October 28, 2016

Two QBs you’ll see Saturday when Miami faces Notre Dame have similar numbers – with one big difference.


   Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was not made available to the media this week heading into Notre Dame.

   Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer said plenty.


  Kizer, a 6-4, 230-pound redshirt sophomore, has been getting lots of national attention lately as a projected first-round – even top 10 – NFL Draft pick should he choose to go out early after this season. And that’s despite a 2-5 record and shaky performance last game against Stanford that got him pulled for the backup for a brief time.

  Kaaya, a 6-4, 215-pound junior, has gotten lots of attention himself. This past summer he was also projected by analysts as a first-rounder – in many cases the second quarterback in the draft behind Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.

   Kizer and Kaaya’s numbers are strikingly similar this season, except for one big difference: Kizer can run – and does. He already has seven rushing touchdowns this season and 285 yards on the ground.

    UM (4-3) for years has not been nearly as proficient against running quarterbacks (evidence: last week at Virginia Tech, where Jerod Evans ran for 98 yards and a TD and passed for 259 and two TDs).

   Kizer has completed 118 of 203 passes for 1,775 yards and 14 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. Kaaya has completed 121 of 196 passes for 1,696 yards and 12 touchdowns, with five picks (the same amount he had all of last season).


   But Kaaya’s stock has dropped this season, more glaring after the past three consecutive losses in which he has been sacked 13 times (8 last game at Virginia Tech). UM’s offensive line has not helped one bit, nor has Kaaya’s lack of mobility. Sometimes he needs to get rid of the ball quicker, if even to be prudent and toss it away. But getting pounded doesn’t help a guy’s confidence, nor does injuring one’s throwing shoulder (against FSU on the first play).

   Kaaya is a fighter with immense pride and loyalty to his team. Gotta love that. Here’s some of what Kaaya said the last time he spoke, immediately after the 37-16 loss in Blacksburg:

   “We just haven’t scored enough points on defense. We’ve got to help our defense out. We’ve got to find a way to get the ball in the red zone. We can’t settle for field goals. We’ve got to make plays.’’

   On how he’ll make sure the team keeps moving

   “This team has been close even before the season. Right now our camaraderie, our family is going to get tested. We just have to stay together and keep playing and keep grinding, because there’s still five more games left. It’s still a long season. At the end of the day we’re all we’ve got and we’ve always known that.

   “…We can’t just sit here and mope around and keep losing. You have to stand up and fight. We can’t be mediocre. We have to do something – find a way to get better.

   “…We can’t just put it in the tank… Miami Hurricanes don’t quit no matter what the record is.’’

   Kaaya on third down problems: “We just have to come together at every position because it takes all 11. When we do make plays, our offense executes very well. But in order to get to that point everyone has to do their job… If the O-line does their job and gives me time, the receivers run their routes, the running backs keep their blocks, we all come together and do the right thing, if I put it on the money, we’re going to b e successful on third down…It takes all of us.

  “…There are times I got smacked tonight and other times I probably could have gotten rid of the ball and made something happen – found a way.’’

  “These last couple of outings haven’t been a representation of what this offense if about.’’

   Here’s some of what Kizer told reporters this week going into the Miami game:

   On if he Kizer was frustrated last game, a loss to Stanford in which the Irish had the ball on the Stanford 14 with 41 seconds left and no timeouts and after a short completion, sack and spike, he ran on fourth down and fumbled the ball away (he also threw two picks, one returned 50 yards for a TD):

  “I mean we lost again. The only feeling you have right there is anger. It was a rough game for me. Obviously very interesting getting benched at one point in the game…”

  On how to counteract Miami’s aggressive defense: “You’ve got to match their intensity. They’re a bunch of athletes out there who are all fast, and every last player out there is a big-play type of player. We all completely understand that. In order to go out and be successful against a defense like that, we have to come out with that same aggressiveness, that same confidence in ourself to be the better player and to beat the guy in front of you.’’

   On what the identity – “the thing that always works” – is for the Fighting Irish:  “Our identity is that we have athletes all the way across the board.’’


October 26, 2016

Canes get feisty in practice and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly talks Miami's sacks allowed


The Hurricanes’ practice “went well” Wednesday, UM coach Mark Richt said, with the Canes infusing some feistiness into the session.

 Formerly injured (and likely still sore) starting defensive end Chad Thomas, starting cornerback Sheldrick Redwine, starting safety Rayshawn Jenkins and defensive tackle Gerald Willis practiced again, Richt confirmed, though he declined to comment about their progress.

   “It got a little feisty out there,’’ Richt said. “Guys wanted to get after each other a little bit today, which was healthy.’’

   *** Regarding the Miami running backs and perhaps using Gus Edwards and Travis Homer more, Richt said the Hurricanes “have the right backs in there’’ in Mark Walton and Joe Yearby.

   “I’m not saying Gus won’t get any work, because he has practiced well this week. So he might get some playing time. But I don’t think there’s an issue with the runners. We just have to create more space and block better downfield.’’

   ***Richt said the Canes worked on third downs and red-zone play Wednesday – “third and medium, third and long, third and short; high red zone, low red zone, that was the main focus.’’


Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly addressed the media on the weekly ACC coaches’ teleconference Wednesday.

When asked what stuck out to him about some of Miami’s struggles in watching the tape over the last few weeks, Kelly noted the “new system of offense’’ and how the Hurricanes “are doing some things differently there. I don’t think there’s any one thing particularly…’’ he said. …I don’t think there’s anything glaring. When you look at them you don’t look at it and say, ‘Wow, there’s a hole here or a hole there.’

A couple minutes later Kelly was reminded that last Thursday the Hurricanes gave up eight sacks and that his team had six sacks all season, and he was asked what that equation could mean in the game.

“Well, it means that we’re probably not going to get eight sacks if you go with the numbers. That’s for certain,’’ Kelly said, laughing. “I think Virginia Tech is a very difficult defensive scheme. You’ve got some inexperienced players. They’ve got some young talented players that are growing. Virginia tech can be an avalanche situation where [if] you get one, you can get a number of them. They play a lot of man coverage and if you don’t get rid of the football, some of those sacks can be not just on the offensive line, they could be on receivers, they can be on the quarterback

   “[Virginia Tech defensive coordinator] Bud Foster does a great job of doing that against everybody. So I wouldn’t look at Miami in particular. He’s been doing that for 30 years to everybody.”


October 25, 2016

Major players return to Miami football practice before Notre Dame


Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt said yesterday on 560 WQAM that some injured players would be returning this week as the Canes prepare for Notre Dame on Saturday. 

Just got done with our 15 minutes of practice viewing (and five or so minutes of stretch) and there IS good news for Hurricanes fans. Important disclaimer, however, is that we only watch non-contact, position drill period of practice before the contact and intense stuff begins.

That said, it is nothing but encouraging for this program that the following players were practicing during our viewing:

*** Safety Rayshawn Jenkins -- Almost unbelievably, he was out there playing safety in position drills. Jenkins injured his lower right leg (ankle?) in the third quarter of the Virginia Tech game, and he was in really bad pain. I never thought we'd see him back. Remember, we have no idea how much he practiced or if he'll play. But to see him out there...

***Defensive end Chad Thomas -- His right hand is still in a club, but Chad was doing everything the D-linemen were doing. Chad didn't travel to Blacksburg. This is huge for UM if he plays.

***Cornerback Sheldrick Redwine -- Redwine was a late scratch for the Virginia Tech game when Miami reported the day of the game that he didn't travel to Blacksburg. Redwine was hurt trying to attempt a 50-yard pass play in the second half against North Carolina. He limped off the field. He practiced a bit last week but had to leave practice early one day last week because of the injury, I was told. We still don't know exactly what has been ailing him.

Two players that for the most part weren't with the others during our media viewing, but  but were dressed in practice uniforms and working out a bit on the sideline with the training staff: 

*** Defensive tackle Gerald Willis -- Willis (left knee in brace) was with his position group before walking to the sideline. Willis hasn't played the last two games.

*** Starting defensive end Demetrius Jackson -- His left knee was in a black elasticized brace and he was lightly jogging up and down an area of Greentree. 

Not at practice today:

*** DE Scott Patchan, who was hurt at FSU in the first playing time of his college career after overcoming two ACL tears.

Mark Richt has his weekly press conference at noon today. I doubt he'll tell us much, but I'll be back afterward.

Here's my injury-related story that is in today's Miami Herald:  










October 24, 2016

McClellan makes Wizards' roster; Larranaga, former teammates thrilled

By Michelle Kaufman


University of Miami men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga beamed with pride Monday as he reacted to the news that former Hurricane Sheldon McClellan, who went undrafted, made the Washington Wizards' 15-man roster over the weekend.

McClellan, 23, helped his chances by scoring 20 points in 32 minutes in a double-overtime win against the Philadelphia 76ers last week. He also had four assists, three rebounds and a steal.

“One of the happiest moments of 2016 was to get a text from Tommy Sheppard (Sr. Vice President of the Wizards), and it said, `You have a wall with your NBA players listed and you can now include one more – Sheldon McClellan will be a Washington Wizard this year.’'' Larranaga said. "I’m so happy for him. Deeply deserving of that acknowledgement of his ability to play basketball. He’s such a wonderful kid. I texted him, his mother, his agent.

"He has all the attributes they look for in the NBA. I think he is on his way to a long NBA career."

McClellan posted on Twitter: "Blessed!!! Dream come true was made tonight!!! Excited for my first year and the team."

UM seniors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy, who played with McClellan last season on the Sweet 16 team, were thrilled with the news.

"I'm extremely happy for him," Reed said. "That's the end goal at the end of the day, and to have somebody you played with be there. That's where we all want to be...It's good for the younger guys to see a former player in the NBA and people have heard about his work ethic, what it takes and that will definitely inspires some of our players."

Murphy added: "It's good to have somebody that close to us in that environment to give us feedback on what to expect, things we need to do to get to that level."



October 20, 2016

Miami football confirms more injuries, more players out for Virginia Tech


The University of Miami confirmed Thursday that starting defensive end Chad Thomas did not make the trip to Blacksburg, Virginia, and will miss the 7 p.m. game against Virginia Tech with an “upper extremity’’ injury.

UM had listed Thomas as “questionable’’ on its injury report released Tuesday evening.

And yet another starter who didn’t make the trip and won’t play Thursday: sophomore cornerback Sheldrick Redwine. Redwine, who was listed as starting the past five games, was hobbled and limping after a long pass play last Saturday against North Carolina and never returned. But he was not listed on Tuesday’s injury report.

Also out for Virginia Tech is the other starting defensive end, Demetrius Jackson, with a knee injury. His absence already was on UM’s injury report.

The original report also has defensive tackle Gerald Willis (knee) out, and defensive end Scott Patchan (knee) out for Thursday.

UM will start freshman Joe Jackson and junior veteran Trent Harris at the end spots, with graduate transfer Adrian Colbert expected to make his second start at cornerback.

The Canes’ strength this season has been its defense, despite losing several other players to injuries, some of which required surgeries. Colbert, for instance, already has had knee surgery during the season.

Miami is 4-2 and 1-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and needs to win Thursday night to keep its hope alive in the Coastal Division.

The Hokies are 4-2 and 2-1 and are also coming off a loss, and in need of a Coastal Division victory.



Get prepped: Five questions with Virginia Tech beat writer Andy Bitter


Thank you to Virginia Tech beat writer Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times for giving us insight into the Hokies before tonight's big game at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia. Andy is really thorough. Follow him on Twitter to learn more @AndyBitterVT.

1. How different are things in Blacksburg with Justin Fuente running the show after nearly three decades with Frank Beamer?

More than anything, there’s a different vibe around the program. During the latter Beamer years, everything that happened with the program was always framed with the same question: how many years does Beamer have left? That’s not the best way to have a program that’s looking to the future. That’s changed now with Fuente, who is 30 years Beamer’s junior and an up-and-comer in the industry.

What’s striking is that temperamentally, Fuente and Beamer aren’t all that different. Fuente’s not a glitz and glam guy. He won’t light the press conference up with really quotable material. He’s not a ranter and a raver on the sideline. He’s preached the same day-by-day work ethic mantra that Beamer did. Interestingly, they both have a Murray State connection in their past, Frank having coached there and Fuente having played there. Maybe it’s a Kentucky thing? Whatever it is, it’s kind of like a younger version of Beamer running the program.

That said, Fuente does bring a little more energy. He runs an up-tempo offense and frames his practices that way. Everything is go, go, go, whereas Beamer was a coach who obviously had his tried and true methods that didn’t change that much toward the end of his run. Bringing in a new offensive staff and two new defensive assistants really seems to have reinvigorated this program with some new blood. There’s a new way of looking at things without losing sight of what Beamer accomplished in his three decades.

2. What went so right for the Hokies during their three-game winning streak against Boston College, East Carolina and North Carolina? Where can Tech really hurt an opponent?

More than anything, it was a total team effort. The Hokies were sharp with their offensive execution, didn’t allow anything on defense and were making big plays on special teams -- a Virginia Tech staple. From start to finish, they played total games in those three contests, jumping on teams from the get-go and not letting up.

Offensively, it starts with quarterback Jerod Evans, who has 17 touchdowns and two interceptions this year and has shouldered a bigger load rushing lately. Tech is best when he’s able to move around and out of the pocket, especially when he can get receivers Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips and Bucky Hodges involved. When the Hokies can crank the pace, which they haven’t been able to do all the time this year,, the offense can wear down an opponent. That’s Fuente’s ultimate goal.

Defensively, until last week the Hokies had allowed next to opponents to do next to nothing. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s goal is always to stop the running game first and then make a team one-dimensional in the passing game. That worked to a T for weeks, with the Hokies cranking up the pass rush after forcing teams to go to the air. The weather was terrible at North Carolina, but Mitch Trubisky and Co. really couldn’t do anything against Foster’s defense.

3. So what the heck happened last week at Syracuse?

That’s a good question. I’m not quite sure. Tech was 22-point favorites in that game and looked nothing like the team that had played the previous three games. The offense was sluggish, the defense couldn’t get off the field and the special teams weren’t sharp. For the first time this year, Virginia Tech didn’t jump on an opponent early. The ground game had its worst effort this year. The defense couldn’t get off the field on third and fourth down. And Syracuse really controlled the flow of the game.

By the time the Hokies started playing like a team that could win that game, it was the second half. They managed to tie it up at 17, but by then, Syracuse had so much confidence from earlier in the game and the Tech defense was so gassed from having played so many plays that the Orange won the fourth quarter pretty decisively. Tech ended up playing 100 snaps on defense. Part of that was its inability to get a third- or fourth-down stop. But part of that was the offense giving the ball back so quickly after not sustaining a drive. All in all, it was a valuable lesson that if you don’t bring your best effort on any given week, anybody in the ACC can knock you down a peg.

4. Where are the Hokies most vulnerable?

Evans isn’t as sharp if teams keep him in the pocket and force him to throw under pressure to beat them. Syracuse did a good job of that and the quarterback looked a little rattled. Part of the reason the Orange could come after Evans so much was because the Hokies’ ground game didn’t produce much. It’s been an inconsistent attack for Tech. No single defined running back has seized a large share of the load -- although Fuente doesn’t subscribe to the theory that you need one featured back -- but more than that, the Hokies don’t consistently churn out yards. Even in some of their biggest rushing games earlier this year, the yards came late, after the passing game softened up the defense and the opposing team was worn down. Tech has yet to really come out of the gate and physically dominate an opponent on the ground, which is what Fuente would like to do.

Defensively, Syracuse picked the Hokies apart with underneath passes. That was after hitting on some big plays early, which softened up the coverage. It’s kind of similar to what Brad Kaaya did against them last year. And he’s got the skill to dissect a defense if given time. If the Hurricanes can keep the Hokies’ d-line off of Kaaya, he has a good chance of having success through the air. Tech thrives on chaos, trying to mix up and disguise coverages and blitzes better this year. The more time a QB has to diagnose that, the better he’ll fare.

5. With both teams’ Coastal hopes probably riding on this game, what kind of atmosphere do you expect in Lane Stadium?

It’s hard to say, mostly because I would have said that Lane would have been a madhouse a couple years ago on aThursday night and Miami blew the doors off the Hokies as bad as anyone has in the last 2½ years, dominating 30-6. I’d expect a raucous crowd there Thursday -- it’s Fuente’s first Thursday night game with the Hokies, after all -- but as Virginia Tech goes, so go the fans. They’ve been burned by letdown performances too many times the last couple years to not be a little gunshy if they see another one coming.

And although Virginia Tech built a lot of its reputation on Thursday night games earlier in Beamer’s run, lately that night hasn’t been so hot for them. Outside of games against Georgia Tech, the Hokies have lost four straight on Thursday night going back to 2012 (two to Miami, one to Florida State, one to Pittsburgh). In fact, as you probably well know, the Hurricanes are 3-0 against the Hokies all-time on Thursday nights, having outscored Tech 60-18 on the last two occasions.

Maybe Fuente and his staff can break the trend. They certainly did a good job earlier of not letting the Hokies have a letdown after stomping Boston College and then East Carolina. Beamer’s teams were prone to that late in his run. But then Tech fell victim to a trap game at Syracuse, bringing a lot of Hokies fans back to earth and giving credence to the idea that having a new staff doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a clean slate for all the problems that have plagued Virginia Tech in the recent past. It’ll still be a lively, rocking crowd at Lane on Thursday. Whether it stays that way to the end largely depends on if the Hokies can get back to playing like they did in Weeks 3 through 5.

       ANDY BITTER  


October 18, 2016

Rainy day blues for Miami Hurricanes football


Green and orange?

Try rainy day blues, or here's another cliche: When it rains it pours.

Waiting for practice (in the rain to end). I missed stretching and our 15 minutes of viewing sitting on the 826 South Parking lot.. I mean the Palmetto... for about an hour.

But here's what I learned from reporters Christy Cabrera Chirinos and Matt Shodell.

It's not pretty, people. Missing from practice today were defensive tackle Gerald Willis and starting defensive ends Chad Thomas (already has a broken hand before he was injured again against UNC) and Demetrius Jackson (knee).

It seems like, perhaps (we'll hopefully find out more later or on the injury report tomorrow), that they will not be playing at Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

So, who's left?

There's freshman Joe Jackson and freshman Pat Bethel and junior Trent Harris at end. And (surprise!) tight end Stan Dobard apparently worked with the defensive ends today. Ouch!

UM is a 5 or 6-point underdog for this game, and I can certainly understand why.

I'll be back later.












October 15, 2016

Miami Hurricanes need a victory against North Carolina. Some Keys to ensuring one.


No. 16 Miami (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) faces North Carolina (4-2, 2-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in dire need of a victory  to keep its hopes of winning the Coastal Division realistic. One loss in the conference can often at least get you into a tiebreaker, and Miami's loss was to FSU, which is in the Atlantic Division. That means the Hurricanes still have a shot at winning out in the Coastal.

Only two teams in the Coastal have not lost to an ACC opponent: Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0), which meets the Canes on Thursday night in Blacksburg, and Virginia (2-3, 1-0), which meets Miami on Nov. 12 in Charlottesville.

The Canes told us this week they have short-term memories (I don't actually believe it, do you?) after losing to Florida State last week. But I don't. I remember last year's 59-21 drubbing in Chapel Hill.

Some keys to winning Saturday:

*** 1. 2. and 3: Protect Brad.

Kaaya, UM's quarterback, got hit several times in the past couple weeks, and according to coach Mark Richt, injured his shoulder on the opening play of the FSU game, when he was violently thrown to the ground because no one blocked Seminoles' linebacker Jacob Pugh. We really don't know the extent of Kaaya's injury, and how much his head might have been hurt as well, as he got rammed into the jaw and lost part of his molar when FSU was penalized for intentional grounding. He also hit his head hard on that first play. I doubt Kaaya is 100 percent right now, and really, we don't even know if he will play this entire game. With right offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu out for the season after surgery on his badly injured lower left leg, expect the Tar Heels to come after him. It's time for the Canes to put on their big-boy pants and do some big-boy blocking.

4. Pressure quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

   Trubisky is good. He spreads it out and throws, throws, throws in a hurry-up offense. He completes 70.2-percent of his passes, sixth best completion percentage in the nation.  Until last week's two picks in horrendous weather, Trubisky had not thrown an interception this season. The Canes will be missing talented defensive tackle Gerald Willis. Starting end Chad Thomas, with a tremendous season to date, broke his right hand against FSU and will have his hand heavily wrapped in "a club.'' The Canes, No. 1 nationally in tackles for loss and No. 8 in sacks, somehow have to compensate and keep the pressure coming. 

5. Sustain drives (run more).

   Give the defense time to breathe by keeping the offense on the field a bit longer. UM's average time of possession is 24:14 in a 60-minute game, 13th of 14 teams in the ACC. UNC is 14th, averaging 22:47. One team will keep the ball more Saturday. Pretty sure Mark Richt will be hoping his tailbacks take some of the pressure off Kaaya.

6. No turnovers.

  Kaaya cannot afford to throw picks Saturday. With his health in question, he needs a clean game, as do his running backs and receivers.

7. Limit the penalties

Miami had 10 for 110 yards last week against the Noles. (Last year at UNC, the Canes had 12 for 103 -- nine of them in the first half.) Note: If Mark Walton is running with the ball, don't get caught holding. 








October 11, 2016

UM hoops facility to get $1.7 million makeover

By Michelle Kaufman


The University of Miami men's and women's basketball teams will be working and lounging in fancier digs after a $1.7 million makeover this month that will include upgrades to the weight room, locker rooms, practice facility hallways, and athlete lounges.

The first part of the project is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 2, at the start of the exhibition season.

The coaches’ offices and hallways will feature highlights from Miami basketball history and high-profile alumni. The players' lounge will get new couches, T.V.s and a gaming center.

“I’ve always thought that we had great facilities here with our offices and locker rooms and practice facility being in our game venue, but I am so excited for the impact these renovations will bring,” women’s coach Katie Meier said. “We compete for ACC championships every year and these improvements will greatly enhance our current student-athletes’ experiences, as well as give us a huge advantage in recruiting. When we bring recruits in, they will see the state-of-the-art, modern technology and awesome ‘U’ branding throughout. We are extremely grateful for the donations and hard work that has made these renovations possible.”

“It really started in year two after Director of Athletics Blake James took over and we sat down and talked about the direction of the programs,” men’s coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Due to certain limited university budgets that can go to projects like this, we had to go out and raise the money. We were able to reach out to a lot of friends and a lot of them were very understanding and very generous in their contributions. We can’t be any more thankful to the people who have made this possible.”


Miami QB Brad Kaaya (shoulder) throws at practice, DE Chad Thomas in club


Our first day of Miami Hurricanes practice viewing -- about seven minutes of stretching and 15 minutes of non-contact drills -- just concluded.

What you need to know:

***Quarterback Brad Kaaya (shoulder) participated in both sessions, and he threw several passes, handed off and pitched a couple balls. If Kaaya had been diagnosed with a concussion, he would not have been out there. We still don't know exactly what tests he underwent to determine his injury status.

   Coach Mark Richt said yesterday on WQAM that Kaaya hurt himself on the first play of the FSU game. I went back and reviewed the ABC telecast, and Kaaya fell on his right (throwing) shoulder. Richt called the FSU sack "unacceptable'' on UM's part, blaming a flat-out missed assignment.

***Starting defensive end Chad Thomas, who has had a tremendous season thus far with 20 tackles, a team-leading seven tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two pass breakups, was out there practicing with his right hand completely wrapped up in thick padding -- known as a club. Fellow end Trent Harris broke his hand in late August and also has been playing with a club.

***Starting wide receiver Stacy Coley, who was named ACC Receiver of the Week yesterday, and leads UM with 22 catches for 291 yards and six touchdowns, had a black elasticized brace over his left knee but was at practice taking throws. However, he was doing a lot of left-leg bending back and forth, kind of testing it I guess.

***Starting middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman was there doing drills.

*** Starting right offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu was not there. He has a bad left ankle/lower leg injury and is out indefinitely. Sophomore Tyree St. Louis is replacing him for now.

*** Defensive tackle Gerald Willis was not at practice. He left the field with what appeared to be a knee injury against FSU.

*** UM President Julio Frenk attended practice and addressed the team after its stretch period.

More to come later, as coach Mark Richt will have his weekly pre-game (UNC) teleconference at about noon.

Kaaya is unavailable to the media this week, as is backup Malik Rosier, per UM.




October 09, 2016

My thoughts on the Miami Hurricanes after long FSU game (and short sleep)


Here's what I'm thinking about after last night's disappointing, but hard-fought 20-19 Miami loss to FSU:

1. Coastal Division

As much as we got sick of hearing the "C'' word last season, it's time to suck it up, exhale and move on to the two most important games at this point: North Carolina and Virginia Tech -- UM's next two games against Coastal Division members of the ACC.

   One game at a time, they’ll say, and that’s correct. But the No. 10 Canes (the AP rankings won’t be released this week until Monday) need to win both to securely stay in the race for a division title, which would lead to a berth in the conference title game for a chance at a major bowl.

  So, guess who played each other yesterday in the Coastal? That’s right. UM’s next two opponents, with No. 25 Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0) dominating 34-3 over No. 17 UNC (4-2, 2-1) in sloppy conditions caused by heavy rain and winds.

   North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who entered the game with the ACC’s No. 2 passing average (342.2) and had put up three consecutive 400-yard passing performances, threw for 58 yards and his first two interceptions of the year

   The Hokies scored 20 points off four turnovers. What does that mean for Miami? NC and Trubisky will be extra fired up to prove its worth. Then, UM will have a five-day turnaround, including a travel day, to face the Hokies in Blacksburg.

    This will be a true test for UM’s coaching staff, which for the first time will have to get its troops focused after another loss to nemesis FSU.

2. I was sure the offense would be the strongest part of this year’s Hurricanes. But it has been the defense.

     This well-coached defense is the real deal, and will continue to grow along with its youngsters. Dalvin Cook’s 59-yard receiving touchdown came on a defensive breakdown, but the Canes were violent (a Manny Diaz word) and aggressive and physical, repeatedly hitting Deondre Francois or blocking his passes (seven total breakups). Tackles Kendrick Norton, R.J. McIntosh and Gerald Willis were dominant, as were ends Chad Thomas, Demetrius Jackson and Joe Jackson. The defensive backfield was also physical,imposing and a pleasure to witness, with Corn Elder, Rayshawn Jenkins, Sheldrick Redwine and Jaquan Johnson having big games – and Jamal Carter being ejected for targeting on a questionable call.

    “We can feel bad about this for 24 hours, but we’ve got to go back to work tomorrow,’’ said safety Jenkins. “It’s very frustrating.

   “It’s never OK to lose to Florida State. Unfortunately, I’ve never beaten them but those younger guys, they’ve got to learn from this. They have to. They gotta be the ones to stop that bleeding. We’ve got to learn and move on.’’

   3. Brad Kaaya needs to be protected better. He got hit against Georgia Tech and he got hit hard last night. He was sacked three times last night. Granted, Matthew Thomas was ejected for targeting (and knocking out half of Kaaya’s molar tooth early in the third quarter), changing the complexion of the game and Kaaya’s performance thereafter. But he was sacked on two consecutive plays in the fourth quarter after FSU had scored to go ahead 20-13.

   4. Penalties, penalties, penalties: 10 for 110 yards. You might disagree with some, but there are still way too many.

    5. Individual offensive kudos go to Mark Walton (he should have had that 45-yard touchdown had holding not been called), receivers Stacy Coley (seven catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns) and Ahmmon Richards (four catches for 58 yards). And Braxton Berrios not only is all heart, he’s full of talent (and fast, too!) That 43-yard punt return to the FSU 16-yard line to give UM life with 3:19 left, was a thing of beauty.


October 07, 2016

FSU at Miami tailgating lot changes and information on Hurricane Matthew relief


Yes, the game is on. 

We already knew that.

But there have been some changes for tailgaters.

UM said that fans "should be aware'' that the Green and RV tailgating lots will now open at 4 p.m., while the Blue, Maroon, Yellow, Purple and Orange lots will open at 5 p.m.

"Any individuals who do not have a ticket to the game, or do not have a ticket waiting at will call or on a pass list, will not be permitted to enter the tailgating area at Hard Rock Stadium,'' a UM press release said.

Also, "as part of the efforts to assist in the aftermath of the hurricane, both schools will  present a check for $50,000 prior to the game for hurricane relief. In addition, fans are encouraged to aid in the relief effort and will be provided opportunities in the stadium to support the effort.''

Players will wear a specially designed helmet sticker with the state of Florida covered by the Red Cross logo.


FSU arrived safely, UM's already here -- game expected to be sellout at Hard Rock Stadium



With the Florida State Seminoles arriving safely by plane in Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning, and Hurricane Matthew beyond South Florida as it worked its way up the Southeast Coast, Miami officials were at Hard Rock Stadium on Friday morning preparing for Saturday’s 8:14 p.m. kickoff between No. 10 UM (4-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) and No. 23 FSU (3-2, 0-2).

For those who don’t have tickets, now would be a good time to get the few remaining, as the game is expected to be a sellout.

The stadium’s recent renovations reduced the seating capacity to about 65,000 – and Hurricanesports.com had a smattering remaining, most of them single seats in various locations.

Stubhub.com also had seats available from $124.99 to about $650 on Thursday afternoon.

According to UM’s media guide, of the 38 largest home crowds for Miami football games, 11 of them were for FSU games – including the largest crowd of 81,927 to watch the No. 1 Hurricanes defeat the No. 9 Seminoles 28-27 in the Orange Bowl.

UM drew 75,115 in 2010, 73,328 in 2012 and 76,530 in 2014 for Florida State games to the stadium now known as Hard Rock.

The Hurricanes averaged 47,560 in paid attendance at home games last season, though the real number of seats occupied was far fewer.

This year, UM drew 60,703 fans to the opener against FAMU that marked the start of the Mark Richt era on Sept. 3; and 57,123 to the second game against FAU.

<bullet> Also Friday, the state of Florida notified the presidents of both universities that the Florida Highway Patrol “will not provide the traditional escorts for the football game’’ this weekend.

“All state law enforcement will be doing hurricane response and recovery,’’ said Jackie Schutz, Governor Rick Scott’s communications director.

Scott urged people to avoid driving through areas still under evacuation and FSU has issued a warning to students and fans not to travel.

“People need to be careful,’’ Schutz said. “There’s still a major Category 3 storm going up the coast.’’


Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.


October 05, 2016

ICYMI: FSU at MIami football game is on -- for now. Stay safe.


     The game is on – for now.

     The University of Miami issued a weather-related release late Wednesday afternoon that the No. 23 Florida State at No. 10 Miami football game, scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium, was still set to be played.

    Check out this link from 11 p.m. advisory on Wednesday. There's some interesting, helpful info in there, so please make sure to read it.

      “With Hurricane Matthew expected to sideswipe the state Thursday and Friday,’’ the release said, “officials are monitoring the system and its impact on the game.”

     UM athletic director Blake James said the school is “monitoring Hurricane Matthew’’ and is “in constant contact with stadium personnel. We are hopeful that the impact of Hurricane Matthew will be minimal and the game between the Hurricanes and Seminoles will be played as planned.’’

    Miami cancelled classes and all school activities as of 5 p.m. Wednesday and through Friday because of the situation.

    UM coach Mark Richt indicated the Dolphins would allow his team to practice in their indoor bubble, but it was only for certain times, and whether they do or not would depend on the both of their schedules. 

    “If we need to, we’ll find a place to go inside and get some work done,’’ Richt said on the ACC teleconference Wednesday. “I hope the storm doesn’t get to the point where everybody has to evacuate town, which I don’t anticipate from what I hear. So I think we’ll be fine.

   “[Thursday] we’re uncertain if we’ll get a practice in at all. We usually don’t practice on Friday but we may practice Friday morning because we don’t play until Saturday night.”

   FSU, which usually travels to its road games on Thursday night, will likely have to wait until Friday to get to Miami.

   “It looks like the worst of it may hit Thursday night in Miami,’’ Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. “So we may have to wait until Friday morning before we go down. That’s our thoughts right now, but we don’t know.

   “We’re still getting updates as it goes. We don’t want to take our kids down there while the worst part is there.’’


September 28, 2016

Injury news from Wednesday availability before Georgia Tech


The Hurricanes will likely get some needed defensive help against Georgia Tech. 

UM coach Mark Richt indicated DT Anthony Moten (shoulder), DT Courtel Jenkins (knee surgery), LB Darrion Owens (back from reconstructive knee surgery but apparently had some type of undisclosed issue, per Richt to WQAM on Monday) and CB Adrian Colbert (knee surgery) would all play Saturday at noon.

"Well, there's a difference between pain and an injury,'' Richt said. "Everybody has something. Usually everybody by now has something that hurts a little bit and some guys have things that hurt a little bit more than others. But almost always with those kind of injuries, when the adrenaline pumps and the blood flows in a game you tend to not feel much of anything.

"If the adrenaline is pumping and their blood is pumping and they're hobbling around, then we'll get them out of the game."

Is Adrian Colbert back?

"Adrian has practiced every day for a while now. I don't know if he's 100 percent, but he's 100 percent going to play.''


MIami coach Mark Richt on Georgia Tech: 'It's the first [ACC] game. It's very crucial.'


Here's Miami coach Mark Richt's opening statement from his weekly press conference on Tuesday to discuss the next opponent -- Georgia Tech. Richt is 13-2 against Georgia Tech as the former Georgia head coach and 6-2 against current GT coach Paul Johnson.

Richt noted the two losses (2008 and 2014), and, as a coach who loves to run, he has plenty of respect for Johnson.


“We’re getting ready to play Georgia Tech, we all know that. We’ll be in Atlanta on Saturday at high noon. That’s probably a good thing - we’re used to waking up early, so that shouldn’t be a shock to our system. We’re playing Coach [Paul] Johnson and his offensive system again, and his teams have historically done a great job. They’re probably top five [team] in America in rushing during the time Johnson has been there, the last seven years. They’re just good at what they do.

“It all does start with the quarterback, Justin Thomas.  Like most offenses, if you have a quarterback who can run your system well, you have a chance to move the ball and put points on the board. He does a great job. He’s thrown for 364 yards already and run for 144 – he’s their second-leading rusher right now. Outstanding player. I think the thing you say about him, he’s very tough, mentally and physically. He can bring a team back from being behind. He did it, really in Game 1 [against Boston College], I guess. He’s done it before in his career. Certainly he did it one of the years I was at Georgia, a couple years back. He made some beautiful plays and set them up for a field goal and took the game into overtime because of his athleticism and his ability to throw the football. He is an outstanding player.

Marcus Marshall was their leading rusher last year, he had 650 yards. Last year against us he had 74 yards, had a big day. I coached his brother over there, Keith Marshall, at Georgia, so I know the family. J.J. Green is another guy I coached at Georgia, who’s now over there doing a good job, he’s an ‘A back’ for them. Their leading receiver is Ricky Jeune. He has seven catches for 108 yards and averaging about 15 yards per catch, which is pretty typical. [Brad] Stewart is their No. 2 guy.”

Up front, their center [Freddie] Burden, I guess this will be his 30th career start. He has the most experience up front. I know [Shamire] Devine is a guy that while I was at Georgia, I tried to recruit and got beat there in the recruiting process. He’s a massive guy, 6-foot-7, 370 pounds, and a really talented guy. I know he got banged up a little bit last week, so I don’t know how he’s doing. It’s an outstanding system and Coach [Johnson] does it as good as anybody.

“Ted Roof on defense has the 15th scoring defense in America, they’re doing a wonderful job there…up front he has three returning starters coming back: No. 42 [KeShun Freeman], No. 91 [Patrick Gamble] and No. 41 [Rod Rook-Chungong]. Most good defenses start out with a front four that can play ball and penetrate and do those things, and they do a good job of that. [P.J.] Davis, the linebacker, he is the most experienced linebacker coming back. He was the leading tackler last year - had 77 tackles. He’s No. 2 on the team with 24 tackles right now, so he kind of heads up that group. Their leading tackler is No. 14, Corey Griffin, their safety - he has 25 tackles and he does a good job. They don’t show Lawrence Austin as a starter in their base defense, but when they’re in their nickel defense, he’s their nickel. He plays a bunch. Everybody is playing three-receiver sets. He’s really a starter, the way we see it.

“It’s the first conference game. It’s very crucial for us in that regard. Everybody in the Coastal is trying to win it, us being one of them. It’s very important to us for a lot of reasons, but that’s probably the most important reason.”

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN (with thanks to UM's Camron Ghorbi)

September 27, 2016

Miami Hurricanes diver named an NCAA finalist for 2016 Woman of the Year


Just in from the NCAA. Kudos to Kara McCormack:

Finalists named for 2016 Woman of the Year Award

Nine former college athletes have been selected as finalists for the 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year Award and will be honored at an awards dinner Oct. 16 in Indianapolis.

The 2016 Woman of the Year will be named at that event.

Three women from each NCAA division were selected. Their college careers are highlighted by outstanding achievements in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.

The finalists were chosen from 30 Woman of the Year honorees who will be recognized during the event. This group of 30 includes 10 honorees from each NCAA division and represents a range of sports.  Schools nominated 517 college athletes for the 2016 award.


Kara McCormack

School: University of Miami (Florida)

Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference

Sport: Women’s swimming and diving

Major: Mathematics

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Excerpt from personal statement: “Although my diving career is over, I am now taking a new plunge into another opportunity: research in the medical field. My next step is a Ph.D., followed by teaching and continued advocacy for young women to follow their passions. I therefore thank my collegiate career for making me the woman I am today, and for allowing me to continue to spread this strength to others around the world.”

Kara McCormack embraced her platform as a student-athlete as a way to lead others on her campus, in her community and on a global scale. The University of Miami (Florida) swimming and diving team captain served on the Atlantic Coast Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She also volunteered as a pen pal with children at a local elementary school, taking advantage of the opportunity to encourage young girls to pursue interests in math and science. In addition, she went on a trip to rural Vietnam as part of the Coach for College program, where she taught ninth-grade physics and encouraged kids to persevere and attend college.

McCormack made the dean’s list every semester and graduated with a nearly perfect grade-point average in mathematics. She earned three nods as a member of the all-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Team and received the ACC postgraduate scholarship in 2016. She was inducted into multiple honor societies on campus, and in 2016, was inducted in to the Iron Arrow Honor Society, which is the highest honor for a Miami student who exemplifies love of alma mater, character, leadership, scholarship, and humility. McCormack is now in the process of pursuing her doctorate in mathematics.

In 2013, McCormack was named the ACC Diver of the Year after winning the conference championship on the diving platform. The three-time College Swimming Coaches Association of America All-American qualified for the NCAA championships in 2016 in the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events. She also competed at the Olympics trials for USA Swimming in 2012.

The other nominees:

Margaret Guo

School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Conference: New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference

Sport: Women’s swimming and diving

Majors: Electrical engineering and computer science; biological engineering

Hometown: San Diego

Christina Hillman

School: Iowa State University

Conference: Big 12 Conference

Sport: Women’s track and field

Majors: Child, adult and family services; psychology

Hometown: Dover, Delaware

Bri Leeper

School: West Texas A&M University

Conference: Lone Star Conference

Sport: Women’s track and field

Major: Broadcasting and electronic media

Hometown: Amarillo, Texas

Maurissa Lester

School: Limestone College

Conference: Conference Carolinas

Sport: Women’s basketball

Major: Professional biology/pre-dentistry, with a minor in chemistry

Hometown: Marietta, Georgia

Elayna Siebert

School: Carson-Newman University

Conference: South Atlantic Conference

Sport: Softball

Major: Accounting

Hometown: Knoxville, Tennessee

Haley Townsend

School: Kenyon College

Conference: North Coast Athletic Conference

Sport: Women’s swimming and diving

Major: International studies, with a concentration in Islamic civilization and cultures, and a minor in Arabic

Hometown: Greenwood, Indiana

Cameasha Turner

School: University of Texas at El Paso

Conference: Conference USA

Sport: Women’s basketball

Major: Criminal justice

Hometown: Dallas

Amy Viti

School: Misericordia University

Conference: Middle Atlantic Conference

Sports: Women’s cross country, track and field

Major: Speech language pathology

Hometown: Sugar Notch, Pennsylvania


September 23, 2016

Miami football finally unveils plans for $34 million "Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility"


FONTAINEBLEAU Miami Beach (a nice place to be on a Friday night!) -- After months of anticipation, the University of Miami finally unveiled plans for its yet-to-be-built "Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility," to be named in honor of the mother of lead donor and billionaire Jeffrey Soffer.

Soffer is a South Florida real estate developer and philanthropist who contributed $14 million of the $34 million that will be needed to begin construction -- of which $24 million has already been raised.

Have to give kudos to UM athletic director Blake James, who pulled off the unlikely Mark Richt hiring and has been a real plus for the Hurricanes in pretty much every area. 

I know Carol Soffer from years ago, and she is a terrific woman. She has been a UM donor for athletics for more than 20 years. Really liked her sons I met tonight. Jeffrey Soffer seems like a super nice person. Hey, he gave up his money because his mother said UM athletics was the right way to go, and he publicly told her he loved her. As a mom (or son), you've got to like that.

Jeffrey said right away that he has never been to a UM football game but will make sure to attend his first game this season.

That first game, I'm pretty sure, will be Florida State.

Included in Miami's release on Friday: 

"The 81,800-square-foot facility will feature two field-turf fields – one 80 yards long and an additional 40-yard field directly connecting to the Squillante Strength and Conditioning Center. The facility will be located on the current football practice grounds, and will feature interconnectivity to the Hecht Athletic Center and the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence. 

 The project includes a 20,000-square-foot football operations center with a mezzanine level that will house all of the football coaches’ office space with views overlooking the indoor fields.  The football center will also feature six position meeting rooms, a head coach’s suite, three coaches’ conference rooms, a first-class football recruiting suite complete with lounges and meeting rooms, as well as a state-of-the-art video center." 

UM is aiming for the facility to be completed by the summer of 2018.

Coach Mark Richt has pledged $1 million of his own money to help fund the facility, which greatly impressed his players when they learned of his generosity. 

 As I said in a blog earlier this week, the Richt era continues to soar. The No. 15 Canes (3-0) are off this weekend but next play at noon Oct. 1 at Georgia Tech (3-1), to be nationally televised by either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.

It's not a coincidence that Richt's arrival in Coral Gables has already catapulted the football program to a happy place it hasn't been in years.  It's amazing how one man and what appears to be an excellent coaching staff can make a difference.

Richt said tonight that Brad Kaaya's knee injury that he sustained during the Appalachian State game was a bone bruise and was healing day by day. He said the open week was helpful because it obviously has given it more time to heal.

Kaaya was great, as usual. First-class young man, so unassuming and forthright.

"It is awesome to actually get out and see the Hurricane Club members and meet the Soffer family,'' Kaaya told reporters. "In years past, people talked about the Board of Trustees, our alumni, our boosters. It all just sounds like up there somewhere in some castle, some secret meeting room.

  “It’s nice to actually meet them and know they have our back and are giving their full support to us. It’s huge for me to see this. It’s a great day.’’

   Here's my full, final-edition story that is now online and includes cool videos, photos, reaction and all the news: .

  Have a great weekend everyone.


September 20, 2016