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Local radio departure; A few thoughts from Mark Richt; Noon update on UM targets and losses; Three analysts assess UM class; UM waiting word from several; Whiteside; Heat personnel notes; Dolphins LBs; Panthers rated highly; Marlins

We'll have a post on Mark Richt's 3:30 press conference later. In the meantime, here are a couple of quick thoughts he shared with Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey on ESPN3:

### On the challenges of putting together this class: "When you are in a transition year, you don’t have the year-long relationship with the young man. As you’re beginning to create and develop new relationships, it is a challenge. Recruiting is built so much on relationships; trust takes time. In the future, it will get even better."

### He said he probably knows "the recruits a little better than our current players" because he watched so much tape of them.

### On quarterback Jack Allison: "Wonderful young man. He was the first guy I saw. Watched his tape. Saw him throw the ball. He’s got great zip. A very athletic guy who’s 6-6, 6-5 ½. He’s still a little skinny. When he muscles up, he’s going to be a wonderful player. Very smart, loves the game."

### He said UM began its grueling "mat program" of conditioning on Monday. 

"The mat drills are an early morning conditioning program that is done in a certain way that everyone has to do it exactly right or everyone pays the price. It’s a thing of beauty. It creates mental and physical toughness, learning how to get off the ground, agility, overall conditioning. We will do eight more before the spring."

One quick radio note: 790 The Ticket announced Joy Taylor's final appearance on the station's morning show will be Thursday and that she is expected to take a TV job for Fox in Los Angeles. A search is underway for her replacement.

 

BUZZ COLUMN

See bolded paragraph below for Larry Blustein's reaction on UM's loss of Tyler Byrd tonight.

On the eve of National Signing Day, UM got mixed news tonight. It lost arguably its best recruit, four-star Naples cornerback Tyler Byrd, who flipped to Tennessee. But it picked up four-star safety Romeo Finley.

UM is still waiting word from several targets: receiver Ahmmon Richards (reportedly will pick Miami/will announce noon Wednesday), receiver Randrecous Davis (UM or South Carolina), receiver Tyler Simmons (UM, Georgia, Alabama), defensive tackle Marcel Southall (Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi also in play), safety Romeo Finley (announcing 7 p.m. tonight, with Clemson and Georgia Tech also in the mix), cornerback Shyheim Carter (also considering Alabama, Mississippi), cornerback Henry Miller (Pittsburgh commit), UF commit/cornerback CJ McWilliams; and cornerback James Pierre (North Carolina commit).

UPDATE: Southall says he's signing with Texas, and McWilliams is sticking with UF, and Carter is joining Alabama, Miller is sticking with Pitt and James Pierre with North Carolina. Also, WR Latrell Williams just flipped to Tennessee. But Richards picked Miami.

In the meantime,…

As Mark Richt closes out his first two months of UM recruiting, we assembled a panel of three recruiting experts (Rivals national recruiting director Mike Farrell and South Florida-based Larry Blustein and Charles Fishbein) to assess UM’s 2016 class. Here's what they had to say:

### So what’s the strength of the class?

Farrell, whose service ranks UM’s class 21st: “Receiver and linebacker. Sam Bruce is an electric kid, not big, but a matchup problem for everybody. You can’t cover him out of the slot solo. You can do jet sweeps, reverses with him. [Fellow receiver] Dionte Mullins missed his whole senior year [with academic problems], but looked very good at the Under-Armour [All-American] Game. At linebacker, Shaquille Quarterman will be an All-ACC guy. Not the tallest guy, but a big, thick linebacker than can move. Instinctually, he’s off the charts. Throw in Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud and that’s a pretty good mix of linebackers.”

Blustein: “Definitely linebackers. They picked up an entire corps in one class – inside, middle and outside. That was a huge need of the last three or four years. Pinckney and Quarterman are big kids. McCloud is very intelligent and strong. Pinckney, in the state championship game, crushed every Booker T. Washington player out there. He’s a beast. I’ve seen them all live and they’re all major college linebackers. That’s what they’ve been missing.”

Fishbein: “It starts with getting a top-rated quarterback and Jack Allison has got a ton of talent. And Sam Bruce is the best slot receiver in Florida in last 10 years. He’s a winner. They need to guys who have won.”

### What concerns you about the class?

Farrell: “You have to take three or four offensive linemen every year, and they [have one]. I know they took six last year. But [this] could lead to a big depth issue down the line.”

Blustein cites defensive tackle; UM has one end who can potentially play tackle in three-star Tyreic Martin.

“Now they have to strike gold on defensive tackle next year," Blustein said. "The only way to jump back [to an elite level as a program] is if you have a front seven that puts pressure on teams and you don’t have to put your cornerbacks on an island. Every nationally rated team, Clemson, Alabama all have massive defensive tackles. That’s where the Al Golden era was deficient. If you don’t have a front seven, your secondary will look pedestrian at best.”

Fishbein: Worries about defensive tackle because "there’s not a ton of great d-tackles in the state next year. So you are looking at going out of state and competing with other schools. There are good offensive linemen next year but you don’t want to have to sign six, seven kids to make up for this year.”

### What’s the overall assessment of the class?

Farrell (before Byrd flipped): “I like it better than I did last summer, when they had more kids committed. They were the only school with 20 plus commits at one point; Al Golden was reaching on a lot of guys, taking guys just to take guys. The average star of their commitments at that time was 3.1. Now it’s 3.4, which is very good. [But] I thought they would get more of a late bump with Mark Richt.”

Blustein, after Byrd flipped to Tennessee: “You addressed one major need in linebacker and continued to add depth at a few others. But it’s an incomplete class. You can’t hide your head in the sand. You got crushed two times on national TV. Losing Tyler Byrd was a big loss. It really hurts. I thought he would be a No. 1 corner [eventually]. I don't get it. He was always throwing up the U. Cornerback is a pressing need.... This isn't a marquee class."

I asked Blustein which of the three other committed defensive backs can play cornerback. "Malek Young can play cornerback. But Cedric Wright is a safety. Romeo Finley is a safety. Not sure he can play corner.” (Another defensive back addition, Jeff James, is a safety.)

Fishbein (before Byrd flipped): “Solid class. They kept most of their kids committed, which is very difficult when you have a new staff. You’re trying to build relationships in three, four weeks, when other schools have been doing it for two years.”

### Who’s the player most likely to make an immediate impact?

Farrell: “Bruce first and Quarterman second. It’s easier for receivers to play right away; linebackers have a whole lot more to learn. Sam, you could drop into the lineup and he will make an impact.”

Blustein: “Quarterman. He’s been ready for three years. He can be real special and he’s already enrolled” so he gets a head start in the spring.

Fishbein: “Quarterman. He’s the most physically ready of that group of linebackers.”

### Who’s the best player in this class?

Farrell: “Right now, Sam Bruce. Longterm, [defensive end] Joseph Jackson because he’s so athletic. We’ve seen him play tight end and d-end. He’s jacked out of his skull, 260 pounds. He will play at 270, 280 before he’s done. His ceiling is the highest.”

Blustein says the best player in this class was supposed to be Byrd, who's gone. Without Byrd, now "it's Sam Bruce," Blustein said.

Fishbein: “Bruce or Allison. Allison is the most important player in the class. He’s got the potential to be an elite level quarterback in the ACC. He’s got more upside than Brad Kaaya, has a bigger arm.”

### Who’s the most underrated player in this class?

Farrell: “[Receiver] Latrell Williams will surprise. He’s more of a speed guy than a football player, but those speed guys can sometimes turn out to be really good players. Speed is so coveted in the Southeast.  He’s not the biggest guy in the world. But he’s very quick in short spaces, reaches top speed quickly and cuts without slowing down. He wasn’t heavily recruited until the end. Has been a little bit low in the rankings because we didn’t scout him as much as we would have liked. Now people look at us and say, ‘How on Earth could we miss him?’” [UPDATE: WILLIAMS HAS FLIPPED TO TENNESSEE.]

Blustein: “[Coconut Creek cornerback] Malek Young. I’ve seen him play five positions in a game: corner, safety, running back, kick returner and slot and he beat the Christmas out of everybody. He can play safety or corner effectively, maybe safety a bit better.

“He will get on the field early because Miami needs a jack of all trades. Dallas Crawford was like that, but Malek has got a little more upside than Dallas.” Blustein also mentions Gulliver’s Cedrick Wright, “but he will do only thing: play in the secondary.”

Fishbein: “Joseph Jackson. He’s a guy who committed early, hasn’t had a lot of fanfare, but at a position of need. He has a chance to be an elite defensive end.”

 

### UM recruiting broadcast information: Blustein will be at Twin Peaks in Davie for a recruiting special, doing interviews for WQAM and their web site, beginning at 6:30 Wednesday night. Marc Hochman’s show will originate from that restaurant beginning at 2 p.m…. ESPN3 will have a UM signing day special at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

CHATTER

### A few things to keep in mind in comparing the Heat with and without Hassan Whiteside, entering Tuesday night’s game: The Heat has scored at least 100 points in five of seven without him, 13 of 41 with him… They’re averaging 3.2 points more per game without him but also allowing 2.5 points more without him… Surprisingly, they rebound slightly better in the games he hasn’t played… They entered Tuesday 5-2 without him, 22-19 with him.

Regarding his exchange with a Heat fan on Instagram (see the last post), Whiteside acknowledged today: "I've got to do a better job of leaving things alone."

### The Heat would have interest in Joe Johnson if he agrees to a Nets buyout of his expiring contract. Johnson on Tuesday wouldn’t rule out a buyout…

Though the Heat (now without Tyler Johnson for two months) could use another shooter and Sacramento’s Marco Bellinelli is available, he’s due $6.3 million next season and $6.6 million the following, and that’s a deterrent with Miami looking to maximize future cap space…. As of this afternoon, there was nothing percolating with the Heat and free agent guard Tony Wroten. The Heat made a due-diligence inquiry about him last month.

### The Dolphins want to acquire a new middle linebacker this offseason to upgrade over Kelvin Sheppard, but the front office already conveyed how much upside they still see in Zach Vigil and told him they envision him getting at least some first-team reps in OTAs (though a veteran pickup or high draft pick would appear likely to start).

The Dolphins have been privately non-committal about whether they will keep strongside linebacker Koa Misi, who’s under contract. Of the linebackers, Jelani Jenkins, Vigil and Neville Hewitt seem to have the best chance of being here in August. But we'll see; a lot still needs to be decided.

### Difficult to find a former Adam Gase pupil who doesn’t rave about him. Speaking to NFL.com at Super Bowl Media Day, Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler this week called him “one of the most brilliant minds in football.”

### How times have changed: USA Today rates the Panthers fourth among Stanley Cup favorites, behind Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles. “The industry standard is to believe you must lose in the playoffs to learn how to win in the postseason,” USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen wrote. “But the Panthers have older players, such as Willie Mitchell and Jaromir Jagr, who know abut winning championships. They also have… Roberto Luongo, and he has carried teams to an Olympic gold medal.”

### Add Kyle Lohse (5-13, 5.85 ERA for the Brewers) to the list of veteran free agent starters being explored by the Marlins, as The Boston Globe reported. He was 13-9 in 2014. Among others: Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum and Alfredo Simon. The Marlins have very little money to offer within the budget given them by Jeffrey Loria.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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