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Friday afternoon: Dolphins slot corner battle; UM nuggets (coaches, cornerbacks, Larranaga) and Bonds on Ozuna, Stanton's struggles

With Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum confirming today that Iko Ekpre-Olomu has been cleared to do everything, an interesting battle looms with front-runner Bobby McCain for the slot corner job, with former Cowboys nickel back Tyler Patmon also in the mix. 

Bengals free agent Leon Hall is still available, but the Dolphins haven't brought him in for a visit. Hall, who underwent back surgery earlier this offseason, has visited four teams but remains unsigned.

"Excited to see what he can do," Tannenbaum said of Ekpre Olomu, who fell from a likely early-round pick to a seventh-rounder in 2015 because of the devastating knee injury that sidelined him his rookie season and eventually led to the Cleveland Browns releasing him this past March. "He's done everything we've asked so far."

So if the 5-9 Ekpre Olomu regains what he had before the injury, what could the Dolphins be getting?       

NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote this before the draft, after his injury in advance of Oregon's playoff game that season: "What he lacks in measurables, he makes up for with production, natural ability and confidence. He might lack the size teams want from an outside cornerback, but he's more than capable of playing in the slot and playing press, off or zone effectively.  

"Very fluid mover. He can transition like his hips are on a swivel and he has the foot quickness in tight spaces to match. Instinctive and alert. Will transition from man or zone coverage and become a willing tackler against crossing routes that enter his side of the field. Not a robotic defender -- adjusts on the fly as plays unfold. Uses the boundary effectively. Doesn't shy away from tackling. Competitive and won't prematurely open up out of fear. Tracks the ball effectively and has plus ball skills. Mentally tough and twitchy. Playmaking tendencies. Aggressive for size in press coverage. Has experience outside and in the slot. Projected as an NFL gunner on special teams."

But... "He gets in trouble trying to bait throws," Zierlein said. "Spends too much time trying to read quarterback and jump routes. Scouting community down on short cornerbacks. Prefers to play trail technique but lacks length speed to recover when challenged over the top against bigger targets. Missed more tackles in 2014 than in any other season. Can get wild and lose technique as a tackler. Tape from 2014 has scouts questioning his long speed."

Zierlein quoted an AFC South scout saying this before the 2015 draft: "He's tough and has ball skills. He's just being asked to go play right now but he'll get the right technique work in our league and watch how good he becomes then. He's going to be great."

Now the question is whether he has regained enough of that speed and mobility to become a contributing NFL corner. 

The Dolphins think a lot of McCain, so much that they cut Brice McCain even though his contract wasn't onerous, and traded Jamar Taylor for what amounted to a stick of gum.

Bobby McCain allowed 18 of the 31 passes thrown in his coverage area to be caught for 264 yards last season, with a 107.5 passer rating in his coverage area. But the Dolphins loved the ball-hawking skills he showed at Memphis and believe he will be improved.

As for Patmon, he had one interception and seven passes defended for Dallas in 22 games over 2014 and 2015. He played in two games for the Dolphins last season after being claimed off waivers.

Check out Adam Beasley's stories on the home page for what Mike Pouncey said at today's Dolphins charity golf tournament (a few players spoke) and a couple other items from Tannenbaum.

• UM has indicated it's open to extending basketball coach Jim Larranaga’s contract beyond 2021-22. (He's under contract through that season).

 “I really never want to retire,” Larranaga, 66, said. “I don't see myself as a retiree. I'm not going to assisted living or a senior citizen home. I'm going to coach until I'm dead.”

• UM players publicly and privately have raved about several of the assistant football coaches, and credit UM for quietly increasing its coaching salary pool by 25 to 30 percent this year, according to a source. UM outbid Georgia Tech for well-regarded offensive line coach Stacey Searels.

• UM badly needs cornerbacks who can help immediately and hasn’t found one in the transfer market, but cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph said coordinator Manny Diaz believes safety Adrian Colbert – a veteran transfer from Texas – can play corner if UM chooses.

(Diaz's and Colbert's time together at Texas intersected in 2012 and for Diaz, early in 2013).

None of the contenders for the No. 3 cornerback job (Michael Jackson, Ryan Mayes, Terrance Henley) seized the job  in the spring. Safety Jaquan Johnson remains an option, with Rumph having gently lobbied for him to play corner.

Marcell Ozuna’s on base percentage had increased by 35 points above his career average (to .350) and his batting average by 32 points (to .302), and he is heeding hitting coach Barry Bonds’ advice to be patient and take more walks. Bonds sees so much potential here.

“If he works on his base-running, he could be a 30/30 player,” Bonds said. “He plays a great center field. He has a great arm. But base-running is his Achilles' heel. He's a little tentative running the bases. That's his only Achilles' heel. But he'll get that."

Keep in mind that Ozuna has stolen only 10 bases in parts of four seasons. His career high for home runs is 23, two seasons ago.

Bonds has advised Ozuna to “respect the pitcher enough where he does hit his spot, you have to tip your hat to that. You can't come out of your zone and do something stupid that really isn't going to benefit you. He's learning patience, looking for a good pitch to hit. and if he misses it, you still have two more shots at it.

“He has a good approach. He’s happy all the time. He's maturing. He's got lots of talent. Sometimes it just takes the right person to send a message you understand or get.”

• Though Giancarlo Stanton (batting .221) is too good for this slump to continue, this is worrisome: He’s striking out 33 percent of his plate appearances, compared with 28 percent previously in his career, and has the sixth most strikeouts in baseball. And there’s this: He’s 0 for 15 with eight strikeouts with two outs and runners in scoring position. Only San Diego’s Derek Norris is worse in those situations (0 for 16).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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