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14 posts from March 2014

March 25, 2014

Tuesday afternoon update on blood clot/surgery of David Thompson, who is "heartbroken'' says dad, but healing

  Just talked to Ed Thompson, the father of UM baseball player (infielder) David Thompson.

  The discouraging news is "he's heartbroken.''

   Everything else is encouraging.

   Like I reported in the Miami Herald last night, David underwent a six-hour surgery yesterday on his right arm for a blood clot that was caused by venous thoracic outlet syndrome, according to the Mayo Clinic, "a group of disorders that occur when the blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and first rib (thoracic outlet) becomes compressed. This can cause pain in your shoulders and neck and numbness in your fingers.

   "Common causes include... sports-related activities.'' And baseball players have been known to get this syndrome.

    "He had some blockage in a blood vessel and the blood was going out but not coming back, which is what caused the arm to swell,'' UM coach Jim Morris told me last night after UM lost to Virginia 5-3. "He wasn't getting good circulation because the top bone in his rib cage was cutting off the blood flow a little bit.''

   Ed Thompson  emailed me last night and said that "full recovery is expected over time. We are grateful for God's grace and for exceptional doctors and care. We appreciate your prayers.''

  David is recuperating at UM Hospital.

  Mr. Thompson, president of Miami-based Logoi Ministries -- just reiterated to me by phone that "the surgery was successful. The doctors were here this morning and are very pleased with how everything looks. Now the healing process has begun.''

  Doctors had to remove one of David's ribs, and he's in a lot of pain, Ed told me.

  "He’s heartbroken is the best way to say it right now, but determined to get back."

   Will David, a sophomore who leads the Hurricanes with a .328 batting average and starred at Miami Westminster Christian, play baseball again? 

    “Oh yeah, he’ll play again,'' Ed Thompson said. "We just don’t know when. There’s not a specific time frame. Each person is different.''

    Will he be back this season?

    “It’s too soon to tell. We don’t know yet.    

   “We hope he’s out of the hospital by at least Friday, but we haven’t heard a specific date.’’

   Again, David get well soon and keep your head up. You have lots of people praying for you and pushing for you! We know you're a fighter. :)

   Please leave your wishes for David below.

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

   

UM baseball player David Thompson undergoes six-hour surgery Monday on right arm for blood clot

   Minutes after Virginia defeated Miami 5-3 in the rubber game of a three-game series Monday at Mark Light Field, UM coach Jim Morris told the Miami Herald that David Thompson underwent a six-hour surgery Monday morning on his right arm.    

   David's father, Ed Thompson -- president of Miami-based Logoi Ministries -- delivered the following statement to me via email:  

   "David was admitted to the University of Miami hospital on March 19 after a blood clot was discovered in his upper arm. It was determined the cause was an uncommon condition called 'Venous Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.'

     "Surgery to solve this issue was successfully performed on March 24th. While disheartened, David is in good spirits and full recovery is expected over time. We are grateful for God's grace and for exceptional doctors and care. We appreciate your prayers.''

  Thompson was admitted to UM Hospital last week with a badly swollen right arm.

  “He had some blockage in a blood vessel and the blood was going out but not coming back, which is what caused the arm to  swell,'' Morris said.

   “He wasn’t getting good circulation because the top bone in his rib cage was cutting off the blood flow a little bit. They said it was a successful surgery and he’ll be fine.

   Morris said he had no idea when Thompson will be back on the team.

   Here's hoping that David gets well soon.

MAYO CLINIC DEFINITION OF VENOUS THORACIC OUTLET SYNDROME

Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders that occur when the blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib (thoracic outlet) become compressed. This can cause pain in your shoulders and neck and numbness in your fingers.

 Common causes of thoracic outlet syndrome include physical trauma from a car accident, repetitive injuries from job- or sports-related activities, certain anatomical defects (such as having an extra rib), and pregnancy. Sometimes doctors can't determine the cause of thoracic outlet syndrome.

 Treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome usually involves physical therapy and pain relief measures. Most people improve with these approaches. In some cases, however, your doctor may recommend surgery. 

And one more note:

Trevill...

@T_Holcy1

Commited to THE University of Miami |C/O 2015 WR |@TaelorCouture_ is Mine! ❤️| Strong Beleiver in Christ!

Officially Committed to THE University of Miami! Glad to be a Cane! pic.twitter.com/wYY2gUEoSa

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

March 21, 2014

Miami Hurricanes baseball player David Thompson in UM Hospital through at least early next week

   The 25th-ranked Miami Hurricanes will attempt to turn around their recent baseball struggles when the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers (16-3, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) come to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field for a three-game weekend series beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday.

    The Canes (12-10, 4-2) will once again be without sophomore David Thompson, who is hitting .424 over his past 10 games with two doubles, a triple and six RBI. Thompson was at UM Hospital on Friday recuperating from an unspecified ailment that caused his arm to swell, his father, Ed, confirmed to the Miami Herald on Friday night. He is expected to remain there at least through early next week, Ed Thompson said.

    Thompson’s diagnosis, if there is one, was not revealed.

    UM coach Jim Morris said after Tuesday night’s loss to UCF that Thompson’s arm – Morris indicated on a video it was his upper right arm – was very swollen.

    It was initially believed he was bitten by a spider, Morris said. However, Ed Thompson said it was “not a spider bite’’ and that his son was going to be OK.

    UM also confirmed Friday that Thompson had been in the hospital and was being tested for the swollen arm.

   After winning five in a row earlier this month, the Canes have lost five of their past seven games.

    UM left-hander Chris Diaz (4-0, 2.05 ERA) will start Saturday against left-hander Nathan Kirby (5-0, 0.59).

   Best wishes to David for a speedy recovery. He is a very nice, high-character young man, who has a wonderfully supportive family. His health is most important right now. The Canes will have a tough time without him.

    David had two surgeries, by the way, on his right shoulder in a one-year span. The latest one was last June.

   And yes, I keep thinking about UM offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who was released from the hospital recently after collapsing following a workout. But the two are unrelated. 

  Here's hoping we don't see the word hospital related to the Hurricanes for a long, long time.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

March 20, 2014

Confidence, physicality growing as Canes defense is "winning the day" more often this spring

Tracy Howard has never been short on confidence.

Ranked the No. 1 cornerback in the country by both Rivals and ESPN coming out of Miramar High in 2012, Howard set the bar high for himself a year ago when he said he wanted to pick off 10 passes as a sophomore. He finished with a team-leading four picks and made 35 tackles, making 12 starts and playing much better than he did as a freshman.

"I’ve always been confident," Howard said Thursday following the team's sixth practice of the spring. "I've never lacked confidence... I never come out onto the field without my confidence being up to the sky."

The same couldn't always be said about the rest of the Hurricanes defense over the last few years. But it's starting to feel a little different around Coral Gables these days.

The offense, which has carried the defense on most Saturdays over the last two seasons, isn't winning the day as often as it used to in practice. The guys on the other side are having more success. They're being more physical. And there definitely feels like there is a lot more hooting and hollering going on with Mark D'Onofrio's unit than before.

"I don't think there's any question the defense was better today," UM coach Al Golden said Thursday. "It was good competition. Fig [Alex Figueroa] was physical, Tyriq [McCord] did a good job. It was good to see that kind of physicality on the team."

One moment Thursday which provided an example of that physicality was during Category 5 drills. Basically, the quarterback hands the ball off to a running back and the back has three blockers down field trying to create a slalom like path to help him run past a defensive lineman, a linebacker and a defensive back.

On this particular play, 6-2, 235-pound running back Gus Edwards was able to get to the third level where 6-1, 207-pound sophomore safety Jamal Carter had broken free from a D'Mauri Jones block for a one-on-one situation. It was the smaller Carter who won the battle, squaring his shoulders and knocking the bigger Edwards toward the turf. (CLICK HERE TO SEE THE PLAY)

That tackle -- along with another made by Al-Quadin Muhammad on running back Quincy Casimir during the same drill -- are examples of that physicality Golden was talking about.

"That’s just a drill in practice we line up every spring just to shed blocks, just to be physical," Howard said. "Jamal did a good job with that and it brought energy leading onto the team periods.

"Guys are just growing up, playing with attitude. We got guys like Denzel Perryman, [Alex] Figueroa, Jamal Carter, those guys are like dogs. Everybody just feeds off those guys when it comes to being physical and stuff like that. I feel like we’re just getting better as a whole."

Is the defense winning the day more? "Ask the offense. They’ll tell you the truth," Howard said with a smile. "We beat them in camp last year. We had most of the wins if you go look at the board."

NEWS AND NOTES

> Defensive tackle Olsen Pierre wasn't at practice Thursday after limping off the field on Tuesday. Golden said Olsen "should be fine."

> Golden made it pretty clear quarterback Ryan Williams is in the lead for the starting quarterback job.

"I think Kevin [Olsen] is having a good spring and Gray [Crow] and Kevin are competing. But Ryan is ahead right now," Golden said. "Kevin is having a good spring, he is. But as I said going in, Ryan is experienced, smart and he's doing a good job with the football right now."

What does Howard think of the QB play thus far? 

"Ryan is a very good quarterback," Howard said. "He knows how to make very good checks and very good reads. He’s an experienced quarterback, started his freshman year at Memphis. He played a little bit last year and the year before that. I think Ryan is going to be a very good quarterback. His decision making is on point. He’s able to read defenses before the snap, great pre-reads. He gives great dummy cadences to make the defense shift and give away their coverages.

"Olsen is just getting better everyday. You see the development every day. We always knew he was going to be pretty good even from his first seven on seven. He trusts his receivers, takes chances on a lot of throws. He’s developing. Even though they’re in a battle he also has to learn from Ryan and it feels like he is."

> Howard said playing against bigger backs in Edwards and Walter Tucker (6-0, 218) has been good for Miami's defense this spring. 

"Playing against those guys it helps out with tackling," he said. "Duke [Johnson] is more of a shifty guy. But Duke can do it all. He can lower his shoulder. He can run past you. But with those backs, they’re more downhill runners. They’re going to lower their shoulders probably 90 percent of the time. It helps us with our tackling just being physical. When we play against those guys we've got to be even more physical. They help us out."

> Howard said receiver Stacy Coley is becoming more of a trash-talker. The two go head-to-head in practice every day.

"3-on-3 is how I look at it," Howard said referring to the jersey number both players wear. "He’s fast, shifty. He’s mainly always my matchup. We just go out there and make each other better every day. He’s becoming more of a talker. I’m a big talker so I think I bring it out of him most of the time. I do it with all the receivers. When he makes a play he definitely makes sure you feel his presence. He’s not a big talker, but he’s going to talk. He’s going to have his share of words."

> Who ran with the first team Thursday?

On offense, quarterback Ryan Williams, running back Gus Edwards, tight end Standish Dobard, receivers Stacy Coley, D'Mauri Jones and Rashawn Scott, left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Jonathan Feliciano, center Alex Gall, right guard Danny Isidora and right tackle Taylor Gadbois.

On defense, it was ends Ufomba Kamalu and Al-Quadin Muhammad, tackles Earl Moore and Jelani Hamilton, linebackers Denzel Perryman, Raphael Kirby and Alex Figueroa, cornerbacks Tracy Howard and Antonio Crawford and safeties Jamal Carter and Deon Bush.

> Second team center Hunter Wells had a pair of high snaps which sailed over the head of backup quarterback Kevil Olsen. Golden stopped practice to have the offense run suicides after the second one.

> Among the special visitors at Canes practice Thursday: Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon and Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks.

? The Hurricanes picked up a commitment from 2015 Dade City Pasco High tight end Bowman Archibald (6-6, 240) on Thursday.

Archibald, rated a three-star prospect, visited Coral Gables on Tuesday and picked UM over offers from more than 15 schools including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Oregon and Southern California.

March 18, 2014

Day 1 back at UM practice. Here's the news...Also: Tim "Ice" Harris will be a coach again -- count on it.

After 11 days, the Canes were back Tuesday on Greentree Field, which was lined and marked and ready for the first scrimmage March 29th -- closed to the public.

*** Coach Al Golden said the players had good attitudes and that the practice was physical. "Guys look like they came back with a good mindset, good shape.''

*** The defense "got the offense" Tuesday, Golden said. "We challenged the offense to be better by Thursday.'' Golden said the defense had a better mindset today, caused some fumbles, was more physical and tougher than offense. He said they were really good in goal-line and short-yardage periods.

*** Freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen "right now is having a really good spring,'' Golden said. "Really mature. Texting [OC] James [Coley] the night before. Calling James, coming to see him. He's really doing all the little things you need a quarterback to do and it's showing on the field. He's distributing the ball really well for us, running it. He's got to continue to raise his confidence level and continue to lead but that's going to come the more comfortable he is with the offense.''

*** Golden said of first-team quarterback Ryan Williams: "Ryan is having an excellent spring. Ryan's accuracy is evident on the field. Not a lot of balls on the ground. His percentage has been high. That's what he can do. Every guy we have has a different talent and his is his ability to read it conceptually, diagnose it and get the ball out quickly.''

As a veteran who knows the offense inside and out, Williams is still the frontrunner to win the job, but the better Olsen gets, the harder the decision becomes, and the better for the program. 

By the way, after practice, I noticed Kevin Olsen in street clothes with a very large ice pack over his right (throwing) hand. Don't know anything more about that.
  

*** We hadn't heard anything about sophomore tight end Jake O'Donnell until Tuesday. I asked Golden how he was doing. "jake has had a really good spring, up to about 254 right now. Playing a lot of football. Obviously Clive [Walford's] absence (due to unspecified injury) has helped him. He and Stan [Dobard] have both benefited greatly from Clive's absence. He's getting a lot of work and really coming through for us. Scored a touchdown today. Caught another seam ball, things he wasn't doing a year ago. Really pleased  with him, because Jake is one of our fastest tight ends.''

*** Offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who was released from the hospital last week, "is doing good,'' Golden said. "He's being integrated right now. He's getting caught up on school. Our biggest concern right now is just getting him caught up on school. Other than that I just don't want to infringe on the family's privacy. When he's ready to talk, he'll talk. But he's doing great. You might see him around. He's getting treatment and getting caught up on school, is what he should do.  That's the first step back to normalcy, and once we get through that then obviously the next step is getting back to football.''

*** Defensive end Anthony Chickillo, who is still dealing with a foot injury, was in a yellow jersey and might return to practice Thursday, Golden said.  Golden said there's a lot of competition at the defensive end spot. The coach said there should be a "great competition'' (at strong-side defensive end)  between Ufomba Kamalu and Chickillo at that position.  Coach said Kamalu has had a "really good offseason" and spring. "Obviously with Chad Thomas and Anthony Moten in the wing, we have a chance to really improve that position this fall. Right now we have Quan and Tyriq at the other end, with Trent [Harris] and those guys behind him." 

*** There were at least a few errant snaps from center (Alex Gall, Hunter Wells) Tuesday.

*** Yellow (limited) jerseys Tuesday: Malcolm Lewis, Anthony Chickillo, Corn Elder, Herb Waters, Nate Dortch.

*** Red (no contact) jerseys Tuesday: Rayshawn Jenkins, Clive Walford, Ladarius Gunter, Shane McDermott, Braxton Barrios, Duke Johnson. 

*** Black first-team jerseys for defense: Raphael Kirby, Olsen Pierre (who went inside during practice with what could be an injury, but not sure), Tracy Howard, Alex Figueroa, Denzel Perryman.

*** Orange first-team jerseys for offense: Stacy Coley, Beau Sandland (who also stopped in the middle of practice with what seemed to be some type of leg or groin ailment), Ereck Flowers, Jon Feliciano, Alex Gall, Gus Edwards, Danny Isidora, Rashawn Scott.

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

Also, I'm writing this for tomorrow's paper (tonight online), but new UM assistant director of football operations Tim "Ice" Harris, the pride of high school football in Miami and in particular, Booker T. Washington High, will be a football coach again -- no doubt in my mind. He made it pretty clear today that he is thrilled to be back at UM, and in no uncertain terms expects to be doing what he does best -- coaching -- after he earns his degree at UM.

"Once I get my degree, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if I had it at this point,'' Harris said. "Because I already would have considered myself as one of the top coaches in the country from a high school perspective. And what we do there in developing young people I definitely could be able to do it at the college level with no problem."

Harris wasn't being boastful. He was being honest. He already has worked at UM under Randy Shannon doing basically the same thing, but Al Golden is helping him get his dream job -- to coach in college -- by letting him learn more and observe and be a great benefit for the Canes in dealing with high school coaches. Harris would be a great asset for Miami as a coach who could recruit in UM's backyard and have immense pull.

UM wants assistant coaches to have their college degrees. Once Harris has his degree in a little more than a year, he's fair game. If UM doesn't find a way to grab him as a coach, be assured someone else will.

 

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

   

March 17, 2014

Canes football back in action Tuesday morning at Greentree -- baseball drops 12 spots in rankings

After 11 days off, the Hurricanes are back in action at 9 a.m. Tuesday with spring football practice session No. 5 at Greentree Field behind the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence.

For any of you not working tomorrow, remember that the practices are open to the public from beginning to end. 

Unfortunately, the first two scrimmages (March 29th and April 4th) are closed to the public. The spring game, which is open, is at 6 p.m. April 12 at Sun Life Stadium.

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

As for Canes' baseball, a team with great promise has been problematic of late. Since UM's five-game win streak ended after the March 9 sweep of Boston College, the Canes have lost four out of five, including mid-week games against Bethune-Cookman and Stetson. 

This week will provide a huge opportunity for Miami (11-9, 4-2 ACC) to turn everything around. The Canes play UCF (9-12) at Mark Light on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and travel to Fort Myers to face Florida Gulf Coast (13-7) at 6:30 p.m.

Freshman lefty Danny Garcia (0-0 3.09 ERA) is slated to start against UCF.

The Wednesday starter for UM has not been announced.

The good: freshman Willie Abreu is tied with sophomore David Thompson with the top batting average of .328. And Dale Carey, hitting .312, has seven doubles and leads the team with 4 home runs. He has a .584 slugging percentage.

Also, UM is second in the ACC with 40 doubles so far.

The bad: AJ Salcines, in six appearances, has a 24.00 ERA, with hitters averaging .412 against him. Among hitters, freshman Zack Collins, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 27th round of the draft, has not begun to find his groove. The power-hitting Collins, who lifted the Canes over UF in their Saturday-night game, is hitting .118, with two home runs,  two doubles and two singles this season. He leads the team in strikeouts (20) and walks (10). UM needs him to break loose. 

The ugly: UM has 33 errors -- tied with Georgia Tech for the most in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia is tops in ACC fielding with only nine errors. 

 Here are the mid-week notes sent by UM's Camron Ghorbi:

DOUBLING UP

• No. 25 Miami continues its challenging nonconference slate with a pair of midweek games: at home against UCF (March 18) and on the road at FGCU (March 19).

 • The Hurricanes captured a 5-0 victory at Mark Light Field in the lone matchup against UCF in 2013 (March 6), which featured an 11-strikeout performance from starter Bryan Radziewski.

 • Miami did not play FGCU in 2013, but split a home-and-home with the Eagles in 2012. The Hurricanes won 3-0 on the road at Hammond Stadium (Feb. 22), but dropped a home contest 4-2 (April 11).

 POWER SURGE

• Miami is tied for first in the ACC with 12 home runs through its first 20 games of the regular season. Dale Carey leads the team with four homers, while Zack CollinsGarrett Kennedy and Tyler Palmer have two each.

 • The offense already has three multi-homerun games this season after recording just two in all of 2013: games one and two against Florida (Feb. 21 & 22) and game one against Georgia Tech (March 14). Miami is 3-0 in 2014 when hitting more than one home run.

 • In addition to its impressive home run total, Miami ranks second in the ACC with 40 doubles this season and tied for fourth in triples with four.

 • Miami did not record its 12th home run in 2013 until an 8-3 win over Wake Forest on May 12 - the team’s 53rd game of that season. The Hurricanes hit just 14 home runs collectively last season.

 HEATING UP

• After struggling through the first month of the season, sophomore slugger David Thompson has turned it up a notch. Thompson is hitting at a .424 clip over the past 10 games with two doubles, one triple and six RBI. He has recorded a .525 on-base percentage over that span.

 • Over his last two starts, redshirt sophomore Andrew Suarez has allowed two earned runs in 16.0 innings of work (1.12 ERA). He went 9.0 innings against Georgia Tech but earned a no-decision.

 • Senior Dale Carey is 7 for his last 18 (.389) over the last five games entering Tuesday’s matchup with UCF. He has team-high totals of eight hits, nine runs, four doubles and one home run over that stretch.

 • Freshman Willie Abreu has settled into a groove entering the middle of March. The Hialeah, Fla., native, hitting third in the lineup, is batting .353 with 18 hits and 13 runs scored in the last 15 games.

 • Freshman reliever Cooper Hammond has made seven appearances in the last 15 games and has recorded a 2.25 ERA with a 2-0 record. Hammond has yielded two earned runs in his last 8.0 innings of relief.

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

March 08, 2014

Miami Hurricanes safety JoJo Nicolas remembered by many in a moving funeral today in Miami

So many former Canes came to pay respect to their teammate and brother JoJo Nicolas today at Glendale Missionary Baptist Church.

JoJo died in a horrific car accident a week ago Wednesday.

The funeral was really touching and inspiring, as his brothers spoke and his uncle did the eulogy and Reverand Toru Dean did the officiating. All of them were great.

JoJo's 5-month-old son Jayden was in JoJo's mom's arms during the ceremony.

The Canes I recall seeing, so many of whom said hello to me: Antrel Rolle, Graig Cooper, Sam Shields, Bruce Johnson, Ryan Hill, Brandon McGee, Javarris James, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Brandon Washington, Marcus Robinson, Ray Buchanan, Romeo Davis, Richard Gordon, Matt Perrelli, Matt Bosher, Herb Waters.

Some of the coaches/football staff I saw: Al Golden, Mark D'Onofrio, Micheal Barrow, Paul Williams, Andreu Swasey, Kareen Brown, Andrew Klich, Steve DeBardelaben, Steve Caldwell.

Turns out JoJo was talking on the phone, then reading a text (don't know if he was returning the text message) when he crashed his car into the 18-wheeler. Rolle told me he saved "a thousand lives'' by waking up his friends and fans to the perils of texting and driving.

Scared all of us.

Here's my story I wrote that will be in the Local section (Not Sports) of The Miami Herald:

    Former Hurricane football player JoJo Nicolas was remembered Saturday as “the quiet storm’’ at the University of Miami.

   He was remembered as a little brother who taught his three older brothers not to fight.

   He was remembered as responsible and studious and devoted to an infant son, born prematurely, who preceded him in death.

   And he was remembered as a father and son who died too young but left a thriving five-month-old child and nearly 25 years of memories to keep his spirit alive.

   “Daddy, you lost your only son, but now you have JoJo’s son,’’ Nicolas’ uncle – pastor Walter Horn – told Josselet Nicolas in a moving, rhythmic eulogy accompanied by a four-piece ensemble at Glendale Missionary Baptist Church in Miami. “Can I tell you something? JoJo just made MVP.’’

    Nicolas, who grew up in FloridaCity and graduated from Homestead High in 2007, died a week ago Wednesday, five days shy of his 25th birthday. He crashed his Lexus sedan into a tractor-trailer while heading west on the MacArthur Causeway following an early birthday celebration on Miami Beach.

    His brother Elliot Davis said the family is still awaiting results of an autopsy and toxicology reports, but that Nicolas was on the phone with his girlfriend and received a text from former UM teammate Graig Cooper moments before the crash.

    Nicolas told his girlfriend to “hold on, it’s Cooper texting him,’’ Davis said. “Then she heard the crash. The second he took his eyes off the road the crash happened.’’

    “This is definitely a hard moment,’’ said Antrel Rolle, a New York Giants safety who grew up with fellow safety Nicolas and commissioned a painting, on an easel at the funeral, of Nicolas wearing his UM uniform on one side of the canvas and in his former New York Giants uniform on the other. “Very rarely do you find guys with such good character as JoJo Nicolas. He had a certain persona that could brighten anyone’s day.

    “It’s extremely unfortunate… but God makes no mistakes. By this happening I’m more than positive it saved the lives of a thousand others – myself, for example. It’s a tragic accident, just a simple text looking down. It just goes as a lesson: stay off your phone while driving. As we’ve seen, anything can happen in the blink of an eye.’’

    Rolle was one of several former Hurricanes who attended the funeral, among them Shayon Green, Matt Bosher, Ryan Hill, Sam Shields, Brandon McGee, Javarris James, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Richard Gordon and Bruce Johnson. Nicolas was buried afterward at neighboring GracelandCemetery in the Richmond Heights neighborhood.

    Coach Al Golden sat by himself in the church, with many of his assistants and other staff members nearby. Cooper attended, but chose not to comment.

    Team chaplains Steve DeBardelaben and Steve Caldwell were among about 300 churchgoers, with Caldwell delivering a short, but eloquent reflection.

    Caldwell asked everyone in the “UM family’’ to stand while he spoke, saying Nicolas, “the quiet storm,’’ was a strong leader and thanking his family “for loaning us a wonderful man.’’

   Nicolas is survived by 5-month-old son Jayden, Nicolas’ mother Sharon Grant, father Josselet Nicolas, and brothers Elliot Davis, Aaron Davis and Abner Davis. All except for Abner, of Jacksonville, are from the Homestead area.

   He also leaves his grandmother Carolyn Davis, several aunts and uncles and dozens of nieces, nephews and cousins.

   “Tragically he lost his son and there was nothing I could say to comfort him,’’ Elliot Davis said during the service, referring to the late baby Joseph, who was born four months premature in 2011 weighing 1 pound 4 ounces, and died Aug. 19, 2011. The baby’s photo leaned against Nicolas’ left arm in the coffin.

    “…God blessed him again with another son,’’ Davis said of Jayden, who was held by Nicolas’ mother during the service. “I look in his eyes and I see JoJo looking back at me and it’s remarkable. ...We still have him here with Baby Jayden. We still have him here.’’

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN      

 

 

 

 

March 06, 2014

Big blog: Canes break camp for spring break -- QB Kevin Olsen excels, DL David Perry leaves team

The Hurricanes had their last practice Thursday morning before spring break, and UM Coach Al Golden sent them home for a week to see their families, catch up on some rest, hopefully stay connected to their football playbooks, do some moderate weight-lifting and conditioning and get ready for more when they return next weekend.

The assistant coaches will be off, too. "I'll move ahead and try to get everything organized and do some catch-up. But we'll try to get the coaches a break here while the players have a break. I think we're in good shape in terms of having the practices ready for the following week.''

Practice, open to the public, resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 18. Some of the players, by the way, are staying back at UM and continuing to work out -- such as the track athlets.

"It was spirited,'' Golden said. "We got a lot done. A lot of heavy install in the beginning but now they have a chance to digest it over the next nine or 10 days and we'll pick it back up on Monday, March 17 and March 18th will be our next practice.

"It's just the philosophy of it,'' Golden said of why he always starts practice the week before spring break. "Longer duration. If you can get four installs in before spring break, now you've increased the amount of time they're thinking about football."

"I want them to enjoy their time off, relax, make sure we don't get too tight -- stretch, lift a little bit.. really enjoy their time off with their family and friends.''

Some notes from Thursday:

*Defensive end David Perry, a 6-7, 280-pound senior out of University School by way of Portmore, Jamaica, quit the team and is not expected back. David really hadn't been doing anything lately but standing around in practice. "David Perry is excused right now and we'll go from there,'' Golden said.

Perry played in one game (Savannah State) in 2013 and had two tackles. He played in nine games mostly on special teams in 2012, with no stats. He moved from tight end to DL in the spring of '12. He played in five games on special teams in 2011 as a redhsirt freshman.

He was a first-team All-Broward by the Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald. 

* Redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen had a good day today. He looks more fluid and comfortable out there, and he hit receiver Rashawn Scott on several passes today -- short and long, while rolling out and from the pocket. I'm still thinking Rashawn Scott is going to have a good season, but I say that every year. I just think he's really talented, but seems to eventually make wrong choices (not to mention the unfortunate injury early last season.)

* Golden: "Rashawn is in a good place. We're going to keep pushing him. He's got another step to go in his game. We missed Rashawn last year, we missed him. He's a physical presence. Right now he's really worked hard and he's more mature. We've got to make consistency his friend right now.''

* Golden on Olsen: "Kevin is getting better. Kevin is playing with a lot more confidence right now. I think he's seeing it better. He's playing faster. He's playing football, he's not going by rote memory. I like what we see from him right now.''

* Golden on Ryan Williams: "Ryan is doing good. Ryan is distributing the ball really good for us right now. Like I've said to you guys before, he's really smart. He gets the ball to the guys in a position where they can catch and run, especially on the incuts and shallows. A lot of run after catch with Ryan and his length really allows him to see the incuts really well. So, again, he's doing a good job and he's continuing to lead. I think he understands what he needs to do from a leadership standpoint.''  

* Sophomore linebacker Alex Figueroa is a beast out there. He plays hard and he plays intense and sometimes angry. It admittedly drives him nuts not being able to really go full force with hitting his teammates at practice. 

"That's one of the things I'm glad you guys can see now,'' Golden said. "It's not just me saying, 'That's what a black shirt looks like.' You can see. There's a difference in his effort and some others'. You hope that you can get two-deep on defense that gives that kind of effort. He, Denzel, Tracy, Jamal Carter, those guys all are playing at a high level like that.''

Golden made an interesting point about how not being able to fully tackle makes the players actually have to exhibit better form. "Really by not going to the ground we're emphasizing the technique -- having a good base, being square, having your eyes up. If we just said 'tackle them to the ground' it almost lets them off the hook a little bit. They can go grab the guy. When you're thudding you really have to be in good position, youve got to get in front, you've got to square him up and hold him up."  

*Besides Fig, the other defensive players out there today with the coveted black jerseys: cornerback Tracy Howard, defensive tackle Ufomba Kamalu, safety Jamal Carter, linebacker Raphael Kirby, linebacker Denzel Perryman, safety Deon Bush, tackle Olsen Pierre, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad.

 * Update on OL Hunter Knighton: "He's doing well and they're just being prudent with him. That's all I can say about that. We're excited how he's doing.''

 * Golden said 6-1, 304-pound Earl Moore and 6-5, 285-pound Jelani Hamilton have jumped out early in spring practice among the defensive tackles. "It's time. It's time for those guys. They're not young anymore even though they're at the end of their sophomore years." 

 * Golden on freshman middle linebacker Juwon Young, a hefty 6-2, 240-pounds: "So, he's got to spend more time studying football, which is not uncommon in his situation. Physical, can run, can strike, just gotta keep studying it so he can play faster. Probably not trusting his key enough right now, so he's peeking and then reacting as opposed to just trusting his key and going. That's indicative of a lot of young guys. They play plays instead of reading keys. But big man at 240 as a freshman, with the ability to run.''

 *Golden said he's "excited about offensive guard Danny Isidora and tackle Taylor Gadbois. Danny is a guy that played a lot for us and Taylor is as gifted as any of our offensive lineman. I think the only one that's more gifted is probably Ereck Flowers.Taylor, in terms of an athlete, we will mention him in the same type of athleticism. but he's in the 320s now and he's close to 6-7. He's punching probably better than anybody on the o-line right now. For Taylor, it's time. He's patient. He's worked hard, got strong. Weve got to keep working on his conditioning but I'm really excited about Taylor Gadbois and where he's got to go.''

*Golden said guard Jon Feliciano is more vocal than Ereck Flowers.. he's looking for Flowers to be more of a leader. "Ereck is a little bit more like E.F. Hutton. He doesn't say much, than he does and it's like 'Whoaaa.' OK, we're not doing something right.

"So we've got to just try to get Ereck a little bit more out of his comfort zone and communicate. Jon has always been that way. 'Taylor is working on [being a leader], so I'm excited about that.'' 

* Receiver Braxton Berrios (ACL surgery), his right knee in a brace, is going to be [back] closer to June than August, according to Golden. "Slot receiver, Z receiver, kick return, punt return, special teams. That's all he was. He did all those things. He played wildcat, too. We expect him to be able to do all those things.''

*Reserve offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu had his best day today, Golden said. "He's starting to play stronger. Obviously he's a big kid -- he's talented, he's gifted. He's got to continue to lead. He's just got to keep going.''

*D-Tackle Olsen Pierre gingerly walked off Greentree Field and into the buildling Thursday, escorted by trainer Vinny Scavo.

* Speaking of Scavo, the head UM trainer, a big congratulations are in order. He was celebrated at the end of practice and tapped into the Iron Arrow Society -- the highest honor frrom UM.

And guess who else was tapped into Iron Arrow on Thursday? Pitcher Javi Salas, who pitched a perfect game on Tuesday. 

Both are really nice people.

Here's the UM release on that:

Miami Hurricanes senior pitcher Javi Salasand head athletic trainer Vinny Scavo were among those Thursday tapped into the Iron Arrow Honor Society.

Iron Arrow Honor Society, founded in 1926 in conjunction with the University’s opening, is the highest honor attained at the University of Miami. Based on Seminole Indian tradition, Iron Arrow recognizes those individuals in the University of Miami community who exemplify the five qualities of Iron Arrow: Love of Alma Mater, Character, Leadership, Scholarship, and Humility.

The honor capped off an amazing week for Salas, who tossed a perfect game Tuesday night in Miami’s 17-0 win over Villanova. It was the second perfect game in program history and only the 23rd in modern NCAA Division I history (since 1957).

Salas is 1-1 with a 1.59 earned run average in 17.0 innings this season. A 38th-round draft pick by the Minnesota Twins in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, he owns a 12-11 career record on the mound for the Hurricanes.

Scavo is only the Hurricanes’ third head athletic trainer to be tapped into Iron Arrow, following Dave Wike and Walt Pomerko. Scavo was surprised by former Miami Hurricanes player Shayon Green after football practice.

He has been Miami’s head athletic trainer since 2011 and has extensive experience as an athletic trainer at the professional, college and high school levels. He previously served as Miami’s baseball athletic trainer from 1984-87, including Miami’s 1985 national championship season. From 2008-11, he was the Director of Sports Medicine Services at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

March 04, 2014

Congratulations to Javi Salas, always smiling -- and tonight, no doubt beaming even more. He's perfect.

Huge accomplishment tonight by Miami Hurricanes pitcher Javi Salas, who I'm sure right about now is ecstatic that he came back for his senior season.

 Congratulations, Javi.

Salas pitched a perfect game for a 17-0 UM victory over Villanova -- the second perfect game in school history. The only other Hurricane to throw a perfect game was Kevin Sheary on March 14, 1987.

 It was the 20th perfect game in NCAA Division I history. The last perfect game was on March 29, 2011, when Will Roberts of No. 1 Virginia defeated George Washington 2-0.

From AP story: 

   "Salas was drafted in the 38th round by Minnesota last year, faced only four three-ball counts. The last of those was a full-count offering to Max Beermann with one out in the eighth, Salas setting him down swinging.

Left fielder Sebastian Diaz made a diving catch for the third out in the eighth, robbing Donovan May. And in the ninth, Salas finished it off in style, striking out Derrick May Jr. swinging to end the night.

Salas (1-1) entered the game with an 11-11 career record. He struck out six, and induced 11 fly ball outs and 10 more off of grounders, throwing 113 pitches."

The senior right-hander and team captain struck out six of the 27 batters he retired, including the last batter. 

  "I hope this gets us going,'' Salas said during a post-game interview. "We start ACC play this weekend, so we really have to get on a roll here.''

   Take a bow, Javi.  I only wish I could have been there. 

    Nothing like a perfect game to help cure the sting from that series loss at FSU. 

   The Canes play Villanova again Wednesday night at 6 at Alex Rodriguez Park. Salas will be happily resting.

  SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

  

News, notes and quotes from the Miami Hurricanes first spring practice in pads Tuesday

News and notes from Tuesday morning's practice:

> UM coach Al Golden called the team's first day in pads a good effort with good energy.

"It's a good group to coach right now," Golden said. "A lot of guys learning. Not a lot of yelling, just a lot of teaching going on, which is good. We got a long way to go as a team and we're starting to learn more about our guys. [Running back] Gus Edwards and [quarterback] Ryan Williams and some other guys have stepped up and showing what they can do."

Edwards, a 6-2, 235-pound sophomore, had a couple of long runs Tuesday in which he barreled a few defenders over. He had a long 40 to 50 yard dash toward the end of practice.

"He's fast now. Gus is a 4.5 guy that is 235 right now," Golden said. "He might be a 240-something pound back before it's all said and done. He doesn't lose his explosion. He still has a lateral cut. We have to keep working on his staff arm.

"But he doesn't lose patience. That's the biggest thing I saw. Sometimes they don't have patience and just run into the back of somebody and he showed really good patience, waiting for his moment and then hit it today. I think [Walter Tucker] is starting to lean out and show how explosive he can be."

Williams spent most of the day rolling out of the pocket by design as UM worked on those particular packages, he said.

"That was one of those focuses today -- the move the pocket type plays," he said. "I think I did good. I think I'm good outside the pocket, can throw outside on the run. I missed one throw today I'm going to be upset about. But we're going to get it fixed before Thursday."

The pass Williams likely regretted? A pass that came out like a wounded duck and was intercepted by redshirt sophomore cornerback Larry Hope.

During two-minute drill work Williams connected on four straight completions -- all of them were of the short to medium range variety -- including a slant pattern sophomore Stacy Coley turned into a long gain and eventually a Matt Goudis field goal.

Williams also connected on a few long passes down field later in practice. Williams said he's probably added 10 to 15 yards on his long passes and more zip to balls underneath since high school.

"Now I don't have to lob things underneath under or over a backer," Williams said. "I can throw through windows and stuff like that."

> Williams spoke about knowing how in a few months he's going to become a father soon.

"I'm excited," he said. "We spent some time looking after Denzel's little girl. So I've had a chance to get my toes wet a little bit and know what it's like to be a dad. I'm excited."

> Speaking of Hope, he broke the UM weight room record for defensive backs set by All-Pro Antrel Rolle in the squat. Hope squatted 455 pounds, 10 more than Rolle did. With injuries to UM's secondary Hope is seeing a lot of playing time this spring. He knows this is his opportunity to impress.

> Golden said senior receiver Rashawn Scott, the team's second leading receiver in 2012 who was suspended at the end of last season and limited by injuries, has had a really good approach this spring.

Golden said he's doing a good job "just forgetting all the outside stuff, letting go of immature things, just growing up.

"I think Ryan Williams has had a really good influence on him," Golden continued. "I think they're creating a bond there. That's good. Ryan has been a positive influence on him. He just has to keep coming on for us."

Williams said the big thing for Scott is going to be dealing with the disappointment of last season.

"He has worked really hard since the season ended," Williams said of Scott. "He has a great work ethic. I think he's going to be a bust out player for us. He has to fill a role at the X or Z. But he's a big play receiver."

> Williams said he's seen a change in sophomore receiver Stacy Coley's leadership and attitude since the end of last season.

"You can just see it in his attitude when he comes to work now," Williams said. "He's not the young freshman who is just out there making plays. He's being a leader type, getting people set, making sure he communicates even with me and other quarterbacks on the field. Now he can actually see things and how they evolve on the field.

"He's more of the quiet type, but he has his moments. He's more of a funny guy. But he'll come to me and tell me what he sees and what he wants to run."

> Golden said he expects receiver Herb Waters and defensive end Anthony Chickillo to return to the field when the team comes back for more practices after spring break. Both have been wearing red jerseys (designated for injured players) and watching from the sideline thus far.

Golden said receiver Malcolm Lewis and cornerbacks Nate Dortch and Corn Elder will start to get integrated into practice (wearing yellow jerseys) when Miami returns from the break.

> Cornerback Artie Burns was at practice, but not wearing pads because Golden said the team wants to protect him. "He has a chance to be a national champion [hurdler]. I don't want him to turn an ankle."

Golden said he was pleased with how Burns and receiver Phillip Dorsett conducted themselves participating in track. Only Burns will still compete in track the rest of the spring.

> Golden said he was excited about the hiring of former Miami Booker T. Washington coach Ice Harris as the team's new assistant director of football operations. A source told me Harris met with the Canes  Monday and spoke to them about what it means to be a national champion. Harris led Booker T. to three state championships since 2007 including a national title this past season.

"Ice has meant a lot to all of us throughout the time," Golden said. "After the season he probably accomplished everything you can accomplish at the high school level. We reached out to him to see if he'd have an interest in coming back. Really, we didn't want him to leave the first time, but he thought he would go back. He had success quickly back at Booker T. We just felt like it was a good opportunity and time for us. And obviously he felt the same."

Where will Ice's value really be felt?

"Certainly the community, the relationship," Golden said. "Someone that's on the inside every day that can communicate what we're doing, how we treat our student-athletes, what our mission is, what we really believe in. He's got a lot of wisdom. The biggest thing would be if you went to his practices it's the discipline, the life skills he was able to impart on his teams. We're hoping he can do the same with us. And he's already started that process knowing everybody. We're glad he's going to help us."

> Freshman Trent Harris practiced for the first time after being held up by the NCAA Clearinghouse. How are he and the other early freshmen to arrive doing?

"I'm really pleased with those guys, their approach," Golden said. "Juwon Young, Darrion Owens have really been a pleasant surprise for us. Obviously [offensive linemen] Trevor Darling and KC McDermott are playing a lot. [Cornerback] Ryan Mayes has been really a pleasant surprise for us, too. Their maturity, ability to learn - they don't know where half the buildings on campus are and now they're learning, have four or five classes, new way to lift, new way to study, new way to watch film, new nomenclature."

> How is Dallas Crawford doing after his switch to safety?

"Really good," Golden said. "You just feel his presence out there. Physical. Same old Dallas. You only have to tell him one time, very coachable. Coach him up and next play he gets it right."

> Crawford also served as the holder on field goal attempts during live drills Tuesday. He played quarterback in high school and has plenty of experience doing it.

> Golden said walk-on Ricky Carroll and Matt Goudis are the main competitors this spring for the punting job. But there will be more walk-ons and transfers coming in over the summer and fall.

"Forget about trying to replace [Pat O'Donnell]," Golden said. "Just get someone that can do a great job and put it where you want it. But don't worry about replacing Pat. He was faster than half the damn running backs at the combine."

> Safety Deon Bush looked like he got nicked during practice. Bush had his lower back examined on the sideline and didn't return to full contact.

> There was a scout from the Cincinnati Bengals who was at practice and closely watching Miami's defensive line group work.

> The viewing for JoJo Nicolas, the former Hurricanes defensive back who died last week after a horrific early morning car accident, will be held Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Covenant Baptist Church, 1055 NW 6th Ave., Florida City. The funeral for Nicolas will take place Saturday at Glendale Missionary Baptist Church, 14580 SW 117th Ave., Miami. Both events are open to the public.

> Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio didn't want to say Wednesday how much exactly sophomore linebacker Jermaine Grace weighs. Grace, working as a backup at weakside linebacker, is listed at 6-1, 210 pounds.

"Jermaine is very talented," D'Onofrio said. "The things we like about Jermaine is he can really run. He's very good in space. He's a good blitzer. And he's instinctive. But he needs to really work hard in the weight room. He needs to get bigger. And he needs to really work at the playbook. But the skill set is there. We need to get his preparation and his work habits to match his skill set. 

"'I'm not going to give you the exact weight, but he needs to gain some," D'Onofrio continued. "Again, it doesn't need to be a ton. The defense is predicated on having guys that can play, not pieces that fit. He can play in our defense right now. Denzel was 208 pounds his freshman year and made a commitment to the weight room and is now 242 pounds. There's no reason Jermaine can't make that same commitment."

> D'Onofrio said freshman Darrion Owens is working at strong side linebacker, but he's also third on the depth chart at rush end behind Tyriq McCord and Al-Quadin Muhammad.

"He's looked really good doing it. Natural," D'Onofrio said. "He's a good rusher. Same category of guys. We're starting to have some symmetry there."

March 03, 2014

Hiring Ice Harris a smart move for Canes, but making him an assistant coach would be even smarter

High school football coaches across South Florida were happy to hear Monday's news that Miami Booker T. Washington's Tim "Ice" Harris had been hired as assistant director of football operations at the University of Miami.

"Great news for Coach Ice and for The U," former Hurricane and Miami Central coach Roland Smith said. "It means a great deal for him to be back at UM. Everyone in the community knows him. He knows the ins and outs of Liberty City, Overtown and many other places here in Dade. He's going to be an asset."

"I think it’s definitely a good thing for both," said Miami Westminster Christian coach Sedrick Irvin, who spent two years at Alabama and another at Memphis as an assistant and knows the value of having a familiar, local face on a college staff.

"Besides, what else is there for him to accomplish at this level now?" Irvin continued. "State champs three times. National champs. It's always good to see the home school give a local coach who has done well a shot at the next level."

Harris, a three-time state championship winning coach and perennial winner with a 96-10 career record as a head coach, no doubt has earned the respect of coaches locally. As the direct liaison for high school coaches for UM -- among his new duties -- that will come in handy. So will the experience he already has from coordinating community service events the first time he was at UM under Randy Shannon from 2008 to 2010.

But if you're thinking Harris' hiring is going to "lock down South Florida recruiting" you're overestimating it some. Since he's not an assistant coach, Harris cannot recruit like one for the Hurricanes. 

According to UM here is what Harris can't do: He can't coach. He can't recruit. And he can't make phone calls to recruits.

What can he do? He can reach recruits through social media beginning Sept. 1 of their junior year and he can be involved in official on campus visits and eat meals during off campus official vists.

That's hardly the freedom assistants coaches have.

Other college programs have swooped into South Florida over the last two years and hired some of the top local coaches such as Miami Central's Telly Lockette (USF), Miramar's Damon Cogdell (West Virginia), University School's Roger Harriott (FAU) and Hialeah American's Corey Bell (FAU). By making them assistant coaches, they're allowed to go into homes, schools and recruit to the fullest extent. 

Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg was at Miami Edison and Norland when Harris had his first go-around with the Canes.

"If it's pretty much the same job as last time he can make phone calls to the coaches," Heidelburg said. "It’s not on the recruiting tip, but it’s moreso ‘Hey Coach Golden told me this kid was offered. I want to get a correct address and phone number. The coach may start a conversation with him like ‘So how is it over there?’ He can always plug in players that way and talk to them about that.

"They can use that help recruiting. But do I think FAU made a better move with Bell and Harriott? Yes. That’s where the advantage is going to be with Bell, Harriott and Lockette. They’ll coach the kids they are recruiting as opposed to Ice just selling the program.

"Bell, Harriott and Lockette can actually sell the kids, 'Hey we're from Miami and we're recruiting you to these positions.' I don’t know if a liaison position even allows for Ice to ride out with the coach who is recruiting the player."

Irvin, who again has been a part of a college staff at Alabama and Memphis, said where he thinks Harris can make an impact most is with parents.

"Me being realistic I don’t think he’ll have so much of an impact with players, but he can have an impact depending on how they use him and how he comes off to the parents," Irvin said.

Harris has told me in the past if he returned to the college ranks he wanted to be in a position where he could coach and not be a behind-the-scenes guy. There's always the possibility Golden is thinking two steps ahead here and wants to have Harris on staff with the idea of eventually making him an assistant. 

Harris also wants to finish college and get his degree at UM. Part of the reason he left Booker T. was to take advantage of this situation and finish school once and for all. He cannot become an assistant coach until he gets his degree.

"I don't know the details of the job for Ice, but maybe it will be used as a stepping stone to get acclimated to the college game and then maybe next year he’s a position coach," Heidelburg said. "I can definitelly see it like that."

Ice Harris heading back to UM

Tim "Ice" Harris, who won three state championships at Miami Booker T. Washington including a national title this past season, has accepted a position on the University of Miami football staff as Assistant Director of Football Operations.

Harris, 48, will be the primary liaison to high school coaches at UM under Al Golden. He will also assist in coordinating community service events for current student-athletes.

Harris worked under former UM coach Randy Shannon from 2008 to 2010 as a special assistant to the head coach. He coordinated the football team’s community relations projects and also assisted in other day-to-day operations of the football program.

Harris’ eldest son Tim Jr., Booker T.’s offensive coordinator, is expected to be named coach for the Tornadoes two sources told The Miami Herald. Harris Jr., 28, ran track at UM where he was an All-American. Harris' son, Treon, a star quarterback on the program’s back-to-back state championship teams, signed with the University of Florida last month.

Together the Harris family -- with deep roots to Miami's innercity -- led Booker T. to 26 consecutive victories and back-to-back state titles over the last two seasons. The Tornadoes finished the year ranked No. 1 in all seven national high school football polls.

In his first stint at Booker T. from 2003 to 2007, Harris Sr. went 57-7 and guided the Tornadoes to a state championship in 2007 en route to being named the USA Today National Coach of the Year.

He then followed his son Brandon Harris, a standout cornerback now with the Houston Texans, to UM the following fall. After Shannon was fired, Harris returned to Booker T. as head coach in 2011 and guided the Tornadoes to a state finals appearance immediately. Booker T. went 39-3 over the last three seasons combined including 14-0 this past season.

“God put me on this earth to help develop young people from a high school perspective,” Harris Sr. said after guiding Booker T. to the state championship last December and joining Nick Kotys (4), Billy Rolle (3) and Walt Frazier as the only other coaches in Miami-Dade County history to win at least three state titles.

“I know right now from watching our development the last three years you never know what might happen, if an offer may come. But right now I’m grounded to what we’re doing and Booker T. Washington High School.”

Eddie Arza, a longtime friend and assistant at Booker T. prior to 2013, said Ice was torn about leaving Booker T. but felt better knowing he was leaving the program in the hands of his son and his assistants. Harris Sr. also intends to finish his college degree at UM. 

"If there’s something he would want to come out in the article is that it was a gut-wrenching decision for him because he’s so tied up to that community and to those kids," Arza said. "The phrase saving lives came out in our conversations hundreds of times over the weekend. Ice was not only about winning games at Booker T., but saving lives. I told him listen 'You’ve taught everybody well and we’ll continue to save lives while your over there. Now with Ice being at UM he can save some lives not only in Overtown, but Liberty City, Goulds and other areas throughout the county.

"It’s important for people to know he cares so much about his community. What made the decision easier for him was we spent the weekend in Orlando in the Nike Clinic. We had our 15 coaches in a room and we sat and spoke and laughed about all the things we wanted to accomplish. We get along so great. Seeing us laugh and joke around and knowing how much football we know because of him, it made his decision easier."

Harris began his coaching career at Miami High where he coached wide receivers and served as the offensive coordinator from 1986 to 1996. There, he coached UM offensive coordinator James Coley. Harris also served as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Northwestern High School from 1997-98 and 2001-02. He was the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Miami Central High School from 1999-2000.

A native of Overtown, Harris played three years as a defensive back at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.

UM signed two of its top recruits in February from Booker T. -- five-star All-American defensive end Chad Thomas and four-star defensive end Demetrius Jackson. UM also has Booker T. standout running back Mark Walton (currently Class of 2016) committed as a recruit.

The Tornadoes are once again expected to be among the nation's elite teams in 2015.

March 02, 2014

UM Canes QB Ryan Williams will be a dad in August (Denzel Perryman's baby comes to practice) & lots of assorted notes from Day 2 of spring football

Today's Hurricanes' football practice, another nearly three-hour marathon at Greetree Field, was definitely a family affair on the sideline, where about 150-200 folks watched Day No. 2 of the 15-practice session that ends with the spring game April 12.

Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was there with his wife and a couple of his kids, Former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma came with his 4-year-old daughter Samaara, former UM running backs coach Don Soldinger -- a classic and UM Sports Hall of Famer --  was there watching and shmoozing, Artie Burns' mom Dana and his brothers were there, A.J. Highsmith came to watch his (former) teammates, Deon Bush's father came to watch, Shaiy Howard and family were there and the list goes on and on.

"It's fun watching,'' Vilma, who won a national championship in 2001, told me. "I work out here in the offseason every year and I always take time to come out and look. I watch them grinding away and it reminds me of how we were -- especially with Coach Soldinger here. It's just a matter of focusing in on the details. We made great strides last year and the boys will get even better.''

I especially enjoyed meeting Denzel Perryman's beautiful daughter Ella Grace, about to turn four months -- and then learning that quarterback Ryan Williams' wife, Deanna, is expecting a baby boy on August 5th. Right in time for the season. 

"I like the name Ryan but he likes Rey,'' said Deanna, who said, along with Ryan's mom, Jayne, that she's nixing that name. "I think he's ready to be a father. I think he'll be more motivated and a little bit more focused.''

 Deanna, who graduated from FIU in social work and health administration, eventually plans to get her masters in speech pathology.

Deanna and Ryan's mom said Ryan told UM offensive coordinator James Coley about his expected arrival before he told his parents. 

"Is that not crazy?'' Jayne said, laughing along with Deanna. "You go tell your football coach before you tell your parents. Football first. We're second.''

Deanna and Ryan "officially'' got married, Deanna said, on Jan. 31, 2012, in a small ceremony with their parents there. There was another party/ceremony later. They're having one baby shower in May with family members in New Orleans, and another shower later in South Florida.

"It should be an amazing year,'' Deanna said.

Denzel Perryman's fiancee, Cassie Stuart, is having an amazing year herself.

She brought baby Ella, who has long brown curls, sparkling blue eyes and a big smile, to watch Denzel practice. Denzel's dad was there, as well as a couple of Denzel's nephews and Denzel's younger brother.

"It's easy,'' Cassie said about being parents and Denzel having daddy responsibilities while playing football. "It took a while, but we figured it out.''

  While Cassie works a couple nights a week, she said Denzel happily stays home with Ella Grace.

  "He's awesome with the baby,'' she said. 

  Cassie plans to eventually return to school to finish a degree in criminal justice. She told me she was grateful that Denzel returned to UM for his senior season.

  "He needed to get his degree,'' she said. "I'm happy he made that decision.'' 

So are UM fans.

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

*The Canes practiced in shorts again Sunday. The injury list is the same as yesterday, except for linebacker Thurston Armbrister being out of his limited yellow jersey and back in green. 

*Early signee Trent Harris, listed as 6-2 and 240 pounds, watched the practice on the field in street clothes because he has not been cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center due to paperwork that still has to be signed and approved. Don't know the details.

* First-team black jerseys that I noticed Sunday: CB Tracy Howard, safety Deon Bush, safety Jamal Carter, cornerback Larry Hope, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhhamad, linebacker Perryman, linebacker Raphael Kirby, linebacker Alex Figueroa. 

*Though it's obviously early, Dallas Crawford looks really good at safety. He had a great pass breakup during practice, leaping way the heck into the air to get it. Then, a couple plays later, he intercepted a pass by scout-teamer Garrison Lassiter.

*Howard picked off his former Miramar High school teammate, Williams.

 *Williams threw a 40-yard touchdown to Stacy Coley to end the practice.

*CB Artie Burns, the new ACC 60-meter hurdles champion, returned from the ACC track and field championships at Clemson and was on the sideline watching his teammates and getting congratulated by coaches and players. Al Golden called him a "champion'' today.

* Practice resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Everyone is invited back. It's open.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

March 01, 2014

First Hurricanes spring football practice in the books: great day, says Al Golden (& news on Hunter)

Before I drive home to write my stories, here's some quick news you can use from today's opening day of Miami spring practice:

* First and most important: UM offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who was in the hospital (not sure about now), is doing much better, according to coach Al Golden. That right there made my day.

* A lot of players -- 12 from what we know right now -- are injured and not taking part in spring practice, at least for now. Several of them are out for all of spring. 

 The injuries I know about:

  * Fr WR Braxton Berrios (ACL surgery)

  * Soph WR Malcolm Lewis (he was granted a medical hardship waiver for injury a couple seasons ago at Georgia Tech) for sports hernia

  * Soph S Rayshawn Jenkins (unspecified)

  * Soph CB Nate Dortch (knee) 

  * Soph CB Corn Elder (knee)    

  * Sr. DL Anthony Chickillo (unspecified)

  * Sr. CB Ladarius Gunter (shoulder/left arm in sling)

  * Sr. C Shane McDermott (boot on left foot)

  * Jr. WR Herb Waters (brace on left knee)

  * Jr. RB Duke Johnson (broke ankle at FSU)

  * Fr. RB Joseph Yearby (fractured fibula this past season)

  * Sr. TE Clive Walford (unspecified)

  Golden said he wasn't sure yet which guys would miss all of spring and which would return sooner. Some will eventually be doing individual drills, for example, and not have any contact.

   The ones I heard that were out temporarily (maybe through spring break, let's say -- but not for sure) are Chickillo, Lewis, Jenkins and Waters). We'll see on those, however. These injury situations are usually in flux.

  Just about every one except Ladarius Gunter is a "lower extremity'' injury, although not sure yet on Walford. 

  * Here are some of the defensive players who were wearing the coveted black jerseys: Soph CB Larry Hope, Soph S Jamal Carter, Jr. CB Tracy Howard, Jr. S Deon Bush, Soph LB Alex Figueroa, Soph DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, Jr. DL Ufomba Kamalu, Jr. LB Raphael Kirby.

* Yes, Dallas Crawford is a safety now, and he said Coach Golden was the one who approached him about it. He wants to play, and he seems ready to do whatever the team needs him to do. He's a wonderful team player and Golden insisted no matter how coaches look at Dallas, he is one of the 22 best football players on the team.

* The starting offensive linemen today were left tackle Erick Flowers, left guard Jon Feliciano, center Alex Gall, right guard Danny Isidora and right tackle Taylor Gadbois.

  The second-team OL today: left tackle Kc McDermott (yes, Shane's 6-4, 296-pound "little (haha)" brother, LG Sean Harvey, center Hunter Wells, right guard Trevor Darling and right tackle Sunny Odogwu.

 * Ricky Carroll, a 6-3, 198-pound fifth-year senior out of Mission Viejo, Calif. and formerly of Orange Coast College, appears to be your punter. UM needs big-time help with this position.

* Sr. WR Rashawn Scott, back from suspension and injury, scored a nice touchdown from quarterback Ryan Williams. Scott was contrite about his mistakes in the past and is very happy to be back and intent on making his senior year count. Scott has tons of talent, but between getting in trouble several times and the injury... This is his last shot.

* Sr. Ryan Williams is poised to be your starter, no doubt. He is mature and forthright and knows his weaknesses and strengths. Both coach Golden and offensive coordinator/QB coach James Coley said today that Ryan needs to be more vocal. Ryan said he's working on it every day. I hope he succeeds.

* Golden and Coley also were upbeat about backup redshirt freshman QB Kevin Olsen, who seemed pleased to be back. Nothing tells me in any way that he'll end up starting this season unless something happens to Ryan. Backup sophomore Gray Crow is the other scholarship QB battling at the position.

* Sr.LB Denzel Perryman will play in the middle this season in the 4-3 defense. He looks bigger and more muscular than he's ever been. He said he knew he made the right decision in returning for his final year when he came out there today on the field.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN