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29 posts from October 2014

October 30, 2014

A college football playoff primer

Buzz posts will resume in a week or so. In the meantime, here's my in-depth look at the new college football playoff system. Speak to all of you soon...

After years of clamoring for a college football playoff, fans get their wish this season and for at least the next 11 after that.

But it might not be exactly what many of you had in mind.

An 8- or 16-team tournament would have been more inclusive and potentially more captivating, but college presidents instead opted for a four-team, three-game playoff system which they believe will be an improvement over the Bowl Championship Series.

Unlike the BCS, which was in place from 1998 through last season, there will be two national semifinal games, with the winners advancing to the championship. And unlike the BCS, a committee --- not a convoluted and confusing computer formula --- will determine the participants.

The College Football Playoff (CFP), which has set up its headquarters in Dallas, might not be immune from controversy, however.

If one team hypothetically finishes unbeaten and six finish with one loss, the committee will need to somehow decide which of the one-loss teams to invite to the four-team playoff and which to exclude, considering factors such as strength of schedule and common opponents.

The committee will release a top 25 poll every Tuesday for the next six weeks, beginning last night. 

Some questions and answers on the new system:

### How will the committee select the four teams invited to the playoffs?

The process will be similar to the one used for selecting schools for the NCAA basketball tournament.

Beyond won-loss record, the CFP says it will consider strength of schedule, conference championships won, head-to-head competition, comparative outcomes against common opponents “and other relevant factors that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance.”

The CFP says committee members “will have flexibility to examine whatever data they believe is relevant. They will also review a significant amount of game video.”

### Are there any conference restrictions regarding what four teams can be selected?

No. There is no limit to the number of teams that can be chosen from one conference, unlike the BCS system. The committee will select the top four teams and seed them, with the top-seeded team playing the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 seed meeting the No. 3 seed.

### So who’s on this committee?

A mix of prominent people who have been involved in college athletics, plus former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former AirForceAcademy superintendent Michael C. Gould.

The others on the inaugural committee: Athletic directors at Arkansas (Jeff Long), Southern California (Pat Haden), Clemson (Dan Radakovich), West Virginia (Oliver Luck) and Wisconsin (Barry Alvarez). 

Also serving: former NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt; former USA Today college football reporter Steve Wieberg, ex-Stanford/Notre Dame/Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese and former Nebraska coach and athletic director Tom Osborne.

Former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, one of 13 people originally named to the committee, said he will not participate this season because of a medical issue. So the committee will have 12 members this season.

Most committee members will have three-year terms, but some will serve a shorter or longer term to allow for a rotation of members. The committee members won’t be paid, but their expenses will be reimbursed.

### But what about potential conflicts of interest with the committee members? Will schools with committee members have an advantage over others?

That’s not supposed to happen. Committee members will be recused from voting on a team if they or an immediate family member works for the school “or has a professional relationship with that school.”

They cannot be present for deliberations about their schools but they can be asked questions about their schools.

That means all of the current or former athletic directors will not be able to vote on their current or most recent school. Also, Gould will not be permitted to vote on Air Force (his alma mater) and Rice will not be allowed to vote on Stanford, where she has served as a professor and provost.

### When will the committee start releasing polls?

The committee’s ranking of 25 teams will be released every Tuesday night on ESPN for six consecutive weeks, beginning this week. 

The two national semifinal matchups will be announced at 12:45 p.m. on Dec. 7, and the final top 25 poll --and the matchups for the other marquee bowl games --- will be disclosed at 2:45 p.m.

### So what happens to the Associated Press poll?

It will continue to be released, but unlike past years, it no longer will have any bearing in determining a champion. Nor will the computer rankings that were used by the BCS. Only the CFP committee’s poll will carry weight in determining matchups.

### When will the semifinal games be played and what network will televise them?

Both semifinals will be played on the same day, either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. This season’s semifinals will be on Jan. 1 in New Orleans and Pasadena, Cal.

The championship game will be played on a Monday night, with the 2015 game scheduled for Jan. 12 in Arlington, Tx.

ESPN will carry both semifinals and the championship game for all 12 years of the contract.

### Where will be the semifinal games be played?

The semifinals will alternate among six bowls: The Orange (South Florida), Sugar (New Orleans), Rose (Pasadena, Cal.), Cotton (Arlington, Tx.), Fiesta (Glendale, Ariz.) and Peach (Atlanta), with each hosting four semifinals over the next 12 years.

The Orange Bowl semifinals will be played on Dec. 31 in 2015, 2018, 2021 and 2024.

### And where the championship game will be played?

Three championship games have been awarded: to North Texas in 2015, Glendale, Ariz. in 2016 and Tampa in 2017.

### Will Sun Life Stadium get a championship game?

Possibly. Sun Life (and several other stadiums) lost out to Tampa for the 2017 game, but South Florida plans to bid for the championship in years it’s not hosting a semifinal. Cities are not permitted to host the title game and a semifinal during the same season.

Sun Life Stadium officials hope South Florida’s attractive winter climate, the ongoing renovations to the stadium and the region’s rich college football history will help it snag at least one title game during the 12-year contract.

But competition is stiff, both from the five other bowl cities in the playoff rotation, and several other markets that are not, including Tampa, the San Francisco Bay Area, Minneapolis, San Antonio, Orlando, Indianapolis and Jacksonville.

If Sun Life Stadium is awarded a championship game at some point during the 12 years, it would also host the Orange Bowl that year.

### How will it be decided which playoff teams will play in which bowls?

Geography will be considered, especially for the top two seeds. For example, when the national semifinals are played in the Orange and Cotton Bowls --- which will happen next season --- the Seminoles most likely would be sent to the Orange Bowl if they are the No. 1 seed.

### How will matchups be decided for the marquee bowls that aren’t hosting national semifinals?

In the case of the “contract” bowls (Orange, Rose and Sugar), the bowls and the conferences with which they are contracted will determine the matchups, based on the selection committee’s final poll.

For example, in the eight years when it does not host a national semifinal game, the Orange Bowl will get the ACC champion.

If the ACC champ is involved in the playoffs, the OB instead would get the next-highest-ranked ACC team in the final CFP poll against the highest ranked non-champion from the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame.

The champion (or next-highest ranked) teams from the Big 10 and Pac-12 will meet in the Rose, and the Big 12 and SEC will square off in the Sugar.

For the “host” bowls (Cotton, Fiesta and Peach) the matchups will be determined by the selection committee.

### OK, so we know the Orange Bowl will have an ACC team during the eight years when it doesn’t host a semifinal. But who will the opponent be?

The opponent generally will be the highest-ranked available team from the SEC (but not the conference champion), Big 10 (but not the conference champion) or Notre Dame, based upon the selection committee’s rankings.

But here’s the catch: Notre Dame cannot be selected for the OB more than twice over those eight years. Also, the SEC and Big Ten each must have at least three OB appearances over those eight years.

So there might be some years when the ACC team isn’t playing the highest-ranked available team from the SEC, Big 10 or Notre Dame.

### But if the Orange Bowl ends up with a regular-season rematch, can it force the committee to come up with a different matchup?

Yes, but all involved parties (ACC, Big Ten, SEC, Notre Dame and the Orange Bowl) must agree. If it’s an attractive matchup, the OB wouldn’t necessarily oppose a rematch.

### Will the Orange Bowl continue to be played at night?

Often, but not always. For its four semifinals, the games will be played at 5 or 8:30 p.m., with the committee and ESPN deciding which slot to give the Orange and which slot to give the Cotton.

For its eight non-semifinal games over the next 12 years, two will be on Dec. 30 at 8 p.m., two will be on Dec. 31 at 8 p.m., two will be on Dec. 31 at 1 p.m. and two will be on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m.

### Where does the new system leave the non-marquee conferences?

The highest-ranked champion of the other five Football Bowl Subdivision conferences (the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt), as determined by the selection committee’s final poll, will play in one of three host bowls (the Peach, Fiesta or Cotton) that are part of the national semifinal rotation.

It would be difficult to imagine a team from one of those conferences being selected for the four-team playoff, though it’s not prohibited. 

### What happens to the ACC champion during years the Orange Bowl is hosting a national semifinal?

If the ACC champion isn’t part of the four-team playoff, it would play in the Fiesta or Peach bowls.

### How often will committee members meet?

The group will meet weekly, in the Dallas area, on Mondays and Tuesdays, then will reconvene Dec. 6 to determine the playoff teams and the pairings.

### Who will select the matchups for the more than two dozen bowl games that aren’t part of the semifinal rotation?

Individual bowls will continue to select those matchups. Most have conference tie-ins.

For example, the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 22 at Marlins Park will match BYU against an American Athletic Conference team. The inaugural Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 23 at FAU Stadium will match a Conference USA team against a Mid-American Conference team.

### Why is the committee releasing polls so far in advance of selection of the four playoff teams?

"That's what the fans have become accustomed to, and we felt it would leave a void in college football without a ranking for several weeks," Long said. "Early on there was some talk that we would go into a room at the end of the season and come out with a top four, but that didn't last long.”

Each week, the ranking process will begin from scratch, with no weight given to the previous week’s rankings.

### How can fans buy tickets to the championship game?

The CFP says there are two ways: A) Through a random drawing in which 1000 tickets are made available in February of the year before the championship game.

Winners of the drawing have the right to purchase two tickets. The random drawing for this season’s title game is closed.

B) Through a “Team Tix forward market” in which 2500 tickets are made available though Nov. 24, 2014. 

Fans may make reservations to purchase tickets for any particular team, with prices determined by demand. Then if that team qualifies for the national championship, that fan will be able to purchase tickets at face value. See collegefootballplayoff.com for more information.

### Will the committee members be expected to attend games?

The CFP says “members will not be expected to attend games in person” but “they will be expected to watch video extensively.”

### How much is ESPN paying for TV rights to the CFP?

Quite a lot:  $7.3 billion for 12 years. Conversely, the most recent contract with the BCS paid almost $2 billion over four years — $495 million per year for five games.

With Brent Musburger demoted to the SEC Network, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will call the championship game for ESPN this season and for the foreseeable future.

Buzz posts will resume in a week-and-a-half.

October 29, 2014

Bill Lazor assesses Dolphins offense; Philbin's thoughts

Regular posts in this space will resume in a bit over a week. Please check back Thursday for a college football post and then please return in a bit over a week for the resumption of regular blog posts in this space. 

In the meantime, here's a look at what Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said this week, plus a few other notes:

### Lazor, on what concerns him: “We are not productive enough [in red zone offense]. It doesn’t take a lot to change it.... We have to continue to get more [chunk plays], and we have to continue to emphasize explosive passes because it’s hard to go the whole distance to make them. To me, our third-down conversions now are not great. How do you get the third downs better? You don’t get in it. You make some explosive plays one first and second (down). That will help.”

### Lazor, on why the execution in the first half has been slow: "When you look at our players, you just have to deal with the details of why did we have some problems up front early in the [Jaguars] game? Why did we have some really, I thought, simple assignment errors?... There’s no answer.

"You would think at this point of the season those things are behind you, but they weren’t. We have to deal with the reality. So I’ll take the burden for me knowing how fast the Jacksonville defense has been starting its games. Did I do a good job of getting us started? Obviously not, after the fact I can say that."

### Lazor, on Dallas Thomas, who's in line to continue filling in for guard Daryn Colledge if Colledge isn't cleared to play: "I’m really excited about Dallas Thomas going forward. When you watch him all through the preseason, I wasn’t here last year, but I saw how he played last year. I saw him in OTAs, I saw him in camp, I saw him in the preseason and I saw him when he came in the Buffalo game. I think the guy has improved every time he has played. He wasn’t perfect [Sunday], but I think he is a bright spot, and I think he has a really good future.”

### Lazor, on Brian Hartline: “I think Brian is a guy that is used to having a lot of production and he wants to contribute. He has confidence in himself and his ability to contribute and I have confidence in him. It’s a long season, so sometimes you go through little waves, up and down. If he’s frustrated with certain things right now, I have pretty good confidence that he’ll be able to channel that into being more productive. I think people around here have known Brian long enough. I don’t know if we have a harder worker on the field, at least in my history of football that’s the most important thing that will translate into production. I think it will show up.”

### CBS is sending the Dolphins-Chargers game to 67 percent of the country, with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the call. If you live outside South Florida, please see 506sports.com for a map of where the game is going.

### Joe Philbin, asked by San Diego media today about why his team has been playing better recently: "The last two games, we are plus-five in the turnover margin. I think that’s a pretty good place to start and give yourself a chance to win football games is protecting the football. The one game we lost in that stretch I think we were minus-three in the turnover margin and we lost the game on the last play of the football game to a pretty good football team.

"I think maybe our offense is starting to come together a little bit. It’s still not there, but I just think we are playing a little better overall football. I think we are tackling better on defense. I think we are protecting the ball a little better on offense. We are getting more takeaways defensively also.”

### Philbin, on what he liked about Ryan Tannehill's 50-yard throw to Mike Wallace on Sunday (besides, obviously, the fact the pass was completed): “We showed that clip to the entire team, just showing the trust there has to be between, number one, the protection that the quarterback can sit there and go through his progression, and number two, the quarterback having faith that the wide receiver is going to be at the appropriate spot at the right time.

"When you freeze the camera where Ryan was letting the ball go, Mike was totally covered. He wasn’t open at all, but they were on the same page. We got the ball in the right spot. The receiver was where he was supposed to be, and lo-and-behold you have a big play.”

### Good to hear that Dolphins special adviser Dan Marino has been watching film some with Ryan Tannehill, as Tannehill detailed today. Marino was reluctant to pop his head into meetings early in the season because he didn't want to do anything to step on the coaches' toes.

But the coaching staff has made Marino feel welcome. And Marino has attended several practices recently.

October 28, 2014

Heat notes: Deng, Granger look to recapture games; PGs, Bosh and more: Golden, D'Onofrio address issues

Heat notes as we approach Wednesday's season opener:

### Danny Granger’s knee issues the past two seasons, Luol Deng’s pedestrian play in Cleveland, and their diminished offensive efficiency leave a strong impression that the Heat’s two most pedigreed imports, especially Granger, aren’t what they used to be, that they’re on a downward arc.

But remember this: It was just 20 months ago that Deng was playing in a second consecutive All-Star Game. And it was just 2 ½ years ago that Granger was scoring 19 a game.

And neither would qualify as old: Deng is 29, Granger 31. Both spoke privately in recent days of how driven they are to regain their edge, though Granger knows his bench role will keep his scoring numbers modest.

“A lot of people have written me off with my injuries,” Granger said. “I’m highly motivated.”

With Deng, the falloff has been far more subtle --- reflected not in his scoring average (which has ranged from 15.3 to 17.6 the past five years) but in his shooting percentage, which has plunged from 47.1 in his first seven seasons to 42.4 his past three, including 41.7 during a nondescript 40-game stint for Cleveland last season. His 5.7 rebounding average in 2013-14 was his lowest since his rookie season.

“Distractions do happen but I’m talking about major things,” he said of last season’s trade from Chicago, where he spent his first nine-plus seasons. “That was the first time I had been traded and I was looking for a place to live in the middle of the season. It was a new situation that I really had a hard time with. That was the first time I had been traded. It was a new situation I really had a hard time with."

He blamed his “shooting dip” --- his 30.2 percent shooting on threes ranked among the worst for small forwards last season --- on “me playing terrible.” But he’s determined to fix it. Heat coaches have helped him with balance and footwork.

“I’ve really thought about it and I’m focused on bringing my shooting percentage up, especially the threes,” said Deng, a career 32.9 percent shooter on threes. “I’ve got to be more patient with it. When I was shooting those threes well, I was very patient with it.

“That’s what I’ve got to get back to. This year my shooting percentage should come back up because of the way we move the ball and spread the floor and the spacing. It’s getting back into being in one place and being comfortable with the situation.”

A skilled defender, Deng said he’s at his best offensively “when I’m not predictable. I want to be a guy where I slash, I cut, I get three or four baskets that way, I get a tip-in, I get two threes, I get a midrange shot, I get a basket off the post. That’s what I want to focus on, where I can help the team in so many different ways. Just walk off the floor knowing I did something today.”

Granger said he feels the healthiest he has been since knee problems limited him to 46 games the past two years.

Though he has started 425 of 556 NBA games, he’s at peace coming off the bench and said winning the NBA’s sixth man award “is definitely a goal. It’s a possibility with my role and the way I score.”

After averaging 24.1, 20.5 and 18.7 points over a three-year stretch in Indiana, he played only five games in 2012-13 and 41 with the Pacers and Clippers last season, averaging 8.2 points and shooting just 37.8 percent.

He vows to become a more efficient player here, basing his faith not only on his improved knees but also the reasons Deng cited regarding the Heat’s system.

“That’s one of the reasons I came to Miami; their team shoots 50 percent,” Granger said, aware that since-departed LeBron James was a major reason for that. “They have a lot of layups, a lot of open threes, things some other teams just don’t get, which is why they shot such a high percentage. I definitely think I will be able to do that here. I’m definitely going to be over 40 percent, probably 45, 46.”

One Heat official said of Granger: “He really is huge for us. He’s not 35. He’s 31. He has his footing again.”

Granger concedes: “I’ve probably lost a little athleticism. But I never was the fastest or jumped the highest. I always played a different type of game. I don’t think I’ve lost much.

“The only thing really stopping me the last few years was my knees. I’m definitely in my prime, definitely have a lot of good years left.”

Both Deng and Granger have the canvas to prove that here. Much rides on it financially, with both holding 2015-16 player options: Deng’s for $10.1 million, Granger’s for $2.1 million.

### A scout who has watched the Heat this preseason: “Norris Cole is a backup player, but he’s more of a natural point guard than Mario Chalmers. It might be a modest stroke of genius on Erik [Spoelstra’s] part to play Chalmers as your backup two and maximize what he does best, which is score. He’s much better than Shannon Brown as Wade’s backup.

"Shabazz Napier eventually will be the best of the three as a point guard. As a team, their talent is very comparable to Atlanta, Toronto and Brooklyn, behind Cleveland, Chicago and Washington.”

Dwyane Wade said he is imploring Chalmers to play point guard with the same type of attacking mentality he uses at shooting guard.

### Pat Riley picks his spots now when he speaks to players, but Shawne Williams said Riley firmly delivered this message to the team: “Refuse to be denied.” Riley, Williams said, also implored them “to have an edge.”

### The Heat was last in the league in rebounding last season and that again remains a concern, with Miami outrebounded by 35 in preseason.

Josh McRoberts will help when he's fully healthy, but he ranked just 37th among power forwards in rebounding last season, at 4.8 per game.

But the Heat didn’t want another year of Greg Oden, nor did it want the baggage of Andray Blatche (who signed in China) or Andrew Bynum, who is again out with knee problems.

### Jeff Van Gundy and Chris Bosh agree on this: Bosh must get to the line more.

“Put the ball on the floor and go to the freaking basket!” Rick Barry implored Bosh on WQAM last week.

Last season, Bosh took fewer free throws per game than any center/power forward that averaged as many points.

Because he has played progressively less in the post --- which he vows will change --- his free throw attempts plunged from 590 his last season in Toronto, to 471 his first season in Miami to 272 last season.

“One of the things I’m looking forward to is getting to the free throw line a lot more and shooting 90 percent,” said Bosh, a career 80 percent free-throw shooter.

### In 12 Nevada casinos, the Heat is 35 to 1 to win the title, the 10th shortest odds but behind the Knicks (30 to 1) and Wizards (30 to 1), among others.

### When the Heat meets the Wizards in its season opener Wednesday, Washington will be without injured guard Bradley Beal and suspended power rotation players Nene and DeJuan Blair.


### UM coach Al Golden said today that he's gotten involved recently in play-calling on offense and defense.

"On the fourth and two from the two, that's my call and it didn't go so well the other night," he said.
"Georgia Tech fourth and one from the 30, again that was me. There's a lot of those, and timeouts, constantly going back and forth trying to communicate, share what we see, plot a course for each series. People think it's about the game, it's really about each series, how they're playing, certain groupings, formations and [then the coach decides] how you are going to approach the next series."

### Golden, on emerging linebacker Jermaine Grace: "His preparation has been better, his maturity and poise has been better, his confidence. Being more vocal in the meeting rooms to show he knows what he's doing and is confident and can bring that to the game. All those things are starting to happen. He's going to play a pivotal role because... we do need his ability to change direction and break on the ball and his speed in games."

### Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said one reason UM has improved defensively is "we've had fewer mental errors each week since the beginning of the season while playing more guys. That's a good sign that guys are learning the defense and we're bringing guys along. We've improved our depth and knowledge and our execution of the scheme. That's the biggest thing."

### D'Onofrio calls North Carolina, which visits Sun Life Stadium on Saturday, "the best team we've played, no doubt, on offense."

### D'Onofrio, on walk-on safety Nantambu Fentress, who had nine tackes against Virginia Tech: "I love the guy. He's been unbelievable. He's been fun to coach. I've always challenged him: 'You can be more than a special teams guy, you can be a starter here, don't sell yourself short. You're tough, you're smart, you're competitive. Don't ever take a back seat to anybody.' I just knew at some point that he'd be a hard guy to keep out of the lineup."

### Susan Miller Degnan and Manny Navarro have a blog on the UM page about UM's latest injury, to left tackle Ereck Flowers. Please see their story about that.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

October 27, 2014

Monday 1 p.m.: Philbin's remarks; Lineup decisions, Jordan, Tannehill, other notes; UM and UF TV news

1 p.m. update:

Some comments from Joe Philbin and others during this afternoon's day-after-game press briefing:

### Philbin: "We have to make a lot of corrections. We need to play better, which I'm confident we will.... I didn't think our third-down passing game was very good. That has to get better.... You never want to give the ball away at the five yard line, like we did late in the game.... The production overall offensively wasn't good enough."

### Philbin, on the Dolphins allowing seven sacks in the past two games, said "there have been some shortcomings" in blocking but that Ryan Tannehill could have gotten the ball out more quickly once or twice.

### Philbin, on his reaction to some of his players being upset about Sunday's performance: "Some wise man said dissatisfaction is the basis of all progress. It's good. [But] I told the team there's no need to apologize for the game. We made some plays when we had to."

### Philbin said his defense spends "a lot" of time on interception returns. "There's semi-art to it," he said. The Dolphins had two interception returns for touchdowns Sunday, by Louis Delmas and Brent Grimes.

### Philbin said Jonathan Freeny, who had a sack, "quietly has been making a lot of progress. He's gotten better."

### Is Philbin worried that Koa Misi's ankle could be an issue all season? "I hope not," he said.... Philbin had no update on Daryn Colledge's migraine issues. 

### Kevin Coyle said Dion Jordan "played well for his first opportunity back. I thought he gave really good effort and made an impact on special teams as well as on defense."

Coyle said Jordan played some on first down "because he's gotten bigger and stronger. We planned on having a pretty good rotation with our front people."

### Coyle: "I don't think we played poorly against the run. I think we can play better against the run.... Koa's activity, his physicalness we miss. [But Jason Trusnik] did a good job."


10 a.m.: A few Dolphins items:

### Dion Jordan ended up playing 42 percent of the team’s defensive snaps Sunday --- 30 in all, as coaches mixed and matched defensive linemen and often played only two linebackers. Jordan finished with two tackles on defense and one on special teams.

Here’s how defensive snaps were spread out among Miami’s defensive ends: Cam Wake played 46 (of 71 possible downs), Derrick Shelby 38, Olivier Vernon 37, Jordan 30, Terrence Fede 9 and Chris McCain 7.

Among the team’s defensive tackles, Jared Odrick played the most, as usual, with 55. Randy Starks had 34 and Earl Mitchell 33. And, as usual, some of Shelby’s snaps were at tackle.

### Whether it’s a coincidence or not, Philip Wheeler’s playing time has plummeted since he was beaten for a touchdown pass in the closing seconds of the Green Bay game.

After playing just 11 snaps against Chicago, Wheeler logged just 14 against Jacksonville. Surprisingly, journeyman reserve Kelvin Sheppard played 17, by comparison. And Jonathan Freeney, who had a sack, played six snaps.

Jelani Jenkins played 66 of 71 possible snaps, and Jason Trusnik --– filling in for Koa Misi at middle linebacker --- played 53. For the second week in a row, the Dolphins often played with only two linebackers --- a move that left Wheeler on the bench for much of the game.

### Beyond the starters, the Dolphins split their fifth-defensive back duties between Jamar Taylor (32 snaps) and Michael Thomas (23). Will Davis played seven snaps and Walt Aikens played five late in the game.

### Brent Grimes (interception return for touchdown) and Cortland Finnegan again had solid days. Both allowed completions on two of four passes thrown against them, for 19 and 26 yards, respectively.

### Offensively, the Dolphins had four three-and-outs after having just seven (a league low) in their first six games.

Also troubling: Ryan Tannehill has been sacked seven times in the past two games after being dropped 10 times in the first five games.

Two of the three sacks Sunday were allowed by Daryn Colledge, who played just 10 snaps before leaving with a migraine. Pro Football Focus blamed the other sack on Ja’Wuan James, who has allowed just two through seven games of his rookie season.

### The good news on Tannehill: He finally completed a deep ball, the 50-yarder to Mike Wallace. The bad news: On throws of 10 yards or more, he was just 3 for 9 Sunday (for 107 yards).

### Tannehill targeted Wallace seven times but just two were caught…. Brian Hartline, who was targeted four times, had more drops (two) than receptions (one).

### Here’s how the Dolphins split their 59 offensive snaps at receiver: Wallace and Hartline each had 45, Jarvis Landry 31, Brandon Gibson 27 and Rishard Matthews 16.

### Among running backs, Lamar Miller got 43 snaps, Daniel Thomas 16 and Damien Williams none.

### The Dolphins rested Mike Pouncey as a precaution for their final 15 offensive snaps…. Dallas Thomas ended up playing 48 snaps and Nate Garner 15 in relief of Colledge and Pouncey.

### Pro Football Focus gave the Dolphins’ highest offensive grade to Dion Sims, who played 25 snaps. (Charles Clay played 47.)

### It appears that it’s going to be more difficult to make the playoffs than last season, when the Dolphins could have snuck in at 9-7 if they had beaten the Jets.

The problem is that there are 11 teams in the AFC with winning records, plus Houston at 4-4. If the Patriots (6-2) win the division, the Dolphins (4-3) likely would be competing with San Diego, Kansas City, Buffalo, Houston and three AFC North teams  (we exclude the division winner here) for two wild card spots. That makes a win vital on Sunday against the Chargers.


### CBS-4 picked up the ACC Network's telecast of UM-North Carolina at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. If the game exceeds three hours --- as most college football games do --- CBS-4 will switch the start of CBS' coverage of the 3:30 p.m. UF-Georgia game to Channel 33, then move the Gators game to CBS 4 once the UM game is over.

Quick broadcast note: In major markets metered by Nielsen, the Green Bay-New Orleans game had an 11.4 rating Sunday night, compared with an 8.2 for the competing World Series game.

That 39 percent difference is the NFL's largest margin of victory in five head-to-head matchups between World Series games and Sunday night football over the years, according to NBC.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

October 25, 2014

Van Gundy, Collins, Isiah, Miller assess Heat; Dolphins, Hurricanes, Marlins chatter


With the start of the NBA season days away, where does the post-LeBron Heat stack up in the East?

I asked four TV analysts off the air and here's what they told me:

### ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy: “Cleveland and Chicago are the favorites, but I like Miami as well as anybody after that. It’s a 45-to-50 win team with a real chance to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. They will guard and share the ball and won't beat themselves. They will be very solid playoff contender. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are going to have great years.

“The last four years have been hard to take the second role for Wade. He’s still a great player and I see him playing in the 70s [as far of number of games]. I don’t see him diminishing in skill. I love Josh McRoberts, and Luol Deng is still very good.

If their team had come back intact, it would have been hard for them to be as excited about the process as they are now. There are a lot of people who will feel the responsibility to play well and that sense of responsibility will grow after you lose a great player.”

There’s another reason Van Gundy is bullish on the Heat: “Great coaches find every possible way to energize a team. Erik Spoelstra proved he was a great coach the first two years when Wade and Udonis Haslem were his best players and they made the playoffs. His finest hour as an NBA coach will be the next four or five years and he will prove he can take the loss of James and put out an outstanding team.”

Van Gundy said even though the James/Kevin Love/Kyrie Irving trio is “clearly the best trio in the East, are you sure that the Bulls’ top three of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and [Pau Gasol] is better than the Heat’s top three?”

Van Gundy isn’t certain of that because of Rose’s health.

“Miami will match up well [with Chicago],” he said. But “barring major injuries, I can't see Chicago or Cleveland not finding a way to the Eastern Conference Finals.”

### NBA TV’s Isiah Thomas: He asserts this Heat team is comparable in talent to the 1993-94 Bulls, who overcame Michael Jordan’s baseball-inspired retirement the previous offseason to win 55 games and finish third in the conference with a cast of Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc, Horace Grant and role players, before losing in the second round to New York.

“This Heat team is similar to that Chicago team,” Thomas said. “They have championship intelligence, like the Bulls did. They’re still one of the two top or three teams in the East. If Derrick Rose is healthy, Chicago is the favorite because they have a defensive mindset and you have to give Chicago the edge [over Cleveland] from a coaching standpoint. There will be a learning curve for Cleveland to get on the same page.

“But the Heat isn’t going to go away. Dwyane will figure out how to help this team win. They have PHDs in championship basketball.”

And Thomas predicts Mario Chalmers will blossom in his new combo role of point guard and backup shooting guard.

### ESPN’s Doug Collins: He ranks the Heat between third and sixth in the conference, clearly behind Cleveland and Chicago and nestled in a tier with Washington, Toronto and Charlotte, but ahead of Brooklyn and Atlanta.

But he said he doesn’t believe this Heat team is as good as the aforementioned 1993-94 Bulls.

“I would not make that comparison,” Collins said. “I don’t see anyone on that team being as great as Scottie Pippen. Those teams played together a long time.”

Also, Collins has concerns about Wade’s health.

“I don’t know if there is a team with more questions marks than the Heat,” he said.

“I like the names on paper but they are older and Wade missed 28 games last season. How can they be the team they want to be if he misses 28 games? How many is he going to miss? Can Bosh go from a No. 3 to a No. 1 option? He can no longer be just a spot-up shooter.

“I love Luol Deng and how hard he plays. But how much mileage does he have on his legs? Can his efficiency be lifted?”

He likes the McRoberts pickup --– “very good playmaker, has a nasty side to him” --- but said Danny Granger “is not mobile enough to defend small forwards any more. He’s a hybrid four. Maybe he can be Rashard Lewis for them.”

### TNT’s Reggie Miller: “They will be competing for one of those top four slots. I could see them easily slipping as low as sixth possibly. You don’t get to four straight NBA Finals, winning two of them, without some championship resolve.

"To have Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, Chris Bosh, and then to add Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng…these are guys that understand what winning is all about. Are they still going to be that championship force? No, but they understand what it will take to compete at the highest level. A veteran team like that… knows how to win.”

### News note: The Heat reduced its roster to the maximum permitted 15 by cutting UNLV rookie center Khem Birch. The Heat instead kept rookie shooting guard Andre Dawkins, who shot 7 of 12 on threes in pre-season after shooting 42.1 percent on three-pointers for Duke last season.


### Against every team Miami has played this season, an opposing coach or player has gone up to Jarvis Landry to praise him, Landry tells us.

“But I’m nowhere near my potential,” he insists.

Remember that pre-draft criticism of Landry’s speed?

“I hope they keep underestimating my speed,” he said. “Thirty one teams passed on me because of my speed. I don’t consider myself one of the fastest guys, but I have good enough speed to separate and make plays.”

Brian Hartline said Landry "puts a lot of pressure on himself," so much so that "at times we tell him good job, and it’s still not good enough for him."

### Where has Ryan Tannehill most improved?

For starters, he’s making faster decisions, which was a point of emphasis after Bill Lazor’s hiring.

When given 2.5 seconds or less to throw, he has a 94.8 passer rating and 69.6 completion percentage, compared with 84.8 and 65.3 last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Also, on intermediate throws across the middle (10 to 19 yards), his passer rating is an astounding 130.1 --- 47 points higher than those same throws last year.

### For those concerned about Tannehill possibly getting injured on read option plays, keep in mind that the Dolphins don't seem to be.

Tannehill and Joe Philbin indicated they're not worried about it, and Philbin hasn’t placed a per-game limit on how many times Tannehill runs the read-option.

Philbin said he was fine with Tannehill fighting through tacklers for extra yards on one long run against Chicago. But he likes him to slide when he's about to take a direct hit.

### Jelani Jenkins has been so impressive that even Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, between quarters of their recent game, told him to keep up the good work.

### Philbin has been spending Thursday nights watching the final minutes of close NFL games from the week before, hoping to “learn” things he should and shouldn’t do based on their success rate in other games.

### The Dolphins have cut and re-signed a bunch of players over the years (former offensive lineman Ray Feinga is the modern day poster child for that), but Daniel Thomas might be the rare player who looks better his second time around. He’s averaging 5.4 yards on 14 carries and 14.2 yards on five receptions.

During his time away, he changed his number (from 33 to 30) hoping it would change his luck, and bemoaned that he didn’t pursue a career at safety (Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops thought he would be a good one) instead of running back.

“When I was [unemployed for a month], I started questioning the whole thing, got down on myself,” said Thomas, who's averaging much more than 3.7 yards per carry for the first time since his Kansas State days. “People don’t understand how hard it is. My dad was getting impatient, calling my agent, asking what’s going on.”


### The Marlins front office will meet with Jeffrey Loria this week to finalize an offseason plan, which likely will include trying to add a pitcher and first baseman (Adam LaRoche --- whose $15 million Nationals option is expected to be declined --- is among several hitters who likely will get a call from the Marlins during free agency).

Only one Marlin, catcher Jeff Mathis, has a player option; his agent said the Marlins indicated they likely will exercise it, at $1.5 million.

### MLB.com said the Marlins might need to move in the fences at Marlins Park to increase the chances of Giancarlo Stanton accepting a multiyear offer. But the Marlins do not want to do that.

Stanton hit .310 with 24 homers and 67 RBI at home this season (much better than his road numbers) but has said he still would prefer the fences be closer.

### Among ACC schools, Clemson ranks second, FSU ninth and UM 14th in rivals.com's rating of oral commitments for the 2015 football signing class.

### An AFC scout who believes this UM team had underachieved --- before Thursday --- lists four Hurricanes players in his top 100 draft-eligible prospects: juniors Duke Johnson and Ereck Flowers and seniors Denzel Perryman and Philip Dorsett.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

October 24, 2014

Friday afternoon report: 15 Dolphins notes: Parcells, injuries, Philbin's self-analysis; Golden's Friday thoughts

Bill Parcells has plenty to say about his 2 ½ year tenure as the Dolphins’ executive vice president of football operations in his biography, Parcells: A Football Life, that’s due for release on Tuesday.

Among the revelations:

### Parcells, who was hired by H. Wayne Huizenga before Huizenga sold the team a year later, indicated he never felt as comfortable working with Stephen Ross as he did with Huizenga.

The book, which was written in the third person by Nunyo Demasio, calls Ross called a “neophyte owner.” He said he received $6 million for serving as a consultant for the final 16 months of his Dolphins contract.

### Parcells, who selected Jake Long with the first pick of the 2008 draft instead of Matt Ryan, said he didn’t believe there was much difference in the NFL potential among Ryan, Joe Flacco and Chad Henne (who was the Dolphins’ second-round pick that year).

He said he opted for Long partly because of financial issues associated with selecting a quarterback first overall, as well as Ryan’s interceptions during his senior season at Boston College.

### Parcells, who left the Dolphins during the 2010 season, said Ross told him four times that he wanted to work toward securing his future with the team but “he never ever does it,… never seems to have the time.”

### Parcells was open to coaching the Dolphins in 2003 but Huizenga was committed to Dave Wannstedt. So Parcells took the Dallas job instead. A high-powered middle man tried to push Huizenga to hire Parcells.

### Parcells didn’t like that Ross brought his “entourage” into the locker-room after games, and Ross apologized after they spoke about the issue. But Parcells liked that Ross was willing to spend money and that he didn’t meddle in football decisions.

### Parcells indicated former general manager Jeff Ireland praised quarterback Pat White before the Dolphins regrettably drafted him 44th overall in 2009. But Parcells took responsibility for the pick.

Ross, asked about the book, said in a statement Friday: "I haven’t read the book but I appreciate all of Bill’s work during his time with the team.”


The Dolphins listed safety Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) as doubtful for Sunday’s game at Jacksonville and linebacker Koa Misi (ankle) as questionable.

Nine Dolphins were listed as probable: Brandon Albert, Charles Clay, Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, John Denney, Jared Odrick, Samson Satele, Dion Sims and Philip Wheeler.

### Jacksonville listed cornerback Allan Ball and defensive end Andre Branch as out for Sunday. The Jaguars’ other starting cornerback, Dwayne Gratz, is questionable.

Jacksonville also will be without Pro Bowl linebacker Paul Posluszny, who was placed on injured reserve this week with a torn pectoral muscle.

Jacksonville is third in the league with 22 sacks but will be without Branch (three sacks) and Posluszny (two).

### The Dolphins will need to make a roster move by 4 p.m. Saturday if they decide to activate Dion Jordan for Sunday’s game. Joe Philbin said Jordan, who returned from a six-game suspension, “looks good” and “hasn’t had any setbacks whatsoever.”

Jordan said he worked with a trainer during his suspension and maintained the same weight throughout (265 pounds).


### It’s surprising that the Dolphins have made no effort so far to re-sign valuable Jared Odrick, who grades out well both against the run and as a pass-rusher, ranks 13th of 72 defensive tackles (per Pro Football Focus) and has played the most of Miami’s tackles (335 snaps to Earl Mitchell’s 210 and Randy Starks’ 189).

Cam Wake said Odrick had Miami’s highest defensive grade against Chicago. Odrick assuredly will have several suitors in free agency next spring, if the Dolphins don't get him signed before then.

“It’s tough not to think about, but it’s part of my job to put it aside,” Odrick said of impending free agency. “I’m excited about the future and what may come. I’d love to be in Miami longterm.”

Still, he made clear that team goals are his primary concern. "I'm tired of woulda, shoulda, coulda," he said of the Dolphins falling short of postseason in recent years. "Let's solidify ourselves as a contender."

### Though Philbin praised Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blake Bortles this week, the third overall draft pick has struggled.

Bortles’ 70.2 passer rating is second-worst in the league, ahead of only Minnesota rookie Teddy Bridgewater, and Bortles has thrown a league-leading 10 interceptions, compared with five touchdown passes.

### Sunday will present opportunities for the Dolphins’ pass-rushers against a Jaguars team that has allowed a league-high 29 sacks.

The Dolphins are tied for 12th in the league with 17 sacks. Cameron Wake is tied for 13th with 4.5 sacks and Olivier Vernon is tied for 28th with 3.5.

### Speaking about the Dolphins’ improved offensive line play, right guard Mike Pouncey said: “We have to give most of our credit to our new offensive line coach John Benton. He’s been doing a great job, him and [assistant] Jack Bicknell. They brought in some different techniques we’ve been using and he grinds us and makes us the players we are.”

Does Pouncey miss playing center? “Of course. I was so good at it,” he said. “But it doesn’t bother me at all. I like the way the five guys gel together, the rotation we have now.”


### Philbin was asked this week if he believes he needs to be less conservative as a coach. Philbin pointed out that he went for a touchdown on fourth and goal against Green Bay, though the play failed.

“There’s no question I’ve got to do a better job and I plan on doing that,” he said. “I don’t know that it’s linked to being too conservative.”

Philbin was then asked what specifically he needs to do better.

“Getting the team to play consistently well, finishing games better, executing better, getting our turnover margin on the plus side,” he said. “We’re even in the turnover margin. There’s a long list. We don’t have enough time on this phone call for all of the things I’ve got to do better.”

### The Jaguars have several players/coaches with University of Miami ties, including undrafted rookie receiver Allen Hurns (19 catches, 305 yards, three touchdowns), starting rookie right guard Brandon Linder (selected 93rd overall this past May), offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, running backs coach Terry Richardson and practice squad quarterback Stephen Morris.

### Speaking of former Canes, new Dolphins practice squad receiver LaRon Byrd was pleased to see familiar faces in the locker-room: Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon.

The Cowboys released Byrd from their practice squad Oct. 9 after he broke his arm in practice. Byrd made a fast recovery, and the Dolphins signed him Tuesday.

### Philbin, on Mike Wallace saying the Dolphins need to take some shots down the field: “What a surprise! I can’t believe he would say that.”

But seriously… “I want us to have more explosive plays in our offense, without a doubt,” Philbin said. “But that always doesn’t mean throwing the ball 50 yards down the field. Explosive plays for us are a 16-yard pass or more. I’m not opposed to vertical routes. I love them. We work on them awful hard.”

### Philbin, on Wallace: “The biggest thing I’ve noticed is just his work ethic around here, his comfort around here, I just think he feels better about being a Miami Dolphin. I know that sounds crazy, but I think it’s translated and helped him on the field. I really do. He’s got five touchdowns in six games.”

### Philbin said he told Lamar Miller this week: “We’re going to get you to pop loose there and really break one and show your speed.”

### Former UM cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke was among several players who auditioned for the Dolphins this week.


Al Golden addressed a few topics on a conference call this afternoon, a day after UM’s 30-6 pounding of Virginia Tech on Thursday:

### He said Joe Yearby, who missed the game with a hamstring, will be fine. Juwon Young, who sustained a hamstring injury late in the first half, is also fine, Golden said.

### He said receiver Herb Waters wasn’t a factor in the game because “we ran the ball close to 400 yards. It was a function of personnel groups.”

### Golden had a lot to like: “We didn’t miss many tackles. Everyone was directing the ball to where it needed to be, to the linebacker or safety. The pass rush was good. I wish we could have finished it with a couple more sacks.”

### Golden said he asked the tight ends and Walter Tucker “to block for three hours, and they did it pridefully and did it really well.”

### Golden loves how much Raphael Kirby has improved: “His preparation is through the roof. He’s playing mike and will for us. It goes back to him being mature, being unselfish for us. His production over the last month has been really, really good. I can’t say enough about the direction he’s going.”

### Please see the last post for thoughts, notes and reaction from last night's Hurricanes game.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

October 23, 2014

Postscripts, reaction, thoughts from UM's 30-6 thrashing of Virginia Tech

Postscripts from UM’s 30-6 thumping of Virginia Tech on Thursday night:

### This felt like we stepped into a time machine and arrived just past the turn of the century, as if we were watching the fast, physical, punch-you-in-the-mouth, destroy-everything-in-their-path Canes circa 2002.

Duke Johnson was stupendous: 29 carries for 249 yards (8.6 per carry), easily surpassing his previous career high in rushing yards (186) and equaling Lorenzo Roan’s mark for the third-highest rushing total in UM history.

The only player with more rushing yards in a game for the Hurricanes? Edgerrin James, who scampered for 299 against UCLA in 1998 and rumbled for 271 yards in another game. Johnson is the first Canes player to top 200 yards on the ground since Willis McGahee ran for 2005 against Virginia Tech in 2002.

WQAM's Josh Darrow said Johnson left with a slightly twisted ankle but is fine; Al Golden said afterward that Johnson isn't injured. 

"That was one of the toughest running backs we've ever had to tackle," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said.

Beamer, asked about Johnson being the best running back he has seen this season, told reporters afterward: "Not only all season. Forever."

Golden, on WQAM: "The running backs hit the holes where it needs to be hit. You can't teach what Duke was doing in the second level. He's fun to watch right now and we have the privilege of watching him every day."

### Johnson’s exemplary work wasn’t the least bit surprising; we almost take his greatness for granted.

What was surprising, almost shocking, was this dominant defensive effort, the likes of which we have never witnessed from UM in a road game during the Al Golden era.

As we noted in our analysis of UM’s defense on Sunday, UM entered this game having allowed 33.7 points, on average, in its 14 ACC road games under Golden. Never had UM, under Golden, allowed fewer than 23 points in a conference road game.

Until tonight.

The Hurricanes limited the Hokies to 262 yards (compared with 458 for Miami).

Virginia Tech finished with 120 yards rushing (3.9 per carry); in its first three road games, UM allowed 130 rushing yards against Louisville, 343 vs. Nebraska and 371 against Georgia Tech.

Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio smartly deployed much-improved Raphael Kirby on several run blitzes, and it paid immediate dividends, with Kirby stopping a Hokies runner for a loss on third and inches on Tech’s first possession.

D’Onofrio sent Denzel Perryman and Jermaine Grace on a blitz on third down on Tech’s second possession, and Grace snuck through for a sack, aided by Perryman commanding attention from Tech blockers.

Tech’s next three possessions of the first half ended with Anthony Chickillo batting down a pass; an incomplete pass (Tech’s third in a row) from its one yard line; and a Chickillo sack on a third and eight. All were followed by punts.

The defensive excellence continued in the second half, with UM forcing and recovering fumbles on Tech’s first three possessions of the second half.

This was as complete a road-game performance from UM’s front seven as we’ve seen in a long time. Chickillo, Grace (two fumble recoveries), Perryman (who forced the third Hokies fumble and had 11 tackles), Thurston Armbrister, Tyriq McCord and Kirby were very good. The defensive tackle play was stout.

UM also got a lot of work for newcomers Michael Wyche, Darrion Owens and Trent Harris, who entered for UM’s second defensive series and played periodically throughout the night.

UM’s defensive backs also had some good moments: Deon Bush's strip caused Tech’s first fumble at the Hurricanes two yard line; Tracy Howard forced the second of Tech’s second-half fumbles; Artie Burns made a terrific stick on a punt.

### Golden, on his defense: "Takeaways, red zone stops, third down stops. That's the difference. I could see our guys were going for the ball. We tackled pretty well. We leveraged the screens pretty well; put that to bed so it wouldn't be a  problem. Very aggressive out front. We were around the quarterback a lot."

### Virginia Tech avoided a shutout on Mark Leal’s 14-yard pass to Isaiah Ford on a 4th and 10, with 1:30 left in the game, beating Tracy Howard.

Otherwise, this would have been UM’s first shutout since beating Florida A&M, 49-0, in 2010, and its first shutout against a Division 1 (FBS) team since defeating FIU, 35-0, in 2006.

It also could have been UM’s first shutout against a Power 5 conference team since dismantling Syracuse, 59-0, in 2001. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech barely kept alive its 251-game scoring streak, dating back to 1985.

### UM’s running game (366 yards, 7.2 per carry) and its defense were so exceptional that Miami didn’t need much from Brad Kaaya, who finished 7 for 16 for 92 yards.

"It was a phenomenal game, watching Duke and Gus rush," Kaaya said.

In the passing game, Braxton Berrios couldn’t haul in a potential touchdown and Kaaya and Phillip Dorsett failed to connect on two deep balls; Dorsett couldn’t track the ball on one of them, and the other went off his fingertips.

Kaaya entered having averaged 291 yards passing (with a 65 percent completion rate) in his previous five games.

### Gus Edwards continues to develop impressively, rushing for 115 yards on 20 carries, including TD runs of three and 38 yards. Joseph Yearby did not play because of a sore hamstring.

### The offensive line opened gaping holes for Johnson and Edwards and allowed no sacks. Jon Feliciano's work at right tackle was outstanding.

"This is the best away win I've had," Feliciano told WQAM.

Golden also praised the receivers for their blocking. Virginia Tech entered the game with 28 sacks this season.

### Offensive coordinator James Coley added a wrinkle by implementing the Wildcat. UM used it three times, with Johnson lining up behind center.

Johnson ran for 17 yards the first time, handed off to Stacy Coley for one yard on the second Wildcat play, and Johnson gained four on the third one.

### UM’s receiving totals: Johnson 2 for 37, Dorsett 2 for 15, Edwards 1 for 25, Coley 1 for 13 and Malcolm Lewis 1 for 2.

### UM (5-3, 2-2) kept alive its hopes of winning the Coastal division and won at Virginia Tech for the first time since a 31-7 victory in 2005.

### UM, which entered among the worst in the country on third-down conversions (25 percent), converted 7 of 15, while holding Tech to 3 for 12 on third downs.

### Quick hits: Juwon Young sustained a hamstring injury on the final play of the first half….  UM is 13-0 under Golden when forcing three or more turnovers…. UM, which entered 114th in the country in penalty yards per game, finished with only four penalties for 28 yards…. This was unusual: UM easily won the time of possession, 33:38 to 24:52.... UM's next game, Nov. 1 at home against North Carolina, will be a 12:30 start and televised on the ACC's syndicated TV package.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

October 22, 2014

Media column: NBA TV changes; Media notes: Heat, World Series, NFL, local TV change


One of the most polarizing and one of the most polished NBA commentators left network TV gigs this summer, Bill Simmons abdicating his chair on the Countdown set to launch his own basketball venture on ESPN and Steve Kerr departing TNT to coach the Golden State Warriors.

But their employers are taking vastly different approaches to replace them.

Simmons will be succeeded by, well, nobody.

ABC has opted for a three-person studio team of Sage Steele, Doug Collins and Jalen Rose. (That group will also handle Friday studio duties on ESPN.) The upshot is Collins will have a lot more time to speak; too often last season, Simmons dominated the conversation.

By contrast, TNT is replacing Kerr with a rotation of three commentators: Greg Anthony, Chris Webber and Grant Hill. None, as an analyst, measures up to Kerr, who offered keen insight and a dry wit.

Marv Albert will work either with one of those three or with a combination of two of the three on many Thursday games but also will do occasional games with Reggie Miller, who usually will be paired with Kevin Harlan.

For TNT’s Dallas-San Antonio opener Tuesday, Albert will join Anthony and Hill; those three worked the Heat-Rockets preseason game Tuesday.

That booth has potential, but the dialogue would be more interesting if Anthony and Hill disagreed with each other at times, as Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson do in their three-man ABC/ESPN booth.

Meanwhile, TNT will have Albert work with Charles Barkley (who will do occasional games) and Miller for next Thursday’s Knicks-Cleveland game, LeBron James’ first regular-season appearance with the Cavaliers after four years with the Heat.

As for Simmons, he left the ABC studio show to host 18 one-hour episodes of the new “Grantland Basketball Hour” throughout the season. The program debuts at 7 p.m. Thursday as a lead-in to the UM-Virginia Tech game; Doc Rivers is among the guests.

### ESPN hired former Pistons guard Chauncey Billups as a studio analyst on SportsCenter, NBA 2Night and other programming.

### TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager remains off the air while he battles adult acute myeloid leukemia.


With LeBron gone, the Heat’s national TV exposure will diminish considerably. For the first time in five years, Miami’s opener (Wednesday against Washington) won’t be televised nationally. (Sun Sports will air it locally.)

Eight teams have more ABC/ESPN/Turner appearances than the Heat’s 16: Chicago, Cleveland and Oklahoma City (25 each), the Clippers (23), the Lakers (20), Spurs and Golden State (19) and Houston (17). Portland also has 16.

The Heat will have only two ABC appearances: Christmas at home against Cleveland and Jan. 25 at Chicago.

### Sun Sports’ Heat games last season were viewed, on average, in 6.9 percent of Dade/Broward homes, ranking South Florida third among NBA markets behind the Thunder and Spurs.

The ratings likely will take something of a hit post-LeBron, but Heat TV voice Eric Reid believes interest will remain strong.

“For every game of the last four years, I was cognizant what we were involved with was extraordinary, unique and special,” Reid said. “It was a Halley’s Comet team. It comes together once in a lifetime. When you first heard [LeBron was leaving], there was a deep loss of breath.

“But the organization has given itself great flexibility in 2016 while staying very competitive in a wide open Eastern Conference. Some fringe fans may jump off but a strong core will remain.”

And one upshot is “every game will truly matter for this group to get home-court advantage in the first round,” Reid said. “This year’s team will be very enjoyable.”

### Every Heat game again will be televised locally, with 75 of them on Sun Sports... Ron Rothstein, who retired from coaching, will be a studio analyst on Sun Sports’ Heat coverage.

### Van Gundy’s suggestion to improve the NBA? Eliminate or drastically reduce back-to-back games.

“It starts with the owners giving up preseason games,” Van Gundy said by phone today.

“There is no need for these preseason games, yet we charge the same prices. To expect [teams] to play great after playing the night before and flying three hours to a different time zone and to have the same energy is a stretch and leads to a lot of bad basketball.”

Van Gundy, by the way, predicts the Heat will win between 45 and 50 games.

### Most moronic NBA comment from the past few months? ESPN’s Skip Bayless asserting recently that Kobe Bryant developed “sizzle” after a hotel employee accused him of sexual assault in 2003.

“Remember Kobe, pre-Eagle, Colorado?” Bayless said. “He failed in his first sneaker deal because he was just too clean-cut. …He couldn’t sell sneakers because he didn’t have enough edge. Then post-Eagle, Colorado, he became…you know, it brought a little attention to him….It gave him a little bit of…sizzle.”

The charges were dismissed against Bryant before the case went to trail because the accuser was unwilling to testify.


### The Kansas City-San Francisco World Series opener on Fox was watched by 12.2 million viewers, tied with the 2012 Series for fewest ever for a Game 1. And the 7.3 rating for the Giants-Royals opener was the lowest ever for Game 1 of a World Series. But Fox said the game was the highest-rated program on television Tuesday.

### CBS is sending Dolphins-Jaguars to only five percent of the country: all of Florida except Tampa; Albany, Ga.; Savannah, Ga.; and Dothan, Ala.

CBS’ No. 6 team (Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker and Steve Beuerlein) were assigned to the game.

### A treat for NFL fans Sunday: Fox will nationally televise the Falcons-Lions game at 9:30 a.m. from London, meaning viewers across the country can watch four NFL games in their entirety Sunday.

It's also an unusual weekend because CBS' primary 1 p.m. game is an NFC matchups (Seattle-Carolina) that would normally be on Fox. But the game was shifted to CBS as part of the league's new cross-flexing plan that allows the league to shift a handful of games between CBS and Fox to maximize exposure for certain matchups. Fox, conversely, picks up a Houston-Tennessee game from CBS on Sunday.

In South Florida, the TV games Sunday, besides Lions-Falcons, are Dolphins-Jaguars (1 p.m. CBS), Colts-Steelers (4:25 p.m., CBS), Eagles-Cardinals (4 p.m., Fox) and Packers-Saints (8:20 p.m., NBC).

### Stefano Fusaro debuted tonight as NBC 6’s new No. 2 sportscaster. Fusaro, who previously worked for the Univision station in Houston, replaces Courtney Fallon, who took a college football sideline job with CBS Sports Network.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

October 21, 2014

A look at how Dolphins are accentuating Tannehill's strengths; Dolphins, UM defense, Heat notes


Just a month ago, when Ryan Tannehill’s play was disconcerting enough for questions to be asked about his job security, Bill Lazor was asked whether Tannehill simply wasn’t well-equipped to run his system.

“I cringe when you say your system,” Lazor responded. “Our offense is what Ryan can run. What you’re seeing are the things he’s very capable of doing and he will do.”

Lazor’s response was dead-on, because the first-year coordinator recently has accentuated what Tannehill does best, with a lot of short and intermediate routes and read options and de-emphasizing, or simply tabling, plays that proved problematic, such as deep throws.

A few points to consider about Tannehill, whose 72.0 completion percentage in the past month is the NFL’s best, topping Peyton Manning’s 70.8:

### Tannehill’s mobility and ability to run the read option are two of his greatest assets, and Lazor is maximizing those talents to a greater extent than predecessor Mike Sherman did.

Last season, Tannehill rushed 40 times for 238 yards, a 6.0 average. This season, he has 22 for 150 (6.8 yards per carry), a pace that would give him 59 carries and 400 yards. He has runs of 30 and 40 yards in the past two games.

No wonder Tannehill has risen from 10th in the league in rushing yards among quarterbacks in 2013 to fourth this season, behind Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. That’s the company Tannehill should be keeping in this category, and he’s finally doing it because he has handled the read option adroitly and has a coordinator willing to call it more.

“If you have a guy good at those things, you probably call more of those type plays,” Matt Moore said. “Bill is learning what Ryan does better or doesn’t do too well.”

### Tannehill was very good in play action last season (109.6 passer rating) and Lazor has utilized that more. Tannehill already has 58 throws in play action and is on pace for 155 --- which would easily surpass last year’s 90 --- and has an 87.6 rating on play action passes, per Pro Football Focus.

### Tannehill hasn’t even thrown a “classic” deep ball in the past few games partly because Lazor apparently prefers to run plays that have a better chance of success.

Last season, Tannehill threw 64 passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the air and completed only 16, with six interceptions.

This season, he’s 5 for 18 with two picks on those passes and is on pace to throw among the fewest in the league (48).

### Lazor has started calling more rollouts for Tannehill but probably needs to call even more. According to Stats. Inc, Tannehill has run eight designed rollouts (with a 96.4 passer rating on those plays) and has a 104.2 passer rating on another 15 throws made on the run to escape a pass rush.

Last season, Tannehill completed 17 of 27 passes on those rollouts with four touchdowns and a 117.7 passer rating, which ranked fourth in the league on those types of throws. But Wilson had 73 designed rollouts called for him in 2013, and Tannehill might benefit if Lazor called more.

### The most optimistic comparison for Tannehill entering the season might have been Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, considering their second-year numbers were nearly identical. (Tannehill’s were slightly better, in fact.)

Ryan improved dramatically his third season, finishing with a 91 passer rating, 62.5 completion rate, 28 touchdowns and nine picks.

So it’s notable that Tannehill has an 87.8 rating, 63.3 completion percentage, and is on pace for 27 TDs and 13 picks. The Dolphins would be quite pleased if Tannehill can become comparable to Ryan; that would be good enough to make Miami a legitimate contender, considering the Dolphins' defense is better than Atlanta's.


Receiver Brandon Gibson, who has fallen behind Jarvis Landry on the depth chart, said no Dolphins coach has explained to him why he wasn’t active last Sunday and he’s reluctant to ask.

“There’s no doubt I can play,” Gibson said. “I don’t think it’s a decision that has anything to do with me.... It was a decision that was made and there's nothing I can do.”

Is there anything he can do to get back in the coach's good graces? "Nothing probably," he said.

Asked if he has requested a trade or might, he said, “Not really.”

Still, it was odd that receiver Damian Williams (who didn’t play special teams in the game) was active Sunday.

"It’s not really necessarily an indictment of Brandon, and Brandon I know is going to contribute here this season," Joe Philbin said. "I’m confident he will.”

Gibson, who has a $4.5 million cap hit if he’s on the team next season and $1 million if he’s not, seems unlikely to be here longterm.

### The Dolphins thought Caleb Sturgis would be a more effective long-range kicker than Dan Carpenter, but his accuracy on 50-plus-yard field goals (4 for 9) is tied with Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski for second-worst in the league since the start of 2013, narrowly ahead of Houston’s Randy Bullock.

Sturgis missed from 50 yards and had a 37-yarder blocked Sunday, and Philbin told him in a team meeting, in front of everyone, on Tuesday that “we have to make those kicks.”

### One reason Reshad Jones says he has been very good since his return: his work with LeBron James’ trainer during his suspension. Another reason: “I’m one of the better safeties in this league.”

### UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio believes that not only are he and his defense getting a bad rap, but UM actually has played well on his side of the ball.

“I’m happy with our performance,” he said. “The coaching staff is pleased with the [players on defense].”

To support his assertion, he mentioned UM is seventh in yards allowed per play (4.46, not much worse than Alabama’s 4.38). That’s a fair point.

But what UM doesn’t say is this: The Hurricanes are 53rd in scoring defense, 56th in rushing defense, 69th in red zone defense, 71st in third-down defense, 61st in first downs allowed and 108th in tackles for loss per game.

Here's one problem: Because UM is subpar in third-down defense and poor in third-down offense, UM's defense is on the field far too much; UM's opponents are averaging 73 snaps per game, compared with 61 for UM's offense.

D’Onofrio is opposed to having his corners play tighter coverage because “we certainly don't want gamblers. The worst thing we could do is give up an easy touchdown on defense, right?"

UM would prefer a long drive against them if given a choice between a methodical march and a quick strike.

“We certainly can't have our [last line of defense safeties and corners] not be deep,” D'Onofrio insisted.

“That's the worst thing that can happen to a defense. I hear [Seattle coach] Pete Carroll say it: `When you're deep, you're deep,' and it's worked good for him. The deep players need to stay deep.”

That’s his philosophy and he’s sticking to it.

### A few postscripts from the Heat's 90-85 win against Houston Tuesday night: If you add Josh McRoberts (who remains out with a toe injury) and subtract center Khem Birch (who played 10 minutes), the Heat lineup for this regular-season dress rehearsal probably looked very much like the Heat's early-season rotation, with Shawne Williams starting in place of McRoberts at power forward and Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers, Danny Granger and Shabazz Napier off the bench. That meant no James Ennis (despite a strong preseason), no Shannon Brown and no Udonis Haslem (sore back, according to Erik Spoelstra). Spoelstra said he didn't play Ennis because he wanted to give Granger more minutes....

Dwyane Wade (22 points, 11 for 17 shooting, six assists in 29 minutes) and Chris Bosh (22 points, six rebounds in 35 minutes) were very good... Keep in mind that whereas Wade and Bosh played down the stretch, Dwight Howard and James Harden did not....

Norris Cole started his sixth consecutive preseason game and had four fouls in 14 minutes.... Chalmers had an impactful 33 minutes, with 13 points and four steals. Chalmers also continues to find a way to get to the line; he had nine free throw attempts. Though Spoelstra has declined to discuss his thinking at point guard, Chalmers has responded well to playing off the bench at both guard spots....

Rebounding remains a concern; the Rockets outrebounded the Heat, 44-35. But the Heat's defense in the second half was encouraging, with Houston closing at 39.9 percent from the field... Napier shot 0 for 7, with two assists and a turnover in 21 scoreless minutes, ending a multigame stretch of standout performances.... Spoelstra said McRoberts believes he's ready to play in a game, but the coaching staff is being cautious.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the last post for Tuesday afternoon Dolphins, Heat and Hurricanes notes. 

UM-Notre Dame news; Tuesday afternoon Dolphins, Heat, Hurricanes tidbits

Some Tuesday afternoon quick hits:  

### The ACC just announced years for the next four UM-Notre Dame football matchups:  Oct. 29, 2016 in South Bend; Nov. 11, 2017 in Miami; 2024 at Notre Dame; 2025 at UM.      

### The Dolphins say they have a one-week exemption on Dion Jordan before they are required to add him to the 53-man roster. So the Dolphins could keep him off the 53 all week if they decide not to play him Sunday.

### Brent Grimes, who suffered a thigh injury Sunday, returned to practice today. Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) remains out.

### Though Mike Pouncey gave up a sack against Chicago, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Pouncey “was definitely better [than in his first game]… in every way we would have expected: balance, finish, drive, pass protection, run blocking. I thought the guy played a really good game. I’m excited for Mike.”

### Give credit to safety Michael Thomas, who did good work in an expanded role Sunday. Only one pass was thrown in his coverage area and it was incomplete.

### So why has Rex Ryan been on the front of the New York Daily News web site wearing a Dolphins jersey (and jerseys of three other teams)?

Longtime NFL writer Gary Myers speculated that Ryan could end up as coach of the Dolphins, among a few other teams, if he’s fired. Myers said the Dolphins and 49ers and possibly the Falcons would be good fits for him. This would be moot, of course, if Joe Philbin makes the playoffs or does enough to earn another season. And Jim Harbaugh likely would be the Dolphins' top target if Philbin is let go.

### Al Golden, asked by another reporter in his news conference what has held Jamal Carter back (he has been unable to crack the starting lineup ahead of a walk-on Nantambu Fentress):

Golden didn’t like the phrasing: “It's almost like a negative question. Jamal's got to keep making progress, attention to details, preparing, playing faster. I think he needs to play faster. He's got a great opportunity. I'm always positive by nature, so is this a week he puts it all together and now he's ready, ready to play fast? Jamal has all the tools. He has to continue to prepare, trust it. Hopefully this is the week he's playing even better than he has been.”

### Golden, on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline, said Brad Kaaya’s emergence is helping in recruiting. “There are a lot of kids who want to be his teammate,” Golden said. Golden said players like how he “distributes the ball” to a lot of players.

“Guys see Joe Yearby, Braxton Berrios, Darrion Owens, Chad Thomas having lots of success,” he said. “We’re not afraid to play freshmen.”

### Golden said UM --- which needs to relinquish a total of nine scholarships over 2013, 2014 and 2015 per NCAA probation requirements --- plans to have 80 or 81 players on scholarship next season, an increase over this season.

Golden said in recruiting, UM still needs to add another tight end, a cornerback, a safety and more defensive and offensive linemen.

### Several scouts questioned the Heat’s decision to give guaranteed money to journeyman Shawne Williams, but the move looks good so far, partly because Williams has lost 30 pounds (from 265 to 235) since the start of the summer.

“When you are so big, you forget what you can do,” he said, noting hot wings were the toughest thing to give up. He had cake at a gathering Mario Chalmers catered in Kansas City on the last road trip --- his first sweet dessert all summer.

With Josh McRoberts out, Williams might start at power forward in the season opener. “Shawne has been a good surprise,” Dwyane Wade said.

### Mario Chalmers has played well at backup shooting guard and Wade said he told Chalmers “he’s more aggressive when he’s at the two [guard spot]. We need him that aggressive when he’s at [point guard]. Sometimes he holds himself back. We want him to mix that in more. That would make us more dynamic.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz