this are being canceled by UM, especially since the UM's freshman dinner has been around for more than 30 years, and it gives fans a chance to meet their players up close and at length. But in light of the NCAA investigation, UM officials are being super careful about public access. Hopefully the dinner will return at some point -- at least before the freshmen are sophomores. But I doubt it for this year.

BankUnited CanesFest is still scheduled for Aug. 18, however, which is always a fun time for fans.

Touchdown Club/NFF Merge

The South Florida Touchdown Club has been a worthwhile, positive, charitable organization since its creation in 1959 (as the Miami Touchdown Club) by local leaders who supported football in Miami-Dade County. It has flourished with its relationships with local and private high schools, UM, FIU, and the Miami  Dolphins.

 The NFF has 121 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide and conducts, amid its programs, the College Hall of Fame ceremony.

"The NFF Chapter Network stands as one of the most valuable forces in all of amateur sports,'' said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell, the Orange Bowl Committee's executive director in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in a formerly released written statement. "The passion of our members knows no bounds, and their efforts have a dramatic impact on inspiring leadership and lifting the academic perofrmance of high school football players nationwide. Our partnership with the South Florida Touchdown Club is a natural fit, and we're excigted to extend the reach of our organization to cover a region of the country that clearly values our great game.''

There are 121 local National Football Foundation chapters. The chapters' collective efforts produce a series of awards banquets that distribute more than $1 million in scholarships to approximately 3,300 high school scholar-athletes. From this group, a national committee annually selects the five winners, one from each region of the country, for recognition as an NFF National High School Scholar-Athlete.

The South Florida Touchdown Club Chapter will now begin nominating one candidate for the honor.





July 24, 2012

Southridge DB Jamal Carter said latest allegations in Yahoo! report won't affect his feeling about UM

So far the latest allegations facing Al Golden and the Miami Hurricanes haven't hurt their recruiting efforts. And it appears for the time being -- at least locally -- it hasn't deterred players from strongly considering UM.

A day after Miami Northwestern cornerback Artie Burns announced his intentions to sign with the Canes in February, Jamal Carter, a 6-1, 175-pound highly touted safety at Miami Southridge, told The Miami Herald the latest Yahoo! report won't play a factor in his college choice either.

"I read it," Carter said. "But I figured it isn't true. I believe Coach Golden. It won't affect my decision."

Carter, considered the 18th best safety in the country by Rivals.com, will announce his college choice at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. LSU, Florida State, Florida and Hawaii are the other programs he said he likes. 

July 23, 2012

New Canes recruit Artie Burns "has explosion like Travis Benjamin, can take over games like Darnell Jenkins," coach says

First-year Miami Northwestern High coach Stephen Field feels like he's got a good handle on talent. 

Artie Burns takes some instruction from coach Stephen Field before taking the stage Monday and picking the Canes.
Artie Burns takes some instruction from coach Stephen Field before taking the stage Monday and picking the Canes.

As an assistant at Miami Central, Deerfield Beach, Belle Glades Central and Boyd Anderson, Field coached some of the most talented high school players to come out of South Florida in the past decade.

He feels like he's got another in Northwestern defensive back Artie Burns, a 6-1, 183-pound senior who committed to the University of Miami on Monday. Burns, an elite track and field athlete who is rated the 69th best prospect in the country regardless of position by ESPN in the Class of 2013, posted the fastest 110 meter hurdles time in the country last year (13.35) and the second fastest 300-meter hurdles time (36.06).

So what kind of athlete are the Hurricanes getting? A mix of explosiveness and intelligence according to Field.

"He's one of the best football players I've been around," said Field, who spent two years as a defensive grad assistant at UM (2006-07) before becoming the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Hampton University for three years. "He can explode like Travis Benjamin when I had him at Glades Central, and take over a game kind of like Darnell Jenkins did when I had him at Miami Central. He's a guy you can put all over the field and be successful."

Burns, a former Alabama commitment, is the first defensive back Miami has secured for the 2013 class. He has the ability to play cornerback or safety, but the Hurricanes are hoping to pair him with highly-touted incoming freshman Tracy Howard on the outside.

One reason Burns said he committed to the Hurricanes early in the process was because he wants to now become a recruiter for the team. "I want to tell the top recruits in South Florida to stay home," Burns said.

He said he plans to run track and play football at Miami.

What does Burns have to improve on before getting to Miami?

"Probably keeping his composure a little bit in certain situations," Field said. "He's so physical, gets so passionate, he can lose his composure every now and then. But he's a special player. Miami got a good one."

If he signs with UM on National Signing Day, Burns will be the first player from Miami Northwestern to go to UM since the infamous eight from Northwestern's 2007 National Championship team signed with the Canes. Northwestern has produced 16 players that have signed with FBS schools since then.

> UM coach Al Golden was asked Monday about the new allegations the team has faced since the latest Yahoo! report was released: "I'm not allowed to comment [on specific names], but we just got what we think is one of the best players in South Florida.

"At the end of the day anybody will tell you, you can have all the facilities in the world, but if you don't have a culture where kids feel loved and respected and like they're being developed on and off the field on a daily basis that's going to resonate with the recruits. They are going to know that. They are going to find that out. And I think what they're finding out at the University of Miami is that in addition to being a great institution and obviously a great football legacy that those things are happening. And that there is synergy there and we are making progress and certainly that is helping with us recruiting."

> Field said former Hurricanes Brett Perriman and Vernon Carey have joined his staff at Northwestern as assistants. Carey, who donated big bucks for a brand new weight room at the school, is a co-coach on the offensive line. Perriman will coach receivers. Defensive coordinator Luther Campbell, a big UM supporter in the past, has remained on staff as a carryover.

Al Golden: "There will be a time to defend this and I look forward to that.''

Just spoke one-on-one to University of Miami football coach Al Golden at the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro.

He defended his integrity relating to the newest Yahoo! Sports report and was, again, adamant about his clean record and good reputation. He was very calm and friendly and self-assured. He does not seem like a man who is in any way upset or scared about allegations.


          GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Speaking several hours before his scheduled roundtable with reporters at the ACC Kickoff, University of Miami football coach Al Golden told The Miami Herald on Monday morning that his “good name’’ is still intact.

     He refused to comment on the specifics of the Yahoo! Sports report released Friday that contends Golden “had direct knowledge’’ of former UM equipment manager Sean “Pee Wee” Allen’s “improper involvement with Miami recruits,’’ according to Yahoo!

     His reaction when he read the story? “Disappointment obviously. It’s your name. It’s your integrity. But as I’ve found being around the other coaches and the ACC commissioner, I think my integrity and reputation over the last 18 years speaks for itself.’’

     He said UM linebackers coach Micheal Barrow, also implicated in the Yahoo! report, is still an assistant coach, but wouldn’t talk further about Barrow.

      Golden adamantly defended his integrity Friday in a written statement released shortly afterward, denying any wrongdoing.

     “I stand on what I said on Friday. That encapsulates how I feel. I stand on my record of compliance with the NCAA. And there will be a time to defend this and I look forward to that. But I’m not allowed to comment on the story at this time.”

        Last year, shortly after UM fall football camp opened in Coral Gables, Yahoo! Sports hit the sports world with allegations that former UM booster Nevin Shapiro, now serving a 20-year prison sentence for a $930 million Ponzi scheme, provided “thousands of impermissible benefits’’ to at least 72 UM athletes from 2002 through 2010.

        Golden, who was about to begin his first season with the Hurricanes, said he had no idea of the related NCAA investigation of UM. He spent most of last season pledging to bring the Canes back and overcome any obstacles through hard work and doing the right things.

       He said Monday he still pledges to move forward and is doing so with plenty of young talent.

       Golden’s interview Monday ended minutes before the NCAA announced its severe sanctions for Penn State – where Golden played and served as an assistant coach.

        He said his “thoughts and prayers are with the victims first and foremost,’’ and didn’t want to talk about Joe Paterno – other than saying he was disappointed in the whole situation.

             In other UM-related news, Golden said offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson will not be suspended, though he did show up late for a summer session and was punished internally.

  An addendum to story: Golden said Henderson is in the best shape of his life, and is now under 340 pounds. He said Henderson told him he weighed 400 at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.

   Also, running back Danny Dillard is in the final stages of being reviewed by the NCAA Clearinghouse regarding his academics. Said Golden: Danny is expected to be with us at training camp.''


July 22, 2012

Could Stephen Morris be the guy? And other UM Canes tidbits from ACC Football Kickoff

The first day of the ACC Football Kickoff is behind us, and what awaits Monday -- following what is expected to be a groundbreaking NCAA announcement regarding Penn State -- should be some intriguing discussions. UM Coach Al Golden and the head coaches speak tomorrow, and since head coaches are bona fide adults, not to mention the head honchos of their teams, they usually assert themselves with some interesting points of view (or else they get so frustrated by the same questions that they unleash a zinger here and there).

The Penn State situation will obviously overshadow anything surrounding Al Golden,who is, ironically, a former player for Joe Paterno at Penn State. The two shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence (sorry about that).


Though there was no earth-shattering news revealed by the UM players Sunday, I did get the sense that junior Stephen Morris is perceived to be the quarterback leader -- at least by tailback Mike James.

Ryan Williams, a redshirt sophomore, is a former Miramar High quarterback who transferred from Memphis before last season. Morris sat out the spring after undergoing back surgery. Golden has said both quarterbacks will compete during the fall for the starting job.  

 “Coach [Jedd] Fisch, [UM’s offensive coordinator], has put Stephen in the best predicament to win games and control the offense,’’ James said. “ Stephen has a very amazing arm. I’m sure we’re going to utilize that to the best of our ability.’’

 A reporter asked James to describe the attribute in Morris that resulted in his “really taking over.’’

 Replied James: “Him assuming the leadership; Him understanding he’s going to be the quarterback and what a quarterback has to do to control his offense, control his team, control the game. He has taken all the steps to do that.’’

 James said "Stephen is a very, very smart kid'' and "knows his stuff inside and out.'' He said Morris is "becoming more of a vocal leader; Ryan is more lead-by-example. Stephen has an amazing arm; Ryan has great precision. It's going to be a tough battle. Stephen is, like, when something goes wrong he gets in our fact; Ryan pulls you to the side. ...I like when they get in your face. I like the gritty thing.''

He called both quarterbacks "great guys. They do a lot of things well.''

James was completely impressed by Morris' display of emotion one day in mid June -- "maybe the 15th or 16th, 20th maybe?" James said. "It was a team workout, no coaches, just us.'' He said Morris brought the players together and talked "about how tired he was of losing, and how we needed to get this thing on track. It brought him to tears.

"I had never seen Stephen cry. As a team you feel something in your heart for, if a guy is doing enough to get emotional, it shows he really cares about what he's doing. We greatly appreciate that in a leader. ...The other guys were very responsive to it. Some guys also had teared [up]. They were just tired of it. We're going to get this thing fixed and get it done the right way.

"We've never seen Stephen in that light. Stephen was always behind [former quarterback] Jacory [Harris] and not really saying much and doing everything he could to help the team. Now he was assuming leadership and becoming more vocal.''

Cornerback Brandon McGee touted all his young fellow defensive backs, and said national star Tracy Howard was so excited to be at UM that it was contagious.

McGee talked about growing up in South Florida and how he remembers seeing Sean Taylor just dominating his opponents. He said he also remembers "seeing Roscoe Parrish taking returns to the house,'' Devin Hester making guys miss and Mike Rumph making plays on the ball. That's definitely something we want to get back to.

"Our goal is to do what they did, but make our own avenue.''







ACC Commissioner John Swofford stands by UM Canes Coach Al Golden


   Here's my story that I just posted online:

   GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford said Sunday after he addressed reporters during the opening session of the ACC Football Kickoff that he would be “shocked’’ if University of Miami football coach Al Golden were personally involved in any NCAA violations.

    Swofford was asked by The Miami Herald about his reaction when he read the newest Yahoo! Sports report allegations about Miami.

     “Well, I don’t know how new they are,’’ he answered. “That’s an ongoing investigation.’’

     Swofford was then asked specifically about Yahoo! reporting that coach Al Golden had direct knowledge of UM football improprieties after he arrived at UM. What was Swofford’s reaction to that part of the report?

      “You never want to read any more of that,’’ Swofford said. “I’ve seen all of that I want to see. You’re never happy when you read that, but again, I don’t know if that’s necessarily a new part of that investigation. It may simply be something that has been thrown out there that isn’t new. I don’t know. I really can’t comment on an ongoing investigation on a piecemeal basis.’’

    Then Swofford was asked, “How about just your own gut and how you feel having gotten to know Al Golden?”

    Swofford’s response: “If Al Golden were involved in anything inappropriate in terms of NCAA rules I would be shocked.’’


ACC Football Media Kickoff About to Begin

Good morning.

In Greensboro, N.C., for the 2012 ACC Football Kickoff.

Cornerback Brandon McGee and running back Mike James are UM's representatives, who will speak to us later.

I feel bad for Miami coach Al Golden, who will walk into a firestorm when he speaks to the media Monday afternoon. Golden has been refreshing for us: respectful, direct and candid since the day he arrived. I have enjoyed covering him. But this is the first time he has been part of the NCAA saga, after Yahoo! Sports' newest report from Thursday.

In this day and age, it's hard to say "no way" before all the facts are revealed, but I still am wondering what specific proof the "former Hurricanes athletic department staffer" has, according to Yahoo!, that Golden "had direct knowledge of [former UM equipment manager Sean] Allen's improper involvement with Miami recruits.''  The Yahoo! story gives few specifics about Golden, other than what an unnamed staffer said about Golden being aware that Allen picked up Teddy Bridgewater from a restaurant during an unofficial visit. The key here is whether the NCAA believes it has the proof to back up what Allen said.

What would you ask Al Golden, if you had a chance to interview him tomorrow?

How about Mike James and McGee?



One high-ranking UM official told us Friday that school administrators were fed up with Ray-Ray Armstrong not being honest with them. Late Saturday night, his father Albert confirmed that Armstrong was bounced from the team largely because "he wasn't truthful" about a recent incident.

Albert Armstrong told us that Ray Ray's girlfriend owns a public relations firm that works with professional athletes but is not affiliated with any sports agent. Albert said his son's girlfriend was staying at the Loews Hotel on Memorial Day weekend when Ray-Ray visited her and took a picture of some of the hotel rooms. Ray-Ray then distributed the pictures via Instagram, and UM became aware of it.

When UM confronted him about it, he worried about his future and told the school he wasn't there with his girlfriend that night, his father said. "He told them the truth eventually, but it was a day late and dollar short," Albert Armstrong said.

Last year, UM suspended him for a game for tweeting about a dinner at Prime 112 with that same girlfriend. Booting him from the team was "unfair to extreme measures," Albert Armstrong said. "They need a sacrificial lamb to show, 'We're putting our foot down.'"

Armstrong’s father said InsideTheU's report that his son had interaction with a booster, then tweeted about it, is "completely untrue." He said his son will transfer to another school and play this fall.

The Hurricanes aren’t especially worried about his loss. They feel good about Vaughn Telemaque, AJ Highsmith, Kacy Rodgers, and newcomers Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins.

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/sports-buzz/2012/07/barry-jackson-buzz-for-sunday-scatter-shooting-on-dolphins-issues-with-training-camp-opening-friday-most-inte.html#storylink=cpy



July 20, 2012

With freshmen Howard, Bush in the mix, cornerback figures to be most intriguing position battle at camp

Of all the position battles heading into the start of fall camp Aug. 3, few seem tougher to forecast than what might happen for the Hurricanes at cornerback.

Tracy HowardOutside of senior Brandon McGee, who made 12 starts last season, and Thomas Finnie, who played sparingly as a freshman, nobody else playing cornerback at UM has taken a snap at the FBS level.

Although that's somewhat of a scary prospect for defensive backs coach Paul Williams (at least he had seniors Mike Williams and JoJo Nicolas to throw out on the field last year along with McGee), he's also excited about the influx of incoming talent at the position -- headlined by blue chip freshmen Tracy Howard (5-11, 170) of Miramar High and Deon Bush (6-1, 179) of Miami Columbus.

In the end, Williams said, "we'll need at least six" cornerbacks to be ready to play.

While it appears almost certain McGee (38 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBUs in 2011) will be one of Miami's starting corners, who starts opposite him and in nickel and dime situations could be anybody in a group of nine candidates. Although junior college transfer LaDarius Gunter (6-2, 196) left the spring as a starter ahead of true freshman Larry Hope (6-0, 175), none of the four corners who participated in spring football really blew Williams away.

"They got to get better -- even Brandon," Williams said. "They didn't finish exactly where we wanted them to. But was there improvement? Yeah. Do we have some talent there? Yeah. We just need to get them disciplined and to play our techniques the way we need them to play."

Part of that challenge, Williams said, is teaching them how to think and react like cornerbacks. Because so many talented athletes end up playing safety in high school (their coaches leave them as the last line of defense), Williams estimates "there is always less than 10 natural corners" available to recruit each year.

In UM's case, Williams said he feels like he got three natural corners in his last signing class: Tampa Plant's Antonio Crawford (5-11, 180), South Fort Myers' Nate Dortch (5-11, 152) and Howard. Williams considers Bush "a big physical kid that can play safety, but can be molded into a corner."

"I'm not going to say it's impossible for a freshman to start from day one," Williams said. "I coached Louis Delmas and E.J. Biggers [at Western Michigan] and they were four-year starters. They both took it over from the moment they walked in and didn't blink.

"But they key was those guys understood time management. They came in and we're in good shape. They handled it mentally. Not everybody can. Finnie wasn't ready to play last year. But we had no choice. If you can avoid [playing true freshmen], you avoid it. But in the end, somebody has to play for us this year. And we're going to need a few of those guys to step up."

Most are expecting Howard to be at the forefront on that list. But defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio warns that you never know when someone else can emerge.

"There are a lot of kids that can look at the game or look at a playbook and tell you something. But when they can truly envision it, having a casual conversation and talking about wrap concepts, coverages and they can see it in their head, that's when they can play fast. And [Howard] can talk about the game that way -- as good as any young, high school player I've been around," D'Onofrio said.

"That being said, right now he's in the same position the other six corners we signed are. You can't tell which guys are going to be the guys until you go out there and practice with them in August. I've been doing this long enough. Obviously we wanted [Howard]. He's a great player. The game is important to him. He understands the finer points of defensive back play. He's a fun kid to talk to. And I expect him to do well.

"But they all blossom at different times. There are some guys who are ready to go and others who it takes them their second year or third year. You can never tell until they get here. Jaiquawn Jarrett was a second round pick [Eagles in 2011], a safety we had at Temple. He was the last kid we signed in the class and he was starting by the fourth game of his freshman year. Who knew that would be that way with him? He just had it. You can't really tell until you go through eight to 10 practices and they're running around there that those are the guys who are going to make an impact."

July 18, 2012

Safety Ray-Ray Armstrong dismissed

Ray-Ray Armstrong is no longer a Miami Hurricane.

The senior safety and former top recruit in UM's 2009 class was dismissed from the football team Wednesday morning -- about a month after he reportedly discussed interaction with a booster via Twitter.

Although UM has yet to explain why he was dismissed (InsideTheU.com reported Armstrong's interaction with a booster), the school did say Armstrong can continue to be enrolled as a scholarship student to complete his degree, or the university will grant him a full release should he elect to transfer to another institution.

Last season, Armstrong was a candidate for several national preseason awards before being suspended by the NCAA for the first four games of the season for accepting impermissible benefits from former UM booster Nevin Shapiro, whose relationship with the University of Miami is the subject of an ongoing NCAA investigation.

Armstrong was later suspended in November for game after going to dinner at Prime 112 steakhouse in Miami Beach with a friend who owns a public relations company that works with professional athletes, then tweeting about the dinner. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing in that situation.

He played in seven games as a junior in 2011, earning a start against Duke. He finished the season with 34 tackles, an interception and fumble recovery. Many believed he would enter the NFL Draft after the 2011 season, but he chose to remain with the Hurricanes. But he decided to return.

Earlier this month, Armstrong was named to the preseason watch list for the Bednarink Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive player. In the spring game in April, he had an interception and a fumble recovery. He finished the spring listed first on the depth chart.

Defensive backs coach Paul Williams said in May Armstrong had shown improvement this spring, but still needed to be more disciplined.

"Just run the package, that's what I tell him," Williams said. "Every now and then he wants to be too aggressive. He just needs to run the defense. But he's gotten better. Looks like he's bought in. We need him to step up and be a leader."

Armstrong played in 30 games in his career at UM and finished with 134 career tackles, two forced fumbles, six pass deflections and four interceptions. He finished third on the team with 79 tackles in 2010 and was named All-ACC Second Team.

Rivals.com ranked Armstrong as the nation’s No. 13 player, regardless of position, as a senior at Sanford Seminole High in 2008.

With Armstrong gone, the Canes will likely turn first to redshirt junior A.J. Highsmith, who switched to safety last season after serving as a backup quarterback his first two seasons at Miami. Highsmith, the son of former Canes legend Alonzo Highsmith, finished with 12 tackles in 11 games last season. He was listed second on the team's depth chart at free safety behind Armstrong.

Fifth-year senior Vaughn Telemaque, who has started all 25 games in the last two seasons, is the team's other starting safety. 

Other returning veterans include: Kacy Rodgers (6-2, 213, Jr.) and Andrew Swasey (5-10, 205, Sr.).

UM recruited seven defensive backs in their 2012 signing class. Former Miami Columbus standout Deon Bush was the top rated safety in the group. He was ranked sixth overall at his position by Rivals.com.

July 17, 2012

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch: 'We're counting on Duke [Johnson] to make an immediate impact'

Can you smell that? Yes, football season is on the horizon.

Your Miami Hurricanes open training camp Friday, Aug. 3. That's less than three weeks away. So, what better way to get you ready for shells and shorts than to finally run some of the stuff we gathered back in May for this very moment. (NOTE: Players and coaches needed a break from the end of spring ball until now and those interviews in May were the only window reporters were given to speak with them).

So, without further ado, our first real blog of the 2012 season...


With Hurricanes senior running back Mike James being named a nominee for the 2012 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team on Tuesday, what better way to start looking ahead to the season than beginning with the backfield.

Duke JohnsonWhile James (5-11, 222) and junior Eduardo Clements (5-9, 195) will begin as the front-runners to take the majority of the carries left behind by Lamar Miller (the first 1,000-yard back at UM since Willis McGahee in 2002), all eyes this fall will be on incoming freshman Duke Johnson.

The 5-9, 183-pound Under-Armour All-American from Miami Norland and lead ambassador for the 2012 signing class appears to have all the blazing speed and giddy-up the two veterans in Miami's backfield simply haven't shown in college. And while UM coaches are trying to temper expectations for Johnson, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and running backs coach Terry Richardson both say Duke has to touch the ball as a freshman.

"We're counting on Duke to make an impact immediately," Fisch said back in May. "He is a playmaker. There is no doubt about it. You can't do what he did in high school and not think that most of it or some of it can't correlate to college football. It's not going to look like that every game when you play Florida State and Virginia Tech and Kansas State and Boston College and what not. I don't expect him to have 376 yards a game.

"But I do expect him to be someone that is a playmaker. We do have to game plan and scheme for him to get some touches and we have to figure out how, whatever he's able to handle. But he's not coming in here in a capacity where he's being given a job. He has to earn it. We don't give jobs based on high school production."

The big question will be how often Johnson touches the football and in what ways Fisch will get it in his hands. Could UM split Johnson out wide or put him in the slot as a receiver?

"Yes," Fisch said. "We have to look at that. Our offense is built on matchups. When we're really good it's linebackers covering our fast guys. If we can do that with a Duke, we're going to do it with a Duke."

Physically, Johnson hardly had any struggles in high school despite his smaller than average frame (he was about 5-8, 175 pounds as a senior). He ran for 5,069 yards and 52 touchdowns in his high school career and was named Florida's Mr. Football as a senior. But in college he has to get bigger. He's currently listed a 5-9, 183-pounds on UM's roster. Richardson said he would like Johnson to play between 185 and 190 pounds.

"If anything that would be the question -- how much of a pounding can he actually take from a mental standpoint and physical standpoint," Richardson said. "If I were to guess, I would say he could because football down here in South Florida is very good. He's tougher than his size. He's a real tough kid. He knows how to take care of himself on the football field, doesn't take a lot of big hits, has great balance. I think he could take care of himself."

The mental challenges of course is picking up UM's offense as well as pass protection responsibilities. "I'm definitely sure he wasn't asked to pass protect much at Norland," Richardson said. "But he's a bright kid."

"What did Dennis Green say [about the Bears]? We were who they thought they were? Duke was who we thought he was [when we scouted him]. He made plays so many different ways.

"He has a good stiff arm. The thing about it is he has good balance so it keeps people away from his body. He does a good job with that. He has wide shoulders and real long arms."

> Aside from Johnson, UM also signed 6-1, 210-pound running back Danny Dillard out of Venice, Fla. to add depth to its backfield. Richardson hopes Dillard can follow in James' footsteps and play a dual role in Miami's backfield -- as a ball carrier and occasionally a player who can lineup at fullback.

"I just like his size, his footwork, his vision. He's very well polished for a guy his size," Richardson said. "I got a chance to see him recently and he looks great. He's already between 220-225 pounds. I'm excited about him. I'm curious to see what he can do.

> As for the current fullback Maurice Hagens, who injured his grown this spring and missed the final two weeks of action, Richardson said he saw improvement from him last year as a sophomore.

"He was a true sophomore last year and did a good job," Richardson said. "He went against some pretty good linebackers in the ACC and held his own. He blew some of those guys up, had a good block on [ACC Defensive Player of the Year] Luke Kuechly. I have clips where Maurice got into him and pushed him into the other side of the ball... I'm just looking for better and bigger things."

> James, who has run for 719 yards (4.6 a carry) and 11 TDs in his career at UM, said his goal this spring was to become a more violent runner. He's also taken to reading books on how to improve his speed.

"The only way to get better at something is you have to really understand it," said James, who averaged just 3.6 yards a carry last season. "You get powerful, increase stride a little, footspeed. It's about increasing stride length, things like that."

James says he is also researching ways to improve his speed by watching highlights of Reggie Bush, DeSean Jackson and Jahvid Best.

"I just look at highlight tapes, stride frequency - how many times their feet hit the ground, how much ground they cover with a stride," James said. "I even looked at it with Lamar [Miller] - how many steps did he have to take to get five yards? You want to just match that, and that's how you get faster."

July 03, 2012

UM freshman class notes

I'm linking here to Barry Jackson's blog on UM's incoming class to give you some July 4 reading: