May 27, 2014

Just in from Miami Hurricanes' women's basketball program: Zach Kancher named assistant coach

FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SPORTS INFORMATION STAFF...

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Head women’s basketball coach Katie Meier has announced the hiring of Zach Kancher as the newest assistant coach for the University of Miami women’s basketball team.

Highly regarded within college basketball circles, Kancher comes to Coral Gables with over a decade of experience ranging from the high school level to the highest level of Division I women’s basketball.

“Zach is an absolutely tremendous hire for us,” Meier said. “I felt very challenged trying to find a coach to replace Carolyn Kieger. It was a very big hire for our program. The challenge was to find high basketball IQ with a tenacious personality and a great court demeanor—and I think we found all of that in Zach. I also think he’s going to help us recruit the northeast, which he’s done for many years. His track record as a head coach and his proven success going to the Final Four with Maryland, he really adds a lot to our program and it’s something that we are very excited about. I have so much respect for Coach Frese and the Maryland staff and that’s a big reason why Zach was at the top of our list.”

Kancher has spent the previous three seasons (2011-14) as the Director of Scouting and Player Development for the University of Maryland, where he helped the Terrapins reach the NCAA Sweet 16 or beyond each year.

“I’m extremely grateful to Coach Meier for granting me this opportunity to become a Hurricane,” Kancher said.  “She runs a first-rate program that has won an ACC Championship in the last five years.  The ACC is a fantastic league for women’s basketball and Miami has proven to be a perennial championship contender. I can’t express how fortunate I’ve been to have learned from Coach Frese at Maryland and the experience I’ve had in the past three years—reaching a Final Four and winning an ACC Championship. I will hopefully be able to replicate that success at Miami, and I couldn’t be any more excited.”

In his role under head coach Brenda Frese, Kancher was responsible for scouting report generation of opponents including full breakdowns and analysis, analytics, and personnel tendencies.

“Miami made a terrific hire in Zach,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “He will have an instant impact on their program like he did ours. He’s a dynamic guy who is really passionate about the game and life in general. We are really proud of what he did here at Maryland and look forward to seeing him grow in his role at Miami.”

Prior to his time in College Mark, Md., Kancher coached two seasons as the top assistant at Division II Goldey-Beacom College, and in his final year also took on the role of recruiting coordinator while guiding the Lightning to a CACC Championship and NCAA tournament appearance.

His first stop in the collegiate ranks came at the Division III College of Mount Saint Vincent, where he was the head coach and assistant athletic director for operations and facilities.  In his lone season at Mount Saint Vincent, Kancher led his team to the ECAC-Metro Quaterfinals, to the Skyline Conference Semifinals, and to the Hudson Valley Athletic Conference Championship.

In his first coaching stop, Kancher spent four seasons at The Shipley School, spending two as the assistant boys coach and two as the head varsity coach. In 2006-07, The Shipley School went 22-6 under Kancher with appearances in the Pennsylvania Independent School Finals and the Friends School League Finals.

Kancher spent his undergraduate years as a practice player for the women’s basketball team at The George Washington University from 1999-2003, while earning his bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in creative writing.

Currently, Kancher is working towards his master’s degree in sport administration from Canisius College. 

For more information on the women's basketball team, follow @MiamiWBB on Twitter. 

 

May 26, 2014

Miami to face Bethune-Cookman at 7 p.m. Friday in Coral Gables. Also coming: Columbia, Texas Tech.

As expected, the Miami Hurricanes were not named one of eight national seeds Monday for the NCAA Division I baseball tournament coming this weekend to 16, four-team regional sites around the nation.

However, the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee graced the Hurricanes with one of the least intense regionals.

Coming to Coral Gables this weekend: No. 4 regional seed Bethune-Cookman (26-31, 208 RPI) of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference; No. 3 seed Columbia (29-18 and No. 35 RPI) of the Ivy League; and No. 2 seed Texas Tech (40-18, No. 17 RPI) of the  Big 12.  

 The No. 1 regional seed Hurricanes (41-17 and No. 15 RPI) will face Bethune-Cookman at 7 p.m. Friday (according to ESPNU) at Alex Rodriguez Park, with Columbia vs. Texas Tech opening the Coral Gables regional at 2. 

  Miami is 1-1 this season vs. Bethune-Cookman. On March 11 UM lost 7-3 to Bethune. A week after throwing the second perfect game in program history, Javi Salas was thrashed for six runs in the game's first inning. Bethune's Montana Durapau allowed three runs -- two earned -- on nine hits in eight innings. He walked two and struck out seven.

  Durapau (11-1, 1.71 ERA) is expected to start against UM Friday. UM coach Jim Morris said he is still deciding who to pitch Friday.

 UM defeated Bethune 10-1 on April 2. Salas earned the victory in relief.

 Bethune-Cookman got into the NCAA tournament by winning the MEAC Tournament last weekend.

 The Hurricanes have not missed the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship since 1972 – a stretch of 42 consecutive seasons - and own an all-time record of 117-43 (.731). Miami’s all-time mark in the postseason is 178-91 (.661).

 “It’s a credit to our administration to give us an opportunity to compete at that level, to our players and our coaches to be able to keep that string going,” head coach Jim Morris said of the program’s postseason streak. “It’s an amazing thing."

Second-seeded Texas Tech finished the regular season with a 14-10 record in the Big 12 and have played UM only once, losing 13-0 to the Canes on May 23, 1998 in the Coral Gables Regional.

Third-seeded Columbia made its first trip to Coral Gables in 2013, when Miami won back-to-back games. The Ivy League champions finished 2014 with a 15-5 league record.

 The Coral Gables regional is opposite the Gainesville regional, with No. 1 regional seed and No. 2 national seed Florida hosting tough competitors in perennial powers Long Beach State (the No. 2 regional seed at 32-24), North Carolina (the No. 3 regional seed at 34-25) and the College of Charleston (the No. 4 regional seed at 41-17).

 If any team other than Florida in the Gainesville regional wins the Gainesville regional, and UM wins its regional, UM would host the next round's super regional.

However, if Florida wins its regional, and UM wins the Coral Gables regional, UM would travel to Gainesville for the two-team super regional.

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

May 25, 2014

Miami Hurricanes baseball named NCAA regional host for 25th time -- extends postseason consecutive berths to nation-leading 42 years

   The NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament is returning to Coral Gables.

   The University of Miami baseball program learned Sunday night that it will host an NCAA regional at Alex Rodriguez Park for the first time since the 2012 season and 25th time in school history.

   Though the NCAA will announce at noon Monday (ESPNU) UM’s three regional opponents and the full field of 64 teams for the tournament, Sunday’s announcement means that UM has extended its nation-leading streak to 42 consecutive NCAA postseason berths in baseball.

   The regionals will be played next weekend, beginning May 30.

    Included among the host sites are Florida (40-21) in Gainesville and Florida State (43-15) in Tallahassee.

   The Hurricanes (41-17) hosted Stony Brook, UCF and Missouri State in 2012, but fell in the regional and never made it to the super regional round.

   Last season UM traveled to Louisville and also was eliminated in the regional.

   The Canes likely eliminated their chance of being named one of eight national tournament seeds by losing two of three games this past week at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

    Each of the eight national seeds has the advantage of hosting a two-team super regional should it win its regional. Should UM win its regional but not be named a national seed, the only way the Canes would stay at home for a super regional would be if the national seed in the corresponding bracket is eliminated in its regional.

   The last time the Canes traveled to a super regional was in 2010 at Gainesville, where Miami lost to the Gators.

The 16 Regional Round sites and hosts: Miami (41-17, 24-6 ACC), Coral Gables, Fla.; Virginia (44-13, 22-8 ACC), Charlottesville, Va.; Florida State (43-15, 21-9 ACC), Tallahassee, Fla.;  Florida (40-21, 21-9 ACC), Gainesville, Fla.; Indiana (42-13, 21-3 Big Ten), Bloomington, Ind.; Louisiana-Lafayette (53-7, 26-4 Sun Belt), Lafayette, La.; Oregon State (42-11, 23-6 Pac-12), Corvallis, Ore.; Vanderbilt (41-18, 17-13 SEC), Nashville, Tenn.; Ole Miss (41-18, 19-11 SEC), Oxford, Miss.; TCU (41-15, 17-7 Big 12), Fort Worth, Texas; Louisiana State (44-14-1, 17-11-1 SEC), Baton Rouge, La.; Oklahoma State (45-15, 18-6 Big 12), Stillwater, Okla.; Cal Poly (45-10, 19-5 Big West), San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Rice (40-18, 23-7 C-USA), Houston, Texas; South Carolina (42-16, 18-3 SEC), Columbia, S.C. and Louisville (45-15, 19-5 The American)., Louisville, K.Y.

     SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

   

May 22, 2014

Hurricanes football roster (updated Thursday) has 11 new scholarship players, including QBs Kaaya and Rosier, 2 new walk-ons -- & 2 deleted from roster

The Miami Hurricanes football team had its roster updated Thursday, with 11 new scholarship players, two walk-ons -- and two deletions.

The deletions: scholarship cornerback Larry Hope, who would have been a redshirt freshman in 2014; and walk-on quarterback Garrison Lassiter, the former minor-league baseball player with the New York Yankees organization who gave up baseball to come to college and give football a try. 

A UM spokesman said he had no additional information on Hope and Lassiter. Hope played in two games last season and had three tackles. Lassiter never played.

Here are the new 11 (and their jersey numbers), taking summer classes and getting ready for fall ball:

No. 7: S Marques Gayot of Lake Worth Park Vista Community High.

No. 9: DE Chad Thomas of Miami Booker T. Washington.

No. 12: QB Malik Rosier of Mobile, Ala., Faith Academy.

No. 15: QB Brad Kaaya of West Hills, Calif., Chaminade-Madonna.

No. 22: DB Kiy Hester of Wayne, N.J., DePaul Catholic.

No. 57: DE Mike Smith of Miami Northwestern.

No. 68: OL Nick Linder of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

No. 82: WR Tyre Brady of Homestead South Dade.

No. 92: DL Courtel Jenkins of Wayne, N.J., DePaul Catholic. 

No. 95: DL Anthony Moten of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

No. 44: DE Demetrius Jackson of Miami Booker T. Washington.

Here are the walk-ons:

No. 16: P Justin Vogel by way of UF and before that, Tampa Berkeley Prep.

No. 24: K Michael Badgley of Summit, N.J. High.

No. 43: FB Tyler Odems of Manassas, Va., by way of Dean JC (I'm told he didn't play) & Osbourn Park High. 

Practice expected to begin Aug. 5th.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

 

 

After bad start, Hurricanes set to meet Clemson at 7 p.m. in next round of ACC baseball tournament

After a bad start, the No. 1 seed Hurricanes will meet No. 5 Clemson at 7 p.m. Thursday in the 2014 ACC baseball tournament. The game will be broadcast on the ACC's Regional Sports Networks with an ESPN3 simulcast. 

The Hurricanes, winners of 27 of their past 30 games until Wednesday, became just the second top seed in the past 29 Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournaments to lose their opening tournament game.

 Georgia Tech made a late comeback to defeat the Canes 6-3.

 The Hurricanes (40-16) took early leads of 1-0 and 3-1. Georgia Tech (34-24) scored two runs in the seventh, two in the eighth and one more in the ninth.

Andy Suarez allowed nine hits and three earned runs in 6.1 innings, and also had an error that got things started for the Yellow Jackets.

Reliever Chris Hammond took the loss in 1.2 innings, giving up two earned runs on three hits. He's now 5-1.

"We've been hot lately," said UM outfielder Dale Carey, who went 3 for 4 with a home run and two stolen bases. "Just because we dropped one today doesn’t mean we can’t start another streak. That’s what we're planning on doing."

  The good news for Canes fans is that UM swept Clemson April 25-27 in South Carolina. Those scores, in order, were 5-2, 3-2 and 10-2. UM's usual rotation during those weekend starts: Chris Diaz, Andy Suarez and Bryan Radziewski. ACC Co-Pitcher of the year Diaz (9-0, 2.32 ERA) is slated to start today.

  This is a round-robin format, with the winner of Pool A (UM, No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Clemson and Georgia Tech remains) playing the winner of Pool B (No. 2 seed FSU, No. 3 Virginia, No. 6 Maryland and No. 7 North Carolina) at 1 p.m. Sunday for the championship.

In other games, FSU beat UNC 7-1; and Clemson beat Duke 5-3.

 On Thursday, Maryland was scheduled to play Virginia at 11 and Duke was set to play Georgia Tech at 3 p.m., before Miami's matchup.

  Miami has off Friday, before resuming Saturday at 11 a.m. against Duke.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

May 20, 2014

Hurricanes ready to take on winner of (today's) Georgia Tech vs. Wake Forest at 3 p.m. Wednesday

After an amazing regular season, the Hurricanes will enter the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament at 3 p.m. Wednesday needing to stretch their success to ensure being awarded a national seed for the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament that begins May 30.

After winning two of three from North Carolina, the Canes, who have won 27 of their past 30 games, actually dropped in the NCAA RPI from No. 10 last week to No. 12. Go figure. As much as the people who decipher those factors take into account how UM's opponents do, which, like in football, affects how they are viewed, keep in mind that Miami has a nation-leading 15-game road winning streak going. That is mighty impressive. So are four road sweeps -- just one fewer than the rest of the conference had combined going into this past weekend.

But regardless of being No. 10 or 12 in RPI, Miami (40-15, 24-6 ACC) needs to have a good showing at the ACC Tournament that begins today for the Georgia Tech (32-24, 14-16) vs Wake Forest (30-25, 15-15) and North Carolina (32-23m 15-15) vs NC State (32-22, 13-17) matchups that will determine the final two tournament teams.

UM will meet the winner of the Georgia Tech-Wake (3 p.m. Tuesday) game at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

The Canes lost two of three at Georgia Tech this season -- the last game a 3-2 score decided in 10 innings.  Miami has not played Wake Forest this season.

"This tournament is huge,'' ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year Chris Diaz told me in a phone interview Monday. "It's the time of year when the best teams make it to Omaha. We're not just trying to win a couple of games here. We're trying to get a ring here, too.''

The Canes have not lost a game that Diaz has started since May of 2013 at this tournament. Diaz, a left-handed junior, is 9-0 with a 2.32 ERA.

Zack Collins earned ACC Freshman of the Year on Monday. Not bad for a guy who started the season 0 for 17 and 1 for 27 -- and ended up with a .285 average, with 46 RBI, eight home runs and a .520 slugging percentage.

"It's an awesome feeling,'' said Collins, from Pembroke Pines. "Obviously when you have that start... there are things going through your mind -- is it the college pitching or is it you? I just kept doing my best and knew it would come one day.

"It's almost like a fairytale ending to the regular season to get these awards when you start like I did. Now it's time to win the ACC tournament, get a national seed and go to Omaha and win a national championship.''

 The ACC tourney, at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, N.C., uses a round-robin format, with the winner of Pool A (the No. 1 seed Canes, No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Clemson and winner of Georgia Tech-Wake) facing the winner of Pool B (No. 2 seed FSU, No. 3 UVA, No. 6 Maryand and the winner of Tuesday's UNC-NC State game) for the ACC championship at 1 p.m. Sunday.

  On Monday, Memorial Day, the NCAA will name the 64-team field for the Division I Baseball Tournament -- including the top eight seeds (national seeds). The day before, the 16 sites that will host the first-round regionals will be announced. UM will almost surely be awarded a regional in Coral Gables.

   National seeds are guaranteed to host the second round of the tournament -- the super regionals -- if the win the first round.

   In addition to Collins' and Diaz's honors Monday, FSU's DJ Stewart (.362, 47 RBI, .588) won ACC Player of the Year.

   Brian O'Connor of Virginia (43-11, 22-8) won ACC Coach of the Year -- over Jim Morrris, who brought the Hurricanes from 13-12 early this season to 40-15 and a regular-season ACC title. What Morris and Gino DiMare and J.D. Arteaga and weight-training-and-conditioning coach Brian Gabriel and assistant Rich Witten did to keep this team focused and finishing the way they have, to me is deserving of Coach of the Year for Morris

   ACC coaches vote for the honorees but are not allowed to vote for their own players (not sure about themselves).

   Diaz was the only UM player to make the All-ACC first team, with outfielder Dale Carey (.295), starting pitcher Bryan Radziewski (7-2, 3.14) and closer Bryan Garcia earning second-team honors.

  Collins, outfielder Willie Abreu (.299) and pitcher Andrew Suarez (5-3, 3.15) made third-team All-ACC.

   An oversight, in my opinion, was leaving left fielder Tyler Palmer off one of the All-ACC teams. Palmer finished with a .304 average with 31 RBI (only behind Collins team-wise), a .441 slugging percentage (only behind Collins) and a team-leading 18 stolen bases (sixth best in ACC).

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

May 16, 2014

David Thompson makes impressive return to Miami Hurricanes baseball lineup after major surgery

Young athletes -- at least this young athlete -- have incredible healing power.

Less than two months after Miami Hurricanes infielder David Thompson had surgery to remove a rib and repair a situation that caused a blood clot in his right arm, the former Miami Westminster Christian star is back in the UM lineup.

Thompson, who had surgery March 24 to address his physical ailments caused by venous thoracic outlet syndrome, was in the lineup to start at first base and hit eighth Thursday night at home against North Carolina -- until the game was postponed because of torrential rain.

That game was rescheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, followed by the regularly scheduled 7:30 p.m. game at Alex Rodriguez Park.

Thompson's .328 batting average still leads the team. He started all 19 games in which he played this season, playing much of the time at third base -- though that position has been solidified by freshman Johnny Ruiz, another medical marvel who returned to the lineup last week after partially tearing the right labrum of his shoulder.

The No. 7 Canes, 38-14, lead the ACC with a 22-5 league record.

UNC is 31-21 and 14-13.

We talked to David, a sophomore, this past Tuesday, when he just needed the OK by team doctor Lee Kaplan to be cleared to play. As always, he was upbeat about his chances.

"I feel like I'm ready to go,'' Thompson said. "I'm hoping I can play this weekend. Whatever my role is, even if it's a pinch hit, I hope I get the opportunity.''

 He said it's been "real tough'' not being on the field with his teammates as they went from 13-12 the day of his surgery to winning 25 out of the next 27 games. "But at the same time it's fun to see some of the young guys step up and start making a big impact. I hope I can come back and help us win some games.''

Thompson conceded he's "definitely not as strong,'' which is to be expected.

"My arm is not as strong as it was before, but that will come back with time,'' he said. "But my body feels good and I'm ready to get out there. I still get sore a little bit, especially in my neck where they went in for the surgery, but that is expected to happen after the surgery I had.''

According to the Mayo Clinic, venous thoracic outlet syndrome is defined as "a group of disorders that occur when the blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and first rib (thoracic outlet) becomes compressed. This can cause pain in your shoulders and neck and numbness in your fingers.''

Here's hoping David makes a smooth transition back. He deserves it.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

May 12, 2014

Senior Dale Carey named ACC Player of the Week as Canes continue to surge nationally in baseball

Once again, the Hurricanes are making news on the national baseball front as senior center fielder Dale Carey was named ACC Player of the Week on Monday, the same day that UM saw its highest rankings in all the polls.

 UM is ranked fourth by Collegiate Baseball, seventh by Baseball America and 12th in the USA Today coaches' poll.

The Canes are now 38-14 overall and 22-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, having won 25 of its past 27 games and a nation-leading 15 consecutive away games.

UM is coming off its fourth consecutive ACC road sweep, with Carey making a big contribution to the effort.

Carey, from Marietta, Ga., led the team with a .429 batting average (6 for 14) in three games against the Blue Devils. He hit his first career grand slam in Saturday's 9-1 win and led UM with six RBI for the weekend. He also finished 3-for-3 in stolen bases.

In the series finale Sunday, Carey hit a game-tying RBI single and started another game-tying rally later with a double.

The senior is the only Hurricanes who has started all 52 games this season, going 2-for-3 with two walks and an RBI single in a 7-2 win over Florida Gulf Coast.

The Canes have the best record in the ACC, and end the regular season against ACC foe North Carolina (30-21, 14-13) with a three-game set Thursday through Saturday at Mark Light Field. 

After that it's the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., and then the NCAA tourney that should begin with UM hosting a regional.

For those who haven't come to a game, I'd highly suggest it. It's a really nice, low-key, kid-friendly atmosphere and the fans are among the best I've seen in college sports.

See you Thursday.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

 

 

May 10, 2014

7th-round UM Cane Seantrel Henderson "quintessential underachiever,'' says Polian; QB Stephen Morris & WR Allen Hurns go undrafted.

The Canes end up with three players drafted this year: Offensive guard Brandon Linder in the third round to Jacksonville Jaguars, punter Pat O'Donnell in the sixth round to the Chicago Bears and offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson in the seventh and final round to the Buffalo Bills.

Naturally, the networks talked at length about Henderson, who was suspended multiple times at UM for what he eventually admitted was because of marijuana smoking. Then it was revealed by ESPN's Adam Schefter last week that Henderson tested positive for marijuana while at the NFL Combine.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, Jr on Henderson: "This kid was the no. 1 guy. He was who everybody wanted coming out of high school. He was supposed to be the next Jonathan Ogden – that type of player coming out of the prep ranks. If he can stay focused, if he can just be all football and no other problems, then he can be a factor in the NFL. But he got pushed way down, beyond where any player with his physical prowess should be."

ESPN's Todd McShay on Henderson: "For 6-7, 331 pounds he runs pretty well. He’s got power. And when he’s on his game, he’s dominant. He could have been a first-round pick if he had done all the right things right. Even if he had done things right the last six months he may have been a third, fourth-round pick. He falls in the seventh round for one simple reason: you can’t trust him. Maybe this is the wakeup call he needs."

ESPN analyst Bill Polian on Henderson: "...He is the quintessential underachiever. You’ve got to make a decision as an organization, do you want an underachiever in your building or don’t you? They took a chance and we’ll find out. He’s got one chance and one chance only."

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock: "Here's a situation where a kid has more God-given natural ability than you can even believe and he took all that ability and because of all the issues off the field turned himself from a first-round pick to a seventh-round pick. I wish the kid well. I hope Buffalo is able to help him grow up. I'd like to see nothing more than this kid grow into and mature into this massive talent that he has, and become a really good guy.'' 

 As for undrafted free agent quarterback Stephen Morris and wide receiver Allen Hurns, they will join Linder and former UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch with the Jacksonville Jaguars. UM reported they signed contracts with the Jaguars.

 I talked to Stephen Morris' dad, Colin Morris. As expected, he was disappointed. "It's been a very tough day,'' Colin Morris said. "But thankfully, he's getting ready to head off to another city and start working with another team. I know that Stephen is very excited about going to Jacksonville.''

 Also signing free-agent contracts, according to UM, were linebacker Jimmy Gaines (Buffalo), defensive tackle Justin Renfrow (Arizona Cardinals), fullback Maurice Hagens (Atlanta Falcons), tight end Asante Cleveland (San Francisco 49ers), guard/center Jared Wheeler (Carolina Panthers), safety Kacy Rodgers II (Kansas City Chiefs), defensive end Shayon Green (Miami Dolphins), safety A.J. Highsmith (San Francisco), defensive tackle Curtis Porter (Oakland Raiders).    

 

    

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

How's this for a twist? First Canes player taken on Saturday in NFL Draft: punter Pat O'Donnell.

Miami Hurricane Pat O'Donnell of Lake Worth, yes, PUNTER Pat O'Donnell, just got selected by the Chicago Bears 191st overall -- the 15th pick in the sixth round -- in the NFL Draft.

I've said it numerous times (and so has UM coach Al Golden): O'Donnell is a beast.

O'Donnell played his first three seasons for Cincinnati before transferring to the Canes and being allowed to play immediately because of the exemption graduated senior transfers get from the NCAA. He was a graduate student.

He's the first UM player taken in Saturday's final day of the draft and the first kicker of any type taken in this draft -- and he's an amazing athlete.

O'Donnell, 6-4 and 220 pounds, earned All-America honors from USA Today and set Miami's single-season record by averaging 47.1 yards per punt that ranked second in the nation en route to being named a 2013 All-ACC selection.

At the NFL Combine, O'Donnell's time of 4.62 seconds in the 40-yard dash tied former USC kicker David Buehler from 2009 as the fastest 40 for a kicker or punter since 2006. O'Donnell also did 23 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press -- more than six tight ends, 19 running backs, 21 defensive linemen and all 37 wide receivers.

In the final regular-season game of 2013, O'Donnell earned ACC Player of the Week honors. 

Against Pitt, O'Donnell kicked four punts for a 44.2-yard average, including three kicks inside Pitt's 20-yard line. However, his biggest play occurred on the opening kickoff, when he forced a Pitt fumble which was recovered by UM's Garrett Kidd. That forced fumble resulted in a touchdown by Stacy Coley.

It's almost impossible to believe he wasn't even named among the SEMIFINALSTS for the Ray Guy Award. 

Not that any of it matters now. Be assured that O'Donnell will be an NFL success.

Meanwhile, quarterback Stephen Morris, receiver Allen Hurns and tackle Seantrel Henderson still wait.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

My interview with Brandon Linder (he's giddy with joy) after being drafted by Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

  (AFTER MIDNIGHT) -- Former Miami Hurricane and new Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Brandon Linder and I just had a phone conversation.

  To say he's happy is an understatement.

   "A Florida boy, born and raised, and he’s staying home,’’ Linder, from Southwest Ranches in Broward County, said about himself. 

    “Crazy, right?,’’ said Linder, who was drafted 93rd overall -- the 29th pick in the third round -- on Friday night and leaves for Jacksonville Sunday. “I’m so happy right now. It was me and my family sitting down, no real expectations, and I get a call from Jacksonville and didn’t even know they had traded up with the Patriots to get a pick. I was ecstatic. My family and I were going crazy.''

   Linder, a guard who also played some tackle, will be coached by his former offensive coordinator at Miami -- Jedd Fisch. It would be hard to finda nicer, friendlier, more intelligent peson than Jedd Fisch, by the way. Linder is truly lucky. Fisch is a talented teacher and good man.

   “I can’t wait to get there and get to work. Coach Fisch is my guy,'' Linder told me. "He coached me for two years and I couldn’t be more excited to be working with him.

    "It’s been a crazy day. I talked to Jedd on the phone. He said, ‘Congratulations, we’re excited to have you as a Jaguar,’ when they were passing the phone around. I was at a loss for words. I can’t believe the opportunity I’ve been given."

   Linder said Jags’ general manager David Caldwell was the first person who spoke to him, then head coach Gus Bradley and then Fisch.

   "I didn’t know they traded up so when I heard it was the Jaguars I really didn’t know what was going on. Then someone on the phone said they traded up.

   “My parents were just sitting there filming me.’’

   Linder said he and his brother Nick, a fellow offensive lineman who will be joining the Canes as an incoming freshman next week, gave “each other a big hug.

   "This is just a childhood dream for both of us. I’m sure he’ll be accomplishing this down the road. He’s my best friend and my biggest fan and I’m his biggest role model. And we’re just in a complete state of happiness.’’

   Linder said he’s gotten so many text messages he hasn’t been able to read through them all. He said he is rooting for his draft-eligible teammates to be taken Saturday.

   “They’re going to be great picks for anybody that takes them,'' he said. "I know what great talents they are and can’t wait to see where they end up so I can cheer for them.’’

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

May 09, 2014

Big congratulations to OG Brandon Linder, who gets picked in 3rd round by the Jacksonville Jaguars (and his former offensive coordinator, Jedd Fisch)

     All was quiet on the University of Miami football front Friday night at New York’s Radio City Music Hall and across Hurricane homes everywhere – until the silence was broken at about 11 p.m.

   That’s when the first UM name was called in the 2014 NFL Draft.

   That pick: offensive guard Brandon Linder to the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose offensive coordinator, Jedd Fisch, previously coached the 6-6, 312-pound Linder at Miami.

    Linder was selected 93rd overall – the 29th player taken in the third round – when the Jaguars gave up Nos. 105 and 179 to the Patriots to draft the Hurricane from Southwest Ranches in Broward County.

   “Crazy, right?,’’ said Linder, who leaves for Jacksonville Sunday. “I’m so happy right now. It was me and my family sitting down, no real expectations, and I get a call from Jacksonville and didn’t even know they had traded up with the Patriots to get a pick. I was ecstatic. My family and I were going crazy.

 

   “I can’t wait to get there and get to work. Coach Fisch is my guy. He coached me for two years and I couldn’t be more excited to be working with him.’’

       Linder, who also has played tackle, not only will be staying home in Florida, he’ll have a chance to protect the top quarterback taken in the draft, No. 3 overall pick Blake Bortles from UCF.   

    “Congrats to my boy @BrandonLinder65!’’ tweeted UM quarterback Stephen Morris, also awaiting his shot to become an NFL player. “love ya bro!’’

    And this tweet came from senior Hurricane defensive end Anthony Chickillo: “Congrats to my brother linder! Proud of him man, great player even better person.’’

    UM extended its streak of 40 consecutive years with an NFL Draft pick.

     The selection marked the first Hurricane taken as high as the third round since 2012, when defensive end Olivier Vernon went to the Dolphins and linebacker Sean Spence to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

   Last year UM had cornerback Brandon McGee go in the fifth round to the St. Louis Rams and Mike James to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the sixth.

    Linder was a four-year starter at Miami, with 37 consecutive starts to end his career.

   NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said last week of Linder: “The more coaches get involved, the more they like Linder. He’s not as physically gifted as some players in this draft, but he’s smart and he’s tough. He could climb.’’

    No other Hurricane received that magical phone call to warn him that he was about to realize his dream.

    Some flirted with the prospect of 6-7, 335-pound right tackle Seantrel Henderson going as high as the third round until it was reported Monday by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Henderson tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine – and that NFL teams were notified of such last week.

   That dropped Henderson’s worth, leaving Linder and Saturday’s hopefuls that include Morris, receiver Allen Hurns and punter Pat O’Donnell.

         Linder said last week that he’d be happy no matter when he gets drafted. “It’s all about the opportunity I’m given,’’ he said.

   His father, Kent, said Friday that Brandon would be home for the draft with his younger brother Nick, an incoming UM freshman offensive lineman who also played at St. Thomas Aquinas.

   “I’m kind of one of those guys who doesn’t get excited,’’ Kent Linder said. “I mean I freak out inside and I let it out without it being seen. I’m optimistic but I’m also realistic. We’ll see where he ends up.’’

      Morris’ dad, Colin, said Stephen would spend the weekend in Sunny Isles with his family.

   “We’re just going to hole up in our place,’’ Colin Morris said. “He’s really excited. We all are. It’s tempered with a great deal of uncertainty as you can understand and imagine.’’   

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Busy weekend for UM. What's in store tonight? Football on tap (& baseball, tennis & graduation)

It's hoppin' now at the U, where 70 Hurricanes student-athletes participated in graduation ceremonies Thursday and Friday at the BankUnited Center. Fifty of those students received their bachelor's degrees Friday, and some, who will complete their degree requirements this summer, were allowed to participate in the ceremonies.

UM reported that all 18 teams were represented with a least one spring graduate. Track and Field led all teams with 15 graduates, followed by football with eight (A.J. Highsmith, who earned his undergraduate degree in December, got his masters Thursday. Seniors Jimmy Gaines, Kacy Rodgers II, Maurice Hagens, Asante Cleveland and Tyrone Cornileus earned their bachelor's degrees. Redshirt juniors Jon Feliciano and Sean Harvey also received their undergraduate degrees).

   Guard/center Jared Wheeler said he expects to receive his bachelor's in mechanical engineering in a few weeks.

   Over at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center on UM's campus, the 12th-ranked women's tennis team defeated Boston University 4-0. It's on to the second round of the NCAA tournament at 2 p.m. tomorrow for the Canes, who will face No. 18 Oklahoma. 

   The Sooners defeated Wichita State in the first round Friday morning.

       In baseball, Javi Salas, Sam Abrams, Brad Fieger, John Lawroski, AJ Salcines, Bryan Radziewski and Adam Sargent all earned their bachelor's degrees and took part in Thursday's grad school commencement so they could be on board a 9:50 p.m. flight out of Miami International Airport -- headed for Durham to face Atlantic Coast Conference opponent Duke. 

   The Hurricanes (35-14, 19-5 ACC) who have won 22 of their past 24 baseball games, take on Duke (30-18, 15-9) beginning at 6 p.m. tonight for a three-game series. They are ranked eighth by Baseball America and fifth by Collegiate Baseball and will return home Sunday to prepare for their final regular-season series -- at home against North Carolina.

   But while the Canes play tonight, my focus at 6 p.m. will be on the NFL Draft, as the second and third rounds get played out on television for the world to see. Tomorrow at noon the fourth through seventh rounds will be televised.

  There's a decent shot that nobody from UM gets drafted tonight. Guard Brandon Linder, quarterback Stephen Morris, tackle Seantrel Henderson, receiver Allen Hurns and punter Pat O'Donnell are the Canes widely regarded as having the best chances at getting drafted. But most, if not all, are projected to go tomorrow. However, despite all the analysts and gurus out there, the draft is unpredictable at best.

The Canes I've talked to are staying home to watch the draft with their families. It can be a long, torturous process, so family is always best.

There are also several Hurricanes who likely won't get drafted, but nonetheless hope to get their NFL shots through signing free agent contracts. They include Asante Cleveland, Curtis Porter, Jimmy Gaines, David Gilbert, Shayon Green, Maurice Hagens, A.J. Highsmith, Tyrone Cornileus, Justin Renfrow, Luther Robinson, Kacy Rodgers II and Jared Wheeler

   Either way, be assured that all of them will get increasingly nervous as the hours tick away. And all of them, I'm sure, are excited. After all, this is what they've been dreaming about for years.

   "All I really want is a shot,'' said safety A.J. Highsmith.

  "It's kind of crazy how fast it's picked up,'' Stephen Morris told me and a group of reporters at UM Pro Timing Day when I asked him how fast these past four years have flown. "You come here as a freshman and don't really think about the NFL. Then in your sophomore and junior years it's kind of in the back of your head.''

   He said that this moment was basically in his mind all senior season.

   "Now it's here and you have the opportunity to do something you've been dreaming of.''

   Guard/center Jared Wheeler, who graduated from Plantation American Heritage and is from Hollywood, also will be with his family this weekend. 

   "Of course you're a little nervous because there are 32 teams and you don't know which ones are going to pick you up,'' Wheeler told me. "So you get anxious. There are so many possibilities, but in the end I'm excited because I'm ready to get started. Someone is going to pick me up and I'm going to have a chance to start a new career.''

   I talked to Stephen Morris' dad Colin yesterday. He said Stephen would be with his family in Sunny Isles watching the draft.

   "We've always had plans ever since he graduated and put up the Miami Hurricanes' shoes that he was going to work really, really hard and get ready for the draft knowing that he'd be hanging out with his family during the draft,'' Colin said. "We're just going to hole up in our place. He's really excited. We all are.

   "It's tempered with a great deal of uncertainty as you can understand and imagine. We don't know where he'll go, but this last week he's heard from 20 teams I'd say. But you never know. You know how the draft is a very fluid event. But he has received such positive feedback from teams. We're just hoping he goes real quick.''

   I also talked to Linder and his dad Kent. Brandon will be at home in Southwest Ranches in Broward with his younger brother Nick, an incoming UM freshman offensive lineman who also played at St. Thomas Aquinas.

   "I'm kind of one of those guys who doesn't get excited,'' Kent Linder said. "I mean I freak out inside and I let it out without it being seen. I'm optimistic but I'm also realistic. We'll see where he ends up.''

   "I think it really hasn't hit me yet, but you can never tell with Allen because he's real humble,'' said Erica Wilson, Hurns' mom. "But our family is all excited because they've all flown in from everywhere. We have at least 50 to 60 family members who flew in to celebrate with us.'' 

   When I asked her if Allen was nervous, she said, "No. He's done a lot of smiling. I know that much.''

    In a perfect world, they all would realize their dreams. Here's hoping that in one way or another, they all do.

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

May 07, 2014

NCAA: Miami Hurricanes get five teams honored for being in top 10-percent in Academic Progress Rates

 Released this evening by UM:

 Five University of Miami teams were publically honored for being among the top 10 percent in Academic Progress Rates (APR), the NCAA announced Wednesday.

 Men’s basketball, men’s diving, women’s swimming, and men’s and women’s cross country were recognized with APR Public Recognition Awards. It marks the third straight year that women’s cross country received an APR Public Recognition Award and the second straight for men’s basketball. It was the first honor for women’s swimming.

 Miami’s five APR awards are tied for the most in program history. The Hurricanes won five in 2012 and have won at least three in each of the last four years.

 Miami has received 30 public APR awards in 11 sports since the program was instituted nine years ago – women’s golf (2006, 2011, 2012, 2013), indoor men’s track & field (2009), outdoor men’s track & field (2006, 2008, 2009), men’s cross country (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014), women’s cross country (2012, 2013, 2014),  women’s swimming (2014), men’s diving (2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2014), football (2010, 2011, 2012), men’s tennis (2011) and men’s basketball (2013, 2014).

 “Our Hurricanes student-athletes consistently demonstrate their ability to achieve excellence in the classroom and in athletics,” said David Wyman, Associate AD for Academic Services. “This recognition is not only a tribute to them, but to the faculty of the University of Miami that valiantly serves to inspire and educate our students. We are all tremendously proud of this accomplishment.”

 The Academic Progress Rate, a multi-year rate based on the most recent four years of data, is a real-time measure of eligibility and retention of student-athletes competing on every Division I sports team. The most recent APR scores are based on scores from the 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years. This year marks the 10th year of APR data for most teams.

 In the fall of 2011, the Division I Board of Directors approved tougher academic standards, including setting a new standard that teams must meet to participate in postseason competition. The goal of the NCAA’s academic performance program is improvement, not punishment. Not only does the program ensure accountability for student-athletes, teams and institutions, but also it provides fairness by considering individual circumstances per team and school. Under the revised penalty structure, the Division I Board of Directors has set a cut score of 930 (out of 1,000) as a threshold for teams to meet or face possible sanctions. As was also the case a year ago, no sports from any ACC institutions are subject to penalties from this year’s APR release.

 Among its 2013-14 membership, the ACC’s 15 current schools had 77 combined teams recognized, the most from any Power 5 conference.The ACC was one of only two of the Power 5 conferences to see all of its 2012-13 schools have at least one team recognized.

UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI’S APR PUBLIC RECOGNITION AWARDS

2006 (4) – Women’s Golf, Men’s Track & Field (Outdoor), Men’s Diving, Men’s Cross Country
2007 (2) – Men’s Cross Country, Men’s Diving
2008 (2) – Men’s Cross Country, Men’s Track & Field (Outdoor)
2009 (4) – Men’s Cross Country, Men’s Diving, Men’s Track & Field (Indoor and Outdoor)
2010 (1) – Football
2011 (4) – Baseball, Football, Men’s Tennis, Women’s Golf
2012 (5) – Baseball, Football, Men’s Diving, Women’s Cross Country, Women’s Golf
2013 (3) – Men’s Basketball, Women’s Cross Country, Women’s Golf

2014 (5) – Men’s Basketball, Men’s Diving, Men’s and Women’s Cross Country, Women’s Swimming

 

 

May 05, 2014

Report: Seantrel Henderson failed drug test at NFL combine

Citing multiple league sources, ESPN reported Monday morning former Miami Hurricanes right tackle Seantrel Henderson tested positive for marijuana use at the NFL scouting combine. 

It's hardly surprising news. The 6-8, 339-pound former USA Today Offensive Player of the Year told The Miami Herald in January before the Senior Bowl marijuana played in a role in his three suspensions at UM.

Last month, Henderson failed to complete his UM pro day workout for scouts. His agent said he was dehydrated and felt sick. He was also eight pounds heavier than he was at the combine.

Henderson, who started 26 of the 43 games he played in at UM, is ranked the 14th best offensive tackle prospect by NFLDraftScout.com and projected to be a third day pick in this week's draft. 

May 02, 2014

Miami Hurricanes president Donna Shalala takes over as chairwoman of ACC Council of Presidents

This was released earlier today by UM:

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala has been appointed as chairwoman for the Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents effective immediately.

 President Shalala, who was to take the position July 1, transitioned early after Charles Steger announced that he was stepping down as President of Virginia Tech.

 "The Council of Presidents has shown tremendous leadership in positioning the ACC for the future, ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. "I appreciate President Shalala beginning her tenure a few months early and I know she will continue the positive momentum through her energy and guidance. I want to thank President Steger for his outstanding service this past year."

 All 15 member institutions are represented on the council.

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

May 01, 2014

NFL Network's Mike Mayock to me on Seantrel Henderson: "First-round talent that I don't think is going before the fourth round.''

I just asked NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network who he thinks will go for the Hurricanes in next week's draft, in particular offensive linemen Seantrel Henderson and Brandon Linder, quarterback Stephen Morris and receiver Allen Hurns. Here are excerpts of what he told me on a national conference call:

"I think those two offensive linemen are heading in different directions. I think the most gifted player on their team is Seantrel Henderson but he's had off-the-field issues and on-the-field inconsistencies. He is a first-round talent that I don't think is going before the fourth round -- and that's probably where he'll go, somewhere in the fourth round.

"...The guard, Linder, the more the coaches get involved, the more they like Linder. He's not as physically gifted as some players in this draft, but he's smart and tough. He could climb -- a lot of people thought he was a sixth or seventh-round pick. I tihnk he's going in the fourth or fifth round, and this is a pretty good guard draft.''

On Morris: "He's got a very strong arm. I like the kid, the person... Had some inconsistencies this year...I think he's a late draftable, probably will go in the fifth or sixth round.''

On Allen Hurns: "Is a guy that for me doesn't have any one outstanding trait as a wide receiver... He doesn't stand out in a wide receiver class that's very deep. He's going to be a late pick or a priority free agent.'

Please see Barry Jackson's Sports Buzz blog for Mayock's comments about the Dolphins and non UM issues."

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

April 28, 2014

Scorching Miami Canes jump five spots to No. 10 in Baseball America ranking -- 19-1 in past 20 games

The Hurricanes just jumped five spots from No. 15 to No. 10 in the Baseball America rankings -- and seven spots from No. 11 to No. 4 in Collegiate Baseball.

Unless something very, very strange happens in May, the Canes should host another NCAA regional at Mark Light Field (inside Alex Rodriguez Park).

This team is really fun to watch -- top to bottom.

The bad defense has been replaced by impressive defense.

Freshman catcher Zack Collins, who started the season abysmally, now leads the active UM players with a .306 average, .563 slugging percentage, seven home runs and 39 RBI. He has a .414 on-base percentage.

Collins just crushes the ball.

Fellow freshman outfielder Willie Abreu, another phenom, is hitting .302 with a .408 on-base percentage. 

And as UM baseball SID Camron Ghorbi points out, senior Tyler Palmer (.289), Collins and Abreu (Nos. 2 through 4 in the lineup) finished the weekend sweep at Clemson 17 for 36 (.472) at bat.

The starting pitching is stellar (Bryan Radziewski just became the 11th pitcher in program history to top the 300-strikeout mark and ace Chris Diaz is 7-0 with a 2.21 ERA; Andy Suarez is 4-2 with a 2.53 ERA) and  freshman closer Bryan Garcia (5-2, 1.98 ERA and 13 saves) just was named to the Stopper of the Year Watch List. Freshman reliever Cooper Hammond is 5-0 with a 2.01 ERA.

Sophomore reliever Thomas Woodrey is 3-0 with a 2.78 ERA.

The Hurricanes are 19-1 in their past 20 games and extended the nation's longest road winning streak to 12 consecutive games.

The Canes are 32-13 overall and 19-5 -- that's first place -- in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

And all of this is without David Thompson, who is out recovering from surgery and still leads the team with a .328 batting average; and third baseman Johnny Ruiz, who did an excellent job filling in for Thompson but tore the labrum of his right shoulder and is out indefinitely.

It's feeling more and more like the old days, when coach Jim Morris' Canes regularly got to the College World Series. His last trip there was 2008, but Omaha seems at the very least attainable this season.

The next UM series is at Alex Rodriguez park from Friday (May 2) through Sunday (May 4) against Alabama State. See you there.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

April 23, 2014

UM Canes coach Al Golden, word for word on today's Atlantic Coast Conference spring wrap-up

There was no significant news delivered by football coach Al Golden on today's ACC spring teleconference. But I transcribed it nonetheless (So, did the ACC, and it appears we both finished at about the same time!).

Here it is, for your edification.

OPENING STATEMENT BY AL GOLDEN: “We had a chance to sit down with all the student-athletes on the team individually. We’re getting ready for exams. Guys will get a little break and then we’ll come back for summer session and obviously get ready for the 2014 season.”

 

Q: What units and players most improved from start of spring to end?

 GOLDEN: “I don’t think there’s any question on offense, the running back position and tight end position made a great deal of progress. On the defensive side we probably made the most progress really in the secondary and then our depth at linebacker made a dramatic improvement clearly with the development of JaWand Blue and the arrival of Juwon Young and Darrion Owens.”

 Q: What’s your confidence level in the quarterback position after the injury to Ryan Williams?

  GOLDEN: “High. We’re not going to change what we do. We need to do a really good job of establishing the running game and keeping it simple and doing the things that we do best, getting into more third-and-manageables. We had way too many third-and-longs last year to possess the ball and convert. Clearly, the two young men that we have here on campus right now can do it and the two that are coming in will also have an opportunity to compete.”

 Q: Is Kevin Olsen the guy right now? Is that undisputed?

 GOLDEN: “Yeah.  Kevin finished ahead of Gray Crow coming out of the spring and whoever is at the helm for us on Labor Day night [against Louisville] we’ll have confidence in and we’ve got to rally around. We’re not going to change who we are and how we operate.”

 Q: With spring as a whole, what did you take away as the things that maybe the team improved the most on as you head toward the summer?

 GOLDEN: “I think we improved a lot on our tackling on defense. Even in the spring game I thought our tackling was good. We developed the depth that we need at certain positions. Positions that jump out for me are safety, linebacker, wide receivers – all of those guys improved from a depth standpoint. As I said multiple times during the spring, this group came to work everyday. They had a good focus, they’re not a team that screws around a lot. They pretty matter-of-factly got down to business and got a lot done during the spring.”

 Q: What’s your assessment of the receiver position?

 GOLDEN: “We’re making progress. We don’t have the total numbers we would like. Most programs have 10 or 11 guys on scholarship. We’re not there yet as the result of what we’ve had to go through here the last couple of years. Certainly there are five or six guys emerging that really could be a starter at any given point. I’m anxious to see how that plays out over the summer and then in training camp. There are a number of guys there who have started and who very well could be the starter depending on how the competition goes this summer. Those guys have done a good job.”

 Q: What have you been talking to Ryan Williams about as far as when he’s hoping to get back this year?

 GOLDEN: “Everything they’re telling me, everything is going really well. He hasn’t had any setbacks yet, which is great. Again, it’s clearly going to be the doctor’s call. But his rehabilitation is going really well right now and knock on wood it will to continue to do that.”

 Q: As the ACC looks ahead to its spring meetings, it sounds like the eight-nine debate on number of conference games is going to be front and center. How do you feel about it?

 GOLDEN: “Whatever we do we need uniformity – uniformity in terms of crossover opponents; uniformity in terms of out of conference opponents. I’ve been in favor of going to nine. I think it would help balance our schedules. I like the way the league has grown and the new membership clearly is going to make us better. They are very attractive markets that have helped our league out. I’m in favor of playing nine if we can. We’ll see how it develops here in the next couple of weeks.”

 Q: So, you’ll see more people in the league more often – so a young man, say, who comes to Miami would get a chance at least once in his career to play a team in the Atlantic Division. Is that your primary motivation?

 GOLDEN: “The primary motivation is to make sure everybody is playing the same type of schedule more than anything. It’s balanced. Clearly there’s a great disparity right now in out-of-conference play – not just between the ACC and other leagues but within our league. We need to all understand better what the parameters are and what it’s going to take to ultimately get into a playoff. It’s really hard for us as a head coach or as an organization or athletic directors to make those decisions on the schedule when we really don’t know all the parameters that make it up.”

 Q: Wanted an update to see if you’ve had a chance to talk recently to quarterbacks Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier and gauge how their progress is going as they get ready to get on campus soon?

 GOLDEN: “They’re busy now completing all the things that they have to do to graduate and to make the transition, which is never easy for anybody. Their focus is on that. Our focus is right now assisting them to do that and making sure that transition is as seamless as possible. Once they get here then we’ll start talking about football and those things. But both young men are bright. They both take care of business off the field, which allows them to really have complete focus on what they need to do. We’re excited for them to get here. I think it will help move our program forward and create the competition that we need at that spot but we really don’t have a lot of interaction at this point.”

 Q: Are you about to get any senior transfers? We had heard about a kid named Justin Vogel from Florida punting-wise, and if there might be any at the quarterback position, some upperclassmen that don’t have to wait a year to play?

  GOLDEN: “This time of year we always have our eyes open and are looking for guys that can help improve our team. We’re clearly not in the situation that we were in a year ago when we were just looking for enough guys to get us going. But I think clearly at this point we’re looking for guys that can improve our team and we’ll evaluate each one of them.

   “In terms of certain guys that have already decided they are coming here, until they’re ours and are registered I’m not allowed to comment on them.”

  Q: Does that include the quarterback position, or can’t you be specific?

 GOLDEN: “Again, I just think in general if there’s a young man out there that is leaving a program for whatever reason and has interest in us, we’re going to examine him, just like we would do for any position. So the quarterback is no different.”

 Q: Any changes in the roster we should know about, any additions or subtractions?

 GOLDEN: “There are no changes to the roster right now. If those come up we will release them accordingly. In terms of if a guy is going to leave or another guy wants to come in, until that actually happens it’s impossible for me to comment on it.”

 Q: The biggest way your team has changed or developed over the spring?

 GOLDEN: “I just think this was a team that was really focused and improved and there was a lot of individual improvement which resulted in team improvement in a lot of respects. So, it was a team that took care of business off the field. Hopefully we’ll continue that trend, avoid distractions and just continue to improve. But I think overall there were certain aspects of the game we needed to improve both positionally and then by unit. I thought we had a very productive spring relative to that. Ryan Williams’ injury not withstanding we stayed very healthy through the spring, which is a credit to our trainers, student athletes and coaches.”

 Q: To train a team to go no-huddle, is that something you really can only do in practice or can you start in summer conditioning workouts?

 GOLDEN: “It just depends. Just because you’re no huddle, doesn’t mean you’re up tempo. So, it just really depends on your communications, how verbose they are and whether or not you want to be that team. There are just as many teams that are successful huddling these days. It’s really just a function of what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re trying to snap the ball early then clearly that’s going to take a little bit more work. But if you’re just going no-huddle to have the ability to vary your tempos and slow it down if you want, then that’s a different story.”

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

 

 

April 20, 2014

Four-star running back Jordan Cronkrite of Miami Westminster Christian commits to Miami Hurricanes

I'm covering the UM-Notre Dame baseball game now at Mark Light Field (with the Irish leading 7-1 after six-and-a-half innings), but wanted to report that four-star running back Jordan Cronkrite just announced via Twitter that he has committed to the University of Miami -- freshman class of 2015.

Cronkrite, out of Miami Westminster Christian and listed as 5-11 and 199 pounds, was also offered by Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson and Cincinnati, according to 247Sports.com.

Rivals.com has him ranked 15th at his position.

247Sports has him at No. 22.

The Hurricanes no doubt need a talented tailback after next season, when Duke Johnson will likely be off to the NFL Draft if he has a great 2014 season.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

April 18, 2014

UM News: basketball player James Kelly to transfer

Just in from the University of Miami, per UM....

James Kelly to Transfer 

 CORAL GABLES, Fla. – University of Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga announced Friday that James Kelly has been granted a release and plans to transfer.

 “I have made the difficult decision to transfer from the University of Miami," said Kelly. "I believe it is in the best interest of my family that I continue my education and basketball career closer to them. I would like to thank Coach L for the opportunity he gave me and all of his support during this year.”

 Kelly, a 6-7 forward from Ann Arbor, Mich., averaged 6.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 27 games played for the Hurricanes.

 "We support the decision James has made to continue his academic and athletic career closer to family," said Larrañaga. "We wish him nothing but the best."

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

STREAKING CANES: Miami Welcomes Notre Dame to Coral Gables Starting Saturday Night ... Miami's 13 Game Winning Streak Nation's Longest

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Miami baseball team will play host to Notre Dame this weekend although the series doesn't start until Saturday night.

Miami heads into its weekend series against its new ACC rival riding the nation's longest winning streak at 13 games -- UM's longest since winning 14 consecutive games in 2008.

The Hurricanes, ranked 11th nationally, have swept three straight conference series (for the first time since joining the ACC in 2004) during the streak and have surged toward the top of the Coastal Division standings.

Miami and Notre Dame kick off the three-game set Saturday at 7 p.m.

All three games will be at 7 and all three will be on ESPN3 and WQAM.

Monday night's game will also be on ESPNU.

During its winning streak, Miami has done well in close games as seven of the 13 wins have been by one run, with three coming in 2-1 games. Last Saturday, the Canes got an infield single from freshman Willie Abreu to score John Lawroski from third in the bottom of the 10th for a 1-0 win.

Strong pitching and timely hitting have helped the Hurricanes during this stretch as they are all but certain to extend their NCAA active record to 42 consecutive tournament appearances.

"The secret to having a good season or having a great season is winning the close games,'' coach Jim Morris said on Friday afternoon just before his team hit the field for practice.

"We've won our share of them lately and that's huge. That means our bullpen is getting the job done and we're making clutch plays or getting big hits. It's a combination of all of those.''

The Hurricanes have also been getting strong starting pitching.

Morris said Friday that ace lefty Chris Diaz (6-0) will start Saturday's opener. Andrew Suarez (4-1) and Bryan Radziewski (3-2) get the other two games.

Freshman closer Bryan Garcia is tied for the ACC lead with 11 saves.

"Starting pitching has been the strength of our team,'' Morris said, "but our bullpen has been throwing really good as well.''

 

This weekend: Notre Dame at Miami

When, Where: Saturday-Monday, 7 p.m.; Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, Coral Gables

TV/Radio: ESPN3, ESPNU (Monday); WQAM 560

The series: Miami leads 11-5

Scouting report: The Hurricanes try and extend the nation's longest winning streak against a Notre Dame team that is 15-21 and 3-15 in its first year competing in the ACC. Miami is expected to throw lefty Chris Diaz (6-0, 2.52 ERA) in the opener followed by RHP Andrew Suarez (4-1, 2.66) and LHP Bryan Radziewski (3-2, 3.69).

 

April 14, 2014

The Miami Hurricanes baseball team is hot. Just rose from 24th to 15th in Baseball America rankings.

The Hurricanes are rising.

The Miami Hurricanes just rose in the Baseball America rankings from No. 24 to No. 15 in one week. The Canes are the hottest Division I baseball team in the nation, having won 12 consecutive games and going for No. 13 on Wednesday against FAU at Mark Light Field.

This pitching staff and talented freshmen are living up to the hype and improving daily, which is a great direction to go at the right time. 

The Hurricanes (25-12, 14-4 ACC), who just finished sweeping Pittsburgh, have swept three consecutive three-game ACC series for the first time in program history.

Miami's current winning streak is the longest since the 14-game stretch in 2008 -- the last time the Canes went to the College World Series.

The Canes are now ranked 11th by Collegiate Baseball. 

After the FAU game Wednesday, Notre Dame comes to Coral Gables for a three-game series from Saturday through Monday night.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

April 12, 2014

VIDEO: Canes quarterback Kevin Olsen, CB Tracy Howard, LB Denzel Perryman talk spring game

Kevin Olsen's numbers weren't pretty (7 of 21, 65 yards, 1 INT, 0 TDs) in the spring game.

Here's what he had to say when it was over.

Cornerback Tracy Howard picked Olsen off late in the scrimmage. He also finished with two tackles. Here's what he had to say after it was over.

Numbers don't lie: Kevin Olsen, Gray Crow had rough spring game throwing the football

Here are the raw numbers from 11-on-11 work during Saturday night's scrimmage.

As you can see Kevin Olsen and Gray Crow didn't have great nights throwing the football.

SCRIMMAGE STATISTICS

WHITE (DEFENSE) 61, ORANGE (OFFENSE) 60

> Rushing: Edwards 19-70, Tucker 11-36 1 TD, De’Andre Johnson 5-11, Crow 1-(-1), Olsen 1-(-4)

> Passing: Olsen 7-21-1-65 0 TD, Crow 9-20-1-63 0 TD

> Receiving: Lewis 3-36, Water 3-12, Scott 2-33, Walford 2-13, Sandland 1-13, Tucker 1-9, Kidd 1-6, Coley 1-6, Jones 1-0

Tackles: Carter 5, D. Crawford 5, Pierre 4, Perryman 4, Armbrister 3, Elder 3, Grace 3, Howard 2, Kirby 2, Muhammad 2, Hamilton 2, McCord 2, Figueroa 2, Owens 2, Fentress 2, Crawford 1, Burns 1, Kamalu 1, Chickillo 1, Moore 1, Heurtelou 1

TFL: Owens 1.0-1, Blue 1.0-1, Kamalu 1.0-4, Kirby 1.0-1, Pierre 1.0-4, Chickillo 1.0-1, Fentress 1.0-2

Sacks: Kamalu 1.0-4, Chickillo 1.0-1

PBU: Grace 1, Fentress 1, Armbrister 1, Kamalu 1, Hamilton 1

INT: Young 1, Howard 1

Kicking: Goudis 0/2 FG, 1/1 PAT

SCORING SYSTEM

1-on-1 competitions = 1 point per play

7-on-7 and 11-on-11 followed this format:

Offensive Scoring:
1 Point: First Down
3 Points: Field Goal
6 points: Touchdown
1 or 2 points: PAT kick or two-point conversion

Defensive Scoring:
1 point: Defensive Stop
2 points: Fourth-down stop
3 points: Three-and-out
6 points: Turnover
10 points: Defensive Touchdown

Here are the new Canes uniforms

Nike sent out a press release with the new uniforms a few minutes before UM got to unveil the unis here at Sun Life Stadium Saturday afternoon.

This press release accompanied the Nike story on its website.

In South Florida, football is played with a sense of speed and style that transcends the field of play. The University of Miami Hurricanes have become more than a team — they embody the soul of Miami and have defined the culture of the sport.

The new Hurricane uniform design reflects the vibrant, bold style of the city — from the beach to the architecture to the people. Steeped in tradition, the new aesthetic is anchored by the familiar orange and green colors, as well as the iconic split-U logo. Modern accents have been added in order to harness the team’s early cutting-edge style both on and off the field in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

“Historically, UM has been a trendsetter in college football for uniform designs,” Miami Athletic Director Blake James said. “With this latest uniform design, we are able to combine our iconic history with South Florida tradition and a modern edge.”

The ibis has long been an important part of the university’s heritage. As a well-known Native American symbol for both danger and hope, the bird was believed to be the last animal to seek shelter before an oncoming hurricane and the first to emerge after the storm. An aggressive interpretation of the Miami Ibis has been integrated into the uniform on the shoulders, hip and helmet.

Miami will now feature four interchangeable uniform colors. The tonal colors of the Ibis logo (green, orange and white) inform three of the four new looks. At home, the Hurricanes will dress in orange. The orange jersey is accented by green directional graphics at the shoulder. A clean white and silver helmet, featuring an anodized finish and grey facemask, completes the look. The white jersey and pant combination is accented with green at the shoulder, and serves as the foundation of the away look. The white uniform is also capped with a matching white and silver helmet. The team will also showcase two alternate uniform colors – the first alternate showcasing a green jersey and pant with a white helmet. The team will also introduce a new alternate anthracite “smoke” jersey and pant serving as a reminder of the early pioneering pre-game smoke that opened every home game.

“The uniform comes at the right time for the right team,” said Miami head coach Al Golden. “These young men, who unselfishly guided us through some very dark days, now display a renewed attitude and spirit! These new uniforms capture that outlook.”

“The innovative look respects our tradition but perhaps more importantly, represents the future and our current Canes,” Golden said. “We have one of the most iconic logos in college sports and Nike has combined that with its latest performance technology to produce a sleek, dynamic new uniform for The U.”

Miami will also keep its traditional and iconic white helmet with the split “U” in rotation, giving the Hurricanes three different helmet options.

“This more aggressive look will amplify our brand as well as incorporate Nike’s latest uniform technology,” said James. “We have one of the most recognizable brands in college athletics, and we hope this begins to strengthen that position in the years to come.”

The uniform font and numbers are now larger, refined and more aggressive, amplifying and anchoring the entire design. Graphic details on the uniforms include the primary “U” logo on the helmet, jersey neck patch and back of the pant. The “U” is also present in custom palm graphics on the Nike Vapor Jet 2.0 gloves, appearing thumb to thumb when the hands are locked up.

This fully integrated uniform system incorporates the latest in Nike’s performance innovation, where the athlete's baselayer works in concert with the entire uniform – true innovation from the inside out. Lightweight padding is integrated directly into the crucial “hit zones” in the baselayer. Innovations include integrated Flywire technology in the neckline for reduced weight and lockdown fit over pads. Additionally, increased sleeve articulation provides better range of motion, and four-way stretch fabrication delivers a streamlined, shrink-wrap fit.

As the first team to bring a refreshed sense of style to the game back in the '80s and '90s, this new uniform aesthetic harnesses the team’s ever-present style and bravado, while positioning the Hurricanes at the leading edge for the future.

Youngest Patchan follows dad's footsteps with UM commitment after older brother snubbed Canes back in '08

Matt Patchan's youngest son, Scott, a 6-6, 238-pound four-star defensive end at Tampa Freedom High, has decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and commit to the University of Miami.

Scott Patchan made the announcement Saturday afternoon on his Twitter account by posting a picture of himself with UM coaches (see it below).

Six years ago his older brother Matt, a U.S. Army All-American defensive tackle, picked the Florida Gators over the Hurricanes, much to chagrin of UM fans. He ended up transferring from Florida and having a standout season at Boston College this past year, earning All-ACC Second Team honors.

UM also landed a commitment from 6-foot, 190-pound running back Dexter Williams of Orlando West Orange High School. He pulled a Patchan posed in a photo with UM coaches (see it below).

Williams ran for 1,072 yards and three touchdowns on 180 carries last season for Orlando Olympia High. Williams is rated a four-star recruit by 247Sports.com and the 11th best running back in the country by the same website. Williams is considered a special athlete. He won the Nike SPARQ combine in Orlando in February with an overall score of 117. He ran the 40-yard dash there in 4.54 seconds.

Canes offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, hospitalized in February, plans to continue playing career

UM sent out the following press release regarding the health and status update of offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who was hospitalized two months ago.

Statement from Hunter Knighton: “On February 24th, my football career at the University of Miami was unfortunately derailed after being taken to the hospital following a workout. With a 109 degree body temperature and unknowingly suffering with the flu, I was stricken by a heat stroke. The results were not good: brain swelling, multiple seizures, kidney and liver failure. Unresponsive, I was placed on a ventilator for twelve days during which time I fought one of the greatest battles of my life against a loss of blood platelets, double pneumonia, and fever. By God's grace, and with an amazing medical team at both Doctor's Hospital and UM Hospital and with a great support group of family, coaches, and friends, I was finally able to leave the ICU after two weeks. I am so close to achieving my childhood goal of playing Division I football and I am determined to make it happen. I plan to contribute this spring to my team and not only achieve my goal of playing major college football, but far surpassing it, and helping The U win games. Thank you to all of those who have supported me and prayed for me.”

Statement from Coach Golden: “As we entered the spring of 2014, Hunter Knighton was distinguishing himself as one of the top performers on our team. He had completed our off-season training program ranked third among all of our offensive linemen and was emerging as a team leader. Hunter was so close to realizing his lifelong goal of starting at center in major football program when he fell ill. Since he first began the recovery process, Hunter has been nothing short of amazing and has been an inspiration to us all, approaching his rehab program with courage and fortitude. I have absolutely no doubt that Hunter will continue to persevere, make a full recovery, rejoin his teammates and realize all of his goals at The U.”

Describe your dream Miami Canes football uniform

All this marketing buildup for some football threads.

The Hurricanes will unveil their new Nike-inspired uniforms today at the spring game.

Time of liftoff: 5 p.m. on the field.

Personally, I think it's fun. And I really like looking at uniforms in all sports, like I love all kinds of art. Sometimes it's not my taste, but I still appreciate it.

I like colorful things, but I also think one color unis are cool, too. I do know that the current Canes would freak out (in a good way) over some type of all-black uni -- though I'm told there won't be a black version. I'm not sure about anything until I see what it looks like.

I believe there will be a few -- four? -- uniform variations involving orange, white, "smoke'' (Nike Anthracite) and green. I have not seen anything first-hand. So I guess we'll all know for sure at 5. I can neither confirm nor deny my info until we all see it together.

The helmet is another object of curiosity. What has, if anything, Nike done with the iconic U?

I don't think green and orange are especially flattering together, but they do shout out the brand with gusto -- and that's a good thing if you're a proud fan.

So, just for fun, if you're game, please let us know what your dream uniform would look like today at 5 p.m.

Keep it clean, or we'll shut it down. 

See you later!

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

The Olsens (former Cane TE Greg included) are here to support Canes QB Kevin in spring game. His dad, legendary former hs coach Chris, gives his take.

Good morning.

It's Football Saturday in the middle of April.

We all get a good look at University of Miami redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen and backup Gray Crow today in the 6 p.m. spring game at Sun Life Stadium. This will be a controlled scrimmage, and of course, as usual, the quarterbacks cannot get touched, so it's not fully reality. But at least it's something for fans to get excited about -- or worried about. Or both.

In town to see their favorite quarterback are the Olsens, Canes from way back. 

Older brother Greg Olsen, a former Hurricanes tight end who now plays in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers, will be there with his 3-year-old son Tate. Another older brother, former Virginia quarterback Christian, will be there, too. And mom Susan and dad Chris, a legendary high school football coach out of Wayne Hills High in N.J, will be there.

 Sue and Chris believe Kevin is in the right place to learn and grow, and can handle the opportunity that unexpectedly came to him when starting quarterback Ryan Williams tore his ACL a week ago Friday in the second scrimmage.

Chris, who retired last year from coaching and now lives with his family in Charlotte, N.C., talked to me Thursday after UM's final spring practice at Greentree Field.

"For the 14th day [of 15 allotted spring sessions] they look pretty good,'' Chris Sr. said. "Kevin is starting to look confident out there with those older guys. He's surrounded by some really good players.''

 Chris talked about Kevin getting the job because of Ryan's injury.

"I feel terrible,'' he said. "I know Kevin felt really bad about it. I felt bad about it because I could relate to it. My oldest boy Chris had just committed to Notre Dame his senior year and he went out and tore his ACL the first game of the season. Kevin's senior year he break his foot the first game of the season.

"So I understand. I feel really bad for Ryan because he has worked so hard to do what he wants to do. It's very unfortunate.''

I asked Chris how much of a disadvantage it was for Kevin that Ryan's injury came at nearly the very end of spring practice.

 "You've got the whole summer,'' he said. "You do what you've got to do. You do what you're dealt with. You've got a couple practices here and try to build on that going into the summer, and of course, in fall camp.''

How is Kevin's mind frame?

"Very good,'' his dad said. "I talk to him a couple times a week. He'll call me and tell me how practice is going or how school is going. He really seems to be taking off here.''

I mentioned that Kevin has had some "bumps in the road'' on his way to and while at Miami. How much has he matured?

"Everybody matures coming out of high school, being around older guys, being a year older,'' Chris Olsen told me. "That's just the maturing process wtih a lot of kids. I'm anxious to see it Saturday night.''

*** How do you all feel about today's very preliminary dress rehearsal for Kevin and Gray? How much stock will you put in their performances? What do you expect, or what are you looking for? 

   It's all part of the process, as Al Golden would say, but the process has been moved up in a hurry. With incoming QBs Brad Kaaya of West Hills, Calif. and Malik Rosier of Mobile, Ala., arriving next month, this could be a great opportunity for Olsen (and Crow) to perform in front of a crowd, get some confidence and prove to himself that he's right on track to take the reins. Of course, I'm not sure that's the case, but we'll all get a glimpse later today.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

April 11, 2014

Canes happy receiver Malcolm Lewis has 'his mojo again'

Coach Al Golden ran a special play for receiver Malcolm Lewis in last year's spring game.

Quarterback Stephen Morris threw Lewis a short pass in the flat and Lewis raced up field untouched for a touchdown -- as the entire team chased after him to celebrate the moment. The scripted, feel-good score of the day was designed to honor Lewis after he fought his way back from a horrific ankle injury at Georgia Tech, which ended his freshman season only seven months prior.

UM's defense doesn't plan on giving up any scripted touchdowns to Lewis Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium. Lewis, who had surgery to repair a torn groin in late February, can now earn it without any help or pain. Listed as a co-starter on the team's depth chart, Lewis is among several intriguing players to watch during Saturday's festivities.

Other non-starters from a year ago running with the first team on offense: quarterback Kevin Olsen, running back Gus Edwards, center Alex Gall, right guard Danny Isidora, right tackle Taylor Gadbois and tight end Standish Dobard. Lewis, though, could end up being one of the few who sticks around in the starting lineup when injured starters and other regulars return to form in the fall.

So far, Lewis has more than held his own the spring, flashing much of the same speed and burst coaches and teammates saw from him when he was standout at Miramar High School. In UM's second scrimmage, coach Al Golden said Lewis had five catches for over 100 yards.

"It's great to see him have his mojo again," sophomore receiver Stacy Coley said. "He just had to fully recover. He's still the same person from freshman year that I thought. He's still explosive in and out of cuts. He can break a DB down. Together, I can line up on the outside and he'll line up inside and get reverses. Or he can go deep and take the top off the safeties and stuff."

Cornerback Tracy Howard, who starred at Miramar High alongside Lewis and considers him one of his best friends, said he missed being able to compete with Lewis in practice for the bulk of the last two years. The two had classic one-on-one battles in high school.

 

"He handled it so well," Howard said of Lewis, who missed the final eight games of the 2012 season and was then slowed by a torn groin for most of the 2013 season. "Most guys would be down. I'm sure he had those points, but he never let us see him down. I never heard him complain about it, cry about it. When I was making plays he congratulated me, was happy for me. He was never down. I don't know how he does it. He's strong. It seemed like nothing really bothered him."

Lewis is not only head strong, he's also fast. Lewis said the last time he ran the 40-yard dash he ran it in 4.4 seconds before his freshman season at UM. Asked if he felt just as fast, Lewis said Thursday he feels just as healthy, but even faster. Lewis said he's down from about 200 pounds to 191 and he feels the difference.

"The twitch is back," Golden said. "The first recovery was a very long recovery. His groin started hurting him during the year. He never really had his twitch. Now he's got quickness. He's playing with confidence. He's feeling really good. You can sense it. I know the guys can feel it. At the scrimmage Friday there was a palpable difference with him on the field. A different speed, a different tempo, a different confidence from him which is great to see."

Lewis, who has 15 catches for 144 yards and one score in his career at UM, has lined up mostly in the slot this spring. But he can play outside as well. He says his motivation to succeed this coming season "is not just about me anymore."

"It's about my family," Lewis said. "I can push through anything I go through. I just have to keep fighting through adversity and just keep going, pushing myself. I feel like my explosion, coming out of my routes, making the first guy miss. I feel like everything is back mostly. I just want to keep progressing from there. Get better."

> Coley said the only difference between Olsen, 19, and injured fifth-year senior Ryan Williams is age.

"The ball doesn't come out of their hands any differently," Coley said. "If it does, we're wide receivers. So we know to catch the ball. Wherever the ball is we just have to grab it and catch it."

April 10, 2014

Heisman winner Gino Torretta sees a bit of Kyle Wright in Kevin Olsen

All eyes inside Sun Life Stadium figure to be fixated on 19-year old redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen Saturday night when the Hurricanes kick off their annual spring fling at 6 p.m.

Thursday, in UM's final practice of the spring, the eyes of former Hurricanes quarterback and 1992 Heisman trophy winner Gino Torretta were on Olsen. Barring a surprise development or injury, Olsen will be the starting quarterback when Miami opens the season Labor Day night at Louisville.

Torretta knows what it's like to be thrown into the fire in college at a young age.

During UM's 1989 national championship season a 19-year old Torretta took over as a starter for Craig Erickson after he broke a knuckle on the index finger of his throwing hand against Michigan State. Torretta stepped in and went 3-1 -- the loss coming at No. 9 Florida State when he threw four interceptions. Erickson, a junior, returned the next week and led UM to the national title.

Those Hurricanes of course had the nation's No. 1 defense, oodles of stars on offense and were able to survive some average numbers Torretta put up as a freshman: 57 percent completion percentage, 1,325 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs. In this scenario, Al Golden's Hurricanes have no veteran waiting in the wings if Olsen struggles -- and they probably won't have the nation's No. 1 defense either.

Talented All-American freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya will arrive in mid-May from California. But either way, fifth-year senior Ryan Williams has a long road ahead of him coming back from a torn ACL. After watching Olsen on Thursday does Torretta think he can handle the brunt of the 2014 season if it falls on his shoulders?

"Got no choice," Torretta said. "Some guys respond well to it. Some guys don't. That's the way I look at it. Heck when I got thrown into it I didn't have a choice. I didn't have a chance to think. At least he does. Now he has a little bit of a chance to think and prepare as the starter.

"I think the physical ability is there. The ball velocity is there," Torretta continued. "I just think the rest -- the mental side of it, decision making process, reads, getting on the same page with receivers -- all of that will come with practice and reps.

"Obviously you're glad he's got spring ball and then he's got the fall. But that's the thing every quarterback has to work on. Peyton Manning 10 years into the NFL is a lot better than Peyton Manning as a rookie even though his ability could be a little bit less. Physically, Olsen and Gray [Crow] are there. It's just getting on the same page with receivers and making the right reads, that sort of stuff."

Hardly a ringing endorsement. But then again, how many redshirt freshman not named Jameis Winston or Johnny Manziel make it look easy? Last year only 13 freshman -- redshirt or true -- were among the top 100 passers in the country in terms of quarterback rating. Temple's P.J. Walker (60.8 completion percentage, 2,084 yards, 20 TDs, 8 INTs), Texas Tech's Davis Webb (62.6 comp. pct, 2,718 yards, 20 TDs, 9 INTs), Penn State's Christian Hackenberg (58.9 comp. pct, 2,955 yards, 20 TDs, 10 INTs) and Houston's John O'Korn (58.1 comp. pct, 3,117 yards, 28 TDs, 10 INTs) were tops among them after Winston.

Thursday, Olsen had his up and down moments. He tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass -- with beautiful touch down the sideline to Rashawn Scott. He also got picked off twice and had several passes batted away by defenders.

Even before Williams tore the ACL in his right knee during the team's second scrimmage last week, coach Al Golden said Olsen was getting better this spring. Golden said Olsen's teammates were also gaining more confidence in him. Still, it's clear Olsen has a ways to go -- especially when it comes to making sound decisions and delivering the ball quickly.

"It's hard just watching a practice to [gauge] the mental side of it," Torretta said. "But I think the reads will come. There were some busts defensively I think threw him off a little bit on some of the reads, it looked like. I can't be sure not knowing what plays were called, what the secondary was running. But, it's all about repetition. Quarterbacks get better more with repetition than any other position. And I think that's what it is going to come down to. If it was me, I'd be clamoring for every single rep I could get."

Torretta, who has been around to provide a lot of keen advice to other UM quarterbacks over the years, says he sees some of Kyle Wright's abilities in Olsen. Wright was the No. 1 quarterback in the country coming out of high school and put up decent numbers in his college career: 59.2 completion percentage, 5,835 yards, 38 touchdowns and 31 interceptions during some lean years for UM from 2004 to 2007.

"Kyle had all the ability. Running, ball flight, all that. Olsen does as well," Torretta said. "He moves around the pocket well like him. It's speeding up the decision making process that's the key. Because it's going to get a lot faster on Saturdays than when he's out here."

April 09, 2014

UM quarterback Ryan Williams undergoes 90-minute ACL surgery. Here's what you need to know for now.

  University of Miami fifth-year senior quarterback Ryan Williams, who was slated to be the starter next season before he tore the ACL of his right knee in a scrimmage Friday night, underwent 90-minute surgery Wednesday at UHealth Sports Performance and Wellness Institute in UM Hospital.

  His mother, Jayne Williams of Pembroke Pines, told the Miami Herald "the surgery could not have gone better. His patellar tendon was so long that they were able to take out a small part in the middle of his patella to replace his ACL,'' she said. "They said his kneecap will be absolutely fine.''

  Williams said there was "a small tear in the cartilage'' that doctors said "will heal on its own.

   He also had a slight meniscus tear that will heal on its own, said Williams' wife, Deanna.

   Deanna said when Ryan woke up "the first thing he did was blow me a kiss. He was so drugged up it was comical. He's doing great. Former UM quarterbacks Stephen Morris and Preston Dewey are visiting him right now."

  "It was the best you could ever expect for Ryan,'' Jayne Williams said.

  Williams said Ryan was sleeping until recently, "but Thursday he's going straight to the training room to get it checked out. Now he'll begin moving forward for rehabilitation.

   "He's an amazing kid and is getting so many prayers and so much support from everyone you can imagine, most of whom I've never met. I want to thank every single person praying for him.''

   She said Ryan, who earned his degree in sports administration in December and plans to soon begin working toward his master's, is determined to return to the field sometime next season and "finish his football career with his best friends and teammates.''

   Williams said she was especially grateful to UM for its support in the wake of his injury. "From the coaches to the trainers to the doctors, UM has taken amazing care of my son,'' she said. "They worked day in and day out to get the swelling down so they could do this surgery.''

   She also said that UM is in the midst of reaching out to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to talk with him about his rehabilitation after his major knee surgery. 

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

April 08, 2014

First day in the limelight for UM Hurricanes quarterbacks Kevin Olsen and Gray Crow

With spring practice winding down in a hurry, quarterbacks Kevin Olsen and Gray Crow took center stage Tuesday at Greentree Field, as fifth-year senior teammate Ryan Williams prepared for Wednesday's surgery to repair his torn ACL -- among other injuries to his right knee.

Practice was so spirited and intense that tight end Standish Dobard and defensive back Hugo Delapenha got into a brawl that became a massive pileup -- but just for a few seconds before coaches broke it up. Al Golden ended the practice after that, and said he was pleased with the day.

"There was a really good quarterback competition today and that will continue through the spring game, and then obviousy we'll add two more guys to that mix before Ryan comes back. But as soon as Ryan gets through this initial recovery phase and transitions into rehab, he'll be around, he'll be leading. I promise he will.''

Golden said "the whole day'' was what coaches were looking for. "The whole day was really crisp. I ended up cutting 20 minutes from it. It was fast. It was up temp. I thought Friday was our best day and this day was better than Friday.''

Golden said Crow "performed his best without question and Kevin did an excellent job, too. That was a good start for those two guys and I think the team rallied around them today.

"Kevin right now is creating really well. In other words he's stepping up in the pocket and keeping his eyes down the field and finding his second and third receivers, which is really good. He was unflappable the other night.

"Gray, today, you could see he's got a strong arm. We got him on the move a little bit more, so play action, move the pocket with him and I thought he threw some really good balls today.''

**********************************************************************

Incoming freshmen quarterbacks Brad Kaaya of West Hills Chaminade High in California and Malik Rosier of Mobile, Alabama's Faith Academy, will arrive on campus in five weeks, Golden said. They're already studying the playbook.

UM offensive coordinator James Coley said the best quarterback, regardless of age, will win the starting job. "They're two smart kids that are really studying the books,'' he said. "There are no rules on starting true freshmen. So, if they come in here and beat out the guys that are here right now and they're the best player I wouldn't be hesitant because the best player has got to play.''

Coley said Olsen needs to improve on "the process.'' Though he said he understands the game well, he needs to communicate better with the offense during plays. "OK, I know you now football,'' Coley said, "but it's very important you point this guy out during this play because the left tackle needs to know that information or don't forget to give a signal to the receiver when you see this certain coverage because just because you know it doesn't mean he knows it.''

********************************************************************************

KEVIN OLSEN: "Being the guy is why I came here to Miami. It's a shame that this is how I got to be, maybe, 'the guy,' or whatever. I'm going to embrace the break I got. It's unfortunate for Ryan. I feel awful.

  "When [Ryan] told me [about his injury] I was so sad for him. I'm going to be there for him for whatever he needs from me. And I know he'll be there for me while I'm getting ready to be the guy.''

He said he wasn't nervous about the opportunity. "I probably shouldn't be here if I was nervous. I didn't come here to be the backup. I didn't come here to sit behind people the whole time. This year Ryan was going to be the starter and I was going to be there to be in the backup role. Sometimes in football people get tough breaks. We've got to help him move on and we've also got to move on as an offense and as a team in general.''

GRAY CROW: "Normally this spring I haven't really gotten a lot of reps so I've had to take advantage of Ryan and Kevin, what they see in their mistakes and learn from them and take a lot of mental reps. But I feel like what I've done so far the past couple weeks has really prepared me for today."

Crow said he normally gets between five and 10 snaps a practice, but Tuesday he got "30 to 40.''

"Playing quarterback you're always one play away so you always have to be ready and prepare yourself like you're going to get in there.''

*******************************************************************************************

 Running backs Duke Johnson and true freshman Joe Yearby, both rehabilitating from injuries, returned to practice in yellow (limited) jerseys for the first time this spring. "Number one, I just expressed our gratitude from everybody in our organization because that took a lot of work,'' Golden said. "For them to be out there where they are right now took a lot of work, took a lot of individual time. 

"Clearly Randy [Duke] took Joe under his wing and brought Joe along. After what I saw today, I have no doubt that if we had another two weeks of practice they would be back. So that issue is resolved. They'll do a little bit more Thursday, get a little run in the stadium without any contact and then be ready to transition to full go.''

**************************************************************************************************

Tight end Jake O'Donnell, who sustained an undisclosed injury in the scrimmage and had to have an MRI, has results that "are coming back negative, so it's just going to be time with him,'' Golden said. "He's had an excellent spring and he's got a chance to be 260 by training camp, which is good. It's unfortunate he couldn't finish [spring], but 12 really good practices for Jake.''

 *******************************************************************************

Black first-team jerseys for defensive players Tuesday: linebackers Jermaine Grace, Raphael Kirby, Denzel Perryman, Alex Figueroa; safety Dallas Crawford, defensive tackle Earl Moore.

Orange first-team jerseys for offensive players: running back Gus Edwards, guard Jon Feliciano, tackle Taylor Gadbois, tight end Standish Dobard, receiver Stacy Coley, receiver Malcolm Lewis, tackle Ereck Flowers and kicker Matt Goudis.

*********************************************************************************

Canesport.com reported that UF punter Justin Vogel of Tampa "is in the final process of transferring to MIami.'' He will be a redshirt sophomore and able to play immediately, according to his high school coach, because he'll be a walk on.

He never punted at UF.

"Miami's coaches said there's an open spot and they're looking for someone to come in and play right away,'' Vogel told Canesport.com. "They said there's no punters there right now, that they were going to have to try to use their field goal kicker [Goudis] to do punting...They're allotting a scholarship for a punter for next year, so if I'm good this year they'll just give it to me instead of giving it to someone else.''

**********************************************************************************

Defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (concussion) returned to practice Tuesday and was not limited.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

April 07, 2014

UM Hurricanes football coach Al Golden releases first spring depth chart -- just in time for spring game

UM Depth 4-07-14

So we finally get a depth chart -- and the saddest part is that quarterback Ryan Williams' name isn't on it. Hang in there, Ryan.

No surprises on offense, except maybe that Malcolm Lewis is one of the starting wideouts with an "OR'' between his name and Phillip Dorsett's.

The defensive line has lots of "ORs'' in between names.

On special teams, Matt Goudis is battling it out with Ricky Carroll for the punter's job. Stacy Coley is the starting punt returner, with Dorsett behind him; and Coley shares the kick returning job with Artie Burns. Wow. That's a nice lineup for returns. 

Click on the depth chart to make it larger.

See you at the scrimmage Saturday.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

MONDAY NEWS: Golden talks at length re QB Williams' injury, Olsen, Duke & Yearby, defense, Seantrel, spring game (thanks to WQAM, Joe Rose)

   Joe Rose of WQAM had great interview this morning with UM football coach Al Golden. Plenty of information below, taken from interview, courtesy of WQAM.

   Al GOLDEN THIS MORNING:

    “We were all just thrilled with the effort given Friday night – we were fired up – and then obviously deflated a little bit with the injury of Ryan Williams. Disappointed for the young man, but he’s going to fight back.

  “He’s in great spirits, not a lot of swelling, so that’s going to help his recovery time. We’ve got a chance to have some other guys step up, including Kevin Olsen, and move this thing forward.

      “We were fairly confident because as a staff we stayed here and watched it Friday night. There was no swing of the knee, there was nothing that was like, ‘Whoa, boy! We’re in trouble.’ We were confident that he was going to be OK.

   “It was just one of those freak deals. He was running. So, you don’t know why it happens. I feel badly even talking about it.

   “As a team, He’s got a lot of support. He’s a class act. He’s going to continue to lead, but now he’s going to need our help, as opposed to the guy who is always helping everybody else. Because as everybody who has been through rehab knows, there are moments of denial, there are moments of isolation and we can’t let that happen. We’ve got to let him continue to lead and be there for him and at the same time I know he’s going to do the same for us, because he’s as tough as they come and a class act.

   “We’ll get him back and get him going as soon as possible.’’

ANY IDEA OF A TIME FRAME FOR GETTING RYAN BACK?

  “The only thing I know right now is what Dr. [Lee] Kaplan shared with us and the fact that there’s no swelling is a great sign in terms of the recovery. Clearly if it remains that way they’ll be able to do the surgery immediately. If there’s any silver lining it’s that.

  “Kevin Olsen came in and did a really good job. We were really pleased with his effort. The guys rallied around him and he came up with a big night Friday night to finish the scrimmage."

  WAS THE COMPETITION CLOSE OR WAS RYAN THE CLEAR CUT NO. 1 IN YOUR EYES?

  "Ryan was clear cut. Ryan was the starter, there’s no question. But was Kevin gaining ground? Was Kevin improving? Yeah. I think everybody in the building could see that.

  "Even before we knew the diagnosis of Ryan on Saturday, everybody left with a really good feeling for what Kevin could do by the way he conducted the second half of that scrimmage and led the two-minute drive.

  "Kevin has been doing a lot better. His preparation is better, his process is better and it’s allowing him to play. We’re starting to see his personality on the field, which is important. At some point you’ve got to get to that time in the game or that place in his mind where you can just go play and Kevin is getting there now so that’s good."

On incoming [four-star] freshman Brad Kaaya. Does this change your mindset for a true-freshman quarterback who is so far behind but has physical talent?

 GOLDEN: “No. 1, the two young people who are here – Kevin Olsen and Gray Crow – they’re going to get a great opportunity here in the next three days and they’re gong to continue to improve and clearly they’ll have the upper hand because they’ll be able to work on site with our receivers. But [fellow incoming freshman QB Malik] Rosier and Kaaya coming in, they have to step up their game too. We really don’t know what the diagnosis is right now. But as a team, we’re at the point right now where Duke Johnson is going to have to step up and lead, and Clive Walford is going to have to step up and lead and Herb Waters, and Stacy Coley has been leading and Phillip Dorsett is going to have to step. We’re going to have to have some guys step up and rally.

 “We’re not a throw it 60-time game operation. We’re going to have to fit any of those guys I mentioned and clearly there’s going to be a competition if in fact Ryan is going to be out. We’re going to have to see what that brings. But right now Kevin and Gray will be running the show and competing and we’ll see where it goes."

MORE NEWS FROM GOLDEN FROM THE INTERVIEW:

 *** "[WR] Rashawn Scott has probably made the biggest difference this spring. He’s changed the whole dynamic. Everyone has stepped up their game there."

*** [WR] Malcolm Lewis, on Friday night, that was the best we’ve seen Malcolm probably since his freshman year. He just was never 100 percent. He had five catches for 103 yards the other night.

 *** Both RBs [Joe] Yearby and Duke [Johnson] will be taking snaps in controlled settings this week, those guys plus Gus [Edwards] and [Walter] Tuck[er] give us an opportunity to make our defense better by moving Dallas [Crawford to safety.] If we didn’t feel better about that running back group than we wouldn’t have moved Dallas. Whoever is the quarterback on opening night is going to have guys around him to get the ball to." 

   Golden stressed that Yearby and Johnson will get “individual drills, teach periods, walk throughs, things where we can get them locked in to their aim points or their assignments on pass routes and protections. Everything I’m hearing is that they’re doing great. We’ll get them out there and of course we’ll protect them.

   “I see both of these guys running full speed and being back way before that. I’m guessing May, if not the end of this month.’’

     Golden said “if you haven’t seen Duke Johnson you are going to be blown away by him – 205, 206 pounds. He has really turned a negative into a positive, changed his body. He has an edge about him, can’t wait to come back.’’  

 *** Who has impressed you on defense from start to finish during spring?

        "The  guys who jump out the most for me is the safety play. The safety play has changed dramatically this spring. [Deon] Bush is completely healthy and playing with more confidence, [Jamal] Carter clearly is not a freshman anymore and doing a great job. And Dallas brings a toughness, that blue-collar mentality, that work ethic, don’t back down to anybody – so that position has changed and really those three jump out as guys that are competing everybody. They’re getting better and they’re making us better."

     Defensive tackle [Ufomba] Kamalu is another young man who is really making progess… But probably the most consistent guy is linebacker [Raphael] Kirby. Kirby has really had a good spring for us and we needed that. Kirby, Armbrister, Figueroa, those guys at linebacker have been more consistent. They’re bigger.. we’re getting stronger."

 Also, "[CB] Artie Burns has really come on as late now that he’s back in the groove."

 *******************************************************************************

    NEWS ON SPRING GAME, WHICH IS REALLY NOT A GAME THIS YEAR, GOLDEN EXPLAINED..

    GOLDEN: "No. 1, which is going to be a departure, it’s just going to be offense vs. defense. Because of some injuries, we really don’t have the opportunity to go an orange squad or white squad. It’s going to be just offense vs. defense. We’ll start out with some one on ones.. then seven on sevens… then put the ball in various spots.. backed up or goal line or a couple shots from every area of the field.. We’ll have a couple cameras on some players. It should be fun."  

***************************************************************************************** 

  On Seantrel Henderson’s UM Pro Timing Day: “I don’t think that was a fair representation, because he did finish. He did dehydrate. I don’t know if he got sick but he did come back and finish the workout. He just needed to step out and get some Gatorade and then he came back.

   “No. 2, Seantrel toward the end of his career was playing his best football, was playing his most consistent football. I’d tell [NFL teams] that he’s a guy that needs structure, that he needs to continue to be part of the process but he has come a long way. He was 388 poiunds when he got here, he’s 331 now. He’s made a different commitment to his body.

   “There is room for him to grow. He can still improve in terms of his football intelligence, his technique, all of those things. …Sometimes people say, ‘Is he the type of guy that will divide a locker room?’ That is not Seantrel. Seantrel is not a divisive figure, at all. In fact, he’s a lovable kid. People like him. He’s had some hiccups, but clearly those are things that he’s addressed and has been open and honest about. I just hope he gets the chance to move forward now and really get focused in, get in somewhere where he has structure, where he has leadership and where he’s around some veterans who will take him under their wing and take him ultimately where he wants to go as a person and player."

     SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

April 05, 2014

Projected starting QB Ryan Williams to undergo knee surgery next week; what's next for the Canes?

Here is the story The Miami Herald broke earlier tonight:

University of Miami fifth-year senior Ryan Williams, who was on course to be the starting quarterback in the fall, will undergo surgery early next week to repair what doctors believe is a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a person with knowledge of the situation first told the Miami Herald on Saturday.

The University of Miami later released a statement confirming the news The Herald broke.

Williams, 22, a Miramar High graduate from Pembroke Pines, injured his right knee while rolling out during a play in Friday night’s closed scrimmage at Greentree Field — minutes after throwing a 76-yard touchdown to Stacy Coley. UM said the injury did not occur with any contact. 

The source told the Miami Herald that Williams was walking without crutches as of Saturday morning but was very stiff and getting the knee iced. It’s unknown whether Williams is out for the season. There is a possibility, depending on the results of his surgery and rehabilitation, that Williams could return to play, the source said.

Left at quarterback to pick up the pieces are second-team redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and third-string sophomore Gray Crow. UM also has two scholarship quarterbacks arriving this summer: Brad Kaaya of West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade High and Malik Rosier of Faith Academy in Mobile, Ala.

Williams sat out at UM one year after transferring from Memphis, where he started 10 games as a freshman. He played sparingly the past two seasons behind now graduated starter Stephen Morris. In four games last season, Williams completed 68.8 percent of his passes (22 of 32) for 369 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

UM has only two more practices next week before the spring game April 12 at Sun Life Stadium.

Get well soon, Ryan. He has surely paid his dues waiting with patience and class.

-- SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

*** So how do you feel about the Canes' QB situation? Here's how incoming freshman defensive end Demetrius Jackson feels about it.

Safety A.J. Highsmith, defensive end Shayon Green and punter Pat O'Donnell talk UM Canes Combine

From UM Pro Timing Day on Thursday at Greentree Field:

SAFETY A.J. HIGHSMITH (ONE ON ONE INTERVIEW): 

"I had a good experience. I think I ran well – not sure of the time (4.79) but it felt good and I looked well, too.

"I want to play in the NFL, so I’m trying. I have good numbers and I feel if they saw what they needed to see from me I’ll have a shot and that’s all I really want."

What did you do well?

"The defensive back drill work was good. I felt good. I swiveled my hips well. I had good feet, movement and flexibility."

Can you believe your time is up and YOU were the one working out for scouts today?

"We were talking about today. When you’re younger and you come watch all the guys it feels so professional and you see all the teams and you think, ‘Wow, it’s the pros’ and everything is so serious. When you’re actually in it it feels like another day of practice because we do it so much."

DEFENSIVE END SHAYON GREEN (ONE ON ONE):

 "I feel like I did great. Everybody came out and showed up and showed out. I felt good, my body is great. I felt like I ran fast and did great in the positional drills. All the coaches gave me nothing but positive feedback.

"I’m 6-1 and around 258 pounds. I lost 6 pounds. I got leaner."

 Did it help being on your own field?

 "Yeah, pretty much, even though the field is kind of beat up."

  Did the day turn out as you had hoped?  

  "This day wasn’t what I expected. It was different actually doing it and not thinking about it – like my pro day is coming up and I have a lot of stress. It was pretty cool though. It came together well. Coach Swasey did a great job preparing us. This week is going to be big for me – next week. I’ll be at Miami Day (Dolphins). "

  What is your dream team?  

 "I don’t have a dream team. I’d love to play for anyone, put it that way."

   Where will you be for the NFL Draft?

   "I don’t know. I’m thinking about either staying here or going home to my family."

 PUNTER PAT O'DONNELL (GROUP)

 Any interviews or visits coming up? 

  "They said not to say, so I’m going to keep that quiet for now."

 Who is your agent?

 "[Drews] Rosenhaus. He’s treating me real well. He’s getting me the training I need. So everything is going real well for me. [Training in] North Miami beach with Pete Bommarito.

  Do you expect to be drafted?

  "That’s the goal right now. Punting is one of those positions where you kind of have to wait and see if they have the picks and what team needs that position, so I’m just going to have to wait it out and see what teams need."

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

April 04, 2014

Per UM: Ryan Williams hurls 76-yard TD strike; Kevin Olsen accounts for 3 TDs in 2nd scrimmage

  The University of Miami had its second spring scrimmage Friday evening on Greentree Field. The nearly two-hour scripted scrimmage (first-team offense vs. first-team defense and second-team offense vs. second-team defense) was closed to the public and media, as was the first scrimmage last Saturday.

      UM sports information reported that senior quarterback Ryan Williams threw a 76-yard touchdown pass “that landed in Stacy Coley’s hands as he was in mid-stride.’’ UM also reported that freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen accounted for three touchdowns – “two through the air and one on the ground’’ – and that sophomore Gray Crow threw a touchdown pass.

   “Gus Edwards added a 25-yard touchdown run down the sideline,’’ UM reported.

   On defense, cornerback Tracy Howard, safety Dallas Crawford and linebacker Raphael Kirby each had five tackles. Howard had the only turnover of the scrimmage, intercepting an Olsen pass in the end zone.

   UM has practices Tuesday and Thursday before it concludes its 15-practice session with the spring game, open to the public, at 6 p.m. April 12 at Sun Life Stadium.

   Honestly, until we see these guys for ourselves in the spring game, it's hard to know exactly what to think. We do know from the open practices that Stacy Coley is a terror, as is Alex Figueroa at linebacker. Cornerback Tracy Howard, black shirt or no black shirt, will be a force to be reckoned with, as is linebacker Denzel Perryman. Al-Quadin Muhammad and Tyriq McCord have only improved and should help put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. 

   Offensively, the increased playing time afforded Gus Edwards with the absence of Duke Johnson and Joseph Yearby should prove invaluable to Edwards

   But we're all wondering exactly how Duke will rebound from his broken ankle. UM's success depends on it.

   One more week and fans can see in a game-like situation how Williams and Olsen perform with the 2014 version of the Hurricanes -- though not until they're able to be tackled, and that would be during the season, will we know for sure how the new quarterback shakes out.

   Should be fun when quarterbacks "Trinidad" Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier arrive in the summer.

    --SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

Press release on Canes' second closed spring scrimmage

Courtesy of the University of Miami Sports Information Staff...

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes football team held its second spring scrimmage Friday evening on the Greentree Practice Fields. The nearly two-hour scripted scrimmage featured a variety of scenarios, pitting the first-team offense against the first-team defense as well as the second-team offense vs. the second-team defense.

 Senior Ryan Williams, sophomore Gray Crow and redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen took the snaps under center during the scrimmage. Williams tossed one touchdown – a beautiful 76-yard bomb that landed in Stacy Coley’s hands as he was in mid-stride. Olsen accounted for three touchdowns – two through the air and one on the ground – and Crow tossed a TD pass. Gus Edwards added a 25-yard TD run down the sideline, as well.

Miami’s defense was led by Tracy Howard, Raphael Kirby and Dallas Crawford, who all tallied five tackles each. Howard also recorded the lone turnover of the scrimmage, picking off Olsen in the end zone. Miami’s secondary also tallied seven pass break-ups.

The latest #CanesCamp Report with Joe Zagacki will be available later tonight.

Twelve practices are now in the books for the Hurricanes. Miami will hold two more open spring practices Tuesday, April 8 and Thursday, April 10, at 8:45 a.m.

UNITE.14 SPRING GAME & FAMILY FESTIVAL

The Miami Hurricanes will host UNITE.14 Spring Game & Family Festival Presented by BankUnited on April 12 at Sun Life Stadium. Stadium gates will open at 3 p.m.; the Hurricanes' Spring Game will begin at 6 p.m. and will be streamed live on ESPN3. The game is FREE and OPEN to the public.

Parking lots will open at 2 p.m. Fans are asked to park in the maroon lot and enter through Gate 4. Stadium gates will open at 3 p.m. (enter through Gate D/E). The carnival area, which will occupy a portion of the field facing the east end zone, will include inflatables, dunk tanks and Miami's new football uniform display.

April 03, 2014

Heavier Seantrel Henderson cuts short Canes Pro Day

Seantrel Henderson's roller-coaster career at the University of Miami took one last strange turn Thursday when he decided to cut short his Pro Day.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Henderson "quit" halfway through UM's Pro Day today and thus "didn't help himself." But Henderson's agent, David Levine, said Henderson did not quit and did not participate in the final two drills because he was "dehydrated and felt sick."

Saying he quit "was quite a mischaracterization," Levine said.

Here's a point no one can argue: Henderson was eight pounds heavier Thursday than he was two months ago at the NFL combine. UM measured Henderson at 6-7, 339 pounds.

Considered the top UM prospect entering next month's draft, Henderson's physical skills are held in high regard by NFL teams. But there remain concerns about his character. Henderson was suspended at least three times at UM (including at least one for marijuana use). Teams also have questions as to why he couldn't permanently hold down a starting job at UM, starting in 26 of the 43 games he played in.

Henderson's Pro Day results weren't exceptionally impressive. His 23-bench reps of 225 pounds Thursday were only two more than safety A.J. Highsmith. Teammate Brandon Linder put up 30 reps, four fewer than team leader and defensive end Shayon Green.

Henderson didn't test in the bench at the combine, but ran a 5.04 in the 40-yard dash and a 24-inch vertical. Thursday, he ran a 5.15 in the 40 and posted a 28-inch vertical leap.

OFFICIAL TIMES AND MEASUREMENTS
(Name, Position, Height, Weght, 40-yard dash, Vertical leap, bench reps, L-Drill, Broad jump)

Eduardo Clements, RB, 5-9.2, 192, 4.72, 31.0, 10, 7.35, 9-4
Asante Cleveland, TE, 6-4.6, 261, 4.88, 32.5, 20, 7.33, 9-8
Tyrone Cornileus, LB, 6-1.5, 1/2, 218, 4.73, 32.5, 23, 7.18, 9-8
Akil Craig, LB, 6-0, 233, 4.91, 27.0, 20, 7.46, 8-8
Jimmy Gaines, LB, 6-1.1, 232, 4.77, 33.0, 18, 7.75, 9-8
David Gilbert, DL, 6-3.5, 258, 4.94, 31.5, 28, 7.44, 9-11
Shayon Green, DL, 6-1.3, 255, 4.58, 29.5, 34, 7.49, 9-1
Maurice Hagens, FB, 5-10.6, 246, 5.05, 27.0, 30, 7.76, 8-0
Seantrel Henderson, OL, 6-7.1, 339, 5.15, 28.0, 23, 8.15c, 8-6
AJ Highsmith, DB, 5-10.6, 198, 4.79, 31.5, 21, 7.03, 9-8
Allen Hurns, WR, 6-1.2, 194, 4.55, 31.0, 14c, 7.23c, 10-0c
Brandon Linder, OL, 6-5.7, 311, 5.35c, 26.5, 30c, 7.77, 8-3c
Stephen Morris, QB, 6-2, 211, 4.63c, 30.0c, -, 7.36c 9-2c
Pat O’Donnell, P, 6-4.2, 220, 4.64c, 30.5c, 23c, -, -
Curtis Porter, DL, 6-0.6, 315, 5.29, 28.0, 30, -, 8-4
Justin Renfrow, DL, 6-3.7, 305, 5.25, 33.0, 19, 7.74, 8-8
Luther Robinson, DL, 6-2.7, 299, 5.01, 28.5, 30, 7.75, 8-5
Kacy Rodgers II, DB, 6-1.3, 213, 4.55, 32.0, 26, 7.06, 9-11
Jared Wheeler, OL, 6-4.4, 315, 5.31, 26.5, 21, 7.72, 8-7

Stephen Morris back on Greentree Field -- "I knew I was going to throw really well" -- for UM combine

 Former Miami Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris was back on Greentree Field Thursday for UM Pro Timing Day, throwing to Allen Hurns and others as all but two NFL teams were represented by scouts, coaches or personnel. He seemed cool and confident, and said he was happy with his performance.

 Is this What you dreamed about, what you expected?

 "Always, man. Always,'' Morris said. "It’s kind of crazy how fast it’s kind of picked up. You come here as a freshman at Miami and you don’t really think about the NFL. Then in your sophomore and junior years it’s kind of in the back of your head. Then my senior year I was really thinking about it. Now it’s here. Now you have the opportunity to do something that you’ve been dreaming of."

I asked Morris if he was very nervous before today.

"No, not at all,'' he answered, "because all I knew was I was going to throw, and I knew I was going to throw really well and I felt confident in my body. I felt confident in the way I had been preparing for this moment and it showed.

 How much does it help being on your field?

"Big time,'' he said. "Being on my field, being with my receivers. The comfort level was huge for me and it felt great.

It's quite obvious who Morris wants to be, and believes will be, the starting quarterback for the Canes next season. 

How do you think the team is going to be this year without you and with a new quarterback?

"I think Ryan is going to do exceptionally well,'' he said of senior Ryan Williams. "I think that he’s done a great job leading the team, even when I was there with him. I’m excited to see how the defense is going to respond [with] another year under their belt with the maturity and everything that those goes are going to have them. Coach Swasey has done a great job in the weight room with them, so I know offense and defense and special teams are going to be a big factor. It’s going to be great.’’

 Morris has been training with Tom House in Los Angeles. “Pre combine, before the combine, I was at Pete Bommarito’s.

 “My body feels healthier, a lot better,’’ Morris said, agreeing that he felt 100-percent while working out Thursday.

And how is his previously injured Achilles’ tendon that hampered him most of the season?

“A lot better,'' Morris said. "That was my biggest concern going into the combine, just getting that healed up. It’s good.’’

 Morris wouldn’t disclose what teams he has interviewed with or will interview with or what teams he’ll work out with. “I’ve kept it kind of under wraps.’’

 He called Drew Rosenhaus “a great agent. The whole Rosenhaus sports family, everything they’ve done for me, sending me out to LA, and doing all the things. They care for me and they’re there for me at all times. That’s the best.’’

Bernadette Morris, Stephen's mother, watched him with other family members from atop the Hecht Athletic Center. "He did great,'' she said. "I’m very proud of him. It’s an emotional time but it’s also an exciting time.’’

 So, where will Morris be during the NFL Draft -- May 8-10?

 "I’ll be home at the beach, chilling with my mom and dad, family."

   He turned and looked at his mom, who had walked over to the interview throng.

   "Hey, Mom!"

    Said Morris: "I’ll probably just be relaxing w them. I’m a family guy."

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

April 01, 2014

Men in black, orange and red. New injury. Miami Hurricanes QBs Ryan Williams & Kevin Olsen speak.

  Like almost everything else in life, spring football practices at the University of Miami have flown by,  with a closed scrimmage remaining Friday, before open practices Tuesday (April 8) and Thursday (April 10) precede the April 12th spring game at Sun Life Stadium.

    After Saturday's closed scrimmage, some new men in black graced Greentree Field on Tuesday morning, with some of the customary black-garbed Hurricanes wearing green.

   Same for a few in orange – and white.

   Black and orange jerseys during practice signify excellence. There can be fewer than 11 defensive players and 11 offensive players wearing those colors on any given day. 

  The players who wear neither orange nor white, black nor green, during practices: quarterbacks. And senior Ryan Williams still has the decided edge in this position, according to his coaches, with redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen continuing to improve.

   I talked to both today.

  RYAN WILLIAMS

   "I think we definitely edged them for the most part,'' said Williams of the scrimmage. "But they had some big plays on third downs that ended some of our drives.

   There were six touchdowns in the scrimmage, including a bomb to Phillip Dorsett by Williams. Among the receivers Williams utilized were Stacy Coley, Rashawn Scott and D'Mauri Jones and tight end Standish Dobard.

  "I think we're definitely more balanced,'' Williams said. "Last year I thought a lot of the pressure was put on Allen [Hurns] because he was a senior and he was so consistent and he was definitely a big playmaker -- plus the loss of Duke and Phillip late in the season. All these guys have grown up. Stacy is not a freshman anymore, Herb [Waters] is now an upperclassmen, Rashawn is coming back. We have a good corps of playmakers coming back.''

   Williams said he wants to be smarter and more efficient in the next scrimmage. "Just being smart, just [having] efficient route runners, making sure they get their right depths, making sure they're taking their time and not trying to rush, and eliminating negative plays. We had a few sacks that we can't have.''

   He said the interception by Artie Burns was the result of a route called for Stacy Coley to "kind of break across [Burns'] face and he was really confused because it wasn't really a play we worked a lot. I talked to him right after the play and made sure he knew what happened."

   Williams said the offense has "to be more efficient on drives. We had some penalties that hurt us."

  He said he is "stepping out" of his "shell" in trying to be more of a vocal leader.

KEVIN OLSEN 

    Olsen said Tuesday he thought he really threw the ball well in the scrimmage. "I got a couple chances to throw the ball deep and I connected on those,'' he said. "That's always big having those deep balls, those home runs as we call them, deep shots. I had a good grasp of the offense. I ran it good. I got us into our checks and our alerts depending on what the defense threw, and I think it was overall pretty good -- ones and twos."

   Olsen connected with Rashawn Scott for a touchdown "maybe 50 yards,'' he said, and a long, "maybe just a little bit less than 50-yard" sideline pass to D'Mauri Jones. "It was maybe a little breakdown on the coverage and they ran good routes and went up and got the ball for me.''

   Olsen said "from Day One out here in the spring I felt pretty comfortable about what I was doing and what my knowledge of the game was and getting everybody else in the right plays. I think I'm getting really good at that and I'm going to keep working on that every day.

  "The scrimmages are exciting. We're in our game stuff. There are referees. They were calling plays. There are no scripts, no periods. We're playing like a real game. It was really fun for me."    

   Olsen didn't throw any interceptions in the scrimmage, though he threw one Tuesday, nabbed by linebacker Raphael Kirby.

   "I tried to get it over his head,'' he said with a grin, "but it died on me a little."

   Olsen said he is trying to be more vocal and wants his teammates to know they can count on him. "I'm not going to screw up. I'm not going to get them into bad plays when they're in good ones -- just  getting the guys to trust me and think that, 'OK, yeah, he can do it.'''

   The offensive players wearing the coveted orange jerseys Tuesday were tackles Ereck Flowers and Taylor Gadbois, receivers Scott, D’Mauri Jones and Coley and tight end Dobard.

    Dobard was lauded by both James Coley and coach Al Golden, and Golden has repeatedly said that the young Coley, who led the team with 1,461 all-purpose yards last season, is setting the standard in just about every way for receivers.  

   Losing their orange jerseys on Tuesday were tailback Gus Edwards, and guards Jon Feliciano and Danny Isidora.

   James Coley said Edwards is “being challenged’’ by Walter Tucker, and had “a couple of plays’’ during the scrimmage in which he could have given better effort.    

   INJURY REPORT

  Al-Quadin Muhammad injured his ankle (right) early in the scrimmage “and fought through it,’’ defensive coordinatgor Mark D’Onofrio said.  He wore a red (non-contact) jersey in practice. Defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (concussion) is still out. Also in red: tailbacks Duke Johnson and Joseph Yearby, cornerback Ladarius Gunter, safety Rayshawn Jenkins, center Shane McDermott and receiver/all-purpose freshman Braxton Berrios.

    D'Onofrio was asked right away Tuesday about the players wearing black jerseys.

      “We’ve had nothing but practices, and we had a scrimmage, which was the first time we were able to go live and really move the field consistently – a situational scrimmage, but we were moving the football and seeing how guys play the game,’’  D’Onofrio said after UM’s first open practice since Saturday’s closed scrimmage. “The black jerseys indicate when the lights came on who played to the level that we can win championships with.”

MEN IN BLACK

   The new black-jersey wearers: sophomore linebacker Jermaine Grace, sophomore cornerback Artie Burns, junior safety Dallas Crawford and junior nose tackle Earl Moore. They joined senior linebacker Denzel Perryman and junior linebacker Kirby, also in black.

    “Jermaine made a lot of plays, and he didn’t make a lot of mental errors,’’ D’Onofrio said. “He probably made eight tackles so he was really productive. He’s gained eight pounds so I’m excited about where he’s headed.

    “Dallas did what I knew he would do once the lights come on. He’s a physical guy and has a great feel for playing the game. For what he’s done in a 10-day period coming over to our side of the ball has been really remarkable.’’

    “Earl has been steady. He has gotten better. Probably the last three or four practices have been really consistent for him. The light went on.”

    D’Onofrio said Burns “really rebounded’’ this spring after missing the first four practices because of track. “He was playing catch-up with everybody else and he really bounced back. He mastered all the techniques we were asking him to do. He played really good when he was pressed.

   “…Bottom line is those guys who got the black are doing what we’re asking them to do. They’re playing hard and doing their job.’’

HOWARD, FIG IN GREEN

   Off the “it’’ list, at least on Tuesday, was junior cornerback Tracy Howard and sophomore linebacker Alex Figueroa – both of whom will no doubt play major roles next season.

        “Just not up to the standard in the scrimmage maybe that they’ve been all along and that’s all we can go by,'' D'Onofrio said. "At the end of the day, there’s something noticeably different about a scrimmage than a practice. It’s the closest we can get to a game situation. We don’t have preseason games. We get three scrimmages in the spring and we get three in the fall. We get six opportunities to get a feel for what it looks like.

    “I’m looking at the individuals. Right now we’re mixing and matching. There’s not cohesion out there. There are injuries. I’m just worried about that. I’m worried about, how do the individuals grade out? How does each individual play within that and what do they do when the lights come on?”

    When I asked if Howard and Fig not wearing black was for motivational purposes, D'Onofrio said it's just about "being consistent. There’s no motivation [factor]. He’s [Howard] been in black every day. We just grade the players. We love Tracy. We love what he’s doing for us. We want it to be something special. We want there to be a standard. How the guys graded in the scrimmage is based on where they’re at today. He’s going to be motivated by pride.’’

       Kirby played in the middle and outside in the scrimmage. “He’s another guy that showed up,’’ D’Onofrio said. “He made plays. He played fast. He did the little things. Sometimes you have to give yourself up so somebody else can make a play. Sometimes you’re on the front side of a play that goes out there fast and as the [middle] linebacker or the [weakside] linebacker you’ve got to go run up there and hit it and blow it up so somebody can run over the top and make a play. He did all those sorts of things – not only made the plays when he had the opportunity but did the unselfish things.

   “I’m proud of what he’s done.’’

    D'Onofrio said tackles Corey King, Ufomba Kamalu and Jelani Hamilton continue to improve...He said he looks forward to tackle Michael Wyche, tackle Courtel Jenkins, tackle Anthony Moten, end Chad Thomas and rush end Demetrious Jackson arriving in the fall to make the defensive line stronger.

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

    

 

 

   

 

March 25, 2014

Tuesday afternoon update on blood clot/surgery of David Thompson, who is "heartbroken'' says dad, but healing

  Just talked to Ed Thompson, the father of UM baseball player (infielder) David Thompson.

  The discouraging news is "he's heartbroken.''

   Everything else is encouraging.

   Like I reported in the Miami Herald last night, David underwent a six-hour surgery yesterday on his right arm for a blood clot that was caused by venous thoracic outlet syndrome, according to the Mayo Clinic, "a group of disorders that occur when the blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and first rib (thoracic outlet) becomes compressed. This can cause pain in your shoulders and neck and numbness in your fingers.

   "Common causes include... sports-related activities.'' And baseball players have been known to get this syndrome.

    "He had some blockage in a blood vessel and the blood was going out but not coming back, which is what caused the arm to swell,'' UM coach Jim Morris told me last night after UM lost to Virginia 5-3. "He wasn't getting good circulation because the top bone in his rib cage was cutting off the blood flow a little bit.''

   Ed Thompson  emailed me last night and said that "full recovery is expected over time. We are grateful for God's grace and for exceptional doctors and care. We appreciate your prayers.''

  David is recuperating at UM Hospital.

  Mr. Thompson, president of Miami-based Logoi Ministries -- just reiterated to me by phone that "the surgery was successful. The doctors were here this morning and are very pleased with how everything looks. Now the healing process has begun.''

  Doctors had to remove one of David's ribs, and he's in a lot of pain, Ed told me.

  "He’s heartbroken is the best way to say it right now, but determined to get back."

   Will David, a sophomore who leads the Hurricanes with a .328 batting average and starred at Miami Westminster Christian, play baseball again? 

    “Oh yeah, he’ll play again,'' Ed Thompson said. "We just don’t know when. There’s not a specific time frame. Each person is different.''

    Will he be back this season?

    “It’s too soon to tell. We don’t know yet.    

   “We hope he’s out of the hospital by at least Friday, but we haven’t heard a specific date.’’

   Again, David get well soon and keep your head up. You have lots of people praying for you and pushing for you! We know you're a fighter. :)

   Please leave your wishes for David below.

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

   

UM baseball player David Thompson undergoes six-hour surgery Monday on right arm for blood clot

   Minutes after Virginia defeated Miami 5-3 in the rubber game of a three-game series Monday at Mark Light Field, UM coach Jim Morris told the Miami Herald that David Thompson underwent a six-hour surgery Monday morning on his right arm.    

   David's father, Ed Thompson -- president of Miami-based Logoi Ministries -- delivered the following statement to me via email:  

   "David was admitted to the University of Miami hospital on March 19 after a blood clot was discovered in his upper arm. It was determined the cause was an uncommon condition called 'Venous Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.'

     "Surgery to solve this issue was successfully performed on March 24th. While disheartened, David is in good spirits and full recovery is expected over time. We are grateful for God's grace and for exceptional doctors and care. We appreciate your prayers.''

  Thompson was admitted to UM Hospital last week with a badly swollen right arm.

  “He had some blockage in a blood vessel and the blood was going out but not coming back, which is what caused the arm to  swell,'' Morris said.

   “He wasn’t getting good circulation because the top bone in his rib cage was cutting off the blood flow a little bit. They said it was a successful surgery and he’ll be fine.

   Morris said he had no idea when Thompson will be back on the team.

   Here's hoping that David gets well soon.

MAYO CLINIC DEFINITION OF VENOUS THORACIC OUTLET SYNDROME

Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders that occur when the blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib (thoracic outlet) become compressed. This can cause pain in your shoulders and neck and numbness in your fingers.

 Common causes of thoracic outlet syndrome include physical trauma from a car accident, repetitive injuries from job- or sports-related activities, certain anatomical defects (such as having an extra rib), and pregnancy. Sometimes doctors can't determine the cause of thoracic outlet syndrome.

 Treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome usually involves physical therapy and pain relief measures. Most people improve with these approaches. In some cases, however, your doctor may recommend surgery. 

And one more note:

Trevill...

@T_Holcy1

Commited to THE University of Miami |C/O 2015 WR |@TaelorCouture_ is Mine! ❤️| Strong Beleiver in Christ!

Officially Committed to THE University of Miami! Glad to be a Cane! pic.twitter.com/wYY2gUEoSa

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

March 21, 2014

Miami Hurricanes baseball player David Thompson in UM Hospital through at least early next week

   The 25th-ranked Miami Hurricanes will attempt to turn around their recent baseball struggles when the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers (16-3, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) come to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field for a three-game weekend series beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday.

    The Canes (12-10, 4-2) will once again be without sophomore David Thompson, who is hitting .424 over his past 10 games with two doubles, a triple and six RBI. Thompson was at UM Hospital on Friday recuperating from an unspecified ailment that caused his arm to swell, his father, Ed, confirmed to the Miami Herald on Friday night. He is expected to remain there at least through early next week, Ed Thompson said.

    Thompson’s diagnosis, if there is one, was not revealed.

    UM coach Jim Morris said after Tuesday night’s loss to UCF that Thompson’s arm – Morris indicated on a video it was his upper right arm – was very swollen.

    It was initially believed he was bitten by a spider, Morris said. However, Ed Thompson said it was “not a spider bite’’ and that his son was going to be OK.

    UM also confirmed Friday that Thompson had been in the hospital and was being tested for the swollen arm.

   After winning five in a row earlier this month, the Canes have lost five of their past seven games.

    UM left-hander Chris Diaz (4-0, 2.05 ERA) will start Saturday against left-hander Nathan Kirby (5-0, 0.59).

   Best wishes to David for a speedy recovery. He is a very nice, high-character young man, who has a wonderfully supportive family. His health is most important right now. The Canes will have a tough time without him.

    David had two surgeries, by the way, on his right shoulder in a one-year span. The latest one was last June.

   And yes, I keep thinking about UM offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who was released from the hospital recently after collapsing following a workout. But the two are unrelated. 

  Here's hoping we don't see the word hospital related to the Hurricanes for a long, long time.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

March 20, 2014

Confidence, physicality growing as Canes defense is "winning the day" more often this spring

Tracy Howard has never been short on confidence.

Ranked the No. 1 cornerback in the country by both Rivals and ESPN coming out of Miramar High in 2012, Howard set the bar high for himself a year ago when he said he wanted to pick off 10 passes as a sophomore. He finished with a team-leading four picks and made 35 tackles, making 12 starts and playing much better than he did as a freshman.

"I’ve always been confident," Howard said Thursday following the team's sixth practice of the spring. "I've never lacked confidence... I never come out onto the field without my confidence being up to the sky."

The same couldn't always be said about the rest of the Hurricanes defense over the last few years. But it's starting to feel a little different around Coral Gables these days.

The offense, which has carried the defense on most Saturdays over the last two seasons, isn't winning the day as often as it used to in practice. The guys on the other side are having more success. They're being more physical. And there definitely feels like there is a lot more hooting and hollering going on with Mark D'Onofrio's unit than before.

"I don't think there's any question the defense was better today," UM coach Al Golden said Thursday. "It was good competition. Fig [Alex Figueroa] was physical, Tyriq [McCord] did a good job. It was good to see that kind of physicality on the team."

One moment Thursday which provided an example of that physicality was during Category 5 drills. Basically, the quarterback hands the ball off to a running back and the back has three blockers down field trying to create a slalom like path to help him run past a defensive lineman, a linebacker and a defensive back.

On this particular play, 6-2, 235-pound running back Gus Edwards was able to get to the third level where 6-1, 207-pound sophomore safety Jamal Carter had broken free from a D'Mauri Jones block for a one-on-one situation. It was the smaller Carter who won the battle, squaring his shoulders and knocking the bigger Edwards toward the turf. (CLICK HERE TO SEE THE PLAY)

That tackle -- along with another made by Al-Quadin Muhammad on running back Quincy Casimir during the same drill -- are examples of that physicality Golden was talking about.

"That’s just a drill in practice we line up every spring just to shed blocks, just to be physical," Howard said. "Jamal did a good job with that and it brought energy leading onto the team periods.

"Guys are just growing up, playing with attitude. We got guys like Denzel Perryman, [Alex] Figueroa, Jamal Carter, those guys are like dogs. Everybody just feeds off those guys when it comes to being physical and stuff like that. I feel like we’re just getting better as a whole."

Is the defense winning the day more? "Ask the offense. They’ll tell you the truth," Howard said with a smile. "We beat them in camp last year. We had most of the wins if you go look at the board."

NEWS AND NOTES

> Defensive tackle Olsen Pierre wasn't at practice Thursday after limping off the field on Tuesday. Golden said Olsen "should be fine."

> Golden made it pretty clear quarterback Ryan Williams is in the lead for the starting quarterback job.

"I think Kevin [Olsen] is having a good spring and Gray [Crow] and Kevin are competing. But Ryan is ahead right now," Golden said. "Kevin is having a good spring, he is. But as I said going in, Ryan is experienced, smart and he's doing a good job with the football right now."

What does Howard think of the QB play thus far? 

"Ryan is a very good quarterback," Howard said. "He knows how to make very good checks and very good reads. He’s an experienced quarterback, started his freshman year at Memphis. He played a little bit last year and the year before that. I think Ryan is going to be a very good quarterback. His decision making is on point. He’s able to read defenses before the snap, great pre-reads. He gives great dummy cadences to make the defense shift and give away their coverages.

"Olsen is just getting better everyday. You see the development every day. We always knew he was going to be pretty good even from his first seven on seven. He trusts his receivers, takes chances on a lot of throws. He’s developing. Even though they’re in a battle he also has to learn from Ryan and it feels like he is."

> Howard said playing against bigger backs in Edwards and Walter Tucker (6-0, 218) has been good for Miami's defense this spring. 

"Playing against those guys it helps out with tackling," he said. "Duke [Johnson] is more of a shifty guy. But Duke can do it all. He can lower his shoulder. He can run past you. But with those backs, they’re more downhill runners. They’re going to lower their shoulders probably 90 percent of the time. It helps us with our tackling just being physical. When we play against those guys we've got to be even more physical. They help us out."

> Howard said receiver Stacy Coley is becoming more of a trash-talker. The two go head-to-head in practice every day.

"3-on-3 is how I look at it," Howard said referring to the jersey number both players wear. "He’s fast, shifty. He’s mainly always my matchup. We just go out there and make each other better every day. He’s becoming more of a talker. I’m a big talker so I think I bring it out of him most of the time. I do it with all the receivers. When he makes a play he definitely makes sure you feel his presence. He’s not a big talker, but he’s going to talk. He’s going to have his share of words."

> Who ran with the first team Thursday?

On offense, quarterback Ryan Williams, running back Gus Edwards, tight end Standish Dobard, receivers Stacy Coley, D'Mauri Jones and Rashawn Scott, left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Jonathan Feliciano, center Alex Gall, right guard Danny Isidora and right tackle Taylor Gadbois.

On defense, it was ends Ufomba Kamalu and Al-Quadin Muhammad, tackles Earl Moore and Jelani Hamilton, linebackers Denzel Perryman, Raphael Kirby and Alex Figueroa, cornerbacks Tracy Howard and Antonio Crawford and safeties Jamal Carter and Deon Bush.

> Second team center Hunter Wells had a pair of high snaps which sailed over the head of backup quarterback Kevil Olsen. Golden stopped practice to have the offense run suicides after the second one.

> Among the special visitors at Canes practice Thursday: Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon and Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks.

? The Hurricanes picked up a commitment from 2015 Dade City Pasco High tight end Bowman Archibald (6-6, 240) on Thursday.

Archibald, rated a three-star prospect, visited Coral Gables on Tuesday and picked UM over offers from more than 15 schools including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Oregon and Southern California.

March 18, 2014

Day 1 back at UM practice. Here's the news...Also: Tim "Ice" Harris will be a coach again -- count on it.

After 11 days, the Canes were back Tuesday on Greentree Field, which was lined and marked and ready for the first scrimmage March 29th -- closed to the public.

*** Coach Al Golden said the players had good attitudes and that the practice was physical. "Guys look like they came back with a good mindset, good shape.''

*** The defense "got the offense" Tuesday, Golden said. "We challenged the offense to be better by Thursday.'' Golden said the defense had a better mindset today, caused some fumbles, was more physical and tougher than offense. He said they were really good in goal-line and short-yardage periods.

*** Freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen "right now is having a really good spring,'' Golden said. "Really mature. Texting [OC] James [Coley] the night before. Calling James, coming to see him. He's really doing all the little things you need a quarterback to do and it's showing on the field. He's distributing the ball really well for us, running it. He's got to continue to raise his confidence level and continue to lead but that's going to come the more comfortable he is with the offense.''

*** Golden said of first-team quarterback Ryan Williams: "Ryan is having an excellent spring. Ryan's accuracy is evident on the field. Not a lot of balls on the ground. His percentage has been high. That's what he can do. Every guy we have has a different talent and his is his ability to read it conceptually, diagnose it and get the ball out quickly.''

As a veteran who knows the offense inside and out, Williams is still the frontrunner to win the job, but the better Olsen gets, the harder the decision becomes, and the better for the program. 

By the way, after practice, I noticed Kevin Olsen in street clothes with a very large ice pack over his right (throwing) hand. Don't know anything more about that.
  

*** We hadn't heard anything about sophomore tight end Jake O'Donnell until Tuesday. I asked Golden how he was doing. "jake has had a really good spring, up to about 254 right now. Playing a lot of football. Obviously Clive [Walford's] absence (due to unspecified injury) has helped him. He and Stan [Dobard] have both benefited greatly from Clive's absence. He's getting a lot of work and really coming through for us. Scored a touchdown today. Caught another seam ball, things he wasn't doing a year ago. Really pleased  with him, because Jake is one of our fastest tight ends.''

*** Offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who was released from the hospital last week, "is doing good,'' Golden said. "He's being integrated right now. He's getting caught up on school. Our biggest concern right now is just getting him caught up on school. Other than that I just don't want to infringe on the family's privacy. When he's ready to talk, he'll talk. But he's doing great. You might see him around. He's getting treatment and getting caught up on school, is what he should do.  That's the first step back to normalcy, and once we get through that then obviously the next step is getting back to football.''

*** Defensive end Anthony Chickillo, who is still dealing with a foot injury, was in a yellow jersey and might return to practice Thursday, Golden said.  Golden said there's a lot of competition at the defensive end spot. The coach said there should be a "great competition'' (at strong-side defensive end)  between Ufomba Kamalu and Chickillo at that position.  Coach said Kamalu has had a "really good offseason" and spring. "Obviously with Chad Thomas and Anthony Moten in the wing, we have a chance to really improve that position this fall. Right now we have Quan and Tyriq at the other end, with Trent [Harris] and those guys behind him." 

*** There were at least a few errant snaps from center (Alex Gall, Hunter Wells) Tuesday.

*** Yellow (limited) jerseys Tuesday: Malcolm Lewis, Anthony Chickillo, Corn Elder, Herb Waters, Nate Dortch.

*** Red (no contact) jerseys Tuesday: Rayshawn Jenkins, Clive Walford, Ladarius Gunter, Shane McDermott, Braxton Barrios, Duke Johnson. 

*** Black first-team jerseys for defense: Raphael Kirby, Olsen Pierre (who went inside during practice with what could be an injury, but not sure), Tracy Howard, Alex Figueroa, Denzel Perryman.

*** Orange first-team jerseys for offense: Stacy Coley, Beau Sandland (who also stopped in the middle of practice with what seemed to be some type of leg or groin ailment), Ereck Flowers, Jon Feliciano, Alex Gall, Gus Edwards, Danny Isidora, Rashawn Scott.

***********************************************************************************

Also, I'm writing this for tomorrow's paper (tonight online), but new UM assistant director of football operations Tim "Ice" Harris, the pride of high school football in Miami and in particular, Booker T. Washington High, will be a football coach again -- no doubt in my mind. He made it pretty clear today that he is thrilled to be back at UM, and in no uncertain terms expects to be doing what he does best -- coaching -- after he earns his degree at UM.

"Once I get my degree, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if I had it at this point,'' Harris said. "Because I already would have considered myself as one of the top coaches in the country from a high school perspective. And what we do there in developing young people I definitely could be able to do it at the college level with no problem."

Harris wasn't being boastful. He was being honest. He already has worked at UM under Randy Shannon doing basically the same thing, but Al Golden is helping him get his dream job -- to coach in college -- by letting him learn more and observe and be a great benefit for the Canes in dealing with high school coaches. Harris would be a great asset for Miami as a coach who could recruit in UM's backyard and have immense pull.

UM wants assistant coaches to have their college degrees. Once Harris has his degree in a little more than a year, he's fair game. If UM doesn't find a way to grab him as a coach, be assured someone else will.

 

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

   

March 17, 2014

Canes football back in action Tuesday morning at Greentree -- baseball drops 12 spots in rankings

After 11 days off, the Hurricanes are back in action at 9 a.m. Tuesday with spring football practice session No. 5 at Greentree Field behind the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence.

For any of you not working tomorrow, remember that the practices are open to the public from beginning to end. 

Unfortunately, the first two scrimmages (March 29th and April 4th) are closed to the public. The spring game, which is open, is at 6 p.m. April 12 at Sun Life Stadium.

********************************************************************************************

As for Canes' baseball, a team with great promise has been problematic of late. Since UM's five-game win streak ended after the March 9 sweep of Boston College, the Canes have lost four out of five, including mid-week games against Bethune-Cookman and Stetson. 

This week will provide a huge opportunity for Miami (11-9, 4-2 ACC) to turn everything around. The Canes play UCF (9-12) at Mark Light on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and travel to Fort Myers to face Florida Gulf Coast (13-7) at 6:30 p.m.

Freshman lefty Danny Garcia (0-0 3.09 ERA) is slated to start against UCF.

The Wednesday starter for UM has not been announced.

The good: freshman Willie Abreu is tied with sophomore David Thompson with the top batting average of .328. And Dale Carey, hitting .312, has seven doubles and leads the team with 4 home runs. He has a .584 slugging percentage.

Also, UM is second in the ACC with 40 doubles so far.

The bad: AJ Salcines, in six appearances, has a 24.00 ERA, with hitters averaging .412 against him. Among hitters, freshman Zack Collins, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 27th round of the draft, has not begun to find his groove. The power-hitting Collins, who lifted the Canes over UF in their Saturday-night game, is hitting .118, with two home runs,  two doubles and two singles this season. He leads the team in strikeouts (20) and walks (10). UM needs him to break loose. 

The ugly: UM has 33 errors -- tied with Georgia Tech for the most in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia is tops in ACC fielding with only nine errors. 

 Here are the mid-week notes sent by UM's Camron Ghorbi:

DOUBLING UP

• No. 25 Miami continues its challenging nonconference slate with a pair of midweek games: at home against UCF (March 18) and on the road at FGCU (March 19).

 • The Hurricanes captured a 5-0 victory at Mark Light Field in the lone matchup against UCF in 2013 (March 6), which featured an 11-strikeout performance from starter Bryan Radziewski.

 • Miami did not play FGCU in 2013, but split a home-and-home with the Eagles in 2012. The Hurricanes won 3-0 on the road at Hammond Stadium (Feb. 22), but dropped a home contest 4-2 (April 11).

 POWER SURGE

• Miami is tied for first in the ACC with 12 home runs through its first 20 games of the regular season. Dale Carey leads the team with four homers, while Zack CollinsGarrett Kennedy and Tyler Palmer have two each.

 • The offense already has three multi-homerun games this season after recording just two in all of 2013: games one and two against Florida (Feb. 21 & 22) and game one against Georgia Tech (March 14). Miami is 3-0 in 2014 when hitting more than one home run.

 • In addition to its impressive home run total, Miami ranks second in the ACC with 40 doubles this season and tied for fourth in triples with four.

 • Miami did not record its 12th home run in 2013 until an 8-3 win over Wake Forest on May 12 - the team’s 53rd game of that season. The Hurricanes hit just 14 home runs collectively last season.

 HEATING UP

• After struggling through the first month of the season, sophomore slugger David Thompson has turned it up a notch. Thompson is hitting at a .424 clip over the past 10 games with two doubles, one triple and six RBI. He has recorded a .525 on-base percentage over that span.

 • Over his last two starts, redshirt sophomore Andrew Suarez has allowed two earned runs in 16.0 innings of work (1.12 ERA). He went 9.0 innings against Georgia Tech but earned a no-decision.

 • Senior Dale Carey is 7 for his last 18 (.389) over the last five games entering Tuesday’s matchup with UCF. He has team-high totals of eight hits, nine runs, four doubles and one home run over that stretch.

 • Freshman Willie Abreu has settled into a groove entering the middle of March. The Hialeah, Fla., native, hitting third in the lineup, is batting .353 with 18 hits and 13 runs scored in the last 15 games.

 • Freshman reliever Cooper Hammond has made seven appearances in the last 15 games and has recorded a 2.25 ERA with a 2-0 record. Hammond has yielded two earned runs in his last 8.0 innings of relief.

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

March 08, 2014

Miami Hurricanes safety JoJo Nicolas remembered by many in a moving funeral today in Miami

So many former Canes came to pay respect to their teammate and brother JoJo Nicolas today at Glendale Missionary Baptist Church.

JoJo died in a horrific car accident a week ago Wednesday.

The funeral was really touching and inspiring, as his brothers spoke and his uncle did the eulogy and Reverand Toru Dean did the officiating. All of them were great.

JoJo's 5-month-old son Jayden was in JoJo's mom's arms during the ceremony.

The Canes I recall seeing, so many of whom said hello to me: Antrel Rolle, Graig Cooper, Sam Shields, Bruce Johnson, Ryan Hill, Brandon McGee, Javarris James, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Brandon Washington, Marcus Robinson, Ray Buchanan, Romeo Davis, Richard Gordon, Matt Perrelli, Matt Bosher, Herb Waters.

Some of the coaches/football staff I saw: Al Golden, Mark D'Onofrio, Micheal Barrow, Paul Williams, Andreu Swasey, Kareen Brown, Andrew Klich, Steve DeBardelaben, Steve Caldwell.

Turns out JoJo was talking on the phone, then reading a text (don't know if he was returning the text message) when he crashed his car into the 18-wheeler. Rolle told me he saved "a thousand lives'' by waking up his friends and fans to the perils of texting and driving.

Scared all of us.

Here's my story I wrote that will be in the Local section (Not Sports) of The Miami Herald:

    Former Hurricane football player JoJo Nicolas was remembered Saturday as “the quiet storm’’ at the University of Miami.

   He was remembered as a little brother who taught his three older brothers not to fight.

   He was remembered as responsible and studious and devoted to an infant son, born prematurely, who preceded him in death.

   And he was remembered as a father and son who died too young but left a thriving five-month-old child and nearly 25 years of memories to keep his spirit alive.

   “Daddy, you lost your only son, but now you have JoJo’s son,’’ Nicolas’ uncle – pastor Walter Horn – told Josselet Nicolas in a moving, rhythmic eulogy accompanied by a four-piece ensemble at Glendale Missionary Baptist Church in Miami. “Can I tell you something? JoJo just made MVP.’’

    Nicolas, who grew up in FloridaCity and graduated from Homestead High in 2007, died a week ago Wednesday, five days shy of his 25th birthday. He crashed his Lexus sedan into a tractor-trailer while heading west on the MacArthur Causeway following an early birthday celebration on Miami Beach.

    His brother Elliot Davis said the family is still awaiting results of an autopsy and toxicology reports, but that Nicolas was on the phone with his girlfriend and received a text from former UM teammate Graig Cooper moments before the crash.

    Nicolas told his girlfriend to “hold on, it’s Cooper texting him,’’ Davis said. “Then she heard the crash. The second he took his eyes off the road the crash happened.’’

    “This is definitely a hard moment,’’ said Antrel Rolle, a New York Giants safety who grew up with fellow safety Nicolas and commissioned a painting, on an easel at the funeral, of Nicolas wearing his UM uniform on one side of the canvas and in his former New York Giants uniform on the other. “Very rarely do you find guys with such good character as JoJo Nicolas. He had a certain persona that could brighten anyone’s day.

    “It’s extremely unfortunate… but God makes no mistakes. By this happening I’m more than positive it saved the lives of a thousand others – myself, for example. It’s a tragic accident, just a simple text looking down. It just goes as a lesson: stay off your phone while driving. As we’ve seen, anything can happen in the blink of an eye.’’

    Rolle was one of several former Hurricanes who attended the funeral, among them Shayon Green, Matt Bosher, Ryan Hill, Sam Shields, Brandon McGee, Javarris James, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Richard Gordon and Bruce Johnson. Nicolas was buried afterward at neighboring GracelandCemetery in the Richmond Heights neighborhood.

    Coach Al Golden sat by himself in the church, with many of his assistants and other staff members nearby. Cooper attended, but chose not to comment.

    Team chaplains Steve DeBardelaben and Steve Caldwell were among about 300 churchgoers, with Caldwell delivering a short, but eloquent reflection.

    Caldwell asked everyone in the “UM family’’ to stand while he spoke, saying Nicolas, “the quiet storm,’’ was a strong leader and thanking his family “for loaning us a wonderful man.’’

   Nicolas is survived by 5-month-old son Jayden, Nicolas’ mother Sharon Grant, father Josselet Nicolas, and brothers Elliot Davis, Aaron Davis and Abner Davis. All except for Abner, of Jacksonville, are from the Homestead area.

   He also leaves his grandmother Carolyn Davis, several aunts and uncles and dozens of nieces, nephews and cousins.

   “Tragically he lost his son and there was nothing I could say to comfort him,’’ Elliot Davis said during the service, referring to the late baby Joseph, who was born four months premature in 2011 weighing 1 pound 4 ounces, and died Aug. 19, 2011. The baby’s photo leaned against Nicolas’ left arm in the coffin.

    “…God blessed him again with another son,’’ Davis said of Jayden, who was held by Nicolas’ mother during the service. “I look in his eyes and I see JoJo looking back at me and it’s remarkable. ...We still have him here with Baby Jayden. We still have him here.’’

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN