October 26, 2015

Hurricanes coaching search shouldn't be hard: make it Mario Cristobal, Butch Davis or Rob Chudzinski

It's time to give the people what they want.

Firing Al Golden was the first move.

Making the right hire -- and having him in place by Dec. 1 -- is the next, more important move.

This doesn't have to take that long either.

The list is pretty short: Mario Cristobal, Butch Davis or Rob Chudzinski.

That's what former players and local coaches were telling me this morning, less than 24 hours after Golden finally got the boot.

They want one of their own.

"I actually got calls from both Butch and Mario last night," newly minted University of Miami Hall of Famer Joaquin Gonzalez said. "They are both extremely interested. I am fortunate to have been coached by both. I think they would both assemble great coaching staffs, do amazing in recruiting, and restore the killer instinct in the program. Maybe there is a possibility where we get both... you never know.

"Butch wants to end his career associated with Miami, still has a lot to give. I would love to see him in some capacity on the new staff, maybe starting as the head coach and then transitioning to AD. The one thing I do know, he will put a great staff together. With Mario here, we would not lose a single recruit we wanted!

"If they bring a no name up and comer, they will be calling for Blake's head! This hire can solidify recruiting, ticket sales, and bring lore back into the program. All that would be left to do is win some damn games!"

And that's ultimately what this all comes down to.

The Hurricanes have been sub-standard for too long. Finding the guy to fix the problem doesn't have to be nearly as complicated as trying to get the players to figure out Mark D'Onofrio's defense.

"Butch or Chudzinski, that simple," former Hurricanes receiver Randal Hill said. "Butch has done it before. He led us through one of the toughest times in UM's history and put the program back on the map. I don't want to hear this stuff about him being responsible for what happened at North Carolina a couple years back. He was cleared of any wrongdoing, has the paperwork to prove it. The NCAA sent him a letter clearing him.

"Chud [currently the Colts associate head coach] is a younger version of Butch. I don't want to hear this stuff about how he wouldn't come back to coach in college because he's been in the NFL too long. They all would come back. They bled for this program. I'm close with both of those guys. Mario would be great too."

Miami Jackson coach Earl Little, who played safety for the Hurricanes, said UM's next coach can't be an outsider. It has to be "100 percent Hurricane."

He said the right fit will lead to immediate winning.

"The players are there," Little said. "Look at the kids who are NFL rookies this year. Talent will always be at The U. We need to get back to UM's 4-3 defense. We need to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball. That's Miami football.

"We need to play with more swagger. It kills me when I see other schools play with more swagger/energy than us. For instance: the Cincinnati game. Those kids look like Miami kids. You know why... their head coach [Tommy Tuberville] was my defensive coordinator at The U."

And that's ultimately the most important part of this next hire.

I'm talking about the coordinators and the assistants.

Golden may have been the 42nd highest paid coach in college football according to USA Today, but his assistants are another story.

I speak to enough people around college football to know the Hurricanes don't pay their assistants very well. I also know how to read.

Look at the list of assistants and where they've come from and the look at where former assistants have moved onto since leaving the program. Other than Jedd Fisch's move into an NFL offensive coordinator position, who else has climbed the ladder? Who else has been plucked from this staff over the last 10 years because they were doing an outstanding job?

I love Tim "Ice" Harris and Kevin Beard, two of the best, most passionate coaches on staff. But both came from local high school programs, and both came cheap. You could make those hires at some of the better programs in the country if you had other great assistants around them. The Hurricanes simply haven't had any.

"I'm with you, I like Mario," said Luther Campbell, Norland's defensive coordinator who knows a thing or two about UM's history and South Florida recruiting.

"They just have to give him enough money to pay coordinators. Mario would bring the same fire that Dan Campbell is bringing to the Dolphins. Plus, he would lock South Florida down."

Golden did an okay job recruiting South Florida. There's only so much an outsider could do with an off-campus stadium, NCAA sanctions and a recent string of losing as background. He tried. But he was never the right fit. His defensive system was never the right fit.

"First of all I want to thank Al Golden for all he has done for the high school coaches in the South Florida area. He did a great job in building tghe important relationships betweeh the U and the high school coaches," said Belen coach Rich Stuart, who became the winningest coach in Miami-Dade history on the same day Golden sustained the biggest loss in UM history.

"With that said, I would love to see Mario Cristobal as the new coach of the Canes."

Miami Hurricane recruits react to Al Golden firing

With the firing of Al Golden announced by UM Sunday evening, recruits reacted.

Wellington wide receiver Ahmmon Richards responded in the most extreme way. He decommitted Sunday night with this tweet.

*Three-star cornerback out of Hallandale Deion Jackson said the firing won't affect his commitment, but did say he felt the move was "stupid."

He added: "Golden was a good coach. He had chemistry with the team. He literally used to go on the field and work with the players himself.

"Golden brought a family together. He always used to say, 'This is not just a football program, it's a family.' Half of these college coaches don't care. They don't care. They don't even look some recruits in the eye when they speak to recruits. Golden did and always stayed on top of me with my grades and things like that.

"Other college coaches don't care about building chemistry. If you're good, they want you just to win."

*Jackson's teammate at Hallandale, running back Zack Moss, says the change doesn't affect his commitment.

"I didn't commit to the coaches," he says. "I just look at rosters, mainly my position."

*Lantana Santaluces linebacker Zach McCloud will take a wait-and-see approach. He doesn't have much time as he plans to be an early enrollee in January for the spring semester.

"To be honest, I'm waiting before I make any big decisions. My biggest concern in this process is my future with only three months to decide since I'll be an early enrollee," he says. "I'm not comfortable at the moment, still being patient, though. I want to make an informed decision."

*Four-star St. Thomas Aquinas wide receiver Sam Bruce, who was in attendance to watch UM's 58-0 debacle against Clemson and has also recently taken an Ohio State visit, when reached said: "No comment."

But Bruce later made his opinion known with the tweets below.

The latter of the two statements, of course, is in reference to UM wide receivers coach Kevin Beard who once coached Bruce at University School. 

*Fellow Aquinas wide receiver and legacy Cane commit Michael Irvin II voiced his displeasure with the decision earlier Sunday.

*Teammate at Aquinas and 2017 linebacker Tyler Dunning had no comment but did post this to Twitter.

*Dionte Mullins' mother posted this on Twitter, noting "#StillCommitted" at the end.

*2017 safety out of Jacksonville Bolles Ahman Ross said, "Committed to UM. I will, of course, evaluate the staff, but I am committed to UM."

*Four-star athlete Tyler Byrd out of Naples posted this.

*Nick Roberts, 2017 defensive back out of Orange Park Oakleaf, expressed similar sentiments in this post.

*Deltona assistant coach David Williams said of senior tight end/defensive end Evan Hinson: "We're staying committed on our end."

*Fort Lauderdale coach Richard Dunbar said of committed defensive end Jaquwan Nelson, "Jaquwan will stay committed to UM but will take all of his visits. Just not sure what the university is thinking at this point. That's very critical for him."

Dunbar is referring to whether the new staff that comes in will continue to recruit his three-star defensive end, which has recorded 66 tackles and 15 sacks on the year.

*The latest UM commit, 2018 wide receiver Daquris Wiggins, said: "I'm still committed."


October 24, 2015

Clemson hands UM its worst loss in school history; former players call for Al Golden's job

With Clemson crushing the Canes Saturday plenty of former players took to social media to express their disgust including newly minted UM Hall of Famer Joaquin Gonzalez.

Kaaya fails concussion test after being pummeled on sack, heads to locker room

Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya was sent back to the locker room after failing a concussion test on the sideline midway through the first quarter, WQAM reported. 

Kaaya was sacked and hit hard by Clemson fifth-year senior Shaq Lawson (6-3, 270) at the UM 36-yard line early in the second quarter. Lawson split two UM lineman on the left side of the line -- tackle Kc McDermott and guard Alex Gall -- to get to Kaaya. Clemson only rushed two defensive linemen on the play (see the video above).

Kaaya walked off the field under his own power before UM trainers performed a concussion test on him on the sideline as players held up towels to shield him. He failed it and returned to the locker room.

Backup Malik Rosier, a redshirt freshman, replaced Kaaya on UM's next offensive series with the Hurricanes already trailing 28-0.

Gameday blog: Miami Hurricanes vs. No. 6 Clemson Tigers

Live Blog Miami Hurricanes vs. Clemson Tigers: Oct. 24, 2015

Bring some gently used (or new) books to game today for homeless children


If you're going to the Clemson-Miami game at noon Saturday, please bring a couple of books -- or more -- to help Kenya Handfield with her 13th-birthday book drive.

The books can be gently used or new, and in English or Spanish or Creole, and intended for very little ones up to high school age.

Cane Moms United are helping  Kenya with her project. She wants to distribute the books to children throughout the homeless community. Kenya is a friend of the Cane Family and the Cane Moms are asking family, friends and fans to bring books to Sun Life Stadium.

Go to Gate H14 West with your books, please.

Kenya and her family will be there to receive the books. Please do not give any books to Cane Moms.


October 23, 2015

Ask the Clemson beat writer: five questions on the Miami-Clemson matchup


This week, Clemson beat writer Aaron Brenner from The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, was kind enough to give his perspective on Saturday's matchup. Follow Aaron on Twitter here.

SMD:  What makes quarterback Deshaun Watson so hard to defend, and how has his knee held up after ACL surgery last December? Has the knee hindered him at all in his run game?

 AB: Watson does many things at a high level, particular for the college game. Perhaps the pro quarterback Watson mimics the most is Russell Wilson, since he's one step past a dual threat - he's a triple threat, in that he can hand off to Wayne Gallman, tuck and run it himself or drop back and fire a quick pass. It's very difficult to scheme against, especially since Clemson has more than its share of athletes on the perimeter. He's also an improving deep thrower, and reads defenses very well for a kid who just turned 20. As for the knee, that was the hottest question all offseason, and even a lingering concern into the first game or two, but in ACC/Notre Dame play Watson has rushed 45 times for 195 yards and two scores over the course of four games, while absorbing some pretty big blows after runs and passes. He's fine - or as fine as any football player could be. Everyone's "injury-prone," as the label goes.

 SMD: Like Clemson’s Watson, the Hurricanes have a very good quarterback in Brad Kaaya. Clemson is tied for 12th in the nation in passing yards allowed. Can they stop Kaaya, and who are the players – including linemen – he most has to fear?

 AB: Yeah, that's what makes this matchup is fun, is we could see an aerial shootout break out between the ACC's premier young quarterbacks. I would say the key to success for Kaaya is completion percentage; his gross numbers are excellent, but completing just over three of five passes isn't exactly elite, and that's the area where Clemson's pass defense has thrived. (In fact, Miami's next two opponents - Clemson at 43.8 percent and Duke at 43.4 percent - have the second- and first-lowest opposing completion percentages in the country. Food for thought. Defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, and perhaps Lauderdale Lakes' own Richard Yeargin, will look to pin their ears back on Kaaya; so will Jayron Kearse (Fort Myers) on sporadic safety blitzes. Most ACC fans are aware of third-year sophomore cornerback Mackensie Alexander (Immokalee), but his bookend, Cordrea Tankersley, has really shined through one-half of a season. Kaaya might test 'Tank' further.

 SMD: UM’s starting middle linebacker, senior team captain and tackling leader went down with a season-ending knee injury last week and will be replaced by sophomore Juwon Young – making his first start. The Canes have lost three linebackers to season-ending injuries. Will Miami be able to handle RB Wayne Gallman and TE Jordan Leggett?

 AB: First-year Clemson OCs Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott (Arcadia) have pledged two things: stay true to Clemson's roots of fostering fast tempo, and let the gameplan come to them. When they see chances to throw it deep (like vs. BC), they'll plan to pass; and in weeks like this, against a Miami defense that's allowing 4.9 yards a carry, you could see a lot of Gallman carries. Gallman should be relatively fresh, after just 30 carries total the past two weeks following heavier workloads at Louisville and vs. Notre Dame. Leggett, a Navarre, Fla. product, has a touchdown in each of his last four games - yardages of 25, 6, 29, 8 and 6 - so he's the man to watch in the red zone. By the way, have you noticed the heavy Floridian impact on Clemson's roster?

 SMD: As you told me, Clemson is going for its 35th consecutive victory over an unranked opponent. Do you think the Tigers in any way feel wary about this Hurricanes team? Or do you figure they realize this isn’t the Miami it used to be, and strongly believe this game is a Clemson victory waiting to happen.

 AB: I'd say this: I don't think the Tigers are mentally overlooking the Hurricanes whatsoever, in part because their coaches brainwash Clemson (in a good way) with the one-game-season mentality, in part because of all the Florida products who want to show out tomorrow, and in part because it's a new challenge against a team the Tigers probably realize is perfectly capable of beating anyone. But telling yourself to bring your best every single game is different than actually doing it; if sports were in a vacuum, the favored team would win every game. So the energy is not something I'd question from Clemson at noon; the execution is something I'm dying to watch unfold in what is just Clemson's second road game of the season.

 SMD: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has a .720 winning percentage (67-26) with the Tigers as a head  coach. He has won at least 10 games in each of the past four seasons after posting a 6-7 record in 2010. How well loved is he and what are a few characteristics that make him so successful?

 AB: He was awkwardly loved until the afternoon of Nov. 29, 2014, when he finally beat those dastardly Gamecocks after five straight losses. Only then did the fanbase completely, totally embrace Dabo Swinney. It's not hyperbole to argue Clemson has been the most consistent team in the country during this recruiting cycle outside of Ohio State, Florida State and Alabama - which just so happen to be the past three national champions - since that quartet of teams brandish the best overall records since the start of 2012. There's one primary characteristic that got Swinney this far: recruiting. Ever since he lured C.J. Spiller to Clemson, that helped blow the doors open for going outside the state to grab Sammy Watkins from Fort Myers, Tajh Boyd from Virginia Beach, Christian Wilkins from Connecticut, etc. etc. Beyond that, he's a well-tuned CEO; he's comfortable with delegating, even having a relatively modest salary so he can pay top assistants like defensive coordinator Brent Venables to keep the Tigers among the ACC's best. 



New Unis for UM hoops...

In case you don't follow me on Twitter (shame on you!..just kidding...but you may want to add me to your list if you care about Canes hoops)...

The men's and women's teams had a Medium-Sized Reveal party last night, attended by UM basketball's biggest boosters. It wasn't quite the extravaganza at LIV that the football team got, but it was a nice affair -- with plenty of lovely appetizers.

Here is what the Canes will be wearing this season....


Be on the lookout early next week for my preview stories on the men's and women's teams.

It should be an interesting season with nearly everyone back, the addition of Oklahoma State transfer Kamari Murphy, and a leaner, quicker Ivan Cruz Uceda (he dropped 20 lbs and went from 24 percent body fat to 9 percent..I want to use his trainer!!)

The schedule has lots of big home games -- Dec. 1 vs. Nebraska, Dec. 8 vs. the Florida Gators, Dec. 29 vs. Princeton, Jan. 2 vs. Syracuse, Jan. 9 vs Florida State Seminoles, Jan. 25 vs. Duke, Feb. 3 vs. Notre Dame, Feb. 22 vs. Virginia and Feb. 27 vs. Louisville.

On the women's team, the Hurricanes are very excited (read: giddy) about the addition of "Double Dutch'' freshmen Laura Cornelius and Emese Hof. They are both members of the Netherlands youth national team, played in the U19 World Championship, and word is they are picking things up really quickly and poised to make an instant impact.

See you at the BUC!

---Michelle Kaufman

October 22, 2015

Jersey Mike leads the nation with 16 field goals, but UM will also need touchdowns to beat Clemson

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  Will it take a kicker to propel the Hurricanes to victory Saturday against No. 6 Clemson?

  You never know, especially with the way sophomore Michael Badgley is banging those field goals through the uprights.

   As Miami prepares for its noon home game against the Tigers (6-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), the Hurricanes (4-2, 1-1) aren’t only No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin.

    Badgley is No. 1 in two national rankings: field goals per game and field goals made – numbers that probably make coaches both happy and concerned, considering they’d like to punch in more touchdowns from the red zone.

    Badgley, a 5-11, 180-pounder from Summit, N.J., is averaging 2.67 field goals a game and has hit 16 of 19 attempts for an 84.2-percent accuracy rate.

   Badgley’s field goals include a 28-yarder against Nebraska that won the game for Miami in overtime. In that game he hit a career-high five field goals, tying a school record.

    He’s 10-for-10 for his career in field goals between 40-49 yards. He leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring, averaging 11.7 points per game, good for sixth in scoring in the NCAA.

  And there’s another Hurricanes kicker who continues to quietly excel: punter Justin Vogel, who this year earned a much-deserved scholarship.

  Vogel is third in the ACC in punting with a 45.4-yards-per-punt average.

   Nicholas Conte of Virginia leads the conference with his 46.4-yard average, followed by Duke’s Will Monday (46.0).

  For as well as Vogel is punting the ball, his teammates are struggling in punt return defense, ranking 116th of 127 FBS teams. The Canes are allowing an average of 14.2 yards per return.

  Turns out Clemson is not too good with punt returns, ranking 119th with a 2.31-yard average.

  But here's something at which Clemson is great: scoring defense. The Tigers are 10th in the nation by allowing an average of only 16.7 points a game.

  The Canes are 44th in scoring, averaging 33.7 points.


October 21, 2015

Up down, up down, up down, up down, up down, up down, up down, up down...

According to the Hurricanes, the amount of false starts and other penalties should decrease this week against sixth-ranked Clemson.

That remains to be seen, but the up-down punishment that the entire team decided on, according to lineman Kc McDermott on Wednesday, should do the trick.

Referees attended practice Wednesday to keep an eye on those committing penalties, which have been a major problem this season and have wiped out five touchdowns.

The Canes are ranked 104th nationally in "Fewest Penalties Per Game'' and 98th in "Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game.''

    Players have started doing up-downs for every penalty committed during games – 250 at a time for a game penalty and 50 for penalties in practice as position coach Art Kehoe watches his linemen.

   “I had to do some today,’’ guard Joe Brown said Wednesday, referring to a false start in practice. “You gotta get it done, right? We do it as soon as practice is over.

   “[Tuesday] we had I think eight guys doing up-downs for penalties. Some penalties we had this past game could have cost us.’’

   Brown said coaches let players chip in and contribute up-downs to help their teammates decrease their total.

   “A lot of us felt good about it,’’ he said, noting that it takes “probably 30 minutes’’ to do 250 of them.  

  How painful is that?

  "Ten is a lot," Brown said. "You've got to be a team player. A lot of us came over and said, 'We're going to do some for them.'"

           Fellow guard McDermott, who earned his first start against Virginia Tech, was one of the Canes penalized for a false start during the game.

   “It’s extremely hard, one of the hardest things to do,’’ McDermott said of the up-downs. “Regardless of who got the penalties, you watch one of your teammates sitting over there and he’s suffering doing one of the hardest things to do, you sit there and say, ‘If there’s any way I can help him out I’m going to help him out.’”

    Does the punishment make the players more timid during the game?

    “No, I don’t think it makes you more timid,’’’ McDermott said. “In the back of your mind you know if you mess up you’re going to pay for it. And also it helps the team out because ultimately these penalties are the things that have been killing us during games.

   “It’s got to stop.’’


October 20, 2015

Miami Hurricanes begin practice for sixth-ranked Clemson -- continue to mix-and-match OL combinations

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     The Hurricanes began practice for Clemson Tuesday, and we all know the Canes are still trying to figure out the right combination on the offensive line. Joe Yearby needs to be able to gain some yards against Clemson, which has the No. 22 rushing defense in the country.

   And though UM is 23rd nationally in sacks allowed, QB Brad Kaaya is still getting pressured and hit too much.

There were at least five combinations of offensive linemen I saw with Kaaya at quarterback during the media's first 15 minutes of viewing.

   Here are some of the combos that I saw, with a lot of switching going on between plays:

   Left tackle Trevor Darling, left guard Kc McDermott, center Nick Linder, right guard Joe Brown (for one play before he moved out and was replaced by Danny Isidora), right tackle Sunny Odogwu.

   Left tackle Odogwu, left guard McDermott, center Linder, right guard Brown, right tackle Danny Isidora.

   Left tackle Odogwu, left guard Alex Gall, center Linder, right guard Brown, right tackle Isidora.

   Left tackle McDermott, left guard Gall, center Linder, right guard Isidora, right tackle Odogwu.

   Left tackle Darling, left guard McDermott, center Gall, right guard Isidora, right tackle Odogwu.

  Brown also did some snapping with the backups.

   *** Freshman D-lineman R.J. McIntosh was getting his ankles taped extra heavily on the practice field. Coach Al Golden said yesterday on WQAM that McIntosh “has a little bit of an ankle.’’

    Golden cited Anthony Moten, Courtel Jenkins, Kendrick Norton, Chad Thomas and Quan Muhammad as freshmen or sophomores who “played really well’’ at Virginia Tech.


October 18, 2015

Raphael Kirby -- top-notch person and football player -- ends his career with knee injury


Feeling badly for Raphael Kirby, UM's middle linebacker who ended his season Saturday --and effectively, his college career -- in the third quarter against Virginia Tech when he sustained a severe right-knee injury running to make a tackle.

Kirby is a team captain and the biggest leader on defense, not to mention the leading tackler with 44 tackles -- 15 more than No. 2 tackler Jermaine Grace. He has always been a first-class young man on and off the field, and with the media -- very mature and willing to talk.

Kirby will have major surgery Wednesday. Coach Al Golden did not divulge the specifics of the injury.

"We are tremendously disappointed for Raphael Kirby,'' Golden said in a written statement, later saying on a teleconference with reporters that he was "crushed.

"He is the true definition of a leader in the field, in the community and in the classroom. His commitment to our team and our goals has been unquestioned over his career and he will be sorely missed. We will support Raphael through his recovery as we continue to lean on his leadership for our team.''

  Golden said tonight that he'll have outside linebacker/rush end Trent Harris help fill in for Kirby's absence. The new starting middle linebacker is Juwon Young, who did a fine job coming in for Kirby. Young had one of the Canes' three picks Saturday, and added four tackle in less than a quarter and a half. Harris is the Hurricane who recovered a fumble to set up Joe Yearby's rushing touchdown.

 UM previously lost sophomore linebackers Darrion Owens (knee) and Marques Gayot (neck) for the season, so this one is an especially huge blow.

 Linebacker already was a thin, young position, and with No. 6 Clemson (6-0, 3-0) coming to town to meet UM (4-2, 1-1) for a noon game Saturday, the Canes defense now has an even larger task ahead of it.



October 17, 2015

Rapid reaction: Canes beat Virginia Tech 30-20

Some quick post-game thoughts, notes and quotes from Saturday's 30-20 win over Virginia Tech: 

> KAAYA STEPPING UP: Brad Kaaya's performance was another example he's taking his game to the next level.

After throwing for a career-high 405 yards at Florida State in a tough 29-24 loss, Kaaya finished 19 of 30 for 296 yards and two touchdowns and did a pretty good job evading pressure when Virginia Tech threw it at him. He was sacked only once, but hit countless times.

Receiver Rashawn Scott, who caught both touchdown passes, said Kaaya is getting hit harder lately than he is.

"As a quarterback you've just got to be tough," Kaaya said afterward. "I wear my Kelly Tough shirt for a reason. I wore it today. I had it on last year at Homecoming. You've just got to be tough as a quarterback. As a quarterback there's a lot of things you can critique, but you can't really critique that. You're either tough or you're not. I have to sellout for my guys too. I know the receivers and the offensive line are all going to sell out for me. Joe Yearby is going to sell out on blocks. The receivers are going to lay out for me and I have to sell out and hang in there and make something out of nothing too."

Kaaya's season totals: 134 of 219 for 1,795 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception.

That means he's on pace for 3,590 yards, 20 touchdowns and two interceptions. The 3,590 yards would finish second only to Bernie Kosar's 3,642 yards as UM's single-season record. 

> RUNNING GAME STILL FLAT: UM's running game continues to struggle. After being held to 20 yards on 19 carries by FSU last week, UM managed only 99 yards Saturday on 39 attempts, a unsightly 2.5 average. Joe Yearby averaged 3.2 yards per carry and Mark Walton averaged 3.1 yards per carry.

That's not good when you consider Virginia Tech came in with the 97th-ranked run defense in the country.

UM obviously switched things up on its offensive line, inserting Kc McDermott and Joe Brown into the starting lineup for the first time in their careers. They rotated with the previous five starters: Trevor Darling, Alex Gall, Nick Linder, Danny Isidora and Sunny Odogwu. But it's not paying off much.

Kaaya is still getting hit and pressured. He was sacked only once Saturday. But still... this isn't good. Clemson, by the way, came into this weekend ranked 18th in run defense and 40th in sacks (18). 

“I feel like we have the right guys We’re rotating the right guys, so I’m going to let them sort it out - who wants to start, who played really well tonight who needs to improve and all that," coach Al Golden said of line. " I feel like we have more guys certainly than we did five or six weeks ago. Kc [McDermott] is really starting to look like himself right now, his conditioning, everything that he’s doing. And Joe [Brown] is making a lot of progress. I’m not disappointed with other guys, we just wanted to continue to push it forward.”

> STACY BEING STACY: Stacy Coley followed up his breakout performance at FSU with a team-leading four catch, 63-yard effort against the Hokies. He also had a 15-yard run on a reverse. That's a good sign. 

> STILL GIVING UP EXPLOSIVE PLAYS: Defensively, the Canes didn't look pretty in the explosive plays department, giving up seven plays of 20 yards or more against the Hokies. They came in having given up up 25 plays of 20 yards or more this season (68th). So, they're up to 32 now. Last year, UM gave up 39 plays of 20 yards or (fifth fewest).

Clemson's offense came into this weekend with 28 plays of 20-yards-or-more. That ranks 48th nationally.

> TURNOVER KINGS: The Hurricanes improved to 16-1 in the Al Golden era when forcing three-or-more turnovers. They produced four Saturday -- two interceptions by Artie Burns, one by Juwon Young and a fumble recovery by Trent Harris -- after having none at Florida State and only one at Cincinnati.

The Canes came into the game Saturday ranked third nationally in turnover margin at plus 9. They are at plus-13 now. Western Kentucky entered the weekend leading the nation at plus-13.

> BURNS GOES INTO SEAN TAYLOR TERRITORY: Speaking of Burns, he's first defensive player at UM with five interceptions in a season since Sean Taylor had 10 in 2003. For more context, the entire Hurricanes defense in 2008 only had four, fewest in the nation.

“I’m just trusting my technique," he said when asked why he's having more success with interceptions. "I’ve been working on my craft over the offseason, getting better with ball control and stuff like that, and making plays.”

> LOSING KIRBY, GAINING YOUNG?: Losing leading tackler and defensive captain Raphael Kirby is going to hurt the Canes. But I wouldn't put it past sophomore Juwon Young in being more than capable of filling Kirby's shoes.

He entered the game with 6:54 to go in the third quarter, racked up four tackles and made a key interception that led to a field goal. His teammates seem to have a lot of confidence in him.

"He's going to probably be in the meeting tomorrow right there coaching them boys," receiver Rashawn Scott said of Kirby. "That's one thing -- the person behind him, he coached him real good. We trust him."

Young is pretty confident in himself too.

“I've got to be the captain," Young said. "That’s it. Point, blank, period. I’m the [mike] of the defense. I’m the quarterback of the defense, so I got to give the calls, the checks and all that.”

> PENALTY PROBLEMS: The Canes were flagged nine times for 81 yards in Saturday's win. It continues to be a problem, but Golden said he's left in the hands of his captains to handle from now on.

"That's on us," Kaaya said. "We were on them all week. We still had some penalties today and its something we have to correct. Coaches have already done enough with penalties and showing us film of stuff. At this point its got to be on us. They can't get out there with us and make sure we don't jump off sides. Coach can't run out there with us and say 'Hey Trevor [Darling] don't jump on this play.' It's got to be on us, it's got to be on the captains. 

"It's got to be on Nick [Linder], Alex [Gall], on Joe [Yearby], on Stacy [Coley] on Rashawn [Scott], just all the guys on the line on both sides of the ball. That last penalty we had in the red zone, we can't have that. I know Scotty was pumped up. I was pumped up too. But we can't have those in those situations. But we'll go back at it next week."

Canes linebacker Raphael Kirby exits in third quarter with what appears to be serious right knee injury

The Miami Hurricanes lost leading tackler, defensive captain and starting inside linebacker Raphael Kirby with what appeared to be a serious right knee injury with 6:54 left in the third quarter Saturday against Virginia Tech.

Kirby's right knee buckled as he ran over to try and make a tackle on Virginia Tech tight end Kevin Cline in the flat. Kirby quickly signaled for UM trainers to come over and help him before the play was even over. Trainers helped Kirby off the field and when he reached the training table he slammed his first against it in anger.

WQAM sideline reporter Josh Darrow said the iniury did not look good and that Kirby had tears in his eyes as teammates came over to console him. Darrow said Kirby would not return to action. 

The Hurricanes are already thin at linebacker. UM lost Darrion Owens to a season-ending knee injury against FAU and then backup Marquis Gayot to a neck injury for an undetermined amount of time after he was hurt in practice a few weeks ago. 

Gameday blog: Miami Hurricanes vs. Virginia Tech Hokies

Live Blog Miami Hurricanes vs. Virginia Tech: Oct. 17, 2015

October 16, 2015

Injury update and five questions on this weekend's matchup by Virginia Tech beat writer Andy Bitter

I hope Roanoke Times writer Andy Bitter, who covers Virginia Tech football, is already on the beach -- although now I notice that it's raining in Miami. You hate to hear that.

Before he hopped on the plane, Andy answered five questions about the Hokies in advance of Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game at Sun Life Stadium.

Follow Andy Bitter here on Twitter. 

Here's Virginia Tech's injury report per Andy. Please note that the Hurricanes do not provide us anymore with an injury report, though Al Golden for the most part does a good job of letting us know what's happening injury-wise. They're all coaches, so take it for what it's worth.

I expect Nick Linder (neck/shoulder/trapezius) to play -- or at least try playing. Not so sure about NT Kendrick Norton (ankle) and OLB Demetrius Jackson (cut on foot).

1. Quarterback Michael Brewer sounds close to being back. Will he play this week or will it be Brenden Motley again?

AB: It’s anybody’s guess, really, and I don’t think whatever they say on Thursday’s injury report will be any indication of whether or not Brewer will play. He was probable last week, which in theory means he had a 75 percent chance to play, but he told us this week that they scratched him from the game about a day or two in advance. He broke his left collarbone, so it’s a matter of how quickly the bone heals. There’s not much you can do to rush back from that. He had a plate and six screws put in there, but he has to demonstrate that he take a hit before they’ll put him on the field. He got knocked onto some mats this week by the trainer to get used to that again. But a 160-pound trainer pales in comparison to a 300-pound lineman, so he has a ways to go.

Tech can at least bank on the fact that Motley has been pretty good in Brewer’s place. Not many saw this coming, but Motley’s 1,213 total yards of offense are third in the ACC, his 13 touchdowns accounted for are second to Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas and his 10 passing touchdowns are second to Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Heading into the season, each and every Hokies fan would have taken those numbers from Brewer, let alone his backup. There are still things Motley’s seeing for the first time. That was evident when he struggled against Pitt, throwing three picks and for fewer than 100 yards. But he can do things with his feet that Brewer can’t. The Hokies’ offense looks a little different with Motley in the game, with all sorts of read plays, designed QB runs and the potential for scrambling. At this point, even if Brewer is able to play, splitting time with both of them wouldn’t surprise me.

2. Is tailback Travon McMillian’s emergence last week a sign of things to come for the running game or will Virginia Tech continue to split carries?

AB: The fans had called for a larger role for McMillian for a while. He was averaging 7.0 yards per carry in the first five games, got the bulk of carries last week against N.C. State and his average actually went up to 7.4 after he ran for 96 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown that gave Tech some breathing room. He’ll start this week, although the Hokies’ coaches said they haven’t closed the door on Trey Edmunds and J.C. Coleman. Neither of those players have McMillian’s knack for making plays. however. He’s 6-feet, 198 pounds and is plenty athletic. A former high school quarterback, he’s only been playing running back for a little over a year, but his vision and cutting ability seems to come natural. The Hokies’ offensive line remains a work in progress, so having a running back that can make something out of nothing is always a huge plus.

The Hokies said they were going to pare down the running back rotation last week, which they did. McMillian got 11 carries, fullback Sam Rogers got eight and Edmunds and Coleman got none. I don’t know if it will be that extreme this week -- I’d imagine Edmunds and Coleman won’t get shut out again -- but I think there’s a clear mandate coming from the top to get the team’s best play-makers more touches. And McMillian is the best play-making back in the group.

3. The Hokies had a touted defensive line coming into the year. Is that group living up to its billing?

AB: It was pretty touted, with all four of the starters on the line -- ends Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem and tackles Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall -- being named to the Nagurski Trophy watch list in the summer. But their production hasn’t nearly matched that hype. That’s not to say the group has played poorly, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Through five games, Nicolas and Ekanem, who had 18.5 sacks last year, didn’t have a sack between them. Ekanem got off the schneid last week with 1.5 sacks. Nicolas, who has played with a broken hand and jammed fingers, still doesn’t have one, despite a handful of plays last week where he had the quarterback in his clutches. He’s simply having a hard time wrapping up. Maddy’s played pretty well in his second shot at a senior season after getting a medical redshirt, but Marshall’s been nicked up all year, first with a foot injury and lately with a hamstring pull that’s kept him out essentially for the last two games. Woody Baron’s filled in well in his absence and actually leads the d-line with six TFLs and three sacks, but Marshall is a disruptive guy inside if he’s able to play.

The big question with this line is how it will hold up against a bigger offensive line. None of them are all that big. Nicolas is a 223-pound end. Marshall and Woody are 266 and 274 pounds, respectively, at tackle. Even Maddy, the heaviest of the group, is 282 pounds -- big, but not necessarily a massive nose tackle type. That’s part of Tech’s goal on defense: be small, be fast and rely on quickness to fill gaps and disrupt plays. But it doesn’t work at times against massive offensive lines, and the Hokies showed that trouble against Miami last year when the ‘Canes steamrolled them for 364 rushing yards. Duke Johnson had a lot to do with that, but so did a pretty big, pretty physical offensive line.

 4. How will Virginia Tech’s secondary handle a strong Miami passing attack, especially without All-American cornerback Kendall Fuller?

AB: It’ll be a challenge, and perhaps the key to the game for Virginia Tech. Losing Fuller for the year with a torn meniscus was a huge blow, not just from how outstanding of a player he was (he’s projected as a first-rounder next year if he goes pro, even with the injury) but for easing any kind of concerns on the back end. Free safety Chuck Clark leads the ACC with 51 tackles and cornerback Brandon Facyson is a veteran who is rounding back into form after missing last year with a stress fracture. But the other three starters in the Hokies’ nickel package are freshmen -- cornerback Terrell Edmunds, nickelback Mook Reynolds and safety Adonis Alexander. All three have shown some things, but they’re also prone to freshman moments.

Alexander and Reynolds are true freshmen, having enrolled last winter. Alexander reminds the Hokies’ coaching staff a little bit of Kam Chancellor, and he jumped into a starting role in Week 2, but he’s still going to have his ups and downs. Against N.C. State last week, his didn’t make a correct check on a pass play and was late to cover a tight end down the field, leading to a touchdown. But he also notched his third interception late in the game, jumping high to snag a Jacoby Brissett pass along the sideline to clinch the win. You take the good with the bad if you’re Virginia Tech because there are not a lot of options. Donovan Riley and Desmond Frye are veteran guys who could play a couple positions, but they’ve been nicked up. It seems the Hokies are content just putting their young guys out there and seeing if they can handle it. This week will be as stiff of a test as they’ll face. 

 5. Is the end near for Frank Beamer?

AB: It’s a good question, and I don’t think anyone outside of Beamer really knows the answer. He’ll turn 69 later this month, had throat surgery last December that limited him in the leadup of the bowl game and caused him to lose a lot of weight and the program hasn’t lived up to its billing for three-plus years now. The Hokies won 10-plus games in every season from 2004-11. Since then, Tech’s only 25-20, needing wins in the final game of the regular season twice in the last three years just to qualify for a bowl. Both Beamer and athletic director Whit Babcock came out last winter with a joint statement saying they’re not content with how the football program has performed lately and that more was expected. Yet the Hokies sit at 3-3 this year, with puzzling losses to East Carolina and Pittsburgh. It’s more of the same.

There’s obviously more to Beamer’s situation than just looking at how the team has performed lately. You’re talking about someone who made this program what it is today. Nobody’s talking about a 22-year bowl streak or seven conference championships or the great facilities upgrades that Tech has had, including a $21.3 million indoor facility, without Beamer’s contributions. It’s not a good idea to simply kick somebody like that to the curb. But this is also a bottom line business, and the Hokies aren’t winning as much as they’d like. Beamer has always said that’s he’s aware of sticking around too long. He doesn’t want to be a detriment to the program, something Steve Spurrier, who is 1½ years Beamer’s senior, mentioned recently during his resignation press conference. That said, he’s a competitor too. And he more than anyone wants to get this program back to the level it was once at. I also think he would like to coach at the game against Tennessee at the Bristol Motor Speedway next year and at Notre Dame, a couple of career highlights that would be nice to add. If he goes 8-4 or 9-3 this year (which is admittedly a stretch), I think he can make that decision himself. If he goes 7-5 or 6-6 or, gasp, worse, then I think he and Babcock will have a long conversation about the future of this program after the season.





October 14, 2015

Everyone back at Hurricanes practice Wednesday, three days before Virginia Tech

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 The news from Wednesday morning practice revolved around the return of the three players who missed practice Tuesday.

Back were 6-3, 318-pound freshman nose tackle Kendrick Norton (sprained ankle) in a yellow, limited jersey; 6-5, 248-pound redshirt freshman outside linebacker Demetrius Jackson (out of Miami Booker T. Washington High); and 6-3, 302-pound sophomore center Nick Linder (out of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High).

   Jackson, “who has a little cut on his foot that we’re dealing with, kind of a day-to-day thing,’’ according to coach Al Golden yesterday, was in a regular black jersey but was limping.

   Linder has a neck/shoulder/trapezius injury, according to Golden, and was taking part in drills and snapping to quarterback Brad Kaaya.

   Norton has been wearing a boot around campus but wasn’t wearing one for practice.

   The offensive lines were left tackle Trevor Darling, left guard Kc McDermott (first team) and Alex Gall (second team), center Linder, right guard Danny Isidora and right tackle Sunny Odogwu.




October 13, 2015

After sickly running performance at FSU, Miami Hurricanes change offensive line in practice

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   It’s pretty obvious the University of Miami’s offensive line is a work in progress, and that
Joe Yearby (15 rushes, 33 yards, 6-yard longest run) could barely get an inch running against FloridaState.

   And it’s pretty obvious coach Al Golden and offensive line coach Art Kehoe need to try something different. The Canes have dropped to 98th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 143.8 yards a game.

 The Hurricanes ran for 20 net yards Saturday (1.1 yards-per-rush average) at FSU.

    The bright spot: they are 18th in passing offense, averaging 309.8 yards, and ranked 29th nationally in sacks allowed. However, quarterback Brad Kaaya has been hit several more times than the six sacks the Hurricanes have allowed (for a loss of 42 yards).

  So, Golden and company did alter the offensive line Tuesday during our 15 minutes of practice viewing – the first practice for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. Virginia Tech game (ESPNU).

   The Hokies, thankfully for UM, are ranked 96th in rushing defense but 11th in passing yards allowed. They are 43rd nationally in sacks.

   First team at practice: left tackle Trevor Darling, left guard Kc McDermott, center Alex Gall, right guard Joe Brown, right tackle Danny Isidora.

   Second team at practice: left tackle Tyree St. Louis, left guard Tyler Gauthier, center Hunter Knighton, right guard Brown, right tackle Sunny Odogwu.

   Starters against FloridaState: left tackle Darling, left guard Gall, center Nick Linder, right guard Isidora, right tackle Odogwu.

    Missing from practice: center Nick Linder, who, according to Golden injured his “neck/shoulder/trapezius” during FSU game.  That’s not good, as Linder is one of the line’s better players.

    Also missing Tuesday: nose tackle Kendrick Norton, who sprained his ankle.

   The very good news: receiver Stacy Coley was at practice seemingly full go. Coley is the ACC receiver of the week who finished the FSU game with a career-high seven receptions and 139 yards, not to mention the spectacular touchdown catch that put UM ahead briefly in the fourth quarter.

   More good news: linebacker Jermaine Grace, who has had several injuries this season and had a career-high nine tackles at FSU, was full go Tuesday morning.




October 12, 2015

Stacy Coley earns ACC Player of the Week honors; Kaaya on midseason watch list for Player of Year

Stacy coley
No doubt Stacy Coley isn’t celebrating over this honor, but nonetheless his performance Saturday at Florida State was encouraging and outstanding.

Coley, a Hurricanes junior wide receiver, was named Atlantic Coast Conference Receiver of the Week on Monday following Miami’s 29-24 loss to the Seminoles.

Coley, from Pompano Beach and NortheastHigh School, had a career-high seven receptions and 139 yards – the first time he has surpassed 100 yards receiving. His 38-yard touchdown, a beauty in the left corner of the end zone, gave the Hurricanes a 24-23 fourth-quarter lead over FSU.

That lead lasted less than four minutes, however, as Miami native Dalvin Cook’s 23-yard run sealed the victory for the Seminoles. Cook, who had another amazing performance Saturday (22 carries for 222 yards and two rushing touchdowns, with one receiving touchdown), was also named an ACC Player of the Week on Monday.

Coley's performance was especially encouraging because of the lingering hamstring injury he had since the summer, and because of the overall injury and performance struggles he has had since a terrific freshman year.

*** Kaaya Named to Midseason Watch List

   UM quarterback Brad Kaaya, who had a career-high 405-yards passing (and three touchdown passes) at FSU, was among the 32 players on the 2015 Midseason Watch List for the College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Year Trophy.

  The list includes 23 quarterbacks and nine running backs.

   Kaaya is one of four National Performer of the Year candidates from the ACC. The others are quarterbacks Deshaun Watson of Clemson, Thomas Sirk of Duke and tailback Cook of FSU.

*** ACC Waiting to Release Game Time

  The ACC is waiting until after the Virginia Tech game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Sun Life Stadium to release the game time for the Oct. 24 Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC) game at Sun Life. Clemson is ranked fifth in the nation by the AP.


October 10, 2015

Blake James on Al Golden's future: "We'll look at everything at the end of the year and make an evaluation"

TALLAHASSEE -- University of Miami athletic director Blake James said nothing has changed in terms of Al Golden's status as head coach of the Hurricanes and nothing will change regardless of the outcome of Saturday night's game at Florida State.

"I'm excited about tonight," James said about an hour before kickoff when asked about UM's first loss of the season at Cincinnati on Oct. 1.

"Obviously when you bring Miami and Florida State together any time it's an exciting night. Our guys have to play better to win. We saw that last Thursday night. We didn't play to the level we needed to to win and I'm confident we're going to have a great performance and I'm looking forward to having a great game."

Could Golden be fired if UM loses ugly to Florida State?

"As I said from the very start, we'll look at everything at the end of the year and make an evaluation," James said. "Again, I think the thing you have to look at is if you lose tonight how many games do you have left? [What if] you win all the rest of your games? That's why you always have to evaluate at the end of the year."

Were more boosters upset than usual after the Cincinnati loss?

"We have a very passionate fan base," James said. "So any time we lose there's feedback. There's feedback when we win a lot of times. I fully expect I'll get emails post game tonight whether we win or lose. Obviously everyone wants to win and no one wants to win more than the guys in that locker room. I'm confident in that and I'm confident our fans want to see us get a win tonight. I recognize their passion, appreciate their passion. I want to see us win just as much as all them do."

> New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who has donated millions to UM over the years, was on the field pregame visiting with James and other UM sideline guests.

Rodriguez attended the UM-FSU game in Tallahassee two years ago as well.