A couple of quick notes from Monday's post-practice interviews:
> UM coach Al Golden said linebackers Eddie Johnson and Gabe Terry, who did not make the trip to Virginia Saturday for not following team rules, didn't practice Monday. But Golden said he hopes to resolve issues with both of those players "tonight and tomorrow."
"I just wanted to get through the game film of this and didn't really want to -- they weren't part of that and I wanted to get through today and move forward with them tonight and tomorrow," Golden said.
> Golden on the length of the suspension of receiver Rashawn Scott: "Indefinitely. I don't know if that means there will be closure to that or not. But it's indefinitely for sure."
> Linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle) was back at practice Monday according to Golden and practicing with the first team at weakside linebacker according to Mark D'Onofrio. Safety Deon Bush (stinger) was back at practice and was running around and participating in conditioning. But Golden said Bush will need medical clearance to return for Saturday's home finale against USF.
"Denzel is going to be ready it looks like," Golden said. "Deon, we're still in that stage where we have to evaluate. He looked great. He's out here running and everything. It's just, the doctor has to give him the okay. From a conditioning standpoint we'll keep him on track to play. But he can't play until he gets cleared."
> Freshman running back Duke Johnson was named ACC Rookie of the Week for the fourth time this season after tallying 368 all-purpose yards at Virginia. Johnson became only the third FBS player since 2000 with a TD pass and a kickoff return for a TD in the same game.
> Sophomore Gionni Paul was named co-Linebacker of the Week after tallying a team-leading 14 tackles against the Cavs. Paul, who was honored by the ACC for the second time this season, was practicing as the backup to Perryman at weakside linebacker on Monday according to D'Onofrio.
> For those of you hoping Golden might decide it's time to make a change at defensive coordinator, don't hold your breath. We continue to get the sense that despite the Hurricanes resetting the record book for most points and yards allowed on defense, Golden doesn't blame D'Onofrio for any of it. He blames youth.
"The mindset right now is we're in this to fix it long term," Golden said Monday. "We just had a two minute drive at the end of the game and we didn't stop them and there were no seniors on the field. None. So, I think the guys understand we didn't get it done, but if you're here long term and you want to get it fixed, it's going to be all of us that are here plus whatever we add next year. It's not just going to [snaps fingers four times] just turn overnight. I think they have a good attitude. I think they understand that. For all the things we didn't do persay in that two minute drive, look at all the guys who were on the field. The [Tyriq] McCords, Tracy Howards and [Rayshawn] Jenkins that did a nice job."
> Big picture you get the sense Golden is tiring of dealing with outside distractions. It's not even the NCAA anymore. It's his own players like Johnson and Rashawn Scott getting themselves suspended in Week 10 of the season that are troubling him.
"It's been TMZ since I've been here," Golden said of the outside distractions. "Let's be honest. Yeah, it's been tough. It's been tough on the coaches. It's been tough on me, personally. There's not one minute I go to bed where I don't think I'm fighting that with the team. Again, I'm looking forward to the day when we're focused on our opponents and making our players better and not talking about [outside distractions]."
Are the players totally focused and where they need to be? "I don't think we're there yet," Golden said. "I think we've made a lot of progress. I think we've gotten to the point where we're starting to focus on what's important for our program and what we need to do in terms of the Coastal Division and those opponents. But clearly we had some missteps last week. I don't think there's any questions about it."
Golden said players need to do a better job policing themselves "proactively" or before someone makes a mistake. "Every team battles it," Golden said. "I just don't want to be there in November."
> Golden believes UM will be focused to take on South Florida (3-6, 1-4 ACC) this week.
"This has turned into a rival," Golden said. "There's going to be a lot of energy and effort that both teams are going to put into this game to prepare. I see some guys playing a non-conference game, but it's a non-BCS or FCS game to get them ready for their rivalry game or get them settled in for their conference championship. That's not the case here. This is all we can handle. This will be a well rested team, a tough team coming in. We better get back on the horse."
I will update and post more notes after I transcribe them. Stay tuned for updates. But for now, the audio from today's interviews are available for your listening pleasure.
The Hurricanes are back at .500 following a heartbreaking 41-40 loss on the road at Virginia.
Of all five UM losses this season, this one will probably haunt UM coach Al Golden and his assistant coaches the most. UM (5-5, 4-3 ACC) had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, and then a five-point lead with the ball following a safety with 4:19 remaining.
This loss wasn't about a lack of talent or being outclassed by a better team. The Canes simply blew too many opportunities against a Cavaliers team (4-6, 2-4 ACC) that will be lucky to finish .500.
This, by the way, is Golden's third loss to a sub .500 team in his first 22 games as Hurricanes coach. Golden's assistants deserve to share the blame equally.
Jedd Fisch's offense had the ball in Virginia territory on each of its last two possessions and went three-and-out on each drive.
Mark D'Onofrio's defense, meanwhile, gave up a 12-play, 71-yard scoring drive which made it 38-35 and then a 16-play, 87-yard scoring drive with six seconds left to give up the lead for good. Virginia converted two fourth downs on the game-winning drive including the last one on a defensive holding penalty on cornerback Thomas Finnie.
Afterward, Golden called the loss "heartbreaking."
UM, which was minus two suspended starters (linebacker Eddie Johnson and receiver Rashawn Scott) and two injured starters (linebacker Denzel Perryman and safety Deon Bush), returns home next week to host USF.
We have to see if Bush and Perryman will be healthy enough to return, and if Johnson and Scott will be allowed back. Golden didn't elaborate on the status of either suspended player.
"We just got to keep fighting," Golden told WQAM after the game. "We can't go backwards here. We got to stay together. It's really important we don't splinter, we stay together."
> Freshman Duke Johnson pretty much solidified his spot as the ACC's Rookie of the Year. He ran for a season-high 150 yards on 16 carries, threw an 8-yard TD pass to Allen Hurns and returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score (the two kick returns in one season tied the school record). His 368 all-purpose yards in Saturday's game helped him surpass Edgerrin James, Graig Cooper, Chuck Forman, Santana Moss and Lamar Miller for all-purpose yards in a season. Johnson now has 1,688 total yards on the season. Willis McGahee holds the UM record with 2,108 in a season.
Yet, it somehow still wasn't enough.
Fisch turned to Johnson with the game on the line -- with UM facing a 3rd and 6 at the Cavaliers 49-yard line with under three minutes to play. Johnson only got two yards on the carry and the Hurricanes had to punt. But Saturday's loss was hardly Johnson's fault.
"The last 3rd and 5, I wanted the ball in his hands, thought he would be able to get us in there," Golden said. "We didn't and had to punt the ball. Duke gave great effort. Last couple of weeks he's been healthy, preparing better. He's really playing hard for us right now."
UM's defense gave up 482 yards of total offense including 388 through the air as Virginia's two QBs Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims combined to go 40 of 51 passing in the game. That's a 78 percent completion percentage. Rocco was completing just 58.2 percent of his attempts coming in. Sims was completing 55.8 percent of his passes.
By giving up 41 points, UM's defense has now surrendered 312 points on the season -- just two shy of the previous UM worst set by the 1984 and 2008 defenses. The Canes have already given up 4,896 yards in all. The previous worst was 4,369 yards (1997).
The records for most yards allowed rushing (2,492, 1944) and passing (2,695, 2009) are well within reach with two games to go. The Canes have now given up 2,310 yards rushing and 2,586 passing after Saturday's loss.
> Gionni Paul ended up leading UM with a career-high 14 tackles. With Perryman and Johnson out, Paul and Jimmy Gaines (12 tackles) saw extensive playing time. Paul was beaten by Jake McGee for the game-winning touchdown pass.
"Obviously we left some guys home that could have helped us here today," Golden said. "We got to get off the field more on third down or the play count gets too high. The play count got really high on us. We didn't have the depth we need right now at the linebacker position and it showed late."
> Defensive end Anthony Chickillo produced his first sack in six games and helped along with Curtis Porter to produce a safety on Rocco in the fourth quarter when it was ruled he intentionally grounded the ball while jumping back towards the end zone. Chickillo was later credited with his second sack on that play.
Despite his effort Saturday, it's clear the Hurricanes need Chickillo -- and other pass rushers -- to be more productive consistently. Virginia's QBs rarely felt the heat on third and fourth down. The Cavaliers were also 6 of 6 in the red zone with 6 TDs against Miami. The Hurricanes have now given up 33 touchdowns in 54 red zone trips this season.
> Freshman Rayshawn Jenkins didn't start for the Hurricanes at safety, but finished third on the team with eight tackles. Jenkins and Bush are the future for UM at safety and D'Onofrio might consider playing both together in Miami's final two regular season games -- assuming Bush will be back.
> Cornerback Ladarius Gunter continues to impress in pass coverage. He had three of UM's five pass breakups. Most of Virginia's successful passes went in the direction of Finnie, freshman Tracy Howard and over the middle against UM's linebackers, who were out of position on many plays.
> A week after going 1 for 12 on third down versus Virginia Tech, UM finished 4 of 10. It's the last two third down attempts that will haunt them.
> Receiver Phillip Dorsett, who had just eight catches for 81 yards in his four previous games combined, finished with six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown.
The Canes (5-4, 4-2 ACC) are playing in Charlottesville this afternoon and taking on a 3-6, 1-4 Virginia team minus four starters: WR Rashawn Scott (suspended indefinitely), LB Eddie Johnson (didn't make the trip), S Deon Bush (stinger) and LB Denzel Perryman (ankle).
Kickoff is set for noon and the game can be seen on ABC.
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South Plantation star running back Alex Collins -- the leading rusher in Broward County -- told University of Miami coaches on Wednesday he's no longer committed to signing with the program.
Considered the 11th best running back in the country by Rivals.com, Collins said UM remains in the mix to sign him, but he's reopened his recruiting and is strongly considering Florida State and Wisconsin. Collins leads all rushers in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties this season with 1,253 yards and 14 touchdowns on 140 attempts.
UM, which now has 10 commitments as part of its 2013 signing class including Lake Mary Prep tailback Ray Lewis III, will lose senior Mike James at the end of the season and are expected to have four scholarship running backs back next season. They are: Duke Johnson, Eduardo Clements, Dallas Crawford and Danny Dillard.
Plantation American Heritage junior Sony Michel, considered one of the best running backs in the country in 2014, remains a high priority on UM's recruiting list.
Coach Al Golden cannot comment on recruits, but was asked Wednesday about the perception of his program in the eyes of local recruits.
"The perception is we're looking for young men to join our program and put Miami back where it belongs in the national scene," Golden said. "I keep saying it, but I confront the facts, know where we are as a program. It's not where we want to be. It's really important we address the facts, not gloss over anything, understand what we're looking for and what we need to do both here in this program and in recruiting to achieve our goals and get us back to where we want to be."
> Delray Beach Atlantic defensive tackle Keith Bryant, a Hurricanes commitment, has been named to the U.S. Army All-American team. He's told reporters he remains committed to UM, but plans official visits to LSU, Oklahoma and South Carolina after the season. The Palm Beach Post says it's going to be a battle between UM and Florida State for Bryant.
> Golden said Wednesday he expects safety Deon Bush (stinger) to miss Saturday's game and that linebacker Denzel Perryman "is somewhere between probable and doubtful. If I was going to guess it would be doubtful right now." Perryman was not wearing a boot Wednesday on his injured right ankle, but was still in a yellow non-contact jersey.
> Golden said freshman receiver Malcolm Lewis, who broke his ankle at Georgia Tech, has been granted a medical redshirt for this season.
> Receiver Robert Lockhart suffered an undisclosed injury Tuesday and could be out this week. “I don’t know if [he’ll play this week]," Golden said. " He has an injury we have to be careful with."
Chat with Herald Sports writer Manny Navarro from 2 to 3 p.m. today. Leave your questions below in the comments section and he will answer them during the live chat.
UM coach Al Golden's weekly press conference before the Virginia game.
“(We) had a chance to rest up the team and get healthy and get stated on UVA. Clearly the University of Virginia is a different team coming out of a bye week. (They had) 446 yards on offense and 48 carries for almost 250 yards. They did a great job with time of possession. Six sacks and four takeaways against NC State, and they held them to something like 19 yards rushing. They clearly have made some changes.
“I’m really impressed with UVA’s offensive line, especially the tackles and the center. I think the center is as good as anyone we’ve seen so far this year. Two quarterbacks in [Phillip] Sims and [Michael] Rocco. I really think their running back depth is excellent…We’ll see all three of them. We’ll see a number of receivers in the game, and obviously their tight ends are a strength as well. Big, strong, rugged team. They beat us the last two years and four of the last six. Clearly that, coupled with the NC State game, has got our team’s attention. Hopefully we’ll be able to maintain our focus and get ready for a great UVA team in Charlottesville.
“On defense, again, they’re rugged up front…Big and strong and long up front on defense, same as last year….I think we’re expecting the University of Virginia team that played last week. Clearly they had some turnover ratio issues, which had led to some mistakes earlier in the year. But they clearly got that cleaned up in the bye week and looked different last week in terms of how they’re operating.”
On the influence of being in first place in the Coastal Division...
“(Our players) have to learn how to do it. It’s difficult because it’s the first time that we’re navigating that – we were pretty much out (of the race) by this time last year. This is where you’re either disciplined, and your habits and your process either holds up or cracks. We’re trying to teach them how to make it so habitual, so disciplined and ingrained, that it can withstand anything. For us to want to go where we want to go in the coming years, this is the first step for us. It’s really important to stay focused on UVA and block everything else out.”
On added energy from being in the ACC Championship game mix...
“I hope. That’s part of it. Part of being in the mix towards the end (of the season) should supply you with some energy and should reinforce your focus. We have goals as a team, but our goal right now is to prepare as well as we can, block out everything external and stay focused on the University of Virginia. At the end of the season, this was a team last year that was physical and strong. It’s going to be a great challenge for us, and it’s going to be a barometer for us to see where we are from this time last year.”
On the Cavaliers’ use of two different quarterbacks...
“I think they’re both good. Obviously they’ve won with both of them. They’re hitting their outlets; they’ll throw it to the two tailbacks out of the backfield…Excellent screen throwers. Not afraid to move the pocket with them, or play action and get a chunk. I’m sure from [Bill] Lazor’s standpoint or Mike’s [London] standpoint they see them differently in terms of how they operate. Right now we’re just preparing for the totality of the Virginia offense, not really just one quarterback or the other.”
On the difference between Virginia’s play before the bye week and after...
“I can tell you this – the biggest thing was they got to the quarterback. I think they only had seven sacks coming into NC State and they got to him six times. I think they were minus-16 (turnover ratio) going into NC State and now they’re minus-12…They’ve done that with system and with personnel…I’m sure they put a great emphasis on protecting the ball and taking it away. Obviously they brought that to fruition. In terms of stopping the run right now, this team is as good as anyone in the country…They’re strong, they’re efficient, they’re physical…We better be ready to go.”
On the play of Miami quarterback Stephen Morris...
“I think Stephen is developing every week. He’s getting better every week. We’ve faced some really good defenses and we’re going to face another good one coming up. I think he just has to get back to trusting those around him. Stop looking for the big play, and just hit some singles. The great lesson is the Mike James play on our second touchdown - it’s a one-yard completion that ends up being a 16-yard touchdown. He needs to get back to doing more than that – trusting the guys around him and distributing the football. It doesn’t always have to be down the field. We have enough talent out there that we can get explosive plays without throwing it 50 yards down the field. He just has to settle in. We’re protecting him well. This team will pressure you - last year they got to us, make no mistake about it. We have to protect well for us.”
On Miami’s ability to create more turnovers this season (18) compared to last season (15)...
“We’re starting to create some turnovers. A lot of it sometimes, as coaches, we’ll do the drills and everything, but the reality of it is sometimes it’s just [about the] players. Sometimes there are just guys that, with a little bit of training, if they have that knack for it or they look for it, they can make some plays. We’re starting to get some interceptions now – I think that’s the biggest difference. Last year we were trying to rip it out a lot…The biggest difference right now is we’re getting some interceptions. And we’re doing that without getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Hopefully we can continue to get some pressure on the quarterback, and that should disrupt us a little bit more. We’re protecting the ball well on offense - we better against this team - and we’re taking it away on defense. We need to continue to do that.”
On the keys to avoiding trouble on third down by setting up well on first and second down...
“Be efficient... I think [Virginia] had eight three-and-outs against NC State, and I think we had five against Virginia Tech. So clearly that’s part of their M.O. and part of their success on third downs. They get you into third-and-long situations, and then they do a nice job of getting the ball out and either tackling you or putting pressure on you. As many times as they sacked [Mike] Glennon in Raleigh, they hit him. They hit him an awful lot. We have to be efficient on first and second down. We can’t be sitting there in those “band downs”, as I call them – those third-and-longs when they strike up the band, everybody gets jacked up, and they’re getting in sprinters stances and coming at you. It’s really important we are efficient on first and second down.”
On lack of productivity in the third quarter...
“It’s just how you look at it. I look at it like our defense has only given up about three points in the last three games in the third quarter or something like that. Our defense has been very productive. Our offense has not been as productive for sure in the third quarter. I think this is the first game in the last three or four where we actually started on offense in the third quarter - and I think we went three and out, if I’m not mistaken. There’s no question overall we have not had the production we need to have in the third quarter. But it’s more than that - we can’t have the three-and-outs and we have to produce on third down. I think third down has a lot to do with it.”
On the importance of his offensive line against a talented Virginia front...
“They know what’s up. They know this team is strong, they got a lot of sacks last year, got a lot of pressure. That’s on the running backs, tight ends and the offensive line. I don’t think there’s any question - we know what Virginia is and what they were last year. They’re a big, strong, rugged team that’s tough. As they played last week, I know that’s how they want to conduct again. They don’t want to beat themselves. That onus is on everybody and Stephen [Morris] has to get rid of the ball as well.”
On his team’s pass protection up to this point...
“I think it’s been excellent. This will be as big a challenge as we’ve seen, both in personnel and from a system standpoint. This team will pressure you, and I mean rushing six or more, more than anybody.”
On how defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio dealt with his team’s defensive struggles...
“I think you just keep saying, ‘We’ve seen this drill before. We’ve seen this game before.’ And just be supportive. It has not been an easy task. We lost a ton of guys and a ton of experience on defense. The younger guys are starting to grow up, and we’ve gotten the linebackers healthy. Through that time we were down, what – four or five linebackers? How many are we playing now altogether? Seven, or maybe eight? And we had four or five of them that weren’t with us for a while – that was tough sledding there. We didn’t have [Curtis] Porter, we had some other injuries. I think there are some guys that are healthy that are growing up. We’re playing better, but you’re only as good as your next game, and that’s the challenge coming up. These guys are going to try to run the ball down our throat with a big physical offensive line and physical tight ends. We better be ready to tackle really well and hold up at the point.”
On the impact of having defensive tackle Curtis Porter back in the lineup...
“He’s strong. To have a man – what I mean by that is a guy who is strong, he’s mature, he’s physical, he’s stout, he can hold the point of attack, not get knocked off, all those things. At the same time he’s coming back, some of the younger guys are growing up, which is good. You’re seeing better play from Luther [Robinson] or Corey King or any of those guys right now. They’re starting to grow up in there. We’re not where we need to be, but certainly It helps to have that depth and strength in there, for sure.”
On the improved play of cornerback Ladarius Gunter...
“He’s growing up a lot. He benefitted really from the last couple weeks and certainly the bye week. He’s been working hard, he’s got length, he’s strong, and I think he’s settled in right now. He understands the system, and he’s playing with a lot more confidence. I would say [Antonio] Crawford is playing better, Tracy Howard is playing better. That group has to keep moving forward. You could say the same thing with [Rayshawn] Jenkins at safety - he played the most he’s played in the Virginia Tech game and had success. Hopefully those guys will continue to grow as a unit.”
Here are some news and notes from Monday. The Hurricanes (5-4, 4-2) returned to practice after getting a couple days off following their win over Virginia Tech last Thursday night and are preparing for Virginia.
> Freshman linebacker Gabe Terry and running back Duke Johnson were named the ACC's Special Teams Player and Rookie of the Week, respectively, on Monday.
UM coach Al Golden said Terry, who blocked a punt in the win over Virginia Tech, learned from his roughing the punter penalty against Notre Dame.
"He went down low for the ball, elongated - he didn't put his hand up high like he did at Notre Dame, learned from that," Golden said. "That was a tough lesson for all of us at Notre Dame, but obviously he learned from it."
Johnson, who produced his fourth 200-yard all-purpose game of the season, was honored by the ACC for the third time this season. Johnson ranks 21st nationally in all-purpose yards.
> Defensive end Kelvin Cain has been reinstated and practiced with the scout team Monday. The 6-3, 245-pound junior had his name removed from the roster two weeks ago after missing the Florida State game for what Golden deemed "personal reasons."
Asked about Cain's return to the team after he was removed from the roster, Golden said, "It's personal, but he's been reinstated. He sorted some things out, so I'm happy for the young man. It's good to see him back out here today."
Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said he didn't see Cain practicing Monday because he "was watching our side of the ball [the first and second team defense.]"
"Hopefully he's got his mind right and is back and ready to do what we need him to do," D'Onofrio said.> Golden said there's no injury update on safety Deon Bush (stinger) or linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle), but both were expected to see doctors Monday.
"Denzel we're protecting; he'll see the doctor again today," Golden said. "And Deon is seeing the doctor this afternoon."
Golden reiterated he doesn't think Perryman's health went backward during the Virginia Tech game and remains hopeful he's on track to play Saturday at Virginia.
Someone close to Bush told The Herald Monday night Bush's injury doesn't appear to be serious and he expects to play at Virginia.
> Golden said defensive tackle Curtis Porter, who got his first action of the season on Thursday night coming off an appendectomy, has to continue to improve with his conditioning.
Golden said the team was looking to get Porter "around 25 to 30" snaps against Virginia Tech. D'Onofrio said Porter got around 30 snaps.
"He's got another level he can get to if he can get in condition and eliminate the distractions," Golden said. "His biggest enemy is consistency, being the same guy every day. If he can develop that discipline, make good choices every day and have a positive attitude and stay focused he could be a really good player. Inconsistency is his biggest enemy."
D'Onofrio said he was "happy for Curtis." "He's had a tough run, a lot of injuries, hasn't had a chance to play," D'onofrio said. "It was good to have him back. I thought he played well. He was stout in the middle. We gutted him a little bit - he played in the 30s which is a lot of plays considering where he was at conditioning-wise a couple of weeks ago. And that was good. He gave us a boost."
> D'Onofrio noted that of the 26 players to lineup on defense for the Hurricanes last Thursday 22 graded out higher than their season average. He said the defensive line was the most improved unit and praised defensive tackle Luther Robinson for "probably playing his best game."
"It comes down to keeping the points down," he said. "We did that. We're starting to do a better job of that, even the FSU game - they got a couple [of late scores]. We're playing better red zone defense really over the last four games, are in the low 40s in touchdown percentage and that's where we want to be. That's helped a lot."
> UM already has more turnovers (18) than it had all of last year (15). There were three turnovers forced by the defense Thursday night and now UM is plus-5 for the season.
"I haven't coached it any different than we have forever," D'Onofrio said. "I think a lot of things happen. Guys become comfortable with it, become more ball aware. We've got some balls ripped out, we've taken some balls away that way. That comes with strength, with confidence. We're trying to make a big emphasis of it. We really challenged guys this past week. I'd like to see us cause a few more fumbles."
> Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch addressed the issue of third down efficiency. UM finished 1 of 12 versus Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes are now 52 of 134 (38.81 percent) on third downs on offense this season -- that ranks 73rd. UM converted at 42.57 percent last season (63 of 148, 44th out of 120 teams).
"Last week was kind of an anomaly of game," Fisch said. "We weren't very efficient at times on first and second down, so therefore your third downs are third-and-10. I think we're like 58 percent on third-and-six or less, 90 percent on third-and-one. But when you have a lot of third-and-eight, nine, 10, you struggled there. But most teams do. You really have to execute."
> Quarterback Stephen Morris has continued to see his completion percentage drop over his last five games. Fisch said he's monitoring the way Morris throws the ball and sees no major problems.
"We just have to keep getting better," Fisch said. "The best part about Stephen is he still has a lot of games left with us. It's not like this is the final countdown. He had no spring. He only started one game last year, had no spring. I think his confidence is fine; we have to make some plays."
> Fisch said receiver Allen Hurns "ran some really good routes" against Virginia Tech.
Hurns had two catches for 21 yards and had a 16 yard TD catch against the Hokies. Since starting the season with eight catches for 91 yards and then taking a vicious hit at Kansas State that knocked him out the rest of that game and the next, Hurns has made 13 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns over his last six games. Not exactly elite production.
> Golden said Sunday he would like to get Dallas Crawford more reps than the two he had on Thursday night. Fisch said Monday "maybe five, six, seven" reps would be possible for Crawford moving forward.> Golden said Virginia's blowout win over N.C. State last weekend shouldn't be the only reason his team is wary of the Cavaliers.
"They beat us four of the last six, the last two," Golden said. "I thought they were a team that pushed us around and were physical a year ago. They have a great running attack. I think they're as deep as anybody, probably the deepest at running back. they have a big, powerful offensive line. They took the ball away on defense, protected the ball on offense, something they hadn't done as well. Coming out of a bye week they were a different team.
"I think our guys understand what we're up against in Charlottesville."
> Golden said right tackle Seantrel Henderson is still battling "consistency and discipline" issues with "his technique every day." But he adds Henderson is "making a lot of progress, has eliminated a lot of distractions" and "has become process oriented."
Al Golden's post-game Q&A with reporters after the 30-12 win over Virginia Tech.
On his impressions from the team’s performance…
"I'm excited. I feel like we healed up, I feel like we grew up. Holding them to 12 points is significant without Denzel [Perryman], without Deon [Bush], I think some other guys stepped up. I'm real proud of their effort and the fact that a lot of the young guys are not young anymore. They had a good look, they prepared well, we had good practices. I felt good coming into the game, and the kids responded."
On the importance of a bye week...
"We all seemed fresh. Let's all be real - that was really hard. The first eight weeks, and the opponents we ended up playing out of conference and away, that was difficult. I just think last weekend we got them back. We only practiced two days in the bye week. Good sense of mind, good focus and good energy. I thought they were really resilient tonight. They were tough."
On the lopsided time of possession and score...
"We had good field position because of one Duke [Johnson] return and a turnover I believe. Obviously there are a couple of red zone opportunities we didn't convert early, or it could have been even bigger at the half. Nobody got down. Even when we sputtered on offense in the third quarter, the whole third quarter basically - hats off to Virginia Tech, I thought they did a great job, they had a great scheme, gave us a lot of problems there - our guys hung in there and had some big drives to end the game."
On the play of the team’s defense...
"We held them to 12, and we gave up about a 75-yarder - it looked like he started here and ended up in Coral Gables. It was just one of those deals. Our MIKE linebacker was matching around and he fell down and it just opened up. I'm real proud of how resilient they were. We weren't great on third down on either side early in the game, but we ended up getting another takeaway down there on the goal line. There were a lot of guys who stepped up and really did a nice job for us when they got an opportunity today."
On being in first place in the Coastal Division...
"It's critical. I know everybody wants us to be national champions yesterday and get back to the BCS games and all that, but the reality of it is that the pathway through that is the Coastal. It's almost like we have to re-educate our team that that's how you get there. You get there by getting to Charlotte, and then you have a 50-percent chance of going to a BCS game. That's what we have to do, we have to educate our team, because our fanbase doesn't really understand that right now. They look at the Notre Dame game and it's all in or bust. This game coming up against Virginia is critical. It's truly critical for us. We have to get focused, get right, and get back to work."
On the fourth quarter spark on offense...
"I think we stayed with it. We found a couple of runs that worked. It started with Rashawn's [Scott] conversion on the third-down play. That was big. He and Stephen [Morris] read each other's eyes and made a big play there, and then we got some runs going. I thought Mike [James] and Duke [Johnson] ran really hard, and then obviously knocked them off the ball a little bit."
On winning games without explosive plays...
"We're better on defense. It showed that we're making enough plays on defense that we don't have to have prolific, explosive plays and still win. Obviously the punt block helped. We have to do a better job covering kicks, but it showed we could win in a different way. We didn't quite have enough against North Carolina to pull that one off. It's nice to do it this way."
On the improved play of the team defense...
"I thought our defense hung in there. They did a great job in the redzone and ended up doing a good job on third downs late in the game. We got a couple of sacks, we started to get after their quarterback - that's critical, We haven't had that from a four-man rush. Olsen [Pierre] came up big the one time, and a couple other guys did a really nice job of getting to him. It makes all the difference in the world. Finishing with an interception was great."
On Deon Bush’s injury...
"Deon's been struggling with some stingers. We'll evaluate him, but I think the best thing to do was to shut him down. It was on fire for him. There was some pain. Denzel just wasn't quite right. We'll put him back in a boot, and hopefully in nine days he'll be ready in Charlottesville."
On a strong special teams performance...
"They looked good in the return game. I think it was Gabe [Terry] that blocked it, right? We put him in a different position this week and challenged him, and Rayshawn [Jenkins] and those other guys, he just went out and did it as perfectly as you could do it. He stayed low, got his hand down nice and low. We missed on some of those opportunities earlier in the year. Mike [Barrow] has been working the heck out of it. Mike designed it, and the kids went out and executed it. I'm really excited we had a chance to do that finally."
On wearing orange uniforms with orange pants...
"I wanted them to have fun. It was a tough eight weeks. We had a chance to get a break, catch up on school, and get healthy. I just wanted them to have fun. It was a little surprise for them. I think they were excited about it. I guess that means we have to keep wearing it, I don't know. It was good."
On the success of trick plays...
"That was big. Dallas [Crawford] did a nice job, and he threw it really well. I guess you could argue he should have thrown it in the flat to Duke. But he made a decision and Kind of zinged it in there. I keep saying it, Dallas is coming on now. Dallas is starting to do a good job for us and grow up. I'm excited about Dallas. Obviously Dorsett made a great decision getting us some more depth and throwing it across the field to Stephen [Morris]."
On the expectations inside his team’s locker room...
"We're trying to learn a process and get better. We've been focused on the Coastal. That's what our focus is right now. I'm glad I'm coaching at a place where the expectations are high. At the end of the day, When you can meet the expectations of your fanbase, you're going to be in a great spot. We're going to keep doing it. We just need a little bit of patience because of how young we are. We're growing up. Guys are fighting hard, they're working, they're getting better. I'm excited. A lot of guys stepped up today that hadn't - Curtis Porter, Jalen Grimble, Tracy Howard early in the game, [Rayshawn] Jenkins in his coverage. I can go on and on. Guys stepped up, and guys that are going to be here for a long time, and I'm excited about that."
The Canes (4-4, 3-2 ACC) are coming off a bye week and playing the last of three consecutive home games at Sun Life Stadium tonight against a Virginia Tech Hokies team (4-4, 2-2 ACC) that isn't your uncles Virginia Tech Hokies team.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN.
Feel free to participate in our CoverItLive.com chat below. All you need to do is sign in with your email address.
Send your questions in now. You can post them below in the blog, the Cover It Live chat, or send them directly to me on Twitter @Manny_Navarro.
I'll be on live from 2 to 3 p.m. answering the questions.
Here is Al Golden's Q&A with reporters Monday before the Virginia Tech game.
The Hurricanes are off limits to reporters the rest of the week leading up to Thursday night's game.
D'Onofrio says he doesn't hold grudges; Luther apologizes; plus other Canes/Cain notes from Saturday
Hurricanes defensive tackle Luther Robinson, whose father took to the radio airwaves earlier this week and accused UM coach Al Golden of favoring his own recruits over the players former coach Randy Shannon brought in, said Saturday he's apologized to his head coach and his teammates and is looking to move forward.
“First, I want to start off by apologizing for what he said,” Robinson told reporters following Saturday morning’s practice. “He was looking out for me, not really looking out for the team. I just told him that he was wrong for doing it and that we need to cut that out.”
Robinson said his father also called Golden and apologized.
Asked about Robinson's father's phone call to WQAM and the Joe Rose show earlier this week, Golden said: "That's about as improper as it can get. It's as simple as that.
"[Parents can call] position coaches, coordinators, head coach," Golden went on to add. "Again, there should be no problem on our team because every player gets graded on every play, every day. So there's constant communication. So there should be no communication breakdown in terms of evaluating a player each day and what they do."
Robinson, who has nine tackles in the seven games he’s played in, is currently listed as a co-backup to starter Olsen Pierre. Earlier this season, Robinson was suspended for the Kansas State game for getting into an argument with an assistant coach.
Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said Robinson averages about 20 to 30 snaps a game and has consistently been among the group of six defensive tackles who play every game. Asked if a parent's actions could affect their child's playing time, D'Onofrio said "it's ultimately up to Al to decide."
"There's 105 guys on our team -- 50 on my side of the ball. Things come about," D'Onofrio said. "I'm not a grudge guy. I don't hold a grudge. I just want the guys to get better. At the end of the day, we want to improve them, coach them hard, tell them what they're doing wrong. If they let us down in some capacity I'm not the type of guy to hold a grudge. They're 18, 19, 20 years old and you have to develop them and help them become better people and those type of things. Otherwise, it doesn't really get you anywhere.
"At the end of the day college football coaches want to win games and whoever gives us the best chance to win, we certainly want them on the field -- provided they do everything we ask of them in practice. I don't know what the numbers would be, but we're definitely playing plenty of guys who were here before we got here."
MORE NEWS AND NOTES FROM SATURDAY
> Golden said there’s a chance junior defensive end Kelvin Cain, who has not been listed on UM's roster since Thursday, could return to the team. Golden said he’s spoken to Cain and his mother several times including as recently as Saturday morning. But Cain, Golden said, has "got to sort through some things and we'll go from there."
“Sure there’s a chance,” Golden said of Cain re-joining the team. “But I just want to make sure we're clear, he stepped away for a period of time, left the team for personal reasons and we're trying to work through it right now.”
> Third-string running back Eduardo Clements, who sustained an undisclosed season-ending knee injury against Florida State, was at practice Saturday to work as a coach with his teammates.
UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said Clements, the team's third down specialist, was averaging about 12 offensive snaps a game. Fisch said those will now be split by senior Mike James and new third-string running back Dallas Crawford, who continues to work primarily as the scout team quarterback. Golden said that as of now he doesn't want to have to burn the redshirt of freshman running back Danny Dillard.
> Golden confirmed sophomore linebacker Gionni Paul, the team's sixth-leading tackler, was suspended for the Florida State game. Paul, who has 31 tackles in five games, is now listed as the third string middle linebacker behind junior Jimmy Gaines and freshman Raphael Kirby.
> Freshman running back Duke Johnson, who sprained his right ankle in the second half of the Florida State loss, said it feels a lot better now and he expects to be full-go against Virginia Tech on Thursday. He still is battling through the turf toe injury.
> Quarterback Stephen Morris said his ankle was very sore after the Florida State game, but he's feeling a lot better. "I'm good," Morris said. "Still doing rehab on it, still want to strengthen it, but the ankle is feeling is great. It should be back to 100 [percent soon]."
Although there were reports on television during the FSU game that Morris also injured his hip, Morris said they were false. "I don't know where that hip story came from," he said. "What happened was my tights were too tight. I was just trying to have them cut it and I guess the TV saw them working on it and thought my hip was hurt."
> Golden said reports/rumors of a new injury to linebacker Denzel Perryman are incorrect. "He's had the same ankle for five weeks now," Golden said. "We're trying to get him healthy and in the game."
It was supposed to be a relatively quiet bye week for the Hurricanes.
It's hardly been that.
First, Luther Robinson's father took to the radio waves earlier this week (he said it was him) and called UM coach Al Golden a liar for saying he doesn't have enough talent on the defensive line. Then, Robinson Sr. wondered aloud if the Hurricanes' second-year coach had "something against [former coach] Randy Shannon's players," -- the excuse as to why his son and other Shannon recruits supposedly are not playing more.
A couple days later, the drama continued.
Defensive end Kelvin Cain -- one of Shannon's recruits -- was discovered to be off the Hurricanes roster (Surprise! Somehow Golden forgot to mention it during his 10 minute ACC teleconference). A UM spokesman later informed a few observant roster watchers that Cain's name had indeed been deleted on purpose because he "left the team."
A day later, Cain's mom told our Susan Miller Degnan she was puzzled and couldn't understand why UM had said Cain left the team. Now, Cain's mom is hoping her son finds a way back on the roster and avoids becoming the 15th player to sign with UM under Randy Shannon and depart under Al Golden before their time was supposed to be up.
So does all this mean Al Golden really does have something against Randy Shannon's players? Is this all part of Al's master plan? Is he sitting in his office crossing Shannon's guys off his list with a red magic marker and laughing like Dr. Evil?
Hardly. Smells like sour grapes to me. Sounds like more excuses. Reads like it too.
Here are some numbers regarding this Hurricanes roster you might find interesting:
> By my count there are currently 79 players on scholarship at UM. Forty-five were recruited by Al Golden and 34 committed to the program under Randy Shannon.
> Of those 79 scholarship players, 26 were listed on offense on the depth chart before the Florida State game and 28 were listed on defense. Count the two kickers -- Dalton Botts and Jake Wieclaw -- and you have a total of 56 scholarship players who aren't just special teams guys (like Dallas Crawford) who see playing time regularly on game day.
> The remaining healthy 19 scholarship players are on scout team/special teams along with other walk-ons. UM has four scholarship players out for the season with injury: OT Ben Jones, LB Ramon Buchanan, WR Malcolm Lewis and QB David Thompson.
So how many Golden guys are starters? 10 including seven on defense.
How many Golden guys are backups? 18 including a dozen on defense.
How many starters are Shannon guys? 18 including a dozen on offense.
How many Shannon guys are backups? Ten.
So that's 28 Shannon guys and 28 Golden guys that make up the depth chart. I'm no mathematician, but that sounds pretty even to me.
Forget math for a moment and concentrate simply on "equal opportunity." I'm a firm believer that any coach puts winning first. If Luther Robinson or Kelvin Cain were even remotely better than the players currently playing for UM why would any coach in their right mind not put them in the game?
Here's the only reasoning that makes sense: Robinson and Cain are not better than the guys competing with them in practice everyday. And if they aren't cutting it in practice, Golden is doing the right thing by playing younger players in the game.
Those players are not only going to ride out the oncoming NCAA storm with Golden, but they still have time to grow and improve. Last I checked, Robinson and Cain have each had at least three seasons to prove they deserve a starting job here. They didn't do it with the previous staff. And they obviously haven't done it now against a bunch of freshmen and sophomore.
Golden is a hater? Give me a break.
HERE IS THE ROSTER BREAKDOWN OF SHANNON'S GUYS VS. GOLDEN'S GUYS (commitment date in parenthesis)
GOLDEN'S GUYS (45 scholarship recruits)
OT Ereck Flowers (5/28/11)
WR Rashawn Scott (1/25/11)
DE Olsen Pierre (12/19/10)
DT Corey King (5/2011)
LB Eddie Johnson (2/2/11)
LB Gionni Paul (1/29/11)
LB Denzel Perryman (1/22/11)
DB Ladarius Gunter (12/4/11)
S Deon Bush (1/7/12)
P Dalton Botts (12/29/10)
QB Ryan Williams (transfer - 5/6/11)
WR Robert Lockhart (1/7/12)
WR Herb Waters (7/11/11)
OG Daniel Isidora (11/29/11)
OT Hunter Wells (late addition - 8/11)
DT Dequan Ivery (2/1/12)
DT Earl Moore (8/17/11)
DT Darius Smith (5/2011)
DE Ricardo Williams (1/9/11)
DE Jelani Hamilton (6/21/11)
DE Tyriq McCord (1/7/12)
LB Thurston Armbrister (late addition - 6/6/11)
LB Raphael Kirby (5/17/11)
CB Antonio Crawford (1/29/12)
CB Thomas Finnie (1/7/11)
CB Tracy Howard (2/2/12)
S Rayshawn Jenkins (11/14/11)
K Matt Goudis (1/16/11)
Scout team (15)
QB Gray Crow (2/16/11)
QB Preston Dewey (6/3/11)
RB Dallas Crawford (1/18/11)
RB Danny Dillard (11/6/11)
WR Jontavious Carter (3/10/11)
WR D'Mauri Jones (6/2/11)
OL Taylor Gadbois (9/7/11)
DT Jacoby Briscoe (1/6/12)
DE Jalen Grimble (2/2/11)
DE Dwayne Hoilett (6/16/11)
DE Jake O'Donnell (6/12/11)
DE Gabriel Terry (11/24/11)
LB Jawand Blue (2/1/12)
CB Nate Dortch (8/2/11)
CB Larry Hope (6/3/11)
Out for the year with injury (2)
QB David Thompson (2/17/11)
WR Malcolm Lewis (11/17/11)
SHANNON'S GUYS (34)
QB Stephen Morris (8/3/09)
RB Duke Johnson (9/20/10)
RB Mike James (6/28/08)
FB Maurice Hagens (6/14/09)
WR Phillip Dorsett (6/19/10)
WR Allen Hurns (12/2009)
LT Malcolm Bunche (9/8/09)
LG Jonathan Feliciano (4/8/09)
C Shane McDermott (3/10/09)
RG Brandon Linder (12/20/09)
RT Seantrel Henderson (2/3/10)
TE Clive Walford (7/20/09)
DE Shayon Green (1/25/09)
DE Anthony Chickillo (9/9/10)
LB Jimmy Gaines (1/24/10)
CB Brandon McGee (8/11/08)
S Kacy Rodgers (7/20/09)
K Jake Wieclaw (12/16/07)
RB Eduardo Clements (11/3/09)
WR Davon Johnson (7/17/07)
WR Kendall Thompkins (11/08/07)
TE Dyron Dye (1/4/09)
TE Asante Cleveland (2/3/10)
C Jared Wheeler (1/10/09)
LG Jeremy Lewis (4/9/07)
LB Tyrone Cornelius (8/18/09)
S AJ Highsmith (2/19/08)
S Vaughn Telemaque (2/1/08)
Scout team (4)
TE David Perry (10/23/09)
TE Cory White (5/14/08)
DT Curtis Porter (7/29/08)
DT Luther Robinson (4/29/08)
Shannon recruits Injured and out for the season (2)
LB Ramon Buchanan (2/6/08)
OT Ben Jones (2/6/08)
Shannon recruits that left the program under Golden (15)
S Ray-Ray Armstrong (1/4/09)
OL Jermaine Barton (12/20/09)
LB Kelvin Cain (1/8/10)
RB Darion Hall (6/10/09)
RB Storm Johnson (11/1/09)
DT Jeffery Brown (2/1/2010) - Charged with rape
DB Devont'a Davis (10/7/09)
LB Travis Williams (10/20/09)
DB Jamal Reid (9/25/08)
LB Kevin Nelson (7/4/09)
DB Keion Payne (11/8/09) - Dismissed for violating team rules
TE Andrew Tallman (9/20/09)
TE Billy Sanders (2/4/09)
FB CJ Holton (12/22/07)
WR Aldarius Johnson (7/23/07)
Recruits that didn't make it into school under Golden (3)
RB Kevin Grooms (1/17/11)
WR Angelo Jean-Louis (4/30/11)
LB Antonio Kinard (1/17/11)
Golden recruits whose career was cut short by injury
LB Josh Witt (7/1/11)
Golden recruits that left the program (1)
DB Vernon Davis (6/12/11)
Shannon recruits that Golden stopped recruiting and never signed (2)
WR Jeremy Davis (2010 -- now at UCF)
LB Nick Menocal (2010 -- now at Georgia Tech)
Shannon recruits that never made it into UM (8)
DT Tavadis Glenn (4/18/09)
DT Delmar Taylor (1/12/10)
DB Prince Kent (7/21/08)
LB Zach Kane (12/4/07)
LB Brandon Marti (11/24/07)
DB CJ Odom (10/9/07)
LB Antonio Harper (10/3/07)
Recruits that transferred out under Shannon (6)
DB Latwan Anderson (3/10/10)
LB Arthur Brown (12/17/07)
WR Thearon Collier (6/6/07)
QB Taylor Cook (5/9/07)
QB Cannon Smith (11/6/07)
DB Joe Wylie (4/2/07)
Career cut short by Injury under Shannon (2)
TE Stephen Plein (6/19/08)
LB Gavin Hardin (2/5/08)
Shannon recruits graduated and now gone (10)
TE Chase Ford (12/8/09)
WR Travis Benjamin (12/21/07)
WR LaRon Byrd (2/5/08)
FB John Calhoun (12/5/07)
LB Jordan Futch (6/6/07)
DT Micanor Regis (3/28/07)
LB Marcus Robinson (7/15/07)
DE Andrew Smith (9/26/07)
QB Jacory Harris (6/12/07)
LB Sean Spence (8/4/07)
Shannon recruits that left early for the NFL under Golden (5)
RB Lamar Miller (10/7/08)
DE Olivier Vernon (3/2/08)
OL Brandon Washington (9/25/08)
DT Marcus Forston (7/26/07)
WR Tommy Streeter (2008)
Shannon recruits that left early for the NFL under his watch (1)
CB Brandon Harris (2/6/08)
UM coach Al Golden's post-game's comments after the Florida State loss.
On the decision to start Stephen Morris...
"I thought it looked better on Friday than clearly it did on Thursday. Until you see him go out there and run around and actually stress it like he did in pregame, we were uncertain. I don’t regret playing Stephen in this game. I thought he gives us the best chance to win the game, and we didn’t get it done."
On keeping the game close until the fourth quarter...
"I thought we played hard. I thought we coached hard, I thought we played hard, and we lost to a good team. That’s it. We lost to a team that is ahead of us right now. We have to develop our guys and recruit some more and keep working, and don’t make any excuses. They’re a better team right now. We had opportunities that we did not convert. They did - hats off to them. Clearly they have an excellent pass rush and got to our quarterback, and we’re not doing the same on the other end. We’re not getting to the quarterback in four, and obviously we let [EJ] Manuel out too many times.
"They wore us down a little bit because we weren’t converting on third down on offense. I think we were 25 percent for the day, had to keep giving the ball back and we just couldn’t hold up. Then it turned into a field position game. Just too many opportunities - too many catches down field we didn’t make, too many interceptions we didn’t finish, and obviously an onside kick that we couldn’t get a better look than we got, and to not convert it is a shame."
On the timeout situation at the end of the first half...
"There was a lot of confusion obviously. I knew they had one timeout left, so that was their answer for the 10-second run-off, and then they said it was the half so I lost half my team. Obviously I wasn’t worried about that, but if we’re in the situation where it’s the final kick of the half, we’d like to get Seantrel [Henderson] and Malcolm [Bunche] and our big people in there. Just so much confusion.
On the performance of the offense...
"We just have to keep getting better. We’re playing a lot of good teams. We certainly have to be more efficient - that’s fair. We have to do a better job on third down, I don’t think there’s any question about that. We have to make some plays on the ball. We had some chances downfield, where we have to make those catches. We just have to take a deep breath. It’s been a long 12 weeks against a really tough schedule playing a lot of young guys. We need to take a deep breath, get healed up and see where we’re at over the next couple days. See if we want to practice at all or if we won’t, we’ll see, and then get ready for Virginia Tech."
On Duke Johnson’s injury...
"I have no idea to be honest with you. I couldn’t even tell you what it is. I was told he was out. I think they x-rayed him, that’s all I know.
On the importance of the bye week...
"It’s critical. We’re hanging on by a thread. We need time off. Brutal schedule, eight weeks in a row, young team. We need time off."
On the defensive momentum during the game...
"I think we got worn out a little bit. You have to keep pace with them and you have to convert on third down. We weren’t making the plays. Clearly they’re rotating three backs in there and they wore us down a little bit in the fourth quarter. We probably needed another takeaway, we had opportunities. They’re throwing the ball into Cover 2 for 30- or 40- yard gain and it should be an interception. We have to come through and make a play there.
"As I said to the team, give Florida State a lot of credit. They’re a very good team right now. They’re deep, and that’s okay. We know what we need to do. They’re ahead of us right now. We need to buckle down and get better. We need to develop our current team and we need to add to it."
On the team’s fast start...
"I think it was a better feel - I think that’s fair. The last two times we’ve played at this level, we didn’t look the same – Kansas State and Notre Dame. It’s fair to say it was a different look, a different feel, a different focus. I can say honestly that’s what I told the staff last night and that’s what I told the team. It did feel different. Just disappointing we didn’t convert on a couple more opportunities to give ourselves a chance. I’m disappointed in that. We have to get back to work there. I’ve been saying it all year we have a long way to go as a team. Are we competing? Yes. Do we execute all the time? No. We had some costly penalties and we had some costly errors in the game and that’s on me. I have to get that fixed."
It's time for another edition of Florida State-Miami. The 12th-ranked Seminoles (6-1, 3-1 ACC) come in three touchdown favorites over the Canes (4-3, 3-1) here at Sun Life Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and the game can be seen on ABC.
Fans are encouraged to participate in discussion on the blog during the game.
UM's latest injury report is out and quarterback Stephen Morris is listed as doubtful.
The Canes starting quarterback was at practice Wednesday and threw "stationary" according to UM coach Al Golden. But Morris was also spotted and filmed by reporters dropping back and throwing passes.
Golden said Wednesday Morris' ankle was still very swollen. Ryan Williams has practiced as the starter all week in preparation for FSU. His backup is expected to be freshman Preston Dewey.
There were no surprises or new players listed on the injury reported.
Listed as out for the season following surgery: LB Ramon Buchanan, WR Malcolm Lewis, LS Sean McNally and offensive tackle Ben Jones.
Last week, Jones was simply listed as out for the North Carolina game. Apparently, he had surgery this week and is now done for the season. Jones, a fifth-year senior, played in three games this season, starting against North Carolina State. He injured his knee against the Wolfpack and never returned.
Quarterback Ken Dorsey and center Brett Romberg -- key members of Miami’s 2001 national champion football team -- highlight the seven-member Class of 2013 that will be inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame next April.
Other inductees include: Ed Contreras (baseball, 1957-59), Bryan Gillooly (diving, 1994-98), Norm Parsons (administration / coaching, 1972-2012), Don Soldinger (coach, 1984-88 & 1995-2006) and Jay Tessmer (baseball, 1994-95).
With the addition of the seven newest members the Sports Hall of Fame will increase to 274 honorees. The newest class will be inducted April 11 at the 43rd annual UM Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, which will be held at Jungle Island.
> Contreras led the Canes in home runs and RBI in each of his three seasons (19 HR, 67 RBI in 77 games) and also led the team in batting in 1958 (.316) and 1959 (.310). He left Miami as the school’s single-season and career home runs leader and he still holds the UM career slugging percentage record (.615) for under 300 at bats.
> Dorsey quarterbacked the Hurricanes to their fifth national championship in 2001 and was named MVP of the 2002 Rose Bowl. He was a 2002 All-American by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. The 2001 and 2002 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year, Dorsey set eight UM career records, including total offense, passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions and attempts. He is the winningest quarterback in program history (38-2) and he won the 2001 Maxwell Award as the top player in college football.
> Gillooly was a two-time NCAA diving champion, winning the 10-meter platform title in 1996 and the 3-meter springboard in 1998. He was a 12-time All-American, garnering the honor in the 1- and 3-meter springboards, and the 10-meter platform in each of his four years at Miami (1995-98). He was also named the 1996 NCAA Diver of the Year and was a BIG EAST Academic All-Star in 1996-97. Gillooly was a finalist at the 1996 and 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials.
> Parsons, who served as the women’s golf coach from 1973-78 and men’s golf coach from 1980-88, coached the women’s golf team to the 1977 and 1978 AIAW national championships. He served UM as Director of the Herbert Wellness Center (1996-present), Director of Campus Sports and Recreation (1977-96), and Intramural Director (1972-73) among other positions. He coached current UMSHoF members Cathy Morse, Woody Austin and Nathaniel Crosby.
> Romberg was a consensus All-American and Rimington Award winner as the nation’s best center in 2002. He was a first-team All-BIG EAST selection in 2001 and 2002, while never allowing a sack in his time as the Hurricanes center. Miami went 35-2 in his 37 consecutive starts at center, helping lead the Canes to the 2001 national title and three BIG EAST titles.
> Soldinger was the linebackers and tight ends coach for Jimmy Johnson from 1984-88 and was the running backs and special teams coach under coaches Butch Davis and Larry Coker from 1995-2006. He was on the 1987 and 2001 national championship coaching staffs; he also coached six of the seven Miami running backs that rushed for 1,000 yards in a season (Willis McGahee, Edgerrin James – twice, Clinton Portis, Danyell Ferguson, Frank Gore and James Jackson). In his 16 seasons as a Hurricanes assistant coach, Miami won 158 games.
> Tessmer was a first-team Collegiate Baseball All-American in 1995 after collecting 20 saves – tied for second-most in school history – and posting a 1.31 ERA to lead Jim Morris’ squad to the College World Series. He finished second nationally in Division I with a 1.16 ERA in 1994, while his career 1.24 ERA ranks second in school history. He holds the UM record for fewest walks per 9 innings (1.42 average) and has the second-most appearances by a pitcher in a season (45 in 1995). Tessmer finished his career fifth with 23 saves and played professionally for the New York Yankees.
When Tracy Howard announced on National Signing Day he wanted to be a Hurricane, the All-American cornerback didn't mention anything about coming in as a freshman and being content with sitting on the bench.
"I'm not really a guy who is going to talk and say I'm going to start. It's up to me to produce," Howard said moments after the ink dried on his signed national letter of intent back in February. "But do I feel like I'm going to produce and show out, compete and work hard? Yes, I do. And if I do that I'm going to start."
Despite earning a coveted black jersey (worn by starters) on the fifth day of training camp, Howard still hasn't won a starting job at Miami in his first season.
In fact, since getting in for 100 combined snaps in UM's first three games, Howard has seen his playing time dwindle. After not playing at all on defense in UM's fourth game of the season at Georgia Tech (defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said he didn't want his young players to get thrown off by an option offense), Howard has played just roughly 40 combined snaps over his last three games.
Why the reduction in playing time? UM coach Al Golden has never provided specifics, saying simply on Sunday that Howard "hit a wall" and has now started to respond in the past couple weeks.
Truth is, there were a couple layers to that wall.
First, between his disappointment of not being able to earn a starting job and the frustration of seeing his playing time get reduced, Howard admitted Wednesday he lost focus and confidence.
In the end, Howard also ended up exchanging words with his coordinator. "It was nothing disrespectful," Howard told The Miami Herald. "Just a coach and a player talking football."
Whatever that conversation turned out to be in the end, Howard has responded the way D'Onofrio has wanted him to over the last couple weeks. D'Onofrio said Monday Howard has "been dialed in" and has made a commitment to practicing better, particularly the last two weeks.
And that's ultimately why Howard got in for 20 snaps last Saturday against North Carolina (more than he had in his previous two games). Howard responded by making an impressive tackle on Tar Heels running back Gio Bernard near the Canes' sideline -- one of his five tackles on the season.
"I wasn't all the way locked in," Howard said when asked what Golden meant when he said he had 'run into a wall.'
"I was just coming out and playing with talent. Talent isn't really enough. You have to work on the little things - simple things like having your eyes on your luggage, keeping your eyes on keys, just real small things I had to pick up, things preventing me from being the starter off the bat. But I think I've picked it up. I think everything is going to get flowing."
At Miramar High, Howard earned a reputation for being a hard worker, who studied lots of film and prepared himself for every opportunity. He was tabbed by almost every recruiting outlet as the nation's No. 1 high school cornerback because of that -- and because of what he did during his career for the Patriots, finishing with 18 interceptions in three varsity seasons.
Howard said freshman safety Deon Bush, who has made four starts and is tied for eighth on the team with 24 tackles, has helped keep him centered through his struggles this season.
"Me and Deon are the best of friends," Howard said. "He's told me just put your head down, pray and keep chopping away."
Howard (5-11, 185) said although this season hasn't panned out exactly the way he's wanted it to for himself, he's going to continue to work to earn a starting job.
"I know in my heart one day my time is going to come and I'll make the best of my opportunity," Howard said. "Everything will be just like high school all over again."
Asked if he's considered leaving UM at all because he hasn't played as much as maybe he would like or thought he would, Howard responded: "No. No way."
"This is my hometown, my team, my city," Howard said. "I'm not going anywhere."
Send your questions in now. You can post them below in the blog, the Cover It Live chat, or send them directly to me on Twitter @Manny_Navarro. I have an interview scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and will end the live portion of the chat then. But I will be back later to answer any questions posted before 3 p.m.
X-rays negative on Stephen Morris' left ankle, not ruled out vs. FSU yet; Williams expected to start
UM coach Al Golden told reporters moments ago x-rays performed on the left ankle of starting quarterback Stephen Morris were negative for a fracture and that he has a sprain.
"It's not a high ankle sprain -- that's the [bad] one," Golden said.
Golden said the team will go into this week preparing as if backup Ryan Williams will be the starter against Florida State, but wouldn't rule Morris out just yet. Golden said Williams' backup right now is unclear. He said freshmen Preston Dewey and Gray Crow have not separated themselves yet.
"I don't think I can imagine a scenario where we're not going to try to beat Florida State," Golden said when asked if the team would try to sit Morris this week since a loss to FSU wouldn't impede Miami's chances of winning the Coastal Divisin. "Our kids deserve everything we've got to win this next game."
Golden said having Williams make his first start for UM against the 10th-ranked Seminoles would obviously be a huge challenge. But Golden said it would be a huge task "no matter who is playing quarterback for us."
"We'll assess [Morris' health] as the week unfolds, but going we're going in with it thinking Ryan is going to be the guy," Golden said. "Ryan's very bright and took a lot of reps in the spring. He'll have to rely on that now.
As far as the backup quarterback position is concerned, Golden said: "Preston obviously was ahead of Gray earlier in the season. Gray has responded the last two weeks. We're really going to have to evaluate those two -- they're body of work over the course of the season and where they are at mentally and who would be ready for this opportunity should it arise."
MORE TIDBITS FROM SUNDAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE
> Golden on winning time of possession for the first time this season vs. UNC: "I would trade some of that time of possession for some explosive plays in the game in terms of a couple passes that would have helped us score."
> As far as the Hurricanes defense is concerned, Golden saw improvement and said the reason the Canes played better in the second half versus North Carolina (173 yards, 3 points) was because they got better play from their defensive tackles Earl Moore, Corey King and Olsen Pierre and corners Ladarius Gunter and Tracy Howard. He also praised the play of freshman safety Deon Bush.
"We still left too many plays out there," Golden said. "We need to continue to work to improve that. We're still not exact in too many places, but we did a good job on third down. I think we held them to 50 percent in the red zone. We wanted to win those two areas. But we never got any deflected passes and batted balls. If they're going to sit there in shotgun and throw quickly, you got to get some batted balls and we didn't get the takeaways other than Eddie [Johnson's interception]."
> UM's defense had a better day, but getting pressure on the opposing quarterback continues to be a problem. The Canes didn't produce a sack for the second straight game and had no hurries either. The Canes have produced just seven sacks all season and are on pace to produce the fewest in a season ever.
"We're not getting the pass rush we need. There's no question," Golden said. "That's an ongoing problem right now we have to continue to address. We need guys to not only improve there, but mature."
> Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel is the fourth-highest rated quarterback in the country in terms of passer efficiency. He's completed 72 percent of his passes for 1,804 yards, 14 TDs and just four interceptions. He's also run for 186 yards and a touchdown.
The next-highest rated quarterback the Canes have faced was Kansas State's Collin Klein. He ranks 17th nationally in passer efficiency with a 159.9 rating. He's the only opposing QB in the top 30 UM has either played already or is scheduled to play against later this year.
"He is really good at distributing the football," Golden said of Manuel. "He can move out of the pocket and create. He's got length so he can down the field and he has an arm that can make all the throws. And he's a dual threat. There's a number of issues that he presents that you obviously have to game plan for and resolve. This clearly one of the best players that we've seen so far this year."
> Golden said it was a game time decision Saturday whether or not freshman tailback Duke Johnson would play. Johnson has been battling a toe injury and told reporters Saturday he's at "95 to 90 percent" in terms of health. Golden said the team had to relieve Johnson from a lot of his duties. Johnson carried the ball 14 times for 47 yards Saturday against North Carolina, but didn't catch a pass or return a kickoff.
"He really fought through it and did a nice job for us," Golden said. "I think he played 25 plays. But we had to hold him out of kickoff returns and that nature. We just got to make sure we continue to monitor those reps like we do all those guys and keep them fresh."
Golden said Eduardo Clements (12 offensive snaps, 10 more on special teams) and Dallas Crawford (special teams only) have to be ready to share the load moving forward. Mike James carried the ball a career-high 22 times for 96 yards vs. UNC.
> Golden said linebacker Denzel Perryman, who re-aggravated his right ankle and left the field a couple times Saturday only to return, is battling through discomfort and will continue to wear a walking boot on it for precautionary reasons. Golden said he's been wearing a boot for almost a month now.
"Just trying to make sure we alleviate any stress or any pain," Golden said. "Right now he's not showing up on any report as far as going backwards."
> Golden said he's seen improvement over the last 10 days from three young corners -- Gunter, Howard and Antonio Crawford. Does that mean more playing time? Not necessarily.
"Tracy was physical in terms of the tackling he made on [UNC RB Gio] Bernard on the sideline and did a good job in coverage," Golden said. "He played about 20 plays for us and some more on special teams. But I think he's making progress right now. I think they've all hit the wall at some point. I think for Tracy it was a couple weeks ago and we're trying to push him through it. He's got a good attitude right now and I really see the light coming on in terms of him learning. We just to continue to keep pushing him forward. At the end of the day, they're young kids we got to continue to teach and out of a comfort zone."
Thanks to Carlos Pineda for the video.
After playing four of their first six on the road, the Canes (4-2, 3-0 ACC) are back home to kickoff the first of three straight games at Sun Life Stadium. First up: North Carolina (4-2, 1-1 ACC). Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPNU.
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If you've been thinking this might be the worst Hurricanes defense of all time after just six games -- your eyes are not deceiving you.
They've already given up more points (208) than Larry Coker's team did in his final season as head coach in 2006 (201 points) and they are on pace to give up 416 in total -- 102 more points than UM did in 1984 under Jimmy Johnson and 2008 under Randy Shannon (tied for the current worst all time).
Yards? Take your pick, rushing or receiving. Both records appear as though they will go down easily.
The 1,504 rushing yards given up already are nearly double of what the 1989 national championship team allowed (1,520, 2nd fewest all-time), and should easily surpass what the 1944 Canes allowed (2,492 yards, the current worst) by the time UM is on its way out of Virginia on Nov. 10.
The record for most passing yards allowed -- 2,695 in 2009 -- should end up going down around the same time at Virginia. These Canes are on pace to give up 3,112 yards through the air in all. That's 1.7 miles.
Total yards? Miami has already surrendered 3,060. These Canes should easily crush the record of 4,369 allowed during the 1997 season. Same with first downs. UM's given up 158 of those in six games. The current record is 238 set by the 1997 squad.
Sacks? This UM team is on pace to end up with the fewest in that category too. They've got seven and would finish with 14 -- two fewer than the 1984 team which has the current low of 16 sacks.
Now, before you run down to Coral Gables with pitch forks and ask Al Golden to hand over his best friend -- defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio -- take a deep breath. This is also one of the youngest defenses in the country. I know what you're thinking: No excuses (that's Miami's mantra right?)
Well, for all the armchair defensive coordinators out there complaining D'Onofrio doesn't blitz enough and there is too much cushion in pass coverage (I agree), ask yourself if anyone out there could honestly do a better job with 19 first or second-year players (that would be true freshmen, redshirt freshman or true freshman) on the Canes' two-deep.
Eight of those young guys -- Anthony Chickillo, Corey King, Olsen Pierre, Eddie Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Gionni Paul, Ladarius Gunter and Deon Bush -- are all slated to start against North Carolina Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.
I'm not saying there isn't some talent to work with here or that D'Onofrio deserves a free pass from criticism. But no Canes defensive coordinator in the last five seasons has had to work with so much youth (trust me, I looked it up).
That probably goes for any Canes defensive coordinator since UM started winning national titles.
I'm pretty sure you remember when UM was dominant prior to this sour stretch of football -- sophomores freshmen and redshirt freshmen weren't being counted on to play a high number of snaps. Right now, eight 1st or 2nd year players are starters and 19 of them total are among the 29 players in the two deep. Those are players who all arrived in 2011 or later.
Last year, D'Onofrio only had nine players in his two deep of 23 who were 1st or 2nd year players. Only three -- Perryman, Kelvin Cain and Chickillo -- started UM's final regular season game against Boston College.
In 2010, there were only six 1st or 2nd year players in UM's two-deep of 24. Defensive end Olivier Vernon was the only starter in that group.
In 2009, there were 12 1st or 2nd year players in UM's two deep rotation of 26. Four were starters in the bowl game: Vaughn Telemaque, Brandon Harris, Sean Spence and Marcus Robinson. That defense gave up the most passing yards ever in school history.
In 2008, there were also 12 1st or 2nd year players in UM's two deep rotation of 24. Five were starters in the bowl game: JoJo Nicolas, Brandon Harris, Spense, Robinson and Steven Welsey. That 2008 team gave up 314 points -- tied for the most points allowed in Canes history.
I took a look at every depth chart in the ACC as well to see how UM stacks up in terms of youth. Miami is pretty much in a league of its own.
The closest ACC teams with as much youth on defense as these Canes:
> Clemson has nine players in their 24-man two-deep on defense who are 1st or 2nd year players. Five of them are starters -- all in the front seven. The Tigers by the way rank 71st in scoring defense (27.33 ppg), 96th in total defense (445 ypg) and 102 in rush defense (202.67 ypg) and sacks.
> Boston College has 12 players in their 22-man two-deep on defense who are 1st or 2nd year players. Four are starters. The Eagles rank 82nd in scoring defense (29.0 ppg), 52nd in total defense (416.6 ypg), 117th in rushing defense (259.0 ypg), 35th in pass efficiency defense (115.06), 110th in sacks and have forced 10 turnovers (t-7th in ACC).
> Florida State has 13 of its 26 players listed on the two deep who are 1st or 2nd year players. But only one of them is a starter -- cornerback Nick Waisome. Virginia has 13 1st or 2nd year players on its 26-man two-deep. Three are starters. North Carolina has 14 of 24 players in its two-deep that are 1st or 2nd year players. Only two are starters, both in the secondary.
In this week's episode correspondent Maribel Rivera catches up with AJ Highsmith and Manny Navarro interviews a couple Canes players after the Notre Dame loss to discuss that and Saturday's showdown with the North Carolina Tar Heels.
A couple quick news and notes from Wednesday's Miami Hurricanes practice before we get to the Q&A, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. today and will go until 3 p.m. -- we're making up for last week's lost hour:
> Defensive tackle Curtis Porter returned to practice on Tuesday and is working on the scout team. Porter had an appendectomy before the start of the season and has been recovering since. UM coach Al Golden said Wednesday Porter "is a ways away."
> Left guard Jonathan Feliciano has been limited in practice and is wearing a yellow non-contact jersey, but Golden said coaches are just protecting him. Right tackle Ben Jones remains out. Jones was injured against N.C. State and didn't play last week.
Feel free to leave your questions in the blog below. I will answer them in the CoverItLive app later.
No I'm not in Chicago. But I do have a comfy seat here at home and a big screen TV to watch tonight's big showdown between your Miami Hurricanes (4-1, 3-0 ACC) and the ninth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0). Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Soldier Field and the game can be seen everywhere on NBC.
> The Canes are coming off another thrilling, heart-stopping win in the ACC. They knocked off N.C. State 44-37 when quarterback Stephen Morris connected with Phillip Dorsett on a 62-yard scoring strike with 19 seconds left. Morris is coming off the best single-game performance ever by a Canes quarterback with 566 yards and five touchdown passes. UM's defense gave up over 600 yards, but forced six turnovers in the win.
> The Irish had a bye week last week and of course will be playing this game a short drive over from South Bend. Notre Dame's defense is pretty sick. The Irish rank ninth in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in both sacks (3.5/game) and pass efficiency defense (96.79) and are giving up an average of just nine points a game. The Irish defense has totaled eight interceptions -- equal to the number of interceptions the 2011 Notre Dame defense recorded. Senior middle linebacker Manti Te’o has played a role in seven of the 13 turnovers forced by Notre Dame’s defense. The All-America linebacker has recorded three interceptions, recovered two fumbles and hurried passers on two occasions that resulted in interceptions.
Both the Associated Press and USA Today/Coaches Top 25 rankings were released just a little while ago and as expected the Hurricanes remained in the "others receiving votes" category.
UM, coming off a wild 44-37 win over N.C.State Saturday, picked up more votes in both polls -- a total of four votes in the AP and 17 votes in the Coaches poll.
The Hurricanes (4-1, 3-0) take on ninth-ranked Notre Dame (4-0) next Saturday night in Chicago. If UM beats the Irish there is little doubt the Canes will crack the Top 25 in both polls.
MIAMI GARDENS -- The ACC Coastal Division-leading Miami Hurricanes (3-1, 2-0) are taking on the N.C. State Wolfppack (3-1, 0-0 ACC) today at noon at Sun Life Stadium on ESPNU.
> The Canes are coming off a thrilling 42-36 overtime win at Georgia Tech.
> N.C. State has won three in a row since opening the season with a 35-21 loss to Tennessee. The Wolfpack beat UConn 10-7, South Alabama 31-7 and The Citadel 52-14.
> This is the first meeting between UM and N.C. State since 2008.
INJURIES/SUSPENSIONS: The Hurricanes come into the game without starting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle). Linebacker Raphael Kirby (knee) is back this week. N.C. State will be without OT Rob Crisp (lower back), OT Andrew Wallace (foot), HB James Washington (ankle).
Hurricanes coach Al Golden told reporters after Wednesday's practice his team’s energy “wasn’t good enough.”
Asked if it might be a byproduct of the team relaxing coming off a big win at Georgia Tech, Golden said: “I don’t really care because all I’m worried about is today, so it’s really important that our guys just get better today, everybody check the boxes today, attention to detail, and the rest of it will take care of itself.”
After spending all last week preparing for the Yellow Jackets’ spread option attack, UM is now focused facing a more conventional offense in NC State.
“The transition’s hard,” he said. “We tried to wash that out, flush that out on Monday, and here we are on Wednesday and we got most of the game plan, if not all of it, in.”
Freshman linebacker Raphael Kirby practiced more than expected on Tuesday and Golden said Wednesday that Kirby’s health continues to improve. Asked if he would play in Saturday's game Golden said: “We’ll look at it on tape, but he’s making progress and he’s moving in the right direction for sure.”
Golden would not indicate any leaders in the position battles at either offensive tackle spots. Ereck Flowers and Ben Jones are currently listed as co-starters at right tackle, and Malcolm Bunche and Seantrel Henderson are fighting for reps at left tackle.
“They’ve got to keep fighting and be consistent,” Golden said. “All of them should play.”
Golden did not specify either if a receiver would receive an increase in reps with Malcolm Lewis sidelined for the season after the gruesome ankle injury he suffered late in the first quarter in Atlanta this past Saturday. But he did mentioned freshman Herb Waters and fifth-year senior Kendal Thompkins as candidates for the job.
Golden has a track record with Tom O’Brien, head coach at NC State, that dates back to the 90’s. He was linebackers coach at Boston College from 1997-1999 under O’Brien and a graduate assistant at Virginia for three years prior while O’Brien was offensive coordinator there.
Golden says, however, familiarity with the opposing coach will not help him this week. What he’s seen from O’Brien thus far this year deviates from what he would expect.
“On offense, it looks different,” Golden said. “Each team is different for him. He does things with [quarterback Mike] Glennon that he wouldn’t do with [Russell] Wilson… So, again, there’s not too much familiarity in terms of what they’re going to do.”
-- DAVID FURONES
ATLANTA -- The Miami Hurricanes (2-1, 1-0) are taking on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1, 1-1 ACC) today at 3 p.m. The game can be seen on a variety of networks. Locally, it's on SunSports.
> The Canes are coming off a 38-10 win at home over Bethune-Cookman and have won three in a row in the series against Georgia Tech by at least 16 points in each game. But UM heads into this game 14-point underdogs because a lot of the guys who have shutdown the Yellow Jackets on defense are no longer around. UM has just 5 starters back on defense from last year's team that beat Georgia Tech 24-7 at Sun Life Stadium.
> The Yellow Jackets are coming off back to back wins over Presbyterian and Virginia in which they've scored more than 50 points. The Ramblin' Wreck are averaging 374 yards per game on the ground and have a much bigger and aggressive offensive line than in year's past. They also rank in the Top 25 in all major defensive categories and run a unique 3-4 defense UM doesn't face often. Georgia Tech's only loss was a 20-17 defeat in overtime at Virginia Tech.
INJURIES/SUSPENSIONS: The Hurricanes come into the game without starting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle). Safety Vaughn Telemaque (knee) and receiver Allen Hurns (concussion) are back for UM this week.
CANES TO WATCH
> Seantrel Henderson may get his first start of the season today at tackle. Junior Jimmy Gaines and sophomore Gionni Paul will try to fill in for Perryman at middle linebacker.
> Georgia Tech has not allowed a point in the second or third quarters this season. The Yellow Jackets are outscoring opponents 52-0 in those two quarters.
> Tech opponents have scored a combined 43 points this season, with 15 of those points coming on the game’s last play from scrimmage or in overtime.
> Three of the ACC’s top 10 rushers are Yellow Jackets: Tevin Washington (t-2nd), Zach Laskey (6th) and Orwin Smith (10th).
> Tech will be facing one of the ACC’s top offensive threats Saturday in Miami’s Duke Johnson, who leads the ACC in scoring, touchdowns and all-purpose yards, and is tied for second in rushing.
Good news from today's press conference with Al Golden.
It looks like receiver Allen Hurns and safety Vaughn Telemaque will both be back for Saturday's game at Goergia Tech.
The bad news: middle linebacker Denzel Perryman is definitely out this week, Golden said.
But the return of Hurns, UM's leading receiver before he sustained another concussion at Kansas State two weeks ago, and Telemaque, a three-year starter at safety has to help UM heading into a tough, tough game.
"Hurns is back," Golden said when recapping the changes to the team's depth chart. "There's a good chance you can write in Vaughn depending on how it goes tomorrow. Gionni Paul has been playing inside with Jimmy Gaines [with Perryman out]. They're competing right now.
"[Telemaque] did a lot today. He did more than I thought he would do. So, there's a good chance, hopefully we'll see how he responds and hopefully there is a good chance we'll have him."
Golden spoke for a little more than 20 minutes about the Yellow Jackets in all and Saturday's game 'a big test."
"After studying them the last 48 hours, this is a complete team," Golden said. "Very experienced, very mature team. Obviously 50 points back-to-back on offense, averaging 365 yards rushing. Veteran leader in [Tevin] Washington at quarterback. Explosive players on the perimeter.Right now, I think the biggest difference with Georgia Tech is how physical they are and how rugged they are on both sides of the line and how mature they are. On defense, [they] haven't allowed a rushing touchdown. Personnel, they look like [defensive coordinator Al] Groh would want them. They're long, they're physical. They're linebackers are 235 pounds plus. They're 6-6 at the ends and the nose is about 345 pounds. So big and physical group. They give you multiple fronts. Very aggressive linebacker core. They give your playmakers trouble. The biggest change is how aggressive they are in the back end and how they're challenging receivers on the perimeter. Again, it's going to be a great test. We're excited about the opportunity."
> Golden said fourth-string running back Dallas Crawford has a done a good job this week as the scout team quarterback to prepare the Hurricanes for what they'll see. Defensively -- as usual with the spread option -- the key is assignment football.
"We just have to worry about everybody doing their job," Golden said. "You're going to have to really execute and find a way to take the ball away. They're excellent at the time of possession game. I think the biggest change right now is how explosive they are. They're scoring quickly and they're making teams play from behind. But clearly for us on defense, it has to be assignment football. We have to be able to keep our poise. There's some nuances that will show up in our game that will not show up in the previous three and we have to be able to adjust to it.
"With Denzel [Perryman] down, we're going to need guys some guys to step up. Jimmy Gaines and Gionni Paul are going to have to step up. And some of those guys that have been on that field versus this look in the past -- Tyrone Cornelius, [Kelvin] Cain, Darius Smith, Shayon [Green], [Anthony] Chickillo, [Brandon] McGee -- those guys are going to have to step up for us and do really well."
> Golden said quarterback Stephen Morris has to do a better job completing passes downfield in games like he does in practice. "There's nothing in practice that says it shouldn't translate to the game," Golden said. "We just have not connected on as many as I would like. Certainly, Saturday we didn't connect on some we should have hit."
Golden said Morris is going to have to do a good job recognizing Georgia Tech's fronts this week. "We're going to have to do a better job of protecting Stephen. They really got to the young man from man from Virginia a lot and got him rattled in the pocket," Golden said. "It's going to be important we protect him and get in the right play for Stephen."
> Golden said the number of times Duke Johnson has been touching the ball has been fine. He wants more out of his other playmakers.
"There's a number of guys I'd like to see us get the ball too more. Phillip Dorsett more. Hurns. Malcolm Lewis. Rashawn [Scott]. Mike James. Again, I keep challenging Clive to take that next step. Clive didn't factor into that game as much I wanted even though he played hard. We got to start making him available," Golden said. "I don't want us to be a one dimensional team on offense. We had a lot of guys touch the ball the other day. We need more explosive plays when guys touch the ball."
> Golden said using Duke Johnson in punt return situations isn't something he foresees right now.
"I like Phillip [Dorsett]," Golden said. "I think Phillip does a good job. Again, you got a glimpse of Malcolm [Lewis] the other day. If he would have trusted it, he probably would have had another one. I don't want to use Randy as a punt returner right now. He can do it, [though]. He practices."
> Golden said left guard Jonathan Feliciano continues to play like UM's best offensive lineman. Golden also said the battle for the starting jobs at offensive tackle could go into Thursday or Friday.
"I think the biggest difference with Feliciano is his weight's down. His energy is up and he's finishing better than anybody in the offensive line," Golden said. "Again, that's a challenge right now. He's playing with a lot of energy down the field, pushing piles, finishing blocks. To be honest with you the guy right now on his heels is Seantrel [Henderson]. Seantrel when he's been in the game has played with a lot of energy. We need everybody on the offensive line to play with that type of energy. I think Jon's playing really well right now."
> Golden said freshman safety Deon Bush played well against Bethune-Cookman.
"The mistakes he made in the game weren't really mental errors, presnap protocol. It was more when he was [blitzing]," Golden said. "One time he came when he wasn't supposed to. Another time he came and he didn't leverage the quarterback. Things like that. But I think Deon has a good look. He's poised. His approach so far this week has been good."
> Golden said freshman cornerback Tracy Howard has to "play within the system" more.
"Just execute the defense. Don't freelance so to speak. Don't do more than you have to do. Just do your job and stay within defense," Golden said. "He's played a lot of football for us already. He's over 100 plays for us in three games -- not including special teams. So, he's played a lot of football."
> With Sean McNally out for the year, safety A.J. Highsmith is now the team's backup long-snapper.
Perryman expected to be out for Georgia Tech; Duke named ACC Rookie of Week again; Seantrel could win a starting job this week
Barring a huge surprise, the Miami Hurricanes will be without starting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman when they play at Georgia Tech Saturday.
Perryman has a deeply bruised high ankle sprain -- according to someone close to him -- that will keep him out at least a week if not longer. He has a protective boot on his ankle and will be reevaluated later this week when the swelling goes down.
All coach Al Golden told the media Monday morning was that Perryman didn't practice and that he didn't know his condition.
UM will likely turn to junior Jimmy Gaines in the middle this week. He and sophomore Gionni Paul took the majority of the snaps at middle linebacker Monday.
Georgia Tech has scored more than 50 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1936. Against on Saturday, the Yellow Jackets ran for 461 yards and passed for another 133.
> Freshman running back Duke Johnson was named ACC Rookie of the Week for the second time this season on Monday. Johnson scored four touchdowns in Saturday's 38-10 win over Bethune-Cookman and ranks second nationally in all-purpose yards.
Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post and I spoke to offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch at length today about how he plans to balance his desire to use Duke often in his offense versus protecting him and making sure he's around for the duration of the season. So far, Fisch said he hasn't had to overuse Johnson because Mike James (5.2 yards per carry) and Eduardo Clements are doing a good job. He estimated Johnson got in for about 35 snaps Saturday. I'll have more on Fisch later.
> Golden said offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson is in the mix for a starting job this week -- at left or right tackle -- after having his best game for UM since Golden has been around. Fisch said Henderson continues taking most of his reps at right tackle in practice, but he could start at left tackle. Coaches don't see it as a big deal that Henderson isn't taking reps on the left side. Henderson got in on 52 snaps and graded "very high" according to Fisch.
> While safety Vaughn Telemaque remained out of practice in a big, bulky knee brace Monday, there was some positive news. Freshman linebacker Raphael Kirby and receiver Allen Hurns were out there participating in practice. The real test, though, will be Tuesday.
UM didn't do any hitting Monday. Players wore shorts, jerseys and hats during Monday's practice. Golden said he wanted their bodies to take a break.
After getting steamrolled on defense for two straight weeks to open the season, Hurricanes coaches and players insisted there was no way they could afford to look past Bethune-Cookman and start game-planning for Georgia Tech's spread-option offense last week.
The sophomore from Coral Gables sustained a high right ankle sprain in the second quarter Saturday, according to a source. Although the degree of the sprain remains unknown, Perryman told family and friends he could put weight on the injured ankle after the game.
Perryman was wearing a black boot to protect the ankle while standing on crutches on the UM sideline in the second half. He had x-rays performed at halftime. Results were negative, the source said. But he will be reevaluated Sunday morning.
Losing Perryman would obviously be a huge blow for UM, which already came in ranked 89th in run defense and gave up 233 yards on 53 attempts (4.4 per carry) to the FCS-level Wildcats in a 38-10 win Saturday.
Junior Jimmy Gaines, who is returning from an ankle injury himself, replaced Perryman at middle linebacker for most of the second half. Perryman had four tackles Saturday including one for loss.
UM had a handful of other players go down with injuries. Backup safety Andrew Swasey, who was also seen on crutches, and long-snapper Sean McNally were injured in the first quarter and never returned. Backup linebacker Thurston Ambrister injured his right shoulder late in the game.
Despite the injuries and the yardage the Wildcats put up, UM coach Al Golden thought progress was made on defense.
"Is it perfect yet? No. It's not perfect. But kids were fighting, flying around," Golden said. "We didn't get the takeaways we wanted to get. Again, that's hard to do. We had a veteran team a year ago and didn't keep [Bethune-Cookman] out of the end zone like we did [Saturday]. We improved. Clearly, we have to go back to work [Sunday]."
UM produced three sacks -- two by freshman defensive end Tyriq McCord. But Golden was disappointed with how many other sacks the Canes let slip through their fingers Saturday.
"I just didn't wrap up," said defensive end Shayon Green, who had eight tackles to lead UM again. "They just slipped through my hands, I don't even know. It happens. I'll look at the film. That's easy to fix."
MIAMI GARDENS -- The Miami Hurricanes (1-1) are hosting Bethune-Cookman (2-0) today at noon. The game can be seen on ESPN3.
> The Canes are coming off a 52-13 loss at Kansas State and looking for serious answers on defense.
> Bethune-Cookman has won eight games in a row. The Wildcats don't just have 11 players on their rosters who were at FBS schools (3 from Rutgers, 2 from Mississippi, 1 from Marshall, Iowa State, UCF, Minnesota and Louisiana Tech) they also maul people up front. Their offensive line from left to right: 6-6, 310; 6-5, 380; 6-4, 270; 6-7, 325; 6-5, 305. Four of those five are upperclassmen.
That same offensive line paved the way for Bethune-Cookman to become the first FCS school since Georgia Southern in the 1999 national championship game to produce three ball carriers with over 100 yards.
The Wildcats have also shown they won't just go away when they fall behind. In its opener versus Alabama State, Bethune-Cookman rallied from 21-0 down to win 38-28. Last week at South Carolina State, they scored 27 unanswered points after being down 14-0 after the first quarter.
INJURIES/SUSPENSIONS: The Hurricanes come into the game without starting safety Vaughn Telemaque (knee) and linebacker Ramon Buchanan (knee). DT Curtis Porter (appendectomy) is still out along with LB Raphael Kirby (knee).
Ah, the deep ball. The nine route. The play every receiver can't wait to have called for them.
Hurricanes sophomore wide out Phillip Dorsett is patiently waiting for it. But he wouldn't mind if Jedd Fisch decides this Saturday against Bethune-Cookman is a good time to finally go back to it.
"I'm not really itching for it," Dorsett said of the deep route with a smile. "Whatever coach Fisch calls -- he's a good offensive coordinator -- whatever he calls we just try to take advantage of it. [Long pause] But hey, I like the deep ball."
Through two weeks, UM's passing offense has done a pretty good job being efficient. Running primarily short and intermediate routes, quarterback Stephen Morris has completed 47 of 71 attempts (66.2 percent) for 422 yards and a touchdown and one interception. Even backup Ryan Williams came in and went 2 for 2 with a pair of short passes before tossing a touchdown.
But lethal? That's a word you couldn't use to describe the Hurricanes' pass offense, which went deep quite a bit last year when Tommy Streeter was around, but has yet to do so this year.
Outside of a 56-yard catch and run by tight end Clive Walford, only two other UM receivers have caught a pass of 20 yards or more. Leading receiver Allen Hurns, who will miss this week's game recovering from a concussion, hauled in a 22-yarder at Boston College to convert a 3rd and 16. Sophomore Rashawn Scott, who hauled in a 25-yard pass shortly before halftime while UM was in a two-minute offense at Kansas State, is the other.
"We have to do a better job vertically," coach Al Golden said Tuesday. "We're getting the ball to a variety of players and we're catching in-cuts better than we did a year ago. We're catching the ball across the middle better than we did a year ago. But have we put it all together yet? No we have not."
Whenever Fisch has called a pass on 3rd and long, Hurns has usually been UM's go-to-man. But with Hurns out this week, Fisch said he's counting on others like Scott to step up and make tough cathches. Dorsett made one last week -- a leaping catch over the middle on third down to convert. This week, Dorsett expects Scott to be able to deliver, too -- now that the jitters are out of his system.
"Just being able to get that nervousness out of him from his first game is a big thing," Dorsett said. "I know how that feels. He's going to step his game up."
Dorsett, who injured his groin on the opening series of the game last year against Bethune-Cookman, said whether its him, Scott, freshman Malcolm Lewis or seniors Davon Johnson or Kendall Thompkins, or the tight ends, he's confident Morris will get the ball where it needs to be on Saturday for the receivers to make plays.
"Stephen has the arm to be able to make any throw," Dorsett said. "He fits them into tight windows and can get it over the top, which we haven't done yet, but we're hoping we get to this Saturday."
Morris said on a teleconference the week that the key for UM's offense is "not to force anything."
"Our biggest thing is to play within the system and when the deep opportunity presents itself, we'll definitely take it," he said. "We have a lot of speed and a lot of athleticism at the receiver position, the running back position and the tight end position.
"I'm never concerned about the deep shot. I think teams are more concerned about it than we are because the defenses that they play against us sort of allow us to do both."
MORE NEWS AND NOTES
> As expected, there were no surprises on Thursday's injury report. Linebacker Raphael Kirby (knee), defensive tackle Curtis Porter (appendectomy), receiver Allen Hurns (concussion) and Vaughn Telemaque (knee) will all miss Saturday's game against Bethune-Cookman.
> Is freshman Deon Bush ready to make his first start? "I feel like I'm ready, I'm prepared. I don't really feel that pressure because I've got guys by my side," Bush said. "I can just lay my brick."
> Senior Kendal Thompkins has two catches for three yards this season and at least two drops.
Asked about his struggles, Thompkins said: "At this point, I just think it's all mental man. My preparation going into the games is there. But maybe I'm not going fully confident or I'm not fully prepared like I have to be... It's very frustrating because you're expecting to do well. But when the game time comes, you could drop a ball and it just really messes with you man. It's very frustrating."
It used to be a tradition.
Hurricanes fans -- full of confidence and swagger -- would take joy marking down the automatic wins they saw on the schedule.
You remember those days back in the Big East? Rutgers. Temple. BC. Pitt. Even Syracuse (after Donovan McNabb left). All W's.
Bethune-Cookman probably looked like one of those 'automatic W's' before this season. If Saturday's manhandling in Manhattan didn't rattle your cage, I'm here to warn you again: don't take this Saturday's home opener to the bank just yet.
After seeing just how young this Hurricanes team is and the scope of problems this defense is facing, nothing over the final 10 games is guaranteed. Not even Duke.
Normally, Hurricanes coaches have tried to talk up FCS (I-AA) schools before their teams went out and dismantled them on Saturday. But Al Golden really doesn't have to do that this week.
You've got last year's game versus the Wildcats as proof. The Canes led the Wildcats just 14-7 at halftime and were up just 21-14 with two minutes to play in the third quarter before finally pulling away, 45-14.
That was with Sean Spence leading the team with eight tackles, Marcus Robinson producing three sacks and Micanor Regis getting to the quarterback for another. That was with Lamar Miller running for 102 yards and two touchdowns and receivers Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter combining for eight catches 149 yards and two touchdowns. None of those guys -- by the way -- will play for Miami Saturday.
"They're very aggressive, very tough, came in here and gave us all we could handle a year ago. We expect much of the same," Golden said. "They outgained us and beat us in time of possession. They run the ball very well, got a trio of guys who rush the ball. Two running backs and a quarterback that do a great job and over 265 yards a game on the ground and over 33 points a game. It's going to be a challenge. They're very aggressive on defense and a very experienced group. But I know our guys are preparing hard."
Before you just shake your head and dismiss Golden's talk as non-sense, ask Colorado about Sacramento State. The Buffaloes, a Pac-12 school, lost at home to the Hornets (1-1) last Saturday 30-28. Sacramento State was 4-7 last year. Bethune-Cookman? They've won eight in a row dating back to last season's 8-3 campaign.
The Wildcats don't just have 11 players on their rosters who were at FBS schools (3 from Rutgers, 2 from Mississippi, 1 from Marshall, Iowa State, UCF, Minnesota and Louisiana Tech) they also maul people up front. Their offensive line from left to right: 6-6, 310; 6-5, 380; 6-4, 270; 6-7, 325; 6-5, 305. Four of those five are upperclassmen.
That same offensive line paved the way for Bethune-Cookman to become the first FCS school since Georgia Southern in the 1999 national championship game to produce three ball carriers with over 100 yards.
The Wildcats have also shown they won't just go away when they fall behind. In its opener versus Alabama State, Bethune-Cookman rallied from 21-0 down to win 38-28. Last week at South Carolina State, they scored 27 unanswered points after being down 14-0 after the first quarter.
"If we don't have their attention after last week," Golden said of his team. "... but the reality is they understand that [Bethune-Cookman could beat them]. We can talk about Sacramento State going into Colorado and winning, but the reality of it is we had our own experience with this team a year ago. They'll have our attention."
Truth is, it might take more than just attention to beat the Wildcats.
MORE NEWS AND NOTES FROM TUESDAY
> UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said of the five sacks UM allowed last week to Kansas State, three were the responsibility of quarterback Stephen Morris. To drive the point home to his offense that sacks are everyone's responsibility, Fisch said he put an article in the lockers of his players from the NFL preseason where Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was sacked five times and said the sacks 'were on all 11 of us."
"You can't scramble around backwards and you not make a decision," Fisch said of Morris. "Two sack fumbles never should have happened, both of which were in the quarterback's control. Then, you have to get open. One of [the sacks] happened when we couldn't get open down the field. The offensive line didn't play winning football; no one did when you lose the way we did. But those sacks were mostly on us."
> Fisch said he's counting on Rashawn Scott to take his game up a notch this week with receiver Allen Hurns out with a concussion. "He's going to have to have a good game for us -- I don't know how long. But a good game for sure," Fisch said.
> Fisch said he will continue to monitor the number of touches freshman tailback Duke Johnson gets. "We'll monitor him kind of like you would a rookie in the NFL so in Week 11 or 12 they're season isn't over and you have another eight games," Fisch said. "We'll get him the appropriate amount of touches and will continue to use him in a lot of ways."
> Although UM is averaging 124 yards a game (90th out of 120 NCAA teams), Fisch said "it's hard to evaluate the running game when you break two 60 yarders" at Boston College. In other words, UM might not even be that good. Fisch said UM "has to have a physical presence." The Hurricanes pretty much abandoned the run when they got down big at Kansas State.
> Unlike defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, Fisch hasn't had to scale back his offense. "The key is formations for us," he said. "The concepts are the concepts. Now it's a matter of who do we want to run each concept. Whether we have Duke run an over route this past week rather than Phillip [Dorsett] might be more of a change than making necessarily a decision on `Wow, we found a new play somewhere in the annals.' That doesn't really happen."
> Golden had high praise for tight end Clive Walford: "The reality is he's doing everything better, is blocking better, practicing better. Knock on wood he'll continue to improve. The tight ends were one of the position groups that played really well Saturday, graded out well, finished and made some plays."
> One might imagine with Bethune-Cookman on tap, Hurricanes coaches would maybe take a sneak peek ahead at the complicated offense Georgia Tech is running. Not so said Golden.
"Honestly for us right now we're just trying to get better today and play well in this game," he said. "There is no preparing for next week right now."
> Golden liked what he saw from freshman defensive tackle Earl Moore and said he's earned more reps. "He's tough," Golden said. "Earl didn't get pushed around, knocked it back."
> Golden said freshman cornerback Tracy Howard, who was beaten one-on-one for a 30-yard gain at Kansas State, couldn't defend that play "any better."
"That's a hard position to play," Golden offered. "It's really Thomas Finnie's first opportunity to play out there too. [Antonio] Crawford earned more reps in the game, will play more this week. I think Tracy, he's a competitor. He prepares. The throw and catch they made over him, I don't know how you can defend any better. The kid made a great catch right on the sideline. I think he learned a lot. We are investing in a lot of guys that are going to be around for a long time. What Deon [Bush] did in the game, he grew up in that game. Maybe Tracy will see it a little better this week. Eddie Johnson saw it really well in that game. That's his first start and then he saw it really well. That's the value they gain from that game because there really is no other value from that other than the experience of being in that environment, that competition."
> Freshman right tackle Ereck Flowers said he graded out at 78 percent in his second straight start. Golden said Seantrel Henderson is closing the gap on him and left tackle Malcolm Bunche.
Write it down.
The Hurricanes’ Sept. 22 football game at Georgia Tech will be televised live at 3 p.m. on Sun Sports in Florida, the Atlantic Coast Conference office announced Monday.
MORE NEWS AND NOTES FROM MONDAY
> Golden said there's no timetable on Curtis Porter's return from an appendectomy.
> As for receiver Allen Hurns, who sustained his second head injury since camp began Saturday, Golden was encouraged Monday but said he's not sure when Hurns will return.
"He looked good today. I can't share too much of what the protocol all is. But he looks good. I'm happy he looks good. We're just going to be cautious," Golden said. "He's an inspirational leader and we've got to get him back."
> As for the struggles of left tackle Malcolm Bunche, who was beaten for a sack and a forced fumble at Kansas State, Golden said: "I thought the snap got him in the beginning. I thought they jumped on him to be honest with you. Again, we can't have that no matter what the elements are. We face that in our conference. He has to work on his punch. But I thought he responded well. Overall, we didn't play our best game up front."
> Why did Kacy Rodgers lose his starting spot at safety? "Deon Bushwas more productive, Golden said. "We just try to communicate to the kids quickly and accurately. We try to tell them exactly what happened in the game and we presented the facts that Deon was more productive. That doesn't mean Deon is going to start this game. He's No. 1 today. We'll see how they practice today and evaluate that for the rest of the week. Certainly, Deon when he played with the ones with the same opportunity was more productive."
> What can UM's defense do differently? "We have to keep working, some guys have to get better. Some guys we're really counting on have to step up," Golden said.
"This is a challenge right now for our playmakers to be consistent. ... guys that made plays in BC, some of them didn't make plays in this game to be fair. Not only did we get outcoached but their playmakers played really well and ours didn't play as well as they did against BC. We need Eddie Johnson played like he played against Kansas State and Denzel Perryman playing like he played against BC. We need all those guys playing together on the same day, executing the same way.
"Same thing on offense. With Duke Johnson or Stephen Morris or the offensive line. We just didn't put it together for two games now. Not one. The first one gets masked because we win. But we made a lot of mistakes in that first game. And I knew standing here a week ago if we didn't get fixed it, it was going to be trouble in Manhattan and it wasn't. They're a Sugar Bowl team with nine seniors starting on offense and six or seven starting on defense and we got licked."
> Golden put more of the onus on Stephen Morris' failed touchdown run late in the third quarter when he took the wrong angle and Mike James missed a block.
"I think Mike didn't realize he had crossed the line and he was looking for an outlet," Golden said. "Stephen has to trust his speed and just hit it. If you look at the T in the end zone, if he just ran for the T he's going to score. Instead, he went outside and Mike couldn't quite make the block. But if he trusted his speed and size he would have scored. He'll learn that."
They rank 109th in pass defense and scoring defense, 89th against the run and 114th in total defense out of 120 teams in major college football.
Hurricanes assistant head coach Mark D’Onofrio is well aware just how awful his unit has looked. UM has given up 1,000-plus yards and 84 points through its first two games. The Canes haven't been lit up like this since they were coming off probation in 1998.
UM fans have roasted him on the radio and on internet message boards. Former Canes -- like Clinton Portis, Warren Sapp and Calais Campbell -- have taken to Twitter to express their embarrassment.
"I can't worry about any of that right now,” D’Onofrio said Monday of the criticism he’s received since Saturday’s 52-13 loss at Kansas State. “The only fans I need to worry about are my wife and my kids. As long as they still like me, I am in good shape."
Here’s something that might make UM fans like D'Onofrio a little less: he didn't offer any quick fix remedies Monday. Instead, he basically asked for more patience, and compared Miami's defensive mess to a reclamation project, like the ones he undertook as a linebackers coach at Rutgers and then as defensive corodinator at Temple with Al Golden.
There, D’Onofrio mixed what little talent he inherited with a lot of freshmen and sophomores. Eventually, the garbage was weeded out, and the defenses improved. With 17 freshmen and sophomores on the Canes' two deep on defense, the plan here is essentially the same.
"Go back and look at his statistics; His statistics say it all," Golden said of D'Onofrio. "We finished 17th against the score last year, 15th the year before at Temple. Again, is it what we want right now? No. But who is more upset than we are?
"I appreciate everybody's passion, but there were too many players out of position and too many plays we didn't execute, and too many times where we just didn't have 11 guys doing their job [Saturday at Kansas State]. We always look at ourselves as coaches first so we know what we need to calm down and what we need to call more of and what we need to eliminate based on what we're seeing."
"There's no panic button right now. We're in it for the long haul. We'll get this fixed. I've seen this before. I've seen this drill before, trust me."
As for the immediate future – including this Saturday’s home opener against Bethune-Cookman – D'Onofrio said he's trimming the rotation. Golden said 26 players have gotten into games on defense.
"It is not going to be like Pop Warner football where everybody gets in," D'Onofrio said.
“We have a base line to go off of good, bad or indifferent,” D’Onofrio said. “We have some guys that are playing well. We have some guys that haven't rose to the occasion. And we have some guys that are playing like their youth. A few more guys came to battle this week. I though [freshman safety] Deon Bush played well. [Junior safety] A.J. Highsmith played well. [Redshirt freshman linebacker] Eddie Johnson played well. We’ll just keep trying to building our team.
“I am sure Al has spoken about it, 17 of the two deep are freshmen or sophomores and the juniors are Shayon Green, Kacy Rodgers, and A.J. Highsmith. And you have seen how much they have played. That's where we're at. That's no excuse. But when we get this thing turned it is going to be turned for a while. We're working to get it turned. When we get it turned, there is going to be nobody leaving the team for a while and that is what we are working on what we are trying to do."
As for practice, the focus has turned to the basics. Coaches are preaching: fill the right gap and wrap up. The playbook? D’Onofrio said he has simplified his defense and kept the plays he knows his unit can execute. The rest get thrown out.
“My general rule of thumb is that if we aren't running it well by the end of Wednesday, I throw it out,” D’Onofrio said. “Just leave that burden off them. I try to keep it as tight as I can with this group.”
Unfortunately, D’Onofrio can’t do the same to the offenses UM is facing. D’Onofrio admitted Kansas State, a veteran team loaded with juniors and seniors, baffled the Canes’ last Saturday with different formations and personnel packages.
“I think the multitude of formations right now has guys seeing a lot,” D’Onofrio said. “The next time they see it, hopefully they play it better."
If there were encouraging signs from Saturday's loss, D'Onofrio said, it's that his players didn't quit.
"I have been in games like that where you get manhandled and guys lay down," D'Onofrio said. "We tried to put it on their fullback. We tried to put it on their quarterback. There were guys trying to be physical. I am encouraged by that."
Remember last week when Al Golden told his players to savor that win at Boston College? Hope you did, too.
Saturday's 52-13 blowout loss at Kansas State was an eye-opener for Canes fans who didn't take the 500-plus yards BC rolled up as a huge warning that trouble could be on the horizon for defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio's unit. Because the Eagles decided it was easier for them to throw against Miami (441 yards on 51 attempts) than run (101 yards on 34 attempts) it temporarily masked what we all feared could be UM's biggest weakness heading into the season -- an inexperienced front seven.
Kansas State and quarterback Collin Klein quickly reminded us Saturday the entire Canes' defense could use an extreme makeover. He attempted only 11 passes, but still threw for 210 yards and completed nine passes to guys like Curry Sexton (Curry Sexton?) who were flying right past UM's defensive backs. When the Wildcats weren't throwing, they were running right through Miami to the tune of 288 yards on 60 attempts. How bad did it get? UM saw K-State's third string quarterback.
Canes fans can hope for miracles. But I don't suspect Ty Pennington will be telling some driver in front of Greentree Practice Field Monday to "move that bus" -- suddenly revealing seven to eight studs we had no idea were on the team. As Randy Shannon used to joke, there is no college waiver wire either.
Now, the offense obviously had a few setbacks Saturday. They aren't totally off the hook. But Jedd Fisch's unit hardly makes you as queasy as D'Onofrio's looking ahead to the rest of the season.
No, D'Onofrio doesn't deserve all the blame. He's obviously been put in a position to play a lot of young and inexperienced players. And let's face it, some of them obviously aren't ready or probably are not good enough to be thrown in the fire this quickly. Maybe not ever.
But is this simply a personnel issue? Or, is D'Onofrio not doing a good enough job with his schemes to put his team in a position to succeed -- like having his defensive backs playing so far off in coverage and rarely bringing extra pressure to rush the quarterback? Could guys really be that lost?
For those of you arguing that UM waved good-bye maybe to too many good players from last year's defense, first know that this unit returned five of the eight leading tacklers from a year ago: linebacker Denzel Perryman, safety Vaughn Telemaque, linebacker Jimmy Gaines, defensive end Anthony Chickillo and cornerback Brandon McGee, and also got back linebacker Ramon Buchanan from injury. Defensive tackle Darius Smith started seven games last season.
So those are essentially seven players who played a big role on last year's defense, which finished 45th in total yardage (359.92 yards per game), produced just 23 sacks (59th out of 120 FBS schools) and was among the worst in the country at taking it away (15 turnovers), yet still managed to finish 17th nationally in scoring defense (20.08 points per game).
Could losing Sean Spence (3rd round pick, Steelers), Olivier Vernon (3rd round pick, Dolphins), Ray-Ray Armstrong (booted off the team), Jojo Nicolas (not in the NFL), Marcus Robinson (not in the NFL), Mike Williams (not in the NFL), Andrew Smith (not in the NFL), and a couple of undrafted free agents to make NFL rosters -- Micanor Regis (Falcons practice squad), Adewale Ojomo (Giants), Marcus Forston (Patriots) -- make that big a difference?
Sorry. I'm not buying that entirely. I didn't just mention Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Dan Morgan or Vince Wilfork did I? Except for Spence, most of the guys gone from last year's defense hardly did anything big when they were here. So, this defense isn't entirely devoid of contributors from a unit that hardly looked as bad in 2011 as they have in their first two games (84 points, 1,035 yards, 4.1 rushing, 325.5 a game passing, 14 of 25 on 3rd down).
With that, we'll move onto the grades:
> Play/Player of the Game: Since this will always be given to a UM player even in defeat, I'll give this week's award to the only guy who got in the end zone for the Canes -- tight end Clive Walford. He finished with three catches for 61 yards including a 56-yard catch and run to the Kansas State 10-yard line with UM down 14-0. I felt the turning point in the game happened moments later when UM had to settle for a field goal instead of getting in the end zone. Had UM scored six there, who knows if something changes.
> Offense: D. Not a lot of positive this week when all the Canes mustered was six points before garbage time. The most disappointing offensive play of the game for me was when Stephen Morris scampered toward the end zone only to get pushed out of bounds at the three yard line late in the third quarter. Sure, UM was down 31-6 at the time, but Mike James has to make a block on that play when it's just him and a safety. He didn't. Showed me a lack of want to -- especially on 4th down. As for the rest, freshman Duke Johnson had six carries for 19 yards and couldn't generate the magic he had last week. Wasn't all his fault. UM ran for just 40 yards on 29 carries and couldn't generate a running game or protect Morris, who despite going 19 of 26 for 215 yards, was sacked five times. Some of those sacks were his fault for not getting rid of the ball. But after a stellar week 1 performance, the offensive line looked human and error prone. Right guard Brandon Linder was hit with flags twice. Left tackle Malcolm Bunche got beat on a sack that led to a fumble. Who looked better? The receivers. Only drops I saw were from Duke Johnson, who had three. That's a good sign especially since we don't know how long Allen Hurns could be out. He looked good early with two catches for 32 yards, but never returned with what FX reported as concussion like symptoms. Seantrel Henderson entered the game early in the third quarter when freshman Ereck Flowers limped off with an injury. Interested to see how Henderson graded out and how banged up Flowers really is.
> Defense: F. That's not for fantastic either. Instead of going over all the bad things that happened, we'll highlight the few good things. Brandon McGee made a wonderful leaping interception, showing us some life in coverage. Redshirt freshman Eddie Johnson once again was all over the field making tackles. He finished with seven. Anthony Chickillo produced the team's first sack (albeit a coverage sack). And Shayon Green led the team with eight tackles. Problem for UM is Green, who now leads the team with 15 tackles, makes most of his tackles downfield after the defense has already been gashed.
> Special teams: C-. Took a step back this week. Outside of Duke Johnson's 77-yard kickoff return that led to UM's only score late in the fourth quarter, the Canes were pinned inside their own 20 three times and didn't get past the 25 otherwise on kick returns. Kansas State, meanwhile, had a couple nice returns on kickoffs and punts. Jake Wieclaw hit a pair of chip-shot field goals, but booted the opening kickoff out of bounds. Dalton Botts had four punts for an average of 40 yards, but his first one after the start of the second half went just 29 yards and gave Kansas State excellent field position at their own 29. UM could have used a boomer inside the 20.
UM coach Al Golden defended his defensive coordinator after last week's season-opening win at Boston College, saying he had the utmost confidence in what Mark D'Onofrio was doing.
Golden sounded a little less emphatic about that after Saturday's 52-13 blowout loss at Kansas State.
"We're going to look at everything tomorrow and see where we're at from a system standpoint and from a tackling standpoint and get it fixed going into next week," Golden told WQAM color analyst Don Bailey Jr. when asked what he thought the defense could do after giving up 499 yards including 289 on the ground to the Wildcats.
"This is just a tough one. We have to do a good job leaving this here and moving on. We can't let this game beat us twice."
Except from a handful of plays, the Hurricanes were dominated in just about every phase Saturday. As usual, Golden opened his post-game interview with WQAM with the company line after an ugly loss -- by saying there is no excuses.
"They beat us in all three phases, out played us, out coached us. We got to do a better job starting with me. That's it." Golden said. "No excuses."
UM's offense, which produced 34 points in last week's win at BC, produced a total of 264 yards. Freshman tailback Duke Johnson -- except for a 77-yard kickoff return late to setup UM's only touchdown -- had a forgetful day. He finished with 22 yards on 7 carries and had more drops (3) than catches (2 for 20).
"We didn't convert enough on offense. Clearly," Golden said."We didn't get the explosive plays we needed on offense and we didn't get off the field on defense. We had opportunities in the red zone on offense. We didn't score. We never put pressure on them. At the end of the day, we never put any pressure on them with the score. They played from the lead, which is tough to play them from the lead."
Quarterback Stephen Morris finished 19 of 25 for 214 yards, but was sacked a handful of times and fumbled once. Morris also had a shot at the end zone in the second half, but didn't get the block he needed from Mike James and ran out of bounds at the 3-yard line. Kansas State drove the length of the field after that to put UM away.
"Give them credit they did a better job then we did, they got pressure from a four man rush, had him running a little bit," Golden said of Kansas State. "We weren't very sharp in some areas."
UM ran the ball 29 times for a total of 40 yards.
"We never got the running game going for Mike, Duke and OT and got behind," Golden said. "It made it tougher, just compounded for us."
UM turned the ball over three times and produced one turnover -- a leaping interception by cornerback Brandon McGee. But it was the first turnover -- a fumble by Eduardo Clements with UM down 7-0 in the first quarter -- that hurt the most.
"Can't win like that -- especially the one of the first drive was tough. You're going down there to answer, get in a situation where you can compete. It ended up being a big play. We just got to protect the ball better than we did," Golden said.
A number of true freshmen played again for UM including defensive tackle Earl Moore.
"There were a number of guys that got a lot of reps," Golden said. "Again, we got to see how they responded and look at the tape. We can get better and see what changes we need to make and do that."
So what kind of things can UM do to make sure they don't get beat twice as Golden put it after this dreadful loss? Golden didn't really seem to have answer for that really.
"We're going to continue to be the same guys," he said. "We're trying to build a program. We're trying to get back to where we want to be and the way you do that with consistency. I know people want to wave a wand and I don't know if some people thought after 1 week we were right where we needed to be.
"[Winning at Kansas State] is a tough task, a tough out for a lot of people. In the last decade or so I think there's only been three people who have beat them here in the last decade. This is a tough out. Obviously, we were weren't as focused as well as we needed to be. We didn't execute as well as we needed to. That's on me. Bottomline."
University of Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch pretty much had a delightful time breaking down game film of Saturday's win at Boston College.
Sure, his unit got off to a little bit of a slow start (early drops) and didn't score on their final two drives. But there was a whole lot of goodness in between. The Canes offense scored 34 points (seven came on Denzel Perryman's INT return), produced 415 yards of total offense and saw a lot of promising signs from a boatload of freshmen.
One would assume Fisch doesn't have much to concern himself with. But he does (at least a little). What should he do with Seantrel Henderson?
The high school All-American and USA Today Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 returned to work with the regular unit on Tuesday (he spent last week on the scout team after missing all of camp) and no longer has the starting spot at right tackle. Freshman Ereck Flowers, who graded out at 94 percent at right tackle Saturday, appears as though he's locked into that role now.
Could Henderson slide over to the left side? Could the Canes line him up at guard? It certainly doesn't seem like a bad problem to have. But it's one Hurricanes coaches don't really seem to have an answer for yet -- other than Henderson and more backups need to play. Saturday at BC, the only backup who got into the game was guard Jeremy Lewis, and he was in for a total of two snaps.
"We're going to have to play more guys," UM coach Al Golden said. "Ben Jones, Jeremy Lewis, Jared Wheeler, Seantrel -- we're going to try to have a better rotation. I don't know what the heat will be like Saturday. But we're going to have to play more guys there."
While Golden said the Canes will always go with their best five starters and said that "now it's up to Seantrel to chip away," Fisch didn't seem eager to get Henderson on the field or switch him to another spot on the line. Asked about how much playing time Henderson could get at Kansas State, Fisch was non-committal and said, "I need to see the film." As for where he will play, Fisch said: "He's a tackle."
"We could probably give him some work on the other side. But I don't think we're going to do that right now," Fisch said. "We're going to continue to let him play in the position he's most comfortable with."
At this point, the only thing you can feel pretty positive about is that Henderson will travel with the Canes to Kansas State. Playing time? That's another issue. If Flowers continues to perform like he has, it may be awhile before Henderson gets in.
"I thought he played extremely well," Fisch said of Flowers. "Did not at all say that's a freshman. Did not at all say that was a mistake, it was his first time doing it. He was poised. He was tough. He was physical. He communicated well. He had a good day."
MORE NEWS & NOTES FROM TUESDAY
> Fisch said what he liked most about Stephen Morris' start Saturday (28 of 45, 207 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was that he never strayed from the game plan and took chances downfield. "That was really the most important thing we preached last week that we were going to be real patient. We didn't want to kind of put ourselves in difficult situations, force any throws downfield," Fisch said.
"We felt like that was not a team you kind of good deep on. I think we threw three balls over 10 yards in the air and he executed that well. The three balls he did throw downfield they were all catchable balls. I was proud of him. That makes a huge difference when your quarterback does that."
As for his freshmen, Fisch pretty much my sentiments from today's early morning blog that Saturday's opener "was just another game for them."
"These guys are coming off state championship games, coming off playing on ESPN and some of these other All-Star Games and they were ready for that," Fisch said. "It didn't seem very big for Duke Johnson. It didn't seem very big for Malcolm Lewis. It didn't seem very big for Ereck Flowers for sure. Those guys, it just seemed like any other game. That was an awesome thing. That's what you need."
> As I told you Sunday, Fisch said not to expect to see the hurry-up offense every week. Every game plan is different.
"We went into that game against Boston College saying the best way to attack them was pushing the tempo and felt as if that was going to be something against that team and that defense. Coming off playing them the last game the year before you kind of have to show them some other wrinkles," Fisch said. "We'll continue each week to determine the best way to move the football and how we're going to do it. Whether it be running the ball. Whether it be stretching the field or hurrying up. That's what we'll go out and execute on game day."
After failing to punch it into the end zone late in the game last season in a 28-24 loss to Kansas State, Fisch said the focus this week in practice will be on "finishing strong." Golden said that loss stuck with the Canes all season.
"I don't think we finished the game real well last week," Fisch said. "So, we have to become a better finishing team. Obviously, it cost us a game against Kansas State and probably could have cost us against North Carolina and probably could have cost us on Saturday. We're going to finish strong and hopefully see what happens."
> Left guard Jonathan Feliciano said the Hurricanes offensive line was so well conditioned Saturday "we could have gone another couple quarters." UM ran 79 offensive plays.
> What has elevated redshirt freshman Eddie Johnson to a starting role at strong side linebacker in the team's latest depth chart?
"I see more consistency," Golden said ."It showed up on game day. If you can contrast the play where he caused the fumble - that was who we were the other day. We made a mistake, but finished the play. We weren't paralyzed by our mistakes, kept fighting, and Eddie's play personifies that. He gets beat, chases and knocks the ball out. It's hard to teach that aggressiveness and recklessness, and it's good to see he had that first time out."
#### I'll have a story on UM's defense and what went wrong Saturday in tomorrow's paper along with quotes and insight from defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio.
You've heard it so much now, it's become cliche.
Freshmen all across the country are asked what the biggest difference is between high school and their first college game. The responses are usually something like: "The game is a lot faster," or, "The guys are bigger and more physical," or "I've never played in front of so many people before."
But none of those responses came from the four freshmen I spoke to on Monday: running back Duke Johnson, cornerback Tracy Howard, safety Deon Bush and receiver Malcolm Lewis. About the only thing that really bothered them was the noise.
"You can't really hear," said Lewis, who was elevated to a starting spot in the team's latest depth chart released Monday after hauling in all four passes thrown his way -- including an 18-yard touchdown catch and run on Saturday.
"So, you have to know your hands signals. That was kind of a big adjustment. But I pretty much knew them. Since you can't hear the quarterback, you have to watch the ball for the snap. Yeah, everything is faster. But I was pretty much the same to me. I was kind of used to it."
Howard, Lewis' best friend and former teammate at Miramar High, echoed those sentiments. "Some people told me like it's a different game 'Those boys are going to be big and strong, faster. I mean, not really," Howard said.
"Sticking those guys were just like sticking guys in high school -- especially in terms of the size. What got me was the crowd noise. It was hard to communicate sometimes. In high school, you could talk, 'Hey watch this, watch that. Watch the slant route.' It's kind of hard to do that in college. A guy could be like 10 yards away from you, but he can't hear you. You have to see those checks with signals. You can't see motion sometimes either. You just got to signal it because it's kind of hard to hear."
What blew Johnson away? Seeing his mom in the stands -- in Boston.
"It was something that said 'This is college,'" Johnson said. "It was faster than high school, but really nothing that would blow me away."
Miami will obviously play in louder stadiums (there were only 39,262 fans at Alumni Stadium last weekend), but at least it's encouraging to see the leaders of UM's 2012 recruiting class and backbone of the future pretty much felt comfortable in their first college game. The moment was overwhelming. But it didn't overwhelm them.
MORE TIDBITS FROM MONDAY
> So what did Duke Johnson think about LeBron James' tweeting about him on Saturday? "Surprised. Excited. Everybody kind of laughed," Johnson said. "We just appreciated he took the time out to watch us, tweet about me."
> Johnson touched the ball 13 times on Saturday between kickoff returns, receptions and carries. Asked if he likes how he is being utilized in Jedd Fisch's offense -- especially in the open field, Johnson smiled. "I enjoyed that very much," he said. "I just like that he's using me in all the ways he can, all the possible ways the offense can. That's good. I like it."
> While the rest of the world might be surprised at how Johnson exploded in his first game, his teammates aren't. "I was expecting it," Lewis said. "I just wasn't sure when it was going to happen. I didn't know if it would be the first game, but I knew it would be quick. He's too good."
Said Howard: "Everybody knew it from practice really, but of course people are going to be surprised because that's his first game as a true freshmen. I really wasn't surprised. I already told people he would score two or three times [versus BC]. I've known him since we were young and I know what type of person and player he is. When you are always that humble, you're always going to have success."
> Howard said he also isn't surprised 12 true freshmen played in the opener. "I knew the guys I was coming in with. I knew the talent we were coming in with. We came in with an urgency that we're not going to be denied, came in competing, ready to play," Howard said. "We talked about it amongst each other. I'm not really too surprised."
As for the problems in UM's secondary, Howard said: "It could be fixed. It's not really major. It's not like we got beat in man-to-man. It's not like they outplayed us. It was just guys in the wrong spots. That's all it really was. You can't really like get mad at that. It's just the little things we have to fix and the things we know. But the game is going so fast and you got young guys playing, so you expect those things to happen."
How much zone did UM play? "We ran zone a lot, but towards the end of the game in the fourth quarter we started running a lot man," Howard said.
UM released a new depth chart this morning in preparation for the Kansas State game on Saturday.
The biggest changes?
> True freshman Malcolm Lewis, who scored a touchdown versus Boston College, is now listed among the starters at receiver alongside Phillip Dorsett and Allen Hurns.
"Just have to keep working hard to maintain it," Lewis said Monday of moving onto the first team.
> Redshirt freshman Eddie Johnson is now listed as the starter at strongside linebacker ahead of Thurston Armbrister. Miami's defense looked dreadful against BC, giving up more than 500 yards.
> Junior Seantrel Henderson is now listed as the backup to Ereck Flowers at right tackle. That was obviously expected since he is no longer on the scout team. We'll see how much Henderson plays at Kansas State and if he gets in the rotation. Flowers graded out at 90 percent in his first college start.
> We have a couple new names as backups at defensive tackle. Jalen Grimble and Earl Moore are now listed behind Darius Smith and Luther Robinson (he was there last week) is listed as the co-backup along with Corey King to Olsen Pierre.
Click on the link Download UM FB Depth_Chart 090312
A day after his team won their season opener at Boston College despite giving up 10 acres worth of yards to the Eagles, UM coach Al Golden defended defensive coordinator and close friend Mark D'Onofrio while addressing other issues.
Ultimately, Golden said the reason Boston College was able to put 441 yards passing on Miami was because there were a lot of blown assignments and poor communication between players, not what D'Onofrio was calling.
"We had some blown assignments that just led to wide open receivers. It's as simple as that," Golden said. "There are no excuses here. We have to do a better job coaching it. The kids have to do a better job executing it. Give Doug Martin and the BC offense credit. They really did a good job scheme wise and ran off the first 16 plays without us really distorting that all all.
"But then at the same time I want to give our staff credit for responding. Between play 16 and play 61 they didn't score at all. Hopefully, we can settle down and eliminate some of those mental errors and some of the guys will do a better job with communication..."
Golden was asked if he believes in the scheme D'Onofrio employed. It seemed to me -- and maybe the rest of the world -- the Hurricanes were sitting back in zone coverage while rushing just three or four linemen each play and not getting to BC quarterback Chris Rettig. D'Onofrio's scheme wasn't the problem, Golden said.
"Do I believe in it?," Golden said almost miffed at the question. "I know where the question is going. I will just tell you all the explosive plays basically came on blown assignments in man-to-man coverage. Everybody wants us to do this and do that. The bottom line is we have to execute what's called. And clearly, I have the utmost confidence -- not just confidence -- the utmost confidence in how we're running our defense."
MORE NEWS/NUGGETS FROM LIEUTENANT AL
> Golden was pleased with how many young players gained experience in Saturday's game. He said 58 of the 65 players that traveled to Boston College got in the game -- including 14 freshmen, 12 of them true freshmen.
"I'd like to continue make sure everybody has a role in the game and an opportunity to help us," said Golden, who said he played younger teams at Temple in 2007 and 2008. "They played with a lot of energy and a lot of spirit and were competitive. We have to get them a little more poised, a little more calmed down and hopefully get them settled in between Game 1 and Game 2.
> No play may have demonstrated the difference between the 2011 Hurricanes and the 2012 version than Duke Johnson's first touchdown run when there was blocking help up and down the field to help him get in the end zone. Golden won't bad mouth last year's team, but he did say this about that 54-yard TD run on Sunday.
"It's all effort. Clive [Walford] was excellent on that play in terms of his blocking," Golden said. "If you don't care about your teammates and care about conditioning, you're not going to finish plays. Don't forget [Phillip] Dorsett was 45 yards away on the opposite numbers. He and long with Clive led [Johnson] to the end zone. I think [Jonathan] Feliciano -- even though he looked like he was in the HOV lane, he and those guys showed great hustle that they wanted to finish those plays."
> Duke Johnson finished with 135 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries and Golden noted that Johnson would have received more carries if he didn't break a pair of long touchdown runs. That being said, Golden doesn't appear to be eager to make Johnson the only guy who touches the ball in his backfield. The Canes will continue to share the wealth for now.
"Clearly we want to make sure we get them all touches and we want to be a little more balanced this week in terms of our run/pass ratio as well," Golden said.
> As for quarterback Stephen Morris, Golden said the one sack UM allowed was his fault because "Stephen will tell you he should have found his outlet in the flat and he didn't." Golden said there were "other occasions [Morris] could have pulled it down and ran," and that Morris has "got to trust his speed." But overall, Golden said, "Stephen did a great job with the offense."
> As good as UM looked in its hurry-up offense Saturday, don't start believing the Canes are married to it. "I was just trying to take our greatest advantage and widen that gap. I hope it helped. We stayed in it for quite some time because we felt it was helping, wearing down the defense," Golden said. "But every game plan is different."
> Don't be surprised if you see more of redshirt freshman linebacker Eddie Johnson. He finished third on the team with five tackles and made a big play by forcing a fumble that was recovered by Ladarius Gunter."Eddie Johnson gets beat and then he hustles down the field and takes the ball away," Golden said. "That is type of the effort we are looking for."
> True freshman Ereck Flowers impressed Golden in his first college start at right tackle. "Ereck Flowers graded out over 90 percent. I thought he played really well."
> Safety Deon Bush led all true freshmen on defense with four tackles. Golden said Bush played 30 snaps on defense and 12 snaps on special teams. "I think Deon is making a lot of progress and playing well," Golden said. "So is Rayshawn Jenkins for that matter."
> Golden counted seven drops by the receivers in the Boston College game and said that was what bothered him the most in his game review on offense. But he is confident that unit will bounce back this week. "I think Rashawn Scott will play better, I know Kendal Thompkins will play better, Malcolm Lewis answered the bell, we will get Dorsett more touches and Davon Johnson did his job," Golden said.
> After participating mostly on the scout team last week, Golden said Seantrel Henderson will have a chance to compete "with the varsity" for playing time this week.
> Golden is not anticipating a return for defensive tackle Curtis Porter (appendectomy) this week. That hurts against a good rushing team like Kansas State.
> Golden reiterated that he is hoping freshman linebacker Raphael Kirby, who had a cast removed from his right leg last week, can return by the Georgia Tech game on Sept. 22.
Enjoy this one. Savor it. Al Golden definitely is and told his team to do the same.
His young Hurricanes battled back from a pair of quick upper cuts Saturday afternoon at Boston College and survived 542 yards of offense from a team that finished last in the ACC last year in that department and still won 41-32.
Not bad, especially when you consider seven Canes -- LB Thurston Armbrister, S Kacy Rodgers, CB Thomas Finnie, DL Olsen Pierre, RB Duke Johnson, OT Ereck Flowers and C Shane McDermott -- were all making their first career starts and several others were getting their first real taste of action. Like youth movements? The Canes put eight players on the field who weren't here last year -- including seven true freshmen (Deon Bush, Tracy Howard, Tyriq McCord, Malcolm Lewis, JaWand Blue, Flowers and Johnson).
Saturday was fun if you bleed orange and green. But the truth is, Golden knows much tougher challenges lie ahead. As talented as those freshmen are UM is going to have to solve major issues on defense moving forward if the good times are going to keep rolling.
Now, to the first round of grades/observations for the Canes:
> Play/Player of the Game: True freshman Duke Johnson had three huge plays -- including touchdown runs of 56 and 54 yards -- to spring UM to life and rally them to victory. But the biggest play in my opinion was the two yards he picked up on 4th and 1 and UM down 14-0 left in the 1st quarter. For all the talk about Duke's lack of size, Johnson barreled past three defenders to get the first down. BC was flagged an additional 10 yards for a facemask on the play. If Johnson doesn't stick his nose in there, the flag might not happen. Eduardo Clements scored three plays later to make it 14-7.
> Offense: A. Hard to find much wrong with what the offense did other than the three big early drops that lead to UM falling behind 14-0 (and a couple of flags on the offensive line that hurt). Allen Hurns, Kendal Thompkins and Rashawn Scott all looked bad early, but Hurns recovered nicely and had a career day at receiver with eight catches for 81 yards. He scored big points with me when he raced over the middle of the field on 3rd and 16 and snagged a 21-yard pass from Stephen Morris on the drive that eventually put UM ahead for good when they were down 23-21. If Hurns doesn't make that catch, maybe game sways a different way. Stephen Morris, meanwhile, was truly fantastic. He scrambled for a couple of big first downs and put several tough balls on the money en route to a 28 of 45 for 207 yards, 1-INT, 1 TD performance. The pick wasn't his fault either. It was Scott's. The offensive line, meanwhile, was stellar. UM ran for 208 yards on the ground and gave Morris plenty of time when he needed it. Morris was sacked just once.
> Defense: D. No pass rush. No pass defense. And not a lot of good other than three turnovers, Denzel Perryman's 41-yard interception return for a touchdown and a couple stops on 3rd-and-1. We can debate about UM's coverage woes. BC quarterback Chris Rettig threw for 441 yards and two touchdowns. But when nobody breathes on you and you have time to order pizza, bake a cake and plan the rest of your Saturday night before making a pass, how else is the pass defense you are going against supposed to look? UM obviously didn't produce a single sack and there were times when receivers (Alex Amidon 10 catches, 149 yards) had nobody around them. But I believe this all stemmed from the success BC had running the football early for big chunks. The Eagles only finished with 101 yards on 34 attempts (3.0 average), but they ran play action off their early success and kept UM's secondary off balance. Meanwhile, Rettig exposed horrendous coverage by the Canes' linebackers and safeties who always seemed out of position when the quarterback rolled out. Whatever defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio planned in terms of creating a pass rush failed miserably. He's got to devise something new. It's going to obviously take time. But Saturday was a day to forget.
> Special teams: A. Now you know why punter Dalton Botts is so respected. He took a bad snap right before halftime that could have turned out badly and got it off. He finished with five punts for 40.6 yards including two inside the 20. Miami's return team of Johnson and Phillip Dorsett, meanwhile, put a good enough scare into BC after the first half the Eagles basically refused to kick it to them anymore. The Eagles, meanwhile, never took over possession outside of their 30-yard line following a kickoff or punt. That's good coverage.
- WR Allen Hurns. Emerged as the go-to-guy when times were tough at receiver.
- QB Stephen Morris. Coaches were right. He is a lot better. Tremendous arm. Very few mistakes.
- RT Ereck Flowers. Didn't hear his name for anything bad during the broadcast once. Seantrel Henderson is going to have trouble getting his job back.
- WR Davon Johnson. Came in with six career catches. Had a huge third down catch down the sideline to pick up a first down. That wins you more chances.
- S Vaughn Telemaque. He was already getting bushed by true freshman Deon Bush for playing time. He was out of position too often.
- RB Mike James. He finished with 54 yards on 14 carries (3.9 a carry) and had a couple nice runs. But the Duke arrived Saturday. It's going to be hard for James to take on the lead role with him around.
- WR Kendal Thompkins. He started after shining in practice all camp. But he dropped at least two balls in the game and finished without a catch. Just disappointing.
- Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio. He's a standup guy, a great quote and a good coach. But his defense can't go on like this.
It's finally Game Day.
The Miami Hurricanes will be taking on Boston College at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill. The game can be seen on either ABC or ESPN2 depending on where you are.
Our Susan Miller Degnan and Greg Cote are there to cover the game. I will be here at home watching the game on TV like most Hurricanes fans.
OPENING DAY STORYLINES
> The Canes, coming off a 6-6 season and still under investigation by the NCAA, have a really young team coming back from last season. Coach Al Golden said he expected about 14 to 15 true freshmen to see action in this game. In all, UM has 15 freshmen or sophomores listed on the on the depth chart on offense and 18 listed on defense.
> Right tackle Ereck Flowers and cornerback Tracy Howard could end up becoming the first true freshmen to start in their first college game at UM since 2008 when Jacory Harris and Aldarius Johnson did against Charleston Southern.
> While the Hurricanes come into the game relatively healthy (only DT Curtis Porter and LB Raphael Kirby are out among those listed on the two deep) Boston College is a little more banged up. Tight end Chris Pantale, who lit UM up last season in BC's 24-17 win at Sun Life Stadium, is among a few Eagles that are out. Tailback Rolandan Finch (foot) is banged up.
> For more on BC read up here.
Golden talks BC, opener and says of weathering the NCAA storm "I feel like Lieutenant Dan in the Gulf on a shrimp boat."
We're only five days away from the season opener at Boston College.
UM coach Al Golden spoke for 25 minutes during a press conference Tuesday to preview the game and as usual provided a few memorable lines. Nothing was better, though, then when Golden was talking about the season in general and external expectations.
"If we're worried about the external we're in for a long year," Golden said. "Somebody asked me about the storm the other day. I said it's been storming for 19 months now. I mean that's the truth. I feel like Lieutenant Dan in the Gulf on a shrimp boat. You call this a storm? That's where we're at."
Golden was obviously making a reference to the ongoing NCAA investigation and impending sanctions heading UM's way.
Here are a couple of other quick hitters from Tuesday's press conference at UM with Golden:
> As expected, Golden said offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, who missed all of fall camp dealing with a concussion and the death of two relatives, and defensive tackle Curtis Porter (appendectomy) will not be making the trip to Boston College.
> Golden said the final position battles for starting jobs at receiver (Allen Hurns or Phillip Dorsett and Kendall Thompkins or Rashawn Scott), strongside linebacker (Thurston Armbrister or Eddie Johnson) and safety (Kacy Rodgers or Deon Bush) will decided by Wednesday night, which means we probably won't know who won the jobs until Saturday.
> Golden expects 14-15 true freshmen to play in the opener and more possibly down the road. Preston Dewey won the third string job over Gray Crow and will travel to BC.
> Golden said freshman running back Duke Johnson "will not carry the work load" Mike James or Eduardo Clements will in the opener, but will get his touches. He said to expect all four running backs and all four tight ends to play Saturday.
> Told his players have used the term shocking the world when talking to reporters about this coming season, Golden quipped: "I'd like to sit them down right where you are sitting and shock them... let's not talk about it. Let's be about it."
> Golden said the cast on the right leg of freshman linebacker Raphael Kirby was removed on Tuesday. He said he expects to know more about Kirby in the next two to three weeks. Golden has been hopeful since Kirby was injured in camp that he might be able to return this season.
In the spirit of fantasy football draft season, I've decided to come up with a list of the top players at UM in terms of who I believe will provide the most quality production and leadership during the 2012 season.
Again, we haven't seen any of these guys beyond 15 to 30 minute sessions at practice. I'm formulating these rankings based on those brief glimpses and interviews I've done with players and coaches. Basically, if you were to ask me who I would take off this team to try and win, these are the guys I would take in order right now:
1. Denzel Perryman, So., LB: I think we took for granted last season the immediate impact this kid provided. He finished second on the team behind Sean Spence with 69 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, a sack and two forced fumbles in 12 games, five starts. Because of the struggles at defensive tackle, Perryman (6-0, 230) could end up getting swallowed at middle linebacker on some plays. But he's UM's best defensive player and in the end whom Mark D'Onofrio will count on heavily to make up for the mistakes of others in his front seven.
2. Anthony Chickillo, So., DE: Again, another guy who made an immediate impact as a true freshman, tying for the team lead in sacks with five and starting nine games. He's head and shoulders above anybody on the defensive line right now and will be the second guy on defense opposing teams focus on taking out of plays. Like Perryman, Chickillo made huge gains in conditioning and strength in the off-season so he won't be pushed around in the least. But at times -- like Perryman -- he could get swallowed up because of double-teams, etc. Still, Chickillo is the best pass rusher on the team and should lead the team in sacks again.
3. Brandon Linder, Jr., RG: He's the glue on UM's best starting unit. If you talk about a guy on the offensive line who is probably irreplaceable, the 6-6, 312-pound former St. Thomas Aquinas standout is that guy. Linder has the most experience of any returning lineman (17 starts) and graded out at 90 percent last season, tied for the best mark on the team. He allowed 1.5 sacks, made only seven mental errors and was flagged five times in 2011. UM can't run the football effectively without him.
4. Stephen Morris, Jr., QB: He shot up my rankings by winning the starting job easily over Ryan Williams and looking as though the back surgery he had was no big deal. We'll see what happens when Morris starts taking hits. But his arm strength and athleticism has never been questioned. It's been the interceptions he's thrown early in his career. Seeing the job Jedd Fisch did with Jacory Harris last season (he finished 19th nationally in passer rating), though, gives me Morris has a bright future ahead of him.
5. Vaughn Telemaque, Sr., S: He never turned out to be the Ed Reed, turnover magnet Randy Shannon said he would be (4 career INTs, 5 career fumble recoveries). But Telemaque has been reliable in terms of tackling (he's been top five on the team three straight seasons) and is the most experienced player on the roster (36 career starts). He's currently ranked 20th at free safety among potential prospects who could get drafted by CBSsports.com. With a Reed-type senior season, Telemaque would drastically improve that and I think with a better supporting cast around him in the secondary, we'll finally see that.
6. Tracy Howard, Fr., CB: I'm sure Brandon McGee and Ladarius Gunter have done all they're supposed to do to put their names above others on the depth chart at cornerback, but this is the guy who makes you hopeful for the future. Howard wore a black jersey a lot during camp and will eventually be on the field as a full-time starter. He was an All-American and the No. 1 player at his position in high school. I've seen him play and believe the hype. He's going to make an impact.
7. Duke Johnson, Fr., RB: Even if he doesn't get the bulk of the handoffs early, Johnson figures to play a lot on special teams and get his touches because he's explosive. I'm thinking the ball will be in his hands 10 to 15 times a game between handoffs, catches and returns. Like Howard, Johnson is the future of this program and a huge building block moving forward. He's going to be who you want with the ball in their hands as the season goes on.
8. Phillip Dorsett, So., WR: He's the fastest receiver Miami has and my pick to lead the team in receiving this season. At 5-9, 187 pounds, he's the guy who will replace Tommy Streeter as the deep threat. I expect Dorsett to also do a pretty good job with Johnson on kickoff and punt returns.
9. Malcolm Bunche, R-So., LT: The strongest guy on the team with 36 reps of 225 pounds, Bunche is finally healthy enough to where it appears he can be dependable. He's always been fit, trim and athletic. All you worry about with him is experience. Bunche played in eight games last year and started just once against Virginia (at right tackle). Coach Al Golden said he just needs to show consistency. I'm banking on it.
10. Brandon McGee, Sr., CB: Like Telemaque, I'm expecting McGee to take the next step in 2012 and become more of a playmaker. He has one career interception. But being in the dog house with Al Golden and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio -- as well as the push from the freshmen -- should make him better this season. McGee's tackling abilities are also a bit underrated. He had 38 last season and also had a sack. He's always been lightning fast.
11. Seantrel Henderson, Jr., OT: He's been through a lot this off-season and missed all of camp, but he did look physically good coming into the fall. He was lighter, healthier and appeared to be headed toward a breakout season. Now that he's back at practice and on campus, Henderson should put his troubles aside and start making the trek back. He knows there is a lot of money to be made if he gets his act together. He's still the highest listed player among potential 2013 NFL draft picks (CBSSports.com has him 152nd overall, 13th at OT, 4-5th round pick). In the end, UM is a better team with a good Seantrel Henderson on the field.
12. Rest of UM's starting offensive line: I'm going to cheat and list center Shane McDermott, left guard Jonathan Feliciano and freshman right tackle Ereck Flowers here because to me they're all about the same. Feliciano has more experience having started some last year. But talent-wise and ability he's on par with the other two guys in the starting lineup. As I said earlier, I think the offensive line is the best overall unit on the field for Miami.
> Ranking the rest of the Top 30: 13. RB Mike James (Sr.), 14. WR Allen Hurns (Jr.), 15. CB Ladarius Gunter (Jr.), 16. RB Eduardo Clements (Jr.), 17. LB Ramon Buchanan (Sr.), 18. P Dalton Botts (Sr.), 19. K Jake Wieclaw (Sr.), 20. WR Rashawn Scott (So.), 21. DE Shayon Green (Jr.), 22. TE Asante Cleveland (Jr.), 23. LB Jimmy Gaines (Jr.), 24. S Kacy Rodgers (Jr.), 25. DT Olsen Pierre (So.), 26. S Deon Bush (Fr.), 27. CB Antonio Crawford (Fr.), 28. LB Gionni Paul (So.), 29. DE Jelani Hamilton (Fr.), 30. TE Clive Walford (R-So.).
Here is the second part of my report card from the end of fall camp focusing on defense and coaching.
Grade: D. Chickillo might feel like a one-man show at times this season unless some other guys step up here. UM ranked 68th in run defense last season, giving up 161.92 yards a game. The Canes also produced just 23 sacks, 59th in the nation. By the way, what happened to sophomore Ricardo Williams? Suddenly he's invisible on the depth chart again.
> Linebackers: The return of second-leading tackler and sophomore Denzel Perryman, who has moved over to the middle, should ease the loss of Steelers' third round pick Sean Spence. But there are plenty of questions at linebacker beyond that. Junior Jimmy Gaines (6-3, 232) has been battling an ankle injury from the spring throughout camp and hasn't locked down a starting spot despite being one of the most experienced players on the field. He's currently Perryman's backup. Fifth-year senior Ramon Buchanan (6-1, 228) is back and the starter at weakside linebacker, but it's unclear how effective he'll really be coming back from knee surgery. Meanwhile, a number of other young, inexperienced players are in the mix for playing time. At strongside linebacker, sophomore Thurston Armbrister (6-3, 222), a converted safety, and redshirt freshman Eddie Johnson (6-1, 238) are listed as co-starters. Johnson, however, may have bowed out of the race recently as it appears he could face disciplinary action. Another player in the mix for playing time, sophomore Gionni Paul (6-1, 230) still doesn't appear to be 100 percent healthy after sustaining a knee injury early in camp. It also hurts that true freshman Raphael Kirby, who had been impressing since the spring, went down with what appeared to be a season-ending knee injury. Freshman Gabe Terry (6-3, 215) could see some third down work as a pass rusher.
Grade: C. Without all the injuries, this group might have had a chance to be real good and deep. But there are a lot of questions now heading into the start of the season. If a converted safety all of a sudden is your starting strongside linebacker you have to be concerned.
> Defensive backs: UM signed eight defensive backs in their 2012 class and one -- freshman Vernon Davis -- has already left because of how tough the competition is. While senior Brandon McGee (6-0, 194) was in-and-out of Al Golden's doghouse at times in camp, it appears he's solidified a starting spot at field corner. The other guys who will be at corner with him are all new arrivals with the exception of sophomore Thomas Finnie (5-10, 183), who is battling for the backup job at boundary corner. Junior transfer Ladarius Gunter (6-2, 198) has impressed coaches with his ability to break up passes in camp and is the starter there. Former Miramar High All-American Tracy Howard (5-11, 185) wore a black jersey for most of camp and appears as though he's worked himself into the top three at the position. Freshman Antonio Crawford (5-11, 188) has also flashed and is McGee's backup. At safety, fifth-year senior Vaughn Telemaque (33 career starts) will provide more leadership and experience than anyone at any other position. Junior Kacy Rodgers (6-2, 210) has run with the first team throughout camp alongside Telemaque, but has recently gotten a push from 6-1, 195-pound true freshman Deon Bush, an All-American out of Miami Columbus.
Grade: B. No position has improved more dramatically than the secondary. The results may not be immediate in terms of wins and losses because the talent is so young. But in the long run, Miami should be much improved in the coming years. UM ranked 95th in pass efficiency defense last season and produced just 6 INTs while giving up 16 TDs. My guess is the INTs and defensive pass efficiency rating goes up.
> Coaching: For the first time in a long time there wasn't a single coaching change on the staff at Miami from one season to the next. There hasn't been that kind of stability since the last national championship season of 2001. Having the same offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator two years in a row should help a lot. The question on defense is how much assistant Mark D'Onofrio will use a 3-4 scheme instead of a 4-3 scheme. Considering UM's problems at both linebacker and on the defensive line, it will be interesting to see what combinations D'Onofrio uses. Offensively, the Hurricanes should be able to try and stretch the field more with Morris under center and not Jacory Harris.
Grade: A. With all the Hurricanes have had to deal with in terms of the NCAA investigation, for Golden and his staff to still produce a Top 10 recruiting class and get so many freshmen ready to play in a short amount of time Canes fans have to be ecstatic. Golden and his staff have definitely opened the door up to real competition and position battles. The guys who don't like it have moved on. If Golden can improve on last year's 6-6 record with this young, injured team that still is missing quality players at defensive tackle, he will have done a fine job this season.