May 13, 2016

Hurricanes' sidewinder Cooper Hammond out for up to a year; Freshman gets first start tonight

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 If you want to catch a formidable team in the midst of an excellent season, get out to Mark Light Field tonight for the 7 p.m. opener against Pittsburgh (25-20, 10-13 Atlantic Coast Conference) in the final, regular-season weekend home series for the University of Miami's fourth-ranked baseball Hurricanes (37-9, 16-6).

You also will witness Coral Gables High graduate and right-handed freshman Andrew Cabezas, who is 2-1 and 4.84 ERA in 20 relief appearances (and shown above in photograph), make the first start of his young career.

Left-handed senior Thomas Woodrey (5-4, 5.46), who has struggled this season, was moved to the bullpen the last game on Tuesday against Bethune-Cookman. Woodrey pitched two-thirds of the ninth inning and gave up three runs -- two earned -- on four hits and a walk.

"We're just trying to change it up a little big,'' UM coach Jim Morris told our Michael Stern on Thursday during a media session. "We're going to put him back in the pen...If we can get his feet back on the ground and get his confidence going... Mentally, got to get him going.''

Morris also told reporters Thursday that right-handed, star sidewinder Cooper Hammond, who had served as a reliever until he was hurt March 8, had Tommy John surgery on Monday "and is out for probably nine to 12 months'' -- a huge blow for Miami. Hammond, a junior, has not redshirted and could redshirt and return the following year as a senior. 

 Cabezas, 19, has a great slider and a fastball that tops out in the low 90s. He was drafted by Cleveland last year in the 34th round, but chose to come to college in his home town. Teams are hitting .242 against him.

"I just want to be here to contribute as best I can, since I'm a freshman,'' Cabezas told the Miami Herald just before opening day. "Honestly, I'm the first person in my family going to college. It was very important to get my education and keep playing baseball.

  "I think we can be pretty good. Of course we have to be mellow-headed and focus game by game."

 Cabezas, who openly displays his feistiness on the mound, transferred from Mater Academy to Coral Gables his junior year of high school. He played the early part of his high school career as a teammate of UM junior Willie Abreu

  Morris said Woodrey always could return to the starting lineup, depending on what happens in the next couple of weeks. Cabezas sometimes has to settle down a bit and get into a rhythm before he does his stuff.

"If we get four or five [innings] I'll be very happy with the first time out in that role,'' Morris said of Cabezas. "He throws a lot of pitches. He may get three innings. He's probably going to throw 60 or 70 pitches that first time and get us wherever we can go.''

 And don't count out mid-week starter Jesse Lepore as a prospective starter once the post-season begins. Lepore, 6-4 and 210 pounds, is a sophomore with a 7-0 record this season and stellar 2.15 ERA.

Here's our UM baseball story by Walter Villa that ran in today's paper.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

 

 

 

 

May 12, 2016

Nice GPAs -- and nice Jesus Jeans Coach Richt

Markrichttheu

So, Hurricanes football coach Mark Richt boasted earlier today about the great GPAs his players produced this spring at the University of Miami.

 "Great news for our football student athletes,''Richt posted on Twitter. "44 had a spring GPA of 3.0 or better. We also posted an all time high team GPA. U Family!"

What Richt did not boast about were those Jesus Jeans that appeared to fit snugly on his then-22-year-old body in 1982. Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, via Miami alum and FIU professor Michael Scott Sheerin, discovered a classic television commercial that Richt was filmed in briefly, and it's just too funny not to share. Some might say, "Oh, Lord!" But most everyone will laugh.

  

http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2016/5/12/11662388/mark-richt-jeans-ad

Here's the Post blog.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

Notre Dame, Miami to tangle on Nov. 11, 2017 and 3:30 p.m. Oct. 29, 2016 for national broadcast

Notredamemiami

There will be a lot of TV tailgating going on in South Florida come Oct. 29th.

And even though it's still too early to program your DVR, it's never too early to get pumped for Miami at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame announced on Thursday its game times for the 2016 football season, and its 2017 schedule -- and the Hurricanes are part of both.

This season's Saturday, Oct. 29th game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and be televised nationally by NBC.

In 2017, the Irish will come to Sun Life Stadium on Nov. 11.

In April, during the ACC spring football teleconference, I asked Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly about the upcoming game.

He spoke a while about the rivalry, then said, "When it's the U and Notre Dame, it will kind of take a life of its own from coast to coast.''

UM coach Mark Richt said he hadn't "even thought that far down the road yet. ...Hopefully we're healthy enough and executing well enough to make it a good ball game.''

Here's my game story from the last time the Irish and Canes met -- at Soldier Field in October 2012: Click here.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

May 10, 2016

Prospective UM safety Ahman Ross decommits from Miami Hurricanes

Mark Richt or no Mark Richt, this will likely happen from time to time (or maybe even more) over the next several months: a decommitment.

On Tuesday night, it was Jacksonville-Bolles safety Ahman Ross who posted a "Recruiting Update,'' complete with praying hands, on Twitter:

  

May 09, 2016

Canyon Barry chooses UF over UM

By Michelle Kaufman

mkaufman@MiamiHerald.com

If only the University of Miami had a nuclear training reactor. Maybe then the Hurricanes basketball program could have signed College of Charleston transfer Canyon Barry, son of the former UM and NBA legend, Rick Barry.

Instead, the sharpshooter chose to pass up his father's alma mater and play his final year of college basketball at the University of Florida. Barry, the youngest of Rick's sons, is a two-time Academic All-American and graduating this summer with a degree in Physics. He plans to pursue a Master's Degree in nuclear engineering.

"These past few months have been pretty crazy since I made the decision to graduate and transfer," Barry said in a statement. "I have been contacted by numerous coaches from some of the top teams in the country.  I feel blessed and honored that they were interested in having me be a part of their programs...Ultimately, however, after much prayerful consideration, I have made my decision to attend the University of Florida next season and play for Coach Mike White as a Florida Gator.

"The University of Florida is a great fit for me for several reasons.  First, they have an exceptional Nuclear Engineering program and actually have one of the only nuclear training reactors in the southeast.  Secondly, I really like Coach White, his integrity, his honesty with me, and his style of play.  He and I both feel that I can make an immediate contribution... I met the players on my official visit and felt right at home in Gainesville. Lastly, I have family on both my mom and dad’s sides who live in Florida. My grandparents, aunts and uncles, and my cousins will all be able to see me play and cheer on our team."

Barry averaged 19.7 points per game his junior season, but was limited to 13 games because of a shoulder injury.

 

April 30, 2016

Chicago Bear Deon Bush: "I've been in Miami all my life. Now it's time to go to a new place."

 

After watching their teammate Artie Burns get picked 25th overall Thursday in the NFL Draft, then waiting fruitlessly Friday as the minutes melted away, the draft-eligible Miami Hurricanes had to be getting more jittery by the second on Saturday.

Then, finally, at about 1:25 p.m., Hurricanes safety Deon Bush got chosen 124th overall – the 26th pick in the fourth round – by the Chicago Bears.

All Bush wanted was an opportunity to show what he can do. Finally, the Miami Columbus High graduate has that chance.

I had a pleasant phone conversation with Deon this afternoon, and is he ever psyched.

"Chicago is a wonderful city with wonderful fans and a wonderful history,'' he told the Miami Herald. "I'm ready. I've been in Miami all my life. Now It's time to go to a new place. Everything is anew. Everything is beginning right now. I just want to make the best of it."

Bush told me he was nervous today because he "didn't know what was going to happen,'' but ultimately, as usual, he did a lot of praying and kept the faith.

He had been staying at a hotel the past few days, saw a navy blue T-shirt that the Bears gave him at the NFL Scouting Combine, slipped it on and went to his home where his family was waiting to watch the draft. "I just had a feeling about the Bears,'' he said. "I prayed and that's how it worked out. I talked on the phone to the GM, the defensive backs coach and the defensive coordinator, and it's a blessing, man. I'm so happy."

Bush also heard from former Hurricanes coach Al Golden, who is the current Detroit Lions tight ends coach, and former UM DB coach Paul Williams, now with Illinois.

Coach Golden told me how happy he was for me and how he was fired up,'' Bush said. 

"At the end of the day I had faith in God that everything was going to happen the way it was supposed to,'' he said. "I think I can help this team a lot. I'm going to work hard. I'm going to try to perfect my craft and become a better player. I'm going in there with a mindset that I'll keep my head down, keep chopping away and do whatever it takes to get to the Super Bowl.''

“Major blessings @deonbushlive2 congrats bro,’’ former Canes receiver Allen Hurns, who went undrafted in 2014 but became a star with the Jacksonville Jaguars, tweeted.

 And on and on.

The 6-0, 199-pound Bush had 50 tackles, a sack, two fumble recoveries, six pass breakups and an interception last season. 

“You look at his talent,’’ ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said after Bush was drafted. “It’s really evident on tape. He has size, athleticism. He's got the skillset to develop into an interchangeable starting safety if he's able to regain focus and if Chicago can bring out the most in him."

The Bears tweeted that among the things Bush said during a Saturday afternoon teleconference was, "I definitely want to embrace special teams. I played special teams my whole career.''

When the Miami Herald asked Bush on Friday what the team that drafted him would be getting, he said, “They’re going to get a hard worker man, someone who is going to go out there and lay it on the line, play hard football, make plays and amp people up and make the defense tougher.

“I bring a tough style.’’

Bush said playing in the NFL -- no matter where he plays -- would be “a dream come true.’’

“It doesn’t matter,’’ he said. “I love the game of football. I’ll go anywhere and be happy.’’

Bush will join former Hurricane stars Antrel Rolle, a fellow safety from Homestead (out of South Dade High) and punter Pat O’Donnell in Chicago.

 "Deon Bush is a Chicago Bear!! U Family!!" tweeted new UM coach Mark Richt.

And this, from O'Donnell: "Yes, Sir!!! Welcome to the squad @deonbushlive2. Expecting many of these plays like @#TheU #BearDown #NFLU. The tweet showed a picture of Bush sacking former Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

 Yes Sir!!! Welcome to the squad @deonbushlive2 Expecting many of these plays like @ #TheU #BearDown #NFLU pic.twitter.com/Hb2SCG3dWM

  The first two Hurricanes drafted, both of whom grew up in Miami, are going to the cold. But be assured that at this point, Artie Burns (Pittsburgh) and Bush couldn't be more ecstatic.

  You're gonna want to see these... #BearsDraft@deonbushlive2 📷's: https://t.co/7ZOTxL8jBk pic.twitter.com/qUQFmWaSzW

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
   

 

April 29, 2016

Hurricanes DE Al-Quadin Muhammad announces on Instagram that he had surgery

A picture tells a thousand words -- or at least a lot of them.

Miami defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, who had a strong spring showing and is expected to be a force on the D-line next season, posted a photograph of him on Instagram recently today lying in a hospital bed and wearing a surgical gown, cap, etc. His caption:

"Thank God surgery was a success minor set back I'm good though I'll be back in no time btw I'll be ready for the season #GodHasAPlan"

   A Miami spokesman said Friday night that Muhammad had "a minor procedure on his knee and is expected to return to football-related activities in two weeks.''    

When asked after the spring game on April 16 how pleased he was with his spring, and what he thinks he can achieve in UM's new, more aggressive defense implemented by defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, Muhammad's reply: "For the most part it felt good. It's a good feeling. It's going to help not only me, but everybody on the D-line grow. It's great.''

 Muhammad said "it's definitely a great feeling'' to now be a veteran leader setting the tone for the younger players, "but most importantly, it's easy to do when everyone is buying in. And that's what we have on our team. We have great guys and everybody is buying in. It's a great feeling but it's not a hard thing to do when a head coach tells some of the leaders, 'We need this and we need that done.'

    "It's easy to do when everybody is buying in. That's what we have going on, so it's an awesome feeling.''

    Muhammad, going into his redshirt junior year, is 6-4 and 250 pounds. In 2015, as an outside linebacker/rush end, he played in 12 games and finished third on the team with 54 tackles, leading the Canes in tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (5). He also had a forced fumble and pass breakup. 

    In the two spring scrimmages open to the public, Muhammad's stats included three sacks.

     SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 28, 2016

Artie Burns continues the Canes' first round tradition -- goes 25th overall to the Steelers

The tradition continues.

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Artie Burns and agent Melvin Bratton (right) pose for a photo moments after the Pittsburgh Steelers took the UM cornerback with the 25th overall pick Thursday

Artie Burns, who lost his 44-year-old mother to a heart attack in October and left UM after his junior season to take care of his younger siblings and 19-month old son, became the 58th first round pick in University of Miami history when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him with the 25th pick Thursday night.

Four corners were drafted ahead of Burns, who was listed as the 31st best overall prospect by ESPN’s Mel Kiper and came in as the seventh-best cornerback in the draft according to CBSSports.com.

"They needed help in the secondary. They gave up almost 4,500 yards passing," ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said of the Steelers. "[Burns] came on this year. I think he's another long, bump-and-run corner that will flourish under Mike Tomlin, an ex-secondary coach."

Said Kiper of Burns: “I like everything about him. He gets a little grabby at times and that might be his only issue in the NFL, getting penalties. But he's big, he's long, he's fast, he's athletic, makes some big plays. I thought he got beat in some games more than I like -- particularly the Nebraska game bothered me. But if he refines his technique he should be a really good player.

"I love his anticipation, his ball skills, had six interceptions this past year. He really came on. But you can't be grabby in the NFL with the way they throw flags. If he corrects that, he's got everything it takes physically and athletically to be a good corner. He can have a presence in that secondary that the Steelers like."

Burns former UM teammates and new Steelers teammates were obviously happy for him.

Here are some tweets:

NIGHT ON THE BEACH

Burns and his family – including his younger two brothers, girlfriend Ella and 19-month old son AJ – watched the first round of the draft inside a hotel room at The Betsy Hotel off Ocean Drive on South Beach. Burns’ agent Melvin Bratton said former UM receiver Rashawn Scott was also there to support Burns.

Bratton said earlier in the day Burns spent the afternoon walking the beach for two to three hours with him and his wife trying to fight off nerves.

“Artie had some good pre-draft meetings with Carolina, Tampa Bay, the Jets, Miami and the Cardinals too – teams that need corners,” Bratton said Thursday moments before the draft got underway.

“But like I told him, the teams you haven’t spoken to are usually the ones that draft you.”

The Hurricanes, who had seven players taken in last year’s draft including two first round picks, don’t have as deep a draft class this year.

Safety Deon Bush, whom Kiper listed as his 181st overall prospect, will likely be the only other player taken in the draft. Other Hurricanes prospects who could get drafted or sign with teams as free agents are Scott, defensive end Ufomba Kamalu, cornerback Tracy Howard, linebacker Tyriq McCord and receiver Herb Waters.

Counting Burns, the Hurricanes have had 94 draft picks since the start of the 2000 season – a figure that ranks second among all NCAA teams.

BRATTON DISMISSES TMZ REPORT

TMZ reported Thursday morning that Burns spent $41,000 on jewelry in a New York city store earlier this week to look good before the draft. Bratton called the report “flat out wrong.”

“We squashed that,” Bratton said. “First of all, he did that in February and he spent a couple grand. It wasn’t $41,000. That guy from the jewelry store was just trying to advertise his company. Artie doesn't even own a car right now. I won't let him buy one until after this weekend. So, if he doesn't even have a car why would he spend $41,000 on jewelry?"

April 26, 2016

Florida vs. Miami to open 2019 football season in new Camping World Kickoff

Gators logo  Hurricaneshelmet

Three-plus more years.

That's how long you have to wait until the Miami Hurricanes meet the Florida Gators again in football.

UF athletic director Jeremy Foley confirmed in a statement Tuesday that UF is partnering with Florida Citrus Sports and ESPN Events to kick off the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium in Orlando -- today for the last time known as the Citrus Bowl -- to open the 2019 season.

The Hurricanes followed with their own release, saying "the 2019 matchup is the third announced Camping World Kickoff in a multi-year agreement between Camping World, Florida Citrus Sports (FCSports) and ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, to host major neutral-site regular-season games in Camping World Stadium."

Said UM athletic director Blake James: "We are excited to have this opportunity to play the University of Florida in Orlando. There have been so many memorable games between our two institutions and I am confident that all of our alumni and fans will enjoy seeing the two teams square off in the Citrus Bowl."

Tickets will go on sale in 2019, the UM release said, "with Florida Citrus Sports members getting priority access as they do for the annual bowl games and for the 2016 (Florida State-Ole Miss) and 2018 (Alabama-Louisville) Camping World Kickoff games."

For membership information, call 407-423-2476 or go to floridacitrussports.com.

"We are pleased to have partnered with Florida Citrus Sports and ESPN Events to kick off the 2019 season against Miami,''  Foley said in a written release. "Orlando is a great Gator city and we look forward to playing in front of our fans from all over the state of Florida and beyond."

 The 2019 game will be the seventh neutral (ahem) -site game in the rivalry's history, which dates to 1938. Miami leads 29-26 in the series, which was last played in 2013 at Sun Life Stadium, a 21-16 Hurricanes victory.

UM alum Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World and host of CNBC's The Profit, posted a video of himself on Facebook talking about the new naming rights.

Lemonis said in the video that his favorite of the three Camping World openers is "the University of Miami Hurricanes against the Florida Gators. To me it's a throw-down at the 50-yard line between two great schools.''

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

April 25, 2016

Just spoke to police: Miami Hurricanes RB Mark Walton status remains same

Markwaltonaction

Been getting messages and emails and tweets regarding the case of University of Miami running back Mark Walton, who was arrested by Miami police early Saturday morning for DUI. Everyone is asking if there are any updates or new charges being made. 

I just called the Miami Police and spoke with police information officer Earnest Lawrence.

Officer Lawrence told me "There are no updates on the Walton case. The DUI case is closed.

"If there are any other updates,'' the officer said, "we'll inform you guys in the future."

Walton is still suspended indefinitely by the team, a UM spokesman said Monday. 

Click here for the Miami Herald story on the case that ran online Saturday and in Sunday's paper. 

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

Miami Hurricanes drop from No. 1 No. 4 in Baseball America poll

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The University of Miami's No. 1 ranking lasted two weeks.

Baseball America dropped the Canes from the top spot to No. 4 early Monday morning. 

Returning to No. 1 for the eighth time this season, including the preseason poll, are the Florida Gators. No. 2 is now Texas A&M. Ole Miss is No. 3, the Canes are fourth and No. 5 is Florida State.

As of noon Monday, D1Baseball had UM ranked at No. 3 behind No. 1 Gators and No. 2 Texas A&M.

The Canes lost to 2015 national champion Virginia 7-3 Sunday to lose their first weekend series since falling to then-No. 1 Florida Feb. 26-28.

Miami has lost its past four of six games.

"I've told them it's nice,'' UM coach Jim Morris said after Sunday's loss, regarding the top ranking, "but they're not going to be raising any [championship] flag for us anytime soon. They don't give that halfway through the season. We just need to keep...playing well and keep performing as a team and stay somewhere near the top... But...the real deal is to be at the top when it's over with.'' 

The Canes (30-8, 14-5) meet FAMU this weekend at Mark Light Field.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

April 23, 2016

Hurricanes running back Mark Walton arrested on DUI charges

Markwalton

University of Miami running back Mark Walton, who will be a sophomore next season, was arrested early Saturday morning by Miami Police.

Here are the charges we just got from police: Driving Under the Influence and Driving while License Suspended/With Knowledge.

http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/college/acc/university-of-miami/article73524697.html

 Walton, 19, charged with Driving Under the Influence, has been suspended from the team. The Miami Herald was told earlier today by a source that an "impersonating a police officer'' situation might be involved.

"We are aware of the situation regarding Mark Walton and we have taken immediate action by suspending him from the team,'' UM athletic director Blake James said in a prepared statement. "We have no further comment at this time.''

Walton was designated the first-team running back by new UM coach Mark Richt.

 Last season, Walton played in all 13 games and rushed for 461 yards and scored nine touchdowns on 130 carries. Walton also caught 22 passes for 292 yards and a touchdown.

He ended the season second on the team with 1,054 all-purpose yards.

Walton is the fourth UM player to be arrested in the past couple months. Arrested on misdemeanor charges in a separate incident March 9 in Miami Beach were offensive linemen Trevor Darling and Jahair Jones. They are still on the team.

Arrested in a DUI incident March 18 Coral Gables was kicker Jon Semerene, who was dismissed from the team.

That leads me to this question: Will Walton be kicked off the team, too? Keep in mind that Semerene had a history of alcohol-related incidents/arrests.

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

April 20, 2016

Mark Richt speaks about getting Hurricanes "to rise to the level of play we're asking"

Markricht2016springgame

New Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt was asked today on the Atlantic Coast Conference coaches spring teleconference how the players responded to what he asked of them on the field this spring. 

His answer was revealing in how the coaches run practice, so here it is:

"On the field, you know, we’re asking them to play with a lot of energy. Every coach has a specific way he wants drills to be run. Every drill has a finish line. We want them to finish full speed.

"Every play that we run in 11 on 11 type situations, there’s a way that we want them to finish. There’s a certain time that we’re.. We say it’s time to stop, whether it’s the whistle being blown or whether it’s a back going 20 yards past the last defender, whatever it is, each coach has a definition of what is a finish line on a particular play and we’re expecting them to go full speed until they get to that point.

"We’re trying to define for them what it means to play hard and not just say, ‘Play hard.’ We’ll say, ‘Quarterback, you’re going to toss this sweep and you’re going to hide your hands and you’re going to break contain and you’ll go full speed at the line of scrimmage, that’s the finish line on that play.’

"We’re trying to make it very structured and very defined as to what we consider a full speed play and what we consider a loaf and if guys are loafing we’re going to discipline them and get them to rise to the level of play that we’re asking them. Those are the types of things that we’re trying to get done. And if we stay consistent as coaches then they’ll know we’re serious and they’ll rise to the occasion for sure.

"I’m pleased with everybody’s effort of trying to get it done that way.”

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

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

 

Madibis

  Irishimage

Notre Dame, people.

I already can't wait.

What about you?

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

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

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

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

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

Unranked UM finished 8-5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you all think of this upcoming matchup? 

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

April 19, 2016

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

FullSizeRender (48)

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

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

Guess what? Kiper mostly talked about Artie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Iowa

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

3. Tennessee

2. Notre Dame

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

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

     Click here for Jon's full story. 

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

April 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Fellow senior standout Clementina Riobueno clinched the victory over Louisville.

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

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

The ACC tourney begins Wednesday in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

April 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here are some more from the festitivites Saturday

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

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

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

April 16, 2016

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

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Brad Kaaya did it again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  INJURIES

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

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

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

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

   SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN