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A look at UM's defensive recruiting class; More Dolphins fallout; Smart Heat move; Ichiro/Marlins

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

UM keeps telling anyone who will listen that it rose to 15th in defense this season in yards allowed. But the Hurricanes, who are losing their best defender (Denzel Perryman), were 36th in points relinquished and 63rd in third-down defense and still clearly need not only development from within but also an infusion of genuinely impactful talent in their front seven.

With National Signing Day looming on Feb. 4, UM’s eight-man defensive recruiting class has several promising players but no four- or five-star prospects at two need areas: defensive tackle and linebacker. And that should be cause for concern.

A look at UM’s defensive class by position:

### Defensive line: Three are committed, including four-star prospect Scott Patchan, rivals.com’s No. 18 defensive end who had a slew of other offers (including Notre Dame, Nebraska and Alabama). Patchan, coming off an ACL injury last season, enrolls at UM in the next week.

“Tremendous prospect --- more athletic than Anthony Chickillo,” recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said.   

ESPN says Patchan, who's listed at 6-5 and 228, “could potentially be a player who could drop into coverage depending on the defensive scheme” but “will need to add size and strength to be a consistent defensive end with his hand in the ground.”

Also orally committed: Richard McIntosh Jr., a three-star 6-5, 265-pound defensive end from Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons; he had 32 tackles for loss and 14 sacks last season.

Though 247sports.com analyst Chris Nee said he “projects more as an inside guy longterm,” McIntosh told me that “Miami wants me to be an end.”

McIntosh said he’s “a little surprised” UM hasn’t been more successful but “6-7 gives me more motivation. Al Golden is a great coach and I like the scheme." (Yes, you heard the young man: He likes the scheme!)

McIntosh said "pass rush is my strength and I’ve gotten better against the run.”

UM’s only defensive tackle commitment, three-star Ryan Fines, was a teammate of Patchan’s at IMG Academy in Bradenton and produced 16.5 tackles for loss and a safety this past season.

But recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein said Fines projects as a backup.

“Miami has to step it up with [defensive tackles],” Blustein said. “For some reason, they’re not getting the top kids at that position.”

The upshot is that UM must hope all of its defensive tackles --- Calvin Heurtelou, Courtel Jenkins, end/tackle Ufomba Kamalu, Michael Wyche, Anthony Moten, Earl Moore and Jelani Hamilton --- improve considerably next season, because to use a variation of the old Rick Pitino line, Warren Sapp isn't walking through that door.

UM is in mix for several highly-regarded linemen, topped by five-star Gardena, Cal.-based defensive end Rasheem Green, rated the No. 25 overall prospect by rivals.com.

He has a final four of UM, Oregon, Arizona State and Southern California and told Rivals.com that “I feel really comfortable” at Miami. “The players are cool and the coaching staff is really awesome.” But it would be considered a surprise if he picks UM over a West Coast school.

UM also is in the mix for four-star Jacksonville Trinity tackle Kendrick Norton (he told rivals.com that he likes “the atmosphere” at UM and is considering Miami, UF, FSU, Auburn and Notre Dame) and New York-based three-star end Austrian Robinson (Maryland leads but UM and Mississippi are also in his top three).

### Linebackers: Two are committed, both three star prospects: New Jersey-based Jamie Gordinier (107 tackles this season, plus a sack and blocked punt) and Royal Palm Beach’s Charles Perry.

ESPN.com says the 6-4, 231-pound Gordinier “is a tweener outside linebacker/defensive end” who’s a “very good prospect” but doesn’t have the “ideal flexibility” for linebacker or the “great strength or edge speed” to be an effective pass-rushing end. But UM coaches like his instincts.

As for Perry, Blustein and Fishbein love him.

“He’s similar to Jon Beason coming out --– very instinctual,” Fishbein said. Rivals.com rates Perry as the nation's 44th best outside linebacker.

Said Blustein: “They have a very bad need at linebacker, but there’s not a whole lot in the state. They should pursue Shawne Curtis, [a linebacker from Reagan High in Doral], but they’re not interested.”

UM is pursuing several others, including New Jersey-based Saleem Brightwell, rated by rivals.com as the 49th-best outside linebacker. He has said that UM, Pittsburgh and Michigan State are his top three.

### Defensive backs: Blustein said UM early arrival Jaquan Johnson, a four-star safety prospect from Killian, is the best player in the state and “an absolute difference maker, a freak” who will be better than UM’s four-star safety additions in recent years, such as Jamal Carter.

Johnson said he’s enrolling at UM in the next week.

Golden told me Johnson --- who's the only defensive recruit that UM can talk about publicly because he has signed a grant-in-aid --- is “explosive and very smart. Runs all the checks at Killian. Has excellent cover skills, almost corner like in lateral quickness and his ability to cover. That’s something we’re really excited to have in our program. Great work ethic, vocal, great character.”

Like McIntosh, Johnson said he likes Mark D’Onofrio’s scheme and says his strength is “knowing tendencies” of other teams because he’s diligent with film study.

UM also has a commitment from four-star Alabama-based cornerback Michael Jackson and Edison safety Robert Knowles, who isn't rated by rivals.com.

ESPN says Jackson –--- whose other Power 5 conference offers were Minnesota and Nebraska --- has average speed and good instincts, would be a “good signee” for a “lower level power conference school” (not encouraging to hear) and “is a solid prospect [because if] he is not a corner he has the size to potentially help as a safety.”

Miami offered Knowles after it lost out on Tim Irvin to Texas, and Knowles promptly de-committed from FIU.

Blustein said he’s underrated: “He’s three-star kid in a five-star body. He’s a big-time player, hits like a truck and covers like a corner.”

UM is in the mix for several other defensive backs, including speedy four-star Jacksonville based corner Javarius Davis (a UM fan growing up; has visited UM and also is considering Auburn, Georgia, UF), three-star Louisiana safety Hunter Dale (will visit UM, UF, Arizona and Arizona State) and Washington D.C.-based four-star prospect Marcus Lewis (told rivals.com that Kentucky, Washington State and UM are his top three in that order).

Overall, “Miami has a mediocre defensive class for 2015,” Nee said.

The Canes have a month to improve it.

We’ll analyze UM’s offensive class next week.

CHATTER

### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross did not give new executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum the authority to fire a head coach, or hire one, because that’s one of the powers Ross likes having as an owner.

### The job that Tannenbaum got was similar to the one that Ross’ longtime friend, Carl Peterson, wanted here but was never offered, according to a Peterson associate.

### Please see the last post for 15 more tidbits on Tannenbaum's hiring.

### Though the coaching staff is fond of Koa Misi, look for the Dolphins to seriously explore upgrading at middle linebacker.

There’s no guarantee they will find one better than Misi, but they will look, with Dallas’ Rolando McClain and Buffalo’s Brandon Spikes among impending free agents who graded out well against the run. Figure Miami will also take a close look at UM’s Denzel Perryman.

### One Dolphins linebacker said he was left with the impression that the Dolphins are interested in playing defensive end Dion Jordan more at strongside linebacker. But no final decision has been made.

### Smart move by the Heat to sign center Hassan Whiteside to a two-year contract (instead of a one-year deal) in November, meaning there won’t be financial consequences for next season if he keeps blossoming in the coming months.

Among centers that have appeared in at least 10 games, Whiteside is averaging the second-most blocks per 48 minutes and ninth-most rebounds (17.6).

### Please see the last post for an in-depth look at the Heat's point guard situation.

### The Marlins had a preliminary conversation with the representation for Ichiro Suzuki, and we're told Ichiro has interest in becoming the Marlins’ fourth outfielder if talks advance.

Ichiro, 41, is a 10-time All-Star, a two-time AL batting champ (2001, 2004) and a .317 career hitter; he hit .284 for the Yankees last season while playing all three outfield positions.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

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