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32 posts from January 2013

January 31, 2013

Media column: Fifteen things that irritated me this NFL season


We’ll have our Super Bowl TV preview in this space over the weekend, but today, allow me to vent about 15 things that puzzled, troubled or irritated me on NFL TV coverage this season:

### ESPN’s Jerry Rice agreeing with Tim Brown that then-Raiders coach Bill Callahan intentionally tried to ruin Oakland’s chances of winning Super Bowl 37 so opposing coach Jon Gruden could win it. “Maybe because he didn’t like the Raiders, he decided, ‘Maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let Gruden go out and win this game,’” Rice said. (Callahan and several former Oakland players have denied that.)

Anybody who suggests that a coach would throw a Super Bowl, without compelling evidence, shouldn’t be working in television.

### Bizarreness from Fox’s Terry Bradshaw. He’s a likable fellow, but no NFL voice spewed more eye-rolling statements in 2012.

He picked Cincinnati against Baltimore in Week 16 “because I have some inside information” but wouldn’t say what. He answered a question with: “It’s not important what I think.” He was amazed by Seattle’s playoff win, asserting: “Everyone thought Washington would beat Seattle.” No, Terry – the Seahawks were favored.

He said of the Bears quarterback: “I’ve never met Jay Cutler, but I don’t think he even likes himself.” How would Bradshaw know? He said Christian Ponder’s problems are hard “to pronounce,” referred to Andrew Luck as his father, Oliver, and wondered, late in the season, if the Redskins and Cowboys would play again, when everyone else on the panel knew they would meet in Week 17.

### Manufactured debates of non-issues, aimed at filling time. Late in the season, CBS’ James Brown asked his analysts if 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s job would be in jeopardy if Colin Kaepernick doesn’t play well. Of course not! NFL Network pundits spent several minutes debating: “Which is more important to the Saints – winning the game or Drew Brees breaking Johnny Unitas’ consecutive game touchdown record?” What a waste of time.

### Lack of full disclosure. Fox’s Thom Brennaman mentioned during the Falcons-Seahawks playoff game that Brian Billick “has known” Atlanta coach Mike Smith for many years. What was more relevant, but went unsaid, is that Smith is Billick’s brother-in-law.

### ESPN’s Trent Dilfer and Steve Young treating poor play as a personal affront, as if someone had disrespected them. Dilfer was so angry after the Jets’ awful showing in Tennessee that he ranted as if his house had been egged. At least Dilfer can be self-deprecating, noting that Mark Sanchez’s play bothered him because “I was as crappy as you can be.”

### Directors often sticking with sideline shots when it’s unclear if a team plans to punt or go for it on fourth down. If the announcer isn’t telling us quickly, the only way viewers would know would be seeing a shot of the field, not the coach talking on his headset.

### Insults and personal attacks from NFL Network’s Warren Sapp. Everything from calling Matt Schaub “a big game turd” to referring to Brandon Marshall as “a retard.”

### News that really isn’t. CBS’ scroll of “headlines” in December included items such as this: “Phil Simms says the Steelers and Bengals are confident and mad.” And this qualifies as news how?

### Fox’s Daryl Johnston feeling compelled to make the same point repeatedly. Johnston and Tony Siragusa often refer to plays or players as “unbelievable,” when the description rarely fits.

### Johnston, Mike Mayock, Gruden and others relying on football jargon as a crutch --- “Tampa Two defense, gap integrity, leveraged linebackers” –-- without recognizing how tiresome that becomes.

### Annoying new ways of saying simple things. Take your pick: positive yardage, bubble screens,  going vertical (what’s wrong with throwing deep?). Mayock said a cornerback was “speed deficient,” because “slow” won’t do. Then there was Dilfer saying Carson Palmer, who was heavily rushed, had “a conflict in the pocket.” If you were watching a game with a buddy and he said Palmer “had a conflict in the pocket,” you would think something was wrong with him.

### NBC’s Rodney Harrison repeating, on air, what his colleagues told him without the cameras rolling. Such as: “Peter King said off the air… he doesn’t believe in the Falcons.” If King wanted to say that on television, that’s his choice, Rodney. How would you like it if somebody did that to you?

### Lack of context with stats. CBS mentioned the Jets were 5-1 with 30 or more rushing attempts, without adding that teams are far more likely to run when they’re protecting a late lead.

### Prediction segments where the analysts rattle off picks without giving a reason or offering an irrelevant one. Such as ESPN’s Chris Berman picking Cleveland because “it’s the last home game for Mike Holmgren and I back my friends.” Or NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk saying: “I flipped a coin and it landed on Seattle.”

### Patriots coach Bill Belichick again refusing to speak to CBS after losing the AFC championship game. Good to see Shannon Sharpe call him out: “Bill Belichick makes it very easy for you to root against the Patriots. You can’t be a poor sport all the time. And he does this every time he loses. It’s unacceptable.”


January 30, 2013

Thursday night UM/PED update; quick hits

Though UM's investigation into baseball strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Goins is still underway, the UM administration is under the impression that Goins did not give performance enhancing drugs to players currently at UM, or to players when they were attending UM. If that turns out to be the case, UM would not be vulnerable to any punishment from the NCAA.

If Goins purchased the PEDs, as The Miami New Times alleged, it's unclear to UM if he purchased them for himself or for players who had already moved on from UM and were playing in the major leagues or minor leagues. Goins' attorney has denied the New Times story.

Goins has been placed on suspension because of the seriousness of the allegations.

One UM official said the school has a stringent drug testing policy -- more stringent than many other schools - and that no UM baseball players are known to have been suspended for a failed drug test in at least the past few years.

UM does random drug testing every week, including some in the offseason, according to a player.

Meanwhile, at least one MLB official remains in Miami, investigating the case. They have focused partly on MLB players who use UM's training facilities during the winter. 


Notes and thoughts after splendid second halves in satisfying road wins by the Heat and Hurricanes on Wednesday night:

### Heat-Nets looks and feels like a mismatch should the teams meet in the second round or the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat swept the three-game season series, winning by 30 and 13 in Miami and trouncing the Nets by 20 tonight in their only visit to Brooklyn this season. Miami has won 13 in a row against the Nets overall.

### Nets forward Reggie Evans said earlier Wednesday that beating the defending champs "doesn't prove nothing. It was a lockout season." Then Evans said something even dumber when asked to assess LeBron James as an offensive threat: "LeBron is no different from Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche."

James delivered a stern reply after the game, acknowledging Evans' remarks motivated him: "No one knows what it takes until you've done it," James said. "...He hasn't done it...Look at his numbers [no offensive rebounds Wednesday for a rebounding specialist]. We did our number on him."

### The Heat’s third quarter -- Miami outscored the Nets 36-14 to break a halftime tie -- was arguably its best of the season. James (24 points) and Dwyane Wade (21) were highly efficient, but also credit Mario Chalmers for outplaying Deron Williams.

Chalmers had 11 points, four assists, three steals and no turnovers. Williams had nine points, five assists and six turnovers. If only Good Mario would make more frequent appearances.

### Udonis Haslem’s numbers were modest (five points, five rebounds), but Miami outscored the Nets by 27 in his 23 minutes on the floor, the best plus/minus of any player.

### In a move that was inevitable, Erik Spoelstra replaced Joel Anthony with Chris Andersen in his rotation, and Andersen made a mark, with three points, five rebounds and a block in 10 minutes. Remember, Andersen ranked among the top dozen power forwards in rebounds per 48 minutes with Denver last season. Anthony has been the NBA’s third-worst center this season in that category.

### Rashard Lewis logged 15 minutes, his second-most since Dec. 4, and played ahead of Mike Miller for the second consecutive game. “Rashard’s size and versatility have given us a good look with the second unit,” Spoelstra said.

### The Heat probably erred this past summer by not seriously considering signing Blatche, who continues to contribute for the Nets. The Heat was scared off by Blatche’s baggage; he was considered something of a knucklehead in Washington.

### Last year, it would have been unfathomable to think UM would win an ACC road game in which Durand Scott shot 2 for 10 and Reggie Johnson 1 for 4. But this is the most complete Hurricanes team in a decade, with the poise and skill to rally from 12 down on the road Wednesday.

### By outscoring Virginia Tech 44-32 in the second half, UM overcame 30 points by Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer.

### Shane Larkin again made a case to be All-ACC first or second team, with 25 points (9 for 14 shooting), three steals and blocks on two consecutive jump shots. He made the game's biggest shot, a three that extended UM's lead to 63-56 with 1:45 left.

Kenny Kadji came alive in the second half, scoring 14 of his 18 after intermission.

### Johnson has shot only 2 for 13 in his three games back from injury but his 10 rebounds were key Wednesday.

### At 7-0 in the ACC, UM preserved a two-game conference lead over Duke and Virginia.

Couple other quick notes:

### Former Dolphins and Hurricanes offensive lineman Vernon Carey announced he’s coming out of retirement. Carey, 31, became an assistant coach at Miami Northwestern High last season after the Dolphins opted not to re-sign him.

### Al Golden and his staff have done good work recruiting despite the NCAA cloud hanging over the program. But don't think for a minute that the uncertainty hasn't hurt. Alex Collins' coach said Collins has expressed concern about potential NCAA sanctions, and Keith Bryant's former coach said the NCAA issue also has worked heavily against UM with Bryant, who has said he leans toward FSU or South Carolina. Collins is still considering UM (with UF, Arkansas and Wisconsin) and will announce his intentions Monday night.

January 29, 2013

UM faces obstacles in pursuing NCAA settlement; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins, Canes notes


UM president Donna Shalala and NCAA President Mark Emmert have a good relationship, and if Shalala can somehow convince Emmert and the NCAA to allow a settlement that would bypass the typical enforcement process, it will rank among Shalala’s most impressive achievements at UM.

That’s because NCAA experts say it's unlikely Emmert could strike a deal with Shalala without the approval of both the NCAA’s Board of Directors (made up of 18 presidents) and the executive committee (made up of 17 presidents). Both of those bodies authorized Emmert to bypass the infractions committee last summer and levy major sanctions on Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

And it’s highly questionable whether other college presidents would allow such a settlement when no other schools were afforded the same opportunity for a case involving recruiting violations, a UM official conceded.

“If the NCAA cuts them a break, you would immediately see action from USC and other schools that were punished,” ESPN’s Jay Bilas, who has sharply criticized the NCAA in the past week, said by phone Monday.

Several sources reiterated this week that UM will push hard for a quick settlement – though there are no provisions for one in NCAA bylaws – but won’t raise the issue until a law firm hired by the NCAA completes its investigation into the NCAA’s improper gathering of evidence and inappropriate relationship with Nevin Shapiro attorney Maria Elena Perez, who was paid by the NCAA for taking two depositions and for her reimbursable expenses.

“Attorneys on the Board of Trustees are telling [Shalala] we have leverage we didn’t have before and we have to push for a settlement,” a UM official said, describing her as “determined.”

UM has discussed several options internally, and a lawsuit against the NCAA has not been ruled out as a last resort, sources said. If the NCAA doesn’t agree to a settlement, “then we have to be very aggressive and refute as much as we can,” a UM official said.

“We have leverage now to question this whole process” – including whether violations disclosed by Sean Allen during one of Perez's depositions was used to extract information from others.

A UM official said the NCAA informed UM of the improper relationship with Shapiro’s attorney very late in the process, and in crafting its notice of allegations, the NCAA initially tried to “slip by” some of the evidence gathered from those two Perez-led depositions.

UM essentially told the NCAA “that’s not going to fly,” the official said. Information gleaned from the Allen deposition affected how the NCAA framed its allegations, and that will be a point of contention if the NCAA doesn’t back down.

But UM never leaked the information about Perez being paid. So why did the NCAA go public with it? UM said it was never given a reason, but one UM official said Emmert appeared concerned with “the integrity of the institution” and NCAA officials “couldn’t take a chance of this leaking out. They were worried about it getting out.”

If this case reaches the infractions committee in four months or so, “we have to convince them that we not only have been cooperative, but we’ve done enough,” another UM official said. “We reported to the NCAA that Shapiro was making allegations as soon as we found out about it [in August 2010].”

That UM official said as much as UM hopes to settle, “I don’t see how this does not go to infractions unless the counsel they’ve hired to investigate tells them to settle. If they settle, they would then set a precedent for reaching settlements, and it would be very dangerous.”

University of Wyoming professor Jerry Parkinson, who served as coordinator of appeals for the NCAA Committee of Infractions from 2000 to 2010, said he "doubts Mark Emmert would act unilaterally on his own [to do a settlement with UM]. Does he have the power to do it? It's untested. I would find it unlikely. it could be viewed as not in the spirit of the membership-driven governance of the association."

Parkinson said "it would surprise me" if UM gets a settlement because "this is a basic rules violation case, and it would set a precedent that might not sit well with membership. But the executive committee respects his leadership and it's not inconceivable he could find that kind of support" to settle.

While a settlement would help the NCAA put this embarrassing situation behind them, Emmert has suggested the NCAA has plenty of non-tainted evidence against UM, enough to continue prosecuting the case. But some UM officials believe the whole investigation has been tainted.

Incidentally, a settlement differs from a “summary disposition,” in which every party involved – UM, the former assistant coaches, etc. – work together to contribute to a single report that proposes penalties, which the committee on infractions can accept or reject. But because the UM case is so complicated and involves so many people, UM doesn’t believe a summary disposition is likely. Parkinson calls that scenario "highly unlikely." 

But UM hasn’t given up hope of a settlement by any means, and one person in touch with the NCAA said that a settlement absolutely has not been ruled out.

Regardless, UM officials have faith Shalala will play this correctly: “She’s very tough,” one said.

### It remains to be seen if the ongoing NCAA investigation will include allegations, reported in The Miami New Times, that UM baseball strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Goins purchased performance enhancing drugs from a now-closed Miami clinic. UM is investigating and will report to the NCAA if it discovers any wrongdoing. Goins said he has done nothing wrong.


### The Shapiro camp has tried to introduce a UM gambling angle into the NCAA investigation, but there’s no indication anything came of it.

With Shapiro writing a lot of the questions, Perez asked Sean Allen 39 questions directly or indirectly about gambling in his deposition.

Among the questions: whether coaches gave Shapiro any inside information about injuries to help him win bets (Allen said he never heard that happen); whether UM players were aware of Shapiro’s gambling (“Randy Phillips had to have known because he was around him watching sporting events,” Allen said) and whether Shapiro give money to student athletes to facilitate their own gambling (“I’m not aware of that,” Allen said).

Allen said under oath: “I do feel like Nevin tried to separate the gambling from those guys [UM players].” That Allen deposition will be tossed out if the NCAA confirms its belief that the information was gathered improperly. 

### Delray Beach Atlantic defensive tackle Keith Bryant, a former UM oral commitment, now has FSU and South Carolina as his co-leaders, with UM running third.... The father of Georgia based punter Austin Barnard said by phone today that his son has accepted an invitation to attend UM as a prefered walk-on, opting for UM over Notre Dame. Barnard, ranked among the top punters in the nation, averaged 44 yards per punt this past season.... Running back Alex Collins will announce his choice on Fox Sports on Monday night. UM, UF, Arkansas and Wisconsin are finalists.

### For news on on the Heat's pursuit of center Greg Oden, please see our last post.... Erik Spoelstra said which player he uses as his 10th man – Rashard Lewis or Mike Miller – will depend on "who we're playing." He's inclined to use Lewis against bigger teams or bigger forwards.

### A friend of Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline said Hartline hopes to get $6 million a year, more than what Miami offered previously and better than Jordy Nelson’s three-year, $13 million extension with Green Bay.

###  For the second time in two months, a network is debuting a special on the 1972 undefeated Dolphins. Rick Horrow's Sporfolio, which airs on Bloomberg TV, has several lively interviews in "The Value of Perfection," which focuses on that Dolphins team.

Dolphins owner Steve Ross tells Horrow: "It's great to relive the past but [fans] want to live for victories today.... I mean 40 years is a long time!" Dick Anderson mentions how he and Jake Scott got a wig endorsement deal --- of all things --- after the perfect season. The show debuts at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on Bloomberg, which is channel 353 on DirecTV.

### MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said the Marlins’ payroll purge had nothing to do with them not getting the 2015 All-Star Game – a game the Marlins expected to be awarded. Cincinnati, which got the game, opened its new ballpark nine years before the Marlins did. The Nationals, Phillies and Padres also also want All-Star games and have waited longer than the Marlins since opening new stadiums.

### Marlins executive Larry Beinfest said because Placido Polanco is 37 “and coming off injury, it’s realistic to say [he’s] probably not going to be an every day [player]. If he’s at third five days a week, it’s going to be terrific. Greg Dobbs can still play over there against tough right-handers.”

### Beinfest said the fifth rotation spot is wide open: “Wade LeBlanc pitched well last year, in the pen and starting, so he may have a little leg up. Brad Hand had a great year in Triple A. Alex Sanabia is back from injury and feeling well. And we have non-roster invitees who could get in the mix as well, guys like John Maine.”


January 28, 2013

Greg Oden to meet with Heat; Dolphins, Canes

Center Greg Oden, who hasn't played in an NBA game since December of 2009 because of knee injuries, is expected to travel to Miami to meet with Heat president Pat Riley in the next week or so, his agent Mike Conley said today.

Conley told me Heat president Pat Riley indicated he is "very interested" in Oden, who doesn't plan to resume his career until the start of next season. He might undergo medical tests during the visit to Miami but won't do any on-court work, Conley said.

The visit is not yet booked but will happen very soon, the agent confirmed. "It will involve talking to Pat and the medical staff to see where Greg is," Conley said.

Conley said the Heat hadn't called him to express interest in Oden until the past couple of weeks. He said the 7-foot Oden is considering four teams and has said several times in the past year that Oden would love to play for the Heat. CBSSports.com reported earlier Tuesday that the Heat and Cleveland are front-runners.

Oden, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 draft, has played in only 82 games, producing averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. He has had multiple knee surgeries, including a microfracture procedure last February.

"Greg can run, shoot, dunk, but we're not allowing him to do certain things," Conley said. "He's taking it slower than in the past. The biggest challenge is not doing too much too soon. In past rehabs, it was a little sore. Now he feels he can do anything. We're telling him not to [do too much]."

Oden is splitting time between Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, while doing his rehab. "The goal is to start next season" on an NBA roster, Conley said.


A few Monday night quick hits:

### The Reggie Bush camp has found it curious that Miami never conveyed any interest in re-signing him during the final two months of the season or in the couple weeks afterward. After all, Miami approached Brian Hartline and Jake Long during the season and Randy Starks immediately after, though not with the type of offers they’re seeking.

So it’s no surprise CBS’ Jason La Canfora reported today that Bush is “highly unlikely” to return to the Dolphins, though it’s not a certainty.

Bush always intended to test free agency in March, barring the Dolphins making a surprisingly attractive offer. It’s not out of the question Bush could return if nobody offers him a deal similar to the $4.5 million he made this season. From all indications, the Dolphins haven’t ruled it out.

Remember, the Dolphins waited months after the season before making an effort to re-sign Ronnie Brown a few years ago.

But the Dolphins would be fine moving on without Bush and making Lamar Miller their lead running back, with Daniel Thomas and a cheap addition rounding out their stable. Former Notre Dame tailback Jonas Gray, recovered from a knee injury, also will get a look.

### Packers receiver Greg Jennings, a potential Dolphins target (along with Mike Wallace), put his Green Bay house up for sale, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Jennings' sister previously tweeted that he needs to take his talents to South Beach and get paid. But he's 30 and missed eight games this season. In a chat about free agent receivers, Steve Ross reminded that a prominent one was injured last year. (And that would be Jennings.)

### With South Plantation running back Alex Collins not planning to announce his choice until signing day Feb. 6 (among UM, UF, FSU, Arkansas, Wisconsin), the Hurricanes are exploring other options, too.

Canesport.com reported that Staten Island-based running back Augustus Edwards received in-home visits from UM’s Al Golden and FSU’s Jimbo Fisher today, and he will choose one of those schools.

He said FSU is in the lead after his visit to Tallahassee, but UM has a chance to catch up when he visits next weekend. Rivals.com rates the 6-1, 222-pound Edwards as the nation’s No. 1 fullback, but UM is recruiting him as a tailback.

### CBS will regionally televise UM-N.C. State at 4 p.m. Saturday, with part of the country getting Georgetown-St. John’s instead. Miami is 14th, NC State 19th in the new AP poll released today.

This will be UM’s first CBS appearance since the 2008 NCAA Tournament…. Coach Jim Larranaga said on a conference call today that Shane Larkin “is having an all-conference caliber year. He’s good at everything.”

Fox Sports Florida airs Wednesday's UM-Virginia Tech game at 9 p.m., opposite the 8 p.m. Heat-Nets game on ESPN and Sun Sports.

### President Obama, a big basketball fan, was well-prepared for the Heat’s visit to the White House, noting LeBron James “learned some post moves from Hakeem Olajuwon,” that Shane Battier “always has played impeccable defense,” and that Mike Miller “could barely walk” during last year’s Finals. “Mike, you look better now,” Obama said. “You looked like an old man” during the playoffs.

Obama called Dwyane Wade “the heart and soul of this team.”

### Players had a blast on Twitter during and after the visit. Battier tweeted a Presidential-type picture of himself behind a podium, making a Bill Clintonesque hand gesture. James tweeted a picture of himself and Wade standing next to a portrait of Clinton.

James tweeted: “A kid with a dream from Akron, Ohio. Now chopping it up with the Prez. Life is good.” James tweeted a picture of himself and Miller in a spirited conversation: “Me and Mike Miller going over a Master plan in the library at the White House.”

Pat Riley didn’t make the trip because the Heat said he was suffering from the flu.

January 27, 2013

More Loria behavior criticized; Dolphins, Heat, Canes chatter


Former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent made a good point when he told me recently that Jeffrey Loria “is an odd owner in that he runs the club without regard to people who are paying the bills.”

Loria already has lost credibility with Marlins fans by slashing $60 million off his payroll, without explanation.

The obvious consequence of trading Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle – who both said Loria assured them they would not be – is that “players don’t trust him,” one prominent agent said. “Why would anyone ever take him at his word again?”

That loss of trust and the alienation of his fan base stand as Loria’s biggest impediments as he enters his 12th season as Marlins owner.

But there are other areas, too, where Loria would help his franchise by changing his approach. Among the points raised in conversations that Marlins beat writer Clark Spencer and I had with several agents, players and people close to the team’s front office:

### Loria’s meddling in personnel decisions is widely known, but it’s even worse than perceived. Besides suggesting or dictating free agent signings and players to trade, Loria has instructed his front office to demote several players.

The Marlins went without a third catcher in September because Loria was fed up with Brett Hayes. One player said word came down during a game that Chris Volstad would be demoted because of Loria’s unhappiness. “He had one bad start, and Loria was like, ‘He’s gone,’” another player said.

“Everyone knows he does it,” the player said of Loria demoting players. “It makes it hard to play. Every time you come into the clubhouse after a bad outing, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, [bleep]! Is Loria going to send me down because he’s [angry] tonight, just because Loria’s in an [expletive] mood?’

“So all these guys, with the exception of Giancarlo [Stanton], walk around on eggshells.”

We can list all of the Loria-driven bad decisions (Heath Bell, John Buck, etc.) and his enlightened ones (signing Pudge Rodriguez, advocating the Ugueth Urbina trade), but the broader question is this:

Why is the owner even involved to this extent with personnel? “If Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill were left alone and given autonomy, they would be much better off,” one agent said --- though Beinfest took bad advice from his scouting staff on a bunch of former No. 1 draft picks.

Another agent said he’s left with the impression that everything beyond minor moves must be run by Loria – different from how the Heat, Dolphins and Panthers do business.

“Jeffrey wants to be Jerry Jones and George Steinbrenner making personnel decisions, but Jones and Steinbrenner want to win,” one of the agents said. “Jeffrey wants to make money first. That’s the difference.”

### Marlins players notice when Loria shoots disgusted looks or throws up his hands when a player fails, or when he leaves early when the Marlins are losing. Some don’t like that he sits so close to the dugout.

“He’s always looking in the dugout,” one former Marlin said. “Mind your business! Watch the game! But he’s got the seat right there.”

### Though Loria can be generous (such as buying jewelry for Hanley Ramirez), his presence in the clubhouse irritates some players, according to a former Marlin. “You never see an owner in the clubhouse unless there’s a reason to be, and you wonder what the heck he’s doing in here,” another said.

### Another player criticized Loria for talking to the team as a group.

“This guy sits down with us in Boston last season and tries to give us an [expletive] speech, to inspire us,” the player said. “You listen to it and then everybody kind of looked at each other like, ‘What the [bleep] is that? Is this guy serious?’ It was unnecessary.”

### Another criticism from players: Loria’s penchant for bringing up the 2003 championship team. “It’s on the bulletin board all the time – 2003, 2003, 2003,” said a member of the 2012 team. Everybody just gets sick of it. Let it go. Nobody wants to hear about the 2003 team.”

### Four agents told me their players cannot trust that their injuries and rehabilitations will be handled correctly because of lack of confidence in the training staff -- a problem that a former Marlin attributes to Loria’s loyalty to trainer Sean Cunningham.

One agent said his client’s rehab “was [messed] up. Rehab schedules were incorrect.”

So will Loria ever do a self-evaluation and genuinely change? Those close to him say that’s doubtful. One of his joys of owning a team is helping pick the players, and doing what he wants, without regard to public reaction.

One Loria friend said: “He acts like a fan and that’s bad as an owner.”

Said a former Marlins player: “It’s not that Loria’s a bad guy. [But] we just don’t like the way he goes about things. He gets everybody annoyed… He wants the credit for all the good stuff and none of the bad.”


### People who spoke to the Dolphins’ front office say Miami is pessimistic about its chances of re-signing Jake Long but will keep working at it. Long, believed to be seeking at least $10 million a year, scoffed at Miami’s first offer during the season, according to a teammate.

### If Philadelphia -- which entered Friday three games behind the No. 8 playoff seed – makes the  playoffs, the Heat will have a good pick in June’s draft, perhaps 15th or 16th. But if the 76ers miss the playoffs, Miami won’t have any first-round pick. That’s because the pick acquired from Philadelphia is lottery protected for three years, and Miami’s 2013 first-rounder is owned by Cleveland.

### Recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein said he believes Miami’s hiring of former FSU assistant James Coley as offensive coordinator has elevated UM from an underdog to the favorite to land Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas and offensive tackle Denver Kirkland, rated among the top 10 nationally at their positions. “Thomas’ best relationship is with Coley,” Fishbein said. Fishbein favors Arkansas in the battle for elite running back Alex Collins, but UM believes it has a strong chance.

### The UM basketball team’s defense has improved markedly since Jim Larranaga replaced Frank Haith, and people around the program view Larranaga’s philosophy and teaching skills as a big reason, combined with the staff’s ability to develop players.

Haith often was willing to concede open three-pointers (Larranaga isn’t) and played far more zone than Larranaga. Comparing Haith’s final UM team (2010-11) to this UM team, the difference is dramatic: UM has risen from 163rd to 30th in scoring defense this season (nine points a game less), 83rd to 8th in field-goal percentage allowed this season (an impressive 36.9) and 226th to 47th in three-point percentage defense.


January 26, 2013

Football quick hits; media notes; Ray Allen primed for Boston return

Couple quick Saturday notes:

### The Senior Bowl is kicking off in a couple minutes (4 p.m.), and the feedback on Florida players was mixed from practice this week. Among those who impressed was UM running back Mike James, who was invited to the game mid-week only because of an injury to another player.

"Mike James was often the first one down the field on kickoff returns," ESPN's Scouts Inc. said. "He's getting more eyes on him. He ran hard, showed toughness. He showed he could have value on special teams as well."

Also, ESPN's Scouts Inc. said Gators running back Mike Gillislee showed "great instincts and quickness."

But FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel struggled. "He has the ball sail on him a lot. His anticipation isn't good."

(Update: Manuel played well in the game and was named The Most Outstanding Player. And Mike James scored a late touchdown.)

### Media notes: One of ESPN's films in the newest 30 for 30 project chronicles the five quarterbacks who were selected in the first round of the 1983 draft. The name of the documentary is appropriate: "From Elway to Marino." It will air a few days before the draft....

ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols, who worked at the South Florida Sun Sentinel before breaking into television, is leaving to become a sports reporter at CNN, where she also will host her own weekend talk show. ESPN has lost a bunch of women anchors or reporters in the past year, including Erin Andrews (to Fox), Michelle Beadle (to NBC Sports Network) and Cindy Brunson, who joined her husband - former ESPN anchor Steve Berthiaume - in Arizona after he was named play-by-play man for the Diamondbacks.


Here's my Sunday piece on the "angle" of the weekend: Ray Allen's return to Boston: 

Though everything would suggest otherwise, Ray Allen insisted last week that when he returns to Boston’s TD Garden on Sunday for the first time since joining the Heat, the Celtics will be “just another opponent.”

But they cannot be.

Not with the history here.

Not with what he accomplished there: an NBA title and three All-Star appearances in five seasons in Celtics green.

Not with the prickly feelings between Allen and Rajon Rondo.

And not with all the noise surrounding his departure, which included coach Doc Rivers claiming the reason Allen left “was ego more than anything else…. Ray wanted the ball more.”

Allen said he doesn’t know precisely how he will feel when he steps on the court hours before the Heat and Celtics meet at 1 p.m. on ABC.

“I will deal with whatever emotions there are,” he said. “You never know until you get there. Regardless of how they respond to me, it won’t change how I feel. I have great memories.”

LeBron James, Chris Bosh and other Heat players said Allen should expect to be booed.

“I don’t expect it to be good,” said James, booed heavily when he returned to Cleveland as a member of the Heat. “If you don’t wear green in that building, they don’t like you. We’re there for him.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra cracked: “Maybe the highest form of compliment would be for them to boo and throw stuff at Ray.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers hopes that isn’t the case. “I hope he gets a good round of applause,” Rivers told Fox Sports Florida. “He did a lot for this franchise. I know he’s a great guy.”

Bosh, booed when he returned to Toronto for the first time after joining the Heat, said Allen should expect a “very emotional” day.

“All these emotions are pent up and brewing,” Bosh said. “But it helped me focus in a lot more. The key is just play the game.”

Said Dwyane Wade: “We just want to play well for him.”

Allen -- who said he believes Celtics fans will appreciate him "once the dust settles" -- insisted last week he has nothing but “positive” feelings for the Celtics, for whom he made 798 three-pointers and scored 5987 of his 23,384 career points.

“Everything I accomplished there and experienced there brought me to this place I am now,” he said. “And I’m appreciative for all of it, because the negative you learn from just the same.”

The Allen/Celtics relationship was far from warm and fuzzy in his final months as a Celtic or in the aftermath of his exit. It has been well-documented that Allen was upset not only about being replaced in the starting lineup, but also that the Celtics nearly traded him to Memphis.

That, coupled with his frosty relationship with Rondo, made it easy for Allen to reject a two-year, $12 million offer from Boston to take a two-year, $6 million deal with Miami, including an opt-out after this season.

Though Allen has suggested that stories about friction with Rondo are overstated, Sports Illustrated reported that Allen and Rondo had to be separated in the locker-room at least once because Allen believed Rondo was intentionally looking him off.

Rondo hasn’t referred to Allen by name in months, calling him merely “that guy.” Kevin Garnett said he intentionally “lost” Allen’s phone number.

And in the season opener in Miami, Garnett ignored Allen when Allen wandered over to the Celtics bench to quickly greet him and slap him on the shoulder.

“I was just trying to stay as neutral as I could,” Garnett said at the time. “I just saw the Heat uniforms and obviously he’s on the other side.”

Asked if he will greet his former teammates again, Allen said: “I will do what I’ve always done.”

Rivers hardly diffused any simmering friction, saying in October: “He made a choice. Do I think it was the wrong choice? I absolutely do.”

But Allen has no regrets. He said he has enjoyed playing in South Florida, aside from the vexing U.S. 1 traffic, but added he will wait until after the playoffs to decide whether to exercise his opt-out.

There have been adjustments, though, including coming off the bench for the first time in his career.

“Your body is tighter,” he said. “I run off the bench to trick my body into thinking I haven’t been sitting there.”

He said he’s still finding a rhythm, “trying to find out where the shots are coming from and being ready where they do come.”

His minutes have dropped from 34 to a career-low 25.5 per game, which was expected. At his introductory news conference, Heat president Pat Riley said he hoped Allen would match last season’s numbers of 14.2 points per game, 45.8 percent shooting and 45.3 percent on threes.

His scoring is down to a career-low 11.4 (a byproduct of fewer minutes), but his shooting percentages --- 47.6 overall and 44.3 on threes -- stand above his career averages.

“He is more comfortable and that’s the most important thing,” Spoelstra said. “He is savvy. He knows how to fit in.”

Allen said he has watched Boston games occasionally on television but, “I don’t seek it out.”

Asked if he’s missed by the Celtics, who have lost six in a row to drop to 20-23, he said: “I couldn’t tell you. I guess we’ll see when we get there.”

Allen was painstakingly diplomatic last week, putting aside any unpleasant feelings from his final months in Boston.

“I’ve moved on, but who I was as a Celtic will always be inside of me,” he said. “I look back and think about all the great times that we had. I will always cherish those moments there.”

### Allen isn’t the only Heat player with a history with Rondo. During the Heat’s opening night win this season, Rondo was hit with a flagrant foul for grabbing Wade near the neck to thwart a drive. Wade called it a “punk play.” During the 2011 playoffs, a contentious tie-up between Rondo and Wade resulted in Rondo suffering a dislocated elbow.








January 24, 2013

Another Marlin expects to be traded; Canes investigation, Heat chatter


The two most pedigreed Marlins who survived the tumultuous offseason – and then vented on Twitter --- probably won’t be here long-term. But Ricky Nolasco indicated this week he will be a good soldier, and the Marlins expect Giancarlo Stanton will, too.

Stanton almost assuredly will be here longer than Nolasco.

“I feel pretty sure I’ll be traded sometime before the deadline. It all depends on how I pitch,” Nolasco, due $11.5 million in 2013 (the last year of his contract), said this week at Jeff Conine’s golf event to raise money for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.

The Marlins do not plan to trade Stanton anytime soon, but an official in close touch with their front office said the Marlins know he prefers to play out West eventually (the Dodgers, Padres or Angels would be a good bet) and, barring a change of heart by Stanton, the Marlins will consider a trade next winter as he nears free agency after 2016. Or the Marlins could wait until 2015 or ’16, but they don’t want to lose him for nothing.

Stanton will make about $500,000 this season but could earn $8 million in 2014 when he becomes arbitration-eligible.

Stanton hasn’t spoken to Marlins writers but said “yeah” when asked by USA Today last week if he’s still angry: “It’s tough. You’re not always happy with some things that go on. That’s life. There’s nothing I can do.” He told the Los Angeles Times: “I’ve said I was upset. [But] you can’t be hoping you’re on other teams.”

Stanton tweeted “Alright, I’m pissed off!!!” after the Marlins’ salary-dumping trade with Toronto, and Nolasco tweeted: “You gotta be [expletive, expletive] me” after Ozzie Guillen was fired – a tweet he said this week he does not regret.

Agent Matt Sosnick said in December than Nolasco wants to be traded. But Nolasco, the likely opening day starter, indicated this week he’s fine with being here, believing he’s likely to be dealt at some point in the coming months.

Asked if he’s still angry, he said: “No. I’m moving on. It’s nothing to be angry about anymore. I had a certain reaction to [the offseason moves], but whatever they do is their problem, their business. I’m going to handle it in a professional way and not let it distract me.

“I’m grateful for the contract I got here and am looking forward to finishing it out on a positive note. I love the city, the organization, the stadium and the fans. I’m excited about it. There are some very talented players on this team. It just depends on how they progress.”

Marlins executive Larry Beinfest said he never expected “a lot of our players would be happy with some of the moves” but predicts Stanton and Nolasco “are going to perform and be good Marlins. You’re talking about good people.”

### Former Dolphins quarterback bust Pat White, a second-team All-American as a high-school baseball player, told WMEN-640's Orlando Alzugaray on Thursday that he has an offer from the Marlins to attend minor-league camp but has neither accepted nor rejected it. White told reporters at the Senior Bowl that he wants another NFL shot, but feels strongly about playing quarterback.


### UM was made fully aware of the contents of its not-yet-delivered notice of allegations more than a week ago. And before NCAA president Mark Emmert’s bombshell Wednesday, UM and the NCAA spent several days haggling over how some violations would be characterized and how Nevin Shapiro attorney Maria Elena Perez’s deposition with Sean Allen – which will likely be tossed out – would affect the case. UM only very recently learned that Shapiro’s attorney was paid.

### One person said before the case was sidetracked, the NCAA’s allegations against UM were “worse than a slap on the wrist but not as bad as they could have been.”

### UM officials are furious by the NCAA’s conduct – “outrageous,” one said --- but also optimistic this will mitigate punishment. One official said “the integrity of the whole investigation has been tainted” and that UM is hoping Emmert will agree to settle on UM-friendly terms. But Emmert hasn't offered a settlement yet, and there's no indication if he will.

### Emmert, when I asked him if he had a problem with the NCAA telling former players that Shapiro’s claims against them would be believed if they don’t agree to interviews, said: “One of the components of this inquiry I’m conducting is to look at all the tactics and processes involved in this case.” He said he then will decide whether that ultimatum was “inappropriate.” UM hasn’t complained about it.

### Besides the Allen and Michael Huyghue depositions that will be tossed, Shapiro’s attorney tried for months to get a third person to speak under oath – former basketball booster Dave Leshner – with the hope he would implicate UM. But unlike Allen and Huyghue, Leshner refused to speak.

### The lighter side: With the Heat visiting the White House on Monday, Chris Bosh said Thursday he wouldn’t deliver a hard foul to President Obama (which Joakim Noah did in a 2010 White House pickup game) because “the Secret Service is there and I don’t want to wake up in the back of a truck.”

Bosh, who has met Obama twice, said: “I don’t want to talk about basketball” with him. OK then.

James has been with Obama four times --- James called him “cool” – and noted “the first time you’re around him, you’re in awe of being around the President.”

Wade has talked to Obama “multiple times” and was surprised, when Michael Beasley was on the team, that Obama asked him, “Man, what’s up with Beas?” Said Wade: “It’s cool to have a President that loves the same sport you love.”…

Wade cracked that Bosh was never invited to play with Obama early in 2010 because: “He was in Toronto at the time. The President has never seen a Raptor game.”

### Please look on the sports home game for my full Heat report from Thursday, including notes on Chris Andersen, Dwyane Wade and a look at one of the areas where the Heat has improved most from the start of the Big Three era.

January 23, 2013

UM will push for settlement; Coley tells FSU he is taking Miami job; NCAA/UM fallout

A couple of Thursday updates:

1) In the wake of the NCAA's embarrassing revelation this week, UM intends to push hard for a settlement with the NCAA, provided president Mark Emmert is willing (which is questionable) and provided the terms are fair and friendly to UM, according to multiple sources.

"They haven't come to us," one UM official said of the NCAA. But "it's smart to get something done. We've suffered plenty. They would negotiate something reasonable."

But it would be highly unusual for a settlement to happen. Typically, a school receives its notice of allegations, then responds three months or so later in front of the infractions committee.

NCAA President Mark Emmert would need to make the decision to circumvent that process in this case.

The upside for Emmert to do that: Putting this embarrassment behind him. If UM goes in front of the infractions committee, the NCAA would likely be subjected to more negative publicity because UM would point out evidence that could be tied to improper investigative practices by the NCAA.

The downside: A settlement with UM would anger other schools that were not afforded the same opportunity. Also, Emmert said the depositions in question --- the ones that will be tossed out -- were only a small fraction of the evidence against UM.

If the NCAA is willing to do a settlement, UM --- which already has self-imposed two bowl bans -- might be willing to accept very modest scholarship reductions, according to the speculation of a UM official. But we haven't gotten to that point, so it's premature to say anything conclusive about what UM would be willing to offer.

John Infante, a widely-quoted NCAA expert, said he doubts Emmert will be willing to do a settlement. But UM will at least broach the issue.

2) Offensive coordinator James Coley informed FSU he is leaving to take the same job at UM, according to multiple sources.  An announcement could come today.

FSU agreed to match - but not surpass - UM's $500,000 offer. But FSU would not allow him to call plays; Fisher enjoys doing that himself.

At UM, Coley will run the offense and call plays. He has called plays only one season in his life - for a talent-deficient FIU team that finished 1-11.

Coley, a Miami High graduate, also liked the idea of returning home to Miami, where he has family.

Coley's move also should help UM in recruiting.


Wednesday night update: Coley and NCAA news fallout:


Manny Navarro and I have confirmed that FSU offensive coordinator James Coley has interviewed with Al Golden and has told multiple people that he has been offered the UM offensive coordinator job. Coley is very intrigued because he would get to call plays - something he wouldn't be able to do at FSU.

One friend of Coley told me he expects Coley will take the UM job, while another said Coley indicated he had not decided as of Thursday afternoon.

FSU has agreed to match the $500,000 that Coley says UM would pay him, but Jimbo Fisher will not allow him to call plays. And Coley wants to call plays. Still, Fisher has been trying hard to pursuade him to stay.

### I've spent part of the afternoon re-reading Sean Allen's 170-plus page deposition with Nevin Shapiro's attorney to determine exactly what evidence from Allen will be tossed out if the NCAA removes that deposition from its case against UM, as NCAA President Mark Emmert indicated would be the case.

Here's my story on that topic:  

Sounding very much like an NCAA investigator, the attorney for Nevin Shapiro sat across the table from former UM equipment manager Sean Allen and peppered him with dozens of questions about alleged NCAA rules violations involving the University of Miami.

In the process of that deposition 13 months ago, attorney Maria Elena Perez extracted considerable incriminating information against UM – information that Allen has said he never would have disclosed if he had not been under oath.

The deposition was taken under the auspices of a bankruptcy court hearing – a proceeding designed to recoup money that Shapiro took from investors in a $900 million Ponzi scheme that led to Shapiro being sentenced to a 20-year jail term.

But a review of the deposition on Wednesday revealed that many of Perez’s questions had nothing to do with financial issues, and dozens had more to do with alleged violations by UM than any attempts to trace money that could be recouped.

That deposition with Allen --- and another Perez deposition with former sports agent Michael Huyghue – likely will be removed from the NCAA’s evidence against UM presuming an NCAA investigation confirms its belief that the information was improperly obtained, NCAA president Mark Emmert indicated Wednesday.

Perez submitted a bill for payment to the NCAA --- which the NCAA would consider a conflict because she was representing Shapiro.

What’s potentially problematic for UM, however, is that Allen met with the NCAA after that deposition and was asked to recap and confirm allegations that he made during the deposition. It’s unclear if Allen’s responses during that interview will be used.

Allen met with the NCAA in August 2011 but previously told The Miami Herald that he was not truthful during that meeting. He said he was truthful during the deposition only because he was under oath.

Among the highlights of what Allen told Perez in the deposition, which Allen said was attended by an NCAA official:

### Asked by Perez if he ever witnessed Shapiro paying money to UM football or basketball players, Allen said: “Yes. I don’t remember the specifics. It was relatively small amounts… low hundreds.”

He also said: “I vaguely remember Nevin giving [former UM running back] Tyrone Moss some sort of money for his baby or something like that.”

#### Allen said Shapiro gave him $3000 to entertain Ray-Ray Armstrong, Dyron Dye and Andre DuBose during an unofficial recruiting visit to UM. “Nevin said, ‘Take those guys out to a strip club and make sure they have a good time,’” Allen said. Armstrong and Dye ultimately attended UM; DuBose went to Florida.

### During the deposition, Perez presented numerous pictures to Allen showing Shapiro with several UM coaches and players, including basketball coach Frank Haith, assistant coach Jake Morton and football players Kellen Winslow, D.J. Williams and others.

Asked if Shapiro provided entertainment to UM players, Allen said: “Yes. Kellen, D.J. We would go on the boat. There would normally be food and drinks on the boat. They would go out to the club occasionally with Nevin.”

### Allen said he gave money to UM players who were being recruited by Axcess Sports, an agency co-owned by Shapiro and Huyghue. Allen confirmed those players included Tavares Gooden, Jon Beason and Devin Hester. “We’re talking small amounts of cash, maybe $50 here, because it was my own money.”

### Asked Shapiro’s motivation in giving players money, Allen said: “One, I think he enjoyed being around them. The other part is he ultimately wanted them to sign with Axcess Sports.”

### Allen, who worked for Axcess, said he brought UM players to Shapiro on behalf of Axcess, including Gooden, Hester and Kyle Wright. “I’m sure I’m missing someone. It was more bringing them around Nevin, and he was the one that would talk to them about that sort of stuff.”

### Allen told Perez that Shapiro would give money to the winners of bowling events at Lucky Strikes on Miami Beach, and UM players participated in those tournaments.

### Asked if he ever took players to Shapiro’s suite, Allen said: “Yes, one time that I remember: Jeffrey Godfrey and I believe Teddy Bridgewater was with him.” Both were high school players at the time, and neither attended UM.

“Miami was never serious about [Godfrey],” Allen said. “Jeff and I were at Nevin’s house one time and I remember Nevin giving him a pair of old white used sneakers. I want to say Nevin gave me $100 or something and said, ‘Go out to eat.”

### Allen said said he took Bridgewater to meet with UM coach Al Golden soon after Golden took the job.

### Allen said he “can say with certainty that Nevin paid” for a meals and a strip club outing with Haith and Morton.

### Perez repeatedly pressed Allen after he said he had no recollection of giving or witnessing Shapiro giving Morton $10,000, money that Shapiro claimed was ultimately to be forwarded to a family member of basketball player DeQuan Jones.

“I don’t want to trick you,” Perez said at one point. “I just want to understand what you’re saying.” Allen said: “I don’t remember doing it…. Possible it could have happened. I just really don’t remember.”

### Allen told Perez that Shapiro “had me take [former UM quarterback] Robert Marve to look at Escalades; Robert was paying for it.” He also said he saw former UM defensive back Randy Phillips at Shapiro’s home “multiple times.”

The deposition with Huyghue did not produce any significant incriminating information against Miami, according to a Herald analysis of the document.

Gary Freedman, a partner in the firm that is serving as the bankruptcy trustee in the case, said he was not aware that Perez was allegedly being paid by the NCAA until the news broke Wednesday.

“That was a shock to me,” he said. “I assumed anything she was doing was being done for the benefit of the client. [Allen and Huyghue] could have objected to the subpoena. I don’t believe they did.”

Freedman said the depositions with Allen and Huyghue were the only ones that Perez conducted and “we have not used the transcripts to try to recover money. We haven’t found the need.” The trustee has recouped $35 million in the case, Freedman said.

Though Freedman and partner Joel Tabas were aware the depositions were conducted, Freedman said Perez did not need their permission to do them.

He said in the Southern District of Florida, attorneys can issue subpoenas in bankruptcy court without the court’s permission. “Maria was representing Nevin,” Freedman said. “She wasn’t representing us.”

Asked if what Perez did was wrong, Freedman said: “I don’t know. I don’t know the agreement she had with her client or the NCAA. It wasn’t on my radar screen. As far as getting mad, it doesn’t affect anything we’re doing. [But] it could be a distraction.”


January 22, 2013

Where UM stands two weeks from signing day; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins chatter


Two weeks from National Signing Day, UM has oral commitments from three of ESPN’s top 100 recruits: Al-Quadin Muhammed (58), Artie Burns (70) and Kevin Olsen (87). But impending decisions of a half dozen top players will determine whether this is considered a pretty good class or a great one.

“For them to get out of the seven-, eight-win mold, they need another class like last year,” recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said. “They need to come up with [receiver] Stacy Coley, [offensive tackle] Denver Kirkland and [linebacker] Matthew Thomas to consider this a staggering class, to get to a 10-, 11-, 12-win plateau and become what Florida State is now.

“There’s nothing wrong with the kids they have committed, but they need marquee kids [like Duke Johnson and Tracy Howard last year] to take it to the next level.”

ESPN analyst Jeremy Crabtree said his network ranks Miami’s class 23rd and “but they need Thomas” and at least one among Coley, Kirkland and Keith Bryant “to push them toward the top 15.”

Longtime analyst Tom Lemming said: “It’s a top 25 class, but a lot depends on how they finish. Al Golden is a brilliant recruiter. He reminds me of Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. I mentioned that to Meyer, and he laughed. It’s personality, smarts and non-stop working.”

UM has 10 oral commitments, plus three junior college players signed to letters of intent. An overview with two weeks to go:


### Still pursuing: Booker T. Washington’s Thomas, the nation’s second-rated outside linebacker, will visit Miami on Wednesday and FSU this weekend will choose among UM, FSU, Alabama, Southern California and Georgia on signing day, said his coach, Tim Harris. We're told FSU feels confident about landing him, but Miami believes it has a decent chance. So this week's visits to the two schools are critical. “I’m not sure what Miami’s chances are,” Harris said Tuesday, adding that Thomas told him he enjoyed last weekend's trip to USC…

The Hurricanes are optimistic about their chances with Port Saint Lucie Centennial West’s Jaynard Bostwick, the nation’s No. 27 defensive tackle, and Miramar’s Jermaine Grace, the No. 19 outside linebacker. Bostwick is picking among Miami, Alabama and UF; his mother believes he will end up at Miami. Grace will choose among UM, Louisville and Tennessee early next week. He has said he’s leaning toward Miami….

Delray Beach Atlantic’s Keith Bryant, a former UM oral commitment and the 17th-ranked defensive tackle, visited UM last weekend and “Miami kind of helped themselves,” he told InsidetheU.com. “[But] I didn’t really talk to the coaches much. I’m not sure why.” Bryant, who said he loved his FSU visit, also is considering South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU. His coach believes Miami still has a chance, but UM can’t be confident by any means….

UM is still trying to get Pompano Beach Ely defensive back Rashard Robinson to switch from LSU, but his coach, Charles Hafley, said Robinson told him Tuesday he is “100 percent” committed to the Tigers.

UM is considered a long shot but not out of the question for Daytona Beach linebacker Quinton Powell (nation’s 15th-best outside linebacker) and defensive tackle Donta Wilkins, a Virginia oral commit planning a UM visit on Jan. 25.

### Orally committed: Miami Northwestern’s Burns (ESPN’s 69th best player) and Miami Southridge safety Jamal Carter will compete for time immediately.

“Burns will help them right away,” Blustein said. “He’s up with Tracy Howard as far as athletic skill. He’s a world class sprinter, and when he hits the weight room, he’s going to be really good.”

Former UM assistant and ex-Southridge coach Don Soldinger worked with Carter last summer and draws comparison with Sean Taylor: “He’s not quite as tall, probably a little faster. He can be as good as anyone who has been there.

“Physically, he has all the tools. He’ll hit you. Real fast. Can take physical punishment. Returns kicks. He’ll be exceptional. But he has to be more disciplined, as far as being where he needs to be.”

UM hopes Mohammed, the nation’s fourth-ranked weakside defensive end, can provide immediate help on the pass rush, but he needs to bulk up from 220 pounds.

“He’s big time,” Lemming said. “Explosive moves. Eventually, he will be 6-4, 260 as an outside linebacker or a great defensive end.”

Also committed: Two junior college players - linebacker Devante Bond and end/tackle Ufomba Kamalu - and linebacker Alex Figueroa, an early enrollee who was being pursued by Virginia and Virginia Tech. “Figueroa was a legit four-star prospect if he had been healthy coming out of high school,” Lemming said.


### Still pursuing: South Plantation coach Doug Gatewood said Alex Collins, rated the nation’s 11th-best running back, “loved the visit” to UM last weekend but remains conflicted among Miami, UF, FSU, Wisconsin and Arkansas, where he will visit this weekend. “I think he believes he will step on a campus and it will be love at first sight, but that’s a pipedream,” said Gatewood, who wouldn’t be surprised if Collins chooses any of the five.

The Wisconsin running backs coach visited Collins on Tuesday and “asked Alex, ‘What are you looking for?’ I don’t know if Alex knows that,” Gatewood said, adding that Collins hasn’t mentioned any concerns about UM aside from potential NCAA sanctions….

UM badly wants Oakland Park Northeast’s Coley, the nation’s No. 11 receiver prospect. It will likely come down to UM or FSU, with Mississippi and Clemson not yet eliminated. “Miami has a good chance,” said his coach, Donnell Bennett, who calls Coley a combination of ex-Canes Kevin Williams, Horace Copeland and Lamar Thomas.… Though UM initially pursued University School receiver Jordan Cunningham, who remains uncommitted, coach Roger Harriott said: “Miami kind of moved forward. I haven’t heard from Miami coaches or Jordan talk about Miami in a while.”…

Booker T. Washington’s Kirkland, rated the nation’s ninth-best offensive tackle prospect, has UM in the lead, followed by FSU and Mississippi and will visit Arkansas this weekend, his father told Canesport.com....

UM is scheduled to get a Feb. 2 visit from Staten Island-based Augustus Edwards, rated the nation’s No. 2 fullback. Edwards, a Syracuse oral commitment, is being recruited by UM as a tailback and said he has no front-runner among Syracuse, FSU, UM and Rutgers.

### Orally committed: Lemming said Kevin Olsen, rated the nation’s sixth-best quarterback prospect, “reminds me of Steve Walsh. Similar build, arm strength, production. Almost everything is identical. He has great feet. Arm strength is good and will be better when he gains another 30 pounds.”

Beau Sandland, the nation’s top junior college tight end, is reportedly enrolling. Also expected to enroll this week: tight end Standish Dobard (“who can stretch the field,” Lemming said), Figueroa and offensive linemen Hunter Knighton and Sonny Odogwu. Among early arrivals, UM has confirmed only Figueroa and Odugwu.

“Miami fans will see big things from Sandland,” Crabtree said. “And I’m intrigued by [offensive lineman] Alex Gall. Our scouts like him a lot.”

UM told Ray Lewis III it will decide this summer whether to play him at running back or defensive back, probably safety… Tight end/tackle Jeremy Kerr remains orally committed to UM but is considering FSU.


### Wednesday’s Duke-UM showdown will be ESPN announcer Dick Vitale’s first game ever at the BankUnited Center and “I’m really excited about it. The UM kids defend exceptionally well. Kenny Kadji is rebounding a lot better and Durand Scott and Shane Larkin give them a tough-minded duo in the backcourt.

“I wish Miami had Reggie Johnson. They have Sweet 16 ability with Reggie in the lineup.” Vitale ranks UM with North Carolina and North Carolina State in the ACC’s next tier behind Duke.

### Disconcerting: Among full-time starting centers, Chris Bosh’s rebounds-per-48 minutes (10.2) has dropped into a tie for last with Robin Lopez and ranks 33rd of 38 centers that have played enough to qualify. Backup Joel Anthony (9.6) is even worse – 36th of 38. Here’s some good news: Last season for Denver, news Heat addition Chris Andersen was 10th among 109 power forwards in rebounds per 48 minutes, at 14.6.

### For the highlights of Jeff Ireland’s briefing, see Adam Beasley’s story on the home page. Some other snippets: Ireland sounds willing to get more out of free agency than last year, speaking of "[utilizing] some of our cap space to bring some veteran players." Besides craving playmakers on offense, he said: “We’ve got to find guys that are disrupting the passer, disrupting the receiver getting into the route.”

He called Anthony Fasano “a great pro”; said he was “proud” of guard John Jerry (“he certainly is athletic enough; still has a big arrow”) and praised Ryan Tannehill but said he has a “long way to go” and wants improvement from him in four areas: “accuracy, ball placement, getting the ball out faster and tempo.”

### The Dolphins gave assistant coaches one-year extensions, through 2014. Joe Philbin’s deal, with four years left, wasn’t changed.

### Besides Matt Capps and Chad Durbin, the Marlins – who want to sign a reliever – also are talking to 6-11 Jon Rauch, who has 36 saves over the past three years.... Tampa, late today, signed former Marlins closer Juan Carlos "Don't call me Leo Nunez" Oviedo, who's coming off Tommy John surgery. The Marlins had no interest in bringing him back.

January 21, 2013

Ireland addresses a few issues; Dolphins, Canes, Marlins quick hits

A couple quick things from Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland's briefing with reporters this afternoon at the Senior Bowl:

### He said he wants to re-sign Reggie Bush and Jake Long (though it's clear Miami won't overpay for either). He called the Long talks "a very complex negotiation."

### He said Miami will use all avenues to improve, including free agency, and that he and Joe Philbin discuss free agent options daily.

### He admitted the Dolphins need to add playmakers and was blunt about the months ahead: "This is the year we've got to do something. This is a big offseason for us. We understand that."

### He predicted Michael Egnew "is going to have a good season" in 2013 -- and that Miami hasn't given up on him.

### He was very complimentary of Ryan Tannehill, especially his composure, and pointed to the Seattle comeback as what he's capable of. "We've got to get him help," Ireland said.

### He strongly praised Pat Devlin, suggesting the Dolphins might consider him as a No. 2 if Matt Moore leaves, which wouldn't surprise the Dolphins.

(Our Adam Beasley is in Mobile and will have a full story soon.)

### The Dolphins have a large contigent at the Senior Bowl, headed by Ireland and Philbin, but the odds aren't good that Miami's first-round pick will come from the group of players convening this week in Mobile.

Three players at the game could be picked in Miami's range at No. 12 or within 10 picks after that: North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams (wouldn't make sense at No. 12), Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher (even if Jake Long leaves, it would be a shame if Miami used another high pick on an offensive lineman) and BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.

Most mock drafts have Ansah in the 18 to 24 range, but he could rise because he's incredibly gifted and has considerable pass-rush potential. Mel Kiper compares him with Jason Pierre Paul. So Ansah isn't out of the question at No. 12, especially if Randy Starks leaves via free agency and Miami moves Jared Odrick to tackle.

Dozens of potential second, mid-round and late-round picks will be under inspection by Ireland and his scouts this week. Among the receivers to keep an eye on: Baylor's Terrance Williams (No. 12 is too high but it's highly unlikely he falls to Miami's next pick at 42), Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton (104 catches, 1392 yards, 13 TDs this past season), Oregon State's Markus Wheaton (speed has been compared with Mike Wallace), Texas A&M's Ryan Swope (nobody should be surprised if Miami adds another Aggie) and Elon's under-the-radar Aaron Mellette.

### Of the four prominent uncommitted players who visited UM this past weekend (Jaynard Bostwick, Alex Collins, Denver Kirkland and Keith Bryant), Miami has reason to feel most optimistic about Bostwick, a defensive tackle, and Kirkland, an offensive tackle. Arkansas, which has assistant coach Randy Shannon helping recruit South Florida, is making a strong push for Collins and Kirkland, with both scheduled to visit Arkansas' campus in the next couple of weeks.

### The Marlins plan to scout an upcoming audition for former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb, 33, who hasn't appeared in the big leagues since 2009 because of shoulder problems. 


As we have referenced in recent months, the NCAA has been trying hard for months to pin something on former UM coach Frank Haith, according to multiple people who are or have been involved with the UM basketball program.

Apparently, they have, according to a report from CBSSportsline.com.

CBS reported Monday afternoon that Haith, now the Missouri coach, is expected to be charged with unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

A source told CBS that the NCAA was unable to prove anyone paid $10,000 to a DeQuan Jones family member -- a claim made by Nevin Shapiro. But Haith will be charged with unethical conduct because the NCAA did not believe his story that payments to his former UM assistants intended for camp money did not wind up going to repay Shapiro.

According to CBS, Haith also will be charged with a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance due to impermissible airline travel given to the family of two UM players from a member of his UM staff, and also because of the interaction between Shapiro and players while on recruiting visits.

Haith might get a "show-cause" penalty, but it's unclear how that will affect his status at Missouri.

The report said Haith's former UM assistants - Jorge Fernandez, Jake Morton and Michael Schwartz - also will receive unethical conduct charges. Haith took none of them with him to Missouri, which caused some hard feelings.

Fernandez lost his job at Marshall because of the NCAA investigation. Morton has a non-coaching job in the Western Kentucky basketball program, and Schwartz is a Fresno State assistant.

All of the coaches can defend themselves in front of the NCAA's infractions committee before receiving their penalty.

UM's Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson were suspended last season reportedly because Fernandez gave impermissible travel benefits to Johnson's mother and Scott's AAU coach. In one case, Fernandez used frequent flyer miles to pay for transportation.

A source told me in recent days that the NCAA tried to get one of Haith's former assistants to give incriminating information about Haith.

As noted in our last post, John Wall's former AAU coach, Brian Clifton, was questioned by the NCAA late last year and insisted that while Clifton visited Shapiro's home, Wall was not with him and never interacted with Shapiro.

The CBS report also said that UM was supposed to get its notice of allegations on Tuesday but the NOA could be withheld for another week or two because of procedural issues.