February 07, 2013

UM issues statement regarding its drug testing policy, strength coach Jimmy Goins

"The University of Miami’s comprehensive drug testing policy, enacted in 1995, continues to evolve as the methods and reliability of testing have improved and as more drugs have been introduced into the world of competitive sports.

"The University’s program is monitored by a University committee, which includes medical professionals, and is overseen by a Medical Review Officer --c urrently, a former UM Miller School of Medicine physician -- who ensures the integrity and confidentiality of the drug testing program. An outside third-party firm administers the tests and provides results to the University.

"Since 2005, approximately 3,380 student-athletes have been tested more than 10,000 times by the University, in addition to drug tests administered by the NCAA. During that period, no student-athlete has tested positive for anabolic steroids. The University of Miami, like many of our peer institutions, the NCAA and many professional sports leagues, does not currently test for Human Growth Hormones.

"The University of Miami's drug testing policy is consistent with those at most NCAA Division I programs and provides more stringent penalties -- including game suspensions for first-time positive results -- than many of our peers.

"As stated last week, we have initiated an internal review involving an employee and will continue to monitor developments."

January 23, 2013

Bylaw Blog writer weighs in on UM case after NCAA bombshell drops Wednesday

After Wednesday's bombshell fell from the lips of NCAA President Mark Emmert, I reached out to our friend John Infante, a former compliance officer at NCAA Division I schools who runs the Bylaw Blog.

Infante's expertise has been featured on ESPN, Sports Illustrated, USA Today and numerous other media outlets. Keep in mind he isn't privy to the information the NCAA has on Miami. He simply is giving his opinion based on what he's read from published reports and heard today.

Here is the transcript of my 20 minute, one-on-one Q&A with him today:

Q: How does this affect Miami? Most people assume here that the NCAA admitting its made mistakes in the investigation will be positive for Miami. Some think they might even just settle.

"It definitely will be positive. But I think people -- when they think positive -- it's significantly reduced sanctions. To me, that remains to be seen. I know President Emmert said in his press conference that this affected only a small portion of the information in the case. They still have to go through and find out exactly which allegations or specific violations [can't be used]. I don't know how much the NCAA follows the fruit of the [poisonous] tree doctrine -- which basically says if you gather information you wouldn't otherwise have gotten without the use of an improper lead, you can't use that new information either. But anything the NCAA cannot corroborate is helpful for Miami. The fewer student-athletes, the fewer former coaches, the less money, the fewer violations involved the better the case will be [for UM]. The question now is if it is going to better enough to result in a significantly different set of penalties."

Q: A lot of the investigative reports -- including Yahoo!'s -- came from the depositions and information through Shapiro's lawyer Maria Elena Perez. How could the NCAA still have much of a case if you have to wipe out whatever Shapiro's lawyer was involved with?

"Again, you have to wonder if the NCAA could have gotten this another way. It could be they look through their reports -- I don't know who makes this determination the law firm or the NCAA -- but they may say, 'We got this through this [improper] deposition, but then here's the other document we obtained properly that has the same information in it.' So I think you balance it with the idea that they wouldn't try to get subpeona power unless what they got was a game changer or real effective. The extreme [position] that the whole case is going to be gone, the NCAA certainly doesn't sound like the whole case is going to be gone. It sounds like something significant is still there... I think there is a big range -- in the middle -- of what exactly the case was going to look like. Frankly, the other problem is we don't know what the case would have looked like before. We know what Yahoo!'s case would have been and other media outlet's cases would have been. But nobody knows exactly, specifically what the NCAA has been able to corroborate given this abusive power. So, it's tough to know what was knocked out when we aren't even sure what's going to be in there in the first place."

Q: Worst day in NCAA history in terms of them policing themselves?

"As President Emmert said they've had better days. It's certainly up there. It's certainly one of the darkest days in NCAA history in terms of its investigative power. The thing to remember is that in these kind of scandals with the NCAA's investigative process that have come out in the last year -- Todd McNair's defamation case; the Shabazz Muhammad case and now this -- the NCAA has been accused of not following its own rules. One of the responses might be that the NCAA just had some bad seeds and 'we're going to clear out the bad apples that spoil the bunch. We're going to clear out the staff and we're going to have more money to bring in professional investigators and move on from there.' I think the real kind of devastating thing [for the NCAA] is if the courts say you followed procedure to a T and we're still ruling that improper. Then, that calls into question the entire way the NCAA does it's business rather than the idea that investigator or that investigator went rogue. The NCAA is dealing with the same sort of problems athletic departments deal with. There is a violation; now we got to find out what it is and fix it. Did the coach go rogue? Did the investigator go rogue? Did we fail to monitor? I know people are making jokes about it. People have asked me: 'Why would something like this happen?' Coaches are expected to deliver results and they cut corner sometimes. I think in a public case like this --- where the public says 'We had all the facts 15 months ago why isn't Miami punished yet?' -- there is that pressure to get your man, to deliver a result. Well, there would be pressure in that case also for an investigator to cut a corner."

Q: Isn't this unprecedented, the NCAA admitting it made a mistake before a notice of allegations isn't even sent?

"Yes. The leak of info with [UCLA basketball player] Shabazz Muhammad, we found out about that after he had been ruled ineligible and while they were appealing. It was kind of mid-process whereas this is kind of right before [the NOA]. In terms of how it helps Miami, I don't know if procedurally it really does [help] because you would hope that if the NOA went out and then the NCAA [did what it did Wednesday the NOA] would be pulled back and the NCAA would be doing exactly what it is doing now, which is pulling back and seeing what information should be in there and then re-doing the notice of allegations with the info it should have. Really, what it does is it delays [the case], but it doesn't delay it as long [as it could have been] because the NCAA would have had to restart its 90-day timeline. It sounds like the NCAA is fairly confident they can turn this around quickly. They're saying this is a delay of weeks rather than months. In terms of the timing of it, I really don't think its helpful for Miami in terms of what the penalties will be. I think it prevents a really long case from being delayed longer than it is now."

Q: Some people are thinking Miami can pounce here legally and say -- you fired these investigators, you went about this the wrong way, whole thing is a sham -- can Miami do anything here to put pressure on the NCAA that would help solve this case faster and lessen the penalties?

"That's tricky for all the parties involved because you are still down by the cooperative principal. You still have to cooperate with the NCAA's investigation. For Miami [to sue or fight it] that's a very high risk maneuver. Everything in this case has suggested that up until now they're not really putting up a fight. They might be exhausting their options to defend themselves, not digging in their heels to fight it every step of the way. I think the more likely scenario is Miami lets this play out and if the sanctions or the findings that come out of the committee on infractions' final report are excessive, I think that's the point Miami picks up on this and uses [Wednesday's announcement] as grounds for a lawsuit. Miami doesn't look like it's going to fight it like that. They're more likely to appeal anything now. But in terms of suing the NCAA that's always a drastic step. Very few schools have done it. It's generally individuals. As far as the individual coaches, a lot of them are still employed and working. If they had been fired or not working I think they would be much more likely to pounce on this and try to get themselves detached and the case thrown out. But since they're working, I think it's going to be more of a wait and see what their penalties are and if it harms their career. I can almost guarantee there will be a couple lawsuits against the NCAA trying to say this whole thing, none of it is proper."

Q: The NCAA is going to a new enforcement system in August. Can they avoid these similar problems from happening again?

"The new system doesn't really address what happens here. The new system is really more about penalties. It doesn't address how cases get to this point. Depending on the outcome of this external review -- and kudos for the NCAA being up front about it, talking about it publicly let's hope this continues -- I think this leads to a whole new initiative. This is not an isolated issue. This is kind of the third incident. Fool me once shame on you; full me twice shame on me. Three times is a trend. I do think it requires a big change. What that change is it's tough to say. I think the NCAA may take a more serious look at what people are calling them to do which is handing off investigations to third parties or creating an internal affairs unit. If this is a result of public pressure and an underfunded, undermanned enforcement staff, I'm not necessarily sure those things will fix the problem long term other than creating the same type of cycle where schools get caught, clean things up, fall off a little bit and break rules again. The NCAA isn't in a position or the public standing to keep things the same way. They have to come up with something to address this problem long term to sort of regain any public trust."

Q: Gut feeling in the end: Does Miami gets off easier?

"At this point I would be shocked about another post-season ban. I also would be surprised to see crippling scholarship penalties. I do think they will be let off a little easier than they would have been. The biggest challenge now for the NCAA is to explain [to other school] in a way that Miami didn't get a break on a technicality. That won't sit well with people either."

January 22, 2013

NCAA Bylaw Blog writer John Infante talks positives, negatives for UM with latest developments

With reports surfacing that former basketball coach Frank Haith and football recruiting coordinators Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill are expected to be charged with unethical conduct in the NCAA's investigation into wrongdoing done at the University of Miami, I sought the expertise of NCAA Bylaw Blog writer John Infante Tuesday morning to digest what we are hearing and how it might affect the program.

Infante, a former compliance officer at NCAA Division I schools, has been running the Bylaw Blog for over two years and his expertise has been featured on ESPN, Sports Illustrated, USA Today and numerous other media outlets. Keep in mind he isn't privy to the information the NCAA has on Miami. He simply is giving his opinion based on what he's read from published reports.

Here is the transcript of my 15 minute one-on-one Q&A with him:

Q: There were reports Monday that about four former basketball coaches and at least two former assistant football coaches will be cited for violating bylaw 10.1 "unethical conduct" in the NCAA's investigation. How does that affect Miami positively or negatively?

"Well, it sounds like nearly all the assistants are being charged with unethical conduct and it also sounds like Frank Haith is going to be charged with failing to create an atmosphere of compliance, which generally only head coaches are charged with. It can be helpful [for Miami]. The biggest thing is when you have that many coaches [charged with unethical conduct] and go in front of the Committee on Infractions there's going to be a lot of people in the room to spread blame around. When you talk about the presentations and the answers given in front of the COI, I think generally the feeling is amongst a lot of people who have gone through that process is that coaches tend not to perform as well as the institution does. In the end for Miami, it all kind of depends what kind of charges the school is facing. We kind of expect in addition to the specific violations the NCAA feels it has evidence of it's pretty much a guarantee there is going to be a failure to monitor charge. I would also be surprised if there is not a lack of institutional control charge as well. If Miami's cooperation is considered better and the coaches don't perform well in the hearing that could lead to the COI sort of finding that in spite of institutional failings by Miami this was more the coaches fault and bring the penalties down on the coaches more than on the institution -- especially considering the two post-season bans the [football program] has already imposed."

Q: How much does Miami taking a two-year ban help its case with football?

"You're probably looking at no more than [two years]. Three years of post-season ban is pretty rare -- given the USC case, which is some of the harshest sanctions. Being already two years, I'm not sure you add a third one to a school that has self-imposed two. In terms of scholarships or recruiting restrictions, I don't know if it will have as big of an impact there. I kind of feel like they took care of that post-season penalty. The COI will impose other penalties they see fit and not go into any further post-season bans. If they did that's something Miami would probably appeal."

Q: We've heard UM has done a good job cooperating with the NCAA. How much does that help?

"I forget where I saw it reported but I have seen more than just cooperation, but exceptional cooperation. One of the things fans see is that schools get rewarded for cooperating, but there is a level of cooperation you have to do to meet your obligation and then there's a level you get extra credit for. [Cooperation is] making sure you get to interview everybody you want. Going and suggesting you should interview this guy as well because he may have information too -- that's when you see something like exceptional cooperation. It could be that [the NCAA is] giving [Miami] a little bit of praise publicly just because it wants to. But it could also mean [Miami is] reaching a certain level of cooperation that has significance in the NCAA investigation where they might get a break on a penalty as a result."

Q: Would exceptional cooperation be telling former athletes that if they didn't cooperate they wouldn't be allowed back on the sidelines? We've heard that and our Barry Jackson reported that last week.

"If they were able to get people who normally wouldn't have replied to the NCAA or allowed themselves to be interviewed by the NCAA and Miami helped make that happen -- especially athletes UM has no jurisdiction over -- that's going above and beyond what the NCAA asks on the case. That may lead to a lessening of penalties. But there is already a high bar for cooperation. You have to go above and beyond that to get any sort of relief from penalties in front of the COI. Having the coaches there especially if Miami is going along with it and agreeing to the findings of the NOA and the coaches aren't the ones fighting, in the end you are dealing with people who are making a judgement call. Being the one that's not fighting and the ones who want to raise a fuss about stuff makes the school look better in comparison."

Q: Former coach Randy Shannon has not linked to any of this. In fact, we've heard stories and its been reported he was telling his players and coaches to stay away from Nevin Shapiro. Does that help Miami's football program in this case considering it appears Haith was involved with Shapiro.

"It certainly does. We've seen Shannon not being named in any of the violations and him not facing any unethical conduct or failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance charges. Because he is the head coach, he is supposed to be the one as the direct link to the administration and what they do in terms of monitoring and applying compliance. If he did that well, that helps show there was a chain of command of monitoring and promoting institutional control and thus the blame falls on the assistant coaches. If that's the case then, we may see kind of a smaller failure to monitor or lack of institutional control that could end up more centered on the basketball violations where it looks like the head coach was involved in some manner. While charges like failure to monitor are institution violations it can get to be more specific than that. It can focus on what sport led to that charge."

Q: Will UM's history play a factor? The school was still under probation for baseball violations through the 2005-2006 academic year.

"It will. It certainly will be brought up by the COI. But I think it's more important if [Miami] is considered a repeat violator in this case. I believe a lot of that depends on how far back the NCAA is able to prove the violations. I believe they had a case [in baseball] in the mid 2000s. If they did in that case -- as Yahoo! reported -- they would definitely be under a repeat violator status. The thing is we haven't seen with that repeat violator status -- outside of the USC case -- that there have been significantly harsher penalties as a result. UCF is one example. UCF was under repeat violator status -- kind of a similar violation as Miami in terms of a booster or third party who is providing benefits on a smaller scale. But again we sort of saw them impose sort of a standard penalty the COI has been imposing, losing scholarships, a one-year post-season ban, recruiting restrictions, going after the individuals and sort of move on. I think the Miami case is probably a little too big for that. But again, I do kind of think in some ways the COI is going through the motions until the new enforcement program starts up in August. There is a little bit of a sense of the current process having a lame duck quality to it. That play in Miami's favor as well."

Q: How is the NCAA's new process different and how does the fact Miami doesn't fall under the new rules help?

"The new rules are going to be harsher, it's going to be a different kind of process and involve different people. We just saw there are eight new people appointed. So, I think because of this reset almost, the NCAA sees there are flaws in this process and as of Aug. 1, 2013 were going to fix it. While the current cases are taken seriously, the fact the same penalties have been applied in the last two or three cases sort of suggests they're not going with the same fire and brimstone as they did with USC. That helps Miami."

October 18, 2012

UM Hall of Fame to add seven new members in 2013 including Ken Dorsey

Quarterback Ken Dorsey and center Brett Romberg -- key members of Miami’s 2001 national champion football team -- highlight the seven-member Class of 2013 that will be inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame next April.

Other inductees include: Ed Contreras (baseball, 1957-59), Bryan Gillooly (diving, 1994-98), Norm Parsons (administration / coaching, 1972-2012), Don Soldinger (coach, 1984-88 & 1995-2006) and Jay Tessmer (baseball, 1994-95).

With the addition of the seven newest members the Sports Hall of Fame will increase to 274 honorees. The newest class will be inducted April 11 at the 43rd annual UM Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, which will be held at Jungle Island.

> Contreras led the Canes in home runs and RBI in each of his three seasons (19 HR, 67 RBI in 77 games) and also led the team in batting in 1958 (.316) and 1959 (.310). He left Miami as the school’s single-season and career home runs leader and he still holds the UM career slugging percentage record (.615) for under 300 at bats.

> Dorsey quarterbacked the Hurricanes to their fifth national championship in 2001 and was named MVP of the 2002 Rose Bowl. He was a 2002 All-American by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. The 2001 and 2002 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year, Dorsey set eight UM career records, including total offense, passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions and attempts. He is the winningest quarterback in program history (38-2) and he won the 2001 Maxwell Award as the top player in college football.

> Gillooly was a two-time NCAA diving champion, winning the 10-meter platform title in 1996 and the 3-meter springboard in 1998. He was a 12-time All-American, garnering the honor in the 1- and 3-meter springboards, and the 10-meter platform in each of his four years at Miami (1995-98). He was also named the 1996 NCAA Diver of the Year and was a BIG EAST Academic All-Star in 1996-97. Gillooly was a finalist at the 1996 and 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials.

> Parsons, who served as the women’s golf coach from 1973-78 and men’s golf coach from 1980-88, coached the women’s golf team to the 1977 and 1978 AIAW national championships. He served UM as Director of the Herbert Wellness Center (1996-present), Director of Campus Sports and Recreation (1977-96), and Intramural Director (1972-73) among other positions. He coached current UMSHoF members Cathy Morse, Woody Austin and Nathaniel Crosby.

> Romberg was a consensus All-American and Rimington Award winner as the nation’s best center in 2002. He was a first-team All-BIG EAST selection in 2001 and 2002, while never allowing a sack in his time as the Hurricanes center. Miami went 35-2 in his 37 consecutive starts at center, helping lead the Canes to the 2001 national title and three BIG EAST titles.

> Soldinger was the linebackers and tight ends coach for Jimmy Johnson from 1984-88 and was the running backs and special teams coach under coaches Butch Davis and Larry Coker from 1995-2006. He was on the 1987 and 2001 national championship coaching staffs; he also coached six of the seven Miami running backs that rushed for 1,000 yards in a season (Willis McGahee, Edgerrin James – twice, Clinton Portis, Danyell Ferguson, Frank Gore and James Jackson). In his 16 seasons as a Hurricanes assistant coach, Miami won 158 games.

> Tessmer was a first-team Collegiate Baseball All-American in 1995 after collecting 20 saves – tied for second-most in school history – and posting a 1.31 ERA to lead Jim Morris’ squad to the College World Series. He finished second nationally in Division I with a 1.16 ERA in 1994, while his career 1.24 ERA ranks second in school history. He holds the UM record for fewest walks per 9 innings (1.42 average) and has the second-most appearances by a pitcher in a season (45 in 1995). Tessmer finished his career fifth with 23 saves and played professionally for the New York Yankees.

March 27, 2012

Brandon McGee finally appears to be getting the message, plus news and notes from UM on Tuesday

CORAL GABLES -- Brandon McGee is no longer sitting on the bottom of the Hurricanes depth chart. The cornerback was wearing a black jersey Tuesday -- a sign that he's doing what coaches want and expect of a senior who is supposed to be starting and anchoring his unit.

Brandon McGee“He’s working,” UM coach Al Golden said of McGee, who started 12 games for UM last season, but emerged fifth on the team's depth chart after the completion of the off-season U Tough program.

“I see Brandon a little bit differently than maybe most do. I see a kid that’s very talented, that’s willing, that's working hard and we just have to get enough confidence where he then goes out and makes plays. Not freelance, but go out and finish plays because he has all of the skill set that you want, and now he’s 190 [pounds]."

McGee has always had the physical gifts to be a star at UM in the eyes of coaches. He's 6-feet tall, was 180 pounds last year, and was timed at 4.29 seconds in the 40-yard dash last summer. "But I don't think he uses all those gifts the way he should," defensive coordinator Mark D'Onoforio said Tuesday.

D'Onofrio and Golden tried to get that message across heading into spring football -- not only by placing McGee fifth on the depth chart, but with frequent text messages throughout the off-season.

"They'd send me texts asking, 'How great do you want to be?'," McGee said. "Even though I went up in my squat from 380 [pounds] to 415, I guess there was a point where in their eyes I had to push the threshold even more. Even though I beat the man next to me [in U Tough], they didn't want me to beat him just by a yard, I should have beaten him by five yards. It's pushing yourself further and further. It's definitely bringing out good qualities in myself now."

In Saturday's scrimmage in Hialeah, the first of the spring, McGee started showing coaches what they've wanted from him all along -- more physicality.

"The one thing about Brandon in Saturday's scrimmage was that he was physical probably for the first time since I’ve been here," Golden said. "He’s in those short-yardage [situations] mixing it up. I think he feels more confident with his body and the physical nature he can play at 190. Now, we have to get him staying in the system, converting and making plays, getting more interceptions, being more of a ball disruptor for us.”

"I don't want him to press to make a play. I want him to trust D'Onofrio and [defensive backs coach Paul] Williams and let that take him to the play."

D'Onofrio echoed those sentiments.

"If you date it back to this time last year, it's night and day the way he's playing physically now," D'Onofrio said.

"I think he saw himself as an athlete who was a cover corner and there is no such cover corner position on our defense. You have to be physical, you have to be tough and I think he's trusted what we're asking him to do. I think he's delivering on it. Now, we're looking for consistency, not 70 percent, 75 percent of the time, all the time. He has to demand it from himself and give his body up for the team."

McGee had 38 tackles last season (eighth most on the team) including 2.5 for loss with a sack and his first career interception. 

But as a unit, UM's secondary had an awful season in 2011, ranking 95th in pass efficiency defense (they were fifth in 2010). UM's defense produced just six interceptions -- 10 fewer than the year before -- and opposing quarterbacks completed 66.35 percent of their passes (sixth worst among 120 FBS schools).

"Last year was really difficult," D'Onofrio said of the team's cornerback play. "I really didn't have anybody experienced to work with. Brandon was the fourth corner [in 2010], but didn't play a lot of snaps because he was behind the three guys who are all in the NFL now. [Transfer] Mike Williams didn't play for a year and them came over here and started 12 games. Thomas Finnie was a freshman. JoJo Nicolas was a safety and then he had to go back and forth because of the issues we had at safety. Lee Chambers was a running back.

"The hard part for us now is I lost most of those guys. The only guys we got back were McGee and Finnie. McGee got a lot of reps. Finnie didn't get a lot of reps in games, but he did get the second team reps during the week, which were a lot. But, it's better than the year before. We've got seven new guys coming in this class. Last year, we had one [Finnie]. At least we have a place to start."

And that place starts with McGee, who is taking charge not only of himself, but his unit as well.

"My phone is always open for those guys," McGee said. "[Early enrollee] Larry Hope, sometimes he'll hit me up and ask me to go watch film. When they make mistakes in practice, I'll pull them off to the side and try to clean up their technique, just telling them what to look for on the field. And I emphasize don't make the same mistake twice. If they hear coaches getting on me for a mistake, I tell them to listen so they don't do the same thing. That's the one thing that makes coaches hot."

McGee said he's been in constant contact with incoming freshmen Deon Bush and Tracy Howard, the nation's No. 1 high school corner. Whenever Howard or Bush visits UM, McGee gets right to work talking scheme and football.

"I've seen him work out. He has good hips, quick feet," McGee said of Howard. "He's a competitor, talks some trash. I like that about him. I'm just excited for him to get here. To see a guy like that work and be able to help him through the process is going to be good.

"It's never easy. No matter how talented you are and what kind of expectations are placed on you, it's never easy to make that transition from high school to college. I'm going to be there to help him along the way and that's something I promised his parents I would do. Him and Deon."


> Both McGee and Finnie said D'Onofrio isn't changing much in the way of coverages or schemes in the playbook. "There's nothing really new added, just perfecting what we did before," McGee said.

Last year, many Canes fans griped that cornerbacks were playing too far off receivers, allowing them to eat up the defense underneath. I've felt all along scheme hasn't been the problem -- it's been personnel. Maybe some continuity in scheme and getting more physical play -- as well as talent -- is the answer.

> As for Finnie, D'Onofrio says toughness isn't his issue. "Finnie's not afraid to throw his face in there at all. He's one of the tougher guys we've got right now. When those guys come around the corner or those tight ends lower the shoulder, he's doing exactly what we want him to do. He's not ducking out of the way," D'Onofrio said.

"What we need out of him is consistency and knowing that on the back end [coverage] you don't get any mulligans like you do in golf. Somebody gets behind you, it's 7-0. You don't get to push the reset button like you do in Madden. That's where we're trying to discipline him. When you're deep, you're deep."

> With Keion Payne now off the team, UM has five cornerbacks in camp. McGee is listed on the first team at field corner with Johnson backing him up. Finnie is the starter at boundary corner with junior college transfer Ladarius Gunter and Hope behind him.

> Of course, there is another part to UM's secondary -- safety. I didn't get D'Onofrio or Golden's thoughts on how seniors Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque have been performing, but the overriding sentiment this spring has been that both are putting forth the effort required.

"Ray, every play he's out there talking. VT is brining energy," McGee said. "I've been around them for a long time and can see the change in the them. If we come out flat, they get everybody amped up."

> With left guard Jonathan Feliciano going down for the rest of the spring, Jermaine Johnson has stepped in with the starting unit at that spot. The other starters: Malcolm Bunche at left tackle, Shane McDermott at center, Brandon Linder at right guard and Seantrel Henderson at right tackle.

“Jermaine looked really good inside,” Golden said. “Right now he’s one of the best five. We’ll see how it shakes out.”

> Golden said he's pleased with former defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis, who is taking first team reps at times at right and left guard. "He just needs to get in better condition and play at a high level," Golden said.

> Golden said the only way receiver Kendal Thompkins becomes a real contributor is by "eliminating drops." Thompkins had a few in Saturday's scrimmage.

> Golden continued his praise of freshmen Ereck Flowers and Raphael Kirby this spring calling them "difference makers" on Tuesday.

January 26, 2012

Sizing up UM's 2012 recruiting class with Rivals analyst Chris Nee (Part 1)

As of midnight Thursday -- six days before National Signing Day 2012 -- the Miami Hurricanes had eight early enrollees and 23 other commitments expected to sign National Letters of Intent next Wednesday. Outside of a handful of kids who could either be added to the class or leaving it, Al Golden's first full-year worth of recruiting work appears to be over. 

How did he and his staff do with a class Golden himself said they couldn't afford to screw up? By most accounts, pretty good considering the Canes are coming off a 6-6 season and the Canes have been recruiting since August with looming NCAA sanctions hanging over head.

With 24 of the 31 UM recruits having played their high school ball in-state, I figured a good person to talk to about the class Golden has lined up was Rivals analyst Chris Nee. He's covered the state for quite some time and has been to All-Star games, playoff and regular season games, camps, just about everywhere in the state. If Larry Blustein is the Mel Kiper of high school football in Florida, Nee has to be Todd McShay. What I like most about Nee is he keeps it real -- no sugar-coating.

In this installment we cover if UM met its needs, where he thinks Miramar cornerback Tracy Howard will end up and who the Canes could end up losing from this class as well as if Palm Beach Central receiver Angelo Jean-Louis will get into school.

Q: Did UM address all of its needs -- cornerback, receiver, defensive line, linebacker -- in this recruiting class?

Cypress Bay OL Danny Isidora"I think they're on the way to addressing it. They've addressed some issues that they had, but not all. They still need to get a great cornerback. Obviously, Tracy Howard is the big name that's still out there that they're still involved with. And that's a spot where they need to improve. But they did get guys in the secondary that are going to help them get better, led by [Columbus defensive back] Deon Bush. Deon's an excellent player. He can be a corner. He can be a safety. So he can provide some help there. Then you have guys like [Coral Reef's] Vernon Davis, [South Fort Myers'] Nate Dortch. They're kind of a second level have to develop some and have to improve before they can really contribute. But they'll still help with depth, which is something Miami needs.

"Offensively, They did a great job. Obviously, [Norland running back] Duke Johnson is a beast. But they got a great offensive guard in Danny Isidora -- really talented kid. [Norland's] Ereck Flowers is a future NFL offensive tackle in my opinion. He's obviously going to help anchor one side of the line. Then, on the outside offensively they went out and got some really good wide receivers in Malcolm Lewis from Miramar. Excellent player. They did a great job keeping him home and then they plucked [Virginia prep school receiver formerly of West Boca Raton] Robert Lockhart who was a longtime Virginia Tech commitment. So they did a good job improving some things and they've done a good job overall adding some good top level talent and a lot of depth, which is two things they needed."

Q: Is Miramar All-American cornerback Tracy Howard the only non-commitment they're really still in the running for with a week to go?

"They are bringing in a few kids this last weekend to try and help sure up some spots, so they have a Plan B in case somebody changes -- like a Reggie Northrup. It wouldn't shock me if they looked at another linebacker. I know they were looking at Iowa State commitment Darius White. But he's decided to stick with Iowa State. So, it wouldn't shock me if they did bring in a linebacker. But it does seem like the only big fish left on the pond for Miami is really going to be Tracy Howard. They're in the picture with [Palm Beach Gardens offensive tackle] Avery Young, had him on campus last week, but I think he's SEC bound. [Daytona Beach Mainland defensive end] Leonard Williams is a kid they're bringing in this weekend. They'll have a puncher's chance, but I also think he'll end up in the SEC. So the biggest name out there for Canes fans to pay attention to is definitely Tracy."

Q: So what is your take with Tracy Howard? Where does he end up?

"He recently said he was down to the three in-state schools: Florida, Florida State and Miami. For a long time it seemed like Florida State had the upper hand and then in the last couple months it seemed like Florida turned the corner as the top school. At this point, I think Florida is the top school. But it's really a testament to Al Golden and his assistants that they're getting him on campus for a visit. They were persistent, stuck with it. For a long time they seemed like an after thought with the kid, but when he's the best player arguably in the entire area of South Florida there with the Duke Johnson's you have to stick with him. The fact they're getting him on campus for a visit. His best friend is going there in Malcolm Lewis and I mentioned earlier how Miami has a major need at that position -- they have a chance. It wouldn't shock me [that he picks Miami] despite the fact for so long they were the least likely school of any in-state school to land the kid. At the end of the day right now I still think he'll end up at Florida. But I don't think he's put this to bed. I don't think Tracy Howard has made his final decision."

Q: So if you had to make a prediction it's Florida for Howard?

"Yeah, if I had to put a prediction on paper it's Florida for Howard. But I don't think it's done by a long stretch. I don't think Tracy really has sat down and made the final decision of what he's going to announce."

Will the Canes lose Jacksonville First Coast LB Reggie NorthrupQ: Now, there are a couple guys they could end up losing, guys who are taking trips elsewhere. What's the latest on the guys who could possibly stray?

"[Jacksonville First Coast linebacker] Reggie Northrup's dad went on the record [Tuesday] saying they're pretty frustrated by everything, they're kind of tired of the whole process. Word is Florida State made a really good impression on him in the last visit. He may visit Ohio State this weekend. I think what it comes down to in the end is it's between Miami, Florida State and Ohio State. Right now, I personally think he'll stick with the Canes. But Florida State does have a need at linebacker. They have a couple of other targets on the board. It's kind of domino effect. If they miss on some other kids they make one last big push on Reggie and they have a chance. Florida State has had a lot of success at Jacksonville First Coast over the years. But if I had to predict, I think he sticks with the Canes."

Q: What about as far as U.S. Army All-American defensive end/outside linebacker Tyriq McCord from Tampa Jefferson?

"It was quite a surprise when he picked Miami at the All-American Game. South Carolina had been his longtime leader and his family and himself were very high on the Gamecocks. But he decided Miami's proximity was nice. Miami's need for him was nice and he did like Miami in general. He is supposed to visit USC this weekend. As of right now what he told me in a text recently he's probably going to stick with Miami. But both Southern Cal and South Carolina are going to put in nice work. Southern Cal always pulls off one Florida kid. But I don't think it's going to be Tyriq this year."

Q: Anybody else UM really has a chance of losing?

"I don't think so. I'm looking up and down their list. [Louisiana defensive tackle] Jacoby Briscoe, I don't know much about him. But I do know Tennessee is trying to make a move on him. Texas A&M was trying to make a move on him. He's supposed to visit A&M this weekend. But I don't know a great deal about Jacoby."

Q: Under Armour All-American receiver Angelo Jean-Louis from Palm Beach Central is a kid who has loads of talent, but his academics are a concern. What have you heard regarding that and if he'll be able to get into UM?

"I chatted with him at the Under Armour game about the academics. He said he did have some more work to do, but he thought he would be able to make it. I think it's one of those things that's going to play out late into the summer and see if he'll be able to be cleared. Hopefully he does because he's an extremely talented kid. He could play on either side of the ball. He has great hands, great body control. He's a big kid. He can help them stretch the field. But he's one of those guys if you need a tough route, seven yard out, he's going to bump the guy with his hip and make the catch. He does a real good job of stretching out and making the catch. I was honestly surprised. In the system he played in high school he didn't get a whole lot of opportunities to get the ball thrown at him. I was honestly surprised what a well groomed receiver he was at Under Armour. Him and [Miami Beach receiver] Ricardo Louis are bigger type of receivers, good body thickness. They're going to be really tough on those outside routes."

January 21, 2012

Schnellenberger, Bowden saddened by Paterno news

BOCA RATON -- With Joe Paterno's health reportedly taking a turn for the worse Saturday night, two longtime college football colleagues -- Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger -- shared their concern for the 85-year old former Penn State coach.

Paterno, hospitalized since Jan. 13 for observation of what his family had called minor complications from lung cancer treatments, has experienced further health complications according to a family spokesman and his status is now considered serious.

Bowden and Schnellenberger, coaching in the inaugural Battle of Florida all-star game at FAU Stadium, were surprised and saddened when told of Paterno's condition about an hour before kickoff.

"I'm distraught that this is happening to him," said Schnellenberger, 77, who went 2-1 against Paterno when he coached against him at the University of Miami.

"All of this happened to him so fast. I hope he can pull through it if he has the ability or the chance to improve. The University of Miami's successes are tied real closely to him, the games we played together. We played three times. Everyone of them was a big struggle knowing we were going up against the best coach in America. The last two months have been a terrible thing [for him]."

Paterno, Division I's all-time winningest coach, was diagnosed with cancer in November, days after getting ousted as head coach in the aftermath of the child sex abuse charges against former assistant Jerry Sandusky.

"Oh, I hope not," Bowden, 82, said when he was told Paterno's health had worsened.

"I've known Joe forever. I've known him personally since 1966. The first time I met him was 1962. We've always been very close. We're close to the same age. He's just one of the best coaches ever. I felt like he would go down as probably the best ever, but after this little thing it kind of tainted it. But I'm sorry it happened. I hate it happened. I hate to see something happen to Joe."

Paterno won two national championships and a Division I record 409 games over 46 seasons at Penn State and the family has donated millions of dollars to the school.

This was his second trip to the hospital in a month. He's also recovering from a broken pelvis that required a weeklong stay to make it easier for cancer treatments. Paterno first hurt his pelvis in August when he was accidentally bowled over by a player in preseason practice. The injury forced the Hall of Famer to spend most of the season coaching from the press box - until trustees dismissed him Nov. 9, four days after Sandusky was first charged.

Asked what he will remember most about Paterno, Bowden said: "Just remember the good things. I don't remember the bad things. He didn't have many bad things. I would only remember the good things. He and I spent a lot of time together. We played him 10 times at West Virginia and played him twice when I was at Florida State in bowls. I never beat him in Pennsylvania. He had too many good players."

Said Schnellenberger: "The thing you remember about Joe is that even though he had a lot of good things going for him at that particular school and that particular state and that particular level of football, until they got into the Big Ten, he was always a winner with class. You very seldom found some reason to get upset with him. He was kind of a model citizen as a coach."

November 25, 2011

UM extends Al Golden's contract through 2019 season

The University of Miami and head coach Al Golden have agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension that will run through February 1, 2020.

This pretty much ends any and all speculation he will be leaving for Penn State, his alma mater.

“I look forward to working side-by-side with Coach Golden for many years,” athletic director Shawn Eichorst said in a statement released by the school around 6 p.m. Friday. “Al has done a fantastic job of rebuilding and solidifying the foundation of our football program while fostering success both on and off of the field. He has been a first-class representative of our University and I am confident that with Al leading the way, our future is very bright.”

Golden’s extension adds four years to the initial five-year contract which began in December 2010.

“My family loves it in South Florida, we have embraced the community and we could not be more excited about the future of the Miami Hurricanes football team,” Golden said in the statement. “I can’t thank President Shalala and Shawn Eichorst enough for their support and commitment to our student-athletes and staff. We are ready to hit the recruiting road and begin our preparations for the 2012 season.”

We'll get reaction after the game.

November 15, 2011

Ojomo unsure if he'll return in 2012; plus news on Benjamin, Seantrel and more

CORAL GABLES -- Although he's classified on UM's roster as a junior, defensive tackle Adewale Ojomo said Tuesday he isn't sure if he'll be back next year in a Hurricanes uniform.

Adewale OjomoAnd the reason has nothing to do with him possibly going pro early. According to Ojomo, his future rests in the hands of the NCAA, who will have to determine whether or not he's worthy of being granted a sixth-year of eligibility.

When Ojomo signed with UM in 2007 he was redshirted his freshman season while he practiced with the scout team. In 2008, he played in 11 games, made two starts and had 22 tackles and three sacks. Then, he missed the entire 2009 season with a broken jaw after being sucker punched by a walk-on teammate in a preseason locker room brawl. That season, Ojomo said, he received a medical hardship for. The question now is if the NCAA will allow him to do the same for 2007.

"They're trying to figure out if they have any medical records from my freshman year when I had a groin injury," Ojomo said. "They're trying to figure out if there's any documentation so they can give it to compliance and file the paperwork. But if they can't, then I don't have another year."

Ojomo said he hopes to hear news on that "documentation" issue in the next two to three weeks. Getting a sixth-year usually isn't that difficult. Offensive tackle Joel Figueroa received a sixth-year before the start of this season. Former defensive end Eric Moncur got one a few years back. But Ojomo said the key is proving you were injured.

UM coach Al Golden would love to have Ojomo back. After injuries decimated the defensive tackle position two weeks into the season, Ojomo was asked to move inside from end to tackle despite being weighing only 260 pounds.

"I'm really proud of him," Golden said. "He's really an example of what we want in terms of being unselfish and being an example to the team. I think he's embraced it. He's been fairly effective in there, he has done a nice job there. He's a starter in the nickel as well, so it gives us more speed inside. Adewale is strong. He's over 270 pounds now. He's starting to become a harder player inside, hold the point better. It's difficult to do during the season. We appreciate what he's doing for us there."

Ojomo said he likes playing tackle and thinks it "suits me better than defensive end."

"I definitely have to add weight, probably another 10 pounds, get up to 280," said Ojomo, who in six weeks has packed on 11 more pounds by loading up on carbohydrates.

"My production hasn't been very good. But in terms of my job and the defense, I think I'm doing my job, holding my own. I'm taking on a lot of double teams. I know that's good because Olivier Vernon and [Anthony] Chickillo will come free."

If he is able to come back next season, Ojomo said he "would like to play all over the line. Just know the whole playbook, everybody's position and stay on the field as much as I can."

Over the past few weeks Ojomo said he's been getting about 45 snaps a game while alternating with Micanor Regis. He said defensive line coach Jethro Franklin told he him he needs to "bat more balls down and have more strip attempts, try to get more turnovers."

"I need to improve in that area," Ojomo said.


> Golden said Tuesday that safety Ray-Ray Armstrong is all set to play on Saturday at South Florida after being cleared by athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Monday. But Armstorng will not start after serving a one-game suspension and will be "in the rotation and will be back on special teams as well."

> Seantrel Henderson is the new starter at right tackle.

"Seantrel played better [than Jonathan Feliciano] in the game and Seantrel's weight is where it should be [at 350 pounds]," Golden said. "And Seantrel is preparing the last seven or eight days like he should be. Prior to that it was hit or miss. Really, I think I said this about [Olivier Vernon] last week and I'm saying the same thing about Seantrel today -- he looks different. It looks like the conditioning, all the normal things you would get get in training camp, he has it right now. He has a great attitude. He really has. I'm excited to watch him play Saturday. That kid loves football. One thing about Seantrel. He loves football."

Henderson spent the last few minutes of Saturday's loss to Florida State stomping his feet on the sideline out of frustration.

> Golden said freshman Phillip Dorsett is the No. 1 punt returner -- ahead of Travis Benjamin, who had a key muffed punt return at FSU.

"They're competing, but if we were going to play today, Phillip's the guy," Golden said. "You can't do that in a game and not have some kind of repercussion. You just can't. We can't have that kind of decision-making in a game of that magnitude. Travis knows it, he's been communicated to. He'll fight back; I know Travis will. But he'll have to steal it back now, because that gave Phillip an opportunity."

> Defensive tackle Curtis Porter, who has missed the entire season with a right hand injury, could return this weekend. Golden said Porter is battling with freshman Jalen Grimble to get in the rotation at tackle.

> Golden said sophomore Kacy Rodgers, who gave up the touchdown at FSU, will focus primarily at cornerback this week.

"I don't want to say he froze," Golden said. "He just didn't execute. In fairness to the kid, you would like to have that exposed to him in training camp, in some scrimmage or at some game where you have such a lead that you're playing everybody and not for the first time in front of 85,000 and many more viewers. He wishes he had the play back."

Golden said Rodgers should "have run through and separated [the receiver] from the ball or intercepted it."

Senior JoJo Nicolas, who played the entire FSU game safety, will again stick to safety this week.

> Golden said the biggest difference between UM and FSU right now is depth.

"Just looking at Florida State. That's the one thing they're ahead of us on," Golden said. "We're going to work on that. We have a big recruiting class coming in. I think a lot of those guys are going to have to play.

"Where we're hurt the most is at linebacker. Those are the guys that are run and strike, carry weight. They're 225, 230 and can get down there and make plays. Right now we find ourselves protecting linebackers. We're sitting there with five guys the other day. I'm used to carrying 10 to 12 on the road. We're sitting there five, maybe six. That makes it hard, really hard. We're trying to protect those guys. We understand moving forward we have to get that fixed."

Futch doubtful for USF after collapsing at Tuesday morning practice

CORAL GABLES -- Jordan Futch, trying to work his way back from a shoulder injury he suffered against Duke two weeks ago, was recovering Tuesday from a suspected case of heat exhaustion, which necessitated him being taken from the Hurricanes' practice field by paramedics and transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

Jordan FutchLuckily, it appears the 6-3, 235-pound senior linebacker is going to be fine according to UM coach Al Golden.

"I think it was a case of dehydration and low sugar levels," Golden said during his weekly Tuesday afternoon press conference. "Again, I’m not the doctor but I’m just trying to give you the idea that everything’s fine. He just felt really weak or faint. It was sneaky hot out there today to be honest with you. I don’t think we had a day like that in a couple weeks. I think it got sneaky hot, and Jordan has been limited in his activity for the last nine or ten days. So I think the combination of that and we wanted to be safe. From all accounts Jordan is doing fine.”

At first, however, it hardly seemed that way. A normally quiet morning at Greentree Practice Field was interrupted at around 8:30 a.m. by police and fire rescue sirens. An ambulance quickly pulled onto the practice field, surprising some players who had no idea Futch had even collapsed.

"I really didn't know what was going on to be honest with you," defensive tackle Adewale Ojomo said. "I was over there on the field, saw the ambulance on the field and heard something about Futch. That's all."

The National Weather Service reported that at 8:30 a.m., when paramedics were called to the field, temperatures in Miami were 81 degrees with 85 percent humidity and a heat index of 87.

Hope Gibbs, the division chief for the Coral Gables Fire Department, said when they received the call about Futch they were told "there was somebody unconscious on the practice field.”

A paramedic on the scene told The Miami Herald Futch was given fluids and was doing much better by the time he was whisked away in the ambulance. 

Still, it's likely Futch still won't play Saturday at USF.

“I want to give Jordan the opportunity to see what he can do moving forward in the next 48 hours," Golden said. "If I had to give his status, it would be doubtful right now.”

Golden said the team usually starts practice at 7 a.m. and players are offered "fruits, Muscle Milks, Gatorade, and bagels and things of that nature" to make "sure their "equilibrium is good" before taking the field.

But, Golden said, "it's incumbent on every player to make sure they're hydrating and eating... I think his was a case he hadn't been doing anything for a couple weeks, 10 days."

November 14, 2011

UM's No. 1-ranked recruiting class of '08 failed in its quest; now it's all about the Golden process

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

Al GoldenWhen the nation's No. 1-recruiting class walked through the doors in 2008, the Miami Hurricanes were supposed to return to prominence. Randy Shannon, the man tapped into South Florida's recruiting pipeline, was supposed to restock the shelves with the talent Larry Coker let escape under his watch.

Winning? That was supposed to come quickly.

But we're still waiting.

With two games left in Al Golden's first season as Canes coach, UM is still sputtering, struggling to play better than .500 football. Are they folding like Shannon's Canes? Nope. Not even close.

Golden and his assistants have gotten more out of this group than Shannon ever did. Tommy Streeter, no where to be found under the old regime, has become a star. Jacory Harris is no longer an interception machine, rather one of the most efficient passers in the country. Sean Spence? Even better than he was his first three years, even wreaking havoc at middle linebacker when they've smartly used him there.

But the overall results for this group of 32 signees in 2008 who were supposed to save the day? Not very pretty.

> UM's record is 28-21, 17-14 in ACC play.
> The Canes are just 4-5 against FBS in-state opponents, going 1-3 versus Florida State, 0-1 versus the Gators, 1-1 versus USF and 2-0 versus UCF.
> The Canes record against ranked opponents since 2008? 5-7.
> The highest UM has been ranked in the AP poll was No. 8, before Clemson beat them at Sun Life Stadium 40-37 in overtime in 2009. The highest UM finished a season in the AP poll? 19th in 2009.
> Bowl wins? Zero.

A few of those kids have shined individually:
> Brandon Harris, a second round pick of the Texans who left school a year early, was an All-American cornerback.
> Spence, considered the 11th-best player for UM in that recruiting class by Rivals.com, will go down statistically as one of best Canes linebackers ever.
> Streeter, who did nothing his first three years here, has the potential to be a first round pick.
> Travis Benjamin became just the sixth player in UM history this past Saturday to eclipse the career 2,000-yard receiving mark.
> And Jacory Harris, for all his interception woes, will likely finish second to Ken Dorsey in all the major career passing stats.

Some turned out to be decent starters and contributors:
> Linebacker Ramon Buchanan, out for the season with a knee injury after just four games and could return next year, has 106 career tackles, 13.5 for loss in 39 games.
> Vaughn Telemaque, once compared to Ed Reed by Shannon, is a three-year starter at safety with 152 career tackles, 5 fumble recoveries and 4 interceptions.
> Defensive end/linebacker Marcus Robinson has 14.5 career sacks and 102 career tackles.
> Defensive tackle Micanor Regis has 101 tackles, 14.5 for loss, 3 INTs in 43 games.
> Receiver LaRon Byrd, who has struggled to get on the field his senior season, has 100 career catches for 1,179 yards and 6 TDs.
> Defensive end Andrew Smith, a 2-star recruit coming out of high school, turned out to be a decent third-down pass rusher (49 tackles, 8 TFL, 4 sacks).
> Junior College signee Pat Hill had two decent years opening holes as UM's fullback.
> And kicker Jake Wieclaw, once considered a mistake by coaches, has finally worked his way into the kicker's job after Matt Bosher left.

But so many of those 2008 recruits turned out to be busts:
> Arthur Brown, the No. 1 linebacker in the country and recruit in UM's 2008 class, did nothing in two years at UM. He's now a starter at Kansas State.
> Marcus Forston, the other 5-star recruit in UM's 2008 class, has had two seasons cut short by injuries including this one. But he's still made just 60 tackles, 7 sacks in 31 games.
> Jordan Futch -- a kid with a great attitude and a lot of heart -- didn't crack the starting lineup until this year. He has 36 career tackles in 31 games after being tabbed as the fourth-best player in the class.
> Aldarius Johnson, the No. 1-rated receiver in UM's 2008 class, has done nothing since his freshman year and got booted off the team in August for allegedly lying to NCAA investigators about the impermissible gifts he received from Nevin Shapiro.
> C.J. Holton? Davon Johnson? Ben Jones? Jeremy Lewis? All four-star recruits who have never cracked the starting lineup or done much outside of mop-up or special teams duties.
> From the Where are they Now Department: Joe Wylie, Thearon Collier, Antonio Harper, Gavin Hardin, Cannon Smith, Taylor Cook, Brandon Marti, Zach Kane and C.J. Odom.
> And we're all still waiting to see when Kendall Thompkins -- practice superstar -- does more than just help out on special teams. Fullback John Calhoun is a nice kid. Not much to say beyond that.

The reason I bring all this up -- this recap of ups and downs for what in essence is UM's senior class -- is to try and clear up why I think the Canes (5-5) are still stuck in this muddle of mediocrity even whileGolden and his staff have done a better job than the previous staff. Two reasons are depth and talent. UM simply missed on too many recruits the last few years. Another, is the mental makeup of the kids who are here. When the tough has gotten going, they've simply cracked.

"We have some bad habits that surface during pressure situations that we have to fix," Golden said of his team Sunday. "It is frustrating, but at the same time it's part of the process. We just have to stay with it. The kids have to continue to be willing to make the changes necessary."

That's the frustrating thing with these Canes. They've had three to four years to break those bad habits. This 2008 group -- and the one that came in right after it in 2009 with Ray-Ray Armstrong, Lamar Miller, Brandon Washington, Brandon McGee, Dyron Dye, Mike James and Olivier Vernon -- has just always found a way to blow close games.

The same problems always arise. Poor tackling. Freelancing. Blown coverages. Brain farts. Jacory Harris always seems to make a bad decision near the end zone. Travis Benjamin runs the wrong routes at Ohio State then chases after a punt that's past him at Florida State. Ray-Ray? Forget that he's always out of position because he tries to make too many plays. How does anyone get in trouble off the field again after they've already served a four-game suspension for doing something similar to what they got into trouble for the first time?

It's maddening really.

You can look at this picture sunny-side up and say UM's five losses this season have been decided by a total of 26 points, three by four points or less. You can say UM is just a few plays away. You can say they are just a few players away.

But to me, it feels like the process is going to take awhile. Until this group leaves and new ones with a different late-game DNA come in, it really won't change. Golden has tried hard to change the culture. He's tried to get his team up for every game. But the woes just seem embedded in some of these guys.

In the end, you can't be an ACC or national title contender when you can only hit on 40 percent of what is supposed to be your senior class. Golden has to do better than what Shannon did in recruiting. He has to land quality backups.

And he has to continue to change the off the field culture. You can't build consistency when some of your best players are getting suspended for doing really dumb things (Ray-Ray, Regis, etc). All of that in the end is why I believe this team is 5-5. There's just a lack of depth in too many places (corner, safety, linebacker). And the football IQ just hasn't gotten better.

Now, I'm not trying to say all of 2011 has been bad by any stretch.

Golden has gotten this football team -- which has been smacked hard by distractions -- to improve dramatically in a lot of areas. Despite Saturday's nightmare performance, UM has improved on special teams. Same with penalties. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has worked wonders with Harris and UM's offense, which before Saturday was No. 1 in the country in efficiency. Miller became the school's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002. Sean Spence is having an All-American season. Freshmen Denzel Perryman and Anthony Chickillo have shown us they will be stars in the future. And Golden has 26 commitments and a consensus Top 10 recruiting class lined up for 2012.

But don't let your imagination wander into the danger zone of unreal expectations. Don't start believing championships are right around the corner. We're still talking about a 5-5 football team that will face scholarship reductions and bowl-bans once the NCAA's investigation into this Shapiro fiasco is completed. We're talking about a 5-5 football team that next season will be without any of those good seniors I mentioned earlier -- and maybe some of those underclassmen too. That's the football team somebody -- hopefully Golden -- will be putting on the field next year.

So, dig your heels in. As Al says, it's a process. One that is going to take some time.

November 12, 2011

Did swapping QBs hurt UM's offensive rhythm? Byrd appears OK

TALLAHASSEE -- For much of the first half Saturday, Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris swapped in and out for each other at quarterback for the Hurricanes.

While the first half results in terms of offensive output weren't necessarily bad -- they combined to go 13 of 18 for 136 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and ran the ball five times for three yards -- the results weren't exactly stellar for the Canes offense.

UM only managed to put up seven points -- on a 2-yard Harris to Clive Walford touchdown pass. And Harris, who had thrown just one interception over his previous six games, was easily picked off in the end zone by Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner right after replacing Morris, who lost six yards on a poorly executed option read the play prior.

Did the in-and-out rotation of quarterbacks hurt UM's offensive rhythm? Harris didn't necessarily think so.

"Coach put some plays in for him and he gets in and runs them," Harris said. "[As for the INT] I had a little pressure, but I shouldn't have even went there. If I was going to go there, I should have threw it out the back of the end zone to let [Tommy] Streeter get a play. They were running quarters and he sat flat. I should have gone to the flat. That's on me. I blame it on me."

Said center Tyler Horn of the dual-QB system: "In practice, that's how it is in practice. Stephen goes in for a package and Jacory comes in and throws a touchdown pass. It's just part of it. In my opinion if we might have blocked it better, Jacory might have had time to throw it on point. Put that [INT] on us."

Morris only took one snap in the second half, on a trick play where he ran in from the receiver position and tried to unsuccessfully to dive into the end zone on a sneak near the end zone.


Receiver LaRon Byrd took such a vicious hit from Florida State linebacker Nigel Bradham late in the fourth quarter some of his teammates got on one knee and began to pray.

Luckily for Byrd, hit he took didn't appear to cause serious injury. After laying on the ground for several moments motionless, Byrd got up and jogged to the sideline.

"I' saw him on the sidelines after that. He was LaRon. He said nothing happened to him, it just knocked the wind out of him," Harris said. "But that was a big hit. It scared the heck out of me. Had to pray for a second."

Receiver Tommy Streeter might be less fortunate. He hobbled off the field with 3:03 to play after diving into the FSU sideline to make a catch. On the sideline, Streeter had his left foot examined by UM's trainers and winced in pain as they pressed down on it. His status moving forward is uncertain.

> Senior Marcus Robinson, who started at strongside linebacker with Jordan Futch out Saturday, left the game with 10:10 to play in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury and didn't return.


Running back Lamar Miller moved past Edgerrin James and Daynell Ferguson and into fifth place in UM's single season yardage list Saturday. Miller ran for 92 yards on 22 carries and now has 1,108 yards on the season.

He also fumbled twice Saturday, the first time he's actually fumbled all season. UM, which came in having fumbled six times (four were lost), fumbled three times and lost two of them.

"They weren't making big hits. I was just getting careless with the ball a little bit," Miller said.


UM was flagged nine times for 55 yards Saturday. Five penalties were false starts. Right tackle Jonathan Feliciano, who started and saw his first action in two games, was flagged twice. Fullback Maurice Hagens and tight ends Dyron Dye and Walford were the other guilty parties.

"We practice with [noise] all week, have the speakers out there. But it's nothing like being on the five yard line [facing] the student section at Florida State. You know what can try to reproduce those decibles," Horn said. "At the end of the day you have to watch the football, get used to it if you're going to play college football. That's how it is everywhere."

November 05, 2011

Gameday blog: Duke at UM

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The Miami Hurricanes (4-4, 2-3 ACC) welcome the Duke Blue Devils (3-5, 1-3 ACC) for a 3 p.m. kickoff, a game televised on the ACC Network. UM is 7-1 all-time against Duke and hasn't lost to the Blue Devils since 1976. Duke is coming off a 14-10 loss at home to Virginia Tech and has wins over Boston College (20-19), Tulane (48-27) and FIU (31-27).

> ABOUT DUKE: Coach David Cutcliffe has come close to beating UM before. Although UM has won the last four meetings by double digits, 28-13 (2010), 34-16 (2009), 49-31 (2008) and 24-14 (2007), Duke have kept the games relatively tight and came within a Canes goalline interception in 2006 of pulling off an upset. UM won 20-15. This Duke team still has two big playmakers at wide receiver in former Miami Gulliver Prep standouts Conner Vernon (51 catches, 740 yards, 4 TDs) and Donovan Varner (37 catches, 443 yards, 0 TDs). Tight end Cooper Helfet ranks second among ACC tight ends in catches (28 for 276 yards, 2 TDs). Quarterback Sean Renfree has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 2,004 yards, but also has just 6 TD passes to 7 inteceptions. Defensively, the Blue Devils will often employ an eight-man front to shut down the run. Safety Matt Daniels is their big playmaker. He leads the team with 82 tackles (26 more than the second person on the list) and has 2 INTs and 13 pass breakups (more than UM's entire secondary, 8). Duke is among the best teams in the country in kickoff return defense (5th overall), allowing just 17.19 yards a return. But they rank 66th in punt coverage (7.67 yards per return). Kicker Will Snyderwine is 7 of 14 on field goal attempts.

> WHAT TO WATCH FOR THE CANES: Redshirt freshman Jonathan Feliciano is expected to make his return to the starting lineup at right tackle, which should help UM's running game which has sputtered over the last three games. Receiver Tommy Streeter, who was apparently took a cleat to the top of his left foot on Wednesday during practice, has 14 receptions for 347 yards and 3 TDs over his last three games. With 45 more receiving yards, Travis Benjamin will become just the sixth player in program history to reach the 2,000 yard plateau -- joining Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, Michael Irvin, Lamar Thomas and Leonard Hankerson. Defensively, the Hurricanes will look to rebound after a deflating performance against Virginia. The Canes gave up six plays of 20 yards or more in the loss including three TD passes of 37 yards or more. Look for Duke to try and expose UM's struggling safeties with playaction, especially when Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque are in the game together. UM's pass defense ranks 102nd in efficiency and has surrendered 12 touchdown passes already with only four interceptions. Kicker Jake Wieclaw has either missed a field goal or had one blocked in each of his last two games.

> MANNY'S PICK: UM 33, Duke 21. Canes offense hasn't played well over the last 10 quarters, struggling in the red zone and in short-yardage situations and relying too much on Touchdown Tommy Streeter to make the big catch. Defensively, the Canes have also given up too many long pass plays and looked bad in coverage. Duke is well coached enough to expose all of those areas and upset the Canes the way Virginia did. But UM is the better team and this week Al Golden has scared them enough to make them act like it.

November 03, 2011

Gunn aiming to jump start Canes offensive line, running game

As the son of a part-time DJ, Hurricanes offensive lineman Harland Gunn said he grew up listening to all kinds of music in his home in Omaha, Nebraska.

Harland GunnOldies. Rap. R&B. Lately, though, the 6-2, 310-pound left guard at the University of Miami said he's been expanding his tastes even more.

"I've been listening to Led Zepplin and stuff like that to get me ready for the games." said Gunn, a fifth-year senior who has started 26 games in his career for the Hurricanes including 21 in a row.

"If I had to pick one song as my theme song it would be Power by Kanye West."

Why? "Because it's all about power," Gunn said. "You got to have power in this world."

Truth is there may not be a more fitting theme song for Gunn, hands down the strongest and most powerful player on UM's football team. Strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey said Gunn owns the highest marks on both squat (600 pounds-plus) and bench press (500-plus). "I think [defensive end] Olivier Vernon might be the only one who has [Gunn] on the power clean," Swasey said Wednesday.

Those strength numbers hardly surprise Gunn's father, Harland Gunn Sr. In the eighth grade, Gunn Sr. said his son was bench pressing 250 pounds, wearing a size 13 shoe and challenging his dad to lift offs in their garage.

"Harland's hands are bigger than mine. My fingers might be a little longer. But his fingers are thick. He's got big paws, man," said Gunn Sr., who at 6-6, 320-plus pounds was a standout high school football player himself who didn't make it further because he "tore his right knee up" and "started making children early."

"Harland's always been a competitor. When you're a young man, you see your father as a big guy and you want to be as strong as him. We'd go at it on the bench. I'd try to push him and keep him going. It didn't take him very long to pass me by."

Of course, there is more to Gunn than power and strength.

After hardly speaking a word to his teammates the first three months he was at UM according to center Tyler Horn, Gunn has grown into a chatter box, comedian and team leader. Gunn has even learned how to perfect his Spanish in his time time in Miami, taking two Spanish classes at UM after taking four years of classes in high school.

"I try to speak to the natives, people around town," Gunn said. "I know the basics. Como estas? [How are you?] Estoy bien, y usted? [I'm good and you?] I'm a pretty big guy, I like to tell people 'Tengo hambre, necesita comer ahora.' [I'm hungry and I need to eat now]. Basic stuff."

"I think you'd be surprised how funny he is because he looks like a quiet guy," Horn said. "[Those glasses he wears] that's the studious Gunn -- that's his costume for Halloween... He's a big personality. He's one of those guys that takes a while to open up and now that he has he's a lot of fun."

Said right tackle Jonathan Feliciano: "Sometimes we can't get him to shut up.

But on the field, Feliciano said, "he's like a bowling ball. He kills people like they're pins."

UM coach Al Golden said Gunn's only bad game this year was against Georgia Tech. But despite that game, Golden feels Gunn is having "an all-conference type year" and said the senior has "the most second level cuts of anyone on the offensive line."

"I don't know if he's the foundation of [the offensive line], but he might be," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "He's a solid, strong, high character, high work ethic, lunch pail guy. He's a true blue collar approach to offensive line play. He'll fit in great for the rest of his life playing offensive line. They love those type guys in the NFL."

Offensive line coach Art Kehoe said Gunn's style of play reminds him of former Hurricanes K.C. Jones and Claude Jones.

"He's explosive man," Kehoe said. "I'm trying to get him a little more functional, a little more loose on his hips so he can use better footwork. But man, I like the way he plays. I like the way he pulls. He's a terrific person. He's almost a better person than he is a player. And he's a hell of a player."

Still, Gunn himself, wants to see improvement on the Canes offensive line as a whole. UM, which has given up 12 sacks (40th-fewest among 120 FBS schools), has struggled in short yardage situations this season.

The running game, which on Oct. 9 was averaging 182.6 yards per game (39th best in the nation), has struggled to get going over the last three games (UM now ranks 75th best in rushing offense at 145.5 yards per game). And the way the team was manhandled against Virginia left a bad taste in the mouths of everyone in charge of blocking.

"Last Thursday was probably our least physical game as an offense," fullback Maurice Hagens said. "When we watched the film, offensive linemen were in the backfield. Tight ends were getting blown up, fullback was getting blown up. That was something we weren't seeing. The last four games we have to go and blow everybody off the line."

Gunn agrees. "For some reason, we were just off rhythm, out of sync," Gunn said. "Offense is all about rhythm, timing, executing. This was our worst game in terms of execution by far.

"To me, it's just been about finishing. Guys are getting on their blocks. Nothing is wrong with the schemes or the blocks. It's the finish factor and it hasn't been here the last few games. It's the attitude. You have to reinvest in the attitude of running the ball."

October 20, 2011

Canes Midseason Awards: Winners, Blinkers and Stinkers

The Miami Hurricanes head into Saturday's game against 20th-ranked Georgia Tech with a 3-3 overall record and a 1-2 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play. 

If you listen to WQAM play-by-play man Joe Zagacki and color analyst Don Bailey Jr. -- who always see the bright side of things -- the Canes are just a few plays away from being 6-0. That may be true. But by the same rationale, North Carolina and Bryn Renner were a mere 30 yards away from rallying from a 24-point deficit to beat UM last Saturday and drop the Canes to 2-4. And that's something that surely would have dropped the old Canes Satisfaction Meter on Greg Cote's blog way down.

In the big picture, this team still is what I said it was three weeks ago after Kansas State beat them: Mediocre. Al Golden is trying to squeeze more out of his team. He's trying to create a real sense of competition, questioning the level of play of some of his best players to get them to play even better (Golden said Lamar Miller has a long way to go as a running back; Brandon Washington isn't playing up to par at left tackle). But until proven otherwise, until UM can play four strong quarters of good Hurricanes football (not one very good half in Chapel Hill) I'm not ranking this team's overall grade better than a C. 

But I am giving away fake awards. So, here are your Eye on The U Midseason Winners, Blinkers and Stinkers:

Jacory Harris> MVP: Quarterback Jacory Harris. Yell all you want for Lamar Miller. But this category is Most Valuable Player not Best Player/He's Going To Be The First Cane To Get Drafted In The First Round since Kenny Phillips in 2008. No doubt Miller has played lights out. Before North Carolina held him to 29 yards rushing on 16 attempts, he'd run for at least 100 yards in five straight games. He still ranks 11th in the country in rushing with 117.6 yards a game (706 yards on 110 attempts). But Harris has been more valuable. UM might not have come back to beat Bethune-Cookman (OK, maybe that's a bit dramatic), held on to beat North Carolina or even been close at Virginia Tech or at home against Kansas State if Harris didn't all of a sudden find his mojo. Since halftime of the Kansas State loss, Jacory has gone 56 of 81 (69.1 completion percentage) for 900 yards, 10 touchdowns and 0 INTs. He now ranks as the eighth most efficient passer in the country with a QB rating of 170.77.

> MIA: Receiver LaRon Byrd. Not sure if he made Jacory Harris mad at him or not, but Byrd has gone from starter and second-leading receiver (41 catches, 440 yards) in 2010 to a Where Are They Now TV special (4 catches, 41 yards). Somehow I've got a feeling the 6-4, 220-pound senior will still end up on an NFL roster down the road and we'll be scratching our heads as to why he fell out of the picture.

> Most Valuable Coach: Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. Jacory Harris couldn't have made this amazing turnaround without Fisch. How amazing? Well, a year ago, Harris ranked 88th in passer efficiency with a rating of 116.60. He threw 15 interceptions (two less than national co-leaders Boo Jackson of Ohio, Ryan Radcliffe of Central Michigan, Duke's Sean Renfree and Texas' Garrett Gilbert). And Harris would have taken home The Canes' Biggest Stinker Award had we had it last year. But behind the 35-year old Fisch, Harris has had a rebirth (0 picks in his last 14 quarters). UM's offense might not have as good a numbers in terms of yardage -- 56th rushing (159.5), 66th passing (224.83), 71st total offense (384.33) compared to a year ago -- 30th rushing offense (182.46 ypg), 43rd passing offense (238.85), 31st total offense (421.31). But where it matters is on the scoreboard and Fisch (48th scoring offense, 30.33 points per game) is outdoing what Mark Whipple did (67th scoring offense, 26.31 points per game). Fisch is also doing a better job getting the team's best playmakers the ball (running reverses, receiver screens, the Wildcat and a handful of trick plays).

> Razzie Recipient: Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio. Every year Hollywood hands out their thumbs down awards for the worst things they've seen on film. D'Onofrio can send in a lot what we've seen from his unit this year. Not that he doesn't have plenty of legit, acceptable excuses. 28 players have lined up for UM's defense this year. Two of his best players -- Ray-Ray Armstrong and Olivier Vernon -- have missed multiple games because of NCAA mandated suspensions. The defensive tackle position has been riddled by injuries to Marcus Forston, Curtis Porter and veteran linebacker Ramon Buchanan was lost for the season against Bethune-Cookman. But who wants to hear excuses? The Canes rank 94th in rushing defense, 58th in pass defense, 81st in total defense and 48th in scoring defense. What's worse? They've blown the lead in the fourth quarter in all three losses. D'Onofrio deserves more time and a chance to have his entire unit in place before anyone tosses him to the sharks. But right now, his unit needs to figure out a way to slow the other team's option down (UM has been shredded by it). The challenge this week is monumental against Georgia Tech. And it wasn't made any easier by Micanor Regis' suspension Thursday.

> Questionable Call: Coach Al Golden. Virginia Tech. Opening drive. 4th and 1. Fake field goal run by Spencer Whipple. I rest my case. 

> Play That Made Me Say Wow: This run by Lamar Miller against Virginia Tech. Click here. The pass by Phillip Dorsett to Miller two plays later comes in a close second.

> Sean Spence Award: Linebacker Sean Spence. Hard to give a defensive trophy to anyone else who has played defense for the Canes over the last three years. Spence leads the team with 55 tackles (14 more than the next guy behind him Jimmy Gaines), leads the team 8.5 tackles for loss, ranks second with 3 sacks and was named ACC Linebacker of the Week the past two weeks. Nationally, he ranks 11th in the country in tackles per game, 8th in tackles for loss. His late sack of Brynn Renner Saturday in Chapel Hill was the first big play anybody on Miami's defense has made in the fourth quarter all season. Sorry, but it's true.

> Mr. Big Surprise: Right tackle Jonathan Feliciano. There were a lot of strong candidates for this one. Receiver Allen Hurns appeared to have it locked up after two weeks (10 catches, 123 yards, 2 TDs) but he only has eight catches for 163 yards and one touchdown over his last four games. Touchdown Tommy Streeter has sparkled (18 catches, 332 yards, 5 TDs). Sophomore linebacker Jimmy Gaines is second on the team with 41 tackles. But nobody -- and I mean not even his position coach Art Kehoe -- saw Feliciano coming. The 6-5, 320-pound redshirt freshman has started five consecutive games and he's done so well of late Golden wasn't thinking of pushing Feliciano out of the starting lineup to make room for Seantrel Henderson, he was considering veteran Brandon Washington. Yes, Feliciano leads the team with four false starts. But nobody is a bigger surprise on the team. Just listen to Kehoe: "I'm real proud of him. He wasn't even in the picture at all. Now, he's putting guys on [their butts]. He had four pancackes and five metrorails last week. He's on guys, tearing after them and having fun. It makes it fun as a coach."

> The Fab Freshman: Defensive end Anthony Chickillo. Denzel Perryman may end up beating him out by the end of the season -- especially if he cracks the starting lineup and finishes in the top five in tackles (he's currently fifth with 27). But for now, Chick is the man. With Olivier Vernon out, he's been one of the few bright spots for UM on the defensive line. He's started three games, is tied with Micanor Regis for the most tackles on the defensive line with 25, has four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

> Special Teams Standout: Kicker Jake Wieclaw. This guy was supposedly unusable while Matt Bosher was here. All of a sudden, Al Golden has found a way to make Wieclaw look like Matt Bosher without the tackling ability. Wieclaw is a perfect 7 for 7 on field goals with a long of 43 yards and he could end up taking the punting duties over by Saturday with Dalton Botts struggling. Who knew? Joe Pannunzio apparently didn't either.

> Deserving of honorable mention -- Senior defensive back JoJo Nicolas. He's third on the team with 29 tackles and has played a valuable role in UM's secondary, shifting from corner to safety at the last moment because Ray-Ray Armstrong had to serve a four-game suspension. He also is playing with a heavy heart following the passing of his newborn son in fall camp. Senior receiver Travis Benjamin: Despite sitting out the season-opener due to an NCAA-mandated suspension, T3 leads the team with 24 catches for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns and has shown the type of attitude in practice Golden said he wanted to see. Senior defensive end Marcus Robinson: A year ago, UM had 37 sacks as a team. This year, the Canes have 17 through their first six games. Not bad when you consider Vernon has been out. So who has helped pick up the slack? Robinson. He leads the team with four sacks and two forced fumbles. He also has 22 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.

October 06, 2011

Walford eager to help Canes tight ends get in the end zone; Golden talks Forston injury

CORAL GABLES -- Do you remember the last time a Hurricanes tight end caught a pass and got into the end zone?

Clive Walford does. He did it.

Clive Walford Late in the second quarter of UM's 24-6 win at home over Ohio State three weeks ago, Walford caught a pass at about the Buckeyes' 5-yard line, faked two defenders out of their shoes and waltzed into the end zone. The 6-4, 245-pound redshirt freshman from Belle Glade was so pumped about scoring his first career touchdown, he leaped into the arms of guard Harland Gunn and pumped his fist.

But then, the excitement was tempered. UM was penalized for an illegal formation on the play because receiver Tommy Streeter was not lined up with the ball.

"When they called it back I was like 'Oh man'," Walford said. "But what could you do? That's football."

Walford let that play go. But the drop at the goalline late in the fourth quarter against Kansas State a week later -- that's eaten at him a little. UM (2-2) would have rallied to take the lead on the Wildcats had Walford held onto the slightly under thrown pass from Jacory Harris. Instead, the Canes tried unsuccessfully at running it in from 2-yards out on its next three plays and lost 28-24.

Last week against Bethune-Cookman, Walford hauled in an 11-yard pass from Harris, but promptly fumbled it away.

Frustration? Walford said he isn't letting it enter his system. Instead, he's facing his woes head on and taking it all as part of the growth process.

"I wouldn't say any of it is tough luck. I just have to execute," Walford said. "They're giving me the opportunity. I just got to step up and make plays.

"I was supposed to catch that ball [versus Kansas State]. It hit my hands, I dropped it. It was a tough catch. But when it comes down to it, I have to make that catch. I had a chance to help my team win that game and I didn't come through. The following week, I was going hard in practice, got extra work in on that same play to make sure I executed the next time my number was called.

"As for the fumble, when I caught it, as I was tucking it and started running with it, someone came and hit me and it just came out. I didn't even see where the defender was. It happens. The key is not letting it happen again."

The Hurricanes, averaging 29.25 points on offense per game (62nd out of 120 FBS schools), haven't necessarily needed a lot from their tight ends this season. But their production has been minimal. Through four games, Chase Ford (3 catches, 34 yards), Walford (3 catches, 19 yards) and Asante Cleveland (1 catch, 6 yards) have been virtually transparent. That's been pretty surprising considering UM coach Al Golden talked a lot in the preseason about how the tight ends were going to be more involved.

Golden said Tuesday, "it's not like we're dissatisfied with how they're playing... we just have to get more opportunities to get the tight ends involved."

Still, it's now been 15 games since a UM tight end scored a touchdown -- that's when Ford hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Harris with 14:52 to play at Ohio State on Sept. 11, 2010.

While the Canes hves been efficient in their red zone opportunities (UM has scored touchdowns on 8 of 12 trips), both losses can be attributed some to failures in the red zone. Aside from the Kansas State loss, UM had a chance against Maryland to score a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Instead, the Canes settled for a field goal and 24-23 lead with 4:01 to play. Maryland came back down the field and hit the go-ahead field goal before icing the game on an interception return for a touchdown.

Could this be the week UM's tight ends finally break out and get in the end zone? Well last week, Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen had four catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers' 23-3 win in Blacksburg.

After three rough weeks, Walford would certainly love to follow Allen's lead.

"As long as we're winning, that's all that matters to me," Walford said. "But it would be pretty sweet to get to get in that end zone again. And this time hopefully it counts."


> Al Golden said Walford has "worked really well on his hands, but he's an infant in terms of football. He has a large upside, and he's just starting his football intelligence and learning the game and everything. He's a guy we should be getting the ball to better."

But, Golden added: "He's a guy that should be doing it in practice like [Tommy] Streeter and Travis [Benjamin] are doing. Streeter and Travis' practice habits are markedly better than they were even at the start of the year. We need that from Clive so quarterbacks can trust him and carry that over to the game."

> Jacory Harris said Walford's blocking has improved and what he likes most about him is that "he's not someone that complains or anything. He just goes out there, does his job."

"And because of that, I'm sure something special is going to happen for him before the end of the year," Harris said.

> Golden has said multiple times this week he hasn't been happy with the Hurricanes' struggles on third and fourth down and short yardage situations.

"Unacceptable," Golden said of the struggles. "Any criticism there is more than fair. We have to do a better job there. We have to decide what we want our identity to be there. We've tried a multitude of things there. We just have to settle in. but clearly when it's one yard and the game is on the line we have to be able to get that via the run. That's going to be critical for us."

UM has been in 13 situations this season where they've needed one yard to either convert a third or fourth down or score -- the most infamous being in the loss at Kansas State. After beginning the season converting 5 of its first 7 attempts in those situations, UM has converted just once over it's last six tries, starting with the loss to the Wildcats.

"It's on all of us," Golden said Sunday. "... We have to look at the schemes from Jedd [Fisch] and the offensive staff, look at our execution, look at whose hands [we're putting the ball in] for those situations."

> Golden went on the Dan LeBatard Show on 790TheTicket Thursday and discussed the season-ending injury to defensive tackle Marcus Forston.

"Brutal," Golden said. "I feel bad for the young man. That's a position we've just been crushed at. Luther Robinson has been out so far for every game. Curtis Porter has been out for every game. Now Marcus is out. It's been brutal in there at defensive tackle. Again, I feel bad for the young man. It will be a three month recovery. He'll come back and be fine. Right now we need the next young man to step up and play better for us."

October 01, 2011

Gameday blog: UM vs. Bethune-Cookman

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The Hurricanes (1-2) take on Bethune-Cookman (2-1) in the first meeting ever between in the in-state programs. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Will Rodney Scott run wild on the Canes? > ABOUT THE WILDCATS: B-CC's offensive coordinator Rob Spence was a member of Al Golden's staff at Temple as his wide receivers coach in 2010. The Wildcats, picked to finish second in the MEAC after a 10-2 season a year ago, rank fifth in the FCS in scoring at 38.67 points per game on offense and are led by former Mississippi running back Rodney Scott. The 5-9, 200-pound junior has run for 231 yards on 32 carries to lead a Wildcats rushing attack that averaged 217.3 yards a game. Receiver Eddie Poole (6-3, 195) is a legitimate pass catching threat and leads the Wildcats with 16 receptions for 165 yards and three TDs. Defensively, Bethune-Cookman has created 11 turnovers in their first three games and ranks third in pass efficiency defense in the FCS. 

> WHAT TO WATCH FOR THE CANES: How UM handles the Wildcats read option, wide receiver screens and quick strike offense. UM ranks 99th in the nation in run defense and figures to once again have trouble defending the run -- even if it is B-CC. Offensively, running backs Lamar Miller (shoulder) and Mike James (shoulder) are expected to play, but could be limited after wearing non-contact jerseys for UM's first two practices this week. Look for Eduardo Clements, Darion Hall and Maurice Hagens to get some more work. UM coach Al Golden said tackle Seantrel Henderson, returning from back surgery, should get about 20 snaps this week.

> MY PICK: UM 34, Bethune-Cookman 22. The Hurricanes have serious issues on defense -- particularly at defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback. A day like today would be a great opportunity to work on those issues and iron them out. But these Canes really aren't even good enough to do that with ease. I expect the Wildcats to make this game more interesting than you thought they would. 

September 18, 2011

ACC accepts Pitt, Syracuse as new members

Well, it's official. The ACC will be adding two former Canes' Big East rivals to the conference: Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

Pittsburgh-Syracuse Sunday morning the ACC announced that its council of presidents unanimously voted to accept the Panthers and Orange, a move that increases its membership to 14 and sends the Big East scrambling to replace two of its cornerstone programs.

The big questions now: When exactly will Syracuse and Pitt make the move? And is the ACC done expanding?

"We are constantly evaluating the competitive landscape to ensure the conference's viability for years to come, and this, I believe, has staying power," ACC commissioner John Swofford said on a conference call this morning.

"First of all, we are very comfortable with this 14. The only thing I would add to that is that we are not philosophically opposed to 16. But for now we are very pleased with this 14. We think it is just an excellent group."

Sunday's announcement is just another sign college athletics is likely headed toward building 12, 14, and 16-team super conferences -- with the Big 12 Conference and Big East being the two that get picked apart.

Last year, Colorado left the Big 12 for the Pac-12, Nebraska left for the Big Ten and now recently Texas A&M made its intentions known it will be joining the SEC. The board of regents at Oklahoma and Texas are supposed to be meeting Monday to discuss the possibility of the universities leaving the conference too.

It's been speculated Texas, a super power with its own TV network, could end up joining the ACC, the Pac-12 or just going independent. If Texas comes to the ACC, it could bring Texas Tech with it. There are also reports two more Big East teams -- Connecticut and Rutgers -- are also under consideration by the ACC.

While there have been reports the SEC is potentially interested in taking Florida State and Clemson from the ACC, Swofford confirmed Sunday 11 of 12 conference presidents unanimously approved raising the ACC's exit fee to $20 million (up from $12 to $14 million) for any member leaving the conference last Tuesday -- a strong move to keep ACC schools from leaving.

With Pittsburgh and Syracuse's additions Sunday, the ACC has now taken five teams from The Big East. In 2004, UM and Virginia Tech left the Big East for the ACC. A year later, Boston College followed. As for how long it will take for Pitt and Syracuse to actually start playing in the ACC, no one is really sure yet. The Big East's exit fee is $5 million and schools wanting to leave must provide a 27-month notice.

Swofford said adding Pitt and Syracuse schools allows the league to renegotiate its 12-year, $1.86 billion television contract that began this season, "and we're confident that will have a positive impact." Translation: More big TV bucks for the ACC and its schools. Also a new possibility: the ACC Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. 

So what do you think of the additions? How does this help or hurt the Canes? And what should the ACC do next? Are you pumped about returning to the Carrier Dome or Heinz Field every few years?

Personally, I'm not. I feel this is huge for basketball and not as big a deal in football. Pittsburgh has nine national championships in football, but the last came in 1976. The Panthers have won just two Big East titles (2004, 2010) and have played in a BCS bowl game just once (2004). Since it's last trip to the Orange Bowl in 1998, Syracuse has had six losing seasons and been to just four bowl games.

Now, if the ACC can add Texas to the fold, it makes this an entirely different story -- and potentially makes the ACC the most powerful conference in college sports. But I don't see that happening. 

September 02, 2011

Golden expects Streeter to play Monday night at Maryland

CORAL GABLES -- Tommy Streeter, who had arguably the best training camp of any player at UM before coming down with an undisclosed injury earlier this week, is no longer wearing a yellow non-contact jersey and is expected to play Monday night in the season-opener at Maryland.

"It looks like he's through the woods," UM coach Al Golden said Friday morning before his team took the field at Greentree Practice Field. "We'll see how he responds today. He looked good yesterday. We're counting on him right now."

Streeter, who had three TD catches in the team's first scrimmage of fall camp, had two more in the final scrimmage and led all players with seven catches for 148 yards. But when the depth chart was released Tuesday, he was listed on the second team behind LaRon Byrd and alongside true freshman Rashawn Scott.

It's likely he'll play a bigger role in Monday's opener now that he is healthy.


> Golden said he'll have his team sleep in late Monday to "shorten the day up" before the 8 p.m. kickoff. "It's hard [having to wait all day], but you have to deal with it. It's part of the job. We have to get to the point where we're executing regardless of the circumstances."

> Golden said he'll learn later today if three players dealing with clearinghouse issues -- running back Kevin Grooms, linebacker Antonio Kinard and defensive lineman Corey King -- will get into school. I'm not counting on it

> The one special teams job still up for grabs has now been taken. Golden said junior Jake Wieclaw, also handing the field goal and extra points job, beat out freshman Matt Goudis for the kickoff specialist job. "They're both ready," Golden said. "But right now it looks like it will be Wieclaw."

> The battle for the left tackle job is still ongoing, but sixth-year senior Joel Figueroa is still ahead of redshirt freshman Malcolm Bunche. "They're going to continue to battle," Golden said. "But Fig is doing a really nice job. Again, Bunche is young, doesn't quite have the experience. But they're both doing a nice job."

> Sophomore linebacker Kelvin Cain didn't appear on UM's two-deep roster, but Golden said he's still showing a good attitude. "There's a lot of guys in that boat right now that maybe played or had a significant role at some point. But there's a lot more competition right now than in the spring," Golden said. "At least [Cain] has got a good attitude."

> With Travis Benjamin suspended for the opener along with four other players, it's opened the door on kickoff and punt returns for others to step up. Golden said Lamar Miller and Brandon McGee will handle the kickoffs and true freshman Phillip Dorsett will handle the punt returns.

Asked if he was a little nervous putting a true freshman back to return punts, Golden delivered a one word answer: "Yes."

"We're playing a lot of freshman under the lights in a big setting," Golden said. "But you got to make sure believe in them, have confidence in them, train them under all those circumstances. Ultimately, you have to cut the cord and go let them do it. He's gifted. He's got talent. He's returned punts for a long time. This may be his first time in college, but he's been doing it for a long time. I think he'll do very well."

> Asked if UM might feature just one tailback in Monday's game, Golden said Miller and Mike James will platoon. "If we get a hot hand, we'll leave one in," Golden said. "They kind of sub each other anyway. If someone gets a long run or a considerable amount of reps successively they'll rotate."

As for the team's third back, that hasn't been decided yet, though, sophomore Maurice Hagens is listed there on the depth chart. "Eduardo [Clements] is there as well," Golden said of the team's third back. "Mo is kind of an H-Back, fullback for us. But he's also a good one-back runner. Of course, Eduardo has had a really good camp too. Who we put in there third, I don't know yet."

> Asked if his new kicker and punter might be ready to deal with the pressure on Monday night, Golden said he does because he's already placed them under "extreme pressure" in practice. "Not just live situations, but the whole team standing around them as they kick or punt," Golden said. "We get after them pretty good. The idea there is to make the game easier for them and let them have fun."

> Golden said getting the butterflies out of the stomach of his freshmen shouldn't be difficult.

"It should seem normal to them," Golden said. "They've been in the rotation played with guys who have been in games. Hopefully those guys will mentor them. I've never been opposed to playing freshmen. I think they've earned this. I think they've come in in good condition. If they weren't ready, we wouldn't play them. They just have to go out there and do what they've been trained to do."

August 30, 2011

Golden won't release depth chart until UM hears from NCAA; others news & notes

CORAL GABLES -- Hurricanes football coach Al Golden said Tuesday he won't be releasing a depth chart until he here's back from the NCAA on the players ruled ineligible and seeking reinstatement.

Al Golden "I know everybody wants the depth chart, but it would be disingenuous for me and for us to release one here today and to have to adjust it later today or tomorrow morning," said Golden who told WQAM on Monday he expected to hear back fro the NCAA regarding his ineligible players by Wednesday.

"I've reached out to [Maryland coach] Randy [Edsall] personally, told them our situation, assured him what we're looking at as a program. From an ethical, sportsmanship basis, I wanted to make sure I'd reach out to him head coach to head coach and let him know we'll cooperate with him on what we know so we can be on the same page.

"What we don't want to do is release something prematurely and we find out from the NCAA we have to go back and release something else. I don't think that would be genuine. Clearly it's gone from releasing it based on where we were, to now when the NCAA comes back."

Where we are in terms of how many players could be suspended remains to be seen. When asked specifically about the eight players The Miami Herald, Associated Press and other outlets reported as seeking reinstatement, Golden said that number was "inaccurate. And I'm not going to comment on inaccurate reporting. I'm not going to do that. It's irresponsible."

UM could ultimately suspend all 15 student-athletes President Donna Shalala said had eligibility issues and that's likely why Golden tried to shoot down the reports of eight athletes seeking reinstatement. Either way, Golden said Tuesday anybody with eligibility issues isn't taking first team reps and that if they aren't cleared to return by the NCAA or UM by Thursday's deadline, they won't be available to play in the opener at Maryland next Monday night.

"If it's someone alleged, they're really not getting the reps," Golden said. "If they have been rendered ineligible, and we have not released any names from our end, if they've been rendered ineligible by the university, they can only be reinstated by the NCAA. So right now we're not counting on those guys. Is it difficult. Sure it's difficult. I'm not going to lie to you. Is it a distraction? Sure, it can be. But we have to maintain our focus.

"The bulk of the game planning goes in on a Tuesday and Wednesday practice so it's really important they're there for one of those at least."

Here's what else Golden was talking about Tuesday regarding his team:

- Asked about the situation at defensive tackle and junior college transfer Darius Smith, Golden said: "He's done a great job, has matured. He's doing a nice job for us right now. We're excited about Darius. Olsen Pierre has been in there as well. [Jalen] Grimble has played in there a little bit, too. And we also have some vets. Hopefully those guys will continue to make progress at that position."

- Golden on Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien, the ACC Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2010: "If you get good quarterback play you can get good play from your team. Danny does that. He has a strong arm in addition to being really bright. He can move in the pocket and re-set his feet and keep his eyes downfield. That's really hard to do for a young [player] and he does it naturally. We have the utmost respect for O'Brien."

- Golden on his team's cornerback play: "Well, I think Lee Chambers and Mike Williams have helped us out tremendously there. This is the healthiest Lee has been in his career. He's excited. He's always been a tough player, fast player. Now he has the skill set to compete at corner. I think he'll do so. Mike has been a pleasant surprise at corner. We needed experience because we lost four corners to the NFL; we're pleased with Mike's progress there. [Freshman Thomas] Finnie has done a nice job; JoJo [Nicolas] has done a nice job, has really improved his skill set. [Brandon] McGee is more mature now than he was at any point in the spring. I think we've improved that position. They're going to test us at 8:02 on Monday night and we'll get a better [feel] for where we are."

- On the play of senior Jordan Futch, who has moved to weakside linebacker: "He's an excitable guy. Sometimes Jordan has been his own enemy. If something doesn't go right that carries into second down, third down. What we're seeing from Jordan now is a little more poise, maturity. He's playing WILL but can also play MIKE. I'm excited for Jordan. Right now he's probably playing the most consistent football since I've been around. He's playing really consistently right now."

- On freshman defensive end Anthony Chickillo, who has run with the first team in camp: "The expectations are high for him. He's shown a maturity physically and mentally that he should be able to handle this grind, contribute for us. His work ethic is great, he's got a great motor. Those are the things you have to teach freshmen a lot of times, teach that and not the X's and O's. That's why you don't want to play with a lot of them. Hopefully he has that and now we're focusing on the system part with him. We're excited; it's a great opportunity for Anthony, and that's why he came to Miami."

- On how sixth-year senior Joel Figueroa has moved into the fight for the starting left tackle job: "Right now Fig and [Malcom] Bunche [are battling at left tackle]. With Joel, we have to make sure he's careful with his back, keeps his weight down. We're expecting big things from Fig. Fig is good, brings a sense of maturity. He's been through a bunch of coaches, a great deal of experiences. He has a maturity about him that's hard to duplicate in your locker room. It's Harland [Gunn] at left guard backed up by [Jared] Wheeler. At center it's [Tyler] Horn backed by [Shane] McDermott. Right guard - [Brandon] Linder backed by Feliciano. And the right tackle is Washington and Jermaine Johnson."

- Golden said he's hopeful senior transfer Blake Ayles will be available to play this season. "The others will see action for us in the game. Asante [Cleveland] looks to be healthy, Chase [Ford] is doing a nice job and Clive [Walford] and [John] Calhoun have done a nice job as well. We'll see all four of those tight ends. Anyone who has followed my career knows I like to use tight ends."

- Golden said Jake Wieclaw has won the kicking job for field goals and kickoffs and Dalton Botts has won the punting job. The kickoff job is still up for grabs. "Right now Botts, Wieclaw and [Matt] Goudis is who it is for kickoffs. For me it's about hang time - I don't want line drives to the goal line."