March 04, 2014

News, notes and quotes from the Miami Hurricanes first spring practice in pads Tuesday

News and notes from Tuesday morning's practice:

> UM coach Al Golden called the team's first day in pads a good effort with good energy.

"It's a good group to coach right now," Golden said. "A lot of guys learning. Not a lot of yelling, just a lot of teaching going on, which is good. We got a long way to go as a team and we're starting to learn more about our guys. [Running back] Gus Edwards and [quarterback] Ryan Williams and some other guys have stepped up and showing what they can do."

Edwards, a 6-2, 235-pound sophomore, had a couple of long runs Tuesday in which he barreled a few defenders over. He had a long 40 to 50 yard dash toward the end of practice.

"He's fast now. Gus is a 4.5 guy that is 235 right now," Golden said. "He might be a 240-something pound back before it's all said and done. He doesn't lose his explosion. He still has a lateral cut. We have to keep working on his staff arm.

"But he doesn't lose patience. That's the biggest thing I saw. Sometimes they don't have patience and just run into the back of somebody and he showed really good patience, waiting for his moment and then hit it today. I think [Walter Tucker] is starting to lean out and show how explosive he can be."

Williams spent most of the day rolling out of the pocket by design as UM worked on those particular packages, he said.

"That was one of those focuses today -- the move the pocket type plays," he said. "I think I did good. I think I'm good outside the pocket, can throw outside on the run. I missed one throw today I'm going to be upset about. But we're going to get it fixed before Thursday."

The pass Williams likely regretted? A pass that came out like a wounded duck and was intercepted by redshirt sophomore cornerback Larry Hope.

During two-minute drill work Williams connected on four straight completions -- all of them were of the short to medium range variety -- including a slant pattern sophomore Stacy Coley turned into a long gain and eventually a Matt Goudis field goal.

Williams also connected on a few long passes down field later in practice. Williams said he's probably added 10 to 15 yards on his long passes and more zip to balls underneath since high school.

"Now I don't have to lob things underneath under or over a backer," Williams said. "I can throw through windows and stuff like that."

> Williams spoke about knowing how in a few months he's going to become a father soon.

"I'm excited," he said. "We spent some time looking after Denzel's little girl. So I've had a chance to get my toes wet a little bit and know what it's like to be a dad. I'm excited."

> Speaking of Hope, he broke the UM weight room record for defensive backs set by All-Pro Antrel Rolle in the squat. Hope squatted 455 pounds, 10 more than Rolle did. With injuries to UM's secondary Hope is seeing a lot of playing time this spring. He knows this is his opportunity to impress.

> Golden said senior receiver Rashawn Scott, the team's second leading receiver in 2012 who was suspended at the end of last season and limited by injuries, has had a really good approach this spring.

Golden said he's doing a good job "just forgetting all the outside stuff, letting go of immature things, just growing up.

"I think Ryan Williams has had a really good influence on him," Golden continued. "I think they're creating a bond there. That's good. Ryan has been a positive influence on him. He just has to keep coming on for us."

Williams said the big thing for Scott is going to be dealing with the disappointment of last season.

"He has worked really hard since the season ended," Williams said of Scott. "He has a great work ethic. I think he's going to be a bust out player for us. He has to fill a role at the X or Z. But he's a big play receiver."

> Williams said he's seen a change in sophomore receiver Stacy Coley's leadership and attitude since the end of last season.

"You can just see it in his attitude when he comes to work now," Williams said. "He's not the young freshman who is just out there making plays. He's being a leader type, getting people set, making sure he communicates even with me and other quarterbacks on the field. Now he can actually see things and how they evolve on the field.

"He's more of the quiet type, but he has his moments. He's more of a funny guy. But he'll come to me and tell me what he sees and what he wants to run."

> Golden said he expects receiver Herb Waters and defensive end Anthony Chickillo to return to the field when the team comes back for more practices after spring break. Both have been wearing red jerseys (designated for injured players) and watching from the sideline thus far.

Golden said receiver Malcolm Lewis and cornerbacks Nate Dortch and Corn Elder will start to get integrated into practice (wearing yellow jerseys) when Miami returns from the break.

> Cornerback Artie Burns was at practice, but not wearing pads because Golden said the team wants to protect him. "He has a chance to be a national champion [hurdler]. I don't want him to turn an ankle."

Golden said he was pleased with how Burns and receiver Phillip Dorsett conducted themselves participating in track. Only Burns will still compete in track the rest of the spring.

> Golden said he was excited about the hiring of former Miami Booker T. Washington coach Ice Harris as the team's new assistant director of football operations. A source told me Harris met with the Canes  Monday and spoke to them about what it means to be a national champion. Harris led Booker T. to three state championships since 2007 including a national title this past season.

"Ice has meant a lot to all of us throughout the time," Golden said. "After the season he probably accomplished everything you can accomplish at the high school level. We reached out to him to see if he'd have an interest in coming back. Really, we didn't want him to leave the first time, but he thought he would go back. He had success quickly back at Booker T. We just felt like it was a good opportunity and time for us. And obviously he felt the same."

Where will Ice's value really be felt?

"Certainly the community, the relationship," Golden said. "Someone that's on the inside every day that can communicate what we're doing, how we treat our student-athletes, what our mission is, what we really believe in. He's got a lot of wisdom. The biggest thing would be if you went to his practices it's the discipline, the life skills he was able to impart on his teams. We're hoping he can do the same with us. And he's already started that process knowing everybody. We're glad he's going to help us."

> Freshman Trent Harris practiced for the first time after being held up by the NCAA Clearinghouse. How are he and the other early freshmen to arrive doing?

"I'm really pleased with those guys, their approach," Golden said. "Juwon Young, Darrion Owens have really been a pleasant surprise for us. Obviously [offensive linemen] Trevor Darling and KC McDermott are playing a lot. [Cornerback] Ryan Mayes has been really a pleasant surprise for us, too. Their maturity, ability to learn - they don't know where half the buildings on campus are and now they're learning, have four or five classes, new way to lift, new way to study, new way to watch film, new nomenclature."

> How is Dallas Crawford doing after his switch to safety?

"Really good," Golden said. "You just feel his presence out there. Physical. Same old Dallas. You only have to tell him one time, very coachable. Coach him up and next play he gets it right."

> Crawford also served as the holder on field goal attempts during live drills Tuesday. He played quarterback in high school and has plenty of experience doing it.

> Golden said walk-on Ricky Carroll and Matt Goudis are the main competitors this spring for the punting job. But there will be more walk-ons and transfers coming in over the summer and fall.

"Forget about trying to replace [Pat O'Donnell]," Golden said. "Just get someone that can do a great job and put it where you want it. But don't worry about replacing Pat. He was faster than half the damn running backs at the combine."

> Safety Deon Bush looked like he got nicked during practice. Bush had his lower back examined on the sideline and didn't return to full contact.

> There was a scout from the Cincinnati Bengals who was at practice and closely watching Miami's defensive line group work.

> The viewing for JoJo Nicolas, the former Hurricanes defensive back who died last week after a horrific early morning car accident, will be held Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Covenant Baptist Church, 1055 NW 6th Ave., Florida City. The funeral for Nicolas will take place Saturday at Glendale Missionary Baptist Church, 14580 SW 117th Ave., Miami. Both events are open to the public.

> Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio didn't want to say Wednesday how much exactly sophomore linebacker Jermaine Grace weighs. Grace, working as a backup at weakside linebacker, is listed at 6-1, 210 pounds.

"Jermaine is very talented," D'Onofrio said. "The things we like about Jermaine is he can really run. He's very good in space. He's a good blitzer. And he's instinctive. But he needs to really work hard in the weight room. He needs to get bigger. And he needs to really work at the playbook. But the skill set is there. We need to get his preparation and his work habits to match his skill set. 

"'I'm not going to give you the exact weight, but he needs to gain some," D'Onofrio continued. "Again, it doesn't need to be a ton. The defense is predicated on having guys that can play, not pieces that fit. He can play in our defense right now. Denzel was 208 pounds his freshman year and made a commitment to the weight room and is now 242 pounds. There's no reason Jermaine can't make that same commitment."

> D'Onofrio said freshman Darrion Owens is working at strong side linebacker, but he's also third on the depth chart at rush end behind Tyriq McCord and Al-Quadin Muhammad.

"He's looked really good doing it. Natural," D'Onofrio said. "He's a good rusher. Same category of guys. We're starting to have some symmetry there."

March 03, 2014

Hiring Ice Harris a smart move for Canes, but making him an assistant coach would be even smarter

High school football coaches across South Florida were happy to hear Monday's news that Miami Booker T. Washington's Tim "Ice" Harris had been hired as assistant director of football operations at the University of Miami.

"Great news for Coach Ice and for The U," former Hurricane and Miami Central coach Roland Smith said. "It means a great deal for him to be back at UM. Everyone in the community knows him. He knows the ins and outs of Liberty City, Overtown and many other places here in Dade. He's going to be an asset."

"I think it’s definitely a good thing for both," said Miami Westminster Christian coach Sedrick Irvin, who spent two years at Alabama and another at Memphis as an assistant and knows the value of having a familiar, local face on a college staff.

"Besides, what else is there for him to accomplish at this level now?" Irvin continued. "State champs three times. National champs. It's always good to see the home school give a local coach who has done well a shot at the next level."

Harris, a three-time state championship winning coach and perennial winner with a 96-10 career record as a head coach, no doubt has earned the respect of coaches locally. As the direct liaison for high school coaches for UM -- among his new duties -- that will come in handy. So will the experience he already has from coordinating community service events the first time he was at UM under Randy Shannon from 2008 to 2010.

But if you're thinking Harris' hiring is going to "lock down South Florida recruiting" you're overestimating it some. Since he's not an assistant coach, Harris cannot recruit like one for the Hurricanes. 

According to UM here is what Harris can't do: He can't coach. He can't recruit. And he can't make phone calls to recruits.

What can he do? He can reach recruits through social media beginning Sept. 1 of their junior year and he can be involved in official on campus visits and eat meals during off campus official vists.

That's hardly the freedom assistants coaches have.

Other college programs have swooped into South Florida over the last two years and hired some of the top local coaches such as Miami Central's Telly Lockette (USF), Miramar's Damon Cogdell (West Virginia), University School's Roger Harriott (FAU) and Hialeah American's Corey Bell (FAU). By making them assistant coaches, they're allowed to go into homes, schools and recruit to the fullest extent. 

Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg was at Miami Edison and Norland when Harris had his first go-around with the Canes.

"If it's pretty much the same job as last time he can make phone calls to the coaches," Heidelburg said. "It’s not on the recruiting tip, but it’s moreso ‘Hey Coach Golden told me this kid was offered. I want to get a correct address and phone number. The coach may start a conversation with him like ‘So how is it over there?’ He can always plug in players that way and talk to them about that.

"They can use that help recruiting. But do I think FAU made a better move with Bell and Harriott? Yes. That’s where the advantage is going to be with Bell, Harriott and Lockette. They’ll coach the kids they are recruiting as opposed to Ice just selling the program.

"Bell, Harriott and Lockette can actually sell the kids, 'Hey we're from Miami and we're recruiting you to these positions.' I don’t know if a liaison position even allows for Ice to ride out with the coach who is recruiting the player."

Irvin, who again has been a part of a college staff at Alabama and Memphis, said where he thinks Harris can make an impact most is with parents.

"Me being realistic I don’t think he’ll have so much of an impact with players, but he can have an impact depending on how they use him and how he comes off to the parents," Irvin said.

Harris has told me in the past if he returned to the college ranks he wanted to be in a position where he could coach and not be a behind-the-scenes guy. There's always the possibility Golden is thinking two steps ahead here and wants to have Harris on staff with the idea of eventually making him an assistant. 

Harris also wants to finish college and get his degree at UM. Part of the reason he left Booker T. was to take advantage of this situation and finish school once and for all. He cannot become an assistant coach until he gets his degree.

"I don't know the details of the job for Ice, but maybe it will be used as a stepping stone to get acclimated to the college game and then maybe next year he’s a position coach," Heidelburg said. "I can definitelly see it like that."

Ice Harris heading back to UM

Tim "Ice" Harris, who won three state championships at Miami Booker T. Washington including a national title this past season, has accepted a position on the University of Miami football staff as Assistant Director of Football Operations.

Harris, 48, will be the primary liaison to high school coaches at UM under Al Golden. He will also assist in coordinating community service events for current student-athletes.

Harris worked under former UM coach Randy Shannon from 2008 to 2010 as a special assistant to the head coach. He coordinated the football team’s community relations projects and also assisted in other day-to-day operations of the football program.

Harris’ eldest son Tim Jr., Booker T.’s offensive coordinator, is expected to be named coach for the Tornadoes two sources told The Miami Herald. Harris Jr., 28, ran track at UM where he was an All-American. Harris' son, Treon, a star quarterback on the program’s back-to-back state championship teams, signed with the University of Florida last month.

Together the Harris family -- with deep roots to Miami's innercity -- led Booker T. to 26 consecutive victories and back-to-back state titles over the last two seasons. The Tornadoes finished the year ranked No. 1 in all seven national high school football polls.

In his first stint at Booker T. from 2003 to 2007, Harris Sr. went 57-7 and guided the Tornadoes to a state championship in 2007 en route to being named the USA Today National Coach of the Year.

He then followed his son Brandon Harris, a standout cornerback now with the Houston Texans, to UM the following fall. After Shannon was fired, Harris returned to Booker T. as head coach in 2011 and guided the Tornadoes to a state finals appearance immediately. Booker T. went 39-3 over the last three seasons combined including 14-0 this past season.

“God put me on this earth to help develop young people from a high school perspective,” Harris Sr. said after guiding Booker T. to the state championship last December and joining Nick Kotys (4), Billy Rolle (3) and Walt Frazier as the only other coaches in Miami-Dade County history to win at least three state titles.

“I know right now from watching our development the last three years you never know what might happen, if an offer may come. But right now I’m grounded to what we’re doing and Booker T. Washington High School.”

Eddie Arza, a longtime friend and assistant at Booker T. prior to 2013, said Ice was torn about leaving Booker T. but felt better knowing he was leaving the program in the hands of his son and his assistants. Harris Sr. also intends to finish his college degree at UM. 

"If there’s something he would want to come out in the article is that it was a gut-wrenching decision for him because he’s so tied up to that community and to those kids," Arza said. "The phrase saving lives came out in our conversations hundreds of times over the weekend. Ice was not only about winning games at Booker T., but saving lives. I told him listen 'You’ve taught everybody well and we’ll continue to save lives while your over there. Now with Ice being at UM he can save some lives not only in Overtown, but Liberty City, Goulds and other areas throughout the county.

"It’s important for people to know he cares so much about his community. What made the decision easier for him was we spent the weekend in Orlando in the Nike Clinic. We had our 15 coaches in a room and we sat and spoke and laughed about all the things we wanted to accomplish. We get along so great. Seeing us laugh and joke around and knowing how much football we know because of him, it made his decision easier."

Harris began his coaching career at Miami High where he coached wide receivers and served as the offensive coordinator from 1986 to 1996. There, he coached UM offensive coordinator James Coley. Harris also served as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Northwestern High School from 1997-98 and 2001-02. He was the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Miami Central High School from 1999-2000.

A native of Overtown, Harris played three years as a defensive back at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.

UM signed two of its top recruits in February from Booker T. -- five-star All-American defensive end Chad Thomas and four-star defensive end Demetrius Jackson. UM also has Booker T. standout running back Mark Walton (currently Class of 2016) committed as a recruit.

The Tornadoes are once again expected to be among the nation's elite teams in 2015.

March 02, 2014

UM Canes QB Ryan Williams will be a dad in August (Denzel Perryman's baby comes to practice) & lots of assorted notes from Day 2 of spring football

Today's Hurricanes' football practice, another nearly three-hour marathon at Greetree Field, was definitely a family affair on the sideline, where about 150-200 folks watched Day No. 2 of the 15-practice session that ends with the spring game April 12.

Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was there with his wife and a couple of his kids, Former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma came with his 4-year-old daughter Samaara, former UM running backs coach Don Soldinger -- a classic and UM Sports Hall of Famer --  was there watching and shmoozing, Artie Burns' mom Dana and his brothers were there, A.J. Highsmith came to watch his (former) teammates, Deon Bush's father came to watch, Shaiy Howard and family were there and the list goes on and on.

"It's fun watching,'' Vilma, who won a national championship in 2001, told me. "I work out here in the offseason every year and I always take time to come out and look. I watch them grinding away and it reminds me of how we were -- especially with Coach Soldinger here. It's just a matter of focusing in on the details. We made great strides last year and the boys will get even better.''

I especially enjoyed meeting Denzel Perryman's beautiful daughter Ella Grace, about to turn four months -- and then learning that quarterback Ryan Williams' wife, Deanna, is expecting a baby boy on August 5th. Right in time for the season. 

"I like the name Ryan but he likes Rey,'' said Deanna, who said, along with Ryan's mom, Jayne, that she's nixing that name. "I think he's ready to be a father. I think he'll be more motivated and a little bit more focused.''

 Deanna, who graduated from FIU in social work and health administration, eventually plans to get her masters in speech pathology.

Deanna and Ryan's mom said Ryan told UM offensive coordinator James Coley about his expected arrival before he told his parents. 

"Is that not crazy?'' Jayne said, laughing along with Deanna. "You go tell your football coach before you tell your parents. Football first. We're second.''

Deanna and Ryan "officially'' got married, Deanna said, on Jan. 31, 2012, in a small ceremony with their parents there. There was another party/ceremony later. They're having one baby shower in May with family members in New Orleans, and another shower later in South Florida.

"It should be an amazing year,'' Deanna said.

Denzel Perryman's fiancee, Cassie Stuart, is having an amazing year herself.

She brought baby Ella, who has long brown curls, sparkling blue eyes and a big smile, to watch Denzel practice. Denzel's dad was there, as well as a couple of Denzel's nephews and Denzel's younger brother.

"It's easy,'' Cassie said about being parents and Denzel having daddy responsibilities while playing football. "It took a while, but we figured it out.''

  While Cassie works a couple nights a week, she said Denzel happily stays home with Ella Grace.

  "He's awesome with the baby,'' she said. 

  Cassie plans to eventually return to school to finish a degree in criminal justice. She told me she was grateful that Denzel returned to UM for his senior season.

  "He needed to get his degree,'' she said. "I'm happy he made that decision.'' 

So are UM fans.

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

*The Canes practiced in shorts again Sunday. The injury list is the same as yesterday, except for linebacker Thurston Armbrister being out of his limited yellow jersey and back in green. 

*Early signee Trent Harris, listed as 6-2 and 240 pounds, watched the practice on the field in street clothes because he has not been cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center due to paperwork that still has to be signed and approved. Don't know the details.

* First-team black jerseys that I noticed Sunday: CB Tracy Howard, safety Deon Bush, safety Jamal Carter, cornerback Larry Hope, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhhamad, linebacker Perryman, linebacker Raphael Kirby, linebacker Alex Figueroa. 

*Though it's obviously early, Dallas Crawford looks really good at safety. He had a great pass breakup during practice, leaping way the heck into the air to get it. Then, a couple plays later, he intercepted a pass by scout-teamer Garrison Lassiter.

*Howard picked off his former Miramar High school teammate, Williams.

 *Williams threw a 40-yard touchdown to Stacy Coley to end the practice.

*CB Artie Burns, the new ACC 60-meter hurdles champion, returned from the ACC track and field championships at Clemson and was on the sideline watching his teammates and getting congratulated by coaches and players. Al Golden called him a "champion'' today.

* Practice resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Everyone is invited back. It's open.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

March 01, 2014

First Hurricanes spring football practice in the books: great day, says Al Golden (& news on Hunter)

Before I drive home to write my stories, here's some quick news you can use from today's opening day of Miami spring practice:

* First and most important: UM offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who was in the hospital (not sure about now), is doing much better, according to coach Al Golden. That right there made my day.

* A lot of players -- 12 from what we know right now -- are injured and not taking part in spring practice, at least for now. Several of them are out for all of spring. 

 The injuries I know about:

  * Fr WR Braxton Berrios (ACL surgery)

  * Soph WR Malcolm Lewis (he was granted a medical hardship waiver for injury a couple seasons ago at Georgia Tech) for sports hernia

  * Soph S Rayshawn Jenkins (unspecified)

  * Soph CB Nate Dortch (knee) 

  * Soph CB Corn Elder (knee)    

  * Sr. DL Anthony Chickillo (unspecified)

  * Sr. CB Ladarius Gunter (shoulder/left arm in sling)

  * Sr. C Shane McDermott (boot on left foot)

  * Jr. WR Herb Waters (brace on left knee)

  * Jr. RB Duke Johnson (broke ankle at FSU)

  * Fr. RB Joseph Yearby (fractured fibula this past season)

  * Sr. TE Clive Walford (unspecified)

  Golden said he wasn't sure yet which guys would miss all of spring and which would return sooner. Some will eventually be doing individual drills, for example, and not have any contact.

   The ones I heard that were out temporarily (maybe through spring break, let's say -- but not for sure) are Chickillo, Lewis, Jenkins and Waters). We'll see on those, however. These injury situations are usually in flux.

  Just about every one except Ladarius Gunter is a "lower extremity'' injury, although not sure yet on Walford. 

  * Here are some of the defensive players who were wearing the coveted black jerseys: Soph CB Larry Hope, Soph S Jamal Carter, Jr. CB Tracy Howard, Jr. S Deon Bush, Soph LB Alex Figueroa, Soph DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, Jr. DL Ufomba Kamalu, Jr. LB Raphael Kirby.

* Yes, Dallas Crawford is a safety now, and he said Coach Golden was the one who approached him about it. He wants to play, and he seems ready to do whatever the team needs him to do. He's a wonderful team player and Golden insisted no matter how coaches look at Dallas, he is one of the 22 best football players on the team.

* The starting offensive linemen today were left tackle Erick Flowers, left guard Jon Feliciano, center Alex Gall, right guard Danny Isidora and right tackle Taylor Gadbois.

  The second-team OL today: left tackle Kc McDermott (yes, Shane's 6-4, 296-pound "little (haha)" brother, LG Sean Harvey, center Hunter Wells, right guard Trevor Darling and right tackle Sunny Odogwu.

 * Ricky Carroll, a 6-3, 198-pound fifth-year senior out of Mission Viejo, Calif. and formerly of Orange Coast College, appears to be your punter. UM needs big-time help with this position.

* Sr. WR Rashawn Scott, back from suspension and injury, scored a nice touchdown from quarterback Ryan Williams. Scott was contrite about his mistakes in the past and is very happy to be back and intent on making his senior year count. Scott has tons of talent, but between getting in trouble several times and the injury... This is his last shot.

* Sr. Ryan Williams is poised to be your starter, no doubt. He is mature and forthright and knows his weaknesses and strengths. Both coach Golden and offensive coordinator/QB coach James Coley said today that Ryan needs to be more vocal. Ryan said he's working on it every day. I hope he succeeds.

* Golden and Coley also were upbeat about backup redshirt freshman QB Kevin Olsen, who seemed pleased to be back. Nothing tells me in any way that he'll end up starting this season unless something happens to Ryan. Backup sophomore Gray Crow is the other scholarship QB battling at the position.

* Sr.LB Denzel Perryman will play in the middle this season in the 4-3 defense. He looks bigger and more muscular than he's ever been. He said he knew he made the right decision in returning for his final year when he came out there today on the field.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

February 28, 2014

17 thoughts and observations on the Canes heading into the start of spring football

Some thoughts and observations on the Hurricanes heading into the start of spring football Saturday:

### I never quite understood why Stephen Morris received as much criticism as he did during his tenure as UM’s starting quarterback. Only four starters posted better passer ratings than Morris (137.8) throughout their careers at UM and all four were either national champions or Heisman winners: Vinny Testaverde (152.9), Ken Dorsey (147.4), Steve Walsh (142.2) and Bernie Kosar (139.8).

Tied with Morris in fifth place is Craig Erickson, who also had a passer rating of 137.8 and won a national title too. Put Morris around the same supporting cast and defenses those guys played with and ask yourself if Morris doesn’t win a national title as well. Sure, he ranks 7th all-time in career interceptions at UM with 30. But that’s still only one more than Kosar and two more than Dorsey had during their careers.

My point is you’re going to miss Morris more than you know this coming season. You’ll start to see why by the spring game.

### Ryan Williams is a nice kid. He’s taller (6-6, 225) than Morris and he’s been waiting in the wings for three years for his turn. But his arm isn’t as strong as his predecessor and that counts for something in James Coley’s offense. Coley likes to go vertical. A lot.

UM ranked 17th nationally last season with 57 pass plays of 20 yards or more and third with 36 pass plays of 30 yards or more. Sure, some of those came on short pass plays Stacy Coley turned into much longer ones. But not the majority of them. Coley told me several times throughout the season Williams’ arm strength had been improving. We’ll get to see how much soon enough.

### I don't want to throw an extra blanket of pressure on redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen, but this spring wouldn't be the time to have any more mental lapses. Brad Kaaya, the four-star All-American recruit from California that Coley handpicked, will be arriving soon. 

### Duke Johnson and Joseph Yearby won’t be participating this spring because of injuries, but there’s a reason you should still keep an eye on the Canes' backfield. They badly need depth to develop.

Want to know where the Hurricanes ranked in rushing over their final five regular season games in November? Try 107th. UM ran for 567 yards or 113.4 a game. Take away the 97 Johnson ran for back on Nov. 2nd when he tore up his ankle in a blowout loss at Florida State, and the Canes ran 118 times for 470 yards or about 3.98 yards per carry without him. UM topped it off with 14 yards on 28 carries in the bowl loss to Louisville. Despite all that, the Hurricanes still finished 72nd nationally in rushing with 160.3 yards per game.

My point is obvious -- Duke carries a huge load. Without him the Hurricanes aren’t average. They are well below average. Dallas Crawford’s move back to safety this spring – the original position UM recruited him for – will put the onus on big Gus Edwards (6-2, 225) to prove to us his 5.1 yards per carry average last season wasn’t a mirage. Because his stats tell us they might have been.

Edwards chugged for 230 of his 338 yards as a freshman (6.97 yards on 33 combined carries) against Savannah State, South Florida and Pittsburgh in games UM easily ran away with. Meanwhile, he ran another 108 yards (3.27 yards per carry on 33 combined carries) against FAU, Virginia Tech, Duke, Virginia and Louisville.

### There probably won’t be a more electrifying sophomore receiver in the country next season than Miami’s Stacy Coley. Among freshman in 2013, only Bowling Green’s Ronnie Moore had more yards  per catch (19.54, 10th nationally) than Coley (17.91, 22nd nationally). You know who finished second among freshman receivers in yards per catch in 2012? Alabama’s Amari Cooper (17.22 yards per catch).

Coley only caught 33 passes total in 2012, but had 12 catches go for 20 yards or more (tied for 85th) and eight go for 30 yards or more (tied for 38th). To put Coley’s yards per catch average into context, only three receivers with at least 70 catches in their Hurricanes careers put up career averages that were better. They are: Andre Johnson (19.9), Eddie Brown (19.7) and Brian Blades (18.7).

Now the task for Coley will be going from being that quiet, talented freshman in the back of the room to front and center now that the Allen Hurns, the seventh-leading receiver in Canes history (121 catches, 1,891 yards, 14 TDs) is gone. Hurns converted 15 catches last season on third down for first downs (tied for 20th best in the country). The Hurricanes didn’t have another player with double-digit catches on third down. Those are huge shoes to fill.

### It’s going to be a very important this spring for seniors Phillip Dorsett (injured) and Rashawn Scott (suspended and injured) to bounce back. They were UM’s leading receivers two years ago with 98 combined catches for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns. Last year? Dorsett had 13 catches for 272 yards and two scores in eight games and Scott had three catches for 38 yards in four games.

### Clive Walford’s 34 catches for 454 yards and two touchdowns last season were good for the third most catches and yards on the team. The Hurricanes haven’t had a tight end post a season like that since Greg Olsen led the team in catches back in 2006 with 40 receptions for 489 yards and a score.

UM was quick to point out on numerous occasions that many of Walford’s catches (19) produced first downs. The stat they didn’t share? Only two of Walford’s 34 catches the entire season were made on third downs. Both produced first downs, but considering third down is a time when a lot of tight ends make their mark, this is the area Walford should be concentrating on.

By the way, for your record keeping, only four tight ends at UM have more career catches and yards than Walford (77 catches, 1,077 yards, 7 TDs) does. They are: Kellen Winslow (119 catches, 1,365 yards, 9 TDs), Willie Smith (117-1,544, 6 TDs), Glenn Dennison (106-1,095, 5 TDs) and Olsen (87-1,215 yards, 6 TDs).

### UM has three other scholarship tight ends in camp this spring we would like to see more from: sophomores Jake O’Donnell (no catches) and Standish Dobard (1 catch, 15 yards) and senior Beau Sandland, who had nine catches for 94 yards and a score. Six of Sandland’s catches came against Savannah State. He didn’t catch a pass after the Florida State loss. That’s disappointing considering how highly touted Sandland was coming in from junior college.

### Don’t underestimate the losses to graduation on the offensive line. Brandon Linder (42 career starts), Seantrel Henderson (26 career starts) and Jared Wheeler (6 starts all as a senior) anchored the right side and did a fine job while here. UM only surrendered 17 sacks last season (tied for 21st and second in the ACC). That's the same number they gave up in 2012.

Freshman KC McDermott, UM’s best recruit on offense, is in for the spring and that’s huge. All eyes figure to be fixated on him as he tries to solidify himself as someone who can start right away. Same for Miami Central’s Trevor Darling, who at 6-5, 320-pounds has the size to play early too.

The other options to start alongside junior left tackle Ereck Flowers, senior left guard Jon Feliciano and senior center Shane McDermott? Guys we’ve hardly seen: redshirt freshman Sunny Odogwu (6-8, 324), sophomores Danny Isidora (6-4, 316), Alex Gall (6-5, 306), and Taylor Gadbois (6-8, 316) and junior Hunter Wells (6-6, 312). My thoughts are Gall and Isidora are probably the only two guys Darling and KC McDermott will be getting real competition from.

### Count your blessing that linebacker Denzel Perryman decided to return for his senior season. It’s not that Perryman is a dominant player (108 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and one forced fumble). It’s that he’s one of the few experienced, reliable players in UM’s front seven.

Miami’s defense has wreaked something stanky two years running (26.8 ppg, 90th in yards per game in 2013 and 30.5 ppg, 120th in yards per game in 2012). But even with talented new additions in the 2014 signing class, you still need someone out there who can point people in the right direction.

Four of the team’s top six more experienced players and tacklers in the front seven (Jimmy Gaines, Shayon Green, Tyrone Cornelius, Justin Renfrow) are gone. Perryman, senior defensive end Anthony Chickillo (46 tackles), junior linebacker Thurston Armbrister (33 tackles) and senior defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (33 tackles) are all that is back in terms of players who saw heavy workloads.

So this spring is going to be all about players like sophomore linebacker Alex Figueroa (17 tackles in 9 games), junior rush end Tyriq McCord (13 tackles in 13 games), senior defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu (13 tackles in 9 games), sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (8 tackles in 13 games) and sophomore linebacker Raphael Kirby (10 tackles in 13 games) all growing up from role players.

### While last season’s 29 sacks were a huge improvement over 2012’s 13 sacks for UM's defense, there’s no question the Hurricanes still have room to grow when it comes to putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Miami ranked 44th nationally in sacks.

They were eighth in 2010 with a total of 37 sacks. That season they finished 27th nationally in scoring defense (20.7 points per game) and 22nd in total defense (323.3 yards per game).

### While UM loaded up in the front seven on Singing Day, only four are here in camp for the spring. They are defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou, who comes in from junior college, defensive end Trent Harris, and linebackers Juwon Young and Darrion Owens. It’s probably asking a lot for those last three guys to come in right away and be nothing more than role players.

All eyes should really be fixated on sophomore linebacker Jermaine Grace, who is still slim at 6-1, 210 pounds, but probably has more speed and natural instincts than anyone else for UM at linebacker.

### The stats say the Hurricanes finished 92nd in pass defense last season, giving up 249.8 yards per game. But the stat I prefer to look at it opposing quarterback rating.

UM finished 57th there last year (130.33 rating) and fell two spots to 59th in 2013. But they actually improved (125.71 rating 2013) for the third straight year (142.66 rating in 2011). That’s because the Canes produced more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (16) allowed in 2012 (15 TDs, 11 INTs). UM gave up 16 TDs and had only six interceptions in 2011.

Remember that pass rushing stat stat I used a little while ago? Back in 2010 the Hurricanes finished fifth nationally in opposing QB rating (99.10). My point: When you have a pass rush, your defense has teeth.

### Dallas Crawford’s return to defense – likely at safety -- makes things interesting to me. We all know what a healthy Deon Bush can do (he finished 13th on the team with 31 tackles in 11 games). He and fellow junior Rayshawn Jenkins (46 tackles, 5th on the team) should be your starting safeties. But at least now if either of them get hurt you have a player in Crawford (6 tackles in 2013) who has 16 career tackles and knows how to deliver a hit back there. He’s shown it on special teams.

### UM’s cornerbacks certainly have some experience under their belts now. Senior Ladarius Gunter leads the way with 17 starts. Junior Tracy Howard has made 13; junior Antonio Crawford (2 starts, 25 games); speedy sophomore Artie Burns (11 games).

### The Hurricanes finished 42nd nationally in passes defended (62) in 2013. They had 61 pass breakups in 2012 and only 30 total (ranked 115th) in 2011. The last time they had a good defense in 2010 they broke up 63 passes (25th nationally).

### So who is going to replace one of UM’s most dangerous weapons in Pat O’Donnell at punter? Glad you asked. We’re not sure either. 

New UM Hurricanes football uniforms to be unveiled this spring. Tell me what you would like to see.

The Hurricanes made it official Friday by announcing what we learned last November was coming for this season, but didn't know when we could get a glimpse.

New football uniforms.

What I've learned today is that the jerseys to be sold for retail will be available in at least three colors:  green, orange and the new "anthracite," -- which is the same gray the Canes wore against Virginia Tech this past season.

The jersey number that will grace your retail UM jerseys for 2014: 8. That's running back Duke Johnson, of course. His No. 8 also was used for jerseys last season, too.

The unis have been designed by Nike and will be unveiled by UM sometime this spring.

“The timing is right and we want a uniform that speaks to our tradition, yet recognizes current trends,” Hurricanes head coach Al Golden said in a UM release. “Nike is working on innovative designs with the latest performance technology and we are excited to unveil them this spring.”

 From UM: "The uniforms that Miami wore during the 2013 season were initially unveiled in 2006. During that time, UM has worn three special edition uniforms: two variations (2009 and 2010), as well as #TheSmoke uniforms and helmets unveiled during the Virginia Tech game this season. Miami also wore its smoke helmets for the 2013 bowl game in Orlando."

 "Historically, UM has been a trend setter in college football for uniform designs,” Miami AD Blake James said. “There is no better design team than the group of experts at Nike, and we’re excited about bringing new uniforms to our team and especially our fan base that has been asking for a refreshed look. We have one of the most recognizable brands in college athletics, and we look forward to strengthening that position in the years to come.”

 UM said the new fan jerseys will be available at retail stores, includingShopMiamiHurricanes.com, in time for the start of the 2014 season.

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Here's the last blog I did on new unis when Miami wore "the smoke'' version against Virginia Tech -- and lost -- on Nov. 9.   

Homecoming helmet and jersey surprise tonight for Miami Hurricanes vs. Virginia Tech

The Hurricanes have unveiled a special helmet and jersey tonight for the Virginia Tech game at Homecoming.

The uniforms have been dubbed "The Smoke.''

The jersey is gray. The helmet is white, with a wide gray base, with a large orange-and-green U.

The last time I recall UM breaking out complete new unis -- a la Nike Pro Combat -- was guess when?

Nov. 20, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium against the Virginia Tech Hokies.

The Canes, then ranked 24th, came into that game 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the ACC.

The unis: orange jerseys with green sleeves, orange pants with wide green stripes and green helmets with a prominent U on either side.  

Virginia Tech came into the game ranked 14th, with an 8-2 overall and 6-2 ACC record.

The Hokies won the game 31-17 and clinched the Coastal Division of the ACC.

I really liked those unis. I think I might have been the only one.

By the way, Miami will be getting a new uniform design for the 2014 season. It has not been revealed what they'll look like. 

 

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What would you guys like to see in terms of a new uniform? A lot of you seem to like the traditional. Traditional sounds good to me, though I usually like the trendy ones, too. The new looks are fun.
 
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Spring football begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at Greentree Field and you're all invited, per the Hurricanes. See you there!
 
 
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

February 27, 2014

Nicolas' death evokes memories of other young Canes gone too soon

The death of a young person is always difficult to swallow.

And yet, when it comes to the University of Miami football team, it feels like these tough to swallow moments hit home far too often. 

Former UM defensive back JoJo Nicolas passed away Wednesday evening, a day after being involved in a horrific car accident. Nicolas slammed his car into the rear of a refrigerated 18-wheeler heading west on the MacArthur Causeway at about 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.

It happened hours after he posted pictures and comments on Instagram saying he was out having fun in anticipation of his 25th birthday. Detectives are still trying to determine whether speed, alcohol, texting or any other factors played a role.

Be it a car accident, violence or even a plane crash, the list of tragic deaths involving Hurricanes goes on and on and on.

The first one that comes to mind for most UM fans: Jerome Brown back in 1992. He and a 12-year-old nephew were killed when the Corvette he was speeding in skidded off a slippery road and onto a utility pole in his hometown of Brooksville, Fla. Brown was 27 and in the prime of his NFL career.

In 1992, Shane Curry, a former Canes defensive lineman with the Colts, was shot in the head and killed during an argument in a Cincinnati lounge parking lot.

In 1996, linebacker Marlin Barnes was bludgeoned to death in his campus apartment. He was 22.

A month after Barnes' death, former Canes offensive lineman Robert Woodus was among the 110 who died in the ValuJet crash in the Everglades.

Linebacker Chris Campbell, a senior starter on the 2001 national championship team, died when he lost control of his car and ran into a tree at 4 a.m. in Coral Gables. It happened a month after Miami celebrated its fifth national title in the Rose Bowl. Campbell was 21.

A year later, it was Al Blades. The former standout safety and younger brother of Bennie and Brian Blades was killed in a car crash following the celebration of his 26th birthday. His friend was at the wheel, racing someone else when he lost control of the car before it slammed into a bridge and plunged into a canal in Opa Locka.

Three years later it was Bryan Pata. The former defensive lineman was shot and killed in his apartment complex shortly after leaving a UM practice. He was 22.

A year later, Sean Taylor was shot and killed by robbers inside his home. He was 24 and in the prime of his NFL career.

Not long after Taylor's death in 2007, Time magazine writer wondered if the Hurricanes were cursed because the program "seemed a magnet for guns and trouble."

Former Hurricane safety Earl Little, who was Barnes' best friend and found him dead in his apartment, said he doesn't believe in any curse.

"It's the world we live in," Little, 40, said by phone late Wednesday night. "I had a lot of friends who I grew up with that aren't here anymore. They didn't all play football for the Hurricanes. I think it's just a situation where a lot of young cats just leave us too soon."

Little, who has coached high school football locally and was recently hired to be the head coach at Miami Jackson, said he spent the night Wednesday on the phone talking to former Canes teammate Chad Wilson. When tragedy hits the program, Little said, that's what Hurricanes current and former do. They grieve together and remember all the UM brothers they've lost.

"Not a day goes by I don't think about Marlin. That's the honest truth," Little said. "With the deaths of Sean Taylor and Bryan Pata and now JoJo all of them took me back to Marlin, to April 12, 1996.  Immediately. It's something that hits home for all of us when one of our Hurricane brothers dies. Time heals. But what JoJo's family is going through is going to be tough. It will heal. But it still hurts."

Little met Nicolas once -- at a football camp he coached at UM. But Little said he admired Nicolas' attitude and the way he played safety and cornerback for the Hurricanes from 2007 to 2011. 

Nicolas, a Homestead High graduate, was a relatively quiet player for most of his career when I covered him at UM and in high school.

But in his final season with the Canes -- shortly after the death of his prematurely born son -- Nicolas became a vocal leader for Al Golden's first team at UM. He was pulling the team together after losses and delivering pep-talks.

"He used to have the mute button on, never really talked that much," defensive end Olivier Vernon told me at the time. "Not anymore."

In a 24-7 win over Georgia Tech, Nicolas had an interception that led to a touchdown and recovered a muffed punt in the end zone for another score.

"I'm happy for him, happy to see him doing well," Sean Spence said of Nicolas after that victory. "Back in the past, JoJo said a couple things here and there, but he was always a guy who led by example. Now, he's leading by example, speaking up, making sure we're doing the right things. It's helped us out a lot."

The Hurricanes finished 6-6 that season. Nicolas didn't get to play in a bowl game as the Hurricanes decided to sit one out because of the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Nicolas didn't get drafted. He spent a preseason with the Giants in 2012 as an undrafted rookie free agent.

Now, he's gone at the age of 24. It's another sad, tragic loss for the Hurricanes family to swallow.

February 26, 2014

Too many sad memories. Now JoJo is gone, but I'm hoping he's reunited with baby LJ, his namesake.

 

Another Hurricane gone too soon.

I've covered this beat through several UM deaths, all of them horrible.

Linebacker Chris Campbell died at age 21 in a one-car accident in Coral Gables in 2002, a month after the National Championship victory against Nebraska. He developed an infection in his knee before the bowl game and couldn't play, and I can still recall him sitting there disappointed a few days before the bowl game, talking to me in a daze. And I can also still remember visiting the people who owned the house in Coral Gables -- outside of which he barrelled into a huge tree and died from head trauma. He was found to be under the influence of alcohol. Tragic.

DAY OF SORROW AND SHOCK: 'I CAN'T BELIEVE HE'S GONE'

BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN, sdegnan@herald.com

Ed Wilkins got the call from University of Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe at 9 a.m. Saturday. He immediately began to weep.
"I broke down," said Wilkins, a lineman who learned from Kehoe that teammate Chris Campbell, a senior linebacker, was killed when the car he was driving slammed into a tree near campus at about 4 a.m. - three hours after Wilkins saw him for the last time at CocoWalk in Coconut Grove.

"I can't believe he's gone."
Nor can his teammates and coaches, who were told Saturday through a chain reaction of phone calls, or in person by head coach Larry Coker, that the 21-year-old Campbell, of Mt. Pleasant, Texas, was dead.
"He was a beautiful kid," Kehoe said. "And I send out my prayers to his family. To see someone like that get his life snuffed out. . . . You realize how precious life is and how lucky we are to have each other."  

 

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Safety Al Blades died in March of 2003, also in a car accident following a birthday celebration -- his 26th. His death was especially shocking. I got the call at home and was sick about it. This is the start of the story I wrote about Al, a really funny, kind of wild guy whose older brothers starred at UM (including 1987 Jim Thorpe Award winner Bennie, now in the College Football Hall of Fame):

"Former University of Miami football player Al Blades - the gregarious, well-loved free safety whose fiery play and funny personality inspired his coaches and teammates - died early Thursday after the car in which he was a passenger struck a bridge abutment and plunged into a canal.
Blades, father of a 3-year-old son, Al Jr., celebrated his 26th birthday Wednesday.

"The driver of the car, which witnesses told police was racing with another car on Northwest 22nd Avenue in Miami-Dade, was Fort Lauderdale resident Martel Johnson, 26, a nephew of Blades' brother-in-law.  
Blades was transported by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue to Parkway Regional Medical Center in North Miami Beach, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 2:37 a.m.
"He was a drowning victim," Parkway spokesman Drew Landmeier said. "There was nothing we could do."
Blades' father, Frederick Blades, 66, was admitted to Parkway when his blood pressure skyrocketed upon arriving with his wife, Rosa, to identify their son. He was in stable condition Thursday night and expected to be released today.
"I want everybody to know," said Blades' brother, Bennie, "that there were two things Al loved in this whole world while he was here - his family and the University of Miami. I don't care where he went, he'd talk about those two."
Said Rosa Blades, 64, who has six other children: "Just ask everyone to pray for us."

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Everytime I wind around that hospital, which is now called Jackson North Medical Center, to get onto I-95, I think of Al. EVERYtime.

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And on Nov. 7, 2006, the lead to my Bryan Pata story: "A University of Miami season of tumult turned horrific Tuesday night when Hurricanes defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed at his apartment complex in Kendall.
"He was shot in the head," Miami Central coach Anthony Saunders said Tuesday night. "He is dead."

   I remember writing the story and driving with our photographer out to his apartment complex, and all the stories in the aftermath. The case, ruled a homicide, is still unsolved.

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Sean Taylor in 2007 came next.

It was heart-wrenching from beginning to end. This is the beginning of our story from his funeral...

MOVING TRIBUTE: UM FAMILY MOURNS ONE OF ITS 'BROTHERS'

BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

They walked one by one, side by side, into Florida International University's Pharmed Arena -- well scrubbed, well dressed and pensive.

Jonathan Vilma. Reggie Wayne. Edgerrin James. Phillip Buchanon. Antrel Rolle.

Jon Beason. Frank Gore. Andre Johnson. Roscoe Parrish. Devin Hester.

Greg Olsen. Jeremy Shockey. Bubba Franks. Chris Myers. Buck Ortega.

Javon Nanton. Ethenic Sands. Santana Moss. Vernon Carey. Clinton Portis.

And so on, and so on.

Dozens of former University of Miami football players and coaches converged in Miami on Monday to remember Sean Taylor, their fallen teammate and UM brother who died last Tuesday from a gunshot wound.

"Bryan Pata, Kevin Everett, Sean . . . We've had it rough recently," said Buffalo Bills wide receiver Parrish, who came to UM with Taylor in 2001. "It's a tough experience for all of us when things like this happen. We're a unit. We're the U. We're family. If something happens to anybody, they've got all our support."

Parrish, accompanied by Chicago Bears sensation Hester, couldn't get over the way Taylor died: in his home, his girlfriend and 18-month-old daughter hiding under the covers in the same room.

"For something like this to happen, and the way it happened -- he was at his house in his bed with his family. It's crazy. It makes you be like, 'Wow.' You have to be careful out there and watch your surroundings. It wasn't like he was at a club or anything. He was at his home. That's the most scary part about it."

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And now, JoJo, less than a week before his 25th birthday.

I copied this quote from an interview with JoJo in September of 2011, about a month after his baby, Joseph Jr., died.  

Q: "Obviously you’ve had a tough time emotionally. How are you doing? It seems like you’ve been strong."

JoJo: "Yeah, I’m handling it very well. Of course I miss my son dearly. Each day I just dedicate coming out here to him. Being around this team, guys, with the support from the coaches and the team, that’s how I’ve been strong. Being here for them and wanting to play for them just helps me to keep going and knowing my son is always with me in spirit, I play for him everyday. I feel like I would never be able to quit knowing he’s with me."

Concluded JoJo: "It's going to be with me every day because it's my creation, so me and his mother, we think about it, talk about it every day. We still have his leftover blankets and everything like that. I carry his blanket with me to every game. I always feel like a piece of him is with me. He was born at a pound, four ounces.''

Poor JoJo went much too soon. I hope he's with LJ again.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

UM Canes football program opening curtain to spring practice -- fans invited to attend all but 3 sessions

It has been a long time, but the University of Miami has decided to open 12 of 15 spring football sessions to the public. 

The three closed sessions to everyone, including media: Friday, March 28 practice and the first two scrimmages on Saturday, March 29 and Friday, April 4.

Miami opens spring drills this Saturday, March 1, at 9 a.m. at Greentree Field.

The bowl practices were open to the public, too. Nice touch. 

Will you be coming to any practices? Fun to bring the kids, even if you don't stay the whole time.

Here's the UM release:

Twelve of the Miami Hurricanes’ spring football practices will be open to the public. Miami’s March 28 practice and its first two scrimmages (March 29, April) will be closed to the public. Miami opens spring drills Sat., March 1 with a 9 a.m. practice at Greentree.

 A new twist to this year’s spring practice schedule: coaches from the University of Miami, FIU, FAU and the Miami Dolphins have joined forces to host the first annual South Florida Football Festival for high school and youth coaches March 28-29 on the UM campus. Two-day registration is $50 and Saturday registration is $20. Don Soldinger will be the keynote speaker Friday night as he talks about his “Attitude of a Champion”.

 The South Florida Football Festival will also include “Fundamental Friday”, a 90-minute demonstration to assist high school and youth coaches and players learn the latest fundamentals and techniques from the 2014 Miami Hurricanes coaches and players.

 

2014 MIAMI HURRICANES SPRING FOOTBALL DATES

Saturday, March 1                   Practice 1 (9 a.m.)

Sunday, March 2                      Practice 2 (9 a.m.)

Tuesday, March 4                    Practice 3 (9 a.m.)

Thursday, March 6                   Practice 4 (9 a.m.)

Tuesday, March 18                  Practice 5 (9 a.m.)

Thursday, March 20                 Practice 6 (9 a.m.)

Saturday, March 22                 Practice 7 (9 a.m.)

Tuesday, March 25                  Practice 8 (9 a.m.)

Friday, March 28                      Practice 9 (6 p.m.), Cobb Stadium – Closed to the public

Saturday, March 29                 Scrimmage 1 (12 p.m.), Greentree – Closed to the public

Tuesday, April 1                        Practice 11 (9 a.m.)

Friday, April 4                            Scrimmage 2 (6 p.m.), Greentree – Closed to the public

Tuesday, April 8                        Practice 13 (9 a.m.)

Thursday, April 10                    Practice 14 (9 a.m.)

Saturday, April 12                     Spring Game (6 p.m.), Sun Life Stadium

 
The University of Miami has launched the $7 million Football Victory Fund to address the most important needs of the football program. There are a variety of ways to contribute to the Football Victory Fund as well as to Hurricanes Athletics.  For more information on how you can donate and details of the pending projects, please call the Hurricane Club at 305-284-6699 or visit umvictoryfund.com
 
For the latest information on the Miami Hurricanes, follow us on Twitter, @MiamiHurricanes, and check out the official football blog, www.theufootball.com. For the most accurate and up to date information delivered to your phone, download the official Miami Hurricanes app for your Droid or iPhone.
 
FIRST ANNUAL SOUTH FLORIDA FOOTBALL FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
Friday, March 28
8:00-9:30 a.m.                      Registration (Student Activities Center)
9:30 a.m.                                Welcome & Staff Introductions
9:45-10:45 a.m.                    Offense with James Coley
9:45-10:45 a.m.                    Defense with Mark D’Onofrio
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.        Chalk Talks by Position
12:15-1:30 p.m.                    Lunch (Student Activities Center)
1:45-3:00 p.m.                      Special Teams with Al Golden: Essentials of the Return Game
3:15-4:30 p.m.                      Offense with Dan Shula, FAU WR Coach
3:15-4:30 p.m.                      Defense with Corey Bell, FAU DB Coach
4:45-6:00 p.m.                      Dinner (Student Activities Center)
6:15-7:45 p.m.                      “Fundamental Friday” at Cobb Stadium
8:15-9:15 p.m.                      Keynote Speaker – Don Soldinger “Attitude of a Champion”
9:15 p.m.                                Coaches Social
 
Saturday, March 29
7:00-8:30 a.m.                      Registration (Student Activities Center)
8:45-10:00 a.m.                    Offense with Steve Shankweiler, FIU Offensive Coordinator
8:45-10:00 a.m.                    Defense with Josh Conklin, FIU Defensive Coordinator
10:15-11:30 a.m.                  Special Teams with Darren Rizzi, Miami Dolphins
11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m.        Lunch
12:00-2:00 p.m.                  Miami Hurricanes scrimmage

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

February 25, 2014

Horrible day at the office -- horrible day for the Miami Hurricanes; Prayers for JoJo & Hunter

This wasn't a good day for anyone involved with the Miami Hurricanes -- and for anyone with a heart.

First, the news about former UM safety JoJo Nicolas getting into a horrific car accident on the MacArthur Causeway.

Then, the news about current UM offensive lineman Hunter Knighton being sent to the hospital after a workout at UM. Last I heard he was not conscious, but that was several hours ago. 

UM sent out a release that certainly seems hopeful for Hunter. I don't have any more details on Hunter, other than what I wrote in the story. Most of us don't know him because he didn't play this season after shoulder surgery. He will be a redshirt freshman. 

Athletics Department Statement on Redshirt Freshman Hunter Knighton:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Hunter Knighton and his family at this time, though we are encouraged by the prognosis.  We look forward to his return to normal activities as soon as his health permits.

 "Out of respect for the privacy of those involved, UM will have no further comment at this time."

 As for JoJo, police had said, in so many words, that it didn't look promising

 

I always liked JoJo when he played safety at UM. He was quiet and understated, but very thoughtful and polite and a nice person. We all felt horrible when his baby son, who was born four months prematurely, passed away as an infant. He was very gracious in talking to us about it, and how his heart ached.

If anyone out there believes in the power of prayer, it wouldn't hurt to start doing it now. 

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Mystery recruit identified. LA Times: defensive lineman from LA County, Calif., signs with the Miami Hurricanes

Apparently, the Hurricanes weren't done on National Signing Day.

The LA Times reported that defensive lineman Joe Brown of Paramount, Calif., has signed with the Miami Hurricanes (Class of 2014). 

UM confirmed the news on Tuesday.

Brown told Rivals.com he will be converted to an offensive lineman.

I was told by UM insider that Brown was the young man seen walking with offensive line coach Art Kehoe and receivers coach Brennan Carroll to meet up with some players who at the time were in their informal offseason practice Friday night. The coaches were going to hand him off to the players, who were going to show him some campus facilities after they finished practicing.

On the Paramount High website, Brown is listed as a 6-5, 330-pounder who played nose guard, defensive end and defensive tackle. His team played in the San Gabriel Valley League and went 7-4 this past season. He had 82 tackles -- 61 of them solo, according to the school website.

Brown was a San Gabriel Valley two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

He also reportedly was offered a scholarship by University of Texas El Paso.

Brown had academic problems and "had to make up a lot of classes the past two years, going to summer school and adult school," according to The Times, which attributed that to Paramount athletic director Alex Acosta. Brown also reportedly improved his SAT score along with his grades.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

February 22, 2014

Canes at Combine: punter O'Donnell blazing fast (& strong); OT Henderson also fast. OG Linder: strong.

Caught some of the NFL Combine on the NFL Network earlier today.

UM punter Pat O'Donnell, at 6-4 1/8 and 220 pounds, looked like the physical specimen he had been all last season with UM. He ran like it, too.

O'Donnell ran a 4.64 official 40-yard dash. At first they posted a 4.53 time, but that was unofficial. His time, last I checked at 1:51 p.m., was eighth overall for the day (fastest I checked was tight end A.C. Leonard of Tennessee State in 4.43) and top among kickers/punters. According to NFL.com, O'Donnell's 40 time tied the fastest by a kicker or punter since at least 2006; USC's David Buehler ran a 4.62 in 2009.

O'Donnell also benched 23 reps of 225 pounds. "That's right, that is a special-teamer,'' said an NFL Network analyst. Another comment regarding the bench press: "Crazy! That's an offensive line bench.''

In his one season in Coral Gables, O’Donnell set the school single-season record with a 47.1 yards-per-punt average. A first-team All-ACC choice and second-team All-America selection by USA TODAY, O’Donnell booted 23 punts of 50+ yards and downed 19 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

6-7, 331-pound Offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson's fastest official time today was 5.04 with a 1.71 10-yard split (the splits are key bursts for OL at beginning of plays). NFL folks keep talking about his "inconsistency'' and lack of physical strength for his size. He did not participate in the bench press at the combine.

6-5 5/8, 311-pound offensive guard Brandon Linder's fastest time today was officially 5.35. He benched an impressive 30 reps of 225 pounds. NFL Network: "If you could take Linder's toughness and tenacity and the way he plays the game and [put it] in Seantrel Henderson's body, then you'd have a first round pick.'' Linder had a 1.82 10-yard split when I saw him on TV, but that was unofficial.

Linder started all 13 games along the offensive line in 2013 and concluded his career with 37 consecutive starters. He was a second-team All-ACC selection and was named the team’s Offensive MVP at the end of the season. Henderson, a third-team All-ACC selection, played in 12 games along the offensive line, making eight starts at right tackle.

Quarterback Stephen Morris and wide receiver Allen Hurns will work out Feb. 23. Live coverage begins each day at 9 a.m. ET. Miami's official football Twitter account (@MiamiHurricanes) will also provide live results for all five Hurricanes.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

February 21, 2014

Canes looking into possible secondary NCAA football violation after Friday-night player workout

   The University of Miami is investigating whether the football program committed a secondary NCAA rule violation, athletic director Blake James said Friday night.

    The possible violation involves at least one assistant football coach watching a voluntary workout in the distance just beyond the UM-Florida baseball game at Mark Light Field. The football workout, which took place on the other side of the center-field fence, was witnessed by the media covering the baseball game -- as well as likely many of the 3,481 fans at the game. The coach was seen by the Palm Beach Post.

    Palm Beach Post reporter Matt Porter reported that he saw offensive line coach Art Kehoe at the workout. 

    “Our compliance staff will assess the situation and if there’s a violation we’ll report it,’’ UM athletic director Blake James told The Miami Herald (that's me) at the baseball game.  

    In late October, the Canes were put on three years’ probation and docked nine football scholarships and three basketball scholarships related to former booster Nevin Shapiro.

    Coaches are not allowed to be at voluntary offseason football practices or voluntary player drill sessions, though they can be at strength and conditioning workouts.     
 
     SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Who do you think will have the best showing among the five Miami Hurricanes at the NFL Combine?

 

UM: FIVE HURRICANES WILL PARTICIPATE IN NFL SCOUTING COMBINE ON SATURDAY -- WATCH IT ON TV BEGINNING AT 9 a.m.

INDIANAPOLIS – Five Miami Hurricanes will be among the more than 300 prospects participating Feb. 22-25 at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. The four-day combine will be televised live exclusively on NFL Network.

 Offensive guard Brandon Linder, offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson and punter Pat O'Donnell will work out Feb. 22. Quarterback Stephen Morris and wide receiver Allen Hurns will work out Feb. 23. Live coverage begins each day at 9 a.m. ET. Miami's official football Twitter account (@MiamiHurricanes) will also provide live results for all five Hurricanes.

 Morris, a two-year starter under center and a 2013 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team member, finished his career ranked third in Miami history with 7,896 passing yards and 49 touchdowns. A 2013 All-ACC third-team selection, Morris is one of only two QBs in Miami history with multiple 3,000-yard passing seasons (Gino Torretta).

 Linder started all 13 games along the offensive line in 2013 and concluded his career with 37 consecutive starters. He was a second-team All-ACC selection and was named the team’s Offensive MVP at the end of the season. Henderson, a third-team All-ACC selection, played in 12 games along the offensive line, making eight starts at right tackle.

 Hurns enjoyed one of the greatest receiving seasons in program history in 2013. The second-team All-ACC receiver set a single-season school record with 1,162 receiving yards and finished with 62 receptions – the third-most in a single season. He finished his career ranked seventh in both receptions (121) and receiving yards (1,891).

 In his one season in Coral Gables, O’Donnell made a considerable impact, setting the school single-season record with a 47.1 yards-per-punt average. A first-team All-ACC choice and second-team All-America selection by USA TODAY, O’Donnell booted 23 punts of 50+ yards and downed 19 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

 Miami opens its spring practice schedule March 1. The Hurricanes' annual Spring Game will kick off at 6 p.m. on April 12 at Sun Life Stadium.

****************************************************************************************************** Who do you think will have the best showing, relative to their positions, of the five Hurricanes at the NFL Combine? QB Stephen Morris, WR Allen Hurns, OG Brandon Linder, P Pat O'Donnell, or OT Seantrel Henderson?

I'm going with Pat O'Donnell. 

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Think the Canes' football team can use Artie's speed? No doubt. Burns' 7.68 in 60m hurdles sets new American junior record

This just in from UM sports information's David Villavicencio:

 

Artie Burns Sets American Junior Record

Burns breaks 60m HH record set in 1976

 CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Artie Burns' latest sprint down the track broke a 38-year old American Junior record.

 The Miami, Fla., native ran a blazing 7.68 last week in the 60m hurdles at the Don Kirby Elite Invitational, setting a new American junior record. Burns bested the 7.70 ran by Washington's Robert Gaines in 1976 and South Carolina's Jason Richardson in 2005. The World Junior record is 7.55 set by China's Liu Xiang in 2002.

 "Artie is just touching the surface of what he is capable of in the hurdles," Miami director of track and field/cross country Amy Deem said. "He is getting better each practice and it is showing in the meets."

 Burns has been an impressive freshman hurdler for the University of Miami track and field program. he made a big impact from the first time he stepped on the track as a Hurricane, running a 7.80 in the 60m hurdles at the Doc Hale VT Elite Meet. The 7.80 earned him a second-place finish at the meet and moved him into second on Miami's all-time 60m HH list.

The 7.68 Burns ran in Albuquerque, N.M., ranked in the top five times in the NCAA this season. It also moved him closer to Miami's 60m HH record holder, Devon Hill (7.55).

Burns has the fastest under-20 time in men's 60m hurdles in the NCAA. He has posted four of the five best times in the country this year.

A cornerback on Miami's football team, Burns also holds the best 60m hurdle time of any NCAA Division I football player this season.

 The rapid success should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Burns' track career. He was a three-time Florida State 3A 110m hurdle champion for Miami Northwestern High School. Burns also won the 300m hurdles at the 2013 3A State Meet and had the fastest 110m and 300m hurdles times in the nation during his junior season at Northwestern.

 The gifted hurdler has benefitted greatly from working with Deem and Miami men's sprints coach Devin West. Burns will look to continue to climb the record books next weekend at the ACC Indoor Championships.

 

 

UM-Gators time. David Thompson: "We don't like them very much & they don't like us very much.''

Game Day!

Better yet: Game Day against the Gators.

The No. 16 Hurricanes (2-2) will attempt to break out of its hitting slump at 7 tonight at Alex Rodriguez Park against the in-state nemesis the Canes (and especially, it seems, Canes fans) love to hate.

The feeling no doubt is mutual.

But the No. 23 Gators (4-1) have had the upper hand the past few years. Florida has defeated Miami 13 out of the last 14 games. UF had won 11 straight until Miami broke the streak last season. But UM still ended up losing two of its three-game series at UF in 2013.

Both teams were eliminated in the NCAA regionals.

"It's huge,'' UM third baseman David Thompson said of the weekend series. "We don't like them very much and they don't like us very much. We really want to win this series.''

To do that, the Canes need to start connecting. They have a dreadful .228 team batting average, with, among regular starters, Dale Carey leading the way with .400, Tyler Palmer (former Gator) at .357 with a team-high .643 slugging percentage and David Thompson at .286. From there it's bad.

Coach Jim Morris and his players believe the youngest Canes have been putting too much pressure on themselves and pushing too much to excel at the plate.

"I was nervous at the start of the season and I know how the freshmen feel,'' Thompson said. "Last year I was super nervous. We've just got to calm down and relax. We've played this game our whole lives and let's not try to do too much.''

Even Carey, a senior, said he tried too hard in the bottom of the ninth in Wednesday's loss to FAU. Carey whiffed on three pitches with runners on second and third.

"I got a little anxious,'' he said. "I didn't stick with my approach that I had throughout the game. I wanted to be a hero and make things happen for my team and I think that just got to my head. I started chasing pitches that I know I shouldn't swing at. Just learn from it.

"I feel like we're putting too much pressure on ourselves, especially the young guys. This is their first time playing on a big stage like this. I know a lot of guys are not going with their approaches. They're trying to do too much or trying to get too big, swinging too hard. Go up there and know what you can do. Trust yourself, trust your instincts, trust your abilities and go have fun.''

 I talked to freshman Zack Collins yesterday before practice. Zack had been UM's best hitter during practice, but he's 0 for 15 with two walks and five strikeouts. He has connected pretty hard on several pitches. He told me he wasn't pushing too much.

"I don't know how to explain it,'' Collins said. "I just haven't gotten a hit yet. I'm not really too worried because I know that after the first one I'll come through.''

Collins has a lot on his mind, given that he is a natural catcher and is being groomed for now to play first base, a position he is still learning.

"It has been a little challenging,'' Collins said. "I have to work a little over there. I'll get it though.''

Lefty Chris Diaz will pitch for Miami tonight.

"This is going to test us,'' Diaz said. "We know we have to play well or we're not going to win, plain and simple.'' 

Hope the fans show up tonight. It's another beautiful day, and Mark Light really does light up when the place is packed.

 

IF YOU GO

 WHAT: UM baseball

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: AlexRodriguezPark at Mark Light Field, corner of San Amaro Drive and Ponce de Leon in Coral Gables.

BROADCAST: ESPN3; WQAM 560 and WVUM 90.5 FM.

ADMISSION: $10 (general)-$18 (reserved chairback); $8 children 2-17 and adults 55-older.

PROJECTED STARTERS: Friday – UM LHP Chris Diaz (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. LHP Bobby Poyner (1-0, 0.00); Saturday – UM LHP Bryan Radziewski (0-1, 0.0) vs. RHP Brett Morales (0-1, 13.50); Sunday – LHP Andrew Suarez (1-0, 1.80) vs. RHP Karsten Whitson (0-0, 13.50).

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

 

February 19, 2014

UM lands two more 2015 football commitments

There's never an off-season when it comes to football.

The Hurricanes on Wednesday landed two more verbal commitments for their 2015 signing class: Miramar offensive tackle Leeward Brown and Bradenton Manatee defensive tackle Ryan Fines.

Brown (6-4, 338) was an All-Broward First Team selection this past season and is a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com. Although Brown starts at left tackle for the Patriots, he projects as a guard at the next level.

Fines (6-3, 300) is a three-star recruit with offers from Arizona and USF.

All commitments are non-binding until players sign a national letter of intent. Brown's former coach at Miramar, Damon Cogdell, is now an assistant at West Virginia.

Miami has five commitments in the class of 2015.

February 18, 2014

Season of challenges continues for UM, Larranaga

After winning the school's first ACC title and making a run to the Sweet 16 last March, it's been a rough up and down season for coach Jim Larranaga and the Miami Hurricanes men's basketball team.

With six ACC games left on the regular season slate, the Hurricanes (12-13, 3-9 ACC) have yet to win an ACC game at home and now will be without one of their key rotation players at forward in junior James Kelly, who was suspended "indefinitely" for a violation of team rules according to UM. A source close to the team told The Miami Herald the suspension was expected to last three games.

Still, as tough as it has been to replace the entire starting lineup and have four key backcourt players sit out the season because of injury (freshman guards Deandre Burnett, Corn Elder) or transfer rules (Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan), the Hurricanes have only been run off the court once in ACC action, a 67-46 loss to Duke back on Jan. 22. 

Larranaga, a man who has coached man-to-man press defense for the bulk of his career, switched to a zone this year and slowed the game down (UM ranks last in Division I basketball in offensive possessions) so his team could remain in games despite the lack of offensive firepower. It's pretty much worked as UM has been in many games late including against No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Syracuse twice.

"These first three years – next year included – it’s the most variety of challenges that I’ve ever had," Larranaga said Monday during his weekly press conference with reporters. "It comes in so many different fashions. The first year it was with injuries to Reggie Johnson, to Julian Gamble, the NCAA investigation, the suspensions of Reggie and Durand [Scott] during the season. We had all of that going on. The next year we had almost everything in place all season long except a thumb injury to Reggie. While that was going on we also had to deal with recruiting during the investigation. That created a whole series of challenges for this staff.

"Now this year, with a whole new starting lineup, new guys trying to learn their position, very, very, very challenging. Now, next year chances are we’ll have a whole new starting lineup again because we’re ending the season with starting five seniors. Having to make so many changes offensively and defensively, it's been difficult."

Playing at such a slow tempo (UM is averaging 60.1 possessions a game, 351st out of 351 teams according to statsheet.com) isn't the way Larranaga or his players wanted to play. 

"Once we got into games it became very, very clear we could not be an up-tempo team," Larranaga said. "We had lost one of our guards so our perimeter game was really hurt by the loss of Deandre Burnett. We had originally five guys that could rotate in and out -- three starters and two subs. Now, it’s a whole lot different. As the season has progressed I’ve had to move Erik Swoope back there. His natural position is more of a four man, an undersized four, just so we have an additional body we can play at the three."

Players like freshman wing Davon Reed, who has had to play point guard at times because of injuries, would be having a much more explosive season if UM had someone to penetrate and dish him the ball, Larranaga said. But the Canes simply don't have the personnel to play otherwise, and the players believe in the slow-paced system Larranaga has in place because they've been in so many close games.

"We don’t want to get into a run and shoot contest with the teams in our league right now," Larranaga said. "We don’t have the firepower to do that.”

Is there a temptation to cut players loose and let them play in the fast-paced offense they prefer?

"I remember doing that with one of our teams at George Mason," Larranaga said. "They were very much a half court team. They said coach we want to press and run. I said fine, we’ll do that the next game. We lost to Northeastern by 25. Then we had to play them in the tournament the very next game and we beat them playing smart.

"Every kid thinks he’s the best fast break player in America and he’s best when he’s in the open court. But what you don’t understand as a player is you might be pretty good at that, but look at the opponent and tell me 'Is our team better than their team in that?' It’s not about one individual. It’s, ‘Are we going to be able to keep up with the pace an up tempo game creates.’

"Now last year I wanted the game to be as many possessions as possible, for it to be as fast possible. We played Duke and Carolina – two of the fastest teams in the league – and we scored 90. The reason is we had a lot of offensive talent... I don’t care how much space we give Tonye [Jekiri] and [Rafael Raphael Akpejiori], they’re not scorers. And our guards have limited experience."

> Larranaga said players like Jekiri, who had a season-high 15 points at FSU but went scoreless at Virginia Tech, can't really spend time during the season trying to create new ways to score because it will throw their games off.

"You really get better during the offseason," Larranaga said. "You have to work so hard between April and September and then that package of new skills you’ve developed – that growth can continue through the season.

"During the year, when you’re trying to improve its really the things you’re already good at. Because if you start messing with the things you’re not really good at to improve them, guys will start doing them in games. And they’re not very good at it.

"Shane Larkin was one of those guys. As a freshman he didn’t have those high arching layups where he could score over big guys. In the off-season we worked on it and he became a terrific high speed layup maker who could score over big guys. But you don’t start working on those during the season. You just aren’t there yet, haven’t had enough quantity. Tonye needs to spend a lot of time on his scoring ability."

> Even though he's at UM on football scholarship, don't underestimate the loss of freshman guard Corn Elder to the basketball team.

"Huge loss because Corn Elder was someone who could play man-to-man defense and guard the dribbler very, very well and handle the ball," Larranaga said. "Then we could have two natural point guards – Manu and Corn Elder sharing the point guard position and leave everybody else at their natural spots."

> New NBA commissioner Adam Silver looks like he's going to make a strong push to raise the age minimum for players to enter the NBA to 20. Larranaga is definitely a fan of that. He also would like to see the number of scholarships in men's basketball (reduced from 15 to 13 back in 1994) return to 15.

"It’s one of the things that has been a problem in men’s college basketball when scholarships were cut from 15 to 13 and in addition to that when the NBA started taking players at a much younger age," Larranaga said. "Teams from the ACC have far more adjusting to do year after year after year than mid majors do. That’s why you see so many mid-majors doing well in the NCAA tournament. Their continuity is much better. 

"The one thing about the NBA is they’re taking kids so early. You look at the No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, he’s in the D-League. The number of first round draft choices going to the D-League. From an ACC, high-major standpoint, the rules are now drastically impacting the level of performance. So many players going early so you’re replacing them with rookies – whether it’s a junior college kid or transfer, he’s still a first year player in your program. I’d like to see that corrected."

> Why does Larranaga think the Canes are struggling so much at home?

"Our lack of success at home can really be attributed to our lack of consistency throughout the year," he said. "We just don’t play the same way on a regular basis -– the individual player. A lot of that is guys playing out of position. We don’t have a clear 1-2-3-4-5 man. Garrius [Adams] has been playing the point the last three games exclusively. If you were to tell me before the season what’s his best position I would tell you the three [small forward]. He’s our third best ball handler. Our big guys are limited in their scoring ability. Tonye and Raf don’t score a lot at the five. So that’s puts pressure on the other guys to deliver and that allows the opponent to focus on the guys who shoot. And we’ve played very good teams here at home. Syracuse, Duke, N.C. State. We’d like to play a whole lot better Wednesday night.”

Forward James Kelly suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules

Jim Larrañaga's basketball team -- already short on talent and bodies this season because of injuries and transfer rules -- will be down another scholarship player.

"At this time James Kelly has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules," Larrañaga announced Tuesday. "James is a fine young man but we need him to have a clear focus on what is expected of a student-athlete at the University of Miami."

A source close to the team told The Miami Herald Tuesday that Kelly (6-7, 246) will be out for three games, meaning he won't return until March 1st at the earlier when the Hurricanes play at N.C. State.

UM (12-13, 3-9 ACC) will play its next two games at home -- Wednesday night versus Notre Dame (14-12, 5-8) and Saturday at noon against Boston College (6-19, 2-10) -- before hitting the road to close out the month of February at Virginia (21-5, 12-1 ACC) on Feb. 26.

Kelly, who hasn't started since Jan. 8 at North Carolina, had nine points and five rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench in UM's loss at Virginia Tech Saturday. He ranks fifth on the team in scoring (7.0 ppg) and rebounding (4.0) and is one of nine scholarship players who see the majority of playing time in UM's rotation.

> UM also announced walk-on guard Steve Sorenson has left the team to focus on academics.

February 17, 2014

Mark it down: March 29th, April 4th, April 12th. Those are your Miami Hurricanes football scrimmage dates.

Spring football begins for the Hurricanes a week from this Saturday, at 9 a.m. on March 1.

As has been customary the past few years, the Canes will practice the week leading up to UM spring break, and then resume until the spring game on April 12th at Sun Life Stadium.

UM says every practice is closed -- except for the three scrimmages.

The scrimmage days and dates: 1. Saturday, March 29, at noon at Greentree Field on campus.

2. Friday, April 4, at 6 p.m. at Cobb Stadium on campus.

3. Saturday, April 12, at 6 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium.

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

From UM Sports Information:

 Miami Hurricanes placekicker Matt Goudisand defensive tackle Justin Renfrow were among the 67 players selected to the 2013 All-ACC Academic Football Team, announced Monday by Commissioner John Swofford. It was the first Academic All-ACC honor for both players.

To be eligible for consideration, a student-athlete must have earned a 3.00 GPA for the previous semester and maintained a 3.00 cumulative average during his academic career. A student-athlete in graduate school must maintain a 3.5 GPA. All 14 ACC schools were represented by at least two selections on the team. The ACC has selected an All-ACC Academic Football team every year since 1954.

The team was chosen from a pool of 122 ACC football student-athletes who were nominated by their institutions.

Goudis, a sophomore accounting major from West Hills, Calif., connected on 13-of-17 field goals and was a perfect 57-of-57 on point-after attempts in 2013. His 96 points rank eighth among kickers on Miami’s single-season list, while his 57 made PATs are the second-most on Miami’s single-season list. His streak of 57 consecutive made PATs is the longest single-season streak in program history and the sixth-longest career streak.

Renfrow, a graduate student in liberal studies from Morrisville, Pa., joined the Hurricanes squad during preseason camp in August. The Virginia transfer played in all 13 games, making four starts at defensive tackle. He totaled 36 tackles, one forced fumble and two pass break-ups.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

February 14, 2014

Opening night forecast for UM Canes baseball: clear, 65 degrees, hot pitching & hitting, cold milkshakes

Who's going tonight?

I'll be there for the Hurricanes' 2014 baseball opener against Maine. Looking outside my window and it's a gorgeous day (and likely night) for a baseball game at the Light. 

In addition to the usual Cuban chop-chop stand (yummy!) and the Mark Light milkshakes (yummy!) inside the stadium, fans can also enjoy some additions to the pregame fun every Friday night of baseball season -- a new UM initiative. UM is calling it Party on the Patio, and it begins at 5 p.m. There will be a steel drum band providing live music and high-top tables for food and beverage set up at the front of Alex Rodriguez Park, before you even enter the gate. You use your ticket to get into the park, then can go back outside and enjoy your food and drinks while listening to the music.

There also will be eye-black painting for kids.

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

Fresh starts are always nice,and anxious to seeing if and how Chris Diaz has improved this season. It's frankly almost impossible to improve on a 1.64 ERA from last season, but if the Canes' young hitters are as good as we keep hearing about, his 7-5 record could take a nice boost.

"I think this team is different because we have a lot of ego players, like Willie Abreu,'' speedy center fielder Dale Carey told me. "We have guys who are going to learn -- the old Miami, the swag.''

Carey was rated by Baseball America as the 77th-best prospect in Florida last year. But Carey finished 2013 with a .192 batting average and only 12 RBI and one home run.

"It's disappointing but you learn from it,'' Carey said. "I took the whole offseason and stayed here and worked with the baseball summer camps. I helped teach. I took a step back and helped the kids and also I learned from the camps and gained 24 pounds. Last year at the end of the spring I was 183.''

Carey said last year's experience has just made him stronger.

"When things like that happen you always think about what you've done. Yeah, it humbled me and made me become a better person. This fall I hit .302 and i'm trying to build off that for the spring.''

Abreu, 18, is from Hialeah and graduated from Mater Academy. He was drafted by the Reds in the 14th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. He is a strapping 6-4, 225 pounds, with a huge smile and lots of exuberance.

"You weren't offered by the Reds what you think you deserved?" I said to Abreu

"No doubt. No doubt,'' he answered. "That's true. Of course. But there's no problem with coming to Miami. This is a great place with great people and a great place to play. I know Omaha is going to happen because we work hard and we're not going to give up,'' he said of the College World Series. "We're not going to stop for anyone.

"Can't wait for the season to start. It's almost here.''

'******************************************************

MAINE FACTS

The Black Bears finished 37-22 last season and won the American East Conference. 

From Maine's website: "Maine returns America East and ECAC Pitcher of the Year Tommy Lawrence (West Haven, Conn.). He set the school record for wins in a season with 11, finishing with an 11-3 mark. Lawrence posted a 2.32 ERA in 104.2 innings, striking out 78 batters on the season. Maine also returns Jake Marks (Sarnia, Ontario), Shaun Coughlin (Northford, Conn.) and Burk FitzPatrick (Berwyn, Pa.) who all finished with a pair of saves on the season. Heath is also expected to see considerable innings on the mound this season. 

 "Among the newcomers who are expected to make an immediate impact are Steven Adam (Tecumseh, Ontario), Jacob Gosselin-Deschesnes (Montreal, Quebec), Patrick Coughlin (Cambridge, Ontario), Skylar Marcado (Bronx, N.Y.), Jake Osborne(Burlington, Ontario) and Jeff Gelinas (Saco, Maine)." 

Here's what tonight's starting pitcher for Maine, Lawrence, tweeted today:

If you don't wake up with butterflies in your stomach on opening day then you may just not be human .. #gameday #goblue

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

Miami is 61-12 all-time against the Black Bears, including a 6-2 victory last season.

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

 IF YOU GO

 WHAT: UM baseball

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon Sunday.

WHERE: AlexRodriguezPark at Mark Light Field, corner of San Amaro Drive and Ponce de Leon in Coral Gables.

RADIO: WQAM 560 (Friday, Saturday) and WVUM 90.5 FM (All games)

ADMISSION: $8 (general)-$14 (reserved chairback); $6 children 2-17 and adults 55-older.

PROJECTED STARTERS: Friday – UM LHP Chris Diaz (7-5, 1.64 ERA) vs. Maine RHP Tommy Lawrence (11-3, 2.32); Saturday – UM LHP Bryan Radziewski (9-3, 1.75) vs. LHP Scott Heath (1-2, 15.63); Sunday – LHP Andrew Suarez (3-6, 3.95) vs. RHP Jake Marks (4-0, 3.16).

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

 

February 11, 2014

Canes hope to parlay talented recruiting class, loaded starting rotation into first Omaha trip since 2008

The Miami Hurricanes open the baseball season this Friday -- Valentine's Day night -- against the visiting Maine Black Bears, a team which won the American East Conference and finished 37-22 last season.

Every year Jim Morris says he's excited about his team and its chances to get back to Omaha for the College World Series. But this year it looks like the Hurricanes actually have the talent to deliver on those hopes.

UM landed its best recruiting class in years and has one of the nation's top starting rotations with junior left-handers Chris Diaz (7-5, 1.64), Bryan Radziewski (9-3, 1.78), Andrew Suarez (3-6, 3.95) and senior right-hander Javi Salas (5-5, 3.18) all returning.

The issue -- as it usually is lately with UM -- will be offense. The Hurricanes finished 11th out of 12 ACC teams in batting average (.257) and runs scored (278) last year. But that's where the freshmen are supposed to come in and help. 

First baseman Zack Collins (27th round draft choice in 2013) and right fielder Willie Abreu (14th round), two left-handed bats, are expected to help sophomore third baseman David Thompson (.286, 6 HRs, 48 RBI) provide more oomph in the lineup.

Collins (Plantation American Heritage) and Abreu (Hialeah Mater Academy)  grew up huge Hurricanes fans and close friends since the age of six.

Abreu said he used to sit along the third baseline at Mark Light Field and taunt opposing hitters and pitchers and called one of his coolest moments getting a foul ball he caught signed with by the late Ron Fraser. Collins said his thrill was getting on the field as a kid alongside Gaby Sanchez and watching former Canes catcher Yasmani Grandal launch a home run into the third deck of the parking garage.

Collins, by the way, says he's already put a few balls into the same spot Grandal did during practice. One UM coach said Collins has the kind of power Yonder Alonso did.

For more on the Canes baseball team check out the collection of video interviews from today's media day session. I've posted a couple of the best ones here.

February 10, 2014

VIDEO: Catching up with 2015 Canes recruit WR Emonee Spence of Flanagan

Last week we filmed our post-National Signing Day video at Flanagan High School and I got a chance to catchup with 2015 Canes recruit and star receiver Emonee Spence.

Here is what he had to say about being at Junior Day and the chances he'll sign with UM a year from now.

Spence by the way measured in at 6-2, 181 pounds at the Nike Sparq Combine Sunday in North Miami. He was clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.75 seconds and had a Sparq rating of 77.76.

Here is a link to the unofficial results.

February 06, 2014

VIDEO: UM recruits Linder, Moten and Brady talk about becoming Hurricanes on Signing Day

February 05, 2014

Gray last Canes commit to sign officially; Golden talks about UM's signing class

 

He's in and the Hurricanes are done with their 2014 signing class for now.

 

Carol City's Trayone Gray became the last player to officially sign with the Hurricanes on Wednesday. UM announced his signing just as Golden was addressing the media in his signing day press conference.

 

"Gray's a guy who can play wide receiver for us. Gray's a guy who could actually play running back too," Golden said of Gray, who started at quarterback for the Chiefs. "He's another guy who came to camp and I fell in love with him after 10 minutes."

> Golden said not having to recruit with an NCAA cloud over head since October certainly felt different.

"There were some homes I left in December and I felt like I left something, like your cell phone. And then I realized I didn't have to spend three-quarters of the time explaining or defending the NCAA thing," Golden said. "It felt good to talk about our academics, the campus itself, our football program, our tradition, all the things we want to talk about that have been eclipsed because whatever coach just left or came after you - `the NCAA, they're dead.' So it feels good.

"Was it a little too late for this group? Pretty much, 85, 90 percent of this class was done by the middle of October when this came out and we weren't able to address it personally until December when our season was over. We'll reap the benefits of that moving forward."

> Golden said of seven defensive linemen and four linebackers UM signed to upgrade their front seven: "They'll make an impact."

Tops on the list  is five-star defensive end Chad Thomas. "An elite player, explosive pass rusher, brings speed on the edge, but yet is physical enough to take on a blocker a tackle or a tight end," Golden said.

"At such a young age he's so mature and knows what he wants," Golden continued. "He's very disciplined, not a guy you have to worry about. He's very structured already. This guy, he's inquisitive, he wants to learn about music but he shares an equal passion for athletics, for football. He's a young man that had everyone in the country offer him but decided to come down to our camp to get better. And you don't always see that."

 

Golden said Demetrius Jackson and Trent Harris "can go along" with sophomore Quan Muhammad and junior Tyriq McCord as strong side linebackers or rush ends.

"I feel much better about our depth there now that at any point last year," Golden said.

 

> Golden side at defensive tackle "is where we've probably made the most gains."

 

He called St. Thomas Aquinas standout Anthony Moten, listed as a 6-4, 292-ppound four-star recruit, "a premier player in the country at defensive tackle."

 

"I saw AJ last week and he was a shade under 300 pounds, so he'll come in ready made," Golden said. "We got to get him in condition. He'll come in during the summer and get him ready to go."

Moten said Wednesday he'd start off in the three technique and Golden mention "we'll add him to a position where Jelani Hamilton and Olsen Pierre play."

 

> Golden called the other three defensive tackles UM signed "nose tackles."

 

"Calvin Hertelou is here now at 324 pounds," Golden said. "He's going to give us the type of strength that we need. We're excited about his impact he'll have in the spring. Michael Wyche is a highly coveted player, someone we think will do an incredible job for us. Michael has a great perspective on life and kind of give us the leadership, be a guy will make an impact on and off the field. Courtel Jenkins is a young man we're excited about."

 

> Golden said he's excited about "just the sheer size" of his linebackers. Golden said early enrollee Juwon Young is 240 pounds and Darrion Owens is 6-2, 6-3, 230 pound-range. 

> Northwestern's Michael Smith, listed as a defensive end and  at 6-2, 210 pounds, will start out at linebacker Golden said. "He's a guy we obviously thought the world of," he said.

> Golden called Ely's Terry McCray a very sought after player. "He's a guy who is 6-2, 6-3, 228 pounds," Golden said. "Again, a very big group of physical linebackers."

> Golden said New Jersey athlete David Njoku is a big athlete, ex-wide receiver. "We'll see where he goes with his body," Golden said. "He's about 218 pounds now, about 6-4. He has the ability to be a guy we can move around from X to H and put him in space."

How might tight end Chris Herndon be used?

"Herndon is an H. Njoku is an X that can play at H," Golden said. "But Herndon is definitely an H. He's very similar to Clive [Walford] except he's going to come in a little bigger than Clive, 235, 238. We're excited about him. We were very close to taking another tight end, but Clive bailed us out. Getting a Y tight end is important in next year's class."

> Golden said he's grateful to quarterback Brad Kaaya and his family "for showing loyalty" after many schools came in after him after he had committed to UM early in the process.

"He's a fine young man now," Golden said. "He's 6-4, has a big arm. Everybody I knew out at the Semper Fidelis game said he had a big week and is very bright. He's a young man that came and visited us 11 months ago when we were starting spring ball and you could tell just how bright he is."

> Golden said quarterback Malik Rosier of Mobile, Ala. is a recruit "we should get to know because he'll be playing baseball for the Canes and Jim Morris in addition to playing football."

Golden said Rosier has big hands, a strong arm and excellent mobility. Golden said Rosier can throw the ball in the pocket real well, but provides an extra element to escape the pocket and make plays.

"Both of those guys are winners," Golden said.

> Golden said getting All-American offensive linemen Kc McDermott and Trevor Darling on campus early was huge.

"They are who we thought they were," Golden said. "It doesn't matter what anybody says -- the services, the stars. It's 'Are they what you though they were?' Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott are that. They'll be two young men that will be able to help us right away."

Golden said he's seen gains from them in the weight room since they enrolled.

Golden said UM may continue to add another offensive lineman in the class "because I'm worried about the numbers." 

"We don't have much room," Golden said. "We're basically at our max right now, maybe have one spot, maybe two. But offensive line is a position I'll continue to look at just because our numbers are not great."

> After signing only one running back -- Miami Central's Joe Yearby -- could UM be looking to add help there?

"I don't think so," Golden said. "Joe is not 6-foot, but Joe runs hard. Duke Johnson now is 202 pounds, and we're trying to get him to 205, 206. Joe Yearby is following Duke's footsteps and he'll get stronger and we have Dallas Crawford and Gus Edwards. The depth there is better than the last couple of years and I'm excited about that. I don't think we'll go after a big back, I really would rather save that for next year and get two running backs. We really like a lot of the running backs in next year's class and will bring two in [in 2015]."

> Golden said UM will release a list of who will miss spring practice next week. But  count on Duke Johnson, Yearby or freshman receiver Braxton Berrios to be on the list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jackson, Wyche officially signed by Hurricanes; Gray remains

The Hurricanes sports information department announced a little while ago that Booker T. Washington defensive end Demetrius Jackson and JUCO defensive tackle Michael Wyche have officially signed with the Hurricanes.

That now makes it 25 of UM's 26 commitments officially signed, sealed and delivered. 

Carol City athlete Trayone Gray remains the only recruit the Hurricanes have yet to officially announce as a signee. Gray signed his National Letter of Intent with UM this morning.

VIDEO: Chad Thomas, 5-star defensive end, talks signing with the Canes; Demetrius Jackson gets emotional

Here is what UM's top-ranked recruit, Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas, had to say after announcing he was Coral Gables bound on Wednesday morning to our Andre C. Fernandez.

Be sure to check out how emotion his high school teammate and fellow Canes recruit Demetrius Jackson gets talking about signing with UM.

Hurricanes yet to announce official signings of three recruits

In case you haven't been paying close attention on National Signing Day, the University of Miami sports information staff has announced that 23 of the 26 commitments the Hurricanes had coming into Wednesday have officially signed with the program.

Who are three yet to be announced? Booker T. Washington three-star defensive end Demetrius Jackson, JUCO three-star defensive tackle Michael Wyche from East Los Angeles College, and Carol City three-star athlete Trayone Gray. All three are expected to be a part of UM's class and the two locals signed paperwork in front of reporters.

So what's the hold up? Could be a lot of things -- faulty fax machines, paper work might have something missing or there could be a red flag somewhere in UM's admissions.

We'll be sure to ask coach Al Golden about it if there isn't answer before then at 4 p.m. when Golden meets with the media.

Here is a link to where UM is posting its signees.

Signing Day goes on without many surprises -- good or bad -- for Hurricanes Wednesday morning

A year ago, Hurricanes coach Al Golden sat around the fax machine on National Signing with the knowledge that sooner or later the NCAA was going to come around to hand down penalties.

There were no such worries Wednesday -- just happiness -- as the Hurricanes reeled in their best signing class in Golden’s four years in Coral Gables.

Among the big fish UM reeled in: Miami Booker T. Washington five-star defensive end Chad Thomas and pass rushing teammate Demetrius Jackson, California All-American quarterback Brad Kaaya, three All-American offensive linemen and a quartet of talented defensive tackles led by 6-4, 287-pound Anthony Moten from nearby Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

“A lot better,” Golden told ESPN when asked Wednesday morning around 10 a.m. how this year’s Signing Day compared to last year.

“We’re excited. We had a chance to get through the NCAA investigation. We have a lot of kids that fill a lot of needs for us, particularly in the front seven, which we really think we did a great job there. Not to mention we just ended up getting Chad [Thomas] and Demetrius [Jackson] from Booker T., two really good pass rushers.”

The day could have gone even better had UM been able to pick up a couple of late additions. But alas, Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris and Immokalee cornerback J.C. Jackson – who UM made strong late pushes for – both opted to sign with the Florida Gators.

Hialeah Champagnat defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, a U.S. Army All-American committed to the Hurricanes until January, opted to sign with LSU over UM.

“Not a surprise in the end, but still a crushing blow for Miami,” Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting, said of the 6-3, 338-pound Valentine. “That was the prospect they needed.”

Thomas, the 6-5, 240-pound Under Armour All-American who visited Alabama and Florida State over the last couple weekends, had UM fans nervous before making his announcement in front of family, friends and teammates inside Booker T. Washington’s auditorium.

"For the next four years I plan to be at... the University of Miami," Thomas said as he pulled out his Hurricanes jacket and put it on.

Golden told ESPN he was “absolutely concerned” Thomas might head to Alabama “until all the faxes” were in.

“I had a chance to talk to [his mother] Steph this morning. I was excited about that," Golden said. "Chad has been good. Obviously he’s valuable to us because he’s a pass rusher.

"So now we not only bring in some interior guys in [Michael] Wyche, [Calvin] Heurtelou, [Cortel] Jenkins and [Anthony] Moten, but we get the pass rushers we needed to get desperately in [Trent] Harris, Demetrius Jackson, Chad Thomas, Mike Smith, guys like that."

Jackson, 6-4, 225-pound athletic defensive end rated a three-star recruit, got emotional talking about his commitment to the Hurricanes. A basketball standout at Booker T., he only played football his senior season at the school. But he was impressive, earned All-Dade First Team honors and interest from Arkansas and Texas late.

“It means a lot man. Growing up right there on 17th and Overtown I never thought I would be going to the University of Miami and for football,” Jackson said. “It shows you God’s work. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Kaaya, a 6-4, 215-pound four-star quarterback from West Hills, Calif., woke up early in the morning out on the West Coast to be one of the first players to fax his signed national letter of intent to UM. Malik Rosier, a 6-2, 205-pound dual-threat quarterback from Mobile, Ala., also signed with the Canes.

"Both of those young men came to our camp," Golden said. "We had a chance to see them live and how they operate, how they conduct the huddle and really their football intelligence. Brad, at first is a 6-5 guy. Excellent pocket passer, really can step up, did a tremendous job in the Semper Fidelis [All-American] game. Malik has a big strong arm, another bright young man, a leader. Malik is a little more versatile, can pull the ball down and run. Those two guys are really guys we think can make an impact at playing time for us."

Kaaya wasn’t the first recruit to get his fax into UM. That honored belonged to St. Thomas Under Armour All-American center Nick Linder, the 6-3, 273-pound younger brother of former Hurricane Brandon Linder.

"To be the first one in and locked is exciting," Linder said. "The coaches told me to try to be the first one in it at 7 a.m. So I was here at 6:59 to send it through."

Being a leader like his older brother, who started more than 40 games in his career for UM, is important to him the younger Linder said.

"It's definitely who I want to be," Linder said. "I want to come in and make an impact and that's what I'm working for right now."

UM's class came into the day ranked eighth nationally by ESPN. Does Golden think UM will improve or possibly slip?

"I think will stay around the same," Golden said. "I think we signed 26 guys, maybe 27 when it is all said and done. But it’s really the quality of it. If you look at the offensive line with [early enrollees Trevor] Darling, Kc McDermott and Linder, we’re really excited about those young people.

"Joe Yearby, a great tailback from Miami Central. He fit a great need. We needed long receivers this year and we did that. [Darrell] Langham is 6-4 ½, Tyre Brady is taller than me at 6-3, [David] Njoku. Then we went into Georgia to get an H tight end, somebody that can move and get vertical in Chris Herndon. So, it’s a good group and a group we’re excited about it.

"And we topped it off on defense with the two safeties we ended up getting in Kiy Hester and Marques Gayot. It’s a really good day for the Miami Hurricanes. We’re really excited to move forward now without anything hanging over our heads."

Golden tells ESPN Signing Day has been a really good day for the Canes

Hurricanes coach Al Golden will address the local media at 4 p.m. today on the Hurricanes recruiting class. But he gave ESPN, on campus at 13 of the nation's premier schools, an interview moments after Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson announced their pledges to the Hurricanes.

How does this Signing Day compare to last year?

"A lot better," Golden said. "We’re excited. We had a chance to get through the NCAA investigation. We have a lot of kids that fill a lot of needs for us, particularly in the front seven, which we really think we did a great job there. Not to mention we just ended up getting Chad [Thomas] and Demetrius [Jackson] from Booker T., two really good pass rushers."

Was Golden concerned he might lose Thomas to Alabama?

"Absolutely concerned," he said. "Concerned until all the faxes are in. I had a chance to talk to [his mother] Steph this morning. I was excited about that. Chad has been good. Obviously he’s valuable to us because he’s a pass rusher.

"So now we not only bring in some interior guys in [Michael] Wyche, [Calvin] Heurtelou, [Cortel] Jenkins and [Anthony] Moten, but we get the pass rushers we needed to get desperately in [Trent] Harris, Demetrius Jackson, Chad Thomas, Mike Smith, guys like that."

The Hurricanes netted two quarterbacks -- Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier -- and Golden believes both can make an impact.

"Both of those young men came to our camp," Golden said. "We had a chance to see them live and how they operate, how they conduct the huddle and really their football intelligence. Brad, at first is a 6-5 guy. Excellent pocket passer, really can step up, did a tremendous job in the Semper Fidelis [All-American] game. Malik has a big strong arm, another bright young man, a leader. Malik is a little more versatile, can pull the ball down and run. Those two guys are really guys we think can make an impact at playing time for us."

UM's class is ranked eighth nationally by ESPN. Does Golden think UM will improve or possibly slip?

"I think will stay around the same," Golden said. "I think we signed 26 guys, maybe 27 when its all said and done. But it’s really the quality of it. If you look at the offensive line with [Trevor] Darling, Kc McDermott and [Nick] Linder, we’re really excited about those young people.

"Joe Yearby, a great tailback from Miami Central. He fit a great need. We needed long receivers this year and we did that. [Darrell] Langham is 6-4 ½, Tyre Brady is taller than me at 6-3, [David] Njoku. Then we went into Georgia to get an H tight end, somebody that can move and get vertical in Chris Herndon. So, it’s a good group and a group we’re excited about it.

"And we topped it off on defense with the two safeties we ended up getting in Kiy Hester and Marques Gayot. It’s a really good day for the Miami Hurricanes. We’re really excited to move forward now without anything hanging over our heads."

All-American DE Chad Thomas signs with the Hurricanes despite late visits to Alabama, FSU

It's official: Chad Thomas is a Miami Hurricane.

The five-star recruit and Under Armour All-American kept his word and signed with UM on Wednesday morning during a ceremony at Booker T. Washington High School in Overtown.

"For the next four years I plan to be at... the University of Miami," Thomas said as he pulled out his Hurricanes jacket and put it on.

Thomas had taken a pair of late visits to Florida State and Alabama and had UM fans nervous. But moments ago Thomas inked with the Hurricanes alongside teammate and fellow defensive end Demetrius Jackson.

Thomas is UM's top recruit on defense. 

"He's just now starting to really scratch the surface of where he can be talent wise," said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. "If he does what I believe he can he's a first round pick down the line. He's really a heck of an athlete. Long arms, a winner, who understands what to do down there in the trenches.

"You could look at Joe Yearby, Shane McDermott and Brad Kaaya and Chad as the best recruits in UM's class.

"Chad is going to be a part of their two deep right away. He has to be. He might be more of a pass down guy initially, but he'll be an every down player soon enough. He's up there with Al-Quadin Muhammad in terms of pure talent. They definitely have good quality players at the end spots now.

"I see a little John Abraham in Chad because of the way he runs after the passer. He's definitely a 4-3 defensive end, kind of like Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech who is now with the Bengals.”

Jackson, a first-year football player, was pushed hard by Arkansas and received a late offer from Texas. But in the end he decided to stick with the Hurricanes, too.

“First time I saw him was against Central. He's this basketball guy, swatting passes down like an NBA center," Long said. "He knows some basic go-to-stuff in terms of moves. What I like most about him is that as a defensive end, he uses his arms to disrupt the play even if he's not close enough for a sack. He's a really tough kid, smart kid. He's always looking to disrupt.

"I think he needs to redshirt because he doesn't have the experience. I don't think you can put the young man on the field as a true freshman with only one year of high school football. I'm not sure where his future is down the line either. He might be a linebacker. He's long enough. He's a very much unfinished prospect but the initial reports are really good.”

THE PROFILES
Chad Thomas, DE, Miami Booker T. Washington
> Measurables: 6-5, 240, 4.85 in the 40-yard dash, 310-pound bench press
> Twitter handle: @F5_Chad
> Commitment date: July 20, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A five-star recruit ranked 26th regardless of position in 247Sports composite rankings, 5th in the state of Florida and third among weakside defensive ends nationally.
> Career highlights: Under Armour All-American tallied 72 tackles, 15 for loss and eight sacks his senior season in helping lead his high school to a mythical national championship and back-to-back state titles. Chose UM after taking late official visits to Alabama and Florida State.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1506372/highlights/32658377

Demetrius Jackson, DE, Miami Booker T. Washington
> Measurables: 6-4, 225, 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 34-inch vertical leap
> Twitter handle: @F5_Jackson
> Commitment date: Dec. 9, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 425th regardless of position in 247Sports Composite rankings, 59th in the state and 22nd among weakside defensive ends.
> Career highlights: Despite a late push from Texas and lots of tugging from Arkansas, Jackson, a first-year football player, kept his pledge to UM. As a senior he earned All-Dade First Team honors, racking up 73 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks playing opposite of Chad Thomas.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/2611977/highlights/53579378

Three-star TE Chris Herndon signs with Hurricanes

Three-star tight end recruit Christopher Herndon of Norcross, Ga. made it official with the Hurricanes moments ago.

Herndon (6-4, 230) is one of two tight ends who are in UM's 2014 signing class. The Hurricanes also received a late commitment from three-star David Njoku (6-4, 220) of Cedar Grove, N.J. last week. He already signed this moring. 

UM had four scholarship tight ends on the roster including incumbent starter Clive Walford (6-4, 259). The others are senior Beau Sandland (6-6, 255) and sophomores Jake O'Donnell (6-7, 250) and Standish Dobard (6-4, 261). 

As of 8:40 a.m. UM has 20 new additions officially in (9 enrolled early, 11 who signed Wednesday). Here are the profiles of the others I didn't post earlier.

THE PROFILES

Chris Herndon, TE, Norcross, Ga.
> Measurables: 6-4, 230
> Twitter handle: @Chris_Authentic
> Commitment date: June 22, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked as the 701st recruit nationally regardless of position in 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 61st in the state of Georgia and 31st among tight ends.
> Career highlights: Camped at Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Florida State and then Miami and picked the Canes over offers from Western Kentucky and Mississippi State. Herndon hauled in 33 passes for 543 yards and six touchdowns as a senior. Had five catches for 45 yards in the state title game to help Norcross win a second consecutive state crown in Georgia.
> Quotable: "Even though I'll be nine hours away from home, The U is a big family, so it will be my new home," Herndon told gwinnettprepsports.com back in June. "You have to make decisions that take you out of your comfort zone."
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1576082/highlights/51520495

 

Tyre Brady, WR, South Dade
> Measurables: 6-3, 187
> Twitter handle: @Tyre_Brady
> Commitment date: Nov. 16, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A three-star recruit ranked as the 738th best overall according to 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 102th best in the state and 109nd best among receivers. Attended Junior Day at UM and got a Florida State offer in March before UCF, Minnesota, Western Kentucky, FAU and Kentucky offered. UM became the seventh offer and after three unofficial visits Brady finally pulled the trigger on a commitment.
> Career highlights: An All-Dade Second Team selection as a senior Brady helped lead South Dade to its first state championship. He finished with 39 catches for 600 yards and 10 touchdowns and also shined on defense playing safety.
> Expert opinion: “He's another kid who is just really coming out for football, didn't play a lot before,” said Corey Long, Editor-in-Chief for FUEL Recruiting. “I like that he goes up and reaches for the football, gets it at the highest point. I like the fact he's an aggressive receiver. He's a little bit more advanced where he could play early if they needed him. But he's probably better off being redshirted. He's come a long way in a short period of time.” 
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1685677/highlights/73648639

Terry McCray, LB, Pompano Beach Ely
> Measurables: 6-2, 215
> Commitment date: July 23, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A three-star recruit, McCray is unranked in the 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 166th overall in state of Florida and the 48th best inside linebacker nationally.
> Career highlights: Rolled up 101 tackles and 19 sacks and was selected All-Broward First Team as a senior by The Miami Herald. He had 113 tackles and 13 sacks as a junior. Received a UM offer in November of his junior year and visited UM unofficially three times before Tulane, Syracuse, Temple, Minnesota, Cincinnati, FIU and West Virginia all offered. He held out hope for a while Alabama and LSU might offer.
> Expert opinion: “He can make an impact on special teams early,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief for FUEL Recrutiing. “I think he can be a rotational guy down the line, provide some depth. He's a good coach’s prospect in the sense where they can do different things with him. He'll be the kind of guy who will lead the team in special teams tackles, a good backup linebacker. The thing with their linebackers is he's one of the bigger more physical kids they've gotten. So he can help provide depth.”
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1353525/highlights/111387627

Darrell Langham, WR, Lantana, Fla.
> Measurables: 6-5, 190
> Twitter handle: @DLangham7
> Commitment date: June 9, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A three-star recruit ranked 510th overall regardless of position by 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 74th in the state and 71st among receivers nationally. UM coaches fell in love with him and offered a scholarship after he attended their camp in June. The only other camp Langham attended before that was FAU.
> Career highlights: Earned All-Conference honorable mention by the Palm Beach Post in Class 8A. He had 20 catches for 326 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.
> Expert opinion: “I like him, think he's underrated in his class,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief for FUEL Recruiting. “He's tall, has long arms, a raw kid,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. “You feel like he's a blank canvas where you can create something really special. Right now, today, off what I've seen, he's more of a red zone guy who can go up and get passes. I think you give him two years and you'll definitely have a big-time wide receiver. He's not as big as [Kelvin] Benjamin at FSU, but he reminds me of some of the big receivers I've seen around like Ramses Barden of the Giants. I think Langham can get there. He’s just a basketball kid who is still a little raw.”
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/748977/darrell-langham

Marques Gayot, DB, Lake Worth, Fla.
> Measurables: 6-1, 205, ran a 4.56 40-yard dash, 34 inch-vertical
> Twitter handle: @MgayotUM
> Commitment date: Dec. 13, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A three-star recruit ranked as the 789th best prospect regardless of position by 247Sports.com composite rankings, 116th in the state of Florida and 64th among safeties. He had offers from Cal, Louisville and Bowling Green and committed to Louisville in April before de-committing in Decmeber and committing to UM a day later.
> Career highlights: Tallied 17 interceptions in his career including four as a senior at Park Vista Community School. Made All-Conference First Team in Class 8A for Palm Beach County.
> Expert opinion: “He can really get around,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief for FUEL Recruiting. “I don't know what kind of hitter he is. But I think if he puts on a good training camp coaches will try and figure out how to get him on the field. He's a hard working kid.”
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1003985/marques-gayot

Canes swing and miss at Immokalee CB J.C. Jackson

The Miami Hurricanes made a hard push for Immokalee four-star cornerback J.C. Jackson.

But he's taking his talents to Gainesville according to early reports out of the Naples area.

Canes pipeline to Miami Northwestern remains strong as pass rusher Mike Smith signs

Miami Northwestern and the University of Miami have had a long, storied connection over the years.

It continued Wednesday when one of the best pass rushers in the county signed with the Hurricanes.

Mike Smith, committed to UM since June, signed his national letter of intent before gathering for a ceremony at school with friends and family and teammates.

Smith joins former Northwestern teammates and defensive backs Ryan Mayes (enrolled in January) and sophomore cornerback Artie Burns as current Bulls on Miami's roster.

“Mike's going to come in and chase the quarterback,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. “I haven't really seen him in any pass coverage. But I do think he's good at stopping the run and getting to the quarterback. I have to see how he is in pass coverage before we talk NFL potential.”

UM signed eight members of Northwestern's national championship team in 2008 including starting quarterback Jacory Harris, linebacker Sean Spence, offensive lineman Brandon Washington and standout receivers Aldarius Johnson and Tommy Streeter

But after that season UM didn't sign any Northwestern stars for four straight years, missing out on standout quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and receiver Amari Cooper (Alabama) among others. Burns got the pipeline going again last year.

THE PROFILE

Mike Smith, DE/OLB, Miami Northwestern
> Measurables: 6-2, 210
> Twitter handle: @mikesmith_11
> Commitment date: June 22, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A three-star recruit ranked as the 389th best prospect regardless of position by 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 50th in the state of Florida and 31st among outside linebackers.
> Career highlights: Smith only ended up making one official visit – to West Virginia – after committing to the Hurricanes. He earned All-Dade First Team Honors (Class 8A-6A) two years in a row and netter 42 tackles, seven sacks and 51 quarterback hurries as a senior. As a junior he produced 73 tackles and finished second in Dade with 18 sacks.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/2334571/highlights/63262353

Here's who signed their NLOI with the Canes and are officially in before 8 a.m.

So who here is the list of a dozen recruits officially in as Miami Hurricanes before 8 a.m.

#WelcomeToTheU Nick Linder - the first #Cane to fax in his NLI: http://t.co/p9BtpAlZBI pic.twitter.com/eiJ3lmI8nC

Aquinas All-American center Nick Linder first to get fax through; DT Anthony Moten ready to make instant impact

The Hurricanes will have a defensive tackle -- arguably their most talented in the 2014 class -- officially signed, sealed and delivered soon.

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas seniors Anthony Moten (6-4, 292) and center Nick Linder, the younger brother of former Hurricanes offensive lineman Brandon Linder, faxed their National Letter of Intent over to Coral Gables moments ago as expected.

Linder was actually the first one through officially.

 

"To be the first one in and locked is exciting," Linder said. "The coaches told me to try to be the first one in it at 7 a.m. So I was here at 6:59 to send it through."

Being a leader like his older brother, who started more than 40 games in his career at UM through this past season, is important to him the younger Linder said.

"It's definitely who I want to be," Linder said. "I want to come in and make an impact and that's what I'm working for right now."

Moten was in the process of faxing his when I interviewed him over the phone at 7:30 a.m.

"I wanted to get it over with early," said Moten, once a Florida commitment. "I know i can come in and make an impact early, get some playing time. I'm at 287 right now. Coaches like my size and said I can come in and play the three technique and in different packages play the four and the five."

Moten is one of three defensive tackles UM brought in with this class. UM signed Junior College prospects Michael Wyche and Calvin Heurtelou, who are expected to come in and give returning senior starter Olsen Pierre some help and juniors Ufomba Kamalu, Corey King and Earl Moore a battle for playing time.

“He's played a lot of football, been starting for a long time at Aquinas," said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. "He's not the biggest defensive tackle, but a pretty good pass rusher. He definitely gives them an upgrade of skills at the tackle spot. Given how poorly they've recruited there in the past he's got to play. His NFL potential remains to be seen. I think Moten is a little different than Jelanie Hamilton. The potential is there for a lot of playing time so he'll have the opportunity to impress NFL scouts down the road.”

Aquinas will now have four players on UM's roster this coming season, the most from any high school on the team.

THE PROFILES

Anthony Moten, DT, St. Thomas Aquinas
> Measurables: 6-4, 292, 5.17 in the 40-yard dash, 26.9 vertical, 315-pound bench, 385-pound squat
> Twitter handle: @anthony_moten95
> Commitment date: Nov. 13, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 168th regardless of position in 247Sports Composite rankings, 15th among defensive tackles and the 24th-best recruit in the state of Florida.
> Career highlights: Once a Florida Gators commitment, Moten de-committed and eventually switched allegiance to the Hurricanes. Semper-Fi All-American had 40 tackles, 12 for loss and six sacks and was selected All-Broward First Team by The Miami Herald as a senior. He was selected All-State Third Team.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1241016/highlights/55484375

Nick Linder, OL, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
> Measurables: 6-3, 273, 315-pound bench, 385-pound squat
> Commitment date: March 6, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked the 152nd-best recruit in the state in 247Sports Composite rankings, Linder is tabbed as the 53rd best offensive guard in the country.
> Career highlights: A two-year starter for the Raiders, Linder was an All-Broward First Team selection and played in the Under Armour All-American Game. He was the starter at center when Aquinas won the state championship in 2012.
> Expert opinion: “He's going to step in and be the next center,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief at FUEL Recruiting. “He's not as big as his brother or have the same ceiling. But when it comes to giving direction on the line, he's a super smart kid. He can recognize things easy. His future is pretty much penciled in as the next center. He's a little small so he'll have to work to get his weight up. He's going to give you three solid years as a college starter.”
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1240996/highlights/54165809

Pipeline to New Jersey grows as four-star safety Kiy Hester, three-star DT Courtel Jenkins, TE David Njoku sign with Canes

The Hurricanes continued to build their pipeline with the state of New Jersey Wednesday morning when four-star safety Kiy Hester and three-star defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins faxed their national letters of intent over to UM nice and early.

Hester and Jenkins are two of three New Jersey area recruits in the 2014 class and join redshirt quarterback Kevin Olsen, sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and senior defensive tackle Olsen Pierre who made their way from the Garden State to the Sunshine State.

"It was just the players, the coaches being from Jersey, the family atmosphere," Hester told NJ.com back in December as his reason for picking the Hurricanes. "Al-Quadin Muhammad (class of 2014 Don Bosco recruit now at Miami), he played a huge role. I've known him since I was in eighth grade, so he was huge. And [defensive tackle] Courtel Jenkins was, too."

Miami needed to add depth at safety with juniors Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins back as the only experienced men who have started and can play back there.

THE OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

THE PROFILES
Kiy Hester, DB, Wayne, N.J.
> Measurables: 6-0, 200
> Twitter handle: @Hester_2k
> Commitment date: Dec. 15, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Tabbed as a four-star safety and ranked 288th regardless of position in 247Sports Composite Rankings, Hester is tabbed as the 18th best safety in the country and eighth among all prospects in the New Jersey area.
> Career highlights: A former Rutgers commitment, Hester had offers from Ohio State, Vanderbilt and took an official visit to Michigan State before visiting Coral Gables and falling in love. Attended DePaul High School and played mostly strong safety although he did see time at receiver. Finished with 56 tackles, a sack, five interceptions and 18 pass breakups at safety as a senior. Had 17 catches for 379 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIUGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/737623/kiy-hester

Courtel Jenkins, DT, Wayne, N.J.
> Measurables: 6-2, 294, 375-pound bench press, 400-pound squat
> Commitment date: June 6, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Listed as the 943rd recruit regardless of position in 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 26th overall in the state of New Jersey and the 62nd best defensive tackle in the country.
> Career highlights: Racked up 74 tackles, 17 for loss with five sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble playing on both the offensive and defensive lines at DePaul High School. He earned All-County First Team honors. Jenkins had an early offer from Pittsburgh and took unofficial visits to Rutgers, Pitt and Maryland before camping at UM and receiving an offer last June. He didn’t visit any other schools.
> Mid-year analysis on Jenkins in NJ.com
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/892274/highlights/87627377

David Njoku, TE, Cedar Grove, N.J.
> Measurables: 6-4, 220, 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical, 285-pound bench press, 455-pound squat
> Twitter handle: @David_Njoku80
> Commitment date: Jan. 31, 2014
> Recruiting ranking: Rated a three-star recruit and tabbed as the 836th best player in the country regardless of position by 247Sports.com Composite rankings. He’s the 64th best athlete and 116th ranked recruit in the state of New Jersey.
> Career highlights: Played in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. Once a Rutgers commitment, Njoku took official visits to Temple, Miami and UConn and had an offer from Ohio State that was eventually taken back before he committed to the Hurricanes late last week. He hauled in 40 catches for 981 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran 39 times for 334 yards and six scores. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown as a senior.
> Of note: Njoku is considered a talented track athlete. Last year he broke his county record in the triple jump (47-8) and school record in the high jump (6-10)
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/90257/david-njoku

QB Brad Kaaya wakes up early to make sure he's one of the first Canes to fax NLOI over

Brad Kaaya told the L.A. Times on Monday his plan was to wake up and fax his signed national letter of intent over to Coral Gables and be one of the first recruits in for the Hurricanes.

Mission accomplished. Despite being three hours behind on the clock, UM's quarterback of the future woke up bright and early and posted on Twitter that he got it done.

As of 7:10 a.m., UM had yet to make the announcement official on its Twitter feed.

UM announced St. Thomas Aquinas All-American center Nick Linder was also one of the first to send his fax through.

Many recruiting experts predicted Kaaya, who received an early UM offer and committed to the Hurricanes back in May, would eventually opt to stay out on the West Coast. But despite overtures from USC, UCLA and Boise State, Kaaya kept his word.

“Through the process, you have to know the difference between who you can trust and who’s feeding you what you want to hear,” Kaaya told the L.A. Times on Monday.

Of the rumors of him straying from UM, Kaaya said: “I was wondering where are they getting these sources from and how credible can they be?”

With Stephen Morris gone, UM has three quarterbacks currently on scholarship and two they are adding as part of the 2014 class. Senior Ryan Williams, redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and sophomore Gray Crow will be the only scholarship quarterbacks around in the spring. Kaaya is joined in the 2014 class by three-star Mobile, Ala. quarterback Malik Rosier.

“Kaaya is the QB of the future for this team,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. “He's got the tools, the arm, the footwork. He definitely has the escapability to get out of the pocket and make tough throws on the run. He’s an accurate quarterback.

"As a prospect he's a step up from the prospects they have there at UM now. If you look at Jacory [Harris] and [Stephen] Morris, they both had considerable weaknesses. Kaaya brings better tools to the table. If he had enrolled early he would have had a shot right away to start. He's better than Kevin Olsen and Ryan Williams. He's going to go in there and establish himself as the best QB on the roster by the end of the season. He's the best they've brought in under Al Golden. He reminds me a lot of Colin Kaepernick. He has real tools, a live arm, not as good of a runner, but escapes pressure well.”

THE PROFILE

Brad Kaaya, QB, West Hills, Calif.
> Measurables: 6-4, 215
> Twitter handle: @TrinidadBrad
> Commitment date: May 13, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Tabbed a four-star recruit and ranked 141st overall regardless of position in 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 14th in the state of California and seventh among pro-style quarterbacks
> Career highlights: At Chaminade High, Kaaya completed 225 of 362 passes for 3,853 yards, 27 TDs and only six interceptions as a senior before being selected to play in the Semper Fi All-American Game. He ran twice for 14 yards and a touchdown. As a junior, he completed 126 of his 186 attempts for 1,875 yards, 13 TDs and 2 INTs. Despite some late love from UCLA and Boise State, Kaaya stuck to his Canes commitment.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1269507/highlights/66537379

National Signing Day: Canes live recruiting updates

Good morning it's National Signing Day. 

Fax machines will begin receiving signed National Letters of Intent beginning at 7 a.m.

The Hurricanes have 26 commitments: nine early enrollees, one signee waiting to enroll and another 16 who have pledged to sign with them today. We will track all the action in this Cover-It-Live blog -- including when signed letters of intent become official at UM.

The Twitter accounts for 16 of UM's commitments have also been linked to the live blog. Those are: RB Joseph Yearby, WR Braxton Berrios, DT Calvin Heurtelou, DE Chad Thomas, DT Anthony Moten, DE Demetrius Jackson, DB Kai Hester, QB Brad Kaaya, TE Chris Herndon, DE Mike Smith, DB Marques Gayot, WR Darrell Langham, TE David Njoku, DT Michael Wyche, QB Malik Rosier and WR Tyre Brady.

The blog will feature Twitter feeds from UM's official account (@hurricanesports), those of our reporters and others out on the scene to cover announcements live, and links to other blog items, video and analysis as it comes in.

While this blog will remain at the top of today's blog there will be individual news items posted throughout the day below it. You will see links to those items in the Cover-It-Live feed.

Below this I'll include a timeline of events as the day progresses.

SIGNING DAY TIMELINE

> 7 a.m.: Signed National Letters of Intent begin being received at colleges throughout the country.

> 8 a.m.: Immokalee CB J.C. Jackson is set to announce his decision and will choose between the Hurricanes and Florida Gators.

> 9 a.m.: National champion Miami Booker T. Washington will host its Signing Day ceremony. UM commitments Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson are expected to stay with Miami. Quarterback Treon Harris will choose between FSU, UF, UM and Auburn.

> 10:30 a.m.: Former Hurricanes commitment and All-American defensive tackle Travonte Valentine is set to choose between UM and LSU.

> 3:30 p.m.: A Hurricanes National Signing Day show hosted by UM radio personalities Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr. will air live on FoxSports Florida.

> 4 p.m.: Coach Al Golden will address the media in a Signing Day press conference. UM will have interviews with assistant coaches and Golden throughout the day as Letters of Intent arrive on HurricaneSports.com.

February 04, 2014

A closer look at the Canes' early enrollees

With fax machines set to get rolling at around 7 a.m. Wednesday as National Signing Day commences here is one last closer look at the nine recruits already on campus at UM.

Joseph YearbyJoseph Yearby, RB, Miami Central
> Measurables: 5-9, 180
> Twitter handle: @JosephYearby
> Commitment date: Feb. 26, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 44th regardless of position in 247Sports.com composite rankings, seventh-best running back overall.
> Career highlights: Under Armour All-American ran for 5,308 yards and 63 touchdowns over his final three seasons in high school before breaking his ankle in the state playoffs.
> Expert opinion: “He's going to do whatever coaches as him to do and is a good guy to have in your program. He's going to do everything right and set the example. He's really established himself as one of the hardest workers in the class, a tremendous teammate and natural leader. His vision as a running back is really what is accelerated. The rest of his tools are above average. But his vision is what sets him apart from the pack.  If his ankle heals up as it's supposed to be he'll be Duke Johnson's backup in 2014. I look at him as a Pierre Thomas type of kid who is versatile, can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can also stay in pass protection and pick up a linebacker on a blitz. He's one of those do-it-all backs. To me he's the second best running back Al Golden has reeled in during his time there behind only Duke.” -- Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
> LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2045472/joseph-yearby

Kc McDermott, OL, Palm Beach Central
> Measurables: 6-6, 301, 390-bench press, 415-pound squat
> Commitment date: April 2, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 45th regardless of position in 247Sports.com composite rankings, 3rd best offensive tackle overall.
> Career highlights: Under Armour All-American picked UM over Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida State, Florida and Ohio State
> Expert opinion: “I thought for most of the year he was the most talented offensive line prospect in the state, region probably. He’s got a lot of what you want in a tackle. He’s got long arms, strong, has a mean streak. He's technically sound. He's the type of kid that can be a part of the two-deep right away. I think he's the left tackle of the future. I definitely think he has high NFL potential. He's so strong in so many areas he's going to get his weight up a little bit more. He's going to be 6-6, 320. He's going to be in high demand in a few years. Overall the group of linemen UM is bringing in is one of the top five in the nation -- even without Reilly Gibbons.” Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1556140/kc-mcdermott

Trevor Darling, OL, Miami Central
> Measurables: 6-5, 330
> Commitment date: April 5, 2012
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 93rd regardless of position in 247Sports.com composite rankings, 9th best offensive tackle overall
> Career highlights: Under Armour All-American won three state titles and started for four years at Central. He chose UM over FSU, Florida, Clemson and West Virginia.
> Expert opinion: “When I saw him at the Under Armour game he was great. It looked like he developed physically really well, got a lot of bad weight off his body. He's an ox. I think he can play guard or right tackle for them. He's a heck of a run blocker, as good as you'll see. Just like Kc McDermott, he can come in right away and be a part of the two deep, step in on the right side within a year and start. I'm not sure Darling is a first rounder down the line like McDermott, but he's an early to mid-round pick down the line. I like offensive tackles who work from the bottom up. He's one of those guys.” Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/2488579/highlights/107818632

Trent Harris, DE, Winter Park, Fla.
> Measurables: 6-2, 231
> Twitter handle: @trentharris33
> Commitment date: July 29, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 265th regardless of position in 247Sports.com composite rankings, 14th best weakside defensive end overall
> Career highlights: Selected to the Offense/Defense All-American Bowl. As a senior registered 69 total tackles and 14 sacks. Chose UM over Alabama, UF, FSU, Georgia, Ohio State and Tennssee.
> Expert opinion: “He's not a big guy. I think he's probably going to take a redshirt year, be used more in a pass rush role if he does play. He needs to fill out. He's kind of a hard guy to evaluate. I definitely think he needs a redshirt then be used to rush the passer on passing downs. He has a ways to go. I don't think he has the sort of pass rushing skills Tyriq McCord and Al-Quadin Muhammad to play as a freshman. But he could develop.” - Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1277678/highlights/63491375

Darrion Owens, DB, Orange Park, Fla.
> Measurables: 6-3, 216, 4.57 in 40-yard dash, 345-pound bench press, 460-pound squat
> Commitment date: June 22, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 367th regardless of position in 247Sports.com composite rankings, 46th in the state of Florida and 29th at his position
> Career highlights: Tallied 160 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions, five fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles as a junior and senior. Picked UM over Boston College, N.C. State, Maryland, Kentucky, Louisville, West Virginia, South Florida, Michigan, Rutgers, Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Nebraska, Auburn and Georgia.
> Expert opinion: “ He's a big kid. They got him listed as safety still. He's more of a linebacker for them, might be a defensive end. He has good athleticism. I thought he was a bit undervalued in his class. He gives you tremendous range, long armed kid. I think his first impact will be on special teams. I think in 2015 he'll be used at safety and linebacker against spread sets. I think he's got a shot down the line at the NFL. He can run.” - Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1368104/darrion-owens

Braxton Berrios, WR, Raleigh, N.C.
> Measurables: 5-9, 181, 4.52 in 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical
> Twitter handle: @HNYNUT_BERRIOS
> Commitment date: Oct. 12, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 374th regardless of position in 247Sports composite rankings, 52nd by position
> Career highlights: Under Armour All-American had 760 yards receiving an 10 touchdowns and ran for 1,142 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior. He ran for 536 yards, 11 TDs in 2013 while being hampered by a foot injury. Chose UM over Oregon, South Carolina and Tennessee where he took official visits. Tore his ACL in the Under Armour Game and will miss the spring.
> Expert opinion: “He didn't stand out a lot to me at the Under-Armour game. He's not very big. He's not an outside guy. If Berrios is going to have success it’s in the slot. I'm curious to see how he fits in this offense frankly. Maybe he's a special teams guy, Wes Welker type. I look at the other receivers and I wonder how he's going to get on the field.” - Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1540073/highlights/63359384

Calvin Heurtelou, DT, Scottsdale, Ariz.
> Measurables: 6-3, 304, 4.98 in 40-yard dash, 28-inch vertical
> Twitter handle: @_40Cal_
> Commitment date: Dec. 26, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 49th regardless of position in 247Sports composite Junior College rankings, 9th among JUCO defensive tackles.
> Career highlights: Originally from Spring Valley, N.Y. He took official visits to Rutgers, Tennessee and Missouri before signing with UM. Had 59 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, four sacks and two fumble recoveries at Scottsdale Community College
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/27931/highlights/79418375

Juwon Young, LB, Albany, Ga.
> Measurables: 6-2, 235, 4.5 in the 40-yard dash
> Commitment date: June 8, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 727th regardless of position in 247Sports composite rankings, 60th at his position.
> Career highlights: Registered 118 tackles and ran for 303 yards and 6 TDs as a senior. Decorated track and field athlete who competed in the shot put and discus. Picked UM over an offer from Ole Miss.
> Expert opinion: “He was one of the better prospects in north Georgia, which is an area where they are not as highly regarded as the kid on the south end of the state. For an outside linebacker, he's not a total sideline to sideline guy. But he does have range and is physically strong. I think he's strong enough to take on linemen and is a hitter. He's a guy that will put some weight on you. I'm not sure how good he is at pass defense.” - Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting 
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/2791019/highlights/111260376

Ryan Mayes, DB, Miami Northwestern
> Measurables: 6-2, 180
> Commitment date: June 25, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 969th regardless of position in 247Sports composite rankings, 142nd in state and 67 by position.
> Career highlights: Had 33 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles and 11 passes defended as a junior at Miami Dr. Krop. Picked UM over Syracuse.
> Expert opinion: “He’s a good size corner, but I see him as a rotational guy. I think he has a ways to go before you give him a starting role. With his size, he can be a rotational guy, who plays in nickel and dime packages. He's an early enrollee so he might have a role on special teams in 2014 if he doesn’t redshirt.” - Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2733971/ryan-mayes

Football led the Canes to top recruit Chad Thomas after music had already guided his heart to UM

Barring an unexpected, last second change of heart that would stun his family, coaches and even himself, Booker T. Washington All-American defensive end Chad Thomas said he plans on signing a National Letter of Intent with the University of Miami on Wednesday morning.

Chad Thomas 2“There’s no suspense,” said Thomas, days before taking his final official visit to Alabama this past weekend. “I’ve been throwing up ‘The U’ [with my hands] since the first game of the season. I’m not really trying to build suspense or get anybody fired up or rowdy.”

If Thomas, the only five-star recruit in UM’s recruiting class, doesn’t flip his commitment to Alabama or Florida State, he’ll be one of the few elite players in Miami-Dade County to stay with the first school he committed to. Of the top 10 players in the Dade according to 247Sports' Composite rankings, six have pulled back from a college commitment at least once during their recruitment.

Booker T. quarterback Treon Harris (Florida State commitment with interest in UM, Florida and Auburn) and Northwestern receiver Jojo Robinson (FSU commitment with interest in TCU, South Florida and Arkansas) could increase that number to eight if they sign elsewhere Wednesday.

There’s strong reason to believe Thomas won’t make it nine. That’s because he’s been in love with the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music since well before UM’s coaching staff fell in love him.

“I thought he was full of it when he told me he played all these instruments and was a musician,” Booker T. Washington coach Tim “Ice” Harris said.

“Then he started playing them in front of me, showing me his beats, breaking it down. I was impressed. Over the last two years every time we've been on road trips with the team, Chad would get on the big piano in the hotel we were staying at and everybody would stop to listen to him play. Now, I joke with him and say I want to be a music major too.”

Thomas, who helped lead the Tornadoes to back-to-back state championships and a national title this season, said he fell in love with music at the age of three while listening to his late grandmother’s gospel CDs. Thomas said as a toddler his grandmother bought him a toy guitar, and signed up him for piano lessons. By the time he was five, Thomas said he was performing songs such as ‘I’ll Take You There' by the Staple Sisters on the piano and playing various instruments from the tuba and trumpet to the drums and bass.

After his grandmother passed away when he was seven, Thomas, an only child, said he would often care for himself because his parents were too busy working. On the bus ride and walk home from school, Thomas said he would usually entertain himself by creating his own beats. By the time he was in middle school, Thomas said he convinced his father, Chad Sr., a computer technician, to buy him an MC-808 sound generator.

“I remember when he took me to Sam Ash to go get it,” said Thomas, who attended classes at the New World School of the Arts until coaches were finally able to convince him to attend classes at Booker T. his senior year. “It was over $1,000. I told my dad there had to have been something in his brain saying this is going to make him and me money in the future.”

Thomas, a fan of beatmakers Timbaland, Louis V and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, said he's been trying to sell his own beats to musicians now for the last couple years. This past year, he finally found someone who was interested. It was local artist Lil Dred, the 20-year old son and rapper of former UM cornerback Nate Brooks. Since its release in October, their song “No Shone Remix” has been played more than 245,000 times on SoundCloud.

Thomas, who has produced other popular tracks titled ‘Thottie,’ ‘She Weak,’ and ‘Overtime,’ said he’s performed on some of his own tracks in clubs, parties and other places dozens of times. He said he’s split the money he makes off what he produces and performs "50-50" with his mother, Stefanie Jones, a school director a local day care.

“As a singer he’s more like a Drake type -- singing but with a rap feel,” said Booker T. Washington offensive coordinator Tim Harris Jr. “When it comes to instruments and music engineering, I think UM is ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in those fields. With his contacts in the music industry here in the city of Miami, that’s why it’s always been UM for Chad. He told me he had been checking UM out since he went to New World. Football wise, Chad knows he can play at any school he wants to. But music is so important to him.”

Said Thomas: "It's always been in my mind to go to school there. Football is my not for long. I can go down with a knee injury tomorrow, but I know I’ll always be able to move my fingers and play an instrument, click a mouse."

Thomas, who maintains a 3.3 grade point average and scored an 18 on the ACT exam (well within the guidelines to qualify for UM), said he didn’t begin playing football until he was 12 at Gwen Cherry Park because when he was young he had asthma and a heart murmur. Thomas said he had to convince his parents to let him play.

Now an Under-Armour All-American and tabbed as the third-best defensive end in the country by 247Sports, Thomas says he has so much passion and intensity for football he usually cries before games.

With the Hurricanes in dire need of help along the defensive line, Booker T.’s coaches -– who saw Thomas rack up 71 tackles and eight sacks this past season -- believe Thomas has the size and maturity to help UM as soon as he walks through the doors in Coral Gables come June.

“People around the country talk about the pride we have here in high school and optimist [football],” said Thomas, who said he’s had a green 1998 Ford Mustang parked in his mother’s drive way waiting to take him to college since last year.

“I know there’s a lot players who have that same pride at UM, but they’ve just got to put it all together and play like a team like back in the 80s. We’ve got to bring that love, that passion for the game, and fight to make each other better every day. And I believe we will.”

A shorter version of this story will appear in Wednesday's editions of The Miami Herald

Previewing Signing Day for the Hurricanes

SIGNING DAY COVERAGE

> The Hurricanes' 2014 recruiting class stands at 26 players (nine early enrollees, one signee and 16 commitments) on the eve of National Signing Day. UM remains a player for a handful of other recruits, though none of them are currently projected by experts to pick UM. 

- J.C. Jackson, CB, Immokalee (8 a.m. announcement)
- Treon Harris, QB, Miami Booker T. Washington (9 a.m. announcement)
- Travonte Valentine, DT, Hialeah Champagnat (10:30 a.m. announcement)
- Lorenzo Featherston, DE, Greensboro, N.C. 
- Lamont Gaillard, DT, Fayetville, N.C.

> If you want to know who has officially signed with the Hurricanes on Wednesday UM’s official football Twitter account (@MiamiHurricanes) will provide updates as the National Letters of Intent are received and processed by the school's compliance office.

> HurricaneSports.com will post video highlights, bios and digital trading cards when each player makes it official. UM assistant coaches will also be interviewed on camera for the website to talk about the Canes’ 2014 additions.

> UM was one of 13 schools selected by ESPN to be featured throughout the day. Coach Al Golden and assistants will be interviewed during ESPN’s 16-hour coverage on ESPNU.

> Fans who would like to receive mobile text alerts every time a Canes recruit signs a National Letter of Intent Wednesday can do so by texting GOCANES to 90561.

> Football play-by-play radio voice Joe Zagacki, and color analyst Don Bailey Jr. will host a live 30-minute Signing Day show at 3:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Florida statewide. That precedes Al Golden's press conference with the rest of the South Florida media at 4 p.m, which will be streamed live on HurricaneSports.com.

> UM is not having a signing day event for fans, but the first 1,000 fans at the men’s basketball game vs. No. 18 Pitt Wednesday night will receive a limited-edition trading card set featuring the 2014 football recruiting class. The trading card set will include early enrollees Trevor Darling, KC McDermott, Trent Harris, Juwon Young, Braxton Berrios and Joseph Yearby in addition to the recruits who sign Wednesday.

February 01, 2014

Canes OT recruit Reilly Gibbons flips to Stanford

If you looked at the picture on his Twitter account before Saturday it sure looked like Reilly Gibbons couldn't wait to become a Hurricane.

Reilly Gibbons' old Twitter photoBut apparently those plans changed. According to Scout.com National Recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg, Gibbons took an official visit to Stanford this weekend and has flipped his commitment to the Cardinal.

Listed at 6-6, 292-pounds and rated a three-star recruit by 247Sports.com, Gibbons had been committed to UM since April.

Corey Long, editor-in-chief of Fuel Recruiting and based out of the St. Petersburg area, was stunned to hear the news. He knows Gibbons and his family well and thought for sure he was headed to Miami. Ultimately, though, Long believes Gibbons -- a very strong student when it comes to academics -- was probably persuaded by Stanford's law school program.

"The crazy thing is if he didn’t go to private school he probably would have enrolled at UM in January," Long said. "Losing an offensive tackle is one you never want to lose, you'd prefer a guard or center if you had to lose one. But at the same time they can replace him next year. At the end of the day I don’t think it’s going to break their class. If he played defensive tackle that would have been a bigger loss. But offensive tackle, I think they’re all right."

UM is returning three starters and four other experienced offensive linemen and already has two incoming Americans Kc McDermott and Trevor Darling -- enrolled. Under-Armour All-American center Nick Linder of St. Thomas Aquinas is UM's third offensive lineman commitment. His older brother Brandon Linder started more than 40 games in his career for UM.

> Here is a link to a story by Tampa Bay Times writer John C. Cotey on Gibbons.

Dade, Broward coaches say Canes doing good job recruiting backyard

Here is a longer version of my Sunday story with more quotes and content collected over the past two weeks from interviewing local high school coaches in the Dade-Broward area about how the Hurricanes are recruiting their backyard. I interviewed more than a dozen head coaches and assistants across both counties... 

Miami Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg, who won a state title two years ago with current Hurricanes Duke Johnson and Ereck Flowers, endured a rough 3-7 football season in 2013.

And yet, even though his roster wasn’t littered with major 2014 recruits, Heidelburg said he still heard from University of Miami coach Al Golden often – via email or a text. He also said he had a UM assistant coach at his school every opportunity NCAA rules allowed for colleges to make visits and contact.

Same deal for Columbus coach Chris Merritt, Cypress Bay coach Mark Guandolo and a number of other coaches in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, who didn’t have one of the 246 seniors UM offered a scholarship to according to 247Sports.com.

The coaches of the 30 local seniors who did have offers – like at Booker T. Washington, Central, American Heritage, South Dade, Northwestern, St. Thomas Aquinas, Champagnat and Deerfield Beach – said UM coaches recruited those players as hard as anybody else in the country, with assistants Michael Barrow and Hurlie Brown taking the lead on most.

“I personally don’t see how they can do a better job recruiting South Florida than they already are,” said Merritt, who had U.S. All-American safety Deon Bush sign with UM two years ago. “You’re talking about the most recruited, talent-rich area in the country. There’s no way you’re going to get them all.”

Yet, come Wednesday, when fax machines get busy sending and receiving signed National Letters of Intent, the natural instinct for all UM fans will be to look at the recruiting rankings and begin taking account of the big timers Golden was able to keep home and the ones that get away.

This year’s Dade-Broward class is as rich as any in recent memory with 13 of the state’s top 30 consensus players calling Dade or Broward home, most of whom were All-Americans. UM’s backyard yielded only six top 30 recruits in 2013 (Miami signed Stacy Coley and Artie Burns) and seven in 2012 (UM landed five: Johnson, Flowers, Bush, Tracy Howard and Jelani Hamilton).

This year, UM has five of the state’s top 30 recruits committed including four locals: Booker T. defensive end Chad Thomas, Aquinas defensive lineman Anthony Moten and Central running back Joseph Yearby and offensive lineman Trevor Darling. The fifth, Palm Beach Central offensive tackle Kc McDermott, is already enrolled at UM along with Yearby and Darling.

Overall, Miami’s class is ranked eighth nationally by ESPN, Scout and Rivals and 11th by 247Sports.com. And 11 of UM’s 26 commitments hail from Dade or Broward.

“I think Miami has done a good job down there, but I wouldn’t say a great job,” said Chris Nee, who covers recruiting in the state of Florida for 247Sports.com. “You see a guy like Johnnie Dixon [from Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer] who they really valued, [Champagnat defensive tackle] Travonte Valentine, [Homestead receiver] Ermon Lane, who early in the process they really valued. Missing on those guys, that doesn’t make you a better football team and it’s going to cause disappointment.

“But it’s not like they’re not putting in the effort. They were in it late for Dixon, Valentine and a few others. It’s just a matter of you have to close. And that’s the big thing with Golden. He’s improved that program. But for them to take the next step they have to close on those guys. They have to get those kids to make them a better program.”

Central running back Dalvin Cook (Florida State), American Heritage running back Sony Michel (Georgia), Chaminade defensive tackle Khairi Clark (Florida) and undecided recruits Lane and Valentine (he’s still considering UM, but LSU is the favorite) were all players Miami was in on early and hard. Assuming they all get away, they’ll join a list of recent UM big misses that include linebacker Matthew Thomas (FSU), running back Alex Collins (Arkansas), receiver Amari Cooper (Alabama), linebacker Keith Brown (Louisville) and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville).

Outspoken Hurricanes fan and rapper Luther Campbell, who has deep ties to Miami’s innercity and was named defensive coordinator at Norland earlier this week, thinks UM coaches are doing a good job recruiting locally but said they need to “be a little more aggressive and take the approach as if they’re from out of town.” In the end, Campbell said players like Lane and Cooper grew up wanting to be Canes and had to be convinced to go elsewhere.

 “I don’t think there’s a lot of coaches pushing kids away from Miami – because you can’t tell a parent not to send a kid to Miami,” Campbell said. “I just don’t think Miami goes the extra mile. These other schools are like vultures. They come in hard to the park, Pop Warner games, coaches who raised these kids, track coaches, they come in and find out about everything. They’re sitting in there having breakfast where the parents eat. You got guys like [Alabama assistant Mario] Cristobal, T-Rob [Travaris Robinson] from Florida hitting these guys up on Facebook every day.”

Heidelburg agrees, and said he’s told Golden with “brutal honesty.” Heidelburg said he’s also stressed to Golden how other programs are beating UM to the punch when it comes to offering kids early in the process.

“In my last conversation with Coach Golden he explained to me they don’t just throw out offers,” said Heidelburg, who has a 2015 defensive back in Carlton Davis the Canes are very interested in but have not yet offered (South Carolina, UNC, Kentucky and Arkansas have). “Golden wants Miami’s offers to be valid. They have a strenuous process of selecting kids. But I told him it might hurt them at times because the kid remembers who was in on them first and early.”

Nee points out, though, the Hurricanes appear to be getting more aggressive of late in terms of early offers and already have 119 out for the 2015 class -- including 52 in state and 21 locally.

Booker T. Washington coach Ice Harris said not offering his son -- star quarterback Treon Harris -- a scholarship early is the only mistake UM made this season. Last year, Harris was upset when UM pulled its offer from highly-touted offensive lineman Denver Kirkland (Arkansas) late in the process. But he said the fences have long been mended, and credits Barrow and former Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon (assistant at Arkansas) as being the two recruiters who have been at his program the earliest and most often over the last year.

Champagnat’s Mike Tunsil and American Heritage’s Mike Rumph, a former Hurricane, were the only local coaches interviewed by The Miami Herald who thought Miami could have done a better job evaluating and recruiting other players on their state championship teams. But when it came to recruiting the players UM did go after from those schools – Michel and Valentine -- “Miami did its due diligence,” Tunsil said.

“I think Coach Golden does a great job making a strategic plan and sharing his positional philosophy with coaches and letting people know who fits what they’re looking for,” said former University School coach Roger Harriott, who was hired by FAU in late December. “Some of our guys just didn’t fit what they were looking for the last two years. But that doesn’t mean the relationships were bad. Al and I texted each other after every game. They were recruiting and had offers out for our 2015 and 2016 kids.

“If you ask any coach around South Florida, all of Miami’s coaches have done a great job cultivating great relationships. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s always going to look like you’re letting kids get away. But they’re doing a good job. Sometimes it’s just a kid’s decision to leave.”

JUCO DT Wyche tweets he's going to stick with Canes

Good news for Hurricanes fans this Saturday afternoon.

Junior College defensive tackle Michael Wyche, who two days ago said he was re-opening his recruiting because an obscure ACC rule was delaying his entrance into UM, has decided to stick with the Hurricanes after signing a National Letter of Intent back in December.

Getting Wyche back on board is huge for UM considering the need they have at defensive tackle. The 6-4, 315-pound standout out of East Los Angeles College is considered the 12th best JUCO defensive tackle in the country this year by 247Sports.com.

With only three defensive tackles returning, Miami now has four lined up in its 2014 signing class and is counting on Wyche to come help the program immediately. UM now has nine early enrollees and 18 players committed to the 2014 class.

January 31, 2014

Hurricanes land commitment from Njoku; Valentine at home pondering decision coach says

Hurricanes assistant Brennan Carroll sent out the bat signal Friday to welcome Miami's latest football commitment: New Jersey three-star tight end prospect David Njoku.

The 6-4, 217-pound senior at Cedar Grove High visited UM last month and was a player UM had been trying to nail down. He was scheduled to visit Ohio State this weekend, but the backed off. He becomes the second tight end prospect to join the class. Georgia's Chris Herndon is the other.

Njoku also becomes the third prospect from New Jersey in the Class of 2014 to pick the Canes. UM coach Al Golden and many members of his staff obviously know the New Jersey area well.

LATEST ON TRAVONTE VALENTINE

Even though all signs are pointing toward LSU especially after he decided to pass on an official visit to UM this weekend, U.S. Army All-American defensive tackle Travonte Valentine hasn't ruled out the Hurricanes yet and planned to spend the next few days at home with his mother in Palm Bay trying to reach a final decision.

"Right now I would say it's probably 70-30 LSU," a Champagnat assistant coach close to Valentine said Friday morning.

Valentine told The Herald during a half hour interview on Tuesday he told UM coaches he would visit Coral Gables this weekend after Golden came to visit him at school. But after receiving a visit from LSU's coaches in his mom's home Wednesday night, the Champagnat assistant coach said Valentine and his mom decided visiting UM -- where he had been so many times unofficially -- wouldn't help the situation. He just needed to get away from it all, the coach said.

So what initially changed Valentine's mind about remaining committed to UM in the first place? Although Valentine reiterated to The Herald Tuesday the Al Golden to Penn State rumors last month played a factor, it appears scheme and the way LSU told Valentine he would be utilized has played a bigger role.

The Champagnat assistant said when Valentine returned from the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio -- where he played in a 4-3 scheme -- he told coaches at Champagnat he might be better suited in LSU's 4-3 system instead of a 3-4/4-3 multiple defense at Miami. Valentine made reference to it Tuesday when asked if he liked one team's scheme over the other.

"Miami could change some things up, slim down the d-tackles a little bit," Valentine said. "Instead of playing like at 340, 350, I'd prefer to be 310, 315. LSU was telling me they could see me going down to 310, playing smaller, quicker, making tackles for loss."

The Champagnat assistant said he took Valentine down to UM to sit down and review film with Canes defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.

"He showed him all the film, how they use tackles in multiple ways, not just a nose guard," the Champagnat assistant said. "Golden, [Defensive coordinator Mark] D'Onofrio, Franklin, all of them were telling him he wouldn't have to come in and play heavy, they could make adjustments."

The assistant also said Valentine was a bit wary of how much pressure was going to be put on him at Miami, being someone expected to come in right away and deliver whereas he would have a little more time to ease his way in at LSU because of better depth.

Valentine said Tuesday he also felt closer to some of the former South Floridian players and Hallandale safety John Battle, at LSU 2014 commitment. Valentine also said he didn't feel the same connection to UM's recruits.

Asked Tuesday about Valentine and his wavering with UM, Booker T. Washington All-American defensive end Chad Thomas said he hadn't spoken with him and said he it didn't matter to him if Valentine chose UM.

"I ain’t no recruiter," Thomas said. "If he don’t want to go there, he don’t want to go there. That’s on him."

For what it's worth, Valentine said Tuesday his mother wasn't necessarily pushing him to stay close to home.

"She’s with me anywhere I go,"  Valentine said. "She’s with me through the long run. It’s not about a staying home situation."

Valentine is scheduled to make his college announcement during a small ceremony at Champagnat Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

January 30, 2014

WR Worton not taking official visit to UM; JUCO DT Wyche de-commits

The Hurricanes aren't exactly humming down the homestretch of this recruiting season.

Although it was nice to hear 2014 quarterback Brad Kaaya will be sticking with his commitment, the Hurricanes got some bad news Thursday whenJUCO defensive tackle Michael Wyche announced on his Twitter account he was de-committing from the program.

Wyche, a 6-4, 315-pound standout from East Los Angeles Junior College, had signed with UM last month but was being delayed entry because he was appealing an obscure ACC rule that requires players be enrolled three semesters at the same junior college. As our Barry Jackson wrote on his Sports Buzz blog, Wyche could have stayed committed to UM and enrolled here in May but apparently has chosen not to, at least at this point.

With U.S. Army All-American and local standout Travonte Valentine leaning heavily toward LSU, UM currently has three defensive tackles commitments: four-star St. Thomas Aquinas standout Anthony Moten, three-star junior college transfer Calvin Heurteleu (already enrolled) and three-star N.J. prospect Courtel Jenkins.

With only three returning defensive tackles in Olsen Pierre, Earl Moore, and Corey King, the Hurricanes badly need immediate help.

> Hurricanes offensive coordinator James Coley made a late push to get an official visit this coming weekend from South Dade receiver C.J. Worton, an All-Dade 1st team selection and former Florida State commitment. But it now appears that won't be happening.

"I’m finished with the visits," Worton told The Miami Herald. "For one, it’s my birthday today and there are a lot of people I'm going to be seeing. Two, my dad won’t be able to make it too. I wanted to take the trip with him. So, it looks like I won’t be going up. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of going onSunday just to go talk to Coach Coley.

"But there’s not really a big chance that plays a big factor. I just always enjoy his company and have a really good connection with him. I'll probably just go see him, hear what he has to say -- if even I even go Sunday."

Worton said although many people are predicting him to go to Florida he's completely torn between the Gators and West Virginia.

"I don’t have a leader," Worton said. "I’m torn between the two honestly. I love the schools, both coaching staffs. I love every aspect of each coaching staff. It’s going to be very hard. I’m going to tell the coaches either Sunday or Monday of my decision. Eventually someone has to have their feelings hurt. I don’t want to leave it up until Signing Day. I feel that’s disrespectful. Whatever school I choose will be Sunday or Monday and then I’ll go announce at school."

Kaaya ends speculation, tweets he is signing with UM

For weeks Hurricanes fans have been walking around with a bit of a knot in their stomachs, worried class of 2014 quarterback Brad Kaaya, committed to Miami since May, might end up opting to stay home somewhere out on the West Coast.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Semper Fi All-American, rated the seventh-best consensus pro-style quarterback in the country, ended those fears Thursday afternoon when he tweeted he planned to sign with Miami next Wednesday.

Kaaya had visited Boise State recently and was also being pursued by UCLA.

Boise State landed a commitment from Alex Ogle, a three-star quarterback from Jensen Beach, Fla., late Wednesday night.

The Hurricanes have two quarterbacks lined up in their 2014 signing class. Malik Rosier, a 3-star dual-threat quarterback from Mobile, Ala. is the other.

The Canes are also hosting Miami Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris, a four-star recruit committed to FSU, this coming weekend. It's unlikely the Hurricanes will sway Harris to stay home.

> Two 2015 All-Broward First Team selections and highly-touted recruits Shawn Burgess-Becker and Calvin Ridley, who both attend Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, will make their college choices Sunday at 1 p.m. following a 7-on-7 practice. Miami is high on the list for both, who are listed as four-star receivers by 247Sports.com.

FYI, the Hurricanes have already offered 116 recruits in the 2015 class according to 247Sports.com including 52 in state, 21 from Dade and Broward Counties.

> Rapper Luther Campbell, who has long had ties to the University of Miami and many of the top innercity players in South Florida, was hired this week to be the defensive coordinator at Miami Norland. Campbell has coached at Miami Northwestern and Miami Central in the past. Although he's been critical of coach Al Golden in the past, he said he supports the program.

"I'm ready to go," said Campbell, who was with Northwestern until the middle of last season. "We got some young kids who were beat up last year, but they never laid down. [Norland coach Daryle] Heidelburg is one of the best offensive coordinators, head coaches and I'm excited. They got some kids. All the defensive backs, they got the best defensive back field in the county. I'm happy."

> Fort Lauderdale Dillard coach Lorenzo Davis said Randy Ramsey, an All-Broward first team defensive prospect the Hurricanes have made a late push for, has yet to decide if he's going to visit UM this weekend or not. Ramsey, a three-star recruit, recently committed to Arkansas.

January 29, 2014

Canes making late push for Dillard athlete Randy Ramsey, South Dade WR CJ Worton

It's never too late to try and use your home field advantage.

And apparently that's what the Miami Hurricanes and Al Golden are doing with a week to go before National Signing Day.

According to Fort Lauderdale Dillard coach Lorenzo Davis, Golden and UM assistants swung by the school on Tuesday to visit recent Arkansas commitment Randy Ramsey. And now the 6-4, 210-pound senior is pondering whether or not to take a last minute official visit to UM this coming weekend.

"Right now he and his parents are thinking about it," Davis said. "We’ll know something by [Thursday] evening. I don’t think it would be a bad thing to take a visit.

"He likes Miami. They’re the hometown team. They offered him a while ago and were trying to get him to visit, but he never would. Nothing wrong with going to look and see what it's like. He has a chance now not to have any regrets. There’s no loss just to go."

The Hurricanes apparently hadn't been after Ramsey hard enough and he wanted to see more of an effort on their part, Davis said.

Ramsey earned All-Broward First Team honors by the Miami Herald this season after racking up 20 sacks as an undersized defensive end. His future position in college remains up in the air. He's played cornerback, linebacker and rush end in the past.

"I think a reason a lot of schools were kind of holding back was because they were trying to figure out what position he was going to play," Davis said. "I was telling them all from the get-go just take him as an athlete. He did some amazing things for us this season."

> Another local player UM is hoping to get a visit from on a late push is South Dade receiver C.J. Worton, who recently de-committed from Florida State and is now entertaining offers from Florida, West Virginia and the Hurricanes. He told 247Sports its likely he'll visit UM this weekend.

“Well, I really haven’t had much contact with them, until recently I started talking to coach [James] Coley again,” Worton said of the Miami offensive coordinator. “He’s the one that originally recruited me to Florida State, so I always had a real good relationship with him. He just asked me how everything is going, I guess he heard I decommitted."

“He’s always wanted to coach me and he said wherever he was, that’s where he wanted me to go there...He’s very trust worthy, I trust him a lot. I know he will take care of me wherever I go and I know he wants to run his office through me.”

Worton told 247 it's like UM will get his last official visit because he feels like he owes it to Coley and his father has always been a big UM fan.

"I think it would be cool to try to get him to go if I end up do going," Worton told 247Sports. "I feel like that would be really cool for him to get up there and see the coaches and see the facilities. Since it’s so close, it’s an easy trip. I’m tired of all these plane flights and everything.”

Worton caught 42 passes for 1,052 yards to lead Dade County this season. His teammate, receiver Tyre Brady, is a UM commitment. Worton capped his senior year by hauling in six catches for 159 yards and 3 TDs in South Dade's Class 8A state championship victory.