January 12, 2015

"Money Mot'' named Natl Player of Week

UM guard Adrienne Motley, nicknamed "Money Mot'', was definitely on the money last week, and it didn't go unnoticed. She was named ESPN-W National Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 32 points against No. 4 Notre Dame and 22 against Virginia Tech. She shot 68 percent against the Irish and had eight rebounds against the Hokies.

The Canes are 13-3, 3-0 ACC, and surely will break into the Top 25 today. Now, if only they could get more fans -- and students -- to show up at their games.

--Michelle Kaufman

January 11, 2015

Jim Larranaga: UM football players Corn Elder & D'Mauri Jones walking on to Hurricanes basketball

Hurricanes cornerback Corn Elder of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, starred in football and basketball at The Ensworth School in Nashville -- leading Ensworth to three state titles in each sport.

Elder, 20, a rising junior whose scholarship is with the football team, had a goal of playing both sports when he came to UM as a true freshman in 2013. But he tore the meniscus of his right knee against Virginia in November 2013, underwent surgery, and had to temporarily let the basketball dream linger while he rehabilitated and got stronger for football.

Now, fully healed with a complete 2014 football season behind him (in addition to 10 games in 2013), Elder is, indeed, in the process of walking on to the Miami men's basketball team, as confirmed Sunday night by basketball coach Jim Larranaga.

Also in the process of joining the team as a walk-on is 6-4, 196-pound rising junior receiver D'Mauri Jones of Leesburg, Fla. Like Elder, Jones goes to UM on a football scholarship.

A UM spokesman said both players are not yet on the basketball roster, nor will they  will travel to Duke on Tuesday. 

"One of the keys to our success is game preparation,'' Larranaga told our Michelle Kaufman tonight. "Corn Elder and D'Mauri Jones can really help us in that category. They are two terrific young men and great athletes. We greatly appreciate Al Golden and his staff for allowing them to join us at this time.'' 

Cornelder

Elder, a former star point guard, recently told The Tennessean while he was home for winter break: "I'm not sure at this point [about joining the basketball team]. "I'll see how I feel once I get back. I want to sit down with Coach, kind of take it from there.''

 Elder also said in the story: "It's a lot tougher playing both sports because the football season is so much longer in college than it is in high school. It's just something I'm going to have to really think hard about.''      

  The UM hoops team is now 11-4 overall and 1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It travels to Durham, North Carolina, to face the Blue Devils at 9 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2).

    Elder told the paper he's "looking forward to next season'' in football. This year he finished with 34 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, two fumble recoveries and four pass breakups.

   "I had a pretty good football season, but I feel like I could have played better,'' he said.

  When I interviewed Elder this past season, he told me he "loves'' both sports, "but I think I have a higher ceiling in football. ...Right now I'm just focusing on all football.''

  Elder was obviously undersized in football, at "about 175 pounds'' on his 5-10 frame last August (the UM bio said 182 then and now says 188). He was clocked last summer with a 4.46-second average after running two 40-yard dashes -- the fastest time for a UM defensive back. He was a star running back in high school.

   "He has good athleticism, he can flip his hips and has good body control and is very fast,'' UM defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio told me about Elder. "And the thing that was surprising in the beginning was he was also very willing to be physical having really not played defense before."

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

    

 

  

January 09, 2015

Booker T. Washington star running back Mark Walton looking forward to becoming a Hurricane

Mark Walton said he's always been a diehard Hurricanes fan. So becoming a Cane soon will be easy.

"No matter what record we had, what record we finished with, I was always a University of Miami fan," the 17-year-old Booker T. Washington running back said on Wednesday. "Edgerrin James was my favorite player."

Walton got a chance to meet James at the Florida State game back on Nov. 15. 

"He didn't know I was committed and he asked me what position I played," Walton said. "I told him running back. He started telling me, 'This is a great place for you. You've got the ability to change your family's life.' I said, 'Did you regret going to the University of Miami?' He said, 'Not at all, that's a decision he made and it was the best decision he made his whole life, and it helped change his whole life."

Walton is looking forward to following in James' footsteps soon. A UM commitment since Sept. 29, 2013 (he's the second-longest commitment in the 2015 class), Walton said this week that barring any major coaching changes in Coral Gables (and even that might not be enough) he plans to sign with the Hurricanes on Feb. 4. 

Miami has been his dream school since he was little. Walton said he does have visits lined up to go to Louisville, West Virginia and Georgia after visiting UM this weekend. But he says that's really just in case he has to turn to Plan B.

"The reason I'm going to the University of Miami is because I feel like me, coach Ice, coach Golden and [offensive coordinator James] Coley have a great relationship," Walton said. "Being around them, I love their energy. I think we have a great relationship more than any coach that is recruiting me."

One of six children, Walton said he's been raised by his mother Kimberly Rogers for most of his life. Walton said his father, Mark Walton Sr., was murdered when he was about seven or eight years old -- after his parents were already separated. 

"He was stabbed in the heart by his girlfriend," Walton said. "It affected me big time. I knew he wanted me to do the right things in life and keep my head focused. That's my motivation in life, make my mom happy, the way she treats me. She broke her back for me. I want to make her happy at the end of the day."

Listed at 5-10, 179 pounds, Walton ran for 1,470 yards and 22 touchdowns this season on 203 carries and also caught 24 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns. His high school career numbers (2,769 yards rushing, 45 touchdowns; 36 catches, 462 yards, 7 TDs) would have continued to go up next season had Walton not worked hard to rejoin the 2015 class.

After being held back in the third grade, Walton said he made it his goal when he got to high school to rejoin his class and graduate on time. So he said he did a lot of virtual school over the summer to catch up. He went from starting the school year as a junior in the Class of 2016 to being moved up to a senior and the class of 2015 once his virtual school credits went into effect. 

Coach Tim Harris Jr., a University of Miami grad and the son of UM running backs coach Ice Harris, said the Tornadoes are definitely going to miss Walton's leadership next year. 

Teammate Devante Davis, a Texas commitment and star cornerback also visiting UM this weekend, said Walton was the player everyone rallied around this season when times got tough because he "brought the swag to the team."

"I see a little bit of Duke [Johnson] in him," Harris Jr. said of Walton. "But in all honesty without the track speed Duke has. I also see a little Clinton Portis with the patience, the running, the vision. Then you see the explosiveness of Willis [McGahee] when he was there." 

Harris Jr. said Walton also adds another valuable dimension to the Canes -- superior pass catching ability out of the backfield.

"Being in our system he had an opportunity to add to his game as a receiver," Harris Jr. said. "That dynamic of him taking it to that offense down there can help them open up even more. For us, there were many times he lined up at receiver in one-on-one situations. He's confident he can be an outside threat while also being a running back."

As a runner, Harris Jr. said Walton can handle all phases: "he can run outside, he can pound you and he run it inside."

"At the end of the day, Mark is a playmaker who wants it on his back when things get tough," Harris Jr. said. "You can't coach that in kids.

"The big games we had this year, Mark was that calming factor not only for the players, but even us, the guys on the coaching staff. There were some games he would come to me and say 'Coach, don't worry about it. We're in tough situations, give it to me, I've got it.' I would tell him, 'They're stacking the box. You're not going to be able to do too much.' He would say, 'Coach I got it, I'll figure out how to run against them.' That happened in two of our tough games at the end of the season. Our trusting him and believing in him with his growth over the years, he's made sure to make those things pay off."

One thing Walton wants on his back when he arrives in Coral Gables is helping change the culture around UM. He's not big into losing. After all, he's won three state titles at Booker T. Washington in three high school seasons. So he has no idea what it's like to walk off the field a loser at the end of a season.

"From my conversations with Brad Kaaya I know he wants to change it around," Walton said. "I just want to go in, bring the team together as a family and just let these guys know we've got to win. It's time for the University of Miami to be back. Let's bring more energy. Let's start winning, get all the negativity out, make our fans happy. Do it the right way, win."

Catching up with Coach L...

It’s always fun to attend Coach Jim Larranaga’s press conferences because he is loquacious, has great perspective, loves to teach basketball to anyone who cares to listen, and often goes off on interesting tangents.

Here are some snippets from Friday’s media gathering, as the Canes (10-4), coming off a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Virginia, prepare to face Boston College (7-6) at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

On the starting lineup for Saturday’s game: “We’ll change the lineup.’’ For 13 games, the starters were Angel Rodriguez, Manu Lecomte, Sheldon McClellan, Joe Thomas and Tonye Jekiri. Against Providence, Omar Sherman started instead of Thomas. Coach L mentioned that during the Virginia game, he liked the lineup of Rodriguez, McClellan, Jekiri, DeAndre Burnett and Omar Sherman. Will he go with those 5? Stay tuned.

On Katie Meier, whose UM women’s team stunned No. 4 Notre Dame 78-63 Thursday night, the first time in 62 games the Irish lost to an unranked team: “Katie Meier was the second person I spoke to at UM when I took the job. (Athletic director) Shawn Eichorst was the first. I said I’d like to speak to Katie Meier. She was National Coach of the Year, already led UM to an ACC title. She has a great understanding of what a coach has to do in every category from relationship-building on campus to relationships with high school and AAU coaches, basketball strategy, recruiting, public relations. She is very, very well-thought of. Everybody that is familiar with the women’s side of the game is familiar with Katie Meier and the incredible job she has done here.’’

Asked to switch gears to his team, he broke into a smile and joked:  “Can’t we stay on the women’s team?’’

On overcoming the Virginia loss: “It was very painful after the game Saturday night. It was painful all day Sunday. By the time we practiced on Monday, the pain had changed to anger. I was angry, not at our players, not at my coaches or myself, just angry we lost. I wanted to use that angriness to fuel myself and my team.’’

On the new partnership between UM and Adidas: “It creates some excitement coaches are sharing with the players. (Kids asked how they will benefit) Instead of just white, green, orange, black uniforms, we’re gonna have retro uniforms, gray uniforms. We’re gonna outfit you, more travel outfits…because players, just like all of us, like gear.

“My wife has 500 pairs of shoes, not as many as my players have in sneakers.

On how the Adidas deal affects recruiting: “How do we take that announcement and put that to good use and create an advantage for ourselves in the recruiting process? One thing I’ve shared with our point guard recruits is take a look at the NBA, who’s wearing Adidas, three of the best -- Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose and John Wall. They’re in Adidas. We’ve had Shane (Larkin), Angel (Rodriguez) and now Sheldon (McClellan), great guards. If Adidas is good enough for them, there’s no reason you can’t come to UM and have that same kind of success.’’

On when the obsession with sports branding began: “It started around 1967. Almost every college basketball team was in canvas Converse. First school I can remember not wearing canvas Converse was UCLA, and they were winning national championships wearing Adidas. Those shoes became very popular and kids started buying them. Shoes of champions. Nike took that idea and said, `Hey’ let’s get some college kids in our Nikes. They created an advisory board of college coaches and paid them and provided their universities with product. Free shoes. The AD was benefiting, coach was hugely benefiting, lining his pockets with cash, players were benefiting with free multiple shoes.

“When I was in college, you bought your canvas Converse. No one gave them to you. You had one pair all season. Now kids wear a pair for a week.''

By Michelle Kaufman

How the Hurricanes lost a couple of recruiting battles at Miami Central this season

Last year the University of Miami was able to snag two of the three elite prospects from Miami Central High School -- running back Joseph Yearby and offensive tackle Trevor Darling. 

And they lost a tough one to national champion Florida State, which snagged Mr. Florida Football Dalvin Cook.

This year, the Hurricanes weren't able to get commitments from either of the two players it really wanted at Central, which won its fourth state championship in five seasons and third in a row in Class 6A.

Receiver Da'Vante Phillips, an Under Armour All-American, opted to follow his close friend Cook to Florida State and is already enrolled in Tallahassee. And running back/receiver Anthony Jones stuck with his commitment to FIU over a late offer from the Hurricanes.

Wednesday, I caught up with Rockets coach Roland Smith, a former Hurricane himself, to find out why in his opinion his alma mater wasn't able to win the recruiting war for either player and why the Canes weren't necessarily interested in a few other players at Central.

"My kids are still intrigued by the University of Miami, but I knew it was going to be hard for the kid they were trying to get in Phillips because of the strong ties he had with Dalvin Cook," Smith said. "When Dalvin was committed to Florida a couple years ago, Da'Vante committed to Florida. When Dalvin decommitted, Da'Vante decommitted. Then, even though Da'Vante was intrigued by Miami, I think the temptation and friendship he had with Cook is why he went to FSU. Da'Vante knew he probably had a better opportunity to go in and contribute right away at Miami, but I think the relationship with Cook, plus the opportunity to play for FSU played a big part in it too.

"When you're winning, kids are very impressionable you know. That plays a big part of it too. When you're winning everybody wants to be a part of a winning program. And right now FSU has been winning and getting the fruit of their labor for winning. Miami is just going after kids they think can help their program out."

Right now, the Canes have commitments from just two of the 16 players from Dade and Broward who played in the three major All-American games: St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett (U.S. Army All-American) and Miami Killian safety Jaquan Johnson (U.S. Army All-American, already enrolled).

"That number is real low. It should be higher," Smith said. "But it is what it is. I work for Miami Central, not the University of Miami. In order for Miami to get back to where we were we've got to keep these local kids home. They've tried. It's not for a lack of effort. From the staff on down, the head coach, coordinators, assistant coaches, they're doing a hell of a job trying. But to get over the hump you've got to win those big games. This year we weren't able to pull off the big ones like Florida State, Nebraska. Kids these days are more impressionable. It seemed like to me like when we were coming up, when Melvin Bratton, Alonzo Highsmith decided to go to UM, Miami wasn't dominant either, but those guys wanted to turn the program around and put it on the map. Nowadays it seems like the kids look forward to going to programs that are winning, already established, not trying to build something. And that's kind of surprising to me."

Running back Anthony Jones, the MVP of this year's state championship game, was offered late by the Hurricanes. 

"I think he stuck with FIU because he has a chance to do a lot more things that he probably wouldn't be able to do at Miami," Smith said. "FIU is giving him an opportunity, putting a package in for him where he could be a running back, receiver, wildcat, do things on special teams. Plus, an opportunity to help change the program around too and be the man too. That's the only reason he stayed with them because he liked the opportunity at Miami. They were intrigued by his playmaking ability and said he could have been a special kid that helped them out at slot receiver or running back. Brennan Carroll, James Coley, Ice [Harris], they all made a strong push. It was late, but they made a strong push to try and get him. It's just he had a better chance to be in more packages at FIU than any other program."

Did it surprise Smith FIU beat out UM for Jones?

"Well, Cincinnati was saying the same thing," he said. "They would have rather lost the kid to Miami rather than lose him to FIU. I've had kids pick Division I-AA schools over Division I schools. I had a coach one time fussing with me because a kid picked Howard over Eastern Michigan. I said, coach that's the kid's decision. Sometimes guys think because of the schools they're from that will win the kid over, but it's the relationship the kid develops and the opportunity they have to play somewhere. A lot of people asked him are you sure this is what you want to do? It was tough for Anthony. He was going back and forth on which way he was going to go. But at the end he had to sit down and pray on it. He felt it was the best opportunity for him to go there to FIU."

Central had plenty of other stars on the team including three others already enrolled in college: U.S. Army All-American safety Calvin Brewton (Florida State), defensive end Fermin Silva (FIU) and linebacker Marquis Couch (Marshall). Why didn't the Hurricanes show more interest in any of those guys? 

"Miami was recruiting Fermin [Silva], but they never offered him," Smith said. "They wanted to see him stand up a little bit more. He was a kid that was very intrigued by Miami. If they would have offered him he would have gone. 

"With Bretwon, they felt like they had some other guys at safety that they liked a little bit more. Calvin was always intrigued by FSU. His friend Bobo Wilson, who he played with before is at FSU. He had some other schools that came after him that I thought would be a better fit. But like I told him, in the end you have to be happy where you go. It's your decision."

January 07, 2015

Golden talks Dallas trip, making changes for 2015, the new Testaverde and more

The goal for every college football team back in August was to make it to Dallas in January.

Turns out, Al Golden made it to Dallas in January after all.

The Miami Hurricanes' head coach -- along with offensive coordinator James Coley -- have spent the past couple days studying how the Dallas Cowboys run their organization from practices to meetings to drills.

The idea: learn how a successful NFL team does it, come home with fresh ideas to implement here for the future, and plot a new course that includes putting a disappointing 6-7 season behind them for good.

"Really since the day we got back from the bowl game the message that I wanted to convey to the team was improving," Golden said by phone Wednesday night. "Not just change for change sake, but to really identify the things we needed to improve and start to plot that course from the head coach's perspective."

Before arriving in Dallas Monday, Golden said he spent every day following the bowl loss to South Carolina in his office in Coral Gables looking at every facet of how things are done at UM. Everything, he said, could end up on the cutting room floor once he's done with his evaluations.

"It's fair to say I'm evaluating every aspect, every part of the program whether that's personnel or staff or off-season programs or how we run summer camp, spring ball, right down to our systems," he said. "I want to make sure we're doing things right. 2014 was unacceptable."

Does that include changing defensive scheme? "Oh sure," Golden said.

Golden already has many changes in mind, but he said he's not sharing any of them with the public until the team hears it first. That will happen when everyone gets back together on Sunday night.

> One new thing Golden is bringing back from Texas that he is willing to talk about: quarterback Vincent Testaverde, a transfer from Texas Tech.

The son of UM's former Heisman-winner will be eligible to play immediately at UM because he was a nonrecruited walk-on for the Red Raiders this past season. Testaverde played in one game as a freshman, throwing for 116 yards on 15-of-26 passing with an interception in a game against Texas.

He'll wear No. 14 -- his father's old number -- for the Hurricanes. His addition fills the need for another backup quarterback after UM lost a commitment from its only quarterback recruit in the 2015 class. Testaverde figures to backup ACC Freshman of the Year Brad Kaaya and provide depth along with returning redshirt freshman Malik Rosier.

"I'm excited about him joining our program," Golden said. "Just to hear Vinny Sr. and the pride he has in his voice to have Vincent come to The U, it's awesome."

> Three new arrivals were already posing for selfies at UM on Wednesday: former Miami Killian safety Jaquan Johnson, defensive lineman Scott Patchan and tight end Jerome Washington. Linebacker Charles Perry is expected to enroll on Monday along with junior college offensive lineman Jahair Johnson.

Golden said he's excited defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, suspended for the 2014 season, and safety Rayshawn Jenkins, injured for the 2014 season, are already back with the team.

> Two guys who won't be around for spring football because they have to recover from injuries: offensive tackles Kc McDermott and Taylor Gadbois.

"Everybody else should be good to go," Golden said. "[Receiver] Herb [Waters] is going to be cleared here soon. [Kicker Matt] Goudis will be ready by spring ball. [Offensive lineman] Hunter Knighton is making a lot of progress in his rehab, we're hopeful to have him return sometime this spring."

> Freshman cornerback Ray Lewis III transferred to Coastal Carolina on Tuesday. Golden said he doesn't expect anybody else on UM’s roster to leave. "But at this time of year,” he cautioned. “if kids are going to leave they do leave. We're just not anticipating it."

> With a month to go before National Signing Day, UM has 20 new recruits either committed or signed. Golden said UM won't sign a full 25 this year because his goal is to exhaust the nine scholarships the program was docked by the NCAA for the Nevin Shapiro mess so it doesn’t affect the class of 2016.

> Golden declined to discuss comments attributed to Duke Johnson's mother late last month. Cassandra Prophet Mitchell created a stir on Facebook by saying "the majority of the team wouldn't be there" if players could transfer without sitting out a year and that "kids [are] tired of this crap."

A source at UM claims Mitchell reached out to Golden to say her comments "were misrepresented" and "the issue has been put to rest.”

"There was disappointment, but there was no finger pointing, no fighting, no dissension," Golden said of how 2014 ended. "Nobody is discouraged. The United campaign [on Instagram and Twitter] isn't a campaign from us the coaches or the administration. That's a grassroots thing from the players. Those are the guys calling, texting, spreading that. Talk to our kids. They can't wait to get going in 2015."

Open letter to Canes fans: Mountain of negativity only making things worse

Al Golden can’t win.

I don’t mean that in the literal sense, like the Hurricanes have yet to beat a high-end opponent under Golden's leadership.

I mean it in the sense of there’s nothing Golden can say at this point to overcome the mountain of negativity on top of him and this football program.

Al needs to phone a friend. And he needs you -- the Miami Hurricanes football fan –- to answer even if you don't want to.

I’ll admit it. I was a little angry late Monday night. About 10 days after a fourth consecutive loss to end the season, Golden’s first words weren’t delivered in a season-ending press conference (the way things are normally done) but through a one-on-one interview with Gary Ferman at Canesport. As a reporter, you get a little ticked off when you aren’t given equal opportunity.

Then, I read the Canesport interview and didn’t feel so bad. Golden's responses were what we expected. In the end, it hit me why Golden is going one-on-one with select reporters versus facing a firing squad at a press conference (there will be more one-on-ones by the way). He can control the message. He can keep tough questions private. We won't get to see him bristle.

That's smart from a public relations perspective. In the end, what is Al going to say publicly that’s really going to make anything better anyway? Will blaming himself put an end to the fire Golden chants? No.

Truth is, only actions will do at this point. And after 10 days of inaction, does it really look like coaching changes are going to be made –- forcefully by the administration, anyway? It would have happened already.

Which brings me back to my point: that mountain of negativity.

Al Golden can bunker himself in, ignore the noise and plead with his players and assistants to do the same. But the rest of us? We do live in that world. That includes recruits, parents, influential coaches, street agents, girlfriends, Ray-Ray on the corner, the woman who does Susan Miller Degnan's hair and a bunch of loud people on the radio and internet. And that’s where all this irreparable public relations damage is being done.

That’s where the University of Miami – the program you are supposed to be supporting – is losing a much bigger war.

It might look like a one man job, one man’s sole responsibility to clean up after himself, after Randy Shannon and Larry Coker. After all, Al's got the fat paycheck, those pillars and that orange tie. But this isn’t a one-man job. It’s on fans too. Even if it's a smaller role, you play one on Saturdays and all the days inbetween.

In case you didn’t know (I’ll put in capital letters to make it clear Canes Fam): WE’VE HEARD YOUR CRIES FOR CHANGE. We saw those banners fly over the stadium over and over again. We’ve read Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, seen the red cups form the phrase FIRE AL GOLDEN on the Palmetto Expressway overhang. We get it: You are not happy with the job Al Golden has done.  We know you not only wanted Mark D’Onofrio gone before Christ was born, but you wanted him to legally change his name to Mark Onofrio too.

This voicemail box is full, people.

Now, it’s time to stop digging the hole even deeper for UM. You’ve got to lend the Canes a hand even if Golden can’t fix this mess himself; even if in the end he doesn't turn out to be the right man for the job. It’s time to give up on the dream of creating such a loud chorus of boos that it will result in Golden's firing, bringing Butch back or ending D'Onofrio's reign of terror.

Athletic director Blake James is not going to fire Golden anytime soon. He’s said it over and over again. James isn’t even forcing Golden to fire anyone on his staff. They are going to see this through – at least through 2015 in my opinion – whether you show up to No Life Stadium or not (and not that many of you were doing that before this 6-7 mess anyway).

Status quo is the message Golden Canes, the donors, have been receiving for weeks when they’ve voiced complaints and concerns or threatened to pull funds if changes aren’t made. One Golden Cane told me James and others have told them "to keep holding on, nothing will happen until Signing Day.”

So, there. Something might happen after Signing Day. There's a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope. But that's all it is for now. 

That aura of negativity permeating 24 hours a day? That's not doing anyone any favors. Nobody in their right mind, who could be part of fixing the future at Miami, is looking at UM and saying ‘Man that place is sexy. Look at all the support that school gets. Those fans are the best.’

And I don’t mean coaches. You can throw money at any coach and they'll lie through their teeth about anything. They are mercenaries paid to put their heart into something. 

I’m talking about kids -- from seniors on down to Pee Wee football players. I’m talking about the future. I’m talking about all those people who don’t live in Al Golden’s world. I’m talking about the people who can see, smell, taste, hear and feel the negativity and have it push them away. And right now on the nasty scale, that storm is a Category 5.

Blake James, the aforementioned athletic director who took over after Golden had already received his contract extension through 2019, tried to wish fans a Happy New Year on Twitter a few days ago. The Rated-R responses to James were sickening. These were some of the PG-responses:

I can't imagine what the response would have been had Golden or D'Onofrio tweeted something.

Wait, I can.

Brad Kaaya’s mother, Angela Means, has tried to stem this tide of negativity on Twitter and Facebook, urging fans to stick by the side of the players and the team. So has UM. Somehow, they've come up with another clever marketing campaign sure to win folks over.

The public relations machine in Coral Gables has been on overdrive promoting positivity and unity left and right. It’s obviously a direct rebuttal to what Duke Johnson’s mother and Clive Walford were putting out there in the aftermath of the bowl loss –- that there was a division among players and that players would transfer out if they didn’t have to sit out a year per NCAA rules. You know, all the kind of stuff that makes recruits feel warm and fuzzy this time of year.

In the end, though, it’s clear UM is fighting a huge uphill battle. A really, really, really big one. And one they likely won't win on Signing Day either. Recruiting wars for 2015 have already been lost long ago. More could be on the way in more decommitments.

Golden and his staff deserve a lot of that blame. Did you know Miami-Dade and Broward County produced 16 seniors this season that played in the three major All-American games? Do you know how many are headed to UM? Two: St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett and Miami Booker T. Washington running back Mark Walton.

Not all of that failure can be traced solely to Golden or the results on the field. Some of it can be traced to the black cloud of negativity surrounding the program, the one fans have helped create.

Michael Irvin, the face of The U, the man who supports Miami through thick and thin, Mr. Positive, Mr. It’s going to get better -- even he couldn’t blame his nephew, Miami Westminster Christian All-American safety Tim Irvin, for skipping out on UM to head to Texas.

Pinning blame on fans for the program’s current state of affairs isn't the idea here. The players and coaches deserve all that blame –- Golden the biggest chunk of that.

You can’t have fewer wins over FBS schools (5) in 2014 than potential NFL Draft picks in 2015. You can’t keep pointing to an NCAA cloud that “devastated the program” when the basketball team won an ACC title while said cloud was hanging over its head too. And you just can’t keep harping on a convenient argument (we improved from 90th in 2013 to 15th in total defense in 2014) to show signs of improvement.

Nobody cares. Nobody wants to hear it because they’ve heard it all before. Fans want action. They want results. And if not, they want blood.

But in this case, there doesn’t look like there will be blood. No matter how loud the chorus gets, Blake James doesn’t look like he’s changing his mind or his coach.

So, my advice, take a step back and put your energy toward something you can help change. And that’s making the cloud over Coral Gables -- the real one -- a little smaller each day. Turn down the noise a little. Al Golden can pretend he doesn't hear it. It's what he does. But just remember everyone else in this world can hear it loud and clear.

January 06, 2015

Ray Lewis III transferring to Coastal Carolina per his Instagram account

Ray Lewis III, the son of former Hurricane and Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, is leaving UM for Coastal Carolina according to his Instagram account.

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," Lewis III wrote as the caption to a cartoon of Coastal Carolina's mascot holding a football. "If opportunity doesn't knock... build a door! #Round2"

Lewis III, a redshirt freshman cornerback, never played a down for the Hurricanes in his two seasons in Coral Gables and dealt with some off the field issues. He was suspended for the bowl game his freshman year.

Lewis was a three-star recruit and Semper Fidelis All-American as a two-way star at Lake Mary Prep, a small private school near Orlando.

-- MANNY NAVARRO

January 05, 2015

Multiple sources: UM switches from Nike to Adidas: long-term deal to be announced Thursday.

Those smoke uniforms the University of Miami unveiled this season?

Collectors' items or trash-heap material. You decide.

Multiple sources told the Miami Herald on Sunday and Monday morning that the Hurricanes have switched apparel providers from Nike to Adidas.

UM will announce the deal on Thursday.

Adidas has already been canvassing athletic department personnel to find out what type of shoes and apparel are needed to suit each sport's needs. Almost all are pleased with the situation, though the Herald reported previously that some basketball recruits might be hesitant because they are associated with Nike shoes and uniforms.

"Significant,'' is the word one source associated with the situation used to describe the financial boost that the school will receive with Adidas compared to Nike.

The UM sports team budgets for apparel will be much, much larger.

One source told the Herald the contract is in the 10-year range. UM is a private university and does not have to disclose its financial dealings.

Arizona State recently switched from Nike to Adidas as well, and signed an eight-year contract that starts in July 2015 and is worth $33.8 million or $4,225,000 annually, according to the Arizona Rebublic.

Miami has been contracted with Nike since 1987, but between the extra millions UM will make and the more apparel and better attention it believes it will get with Adidas made the deal impossible to refuse, sources said.

The Hurricanes will begin using the new apparel going into next football season.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

December 29, 2014

Flowers declares for NFL Draft, could become UM's first 1st rounder since 2008

Hurricanes left tackle Ereck Flowers, a man of few words, reached out to local recruiting guru Larry Blustein on Tuesday to get out a message. Like star running back Duke Johnson, he too is foregoing his senior season at the University of Miami to enter the NFL Draft.

"I have done everything that I can in college as a football player and now it's time to take that next step," Flowers told Blustein. "I believe this is the best for my family and myself. They had told me I had a second round grade, but I will really look to raise that bar over the next few months."

The news of Flowers departure -- still unannounced by school officials at UM -- comes as little surprise. Scouts have said Flowers has the potential to be a first round pick since November and ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay projected the 6-6, 324-pound junior as the 12th overall pick in May's draft. The Hurricanes haven't had a first round pick since safety Kenny Phillips was taken by the New York Giants 31st overall in 2008.

"We sat down and looked at everything and felt that this was the best thing for Ereck and our family," his father Everald told Blustein. "After being injured early in the year, he came back and worked harder than ever to get himself back on the field.

"Right now, we cannot listen to where people are  projecting Ereck to go. We have to continue putting ourselves in a position and work hard to get to that next level."

Flowers had minor surgery to repair a torn meniscus after the Virginia Tech game. He missed the following game, but returned and had a stellar performance against Florida State. He's started 29 games in his career at Miami including 25 of the last 26 at left tackle.

Said Flowers: "I am very excited about this next challenge in my life and career."

December 28, 2014

Duke Johnson: "The life for running backs isn't that high. I think it's best to get out when I can.''

By David Furones

Special to the Miami Herald

 Though not much of a surprise, Duke Johnson announced on Sunday that he will enter the NFL Draft and forgo his senior season with the Miami Hurricanes.

 “I will be going to the NFL next year,” said Johnson in a news conference at UM’s Mann Auditorium inside the SchwartzCenter. “In the NFL, backs don’t really get too much value, so I think it’s best that I leave and get a jump while I can and do what’s best for me.”

The announcement came after Miami's 24-21 loss Saturday to South Carolina in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.

The 5-9, 206-pound junior running back finishes his collegiate career as UM’s all-time leading rusher (3,519 yards) and the program’s leader in career all-purpose yards (5,523) in 33 games as a Cane.

 Johnson says it was a tough decision for him because of his passion for the program, but the short shelf-life of running backs in the NFL ultimately was the key.

 “Of course there was back and forth,” he said. “As a kid, I always wanted to come here, love it, didn’t want to leave it. At the same time, the life for running backs isn’t that high. I think it’s best to get out when I can.”

 Projected as a second or third-round pick, there was no need for Johnson to continue to put his body at risk without getting paid to do so after a broken ankle ended his sophomore season five games early.

 “I broke my ankle, so that was enough thought for me,” Johnson said. “It was something I don’t want to go through again, so I think that was a decision that played a part – injury and is it worth the risk?”

 Duke’s announcement came on his mother’s 45th birthday, and he said it’s one of his presents to her.

 “I think it’s special in a way because we didn’t know which bowl game we were going to and I knew I wasn’t really going to make a decision until after the bowl game and it just happened to fall on her birthday,” Johnson said. “I think it’s a blessing.”

 He looks forward to being able to provide for his mother and grandmother, who he says provided so much for him in his upbringing.

 “Everything I do is for her – her and my grandmother, who sacrifice so much,” Johnson said. “My grandmother is someone who actually took care of me a lot when my mom was at work and was trying to find a better way for us. This decision is made for them too, just to help them out and put them in a better situation because of all the hard work they did for me and my family growing up.”

 Johnson will continue taking classes toward his degree in the spring.

 

December 27, 2014

Gameday blog: Miami Hurricanes vs. South Carolina Gamecocks

Live Blog Independence Bowl | Miami Hurricanes vs. South Carolina: Dec. 27, 2014
 

December 26, 2014

Revisionist's history or the truth? Steve Spurrier denies Shockey comment in The U Part 2 movie.

SHREVEPORT, La. – And you thought The U Part 2 had some good  footage about the infamous Bourbon Street Brawl.

    South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier, always a gem to interview, didn’t disappoint Friday at the press conference for the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.

     Somehow, the topic of  Billy Corben’s recently released The U Part 2 movie and the Bourbon Street Brawl between Spurrier’s former 2000 Gators and the Hurricanes came up – courtesy of the Head Ball Coach himself.

      After he talked about what it means to return to Shreveport for the first time since 2005 – “Like I said earlier, with our record, I said, ‘Man, I hope we get to Shreveport again’’’ – Spurrier took a dramatic turn.

    “And while I’ve got your attention here,’’ he began about five minutes into the press conference, “let me say something. We’ve all been watching this University of Miami 30 for 30 on ESPN. OK. They won the game. They beat us fair and square.

   “But a Miami player on that team quoted me as saying, ‘We got our ass kicked off the field and we got our ass kicked in the game.’ And I didn’t say that. I wouldn’t be that stupid to ever say anything like that.

   “Now, a scuffle happened sometime earlier in the week on Bourbon Street. Nobody got arrested. Nobody got hurt. Nobody got suspended for the game. To me it was history.

   “But for some reason, some people, some teams, or whoever, they like to glamorize fighting. Our teams don’t fight. I don’t think I’ve ever had a team in a brawl – not that I can remember. But I certainly didn’t say that, and that 2000 Florida team was one of my favorite teams. Those guys won the SEC after getting clobbered by Mississippi early in the year and came back and won it.

   “I just wanted to say that. I did not say what is attributed to me by a Miami player, to get the record straight. Now let’s talk about the Independence Bowl.’’

   Did Spurrier say anything like that?

   “No, they quoted a player,’’ Spurrier continued. “They never called me and said, ‘Did you say that?’ But that’s not the first time in life somebody put a quote on me that I didn’t say. I did say most of them, but not that one.’’

   Did Spurrier actually watch The U Part 2?

   “I watched part of it, yes. I saw that part. …Shockey said that, right? Jeremy Shockey, the tight end.’’

   The U Part 2 producer Billy Corben told the Miami Herald on Friday after Spurrier’s comments that it was, indeed, Shockey who commented about Spurrier in the documentary.

   Corben said former UM offensive lineman Brett Romberg said in the movie: “We were 2-0 that week, actually, against the Florida Gators.’’

   Then, here’s Shockey: “I remember their head coach Spurrier coming up to me after the game, saying, ‘You guys definitely deserved it. We got our ass beat off the field and on.’’’

   Now, here’s Corben’s reaction to what Spurrier said Friday morning:

   “That’s the challenge of documenting history. You have to rely on people’s memories.

   “It could be apocryphal or Coach Spurrier could just as easily be mistaken. Bottom line: the quote is definitely Spurrieresque and, whether he said it or not, it’s 100 percent factually accurate.’’

   When Corben was asked by the Herald for his prediction on Saturday’s game between the Canes and Gamecocks, Corben said, “Whatever I tell you about my game prediction, I’ll just deny I said it in 14 years.’’

  ***South Carolina defensive tackle JT Surratt, a senior captain, “had some kind of stomach ailment,’’ Spurrier said, and was in the hospital as of Friday morning. “I don’t know if he’ll be able to play tomorrow,’’ Spurrier said. Surrat, 6-2 and 310 pounds, was the lone returning starter this season for the Gamecocks’ defensive line. He has 30 tackles and a blocked field goal this season.

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

December 25, 2014

Star running back announces he will enter the NFL Draft after Duck Commander Independence Bowl

SHREVEPORT, La. – The two star running backs in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl are friends – and one of them revealed to reporters Thursday that he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

    No, not Duke Johnson.

   It was South Carolina tailback Mike Davis, though Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier told reporters before he arrived in Shreveport that this would be Davis’ last college game.

    “Yeah, it’s officially my last game,’’ said the 5-9, 223-pound tailback, who rushed for 927 yards and nine touchdowns this season and has 2,385 career yards. “Of course I always want to go out with a bang. I want to tell my team that I love them and that I’ve enjoyed this long ride.’’

    Davis said he met and was roommates with Johnson at The Opening in 2012, a Nike elite recruiting event in Beaverton, Oregon. “We’re really good buddies, spent a lot of time talking to each other [Wednesday],’’ Davis said. …He was trying to recruit me [at The Opening] to come to Miami. That’s how good of a person he is.”

   Davis said he and Johnson “talk everyday’’ and . We’re in a group [text] message with him, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and all the top running backs.

    “Lots of positivity, wishing each other well, telling each other that we hope you have a good game or to do this or that. Talk about family and stuff outside of football. No trash talk at all, always wishing each other well.’’

   And that’s not the only Davis-Hurricanes connection.

   Davis played on the same team his senior year at Stone Mountain, Georgia's Stephenson High with UM linebacker Raphael Kirby, who will try to pummel him Saturday.

   The two are good friends.

   “It’s going to be very fun,’’ Kirby said. “We’ve had a few conversations. Once we get on the field there’s not going to be much talking, but that’s my homeboy.

   “He’s a powerful running back and he fools a lot of people because he’s very fast as well. …He’s a complete back in my eyes. It’s going to be a great challenge for us and I’m looking forward to it.”

CHRISTMAS BOWLING

  The Canes had a closed practice Thursday, then spent Christmas afternoon bowling at Holiday Lanes. The players had Christmas dinner together at the Shreveport Hilton.

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

    

December 24, 2014

Day 3 in Shreveport for Miami Hurricanes: high-stake offenses, Ray-Ray Lewis & Nick Linder updates

     SHREVEPORT, La. – The Duck Commander Independence Bowl on Saturday features two strong offenses that will challenge two relatively weaker defenses.

    South Carolina’s defense is ranked 91st nationally, allowing 433.6 yards per game. The Gamecocks (6-6) are also 91st in scoring defense (31.2 points per game allowed) and 101st in red zone defense.

   The Hurricane’s defense, despite being ranked 14th nationally (327.6 yards allowed), has had its share of struggles this season in holding teams in the red zone, sometimes deficient tackling, often playing opponents too far off the ball to dominate and in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

   Thus, UM coach Al Golden was asked after Wednesday’s practice how he can prevent his players from being caught up in the pressure of a back-and-forth shootout.

   “Just enjoy it,’’ Golden said. “They’re going to make plays. We’ve got to make more plays. And when adversity strikes, don’t let one play define us or determine the game.”

   Offensive coordinator James Coley said UM’s objective is simple: score points.

   “We tell our guys that every possession ends in a kick,’’ he said. “As long as we don’t give them the football, we’re going to play some good football.

    “Really, there’s no frustration. Hey, you should be happy if you have the ball. Go match. …You’re out there. It’s your time to shine.’’

 RAY LEWIS III

    Defensive back Ray Lewis III, a redshirt freshman who is the son of former UM linebacker great Ray Lewis, has not practiced or been involved with the team since mid-October – but is still on the roster, Golden said.

    “Ray’s taking care of his grades right now,’’ the coach said. “We’re in constant communication with him and the family. When he’s ready to talk about it, or we’re ready to talk about how we’re going to move forward, then we’ll do so.’’

   Golden said UM is “giving him the best opportunity to move forward academically,’’ and that whether he returns in the spring is “up to him.

  “We’re just giving him his space.’’

  Lewis has yet to play.

LINDER CLOSER

  Freshman left guard Nick Linder (knee, wrist) will practice Thursday without the yellow, non-contact, jersey given to injured players, Golden said. “I expect him to be ready to play, be available to play. We’ll see how he does Thursday and Friday.’’

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

 

December 23, 2014

Day Two in Shreveport for Miami Hurricanes: Rain, rain go away (but on game day, it's here to stay)

SHREVEPORT, La. – The Hurricanes got a good taste of the elements they might face Saturday at the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.T he forecast calls for more than a 60-percent chance of rain in Shreveport on game day, with temperatures in the 60s decreasing to the low 40s at night.

On Tuesday at the First Baptist Church in Bossier City, the wind whipped, the air was cold and the rain came down hard, making players slip-slide on the artificial turf during some drills.

“We don’t know exactly what the forecast is yet but if it is like that I think that will help us,’’ UM coach Al Golden said. “We got a lot done, so at the end of the day it wasn’t all perfect, but we got used to the conditions.’’

Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said the dress-rehearsal weather “absolutely’’ helps prepare the players. “Whatever weather that will happen on Saturday I think we’ll be ready for it now,’’ D’Onofrio said. “[Monday] it was warm – 60 degrees. And [Tuesday] it was raining sideways and freezing.’’

• Golden said that freshman left guard Nick Linder (knee, wrist), who wore a yellow (limited contact) jersey Tuesday, was “a little better. “It’s going to be down to the wire for him. Maybe he can do more tomorrow.’’

• When asked if junior left tackle Ereck Flowers has told Golden if he is turning pro after this season, the coach said, “No. Any of those questions will be addressed after the game.’’

• Junior running back Duke Johnson, who already disclosed that he will announce on Sunday whether he is turning pro, said he has already made his decision. He added that he might announce that decision during a news conference at UM.

• South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Gamecocks receiver Shaq Roland “is not with the team anymore. I think he’s elected to maybe drop out of school and go pro. That was his choice and we wish him the best.’’ Roland had 26 catches for 356 yards and four touchdowns this season.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

PROUD PAPA: Howard Schnellenberger thinks Boca Raton Bowl will continue to grow in his FAU Stadium

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Moments before stepping onto the field bearing his name for pregame ceremonies, Howard Schnellenberger proclaimed bigger and better things were in store for the Boca Raton Bowl.
"This is larger than life,'' Schnellenberger said as he kicked back in a leather chair steps from his field.
"This is much grander than I thought it would be in the first year. Obviously this stadium, this program and this town are exceptional. We've put our best foot forward and we're three years ahead of where we should be.''
The first installment of this made-for-TV bowl game -- it's owned and operated by ESPN -- pitted the champions of two mid-major conferences in Marshall (Conference USA) and Northern Illinois (MAC) in a stadium Schnellenberger fought to have built on the FAU campus.
The FAU Stadium, which opened in 2011, has Schnellenberger's touch all over it.
"Football in Paradise" was his selling card when he started the FAU football program from scratch in 2000 with the Owls finally hitting the field in 2001.
The 30,000-seat stadium -- which was declared sold out Tuesday although may have only been 50 percent filled -- has neon palm trees on the south end zone scoreboard and a view of the Atlantic Ocean from the press box.
A statue of Schnellenberger greets visitors at the main gate. His bronze likeness is, of course, surrounded by palm trees.
"A bowl game was always part of the plan,'' said Schnellenberger, who stepped down as FAU's coach following the Owls' first season in the new digs.
"And how could you not be excited for the matchup? This wasn't the luck of the draw, it was the magnetism of this community and stadium in a sub-tropical climate 1.2 miles from the beach with an ocean view. This reminds me of the Orange Bowl games back in the 50s and 60s when it was a community event. That's the beauty of this. They have brought the fathers of our community together to make this great.''
If anyone can rally a community around an event, it's Schnellenberger.
The stadium he built stays busy throughout the year, not only hosting FAU football games but All-Star games and other events such as soccer and lacrosse.
Building the stadium in Boca Raton wasn't his first foray into the construction business.
While coach at Miami in the early 1980s, Schnellenberger pushed for the school to build a stadium closer to campus -- something that never happened. The Hurricanes eventually left the Orange Bowl and now play in north Miami-Dade County at Sun Life Stadium.
"Now they're driving 60 miles to get to Dolphins Stadium,'' Schnellenberger said.
And it was Schnellenberger's work at Louisville (he was head coach there from 1985-94) that helped get his hometown Cardinals their own stadium.
The growth of the Louisville program -- and expansion of Papa John's Stadium -- helped get the Cardinals into the ACC.
"It's the same thing I've said here at FAU, 'I told you so','' Schnellenberger said. "If you build a stadium, things start to happen.''
-- With three catches in the first quarter, Miami Central's Tommy Shuler set the Marshall record for career receptions with 307. Shuler passed Josh Davis (2001-04).

 

December 22, 2014

First day of Independence Bowl practice over in Shreveport -- on Linder, Knighton, Howard, Kaaya...

   SHREVEPORT, Louisiana – Freshman left guard Nick Linder, who started against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina this season but sustained late-season injuries to his knee and wrist (among other body parts), increased his workload Monday at practice.

    After landing at Shreveport Regional Airport in the afternoon, the Hurricanes bused to the FirstBaptistChurch in Bossier City, where they practiced on two newly installed artificial turf fields in temperatures that hovered in the mid-60s.

 "From not practicing for a couple days, we had a couple days off I heard a lot of guys say they felt fresh and they felt fast,'' linebacker Denzel Perryman said. "It felt pretty good to start up again."

 

   It previously appeared that Linder would be unable to play against South Carolina (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, but UM coach Al Golden seemed more inclined to open the door for the possibility of Linder participating.

    “Nick did a better job,’’ Golden said. The coach compared Linder to his older brother Brandon, the former UM guard who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

   “He’s going to tell you he’s ready to go,’’ Golden said. “He’s tough. He’s going to fight and scratch and claw. So, we’ve got to see how he looks [Tuesday]. But he was definitely moving a lot better and the last 72 hours off helped him tremendously.

   “He’s got a chance now. I wasn’t sure about that last week.’’

  Starting left guard Jon Feliciano will continue to wear a protective covering on his left hand and lower arm for protection during the game, Golden said.

   *** Cornerback Tracy Howard, who Golden has praised lately for his practice performance, wore a black jersey given to players excelling.

   “I’m just trying to go out there and get better every day, just improve my overall game,’’ Howard said. "I hone in on my mistakes and the next day I try to work on my mistakes and my negatives and keep moving on forward. So, each day I’ll get better and better and eventually I’ll be the best."

   *** Riding exercise bikes near the practice field were tackle Kc McDermott (knee) and fellow offensive lineman Hunter Knighton. Knighton has been slowly rehabbing this season after being hospitalized last February, when he was diagnosed with heat stroke following a workout. He spent two weeks in intensive care.

   "Unbelievable,'' Golden said of Knighton. "He’s our Christmas…that’s a Christmas gift. We’re just ecstatic. He looks unbelievable. I said that to him the other day. He weighs now more than he did this time last year, he’s really making a lot of progress and I know he has a March…he has a timeline in his head, he’s making a lot of progress. So this first 30 days is something we have to monitor a lot. We’re getting toward the end of that, at least the last third of that and next month it’ll be a little bit more aggressive. He’s doing great. He’s a tremendous young man. I’m so proud of him.”

   When asked what Knighton has been doing lately, Golden said: “He’s been doing a lot of cardio and rehabbing and doing the little things he needs to do to move forward, and he will.”

    *** Quarterback Brad Kaaya met the media Monday wearing a gray Miami Dolphins cap that he said went with his gray UM warmup.

    “I’m a Dolphins fan now,’’ Kaaya said. “The city’s adopted me, so I’m a fan.”

    Kaaya said his favorite Dolphin is quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and that he hopes he can one day meet him.    

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

In Bossier City/Shreveport. Miami Hurricanes to arrive for Duck Commander Independence Bowl

Bossier City/Shreveport -- After being deplaned because of mechanical problems, changing flights, being delayed again, finally made it to Shreveport, home of the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.

It's 55 degrees outside and very gray -- no sun at all.

The media is staying at the Margaritaville Resort and Casino (any Jimmy Buffett fans out there?)

Margaritaville

The Canes are at the Hilton in downtown Shreveport.

  HiltonShrevport

The Gamecocks, who arrive Tuesday, are at Sam's Town, another hotel/cassino right nearby on the Red River in Shreveport. You can view that hotel from some windows of this one. It's right across the river.

  Samstown

South Carolina, as you see, is staying in a resort/casino. The Canes are not.

That's probably good, right?

The Hurricanes are practicing today at 1:45-3:15 p.m. Central time (2:45-4:15 Eastern). We can watch the first 15 minutes of practice, then will meet selected players after practice at the Shreveport Conventon Center, which is part of the Hilton complex, I'm told.

UM is practicing at "Bossier Field'' at the First Baptist Church in Bossier City.

The Gamecocks, designated the home team, will practice beginning Wednesday at Loyola College Prep Messmer Stadium in Shreveport. On Monday and Tuesday, South Carolina will practice in Columbia, S.C. before leaving for the bowl Tuesday.

The Miami news before leaving was that 6-5, 315-pound offensive lineman Jahair Jones signed a National Letter of Intent to join UM's 2015 signing class.

Jones is from Edgewater, Md.  He will begin the 2015 season as a true sophomore and plans to enroll in January.

 Jones is listed as a three-star recruit according to ESPN.com and 247Sports.com. He chose Miami over Ohio State and Virginia Tech. This past season, Jones played for Brooklyn (N.Y.) ASA College. ASA finished 6-2.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

December 19, 2014

UM's only committed QB for Class of '15 pulls commitment. Guess who scared him away?

  As I wrote in Friday's Miami Herald article, UM freshman All-American quarterback Brad Kaaya is a powerful recruiting tool for the Hurricanes.

  He also could scare folks away, such as high school senior quarterbacks who might otherwise have come to Coral Gables to play for UM.

  Thursday night, four-star quarterback Dwayne Lawson of Hillsborough High in Tampa -- UM's only committed quarterback for the Class of 2015 --  posted this on his Twitter feed:

 "I want to thank all the coaches at the university of Miami for the opportunity but I've chosen to go another route in this recruitment."

 Can't blame him. 

  Lawson, listed by ESPN.com as 6-4 and 200 pounds, is rated by ESPN as the sixth best duel threat quarterback in the Class of 2015. According to a HokieHaven.com report from the Rivals network, Lawson is now glowing about Virginia Tech.

 With Kaaya a superstar in the making (and already there in terms of first-year quarterbacks), and fellow freshman Malik Rosier at Miami already having learned the playbook, Lawson realized that barring injury, he'd likely be keeping the bench warm.

  "At the time when I committed [in May], it was the best opportunity for me,'' Lawson told HokieHaven.com. "They had a freshman quarterback playing and all these other things going on and I felt like that was the best decision. He's probably gonna be there another three years. I wish him the best, I wish the program the best and we'll see what happens from there. I don't consider myself committed there anymore.''

  Quarterbacks should keep in mind that Rosier, who is redshirting this season, is a baseball player as well -- and look what happened to former Canes quarterback David Thompson, who started out as a dual-sport Cane but left football to concentrate on baseball.

  UM also has Gray Crow among its scholarship quarterbacks. Crow, a very smart young man who also has mastered the playbook but did not get on the field this season, is a 6-3, 235-pound third-year sophomore who was recruited out of Clearwater Countryside as a three-star prospect. He played in two games in 2013, completing six of eight passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. Coaches switched him to tight end/H-back before the 2014 season, then switched him back to quarterback after he requested it.

  Fifth-year seniors Ryan Williams and Jake Heaps are in their final season of eligibility.

 Wanted: another  quarterback recruit to replace Lawson.

  SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN