April 20, 2016

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly: Miami at Notre Dame will "take a life of its own from coast to coast''

 

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Notre Dame, people.

I already can't wait.

What about you?

The University of Miami will play at Notre Dame on Oct. 29, 2016 for the first time since 1990. Miami lost to Notre Dame at the Sun Bowl in 2010 and at Chicago's Soldier Field in 2012.

But now, with Coach Mark Richt at the UM helm, the two teams meet this season in what will surely be a cold (in every way) matchup in South Bend, Indiana.

The last time the two teams met in South Bend was on Oct. 20, 1990, when the No. 6 Irish beat No. 2 Miami 29-20. UM finished 10-2 that season, its only other loss in the opener at BYU.

Notre Dame leads the series 16-7-1 and finished 10-3 last season with losses at Clemson (24-22), at Stanford (38-36) and against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl (44-28).

The Irish finished 2015 ranked 11th in the final Associated Press Poll.

Unranked UM finished 8-5.

I just asked Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly on a spring football teleconference about the upcoming game.

"I know it’s a long way off, but are you looking forward to it, and if so, why?" I asked. "And how well do you know Mark Richt?"

Kelly's answer: "We always look towards the Miami game as one that has some very good tradition to it and a lot of respect for Miami’s tradition and certainly the games that have been played have been great ones. So, yeah, there’s always the attention paid to it by our players and our alumni base. For them coming here I think it will rekindle that great matchup between [Lou] Holtz and Jimmy Johnson. And I think that that’s going to be one that is hyped up pretty big.

"But they’re different teams and they’re different coaches. I know Mark – great respect for him and the program that he’s run for so many years. He’s going to do the same thing at Miami. It will be a little bit different – different coaches, different styles of teams. But still, when it’s the U and Notre Dame, it will kind of take a life of its own from coast to coast."

I asked Kelly if he ever watched any of the old-time games. His reply:

"Oh, absolutely, yeah. They were made for TV, especially with the personalities on the sidelines."

 Here's what Richt said about the Notre Dame theme when I asked him about it on the teleconference:

"Well, I quite frankly haven’t even thought that far down the road yet. I know it will be an exciting time for everybody, and hopefully we have a team that’s worthy of playing on that day. Our goal is just to try and get better on a daily basis throughout the summer and throughout the fall camp and hopefully by the time we get there even though I don’t know what number game it is – by then we should have played enough to be ready to compete. Hopefully we’re healthy enough and executing well enough to make it a good ball game."

What do you all think of this upcoming matchup? 

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

April 19, 2016

Here's what Mel Kiper said Tuesday re Artie Burns, Deon Bush, Rashawn Scott, Raphael Kirby

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Two months ago, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., told the Miami Herald during an ESPN national teleconference that University of Miami cornerback "Artie Burns is the main guy -- this is your corner. "He's a little too physical in college for the NFL. By that I mean you're going to get penalized heavily if you've got your hands and you're too in the face of the receiver... (click here for Kiper's entire statement on Feb. 22)

Late afternoon Tuesday, Kiper was true to his word back when I asked him about Artie in February. I missed the first part of the conference call, but was listening when Matt Shodell of CaneSport.com asked him about the other possible Hurricanes in next week's draft.

Guess what? Kiper mostly talked about Artie.

I just transcribed from today's teleconference, and here is how Kiper responded:

"Well, he’s the main guy. I mean, Artie Burns has a chance to be I’d say right now he’s late first round pick. I mentioned the fact that he’s a little grabby which may lead to penalties once he’s in the league, but I tell you what, he’s got range, he’s got tremendous recovery ability. I think he’s got a chance to be, if he’s coached properly, a good player.

[Rashawn Scott], the wide receiver, right now has a late-round grade. There really isn’t anybody that you would put ahead of Burns, even close to Burns. I think the closest one to me when you look at the grades that I have right now is – I give [Raphael] Kirby a free-agent grade as a linebacker – I would say [safety] Deon Bush would be the one who would be the closest. He’s got really good range. He’s an athlete. I think he could be a good third or fourth round pick with Burns probably a late one, early-to-mid two."

Kiper also released his three-round 'Grade: A' mock draft on Tuesday.

"At each slot, I make a pick in the best interest of only the team with the pick,'' Kiper wrote. "I won't pass on a player at No. 4 just because I like the team better at No. 5. ...Again, I'm not projecting. It's more a look at where I see value up and down the board.''

OK, so Kiper picked Artie Burns for the Seattle Seahawks at No. 26 overall in the first round. He did not have Deon Bush picked in the third round.

 Here's what Kiper said in his analysis of the Seattle Seahawks picks, which began with Burns and continued in round 2 (No. 56) with defensive tackle Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech), round 3 (No. 90) with offensive tackle Dominique Robertson (West Virginia) and round 3 (97) with defensive end Charles Tapper (Oklahoma):

 Analyis -- "It's obvious that the offensive line is the biggest question mark right now for this roster, but in the draft you can't just pass up great talent in the hope that you're getting immediate help at a need area by drafting lesser talent, because in most cases rookies simply don't upgrade any situation. That's why I don't pass on Burns in Round 1, or Butler in Round 2... 

 Please also note that fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay mentioned safety Bush as a third-round grade of his, though I didn't see Bush in McShay's first three rounds of the same type of mock draft that Kiper did today.

 In McShay's three-round mock draft, he has the Baltimore Ravens selecting Burns in the second round with the 36th overall pick.

 McShay has Baltimore's other two picks being Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa sixth overall and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski of West Virginia in the third round (70th overall).

 McShay's analysis of Baltimore's picks, with regard to Burns: "With cornerback Lardarius Webb getting older and Jimmy Smith coming off a so-so season, Burns is an enticing upside play in Round 2. He has the length and raw coverage ability to develop into a good outside starting cornerback.''

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

 

 

 

Guess who got named "Tight End U" by cbssports.com: Tenn, Notre Dame, Georgia, Iowa or the U?

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Which college teams "really deserve the bragging rights when it comes to developing players and preparing them for success'' in the NFL?

That's the basic question cbssports.com national football writer Jon Solomon asked Tuesday. 

When it comes to tight ends, Solomon's research, in the site's "Welcome to our Position U series,'' definitely pointed to the University of Miami as being No. 1 in the nation.

 "It's not simply getting players into the league that matters, though,'' Solomon wrote. "How do those players perform once they're receiving big paychecks and playing in the NFL?"

Solomon's top five college teams that get tight ends into the NFL and train them well enough to keep them there:

5. Iowa

4. Georgia (ding! ding! ding! Mark Richt factor)

3. Tennessee

2. Notre Dame

And at No. 1: Miami. "The Hurricanes' standout NFL tight ends in the past decade are an impressive list,'' Solomon wrote, citing Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow Jr. as "more than enough to make Miami No. 1."

With at least two of UM's current tight ends -- Chris Herndon (click here to see what Herndon did last Saturday) and David Njoku (click here for my feature on Njoku last season) -- looking like eventual NFL prospects, UM should be a tight end factor for years to come.

     Click here for Jon's full story. 

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

April 18, 2016

Welcome to the U: No. 7 Miami women's tennis keeps international pipeline going (and also adds a local)

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Miami Hurricanes coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, in the UM Sports Hall of Fame (along with her former UM baseball-playing father Ernie Yaroshuk), knows talent -- and then usually coaches it to new heights. 

Yaroshuk-Tews announced Monday that her program, ranked seventh nationally, has signed two international players and added another from right here in Coral Gables as a preferred walk-on.

The Hurricanes just finished their regular season with a 7-0 victory over Louisville Sunday. All-American senior Stephanie Wagner moved into a tie with Miami assistant and former player Laura Vallverdu for second place on Miami's all-time singles wins list with 131 -- two shy of fellow German Bianca Eichkorn's UM record.

(Click here for a really nice story by Walter Villa about Wagner that ran in the Miami Herald)

Fellow senior standout Clementina Riobueno clinched the victory over Louisville.

UM women's tennis is now 17-4 overall and 12-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and will begin its play in the Atlantic Coast Conference Women's Tennis Championship on Friday against either No. 15 seed Louisville, No. 10 seed NC State or No. 7 seed Syracuse.

The second-seeded Canes, behind No. 1 seed and second-ranked North Carolina, have a double bye in the ACC tourney. 

The ACC tourney begins Wednesday in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Read below for Miami's press release on the incoming members of its women's tennis team:

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 CORAL GABLES, Fla. The University of Miami women’s tennis team has added three new players, as announced Monday by head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews.

The Hurricanes signed Dominika Paterova and Estela Perez-Somarriba to National Letters of Intent, and also welcome Sara Culbertson, a native of Coral Gables, Fla., as a preferred walk-on.

“I think what impressed me most about Dominika, Estela and Sara, is that there’s no doubt in my mind that they’re going to come in here and they’re going to buy into the program and they’re going to buy into the philosophies that we’re going to be putting forth,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “They’re very mature kids and they want to get better. They want to be a part of a great program and I think they’re going to kind of be like sponges in terms of just accepting information and just trying to implement that information. So, we’re excited for the future.”

A native of Unhost, Czech Republic, Paterova is a 5-foot-6-inch right-hander who has peaked at No. 54 in the ITF Juniors rankings. She has also been ranked as high as No. 773 by the WTA in singles and No. 779 by the WTA in doubles.

Paterova, who attends Sportovni Gymnasium Kladno, is a three-time runner-up in the Championship of Czech Republic and has competed in juniors grand slam tournaments. Paterova has reached the quarterfinals of seven $10,000 singles tournaments, including advancing to the semifinals of Sharm El Sheikh 6 in Egypt in February of 2014.

In addition, Paterova has made the quarterfinals in 14 of the 24 $10,000 doubles tournaments she has played in, reaching the semifinals in seven of them, with a trio of championship appearances. The Hurricane signee has won ITF 2 singles titles in Tunisia and Germany, as well as an IFT 1 doubles crown in Germany.

“Dominika is a pretty stoic kid. She has a lot of experience,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “She’s a very clean tennis player. To come in, after a few months under her belt, I think she really has the ability to play pretty high in our lineup.”

Perez-Somarriba, who hails from Madrid, Spain, is a 5-foot-4-inch right-hander who is currently ranked No. 923 in WTA singles rankings and No. 1,084 in its doubles rankings. She has ascended as high as No. 872 in singles and No. 915 in doubles, and owns 21 singles victories against ranked players.

Of players born in 1998 or later, Perez-Somarriba is the sixth-ranked singles player in Spain, and she is No. 31 overall in the country regardless of age. In doubles, she ranks tied for third among players born in 1998 or later and tied for No. 28 overall. A past runner-up in both the Spain Championship and the Spain Master Nike, Perez-Somarriba attends Instituto Mirasierra.

Named the best player in Madrid in 2015, Perez-Somarriba is a five-time Madrid champion in singles and a two-time winner in doubles. She has made five $10,000 singles tournament quarterfinal appearances, with two semifinal berths, as well as the quarterfinals in 10 of 12 $10,000 doubles tournaments, advancing to a trio of semifinals, with two finals appearances.

“Estela is full of personality. I think she’s going to really gel well with our girls,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “She loved our girls when she came on the recruiting trip and our girls loved her. She plays a style of tennis that we’re really looking to implement more into the program. She’s got a great head on her shoulders.”

A local standout at Riviera Preparatory School, Culbertson is a 5-foot-4-inch right-hander. She posted a dominant 6-1, 6-1 victory to win the 1A state singles title last week. Culbertson also reached the 1A state tournament during her junior campaign in 2015, a season in which she was one of five girls named a First Team All-Dade singles selection by the Miami Herald.

Ranked as high as No. 83 in the nation, including No. 14 in the Sunshine State, Culbertson has posted a victory over the top player in Florida. She has recorded four top-six finishes in Level 5 singles tournaments, including finishing as high as second, and came in fourth place in a Level 4 event.

Additionally, Culbertson earned a fifth place finish in a closed regional tournament and picked up a fourth place result in a Level 3 doubles event. She is set to be the first player from Miami-Dade County on the Hurricanes’ roster since Brittany Dubins in 2013-14.

“I’m very excited to bring in a local kid from Miami who just really bleeds orange and green,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “I think that’s what impressed me most about Sara is just how much she wants to be a Miami Hurricane and how hard she wants to work.”

Paterova, Perez-Somarriba and Culbertson are all set to join Miami program for the upcoming 2016-17 season.

To learn more about University of Miami women’s tennis, follow @CanesWTennis.

 

April 17, 2016

Cool Sights and sounds U might have missed from Miami Hurricanes spring game

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It was a fun day, productive day for fans, players and coaches.

The 2016 spring game at Lockhart Stadium Saturday (April 16th, 2016) drew upwards of 14,000 fans, including about 100 former Canes who were invited to stand on the sideline to watch the game.

"It's great to see so many guys back, energized and excited about the program,'' Miami athletic director Blake James told the Miami Herald on Saturday before the game. "It's what we're seeing by the fan base and what we're feeling out in the parking lots and around all the events. Mark [Richt] has done a great job of re-energizing everyone associated with University of Miami football.

"It starts with the guys on the field, but also the guys who wore the U before and obviously the fans and all of us in the administration. He's doing a great job.''

This next shot of Blake James with Canes great Edgerrin James was taken by Miami Herald photographer Al Diaz. The autograph shots and fans shots are mine.

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Brad Kaaya's green team defeated the orange team 24-7.

Here are some pictures. The action ones were all taken by Al Diaz.

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 Gus Edwards giving that stiff arm to Michael Jackson (below)

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Below is ace quarterback Brad Kaaya being aided by tackle Trevor Darling and guard Kc McDermott

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Linebacker Jermaine Grace (below) takes time to flash that great smile

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Wide receiver Stacy Coley (below), who didn't play Saturday while he gets better from an inured hamstring, took lots of time to talk with fans and pose for photographs with them. He didn't want to turn anyone away.

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Check out the tent below (it was massive) that all season-ticket holders and Golden Canes had access to. They ate barbecue and sat and socialized under it. Great idea by UM.

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Below are some post-game interview photos of WR Braxton Berrios and TE Chris Herndon, early enrollee LB Shaquille Quarterman, Mark Richt, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, QB Brad Kaaya and CB Corn Elder and DE Al-Quadin Muhammad.

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Here are some more from the festitivites Saturday

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And finally, here's the man (photo by Al Diaz) who started it all for the Canes by coaching them to their first national title in the 1983 season: Howard Schnellenberger:

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Click here for everything you need to know (plus videos) about Saturday in my Miami Herald spring game story.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

April 16, 2016

Miami QB Brad Kaaya rip-roaring good again in Hurricanes spring game

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Brad Kaaya did it again.

The University of Miami quarterback dominated in the Hurricanes spring game Saturday at Lockhart Stadium, leading his green team first-team offense to a 24-7 victory over the orange team's first-team defense.

Kaaya, who had some substantial help from wide receiver Braxton Berrios and tight end Chris Herndon, completed 29 of 47 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns -- with his first interception (credit Corn Elder) in any of the three spring scrimmages. Considering Kaaya had at least three passes dropped, including one would-be touchdown with no one nearby, and that's one heck of a day.

"The good news is Miami won today,'' UM coach Mark Richt said. "Overall I thought it was a pretty good day... We really, basically ran out of skill people. We really had just one-deep on both sides of the ball -- offensively for the most part -- and those guys really got more reps than I wanted them to get. 

"Beautiful play by Corn, but overall I thought Brad had a really good spring.

"...I think our biggest issue is depth, really.''

Berrios looks far improved from last season. He caught eight passes Saturday for 127 yards and a touchdown, with a 43-yard long reception that he took and outran a bunch of defenders.

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Herndon, who dragged defenders behind him, had six catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

An estimated 14,000 fans showed up at Lockhart, including about 100 former Canes, who were told by Richt the night before that they could watch the game from the sideline. The stands began to clear out later in the second half, but it was an impressive showing for a fan base that often stays home.

"I loved it,'' Richt said of the nearly 300 former Canes who showed up for the alumni social/dinner Friday night. "It's about camaradarie of being a Cane and it's also about supporting the young guys.''

Defensively, there were six sacks by five players: linebackers Jermaine Grace and Shaq Quarterman, defensive ends Demetrius Jackson and Al-Quadin Muhammad and defensive tackle Gerald Willis, who had two sacks. 

Linebacker Juwon Young led both squads with eight tackles, and Quarterman, cornerback Sheldrick Redwine and safety Rayshawn Jenkins each had seven tackles. 

Elder had three pass breakups, including one on a fourth down.

Safety Jaquan Johnson also picked off redshirt freshman quarterback Evan Shirreffs to end the first half.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said after the scrimmage, a la ex-coach Randy Shannon, that he liked "the way guys flew around.''

   "I thought we were harder to run the ball against than we had been in the previous srimmages,'' Diaz said. "I think the guys look like they are starting to get it. I think they played more comfortably.

  "If I still had to lobby a complaint for us -- it's the craziest thing -- but when we do something good, we just don't get excited about it. I still want us to play with more passion. I mean the first drive of the game, I think we stopped them on fourth down and the guys walked off like they were going to detention. 

  "We're still trying to get the Canes to play with more passion and get our guys more energized when good things happen, but I think that will come.''

  When I asked Corn Elder if Coach Diaz talks to them about that, he said yes. 

  Then, he added: "We definitely have juice.''

  INJURIES

  Tight end Stan Dobard hurt either his left foot  or left leg during the scrimmage, and couldn't put any pressure on it as he was helped off the field; also, with only 23 seconds left in the scrimmage, defensive end Chad Thomas went down. He slowly walked off the field surrounded by trainers.

   Additionally, center Alex Gall watched the game from the sideline in a knee Brace on his right knee, with crutches. Richt said after the scrimmage, "I don't think there will be any surgery for him. He'll be fine in a few weeks.''

    Defensive end Scott Patchan was sidelined with a brace on his right knee -- no crutches.

    And Stacy Coley, who pulled his right hamstring last week at the scrimmage in West Palm Beach, did not play Saturday.

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Miami Hurricanes to allow former players on sideline -- for today's spring game

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Good afternoon from Lockhart Stadium on a beautiful day in Fort Lauderdale -- that is, until it possibly rains later.

It's two hours before the spring game kickoff -- orange vs. green -- and it looks like a very large crowd out there roaming the premises and getting ready to get their autographs from current players.

Meanwhile, new UM coach Mark Richt announced yesterday to the more than 200 former Canes alumni who were expected to attend Friday night's alumni social and dinner with the current Canes, that all the former Canes who attend today's spring game are invited to stand on the sidelines during the game.

Hey, it's a start, and a great, smart gesture.

Current players and Trustees and boosters are now prohibited from standing on the sidelines during games. UM athletic director Blake James told me that rule is part of the agreement that the University of Miami made with the NCAA as part of Miami's three-year probationary period, which is over by Oct. 22.

"There's no point to a conversation because it's not something that is possible'' to occur at least until then, James told me last week. 

I asked James: "Could you ever amend the rule afterward?

"I'll have to talk to Mark [Richt] and we'll have to figure out what's best for our program going forward,'' James told the Miami Herald. "When you look at what we do for our former players I would compare it to what anyone does in the country.''

Currently, players get two complimentary tickets to sit in a suite at Sun Life Stadium for home games.

But at least on Saturday, former players can revel in being close to their young counterparts for moral support. I have a feeling there will be a lot of cheering going on from that sideline.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

April 14, 2016

Look who's going after Brad Kaaya at University of Miami Spring Game

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So, Brad Kaaya is the quarterback for the Green Machine (my nickname) in Saturday's University of Miami Spring Game at 2 p.m. at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

Jack Allison, Malik Rosier, Vincent Testaverde and Evan Shirreffs are the quarterbacks for the Orange Crush (yes, my nickname).

How can the Orange team possibly beat Kaaya?

Hmmm. Keep in mind that D-linemen Chad Thomas, Quan Muhammad R.J. McIntosh and Kendrick Norton are coming after him, as are LBs Jermaine Grace, Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney

Here are the Green and Orange rosters for the Spring Game.

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See you there!

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

Another former Miami Hurricanes star came back Thursday to watch practice

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Yet another former Hurricane showed up at UM football practice Thursday morning, the last spring session this year before the spring game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale (gates open at 11 a.m., but parking area opens at 8 a.m. for tailgating).

This time the player was Kelly Jennings, who came with his son, 3-year-old Kaleb -- his only son of four children.

More than 200 former Canes football players and coaches are expected to be at the spring game on Saturday. Click here for my story on the old-school Canes coming back to support the young guys.

Jennings, 33, a former Canes cornerback, was redshirting his freshman year when Miami won its last national title in 2001. He was drafted in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2006 NFL Draft. He is one of more than 50 Hurricanes who have visited practice this spring, most, if not all of them, enamored of UM's new head coach Mark Richt.

  "It's very different being back,'' said Jennings, a financial advisor in Ridgeland, Mississippi. "I don't think I've been back here since 2008, 2009.''

   Jennings said he's in Coral Gables for the Football Alumni Social on campus Friday night, an evening that includes a dinner/social for old and new players and coaches to mingle.

  "I love it,'' he said. "That's always been a staple for the University of Miami, getting guys together. I'll tell the players that even though I know the last few years have kind of been up and down, I still have faith in them, still have the U bleeding through me. I'm looking forward to a new year with coach Richt.

  "Love him. Personally from what I saw at Georgia, what I know of him as a person, that's who I was rooting for when everything was shaking down.''

  SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2016

Miami's Manny Diaz happy with D-line, but said back end "failed spectacularly'' Saturday

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University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has not minced words this spring, which concludes Saturday with the spring game at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

On Tuesday, Diaz, who also coaches the linebackers, gave his assessment of the defense during the scrimmage at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach. 

Basically, he liked the disruptiveness of his defensive line and thinks his defensive backs are poor tacklers, giving up lots of big plays.

Quarterback Brad Kaaya threw for 232 yards and three touchdowns, with 16 of 21 passes completed.

"We played faster than we played in the first scrimmage,'' Diaz said. "We were a little less tentative, a little less timid, which makes sense.'' So, I thought [there was] a little bit more disruption. But the biggest disappointment, really the thing we made the biggest deal about the entire spring, is leveraging the football and tackling.

"I thought in the back end we were very poor tackling. We've got some guys that are hard to tackle, but the way that we're trying to teach it, it's obvious we're not ready for prime time yet. We have to continue to improve on that. And some of the guys we have just may not be able to. You know, I mean, we've told them, 'Those who will tackle will play.'''

 Said Diaz: " The encouraging thing was that I thought the plays we made behind the line of scrimmage... You know this defense is predicated on two things: making negative yardage plays and not allowing big plays.

"I thought we succeeded in one and I thought we failed spectacularly in the other.''

Wide receiver Stacy Coley, who stretched Tuesday early in practice but apparently did not participate much, if at all, had catches of 40 and 47 yards. Tailback Trayone Gray had a 36-yard touchdown run, and tight end David Njoku had a 46-yard touchdown. 

Diaz wouldn't even clarify who he thought was the best cornerback, "let alone second and third.

"That position has got to continue to really improve and all those guys know it. Corn [Elder] knows he is the most experienced but he's got to play at a much higher level for us to have any chance to slow anybody down.''

Diaz said he was "very encouraged with the guys up front.''

Defensive ends Al-Quadin Muhammad, Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson each had two sacks. Tackle R.J. McIntosh also had a sack, as well as corner Sheldrick Redwine.

"I think we've got some guys that are hard to block, that can make plays on their own, that can make plays even when you don't have to manufacture plays for them,'' Diaz said. "So, that's encouraging. Obviously, it's really hard to be good defensively if you're not good on the defensive front. I think Coach [Craig Kuligowski] has done a great job with those guys in getting them to play hard and get their feet across the line of scrimmage and not think.''

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

April 09, 2016

Miami QB Brad Kaaya's deadly arm showcases scrimmage; WR Coley hurt

The second spring scrimmage is in the books for the MIami Hurricanes, and once again, quarterback Brad Kaaya was the star of the day on offense, completing 16 of 21 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Many of his passes were absolute beauties and long balls -- right on the money.

Kaaya's top target, an obviously extremely talented Stacy Coley, hurt his right hamstring after a 47-yard catch-and-run toward the end zone. He fell to the ground and grasped his right hammy, grimacing in pain before being attended to by trainer Vinny Scavo. That was it for Coley, who later stood on the sideline with a large bag of ice on his hamstring. He still led the day in receiving yardage with two catches for 87 yards.

Coach Mark Richt said it "looked like he tweaked his hamstring a little bit. I don't think it's too severe, which is good... "Stacy's had a great spring so far. I'm sad that he had that happen to him because he's really played well and he's a guy that's been a playmaker for this team for a while now, not just since I've been here. He's a very good football player. He's been very coachable and teachable and I'm sorry that happened to him.'' 

Fortunately for Kaaya, he is not allowed to be tackled in spring ball. Otherwise, the poor guy might be bruised and battered. He was sacked several times playing behind the first-team offensive line of left tackle Trevor Darling, left guard Kc McDermott, center Alex Gall, right guard Danny Isidora and right tackle Tyree St. Louis, who might have started getting tired just as the D-line revved up.

"Yeah, there [were] a few,'' Richt said, when told Kaaya got sacked multiple times. "Lot of times the pocket was real pretty, and some times it wasn't so nice.''

Give some credit to the defensive line, who, along with the defense, had a real surge in the second half with some nice push up front. Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad had two consecutive sacks (the first of which he shared with D-end Chad Thomas, who also had two sacks, along with Demetrius Jackson's two sacks) during the scrimmage.

And bravo to safety Robert Knowles, who had the only two interceptions Saturday -- one for a touchdown, the other caught in the end zone. 

The only other possible injury was to Mark Walton, who played first-team tailback Saturday and had five catches for 12 yards, including a spectacular one-handed grab for a 6-yard touchdown. He rushed three times for 40 yards, to Joe Yearby's 10 carries for 63 yards. 

Just before the scrimmage ended and after Walton's touchdown, he had ice put on his left elbow. It might just be that he was sore. We'll know more next week. 

HERE ARE YOUR UNOFFICIAL OFFICIAL STATS:

  IMG_4151

  SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

 

April 08, 2016

Notre Dame, ACC: Irish agreed to travel to Miami to play baseball series, but ACC nixed it.

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A Notre Dame athletics official said Friday that the Irish were willing to travel to Miami to play the weekend baseball series that now will be attempted beginning Saturday with a doubleheader in forecasted snow and freezing temperatures in South Bend, Indiana -- but that the Atlantic Coast Conference nixed the idea.

ACC Senior Associate Commissioner Kris Pierce, the conference's baseball administrator, told the Miami Herald on Friday that both Notre Dame and the University of Miami requested to switch the series to Miami and for the games not to count toward conference standings, but that the ACC denied the request.

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Pierce said that game sites cannot be changed "based on a predicted weather forecast, which is not unlike what we deal with every single weekend. Obviously this one deals with snow and cold temperatures, but usually the predictions involve rain.

"Without Notre Dame's facilities being deemed unplayable, we don't have the ability to switch the site of the series.''

Notre Dame Athletics Communications Assistant Director Russell Dorn, who is the school's primary contact for baseball, told the Miami Herald in an email, followed by a conversation, on Friday that Irish coach Mik Aoki "addressed the team Wednesday afternoon about it and was fully on board.

  "He followed up with a team group message that evening that said basically that we were going to go ahead as if we would charter to Miami Friday but there were some hurdles still left to clear. The one big hurdle being the ACC office, who denied the request for the series to be switched.''

   UM had offered to pay for Notre Dame's travel expenses. UM coach Jim Morris at first thought the Irish did not want to come to Miami.

  Said Dorn: "Guys were OK with it. Coaches were OK with it. At the end of the day, we want to play the series, but the ACC made the decision.''

  The No. 2 Hurricanes (24-4, 10-2 ACC) arrived in South Bend on Friday, and are scheduled to play a double header against the Irish (16-11, 6-6) that begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, with a 1 p.m. Sunday finale. 

  The forecast for Saturday in South Bend calls for snow and temperatures that range from the low 30s at 1 p.m. to the high 20s by 9 p.m.

   Sunday's forecast calls for "ice pellets" in the morning but temperatures rising to the low 40s by 1 p.m.

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

April 07, 2016

Hurricanes Coach Mark Richt saw giant Bryant McKinnie and thought, 'Maybe, just maybe, he's a recruit.'

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Former Hurricane 2001 national champions Bryant McKinnie and Phillip Buchanon attended University of Miami football practice Thursday, the 11th spring session that precede's Saturday's 2 p.m. open scrimmage at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach (gates open at 12:30 p.m. and it's free to fans).

Here's what football coach Mark Richt, who is still getting to know former players and those involved with the program, said he thought when he saw the extremely large-bodied McKinnie, 36, who is 6-8 and weighed 355 when he played in the NFL: 

"Man, I didn't know for sure who McKinnie was. I knew he was coming, and I kind of forgot. Because we went over the list and we're going and I look back and I see this big dude standing next to [offensive line] Coach [Stacy] Searels and I'm thinking, 'Maybe, just maybe, he's a recruit!' 

"I was thinking, 'Man, he looks like he really likes it here.' Turns out it's Bryant McKinnie -- which is nice. There aren't many human beings that look like him. I said, 'You're the biggest human being I've ever seen that looks athletic.' Because I've seen some big people but not big people that look like athletes like him, man. I would have loved to play behind him.''

 

Buchanon was a star cornerback at Miami. Both players were chosen in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft.

McKinnie told the Miami Herald after practice that he enjoyed the visit, and chipped in a few pointers to the players.

"I thought they did pretty good,'' McKinnie said. "From what everybody was telling me, there has been a big improvement from the start of camp. You have to remember, they're still learning the system, and that takes time.

"Coach Richt was pretty cool. He's looking for the team to do some big things.''

McKinnie said he was "excited'' to be back.

"It feels like they're a little more welcoming,'' he said. "Even the O-line coach was saying, 'Come down as much as possible. Come watch film with them. Give them some tips.' They're welcoming for us to come and share our knowledge.''

Richt was told the former players seem to like what they've seen and was asked how important it is to get validation from old-timers such as McKinnie, Buchanon and several of the players who have visited practice this spring.

 "I'll be honest with you,'' Richt said, "I hope they like what they see. But we're not going to do things to get people to like us. We're going to do the right thing because it's the right thing.''

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

April 05, 2016

Miami Hurricanes coaches showing tons of love for early-enrollee linebackers

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No doubt about it. University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and head coach Mark Richt are enamored over the Baby Canes early enrollee linebackers.

Shaq Quarterman (pictured above) said that he's first-team middle, Michael Pinckney started the scrimmage at first-team weakside and Zach McCloud played third-team strongside behind starter Jermaine Grace and backup Charles Perry.

“All three of those linebackers have really adapted well,’’ Diaz said. “They’re all very mature individuals. They’re all really good learners. You can tell that they were all very well coached in high school. So, more than anything they have been unfazed stepping onto to this field.

“You can also see they have no burden of the past. They’re undefeated and they’re excited to see what being a Miami Hurricane is all about.’’

  He pretty much repeated himself later with more praise for the three early enrollee linebackers: “They’re all mature beyond their years, they’ve come in and have not been daunted by being on the field with guys three or four years old than them when you imagine they should all be in English 12 right now reading The Great Gatsby or something…

“And they’re all physically what you want at linebacker. They can all run, hit. They all show really good toughness. It is a major blessing for our program not only that they’re here but they enrolled early so they can get these 15 days and be a factor for us in the fall.’’

Richt said he talked with the defensive staff on Monday about every player and how they’re doing because he spends so much time with the offense. Richt stressed that it helps the newcomers because the plays are new to everybody, and so they’re installed at a  slower pace.

When asked about the young linebackers, Richt said, “They made I thought the top two plays in the scrimmage.’’ The first play he talked about was middle linebacker Quarterman, who, “stuck his hat on the ball. He was the one that caused that fumble that was a scoop-and-score. It was textbook the way he approached, great football position. He struck the runner and his hat was right on the ball, popped the ball out.

“…Then later in the scrimmage, they had an all-out blitz on, and [Michael] Pinckney, he’s on the blitz, and then we throw the screen and then he turns and runs like a madman and he clips the heels of the back who would have easily got a first down and maybe even a touchdown. It was like third-and-eight, third-and-nine and that thing is about to go a long, long way, if not a touchdown, and because of his effort he clips him just in time to keep them short of the first down, force a punt. Maybe a play like that can win the game. Both those plays. It’s nice to see those kids come in and make that kind of impact right away.’’

Other Richt nuggets:

***“The [wide receiver] that I think is the most ready to play every down [behind Stacy Coley] and do the right thing and do it well is Braxton [Berrios].’’

***”I see Malcolm [Lewis] making a push toward being a very reliable receiver right now.’’

*** WR Darrell Langham and Lawrence Cager “they have got the ability but they’re still developing, still learning what to do. ..They’re big men. So they’ve got to play big.

Right now they’re not playing big. They’re playing like they’re about 6 foot. In reality they’re about 6-4, 6-5.”

I asked Diaz if he thought it helped the youngsters that this staff is the first college coaching staff they’ve had.

Diaz: “In some ways. I think there’s always an unlearning process. A lot of things aren’t all that different but [it] may just be a different way you describe how to do something. Certainly when you do come in with a blank slate you don’t have to unlearn, so that may help them out a little bit.’’

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

April 04, 2016

Miami Hurricanes baseball jumps to No. 2 in the nation

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One day before the Miami Marlins open their season, another Miami baseball team earned some uplifting news.

The University of Miami (23-4,10-2 for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference) rose one spot to No. 2 in the nation in Baseball America's Top-25 rankings -- behind nemesis Florida (27-3), who handed the Hurricanes two of their four losses in late February.

 I'm sure that coach Jim Morris, who earned his 1,500th overall victory as a college coach and 1,000 victory at Miami recently, loves where his team stands right now.

The top eight teams go to Omaha, Nebraska, for the College World Series in June, and it appears the Canes are sweeping their way toward America's Heartland. 

Miami swept previous No. 9 North Carolina this past weekend and now-No. 21 Clemson March 25-27.

The Canes begin a four-game road trip Tuesday at Florida Gulf Coast, followed by a weekend series at Notre Dame (15-11, 6-6). 

BoydsWorld.com had Miami's RPI beneath Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina, but it's obvious they'll jump North Carolina and now-No. 8 South Carolina went 1-3 this past week for a 24-5 overall record. 

What's really impressive is the way UM has been overcoming deficits to win these games. That's what the Canes teams in the late 90s and early 2000s used to do regularly. 

How about Zack Collins now hitting .416 with 31 RBI and a .688 slugging percentage? 

Leadoff hitter Carl Chester is hitting .392, Brandon Lopez follows with .346, Johnny Ruiz with .337 and Edgar Michelangeli with .301.

And the UM bullpen is coming through as well. 

One more thing: Miami has 19 errors this season compared to 47 for opponents.

Now, about those Gators... If UM keeps playing the way it does, no doubt the two teams will meet again in 2016.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

April 02, 2016

Notes and numbers from the first Miami Hurricanes spring football scrimmage

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 To complement our full recap on today's first spring scrimmage, David Furones, one of the reporters who interviewed  University of Miami football coach Mark Richt afterward, provided these additional scrimmage notes:
 
**In addition to Stacy Coley’s 94 yards with a touchdown to lead all receivers, Richt noted that he had another 40 or 50-yard reception called off due to offensive pass interference.
 
Responding to a question regarding a previous statement on lack of speed from the wide receivers, Richt said the scrimmage didn’t do much in getting him to change his mind.
 
“We still need speed,” Richt said. “We have some speed, but I can promise you we need more speed.”
 
 
**It was a surprise to find that defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad did not register any tackles in the scrimmage.
 
“There were probably a few times where there would’ve been a sack,” said Richt, noting quarterbacks don’t get tackled to the ground in the spring but instead play gets stopped by an official if it’s apparent a defender would bring down the passer if contact were allowed. “I tell the officials to err on the side of letting the ball get thrown, so he might’ve been much more disruptive if he could have actually hit the quarterback. That’s true for all those defensive ends.”
 
**Richt felt the first-string offensive line was “pretty even” against the top defensive front after the two unites battled back and forth in previous practices. He said Kaaya would’ve been sacked on two or three of his dropbacks while he got off 21 attempts.
 
“It’s not just line play. It’s backs blocking and protection, as well. Sometimes the QB just doesn’t get rid of the ball fast enough. Usually the sacks are on the quarterback in my opinion,” Richt said. “Two practices ago, the defense splattered the offense. The practice before that, the offense was like, ‘Hey, here they go!’ and the very next practice the defense took control.”
 
**While the scrimmage was closed to the public and media, plenty of invited high school coaches were on hand. 
 
The scrimmage also served as an effective recruiting tool as several recruits watched. 
Confirmed recruits who attended included committed Gulliver running back Robert Burns, committed Southridge wide receivers Daquris Wiggins and Mark Pope, St. Thomas Aquinas cornerbacks Al Blades Jr. and Asante Samuel Jr. Killian offensive lineman Delone Scaife tweeted out that he got a scholarship offer from the Canes on Saturday.
 
DAVID FURONES
 
 

 

March 31, 2016

Hurricanes OL coach: "Tell every tackle in America, if he wants to play, come to Miami.''

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So, who's the backup quarterback?

According to what he said Thursday, University of Miami coach Mark Richt doesn't know.

 Redshirt sophomore Malik Rosier had that 20-for-29 performance for 272 yards and two touchdowns in the miracle-eight-lateral victory at Duke, making most of us assume that it's Rosier's job to lose. But Richt is going by what he sees every day.

Richt said Brad Kaaya is the definite No. 1, but when asked Thursday about separation behind Kaaya, the coach said, "I'm just trying to evaluate that. That's why I'm giving them all as far an opportunity as I can. Because I don't know the answer.

Behind Kaaya, apparently in no particular order, are Rosier, redshirt freshman Evan Shirreffs, redshirt sophomore Vincent Testaverde and freshman Jack Allison.   

  "Clear-cut, Brad's No. 1. After that, I really don't know.''

Richt will likely know more after the first scrimmage of spring on Saturday, which is closed to the media and public and will be held at Greentree Field. He said he'll divvy the snaps "probably similar to what I've been doing, which is Brad with the 1s, the other guys rotating between the 2s and 3s. It'll probably be the same exact role.''

 When asked Thursday what he wants to see the offense accomplish in the scrimmage, Kaaya said, "Just to be able to funtion at a high rate without things being scripted, without a set period. ...Guys are pretty excited but we still have to kind of stay even-keeled in that aspect. Just because it's a scrimmage and guys are trying to earn spots, you can't just go overboard and try to make the craziest plays. You've just got to focus and do your job. That's what I have learned from the last two years of scrimmages.''

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STACY SEARELS TELLS IT LIKE IT IS

 Some revealing words from offensive line coach Stacy Searels on Thursday (not in any particular order):

Who has impressed you the most? Who are the two or three guys who have really picked it up and are working hard?

"Danny Isidora. Danny Isidora is by far performing the best right now. Kc [McDermott] has had some good days -- they've all had some really good days. But the most consistent over the long haul has been Danny."

Searels said from left to right, his starters thus far are Trevor Darling at tackle, Kc McDermott at guard, Alex Gall at center (with Nick Linder out for the spring after surgery), Isidora at right guard and Tyree St. Louis at right tackle (Sunny Odogwu is also out after surgery). 

 "I'll be glad when [tackle] Sunny [Odogwu] and Nick Linder get back,'' Searels said. That will certainly add to our depth."

 When told it appears that each of his Canes are mostly sticking to one position rather than playing multiple ones, as they have in the past:

"The more positions you play the more valuable you are, because you want to play the next guy up, but we've tried to stay with a set five right now."

In recruiting, how important is it going to be to get tackles?

"Tell every tackle in America, if he wants to play, come to Miami. We need him. We need more tackles. We definitely need more tackles. You can always take tackles. They play inside when they're young and they move outside. Or I've had a lot of guys that come in as true freshmen and play at tackle. We like the long tackle bodies that can play multiple positions."

So,how have the O-linemen been looking?

 "You know what? [There have been] days they've been really really good and there have been some days we've been really, really bad. We're looking for more consistency. I like the effort of Danny Isidora -- he sticks out. He's doing everything we ask. He's playing hard. He's leading. We need more guys to join his group. We've got some good young talent, but we've got to grow up."

Is technique the biggest thing you have to stress in spring?

"No. It's everything: Assignment, alignment, technique, effort. Just continuing to get people to do things on a consistent basis."

LAWRENCE CAGER APPRECIATES CRITICISM

   Lawrence Cager seems to appreciate Richt saying last week that the Canes are lacking in speed at wide receiver, making the cornerbacks not work hard enough. 

   "I think he was just trying to light a fire to make us work harder and get better each day,'' Cager told me Thursday. "I don't take it as criticism because Coach Richt is a very loving guy and I think he's just trying to get us to work harder and work on our speed so we can run away from those defenders easily.

    "I think it did work. We came out and showed them today."

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GUS EDWARDS READY TO ROCK 'N ROLL

  Redshirt junior running back Gus Edwards said he's ready to compete fully in Saturday's scrimmage.

     Edwards, who said he is 6-2 and 235, said he's completely healed after sustaining a Lisfranc fracture at a preseason fall camp scrimmage last year and missing the season.

  "I tore the ligament between the top of my [left] foot,'' he said Thursday. "It was painful.''

  He said he was "very limited" the first three months after surgery. I couldn't do a lot. After that I came out here just running straight ahead. No quick moves.

  "They put like five screws in there and a metal plate.''

   Edwards said the screws and plate have since been removed and he'll be full go Saturday.

   Out of Tottenville High in Staten Island, N.Y., Edwards was the Canes' third-leading rusher in 2014, rushing for 349 yards on 61 carries, a 5.7-yard-per-carry average. He scored six touchdowns. 

   When Richt was asked about Edwards on Thursday, he said "he had a couple runs two days ago where we really gave him a lot of space and he didn't finish the run the way we want runs to be finished. Obviously coach [Thomas] Brown made a point, because when he did get some space [Thursday], he was running hard, like he needs to -- knocking people back at the end of runs, which was good.

   "He's got ability, he's just got to really practice hard every snap.'' 

  SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

March 28, 2016

Old-school Miami Hurricanes, including Mark Richt, to address UM Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony

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Where are you going to be Thursday night?

If you're a Miami Hurricane fan, hold the night to attend the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Jungle Island.

It's always a blast for fans of all ages to meet and greet some of the most heralded Hurricanes from all UM sports, including, of course, football. 

Pictured above: 2011 inductee Santana Moss and his children, 15-year-old Santana, Jr., and 6-year-old Savion.

I saw Santana and his children at practice Saturday, and covered Santana when he was inducted in 2011. Santana can't make it to the ceremony this year, but he called it an amazing honor to be inducted, and said "It's great to see those guys go into the UM Hall of Fame. Willis was a guy who waited his turn, and you see what he did in his career,'' Moss said. "Me and Joaquin came in together. He was tremendous to our offensive line, such a leader, so smart. And Kellen Winslow, I didn't get a chance to play with him, but I watched him and he tore up the field out here.''

This year's class is again an impressive one, including former UM hoops star Will Allen, who has become even more of a giant off the field, receiving the 2008 MacArthur Foundation's "Genius Grant.'' In 2010, Time Magazine named him to its list of "The Word's 100 Most Influential People.''

Your football stars being honored are running back Willis McGahee, tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. and offensive tackle Joaquin Gonzalez.

The other inductees: Megan Bradley of tennis, Tamara James of women's basketball, San Diego Padre Jon Jay and former swimming coach Charlie Hodgson.

Football coach and former UM quarterback Mark Richt will make the opening statements, and you know what kind of reception he'll get.

And Richt's standout quarterback Brad Kaaya will be presented with the 23rd Annual Walter Kichefski Endowed Football Scholarship.

So you'll have old and new (and in some cases, old being the same as new) Canes on hand. 

This is a rare and really fun opportunity to see the athletes and former athletes and all people connected to the Canes in a relaxed, happy setting.

There are still some tickets left to purchase, though many have been already. The cost is $100 a ticket (or $1,000 for a table of 10). Cocktails are at 6 p.m. and the dinner begins at 7. 

Please call UM Sports Hall of Fame executive director John Routh at 305-284-2775 for information or to purchase a ticket. You can also call ticket chairman Ken Lancaster. Both of these men will guide you in the right direction.

The website to check out is http://www.umsportshalloffame.com/

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

 

March 26, 2016

Two defensive backs coaches: twice the fun, double the education

Canes coach Mark Richt said Saturday that the reason Miami has two defensive backs coaches -- safety coaches Ephraim Banda and cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph -- is because that's "just how [defensive coordinator] Manny Diaz "wanted to set his staff.''
 

Said Richt:  "If he wanted one DB coach and 2 D-line coaches, then that’s what we would have done. Manny feels like he can handle the linebacking corps. There’s no question Coach Kuligowski can handle the front four. So that gives us two more full-time coaches on defense. The reality is you have four DBs at a time --  always two corners and two safeties; but sometimes you’ll be in nickel [and] now you’ve got five in there; sometimes you’re in dime and you’ve got six in there. That’s one guy trying to coach that many. It’s really nice having two guys in there."

Rumph said of the two-coach concept: 

"It allows me to be really creative and real hands on with six guys. I don’t have a room full of guys so I can really focus in on the task at hand. I know the college game has changed. It was new for me to see corners and safeties coaches. We’ve adapted well. Coach Banda and I make sure we meet twice a week together and we meet individually as much as we can. We’re constantly working to make sure the terminology what we’re saying and doing the corners and safeties understand each other. Coach Banda has been in this defense for three years."

Any safeties cross-training at corner? "Not yet. I would love to have Jaquan Johnson over there at corner because he is just so athletic. But for now he’s learning the defense. I think I’m going to work some of the safeties at some corner with some press work, but other than that we’re just going to stay corner/safety as of now."

And this from safety Rayshawn Jenkins on the two-coach system: "It’s way better because we can cover more stuff and get different techniques and get the different experience from the two coaches. Coach Rumph played in the league and coach Banda, he played in college so we get two brains in one."

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

March 23, 2016

Coach L's connections helped him get UM job

Hi from Louisville's KFC Yum! Center!

Among the MANY things Coach Larranaga talked about today was how he got the UM job five years ago. Here's what he said:

"When I accepted the head coaching job at Miami, it had always been a dream of mine to coach  in the ACC. There are very few opportunities, especially for someone in his 60s. When the Miami job opened up, I called a couple of my friends in Miami who are very successful businessmen and very tied into the university, they're alums, and they know all the people on the board of trustees and they know the president, and they put in a good word for me.

"And then Doc Rivers recommended me and (former U.S. Secretary of Education) Arne Duncan recommended me. Donna Shalala was a big Democrat, so Arne helped me there. Shawn Eichhorst, the athletic director, was from Wisconsin and went to law school in Marquette, so Doc Rivers' recommendation was unusually important.

"When my staff and I got there, we felt like `All right, we have a challenge. There are a lot of things we're told that we probably couldn't accomplish. The first was we'd never be able to beat Duke or Carolina. Second, we'd never be able to win an ACC regular season or tournament. Third was we'd never be able to draw a crowd.

Well, we have a winning record against Duke and we're batting .500 against the Tarheels.

We've won an ACC Tournament championship and regular season championship, and we're not selling out every game. So, we've accomplished an awful lot, but we still have a major goal in front of us, and that major goal, was to build a team that could win a national championship."

---Michelle Kaufman.