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41 posts from February 2014

February 28, 2014

17 thoughts and observations on the Canes heading into the start of spring football

Some thoughts and observations on the Hurricanes heading into the start of spring football Saturday:

### I never quite understood why Stephen Morris received as much criticism as he did during his tenure as UM’s starting quarterback. Only four starters posted better passer ratings than Morris (137.8) throughout their careers at UM and all four were either national champions or Heisman winners: Vinny Testaverde (152.9), Ken Dorsey (147.4), Steve Walsh (142.2) and Bernie Kosar (139.8).

Tied with Morris in fifth place is Craig Erickson, who also had a passer rating of 137.8 and won a national title too. Put Morris around the same supporting cast and defenses those guys played with and ask yourself if Morris doesn’t win a national title as well. Sure, he ranks 7th all-time in career interceptions at UM with 30. But that’s still only one more than Kosar and two more than Dorsey had during their careers.

My point is you’re going to miss Morris more than you know this coming season. You’ll start to see why by the spring game.

### Ryan Williams is a nice kid. He’s taller (6-6, 225) than Morris and he’s been waiting in the wings for three years for his turn. But his arm isn’t as strong as his predecessor and that counts for something in James Coley’s offense. Coley likes to go vertical. A lot.

UM ranked 17th nationally last season with 57 pass plays of 20 yards or more and third with 36 pass plays of 30 yards or more. Sure, some of those came on short pass plays Stacy Coley turned into much longer ones. But not the majority of them. Coley told me several times throughout the season Williams’ arm strength had been improving. We’ll get to see how much soon enough.

### I don't want to throw an extra blanket of pressure on redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen, but this spring wouldn't be the time to have any more mental lapses. Brad Kaaya, the four-star All-American recruit from California that Coley handpicked, will be arriving soon. 

### Duke Johnson and Joseph Yearby won’t be participating this spring because of injuries, but there’s a reason you should still keep an eye on the Canes' backfield. They badly need depth to develop.

Want to know where the Hurricanes ranked in rushing over their final five regular season games in November? Try 107th. UM ran for 567 yards or 113.4 a game. Take away the 97 Johnson ran for back on Nov. 2nd when he tore up his ankle in a blowout loss at Florida State, and the Canes ran 118 times for 470 yards or about 3.98 yards per carry without him. UM topped it off with 14 yards on 28 carries in the bowl loss to Louisville. Despite all that, the Hurricanes still finished 72nd nationally in rushing with 160.3 yards per game.

My point is obvious -- Duke carries a huge load. Without him the Hurricanes aren’t average. They are well below average. Dallas Crawford’s move back to safety this spring – the original position UM recruited him for – will put the onus on big Gus Edwards (6-2, 225) to prove to us his 5.1 yards per carry average last season wasn’t a mirage. Because his stats tell us they might have been.

Edwards chugged for 230 of his 338 yards as a freshman (6.97 yards on 33 combined carries) against Savannah State, South Florida and Pittsburgh in games UM easily ran away with. Meanwhile, he ran another 108 yards (3.27 yards per carry on 33 combined carries) against FAU, Virginia Tech, Duke, Virginia and Louisville.

### There probably won’t be a more electrifying sophomore receiver in the country next season than Miami’s Stacy Coley. Among freshman in 2013, only Bowling Green’s Ronnie Moore had more yards  per catch (19.54, 10th nationally) than Coley (17.91, 22nd nationally). You know who finished second among freshman receivers in yards per catch in 2012? Alabama’s Amari Cooper (17.22 yards per catch).

Coley only caught 33 passes total in 2012, but had 12 catches go for 20 yards or more (tied for 85th) and eight go for 30 yards or more (tied for 38th). To put Coley’s yards per catch average into context, only three receivers with at least 70 catches in their Hurricanes careers put up career averages that were better. They are: Andre Johnson (19.9), Eddie Brown (19.7) and Brian Blades (18.7).

Now the task for Coley will be going from being that quiet, talented freshman in the back of the room to front and center now that the Allen Hurns, the seventh-leading receiver in Canes history (121 catches, 1,891 yards, 14 TDs) is gone. Hurns converted 15 catches last season on third down for first downs (tied for 20th best in the country). The Hurricanes didn’t have another player with double-digit catches on third down. Those are huge shoes to fill.

### It’s going to be a very important this spring for seniors Phillip Dorsett (injured) and Rashawn Scott (suspended and injured) to bounce back. They were UM’s leading receivers two years ago with 98 combined catches for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns. Last year? Dorsett had 13 catches for 272 yards and two scores in eight games and Scott had three catches for 38 yards in four games.

### Clive Walford’s 34 catches for 454 yards and two touchdowns last season were good for the third most catches and yards on the team. The Hurricanes haven’t had a tight end post a season like that since Greg Olsen led the team in catches back in 2006 with 40 receptions for 489 yards and a score.

UM was quick to point out on numerous occasions that many of Walford’s catches (19) produced first downs. The stat they didn’t share? Only two of Walford’s 34 catches the entire season were made on third downs. Both produced first downs, but considering third down is a time when a lot of tight ends make their mark, this is the area Walford should be concentrating on.

By the way, for your record keeping, only four tight ends at UM have more career catches and yards than Walford (77 catches, 1,077 yards, 7 TDs) does. They are: Kellen Winslow (119 catches, 1,365 yards, 9 TDs), Willie Smith (117-1,544, 6 TDs), Glenn Dennison (106-1,095, 5 TDs) and Olsen (87-1,215 yards, 6 TDs).

### UM has three other scholarship tight ends in camp this spring we would like to see more from: sophomores Jake O’Donnell (no catches) and Standish Dobard (1 catch, 15 yards) and senior Beau Sandland, who had nine catches for 94 yards and a score. Six of Sandland’s catches came against Savannah State. He didn’t catch a pass after the Florida State loss. That’s disappointing considering how highly touted Sandland was coming in from junior college.

### Don’t underestimate the losses to graduation on the offensive line. Brandon Linder (42 career starts), Seantrel Henderson (26 career starts) and Jared Wheeler (6 starts all as a senior) anchored the right side and did a fine job while here. UM only surrendered 17 sacks last season (tied for 21st and second in the ACC). That's the same number they gave up in 2012.

Freshman KC McDermott, UM’s best recruit on offense, is in for the spring and that’s huge. All eyes figure to be fixated on him as he tries to solidify himself as someone who can start right away. Same for Miami Central’s Trevor Darling, who at 6-5, 320-pounds has the size to play early too.

The other options to start alongside junior left tackle Ereck Flowers, senior left guard Jon Feliciano and senior center Shane McDermott? Guys we’ve hardly seen: redshirt freshman Sunny Odogwu (6-8, 324), sophomores Danny Isidora (6-4, 316), Alex Gall (6-5, 306), and Taylor Gadbois (6-8, 316) and junior Hunter Wells (6-6, 312). My thoughts are Gall and Isidora are probably the only two guys Darling and KC McDermott will be getting real competition from.

### Count your blessing that linebacker Denzel Perryman decided to return for his senior season. It’s not that Perryman is a dominant player (108 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and one forced fumble). It’s that he’s one of the few experienced, reliable players in UM’s front seven.

Miami’s defense has wreaked something stanky two years running (26.8 ppg, 90th in yards per game in 2013 and 30.5 ppg, 120th in yards per game in 2012). But even with talented new additions in the 2014 signing class, you still need someone out there who can point people in the right direction.

Four of the team’s top six more experienced players and tacklers in the front seven (Jimmy Gaines, Shayon Green, Tyrone Cornelius, Justin Renfrow) are gone. Perryman, senior defensive end Anthony Chickillo (46 tackles), junior linebacker Thurston Armbrister (33 tackles) and senior defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (33 tackles) are all that is back in terms of players who saw heavy workloads.

So this spring is going to be all about players like sophomore linebacker Alex Figueroa (17 tackles in 9 games), junior rush end Tyriq McCord (13 tackles in 13 games), senior defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu (13 tackles in 9 games), sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (8 tackles in 13 games) and sophomore linebacker Raphael Kirby (10 tackles in 13 games) all growing up from role players.

### While last season’s 29 sacks were a huge improvement over 2012’s 13 sacks for UM's defense, there’s no question the Hurricanes still have room to grow when it comes to putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Miami ranked 44th nationally in sacks.

They were eighth in 2010 with a total of 37 sacks. That season they finished 27th nationally in scoring defense (20.7 points per game) and 22nd in total defense (323.3 yards per game).

### While UM loaded up in the front seven on Singing Day, only four are here in camp for the spring. They are defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou, who comes in from junior college, defensive end Trent Harris, and linebackers Juwon Young and Darrion Owens. It’s probably asking a lot for those last three guys to come in right away and be nothing more than role players.

All eyes should really be fixated on sophomore linebacker Jermaine Grace, who is still slim at 6-1, 210 pounds, but probably has more speed and natural instincts than anyone else for UM at linebacker.

### The stats say the Hurricanes finished 92nd in pass defense last season, giving up 249.8 yards per game. But the stat I prefer to look at it opposing quarterback rating.

UM finished 57th there last year (130.33 rating) and fell two spots to 59th in 2013. But they actually improved (125.71 rating 2013) for the third straight year (142.66 rating in 2011). That’s because the Canes produced more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (16) allowed in 2012 (15 TDs, 11 INTs). UM gave up 16 TDs and had only six interceptions in 2011.

Remember that pass rushing stat stat I used a little while ago? Back in 2010 the Hurricanes finished fifth nationally in opposing QB rating (99.10). My point: When you have a pass rush, your defense has teeth.

### Dallas Crawford’s return to defense – likely at safety -- makes things interesting to me. We all know what a healthy Deon Bush can do (he finished 13th on the team with 31 tackles in 11 games). He and fellow junior Rayshawn Jenkins (46 tackles, 5th on the team) should be your starting safeties. But at least now if either of them get hurt you have a player in Crawford (6 tackles in 2013) who has 16 career tackles and knows how to deliver a hit back there. He’s shown it on special teams.

### UM’s cornerbacks certainly have some experience under their belts now. Senior Ladarius Gunter leads the way with 17 starts. Junior Tracy Howard has made 13; junior Antonio Crawford (2 starts, 25 games); speedy sophomore Artie Burns (11 games).

### The Hurricanes finished 42nd nationally in passes defended (62) in 2013. They had 61 pass breakups in 2012 and only 30 total (ranked 115th) in 2011. The last time they had a good defense in 2010 they broke up 63 passes (25th nationally).

### So who is going to replace one of UM’s most dangerous weapons in Pat O’Donnell at punter? Glad you asked. We’re not sure either. 

New UM Hurricanes football uniforms to be unveiled this spring. Tell me what you would like to see.

The Hurricanes made it official Friday by announcing what we learned last November was coming for this season, but didn't know when we could get a glimpse.

New football uniforms.

What I've learned today is that the jerseys to be sold for retail will be available in at least three colors:  green, orange and the new "anthracite," -- which is the same gray the Canes wore against Virginia Tech this past season.

The jersey number that will grace your retail UM jerseys for 2014: 8. That's running back Duke Johnson, of course. His No. 8 also was used for jerseys last season, too.

The unis have been designed by Nike and will be unveiled by UM sometime this spring.

“The timing is right and we want a uniform that speaks to our tradition, yet recognizes current trends,” Hurricanes head coach Al Golden said in a UM release. “Nike is working on innovative designs with the latest performance technology and we are excited to unveil them this spring.”

 From UM: "The uniforms that Miami wore during the 2013 season were initially unveiled in 2006. During that time, UM has worn three special edition uniforms: two variations (2009 and 2010), as well as #TheSmoke uniforms and helmets unveiled during the Virginia Tech game this season. Miami also wore its smoke helmets for the 2013 bowl game in Orlando."

 "Historically, UM has been a trend setter in college football for uniform designs,” Miami AD Blake James said. “There is no better design team than the group of experts at Nike, and we’re excited about bringing new uniforms to our team and especially our fan base that has been asking for a refreshed look. We have one of the most recognizable brands in college athletics, and we look forward to strengthening that position in the years to come.”

 UM said the new fan jerseys will be available at retail stores, includingShopMiamiHurricanes.com, in time for the start of the 2014 season.

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Here's the last blog I did on new unis when Miami wore "the smoke'' version against Virginia Tech -- and lost -- on Nov. 9.   

Homecoming helmet and jersey surprise tonight for Miami Hurricanes vs. Virginia Tech

The Hurricanes have unveiled a special helmet and jersey tonight for the Virginia Tech game at Homecoming.

The uniforms have been dubbed "The Smoke.''

The jersey is gray. The helmet is white, with a wide gray base, with a large orange-and-green U.

The last time I recall UM breaking out complete new unis -- a la Nike Pro Combat -- was guess when?

Nov. 20, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium against the Virginia Tech Hokies.

The Canes, then ranked 24th, came into that game 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the ACC.

The unis: orange jerseys with green sleeves, orange pants with wide green stripes and green helmets with a prominent U on either side.  

Virginia Tech came into the game ranked 14th, with an 8-2 overall and 6-2 ACC record.

The Hokies won the game 31-17 and clinched the Coastal Division of the ACC.

I really liked those unis. I think I might have been the only one.

By the way, Miami will be getting a new uniform design for the 2014 season. It has not been revealed what they'll look like. 

 

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What would you guys like to see in terms of a new uniform? A lot of you seem to like the traditional. Traditional sounds good to me, though I usually like the trendy ones, too. The new looks are fun.
 
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Spring football begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at Greentree Field and you're all invited, per the Hurricanes. See you there!
 
 
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

February 27, 2014

Nicolas' death evokes memories of other young Canes gone too soon

The death of a young person is always difficult to swallow.

And yet, when it comes to the University of Miami football team, it feels like these tough to swallow moments hit home far too often. 

Former UM defensive back JoJo Nicolas passed away Wednesday evening, a day after being involved in a horrific car accident. Nicolas slammed his car into the rear of a refrigerated 18-wheeler heading west on the MacArthur Causeway at about 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.

It happened hours after he posted pictures and comments on Instagram saying he was out having fun in anticipation of his 25th birthday. Detectives are still trying to determine whether speed, alcohol, texting or any other factors played a role.

Be it a car accident, violence or even a plane crash, the list of tragic deaths involving Hurricanes goes on and on and on.

The first one that comes to mind for most UM fans: Jerome Brown back in 1992. He and a 12-year-old nephew were killed when the Corvette he was speeding in skidded off a slippery road and onto a utility pole in his hometown of Brooksville, Fla. Brown was 27 and in the prime of his NFL career.

In 1992, Shane Curry, a former Canes defensive lineman with the Colts, was shot in the head and killed during an argument in a Cincinnati lounge parking lot.

In 1996, linebacker Marlin Barnes was bludgeoned to death in his campus apartment. He was 22.

A month after Barnes' death, former Canes offensive lineman Robert Woodus was among the 110 who died in the ValuJet crash in the Everglades.

Linebacker Chris Campbell, a senior starter on the 2001 national championship team, died when he lost control of his car and ran into a tree at 4 a.m. in Coral Gables. It happened a month after Miami celebrated its fifth national title in the Rose Bowl. Campbell was 21.

A year later, it was Al Blades. The former standout safety and younger brother of Bennie and Brian Blades was killed in a car crash following the celebration of his 26th birthday. His friend was at the wheel, racing someone else when he lost control of the car before it slammed into a bridge and plunged into a canal in Opa Locka.

Three years later it was Bryan Pata. The former defensive lineman was shot and killed in his apartment complex shortly after leaving a UM practice. He was 22.

A year later, Sean Taylor was shot and killed by robbers inside his home. He was 24 and in the prime of his NFL career.

Not long after Taylor's death in 2007, Time magazine writer wondered if the Hurricanes were cursed because the program "seemed a magnet for guns and trouble."

Former Hurricane safety Earl Little, who was Barnes' best friend and found him dead in his apartment, said he doesn't believe in any curse.

"It's the world we live in," Little, 40, said by phone late Wednesday night. "I had a lot of friends who I grew up with that aren't here anymore. They didn't all play football for the Hurricanes. I think it's just a situation where a lot of young cats just leave us too soon."

Little, who has coached high school football locally and was recently hired to be the head coach at Miami Jackson, said he spent the night Wednesday on the phone talking to former Canes teammate Chad Wilson. When tragedy hits the program, Little said, that's what Hurricanes current and former do. They grieve together and remember all the UM brothers they've lost.

"Not a day goes by I don't think about Marlin. That's the honest truth," Little said. "With the deaths of Sean Taylor and Bryan Pata and now JoJo all of them took me back to Marlin, to April 12, 1996.  Immediately. It's something that hits home for all of us when one of our Hurricane brothers dies. Time heals. But what JoJo's family is going through is going to be tough. It will heal. But it still hurts."

Little met Nicolas once -- at a football camp he coached at UM. But Little said he admired Nicolas' attitude and the way he played safety and cornerback for the Hurricanes from 2007 to 2011. 

Nicolas, a Homestead High graduate, was a relatively quiet player for most of his career when I covered him at UM and in high school.

But in his final season with the Canes -- shortly after the death of his prematurely born son -- Nicolas became a vocal leader for Al Golden's first team at UM. He was pulling the team together after losses and delivering pep-talks.

"He used to have the mute button on, never really talked that much," defensive end Olivier Vernon told me at the time. "Not anymore."

In a 24-7 win over Georgia Tech, Nicolas had an interception that led to a touchdown and recovered a muffed punt in the end zone for another score.

"I'm happy for him, happy to see him doing well," Sean Spence said of Nicolas after that victory. "Back in the past, JoJo said a couple things here and there, but he was always a guy who led by example. Now, he's leading by example, speaking up, making sure we're doing the right things. It's helped us out a lot."

The Hurricanes finished 6-6 that season. Nicolas didn't get to play in a bowl game as the Hurricanes decided to sit one out because of the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Nicolas didn't get drafted. He spent a preseason with the Giants in 2012 as an undrafted rookie free agent.

Now, he's gone at the age of 24. It's another sad, tragic loss for the Hurricanes family to swallow.

February 26, 2014

Too many sad memories. Now JoJo is gone, but I'm hoping he's reunited with baby LJ, his namesake.

 

Another Hurricane gone too soon.

I've covered this beat through several UM deaths, all of them horrible.

Linebacker Chris Campbell died at age 21 in a one-car accident in Coral Gables in 2002, a month after the National Championship victory against Nebraska. He developed an infection in his knee before the bowl game and couldn't play, and I can still recall him sitting there disappointed a few days before the bowl game, talking to me in a daze. And I can also still remember visiting the people who owned the house in Coral Gables -- outside of which he barrelled into a huge tree and died from head trauma. He was found to be under the influence of alcohol. Tragic.

DAY OF SORROW AND SHOCK: 'I CAN'T BELIEVE HE'S GONE'

BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN, sdegnan@herald.com

Ed Wilkins got the call from University of Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe at 9 a.m. Saturday. He immediately began to weep.
"I broke down," said Wilkins, a lineman who learned from Kehoe that teammate Chris Campbell, a senior linebacker, was killed when the car he was driving slammed into a tree near campus at about 4 a.m. - three hours after Wilkins saw him for the last time at CocoWalk in Coconut Grove.

"I can't believe he's gone."
Nor can his teammates and coaches, who were told Saturday through a chain reaction of phone calls, or in person by head coach Larry Coker, that the 21-year-old Campbell, of Mt. Pleasant, Texas, was dead.
"He was a beautiful kid," Kehoe said. "And I send out my prayers to his family. To see someone like that get his life snuffed out. . . . You realize how precious life is and how lucky we are to have each other."  

 

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Safety Al Blades died in March of 2003, also in a car accident following a birthday celebration -- his 26th. His death was especially shocking. I got the call at home and was sick about it. This is the start of the story I wrote about Al, a really funny, kind of wild guy whose older brothers starred at UM (including 1987 Jim Thorpe Award winner Bennie, now in the College Football Hall of Fame):

"Former University of Miami football player Al Blades - the gregarious, well-loved free safety whose fiery play and funny personality inspired his coaches and teammates - died early Thursday after the car in which he was a passenger struck a bridge abutment and plunged into a canal.
Blades, father of a 3-year-old son, Al Jr., celebrated his 26th birthday Wednesday.

"The driver of the car, which witnesses told police was racing with another car on Northwest 22nd Avenue in Miami-Dade, was Fort Lauderdale resident Martel Johnson, 26, a nephew of Blades' brother-in-law.  
Blades was transported by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue to Parkway Regional Medical Center in North Miami Beach, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 2:37 a.m.
"He was a drowning victim," Parkway spokesman Drew Landmeier said. "There was nothing we could do."
Blades' father, Frederick Blades, 66, was admitted to Parkway when his blood pressure skyrocketed upon arriving with his wife, Rosa, to identify their son. He was in stable condition Thursday night and expected to be released today.
"I want everybody to know," said Blades' brother, Bennie, "that there were two things Al loved in this whole world while he was here - his family and the University of Miami. I don't care where he went, he'd talk about those two."
Said Rosa Blades, 64, who has six other children: "Just ask everyone to pray for us."

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Everytime I wind around that hospital, which is now called Jackson North Medical Center, to get onto I-95, I think of Al. EVERYtime.

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And on Nov. 7, 2006, the lead to my Bryan Pata story: "A University of Miami season of tumult turned horrific Tuesday night when Hurricanes defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed at his apartment complex in Kendall.
"He was shot in the head," Miami Central coach Anthony Saunders said Tuesday night. "He is dead."

   I remember writing the story and driving with our photographer out to his apartment complex, and all the stories in the aftermath. The case, ruled a homicide, is still unsolved.

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Sean Taylor in 2007 came next.

It was heart-wrenching from beginning to end. This is the beginning of our story from his funeral...

MOVING TRIBUTE: UM FAMILY MOURNS ONE OF ITS 'BROTHERS'

BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

They walked one by one, side by side, into Florida International University's Pharmed Arena -- well scrubbed, well dressed and pensive.

Jonathan Vilma. Reggie Wayne. Edgerrin James. Phillip Buchanon. Antrel Rolle.

Jon Beason. Frank Gore. Andre Johnson. Roscoe Parrish. Devin Hester.

Greg Olsen. Jeremy Shockey. Bubba Franks. Chris Myers. Buck Ortega.

Javon Nanton. Ethenic Sands. Santana Moss. Vernon Carey. Clinton Portis.

And so on, and so on.

Dozens of former University of Miami football players and coaches converged in Miami on Monday to remember Sean Taylor, their fallen teammate and UM brother who died last Tuesday from a gunshot wound.

"Bryan Pata, Kevin Everett, Sean . . . We've had it rough recently," said Buffalo Bills wide receiver Parrish, who came to UM with Taylor in 2001. "It's a tough experience for all of us when things like this happen. We're a unit. We're the U. We're family. If something happens to anybody, they've got all our support."

Parrish, accompanied by Chicago Bears sensation Hester, couldn't get over the way Taylor died: in his home, his girlfriend and 18-month-old daughter hiding under the covers in the same room.

"For something like this to happen, and the way it happened -- he was at his house in his bed with his family. It's crazy. It makes you be like, 'Wow.' You have to be careful out there and watch your surroundings. It wasn't like he was at a club or anything. He was at his home. That's the most scary part about it."

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And now, JoJo, less than a week before his 25th birthday.

I copied this quote from an interview with JoJo in September of 2011, about a month after his baby, Joseph Jr., died.  

Q: "Obviously you’ve had a tough time emotionally. How are you doing? It seems like you’ve been strong."

JoJo: "Yeah, I’m handling it very well. Of course I miss my son dearly. Each day I just dedicate coming out here to him. Being around this team, guys, with the support from the coaches and the team, that’s how I’ve been strong. Being here for them and wanting to play for them just helps me to keep going and knowing my son is always with me in spirit, I play for him everyday. I feel like I would never be able to quit knowing he’s with me."

Concluded JoJo: "It's going to be with me every day because it's my creation, so me and his mother, we think about it, talk about it every day. We still have his leftover blankets and everything like that. I carry his blanket with me to every game. I always feel like a piece of him is with me. He was born at a pound, four ounces.''

Poor JoJo went much too soon. I hope he's with LJ again.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

UM Canes football program opening curtain to spring practice -- fans invited to attend all but 3 sessions

It has been a long time, but the University of Miami has decided to open 12 of 15 spring football sessions to the public. 

The three closed sessions to everyone, including media: Friday, March 28 practice and the first two scrimmages on Saturday, March 29 and Friday, April 4.

Miami opens spring drills this Saturday, March 1, at 9 a.m. at Greentree Field.

The bowl practices were open to the public, too. Nice touch. 

Will you be coming to any practices? Fun to bring the kids, even if you don't stay the whole time.

Here's the UM release:

Twelve of the Miami Hurricanes’ spring football practices will be open to the public. Miami’s March 28 practice and its first two scrimmages (March 29, April) will be closed to the public. Miami opens spring drills Sat., March 1 with a 9 a.m. practice at Greentree.

 A new twist to this year’s spring practice schedule: coaches from the University of Miami, FIU, FAU and the Miami Dolphins have joined forces to host the first annual South Florida Football Festival for high school and youth coaches March 28-29 on the UM campus. Two-day registration is $50 and Saturday registration is $20. Don Soldinger will be the keynote speaker Friday night as he talks about his “Attitude of a Champion”.

 The South Florida Football Festival will also include “Fundamental Friday”, a 90-minute demonstration to assist high school and youth coaches and players learn the latest fundamentals and techniques from the 2014 Miami Hurricanes coaches and players.

 

2014 MIAMI HURRICANES SPRING FOOTBALL DATES

Saturday, March 1                   Practice 1 (9 a.m.)

Sunday, March 2                      Practice 2 (9 a.m.)

Tuesday, March 4                    Practice 3 (9 a.m.)

Thursday, March 6                   Practice 4 (9 a.m.)

Tuesday, March 18                  Practice 5 (9 a.m.)

Thursday, March 20                 Practice 6 (9 a.m.)

Saturday, March 22                 Practice 7 (9 a.m.)

Tuesday, March 25                  Practice 8 (9 a.m.)

Friday, March 28                      Practice 9 (6 p.m.), Cobb Stadium – Closed to the public

Saturday, March 29                 Scrimmage 1 (12 p.m.), Greentree – Closed to the public

Tuesday, April 1                        Practice 11 (9 a.m.)

Friday, April 4                            Scrimmage 2 (6 p.m.), Greentree – Closed to the public

Tuesday, April 8                        Practice 13 (9 a.m.)

Thursday, April 10                    Practice 14 (9 a.m.)

Saturday, April 12                     Spring Game (6 p.m.), Sun Life Stadium

 
The University of Miami has launched the $7 million Football Victory Fund to address the most important needs of the football program. There are a variety of ways to contribute to the Football Victory Fund as well as to Hurricanes Athletics.  For more information on how you can donate and details of the pending projects, please call the Hurricane Club at 305-284-6699 or visit umvictoryfund.com
 
For the latest information on the Miami Hurricanes, follow us on Twitter, @MiamiHurricanes, and check out the official football blog, www.theufootball.com. For the most accurate and up to date information delivered to your phone, download the official Miami Hurricanes app for your Droid or iPhone.
 
FIRST ANNUAL SOUTH FLORIDA FOOTBALL FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
Friday, March 28
8:00-9:30 a.m.                      Registration (Student Activities Center)
9:30 a.m.                                Welcome & Staff Introductions
9:45-10:45 a.m.                    Offense with James Coley
9:45-10:45 a.m.                    Defense with Mark D’Onofrio
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.        Chalk Talks by Position
12:15-1:30 p.m.                    Lunch (Student Activities Center)
1:45-3:00 p.m.                      Special Teams with Al Golden: Essentials of the Return Game
3:15-4:30 p.m.                      Offense with Dan Shula, FAU WR Coach
3:15-4:30 p.m.                      Defense with Corey Bell, FAU DB Coach
4:45-6:00 p.m.                      Dinner (Student Activities Center)
6:15-7:45 p.m.                      “Fundamental Friday” at Cobb Stadium
8:15-9:15 p.m.                      Keynote Speaker – Don Soldinger “Attitude of a Champion”
9:15 p.m.                                Coaches Social
 
Saturday, March 29
7:00-8:30 a.m.                      Registration (Student Activities Center)
8:45-10:00 a.m.                    Offense with Steve Shankweiler, FIU Offensive Coordinator
8:45-10:00 a.m.                    Defense with Josh Conklin, FIU Defensive Coordinator
10:15-11:30 a.m.                  Special Teams with Darren Rizzi, Miami Dolphins
11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m.        Lunch
12:00-2:00 p.m.                  Miami Hurricanes scrimmage

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

February 25, 2014

Horrible day at the office -- horrible day for the Miami Hurricanes; Prayers for JoJo & Hunter

This wasn't a good day for anyone involved with the Miami Hurricanes -- and for anyone with a heart.

First, the news about former UM safety JoJo Nicolas getting into a horrific car accident on the MacArthur Causeway.

Then, the news about current UM offensive lineman Hunter Knighton being sent to the hospital after a workout at UM. Last I heard he was not conscious, but that was several hours ago. 

UM sent out a release that certainly seems hopeful for Hunter. I don't have any more details on Hunter, other than what I wrote in the story. Most of us don't know him because he didn't play this season after shoulder surgery. He will be a redshirt freshman. 

Athletics Department Statement on Redshirt Freshman Hunter Knighton:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Hunter Knighton and his family at this time, though we are encouraged by the prognosis.  We look forward to his return to normal activities as soon as his health permits.

 "Out of respect for the privacy of those involved, UM will have no further comment at this time."

 As for JoJo, police had said, in so many words, that it didn't look promising

 

I always liked JoJo when he played safety at UM. He was quiet and understated, but very thoughtful and polite and a nice person. We all felt horrible when his baby son, who was born four months prematurely, passed away as an infant. He was very gracious in talking to us about it, and how his heart ached.

If anyone out there believes in the power of prayer, it wouldn't hurt to start doing it now. 

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Mystery recruit identified. LA Times: defensive lineman from LA County, Calif., signs with the Miami Hurricanes

Apparently, the Hurricanes weren't done on National Signing Day.

The LA Times reported that defensive lineman Joe Brown of Paramount, Calif., has signed with the Miami Hurricanes (Class of 2014). 

UM confirmed the news on Tuesday.

Brown told Rivals.com he will be converted to an offensive lineman.

I was told by UM insider that Brown was the young man seen walking with offensive line coach Art Kehoe and receivers coach Brennan Carroll to meet up with some players who at the time were in their informal offseason practice Friday night. The coaches were going to hand him off to the players, who were going to show him some campus facilities after they finished practicing.

On the Paramount High website, Brown is listed as a 6-5, 330-pounder who played nose guard, defensive end and defensive tackle. His team played in the San Gabriel Valley League and went 7-4 this past season. He had 82 tackles -- 61 of them solo, according to the school website.

Brown was a San Gabriel Valley two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

He also reportedly was offered a scholarship by University of Texas El Paso.

Brown had academic problems and "had to make up a lot of classes the past two years, going to summer school and adult school," according to The Times, which attributed that to Paramount athletic director Alex Acosta. Brown also reportedly improved his SAT score along with his grades.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

February 22, 2014

Canes at Combine: punter O'Donnell blazing fast (& strong); OT Henderson also fast. OG Linder: strong.

Caught some of the NFL Combine on the NFL Network earlier today.

UM punter Pat O'Donnell, at 6-4 1/8 and 220 pounds, looked like the physical specimen he had been all last season with UM. He ran like it, too.

O'Donnell ran a 4.64 official 40-yard dash. At first they posted a 4.53 time, but that was unofficial. His time, last I checked at 1:51 p.m., was eighth overall for the day (fastest I checked was tight end A.C. Leonard of Tennessee State in 4.43) and top among kickers/punters. According to NFL.com, O'Donnell's 40 time tied the fastest by a kicker or punter since at least 2006; USC's David Buehler ran a 4.62 in 2009.

O'Donnell also benched 23 reps of 225 pounds. "That's right, that is a special-teamer,'' said an NFL Network analyst. Another comment regarding the bench press: "Crazy! That's an offensive line bench.''

In his one season in Coral Gables, O’Donnell set the school single-season record with a 47.1 yards-per-punt average. A first-team All-ACC choice and second-team All-America selection by USA TODAY, O’Donnell booted 23 punts of 50+ yards and downed 19 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

6-7, 331-pound Offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson's fastest official time today was 5.04 with a 1.71 10-yard split (the splits are key bursts for OL at beginning of plays). NFL folks keep talking about his "inconsistency'' and lack of physical strength for his size. He did not participate in the bench press at the combine.

6-5 5/8, 311-pound offensive guard Brandon Linder's fastest time today was officially 5.35. He benched an impressive 30 reps of 225 pounds. NFL Network: "If you could take Linder's toughness and tenacity and the way he plays the game and [put it] in Seantrel Henderson's body, then you'd have a first round pick.'' Linder had a 1.82 10-yard split when I saw him on TV, but that was unofficial.

Linder started all 13 games along the offensive line in 2013 and concluded his career with 37 consecutive starters. He was a second-team All-ACC selection and was named the team’s Offensive MVP at the end of the season. Henderson, a third-team All-ACC selection, played in 12 games along the offensive line, making eight starts at right tackle.

Quarterback Stephen Morris and wide receiver Allen Hurns will work out Feb. 23. Live coverage begins each day at 9 a.m. ET. Miami's official football Twitter account (@MiamiHurricanes) will also provide live results for all five Hurricanes.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

February 21, 2014

Canes looking into possible secondary NCAA football violation after Friday-night player workout

   The University of Miami is investigating whether the football program committed a secondary NCAA rule violation, athletic director Blake James said Friday night.

    The possible violation involves at least one assistant football coach watching a voluntary workout in the distance just beyond the UM-Florida baseball game at Mark Light Field. The football workout, which took place on the other side of the center-field fence, was witnessed by the media covering the baseball game -- as well as likely many of the 3,481 fans at the game. The coach was seen by the Palm Beach Post.

    Palm Beach Post reporter Matt Porter reported that he saw offensive line coach Art Kehoe at the workout. 

    “Our compliance staff will assess the situation and if there’s a violation we’ll report it,’’ UM athletic director Blake James told The Miami Herald (that's me) at the baseball game.  

    In late October, the Canes were put on three years’ probation and docked nine football scholarships and three basketball scholarships related to former booster Nevin Shapiro.

    Coaches are not allowed to be at voluntary offseason football practices or voluntary player drill sessions, though they can be at strength and conditioning workouts.     
 
     SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Who do you think will have the best showing among the five Miami Hurricanes at the NFL Combine?

 

UM: FIVE HURRICANES WILL PARTICIPATE IN NFL SCOUTING COMBINE ON SATURDAY -- WATCH IT ON TV BEGINNING AT 9 a.m.

INDIANAPOLIS – Five Miami Hurricanes will be among the more than 300 prospects participating Feb. 22-25 at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. The four-day combine will be televised live exclusively on NFL Network.

 Offensive guard Brandon Linder, offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson and punter Pat O'Donnell will work out Feb. 22. Quarterback Stephen Morris and wide receiver Allen Hurns will work out Feb. 23. Live coverage begins each day at 9 a.m. ET. Miami's official football Twitter account (@MiamiHurricanes) will also provide live results for all five Hurricanes.

 Morris, a two-year starter under center and a 2013 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team member, finished his career ranked third in Miami history with 7,896 passing yards and 49 touchdowns. A 2013 All-ACC third-team selection, Morris is one of only two QBs in Miami history with multiple 3,000-yard passing seasons (Gino Torretta).

 Linder started all 13 games along the offensive line in 2013 and concluded his career with 37 consecutive starters. He was a second-team All-ACC selection and was named the team’s Offensive MVP at the end of the season. Henderson, a third-team All-ACC selection, played in 12 games along the offensive line, making eight starts at right tackle.

 Hurns enjoyed one of the greatest receiving seasons in program history in 2013. The second-team All-ACC receiver set a single-season school record with 1,162 receiving yards and finished with 62 receptions – the third-most in a single season. He finished his career ranked seventh in both receptions (121) and receiving yards (1,891).

 In his one season in Coral Gables, O’Donnell made a considerable impact, setting the school single-season record with a 47.1 yards-per-punt average. A first-team All-ACC choice and second-team All-America selection by USA TODAY, O’Donnell booted 23 punts of 50+ yards and downed 19 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

 Miami opens its spring practice schedule March 1. The Hurricanes' annual Spring Game will kick off at 6 p.m. on April 12 at Sun Life Stadium.

****************************************************************************************************** Who do you think will have the best showing, relative to their positions, of the five Hurricanes at the NFL Combine? QB Stephen Morris, WR Allen Hurns, OG Brandon Linder, P Pat O'Donnell, or OT Seantrel Henderson?

I'm going with Pat O'Donnell. 

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Think the Canes' football team can use Artie's speed? No doubt. Burns' 7.68 in 60m hurdles sets new American junior record

This just in from UM sports information's David Villavicencio:

 

Artie Burns Sets American Junior Record

Burns breaks 60m HH record set in 1976

 CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Artie Burns' latest sprint down the track broke a 38-year old American Junior record.

 The Miami, Fla., native ran a blazing 7.68 last week in the 60m hurdles at the Don Kirby Elite Invitational, setting a new American junior record. Burns bested the 7.70 ran by Washington's Robert Gaines in 1976 and South Carolina's Jason Richardson in 2005. The World Junior record is 7.55 set by China's Liu Xiang in 2002.

 "Artie is just touching the surface of what he is capable of in the hurdles," Miami director of track and field/cross country Amy Deem said. "He is getting better each practice and it is showing in the meets."

 Burns has been an impressive freshman hurdler for the University of Miami track and field program. he made a big impact from the first time he stepped on the track as a Hurricane, running a 7.80 in the 60m hurdles at the Doc Hale VT Elite Meet. The 7.80 earned him a second-place finish at the meet and moved him into second on Miami's all-time 60m HH list.

The 7.68 Burns ran in Albuquerque, N.M., ranked in the top five times in the NCAA this season. It also moved him closer to Miami's 60m HH record holder, Devon Hill (7.55).

Burns has the fastest under-20 time in men's 60m hurdles in the NCAA. He has posted four of the five best times in the country this year.

A cornerback on Miami's football team, Burns also holds the best 60m hurdle time of any NCAA Division I football player this season.

 The rapid success should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Burns' track career. He was a three-time Florida State 3A 110m hurdle champion for Miami Northwestern High School. Burns also won the 300m hurdles at the 2013 3A State Meet and had the fastest 110m and 300m hurdles times in the nation during his junior season at Northwestern.

 The gifted hurdler has benefitted greatly from working with Deem and Miami men's sprints coach Devin West. Burns will look to continue to climb the record books next weekend at the ACC Indoor Championships.

 

 

UM-Gators time. David Thompson: "We don't like them very much & they don't like us very much.''

Game Day!

Better yet: Game Day against the Gators.

The No. 16 Hurricanes (2-2) will attempt to break out of its hitting slump at 7 tonight at Alex Rodriguez Park against the in-state nemesis the Canes (and especially, it seems, Canes fans) love to hate.

The feeling no doubt is mutual.

But the No. 23 Gators (4-1) have had the upper hand the past few years. Florida has defeated Miami 13 out of the last 14 games. UF had won 11 straight until Miami broke the streak last season. But UM still ended up losing two of its three-game series at UF in 2013.

Both teams were eliminated in the NCAA regionals.

"It's huge,'' UM third baseman David Thompson said of the weekend series. "We don't like them very much and they don't like us very much. We really want to win this series.''

To do that, the Canes need to start connecting. They have a dreadful .228 team batting average, with, among regular starters, Dale Carey leading the way with .400, Tyler Palmer (former Gator) at .357 with a team-high .643 slugging percentage and David Thompson at .286. From there it's bad.

Coach Jim Morris and his players believe the youngest Canes have been putting too much pressure on themselves and pushing too much to excel at the plate.

"I was nervous at the start of the season and I know how the freshmen feel,'' Thompson said. "Last year I was super nervous. We've just got to calm down and relax. We've played this game our whole lives and let's not try to do too much.''

Even Carey, a senior, said he tried too hard in the bottom of the ninth in Wednesday's loss to FAU. Carey whiffed on three pitches with runners on second and third.

"I got a little anxious,'' he said. "I didn't stick with my approach that I had throughout the game. I wanted to be a hero and make things happen for my team and I think that just got to my head. I started chasing pitches that I know I shouldn't swing at. Just learn from it.

"I feel like we're putting too much pressure on ourselves, especially the young guys. This is their first time playing on a big stage like this. I know a lot of guys are not going with their approaches. They're trying to do too much or trying to get too big, swinging too hard. Go up there and know what you can do. Trust yourself, trust your instincts, trust your abilities and go have fun.''

 I talked to freshman Zack Collins yesterday before practice. Zack had been UM's best hitter during practice, but he's 0 for 15 with two walks and five strikeouts. He has connected pretty hard on several pitches. He told me he wasn't pushing too much.

"I don't know how to explain it,'' Collins said. "I just haven't gotten a hit yet. I'm not really too worried because I know that after the first one I'll come through.''

Collins has a lot on his mind, given that he is a natural catcher and is being groomed for now to play first base, a position he is still learning.

"It has been a little challenging,'' Collins said. "I have to work a little over there. I'll get it though.''

Lefty Chris Diaz will pitch for Miami tonight.

"This is going to test us,'' Diaz said. "We know we have to play well or we're not going to win, plain and simple.'' 

Hope the fans show up tonight. It's another beautiful day, and Mark Light really does light up when the place is packed.

 

IF YOU GO

 WHAT: UM baseball

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: AlexRodriguezPark at Mark Light Field, corner of San Amaro Drive and Ponce de Leon in Coral Gables.

BROADCAST: ESPN3; WQAM 560 and WVUM 90.5 FM.

ADMISSION: $10 (general)-$18 (reserved chairback); $8 children 2-17 and adults 55-older.

PROJECTED STARTERS: Friday – UM LHP Chris Diaz (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. LHP Bobby Poyner (1-0, 0.00); Saturday – UM LHP Bryan Radziewski (0-1, 0.0) vs. RHP Brett Morales (0-1, 13.50); Sunday – LHP Andrew Suarez (1-0, 1.80) vs. RHP Karsten Whitson (0-0, 13.50).

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

 

February 19, 2014

UM lands two more 2015 football commitments

There's never an off-season when it comes to football.

The Hurricanes on Wednesday landed two more verbal commitments for their 2015 signing class: Miramar offensive tackle Leeward Brown and Bradenton Manatee defensive tackle Ryan Fines.

Brown (6-4, 338) was an All-Broward First Team selection this past season and is a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com. Although Brown starts at left tackle for the Patriots, he projects as a guard at the next level.

Fines (6-3, 300) is a three-star recruit with offers from Arizona and USF.

All commitments are non-binding until players sign a national letter of intent. Brown's former coach at Miramar, Damon Cogdell, is now an assistant at West Virginia.

Miami has five commitments in the class of 2015.

February 18, 2014

Season of challenges continues for UM, Larranaga

After winning the school's first ACC title and making a run to the Sweet 16 last March, it's been a rough up and down season for coach Jim Larranaga and the Miami Hurricanes men's basketball team.

With six ACC games left on the regular season slate, the Hurricanes (12-13, 3-9 ACC) have yet to win an ACC game at home and now will be without one of their key rotation players at forward in junior James Kelly, who was suspended "indefinitely" for a violation of team rules according to UM. A source close to the team told The Miami Herald the suspension was expected to last three games.

Still, as tough as it has been to replace the entire starting lineup and have four key backcourt players sit out the season because of injury (freshman guards Deandre Burnett, Corn Elder) or transfer rules (Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan), the Hurricanes have only been run off the court once in ACC action, a 67-46 loss to Duke back on Jan. 22. 

Larranaga, a man who has coached man-to-man press defense for the bulk of his career, switched to a zone this year and slowed the game down (UM ranks last in Division I basketball in offensive possessions) so his team could remain in games despite the lack of offensive firepower. It's pretty much worked as UM has been in many games late including against No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Syracuse twice.

"These first three years – next year included – it’s the most variety of challenges that I’ve ever had," Larranaga said Monday during his weekly press conference with reporters. "It comes in so many different fashions. The first year it was with injuries to Reggie Johnson, to Julian Gamble, the NCAA investigation, the suspensions of Reggie and Durand [Scott] during the season. We had all of that going on. The next year we had almost everything in place all season long except a thumb injury to Reggie. While that was going on we also had to deal with recruiting during the investigation. That created a whole series of challenges for this staff.

"Now this year, with a whole new starting lineup, new guys trying to learn their position, very, very, very challenging. Now, next year chances are we’ll have a whole new starting lineup again because we’re ending the season with starting five seniors. Having to make so many changes offensively and defensively, it's been difficult."

Playing at such a slow tempo (UM is averaging 60.1 possessions a game, 351st out of 351 teams according to statsheet.com) isn't the way Larranaga or his players wanted to play. 

"Once we got into games it became very, very clear we could not be an up-tempo team," Larranaga said. "We had lost one of our guards so our perimeter game was really hurt by the loss of Deandre Burnett. We had originally five guys that could rotate in and out -- three starters and two subs. Now, it’s a whole lot different. As the season has progressed I’ve had to move Erik Swoope back there. His natural position is more of a four man, an undersized four, just so we have an additional body we can play at the three."

Players like freshman wing Davon Reed, who has had to play point guard at times because of injuries, would be having a much more explosive season if UM had someone to penetrate and dish him the ball, Larranaga said. But the Canes simply don't have the personnel to play otherwise, and the players believe in the slow-paced system Larranaga has in place because they've been in so many close games.

"We don’t want to get into a run and shoot contest with the teams in our league right now," Larranaga said. "We don’t have the firepower to do that.”

Is there a temptation to cut players loose and let them play in the fast-paced offense they prefer?

"I remember doing that with one of our teams at George Mason," Larranaga said. "They were very much a half court team. They said coach we want to press and run. I said fine, we’ll do that the next game. We lost to Northeastern by 25. Then we had to play them in the tournament the very next game and we beat them playing smart.

"Every kid thinks he’s the best fast break player in America and he’s best when he’s in the open court. But what you don’t understand as a player is you might be pretty good at that, but look at the opponent and tell me 'Is our team better than their team in that?' It’s not about one individual. It’s, ‘Are we going to be able to keep up with the pace an up tempo game creates.’

"Now last year I wanted the game to be as many possessions as possible, for it to be as fast possible. We played Duke and Carolina – two of the fastest teams in the league – and we scored 90. The reason is we had a lot of offensive talent... I don’t care how much space we give Tonye [Jekiri] and [Rafael Raphael Akpejiori], they’re not scorers. And our guards have limited experience."

> Larranaga said players like Jekiri, who had a season-high 15 points at FSU but went scoreless at Virginia Tech, can't really spend time during the season trying to create new ways to score because it will throw their games off.

"You really get better during the offseason," Larranaga said. "You have to work so hard between April and September and then that package of new skills you’ve developed – that growth can continue through the season.

"During the year, when you’re trying to improve its really the things you’re already good at. Because if you start messing with the things you’re not really good at to improve them, guys will start doing them in games. And they’re not very good at it.

"Shane Larkin was one of those guys. As a freshman he didn’t have those high arching layups where he could score over big guys. In the off-season we worked on it and he became a terrific high speed layup maker who could score over big guys. But you don’t start working on those during the season. You just aren’t there yet, haven’t had enough quantity. Tonye needs to spend a lot of time on his scoring ability."

> Even though he's at UM on football scholarship, don't underestimate the loss of freshman guard Corn Elder to the basketball team.

"Huge loss because Corn Elder was someone who could play man-to-man defense and guard the dribbler very, very well and handle the ball," Larranaga said. "Then we could have two natural point guards – Manu and Corn Elder sharing the point guard position and leave everybody else at their natural spots."

> New NBA commissioner Adam Silver looks like he's going to make a strong push to raise the age minimum for players to enter the NBA to 20. Larranaga is definitely a fan of that. He also would like to see the number of scholarships in men's basketball (reduced from 15 to 13 back in 1994) return to 15.

"It’s one of the things that has been a problem in men’s college basketball when scholarships were cut from 15 to 13 and in addition to that when the NBA started taking players at a much younger age," Larranaga said. "Teams from the ACC have far more adjusting to do year after year after year than mid majors do. That’s why you see so many mid-majors doing well in the NCAA tournament. Their continuity is much better. 

"The one thing about the NBA is they’re taking kids so early. You look at the No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, he’s in the D-League. The number of first round draft choices going to the D-League. From an ACC, high-major standpoint, the rules are now drastically impacting the level of performance. So many players going early so you’re replacing them with rookies – whether it’s a junior college kid or transfer, he’s still a first year player in your program. I’d like to see that corrected."

> Why does Larranaga think the Canes are struggling so much at home?

"Our lack of success at home can really be attributed to our lack of consistency throughout the year," he said. "We just don’t play the same way on a regular basis -– the individual player. A lot of that is guys playing out of position. We don’t have a clear 1-2-3-4-5 man. Garrius [Adams] has been playing the point the last three games exclusively. If you were to tell me before the season what’s his best position I would tell you the three [small forward]. He’s our third best ball handler. Our big guys are limited in their scoring ability. Tonye and Raf don’t score a lot at the five. So that’s puts pressure on the other guys to deliver and that allows the opponent to focus on the guys who shoot. And we’ve played very good teams here at home. Syracuse, Duke, N.C. State. We’d like to play a whole lot better Wednesday night.”

Forward James Kelly suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules

Jim Larrañaga's basketball team -- already short on talent and bodies this season because of injuries and transfer rules -- will be down another scholarship player.

"At this time James Kelly has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules," Larrañaga announced Tuesday. "James is a fine young man but we need him to have a clear focus on what is expected of a student-athlete at the University of Miami."

A source close to the team told The Miami Herald Tuesday that Kelly (6-7, 246) will be out for three games, meaning he won't return until March 1st at the earlier when the Hurricanes play at N.C. State.

UM (12-13, 3-9 ACC) will play its next two games at home -- Wednesday night versus Notre Dame (14-12, 5-8) and Saturday at noon against Boston College (6-19, 2-10) -- before hitting the road to close out the month of February at Virginia (21-5, 12-1 ACC) on Feb. 26.

Kelly, who hasn't started since Jan. 8 at North Carolina, had nine points and five rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench in UM's loss at Virginia Tech Saturday. He ranks fifth on the team in scoring (7.0 ppg) and rebounding (4.0) and is one of nine scholarship players who see the majority of playing time in UM's rotation.

> UM also announced walk-on guard Steve Sorenson has left the team to focus on academics.

February 17, 2014

Mark it down: March 29th, April 4th, April 12th. Those are your Miami Hurricanes football scrimmage dates.

Spring football begins for the Hurricanes a week from this Saturday, at 9 a.m. on March 1.

As has been customary the past few years, the Canes will practice the week leading up to UM spring break, and then resume until the spring game on April 12th at Sun Life Stadium.

UM says every practice is closed -- except for the three scrimmages.

The scrimmage days and dates: 1. Saturday, March 29, at noon at Greentree Field on campus.

2. Friday, April 4, at 6 p.m. at Cobb Stadium on campus.

3. Saturday, April 12, at 6 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium.

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

From UM Sports Information:

 Miami Hurricanes placekicker Matt Goudisand defensive tackle Justin Renfrow were among the 67 players selected to the 2013 All-ACC Academic Football Team, announced Monday by Commissioner John Swofford. It was the first Academic All-ACC honor for both players.

To be eligible for consideration, a student-athlete must have earned a 3.00 GPA for the previous semester and maintained a 3.00 cumulative average during his academic career. A student-athlete in graduate school must maintain a 3.5 GPA. All 14 ACC schools were represented by at least two selections on the team. The ACC has selected an All-ACC Academic Football team every year since 1954.

The team was chosen from a pool of 122 ACC football student-athletes who were nominated by their institutions.

Goudis, a sophomore accounting major from West Hills, Calif., connected on 13-of-17 field goals and was a perfect 57-of-57 on point-after attempts in 2013. His 96 points rank eighth among kickers on Miami’s single-season list, while his 57 made PATs are the second-most on Miami’s single-season list. His streak of 57 consecutive made PATs is the longest single-season streak in program history and the sixth-longest career streak.

Renfrow, a graduate student in liberal studies from Morrisville, Pa., joined the Hurricanes squad during preseason camp in August. The Virginia transfer played in all 13 games, making four starts at defensive tackle. He totaled 36 tackles, one forced fumble and two pass break-ups.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

February 14, 2014

Opening night forecast for UM Canes baseball: clear, 65 degrees, hot pitching & hitting, cold milkshakes

Who's going tonight?

I'll be there for the Hurricanes' 2014 baseball opener against Maine. Looking outside my window and it's a gorgeous day (and likely night) for a baseball game at the Light. 

In addition to the usual Cuban chop-chop stand (yummy!) and the Mark Light milkshakes (yummy!) inside the stadium, fans can also enjoy some additions to the pregame fun every Friday night of baseball season -- a new UM initiative. UM is calling it Party on the Patio, and it begins at 5 p.m. There will be a steel drum band providing live music and high-top tables for food and beverage set up at the front of Alex Rodriguez Park, before you even enter the gate. You use your ticket to get into the park, then can go back outside and enjoy your food and drinks while listening to the music.

There also will be eye-black painting for kids.

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

Fresh starts are always nice,and anxious to seeing if and how Chris Diaz has improved this season. It's frankly almost impossible to improve on a 1.64 ERA from last season, but if the Canes' young hitters are as good as we keep hearing about, his 7-5 record could take a nice boost.

"I think this team is different because we have a lot of ego players, like Willie Abreu,'' speedy center fielder Dale Carey told me. "We have guys who are going to learn -- the old Miami, the swag.''

Carey was rated by Baseball America as the 77th-best prospect in Florida last year. But Carey finished 2013 with a .192 batting average and only 12 RBI and one home run.

"It's disappointing but you learn from it,'' Carey said. "I took the whole offseason and stayed here and worked with the baseball summer camps. I helped teach. I took a step back and helped the kids and also I learned from the camps and gained 24 pounds. Last year at the end of the spring I was 183.''

Carey said last year's experience has just made him stronger.

"When things like that happen you always think about what you've done. Yeah, it humbled me and made me become a better person. This fall I hit .302 and i'm trying to build off that for the spring.''

Abreu, 18, is from Hialeah and graduated from Mater Academy. He was drafted by the Reds in the 14th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. He is a strapping 6-4, 225 pounds, with a huge smile and lots of exuberance.

"You weren't offered by the Reds what you think you deserved?" I said to Abreu

"No doubt. No doubt,'' he answered. "That's true. Of course. But there's no problem with coming to Miami. This is a great place with great people and a great place to play. I know Omaha is going to happen because we work hard and we're not going to give up,'' he said of the College World Series. "We're not going to stop for anyone.

"Can't wait for the season to start. It's almost here.''

'******************************************************

MAINE FACTS

The Black Bears finished 37-22 last season and won the American East Conference. 

From Maine's website: "Maine returns America East and ECAC Pitcher of the Year Tommy Lawrence (West Haven, Conn.). He set the school record for wins in a season with 11, finishing with an 11-3 mark. Lawrence posted a 2.32 ERA in 104.2 innings, striking out 78 batters on the season. Maine also returns Jake Marks (Sarnia, Ontario), Shaun Coughlin (Northford, Conn.) and Burk FitzPatrick (Berwyn, Pa.) who all finished with a pair of saves on the season. Heath is also expected to see considerable innings on the mound this season. 

 "Among the newcomers who are expected to make an immediate impact are Steven Adam (Tecumseh, Ontario), Jacob Gosselin-Deschesnes (Montreal, Quebec), Patrick Coughlin (Cambridge, Ontario), Skylar Marcado (Bronx, N.Y.), Jake Osborne(Burlington, Ontario) and Jeff Gelinas (Saco, Maine)." 

Here's what tonight's starting pitcher for Maine, Lawrence, tweeted today:

If you don't wake up with butterflies in your stomach on opening day then you may just not be human .. #gameday #goblue

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Miami is 61-12 all-time against the Black Bears, including a 6-2 victory last season.

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 IF YOU GO

 WHAT: UM baseball

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon Sunday.

WHERE: AlexRodriguezPark at Mark Light Field, corner of San Amaro Drive and Ponce de Leon in Coral Gables.

RADIO: WQAM 560 (Friday, Saturday) and WVUM 90.5 FM (All games)

ADMISSION: $8 (general)-$14 (reserved chairback); $6 children 2-17 and adults 55-older.

PROJECTED STARTERS: Friday – UM LHP Chris Diaz (7-5, 1.64 ERA) vs. Maine RHP Tommy Lawrence (11-3, 2.32); Saturday – UM LHP Bryan Radziewski (9-3, 1.75) vs. LHP Scott Heath (1-2, 15.63); Sunday – LHP Andrew Suarez (3-6, 3.95) vs. RHP Jake Marks (4-0, 3.16).

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

 

February 11, 2014

Canes hope to parlay talented recruiting class, loaded starting rotation into first Omaha trip since 2008

The Miami Hurricanes open the baseball season this Friday -- Valentine's Day night -- against the visiting Maine Black Bears, a team which won the American East Conference and finished 37-22 last season.

Every year Jim Morris says he's excited about his team and its chances to get back to Omaha for the College World Series. But this year it looks like the Hurricanes actually have the talent to deliver on those hopes.

UM landed its best recruiting class in years and has one of the nation's top starting rotations with junior left-handers Chris Diaz (7-5, 1.64), Bryan Radziewski (9-3, 1.78), Andrew Suarez (3-6, 3.95) and senior right-hander Javi Salas (5-5, 3.18) all returning.

The issue -- as it usually is lately with UM -- will be offense. The Hurricanes finished 11th out of 12 ACC teams in batting average (.257) and runs scored (278) last year. But that's where the freshmen are supposed to come in and help. 

First baseman Zack Collins (27th round draft choice in 2013) and right fielder Willie Abreu (14th round), two left-handed bats, are expected to help sophomore third baseman David Thompson (.286, 6 HRs, 48 RBI) provide more oomph in the lineup.

Collins (Plantation American Heritage) and Abreu (Hialeah Mater Academy)  grew up huge Hurricanes fans and close friends since the age of six.

Abreu said he used to sit along the third baseline at Mark Light Field and taunt opposing hitters and pitchers and called one of his coolest moments getting a foul ball he caught signed with by the late Ron Fraser. Collins said his thrill was getting on the field as a kid alongside Gaby Sanchez and watching former Canes catcher Yasmani Grandal launch a home run into the third deck of the parking garage.

Collins, by the way, says he's already put a few balls into the same spot Grandal did during practice. One UM coach said Collins has the kind of power Yonder Alonso did.

For more on the Canes baseball team check out the collection of video interviews from today's media day session. I've posted a couple of the best ones here.

February 10, 2014

VIDEO: Catching up with 2015 Canes recruit WR Emonee Spence of Flanagan

Last week we filmed our post-National Signing Day video at Flanagan High School and I got a chance to catchup with 2015 Canes recruit and star receiver Emonee Spence.

Here is what he had to say about being at Junior Day and the chances he'll sign with UM a year from now.

Spence by the way measured in at 6-2, 181 pounds at the Nike Sparq Combine Sunday in North Miami. He was clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.75 seconds and had a Sparq rating of 77.76.

Here is a link to the unofficial results.

February 06, 2014

VIDEO: UM recruits Linder, Moten and Brady talk about becoming Hurricanes on Signing Day