FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
John Denney has played for six Dolphins coaches, beginning with Nick Saban. So what’s the most unusual thing interim coach Dan Campbell has done, compared to everybody else Denney played for?
“Everything,” the veteran long-snapper said Thursday.
Several of Campbell’s creative touches --- which led Ryan Tannehill to say this is the most fun he has ever had at practice --- have been well-chronicled, including a tug-of-war competition and Thursday’s decision to have the offense wear black jerseys because it got the better of the defense in practice on Wednesday.
“Ninety-five percent of them love it,” Campbell said of those jerseys. “It doesn’t match, but we’re men and it’s not that big a deal... We did it with Tony [Sparano].”
But Campbell has done other unique things that haven’t been reported. Among them:
### He likes non-monetary incentives. Last week, the defensive players who forced a turnover in practice had their names placed in a hat and became eligible to receive a parking spot close to the chartered plane for the Tennessee game.
### Last week, if the offense won the practice, the defensive players were required to carry the offensive players’ pads off the field. It was reversed if the defense won. One player said he hadn’t done anything like that since high school.
### Campbell had offensive and defensive linemen run receiver routes against each other; and a few players kicked field goals against each other, with Ndamukong Suh (a former soccer player) beating Jarvis Landry.
The point to all of this? It keeps players interested, engaged and competitive.
“It’s a long season and you’ve got to make it fun,” Olivier Vernon said. “He does that. It’s a great tactic.”
Said Denney: “At this level, you are competitive by nature and he brings that to the surface. Stupid little games make guys compete. The parking spot is huge.”
Joe Philbin (and UM’s Al Golden, for that matter) are big on slogans; Philbin hung them all over the Dolphins facility and UM – under Golden – pasted inspirational quotes from Golden, Bill Belichick, Rick Pitino and others near urinals, sinks, hallways, etc.
Campbell? Not so much. He ripped down slogans and instead installed TVs which replay highlights from practice (including the tug of war) and game highlights of Dolphins players and Michael Jordan. As one player said, Campbell has struck the right chord with everything he has done.
### Campbell said Thursday he won’t meddle with his coordinators. “Every once in a while, I may have an idea; I’ll give them my opinion. Last thing they need is me looking over their shoulder.”…
Campbell said he “written down scenarios” and watched other teams to brush up on potential clock-management decisions. Every Thursday night, Philbin watched the end of close games from the previous Sunday for pointers.
### New defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo ditched predecessor Kevin Coyle’s approach of splitting middle linebacker snaps between Kelvin Sheppard and Zach Vigil because Anarumo said Sheppard has emerged as “one of the leaders of the defense [and] did a great job of communicating pre-snap.”
### Dallas Thomas, rated 98th of 103 guards by Pro Football Focus, remains an issue; offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said there was “inconsistency” from him Sunday after he graded out best on the team in interior runs the previous four weeks. Plus, he has allowed among the most quarterback hurries of any guard in the league, according to PFF.
General manager Dennis Hickey mentioned this summer that tackle Jason Fox was an option at guard, but Fox said he has received no practice snaps there recently. So the Dolphins, for now, are sticking with Thomas.
### The Marlins have considerable interest in manager Don Mattingly, who parted ways with the Dodgers on Thursday after winning the past three National League West titles (55.1 percent of his games in five seasons) but never making the World Series. The question is whether the other teams seeking a manager (Washington, Seattle, San Diego) will pursue him; Fox reports Scott Servais is the strong front-runner for the Seattle job.
Mattingly would like to manage next season but no meeting had been set up with the Marlins as of 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Owner Jeffrey Loria is a fan of Mattingly (and most great Yankees, for that matter).
### Mario Chalmers has a promise: “I will never shoot 29 percent again [on three-pointers] for a season. I can tell you that. I took 500 to 1000 shots a day, mostly threes, this summer. I got to work on my form, perfect my technique.”
That decline to 29 percent was totally out of character; he shot 40.9 and 38.5 on threes the previous two years.
And the dip didn't happen because he was always closely guarded with LeBron James gone. In fact, on 44 percent of his three-point attempts last season, Chalmers had no defender within six feet, according to Jazz announcer/stats guru David Locke.
### UM, which mustered just 1.1 and 2.5 yards per carry the past two games, now must face a Clemson team yielding 3.0 yards per carry (11th best). Ugh.
And it’s a bit discouraging that ballyhooed freshman Mark Walton --- who scored 31 touchdowns and averaged nearly eight yards per carry over his final two seasons at Booker T. Washington --- is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry against FBS teams and 3.8 overall (222nd in the country).
Conversely, Frank Gore averaged 9.1 yards per carry as a UM freshman, Duke Johnson 6.8, Edgerrin James 6.3 and Clinton Portis 5.9.
Offensive coordinator James Coley loves Walton – “the sky is the limit for him” – but said his per-carry average is a byproduct of poor blocking and not hitting holes quickly enough.
I still expect Walton to be a very good player here, based on his high skill level, work ethic and intelligence.
### New UM president Julio Frenk twice has been asked about Golden’s future during Board of Trustee meetings, including Thursday, and twice said he will leave the decision to athletic director Blake James, according to someone in attendance.
That's in line with Frenk's philosophy of giving his top administrators the power to make the decisions they are entrusted to make.
A high-level Trustee said he believes Golden will be in serious, serious jeopardy after the season without a strong finish over the final six games.
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz