February 05, 2014

Pipeline to New Jersey grows as four-star safety Kiy Hester, three-star DT Courtel Jenkins, TE David Njoku sign with Canes

The Hurricanes continued to build their pipeline with the state of New Jersey Wednesday morning when four-star safety Kiy Hester and three-star defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins faxed their national letters of intent over to UM nice and early.

Hester and Jenkins are two of three New Jersey area recruits in the 2014 class and join redshirt quarterback Kevin Olsen, sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and senior defensive tackle Olsen Pierre who made their way from the Garden State to the Sunshine State.

"It was just the players, the coaches being from Jersey, the family atmosphere," Hester told NJ.com back in December as his reason for picking the Hurricanes. "Al-Quadin Muhammad (class of 2014 Don Bosco recruit now at Miami), he played a huge role. I've known him since I was in eighth grade, so he was huge. And [defensive tackle] Courtel Jenkins was, too."

Miami needed to add depth at safety with juniors Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins back as the only experienced men who have started and can play back there.

THE OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

THE PROFILES
Kiy Hester, DB, Wayne, N.J.
> Measurables: 6-0, 200
> Twitter handle: @Hester_2k
> Commitment date: Dec. 15, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Tabbed as a four-star safety and ranked 288th regardless of position in 247Sports Composite Rankings, Hester is tabbed as the 18th best safety in the country and eighth among all prospects in the New Jersey area.
> Career highlights: A former Rutgers commitment, Hester had offers from Ohio State, Vanderbilt and took an official visit to Michigan State before visiting Coral Gables and falling in love. Attended DePaul High School and played mostly strong safety although he did see time at receiver. Finished with 56 tackles, a sack, five interceptions and 18 pass breakups at safety as a senior. Had 17 catches for 379 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIUGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/737623/kiy-hester

Courtel Jenkins, DT, Wayne, N.J.
> Measurables: 6-2, 294, 375-pound bench press, 400-pound squat
> Commitment date: June 6, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Listed as the 943rd recruit regardless of position in 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 26th overall in the state of New Jersey and the 62nd best defensive tackle in the country.
> Career highlights: Racked up 74 tackles, 17 for loss with five sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble playing on both the offensive and defensive lines at DePaul High School. He earned All-County First Team honors. Jenkins had an early offer from Pittsburgh and took unofficial visits to Rutgers, Pitt and Maryland before camping at UM and receiving an offer last June. He didn’t visit any other schools.
> Mid-year analysis on Jenkins in NJ.com
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/892274/highlights/87627377

David Njoku, TE, Cedar Grove, N.J.
> Measurables: 6-4, 220, 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical, 285-pound bench press, 455-pound squat
> Twitter handle: @David_Njoku80
> Commitment date: Jan. 31, 2014
> Recruiting ranking: Rated a three-star recruit and tabbed as the 836th best player in the country regardless of position by 247Sports.com Composite rankings. He’s the 64th best athlete and 116th ranked recruit in the state of New Jersey.
> Career highlights: Played in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. Once a Rutgers commitment, Njoku took official visits to Temple, Miami and UConn and had an offer from Ohio State that was eventually taken back before he committed to the Hurricanes late last week. He hauled in 40 catches for 981 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran 39 times for 334 yards and six scores. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown as a senior.
> Of note: Njoku is considered a talented track athlete. Last year he broke his county record in the triple jump (47-8) and school record in the high jump (6-10)
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/90257/david-njoku

QB Brad Kaaya wakes up early to make sure he's one of the first Canes to fax NLOI over

Brad Kaaya told the L.A. Times on Monday his plan was to wake up and fax his signed national letter of intent over to Coral Gables and be one of the first recruits in for the Hurricanes.

Mission accomplished. Despite being three hours behind on the clock, UM's quarterback of the future woke up bright and early and posted on Twitter that he got it done.

As of 7:10 a.m., UM had yet to make the announcement official on its Twitter feed.

UM announced St. Thomas Aquinas All-American center Nick Linder was also one of the first to send his fax through.

Many recruiting experts predicted Kaaya, who received an early UM offer and committed to the Hurricanes back in May, would eventually opt to stay out on the West Coast. But despite overtures from USC, UCLA and Boise State, Kaaya kept his word.

“Through the process, you have to know the difference between who you can trust and who’s feeding you what you want to hear,” Kaaya told the L.A. Times on Monday.

Of the rumors of him straying from UM, Kaaya said: “I was wondering where are they getting these sources from and how credible can they be?”

With Stephen Morris gone, UM has three quarterbacks currently on scholarship and two they are adding as part of the 2014 class. Senior Ryan Williams, redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and sophomore Gray Crow will be the only scholarship quarterbacks around in the spring. Kaaya is joined in the 2014 class by three-star Mobile, Ala. quarterback Malik Rosier.

“Kaaya is the QB of the future for this team,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. “He's got the tools, the arm, the footwork. He definitely has the escapability to get out of the pocket and make tough throws on the run. He’s an accurate quarterback.

"As a prospect he's a step up from the prospects they have there at UM now. If you look at Jacory [Harris] and [Stephen] Morris, they both had considerable weaknesses. Kaaya brings better tools to the table. If he had enrolled early he would have had a shot right away to start. He's better than Kevin Olsen and Ryan Williams. He's going to go in there and establish himself as the best QB on the roster by the end of the season. He's the best they've brought in under Al Golden. He reminds me a lot of Colin Kaepernick. He has real tools, a live arm, not as good of a runner, but escapes pressure well.”

THE PROFILE

Brad Kaaya, QB, West Hills, Calif.
> Measurables: 6-4, 215
> Twitter handle: @TrinidadBrad
> Commitment date: May 13, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Tabbed a four-star recruit and ranked 141st overall regardless of position in 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 14th in the state of California and seventh among pro-style quarterbacks
> Career highlights: At Chaminade High, Kaaya completed 225 of 362 passes for 3,853 yards, 27 TDs and only six interceptions as a senior before being selected to play in the Semper Fi All-American Game. He ran twice for 14 yards and a touchdown. As a junior, he completed 126 of his 186 attempts for 1,875 yards, 13 TDs and 2 INTs. Despite some late love from UCLA and Boise State, Kaaya stuck to his Canes commitment.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1269507/highlights/66537379

National Signing Day: Canes live recruiting updates

Good morning it's National Signing Day. 

Fax machines will begin receiving signed National Letters of Intent beginning at 7 a.m.

The Hurricanes have 26 commitments: nine early enrollees, one signee waiting to enroll and another 16 who have pledged to sign with them today. We will track all the action in this Cover-It-Live blog -- including when signed letters of intent become official at UM.

The Twitter accounts for 16 of UM's commitments have also been linked to the live blog. Those are: RB Joseph Yearby, WR Braxton Berrios, DT Calvin Heurtelou, DE Chad Thomas, DT Anthony Moten, DE Demetrius Jackson, DB Kai Hester, QB Brad Kaaya, TE Chris Herndon, DE Mike Smith, DB Marques Gayot, WR Darrell Langham, TE David Njoku, DT Michael Wyche, QB Malik Rosier and WR Tyre Brady.

The blog will feature Twitter feeds from UM's official account (@hurricanesports), those of our reporters and others out on the scene to cover announcements live, and links to other blog items, video and analysis as it comes in.

While this blog will remain at the top of today's blog there will be individual news items posted throughout the day below it. You will see links to those items in the Cover-It-Live feed.

Below this I'll include a timeline of events as the day progresses.

SIGNING DAY TIMELINE

> 7 a.m.: Signed National Letters of Intent begin being received at colleges throughout the country.

> 8 a.m.: Immokalee CB J.C. Jackson is set to announce his decision and will choose between the Hurricanes and Florida Gators.

> 9 a.m.: National champion Miami Booker T. Washington will host its Signing Day ceremony. UM commitments Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson are expected to stay with Miami. Quarterback Treon Harris will choose between FSU, UF, UM and Auburn.

> 10:30 a.m.: Former Hurricanes commitment and All-American defensive tackle Travonte Valentine is set to choose between UM and LSU.

> 3:30 p.m.: A Hurricanes National Signing Day show hosted by UM radio personalities Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr. will air live on FoxSports Florida.

> 4 p.m.: Coach Al Golden will address the media in a Signing Day press conference. UM will have interviews with assistant coaches and Golden throughout the day as Letters of Intent arrive on HurricaneSports.com.

February 04, 2014

Previewing Signing Day for the Hurricanes

SIGNING DAY COVERAGE

> The Hurricanes' 2014 recruiting class stands at 26 players (nine early enrollees, one signee and 16 commitments) on the eve of National Signing Day. UM remains a player for a handful of other recruits, though none of them are currently projected by experts to pick UM. 

- J.C. Jackson, CB, Immokalee (8 a.m. announcement)
- Treon Harris, QB, Miami Booker T. Washington (9 a.m. announcement)
- Travonte Valentine, DT, Hialeah Champagnat (10:30 a.m. announcement)
- Lorenzo Featherston, DE, Greensboro, N.C. 
- Lamont Gaillard, DT, Fayetville, N.C.

> If you want to know who has officially signed with the Hurricanes on Wednesday UM’s official football Twitter account (@MiamiHurricanes) will provide updates as the National Letters of Intent are received and processed by the school's compliance office.

> HurricaneSports.com will post video highlights, bios and digital trading cards when each player makes it official. UM assistant coaches will also be interviewed on camera for the website to talk about the Canes’ 2014 additions.

> UM was one of 13 schools selected by ESPN to be featured throughout the day. Coach Al Golden and assistants will be interviewed during ESPN’s 16-hour coverage on ESPNU.

> Fans who would like to receive mobile text alerts every time a Canes recruit signs a National Letter of Intent Wednesday can do so by texting GOCANES to 90561.

> Football play-by-play radio voice Joe Zagacki, and color analyst Don Bailey Jr. will host a live 30-minute Signing Day show at 3:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Florida statewide. That precedes Al Golden's press conference with the rest of the South Florida media at 4 p.m, which will be streamed live on HurricaneSports.com.

> UM is not having a signing day event for fans, but the first 1,000 fans at the men’s basketball game vs. No. 18 Pitt Wednesday night will receive a limited-edition trading card set featuring the 2014 football recruiting class. The trading card set will include early enrollees Trevor Darling, KC McDermott, Trent Harris, Juwon Young, Braxton Berrios and Joseph Yearby in addition to the recruits who sign Wednesday.

January 22, 2014

An early look at the Hurricanes 2014 football schedule with predictions

Are you ready for some Monday night football?

If not, get ready.

The Hurricanes are going to open the 2014 football season on the road at Louisville -- the team that just pounded them in the Russell Athletic Bowl -- on Labor Day night (Sept. 1) at 8 p.m. The game will be carried by ESPN. The Hurricanes will obviously be facing a brand new Cardinals team with a new starting quarterback and head coach. So it's tough to handicap the game now eight-plus months away.

UM's complete schedule -- which features 10 bowl teams and FAMU and Virginia -- was released at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Here is the rest of it with some quick analysis:

- vs. FAMU, Saturday, Sept. 6: Not a lot of time to recover from a road trip. Good thing is the Rattlers are coming off a 3-9 season and still in rebuilding mode. Canes should cruise in this one.

- vs. Arkansas State, Saturday, Sept. 13: The Red Wolves are coming off an 8-5 season in the Sun Belt and a win over Ball State in the GoDaddy.com bowl. Miami should be better than this team and coming off what should be a blowout win over FAMU will help.

- at Nebraska, Saturday, Sept. 20: Bo Pelini's team finished 9-4 thanks to a win over Georgia in the Gator Bowl. The Hurricanes haven't faced the Cornhuskers since beating them in the Rose Bowl in 2001 to win their last national title. Although the all-time series is tied 5-5, Nebraska is 3-0 versus UM all-time in Lincoln. Kansas State made most of us want to forget what happened the last time UM traveled to the Midwest to play a game. Here's to hoping the next trip is different.

- vs. Duke, Saturday, Sept. 27: The Blue Devils capped their best season in recent memory by finishing 10-4 and winning the Coastal Division. They thumped Miami up in Durham and finished ranked 23rd in the country after losing a shootout to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M 52-48 in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. If Miami doesn't win this game at home expect Al Golden's seat to begin to feel a little warm.

- at Georgia Tech, Saturday, Oct. 4: The Hurricanes have won five straight over Georgia Tech since Paul Johnson's team ran for 472 yards in a 41-23 win back on a cold November night in 2008. The Yellow Jackets finished 7-6 last season and lost to Mississippi 25-17 in the Music City Bowl. This one makes me nervous considering the Hurricanes had to pull out a 42-36 overtime win the last time they played in Atlanta.

- vs. Cincinnati, Saturday, Oct. 11: The Hurricanes haven't faced the Bearcats since cruising to a 38-12 win in Cincy back in 1998. Former Hurricanes assistant Tommy Tuberville (1986-93) enters his second year in Cicny coming off a 9-4 season and a loss to North Carolina in the Belk Bowl. The only time Cincinnati has beaten Miami? Way back in 1947. Cincinnati has 15 Floridians on its current roster including seven from Dade and Broward. Miami should also still be good enough to beat them.

- at Virginia Tech, Thursday, Oct. 23: The Hurricanes will have 12 days to prepare for the Hokies in what should be a huge Thursday night game in Blacksburg. Frank Beamer's team fell to 8-5 after its blowout loss to UCLA in the Sun Bowl. UM has only won two of the last eight meetings against the Hokies and have only won twice in Blacksburg in eight tries since 1995. Tough one.

- vs. North Carolina, Saturday, Nov. 1: Larry Fedora's team finished the 2013 season 7-6 after a blowout win over Cincinnati and Miami was forunate to come out with a 27-23 win in Chapel Hill last year. Believe it or not, UM has lost two of its last three at home to the Tar Heels. Another tough one.

- vs. Florida State, Saturday, Nov. 15: Miami will have two weeks to prepare for Jameis Winston and the defending national champions. It might not mean much if last year's Heisman winner is rolling. Florida State will be coming off a home game against Virginia the week before and have Boston College the following week after Miami. Those aren't exactly distractions. Toughest game of the year for Miami. FSU has won four straight in the series and seven of the last nine meetings.

- at Virginia, Saturday, Nov. 22: Finally a cupcake. At least we think. Virginia has never been an easy out for Miami. The Hurricanes are only 6-5 against the Cavaliers all time. UM has dropped two straight in Charlottesville.

- vs. Pittsburgh, Saturday, Nov. 29: Miami could be fighting for a spot in the ACC championship game -- or for a bowl berth if things don't go well -- heading into this week. The Hurricanes are 32-9-1 all-time against Pittsburgh, their former Big East rivals, thanks to a 41-31 win on the road last year. UM has won eight straight and is 16-1 against the Panthers dating back to 1984. No reason at least now Miami shouldn't win this game. Pittsburgh finished 7-6 last year and is coming off a win over Bowling Green in the Little Ceasar's Bowl.

> MY WAY TOO EARLY PREDICTION: Miami, with a new quarterback and a lot of young pieces on the defensive line, goes 8-4 with losses at Louisville, Nebraska, Virginia Tech and at home to Florida State.

January 19, 2014

Duke Johnson says he doubts he'll be back for spring football; Miami lands 2015 commitment

The Miami Herald's Safid Deen, who covers recruiting for us, bumped into Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson at a South Florida Express 7-on-7 practice Sunday morning.

Johnson, whose season came to an abrupt end when he broke his ankle against national champion Florida State, covered a few topics including whether or not he thinks he will be back on the field for spring practice.

"I don't believe I will," Johnson told Deen. "But if anything changes, you'll see. But I don't really think so."

Johnson guessed he was about "a month and a half to two months" away from participating to on field activities. Johnson said he is lifting weights.

Johnson said the rumors about coach Al Golden leaving for Penn State earlier this month were exactly what he and the team believed them to be "rumors."

Johnson said Golden never spoke to the team about the rumors.

"We didn't feel the need to," Johnson said. "We looked at it as just rumor as that's what it was. Nothing took place that we know of. Nothing really happened. He's still here. There was no need to have a talk with us. We're moving on to our season and don't have time for distractions such as that."

> Canesport.com and InsideTheU.com reported Sunday that Miami received a commitment from 2015 offensive lineman Kevin Feder of Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey. Feder (6-9, 305) is rated a three-star recruit according to both sites.

> Both sites also reported 2014 commitment Demetrius Jackson, a 6-4, 220-pound defensive end from Miami Booker T. Washington "solidified his commitment" to the Hurricanes after taking his official visit this weekend. Jackson reportedly canceled an official visit he had planned for Texas Tech next weekend.

January 17, 2014

Grading Miami's recruiting class, roster as homestretch before Signing Day begins

We are heading down the homestretch here in recruiting. Thursday, the dead period ended and college coaches were back on the recruiting trail.

With three final weekends of visits left before National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 5., most of the best players in the country -- almost all already committed -- are playing the game and looking for nice weekend get-aways while building the suspense for their "big announcements." Personally, I hate what recruiting has become. I'm convinced most of these kids have made up their minds and only a select few are really on the fence with decisions. 

With that, I give you the rundown of how the Class of 2014 for the Hurricanes has been pieced together thus far. As you know, things change quickly in the recruiting world. All it takes is one tweet to send a fan base off the edge these days. Miami has 26 players currently "committed" to being a part of the incoming class and could add more or lose more in the coming weeks. The class ranks eighth according to ESPN; ninth according to Rivals and 10th according to 247Sports.

QUARTERBACK

UM reportedly offered 10 quarterbacks according to 247Sports.com and landed a commitment from West Hills Chaminade (Calif.) Brad Kaaya (6-4, 215) back in May. He’s considered the seventh best Pro-Style Quarterback in the country. Kaaya will visit UM this weekend (Jan. 17) and has maintained he’s a firm commitment to Miami. But he’s still being courted by Boise State and UCLA and there's a chance he could spurn UM late and stay on the West Coast. Miami has another quarterback commitment from Faith Academy’s Malik Rosier (6-2, 205) of Mobile, Ala.

Of the five dual-threat QBs Miami offered Rosier is ranked lowest by 247Sports (27th). Miami had a commitment from the higher-rated Alin Edouard (6-1, 180) of Hialeah High but stopped recruiting him. Edouard is now committed to Syracuse. The Hurricanes finally offered hometown star Treon Harris (5-11, 180, 9th best dual-threat QB according to 247Sports) of Miami Booker T. Washington a scholarship offer at quarterback and he will visit UM on Jan. 31. Harris is committed to Florida State.

> My take: Everything I hear about Kaaya is that he has an NFL arm and offensive coordinator James Coley loves him. Considering Kevin Olsen – last year’s big signee – was suspended for the bowl game it’s imperative Miami holds onto Kaaya. I have little doubt Ryan Williams will be Miami’s starting quarterback when the 2014 season starts, but the Hurricanes badly need a young passer to emerge as the season moves along. If not Olsen, then it has to be Kaaya. The fact Miami offered Harris at quarterback this late is almost comical. At what point during Booker T.’s national championship run did coaches finally say ‘That Harris kid is pretty good?’ He should have been offered at quarterback much earlier. Current recruiting grade: B+ (if Kaaya sticks around). Overall position grade heading into 2014: C

RUNNING BACK

UM offered 18 running backs a scholarship according to 247Sports.com and currently has only one committed – Miami Central star Joseph Yearby. The 5-9, 190-pound consensus 4-star tailback is rated eighth-best at his position and is already enrolled at UM. But this was a big year for running backs in South Florida and Miami not only missed out on two blue-chip talents -- American Heritage’s Sony Michel (5-star, Georgia) and Central’s Dalvin Cook (5-star, Florida State)– they also lost the top running back in Broward County, Deerfield Beach’s Brandon Powell, who made a last-second switch to Florida after Miami had already announced him as an early enrollee.

The Hurricanes now appear focused on trying to land JUCO running back De’Andre Mann (5-10, 205) of Salinas (Calif.) Hartnell Community College or Louisiana's Cameron McKnight (6-2, 220, 4.6-speed, 3-star Rivals). Mann, a backup to former Hurricane and current Miami Dolphin Lamar Miller, ran for a school-record 1,706 yards and 30 touchdowns this past season. Canesport.com reported Mann has nine offers including Kansas, Western Kentucky, Purdue and Hawaii. McKnight's other offers are Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe and Southern Miss.

> My take: I'm taking the approach that Miami only needed to land one of the big three (Yearby, Cook, Michel) in its backyard and pat them on the back for it. I’m not sure how many programs out there can land more than one Top 10 consensus running back each year anyway -- especially with Duke Johnson already in the backfield. But losing Powell at the last second to hated rival Florida was bad. Now the Canes are scrambling. Yearby, coming off a foot injury, will almost certainly see playing time in 2014. Miami definitely needs to sign at least two backs in this class, though. If they don't that's a big failure. Personally, I'd give Coral Gables High standout Gregory Howell (6-0, 204) a look. FAU and Minnesota have shown interest in him. He's been dominant in his three years as a starter in Miami-Dade County. Current recruiting grade: B. Overall position strength: B

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

Homestead’s Ermon Lane (6-3, 193) was the highest rated of the 26 receivers Miami offered according to 247Sports.com. But he never seriously considered the Hurricanes and after de-committing from Florida last week appears headed to Florida State where he will take his final official visit on Jan. 31. Instead, Miami has ended up with three three-star commitments in Raleigh, N.C.’s Braxton Berrios (5-8, 170, No. 52 WR according to 247Sports), Darrell Langham (6-5, 190, No. 70 WR according to 247Sports) of Santaluces Community School in Lake Worth, Fla., and South Dade’s Tyre Brady (6-3, 187, No. 141 WR according to 247Sports) and a wildcard in Carol City’s Trayone Gray (6-2, 210, No. 59 ATH according to 247Sports). Two other receivers badly coveted and missed out on were West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman’s Travis Rudolph (6-1, 185, No. 6 WR according to 247Sports) who is headed to Florida State and Palm Beach Dwyer’s Johnnie Dixon (5-10, 187, No. 8 WR according to 247Sports) who is headed to Ohio State. FSU also took Brady’s teammate C.J. Worton (6-1, 175, No. 75 WR according to 247Sports). We’ll have to see who ends up having the better career between Worton and Brady. St. Thomas Aquinas four-star receiver Corey Holmes (6-2, 175) was the only other Dade or Broward County receiver the Hurricanes offered.

At tight end, Miami offered a dozen recruits according to 247Sports and landed a commitment from Chris Herndon (6-4, 230, No. 33 TE according to 247Sports) from Norcross, Ga. Canesport.com reported Miami is pursuing Cedar Grove (N.J.) tight end/receiver David Njoku (6-4, 217, No. 71 TE according to 247Sports). He already took a Miami visit in December and is still being pursued by Penn State, Ohio State and Temple.

> My take: Some kids just don’t want to stay home and I think that’s the case with Lane. Getting Rudolph or Dixon certainly would have been upgrades over what Miami ended up with. But Miami still went out and got three solid receivers to help fill a need. I just don't see a Stacy Coley in this group. Gray, whose grades have always been a concern, would instantly be the best receiver in this group in my opinion if he makes it into school without a hitch. With Tuesday’s news that 2013 signee Derrick Griffin is heading to Junior College, the Hurricanes will likely need at least one new addition to step in and help in 2014 alongside Coley, Herb Waters and Phillip Dorsett. As you know, Malcolm Lewis needs to prove he’s fully recovered from his 2012 foot injury and Rashawn Scott needs to prove he can avoid suspensions. At tight end, 2013 signee Standish Dobard (1 catch, 15 yards in 3 games) should have no trouble replacing the role of Asante Cleveland (3 catches, 23 yards, 1 TD in 13 games) as the team’s third tight end behind Clive Walford and Beau Sandland. That should make 2014 a redshirt season for Herndon and whoever else Miami signs. It would have been nice for the Hurricanes to nab local product Ravian Pierce (6-4, 215, No. 14 TE according to 247Sports) but that ended up as a victory for former Canes coach Randy Shannon and Arkansas. Current recruiting grade: B. Overall position strength: B+

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Hurricanes reportedly offered 30 offensive linemen according to 247Sports and did well landing early commitments from four much-needed prospects all in-state including three locally. Kc McDermott (6-6, 300, No. 3 offensive tackle according to 247Sports) is probably the best offensive player in Miami’s class and has a legitimate shot of starting at Miami from Day 1. McDermott along with three-time state champion and Miami Central standout Trevor Darling (6-4.5, 327, No. 8 offensive tackle according to 247Sports) are already enrolled at UM and on the team roster. St. Thomas Aquinas standout and Under-Armour All-American Nick Linder (6-3, 273, No. 56 offensive guard according to 247Sports) and Semper-Fi All-American Reilly Gibbons (6-6, 292, No. 28 offensive tackle according to 247Sports) will arrive in the fall.

> My take: Clearly the best part of Miami’s class on offense because there are no big misses and lots of quality. Two members of this group should help make up for the losses of four players in the rotation last season: starting right guard Brandon Linder (Nick’s older brother), starting right tackle Seantrel Henderson, key sixth man Jared Wheeler and Malcolm Bunche, who is seeking a transfer. Junior Hunter Wells, sophomores Danny Isidora, Taylor Gadbois and Alex Gall and redshirt freshmen Sunny Odogwu and Hunter Knighton are “the other guys” coming back alongside starting left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Jonathan Feliciano and center Shane McDermott (Kc’s older brother). Current recruiting grade: A. Overall position grade: B

DEFENSIVE LINE

Addressing the defensive line was clearly the priority for the Hurricanes in this class. According to 247Sports.com, Miami offered 33 defensive ends and 30 defensive tackles. Miami Booker T. Washington's Chad Thomas (6-5, 240, No. 3 weakside defensive end according to 247Sports), an Under Armour All-American, is widely considered the best defensive player in this class and is UM's only 5-star recruit. Teammate Demetrius Jackson (6-4, 220, No. 20 weakside defensive end according to 247Sports) has been flirting with Arkansas for a long time and is a late flight risk. He’ll visit UM this weekend where Miami hopes to solidify him. Winter Park’s Trent Harris (6-2, 231, No. 14 weakside defensive end according to 247Sports) is already enrolled at UM. Miami Northwestern’s Mike Smith (6-2, 210, No. 32 strongside defensive end according to 247Sports) has been committed to UM since June but will visit Louisville, a hub for former Northwestern standouts, on Jan. 31. 

At tackle -- a position Miami has long suffered at -- the Hurricanes have addressed immediate needs with two JUCO signees Michael Wyche (6-4, 315, No. 12 JUCO DT according to 247Sports) and Calvin Heurtelou (6-3, 304, No, 9 JUCO DT according to 247Sports) of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College). Wyche is waiting on an ACC appeal to report and Heurtelou is working to arrive before Miami’s Jan. 23 deadline to register. Of the group of tackles, however, St. Thomas Aquinas Semper Fi All-American Anthony Moten (6-4, 292, No. 15 DT according to 247Sports) is the most highly-regarded. The Hurricanes also have Courtel Jenkins (6-2, 294, No. 76 DT according to 247Sports) of St. Anthony School in Jersey City, N.J. lined up to be part of the class. He’s been committed since June and had other offers from Maryland, Rutgers and Pittsburgh.

> My take: A big key here for Golden and his staff will be getting U.S. Army All-American Travonte Valentine (6-3, 338, No. 7 DT according to 247Sports) of Hialeah Champagnat back in the class. Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio and two assistants went to visit Valentine at school on Thursday. He de-committed after Golden flirted with the Penn State job after was already leaning toward leaving for LSU, where he will take an official visit (Jan. 24) before visiting Miami (Jan. 31). Locally, UM was in the running early for Chaminade Prep U.S. Army All-American Khairi Clark (6-2, 325, No. 17 DT according to 247Sports) before he committed to Florida in June. In the end, Miami went after the three best available pass rushers and three run stuffers in their backyard and currently have four of the six committed and could end up with five if Valentine comes back. Throw in two quality JUCO guys who can help right away and a defensive end who is already enrolled and it’s a very good haul. Considering the team lost six players to graduation – and only two starters (tackle Curtis Porter and end Shayon Green) Miami has clearly upgraded on paper overall. Current recruiting grade: A- Overall position grade (with signing class): B.

LINEBACKERS

The Hurricanes reportedly offered a total of 36 linebackers according to 247Sports and have three lined up to be part of the 2014 class. None of the three are considered elite, but the good news is two could be around for spring football. Juwon Young (6-2, 228, No. 59 OLB according to 247Sports) of Albany, Ga., is already enrolled at Miami. Darrion Owens (6-3, 216, No. 30 OLB according to 247Sports) of Oakleaf High in Orange Park, Fla. is still trying to enroll before the Jan. 23 deadline. Pompano Beach Ely’s Terry McCray (6-2, 215, No. 60 ILB according to 247Sports), expected to arrive in the fall, has a small ongoing romance working with LSU, which has taken kids from Ely in the past but doesn’t appear interested enough at the moment to take him. Miami is also still reportedly in the hunt for four-star Raymon Minor (6-3, 210, No. 18 OLB according to 247Sports) of Richmond, Va., who will take an official visit this weekend. There’s also a chance former 2011 signee Antonio Kinard could sign with Miami. But his JUCO coach at Arizona Western College reportedly doubts Kinard will finish school by July.

> My take: Locally and in the state it just wasn’t a very good year for linebackers. Three of the top six ranked among the Top 100 players in the state – Jacob Pugh, Kain Daub and Delvin Purifoy (three top 20 players) – are all headed to Florida State. The one local recruit in the state’s Top 100, University School’s Richard Yeargin, is headed to Notre Dame. Miami didn’t offer Yeargin according to 247Sports. The fact Denzel Perryman is returning to Miami downgrades my concern at linebacker from Category 5 problem to Tropical Storm. There are quite a few young guys who have to step up on this unit in a big way. It's time for Raphael Kirby, Alex Figueroa and Tyriq McCord to prove they can be dependable starters and not role players. Current recruiting grade: C+ Overall position grade: D+

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Miami reportedly offered 19 cornerbacks and 20 safeties according to 247Sports.com and have one corner and two safeties committed, none who will be around early this spring. Kiy Hester (6-0, 200, No. 19 S according to 247Sports) of St. Joseph Regional in Motvale, NJ and Marques Gayot (6-1, 205, No. 67 S according to 247Sports) of Park Vista Community School in Lake Worth, Fla. are the two safeties Miami got commitments from in December. Miami Northwestern’s Ryan Mayes (6-2, 180, No. 67 CB according to 247Sports) has been committed to the program since June. The Hurricanes had another commitment from Booker T. Washington’s Nigel Bethel (5-9, 173, No. 28 CB according to 247Sports) but he recently switched to Texas Tech. Locally, there were other talented players in Miami’s backyard available in the secondary. But Plantation High’s Chris Lammons (5-9, 170, No. 20 CB according to 247Sports) committed and de-committed from Florida and is now looking at South Carolina. Miami never offered University School’s Quincy Wilson (6-1, 196, No. 28 S according to 247Sports). But they did go after Miami Central’s Deatrick Nichols (5-10, 180, No. 56 CB according to 247Sports), who committed to former high school coach Telly Lockette at USF. The other potential big swing and misses: Immokalee’s J.C. Jackson (5-10, 180, No. 19 WR according to 247Sports), who appears headed to join Florida State’s class. Miami is now reportedly in late on Tampa Jefferson athlete Deoindre Porter (6-1, 180, No. 190 ATH according to 247Sports). He de-committed from USF and is scheduled to visit UM on Jan. 31.

> My take: Miami had a commitment from Dillard’s Dennis Turner (5-11, 175, No. 150 CB according to 247Sports) but had him as a wide receiver and not at cornerback like where his own coach said he would probably be better suited to play. Although the additions of Hester and Gayot are good pickups for Miami, the fact Lammons, Bethel and Nicholas are all leaving town has to irk you a little. The good news is Miami has a chance to make up for it next year. The secondary, led by juniors Tracy Howard, Deon Bush, Antonio Crawford and Rashawn Jenkins, sophomore Artie Burns and senior Ladarius Gunter is a solid top six. Depth, though, will be a concern unless some young players step up. Current recruiting grade: B-. Overall position grade: B-

January 07, 2014

U.S. Army All-American Travonte Valentine, coach want sit down with Golden

U.S. Army All-American defensive tackle Travonte Valentine dropped his commitment to the University of Miami last week when talk of coach Al Golden possibly heading to Penn State began to reach a fever pitch.

Tuesday, his high school coach Mike Tunsil said Valentine could end up rejoining Miami's class now that Golden has announced he's staying put. But the 6-3, 338-pound standout and his coach at Hialeah Champagnat want to have a sit down conversation with Golden to "make sure everyone is on the same page."

"Travonte just wants security," said Tunsil, who said he's handling all interviews for Valentine until he makes his final announcement on National Signing Day. "He's been saying UM for a long time. He loves UM. But for Coach Golden to go interview for another job was unsettling. 

"A lot of things can change when a coach leaves. Now that Golden is back he wants to find out why Golden [interviewed] and if he really is planning to be there for the long haul."

Tunsil said Valentine has communicated with Golden since he de-committed on Saturday after the U.S. Army All-American Game. But Tunsil said he hasn't spoken to Golden and will reach out to him this week if he doesn't hear from him soon.

"Travonte loves UM, the small class rooms like here at Champagnat," Tunsil said. "His mom is close to him here. It's all about sitting down with Golden and getting on the same page. He has a great relationship with their coaches, coach Hurlie Brown. He's not asking for any starting job to be promised or anything like that. He knows nothing is given. It has to be earned."

Valentine, ranked the eighth-best defensive tackle in the country by 247Sports, named LSU his leader after the U.S. Army Game. Tunsil said Valentine plans on visiting UM and LSU before he makes his final decision on Signing Day. He said Valentine could also end up visiting Alabama or Kentucky before then.

"He just doesn't want to go somewhere and then there is a coaching change," Tunsil said. "People have been badmouthing him on Facebook and Twitter since he de-committed. It really isn't fair to the kid. He just wants to see what's going on."

Tunsil said any rumors about Valentine having academic issues and not being able to qualify at UM aren't true.

"He's got the grades and the test score. It's always been a core class issue and he's been taking care of that with online classes and here," Tunsil said. "Travonte could qualify at any school in America except the Ivy Leagues probably."

January 06, 2014

January 05, 2014

Al Golden's silence a reminder this is all just business

Commitment.

That's the one word that gets thrown around more than any other in college football.

Yet, as we've come to realize, it means absolutely nothing. 

Al Golden used the word right after the Hurricanes got embarrassed by Louisville a little more than a week ago in the Russell Athletic Bowl. And he meant it. 

"I made a commitment to get it done and we're going to fight our asses off until we get it done," Golden said of returning the Hurricanes to dominance.

Now, less than 10 days later, we're sitting here wondering if he's leaving for his alma mater Penn State. So are his bosses, assistant coaches, players and recruits.

"We don't know anything yet," President Donna Shalala told the Miami Herald in an email.

Golden? Not a peep, which says his commitment and his loyalty is really only to himself and his family. 

We all know this of course. We're not naive. We all have priorities. If you were in Al's shoes and your alma mater came calling, offering more money, offering a heroes welcome, you would have to listen at least.

And maybe that's all this is. Maybe Golden won't be leaving anywhere. 

After all, Penn State is reportedly interviewing Mike Munchak and James Franklin today. Maybe Al isn't sure he'd be better off back where he met his wife Kelly. Maybe being the next Joe Paterno isn't his thing. Maybe he wants to jump from Miami to the NFL and aspires to be the next Bill Belichick.

Only Al and his people know.

What does Al want us to know? Nothing. His silence speaks for itself. It reminds us people in college football can use the word commitment one day and change their minds the next. All anyone is really going to do is what's best for themselves from one decision to the next. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's real life.

In the end, if Al stays at Miami, it's going to be hard for some to believe just how committed he really is to this program. And the truth is that's really what was maybe Golden's most likable quality wasn't it? The fact he was, in his words, "going to fight [his] ass off until we get it done."

That commitment to standing by Miami's side through the NCAA mess. We loved that. The idea he was going to dig his feet into the ground, recruit his butt off and take Miami back to the top. Many Canes fans -- after a 7-0 start and rise to a No. 7 ranking -- were completely buying in. 

Not so much anymore of course. They want his best bud, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, out of here. Get rid of him or you can go with him Al, many say. 

If Al leaves, which many outside the program seem to think he will, the next guy will be expected to pick up right where he left off. Since the Canes went 9-4 this year, the next guy has to secure that Top 10 recruiting class, and then win the Coastal Division. No excuses. To not accomplish that would mean failure. 

The good news for Hurricanes fans is that if Al leaves there are  hungry, interested coaches out there who could accomplish that.

Mario Cristobal would be the first person I would call. Yeah, Cristobal left for a better paying Alabama job after Al gave him one when FIU dumped him.

But can you imagine anyone "fighting his ass off" for Miami -- his alma mater -- harder than Cristobal? He still hasn't tasted that NFL money, still hasn't really proven himself. He would work to get to that point. 

And that's really what this Miami job has always been about. It doesn't pay enough to be a place where someone settles in for the long haul. It never has been. In it's most successful days it's always been the springboard to then next big, better paying job.

Some are saying Rob Chudzinski, Greg Schiano and Butch Davis would be great options. Tommy Tuberville might be too. But I'd call Mario first.

The only commitment you would need from Cristobal is what this program has really always been about and needed. That's a commitment to winning and winning big. 

December 30, 2013

December 28, 2013

Walford, Perryman talk future; Golden talks championship timetable, evaluating coaches

ORLANDO -- Not a lot of positive to report after the 36-9 thumping the Hurricanes took at the hands of Louisville Saturday night here in the Russell Athletic Bowl. But a quick few bullet points before we get to the transcript.

 > Tight end Clive Walford said he's decided to return for his senior season. He led the Hurricanes with four catches for 82 yards tonight. 

> Linebacker and leading tackle Denzel Perryman, a new father, said he hasn't made up his mind yet if he's returning for his senior season.

"I was going to wait until pretty much after this game," he said. "Whatever kind of break we have I'm going to go home, sit down, talk to my family, make the best decision for me." 

Perryman said he hasn't heard back from the NFL advisory committee yet. "I sent them my evaluation paper I don't know how many weeks ago," he said. "It should come in either this weekend or next weekend."

He said he's going to wait for it before making his decision. What will be the biggest factor? "I don't know. I haven't thought about it yet," he said.

TRANSCRIPT

Here is everything UM coach Al Golden and quarterback Stephen Morris had to say post-game. You'll want to read the stuff specifically about Golden's time table for when he thinks UM will be back competing for national titles and how Louisville threw things at Miami they weren't prepared for. 

Opening statement: "Obviously disappointed we got beat in all three phases. There's no excuses. We didn't play well enough, give a lot of credit to Louisville they played really well, executed well. Again, it's my responsibility and disappointed in our execution in all three phases. I just -- as I just shared with the team. Despite that, just really proud of Stephen and this group of seniors and what they've been through and what they've endured in moving us forward from six to seven and from seven to nine wins. We're going to miss them greatly for all that they've contributed and obviously for their leadership through really tough three years. So go ahead."

Q: Did it kind of remind you of the Florida state game that you clearly were just against a football team that was significantly farther along than where you are right now?

COACH GOLDEN: Again, Gary, I appreciate the question but it's so hard to answer that without discrediting the guys in that locker room especially the seniors who have been busting their tail to keep us afloat and move us forward. I think everybody recognizes and I'm going to answer this honestly. Everybody recognizes that we're not where we want to be yet but we're scratching and fighting and clawing to get to where we want to be and keep moving forward. We've done it, you know, against terrible odds. I'm not going to discredit the guys we just played, but we have to get better and we're going to play these guys again in the near future and we got to be better.

Q: Al, what does have to change going into next season defensively?

COACH GOLDEN: "Again, we didn't give the defense a chance early in the game. I thought they were playing really well. They did a great job against the run. They were out there for too many plays and we didn't convert. I think we were 0 for seven at the half. Matt, there's a lot of things that have to change. We have to do better job coaching, we have to continue to build our program and just move forward and -- but, again, I think the defense was what was holding us in there in the first half and they were out there for too many plays." 

Q: Coach, did you see any of this in preparation, in bowl practice? Was there any sign the game would be like this?

COACH GOLDEN: No, obviously it's our first go round for the freshman, sophomores, and juniors. It's the first time going through this experience. Again, Stephen and Jimmy and Allen, they provided really good leadership for us. But, again, it's the first time. You got to go through it. We didn't want to play the way we played. We wanted to play better. There are going to be a lot of things from this week and from going into a site and learning how to handle the media and the crowd and all of those things that we have not had the opportunity to do. Again, I think our guys are going to find value in that and learn from that.

Q Coach, can you please tell us a little bit more about the significance of the senior class and how it's been in this program after you guys have been through?

COACH GOLDEN: Again, I don't think it's -- to go out on a limb and say they saved us. They could have cut and run. They kept us afloat, you know, and they saved us. I don't know how else to look at it. You know, that's about as hard as you get what they had to endure for three seasons. You know, again, it's not to our standard, let alone anybody else's expectations, but I'm not going to let that eclipse what these young men have done for the university of Miami and this program and the class they exhibited and to take somebody else's problem on and claim it as their own and have the resolve and the mental toughness to fight through. I'm proud of them.

Q Stephen, this question is for you, obviously today four sacks, most pressure you felt all season back there. Can you talk about the performance and this being your last game as a Hurricane?

MR. MORRIS: "Obviously it wasn't the performance I wanted to have being my last game but give credit to Louisville. They had a great defensive plan going. They were in the right spots at the right time. They came up with making the play. It's definitely something I want to work on, something it's been an issue for running on third downs we needed to do a better job on that. Over all my performance as a quarterback was not one of my greatest performances but you just learn from it."

Q Coach, you've been here three years, defensively there's been some issues with schematics. Are you going to reevaluate the whole staff and everything in the future now that the season is over or perhaps look to make any changes?

COACH GOLDEN: I'm going to evaluate the whole program, just like I do every year. It's not going to be any different. Again, there's things right now but in terms of moving the program forward, we're going to keep moving it forward. We're going to be resolute in that and we're not going to flinch with that. Again, at the end of the day, we're going to continue to recruit, continue to develop, but in terms of the young kids in our program and everything, I don't want to trade the young kids. I want to keep going. I want to keep moving forward. I just think overall, I think it's really important that every coach, every unit, every player, everybody is evaluated and I'll start that probably tomorrow.

Q Stephen, this might not have been the way you wanted to end your career here but has it fully hit you you've played your last game at the university of Miami and what is it you'll take away most of your time at the university?

MR. MORRIS: I think it will probably hit me tomorrow when I wake up and won't have a schedule from coach Golden and won't have a tech saying where I need to be. It's been a pleasure here, man. It's been a true blessing. I'm blessed to say that all these coaches have truly left such a great mark on my life. It's changed me to a better man. I'm proud to say. Football is a game of wins and losses. Unfortunately we didn't win how we wanted to win. Sometimes we lost the way we loss. I'm always going to be proud to say I'm a Cane.

Q How much did they change over the month in terms of blitz packages?

COACH GOLDEN: It was different.

Q Significantly different?

COACH GOLDEN: Yeah, no it was definitely different and then obviously you know when they got out to a lead and we never brought my pressure on the other side, which kept compounding the problem, Gary. So I don't think there's any question about it. Then you get to a point in the game where you're pressing and your trying to make some plays that you don't need to make. I don't think there's any question we didn't protect as well as we needed to protect. It's my responsibility.

Q Coach, this is for you and Stephen. I know it's not good right now, but the week in general, I mean, talk about how was the bowl experience for you/ 

MR. MORRIS: The bowl experience was very fun. Russell Athletic did a great job hosting the events for us. On top of that the week's practice was great. Even when we were in Miami we had tough physical practices which was great. Guys were excited to be here and when we got to the bowl site throughout the whole week everyone was focused and everyone invested a lot into this game. It's disappointing the way the game turned out to be but it's been a great experience.

COACH GOLDEN: I would say on above of the University of Miami we're grateful, the Russell Athletic Bowl and Orlando for just -- they did a tremendous job for our young people and especially given the fact that our guys hadn't experienced that since 2010. We're grateful.

Q Al, I think Teddy had over 400 yards passing in this game. What was he doing that just allowed him to be so effective tonight?

COACH GOLDEN: Number one, I think he made a lot of plays where he broke a tackle, you know, made a completion. He made some really, really excellent plays, just individual plays where it looked like we had him for a sack. It looked like we got him for a sack, he breaks the tackle and throws. There was a number of those, number of those plays, but obviously he's an excellent quarterback, he threw the ball well, but, again, you can't -- there's no excuses right now. He played well, he execute well. Their team executed well. We have to do a better job.

Q You spoke about a lot of the momentum you felt this month and obviously with everything that's gone on this season, what type of message does this game send the recruits?

COACH GOLDEN: Well, I don't know if it sends a message. I just think we're still building. We need help. Obviously the size of this class is an indication you know that we're bringing a big group in and there's a lot of room to help us. I don't think there's any question that those kids understand that. They understand that they can help us and there's room to help us and we're not in a situation right now where we want to be and those kids see themselves as guys that can help us get there. So I don't think that's going to change anything. We just got to keep moving forward.

Q Coach, you're going to have the opportunity to play Louisville again real soon. How are you going to play differently and what can you expect from that program over the next several years?

COACH GOLDEN: Again, I can't really speak to what direction they're going. All I can answer is what we need to do. Obviously we need to get back to work and see how we evolve with our personnel in the spring. Depending on when we play them, we'll make determination what our game plan is and what our personnel is. That's so far off right now. We're going to add 25, 26 guys to this team and obviously develop the young men that we have and decide what direction we want to go in all three phases in the off season and spring ball and we'll decide what the game plan will be.

Q Coach, you talk about the process all the time and now the cloud is removed from the NCAA do you have a time frame you expect to get this program back consistently top ten competing at a high level?

COACH GOLDEN: Well, number one, we just won nine games for the third time in a decade. I wish we had won ten, all right, but we're busting our tails right now to keep moving. There is no time table. Again, I take responsibility for everything, responsibility for everything in the program. At the end of the day today wasn't good enough. Again, I'm proud of the seniors and I don't want that to be diminished or lost here. We're going to keep moving this thing forward and it's hard for me to give you a time table. When my time table is wiped out on August 15, 2011. It's hard me to give you a time table. I made a commitment to get it done and we're going to fight our asses off until we get it done.

Q I was just wondering about you know what happens tomorrow? Do you meet with the under class men at all? Do the seniors just kind of walk away and that's the end?

COACH GOLDEN: We'll get the seniors back when they either, A, come back to school or when they start to work out to get ready and do those types of things. They know. We have a great relationship with the seniors, but tomorrow everybody is going to kind of go their own way. That's pretty traditional. We'll find an opportunity to get the seniors back and get them together, but we really did try to honor them as best we could at the banquet and just make sure before the game they understood how important they were and we just had another opportunity and we did that again.

Q Are you -- I guess you probably already talked to some of the juniors that are contemplating, perhaps, entering the NFL. How does that work now?

COACH GOLDEN: We have a great process in place where they get their draft reports. They had and will continue to have opportunities to speak to every entity that they need to, but as it relates to me. I'm just there for support. I am not part of that decision. I make sure that they get everything that they can get to make the best decision for them and their future and obviously if they need consultation from me, then I give it to them, just as we have a whole booklet of people that they can call and different people they can get information from to make the best decision for themselves.

QB Kevin Olsen, WR Rashawn Scott, CB Ray Lewis Jr. don't make bowl trip

ORLANDO -- The Miami Hurricanes were hurting at receiver coming into this game with sophomore Herb Waters out. 

They are minus another: junior Rashawn Scott. He was among a list of three players UM confirmed did not make the trip up to play in the bowl game.

The others: freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen, who had made previous road trips and dressed in uniform, and cornerback Ray Lewis Jr. 

UM has not given a reason as to why the three players are not playing. But they have confirmed they were left behind.

Scott has been suspended multiple times, including at the end of last season.

Olsen was charged with leaving the scene of a car accident before arriving at UM this summer. The report stated that Olsen “appeared to be under the influence of something.”

He and Lewis were both being redshirted this season.

Either way, it's never a good thing when you don't end up making a bowl trip with your teammates and you are healthy.

Russell Athletic Bowl live blog: UM vs. Louisville

ORLANDO -- The Hurricanes (9-3) hope to complete their first 10-win season in a decade with a win over 18th-ranked Louisville (11-1) at 6:45 p.m. tonight at The Citrus Bowl.

It won't be easy. Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a former standout at Miami Northwestern and once a UM commitment when Randy Shannon was coach, leads a potent Louisville passing attack.

Las Vegas lists the Cardinals as a 3 1/2 point favorite. With good reason, too. Despite facing a pretty weak schedule, Louisville is sound defensively. 

We'll be here to provide live updates as usual on Twitter and in our live blog. 

December 27, 2013

Who owns the edge? Miami vs. Louisville in Russell Athletic Bowl

ORLANDO -- Here is a breakdown of Saturday night's Russell Athletic Bowl game featuring Miami (9-3) and 18th-ranked Louisville (11-1). The Cardinals are favored to win by 3 1/2 points. 

> Here is also a link to my weekly segment with Orlando Alzugaray on 640Sports.com.

WHEN MIAMI RUNS THE BALL

Louisville coach Charlie Strong said the Hurricanes present the toughest challenge his defense has faced in his four years with the Cardinals. That's not exactly a stretch -- at least for this season.

The Hurricanes are the highest-ranked scoring offense (35.9 points per game, 25th nationally) and top rushing team (172.5 yards per game, 63rd) the Cardinals will face this season. Although Louisville ranks second nationally in run defense (86.25) and is allowing only 2.74 yards a carry, they've faced only two teams who rank better than 80th rushing: Cincinnati (68th) and UCF (79th). Both of those opponents had some success (160 yards average and three touchdowns each) against the Cardinals.

Can Dallas Crawford, Gus Edwards and Eduardo Clements find running lanes behind a big, beefy offensive line that averages 320 pounds? With Duke Johnson sidelined over the last four games, they haven't done it enough. Miami has averaged 121 yards on the ground. That ranks 109th. To beat Louisville, Miami will also have to be better on third down (37.8 percent, 85th). The Cardinals rank second nationally in third down defense (28.6 percent). Edge: Louisville.

WHEN MIAMI THROWS THE BALL

The Cardinals have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the country (eight) and rank eighth in passing yards allowed (171.7). Only Cincinnati, whom the Cardinals beat in overtime 31-24 in the regular season finale, managed to throw for more than 250 yards against them. Sophomore cornerback Charles Gaines leads the team with 11 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Miami, led by quarterback Stephen Morris and receivers Allen Hurns and Stacy Coley, has thrived with the big pass play. UM ranks second nationally with 35 pass plays of 30 yards or more. Louisville has allowed only 10 pass plays of 30 yards or more all season (tied for fifth-fewest).

What the Cardinals do best to stop offenses is sack the quarterback (39 total, fifth nationally). Senior defensive end Marcus Smith ranks second nationally in sacks (12.5) and junior Lorenzo Mauldin is 17th with 9 1/2. UM has allowed only 13 sacks on the season. Edge: Even.

WHEN LOUISVILLE RUNS THE BALL

About the nicest thing you can say about Miami's run defense (ranked 81st, 182.33 yards per game, 25 TDs allowed) is that it isn't as bad as last year's (114th, 217.92, 29).

Junior Dominique Brown (6-2, 216) and senior Senorise Perry (6-0, 187) are averaging five yards a carry and have combined to run for 1,414 yards and 14 touchdowns on a Cardinals rushing attack that ranks 80th (150.2 yards per game). It's likely Louisville could opt to give them more work than usual Saturday when you consider the Hurricanes have given up 821 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground over their last three games. Edge: Louisville.

WHEN LOUISVILLE THROWS THE BALL

For the first time since 2010, Miami's pass defense has produced more interceptions (18) than touchdowns allowed (13). Of course, Teddy Bridgewater, the nation's fifth moss efficient passer (70.2 completion percentage, 3,523 yards, 28 TDs, 4 INTs), could change all that Saturday night.

He's got six receivers with at least 22 catches this season. Bridgewater doesn't go deep as often as Morris does, but when he does 6-3, 209-pound junior DeVante Parker (46 catches, 743 yards 11 TDs) is usually his favorite target.

But for the most part, Louisville doesn't mind killing their opponents slowly. The Cardinals rank sixth in time of possession (33 minutes, 25 seconds per game). Miami's defense is used to being on the field a lot.  The Hurricanes rank 118th in time of possession (26:21). Edge: Louisville.

SPECIAL TEAMS

UM kicker Matt Goudis ended the season by shaking out of his funk with seven consecutive made field goals, finishing 13 of 17 including a season-long of 49 yards. Punter Pat O'Donnell had a special season, averaging 47.3 yards a kick including 20 punts of 50 yards or more.

Gaines has returned a kick (93 yards) and a punt (35 yards) for a touchdown this season and is hands down Louisville's most dangerous weapon in the return game. Cardinals kicker John Wallace hasn't had to boot many pressure kicks, but is 17 of 21 on field goal attempts with no makes longer than 39 yards. He has had three field goals blocked and punter Ryan Johnson (41.2 yards) has had one of his kicks blocked.

Louisville's punt coverage team is very good having allowed 15 total yards on 13 punt returns. Coley has a punt and kick return for a touchdown this season and should be aided by the return of Phillip Dorsett. Edge: Even.

COACHING

Strong hasn't faced many ranked opponents in his four seasons as coach, but he's 4-1 in those games. His team has trailed only once at halftime this season -- 13-10 against Houston -- before rallying for a 20-13 win.

Louisville will be Miami's third rank opponent this season. The Hurricanes beat Florida 21-16 back on Sept. 7 before the Gators went into a tailspin and then they were blown out at Florida State 41-14. Miami is 3-5 under coach Al Golden against ranked teams. Good starts are almost mandatory with UM going 17-1 when leading at halftime under Golden, and 3-13 when trailing. Edge: Louisville.

PREDICTION: Louisville 38, Miami 27

Al Golden's Russell Athletic Bowl press conference transcript

ORLANDO -- UM coach Al Golden met with reporters Friday morning to look ahead to Saturday night's showdown with Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville at the Russell Athletic Bowl. Here is the complete transcript.

Opening statement: "Obviously, very grateful to Russell Athletic Bowl and the Orlando community for just an incredible week and an opportunity for our young people and all of our families, our staff, our coaches, wives, our children, just an incredible experience and one that will create lasting memories, so we're excited. We've turned our focus here in the last 48 hours to really getting ready for a really, really good Louisville Cardinal team and excited about the opportunity to kick that ball off tomorrownight at 6:45, so with that I'll open up to any questions that you might have." 

Q: Coach, with a day until the game, what's the perception like with your players knowing that the University of Miami is back in a bowl game and they're this close to being on the field?

COACH GOLDEN:  Well, they're excited.  We've been excited, really, since we started our first practice, you know, probably more than three weeks ago now.  Our freshman, sophomores, and juniors were not able to experience this so -- and that includes everything.  That includes the bowl practices, that includes the travel, the unity and the bonding that occurs during these -- that can really only occur when you -- when you experience things like this.  And they've practiced with a purpose.  I think they've really earned our trust all week by being where you are.  You know, they really conducted themselves well and were accountable to each other and now it's really time to get focused in and get ready to play this game. 

I think we're in the right -- you know, we have a long way to go until we kick it off, but we're in the right frame of mind right now. 

Q: Coach, Teddy Bridgewater is such a dynamic quarterback.  What have you seen that you're going to do to try to stop him tomorrow night?  

COACH GOLDEN:  Well, I think you got to -- you can't let him throw in rhythm, so obviously you have to get pressure on him, you have to change up the rotation or the looks.  He'll pick you apart if you just stay in one coverage or if you don't put any pressure on him.  I think the thing about Teddy Bridgewater that he probably doesn't get enough credit for is his mechanics are tremendous.  Tremendous balance, tremendous mechanics and, you know, really well taught.  So he's got poise.  His completion percentage to interception ratio is phenomenal, so we have to find a way to get pressure on him and we have to, you know, obviously make some plays.  

Q: Coach, given the current competitive nature of college athletics, do you think the concept of the big three as it used to be, is that still attainable for obviously you guys and Florida and Florida State to be at that elite level on a regular basis? 

COACH GOLDEN:  Well, I mean, clearly Florida won championships.  I don't know exactly, I think I want to say six and eight, '06 and '8, and Florida State is playing for a championship this year.  We have to do our part.  We have to continue to build.  Obviously we've been encumbered a little bit more than we would have wanted to be the last two years, but we feel like we are moving the program forward and we do have an opportunity with a win tomorrownight to be the first team in Miami in a decade to win ten games. 

And given the circumstances and the adversity that we've dealt with, that would be a tremendous task and a great honor for our seniors.  So I don't think there's any question that can still happen and we intend to make it happen. 

Q: Can you talk about how the extra bowl practices have helped with recruiting and where you are now in terms of the 2014 signing class?  

COACH GOLDEN:  Well, there's no many different ways to look at it.  Number one, we didn't have the -- clearly we are one of the largest cities in the country in terms of cultivation and recruiting.  We have one of the best bases, but yet the last two years we didn't have the opportunity for those young people to come over and watch bowl practice and be around us the way they are now. 

We also didn't get this opportunity for a week long infomercial, if you will, that a lot of our adversaries had the chance to and then it was all compounded by the fact we were embroiled in something that brought a sensational element and we were dealing with a very difficult task.  So I think clearly the first two are in place now.  The third one has been eliminated, and just in the two weeks that I was able to get out, you know, we just have not, Manny, since we've been here -- and, again, you've covered us from the get-go.  You know, the first year was a transition year and we didn't have much time at all to go recruiting and then the second two years we were dealing with a very tumultuous situation. 

It's never felt like it's felt right now.  We feel like we're recruiting to a higher level right now.  We feel like the questions that we're getting from parents or coaches or young people, prospects are in line with what they should be.  They should be about our university, about our program, our systems, our philosophy, and I can't tell you how good that feels to be able to go just out and recruit without handcuffs on.

It's been -- it's again great.  This week has been great for us and can't wait to get back out on the road again. 

Q: Coach, you were talking about those inroads with recruiting. Sometimes Louisville is known as Miami north, 26 guys from the area.  In that regard, how important is this for the future with so many eyes in that area on this game? 

COACH GOLDEN:  Again, Coach Strong and his staff do a great job of identifying who they want to recruit and I believe the same for our staff.  The difference now for us is that we don't have to do it with one hand -- really two hands tied behind our back.  Again, whatever Louisville's philosophy is, their philosophy, I don't really worry about what anybody else is doing.  I don't worry about the ones you don't get.  I worry about the ones that you do get. 

The ones that you do get have to be able to play, have to be able to execute.  They have to be able to execute your philosophy on a daily basis.  And as it relates to the University of Miami, they have to attend the number one school in the state of Florida, a top 40 institution nationally.  So we're proud of that.  And so, again, we have so much -- I mean this with a great deal of respect for Coach Strong and Louisville, but I would say the same thing if you were talking about Florida or Florida State or any of our adversaries, especially in the southeast.  I don't negatively recruit.  I don't talk about the other team, ever.  We feel like we have one of the greatest products that there is in college football.  We've gone through a very, very difficult time and we're excited to go out and sell that again and be able to do that.  And so to be honest, I really don't worry about the other programs because we're in one of the greatest climates mats that there is in the nation.  We have one of the best institutions in the nation.  We've had more guys in the NFL than anybody.  We've got a great tradition.  We've played for more national championships than anybody over the last 30 years.  We've won more, and it's our job to get it back and we're going to do it and we're going to keep fighting.  And this is a big step obviously moving forward. 

Q: Coach, are there any -- I know you're seeing Louisville again next year in the regular season.  Are there any benefits at all preparation wise, spend some time looking -- how do you think they might have fared competitively in the ACC this year? 

COACH GOLDEN:  Again, I think, you know, Coach Strong, they're fundamentally sound as any team that we'll see.  I think they're going to do what they'll do.  I feel the same way about us.  We're going to do what we do. 

And whenever we meet again next year, you know, depending on quarterbacks, depending on personnel, depending on what direction both programs go in the spring and then obviously the way we start the season, it might change a little bit, but we are pretty much who we are and we're just going to try to get better at it.

I think the one thing that we sorely missed, and maybe I underestimated it, that we really missed were these bowl practices.  You know, to see Jermaine Grace and Jamal Carter and Artie Barnes, Gus Edwards and how much better they have gotten over this, you know, three and a half weeks or whatever, whatever it has been, this time of bowl preparation has been invaluable and clearly those young guys are going to benefit from it down the road.  We've missed that. 

Q: The second part was how do you think they might have fared?

COACH GOLDEN:  I think they're going to be an excellent team.  It's a great addition.  I'm sorry I didn't follow up.  I'm being blinded here by the light.  It's a great addition for the Atlantic Coast Conference, it really is.  It's making us stronger in every aspect, in every sport, but certainly from a football standpoint, from a men's and women's basketball standpoint, baseball.  It's going to make us really strong.  We're excited to have them in. 

You know, we have to do our part.  We have to continue to move and get better and that's going to help the national appeal of the ACC.  But certainly I think Louisville coming in is going to help us an the brand recognition now from Boston down to Key West is really going strong for us in terms of television sets and population density.  It's going to make us strong and I think Louisville is going to help us with that. 

Q: I wanted to get your thoughts on just Ladarius Gunter's progress.  The last time he was out there, it ended very scary for him.  You know, how has he just been working back from that injury and that situation and how did that impact all the guys afterwards? 

COACH GOLDEN: I think Ladarius -- you know, first of all, we have great medical staff and we're so much better prepared, all of us, in the sport now to handle any injury that may look significant as it relates to head or neck.  So we -- he ran through all the tests.  Certainly he missed the last game, but was really cleared the next week when we started practice.  And he's another young man that has gotten better and especially at the bowl side.  I think he's practicing with a purpose.  I think he understands the challenge ahead of him with Teddy and this great receiving core that we're going to face.  He's been really doing well.  In terms of the impact on the team, the team knows that we're going to always be smart with them relative to head injuries or, you know, the protocols that we have in place to make sure that we safeguard their health and put the student athlete welfare first.  I think our team trusts that and understands that, so I know they were glad that he was, A, okay, number one, okay, and then, B, that he was able to return to action and compete like he is. 

Q: Is there room in this state for the big four with the way UCF has been progressing? 

COACH GOLDEN:  Again, for you guys -- those are all the story lines for you guys.  I mean, I wished I lived in that world.  Sometimes I wish I did, but I don't live in that world.  I don't worry about any of those things.  I just think George has gone a great job.  George is a class act and he's done a great job and I'm happy for George.  

But, again, it's hard for me to understand, you know, without playing them or seeing them or being in the league, you know, what all goes into that, you know, other than, you know, you admire the job he's done from afar.

Really, with our student athletes, with our staff, with all that we've been through, we're just focused on Miami and moving Miami forward and I just can't tell you how good it feels to finally be able to do the things that you came to Miami for, A, go to bowl games, B, get your team better, C, recruit like you are at Miami and not, you know, being challenged by things that are -- circumstances out of your control. 

Q     Coach, as you've watched the film, who at Louisville kind of jumped off the screen and you believe is the next level talent?  

COACH GOLDEN:  There's quite a few.  Starting with Teddy -- you know, again, I can't say enough kind things about the young man and his maturity and probably the leadership that he provides to their organization, but he's such a good decision-maker and so good with his balance and his rhythm and those are the challenges for us, so certainly Teddy.  

But there's others.  I mean, wide receiver core is really talented.  Again, I got them all here, Parker Copeland, you know, all those guys do a great job, Eli Rogers.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Marcus Smith on the other side of the ball, a very disruptive -- you know, 12-plus sacks, the TFLs that he has, very active, you know, active secondary, you know, Brown at middle linebacker, a big, strong physical kid who can run, so those are all some guys. 

But overall very balanced and offense.  You know, they'll rush for 150 and throw for 300, very balanced.  They do a great job with time and possession.  They convert on third down better than just about everybody that we've seen at over 55 percent.  On defense, you know, they're top ten on just about everything on defense.  I think the one thing that jumps off to me at defense is how disruptive they are.  Tackles for loss sacks and interceptions, very disruptive group.  And their experience, they have an experienced offensive/defensive line.  If you can get experience there, you have a chance to be good. 

Q:  I know you're limited in what you can say in terms of names and so forth, but in terms of early enrollees do you have a number now that you're thinking you're going to end up with? 

COACH GOLDEN:  No.  It's still evolving.  I would say safely eight, you know.  You probably have it in front of you more than I do.  It's probably about eight.  It may grow depending on what transpires here.  But, you know, we need that.  You know, we needed some guys to come in and offset some of the losses we had.  I'm excited for those young people that are coming in because it's going to give us an opportunity to challenge them and acquaint them to how we do things at the University of Miami and cultivate them into our philosophy and how we do things systematically and then obviously give them a chance to adjust to college life itself.  I'm excited about that.  

Q: Obviously you have a lot of commitments.  You've been rebuilding this class for awhile.  But this last month, are there any position areas that you're still hoping to address, or do you feel like you've pretty much shored up everything you've wanted? 

COACH GOLDEN:  No.  We still got some positions that we have earmarked.  I really don't want to get into the specifics of it, Manny, with all due respect.  You know, there's still some -- you guys really probably do a better job of just charting who we're recruiting.  That will tell you what we're still looking for. 

But because of, you know, some of the things that we imposed against ourselves in the last two years, we had a very small class last year.  That's not ideally how you want to build your team.  This class is going to be a large class.  It's kind of backwards.  It should have been the other way around.  But having said that, we're excited about this group and what they bring and I really feel like it has a chance to be our best class since we've been here.  It may be that way already, Manny, to be honest with you.

Q: Coach, with it being only a day away from the bowl game, what's your main message to the whole team?  Is it to make sure that they win?  Is it to make sure that they get out there and play? 

COACH GOLDEN:  Well, I think clearly we're prepared, you know.  We're prepared, but, you know, you can lose a lot of games in the final 48.  I think the most important things for our guys is to trust.  We have 120 years of bowl experience on our staff, but yet we have very few young people on our team that have been to a bowl game so now they have to understand how to stay focused and how to avoid the lobby and how to avoid all the -- because, you know, as the preparation dwindles, you know, as the game approaches, the amount of distractions increases. 

There's more people in town.  There's more family in town now since the holiday, you know, has ended, so now they really have to trust the formula that we have for them, win the final 48 mentally, and just really stay focused and eliminate the distractions.  That's easier said than done when you don't have a lot of guys on the team that have been there, so that's going to be our -- you know, in addition to what the message is to the team, it's going to be making sure we do that. 

Q: I'm going to try to take you to that world, so I apologize.  You're a hot commodity coach.  Charlie Strong is a hot commodity coach.  Having dealing with him, he is frustrated with answering questions and questions and questions.  How do you deal with it?  

COACH GOLDEN:  I'm going to have Charlie answer them.  Is Charlie coming back in?  I'll have Charlie answer them for me.  You know, we're in one of the greatest places that there is in college football and we've gone through a really hard time.  But it's hard to imagine, you know, places out there that you could, you know, sell, that you could present better than the University of Miami.  We know we're not where we want to be, but we know we're not where we were.  It was pretty dark days, as you remember.  Many of you covered it.  We were on the cover of Sports Illustrated two years ago.  For these kids -- and it wasn't because we were holding up a trophy.  They wanted to end the program.  I dealt with masses of media. 

My first training camp at the University of Miami, if you can imagine throngs of media three or four times the size of this.  Manny is over there shaking his head.  And the questions were are you going to have a team next year, and I couldn't believe it. 

But we had a lot of young men that stood with the University of Miami.  We had a lot of coaches and staff that stood with the University of Miami through really, really dark times, dark days and we're excited about moving the program forward.  We're excited about the experience this week and the opportunities that we have and all that we're doing.  You know, we just moved into a new football complex.  We just finished a new student center on campus.  There's never been a better time to be at the University of Miami in terms of the educational opportunities, in terms of everything that we can afford.  Young people in our college town of Coral Gables, South Miami, Coconut Grove, you know, but yet we have the diversity and culture that only a world-class city like Miami can bring.  So we haven't had the opportunity to really sell that and I'm looking forward to doing that here in January and thereafter.

December 15, 2013

Hurns named team MVP at Hurricanes award banquet

The Miami Hurricanes football team held its 2013 Canes Football Awards Show on Saturday night at the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall located inside the Frost School of Music.

Joe Zagacki, the “Voice of the Miami Hurricanes”, served as the awards show’s emcee. The show opened with the top 13 plays of the 2013 season.

The Hurricanes coaching staff handed out 21 annual player awards. Freshman WR/KR Stacy Coley was named the team’s Newcomer of the Year; junior LB and Butkus Award semifinalist Denzel Perryman was named Defensive MVP, while senior OG and Senior Bowl participant Brandon Linder was named Offensive MVP.

Second-team All-America P Pat O’Donnell was named Special Teams MVP and senior WR Allen Hurns was awarded the Jack Harding Team Most Valuable Player award.

Throughout the evening, several video messages from prominent #ProCanes were played for the team – Warren Sapp, Michael Irvin, Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis, Ed Reed, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester and Greg Olsen.

QB Stephen Morris was the recipient of the Plumer Award for Leadership, Motivation and Spirit. Senior DE Shayon Green received the Melching Leadership Award. Both awards are voted on by the team.

At the end of the night, head coach Al Golden thanked the senior class and all 25 seniors were presented with their framed jersey.

December 13, 2013

Al Golden Q&A with media on Friday

Opening statement

"We were on the road all week, and we’re excited to be out on the field tonight and again tomorrow for the last two open practices, and then we’ll great into our preparation for Louisville and the Russell Athletic Bowl. I missed an opportunity to visit since the bowl announcement, but clearly we’re grateful for the opportunity to go to the Russell Athletic Bowl, to play in Orlando, and let our kids experience the sites and attractions and the community in Orlando, and get a great opponent in Louisville. Our kids are excited, I think they’re grateful. They’ve been through a lot the past two years, and they have not been able to have this opportunity. I thought after we talked last weekend, that [the conversation] resonated in the way they practiced. Hopefully we’ll see that again here tonight and tomorrow. They’re practicing with a purpose, they’re excited, and clearly they have a really tough opponent coming up."

On the younger players who impressed during the first weekend of bowl practice…
“Just jumping around, I think Taylor Gadbois and Alex Gall were two guys that really benefited from that. I think both of those guys stepped up and showed that they’re capable, so we’re going to continue to push them and get them ready here for the bowl game. Those are two guys that come to mind. I told [Raphael] Kirby again today, I thought he really grew up last week and played with low pad level and ran and took charge of it. He needs to do that. In Jimmy [Gaines’] absence, he needs to be able to do that. If he keeps practicing like he did last week, he’ll carve out more playing time. I thought Jamal Carter really great up and answered the call for us. 

“There were a lot of guys who really competed. There were others, a lot of guys that really competed. You got that sense when you were out there, that it meant something to them. Clearly now with a lot of the veterans coming back, there will be more competition. We’re still going to see a lot of those young guys, but this time it will be against guys like Allen Hurns, Stephen Morris and Brandon Linder, which should make the competition all the more better.”

On the challenges for his secondary of facing Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater…
“We have to play really well. This is a very talented young man. He has great command on the offense. I don’t want to intimate you at all, that I’ve studied everything I can about them, we’re going to do that about 11 a.m. Sunday. We’re going to take two whole days to do that. Clearly we see enough Thursdaynight games or Friday nights to see the young man is talented. He has speed, good corps of receivers, knows how to distribute the football, doesn’t make many mistakes with the football, can move in the pocket. It’s going to be a great challenge for our corners and safeties. Those guys are going to be challenged again tonight to improve, compete and get better. Certainly we’re not where we want to be yet, in every facet of the game – not just corners and safeties.”

On his satisfaction with safety play, specifically Rayshawn Jenkins and Deon Bush…
“I think your comment is fair. We need to continue to be more physical and more consistently physical. Deon clearly has been hampered all year. Hopefully every time we were hoping we were going to see Deon…he came up with a hamstring recently and before that, his groin. Hopefully we’ll see him get healthy here and finish off the season well. With Rayshawn, it’s continuing to trust the process and be consistent. Not your highs be high and your lows be low – just continue to be consistent, and we have to to get that play out of him, there’s no question about it." 

On how he has seen freshman Stacy Coley improve over the first weekend…

“I think Allen [Hurns] has been a great mentor for him. He has learned how to prepare. I keep saying to you guys, his talent is really good. He has excellent talent. But what’s allowing him to play at a high level and have so many explosive plays is [that] he’s trustworthy. We give him a lot of plays. It’s really a great example of ‘Hey, if you want to increase your role in a game, master the ones we give you.’ He has done that. It hasn’t always been easy for him, as you guys can recall. He didn’t start off the season the way he wanted to, let alone how we wanted him to do. He fought through it and continued to get better every day. This is a young man who can be a great model for a lot of young players out there for how to prepare, how to study, and how to article that. Mike James talked to our team in the spring, when he got back from the NFL Combine, about being able to regurgitate it and being able to articulate it. This young man, no matter what we ask him – he’s very loud and proud in the meetings. He tells James [Coley] or Brennan [Carroll] or the offense exactly what he’s going to do on a play – with conviction. That leads to a lot of trust. There is a preparation element in there that really exceeds his age.”

On the health improvements of junior Phillip Dorsett…
“I’m expecting him to be healthy, I really am. I’m as anxious as you. I’ve been out all week. I think we have a green light with him. We should see Phillip back to normal, which hasn’t been the case since the North Carolina game for us. We would love to have Phillip back - he was really having a heck of a year when he got hurt.

“I think he has had a great attitude. He fought, fought, fought and got really close, and really we thought we would have a chance with him in the Virginia game but it wasn’t quite right. There were a couple plays in Pitt when he got in, but not to have the impact of the game that he wanted to have. Clearly on offense we were doing well, so it got to a point where [we said] “Do we really need to put him in?” I know he’s anxious to get back out there, and hopefully we’ll see him out there today.”

On how closure to the NCAA investigation has affected his staff’s ability to recruit…
“I don’t know if it’s ever easy, but what energizes your staff when you go out? What motivates it and what drains it? Clearly you can understand almost every high school we left, we left answering 20 questions about something we didn’t have any answers about. We did that for 28 months. It’s very difficult to recruit under those circumstances.

“We didn’t have the opportunity to have tonight - we’ll have 30 or 40 juniors out there from South Florida. We haven’t had that opportunity. We haven’t been provided that opportunity. It feels totally different. You’re not going to get them all. There are other good opportunities for kids and all that, but at the end of the day, we feel like we’re on a level playing field for the first time. It’s unfortunate it comes at the tail end of our third class, but nonetheless, it gives us a chance to finish this one and start the 2015 class with a fresh slate. There has been a lot of positive energy out there, and we’re just excited to move forward. You can feel the difference.”

On the difficulty of recruiting dominant interior linemen…
“When I answer the question, it’s hard to answer without reflecting on the players that are currently in the program. What head coach and what defensive coordinator doesn’t want dominant defensive players? We have to continue to develop the young men we have, but I don’t think it’s a secret we need help on the defensive line, help on the front seven. 

“I think everybody understands that, and I think that’s reflected in our numbers of guys we have committed at those positions. We were not given the opportunity to recruit the type of full class we wanted to recruit last year. We’re making up for it right now. We were looking at 16 commitments going into Signing Day a year ago. If you’re on a regular ‘Year Two’ schedule, that number probably would have been 23, 24 or 25. Here we are the following year trying to make up for that. It’s been a challenge. There were a lot of places we would have loved to fortify our positions a year ago, we weren’t given that opportunity. We gave up a lot so we can move forward now, so let’s move forward.”

On if he has a plan to divide the scholarship reductions …

“I do. I don’t know if I want to share that at this time, just because we’re working through it. Again, it seems very simple, because now they quantified it for us and made it a static number. You can deal with a static number. Last year, I had no idea how many I was going to have - before Signing Day, after Signing Day, right until after we kicked off the ball. Now that we have an idea, I feel like we can plot a course. Clearly I don’t recommend anybody running their business that way. It’s hard.”

December 11, 2013

Nine Canes named to Coaches' All-ACC team

Nine Miami Hurricanes were selected to the 2013 All-ACC Football team by the league’s 14 head coaches, the ACC announced Wednesday. Miami’s first- and second-team All-ACC selections mirrored those selections made by ACSMA last week.

Junior LB Denzel Perryman and graduate P Pat O’Donnell were both named to the first team. Sophomore RB Duke Johnson, senior WR Allen Hurns and senior OG Brandon Linder were named to the second team.

Senior QB Stephen Morris, a third-team All-ACC selection by ACSMA, was named to the coaches’ All-ACC third team and was joined by senior OT Seantrel Henderson, junior C Shane McDermott and freshman specialist Stacy Coley.

Henderson, McDermott and Coley were All-ACC honorable mention by ACSMA.

Perryman, who has started all 12 games at linebacker, leads the Hurricanes defense with 104 total tackles – 65 solo stops – along with 5.0 tackles for loss. Perryman, who was honorable mention All-ACC by ACSMA and the league’s coaches in 2012, has tallied 10+ tackles in six games this season.

O’Donnell ranks third nationally with a 47.3 yards-per-punt average, which leads the ACC by nearly 3.0 yards per kick. O’Donnell has 20 punts of 50+ yards to his credit and 17 that have landed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

Despite missing the last four games of the season with a fractured ankle, Johnson collected second-team All-ACC honors after rushing for 920 yards and six TDs. He was averaging 115.0 rushing yards per game before his season-ending injury. He averaged 174.1 all-purpose yards per contest.

Hurns is currently enjoying one of the greatest receiving seasons in program history. The senior leads Miami in both receptions (60) and receiving yards (1,138). He is only the fourth player with a 1,000-yard receiving season in school history and 19 yards shy of breaking the school single-season receiving yards mark. Currently, Hurns ranks seventh in Miami history in both career receptions (119) and career receiving yards (1,867) and eighth in career receiving TDs (14).

Linder, a preseason All-ACC selection, helped anchor Miami’s offensive line that paved the way for the Hurricanes to average 446.8 yards of total offense and 35.9 points per game. Miami’s offense scored 40+ points five times in 2013.

Miami’s four third-team selections were led by Morris, who has thrown for 2,868 yards and 21 TDs through 12 games. For the second straight season, Morris has posted four 300-yard passing games. The Miami native ranks third all-time in Miami history with 7,736 passing yards and 49 passing TDs. Morris is the only QB this season to throw a 50+ yard pass in nine different games.

Joining Morris on the third team were Henderson and McDermott, who were part of an offensive line that allowed only 13 sacks in 12 games – tied for the fewest in the ACC. Coley is the only FBS player this season to score a TD four ways: rushing, receiving, punt return and kick return.

No. 25 Miami (9-3) will play No. 18/16 Louisville (11-1) in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 in Orlando. Tickets, which are priced at $77 and $82, can be purchased through the UM Ticket Office online at CanesTix.com, in-person at BankUnited Center (M-F 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) or by phone at 1-800-GO-CANES.

Miami is also hosting BankUnited #CanesFest Family Friday Bowl Practice from 5-7 p.m. Friday at Cobb Stadium. Admission is free. Sebastian the Ibis, Miami cheerleaders and the Sunsations will be at practice. Bounce houses will be on site for the kids, who can also take their photo with Santa. The Hurricanes will also be collecting toys for "Toys For Tots". Fans in attendance will also have the chance to purchase Russell Athletic Bowl tickets.

November 30, 2013

Duke beats Carolina, heads to ACC Title game; UM shifts focus to final exams, bowl practices, recruiting

Al Golden said he wasn't going to lose his mind Saturday scoreboard watching or "become a slave to the TV for seven hours" to see if the University of Miami would get the help it needed to reach next weekend's ACC championship game.

Duke made sure the agonizing only lasted three and a half hours for everyone else who bleeds orange and green.

The Blue Devils, who beat Miami for the first time since 1976 two weeks ago in Durham, punched their ticket to Charlotte and a date with second-ranked Florida State Saturday afternoon thanks to a late 27-yard field goal in a 27-25 win at North Carolina.

Had Duke lost and Virginia upset rival Virginia Tech, UM would have began preparing for a rematch with the Seminoles Monday. Instead, the focus for the Hurricanes (9-3) now shifts to final exams, a few days off and the team's first trip to a bowl game since Golden was hired in December 2010.

> Golden said "it's tough to quantify" what missing 30 to 35 December practices under self-imposed bowl bans did to hurt the program over the last two years and he's definitely looking forward to having them this year.

"Having all the [recruits] in South Florida come watch bowl practice and watch us operate and be around our team and players," will be big for the program moving forward, Golden said. Getting to 10 victories with a bowl win -- at likely either the Chick-Fil-A in Atlanta (Dec. 31) or the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando (Dec. 28) -- is also important, Golden said.

> What did Golden like and not like about Friday's effort in chilly Pittsburgh?

"The kids competed; they had a great attitude," Golden said. "It meant something to them which is so important. I think we’ve all seen instances where it’s like, all right, nobody cares. We’re not in this bowl game or that bowl game. Or we’re letting external influences impact our judgment or our attitude or how we play. That didn’t happen [Friday], which was awesome. They wanted to finish on a positive note."

Golden cited Miami's continuing woes on third down (UM was 4 of 11 on offense; 6 of 14 on defense), special teams breakdowns on kick return and kickoff coverage, and a few instances of poor tackling as negatives in the Pitt win. He did, though, credit linebacker Denzel Perryman, safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Deon Bush and cornerback Antonio Crawford as having better tackling performances Friday.

"There are so many things we have to fix and continue to fix," Golden said. "One of our goals in the postseason is clearly to push a lot of young players along that have not had the benefit of this time of year -- to be pushed at this time of year."

> Golden said UM came out healthy from the Pitt game and he expects cornerback Ladarius Gunter and defensive end Dwayne Hoilett, who missed Friday's game, to return for bowl practices. Linebacker Alex Figueroa, who has missed UM's last three games, could return but must be cleared by a doctor.

"If we were playing next Saturday Fig would not be ready," Golden said. "There’s a good chance for the bowl game. That would be awesome for him and great for him to have that opportunity."

> Golden said freshman running back Gus Edwards is "practicing better and starting to become more comfortable" in Miami's system. Edwards ran 11 times for 64 yards and a touchdown Friday.

"We can’t live in the past but there’s a young man that missed however many practices in training camp, a good bunch of them," Golden said. "Gus is a young man that is really going to continue to improve. He should be fresh. His play count is  not as high as Brandon Linder or Clive Walford or some of those guys. He should bring some energy to us and we expect him to continue to improve.

"He’s got deceptive speed but I thought he did a great job with his vision and his lateral cuts [Friday]. He really made the right cuts. He stayed with his cuts, he didn’t freelance at all. And when he got to the second level he made some guys miss. We’ve got to continue to get his pads down and get that stiff arm going but we’re hopeful that Gus will continue to improve."