January 15, 2015

On second thought, Elder and Jones stick to football

UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga, tickled to see a crowded interview room after the Canes' huge road upset over No. 4 Duke, opened by announcing that, upon further review, football players Corn Elder and D'Mauri Jones decided to stick to football and not play for the basketball team.

"Despite how excited myself and my staff were about having Corn Elder and D’Mauri Jones join us, those guys realized the amount of work they have to do academically and still with football, and the time commitment was just going to be way too much, so neither will be with us any further. Corn was with us two practices, D’Mauri just watched, and realized, `Well, maybe I need to just concentrate on the football.'’’

(My translation: Perhaps they realized just how serious college basketball is, how skilled the players are, how hard the practicees are, and it would be hard to just dabble in it. It requires a bigger commitment than they have time or energy to give)

--Michelle Kaufman

January 14, 2015

Blake James explains why 'Fire Al Golden' and 'Bring Back Butch' posters taken from UM students last week; plus other nuggets on Marlins Park, indoor practice facility

In case you missed it, a frustrated Hurricanes fan holding a poster board with a 'Fire Al Golden' message made his way into the view of ESPN cameras Monday afternoon in Dallas, site of this year's national championship game.

Fire Al Golden poster boardScreen shots of the 'Fire Al Golden' poster -- when it was visible on TV during afternoon shows like The Herd with Colin Cowherd (you can spot it just over Tim Tebow's right shoulder in the photo here) -- made its way around social media rather quickly before the game. 

Some UM students like Willy Herrera, a 22-year old senior studying accounting and finance in Coral Gables, are saying they wish they could express themselves in a similar way on campus, but claim they aren't being allowed to. Twice last week during men's basketball games (against Virginia first and then Boston College), Herrera said he and friends had 'Fire Al Golden' and 'Bring Back Butch' signs snatched away from them by UM staffers Jesse Marks (Associate Athletic Director for Development) and Alfonso Restrepo (Assistant director of Development).

I reached out to Herrera after the Virginia game (after a prominent former UM player reached out to me privately to let me know what happened to Willy and others) to get the details. Then I asked athletic director Blake James last Thursday (shortly after the press conference to announce UM's new deal with Adidas) if he thought the school was impeding on freedom of speech rights of Hurricanes fans and students displeased with Golden.

"It's a policy at the stadium that there aren't any signs [allowed in]," James responded. "So it wasn't that it was 'Bring Back Butch' or 'Fire Al' or anything like that. The policy at the BankUnited Center is that there isn't any signs allowed in. And that's for a variety of reasons.

"Obviously if you're sitting behind someone and they're holding up a sign the whole game you can't see the game. And so the environment we create is to allow the fans to enjoy the game. Like most facilities, rarely do you allow things that are going to hamper the experience of others around them."

During Donna Shalala's tenure the school has conveyed to students through various messages the administration supports their rights to freedom of speech and other civil liberties. James was adamant last Thursday the actions taken by UM staffers wasn't censorship.

"Obviously we want to recognize the freedom to express your opinions and it wasn't something that was done on that front," he said. "It's our policy that signs aren't allowed in that facility. Again, I'm not sure how they got by the security. If they had it hidden or how it was done. But, that is something that is a policy there at that facility."

James said UM doesn't make the policy at Sun Life Stadium, but the rules at the BUC are the same as the ones for Canes baseball games on campus.

"I'm pretty sure they don't allow signs or umbrellas in Sun Life Stadium," James said. "Again, most stadiums aren't going to allow you to bring things in that are going to hamper the viewing enjoyment of others around you."

Obviously there are quite a few others who enjoy the Fire Al Golden posters like Herrera, who grew up a Canes fan and graduated from Miami Columbus High before coming to UM.

"It's not the act of [my poster board] being taken away," Herrera said of why he's upset. "We're not allowed to say anything, and at the end of the day it is a school and it's for the student first. We also pay our athletic fee every year. A lot of us could argue what we pay for isn't what we expected when we decided to go and pay our athletic fee. A lot of these people who make these big decisions are in politics and are used to listening to constituents. It's just frustrating that we're trying every way of being heard and no one listens to us. Athletics is a big part of student life, a huge part of athletic experiences. Why can't we express ourselves?"

MORE QUESTIONS FOR BLAKE JAMES

I spoke to James for 10 minutes one-on-one about a variety of other issues last Thursday. Here is a short Q&A of the topics covered:

Q: It feels like there's been overwhelming constant negativity from fans regarding Al Golden being the football coach. What's your message to the fan when there is a level of vitriol we haven't seen before?

"We all want the same thing. We all want to see the program win and I'm confident -- and you spoke to Al -- Al wants to win. I know there's some out there that question if he's the right one out there to do it and if he can do it, and I still feel that he is the guy that can get it done. The only thing I would say is 'Hey that's what we all want.' We all want to see this program winning ACC championships because if you're doing that you're going to have a chance to win the national championship.' And we all know that's the end goal. Let's get an ACC championship and then let's have an opportunity at the national championship. So, it's really just to try to give -- as with any one of our programs -- give them the support they need and give them the resources to be successful.

"That's part of this [Adidas] deal. It's going to give me greater ability to give them resources they need to be successful. Whether it's the facilities we've done over the last couple years -- the student athlete training table, practice fields. We're going to put lights up out here within the next few months. It's putting all those things in place to allow us to have success. I understand people are unhappy about us being 6-7. But Al's not happy about being 6-7. I'm not happy about being 6-7. I think we just have different views on how do we get back to the top. And mine let's support and invest. Obviously others have different thoughts."

Q: Have you spoken to Al about changing his assistant coaches?

"Al and I talked about those sorts of things. But that's something I trust him to make the judgement on. We brought that conversation up and that's something that he constantly has to do. He has to do that every year. Obviously in a year that you're 6-7 it becomes a much more targeted area I think. As is the head coaching position when you go 6-7. I recognize that's what people are going to want to talk about right now. It goes into his evaluation every year. Whether you're winning a national championship or going 6-7 there's things you're going to need to change for next year. Because if you sit in the same spot everybody is going to pass you by. So it's Al's job to constantly evaluate his program and make sure we're doing the things we need to do to progress. Because you always need to make progress regardless of what you're record is. So those are things that I leave to him. But my challenge to him was evaluate everything and make the changes you need to make and then tell me what you need on resources so I can get us to where we need to be. We need to be winning the Coastal. We need to be going to the ACC championship, and again we need to be back on the national stage. And we're on the same page with that. And that's my commitment to him to get him back to that spot."

Q: I've had a couple Golden Canes boosters reach out to me and they've said the you and administration have told them there will be changes after Signing Day. What's been your message to them? What have you tried to convey to them?

"My message is the same to everyone whether it's a Golden Cane or anyone else is. I want to give them their resources. Any one of our programs. Obviously, football is the one that's the big one and football is the one that's been talked about the most. For me, it's just continuing push them to evaluate, push them to make sure I'm giving them the resources they need, and then continuing to look at our facilities and our infrastructure to see what we can do better. We need to get lights on our practice field. We need an indoor practice facility and I'm excited about what the Dolphins are doing with Dolphins Stadium. I think that will enhance some things too and should help create a better gameday environment for us."

Q: What can you tell us about the new gameday experience for Canes fans might be like with all the changes being done at Sun Life?

"The Dolphins are going to have a press conference on that. I'd rather just comment after that press conference just not to say anything."

Q: But it's going to be a better experience?

"Yeah. I would say with everything they've shared with me I'm confident our fans will feel it's a much better game day experience."

Q: Where are you in terms of season tickets sold for 2015?

"We still haven't even started because we're still waiting for the Dolphins to finalize everything. Once they finalize everything then we'll send out our renewal notices. We haven't sent out our renewal notices, which is again off schedule for us. Normally we would have already sent those out. Given this construction project it looks like it's probably going to be February when we send stuff out that normally would have been out by now."

Q: In terms of an indoor practice facility at UM how close is that to becoming a reality?

"We're working on it. It's hard for me to say how close we are. We're working on identifying the right spot for it. I think once we find the right spot the institution and our supporters, are in-line and recognize the need for it that we're going to be able to make it a reality. Right now, it's finding the right spot. Then it will be lining up the funding for it. But I'm confident we're going to make that happen."

Q: Marlins Park hosted its first bowl game. Any chance you might play a game there at some point? Maybe against FIU?

"I think it would be hard. We signed a deal with FIU and [athletic director] Pete [Garcia] had mentioned maybe we could look at doing something like that. Sun Life Stadium is our home filed and to go play somewhere else in our own market -- if it's not on a permanent basis -- I don't think it would make sense for us. But I'll continue to monitor what they're doing at Marlins Park. And if there's something we ever felt would be a fit for us we'd investigate the possibilities."

January 07, 2015

Open letter to Canes fans: Mountain of negativity only making things worse

Al Golden can’t win.

I don’t mean that in the literal sense, like the Hurricanes have yet to beat a high-end opponent under Golden's leadership.

I mean it in the sense of there’s nothing Golden can say at this point to overcome the mountain of negativity on top of him and this football program.

Al needs to phone a friend. And he needs you -- the Miami Hurricanes football fan –- to answer even if you don't want to.

I’ll admit it. I was a little angry late Monday night. About 10 days after a fourth consecutive loss to end the season, Golden’s first words weren’t delivered in a season-ending press conference (the way things are normally done) but through a one-on-one interview with Gary Ferman at Canesport. As a reporter, you get a little ticked off when you aren’t given equal opportunity.

Then, I read the Canesport interview and didn’t feel so bad. Golden's responses were what we expected. In the end, it hit me why Golden is going one-on-one with select reporters versus facing a firing squad at a press conference (there will be more one-on-ones by the way). He can control the message. He can keep tough questions private. We won't get to see him bristle.

That's smart from a public relations perspective. In the end, what is Al going to say publicly that’s really going to make anything better anyway? Will blaming himself put an end to the fire Golden chants? No.

Truth is, only actions will do at this point. And after 10 days of inaction, does it really look like coaching changes are going to be made –- forcefully by the administration, anyway? It would have happened already.

Which brings me back to my point: that mountain of negativity.

Al Golden can bunker himself in, ignore the noise and plead with his players and assistants to do the same. But the rest of us? We do live in that world. That includes recruits, parents, influential coaches, street agents, girlfriends, Ray-Ray on the corner, the woman who does Susan Miller Degnan's hair and a bunch of loud people on the radio and internet. And that’s where all this irreparable public relations damage is being done.

That’s where the University of Miami – the program you are supposed to be supporting – is losing a much bigger war.

It might look like a one man job, one man’s sole responsibility to clean up after himself, after Randy Shannon and Larry Coker. After all, Al's got the fat paycheck, those pillars and that orange tie. But this isn’t a one-man job. It’s on fans too. Even if it's a smaller role, you play one on Saturdays and all the days inbetween.

In case you didn’t know (I’ll put in capital letters to make it clear Canes Fam): WE’VE HEARD YOUR CRIES FOR CHANGE. We saw those banners fly over the stadium over and over again. We’ve read Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, seen the red cups form the phrase FIRE AL GOLDEN on the Palmetto Expressway overhang. We get it: You are not happy with the job Al Golden has done.  We know you not only wanted Mark D’Onofrio gone before Christ was born, but you wanted him to legally change his name to Mark Onofrio too.

This voicemail box is full, people.

Now, it’s time to stop digging the hole even deeper for UM. You’ve got to lend the Canes a hand even if Golden can’t fix this mess himself; even if in the end he doesn't turn out to be the right man for the job. It’s time to give up on the dream of creating such a loud chorus of boos that it will result in Golden's firing, bringing Butch back or ending D'Onofrio's reign of terror.

Athletic director Blake James is not going to fire Golden anytime soon. He’s said it over and over again. James isn’t even forcing Golden to fire anyone on his staff. They are going to see this through – at least through 2015 in my opinion – whether you show up to No Life Stadium or not (and not that many of you were doing that before this 6-7 mess anyway).

Status quo is the message Golden Canes, the donors, have been receiving for weeks when they’ve voiced complaints and concerns or threatened to pull funds if changes aren’t made. One Golden Cane told me James and others have told them "to keep holding on, nothing will happen until Signing Day.”

So, there. Something might happen after Signing Day. There's a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope. But that's all it is for now. 

That aura of negativity permeating 24 hours a day? That's not doing anyone any favors. Nobody in their right mind, who could be part of fixing the future at Miami, is looking at UM and saying ‘Man that place is sexy. Look at all the support that school gets. Those fans are the best.’

And I don’t mean coaches. You can throw money at any coach and they'll lie through their teeth about anything. They are mercenaries paid to put their heart into something. 

I’m talking about kids -- from seniors on down to Pee Wee football players. I’m talking about the future. I’m talking about all those people who don’t live in Al Golden’s world. I’m talking about the people who can see, smell, taste, hear and feel the negativity and have it push them away. And right now on the nasty scale, that storm is a Category 5.

Blake James, the aforementioned athletic director who took over after Golden had already received his contract extension through 2019, tried to wish fans a Happy New Year on Twitter a few days ago. The Rated-R responses to James were sickening. These were some of the PG-responses:

I can't imagine what the response would have been had Golden or D'Onofrio tweeted something.

Wait, I can.

Brad Kaaya’s mother, Angela Means, has tried to stem this tide of negativity on Twitter and Facebook, urging fans to stick by the side of the players and the team. So has UM. Somehow, they've come up with another clever marketing campaign sure to win folks over.

The public relations machine in Coral Gables has been on overdrive promoting positivity and unity left and right. It’s obviously a direct rebuttal to what Duke Johnson’s mother and Clive Walford were putting out there in the aftermath of the bowl loss –- that there was a division among players and that players would transfer out if they didn’t have to sit out a year per NCAA rules. You know, all the kind of stuff that makes recruits feel warm and fuzzy this time of year.

In the end, though, it’s clear UM is fighting a huge uphill battle. A really, really, really big one. And one they likely won't win on Signing Day either. Recruiting wars for 2015 have already been lost long ago. More could be on the way in more decommitments.

Golden and his staff deserve a lot of that blame. Did you know Miami-Dade and Broward County produced 16 seniors this season that played in the three major All-American games? Do you know how many are headed to UM? Two: St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett and Miami Booker T. Washington running back Mark Walton.

Not all of that failure can be traced solely to Golden or the results on the field. Some of it can be traced to the black cloud of negativity surrounding the program, the one fans have helped create.

Michael Irvin, the face of The U, the man who supports Miami through thick and thin, Mr. Positive, Mr. It’s going to get better -- even he couldn’t blame his nephew, Miami Westminster Christian All-American safety Tim Irvin, for skipping out on UM to head to Texas.

Pinning blame on fans for the program’s current state of affairs isn't the idea here. The players and coaches deserve all that blame –- Golden the biggest chunk of that.

You can’t have fewer wins over FBS schools (5) in 2014 than potential NFL Draft picks in 2015. You can’t keep pointing to an NCAA cloud that “devastated the program” when the basketball team won an ACC title while said cloud was hanging over its head too. And you just can’t keep harping on a convenient argument (we improved from 90th in 2013 to 15th in total defense in 2014) to show signs of improvement.

Nobody cares. Nobody wants to hear it because they’ve heard it all before. Fans want action. They want results. And if not, they want blood.

But in this case, there doesn’t look like there will be blood. No matter how loud the chorus gets, Blake James doesn’t look like he’s changing his mind or his coach.

So, my advice, take a step back and put your energy toward something you can help change. And that’s making the cloud over Coral Gables -- the real one -- a little smaller each day. Turn down the noise a little. Al Golden can pretend he doesn't hear it. It's what he does. But just remember everyone else in this world can hear it loud and clear.

January 06, 2015

Ray Lewis III transferring to Coastal Carolina per his Instagram account

Ray Lewis III, the son of former Hurricane and Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, is leaving UM for Coastal Carolina according to his Instagram account.

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," Lewis III wrote as the caption to a cartoon of Coastal Carolina's mascot holding a football. "If opportunity doesn't knock... build a door! #Round2"

Lewis III, a redshirt freshman cornerback, never played a down for the Hurricanes in his two seasons in Coral Gables and dealt with some off the field issues. He was suspended for the bowl game his freshman year.

Lewis was a three-star recruit and Semper Fidelis All-American as a two-way star at Lake Mary Prep, a small private school near Orlando.

-- MANNY NAVARRO

December 01, 2014

My view: Coaching only half the issue for Canes

There’s no defending Al Golden and the way his football team finished this season.

A record of 6-6 and being tied for last in a weak Coastal Division with the amount of talent UM had this season is just ugly. The Hurricanes should have been better than they were, and yes, this has all the same feel to it of Randy Shannon’s four years on the job.

There's been no significant progress. Just the same old mediocrity.

The numbers tell you a big part of the story: Golden is 28-21, 16-16 in ACC play. Shannon was 28-22, 16-16 in ACC play. Both coaches lost the focus of their teams for the final two games of their fourth seasons once they were eliminated from division contention.

It’s been equally embarrassing and abysmal for Canes fans to swallow.

But I’m here to tell you coaching has only been half of the problem during this 11-year run of average football. The other part: Nobody in charge seems to care as much as the fans or former players do about winning titles or shedding this new image of being average.

I’m not talking about Golden. He gets paid and is contractually obligated to care through 2019. I’m talking about the school president, athletic director, board of trustees on down. Those people. It’s one thing to be visible, clap and say the right things, be supportive. It’s another thing to invest in winning, to demand it, to expect it.

I’ve only been around this program as a reporter since about 2003, but I can tell you few people were more visible, more vocal and more passionate about winning on the field than former athletic director Paul Dee. Nobody demanded it more.

He was there for the good and bad after UM’s first run of titles was over in 1991. Dee arrived in 1993 and was in charge until 2008. He guided UM through the Pell Grant scandal, hired Butch Davis and then kept Larry Coker around to lead UM to its last national title in 2001. 

You might remember that 2001 season for the title. I also remember it for what happened in June the summer right before it happened. Donna Shalala took over as president.

Shalala has done a tremendous job for UM, raising billions, being a leader. Brand new buildings have been cropping up all over campus for the past 13 years. She’s been there to support all the athletic teams, fighting the NCAA through the Nevin Shapiro mess (it would have been worse for UM if she wasn’t there in Indianapolis front and center). She’s done a lot of great things. Making sure the football program hasn’t slipped to where it is now isn’t one of them.

Since Dee stepped down in 2008 (it felt like his power was dwindling toward the end of his reign), UM has been through three athletic directors and the Shapiro mess. Meanwhile, the demand for excellence on the field –- the push for that sixth ring –- has quietly faded to the back burner. What we hear now is ‘Let’s win the Coastal!’

How did we get here? Here’s my theory: money.

UM did a lot of winning in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s because they had a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches. But they did it without really spending a whole lot of money on the coaches, the facilities, their home stadium or anything else. College football was relatively small back when the good times started. Howard Schnellenberger figured out he had the most talent-rich backyard in the country and laid the foundation. State of Miami he called it.

In the end, though, there’s a reason Miami went through a number of coaches while Florida State held onto Bobby Bowden and Florida had Steve Spurrirer for years. When college coaches started making more money, Bowden and Spurrier got paid. Why did Schnellenberger leave UM after winning the title in 1983? The USFL was going to pay him more. Jimmy Johnson? Dennis Erickson? Butch Davis? They went to the NFL too. You might remember UM hired all those guys without really breaking the bank for any of them.

That happened for years with assistant coaches too. Remember Rob Chudzinski? Mark Stoops? Dave Wannstedt? The Canes had a pretty good run on assistants when coaches were willing to take a little less money to build their resumes before moving onto bigger and better things.

What’s happened over the last decade? Well, it’s not just that Miami’s remained cheap. It's also that everybody else has been raising their game too. New TV contracts and conference affiliations have put schools that once couldn’t stay on the same field with UM’s team speed on equal or better footing with the Canes everywhere else.

Up until the last year or so, UM’s facilities were considered among the worst for a power conference school. Now, the Canes are better, but still below average of what Top 25 programs have to offer. Have you seen what they’ve got in places like Alabama, Oregon, Texas, Florida State and Florida? Heck, scouts tell me all the time there are teams in non-power conferences with indoor practice facilities and all kinds of stuff UM doesn’t have.

Attendance is another issue. Say what you want about former greats not caring about playing in a half-empty Orange Bowl on some Saturdays when UM played snoozers against weak Big East teams, but the OB never felt as empty or lifeless as Sun Life Stadium has for UM over the last seven years.

What five and four-star can’t miss recruits would want to come play at No Life Stadium when just about every other school in a power conference puts UM’s real attendance and atmosphere to shame with on-campus stadiums? How can UM compete with that? Recruits nowadays care about everything –- not just about UM’s fading glory days or rich NFL history. That used to sell. Not anymore.

The saddest part of all of this isn’t that the Canes are behind on many fronts aside from coaching. It’s that Dee really was the last guy in charge at UM that made you feel like somebody was really fighting to maintain a gold standard.

Remember that ticket advertisement UM put out back in June urging fans to “GO TO FEWER GAMES!” The message was buy tickets for Florida State and North Carolina because we know you won’t show up to the other games. How pathetic was that?

UM likes to portray itself as frugal because it has to be. Small, private school setting, no stadium of its own. But don't let that fool you. The Canes have dough. They've received all the same TV deal money and conference money every other ACC school has. It’s just that the dollars don’t seem to be going back into football enough.

How do I know that for sure? I don’t. UM is a private school. They don’t share one ounce of information on how much they spend on coaching or the football budget in general.

But this is how you know they aren’t keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to paying football coaches: the results. Outside of former offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch (now with the Jacksonville Jaguars) how many assistants since Shannon took over in 2007 have moved onto bigger and better jobs? Has anybody seen or heard from Patrick Nix? Mark Whipple in now the head coach at 3-9 UMass. I can tell you nobody has been trying to pry away the assistants who have been here the last four years.

Athletic director Blake James said last week -- before the Pittsburgh loss -- Golden wouldn’t be fired after this season regardless of how things panned out. James also said Golden reserved the right to make all changes on his staff. No moves would be forced upon him.

At this point, I would have to expect Golden will make moves. He has to. Status quo isn't cutting it. 

It wasn't at Florida. That's why the Gators cut coach Will Muschamp, who was hired right around the same time as Golden. He went 28-21, but won the SEC East and made it to the Sugar Bowl in 2012.

Sunday, Nebraska fired Bo Pellini because his team finished 9-3. Pellini won at least nine games every year he was there and finished 67-27 combined. You know who pulled the plug on Pellini? Former UM athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who spent two years at UM, and gave Golden his extension through 2019 because of how he handled the Shapiro bomb that was dropped on him shortly after getting the job.

Ironically enough, Eichorst told Nebraska reporters Pellini was fired because he “didn’t win the games that mattered the most.”

Remember when winning the games that mattered, mattered at Miami?

Golden hasn’t done that yet. That’s a fact. His biggest win to date? Over 9-3 Duke this year.

Bottomline: he should have won more with this year’s team. The Coastal, weak as ever, was there for the taking. The Hurricanes, potentially with four top 100 picks in next year’s draft (only Florida State and Oregon have more), grossly underachieved. 

It's hard to explain some of the things that happened this year. How does five-star cornerback Tracy Howard start a ton last year and regress to hardly playing this year? How did Stacy Coley, one of your most electrifying players last year as a freshman, regress? Why was Dallas Crawford -- one of your 22 best -- sitting behind a former walk-on most of the season?

The one thing I don’t blame Golden for -- not being able to get his team up for these last two meaningless games. The Canes did the same to Shannon. When UM lost to FSU -- after investing all it had to beat the Seminoles and keep its Coastal Division hopes alive -- there was nothing tangible to play for anymore. Virginia and Pittsburgh, meanwhile, were fighting to become bowl eligible.

Golden was essentially a coach without a carrot to dangle. In the end, do you think it really mattered to the players if they were 8-4 or 6-6 when they couldn’t win the one thing they set out to accomplish in the beginning? Maybe to the fans, but certainly not the players.

Here is where we’re at: If UM’s leaders want to get serious about winning again it starts with who is chosen to replace Shalala.

That new school president can’t be satisfied with just winning the Coastal Division or selling fans on what this week’s uniform combination is going to be. They don’t want to see another 3Penny Film about how hard guys are working, read another report about where UM’s next recruiting class is ranked or be reminded about that NCAA cloud Golden had to deal with. 

Canes fans are tired of all that. They want results.

Enough quality talent has come and gone through Coral Gables over the last 11 years  -- no, not as frequently as it did before, but enough -- to win the Coastal at least once. Miami hasn’t done that.

A huge part of that failure is on coaching. The bigger part of that is how much financial support Shannon and Golden have received to go out and bring in quality assistant coaches and coordinators to help make these players better and get the most out of them. In the end, you can have a real nice car, but you can’t expect to win the race if you’ve got a below average pit crew you’re paying with nickels and dimes. You’re giving the driver no chance.

The proof is in player development. Anybody remember the last time UM had a pass rusher opponents feared while he was here? No, but we’re quick to point out how good Olivier Vernon looks with the Dolphins. How about a defensive tackle who plugged the middle and was a menace? Vince Wilfork is in his 10th season in the NFL. How about a ball-hawking safety like Ed Reed? Where’s that next guy been?

Until Brad Kaaya showed up, we were all wondering when UM was going to have a top flight quarterback again.

Why? Yes, there have been recruiting mistakes. Lots of them.

Much of the local talent UM has been able to hang onto lately didn’t pick the Canes because they were an elite program. They stayed home for the love of The U, because they grew up rooting for Sean Taylor and dreaming of being Canes.

Imagine where UM would have been this season if Duke Johnson hadn’t decided to stick with the hometown Canes even after they fired Shannon? How about Denzel Perryman? Or Phillip Dorsett?

In the end, this blog post isn't a fire Golden letter or even a fire Mark D’Onofrio letter.

I’m just saying UM’s problems extend beyond Golden. It extended beyond Shannon.

The U needs somebody in charge to really care about how far this program has fallen, come up with a plan to right the ship, demand excellence and invest in the program all out.

Right now, to me, it just seems like the folks in charge in Coral Gables are happy if you show up for two games a year. They're okay with mediocrity.

November 27, 2014

Freshmen want Canes' run of mediocrity to end with them

Come January it's going to be 12 years since the Miami Hurricanes last played for a national championship, and 11 since they went to a major bowl game.

Mediocrity has become the norm in Coral Gables. Let's count the ways:

> Counting Miami's 6-5 record heading into Saturday night's regular season-finale against Pittsburgh (5-6) at Sun Life Stadium, the Canes have lost at least four games every season since 2006. That happened only three times at UM from 1983 to 2003.

> Miami hasn't had a double-digit win season since 2003. Meanwhile, rivals Florida and Florida State have had four double-digit win seasons each and they've won three national titles combined.

> Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, the Canes have floundered at 81-55 overall. That's fewer wins than six other teams in the conference: Virginia Tech (104), Florida State (103), Clemson (93), Louisville (92), Georgia Tech (87) and Boston College (82). Meanwhile, lowly Wake Forest and Duke have each won division titles while the Hurricanes simply tied for one and had to vacate it because of impending NCAA sanctions.

When will the mediocrity end? When will UM become a real threat for a national title again? Al Golden's youngest Canes have talked about that. Several have said they won't accept the losing.

"Me, Brad [Kaaya], Chad [Thomas], Braxton [Berrios] we talk about [national championships] a lot, saying that next year we have to turn things around, do what we've got to do to get to that spot," said freshman running back Joe Yearby, who went 53-5 and won three state titles in his four years at Miami Central.

"We've got to shoot higher than [the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division Title]," Yearby continued. "We've got to take everything day-by-day to accomplish everything we have to do. But we believe we can be champs again. That's still very much a goal."

Thomas, a five-star recruit who won a national title at Miami's Booker T. Washington last season, has said in the past he expects the Canes to win a national title while he's here -- and that he hates losing.

Before Miami's 30-13 loss at Virginia last Saturday, Berrios said the Hurricanes should win the remainder of their games. He said UM's three-game win streak following its loss to Georgia Tech -- and close loss to Florida State -- was a sign UM is getting closer to being what it wants to be.

Kaaya, UM's brightest young star, spoke this week about what it has been like losing five games. Kaaya went 26-4 and won a state title in California.

“I see it all as a part of the whole progression,” Kaaya said of the ups and downs. “It’s all a test; every single game is a test. I don’t know if God is testing me or something like that, but I take it all as a trial or a test and just get better. That’s my whole view on it.

"College football, the way it’s going now, it’s almost like every game is a playoff. You win one game two weeks ago and the next game you lose, everyone is pissed off so you’ve just got to keep playing. It’s week-by-week warriors.”

Golden this week said he doesn't "think anybody will ever get used to losing" at UM and he's glad his young players are talking about winning national titles.

"Nobody likes to lose, nobody wants to lose," he said. "Saying that is one thing. The other thing is addressing the things we need to address individually and collectively, charting a course and getting it fixed in the time span we have.

"I want them to be winners. I want them to be champions. I want them to scratch, claw and compete. Joe Yearby is one of those guys that I'm glad he feels like that because when he practices it looks like that. We want everybody in the organization to think like that."

Restocking the roster with the kind of talent it once had hasn't been easy. UM had 10 first round picks and 18 top 100 picks on the last team that played in the Orange Bowl (drafted between 2004-07).

Randy Shannon coached Miami's last first round pick, Kenny Phillips, in 2008. Shannon had nine players drafted with top 100 picks during his tenure and another four taken in 2012 he recruited to the program.

Golden had those four top 100 picks that were Shannon recruits his first year at Miami (Olivier Vernon, Sean Spence, Lamar Miller, Travis Benjamin) but has had just one other top 100 pick (Brandon Linder) during his tenure. That will change this May.

Scouts believe UM could have as many as five players (Ereck Flowers, Duke Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford) taken among the first 100 picks. NFLDraftScout.com listed four Hurricanes as top 100 picks this week (Dorsett not among them). Only Florida State (10) and Oregon (5) have more than that. UM is tied for the third-most with Louisville, Washington, Alabama and Baylor. Only Washington has as many losses as UM. The other teams are all ranked in the Top 25.

"Miami has dynamic NFL talent and everybody can see it," said Rob Rang, a writer for NFLDraftScout.com. "They also have a very talented, but inexperienced freshman quarterback. To me, they've just had some trouble late in games they could have won. That's been the difference."

Most NFLDraftScout.com Top 100 prospects by college

> Florida State (10): QB Jameis Winston (3), DT Eddie Goldman (20), CB PJ Williams (27), CB Ronald Darby (47), DE Mario Edwards (50), OT Cameron Erving (54), OG Josue Matias (59), WR Rashad Greene (68), OG Tre' Jackson (71), TE Nick O'Leary (90)

> Oregon (5): QB Marcus Mariota (1), CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (32), DE Arik Armstead (46), C Hroniss Grasu (82), OT Jake Fisher (87)

> Miami (4): RB Duke Johnson (51), LB Denzel Perryman (58), TE Clive Walford (74), OT Ereck Flowers (77)

> Alabama (4): WR Amari Cooper (5), SS Landon Collins (7), RB TJ Yeldon (55), OG Arie Kouandjio (61)

> Baylor (4): DE Shawn Oakman (12), OT Spencer Drango (49), QB Bryce Petty (88), WR Antwan Goodley (100)

> Louisville (4): DeVante Parker (18), FS Gerod Holliman (28), DE Lorenzo Mauldin (36), CB Charles Gaines (52)

> Washington (4): OLB Shaq Thompson (6), DT Danny Shelton (22), CB Marcus Peters (34), DE Hauoli Kikaha (48)

> USC (3): DT Leonard Williams (2), WR Nelson Agholor (73), RB Javorious Allen (75)

> Auburn (3): WR Sammie Coates (39), C Reese Dismukes (63), DT Gabe Wright (78)

> Fresno State (3): FS Derron Smith (44), WR Josh Harper (53), DT Tyeler Davison (96)

> Michigan State (3): CB Trae Waynes (13), FS Kurtis Drummond (93), RB Jeremy Langford (97)

> Oklahoma (3): WR Dorial Green-Beckham (31), OLB Eric Striker (62), OLB Geneo Grissom (90)

November 20, 2014

Breaking down UM-Virginia

MIAMI (6-4, 3-3 ACC) at VIRGINIA (4-6, 2-4 ACC)

> Kickoff, TV, radio: 7 p.m., ESPN2; WQAM (560 AM); radio CARACOL (1260 AM, Spanish).

> History: Miami leads 6-5 and won last year's meeting 45-26 at Sun Life Stadium.

> Background: Cavaliers, who beat Louisville earlier this year and fought UCLA tough at home before falling 28-20, have dropped four in a row and are playing for their bowl lives with an extra bye week to prepare for UM. The Hurricanes are coming off a tough-to-swallow 30-26 loss at home to Florida State, but have played their best under Golden over the last five weeks.

> Favorite: UM by 5 1/2

> Counting recruiting stars - Miami: Canes have three Rivals.com five-star recruits (RB Duke Johnson, CB Tracy Howard, DE Chad Thomas), 15 four-star recruits (eight on defense), 22 three-star recruits (11 on each side), 3 two-star recruits (two offense) and 2 no-star recruits (starters Nantambu Fentress and Thurston Armbrister) on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group 10 players are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: RB Duke Johnson (2nd RD), MLB Denzel Perryman (2nd RD), LT Ereck Flowers (2nd-3rd RD), CB Ladarius Gunter (4th RD), WR Phillip Dorsett (4th RD), TE Clive Walford (4th RD), DE Anthony Chickillo (5th-6th RD), LG Jon Feliciano (6th-7th RD), DL Olsen Pierre (6th-7th) and C Shane McDermott (7th-FA).

> Counting recruiting stars - Virginia: Cavalier have three Rivals.com five-star recruits who are all freshmen (RB Taquan Mizzell, DT Andrew Brown, S Quin Blanding), 8 four-star recruits (five on defense), 28 three-star recruits (17 on offense), 8 two-star recruits (four each side) and four no-star recruits on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group, only one player is projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Strong safety Anthony Harris, tabbed a second to third rounder and the second best at his position.

> When Virginia runs the ball: The Cavaliers like to run a balanced offense, but the last two weeks they've been forced to throw more in losses to Georgia Tech (35-10) and FSU (34-20), their only double-digit losses of the season. Senior Kevin Parks (5-8, 200) gets the brunt of the work, but hasn't exactly dazzled along with the overall running game, which ranks 92 in yards per game (142.0) and 93rd in yards per attempt (3.81). The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have done a nice job since getting torched for 318 yards by Georgia Tech. UM has given up just 307 yards rushing on 111 carries since then (2.76 a carry). Parks did run for 130 yards last year against UM so the Canes can't sleep on him. Edge: Miami.

> When Virginia throws the ball: Sophomore quarterback Greyson Lambert ranks 91st in QB rating (116.42), 52nd in completion percentage (159.94) and has thrown more intercetions (9) than TDS (8). Five different pass-catchers have at least 20 receptions this year. The top receivers are senior Darius Jennings (24 rec., 466 yards, 2 TDs), junior Canaan Severin (34-441-4) and senior Miles Gooch (24-371-1). Mizzell catches a lot of balls out of the backfield (33-190-0) as does Parks (28-166-2). The Cavaliers rank 103rd at converting red zone trips into TDs (50%), but they are good on third down (44.10%, 38th). The Hurricanes, ranked 22nd in pass defense (192.9 yards per game) and 21st in opposing QB rating (110.13), faced a much more talented team last week. This week UM will likely be without starting safety Deon Bush, who leads the nation with five forced fumbles and has had a stellar season, but was listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury. FSU scored its final 13 points after Bush left the game against UM. Virginia has allowed just 12 sacks all season (19th fewest). UM has produced 25 sacks (38th most). The difference here could be turnovers. Virginia has coughed it up eight times in four consecutive losses. UM has taken it away 11 times over its last four games. Edge: Miami.

> When UM runs the ball: The Cavaliers held the nation's third-leading rusher, Pitt running back James Conner, to a season-low 83 yards back on Oct. 3. And now they'll take their shot at trying to slow down UM's Duke Johnson, who has eclipsed the 100-yard mark six games in a row and ranks eighth nationally with 134.3 yards per game. Virginia is giving up just 3.22 yards per carry this season (13th nationally) and 118.6 yards per game on the ground (15th nationally). A lot of what UM does running the football, though, will be predicated on how the Cavs line up defensively in pass coverage. When teams have lined up against the Hurricanes in zone, they've preferred to run and had lots of success doing that lately. Sophomore Gus Edwards, who missed the FSU game with an ankle injury, should be back for UM to provide depth. Still, this is going to be a stiff test for both sides. Edge: Split.

> When UM throws the ball: Virginia's defense, run by Jon Tenuta, lives and dies off turnovers. The rank eighth nationally with 95 points off 24 takeaways. The Hurricanes had been doing a good job with freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya protecting the football. But the Canes coughed it up three times last week against FSU including twice on fumbles by tight ends. Virginia's secondary has talent (freshman safety Quin Blanding has over 100 tackles) and experience with strong safety Anthony Harris and cornerback Brandon Phelps back there (65 starts combined). But they haven't been dominant. The Cavs rank 71st in passing defense (229.2 yards per game), 56th in opposer passer rating (12.32) and they've given up 16 TD passes (63rd) despite the 13 interceptions. They essentially live and die with the turnover and sacks (27, 28th most nationally). If Kaaya and the Hurricanes can throw against Virginia's Cover 2, Cover 4 and Cover 8 packages underneath they'll have success. UM struggled last week when FSU went from playing man-to-man in the first half to zone in the second. Edge: Miami.

> Special teams: Virginia kicker Ian Frye is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. He's made 17-of-20 field goal attempts this season. He's missed from 46, 52 and 50 yards out. UM kicker Michael Badgley made career-long 45- and 46-yard field goals last week against FSU, but had another extra point blocked and missed a 29-yard field goal. The Cavaliers haven't returned a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown and haven't blocked a punt, a field goal or extra point this season. They did surrender a kickoff return of a touchdown in the loss at BYU, but have only surrendered two kick returns of 30 yards or more all season. UM has allowed seven kick returns of 30-yards or more including one for a score against Louisville. Edge: Virginia.

> Prediction: Several signs point to a Canes letdown. There's the FSU hangover; Virginia, coming off a bye, is playing for its bowl life; it's going to be cold and in the 30s. Truth is Virginia isn't that good and Miami is motivated. The Cavaliers generate much of their offense off turnovers and if the Hurricanes can avoid those they should win this game easy. I'm betting on just one or two UM mistakes and more from the home team. UM 36, Virginia 22.

November 15, 2014

Gameday blog: Miami Hurricanes vs. FSU Seminoles

The Hurricanes (6-3, 3-2 ACC) will try to put an end to Florida State's 25-game winning streak tonight. Kickoff is set for 8:14 p.m. on ABC.

Here's a breakdown of the game I did from earlier this week. FSU is 1 1/2 point favorite.

My pick: I'm 8-1 this season picking Canes games (Georgia Tech only loss). I'm calling for Al Golden's biggest win yet tonight. UM 30, FSU 27.

Live Blog Miami Hurricanes vs. Florida State Seminoles: Nov. 15, 2014
 

November 12, 2014

Flowers ramps up workload; Golden, Fisher react to FSU dropping in rankings

Barring an unexpected setback, it's looking more and more like Ereck Flowers will be starting at left tackle for the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Coach Al Golden said Flowers ramped up his workload Wednesday and took more reps than he did during Tuesday's practice. During the 20-minute portion the media was able to watch practice, Flowers was lined up at left tackle with senior Jonathan Feliciano at left guard and freshman Trevor Darling at right tackle.

"Everyday is a step. Hopefully we'll have good luck and not have any swelling or setbacks," Golden said of Flowers. "He's doing great. He's getting the best care he can get in college football and just doing what he needs to do."

Golden said Feliciano could play left guard or right tackle Saturday and was taking reps at all three spots -- left tackle included. Golden said Darling worked at tackle and guard. Freshman Nick Linder, who has started the past four games at left guard, was also working at center according to Golden.

Golden said the Hurricanes will end up rotating linemen against the Seminoles. UM hasn't done much of that in games thus far, usually playing its starting five from beginning to end in close games barring injury.

"This is a heck of an outfit we're getting ready to play," Golden said. "So we're going to need to rotate anyway."

FSU DROPS IN RANKINGS

Even though they're still unbeaten, the Seminoles (9-0) dropped from  No. 2  to No. 3 -- behind one-loss Oregon -- in the latest college football playoff rankings released Tuesday night. 

"They haven't lost in a long time," Golden said. "I can't imagine there's one, let alone two or three better [teams] than them in the country."

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, on the ACC teleconference call with reporters Wednesday, said he paid little mind to the latest rankings. His reaction? "Nothing," he said. "I kept watching film of Miami."

Still, one has to imagine the Seminoles will have some extra juice for Saturday's game considering the slight. "It can motivate you in that you want people to respect what you do," Fisher said of dropping.

"We've played a great schedule," he continued. "Oklahoma State had four straight years of 10 wins. Notre Dame is a great team. They had one bad game this past weekend. They played well against us. I'm very happy the way we've played. We're winning games and we're winning by significant margins also. You don't win games like we did last year. Nobody had done it in 68 years. But thing is we're very resilient. We're great in our way. Maybe, each team has a different style. But I love this team. They understand how to compete and playing extremely well -- especially when we're getting everybody's best week in, week out. Everybody plans for you in the off-season, studies you in the off-season when you're the champ. I'm very proud of this team and I think we've played well."

MORE NOTES

> Golden said freshman quarterback Malik Rosier has been playing the role of Jameis Winston in practice. 

"We're wearing him out," Golden said. "He's had a tough week. He could be the MVP of the week though. Overall, he's getting better, doing a good job throwing the ball and running. He's athletic. Its a good fit for him. I really appreciate the kind of effort he's giving this week.

"There's only one Heisman trophy a year. That should give you an idea of how unique that young man [Winston] is. But we're getting what we need from [Rosier], which is great."

> Asked how many recruits will be at Saturday's game, Golden responded: "The max. I don't know what that is, but it's going to be a big number."

What would beating FSU mean for UM's recruiting efforts? "I say it to you guys every year, winning the game is great and it helps. But the recruiting is not seasonal anymore," Golden said. "It's year round. For a lot of these guys the relationships started two or three years ago. So, although it's a huge game and has great ramifications and all that, really from a recruiting standpoint we've identified who we want to go after and so have they. There may be some fence sitters. But other than that I'm not really thinking about that right now."

> Florida State hasn't returned any kickoffs for touchdowns this season and ranks 104th in kickoff return average this season (19.07 average). But that doesn't mean the Hurricanes aren't weary of their issues on kickoff coverage or the fact FSU's Kermit Whitfield led the nation last year with a 36.41 average and two scores. UM has surrendered seven kickoff returns of 30 yards or more this year (109th worst). 

"We've got to get good kicks," Golden said. "It's hard to cover line drives when there's no hang. This group is going to test us here for sure. They got great returns and they got a lot of guys that block like crazy. It's going to be a challenge for us. But I hope we have the right mix."

Tale of the Tape: Breaking down UM-FSU

NO. 2 FLORIDA STATE (9-0, 6-0 ACC) at MIAMI (6-3, 3-2 ACC)

> Kickoff, TV, radio: 8 p.m., Sun Life Stadium, ABC, WQAM (560 AM), radio CARACOL (1260 AM, Spanish).

> History: Miami leads 31-27.

> Favorite: Seminoles by 1 1/2 points.

> Counting recruiting stars - Miami: Canes have three Rivals.com five-star recruits (RB Duke Johnson, CB Tracy Howard, DE Chad Thomas), 15 four-star recruits (eight on defense), 22 three-star recruits (11 on each side), 3 two-star recruits (two offense) and 2 no-star recruits (starters Nantambu Fentress and Thurston Armbrister) on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group 10 players are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: RB Duke Johnson (2nd RD), MLB Denzel Perryman (2nd RD), LT Ereck Flowers (3rd RD), CB Ladarius Gunter (4th RD), WR Phillip Dorsett (4th RD), TE Clive Walford (4th-5th RD), DE Anthony Chickillo (5th RD), LG Jon Feliciano (6th-7th RD), DL Olsen Pierre (6th-7th) and C Shane McDermott (7th-FA).

> Counting recruiting stars - FSU: The Seminoles have nine Rivals.com five-star recruits (five on offense), 26 four-star recruits (14 on defense), 16 three-star recruits (10 on offense) on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group, 13 are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: QB Jameis Winston (1st RD), CB P.J. Williams (1st RD), DT Eddie Goldman (1st RD), CB Ronald Darby (2nd RD), DE Mario Edwards (2nd RD), WR Rashad Greene (2nd-3rd RD), LG Josue Matias (2nd RD), RG Tre' Jackson (2nd-3rd RD), LT Cameron Irving (2nd-3rd RD), TE Nick O'Leary (3rd RD), RB Karlos Williams (3rd-4th RD), DE Desmond Hollin (5th-6th RD) and CB Nick Waisome (7th RD).

Seminoles> When FSU runs the ball: FSU averages just 32 rushes a game (113th fewest) and the running game ranks 104th nationally (129.89 per game). The 'Noles have faced six top-50 ranked run defenses including No. 2 Louisville (173 yards, 3 TDs) and No. 4 Clemson (13 yards, 2 TDs). Senior Karlos Williams has run for 520 yards and is averaging a pedestrian 4.37 yards per carry. Freshman Dalvin Cook, Mr. Florida Football last season at Miami Central, is averaging 5.27 yards per carry and has run for 416 yards and five scores. But he's fighting through a hip injury. UM's run defense led by Denzel Perryman has vastly improved (3.31 yards per carry ranks 17th nationally) and the team has faced some good backs already including Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (1,250 yards, 5th nationally), Duke's Shaun Wilson (9.22 yards per carry, 2nd nationally) and Georgia Tech's Synjyn Days (6.21 yards per carry, 54th). The biggest improvement for the Hurricanes has been cutting down on the big play. Last year, the Canes gave up 15 run plays of 20 yards or more. This year, they have allowed just four (tied for 1st nationally). Coach Al Golden said that's a product of better tackling. If the Canes keep playing this way they will slow down FSU's so-so running game. Edge: Miami.

> When FSU throws the ball: The Hurricanes haven't faced a pass offense or quarterback quite like Jameis Winston this season. No, Winston is not having the kind of season (2,540 yards, 17 TDs, 11 INTs) he had a year ago (4,057 yards, 40 TDs, 10 INTs). But whatever struggles he has in the first half of games (63.9 comp. pct, 1,183 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs) he fixes them in the second half (69.8 comp. pct, 1,357 yards, 9 TDs, 3 INTs). Although FSU did lose a first round pick in receiver Kelvin Benjamin and a veteran pass-catcher in Kenny Shaw from last year's team, Winston still has Seminoles all-time leading receiver Rashad Greene to throw to. The former St. Thomas Aquinas standout ranks sixth nationally in catches with 71 and he's averaging 109.9 yards per game (8th most). Senior tight end Nick O'Leary (33 catches, 364 yards, 2 TDs) is also still around as a security blanket. Winston also has a pair of five-star freshmen in Homestead's Ermon Lane and West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman's Travis Rudolph, who only has 19 catches this season but ranks 62nd nationally with 16.21 yards per reception. Miami ranks 18th in opposing quarterback rating (108.17), but the Canes have only faced three passers ranked among the Top 50. And the best of that group, Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel, played with bruised ribs against UM. He threw for 355 yards and three scores against the Canes (most of it came in the second half when the game was decided). Miami has plenty of veterans in the secondary -- led by corners Ladarius Gunter and Tracy Howard and safety Deon Bush -- so youth isn't an excuse. But this is a very tough assignment. UM had a season-high six sacks in its win over North Carolina. Winston has been sacked 19 times, but has four seniors blocking for him including three potential draft picks in left tackle Cameron Irving, left guard Josue Matias and right guard Tre' Jackson. Edge: Florida State.

Hurricanes> When UM runs the ball: The Hurricanes come in red-hot having churned out 994 yards rushing and nine touchdowns over their last three games after making a full-fledged commitment to the ground game (137 rushes compared to 60 passes). Running back Duke Johnson ranks eighth nationally in rushing yards per game (134.78) and 12th in yards per carry (7.68). Freshman Joe Yearby (6.48) and sophomore Gus Edwards (6.18) have provided a nice lift off the bench and rank 40th and 56th respectively in yards per carry. FSU's run defense ranks 25th in yards per carry (3.54) and 35th in yards per game (135.67), but the Seminoles haven't faced much in the way of prolific running backs or run offenses. Virginia's Kevin Parks (669 yards, 67th) and Notre Dame's Tarean Folston (562 yards, 99th) are FSU's only previous opponents ranked in the top 100 in rushing yards. No FSU foe before UM ranked in the top 50 in rushing. The Seminoles, though, are coming off their best day of the season stopping the run, holding Virginia to 37 yards thanks to nine tackles for loss and four sacks. The defensive line is anchored by potential first round picks Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards. UM could have starting left tackle Ereck Flowers (knee surgery) back in the lineup Saturday, moving veteran Jon Feliciano back to right tackle and freshman Trevor Darling into a backup role. Edge: Miami.

> When UM throws the ball: The Seminoles lost two key members from their national championship-winning secondary to the draft in Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks. But there's still tons of talent around. Cornerback P.J. Williams is a projected first round pick and counterpart Ronald Darby is expected to be a second rounder. Still, the results haven't shown on the field often enough for FSU this season. The 'Noles rank 66th in opposing QB rating (they ranked 2nd last year) and have already given up more TD passes (15) and big plays (32 pass plays of 20 yards or more) than they did all last year. And they've only faced two quarterbacks ranked in the Top 50: Notre Dame's Everett Golson (313 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) and Louisville's Will Gardner (330 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). Canes freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya has better numbers than both of those guys. But he also has benefited from a very good running game over the last three weeks, helping him stay interception free. Kaaya, though, figures to be asked to throw more this week. He made plenty of tough throws at Nebraska earlier this season and had his best game (359 yards, 3 TDs). Nebraska ranks second in opposing QB rating. Florida State's pass rush is something UM feared last year, but the Seminoles have just 16 sacks this season. They had 35 last year. UM has allowed only 15. Receiver Phillip Dorsett leads the nation with 30.11 yards per catch and is always a big play threat. Senior Clive Walford ranks second among tight ends with six touchdown catches and leads the team with 29 catches. Where FSU could ultimately win this battle is on third down. UM has been a lot better on third down in its last two wins (13 of 28, 46.4%) compared to its season average of 30.69% (120th nationally). But that's because the Canes have run the ball and haven't asked Kaaya to throw on third and long (UM is 7 of 34 on 3rd down and seven yards or more). FSU isn't dominant on third down (82nd nationally at 40.71%), but they are good on 3rd and long (13 of 45, 28.8%). Edge: Even.

> Special teams: Florida State has gone 136 consecutive games without giving up a kick return for a score -- the longest streak in the nation. UM, meanwhile, has struggled in kickoff coverage giving up seven returns of 30 yards or longer (109th worst) including a touchdown to Louisville. FSU speedster Kermit Whitfield has just one return this season longer than 30 yards, but led the nation last year with a 36.4 kick return average. UM's Stacy Coley, one of the most explosive freshmen in the country last year, ranks 36th in kickoff return average (24.69) but is going up against a Seminoles kick coverage team that's longest return allowed was 34 yards. Seminoles kicker Roberto Aguayo is 37 of 39 for his career on field goal attempts and has made three from 50 yards or longer including a career-long 52-yarder earlier this year against Wake Forest. Miami walk-on kicker Michael Badgley has gone 7-of-8 on field goal attempts and has a career-long of 42 yards. His only miss was from 50-plus. UM punter Justin Vogel has been a valuable weapon of late and has pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line on 20 of his 38 punts this season. FSU's Cason Beatty has allowed returns on just 16 of his 34 punts and has had 11 go inside the 20. FSU's Rashad Greene has had two punt returns over 20 yards this season and his 10.00 average ranks 28th nationally. Edge: FSU.

November 01, 2014

Gameday blog: Miami Hurricanes vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

MIAMI (5-3, 2-2 ACC) VS. NORTH CAROLINA (4-4, 2-2 ACC)

> Kickoff, TV: 12:30 p.m., Sun Life Stadium, FSN.

> History: Series is tied 8-8. Canes won 27-23 last year in Chapel Hill.

> Spread: Miami favored by 14.5

> What to watch for the Canes: How freshman Trevor Darling handles his first career start at right tackle and how senior Jon Feliciano handles his switch to left tackle in the aftermath of the Ereck Flowers injury.

> Prediction: North Carolina's Marquis Williams is going to cause Miami's defense headaches, but in the end too much Duke Johnson and a heavy dose of the Canes' running game will prevail. Miami 38, North Carolina 29.

Live Blog Miami Hurricanes vs. North Carolina: Nov. 1, 2014
 

October 30, 2014

Stacy Coley keeping a smile on his face through sophomore slump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS AND THAT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 2014

Golden reviews Virginia Tech blowout win, talks injuries, more

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

Q: How did you come out injury wise?

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

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

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

Q: What happened to Juwon Young?

"Juwon actually got a hamstring too."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: How about Jermaine Grace's improvements?

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

Q: What's the schedule moving forward?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT ARE THE ACC'S TIEBREAKERS?

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

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

October 03, 2014

Breaking it down: Miami Hurricanes at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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

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

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

> Spread: Georgia Tech favored by 1 1/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 27, 2014

Gameday blog: Miami Hurricanes vs. Duke Blue Devils

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

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

September 26, 2014

Breaking it down: Canes-Blue Devils

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

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

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

> Spread: Miami favored by 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 20, 2014

Gameday blog: Miami Hurricanes at Nebraska Cornhuskers

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

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

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

September 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 03, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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