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16 posts from December 2012

December 31, 2012

Another member (or former member) of the UM Hurricanes family snagged by Arkansas's Bielema

Bret Bielema, the new coach at Arkansas, has hired former UM head coach Randy Shannon as his linebackers coach.

Bielema recently hired George McDonald -- UM's wide receivers coach -- as his receivers coach.

We're still waiting on McDonald's replacement, but I suspect Al Golden will make it a good hire.

As for Shannon, he moves to the premier conference in college football following his most recent job as linebackers coach at TCU.

The press release that Arkansas sent out about Shannon being hired is extremely long. It gushes about the former UM head coach and defensive coordinator -- as well as former UM linebacker.

"Randy Shannon is a great coach and a great person,'' said Bielema. "He has been a part of multiple national championship teams, and more importantly, he changed the lives of numerous young men. He has spent nearly his entire coaching career at Miami, and his defenses consistently ranked inside the top 10 nationally. I think a lot of people know Randy got a lot of great things done at Miami and most recently at TCU. He is a disciplinarian who has high standards, and he is skillful at relating to his players. He is a coach players turn to for guidance, and his players have always been prepared and played with intensity and desire.''

Hard to believe another year is upon us. Hope you all close this one out safely.

I think we all can say that this will be the year the Hurricanes meet their NCAA fate. The sooner they get it over with, the better for everyone.

Have a happy and healthy New Year. 




December 29, 2012

His name is Sunny, he's very large, he's from Nigeria and he's a future Hurricane

The Hurricanes are full of players with cool stories.

As of February, it appears we'll add one more to the stockpile.

Nigerian native Sunny Odogwu, 6-8 and listed by various websites as anywhere from 300 to 315 pounds, told recruiting services on Friday that he has committed to coach Al Golden and the University of Miami.

An offensive tackle, Odogwu played last season at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. He arrived in the United States when he was 16, and first played basketball at Huntington Prep in West Virginia.

Odogwu told CaneSport, which first reported his commitment, that he expects to arrive on campus in January to be there in time for spring practice.

"His willingness to want to learn is without comparison, St. Frances Academy (Maryland) football coach Messay Hailemariam told the Clarion-Ledger. "I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen the hunger I've seen in him. When you look at him he absolutely passes the eye test, but his desire to work actually exceeds that.''

If he ends up excelling at tackle, what a coup for the Hurricanes. But he's obviously raw. His story sounds amazing.

After transferring from Huntington Prep to Baltimore St. Frances, he played football for the first time there as a senior.

"I came to Maryland and began playing football because people said I was too aggressive for basketball,'' Odogwu told CaneSport. "I love football. You can hit and nobody will call fouls, so it's awesome.''

According to CaneSport, Odogwu grew up in Africa "sharing a 12x12 room with 10 family members. With one bed pushed up against a wall for his parents, there was no room for him to sleep inside. So he'd take a wooden mat, lay it outside the front door and go to sleep.''

Looking forward to the big guy's arrival, and our first interview.




December 24, 2012

Five former Hurricanes who left early for NFL keeping the faith (and Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you!)

Their decisions -- at least most of their decisions -- weren't very popular among University of Miami football fans.

The UM football underclassmen caravan one year ago began with receiver Tommy Streeter, and continued with defensive tackle Marcus Forston, running back Lamar Miller, offensive lineman Brandon Washington and defensive end Olivier Vernon.

UM coach Al Golden was admittedly shocked that so many departed even before waiting to receive their projected draft status from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which can be requested by any underclassman eligible to leave early.

Some of those players were equally shocked during draft weekend. Washington was drafted 200th overall by the Eagles -- the 30th pick in the sixth round -- and didn't make the team. He's now on the practice squad with the St. Louis Rams.

Forston wasn't drafted, earned his way onto the Patriots roster as an undrafted free agent, then was released after three games and subsequently named to the Pats' practice squad.

Streeter was taken 198th overall by the Ravens and signed a four-year, $2.19-million contract, with a signing bonus of $94,500. He broke his left foot in the final preseason game and was placed on injured reserve for the season.

Olivier Vernon was the 72nd overall pick (third round) by the Dolphins and signed a four-year contract reportedly worth $2.84 million, with a $638,000 signing bonus.

Miller went 97th overall (fourth round) to the Dolphins and signed a four-year contract reportedly worth $2.58 million, with a $486,000 signing bonus.

I talked extensively to four of the five players, and to Tommy Streeter's dad.

All said they're happy they made the decision they did (Streeter's dad would have liked him to return for his senior season, but said Tommy is happy), although I'm figuring Brandon Washington, Marcus Forston and Streeter had their doubts after the draft.  

Washington was quoted last spring as telling ProCanes.com that if he knew he was going to be drafted that low, he would have stayed in school.

He told me that he really likes St. Louis, that sometimes he does get lonesome, but that he's just waiting for his moment. 

Streeter and Marcus Forston earned their college degrees while at UM. The others did not earn their degrees.

When asked if he'd make the same decision again, Washington told me, "Yeah, I would. I have my personal reasons. I think I made the best decision for me. I try not to look back.''

Streeter's dad, Tommy Sr., told me he feels Tommy "could have gotten better at his craft, and that putting together another great season like he had would have looked really good. But I wasn't disappointed because he did what I asked him to do. He went to college and got his degree.''

Marcus Forston told me he has become very close with former Cane defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, now an NFL star with the Patriots. HIs mother, Pearline Simmons, is spending Christmas with him in Foxboro.

"I have built a great relationship with Vince,'' Forston said. "I really feel like he's going to bring my game to the next level. Being around him, his attitude on the field and off the field, and even around his family - he's an all-around great guy.''

Forston and Vernon talked about how tough it was having three different defensive coordinators while they were at UM. Vernon admitted that it was tough having a new coach as well, and getting used to his ways. 

Forston respectfully declined talking about what effect the new coaching staff had on his decision. But he did say he never intended to be at UM for five years. Injuries took their toll on him, and he said he was ready to leave when he did.

Lamar and Vernon are very satisfied, and realize how fortunate they are to have landed in their backyards  in Miami -- where they grew up and have played their entire careers.

Here's the link to the story I wrote for today's paper about the five Canes who left early. http://hrld.us/Y6yBIZ   By the way, they said they all keep in touch with each other.

Everyone have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas and holidays. 


December 20, 2012

UM Canes point guard Shane Larkin named to Bob Cousy Award watch list



SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – University of Miami sophomore point guard Shane Larkin has been named to the 2013 Bob Cousy Award watch list, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Thursday.

Larkin is one of seven ACC point guards on the watch list. The Cousy Award, named for Hall of Famer and former Boston Celtics great Bob Cousy, recognizes the top point guard in men’s college basketball.

More than 80 candidates were nominated for the 2013 Bob Cousy Award. Through eight games, Larkin is averaging 14.8 points and 4.1 assists in 35.4 minutes, while shooting 55 percent from the floor (44-of-80), 51.7 percent from 3-point range (15-of-29) and 83.3 percent from the free throw line (15-of-18).

The watch list of candidates will be narrowed down over the next three months; the final 20 is slated to be announced Jan. 1, while the final 10 will be unveiled Feb. 1. The final five Cousy Award candidates will be announced by March 1.

A premier selection committee has been appointed by the Hall of Fame to review the final five candidates in contention for the nation’s top collegiate point guard award.

  Riding a six-game win streak, the Miami Hurricanes resume play Saturday at the 2012 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. Miami (7-1) opens against host Hawai`i on ESPNU at 12:30 a.m. ET (Dec. 23)/7:30 p.m. HST (Dec. 22).

December 19, 2012

McDonald takes WR job at Arkansas

    • p>George McDonald, who spent the last two years as UM's receivers coach, accepted the same position at Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema announced Wednesday.

    • "George McDonald has a reputation as a top recruiter as well as a great teacher and technician," Bielema said in a statement released by the school. "In his heart, he has always wanted to be a college coach because he believes in recruiting young men and being a part of helping them develop for four years. He will be a positive influence on our wide receivers as they grow and learn under his guidance. His track record of developing NFL-ready receivers and his first-hand experience as a position coach in the league will be attractive to our student-athletes and future Razorback receivers. He knows what it takes to be an NFL receiver and has the ability to teach our players how to be a pro in every aspect so they can maximize their potential in college and set themselves up for a career on the next level."

    • McDonald is the first assistant coach to leave UM since Al Golden took over as coach. No word on who Golden is considering as a replacement just yet.

  • UM announces the signing of junior college tight end Beau Sandland -- he chooses the Canes over Arizona State and Nebraska

    Highly recruited Woodland Hills, Calif., Pierce Community College tight end Beau Sandland has signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Miami and will play for the Miami Hurricanes.

    UM announced the news Wednesday afternoon.

    Sandland is counted toward the 2013 signing class -- the newest class. The rest of the class signs in February.

    Sandland is rated by Rivals.com as a four-star player, and is listed as 6-6 and 250 pounds. He chose the Hurricanes over finalists Arizona State and Nebraska. Sandland is ranked the No. 6 overall junior college player and No. 1 tight end prospect by 247Sports.com.

    In eight games as a sophomore in 2012, Sandland caught 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns, earning first-team All-Pacific Conference honors. As a freshman, he had 20 catches for 265 yards and two touchdowns.

    Sandland had about 25 offers, including Southeastern Conference schools Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas A&M, MIssissippi and LSU. But he eliminated the SEC in early October, saying he needed to take an online math class in order to graduate early in December and arrive at a new school in time to compete in spring practice. The SEC, he said, requires that student-athletes must take their online math (and/or English) classes through the school they will attend.

    "There's no way I'm not leaving in December,'' he told ESPN in October. "I feel that it's really crucial to enroll early and go through spring ball. That's been my plan since day one, since I was still in high school talking to the PIerce coaches.''

     His official visit to UM was Dec. 1, and he told reporters he loved it. Wednesday, in a ceremony at his school, he cited the coaching staff, tight end tradition, returning UM quarterback and academics among the reasons he chose the Hurricanes, according to recruiting services.

    The Hurricanes have been aching for a tight end who makes a major impact. It's been far too long without one.



    December 14, 2012

    G Bishop Daniels leaves UM

    Redshirt freshman guard Bishop Daniels has left the University of Miami men’s basketball program and the University, Coach Jim Larranaga announced Friday afternoon.

    Daniels redshirted his freshman year and averaged 5.0 points, 2.0 steals and 1.0 assists in three games this season.

    Confirmed: UM Canes DC Mark D'Onofrio has withdrawn his name from consideration for Temple head-coaching job

    Mark D'Onofrio is staying.

    I just got it confirmed from someone close to the situation. D'Onofrio has pulled his name from consideration for the head-coaching job at Temple.

    So, it appears that if reports about D'Onofrio and other finalist Matt Rhule are correct, Rhule would be the favorite to replace departed Temple coach Steve Addazio, who left Temple to take the job at Boston College.

    The UM staff, it seems, will be in tact for 2013 -- unless news materializes in the next few weeks or after the NFL season.




    Reports: UM Canes DC D'Onofrio is finalist for Temple head-coaching job

        The Philadelphia Inquirer, citing "several sources,'' is reporting today that Hurricanes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio is one of two finalists for the Temple head-coaching job.

        The other finalist: New York Giants assistant offensive line coach Matt Rhule, who reportedly interviewed Thursday night with incoming Temple president Neil D. Theobald, according to OwlScoop.

        D'Onofrio was the Temple defensive coordinator from 2006 to 2010, when current UM coach Al Golden was the head coach at Temple. Rhule also was an assistant under Golden.

       The Enquirer said D'Onofrio will meet with Theobald today.

       From OwlScoop: "Rhule's Giants are 8-5 and atop the NFC East standings. In two seasons as offensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009, Temple had 17 wins and a bowl appearance and a program single-season rushing yardage record in 2009. Rhule served as the co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach under Addazio before he was hired by Giants head coach Tom Coughlin last March.

        Rhule and D'Onofrio played their college football at Penn State, and both played linebacker for the late Joe Paterno."



    December 13, 2012

    Tweeting up a storm: one tweet and its aftermath

    Someone told me today that Al Golden is tired of refuting the coaching rumors.

    I would be, too.

    But refute it he did on Thursday, even if it was privately to University of Miami interim athletic director Blake James

    The tweet that started the online frenzy: "Al Golden, a favorite of Barry Alvarez, has emerged heavily at Wisconsin. Source says Golden mulling a decision today.’’

    Alvarez is the Wisconsin athletic director.

    The tweet came from a respected journalist, former New York Times sports writer Pete Thamel, now at Sports Illustrated. Pete has more than 69,000 followers on Twitter, so he has an impressive audience.

    About a half-hour later, Thamel posted this tweet: “Just got word that Al Golden is flattered by Alvarez's interest but staying at Miami.’’


    I guess the "mulling" didn't take long.

    Anyway, UM associate athletic director for communications and marketing Chris Freet said UM interim athletic director Blake James chatted with Golden about it.

    Al isn’t going anywhere,’’ Freet said. “He’s 100 percent committed here.’’

    I have to admit, I had a few heart palpitations when I saw the tweet. Didn't want to think about the prospect of a coaching search and what that would mean for the Hurricanes during this precarious period.

    Glad it got resolved quickly. Scary how powerful Twitter has become.

    Susan Miller Degnan


    McGee accepts invite to East-West Shrine Game

    Hurricanes cornerback Brandon McGee, who concluded his career with 24 consecutive starts and graduated Thursday from UM with a bachelor's degree in sports administration and a minor in entrepreneurship, has accepted an invitation to play in the 88th East-West Shrine Game.

    The game will be held Jan. 19, 2013, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

    McGee, a former All-Broward First Team selection at Plantation High will be the 44th Miami Hurricane to play in the East-West Shrine Game and first UM defensive back since Al Blades in 2001. As a senior in 2012, he started all 12 games at defensive back and finished tied for sixth on the team with 54 tackles. He snagged a team-high-tying two interceptions and also notched four tackles-for-loss.

    McGee is currently rated the 33rd best cornerback available in the 2013 NFL Draft. He is projected to be a seventh round pick/free agent signee according to NFLDraftScout.com.

    December 12, 2012

    Canes CB Thomas Finnie released from jail; hearing set for Jan. 10

    Suspended Hurricanes cornerback Thomas Finnie was released from jail Wednesday and is scheduled to go to court for an arraignment hearing at 9 a.m. on Jan 10, Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts records show.

    The 21-year old sophomore, charged with a pair of felonies (burglary and third degree grand theft) after admitting to police he stole a laptop computer from a former teammate on campus last week, was released under a pretrial service program court records show. His bond was originally set at $17,500, but he didn't have to pay it per the pretrial service program.

    The arrest was Finnie's second as an adult. He was arrested this past July with misdemeanor marijuana possession. He completed a pre-trial diversion program on Nov. 30. 

    Finnie's high school coach Telly Lockette said Tuesday night he was disappointed to hear his former cornerback had run into trouble.

    "He has a mother and a father he didn't need to do what he did," Lockette said. "I don't know if he was pressed. But I know he has a mom and a dad that love him. He's young, but you have to know right from wrong. Sometimes kids think they are invincible and it catches up with you. I try to tell them all the time one mistake can cost you everything. I hope that isn't the case for him."

    December 11, 2012

    Finnie suspended indefinitely after arrest in laptop theft

    University of Miami cornerback Thomas Finnie has been suspended indefinitely after being arrested Tuesday morning in connection to a laptop theft on campus last week.

    Thomas FinnieHere is the press release I received from Coral Gables police: "After further investigation by detectives with the University of Miami Police, it was determined that Thomas Finnie, a University of Miami student, was involved in the theft of the laptop computer from a dorm room on campus. Thomas Finnie was arrested today, December 11, 2012, and has been charged with Occupied Burglary and Grand Theft. He has been transported to the Dade County Jail by University of Miami Police personnel."

    Finnie is coming off a sophomore season in which he played in 12 games and made 30 tackles, three pass breakups and one fumble recovery. He started UM's first six games.

    According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Finnie has two previous arrests. He was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession on July 20 of this year. He also was arrested with third degree grand theft by Hialeah police back in Nov. 2008.

    Here is a statement from UM associate athletic director for communications and marketing Chris Freet: "Following the arrest for his involvement in the theft of a laptop computer, UM sophomore football student-athlete Thomas Finnie has been immediately suspended from all University of Miami athletic activities."

    Finnie enrolled at UM in Jan. 2011. He was a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com. He helped lead Miami Central to the Class 6A state title in December 2010.

    In an interview in June 2011 with UM's sports information department Finnie said he secretly wished he "could wake up 20 years from now and be in a big mansion." He went on to say, "I really want to be the one to bring my family up to par; I want to be the one who makes it out. I want to make my mother so proud and that's what I really want to do. I never quit, I never want to give up, because I really want to try to get there."

    December 10, 2012

    Mark D'Onofrio reportedly interviews at Temple; Duke adds to treasure trove; and Knighton commits

    With the football coaching carousel in full swing, one of Miami's own is reportedly checking out the prospect of going for a ride.

    The Philadephia Inquirer, OwlScoop.com (Rivals) and CBSSports.com reported (citing unnamed sources) that Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio already interviewed for the head-coaching vacancy left by Steve Addazio.

    Addazio departed Philadelphia last Tuesday to become head coach of Boston College.

    D'Onofrio, UM's defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, was the Temple defensive coordinator from 2006-2010, when his close friend Golden (and former Penn State teammate) was head coach. D'Onofrio was supposedly offered the head-coaching job that Golden vacated to come to Miami. But D'Onofrio chose to accompany Golden.

    It has been a rough year for D'Onofrio, whose defense ranks among the worst nationally in almost every category: 117th in total defense (of 120 teams ranked in the Football Bowl Subdivision), 113th in rushing defense, 82nd in scoring defense, 101st in pass defense, 112th in sacks, 102nd in tackles for loss.

    I looked up UM's defensive stats from 2011, D'Onofrio's first season at Miami, and here's how the Canes ranked: 45th in total defense, 68th in rushing defense, 21st in scoring defense, 28th in pass defense, 56th in sacks, 50th in tackles for loss.

    Last year Miami finished 6-6; This season, 7-5.

    Former Hurricane/Hurricanes assistant coach Mario Cristobal, recently fired by FIU, also interviewed for the head-coaching job at Temple, Miami Herald FIU beat writer David Neal reported, citing sources.

    The Inquirer listed New York Giants offensive line coach Matt Ruhle, Temple defensive coordinator Chuck Heater and Ohio State receivers coach Stan Drayton as others who interviewed.

    CBSSports.com and OwlScoop reported that Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco was also scheduled to interview for the Temple job, with the Inquirer reporting that Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was set to interview Monday night.

    So, how would you feel if D'Onofrio left and the door opened for a new UM defensive coordinator?  Either way, the pressure is big-time for this defense to start going in the right direction. With Stephen Morris and UM's offense poised for a bright future, they need the defense to hold its own.


    Running back/return specialist Duke Johnson was named a second-team Freshman All-America by CollegeFootballNews.com. Also named a second-teamer: safety Deon Bush.

    Duke Johnson and linebacker Eddie Johnson were named to the CBSSports.com All-Freshman Team.

    Johnson, a second-team Walter Camp All-America, is the ACC Rookie of the Year after amassing 2,060 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns and rushing for a UM freshman-record 947 yards.

    Bush played in 10 games, starting six. He had 34 tackles, three pass breakups and three forced fumbles.

    Eddie Johnson had 59 tackles and a team-leading 7.5 tackles-for-loss in 10 games, with eight starts. He finished second in ACC Defensive Player of the Year voting.


    Canesport.com and InsidetheU.com have reported that 6-5, 265-pound DL/OL Hunter Knighton of the Hun School, in Princeton, committed tonight to play football at Miami.

    Knighton, rated as a three-star player, told CaneSport that UM recruited him as an offensive lineman, but that "if things don't work out they said I can definitely play defense.''

    He said he is trying to enroll early, so he could participate in spring practice.





    December 09, 2012

    Mike James earns MVP honors at team banquet

    The Miami Hurricanes held their annual end-of-season banquet Sunday afternoon inside the Treetop Ballroom at Jungle Island.

    Running back Mike James was the recipient of the 2012 Jack Harding Team Most Valuable Player Award.

    Other winners included:

    Hard Hitter Award – Jon Feliciano
    Mariutto Family Scholar-Athlete Award – Chris Dunckel
    Community Service Man of the Year Award – Mike James
    Strength Training Athlete of the Year – Andrew Swasey
    Albert Bentley Most Valuable Walk-On Award – Nantambu Fentress and Paul Kelly
    Nick Chickillo Most Improved Player Award – Davon Johnson
    Walt Kichefski Hurricane Award – Jake Wieclaw
    University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Unsung Hero Award – Maurice Hagens
    Training Room Comeback Player of the Year – Ben Jones
    Hurricane Media “Good Guy” Award – Dalton Botts
    Captain’s Award – Shayon Green, Mike James, Brandon McGee and Stephen Morris
    Plumer Award for Leadership, Motivation & Spirit – Brandon McGee
    Melching Leadership Award – Mike James
    U Respect Award – Jeremy Lewis
    Scout Team Player of the Year – Akil Craig and Eduardo Lopez
    Newcomer of the Year Award – Deon Bush
    Defensive Most Valuable Player – Shayon Green
    Offensive Most Valuable Player – Stephen Morris
    Special Teams Most Valuable Player – Duke Johnson

    December 06, 2012

    Duke Johnson becomes UM's 1st All-American since 2005

    The honors keep pouring in for University of Miami freshman Duke Johnson.

    The ACC Rookie of the Year -- according to both the media and coaches -- was named second-team All-America by the Walter Camp Football Foundation Thursday.

    He is UM's first major All-America selection since 2005 (Eric Winston, Brandon Meriweather, Kelly Jennings) and was one of only two freshmen named to the Walter Camp team, joining Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman candidate Johnny Manziel.

    The Miami Norland product had one of the greatest freshman seasons in UM history, amassing 2,060 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns, while breaking Clinton Portis' 13-year-old school freshman rushing record with 947 yards. He ranked nationally with a 33.0 yards per kick return average. His 892 kick return yards were a single-season record and he also tied the school single-season mark with two kick return for touchdowns.