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Prominent former UM players seek role in coaching search and more from UM; Dolphins, Heat nuggets


In many ways, former Hurricanes football stars are a huge asset for the program, because of their popularity (which helps the brand), how passionately many of them care, and the positive, albeit indirect, impact they provide in recruiting. (For example: Promising freshman receiver Lawrence Cager said one reason he picked UM was because of the tradition of great receivers, mentioning Andre Johnson specifically.)

But dealing with former Hurricanes standouts can be tricky for this UM administration, because some would like two things that UM might not be willing to give: an important role in this ongoing coaching search and sideline access during games.

As WINZ’s Andy Slater reported, several former players – including Bryant McKinnie, Edgerrin James and Jonathan Vilma --- held a conference call to discuss a possible role in helping select the next coach.

Two other former players who were on that call told me there have been multiple conference calls (including one on Tuesday) and a bunch of former players involved, and that the group (led by Vilma) would like two former UM players – one on offense, one on defense – to be included in interviews with coaching candidates.

“Some coaches can fool businessmen, but we might be able to see through them during the interview,” said one ex-player partaking in the calls, who said he was not authorized to speak publicly and that former players in the Vilma-led group have been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements. “We have insight on schemes, offensively and defensively, and have a perspective on who can identify with players, that businessmen in suits might not have. Why not tap into that resource?”

That former UM standout said players, on the conference calls, have discussed which players would be best to recommend to participate in those interviews and which coaching candidates make the most sense. The player said there is considerable ex-player support for Butch Davis, but some also like Mario Cristobal and Greg Schiano.

Another player on the call said: “We want more input from here on out, not just with the coaching search.”

One player on the call said there has been contact between a member of the group and athletic director Blake James. But it remains to be seen if James allows one of them to sit in coaching interviews --- which would be highly unusual.

James declined to address that or discuss the Vilma-led group, saying only that there will be “some type of communication” with former players seeking involvement. 

McKinnie, who (like Vilma) declined to say anything about any conference calls or his possible involvement, told our Susan Miller Degnan: “Keeping players connected to the university requires them having a little bit of input [in the hiring process]… Letting the players have a little voice helps in all phases. Just give a little insight on different things the program may need. Just be an extra voice on things that maybe the program isn’t aware of that we look at differently because a lot of us are fresh out of playing.”

Former Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta said “it would be wise to have them involved, a view former defensive lineman William Joseph also conveyed to us. “There should be at least one to sit in on interviews with the head coach,” Torretta said.

Some other UM people are also in favor of this. Attorney Alan Bell, a member of the UM president's council and chairman of the Environmental Health Foundation, said former UM players "need a voice and need to he heard in this process. They are the most fertile pipeline to the NFL in the U.S. and bring a wealth of loyalty, talent and vision to the table."

Meanwhile, several players also have been vocal about their desire to gain access on the sidelines during games, something UM once permitted but stopped allowing after the Nevin Shapiro investigation.

UM said it prohibited donors, former players and Trustee members from the sidelines “as part of action taken in response to the NCAA investigation and major infractions case.” UM instead gives two complimentary suite tickets to all former players for every game.

But Torretta said their presence is missed on the sideline.

“It's not that we're going to coach those guys on the sideline,” he said. “I remember Bernie Kosar walking by with just a couple words of advice. We're not coaching, but it puts it in the back of your head. The coaches can't do that. Everyone else seems to have them on the sideline. We need them. USC has a certain number of passes it uses for former players. Why aren’t we?”


### Even when the Dolphins deem DeVante Parker healthy enough to contribute, here’s the conundrum: How do you create a lot of snaps for him when Miami is pleased with Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews and Kenny Stills and plays its fourth receiver just a few snaps a game?

“When DeVante was healthy in the spring, we had great confidence in his ability to contribute this year,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Thursday. “I don’t know if we’ve seen him as healthy [any time] this year. Probably not.”

### Incidentally, the Dolphins have not approached Matthews, an impending free agent, about a new contract.

### Though the Dolphins want to increase the role of one rookie defensive draft pick (cornerback Bobby McCain), defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said there are no plans to do that with second-round tackle Jordan Phillips, who has two sacks. They’re sticking with starter Earl Mitchell.

Anarumo said Phillips is “at the right number” of snaps – 17 per game, on average. One NFC scout wondered why Miami doesn’t play veteran tackle CJ Mosley more with Ndamukong Suh, considering they played well together in Detroit.

### McCain told me has has received first-team snaps this week. Dan Campbell said the rookie will play on the boundary Sunday, sharing time with Jamar Taylor opposite Brent Grimes.

### After two of his snaps sailed out of the end zone for safeties the past two weeks, even Mike Pouncey’s neighbor in Davie “told me, ‘Don’t do it again!’” Pouncey said, smiling. “I feel I let the team down. It hasn’t happened in practice. I’m shocked it happened in the game. [Against Buffalo], it was too fast for [Ryan Tannehill] to catch.”

### Unlike Joe PhilbinAl Golden is keeping in touch with many of his former players. He texted a bunch of them the day after the funeral for Artie Burns’ mother last week, just to see how they’re doing.

Considering how fans castigated him, it’s no surprise Golden fled South Florida and put his home up for sale two days after being fired. If you’re Golden, who wants to live in a place where people are calling a local merchandise store (allCanes) asking for orange ties so they can dress up like Golden on Halloween?

### More good work tonight from Chris Bosh (25 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks); he entered fourth among all power forwards in scoring and tied for second in rebounding (behind Kevin Love). And Bosh continues to do some of his best work alongside four reserves.

### If Hassan Whiteside keeps playing like this (he’s first in the NBA in blocks, fourth in field goal percentage and sixth in rebounds), he might command something within a few million of a $22 million max salary next season, considering that much of the league will have tens of millions of cap space. It takes only one to pay him a fortune, and remember this is a league where teams pay a ton for bigs who can walk and chew gum at the same time (the Knicks will pay Robin Lopez more than $13 million next season).

Here's the good contractual news: Unlike with Whiteside, Tyler Johnson will be a restricted free agent (not unrestricted) next summer, allowing the Heat to match other offers. Under the Gilbert Arenas rule, no team can offer Johnson more than the equivalent of the $6 million mid-level exception next season.

The good news is that Miami can exceed the cap to sign Johnson, provided his salary begins at no more than 104.5 percent of the NBA's average salary of just over $6 million. And there's no reason to start Johnson above that amount, because other teams can't offer even that, let alone more than that.

Conversely, Whiteside's salary -- which will start well above that amount -- would count against the cap, meaning the Heat cannot exceed the cap to re-sign him.

### UM basketball season begins Friday, and ESPN’s Dick Vitale said this looks like an NCAA Tournament team: “They will be good; they will defend and they have good guard play.” 

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz