WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Football items from around town, and other tidbits:
### Florida Atlantic University plans to reach out to at least two familiar names in its search for Howard’s Schnellenberger’s successor: Randy Shannon and Mike Leach.
"Randy is a man of integrity, a first-class guy and first-class coach,” said FAU athletic director Craig Angelos, who worked at UM when Shannon was an assistant there. “I want to see if he’s interested.”
Angelos also has a good relationship with Leach: “I would consider Mike,” he said.
Angelos, who has been focusing on Saturday’s opening of FAU’s new stadium (against Western Kentucky), also plans to speak to former USF coach Jim Leavitt (who is now the San Francisco 49ers' linebackers coach) and several others. “I will cast a wide net,” Angelos said, adding there’s no front-runner to succeed the retiring Schnellenberger but that he wants a successor in place by December.
A close associate said Shannon prefers a higher-profile job, ideally out west, and would love the Arizona gig, which is open after Mike Stoops’ firing Monday. Shannon has received a few defensive coordinator offers, but no head coaching offers, since UM fired him last November after going 28-22 in four years. Shannon might have to decide whether to bite if FAU ultimately offers him the job or gamble on his chances of landing a more attractive job eventually.
“A lot of times when you give people a second chance they are better than the first time,” Angelos said. “They’ve learned from mistakes. They’re hungrier. That was the case with our basketball coach Mike Jarvis, and he won the conference here after three years. Randy can be better the second time around.”
Leach went 84-43 at Texas Tech, including 11-2 and 8-4 his last two seasons before being fired after 2009 amid allegations of improper treatment of receiver Adam James. Leach denied the claims and said, “I was a victim of a national smear campaign by Craig James and ESPN.” After Shannon’s firing, UM didn’t approach Leach partly because of those issues, but FAU has no major concerns.
Leach, who has received no offers since his dismissal, said he would be receptive to listening to FAU. “I do plan to coach,” he said. “Craig is a great man and FAU is a great program. Anything negative that happens to Miami can only help FAU and FIU.”
### With $10 million in cap space, the Dolphins have talked about restructuring and extending Cameron Wake’s deal, which is a bargain ($480,000 and $565,000) for 2011 and 2012…. But negotiations stalled with Kendall Langford, who reportedly was seeking $15 million guaranteed. One Dolphins official said there’s less urgency because his play has declined from 2010. “Nothing is happening,” Langford said, adding that he hopes for an extension…. The Dolphins’ season ticket count (below 43,000) ended up the franchise’s worst since 1983.
### Karlos Dansby and Yeremiah Bell say the Dolphins miss Channing Crowder, who was cut. “He was exceptional against the run and we miss his persona, how he approaches the game,” Dansby said.
Said Bell: “Channing caught things before they happened. He anticipated plays and would communicate to everyone what he saw after one series. There’s some of that now, but it was all the time with him. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve been around. He learned a lot from Zach Thomas.”
Neither intended their comments as a shot at Kevin Burnett. But Burnett has graded out worse than Crowder did last year. Pro Football Focus ranks Burnett's play this season 43rd and worst among inside linebackers. Crowder was 18th last year.
### Incidentally, Crowder, who was cut in late July, continues to defend Tony Sparano but question general manager Jeff Ireland's decisions. He also has been critical of the offensive play-calling beyond the first couple of series of every game. "I can tell you every time they're going to run," Crowder said on WQAM, adding he believes other teams can anticipate that, too, with the Dolphins offense.
### A UM official said FIU pitched UM on a home-and-home football series, but the Hurricanes declined. FAU is a possibility for UM… Coaches want more from their ballyhooed safety tandem. “We need more plays out of Vaughn Telemaque,” Al Golden said. And Ray Ray Armstrong, in his first game back, “was rusty, didn’t perform at a level we need to win a game in that situation.”
### Why isn’t UM blitzing more to generate more of a pass rush? Because UM is afraid to leave its defensive backs, especially its corners, without help. UM considers Brandon McGee the best of its corners – faint praise – but a UM official said he continues to have a habit of sulking or losing confidence after giving up big plays.
### The defense UM is using is “so simple that we can’t go simpler,” Golden said. Golden puts it bluntly: Because of the defense’s shortcomings (82nd nationally, 97th against the run), “the offense needs to start winning the game” when it has the chance. But “on defense, we can’t throw up our hands and say, ‘I can’t believe what a mess!’”
### The NCAA is still investigating Nevin Shapiro’s claim that he gave a then-UM assistant basketball coach money to give to a member of forward DeQuan Jones’ family (a claim Jones’ mother denies). Neither UM nor the NCAA has decided if he will be eligible when the regular season starts… UM defensive end Olivier Vernon said the NCAA rejected his appeal to shorten his suspension from six games.
### The Marlins haven’t given up on center fielder Chris Coghlan but aren’t counting on him to fill their one open starting position player job for 2012, not after he hit .230 for Marlins and .245 at Triple A. “Coghlan has to earn his way back,” Marlins executive Larry Beinfest said. As for the other top internal option -- third baseman Matt Dominguez -- he “held his own,” Beinfest said -- but the Marlins aren’t sure if he’s ready offensively. The team seems inclined to add another bat; “You would like some protection in the lineup,” Beinfest said.
### One Heat concern was eased this week when power forward Udonis Haslem – off a second foot surgery – was cleared to begin full on-court workouts… At center, the Heat would be content to add either Brendan Haywood (if there’s an amnesty clause in the new labor deal and Dallas cuts him) or free agent Samuel Dalembert. But the feeling is Haywood might be more realistic because he’s owed $45 million more by Dallas if he’s cut, making his next contract less of an issue than it is for Dalembert, who ideally wants more than what Miami could offer if the mid-level exception shrinks from $5.8 million to $3 million.
Dalembert has better career numbers (8.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.9 blocks) than Haywood (7.4, 6.2, 1.5). But “Dalembert is very inconsistent and doesn’t fit into a team game very well,” ESPN’s Jack Ramsay said off air.