Quick 2:45 p.m. update: The Heat's flirtation with guard Marcus Thornton ended Sunday when he accepted a one-year deal from Houston at the league minimum.
The Heat brought in Thornton for a visit on Friday and likes his skill set. But Miami wasn't in position to make an offer to Thornton yet because it hasn't yet been successful in trading one or two players with guaranteed contracts, including Mario Chalmers, for the purpose of reducing its luxury tax obligation. Those efforts continue.
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
After watching other Florida schools produce Heisman Trophy winners (UF’s Tim Tebow, FSU’s Jameis Winston) and first-round draft picks (FSU’s Winston, EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder and UCF’s Blake Bortles) over the past decade, UM enters this season with the most settled quarterback situation among the state’s Big Three.
The question is whether Brad Kaaya will be the best of the group.
Chatter on UM’s, UF’s and FSU’s predicament behind center:
### UM: Kaaya’s improved leadership skills and exceptional command of the offense have particularly stood out this offseason, but offensive coordinator James Coley also has seen growth in on-field points of emphasis.
Better accuracy was a priority. Kaaya completed just 58.5 percent of his passes last season (69th in the country) but that percentage rose to between 78 and 80 this spring, Coley said.
“I want the completion percentage above 70,” Coley said. “That’s elite. We’re all saying he’s an elite player. That’s where he should be throwing the ball at. That’s his goal.”
The staff also wants Kaaya to improve throwing against the blitz. Coaches also expect him to play better away from home; he had eight touchdowns and eight interceptions on the road last season, compared with 18 and four at Sun Life Stadium.
Former Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta, who has been a help to Kaaya, said earlier this spring that Kaaya needs to improve throwing on the run. There has been growth there, partly because Kaaya said he has matured physically.
In the spring game, “you saw Brad scramble and find Stacy [Coley] for a big play that he wouldn’t have done before,” James Coley said. “He would have forced the ball [before]. He’s playing with more calmness. His feet aren’t jittery.”
Kaaya said Al Golden has helped him by deciding to “throw a lot of looks at us in practice that we’re going to get from other ACC teams.”
Kaaya gives no thought to a sophomore slump.
“I plan on playing well,” he told me. “A lot of that goes to guys around me [but] I plan on getting them in the right spots.”
Said receiver Braxton Berrios: “I don't think there's one thing he doesn't do better now than he did last fall. Overall, completely, he's a better player.”
As for backup Malik Rosier, the staff loves his arm strength and believes he can be dangerous in read option sets. During the spring, he completed a 75-yard pass and run to Berrios on a read option play that Kansas State uses.
Rosier said UM coaches are “trying to put in special packages, run/pass plays for me. There are certain plays I'm going to run. Brad is capable of running them but they're more specific towards me. It should be really interesting what we do this year” with those plays.
Considering he had only 17 at-bats all season and skipped the College World Series to work with UM’s receivers, was baseball worth the time investment for Rosier?
“It really was,” he said. “Coach [Jim] Morris said he liked how I approached it. He talked about on off days this fall to come up to the baseball field and throw and hit. They are looking forward to having me back this year.”
He said he might need to give up one sport “at some point, but right now, I'm just focused on football. As I get older and figure out which sport I like better, I'll make that decision.”
Does he lean toward sticking with football? “I’m not sure yet,” he answered.
Asked if it was draining physically and mentally to play two sports, he said: “A little of both… but it wasn’t that bad. [Trainers] did a really good job of taking care of my body.”
Remember that UM’s 2016 oral commitments include Palmetto, Fla.-based Jack Allison, rated by rivals.com as the nation’s No. 6 pro style quarterback and 200th best prospect overall. Allison hopes to arrive at UM in January.
### FSU: Everett Golson, who transferred from Notre Dame after graduating, enters camp as the front-runner, but Jimbo Fisher has made clear he will need to beat out senior Sean Maguire.
Golson led Notre Dame to 12-1 season and to the BCS national title game as a redshirt freshman starter in 2012. He threw for 3445 yards, 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season before losing the starting job to Malik Zaire because of turnovers.
The concern with Golson: He has 32 turnovers in 26 games, including 12 fumbles.
“People said, ‘Why would I do that?’” Fisher told a Broward County audience regarding his decision to add Golson. “I said, ‘Why not?’ He’s 17-5 as a starter. He’s a senior, been in big moments. He called us.”
Some have wondered whether Golson is the ideal fit for FSU’s offense.
Fisher says that’s not an issue: “Everett can be an [NFL-style offense] guy and do spread stuff or I wouldn’t have taken him. I called the game different for Christian Ponder and Jameis Winston. [But] Everett’s got to win the job. I’m very happy with Sean Maguire. Tremendously strong arm, really like where he’s at.”
Maguire threw for 455 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions in limited playing time as Winston’s backup. It would be surprising if he beats out Golson.
### Florida: Redshirt freshman Will Grier ended the spring ahead of Treon Harris, but this battle will extend into August.
Rivals.com ranked Grier as the No. 2 quarterback and No. 46 player in the country in the 2014 class; he threw for a nation-leading 77 touchdowns as a senior at Davidson Day in North Carolina.
At 6-2, Grier is three inches taller than Harris and has a quicker release.
Harris started six games last season for Florida, completing 49.5 percent of his passes for 1,019 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions.
He missed part of spring practice because of a death in the family, and coach Jim McElwain said that was a factor in Grier moving past Harris.
“Will’s ahead simply because he’s been here more,” McElwain said.
UF hopes McElwain can do for Grier and Harris what he did last year for Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson, who was fifth in the nation in passing efficiency and was the third quarterback selected in the NFL Draft, behind Winston and Marcus Mariota.
UF’s only other scholarship quarterback is Josh Grady, a former Vanderbilt receiver who’s eligible immediately.
Luke Del Rio, a backup quarterback at Oregon State and son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, has joined UF as a walk-on but isn’t eligible until 2016.
Skyler Mornhinweg, who was a backup last year but started the final three games of 2013, transferred to Columbia. He’s the fifth quarterback to leave UF since January 2013, joining Jacoby Brissett (N.C. State), Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech), Tyler Murphy (Boston College) and Max Staver (Houston Baptist).
### DeVante Parker’s agent, James Gould, said this past week that it’s too soon to tell whether the Dolphins rookie receiver will play in preseason but added that it’s not a concern. He said “everything is perfect” in Parker’s recovery from foot surgery and he remains on track to play in the regular-season opener.
Last month’s procedure, which was done after Parker started feeling discomfort, replaced a screw that was inserted in his foot during 2014 surgery. Though Parker has had two foot procedures in the past year, Gould said doctors don’t believe this will be a recurring problem.
“I don’t think it will happen again,” Gould said. “They got it right.”
Incidentally, Gould said Parker’s 10 endorsement deals --- Adidas, Proctor & Gamble among others --- are the most for an NFL rookie. Among the reasons Parker is attractive to sponsors, Gould said, is “he has a quiet confidence and doesn’t have issues off the field.”
### Meanwhile, the Dolphins remain pleased with left tackle Branden Albert’s progress from major knee surgery. Friends say Albert remains determined to play in the regular season opener and the Dolphins say publicly they expect that. But because of the nature of the injury, nobody can say that with certainty.
Albert was walking with a limp in June, which prompted some concern on Twitter. But Albert correctly has pointed out that “I always had a limp when I walked” even before the knee injury.
### In Gerald Green, not only has the Heat found a credible starter to fill in when Dwyane Wade misses time, but Miami also found one who has had success playing alongside Goran Dragic.
Green was on target Friday when he said he "played my best ball with him."
Consider: Green averaged 18.1 points and shot 39.3 percent on threes when he started 33 games alongside Dragic for Phoenix from January through March 2014. During their 1 ½ seasons together, the Suns outscored opponents by 52 points and shot 40 percent on threes when they were on the court together.
"I'm so excited to be playing with him, it's not even funny," Green said. "Being able to have a chance to team up with him again, man, that's just exciting, I can't wait.He gets the ball coast-to-coast. He's almost a one-man fast break."
### The Heat might make an offer to guard Marcus Thornton, who visited Friday, but first wants to see if it can trade a player or two (Mario Chalmers among them).
Responding to Heat fans on Twitter who said they hope he joins the Heat, Thornton tweeted Saturday: "When they offer, I will appreciate all the [love], though."
### Justise Winslow missed the Heat's opener of the Las Vegas Summer League late Saturday night because of what the Heat termed "general soreness."... Whereas Zoran Dragic played for the Heat's Summer League team in Orlando, he is not participating in the Las Vegas portion.
### Pat Riley on Thursday explained how the Heat handled the initial moments of free agency when the clock struck midnight on July 1.
"We had Nick and Andy in one office," Riley said of CEO Nick Arison and GM Andy Elisburg. "And I was in the other office. We did not want to slight any of our free agents at 12:01.
" So at 12:01, Nick was on the phone to Henry Thomas [Dwyane Wade's agent] and I was on the phone with Bill Duffy [Dragic's agent]. So we thought there was an equality there. Even though maybe five seconds before that, Nick got through to Henry. But we wanted to communicate, obviously, immediately."
A deal was struck with Dragic within hours, while Wade's deal was completed soon after.
### If the Marlins move Dan Jennings back to the front office next season --- a good possibility if the Marlins play poorly after the All-Star break --- potential replacements include Mike Lowell, former Marlins Double A manager/minor-league hitting instructor Andy Barkett (though the Marlins always have preferred bigger-name managers) as well as established former big-league managers.
Dusty Baker and Ron Gardenhire were among those discussed internally in May but not strongly considered at that point. Former Padres manager Bud Black is among others available.
Marlins special assistant Jeff Conine has shown no interest in managing.
Lowell told WSVN-Fox 7’s Steve Shapiro that he and the Marlins “had talks” after Mike Redmond was fired.
“Was there interest? Yes,” Lowell said. But the Marlins and Lowell said there was no offer to the former third baseman, whom owner Jeffrey Loria holds in high regard.
### The Marlins have spoken to Ichiro Suzuki about a contract for next season, according to a source. Does the 41-year-old Ichiro want to return?
“I can definitely say I’ll be playing baseball next year,” he said. “Before coming to Miami, I didn’t know much about Miami. I can definitely say the way I feel toward the players, team, city, I’m enjoying it. It’s a good place.”