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31 posts from June 2016

June 20, 2016

4 p.m.: LeBron admits Heat's comments hurt him; Media notes: NBA ratings; Familiar face in mix for national job; Simmons show launches; Marlins' analyst problem; ESPN's newest UM project; Local radio and more

Quick thing from LeBron James we found interesting in the wake of Cleveland's championship:

"When I decided to leave Miami," James told ESPN, "I'm not going to name any names, I can't do that. But there were some people that I trusted and built relationships with in those four years [who] told me I was making the biggest mistake of my career.

"And that [expletive] hurt me. And I know it was an emotional time that they told me that because I was leaving. They just told me it was the biggest mistake I was making in my career. And that right there was my motivation."

ESPN's Dave McMenamin previously identified Pat Riley as the source of James' discontentment.

"He felt taken for granted," McMenamin said, "like, 'Look, I just gave you four years of my prime and you're not going to be comfortable with my decision and root me on? You're going to try to make me feel bad going out the door?' "

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Some media notes on a Monday:

• As expected, Game 7 of the NBA Finals produced monster numbers for ABC, locally and nationally. But as expected, they didn’t come anywhere close to Super Bowl ratings.

The 18.9 overnight rating for Game 7 (the rating for 56 big markets) topped the 17.7 overnight for Heat-Spurs Game 7 in 2013 and was the highest for any ABC or ESPN program in a decade. Lakers-Celtics Game 7 drew an 18.2 overnight on ABC in 2010.

But the 18.9 is dwarfed by the 49.0 overnight rating for this year's Super Bowl on CBS.

2 p.m. Update: Nationally, the 30.8 million viewers were the most for an NBA game since Game 6 of the 1998 Finals.

Locally, Game 7 last night drew a 24.3 rating in Miami Fort Lauderdale, ranking fourth in the country among those 56 metered markets, behind only Cleveland, San Francisco and Columbus, Ohio.

That means 24.3 percent of Miami-Ft. Lauderdale homes with TV sets were tuned in, with one ratings point equaling about 16,500 homes.

By comparison, Heat-Raptors Game 7 did an 18.7 rating in Miami-Fort Lauderdale. Our Super Bowl rating (38.1) was lowest among 56 markets.

• Because ESPN has given him more assignments that expected (including the College World Series), Eduardo Perez has worked fewer Marlins games than the team anticipated – at least six fewer to date. That’s unfortunate, because Perez has been the best of the Marlins’ four new TV analysts.

That also means Fox has used Preston Wilson more than it expected.  Al Leiter, working a small package of games, is assigned to the Marlins-Cubs four-game series this weekend.

Tommy Hutton remains very much missed.

• ESPN is doing a 30 for 30 episode on the historic 1988 Notre Dame-UM game, which the Fighting Irish won 31-30 in a game filled with high drama and a VERY questionable officiating call that cost Miami. A run date has not been set.

• As The Big Lead reported, I’m also hearing that Max Kellerman is the favorite to replace Fox-bound Skip Bayless as Stephen A. Smith’s sparring partner on First Take, IF he wants the job. Kellerman and Smith have done an off-air audition together.

But former South Florida radio personality Jorge Sedano, who hosts a night-time ESPN Radio show with Israel Gutierrez, is also in the mix if things don’t work out with Kellerman, who already has a good gig in Los Angeles (working on ESPN’s Sports Nation and doing a local radio show).

It’s unclear if Kellerman would automatically take the job to replace Bayless. First Take is filmed at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

As The Big Lead noted (and I confirmed), Sedano and Will Cain will both get on-air auditions with Stephen A. in July. ESPN figures to make a decision soon after that.

The Ticket often airs the two-hour Sedano/Gutierrez show at 10 p.m., on an one-hour tape delay.

• Bill Simmons’ new HBO series, Any Given Wednesday, debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday, with Ben Affleck and Charles Barkley his first guests.

“I’m all for, like, who can I click with,” Simmons said during a promotional appearance on NBC last week, noting the program will include sports, plus “a little pop culture, some tech, a little ‘where stuff’s going’ type of things.”

When NBC's Savannah Guthrie characterized Simmons’ departure from ESPN as, in part, “personality conflict” between Simmons and the network, Simmons replied: “I look at it the other way. I made it 14 years. It's a place that people that are outspoken or creative or frustrated creative people, they're not really meant to be there for two decades.

“So I look back and I think, like seven years, eight years might have been probably the max for it. ... We did some great stuff -- created ‘30 for 30,’ created Grantland, the stuff we did on ESPN.com. I look back and I'm amazed by all the stuff we’re able to do.”

Guthrie read a statement from ESPN President John Skipper in which Skipper said the company "severed our relationship with Bill because of his repeated lack of respect for this company and more importantly the people who work here.”

To which Simmons said: “What's interesting about that is at Grantland, I had 50 people that worked with me there, and 27 of them now are with me at The Ringer. Math doesn’t lie.”

• Dish Network, which is in seven million homes, has dropped NFL Network after the sides couldn’t come to terms on a licensing agreement.

This will be an issue during the season, when NFL Net carries seven games that aren’t on CBS or NBC. (Those two free TV networks combine to carry 10 other Thursday games that are also simulcast on NFL Net).

Expect DirecTV to push hard to lure those Dish subscribers.

• 790 The Ticket is apparently having a difficult time filling two open slots --- the early afternoon co-host job (alongside Leroy Hoard and Brian "The Beast" London) from 1 to 3 p.m. and the evening co-host job (alongside Josh Friedman) from 7 to 10 p.m.

Ticket general manager Doug Abernethy said he’s unsure how either slot will be filed.

The 1 to 3 job opened when Eric Reed quit the radio business, and the 7 to 10 p.m. opening was created when Chris Wittyngham was promoted to the 4 to 7 p.m. show, alongside Ethan Skolnick.

The Ticket wanted to hire NBC 6’s Adam Kuperstein to work the 1 to 3 p.m. show with Hoard, but Kuperstein could not do it because he has been assigned to co-anchor NBC 6’s new 4 p.m. newscast and the radio station didn’t want him doing the 790 show from NBC 6’s studios.

The Ticket also likes Will Manso, but Channel 10 would not permit him to take the job because he already has two jobs (for WPLG and Heat studio work on Fox Sports Sun).

That leaves The Ticket choosing among a few local sportswriters, in-house candidate Brendan Tobin and anyone else who surfaces.

Greg Likens, the former Dolphins host on previous rights-holder WINZ (940), has done one one-air audition for the evening slot and would be a good fit alongside Friedman. So would London.

• Former longtime Orlando Sentinel columnist Larry Guest has written a book "Sports Icons 'R' Funny" with unique anecdotes about a bunch of sports celebrities with ties to the state, including Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Steve Spurrier. For more information, go to larryguest.com.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

June 18, 2016

Marlins executive Mike Hill addresses bunch of issues: Stanton's and Chen's struggles; Gordon's return; pleasant surprises; what Mattingly has brought

          As the Marlins approach the midpoint of their season battling for a playoff berth, president/baseball operations Michael Hill addressed several topics when I spoke to him this week:

  • On pleasant surprises: “The team, how they’ve taken that next
    step. How you hoped what we saw in September was not a mirage and how these guys were coming together and starting to believe in the ability that they had and that they could achieve great things if they played together as a team and took care of each and took care of the little things. It’s that sense of team that has allowed them to overcome whatever has been thrown their way, whether it’s Dee [Gordon’s] suspension or Giancarlo [Stanton’s] struggles or Carter Capps blowing out. We always talk about the grind of the season. You never know what you’re going to face, but you have to be prepared to deal with it and overcome it if you want to achieve great things.”

          Hill also cites “the growth of Marcell Ozuna, and Derek Dietrich stepping in and stepping up, of Christian Yelich showing that he is a true three hole hitter, Martin Prado doing what he’s doing, JT Realmuto showing he’s a frontline catcher in this catcher.”

  • Glad you kept Ozuna, huh? “Ozuna’s talent was unquestioned. We really felt like last year was just part of his growth and he would learn from adversity that he faced. Pitch selection, his discipline. He’s narrowed his strike zone.

          “In this league, if they can get you out without throwing you a strike, they won’t throw you a strike. He has really tightened things up and they have to pitch to him now and he’s an unbelievably talented young man. You make mistakes, he’s going to make you pay for it.”

  • On Giancarlo Stanton, who has been struggling for much of the past five weeks, Hill said he’s not worried, that he would be worried if he were in perfect form and still not getting results: “You can see it wasn’t him. You could see he was out of sync. We had to get him in sync. That’s what everyone has been working to make happen.”
  • On Wei-Yin Chen’s struggles: “We knew there would be a little bit of growing pains coming over [from the AL] and a little bit has been his pitch sequences and pitch selections. We fully believe that’s something that’s correctable and he will be the pitcher we expect him to be.”
  • On what Don Mattingly has given this team: “A calmness. A calmness in chaos. When things are crazy, he has a tremendous feel for this team and a self-confidence in himself and his abilities. He’s not panicked, he’s calm, so we don’t need to panic and we don’t need to lose cite of the bigger [picture], of what our ultimate goal is.  You talk about Donny and all the great things that he’s done. He’s kept his bench as sharp as any bench I’ve ever been associated with. Whether it’s Chris Johnson, keeping him sharp, or Deitrich or Ichiro. He does a tremendous job making sure they get at-bats. You need a 25 man roster to be successful and he makes sure they’re all given enough playing time to stay sharp.”
  • Speaking of that, Hill envisions Dietrich continuing to get some playing time when Gordon is eligible to return from suspension July 29.

          “We’ve talked, whenever Dee comes back [eligible July 29], we’ll just continue to be creative and keep everybody sharp. We always felt [he was good enough to be an everyday player]  because of his offensive potential, his knowledge of the strike zone, his ability to get on base. Those are all things that make him an everyday player and now he’s just been given the opportunity to do it. We’ve been creative in finding at bats for him in the past.”

  • On first-round pick Braxton Garrett, the prep lefty from Alabama: “Young, athletic, lightning quick arm. I saw his last game of the year, up to 95, power curveball, plus changeup. His athleticism will allow him to move fast. Hopefully, we have him before the July 4 deadline [to sign].

          “You saw Cliff Lee [watching him pitch], honestly. The athleticism, the pitch selection, the competitiveness. We’re very excited given the six picks ahead of us. We were very excited he was still there.”

Asking and answering on Heat free agency, with cap rising higher than originally projected; Marino news; Marlins; Richt's offense; Beckham

 

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Asking and answering Heat questions, with NBA free agency beginning July 1:

• With the cap now projected at $94 million ($2 million more than originally expected), will the Heat have enough space to sign an impact player after potentially using most of its $42 million to re-sign Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside?

Probably not. But that changes if the Heat clears out space by finding a taker for Josh McRoberts (due $5.8 million next season) or less likely, trades Goran Dragic ($15.9 million).

Other than long shots Kevin Durant and LeBron James (more on Durant below), there’s probably nobody else in this free agent class worth dumping Dragic’s salary for, because that $15.9 million isn’t going to get Al Horford, DeMar DeRozan or probably Mike Conley (who Miami likes). And the next tier of players, such as Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, aren’t necessarily better than Dragic.

McRoberts is another story. Finding a taker for him – and taking no money back - would give Miami potentially $9 million to $12 million or so in space after signing Wade and Whiteside, depending on what Wade and Whiteside sign for. 

The Heat is expected to try to re-sign Luol Deng, but that becomes a lot more realistic if Miami can trade McRoberts and take no money back. 

Other potential free agent targets in that scenario could include Jeff Green, Jared Dudley, Mirza Teletovic, Arron Afflalo, Marvin Williams, Kent Bazemore, David West, Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill and Marreese Speights, though some of those players (such as Bazemore) could command more and some of those won't command as much as $12 million.

Even if Whiteside stays, the Heat would need size if Deng and Amar’e Stoudemire leave and McRoberts is dealt. The Heat also has a $2.9 million room exception (which it could offer to Joe Johnson), but that cannot be combined with cap space.

• Yes, the odds are against signing Durant. But is there any way to sign Durant, Whiteside and Wade and fit them all under the cap?

Potentially yes. First, let’s accept that Durant likely isn’t going to accept less than his $26.4 million max, and the best way to sell Durant on the Heat would be a scenario where Whiteside is retained.

One way to achieve that: Dumping Dragic and McRoberts while taking no money back, thus giving Miami about $63 million in cap space; giving Durant a max deal; giving Whiteside a max deal (his first-year max will be $22 million) and asking Wade to take $15 million.

The other unlikely scenario: Keep Dragic, trade McRoberts, pay Durant $26.4 million, get Whiteside to take a bit under $21 million and somehow get Wade to accept a minimum deal, with the wink-wink understanding that he would get the max $35.4 million in 2017-18. It’s difficult to envision Wade accepting this.

As heathoops.com’s Albert Nahmad noted, in that scenario, Miami could exceed the cap to pay Wade a max deal in 2017 because his summer 2017 cap hold, based off that hypothetical (albeit unlikely) minimum deal next season, would be so low.

But Durant remains a long shot. He told USA Today last month: “I see great things for this team [Oklahoma City] and it’s great to be a part of it.”

• The Heat is in good position to sign Whiteside and Whiteside wants to stay if all things are equal, a close associate said. But what if the Heat doesn’t go to the max with Whiteside and another team swoops in and signs him? Then what?

We hear there would be Heat interest in Horford and Joakim Noah in that scenario (presuming it doesn’t get top target Durant or James, whom ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said could return to Miami if Cleveland wins the title Sunday).

The Heat likes both Horford and Noah, but Whiteside remains its top choice, aside from Durant.

There are mixed views internally about free agent Dwight Howard, incidentally. But as Pat Riley said, Whiteside remains the priority and it will be somewhat surprising if Miami lets him get away.

CHATTER

Besides doing more work with personnel (including evaluating tape of college players), Dolphins special adviser Dan Marino apparently is doing more coaching.

Rookie Brandon Doughty said last week that Marino is “in every meeting” with the team’s quarterbacks, joining assistants Clyde Christensen and Bo Hardegree and occasionally, Adam Gase. Marino also has been hands-on with Doughty.

“He’s been telling me I need to align to my throws, not fall off my throws,” Doughty said. “I’m going to work on that the next five weeks, I guarantee you. I get to talk to him every single day. It’s pretty cool.

"Actually had a flashback; my mom sent me a picture of Halloween of me being Dan Marino. I showed him the other day. Dan has still got it. A lot of teams don’t have a guy like that, with that much knowledge, to pick his mind. We’re in a special spot.”

• UM players love Mark Richt’s offense and the flexibility it offers to change plays.

“There's an answer for everything,” receiver Braxton Berrios told me. “It seems like there's never a bad situation or a bad play where we get stuck. No matter what defense they run, even on the absolute [best] play call for that defense, there's still a safety [valve in the UM offense], something there that we still have available without forcing anything. It doesn't have to be a bad play.”

• The Marlins wisely included a 2017 team option on Ichiro Suzuki’s contract for $2 million, which seems very likely to be picked up considering how he’s playing (.349 average entering this weekend series, .410 with runners on base, an absurd .471 with runners in scoring position).

• After a horrible month-long slump that dropped his average to .192, Giancarlo Stanton is now 5 for his last 8, raising his average to .210 after today's 9-6 win against Colorado.

• Attendance plummeted from 27,400 per game in the first year in Marlins Park (2012) to nothing above 21,386 per game in 3 ½ years since. But the Marlins always believed that if they won, crowds would return. So it’s disappointing that the Marlins, now four games above .500, are again last in the National League in average tickets sold at 20,281 entering this weekend.

The first two games of the Rockies series this weekend drew 19,767 and 19,655. It's disconcerting that neither could top 20,000, considering Miami is in contention.

“I think for sure [averaging 25,000] is realistic,” Marlins president David Samson said last week. “There’s never any disappointment with our fans. We owe it to them to do better on the field. We've been relevant for 2 1/2 months. Doing that a few years in a row, you would see attendance grow. Having a winning season would be a good first step. People want to see that the team has a chance.”

David Beckham’s MLS publicist said he remains “very optimistic we will be fielding a Miami team in 2018.”

But Beckham and Miami-Dade county have not been seeing eye-to-eye on the value of land that his group needs to buy from the county. That remains one of the holdups.

Beckham also has been trying for months to close a deal to add an investor who would provide a cash infusion.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz
         

June 17, 2016

Signs of progress, but accuracy still a work in progress for Tannehill; Dolphins post-minicamp nuggets, views; UM, Marlins, Heat

 

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

A six-pack of postscripts from the Dolphins’ offseason program, which ended Thursday:

• You watch Ryan Tannehill make the handful of impressive, thread-the-needle throws that he delivered this week --- a dart to DeVante Parker, a missile to Jarvis Landry, a perfect spiral to Kenny Stills --- and it’s easy to envision him moving into the NFL’s top half of quarterbacks.

You can talk yourself into that belief (and the Dolphins have), seeing the strong arm, understanding the likelihood that Adam Gase should be very good for him, and taking into account the 51 touchdown, 24 interception ratio the past two seasons.

But then you watch the sometimes errant ball placement, the pass thrown behind the tight end or thrown too low -- and you wonder if Tannehill will ever be more than pretty good.

Tannehill had a good week, and nobody is perfect, but there are still areas where the accuracy could be better, situations when he throws behind a receiver or a running back or a tight end, forcing the player to contort himself to catch it and fall to the ground, instead of catching it in stride and running for significant yards after catch.

Tannehill’s completion percentage dropped from 66.4 in 2014 to 61.9 in 2015, which was 21st in the league. Accuracy has been an emphasis.

Is he where the Dolphins want with his accuracy?

“There have been a few throws where I would like to see the ball placement be a little better,” Gase said Thursday. “There have been a few times, too, where they haven’t been on the same page where [Tannehill] is going where he’s supposed to go and the receiver didn’t stem it vertical enough [and as a result] it looks like a poor throw. That’s the development of the offense. You’re not going to be perfect from the get go.”

During individual drills on Thursday, all five quarterbacks were asked to make a dozen throws, with the goal of getting the ball in a trash can in the corner of the end zone. Passes were launched from the 6, 20 and 30 yards lines. Tannehill didn’t get any balls in the trash can, hitting the side twice and missing every other time. Matt Moore dropped two in the can and Brandon Doughty did it once.

But there has been growth with Tannehill:

“The kid is constantly working,” Moore said. “Works harder than anybody. Just sitting with Gase, you can see his confidence is off the charts. The footwork stuff we’re doing is translating. Moving in the pocket, you mix that with accuracy. That’s sort of the key. Footwork, pocket movement and accuracy are really good right now.”

And say this for Tannehill: ESPN’s KC Joyner tells us Tannehill made bad decisions on just 0.7 percent of his throws in 2015, tied with Aaron Rodgers for third best in the league.

“If you’re below one percent, that’s elite,” said Joyner, who identifies bad decisions as mental errors leading to a turnover or potential turnover.

Incidentally, Chicago’s Jay Cutler went from 1.5 percent in 2014 to 1.0 percent in 2015, his one year under Gase.

• Though it’s easier for receivers to shine in May/June drills (without full pads), Leonte Carroo has made quite an impression.

Safety Michael Thomas “called me Anquan Boldin” this week, Carroo said. “He said, ‘You play like him – you’re big, you’re physical like him.’ I’ve heard that a lot. A faster Anquan Boldin.”

Carroo, incidentally, will spend most of the next five “vacation weeks” training with Jarvis Landry.

• Jay Ajayi has dropped a few out of the backfield, despite his success doing that at Boise State. He said that route running and working on his receiving skills will be a priority for him during the next month. I'm not overly concerned because he was a good receiver out of the backfield at Boise.

• Though the Dolphins have given Jordan Phillips every chance to beat out Earl Mitchell, Mitchell so far is holding his own. Mitchell said he expects that battle to continue into the season…. The Xavien Howard/Tony Lippett competition also remains very close. Howard had a pretty good week, with an interception and a pass breakup.

• Defensive ends Terrence Fede and Chris McCain – who face uphill climbs to make the roster – had good moments this week, and here’s the good news: The NFL said this week that now four (instead of two) of the 10 players on the practice squad can have up to two years of NFL service time. McCain and Fede qualify.

• Bobby McCain has had a solid offseason, but considering the lack of proven depth at slot corner (McCain, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Tyler Patmon, seventh-rounder Jordan Lucas), it’s mystifying why Miami cut Brice McCain when doing so cleared just $2.5 million in space that it never used.

So is Gase comfortable having no proven veteran slot corner?  

“We’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t veterans,” he said. “We’re young. That’s not going to be an excuse. Nobody is going to care when it comes September. Nobody cares. Just got to figure out a way to win.”

• For a lot more Dolphins nuggets from the final day of the offseason program, please click here.

CHATTER

• Mark Richt said Thursday he expects UM’s entire recruiting class to be enrolled by late June, with no academic non-qualifiers. Richt expects all three freshmen receivers will need to play this year: Ahmmon Richards (enrolled last month) and Sam Bruce and Dionte Mullins (both set to arrive June 27). Richt quizzed Richards about the offense this week and Richt said he answered “90 percent” correctly.

“If they’re a quick study, they’ll get it figured out pretty quick,” Richt said of the last group of incoming freshmen.

Richt said Bruce will be able to catch up “because he will have veteran receivers who can help him,” as well as receivers coach Ron Dugans.

• UM players have been running drills on their own, but Richt said Thursday: “We’re allowed to have two hours of meetings a week, so we’ll meet with them and we’re basically re-installing everything we installed in the spring just little by little.

"We installed it in the spring, but we installed it again in the summer and then install it again when two-a-days begin and the five-day acclimation period begins. We’re just kind of going over the same thing over and over.... When they’re bored with it, they’ve got it. They’ll have it figured out. If there’s still a little bit of uncertainty, you’ve got a little more work to do.”

• UM says it's the only school in America this academic year whose football team played in a bowl game; men's and women's basketball teams made the NCAA Tournament; and baseball team made the College World Series. Neat.

• If you missed it yesterday, here's what Al Golden had to say this week in his first public comments since being fired by UM.

• Justin Nicolino has allowed 31 hits and 12 runs in his last 16 innings, but the Marlins might need to live with that because of alarming lack of starting pitching depth in their system. Jarred Cosart, in Triple A, has been out with a strained oblique and top prospect Austin Brice (2-6, 3.00) is coming off two poor starts.

That leaves Jose Urena and journeymen Dylan Axelrod, Paul Clemens, Chris Reed (pitching well) and Chris Narveson among options should the Marlins make a change in their rotation.

• If you missed it on Manny Navarro's Heat blog, Udonis Haslem said he will work out with Chris Bosh this summer and Haslem is operating under the assumption Bosh will play next season, though Bosh hasn't assured him of that.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

June 16, 2016

4 p.m. update: Al Golden speaks to media for 1st time since UM firing; Dolphins cut QB; Nuggets from Dolphins' final offseason practice Thursday: Grant makes case; lineup news; rookie QB impresses Gase and much more

Quick 4 p.m. update: Al Golden, now the Detroit Lions' tight ends coach, spoke to the Detroit Free Press this week, the first time he has spoken publicly about his tenure at UM which ended with his dismissal last October. Here's what Golden -- who went 32-25 at UM --- told Dave Birkett:

• “I needed this right now. I was a head coach for 10 years. I just felt like – I felt like I was burnt out, and I needed this. It’s been great. I’m coaching offense. I’ve been rejuvenated. Just exposing myself every day to something new in the league....That sense of drain, of burnout, is long gone. This place has (rejuvenated me) and the players are a big part of it.”

• On his UM tenure: "At the end of the day, I took the job without knowing that there was an impending NCAA investigation and eight months into it, it blew up and it took its toll at the end of the day, and that’s it. I haven’t looked back since. I miss the players. I miss the people that were supportive of my family and I, the people that were friends. But other than that we’ve moved on and now I’m looking after a new group.”

• On moving to the NFL: “I think the biggest transition for me is not the individual drills or any of those things because I’ve been a part of it,” Golden said. “I think the transition for me has been the nomenclature and just being introduced to a new system, which until you know it inside and out, you should have a little edge about you. And that’s what I have right now. I have a little edge to learn every day and it’s been awesome.” 

• He wouldn't rule out a return to college football someday. “I think I have too much experience and just because I started young as a head coach, sometimes people look at it like, ‘Well, he’s already been a head coach,’” Golden said. “But I’m not 57. I’m 46, so I started young as a head coach and I’ve got a world of experience and I think this is just the next chapter for me so we’ll see where it goes. It’s too early to start thinking about that, but I know I’m skilled in that aspect of it. I’ve been a defensive coordinator, I’ve been a special teams coordinator, I’ve coached five or six different positions and now I’m coaching on the offense in the NFL”

 

DOLPHINS NUGGETS

• The Dolphins cut quarterback Logan Thomas today, leaving them four quarterbacks for training camp: Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Brandon Doughty (see more on him below) and Zac Dysert. Thomas' accuracy was erratic during the offseason program, and frankly, no team needs five QBs in camp.

The Dolphins promoted Thomas from the practice squad to the 53 late last season, and Thomas said Mike Tannenbaum told him he would have a legitimate chance to battle for the backup job this year. But then Moore re-signed and the Dolphins drafted Doughty, whose accuracy has been superior to Thomas' in the offseason program. 

The Dolphins paid $125,000 to keep Thomas late last season. He ended up never throwing a pass for the Dolphins.

• The Dolphins also released defensive tackle Charles Tuaau.

• Amid the doldrums and drudgery of June practices, 5-7 receiver Jakeem Grant has left an impression on teammates with his electrifying quickness and demonstrative personality. Called Mighty Mouse by some and Kevin Hart II by others (because of his light-hearted demeanor and facial resemblance to the comedian), Grant wants to prove he’s more than merely a returner, more than simply a gadget player.

If the sixth-round pick proves capable of being a No. 5 receiver, then there won’t necessarily be a need to keep a sixth (likely Griff Whalen or Matt Hazel). Grant has made a bunch of catches in offseason practices, while also receiving a lot of opportunities on returns.

His work this summer has convinced him that he can get open against NFL defensive backs.

“I’m matched up with safeties that aren’t used to my speed and already have that threat like, ‘Oh my God, this guy’s fast so I can’t let him beat me deep,’” Grant said. “That gives me an edge already and that’s already having them on their heels and having them scared that I’m going to beat them deep. And most of the time, I’m not even going deep. That’s the fun fact about being short. Having that speed and that agility over those guys and being able to open yourself up.”

And what about possibly being jammed at the line? Grant isn’t worried about that, either.

“Being a smaller receiver, we have the quickness over those guys,” he said. “Giving them the illusion I’m going somewhere I’m not. I’ve seen 6-foot receivers get jammed by smaller cornerbacks. If you have the technique down, there’s no way you can get jammed.”

But Grant can sometimes go too fast for his own good.

“Sometimes, it’s almost like we’ve got to slow him down,” coach Adam Gase said. “He’s so fast. He has got to learn to play at that speed, be able to cut, stop. You will see him slipping every once in a while. That’s when he’s going too fast.

“If we can just get him under control as far as how he understands that you pulling back a little bit is still faster than everybody else. Once he realizes that, he’s going to really make strides there and really have a great route tree. He has done a good job of picking everything up.”

Grant appreciates the opportunity to pick the brain of Wes Welker, a fellow Texas Tech alum who has been in a pseudo-coaching type role in practice over the past few weeks.

“Wes set the tone for shorter receivers like me,” Grant said. “Just getting advice from him as a receiver and punt returner is awesome. He’s coached me up on all those aspects.”

• Running back Kenyan Drake became the last Dolphins draft pick to sign a contract but sat out practice with what appeared to be a hamstring injury that he sustained during a punt block drill on Wednesday.

Drake, who has had at least seven documented injuries over the past five seasons, will be ready for the start of training camp, Gase said.

• Gase said the Dolphins have Laremy Tunsil working exclusively on the left side to make it easier for him. Tunsil remained behind Dallas Thomas at left guard all three days of the mandatory minicamp.

He appears Miami’s top option at left tackle if Branden Albert is injured (or if Albert is being rested, in the case of practice).

Thomas, meanwhile, has impressed coaches. “He did a good job [this offseason], kept getting better,” Gase said.

• Gase said seventh-round rookie quarterback Brandon Doughty “has made a lot of strides since he’s been here. He seems to find completions. When I look at a lot of our film for three weeks before this week, even when [he’s] wrong [in] where he was going, somehow he completes the football.

“He kind of has this knack -- He sees the open guy sometimes. You’re like, ‘Why did you throw it there?’ He’s like, ‘He was open.’ He has something about him in that capacity where he can find completions.”

• Jarvis Landry, Mario Williams and Jason Jones had excused absences on the last day of the mandatory minicamp.

• Gase, on his message for players as they begin a five-week vacation tonight: “You always just want them to be smart. A lot of guys in this profession forget who they are, who they represent, understand what kind of situation you’re putting yourself in. That’s the decision you have to make the next 5 weeks: what’s the most important thing in your life.”

Gase also wants them to stay conditioned, obviously: “We can’t have guys that don’t do anything [the next five weeks]. You can’t be grossly out of shape.”

• What has Gase learned about the leadership on this team?

“First thing I’ve learned is there’s more than a lot of people gave guys credit for. If you let guys’ personalities come out, you’re going to see more guys take that leadership role…

“We’ve had a lot of guys step in. If somebody gets out of line, they get straightened out real quick. Not a lot of things have gotten back to me, which is great. As a head coach, the less that gets brought to you where it’s things that are not football related, you are focused more on the important things.”

• Couple notes from the final practice: Isaiah Pead, elevated in Drake’s absence, showed good burst, on both runs and screen passes…With Cam Wake getting a lot of rest, Terrence Fede’s presence was felt as a pass rusher…. Andrew Franks had another good day, hitting from 52 and 51 yards and missing from 64….

We’ll have more Dolphins observations (plus other sports) in our next post.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

June 15, 2016

Wednesday Dolphins minicamp nuggets: Rise of Dallas Thomas, lineup moves, Moore doubted his return; Welker/Reggie Wayne role

 

The notion of beleaguered Dallas Thomas starting ahead of Dolphins rookie first-round pick Laremy Tunsil at left guard this season seems difficult, if not impossible, to fathom. But Thomas has lined up ahead of Tunsil at left guard to open team drills in the first two days of the team’s mandatory mini-camp, and coach Adam Gase said no player will simply be handed a position.

“You’ve got to earn your spot,” Gase said when asked if Tunsil will be a starter. “I don’t think you’ve seen anyone get plugged in and anointed anything. Everybody’s battling. That’s what we want. We want guys to earn their spots. If you’re a veteran player, a lot of guys respect that because they know it’s not going to be handed to anybody.

“Guys know, I’m going to battle for the five spots in the offensive line. Same on defense. I know [cornerback] Tony Lippett isn’t going to be like, ‘Yeah, you take it’ [with second-round rookie Xavien Howard]. I hope not. I hope he battles this thing all the way out. If he’s the starter, great. We’ll be happy. Then I just know we got three really good players there at corner.”

Gase downplayed the importance of who’s playing with the first team, noting that he doesn’t ask offensive line coach Chris Foerster “who do you have starting today….  We are just going to keep working on different groups. We will keep running guys in there.”

Thomas has given up a lot of sacks and pressures in 36 games over three seasons, including 25 starts. Pro Football Focus rated him 80th of 81 qualifying guards last season.

He was beaten by Earl Mitchell in Wednesday’s practice, forcing a Ryan Tannehill incompletion. But Thomas said Foerster has “been real positive with me, telling me I’m doing a good job.”

Thomas also has been getting work at right guard, where Billy Turner has received many of the first-team snaps.

Thomas believes he will be more stout because “I gained a little bit of weight but more muscle than anything. I wanted to be stronger. So far, I did what I said I’m going to do.”

• Rookie running back Kenyan Drake limped to the locker-room after pulling up in a punt blocking drill. Drake grabbed the back of his right leg with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

He had a slew of injuries when playing at Alabama, including a dislocated ankle, a cracked rib, a sprained ankle, a concussion, a quad contusion, and a broken right arm.

• Matt Moore admitted Wednesday that at one point, he doubted he would return to the Dolphins as their backup quarterback. Before re-engaging his agent in serious contract talks, the Dolphins brought in Brandon Weeden for a visit and booked a visit with Luke McCown, who canceled to re-sign with the Saints.

Meanwhile, Moore visited the Dallas Cowboys. Then Miami summoned Moore for a visit early in free agency.

“There was some doubt,” he said. “It was kind of weird. I came in [to Dolphins offices] for a free agent visit, which I thought was odd. I came in and met the coaches, the new people here. That was the day I signed. A part of me thought I wouldn’t be back.”

Gase said offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen and quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree both advocated Moore’s return.

“Clyde kept coming back to it and so did Bo as far as there are not a lot of guys that can come into that role and can come into the game,” Gase said. “I think he has a winning record and I don’t know how many backup quarterbacks you can say that.”

Moore has a 13-12 record in 25 career starts: 6-6 with Miami and 7-6 with Carolina.

“He has done a great job,” Gase said. “A guy I was with in Denver, Mike McCoy, coached him in Carolina and I always had heard great things about him. We knew what kind of guy he was getting and the fact when you’ve got a guy that supports you like Matt does to Ryan, that’s valuable. Him and Ryan are really close.” 

• Receiver DeVante Parker returned to team drills after missing two weeks with an undisclosed injury.

“We’ve really been missing him,” said Tannehill, who connected with Parker for a 20-plus yard competition against Xavien Howard. “He’s such a talented player and we want to develop him further. He really makes us more dynamic on offense.”

• Former University of Miami and Indianapolis Colts star receiver Reggie Wayne attended practice and spoke to the receivers.

His message? “Stay on the little details,” receiver Leonte Carroo said. “Make every practice count. He said the practices were harder than the games because he grinded every day and exhausted himself. He said he could leave the game happy knowing he put everything on the field.”

Former Dolphins/Patriots/Broncos receiver Wes Welker, who has made several appearances at practice, also has been helping the receivers, Carroo said.  

“Wes Welker talks to us every single day,” Carroo said. “Even in practice, he helps us. As a receiver, it’s great to have two legends like that talking to you. It makes you feel better as a receiver just knowing you can go to the sidelines and those guys who ran this type of offense can help you and talk to you.”

Asked about whether Welker might join the staff, Gase said: “When he wants to come around, he’s welcome. Whether it goes any further than that, it’s a day by day thing with Wes. He knows I’ll always have his back in whatever he wants to do. And we’ll be here to kind of help him grow with whatever he ends up doing.”

• Carroo said Jarvis Landry asked him to participate in workouts with him during most of the five weeks between this week’s minicamp and the start of training camp.

Jets quarterback Geno Smith, Giants receiver Odell Beckham and Steelers receiver Antonio Brown are among others who have participated in those workouts.

“When he offered that to me, I wasn’t going to turn that down,” Carroo said. “This is my job now. I’m going to stay down here and work with one of the best receivers in the NFL.”

• With Reshad Jones returning, defensive ends Mario Williams and Jason Jones were the only players not in attendance at the mandatory minicamp. Both were excused absences for personal reasons… Linebacker Neville Hewitt and receiver AJ Cruz worked on the side because of injuries.

• A day after Andrew Franks nailed all seven field-goal attempts (including a 59-yarder), his competition, undrafted Iowa kicker Marshall Koehn, made 4 of 7, missing from 41, 49 and 59…. Former UM receiver Rashawn Scott made at least three catches in 11 on 11 drills… When Reshad Jones entered team drills, he replaced Isa Abdul Quddus, not Michael Thomas.

Please click here for the latest on Dion Jordan, the players the Heat summoned to Miami for auditions this week, Panthers free agent news, David Samson’s assessment of the Marlins, and some UM recruiting and baseball news.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

June 14, 2016

Jordan's agent expects reinstatement, says Dolphins want him back; Heat camp invites; Heat draft; Panthers news; Marlins; Hurricanes tidbits

 

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Contrary to a published report, the agent for suspended defensive end Dion Jordan said this week that the Dolphins have indicated they are excited about having him back and that he’s in excellent shape.

Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to rule on Jordan’s bid for reinstatement by the end of July and “I feel very strongly he will be reinstated without question,” agent Doug Hendrickson said by phone. “He's done everything he has been asked to do. We feel very good where we're at. We expect Dion to start training camp with the Dolphins.”

Jordan is owed $600,000 in base salary for 2016 and is due a $1.69 million signing bonus if he’s on the roster on the fifth day of training camp. “They are excited to have him back,” said Hendrickson, who has spoken to the Dolphins. “Every team wants top talent.”

Hendrickson said the Dolphins haven’t indicated whether they plan to keep him at defensive end or move him to linebacker. Defensive end makes sense for 2016, despite the team’s considerable depth there, because asking him to learn linebacker in his first camp back might be too much to ask.

As for a report elsewhere that he isn’t in the best of shape, Hendrickson said: “Dion is in exceptional shape. [Any suggestion otherwise] is a bunch of foolishness. He's been training eight hours a day in San Francisco.  You can’t mimic being in football shape. Once he's reinstated, he will be in football [shape].”

Jordan’s trainer told USA Today last month that he has lost 12 to 13 pounds of fat and was a bit under 270 pounds.

Hendrickson has said Jordan hasn’t failed or missed a drug test since his April 2015 suspension.

According to NFLPA records, Jordan returned $3.35 million of his initial $13 million signing bonus and also returned a $1.69 million roster bonus. He is due to earn $690,000 in 2017, the final year of his contract, with a $2.5 million roster bonus activated the fifth day of 2017 training camp.

“I hope everything work out,” said defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, one of many teammates offering support to Jordan. “Everybody knows how great of an athlete he is.”

• Mitchell said he and Jordan Phillips are splitting first team snaps evenly alongside Ndamukong Suh… The Dolphins surprisingly opened team minicamp drills with Dallas Thomas (not Laremy Tunsil) at left guard and Billy Turner at right guard, but coach Adam Gase cautioned there is no depth chart yet.... For a ton more Dolphins notes from today, please click here.

CHATTER

• Marlins president David Samson’s measured assessment of his team: “We've been relevant for 2 1/2 months and we’re in a position we haven't been the last few years. We have put together a good team.” (Quick aside: The frustration is the 2-7 record against doormats Atlanta and Minnesota)… Samson said the Marlins won’t hesitate to add payroll if they remain in contention for postseason: “Jeffrey Loria’s [approach] has been the same for 17 seasons; when we’re in the race, we add.”….

Though the Marlins have increased their scouting budget – including internationally -- Samson said they’re still not in position to offer big contracts to free agents from Cuba and Japan. But if the front office says “this is a guy we absolutely want, we would have to take a look,” Samson said.

• Though nothing was announced, we hear the Heat summoned these 10 players to audition at a free agent camp this week: shooting guards Rodney McGruder (who played on its D-League team in Sioux Falls, South Dakota), Quinton Upshur (Northern Arizona/Portugal); Brandan Kearney (University of Detroit); Juwan Howard Jr. (son of the Heat assistant/played in Spanish League) and Jabril Trawick (Georgetown/Sioux Falls), plus forwards Okaro White (FSU/Greece), Xavier Gibson (FSU/Greece), Kevin Tumba (Belgium), Kenny Gabriel (Auburn/Turkey) and 6-11 Norvel Pelle, a skilled shot-blocker who was the No. 1 center in the 2011 high school class, failed to qualify at St. John’s and has played in the D-League, Taiwan and elsewhere since.

Players who finished this past season in the NBA cannot be brought in for workouts before July 1.

• Though Miami has no draft pick on June 23, the Heat has been attending workouts for draft-eligible players and Pat Riley said his staff "is putting together the books just as though we had a lottery pick. We'll see whether we jump back in the first and the second if we can. We will be very well educated on the players who may not be [drafted]."

The Heat had two second-round picks in its rotation: Hassan Whiteside, drafted by the Kings, and Josh Richardson, drafted by Miami. So how unusual was this?

Of the 180 players drafted in the second round this decade (2010-15), only 18 were NBA rotation players in the final several weeks of this past season. Counting injured Dallas forward Chandler Parsons as a 19th, that’s 10.5 percent. So what Richardson did wasn’t normal.

• FIU athletic director Pete Garcia declined to say when asked, via email, whether baseball coach Turtle Thomas will be retained, and FIU people expect Garcia to strongly consider UM pitching coach J.D. Arteaga if he makes a change. FIU was 29-29 this season.

• I’m surprised Edgar Michelangeli did another preening bat flip after hitting a home run during Sunday’s game against Boston College, considering Michelangeli admitted Jim Morris told him pointedly “not to do it again” after he did the same thing in the ACC Tournament. ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser says everyone in the ACC is now going to drill him next season.

Morris said Michelangeli toned it down a bit from what he did in the ACC Tourney but needs to "tone it down" further.

• Among the many impressive things Jim Larranaga has accomplished at UM, here’s another: With this week’s oral commitment by 2017 Bowie-Md.-based 5-7 point guard Chris Lykes, Larranaga has landed three top-50 recruits in a year: incoming Bruce Brown (rated 26th by ESPN in 2016 class) and Dewan Huell (28th in 2016 class) and now Lykes (46th in 2017).

In the previous 12 years, UM had only two top 50 recruits: DeQuan Jones, 22nd in 2008, and Durand Scott, 25th in 2009.

ESPN says Lykes (who averaged 22 points as a junior at Gonzaga High) “is a constant threat on the offensive end of the floor. He can go wherever he wants with the ball. His handle and court vision are excellent and he is a crafty passer and finisher.”

And UM is in the mix for another high-end prospect. Malik Newman, rated a five-star player and the No. 8 player overall is the 2015 recruiting class, is reportedly transferring from Mississippi State and will visit UM this weekend, ESPN's Jeff Goodman reports.

Newman, a 6-4 combo guard, visited Western Kentucky last week and visited North Carolina State today. He would be required to sit out a season.

Newman was considered a potential lottery pick when he enrolled at MSU last season but was slowed by injuries and averaged 11.3 points on 39.1 percent shooting. He shot 37.9 percent on threes (61 for 161). He entered the NBA draft but withdrew last month when he got word that he likely would be a late second-round pick.

• Three-star Oak Leaf cornerback Nick Roberts, originally offered by Al Golden's staff, decommitted from UM this week after it became clear the new staff wasn't pursuing him. UM is eyeing other corners.

• A couple things that our ace Panthers reporter, College World Series-bound George Richards, and I are hearing: The Panthers are now very optimistic that they will re-sign impending free agent defenseman Brian Campbell and also want to add another high-quality defenseman, via trade or free agency… The Panthers want to lessen Roberto Luongo’s workload to keep him fresher and will be looking at potential replacements for free agent backup goaltender Al Montoya.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Tuesday Dolphins minicamp nuggets: 2nd-yr player takes major step; Rookie arrives; lineup news; Rookie impresses today; News and notes

We'll have blanket minicamp coverage this week, including Adam Beasley's story today on Ndamukong Suh (who spoke for the first time since December), Armando Salguero's column today on Cameron Wake (who spoke for the second time since his injury), and Armando's posted blog on the Reshad Jones situation and other things. 

I'll have a couple blogs today, including this one:

• No, the pressure of a late-game field goal in December cannot be replicated on a practice field in June. Nevertheless, Andrew Franks’ development this spring has been impressive, with his improved accuracy – and a strong leg – giving him an early leg up on undrafted rookie Marshall Koehn in the Dolphins’ kicking competition.

Franks said Tuesday that his field-goal percentage has been "very high" during the offseason program. On the first day of the Dolphins’ three-day mandatory minicamp, Franks nailed all seven attempts Tuesday, including one from 59 yards.

“I think I’ve only missed three in the past couple weeks --- all over 45, two over 50,” he said. “My strength is I have a strong leg. Long field goals are my true game.

"[And overall], compared to last year, I’m leaps and bounds from where I was. The biggest thing I had to work on was my consistency. I’ve really worked on honing my form. I’m a lot more consistent and I feel a lot more confident because of it.”

After working with longtime NFL kicker Phil Dawson last offseason, Franks spent the offseason studying his own tape, plus tape of Dawson and veteran NFL kicker Adam Vinatieri.

He attempted only 16 field goals last season, fewest of any full-time kicker, and made 13 of them.  

“Because we had so few attempts, it did hurt me I think,” he said. “There’s still a lot of me that hasn’t been seen yet. Coach said he wants to hit more PATs and break that record. Hopefully more field goals as well.”

Franks, who made 33 of 36 extra points, said he wasn’t surprised the Dolphins signed Koehn, who did not kick Tuesday and has been erratic during practices open to the media.

“I figured that would happen,” he said. “I didn’t hit that many field goals. Most people thought this seat is somewhat available, a spot for the taking. I’m still proving I have a spot on this team and it’s my position. I love competition. With Caleb [Sturgis] here last year, it drove me to take his seat.”

Coach Adam Gase said “we’re trying to put our specialists in pressure situations [in practice]. We’re trying to give both [Franks and Koehn] a lot of reps and make it game-like situations.”

• DeVante Parker was held out with an undisclosed injury (not to his surgically-repaired foot), but Gase said he will do some work on Wednesday.

“I kind of screwed that up today,” Gase said. “He should have gone through individuals today; he was cleared. I’m just being a little cautious. My mindset is I want him to be able to train for the next five weeks.”

 Linebacker Neville Hewitt and receiver AJ Cruz also were held out because of injury.

• Besides Reshad Jones, Jason Jones and Mario Williams weren't in attendance. Those two absences were excused.

• Koa Misi, involved in a fight in a Broward nightclub last month (no charges were filed), said he has not been disciplined by the team.

“As of right now, nothing has happened. It was a bad situation and something that I should have walked away from. (I) learned from my mistakes. That’s about all.”

Meanwhile, Misi had a strong practice Tuesday, which has been the norm. “It seems he’s always doing the right thing,” Gase said. “He has put himself in good position. He’s been consistent day in and day out.”

• Nearly a year-and-half after a devastating knee injury, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was able to participate in all of practice.

“It feels great being back on the field, doing what you love,” he said. “You have to cherish any moment you’re out there.”

• Tight end Thomas Duarte, the rookie seventh round pick, practiced for the first time in weeks because he was completing classes at UCLA.

“It’s tough,” Gase said. “I guess it would be different if was a third, fourth year player. When you’re a rookie and all of a sudden, you come in and we’re on Install 11, that’s got to be a little overwhelming. He’s a smart kid. He looks good. His weight was really good. He was kind of in that zone of what was I going to be. A lot of teams were looking at him as a wide out. We were looking at him as a tight end.

“We want him to be a tight end. We will like his skill set as a receiver. We will see when we get pads on in training camp as far as a run blocker and pass protector.”

• Asked about Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner opening 11 on 11 drills as the first team guards, Gase said: “I don’t even think we really even have a depth chart right now. I’ll walk in the o-line room and every day they have a different lineup of what they’re going with the 1s, 2s and 3. We’re just trying to mix everyone in, give them opportunities.”

Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod were also paired together at times, and Jamil Douglas and Kraig Urbik also got work at guard.

• Xavien Howard picked off a Ryan Tannehill pass intended for Kenny Stills and also made an excellent pass breakup.

“His ball skills are really impressive,” Gase said. “He picked one off today where I was surprised he came down with it because it was a tough position for him to be in to catch the ball.”

• Gase and Dolphins executives explored holding joint practices with another team but “we couldn’t find anything that really kind of matched up.”

Check back tonight for more Dolphins news, plus Heat, Marlins, Panthers and UM nuggets.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

June 13, 2016

UM time, date set; Monday Dolphins/Canes/media notes: Gase on starting battles; Rookie keeps impressing; UM lands highly-regarded PG; UM-UF football; Football announcing change

Dolphins, Canes and media notes on a Monday:

• Most NFL coaches ideally like to settle on starters by the third preseason game. Coach Adam Gase apparently feels no such obligation.

There are at least three legitimate battles for starting jobs, and Gase doesn’t feel anxious to get resolution anytime soon, certainly not during a three-day mandatory minicamp that runs Tuesday through Thursday.

“As long as we feel good about whatever we’re doing by the first game of the season, that’s all I really care about,” Gase said. “You’d love it if you could walk into training camp and say, ‘Here are the 22 guys that are starting on both sides of the ball.’ I just don’t know how realistic that is.

“We’ll take that thing up to the first game if we have to. If something goes wrong during the season, we’ll make a change. But we’re going to find the best 11 on each side of the ball every week.”

The three most competitive starting battles: one cornerback slot (Xavien Howard vs. Tony Lippett); one defensive tackle position (Jordan Phillips vs. Earl Mitchell) and right guard (Billy Turner, Kraig Urbik, Dallas Thomas, Jamil Douglas, Jermon Bushrod).

• Gase allocates time toward situation drills and with good reason. Let him explain it to you:

“For me, a lot of things that I learned were from (New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator) Josh McDaniels,” he said. Obviously, he was coming from New England at the time. I felt like that was very helpful in my development as a position coach. And then getting with Coach (Chicago Bears Head Coach John) Fox, we focused on something every day, whether it be something short or like a whole period. I guess being around two guys like that, that you learn from – and you go through those experiences – and then you’re able to come to a different place …

“Going to Chicago and getting around a guy like (Bears Defensive Coordinator) Vic Fangio, who was a great guy for me to talk to, because he was so smart (with) the way he thought about things and the ideas he brought to the table as far as, ‘Think about working on this and think about working on this.’ He would talk to me about a lot of stuff like that.

“That was something that I loved because it was things I never really thought of before. Coming here and being around (Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren) Rizzi and (Offensive Coordinator) Clyde (Christensen) and (Defensive Coordinator) Vance (Joseph) and (Linebackers Coach) Matt Burke, we talk a lot of situations.

“We keep saying, ‘What do we want to work on today?’ We’ll focus on something, and we try to make sure we educate the players, because you’d be surprised how many times you bring something up and somebody’ll say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that,’ and you start assuming something and that’s the worst thing you can do, because a lot of these guys, they’ve never heard some of this stuff. When you hear it for the first time, you probably screw it up in practice and then you make the correction. You want to try to make it to where when those situations come up on Sunday, you’re not coming back Monday and being like, ‘Alright, we need to do this.’ Instead, you’re ahead of that, you make the right play and you get the right result.”

• Rookie receiver Jakeem Grant keeps eliciting praise from teammates. Here was Jelani Jenkins last week, when asked who has impressed him: “I think Jakeem Grant, he’s done an excellent job in that slot. I mean he’s one of the quickest people I’ve ever seen.”

• One thing evident in the practices that were open to reporters in recent weeks: New receivers coach Shawn Jefferson pushes his players HARD.

“One of the things about Coach Jefferson, he always stresses details – details, alignment, assignment, top of the route," Landry said. He always stresses that when you're at the top of the route, one foot takes you in, one foot takes you out (and) being able to be balanced when you come out of the break to be as explosive as possible.”

• Reshad Jones' offseason contract protest will continue through this week's mandatory minicamp, says NFL Net's Ian Rapoport. He would be fined $76,000 if he skips the three days this week... According to Fox's Alex Marvez, FIU hired Kevin O'Neill, who was fired by the Dolphins in the wake of Bullygate. FIU said he actually began work March 22.

• So what is UM getting in 5-6 Bowie-Md. prep Class of 2017 point guard Chris Lykes, who orally committed to Miami on Sunday?

ESPN rates him the 46th best player in the 2017 class and the ninth best point guard prospect. The ESPN scouting report:

Strengths: Lykes is a tough, competitive scoring point guard that possess excellent speed and quickness. He changes speed and directions on a dime as well. Lykes has a tight handle, probes the defense and has good court vision. He can stop and pop in the open court with range to the arc and will not hesitate to advance pass when a teammate is ahead on the break. Lykes has an excellent pull up jumper off the catch or when attacking off on ball screens. He can run the offense and deliver the ball as he attacks as well. Lykes is explosive for his size and plays with swag.

Weaknesses: Lykes will need to be more of a vocal leader as he runs his team. Work to get others involved more at times and keep working on improving as an on ball defender.

Bottom Line: Lykes is a constant threat on the offensive end of the floor. He can go wherever he wants with the ball. His handle and court vision is excellent and he is a crafty passer and finisher. He can really score the ball in a variety of ways despite his size and compete with toughness. Lykes is a high major prospect because of his ability to score and pass with continued development.

• UM will play Arizona in its College World Series opener at 8 p.m. Saturday. Oklahoma State and UC-Santa Barbara also are in UM’s bracket.

• Respected UF AD director Jeremy Foley announced his retirement today, and the first question that came to mind was whether his to-be-determined successor will be more inclined to schedule UM-UF football games more regularly. As Foley (who I always found to be accessible) explained repeatedly, he didn’t believe it made sense for UM and UF to play annually because of UF’s need for an extra non-conference home game most years. (Left unsaid was the fact UF already has a difficult schedule, with SEC games and FSU every year).

Foley agreed to open the 2019 season against UM in Orlando but indicated no interest in playing Miami beyond that. UF coach Jim McElwain obviously also will have a big say in any decision regarding how often to play UM. 

When asked in April about the 2019 game against Miami, McElwain said: “It’s something we’ve talked about… It’s definitely not one of those things that we’re dodging them, I’ll say that.”

UM AD Blake James has consistently said he's willing to play UF more often, and Mark Richt said last week that he's also interested in that.

I'd be surprised if UF agrees to play UM more, but at least the new AD might take a fresh look.

• Couple media notes: CBS has no plans, at this time, to replace officiating analyst Mike Carey, who won't return to the network's NFL's coverage. But if a good fit becomes available, CBS wouldn’t rule out hiring another former referee. CBS said it mutually decided to part ways with Carey, whose often-inaccurate predictions of replay reviews drew considerable ridicule on social media….

Fox Sports Florida hired former big-league reliever Jeff Nelson as a pre-game and postgame analyst on Marlins games...

In advance of the launch of his HBO series (which will air Wednesday nights beginning June 22), Bill Simmons told The New York Times that he wonders if the real reason ESPN didn’t retain him is because of his criticism of commissioner Roger Goodell, coupled with the fact that Disney CEO Robert Iger previously was involved in pushing for a new stadium near Los Angeles.

“One of my working theories was, maybe this was driven by Iger because he wants a team,” Simmons told The Times.

That prompted this pointed response from ESPN president John Skipper, to The Big Lead: “Bill would rather spin conspiracy theories and be perceived as a martyr than take responsibility for his own actions. Let me be unequivocal and clear and take responsibility for my actions: I alone made the decision, and it had nothing to do with his comments about the commissioner. I severed our relationship with Bill because of his repeated lack of respect for this company and more importantly, the people who work here.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

June 12, 2016

Opposing GM explains why it makes sense for Heat to go to max with Whiteside; Dolphins, UM, Marlins nuggets

 

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Though the Heat ideally would prefer to re-sign Hassan Whiteside at something less than a max deal (but ultimately might need to offer that), a competing and respected NBA general manager explained to me recently why it would be short-sighted for Miami to risk losing him over a few million dollars a year, why it’s easy to justify a max deal for Whiteside (starting at a projected $21.6 million) and why he’s going to be offered that by multiple teams.

The GM, who cannot be named because of NBA tampering rules, listed four reasons:

1) Where else, he said, are you going to find a player so skilled at deterring shots (Whiteside's blocked shots average was the league’s highest in 15 years), at rebounding (fourth in the league) and with a developing offensive game where he’s now seen as a player who could average between 15 to 18 points a game? There’s nobody else remotely like that in this free agent class, the GM said.

2) With the big spike in the cap assured to drive up salaries for most everybody, the GM said it’s pointless to offer only $19 million to start – and allow yourself to be outbid – “because that extra $3 million is not going to get you” anything close to an impact player. So just give him the $22 million, the GM said.

3) His annual raises will be offset by another big jump in the salary cap in 2017-18. The cap is projected to be $92 million next season, then rise again to $107 million in 2017-18. The cap is then expected to fluctuate between $105 million and $112 million in the following three seasons, though that could change if the players opt out of the deal after next season (widely expected to happen by the December 2016 deadline) and get an even bigger chunk of the revenue.

Under the current labor deal, Whiteside would be eligible for annual 7.5 percent raises in a four-year deal from the Heat, 4.5 percent from other teams.

4) Supply and demand. The GM said there are so few elite players in this class that Whiteside’s market will be even higher than it would be ordinarily, especially coupled with the fact that more than two-thirds of the teams can clear out $20 million or more in cap space.

Among free agents, Whiteside is the only impact center in the first half of his career. Al Horford, Al Jefferson, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Dwight Howard will be 30 or older by the end of this calendar year. Whiteside will be 27.  

CHATTER

• Among 174 players with enough at-bats to qualify, the only three who entered the weekend hitting below .200, oddly enough, had combined for 905 career home runs: Giancarlo Stanton (193), Prince Fielder (315) and Mark Teixeira (397).

But unlike the other two, Stanton is in his prime, and his numbers entering this weekend series were shocking and horrifying: 1 for 22 with 14 strikeouts with two outs and runners in scoring position, and 17 for 163 (.104) and 109 strikeouts when there are two strikes on him.

Stanton, who sat out 10 of the Marlins’ first 60 games, is pacing about 20 strikeouts behind Mark Reynolds’ all-time single-season strikeout record (223, in 2009).

Privately, the Marlins insist they aren’t overly considered and believe this is simply a slump. The Marlins have not considered asking him to go to the minors, and his permission would be needed anyway, because he has more than five years of big-league service.

• The Marlins have been poking around on veteran relievers, but one person who spoke to them said they don’t much appealing to trade and one attractive piece (Class A outfielder Stone Garrett) is now sidelined indefinitely after being knifed in the thumb in Josh Naylor’s prank-gone-wrong.

• The Dolphins have Antrel Rolle and Louis Delmas on a list of safety options should they have an injury at the position or if Reshad Jones should surprisingly extend his contract protest into the season. Even a person close to Jones conceded the Dolphins seemingly have no incentive to re-do a deal that pays Jones $7.2 million and $7.1 million the next two seasons.

• Dolphins people believe linebacker Kiko Alonso (impressive so far, albeit not in full uniforms) will give the linebacking corps something they’ve lacked. 

“He’s able to decipher things really fast and not bite on decoys,” Jelani Jenkins said. “He’s really good at just instinctually playing in the middle and kind of seeing the bigger picture. [Opposing offenses] don’t really know exactly who’s going to cover who, because we [Alonso and Jenkins] can kind of do both.”

• FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, before and during his speech to Seminoles fans in Coral Gables on Thursday, couldn’t stop raving about Mark Richt: “First time I met Mark was 1989; great human being and one heck of a coach. They’re going to win. It’s definitely going to be just as tough or even tougher [to recruit in South Florida now]. Mark is a great recruiter. Miami is going to have a very good team. Brad Kaaya will be a first-round pick.”

• Fisher said UM-FSU “is such a great rivalry, one of the great ones in college football that I wish we would have a permanent date.”

He suggests early to mid October; it’s Oct. 8 in Miami this year…

Fisher, incidentally, said he has “had inquiries the last couple years” from NFL teams seeking head coaches but hasn’t been tempted. “I’m content where I’m at. You never say never in this business.”

• At the position with its shakiest depth, UM feels good about its starters (Corn Elder, Sheldrick Redwine), with Braxton Berrios noting Redwine simply “gets it. He uses the technique and uses it well. If he gets beat on a release, I don’t see him getting beat on that same release again.”

The question is depth; Texas transfer Adrian Colbert –-- moved by UM from safety to cornerback (where he hadn’t played in a game since high school) --- “is going to be a good corner,” Berrios said Friday after graciously spending nearly two hours with kids at Holtz Children's Hospital in Miami. “He looks good. He’s an athlete, simply put. He can cover. He has speed. His technique is a little bit different from our guys. Obviously, that's something he'll learn.”…

As for the other unproven young corners (Michael Jackson, Terrance Henley, Ryan Mayes), Berrios and receiver Darrell Langham were most effusive about Jackson. “He looks great,” Berrios said. And UM also can use safety Jaquan Johnson to cover slot receivers.

• On Friday, UM's Sept. 17 game at Appalachian State was set for noon, with ESPN or ESPN2 televising. Appalachian State will visit UM in 2021. UM agreed to the home-and-home because it needed another 2016 non-conference opponent.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz