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Lamar Thomas on his prized pupil, DeVante Parker, and what Dolphins asked Thomas; Fins, Marlins, Canes chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Long before the Dolphins made DeVante Parker their first-round draft choice, a Dolphins scout had a question for Lamar Thomas, the former Hurricanes and Dolphins receiver who is now Louisville’s wide receivers coach:

“If we drafted DeVante in the first round and in five years if he’s not successful, why would it be?” the scout asked.

Thomas had a good answer: “That means that you guys will have done an awful job developing a quarterback.”

Excluding Parker’s family and Dolphins officials, there was perhaps nobody happier about Miami drafting Parker than Thomas was.

“The crazy thing is he has heard so many Dolphins stories from me,” Thomas told me. “After the draft I told him, ‘Now it’s time to make your own.’”

Thomas said the Dolphins will love what they’re getting.

“I think the world of the kid,” he said. “To have him in my room last year was awesome. He already had a first-round grade last year and he came back to school to finish his degree; his grandmother wanted him to graduate. I almost wanted to cry when he hurt his foot last season.

“His hand/eye coordination and ball catching radius are amazing. He knows how to adjust his body. He can get off jams. As a route runner,… he does a lot of good things. He’s good at slants, hitches, comebacks.”

Thomas said Parker studies diligently and "is like a sponge" absorbing things. When Parker was injured last season, he told Thomas he wanted to come back and dominate. 

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin asked Thomas if “I was surprised how fast DeVante ran [at the NFL Combine]. I said I was disappointed he was a 4.45. [Louisville cornerback] Charles Gaines runs a 4.3 and I saw DeVante run by Charles Gaines a lot. It's like a Jerry Rice type of speed where DeVante can accelerate.”

The receivers that Parker reminds him of? Thomas mentioned Cincinnati’s A.J. Green (a four-time Pro Bowl selection) and retired former Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith (a five-time Pro Bowler).

Thomas disputes any notion that Parker is not strong enough, noting he benched 365 pounds last year.

Dan Marino texted me [during the draft] and said, ‘We got your guy,’” Thomas said. “I told Danny, ‘You would have loved to have this guy on your team. He would have made you even better.’”

And Thomas got another recent phone message that meant a lot to him.

“DeVante sent me a text that shocked the hell of out me. He said, ‘Coach, I appreciate everything you've done for me this season, not only being my coach but my mentor.’ That was awesome. I’m so excited he’s with the Dolphins.”

CHATTER

### If the Dolphins succeed in signing LSU offensive tackle/guard La’El Collins, they will emerge from this draft with four of Mike Mayock’s top 67 players: Parker (ninth), Collins (16), defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (35) and running back Jay Ajayi (67). Plus, they used their third-round pick to acquire Kenny Stills, who led the NFL in yards per reception with the Saints in 2013.

### The Dolphins are giving a rookie minicamp tryout this week to a cancer survivor –-- 25-year-old Fort Lewis (Colorado) guard Arthur Ray Jr., who was diagnosed with bone cancer shortly after accepting a scholarship to Michigan State in 2007, then underwent nine surgeries on his left leg in two years. Doctors told him he would be lucky to walk, let alone play football.

### Please see the last post for details on Dolphins players' visit with La'el Collins today, as well as information on the SEC starting quarterback that will take snaps at Dolphins rookie minicamp this week.... Update: Michael Cauble of the ABC affiliate in Baton Rouge reports tonight Collins won't sign anywhere until he is officially cleared by police.

### Zach Hocker, who was a seventh-round pick by the Redskins out of Arkansas last May, was supposed to challenge Caleb Sturgis for the Dolphins' kicking job this summer. But Hocker apparently didn't do enough to impress the Dolphins, who released him Tuesday.

Instead, Sturgis' competition will be undrafted rookie Andrew Franks, who hit only 37 of 56 career field goals at RPI in New York but excels at kickoffs. Franks worked out privately for Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi before the draft. 

### Among the things Marlins first baseman Michael Morse has done to try to snap out of his month-long slump to start the season: He asked Andre Dawson (the Marlins’ special assistant to the president) to watch him and tell him exactly what he sees.

Dawson suggested Morse use a lighter bat “to have more bat control,” and Morse has been trying that.

Keep in mind Morse --- who entered Tuesday hitting .193 (third-worst among big-league first basemen) has hit below .279 only once in his past five seasons (.215 in an injury-wracked 2013). So the odds are he will snap out of this.    

Mike Redmond played Justin Bour ahead of Morse for the second consecutive game tonight, but Morse told our Manny Navarro tonight in Washington D.C. that he has no problem with that at all.

"I'm always just about winning," said Morse, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal this past winter. "I'm happy for anybody that gets a chance to play — especially Bour. He's swinging the bat awesome."

Incidentally, the first baseman that the Marlins tried to sign before Morse, Adam LaRoche, is hitting just .211 with three homers and nine RBI for the White Sox.

### After trading ace prospect Andrew Heaney in the Dee Gordon deal with the Dodgers, one high-ranking Marlins official said he thought left-hander Justin Nicolino ultimately would be better than Heaney.

And Nicolino is justifying the faith; he hasn’t allowed an earned run in four consecutive starts (spanning 24 innings) at Triple A, where he’s 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA.

But with their bullpen struggling, what the Marlins really need is hard-throwing relievers Carter Capps (0-1, 2.79 ERA) and Nick Wittgren (3.38 ERA) to reach their potential at Triple A and earn a promotion to the Marlins.

### Asked by WQAM-560's Marc Hochman if he wonders how UM could have gone 6-7 and have seven players drafted, Al Golden said Tuesday: “It's not about me.... If you want to go back to critiquing the team on its performance, go ahead. But right now this moment is their's...

"I hate to attach anything remotely negative to those kids accomplishing their dream.... We put that season to bed five months ago.”

Here's more of what Golden had to say about that question:

"Well, I think, from my standpoint it’s really about the kids. I hate to attach anything remotely negative to those kids accomplishing their dream, guys. At the end of the day, we put that season to bed five months ago.

For these guys, it’s about them and whatever we can do to help them as they finish out their careers. Some of them are graduating. Obviously a lot of them went to the Combine, and went to all-star games, and have been around working out. So, to see them transition from doing all those things I just mentioned and then having their name called is nothing but awesome. So, I’m happy for those guys at the end of the day.

And, again it’s been a long drought for us – seven years since we’ve had anyone in the first round. So, I know the way our team’s looking at it, the way our staff’s looking at it, this is the first of many to come as opposed to the culmination. So we’re excited for those guys and obviously we can learn a lot from them in terms of how to be that. Those guys didn’t have a lot of defects and that’s why they went high, which is great."

### UM cornerback Ladarius Gunter, who some thought would be drafted, signed with Green Bay.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

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