WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Amid all of the issues around the University of Miami football program --– the underachieving, Duke Johnson’s mother claiming half the team would transfer if it could, a former UM coach telling numerous people that Mark D’Onofrio’s system is too complicated --– we asked a respected, well-liked 2014 Hurricanes player, who has graduated and had no ax to grind, for a candid, honest assessment.
He agreed but requested anonymity to preserve his relationship with the coaches and players. Among his observations from a lengthy conversation:
### Asked who’s to blame for the underachieving and 6-7 record last season, he said 70 percent is on the players and 30 percent on the coaches.
“Players have to want to be great,” he said. “And last year, there were a few guys who wanted to be great, but not everyone gave their all every play.”
He said some players had to be cajoled simply “to play harder.” That lack of effort puzzled and angered some players who were giving their all and caused some friction among players, he said.
### The player said another problem is that some players didn’t study the playbook enough to learn D’Onofrio’s complex defense, which is patterned in some ways after the Seattle Seahawks system.
“It’s an NFL defense, a difficult system, and some college kids aren’t ready for it and don’t put in the time to learn it,” the player said. “It needs to be like a job, and some of the guys here don’t treat it like that. I don’t think he necessarily needs to simplify it. Some of the players just need to make it a priority to learn it and do it right.”
But he also acknowledged that D’Onofrio’s system, which he had no issue with, is simply “too much to learn for some kids. I’ve seen playbooks from other schools and ours is a lot more complicated and longer.”
### So what’s the issue as far as coaching, beyond that?
“Some of the players wish coach D’Onofrio would let them play more instinctively and attacking more, and play more man coverage. Against Florida State, we were attacking and playing a lot of man coverage in the first half. Then we got conservative and Jameis Winston picked us apart. Players want to play more man.”
### He said the other issue with D’Onofrio is that “guys are afraid of him because he can be insulting. Some players wanted to be treated more respectfully.
“Coach D’Onofrio doesn’t like when you speak up [with suggestions or second-guessing]. After the Virginia game, Anthony Chickillo asked why we ran a three-man line on fourth and goal at the two, and coach D’Onofrio snapped.”
In defense of D’Onofrio (who is a friendly, engaging fellow off the field), a lot of coaches are very tough on their players and D’Onofrio always praises them publicly.
### The player said UM players don’t have an issue with the hybrid 4-3/3-4 scheme or where they’re asked to line up and praised D’Onofrio for being “passionate and detailed. He would be a great NFL coach.”
### What about Al Golden?
“A great guy,” the player said. “He’s calm, cool and composed. But he comes across as a salesman. I wish he would be more open with us.” He said even though Golden says players can come to him about anything, “some players are intimidated by him.”
Does Golden motivate the team well enough? “He ignites us emotionally at practice. But after the Florida State game, we lost a lot of emotion. We kind of lost our mojo.”
The player blames everyone for that. He said he doesn’t have any issue with Golden’s strategic acumen or game-day decisions.
### He said the young players cannot feel entitlement and must understand they need to work to be great, which he believes some --- but not all --- do. As an example, he mentioned Chad Thomas can be “cocky” but also praised his ability.
### Earlier today, WQAM-560 canceled the talk show hosted by Adam Kuperstein and former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, opting instead to carry only four-hour talk shows --- a lineup that's more the norm in sports-talk radio.
The station staff was informed that Orlando Alzugaray's show and Marc Hochman's program (with Zach Krantz) will each combine to fill the two-hour time slot that Kuperstein/Crowder held (1 to 3 p.m.)
Alzugaray's show will now run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Hochman's from 2 to 6 p.m. Joe Rose will remain 6 to 10 a.m., with Alex Donno from 6 to 10 p.m.
Hochman's show previously ran 3 to 7 p.m.
### Marlins players like Dan Jennings, who's as engaging and pleasant a guy you will ever find. But we’re told some pitchers were bothered when he said pitching help is on the way (Jose Fernandez), because they considered it a slight to them.
The feedback from the clubhouse is some of Jennings’ motivational comments would play better in a room full of business executives or front-office employees than a room full of professional athletes --– not surprising considering he never managed beyond high school. Jennings is doing the best he can in a tough assignment.
### Marcell Ozuna is hitting .286 with a home run since his demotion to Triple A, and Miami hopes it’s a short stay. Ozuna was hitting .249 with four homers and 26 RBI with the Marlins.
The Marlins still believe Ozuna will be a good player. And agent Scott Boras cautions: “You don’t evaluate a player in one season. I do it in 2000 to 2200 at bats. He really has all five tools. He has a chance to be a very good player. But there’s a learning process because the league makes an adjustment.
“They’re going to give you things and then you learn to make your own adjustments and take them away. And then they make another one. He’s going through that cycle in his career where it appears this year they’re working him a lot away and he’s got to learn to adjust to that and go forward. Skill wise, this guy --– there aren’t too many guys that can player center field that can provide the offense that he has. He’s on his way in my mind to a pretty star-driven career.”
### One Heat official mentioned that Gerald Green all along was Miami’s top perimeter target in free agency. Impressive Miami got him at the minimum when Marco Bellinelli is getting more than $6 million annually and Alan Anderson $4 million. One former player who worked with Green said he had maturity issues earlier in this career but seems to have grown up…
Despite Dorell Wright saying there is a “great chance” he will be with Miami, that’s not something Miami has pursued. It’s a possibility down the line only if the roster is thinned.
### Please see the last post for a lot more Heat news from Tuesday, including what Chris Bosh told me and few others during a media briefing tonight.
### From talking to Dolphins players, one area where they believe they are going to do real damage is when they play 6-5 Jordan Cameron and 6-4 Dion Sims together at times.
“It will definitely create mismatches, being bigger guys and having a smaller guy on us, a linebacker or somebody that we're quicker or faster than,” Sims said. “They're going to have to decide who they're going to cover and somebody is going to win regardless.”
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz