UM is hosting a Thanksgiving Canned Food Drive during Saturday’s home finale against Virginia at Sun Life Stadium.
Collection bins will be located outside all four helixes (Gates B, D, F, and H) as well as gates C and G. Fans will be allowed to donate as much food as they want. All food donated will go directly to Feeding South Florida.
Part of the Feeding America network consisting of 202 food banks, Feeding South Florida is the largest of nine Feeding America food banks in the state of Florida, distributing almost 35 million pounds of food annually to 949,910 individuals in need of food assistance. FSF is the leading domestic hunger relief organization in South Florida, serving Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties through a network of nonprofit partner agencies, including soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, group homes and other emergency food service programs.
Saturday's game will also kick off its "Uniendo La Familia" (Uniting the Family) campaign. During the celebration of the Hurricanes’ last home game, the Hurricanes will show their appreciation of the diversity within the South Florida community with an on-site concert featuring radio host celebrity, DJ Laz, and popular artist, Maffio, along with pre-game activities appropriate for all ages. The event will give attendees the opportunity to partake in a variety of family-fun activities, including an Instagram booth and photo opportunities.
To purchase tickets to Miami’s home finale, fans can order online at www.canestix.com, visit the UM Ticket Office at BankUnited Center (M-F, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) or call 1-800-GO-CANES.
The University of Miami released a new depth chart late Sunday night after the team's third consecutive loss and as expected receiver Phillip Dorsett was back on it, an encouraging sign considering the Hurricanes could use all the help they can get.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign of all was that for the first time all season explosive sophomore Tyriq McCord was on it, listed as the co-starter with Thurston Armbrister at strong side line backer.
Also around and easy to spot on the two-deep: freshman defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (backup to Shayon Green, hadn't seen him listed in weeks), freshman safety Jamal Carter (backup to Rayshawn Jenkins and Kacy Rodgers) and freshman cornerback Corn Elder (second team behind either junior Ladarius Gunter or freshman Artie Burns). Also, sophomore Deon Bush is now the clear-cut starter over senior AJ Highsmith at safety and sophomore Earl Moore is now listed as a backup to Curtis Porter at defensive tackle.
Which raises this question: is Al Golden ready to dump the old guys for the new guys? Sure has that aroma.
Obviously the depth chart is a mere piece of paper. Golden can ultimately do whatever he chooses and play whomever he chooses. But I'm taking this as a sign that now that the Canes really have no shot at the Coastal Division title and because the defense has been horrendous he's going to let some of the young guys get some real burn. Honestly it's one of the smartest things he can do at this point.
Only three games left. The Hurricanes (7-2, 3-2 ACC) have a big one this afternoon at Duke (7-2, 3-2 ACC). Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPNU.
You know the drill here.
It's easy to argue second-ranked Florida State was a deeper and more talented team than the Hurricanes two weeks ago and ultimately that's as big a reason as any why the Seminoles turned a close game at haftime into a 41-14 rout.
And it clearly was. Go back and read the Counting Stars blog I did before the game it shows you the Seminoles were not only deeper but loaded with more overall blue-chip talent position-by-position.
What's been irking most fans about Miami's loss to Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2 ACC) last weekend at home -- aside from the perceived poor coaching by defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio -- is that UM should be on par with the Hokies in terms of overall talent, if not loaded with more.
This Saturday afternoon's game at Duke (7-2, 3-2 ACC) should be a case where the Hurricanes are clearly the more talented and deeper team. But the truth is the talent gap isn't as wide as one might believe.
Duke's starting lineup for instance features six three-star prospects on offense (QB Anthony Boone, RB Josh Snead, WR Jamison Crowder, LT Takoby Cofield, LG Dave Harding, RG Laken Tomlinson) and six on defense (S Jeremy Cash, CB Ross Cockrell, DE Justin Foxx, DE Kenny Anunike, LB Kelby Brown, LB David Helton). There's depth too with another dozen 3-star prospects as backups.
Virginia Tech's offense featured four 4-star prospects in the starting lineup (QB Logan Thomas, TB Trey Edmunds, WR DJ Coles, RT Brent Benedict) and five other 3-star prospects. The defense featured 5-star recruit Kendall Fuller at outside linebacker, four-star safety Kyshoen Jarrett and three-star recruits everywhere else. The only players considered hidden gems: LB Jack Tyler (no stars) and defensive tackle Luther Maddy (2-stars). The Hokies were also loaded with experience (309 career starts on defense and 149 on offense).
The recruiting star-system obviously isn't a perfect science. Some 5-star kids bomb and some two-star kids turn into gems. But what the system does tell you at least pretty clearly is how heavily recruited each player is.
Five-star recruits are blue-chippers with offers from many, if not all of the country's top BCS programs. Four-star recruits aren't far behind, and three-star recruits generally have between five to 10 offers from decent Division I programs. Two-star recruits and below are players considered reaches and usually players with only one or two legit offers to play at the FBS level.
The Hurricanes have had higher-ranked recruiting classes (15th in 2009; 16th in 2010; 36th in 2011; 9th in 2012; 20th in 2013) than Virginia Tech (23rd in 2009; 23rd in 2010; 33rd in 2011; 22nd in 2012; 23rd in 2013) and Duke (51st in 2009; 71st in 2010; 76th in 2011; 52nd in 2012; 67th in 2013) over the last five years according to Rivals.com.
But that only explains a small part of the story.
Miami signed 118 players over the last five seasons and 42 that helped make those classes Top 25-worthy ran into trouble at one point or another, cutting their careers at UM short. That's nearly 36 percent.
Some never or haven't made it into school, some transferred, some were forced out because of discipline issues and some had injuries they never recovered from. All the while for the past three years, UM has had to also deal with an NCAA cloud over its head.
SHANNON'S FINAL TWO CLASSES
A look back at Randy Shannon's last two recruiting classes (2009 and 2010) and Al Golden's first three (2011, 2012, 2013) better illustrate the point below.
> Of the 48 players Randy Shannon signed in his final two recruiting classes, three left early for the draft (Lamar Miller, Brandon Washington, Olivier Vernon all 4-star recruits) and three used up their eligibility (3-star TE Chase Ford, 4-star CB Brandon McGee and 4-star RB Mike James).
> The more eye-opening number? A total of 21 signees from those two classes either transferred or ran into academic or discipline issues. Two were 5-star recruits (defensive backs Ray-Ray Armstrong and Latwan Anderson) and another six were 4-star recruits (defensive tackle Tavadis Glenn, linebacker Travis Williams, offensive lineman Jermaine Johnson, defensive end Dyron Dye, defensive back Jamal Reid and running back Storm Johnson).
> Of the 21 players Shannon recruited still at UM, one is a 5-star recruit (OL Seantrel Henderson), four are 4-star recruits (OL Malcolm Bunche, RB Eduardo Clements, OL Brandon Linder and DT Luther Robinson), a dozen are 3-star recruits (QB Stephen Morris, WR Allen Hurns, OL Jon Feliciano, FB Maurice Hagens, C Shane McDermott, DE Shayon Green, S Kacy Rodgers, LB Tyrone Cornelius among the notables) and four are two-star recruits (TE Clive Walford, TE Asante Cleveland, LB Kelvin Cain, LB Jimmy Gaines).
> UM recruited 24 defensive players between 2009 and 2010. A total of 13 either transferred or ran into academic or discipline issues. Two are in the NFL (Brandon McGee, Olivier Vernon), six are still here serving as starters (Curtis Porter, Shayon Green, Tyrone Cornelius, Kacy Rodgers, Jimmy Gaines, AJ Highsmith) and three are career backups (Luther Robinson, David Perry, Kelvin Cain).
Golden had six weeks after being named UM's coach in December 2010 to wrap up the Hurricanes 2011 signing class, which makes up UM's juniors and redshirt sophomore class. He reeled in 18 recruits including 13 on defense.
Only two were four-star prospects: defensive ends Anthony Chickillo (12.5 sacks in 30 career starts) and Jalen Grimble (transferred to Oregon State this fall).
Of the eight 3-star defensive recruits, one (Dallas Crawford) was switched to running back, five are no longer with the program (CB Thomas Finnie, LB Gionni Paul, DE Ricardo Williams, LB Eddie Johnson, LB Antonio Kinard) and only two start (LB Denzel Perryman, DE Olsen Pierre). The other recruits: defensive tackle Corey King, linebacker Thurston Armrbister and JUCO defensive tackle Darius Smith (graduated) were late additions and nowhere on the recruiting radar.
The other five recruits in the 2011 class were receivers Phillip Dorsett (3-star) and Rashawn Scott (3-star), running back Kevin Grooms (3-star, now at Marshall), JUCO punter Dalton Botts (now gone) and Matt Goudis (2-star, now 7 of 11 on FGs in 2013).
Where Golden has finally begun to catchup is in his last two recruiting classes.
The Hurricanes signed 33 players in 2012 (at least three more than any other program in the country).
Of that group a dozen have made instant impacts either as starters or backups. Those are: five-star prospects RB Duke Johnson and CB Tracy Howard, four-star prospects LT Ereck Flowers, WR Malcolm Lewis, S Deon Bush, DE Jelani Hamilton, LB Raphael Kirby and DE Tyriq McCord and three 3-star additions WR Herb Waters, S Rayshawn Jenkins, CB Antonio Crawford and CB Ladarius Gunter.
Another 11 serve as reserves (all 3-star prospects): DE Dwayne Hoillett, WR D'Mauri Jones, QB Gray Crow, OL Danny Isidora, OL Taylor Gadbois, DE Dwayne Hoillett, DT Earl Moore, LB Jawand Blue, TE Jake O'Donnell, CB Nate Dortch and CB Larry Hope.
But another group of 10 either never got in, aren't here anymore or ended their football careers early. Among those: 4-star WR Angelo Jean-Louis (never got in) and WR Robert Lockhart (transfer) and 3-stars prospects WR Jontavious Carter (transfer), RB Danny Dillard (transfer), QB Preston Dewey (back), QB David Thompson (baseball only), CB Vernon Davis (West Virginia), DT Jacoby Briscoe, DT Dequan Ivery (Northeast Mississippi) and LB Josh Witt (concussions).
> The 2013 class featured 19 recruits including nine four-star recruits. But of that group, only 16 are physically at UM (ATH Ryheem Lockley, WR Derrick Griffin and LB Devante Bond aren't).
A group of seven are already in the two-deep: WR Stacy Coley (4-star), RB Gus Edwards (3-star), FB Walter Tucker (2-star), TE Beau Sandland (4-star), CB Corn Elder (4-star), DE Ufomba Kamalu (2-star), CB Artie Burns (4-star).
Another four play in reserve duty and on special teams: DE Quan Muhammad (4-star), DB Jamal Carter (4-star), LB Jermaine Grace (4-star) and OL Alex Gall (3-star).
And another five appear headed toward a redshirt: TE Standish Dobard (3-star), QB Kevin Olsen (4-star), CB Ray Lewis III (3-star), OL Sunny Odogwu (3-star) and OL Hunter Knighton (3-star).
Even if you believe UM's recent struggles have to do with poor coaching, player development or play-calling, you can't ignore the amount of attrition the Hurricanes have endured the last five years.
Just because UM has had decent recruiting class rankings the last five years doesn't mean the shelves are loaded with enough talent for this program to be "back."
I spoke to three different recruiting analysts Thursday who all said the same thing: Miami is not deep enough anywhere and the overall talent isn't good enough to be a legit contender this year. And it probably won't be for another year or two at least.
Why? In part because Golden was dealing with an NCAA mess and in trying to do so probably took some players early in the recruiting process that normally wouldn't be at UM if they were sanction-free.
The 2014 class, however, appears to be the start to the road back. The defensive line haul is impressive. Brad Kaaya is considered by many to be UM's best quarterback recruit in some time. The offensive line is also very good.
What talent is here now is young and growing. The older talent? One could argue Golden and his staff tried to squeeze as much out of it as they could.
I spoke with Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net Wednesday. Who does he like among Miami's draft-eligible 2014 class of seniors and juniors?
"None of them really," he said. "I liked Morris a lot going into the season. He's shown some ability at times this year, but at other times he just makes passes and you scratch your head and say 'What the [heck] was that all about?' Too much inconsistency.
"Seantrel Henderson. He's the same thing to a much greater degree. Off the field issues. He just hasn't seemed to elevate his game.
"I do like Perryman a lot. The thing with him is going to be size, speed issues. I think Linder is going to be a late day steal. I think Linder in the right system can be a 10-year pro. I think he's going to be a guy drafted somewhere in the later rounds.
"I do like Jimmy Gaines. In the sense he's elevated his game, his head is in the right direction. Gaines you're thinking at best a late round pick or somebody who works his way onto the roster as a free agent. And then Allen Hurns, who is probably a last day guy. That's it."
The Hurricanes official injury report won't be coming out until Thursday, but it's guaranteed backup strongside linebacker Alex Figueroa is going to be on it.
The 6-3, 235-pound freshmen missed practice again Wednesday after being spotted during Tuesday's media viewing of practice with his left arm in a sling.
"We're evaluating his shoulder again today and we'll know more by tomorrow and certainly by Friday," UM coach Al Golden said during his weekly appearance on the ACC Teleconference. "He did not practice again today and we're holding him out right now. We just want to make sure whatever the diagnosis is we go through the battery of tests he needs to and we're not going backwards there."
Figueroa, who started against Savannah State and South Florida, has played in all nine games for the Hurricanes. Coaches raved about him during fall camp and he's done a nice job on special teams and in his appearances, racking up 17 tackles and a sack on the season.
"We're very high on Alex," Golden said. "He needs to continue to learn how to prepare and play the game faster, [fix] the mental errors, a lot of the things we deal with freshmen. Sometimes we forget he's a freshman. He is a guy we're excited about and that has a great future."
> Junior linebacker Denzel Perryman, who leads the Hurricanes with 78 tackles, welcomed a daughter to the world on Tuesday morning.
> Golden said freshmen Artie Burns and Corn Elder and sophomore Antonio Crawford "have been coming on" in practice "and earning some reps" at cornerback.
As much as Al Golden would like to bunker down and ignore the heat coming from the outside after back-to-back losses, it's hard to ignore the criticism being directed at two people in particular these days: quarterback Stephen Morris and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio.
Golden went to bat for both Tuesday and so did a few players who aren't happy with all of the blame being placed on D'Onofrio's scheme and play-calling or all the boos and chants for backup Ryan Williams that were made Saturday night.
"I'm taking the responsibility for Saturday, not Stephen Morris," Golden said Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
"I'm directly responsible for special teams - that's three turnovers and they happened in succession which compounded each time. Stephen, if he was allotted to have 68 plays, would have had his best game of the year. He had 53 plays, scored 24 points against a team giving up 16 points. He had [more than] 300 yards passing, doubles what they've been giving up. He was 16 of 27 with five drops. He could have been 21 of 27. He averaged 20 yards a completion. He didn't have any turnovers. I just think it's unfair, especially given what he's been playing with, dealing with and playing with [a sprained ankle] for eight weeks now.
"Again, boo me, be frustrated with me. But Stephen Morris? He's done everything, including stand and fight here the last two years. He's our quarterback and he's our leader, and he has my support."
Although Morris and teammates Asante Cleveland and Maurice Hagens said they didn't hear the boos when UM's offense was on the field, cornerback Tracy Howard said he and UM's defense definitely heard them and it bothered them. Howard, who was teammates with Williams at Miramar and won a state championship with him, said the boos for Morris were disrespectful.
"That's disrespectful. That's a sign of unloyal fans," Howard said. "Every player is not going to be perfect. Everybody is going to have their ups and downs -- especially the quarterback. The fans want the team to be good. If the fans want us to produce and be good they can't boo the quarterback. They don't know how he will take it, if it will lower his confidence.
"But the thing with Stephen is he's strong. That don't get to him. He's internally driven. We heard it, but we just blocked it out. I don't know why they did that to Stephen. He's a good quarterback. That's disrespectful."
Howard also had words for those blaming his defensive coordinator for Miami's struggles the last few weeks.
""The fans outside, they see the players messing up so they are automatically going to blame it on the defensive coordinator," he said. "Because sometimes in football as a fan, they don't really know football. So when they see guys being cut loose they think `Oh, it's the defensive coordinator's fault.' Really it's the execution from the players. I think we have to do a better job of having his back in the games. Outside people, they don't really know what's going on, don't know football to be honest."
"I feel like coach D'Onofrio calls great games. It's up to the players to execute."
Howard said D'Onofrio is "a great teacher."
"He knows the game in and out," Howard said. "He's taught me a lot about football since I got here. I think he does a great job telling us what to do and where to be at. And not just him, all the coaches. They relay it to us the best way possible.
"I get mad because I feel like if anything he calls great games. To be honest the fans should be more loyal. When we were 7-0 they were all happy. Now they want him out on his back. But that's the way football goes. I understand it. I'm not mad or anything. But I feel like they're being too hard.
"They're saying all type of crazy things about him. They're acting like we're a .500 team or something. We're not a .500 team. I feel like he calls great games. If they really understood football they might understand that."
Golden said flatly any decisions made on defense, offense or special teams -- from scheme on down -- basically go through him.
"I wasn't listening when people loved him either," Golden said of the critics. "It's always about change. You asked what has changed on defense. It was the discipline in making tough decisions not to change, to stay with it and do all the little things. Do we need to play better on defense than we did last week? There's no question. Absolutely, no question. Did we put them -did we put them in the worst position you have to be in as a defensive coordinator [with the turnovers]? Absolutely we did that.
"If people are upset with a coach or position - because we got them all this week. We heard we've got to catch the ball better. We got every email you can get. At the end of the day it's my responsibility. There's nothing that goes on in this building that I do not approve or sign off on, co-sign. At the end of the day I know that we have to fix a lot of things. I'm as disappointed as anybody in that loss, equally disappointed in the way it transpired. It's important we continue the continuity, and just move forward, keep pushing forward. It hasn't been easy. As a staff and organization let's push forward. And we do have handcuffs off with recruiting. My first recruiting class was six weeks. The next two years were hell [with the NCAA investigation]. It's time to move forward. We got to stop talking about all this other stuff and start focusing on Duke."
Golden after loss to Virginia Tech: "Whatever I say is an excuse. At the end of the day, we have to fix it."
On the difficulties in fighting uphill after falling behind early...
“Huge. You can’t spot them 21 points like that. At the end of the day, we executed the punt return and kick-off return exactly what we wanted - one was 30 [yards], one was 50 [yards], and we fumbled both of them. Just inexcusable. We had a low snap and gave them a short field there, and now you’re playing uphill the whole time. They’re basically playing keep-away at that moment. We didn’t get off the field well enough on third down. We didn’t convert enough plays on offense. Just really disappointed in those mistakes.”
On lopsided time of possession in the first quarter affecting chances of success...
“There isn’t any question about it. We had two fumbles and basically what amounted to a fumble on the low snap that we were down on. To start out the game like that, I don’t think there’s anybody in this business that would see that coming. There’s just no way that should happen. I’m really disappointed there.”
On the general issues that he sees with his team’s defense...
“We didn’t get off the field enough on third down. We missed too many tackles - too many egregious third downs that they converted. Really against the odds plays for them that they converted, and we didn’t stop them enough in the red zone. Even with the mistakes that we aided them [with] in the half, I think we were still only in the 30’s going into halftime play-wise. Not that that’s great, but it’s not like it was 40 or 50 plays. Again, just really disappointed. We didn’t deserve to win. We didn’t protect the ball, a low snap, three big blunders to start the game, and as I just said to them, don’t let anyone say we weren’t ready, we weren’t focused. If everyone is blocking who they’re supposed to be and we return it 50 yards, we’re ready to play. We fumbled the ball. We had a good scheme and we fumbled the ball. We score early on a screen, we’re ready to play. Just really disappointing. It’s impossible to overcome those odds.”
On how the weather affected his team’s gameplan...
“None. Zero. Don’t let anyone say the rain affected those fumbles. They started to get in traffic, you have to cover that up, and the ball should be higher. Something we work on constantly. The ball was just too low, the point was down. I’m embarrassed by it, to be honest with you.”
On any systemic issues he sees with the defense...
“We need to help them on special teams and on offense. There are a lot of things we need to fix. We had too many guys open, we didn’t tackle well enough, we didn’t get off the field, we didn’t get a red-zone stop, and we didn’t get enough pressure on the quarterback.”
On if the same issues that plagued the defense last week were recurring against Virginia Tech...
“The numbers would say yes. There were too many third-and-longs, too many against-the-odds third downs they converted. It was the function of two things: we blew a coverage – a man got free or cut a guy loose - lost leverage in the zone, or we didn’t tackle real well.”
On the play of the Virginia Tech wide receivers...
“We had some guys running free. We got out-leveraged a couple of times. As I said, we didn’t tackle. There’s no excuse. It has to be better, it wasn’t good enough, and it’s my responsibility to get it fixed.”
On what his team needs to do better offensively...
“We needed to get the ball. Obviously on the two occasions that we fumbled it, those two possessions certainly could help. We’re not good enough right now on third down. We’re not converting enough on third down with enough consistency, and obviously that’s an excellent defense we’re playing [against]. [When] you spot them 21 points, you’re fighting an uphill battle. It gets skewed when you make those kind of mistakes. It’s really tough. We didn’t convert enough of our shots down the field.”
On if he anticipates making any changes to his defensive scheme...
“We have to look at it. It would be premature to say we have to change things when we really had too many unforced errors, to be honest with you.”
On if the cushion for Virginia Tech wide receivers on third down was the product of mental errors...“I know twice we got rubbed off and didn’t stay on our man, the other one we missed a tackle. We’re playing man [coverage] a couple of times, so it wasn’t like we weren’t being aggressive. We didn’t get it done. There’s no excuse. We’ll examine it, look at it, from top to bottom.”
On the Coastal Division race...
“We’re going to go to work tomorrow, like I just told the team. I’m going to be in there, getting back to work. They have to decide which direction they want to go – there’s a lot of football left. They have to get their minds right and move on. I don’t want to hear anything about last week’s game affecting this week’s game. We were ready to play. We did not take care of the football, and it really was the equivalent of three turnovers early in that game when you look at the two kick plays and the knee down. We didn’t tackle well enough, we didn’t get out of the field well enough, we didn’t get a red zone stop on defense. On offense, we didn’t run the ball well enough, we didn’t convert on third down, we didn’t hit the shots when we had them down the field, and we dropped a few [passes], to be honest with you.”
On the differences he sees from his team’s win against Florida to the loss against Virginia Tech...
“Whatever I say is an excuse. At the end of the day, we have to fix it. We have to go back to work and fix it. I’m not even going to go down that path. We’re all responsible for it, I’m responsible for it, and we’re going to go to work tomorrow on getting it fixed and getting this thing right, and do all the little things right to move forward and move the program forward. That’s what we have to all get going tomorrow.”
Considering how bad the Hurricanes looked in the second half against Florida State last Saturday one might imagine players and coaches are dying for another shot at the Seminoles in the ACC Championship game.
UM coach Al Golden made it clear Wednesday during his 10-minute weekly meeting with the press in the ACC Teleconference the only thing on his mind and his players' minds is beating Virginia Tech on Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium.
When asked if he saw something that gives the Canes hope in a potential rematch with FSU, Golden said: ""Again, I'm not even -- we don't even live in that world."
"Our world right now is going against a defense that has 28 sacks and keeping opponents to 29 percent on third down and 4.1 yards a play and 16.9 points per game. Trust me, that's the world we live in. I don't want to own any quotes about a rematch or anything like that. You guys can speculate on that. In terms of our mentality, we're going to have our hands super full on Saturday with a Virginia Tech team that has obviously been the benchmark here in the Coastal Division and will give us everything we can handle. So that's where our minds are at right now."
What else was Golden talking about Wednesday?
> What he see from the Hokies' defensive front: "They're powerful. They're athletic, work in concert with each other. They pursue and they're aggressive. [Defensive tackles Luther] Maddy and [Derrick] Hopkins, those two collectively working together. [Ends James] Gayle, [J.R.] Collins, [Dadi] Nichoas and then the linebackers with [Jack] Tyler leading the way, having a great season. They're deep. They roll guys in. Very good unit."
> The Hokies won their first three ACC games and didn't turn the ball over once. But in their losses to Duke and Boston College the last two weeks they turned over four times each.
"It's the same issue we had," Golden said. "You have to do whatever you can to try and resolve it, emphasize it in practice, protecting the ball. Maybe it's helping the quarterback make different decisions, things of that nature or changing the way you practice. [The turnovers were] certainly like ours were -- self-inflicted, unforced errors in a way. We went through the same thing so it's really important we protect the ball this week."
> Golden said he doesn't really have a long-term prognosis for running back Duke Johnson following ankle surgery Monday night, but made it clear there's probably no way he will be back in time for a bowl game.
"I don't really have the long-term prognosis other than everything went really well and I'm going to see him today," Golden said. "He'll be back on campus either [Thursday] night or Friday morning. We're just trying to get him back, get him integrated back with academics, treatment and getting him in the weight room. Again, these days they get the guys going with treatment and rehab and things of that natue. He's doing well. He's at home. I'll get a chance to visit with him later."
> Will Dallas Crawford be the workhorse with Johnson out or will it be more of a committee approach?
"They're going to earn their reps in practice," Golden said. "We're going to evaluate those guys every day in practice and depending on what we're asking them to do we're going to see all three of those running backs and probably all three by the end of the first quarter. I don't think there's any question we'll see more of them. But certainly Dallas right now -- he was No. 2 and then No. 1 -- has demonstrated he can carry the load. Again, a lot of its going to depend on the play-calling, what groupings are in there, the flow of the game."
> Could Corn Elder be moved from cornerback to running back to add depth?
"We made that decision with [freshman] Walter Tucker a month ago that Walter would be the next running back if we need him," Golden said. "So Walter has the ability to play fullback or running back at 225 points. Obviously he's been playing a lot for us on special teams. That decision has already been made. Corn will stay at corner."
> How would Golden characterize Dallas as a running back?
"No. 1 he's got a low center of gravity and strength. He's probably 197, 198 pounds. So big legs, low center of gravity. He does utilize the spin move occasionally. He does have an excellent lateral cut and ability to start and stop. Some of those characteristics are the same as [Duke Johnson]. I would just say he's a little bit more powerful in terms of being able to drop his pads because of his leg strength. Those are the things he does really well. Like Randy, we can put him out, throw him a screen or line him up in the slot because he does catch the ball really well."
> Where does FSU rank among the four top unbeaten BCS teams?
"I know your guys' job is to debate all that and that's probably what creates the interest all year long. I think it's going to shake out. It's hard to imagine they're not the best team or one of the top two or three teams in the country. Those two wins were very impressive. Just seeing them up close. They're deep at every position. They have very few weaknesses. They execute it at a high level and they have a quarterback that's playing as good as anybody in the country. Because of that they certainly staking their claim or at least an argument to be that [top team]. I think it will all shake out in the end."
As devastating as it was to get dominated in the second half by rival Florida State and lose Duke Johnson for the season in the process, the Hurricanes shifted their focus Monday and completely immersed themselves in preparing for Saturday's pivotal Coastal Division showdown with Virginia Tech.
"We have a lot to play for," UM coach Al Golden said. "We got a lot of season left. How we play here in the next four weeks will determine how much, what the stakes will be. It's real important we get back on the saddle given the team that's coming in, their tradition, what they've meant to this division and the challenge they pose."
The Hurricanes (7-1, 3-1 ACC) still control their destiny in the Coastal Division. But lose to the Hokies (6-3, 3-2) and the Hurricanes will need help to reach the ACC title game.
"It's still all in front of them," Golden said. "What they have to do is trust what we're telling them. Let them go through that process of growing and maturing and learning, just focusing on the details everyday and not focusing on everything else. Sometimes you get stung."
NEWS AND NOTES FROM MONDAY
> The No. 1 question on the minds of all Hurricanes fans has to be just how bad Duke Johnson's injury really is. A source inside UM told me Johnson's broken ankle is not nearly as bad as the one receiver Malcolm Lewis is still trying to completely recover from.
When asked if Johnson might be ready for spring ball, Golden appeared encouraged: "I think he'll be back sooner rather than later," he said. "We're going to try like heck to get him stronger, really work on his nutrition and his weight gain. I know Clinton Portis is one of the guys who talked to him about that. He's got to continue to get stronger, and he will."
> How will the Hurricanes handle not having Duke around? Offensive coordinator James Coley said replacing Johnson's production will involve a running back by committee approach. Still, expect to see Crawford handle the bulk of the carries with Clements coming in on third downs and Gus Edwards likely participating in special packages. Freshman Walter Tucker is simply taking more reps in practice in case any of those three go down.
Golden said the reason Edwards had not seen much work (one carry for no yards at North Carolina) since tallying 166 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries against Savannah State and USF four weeks ago is because Duke Johnson and Dallas Crawford "were holding his reps off."
"Gus is ready for this now," Golden said. "He's going to be in the mix and is definitely going to be carrying the ball for us on Saturday."
Golden said the offensive play-calling would not be scaled down with Johnson out and noted that the team's mental errors are down 50 percent from where they were a year ago "at this very date."
> Expect to see safety Deon Bush a lot more this week against Virginia Tech, which could lead to fewer minutes for senior AJ Highsmith, who despite making Miami's only sack Saturday didn't have a great game overall.
Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio and Golden both came to Highsmith's defense Monday. Golden actually said Highsmith "played really well at FSU" and has done a great job "leading, getting us lined up."
"I know he'd like to have the one play back -- he's was probably one step away from intercepting the deep play [to Kelvin Benjamin] -- one of the few deep ones they got in the game," Golden said.
D'Onofrio said Highsmith didn't get the help he needed from the cornerback covering on that play (Ladarius Gunter) and noted Highsmith has "played played a lot of snaps without a mental error. Going into that game he was 250 snaps without making one mental error, which is hard to do, especially at that position."
Still, D'Onofrio conceded he'd like to have a more physical safety out there. Bush had four tackles and his first career college interception Saturday (his previous one came his junior year at Miami Columbus).
"It is the most he's played and the best he's looked so hopefully we can get him back to the confidence level he was playing with last year prior to the injuries he's had to deal with," D'Onofrio said.
"We need physical players back there. Your physical players in games like that have to make plays, they have to impose their will. You guys know who they are. You watch the games. The guys that are physical, that can cause fumbles, those guys have to show up and be physical. He's one of the guys that can do that. And we're going to need that from him."
Bush said Monday he still experiences some pain in his surgically repaired groin, but is feeling the best he has in a long time. He also dealt with neck/shoulder injury last year.
> D'Onofrio said his defense was obviously disappointed with giving up 41 points and more than 500 yards of offense to Florida State because they had a lot invested into Saturday's game. But the Hurricanes did enjoy some success against FSU quarterback Jameis Winston early, throwing a mix of man and zone coverages in with an occasional blitz, leading Winston holding onto the ball and to two interceptions.
The problem for UM was they couldn't get off the field on third down and let Winston escape the pocket a few times on third downs for first downs.
"That was disappointing," D'Onofrio said. "Our guys had an understanding of who was back there [Jameis Winston] and we just didn't make plays on him a couple times. We didn't have the vision we needed there. It's really a two-level deal. You have to keep him in the pocket, try to come clean and get a sack, and then have underneath defenders that have vision. Somebody needs to be a wrap player whose watching him if you're in man coverage and then all the underneath defenders need to watch him in zone. We just have to do a better job overall when you're dealing with a mobile quarterback like that."
The difference in the game, D'Onofrio said, was Florida State's ability to establish the run in the second half. Once the Seminoles went up by a couple scores Miami was simply playing catch-up.
> Against Virginia Tech's offense, the Hurricanes will have to try and contain a quarterback that has beaten them with his legs before.
Senior Logan Thomas ran 22 times for 124 yards and a touchdown last season against UM, but struggled throwing (19-37, 199 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs) in a 30-12 Canes win. A year earlier in Blacksburg as a sophomore, he lit UM up, finishing 23 of 25 for 310 yards and three touchdowns and running for 38 yards and two scores in a 38-35 win.
Defensive tackle Justin Renfow, who faced Thomas a few times when he played at Virginia, said its even more important this week for the Hurricanes defense to make sure they don't let the opposing quarterback escape the pocket.
"Logan Thomas is a good quarterback and I think think its even more important this week [to cut off running lanes," Renfrow said. "He's been a lot more run first. One look and if his first look is not there he's tucking and running. As a d-line we definitely have to corral him because he tries to run people over. The big guys up front need to be delivering the hit instead of leaving it like we did against Florida State for the corners and safeties to come up and do it."
> Golden made it seem Monday as though receiver Phillip Dorsett might be able to come back before the end of the regular season. "He is fighting like crazy to get back" Golden said. "We have to help him by continuing to play well."
A source said Dorsett had a clean tear in his MCL, which was helpful in his case, and was catching passes at Monday's practice. Still, it's more likely to believe Dorsett will be back for the ACC Championship game, assuming Miami makes it.
There was a reason Florida State pushed the Hurricanes around Saturday night like a little brother.
The Seminoles are better, elite in a lot of places: quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive line, secondary. The gap may not have looked that big after two quarters Saturday. But it was on display for the nation to see over the final 30 minutes. Florida State is legit, national championship good. Miami is just getting back into the Top 25 good.
That gap is nothing to be ashamed about if you bleed orange and green. Jimbo Fisher has been building this thing for over five years, since we first heard he would be the guy replacing Bobby Bowden.
Al Golden? He's been trying to rebuild Miami for three years with one arm tied behind his back. It wasn't until two weeks ago tomorrow the 28-month hostage situation with the NCAA really came to an end. Even then, it's been impressive what Golden has been able to accomplish the last couple years.
As fun as it was to see this team start 7-0, climb to No. 7 in the national rankings, ask any talent evaluator and they will tell you these Hurricanes truly were not ready for a Top 10 showdown Saturday. Three recruiting classes into yet another Miami makeover, Golden has restocked the shelves with a few gems (RB Duke Johnson, CB Tracy Howard, DE Tyriq McCord, DE Quan Muhammad, CB Artie Burns, S Deon Bush, OL Ereck Flowers, WR Stacy Coley, LB Jermaine Grace). But really, he's still playing catch-up and only now beginning to fight with both fists free.
I know the thirst has been here for awhile to shout "We're back baby!" But that's really not going to happen until the Hurricanes get to the point where Florida State is. Where you have legit NFL prospects up and down your roster. Fisher had a school-record 11 players taken in last April's NFL Draft. He'll probably have eight more at least this year with half of that taken in the first two rounds.
Miami had two players taken last April (RB Mike James, CB Brandon McGee) and might have four or five this April (LB Denzel Perryman, QB Stephen Morris, OL Brandon Linder, OL Seantrel Henderson) and one of them is a punter. Do the math. Did that sound like a Top 10 matchup Saturday night?
Truth is Golden and his staff over the last three years have taken a bunch of average, leftover talent (DT Curtis Porter, OL Jon Feliciano, S Kacy Rodgers, MLB Jimmy Gaines, WR Allen Hurns, DE Shayon Green, OL Malcolm Bunche, WR Rashawn Scott), coached them up, plugged in a few holes with transfers (DL David Gilbert, DL Justin Renfrow, P Pat O'Donnell) and made this team better year-to-year.
Saturday's game might have been a little closer in the second half had a few guys (LB Eddie Johnson, LB Gionni Paul, CB Thomas Finnie) kept their heads on straight and still been here. But every program has a few knuckleheads who don't seem to get it. Until Saturday, UM hadn't faced a team with superior depth and talent to the them. Florida? The Gators have an elite defense and that's why Miami was in a dog fight. But the Gators are 4-4 now, proof even Will Muschamp (hired at the same time Golden was) isn't having an easy time of it in Gainesville after losing eight draft picks from last year's team.
What the Hurricanes have proven thus far in 2013 is that they are not going to lose games they shouldn't and have the fight in them to rally when they're down. Players are improving. That's what we didn't see enough of during the last regime.
Now, after Saturday's heartbreaking loss (Golden gave the team Sunday off to rest and recover) we'll get to see what this coaching staff and this team is really made of. Duke Johnson is a special talent. But he's not the sole reason Miami is 7-1 and still ranked 14th in the country.
Saturday's opponent, Virginia Tech, a team UM hasn't beaten twice in a row since 2002, is the real benchmark the Hurricanes have to measure themselves against. The Hokies have won the ACC four times since coming over from the Big East with Miami in 2004. Their talent and Miami's talent is and has been much more comparable over the last couple of seasons.
What Golden and his coaches have to prove to us now is that even in the face of adversity (losing his best player) and coming off a humbling defeat against the team you want to catch-up to they can get this football team to re-focus and finish the season strong. As Golden pointed out last year, you can't win the ACC until you win the Coastal Division.
That's really what this season needs to be measured on: Can these Canes continue to beat the teams they are supposed to, win their division and finish the season with momentum for the future?
That's what Randy Shannon's teams couldn't seem to do. UM only had one winning month in November (3-1, 2009) in his four years here. Golden is now 5-4 after Saturday in November. UM finished 3-1 in November last year.
It's going to be challenging without Johnson to finish this November 4-1. But this UM team should be good enough to beat Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2) at home Saturday, Duke (6-2, 2-2 ACC) on the road Nov. 16, Virginia (2-7, 0-5) at home Nov. 23, and win at Pittsburgh (4-4, 2-3 ACC) the day after Thanksgiving.
It's time to finish the mission Canes.
It's the big matchup you've been waiting for: Canes at Seminoles, 8 p.m., ABC.
Feel free to participate in our live blog throughout the game as usual.
And now for the second half of the breakdown between the Hurricanes and Seminoles.
> Miami: DE Anthony Chickillo (6-4, 277, Jr., 4-star, No. 3 DE in 2011 by Rivals); Shayon Green (6-3, 264, Sr., 3-star, No. 65 DE in 2009 by Rivals); David Gilbert (6-4, 256, Sr., 4-star, No. 12 DE in 2009 by Rivals); Ufomba Kamalu (6-6, 285, Jr., 2-star, unranked JUCO in 2013 by Rivals); Al-Quadin Muhammad (6-3, 240, Fr., 4-star, No. 3 WDE in 2013 by Rivals); Tyriq McCord (6-3, 235, So., 4-star, No. 7 WDE in 2012 by Rivals); DT Justin Renfrow (6-6, 320, Sr., 3-star, No. 43 DE in 2009 by Rivals); Olsen Pierre (6-4, 305, Jr. 3-star, unranked in 2011 by Rivals); Curtis Porter (6-1, 325, Sr. 3-star, No. 54 DT in 2009 by Rivals); Luther Robinson (6-3, 296, r-Sr., 4-star, No. 18 DT in 2009 by Rivals).
> FSU: DE Eddie Goldman (6-4, 303, So., 5-star, No. 2 DT in 2012 by Rivals); Mario Edwards (Jr., 6-3, 277, So., 5-star, No. 1 DT in 2012 by Rivals); Chris Casher (6-4, 260, R-Fr., 4-star, No. 4 WDE in 2012 by Rivals); Demonte McAllister (6-2, 290, r-Sr., 4-star, No. 4 SDE in 2009 by Rivals). DT Nile Lawrence-Stample (6-1, 305, r-So., 4-star, No. 29 DT in 2011 by Rivals); NG Timmy Jernigan (6-2, 296, Jr., 4-star, No. 2 DT in 2011 by Rivals); Jacobbi McDaniel (6-0, 295, R-Sr., 5-star, No. 2 DT in 2009 by Rivals); Desmond Hollin (6-3, 270, Jr., 3-star, unranked JUCO in 2013 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: FSU. If not for the transfers of Justin Renfrow and David Gilbert for Miami, the talent gap here would be much wider than it already is. FSU has three 5-star recruits in its defensive line rotation and three highly-touted 4-stars that were top five at their respective positions. UM doesn't have any 5-star recruits on the d-line and only two who were top five at their respect positions in Chickillo and McCord.
> What's happened: That all being said, UM's front is vastly improved from a year ago. UM ranks 39th in run defense (141.7 yards per game) has tallied 22 sacks (the Canes had 13 all of last season). FSU's run defense ranks 29th (135.7 yards per game) and the Seminoles have produced 17 sacks with only five coming from their linemen. All that being said, Jernigan is the highest-rated NFL prospect of all the current draft-eligible defensive linemen in this game. ESPN ranks him second among DTs. CBS Sports rates him sixth best among and a potential second rounder. McAllister is next at 11th among DTs according to ESPN.
> Real edge: FSU, but not as widely as people think. For all the hype FSU's linemen got out of high school, only Jernigan has been a consistent force up front. Miami does its work collectively, but still gets the majority of its pass rush from third-down specialists like McCord and not enough from its starters. FSU has produced 19 quarterback hurries this season and only allowed five. UM has produced 13 QB hurries and allowed 17.
> Miami: MLB Jimmy Gaines (6-3, 240, Sr., 2-star, unranked in 2010 by Rivals); Raphael Kirby (6-0, 235, So., 4-star, No. 5 OLB in 2012 by Rivals); OLB Tyrone Cornelius (6-2, 225, Sr., 3-star, No. 38 OLB in 2010 by Rivals); Denzel Perryman (6-0, 240, Jr., 3-star, No. 25 ILB in 2011 by Rivals); Alex Figueroa (6-3, 235, Fr., No stars, no ranking in 2012 by Rivals; Thurston Armbrister (6-3, 233, Jr., No stars, no ranking in 2011 by Rivals)
> FSU: MLB Terrance Smith (6-4, 215, R-So., 3-star, No. 18 OLB in 2011 by Rivals); OLB Christian Jones (6-4, 235, Sr., 5-star, No. 2 OLB in 2010 by Rivals); Telvin Smith (6-3, 218, Sr., 4-star, No. 18 OLB in 2010 by Rivals); Reggie Northrup (6-1, 220, So., 4-star, No. 30 OLB in 2012 by Rivals); Dan Hicks (6-4, 260, R-Sr., 2-star, unranked in 2009 by Rivals); Ukeme Eligwe (6-2, 240, R-Fr., 4-star, No. 2 OLB in 2012 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: FSU. It's almost puzzling how Miami has managed to survive at linebacker considering the of lack of talent recruited for the position. Gaines, recruited by former assistant John Lovett, had only a couple other offers (Buffalo, UConn and Syracuse). Figueroa didn't have any offers and Armbrister, a converted safety, was a late addition by Golden.
> What's happened: Gaines has developed into a lot more than anyone really expected, tallying 158 tackles in 21 career starts. Perryman, the only Butkus semifinalist in the ACC, has blossomed into UM's best defensive player despite being thrown into the fire right away as an undersized freshman. CBSSports rates him as the eighth-best draft-eligible outside linebacker and a potential second or third round pick in April. FSU's Jones, meanwhile, sits atop the board as the top projected inside linebacker by CBSSports and a second round pick. Teammate Telvin Smith ranks 12th among outside linebackers and a potential fourth rounder.
> Real edge: FSU. Jones (33 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks) and Smith (49 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 sack) are elite players. UM has one in Perryman and a couple overachievers. It should be noted by the way Jones plays a lot of defensive end, too and told reporters in Tallahassee this week he sees himself as a defensive end now.
> Miami: CB Tracy Howard (5-11, 184, So., 5-star, No. 1 CB in 2012 by Rivals); Ladarius Gunter (6-2, 196, Jr., 3-star, unranked JUCO in 2012); Antonio Crawford (5-11, 187, So., 3-star, unranked CB by Rivals); Artie Burns (6-0, 190, Fr., 4-star, No. 15 CB in 2013 by Rivals); S Kacy Rodgers (6-2, 212, Sr., 3-star, No. 37 CB in 2010 by Rivals); Rayshawn Jenkins (6-1, 208, So., 3-star, No. 32 S in 2012 by Rivals); Deon Bush (6-1, 203, So., 4-star, No. 6 S in 2012 by Rivals); AJ Highsmith (6-0, 208, Sr., 3-star, unranked ATH in 2009 by Rivals).
> FSU: CB Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 190, Sr. 5-star, No. 1 CB in 2010 by Rivals); P.J. Williams (6-0, 190, So., 4-star, No. 9 S in 2012 by Rivals); Ronald Darby (5-11, 190, So., 4-star, No. 2 CB in 2012 by Rivals); Nick Waisome (5-10, 176, Jr., 4-star, No. 8 CB in 2011 by Rivals); S Jalen Ramsey (6-1, 195, Fr., 5-star, No. 3 CB in 2013 by Rivals); Terrence Brooks (5-11, 200, Sr., 3-star, No. 45 CB by Rivals in 2010); Keelin Smith (6-3, 185, R-So., 3-star, No. 34 CB in 2011 by Rivals); Nate Andrews (5-11, 208, Fr., 3-star, unranked ATH in 2013 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: FSU. Outside of Howard, Burns and Bush, Miami's secondary is made up of mid-level talent according to recruiting gurus. While FSU has two five star recruits starting (one at corner and one at safety) and the rest of its corners are all four-star prospects.
> What's happened: FSU has allowed the fewest passing yards in the country (153.7), ranks fifth in passing efficiency defense (97.34), has 29 pass breakups and 10 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns). Joyner, a player FSU took out of UM's backyard at St. Thomas Aquinas, has been dominant. He's posted 27 tackles, 1 INT, 3 sacks, 3 pass breakups and 3 forced fumbles in his senior season and is projected to be the second free safety taken in April's draft according to CBS Sports. Brooks, his teammate, has 22 tackles, 4 PBUs, 2 FF and 2 INTs. He's projected to be a third or fourth rounder. UM ranks 17th in pass defense (200.6 yards per game) 10th in passing efficiency defense) and has 22 passes broken up and 12 interceptions. Howard leads the way with three.
> Real edge: FSU. Miami, obviously a lot younger than FSU in the secondary, didn't look good against the one good pass offense it faced in North Carolina, which completed 74.4 percent of its passes for 395 yards. Tight end Eric Ebron abused Miami. FSU hasn't had a bad game yet in pass defense and held Tahj Boyd and Clemson to only 203 yards passing. Opponents are only completing passes at a 52.2 percent clip against FSU, which is also allowing only 5.2 yards per attempt.
> Miami: K Matt Goudis (6-0, 172, So., 2-star, No. 13 kicker in 2011 by Rivals); P Pat O'Donnell (6-5, 220, Gr., 2-star, unranked in 2009 by Rivals); KR/PR Stacy Coley (6-1, 180, Fr., 4-star, No. 13 WR in 2013 by Rivals); KR Duke Johnson (5-9, 196, So., 5-star, No. 1 all-purpose running back by Rivals in 2012).
> FSU: K Roberto Aguayo (6-1, 203, R-Fr., 3-star, No. 3 kicker in 2012 by Rivals); P Cason Beatty (6-3, 229, So. 2-star, unranked kicker in 2012 by Rivals); KR Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 180, Sr., 5-star, No. 1 CB in 2010 by Rivals); KR Karlos Williams (6-1, 223, Jr., 5-star, No. 2 safety in 2011 by Rivals.com); PR Kenny Shaw (6-0, 170, Sr., 4-star, No. 14 WR in 2010 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: None really. But it is noteworthy Aguayo got a three-star rating. Kickers rarely do.
> What's happened: The Hurricanes lead the nation in kickoff return average thanks to Johnson (29.23 average) and Coley (1 kick return for a TD). FSU does a better job on punt returns (29th, 11.79 yard average) compared to UM (62nd, 8.09 yard average). When it comes to punting, O'Donnell (45.67 average) has saved the Hurricanes a couple times with big kicks. Beatty is averaging 40.3 yards a punt. Aguayo has converted all 58 kicks in his career (10 field goals, 48 PATs) and has a career-long of 45 yards. Goudis also hit a 45-yard field goal against Wake Forest, but has missed his last two kicks from 40 yards or more (43 and 40).
> Real edge: Even. Both teams have explosive return men and Miami has an edge with O'Donnell. But if it comes down to making a big kick Aguayo has the stronger track record.
Florida State and Miami has always been a huge game not only because of the rivalry, but because of the recruiting stakes involved in the game.
Nowadays, recruits pick schools for a lot of different reasons (playing time, relationship with the coach recruiting him, etc.). Still, to the winner usually go the spoils because perception is whoever wins this game and looks better playing in it is closer to the ultimate prize: a national championship. And that always has ripple effects in recruiting -- usually with high school underclassmen and not seniors (many of which have already made their minds up by now).
That being said, this isn't a breakdown of which recruits are on the fence for UM and FSU heading into February's National Signing Day. That on the fence deal doesn't really exist anymore since players commit so early and classes are usually filled by now.
Rather, this is a breakdown of the perceived talent versus talent in Saturday's game. Who has more stud recruits and where are they on the field? Making recruiting evaluations is hardly a perfect science. But when you watch the game Saturday night take note of some of the items in this blog so you can keep count of who was supposed to be the better recruit in head-to-head battles.
> Miami: Stephen Morris (6-2, 218, Sr., 3-star, No. 26 Dual-Threat QB in 2010 by Rivals)
> FSU: Jameis Winston (6-4, 228, R-Fr., 5-star, No. 1 Dual-Threat QB in 2012 by Rivals)
> What's happened: Winston (69.9 comp. pct, 2,177 yards, 23 TDs, 4 iNTs) has obviously lived up to all the hype with a stellar first season as the starter after being recruited to FSU by former recruiting coordinator Dameyune Craig (now at Auburn). Winston is already among the favorites in the Heisman race and projected to be a first rounder in the NFL.
Although an ankle injury has slowed the preseason hype down around Morris (he won MVP honors at the Manning Passing Camp and is now ranked 7th among draft eligible QBs by ESPN), people forget how much Morris (59.9 comp. pct., 1,463 yards, 10 TDs, 8 INTs in 2013) has grown during his time at Miami. When he chose to play for Mark Whipple the summer before his senior season his other top two offers were Virginia and Purdue. Where would UM be without Morris today? Probably not in the Top 25 rankings.
> Recruiting edge: FSU. In case someone gets hurt, backup Jacob Coker (3-stars, No. 18 pro-style QB in 2012 by Rivals) is considered a better talent than UM backup and Memphis transfer Ryan Williams (6-5, 223, Jr., 2-stars, unranked among QBs). Although Williams has played better this season in spot duty.
> Real edge: FSU. Hard to argue with what Winston is doing right now even with what the ankle injury has done to Morris.
> Miami: Duke Johnson (5-9, 196, So., 5-star, No. 1 all-purpose running back by Rivals in 2012); Dallas Crawford (5-10, 194, R-So., 3-star, No. 27 cornerback in 2011 by Rivals); Maurice Hagens (5-11, 250, Sr., 3-star, No. 8 fullback in 2011 by Rivals).
> FSU: Devonta Freeman (5-9, 203, Jr., 4-star, No. 10 running back by Rivals in 2012); James Wilder (6-2, 229, Jr., 5-star, No. 2 running back in 2012 by Rivals); Karlos Williams (6-1, 223, Jr., 5-star, No. 2 safety in 2011 by Rivals.com).
> What's happened: Johnson, who committed to Randy Shannon before news of pending NCAA sanctions broke, has been an instant superstar upon his arrival. He's averaged nearly 7 yards a carry in his career and been a nightmare to stop on kickoff returns while proving to be one of the country's best all-purpose threats. Crawford, who switched over from defensive back, led UM to a come-from-behind win at North Carolina with Johnson out and has proven to be better than your average backup (65 carries, 295 yards, team-leading 9 TDs rushes).
Freeman, whom UM made a very late push for once coach Al Golden took over the program, has broken out this season (87 carries, 561 yards, 6 TDs) with a career-best 6.4 yards per carry average. A linebacker and running back in high school, Miami never really pushed for Wilder. Despite a mediocre college career (41 att., 226 yards, 2 TDs, 5.5 average in 2013) is the only FSU draft-eligible running back on ESPN's big board (he ranks 14th). Williams, who made the switch to running back this season after starting for the first time in the ACC championship gmae at linebacker, leads FSU with 7.9 yards a carry (44 carries, 349 yards, 7 TDs).
> Recruiting edge: FSU by the numbers. A pair of 5-star talents and a 4-star running back who lead your team in rushing compared to one 5-star running back and a converted three-star defensive back.
> Real edge: UM. Sure, FSU has more depth. But tell me someone who wouldn't take Johnson over any of FSU's running backs.
> Miami: WRs Allen Hurns (6-3, 195, Sr., 3-star, No. 60 WR in 2010 by Rivals); Herb Waters (6-2, 193, So. 3-star, No. 50 WR in 2012 by Rivals); Stacy Coley (6-1, 180, Fr., 4-star, No. 13 in 2013 by Rivals); Malcolm Lewis (6-0, 187, So., 4-star, No. 28 WR in 2012 by Rivals); Rashawn Scott (6-2, 199, Jr., 3-star, unranked in 2011 by Rivals); TEs: Clive Walford (6-4, 259, R-Jr., 3-star, unranked in 2010 by Rivals); Asante Cleveland (6-5, 260, Sr., 2-star, unranked in 2010 by Rivals).
> FSU: WRs Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 234, r-So., 4-star, No. 8 WR in 2011 by Rivals); Kenny Shaw (6-0, 170, Sr., 4-star, No. 14 WR in 2010 by Rivals), Rashad Greene (6-0, 180, Jr., 4-star, No. 29 WR in 2011 by Rivals); Christian Green (6-2, 200, r-Jr., 4-star, No. 7 ATH in 2010 by Rivals); TEs Nick O'Leary (6-3, 248, Jr. , 4-star, No. 1 TE in 2011 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: FSU. This is a case where FSU went out and recruited well, developed players and they've lived up to the hype. UM went hard after Benjamin (23 catches, 430 yards, 5 TDs), O'Leary (17-307, 6 TDs) and got Greene (39-690, 8 TDs) to take an official visit in January, but FSU won the recruiting war.
> What's happened: With Winston throwing them the football, FSU's top four receivers are all averaging at or near 18 yards a catch. Outside of the much-hyped Coley (who picked UM over FSU), the Hurricanes have taken mid-level recruiting talent and developed it nicely. Hurns (28 catches, 506 yards, 2 TDs to lead the team) has become Morris' favorite target on third downs along with Walford (17-244, 2 TDs). Coley (17-278, 3 TDs) is just beginning to hit his stride now. Although the loss of Phillip Dorsett (3-star, No. 38 WR in 2011 by Rivals) hurts the Canes, Lewis and Scott returning to full health should help them down the stretch this season.
> Real edge: FSU. More players catch passes for Miami, but the foursome FSU has at the top is nightmarish.
> Future: Of all the draft-eligible receivers in this game, FSU's Rashad Greene rates the highest according to NFL scouts. He's currently ranked 19th by NFLDraftScout.com. Hurns is UM's highest-ranked draft-eligible receiver at 38 by NFLDraftScout.com. Coley could ultimately be the biggest star down the road in the NFL.
> Miami: LT Ereck Flowers (6-6, 315, So., 4-star, No. 20 OT in 2012 by Rivals); LG Jon Feliciano (6-5, 318, rJr., 3-star, No. 55 OT in 2010 by Rivals); C Shane McDermott (6-4, 296, Jr., 3-star, No. 31 OC in 2010 by Rivals); RG Jared Wheeler (6-5, 319, Sr., 3-star, No. 43 OG in 2009 by Rivals); RT Brandon Linder (6-6, 319, Sr., 4-star, No. 3 OC in 2010 by Rivals); RT Seantrel Henderson (6-8, 345, Sr. 5-star, No. 1 OT in 2010 by Rivals); OL Malcolm Bunche (6-7, 327, rJr., 4-star, unranked in 2010 after prep school).
> FSU: LT Cameron Erving (6-6, 320, rJr., 3-star, unranked DT in 2010 by Rivals); LG Josue Matias (6-6, 322, Jr., 4-star, No. 25 OT in 2011 by Rivals); C Bryan Stork (6-4, 300, rSr., 3-star, No. 26 TE in 2010 by Rivals); RG Tre' Jackson (6-4, 330, Jr., 3-star, No. 60 DT in 2011 by Rivals); RT Bobby Hart (6-4, 315, Jr., 4-star, No. 8 OT in 2011 by Rivals); OG Ruben Carter (6-4, 309, R-So., 3-star, No. 29 OG in 2011 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: Miami. Henderson, who lost his spot in the starting rotation after another suspension (something he's battled throughout his career) recently, was no doubt the most highly-touted offensive lineman any of these teams signed. But the Hurricanes earn the edge here not because of him, but overall depth and natural ability. FSU had to convert some players into offensive linemen including Irving, who now the clear-cut NFL top prospect in the group. CBS Sports currently has Irving to projected to go 10th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.
> Real edge: Miami slightly. The Hurricanes have put up better numbers this season in pass protection allowing only six sacks compared to FSU's 15 (Winston has been sacked 12 times, preferring to eat it than throw it up). But when it comes to running the football UM (214.71 yards per game, 19 TDs) and FSU (212.29 yards per game, 22 TDs) are about dead even.
> Future: Stork ranks 4th among draft-eligible linemen at center by ESPN. Henderson (8th among OTs by ESPN) is the highest-rated draft eligible tackle in this game. Linder ranks 11th at guard according to ESPN.
CHECK BACK FOR THE DEFENSIVE AND SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWNS
Here are some video interviews with the Hurricanes from Tuesday prior to the big showdown Saturday in Tallahassee.
Your BCS 7th-ranked Miami Hurricanes (6-0, 2-0 ACC) kickoff the second half of their season and play their first game without an NCAA anvil hanging over their head at noon today against visiting Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2).
The game can be seen on ESPNU. Feel free to chat with us as the game is going on.
University of Miami athletic director Blake James, speaking to The Miami Herald during a one-on-one interview, made it clear the program will not officially appeal any decisions made by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions Tuesday.
But that doesn't mean UM isn't going to try trim the number of football scholarships its set to lose -- nine over three years -- down a bit. For the first time Tuesday, James said UM had already "internally imposed some scholarship reductions" and the hope is the NCAA will take those measures into account. But if the NCAA doesn't, that doesn't mean Miami is going to put up a huge stink.
"We will be discussing that situation with the NCAA right now and we'll see how its best to go forward," James said. "Again, we were looking at the situation and getting an understanding of where we thought things were going to go. Again, we did think [scholarship reductions] were a possibility, but it was something we kept internal. Now that it did become a reality of our penalties we'll document with the NCAA the steps we took and work with them on checking on the possibility of that being included in this year's scholarship numbers."
The Hurricanes, currently at 74 scholarship players by the media's count, have 19 seniors on their roster and 25 oral, non-binding commitments. If the Canes' current recruiting class stays at the same number and no underclassmen depart the program, UM would have 80 scholarship players on its roster next season.
Of course, UM has the flexibility, James said, of reducing its football scholarships at the rate it sees fit. Meaning, UM doesn't have to trim three scholarships each year. It can work with any formula it sees fit. Men's basketball, set to lose one scholarship per year over the next three years, doesn't have that flexibility, James said.
"That's something I'll work with Al on," James said. "It's really going to be Al communicating with us how it best works for us to meet the penalty, at the same time what's best for the football program understanding we have that flexibility with these nine that we can allocate them over a three-year period."
> What was Blake's reaction to Tuesday's news?
"First of first reactions I was pleased to be at the end of the process," he said. "Obviously it's a process I think that's worn on all of us. It's something that as an institution we've taken very seriously. I was pleased to get to the end of the process. In terms of looking at the sanctions, we're looking at nine scholarships for football. I would say, being honest, being a part of the process, it was something I thought was in line with what I expected, but still something that was very significant.
"I would say the same with basketball -- again in line with what I was expecting based on the case. With that said, very significant along with many of the sanctions we've put in place, many of which have been very public setting up the bowl bans, two bowls and an ACC championship. And some that until today we had been working on behind the scenes and working with the NCAA on."
James said if UM had been given another bowl ban it definitely would have been something the school appealed. But he didn't sense that coming.
"I think that was something that would have been real hard," James said of another bowl ban. "We have 115 young men in our program right now that are committed to achieving their goals. In many cases you have a group that hasn't been able to play in a bowl at all. In some case you have a few individuals that maybe got a chance to be a part of the Sun Bowl and that experience there, but really weren't active members of the team and have sat out on the sidelines the next few years.
"To have our young men not have that opportunity again would have been something that would have been very hard. But again, we respected the process and understood the Committee on Infractions was going to do what was best. I didn't feel another bowl justified and I was pleased to see the COI felt the same way. So I was very pleased we were able to go forward in that front."
James said he had been on the phone all morning with UM President Donna Shalala. Her reaction wasn't much different than his, he said.
"We've been in regular communication. I would say her feelings are very similar to mine," James aid. "Obviously we're disappointed that the institution had this situation occur. We're going to do things we need to do to make changes. Many of those are already in place. We'll continue to educate our people. We'll continue to closely monitor the program and we'll move forward as the great athletic program we are representing one of the finest institutions in the country."
This obviously isn't the first time Miami has dealt with sanctions. What kind of changes has Blake seen from the athletic department when it comes to compliance since taking the athletic director job? Plenty, he said.
"I think it's a situation where I first got here we had a very established compliance program in that they were looking to do all the things they needed to do with enforcement. How we ended up missing some of the violations that occurred is the disappointing part because I think the people we had in place were professional and did the best job they could," James said.
"I think it's a situation where maybe we didn't do some of the education that we're doing now. You see those things being in place. If you look at it from my time being a senior associate to my time now I would really say the biggest change is just the educational aspect. I think we have made some structural changes and our approach on things is really trying to make everyone understand what the rules are and how we have to operate within those rules. I wouldn't say that wasn't the case here before. Obviously there's something amiss we had this going on for 10 years. Not being here for the vast majority of that time it's hard for me to speculate on that because I know people that were here before were very dedicated to putting an institution in the best light. I know I struggle with how something like this could happen."
James said UM will not cut ties with former players as USC did.
"Again, based on the COI report there wasn't any mention of any type of disassociation," James said. "I would say that isn't something at this time we need to move forward with given the results of the findings."
From a purely personal standpoint how does James feel now that this is over?
"Again, I'm happy the process is completed," he said. "Obviously I hope this is a situation I never have to go through again, and I can assure all of us I will do everything I can to put systems in place to avoid this situation again. [I'm also] disappointed our program has gone through the challenging time it has over the last few years. It's been hard on our coaches, hard our student-athletes and hard on our administration and staff. I think we all recognize that and are all happy to move full speed ahead."
University of Miami Head Football Coach Al Golden:
“I want to sincerely thank our student-athletes and their families who, not only stood with the University of Miami during this unprecedented challenge, but subsequently volunteered for the mission. They shouldered the burden, exhibited class and exemplified perseverance for Hurricanes everywhere.
“Further, I would like to express heartfelt appreciation to our staff and families who did not subscribe to this challenge three years ago, yet courageously adopted it as their own. They have brought the utmost professionalism, resiliency and integrity to our program. More importantly, they continue to recruit and represent our world-class institution with class and dignity in unprecedented circumstance.
“Lastly, it is with gratitude and humility that I say thank you to our administration, U Family everywhere and the entire South Florida Community for their unyielding support of our young men and program over the last 28 months.”
University of Miami Head Basketball Coach Jim Larrañaga:
"I am a big believer that success is based on attitude. We continually remind our players that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
“We will continue to approach our work with a positive attitude as we march towards being the best we can be. I am grateful to our administration and counsel for leading us through this difficult journey and I want to thank everyone who loves this University and who has supported the young men who proudly wear the Miami uniform. We are excited about the upcoming season and we are all moving forward.”
The news is officially out from the NCAA on UM -- and it's better than anticipated. LINK TO COMPLETE REPORT
HERE IS THE LIST OF SANCTIONS FROM THE NCAA ON UM
> Public reprimand and censure.
> Three years of probation from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2016.
> Former assistant football coach B (Clint Hurtt) penalties: A two-year show-cause order from October 22, 2013 through October 21, 2015. The public report contains further details. The committee also adopted penalties imposed by the coach’s current employing university, which are detailed in the public report.
> Former assistant football coach C (Aubrey Hill) penalties: A two-year show-cause order from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2015. The public report contains further details.
> Former head men’s basketball coach Frank Haith penalties: A suspension for the first five regular-season games of the 2013-14 season. Attendance at one NCAA Regional Rules seminar at the conclusion of the 2013-14 academic year.
> Former assistant men’s basketball coach B (Jorge Fernandez) penalties: A two-year show-cause order from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2015. The public report contains further details.
Football program penalties
> Reduction of football scholarship by a combined total of nine during the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
> Miami may only provide a prospect on unofficial visits complementary tickets for one home game during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
Self-imposed by the university
> Two year bowl ban following the 2011 and 2012 seasons, including the 2012 ACC Championship game.
> Reduction of official paid visits for 2012-13 by 20 percent to a total of 36 visits.
> Reduction of fall evaluations in 2012-13 by six (from 42 to 36).
> Reduction of available contact days during the 2012-13 contact period by 20 percent.
Men’s basketball program penalties
> Reduction in the number of men’s basketball scholarships by one during the each of the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
> Additional penalties: For all sports, any staff member who sends an impermissible text to a prospect will be fined a minimum of $100 per message, and coaches will be suspended from all recruiting activities for seven days.
> Further penalties resulting from impermissible texts and phone calls are detailed in the public report.
Hurricane coach Al Golden, who has dealt with the NCAA investigation since his first fall practice, declined to address Tuesday impending announcement after participating in his weekly radio segment Monday night in Coconut Grove.
“I’m not going to get into it, guys. I apologize. I haven’t talked to the president or the AD," said Golden, when approached by a throng of reporters outside of Sandbar Grill, site of Hurricane Hotline.
Asked what he said to his players, Golden didn't budge.
“Guys, I’ve been respectful as you can be for 28 months," Golden said. "I don't know anything that you guys don’t know and I haven’t talked to either of my superiors. So in deference to that, I’m not going to comment on anything."
The Miami Hurricanes look to open ACC play with a win over Georgia Tech this afternoon at Sun Life Staidum. UM hasn't been 5-0 since it started the 2004 season 6-0.
Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. The game is being televised on ESPNU. Feel free to follow the game with us here and participate in our CoverItLive discussion.
> As reported earlier, right tackle Seantrel Henderson has been suspended for today's game by UM for violation of team rules. Henderson, a senior, has made 21 starts in his career and now been suspended at least three times. Jonathan Feliciano will start in his place at right tackle. Malcolm Bunche will start at left guard.
TAMPA -- You know the drill.
Your Miami Hurricanes (3-0) are playing at Raymond James Stadium against the winless USF Bulls (0-3). Kickoff is at noon. Today's game can be seen on ESPNU. Hope you have it.
Al Golden has played up USF's defense. Bulls coach Willie Taggart is a good coach and eventually should right the ship. But it shouldn't be much of a contest today.
Vegas lists Miami as an 18.5 point favorite. I've got the Canes winning 44-7.
The Hurricanes (2-0) host 60-point underdog Savannah State (1-2) tonight at 7.
The game can be seen on ESPN3 and heard on WQAM (560 AM).
As usual, join our live chat or follow me on Twitter for updates.
O'Donnell rebounded from blocked punt with two game-changing punts in the second quarter, plus other notes
It's not often the punter gets invited to the post-game victory press conference.
But Pat O'Donnell earned himself a place in the spotlight Saturday afternoon with a pair of booming punts in the second quarter while the Hurricanes offense was struggling and the defense badly needed to shift field position.
"We're grateful for Pat O'Donnell. That's all I'm going to say," said sophomore rush end Tyriq McCord, who had the sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery that led to the decisive touchdown run by Duke Johnson.
"He's amazing. In practice he's always booting it about 100 yards average. That's all I can say."
O'Donnell, a graduate student and transfer from Cincinnati, crushed a 55-yard punt from Miami's 17-yard line after the Hurricanes offense went three-and-out to open the second quarter. He then shifted the field again with a 60-yarder, his longest punt of the season, after another three-and-out and Miami pinned back at its 16.
It was a nice bounce-back effort considering the day didn't exactly start great. Florida produced it's 13th blocked kick under coach Will Muschamp when Louichez Purifoy broke through and blockedhis first punt that led to Florida's first touchdown.
"As a punter, that's your job to flip the field when you can," O'Donnell said. "Unfortunately we had some events in the game that didn't go our way. I tip our hats to the Florida Gators. They did a good job rushing the punt."
Saturday's first quarter was one to remember for quarterback Stephen Morris and the Hurricanes, who put up 14 quick points on a seven-yard TD pass to Herb Waters and then a 52-yard scoring pass to Phillip Dorsett.
But the final three quarters were a nightmare.
UM only produced four first downs and 69 yards on 35 plays after exploding out of the gate with 143 yards over the first 15 minutes. Duke Johnson ran for 39 yards in the first quarter, but only 20 more over his final 15 attempts. Morris finished 12 of 25 passing for 162 yards and an interception after going 8-of-11 for 101 yards to open the game.
UM's 212 total yards of offense were the fewest since a 31-7 loss at Virginia Tech in 2009.
"They have a great defense, one of the best defenses we’re going to play all year, one of the best defenses in the country," said Johnson, who was babying his left foot after the game. "They just came out and did their job and did it better than I expected."
Said Morris: "They made a lot of great adjustments. They knew when we were going to run and throw it. that was the best defensive line I ever went against, but we did what we needed to do to win the game."
MOVING UP THE POLLS
The Hurricanes, who broke into the polls earlier this week for the first time under coach Al Golden at No. 24 in the ESPN Coaches' poll, should find themselves moving up when the new polls are released Sunday.
Morris, who said Tuesday he could give "two you know whats" about where Miami was ranked, kept the same mindset after Saturday's win.
"It really doesn’t matter to me or this team," Morris said. "Whoever is in front of us we’re going to look at as a threat and we’ve got to do our best to win that game, no matter what we’re ranked no matter; if we’re not ranked. Our biggest focus is to continue on and moving forward."
> Safety A.J. Highsmith had the tackle on Florida's failed two-point conversion attempt and the recovery on the Gators' failed onside kick attempt late in the game.
> Senior Seantrel Henderson made his first start of the season at right tackle. Junior Jonathan Feliciano, who started at right tackle in the open, slid to left guard. The rest of Miami's starters remained the same.
> Safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who had an interception in the first half, was helped off the field with 5:29 to play in the third quarter. Trainers were looking at his left leg.
> Linebacker Thurston Armbrister left the game with a left ankle injury early in the fourth quarter.
I shot this video in the tunnel. Listen to them sing: "It's Great to be a Miami Hurricane!"
It's the big day.
We'll be hosting our live chat as usual. Join us in CoverItLive.
Kickoff is at noon. Gators are a three-point favorite. Game can be seen on ESPN and heard on WQAM (560 AM locally). Make sure to follow me on Twitter @Manny_Navarro. I posted plenty of pregame Vines and photos.
Looking to score some last-minute Canes-Gators tickets? SeatGeek tells us how much they are going for
Here is the latest on secondary ticket sales for Saturday's game between the Gators and Hurricanes from SeatGeek analyst Connor Gregoire.
> To follow up on our phone call earlier, here is what we've found on tomorrow's UF-Miami game. Regarding your question about volume, we've seen about 10,000 tickets change hands, and the market for this game is the most active of any in college football this weekend, including Notre Dame-Michigan.
> With an average ticket price of $188, this Saturday's Florida-Miami game is the most in-demand Hurricanes home game we've ever tracked, topping the average price of FSU-Miami in 2010 ($145 average ticket price) by 30 percent. Interestingly enough, the Gators have only hosted one game with a higher demand for tickets on the secondary market -- their October 2011 meeting with Alabama ($285 average ticket price).
> Among home games for ACC teams since 2010, only four games have ever demanded a higher average ticket price -- South Carolina-Clemson in 2012 ($194), Notre Dame-Boston College in 2010 ($198), Oklahoma-Florida State in 2011 ($215) and Georgia-Clemson last weekend ($279).
> Over the past week, tickets in the upper deck are selling for an average of $131 per ticket, while it is costing an average of $236 per ticket to sit in the lower level and an average of $327 for a seat in the club level. The cheapest ticket we've seen sell went for $76 in the upper deck, and the most anyone has paid per ticket is $598 for club seats.
> Right now on SeatGeek, the least expensive tickets available are $123 apiece in the upper deck. All the latest information on ticket prices and availability can be found on SeatGeek’s event page for the game.
There's been a little confusion all week about which jerseys the Hurricanes will be wearing this week.
As of lunchtime Friday, two UM spokesman have told The Herald players will be wearing orange tops for Saturday's showdown with the Gators. UM has asked fans to wear white as part of their "White Out the Gators" campaign.
Some fans are a bit confused as to why officials would ask its fans to wear white when the visiting Gators will be wearing white jerseys and UM will be in orange.
Miami associate athletic director Chris Freet pointed out that other sports teams -- like the Miami Heat -- have asked fans to wear white while the team has worn a different color jersey.
A UM student organization called Category 5 is distributing 6,000 white t-shirts that feature coach Al Golden’s tie and a pair of Sebastian the Ibis sunglasses for students on the lower level.
Freet said the student section will be packed Saturday.
The Gators are three-point favorites heading into Saturday's showdown with the Hurricanes. It's going to be a crazy and emotional atmosphere for the fans, who know this is probably the last time the teams will meet in the regular season.
So who owns the edge coming into the game? I'll break it down for you.
WHEN THE HURRICANES RUN THE BALL
> As dazzling and explosive as sophomore Duke Johnson has been since he arrived (he put up a career-high 186 yards last week against FAU), he's yet to have to shoulder a load bigger than 19 carries in a game and he has yet to deliver against top-end opponents. Last year against Miami's three ranked opponents (Notre Dame, Kansas State and Florida State) Johnson combined for 68 yards on 23 attempts (2.96 per carry) without a touchdown. Johnson said he trained all off-season, got bigger and stronger for a game like Saturday's. Florida returns only three starters from last season's top five scoring and run defense, but still has 15 players back from its two-deep at the end of the 2012 season. The Gators, whose longest run allowed all of 2012 was 25 yards, held Toledo to only 50 yards total on the ground in the opener. Florida held seven teams under 100 yards rushing last season and are 17-2 under coach Will Muschamp when they out gain their opponents on the ground, but 2-6 when they lose the rushing battle. This is a huge test for Johnson and Miami's formidable offensive line. Edge: Even.
WHEN THE HURRICANES PASS THE BALL
> As hot as Canes quarterback Stephen Morris finished last season, he really didn't put up great performances against Miami's toughest foes, throwing for only 639 combined yards, one touchdown and one interception against UM's ranked opponents in 2012. He was also sacked nine times combined in those three games compared to seven the rest of the season. Florida's pass defense ranked second nationally in efficiency in 2012, allowing a mere 5.63 yards per passing attempt (fourth best). Creating pressure on opposing quarterbacks is a big key to Florida's defensive success. They racked up 30 sacks last year and forced 13 fumbles. They also picked off 20 passes (7th nationally). Junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (St. Thomas Aquinas) finished third in the SEC with 14 pass breakups a year ago. He'll be blanketing Miami's 2012 leading receiver Phillip Dorsett, his former high school teammate at St. Thomas Aquinas, a lot in one-on-one coverage. Whoever wins the battle probably leads their team to victory. Edge: Even.
WHEN THE GATORS RUN THE BALL
> Florida improved to 13-0 under Muschamp last week when rushing for 150 yards or more. When the Gators don't run for 150 yards, they are 6-8 under Muschamp. Key to the game, anyone? Good starts (Gators are 4-7 when they are tied or trail at the half under Muschamp) and time of possession are also important for Florida's success. Playmaking sophomore tailback Matt Jones (6-2, 226) returns from a viral infection this week to start, but his backups did a fine job against Toledo last week as Mack Brown (5-11, 215), Valdez Showers (5-11, 190), Mark Herndon (5-9, 198) and freshman Kelvin Taylor (5-10, 214) combined for 218 of Florida's 262 rushing yards. Although UF's offensive line returns 89 career starts, right guard Jon Halapio (6-3, 320, 33 career starts) won't play against the Hurricanes as he is still recovering from injury. That's good news considering UM had one of the worst run defenses in the country last year (217.92 yards per game). The Canes are supposed to be bigger, stronger, deeper and better up front. They held FAU to only 3.1 yards a carry last week. But this is the real measuring stick game to see if this defense is physically ready for a heavyweight fight. Edge: Gators
WHEN THE GATORS PASS THE BALL
> Florida ranked 114th in passing last season, producing a mere 27 pass plays of 20 yards or more. Quarterback Jeff Driskel, UF's second leading rusher in 2012, completed a career-high 77.3 percent of his passes in the opening win over Toledo. But he only threw for 153 yards. That's efficient, not dangerous. That means the Hurricanes, led by Denzel Perryman, Anthony Chickillo and Jimmy Gaines can zero in on stopping the run and the short passing game. UM's five sacks last week were also an encouraging sign, though defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofro said only one of those sacks came as the result of a pressure from fewer than five pass rushers. He would like to be able to do it with four man fronts so he doesn't put extra strain on his secondary. Edge: Hurricanes.
> Florida punter Kyle Chirsty, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2012, averaged 45.8 yards a kick last season. Redshirt freshman Austin Hardin went 1-for-2 on field goal attempts in his debut last week against Toledo (he missed from 39 yards) as he attempts to replace Caleb Sturgis, the Dolphins new kicker. Roberson had four punt returns for 72 yards against Toledo, tied for the eighth best average in the nation. Florida has blocked 12 kicks during Muschamp's 27-game tenure as coach, including four field goals last year. Duke Johnson, one of the nation's premier kick and punt returners last season, didn't handle any special teams work in the opener against FAU. Will he this week? We'll see. Dorsett, Dallas Crawford and Stacy Coley handled all returns vs. FAU. UM probably has the advantage in the kicking game. Punter Pat O'Donnell, a transfer from Cincinnati, has a strong track record (44.8 average vs. FAU) and new kicker Matt Goudis drilled both of his field goal attempts last week. Edge: Even.
> UM coach Al Golden and his counterpart Muschamp took over two entirely different programs at the same time in Dec. 2010. Golden has had to deal with an NCAA investigation and rebuilding a program that was on a downward trend; Muschamp inherited an 8-4 program that simply needed a little retooling and still had momentum from 2006 and 2008 national championships. That being said, Florida has the track record it shows up more often in big games and in crunch time. The Gators beat seven bowl-eligible teams against the nation’s toughest schedule according to NCAA in 2012 and was 7-2 against bowl teams last season. UM went 0-3 in games against ranked opponents a year ago and 4-3 overall against schools who were bowl-eligible (not including a loss to North Carolina). When it comes to the fourth quarter, the Gators have the better track record. UM was outscored 113-102 in the fourth quarter last year. The Gators won the fourth quarter 128-32 in 2012. If the Canes win Saturday, they need to hold up four fingers and then prove they mean it. Edge: Florida.
The largest crowd in Sun Life Stadium history for a Hurricanes game is expected Saturday when the University of Miami hosts the Florida Gators in what could very well be the final regular season meeting between the two rivals.
And if you don't have a ticket yet expect to pay top dollar for a last minute seat. The game, long sold out, has individual tickets selling on the secondary market for close to $200.
The demand for Saturday's game has certainly helped the Hurricanes' season ticket sales. According to Chris Freet, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications and Marketing, only 350 to 400 of 30,000 season ticket packages remain. The cheapest are going for $390 with the most expensive stretching to $1,400.
UM sold a little less than 23,000 season tickets last year according to Freet.
Miami brought in an extra 1,313 seats behind the home team bench to accommodate a bigger crowd. Freet said capacity for Saturday's game has been set for 76,854.
The largest home crowd for a Hurricanes game at Sun Life was 75,115 for Florida State on Oct. 9, 2010. Miami, which has averaged about 48,560 fans a game since moving from the Orange Bowl, has only drawn better than 60,000 for a game five other times.
Those are: Oct. 20, 2012 vs. Florida State (73,328); Sept. 17, 2011 vs. Ohio State (66,279); Oct. 4, 2008 vs. Florida State (65,786); Sept. 5, 2011 vs. Duke (62,053); Oct. 3, 2009 vs. Oklahoma (61,790).
The largest crowd in Sun Life Stadium history for a college football game was 80,120 for last year's BCS title game between Alabama and Notre Dame.
Freet said Governor Charlie Crist and state senator Marco Rubio are expected to attend Saturday's game. Cortez Kennedy, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Ray Lewis and Bernie Kosar are among the former players who have already confirmed with UM they will attend.
Former Hurricanes basketball standout James Jones has also reserved a suite for him and several Heat teammates.
Freet said 115 recruits and 350 high school football coaches have been invited to the game by Miami.
Former Hurricanes quarterback Brock Berlin, a transfer from Florida, is UM's honorary captain and will be involved in the pre-game coin flip.
"We expect a few other local celebrities to come out of the wood work," Freet said.
With prepaid parking passes sold out, the only available parking spots at the stadium are in the auxiliary lots. They go for $30. You must show a game ticket to park.
"I know for 2010 Florida State game there were 8,000 people just partying in the auxiliary parking lot that never came into the game," Freet said. "Because the stadium just went through the BCS title game, I think they've got the patterns worked out and traffic will move pretty quickly. But everybody should add a little extra time for their drive and parking."
Duke Johnson followed up his stellar freshman campaign with a career-best performance in the season-opening win over Florida Atlantic, rushing for 186 yards on 19 attempts. So how does he feel about leading the nation in rushing after 1 week?
"... We've got bigger fish to fry, things to overcome than being No. 1 in the nation," Johnson said Monday.
The Hurricanes are facing one of the nation's top defenses Saturday in Florida. You know the Gators are going to be looking to punish Johnson at every turn. This has to be the game he not only shines above all others, but shows he can take that pounding, too. I asked Johnson why he thinks he can handle a heftier load. His answer: He spent all summer getting bigger for this moment. We'll find out for sure on Saturday.
> Hurricanes freshman receiver Stacy Coley talked about his two drops against FAU and how quarterback Stephen Morris and other veterans came up to talk about it with him after the game. Coley said he hasn't had two drops in the same game since he was a sophomore in high school. I expect the freshman to bounce back with a big game against Florida.
> Hurricanes receiver Phillip Dorsett said there is no trash-talking going on right now between the Canes and Gators. But with two former high school teammates from St. Thomas Aquinas -- cornerback Marcus Roberson and safety Cody Riggs -- roaming the Florida secondary Dorsett is looking forward to Saturday's game.
Dorsett also talks about the injury to Rashawn Scott and how the Canes collectively have to step up. Dorsett, the fastest Hurricane with a 4.29 time in the 40, only had two catches for 14 yards against FAU, but was bracketed and doubled often. He also said he was happy to speak with freshman Stacy Coley last Friday after his two drops. You might remember Dorsett had to deal with a case of the drops against Notre Dame.
> Among the more interesting thing Hurricanes defensive end Anthony Chickillo talked about Monday was how fresh the defensive line was in its win over FAU. That obviously hasn't always been the case. Chickillo, who has started since he was a freshman, said he played his fewest snaps ever at UM last Friday because the Hurricanes had more players to turn to. That's obviously a good sign.
> Tracy Howard said in camp he wanted to have 10 interceptions this season. He didn't have any against FAU, but maybe he will Saturday against Jeff Driskel and the Gators. You might remember, Florida was once the odds on favorite to land the nation's top cornerback in 2012 before teammate Malcolm Lewis and coach Al Golden convinced Howard to stay in town and play for Miami. Here is what Tracy talked about Monday.
Junior Rashawn Scott, Miami's second-leading receiver last season, will not be suiting up against the Gators Saturday and likely could be out a while after injuring his shoulder last Friday against FAU.
Scott had his left arm in a sling Monday as he watched practice in his jersey and shorts.
"It doesn't look good for this week. It looks like it's going to be a little bit longer than we want it to be," UM coach Al Golden said of Scott. "As soon as we make a definitive determination we'll let you know."
CanesInsider reported Scott has a broken collarbone and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks. Asked if the injury was a collarbone, Golden responded: "Shoulder."
"He's alright. He's dealt with something like this before," teammate Phillip Dorsett said. "He's not really down. He's still a good guy, still up, talking a lot, still in meetings. He'll be alright."
With Scott out, the Hurricanes are down to six healthy scholarship receivers. Asked if he might switch someone over to receiver to help out, Golden said: "No. D'Mauri [Jones] will have to step up. [Walk-on] Garrett Kidd will get some work there. We carry four tight ends. We'll have enough there."
> Freshman cornerback Corn Elder, who could play receiver if needed, said coaches have not talked to him about switching over to offense at all.
"I'm just working on getting better at corner and try to do whatever I can to help the team out," Elder said. "If needed, I'll do whatever they want. We haven't really talked [about a switch]. I'm just mastering my role at corner now."
> Golden was asked if he thinks there are any parallels between him and Gators coach Will Muschamp, who arrived at Florida at the same time time Golden did in Miami.
"They're coming off national championships in  and  and didn't have an NCAA thing. I don't think they are parallels at all," Golden said. "They're different jobs. I don't know Will. I have tremendous respect for him as a football coach and as a man and as a teacher. But I don't have a relationship with him and I don't him. I have respect for him, the job that he's done there. But I don't think you could compare the two right now."
Golden said the Gators definitely have Miami's attention.
"You just have to watch them on tape, that's how they get your attention," Golden said. "Big physical team, deep, speed, can really run to the ball on defense. Excellent special teams. They get after the quarterback. They get you in money down situations. They get after you with the pass rush, make big plays happen on the back end. On offense, they'll pound you. That's been our achilles heel. I'm sure that's what they're going to do. We got to buckle up and stop 'em."
Golden said he hopes to see improvement from the passing game this week.
"I was disappointed. We all were," Golden said. "Our completion percentage coming in right after the first scrimmage and coming to the game was really good. We were crisp. We weren't putting the ball on the ground. I was really excited where we were last Monday and Tuesday. And we didn't throw and catch very well, didn't convert on third down which hurt us in time of possession again. It's a challenge right now for everybody. I think were 58 percent in the game, not where we want to be. We have to do a better job certainly against this group Saturday."
> Golden said while the offensive line's conditioning was good last Friday, they abandoned technique at times.
The 2013 season is set to begin at 8 p.m. tonight against the visiting FAU Owls.
As per tradition, we will be hosting a live blog on CoverItLive here at Eye On The U. Tonight's game is being televised on ESPNU and broadcast on WQAM (560 AM), Radio Caracol (Spanish, 1260 AM), WVUM (90.5 FM) and XM 191 on Satellite Radio.
The Hurricanes are favored to beat the Owls by 32 points according to the spread makers in Las Vegas. FAU is coming off a 3-9 season and is under second-year coach Carl Pelini. The Owls are expected to play a couple guys under center, but it's likely sophomore Jaquez Johnson (6-1, 225) who will start. He'll get some help from freshmen Greg Hankerson (6-0, 172) and DJ Juste (6-2, 180).
OwlAccess.com reported Thursday that five players will sit out today's game with suspensions: starting slot receiver Daniel McKinney, tight end Darion Howard, running back Damian Fortner, defensive tackle Lance Burlingame and long-snapper Stephen Curtis. The last four are not starters.
Here is the live blog. Remember to login and keep it clean please. I'm picking Miami to win handily by the way.
Miami Hurricanes Video: Golden, D'Onofrio, Coley, Kehoe, Green and McCord talk FAU, season opener on Monday
The Hurricanes are only a few days away from opening the season Friday night against FAU.
Here are some video clips from this morning's press conference with Coach Al Golden, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, offensive coordinator James Coley, offensive line coach Art Kehoe, defensive end Shayon Green and linebacker Tyriq McCord.
With the NCAA expected to make its announcement regarding infractions in the near future (we have no idea exactly when) and a few former scholarship players leaving the program of late, I figured it might be a good time to go over exactly where the Hurricanes stand in term of scholarship numbers by position.
Unless something has changed since Monday (in terms of walk-ons and whom Al Golden has awarded a scholarship to) my estimation is the Hurricanes have 76 scholarship players, nine fewer than the 85 allowed.
HERE IS THE BREAKDOWN
> Offense: 36 scholarship players (5 QB, 6 RB, 7 WR, 5 TE, 13 OL); 9 walk-ons
> Defense: 38 scholarship players (16 DL, 9 LB, 13 DB); 8 walk-ons
> Special Teams: 2 scholarship players; 8 walk-ons
> Totals: 76 scholarships; 25 walk-ons
QUARTERBACK (5): Stephen Morris, Sr.; Ryan Williams, Jr.; Preston Dewey, R-Fr.; Gray Crow, R-Fr.; Kevin Olsen, Fr. Walk-on (2): Garrison Lassiter, Fr.; Michael Welch, Fr.
RUNNING BACK (6): Maurice Hagens, Sr.; Eduardo Clements, Sr.; Dallas Crawford, So.; Duke Johnson, So.; Walter Tucker, Fr.; Gus Edwards, Fr. Walk-ons (2): De'Andre Johnson, Jr.; Brandon Yosha, So.
RECEIVER (7): Allen Hurns, Sr.; Phillip Dorsett, Jr.; Rashawn Scott, Jr.; Malcolm Lewis, So.; Herb Waters, So.; D'Mauri Jones, R-Fr.; Stacy Coley, Fr. Walk-ons (5): Garrett Kidd, So.; Stephen Sweeney, So.; Malik Mayweather, Fr.; Greg Golden, Fr.; Josh Johnson, Fr.
TIGHT ENDS (5): Asante Cleveland, Sr.; Clive Walford, Jr.; Beau Sandland, Jr.; Jake O'Donnell, R-Fr.; Standish Dobard, Fr.
OFFENSIVE LINE (13): Jared Wheeler, Sr.; Brandon Linder, Sr.; Seantrel Henderson, Sr.; Jon Feliciano, Jr.; Malcolm Bunche, Jr.; Shane McDermott, Jr.; Hunter Wells, So.; Ereck Flowers, So.; Danny Isidora, R-Fr.; Taylor Gadbois, R-Fr.; Alex Gall, Fr.; Sunny Odogwu, Fr.; Hunter Knighton, Fr.
DEFENSIVE LINE (16): Curtis Porter, Sr.; Kelvin Cain, Sr.; Justin Renfrow, Sr.; David Gilbert, Sr.; Shayon Green, Sr.; Luther Robinson, Sr.; Anthony Chickillo, Jr.; David Perry, Jr.; Olsen Pierre, Jr.; Ufomba Kamalu, Jr.; Jelani Hamilton, So.; Corey King, So.; Earl Moore, So.; Dwayne Hoilett, R-Fr.; Al-Quadin Muhammad, Fr.; Naim Mustafaa, Fr. Walk-on (1): Anthony Naser, Jr.
LINEBACKER (9): Jimmy Gaines, Sr.; Tyrone Cornileus, Sr.; Denzel Perryman, Jr.; Thurston Armbrister, So.; Raphael Kirby, So.; Tyriq McCord, So.; JaWand Blue, R-Fr.; Alex Figueroa, Fr.; Jermaine Grace, Fr. Walk-ons (2): Akil Craig, Sr.; Jared Goldenberg, Fr.
DEFENSIVE BACK (13): A.J. Highsmith, Sr.; Kacy Rodgers, Sr.; Ladarius Gunter, Jr.; Tracy Howard, So.; Rayshawn Jenkins, So.; Antonio Crawford, So.; Deon Bush, So.; Nate Dortch, R-Fr.; Larry Hope, R-Fr.; Artie Burns, Fr.; Jamal Carter, Fr.; Ray Lewis III, Fr.; Corn Elder, Fr. Walk-ons (6): Hugo Delapenha Jr., Sr.; Alex Irastorza, Sr.; Nantambu-Akil Fentress, Jr.; Jordan Tolson, Jr.; Andrew McClelland, Fr.; Wyatt Chickillo, Fr.
KICKERS/PUNTERS (2): Matt Goudis, So.; Pat O'Donnell, Sr. Walk-on (4): Josh Bacon, Fr.; Austin Barnard, Fr.; Ricky Carroll, R-Jr.; Grant Coffman, Fr.
LONG-SNAPPERS - Walk-ons (4): Sean McNally, Sr.; Paul Kelly, Sr.; Ronald Regula, Jr.; Frank Gabriel, So.
Stephen Morris and Ryan Williams each threw two touchdown passes, and kicker Matt Goudis was a perfect 2-for-2 on field goals during the Hurricanes' second and final fall scrimmage Friday night.
Freshman receiver Stacy Coley caught both of Williams' TD passes. Morris' TDs went for over 50 yards.
UM played under the lights at Cobb Stadium and the scrimmage lasted nearly two hours.
The first half of the scrimmage featured the first-team offense vs. the first-team defense. After a brief halftime, the second-team offense squared off against the second-team defense.
Prior to the game, the Hurricanes presented Jack Jablonski with a jersey. Jablonski was a Minnesota prep hockey standout who was paralyzed after being checked into the boards during a tournament in December 2011.
BankUnited #CanesFest13 will be held Saturday from 4-7 p.m. at the BankUnited Center.
Members of the football, basketball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, volleyball and swimming & diving programs will be in attendance. Admission and parking is free to the public.
This was an edited version of the release UM's Sports Information staff sent out tonight...
Defensive lineman Jalen Grimble, tabbed as a four-star recruit out of Las Vegas in Al Golden's first signing class at Miami, has left the Hurricanes football program a University of Miami spokesman confirmed late Tuesday.
Miami recently announced the additions of two transfers on the defensive line: former Wisconsin standout David Gilbert and former Virginia backup lineman Justin Renfrow.
Grimble had last appeared on Miami's depth chart before the USF game on Nov. 17.
UM's sports information staff tweeted birthday wishes to Jalen on Aug. 10. The picture is to the right.
The Miami Hurricanes held their first closed preseason scrimmage of the fall Sunday, a scripted 90-minute exhibition with referees and artificial crowd noise in mid-90 degree heat.
According to UM's sports information staff, Stephen Morris threw two TDs, a one-yarder to fullback Maurice Hagens and a 30-yarder in which receiver Phillip Dorsett made an over-the-shoulder catch to end the scrimmage. Redshirt freshman running back Danny Dillard posted a 3-yard TD and senior RB Eduardo Clements later found pay dirt from six yards out – all after initial contact to barrel into the end zone.
Defensively, the Hurricanes registered three sacks, four tackles for loss, three pass deflections and three pass break-ups.
Sophomore kicker Matt Goudis was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, knocking home all three kicks from between 45-47 yards out.
Several players were held out of action. Junior DL David Perry, sophomore DB Deon Bush and sophomore RB Brandon Yosha were in red (non-contact) jerseys, while six other Canes were not in pads – junior DE Ufomba Kamalu, senior DT Justin Renfrow, senior DE David Gilbert, junior DE Anthony Naser, freshman OL Hunter Knighton and freshman DE Naim Mustafaa.
The scrimmage opened with goal line and short yardage situations as the offense showcased a number of different looks. The next set of plays flipped the field, with the ball being spotted inside the five-yard line.
The Hurricanes are off Monday and will return to practice Tuesday morning with their second two-a-days practice of camp.
Busy day at UM today since it was Media Day. Got oodles of video, audio and written content to share.
Couple quick notes:
> Got to watch the final 30 minutes of practice today (a rarity since the media isn't allowed to watch beyond stretching). Defense was very impressive. First time since Kirby Freeman was around that I thought the defense actually looked better than the offense.
> Sophomore Antonio Crawford looked like an absolute beast (had two pass breakups against freshman Stacy Coley). Also like the impact Curtis Porter has at defensive tackle. Quite obvious defense is better with him.
> Pass rush and pass coverage looked a lot better. Run gap assignment still appears to be a work in progress. Duke Johnson and Dallas Crawford were able to break free for long runs because guys weren't where they needed to be. Still, defense won a lot of the head-to-head battles. More on practice later.
> UM released it's new depth chart.
> Even though defensive tackle Olsen Pierre is now listed as the starter at end ahead of Anthony Chickillo don't read too much into it. Pierre said he's only getting snaps there as a backup. Chickillo was injured this week and missed a lot of practice.
> The fact Thurston Armbrister is now listed as the starter at strongside linebacker ahead of freshman Alex Figueroa is probably a move to create more motivation for Figueroa, who is obviously still adjusting himself to the playbook, etc.
> The most interesting battle for me will be who emerges as the team's fourth cornerback. Freshman Artie Burns has been impressive and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio echoed those sentiments saying he's giving Nate Dortch a battle there.
> Offensively the big shakeup was Jonathan Feliciano moving past Malcolm Bunche as the starter at left guard. Again, don't read too much into it. Bunche was running with the ones today. Odds are he and Feliciano will split a lot of playing time anyway.
> Meet freshman defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, easily the most interesting interview of the day. Kid says told me he has moves some people have probably never seen others make. D'Onofrio and Golden love him.
> He's only a freshman, but cornerback Ray Lewis III is already showing us he's capable of speaking in front of cameras and maybe speaking up and delivering speeches to the entire team.
> Meet linebacker Alex Figueroa, easily the freshman most likely to play a ton this season. He talked about sitting out a season and what his expectations are this season at UM. He's currently listed second at strongside linebacker.
> Meet tight end Standish Dobard, who like Figueroa has been around since the spring. He said getting lit up by sophomore linebacker Raphael Kirby this spring was his welcome to college moment.
> Meet freshman receiver Stacy Coley, who talks about what he needs to improve now that he's in college.
Three practices into fall camp is hardly enough time for Al Golden to make a determination on which freshmen will actually make an impact this coming season. But so far, it's safe to say cornerback Artie Burns, receiver Stacy Coley and defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad have shown flashes that have caught Golden's eye.
"The first battle as a freshman is to come in shape. The second battle is to know your stuff and clearly those two (Burns and Coley) have made progress," Golden said. "They aren't where they need to be yet, but there's a little poise about Artie Burns. You coach him everyday and he looks you right in the eye. He's not too high, not too low and he's ready to move on."
Golden said Burns, a 6-1, 190-pound former standout at Miami Northwestern, and Coley, a 6-1, 180-pound standout from Oakland Park Northeast, have risen to the challenge everyday in practice.
As for Muhammad, a 6-3, 230-pound standout from New Jersey powerhouse Don Bosco Prep, Golden complimented him by calling him "twitchy."
"When somebody is explosive or somebody is sudden, you can feel it," Golden said. "Sometimes you can see it on the film. But when you get to this level, when you have a lot of guys that have twitch, sometimes you just see there is a little difference in one guy. I think Quan is a very explosive young man. He has to understand the system, get bigger and stronger and all that. But he has twitch.
"He can go from a standing position to five, seven, 10 yards in a very short period of time. The guys that can do that irrespective of their body size have a chance to continue improve and grow and be a difference maker."
Golden also mentioned receiver Corn Elder (out with a hamstring injury), bruising running back Gus Edwards (6-2, 225) and offensive tackle Alex Gall (6-5, 304) as other freshmen standouts.
> If you haven't heard by now, receiver Phillip Dorsett (5-9, 179) put up the fastest 40-time on the team during off-season testing, posting an eye-opening 4.29 seconds. Dorsett ran a 4.39 a year ago.
"I kind of knew I was going to run it," Dorsett said of his blazing time. "I kept messing with [conditioning coach Andrew] Swasey telling him I was going to run it. I wasn't really shocked, just more relieved I put up a legit time like that."
Dorsett, who runs track, said he spent a lot of time this off-season working on "lower body explosion" and converting his speed "to breaking down and helping me run better routes, working on my hands a lot."
"I feel like I'm a lot better receiver," Dorsett said. "I can't wait to go out there and show it."
OTHER NOTES FROM TUESDAY
> Three players were in a red non-contact jersey Tuesday: safety Deon Bush (sports hernia surgery), defensive end Anthony Chickillo (ankle) and receiver Corn Elder (hamstring). Golden said Chickillo was moving better before practice and would likely get integrated more into practice on Wednesday.
> Freshman offensive lineman Sunny Odogwu spent his second straight day in a yellow limited-contact jersey.
> Quarterback Stephen Morris said he watched film and worked on his footwork this off-season with former Hurricanes quarterback Steve Walsh.
**** The following notes are from UM's sports information department following practice ****
## During stretching, the team listed to a Michael Irvin speech before the tones of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby” filled the air at the Greentree.
## The offense dominated early, winning 10-2 in first 11-on-11 drill, winning the WR vs DB drill and the red zone skeleton.
## Following the three straight losses, junior LB Denzel Perryman called the defense together and spoke about the importance of accountability. He emphasized, focus, communication and execution. Senior LB Jimmy Gaines also spoke about the keys to defensive success in the huddle.
## The defense rallied to win the next 11-on-11 drill, despite senior QB Stephen Morris connecting with sophomore RB Duke Johnson on a wheel route for a TD and TD runs from running backs Dallas Crawford and Danny Dillard.
## The two units tied in the next 11-on-11 drill with senior DB AJ Highsmith recovering a Duke Johnson fumble. Johnson rebounded in the 2-minute drill, scoring a TD on the first play with a long run up the middle. But the defense won the 2-minute drill, with freshman LB Alex Figueroa picking up a tackle for loss to help seal the victory.
CHECK ON TUESDAY'S VIDEO MONTAGE FROM PRACTICE
> Watch incoming and former JUCO defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu (6-6, 285) walk the sidelines. He's the guy on the right.
> Watch the Canes do tip drills.
> Watch offensive guard Jonathan Feliciano take on defensive tackle Olsen Pierre in a one-on-one battle at practice.
> Watch offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson take on defensive lineman Jalen Grimble in a one-on-one battle.
> Watch defensive lineman Jalen Grimble work with position coach Jethro Franklin during drills.
Moments after concluding his pre-practice press conference Saturday morning, Hurricanes football coach Al Golden jogged past his defense, shook his head and smiled.
In case you hadn't heard Golden say it the first time, he said it again Saturday. His team is bigger, more mature. And in college football that matters quite a bit. Aside from that four letter word Golden doesn't want to use (the NCAA), size and maturity have been Miami's biggest obstacles on the field the last two years (specifically on defense).
While the offense hummed with Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson behind the wheel last season, Miami's defense played most Saturdays like they were listening to Miley Cyrus' new song We Can't Stop (as in anybody).
Opponents averaged 30.5 points per game (ranked 82nd out of 120 FBS programs). Quarterbacks had all day to throw (UM's 13 sacks ranked 113th) and the run defense was historically bad (ranked 112th, giving up 217 yards per game). The secondary? Sure, they forced more turnovers (11 INTs, 11 fumbles) but even the worst quarterbacks in the country often looked like Heisman candidates (UM's pass defense ranked 102nd overall and gave up 268.5 yards per game).
Youth, inexperience, lack of depth -- particularly up front -- were the excuses put forth. Most of it valid of course. But those excuses are officially old now.
Especially when Golden says things like this Saturday: "We didn't have anybody not pass the [conditioning] test for the first time since I've been here... They demolished it, absolutely crushed it."
Two years ago -- Golden points out -- half the team couldn't pass the conditioning test. He had everyone out on the field at 5:30 a.m. to do extra conditioning so they could try to be physically ready to go. It took away focus. Saturday the team began fall camp without schedules, Golden said. "We're having the leaders run it," he said.
Junior defensive end Anthony Chickillo, once thrown into the fire as a baby-faced freshman at 6-4, 248 pounds, sat down and spoke to reporters at 6-4, 275 pounds. Remember what it was like that first game at Maryland two years ago, Chickillo was asked?
"I was ready to play mentally, but from a physical standpoint my body wasn't where it needed to be," said Chickillo, who now benches more than 400 pounds, squats around 500, power cleans 350 and recently benched the NFL-testing standard of 225 pounds 29 times (up from 27 last year).
"That's what we've been working on," he continues of getting bigger and stronger. "I want to hold the point [of attack], be more durable, whatever I can to help the team win. I've actually gotten faster with my weight. I'd say I'm more explosive. I feel good.
"We feel like as a defense we got big this off-season. We're proud of that."
The growth in size can be seen everywhere. Sophomore defensive end Jelani Hamilton has gained 14 pounds since last season. He's 6-5, 285 pounds now. Redshirt sophomore David Perry has gained 12 pounds and is now listed at 6-7, 277 pounds.
Defensive tackle Olsen Pierre, once 6-4, 265 as a freshman, is now 6-4, 305 pounds as a junior. Luther Robinson (6-3, 303) has gained 13 pounds since last season. Often-injured Curtis Porter is up eight pounds (6-1, 316).
The linebackers? Denzel Perryman (6-0, 240) and Tyrone Cornelius (6-2, 225) are both 10 pounds heavier than they were last season. Middle linebacker candidate Jimmy Gaines (6-3, 240) has gained eight pounds. Sophomore Raphael Kirby (6-0, 235) has gained a dozen. Former defensive back Thurston Armbrister (6-3, 233) has gained 11 pounds since his first year at linebacker in 2012.
"I thank [conditioning coach] Andrew Swasey everyday," said Perryman, who came to UM weighing 205 pounds and played at 217 as a freshman.
So bigger has been established. Maturity too (bad seeds Gionni Paul, Eddie Johnson, Thomas Finnie are gone). Proving they are better is what they have to do next.
UM defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio didn't make it out to practice early enough to address the media Saturday. But the truth is you don't need to hear anything from D'Onofrio until after his unit hits the field on game day. That's when they'll start answering the real questions. If this team is going to be better, defense is where it starts.
Lack of size is no longer an excuse. At least it wasn't Saturday. In fact, for the first time Golden was hooting and hollering about how big his guys looked.
MORE NEWS AND NOTES
> Chickillo, who led the team last season with four sacks, spent the off-season working on his flexibility and refining his technique. He also studied film of NFL stars Chris Long, JJ Watt, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Mario Williams. "I really wanted to see how they get after it," Chickillo said.
> Sophomore cornerback Tracy Howard, who finished his freshman season strong said his goal this season is to produce 10 interceptions. "It's possible," he said. "It hasn't been done before, but with the system we run we're going to have a chance to make a lot of plays."
> Of the criticism of UM's defense, Perryman said he takes it personal. "What's bothered me the most is when I know as a defense it's one of those woulda, shoulda, coulda deals. That one mistake would cost us everything."
Said Howard: "We hear about it day in and day out. We got to prove ourselves, prove it to the coaches. We have to prove we can be a top defense in the country. Even prove it to the fans. They pay their money to come watch us. We owe it to the fans [to be better]."
> UM coach Al Golden said the reason quarterback Stephen Morris and defensive end Shayon Green were chosen as captains is because they've "distinguished themselves .... not just as guys who do their job everyday, but who people will follow."
> UM plans to be careful with the reps of receiver Malcolm Lewis initially, but Golden expects him to be full-go by the time the season starts. Golden is still impressed Lewis is ready to go after his horrific injury last year. "He made the conditioning test," Golden said. "What a marvel of medicine."
> Golden said safety Deon Bush, coming off sports hernia surgery, should be fully integrated into practice in a week. Running back Eduardo Clements (neck) is full-go at practice already.
> Golden said the first 72 hours of camp will be pivotal to seeing which freshmen "can make a run at a position or help the squad." Asked which freshmen he's most excited to see the first names out of Golden's mouth were receiver Stacy Coley, running back Gus Edwards and defensive back Artie Burns.
Here is the pre-camp depth chart released by the University of Miami sports information staff a little after 9 p.m. Wednesday. Fall camp begins Saturday.
> In case you missed it, our Barry Jackson had a stellar preview of the top position battles heading into the start of fall camp in Wednesday's edition of his Sports Buzz.
Blanche Ely football coach Charles Hafley has been around Broward County for about a decade, long enough to see how the University of Miami has been run differently under its last three head coaches.
When it's come to building relationships in the Hurricanes' backyard, it's the current guy in charge -- Al Golden -- whom Hafley said has figured out the best way to establish real meaningful connections, one that netted UM another commitment Tuesday morning in Ely linebacker Terry McCray.
Listed at 6-3, 220-pounds according to Hafley, McCray is ranked a three-star recruit according to 247Sports.com and the nation's 58th-best inside linebacker. Although rated just a two-star recruit by Rivals, McCray had BCS offers from Syracuse, Minnesota, Cincinnati and West Virginia and is a player the Hurricanes have been on since last October, Hafley said.
A Third Team All-Broward selection by The Miami Herald, McCray finished his junior season with 89 solo tackles, 13 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Hafley said McCray has a 2.5 GPA and recently took the ACT, but still hasn't received the test score. He believes McCray will qualify at UM.
"They're recruiting him as an outside linebacker," Hafley said. "They really like his hybrid ability there, the way he rushes the quarterback and makes plays. What separates Terry is his knack and ability to be a student of the game. He comes in and watches film. He does what it takes to be a better leader. He's a 305-pound bencher, 200-pound power cleaner and 505-pound squatter. Runs a 4.6 [in the 40]. He's a phenomenal football player. We're going to move him around so teams can't get a beat on him.
What makes McCray's commitment significant for the Hurricanes is that he's the first player from Ely since four players from the Tigers last state championship team (2002) -- Tyrone Moss, Andrew Bain, Teraz McCray, and Cyrim Wimbs -- decided to head to Coral Gables. UM tried unsuccessfully to recruit others from Ely after that including star cornerback Patrick Peterson and most recently Rashard Robinson a year ago. Both went to LSU.
McCray's commitment gives the Hurricanes 24 total in the Class of 2014 including 15 from the South Florida area. Ten are from Miami-Dade, three from Broward and two from Palm Beach.
"Coach [Paul] Williams and Coach Golden did a great job of recruiting Terry," Hafley said. "South Florida has always been and always will be UM territory. Coach Shannon, Coach Coker knew that. But at the end of the day, Coach Golden is just going beyond the call of building relationships. His coaching staff and his support staff as well.
"To me, it's community service projects, the camps. They had Stephen Morris, [Denzel Perryman], [Tracy Howard] at the park down here in our neighborhood recently. The players are the ones really selling the program. Howard did a great job communicating and telling the kids what UM is all about, about it's family atmosphere. It's something that is big for the high school kids and younger kids to hear it from someone from their own backyard."
Hafley said Golden, who took over in 2011 after coming over from Temple, has built stronger relationships with head coaches and programs in South Florida.
"When Coach Golden came to recruit a previous player from here last year [Robinson] he took time to speak to staff members so he can build those relationships," Hafley said. "He's really winning over the South Florida coaching community by doing those things and the clinics they have.
"He's invited myself down to speak with him one-on-one. He's done that with a lot of other head coaches. It's that personal relationship he has with all the coaches that helps them in the long run."
Rivals.com currently ranks UM's class third behind Tennessee (24 commitments) and Florida State (22 commitments). 247Sports.com ranks UM's class fifth behind Tennessee, FSU, Georgia (16 commitments) and Alabama (15 commitments). ESPN, which moved UM up five spots after last week's commitments from Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas and cornerback Nigel Bethel, had UM ranked seventh prior to Tuesday's commitment from McCray.
NEW YORK -- It's that time of year when just about every top college football player in the country ends up on a preseason award watch list.
Hurricanes receiver Phillip Dorsett became the latest player at UM to end up on one Tuesday afternoon when the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation selected him as well as nine other receivers from the ACC to the preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the game's top receiver each season.
The list, which includes 75 names in all, won't get cut down to 10 semifinalists until Nov. 18 and three finalists until Nov. 25 before the award itself is handed out Dec. 12 during the The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN.
Of all the Hurricanes nominated for preseason awards Dorsett, sophomore tailback Duke Johnson and quarterback Stephen Morris are the players who I think have the best shot at actually reaching the semifinal stage and perhaps beyond.
Other Hurricanes on preseason watch lists:
> Paul Hornung Award (most versatile player in college football): RB Duke Johnson.
> Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year): RB Duke Johnson and QB Stephen Morris.
> John Mackey Award (top tight end): TE Clive Walford.
> Rimington Award (top center): C Shane McDermott
> Ray Guy Award (top punter): P Pat O'Donnell
> Outland Trophy (outstanding interior lineman): OG Brandon Linder