October 30, 2014

Stacy Coley keeping a smile on his face through sophomore slump

Stacy Coley's sophomore season hasn't gone the way he expected it to. But at least he's putting a smile out there for the world to see.

One of the most electrifying freshmen in the country last season (he ranked second nationally with a 21.8-yard average the 67 times he touched the ball as a receiver or return man), it's almost startling that Coley hasn't found a way to break loose yet this season.

For one, he scored 10 touchdowns last season (seven receiving). But seven games into 2014 (he missed one game with an injury), Coley has yet to find the end zone. 

As a receiver in 2013, he ranked third on the team in catches (33) and second in yardage (591) and made seven starts. This year, he's started one game (Louisville) and has 12 catches (seventh-most on the team) for 72 yards (eighth-most) and his longest catch has gone for 17 yards. Last year, Coley had eight catches go for more than 20 yards.

As a return man, he's had just two kickoff returns longer than 30 yards this season (he had five last year) and just one punt return longer than 20 yards (he had five last season).

"For me, I just feel like my season isn't going as planned," Coley said Tuesday. "But right now I'm just going to keep pressing forward, keep focusing and put God first."

The thing is Coley isn't getting a ton of chances either. His 18 receiving targets rank seventh on the team behind Braxton Berrios (38), Phillip Dorsett (35), Duke Johnson (32), Clive Walford (32), Malcolm Lewis (27) and Herb Waters (23). And that's with eight of those targets coming in his only start in the opener. 

Last week at Virginia Tech, Coley ran a jet sweep on a wildcat formation and picked up two yards. He had one pass thrown his way -- a quick flare pass he turned into a 13-yard gain in the fourth quarter with Miami already ahead 30-0.

"Whenever I get another opportunity or just get the ball in my hands I have to try and make something happen," Coley said.

Is it frustrating? "No. Not at all," he said. "I'm just happy the team is winning. I'm a team guy. It's not about me. It's about the team. Whatever I can do to help the team I just do it."

If he can get the ball in his hands this week he'll have a pretty good chance to score against North Carolina's secondary. The Tar Heels ranks 119th in pass defense (302.1 yards per game) and have allowed 20 touchdown passes this season. UNC is pretty good on kickoff coverage (16.16-yard average). The Tar Heels ranks ninth nationally and have surrendered just one return longer than 30 yards this season. 

THIS AND THAT

> UM coach Al Golden said after Wednesday's practice that he remains in regular contact with sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and fully expects Miami's top 2013 recruit to return to the team in January. 

"He's 256 now," Golden said. "He's getting stronger and bigger. He's eight weeks away, but whose counting? We're just trying to offer support, making sure he's doing the little things he needs to do and we'll gladly welcome him back in January."

> Even though he churned out a career-high 249 yards on the ground in the win at Virginia Tech, Duke Johnson said it wasn't his best game as a Hurricane and that he found plenty of things on tape to improve on.

"I don't think I've played a perfect game yet," Johnson said. "There's always something I can do better in. Like on the play where Brad threw the ball to me and it was low, but I still dropped it. That's a negative because I touched the ball with both hands."

Asked if that was his one mistake against the Hokies Johnson smiled and said: "Probably running into the bench too. That's probably a minus. That's definitely a minus."

> Carter Hucks, the eight-year-old Make-A-Wish kid who was with the Hurricanes in their wins over Cincinnati and at Virginia Tech, entered the hospital Wednesday and is set to receive his bone marrow transplant on Nov. 6. Golden said there is constant communication between Carter and the team, especially Johnson, his favorite player.

> What did Gus Edwards do better during his breakout performance at Virginia Tech? "Run behind his pads," Johnson said. "One thing we tried to tell Gus was he's not a scat back. That's not what he does. He can do it at times, make a couple guys a miss. But for the most part when he's going, we want him to run straight, run behind his pads. We tell him 'a lot of guys don't want to tackle you as it is. A lot of guys move out the way. So run behind your pads and run strong and when you get to the next level just have fun, do what you do.'"

> Offensive coordinator James Coley said quarterback Brad Kaaya had a menu of plays to choose from against Virginia Tech depending on the coverage he saw.

"He had the ability to exit out of the pass game and get into the run, which he did the first several plays," Coley said. "If he had a bad count in the box, he could go into a pass. Man, he did that all night long."

Coley said he kept telling Kaaya he was doing a great job even though he stats (7-of-16, 92 yards, 1 TD) didn't necessarily show it. 

"We're starting to see the leader of Brad Kaaya, not just the quarterback Brad Kaaya," Golden said Wednesday. "We're starting to see him comfortable in his own skin and grow as a leader.  Those are the two things I would say, his decision making in terms of protecting the football, as it relates to protecting the ball, then leadership, feeling more comfortable as a leader, not just a quarterback."

> Even though North Carolina ranks 109th in run defense (210.63 yards per game and 20 TDs allowed) and has just 13 sacks on the season (91st nationally), both Coley and senior offensive lineman Jonathan Feliciano, who is moving over to left tackle this week, said the Tar Heels scheme could be problematic for UM.

"They do a really good job making things look messy for you," Coley said. "They give you funky looks and things aren't they way they're supposed to be with regard to how you see a defense until a ball snaps. So, they'll make some plays especially the guys in the perimeter because of those looks and then up front they're constantly moving and bringing some untraditional blitzes."

Said Feliciano: "People aren't going to give them much credit because they're not statistically ranked high but they do a lot of things that mess the o-line up and mess the whole offense up. They do a lot of weird stunts, weird blitzes. That caught us off guard last year too. It was a close game last year and I know that they're going to come down here and bring it again."

> What does Kaaya think of the Canes running the ball down opponents throats (88 rushes for 699 yards) instead of throwing it (41 passes for 378 yards) the last two weeks? 

"That's fine. Keep feeding them," Kaaya said of his running backs. "Sooner or later, playaction is coming. If they're going to play coverage, deep coverage, then we're going to keep running the ball. "

Is that what teams have been doing more? "Yeah. Certain teams," he said. "Virginia Tech came out like that. First play of the game they're playing their safeties are 30 yards deep, cornerbacks 15 yards deep. All week long we saw them load the box and play man defense and then first play they completely change all that. Maybe that's what he saw or was baiting us to throw. I don't know. It worked for us."

Said James Coley: "Week in and week out probably for the last five weeks we've gone into the first series and really within the third or fourth play, said 'Hey they're not playing what they thought they were going to play. This is different.' Part of it is because of Brad. Part of it early is because of Duke and Dorsett and Stacy with his threat he gave last year with all the screen stuff. So you get a lot of funky looks and Clive's made a presence in the middle of the field. Teams have really adapted to what they've done for us. So we've had to adjust within drives and within games some stuff we probably didn't see in practice. I'm sure it will be the same way this week."

> Coley said freshman quarterback Malik Rosier has been doing a great job running Miami's scout team this season. Rosier is one of 16 players UM plans to redshirt.

"We don't get a lot of work with him except for a few times, but he's very sharp," Coley said. "If I pulled him in to talk about the game plan for North Carolina he would know all the checks. "He may not have all the reps that Brad has, but he's definitely soaking up stuff in meetings and really it made you feel good as a coach somebody cares as much as he does to not only execute his role in the scout team, but know what's going on."

> Like Golden said last week, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio mentioned linebacker Raphael Kirby as the player who has made the biggest strides since the first week of the season. 

October 24, 2014

Golden reviews Virginia Tech blowout win, talks injuries, more

Here is everything coach Al Golden talked about Friday during his teleconference the day after UM's 30-6 win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg:

Q: How did you come out injury wise?

"I think Joe Yearby will be fine. I think Juwon Young will be fine. Both of those guys. Obviously Joe didn't play. Juwon got hurt in the first half. Everybody else is good to go."

Q: You've talked about wanting to play the complete game. Was this as close as you've gotten to one since coming to Miami?

"It was the most complete game we've played this year. I thought Cincinnati we played really well in all three units for three quarters and this one I thought we played really well. We could have done a couple things better late in the game, but again your mindset changes a little bit when you're up 24 or 31 late in the game. I thought it was a good performance."

Q: What happened to Juwon Young?

"Juwon actually got a hamstring too."

Q: How much did having the bye week off help?

"I think we needed the rest. I opted to only practice once last week. So we really didn't get a tactical advantage on Virginia Tech. Again, I just thought the rest was more important based on how the season was going with the three night road games away not getting back until 5 a.m. three times and I just thought the rest was better and I think it showed up last night for sure."

Q: Is there anything going on with Herb Waters who didn't play?

"Is there anything going on with Herb Waters? No. We ran the ball for close to 400 yards and that's just the way the game played out. We didn't anticipate Virginia Tech playing us the way they did play us. And then obviously when they continued to play us that we continued to run the ball. It just was a function of personnel groups. I don't want to start any rumors or whatever your question is coming from it's unfounded. I don't understand it. We just won the game 30-6 on the road in Lane Stadium. I think the guys gave an incredible effort and the receivers especially -- Malcolm and Phillip and all those guys were so unselfish blocking all night. I really appreciated it."

Q: What did you like most about the way you played on defense?

"We didn't miss many tackles. Our tackling percentage, we're still working through it in terms of our quality control and making sure we don't miss anything. If there's anything we need to correct we're going to do that. But we didn't miss many tackles. We fit them pretty good. We were very unselfish up front. Everybody was spilling the ball and directing the ball where it needed to be -- either to the linebacker or the safety. And I think when the defensive lineman had opportunities they made plays. I thought the pass rush was good. I wish we could have finished it with a couple more sacks. But we certainly made the quarterback uncomfortable, made him move his feet and alter a lot of his throws especially when we had them backed up with the field position."

Q: Does this feel like the biggest win or most impressive win you guys have had since coming to Miami?

"I don't get into all that, respectfully. You guys analyze that. We're pretty much putting a bow on this thing by 6:30 tonight and then moving on to North Carolina. So, I'll leave that analysis up to you. But a year ago we needed a two-minute drive to win at Chapel Hill and it seems like the last two years we've won big games on Thursday night in really tough environments. So I think from that standpoint our team had a good look, a lot of confidence and again there's a lot of teams that go into that place and fall victim. So I was glad glad that we didn't."

Q: What was it like having 8-year-old Make-A-Wish kid Carter Hucks around again for the game? 

"It's been awesome. We have an opportunity to bring joy and fulfillment, Carter's dream to and he and his family. At the same time we think he's doing the same to us. He's been a lot of fun, a lot of joy to be around. Great attitude, great personality. Obviously we're blessed to have him around. Hopefully we'll see him again soon.

Q: Why has the running game been so explosive and productive (699 yards on 88 attempts) over the last two games? 

"Like I said earlier I think we have a lot of unselfish guys right now. If you look at Duke's first long run against Cincinnati, Malcolm Lewis is on the right side and he gets a great block on the safety. Phillip is on the front side and he gets a great block. Otherwise it's a seven-yard gain. The offensive line has been doing a good job. Danny [Isidora] is making a lot of progress. And Nick Linder is making a lot of progress. Alex Gall. I think those guys are making progress. But we're getting a lot of unselfish play. We really asked the receivers, both tight ends Clive and Stan and Tucker, to simply go out there and block for three hours and they all did it pridefully and willfully and did it really well. I think that is a characteristic that's really hard to come by. I'm glad we're starting to see that."

Q: You had fewer penalties (4 penalties, 28 yards) against Virginia Tech. Did that come from coaching, guys understanding the line better?

"I think there is a line and we want them to walk that line and we want them to be aggressive. One of the things about being disciplined is self governance and the last couple games we got into a couple selfish penalties whether it was a retaliation penalty or celebration. So we can't have any selfish penalties. Last night, again, I go back to being unselfish. We were unselfish last night in a lot of the ways we played the game and I think penalties was one of them. I just think we were very unselfish. There were a number of opportunities to retaliate and we did not. I think if we got on the perimeter and we were blocking and starting to hold them we let them go. I just think from that standpoint we were smart and disciplined and unselfish and that's what corrected the penalties. But we've got to keep going."

Q: How big a jump has Raphael Kirby made over the last month?

"I can't believe you said that because we were just talking this morning. This last four weeks -- I don't even know how to describe it. We were just talking this morning. This last four weeks I don't even know how to describe it. He's so process-oriented right now. His preparation is through the roof. He's practicing really hard. He's playing mike and will for us. So again, it goes back to him being mature, being unselfish, saying you know what I'll play whatever spot you want us to play. His production over the last month has been really, really good and I just can't say enough about the direction he's going, leadership and really consistency is the word I would describe." 

Q: How about Jermaine Grace's improvements?

"Jermaine Grace is a talented young man who is really working harder and harder each week on the mental aspects of the game, on his preparation, on his film study. And he has to continue to do that. When he marries those two he has a chance to be a formidable presence for us. I hope that he sees know, he understands and he accepts that challenge. That's going to be the challenge week in and week out. The offense we're going to see this week is a lot different in many ways than the offense we just saw. He's going to have to invest again mentally and from a preparation standpoint and back it up physically, which he has been doing. His effort has been really good. We just have to get that mental aspect down, I really believe if he can marry those two he's going to be tough."

Q: What's the schedule moving forward?

"We actually have a team meeting in about 10 minutes. So we're going to knock out this film, get that cleaned up, make sure any mistakes we made last night we don't let them sit or forget about them. Let's clean that up, be honest about it. Whenever you get a big win, some guys want to sweep stuff under the rug. We don't want to do that. If we made mistakes whether its technique or mental errors or whatever the case may be depending on your positions we get it cleaned up. We're going to do that and then I'll give them off [Saturday] and then normally they have Sunday off. So we'll stay with that schedule and return on Monday."

Canes right in the middle of a wild, wacky Coastal Division race

The Hurricanes' 30-6 blowout in Blacksburg Thursday night keeps them very much in the race to win the Coastal Division with four games left to play. 

Here's a look at how the division stacks up the rest of the way from a Canes perspective:

Duke (6-1, 2-1 ACC)
> Wins: at Georgia Tech 31-25, Virginia 20-13
> Losses: at Miami 22-10
> Remaining games
- Nov. 1 at Pittsburgh (4-3), Noon (ESPNU)
- Nov. 8 at Syracuse (3-4)
- Nov. 15 vs. Virginia Tech (4-4)
- Nov. 20 vs. North Carolina (3-4), 7:30 p.m.
- Nov. 29 vs. Wake Forest (2-5)
> The Breakdown: The Blue Devils rebounded from their loss at Miami on Sept. 27 with a pair of back-to-back wins in Atlanta and at home over the Cavaliers to take control of their own destiny in the Coastal. At this point, the two toughest games left on the schedule for Duke appear to be at Pitt, which they'll have two weeks to prepare for, and a Thursday night showdown with rival North Carolina just five days after facing Virginia Tech. The good news for UM is they own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Duke. The bad news: it's unlikely the Blue Devils will lose more than two ACC games the rest of the way, if that. Duke's ranks fifth nationally in scoring defense (15.1 ppg) and the only offensive juggernaut still on the slate is Carolina.

Pitt (4-3, 2-1 ACC)
> Wins: at Boston College 30-20, Virginia Tech 21-16
> Losses: at Virginia 24-19
> Remaining games
- Oct. 25 vs. Georgia Tech (5-2), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
- Nov. 1 vs. Duke (6-1), Noon (ESPNU)
- Nov. 15 at North Carolina (3-4)
- Nov. 22 vs. Syracuse (3-4)
- Nov. 29 at Miami (5-3)
> The Breakdown: Behind running back James Conner (172 carries, 959 yards, 11 TDs) and a decent defense (14th in scoring, 18.6 ppg) the Panthers will be a formidable final hurdle for the Hurricanes to close out the regular season. Pitt can do Miami's dirty work over the next eight days by beating the Yellow Jackets (who own the head-to-head tiebreaker with UM) and bringing Duke back to the pack.

Virginia (4-3, 2-1 ACC)
> Wins: Louisville 23-21, Pitt 24-19
> Losses: at Duke 20-13
> Remaining games
- Oct. 25 vs. North Carolina (3-4), noon (ESPN3)
- Nov. 1 at Georgia Tech (5-2), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
- Nov. 8 at Florida State (7-0)
- Nov. 22 vs. Miami (5-3)
- Nov. 28 at Virginia Tech (4-4)
> The Breakdown: The Cavaliers weren't supposed to be in this race, but are very much players in it after an impressive start to the season. Their losses are at home to a ranked UCLA team by eight points and on the road at a ranked BYU team by eight points. The Hurricanes are just 2-3 all-time in Charlottesville and have lost two in a row there.

Georgia Tech (5-2, 2-2 ACC)
> Wins: at Virginia Tech 27-24, Miami 28-17
> Losses: Duke 31-25, at North Carolina 48-43
> Remaining games
- Oct. 25 at Pittsburgh (4-3), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
- Nov. 1 vs. Virginia (4-3), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
- Nov. 8 at N.C. State (4-4)
- Nov. 15 vs. Clemson (5-2)
- Nov. 29 at Georgia (6-1)
> The Breakdown: The Yellow Jackets have been on a slippery slope since beating the Canes in Atlanta. They've given up 79 points and 952 yards over their last eight quarters in back-to-back losses. With a head-to-head win over the Canes in their pocket, the Yellow Jackets would win the tiebreaker if they finish in a two-way tie with the Hurricanes. But at this point that doesn't look like that will happen. They've got a tough road game this Saturday and still have to host a good Clemson team.

Miami (5-3, 2-2 ACC)
> Wins: Duke 22-10, at Virginia Tech 30-6
> Losses: at Georgia Tech 28-17, at Louisville 31-13
> Remaining games
- Nov. 1 vs. North Carolina (3-4), 12:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Nov. 15 vs. Florida State (7-0)
- Nov. 22 at Virginia (4-3)
- Nov. 29 vs. Pittsburgh (4-3)
> The breakdown: The Hurricanes have dropped four in a row and seven of their last nine to the Seminoles and haven't beaten FSU at home since 2004. Beating the defending national champions and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston at home will be a tall order, which means winning the other three ACC games are musts. The only game UM probably won't be favored in aside from FSU is at Virginia. If the schedule plays out with UM winning three of its final four except FSU the Canes will finish 5-1 in the division and the only team they'll lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with is Georgia Tech.

North Carolina (3-4, 1-2 ACC)
> Wins: Georgia Tech 48-43
> Losses: at Clemson 50-35, Virginia Tech 34-17
> Remaining games
- Oct. 25 at Virginia (4-3), noon (ESPN3)
- Nov. 1 at Miami (5-3), 12:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Nov. 15 vs. Pittsburgh (4-3)
- Nov. 20 at Duke (6-1), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
- Nov. 29 vs. N.C. State (4-4)
> The Breakdown: The Tar Heels haven't been able to stop anybody on defense (rank 127th out of 128 FBS teams in scoring defense with 43.3 ppg). And nobody has really stopped them from scoring either (38.7 ppg, 17th nationally). Quarterback Marquis Williams has been a one-man wrecking crew. He's completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 1,776 yards, 15 touchdowns and six picks and leads the Tar Heels in rushing with 448 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Carolina lost 50-43 at Notre Dame scored plenty on Clemson. It's unlikely the Tar Heels will remain in contention for the division with the schedule they've got left, but you never know.

Virginia Tech (4-4, 1-3 ACC)
> Wins: at North Carolina 34-17
> Losses: Georgia Tech 27-24, at Pittsburgh 21-16, Miami 30-6
> Remaining games
- Nov. 1 vs. Boston College (4-3), 12:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Nov. 15 at Duke (6-1)
- Nov. 22 at Wake Forest (2-5)
- Nov. 28 vs. Virginia (4-3)
> The Breakdown: As bad as the Hokies looked Thursday night against the Hurricanes it's not out of the realm of possibility they turn things around and win out -- especially with two weeks to prepare for a trip to Duke. After all, this is still a team that won on the road at Ohio State back on Sept. 6 and has won the Coastal four times. At least the Canes own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Hokies.

WHAT ARE THE ACC'S TIEBREAKERS?

Two-way tie: 
1. Head-to-head competition between the two tied teams.

Three-way tie (Note: Once a team is eliminated from the tie, the tie-breaking procedures restart for the remaining teams. If the three or more team tie can only be reduced to two teams, the two-team tiebreaking procedure will then be applied): 
1. Combined head-to-head winning percentage among the tied teams.
2. Winning percentage of the tied teams within the division.
3. Head-to-head competition versus the team within the division with the best overall (divisional and non-divisional) Conference winning percentage, and proceeding through the division. Multiple ties within the division will be broken first to last, using the league’s tie-breaking procedures.
4. Combined winning percentage versus all common non-divisional opponents.
5. Combined winning percentage versus all non-divisional opponents.
6. Winning percentage versus common non-divisional opponents based upon their order of finish (overall conference winning percentage) and proceeding through other common non-divisional opponents based upon their divisional order of finish.

October 03, 2014

Breaking it down: Miami Hurricanes at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

MIAMI (3-2) AT GEORGIA TECH (4-0)

> Kickoff, TV, radio: 7:30 p.m., Bobby Dodd Stadium, ESPN2, WQAM (560 AM)

> History: Miami has won five in a row in the series, but still trails the overall series 10-9.

> Spread: Georgia Tech favored by 1 1/2

> Counting stars - Miami: Canes have 3 five-star recruits (two on defense), 18 four-star recruits (nine on each side), 27 three-star recruits (14 on offense), 1 two-star recruit (defense) and 2 no-star recruits (defense) on their depth chart. Among that group, nine of those players are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: RB Duke Johnson (2nd RD), MLB Denzel Perryman (2nd RD), LT Ereck Flowers (2nd RD), CB Ladarius Gunter (4th RD), WR Phillip Dorsett (4th-5th RD), DE Anthony Chickillo (4th-5th RD), TE Clive Walford (5th RD), LG Jon Feliciano (6th-7th RD), DL Olsen Pierre (6th-7th). 

> Counting stars - Georgia Tech: Yellow Jackets have no five-star recruits, 4 four-star recruits (two on each side), 40 three-star recruits (21 on offense), 5 two-star recruits (3 on defense) and 1 no-star recruit (offense) on their depth chart. Among that group, two are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: SS Isaiah Johnson (6th RD) and WR Darren Waller (6th-7th RD).

> Injuries: Miami listed offensive tackles Taylor Gadbois (left leg) and Kc McDermott (left leg), kicker Matt Goudis (back) and receiver Rashawn Scott (shoulder) on the official injury report as being out. Georgia Tech has listed reserve defensive tackle Adrian Gardner (foot) as probable and walk-on redshirt freshman reserve quarterback Brady Swilling (hand) as out. Kicker Harrison Butker has been fighting through ankle pain.

> Background: The Yellow Jackets have had two weeks to prepare for the Hurricanes since winning on the road at Virginia Tech 27-24. UM coach Al Golden expects to see plenty of wrinkles from Georgia Tech's offense considering UM has won five in a row against them. Outside of the Virginia Tech win, Georgia Tech's other wins were 38-19 over Wofford, 38-21 at Tulane and 42-38 over Georgia Southern.  

> Georgia Tech offense versus Miami defense: This is going to be the fifth game in a row UM faces some form of the spread option. Of course as coach Golden pointed out this week this is the first opponent who adds a third element (the pitch) to the mix. So far, Georgia Tech has relied on 5-11, 189-pound speedy quarterback Justin Thomas (65 carries, 443 yards, 2 TDs) and 6-1, 218-pound B-Back Zach Laskey (61 carries, 316 yards, 2 TDs) to do most of the heavy lifting in the run game. Fifth-year seniors Charles Perkins (9 carries, 111 yards, 0 TDs), Tony Zenon (13 carries, 90 yards, 2 TDs) and Deon Hill (10 carries, 61 yards, 0 TDs) have been sprinkled in as big play options as A-Backs. Thomas rarely throws, but when he does it usually results in a big play with 6-3, 222-pound senior DeAndre Smelter, who leads the team with 14 catches for 339 yards and four scores. Georgia Tech's offense line, which specializes in cut blocks, has plenty of experience on the left side. Left tackle Bryan Chamberlain, a 6-4, 295-pound redshirt junior, has 12 starts under his belt. Redshirt junior Trey Braun (6-5, 294) has made 12 consecutive starts at left guard and senior right guard Shaquille Mason (6-1, 300) has made 29 career starts and is an All-American candidate.

Hurricanes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio redeemed himself last week with a more aggressive approach and has won five games in a row against teams that run the Triple Option. But there is still reason for concern. After holding Georgia Tech to 134 yards on the ground and just seven points in 2011, Miami's defense has been giving up more and more yardage on the ground against Tech (287 yards, 5 TDs in 2012; 335 yards, 4 TDs in 2013). UM was down 17-7 after one quarter last year before turnovers helped stem the tide. With Georgia Tech driving early in the second quarter, Justin Renfrow hit quarterback Vad Lee and Jimmy Gaines recovered his fumble at the UM 21-yard line. Miami responded with 10 points to tie it at halftime. Miami then used two fourth quarter interceptions -- including a Ladarius Gunter 30-yard return for a score -- to salt away the win. Thomas has thrown just one interception on 65 attempts this season (he's completing 49.2 percent of his passes) and the Yellow Jackets have turned it over three times total on fumbles. Key stats to remember: Georgia Tech is converting on 3rd down at 56 percent (fifth-best nationally). UM ranks 55th in third down defense (36.36 percent). Denzel Perryman will have to lead the charge again for Miami. He had a team-leading 11 tackles last year as UM forced Georgia Tech into seven tackles for loss total in the win.

> Miami offense versus Georgia Tech defense: UM freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya played his first turnover free game of the season last week in the win over Duke and Golden says it will be paramount to UM's success he keeps playing turnover free. Georgia Tech has produced six interceptions already this season (tied for 20th most in FBS) and five of those picks have come inside their opponents' own 40-yard line. All seven turnovers Georgia Tech's defense has produced this season have led to 45 points. That said, the Yellow Jackets really haven't faced too many passing teams thus far (109 opposing pass attempts ranks 14th fewest) much less one as talented as UM's (263 yards, 12 TDs, 60.9 percent completion percentage). Part of that's because opponents have some pretty good success running the ball on the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech ranks 94th in rushing yards allowed per game (194.25) and the Jackets are surrendering 5.43 yards per carry (115th out of 128 FBS teams). Last year, UM ran for 227 yards and 7.3 per carry against Georgia Tech as it rolled up 551 yards of total offense on just 53 plays (10.4 average). Canes running back Duke Johnson, recovering from a sprained right ankle versus Duke, enters Saturday's game just 131 yards behind Clinton Portis for fifth on UM's all-time rushing list. He had his second-best career rushing game versus Georgia Tech last year (184 yards, 22 carries). True freshman Joseph Yearby had his best game last week against Duke and should get more work.

Of course, Miami's offensive line will look a little different this week with starting right tackle Taylor Gadbois and backup Kc McDermott out and veteran left guard Jonathan Feliciano now over at right tackle. Golden said true freshman Nick Linder, sophomore Alex Gall and junior Hunter Wells will all rotate in at the left guard spot this week and whoever plays the best will finish the game. Before the injury to Gadbois, Miami showed a tendency to run left behind left tackle Ereck Flowers and Feliciano. But this may even things out some. Golden said this week he wants to get both the struggling Stacy Coley and Phillip Dorsett (0 catches versus Duke) going. Two years ago, Dorsett lit up Georgia Tech in Atlanta (9 catches, 184 yards, 1 TD). Two of the five returning starters for Georgia Tech who faced UM last year -- linebacker Quayshawn Nealy and cornerback Chris Milton -- intercepted Stephen Morris in last year's game. The key for Miami's offense will be avoiding third-and-long situations (Hurricanes rank 124th out of 126 FBS programs) on third down conversions. Of course, Georgia Tech isn't very good on third-down defense (48.98, 118th out of 128 schools) either. So something has to give.

> Special teams: The Hurricanes are still waiting for the big return from somebody on kickoff and punts (longest for both is 29 yards). It probably won't happen this week. Georgia Tech hasn't allowed a punt return longer than 20 yards and just one kick return longer than 30. Tech's Chris Milton is one of the best kick blockers in the country. He has five blocks since the start of the 2013 season and has two blocks already this year. UM has had trouble with extra points, bad snaps and kickoff coverage (1 kick return for TD by Louisville). As far as the kicking game goes, Georgia Tech's Harrison Butker is 4-for-7 this year on field goals (1-of-4 from 30 to 39 yards; 2-for-2 from 40 to 49 yards) with a long of 46 yards. UM freshman walk-on Michael Badgley is 2-for-3 on attempts with a long of 34. Miami punter Justin Vogel (44.2 average, 10 fair catches, eight punts inside the 20 on 21 attempts) was named ACC co-special teams player of the week last week. Georgia Tech punter Ryan Rodwell is averaging 4.38 yards per punt with three fair catches, seven inside the 20 on 12 attempts.

> Prediction: Miami 41, Georgia Tech 24. There are plenty of reasons to have doubt: Is Duke Johnson's ankle really okay? Will UM's defense revert to its old ways? Georgia Tech has had two weeks to prepare. Bottomline: UM is a better team and Georgia Tech really isn't that good. This game is all about momentum. If Miami grabs it early -- as it did last week -- they should win.

September 27, 2014

Gameday blog: Miami Hurricanes vs. Duke Blue Devils

The Hurricanes (2-2) will take on the Duke Blue Devils (4-0) in vital Coastal Division game at 7:30 p.m. tonight. The game can be seen on ESPN2. Feel free to tune in and participate in our chat.

Live Blog Miami Hurricanes vs. Duke: Sept. 27, 2014
 

September 26, 2014

Breaking it down: Canes-Blue Devils

DUKE (4-0) AT MIAMI (2-2)

> Kickoff, TV: 7:30 p.m., Sun Life Stadium, ESPN2 

> History: Miami leads the all-time series 9-2, but lost last year’s game in Durham, N.C. 48-30 after being outscored 17-0 in the fourth quarter.

> Spread: Miami favored by 7

> Counting stars - Miami: Canes have 3 five-star recruits (two on defense), 18 four-star recruits (nine on each side), 27 three-star recruits (14 on offense), 1 two-star recruit (defense) and 2 no-star recruits (defense) on their depth chart. Among that group, nine of those players are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: RB Duke Johnson (2nd RD), MLB Denzel Perryman (2nd RD), LT Ereck Flowers (2nd RD), CB Ladarius Gunter (4th RD), WR Phillip Dorsett (4th-5th RD), DE Anthony Chickillo (4th-5th RD), TE Clive Walford (5th RD), LG Jon Feliciano (6th-7th RD), DL Olsen Pierre (6th-7th). 

> Counting stars - Duke: Cornhuskers have no five-star recruits, 1 four-star recruits (RB Shaquille Powell), 30 three-star recruits (18 on offense) and 21 two-star recruits (13 on defense) on their depth chart. According to NFLDraftScout.com their NFL prospects for 2015 are WR Jamison Crowder (4th rounder) and OG Laken Tomlinson (3rd-4th rounder).

> Injuries: Miami listed backup guard Alex Gall, kicker Matt Goudis(back) and receiver Rashawn Scott (shoulder) on the official injury report as being out. Duke backup quarterback Thomas Sirk (leg) was reportedly held out of practice this week with a muscle strain in his leg. Sirk is a big part of Duke’s running game as he comes off the bench and run read-option well. Starting defensive end Dezmond Johnson (leg) is out for the second straight week. The Blue Devils will get starting left guard Lucas Patrick back this week, which means Duke will have a completely healthy, veteran offensive line.

> Background: Duke has won 12 regular season games in a row. The Blue Devils’ only losses since in the last 12 months have come against eventual national champion Florida State in the ACC Championship Game and Johnny Manziel-led Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A bowl. 

> Duke offense versus Miami defense: The Blue Devils, who own one of the most balanced offenses in the country (they’re averaging 230 yards passing and 260 rushing) have scored 30 or more points in five straight games and are looking to tie the school record of six 30-point games in a row this weekend. Duke is 27-9 under coach David Cutcliffe when it scores at least 30 points. Anthony Boone, a 6-foot, 225-pound redshirt senior, is 14-2 as a starter for the Blue Devils and a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Although Sirk may be out or limited in this game, Boone is more than capable of carving up the Canes defense and protecting the football (Duke has turned it over only twice this year). The Blue Devils also love to go for it on fourth down and are 8-of-12 this season. Receiver Jamison Crowder has 13 career 100-yard receiving games including an 8-catch, 203-yard, 2-TD performance versus UM back in 2012. True freshman running back Shaun Wilson ran for a school-record 245 yards in a win over Kansas this season and is averaging 14.43 yards a carry. Duke’s veteran offensive line, led by right guard Laken Tomlinson (43 starts) and left tackle Takoby Cofield (33 consecutive starts), has given up just four sacks and 11 negative plays all season.

The key for Miami will be trying to slow down Duke’s read-option attack. With last week’s embarrassing 343-yard outburst by Nebraska on the minds of the Hurricanes – and last year’s 358-yard breakout performance by Duke also there – UM doesn’t need much in the way of motivation. What the Canes need is better execution by its safeties in the alley ways (Deon Bush, Jamal Carter, Dallas Crawford), more of a push by its ends (Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre) and defensive tackles (Calvin Heurtelou vs. Tomlinson will be a battle to watch) and a lot fewer missed tackles by linebacker Denzel Perryman and company, who often times were guilty of trying to get a big hit instead of wrapping up. UM had no tackles for loss last week. That has to change this week. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio makes this week, if any. He and coach Al Golden said the Hurricanes brought blitzing safeties and corners on 60 percent of the snaps on first and second down to try and disrupt Nebraska. It obviously didn’t work. Safeties and corners were too deep. Will they be this week?

> Miami offense versus Duke defense: Quarterback Brad Kaaya continued to improve and grow last week at Nebraska, completing 28-of-42 attempt for 359 yards and three touchdown passes. Nebraska took away the deep ball and speedy receiver Phillip Dorsett for the most part, but Kaaya smartly took what the Cornhuskers gave him, spreading the ball around to eight different receivers including tight end Clive Walford plenty. What killed Miami in the end last week were three turnovers including an uncharacteristic and game-changing fumble by Duke Johnson that directly led to seven points for Nebraska. Like last week, UM can’t afford to turn the ball over. The offense basically has to play a near-perfect game to beat Duke and the offensive line has to continue to give Kaaya time to throw. They also need to do a better job running the football.

Duke, which returns five starters from last year’s defense including safety Jeremy Cash (Plantation High), ranks 92nd in run defense and has been more willing to give up yards on the ground than through the air. In fact, the Blue Devils have yet to give up a passing touchdown (only one of six teams in the country to do so). They’ve given up just 10 plays of 20 yards or more and have forced seven turnovers in the last eight quarters. Duke’s first four opponents were hardly tough, but they still did what they had to, holding them to a mere 11.5 points per game including just 16 second half points total, which shows you they make the right adjustments. Defensive tackle Jamal Bruce (6-1, 285), defensive end Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (6-4, 240) and middle linebacker David Helton (6-4, 240) are the backbone of the front six in the 4-2-5 formation.

> Special teams: Miami, awful on kickoff coverage through its first three games, played much better at Nebraska with more veterans involved in that unit. Walk-on freshman Michael Badgley booted an important 34-yard field goal against Nebraska and did a better job handling kickoffs for Miami. Justin Vogel's punting average of 44.7 ranks 18th nationally. Where the Hurricanes still haven’t had much of an impact is in the return game, something Golden acknowledged this week. Sophomore Stacy Coley, slowed by a shoulder injury, hasn’t returned a kick or a punt longer than 29 yards.

Duke, on the other hand, is one of only three FBS teams with two or more kickoff returns of 60 yards or more. Redshirt sophomore safety DeVon Edwards had a 61-yard return versus Troy and sophomore receiver Johnell Barnes brought one back 60 yards versus Elon. Duke blocked a field goal against Kansas and both its punter Will Monday and kicker Ross Martin are considered two of the best in the country at their position. Martin is the school’s all-time leading scorer, a perfect 6-for-6 on field goals with a career long of 53 yards and he’s made 82 consecutive extra points. Monday is averaging 42.1 yards a punt. He’s had three go longer than 50 yards and six pinned inside the 20.

> Prediction: Miami 45, Duke 41. Somehow, some way Miami is going to find a way to win this in wild fashion behind Kaaya and Johnson. 

September 20, 2014

Gameday blog: Miami Hurricanes at Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Canes (2-1) will take on Nebraska Saturday night at Memorial Stadium with kickoff set for 8 p.m. on ESPN2

As usual, feel free to participate in our Cover-It-Live discussion while Susan Miller Degnan and I cover the game. We'll pull in Tweets and provide you with updates throughout the game.

Live Blog Miami Hurricanes at Nebraska: Sept. 20, 2014
Live Blog Miami Hurricanes at Nebraska: Sept. 20, 2014
 

September 18, 2014

Emptying my Canes notebook: D'Onofrio, Coley see improvements; why Berrios is good; o-line

Time to empty this week's reporter's notebook: 

After three games what is defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio most proud of in terms of his unit's overall growth?

"I think they have really good leadership and unity," he said. "Those are things that we've been looking for. You can go a long way with that. They have taken ownership in the defense." 

What would he like to see his unit do better? "I would have liked to see us be better on third down," he said. "I would like to see us better on balls down the field that we didn't come up with. Those are some of the things -- and some tackling. Those are some of the things that I know if we don't improve on will cost us here moving forward. My urgency is here everyday. Let's talk about what we're doing well, but let's always keep inside what we have to improve on and let's have a plan for it."

> Offensive coordinator James Coley said something clicked for Brad Kaaya in the Thursday practice leading up to last Saturday's win over Arkansas State. The two were discussing concepts where Coley said Kaaya turned to him and said 'I've got it.'

"He just didn't miss after that," Coley said. "His feet were very calm."

Coley said Kaaya (29 of 51 passing, 356 yards, 3 TDs, 4 INTs versus Louisville and Florida A&M) made faster reads and better decisions against Arkansas State. He also had more time to throw and nearly all of his throws were on the money. Only two of his incompletions were the product of being hurried and the other was a pass interference penalty on Arkansas State.

"He was just lighting it up," Coley said. "Whether it was a 70-yard throw or a 35-yard over route or seeing that corner blitz. He hits Phil [Dorsett] in stride. With a hard blitz, corner off the edge, that's tough and he spotted it, he banged it. He didn't rush it. You watch it on film. He sped up his process and it's six points instead of a first down."

> Freshman receiver Braxton Berrios has turned into Hurricanes' money man.

He's been targeted a team-leading 17 times and the ball has been thrown his way on money downs (third and fourth down) eight times. He's produced five first downs (one on a pass interference call). He's currently tied for the team lead with 10 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.

Why is he so good on third down? "No. 1 the reads take the quarterback there on third down," Coley said. "He's a good player. He knows how to run his routes with the right tempo where he gets open. I learned early in this profession there's two things a receiver has to do. He has to get open and he has to catch the ball. He came in here and those are the two things he does."

Golden had more nice things to say about Berrios. "He's smart, he's nifty, has got good body control," he said. "And he knows how to sit down versus man and uncover himself. He's caught two corner routes already so he has vertical speed and he's precise with his depth. The ball is thrown on time and the quarterback can throw to the corner too -- away from coverage. He's been effective, and he's a competitor. He wants the ball, which is great, and hopefully he'll continue to improve there."

> Even though he's graded out the highest among Miami's offensive lineman over the last two games, Hurricanes right tackle Taylor Gadbois hasn't forgotten about his rough night in the opener at Louisville.

"I had a lot of good plays and I had three really bad plays that were just uncharacteristic of me," said Gadbois, a 6-3, 316-pound redshirt sophomore who will make his fourth straight start Saturday night at 24th-ranked Nebraska (3-0).

"I kind of let the game get to me a little bit. I like going out there being a warrior and setting the tone for the O-line. I think I was just trying to do too much the first game."

Among his mistakes at Louisville, Gadbois said he called a protection the wrong way and it got quarterback Brad Kaaya hit. He said he missed a block near the goal which led to a tackle for loss because of poor communication. And, Gadbois said he got "beat across [his] face" on an inside zone run because of poor footwork.

What did Gadbois do better over his last two games? "He really finished better and he's just getting more confidence," offensive line coach Art Kehoe said. "He is a really talented guy, really smart but he's a guy that's hard to push sometimes. And he's starting to figure it out. He had his best game [against Arkansas State] and that team was tough the guy he was working on was tough. He missed a couple, but over the long haul of 60-some plays he held up good and he graded out the best of all our linemen."

Kehoe said right guard Danny Isidora has also made strides. "Danny, you can be a good player but until you get games under your belt in live action against different looks - it takes time," Kehoe said. "Now he's starting to feel confident, because he's a smart guy. He's starting to get the reps. I think he's going to be really good. He's going to be a good player."

September 03, 2014

Canes defensive effort at Louisville "a floor" and "a good place to start" but not elite

Denzel Perryman gave me a look like he had seen an alien.

Was this the best defensive effort you guys have put forth in a while?

"It was pretty impressive, but I don't think it's the best we've ever played," Perryman said giving me that look. "Last year when we played Florida we had errors in that game as well, but we got the ball back a lot. This game, I was impressed with the defense. We just have to improve in our pass coverage."

Impressive is probably the right word to use, but only because we're comparing it to the nightmarish defense the Canes have played over the last two seasons.

On Tuesday, the day after Miami's 31-13 loss to Louisville, coach Al Golden threw the word "elite" around after he said the defense forced three-and-outs on half of the dozen series they were in on. Truth is it was five three-and-outs (two count were first play turnovers). But we got his point. It was elite for the Hurricanes. They don't usually get off the field quickly.

Coach Mark D'Onofrio's group gave up 24 points, 336 yards (206 passing, 130 rushing) and 21 first downs on 71 plays. Louisville piled up 17 points and 157 of those yards on their final three possessions. Miami's offense controlled the clock for only 14 plays and 5 minutes and 59 seconds during that stretch.

Last year, against seven FBS winning programs (and we're assuming Louisville will be one this year to make the comparison), UM's defense gave up an average of 35.9 points, 509.3 yards (295 passing, 214.9 rushing) and average of 25.2 first downs.

So, by the numbers alone the Canes were vastly better (11 points, 173 yards and four first downs fewer) against Louisville than they were against winning teams last year. Miami never produced more than two sacks against those aforementioned winning teams last year. They had four Monday night. 

UM also forced two fumbles deep in Louisville territory. UM didn't force any turnovers against Virginia Tech, Duke and Louisville -- their last three losses of the season.

What did Mark D'Onofrio think of his defense at Louisville? He called it "a floor" and "a good place to start." And I agree.

"The first game there's always positives and things you could have done better," he said. "At the end of the day we didn't do enough to win the game and that's really what my assessment is.

"But from a positive standpoint obviously [five] three-and-outs out of 12 series is really good. And two of them one-and-outs, you know. That's what we want, take the ball away. So that part was good. 

"I thought the tackling was good... especially for an opener. That's a good place to start. Again, those things should be improving every week. I thought the defensive line played well. Things that have to improve, the third down defense and red zone defense, giving up touchdowns. We want to give up field goals down there, get takeaways. That has to improve. And we had an opportunity in the fourth quarter we had them second and long, let them off the hook, didn't get the ball back. That's kind of a rough overall assessment."

D'Onofrio said he played nine defensive backs, nine defensive linemen and five linebackers. He saw fewer mental errors.

Among the first timers to see real playing time were defensive tackles Courtel Jenkins and Calvin Heurtelou, defensive ends Chad Thomas and Trent Harris and linebacker Darrion Owens.

"To get those guys in in that environment is a real plus for us moving forward," D'Onofrio said. "[Anthony] Chickillo I thought played a really nice game, really did a nice job. [Ufomba) Kamalu I thought played the best he played this year including the scrimmages. I thought the nose tackles really gave us some good play - Calvin and Courtel were kind of a two-man deal in there. Calvin got 36 snaps and Courtel had 26 in his first game. And I thought they showed up, you know. They were physical at the point of attack, pushed the pocket in the pass game and made some plays. Courtel split a double team on the first play of his career, made a play. So as far as the D line goes, those are the guys that stood out.

"And then Perryman and [Thurston] Armbrister at linebacker. And [Deon] Bush and Dallas Crawford in the secondary. Antonio Crawford I thought played a good game as well. Those are the guys that stand out to me."

 > So why are guys like Tyriq McCord at the rush linebacker spot still dropping into coverage? 

"Those guys have certain drops but they're never the deep player," D'Onofrio said. "It just all depends on the coverage and what the receivers do. Sometimes they have a responsibility where they have to take a wheel route, those sort of things. But they're always an underneath defender if we're dropping in zone."

> How close is Mike Wyche to getting on the field to provide more depth at defensive tackle? Not close enough for D'Onofrio's taste. "At the end of the day, he's on the clock," D'Onofrio said. "He got here and his weight has come down and he's got himself in a better position. But he's got to continue to learn and continue to get in shape."

> Golden said Wednesday Miami's offense was "22 points below where we want to be at a minimum."

If Brad Kaaya and Duke Johnson and the rest of Miami's offense can put up 35 points a game they should win a lot of games with this better version of a defense. Remember I said better. Not great or elite.

August 06, 2014

Hurricanes looking to establish depth at linebacker in camp

Hurricanes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio opened camp Tuesday feeling the best he has ever felt regarding depth on the defensive line and in the secondary.

"Last year I don't think we had a stretch where we had more than three healthy safeties available," D'Onofrio said. "Now I'm looking at six guys and I'm no longer forced to play two of the young ones.

"We have some options at that nose tackle position between Earl [ Moore]. Calvin [ Heurtelou], who was here in the spring, [freshman] Cortel [Jenkins] and [junior college signee] Mike Wyche. The competition is really going to make everybody better."

Linebacker? That's another story. The dismissals of Alex Figueroa and JaWand Blue last month following their arrests on sexual battery have made developing depth at linebacker D'Onofrio's top priority in camp.

"I felt like we had seven guys coming out of the spring," he said. "Now we've got to go back and find No. 6, 7, and 8. That's going to be my focus. Just trying to figure out who the best combination of guys are on the field, particularly in passing situations."

After seniors Denzel Perryman (middle), Thurston Armbrister (strong side) and junior Raphael Kirby (weak side), there isn't a whole lot in the way of playing experience. D'Onofrio said 6-2, 210-pound sophomore Jermaine Grace, the team's fastest at the position, is currently fourth in his eyes on the depth chart but freshman Darrion Owens (6-3, 236) is coming on strong.

Tuesday, sophomore Walter Tucker, who spent most of last season and the spring as a fullback after being first recruited as a linebacker, was back taking snaps at linebacker. D'Onofrio said junior Tyriq McCord, who plays the rush linebacker position in the team's 3-4 formation, has strong-side experience and will be used there "while we develop other guys."

"There are going to be some guys that get shots early, and we're going to look at different combinations there," D'Onofrio said. "It will be good. We'll have competition. We've made some adjustments, made some moves. We'll work through it."

THIS AND THAT

What was senior defensive end Anthony Chickillo's first thoughts when he heard about the arrests and dismissals of two teammates on charges of sexual battery last month?

"Our thoughts were all with the victim and her family," he said. "Obviously, a huge mistake was made."

New defensive tackle Michael Wyche, signed out of East Los Angeles Junior College this summer, has already shed 10 pounds since his arrival to drop down to 6-4, 340 pounds. He's also established himself as a force in the weight room.

Wyche bench-pressed 225 pounds (the NFL Combine testing standard) a total 35 times, good for second on the team behind Corey King's 37 reps. Wyche said coaches want him to play at 335 pounds.

"I'm more about the action than talking, so I can't wait to get out there and just try to make some plays and learn about the defense," Wyche said.

Former basketball player turned tight end Raphael Akpejiori said he spent the summer working with former Hurricanes Jimmy Graham and Santana Moss on route-running and catching.

"At first I was getting jammed a lot [in 7-on-7s]," he said. "I didn't know how to get a release. But I've been doing pretty well so far. I've been finding myself open a lot. I dropped a few balls, but I think I caught more than I dropped. It's been great. "

July 07, 2014

Canes' Coley, Johnson named to Maxwell Award watch list; Perryman to Bednarik watch list

Stacy Coley and Duke Johnson were named to the 2014 Maxwell Award Watch List on Monday, an award presented annually to the College Player of the Year since 1937.

Linebacker Denzel Perryman, meanwhile, has been named to the 2014 Bednarik Award Watch List, presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year annually since 1995.

Dan Morgan is the only Hurricane (2000) to win the Bednarik Award. Vinny Testaverde (1986), Gino Torretta (1992) and Ken Dorsey (2001) are previous Maxwell Award winners for Miami.

A 2013 All-ACC First Team selection, Perryman started all 13 games at outside linebacker for the Hurricanes, registering a team-leading 108 total tackles including 69 solo stops. In addition to earning All-America honorable mention honors from SI.com, Perryman was the recipient of the Hurricanes 2013 Hard Hitter Award and Defensive MVP award. 

A second-team All-ACC performer in 2013, Johnson rushed for 920 yards and six TDs in eight games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Johnson enters his junior season with 1,867 career rushing yards in 20 games. Last month, he was named third-team Preseason All-America by Phil Steele and was one of 40 FBS running backs named to the 2014 CFPA Running Back Trophy Watch List.

Coley was also one of 47 players named to the Paul Hornung Award Watch List on Monday, given annually since 2010 to college football's most versatile player.

As a freshman in 2013, Coley, a third-team All-ACC selection by the league’s coaches and honorable mention by the media, led the Hurricanes with 1,461 all-purpose yards – the 10th-highest single-season total in program history. He also led the team with seven receiving touchdowns while ranking second in receiving yards (591) and third in receptions (33). A Freshman All-America selection by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), Coley was the only FBS player in 2013 to record a TD four different ways – rushing, receiving, punt return and kick return.

Semifinalists for the Maxwell and Bednarik Award will be announced November 3 and the three finalists will be unveiled November 24. The winner of the 2014 Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced December 11 as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.

The watch list candidates were chosen by the Maxwell Football Club's selection committee, which analyzes both past performance and future potential. The Club reserves the right to make additions and deletions to these lists as the 2014 season unfolds. All members of the Maxwell Football Club, NCAA sports information directors, FBS head coaches and selected national media are eligible to vote for the awards.

July 03, 2014

Six former Canes to compete in NBA Summer League; Perryman on CFPA watch list

According to UM's sports information staff, six former Miami Hurricanes are slated to suit up for NBA teams in the 2014 Samsung NBA Summer League, which tips off this weekend in Orlando, Fla., then will continue in Las Vegas, beginning July 11.

They are: Rion Brown (Charlotte Hornets), DeQuan Jones (Indiana Pacers), Kenny Kadji (Milwaukee Bucks), Shane Larkin (New York Knicks), Trey McKinney Jones (Miami Heat) and Durand Scott (San Antonio Spurs).

Brown recently completed his senior season with the Hurricanes, posting 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while hitting 1.9 shots per game from the 3-point line in his final season in Coral Gables.

Jones will be participating in his third NBA summer league season after spending the 2013-14 campaign playing for the Reno Bighorns. He spent the 2013 summer with the Sacramento Kings and earned a spot on the 2012-13 Orlando Magic after an impressive showing on their 2012 summer league squad.

Kadji is playing in his second summer league after spending his first summer with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. Kadji played for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League in 2014, after starting the season with the NY Phantom Braunschweig in Germany.

Larkin, the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, was traded to the New York Knicks on June 26. He appeared in 48 games as a rookie with the Dallas Mavericks a year ago. Now Larkin will look to show the Knicks what he can do as he prepares for the 2014-15 season.

McKinney Jones, who was named to the 2014 All-NBA Development League All-Rookie Third Team, averaged 15.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals for the 2014 D-League champion Ft. Wayne Mad Ants this season. He was a member of the Milwaukee Bucks training camp roster a year ago before starring in the D-League.

Scott was with the Spurs in the 2013 summer league and went on to play the 2013-14 season abroad with Obradoiro CAB of the Spanish ACB League. He will return to the Spurs this summer and the reigning NBA champions will take another close look at the talented and versatile guard.

From July 5-11 the Orlando Magic will host the 25 games of the Orlando League at their Amway Center practice court. The Las Vegas League will consist of 67 games between the dates of July 11 and July 21, which will be held at both the Thomas & Mack Center and the COX Pavilion on the campus of the University of Las Vegas. All games will be broadcast on NBA TV, NBA.com, and on the NBA Game Time app.

PERRYMAN ON WATCH LIST

You can go ahead Hurricanes senior Denzel Perryman to another watch list. Wednesday he was named one of 40 FBS linebackers selected to the 2014 College Football Performance Awards Linebacker Trophy Watch List.

He joins teammates Ladarius Gunter and Anthony Chickillo on the CFPA watch list at their respective positions. Miami is one of only five FBS programs with a player named to all three defensive player watch lists.

An All-ACC First Team selection in 2013, Perryman started all 13 games at outside linebacker for the Hurricanes, registering a team-leading 108 total tackles including 69 solo stops. In addition to earning All-America, Honorable Mention honors from SI.com, Perryman was the recipient of the Hurricanes 2013 Hard Hitter Award and Defensive MVP award.

June 26, 2014

Canes QB Ryan Williams says he's had no setbacks since ACL surgery, still targeting Week 1 start

Hurricanes quarterback Ryan Williams said Thursday he's had no setbacks in his recovery from reconstructive right knee surgery on April 9 to repair a torn ACL, and he's still hoping to be Miami's starting quarterback on Labor Day night against Louisville.

"I feel pretty good, pretty confident in my rehab so far," Williams said Thursday during a series of one-on-one interviews with UM beat reporters. "I feel like where I'm supposed to be is where I'm at -- no setbacks yet. I think it's actually going better than I thought it was, these first couple months. I hope it continues and I'll be back in time.

"As long as I'm not going to go out there and reinjure myself and the doctor feels confident I can go out there and play in Week 1, I will play. But if I can't, if he wants me to hold off a couple weeks, then I will."

Williams said he's been doing leg-press exercises, squats and lunges during his rehab and he expects to begin jogging and running in a couple weeks. Then, he says, he will progressing to cutting -- the final hurdle. "I'm just getting my strength back and my range of motion and putting weight on it, getting movement so I can start running around on it," he said. 

Williams said Dr. Lee Kaplan, who performed the surgery, has remained positive throughout the process he can get Williams back on the field quickly.

"He's the one that's been positive the whole time," Williams said. "It took me a couple days to get over the injury and get refocused. But after that, my teammates have always been there for me. They saw me the first couple days when I couldn't walk. They were in the training room a couple hours later cheering me up. Really, keeping myself positive has helped myself heal. I'm trying to keep myself in a normal thinking state of mind."

Williams said the fact other athletes have made quick recoveries from ACL injuries gives him hope he'll be back at some point during fall camp. UM begins fall camp on Aug. 5 -- the same day Williams' wife is due to deliver the couple's first child, a boy.

Williams said UM trainer Vinny Scavo reached out to trainers at LSU and the Minnesota Vikings to gather information on fast recoveries made by former Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger and All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson. Mettenberger returned to action and participated in his pro day only 13 weeks after surgery. Peterson returned in four months time.

"It gives me something to go after knowing if I can work as hard as they did I can be successful," Williams said. "Adrian Peterson had a great year after his surgery. He didn't play with a brace. Luckily I don't have to run around like he did or get hit as much as he did. It definitely gives me confidence in my knee and my ability to come back after the injury.

"In the end, it all depends on how hard I'm willing to work for it and how fast my knee is going to take to the graph, which so far it's done really good. As soon as [Dr. Kaplan] give me the full-go, I'll be back out there. But until then we don't know how long it will be."

Williams said the fact he didn't have a lot of swelling in his knee allowed for Kaplan to do the surgery quickly, and thus the recovery process got started faster. He said it took him about a week and a half to get off crutches. He's been rehabbing since.

Williams said also knowing he's going to become a father soon "has helped my rehab kind of."

"I can't be crutching around and taking care of a baby or my wife," Williams said. "So I need to be able to take care of her when she needs something. She took care of me the whole time I couldn't walk. She was doing all this stuff in the middle of the night when I couldn't get up. I had to hurry up and recover so I could the same for her when she needed me every night."

April 12, 2014

Canes offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, hospitalized in February, plans to continue playing career

UM sent out the following press release regarding the health and status update of offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who was hospitalized two months ago.

Statement from Hunter Knighton: “On February 24th, my football career at the University of Miami was unfortunately derailed after being taken to the hospital following a workout. With a 109 degree body temperature and unknowingly suffering with the flu, I was stricken by a heat stroke. The results were not good: brain swelling, multiple seizures, kidney and liver failure. Unresponsive, I was placed on a ventilator for twelve days during which time I fought one of the greatest battles of my life against a loss of blood platelets, double pneumonia, and fever. By God's grace, and with an amazing medical team at both Doctor's Hospital and UM Hospital and with a great support group of family, coaches, and friends, I was finally able to leave the ICU after two weeks. I am so close to achieving my childhood goal of playing Division I football and I am determined to make it happen. I plan to contribute this spring to my team and not only achieve my goal of playing major college football, but far surpassing it, and helping The U win games. Thank you to all of those who have supported me and prayed for me.”

Statement from Coach Golden: “As we entered the spring of 2014, Hunter Knighton was distinguishing himself as one of the top performers on our team. He had completed our off-season training program ranked third among all of our offensive linemen and was emerging as a team leader. Hunter was so close to realizing his lifelong goal of starting at center in major football program when he fell ill. Since he first began the recovery process, Hunter has been nothing short of amazing and has been an inspiration to us all, approaching his rehab program with courage and fortitude. I have absolutely no doubt that Hunter will continue to persevere, make a full recovery, rejoin his teammates and realize all of his goals at The U.”

April 10, 2014

Heisman winner Gino Torretta sees a bit of Kyle Wright in Kevin Olsen

All eyes inside Sun Life Stadium figure to be fixated on 19-year old redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen Saturday night when the Hurricanes kick off their annual spring fling at 6 p.m.

Thursday, in UM's final practice of the spring, the eyes of former Hurricanes quarterback and 1992 Heisman trophy winner Gino Torretta were on Olsen. Barring a surprise development or injury, Olsen will be the starting quarterback when Miami opens the season Labor Day night at Louisville.

Torretta knows what it's like to be thrown into the fire in college at a young age.

During UM's 1989 national championship season a 19-year old Torretta took over as a starter for Craig Erickson after he broke a knuckle on the index finger of his throwing hand against Michigan State. Torretta stepped in and went 3-1 -- the loss coming at No. 9 Florida State when he threw four interceptions. Erickson, a junior, returned the next week and led UM to the national title.

Those Hurricanes of course had the nation's No. 1 defense, oodles of stars on offense and were able to survive some average numbers Torretta put up as a freshman: 57 percent completion percentage, 1,325 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs. In this scenario, Al Golden's Hurricanes have no veteran waiting in the wings if Olsen struggles -- and they probably won't have the nation's No. 1 defense either.

Talented All-American freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya will arrive in mid-May from California. But either way, fifth-year senior Ryan Williams has a long road ahead of him coming back from a torn ACL. After watching Olsen on Thursday does Torretta think he can handle the brunt of the 2014 season if it falls on his shoulders?

"Got no choice," Torretta said. "Some guys respond well to it. Some guys don't. That's the way I look at it. Heck when I got thrown into it I didn't have a choice. I didn't have a chance to think. At least he does. Now he has a little bit of a chance to think and prepare as the starter.

"I think the physical ability is there. The ball velocity is there," Torretta continued. "I just think the rest -- the mental side of it, decision making process, reads, getting on the same page with receivers -- all of that will come with practice and reps.

"Obviously you're glad he's got spring ball and then he's got the fall. But that's the thing every quarterback has to work on. Peyton Manning 10 years into the NFL is a lot better than Peyton Manning as a rookie even though his ability could be a little bit less. Physically, Olsen and Gray [Crow] are there. It's just getting on the same page with receivers and making the right reads, that sort of stuff."

Hardly a ringing endorsement. But then again, how many redshirt freshman not named Jameis Winston or Johnny Manziel make it look easy? Last year only 13 freshman -- redshirt or true -- were among the top 100 passers in the country in terms of quarterback rating. Temple's P.J. Walker (60.8 completion percentage, 2,084 yards, 20 TDs, 8 INTs), Texas Tech's Davis Webb (62.6 comp. pct, 2,718 yards, 20 TDs, 9 INTs), Penn State's Christian Hackenberg (58.9 comp. pct, 2,955 yards, 20 TDs, 10 INTs) and Houston's John O'Korn (58.1 comp. pct, 3,117 yards, 28 TDs, 10 INTs) were tops among them after Winston.

Thursday, Olsen had his up and down moments. He tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass -- with beautiful touch down the sideline to Rashawn Scott. He also got picked off twice and had several passes batted away by defenders.

Even before Williams tore the ACL in his right knee during the team's second scrimmage last week, coach Al Golden said Olsen was getting better this spring. Golden said Olsen's teammates were also gaining more confidence in him. Still, it's clear Olsen has a ways to go -- especially when it comes to making sound decisions and delivering the ball quickly.

"It's hard just watching a practice to [gauge] the mental side of it," Torretta said. "But I think the reads will come. There were some busts defensively I think threw him off a little bit on some of the reads, it looked like. I can't be sure not knowing what plays were called, what the secondary was running. But, it's all about repetition. Quarterbacks get better more with repetition than any other position. And I think that's what it is going to come down to. If it was me, I'd be clamoring for every single rep I could get."

Torretta, who has been around to provide a lot of keen advice to other UM quarterbacks over the years, says he sees some of Kyle Wright's abilities in Olsen. Wright was the No. 1 quarterback in the country coming out of high school and put up decent numbers in his college career: 59.2 completion percentage, 5,835 yards, 38 touchdowns and 31 interceptions during some lean years for UM from 2004 to 2007.

"Kyle had all the ability. Running, ball flight, all that. Olsen does as well," Torretta said. "He moves around the pocket well like him. It's speeding up the decision making process that's the key. Because it's going to get a lot faster on Saturdays than when he's out here."

April 05, 2014

Projected starting QB Ryan Williams to undergo knee surgery next week; what's next for the Canes?

Here is the story The Miami Herald broke earlier tonight:

University of Miami fifth-year senior Ryan Williams, who was on course to be the starting quarterback in the fall, will undergo surgery early next week to repair what doctors believe is a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a person with knowledge of the situation first told the Miami Herald on Saturday.

The University of Miami later released a statement confirming the news The Herald broke.

Williams, 22, a Miramar High graduate from Pembroke Pines, injured his right knee while rolling out during a play in Friday night’s closed scrimmage at Greentree Field — minutes after throwing a 76-yard touchdown to Stacy Coley. UM said the injury did not occur with any contact. 

The source told the Miami Herald that Williams was walking without crutches as of Saturday morning but was very stiff and getting the knee iced. It’s unknown whether Williams is out for the season. There is a possibility, depending on the results of his surgery and rehabilitation, that Williams could return to play, the source said.

Left at quarterback to pick up the pieces are second-team redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and third-string sophomore Gray Crow. UM also has two scholarship quarterbacks arriving this summer: Brad Kaaya of West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade High and Malik Rosier of Faith Academy in Mobile, Ala.

Williams sat out at UM one year after transferring from Memphis, where he started 10 games as a freshman. He played sparingly the past two seasons behind now graduated starter Stephen Morris. In four games last season, Williams completed 68.8 percent of his passes (22 of 32) for 369 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

UM has only two more practices next week before the spring game April 12 at Sun Life Stadium.

Get well soon, Ryan. He has surely paid his dues waiting with patience and class.

-- SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

*** So how do you feel about the Canes' QB situation? Here's how incoming freshman defensive end Demetrius Jackson feels about it.

April 03, 2014

Heavier Seantrel Henderson cuts short Canes Pro Day

Seantrel Henderson's roller-coaster career at the University of Miami took one last strange turn Thursday when he decided to cut short his Pro Day.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Henderson "quit" halfway through UM's Pro Day today and thus "didn't help himself." But Henderson's agent, David Levine, said Henderson did not quit and did not participate in the final two drills because he was "dehydrated and felt sick."

Saying he quit "was quite a mischaracterization," Levine said.

Here's a point no one can argue: Henderson was eight pounds heavier Thursday than he was two months ago at the NFL combine. UM measured Henderson at 6-7, 339 pounds.

Considered the top UM prospect entering next month's draft, Henderson's physical skills are held in high regard by NFL teams. But there remain concerns about his character. Henderson was suspended at least three times at UM (including at least one for marijuana use). Teams also have questions as to why he couldn't permanently hold down a starting job at UM, starting in 26 of the 43 games he played in.

Henderson's Pro Day results weren't exceptionally impressive. His 23-bench reps of 225 pounds Thursday were only two more than safety A.J. Highsmith. Teammate Brandon Linder put up 30 reps, four fewer than team leader and defensive end Shayon Green.

Henderson didn't test in the bench at the combine, but ran a 5.04 in the 40-yard dash and a 24-inch vertical. Thursday, he ran a 5.15 in the 40 and posted a 28-inch vertical leap.

OFFICIAL TIMES AND MEASUREMENTS
(Name, Position, Height, Weght, 40-yard dash, Vertical leap, bench reps, L-Drill, Broad jump)

Eduardo Clements, RB, 5-9.2, 192, 4.72, 31.0, 10, 7.35, 9-4
Asante Cleveland, TE, 6-4.6, 261, 4.88, 32.5, 20, 7.33, 9-8
Tyrone Cornileus, LB, 6-1.5, 1/2, 218, 4.73, 32.5, 23, 7.18, 9-8
Akil Craig, LB, 6-0, 233, 4.91, 27.0, 20, 7.46, 8-8
Jimmy Gaines, LB, 6-1.1, 232, 4.77, 33.0, 18, 7.75, 9-8
David Gilbert, DL, 6-3.5, 258, 4.94, 31.5, 28, 7.44, 9-11
Shayon Green, DL, 6-1.3, 255, 4.58, 29.5, 34, 7.49, 9-1
Maurice Hagens, FB, 5-10.6, 246, 5.05, 27.0, 30, 7.76, 8-0
Seantrel Henderson, OL, 6-7.1, 339, 5.15, 28.0, 23, 8.15c, 8-6
AJ Highsmith, DB, 5-10.6, 198, 4.79, 31.5, 21, 7.03, 9-8
Allen Hurns, WR, 6-1.2, 194, 4.55, 31.0, 14c, 7.23c, 10-0c
Brandon Linder, OL, 6-5.7, 311, 5.35c, 26.5, 30c, 7.77, 8-3c
Stephen Morris, QB, 6-2, 211, 4.63c, 30.0c, -, 7.36c 9-2c
Pat O’Donnell, P, 6-4.2, 220, 4.64c, 30.5c, 23c, -, -
Curtis Porter, DL, 6-0.6, 315, 5.29, 28.0, 30, -, 8-4
Justin Renfrow, DL, 6-3.7, 305, 5.25, 33.0, 19, 7.74, 8-8
Luther Robinson, DL, 6-2.7, 299, 5.01, 28.5, 30, 7.75, 8-5
Kacy Rodgers II, DB, 6-1.3, 213, 4.55, 32.0, 26, 7.06, 9-11
Jared Wheeler, OL, 6-4.4, 315, 5.31, 26.5, 21, 7.72, 8-7

March 20, 2014

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

Tracy Howard has never been short on confidence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEWS AND NOTES

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

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

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

What does Howard think of the QB play thus far? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

> Who ran with the first team Thursday?

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 04, 2014

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

News and notes from Tuesday morning's practice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where will Ice's value really be felt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 03, 2014

Ice Harris heading back to UM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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