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8 p.m. Monday: Dolphins, Gift from UM standout; Olympics; Lots of news from UM d-coordinator Diaz, plus Mark Richt and Blake James from UM football media day; 2 big UM oral commitments; UM NCAA investigation fallout

A few quick Monday night notes:

• Kudos to UM 1992 Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta for purchasing a Play Station 4 and Xbox One for UM's locker-room -- an enterainment diversion for the players.

Brad Kaaya offered that nugget today and Torretta confirmed it. Kaaya said Torretta sought his input before making the purchase; the two of them have a very good relationship.

• When the Dolphins signed Jermon Bushrod, they envisioned him as a starting guard. But then Miami drafted Laremy Tunsil, and Billy Turner continues to hold off Bushrod at right tackle.

Bushrod, who has never played guard in his life in a game, has said the adjustment is difficult, more so because he couldn't participate in team drills in May and June because of shoulder surgery.

“I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for him," Adam Gase said today. "Just being around him for the last year and some change, I’ve never heard him complain about anything. So I wouldn’t know. But I know being a left tackle for as long as he was, and then moving to the right side in that guard position, that’s got to be tough; because that’s a big change for him."

• May addition Jason Jones continues to impress on the defensive line.

"What he's done in training camp so far has been very impressive," Gase said. "How long he is and how physical he is and how he sets the edge and being able to go inside --- I think it’s a rare guy to get (as late as) we got him (in the offseason). I love what he brings to that group – being a veteran, being around, being in the system. He’s able to help those guys out as far as teaching them the right techniques.”

• On Jakeem Grant, Gase reiterated today: "With him, once again, we got to slow him down somehow, which is hard to do. The guy is fast. This’ll be a great test for him – whether it be the return game or at receiver – of consistently doing the right thing and being in the right spot. One thing I noticed today was when things break down, he seems to pop free. That guy in space is dangerous, and it’ll be fun to watch him play.”

• According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL cleared Dion Jordan to begin practicing (though he's still recovering from knee surgery).

• Though the Olympics on NBC have easily been the most-watched programming on prime time television through three nights, ratings are way down from the 2012 London Games, even though Rio coverage has been live.

The night 3 audience of 29.6 million viewers was well below the 36 million for the comparable night in London. But streaming on-line viewership is way up.

For the opening ceremonies, NBC averaged 26.5 million viewers, compared with 40.7 million in London.

 

LOTS OF UM BUZZ FROM D-COORDINATOR MANNY DIAZ

3 p.m.: Manny Diaz, in the past few months, has joined the list of best interview subjects in town, a list headlined by Pat Riley. Some highlights from his session today with me and a few others, including our Manny Navarro:

• I asked him if he has the talent to play the style defense he wants. "We have what we need to be a good defense. The question is do we have enough. Do we have the depth? Injuries are a part of football. We have some obvious inexperience at spots."

• I asked him what he feels confident that his defense will be able to do well.

"We will play the run well," he said. "And we will run [better on offense]. We are going to stop the run better on defense. We will not do it as well as we like, but we will run the ball better and stop the run better. The first point of improvement for this team is we have to run the ball better and stop the run better. That means we have to be a tougher, more physical team. 

"When we can pound the rock and stop the rock from being pounded on us, it’s going to get good around here."

• He said Corn Elder, Sheldrick Redwine and Adrian Colbert are UM's top three corners, in no particular order. He said no one has claimed the No. 4 job yet among Michael Jackson, Terrance Henley, Ryan Mayes and freshman Malek Young.

"Corn is playing at the highest level he has played at since I’ve been here. His urgency of his senior year is kicking in. Having Adrian Colbert, having the competition, is helping. He's in better condition."

He will have his corners play some man defense, more than in the past, but also depending on matchups and game situations. He also said UM, under Mark D'Onofrio, used its corners in man to man coverage more than the public perception.

• Though Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter figure to open games, Diaz said "we have three starters at safety," with Jaquan Johnson in that mix.

"What we are going to try to come to in the next week and a half is to identify who our best guys are in the back end. Are we going to want to go to nickel? What we want out of Jaquan is to keep pushing and be one of the best guys. He’s well built."

• He's confident in his top four defensive ends (Chad Thomas, AQM, Trent Harris, Demetrius Jackson) and plans to use at least four in every game.

"Chad knows he is in the best shape of his life," Diaz said. "That’s a big deal. In terms of the body fat he dropped, he is the best version of himself he has ever been. It’s a real confidence. He knows he can go harder in practice. He’s a big, strong, talented guy – but before we want him to become an All American, we would like him to become a really good defensive end."

Scott Patchan is making progress in his future from a torn ACL, but Diaz said the three freshmen defensive linemen "are all just swimming. We like them all. They've all done things to show why they’re here."

• At defensive tackle, Diaz said Richard McIntosh and Kendrick Norton have "nosed ahead" of the other three vets (Andrew Moten, Gerald Willis, Courtel Jenkins).

How good are his group of tackles?  "You still don’t know," he said. "It’s over simplistic to say good d-tackle play equals dominating run defense. You can give up running yards because your corner is a poor run defender. It’s hard to say."

Willis, the former Gator, "is stronger," Diaz said. "You can tell the gains he made in the weight room; he has an instinct for playing the position that’s hard to teach; he understands how to slip blocks and make plays. Being focused on his assignments. He has bought into our program and worked hard; all he needs to be is a serviceable college player, which he has never been." 

• How confident is he that Shaq Quarterman (the likely starter at middle linebacker) won't be overwhelmed going against a tough ACC team in a road game? 

"The way Shaq adapted quickly to the college process makes you hope he can adapt to the college game," Diaz said. "We go through a gauntlet of offenses that you go into the season that you see things you don’t see every day."

• Diaz said he's doing nothing different as far as practice reps to prepare for a potential suspension for Jermaine Grace (and AQM, for that matter, though he wasn't asked specifically about AQM and suspensions). UM hasn't ruled out a suspension for either.

Freshman Zach McCloud and Charles Perry are playing behind Grace at strongside linebacker. "Strongside linebacker is a different deal because that’s where you could go nickel – that’s why I say against the style of offense you’re playing," Diaz said. "Is your third linebacker better than your fifth defensive back?

"What McCloud has even over Jermaine is the range, the length. When you’re longer – the reach is longer. We’re playing our best dudes."

• Diaz expects Darrion Owens, coming off last year's major knee injury, eventually to challenge Mike Pinckney and Jamie Gordinier for the starting weakside linebacker job.

"Mike Pinckney has a great sense as a linebacker; he doesn’t over-complicate the game; he understands his reads and the game and makes it look very natural on the field, the way that he plays," Diaz said. "Some guys struggle when you teach them. Mike is very bright, listens to everything in the meeting room."

• Gordinier has been taking some first team reps with Pinckney dealing with a minor injury.

"He runs better than you would think," Diaz said. "Right now he is No. 1 at will linebacker; it complements him better with that spot and he had had a good first week. I told the linebackers, we need 6 who can play or 5 but [but if it's 5], someone is going to have to know more than one position."

• Thomas is UM's only five-star player left, but Diaz tells his players to throw their stars "into the trash" when they arrive.

• Diaz's players love his attacking defense, but Diaz insists "scheme is the least important" in performance on defense.

"We’re happy players have bought in – they need to execute what we’re doing and they understand part of the idea of our scheme is there are different ways to play zone and man concepts – your coverage depends on your rush."

        

UM AD BLAKE JAMES

A few notes from athletic director Blake James, who is speaking to the media with Mark Richt and players to follow:

• He said there's no resolution yet on the status of Al Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace regarding the luxury car investigation. UM says neither will be at media day today.

• He said the indoor practice facility should be constructed by April 2018. An announcement will be coming soon on the lead donor. "We're finalizing some details."

• On a renovated/upgraded Dolphins Stadium (soon to get a corporate name, with Hard Rock International the front-runner): "I'm confident it will be one of the best in the country. To have a stadium of that level is something that's a real win for us."

• UM has sold more than 36,000 season tickets. That's up from 29,000 last season.

"I'm confident we'll have 40,000 season-ticket holders. We have less than 1000 seats left in the lower level."

• "Since we announced Mark's hiring, there's been a real wave of energy around the program. Seeing the increase in ticket sales and donations. From a football perspective, seeing Mark bring in a vision and instilling it into the program.... Talking to everyone around the building - all the people our student athletes talk to - Mark has done everything I could have asked for from my position and my beyond."

• James said he feels confident the stadium will be ready for the Sept. 3 opener against Florida A&M, though "we have a backup plan in place."

• James says he supports the proposal to play nine conference games instead of eight.

• He said: "We have as great a group of coaches as we've ever had."

• He noted UM was the only program with a football team in a bowl game, baseball team in the CWS and men's and women's basketball teams in the NCAA Tournament. He also mentioned the athletic department graduation rate of 90 percent with a cumulative 3.0 great point average and seven Olympians competing at the Olympics this month. 

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM MARK RICHT

• What has pleased him through four days of camp? Richt said the defensive back play has been much improved.

• On Shaquille Quarterman: "He did come here at midyear. Got here in January. Was able to participate in spring ball. He's a true freshman but he has heard from coach Diaz how to play linebacker the same amount of time as the other linebackers in the program. Everyone was brand new to coach Diaz. It was a good year to be a mid-year because you get the same head start as a three-year starter. He works hard, he studies, he behaves. He has gained the respect of our team.

Sometimes when a freshman comes into a starting role, it's tough to swallow [for some veterans if the freshman seems entitled, which Quarterman isn't].... When he comes in with a humble spirit and works his tail off and physically gets the job done, they're embracing the guy."

•On his son, QB coach Jon Richt: "To have Jon working with us in the QB room is good. He understands I'm running the meetings, I'm running the process of how we think. I want him to really understand how I teach. He re-inforces how I teach. He's more up to speed on every little detail of the run game than I am. His experience with the Buffalo Bills, he was working with tight ends and learned a lot about run game. They were very good at running the ball. He got exposed to a lot of good stuff. Also nice to have his wife in and our one and only granddaughter."

• On the team overall: "The guys that are still here, which is most of them, they're hungry to have success, not only as an individual but as a team. They are doing a good job trusting me and our strength staff. They are trusting us to guide them the right way. They are trying like mad to do it the way we are asking them to do it. To see how we're going about our business, it's like night and day. We are so much more ahead than we were the last day of spring. The effort and attitude has been great."

• Do you pass to run or run to pass? "We are going to be very serious about running the ball. If a team wants to play cover 2, you better be able to run the ball. I've had times we haven't had enough of a running game where they've dropped eight into coverage. If you can run the ball and they can respect that and put one of those safeties in the box, then all of a sudden you create much better coverages for your quarterback to throw against. You have more one-on-one coverage.... We will run some one-back runs and some two-back runs."

• Richt said he wants three scrimmages with live tackling before the season starts.

 

OTHER UM NEWS

 • UM got an oral commitment today from two quality local players: Columbus cornerback Trajan Bandy (a four-star player rated No. 12 among all 2017 corners by Rivals.com) and three-star West Palm Beach Oxbridge defensive end Jonathan Garvin.

• Please click on the last post for a ton more UM news, including details on their defensive line. "We are going to penetrate," Richt vowed.

NCAA FALLOUT

One other note: According to an 18-page Florida Bar document that I obtained over the weekend, The Florida Bar has recommended a 91-day suspension for Maria Elena Perez, Nevin Shapiro's lawyer. The Bar says Perez, 44, violated ethics standards, largely for her conduct during UM's NCAA investigation into UM.

"I recommend that Respondent be found guilty of misconduct justifying disciplinary measures," the bar said in the document.

The NCAA says it erred by paying her $18,000 to help set up NCAA interviews with people who would implicate UM.

The Florida Bar filing asserted that Perez is guilty of violating eight ethical rules including lack of candor, failure to disclose key facts and making false statements. Besides the suspension from practicing law, the Bar filing recommends that Perez pay more than $4,000 in costs of the investigation.

Shapiro is serving a 20-year sentence for a Ponzi scheme and is currently imprisoned in a New Jersey facility. UM's three-year probation ends in October.

Check back throughout the day.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 

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